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

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Week 271
You are on Week 272
Week 273

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 Seventy Two Ends May 5

"Your Majesty, we've searched everywhere. I'm afraid it's true – the royal painting has been stolen." The Shoyru bowed unhappily as he broke the news.

"How could this happen?" Princess Amira demanded. "That painting is protected by powerful, ancient magic! Besides," she paused, looking around and lowering her voice, "no one knows we have documents stored inside the frame."

"We suspect that there has been a leak," the Shoyru advisor said, "and if so, this is a matter of utmost urgency. We have reason to believe that this could be the same traitor who tried to sell secrets during the war with Qasala."

"But why now? During this time of peace?" the princess asked, looking agitated.

"Who knows?” the advisor responded. “There are many villains who would love to gain power over the Lost Desert. Perhaps the traitor is merely hoping to sell their ill-gotten gains to the highest bidder."

"But there’s no one else who knows about the painting! There is only me, my sister Vyssa, you, General Dacon, and my cousin..."

"...your cousin Hy'Rea," the Shoyru finished, looking meaningfully up at the princess.

"Hy'Rea? A traitor?" Amira gasped. "But that's impossible."

"I cannot say for sure, Your Highness, but she was seen suspiciously lurking around the castle earlier, and now she has vanished from her chambers," the advisor said.

Amira was silent for a moment, her lips set in a thin, straight line. "Well," she finally said, "blood relation or not, we have to stop her before that painting falls into the wrong hands..."

Author: Royal Advisor
Date: Apr 21st
..."Then all of Sakhmet will be in grave danger," the advisor finished for his princess in a grim tone.

Amira nodded solemnly. "Post guards at the entrance of the city. We must make sure that those documents stay with Sakhmet. After the entrance is secure, organize everyone available to search for Hy'Rea. If she is innocent, then I wish to clear my dear cousin's name but if she is guilty..." The princess paused as she fought to keep her voice steady, "Then she shall receive a punishment suited for that of a traitor."

"Very well, your majesty," General Dacon said, bowing low to the princess, "It shall be done." With a graceful air, the Shoyru turned and left the throne room, allowing Amira a minute alone with her thoughts.

The lovely Aisha sighed deeply as worries shimmered brilliantly in her luminous eyes. As a child, Hy'Rea and she had often played and laughed together. Before her duties as princess had forced a distance between them, they had not only been close cousins but best friends as well. To even consider Hy'Rea to be a traitor was shattering Amira's royal heart.

Slowly, Amira stood and made her way to a nearby window. Sakhmet stretched out before her, shimmering in blistering desert sun. Below her, her subjects went about their daily routines - blissfully unaware that their lives once again were quite possibly in danger.

A movement directly below the window caught the princess' eye, and Amira turned her attention away from the city to see what was stirring below her. To her amazement, she saw Hy'Rea slipping along the outside wall of the palace. Amira was too surprised to call to her guards as she watched her cousin feel about the foundation blocks, no doubt searching for the secret passageway they had played in as child. Finally, the mouth of the passageway was opened and Hy'Rea, with one quick look around, stepped inside and disappeared.

Amira's heart felt as if it had been smashed and scattered about like the very sands of the desert. She had seen the parchment held tightly in her cousin's paws and knew that it was the missing documents. "Oh Hy'Rea," she whispered to herself in a tortured voice, "How could you?"

Royal protocol suggested that she should call General Dacon or her guards to handle this matter, but at that moment her mind was not on protocol or expectations. Hy'Rea was her family and, at least at one time, her friend.

Gathering her majestic robes about her, Amira ran from the throne room and down the step steps. She could see the passageway in her mind, opening like a hungry mouth ready to swallow her, but she didn't see that she had much of a choice. After all, she was the princess...

Author: tj_wagner
Date: Apr 24th
...and who else knew the passageway better than she and Hy'Rea? The guards would only get lost, with all the old shoot-offs. It had taken Amira a couple weeks to even find the way to the other side of the palace walls. Even after having convinced herself that she was the only one for the job, the princess couldn't help but pause at the entrance. Doubts began to cloud her mind.

It had been years since Amira had been down, and she remembered why it had been so long. She'd sworn the last time would be just that - the last time. She shuddered and tried not to remember the feeling as she forced herself to reopen the entrance and move through.

The darkness swept in quickly, covering her so well that she could hardly see her paws in the eerie glow the passageway had never lost. Pushing away her growing feeling of anxiety, she placed a paw against the right side of the wall and began to walk.

The feeling of the cool stone comforted her some, and she was able to think of where Hy'Rea might have gone. She would not be able to escape out the other side where they had so often gone before - the exit was near one of the gates. Though it was a lesser gate, there were so many guards posted by now that she would be noticed.

As she wandered toward one of the larger caves, she paused, ears perking at the sound of voices. She recognized one as Hy'Rea's, even though she couldn't make out what she was saying. Amira crept forward, pressing herself to the wall and listened.

"Did you get it? Did anyone see you?" a gruff voice asked, and Amira shivered to hear it. There was something about it she didn't like.

"I stayed true to my word," Hy'Rea said, sounding a little too calm for the princess's liking. She knew that tone of voice from when they had played as children. So it was all true then, the princess thought, her heart dropping. Hy'Rea was up to something, but what exactly?

Resisting the urge to walk in and expose the extra person, Amira scooted back into the main tunnel...

Author: sexybaglady
Date: Apr 25th
...but she stopped suddenly when she could hear footsteps coming her way. It sounded like her cousin Hy'Rea and her accomplice were walking to the spot Amira was in just seconds before. Gulping hard, the princess leapt round the corner and into the tunnel out of sight.

"I'm sure I heard something," the worried voice of Hy'Rea said.

"You think we're being watched, eh?" the voice of the mystery person asked, more gruff than before. He coughed once and wheezed; to the princess, who was against the wall, he sounded old... and familiar somehow.

She couldn't ponder who that voice belonged to. Not here at least. And she couldn't uncover herself as the one who overheard their conversation. She knew how dangerous the outcome could, and probably would, be. Instead she would go back up to her room.

She quickly scurried back to the opening of the secret passageway, tripping over her feet a few times in the hurry to get back safely. She was out of breath and tired by the time she reached it, and her mind was still racing as to who that voice belonged to.

With shaky paws, Amira opened the entrance to the passageway and peered her head through. She checked the hallway to make sure no one was watching her and when no one caught her eyes, she quickly raced up the stairs and into her room.

She paced her bedroom for fifteen minutes just trying to remember where she had heard that voice. It belonged to an old person and had a distinct gravelly tone to it.

She looked into her mirror and suddenly, perhaps spurred on by her own reflection, she realised who the voice belonged to. It was her father's brother, and her uncle, who had disappeared from the kingdom five years ago...

Editor's Note: Since the Island Mystic predicted that the storytelling competition would disappear into quicksand at the end of the week (meaning no second installment on Thursday and no installments on Friday), we're going to extend this story and make it a two-week epic so the adventures of Amira don't get cut short!

Author: ginger23456
Date: Apr 25th
...Memories flashed through her mind as she stared at her reflection in the mirror, and for a moment it seemed that she looked not into her own brown eyes but into the auburn eyes of a bearded Kyrii who always seemed to keep his business to himself...

* * * * *

King Coltzan forced a weak smile as he stared up at his ten-year-old daughter, who clutched desperately at his paws as he lay almost motionless on his bed. "Do not worry, my daughter. I'll be all right."

Tears streamed down Amira's face as she stared at her sick father. "Are you sure, Daddy?" His skin was pallid beneath his fur, his eyes dull and glassy, and as he covered her small, delicate paws with one of his own it was clear that the effort took all the strength he could muster.

Another languid smile, this one even weaker than the first. "Of course. Go and rest. I should be better in the morning," he reassured his anxious child.

As Amira made her way to her bedroom, the faint sound of voices tugged at her sensitive ears, and moving toward a door on the left of the hall she heard Uncle Kalastron's rough voice saying quietly, "...and if my brother does not recover from his illness?"

The cold voice that came in response sounded like a massive container of rough stones being poured into an echoing pit. "Then the crown will pass on to you."

The little Aisha shuddered as the smile in Kalastron's voice sent shivers trembling up and down her spine. "Excellent..."

* * * * *

Amira blinked as she jerked back into the present, the illusion in the mirror vanishing to leave her staring at a pale-faced Aisha with wide and horrified brown eyes. Her suspicions had been vague back then, and had been all but forgotten when her father recovered from his mysterious ailment, but now they returned with a vengeance.

WOULD her uncle have gone to such great measures to usurp the throne? HAD it been Kalastron who had been responsible for King Coltzan's illness? Might he even have been somehow connected to her father's demise? Doubts and dark suspicions chased each other through Amira's mind like a shadowy whirlwind, and the memories of her last visit to the passageways suddenly came crashing over her full-force.

* * * * *

She was lost -- she didn't know how it had happened, but she was really, truly, utterly lost. Confused and alone in the darkness, she had wandered for what seemed like days in the near-black passages beneath the walls of the palace. And it was all because of the strange, dark figure who had lured her onto the wrong path to begin with.

It had appeared in front of her, staring at her strangely with its gleaming auburn eyes. At first she had been frightened, but when whoever it was darted into a side passage her childlike curiosity had gotten the better of her, and she had followed it into a part of the underground labyrinth she knew nothing about. And now she was lost, the cloaked shadow having vanished from sight. She was utterly alone, except for the whisper that crept out of the darkness to surround her: "Now, let's hope you stay lost..."

* * * * *

Amira closed her eyes tightly, shaking her head as if to dislodge the memory. She didn't know how long she had wandered under there, but she had finally found her way to one of the side exits. She had told no one of this strange adventure, and now she wondered if that had been wise, for come to think of it the cloaked stranger's brownish red eyes had seemed somewhat familiar.

Cold chills flitted through her heart and up her spine, and suddenly she felt sure that her suspicions were correct: Uncle Kalastron had come back to haunt her, to try to take the throne; and it had been he who had attempted the same thing in the past. And the documents had something to do with it, although she wasn't certain exactly what.

Suddenly Amira frowned. What information HAD the documents contained? They had been hidden away so long ago that she was beginning to forget. Amira closed her eyes, concentrating hard.

Then suddenly she gasped as realization dawned...

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Apr 26th
...One of the documents had been her father's unchanged will.

Amira stared blankly into her room as the final moments with her father returned to her...

* * * * *

"Amira... daughter..." The voice was weak, and partially hidden beneath a raspy cough.

Amira climbed closer to her father, grabbing at him gently from beneath the banquet table. "Daddy...?" she spoke softly, unsure of what was happening.

"Amira... this food... I have been poisoned...." The king coughed, a grey paw moving to clasp at his chest as he wheezed. "Amira... Those seated at this table shall not rule beneath you. You shall be ruler, by my order. They are not to be trusted. Listen to my words, and follow them, for I will not have time to change what has been written in my will. Stay hidden, and do not speak of what I've told you now. My rule is now yours, take it and treat Sakhmet well..."

Amira watched through tear-swelled eyes as her father lay gasping for breath. She held him from beneath the table, resisting him for the few moments as he nudged her to leave. After a final kiss and "I love you, Daddy" she would turn and crawl from beneath the table, her play area, as the table guests rushed and grabbed at Coltzan.

"My daughter will be the princess of Sahkmet! Amira shall rule Sahkmet!"

* * * * *

Her father's last words to her rang in her ears. Coltzan had not had time to change his will, but after his demise by one of the table-guests, he had changed his mind on who he wanted ruling his kingdom. His shouting had been heard by the entire table, as well as some staff; and after Coltzan's death, Amira, as her father had wanted, was crowned the princess, ruler of Sakhmet.

Shortly after beginning her rule of Sakhmet, Amira made sure to follow her fathers words. She released all those at the table from her service, asking them to leave the city. Her uncle, although a member of the banquet on that night, made note to leave on his own, storming out of the city in a fit of rage as he realized he had lost his title to the crown.

Hy'Rea had stayed in the kingdom, living with Amira in the palace. The two were best friends, practically sisters at heart... but perhaps that was how she was supposed to see it. Perhaps all this time, Hy'Rea had really been plotting against the princess for running her father from the city.

Amira turned quickly, breaking her stare from the room. All whom had heard her father's words had been run from the city. Since then, she had gotten new guards, advisors, staff... If Kalastron got hold of that document, her father's will, Amira would have no way to prove that she had been announced ruler of the kingdom. All the city would see was the document... the document which said that Kalastron would rule...

Author: mossdraped
Date: Apr 26th
...Amira felt hot, angry tears surface. What did she ever do to Hy'Rea? They had been best friends, and Amira had always trusted her. Now who can I trust? thought the Aisha sadly.

Amira felt a salty tear travel the length of her cheek as anger began to consume her. Why was her throne always sought after? Why couldn't there just be peace in the land for once? She kicked her antique desk irately.

...WHUMP...

A hidden drawer flew out, catching her in the foot and tripping her.

Amira ignored the throbbing pain in her foot and examined the drawer. The inside was coated in dust, but several manuscripts and a large, expensive-looking emerald in the shape of a beetle lay there.

The Aisha picked up the papers, sneezing as years-old layers of dust flew in her face. Faded black ink in forms Amira did not comprehend covered the pages.

"A lot of good this does me," said Amira with a sigh, picking up the emerald beetle with minor interest. A jewel like this was nothing to a Queen such as herself. As she gazed back at the manuscripts, still holding the jewel, the script that wasn't clear to her before was suddenly articulated with such painful precision that it almost hurt to look at it.

"Oww," she said, dropping the emerald onto her lush carpet. As soon as the beetle left her hand, the script went murky and unclear again.

Amira was breathing harder now, a mix of fear and excitement bubbling in her stomach. She grasped the beetle in one hand and watched stoically as the text lit up again. Amira then read what she saw in a crackly whisper:

"A power so great it should not be released,
A terror so powerful it should not have been created,
No one remembers, no one ever remembers,
They forget what they should not have forgotten.
Hidden for always and hidden for sure,
Never lose your inner light, forget not thine plight,
And your goal is therin in your sight."

Amira blinked a few times. "That makes absolutely no sense," she whispered to herself. "Unless... oh no, Father... No..."

As she read the few lines she had missed written in miniscule scrawl at the bottom of the page, Amira felt a terrible fear she never thought she would feel...

Editor's Note: As predicted, the storytelling competition has sunk into quicksand. :( We hope to pull ourselves out by Monday, so see you then!

Author: neosass
Date: Apr 27th
..."My daughter, I hope you never have to read this," Amira whispered aloud, chokingly. "The jewel that you hold can only be used by you and only in a very dire situation. I can only tell you that although your uncle would take the throne, he does not want it for himself. Though your cousin seems to help him, her loyalty lies with you. Find her. And, my child, my love for you is undying."

Amira's terror was overcome with unbearable sorrow. She was only just able to replace the beetle and the manuscript in the drawer before collapsing to the floor, tears cascading from her eyes and matting her fur. "Oh, Father, Father, Father..." she moaned over and over, so racked with sobs that she couldn't move. In minutes, she fell into a fitful sleep.

A brilliant desert sunset was just beginning to decorate the room with colour as Amira awoke. Sighing, she wiped the salty remains of her tears from her cheeks and picked herself off the floor. As she straightened her royal robes, she became aware of a nagging in the back of her mind like a forgotten dream. Seconds later, it came into focus and the last line from her father's note echoed in her mind. "My love for you is undying." There was just something about the word "undying"... It almost sounded like her father had known that he was going to die.

Puzzled, Amira snatched the beetle and the parchment from her desk drawer and scanned his words. Another line stuck out this time. "Though your cousin seems to help him, her loyalty lies with you." It was obviously strange that he would know about Hy'Rea's betrayal even before it happened, and just as strange that he said she was to be trusted, but Amira focused on the last word. "Her loyalty lies with YOU." Amira shuddered with an unfamiliar emotion. "Find her," shouted her father's bold handwriting. It struck her that this was his dying wish.

Rising from her desk, Amira whispered, "I will, father, I promise."...

Author: lauaed
Date: May 1st
...So Princess Amira wasted no time in returning to the dark tunnels she had run away from earlier that day like a scared little Snowbunny. Never again she decided as she picked her way through the labyrinth. Father would have been ashamed...

His face, kind but with sharp eyes, flitted briefly in front of her mind's eye. She smiled slightly and continued on her way, her footsteps sure with the power of her father behind her. Amira plodded onward, following a path she almost felt had been set before her. She knew where Hy'Rea was, and she was just now remembering vaguely how to reach her cousin's secret place.

* * *

"Hy'Rea! Where are you?"

"Honestly, if I don't stay two steps ahead of you, you lose your way! What would you do without me?"

Amira laughed as the Wocky winked in a way that only she could. Amira raced after her cousin, who tagged her on the arm and raced ahead with boundless enthusiasm.

"Where are we going?"

The glow of mischief reflected in Hy'Rea's eyes. "A special place...my special place. I want you to see it, but we must hurry!"

Princess Amira panted slightly. "It's getting late. They are serving dinner in the palace by now...I can already taste the Tchea fruit cake the master chefs are preparing for dessert!"

Hy'Rea spun around as if insulted. "This is much more important than cake!"

"Well, are we almost--"

The Aisha stopped mid-sentence. She gasped at the beauty. The tiny aqueduct they had been walking next to opened up and fell, cascading into the royal garden. However, it was not just the royal garden this area overlooked, but all the gardens owned by the other nobles. Beyond that spread the main bazaar, where little figurine-sized Neopets were closing up shop. Beyond the city was the desert, its golden hills rising up to catch the luminous red sun, which was setting with as much grace as a Faerie Pteri. The colors were the same, too. It was the most beautiful thing Amira had ever seen.

"It's so pretty!"

"And much better than cake!" agreed Hy'Rea.

* * *

We had made plans to go back to that spot once a week to see the sunset...but that was the day my father died. I couldn't bring myself to have fun because of my grief...

It was strange that she should turn the corner and see the same picturesque view with the sun setting. It seemed unfair that the view should stay the same when everything around it had changed.

And in the shadow of the aqueduct was the same figure who had lead her there the first time.

"Hy'Rea--"

"Amira, I must explain--"

"No, you don't. I must explain to you. I am sorry I ever doubted you. We are friends... maybe more like sisters. I know you would never betray me."

The Wocky breathed in deeply. "Oh, thank the sands! I thought you would not believe me. I was just going to go up to the palace and warn you--"

"Hy'Rea! Hy'Rea!" A throaty voice bounced off the stone walls, making both girls shiver.

The Wocky, eyes wide, stepped into the sunlight. Something about her looked... different. "I did not think he would come for me so soon. Quickly, you must escape! Down the waterfall!"

"What? Why?"

"Please, you need to understand, Kalastron..."

Author: laura2s040
Date: May 1st
"...has a legitimate claim to the throne and should not be denied," Hy'Rea suddenly blurted out, her voice becoming markedly louder as a shadow appeared in the corridor. The Wocky glanced in Amira's direction, subtly raising a meaningful eyebrow. Although the Aisha had frozen, her eyes gave a nod of understanding that only Hy'Rea could see.

Kalastron looked less than convinced of his daughter's intentions as he stepped into view, his brownish red fur shimmering in the sunset as he moved. "Hy'Rea, what are you doing?"

"I... er... I was trying to convince my cousin that... you are the, uh, rightful king..."

Kalastron's eyes narrowed as Hy'Rea's voice trailed off. "Why do I not believe you?"

"Because she's a foul traitor who cares nothing for the people who love her," Amira suddenly snapped, her eyes filling with tears.

Hy'Rea's expression was brimming with pain beyond description as she turned her head to meet Amira's gaze. "Amira--"

Lunging forward, the Aisha gave her cousin a violent push, twisting as she did so that her face was hidden from Kalastron. Then she winked at Hy'Rea.

The pain in the Wocky's eyes faded, then was suddenly replaced by fiery wrath. "How dare you!" she snarled, slashing at Amira with her claws and missing by a hair's breadth. "I am a princess and the daughter of the TRUE heir to the throne! Do not have the audacity to believe you can speak of me that way, cousin or no cousin!"

Amira's full lips curled in a sneer. "Kah! You are no more than a spineless coward who attacks those who thought they could count on you!" It was barely perceptible, the faintest lifting of an eyebrow, but Amira could tell that Hy'Rea had caught on.

Leaping at the Aisha, Hy'Rea shoved her so hard that Amira nearly staggered out of the aqueduct and over the sheer drop beyond. While her back was turned to Kalastron, the Wocky flashed Amira one of her inimitable winks. "And what about you? You drove your own uncle from the palace... and you'd probably do it again if you had the chance."

Both girls tensed as voices echoed in the aqueduct-- distant, but close enough that Amira could tell that they did not belong to anyone she knew. Hy'Rea, however, recognized them instantly, and her eyes flicked meaningfully toward Kalastron before narrowing in Amira's direction. "Let's end this NOW," she growled as the approaching voices drew nearer...

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: May 2nd
With a final lunge, Hy'Rea shoved Amira over the waterfall. "NOOO!!" screamed Amira as she fell. Though she knew that her cousin would never do her any harm, Amira shivered in fear. "What does lie at the bottom of the waterfall?" Amira wondered out loud.

With a loud splash, Amira landed in the chilling water, which continued to cascade down.

Meanwhile, Hy'Rea grinned triumphantly at Kalastron as she forced herself to turn away from her best friend's falling shape. "She’s gone for good now," Hy'Rea gloated. "Part Three of The Master Plan is completed!"

"Excellent," Kalastron said with an evil chuckle. A sharp glint in his eye could be seen as he walked slowly toward Hy'Rea. "I must reward you for your dedication," said Kalastron. "Your ambition to be Princess is stronger than I thought."

"What--?" asked Hy'Rea as she stared at her father. There was something almost menacing about the way he said those words. Hy'Rea stammered, "Of course. I am completely dedicated to The Master Plan. Nothing will stand in the way!"

"Nothing, you say," repeated Kalastron. "Then I'm sure you'll understand why I'm doing this.'

"Huh? Doing wh--?" asked Hy'Rea. Unfortunately, she never finished completing her sentence. Kalastron leaped at the Wocky and pushed her over the edge. Hy'Rea screamed, and within seconds, her body had disappeared into the dark water as well.

* * *

"Oomph!" grunted Amira as she fell through the waterfall and landed in a net. The net smelled horribly of Breadfish. She was slowly trying to regain her balance when a scream reached her ears. "That sounded like Hy'Rea!" cried Amira as her delicate Aisha ears automatically swiveled in the direction of the noise.

"AAAAAAHHHH!" screamed Hy'Rea just before she plunged beneath the waters. With a loud thump, she landed on the net, knocking her best friend over in the process.

"Ow!" said Amira. She picked herself up and looked at Hy’Rea. "What are you doing here? What’s going on?" Amira asked. Immediately, Hy'Rea started sobbing. "Don't cry, it'll be okay." Amira hurriedly tried to reassure her best friend. "What’s the matter?"

"My…my own father!" gasped Hy'Rea between her tears. "He…he tried to kill me!"

"No!" said Amira as she hugged Hy'Rea. "That’s going too far! I never imagined that he wanted the crown this badly!"

"I’m fine," said Hy'Rea brushing away the last of her tears. "Thank you. What should we do now?"

Meanwhile, two sets of footsteps—one light and the other heavy, resounded in the aqueduct.

"Finally!" said Kalastron impatiently as he approached the newcomers. "Part Three of The Master Plan has been completed, Your Majesty…"

Author: 4death14
Date: May 2nd
"Your... Your Majesty?" Amira mouthed, her eyes growing wide. Solemnly, Hy'Rea nodded. Her eyes again grew glassy with tears.

"Amira, I meant to tell you-"

Another voice came to them from high above, raining down, cloaking Amira in shivers and sparking one lone memory, reaching so far back into her mind and yet glowing as if it had happened just yesterday...

"Already?" came the voice, dark and rumbling, filled with a sort of spiteful joy. Those words, so long ago, had assured Kalastron that he would be king if only Coltzan would die. Amira had heard the words through a slightly open door, through which, she now remembered, an eerie green light had glowed...

"Yes, your Majesty. She has been thrown down the waterfall."

"Quickly!" Hy'Rea whispered to Amira. "Hide beneath the falls!" Amira jumped to her feet, nodding, and dodged to the wall, sliding beneath the water and closing her eyes. It ran harshly over her head and heaved its weight upon her ears so that she barely heard Hy'Rea cut the net and move in beside her, also standing on the solid edge of the wall. Amira dared open her eyes for but one second and was met with an incredible sight... the warped picture of Sakhmet, glimmering in the bright daylight through the wall of water. Then she closed her eyes once more.

* * *

"My father did not... could not want the throne for himself. He wanted it for... for someone else."

"Who? By the sands of Sakhmet, Hy'Rea, tell me!"

"His name is Vimoric."

Silence, like night falling.

"I know that name."

"Yes," Hy'Rea continued, breathing hard. "He once ruled the Desert Scarabs. He caused great trouble during your father's time, Amira. But the Desert Scarabs cast him out when he became too violent."

"Yes," Amira said. "Yes, I remember. But what does he want? And why were you a part of this?" Amira shifted on the cushion, uneasy. They had escaped from the view of Vimoric and come to the palace to hide in a closet where they had played as children.

"You must believe me, Amira. You must. Kalastron came to me, asking for help with a loving voice I had never heard him use. I craved that voice, Amira. I had never known love from him, my own father, like you had recieved from the King. And so I chose to help him... but over time... you must understand... it grew worse. I learned more. I learned that they planned to kill you. And so I stayed-"

"So that you could save me when the time came."

Hy'Rea nodded. "That's right."

"But what does Vimoric want?"

Her cousin took a deep breath, as if she were filled with demons that pained her to set free. "Power, the throne, victory over the deserts, over Neopia... but he has the resources to accomplish that."

"Neopia!?" Amira exclaimed. Her ears began to burn.

"Yes... but he can do it. He can..." She paused. "At first, it was my father who was the heir, but after your father had found himself ill--by Vimoric's doing, as I now understand--he began to distrust my father, and he was removed from the will, unnoticed at first. Vimoric then became next in line."

"Vimoric? But how? He was a criminal! My father would never-"

"Amira." Amira stopped talking. The look on Hy'Rea's face made her insides writhe.

"Amira, he went by another name. After he had 'left to pursue his own life,' as he had told your father, he changed his name."

"Left to pursue...?"

"Amira... Vimoric is your brother..."

Author: mangohomer
Date: May 3rd
...Amira's eyes were blank as she stared back at her cousin in disbelief. Hy'Rea returned the gaze, sympathy etched into the Wocky's features.

"K'Tero? He...he couldn't...No!" Hy'Rea gently covered Amira's mouth with a paw, a meaningful look silencing her as the echoes of the pained Aisha's cry resounded. It was not likely that any of the conspirators would have guessed that they were hiding in the palace, but it was best to be safe rather than sorry.

"It was planned from the beginning. My father told me after Vim...K'Tero left that one of the royal family understood his views. That power over Sakhmet would be shared. To avoid detection, your brother changed his name, knowing that he could not be recognised. Thus the shameless thief and criminal you know today climbed the first step on his stairway to dominance."

Amira hated to admit it, but it all made sense. K'Tero, her charming brother, the spitting image of his father, had been acting strangely before he went to pursue his dreams. The reckless criminal Vimoric bore a striking resemblance to the lost royal son, but with different colored fur.

For years it had been denied, but now Amira regarded the truth with a whimper. She sank gently to her knees, remembering the distorted, yet beautiful view of Sakhmet she had seen from under the waterfall. The distortion of that beautiful vision had been a hint of things to come. Sakhmet... a city that would soon be under the rule of a corrupted soul...

Hy'Rea placed a comforting paw around Amira's shoulders. "I hate to be the one to tell you this, but we are the only ones who can take action. Be strong, cousin of mine."

* * *

Back at the aqueduct, Kalastron bowed his head respectfully before an oddly colored Lupe. If one were to catch only a glimpse of him, one might say that Coltzan had returned. Fine, dusty gray fur framed a sharp but kind face. Heavy black markings around his eyes represented an open flaunting of power. Though his icy green eyes seemed to smile, a cruel smirk parted the Lupe's lips.

From the top of his head spread a cloak of glowing fur, poisonous green in the half-darkness of the aqueduct. Often the walls of Sakhmet had bore witness to such a Neopet, standing boldly on a rooftop. A silky voice had spoken out, breaking the silence of the desert night.

"The poisoned stars grace me with their light, yet you find me not. The sun over the shining sands cannot dull my radiance. Here I stand, foolish ones! I stand here, as clearly as the night air! And I elude you still!"

The poisoned light would dim and the thief would disappear.

Kalastron raised his head, flinching at Vimoric's smile. "Your Majesty, shall I set Part Four of your Master Plan in action?"

"Let it be so. Disturb me not from my surveillance of my kingdom."

* * *

In the palace, Amira roused herself from her bitter memories and forced herself to rise on shaky paws.

"No-one will take my kingdom. What is the plan?"...

Author: i_like_banannas
Date: May 3rd
..."What plan?" inquired Hy'rea, an expression of bewilderment planted on her face.

"A plan! I mean, we just can't stand back and watch my well-governed kingdom slip right out of my paws, can we?!"

"Of course not! But let's face it, compared to them we are powerless. We just can't expect to..."

"Wait!" Amira interrrupted, a trace of offence appearing in her eyes. "Did you just call me a poor ruler, or do my ears deceive me?!"

Amira slowly approached the startled Wocky, her dull, hovering shadow following.

"No! Of course not, my dear cousin...it's just that...well..." Hy'rea abruptly stopped speaking as she carefully tried to think of the right word to say, distinctly seeing that her cousin looked fairly upset.

"Just what?"

Tears began to submerge Hy'rea's drooping eyelids.

"It's just that I don't want to see you get hurt, Amira. You're my cousin--and a good one. As a matter of fact, you ARE a great ruler to me and this beautiful land, but you must understand that...understand that...um..."

When she saw Amira was feeling both sympathetic and confused, Hy'rea bit into her lip, unable to finish her sentence.

"Understand what, Hy'rea? Come on, you know I'm your cousin, and I won't laugh or tell anyone or anything along those lines."

"I know, Amira. But if your life is erased, then who am I left with then?!"

"Hy'rea-"

"Don't you 'Hy'rea' me!"

The overwhelmed Wocky took a deep breath and then continued.

"Ever since we were just little Neopians, YOU were always there for me, Amira. Whether I was afraid to walk through the Haunted Woods, or if I was being picked on by those Neopoint-stealing bullies, YOU were always there to show them who was boss! You were always there, giving me great inspiration. And you seem like the only one, in all of Neopia who can make me feel like I'm safe!"

"Oh, Hy'rea! You...You never acted so close to me before! You never told me you felt such a way!"

More tears began to well up in Hy'rea's azure eyes.

"Just don't betray me, Amira! I am too young to linger in this ominous world alone! I need someone to look up to, someone to guide me in life!"

Amira placed a delicate paw upon her beloved cousin's back, and then she slowly began to pour sincere words from her mouth.

"You know I care, Hy'rea. You know I do. I just CAN'T let this kingdom go to waste. I am the ruler of Sakhmet, and I can't abandon my people to Vimoric. Please, we must do something!"

"Just please make sure it's not TOO risky!" Hy'Rea begged.

"I don't have the plan yet, but when I do, I will surely keep that in mind!"

"Thanks!"

The two relatives captured each other into a sudden embrace, an embrace that seemed utter the very sentence: "We're in this together!"

"So what's the plan?" Hy'rea simply asked.

"I don't have one yet, but...hey, wait a second..."

"What? Do you have a plan?"

"Hopefully. This ought to work..."

"What is it?! What is it?!"

Anticipation filled the young Wocky's eyes.

"Just come with me!"

"You told me you wouldn't think of anything too risky!"

"Oh, Hy'rea, it will work out perfectly, but we must get it done before sunrise!"

Hy'rea looked at Amira uncertainly.

"This doesn't seem safe..."

"Oh, don't worry! It will be fine!"

******************

The two stepped into the cool breeze of night. They gazed longingly at the sky above them. The triumph of night exquisitely painted the sky, cascades of stars faintly shining. Amira and Hy'rea were satisfied to see this wonder of nature, especially during such a turbulent time.

"It sure is beautiful!" exclaimed Hy'rea.

"Yes, it is!"

"So where to first?" questioned Hy'rea, changing the subject.

"Just follow me."

Amira plodded away from where she was standing, and Hy'rea reluctantly followed.

"This is going to be a LONG journey Hy'rea!"...

Author: melina719
Date: May 4th
....And so, Amira and Hy'rea continued on with their journey, until their feet were so sore that each step they took brought them inconceivable pain.

"So, you never did tell me where in the world we're going! Humph..." said Hy'rea, pretending to be somewhat upset.

"I guess now I must," said Amira and shrugged. "It all happened a few years ago..."

* * *

"Come on now! I want you to see!" shouted K'Tero with a face like someone who was anxious, nervous, delighted, and impatient all at the same time.

"I'll…" Amira stopped and nearly dropped to the ground in the scorching heat of the desert. "...be right there!" she panted. Even though Amira was completely exhausted and felt like every ray of the sun was a sharp blade piercing her fragile skin, she stood up gracefully and continued. Her brother had come home some days ago, boasting about a secret clubhouse that he and his mysterious new friends had acquired. Ever since that day, Amira had been looking forward to entering this clubhouse. The Aisha finally made it to the harsh wooden front door.

K'Tero grinned at Amira, which made him look very much like King Coltzan had when she said her very first word. She remembered that gaze clearly. K'Tero unlocked the seemingly millions of locks on the door and turned the rusty old handle. Inside the clubhouse, it was pretty much just rugged and old, and the space had been totally wasted.

"It's..." Amira paused. "...nice." She dared not say the word that really came to her mind: "ugly."

"And you haven't even seen the best part!!!" yelled K'Tero with the excitement of a toddler receiving a new toy. The Lupe was jittery as he walked toward a stone wall that was covered in odd symbols that Amira could not decipher. K'Tero pressed several of them in some order. The sound echoed throughout the clubhouse.

CLLAAANNGGG!!!!! CLANG! Clang! Clang.

Suddenly, the wall simply vanished, revealing a hidden stairway. As Amira and K'Tero went down, they were cautious about every step. They came to the very bottom and found themselves in a dim room full of ancient scrolls. There was a small desk with a candle on it, which was the only source of light in the room.

"Wow," said Amira, her jaw dropping. She was in awe.

"Yup," answered K'Tero, gazing at the rows and rows of written works. "It's my own little study." It seemed to Amira that this room was like a little bit of her brother's soul.

* * *

"Oh! Oh!" yelped Hy'rea. "So THAT'S where we're going!"

"Of course," agreed Amira. Amira retraced every one of her brother's steps. That day years ago, Amira had somehow sensed that she might need the information in the future, so she had copied down the order of the stones that K'Tero had pressed. She pushed the stones now, and just as she remembered, the wall disappeared. Once in the room (which was also exactly as before), Amira decided to search for anything that could be related to K'Tero's ghastly plan.

"Let's split up. You look there, Hy'Rea, and I'll look he-" But there was no need. There it was, clear as daylight, on the small, brown desk. It was a small beige scroll. Amira unrolled it and saw the writing scribbled on it.

"Part Four of the Master Plan"...

Author: swirly362
Date: May 4th
...she read aloud, her voice shaking. "After my sister is permanently removed, Part Four of the Master Plan will commence. Kalastron will gather Coltzan's will (which says he is next in line to rule) and we shall confront the palace council with our information."

"I will tell them that my sister Amira, overburdened with the stress of ruling, had jumped into the rocky waterfall before I could save her. I will tell them how she said that our uncle is the rightful heir to the throne before she jumped."

"After I am finished in the telling of my tales, I will lay down my last card... Coltzan's will, saying that my faithful servant, Uncle Kalastron, is the rightful ruler! Then, with Sakhmet's new ruler (whom I estimate will be crowned at midday) taking direct orders from me, the city will become great once more. Yes, for when I become responsible for its fortunes, Sakhmet will become an EMPIRE..."

Amira's voice trailed off as his untidy scrawl became unreadable. "K'Tero," she whispered, "how could you be so heartless?"

Hy'Rea patted her back gently. "Amira, the K'Tero that was your brother is long gone. You face Vimoric now, and every second we waste his dirty paws get closer to seizing what is YOURS by right. In this document he said that he thought Kalastron would be crowned around midday. This means that, in order to stop him, we should be back at the palace at sunrise."

Amira smiled at Hy'Rea. "Then let's get going!" she said, walking up the staircase.

Hy'Rea turned to follow her, but then stopped. She took the scroll about Vimoric's Master plan and pocketed it. They might need it later. Then she jogged to catch up with her cousin.

When they got outside, the sky was beginning to lighten. "Sunrise!" groaned Amira. "It's too late, Hy'Rea..." Throwing herself on the ground in sorrow, Amira was surprised to feel a sharp object jabbing at her thigh.

"OW!" she said loudly, voice pained.

"Amira, are you okay?" said Hy'Rea, instantly at her side. When Amira didn't respond, the Wocky became even more worried. "Oh no, oh no... Amira! Speak to me!"

Amira turned her head to Hy'Rea and smiled. "Hy'Rea, I'm fine... more than fine." As the Aisha stood, Hy'Rea saw an emerald beetle in her cousin's hand, glinting in the morning sun...

Author: neosass
Date: May 5th
It turns out that Vimoric had received his own scarab from their father. Now she could see what his looked like... on the back of the scarab, a peculiar design... it was the exact opposite of the design on the back of hers. The image resounded within her mind. They matched. They fit together. And that meant...

A power so great it should not be released... hidden for always... The riddle was clear in her mind. And as soon as they came together... A terror so powerful it should not have been created... She knew not what the last lines meant... Never lose your inner light, forget not thine plight, and your goal is therin in your sight. And yet, Amira was sure it was the key to saving her kingdom. If she could only get to her half of the scarab first...

"I see you found my scarab," came the voice, sounding malevolently... malevolently kind, like stones clinking together cheerfully... in preparation for being thrown at the enemy.

* * *

They took Amira to the throne room. It was deserted. Everyone had already heard of her "demise" and how she'd jumped from her window, and were sorrowfully off making preparations for the entry of the new king, Kalastron (who, as it turns out, had not been removed from the will as Hy'Rea had thought).

She had been forced to remove her scarab from her desk, and now her and her dear cousin were being restrained as they tried to lunge forward and stop Vimoric... after all, this evil act could put a stop to everything good in the world. Yet in Amira's mind, three lines of a riddle continued to resound within her mind... erratically darting here, there... trying to find its match, the thing that those words meant.

Vimoric held the two pieces of scarab high above his head.

"Today we forge a new nation, a nation whose power will be unsurpassable. Sakhmet will no longer be weak, but immortalized by pain... in the form of a perfect society. And all of you today must remember that it was I, Vimoric, who commenced this incredible journey into the ultimate. Now, I shall change the world forever..."

Then he put the two emerald scarabs together, and nothing happened... just a faint click.

Inner light... Amira watched the scarab. The moment her eyes focused on it, she felt a warmth inside of her, warming like sunrays. It started to glow, and Vimoric grinned evilly.

Forget not thine plight... Amira felt hatred of Vimoric and his cause burning inside of her now as she thought the words, and the heat inside of her increased.

And your goal is therein in your sight... "AAARRRGHHHHH!" Amira heaved against her captive, managing to break free an arm. She reached toward the scarab, keeping it in her line of sight.

"By the power of Sakhmet, come to me!"

The scarab shot into her hands in an instant. Green light scattered everywhere. Every living being in the room shot away from her. In a glimpse she saw Vimoric, reaching out to her... he was screaming something, but there was no sound.

Quietly, Amira took the scarab into her hands and held it there, as if praising it like a priceless Petpet. Then, with the royal gait of a great princess unlike any Neopia had ever known, Amira stood tall within the light and whispered to the jewel.

"Please, father. Make it end."

For a moment there was only light. Then she was alone in the room, with only General Dacon beside her. It seemed like so long ago they had been here... but was history repeating itself?

"Princess, we have recovered the painting. Everything is intact."

She was surprised. Looking into her hands, she saw that the scarab was gone. Amira then looked up. "And what of Vimoric?" she asked.

"Vimoric? What do you mean?"

Amira said nothing. She looked out of her window instead.

The sunset was amazing.

The End

Author: mangohomer
Date: May 5th



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