Ambitions in Shenkuu
Throughout life young neopets find that they are forced to change and conform in order to fit into the cast-iron moulds that society has prepared. More than the majority will find themselves shackled by the society they welcome and promote. Every now and again, someone special comes along. Every now and again someone finds the key to those shackles, and breaks free. Now if you were able to break out of the restraints and binding of your society, you would most probably run; adventure and exploration will satisfy your lust for freedom. However once in a while such escapades will not be enough: Once in a while the unthinkable happens. Once free, this special sort of Neopet will recast the moulds to make Neopia a better place. This is a story about Orenuka. This is a story of the grain of sand that not only fought off the waves, but pushed them back forever.
“Orenuka?” a shrill voice called. “Orenuka?!”
A young Mynci stopped scrubbing a pan in the cold dirty water and lifted her head.
“Yes, Mother?” she replied.
“When you’ve finished the pans, you need to feed the Blurgahs!” said the voice.
The young Mynci returned to scrub the pan with an emotionless face and indifferent manner. Her actions lacked what some would call vigour or drive. Orenuka was a young neopet growing up in Shenkuu at a time when all Myncies worked on farms. Her attire was tired and basic, but her hair glowed with an unusual purple shade quite uncommon for the region.
Orenuka decided that the pan was clean, and placed it on the neatly stacked pile of metal cooking implements she had spent the morning cleaning. She walked out into the yard and towards a storage silo. She came from a relatively well off family for the area – a long lineage of farmers on the steppes of Shenkuu. Her father worked the farm with Orenuka’s brothers, as was tradition. Orenuka was destined to live her life dressing up for town occasions and doing the dirty work around the house, just like her mother, and grandmother, and so on.
“Oren?” cried a voice. The Mynci looked up to find her best friend Seroka standing at the entrance to the silo.
“Oh hey, Seroka, how are you today?”
“Brilliant! There is a village fete in a few days and mother and I are going to start getting ready tomorrow,” replied the friend. Seroka was a short but stout Skeith. Her dress was a little more colourful than Orenuka’s, but was still tired and worn.
“Oh, great. No wonder Mother had me up so early.”
“Why are you always so glum! We get to clean up, wear lots of make-up and wear our best family clothes!” cried Seroka, who was clearly filling with excitement.
“I’m fed up with it all,” replied Orenuka, as she dragged a bag of hay from the silo. “Is this destined to be my life?”
Seroka looked shocked.
“Don’t give me that look, Serie. There must be more to life than working on a farm and pleasing other people. What about what I want?” continued Orenuka.
“You know, that is a really selfish thing to say. What about your family honour?” replied Seroka.
“What about my honour, and dignity?”
“When you bring your family honour, then you will fulfil your own,” explained Seroka.
Orenuka resigned to the fact that she was getting nowhere, and emptied the hay sack into the Blurgah enclosure.
“Well, I had better be off. Mother is preparing red bean dumplings and lotus rice for dinner!”
And with that, Seroka trundled down the grass-worn path and rough gravel towards the bridge that led to the main city of Shenkuu. Orenuka leant against the wooden posts of the enclosure and thought to herself: When will it be my turn to shine?
* * * * *
“So what have you been up to today, Orenuka?” enquired an ageing Mynci from across a very short but long table. He picked into his green bean chimkee. Around the table sat, cross-legged, all of Orenuka’s family: Her mother, father, four brothers and her grandmother.
“I scrubbed the pans, and fed some of the animals, sir,” replied Orenuka.
“Maybe you would like to help clear out the Tomamu sheds tomorrow and help your brother repair the roof. There’s nothing like a bit of manual labour to keep you humble,” replied her father.
“That’s out of the question, dear, Orenuka must start the bathing process tomorrow for the fete!” screeched her mother.
“Please, Mother, I’d much rather fix the sheds,” pleaded Orenuka.
“Orenuka! Don’t be so disobedient!” shouted her mother.
Silence set across the table. After the family had enjoyed the meal, they left to start reading family history. All except Orenuka. As the youngest girl, it was her job to clear up after meal times. As she was collecting the used wooden bowls, she tripped and fell into the wall. The bowls hit the floor with a thud, but more importantly Orenuka fell right through the wall and into a dark and dusty room.
“What on Neopia...” she whispered to herself.
She squinted to try and see exactly where she was. She had never seen this room before, and clearly nobody had been here in a very long time. There were spyder cobwebs everywhere! She left for the kitchen to fetch a candle, and quickly returned. The room, although dusty and neglected, contained a few crates stacked against the far side. It was a small room, in the centre of the house.
She ran over to the crates and pulled off a lid. Inside was shredded paper and wool, which was protecting something shiny. She lifted out an engraved broad sword! It was very heavy, and weighed her down considerably. On the side it was engraved with her family crest of three Tomamus. Quickly replacing the sword, she eagerly pulled open another crate, to find a ceremonial shenkuu warrior shinai. It was like nothing she had ever seen before, and it had to be valuable.
This was her chance, she thought to herself. She could hardly think straight with all the adrenaline and excitement buzzing through her mind. She quietly ran to her room and pulled out a sack from the closet. Returning to the room she put the two swords into her bag, along with some clothes, neopoints, and bread. Conscious of the fact that she could be caught any second, she scribbled down a note and left it on the table. It read:
“Family – I’m leaving for adventure. I love you very much and will be back soon. Love, Orenuka.”
Orenuka dashed for the front door, but was confronted with a very tall and elderly Mynci. It was Orenuka’s grandmother. Her hair was very grey, but tinted with purple.
“And just where do you think you’re running off to?” boomed the grandmother.
“Grand-mother, I was just going to... collect some eggs!” replied Orenuka.
The grandmother eyed her up and down, and then laughed.
“I know exactly what you’re up to,” she said with a friendly smile. “You can’t keep yourself cooped up here forever. Go and live some life. Just promise me that you’ll return safe and sound.”
“Grandmother, of course I will,” replied Orenuka.
“Here, take Harri.” The grandmother gestured, pointing at the family statue.
“Grandmother, I can’t carry a statue!”
The grandmother looked up and closed her eyes. She muttered a few words under her breath, most of which Orenuka could not decipher. It was not a language she knew.
Orenuka looked at the statue to find that it was no longer grey with melancholy or the cold. Colour had infiltrated the very being of the statue and lifted it from its perch into the air. Its bright purple colour was complemented by its icy blue eyes. Their eyes met very briefly, and Orenuka felt a strange warmth overcome her.
“He is a Kazeriu, a magical species which will guide and protect you on your travels. He’s been in the family for years.”
“He’s beautiful!” cried Orenuka.
“Well, he’s yours. They bond with the first thing their eyes lock on to. You should look in the mirror, my dear.”
Orenuka ran to the mirror and gasped. Her deep purple eyes, a trademark of her family, had glazed over into a brilliant icy blue, just like the Kazeriu’s eyes.
“His name is Harri.”
“I can introduce myself, madam!” coughed the Kazeriu as he tried to speak. He had not spoken in centuries, and turning to stone can really tighten your vocal chords!
“It speaks?!” cried Orenuka.
“It?! My name is Harri, and I think it is a pleasure to meet you,” retorted the Kazeriu.
“I’m so sorry, Harri. It’s nice to meet you too!”
“Well, off you go my dear – adventure awaits,” chuckled the grandmother as she stood aside from the door.
“If it’s all the same, would you mind if I slept in your bag for a while? I’m awfully tired,” enquired Harri.
“Of course you can!” exclaimed Orenuka. “Goodbye, grandmother!” she cried, as she skipped from the house and towards the great rope bridge that tied one mountain to the next.
* * * * *
Along her walk from one mountain to the next, she got some rather disapproving looks.
“What is she doing around here?” muttered one neopet. “That’s not right,” said another. Orenuka ignored all affronts and kept walking until the sun started to set and a deep mist started to rise.
“You know, it’s not safe at night. We really should stop at an inn some time soon,” advised Harri.
Just as Harri had spoken, a thug jumped out from the bushes brandishing a dagger.
“Drop your possessions now!” he growled. He was very large and broad, and did not look like an amiable fellow.
Orenuka, in a panic, drew out the ceremonial shinai from her bag. Through her fingers she felt imbued with a strange sense of logic and strength that she had never felt before. She held up the shinai.
“I don’t think so,” she replied.
The thug glanced at the sword, turned, and walked away. It wasn’t worth the hassle he thought.
Harri flew from behind Orenuka and perched on her shoulder.
“Now that wasn’t a very wise thing to do, was it,” he commented.
“But you don’t understand, I felt so different with this in my hand. I felt like I could take on the world!” she exclaimed.
“Well, it may seem that way, but you’re too small!” laughed Harri, as he flew to her other shoulder.
Orenuka trundled a little further along the mountain pass and paid to spend a night in an inn.
The next morning, she once again started on her journey for adventure. She reached the centre of Shenkuu by midday.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” exclaimed Orenuka.
“It truly is. Of course it’s riddled with thugs so be on your guard!”
“By the stars, that’s it!” Orenuka exclaimed.
“What?” enquired Harri.
“I’m going to consult the moon! I heard that the old Gnorbu up at the Lunar Temple can read into neopets’ future to help them make choices,” she said.
Before Harri could protest, she marched through the city and up to the Lunar Temple.
* * * * *
Orenuka slowly climbed up the everlasting stone steps and finally reached the great wooden doors of the Lunar Temple. Luckily for Orenuka, they were slightly ajar; there was no way she would be able to open them by herself! She noticed a strange scented smoke slithering out of the door, and so with great curiosity she crept inside.
The great stone walls of the temple solemnly echoed the slightest sound that might grace their presence. The room was filled with a low mist which surrounded the circular stand in the middle of the room.
“Orenuka,” croaked a voice. Orenuka turned very suddenly and tried to stare through the mist.
“I know why you are here. But I must advise you to turn back,” the voice continued.
“How do you know my name?” she enquired. Harri started pulling at her clothes in the direction of the door.
“I know the paths that lay behind you, and before you,” said the voice, as an elderly Gnorbu stepped out of the mist and into the gentle light trickling into the room.
“I wish to know the path that will lead me to riches and fame,” responded Orenuka, firmly.
“I knew you would. I was hoping that I might be wrong after all these years and that people had free-will. Controversial, I know, but I suppose that’s just the way of it.”
The Gnorbu walked towards the centre of the room and brushed his hands over a paper map of Neopia, Kreludor and the stars.
“The richest path before you lies in Shenkuu. Goodness does not always come to the good, but to those with ambition. The path of ambition is a dangerous one. The ambitious often become known for their resolve to do anything to achieve their goals, whether that entails less than amiable means. The path I see before you is a life of crime.”
“Crime?” exclaimed Orenuka. “What happens?”
“You will, in time, become the head of the criminal underground in Shenkuu and afar. Your adventures will lead you across Neopia and you will become known and feared,” replied the Gnorbu.
And so it began. Orenuka the Fearless and Harri the Cautious left the Lunar Temple and had many great adventures together. Orenuka soon became the most feared, but fair, warlord in Shenkuu. Her sense of good-form earned her a respect that she had never received at home. So it began, the single grain of sand that fought back the waves.