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||You are on Week 397
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 Seven Ends Wednesday, December 31
"I wish I could be down there at the party," said Kleia, staring wistfully through the bars of the staircase. "Adults get to have all the fun."
Her younger brother, Gerim, was sitting beside her on the stairs, half-asleep. He wasn't interested in wearing pretty clothes, eating sophisticated hors d'oeuvres, or engaging in intelligent conversations. Kleia nudged the little Yurble with her elbow and he perked up. "What? Oh yeah, I know, but at least Uncle Yven will be here soon to give us our presents."
Kleia rolled her eyes and put on a lecturing tone. "The Day of Giving isn't just about getting presents, Gerim," she scolded. "It's right there in the name -- you're supposed to give too!"
Gerim yawned. "I just want to open my present and go to bed!" He put his head back down on the stair and closed his eyes.
Kleia watched the adults mingling and celebrating until finally their Uncle Yven blew in the front door, snow hard on his heels and his arms full of gifts. Kleia and Gerim ran down the stairs to greet the merry Gelert.
"We thought you'd never come!" shouted Gerim happily.
"Well, navigating Terror Mountain in a blizzard isn't the easiest thing, but it's even harder when you're carrying presents!" Uncle Yven said with a smile. "Here's yours, Gerim." He handed the Yurble a large box, which Gerim promptly tore into. Then the Gelert turned to his patiently waiting Acara niece. "And this is for you, Kleia." He leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Your gift is very, very special, but don't tell Gerim that."
"All right!" crowed Gerim. "A Big Sling Gun! Thanks, Uncle Yven!"
Gerim and Kleia's mother clicked her tongue worriedly. "You be careful with that, Gerim, or else you'll put somebody's eye out! Now put your toy away -- it's time for bed. You've been up too late already."
Kleia was still carefully unwrapping her present. She opened the box to find... a broken Usuki doll. At least she thought it was an Usuki; it didn't look like any kind she'd ever heard of. She looked up at her uncle with wide, sad eyes. She'd tried to not be selfish and this was what she got? A broken toy?
Uncle Yven winked at her and said, "All that's broken is not ruined."
The Acara thanked him politely and took her strange present up to her room. "What could he possibly mean?" she murmured while snuggling into her warm bed. Maybe tomorrow she'd pay a visit to Donny at the Toy Repair Shop...
Editor's Note: Because of the holidays, this storytelling will last two weeks. Enjoy!
Author: Getting Into the Holiday Spirit|
Date: Dec 22nd
Kleia was a naturally heavy sleeper. Everybody said so, and on school mornings her alarm clock could ring for ages before her mother came in to gently shake her awake. Because of this she always felt well-rested, but it did leave her with one regret: Kleia never remembered her dreams. While her little brother could recount numerous instances of having to eat his way out of a strange city made of jelly (who could imagine such a thing!) or of spending the night climbing the back of a furry mountain that turned out to be an enormous Warf, Kleia only knew warm darkness from the moment she closed her eyes until the moment she blinked them open again in the morning light.
Well, usually. This time, when Kleia woke up, it was still pitch dark around her, even when she sat up and pulled open the curtains. Not even the glimmer of helpful stars shed any light into her room. A lot of young Neopets were known to wake with excitement much too early on the morning of the Day of Giving, but it had never happened to her before. She rubbed her eyes blearily, and muttered, "Is the party over? Perhaps there was a noise."
"Hush! Do not disturb the sleepers tonight!" a voice whispered urgently from somewhere close to the bed. Gasping in surprise, Kleia flicked on her starry Kauvara lamp to see who was in her room. If Gerim was awake and playing tricks on her, then she would march him back to his own bed immediately.
It wasn't the twitching blue snout of her amused little brother that looked down at her, though. For a moment Kleia didn't recognise the strange-looking Usul who stared at her instead. Her fur was a mismatch of colours, one ear purple and the other tan, as though she had been half-dipped into the wrong pot of dye. What must once have been beautifully curly golden hair now fell to her waist in tangles and knots, half-covering a tattered silver ball gown. Finally, it clicked, and Kleia began to wonder if she wasn't dreaming after all, saying the words out loud to make them seem more real. "You're the broken Usuki doll!"
The doll held its paw to its lips and repeated, "Hush, the sleepers!" but she nodded very slightly, smudged lips giving Kleia the smallest of smiles.
Kleia swung her feet out of the bed and stood up, feeling chilly in just her striped pyjamas. She kept her voice low to try not to distress the doll again, but there were far too many questions bubbling inside her for her to keep quiet for long. "Can't I at least go and get Uncle Yven? He might be asleep, but I'm sure he'd understand. He gave you to me, after all."
"Please, no! Should any adult see me this night I will be forced to remain unmoving in that doll form forever. I have one night's reprieve from my curse, Kleia. I have one chance to be free. What mends will be broken, and what is broken can be mended." The doll recited the words like an incantation, her strangely pretty face tight with anguish.
Kleia wanted nothing more than to give the doll a hug and apologise for not wanting her as a present, but as she stepped forward she trod on something sharp and had to stuff a paw in her mouth to keep herself from crying out. Reaching down, she found the broken wand accessory that had come in the doll's box, now full-sized, but still snapped in two. Looking down at the delicately glowing thing she held, Kleia nodded, reaching a decision. She had to help, no matter how. "All right. Tell me what you need me to do..."
Date: Dec 22nd
"You need to fix the wand."
Kleia had expected a long story, one that spoke of riddles, curses, and wild magic. She looked at the Usul expectantly, but no further words followed her sentence.
"Fix the wand," she repeated. Well, that would not be that hard, would it? Kleia's eyes travelled around the room and came to rest on a can of glue she had left out after crafting Christmas stars the day before.
The Usul must have followed her stare, for she quickly interrupted, "No, it isn't that easy. Glue will make it look mended, but inside, it will still remain broken."
No glue. Kleia looked at the broken wand in her paws, wondering how else to put it together again. She wasn't even sure what material it was made of. A faint glow radiated from it. It was not just reflecting the light of the starry Kauvara lamp, Kleia noticed, but instead, it seemed to emanate to faint glow. Where it had been snapped, fine filaments, like threads of silk, stuck out.
"I know the solution," the Usul gasped out. "Glue will do nothing. You have... to..."
Loud panting came from the mismatched doll, and Kleia looked up in surprise. It seemed to take her a great effort to speak those words.
"Have to... find it out on your own. I'm sorry, I cannot help you with it. The curse, it forbids me to speak sometimes."
The doll's ears were shaking, the purple and the tan one vibrating as though they were dancing together. "I can tell you, though, that it's going to be a long journey. And we need to finish it tonight. If we're not back by sunrise..."
Her voice broke and the Usul squeezed her eyes shut in fear. Kleia lowered the wand, once again wanting nothing more than to give the doll a hug. How selfish she had been to think of this as an unwanted present, yes, even as a punishment. Her arms wrapped around the quivering Usul.
"I'm so scared," the doll admitted in a whisper. "Please help me. We need to lift the curse from our family." She hesitated a moment before adding another word, "Cousin..."
Date: Dec 23rd
Kleia gasped, letting go of the Usul to take another look. "You're... my cousin? But I've never had a cousin like you, not that I know of..."
The Usul made a final utterance, "My reprieve is over." And her voice faded, her eyes tragic. She stared meaningfully at the wand, and then at Kleia, nodding ever so slightly. Then, falling back in a soft, sighing glimmer, her tangled hair scattering about her, she became a doll again, small enough to carry. Kleia picked her up wonderingly, holding the broken wand with her other hand.
The young Acara stood for a moment, just thinking. She had until sunrise to break the curse. But she had so many questions, she didn't even know where to start...
She wanted to ask Uncle Yven about this strange family curse. He had seemed so wise, so trusting, when he gave the doll into her care. But the doll had warned her against seeking the help of adults. Kleia felt afraid, and yet somehow exuberant, to be on a secret mission in the world of children.
Maybe she could start in the attic, finding old photographs, anything that might give her a clue as to who this cousin could be. Why and how the curse had befallen her, and where to find the cure.
With light footsteps, she sneaked out of her bedroom, carefully clutching the doll and wand in her arms. The house was sleeping... she could hear her parents snoring. Trees rustled quietly in the yard, and on the wall, the clock ticked. The floorboards felt sturdy and promising under her feet, as though leading her on to her great adventure…
She stifled the squeal in her throat just in time. "Gerim!" she hissed, wide-eyed. "What are you doing out of bed?"
The little Yurble folded his arms imperiously. "What are you doing out of bed?"
"Stop whispering so loud! Look, this is ultra important, okay? The adults mustn't know we're up and about. I'm trying to help my doll here, she's caught in a magic spell..." The story sounded less probable as she tried to recount it.
But her brother was entranced. "I'm coming," he grinned. "Magic, danger, staying up late, just my thing! I'll grab my Big Sling Gun and we can go bust bad guys together."
"I don't think there'll be bad guys," sighed Kleia, but Gerim had already flashed into his bedroom and was out in a second, triumphantly bearing his new, impressive toy.
"Muahaha, those bad guys won't stand a chance. Pow! Pow!"
"All right. Be quiet as a Miamouse now," Kleia warned, as they tiptoed toward the attic...
Date: Dec 23rd
The steps heading up to the attic creaked slightly under the children's footsteps, and the farther they went, the darker it got. For a moment, Kleia wondered what she was doing... going up into the attic to figure out why the doll had called her "cousin."
"C'mon, Kleia!" came the voice of Gerim from the top. She hadn't realised that she was hesitating. "I thought you wanted to go to the attic!"
"Oh... sorry." The Acara hastened to join her brother, and the two of them pushed the door open.
The musty smell of a room scarcely opened, let alone visited, hit them first. "Doesn't anyone dust around here?" Kleia wondered out loud. She groped around for a light switch.
The bulb flickered a few times before it settled into a steady, yellowish glow somewhat dimmed by ages of disuse. The moment their surroundings were illuminated, Gerim ran forward, turning around and taking in everything.
Just like any typical attic, theirs was full of all sorts of clutter, like boxes stacked up haphazardly and old artefacts dumped into corners. There were a few chests and pieces of furniture covered with cloth, which was in turn covered with a layer of dust. The only window gave them a view of the night sky through spotted glass.
Gerim tiptoed toward a large wardrobe. "Now, where are those bad guys?" He brandished his Big Sling Gun. "I'm gonna get you, there's no place to hide!"
"I told you, I don't think there'll be bad guys," said Kleia, opening and closing several drawers that contained nothing but old clothes and rusty cooking utensils. "Just help me look for... look for... well, I dunno, something that looks like magic."
Gerim frowned; searching for something vague was not the kind of adventure he was looking for. But he obliged, and threw open the wardrobe before him.
All sorts of dresses, cloaks, and other clothes fell magnificently over the Yurble, who flailed and thrashed about as he freed himself from the pile.
"Gerim!" Kleia watched as he shoved all the garments aside. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah," he answered, holding up a silver ball gown. "But...uh, why are you looking at me like that?"
But the Acara wasn't staring at him, not at all. Her eyes were fixed on the gown he held.
It was the same gown the Usuki doll was wearing. But there was something different about this one... it looked to be in much better condition than the doll's gown. In fact, it looked untouched, new...
"Give me that," said Kleia abruptly, holding out her hand. "That looks just like the gown my doll was wearing!"
"Really?" said Gerim. He handed over his lucky find. "Okay..."
When his sister touched the gown, he still had a hand on it -- and the dress began to glow with a soft pink light.
"Was it supposed to do that?" he asked, his eyes wide. "Wait... I can't drop it! It's like my hand is stuck!"
"Mine too!" said Kleia. "What's going on?"
The glow intensified until the gown was more pink than silver. "I don't know, this was your idea!" the Yurble reminded her. He looked around; the attic was rapidly disappearing in a blur of light and shadow...
Date: Dec 24th
Kleia resisted the urge to shriek as the attic twisted and stretched around her and Gerim. The Acara yanked her brother closer with her free hand, afraid to be separated from him despite the gown that had trapped both of their hands. The small Yurble didn't complain; he was busy watching their surroundings melt and reform with wide eyes.
With a final wrench, the room snapped back into place, and Kleia raised her head cautiously. She blinked once, twice, three times. Gerim looked up as well, ending up with the same reaction.
"Nothing's changed." Kleia's words floated timidly into the stale attic air. "Isn't something supposed to change?" Usually, after a room takes what appears to be a journey through space, something should be horribly wrong, she thought and continued to stare at the strangely unchanged room. "You're the adventure expert, Gerim. What happened?" When no answer came, the Acara turned, exasperated, to face her brother. "Neopia to Ger... GERIM!"
"What?" The Yurble paused on his way back to the wardrobe. "You said to look for something magical!" he explained as he reached for the door. "I don't think a glowing dress is very magical." He pointed at the silvery gown, which had let their hands go as soon as the room's motion had stopped, as he spoke.
"But it brought us..." Kleia looked around. "...nowhere. Fine, let's look again." She sighed and stepped over to her brother. Together they pulled the doors open, but this time they leaped back to avoid the inevitable shower of clothes. After a minute of guarding against falling garments, the siblings straightened up and looked at each other. "Nothing fell," Gerim said, putting into practice the habit of young children to state the obvious.
Kleia began to roll her eyes at her little brother's statement, but stopped as she realised something. The only way that many clothes wouldn't fall out of a closet was... if they were put away neatly. The Acara threw the wardrobe's doors all the way open and saw carefully hung cloaks and gowns.
It was true that the gown similar to the one Kleia's doll wore had looked new, but before the siblings had both touched it, the other clothing in the wardrobe had shown some signs of use: wrinkled sleeves, tattered ends, perhaps a hole or two. Now the wardrobe's contents almost shimmered with an air of novelty. Fascinated, Kleia began to rifle through the clothing when her hand hit a small box concealed under the voluminous train of a flamboyant ball gown.
"What's that?" Gerim asked over his sister's shoulder as the Acara pulled the wooden box out of the wardrobe. Not waiting for a response, he popped the lid off of the container and began to root through its contents. "Masks, gloves, necklaces... looks like a bunch of dress-up stuff to me," the Yurble said as he drew various objects from the box.
Kleia didn't answer, her eyes fixed on the glinting wand at the bottom of the pile.
She picked the shining accessory up in one hand, holding it up to eye level. In her other hand was the broken wand she'd brought with her from her room. Her gaze travelled back and forth from new to old, glittering and elegant to broken and miserable. "They're the same," she wondered out loud and gathered them into one hand. With her empty hand she brought out the doll, staring at the ragged dress she wore. Kleia was sitting right by another dress. The same dress, restored to its glory and splendour.
"Fix the wand," the Usul had said. Well, here was a fixed wand... and it looked exactly the same as the broken one. Kleia put the broken accessory on the floor by the newer ball gown, leaving the doll and the new wand in her hands. She didn't know what to do with them, so after a minute of thinking she hesitantly tapped the doll with the wand's tip. Another minute of breathless waiting passed, then the Acara sighed and relaxed. "Fix the wand..." she muttered thoughtfully.
Meanwhile, as his sister sat there with a boring old dress and a doll, Gerim continued searching the box of accessories. The Yurble found a broken necklace with large stones that fit his sling perfectly. Delighted, he shoved most of them into his pocket, loaded another into his toy, and let it fly, startling Kleia out of her reverie.
"Gerim!" the Acara snapped as she batted the glittering missile away. "I'm trying to think!" Getting silence as an answer, she sighed in irritation and stood to walk over to her brother. "Don't ignore me all the time! I can't tell if you're listening or..." She trailed off as she followed Gerim's wide-eyed stare.
The stone that Kleia had swatted had bounced and rolled lightly across the floor. It came to a stop across the room, outlined by the streams of light coming through the crack in the attic door...
Date: Dec 29th
Neither of them dared breathe. They both stared at the jewel, watching the flecks of light dance over its plated surface, waiting for something happened.
When it became apparent nothing was going to happen, both of them let out the breath they didn't realise they were holding in a big, swooping sigh.
"Well, that was close," Kleia sighed.
"I'll say," Gerim agreed.
"Ssh," Kleia hissed.
Gerim looked at her and blinked. "What?"
"You're too loud," Kleia whispered, eyes glued to the door.
"Soooo," Kleia hissed. "The noise might bring someone up here... they might find us!" She glanced nervously at the golden light seeping through the door once again.
"So?" Gerim said again. "Why should I care? This is our house." He went over to retrieve the jewel.
"No -- I mean, yes! But don't you see? We don't live here now! I mean yet. I mean..." Kleia sighed. "Don't you see? We've travelled back in time."
She had always suspected this is what had happened. And when she had seen the silvery ball gown... sparkling and beautiful, she just knew. But now that she had spoken the words, now that they were out in the open... they just seemed so... ridiculous.
But they were true.
They had to be.
But... now what?
Fix the wand, fix the wand...
It was then that Kleia realised Gerim was being quiet. Too quiet. Way too quiet.
"Ger?" Kleia asked, looking up.
Her normally chaotic brother was standing by the door, the jewel clutched tightly in his hand. He was rigid, frozen, a statue.
"Gerim? What is it?"
The Yurble turned slowly, so slowly, and raised a finger to his lips. His mouth moved to form a single word, and then he dashed behind a box of old photographs.
She stopped. Frowned. What was that sound?
That sound. Soft slippered feet hitting against a hard surface. A shrill shriek of old wooden steps. The unmistakable sound of somebody walking up attic stairs...
Date: Dec 29th
Kleia’s eyes grew wide with terror, and she felt frozen in spot as she watched the knob to the attic door begin to slowly turn first one way and then the other. A second, much louder, set of footfalls came pounding up the attic stairs. The creaking boards and excited, muted voices on the other side of the door broke her from her trance and Kleia dove behind the wardrobe just as the door to the attic flung open.
“But Papa,” came the sweetly manipulative voice of a little girl, “you always let me dress up fancy for the Day of Giving party. I don’t know why you won’t let me get just a few things from Mother’s old wardrobe this year.”
Curiosity got the better of Kleia, and ever so slowly, she poked her head around the corner of the wardrobe to get a look at the speakers. What she saw, even if somewhere in her mind it was exactly what she expected, shocked her: The little girl was a beautiful Usul, of about her own age, with curly, golden hair that fell in ringlets to her waist. Her eyes were unnaturally large and expressive and she had her rosebud of a mouth fixed in a dear little pout. The only flaw to her beauty was a mismatched pair of ears, one purple and one tan, but like a flower growing through the cracks of a sidewalk, the incongruity only added to the mysterious and miraculous nature of her allure. As Kleia watched, the Usul stomped her tiny foot and folded her arms over her chest, saying, “I want to wear the silver gown, just that one thing, and if you don’t let me, I’ll...I’ll hold my breath until I turn into a statue, and you can put me in the Hall of Heroes and...and visit me with a nice sandwich for your lunch and tell me how sorry you are and...and...”
Kleia watched as the other figure stepped forward into the illumination of the dull yellow bulb that hung from the ceiling, and the Acara was, once again, both surprised and not by his appearance: The Gelert was about ten years younger than her Uncle Yven, but the merry twinkle in his eye was unmistakably his, as was the calm and soothing baritone that emanated from him as he began to speak. “Shila, you know that I don’t want you to hold your breath until you turn into a statue.” The Gelert now dropped to his knees in front of his daughter and put his arms around her. “You also know why your mother was banished and the curse – er – spell, really, that she put upon our house. It has been many happy years since she left and I don’t want to tempt fate by stirring up her old things.”
“But, it’s just the dress. I’ve worn the silver gown a hundred times. Please, Papa!”
Kleia shook her head slowly to herself, trying desperately to send her Uncle a mental warning to not allow Shila to wear the dress, to repeat the past mistake that she didn’t fully understand, but she was unsurprised when Uncle Yven sighed and nodded, saying, “Just the silver gown then. Put it on and meet me downstairs, the guests will be arriving soon. But, please, be very careful not to break anything.”
“Yes, Papa. But, you know what my friend Donny says, ‘All that’s broken is not ruined.’”
“Donny? You mean the Bori boy from school? Ha, ha. What does he know about broken things?”
“Oh, Papa, he can fix anything. He’s going to open a Toy Repair Shop when he grows up. He also gets all serious and says, ‘What mends will be broken, and what is broken can be mended.’ But I don’t get that at all.”
“Well, let’s not find out what he means, shall we? Just the silver gown and meet me downstairs, all right?”
“Yes, Papa. And thank you, Papa.” Shila squeezed her father tightly and then turned to retrieve the dress from the wardrobe. The Gelert rose and left the attic, happily tap-tapping down the stairs with his familiar, animated gait. The Usul changed into the silver gown, which seemed to shrink to fit her perfectly, and as she turned to follow her father down the stairs, something appeared to catch her attention. Shila stooped to pick up a gemstone, smooth and round.
Oh, that silly Gerim and his slingshot thought Kleia. She was almost out the door.
As the Usul stood staring at the gemstone in her hand, the yellow glow of the light bulb refracted through the stone’s curvature and illuminated the wand that Kleia had dropped as she scrambled to her hiding place. “What’s this?” said Shila to herself. “I’ve never seen this up here before, but it’s the perfect accessory for my gown!”
Kleia watched helplessly as her cousin picked up the wand and began waving it daintily through the air. The Acara struggled with a desire to stop Shila from repeating whatever mistake had led to her horrible transformation into the broken doll, but deep within her she knew that she could not interfere with history: she could not fix what had not yet been broken. Shila furtively looked toward the attic door, and slipping the gemstone and the wand into the sash of her gown, she skipped toward the stairs and retraced her father’s path down to the main floor.
As soon as she was gone, Kleia jumped out from behind the wardrobe and hissed her brother’s name in a panicked whisper. Gerim stepped out from behind the box of photographs and said, “What do we do now?”
“Well,” said the Acara in a thoughtful voice, “I say we go find Donny and get him to repair the wand. That’s what the doll said to do, and we need to get it done before morning.”
“I’m all for sneaking out at night and having an adventure, but I thought you said that we couldn’t let any adults know what we’re up to?”
“Yes, well, Donny isn’t an adult yet, now is he?”
“I guess,” replied Gerim in an unconvinced voice. “But I found an old photograph in the box there that might be important. Do you know who Uncle Yven’s wife was?...”
Date: Dec 30th
"No," answered Kleia, "and it's probably not important."
"But Uncle Yven mentioned a curse, or a spell, didn't he?" protested Gerim
Kleia turned to face her little brother. All her confusion and indecision became anger that she unfairly directed at the little Yurble. "Look, Gerim, this is not a field trip. We're not here to find out about family history. Whatever we do here and now can affect the future. If we change something, we might end up not being born! So let's just find Donny and get out." She glared at him.
Her brother shrank back with every sentence she spoke, his eyes wide with surprise and fear. The Acara sighed, regretting her harsh words. It was too late now to take them back. "We need to repair this wand as soon as possible. The photograph will always be there. Maybe we can ask Shila to explain it later when we break the curse, okay?" She punched his shoulder lightly.
Gerim pouted. "Fine."
They carefully made their way out the attic door, both of them flinching at every creaking floorboard. They eventually descended the stairs and crept down a hallway. Most of the rooms they passed were dark, but at the end of the hallway, there was a bright light. "Isn't that the dining room?" whispered Gerim.
"It will be the dining room," corrected Kleia. "I don't know what Uncle Yven used it for."
They carefully approached the brightly lit room. Kleia stiffened as she heard pealing laughter. Gerim and Kleia popped their heads around the large room's door. Kleia gasped. While her family had used the room as a dining area, the space was now being used as a ballroom of sorts. It was almost completely empty, with a small piano in one corner and mirrors lining the walls.
"Papa," called Shila happily as she whirled around in the silver gown, "how do I look?"
Uncle Yven smiled. "Beautiful." Kleia noticed that there was a guarded look in his eyes.
Apparently, Shila noticed too, because she asked, "What's wrong, Papa? You look kind of tense."
Uncle Yven sighed. "Nothing, Shila." He stepped foward to ruffle her hair. "Nothing at all."
Suddenly, a bright light flashed through the room. Shila yelped and leaped backward, catapulting into her father's arms. Kleia and Gerim squinted, trying to make out the figure in the light.
"What do you want?" rasped Uncle Yven, hugging his daughter closer.
A voice came from the light. "Remember the deal, Yven? You promised anything in return for a granted wish. I upheld my side of the bargain, and it's time for you to do the same."
"What do you want?" repeated Uncle Yven.
The light dimmed slightly, and by her side, Kleia felt Gerim give a little gasp. He tugged urgently at her elbow, whispering, "Kleia...I recognise her from the photograph...that's Uncle Yven's wife!..."
Date: Dec 30th
Kleia's stomach plummeted, and she wished heartily that she had looked at the photograph before. The figure at the heart of the blaze of light was a slender shadow, black as a starless night. She seemed to lighten into visibility as the contrasting light died.
She was a tall, beautiful Shadow Usul, her ruff and mane flowing down in the deepest purple of a dark faerie.
Surely... not the Shadow Usul? The slinking curse, the legend in the night? Could he have loved... that?
What had he wished for?
The answer came to Kleia in a flash.
The wish had been for Shila. And now she was being taken away.
"No," Yven whispered, as if he could deny what was before his eyes.
"She is my daughter too," the Shadow Usul said reasonably. "You cast me out. You promised my things would remain untouched. Now look!" She pointed. The wand in Shila's hand sparked and glowed. The shadow's voice echoed angrily around them. "Your heedlessness has awakened her power, and your indulgence shows that you cannot or will not teach her the self-discipline to use it well."
"That's hardly fair--" Uncle Yven began.
"I am not concerned with fair. I am concerned with truth," she snapped. "Now give me my daughter. Keep your word."
"What," Uncle Yven choked out, "what will you do--"
As his grip on her loosened, Shila let out a shrill scream. "No!" she cried. "No, I won't go with her, Father, don't let her take me!"
"Control yourself, child," the Usul snapped, "this display of fear and temper is unseemly for any girl of your age, especially a child of mine."
This only increased Shila's terror. "I won't go with you," she shrieked. "I won't BE like you! I don't want magic, I don't want to curse people, I don't want to be banished." She held up the wand and screamed, "I don't want you!"
Silver light streamed from it, lighting up the dress, lashing throughout the room. Where it touched the Shadow Usul, the glowing streamers vanished, but elsewhere they danced across the walls and floor, scorching the floorboards and bouncing white sparks across the mirrors. A few flames started. Uncle Yven cried out in alarm, giving the Shadow Usul a look that was both furious and pleading, and moved to stamp out the smoldering floor.
Shila, crying now, lifted one knee and brought the wand down across it. It didn't break the first time. Both Uncle Yven and the Shadow Usul reached toward her, and Kleia forgot herself and yelled, but they weren't in time: she did it again, and this time the wand snapped.
Shila herself burst into white flames. She screamed again, this time not in terror and rage but in sheer pain.
The Shadow Usul brought her hands down into the fire, grimacing as she did it. The flames ran up her arms briefly, but then they began to die, shrinking down... and down... and down.
And then she held only the doll in her hands, the damage from the flames translated into the marring of the toy, and the miniaturized broken wand.
Face set, she handed these to Yven. "You will have a chance to free her one day," she said, her voice hard. "When you have learned more, and when you find someone with the wisdom of childhood as well as its foolishness."
White light flared again, and when Kleia was able to blink away the afterimages, her watering eyes showed her that the Usul sorceress was gone. Uncle Yven was on his knees, weeping.
He looked up at her. Without recognition -- of course, she hadn't even been born yet -- and started to get up to investigate this intruder in his house. Kleia jerked back hastily, exchanged a look of horror with Gerim, and they both ran for the attic.
Uncle Yven pursued. Gerim looked back and dumped out his pocketful of jewels, which bounced and scattered down the stairs; Uncle Yven stepped on one, yelped, hopped, and slid on another -- and crashed back down the staircase.
Kleia winced, but kept running. They slammed the door to the attic, and she picked up the Usuki and the broken wand that had come with them in shaking hands. "What do we do?" she panted.
"Donny," Gerim reminded her.
"But how do we get out of here!" Kleia was trying to whisper, but her voice had gone very high. "Nobody can see her. She said -- Shila said if any adults see her tonight, she's stuck forever." She stopped. "Oh."
"What?" Gerim said. "I think we should, um, jump out the window!"
"Then we'll be broken too," Kleia said. "Gerim--"
"The snow's deep! Or, um, we can try this." He snatched up the silver dress that had brought them here and pressed it to her arm. Nothing happened.
"Gerim, it's not the same night!" She jumped up and raced out the door, skidding on the jewels herself and running right into her uncle coming up the stairs.
"I thought you were worried about changing things so we're never born!" Gerim shouted.
"Uncle Yven," Kleia gasped, "please. We're trying to help Shila. You don't know us yet, but we are. Please let us go."
He stared down at her, then up at Gerim, as if evaluating their claim. He didn't believe them, she was sure of it. Gerim's pocketful of jewels, even discarded, made them look like thieves.
But then he crouched down and looked at the doll in Kleia's hands, broken, imperfect, a duplicate of that in his own. And the inexplicably full-sized wand, that had never shrunk back down.
"Go," he whispered, and he continued up to the attic as if in a trance.
Gerim edged around him, dropping the gown, and came down to join Kleia. "We have to find Donny," she said. "I think -- we have to."
"How are we going to do that?" Gerim demanded. "We don't even know where he lives now!"
"He's Shila's friend, right? Maybe... umm... maybe Uncle Yven has his address. Or--" She wandered out past the ballroom, nervously, and yelped quietly as she saw a Bori going past the window. "It's him!" She pelted down the hall, yanked open the front door, and grabbed the young Bori by the arm as he raised it to knock.
He jerked back, startled. "Who -- uh -- are you a friend of Shila's? I was coming to help set up for the party...."
"I'm not sure the party's going to happen tonight," Kleia whispered. "Something's happened to Shila. Do you have a workshop yet?"
"What -- yes, but what's a workshop going to do to help Shila? She's not a broken toy!"
"Um," Kleia said. "She kind of is. Her... her mother showed up, and...." She showed him the Usuki and the wand, with the snapped threads of magic still trailing from it in the moonlight.
Donny looked grimmer than his current age should have allowed, and he took the toys carefully from her hands. "There's a time limit on this," he whispered. "A long one. And it's running out -- I mean, this is the time it can happen -- but she was fine yesterday!"
"I think my brother and I have been time traveling," Kleia muttered. "I know it sounds crazy. But we have to get that wand fixed and break a curse on our family. It has to be by sunrise."
"I don't know about breaking curses," Donny said with a flash of rueful humor. "But what's broken can be mended. I'll see what I can do about the wand."
As they hurried away, more finely-dressed Neopets showed up at the door. Kleia looked over her shoulder as they knocked for a long time, with no answer.
It was a long night, though at least they didn't have to hike up to the top of Terror Mountain. They shut themselves into Donny's workshop, and Kleia yawned and Gerim fell asleep as he worked tediously, meticulously to bind the broken strands of magic back together. Kleia was too nervous to sleep, but watched Kreludor set and then moved to the other side of the room to watch anxiously as the black of the night sky in the east began slowly, subtly, to creep into deepest blue.
Donny finished the magic and turned away to reach for glue, but when he turned back, the wand had fused together and even the crack was nowhere to be found. A silver gleam ran along the shaft. He studied it, touched it lightly with a claw, then shook Gerim awake. "You'd better get going," he said in a low voice. "I didn't have time to do anything for the doll, but you did say the wand."
They went. They ran back to their house -- Uncle Yven's house -- where the trampled snow at the door showed how many guests had come and waited and gone in irritation. It had locked behind them, but luckily Kleia's key still worked. Light gleamed at the horizon. They stole up the stairs, cringing at every squeak, and opened the door.
Their usually cheerful Uncle Yven lay on the floor in front of the wardrobe, an adult Gelert incongruously clutching an Usuki doll. There were tears dried stickily in the fur under his eyes, and he appeared to have collapsed in exhausted sleep after tearing everything out of the wardrobe, wadding it up, and shoving it angrily back in. One door bulged out a little, although they were loosely latched together, and bits of different fabrics pressed against the gap.
Kleia and Gerim gasped together as the shadow of the wardrobe moved, and they realized they had not at first seen the Shadow Usul standing there. They moved closer together.
She gave them a sad, weary smile, at odds with the pride and anger of before, and beckoned them closer.
Kleia balked. "What's the curse you put on our house and our family?" she blurted. "Uncle Yven said something about it even before you cursed Shila."
The Usul sighed. "On the house? That those who meddled with it, especially with my personal possessions which I had to leave behind, would garner my attention. On the family... some would say my presence in it is curse enough. If you want to know why I was banished... I cursed someone who had hurt us. Your uncle thought it was too cruel. The laws here agreed with him. You probably would too." She shook her head as Kleia shuddered. "As for Shila, I had to fight her own untamed magic, which was destroying her. This was, believe it or not, the best chance I could give her -- so close to breaking the wand." Another rueful smile. "I don't believe I'm cut out for family life, after all. I won't be back. Tell Yven he is welcome to her, but not to spoil her so much. Magical tantrums are really not safe." She gestured at the dress. "Go back. It will take you now."
Kleia raised her eyes and cried out in despair as sunlight flooded through the window, silhouetting the Shadow Usul in it. "But it's too late! She said by sunrise!"
"Don't be silly," the Usul said, picking up the silver gown and throwing it over their heads. It blotted out the light, and her voice followed them, adding, "You're time traveling, remember?"
Kleia and Gerim flailed free of the dress, only to find themselves sitting next to the pile of old clothes in their own attic -- and still with a broken Usuki doll and a whole wand. It was dark but for the yellow light bulb, but there was a gleam of gold fire along the horizon to the east, and footsteps were coming up the stairs.
Kleia looked around frantically. Gerim snatched the wand from her and unceremoniously whacked the Usuki of Shila with it.
The door opened. "Cover your eyes!" Kleia and Gerim both yelled, because Shila....
Shila was growing. Her form blurred, then blurred more as it expanded into a murky cloud, stretching in odd directions but vaguely Usul-shaped. Extensions of it solidified into a live, furry foot, then a fabric hand that quickly morphed into a real paw. Her face appeared, real and furry, and she choked on fluff-stuffed lungs until the live-ness reached her chest. At last she lay panting on the heap of clothes, her own self restored. Her dress was still torn and her hair was a tangled wreck, but she was alive.
And the sun blazed over the horizon.
Uncle Yven was standing in the doorway with one hand over his eyes and the other clutching the doorjamb so hard his claws had dug into it. "May I look now?" he asked meekly.
"Yes," they all shouted, and Shila leaped up and threw herself into his arms.
The gleaming ballgown that had brought them home shimmered, melted into a pool of silver-touched shadow, and vanished.
Date: Dec 31st
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