Tales From Elysian Fields: The Little Guys
You're entering a world as real as you make it out to be; there are no limitations to the possible inputs and outputs. But unlike an equation, you can't chart relics of a time yet to come — an opening into the dark matter before us. Free from the shackles of reality, you are about to take a walk in Elysian Fields.
On their way to Mystery Island sail the two-man crew of The Lonesome Marafin, the small fishing ship from which they reel, dock, and temporarily reside in. At the wheel: Lucas O'Grin, the navigator and the younger of the two brothers. On the starboard side: the Captain, the leader and the oldest of the pair.
"We got a good catch today, all things considered," says the Captain. "Granted, most of it's butter- and breadfish, but you gotta live with what ya bait."
"Hmph, how ironic," mutters Lucas, his eyes focused not on the ocean ahead, but towards the sky.
"Anyway, I can't wait till we get to Mystery Island," continues the Captain. "Them Cocos, man, how I love them Cocos. You remember them, right?"
Lucas nods, though the Captain doesn't look back to check.
"They're always so thrilled with the supplies we bring to trade with 'em! And I'm tellin' ya, Lucy, those North Western tribes sure know where the party's at! That chief they have — the little one that looks like a coconut with a beard — what's his name? Ugga Bugga?"
"Umma Bunga," answers Lucas, matter-of-factly.
"Right, that Ugga Umma Boom-bam guy. I just love how he always throws a festival when we arrive — always runnin' out of his hut with glee, shouting, 'Kapitan! Kapitan!' Aww man, do you remember that one time we showed up and..."
While Lucas listens to his egocentric brother recount this story for the thousandth time, he looks to the greying clouds and notices just how beautiful they are.
That's when he sees the storm.
"—and then I said, 'He doesn't have Quiggle legs, that's just how he walks!'" the Captain finishes. "I don't know what we drank that night, but — hey! Lucy, are you even listening? And why the heck are we turning?!"
"There's a storm coming in bow-side," Lucas explains. "We're going to have to sail southeast to avoid it."
"Oh no you don't!" the Captain says, peering through his spyglass. "That's what that loon Ruki said, too, and you know how he is. Gotta get your head out of the clouds, baby brother! Here, take a closer look."
He tosses the spyglass to Lucas, who puts it to one eye and frowns at the sight.
"See? Don't even look too bad."
"Besides, it'll take us another week to get back if we turn now," the Captain points out. "Go onward, go onward!"
Reluctantly, Lucas steers the ship back on course. The Captain smiles, pleased to have his orders being followed. But something is bothering Lucas: he wants to be in the clouds, or rather, anywhere but this small boat that smells of week-old fish with his tormenting brother as captain.
While the tides begin to rise up and down, up and down, Lucas vows that if ever given power, he would treat his people fairly — an opportunity he's going to have to prove in Elysian Fields.
Lightning flashes across the sky, setting the scene as The Lonesome Marafin splashes left and right — to and fro — against waves so blue they're almost black. This time the Captain is at the stern, one hand on the wheel and the other keeping his cap from flying off and into the sickening waters.
"Some navigator you are!" the Captain shouts to his brother, who is hauling crates below deck. "I thought you knew about this kind of stuff!"
"I told you we—" A waves knocks him hard against the railing. "I said we needed to go around it, not through it!"
"Straight and fast!" cries the Captain as he slips and falls on the ground, momentarily losing control of the ship. "Just get everything tied down, will ya?!"
His yellow fur soaked, his vest fluttering in a gale far from pleasant, Lucas can only manage to point ahead; painted in front for both to see is a wave the size of no other. He turns to his older brother, for once actively seeking an order or a command or something.
The Captain says nothing, though his mouth is wide open.
Folded along a crease in time, Lucas and the Captain have been sailing across an ocean of oblivion belonging to another realm, no longer focusing on facts, but on truth — the breaking point only that of the imagination. In one moment, their paper boat will become waterlogged against cosmic shoals suspended in flight, labeling both members of The Lonesome Marafin as castaways to Elysian Fields.
The Captain is the first to wake, his clothes tattered and his whereabouts confused. He gets up, looks around, and frowns. He is on a beach at the bottom of a high cliff, and above him lays a vast expanse of lush green.
He pokes the sleeping mass that is his younger brother, hoping to wake him up. When this fails, he proceeds to kick him with his forefeet.
"Hey! Hey, cut it out!" cries Lucas, his paws extended as an attempt to block the Captain, known as the Feet of Fury throughout many Krawk Island taverns.
"Wake up and tell me where I am," the Captain demands.
Lucas takes a moment to look around. He walks up the beach a couple of paces, walks down and past his brother, then returns.
"I don't believe we're on Mystery Island," he declares.
"Well, I could have figured that out!" shouts the Captain, whacking Lucas on the back of the head.
"Stop that! Uh, this place looks too big to be Umbuku Island, but the tropical fauna is quite similar. We very well could be on Mystery Island, actually, perhaps on an abandoned shore, uninhabited, or..."
But the Captain's no longer listening; he sees The Lonesome Marafin up against a sharp rock, her surface cracked and letting in the light.
"Gaah! Look at her!" the Captain shouts, frantically looking his ship over. "We'll have to get to work right away to be ready to sail by morning's tide."
"Uh-huh. And how can I be of assistance?" asks Lucas with a hint of sarcasm, looking from his older brother, to the ship, and back.
"Make yourself useful for once and go into the jungle to see if you can find us some help," says the Captain. "Then again, if it's true that we're on the wrong side of the island, you could try searching for the Island Mystic's hut along the coast, or maybe you'll find the Pteri lookout."
"The Pteri watch for pirates, you know, not sharks," Lucas adds as he heads for the opening in the rocks. Up the shore, he finds some torn cloth and broken bits of a barrel. Any quarrels with his brother could wait; Lucas is curious to discover the secrets of this mysterious new land.
In the afternoon, the Captain begins to wonder about his little brother. He puts his tools aside and heads for the passage Lucas went through.
Minutes later, the Captain reaches a small clearing in the midst of the dense jungle. In the middle is Lucas, on his knees and paws, watching the grass.
"Most of the supplies made it, no thanks to you," informs the Captain. "Some of the breadfish and the butterfish got mixed together, so I hope the Cocos don't mind that. And I can't seem to find the transparifish... Lucy? You there, bud?"
Lucas turns to face the Captain, his eyes wild with excitement. He holds up a finger to his lips, shh!, and beckons his older brother closer. The Captain sighs as he gets closer to the ground.
Before them is a miniscule settlement of petpetpets, accompanied by small, makeshift structures resembling houses, nests, and a variety of huts in various colours.
"Look at them!" cries Lucas. "A whole colony of civilized petpetpets! Pinchits in this village, moaches in this one a few meters to the left... ooh! And some mootix over—"
"Lucas...? You OK?"
"They are such an advanced counterpart to the ones we have back home! I mean, look at them! See that right there — the log with the leaves on top? It looks to be a house! And there — the upside-down purple flower? It could be a hospital! They bunch up twigs for fences and use dandelion seeds for shade. That slab of rock could be an ancient monument, or—"
"Maybe they could build a statue that looks like me, ey?" says the Captain, slapping his brother's back, laughing.
Lucas turns to face him, his expression gone stern.
"That's not funny," he says.
"I was only joking," the Captain replies.
"Well, don't joke like that." Lucas returns his focus to the P3s.
"Anyway, we need to get back to repairing the ship," says the Captain. "She'll be good to go in no time. You good with that?"
"What? Oh. Oh yes, you're right..."
They leave the clearing together, the little brother slower than the other.
Lucas and the Captain return to The Lonesome Marafin to continue her repairs. Lucas is quiet, keeping to himself. As night falls, the ship is fixed (though the tides aren't favourable), and they eat dried seaweed strips and roasted carnapepper around a small fire to celebrate.
The Captain continues his story of the Cocos while Lucas looks up at the stars, thinking of the petpetpets instead.
The Captain wakes up to find the fire out and Lucas gone. Just as he suspects, he finds Lucas back at the clearing, on the ground, watching the P3s.
"You, uh, you hungry, Luke? I made you an Islandberry Fruit Kebab. Or would you like some Tigersquash? I know it's your favourite!"
The Captain rolls him the orange and black fruit. Lucas eats it without looking up.
"It's incredible, really," Lucas whispers after a couple of bites.
"Bro, it's only Tigersquash."
"Not the fruit! The petpetpets... They have their own society, their own economy. Each tribe has their own different colour combination, made up of red, blue, and yellow. The Larnikin have red, the Mootix have a mixture of green and yellow, and I've noticed the Pinchit buildings comprise of mostly blue, while—"
"I'm not following..."
"They trade resources to make these colours: seedpods, crushed pearls, even ember! Each tribe does something special, and they use their skills to benefit the others. Like the Mootix — they're good at gathering food, so they'll trade berry jelly to the Pinchits, who are better at gathering resources like wood, stone, and mud with their claws."
"I'm still not—"
"They trade those to the builders, and the builders construct protection for the soldiers, or the tribe members who are better in battle. They have this whole system going on! Their intelligence is astounding; it's so improbable that these little creatures have made such great technological advances. Their evolutionary growth has surpassed even that of the Tyrannians! How strange... and how lovely."
The Captain puts a hand on Lucas's shoulder.
"Lucy. It's time to go."
He moves away from the Captain, angry.
"Stop calling me that. You called me Lucy all throughout my childhood, but it's Lucas. Not Lucy. And go where — back to the mainland? What good would that do?!"
"That's where we belong, Lucas! With people! People like us!"
"WELL, MAYBE I DON'T BELONG WITH PEOPLE LIKE YOU!" he roars. "Maybe I don't belong with you and your fancy drinks and large mansions with marble floors, chandeliers, and twenty-four-seven satellite security. Maybe that's not the life I want to live!"
"Oh, please! You're talking nonsense."
"I'M TALKING NONSENSE?! Look at you, speaking of the Cocos, acting all mighty. They don't 'love' you, they fear you! They treat you like a god because they're afraid that you're going to burn their huts and pillage their valuables if they don't give you what you want! And after all that, you turn around just to sell their treasures at another port!"
"What, and that makes you better than me?!" shouts the Captain. "That's how the system works, Lucas. Our system: buy something for cheap and sell it for profit. It's restocking!"
"That's not restocking, you pathetic excuse for a captain! That's STEALING! You think you leave them with enough to survive, BUT YOU DON'T! Every time they see the sails of The Lonesome Marafin they bury anything they'll want to see again because they know you'll take it if they don't!"
"SNORKLEWASH!" the Captain yells. "The Cocos appreciate what I do! Gaah! You're weak and you always have been. You should've stayed home, you coward!"
"You think I wanted to sail with you?! I'd rather be with the scholars at Brightvale! Just this last month, I was invited by Professor Lambert to become a member of the Seekers! At least they know a storm when they see one..."
Angry, the Captain shoves Lucas, who accidently crushes a P3 building.
"Look what you made me do!" he shouts. "That destroyed their storage building! It'll take them days to make the appropriate repairs!"
"What, I thought their technology was so advanced. They can't make a wittle pebble hammer to fix it?"
Ignoring his brother's pleas, the Captain stomps on the ground dramatically.
"Oops! There goes a house. And another. And another. Oh, look! A whole village gone in FOUR STEPS. Boy, you should know better than to—"
Lucas pulls out an obsidian dagger. The Captain stops in his tracks, paws in the air.
"Hey now. Calm down, baby brother. We can work this out..."
"No. No, you can't." He walks slowly towards the Captain, who continues backing up. "Greed is exactly the reason why Neopia's doomed — people like you, who pillage and plunder without caring how it affects the little guys. How it affects us."
"Look, I'm — I'm sorry, OK! I didn't mean to—"
"Sorry won't cut it. Not this time. I've always followed your command, usually regretting it later. You've always been the leader, the older brother. You're THE CAPTAIN for crying out loud!"
Lucas points the tip of the dagger towards the small petpetpet settlements, tears in his eyes.
"The number of uncharted islands drops every year. Soon this sanctuary will be found, as well. These creatures, which are no different than us, need a guardian from invaders like you. They need me. I'm not going back. So get out of here. I can hardly hear myself think..."
"For the love of Fyora, stop with all the dramatics! THEY DON'T NEED YOU, LUCAS! YOU CAN'T FIGHT THE INEVITABLE. YOU JUST CAN'T."
Lucas puts the dagger to his brother's throat.
"You call me a coward for staying behind. Fine. So be it. But I'm not afraid. I'm going to stay here, on this island with these innocent individuals, and watch your Neopia burn. Only then can you tell me who the coward really is."
Lucas releases his brother.
"You're just another monster in their eyes," the Captain mutters as he walks off. "We're merely different sides of the same coin."
A safe distance away, the Captain contemplates his brother, wondering where and when it all went wrong between the two of them. He squints at the rising sun on the horizon and heads for his ship in the distance.
That afternoon, Lucas follows the Captain's footsteps onto the beach to find The Lonesome Marafin barely out of his field of vision. Satisfied, he returns to the P3s, offering them some bits of Tigersquash.
"Here you go, little guys," he says in an attempt to comfort them. "Don't worry. You're all going to be safe here, with me."
Suddenly, the ground starts to shake. A horrible screech is heard for miles. Lucas looks around frantically, startled, wondering what in Neopia could make such a noise.
Out of the jungle and into the clearing comes a gargantuan Pinchit, one hundred times the size of Lucas. Not knowing what to do, how to even approach a monster of such massive proportions, he drops his dagger, terrified.
A mother needs to feed her babies, and these petpetpets are hungry.
From the pit of destruction to an ocean lacking all but emptiness, on his way to Mystery Island sails the one-man crew of The Lonesome Marafin. At the wheel: the Captain, fallen ill to greed, a plague as common as the cold, and one that will never be exclusive to the pirates of Neopia. The younger of the siblings, Lucas O'Grin, found a cure for said Captain in the form of an untouched civilization. Yet despite his good intentions, Lucas was the brother to fall victim in the end.
Fate. What is it? Can we harness its powers, as Lucas suggests, or were he and the Cocos doomed from the start? Expansionism, bullying, a curse — call it whatever you please. But realise that predetermined forces have been with us since the beginning of time itself; they work in mysterious ways, and are by no means limited... to Elysian Fields.
For Mary Faith, who said she couldn't wait to see the next one. I hope she liked it.