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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 6th day of Running, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 118 > New Series > Legend of Harquin: Part One

Legend of Harquin: Part One

by shelleylow

Prologue

One summer’s night when Neopia was young, Venuquin, Mother Of All Peophins, looked out on her watery kingdom with sad and troubled eyes, for she had long observed the humans’ persecution of her beloved children. At the discovery of the Peophin species, thousands upon thousands of the shy, gentle creatures had been captured, poached, taken away from the wilds of the oceans to live as pets to the humans on land.

     Listening to their desperate, pleading, heartbroken whines resounding in her head as clear as when she had heard them with her own ears, the Mother decided that she would stand for it no longer. From the ocean waves and seaweed she fashioned a new Peophin, with long slender limbs, and a graceful body like all her kind to swim fast and sleek like an arrow through the seas, and into her mind she placed the wisdom and the secrets of all things that live in the oceans. Last of all she added a horn upon the young one’s head that matched her own, so that if ever she should come up against humans she would be able to defend herself and escape.

     “Go,” she whispered to her creation as the horned Peophoal, created in the image of her mother, shook herself into new life.

     “Go out into the seas and stay unbound forever, my daughter, to roam and dance on the rolling waves all your life, away from human slavery. No human will be able to touch you or own you. I have shaped you and molded you to live a life free from bondage, so that I may always know that at least one of my children will be wild and free for eternity.”

     Thus it was that Harquin, the Lady of Solitude, came into being.

- Adapted From Old Maraquan Tale

Part 1

The sea was a wide expanse of blue, sparkling under the clear, bright sky. The waves crashed and broke against the shore, spilling clear water and white creamy foam over the sand, and taking a few grains back for itself. The sea is like that. It takes something away from every beach it touches, but leaves something new in its place. It is because of the sea that no beach ever remains the same. They are always renewed, always changing.

     In the sea swam an Acara, his strong paws propelling him powerfully through the sun-filled water, eyes closed against the salt. Pushing upward, he surfaced and breathed in the clean, briny air, examining his surroundings. Far away, on the top of a breakwater, he could see his owner sitting. Swimming strongly, head above the water, he returned to the shore.

     Shaking water vigorously from his thick coat, the Acara glanced ruefully up at the little hunched-up figure on the huge rock. He had an inkling he knew what his owner was brooding about.

     The teenage boy looked up as his pet padded over to sit beside him. He gave him a light smile, and placed a gentle hand on his Acara’s back, but his mind was somewhere else, and his eyes were looking out to the open sea, off to the thin line of horizon where sky and sea met.

     The Acara’s voice cut above the soft voices of the wind and the gentle wash of the tide. “Dreaming again, Seth?”

     The boy turned his dark head back to his pet, his face full of a hopeful longing. “Do you think I’ll ever see her again, Jake?”

     Jake sighed as his owner looked back out to the horizon, the sea breeze blowing and ruffling his dark hair. Would Seth ever forget? This chasing after a rainbow had gone on for so long, but the Acara was too kind-hearted to tell his master so, though he ached for him to give it up and realize how futile it was. Seven years had not made much of a difference to the boy’s dream.

     Ever since the time Seth had first seen the Peophin, he had known he wanted her and only her for his pet. It had been when he was merely a boy of ten, and his father, the First Mate of the ship Island Star, had been allowed to take his son on the proud galleon to give him a taste of life on the seas.

     It had been evening, the sun sinking beneath the waters in a great inferno of gold and purple and vermilion, touching the shifting waves with its fire, illumining them. The boy had been standing by the rail overlooking the prow with its noble Flotsam figurehead, admiring the sunset-coloured waves as they frothed and parted before the bows.

     Suddenly, far off in the distance, movement caught the boy’s eye. He looked past the carved wooden horn of the Flotsam just in time to see a Peophin leap from the waves.

     The boy had seen countless Peophins before. But this particular one made him catch his breath in wonder. For this was unlike any Peophin-or indeed any pet- he had seen before. This Peophin was blue, an ordinary enough colour, but the mane that flew out behind her was sea-green, and most wonderful of all, sprouting from her golden face shield was a long, spiral horn.

     Time seemed to stop as the boy, entranced, gazed out on this magnificent creature, set on fire by the sun’s embers, silhouetted against the glowing sky. She hung in the air, her slender body curved in a graceful arc, and then she was gone, lost to sight beneath the waves.

     The awed Seth had raced away to find his father, eventually catching sight of him coming out of his cabin, his burly, stolid Lupe, Scarp, at heel.

     “Dad! Dad!” he cried excitedly, tugging at his father’s jersey, “I just saw a Peophin, with a horn like a Uni’s!”

     “Well!” The mate beamed down at his son. “And was she blue, with a greenish sort of mane?”

     “Yes, yes she was!”

     “Well, son, I think you’ve just seen Harquin!”

     “Harquin.” The boy tasted the strange, thrilling, mysterious name. “Who’s that?”

     “Lady of Solitude,” Scarp broke in, “created in the bluest of blue waters by Venuquin, Mother Of All Peophins, as the stories go. They say she’s the only horned Peophin in Neopia, a very rare sight indeed.”

     “And that seeing her his good luck,” smiled Seth’s father. “It’s good for you, Seth.”

     “Well,” the child said, very decisively, “one day, when I have my own ship, I’ll capture Harquin, and take her to be my pet.”

     "That’s ambitious of you,” his father laughed. “Though the oceans are wide, son, and she’s the most elusive of Peophins, which is saying something. You won’t have an easy job.”

     “I’ll still try, though,” murmured the boy, turning his head once more to gaze out to sea. “Somehow, I’ll find her.”

     After that day, Harquin and the owning of her seemed to be the only thing Seth could think about. The image of the leaping Peophin, her golden horn glinting and her whole body alight with the sun’s last rays, suspended in the air above a glistening sea, invaded his thoughts and his dreams, and instead of the chatty, cheerful boy he had always been he grew quieter and more thoughtful, and his eyes would take on a strange, dreamy cast whenever he looked out at the rolling waves. He would imagine capturing Harquin, winning her trust and affection. She would be a best friend to him; they would have a bond of mutual understanding between them. When he called to her she would come speeding over the waves, whinnying her joy and delight at seeing him. He might even ride on her back through the white-crested waves in the open sea, wild and free as the sea wind.

     Seth’s father hadn’t worried too much about this. He assumed Seth would in the end forget all about Harquin once they were back to land. But as time passed, the boy’s dream showed no signs of leaving. On the contrary, it was getting stronger. Seth’s parents were frankly worried about him, and after some discussion, decided that what he needed was a pet to call his own. Thus it was that Seth’s mother had headed to the Create-A-Pet Centre and returned with Jake.

     Perhaps it was an effect of living by the sea, but Jake’s fur, several days after he had come back, went from a soft powder blue to the more greenish shade of the ocean. He was a sensible, down-to-earth Acara, and as he and Seth spent time together Seth seemed less preoccupied by daydreams of Harquin and more like his old self. But truly, Jake had never truly felt he was a real friend to Seth. Sure, they did play together, and joke, but Jake didn’t feel that he was indispensable to Seth, and something the boy depended upon, as by rights pets should be to their owners. And when the boy gazed at the white-crested rollers on the horizon, he would sigh softly and longingly, and it was as if Jake had ceased to exist. Seth had told the Acara of Harquin and his plans to make her his own, and by all rights Jake should have been jealous, but loyal as he was, he stuck by his master, and hoped that someday his plan might be fulfilled, although part of him wished it wouldn’t, because he knew that the day Harquin became Seth’s pet was the day he would lose Seth forever.

***

Far, far away, in a turret of a coral palace deep in the sea, Princess Tirra-Li gazed sadly out at her silent kingdom through the pearl-framed windows of her room. The young Flotsam was a slim, elegant creature, with sleek sides such a deep, intense yellow that she was almost golden, and large, inky blue eyes. The Princess lowered her horned head and sighed. How had life changed so much? The joyful cries of the young ones as they flitted about the sand and the seaweed, the vibrant colours and twisted shapes of coral formations, the happy songs of the citizens… it all seemed a world away from this.

     Now the families of Koi, Peophins and Flotsam were subdued and solemn, and the coral forests and fields of seaweed that had once waved so elegantly with the pull and push of the tides were pale and dulled. Life in the underwater kingdom of Kaoren was definitely not what it used to be.

     The Princess sighed again, more heavily. It wasn’t even clear how the change had happened. Her father, King Takur-Ath, of course had blamed the Jetsams.

     “Lowlife, thieving scum,” she had heard him snarling as he swam vigorously up and down the halls of their palace, “it must be some plot they have to get revenge on us.”

     For long ago, before Tirra was born, their pod of Flotsam had been nomads, a traveling community who went where the waves and the sea wind took them. Just after Takur had succeeded his own father as leader of the clan, when Tirra was still a very young podling, their pod had come across a wonderful stretch of land, full of coral forests and beds of seaweed. This was Kaoren.

     However, the Peophins and Koi who lived there lived in fear of a shoal of Jetsam, whose cruel leader Spearblade ruled over them with an iron fin. There were no Flotsam in Kaoren, and therefore nothing to keep the Jetsam at bay.

     Always ready to help creatures in need, the pod, led by Takur, defeated Spearblade and his Jetsam horde, and exiled them from Kaoren. The city was saved, and honoured the Flotsam pod by making them their new government, with Takur as their King.

     For a while it was good, and the city had prospered. But now it seemed to be failing again, despite all her family’s care. Tirra wished she knew what the problem was. Being brought up with a none-too-good opinion of Jetsams, she felt sure they were the ones who were behind it. But what could they have done? It wasn’t that the seaweed and the corals weren’t growing any more, as it was that the citizens weren’t ill or anything of the sort. There was a certain vitality and life that had disappeared. It was as if the very heart of Kaoren was missing altogether.

     “Princess?” Tirra whirled around to see her Koi handmaiden, Cowrie, standing in the doorway. “Your father told me to get you. It’s time for lunch.” Tirra gave Cowrie a faint smile, and rose to follow her. The Flotsam and the Koi drifted down several passageways until they came to the large, opulent dining room, the walls hung with brilliant tapestries woven of coloured seaweed and set with shining chinks of pearl that normally sent rainbows dancing over all from the light, purified by the water, streaming in through the windows. But now even those looked wan and tired.

     King Takur-Ath and Queen Io-Ri, along with Tirra’s seven elder brothers and sisters were already there waiting for her, seated around the long table of polished marble. Tirra plopped down at her usual seat with her sisters, and drummed her fins on the table.

     “Tirra, don’t do that dear.” Her mother’s reprimand came quick and fast, the snapping shut of a clamshell. But Tirra could tell that her mother was just taking the opportunity to say something that would break the terrible silence that hovered over the table at every meal now. Normally they could find so much to say, there was so much talk and laughter… Tirra took her fins off the table and gripped her seat with them. There was just so much change for the worse… an unfathomable problem…

     “I can’t take it,” she burst out finally. “What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with Kaoren? What’s wrong with… with everything?”

     “Tirra--” her father began, but Tirra cut him off.

     “I can’t take this anymore, our city is dying! We’re dying! Something’s wrong, so wrong…”

     “Tirra,” King Takur began again angrily, but the Queen put a gentle white fin on his shoulder.

     “She’s right,” Queen Io said softly, sadly. “Kaoren is dying. Its life and its heart are draining away. Can’t you feel it, Takur? It’s about time we faced this problem like it should be faced, and find a solution before our whole city is nothing but an empty shell, a body without a soul.”

     King Takur gazed at his mate, and his expression eased. “We’ll hold a council meeting after dinner,” he told her gently. “We’ll try and figure out what’s wrong. Kareu,” he said, turning to his eldest son, “you will attend as well.”

     At that moment the butler appeared with the first of the courses and the family ceased discussion of the matter.

To be continued...
Previous Episodes

The Legend of Harquin: Part Two

The Legend of Harquin: Part Three

Legend Harquin: Part Four

Legend of Harquin: Part Five

Legend of Harquin: Part Six

Legend of Harquin: Part Seven


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