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||You are on Week 556
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 Five Hundred Fifty Six Ends Friday, May 18
|It began as an ordinary day for Duchess Verona. The Cybunny awoke in her lavish bed to the sound of her servant wheeling in a breakfast cart. "Be a dear and let some light in here..." Her tone was more demanding than asking.
Without hesitation, Salima scurried over to the window and partially opened the curtains. "That will be fine, Salima. You can leave now." Being dismissed by Duchess Verona, Salima shuffled out of the chamber.
After picking over her breakfast, the Duchess began her morning grooming ritual. It would take her at least two hours to get ready to go out. Part of that time was spent admiring herself in the mirror. Her fluffy locks had to look just perfect.
The Duchess wore a long, elaborately decorated dress that was made of fine imported silk from Shenkuu. She looked graceful and ladylike as she climbed into the carriage that had been waiting outside.
Today she would be traveling from her estate in Brightvale all the way to The Neopian Bazaar. She frequently went shopping at Unis Clothing and the Grooming Parlour. After all, she had a certain reputation to uphold, and she quite liked the finer things in life.
As usual, Salima would be accompanying her on the trip. The green Acara was not enthusiastic about this task, but someone had to carry all of Duchess Verona's shopping bags.
Ah yes, Salima. What a good and loyal servant she was -- rather, what a good actress she was. She'd concealed her true identity as well as she'd hidden her greedy intentions. She was brimming with anticipation due to the notion of wealth and power being within reach...
Date: May 14th
..."Salima, what do you think of this?" Duchess Verona asked her, snapping the Acara out of fantastic visions of wealth. Salima beheld a hideous pink dress, complete with frills, ribbons, glitter, and yes, more frills.
"Simply beautiful!" Salima simpered, plastering on the sugary smile that she had perfected a long time ago. The Duchess looked at the dress again, wrinkled her features, and threw it back on the shelf. She continued to the next rack, and Salima followed without missing a beat.
With Duchess Verona distracted again, Salima once more turned her attention toward the carefully laid out plans she had set. If all went well tonight, then more wealth than she could ever want would be hers before the sun rose the following day.
What if something goes wrong? a small voice asked in Salima's head. She silenced it at once, just as she had many times before. No, tonight would be perfect. Tonight, Duchess Verona would be hosting a surprise birthday for her dear friend, Lord Motesolin.
And what a surprise it would be...
Date: May 14th
..."They're all atrocious!"
Salima's reverie was again broken by the Duchess. They were on the carriage ride home and the Cybunny had pulled all of her new gowns from their bags, leaving them carelessly strewn across the cabin. Just another mess for Salima to clean up.
"How could you think this one was right for the party?" she shrieked, holding a particularly shimmery blue gown in the air and then throwing it to the cabin floor with such melodrama that she could have been on a stage. "Nothing off the rack ever flatters my shape! Alina will just have to make one for tonight."
"My Lady, with respect, surely you can't expect the girl to have a new gown made by tonight."
"She can and she will," the Duchess replied with tight lips, sticking her nose slightly in the air, a signal to Salima that she'd best keep her mouth shut.
Poor Alina, thought Salima. If there was anyone more abused on the Duchess's staff than Salima, it was Alina, a tenderhearted Mynci seamstress. Alina could work magic with a needle, fashioning gowns that could make a fairly chunky Cybunny -- the Duchess did love her bonbons -- look like the royal celebrity she fancied herself to be. The Mynci even handmade the lace for all of the Duchess's gowns, but the miserable girl was constantly ordered to create such intricate works in such little time that she'd probably go blind before she turned thirty.
No matter, Salima thought. This is the last gown Alina will ever have to make for that wretched Cybunny.
When finding allies amongst the staff to help with her plan, Salima had hinted around to Alina about it, but the Mynci was so guileless that she hadn't even picked up the hint. Still, Salima planned to leave her with enough Neopoints so that she'd never have to work for anyone again.
After a long and silent ride, they finally arrived at the estate. Duchess Verona stormed off without a word to find Alina, leaving Salima to pick up and carry in all of the new gowns that she had bought but would never wear. The Acara did so quickly, thinking all the while that this was her last day of servitude, that soon she'd be the one ordering servants around. With the gowns haphazardly stuffed into a closet, Salima ran downstairs to the kitchen chamber while she still had a bit of time away from the Duchess.
In the drab kitchen, a tired old Blumaroo, Smundrik, stood over an enormous cauldron, stirring and mumbling to himself. Smundrik had been the first of the staff to jump onboard with Salima's plan, and the most important. He brightened up a bit at the sight of Salima.
"Is it ready for the party?" she asked, gesturing at the cauldron. A malicious grin spread across the chef's face.
"Darling, I can almost taste that gold..."
Date: May 15th
..."They will be there, yes?" Salima responded smoothly, keeping her voice as natural as possible. What she said now was not a secret, and whispering would only alert the other kitchen servants to a plot.
"Certainly," the old Blumaroo confirmed. "I've checked the guest list twice to make sure, and both the Kings of Meridell and Brightvale will, indeed, be there."
"Perfect," she murmured to herself. She then glanced toward the concoction, looked back at the cook, and allowed the edges of her mouth to curl up in a small smile; Smundrik's reply -- a knowing smirk -- was enough to assure her that the plan was underway.
She found Duchess Verona in her bedchamber, slathering on face powder as though it were paint. The Cybunny looked as silly as ever, wearing a towering silver wig, a dress that was more a mess of purple lace, and at least a dozen pieces of gold jewelry, but Salima forced her face into a sugary smile anyway and said, "You look lovely, my Lady."
Verona squinted at her reflection in the mirror. "I do, don't I, Salima?" she purred. "I'll be the belle of the ball tonight!"
Maybe not the belle, but you'll certainly be standing out tonight, Salima thought to herself, snickering silently at the brilliant piece of double-meaning.
As she had expected, Lord Motesolin was the last guest to arrive at the party. While she understood the concept of being "fashionably late," she couldn't help but grow impatient as the hands on the clock ticked the time away; the sooner her arrived, the faster she could put her plan into action. The Kings, Skarl and Hagan, had already arrived and were spooning punch into cups. Both of them proved popular among the guests -- which was understandable, considering who they were -- but they ignored Salima, which worked out only too well for her.
"Psst," someone hissed. Salima jumped at the voice, calming down only when she saw Alina's face emerge from behind the curtain. "Is he here yet?"
"Motesolin? No," Salima replied.
Alina sighed and slipped back behind the curtains. Lord Motesolin didn't arrive for another half hour, and by then, most of the guests had already finished their finger cheeses and first glasses of punch. He arrived in style, though, bursting into the hall with a trumpet fanfare and then promptly going in search of Duchess Verona.
Out of the corner of her eye, Salima saw Smundrik carrying the tureen of soup that he'd been making out to the table...
Date: May 15th
...With neither fanfare nor announcement, the Blumaroo chef returned to the kitchen, continuing to act the part of the loyal servant. The bowls and spoons were already set, ready to bring the big surprise to the party. Of course, the first of the guests to notice that the soup had arrived was King Skarl.
When Salima saw how much the Skeith had taken, she was initially nervous that there wouldn't be enough for the other guests. However, Smundrik had assured her that there would be enough, even with the King of Meridell's famous appetite. King Hagan was next, giving his brother a quick distasteful look at the amount of soup he had taken before taking a bowl for himself.
One by one, the guests of the party partook of the soup. Barons. Dukes. Ladies-in-waiting. Each one took some soup for themselves before returning to the party. When Salima saw Duchess Verona and Lord Motesolin at the end of the line, she knew it was only a matter of time. She could hardly contain herself as she counted down the minutes until their plan would be put to action.
Salima had to keep herself from grinning evilly when she saw the plump Cybunny and Motesolin take their share. Yes, this would be a great birthday surprise for the Korbat.
"May I have your attention please?" Duchess Verona said once everyone had their soup. "I'd like to propose a toast to Lord Motesolin on his birthday! May he have many more!"
A few cheers went up through the crowd and everyone took a drink of their punch at once before returning to the soup.
Then, all at once, the guests began to hack and cough. It was time. The soup was taking effect. For you see, the chef Smundrik was more than an excellent cook. He was also a master of potion making... and the soup was his finest creation.
In a matter of minutes, all of the party guests had been turned into...
Date: May 16th
Exact squishy replicas of themselves. Salima gave out a bark of laughter and bounded merrily through the discarded bowls and spoons littering the floor to pluck one especially stuffed Cybunny from the ground.
The small toy was wearing a purple embroidered dress and the button eyes stared unseeingly back at the Acara, who smiled triumphantly.
Not in the talkative mood now, huh Duchess? she thought.
"Brilliant work, chef," she said, giving a mock applause and then tossing aside the Duchess Verona plushie, which hit the ground with a small squeak.
Smundrik gave a dramatic bow. "Always a pleasure. Now what?"
"Now... we find the gold!" Salima answered, her eyes twinkling excitedly.
Alina couldn't believe what she'd seen. Hidden behind the tapestry, she'd been idly (and somewhat longingly) watching the festivities take place. She noticed how the Duchess had flowed gracefully in the gown that she had painstakingly made only this afternoon, not bothering to mention the Mynci at all.
Yes, the Duchess was self absorbed, a tad rude, and not appreciative most of the time, but to turn her into a plushie?
She scarcely breathed as she saw Salima and the chef laugh uproariously and then mention something about gold.
Alina put two and two together and cursed herself for not seeing this coming, as Salima had approached her only days ago and hinted at this very idea.
She shook her head. It wasn't right. Not to mention poor King Skarl... granted, he ate quite a lot and spent most of his time demanding jokes instead of running the kingdom, but what would Meridell do without their leader?
The Mynci sighed and, gathering her resolve, followed the echoing footsteps of Salima and the chef...
Date: May 16th
...As they strode toward the master bedroom. When Salima paused for a moment, Alina dove hastily into the nearest alcove.
"The other servants are taken care of, right?" Salima asked, frowning. As he processed Salima's question, Smundrik faltered before turning to face her.
"Of course. They're in the kitchen, and shouldn't wake for at least several days," Smundrik responded, eyeing Salima. "Well, except Alina. The poor girl was exhausted. I brought her food to her room instead. Why?"
"I thought I heard footsteps. Perhaps I'm simply nervous," Salima concluded, flowing forward once again.
"Perhaps," Smundrik echoed thoughtfully as he marched after her, still frowning.
Releasing a relieved breath, Alina crept forward. She decided it would be best to trail a corridor or so behind the pair. After all, they had already turned numerous powerful nobles into plushies. One lone servant girl would be easy to handle by comparison.
Alina slipped into the shadow of an elaborate tapestry as the merry masterminds entered Duchess Verona's bedchamber. Alina would still be able to hear the duo's voices from behind the tapestry without risking discovery.
A sudden screech snapped Alina's attention back to the dastardly duo.
"Now? Why betray me now?" The voice was unrecognizable. "You--"
A bloodcurdling crunch cut off whatever might have come next. Alina slowly sank to the floor, a hand clapped over her mouth...
Date: May 17th
...Alina awoke finding herself in a dark, dimly-lit room, bound tightly to a chair.
Next to her, on either side, were two more chairs. One contained Smundrik and the other Salima; they were both struggling to escape from their unknown captor.
Joyful humming rang in Alina's Mynci ears, and she could barely make out a silhouette in the darkness. The air smelled foul -- as if the silhouette was brewing some sort of concoction.
Fear filled Alina's mind. What's going to happen to me? Why I did I have the courage to follow those two criminals?!? Now I'm going to be penalized for their crime...
Alina's questions were soon answered -- the figure stepped into the light.
An old, green Moehog sneered at her captive audience.
"For those of you who don't know," she said, staring at Alina, "My name is Morguss. I'm best known for specializing in alchemy for the great Lord Kass, and Smundrik here hired my assistance."
Salima glared at the Blumaroo, who attempted an innocent smile.
"I provided the plushie recipe to Smundrik, in exchange for a small sum of the fortune and a chance to exact my revenge on King Skarl -- a fair exchange, no? Unfortunately, he decided to skip out on his end, and that's why all of you are here." A smug grin covered Morguss's face as she held up the concoction. "I've prepared quite the... drink for all of you to enjoy."
The potion smelled absolutely vile, and a menacing dark cloud surrounded it.
Morguss slowly walked toward Alina.
Alina gulped, desperately looking for a way to escape...
Date: May 17th
...When Samila suddenly spoke up.
"You're not going to turn us into plushies too, are you?" she asked, obviously in fake shock.
The Moehog looked almost insulted. "Of course not! I have something much more elaborate in mind. This brew--"
"Please, spare me the details!" Smundrik groaned. "If I have to listen to some long lecture on potions then I'll surely die of boredom before you even get the chance to poison us."
The witch turned on him, red-faced. "How dare you!" she screamed. "This is no simple poison!"
Alina listened to the witch's plan in horror, until she felt something bump against her leg. She jumped in her seat, then turned and realized it was Samila, sitting in the chair next to her. While Morguss's attention was on the Blumaroo, she mouthed something to her. The Mynci could only discern the final word, but it was enough: plan.
The Acara jerked her head down toward the floor. Alina stared at the floor for a moment before she saw something catch the light; a closer look revealed a small knife tied to her calf.
Alina's eyes widened, and she nodded once. She returned her attention to the still-ranting Moehog while carefully slipping her tail out from behind the ropes that bound her. The Mynci silently grabbed the knife, brought it around the the back of her chair, and sawed at the ropes.
"And that is only the beginning!" Morguss was saying. "With King Skarl under my power, I could become the ruler of Meridell, or I could make him surrender the land to Darigan. I've stalled too much already, though." She turned back to Alina, who flinched in surprise, almost dropping her tool. "I suppose I'll start with you," she said with a cackle, "so your little leader can watch her friends become my servants."
"But I'm not with her," Alina rasped. The Moehog, whether she'd heard her or not, held the cup under her nose.
What startled her was that the potion no longer smelled horrible; once the black mist reached her nose, it seemed almost tempting to drink. She began to open her mouth, and probably would have had a drink, but she heard a small snap and the ropes around her loosened the tiniest bit.
Morguss looked confused for a moment by the sound, so the Mynci simply let her instincts take over. She leapt up from the chair and pushed the Moehog back with all her might. The black potion spilled on Morguss as she stumbled, splashing her in the eyes. The witch let out a screech as she tried to rub the liquid out.
Still acting on a whim, Alina quickly sliced through Samila's ropes, and then Smundrik's. "Let's get out of here!" she yelled and they took off running into the hall, with the enraged Moehog chasing behind them.
The three ran as fast as they could, which thankfully was much faster than the old hag. They began to lose her in the Duchess's labyrinthine hallways and, after turning a corner and ducking through an open door, Morguss ran right by their hiding spot.
They waited a little while to catch their breath, but once it was clear that she wasn't coming back, they all sighed in relief.
"Now all we have to do," Alina said, panting slightly, "is find out how to change all those Neopets back to normal, right?"
"No need for that!" Smundrik insisted. "They'll eventually turn back on their own. Right now, we need to get out of here! What do you think?"
His question was aimed at Samila, but the Acara had walked off toward one side of the room. She was staring at a huge painting on the wall, an enormous depiction of Duchess Verona in a beautiful (if not gaudy) pink and purple dress, dancing across a ballroom.
"This is it," Samila breathed. "Her safe is just behind here!"
The other two just stared at her.
"Don't you understand? All the gold we could ever want is behind this tacky painting. Come on Smundrik, help me lift it!"
"Have you lost it?" Alina said boldly. "Now isn't the time to focus on stealing!"
"Honestly Masila, the girl is right," the Blumaroo sighed.
Alina's eyebrows shot up. "Masila?!?"
Smundrik, equally horrified at his own words, slapped a hand to his mouth. It was too late, though; the damage had already been done...
Date: May 18th
..."Look at what you've done now!" Salima -- Masila -- wailed, pointing madly at the old Blumaroo. "If she tells--"
"They would have known anyway!" Smundrik shot back.
"Whatever," the Acara said, then turned back to the painting. "Restrain her or something, will you?"
Although unwillingly, Smundrik did as told, clamping a hand around Alina's mouth. The seamstress let out a muffled scream and struggled against him, only for Smundrik to kick her in the shin. Quieted, Alina stopped moving and watched helplessly as Masila, with her knife, slashed the painting into bits. Ripped pieces of canvas and chunks of frame came falling to the floor as she managed to hack a hole right through the painting and, finally, a small niche in the wall was revealed.
She cut away a few more sections of the painting, until the hole was large enough for her to stick both hands through. Masila reached through the painting and pulled the safe out of its hiding place, only to find that it was too heavy for her to carry.
"Come over here and help me with this," she ordered, letting the safe fall to the ground.
"I thought you wanted me to--"
"She won't do anything," the Acara said, twisting and turning the lock. With a click, the door of the safe opened and a pile of gold pieces spilled out, followed immediately by several pieces of glittering jewelry.
Smundrik's eyes widened at the sight of the riches and he released Alina, running over to Masila's side. He looped a few necklaces over his head and slid on the Duchess's gold bracelets, dumping a few rings in his pocket for good measure.
"Come on," Masila said. "Before they wake up."
She took a sack of gold and slung it over her shoulder, preparing to walk away. Smundrik followed, the jewels clinking against each other with every step he took.
"Stop!" Alina cried, suddenly jumping to her feet. "You can't take those!"
Instead of replying, Masila reached toward her calf. Alina shrank back immediately. The two thieves ran down the hall, the sound of clinking jewelry and heavy footsteps gradually fading away... only to be joined by a screech that Alina vaguely recognized as Morguss's voice. She sank to the canvas-covered floor as the sounds of their encounter echoed through the hallways.
The Duchess Verona found herself suddenly waking up, her head pounding.
The last thing she recalled was drinking soup, and then... something. She must have fallen asleep, she concluded. All around her, guests were rising. Some appeared to be made out of felt, while others were slowly turning back.
Something had happened.
She raced down the hallways, sensing that something was wrong, and indeed, when she turned the corner, she found that the painting of herself in the pink dress had been slashed to pieces, while her seamstress sat, crying, in the midst of the remains.
"What's going on?" she asked breathlessly.
Alina raised her head despairingly. "My Lady. I am so sorry..."
"Salima... Masila... she--"
Those words were all the Duchess needed to understand.
"Hush now," the Cybunny said, peering through the hole in the painting. "It's alright."
Although she wanted to say something to comfort the Mynci, it was probably best that she remain quiet.
"What do you mean, they're fake?!" Masila shrieked, a bloodcurdling scream that caused everyone in the black market to look around in shock. "They can't be fake!"
The merchant shook his head and pointed toward the reading on the scale. "Fake as can be, m'dear."
"They're real!" the Acara screamed, leaning over the stall so that her face was just inches from the merchant's.
"Come on, Masila," Smundrik said quietly. "You're making a scene..."
"They are not!"
He gently pulled her away from the merchant, sweeping the gold pieces into a bag as he went. "My apologies," he whispered to the market, leading the Acara off. Then, to Masila, he said, "Calm it."
"After all that work, too--"
"Just accept that the Duchess was smarter than you gave her credit for," the Blumaroo said sternly. "She was shallow, but she wasn't stupid."
Date: May 18th
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