Chapter 5: The Missing Pearl

Mira watched the pearl scintillate within the large circular glass in which it was immersed. It emitted flashes of blue light that sailed across the room, leaving mesmerizing ripples behind and casting bluish patterns on the walls and ceiling. It was unlike anything that Mira had seen before. It seemed as if the room was transformed into an ocean of flying stars and undulating waves. She watched in awe as Lankko looked on.

"Welcome to my laboratory!" said Lankko. "Amazing, isn't it?" He asked Mira who was still entranced by the spectacle before her.

"So enchantingly beautiful…" Mira murmured. She tried catching one of the sparks that darted across her, but only managed to disturb the undulating light it left in its wake. "It's like looking at living water."

Mira's gaze followed the blue spark which moved around the room before it went upwards and encircled the circular vessel containing the blue pearl.

"What is that?" Mira asked Lankko who was also gazing upwards at the pearl.

"That, my love, is the fabled Pearl of Sorrelia!"

"Oh!" Mira gasped and Lankko looked at her intently. She found it difficult to take off her gaze from the pearl and the spectacle happening around it. "How did it come here? How did you get it?"

"Let's just say that it was given to me for safekeeping," replied Lankko.

"But what are you doing with it?" asked Mira, noticing the different kinds of glassware and the network of glass tubes that occupied the wide tables inside the room above which the pearl was perched. Clear water passed through tubes going upwards to the circular vessel containing the pearl while the liquid leaving the vessel gave off a soft bluish light.

"Uh-oh, but that would be telling my secrets," Lankko replied in a playful tone and raised his eyebrows as he shook his head at Mira.

Mira realized that she may have asked too much and looked at Lankko. "You're so cute when you do that." She pinched Lankko's cheek and laughed with him.

"It wasn't like that when it first came here," said Lankko pointing at the pearl. "The first time I saw it, it looked just like any dull blue stone. I did all sorts of experiments with it until I accidentally dropped it into the water. Then, I saw blue sparks flying and the living waves of light that floated behind it."

Mira knew exactly what Lankko meant as she watched the blue ripples of light move around the pearl as if it were alive. She was reminded of the ripples formed when she passes her hand on the surface of the water, yet this one moves and undulates on its own. Another spark passed in front of Mira, leaving gentle undulations of light behind it. Mira passed her hand through and the ripples she made were like disturbing the water.

After a while, Lankko took Mira's hand and placed it on his forearm. "Come, my dear, let's go back to my observation room where it's more comfortable," said Lankko. Mira took one more look at the blue pearl before Lankko closed the door and locked it.

Mira reflected on what Lankko just revealed to her as they went through the narrow corridors and doorways back to the dungeons. She knew the stories surrounding the legendary pearl. How Sorrelia used to be a poor outpost in the middle of a vast desert, devastated by sandstorms and frequently raided by desert pirates. Stories tell of a stranger who suddenly appeared among the people of Sorrelia and diverted the sandstorms that were coming. Using the power of the blue pearl, the stranger siphoned water from under the sands and created the largest lake in the whole of Sendorra. With ample supply of fresh water, the outpost grew quickly as it made travel across the Sorrelian desert possible for traders and merchants, many of whom eventually settled on the shores of what came to be known as the Pearl Lake. Raids became less and less as the desert pirates discovered that they could make more money by trading in the outpost and fishing in the lake than attacking the heavily guarded ramparts of the incipient city. Eventually, the lonely outpost grew into one of the biggest and most important cities of Sendorra.

The Sorrelians were extremely grateful to the stranger who brought the pearl and the water to them. They constructed a huge water monument in honor of the stranger and placed the pearl within so that everyone could gaze at the source of the city's pride and enormous wealth. The City of Sorrelia grew bigger and ever richer with the steady influx of goods and traders. It became a melting pot of different cultures and was the envy of kings and emperors for a hundred years.

When the pearl suddenly went missing one night, news of it spread like wildfire through the whole of Sendorra. The beloved pearl simply disappeared from its place of prominence on the fountain with none of the guards alerted. Water stopped gushing from under the sands and the fountain dried up. Citizens watched helplessly as the water of the Pearl Lake started to recede. Many of the wealthy merchants, seeing the impending gloom of the city, decided to leave with their families. Those that remained experienced a slowing of trade in a region that depended entirely on the Pearl Lake. They continued to rely on the fish that they were still able to catch. However, as the waters of the lake receded, more and more fish were dying as a result of the increasing salinity of the water. The City of Sorrelia that once flourished with the abundant water of the lake was witnessing its imminent demise and realized that its own fate was resting on the return of its beloved pearl.

Lankko opened the door of the observation room for Mira. He then lay among the soft cushions and beckoned for Mira to join him. "Come join me, my love," he said, pulling Mira's arm.

Mira wrested her arm free of Lankko's grasp and slapped his hand hard. "Naughty!" she said. "You should know that I hate naughty men as much as I love creative geniuses." She then withdrew farther from Lankko who was still trying to reach for her. Mira noticed distilling equipment on a table nearby and flasks containing clear liquid. "Is this another one of your experiments?"

Lankko's eyes brightened. "You are quite observant, my dear. You've stumbled upon my little distillery. Yes, I use that in my experiments, but I also use it to distill my own rum, especially when I am in need of something stronger."

"Can I have some, my sweet? My throat is parched," said Mira, touching her throat.

"Help yourself, my love. I just distilled that this morning and that will have to be the best rum I have ever made, if I may say so myself. I hope it's not too strong for you."

Mira picked up two glasses and started pouring the clear liquid from the flask. "I'm pouring a glass for you as well," she told Lankko.

"Oh, don't mind me, Mira. I think I've had one too many glasses of wine with Thunka," Lankko declined and rested his back comfortably on the soft pillows.

Mira's face expressed disappointment. "Are you sure, my sweet? Surely you won't let a woman drink by herself."

"In that case, pour me a glass." Lankko placed a hand over his forehead as he waited for Mira to pour her a glass of rum.

Glancing at Lankko and making sure that he was not looking, Mira took out a small vial she was hiding under her dress and poured its contents into Lankko's glass. She then went to Lankko and proffered the drink.

"Bottoms up?" Mira asked Lankko. She then watched Lankko drink from his glass and waited for him to finish before draining her own glass. "You're right! This is very good rum! Quite strong and sweet. Like you!" Mira teased Lankko.

"Yes, I distill very… strong …rrum," said Lankko, his speech sounding a bit slurred. "Perhaps… too.. strong…"Lankko stared at his empty glass, his eyes squinting as his vision blurred. He dropped his hand to his side, the glass rolling off the cushion and onto the floor. His chin fell to his chest which rose up and down as he breathed. Not long after, he was snoring loudly.

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