Thor's Tales: The Rainbow Pearl
Art by ssjelitegirl
The weather of Mystery Island was once again sunny and cloudless. The beach was crowded, all the little tiki shops were filled with tourists and the locals used the chance to make a nice profit. Or stayed inside, away from the noisy and annoying strangers. Peace was a rarity at this time of the year but if you looked carefully enough, you could still find households where life went on as usually, not caring much about what went on outside. One little Neohome hidden behind a vast Blackberry garden was exactly like that, silent and withdrawn as ever, no matter how many chatting tourists passed its door. Its inhabitants, eight Neopets and their owner were all sitting in the kitchen, each minding their own business.
“Saura,” a quiet, somewhat sleepy voice broke the silence, “do we have any raisins?” Huntress, the pets’ owner, had been reading a book behind the table, but the hot windless weather was more suitable for thinking than for concentrating on a long novel.
The spotted Zafara she had addressed didn’t even look up from the sink, in which he was washing the dishes. “I think so, yeah.”
“I think I’ll bake a cake this evening... if it gets a little cooler,” Huntress muttered absently.
“Go ahead.” Saura nodded and the kitchen fell silent again. A Seti yawned in the corner and stretched his long legs before going back to sleep. A quiet wind whispered in the Blackberry bushes outside, vaguely moving the curtains in front of the opened window.
“Listen, guys,” another, a lot less sleepy voice broke the silence again. Shad the Lupe only slept at night and even the hottest weather couldn’t disturb his energetic mind when the sun was shining. He had spent his time reading the Trading Card Game checklist even though he didn’t have a single card from any decks. Nevertheless he claimed that reading about the cards was very interesting and every now and then he just had to share some new piece of information with the others. The guys awoke from their trance and glanced at him with weak curiosity.
“"Rainbow pearls, the rarest pearls of all, are only found at depths of ten thousand feet",” the shadow Lupe read. “Cool, eh?”
The others nodded slowly and went back to whatever they had been doing, except for one of them, a big grumpy-looking Tyrannian Uni who had been asleep until now. He had woken up when Shad opened his mouth and now looked at the checklist with a frown.
“There only are about twenty rainbow pearls in Neopia and they’re worth so much that if Queen Fyora would sell only one of them, she could retire from the whole Hidden Tower business,” he suddenly remarked. The others started and were all at once very awake. Thor the Uni didn’t talk much but occasionally, when something reminded him of some old adventure he had been through before meeting that family, he could get in the mood of telling a story and those were never to be missed.
“Then they may only be a myth,” Ice the Ixi remarked. “Or have you seen any?”
Thor leaned against the cupboard. “Only one, but that’s more than you guys will ever see,” he replied with a grin and an absent look spread over his face. “It was in Altador, you know, a few years ago, I believe...”
“Altador was discovered pretty recently,” Shad interrupted, ignoring his siblings’ furious hissing.
“The portal was, but I got there the usual way,” the Uni said. “Tarapita and I had managed to get on a pirate ship...” The Seti in the corner, hearing his name, woke up again and trotted over the floor to curl up by Thor who was now looking at a spot of sunlight on the wall without really seeing it...
...“It’s been three days now!” a Techo complained to his crewmate, a chubby Eyrie. “I know that we should be trustin’ our cap but seriously, he ain’t trustin’ his maps at all and see what came of it – we be completely lost out here!” The two were standing next to the main mast of a small pirate ship that was quietly sailing on under the hot sun in the cloudless sky. The ocean was deep blue and stretched out in every direction.
The Eyrie nodded with a sigh. “Luckily thar be plenty of drinking water left. And dried fish. But steerin’ while only relyin’ on the sun and stars cannot get us anywhere, y’know. If the cap won’t be comin’ to his senses soon, we’ll all die out here.”
The two left for the forecastle and the deck was empty again – well, not that empty. Thor the Tyrannian Uni was scrubbing the planks in a nearby corner. It didn’t have much of a point as the crew spent most of the time sulking in the forecastle and therefore the deck didn’t get that dirty, but Thor didn’t have anything else to do either and he liked to keep himself in shape. Tarapita the Seti was crouching on a bundle of ropes with his eyes narrowed. He liked the sun and as he was a Desert petpet, the lack of fresh water didn’t disturb him much.
“Heard them?” Thor asked his petpet, taking a short break. “If you can’t handle the pressure, stay away from the ocean, I tell you.” He stretched his back before getting back to scrubbing. “Sissies...”
Tarapita yawned. He had been through so many adventures along with the Uni that he wasn’t annoyed easily – especially when he had a dry place to sit on and a warm sun to caress his fur.
Thor emptied the bucket of dirty water over the board. “Don’t get too comfortable, buddy. If things won’t change soon, we’re leaving. I don’t know how far land is but I’m willing to take that risk rather than stand those whiners here for who knows how long.”
But that same night, when the Uni was curled up on the deck – the forecastle has no place for cabin boys – he was awakened by a quiet bark by his petpet. Thor’s emerald eyes flashed open to see nothing particular at first. But then he spotted two figures some feet away, and after perking his ears, overheard their conversation.
“Cap’n, look!” It was the watchman. “Tis a constellation unknown to me and me couldn’t find it on any map either. But the stars are so bright, maybe they’ll lead us somewhere?”
Thor raised his head higher. He could now see what the watchman meant: the constellation was twice as bright as any he had ever seen. It looked like a cross or a circle of four stars, with a fifth one in the middle.
“Let’s aim for these stars,” the captain’s voice replied. “They may lead us to some new undiscovered land.”
“Dreamer,” Thor grunted before getting back to sleep.
However, two days passed and one sunny afternoon the roofs and towers of a huge city appeared on the distance for everyone’s great surprise. Another few hours and the pirate ship landed, causing a lot of excitement in the prospering, yet isolated city of Altador. The pirates hurried off to explore the city and so did Thor, paying no attention to the captain’s strict “Whoever won’t be back fer sundown will be keelhauled, ye hear me?”
“I don’t mind adventuring but sailing on a ship steered by mere luck isn’t adventuring, it’s plain insanity,” he announced to Tarapita as the two wandered around the city, followed by curious glances by the locals. “Whatcha think now, boy? Shall we find a way back to the Neopia we know or shall we stay here for a while?”
Tarapita sniffed the ground and barked quietly. The two turned to look at the building right beside them – an old massive house that seemed to be leaking history from every corner. There was a huge courtyard surrounding the house, bordered by vast marble pillars and covered in thick lawn. Even though the house and the pillars hadn’t been treated nicely by the sands of time, they were still as beautiful and magnificent as the day they were built.
“Hoo boy,” the Uni muttered, “I’ve been to places but seriously, this town is the oldest I’ve ever seen... wonder why the rest of Neopia hasn’t heard of them? The place seems developed enough.” He looked up at the building again. “Let’s go check it out.”
The house, though old, was well-kept and clean. And quiet. As they were looking around in the cool dim hallway, an old Lenny spotted them and came to greet them without even trying to hide his surprise.
“Welcome to Altadorian Archives,” he said. “It’s quite a mess here, really, but visitors are always welcome... you won’t find much here, though. I haven’t had much time to keep it in order.”
Thor looked around, raising a brow. That town looked like time was standing still there. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry. It was like an everlasting afternoon, one of those hot and dozy ones when nobody feels like doing anything. Altador was... funny, most definitely. But peaceful too. Thor and Tarapita had learned to value peace on their journeys – they rarely got to see it. The Uni’s emerald eyes drilled through the Archivist.
“Mind if we stay here for a while?”
And so they did – for about two weeks. The first impression had been right; Altador really was slumbering. The locals’ lives passed like a semi-dream, all days were sunny, quiet and peaceful and Thor would’ve found that pretty creepy if he hadn’t spent most of his time napping in the Archives and enjoying the warm windless days, not yet knowing that one day he would be telling that story on another warm windless day, far away from Altador.
Finneus the Archivist didn’t mind having the two around. Thor was never in his way and Tarapita spent his time catching bugs. The Lenny just passed the days reading, writing and keeping the books in order, sometimes bringing the Seti a treat or occasionally asking Thor to help him find a book or two. One day, however, Thor got a more demanding task. Finneus gave him an old key.
“It’s the key to that other room,” he said. “The older Archives. Would you please go there and find a book called “King Altador”? It should be in there somewhere.”
Thor, even if usually grumpy and not that cooperative, got up with a shrug and nodded. Why not? I’ve been letting myself go lately. Perhaps it’s time to move on. Two more days and I’ll start growing moss...
The old Archives were extremely silent. It was like a tomb, holding at least three million almost forgotten books and scrolls covered in a thick layer of dust. The small windows let in yellow, broken daylight but no sounds. The old Archives were even more asleep than the rest of the city. The aisles between the high shelves were narrow and the floors were piled with books at places. Thor navigated between them, slowly getting an odd feeling that time was either standing still there or passing very fast. Hours? Weeks? Or maybe just five minutes? It was already impossible to tell. And Tarapita was... now where did he go?
“Tarapita!” he called. The Seti barked back from the depths of a nearby shelf and pushed out some old tomes, a piece of paper and a very scared Mootix who disappeared into a crack in the shelf.
Thor’s eyes narrowed. “Would you stop fooling around?” He looked up at the old cracked ceiling. “I don’t think we should be disturbing the peace of this place...” The Uni looked at the books Tarapita had pushed out. No “King Altador”. Just a “Personality of Altachucks”, some merchant’s biography and a book with no title. Thor picked it up and opened the first page. The handwriting was big and firm, each word marked down with care. The pages were old and yellow but made of that thick strong paper that can last centuries. He started reading, already having forgotten about his original mission.
It was about rainbow pearls – the ones that are formed over a very long time and only in deep pure water. There wasn’t much text and it still looked like the author had written down everything there was even to be known about those pearls. The Uni frowned as he read on and turned the page.
He had been right. The author had written down everything he knew on the first page. The rest of the thick book was completely empty. A square hole had been cut in the middle of the book and the pages were only for hiding what was inside – a pearl, a perfectly round pearl that glittered like a rainbow even in the dusty dim archive. It wasn’t bigger than an eyeball, but according to the book, it cost more than the whole of Altador. Thor poked it with his split hoof, then looked at Tarapita, who glanced back with curiosity, a silent question of “Hey, what’s the big deal with the small shiny thing?” in his yellow eyes.
Thor nodded. “There really is no place for something as trivial as this in our lives, is there? Funny how some small objects can have the value of a kingdom... while being so fragile and having no direct purpose whatsoever...” He closed the book and pushed it back into the shelf along with its priceless treasure. “We’ve been hanging here for too long, you know. Isn’t it about time to see Neopia again?”
The Seti jumped back on the floor with an excited bark. After finding the way out they told Finneus that they hadn’t found the book. The old Lenny scratched his head.
“Well, that’s a shame. That book is relatively important for my work... wonder where I could have put it? I could’ve sworn that I locked it in the old Archives quite near the entrance... then again... what? You want to leave? My, but you just came... time really flies, doesn’t it? Oh, no need to thank me; having you around was no bother at all. You’ve been most helpful. Take care, then. Come back some other time; you’ll always be welcome.”
So Tarapita curled up on the Uni’s back and Thor dashed into the air in front of the Archives, soon leaving the half-asleep city of Altador behind them along with its priceless, yet rather useless piece of treasure locked away in a silent archive somewhere between those old walls...
Thor finished his story and glanced at his siblings with a grin. The sleepy atmosphere was gone and the Neopets had eagerly listened to every word. Now they suddenly noticed that the sun was already sliding towards the horizon and evening was drawing near.
“So much for that,” Thor said, getting up. “I’m hungry. You were talking about baking, Huntress?”
The owner nodded, standing up too. “You sure have been to places, Thor...” She opened the fridge. “It would’ve been interesting to see that pearl, though.”
“Eh, t’was no big deal,” the Uni assured her. “Now, that Jerdana’s Orb was a pretty little piece... but that’s a different story. How about that cheesecake now, eh?”
“I never said anything about a cheesecake,” Huntress grunted.
“You did now,” Shad grinned, trotting to her. “Go ahead, I’ll help if you want.”
His owner raised a brow. “Spare me... or get me some flour, will you?”
The evening was falling and the tourists were all looking for a place to stay for the night or leaving the island, but the kitchen of that small Neohome was still brightly lit and full of life. Rare pearls may have been forming in the depths of the ocean, but those eight Neopets wholeheartedly agreed that their artificial value is nothing compared to the value of one good cheesecake.