Maeryc and the Wishing Star: Part One
Wooden cutlasses clashed. Heavy boots stomped through the late spring snow of Terror Mountain. Captain Fearless, the most notorious seven-year-old pirate in the world, was engaged in a raging battle against his arch nemesis, the dreaded Captain Red Head. The pirates ran down a snow cleared path, and up onto a stone wall. They struggled to keep their balance on the narrow platform, each of their free arms outstretched at their sides. Fearless stumbled, accidentally swinging his sword over the top of Red Head's red hair, causing the Scorchio to leap backwards off the wall, and into the snow.
"Avast, ye scurvy dog! Back to the sea ye go. And your hair with ye!" The baby Skeith jumped off the wall and helped his friend up off the ground. "Are you okay, Maeryc?"
The baby Scorchio nodded, and wiped the snow off his face. "Yeah. You sure beat me that time, Brenner."
"Nah, you had me a few times there."
The boys readjusted their backpacks on their shoulders, and continued on their way home from neoschool.
"You beat me last time too. And the time before that," he chuckled. "You could be a real pirate when you grow up!"
The other boy grinned proudly. "I want to be a pirate, someday. It would be so fun! I could travel all over Neopia, and dig for treasure, and have sword fights with real cutlasses!" He pulled his toy cutlass out of the pocket of his backpack, and swung it back and forth as he walked. "Not that ours aren't good enough. Your uncle did a really good job on them."
They rounded a corner, and came to a place where the path split in two.
"Hey, Maeryc?" said the Skeith, before the boys parted ways.
"Do you think I'll ever get to go to Krawk Island?"
"Krawk Island? Do you want to move there to become a pirate?"
He shook his head. "No, not yet. But I want to meet some pirates, more than anything in the whole world. I could ask them all about their adventures. Wouldn't that be the greatest vacation ever?"
Maeryc smiled at the thought of his friend getting to go on his dream vacation. He pictured him at the Golden Dubloon, meeting a crew of jolly pirates. They would share their plan for finding a buried treasure with him. And maybe after they saw how brave and trustworthy he was, they'd even take him along on one of their adventures! It would be so exciting for Brenner. He wished he could help his dream come true.
"I'm sure you'll go there one day," he assured him. "If you want to bad enough."
They said goodbye. Brenner darted off towards his own house, and Maeryc went to his uncle's. He was on his own vacation, in a manner of speaking, though he still had to go to school. He was spending six weeks with his Uncle Kent, visiting and experiencing the snow for the very first time. As a Mystery Island resident, he had never even seen the stuff. He'd never built a snowman, or played ice hockey, or had a snowball fight. These were all, of course, things every little boy should be able to do once in their life. This was one of the reasons why Maeryc had been sent to stay with his father's brother, in Terror Mountain.
Uncle Kent didn't have any children of his own. He lived alone in his cabin, at the very top of the mountain. He worked as a carpenter, and ran a shop out of his home. As the only one in his trade in the area, he was always swamped with work. He insisted to his nephew that it was a good thing, but Maeryc didn't see how. So many times had his uncle wanted to play ball with him, or watch his favourite Neovision show. But he hadn't been able to because he had an order to fill of fourteen sleds, or shelves to finish for the new general store, or even a neohome to build. He never had time to relax and have fun. He never had time for anything but work.
"How can you be happy when you have so much work to do?" Maeryc asked him when he arrived home from school, and found him in his usual place — His workshop.
"Lots of work is a lot better than no work, buddy. If I had no work, I wouldn't be able to buy..." He scanned the room for an example. "Those doughnuts you like so much."
The baby Scorchio dropped what would have been his fourth powdered doughnut back into the container. "I didn't mean it would be good if you had no work. Just that I wish you didn't have so much."
"I have to admit," the older Scorchio said from underneath the desk he was making. "I wish the same thing. Not that I would stop getting so much work, but that I could have someone to help me. Share the workload, you know?"
"You mean like an assistant?" he asked, passing a hammer under the desk.
"Exactly. I put up an add at the general store, but so far, no one's answered it."
Maeryc had volunteered his service several times, but as he was only a child, his help was always turned down.
"You should be playing outside with your friends. Not in here sawing wood," his uncle would say.
He still liked to watch him in his workshop though. He'd go down and sit on the wooden bench, and talk to him every chance he got. He'd have to strain his voice to be heard over the loud power tools, but he didn't mind. To the nephew who usually lived an ocean away, any time he could spend with his Uncle Kent was precious time. Sometimes he would stay there all day after school, until he was sent to do his homework.
"Do you have any homework today?" the carpenter asked him the typical question that afternoon.
"Of course! Mrs. Beezely always gives us homework."
"She works you guys hard, doesn't she?"
"She sure does."
Mrs. Beezely was Maeryc's second grade class' substitute teacher. Their regular teacher, Miss Nikolson, had been off for over two weeks with neomonia. Maeryc wished she would get better. The whole class was very fond of the teacher, who was sweet and encouraging, and did her best to make their schoolwork fun. They didn't mind Mrs. Beezely, she was nice. But her loud talking made her seem scary at times, and she gave way too much homework. Today's was math — Subtraction to be specific, Maeryc's least favourite. As he sat in the spare bedroom, staring at the paper, the numbers started to become blurry, and dance before his eyes.
"Why is subtraction so hard for me?" he asked himself with a yawn. "Brenner can do it no problem."
He had a habit of thinking out loud, especially when he was doing his homework. It might have been because he had no brothers or sisters to make noise for him when he was trying to focus.
"I know why I can't do it. It's because I don't want to do it. I hate subtraction." He frowned at the paper. "But I have to do it, or Mrs. Beezely will talk loud at me, and the whole class will know I didn't."
His mother had once told him that if you wanted something bad enough, you'd be sure to get it one day. But of course, it would not just come for free. If you truly wanted what you were wishing for, you would be willing to work hard for it, and do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. And if you worked hard enough for anything, your wish was bound to come true. Maeryc took these teachings to heart. He truly believed that anyone could reach their dreams, providing they wanted it bad enough.
"I'll just have to make myself want to do it." He tried to turn his gaze back to the paper, but when his eyes fell on the window, he couldn't tear himself away. The soft golden sun was setting in a light pink sky. The outside world looked so inviting, it reminded him of something from one of his storybooks. He could picture a castle, as tall and as breathtaking as a mountain. And a knight in shining armour riding off into the sunset, as knights in shining armour were supposed to do. It was the perfect setting for a game. Maybe if he went out to play for a while, the fresh air would clear his mind.
The baby Scorchio grabbed his wooden cutlass and paper pirate hat. They weren't ideal for a game of knights, but they would have to do. He ran back down to the workshop to tell his uncle where he was going.
"Just be back before it gets dark," he warned him. "And don't go too far."
His plan had worked perfectly. Sir Ridesalot had successfully defeated the giant two-headed ganuthor, and freed Princess Lacey from its evil clutches. And he'd done it all before sundown too! He even had time to explore the icy realms where the ganuthor had lived. At least, he thought he had time.
"It can't be dark out already!"
His daring escapade had lead him a little farther from home than he expected. Now he had to make it back, before the king started to worry about him. With his trusty alabriss steed, he set off for home. It was only after a few minutes of riding that he came to a tall, snow covered mountain. He dismounted his steed and climbed to the top.
When Maeryc turned his eyes toward the sky, he was startled out of the world of knights in shining armour. What he saw was something that belonged in a fantasy, and yet it was real. It was the stars. They looked more incredible, more alluring, than he'd ever seen them before. Kreludor was absent from the Terror Mountain sky, and the stars seemed to be shining twice as bright. But it wasn't just the way they shone that made them appear so unusual. For as tiny as they were, they still felt strangely close, as if they were popping out of the black sky.
Of the millions of glimmering diamonds, Maeryc noticed one that stood out from the rest. He wanted to make a wish on it, but he had trouble choosing what to wish for. He was wondering what to do, when he realized why the star looked so different, why it was glowing in such an impossible way. It was getting closer.
"It's coming this way!" he exclaimed in astonishment. He had discovered a falling star, and it was falling right towards him! As it got closer and closer, he felt the urge to run. Yet, for some reason, he stayed frozen in place. It could have been fear, or his childish curiosity that kept him routed to his spot, when a beam of light came down on the knoll where he stood.
The light was blinding. Maeryc could barely open his eyes, much less see through the beam. It only took a few seconds for him to decide he could take it no longer. Luckily, at that moment, the light went out suddenly, leaving behind only a faint glow, surrounding a tiny, winged creature.
"I think I'm dreaming."
The creature floated gently to the ground, in a very dream-like fashion. The boy was drawn to it. He found himself moving forward, and forward until he was right underneath it.
"I've already come this far," he told himself, and he reached out his arms and caught the creature, just before it landed in the snow.
At first he didn't dare to breathe, so afraid was he of something horrible happening. Then, when nothing did happen, he began to examine the mysterious creature.
"It's a petpet," he discovered. "But petpets can't fall from the sky!"
As unbelievable as it seemed, the creature was indeed a petpet. A petpet with a name he did not remember, but one that he clearly remembered seeing in the shop in Happy Valley. It was very cute in appearance, and reminded the little boy of his teddy-bear. It had white fur, and golden tips on its antennae and wings. The feature that Maeryc found most intriguing though, was the shape of a large, five-pointed star in the middle of its face.
"Are you the falling star I saw?" he asked the petpet softly.
It didn't answer. It lay unconscious in his hands. "It must be hurt."
What could he do? He couldn't possibly walk away and leave it in the snow. It would surely freeze to death, if it didn't die from whatever injury it had. What he had to do was obvious. He had to take it home with him.
He undid his coat just enough to tuck it inside, and headed back to the little cabin. Now all he had to do was sneak in without his uncle seeing him. If he found out his nephew had brought a creature who'd fallen from the sky into his house, he would worry, because that's what adults did.
When Maeryc finally did get home, he tried to be as quiet as a miamouse. He went straight to the spare room, and only when he was sure he hadn't been seen, he took the petpet out of his coat. It was still unconscious.
"You're gonna need a place to sleep," he whispered.
He emptied the wooden crate that was being used as his toy box. Then he took a pillow from his bed, and placed it inside. Once he'd fluffed up the pillow as best as he could, he laid the mysterious petpet in its new bed.
"I have to tell Uncle Kent I'm back," he told it. "Don't wake up until I come back, okay?"
When he got down to the workshop, he found the carpenter working on the same desk he'd been hammering when he left.
"I'm home!" he called through the doorway.
His uncle looked up from the wood he was in the middle of measuring. "Hey, Maeryc, welcome back," he said half sarcastically.
The boy tried to explain his tardiness. "Yeah, about that..."
"Did you have a confrontation with another pirate?"
"Did you fight another pirate? I saw you took your cutlass with you."
"Um, no, I was pretending it was a knight's sword today. I was just.. I was just having so much fun," he stammered. "I didn't know it was so late, and I--"
"It's okay." His stuttering was interrupted. "Just try to come home when you're supposed to next time, 'kay? I don't want anything to happen to you."
"I know. I won't do it again," he promised.
Uncle Kent got up from the floor, and put his measuring tape down on the desk. "Now that you're home, why don't we both go upstairs and watch Neovision? I hear that Defenders movie is on tonight."
"I.. Well, uh.." He was torn. His uncle never had time for fun! Why did he have to choose the one night he wanted to get back to his room as soon as possible to take a break? "Don't you have to finish the desk?"
"I have a few days to finish it. And you're going home next week." He started to make his way out of the workshop. "Let's go watch that movie."
Just as he finished his sentence, Maeryc could have sworn her heard a thumping sound, coming from directly above them, in his room.
"Sorry, Uncle Kent," he blurted. "I really want to watch Neovision with you, but I have to finish my homework." It wasn't a lie, exactly. He still hadn't finished his subtraction.
The carpenter looked hurt. "Oh. Well, homework is more important."
"I'm sorry," he apologized again. "Maybe tomorrow night?"
"Whenever you have time."
"See you later then?" he said slowly.
He had almost made it away, when his uncle started to speak to him again.
"Did you see the stars tonight?"
"The stars?" He hadn't even considered the possibility that he might have seen the star fall from the sky. He felt stupid for not thinking of it. A light that bright would have been seen back home in Mystery Island! But there was no way he could know his nephew had caught the star, and brought it home with him. Was there?
"They seemed brighter than usual. And, I don't know." He shrugged. "They just looked different."
The baby Scorchio nodded. "They were pretty."
He barely heard his uncle's reply. He was out of the workshop, and climbing the stairs before he could say another word.
The thump he'd heard had clearly been his imagination, Maeryc realized, after three whole hours of waiting for the petpet to wake up. He had been able to finish his homework, play two games of Kiko Match, and half build a model Virtupets spaceship, before the creature in the wooden crate even started to stir.
"Are you awake yet?" he yawned. Ever since he had caught it, the Scorchio had been talking to the unconscious petpet as if it could hear him, and was answering back. He already felt like he and it were good friends, which was one more reason why he needed to be there when it woke up. "You sure are a heavy sleeper."
It was after midnight, way passed his bedtime, and he had school in the morning. He was considering going to bed, when the creature's eyes fluttered and blinked open.
Maeryc had planned many things to say to the petpet upon its awakening. But as it sat up and looked at him with its sparkly black eyes, full of curiosity, all he could do was murmur a quiet, "Hello."
It stared at him for a moment, and then its eyes began to wander as it took in its surroundings.
"Hello," it finally said.
The boy lit up with excitement. "You can talk!"
The petpet showed no signs of being frightened, but was clearly confused. "How did I get here?"
Maeryc told the whole story of how the stars had looked strange that night, and how one of them had fallen from the sky in a beam of light, and landed right in his hands.
"But the star turned out to be a petpet," he finished.
"So you brought me back to your home?" it tried to clarify.
The Scorchio was sheepish. "I didn't know what else to do. I didn't want to leave you, so I brought you here. This is my Uncle Kent's house, I'm just visiting. I'm Maeryc."
"Maeryc." It seemed to turn this name over in its mind. "I'm Ceila," it, who turned out to be a she, introduced herself, trying her tiny wings for the first time.
"Did you hurt your wings?" Maeryc asked in concern, as she clumsily tried, and failed to lift herself off the ground.
She gave no indication that she even heard. "I'm not supposed to look like this. I'm not even supposed to be here. Mother said that when a star falls from the sky, they go out, forever."
He blinked. "So you really are a star?"
"Yes," she said simply. There was a hint of sadness in her voice.
"But how did you fall out of the sky?"
Ceila looked down at her feet, two things completely foreign to her. "My family warned me not to grant all those wishes for that spoiled little girl. I don't know why I didn't listen. I guess I just wanted to prove to them that I could do it."
Maeryc tried to comprehend what Ceila had just told him. "Wait-- You can grant wishes?"
The petpet was somber. "Not anymore. I used up all of my power on that one girl. I lost my ability to grant wishes, I couldn't even keep myself up in the sky."
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I know your family is worried about you. When you fell, the other stars looked like they were going to jump out of the sky."
"If only I could let them know I'm safe."
For a long time they sat in silence. Thinking, wondering what to do. At last, one of them spoke.
"You can stay here until you get better. And then we can try and get you back to your family."
"But how can I get back in the sky? I've been totally transformed."
"Maybe you can fly back!"
The two laughed as Ceila flapped her tiny wings.
To be continued...