Lao and the Legend of the Sun: Part One
Lao gazed at the fiery sun with serene eyes. The yellow
Shoyru was enjoying his last morning in his homeland of Shenkuu before setting
off for his very first journey on a merchant ship. Lao was very excited, but also
a little disappointed that he would have to leave his home for a while. The sky
began to fade from red to pink as the sun rose higher.
"The rising sun always reminds me of the heart
of a volcano." Lao turned to see that his little sister, Lin, had come up behind
him. She smiled. "It looks just like a splash of lava spreading across the sky."
Lao turned back toward the sunrise. "It is beautiful,"
he said. The two stood together for a few more moments, savoring their time
together. As the sky faded from pink to orange to yellow, Lao at last said,
"I really should be going."
Lin hugged him. "I'll miss you. Have fun. I'll
bet Mystery Island is amazing."
"I'll tell you everything as soon as I return,"
her brother said, giving her a kiss on the forehead. With a smile and a wave,
he walked away, disappearing over one of the many hills.
The Destiny was a fine ship. Its captain
took better care of it than he did his sailors, and it showed. Its ropes were
tight and strong; its decks made of the finest wood. The pure white sails had
no rips or tears, and the figurehead of a beautiful Peophin looked more lifelike
than the passengers of the ship itself.
Part of the reason for this was that Captain
Eran worked his crew extraordinarily hard. The Eyrie had been on more sea voyages
than just about anyone, and he knew what it took to run a ship successfully.
His sailors followed a strict schedule set by him where they were worked to
the limit. The sails had to constantly be adjusted, the decks needed to be tidy
and bare, supplies had to be preserved and cooked to the highest quality, and
the ship needed to move quickly and in the right direction.
Lao had not known all of these details when
he had signed up to join the crew of the Destiny. Of course, he hadn't
bothered to ask. The Shoyru had been so excited at the opportunity of working
on a merchant ship that he hadn't even thought about exactly what kind of work
he would be doing. He was given a quick education, however, during the first
week of the voyage.
Lao found himself working harder during that
week than he had worked in his entire life. He performed nearly every task possible
on the ship: scrubbing the deck, working the riggings, cleaning up in the galley,
and other tasks that he hadn't even imagined would be performed on a merchant
vessel. The only job he hadn't been assigned yet was that of lookout, which
was actually what he had been imagining when he volunteered for the mission.
Looking back, Lao realized with dismay how foolish he had been to picture himself
up in the Draik's Nest, leaning forward holding a spyglass up to one eye, scanning
Those daydreams seemed ages old now that he
was actually experiencing the work on the Destiny. This wasn't to say
that Lao hated every minute of the journey, of course. On the contrary, being
part of such a busy and important voyage was fascinating and a bit overwhelming.
When he was using a rough brush to clean the deck, Lao was only a few feet away
from where the famous Captain Eran was standing with the helmsman. Other times,
when the Shoyru was straining to assist in controlling the mainsail, he felt
awed to be in the presence of the burly sailors who knew every inch of the Destiny
almost as well as the captain did. And of course, there was many an occasion
while Lao was cleaning in the galley that he saw the ship's revered cook, the
pirate Chia Kito-San himself.
The work of the day was certainly interesting,
if difficult. The time between shifts, however, was far from enjoyable. Lao's
imagination had spun tales of chatting with old sailors, sitting around a wooden
table drinking grog, but it was not so on the Destiny. In the hours that
he wasn't working, Lao would have only a few short minutes to scarf down his
modest meals of fish and rice. Then, because the work of the day was so arduous,
he would pull himself into a hammock and immediately fall asleep. His aching
body would sway back and forth with the motion of the ship, and Lao would dream
of home, the place that he missed just enough to be homesick but not quite enough
to want to return just yet.
Since he was a little bit younger than most
of the sailors, Lao found it slightly difficult to make friends. The first pet
that Lao met was a large, gruff Yurble named Zhou. Zhou and Lao often worked
the same shifts, and the two formed an odd sort of friendship. Lao adored Zhou
and was always talking to him, begging for stories, and chatting about his day,
but Zhou would always shake his head and give a snappy reply. They both knew,
however, that Zhou enjoyed Lao's company, and the two would bicker playfully
throughout the day.
On the seventh day of his journey, Lao was delighted
to hear that he had at last been assigned the duty of lookout, along with Zhou.
The Shoyru rose early just for the occasion and climbed the mast to the Draik's
Nest. The perch was high above the ship's deck, and Lao could clearly see all
of the action below. The steersman stood tall at his post, and a handful of
sailors were busy pulling on the ropes of the mainsail. Lao saw Zhou stagger
up from belowdecks and begin to climb groggily up the mast. When the Yurble
arrived at the top, Lao said, "Careful! You might be too heavy for the mast
"Aye, I can think o' a way ta make this basket
lighter," said Zhou with a smirk. Lao laughed.
"I'm so excited to be in the Draik's Nest today!
We get to see everything from up here!"
"Na' much to see," muttered Zhou, trying to
get comfortable in the small perch. "Jus' the open ocean."
"It's beautiful," Lao breathed. The early morning
sun sparkled on the waves as far as the eye could see. There was a good wind,
so the ship was skimming swiftly over the water. "It's like flying."
The rest of the day was spent with Lao eagerly
picking up the spyglass every couple of minutes to see if land was in sight,
and Zhou threatening to throw him off the edge of the Draik's Nest. After so
many days of strenuous exercise, it was nice for Lao to at last live his dream
of being perched high above the waves, standing tall and proud, surveying the
sea in front of him.
Their conversation dried up by midday, and at
last when evening fell, the two agreed to sleep in shifts. When it was his turn
to be awake, Lao would lean back and gaze at the stars. They seemed so much
brighter over the ocean, and their twinkling light was reflected back by the
water. The moon made its slow journey across the silent sky, and by the time
it began to dip below the horizon, Lao felt better than he ever had before.
This was why he had signed up to be on this voyage. This was the feeling
he had always imagined.
The sun began to rise in the east, a sliver
of crimson peeping up above the waves. Today, it was especially red, reminding
Lao of his sister Lin. When Zhou groggily awoke, Lao remarked, "The rising sun
always reminds me of the heart of a beautiful volcano."
Zhou peered curiously at the red light beaming
across the sky. "'Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,'" he quoted.
"Strange things'll be happenin' soon, no doubt. Th' sun never lies."
Lao was about to ask what Zhou was referring
to, but suddenly the Yurble cried, "Land ho!" in the loudest yell Lao had ever
heard. The booming voice immediately snapped the sailors below to action. They
clambered out of their bunks and took their places around the ship, eagerly
adjusting ropes and moving sails to catch the wind. Peering into the red horizon,
Lao searched for any sign of Mystery Island. The rising sun hurt his eyes, but
at last Lao spotted the dark blotch in the distance.
"There it is!" he cried. "I see Mystery Island!"
"Aye," muttered Zhou, "and a good thing too.
We don' wanna be out at sea on such a mysterious mornin' as this." With another
skeptical glance at the deep red sun, Zhou began to descend the Draik's Nest.
Lao leaned forward on his perch, straining to
get closer to the island that was steadily becoming larger. After a while, he
could see the thick jungle covering the island, as well as the sandy shoreline.
The voices of the sailors below grew more excited as the land drew closer. The
Destiny glided swiftly across the waves, sending up a sea spray to Lao's
face. The Shoyru was excited to be arriving at this mysterious new location,
but he could not help wondering why Zhou was suspicious of a red sun, and also
why the sun was so red this morning in the first place. In the distance, on
the island, Lao could make out the thick black smoke puffing from the ominous
volcano, and he wondered what new experiences and dangers were lurking not far
To be continued...