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A Love of the Island


by mrs_fluff

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Night was falling on Mystery Island. The natives in the small jungle villages scuttled around, lighting torches as the red sun fell beyond the sea, lighting the water with dazzling hues of gold and crimson, like something out of a vibrant dream.

     And then, just like a fleeting dream, the beauty faded as the sun disappeared beyond the distant waves. The trees in the jungle creaked and rustled, shivering their palm leaves, as if they were griping to each other about the darkness that ensued each night when the sun turned its back on them. For a second, the clouds in the sky flashed purple, orange and pink, and then everything slowly faded to deep blue. It was the end of another day on the island.

     The few remaining tourists finished up their souvenir shopping, or walked along the beach one last time, chattering to each other.

     "That was a nice sunset," one Wocky said to her owner. "We don't see those in Neopia Central. There's too many bulky houses in the way, and no clear horizon in view." Her owner nodded and stared out over the endless sea. She was carrying a small yellow notebook along, and she doodled and wrote in it as she walked.

     Further along the beach, two yellow Acara twins were playfully hopping along, looking for shining shells.

     "Oh, oh!" cried one. "Look! Here's one." He plucked a smooth, glimmering shell off the sandy beach and held it up. It was large, white, and flat.

     "That's half of a clam shell," his brother said, matter-of-factly. "Every shell like that has a twin, somewhere. Just like us."

     The other Acara studied the shell some more, then placed it in the bucket he was dragging along at his side. "That's pretty cool," he said, but he wasn't concerned with anything other than gathering shells, at the moment.

     Yes, it was just a normal night on the popular vacation spot of Mystery Island. But the tourists didn't know that there was another presence there, watching their every move and hating them for it.

     ~**~

     An Island Zafara sat in the top of a palm tree near the jungle's edge, looking out on the beach. Her long legs were crossed, and her thin hands rested on her knees. She had a solemn expression on her face, which was painted with white smears of war-paint, as she stared out at the many tourists, skipping merrily along. The Zafara listened to their speech and watched their movements, swivelling her ears and head. She saw all, but she was not seen.

     Saguna was her name, which meant "night eyes" in the old language of the Island. The Zafara had lived there for a very long time, even before the rest of Neopia knew of its existence. She was rather old, but you would never be able to tell from her youthful face and her limber form. Her love of the island was great, and it grew with every passing day; but so did her sorrow. For each day she watched the tourists, and saw things that displeased her. Every day, all day, shells, which decorated the beach and made it glimmer in the sun, were being shoved in pails or bags and dragged away to other parts of Neopia, where they did not belong. Trees were being cut down to make room for new shops, or to provide wood for cheap carved boats, which eager visitors bought and then forgot about two days later.

     Mystery Island was becoming more and more of a tourist trap by the day, and she hated it. Her island, so mystical and beautiful, was now just a summer spot for the Invaders, or so she called them. They came, they saw, they left. They weren't islanders and they didn't know what the island was about.

     She was angered by the view of the island that the tourists were getting. Not that she cared for their personal sake, but she wanted the world to know the truth about the place. They didn't get to feel the true magic of Mystery Island. All the attractions were just a hyped-up display, and not like the actual island at all. The so-called Mystic was a phony, just making up random things such as "You will find an empty Neocola can on your roof" or "Bananas will bring you much luck!" And the haiku Kougra... well, Saguna could rant for weeks about how she made up completely senseless haikus and passed them off as having deep, hidden meaning. The tours and businesses were a fake excuse for island life, and the visitors were just seeing the island as if they were looking at it behind glass, like it was some rare Petpet in a zoo. The real spirit of Mystery Island could not be experienced through any tour or weekend trip. To know the island, you had to live on it and find out its secrets for yourself. You had to smell the flowers and see the waterfalls, and wander the jungle paths late at night under the watchful stars. That was what the land was about, not Tiki-tack keyrings or magnets.

     Saguna watched and waited until all the tourists had left, going back to their rented-out shacks or boarding a boat to go home. She had been having bitter inner conversations with herself, and now she was tired. She climbed down from the tree and walked off to her village with her head hanging low, forcing her way through the thick jungle with sticks and leaves crackling underneath her feet.

     After a few minutes, the weary Neopet could see the red flames of torches through the trees, and she emerged into the clearing that housed her village. It was a small community of natives, but they knew each other well and worked as a team. The small huts huddled close together, inviting her home. Saguna looked at them for a moment, and they seemed to call out to her. Especially her house, which beckoned her to come home and rest her tired feet and mind. But she did not go to her house. Instead, she walked right past it to the rear of the village, where a small grass hut sat a little ways apart from the others. Two wooden torches burned brightly out front. Saguna approached and walked in.

     The hut was sparsely decorated, with a single window and a low bed. Herbs and spices hung from the ceiling, giving off a pleasant smell. A yellow Kougra was sitting quietly on his bed, staring out his window at Techo Mountain in the distance. Several golden earrings decorated each of his ears, and a long necklace of Jetsams' teeth was draped around his neck. His body was old and bony, but there was a look of wisdom and great knowledge in his deep blue eyes. This was the Mystic of Saguna's village. He was wise and respected, and the counsel he gave was well thought-out and helpful. He could make healing potions from island herbs and he knew the island's history more than anyone else in the community.

     The Zafara stood for a moment, but the Mystic did not seem to notice that she was there.

     "Sir," she muttered at last, bowing her head.

     The Kougra slowly turned his head from the window to face his visitor. "Saguna," he said. "It's nice to see your face again. What brings you here?"

     "I am troubled," murmured the Zafara.

     "Of course. I sensed your restlessness," the Kougra said. "And I think I can guess what your problem is." His tone was calm and collected, but his visitor could no longer keep her emotions inside.

     "The invaders!" Saguna cried angrily, throwing up her hands. "Of course, isn't that what I'm always agitated about? They-"

     But the Mystic held up one of his old, knobbed paws. Saguna quieted. She was old, but just a child was she when compared to the Mystic. The wise Kougra spoke, "I knew this was the case. You spend your days in constant bitterness towards them. It isn't good for you. Tell me, why do you hate them so?"

     Saguna stomped her foot. "They come to our island just to get a little fun for themselves, and have no respect for the natives. They litter and steal, taking away what's ours. Our island used to be peaceful, but know it buzzes with activity, day in and day out. It's horrible!"

     The aged Kougra sat for a moment with his eyes closed. Then he slowly said, without opening his eyes, "I do agree with you. But let me tell you something, Saguna. You know all about our island. You know how it is an ancient and sacred place, shrouded in mystery and legends. It has been around since the early mists of time and will likely stay here for just as long, though what condition it may fall into none can say. You know that we have many tales of ancient heros and villains, and we hold our history in high regard."

     Saguna nodded. "Yes?"

     The Village Mystic continued, "But you also know that all the legends and tales passed down by our people all blend into one huge story: the Legend of the Island. Because everything the ancient heros of our past did affected the island and its people as a whole. And when these strangers you call Invaders discovered our island for themselves, many years ago, it was just another part of that story. So they came, and now they visit and share the gifts we have to offer them. It's a part of our history, and I'm sure it is what is meant to be. You'll never be able to change history."

     Saguna sighed. She was not very comforted, but she still respected the Mystic. "Perhaps," she said, "but can't they just stay where they belong? This is our island, our beautiful island..." Her voice trailed off.

     There was a moment of silence before the Mystic spoke again. "Maybe," he said softly. "But think about their land, where they belong, as you say. Many of them come from the city. It's a wasteland of concrete and bricks, of dirty air where the smell of the sea is unknown, and the closest they get to nature is the trimmed grass and trees in their gardens. Surely we can't deny them the chance to visit our land and see some real beauty and breathe fresh air!"

     "No, but they ought to be grateful for it!" snapped Saguna.

     "True," the Mystic agreed. "But many of them are. You dwell on the mean-hearted ones that cut down the trees and wear away at our island's beauty. Indeed, such a thing is a black evil. Destroying anything in nature for simple greed, whether it be an ancient tree or a young blade of grass, is a punishable act. It's an outrage what some Neopets do!

     But also, there are so many visitors that come to our land and love it to pieces, treating it with reverence and respect. They have such an experience in this place that they never forget it, and they get a greater understanding of the world around them. When they go back home, they think about the beauty of this place when they are sad or tired. They compare it to the pavement and brick of where they know, and it inspires them to protect nature a bit more. For if you've never known the beauty of the natural world, why would you want to save it?"

     The Kougra took a deep breath and wiped his forehead before he continued. "It is good for these people and the world to come here. Long have the natives of Mystery Island kept the place to themselves, but now we must not be greedy. We have to share our gifts with the world. So many Neopets and owners bring their individual stories to this island, and they all get woven together with each other. Then those stories join the stories of me, and of you, and of the island. This land's legend continues to grow each day."

     Saguna thought of what he had said. She saw so many people each day, yet she never stopped to ponder their stories. What was the Wocky's owner she had seen earlier doing with that notebook? Was she an artist? Did she write stories? And the Acara twins... were they kind to each other all the time, or just in good moods that day? Did they bicker like most siblings? But she was snapped out of her thoughts as the wise Kougra continued his talk.

     "You see," he said, "the tale of Mystery Island interlocks with Neopia Central's story, which interlocks with the tales of all the other lands: Krawk Island, the Haunted Woods, and Faerieland, to name a few. We all work together to make one great legend that never starts and never ends, and it's constantly growing."

     Saguna leaned against the hut's wall, very quietly. She was thinking this all over in her head. "So..." she said at last, "we're all in this together? Everyone in the world?"

     The Mystic nodded. "Yes. For what they do in Neopia Central affects us, and what we do on Mystery Island affects them. Everything anyone does sends out a million tiny ripples, hitting and bouncing off other ripples. Everything interweaves into one story, and a single movement can shape the world."

     The Island Zafara nodded. "But still, I shudder when I think of some people, and the evil they've brought to this island. Why, just last week some rebellious teens drove some little Petpets out of their-"

     "There is evil in the world," interrupted the Mystic, "and that will never change. But if you look, you'll find that there is more good than evil. For even in the darkness of night, the stars and moon still shine. And those that are good have to unite against the evil forces. If you hate everyone just because a few bad people exist, you are doing absolutely nothing to help. You must learn to live in peace, Saguna. It's wonderful to love the island, but you must accept people from the city, or you are no better than those strangers that do not accept us. Together Neopia forms one single story, and we must not argue on how to tell it. We choose our fate as a whole. Through peace we are strong."

     Saguna stared out the window at the rising moon. "Thank you, sir," she said, turning to the Mystic. "Thank you." Then she walked out of the hut towards her own home, considering the Mystic's words deeply as she walked. Later on, she thought for a very long time before finally drifting off to sleep...

     ~**~

     The next morning dawned bright and clear. The sun peeked above the distant waves, shy at first, as if guilty for turning his back on the world like he did every night. The palm trees swayed, waving hello to their old friend, telling him it was okay, and he was always forgiven. Thus the sun gained a bit more confidence and began to float higher. The distant clouds flashed pink and red, and a small crowd of tourists gathered on the beach, watching and gasping in amazement. Then the sun rose full and triumphant above the waves, sending out bright rays of light over the world and ripping away the last shreds of the night's darkness.

     After the sunrise, the tourist group murmured and drifted apart. All except for a young blue Krawk, who stood staring into the distance still, amazed at what he had just seen. He looked at the horizon, deeply moved by the sunrise. A few seconds passed, and he suddenly became aware of a presence behind him. The Krawk hurriedly turned, and found a tall Island Zafara standing behind him, staring off just as he had been. She seemed deep in thought. It was Saguna, still turning over the previous night's talk in her head.

     "Um, hello, ma'am," the Krawk said meekly.

     The Zafara looked down, awakened from a daze. She stared at the Krawk for a second and concentrated. He looked young, and she wondered where he had come from and what his unique story was, and how it would end up interacting with hers. "Hello," she said. "My name's Saguna. Are you enjoying your time on the island?"

     The Krawk nodded excitedly. "Oh yeah, it's been great!"

     Saguna nodded. "I'm glad to hear it." Then she turned and began to walk away, striding through the sand. But she had not gone far when she slowed down and turned around abruptly, as if her conscience was telling her to return. She saw that the Krawk was still staring at her.

     "I can show you around, if you'd like," she offered, speaking quietly.

     At this, the Krawk grinned hugely and nodded even more wildly, his head bobbing up and down so much that Saguna thought it would fly off. Saguna smiled, and she could hear the words of the Mystic echoing in her head. She loved the island so much, and she had to teach others to love it as well. She had to show this Krawk Mystery Island's true spirit, so that he could experience it for himself. People would only save the island if they could understand that its heart lay not in shops and gifts, but in the wonder of its land and people. So together, the Krawk and the Zafara walked off through the cool morning dew to discover new secrets together, and add on to each other's stories.

The End

 
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