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||You are on Week 392
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Three Hundred Ninety Two Ends Friday, November 14
"I love this time of year," said Aleen, breathing in the spice-filled autumn air. "The apples are ripe, the harvesting's almost done, and the snow hasn't started yet."
"The crop was good this year too," agreed her friend Noen. "We'll have plenty to sell... and plenty left over to make into pies this winter," he finished with a sly grin, tossing an apple to Aleen.
"Hint taken," she replied with a smile, dusting the apple off with her wing before taking a bite of it. It had been their first growing season on the farm, and both Aleen and her Quiggle friend were relieved that they had done so well. Many of the older farmers in Brightvale, who had been working the land for generations, had shaken their heads at the two young Neopets from Neopia Central who'd given up the bustle of city life for a farm. It felt good, the Pteri thought, to have proven all the naysayers wrong.
The two friends walked in comfortable silence back toward their barnyard, admiring the changing colours of the leaves and the golden hills surrounding their farm. When they reached the barnyard, though, the scene changed from one of peace to one of complete chaos.
The grenelons, floranges, and apples Noen and Aleen had harvested and stacked into neat piles just that morning lay in ruins everywhere. The bundles of hay and grain looked like they had exploded.
"Who could have done this?" Aleen cried as she looked at the destruction of their entire autumn crop.
"Aleen, look!" The Quiggle was pointing to something that looked like a trail of slime, glistening slightly in the sunlight.
"Slorgs! Wait, didn't you stock up on Slorg-B-Gone?"
"I did!" Noen protested. "Hold on..." He dipped his fingers into the slime and sniffed them. "Aleen, I don't think this is a Slorg trail at all..."
Author: A Slippery Slope|
Date: Nov 10th
"What do you mean?" Aleen asked. "What else could be sliming us?"
"Well," replied the Quiggle in a serious tone, "the thing is, it isn't slime. It's goo."
"Goo?" asked the startled Pteri as she looked around at the ruined fruit and hay bales. "Well, what could be gooing us then?"
"See here? The goo looks like it's in a single trail, but it's really a series of splats. And look here," Noen continued excitedly, "see these scorch marks? And the footprints!" The Quiggle followed the footprints across the barnyard until they disappeared into the amber and crimson leaf piles littering the orchard. "I make it at least three or four different pairs of boots, and look here! See here by the rain barrel? Definitely drag marks. I'd say they got who they came for."
"Who got who? I'm not seeing what you're seeing, Noen." Aleen snorted with exasperation. She was used to her friend talking to himself and assuming that everyone around him understood perfectly what he was going on about. Being intensely focussed on his inner world was what made him so well-suited to his new life on the farm, with its long days of solitary work, but it could be frustrating for the Pteri to follow.
Noen turned to Aleen with a practised look of patience and said, "The goo? I'm certain it's from Goo Blasters, but see the scorch marks? Someone must have been firing back with a different type of weapon, but it's hard to tell what type just from the marks. There was quite a heated battle here, and someone was dragged off into the orchard, that way, toward the castle." The Quiggle pointed a finger toward Brightvale Castle, shining brightly in the late autumn sunshine, looking down upon their farm in the valley below.
Aleen looked around the barnyard, at the ruined harvest and broken farm tools, and was about to lament the loss of their entire crop, when a sound from inside the barn made her heart skip a beat...
Date: Nov 10th
There resides in the collective Neopian psyche a fear of mysterious things residing in barns. This fear stems by and large from a particular episode during the days of the Battle of Meridell that involved a certain "Mr. Scary" snooping around between bales of hay and generally acting terribly creepy.
However, the thing making noise inside the barn was not the Bat-Thing or anything remotely like it, much to the relief of Aleen: for out of the barn tumbled a blue Draik!
Aleen and Noen stared at the Draik as he picked himself up and dusted off his (very magnificent) robes.
"How dare they!" he cried as he picked hay out of his ears. "How dare they lay hands on me, those ruffians!"
"You're the keeper of the Brightvale Armoury!" Aleen exclaimed. "What happened to you?"
"What happened to me? Dear girl, I was robbed! Mugged! Kidnapped! And -- dare I say it -- thrown into a barn! Oh, but I put up a fight, I tell you!"
The Draik gestured to the damage that had been wreaked on Aleen and Noen's harvest. "I wounded at least one of them badly, I should think he had to be carried home at least -- nobody throws Sir Alric into a barn that easily."
"But who threw you into our barn?" asked Aleen.
"And why?" asked Noen.
Sir Alric sniffed. "I wouldn't know. Petty thieves, I should think. I don't even know what they stole --"
The Draik's gaze grew fixed as the word "stole" hung in the air. He slipped a hand first in his right pocket, then in his left one, but only withdrew handfuls of hay from both.
Sir Alric's haughtiness was replaced by something quite approaching panic. "The scroll! The Scroll of Despair! King Hagan told me to keep safe for him -- and it's gone!"
And then a horrible cry shook the orchard...
Date: Nov 11th
Aleen raised an eyebrow as the Draik sullied his stately robes once more by collapsing to his knees in the mud and raising up a howl loud enough to scare the Crokabeks out of the cornfields for miles around. Glancing sideways at Noen, she muttered softly so that only he could hear, "Well I don't know what this scroll is, but he's certainly got enough despair to be getting on with."
Noen had a more naturally sympathetic nature. He was the type to pick any stray Fleafs carefully out of his salad bowl, while Aleen reached pragmatically for her industrial-sized can of Smug Bug Spray. Noen couldn't bear to see anything in pain. He rested his webbed fingers on Sir Alric's shoulder and patted gently in what he hoped might be a soothing manner. "There, there. You put up a valiant fight, no one will blame you for losing it."
Aleen tapped her foot impatiently and only just held back from mentioning that she and Noen had just lost their whole year's harvest, but at least they weren't crying like big babies about it.
Sir Alric shook his head. "Your comfort is appreciated, but I'm afraid the situation has become far too dire for such trivialities to be important. Why, my bruises won't matter a jot, should that scroll fall into the wrong hands -- and, oh dear, I do believe it already has."
With Sir Alric looking to be on the verge of tears all over again, Aleen decided it was time she took charge. Thanks to Noen's propensity to daydream, she was often left with all the practical work of running a farm and thought she knew just how to manage in a crisis. Folding her wings, she stalked round to stand in front of the plaintive-looking Draik. "I shouldn't think flapping and wailing about it will help you get this scroll back, will it? Snap out of it, and maybe we'll see if we can't help you somehow. Noen thinks your attackers headed off toward the Castle, so if we take a shortcut there we might just be able to beat them to it."
"Send up a warning, you mean?" Sir Alric blinked the salt water from the corners of his eyes and began looking hopeful for the first time since they'd pulled him out of the hay. "My goodness, there's an idea! I don't know if there is any way to counteract the Scroll of Despair once it's been activated, but golly, we could give it a jolly good shot!"
Aleen nodded, offering the Draik a hand in getting up, which he was, of course, too proud to accept. "We can set out at once, they can't have gotten far. Meanwhile, I think you'd better tell us exactly what sort of a danger this 'Scroll of Despair' really is..."
Date: Nov 11th
Sir Alric stood and brushed the dirt from his flowing robes, meticulously picking loose pieces of hay from his ears and wings. Once satisfied with his appearance, the Draik cleared his throat and faced Aleen.
"Yes, the Scroll of Despair, jolly good spell that one is. As King Hagan is wont to say, 'Despair is the enemy of Wisdom: it is the quicksand that weighs down the scholar, forcing him to contemplate his own misery, preventing him from reaching beyond himself for the lofty pursuit of knowledge.' Well, it's not one of his more catchy sayings, but it does make the point, don't you think? It would be rather difficult for the Kingdom to continue on as the undisputed leader in intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge if everyone here were mired in the despair that would be released if it was used against our King."
Noen was only half-listening to the explanation as he took a closer look at the footsteps in the dirt of the barnyard, muttering to himself excitedly while re-enacting the struggle that had occurred. Aleen turned to the Quiggle and said impatiently, "We can't let this happen. Why are we wasting time?"
Sir Alric chuckled to himself, and when Aleen spun on him furiously, the Draik explained, "Well, we have the upper hand, don't we? King Hagan entrusted me with the Scroll of Despair and instructed me to bring it to his niece, Roberta, for safekeeping. What those ruffians don't know is that the scroll is protected by a powerful charm, and it is useless unless used in the presence of this charm."
"And you have this charm?" Aleen asked with growing annoyance.
The Draik chuckled again and said, "Well, I brought the charm with me, didn't I? And I tied him to the rain barrel over..." Sir Alric motioned grandiosely toward the rain barrel but broke off in mid-sentence as though surprised by what he saw. "No, it can't be. I can't have lost him." The Draik rushed toward the rain barrel in a whirlwind of limbs and wings and flowing robes, his hands clawing wildly at the wooden barrel, his feet slipping and skittering on the destroyed fruit littering the area, and emitting a high-pitched screech of grief that forced Aleen to cover her ears with her wings until it subsided.
Just as the Pteri was about to ask Sir Alric for an explanation, Noen rushed over from the orchard with great animation and said breathlessly, "I knew it! Someone was definitely dragged off toward the castle." Turning to face the Draik he asked, "But if you're here, then who...?"
Sir Alric cut him off with a wave of his hand and said, "Solarin. Solarin is the charm, and he's gone. If those brutes have taken the scroll and the charm, then I don't know what we will do." The Draik looked at the friends with huge tears brimming in his disconsolate eyes and began to sway his head miserably from side to side.
Aleen grabbed the Draik by the shoulders and began to shake him. "You can't become trapped by despair before the spell has even been used. This is the time for action. We must use the short-cut and head them off before they reach the castle." As she spoke, the Pteri indicated the castle with one outstretched wing, and as the other two followed her gesture, they saw that the bright sunshine of the afternoon was rapidly fading as dark and ominous clouds began to roll in from the horizon...
Date: Nov 12th
Somewhere in the forest between Aleen and Noen's farm and Brightvale Castle, a brave Uni was putting up a fierce struggle against his heavily armed captors.
"Cowards!" cried Solarin, for it was he. "Gutless cowards! I'd like to get you under my hooves -- come here and try my horn!"
A chorus of laughter echoed around Solarin and he was powerless to react: he had been so assailed by shots from the Goo Blasters that he was now a helpless pile of limbs, hair, and wings stuck together by the stuff. But the worst of it was that he could not see; a potshot right at his face had resulted in his vision being completely obscured by Goo Blaster goo.
"We don't have time for this," came a voice that Solarin thought he recognised vaguely. "Keep going!"
Solarin squirmed and struggled but his efforts were useless: the goo had coagulated into a glue-like substance that cemented his limbs together and rendered him as useless as a little Bika against this many opponents.
Rough hands seized Solarin's wing joints and another pair grabbed his burnished hooves, and he was dragged further and further toward Brightvale Castle.
Aleen, Noen, and Sir Alric watched the clouds draw a dark veil over Brightvale's usually cheerfully sunny landscape.
Sir Alric swallowed audibly. "I say! I do hope that isn't an omen, you know. Dark days ahead, and all that."
"No," said Aleen, who did not hold to such nonsense, "but there will be dark days unless we get moving. How fast can Draiks fly?"
Sir Alric seemed to take Aleen's question as a personal affront.
"Quite as fast as a Pteri, I should think!" he answered pointedly and whirled upward in a flurry of wing-beats as though to prove it.
"Good," said Aleen, and she joined him in the air a moment later -- with Noen clinging to her back and exhibiting all of the typical signs of Quiggle vertigo.
"There's a good knight," said Sir Alric, "never leave anyone behind!"
"Right," said Aleen, and she swooped toward Brightvale Castle. "If we hurry, we'll beat them there!"
Silence fell on the trio, save Aleen's and Sir Alric's rapid wing-beats as they flew swiftly onward.
Suddenly Noen cried out: "Aleen -- Sir Alric! Someone is moving in the woods below us..."
Date: Nov 12th
"Quick, then, out of sight!" came the clipped command from Sir Alric, as he wheeled down toward the treetops.
Aleen followed suit, diving as quickly as she could without tipping her Quiggle-shaped cargo off her back, although Noen wasn't as grateful as he could have been for the effort. "Stop groaning!" she called back to him. "You know I won't let you fall. Now, what exactly did you see?"
"It was hard to tell," Noen mumbled, climbing off onto a branch of the tree both Aleen and Sir Alric had temporarily settled in. He was grateful for something solid beneath his feet, although he swallowed around a large lump in his throat when he looked down to see just how far the forest floor was below them. Quiggles weren't known for bouncing when dropped.
"There was a group of them, standing in a circle in a clearing just a little way over there." Noen gestured left with one stubby arm and shook his head. "But I couldn't see what they were doing. Everything seemed to be shrouded in this strange blue smoke."
"Blue smoke?" Sir Alric gulped, reaching for the hilt of his sword. "I say, that doesn't sound like a very good sign to me. Poor old Solarin."
"Well, we're almost at the castle, now. Before we go on, perhaps we should take a look at this clearing," Aleen suggested, letting the reluctant Noen hop onto her back again so she could give him a lift to the ground. "We can't just leave your friend if he might be in trouble. How did Solarin become the charm to unlock the scroll, anyway?"
"The scroll must be bound to a being of inexhaustible hope," Sir Alric said grimly, landing with an elegant swish of his tail and scattering leaves left and right. "Solarin is that creature. The bravest and best of all of us at the castle, only by breaking his spirit can the scroll be used at all. If these wretches have succeeded in that, then...."
Aleen and Noen looked at each other as the Draik trailed off, too furious to speak. They themselves remained silent, trailing after him through the woods toward the clearing Noen had spotted. If there was going to be a confrontation, Aleen found herself wishing she'd brought some sort of weapon with her from the farm. Not that a rake or shovel would have been much use against villains armed with goo blasters, but she would have felt better for having one all the same. She drew in a quick breath and held it as they reached the edge of the trees, then burst through to find...
...nothing. Whatever had been there just moments before had obviously abandoned the place now. That was, if it had ever been there before. Aleen turned to Noen, wings folded. "Are you sure you saw something here? You weren't just looking for an excuse to continue on foot?"
Noen spluttered and began protesting that he would never do something like that, but Sir Alric had grown tired of listening to the two of them squabbling. He began to pace a circle around the clearing, stopping to dip a claw in a silvery trail leading from one side to the other. "Goo."
This caught Noen and Aleen's attention. As they hurried to catch up with the knight, Noen suddenly held back and pointed upward. "Wait, what's that thing?"
There, tied to one of the trees, hung...
Date: Nov 13th
...a white Uni with a distinctive golden mane. He hung suspended from a large branch, ropes bound around his legs and torso.
"Solarin!" Sir Alric exclaimed, fluttering upward. Aleen followed, leaving Noen on the ground to keep watch (and also because the Quiggle had had quite enough of flying for the moment).
The Uni hung limply, his eyes open but utterly blank. His white fur was slightly damp, as though he had been covered with a gooey substance that had only recently been removed.
"Solarin! Wake up! We've got to get you down from there!" Sir Alric waved a claw in front of the Uni's face, but to no avail. The Uni appeared completely unaware of his surroundings.
The Draik clenched his teeth and snorted a white plume of smoke in frustration. "This... this has to be some sort of spell. There's no way they could have broken him so quickly..."
"What makes you think that?" came a sneering voice from behind the Draik and Pteri.
Somehow, while the pair of Neopets was focused on the comatose Uni, a trio of faeries had managed to sneak up on them.
Both Sir Alric and Aleen immediately recognised them.
Vanity. Malice. Spite.
The Dark Faerie Sisters, loyal minions of the Darkest Faerie.
"You..." Sir Alric hissed.
"Us," said Spite, smirking.
Aleen suddenly realised that one of the faeries, Malice, was holding a Quiggle in her arms.
"Noen!" cried the Pteri, but Noen didn't seem to hear her, and gave no response. His eyes were just as blank as Solarin's...
Date: Nov 13th
"Noen! Noen!" Aleen cried, feeling a hint of despair creep into her heart as she looked at his blank glossy eyes and limp body in the grasp of the faerie before her. Noen was her friend, and the idea of living without him was almost too much to bear...
"Oh yes, sisters," Spite drawled as Malice twisted her fingers, tying Noen up beside Solarin on the tree with a twist of magic, "the despair is growing. I can feel it. The spell is almost complete, almost irreversible now."
Vanity smiled, her dark raven hair falling in luscious curls down her back. "Good, but not good enough. We need more despair to make this spell truly work."
"Get what to work?" Aleen asked in a half whisper as she backed up tentatively. Sir Alric to her right was strangely silent, the Draik's own feelings of hope slowly slipping away as the situation got bleaker ad bleaker.
Malice grimaced, her face twisting into a hideous scowl. "Our mistress, the Darkest Faerie, was the master of the dark and the commander of all things sinister. But when Fyora imprisoned her in that statue, it was revealed to us that there was a power greater than the darkness that anyone, even a goody two-shoes like the queen, could yield: despair. And the Darkest Faerie was turned to stone with the promise of being locked in there for all eternity, a fate almost worth than death..."
Vanity now stepped forward, continuing her sister's tale.
"However, just because she's a stone tourist attraction doesn't mean that she is any less powerful. All of our minds are linked, and the despair that she feels haunts our every waking moment, slipping into dreams and twisting them into nightmares..."
"And we've finally had enough," Spite concluded, an evil grin slipping onto her young face. "So when we uncovered that King Hagan was foolish enough to let the Scroll of Despair slip out of his pudgy know-it-all grasp, we formed our plan. We would use the scroll to torment Neopia with the same feelings of despair, slowly breaking them down from the inside out until we've had our revenge."
"And now it's your turn, girl," Vanity smiled, her skinny finger pointed at the Pteri before her. "For once your despair is added to the list, we will have just enough to tip Neopia over into our favour, and then there will be nothing any of you can do to save yourselves..."
Date: Nov 14th
Aleen turned away. Neopia was going to be plunged into despair, and there was nothing she could do about it. It was hopeless. She might as well just give up now...
There had to be a way to stop it. She just had to keep herself from giving in to despair...
But she could feel the cruel spells of the Dark Faerie Sisters twisting their way into her heart, sapping away all hope and joy. She wouldn't be able to hold out for long.
It would be so easy just to stop fighting it, so very easy just to give in and let herself fall into blank despair...
She looked at Noen and knew that she couldn't. He would want her to keep fighting, even when it was a hopeless battle...
Wait. Perhaps it is hopeless for me...
She knew that she would lose her fight against the despair eventually. But perhaps she could tip the scales in a different way.
If the Dark Faerie Sisters truly needed a certain amount of despair to use the scroll's power, wouldn't they also tap into their own?
True, their own despair was fueled in part by the despair of the Darkest Faerie, but at least part of it was the fact that they could see no other way out. If she could get them to stop despairing, perhaps the spell of the scroll would not be activated after all.
Giving a dramatic sigh (which was not at all difficult, given her present mood), the Pteri said, "I suppose you're right. I can already feel myself slipping away... soon all of Neopia will be too deep in despair to do anything at all..."
"That's right," smirked Spite.
"And then you'll be free of your own despair..."
None of the faeries said anything, but the stormy looks on their faces told Aleen that they didn't think so. They didn't expect to be freed of their own pain; they only wanted the rest of the world to suffer with them. Aleen's mind raced, looking for a solution.
"Because once everyone is too sad to stop you, you will be able to stop the Darkest Faerie's despair, and so stop your own."
"If we knew how to break Fyora's spell," Malice snarled, "we would have done it already."
"But you wouldn't need to break it at all. All you would have to do is make it so the Darkest Faerie isn't suffering any more. She's the Sleeper, isn't she? So why not just put her to sleep? Let her dream out however long she remains trapped in stone."
The Sisters' eyes widened. "Yesss..." said Vanity. "That... that could work..."
Was it just her, or was Aleen's own sorrow beginning to lift? Perhaps the spell the dark faeries was casting was linked with their own despair.
"No more nightmares..." Spite whispered, wonderingly.
Noen's eyelids flickered. Solarin twitched in his bonds.
"See?" said Aleen. "Everything is going to work out for you. There's no need for you to despair..."
"No, there's..." Malice trailed off. "No." She suddenly realised what had happened.
Solarin began to flap his wings as the magical bonds which held him melted away.
"No! The seal!" Spite cried.
"I am freed of my despair," said the Uni, his eyes bright with hope once more. "And soon this kingdom will be free of you!" He flew straight at the faeries, causing them to scatter.
Aleen saw that Sir Alric had flown in with Solarin to join the fight, but she had a far more urgent task--
As Solarin's bonds had dissipated, so had Noen's. Aleen swooped down as fast as she could to snatch the falling Quiggle.
"Phew," the Quiggle sighed. "Thank you, Aleen... can you please get me to the ground, now?"
Aleen did so. A few moments later, Solarin and Sir Alric landed beside them.
"They fled, like the craven cowards they are," Solarin snorted.
Sir Alric nodded. "They are gone, at least for now. And they left this behind..." In his claw, the Draik clutched the Scroll of Despair. "Thank you for helping us to retrieve it. Your service shall not be forgotten. I shall see to it myself that you are properly compensated for the damage done to your harvested crops."
"Thank you," said Noen, "but that really isn't--"
"It is the least that we can do for your valiant efforts on the kingdom's behalf," said Solarin. "Now, we must head back to the castle and tell the King of all that has happened. We would be honoured if you would accompany us, so that we may tell the king of your part in saving, not only the kingdom, but the world itself from being plunged into despair."
"I... we would be delighted." Aleen and Noen smiled.
"Ah... can we, perchance, go to the castle by foot?" Noen asked.
The four Neopets looked at each other, and then began to laugh.
Elsewhere in Neopia, the Dark Faerie Sisters gathered around the Darkest Faerie's statue.
"We failed you..." whispered Spite.
"But we can make things better for you," said Vanity.
"Someday, we will find a way to free you," said Malice. "But until then... sleep."
"Sleep deeply and peacefully."
"Dream well, and without nightmares."
"Be at rest."
The statue glowed faintly indigo, and as the glow faded, all three dark faeries sighed, as though they had just been relieved of a great burden.
And the Darkest Faerie slipped out of the despair of being trapped and into dreams.
Dreams of conquered lands.
Dreams of glory.
Dreams of plans, schemes that she hoped to one day fulfill as soon as she was once more free to terrorise Neopia...
But most of all, dreams of flying through the night sky, the moon overcast by clouds.
Date: Nov 14th
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