Sunday, September 30, 2001


"Janine, Janiiiiiiiine," a soft almost echo-like voice seemed to come from all around her. She seemed to be walking, drifting almost in surroundings that seemed both familiar and strange at the same time. "Janine…," the voice was so soothing and comforting it seemed to lead her on deeper and deeper into the mists. Suddenly the air grew cold as if a gust of wind had just blown in from the north. Although she had stopped walking everything around her seemed to swirl. There was somebody or something out there she could feel it, sense it. Closer, closer. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. "JANINE!"

With a scream she shot straight up in bed.

"It was only a dream, thank god," she thought as she stretched her arms sleepily. Yawning she leaned over the side of the bed and glanced at the clock, "11:38! I knew I shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night. Come to think of it that’s probably what gave me that horrible nightmare." Pulling on her robe she could hear the pounding surf at the cliffs below. It was an exquisite autumn morning, the air was crisp with the scent of the magnificent redwoods.

"And good morning to you sleeping beauty! Or should I say good afternoon?" called a voice from the kitchen. The voice belonged to her fiancée, Craig.

"Oh come on, it’s not that late!" she replied as innocently as possible. They both chuckled, however the happy moment was cut short.

"Why did you scream?" Craig inquired.

"It was nothing, I guess I just had a nightmare, don’t worry about it."

"Ok if you say so," he shrugged. Picking up her piece of toast Janine stood up and headed toward the stairs. "And exactly where are you of f to?" Although his tone was still good natured she could sense his agitation.

"I promised Mario I’d meet him at Lloyd’s at 1:00. I have to start getting ready." As the words left her mouth she could see Craig becoming angrier as the tension built. He had what one might call a "volcanic" personality. The fury was always there but every so often he would blow up completely.

"You’re always with him! For god’s sake you practically spend more time with him than with me! All I ever seem to hear is Mario this, Mario that!" although his voice was calm it oozed hostility. With out saying a word Janine continued up the stairs. She knew he had nothing more to say and frankly she had nothing to say in return. It seemed as if she had explained to Craig a million times that Mario and her were only good friends. In fact she often kidded with her friends that if she had a quarter for every time she did she would be rich. But for now she was resigned to the fact that Craig had a jealous streak and there was nothing she could do about it.

Lloyd’s was a quaint coffee shop right off Marina St. in town. For as long as they could remember it had always been Mario and Janine’s favorite place to meet.
"I don’t know why it scared me so much, the dream I mean. I couldn’t see what was calling my name, all I could see was that swirling, thick mist. All I know is that when it called out my name that last time… OH it was horrible like falling into a frozen lake, it seemed as though I had been surrounded by something dreadful and inescapable." With a shudder Janine took her gaze off the window and back onto her dear friend.
"Well for right now the only advice I can give you is to try not to think about it although I know that sometimes that can be easier said than done." Glancing at his watch Mario motioned to the waiter for a check. "I have to finish some errands but feel free to call me if you need anything." She nodded in response but her mind was elsewhere she couldn’t stop herself from reliving the dream over and over in her head.

For the rest of the afternoon her dream seemed to consume her. During the drive home the fog began to roll in hugging the cliff roads tightly. The sound of the roaring sea seeped in through the thick low lying clouds, softly she could hear gulls squawking in the distance. The dark of evening was slowly creeping in on the beautiful coastal scenery. When she got home the house was silent. Craig had obviously left for work and as always had forgotten to leave the porch light on. Fumbling with her keys she wandered slowly to the door. Inserting the key in the door she turned it but try as she might Janine could not get the lock to open. By now it had grown quite dark outside and the young woman was eager to get in. Suddenly a soft click came from the door like that of a dead bolt unlocking. "How could the door unlock itself?" she wondered. Carefully she reached for the doorknob and turned it, it opened with out trouble. Cautiously Janine peeked inside the darkened room. She tried to create a reasonable explanation for the door but there was none to be found. "I’m just stressed out and tired that’s all it is," she said trying convince herself. She climbed the stairs slowly and crossed the hallway to her room. A lot had happened in the last twenty-four hours and Janine was only to willing to go to bed and put it all behind her. It seemed as though she had only been asleep ten minutes when she heard it.
She was back in the abyss with the swirling mists and echoing voices, the same soothing voice called out her name. It was as though she was being taken somewhere by an invisible force she could not understand. The dream was the same as before only now there was a sense of urgency. Suddenly out of the mists the figure of a girl appeared. As she drew ever closer Janine could make out her features more easily but she was never in clear vision. She was about Janine’s age and height with chestnut hair and hazel eyes. The voices stopped and all was quiet. The girl looked up at Janine and tried to speak but no sound would come. She was becoming more and more frantic as she tried to speak.
"What are you trying to say?" Cried Janine who surprised herself with her own voice in the midst of the silence. Dark thunder clouds loomed above and suddenly there was a booming clash of thunder and lightening.

Again Janine awoke with a start. Looking around she could hear the still night surrounding her room. The only sounds that could be heard were the crashing waves and the soft "Tick-Tock-Tick" of her clock. She was about to go back to sleep when something caught her eye. On the floor by her dresser something and fallen to the ground and shattered. Turning on her bedside lamp Janine walked towards the vanity. "Oh my God!" she shrieked. For on the ground lay the shattered remnants of a jar of powder and in it someone had written one word, "HELP"
As terror coursed through every inch of her body Janine now realized the true meaning of fear. Her hands trembled and the room seemed to be a spinning blur. Every thing appeared to be closing in on her. The room was getting smaller and smaller as the dizziness overpowered her.

"Janine! Janine are you ok? Can you hear me? It’s Craig… wake up Janine!" Slowly opening her eyes Janine took stock of the situation. Over come by fear during the night she had passed out on the floor. The soft glow of early morning sunlight cascaded through the sheer curtains.

"Janine what happened? Did you fall?" She peered up at Craig’s worried features. At first her mind was a blank but the memories began rushing back as if somebody had turned on the faucet.

"My god, the dream, the girl, the crash by the dresser. It’s real, she’s real!" Jumping to her feet Janine ran over to the dresser, but there was nothing on the floor. "What? But the powder and the message… where is it?" Frantically Janine searched the floor.

"What are you talking about? Oh you mean this powder?" Craig inquired. Getting to her feet she turned back to the dresser. There it was, sitting in its usual place on the dresser stood the jar of powder.

"What ever you think happened last night obviously didn’t. You must have just had another dream. The important thing is to just realize that you are ok now. Well I have to go run some errands for work but I’ll take my cell incase you need anything." Kissing Janine goodbye Craig turned and left the room.

Looking out the window she watched his car drive off, "It wasn’t a dream," she said. "I know it wasn’t."

Later in the day Janine decided to do some cleaning. She went into the study and found a large box that seemed to be filled with junk. "This looks like a good place to start" she thought and lugged it out into the living room. It was filled with the usual junk one finds in old boxes. "Hmm must be Craig’s," she thought as she flipped old car and computer magazines. All of a sudden something caught her attention. It was an envelope of some kind that had been stuffed in with the magazines. Reaching inside she pulled out a card, it was a wedding invitation. "I don’t remember being invited to anybody’s wedding," wondered Janine as she carefully opened the invitation. Sitting on the floor of the study she read the card aloud, "You are invited to the wedding of Melissa Lanting and Craig Wesley. CRAIG WESELY!" she gasped but her thought was cut short. The sound of a car could be heard pulling into the drive-way. Quickly she shoved the envelope under her sweater and pushed the box back into the study. No sooner had she left the study had Craig walked through the door.

"Janine it’s me, I just came back for my sunglasses." He called. "What’s the matter with you?" he asked as he walked into the living room, "You look guilty." Smiling Janine shrugged trying to look as innocent as possible. "Well I got what came for," he said picking up his sunglasses. And with that he left. With a huge sigh of relief Janine ran up the stairs to inspect the rest of the envelopes contents.

Emptying the envelope she examined the other papers. Among them was a newspaper article from the "San Fransisco Daily." Picking up the article Janine read.

MILL VALLEY, CA – Police are still searching for Melissa Lanting. Lanting 25 years old has been missing from her home for ten days. There are very few suspects in the case however Lanting’s 27 year old fiancee, Craig Wesley, was taken into custody for questioning. After three days at County Wesley was released for lack of sufficient evidence. The investigation continues but police are not expecting any new leads. LANTING P. 7

Stapled to the article was the other half of the article. Flipping the article over Janine screamed and dropped the packet. For staring back at her from the other half of the article was a picture of the girl from her dream, Melissa Lanting.

When Craig came home later that evening Janine was ready. "Why didn’t you tell me?" asked Janine her soft voice dripping with anger.

"What didn’t I tell you?" Craig replied.

"You know what I mean, why didn’t you tell me about Melissa." She could see his face turn ashen at the mention of her name. She threw the envelope of papers towards him. He bent down and picked it up the ashen color left his face as it was replaced with purple rage.

"You were looking through my belongings?! How dare you! You ungrateful little…" with every word he stepped a little bit closer.

"Please I didn’t mean to upset you, it was by accident. I was going through a box of junk and I found the envelope. Why didn’t you ever tell me about her? About what happened to her." Her voice was soothing as she tried to calm him down.

"You shouldn’t have been going through my stuff Janine. You need to learn to mind your own business… she needed to learn that once too." A sinister smile spread across his face. The horrible realization hit Janine.

"Oh my god!" she cried, "You know what happened to her don’t you?!" Stepping closer to Janine, Craig kneeled in front of her and held her arms so tight that she couldn’t move.

"You and Melissa were very much alike you know. Same age, same height, you two could have been passed off as sisters now that I think of it." His grip tightened as he spoke. "Oh Janine, Melissa was beautiful just like you and like yourself she was quite headstrong. But there was always David. David this, David that! That’s all I ever seemed to hear from her. Just like you and Mario. SURE! You say you are just friends but I know how it is with you women you think you can get away with anything."

"But we are just fr…." Janine tried to reason with him but was cut off.

"DO NOT INTERUPT ME!!" He yelled. "And both of you thought you could meddle in my business… SHE was always getting into my business. Well I put a stop to that. I made sure she never get in anybody’s way again." A menacing laugh escaped his lips with his last sentence.
"Just like I’ll make sure you’ll never get in my way again!"

"Craig NO! " she attempted scream but he clamped his hand over her mouth. With his other arm he put her in to a head lock around the neck and squeezed. She struggled and tried to scream but no sound would exit her lips. She was becoming more and more frantic as she tried to scream.

"I’m sorry, what’s that your trying to say?" Craig chuckled. The harder she struggled the more he tightened his hold. The room began to spin as she lost more oxygen. She felt helpless, betrayed. Suddenly everything went black, Janine had fallen unconscious. She was back in her dream surrounded by mist only this time she was the one pleading for help. A voice was calling her,
"Janine, Janiiine!" The figure of a woman appeared, Melissa.
"Janine, you must wake up! You have to save your self." She had no trouble speaking now, "You must save your self. Wake up Janine. Wake up, Wake UP!"
Slowly opening her eyes Janine looked around not daring to breathe. Craig was gone. She could hear him in the kitchen washing his hands and laughing at the murder he thought he had just committed. Carefully she crawled across the floor to the fire place making sure he couldn’t see her. Picking up the poker Janine silently edged towards the kitchen. Craig was facing away from her at the sink. She knew this was her only chance. Stealthily she rushed towards him stopping less than a foot away. "This is for Melissa!," she cried. Craig tried to turn around but it was too late, Janine had already started to swing the poker. It hit him hard in the back of the head knocking him unconscious.

It was as if the world stopped. The only sound that could be heard was that of the waves down below. With sudden realization of what had just happened she dropped to her knees sobbing. Without warning a salt shaker fell from its place on the counter. Reluctantly Janine walked over to clean it up. On the ground lay the broken pieces of the salt shaker and in it somebody had written two words, "THANK YOU!"

Saturday, September 29, 2001

Part Four: Grayhorn’s Fleet

Before his eyes, hundreds of reptilian figures began to materialize out of the shadows. Gripped with fear, Koifin watched in silent horror as the vast army made its way towards the camp. Shaking himself free from his daze, Koifin shot from his position towards the shelter calling to Cora and Maxim with all his might. The huge flotsam sprang from the camp… but it was too late, they were completely surrounded. With no escape in sight, the three travelers were rounded up back to back in the midst of the amphibian horde. A thick green liquid began to fill the waters, enveloping the prisoners in its endless coils. Koifin struggled to keep his eyes open as the liquid mixed with the seawater, wrapping itself around his young body. He stared relentlessly into the eyes of the amphibian leader, the eyes that would be the last thing he saw before his vision blurred completely and he drifted into total darkness.

Groggily, the three companions awoke from their induced sleep. The slow steady beat of a drum filled the water and mingled with the sound of a strange dialect.

"Cut, that racket you ‘ooligans!" groaned Maxim, "I’ve got an ‘eadache the size of a skeith, thank’ee very much!"

"Shhh! Keep it down why don’t you… I don’t want them to know we’re awake yet."

Koifin couldn’t help but admire Cora, always on the look out; her first priority was always her watch. Guiltily, Koifin closed his eyes, why couldn’t HE have been as valiant… perhaps if he had only stayed awake a few more seconds things would have been drastically different. Now they were prisoners of some strange tribe and he was to blame, if they ever got out of the predicament he knew he would never be able to face Cora or Maxim. Suddenly, the strangest looking Quiggle Koifin had ever seen appeared with a tray and three bowls of mush, obviously breakfast. The Quiggle was bright orange and had fins on his back and tail. Sitting up Koifin glanced around the room at his captors. To his surprise there was something oddly familiar in their faces.

"Techos," he said abruptly.

"Lissen’ fishy, this is no time for name that neopet… stow the gab ya hear!" growled Maxim.

"No, don’t you see? They’re all techos, albeit the strangest ones I’ve ever seen…"

"That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard," interrupted Maxim, "If those are Techos then I’m a mynci’s uncle!"

"Maxim… He’s right…" gasped Cora, "Look at their faces and their stance… Oh Great Faerie Queen… I thought it was just a legend!"

"Stop talkin’ in riddles, I’m not as sharp as I used to be ya know!"

"The legend of Grayhorn’s Fleet… it’s true…" continued Cora.

"Yes, I believe we covered that already Ma’am, care to share it with the rest of the class?" Maxim temper seemed to getting shorter by the minute.

"Many years ago a Pirate Uni ruled the seas with a horde of Techos by his side," Cora began,

"He was known and feared throughout Neopia as Grayhorn the Ruthless. For countless years he pillaged islands and villages, always escaping the law. And with every treasure he acquired, he became more arrogant. With his army of vicious pirate techos he believed he would never be captured and planned to retire someday to a small island with his booty. However, his fate was sealed with his own arrogance. In a moment of glory after a very large pillaging, Grayhorn uttered the words that would change his life forever… ‘Nothing can stop Grayhorn the Ruthless, I’m more dangerous than the Dark Faerie… not even her cunning can stop me!’ … With a clap of thunder the Dark Faerie herself appeared before him, furious that he had proclaimed himself more powerful than her. Of course he denied his statement but it was no use. Before he had so much time as to beg forgiveness she had delivered her sentence… ‘I have given you nothing but good fortune and how do you repay me!?’ she bellowed, ‘For this disrespect you shall pay dearly, Grayhorn.’ The pirate knelt at her feet praying his death would be swift. ‘You and your horde shall spend eternity as prisoners of the very waters you terrorized. Never again shall you or your minions feel the cool breeze on your faces nor bask in the light of the golden sun. This is the wrath of the Dark Faerie, and so it shall be done!’ and with those final words she outstretched her arms sending out a flash that shook the pirate vessel. Grayhorn and his crew were transformed into strange reflections of the pets they were before and banished to the deepest darkest part of the ocean… never to see the light of day again…"

Maxim and Koifin hung on every word that left the flotsam’s mouth.
"So what yore tellin’ me is that these… weirdoes… are the crew of some old pirates fleet… well then, what in the name o’ fuzzles do they want with us!?" puzzled Maxim.

"Well you didn’t quite let me finish my tale…" replied Cora, "You see, after Grayhorn and his horde were banished… well… they vowed they would capture all normal pets they found and…er…"

"AND WHAT?!" cried Koifin and Maxim in unison.

Cora gulped loudly as she continued, "And…erm…eat them."

Part Three: Shadows of the Reef

Koifin awoke with a start the next morning. Could it be true? He thought to himself. Had he really seen Maxim talking to a stranger the night before? Slowly he ran through the events of the night, it all seemed so hazy. It must have been a dream; it must have been a dream. Repeating the words over and over to himself Koifin tried to make himself believe them, but something wouldn’t let him, something held him back. Faerie Queen forbid it wasn’t a dream he knew he could not let Maxim know he remembered. If that were the case Maxim obviously didn’t want him to be any part of it. No, he mustn’t ask Maxim about it, but he would find some way to bring up the subject. What could an eccentric old fish have to hide? That was the question that lingered in his mind. Maxim seemed to be the quintessential strange old fish, not exactly the sort of koi one would find conducting secret meeting in the night and drugging companions. Try as he might Koifin could not fit all the pieces together.

As the day continued Koifin found he would have plenty of time to puzzle the past night’s occurrences. He and his companions had entered the vast reef and Cora had instructed them not to talk until she gave the ok. Koifin knew she was exaggerating but she had good reason, if she had given them so much room as to whisper Maxim would never be quiet. Silently Koifin studied his surroundings. Everywhere he turned gargantuan stalks of inky blue coral jutted from the ocean floor. He understood why Cora was wary of the reef; it was impossible to see even five feet off the path, leaving travelers like himself completely open for ambush. However, he felt quite safe under the watchful eye of the flotsam guardian. The party made steady progress throughout the day. Although Koifin was becoming more accustomed to travel his fins began to throb, already they had been swimming for over six hours with no rest in sight. Cora was determined to get them through the better half of the reef by nightfall. Koifin glanced over at his elderly companion trudging onward. "He makes very good stroke for such an old fish," pondered Koifin. The old fish looked back at him and winked. A flash of memory flooded Koifin’s vision. It had been hours since he had even thought about his ‘dream.’ Somehow Maxim’s wink had jogged his memory.

"Another piece of the puzzle?" wondered Koifin. Maybe not, perhaps he had just seen him wink before. But if so, why had it instantly reminded him of his dream. No, things just weren’t adding up, no matter how Koifin manipulated his memories.

Night began to fall but still they were in the thick of the reef. Cora’s plan had not worked and the trio would have to camp very soon. Finally as the path began to widen a bit Cora held out her fin for the others to halt.

"Sorry chaps," she whispered, "There’s been a bit of an undercurrent and we’ll have to spend the night here."

Glancing around quickly, Cora continued, "We’ll have to take turns keeping watch…err… I’ll go first, Koifin… you second and Maxim you keep watch ‘til daybreak."

"DAYBREAK!?" He scowled.

"Daybreak and don’t you complain about it, ya hear!" Shushed the flotsam.

They ate a small meal of apples and neocrackers, and somehow Maxim managed to complain through the whole affair. After Maxim had fallen asleep and Cora gone to keep watch Koifin remained outside the shelter. Silently he stared into the endless navy blue that seemed to envelop him. Tears began to fill his eyes, mixing with the ocean water as he wept for his family, his friends. Had any of them survived? He wanted so desperately to believe that maybe, just maybe his mother or father would come swimming out of the shadows. So desperate to believe that he was not alone. Eventually Koifin swam over to Cora to relieve her of her watch. He leaned back on rock as he watched the shadows. No sound filled the desolate waters except for the occasional snore from Maxim. Seconds turned to minutes and minutes into hours. The time began to wear on the young fish, why hadn’t he slept when given the chance. He realized how foolish he had been to sit and cry for so long. Now Cora and Maxim were depending on him and he was not sure if he could handle the responsibility. In the darkness of his surroundings sleep seemed so close he could touch it. With every blink his eyes seemed to cry out to him, begging for mercy. And slowly, slowly he began to give in. But after what seemed like only seconds, something awakened him. He again felt that sick feeling on the tip of his dorsal fin… he was being watched and he could feel it. This time however the feeling seemed to enclose itself upon him, as though a thousand eyes were looking at him… little did he know… he was right.

Sunday, September 09, 2001

Part Two: The Journey begins

Sleep came fitfully to Koifin that night. With no shelter and unfamiliar surroundings, every sound was amplified in the minds of the travelers. It became obvious very quickly the reason why Maxim was called the Drifter. The old koi seemed to know ever inch of the ocean floor, he could tell you with one look around himself everything there was to know about the flora and fauna in the area. Still Koifin was wary of Maxim. Whenever he would raise the topic of Maxim’s past he would dart past it,

"Oh me bucko, been too long for ma pore ol’ brain to remember anything of these sorts."

Although disappointed, Koifin new better than to press the old fish for information, besides, they had only been traveling together for a day. There were numerous explanations that could hold the secret to the old man. Perhaps he too had been in a disaster, and simply wished not to talk about it. That would surely explain his sympathy for Koifin. On the other hand Koifin would not put it past Maxim that maybe he really didn’t remember after all.

The duo stopped around midday to rest. Koifin had lived his whole life at home and was not accustomed to such travel. After enjoying a small lunch of Maxim’s "famous" seaweed pie, Koifin allowed him self to drift into a vast daydream. He thought of his family and friends and of what they would have been doing at that time… if not for the disaster. Why had he of all pets survived? Suddenly he was dragged roughly into reality.

"Now don’t look around laddie fin but we’re bein’ watched"

"What…" replied Koifin sleepily.

"I thought I told ya not to look around!" grumbled Maxim. "Now lissen t’me…look over me shoulder… what d’ya see?"

"Nothing," replied Koifin, quite puzzled by Maxim.

"Now, now sonny…don’t play dumb with me now… what d’ya see!?"

But before Koifin could whisper his response an earsplitting screech filled the water. Out of the darkness a huge flotsam lunged into the clearing like blue lightning. Koifin and Maxim were instantly knocked to the ground from the sheer force of her wake.

Stopping herself squarely in front of the travelers she bellowed,
"Who are you and what do you think your doing here?!"

Propping himself up with his staff Maxim looked her straight in the eye and replied, "Excuse me Ma’am but I’m Maxim the Drifter and this ‘ere is Koifin Renflorr, an’ last time I checked we were eating lunch. Now… what’s yore name?"

Taken slightly aback by Maxim’s blunt sarcasm the flotsam took a minute to collect her thoughts.

"My name is Cora, I’m the guardian of these waters."

"Guardian! HA… you sure aren’t very assuring for a ‘guardian’ ", huffed Maxim.

"I’m very sorry if I have startled you… I guess I am just a little on edge with the sorts of…err… pets I seen roaming these waters lately… let’s just say that you wouldn’t want to come across pets like these unless you were armed to the teeth." Cora glanced nervously about her as she spoke those last words. What had she seen out there? Koifin could only imagine, although he hoped he’d never find out.

After much deliberation Cora agreed to escort the pair at least as far as the borders of her domain, as long Maxim minded his manners. As they swam Koifin studied the warrior flotsam, and wondered to himself about her life. She was rough and muscular, obviously in top condition for her species; however, she wore many scars as the result of years as a guardian. Koifin tried unsuccessfully to concentrate on happier thoughts, but it was impossible to rid himself of the flotsam’s words… what did she mean… pirates? Surely a few pirates wouldn’t scare an accomplished guardian… would they?

They had been swimming for hours when Cora stopped, "We should camp here… the waters get more dangerous past that reef," she motioned towards a reef that loomed darkly ahead of them.

"Camp" consisted of a few giant kelp leaves propped up with rods of coral. After such a long day it was not long before Koifin closed his eyes and drifted into the realms of sleep, leaving his companions to discuss the upcoming journey. Some time later Koifin was awoken slightly by unfamiliar voices. He tried to lift his head but to no avail. What was going? He blinked some sleep from his eyes; again he could make out the shape and voice of Maxim although he still could not see the visitor. Suddenly Maxim turned to face the waking Koifin.

"Wh-what’s going on?" he groaned sleepily.

"Now, now sonny… it’s not time for you to get up now is it? ‘Ere ya go drink this down like a good little koi," he coaxed, handing a flask to Koifin with a wink. There was something about the old koi, he couldn’t refuse him, reluctantly, Koifin took the flask and drank its contents.

"That’s it bucko…there ya go…" but his words were lost as Koifin drifted back into sleep.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, September 06, 2001

Koifin's Journey

Part One: Awakening

The sea was inky black as Koifin Renflorr awoke to the horrible realization of his predicament. Carefully, he pried himself from beneath the shattered coral ruins. No longer in the comforting realms of sleep Koifin looked around him, mournfully surveying the damage. The great whirlpool had destroyed everything in its path: homes, shops, offices... The whirlpool's wrath had certainly not been discriminative; rubble surrounded him and seemed to stretch on for miles. Never before had he seen the grand city of Maraqua so deserted, if it could even be called a city anymore. His home? Destroyed, like all the others that surrounded it. Koifin knew that it was by sheer chance that he had not perished, an inch in any direction and his fate would have been the same as the others. But even in the complete destruction, Koifin had to wonder... was he alone?

Alone or not, Koifin knew the first thing that had to be done was to leave the city. There was nothing for him there and it was only a matter of time before the scavengers would come to pick through the ruins. No, he wasn't going to just give up and die. What if he was the only survivor? Would he let his family and friends die in vain without anyone knowing the true story? No.

Glancing around him, Koifin threw back his head and yelled triumphantly, "Marquans! You will not be forgotten. I will make sure that all of Neopia remembers you for the wonderful creatures you were."

And with that he collapsed onto the sea floor. Hardly an adult Koi and already on his own. His mother, father and sister vanquished in the disaster. The realization hit him hard like a bolt of lightening. Suddenly, his dorsal fin stood on end; he could feel eyes on him, watching.

"Ya know, young one, you needn't yell... I'm the only one out here and... well... I'm not that hard of hearing yet!" A voice called from nowhere.

Startled, Koifin turned quickly, just in time to see a hunched figure forming from the shadows. A very old koi appeared wearing a long silver robe and carrying a stout staff.

"Wh-wh-who are you?" he stuttered, ashamed that an elder had seen him crying.

"Well sonny, they call me Maximus the Drifter… but most call me Maxim… erm… with the occasional ‘HEY, ould fishy fins!!’… hehe."

Maxim continued on in his quaint, friendly fashion, but Koifin wasn’t paying much attention. Instead, he stared at the old fish in disbelief. Unlike Koifin the ancient Koi was completely untouched, no scratches blemished his graying scales. And with his congenial mood, he seemed immune to the destruction that surrounded him.

"Umm… sorry t’have startled ya ma boy. Are you all right over there? Did ya bonk yore noggin mayhaps? If I’d been in a whirlpool like that ya can bet yore scales I’d not be the sharpest scissorfish in the drawer… haha… ho no!"

Maxim swam feebly over to Koifin and placed an arthritic fin on his shoulder.

"Com’on laddie, we best be moving along…there’s nuthin’ more t’do here now is there?"

Koifin nodded his head and slowly rose to his fins. Of course he was right, the ancient fish’s comment had only confirmed what he had known all along. And now with nothing but the cloak on his back he was to journey out into the wide oceans, leaving the memories of home behind him.

After journeying in silence for what seemed to be an eternity Maxim decided to make a little friendly conversation.

"Ya know Mr. Fins, I don’t even know yore name… could have the decency to oblige an old fish young’un"

"Oh, of course, I’m so very sorry I guess with… with… everything I just wasn’t thinking. Anyway… I’m Koifin Renflorr."

Still shaken up, he barely managed to keep up with Maxim’s endless banter, although, he would have to admit that company was definitely welcome. However, several questions kept drifting through his mind… Where were they going? What would they do when they got there? And above all, who was Maxim the Drifter and where did he come from?

To Be Continued

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