Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)
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||You are on Week 259
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 Fifty Nine Ends January 27
The Uni’s high-pitched scream caught Lephi’s attention amid the noise of the bustling marketplace. Without thinking twice, the Kacheek whirled around, one paw clamped over her hat and the other clutching the spell books she had purchased. “Excuse me! Pardon me! I’m here to help! Out of the way!” she called as she deftly ducked under legs and leapt over tails. “Oof!” Going just a tad too fast, Lephi tripped over her long robes and nose-dived to the ground, coming face to face with the Shoyru who had originally cried out in pain.
“What’s wrong?” she shouted over the wailing of the Uni, who still stood nearby, screaming hysterically.
“I slipped and broke my wing,” the Shoyru answered.
“Oh,” Lephi said, relieved. “Well, that should be easy to fix.” She mumbled a few words, then smiled. “It should be all better now.”
“Thank you!” the Shoyru said gratefully, taking off into the air... only that, instead of flying away, he began to fly around in circles.
“Oh dear, what’s wrong with him?” cried someone in the crowd that had gathered.
The hysterical Uni screamed. “His broken wing shrunk! That evil Kacheek shrunk his wing!” she declared, pointing an accusatory hoof at a flustered Lephi. “SHE’S AN EVIL WITCH!!!”
“What?!? Now see here...” Lephi began weakly as the crowd started muttering angrily and thickening around her. At that moment, she realised several things at once. One, she was still carrying her spell books. Two, she was still wearing the hat that kept fur out of her eyes. And three, she was still in the black robes that she wore when she was afraid of making a mess. As Lephi slowly backed away from the angry mob, her paw reached out and, in a desperate effort to protect herself, grabbed the closest object she could find.
Which, of course, happened to be a broomstick...
Author: doesn't know magic! *shifty eyes*|
Date: Jan 20th
...which she threw a desperate glance. She couldn't possibly attempt the flying spell now! There was no choice here.
"Er... stay back!" she cried out, trying to put on a tone of heartless bravery. "I've got a broom, and I'm not afraid to... er... fly away!"
The Neopets looked at each other, then at the Kacheek in anticipation. A small Scorchio tugged on his older Peophin sister's skirt. "I'va never seen a Kacheek-ie fwy befowe!" he stage-whispered.
Fiddlesticks! thought the Kacheek, sighing. Now she really was going to have to try the spell! But how did the words go?
"Essence of Korbat, wing of Faerie
Lift me, throw me, let me fly
on the Neopian... er... air-ie..."
Nothing happened. Air-ie! she scolded herself. What possesed you to say THAT?
But this was no time for self deprecaton. She had to get OUT of here!
"Eye of newt and leg of Techo,
Wings of Pteri echo,
Let me lift and let me soar,
Flying, past this -- let go!"
She'd said the last bit to a rather impatient Meerca who wanted to attack now. Shaking her leg in a futile attempt to release him, she realised that the ground was much further away, and that the Uni who'd screamed earlier was gaping, dumbfounded.
The broom was rising! Lephi was holding on with one hand, and it was lifting into the air with a mind of its own!
"Let me off, witch!" screamed the Meerca in terror, even as his claws dug into her leg.
"I don't know how," the Kacheek said in wonderment. She'd made it fly! She'd made it FLY!
"Do someth-" the broom started shaking (in turn shaking Lephi), and the Meerca let out a surprised squeal as he tumbled back down. He was cushioned by the large crowd, who were roused from their stupor in time to let out shrieks of amazement (and care for the rather startled chap.)
Lephi, on the other hand, was feeling a magnetic pull to the broomstick. It was holding her there!
"Where are we going?" she asked, before remembering that it was an inanimate object. Yet the broom shook again, and turned.
Lephi's eyes followed the broom's point, and then they nearly popped out.
For they were closing in on the blackened trees of the Haunted Woods...
Date: Jan 23rd
...From below, the crowd's cries rose in triumphant excitement. "See!" they bellowed. "She must be evil! She's heading back to her hidden lair in the Haunted Woods! This proves it!"
Sighing, Lephi adjusted her grip on the floating broom. Hidden lair, indeed. She only hoped that she didn't end up at someone else's hidden lair. At least she was free of the mob, she reminded herself glumly. They wouldn't dare follow her here, though she'd have to wear a disguise if she ever wanted to buy spells and potions from town again.
Below her spanned miles of black, twisted branches, patched with clusters of rising fog. The cries of the townsfolk now faded into the eerie, moaning winds of the forest, and the bright houses and busy roads vanished behind the rows of crooked trees.
Lephi tapped the broomstick with a finger. "Okay, you can let me down now," she muttered hopefully. "I think this is far enough... it'll take me a good hour to get back to my house as it is..."
The broom (if it heard) ignored her, continuing to sail speedily over the treetops. Lephi bit her lip, feeling a sinking sensation in her stomach. It was already difficult to maintain a sense of direction; the broom did not travel in a straight line, but tended to curve a bit here, a bit there, almost as if it had a destination of its own. The Kacheek's hopes of making it back before nightfall waned.
Just as she was beginning to wonder if she should think up a new spell to re-direct the broomstick's course, it jarred to a stop. Lephi clutched the handle in surprise, hooking a leg up over it to relieve her aching paws. As she dangled facing the sky, blind to what lay below, the broom began its descent.
The sunlight faded quickly as the treetops obscured the sky, and the temperature dropped as the shadows closed around her. Craning her neck, Lephi struggled to see the path below, but her eyes were unadjusted and she could only see vague gloom.
The ground came as a shock. Instinctively she rolled, covering her black robes with a fine layer of mud and dead leaves, before stumbling to her feet. "Took you long enough," she muttered to the now-still broom as she attempted to dust herself off. "After a day like this, I get to spend my entire afternoon and evening wandering through the woods on my way..."
Her voice trailed off and her paws stilled as her eyes finally became accustomed to the dimness of the woods. "Oh, my..."
Date: Jan 24th
...A huge looming tower rose before her, pitch black and ominous. There was no door that Lephi could see, but about three stories the windows started. Hundreds of them dotted the tower wall, each little square softly glowing in the twilight. Lephi whistled softly; someone was wasting a lot of candles.
She walked all the way around the tower -- no easy task, the thing was wide! -- but she found no entrance to the mysterious tower. It was now full dark, and Lephi was in no mood to go traipsing about by foot or broomstick looking for a way out of the Haunted Woods. Instead, she grabbed her broom and spellbook, marched straight up to the side of the tower, and knocked.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Lephi gasped and jerked back as the entire tower echoed her knock. The windows quickly flickered out, leaving her blind in the dark that followed. Terrified, Lephi stood perfectly still, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dark.
What on Neopia? Lephi blinked. The windows were back on, but the tower was now almost twenty yards in front of her. She was sure she hadn't jumped back that far... Shaking her head in confusion and annoyance, Lephi trotted up to the tower again.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Lephi made sure not to move an inch this time. After only a few seconds of darkness, the tower once again reappeared far in front of her. What was going on?
Lephi carefully walked once again to the side of the tower. There must be someone here, or else how could the tower keep moving? Maybe if she just... She reached out her hand and gently laid it on the side of the tower.
The tower jerked away, moving a full foot without seeming to upset the forest at all. Lephi stared at it for a long time.
Ok... she thought slowly, someone obviously doesn't want me touching the tower. Still, they must not mind her being near it because the tower hadn't moved at all as she had circled it. Still considering, she gathered her broomstick and spellbook and leafed through the pages.
"Here we are," she said aloud, "Entrance spell: guaranteed to open any door, visible, invisible, or nonexistent. That about covers it." She took a deep breath, then said in her very best chant,
"Door that's locked with bolt and key
Door that not a soul can see
Door that's not a door at all
Let me through now, hear my call!"
There was a moment of silence, followed by a loud groaning. A small hole appeared in the tower, growing larger and larger. In just a few seconds it had grown into a wide doorway. Lephi grinned and closed her spell book, ready to step inside and solve the mystery of the tower.
Quite suddenly, the door vanished.
Lephi was getting annoyed. She knew very well that a spell was supposed to stay until it was called off. She certainly hadn't called her door spell off, so that meant one thing.
Someone REALLY didn't want her in the tower.
Mentally cursing all shy people, Lephi grabbed her spellbook again. After a moment, she found the spell she needed.
Item bewitched, show yourself true
let no magic hinder you
show me clearly what you be
Here the spell said to insert whatever you wanted the enchanted object to do. Lephi thought for a moment.
"...And also provide a door for me."
Feeling proud of herself, Lephi waited as a door slowly appeared in the wall. This door was different than the last. Instead of a dark archway, it was a very simple wooden door. Lephi took hold of it and entered the -- when had the tower become a cottage?
The illusion spell had uncovered more than she had expected...
Date: Jan 24th
...As the cottage door opened, Lephi was greeted with the scents of herbs and stale linen and something akin to the inside of an old shoe. The little Kacheek paused beyond the doorframe for a moment, clutching the immobile broomstick as she surveyed the interior of the transformed building.
It certainly was not a castle anymore; there seemed to be only one room partitioned into sections for sleeping and cooking and a small den. There was a black door on rusting hinges near the fireplace, but for some reason, Lephi was quite certain that she did not want to know what lay beyond it. She stared at the strangely ornate carvings on its surface, the lavish decoration out of place amidst the humble cottage, and gave an involuntary shudder.
"Cold outside, is it?"
Lephi jumped; she had thought herself quite alone until the graveled voice issued suddenly. She realized now that an elderly Wocky was calmly curled up by the fireplace. How could she have not seen him before? "Y-yes, a little," the Kacheek hesitantly replied.
"Then get out of the doorway and come sit by the fire." The Wocky never turned to look at his guest as Lephi cautiously obeyed. The broomstick in her hand trembled slightly, but this time, it moved not of its own accord.
She sat near the elder and waited for him to speak again, but he stared into the flames without further conversation. Several moments of awkward silence passed. "Um," Lephi tried at last, "I... I'm Lephi."
The old Wocky shifted his eyes toward her, the round green orbs reflecting the crackling flames that danced in the fireplace.
Lephi continued, determined to break the ice. "This broomstick brought me to your cottage."
The Wocky scoffed. "Do you know how many times I've tried to get rid of that broomstick? It always manages to find its way back." He eyed the broomstick as Lephi offered it forward and patted it with one gnarled paw. He seemed to be just as impressed as he was annoyed. He added lowly, "It never has brought anyone back with it before, however."
Lephi frowned, recalling the circumstances that had led her to seize the broom in the first place. "I'm sorry. I didn't know that it belonged to anyone. I had to get away from town, you see, and this flying broom was just hanging around. Pretty convenient, now that I think of it..." Lephi trailed off in thought.
The Wocky listened, his intense gaze never leaving the Kacheek's young face. "What was so bad about the town?"
"Me, apparently," Lephi sighed. "They thought I was a witch."
The Wocky laughed harshly, a sound oddly devoid of any humor. "A witch, eh? There are worse things in this world, child." His expression became reflective as he returned his gaze to the fire. "Much worse things."
Lephi watched him for a moment, her eyes bright with curiosity. "Why are you out here all alone?" she inquired at last. "Who are you?"
The Wocky slowly returned his gaze to her and stared for a long moment, as if just by sight he could decide whether or not he should confide in his youthful visitor. He was evidently satisfied. "Names mean nothing; I've had many in my life. But you can call me Shrukin. As far as this place... well... I learned long ago that the solitary life is easier for folks like me."
"Oh. Well, I think you're very nice," Lephi offered.
Shrukin laughed. "Kind of you to say. But when you have things like a flying broom hanging around--" At this point, the broom eagerly flew a circle around its master's head, causing him to bat at it in annoyance, "-- it doesn't really matter how nice you are or not. People think what they wanna think."
"You're a wizard, then?" Lephi could barely conceal her intrigue. She had always heard that Neopia was teeming with magical beings, but she had yet to meet one in person.
Shrukin laughed again. "I wouldn't say that. There are powerful creatures in Neopia, and they promise power to the weaker ones... but for a terrible price." He closed his luminous eyes as if in pain. "A most terrible price. Promise me, Lephi, that you’ll never get mixed up with that sort. It isn’t worth it, no matter what anyone tells you."
The black door near the fireplace suddenly began to rattle on its hinges, as if something beyond it was beating against it in protest. Lephi gasped and scrambled backwards on her hands and knees. Shrukin rose, the broomstick leaping into one of his paws, and a glowing sphere of light conjuring within the other. "Get out of here, Lephi. Run, and never look back!"
But Lephi was transfixed in her horror, and she didn’t want to leave Shrukin alone to face whatever nightmare sheltered behind the foreboding door. The carvings upon the surface suddenly illuminated with a sickly green light before the door itself exploded outward. A scream was ripped from her as she saw the horrible figure that emerged from the darkness, one more terrifying than any Lephi had ever beheld before...
Date: Jan 25th
...The figure was certainly a Buzz, but it looked like no Buzz Lephi had ever met before. Its carapace was pearlescent black with a highly specular surface as if covered in an oily layer of something detestable and infectious. Its faceted eyes looked to Lephi like yellow bulbs of churning pus. Those eyes were most fearsome because they had no discernable point of focus. The creature's mass compressed inwards as it stepped through the doorway, and expanded outward once it got through the door. Lephi stood behind Shrukin under a complete paralysis of fear. Shrukin was silent except for the wheezing heave of his breaths. His eyebrows had descended into a frown of hatred.
"Foreloc," Shrukin snarled with every last shred of compassion missing from his once calm voice, "I believed you dead. Of course, I should've known better."
The Buzz began to laugh in a series of shrill hisses and stepped further inside. "Once again mistaken, old friend," Foreloc responded with a taunt in his tone. "No fool like an old fool, and nobody is more old or more foolish than you."
Lephi, who was stepping backwards, hoping she could maybe scramble through a window and flee, tripped over a small stool. As she fell, her long bellowing sleeve stroked through the open fire and set alight. She shrieked and shook her arm wildly, but the flames just growled and held fast. Without much thought at all, she raised her other hand toward the flames on her clothing and yelled, "Aquarum projectus!" with no idea where the words came from. A jet of water with considerable recoil erupted from her palm, dousing the flames. Lephi stared at her singed fur and clothed with awe.
"Oh my Shrukin," Foreloc said, "what do you have here?"
Shrukin stepped between Lephi and Foreloc defiantly. "No!" he cried. "She's of no consequence to you; allow her to leave and we can settle this."
"Training a replacement, are you?" Foreloc asked with snide ambivalence. The Buzz leaned off to his left to get a better look at Lephi, whose stomach rolled when she saw the revolting way the light traveled over his glistening exoskeleton. "A young magician? How deliciously interesting. Say, child, I know a little magic myself. Would you like to learn a few tricks?"
"ENOUGH!" Shrukin boomed. "How dare you return here after you disgraced yourself and all our kind? Don't you realize what you've done? How many good Neopets must live in solitude because of the trust you destroyed? You're an insult to practitioners of magic everywhere. For that crime you'll pay with your life."
Foreloc giggled again and raised his taloned hands. "You're a small fish in an ever growing pond, and I'm the Walein who'll consume you all. These are your final seconds, old friend, savor them well."
Foreloc hands exploded into a gray green fire that shed no smoke and cast no light. He swooped his raised hands together ahead of him and as they met the flames merged and leapt out towards Shrukin. Shrukin slapped the ball away with one fluid backhand motion; his hand too now glowing with a fiercely dazzling orange light. The fireball smashed a hole clear through the cottage's wall and exploded against a tree outside, felling it with a dry crack. Foreloc swung his hands in two sweeping gestures, casting another two fireballs at Shrukin. The first he ducked effortlessly, and the second he beat away with the back of his hand, sending it crashing out into the forest. But Shrukin's luck and speed failed him fast. As he gathered himself from the maneuver Foreloc shot forward and stabbed his stinging thorax through the air. The Buzz's stinger struck high on the Wocky's thigh, invoking from him a scream of agony that Lephi matched with a scream of fear. Foreloc's humorless hissing laugh came from his unsmiling face again.
"Old man," he hissed condescendingly, "if not for your stubbornness none of these unpleasant goings-on would've had to happen."
Shrukin tried to respond, but his words came out in a series of croaks. He was gripping his wounded thigh, which seemed to be swelling rapidly. Foreloc just giggled once more and turned his attentions to Lephi, who was cowering in the corner. His eyes fell upon her like the weight of a corpse. Her whole body locked still as she stared up at his advancing form.
"You, girl," Foreloc said pointing with one clawed finger. "You shall be my apprentice. Come with me and learn true magic." Foreloc held out his hand inviting her to take it. Shrukin was now gasping heavily, his eyes were wide and alert with terror, his teeth were clenched in an awful caricature of agony.
Lephi sprang from the corner and made a run for the door. Her feet thumped wildly against the bare wooden floor. She was more terrified than she could ever recall being before. Compared to this her ordeal at the market paled. Her attempt at escape was futile however. Foreloc snatched her up by the arm before she had even gotten half way.
This was the point where the strange thing happened. Much the same way the water jet spell happened, through instinct or reflex or some more profound motivation, she did something she was unaware she was capable of doing. She didn't even feel much as if it was her doing it, rather some other power using her body as a medium for its agenda. Despite Foreloc's grip on her she did not stop running, but instead of running towards the door, she ran up Foreloc's body. Her first step landed cleanly and securely on his knee, and the second where his abdomen met his thorax. Her third step (taking into account by now she was practically horizontal in the air) came to rest securely where Foreloc's head met his neck. It was about this time (and time, despite only progressing a fraction of a second throughout the course of this event) that Lephi's right foot -- the one not resting firmly on Foreloc's neck -- began to glow much the same way Shrukin's did as he deflected the barrage of attacks. The glowing foot landed a kick against the back of Foreloc's head. Lephi felt nothing of the impact but Foreloc certainly did. He crashed through a bookcase, through the wall and rolled out into the small clearing outside the cottage, tumbling through the dead gray dirt and coming to rest in a limp heap on the floor. Lephi fell to the ground and landed squarely on her feet, dropping one hand to the floor too to steady her. Glancing over her shoulder she saw Foreloc through the hole in the wall (which were becoming amusingly numerous), lying on the ground outside.
"Bring me my spell book," Shrukin gasped. Lephi obliged instantly and began rifling through the remnants of the books that were scattered in the conflict. Eventually she came upon one bound in black leather with the title SPELLS written in gold-leaf calligraphy. She brought it to Shrukin who was sat against the last remaining whole wall in the building, and rested it in his lap. He threw it open with shaking arms and turned a few pages. His shaking finger tapped twice on one of the pages. "Say this spell," he commanded.
"I can't," Lephi said holding back tears. Shrukin looked considerably paler and his breathing was becoming shallow and erratic. "These spells are way beyond me. There's no way it'll work."
"Foolish girl," Shrukin growled. "If you want to see the dawn of the next day, say this spell!"
With no more argument within her she looked down at the page and began to read out loud:
"Through distances great, without a pause,
unbind me from these conjectured laws,
carry us with great alacrity,
to a place of magic sanctity."
The moment the spell was done Shrukin grabbed Lephi and pulled her close to him in a tight embrace. The pages of the book began to turn by themselves. Lephi noticed a breeze mounting within the cottage. The breeze escalated to a heavy wind, and the pages flickered over faster and faster. The wind became a gale that began to swirl around both Lephi and Shrukin. Soon it seemed they were encased in a tornado through which Lephi could barely see anything but swirls and wisps of some ethereal matter. Then the winds, as quickly as they had mounted, began to subside again. However, they were no longer in the cottage. They were sat on a marble floor in an enormous ornate hall.
"Where are we?" Lephi whispered, her voice echoing back at her from all sides.
"The Neopian Temple of Magic," Shrukin uttered through labored breathing. "I'm hurt bad, but in here I can recover with time." Shrukin coughed and heaved some, then looked straight at Lephi with sincere eyes. "In this condition I cannot defend Neopia from Foreloc. The responsibility falls on you, young magical, to save us all..."
Date: Jan 25th
...Lephi's paws were shaking. "But what can I do? I'm just a novice... and I'm barely more than a kid..."
Shrukin's voice was grave. "Come with me. It will be easier to show than to tell."
Lephi was puzzled and reluctant, but she felt that she had no other choice than to follow the old Wocky into a smaller room, one with translucent crystal walls and a small, circular pool adorning the centre. It was a beautiful place, with its walls shimmering like diamonds and the pool resting there like a huge, tranquil sapphire, but Lephi could feel her fur standing on end. Something was about to happen, and she had no idea what.
"Come," Shrukin said, hobbling up to the pool and beckoning her to follow. "Look into the pool and you will see why your help is so desperately needed."
Lephi edged over, being careful not to touch the gleaming surface of the water, which suddenly began to stir and tremble of its own accord. At first the images were hard to understand. Messengers, all of them small and harmless-looking Neopets, solemnly handed documents to various figures of authority: The Princesses Vyssa and Amira, the Kings Skarl and Hagan, Senator Palpus, Sabre-X, and many more besides... and one by one, each of them read the paper and nodded gravely, as if receiving the direst of news.
The image shifted, and Lephi gasped. The same people who had received the messages each went alone at night to what Lephi supposed to be a prearranged meeting place for a clandestine purpose unknown to the Kacheek, and one by one they were ambushed. But that wasn't what horrified her the most. Every time it happened, the victim was overpowered and bound; and watching from the shadows nearby were a slimy black Buzz with venomous yellow eyes, and an accomplice whom Lephi found to be even more horrifying...
"That looks just like Hagan," she breathed, staring aghast at what would be a flawless replica of the Skeith sovereign, if King Hagan had a cruel grin on his face and a malicious gleam in his eye. As the real Hagan strained against the merciless iron grip of what looked like two towering black-furred Werelupes, Foreloc and the imposter strode foreward, and the twisted Buzz said with a grin of wicked delight, "The threat to the kingdom has been neutralized, and the King shall return victorious. Long live the King."
It was almost exactly the same with every one of them, tailored to fit each victim's status and situation. Lephi felt herself swaying on her feet, and beside her she heard Shrukin murmur, "I had known that Foreloc's return heralded grave tidings, but even I had not expected something as dire as this." Out of the corner of her eye Lephi saw the injured Wocky staring fixedly at the pool with a look of stunned horror on his face, but she could not bring herself to tear her gaze fully away from the appalling scenes in front of her.
Now they were taking Sabre-X away, and as Lephi watched the image blurred and swirled, and for a moment darkness blotted it out. Then another set of pictures emerged, and Lephi wished she had something on which to steady herself. Benignly smiling rulers and sternly solemn officials whom Lephi knew in her heart to be no more than skillful imposters sat in their thrones or went about their duties, while superimposed over this image was that of a room as silent as a crypt, and almost as heart-chilling. Lephi could almost feel the cold, unmoving air which filled the deathly room, and as a violent shudder passed through her body she found that it took a conscious effort not to close her eyes against the truth of what she was seeing.
Tables. Low, grey stone tables, and on those tables lay the unmoving figures of the victims of Foreloc's ruse. Lephi's breath caught in her throat, and ripping her gaze from the pool she turned to Shrukin and asked, her voice no more than a strained, raspy whisper, "Are they dead?"
Shrukin shook his head. "No doubt Foreloc wants them to live to witness the fall of their kingdoms. Even now they are awake, tortured by their helplessness. Look."
Lephi didn't want to look -- she only wanted to go back home, hide under her bed and forget this whole nightmare -- but a greater sense of duty prevailed, and the Kacheek returned her attention back to the mirror, which had paused the image as if realizing that she wasn't looking. The moment it had her attention, however, the picture continued to move, and Lephi felt a tug of pity as she watched the prisoners opening their eyes and looking wildly around. She sensed that they struggled to get up, but none of them could seem to move anything other than their eyes. Lephi shuddered as she imagined the horror of being trapped in that ghastly room, not bound but unable to move, wondering what was happening to her people but being completely unable to help.
The image changed one final time, and Lephi felt her muscles grow even more tense than they had been already, if that were possible. The woods at the borders of Meridell were shrouded with the darkness of midnight, and among the trees strode a Korbat whom she instantly recognized. "He's next?" she whispered, and Shrukin nodded.
"If the sovereigns of Meridell and Brightvale, then why not the lord of the Citadel?"
"So this is happening right now? And the others were captured, what -- several days ago?"
Shruking nodded solemnly. "Foreloc is working his way up, choosing fiercer and fiercer opponents. Eventually he will feel confident enough to challenge his most powerful adversary-"
"Queen Fyora?" Lephi guessed, and the Wocky nodded again. "But if Fyora knows about this, then why doesn't SHE stop him?"
"That's the trouble. She DOESN'T know. And you can rest assured that Foreloc will have plans ready for anyone who tries to warn her. You will not foil him that way. She will not know until it is too late." Shrukin sighed heavily.
"But he'll lose the battle, right? I mean, Foreloc's powerful, but you saw what even I could do to him. There's no way he could beat the Faerie Queen!"
Shrukin's sad look told her everything she needed to know, even before he spoke. "Foreloc was not expecting the ferocity of your defense, and he gains power with every victim he ensnares. Eventually, yes, he WILL have the strength necessary to defeat even Queen Fyora, or any adversary who rises against him. That is why he must be stopped. NOW."
"And I have to do this all by myself?" Lephi whispered, feeling smaller than she had ever imagined she could feel. There was so much riding on her, so much power against her...
"Yes. For the sake of all of Neopia you MUST succeed. Foreloc has tried different tactics before and they have failed, but he has learned from his mistakes, and this time I feel that he WILL reign triumphant unless something is done to stop him. You are the only one who can even so much as try. And your battle begins in the forest outside Meridell."
Lephi didn't know why she did it, but she felt her head move up and down in a fierce nod. "I'll try," she said firmly, feeling the courage and determination rising within her even as she spoke. Glancing down at the mirror, Lephi felt this time not a choking flood of horror, but a confirmation of her resolve. Lord Darigan was glancing around warily, his grip tightening on a staff which he carried in his right hand, his huge ears flicking and swiveling as he listened to the forest around him; and Lephi knew without being told that the ambush was about to commence. "I'm ready," she said, and Shrukin's lips pulled into a small, hard smile of encouragement.
"Good. Now here is what you must do..."
Date: Jan 26th
..."I only wish you had more time to prepare. One day, you must train to perfect your magical abilities... they are far greater than you know. I will help you as much as I can right now, but time is short." Shrukin shut his eyes and sighed, and Lephi realized that the Wocky must feel just as helpless as she did. "We have no way of knowing how quickly Foreloc will be able to finish his plan."
"How do you expect me to be able to stop all of them?" Lephi asked, thinking of the dozen of imposters who were even now ruling over Neopia.
Shrukin shook his head. "All we have to do is stop Foreloc. Those imposters don't stand a chance on their own, and they know it. As soon as their master isn't around to protect them they'll turn and flee like the cowards they truly are." Lephi must have looked worried, because Shrukin put a hand on her shoulder and smiled encouragingly. "You can do it," he said, "I know you can."
Lephi glanced back at the mirror and realized that she didn't have a choice. Foreloc was going to harm too many Neopets for her to be frightened. "I'll do my best," she said.
Shrukin simply nodded. "Now, come with me." The Wocky gestured towards a staircase leading out into another part of the temple. "I need to get medicine for this leg, and then I shall help you on your way."
Lephi nodded and they set off. After three staircases and several long, empty hallways, Lephi was struggling to keep up with the elderly Wocky, even though he was injured. “How big is this place?”
“Quite big,” Shrukin replied, turning down yet another corridor. “It is the meeting place of all the magical beings in this world, a school of magic, a hospital... everything we need.”
“Why is it deserted?” Lephi asked, suddenly curious.
“Another one of Foreloc’s doings. He was a promising magician in this place, but like so many before him, he was not satisfied with the limited power that came with doing good. Part of his plan included using his black magic to eventually drive everyone out of this place, one of the few safe harbours Neopia had left. As you can see, he has succeeded in that respect. Ah, here we are.” The old Wocky stopped speaking as they entered another pristine white room. Without hesitation, he opened one of the many cabinets, took out a sparkling red potion bottle, and uncorked it over his wound. The shining liquid created a sort of transparent shield over the wound as Shrukin set the bottle down with a sigh. “This will heal with time. And now, my young Kacheek, it is time for you to go.”
Despite her resolution, Lephi couldn't help swallowing nervously as she nodded.
“Keep your eyes open. You will find yourself in the middle of a rather sticky situation, I imagine, but if you can get to the Lord Darigan first, you will at least have a strong ally.” To Lephi's surprise, he conjured up the old broomstick. The scene at the marketplace seemed so far away now. Despite his worry, Shrukin's eyes twinkled as he handed it to her. “Now hold on tight...”
Those were the last words Lephi heard before she was jerked into a swirling grey vortex. The next second, she was stumbling on solid ground, but it still remained dark. She groped around with her paw. Cold, wet grass beneath her...
“Well, well, well,” came an all-too-familiar rasp. “I see you've decided to take up my offer and join me as an apprentice. Good decision. You're just in time to see me capture the great Lord Darigan...”
Date: Jan 26th
...Lephi looked up and stared angrily at the evil Buzz.
"I won't join you, you twisted fiend!"
"Oh, twisted am I? Well if you think I'm twisted, how about I show you how twisted I can be!"
Immediately, Lephi found herself in the air, then on the ground, and then back against a tree.
"Young Kacheek, I was once too faced with choices, and now look where I am!"
He chuckled evilly.
"Yes, it was a difficult choice, but now I feel ten times stronger!"
He raised his hands again, and this time the Kacheek was twisted around and around like a merry go round.
"And when I take over Neopia..."
Lephi was now in the air, facing ground.
The ground was coming towards her now.
Lephi lay on the ground gasping, weakened by Foreloc's power.
"So you have a choice, little girl: stay with that stupid, doddering Shrukin, or join me and my army, and together, we can make all those people who called you a witch suffer!"
Lephi looked at him and thought. She indeed was angry at them for calling her a witch, but at the same time, she thought about how Shrukin would feel -- he trusted her. And she knew deep inside that she only wanted to do good with her magic, no matter how much strangers misjudged her. To think she almost switched sides because of the honeyed words of some evil Buzz!
Lephi lifted her head, anger coursing through her veins.
With a force she did not know she possessed, she released a flaming ball of green at the sneering Ruki. Before either of them realised what had happened, Foreloc was thrown back against a tree. When Lephi looked at her hands, they were glowing.
"What have I done?" she whispered.
"Sir! Darigan is approaching our trap, but he has heard some noise here and is now extremely wary," a Werelupe reported.
"YOU!" the Ruki glared at the Kacheek with utmost hatred. "You'll pay dearly for almost foiling our plans. No matter, your efforts shall all be for naught!" Just then, Darigan appeared within sight, his staff clasped tightly in both his hands as he looked on the defensive. The Kacheek and the Ruki simultaneously saw him, but the Ruki reacted first. With a snap of his pincers, Werelupes appeared out of nowhere and pounced on the lord of the Citadel.
"Lord Darigan!" Lephi screamed.
"Him first, you next!" the Ruki snarled as he turned to join the fray. Despite the number of Werelupes, Darigan was putting up a good fight.
I have to do something, Lephi thought numbly. Gathering up all her strength about her, she closed her eyes, feeling the magic tingle at her very fingertips. She could do this. Shrukin believed she could.
Taking a deep breath, she began to run directly at the group that was tussling, a glow beginning to form around both her paws...
Date: Jan 27th
...a glow that seemed to have a spirit of its own. The further she ran, the more it spread... over her flat feet and up to the tip of her feathered tail, and finally across her face and down her pointed ears, which where raised high in her tempest of hatred for Foreloc. The glow was brightening, and the Kacheek felt a tightness around her as she shouted words that sounded almost distant, as if someone were yelling at her while she was half-conscious.
The glow now turned resplendent silver, like a half-sickle moon on a winter's night, and Lephi felt as strong as its rays. Her footsteps were masked with the sounds of strange metallic clunks as she stepped on stones that lay on the footpath. Surprisingly enough, the fact that she was now made of some sort of glimmering metal did not slower her down, for she sped up like the wind had given her the secret to its legerity.
By the time the Buzz fully witnessed the transformation, he only had enough time to fly for cover. His henchmen were, of course, disposable. Lephi rammed into two Werelupes at the same time with the force of twenty rampaging Tonus. They cried out in pain as the first one hit a tree several feet away with a sound smack. The second one followed soon after. With a desperate crack, the impact was too much for the tree, which toppled over without complaint.
However, to the untrained eye, one would only have to blink to miss such a spectacle. The Kacheek had just hit the ground, and already she did several smart jabs in succession, causing those unfortunate enough to get in her way a staggering amount of pain. There may have been at least thirty henchmen in all, but they were all groaning or motionless on the ground in only a minute.
Lephi felt like she was almost watching herself do all these amazing things, as if she were only along for the ride. This creature, this thing of legends -- this was not her. In a dream-like state, she remembered walking at a normal pace towards the Korbat. In the short time it had taken Lephi to use her mysterious spell, he had been chained. She saw this, took two steps forward and brought back her paw, which had sprouted some pernicious silver claws.
Lephi swiped and his chains fell, freeing him. Darigan looked shocked as he stared at her in amazement.
"To whom do I owe the honor for saving--"
Lephi could not believe she was being so rude to the Lord of the Citadel, who was trying to thank her, but she knew what was creeping up behind her, even if she could not see it clearly.
"RUN! Get away from here! Warn Queen Fyora!" she shouted, her voice echoing, vibrating deep inside her metallic body. The Kacheek did not watch him soar away. Instead, she turned and blocked the barrage of green light that came to meet her.
The light came fast, but she had managed to block Darigan from the blow. It hurt... a lot... but Lephi still got up to her feet, her eyes flashing with some sort of righteous malice. The green around her faded. The Buzz was not in view, hiding within the confines of the forest.
Lehpi waited for another attack, but it did not come. She heard only the groans of the now motley crew of henchmen, and perhaps the distant flap of leathery wings that may or may not have been Lord Darigan. The forest, as the Kacheek stepped into it, however, seemed unusually quiet.
She walked on, her body somehow knowing which direction to follow. As time wore on, however, she felt a heaviness in her footsteps. Very suddenly, she tripped on a root and found herself on the ground, and unable to move.
"Pity, isn't it?" a voice asked. Foreloc, who had been hiding in the darkness near her, suddenly appeared, his hand glowing with a magic light that showed the Kacheek he had been one step ahead of her the whole time... perhaps cloaked by a spell.
She tried to speak, to say that she would stop him, but even something as easy as speaking would not come. Her jaw was too heavy.
"I was surprised at first..." he started, stepping forward, and bending down as if to examine a funny footprint. His sickening eyes were filled with mock-tenderness. "Yes, the Quicksilver spell. Very powerful if done correctly. If not, the user is likely to perish. It turns the body into silver, makes them invisible, strong, and incredible fast. I was not aware that you knew such a high-class spell. Not even Shrukin knew how to wield it. However, I have a defense for everything. All I had to do was keep you running. The metal, which spreads onto the outside of the body quite quickly, slowly goes inside too. So slowly, that you did not even notice... until it was too late of course. All you had to do was say the counter-spell, but you can't speak now, can you?" He put his grotesque foot on top of her fallen body, as if he had put her there himself. "You should have known better... tsk, tsk... I could have taught you so much... you had such promise. Sadly, I'll have to go now and stop Lord Darigan. You can rust here for eternity!"
Too see him flying away, to feel such hopelessness, such despair -- never had Lephi felt as she did now. Unable to move a muscle, she stared up at him. If only she could speak...
A door opened in her mind. A clear voice spoke words that were again not her own, not even the voice she usually had. There were no words, only singing, which sounded like dying wind chimes.
Some energy from inside allowed her to lift up her clawed paws to the air. Using the last bit of force she had left, she called to the receding dot that was the flying Buzz.
Her metallic coating suddenly shot out from her paw, stretching far. The rest of it followed, coming off her body like some sort of putty. She heard a distant cry of despair, a flash of green light, and the stillness.
Feeling light-headed and exhausted, she fell back, but someone caught her. Lephi's eyes closed briefly, but then snapped back open. The worldly, aged eyes of Shrukin looked down upon her.
"You did well."
* * * * *
A little Shoyru with a shrunken wing looked up and down the grand halls of Faerieland Castle. He was lost and he knew it. He had come to get his wing readjusted by a faerie, but he must have taken a right when he should have taken a left.
"Whoa!" he gasped, looking at all the statues in the room. They all looked pretty evil, like some sort of 3D Gallery of Evil. However, they were normal species of Neopets, and he had never seen any of them before. The newest, shiniest one was some sort of Buzz, who was dramatically reaching into the air as if he were falling. The nameplate read "Foreloc"
"Interesting piece of artwork, is it not?"
The young Shoyru turned to see a Kacheek in a lovely air faerie gown tailored to fit her. She held a large leather-bound book.
Her cheerful eyes grew sad when she saw his wing, and he tried to hide it.
"No, no... I want to fix it!" she told him, gesturing swiftly.
The Shoyu felt as if something was growing rather rapidly beside him. His wing!
"Wow! Thanks! Are you a sorceress?"
"No." She suddenly smiled. "I'm a witch."
Date: Jan 27th
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