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||You are on Week 286
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 Eighty Six Ends August 18
"Impressive, very impressive!" Judge Hog said, nodding approvingly at the small Pteri in front of him. "I must say, Durean, you’ve passed with flying colours. In fact, you're one of the fastest I've ever seen."
Durean inclined his head respectfully. "Thank you, sir," the Pteri said.
"We're excited to have you onboard," the Moehog continued. "We trust you’ll do a great job."
"I am honoured to be part of the team," Durean replied politely.
Judge Hog looked the Pteri over and smiled. "Well, go home and get some rest then. You'll begin work tomorrow." He paused, then extended his large hand over the desk. "Welcome to the Defenders of Neopia."
* * * * *
Durean sighed as he opened the door to his Neohome. It was nice to relax after an intense day of training, but he knew he could not dally for long. His right wing immediately sought out a quill, while the other reached for some parchment. Settling in behind his desk, the Pteri began to write...
They trust me completely.
Go ahead as planned.
Waiting on your word,
Author: Captain Defender|
Date: Aug 11th
...The Pteri stared at the parchment a long moment. Around him the wind seemed to swell up outside his home, pushing through the half-open windows to billow the curtains. They swayed as if alive, reaching from all angles to the middle of the table, where the parchment sat.
Below his text, in small, cursive letters of gold, appeared a single word:
Durean smiled and closed his eyes, relaxing. His feathers smoothed over, their purple color darkening to a deep, sultry black. Softness hardened into an armor of scales, glimmering in the afternoon light.
Where once the Pteri had resided, now a shadow Draik sat.
They would not recognize him now -- if they even spotted his form moving through the darkness. This was his true form, his inborn form, the body of one of the most skilled thieves in Neopia.
He had worked alone, once, picking pockets and sneaking into Neopian shops, but that was before he'd met the Master. Now he saw how limited he had been, how petty his crimes. With the Master, and his Brothers, his accomplishments were without limit.
It had been the Master's notion to proceed as he did. The Defenders of Neopia were the Brother's greatest menace, bursting in right before the sweetest victories, ruining some of their most careful plans. With the Master's genius, Durean had been chosen to become one of the Defenders, to learn what they knew, and move up in their ranks.
The Draik moved on silent claws to a cabinet, opening it. Inside stood a healthy stock of Pteri Morphing potions, specially crafted to be temporary. He could be a loyal Defender by day, and his true self at night.
Such a plan would allow for the greatest trial the Brothers had ever attempted...
Date: Aug 14th
* * * * *
If you found yourself in a hostage situation with the following villan(s)/evil-doer(s)
Dr. Frank Sloth
The Tax Beast
involving a distressed civilian, would you
a) negotiate for the civilian's life
b) engage in combat
c) distract said villan(s)/evildoers(s) with a convincing story concerning the victim's alleged sister
Jace stared with fiery intensity at the paper before him, as though he half-expected the letters to bend to his will and somehow reveal the correct answer. Each option seemed like it could be legitimate in some way -- besides the last, which would have obvious implications to his mental reliability.
The Kyrii chewed his eraser thoughtfully. Surely if he focused, he could discern the best answer from the acceptable ones. His mind raced fervently, but the knowledge that each second was one less he'd have to finish made time weigh heavily on his mind, and his concentration was weak and divided.
Unfortunately for Jace, his story wasn't destined to be inspirational. He had big dreams and an even greater hunger to achieve them, but nothing else. People saw him as mundane as his short, blue fur, with no real chance at distinguishing himself among the dozens of hopefuls for Neopia's evil fighting elite.
"If you would, please, put down your pencils. Time is up."
Jace hastily circled c), reasoning that, as the longest answer, it had a good chance at being correct. A nervous pang jolted his stomach as he remembered everything he hadn't managed to complete.
There must be pages...
He watched glumly as the secretarial Aisha wandered through the rows of desks, collecting packets of test-work. When she came to his station, she gave him a pleasant smile, which he returned weakly.
After reading the information on his paperwork, she said, "Now that you've completed the written test, you'll be inspected privately by one of the Defenders."
Jace cheered visibly. "Will I get to meet Judge Hog, or maybe Lightning Lenny?"
The secretary shook her head. "It's possible, but I doubt it -- usually that's done by our newer members. Now you'll be in..." She briefly glanced at the information sheet. "Room 103. That's down the hall a bit to your right. Good luck!"
Jace thanked her and followed her instructions as people slowly began to file out of the testing halls. Room 103 was closer than he expected, with golden lettering that gleamed with polish. The Kyrii wondered vaguely who would be waiting for him as he pushed open the door...
Date: Aug 14th
...A purple Pteri looked up as he entered. The sight of him gave Jace a surge of hope that slightly stilled the nervousness in his belly. He might only be a small blue Kyrii, but if a Pteri could get in...
"Hello," said the Pteri, almost coolly. He extended a wing, which Jace shook. "I am Durean. You are the newest applicant, I presume?"
"I -- yes," stammered the Kyrii, quite giddy-headed from being in the presence of a real Defender. "A new applicant. Jace. That's me. My name."
If the Defender took any notice of Jace's unease, he didn't let it show. Glancing down at the papers the secretary had handed him, the Pteri frowned. "I see you didn't complete the Defenders test," he said.
"No, I didn't. Sir. I couldn't finish. Those questions..."
"--are for screening purposes only." To Jace's amazement, the Pteri tossed the test in a nearby waste container and leaned forward, clasping his wings before him. "You will learn anything you need to know in Defender training, should you be accepted. If you already knew all of the correct responses, we wouldn't need to train you, would we?"
Jace frowned. What if he had circled all the "cry" answers?
Instead of continuing, the Pteri glanced down at his wing. Jace thought he saw a flash of black, like light reflecting off of something hard, but it must have been his imagination. "Excuse me," Durean said, reaching below the desk. The Pteri could hear the sound of pouring, and the Defender sat up, sipping purple juice from a glass. "Melowhirl juice is simply the best, isn't it?"
"Yes. Sir. It's good. But, my test..."
Setting down the glass, Durean gave the Kyrii a flickering smile. "Your true test as a Defender comes from your ability to obey," he explained in a low voice. "Whatever is asked of you, you must do it. A Defender advances slowly, for the only way he can make the right decisions is by years of watching them being made, and obeying them explicitly. One day it will be part of his very instinct. Do you understand? No command can be shirked, or questioned."
Jace sat silent a moment, surprised by the intensity in Durean's eyes. "I do understand, sir. I can do it."
"Good," the Pteri replied, setting down his glass. "Then welcome to the Defenders of Neopia, Jace. I believe you shall be assigned to my team..."
Date: Aug 15th
"...While it may not be the most glamorous of the Defenders assignments, it is a very important one. We provide security for the current exhibit at the Museum of Neopian Art. Wouldn't want one of those artifacts being stolen by the Thieves Guild, would we now?"
Jace stared past Durean, only half listening to the Pteri. Was he serious? Did he just say welcome to the Defenders? Jace could've sworn his heart stopped momentarily. He gulped, trying to process what had just happened, but his poor brain couldn't take it. It was too much to handle.
"Jace?" Durean's voice shook him out of his trance. "Are you ok?" he asked, concern shimmering in his eyes.
The Kyrii nodded, still gulping for air. "Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it. I can't believe it... I'm a Defender!"
"Very good," the Pteri said, nodding. "Your shift will begin at seven o'clock tonight. Meet the group on the steps outside the museum. We'll assign partners there."
Jace nodded, memorizing everything Durean said. Durean stood, and held his wing out. Jace shook it vigorously and left the cramped office. "I'll see you tonight, sir!"
* * * * *
Jace couldn't wait until seven o'clock. He had arrived at the museum at 6:15, and that was only after restraining himself immensely. He sat on the steps and waited, grinning like a fool all the while. The museum was beautiful, brilliant white marble columns lined the stone walkway. The entrance doors were exquisitely carved from the finest Meridellian wood.
Engravings of stars and moons formed a border around a golden plaque displaying the name of the museum. It shone radiantly as the setting sun hit the doors. Jace threw up an arm to shade his eyes from the sun and as he did, he noticed Durean making his way across the courtyard to the steps Jace sat on, followed by a group of four or five assorted Neopets.
"Jace, what a pleasant surprise!" he said as he arrived at the staircase.
"I couldn't wait," Jace replied.
"I can see that," Durean chuckled. "Well, no matter. We might as well enter the building and I can show you what we're protecting tonight."
The group strolled towards the door. Durean casually glanced back as the immense doors shut behind them, at which time Jace thought he saw another flash of black on the back of Durean's head as he followed the Pteri through the expansive entrance hall.
"If you'll follow me," the Pteri said, "The exhibit is breathtaking. It has compiled all of the priceless artifacts and relics from the ancient civilizations around the world. There are items here from the Lost Desert, Maraqua, even Kreludor. It truly is astounding. But the item in particular we're watching over tonight is the newest and most valuable to the museum. It's recently been acquired from Altador, and it is imperative that we keep it safe at all costs."
"What is it?" Jace asked.
"Oh, you'll see it soon enough," Durean replied.
They took a left and made their way down a narrower hallway. Durean led the group into a room on their right. Jace gasped, finally realizing why the group needed so many people. The item was...
Date: Aug 15th
...beautiful. And if it was half as deadly as it was gorgeous, Jace knew that the wielder of the weapon would be a formidable opponent against even Judge Hog himself. The sword, made of a shimmering metal that was like no other Jace had seen before, lay on a pillow, catching the light from the Neopian sunset. The hilt was made of a dark wood, inlaid with incredible jewels and embossed with gold leaf. Several small carvings of Draiks performing brave and powerful actions were interspersed throughout the hilt. The blade was sharpened to such a point that it looked as though it could cut air in half. And the sword itself looked to have been crafted with such workmanship as to put the famous swords of Neopian history to complete and utter shame.
"...swords in existence, and in the wrong hands, devastating." Durean's voice slowly penetrated the fog of awe surrounding Jace's head. "Ah, excellent. Our newest Defender has decided to join us back on Neopia at last. Welcome back, Jace. I hope the trip wasn't too tiring?"
Jace flushed a deep crimson and hid behind one of the group, a heavy-set green Grarrl. Durean chuckled. "No worries, Jace, feel free to come out from behind Alizan. Nearly everyone loses themselves the first time they see that sword."
Jace reluctantly shuffled out from behind the Grarrl. "So, what'd I miss," he mumbled softly.
"Well, I was only telling the group how this sword, once used by a group of Draik rebels in an attempt to overthrow the Altadoran king, has quite a history. In fact, it may be one of the reasons Altador disappeared for so long. We don't know much yet, but we're looking into it - meanwhile, this sword is incredibly deadly, and if it came into use once more, the war that would ensue would be horrific."
"So that's why we're all guarding it?" Jace asked.
"Indeed. We wouldn't want anyone dangerous getting their hands on it; the results would be tragic. This weapon would, in short order, obtain for the Thieves' Guild every Neopoint in the city if they were to get ahold of it. Can't have that, right?"
"Right!" the group chorused.
"Excellent." The Pteri paused to wipe a bead of sweat from his brow, and for a second Jace thought he saw a flash of black beneath Durean's wing, and a second where the droplet had been. But then they were gone, and Jace wasn't sure if they'd ever been there or not.
"Well." Durean said, turning to the group. "You're going to need to go on guard duty for a few minutes while I run to the bathroom. Don't let anyone touch it. If someone tries to come after it, yell for me and fight hard, but never EVER use the sword. This is a priceless artifact, not a Battledome item. Got it?"
"Got it," the group responded. Durean smiled, then hurried off down a corridor.
"Who's up for bilge dice?" an Aisha proposed, and everyone got down on the ground and began playing. Everyone, that is, except Jace, who simply stood still, staring at the door Durean had left through. Then, without a sound, he followed the Pteri's path.
* * * * *
Durean collapsed against the wall, breathing heavily. "How could I forget when I last took one?" he chastised himself. "Stupid, stupid, stupid." He quickly glanced around, then produced a Pteri morphing potion from his pocket and chugged it.
He was about to store the now empty flask when he heard someone scream his name. "They didn't tell me they were starting early," Durean grumbled. Puffing out his chest and assuming the persona of a Defender, he leapt through the door into the exhibit room, and...
Date: Aug 16th
...his foot came down on a small, hard cube that skidded across the smooth floor. Durean skidded with it, his Pteri talons clutching involuntarily around the object that had bruised his foot, his wings flailing. The flask flew from his grip and bounced off the sword.
Jace raced up behind him and seized him around the middle. Durean struggled, bewildered, until the Kyrii set him upright and dropped to a crouch. "Is your foot okay?"
Durean blinked and unclenched his talons, revealing a die from a game of Bilge Dice and a growing bruise. "Ah," he said, then cleared his throat, "it's nothing to a Defender! Where's the threat?"
As he looked around, however, he noticed that the scene, while chaotic, was also sort of... static. All the Defenders on his team were staring at him in some fright, but there was no one else around.
"Well?" he demanded.
"S-sorry," the Aisha piped up, holding out a spiny fruit. "I got my lunch out, and it was a durian fruit...."
* * * * *
Jace frowned quietly at the back of Durean's head. He was still overwhelmingly grateful for the chance to be a Defender of Neopia, but....
...But Durean hadn't said a thing about the game of Bilge Dice going on during this supremely important guard duty.
And there were still those strange black flickers in his feathers.
And there was the winged potion Durean had been drinking.
There was only one possible conclusion.
The Pteri was sick...
Date: Aug 16th
...Several hours later, he was alone in the sullen musuem chamber, his only company the legendary sword and a sturdy red Wocky that Durean had assured him was the quality of legends. The sword was proving to be much better company.
"Pharia?" he ventured, sending the silence skittering into the cracks between the wooden boards of the walls. The Kyrii had been told that this was indeed his stoic guard-duty partner's name, but now he was beginning to wonder if he was in the situation of the tax collector told that his disgruntled client's foam-mouthed Gruslan's name is Sickem.
As though her bones were fashioned of twisted wood, the stony Wocky turned her head to meet his gaze with a sound like the squeal of rust being ground by the hinge of a door long forgotten.
But... Jace had met such people in the past, and would no doubt meet worse one day. And to her credit, Pharia was not so cold as the secretary he'd had to get past on his way to the exam hall. Like a train hurtling towards the singing sea, he forged on. "Is Durean... all right?"
If her bones had been twisted boughs before, his words petrified them to stone. The mist lifted from glassy eyes to reveal a blackened glare that could spear him on its edge if she so chose; but she would wait. Suspicion still circled Anger warily, but from a measured distance. "What do you mean?" she croaked at last, her first words since Durean and the rest of the Defenders team had departed to various positions around the musuem. Though his had seemed unnaturaly brusque against the chilled evening air, the shadows seemed to engulf her words as if they were the ones casting her, and not the other way round.
"He seems," Durean hesitated, and then decided that since he had obviously set himself up for a plunge in the murky depths of a sea with no name, he might as well take the leap himself. "Ill. Like he's sick, but forcing himself to be here."
A foreboding silence seemed to spring up and smother the lights overhead, leaving Jace to wonder exactly how much shunning would be dealt out for his daring to question their commander. But like winter into spring, Pharia seemed to sag, softening as she mouthed his words to herself. It was several minutes later, and with an uncharacteristic tenderness that she looked at him next.
"Sick," the Wocky repeated aloud, her head swaying like the branch of a tree about to plummet. She laughed; a harsh, grating whine, and seemed exhausted by the effort. "Sweet Kyrii, you have no idea what you're saying. None at all."
"But I saw him taking a medicinal potion earlier," protested Jace, trying to defend whatever dignity he'd kept the illusions of having left. "And his feathers are... strange, like they're about to fall off. There's got to be something wrong with him."
"Oh there's something wrong with him, all right," Pharia snorted, seeming to become at once very bitter and very old, and very unlike the young, sleek Wocky she should have been. His partner dropped her head a bit further, her rosy neckruff swallowing the outline of her cheek. "There's always something wrong."
The Kyrii lowered himself to find her eyes, which had again hidden themselves behind clouds of aloofness, and grey fog. He began, "What do you-" But was slammed to a halt by the sight of the thief dagger that hung from a wrinkled leather strap across her chest, hidden amongst her fur.
At that moment, Time seemed to hang tangibly in the air, entranced by the breath-holding of the Defender and the traitor.
She spoke, as a Cobrall speaks before it moves to strike. "Get out of here, Jace," Her voice was low and maternal. "You don't deserve this. Get out of here, forget you ever came. Forget, and live. Before it starts."
"Before what starts?!" The cry was bewildered, almost as shrill as the alarm that sounded right beside his ear. But she was gone; lost in the shadows that leapt to life, tap-danced to the scream of the musuem security system. Instinctively, the Kyrii whirled to keep the Sword within his sights.
The Sword was there, resting on its pillow, surrounded by the nest of glittering glass shards that was all that remained of its protective dome. Yes, the Sword was there, just as the purple wings that hugged the artifact to its owner's chest; the purple wings edged with the shadows of a dark present, and a darker past.
And Jace was struck paralyzed, struck with an inability to do or say anything but the one word that choked a hole between his lips. "Durean..."
Date: Aug 17th
..."You should have listened to Pharia, Jace." The voice was cold, growing into a fine, slithering hiss. "I told you, didn't I, Jace? I warned you. Whatever is asked of you, you must do it. You should've listened, Jace - you still have time. Turn around Jace. Leave."
Those eyes - they struck the Kyrii immobile. The weapon was no longer important - it was the eyes that mattered. Calculating, cruel eyes, narrowing, hardening, their purpils becoming snake-like slits. The beak was disappearing, blending with the feathers into a sharp, scaled snout, the wings becoming draconic, the tail feathers gathering together into a long, sweeping tail....
Durean advanced upon him, the sword held threateningly in hand, the images upon the hilt seeming to come alive - Draik's doing noble deeds? Or deeds of darkness and deceit?
The shadow creature before him was poised for striking, warning him away, but shrieks and screams met their ears; the other Defenders accompanying them, the ones Durean had admitted, were coming to their senses - feeble attempts to stop their thieving partners coming together in vain. He recognized the voice of the Aisha from earlier on - Monata...
"It's why the tests didn't matter," he whispered, eyes wide. "Why talent didn't matter. You didn't want Defenders..."
"Jace, there's still time for you to get away."
"It wasn't a medicinal potion, it was a morphing potion -"
"I won't tell you again, Jace -"
"You're a crook - a spy-"
"My naive child," Durean snarled, cutting across the Kyrii sharply. "I am more than either!"
At that moment, a hand lunged out from behind him, tossing the unsuspecting Kyrii unceremoniously upon the floor. Pharia was looking down at him hesitantly, as a Darigan Skeith rushed past, holding what appeared to be a heavy, ancient mace.
He heard Alizan (a spy? No - a Defender!) roaring and catching the arm of a Kougra with his teeth, looking furious; the Kougra was holding a shield that seemed to fit in pair with the sword... A fine, gleaming cloak was spilled over the floor, and light was pouring out of a small, glass orb...
He made a feeble attempt to scramble after the thieves, but Durean was on him with a snap from his own jaws. "We..." he growled, almost inaudibly, "...are the Brotherhood..."
And Jace, rising as Durean cleared him with a bound and a determined flap of his wings, knew at once that everything seemed hopeless.
And because of this, some sick twist of fate made it so that he had to do something about it... But what?
Frantically, he spared a fraction of a second searching between the darting paws and fallen artifacts. And his brain made a sharp, perhaps poorly thought-out choice...
Date: Aug 17th
...He had to fight Durean for the sword. His searching paws closed upon the shining glass orb, and without taking any more time for thought he dashed off after the Draik.
It should have been a hopeless struggle; Durean had wings, and a formidable head start. But the glistening artifact in his paws seemed to pour speed into the young Kyrii's limbs, and to his utter astonishment he found that he was catching up.
But Durean was aware of this too, and ready to counteract it. Selecting the cavernous Art Gallery as the battleground, the Draik sent frightened tourists scattering in all directions with a sweep of his sword and a roar of "GET OUT!"
Fighting his way through the outgoing stampede and feeling like a skier trying to swim up a mountain through an avalanche, Jace finally managed to detatch himself from the crowd and stagger to a halt in front of Durean.
It was now that Jace first realized the source of the sword's power: not in its sharpness nor even in its lineage or ancientry did its potency lie, but in its unnatural power of fear. Terror seemed to radiate off it in shimmering waves, invisible icy tentacles coiling and whispering around the young Defender.
Jace stopped in his tracks, breathing hard and fighting the urge to turn and flee.
"You don't need to do this, Jace," Durean said quietly, his eyes and voice soft and dark like the velvet tide of oncoming night. "You can still walk away."
Jace swallowed hard. "Are you saying that because there's some good in you, or because you're afraid that I'll win?" It was bravado, nothing more. Jace had no doubt that mortal combat against Durean would result in his death. But something held him steady.
Durean's ebony head tilted back in laughter, his obsidian scales shimmering and the sword flickering with a pale, deadly light. "Afraid?" he echoed derisively. "My dear friend-"
"I am not your friend," Jace grated. "I'm a Defender of Neopia."
"For how long?" Durean smirked. "You couldn't even finish the written test!"
Jace hesitated, held in place by an invisible barrier of doubt. Maybe he's right. The words came to him in his own voice, but they felt as if they originated somewhere else, in some other time or place from which this confrontation was seen as merely an echo of past or a faint-seen glimmer of the distant, unimportant future. You can't beat him. That sword's the stuff of legends, and its wielder may not be a Defender, but he's strong enough to pose as one. And what do you have to challenge him with? A shiny ball of glass. Give up.
But Jace ignored the order, bracing himself against the despair. Still, within the message there lay a bit of sense: if he was going to fight Durean, he would need more than a glass orb. Glancing around quickly, Jace snatched up a Basic Lightning Beam that had been dropped by a fleeing Chia; and then, brandishing the two small weapons, the young Kyrii stepped forward, feeling like a little Usul child who has found himself testing the truth of the legend that Usica berries will ward off the Shadow Usul.
"You can't fight physics, Jace," Durean said with a condescending smile. "Even ordinary metal would trump what you've got."
"I can't fight physics," Jace answered steadily, thinking fast, "but neither can you!"
Durean laughed. "Try me!" With that, he swung the sword on a collision course with the glass orb...
Only to have it strike the Basic Lightning Beam as Jace shoved the cheap weapon into the way. Concentrated electricity met one of its best conductors, and instantly the surface of the ancient sword was laced with dancing wires of dazzling light. The white fire that had enveloped the weapons spread to the wielders, and both Durean and Jace let out piercing cries of pain before slumping to the floor, unconscious.
* * * * *
"I hear you failed your written test, Jace," Judge Hog said quietly, his voice touched with regret.
Jace lowered his eyes. "Yes, sir." He had spent the last two days in the hospital recovering from severe electric shock, and during the long, lonely hours he had spent staring up at the ceiling the one thing that had been most present in his mind was the fear of this conversation. Durean and the Brotherhood had been incarcerated, the sword was stored safely away, and everyone else who had been injured during the fight had either gotten a clean bill of health or been set well on their way to recovery; but through all the triumph, Jace's mind had still been filled with the dread of facing this failure.
Judge Hog seemed mildly amused. "Jace, do you know what the written test was for?"
"Durean said it was for screening purposes," the Kyrii answered meekly, "but after what he did I assumed he was lying."
"Indeed he was. Jace, those questions were meant to prepare you for the real thing." His eyes twinkled. "But whatever the results on the written test, you passed the test of reality with flying colours. On paper, you didn't do so well, but..." The grin in his eyes spread to the rest of his face. "Lives aren't saved on paper."
Hope sprang into Jace's heart and went spilling out through his eyes and voice. "You mean..."
"Welcome to the Defenders of Neopia."
Date: Aug 18th
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