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||You are on Week 268
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 Eight Ends March 31
There's nothing quite like the endless stretch of sand that is the desert.
I sit here writing as the early morning sun begins to melt away the cold vestiges of night. It rises, an immeasurable span of gold that tops the dunes. The sandy hills have been wiped clean with every passing of the wind. Truly, every day that you set out in the desert, you walk in no previous Neopet's steps. Is there anything comparable to this vast expanse, this feeling of unlimited freedom? The sea, perhaps, as I have heard tell. If this is so, then the desert is merely a golden ocean of sand.
It bears all the perils of the sea – violent storms, lurking creatures, and an infinite horizon that could cause any Neopet to lose their way. If the desert is the sea, then I am their mighty sea voyager.
I am a poet, a scholar, and a warrior. There are few like me left – few who could accomplish what I can. Thus, I find myself setting out once again on a perilous journey, a journey to pursue the merest whispers of a legend. Remnok trusts only me to discover the truth, and I will not disappoint a friend.
Besides, the desert is calling...
Date: Mar 24th
...Have you ever heard the desert's call? It is a hushed whisper that tickles the ear of only those who listen with every fiber of their being. I, being born of this arid land, am tuned to her dusty voice and I have never been able to turn aside her commands. This is especially true if Remnok's studies are indeed correct and if the Golden Chalice of Infinity is not just one of those wondrous legends my mother used to speak of when I was child. Golden Chalice -- even the very mention of those words send chills through my body despite the heat now slipping through this land like an errant wanderer.
Many of have heard of this tale and, while there had previously been no evidence, there was always a longing to believe. A great craftsman built the Chalice for an ancient ruler of this land. It was crafted out of solid gold that shimmered like these very sands and encrusted with jewels like no Neopet had ever seen before. To make his gift more precious, he took it to a mysterious Hissi sorcerer who placed a fabulous spell upon the Chalice. It was said that any being who was holding the Chalice when the sun first kissed this land in the morning would be gifted with infinite power and knowledge. However, on the craftsman's journey to the ruler, he was attacked by bandits. The bandits were unable to touch the Chalice as their hands were stained by greed, but it was swallowed up by the desert, never to be seen again.
Through the years, countless individuals have braved this beautiful, unforgiving land, but none were successful. In fact, many fell prey to the harshness and never returned from their quest. Although I still loved to replay the story in my mind like a nearly forgotten melody, I had long since fell under the belief that it was all just a legend.
That changed last week when my close friend Remnok journeyed to my camp, his Aisha paws sliding and sinking into the sand. I could tell his nervousness from a distance and bid him to rest, but he insisted on telling his tale. His words amazed me. He claimed to have heard of a cave where the Chalice was now located. He himself could not leave his shop at that very moment, but he only trusted me to look for it, so I set out immediately.
Now, I see the cave opening just below. The dry winds swirl about me, as if persuading me forward but my heart tells me that once I take these steps, nothing will ever be the same.
But I am a warrior and a son of this desert so I now I must take my first steps forward...
Date: Mar 27th
...Into the darkness of my uncertain future, into the darkness of the cave, my footsteps are wiped away by the unforgiving winds of the desert. No memory of my journey is left for those who would chance upon strange prints and decide to follow them, this mystery is mine alone it seems. The heat of the desert is a ferocious beast but inside the cave, sheltered from the sun and wind, the air is chilled and sharp. Shade is always welcome, but at night when the temperature drops, I fear the cave will be colder than I like.
There is nothing to see at first, only the pitch black of a false night, and I take from my bundle of supplies a torch and flint, ever careful as I light the torch. The flames leap to life and scatter light against the walls of the cave, allowing me a chance to walk unburdened by the thought of tripping and falling to my doom. Surely this is an adventure out of the tales for children! Was it not seemingly always true that such adventures held pitfalls and traps for the unwary? My eyes dart from the ground, to the cavern walls, to the ceiling, and back down again as I continue to walk through the cave.
It seems to wind for much too long when suddenly before me stands a choice; a fork in the path that leaves me with two tunnels to choose from. The two paths are equally dark and fearsome, yet something barely catches my sight. A pair of eyes staring at me from the darkness, then sound of feet turning and running down the path.
The left path.
Life! Is it a beast? A Neopet? It could be some fantastic guardian to the treasure that awaits me! No, no... it could not. It seemed much too small, much too insignificant. It was life, though, and perhaps it could lead me to what I desired.
I strike off down the left path, forsaking the right, with a grim determination. There is life here and I shall find it, I shall find where it keeps its nests and perhaps a clue. Upon the walls as I walk, I begin to see drawings. Drawings that do not make any sense to me. The ancient story of the Golden Chalice told that the desert swallowed the Chalice, stealing it away from the world.
I do not have time to wonder about the pictures that I had paused to gaze at, for the eyes were upon me again and there were more than just one set this time...
Date: Mar 28th
...I do not know who they are. What they are. Whether they be creatures of mere insignificance, or of total importance, I feel their overbearing presence. I see their existence. No, I do not fear them like I fear the beasts of the legendary lore. I fear them because they are the unknown. The unfamiliar worries me, and perhaps this is one reason I have journeyed from afar to find this Chalice of Infinity, which holds unlimited power and knowledge.
I am a warrior. Anonymous creatures of sorts will not frighten me. Yes, I am Liorum, the warrior. Nothing I am ready for will frighten me.
I walk towards the lights in this darkness ahead of me. They shine like the stars do in the night sky. Far brighter than my simple torch. There are but three sets of eyes staring back at my own. No, four, or possibly six. There are more and more every moment I waste wondering where they are appearing from.
I come closer, holding my torch farther out. The light cascades down this tunnel, but before I can catch a glimpse of these beings, they have departed and moved farther down this winding tunnel. My strides become longer, faster, and every time I come nearer, they move further. Why do they avoid me so? Am I a thing to be afraid of? I am not certain why, and then a thought pops into my head. Perhaps they are leading me somewhere.
I slow down and walk more calmly believing such. They stay in sight and I follow. It’s quite a simple procedure until I hit another fork in the road. This time it is not a sheer split into two paths but a third is added. The eyes stare at me from all directions; I do not know which course to take. They are everywhere, which must I follow?
Out of the gloom behind me I feel a warm breath on my back. At first I believed it to be the breeze that flows through the desert ever so often, but it is not. It feels unusual. As I turn swiftly utter darkness surrounds me. The fire from my torch has been blown out and thrown out of my paws. The eyes have disappeared.
I fall to my knees searching in these shadows for it. The instrument must be somewhere around here. I know it. Finally I grasp the touch of the coolness and bring myself up again. I reach inside my pocket looking for the flint I used to light it with. It is not there. What must I do now? Suddenly a pair of eyes are seen; I stumble towards them hoping this would lead me somewhere practical.
And as I am advancing towards these pair of eyes I suddenly feel the breath on my back again. I hurry away coming closer to the two lights. Then, unexpectedly all the breath fades away from me. I feel my insides jump. The last step I have taken has lead me to a fall. I descend down into more shadows not knowing where I will land.
I hit the sandy ground rolling down what seems to be something steep, much like a hill. Upon opening my eyes, a wondrous sight appears before my very eyes...
Date: Mar 28th
...A tomb! My eyes grow wide in wonder. I sit up, my limbs feeling weak. However, a sudden strength and power fills my soul. My legs quiver as I force them to stand. I gently slide my hood off in astonishment. My mouth cracks open and the air of a time long forgotten fills it.
The room is spacious. Torches flicker on the golden walls like silent soldiers keeping their watch. They gaze down on me with stern crimson eyes, angry that I have broken a probable thousand-year slumber. Small treasures litter the floor, and the illumination that the fire sends ricochets about the small enclosure. A coffin is placed gently on a table of pure gold at the end of room. I am unable to see the face painted on the top. A sun decorates the space above the burial place and guards it overhead. It stares at me solemnly through unseen golden eyes. My heart twists at the feeling of once again being watched.
Instantly those creatures snap into my mind. Were they leading me here? I crane my neck over my shoulder to see if they have followed me down hear. But a long hill sucked up into blackness is all that is following me. A warrior's foreboding creeps into my spine. If that other creature follows me down here I will be cornered into a room. My hand goes swiftly to my weapon at my belt. I hope not to use it. With a hastened pace I pick my way through, peering at the assortments of gems and statues.
The sand beneath my feet is cool, and it crunches quietly as I step. How unlike the desert in which I sat upon not too long ago. Some riches are buried deep down and some float on top like leaves on water. I am careful not to catch on anything sharp that hides itself in the sand. A golden Anubis stands tall and proud to my right. A Mask of Coltzan is showcased to my left. My inquisitive eyes grow bored with these repetitive glories. My eyes wander to the walls. Pictures paint them with vibrant colors. Symbols blurb across the board in certain sections.
They were stories. Stories of an ancient ruler.
With a rush of curiosity, I delicately approach the wall. A sense of wonder twangs at the scholar in me, and I rub my paws over the archaic lettering. Maybe these were like the paintings I had seen before. What did they say? The language is unknown to me. I rip my sack from my shoulders and shoot my hand into it. Gently, I pull out an ancient book. Remnok had given it to me before I had left. He had hoped it would be of some use. I smile.
A reed stares gravely at me from the wall. I place a claw on the random text. It looks to be the beginning of a section of stories. Quickly I leaf through the fragile pages trying to find the identical symbol. Instantly I am successful. ‘C’. I slide my paw over to the next one, my eyes glued to the book. My claw is pressed gently to the wall.
Suddenly a grating noise booms about the cavern! I fly back, flinging the book across the room. It kisses the sand with a swish but I pay little attention. From out of the wall, a scroll has appeared...
Date: Mar 29th
...Intrigue and curiosity are more powerful than caution, and my hands tremble slightly as I lift the scroll from its resting place. Age weighs heavily on the thin parchment, which is brittle and blankted in a thick dust. With great care, I peel the first layer of papyrus off to reveal the scroll's contents.
A small trail of glyphs in fading ink, identical in form to the runic script that trailed along the walls of the tomb, speaks a tongue as old as the sand beneath my feet. My eyes don't leave the parchment while I bend to retrieve the gift of Remnok's. I cross-reference the symbols with their twins in the ancient volume, and the veil that concealed meaning is slowly torn away.
"B-E-Y-O-N-D H-E-R-E," it reads.
Beneath the text was a glyph that the book had not recorded, but its familiarity is puzzling. Then I remember with a sudden, alien clarity exactly where I had seen it before--
--the wall. A sun crowned with nine stars is painted above the secret compartment from which I recieved the scroll. I trace its details with my paw, engaged in the mystery of its purpose. The texture of the paint catches my attention, and, scraping away at the sand that encrusts it, I inadvertently uncover a series of small fissures that surround the celestial body. A strange, inner instinct urges me to apply pressure to the carving, and again a grinding noise wells from deep within the tomb, like the clockwork to some great and terrible machine. In a cloud of dust the contours of a door become visible and the rectangle of stone gives a laborous attempt to swing inward. I push gently, and step through the threshhold.
With an intake of breath, I find myself in a domed chamber even more magnificent than the one I left. At the very peak of the ceiling rests a mural of what could only be the Golden Chalice, the gems that decorate it glittering like stars themselves. From the chalice spilled sun beams that fell along the walls, and though they were painted by mortal brushes they seem to gleam with a light of their own. The sand dunes they touch dance with it, and I stand with my head tilted back, enchanted by the sight. A beautiful, silent song whispers to me, and I rejoice in the triumph that it carries.
Beneath the dunes, I notice the kingdoms that form, filled with the stylized figures of various Neopians. Each looks at the painting of the chalice, and the impression of wistful longing is apparent on their faces. The sun beams continue past the kingdoms, but now I see time progress; wistfulness is soon obsession, then anger and hatred. Wars are fought, lives lost, and as the light finally brushes against the floor, it is amid pools of dark, ruby red.
All of what I see tells its story from the mural on the wall, with the image of the Golden Chalice at its center, and the song in my head becomes distorted. I feel uneasy, and I know there is something that remains unsaid, some part of the legend that has remained hidden.
And then even these thoughts are driven from me, as I feel a breath of warm wind at my neck. Though my senses and my logic try to convince me otherwise, I am aware that I am no longer alone...
Date: Mar 29th
...I turn around swiftly, yet there is no one in my vision. My eyes dart around all my surroundings; all I see is the mural and the chamber I stand in. Perhaps this unknown stalker is not present in this life, but the afterlife?
Yet, of course this could not be true. Or could it? My mind lingers on the thought for a moment longer, arguing a useless point, and with no one but itself. Finally I come to the conclusion that I am simply foolish to believe that anyone was ever standing here with me.
But what was that soft breath of wind? I could never be sure, but I suppose maybe it could just be the warm breeze of the desert itself? My mind tries to talk me out of this sensible desision, and even I know that it is highly unlikely; how could the wind creep into these chambers?
I try to steer my mind away from the strange presence I feel, though I am feeling more uncomfortable as I stare at the mural of the Chalice.
Nobody is here, I tell myself, I am alone. I cannot be with anyone -- surely he would show himself by now? I become aware that I have been here, staring at this mural before me, for a very long time. Over an hour, at the very least.
And yet, my mind does not leave the presence I still feel next to me, no matter what I try to think about.
I hear a low rumble from somewhere behind the mural. The ground is shaking underneath me. Where can I go now? One glance around the chamber tells me that there is no safe place anywhere in here if this is an earthquake.
My heart is pounding hard against my chest. What to do? Suddenly, as if the heavens are smiling down at me, I see a possible escape. There is no telling what will happen, yet it is the absolute only possiblity.
I have seen a lump of clay protruding from beside the mural of the Golden Chalice. I know that this is not just any lump, for years gone past have told me that anything like this is not ordinary. I push hard against the clay; it slides into the wall, and a passageway is revealed behind the mural...
Date: Mar 30th
...The passage way is undoubtedly old, yet strangely untouched. Its floor is smooth and clean, telling no other story of a Neopet that has been through this place before.
I creep through the threshold and into the tunnel. The rumbling begins to cease, yet I feel a strange emptiness without the mural. As a warrior and nomad, I can overcome loneliness and absence, but this is a power greater than that. As I walk through the strange, empty passageway I know that this is magic.
I run my paw down the wall of the tunnel. I don't know what I am looking for, but the smooth, cool wall reminds me greatly of the walls in my old childhood home, which I suddenly miss greatly.
Encrusted in parts of the wall are small gems and rubies. Not of great cost, but beautiful all the same. A light is beginning to creep in, from where, I do not know. It is an eerie feeling of confusion, but I trudge on. As more light enters I can see the gleaming jewels more clearly. They shine with such a playful gleam, as though they are laughing.
My spirits begin to lift; I feel the magic as I begin to reach the end of the tunnel. Then, I spot a wall, about five feet from my nose. The path has ended. I choke back my disappointment as I realize that it is a dead end. I must go back.
However, I do not give up so easily. Looking up at the ceiling, I discover where the light is coming from. There is a trap door, right above my head. I smile.
Carefully, I wedge my staff into one corner of the wall and push myself off the ground with it. Slowly, I place my sandaled paws into any cracks I am able to find and eventually manage to scale my way up to the trapdoor. With one last push of the staff, I shove open the trapdoor and swing myself in.
And there it stands -- the Golden Chalice of Infinity.
There is no triumphant fanfare, no flashy golden statues. Simply a golden chalice perched on an unassuming stand. Nevertheless, I know immediately that this is what I seek. My breath catches in my throat, and for a moment, I can do nothing but gaze in wonder. This may not be one of the first artifacts I have found in my journeys, but its aura of legend and mystery still have much impact on me.
Finally, I take a hesitant step forward.
Suddenly, incomprehensible whispers, like the rustling of wind, surround me. Once more, I feel the warm breath, this time with much more urgency. I feel an invisible force pushing me away from the Chalice, and I realise my fears have been confirmed.
The Chalice is not unguarded...
Date: Mar 30th
...Still, I venture forward, hoping that another step would not be too dangerous to attempt. Almost immediately, the wispy breaths solidify before me, still translucent yet not without the force of what could only be the guardian of the Chalice; the power of this vigilante is suffocating.
I stagger backwards. As a wanderer and a warrior, I have encountered creatures with much more fearsome appearances, monsters with more physical power than a dozen Neopets combined. I have struggled through the most painful of trials, and not without wounds of my own. And yet...
The light dims, and the silhouette of the Chalice blurs into indistinct lines -- a mere smudge of gold misted in a fog that cannot be natural. I squint, trying to bring the Chalice into sharper focus. A part of my mind will not accept this, that such a being even exists; but I know that, if I really trust in such a legend, it is more than likely that it will not stand unguarded against covetous paws. I should have been ready for this; I should have known that there was more than what was living that could keep this artifact from me.
Foolishly, I had believed, just because my own intentions are pure, that I would not be stopped. It seems that I was wrong, but I cannot turn back now.
I return my gaze to the misty sentinel. It takes the form of a youthful, slender Desert Lupe, though it appears ageless, its face hidden beneath a mask. Male? Female? It is useless to guess anything more about this sentry, since the Lupe remains silent and unmoving, blocking my way to the Chalice.
Slowly lifting my arms, I hold both paws up in a gesture of peace and step forward again, but the air whooshes past me and I find myself back where I started. Why will the guardian not let me past? I do not understand. I do not...
Then it hits me. What do I want the Chalice of Infinity for? Why me, when so many others have failed? What makes me different? Is the Chalice truly better off in my possession? I must answer these. I must know these answers -- understand them so well that they are carved in my heart, a part of me.
Bit by bit, I raise my arms again; but this time, instead of stepping forward, I step back...
Date: Mar 31st
...keeping my face to the Chalice, but no longer reaching for it, no longer a threat to the guardian. It remains, focused on me, and I bow low and then seat myself on the floor of the cave for contemplation.
Why do I seek the Chalice?
My friend Remnok gave me the clue and asked me to search for it. That was the beginning, the reason I began. But Remnok... Remnok is a trader; Remnok is a salesman. Remnok, for all his good qualities and for all he is dear to me, would not be deemed worthy by the Chalice's guardian. And so, I think, nor will I if I am acting in his name.
But I am a son of the desert. I love its beauty and wildness and freedom, the harsh face of it that demands caution and respect. The Chalice, too, is a child of the desert. I do desire to be more powerful, true; I am after all a warrior. I desire knowledge. I am a poet; already I long to write and sing for all the world, or all who are willing to listen, of the little I've already seen.
I do want to share. Surely that is not greed.
Still, why should I succeed where others have failed?
I sit and think for what may be hours, in the still air of the cave, watching the misty Lupe guardian. I find one reason, one stone to build on in support of my worth, and cast it away; another, and on inspection it crumbles and drifts away like a windswept dune.
At last the true answer comes to me:
I am not worthy.
I am, perhaps, nearer to it than many. I do not desire control over others, though I do desire knowledge.
But even to want to share poetry... it is still mine, and there is an element of self-glory there. If I would keep the chalice for myself, there is some greed there, and if I would give it to Remnok, it would be in the service of greed, no matter how unselfish I was myself.
I bow my head. It galls me terribly to turn back; when I first arrived, I would have said I could not. But I whisper aloud the truth I have learned and rise to go.
The guardian steps aside.
It makes an impatient gesture.
I advance, incredulous, one step, two.
The Chalice, on its stand, is within my reach. I extend shaking hands toward it and place them on either side of its bowl, and suddenly a soft and pleasant tingle runs up both arms, and I catch my breath. I no longer feel thirst or hunger, despite my long vigil. No longer do I feel fatigue from my walk or stiffness from sitting too long. I have never felt so perfectly refreshed.
I have never felt the world open up to me as it has. I do not know everything, but I feel I could. It is only a matter of thinking to ask.
And then I remember the last question.
Would the Chalice be truly better off in my possession?
What would I do with it? Would I be able to let it serve all the world, as I fantasize? Not if I take it to Remnok... and not if I keep it myself, for then it would only be with me, and not if I give it away, for eventually it would come to a stop with someone else.
I bow my head over the bowl. This answer, too, is "no," and I must let it go, though it be the hardest thing I have ever done.
A single tear drips from my eye into the chalice, before I sniff hard and control my emotion. It is not unfitting for a warrior to weep when it's warranted -- but it is unwise to waste water so far from an oasis.
When I am calm again and almost resigned, I open my eyes, giving a last look to the one salty drop in the Chalice.
It vanishes. And then, the bowl of the Chalice chills against my paws as cool fresh water wells up from nowhere into it.
"Drink," says a voice, surely not my own thought and yet hardly loud enough to be anything else -- a still, small voice. I look to the guardian, and it nods at me and says again in silence, "Drink."
I lift the Chalice of Infinity to my mouth and drink.
The first sip is ecstasy, rolling around my mouth; I take a whole mouthful, swallow and oh, I am overcome. My limbs tremble with weakness, and yet I feel I could move mountains; my mind explodes with light and sensation so that I cannot form a coherent thought, and yet it reels with understanding and inspiration.
What I have been given is already precious, and as much as I can bear. I set the Chalice back on its unassuming stand and let go, stumbling back and falling to my knees.
The Guardian smiles at me, and I know I have done right.
I bow low, pressing my forehead to the floor, and rise again. I find I fear nothing on the way out, not the creatures with their eyes, not getting lost, not the unknown.
I emerge into the burning sun, during the hottest part of the day, and find that I can stare at its molten light without pain.
I will have to tell Remnok that to take the Chalice from its place was beyond me.
And then... I will have poetry to write.
Date: Mar 31st
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