What Lies Beneath the Maraquan Ruins?
Leila’s streamlined body slipped through the water effortlessly as she swam deeper and deeper, seeing how far she could get before the light stopped filtering through the kelp above her. Her powerful tail propelled her as she swam through fields of seaweed, past rocks that looked eerily menacing in the half light. Something shiny caught Leila’s eye and set her heart racing with excitement. Treasure! She swam back to where she saw the shiny object but alas, it was only a cheap water ring. Leila saw that the sun was setting far above her and began to head home, feeling thoroughly disappointed.
Leila was a newly painted Maraquan Ixi and she had taken to her new colour like a fish to water... literally. She had recently moved from Krawk Island to her new home in Maraqua and being from Krawk Island, she was naturally obsessed with treasure. The move had been a long awaited delight for Leila, as she had heard countless stories of hidden treasure beneath the ocean floor. Regardless of whether the rumours were true or not, Leila was beside herself with excitement and had taken the first opportunity she got to go searching for herself. Despite her first trip being a disappointment, Leila was not at all put off. She left her new home the next morning with the same fervour and excitement as she had the previous day however her plans for a full day of treasure hunting had to be put off. As she was heading out the door, she was stopped by her owner, who bore terrible news.
“Seeing as we’re new to the neighbourhood, I thought I’d throw a little house warming party and I’ve invited a couple of the neighbours around,” Leila was told to her absolute dismay. Not only would she not be allowed out to hunt for treasure today, she’d also have to dress in her stuffy, uncomfortable, but neatest clothes and be “the perfect hostess” as she was always being told.
Shortly after dressing in her best clothes, Leila was at the door waiting to welcome guests into their house and pretend to be pleased to meet them.
“Take that scowl off your face, Leila; anyone would think you weren’t pleased to be here,” scolded her owner.
‘Oh really?’ Leila thought to herself as she glared at the door handle. Suddenly a knock came and Leila put on her sweetest smile to greet the first guest. It seemed to Leila that an endless amount of Neopets and their owners had come to the door before she was relieved of her job of greeting the guests. Resuming her scowl, she headed to the new kitchen to get herself a snack when another knock came on the door. Curious now, Leila walked back to the door to greet what had to be the final guests. She opened the door to find a scruffy looking Maraquan Scorchio and his owner. ‘He looks like my type of Neopet,’ Leila thought to herself, noticing the way he’d done up his buttons in the wrong hole and the smudges on his otherwise lurid tail.
“May I show you to the refreshments?” she asked with impeccable manners.
A short while later Leila and the Scorchio (who was named Sarrin) were to be found hiding under the refreshment table, stealing the sweets whenever they thought no one was looking. Leila was in the middle of explaining her hopes that Maraqua would hold treasure that inevitably led to unfathomable riches. As soon as Leila had finished her explanation, Sarrin grabbed her hand and pulled her out from under the table.
“You want treasure?” he asked. “Well, follow me!” and he sped off, leaving Leila spluttering in his wake.
“Hey, wait up, I’m still new to this whole flipper thing,” she called after him, as she tried to catch up. Moments later, after speeding through the new city of Maraqua, past that posh restaurant (Kelp was it called?) and the local petpet store, Leila found Sarrin in the ruins of old Maraqua, standing in front of a peculiar, and very very deep, bubbling pit. Leila gazed down it in amazement. It was so deep that the bottom was hidden beneath the murky fathoms of water. Sharp rocks jutted out from the walls and every so often there was a dark cave whose entrance was covered by a curtain of seaweed. Leila was ready to go diving straight down there to explore some of those mysterious caves, but Sarrin held her back.
“Don’t you want to hear the story behind the treasures down this pit?” Sarrin asked. Leila’s face lit up with excitement. Stories of lost treasure were one of her favourite things, second only to her love of treasure itself.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard about it before,” Sarrin began, Leila listening intently, “but many years ago there was a whirlpool which destroyed what was left of Maraqua after the pirate invasion. All that remained after the whirlpool is the ruins you see before you. The sea floor used to be smooth and even, without these giant pits. Some say these holes in the earth swallowed up entire ships and their contents, taking their treasure and bounties for themselves. Most of these stories are just rumours, of course, but there was one tale of a ship that went missing the night the whirlpool began. The disaster left only one survivor, and his story has been passed on down the generations until it reached my ears.
“The ship was called Fyora’s Glory and it carried monthly deliveries to Fyora, the Faerie Queen herself, with items to stock up her Hidden Tower. There was never known to be an unsuccessful delivery until this night. It was a fearsome night, with a wild storm raging and the entire crew were on deck trying to keep the ship under control. Waves were crashing onto the deck, but it was nothing the seasoned captain hadn’t experienced before, until a hole in the ocean appeared right in front of the ship, sucking up gallons of seawater and anything that came to near. The captain tried to steer the ship out of the way, tried to drop the anchor but the ship’s fate was sealed. It was sucked down, down into the bottomless depths of these pits.
“The captain, who was a Scorchio, in fact, escaped this fate by pure chance. There was one Maraquan Aisha in the water who had anchored herself to an outcrop of rocks beneath the water who grabbed him and pulled him to safety, away from the storm's fury. She took him to an underwater cave and taught him the secrets of breathing underwater. Since his life depended on it, he had no choice but to learn and he became the first Maraquan Scorchio... but that’s another story. The ship continued to sink, taking with it the priceless treasures which would now never be delivered to Fyora’s tower. Well, that’s what I’ve heard anyway.”
Throughout Sarrin’s story Leila had sat silently, enraptured by Sarrin’s story, but now she was bursting full of questions to ask him.
“And the Scorchio?” Leila asked quietly. She had her suspicions about his identity.
“He lived on to have children, and they had children of their own. He was my grandfather.”
“Why haven’t you ever gone down this hole yourself? The treasure, it sort of... belongs to you, doesn’t it?” asked Leila.
“I’ve never had the courage,” admitted Sarrin. “I thought now that you’re here, though, I might be able to do it.”
“Well, what are we waiting for then?” exclaimed Leila. “Let’s go!” But just as she said that, Leila and Sarrin heard their owners calling them, and they realised it was getting late. “I’ll meet you here first thing tomorrow morning, OK? Bye!” and she swam off towards her owner, leaving Sarrin nodding in agreement.
Leila woke with the dawn the next morning and dressed at lightning speed. She knew that if she left the house this early, she’d arrive at the pit hours before Sarrin, but she couldn’t cope with being in her boring old house when there was adventure and treasure waiting out there for her.
As it turned out, Sarrin had woken up very early as well and they both arrived at the pit at the same time. Leila looked enquiringly at Sarrin and he gave a shaky nod. There was no need to talk in the face of this great adventure. Leila and Sarrin dived down the pit and began exploring some of the caves, staying close by each other. The first few caves held nothing but seaweed and a few fish, and they dove deeper and deeper, until they could no longer see the top of the pit.
A few hours, and about a hundred caves later, they entered one cave that had almost escaped their notice. Its entrance was nearly entirely obstructed by seaweed and it was the smallest cave they had seen so far. Leila felt a dawning sense of apprehension and excitement and she swam towards the cave. Somehow, she knew this had to be the one. She felt Sarrin’s presence close behind as she pushed apart the seaweed and swam into the cave. At first it looked like the cave was empty apart from a large mossy rock, but Leila, peering through the gloomy water, noticed what an unusually shaped rock it was.
Hesitantly, she swam up to it and began clearing away the moss and algae and Sarrin did the same beside her. As the mess was cleared away, a grand chest was revealed, sending both the young Neopets hearts’ racing. The edges of the chest were lined with gold and it looked like it had been held shut by a large, jewel-encrusted lock, which had corroded and fallen away. The wood had been partially eaten away after years spent under the sea, but the sturdy structure had remained mostly intact. Leila moved away from the chest, allowing Sarrin the honour of opening it and revealing its wonders. He did so gladly, and the first object he pulled out was a piece of paper, enchanted so that it wouldn’t get damaged by water. It was covered in neat curly writing and Sarrin began to read:
“To my dearest friend Fyora,
I am writing to convey my hope that the goods please you, and that your business is ever prosperous. The journey is foretold to be a treacherous one but nothing I can’t handle. I have done this journey many times before, as you know.
I recently had a son,”
Sarrin looked up at Leila at this point.
“That must be my father,” he whispered, before continuing on.
“and it is my hope that he will continue in my line of work and provide you with excellent service for many years to come. That is many years away though and for now I sign off, wishing you health and happiness
From your most loyal servant,
If they hadn’t been underwater, Leila would have had tears streaming down her face, and she could see Sarrin felt the same way. He replaced the letter in the chest and with one look at Leila, silent agreement passed between the two friends. He shut the lid of the chest with a note of finality. Together, Leila and Sarrin left the cave and the seaweed moved to hide the cave’s existence once again, as though they had never been there.
“There’ll be more treasure out there,” Leila said, assuring herself as much as Sarrin.
“Yeah... yeah, there’s sure to be,” he agreed and with that, they began their swim out of the pit, hand in hand.