Seashells: Part Three
“What a pity for such a young thing to have to sleep in such uncomfortable conditions.”
Samara awoke to find herself in what seemed to be an underwater house, and beside her, an old Maraquan Acara gave her a kindly smile.
“I found you out there on the sand and brought you in here,” the old woman said, and Samara looked around, her neck sore from the weight of the helmet. “That helmet looks mighty uncomfortable as well,” the Acara said then, reading Samara’s mind.
“It is,” Samara agreed, “but it is the only way I can breathe down here.”
“Oh, nonsense,” the old woman said, going to a nearby drawer and pulling something out of it. “Not with this nice shell you’ve been carrying around with you.” Samara saw the shell and gasped, but the Acara waved a fin and smiled once more. “Not to worry, child,” she assured. “It fell off of you and was put it in here for safe keeping. But, dear, don’t you know what this shell can do?”
“It’s just a shell I found on the beach,” Samara said, perplexed. “There’s nothing special about it.”
“Oh, but there is, child,” the Acara assured, coming over to Samara and showing her the glimmering shell. “You see, this shell is a very special shell, for it holds a very special power. This shell can change you from whatever species or colour you are into a Maraquan neopet, so that you can swim amongst the waters here with no trouble at all.”
“Really?” Samara said, entranced by the shell’s golden shine.
“That’s what your mother did,” the Acara said, and at that Samara snapped out of her daze.
“My mother? You knew my mother?” she asked, and the Acara smiled.
“Not knew, know. She still lives here with us now. I could take you to see her if you wish,” she said kindly, and Samara nodded quickly, thrilled at the change of luck she was having. “I thought you might like that idea,” the Acara said with a grin, and she handed the shell back to the Ixi. “But first, let’s get you out of that horrid helmet.”
“Are you sure this will work?” Samara asked wearily, afraid to take the helmet off.
“Of course it will,” the old Acara assured, and the kindness in her eyes seemed to make everything she said seem to be the absolute truth. “Just lift off the helmet, put the shell around your neck, and then hold it against your heart. Imagine yourself as a Maraquan Ixi, and then you will change.” It seemed too easy, but nevertheless Samara took a deep breath, lifted the helmet off, and held the shell to her heart. No sooner did she imagine herself Maraquan did she feel a slight tingling in her fur. It was a strange feeling, but Samara did not have much time to think about it, for she was soon knocked back with a powerful burst, a burst that made Samara black out.
Ulalume and Calixta heard the boom from all around them, and they knew exactly what it meant.
“The shell is being used,” Ulalume said, and Calixta nodded grimly.
“Which means they will find her any minute from now.” The sisters looked at each other, and before long the first sirens began to wail. The Maraquan authorities were about to close in on their new friend, and they had to do something to help.
“I have an idea,” Ulalume said then, and she pulled her sister away quickly, heading back towards town.
Samara awoke find herself in some sort of net. She struggled for a bit in panic, but it was no use; she was stuck.
“What happened?” she said, noticing that her voice sounded different. She looked down at herself to see that her fur had changed colour, and her tail had become much longer and lighter. She was Maraquan now, just like the Acara promised, though when she looked back up through the net, the Acara was looking back at her with a malicious grin.
“I told you that shell would work, and now the officials know exactly where you are. You don’t think I would actually help a criminal, do you?”
“A criminal? No! You said you would help me see my mother!” Samara cried out in despair, and the old Acara nodded.
“And that you will,” she said seriously. “Now that you are going to be living in the same place as she—jail!”
“No!” Samara repeated, a million thoughts whirling through her mind. Why was she in trouble? What did the shell have to do with anything? Why was her mother in jail? All of these questions tugged at her mind as Samara helplessly watched the officials enter the home and take her away.
Despite the horrendous feelings Samara had as they took her to back to town, Samara could not help but feel a little bedazzled by her settings. She was transported in an underwater coach that was made up of coral and seaweed, which glittering shells throughout. The cart itself was pulled by four strong Unis, their long tails fluttering as they swam, creating bubbles that floated up towards the sun. The water now felt like air to Samara as well, since she still had the more agile form of a Maraquan Ixi, and she enjoyed the feeling of it slipping against her fur as she was pulled along; even though she was being taken to what she presumed was some sort of prison, she couldn’t help but feel like some sort of princess.
She was quiet throughout the trip, not really knowing what it was she was supposed to say. She had no idea why she was in trouble, where she was going, or what was going to happen to her once she got there, and as much as she told herself that all of it was real, she still kept hoping that at any moment she would wake up to find it was all just a fascinating dream. And still, that is how she felt, that it was all fascinating. She was worried, but not scared; she would take whatever they threw at her with a strong heart. And so she was very surprised when the cart stopped in the middle of the sea and two of the Unis opened the latch of the cart, telling her she was free.
“I thought I was in trouble,” Samara asked as she contemplated the situation.
“You are,” one of the Unis said, a young male Uni that Samara realized was much bigger up close than he had seemed pulling the cart.
“Then why are you setting me free?” she asked timidly, and the other of the two, another male, held out a hoof to help her as she slowly climbed out of the cart.
“Because we don’t agree with what Rantu thinks,” he told her.
“Who is Rantu?”
“He is the Head Official,” the first Uni said. “He wants to lock you away because you used that shell, a shell that was banished from Maraqua years ago.”
“Why was it banned?”
“The shell, as you have probably figured out by now,” the Uni explained as Samara got her bearings of floating in the water instead of sinking to the bottom, “changes a neopet from whatever form they are to a Maraquan form. It works the other way as well. Years ago, there were several of those shells around; neopets that were working towards bridging the gap between Maraqua and other Neopian worlds would use the shells to transform themselves so that they could travel down here for meetings and projects, and then safely return home to their native land.”
“Well, that seems like a great idea!” Samara exclaimed, and the second Uni nodded.
“It was, and it worked really well for a number of years,” he explained solemnly. “However, when Rantu took power as Head Official, he banned the shells. He said that they were wrong, that Maraqua should remain separated from the other Neopian worlds, and that non-Maraquan pets had no place in our underwater cities. So, he gave the Neopets participating in the shell practice twenty four hours to leave Maraqua for good. Most of them did, but a few were determined to fight in order to keep the projects going; they wanted more than anything for all Neopian worlds to co-exist in peace. Unfortunately, after the twenty four hours were up, those that had not left were locked away in their Maraquan form, and to this day that is where they remain. Rantu thought all of the shells were gone, but apparently one remained, the one you used today, and it has made him mad. He wants you locked away immediately, and he wants the shell destroyed. Now, there isn’t much we can do to help, but we can set you free, which is what we intend to do.”
“Thank you for helping me, but who are you?” Samara asked.
“I am Hareth,” the first Uni replied, “and this is Darren. Don’t worry, you can trust us. We have been fighting Rantu’s decision for quite some time now.”
“Here,” Darren said then, holding out his hoof. Samara saw the glittering shell that had caused her so much trouble dangling there, swaying back in forth in the water. “Take this with you, and swim to the surface. Once there, find your way back to where you came from, and use the shell. Then throw it into the sea and never look back. You will be safe then; Rantu never leaves his world.”
Samara looked up, and she could see the sunlight’s golden glimmers throughout the sea. She very much liked the idea of going home, but she couldn’t leave just yet.
“They have my mother,” she said flatly, taking the necklace from Darren and tying it carefully into her fur where it was out of sight, “and I have to find her first.”
To be continued...