Just a Grarrl
It was spring, and the sun pierced the clouds and banded the vast knoll in shades of emerald and chartreuse. The thatch roof gleamed golden against the rolling meadow. In a small lodge on the outskirts of Brightvale, a couple welcomed the arrival of their hatchling baby Grarrl. Our home sat meager against the hill, with little furnishings to speak of. My parents were first generation immigrants, and had moved from Tyrrania as the climate had begun to change and the plants no longer yielded fruit. They were beckoned by prospect of work in the lush orchards surrounding the castle harvesting ripe cackleberries. They came with no possessions, and built our home by hand using the same technique they had been taught in their small Tyrannian village. They built these walls, in the anticipation and hope that they could someday start a family of their own. Finally, I had arrived.
Although I had only just hatched, I can remember that moment, the moment my father picked me up for the first time. His eyes peering down at me so proudly, my heart filled with contentment as I silenced my tears and gazed back into his eyes. I was their first and only little Grarrl. I was small, speckled, with eyes that lit up like those of Nuria. He was large, his were like those of Illusen, and his skin was as green as the meadow after the rain, without a single spot.
He whispered softly that I looked just like my mother, as he delivered me into the arms of a Grarrl as fair as the sun does gleam, her eyes were both green with pupils as red as bloodberries.
Five years passed in our little hut on the side of town, and although much stayed the same, I began to change. I was not so little anymore. My adult teeth had begun to emerge, and they were oddly large in proportion to my other features. And although my parents assured me I would grow into them, I couldn’t help but feel different than the other children in nursery. Where they had soft fur, I had rough scales, and I was so much larger than the others. Some children laughed at my large clumsy tail, while others were afraid of my dagger-like teeth. I found it difficult to make friends.
One day I came home sad and lonely. My mother held me, and told me a story of when she first came to Brightvale, unable to communicate. She felt like an outcast and didn’t know how to fit in. After a while she learned that everyone feels that way sometimes, and it’s okay, because everyone is different. She told me that I will find my path, and the things that make me unique are exactly the things I will need in life. She told me without being different, she wouldn’t have been able to harvest the perfect fruit for The Wise King Hagan, and father wouldn’t have been able to thatch the roofs for the villagers.
I could only hope that someday I could find my purpose too.
My days in primary school did not get much easier. I spent most of my time gazing out of the window to the sky above before a visiting teacher took special interest in me. He taught me about the sky that I spent so much time staring at. I was fascinated by stories of epic battles at the Virtupets Space Station, and within a week I read my way through Space Exploration Guide, Stargazing, and Phases of the Moon. As I read more and more, my interests cultivated from science fiction to astro-sciences.
At 16 it was time for me to say good-bye to my humble home, my loving mother and father, and the school where I never really fit in. My interests had landed me a full scholarship to study astrology at the world famous Shenkuu Temple. I was sad to be leaving my parent’s, but anticipated the opportunity to find my path, as my mother assured me I would so many years before. It was a tearful good-bye as I departed the docks in neighboring Meridell for the two week long journey under sail to my final destination at Shenkuu Harbour.
Our vessel was large, and unlike others I had seen before. It sailed above the seas on the currents that drifted along the water’s surface, causing the ship to hover, as if we were with the faeries on a vast land-cloud. Her name was Cyodrake, and she was large and red, with stained planks of cherry blossom, and with sails like gills flanking either side. The mast was taller than castles spires, and after untying the ship and pushing away from the docks, it took two Eyrie’s and a Tuskaninny to hoist the junk rigging. The sail was massive and webbed between the wooden batens like on wings of a Darigonian petpet. My body was filled with an air of tranquility, as I watched the green of my homeland fade away over the horizon.
The ride although long, was mostly easy. The stillness of the water was unbroken by the waves that danced beneath the red wooden planks. For two weeks I slept in a hammock just below deck. There were many of us aboard, for various reasons. One was a Lenny named Kawhootby, who although came only to my knee, snored like the great Turmaculus himself. He slept in the hammock directly to the foot of my own. In the day he was not much quieter either. He told me how he was also going to be a scientist, and how he was going to study the great oceans that surrounded Lutari Island. He was very knowledgeable, and taught me about the various air currents over which we rode, and how they affected the ever-swirling pools that beat the shores of Lutari. This helped me pass the time on my voyage, and before I knew it, ten days had passed and it was time to say good-bye to Kawhootby. I waved as he leapt from the stern of the floating vessel and over the turbulent seas below. I watched as he flapped his wings and flew off toward the approaching shore sheeted in dew and blanketed by a thick fog.
The ship blew onward passed Lutari Island, and headed north up the Strait of Altador. The next days passed in silence as most of the other passengers had already disembarked at their final destinations. There was only one stop left, and that was Shenkuu. As we sailed the strait a picture began to come into focus over the port side. I could see silhouettes the Great Northern Alts. The mountains were as broad as they were grand, and their snow-topped peaks buried their heads into the soft clouds above. I spent the entire evening gazing out at the ridged continent. As the Neopian creases gave way to cliffs, I rested my head on blacked railing and slowly drifted into a deep sleep. I dreamt of huts nestled in the bluffs of a forest drenched in waterfalls. And although it felt like only a moment had passed, I was awoken by a thump as Cyodrake debarked softly upon her small launch-port located atop the second highest peak in all of Shenkuu. The view was more stunning that I could have ever dreamed.
I exited the ship, and followed the others down a dark and narrow staircase which concluded at an opening to a large rope bridge. There an old Gnorbu approached me. He walked in a slow, steady gate, slightly hunched over a cane carved from the root of a brain tree. He had a beard as thick as the fur of a Babaa, with eyes bluer than the Healing Springs. He looked kind and gentle in his modest kimono and scroll-filled satchel. He bowed his head before me, and expressed that the temple had been waiting my arrival as he lead me across the rope bridge. The canyon walls plummeted to a narrow stream below, as the wind bellowed against the rope bridge causing it to swing and sway with every gust. I clenched to the braided strands in dread, as I returned my head to the horizon and at the countless steps ahead. The wise old Gnorbu looked to my nervous expression with a smile, and I couldn’t help but smile too. I knew there would be many new experiences ahead.
I spent four years at Lunar Temple studying the Neopian Lunar Calendar under the supervision of The Wise Gnorbu. I was able to use the little I had learned from Kawhootby, aboard Cyodrake, to better understand the effects of the tidal pull caused by the Kreludian phases. I found this knowledge beneficial to predicting weather patterns.
After passing my final exam at Shenkuu Temple, news spread quickly. In letters written from home, I had learned that King Hagan had caught wind of my success and wanted my help in surveying The Northerly Seas which surround the Terro-Tyrannian continent. I received a letter from the royal highness himself requesting me of my civil duties. He was interested in the land and waterways to the great north in search for potential passages and better routes for trade. The current route was to the west, which although short, traversed the highest mountains and roughest glaciers in all of Neopia. It was a dangerous, even reckless journey. This made the trade of exotic fruits and other perishables between lands impossible. He wrote that my expertise in predicting weather patterns based on my knowledge of sky and sea would make me the most suitable candidate in all of Neopia. He wrote that I would be captain of my own vessel, choose my own crew, and provision as we saw fit, all at the expense of the Brightvale Kingdom.
My cheeks beamed as red as they had my first time on the rope bridge above the soaring cliffs of Shenkuu, but this time not in fear, but of excitement. What a great honour it was to do such an important task. I immediate wrote to Lutari Island in hopes to track down Kawhootby, now Dr. Kawhootby. I wanted to offer him the esteemed position of First Mate. Meanwhile, I assembled a team of engineers to help with the design and construction of my vessel. She was designed in the style of the yachts I remember seeing as a child on summer holiday on Roo Island. She would be built beneath the bluffs on a narrow stream that opened into the mouth of the Shenkuu Delta. It was lightweight, durable, and elegant. The large hull was formed from the powder of blue sandshells giving it an iridescent hue like the sun rippling through the water in a shallow seabed. The sails we made by Brightvale artisans living in Shenkuu. They were fashioned of parchment cloth, and as strong as the cloaks worn by those who fought in the great battle for Meridell.
The construction of Grarrl’s Endeavour took seven seasons to complete, and at this time Dr. Kawhootby arrived in the canyon with his luggage beside him.
“You didn’t think I would let you traverse such treacherous seas without me, did you?” He smiled and laughed.
Dr. Kawhootby had ruffled yellow feathers, and a long orange beak that curved downward like a hook which caused his laugh to sound more like the cackling of an over-heated kettle releasing steam. His legs were long and slim, as were his wings. He carried in his left hand a golden pocket watch, and beneath his right wing shone the glass end of an ornate brass telescope.
I assured him of my delight that he could join us on our journey around the world. I introduced him to our skilled crew, which consisted of the most accomplished and knowledgeable artists and sciences in all of Neopia. Then we boarded Grarrl’s Endeavour for our second sail together, this time East around Cape Terror, and through the Tyrannian Passage and onward. Any prior attempts to sail this route had ended in devastation. The waters were frigged from the glaciers that had melted from the Great Terror Icecap, and what did not melt drifted away at sea for thousands of fathoms before melting on the beaches of the subcontinent. The same current that carried the icebergs southerly, was that which had carried my parent’s so long ago to the western shores of Brightvale. In my terror and excitement I looked out at the sea imagining the courage it must had taken for them, so long ago, to board a small raft of volcanic clay and dried burnumup leaves and drift away at sea.
We traveled east against the grueling prevailing winds for over a year, supplies dwindled to a mere crate of tinned olives and canned prune juice. We were hungry, and ill, and our morale had faired equally as poor against the hardships at sea.
In the night the ship came so a sudden and violent halt. The crew was woken from their slumber to scurry the decks and access any damage we may have accrued. The night watchman had fallen asleep at the helm, and it was too dark to see anything in the surrounding seas. We hurried to the lower decks checking carefully, but we were not taking on water. There was no damage to be seen at all. I gave orders for the crew to return to their cabins, and rest until dawn. The difficult task of pushing our boat from atop a sunken icefield lay ahead, and they would need their strength.
Dr. Kawhootby and I paced the deck deciding on the best course of action. It was to be a dangerous mission on an already weak and weary crew. We faced a coup d'etat, and the northern seas were no place for mutiny. The tiniest glimmer of sunlight slivered forth from the east, bringing with it a most unexpected heat. We turned our heads from the scorching light, gazing over the starboard side at a shallow glittering cerulean sea. It couldn’t be!
We had crash-landed on a bed of sand on the end of the Tyrannian Peninsula. Tyrannia was no longer the jungle it had once been. It was arid and desolate, there were no trees, and no huts. The Tyrannian people had left the valley years before to escape the great volcanic eruption which sent lava flowing through the rock formations and flooded the valley with ash. They told us stories of how the ash went into the sky, causing Tyrannia to sit beneath a darkened cloud of soot before the ice in the neighboring Terror Mountain began to melt from the heat, flooding the valley once more with glacial waters from the top of the great mountain.
We brought the crew to shore, and hiked the plateau. We spent two weeks surveying the land, and speaking with the Tyrannian people. I felt grateful to my mother and father for teaching me their native language, and although I didn’t speak it well, I was able to record the great history of Tyrannia, both tragic and beautiful. After the crew had rested in the sun, we started loading Grarrl’s Endeavour with as much omelette, bronto bite, and nerkin leg as the mess hall would allow, before paying them for their kindness. They had no need for our money, so we gave what we could spare. After showing our gratitude with trinkets, spare pieces, and tools, we had to say good-bye. The crew pushed us from the sand and climbed aboard using rope netting. Once aboard, we hoisted the sails and waved as we gently drifted toward the setting sun.
No vessel had ever traveled in the northern seas further east. We followed the Terro-Tyrannian continent for another six weeks in relatively calm and beautiful conditions. We ate and drank in merriment knowing what we thought had been a failure, had in actuality been a complete success. It was a bright and warm in the northern hemisphere in July , Y13, as we spotted something in the distance. We reefed our sails and glided toward a beautiful archipelago. We had sailed uncharted waters, and our expert cartographers got to work mapping out the beautiful island formations. The water was green with sea life, like a half sunken paradise. Fellies and turdles drifted the tideless waters, as we were greeted by wild floobix who perched on the bow. We dropped anchor in the shallow reefs and swam ashore. It was as divine as if Siyana had designed it herself. The bay was so full of life, the beaches so golden, and land so lush.
I assembled the crew on the deck, and directed with great zeal to all aboard, that they must go into their cabins, and all present their native flags. The men marched in two lines to the shores of Little Grarrl Cay, and with a command all crew members including myself and Dr. Kawhootby, simultaneously stuck our flags, from all corners of the world, into the sand and moss that cover the splendid oasis. It was from that moment forward, that Little Grarrl Cay was discovered by all of those aboard Grarrl’s Endeavour. It has later remained a free state, owned by all those who reside in and around Neopia.
Grarrl’s Endeavour sailed southward, completing its circumnavigation when arriving in Shenkuu. The whole village had come out to welcome the crew. While the others celebrated, I slipped away aboard Cyodrake to make my long journey back home. Ten years had passed since I had seen my mother and father. We wept tears of joy. I later returned the data we had collected to King Hagan.
I never returned to Little Grarrl Cay. I found my purpose in Brightvale, just as my parent’s had so long before me.
-Captain Emilia Grarrl
January 6th 2016