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||You are on Week 468
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 Four Hundred Sixty Eight Ends Friday, July 23
A silvery moon cast its delicate gossamer light over the Haunted Woods, giving the realm an almost tangible, ghostly undertone. The Werelupe crashed through the dense, thorny undergrowth that crept and bristled over the muddy ground, not caring how much of a trail he left. It all came down to one lone ideal, glorious in its simplicity. To get away. To flee. To run and run and never come back.
The words echoed in Jax's mind, madly fluttering like a caged Pteri. The words of his former, most dear friend had condemned him to this panic-stricken sojourn. He wasn't just running away. He was running for his life.
A weathered branch scraped his side as he rocketed by -- the scratch burned all the harder as his sides heaved and his paws ached with the strain of escaping. His chocolate brown fur was matted beyond the reach of any comb, his eyes wide with terror.
And it seemed like he had been found. He could hear the sounds of pursuit behind him, getting louder, getting closer. Not for the first time, Jax pled to Fyora for this to be a nightmare, for him to wake up and find himself safe in his own bed.
In his heart, he knew that he could never outrun the truth.
Where had it all gone wrong?
It seemed like only yesterday...
Editor's Note: This week's Storytelling beginning was written by dianacat777. User-written beginnings will be posted once a month, so send in your opening entries! In the meantime, keep sending in your story ideas!
Date: Jul 19th
...but in truth, this desperate flight had been waiting in the wings for years, like words in a crumpled note he had been afraid to unfold, only to have it blown open by the wayward winds of fate.
* * *
"Sold." The auctioneer, a Lenny with a drooping mustache and tiny spectacles, tapped his gavel against the wooden podium. "The winning bidder may now collect the deed."
Jax watched from his chair behind the podium as a Wocky came forward to accept an envelope. The blue Lupe stared miserably at it, as if this paper were really his house that the Wocky was slipping into his breast pocket, its wood and nails and round windows ground into a fine powder that could be sifted into an envelope and purchased for an embarrassing sum.
The room began to empty, murmurs of triumph and disappointment bouncing around the courthouse and tumbling out into the cobblestone street until they faded entirely, replaced by a resonant silence.
"This doesn't quite cover your debt, but I daresay it came closer than I'd expected." The Lenny was standing over him now. "Your library of books was more valuable than estimated, and your mother's portrait fetched a shockingly high price."
Jax wondered if he was supposed to be relieved, even honoured, that someone had been willing to pay a lot of Neopoints for the painting of his mother. All he felt was empty.
"All told," the Lenny continued, "your estate was worth enough for us to call it even. Thank you for your cooperation, and I wish you the best of luck in starting over." With a feathery nod, he turned and left Jax sitting alone in the Neovian courthouse.
The afternoon sun lit up a square spotlight on the wooden floor.
"But where will I go?"
The whispered question latched onto a dust mote and drifted toward the door.
From a bench in the back row, the answer stood up and stretched. "Is it over?" the Gelert asked, yawning. "Where is everybody?"
Jax lifted his head. "Henry," he said, "I didn't see you there."
"I think I fell asleep during the bidding war over your cutlery," said the Gelert, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his tailored trousers. "Did they sell the house?"
"What do you think?"
Henry stepped into the aisle and approached. "Don't worry," he said. "It's all settled now, right? You can start over."
"I don't want to start over."
Henry stopped a few paces away from his friend. He shrugged. "You've got to," he said.
Distant voices wandered through the open door, lingering for a moment as Jax let out a sigh.
"Come on." Henry beckoned with his hand. "Stay with me. We'll get you back on your feet."
"I can do that much myself," said Jax, standing.
Henry smiled. "I know."
Together, they walked out into the sunlight.
* * *
Oh, where did it all go wrong?
The memories tore at Jax as violently as the branches of the trees, knocking the breath out of him as he charged onward. So much time had passed, and yet it did seem like only yesterday, just hours ago that he had started over for the first time.
Now, he was going to have to do it again.
But only if he could make it out alive...
Date: Jul 19th
At the word 'alive,' something bumped against his chest -- and although he had worn it around his neck since that day at the auctions, its presence quite suddenly slipped into his frenzied consciousness, and he felt its bounce as he gasped and pounded on.
No. He would not use it.
Jax despised his cowardice. Always he had been the one running, unable to turn and face the pursuer, be it an attacker or a fear.
Days after that morning, a morning when a Lupe had lost everything he cherished -- Jax was holding something in his paw, turning the wood blankly over. He was sitting on the steps of a shop where he hoped he would soon be able to secure a job as assistant to the shopkeeper.
Momentarily, a shadow enveloped him and the object -- then Henry crouched down, nodding curiously at it. "Find something?"
"No. It's always been mine."
He paused, then went on dully, "It was the only thing they didn't take. For paying the debt."
"A flute?" the Gelert queried. It was the size of a whistle really, but somehow that made it seem more intricate, more remarkable. "Why didn't they? It looks quite... pretty..."
Something like doubt flitted across Jax's face, and he shrugged. "They couldn't -- at least, that's what the Lenny said. Maybe he felt sorry for me after all and couldn't bring himself to leave someone completely empty."
Jax had decided to believe this, but the reader inside him -- the one who had owned shelves upon shelves of printed tales, which were most likely being scattered to shady dealers at this moment -- wished it were something else, a reason more fanciful...
Henry's voice brought him back to the present. "Does it play, then?"
"The flute? I... I guess so. It's only got three notes, though."
Even then he wondered about his friend's interest in the slice of dark whittled wood. Henry, whose luck never let him worry, whose financial help the self-reliant Jax had refused to accept. He thought perhaps Henry was only trying to help another way by taking Jax's mind off other things.
"I see." The Gelert nodded and got up. "Come on, let's get you ready. You've got to look your best when you speak to the shopkeeper."
Jax followed him, if slowly. Then he remembered what he'd been meaning to say. "Actually... I haven't always had that flute. I only just recalled. It was a gift from someone... a stranger..."
Three notes: three notes for three chances.
The Lupe's heart had begun to brim with despair, like water flowing into an improperly sealed valve. He was tiring, and soon he would not have strength to resist if they caught him. They would, at this rate.
For a moment, he grappled among desperation, his uncertainty of what options there were left for himself. Then all at once, he seized the moment -- despite, or perhaps because of it being something he had never done before, he skidded to a halt -- and faced the pursuers...
Date: Jul 20th
Jax shook in fear, hearing the angry mob grow closer and closer. One trembling paw darted to his neck and grasped the beautiful wooden flute that hung around his neck on a string of braided gold ribbon. The instrument looked absurdly small in his enormous, transformed paw. Against every instinct, he moved the wood to his lips. He awkwardly pressed two of his huge fingers against the upper two holes of the flute, preparing to play the final note.
I have no choice, he told himself. I can't keep running. For better or worse, I'm ending this now. But really, how much worse can things get? This infernal flute has already taken so much from me, but now all I want is to live. Let's see how it punishes me for that simple desire.
Jax licked his dry lips, put the flute to his mouth, and blew.
"A bag of flour and a bushel of apples, please."
"All right, sir, just one moment."
Jax finished fixing the display of produce in the window of the shop and called out over his shoulder: "Would you like green apples or red?" He wiped his paws on his apron and turned around. When he took notice of the pet who had placed the order, his face broke into a grin. "Henry! Good to see you!"
"You too, friend!" the Gelert exclaimed. He moved to Jax and gave him a hearty slap on the back. "Who knew you'd take so naturally to selling produce?"
"I can hardly believe it myself," Jax said with a chuckle. "Still, I must admit that I've enjoyed almost every day of the two months I've spent here."
"You look well, Jax," Henry said with genuine warmth in his voice. "It's nice to see you like this. Say, do you have a moment to talk, or are you too busy?"
Jax glanced around the store. "Well, there's not too much for me to do without any customers here. Most shoppers don't come by until after noon, and Mister Fontwell doesn't mind me taking a break now and then, so I can spare you some time. What's on your mind?"
Henry reached into the satchel at his side and began to rummage around. "I know how much your collection of books meant to you --"
"Don't remind me," Jax sighed. "As much as I enjoy working here, the evenings pass slowly when you live in a cramped apartment and have nothing to read."
"Let's see if I can do something about that," the Gelert said with a wink. "Ah! Here it is!" He triumphantly pulled a thick book from his satchel. "A little worse for the wear, maybe, but still --"
Jax gasped and grabbed the volume from his friend's paws. "I don't believe it! How did you find this?" He lovingly ran a finger down the book's spine and read the faded words printed on the cracking green binding. "An Anthology of Neovian Tales." He flipped the book open and pressed it to his nose, inhaling deeply. The familiar, dusty odour brought back waves of memories.
"I remember you saying it was your favourite," Henry said, "so I did a little detective work and tracked it down. And it wasn't easy; the pet who bought it at the auction sold it to somebody else, who in turn sold it to a used bookstore. The shopkeeper was reluctant to part with it, but I managed to convince him." He looked at Jax. "You aren't listening to a word I'm saying, are you?"
Jax wasn't. He was flipping through the book's pages, reacquainting himself with the wealth of stories inside. At last, he looked up. "I don't know how I can thank you," he whispered. "This means so much to me."
Henry laughed bashfully. "It's nothing, really. By the way, I skimmed through a few of the stories in there -- they're pretty good."
"'Pretty good,'" scoffed Jax. "That's an understatement. They're Neovian classics."
"I guess," said Henry, looking around the store distractedly. "Hey," he said, his focus snapping back to Jax, "did you read the one with the cursed paw or whatever?"
"That one happens to be my favourite," Jax said with a smile. "An old soothsayer gives an unwitting pet a cursed Mynci paw that will grant him three wishes. But what the pet doesn't know is that the wishes are actually blights. He wishes for wealth; a relative dies and he collects the inheritance. He wishes for fame; he gains notoriety as the murderer of that same relative. He wishes for --"
"Yes, I remember," said Henry. "Spooky story. I really liked how the author described the soothsayer too. How did it go? Something about 'milky white eyes,' 'tangled locks of hair studded with twigs and leaves,' 'a cloak seeming to be made of darkness and misery.' A little dramatic, but still." He glanced at his friend, who had suddenly gone white as a sheet. "Jax? Are you all right?"
The Lupe shuddered. "Remember when I told you about my flute?"
Henry thought for a moment. "Yeah, I remember that. You never did tell me how you got it, though."
"No," said Jax, "I didn't. But I'll tell you now. It was given to me by an old fortuneteller. She was blind, with white eyes. Her hair was tangled and matted. Her cloak..."
Henry looked uncertain for a moment, but then laughed. "Oh, Jax, you have such an imagination. Tell me, where did you get it really?"
Jax was silent. Finally, he turned away and mumbled, "I think you should leave now. Do you still need that flour?"
If only I'd known the flute's power before I first used it, thought Jax in the moments after blowing into the wooden instrument. All of this could have been avoided. I wouldn't have lost my home. And if that never happened, I wouldn't have had to make my second wish. And if that hadn't happened, I wouldn't be here, now, about to make my third. I can only hope that it won't bring down as much disaster as I fear it might...
Date: Jul 20th
The flute's music hung in the air for a moment longer, fragile as glass windchimes. Then it faded into silence.
Silence. It was silent. There were no shouts or angry cries, no footsteps crushing dead leaves, no branches snapping like logs in a fire, underfoot or overhead. The mob that had been so close -- so dangerously close -- had disappeared completely. All that remained was the quietude, beautiful and calm.
My eyes are closed, Jax realised. He didn't remember closing them, although he must have, for all he saw was a curtain of black with pinpoints of scattered colour -- light, but whether it was from sunshine or torches, he did not know.
He kept his eyes closed for a long time and just stood there, breathing, relishing the silence and the peace. He stood there, wherever there was. Was he even in the same place? If he opened his eyes, would he see the jagged tree-line and unforgiving dark skies of the Woods? Or would he be somewhere else, somewhere completely different? It was impossible, yes. But magic was impossible, unpredictable.
He knew that now.
Jax stood there, eyes closed, because he was afraid of what he would see if he opened them.
Henry was waiting for him when his shift ended.
Jax was surprised to see him, leaning against the wall, red fur an even deeper scarlet in the setting sun.
"Hey," said Jax, nodding to his friend.
"Hey." Henry grinned and pushed himself off the wall, matching his friend's pace as the wandered through the city streets. "Kreludor, I don't know how you can stand bagging groceries all day."
"It's a job," Jax replied with a shrug, then stopped. "Were you waiting this whole time?"
Henry nodded. "You looked a little pale." He didn't need to explain why, the reason had been clawing at Jax all day. Stories are just stories, he had reasoned with himself. But, oh, came the nagging little voice, who says they can't be real?
"Anyway," Henry continued, "I figured I might as well treat you to something to eat. It's been a long time, and you kind of look like you need to unwind."
"Thanks," Jax smiled gratefully. His bag -- an old, faded thing he had purchased at a secondhand shop not too long ago -- thumped against his leg as he walked. Its contents might as well have been bricks -- not the Neopoints, scarce as they were, but the book... he had flipped through the pages between customers, rereading the story of the Mynci Paw. The tale was familiar, he had read it countless times before, but he never recalled it being this terrifying before. The soothsayer... now he was certain. The straggly, tangled hair matted with what looked like trinkets picked from a forest floor; the milky white eyes, like a thick fog that blanketed winter mornings, seaside nights, somehow blind and all-seeing at the same time; and the cloak, seemingly woven from starless, moonless skies, it was so black. They were one and the same. They had to be. He could picture her now, beckoning him with a gnarled finger, the smile widening, crooked and sharp as if she already knew what their meeting would bring...
"Hey," Henry said suddenly, pulling Jax from his reminiscence. "You okay?"
Jax forced a smile, but his friend didn't look convinced. "You're not still thinking about that story, are you?" Henry asked. "You couldn't possibly have met the lady from the story --"
"But I did! I reread the story. The eyes, the hair, the cloak -- they were exactly the same --"
" Then it must've been a coincidence!" Henry cut in; Jax could hear the irritation in his voice. "This isn't one of your stories, Jax--"
"I didn't say that," Jax snapped, voice rising. He grabbed the flute and pulled it from around his neck, shoving it in Henry's face. "I know this isn't a faerietale, Henry, but this flute... it's the Mynci Paw."
"It's just a flute."
"No, it isn't. It's exactly the same -- three fingers, three holes, three rotten wishes. What else would explain that debt -- you yourself said it was ridiculous -- can you come up with another reason to explain why I lost my house, why I lost everything?"
Henry was silent. Jax sighed, raking his fingers against his forehead. "I'm... sorry I snapped at you, Henry. I just... I've been under a lot of stress, lately." His knees sunk and he allowed them to carry him to the ground; he sat there on the kerb, all the city's strangers walking by, moving around him as if he were a rock and they were a river, none of them even giving him a passing glance.
"No, it's fine," Henry said, voice quieter than usual. He was staring at the ground, frowning, as if contemplating something.
Jax didn't say anything. He sat there and watched the world pass by, letting his friend sink.
It seemed to take a considerable amount of time -- but realistically Jax figured it must've been only mere minutes -- before Henry joined him on the kerb.
"So," the Gelert began with something that sounded a lot like a sigh. "Let's say this soothsayer is real -- "
"She is-- "
"--and that your flute," at this he gestured to the instrument in question, lying between them on the kerb, "really is like the Mynci Paw... but that alone doesn't mean much. I mean, I know you've read the story. It wasn't the soothsayer or the Mynci Paw that caused all the havoc -- it was the wishes.
"What I'm trying to say is..." He looked at Jax suddenly, eyes wide and full of intent. "What did you wish for?"
Jax felt his breath catch in his throat. Of all the things Henry could've asked, he hadn't been expecting this.
"I -- " He stared at his hand, wringing his fingers together.
"Come on, Jax. What did you wish for? It isn't that difficult a question."
"I, I don't know," he finished lamely.
Henry stared at him, disbelieving. "How could you not know?"
"I didn't know it granted wishes!" Jax said, sounding a lot more exasperated than he really was. "You make wishes when you see a falling star and stuff, you just don't go around thinking 'I wish this', 'I wish that' in hopes that the lamp you just happen to be holding has a genie inside... I didn't make any wishes because I didn't think they would come true. I didn't know, honest."
"So the one who gave the flute to you... she didn't tell you it granted wishes?"
Jax shook his head. "No, she didn't."
"What did she say, then? To convince you to take it?"
"I... I don't know, either. I just sort of took it. I mean, it was magic," he said, catching Henry's expression. "There was probably something about it that made me feel like I had no choice..."
Henry nodded slowly, once again lost in silent contemplation. "So, this can only mean one thing..."
"You made a wish, accidentally, without knowing. And without really meaning it, it came true..."
Jax realised his mouth had dropped open in disbelief, and he closed it firmly. "You know... that actually kind of makes sense."
Henry nodded. "Of course it does. I'm always right."
Jax grinned and punched his shoulder playfully, somehow relieved they could still joke around. But the mirth vanished as quickly as it came, and he became serious once more.
"So... what did I wish for, then?"
Henry shrugged. "Beats me. It's your wish. Just... can you think of anything you might've wished for?"
Jax frowned, then closed his eyes, as if that would help him remember. What would he have wished for? Fame? No, it couldn't have been that. Wealth? No, it wasn't that, either. While everyone entertained thoughts of living a life of luxury, becoming rich had never really been high on his list of priorities. He was happy with what he had, with his books and his...
His eyes snapped open.
Henry was looking at him expectantly. "Well?"
He could picture his old library now, the shelves and shelves of books. All the heavy, ancient books given to him by relatives or found in the dusty back shelves of old bookstores, pages yellowing and filled with even older stories. All his faerietales, the once bright pictures faded from overexposure, the smooth pages nearly falling out, he had read them so much. And all the new stories, too, the pages white and crisp and still smelling of ink. Yes. Of course. There could only be one answer. There had always been only one answer. It was the only thing he'd every wish for.
"Adventure," Jax said. "I wished for adventure..."
Date: Jul 21st
Jax opened his eyes. He made sure to take as much time as possible; very slowly his eyelids split apart to reveal his new scene. He cursed to himself.
He was certainly not in a forest. He was in a glamorous room with shining marble walls and a window that looked up at the starry sky. The dirt beneath his feet had become cushy carpet.
Jax thought about his wish, to be safe. So far it seemed to have worked, but where was he? Every wish that he had made had had horrible results, would this wish be the same? Had Jax escaped the mob only to be put in a worse situation?
The Lupe turned around and saw a large wooden door. Where would it lead if he opened it? He didn't want to take the risk. So far he had only had misfortune, now he just wanted to stay in this room and hide.
He glanced at his flute and gasped. A crack had spread throughout the instrument.
"Serves it right," sneered the Lupe as he tossed it against the wall angrily.
"Adventure?" Henry repeated. "Are you sure? This doesn't seem like any adventure to me."
"I don't know," admitted the Lupe. "But I always hoped that someday something exciting would happen. And remember the Mynci Paw story? None of the wishes ever went as planned."
"True," mumbled the Gelert. "But now that we know this, it should be easy to get you out of this problem."
"Huh," exclaimed Jax, perplexed by his friend's newfound optimism.
"Don't you get it, silly? Just wish away your problems," laughed Henry.
"No, are you crazy?!" snapped Jax. "This flute got me in this problem, and I have a feeling that it'll only make things worse."
"C'mon, there has to be some wish that can't possibly backfire," urged the Gelert. "I know..."
If only he had known back then. Henry was wrong -- there were always consequences. And Jax knew that he was about to find the consequences of his latest wish...
Date: Jul 21st
The silence of the celestial room was starting to unnerve him. Like a daunting task, he knew he'd eventually have to walk through the door that beckoned to him from across the room, but he felt content to prolong the fate he saw residing just on the opposite side. A fate he wasn't sure he was ready to find out.
Yet even before his internal struggle subsided, the wooden door creaked like a whip and slowly began to open, a figure silhouetted with beams of golden light walked from within.
Am I dead? He wondered for one brief moment, and then the familiar features slapped him in the face with recognition. Red fur. Lanky Gelert body. Eyes twinkling like the stars above.
"Henry?" Jax cried in relief. "What -- how did you get here? Where are we? What's going on?"
His friend chuckled, shaking his head. He'd stopped a few paces in the room so that he and Jax stood at opposite ends of the circular walls. The door shut again and they were thrown into silence.
Finally, he spoke, "I'm sure you have a lot of questions; I know I would. First, welcome to my home."
He raised his paw pleasantly, gesturing to the tall marbled pillars and glassed ceiling.
Jax frowned, trying to absorb Henry's words. "You live here? But... this isn't your home... not the one I visited." Questions swarmed in his head. What was Henry saying? None of it made the slightest sense... unless the Gelert owned two homes. But surely Henry would have told him and, he felt with a pang, surely if he could afford something so grand, he might have helped Jax with his financial problems.
"I know what you're thinking. But I didn't acquire this," he raised his hand to gesture at the room once more, "until much later than your financial troubles. Also, if I had helped you, I might not have had it at all." He smiled almost mockingly at Jax's confused expression.
"I still don't understand," Jax said.
"Do you remember how we met?" Henry mused. Hands clasped behind his back, he started walk slowly around the room, tracing the circled arch.
"We met in the Lost Desert," Jax said at once, feeling it was a bit of an off moment to reminisce, but he humoured his friend's question. "I had won an all expenses paid exploration to tour the pyramids. You were part of the group, and we shared a passion for... adventure."
"Adventure, yes," Henry said, his eyes glowing. "Something you wished for, was it not?"
Not following, Jax shrugged. "So you're saying the flute actually brought us together? That there was an upside to my wish?"
Henry smirked. "I certainly think so. See, I'd actually been searching for the elusive paw for quite some time before I met you. Imagine my surprise, when I finally discovered the soothsayer's whereabouts, only to find out it was no longer in her possession. Then there you were, young, naive, flaunting the instrument around your neck. Telling me unwittingly you'd gotten it from some blind old hag who'd claimed it would bring you good fortune. I, however, knew instantly what it was. It was acquiring it that would be the problem."
"Wait, you knew about the paw? The flute, you knew what it was the entire time? Why didn't you tell me?"
"I doubt you would have just handed it over. You said yourself, like magic, it attracted you to keep it. Even now, you itch to pick it up, don't you?" Henry said knowingly, watching Jax's eyes dart to the discarded flute sitting innocently on the carpeted floor.
"Don't bother," Henry said, reaching into his pocket. "For this is the real Mynci's paw." He withdrew a replica of the cracked flute, only his was intact.
"I don't understand," was all Jax could repeat.
"Remember what I told you to wish for last?" Henry asked.
"I wished that I had never met the soothsayer..." Jax whispered, trying to sort the logical puzzle pieces of his thoughts into one coherent string of events.
"Exactly. And so you didn't. That flute," he pointed toward the destroyed instrument, "is nothing more than a flimsy piece of wood. You never met the soothsayer, and so you never acquired the paw. Which allowed me to obtain it when I originally visited the fortuneteller."
"You mean you befriended me this entire time just to get your paws on that... thing?" Jax cried.
"Why am I here?" Jax asked.
At this, Henry's face darkened. "Your second wish. What was it? The reason for all your debt?"
"I don't remember..." Jax muttered.
"C'mon," Henry prodded. "I need you to remember," he almost pleaded.
Slowly, Jax's thoughts swam, memories he wasn't even sure how he still had, until one particular moment in time triggered a flashback...
Date: Jul 22nd
* * *
It was less than a memory, more of a dream that swayed and shifted, quivering every time he tried to grasp it. It was like trying to catch a Delfin that you could only locate in clear water so when you reached for it you were blinded by the ripples caused by your own paw.
Perhaps that was because a dream was exactly what it had been. Slowly, though the effort was great, the memory solidified.
He had fallen asleep in the library of his modest abode. Most of his books were cheaper and stacked together alphabetically from top to bottom but not all. His back was pressed against the glass case that housed his two most valuable possessions. Through a mixture of luck and long, stubborn saving he had acquired two of the three books written by a very famous author and one of his favourites.
The first, a black paperback entitled An Eyrie Evening leaned on its own stand to the right of the glass case. It had been the easiest to obtain and, truth be told, he had never actually read the book. Not to say he hadn't read the story; he had in the library he visited now and then. But he hadn't even dared to pull open the first page in fear it would wear the page in some way, not to mention the value and effort the book came with was just too great to leave to chance. The second book, similarly never read, was The Secret Life of Shadow Shoyru. Luck had been on Jax's side when he had found it being sold in a discount rack by a semi-ignorant Neopian.
Then there was the empty spot in the centre where only a lonely book supporter sat. And though he kept the spot clean, waiting patiently for the day he would have that particular book in his paws, it was worth more than he would likely ever to be able to afford. He had desired that book for how long now? Too long was the answer, such a desperately long time. The last book:
Full Moon Fever.
Only a few had gone into print after some unfortunate accident or something like that. A story of a Werelupe who found betrayal and adventure in his cursed life.
* * *
Jax looked at his powerful paws, dirt-encrusted and matted before looking up at Henry. The Gelert's arms were crossed, brow tilted up expectantly.
"I think I wished for a book, while I was half asleep. I got the bill for it the next day, but the actual book, well, it never made it my way. It's why I couldn't just sell it back," The Lupe muttered. Now that he thought about it, that was when it all began, the weird dreams around moon-high, the sudden desire to howl as the moon rose steadily into the sky, the increase in strength and power.
Henry's face had fallen into a grim mask that read nothing but foreboding, and slowly he walked up to Jax, placing a paw on his wide, muscular shoulder.
"I had hoped that wasn't the case, my friend," he said quietly and carefully, as if he were treading on loose ground and didn't quite know where to step. "May I ask what book?"
Jax whispered the name of the book, and he felt, rather than saw, Henry stiffen and turn away. The Gelert hung his head and took a steadying breath.
"I know that book, Jax... the main character dies at the end of it. He dies to save his friend." Henry's whisper was no more than a shifting of the wind, but Jax still heard. Even as understanding began to dawn on him, he opened his mouth to ask the question.
"Why does it matter?" His friend turned back to look at him sadly.
"Because," his voice quivering, "your life is now playing out that book..."
Date: Jul 22nd
"But surely I just reversed everything!" Jax protested. "After all, I wished never to have met the soothsayer. If I never had the flute, then my first two wishes should no longer affect me..."
He looked down at himself. He was still a Werelupe, still trapped in the form of the beast that he had transformed into shortly after making his second wish.
"Yet your wishes have not been reversed," mused Henry to himself. "How interesting. My life has been completely changed by your third wish, for I acquired the flute when I met the soothsayer instead of you. Yet you remain unaffected." The Gelert looked down at Jax as if he were a rather puzzling conundrum. "Perhaps," he muttered, "that's the curse of your third wish. You wished never to meet the soothsayer, and so you haven't, for I have the flute instead. But the consequences of your wishes remain with you, completely unaltered."
"So why am I here?" demanded Jax. "If my last wish changed nothing in my life but everything in yours, why did I leave the Woods and appear here?"
"A good question," laughed Henry. He looked down at the flute in his hands, caressing its fine wood as if it were something precious. "Perhaps so that you could see the results of your wish, even if it didn't help you at all?" He laughed, as if he found this somehow amusing.
"Did you know this was going to happen?" demanded Jax. "Did you betray me just to get the flute yourself?"
"Not exactly," said Henry softly. "I never knew what was going to happen when you made those wishes. No one can predict the curses that will follow. I didn't even know you had the flute when you made your first wish, so I can hardly be blamed for that, now can I?
"As for your second... well, perhaps I played a part in convincing you to use the power of the flute. But I never told you to wish for a book, and I sincerely hoped that your wishes wouldn't turn out too badly for you. I really didn't want anything bad to happen to you. I simply wanted the flute.
"However, I suppose you can blame me for your third wish. I told you to wish that you had never met the soothsayer, didn't I?" Henry didn't wait for a response; he laughed to himself, twirling the small flute between his fingers idly, as if Jax's curse was some kind of a game.
Jax was angry at Henry's betrayal, but he was also angry with himself, for allowing all of this to happen. From the moment he had realised what the flute was, he should have gotten rid of it, but he had been unable to do so.
He watched Henry twirling the flute through his hands. Once, twice, three times. One, two, three.
Three notes. Three wishes. Three chances.
Did he dare to do it again?
It was dangerous. It could not be trusted. Everything would inevitably go wrong in some way. Jax knew better than anyone that the flute only granted curses, not wishes.
But it was his last chance to change everything.
As Henry stroked the wood of the flute with his fingers, Jax knew what had to be done...
Date: Jul 23rd
Jax took a deep breath. The flute drew him in, just like it had always done. I have to end this, Jax thought to himself. He took another deep breath. The tricky part would be to fool Henry. To deceive who he thought was his best friend. But hadn't Henry done the same to him?
"All right Henry, you win. My entire life has been destroyed because of that flute," Jax said, pointing to the trinket hanging from his former best friend's neck. "As a friend, I warn you to destroy it, now. Before it brings the same fate to you as it has brought to me."
Henry looked down at the flute with a gaze of desire. "You think I'm going to destroy this after I've worked so hard to obtain it?! Three years, three years I've waited for this day! I've thought long and hard how I would phrase my wishes. Three flawlessly developed questions. Nothing can go wrong."
"Would you mind... well... this sounds silly. But ever since the soothsayer introduced me to the Paw, I've been blinded by its power. So, would you mind if I just took a peek at it? I mean, it's destroyed my life. I at least want to see it for what it really is."
Jax held his breath, waiting for Henry's response. The seconds felt like hours. "I mean, I've already cast my three wishes. Not like it's any good to me. And hey, maybe your wishes will help me like mine helped you." Jax hoped that his comment wasn't true. He hoped that he had another three wishes left. And he hoped Henry would follow his plan.
"Erm, sure, I guess. Don't do anything stupid though, okay? You'll regret it, trust me," Henry said. He hesitantly and painfully removed the Paw from his neck. He handed it to Jax, while standing only inches from him, ready to snatch it away if the Werelupe did something suspicious.
Jax delicately drew the Claw closer, feeling its power wash over his body. "It's really beautiful, you know. Even without being tricked by its powers. Where did you get that phony one?" Jax said as he walked over to the broken replica. He picked it up and began comparing the two. In one swift movement, he clasped his giant paw over both flutes, and sighed. "I can't believe I fell for its magic," Jax said, opening his paw. He swiftly shoved the flute in Henry's direction. "Here, take it. Do with it what you please."
It all happened rather fast. Henry regained possession of the Paw with a slight crack down its centre. Jax swiftly turned around and crouched over, his movements distracting Henry from looking at the broken flute in his hand. Jax raised the real flute to his lips with one finger over the first hole.
"I wish I never met Henry," he said as he hastily blew through the flute's mouthpiece.
"No! You deceived me, you stupid Lupe!" Henry lunged for Jax but his massive Werelupe body held its ground.
"I wish I never wished for adventure."
Jax covered the final two holes with his large furry fingers and played his final note.
"I wish the Mynci Paw never existed."
Everything went dark.
Am I dead? Jax thought. I must be, it's how Full Moon Fever ended. I tried to save Henry from the Mynci Paw.
Jax slowly opened his eyes, not knowing what to expect. He opened his eyes to a familiar scene. He was in the produce shop he'd worked at after Henry had taken him in. Confused, he looked around. He wasn't a Werelupe anymore. He wasn't wearing the Mynci Paw around his neck. What is going on, he thought. Had his wishes come true? What would be the consequences?
He looked outside the picture window that showcased all the best fruits and vegetables to window shoppers. Heading toward the store was Henry. Jax gasped. He looked more carefully, noticing a chain around his neck. At the apex of the chain was a blue crystal, not the Mynci Paw. Jax thought to himself, If I don't have it and Henry doesn't have it, it's gone. It's gone.
Henry walked through the door as the entry bell chimed. Here we go, Jax thought.
"Can I help you?"
"Yeah, can I get some flour, please?"
"Sure thing," Jax said as he reached behind him, grabbing a bag of flour. "My name is Jax; let me know if you need anything else."
"Nice to meet you, Jax, my name is Henry."
Date: Jul 23rd
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