The Myth of Venuquin
Thunder rolled across the grey sky, lightning striking in the distance, lighting up the dark clouds for a brief moment. The rain made continuous, violent thudding against the deck, a rhythmic patting, soaking the surfaces which weren't already damp from salty seawater. Waves struck against the sides of the boat, crashing over the top and onto the deck, rocking it side to side as the crew desperately tried to tie the sails down and clear the water.
One of the bunks was flooded; the kitchen wasn't far from joining it. And yet the sea and the sky, relentless in their assault, never let up, thunder crackling like a whip in challenge. A war between nature and a boat; a battle of endless force and a barely stable wooden structure. Nature was definitely winning as of now.
"Tim, pull!" shouted the captain – a pirate Eyrie with worn black hat, skull embellished on it. His claws were curled around the rope, the slack of which snaked up through his beak, tugging against the winds, his wings batting against the air. The deckhand, Tim, nodded, having barely heard the order, and pulled. There wasn't anything else he would be ordered to do right now, and even if it was something else, he likely would've chosen to continue pulling anyway. Right now, tying the sail down was more important.
Straining against the rope, the Shoyru gritted his teeth and pulled, wings mimicking the captain's.
Pull. Don't think.
It physically pained him, straining his muscles, but Tim refused to let go, even as the rope, soggy and cold, threatened to slip through his grip. They had to get the sail down before it got damaged.
Damaged sail meant being stranded. Damaged sail meant possibly never getting home. Tim felt his throat tighten at the thought, his chest becoming heavier. His parents would be so worried, his friends, devastated.
He tugged harder, ignoring the lash of the salty waves against his wings, and the bite of the wind across his cold, wet skin. He just tugged, stopped thinking and pulled. He had to pull, had to get this down – there was no other option. No other way to get the sail down. Not in these winds, anyway.
Tim never noticed the rope fraying in the middle, threads breaking apart a little more each time he dug deep and pulled.
All it took was the last pull for the rope to snap, his feet losing grip on the slippery deck as Tim fell backwards, everything seeming to slow down when he passed over the edge of the solid wood he'd called home for so long.
Tim was used to flying, but this... This wasn't flying – not how he knew anyway. This was flying without wings.
This was falling.
It all felt surreal as the grey clouds distanced themselves from him. It felt wrong, but it never clicked why. It never hit him until the cold water did, pulling him underneath the waves. It felt like ice, pressed against every inch of his skin.
He'd been on the other end of this scenario before, screaming "Man overboard!" at the top of his lungs, pulling the rest of the crew into swift action. Never had he been the man who was overboard. Never had he been the one so close to drowning.
Tim tried his best to remember what he was supposed to do, trying desperately – without avail – to claw his way back to the surface. But he was scared. Beyond scared. He was terrified, and cold, and about to give up, when he saw her.
It didn't click at first. Peophins never swam in stormy waters – they always knew when a storm was coming, and they'd clear off long before the first bolt of lightning illuminated the sky. But she was here. In the roughest waters Tim had ever seen, a lone Peophin swam in front of him, watching him. She came smiling gently – her whole presence felt calming, somehow relaxing despite what was going on.
She was teal in coloring, with golden hooves and a teal mane spread around her face, framing it. Her neck was adorned with a golden necklace, the same shade of gold as her hooves and the two horns on her head. Tim's eyes widened. She was just a legend, she couldn't possibly be real.
It couldn't possibly be her.
But it was.
The mother of all Peophins. Venuquin. Rescuer of damned sailors, guider of ships. The only Peophin daring – and caring – enough to brave stormy waters.
Venuquin eyed him with concern. Tim forgot that he was drowning, for right in front of him was the bedtime story he'd been raised on. Venuquin was a hero throughout Neopia, though thought to only be fiction by most. And yet, here she was.
Swimming closer to him till the tip of her horn, a warm feeling in the icy waters, pressed against his forehead, Venuquin spoke, clear as day, her voice not muffled by the water, "Close your eyes for me, child."
Tim nodded slowly and did as he was told, leaning into her as his eyelids drawing to a shut. He couldn't help but let himself fall into the darkness that beckoned him so alluringly then.
He woke with a splutter, cold water dripping off his face. Nothing was dripping onto it – the rain had stopped. And judging by the blue color of the sky, the storm had finally passed too, grey clouds parting to reveal something far more pleasant. The deck felt cold, hard beneath him. But not wet. Not anymore.
How was he on the deck?
Tim sat bolt upright, looking around. He was alive; this was definitely the boat he'd been living on for the past month; he most definitely wasn't dead; the storm had cleared. Looking up, Mike, a fellow deckhand stood over him, his face a cross between confusion, bewilderment and elation. Probably an exact mirror of what Tim looked like at the moment, then.
"Tim." It wasn't a confused question this time, or a desperate shout. It was a simple statement, a confirmation of his identity, that the Shoyru lay on the deck was in fact Tim, and not some shape-shifting imposter.
"What happened?" He should've expected that question. No-one lives to tell the tale after falling into seas that rough, especially when the crew can't see them in the water. It was an impossibility, and of course it was going to provoke curiosity, but would the truth be enough to sate that?
Would anyone actually believe what happened, or would they just pass it off as the fancy tale of a pirate, or the tail end result of a traumatic experience? Would it be added to the lore that surrounded Venuquin, mysterious and elusive as she was, or would it just be passed off as the product of a bang to the head, or a cover up to what really happened.
Tim didn't know. Tim didn't really care either – he was content in the knowledge that that was Venuquin he saw under the waves. That his life had been saved by the myth, the supposed mother of all Peophins. He was just itching to tell somewhere, to share what really happened, whether they believed him or not.
"Venuquin. Venuquin happened."