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.
Mira raised a finger and poked it at Lankko's shoulder. Slowly, Lankko dropped sidewards among the cushions. Satisfied, Mira rose determinedly and took Lankko's keys. She then ran out of the observation room and retraced her path through the corridors and doorways until she reached Lankko's laboratory. She unlocked the door and opened it, beholding once again the Pearl of Sorrelia. She looked around the room and wondered about the best way to reach the vessel in which the pearl was contained. Seeing no easy way across the tubes and glass vessels on the table leading to the pearl, she climbed the wall like a cat and went across the beams on the ceiling. When she was directly above the pearl, she grabbed the beam with her legs and reached downwards into the circular vessel. The lights that danced around the room were immediately extinguished when Mira took the pearl out of the water and she found herself looking through an almost inky darkness. She felt the pouch that hung around her
The small city of Alnoc lay on the southern tip of the land of Sendorra, bordered by a long stretch of mountain ranges that extended from the north and northwest to the almost impenetrable jungles of Alanca in the east. The treacherous waters of the Corian Sea made up the southern borders, making Alnoc one of the most isolated cities in Sendorra. Nevertheless, Alnoc's location in the warm south, far from the administrative clutches of the imperial government made it a center for merchants trading in the black market. Occasionally, trader ships would sail through the rough waters of the south seas or venture through the dense Alancan jungles to reach Alnoc where they would negotiate and sell to the highest bidder. When the emperor decreed for magic to be prohibited to all citizens and that magical artifacts to be confiscated and brought to the capital, many of the black market merchants flocked to Alnoc, far from the probing eyes of imperial soldiers.Governance of Alnoc, as w
"Would you like to have your breakfast at the dining hall or would you prefer to have it in your room?" the servant asked Enzir with a bow. It was a sunny morning and Enzir wanted to make the most of it, so he followed his servant to the dining hall where the large windows let in the sunlight and the cool morning breeze.There was no one else at the dining hall except for the servants who waited on him, the rest of the household still very much asleep at that time of the morning. Enzir preferred these quiet times over the chaos of lunch and dinner when most of his household would be dining with him. He wanted the silence of the morning to help him think about his affairs and what he would do the rest of the day. He enjoyed the rice porridge that was served him and left the boiled egg in his bowl for last. He observed that it was smaller than what he was expecting and would like to talk to the cook for not boiling a larger egg. He was to be told later by the feisty cook that i
The giant pig snorted and squealed as it ran past surprised servants and guards. The amulet hung from its mouth and sparkled as it dangled in the wind. Enzir ran after it and a breathless Lankko followed. A frightened servant let go of a cart loaded with vegetables and it turned to its side, spilling carrots and cabbages to the ground. The giant pig stopped and sniffed the spilled vegetables, but snorted and jumped over it when it heard Enzir running from behind. Enzir's feisty cook appeared out of her kitchen with hands on her waist, wondering what the commotion was all about when she saw the giant pig jumping over the pile of carrots and running past her towards the open gate."Close the gates!" shouted Enzir to the soldiers guarding the gate, but they were slow to react, shocked to see a giant pig running towards them. When the guards saw Enzir running after the pig, they started to close the gate, but were too late. The pig did not show any sign of slowing down and hurtle
A bright glow suddenly illuminated the green foliage surrounding a clearing in the forest near Alnoc. It started as a small ball of light, but grew into outlines of two people. In a moment, the two outlines grew sharper as the light faded, revealing a man and a woman.Wen gasped as they dropped a few inches from the ground. She expected it, having used the purple pulko stones a few times before, but the feeling of momentary weightlessness still surprised her. The man she held groaned and fluttered his eyelids. Wen gently lay his head on the ground and watched him. He seemed to be breathing normally, she observed.Standing up, Wen looked around her and realized that they were in a forest clearing. Just above the trees, she observed Alnoc Fortress on top of the hill. She sighed in relief as she saw how distant they were from the place where they came from. She wondered if they had really made a clean escape.A butterfly passed in front of Wen and perched on a tree
Wen led Eldion to a house not too far from the clearing where they appeared. It was a small house made of wood and bamboo with a thatch roof that effectively repelled rainwater while insulating the inside of the house from the heat of the sun. There was plenty of firewood stacked neatly at the side of the house, partly hidden by a small dugout canoe that had not been used for a long time. A wheelbarrow with a broken axle stood neglected along with some garden implements that had long rusted and decayed. There were flower pots that lined the small path to the house, but the flowering plants had been overgrown with weeds and failed to bloom with the season. Wen saw that the door was locked, but she only needed to lift the nearest flowerpot to obtain a rusty key from underneath.When they opened the door, they saw that the house was composed of just two rooms, typical of the houses in Alnoc. The main room that served as the living room was larger and could also serve as a dining
Mira slid the door open and came out to the living room. There, he saw a tall, stocky man wearing clothes made of dyed cotton and wool with a hat and belt made of leather. In his hand was a bamboo pole and he was using it to threaten Eldion. Mira recognized the pole as the one she used to prop the window open. On the floor were a few leather bags that Casser had dropped when he saw the stranger sleeping in his living room."Get out of my house!" Casser shouted as he threatened Eldion with the bamboo pole. Eldion stood speechless with his back against the wall."Casser!" Mira shouted. "Stop it! He's with me. We just needed a place to rest. You were not here so I just let ourselves in."Casser lowered the bamboo pole and stared at Mira. "Oh, it's you," he said, his face and posture relaxing as he looked at the flower in Mira's hair. "Sorry, Wen. I didn't know that you were visiting either."Mira realized that she still had the pink flower in her hair.
Mira's mind was abuzz with thoughts of how she and Eldion could escape. She knew they could not make a run for it without the Troupe catching up with them. She knew that she could defeat any of Thunka's three dancers in a fight, but to defeat all three would require all her strength plus a lot of luck. Besides, she did not know if Eldion had sufficiently recovered from his ordeal with Enzir."What do we do now?" Wen's voice was full of worry. "What if Thunka finds out that you have the pearl? What if she discovers who Eldion is?""Hush, Wen!" was all that Mira was able to say. She wanted to think clearly.Eldion looked at Mira, but realized that she was probably talking to Wen. Rentha heard Mira and glanced at her from behind. She smiled wickedly and walked on.Thunka's entertainment palace was a short distance from Alnoc's main square. There were few people on the streets and the palace itself looked deserted from the outside. It was a huge octagonal str