Lao and the Legend of the Sun: Part Two
The busy atmosphere on the Destiny was absolutely
nothing compared to the hectic nature of the Mystery Island harbour. Ships were
being loaded and emptied constantly; workers were bustling on every inch of the
docks. Merchants carried their crates full of exotic goods back and forth, and
young ones watched in awe as the business of the day was carried out. Lao would
have been among them if he hadn't been working so hard. As soon as they had docked
in the harbour, Captain Eran had wasted no time in doling out tasks. The bigger
Neopets were occupied with carrying the crates of goods from Shenkuu to the market,
which was a short distance from the docks. Some of the officers went off to conduct
business with other merchants. Other pets were assigned to remain on the ship.
To his dismay, the captain informed Lao that he was one of these pets.
"But please, sir," said Lao meekly, "Isn't there
something I can do on the island? I'd really like to help, and we're only here
for a day."
Captain Eran gave Lao a stern look and was about
to reply when the first mate tapped him on the shoulder and whispered something
in his ear. The Eyrie raised an eyebrow and turned to leave. Over his shoulder,
he called, "I have some business to attend to. You may gather some fruit on
the island, but you must be back before sunrise tomorrow morning."
That was all Lao needed to hear. With an excited
whoop, he leapt over the side of the ship and landed on the dock. Grinning from
ear to ear, the yellow Shoyru made his way through the crowd of Neopets that
were bustling about. Lao was fascinated by all that was going on just before
his eyes. He saw an Elephante carrying an enormous crate of glass bowls filled
with water that contained exotic Maraquan petpets. There was a Faerie Wocky
shouting angrily at a confused pirate Lupe, waving a broken glass bottle in
his face. An Aisha nearly knocked Lao over as he ran past with mounds of bread
stacked high on a broad platter. Lao was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of
goods being transported from the ships to the market and back, and he could
have spent all day watching these exchanges, if he hadn't been so intent on
visiting the island itself.
By the time Lao at last reached the end of the
busy dock, midmorning had already passed. The crowds rapidly thinned as he walked
slowly away from the busy marketplace and toward the looming jungle. Although
Lao had heard many stories about the Mystery Island jungle, he could never have
imagined how extraordinarily large it was. The trees were so tall that they
seemed to brush against the clouds, and they were very thick, making an almost
impenetrable wall of green. As he walked deeper into the jungle, he could hear
exotic birdcalls over an undertone of buzzing insects. Occasionally, the bushes
would rustle and Lao would freeze where he stood, but not once did he see any
sign of life.
Once he calmed himself down a bit, the Shoyru
began to search for fruits. He had brought along a burlap sack to carry them
in, but so far he hadn't spotted anything that looked appetizing. As he ventured
further, however, Lao began to find many strange fruits. Smiling, he began to
fill his sack, hoping that the cook aboard the Destiny would be able
to prepare something delicious out of them. Once his bag was almost full, however,
Lao spotted one fruit high in the trees that was too irresistible not to pick.
It was in the shape of a large orb, swirling with sharp hues of red and orange,
which greatly contrasted the deep jungle green. It was dangling in one of the
highest branches, but Lao knew that this delicacy would certainly be a great
prize to return with. Carefully, Lao put down his sack and began to ascend the
tree. With the occasional flap of his small Shoyru wings, Lao was able to slowly
make his way up to the tantalizing object. He reached up to grab it, but it
remained just a bit too far away to snatch.
Lao jumped up and grabbed a higher branch, then,
holding on with all his might, he reached out with one hand to grab the stem
of the fiery fruit. It was firmly connected to the tree, but with one final
yank he managed to snap it off. Still holding the fruit carefully out in front
of him, Lao descended the tree, eager to reach the ground and examine his prize.
When he at last landed, he turned the orb around, examining it from every angle.
When he turned it, however, Lao was shocked to find that an arrow was protruding
from the other side.
His initial reaction was disappointment. Since
the arrow had been on the other side of the fruit, he hadn't noticed it before,
but now he realized that his perfect fruit was no longer perfect. When he slowly
drew the arrow out, however, he thought that perhaps he had found a new prize.
The arrow looked ancient, but it was stiff,
straight, and strong. Its shaft was carved from a dark wood, and it was flighted
with long feathers in bright shades of orange and yellow. The arrowhead was
still very sharp and perfectly fashioned. Lao immediately knew that this souvenir
was worth far more than any fruit.
The Shoyru carefully rested the wounded red
fruit in the sack with the others, but clutched the arrow in his other hand,
ready to make his way back to the ship. When he turned to leave, however, Lao
found that he did not remember the way back to the dock.
His heart began to pound. Willing himself to
remain calm, Lao tried to retrace his steps. "Let's see," he said to himself.
"If I climbed that tree from that side, I probably walked from this direction."
He looked around the forest floor for any sign of footprints, but Lao was not
trained as a tracker, and had to end up taking his best guess. He began to walk
quickly through the forest, hoping to find some familiar landmark, when he saw
something that immediately told him he had gone the wrong way.
Nestled thick in the trees was an old hut. It
was made of dark brown wood that matched the nearby jungle almost perfectly,
making it nearly invisible. There was a wisp of smoke coming out of a small
hole in the roof, and Lao watched it float away on the air. He felt a terrible
mix of hope and fear, because he knew that whoever lived in the hut might know
the way back to the beach, but they also might want to eat him.
Lao had heard horrible tales of the Mystery
Island natives. They were rumored to be fierce savages, cannibals, and wild
beasts. Any Neopet who could survive in the vast jungle alone had to be, Lao
supposed. Images of bubbling cauldrons and tribal sacrifices swirled in Lao's
mind, making his stomach turn. However, in the end, the Shoyru decided that
he had to at least give it a try. He could always run if the pet gave him a
Brandishing the arrow, which he was very glad
to have at this point, Lao slowly approached the flap that served as a door
to the hut. When at last he came close enough, it was all Lao could do to call
out, "Hello? Is anyone there?"
At first, there was no answer, and Lao was prepared
to leave, but then the flap slowly opened and a wizened old Kyrii stepped out.
Lao remained still, sweating, gazing at this frightening creature in front of
him. The Kyrii was adorned with many hideous earrings, beads, and other jewelry,
and almost every inch of its fur was covered in frightening patterns of body
paint. It wore a necklace of many different sized teeth, and there was a horrible
bone that poked through its nose. Its hair was tossed and dirty, and it was
fairly small, even smaller than Lao. The Shoyru would have turned and fled immediately
if it wasn't for something in the Kyrii's eyes.
The Neopet's body may have been fierce, but
its eyes were calm and friendly. It possessed an air of great wisdom and understanding,
and even though Lao was still a bit nervous, he knew that this creature would
not harm him.
"Welcome," said the Kyrii. "I am the Island
Mystic. Have you come to hear your fortune?"
"Um, no," said Lao quickly. "I just got lost
and need to get back to the beach." He lowered the arrow.
The motion caught the Kyrii's eye, and it gasped.
"Where did you find that arrow," it asked in a nearly inaudible whisper.
"It was stuck in the side of a fruit," said
Lao, wondering why the Kyrii was so interested. "I was gathering provisions
for the crew of my ship, but I need to get back to the harbour as soon as possible."
"Do you have the fruit?" asked the Kyrii. Lao
paused, still confused, but produced the red-orange fruit from the sack. The
Mystic's eyes widened. "I believe," it said, "that you have just discovered
the Morning Arrow."
"The what?" asked Lao. He didn't know whether
to be worried or excited.
"I think you'd better come inside," the Mystic
opened the door flap and walked into the hut. Lao paused, but decided that the
only way he could get back to the docks was to do what the Kyrii said, so he
stepped inside. The hut was fairly small, with a bed on one side, a shelf full
of strange herbs and bones, and two stumps on opposite sides of a small burning
fire. The air was a bit smoky, and Lao's eyes began to water as he took a seat
on one of the stumps.
"There is a legend," began the Island Mystic,
"that once every generation, the sun will be in danger of dying."
Although this was not the information that Lao
was looking for, he could not help but be interested. His mother and father
had always told him of the many legends of Shenkuu when he was young, and he
was eager to hear a bit about Mystery Island. "The arrow is found buried in
the heart of the sun fruit," the Mystic continued. "Whoever draws the arrow
from the fruit must then deliver the arrow to the Great Archer, who will fire
it into the rising sun and reignite the flame."
Lao was stunned. "But, then that would mean-"
"You are the courier," said the Mystic, looking
deep into Lao's eyes. "You must deliver the Morning Arrow to the Great Archer
before the sun rises tomorrow."
"But I have to be back on the ship at sunrise
tomorrow!" cried Lao. "How am I supposed to deliver the Morning Arrow overnight?"
"You will not be alone," said the Mystic. "There
are forces both good and evil at work here. Legend says that when a mission
of great importance arises, the balance of good and evil will be on its brink.
The twin Draiks, Ying and Yang, will appear before you."
The Mystic's tale was beginning to get a little
too wild for Lao to handle. However, it didn't even cross his mind to disbelieve
it. The Kyrii looked so sincere that Lao could not help but believe his every
word. "So you're saying that I'm going to be followed by two magical Draiks?"
"Ying is the essence of good, and his twin brother
Yang is the essence of evil," the Mystic said. "Ying is pure, clean white, and
Yang is as dark as night, so they are usually easy to tell apart. However, in
dark times such as these, they can often be confused."
The Mystic paused, and Lao waited for him to
continue. The small fire in the center of the hut crackled. "So how will I tell
them apart? Will they still be light and dark?" asked Lao finally.
The Island Mystic gave no answer. Instead, he
merely whispered, "Just remember this: you are not alone. Good luck, young one.
It is all in your hands now."
Lao was stunned. He still had so many questions.
How did he get the Morning Arrow to the Great Archer? What would make it impossible
for him to tell which Draik brother was which? Why had he been chosen for this
mission? But before he could open his mouth, the Mystic stood up and walked
out of the hut. Lao paused for a moment, gazing at the orange flames flickering
dimly. He had never felt so confused.
When at last he stepped out of the hut, the
Island Mystic was nowhere to be found. "Hello?" called Lao, still clutching
the arrow in his hand. "Hello?" The jungle was quiet. The sun had set, and the
growing darkness seemed to envelope the small yellow Shoyru. He glanced around,
expecting Ying or Yang to appear and tell him what to do next. But no one came.
As the fire faded in the hut behind him, Lao only felt more and more alone in
a world that was growing darker by the second.
To be continued...