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Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)

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Week 232
You are on Week 233
Week 234

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 Two Hundred and Thirty-Three Ends July 8th

The gavel slammed down onto the wooden podium, as the auctioneer shouted, "Sold! To the Shoyru in the front!" Tony jumped for joy. He had been eyeing the impressive white sword for hours, ever since he had come into the Auction House that afternoon. The auctioneer described the item as the "Sword of Heroes", a magnificent sabre that lent its power to anyone pure of heart.

For months, Tony had been listlessly wandering around Neopia Central, searching for a way he could be useful to the community. He had always wanted to be a hero, and to stop evil; however, he felt that he lacked the strength to do anything. This sword would change all of that, though. Anything named the Sword of Heroes had to have magical powers that would allow him to strike down evil. Maybe he could even wear a cool costume like Judge Hog!

Grinning as his mind thought of how much better things would be now, the young Shoyru eagerly accepted the box containing his new sword as he handed the auctioneer his Neopoints. Hugging the box tightly to his chest, he quickly headed home to start the beginning of what he thought would be the very exciting and glamorous life of a superhero...

Author: is dancing around happily.
Date: 24th June
…a life that, incidentally, began with a trip and a very hurried conference with the pavement. His box was sent spinning out of his hands as he went sprawling. “Ow!” Tony grumbled, pushing himself up on his knees and brushing the dust out of his short, velvety Shoyru fur.

When he raised his eyes to locate his lost box, he froze. Apparently it had been heavy enough to trip someone else, someone he had scarcely noticed hurrying along the path in the opposite direction. The Neopet had been wearing a nondescript grey-brown coat, which was much too large for him, as he was very young. The Neopet was currently trying to sort out its limbs, as it had landed in a similar state as the blue Shoyru.

“Ah, I’m sorry,” Tony flushed in embarrassment and hurriedly retrieved his sword. “I didn’t mean to—“ he paused, shocked by the rather stunned face that stared back at him.

It was a shadow Ruki, one with a pair of coppery-golden eyes. Tony knew he’d seen that face before, but this Ruki was very young, maybe even younger than Tony. He scowled fiercely and pulled his grey coat even more tightly around him. “’s fine,” he mumbled. His voice was soft, almost inaudible.

Tony was still trying to place where he’d seen the Ruki before, when it struck him: he rather looked like the villain from one of his favorite games, Dice Escape, only much younger and without that telltale gleam of true evil intent in his eye… “Hey, you look—”

But once again he was cut off, for the Ruki hurried off in a flurry of segmented limbs, holding his large pincers securely against his narrow chest. Tony watched him go, dumbfounded. Eventually he shrugged and pegged it to some Defender of Neopia convention, and was about to turn back to go home when something small caught his attention from the corner of his eye.

He felt a chill when he stared at it fully. The feeling doubled when he picked it up; even though it was a die, and nothing more.

Somehow, he suspected that his troubles were only just beginning…

Author: kyuukon
Date: 27th June
...The smooth surface of the die felt cold and glassy to the touch, like a multifaceted diamond or crystal, though the die was not transparent. Black like the night sky -- or as Tony recollected with a shudder, like the Shadow Ruki's darkened exoskeleton -- the thing seemed to suck every bit of light to come in contact with its glossy faces.

And it was the faces that slightly miffed the Shoyru.

All twenty-one of them.

Never before had Tony, in all his time spent playing Dice Escape or attending Defenders of Neopia conventions, ever seen a dice with that many sides. And they definitely weren’t marked "1 to 21" either. Instead, a single runic, character adorned each and every face, almost like "those hieroglyphs on Coltzan’s Shrine," he mused.

Then a sudden thought hit him, and he smacked himself on the forehead for not thinking about it earlier. "If I’m going to be a hero then I should be returning this to its rightful owner!" he said to himself gallantly, stuffing the dice into his shirt pocket for safe-keeping.

And so Tony turned to race down the street where he had last seen the Ruki, his wings flapping rapidly and his new sword swinging dangerously at his belt, a pleased smile forming on his lips. "My first good deed! A little simple but every hero has to start somewhere--"

"Oops," gasped Tony suddenly, for the innocuous-looking dice had slipped from its resting-place, making sharp clicking sounds as it bounced off the stony pavements. Immediately the Shoyru made like a Korbat out of a lab as he bolted after the rapidly retreating die.

Then suddenly, as if struck by an invisible wall, the black shape skipped back, shivered for a moment and stopped dead on the slightly sloping street. Tony ground to a halt directly above it, his blood running cold as his eyes fixed upon the object.

One of the die's faces, the one turned towards him, was undulating and shimmering slightly, its unnerving symbol twisting into the familiar form of...

Author: scarrift
Date: 28th June
...a sword. And not just any sword, but the Sword of Heroes. It was unmistakable. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed that side before; it was certainly conspicuous among all the other rune symbols. What made Tony even more unsettled was the fact that the tip of the sword pointed in what he knew was the direction of the desert, its point glowing brightly as though urging him to travel that direction. His heart skipped a beat. Could it be a quest for him to prove his worth? He could sense that this wasn’t a coincidence; there was something hidden in the Lost Desert, and soon he would finally earn the title of a hero.

He picked the die up and put it in his pocket once again, a dreamy smile spreading across his face. All the glory, all the riches -- he simply couldn’t wait…

Tony quickly ran off in the direction the die had given him. He was so anxious to finally embark on a noble quest that he didn’t notice the die had slipped out of his pocket once again, nor did he notice the shadow Ruki picking it up again.

“Foolish boy,” the Ruki murmured to himself, shaking his head. “He doesn’t know what he is getting himself into…”

Meanwhile Tony made his journey, aiming for Coltzan's shrine, hoping it would be able to give him some guidance. He felt the unexplainable need to check that he still had his sword, time and time again, and every time he was reassured by its sight. After the twenty-first time he did this, he looked up to discover he was lost -- completely and utterly lost.

“Ahh, every hero has his trials and difficulties that he must overcome!” the Shoyru muttered. He glanced around again: there was sand to his left, sand to his right, and sand right in front of him. He checked on his sword again, and decided to take it out so that he could draw a line in the sand to mark his path. Not a wise decision when the winds were blowing, but Tony had never been recognised as being particularly “wise” by any of his schoolteachers.

After a few minutes however, he saw a sign of life in the distance. It appeared to be a sand merchant. Or so he thought…

Author: hpmons_again
Date: 28th June
..."I'll just ask for directions," Tony said to himself, straining against the winds that pressed him back. "And maybe he needs help; the good deeds are just piling up!"

An exuberant smile plastered across his face, the little blue Shoyru flew toward the merchant, but was surprised to find that as he got closer, the "merchant" began to materialize into something else entirely.

What Tony had mistaken for a caravan was really a large wall of stone carved with a scene that he couldn't quite make out. Curious, he peered closer, sweeping a hand across the sandy expanse and revealing a tad bit more of the carvings. There appeared to be a picture of a large Kacheek dressed in extravagant armor pointing toward... something.

Tony was instantly intrigued, and he began to wipe at the rest of the depiction, searching for what could possibly be the main focus of the wall and, after a final swipe, he revealed a doorway surrounded by beautiful rays. That must have been what the Kacheek was pointing at. Maybe he was trying to show Tony something. He was obviously a great warrior; maybe he wanted Tony to follow in his footsteps!

The little Shoyru's chest puffed out as he began to think about the greatness that lay in his future, and he reached in his pocket for the dice that had begun it all. With a start, he noticed that that particular item no longer habitated his pocket, and he began to rummage through his clothing with a disgruntled groan. Of course, the die was nowhere to be found, and he reached for his sword for reassurance but found that it had left him also! A great shriek escaped him as he felt at the sheath and looked about him, hoping to find it lying carelessly in the sands, but it was all in vain. He had lost both the die and his precious sword!

Greatly discouraged, he fell back in the sands and looked up at the wall angrily. "If it hadn't have been for that stupid--" he began, but then he noticed that the Kacheek was no longer only pointing at the doorway; he now held the Sword of Heroes within his grasp! Surprised and rather confused, Tony scrambled to his feet and rushed forward, running his hands over the wall. It was HIS sword! "Hey, you thief!" Tony yelled, pounding on the wall, "Give me my sword back!" Suddenly, there was a loud cracking sound that filled the air, resonating within the empty desert, and Tony raised an arm to shield his eyes from a blinding illumination...

Author: xrunxwxscissorsx
Date: 29th June
...as the rays around the door suddenly lit up with real light. A brilliant crack had appeared all around the door; impossibly, it was opening...

The light was sun-bright, searing-bright white, and Tony thought he saw rainbows around the edges, but perhaps that was only because of the pained tears in his eyes. He reeled backward, eyelids flinching shut, and there was a slam.

The light went away. At least, it returned to a normal level, maybe even a little softer than the harsh sun of the Lost Desert. Tony waited until the pain receded and cautiously opened his eyes.

He was lying on grass. Thin, scanty, rather brown grass in sandy dirt, but grass nonetheless. There was a palm tree and a pool of water nearby. And next to him, the lost die lay with the Sword of Heroes on one side, and uppermost was the image of the door with rays around it.

"Esteemed young arrival," said a warm, deep woman's voice, "you are welcome. Are you well?"

Tony looked up and around in confusion, rising off his elbows, and was astounded to discover that the voice belonged to the tall, elegantly armored Kacheek. She leaned down and offered him her hand; dumbfounded, he reached up, and she gripped his wrist firmly and brought him to his feet. Tony rubbed his forehead in confusion, then came fully to attention as he saw that she was wearing his sword! "That -- that sword--" And there he stopped, too indignant to continue.

To his surprise, the warrior let him go and bowed deeply. "The Sword of Heroes! My deepest thanks for it."

"Er... pardon?"

She looked at him uncertainly. "Did you not give it to me, only moments ago?"

"I wasn't here only moments ago!" And he certainly hadn't given her the sword. That had taken all his allowance for the past six months! On the other hand, something was obviously going on that he didn't understand, and heroes were supposed to be courteous. "I'm sorry," he said, "I'm a little confused. A few minutes ago, I was traveling through the desert, on a... a quest." He thought it was a quest, anyway. "And I stopped to examine the markings on a wall...."

"Strange magic indeed must be at work here!" said the warrior. "I myself am on a quest, although a moment past I believed it completed. I was told by a seer that for aid in serving my land and people, I must seek the Shoyru of the Wall. This I did, searching far and wide across the worlds, and at last I came here." She pointed, in an attitude strikingly similar to that of the image that had pointed to the door. Tony turned, and gaped.

The wall was still there. The door was the same. But instead of a tall armored Kacheek, there was the image of a Shoyru with an empty scabbard and a fist upraised.

"Here I saw a Shoyru making a gesture of victory and readiness, small yet fierce," the Kacheek said, "and so bold and strong that he wore only his own skin for armor! I puzzled long over what I was to do here, and tried speaking to the wall... oh, many things. At last I began to touch it, and when I put my hand over the hilt of the sword, it came free in my hand."

"Oh," said Tony dazedly. He stared at the wall a moment longer, and noticed that the image also included the Shadow Ruki. Sunlight glinted off one of its eyes. He jerked his attention back to the Kacheek. "Well, my name's Tony." And he really liked her description of the Shoyru of the Wall, even if she had taken his sword. "And maybe I can help with your quest...."

Author: schefflera
Date: 29th June
...There was a sudden flicker of uncertainty in her eyes. "I'd appreciate your aid," she began, and lowered her voice. "But what side are you on?"

Tony blinked. "Side? I don't know what you mean."

Looking left and right over her shoulders, as if suspecting that eavesdropping spies awaited behind the thin palm trees, the Kacheek whispered, "Are you for the Advisor... or are you part of the Rebellion?"

Tony stared at her blankly. "Excuse me?"

The Kacheek looked relieved that he didn't have a side. "Well, you wouldn't know, being stuck in a wall, would you?" she asked, visibly relaxed. "I can tell you, then, without worrying that you might betray me -- that you might be in his service."

"I'd like to hear about it," encouraged Tony, dropping to sit on the sparse grass.

"We weren't always ruled by him," began the Kacheek, gazing distantly across the desert as if into another time. "We had a King long ago -- a Shoyru, like you -- who died heirless. His main advisor, a shadow Ruki who we believe to have mystical powers, promised be a steward -- to rule until we found someone to take his place." Her glace returned to Tony. "He never let that happen. He bribes the ruling nobles, frightens the people with his strict punishment, and controls the army with his sorcery. His stewardship has become a dictatorship, and only a few of us have the courage to try and stop him. That is why I am here."

Tony gaped at her speechlessly, then realized his mouth was hanging open and shut it with a click. Could this be the very same shadow Ruki who had dropped the die?

It wasn't hard for Tony to make up his mind. This would, undoubtedly, be the adventure he'd been seeking. "I'd love to help you," he said. "Where should we go?"

The Kacheek smiled, and lifted up the Sword of Heroes, holding it loosely in her paw. "We'll let the sword guide us..."

Editor's Note: Since we think this story is pretty cool, and since next Monday is a holiday, we've decided to extend this story to two weeks. It will now end on Friday, July 8th. Huzzah! :)

Author: laurelinden
Date: 30th June
...The blade began to glow in an opalescent light, filling the air with a soft humming noise. The sunlight that poured down from above rimmed the blade in gold in such a way that Tony became transfixed by the beauty of it all. The Kacheek, on the other hand, did not think much of it.

"Sword of truth and sword of might, guide us with thy perfect light." The Kacheek's words were loud and clear, penetrating the humming noise. She removed her grip entirely from the sword's hilt -- and to Tony's amazement, the glittering weapon remained in the air, floating by itself.

It flashed brightly, loosing a blinding wave of light. Tony suddenly realized that it was the same light that had blinded him when he had found the Kacheek etched onto the wall. He also realized this was unsettlingly similar to the Sword of Heroes he had seen on the Ruki's die.

Was this some magic property of the sword? He had always known the sword was special, but never something as fantastic as this! His eyes glowed with awestricken wonder of the sword, and a sense of peace washed over him.

The sword stopped shining so brilliantly. The tip of its blade was pointing northeast. As it faded back to normality, the magical weapon tumbled from the air and crashed down onto the dusty sands below, where the Kacheek gingerly retrieved it.

"Ah, the Sword of Heroes," she murmured fondly. "Did you know it was capable of something like that? Well, we now know the direction of the Sakhmet Palace."

"W-What's your name?" Tony asked suddenly. The Kacheek gave him a gentle smile, eyes radiating warmth.

"I'm Solarkis," she replied. "Otherwise known as Lady Solarkis, or Solarkis the Beautiful. What was your name again, Shoyru of the Wall?"

"I'm Tony," he replied meekly. "Just... Tony."

"You'll receive a title in time," she assured him, placing a paw on his shoulder. "But for now, we must proceed in our quest."

"I have a question, Solarkis," Tony stated as they began walking across the dunes in the direction the sword had led them. "Is the Advisor... does he like to play games?"

Solarkis came to a halt. "The Advisor loves games. He receives enjoyment out of them in the most despicable of ways. He's known to play cruel mind games with his prisoners, and gamble with not money, but lives."

Tony suddenly felt very uncertain about the task he was undertaking.

Solarkis continued. "They say he's an expert at not winning, but cheating. They say he has a magical artifact capable of discerning what he needs to do to succeed; a magical artifact from the Royal Treasury, no doubt. They say this artifact can even make the Advisor win at any game he plays."

Tony suddenly remembered the small, glossy black die he had found that the Shadow Ruki had dropped. The strange and mysterious item with cryptic runes... the item that had shown him the Sword of Heroes, pointing in the direction of the desert.

There wasn't a doubt in Tony's mind. He knew that the Ruki's die was this mysterious artifact.

"They even say that this artifact can choose who uses it," Solarkis whispered. "And that it has more powers than just cheating..."

Author: really_awesome_d00d
Date: 30th June
..."More?" Tony asked. With a start, he realized that the die was still back at the wall; it had been lying beside him when he met Solarkis. He had just turned to run back and retrieve it when he realized it was in his paw.

"It is magical," Tony murmured, feeling its glossy black surface. Solarkis whirled around, startled.

"You mean you have it?" she cried.

Tony showed her the die in his paw. "I have it. Or rather... it has me. It's strange, but... I think it chose to travel with me."

Solarkis nodded. "A die -- a gambling object. It makes sense. You see? You cannot control it, and it chooses who uses it. But there is more -- strange tales tell of this artifact telling the future, recounting the past, and..." the Kacheek broke off.

"What is it?" Tony asked, suddenly feeling cold despite the desert heat.

"Some stories say that the die, no matter whom it follows, is always solely the slave of the Shadow Ruki. So even though you may think you command it... it is really... commanding you."

Seeing the troubled look on Tony's face, Solarkis laughed. Her laugh banished his fear. "We needn't worry about such things, Tony. Listening to legends will only distract from our quest."

Tony's heart leapt with joy. Our quest. He was now officially part of it -- of something noble and heroic. Something important.

Together the two walked in the direction of Sakhmet Palace. Tony, as he walked, began to piece together some of this mystery. Somehow, he was on the other side of that wall. He was still in Neopia... but there was something peculiar about it that he couldn't place. He had heard nothing of this ruler Solarkis had talked of until today. And even though the places had the same names and were in the right spots, something was different. As Tony and Solarkis entered the shadow of Sakhmet palace, the Shoyru tried his hardest to figure out why everything seemed so unusual...

Author: dreamgirl11dy
Date: 1st July
...but the connection eluded him. As desperately as his mind struggled to grasp the missing piece of information, he could not place what made him uneasy about the palace.

The feeling was temporarily driven from Tony's mind as they entered the Sakhmet Palace gates.

The first thing noticeable was the silence. Various pets, all in traditional desert garb, hastily walked through the marketplace stalls, eyes downcast and voices low. It was obvious that the people of Sakhmet feared to draw attention to themselves, skittishly purchasing their goods before moving on. It was nothing like the boisterous and merry place Tony remembered.

"What happened?" Tony whispered to Solarkis, the horror evident in his words.

The Kacheek, who didn't seem particularly shocked or surprised, grimly answered, "It has been this way since the Advisor took over. He cares nothing for our people, only of his own selfish gains." Her voice, which was already quiet, grew even more soft. "There is said to be an heir that was lost -- third cousin, I believe. If we could find a way to defeat the Advisor, it would be he that would take the throne."

"Who is it?" Tony asked, curiousity shining in his eyes.

Solarkis shook her head wistfully. "That's the problem; the Rebellion has no way of identifying him."

They continued to move through the streets, and again Tony had the nagging sensation that something wasn't quite right about the palace. It pierced the back of his mind like a splinter; the solution was right there, he knew it...

"Please ma'am, it's all I have--" The small, imploring voice attracted Tony's attention, and he turned to find its origin.

The voice belonged to a Lupe child with silky grey-brown fur and a tail tipped in white. He was trying to buy something from a food stall, and had emptied his pockets onto the table. The keeper, a pale yellow Aisha, was shaking her head.

"Sorry, kid, it just isn't enough," she was saying, looking down at the meager pile of coins.

"I'll pay you back, I promise!" the tiny lupe cried, but the shopkeeper merely shook her head, pushing the coins back to him.

"Excuse me," said another person entirely, and Tony turned around, startled. Solarkis had noticed the child's dilemma, and was holding out a pawful of gold. "Will this be enough?"

The Aisha smiled, accepted the currency wordlessly, and handed the Lupe a tchea fruit. The Lupe clung to it protectively, his bright, amber eyes reflecting admiration and gratitude as he looked up at Solarkis. She ruffled his fur fondly, asking, "Do you have a name, little one?"

The child hesitated for a moment, but after looking up at his new hero, he nodded. "Coltzan..."

Author: oreiyl
Date: 1st July
...Tony reeled. Coltzan? As in, King Coltzan III, Defender of the Downtrodden, Anointed Sovereign of All that Is Noble and True, Confidant of Genies? But... but he was... he was gone, dashed like a drawing traced in a windswept sand dune. All those years ago, he was poisoned at his own banquet; the tales of the betrayal that took place that fateful evening were all over Neopia when it happened. There was no way that this was THE Coltzan. Who knows, maybe it was a popular name among Sakhmetians. Or maybe this child was named that in memory of Coltzan. Yeah, that had to be it...

...But still, Tony could not shake the suspicion that this Sakhmet... well, was simply not HIS Sakhmet. Like this was an entirely different town...

Or was that it? Was that wall really some sort of barrier of time? Had he really somehow managed to cross the threshold of the hourglass and travel back in time?

The little Shoyru simply couldn't process all of this staggering information. He took a few tottering steps before he stumbled and fell to his knees. Solarkis turned and looked at him with concern.

"Is the sun too much for you, Tony of the Wall?" she inquired. "If that is so, here. Let us get you into some shade. Coltzan, would you be so kind as to...?"

She didn't even have to finish. Nodding eagerly, the little Lupe scampered to the opposite side of Tony from which the Kacheek stood. Together, they helped the blue Shoyru to the cool shade of one of the shop's awnings.

Tony removed a handkerchief from his pocket and mopped it across his brow. While not completely the reason for his sudden weakness, it was awfully hot. Particularly in... his... pocket...?

"Ow... OW!"

Tony yelped in pain as he plunged a paw into his pocket in an attempt to extract whatever was causing so much discomfort. He instantly regretted it when he felt his hand then get burned as well. It felt as though someone had dropped a red-hot bolt in there!

He yanked his paw out and tried blowing on it to soothe the burning. With it came the die. Its ebony surfaces glinted in the sun as it twirled through the air. When it hit the sand, it made a ominous hissing sound.

"Hey, that stupid die was burning up!" Tony barked in indignation. Solarkis only looked at it gravely, one hand on the hilt of the Sword of Heroes.

"Look!" shouted little Coltzan, jabbing a finger at the die. "Look at what it's doing...!"

Author: del_somebody
Date: 5th July
...The die was glowing from within. It shed no light, but something inside had bleached its dark surfaces into the purest of white. Tony, Solarkis, and Coltzan drew nearer, curious. The die jerked into sudden life, spinning in place, whirling faster and faster until its multi-faceted surface blurred into a single, indescribable shape…

The trio had drawn back at the die’s first sign of movement. Tony glanced worriedly up and down the street, but everyone seemed preoccupied with their own business enough not to notice the strange, spinning die. At least, not yet--

--There was a sound like a thunderclap and suddenly he was there, staggering and shaking his head. “Ohh,” he brought his front claws up and covered his eyes. “Been too long since I’ve done that...”

It was the Shadow Ruki from earlier -- the one Tony had seen at Neopia Central! He was still wearing that coat. Immediately Tony stepped forward. “You! How did... oh, never mind that -- we’re here to fight you!” He stepped forward before he realized he was completely unarmed, as Solarkis still had the Sword of Heroes.

The aforementioned Kacheek drew him back. “No, Tony.” Despite what she said, she still looked suspicious. “This... this is not him.”

“Sharp, lady.” The Ruki looked over his shoulder and quickly scuttled out of view, in the shade of the stall where Tony had rested moments before. “I hadn’t planned on all of this happening. I was going to be the one to do this, but... well, the die chose you.” He stared at Tony for a moment. “Though I can’t imagine why.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?!?” Tony snapped. “Look, this is all too fishy for me. How come you show up here looking exactly like the Advisor?”

“Because my initial plan was to take his place,” the Ruki patiently explained, “and expose the rightful king.” And then, much to the party’s surprise, he slowly turned and performed an elegant six-legged bow to Coltzan. “Your highness.”

“Wh-what!?” The young one drew back, intimidated. “What does he mean?”

“I mean, kid, that you’re the heir. The one everybody’s been talking about,” he grinned. “I know this is all kind of sudden, but we’re going to need to move fast if this is going to work.” He looked to Tony and Solarkis. “You two got a plan?”

They did not. Solarkis, still looking wary, voiced this.

“Alright. I think we can make this work.” The Ruki rubbed his forelimbs together. “I’m Petiri. You’ll have to introduce yourselves later, I’m afraid. So, you have no plan? Then how about you listen to mine…”

Author: kyuukon
Date: 5th July
...The Ruki grinned wryly, his eyes glittering. "You and you," he said rapidly, pointing at Tony and Solarkis, "will find a way to distract everyone in the palace. I will in turn get into the palace, manage to overthrow the Adivsor, take his place, and pronounce the kid as heir. Presto, recipe for success."

Solarkis stared at him with disbelief written on her face, speechless. Tony, however, had something to say.

"THAT was your great plan?!? We already knew we needed to do that! It was how we were to go about doing it that was the problem."

Petiri shrugged his shoulders indifferently. "Sounds like it'd work for me. You have something better?"

Tony glared at him, though the question had caught him off guard. "Well... no, not really. But I will soon, though!" And without further ado, he set himself to the task, folding his arms and leaning against the shop thoughtfully. In his mind he tried to view all possibilities, to find a way around the various obstacles. After all, a hero is always thorough.

Coltzan had listened closely to the conversation, though his mind reeled at the information it contained. His small brow furrowed with frustration as he tried to grasp something he had begun to remember. Something about the palace...?

"What is it?" Solarkis asked as the tiny Lupe tugged on her paw, pointing in the direction of the Sakhmet Palace. It was obvious he wanted to show her something, and the Kacheek complied readily. Tony watched her being led away by the young king, and an uneasy, forboding feeling dropped into the pit of his stomach.

"Don't even think about it." There was a firm voice behind the Shoyru, and he turned around to meet the gaze of the shadow Ruki. Tony's frst instinct was to ask what Petiri was talking about, but in a moment he understood, and he realized where the feeling had come from.

"We have to tell him -- oh, at least to avoid dinner parties; we can't just let him..." Tony's voice trailed off under the gleam of steely resolution in Petiri's eyes.

"We cannot change the past -- or in this case, the future. You have no idea of what the consequences of the smallest action might bring. You think you'd be helping, but you could be devestatingly wrong."

"You're trying to change the future, too!" the Shoyru protested. "We all are potentially defeating the Advisor--"

"Do you remember ever visiting a Sakhmet run by the Advisor?" the Ruki challenged, sweeping his arm over the desolate marketplace. He answered his own question. "No. We know that Coltzan receives the throne." He grinned again, apparently amused by the situation. "Which is why I'm not too worried about constructing a plan. We already know we succed."

Tony was about to remind him of the fact that the future could change at any moment when Solarkis and Coltzan returned. The warrior's eyes shone with the same excitement that was reflected in her young friend's, and she said, "I believe Coltzan has found us a way into the palace..."

Author: keikala
Date: 6th July
...It took only a few minutes for Coltzan to lead his companions to the north side of the high wall encircling the palace of Sakhmet; once they had arrived, he ushered them over to a large cluster of scraggly palm trees and brush, which they were able to conceal themselves in temporarily. Although there weren't too many guards patrolling this expanse of turf, it was imperative that none of them be seen. Once they had wriggled in among the tree trunks and leafy bushes of the surrounding greenery -- Tony yelped as a piece of the overgrown foliage whacked him in the face -- the tiny Lupe gestured urgently toward the wall and whispered, "Look, over there!"

As all four of them peered in the indicated direction, they could tell immediately what he'd meant for them to see: a wrought iron gate, obviously meant for the comings and goings of servants and other palace workers, stood open not far from where they were currently hidden. It was being guarded by several very tough-looking Skeiths, and every so often someone would enter the palace grounds, many of them wearing chefs' hats and aprons.

"Ahhh, I see!"

Tony glanced up, curious as to the source of the hushed exclamation, to see Petiri crouched very close to his left shoulder, intent on the scene ahead of them. "These are the Advisor's personal chefs... they come in through this entrance every day to prepare his lunch. They say that the Advisor imports only the finest delicacies in all of Neopia, to be served to him on golden platters. Wouldn't surprise me, considering how he squanders the Royal Treasury--"

The Ruki was interrupted by the sound of armour clattering; three heads turned as Solarkis, her features set with grim determination, stepped forward, her hand on the scabbard of the Sword of Heroes. Giving a quiet cry of dismay, he grabbed hold of her arm and yanked her back into the cover of their hiding spot, despite her objections. "What are you doing?!? We must attack now while we have the chance!" she protested. Thankfully, she kept her voice to a whisper.

Petiri sighed in exasperation. "Don't be reckless! Even if you get past these lookouts, the noise will be enough to raise an alarm, and soon we'll have the entire Palace Guard on our backs!"

The Kacheek frowned at this. "But how will we get past them if we do not take action immediately?"

Petiri grinned impishly, winking at Tony and giving the small Shoyru a rather forceful pat on the back. "That's where you come in."

"Wh-wha..?"

* * * * *

Whirrr... FWUMP!

* * * * *

Five minutes later, safely out of the guards' sight behind a short expanse of sand dunes, Solarkis and Tony each donned an apron and chef's hat. The owners of these items of clothing would be unconscious for some time; after all, they had each been hit from behind fairly hard by a small blue Shoyru. Petiri managed to conceal both himself and tiny Coltzan, as well as Solarkis's armour and the Sword of Heroes, inside a large, cloth-covered food cart, which would be wheeled into the Palace by the two "chefs."

Tony gulped as he and the Kacheek each took hold of one side of the cart's handle and began pushing it toward the palace. This was where his trial as a real hero would truly begin...

Author: _vespa
Date: 6th July
...Two Skeith guards dully noted the arrival of the laden cart as it slogged through the sandy ground; the other two were sleeping soundly beside the wall. "Ho, our Advisor’s next meal has arrived," Tony heard one Skeith say as they neared the gate. "Open the gates, eh Gulak."

The Skeith's companion rubbed his stubbly chin and looked Solarkis and Tony over as they stopped before the guards, then turned his keen eyes to the cloth-covered mound. "A little early for the next shipment, eh Mulak," stated the guard thoughtfully. A drop of sweat slid down Tony’s forehead. Apparently Skeiths weren't all that dumb. "What’s in the cart, eh chef?" Gulak continued, motioning to Solarkis.

The Kacheek stifled the urge to throttle the Skeith, even if she was unarmed. "What our Advisor eats is of no concern of yours," she said snidely. "Now let us in before the Advisor gets hungry enough to make a meal of you two." She could see that her last comment met its mark.

"Raise the gates, Mulak!" The Skeith hurriedly obeyed and soon the heavy clanking of countless chains and the scratching of iron against stone rang through the air. Heaving a sigh, Tony again took hold of the cart’s handles and pushed it with Solarkis into a small courtyard. Sparse clumps of dried grass populated the arid ground, and a lone palm tree grew beside a wooden, iron reinforced door. It was there that the two pushed their load, both secretly relieved to be away from the guards.

When they were out of earshot and sight, Solarkis bent down to whisper under the covers. "You can come out now," the Kacheek announced. Coltzan carefully slid from the cart, but the Shadow Ruki on the other hand made a show of jumping with as much flourish as he could to the ground. "Did you have to do that?" Solarkis hissed, glaring at the Ruki. He merely waved her away.

"Now’s not the time for that," he snapped. "Get your weapons and armour and get into the kitchens now before those airheads decide to check on the 'chefs.' Tony, take his highness into the kitchens now and make sure you keep him and yourself out of trouble. I'm going to take a look around."

The Shoyru sighed –- his paw halfway to the Sword of Heroes’ hilt –- before taking the young Lupe’s paw and leading him past the unlocked door and into the kitchens. The kitchen was a dimly lit hall; longer than it was wide and taller than it was long. Narrow windows set into alcoves high up into the walls allowed only a fraction of the sunlight to filter down into the kitchen. The myriad of smells of cooking lingered in the air, creating a stench that was neither sweet nor unpleasant. The young Coltzan shifted uneasily to Tony’s side, and he remembered the Ruki's orders to keep the little Lupe out of harm’s way.

"Look Coltzan, err I hope you don’t mind me calling you that," the Shoyru said nervously as he led the grey-brown Lupe to a large, empty barrel. "Perhaps you should hide here until Petiri and Solarkis get back."

Coltzan nodded and was about to climb in the barrel when a thunderous shout rattled through the hall, emanating from a doorway at the opposite end of the kitchen. "WHERE'S MY FOOD?!?" Heavy footfalls followed the source of the voice, and Tony groaned profoundly. Trouble had come to him... again...

Author: scarrift
Date: 7th July
...As Tony turned back to look at Coltzan, he was surprised to see the Lupe had vanished. With quick observation he saw the little gray figure curled up at the bottom of the dusty barrel, looking a little nervous.

He considered climbing in with the Lupe, but noticed that there wasn't much room -- it would be hard to fit, really. But he didn't want to leave Coltzan's side... Oh man, what would a hero do? the Shoyru thought to himself. He could hear the footsteps growing louder, and someone mumbling angrily. His time was limited, but he couldn't decide what to do.

"Okay, Coltzan," he whispered, "I'm going to hide somewhere nearby. Don't make a peep..."

Taking the lid propped on the barrel's side, Tony quietly secured the lid atop the barrel and scanned the room for a potential hiding spot. He heard the door on the other side of the room start to creak open; thinking quickly, he darted behind a cooking counter.

The door flung open and loud footsteps rang throughout the room. Smaller, nervous-sounding footsteps followed after the louder ones stopped, somewhere near the middle of the room. Tony felt more cold sweat arise on his skin.

"Sir, I do apologise. We are deeply sorry..."

"I can see that. Why is my meal late, Tann? I've been waiting..."

"Yes, we've been working on it, but you see there's been a problem... a couple of my chefs are missing, and we can't seem to find them."

A short silence followed, and Tony could feel his chest tighten.

"...We've looked everywhere, and--"

"Enough, Tann; that's enough. I forgive you this time, but you must understand that there will be no more of this! I have much work to do and cannot be delayed by a late lunch! Ignore the missing chefs for now -- they will be found later and punished."

"...Of course, sir. It will never happen again."

The footsteps then started again and faded out of the room as they departed through the door from whence they came.

After a five minute wait and a peek from the side of the counter to assure it was safe, Tony swiftly went to the barrel and removed the lid.

"I wonder what he means by 'busy'?" he asked the Lupe, who was actually thinking the same thing.

Wandering briskly down the hall, the Advisor was ill at ease. He knew forces were coming against him, small though strong, and the news of missing chefs bothered him more than his late meal. But he didn't show it -- if there were any spies about his domain, he didn't want to hint that he suspected them; he knew everything he said was possibly being monitored, and therefore said little.

The nervous Quiggle named Tann, walking beside him, said little also. He feared for his chefs and tried to think of some excuse to prevent them being punished or worse, becoming some of the Advisor's entertainment for the evening.

A clink on the stone floor up ahead caught the Advisor's attention. It was a familiar small black object, rolling right towards him. It stopped at his feet and he saw it to be a die with many sides, polished black...

Author: anana2442
Date: 7th July
...A terrible smile, emanating with cruel delight, slowly slid across the Advisor's face. There was a sparkle in his eyes like a child who'd just been presented a handful of Neopoints and had been shoved into the Chocolate Factory. His fingers wriggled in delight as they grasped the die -- and by that very look, Tony knew he was in more trouble than he could have ever asked for.

Within his mind, Tony cursed himself for his butterfingers as he peered around the doorway, watching the Advisor. How could he have let the die fall from his own hand so easily? And then he remembered what Solarkis had told him about the ancient relic: the die chose who wielded it.

It chose the Advisor... but why?

Was it really under his control? Tony peeked out cautiously behind the wall and into the hallway, eyes aglitter as he tracked the movements of the Advisor. The sleek shadow Ruki disappeared into the shadows of a bend in the hall.

"M-Mister?" piped a squeaky voice, and turning around Tony realized it was Coltzan. Coltzan the Fearless, shivering and shaking as if on the top of Terror Mountain.

"Call me Tony," Tony whispered. "But yes?"

Coltzan stared at his feet for a moment, and then looked up, prepared to speak. Whatever words he was going to say, though, were immediately trapped in his throat.

"What?" Tony asked, concerned.

Coltzan let out a terrified squeak, and pointed shakily at something behind the worried Shoyru. Tony's heart leapt with a burst of fright, and he slowly turned to face whatever was there.

"Why, hello," came the slow drawl of a victorious-looking Grarrl, clad in guard's armor. "What do we have here? A filthy little pickpocket, and a spy. How... delightful. I'm sure the Advisor will be pleased."

Tony's fingers instinctively wrapped around the hilt of the Sword of Heroes -- well, would have wrapped around the Sword of Heroes, had it been in his sheath, of course.

As his fingers clutched air, a scream stopped midway up the horrified Shoyru's throat.

"It's time to come with me now, my little friends," the Grarrl said with a sneer. "I might just be promoted to Commander of His Majesty's Forces after this. Ah, I can see it now -- me, as a war hero."

The thought of the villainous creature before him being regarded as a hero made Tony feel suddenly sick to his stomach. His fingers clenched into a fist -- he had to make one final stand, before--

"HAH!"

Coltzan bellowed this as he flew forward in a streak of dust-grey, the Sword of Heroes firmly in the youngster's paw. The blade connected with the shoulder plate of the Grarrl with the force of an avalanche. Coltzan quickly slammed it into the side of the Grarrl's head, and with a sigh of relief the Grarrl collapsed to the floor, unconscious.

Tony whirled around to stare at Coltzan, who was panting heavily. The sword hung limp in his grasp, its tip leaning against the stone floor. "Solarkis told me we could use it," he explained with a small grin. "Take it," he gasped. Tony did so.

"No wonder you're -- wait, you will become -- Coltzan the Magnificent," Tony said with a smirk. Coltzan gave him a worried glance.

"Why... do you keep calling me Majesty? I'm not king. And why do you keep giving me titles? I haven't earned them." The young Lupe looked concerned, and almost fearful of the future that lay before him.

"Coltzan, in my time you are--" Tony began, but he suddenly stopped as he realized what to say to correct himself. He couldn't bring himself to say it. How could he?

"Yes?" Coltzan asked, eyes wide. Tony's voice was stuck once again, unable to speak.

He couldn't do it. How could he tell such a hopeful youth that he was doomed to die? That he was no longer living in his time? That he was no longer alive...? He couldn't do that.

"Youarethekinginmytime," Tony said, stringing all of his words together in a nervous jumble. Coltzan sighed.

"Becoming the king... it sounds like such a task. Do people respect me... in your time?" By his words, the Lupe sounded awkward. Tony understood -- how would he feel talking about coming from the future? He was amazed that Coltzan understood, though.

"Yes, they did-- do," Tony spoke.

"Which is it, 'did', or 'do'? Why is it that you're trying to hide something from me?"

"I'm not h-hiding anything," Tony whispered, feeling very uncomfortable.

Coltzan stared at his feet. "I-I'm sorry," he murmured. "I didn't mean to sound so rude like that. I... I just... I've had these strange dreams..."

"Dreams? Like what?" Tony asked, suddenly curious.

"Of... sitting at a golden table, surrounded by noblepets, having a joyous time... and suddenly, darkness clouds my vision. I stumble to the floor... and suddenly..." The Lupe's voice was laced with fear; his voice trembled. "I wake up."

Tony said nothing. Neither spoke for several moments.

Tony cleared his throat. "C'mon, we need to get going. Otherwise--"

"You might get caught?"

The voice of the one speaking was silken -- a practiced voice, one of a person in high power. One unlike anything Tony had ever heard before. In shock Tony wheeled around to see who it was -- and gasped.

"Take them to the dungeons," the Advisor said briskly. "And make sure they never see the light of day again. Oh, and fire my useless Head of the Guard. It seems he can't even undertake a feeble Shoyru and a little boy. Pathetic."

"Yes, Your Highness," the Skeiths, donning shining armor, said in unison, rushing forward.

They hoisted the two stunned Neopets up over their heads, and headed down towards the dungeon...

Author: really_awesome_d00d
Date: 8th July
...“Hold it right there!”

With twin grunts of surprise, the Skeiths hoisting Tony and Coltzan lurched around to see who had spoken. The Advisor, doing the same, hissed in shock at what he saw. “Wh... what is the meaning of this?!”

Tony’s heart leaped into his throat, and he would have given a cry of relief if the guard carrying him hadn’t had his claw clamped so tightly around the Shoyru’s midsection. In the wake of a billowing cloud of dust and sand, which looked very dramatic and showy, Petiri and Solarkis cut an impressive pair of figures even in the dim light of the hall in which they stood. The Ruki, however, was now almost totally unrecognizable to Tony; evidently, he had found his way into the Advisor’s wardrobe, and had raided it with great enthusiasm. He was now swathed in fine white silk, which was accented with gold as well as jewels of every conceivable hue, and around his neck hung a beautiful amulet, deep red in colour, which shone with such strength that it almost seemed to contain a fire in its crimson depths. Atop his head rested an elegant headdress, which framed his head and shoulders in silk that matched his robes. Solarkis too had found a disguise to suit her; the armour she wore, though probably made for a small Skeith, fit her relatively well, and the spear she carried completed her powerful appearance.

Both wore expressions of grim accusation -- but it was the Advisor who took the first step forward.

“Imposters!” he bellowed, his normally smooth voice crackling with anger. “How did you breach the castle walls?! You will both pay dearly for--”

“That is enough, witless one,” Petiri cut in, his voice as cold and hard as ice carved from the walls of the Snowager’s lair. Both Coltzan and Tony were awed by the transformation their ally had made; he had duplicated the older Ruki’s voice perfectly, and with this considered, it was virtually impossible to tell the two apart. “To impersonate the steward of Sakhmet is a grave offence, but to command the palace guards and attempt to imprison two innocent civilians... for this, you will receive no sympathy.” Turning to the Skeiths, who by this time were effectively dumbfounded, he swept his hand in a broad gesture toward the Advisor. “Seize this criminal at once!”

The two stupefied guards were about to comply when the Advisor, gathering his wits about himself, gave a shaken but vicious smirk and a frosty laugh. “So, you think you can simply overthrow Sakhmet’s rightful authority with a wave of your hand? Pathetic worms,” he spat, plunging a hand into the deep pockets of his robes and withdrawing a small, glossy object. Tony’s stomach sank, and he felt a cold chill of dread slide down his spine. This was the worst thing that could have happened; if the Advisor had the powerful die, what hope did they have? Petiri and Solarkis seemed unphased, however; their quiet smiles of determination never faltered. “Might of the shadows that lie within my command,” the tyrant shouted, flinging the jet-black stone to the ground with a flourish, “obey me and carry out my will! Destroy these fools!”

As Tony squeezed his eyes shut, he could hear Coltzan whimpering softly only a few feet away; this was the end, he knew it...

Several seconds passed. A soft breeze, drifting through the door to the courtyard which had so carelessly been left open, stirred the dust around the baffled Skeiths’ feet.

Other than that, nothing happened.

When it became fairly obvious that nothing was GOING to happen, the Advisor scooped his die up from the floor with a snarl of anger that bordered on panic. “What is this nonsense? I demand that these treacherous imps be disposed of!” As the frustrated Ruki fumed and spat over his precious artifact, Petiri gave a serene nod and held out one hand; Solarkis, with a silent, knowing smile, dropped the real die into his outstretched claws.

Tony, as confused now as either of the two Skeiths, stared open-mouthed at this strange turn of events. How could this be? He remembered dropping the die onto the ground, and the Advisor picking it up. Unless... with a sudden gasp, he realized what might have happened. Petiri had given the die back to him after appearing from within the artifact on the streets of the city, this he was sure of.

But if the die he’d given him had been a fake...

“A child’s toy,” Solarkis spoke up finally, “will not spare you from the wrath of the Advisor.” At this, Petiri held up the die between two fingers... and let it drop.

It fell through the air--

--a sharp clicking noise was heard as it hit the floor, bounced--

--and rolled to a stop.

The face it displayed bore a single hieroglyph. Petiri snapped his fingers once, and the Advisor vanished.

* * * * *

In just under an hour, nearly the entire population of Sakhmet was gathered in the great plaza overlooked by the palace. With the Advisor still in the dank dungeon cell that he’d been transported to earlier, and the befuddled but obedient Skeiths dismissed from their duties, Petiri stood, flanked by Tony and Solarkis, on the balcony from which he would address the crowd, with little Coltzan, nervous but brave in the face of the new life about to begin for him, at the very front.

“People of Sakhmet,” the Ruki spoke loudly, his voice amplified by the stone walls of the city, “I present to you your true ruler, third cousin to the late Khalid, He of the Immortal Soul... King Coltzan III.”

Tony had never heard such loud applause in his life.

* * * * *

“I shall never forget your courage and pure spirit, young one!” Solarkis cried tearfully, nearly crushing Tony in a tight hug as she bade him farewell. Waiting several feet away with a look of utter boredom, Petiri waited for the goodbyes to end, at which point he would use the power of the die to transport both himself and the Shoyru back to their own time. “Please use the Sword of Heroes wisely, and become a champion of justice in your own time as well!”

“I-I will,” Tony managed to choke out, waving to the Kacheek as he was pulled away by an impatient Ruki.

“Could you have taken much longer?” his shadowy friend griped, pulling the die out of his jacket one final time. “I was about to be sick just listening to her fawn over you...”

Tony didn’t raise his eyes from the ground, his face clouded with worry. “I still think we should have said something, you know...”

“To Coltzan, you mean?” Petiri snorted. “I already told you -- no matter how tempting it is, we can’t change the past. Besides, if the guy goes through his whole life avoiding dinner parties, he’ll never have any fun at all. Now, back to the present; you shouldn’t stay here too long, you might miss out on some important hero-ing.”

The Shoyru blinked, looking up at Petiri in surprise. “Do... do you really think so? You think I could be a hero?”

The Ruki grinned. “Well, there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?”

The End

Author: _vespa
Date: 8th July



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