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

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Week 259
You are on Week 260
Week 261

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 Sixty Ends February 3

"I can't believe you got this for me!" Raysho cried, staring at the sword in his hand. To any passerby, it would have just looked like a cheap wooden sword, but to Raysho, it was one of the most valuable treasures in all Neopia. He had lost his own wooden sword several days before while playing in the forest, and the Lupe had been inconsolable.

"It was nothing," Char answered brightly.

"But... it must have cost your entire allowance... and more!" Raysho protested.

"It was for a friend," the Gelert replied gently.

"Best friend..."

* * * * *

"Captain! Captain Raysho! Sir!"

Raysho blinked sleepily as he sat up in bed, his mind still half-asleep. "Wha-?"

"Captain, sir, the king has sent you new orders!" The guard saluted urgently, then handed over a scroll.

The Lupe yawned. While being named Captain of the Guards certainly had its perks, such as the nice room he was currently situated in, it also meant that he was at the king's beck and call throughout all hours of the day. Waving a lazy paw, he dismissed the soldier and took the scroll. As he unrolled it, the Lupe briefly thought back to his dream. It was strange. He hadn't thought about his childhood friend Char in a very long time. Like all of his other school friends, they had eventually grown up and grown apart. He remembered hearing a few years ago that Char was struggling financially, but he hadn't thought much beyond that. After all, Char was much too optimistic and tough to let anything really bad happen to him.

Slowly, Raysho began to read the parchment:

By Order of the King,

You are henceforth commanded to take your squad and hunt down by any means necessary a certain group of thieves that has become a grave threat to the treasury of our sovereign, His Highness, the King.

No names have yet been connected with this condemnable act that the group has planned, but their leader has been described as a blue Gelert of average stature, dressed from head to toe in dark clothing. It is of utmost urgency that you find them all and put a stop to their evil deeds. His Majesty requests that you dispose of the matter as soon as possible.

In the name of the King,

General Cranston

Commander of the King's army, Royal Order of Bravery, Baron of Cranstonville

Author: Not head of Thieves Guild
Date: Jan 27th
..."A band of thieves...?" murmured the Lupe softly. He shrugged and yawned again, dropping the parchment on the floor. "I'd better get going before Cranston gets on my case for wasting time." Yawning again, Raysho padded to the door and entered the hall. I certainly hope if he woke me up for this, he got my troops up as well, thought the Lupe. Sure enough, as his paws took him to the armoury door and he pushed it open, there was his squad, groggy and tired-looking.

"Listen here," Raysho barked across the room, rousing the dozing soldiers. He waited for each of them to give him their utmost attention before continuing. "It has recently come to my attention that a brigand of thieves has begun to pose a threat to the king's treasury. General Cranston has requested that we dispose of them before they have a chance to pilfer His Majesty's riches. Is all clear?" There was a general murmur of assent through the knights and Raysho smiled.

"We are to leave at 0730 -- for those of you who don't know the time, that's in ten minutes. You'd be smart to sharpen your swords and ready your armour before we leave." The tired troops nodded and started to amble about, checking weapons and making sure their armour was in tip-top shape. Raysho followed their example and began readying his own equipment, selecing his sharpest, yet lightest, sword and some light mail.

When they looked ready -- armour on and standing alert for orders -- Raysho walked past them and opened the door to the field. "Let us move swiftly and stop them before they act!" They all filed outside and headed toward the forest near the castle. "They're obviously smart if they pose a threat to us and this is the only means of getting to the castle without getting caught by the guards," explained Raysho to no question.

The forest was dark and the Lupe -- as well as most of his troops -- were having difficulty seeing in the dim morning light filtering through the branches. "We won't stand a chance against them at this rate..." the Lupe muttered. "Who among you has sharp eyesight?" he called to his troops.

"Me, sir!" came a squeak. "I can see in the woods just fine!"

"Name?" inquired Raysho.

"Erilo, sir," piped Erilo.

"Okay, Erilo," began the Lupe. "Would you go out and scout the woods for us? The ones among us who can't see well would cause too much of a disturbance, especially if we ran into a tree or something..."

"I'd be honored, sire!" There was a flapping of wings and Erilo (who was probably a Korbat) fluttered away to go search.

* * * * *

"Boss, I can't see anythin'. How do we know if we're going the right way?" came a moaning voice.

"Because I said we were going in the right way," came the sharp reply. "We'll reach the castle in no time. It'll be light soon as it is." The group marched on in the darkness for a while before...

"A clearing!"

"I can see, Threl!" It was the same voice who gave the sharp reply, but this time he sounded annoyed.

"Can we please take a break -- we've been walkin' all night," Threl asked.

"Whatever..." snarled the second voice once more. "Just be quick about it." There were whoops and shouts of glee and a whole gaggle of pets streamed into the clearing. The dumb Meridell knights haven't even caught wind of us yet, most likely, he thought with a grin. And I can't go around with them complaining the whole time like that idiot Threl.

He stepped into the clearing and his blue fur -- that which was not covered by layers of dark cloth -- shone in the early morning rays of the sun.

* * * * *

Erilo weaved his way through the woods silently, keeping a keen eye out for any sign of a disturbance. From somewhere ahead, his sharp ears picked up conversation. Flying toward the noise, he stopped and hovered for a moment, eyeing the scene. There were many pets gathered in the clearing; at the back was a Gelert with blue-hued fur and dark clothing. Gasping inwardly, Erilo sped back for his group, memorizing every turn he took.

"Sir..." the Korbat panted. "Sir... Raysho... I've found them sir! They're just at the clearing up ahead, sir..."

Author: space_raven
Date: Jan 30th
...Raysho drew himself up to his full height, which made him look actually quite intimidating, and nodded to Erilo. “Good work, soldier. Now, are you sure that you weren’t seen by any of them?”

“Yes, sir,” the Korbat assured him with such an enthusiastic series of nods that he nearly dislodged his helmet. “None of them were paying very close attention to their surroundings, so I think- I think we’ve got a good chance to mount a surprise attack, sir,” he finished breathlessly, looking rather giddy despite himself. The Lupe pondered this for a moment, then turned to face his troupe.

“All right, you lot, listen up,” he spoke, keeping his voice low while still loud enough to be heard by everyone. “The enemy has been located in a clearing up ahead; we’re going to attempt an ambush, but we can’t all rush at them at once, the noise of your armour will give you away. I’ll remove most of my own and try to get close enough to determine what our strategy will be. If I don’t return within fifteen minutes, or if you hear anything suspicious, mobilize and follow Erilo where he leads you.” Quickly dequipping his shoulder plates and several other pieces of his armour, he turned from the group and the startled-looking Korbat and stalked off into the woods.

Speed was essential in this situation. Raysho knew the woods quite well, since he’d grown up making them his turf; if the clearing Erilo spoke of was the one he remembered, it wouldn’t take longer than a few minutes for him to reach it. Moving as swiftly and silently as he was able, the Lupe peered intently through the trees, his eyes now more or less adjusted to the darkness of the forest. If he was able to bring the band of thieves to justice, he would undoubtedly improve his standing in the eyes of his king -- and maybe, just maybe, Cranston would let him alone for more than two minutes at a time.

* * * * *

Splayed against a large boulder in the middle of the clearing, the leader of the small band of thieves cast a bored glance toward the castle, turning a rather wicked-looking knife over and over in his paw and reflecting the light of the pale sun back into the sky. He chose his company carefully, and it was true that they were all quite skilled in the ways of making valuable objects unexpectedly vanish from the possession of their owners, but they could be an obnoxious bunch at times. Such as now, for instance. “Lazy bunch of dungeon rats,” he muttered resignedly, glad at least for the fact that the noise of their complaining had died down a bit.

Suddenly, he sat bolt upright, long ears twitching fervently. He had definitely heard a twig snapping a few moments ago in the forest nearby. Though this was not odd in and of itself, what followed it had set him off immediately -- a soft metallic clank. Armour.

“Get into the woods, all of you! And be quick about it!” he hissed to his gaggle of larcenists, making shooing motions with his dagger as he did. The group sprang to attention with admirable speed and did as they were told, scrambling for the cover of branches and trunks and hiding themselves within moments. The Gelert was on his feet and turned toward the source of the noise in one fluid motion, dagger at the ready. If this was Meridell’s guard he was dealing with, there was no doubt about why they had come; if he could keep the numbers of his band a secret for now, he would have the upper hand.

Char called into the brush in one of his favourite childhood taunts, his voice infuriatingly insolent in the still of the morning air.

“Being a coward is a noisy business, eh? Come on out, you’re not fooling anyone...”

Author: _vespa
Date: Jan 31st
* * * * *

"Being a coward is a noisy business, isn't it?" the young Gelert called to the bushes that rustled behind him. "Come out of there, Raysho, you're not fooling anyone."

The Lupe laughed at his friend and crawled out, holding his new sword high. "Who dares call the brave Captain Raysho a coward?" he challenged boldly, "Come and do battle with me!" He lept at his friend, and soon the two Neopets were fighting happily...

* * * * *

Raysho stared at the figure in front of him for a long moment. There was no mistaking that voice -- changed though it was after so many years -- and the words were exactly the same. He carefully raised his hands in the air as he emerged from behind the bush.

"Who dares call Captain Raysho a coward?" he asked quietly. "Hello, Char."

"Wha- Ray- But-" Char stumbled back a few steps, letting his arm drop. "You-"

"-Shouldn't let your guard down," Raysho said confidently, suddenly holding his own dagger at Char's throat. "Why don't you explain why I've been pulled out of bed to come hunt you down, and then maybe we can have a nice catch-up chat with some tea and biscuits."

"That... sounds like a good idea," Char said, still looking a bit shocked, "But first..." the shocked expression vanished, and with a quick twist he brought his own dagger up to Raysho's throat, "...why don't you explain how you could have forgotten my oldest trick."

Raysho gave a loud sigh, "Of course, how silly of me." he lowered his eyes to look at the Char's dagger, "It appears we're in a bit of a stalemate. Why don't we go to your camp and have that tea you agreed to. We can leave off the questions until we... catch up a bit."

"That's more like it," Char laughed, dropping his dagger. "I trust the valiant knight has enough honor to keep a truce?" In any case, his men were still keeping a lookout in the trees.

"Of course," Raysho dropped his own dagger and held out his hand. After a moment, Char took it in his own.

"So who had enough power to get the great Raysho up before noon?" he asked innocently, "From what I remember, it couldn't be done."

"For your information," Rayso laughed, "it was General Cranston, military advisor to the king himself. He manages to put a bit more weight behind his wake up calls than my mother did."

"That actually surprises me," Char bantered back. "I didn't think that was possible either." He plopped down next to a half-built fire and quickly brought it to a roar, grabbing a tea kettle at the same time. "You know... initial death threats aside I really am glad to see you, Raysho."

"And I'm glad to see you," Raysho smiled back. "It almost makes up for having to wake up so early."

"Yes, well--" Char stopped as one of his men crashed into the clearing.

"Boss! What're ye doing here?" the man called. "There's a buncha them Meridell knights tracked us down, and now they're demanding for us to give 'em their captain back. We could really use your help..."

Author: hideyho987
Date: Jan 31st
...Raysho stood. He had forgotten how this would look to his troops. Their captain suddenly taken into the enemy's camp? Of course it would look like a hostage situation. "Let me deal with it," he said. "They're my responsibility."

"Boss," the pet said, staring at Raysho suspiciously. "If ye'll excuse me for sayin,' but can this one be trusted?"

Char also rose. "If you want to question my judgment, feel free."

"I wasn't questionin' anything," his subordinate stared at the ground angrily.

"Good to see you still inspire loyalty in those that follow you," Raysho said dryly. "Now, I think I'll tell my knights to stand down... if you'll agree that your men put their weapons away. And not just 'away,' as in their pockets. 'Away' as in they are out of reach. I don't want any skirmishes here until I know where we stand."

Char cocked his head to one side, his smile broadening. "Still as cautious as ever. But, I agree. We don't want any... misunderstandings."

Five minutes later, the Meridell knights sat in the clearing, eyeing one another in confusion. They had gone from hunting these thieves to eating breakfast with them. Char's followers looked just as uneasy. But they submitted to Char's orders and sat on the opposite side of the knights, muttering to each other.

"So how have you been?" Char said, pulling a mug out his bag and tossing it to Raysho. "Seems you've kept busy. Taking orders from generals now, are we? Makes you sound like you're someone important."

"Believe me," Raysho chuckled, stirring his tea, "when you get messengers in the middle of the night telling you that our dear General Cranston needs my assistance... you don't feel very important. Lately it's been worse."

"I see, I see." Char flashed that grin of his.

"So what have you been up to?" Raysho asked curiously. Char shrugged.

"A little bit of this--"

"--A little bit of that," Raysho finished, smirking. "The last time you answered a question like that was after you stole Sir Mercello's Snoogy and--"

"--You had to sneak it back into the inn where he was staying." Char threw back his head and laughed. "Yes, I remember. That was the first time you saw a knight, right?"

"Yes," Raysho said softly. He looked up at Char again, sighing. "Char, I think it's time you told me what you're really up to." Char looked out over the horizon, silent for once. Raysho raised an eyebrow. "Are the rumors true?"

Char stood up, cloak billowing out behind him. "Raysho, for the sake of our friendship, stay out of it."

"I can't." Raysho scrambled to his feet. "Please tell me."

Char turned around, blue eyes harder than Raysho had ever seen them. "Fine, I'll tell you. But you won't like it..."

Author: saphijaze
Date: Feb 1st
* * * * *

"Hey, shush," Raysho hissed as he tugged at his shirt that was caught on the window latch. Below Char was struggling to stifle his laughter.

"Maybe I should ask your mother to give you a hand," Char said through barely contained fits of giggles.

"Shut your trap, Char," Raysho hissed. "If my mother catches me sneakin' out -- while I'm grounded no less -- she'll pull my eyes out and stuff them up my nose."

Raysho gave his shirt one hard tug, making it tear at the seam and leaving him completely without support while he stood on his tiptoes on a thin window ledge. His arms flailed for balance but to no avail, and he tumbled to the ground, landing in a heap at Char's feet. Char could no longer contain his mirth and exploded in an uncontrollable fit of guffaws. Raysho was powerless to help himself and was soon laughing too.

"Y'know Char," Raysho managed through his laughter, "you're a bad influence on me. One day you're..."

* * * * *

"... gonna lead me seriously astray."

Raysho and Char looked at each other and shared a moment of complete understanding. Raysho found himself wondering to himself how he and Char had managed to grow apart so fast. He and Char were, in essence, polar opposites. Opposites who understood each other perfectly.

Raysho's life was always very regimented, which, combined with his idolization of knights, probably attributed to his decision to join the Royal Guard. His mother was the kind of strict and unrelenting Neopet who never let a single offense slide, no matter how slight or insignificant. Raysho was always the voice of reason and rationality throughout his and Char's childhood, and was apprehensive and contemplative in the face of potential trouble.

Char on the other hand was rebellious throughout his youth. He was frequently in trouble, and was probably kept close enough to the tracks to avoid serious troubles because of Raysho's pedantic attentiveness to the risks of any situation. Char was always way too confident and self assured to be able to comprehend the idea his plans might not pan out the way he envisioned them.

Shaking his head free of the past, the Lupe set his mouth in a determined line. "Tell me..."

Author: markholdgate
Date: Feb 1st
...“The truth is,” Char continued, “We’ve been… commissioned, you might say. I was contacted in Brightvale by someone who has offered to reward me and my men quite handsomely. Normally I don’t accept being...” he paused, curling his lip slightly, “commanded so, but I felt I could make an exception, this time.”

“So you were broke, huh?”

Char’s left ear twitched slightly. “Yes.”

Most of the knights were listening carefully. Some were enjoying the outcome of their commander’s wit pitted against the master thief’s. In contrast, some of the thieves were looking peeved.

“There is a valuable item held inside the castle. I’m... not at liberty to say what item this is,” his expression was one of mingled hardness and regret, “But I have heard that this item might be... dangerous.”

That was no surprise. King Skarl was quite a pack rat. Raysho looked over the assembled thieves, remaining quiet while he thought. “Wait a minute.” Something about this didn’t ring true. “Breaking and entering into a castle is a complicated job, but I don’t think it would require an entire band of thieves.” Indeed, such a large number could be a hindrance when stealth was involved.

“Sharp as ever,” Char laughed. “Yes. They have another purpose -- most of this band, I mean,” he gestured to them.

“Sir,” It was Erilo who spoke next. “What are we supposed to do?” He shifted a little uneasily as the eyes of both Char and Raysho fell on him. “I mean, this isn’t exactly a normal situation, and, and... well, they’re thieves, sir! Threatening to break in.”

Raysho nodded, but said nothing for a few more moments. He was still thinking. “You said that this... this item was dangerous, yes?” he turned to Char again. “What do you mean by that?”

“Just what I said,” Char looked a little confused.

“I mean, dangerous to whom?”

It was Char’s turn to pause. “I…” he frowned. “Well. Now that I think about it,” he slowly raised his eyes to meet his friend’s. “Everyone...”

Author: kyuukon
Date: Feb 1st
..."I think you'd better explain what you mean by that," Raysho said seriously. "If you're telling me that you plan to put an incredibly dangerous weapon in the hands of an unknown stranger, then I'm going to have to do what I've been trained to do: Protect this kingdom."

"I didn't think-- I mean it wasn't that-- There's no need to be so dramatic," Char frowned, looking nervous. "I wasn't planning on handing it over... until I'd looked at it a bit..."

"In other words you never even considered the consequences of this little job," Raysho snapped. "You just wanted to make some extra cash, and show off a bit while you were at it!"

"Show off?!?" Char practically screamed, "And just what do you think you're doing, parading around calling yourself Captain when all you are is a worthless little page to the General! If you want to talk about showing off--"

"I DO NOT want to talk about showing off!" Raysho cut in, leaping to his feet. "I want to talk about when you're going to learn to take responsibility for your actions and start thinking about what you're doing!"

"Listen Raysho, we're not children anymore and I don't need you to tell me what to do with my life! If you can't get your mind around that then maybe you should just do what you came here to do." He pulled a knife out of his boot and held it, taunting, "I believe your precious general is expecting you to catch a thief. Not that you would need to look outside the royal palace to find one, if you were smart enough to realize it!"

"...What?" Raysho froze with his own knife halfway out of his belt. "What are you talking about?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, did i forget to mention who it was that offered me this job?" Char said with a half-hearted sneer, "I did so want to keep you out of this, Raysho, but you're taking orders from what you might call a traitor. It's no mistake that you're out here lost in the woods while we are supposed to be breaking into the palace." He sheathed his knife with a sigh. "Now what do you need me to do? I don't work for free you know."

"Well..." Raysho managed to smile despite his shock. "First you'll need to tell me the full story." He smiled at his friend, "Then you're going to have to prepare yourself. We're going to do something noble..."

Author: hideyho987
Date: Feb 2nd
* * * * *

...“Get ready, Char,” the young Lupe whispered, a massive grin spreading over his face. “We’re gonna do something noble! Heroic, even!”

“What is it, already?” Char peered out from behind the cook’s stove curiously before his friend yanked him back down. He was annoyed that Raysho had insisted they sneak into the kitchen of one of Meridell’s most popular restaurants without even telling him what was up, or what was in the large wooden crate they’d somehow managed to smuggle past the waiters. Usually, coming up with these schemes was the Gelert’s job, since Raysho knew that he would catch it but good from his mother if he made trouble -- but apparently this one would be...

“...worth it. Hey, Char, are you listening?” the Lupe hissed.

“What? Oh, yeah... Just get to the chase already!”

“All right, all right! Now for the moment of truth... Be free, little guys!”

As the Gelert watched in amazement, the cover of the crate was pried off, and out hopped a Mortog. Wait, two Mortogs -- then five. Now Char realized where half of the stock of the Kiss the Mortog game had disappeared to; they were now cavorting around the kitchen of the restaurant, and before long he could hear the despairing cries of the chefs as the amphibious Petpets exercised their new freedom. All three dozen of them.

Shaking with laughter, the two young pets knew that they would be in big trouble for this one, and they couldn’t have cared less. Whatever the future brought them, they would face it with smiles on their faces.

And probably aching bottoms.

* * * * *

“The item will be disguised as a valuable but otherwise useless trinket; we’ll be looking for a gold decorative piece, probably a small sculpture or something. I’m not sure what your General Cranston wants it for; if he doesn’t even know exactly what it looks like, let alone what it does, I’d say he’s planning to attempt a military coup with the thing first and ask questions later. If he threatens to use the thing against Meridell... well, it’s well-known within the palace’s inner circle that it’s very dangerous. Who’s going to want to take their chances?”

“Um... that’s all good to know, but what do we do now? No one’s going to listen to our regiment under the advice of a bunch of thieves, and we don’t know where to start looking anyway.”

“Don’t worry! This will all come together, you’ll see...”

* * * * *

When the drawbridge of Meridell Castle was lowered, the guards were rather unexpectedly greeted by Captain Raysho and his soldiers returning triumphant, each preceded by a subdued thief bound by the hands.

“We’ll be taking this lot to the dungeon,” the Lupe declared loftily, giving his own charge, a blue Gelert in dark clothing, a light jab with his sword. “Caught them creeping around in the forest -- imagine that!” The troops nodded, though one of them, a diminutive Korbat, looked a bit nervous, as he was being dwarfed by a shadow Draik nearly twice his size.

The castle guards cast each other twin looks of surprise, eyebrows raised, before one of them shrugged. “Well... erm, fantastic, I suppose. Be on your way, then...”

Author: _vespa
Date: Feb 2nd
...Once they were inside the castle and out of sight of the guards, Raysho leaned closer to Char, whispering while they walked and resuming his erect posture of triumph whenever there was anyone nearby. “You understand the plan, right?” he whispered to Char, but although he knew that most of the others would be fooled, Raysho knew that Char’s nod was not as confident as he tried to make it look.

“We find the weapon, find out exactly what it can do, then... we play it by ear.”

Raysho nodded. “We’ll try to alert the King to the danger without the General knowing, but if we’re discovered we may have to improvise.”

A slow smile spread across Char’s lips. “I have a few ideas -- but they’ll have to wait for later,” he added, his voice dropping to less than a breath as an Usul-in-waiting paused in the hallway to watch the strange party pass. Raysho’s mind drifted for a moment as he tried to imagine the rumors which the talkative Usul would weave from this; then he shook the distraction from his head as he guided the party into a series of hallways which were distinctly dimmer and less inviting than the ones through which they had been traveling until now.

Before long the temperature began to drop, and the walls showed signs of mildew and decay. “Nice accommodations you have here,” Char muttered wryly. “I hope you know what you’re doing -- I don’t intend to take advantage of your King’s hospitality.”

Raysho’s smile matched his old friend’s tone. “Here’s where my plan starts. Daygo, take off your armor and put on Char’s spare cloak. Char-”

“Yes, I know, put on the armor and play ‘knight’. You always did worry about every detail of a plan, Raysho,” the Gelert interrupted, but there was a hint of fondness in his tone, and Raysho realized that he was not the only one who sometimes missed the carefree days of their childhood.

Within moments the two blue Gelerts had swapped outer clothing, and Daygo was slipping into a cell with all the other "prisoners." What the prison guards didn’t know was that Raysho remembered more than he had realized of Char’s lessons on the finer points of picking pockets, and the keys to the cell were now safely in Daygo’s possession.

“OK, Char, ready to become a hero?” Raysho whispered, and the Gelert shook his head.

“If you’re ready to explain to your superiors why you are slipping into the treasury with Daygo, I’m ready to watch the show.”

“Let me take care of my end and you take care of yours.”

“You’re leaving a lot to chance," Char said with a teasing smile, and Raysho chuckled quietly.

“Now who’s being the cautious one? If worst comes to worst, we may have to fight, and there isn’t much guesswork to that.”

It was easier than Raysho had expected to get into the royal treasury, with the story he had fabricated about a traitor being ready to slip certain treasures to the thieves through windows under cover of night. It was his duty as the Captain of the Guard to make certain that all of the treasures were safe and accounted for, and the guards did not put up a fight.

But as the Lupe and the Gelert entered the treasure room, neither of them noticed one of the guards slipping away from the door, while the remaining guards quietly drew their swords.

“OK, let’s see what we’ve got,” Char muttered as he rummaged through a pile.

“Be quiet,” Raysho hissed. “And hurry up! We need to find out what this thing is capable of before a suspicious guard or even General Cranston shows up, and we may not have much time.”

“How very right you are.” The General’s deep voice caused both Neopets to whirl around, Raysho surreptitiously reaching for his hidden dagger and Char clutching guiltily at an intricate and exotic-looking trinket made of gold. Glancing toward the Gelert, the General added, with a smile, “I see you’ve found the Firestar. Good for you. You did well, and your death shall be quick and painless.”

Char stiffened, and the General laughed. “Why, Char, you didn’t really think I was going to pay you for this, did you? You see, I can’t have any witnesses, and you two know altogether too much...”

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Feb 3rd
"...Neopets like you are almost too easy to manipulate," Cranston continued arrogantly. "You, Char, were a desperate bandit, ready to do anything for money without even thinking twice about the consequences. Arrogant enough to go through with it without second thoughts. And you, my dear captain, loyal to king and country to the very end. You would charge into the woods blindly into a trap, as long as someone told you it was for the good of the people."

"A trap?" Raysho's eyes widened at Char, who dropped his gaze to the floor.

"Of course," the General answered for him. "Come now, it must have occurred to you at least once that your friend here had an usually large number of scoundrels with him."

"You sent us away from the castle so we would not be in the way of your vile plans," Raysho said heatedly, beginning to understand fully.

"My men were supposed to detain you... at all costs," Char murmured. He still could not bring himself to look up. "At the very least, His Majesty's best knights would be distracted far from the castle."

"And at the very best, His Majesty's best knights could no longer pose a threat to me at all when I tried to take the throne," the General said.

"Why, you traitor!" Raysho started forward, dagger in hand, but Char put out an arm and stopped him.

"The world needs less chivalrous knights like you, always recklessly stampeding around for honour," said Cranston disdainfully. He had not moved an inch when Raysho had threatened him. "Of course, my little plan hit a small snag when it turned out you two used to be acquaintances. But that was easily bypassed soon enough. I would just let you both wander in and snare you two together in one fell swoop -- after you so kindly retrieved the Firestar for me."

"We'll see about that," Char growled. "Have you ever tried to steal from a thief?"

"Oh Char, Char." The General smiled condescendingly. "Once a rogue, always a rogue. You see," he continued, turning to Raysho, "natures like his are irrevocable. He'll always be wayward and unpredictable -- two traits a strict knight like you would hate most, am I not right? But there's still a chance. You've served me loyally, Captain, and I am not one to appear ungrateful. Help me catch this thief, turn him in as a criminal, and you could be given promotions beyond your wildest dreams. Join with him, and I will present you both to the king as traitorous wretches that I sadly had to dispose of. Imagine that -- the good, honest citizens of Meridell spitting on your very name."

"How could you?" Raysho cried incredulously.

"It seems to be a simple choice, if you ask me."

"He's right, Raysho," Char said unexpectedly. The Lupe stared at his old friend in astonishment. "There's nothing for you if you side against him. You can't help me now."

"You're not serious?" Raysho said, shocked.

"Look, you have everything you want right now! You're a knight -- what you've always wanted to be! Neopets look up to you, the king counts on you... you're doing what you do best. Don't throw that all away for a fight you can't win." The Gelert looked up and gave a small smile. "You're always trying to save me, Raysho, whether it's getting me out of trouble or correcting my wrongdoings before anyone notices. You've got to look out for yourself this time..."

Author: the_indefatigable
Date: Feb 3rd
* * * * *

"You've got to look out for yourself this time!"

They had been playing in the woods -- far away from where his mother had told him to play. Raysho had disobeyed her at Char's urging and the two scampered off to more adventurous places. However, Char had stumbled into a hunter's trap -- a rope had fastened tightly around his foot -- and found himself unable to move.

"When the hunter comes to see if he's caught any Petpets," Char continued, "he'll let me go. But if you stay here after nightfall your mother will kill you. Just go home -- I'll be fine." Raysho stepped forward. "And don't come any closer," Char added, "we don't know if there are more traps."

"I can't go home and leave you here. What if no one comes to free you?" Raysho said stubbornly. He shook his wooden sword angrily. "If this were real I could save you."

"Just go," Char sighed. "I'll be fine."

"No," Raysho said. "Best friends don't just desert one another. Even if it's to save themselves."

* * * * *

Raysho stood, trapped between his ideals and the obvious way out. Slowly, with a slight hissing sound, he brought his sword out and up into the air. He had merely to sidestep to press its tip to Char's chest and save his reputation.

Sighing, he turned to Char. "Put that thing -- the Firestar -- on the ground and slowly back away. Don't make me force you."

Cranston's smirk could not have been any more infuriating. "Well chosen, captain," he said silkily. "I knew I could count on you."

Char smiled sadly. "Guess you finally took my advice, old friend." He placed the small trinket on the ground and backed up. "You finally learned to save your own skin."

Raysho smiled, a real smile, for the first time since Cranston had entered the room.

"Best friends don't just desert one another. Even if it's to save themselves."

With a cry, he raised his sword and brought it down on the Firestar. The gold and jewels shattered, scattering across the floor.

Screaming in denial, Cranston rushed at Raysho. "Traitor! I'll kill you for this, I'll--"

Char snatched up an ornate dagger from the treasury and prepared to defend his friend. However Raysho did something very odd. He dropped his weapon and placed his hands at his sides.

Cranston grabbed Raysho, snatching his own sword away from his belt. "You'll pay!"

"G-general...?"

"General, what are you doing?"

Two startled voices stopped Cranston in his tracks. The treasury's two guards stood in the doorway, mouths agape. "Act quickly," Raysho barked. "He's betrayed us all!"

The two guards looked at one another, then rushed at the general. "I'm sorry, but you need to come with us," the first guard said, wrestling with the struggling general.

"You'll pay for this," Cranston snarled at no one in particular. "You'll never get away with this!" The second guard wrenched the general's sword away from him.

"I think a formal trial will be held," Raysho said, his eyes flashing, "but with me and my men's testimony, it'll be a long time before you are allowed to even go near a sword again."

Howling in rage, the general was led away. Char looked at Raysho in amazement, as Cranston's complaints echoed down the hall. He cocked his head. "Some pretty fast thinking, you did back there," he said.

Raysho shrugged. "I learned from the best. Now, I suggest you sneak out of the castle in the uproar that's about to go on when the kingdom hears of Cranston's treachery."

Char's eyes widened. "Run away? You're just going to let me walk out of here?"

Raysho grinned. "I'll say you got away when Cranston attacked me. Just," he sighed again, "please don't let your thieving ways reach my ears again, or else I will be forced to hunt you down."

Char saluted him, Meridell-style. "Right, Captain. But you know, I might stop by when I have my... um... finances in order."

"That'd be a welcome change." Raysho smiled and headed for the door. "You can escape out the window, past the kitchens and over the moat. Its shallowest in that direction." He closed his eyes as he heard Char's footsteps recede.

* * * * *

"I can't believe you stayed with me the whole night," Char groaned.

"I can't believe my mother locked me in my room, calling you a 'bad influence,' whatever that means." Raysho was forced to whisper through the window, as Char crouched on the ledge.

"I can't believe you lost your wooden sword on the way back," Char said, shaking his head.

"Neither can I," Raysho said glumly. "Now we can never play knights."

Char shrugged. "We... might be able to." He began to slide off the windowsill.

"Where're you going?" Raysho called.

"I've... got to go buy something," Char replied, with that cocky grin of his. "I'll see you later."

* * * * *

Yes, Raysho thought. I'll see you later.

The End

Author: saphijaze
Date: Feb 3rd



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