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

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Week 294
You are on Week 295
Week 296

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 Ninety Five Ends October 20

"ACHOO!" Hurriedly, Lindyn clasped her paws over her nose and looked around to see if anyone had noticed. The Ogrin breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing that no one had even spared her so much as a glance.

She settled down onto her low stool again, careful not to stir up any more dust than she already had. The Altadorian Archives was a place rich with history, and there was nowhere else she wanted to be - but it was awfully dusty there, nonetheless.

Lindyn rubbed her nose as it twitched dangerously again, willing herself not to sneeze. The library here was revered for possessing great knowledge, and she had travelled a long way to Altador. She wasn't about to let a few dust particles scare her off.

"ACHOO!" Unable to hold it in, the Ogrin sneezed loudly again. As she shook her head to clear it, she saw a book with a worn leather cover sliding out of the shelves' shadows...

Author: Mysterious Author
Date: Oct 13th
...Interestedly, Lindyn gripped the spine of the book with one hand and pulled sharply. It came loose and the dust that puffed off the cover irritated the poor Ogrin's nose to the point where another loud sneeze erupted. This time, her outburst wasn't even noticed by Lindyn herself; the Ogrin was preoccupied with prying the ancient pages of the book open with delicate care. The old yellowing parchment signified the age of the tome. The script on the pages was very old and illegible. Sighing, she slumped over, eyes closed. Opening them, she gazed at the pages wistfully.

The writing looked -- to be frank -- like chicken scratch. Dashes and lines marked the pages indicating that some sort of barbaric calligraphy was used in the volume when it was written. Her hands went instinctively to her temples as she strained to understand the unintelligible form of writing that was scrawled across the parchment.

“Are you actually able to read that?” Lindyn looked up to see a fire Zafara observing her with a sneer on his face. “No one normal has ever been able to read that book since it was first put here.”

“I can see why,” Lindyn agreed. “None of this is legible.”

“Then why are you even trying?” he asked, eyebrow high in his flaming hair. “You’ll give yourself a headache if you keep it up.”

Lindyn ignored him and flipped absently through the old and crackling pages with care to not rip them. Although there was nothing to be gained except -- as the Zafara had stated -- a violent headache, it was still her obligation as a library patron to keep the books she touched in good condition.

He still stood over her, watching the Ogrin flip through the pages with an expression of mild interest on his face; other than that he revealed no emotion toward Lindyn and her book.

The last few pages were stuck together. With cautious amounts of strength so as not to tear them, she pried them apart skillfully.

Nothing.

Sighing exasperatedly once more, she stood up to go and replace the book where she had found it. After putting it back, she made her way to the stool.

“Hey!” It was the Zafara again. She turned to see him striding toward her, paw wrapped around something he had not held before. “You dropped something.” He offered her his paw.

“I didn’t --” she began, but stopped. Written on the slip of yellowing paper -- the same kind as that which was in the book -- was one very legible word:

"Backwards..."

Author: apatheticfeather
Date: Oct 16th
...For a brief moment, Lindyn stared at the slip of paper in her hand, then ran back to retrieve the book.

"Did you find anything interesting?" a voice asked nearby.

Lindyn jumped as she looked through the open doorway. The archivist was talking to the Zafara in the next room, but she knew the old Lenny would soon walk her way. Although she knew that they weren't supposed to remove the books upon these shelves far from their source, she felt as if this book belonged to her.

Stealthily, she shoved the book into her knapsack and hurried from the room. The next room was similar, as were all the rooms in this winding, mazelike place. Still, she hurried on as she searched for the exit. It had to be here. It just had to be.

Yet, as she ran from room to room, she realized she was completely and utterly lost. Trying not to cry, she sat upon the floor of one of the rooms and looked about her. Soon, the old Lenny would find her here and she could ask for directions back to Altador. She only hoped that it wouldn't be too long.

Sighing softly, she removed the book from her knapsack and stared at the cover once more.

Unprepared for what she might read, she opened the book backwards and slowly smoothed down the crumpled last page. To her surprise, the words fell into place and started to make sense. With a soft voice, she read the words aloud.

"And so the hero sat alone in dust riddled room as she awaited one who knew the way. She was not particularly concerned at the moment for she did not know her hour of destiny was at hand."

The Ogrin stopped as the meaning of the words sunk home. She was alone in a dusty room and she was waiting to be shown the way out of the library. It wasn't possible, but this book was about her. Taking another deep breath, she continued to read...

Author: tj_wagner
Date: Oct 16th
...Or tried to, at any rate.

But the words seemed to have scattered themselves in wicked humor, or fled before her breath like autumn leaves before a gale. They'd reassembled as gibberish, madman's writing; and they didn't look to have any intentions of changing.

"Why?" Lindyn asked in frustration, glaring at the cracks that trickled along the inseam of the book's cover as though to divine an answer. An answer did not meet her; or if it did, it was in the same rabble as the rest of the story. The Ogrin took the book between its corners and shook it, hoping for the riddles within to fall back into place.

"Idiot." For one mad breath, Lindyn thought that the book had answered her. However, it was not so; as she lifted her head, a lick of molten charcoal apparated from between the bookshelves lining the opposite wall. "How can you expect a book to tell you anything if you haven't written it yet?"

The Zafara who had earlier slipped her the scrap of paper stood eclipsing the doorway, a fine film of dust transforming the flames of his coat to moonfire. Lindyn's first thought was that she would have preferred that the book had started talking back to her.

"What do you mean?" she asked. The anonymous Zafara's eyes seemed wider in the darkness, as though sending out tendrils to sap any light that might cower behind the bookcases, or in her soul. Under his gaze she shrunk, and hated herself for it.

However, the Zafara suddenly had eyes only for the book still clasped to her chest. His paw darted out, and suddenly her arms clasped themselves in emptiness. Startled, afraid to wake whatever might have crawled from the Archives to hunt in the shadows, Lindyn could only gape in wondering outrage as he flipped the book open to that cryptic last page. "This isn't a normal book, anyone sentient could see that," the Zafara answered her after a moment. He gazed at the pages for a moment, and afterwards there was a tenderness in his voice that she had not imagined him capable of. "It's a mirror. Its story is that of whoever reads it. It has no beginning, and ends on a whim. Very old magic, that's why it's kept safe in the Archives. Very powerful indeed."

Lindyn craned her head, attempting to read what story the tome spelled for this pompous stranger who seemed to insist on making it his business. However, the blocks of text shied from her gaze like wild Petpets; whoever the magician was that had crafted this book, they'd planned ahead of time. "So you lied to me," she said, not an accusation so much as the statement of a fact. "You said no one normal has been able to read it, yet here you and I stand."

At this the Zafara smiled, though it seemed to her more of a baring of teeth. "I said the truth," he told Lindyn, crystal eyes lit with something unidentifiable within. "You are like me; you are not normal. That's why I've come to you."

Lindyn huffed in scorn, "You flatter yourself." She took a hold of the tome's corner, yet quickly snatched her fingers back, abashed; under the Zafara's hold, its leather cover was scalding to the touch. She stepped back so that the shadows of the bookcases veiled her face, taking repose in them. "How do you claim we're special?" the Ogrin snapped, letting suspicion drift to cover the anger welling in her voice. "What does it mean to be able to read a story that doesn't have any answers?"

Again he smiled; she wished he wouldn't. "I'll show you," he half-said, half-leered, and thrust a corner of the book into her hand so that its pages were strung between the two of them. As they watched, the text rearranged itself once more...

Author: missjessiegirl
Date: Oct 17th
..."Indeed, destiny had come for her - whether to shred her in its claws or cradle her in its arms, she did not know - destiny is a fickle thing, after all. Nonetheless, it had come for her, and there was little she could do to stop it..."

"What is this rubbish?" Lindyn snorted, tossing the book to the ground. "Destiny has come for me? It sounds like-"

"Like something out of a faerie tale, yes." The Zafara frowned in thought. He turned his gaze to the floor, smiling wryly at the book on the ground.

"You know, you might want to treat your life story with a little more respect."

"This is silly. Ridiculous rubbish..." Lindyn drifted off, her eyes wide in awe of all that was happening.

"It is not silly - this is your life. You read the words, did you not? It predicts your future, which is something to be taken very seriously, indeed."

The Zafara gave her a cheeky smile, eyes gleaming maliciously.

"Welcome to the world of scrying, friend Ogrin."

"Friend?" Lindyn sputtered wildy. "Friend?! All you've done is stand here and insult me! Explain what is going on!"

"If you wish." The Zafara was calm, unwavered by the Ogrin's outburst. "But you must come with me, to where we belong. You must listen - truly listen - you must believe. Do not question the power we have been given - Just believe in it."

"Power..." Lindyn mumered. "I'm nothing special. I'm just a lost Ogrin, looking for a book to bury her nose in..."

Lindyn's mind swirled, with thoughts of adventure and heroes and how in Neopia she would get back home...

Slowly, surely, a smile crept onto her face.

"Fine. I'll go with you..."

Author: asmodel
Date: Oct 17th
..."Good. Now, follow me." The Zafara turned away from her, clearly unafraid that she would either run away or vent her frustration on his unprotected back, and stooped to pick up the book. Cradling the ancient tome tenderly, he strode away without a backward glance.

To be honest, Lindyn was indeed tempted for a moment to go in the opposite direction, to get this fool of a Zafara out of her life forever. But then, she wasn't exactly track team material, and even if she was, she couldn't very well outrun her own destiny. Things like that had a way of catching up with a person. Taking a deep breath, holding it captive for a moment within her roiling chest, and then releasing it in the form of an exasperated sigh, she trudged off after the Zafara.

* * * * *

"Well, this is it," the Zafara announced, standing proudly in front of a solid oak wall. A dead end at the conclusion of a very long and breathtakingly dusty corridor. Lindyn stared at him in bewilderment, wondering if the flames in his fur had eaten a hole in his mind.

"It's a wall," she said blandly, unable to muster the proper tone of condescension.

The Zafara's face and voice more than made up the difference. "Haven't you learned anything? This isn't a normal wall. To most people it would be, but we aren't normal people, are we?" he added cryptically, flashing her a wicked pearl-toothed grin. Having said this, he leaned against the wall adjacent to the one that had ended their trek, opened the book, and stared at it hard for a moment.

Nothing happened for a few annoying, bewildering seconds, which crawled by like Slorgs eating away at Lindyn's patience as if it were a cabbage. Silence enveloped the room, the faint sound of the two pets' breathing falling dead upon the floor to join the dust which was slowly settling.

Then suddenly the wall that obstructed their path began to move. Sliding slowly inward, it swung open like a door. The Zafara raised his head and stared at it almost lazily, as if asking it what had taken so long. "How did you do that?" the Ogrin breathed, and her companion gave her an amused look.

"I told you to just accept it. You need to get used to this kind of thing if you're going to understand this book."

"Fine, I'll accept it," Lindyn snapped, "but I need to know what it is I'm accepting!"

"Then come on in." The Zafara strode confidently into the space beyond the displaced wall, and Lindyn followed him tentatively.

As she entered the room, her eyes widened in amazement. The rest of the library had been dusty and, in her opinion, ill-kept. This room, while not deliberately extravagant, was the picture of elegance and a testimony to its maker's eye for detail. Sweeping royal-blue curtains framed a huge window which opened on a sparkling sea (a sea? in the middle of Altador? Since when?) and in front of these windows sat an intricately carved marble table, set among other pieces of exquisitely made and clearly expensive furniture. The Zafara strolled casually up to the table, pulled out a satin-cusioned chair, set the book carefully on the table's gleaming surface and sat down.

For a moment, Lindyn paused, halted on the threshold of this marvelous room. After a few seconds, however, the Zafara noticed her hesitation and waved her over. "I thought you were impatient for an explanation. What are you waiting for?"

"I..." Lindyn began, then caught herself just short of stammering. Composing herself and stepping into the room (and feeling distinctly disconcerted when the wall closed silently behind her), she took a seat at the table across from her comrade-by-technicality and commanded with all the dignity she could muster, "All right, I'm here and you're here, now start explaining."

The Zafara gave her a look of amusement in response to her attempt at bossiness; then his attention became once more focused on the book. Silence reigned for several seconds; then suddenly Lindyn could take it no more. Snatching the book away, she shrieked at the top of her lungs, "Will you stop staring at this stupid book and START PAYING ATTENTION TO ME?!"

The Zafara's grin sparkled with mischief as the echoes of the Ogrin's howl danced among the marble pillars, playing a game of their own while he toyed with his visitor, slowly coming to the point with calculated relish. "Before you start screaming at me," he said, "take a look at your hoof."

"There's nothing special about my -- ACK!" Lindyn stared at her hoof in dismay as it stared back at her with a pulsating shade of luminescent pink. "What did you do?!"

"I wrote it," the Zafara said simply with a shrug of his narrow fire-and-ash shoulders.

"You what?" Lindyn asked dully, her overflowing mind refusing to process his words.

"I wrote it," he repeated, "just like I wrote this room. I told you the book couldn't tell you anything unless you wrote it."

"But you didn't lift a paw!" the Ogrin wailed, waving her discoloured hoof wildly.

"I didn't have to. Don't you see? You and I -- we have the power to write our own history, our own life stories. And as you can see..." he gestured toward her hot-pink hoof, "we can also change the stories of others, just by staring at these pages and willing it to happen. Not everybody can, but for some reason you and me... Lindyn -- yes, I know your name -- don't you realize what this means?"...

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Oct 18th
...Frowning wordlessly in thought, Lyndin cast her eyes down to the book she now held. Delicately, she opened the back cover to read what had been ‘written.’ Sure enough, the jumbled symbols leaped obligingly into a legible script, and she found herself reading a detailed description of the room behind the wall - the cobalt-blue curtains, the seaside view, even the chairs they were sitting in - and, of course, a mention at the end of her “vibrantly pink right hoof.” She closed the book, miffed, and glanced over at the Zafara, who smiled serenely back at her from across the table.

“You can change my paw back, right?” she asked flatly, completely disregarding his question. The Zafara rolled his eyes, reached across the table, and opened the book once more.

“I can, but I won’t. Come on, it’ll be good practice for you to do it yourself,” he added smugly at the Ogrin’s look of outrage. “Just think of the words. Feel the shape of them in your mind. Roll them around in your head a little bit. You’ll figure it out.”

With a reproachful glare, she sat back in her chair and laid the book across her lap; then, feeling as though it would only be proper, she closed her eyes. I need to visualize the words, eh? she thought. That doesn’t sound too difficult. Lyndin called up an image of her pink hoof to hover at the front of her thoughts, and furrowed her brows at it.

“Gradually, however, the pink glow subsided, until the hoof was as green as it had always been.”

Cautiously, the Ogrin opened her eyes, and let out a whoop of joy at the sight of her hoof, its colour once more a pleasant shade of veridian. The Zafara grinned in amusement. “There, now, you see? That wasn’t so difficult, was it?” He leaned across the table again and took the book from her, gently handling its worn pages. “That’s all it takes for you and I to write in this book. If we or anyone else tried to actually write in it with, say, a pen and ink, it would do nothing; the words would simply disappear.” Setting the book on the table, he looked up at Lyndin with unconcealed eagerness. “With this, we can do anything we want - anything at all! Isn’t it incredible?”

The Ogrin was slightly taken aback by this. Not only was this the first time she had seen her companion this excited over anything, but in truth, something about his expression struck her as a bit... disturbing. Like a willful child with a very shiny and very dangerous toy. “Yes, it is,” she answered slowly. “So I’m guessing that you want to use the book for more than just turning each other’s fur funny colours.” The Zafara gave her a patronizing look.

“You’re not using your brain properly - that was just a little demonstration! I have much bigger plans for this book than cheap parlour tricks. Even you should be able to see that.”

“Enlighten me, then,” the Ogrin said, curious yet undeniably wary. “What are your plans, exactly?”

The Zafara gave her that same vaguely unsettling grin. “Well...”

Author: _vespa
Date: Oct 18th
"...with this book, we have the ability to control reality itself. Anything we think becomes true, anything we imagine springs into existence. With this," he tapped a paw on the pages with purpose. "We could challenge the powers of the Faerie Queen herself."

Lindyn gaped at his statement, unable to keep her shock hidden. "Are you mad? You don't seriously intend to--"

"Of course not!" The Zafara dismissed her argument with a wave. "The faeries can keep their magic for all I care. Let the rest of the world sit at their feet and beg -- with our abilities, we don't need them. We don't need anyone." Now he tilted his head at her quizzically. "What's something you've always wanted?"

The question surprised Lindyn, and she wasn't quite sure how to answer. "What do you mean?"

He snorted and rolled his eyes like someone frustrated with a child. "I mean just what I said. What do you want?" Spreading his arms, he struck an arrogant pose. "Ever wanted to see what you'd look like as a fire Ogrin? Or what about a faerie Ogrin?"

Lindyn sputtered. "But... but those don't even exist yet!"

The Zafara looked at her like she had sprouted a third head. "It doesn't matter!" he nearly shouted. "Don't you understand yet, the power we have?"

The Ogrin wasn't taken aback by his outburst. Now she thought she was beginning to understand his motives. Closing the book carefully, she wrapped both hands around it protectively. "If this ability to write our own destinies is as limitless as you say, then we have a responsibility to use it wisely. We could affect history, or other people's lives." She looked down at the book with determination and a healthy respect. "We have to be careful with all that power. It might even be best not to use it at all."

Her fiery companion gave her a haughty look. "You know something? You're not too bright for someone who has the same ability I do. I thought if I could get you to help me, you'd be useful...but you're just a close-minded weak little girl." The way he sneered at her then was truly awful. "But I don't need you -- just your power."

He lifted his hand from a pocket and held up a scrap of paper, his eyes narrowing at it in concentration as he muttered something under his breath.

Before Lindyn could even register what he was doing, the book was no longer in her hands. Somehow, it had moved -- and was now held by the Zafara.

Lindyn looked at him in horror. "How--"

He waved the scrap of paper at her, grinning. "It's a page from the book, Lindyn. It has the same power. I try to carry a blank one with me all the time, in case of emergencies." Folding the scrap and placing it back in his pocket, he opened the book itself, turning to the proper page and gazing at it intently, just has he had when he'd created the room.

"What... what are you doing?" Lindyn's question came out hoarse and afraid.

The Zafara glanced up long enough to give her a chilling glare. "I'm going to rewrite you, Lindyn, and make your power my own..."

Author: ambre_skye
Date: Oct 19th
...Lindyn froze as his smoldering eyes returned to the book. Her mind felt sluggish, her limbs heavy and cold and hard to move, as if she'd been taken to Terror Mountain and plunged into soft wet slush. It chilled and dragged at her, weighting her chest so she could hardly breathe, and she imagined she could feel the loss of a part of herself.

It wasn't losing the power that bothered her. At least, not much. She had to admit she'd liked the idea. There were things she wanted, sure. Less selfishly, there were things she could imagine doing for Neopia... But she knew enough to realize that she didn't know enough to predict all the consequences, and she could mess things up really easily.

She wouldn't mind never having had it, or never knowing. She still didn't like the idea of having it taken away from her. Having it go to this sneering Zafara, somehow make him stronger, that was even worse.

And she was pretty sure he was going to mess things up on purpose.

The feeling of being drained and frozen was getting worse, getting faster. The Ogrin dropped to all fours in exhaustion; it was so hard to stand up. Her head drooped, and she stared almost blindly at the elegant pattern of the lush soft carpet, marred by a tiny scrap of paper right next to her hoof, with the word "Backwards" scribbled on it.

She nearly missed it. Her gaze traveled off the pale fragment, tracing the interrupted swirl of the pattern on the carpet, and then snapped back. A heartbeat, two, trembling. Then, with a great effort, she moved her numb-frozen hoof onto the scrap of paper.

The one the Zafara had given her at the beginning.

With that in her possession, she stared at it, and with an even more furious effort of will, she made her slushy brain compose words.

But the fire Zafara's efforts all came to naught and failed.

It was a struggle to make "failed" come into focus.

Lindyn remained herself, with all her power intact, and her growing skill with the book.

That was easier, and seemed to get bolder as she finished it. She rushed onward.

The book and all its pages and other fragments vanished from the Zafara's grasp and returned to hers, attached and whole.

The fragment under her hoof vanished; she gasped in alarm, but then the whole book appeared between her front hooves, and she scooped it up hastily and stood erect again, glaring across at the discomfitted fire Zafara. "Want to try that again?"

He went ash-pale among the flames, but then slowly began to smile. "Good," he said, "excellent, in fact! I'm proud of you, Lindyn. I thought I might never get you to begin."

She eyed him suspiciously, then opened the book, careful to keep a good grip, and firmly visualized a way out.

The Ogrin kept a firm grasp of the precious book, so that the Zafara was unable to take it from her, and the knowledge of the corridors outside came into her mind. The door to the strange and elegant room was unlocked, and she could walk freely back to the Archives and return the book to its proper place.

She turned and walked to the door, hearing a click inside it of the lock releasing. "I'm going to take this back where it belongs. And make sure it's safe from you." She opened the door.

"NO!" cried the Zafara. "Don't do it, Lindyn."

The urgency in his voice, though she thought it was probably fake, was strong enough that she looked back over her shoulder.

He really did look panicked. "Don't," he repeated. "If you do, we'll both be stuck here forever...."

Author: schefflera
Date: Oct 19th
"...You are a thief and a coward," Lindyn snapped. She could feel the book throbbing against the veins of her wrist, the two lifeblood rhythms of her pulse and its own intertwining until they came one and the same. Now she was the one that was smiling. "And worse, you aren't good at either. Why should I believe you now?"

He went on insistently, his eyes holding the determination of someone who has everything to lose. "This room, it isn't..." Now he spoke as if every word were thistles in his tongue. "It isn't real."

"Liar. We're standing on it, that's real enough for me." Lindyn kept her back firmly to the distraught Zafara. Before her, the cold mortar of the Archives hallway beckoned.

"No!" he howled. Though she did not look, the Ogrin could feel her companion-of-sorts gathering his legs beneath himself for a spring; maybe the book had told her. Suddenly, everything seemed all too full of maybes. Especially the false luxury of this room.

As the Zafara dived for her ankle, Lindyn stepped forward across the threshhold of the door. Somewhere beyond her ears, she could hear the triumphant squawling of the sea that was not a sea at all.

His fingers made contact, and the floor gave way into a dream.

* * * * *

The smell of ink invaded Lindyn until it seeped into the pores of her consciousness, until it was not a smell but a state of being. Though her eyelids remained firmly shut against the world outside, an echo of that wicked sea persisted still. Blindly, the Ogrin groped before her. Her knuckles blundered into a twist of metal that she would have known agonized and deaf; the framework of a typewriter.

The phantom appliance did not feel to be resting on anything, yet it remained poised for (for what?) at wrist level. She swung in circles, suddenly filled with an irrational horror. It followed in a contented benignment, and when the silence cleared, she could still feel its letters mere inches away. Its intentions were clear; the apparition was following her. But why?

The Zafara's voice, hoarse and somehow a bit more rusted then when last he'd spoken, loomed at her from the darkness of her eyelids. She still couldn't, or wouldn't, open them. "I told you," he wheezed. Was he real? Or was he another phantom? The numbness of Lindyn's arms prickled her like thistles. "I told you not to, you fool. I told you."

She tried to speak, and found that her mouth was as cheerfully unmovable as her eyelids. Yet the words appeared anyway. "Where are we? What have you done?"

"I've done nothing!" he snarrled at her. In this world of half-waking, Lindyn felt his slap as an intention instead of a physical blow; but it seemed to placate him nonetheless. "This is the precaution of the book's creator. I hardly need to tell you of what magical prowess would be required for a tome like that, and like most magicians, he was torn between the senses of superiority and paranoia. As a fail-safe, in case any illiterate thief tried to leave the room without making it a reality within the book, he created a jail cell out of our realm of time. No one can find us but him, no one can free us but that magician; and he is dead. So we are stuck here, and all because you did not remember that the book's magic was what was really in control of that room."

Lindyn heard perhaps half of the Zafara's speech, for she was preoccupied with the gentle, incessant bumping of the ghostly typewriter against her wrist. What do you want? she pleaded in her mind; thoughts seemed to be the normal mode of communication in this place. I would give you what you want, if only I knew what it was.

But the typewriter was mute, or else too smug to answer.

In desperation, she turned to the one whose glare she could feel against her face like the glare of the sun. "So how can we get out of this?" she asked, begged. "How can we make all of this have never happened?"

Lindyn could feel the Zafara's bitterness, a sandpapery wave of spite against her skin. "You know perfectly well what you have to do," he and the typewriter growled as one. "There's only one way to escape from a book. You must finish the story..."

Author: missjessiegirl
Date: Oct 20th
...Finish the story. But characters weren't supposed to know how the story ended until it was done, were they? Lindyn shook her head, despair coating her like black ink.

Ink. She could still smell ink, in this "jail cell out of time." The typewriter was still nudging hopefully at her wrist. It could have been annoying, taunting, but somehow it reminded her of an overeager, inquisitive Puppyblew more than anything else.

She knew she didn't trust the Zafara, Lindyn thought slowly. He was her only source of information about the book and about this strange place so far, but while some of his information had been accurate, and she had to admit that he had warned her about leaving the room... he had made it very clear that he had motives she didn't agree with, and she was pretty sure he would be willing to lie to her about the nature of their predicament to get her to go along with him.

The typewriter bumped her wrist. Lindyn put her hoof very lightly on the keys.

She knew she didn't trust the Zafara.

So why not let the book have its own say?

Lindyn let the ink in, let herself sink under it, and though she already had her eyes shut, she felt everything go black.

But it was warm black, swirling and intelligent, dark with stars, black with rainbows in it.

She listened.

At first, it seemed that she was only hearing the Zafara's words over again, and she became impatient, but little ripples of current lapped at her, and she listened more closely.

No one can find us but him.

No one can free us but that magician, and he is dead.

He is dead.

He is dead.

No one else.

You must finish the story.

She felt the Zafara's hand close on her ankle. Before she crossed the threshold.

Understanding seeped into her with the smell and taste of the ink, and she bobbed to the surface again, turning toward the Zafara.

"I must finish the story," she said, pity running off her voice as the ink poured from her fur, "because you can't do it."

She felt the Zafara look at her, and wondered why he was so terrified.

"I," he said.

"Who are you anyway?" Lindyn asked.

The Zafara lowered his head, his flames almost drowned. "I was the maker of the book."

The Ogrin tilted her head. "But who are you now?"

He was silent.

"Who are you now?"

The cry of one lost in the dark, though he burned with his own light. "I don't know!"

"You overwrote yourself, didn't you?" Lindyn asked softly. "Your story got out of hand, and you got stuck in it, and you don't know how to finish it because you can't remember who you were when you started. This place is where you've been trapped all along, and now you've dragged me in."

"I was in here," the Zafara said, as if dredging up the memory from the bottom of the sea, "and I got lost, and someone took the book from me and closed it and put it on the shelf. When you came in," he rasped, "I could reach you. I could walk the floor. I could talk to you. I could handle the book again. I could make the room."

"And when I tried to leave?"

"It really wasn't real," he said, almost pleading now himself.

"But the hall was."

He hung his head. "The hall was real. Or, well, some of the hall was real -- the maze you got lost in was mine. But you would have been drawn back in, believe me. Because the story wasn't finished. Again and again and again...."

She still wasn't sure she believed him, but then... she'd had it happen with perfectly normal books. The story she hadn't finished nagging at her mind until she went back and picked up the book and read to the end.

The story she hadn't finished writing....

Lindyn reached out and touched the fire, heedless of its heat. "You said the book was a mirror," she said. "Mirrors show you who you are. Maybe you need to learn that before you can go."

The Zafara smiled bitterly. "And who are you?"

Lindyn smiled back and turned to the typewriter. "I'm Lindyn," she said. "I'm a green Ogrin. I'm a researcher. And I'm going to get us out of here."

She wasn't holding the book anymore. It was all around them, holding them.

She set her hooves on the typewriter and began to write.

The hero knew finally that she hadn't really been waiting, as she'd thought at first, for someone else to show her the way. She had been waiting for someone else who was even more lost than she was.

Because sometimes, that's just the kind of help you need to find yourself....

* * * * *

...and at the end of the journey they found themselves safely back in the Altadorian Archives, both free, with the book intact and their identities restored.

She couldn't feel the typewriter anymore, and there was something hard poking her in the chest and something sitting on her back.

Lindyn opened her eyes and discovered that she was lying on her stomach on the dusty floor next to her stool. The book was underneath her, and the Zafara was sprawled awkwardly over her back.

Their eyes met. "Move, please," Lindyn said. "You're heavy."

The Zafara scrambled to his feet, looking utterly shamefaced. "I," he said. "I'm sorry. I dragged you into this...."

"You can't actually do anything all that scary to the rest of Neopia, can you?" Lindyn said absently, flipping through the now-incomprehensible pages of the book.

He shook his head. "Only someone who's been drawn into the story."

"I'm going to talk to the Archivist about this, you know."

The Zafara gulped, then blushed ember-red. "I suppose you should. I was... arrogant."

"No kidding!"

"Well, I meant in thinking I could handle what I'd made in that." He regarded the book wistfully. "But it was a masterpiece."

Lindyn burst out laughing. Several people shushed her from a distance. It was her turn to blush. "Right." She looked at him curiously. "So what is your name?"

"Um," he said, looking more embarrassed still. "Lyndon. My name is Lyndon."

"Nice name."

He gave her a wry look. "Thank you for giving it back to me."

Lindyn smiled and started off toward the circulation desk, her hooves raising a soft cloud of dust from the floor.

Her nose twitched.

"ACHOO!"

The End

Author: schefflera
Date: Oct 20th



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