Quentin Calamity: Beyond the Storm - Part One
In the olden days, when the first Neopian cartographers had only just begun to set pen to paper and make maps of our world, Harvey Calamity was a legend. He sailed across Neopia, discovering new worlds and bringing back tales of his exploits which were gladly heard—stories of strange people and animals and items in unimaginable places. Harvey Calamity was beloved by all, and looked up to as a model citizen back in those days. He told his stories, and stories were told about him; it was said of Harvey that he had once boxed with the Pant Devil, and beaten Dr. Sloth in a game of checkers, and that he had wrestled with the Werelupe King. When these stories came up, Harvey would blush and politely deny them, though it did little to discourage people from believing they were the hard truth. In Year Four he was called brave and heroic and the greatest adventurer in all of Neopia—a man whose name would never be forgotten, so long as the world still existed.
In Year Five all that was said of Harvey Calamity was that he was a lunatic, and that it was certainly a shame what had happened to him.
He was committed to a madhouse, and when he was mentioned the people who had once looked up to him would lower their faces and shake their heads and say, “Such a shame.” The world which said that Harvey Calamity’s reputation would live on until the end of time forgot about the explorer and his contributions, and it went on without him. When he died in Year Nine—still a madman in an asylum—only his wife, Donna, and his little son, Quentin, attended his funeral.
Quentin Calamity—who is, I should say, the real focus of this tale—had always looked up to his father. After Harvey had been committed to the asylum Quentin hadn’t seen him. Donna wouldn’t let her son see his father; it would be too painful, she thought. The real pain, though, was that the entire world had forgotten everything his father had accomplished. When the citizens of Neopia had once heard the name Calamity, they had thought of greatness;—now they thought only of a crazy man who murmured about a world of jelly.
“Couldn’t a world of jelly exist?” young Quentin had asked his mother. She shook her head sadly.
“No—it’s complete madness,” she said, and there were tears welling up in her eyes. “Don’t speak of it, I beg you.”
So that was the legacy of Harvey Calamity. It was a legacy which burned Quentin’s very soul every time he thought of it. His father was not insane—he knew it in his heart. His father had been a good man. The best there ever was. Quentin Calamity was determined to set right the wrong that had been done to his father. He was determined to find Jelly World and clear the Calamity family name.
It was early morning on the eighth day of the month of Sleeping, in Year Ten, when Quentin set out on his journey. He gathered his things quietly, so as not to wake his mother, but she awoke anyway and caught him at the door. “Quentin,” she said, laying one paw on the crook of his elbow. He turned to look at her and then, seeing the tears gathering at the corners of her eyes, turned his face away. “Don’t do this, Quentin.”
“I have to, Mom,” he said, staring out the window into the foggy streets. The world was still quiet with slumber, and the sun had just barely cracked the horizon. “Dad needs his name cleared and I’m the only one who will do it.”
He was a young Gelert covered in black spots, with a broad chest and sharp, smart eyes. Donna furrowed her brow, looking at him. “Quentin, it’s foolish,” she said softly. “Whatever your father found out there, it wasn’t this jelly world he kept talking about. It was something that was too much—something which drove him mad!”
“I’m going,” said Quentin firmly, his long ears drawing back. His mother lowered her paw.
“You’re not a child anymore, so I can’t stop you going,” Donna Calamity said nervously. “I wish you wouldn’t, but I can’t stop you. All I can do is hope for you to be safe and... and make you promise you’ll come back to me.”
“Of course I will,” Quentin said. “Of course I will. And when I do, it’ll be with proof of Jelly World’s existence.”
They exchanged no further words as Quentin went out into the world, brow furrowed, jaw set, not knowing what he might find. He walked the quiet streets of Neopia Central, a chill on his fur from the morning mist. His canteen clanked against his backpack with each step and the camera around his neck bounced gently. He hadn’t been sure what to bring, so he had packed an extra pair of clothes, some dried meat and fruit, a matchbook, and little else. His father had taken less than that with him when he explored the world, Quentin thought. It would do him fine; he needed nothing else.
He was out of town by the time the first of its residents had begun to stir and start their daily routine. The sky was pink and blue and the lush country side was covered in dew and fog and the smell of morning. He headed north along a thin trail used for the grazing of babaas, and couldn’t help but wonder if his father had walked along this same path on one of his expeditions.
Quentin walked beyond the morning. The sun rose behind him and beside him as he followed the twisting path until it gave way to heavy grass dotted with mossy stones. He walked over plains and foothills and in the shade of groves of trees. His fur was jostled by harsh winds and caressed by gentle breezes. Every now and then, Quentin would rest if there was a place where it was convenient, though he never rested for very long. The sun had just begun to set when he reached the ocean, which sparkled before them like a chest full of sapphires. At the water’s edge there was a town which was scarcely more than a set of shabby docks and a general store. The streets were merely dirt and all the stone buildings were in a state of disrepair.
Young Quentin Calamity, the spotted Gelert, strode into town quietly, gripping the strap of his backpack tightly. He passed an old inn where the lights were on and the sound of music was spilling out from the cracked door, but did not linger there. The docks were the only point of this town that held any interest for Quentin. The sun slid down into the water, leaving the streets dark by the time the Gelert reached his destination. His fur bristled apprehensively and his ears stood full up. In the water a single ship was docked, creaking as the gentle waves of the ocean carried it up and down slowly. A Tyrannian Kougra with sharp eyes and a heavy jaw in the garb of a seaman stood on the docks with a lantern in his hand and an unlit pipe clenched in his teeth, watching the men aboard the ship work. He turned as Quentin approached. “Yo there, m’lad,” said the Kougra, squinting his eyes. “How goes it?”
“It goes... alright,” said Quentin. He cleared his throat and pointed to the vessel. “Are you the captain of this ship, perchance?”
“That I am, that I am,” said the Kougra, extending one paw. “Been guiding this ship through the high seas for well on twenty years now. They call me Captain Derrick O’Brien. They call me that because my name is Derrick O’Brien and I’m the captain of a ship.”
Quentin shook his hand. “My name is Quentin Calamity,” he said. “A pleasure to meet you.”
“Calamity?” said O’Brien, biting tight on the mouthpiece of his pipe and scratching his chin. “Calamity? Say—y’wouldn’t be related to Harvey Calamity, would ya?”
The young Gelert’s eyes widened a measure. “Y-yeah—my father,” he said. “You know him?”
“Sure do,” said O’Brien, puffing out his chest. “Why, he sailed with me on my ship a couple of times. Those were good voyages, they were.”
“I’m looking for a ship to voyage on, myself,” Quentin said, looking up at O’Brien’s boat. “I’m retracing my father’s last adventure.”
“Oho! Are ya now?” asked the Captain, leaning forward. Quentin nodded. “Have y’got a ship, there, m’lad?”
“Not yet, sir—“
“Then I do humbly request your presence upon my pride and joy,” the old Kougra said excitedly, waving his hand toward the ship. “I call her the Krawk Claw. She may not look like much, m’lad, but a surer ship was never built that ever sailed Neopian waters.”
“It might be a tough journey,” Quentin said. “I’m not entirely sure where it is that I’m headed.”
“Then you definitely need an experienced Captain at your side, don’t ya?”
So Quentin was warmly welcomed aboard the Krawk Claw and they set off, though it was still night. “Will you be alright in the darkness?” the Gelert asked Captain O’Brien.
“Of course, m’lad, of course!” he replied, waving a dismissive paw. “I’ve sailed in blacker night than this, let me tell ya!”
So north they sailed, to where the water was cold and full of ice. Quentin watched the water from the deck of the ship, frowning. “A world full of jelly,” he mumbled to himself. “It might keep best where it is cold. Perhaps it’s farther north?” He frowned and resigned to ask O’Brien what he thought. With this in mind, he found the Kougra where he was steering the ship. Behind him on a table a map of Neopia was stretched wide and pinned down. Quentin bent over it, examining the old writing thereon.
“Y’find that map interesting, do you?” asked O’Brien with a laugh as he released the wheel and went to stand beside his passenger.
“I never realized just how many places there are in the world,” Quentin told him. “Have you been to all these lands?”
“Most of ‘em, yes,” O’Brien said. “It’s part of the trade, m’lad, it’s part of being a ship Captain.”
“How many times have you landed on distant shores?”
“Dozens of times, most of ‘em,” replied the old Captain, pushing back his hat and scratching his head. He leaned over the vast map, as well, and placed one claw down on it. “Here, that’s Krawk Island, and I go there a whole lot—maybe two dozen times a year, I go there. And up here? Why, there’s Tyrannia, and that’s my homeland. I visit it a lot, I do. Keeps me in good spirits.”
Studying the map by a lantern’s light, they did not notice that the blackness around them was getting darker as the stars and moon were overtaken by thick purple storm clouds. “So,” O’Brien asked, clenching his unlit pipe between his teeth, as was his custom. “D’ya have some idea yet where it is you’ll be wanting to head?”
The young Gelert bit his lower lip apprehensively before answering. “North,” he said tentatively.
“North?” asked Captain O’Brien, raising one eyebrow. “Why, there’s nothing north but Terror Mountain;—is that where you’re set on going? Terror Mountain?”
“No, not to Terror Mountain,” Quentin said, rubbing the back of his neck. O’Brien looked at him expectantly. “I’m looking... for a world made of jelly.”
The Kougra frowned. “Like the dessert food...?”
Quentin Calamity nodded, feeling, for the first time, extremely foolish. He expected to be laughed at or called mad, but instead O’Brien simply turned back to the map, furrowing his brow. “There’s no world of jelly on my map,” he said, stroking his chin. “Are y’sure such a thing even exists, m’lad? Something like that sounds like a children’s story...”
“No,” said Quentin, his expression set. “It’s real. My father said it was real, and he was right. He had to be!”
“Well, if Harvey Calamity said it was true, it must be,” O’Brien replied earnestly, and smiled broadly to his young passenger. “Now, you’re betting that it’s up north, do I have you correctly?”
The Gelert nodded. “It’s made out of jelly, so it’d keep best in cold weather.”
“Hm, that’s a good point, that is,” O’Brien told him, running one nail across the map lightly. It left a light line on the yellowed paper. The Kougra considered for a moment. “Alright. We’ll swing her ‘round north, then, and head that way. Though, landing her’ll be no easy task, on account of the icebergs up there. We might have to dock in Tyrannia, and you’ll have to make your way on foot further north. We might try to get through the ice, but I’m not sure that—”
“Captain!” yelled an out of breath sailor—a young Mynci. “Captain, there’s trouble! A storm’s rolling in real fast.”
O’Brien frowned and knitted his eyebrows. “How fast?”
“Too fast,” said the Mynci, and as he spoke the ship began to rock violently, knocking him off balance. Quentin stumbled and would have fallen against the table with the map on it if O’Brien hadn’t had caught him and held him steady.
“Fast it is, m’lad!” exclaimed Captain Derrick O’Brien. “Right, then—let’s try to get out of its way. The men are at work, are they not?”
“Yes sir,” said the young Mynci with a nod.
“Good—to it quick as ya can, m’lad, and all the rest too,” said O’Brien, taking the wheel again. “Calamity, m’lad, stick close to me, if y’would. I’m afraid this is going to be a mite bit rougher than anticipated.”
Quentin could hear thunder and the crew shouting and running about and the lashing of ropes and chains as, all the while, the boat swayed and pitched from side to side and he held tight onto O’Brien’s arm to steady himself. Soon, however, Quentin could hear naught but the steady pounding of the rain and waves against the boat, punctuated occasionally by the deafening crash of thunder overhead. O’Brien yelled something to him, but between the water and the creaking of their vessel around them, Quentin couldn’t tell what it was. Waves reached up above the ship and slammed themselves onto its deck, erupting with a blast of water. It happened very fast then, Quentin thought.
One moment he was standing, and the next he was hit with a powerful splash of water which knocked him right off his feet. He sputtered as the water disoriented him. The young Gelert couldn’t make heads or tails of what occurred then; he was aware only of the cold and the wet, and someone gripping tight to his wrist, trying to pull him back. Their efforts were in vain, however, as the water washed him and the other party over the side of the boat and into the ocean. That was the last thing that Quentin knew before he was knocked unconscious.
To be continued...