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

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Week 311
You are on Week 312
Week 313

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 Three Hundred Twelve Ends March 9

"I sure hope I get something better than a keyring," Mirky complained as he swung along in the trees.

"You should be grateful for getting anything for free," Tariana chided. The Uni tossed her mane as she galloped beside her friend. "The Tombola man doesn't have to give you anything, you know."

"I know," the Mynci replied ruefully. "It's just my brother always manages to get codestones and bottled faeries, and he never stops gloating about the fact that I've still never gotten anything more useful than a left sandal."

"Just be patient," Tariana advised. "The Tombola man is generous enough, you'll see."

"You're right," Mirky sighed. Then his ears perked up. "Come on, Tariana, I'll race you to the clearing!" With a neigh, the Uni kicked her hooves and picked up the pace, as the Mynci beside her swung deftly from tree to tree. Laughing, the two burst into the Tombola man's clearing out of breath but smiling.

"I still think that since my horn crossed the finish line first, I should- where's the Tombola man?" Tariana broke off in puzzlement, staring at the empty space where he usually stood.

"Maybe he's gone on a break?" Mirky suggested dubiously.

The Uni shook her head. "No, he's never failed to leave a note before..."

Author: Tiki Tack Collector
Date: Mar 5th
...The only thing in sight was the Tombola cart. The small door of the Tombola was ajar and, after a little more investigation, the two found the prizes tucked on the little shelf behind the cart as usual. The only thing missing was the owner.

"Where could he be?" Tariana muttered, more than a little unsettled. "It's so unlike him to do this."

"He must've just forgotten to put up his sign, Tari," Mirky said, rather bored by the situation. "Really, it's probably nothing."

The Uni was quiet. "No, that can't be it. I have been coming to this stand for years now, and not once has he ever left without letting the public know. What worries me more is the fact that no one else is around either; usually this place is packed."

As Mirky opened his mouth to reply, a small squeak suddenly came from the cart. The two friends turned to the sound but found nothing.

"What was that?" Mirky asked.

"Sounded like it came from the prize shelf," Tariana replied, and to confirm this, another squeak sounded again. The Uni stuck her head as close as possible to the shelf without her horn breaking anything. She gasped after a moment.

"What is it?" Mirky asked. "What's making the noise?"

"I found the Tombola Man," Tariana said gravely. She shifted her head, jabbing the horn into the cart and pulling it out quickly, this time with an object hanging off the end, which Mirky quickly recognized as a booby prize, a Tombola Keyring. He'd "won" hundreds of these little replicas of the Tombola Man from the game before. He didn't see what was so special about this one. And then he realized it.

This one was moving...

Author: dan4884
Date: Mar 5th
...and speaking. "As much as I appreciate you getting me out of that cart," the Tombola man called, glancing uneasily toward the (to him) far-off ground, "I would be far less appreciative of a long drop and a sudden stop."

Mirky stepped forward quickly, cupping his hands beneath the dangling figure. The Tombola Man dropped into them gratefully, heaving a deep sigh and seeming disinclined to look over the edge. "Thank you," he murmured. "I was beginning to think I would be trapped in that cart forever."

"How did you get there in the first place?" Tariana asked, the azure heavens reflecting in her eyes as they widened with concern. "Who did this to you?"

"And where is everybody else?" Mirky put in. "Normally there's a crowd here, and I should think there would be even more people than usual, standing around and chattering about this."

"I don't know who did this to me or how," the tanned native said crossly, bitter irritation seeping into his voice, "any more than I can guess why. I have no real business rivals, no one's complained about the game, nothing appears to have been taken, and a stolen Tombola game is hardly a promising tool for taking over the world." This last bit said with the exasperated sarcasm of one who has spent far too much time sweating in the company of the scorching island sun and a few too many codestones and keyrings.

Codestones, keyrings, and bottled Faeries. One of which claimed the three other Neopians' attention by body-slamming the side of her glass prison hard enough to send it tumbling off the shelf to strike the floor with a dull thud. The glass was too thick to break so easily, but the dark faerie inside nearly proved otherwise. Stunned by the fall, she remained motionless for several moments, and the others were caused to regret having followed suit by the emergence of a frigid, caustic, and slightly muted voice from within the confines of the bottle. "Whatever your varying personal standards of speed and efficiency might be, I think it's safe to say that by now you have fallen short of them."

Flushing slightly, Mirky sat down, shifted the Tombola Man into one hand, and picked up the bottle with the other. "Since you thought getting our attention was worth a round of skydiving, I'm guessing you've seen something important?"

The faerie glared at him with undisguised contempt. "While diverting your efforts toward freeing me would have seemed a fairly worthwhile endeavour," she spat corrosively, "I expected your reaction to carry no greater measure of such altruism than it has. I marvel that your small kind can be so swift to judge my own race in light of that. But in response to your self-serving inquiry: yes, my superior vantage point -- the only small comfort my captivity affords -- allowed me to gain some understanding of the situation." A pause. And then, "Assuming you are capable of comprehending a broad hint: the muffling capabilities of this bottle are hardly conductive to the efficiency of verbal communication."

"You want out?" Tariana summed up, and the subsequent turning of the faerie's frosty glance onto her made her regret having drawn attention to herself.

"I believe," the small captive answered in cool, measured tones, "that that is what I said."

"Actually," Mirky began conversationally, "your precise wording was-"

"-Recorded in my mind even as I uttered it, making repeating it distinctly superfluous," the dark faerie cut him off acidly. "Now, are you going to release me or not?" A glance from the Mynci to the Man drew a groan from between dark purple lips. "And don't start looking at him as if asking permission to make use of a piece of his property! I am an autonomous intelligence, just as you are, although the comparison does you far more flattery than it does me."

Instinct still prompted Mirky to pause and ask permission; but still, there was the question of the morality or lack thereof of keeping a live Faerie trapped in a bottle barely large enough to allow her to stand, and, truth be told, a fair dose of intimidation, involved. Gripping the bottle with his agile feet, Mirky used his free hand to pull out the cork. Instantly the Dark Faerie burst free, shooting up out of arms' reach with a speed that suggested that she wasn't entirely certain that she would not be recaptured at the earliest opportunity.

"Well!" she exclaimed, some of her initial acidity being blown away by the delicious wind that caressed her newly freed wings. "That's much better. So," she continued, a capricious gleam sharpening in her eye, "you wanted to know what has happened to the Tombola Game?..."

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Mar 6th
...All three Neopians nodded their heads simultaneously as they intently gave their undivided attention to the freed Dark Faerie.

"I do not need mute replies. I am fully aware that you are capable of speaking, and I wish that you do so. I am a creature to be respected, and therefore I expect to be spoken to when I speak to you. I deserve more than a simple nod of the head." There the dark faerie took a pause for breath and continued. "Now about the Tombola Game. As I was attempting to fall asleep in my treacherous container, I looked out onto this very clearing. It was quite peaceful, actually, as there was no noise save for the obnoxious snoring of the Tombola Man."

"It's not that bad!" the Tombola Man interjected at the faerie's slight pause.

"That's not the point, you idiotic buffoon. If you wish for me to inform you of how you have shrunk, do not speak. That is, unless you are spoken to. Is that clear?" the dark faerie asked, annoyed.

There was no reply.

"I said, 'Is that clear?'" the Faerie screamed at the Tombola Man.

"Yes," he mumbled miserably in reply.

"To think I honestly believed you would get it right the first time. To continue, I heard a noise. It wasn't a normal noise, such as a bug crawling up the side of my bottle, or the slight rustling of the grass as a light wind blew across the clearing. It was more like a footstep, a sound that only a Neopet would be able to produce. At first I thought it was the Tombola Man, waking up from his sleep to check out the Tiki Tack store, but I still heard his snores. So, I decided to spy on this mysterious person who had entered the clearing so late at night." She took a breath.

At this point in the story, Mirky looked around nervously. There could be someone hiding in the very room he was in, waiting to shrink the faerie, Tariana, and himself, to the Tombola Man's current size. He gulped and looked at Tariana. She was staring attentively at the dark faerie, waiting anxiously for the next part of the story. The Uni was never nervous about anything, and she never had any worries. She was as carefree as the wind, and that was one of the qualities that she took pride in, and that Mirky looked up to. Then the faerie started to speak again.

"I waited there for what seemed like hours, for someone to start to steal something off of the shelf, or to do something to the Tombola Game, but nothing seemed to happen. I lay awake for hours, silently anticipating a crash or a rustle from the apparent burglar, but no more noise occurred, other than the Tombola Man's infinite snoring." She shot the Tombola Man a look not to interrupt, and then continued. "So I decided to try and fall asleep again, considering that through the glass that muffled my voice earlier, I wouldn't have been able to hear anything anyway. As I was on the verge of my first dream, a loud crash sounded." At this point in the story she took a dramatic pause, causing all three Neopians to gasp, yearning to hear the end of the story.

The faerie started the final part of her story. "I leaned against the edge of my bottle, to see what had caused such a loud noise. Outside I could see a mysterious Kougra, wearing clothes that I had never seen before, crouch next to the Tombola Man. I could see a sign leaning against his backside, which said 'Closed for renovation,' which you two," she said the last three words pointedly to Mirky and Tariana, "failed to read."

"That would explain why no one was here," Tariana realized.

"Did I ask you to interrupt?" asked the dark faerie, her voice filled with contempt.

"No, I'm sorry, please go on," Tariana replied immediately.

"At least someone has some sense in here," the faerie said, scowling at the Tombola Man, "Anyway, the Kougra seemed to be chanting some sort of ancient magic. It was older than I. I listened intently to the enchanting words that sprung out of the Kougra's mouth. After about five minutes of chanting, the strangely dressed Kougra got up from his crouched position, and fled immediately. I could hear a few small thumps outside, and I assumed it was the hanging up of the sign that was leaning on the Kougra's back. I fell right to sleep after that. I assume that the words the Kougra chanted somehow made you smaller," the dark faerie finished as she looked over to the Tombola Man.

"Wow, that's one story," Mirky chuckled incredulously.

"That Kougra," the Tombola Man whispered, "he sounds familiar. You know, I think he won at the Tombola yesterday. Did he have some leather gloves on?"

"Yes. I'm surprised such a creature as you would have a memory as you do," the faerie replied.

"The question is, why would he shrink you and say that Tombola was out of business when he won?" Tariana asked.

But before the Tombola Man could answer, all of them heard a strange rustling behind them...

Author: psychopsam
Date: Mar 6th
...and, standing in the clearing aside them now, was a figure none of them could identify. Whoever they were, they were cloaked in an oversized hemp cloak. The edges were trimmed with dangling arrowheads, which were the cause of the rustling noise. Beneath the cloak, Tariana could barely make out a pristine white tunic, bound by a bronze belt.

As for the figure itself, it was almost completely hidden -- and very out-of-place. The baggy cloak completely covered its arms, and the hood cast an impenetrable shadow across its face. The figure's bizarre clothing was what was most off-putting. Tariana and the dark faerie stared at it incredulously; Mirky gave it a look of utter confusion; the Tombola Man gave out a weak gasp.

"You--!" he spoke, but the figure cut him off.

"Asai keretch ni hasmodaar... Saith neko faisi rekovar... Esmetchi hai taan..."

The voice in which it spoke was raspy and almost whispery, and had the strange quality of sounding almost like two voices speaking in unison. The figure placed much emphasis on the vowels which it spoke, and said the entire statement (in this cryptic language) without so much as a single awkward pause.

However, Tariana and Mirky did not think of the voice as something peculiar or even interesting, as they were utterly and completely horrified by its inhuman qualities.

Tariana opened her mouth to scream, she was so very terrified by this creature. The figure, however, had lifted an arm, and a velvety black paw revealed itself from the sleeve. A finger straightened, pointing straight at them. A pair of golden eyes flashed from within the shadows of the hood. The winds suddenly picked up very suddenly, whipping dirt and leaves into the air. A terrified Mirky looked skywards and noticed that a storm was quickly approaching.

The figure bowed very low to the ground, in a way that was so flexible and fluid it was inhuman. A shroud of dust wrapped around the nearly prostrate entity; there was a sudden whoosh, and the figure had vanished. The whooshing stopped abruptly, replaced by a hollow, rasping laugh, which immediately splintered into a thousand hollow laughs, which then faded to silence.

The winds continued to blow, and the storm did not cease its charge upon the horizon. The echoing laughter made Mirky's blood run cold; Tariana gave a hybrid whimper and gasp. The dark faerie, meanwhile, watched this all with attentive eyes, taking in every detail.

Silence hung in the air for several minutes afterwards; to Tariana and Mirky, it felt like an eternity. The tension, mixed with the threat of the ever-approaching storm, finally urged Mirky to speak.

"Mr. Tombola Man... Just what in the name of Fyora was that?!"

Silence reigned.

It was at this moment, of course, that Mirky, Tariana, and the Faerie all realized that the Tombola Man had vanished...

Author: really_awesome_d00d
Date: Mar 7th
...Mirky was left gaping at the spot where the Tombola Man had once stood that was now vacant while Tariana stuttered incoherent words, her eyes focused at that very same area.

"D-Did he just--?" Tariana started, though her words were rather unnecessary, seeing as how the same question was being proposed through everyone's minds in unison.

Mirky blinked a few times before responding, trying to see if his disappearance was a mere illusion. When it proved not to be, he murmured in quiet astonishment, "Where'd he go?"

The faerie had remained quiet the whole passing of time, not looking at the place where the Tombola Man had been obnoxiously interrupting her only moments before, but at the very spot where the mysterious cloaked figure had disappeared. Her eyes narrowed as they focused in on the spot, piercing through the dark. Finally, she averted her eyes toward the empty space that the Tombola Man had been standing, letting out a low chuckle.

"What's so funny?" Mirky demanded, not finding any humor in their situation. A celebrity had vanished from existence with a few words of some sort of ancient magic; it would be cruel to laugh at such a situation.

Stretching out her wings, the faerie shook her head slightly. "Oh, you have all been deceived," she said, her voice light with amusement.

It took a while before the statement had sunk in, and when it did, the two Neopets were left confused. Finally, when the Mynci found his voice once more, he piped up with an angry tinge to his voice, "Have you lied to us?"

"For all that is good, no," the faerie said, starting to bat her wings as she ascended slightly into the air. "It is dishonorable to do such a criminal act."

"Then what do you mean?" It seemed that Tariana had found her voice once more as she stepped toward the faerie that was rising higher and higher into the air.

Once more, the faerie let out a laugh and disappeared ascending into the night. "Oh, what a man will do for business!" But before her words could be questioned, she was already a part of the shadows of the trees...

Author: skgurlzguild
Date: Mar 7th
...Mirky squinted after the faerie, trying desperately to make something of her parting words. "Did she...?" he asked, hoping that his friend would supply an explanation more pleasant than the one flitting through his head.

"I don't know," Tariana sighed, clearly faced with the same difficulties as the Mynci. She didn't want to believe it, either. "I can't imagine that the Tombola Man would pull a stunt like that just for... for publicity. Besides, everyone in Neopia already knows about his stand. But what else could the faerie have meant?"

"Goodness, she wasn't talking about the Tombola Man!" exclaimed a new voice.

Tariana and Mirky jumped around, rather defensively, and found themselves staring at a Kougra, dressed about the same as the inhuman stranger had been. She was much smaller than the other had been, though, and at least seemed harmless. The friends regarded her warily, however, fully aware that every Kougra had hidden claws.

"Who was she talking about, then?" Tariana asked tentatively, taking a slight step back. "And how do you know what she meant?"

"And why were you listening in the first place?" Mirky interjected.

The Kougra offered a bitter half-smile. "Nice to meet you, too. I'm Isaria. To answer your questions, the faerie was talking about that spell-chanting guy who just paid a visit to your Tombola Man. I know because I'm quite familiar with the situation, and I was listening because that freak used to be my brother."

Mirky's jaw dropped to what felt like an unnaturally low position. He hoped that this new stranger wasn't anything like her brother because the Mynci really, really didn't want to be shrunk or made invisible or turned into a Mortog or anything.

Tariana, somehow, kept her cool. "How do we know we can trust you?" she demanded.

Isaria shrugged slightly, readjusting the cloak on her shoulders. It was hemp like her brother's, but without the gaudy dangling arrowheads. Underneath it there looked to be a simple dark brown tunic. She dressed so much like her brother, only... more humbly. It almost seemed as though her her brother had gone horribly wrong... or as though she had gone right.

Tariana shook off her thoughts, not allowing herself to dwell on them any longer. She instinctively felt that time was going to become a precious commodity very soon.

"Well, I don't suppose that there is any one way for me to win your trust," Isaria said finally, glancing from the Mynci to the Uni. "If you will, let me tell you a quick story. I promise it won't take long. Then you can decide if you want to help me or not."

"Why do you need our help?" Mirky asked, his voice having lost the hard edge it had earlier. He saw the same thing in the Kougra that Tariana did - the same basic goodness.

With a shudder, the Uni fought off the sudden thought that perhaps Isaria was charming them with her tongue using a magic akin to that demonstrated earlier by her brother. She really didn't think that was the case - at least, she didn't feel enchanted - but one could never be certain. Then again, what did they have to lose by listening to the Kougra's story? Biting her lip, she looked to Mirky for help, reading in his eyes the same conflict that she felt. For a moment, they exchanged the sort of unspoken conversation that only the closest of friends can share, and then they turned back to Isaria and said...

Author: grace_unchartered
Date: Mar 8th
..."For all we know, you could be casting a spell on us right now. But if you were working with your brother, you could probably spell us without us letting you, and if you're working against him, well... I guess we're on the same side."

Isaria's eyes were like the gulfs of space touched with soft, sad starlight, and her answering voice was cool and fluid, a gentle, enduring power like a deep river flowing through a course unchanged for centuries. "Good," she said simply, quietly. "Then I will begin.

"Kalein was never content with being what he was. He was big, he was strong, he was athletic, the envy of the Neoschool boys... but he always felt he could do better than that. Always thought he should be able to run faster, throw farther, tire more slowly. Always wanted to be more the classical hero." Isaria's voice had dipped an octave, and grown slightly husky. The significance of this was lost on Mirky, but in spite of herself Tariana felt a lump forming in her long, graceful throat. Classic-hero boys of the sort the Kougra seemed to be describing tended to protect their little sisters the way knights protected princesses. Tariana's own brother had been like that, until-

Never mind. She drew her focus back to the story.

"He started using the lab ray," Isaria continued, pain scraping her voice. Old, deep pain, healed then torn open, repaired and reopened again. "And, indeed, he grew stronger. Faster. More handsome. But... something went wrong." She had brought herself under control; only a faint, sharp flicker in the deepest gulf behind her eyes showed that this matter was of any emotional importance to her. "He began to lose himself. To lose... coherence. He would fade sometimes, becoming translucent or almost intangible, or transform into... I don't think I'll try to describe the shapes." She shook her head slightly, as if trying to dislodge a clinging ghost. "After a while he couldn't stand to be in his own body. And then he found out... he found out that he could cast transformations onto others, or draw on their own stability. Every once in a while, he would drain a person of their coherence to the point where his default form became theirs, and they faded away entirely."

"You mean he's trying to BECOME the Tombola man?" Mirky cut in, his voice rising with alarm.

"In a way, yes." Bitterness prowled the edges of Isaria's voice, sharpening as she went on. "That is the 'business' the faerie was talking about. And laughing about. Or at least, part of it." Indeed, it's the most harmless part, she mentally added, pained by the harsh information with which she must burden these children. After a moment of hesitation, during which she drew upon the deep bedrock reserves of strength that the years had ground into her, she went on. "Forms and figures are his stock in trade, so to speak. My brother, the master of extreme makeovers." The bitterness dug farther into her tone. "Thieves, murderers, even an attempted usurper have come to him, exchanging gold for a transformation."

"He's going to sell the Tombola man's shape." Tariana's flat, numb voice made it a statement, not a question. "Fade him into nothingness and then pawn off the transformation."

Mirky was less subdued, his voice blasting from his mouth in a detonation of outrage. "And who would pay a guy to do THAT? And why the Tombola man?"

Isaria gave him a sad look. These kids had not been trained, had not been forced, to think along these lines in the past. And now she was helping to force them. "I think you already know," she said quietly...

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Mar 8th
...Tears rose to Tariana's eyes unbidden. Yes, she knew. She knew all too well. But she couldn't force herself to say the name. "Our being here now isn't an accident, is it?" she whispered, half-choking on the knot in her throat, unable to look Isaria fully in the eyes for fear of bursting into all-out sobs.

"No," the Kougra replied solemnly. "At least, I... delayed Kalein until I was sure that you would see him. I knew that you were coming today - I've been following you for awhile - and, thankfully, I didn't have to tamper with your schedules very much."

"Why?" Mirky asked, sheet white and trembling but totally confused.

Turning to the flabbergasted Mynci, Isaria explained, "You two know something about my brother's latest customer and I was hoping that you could help me do something before..." she frowned deeply, threads of worry gaining prominence in her eyes, "well, before something unpleasant happens."

"But who are you talking about?" Mirky pleaded.

Isaria nodded to the Uni. "I think that your friend would be the one to ask."

Tariana looked like she was fighting to keep from collapsing. Isaria felt awful for what she was making these children go through, but it was necessary. She had to remember that - to cling to it - if only to keep her own sanity. She had to do what she was doing to keep more people from getting hurt.

"Andrew," Tariana blurted suddenly. "It's Andrew!"

Mirky's stunned expression showed that Tariana's words had struck a chord. "Andrew is the... the customer?" he gasped.

Isaria nodded.

"But... he was your brother, Tariana!" Mirky said in a nervously high, fast voice. "He was my friend! I know he started getting strange before he left, but he wouldn't do anything like this!" The Mynci's gaze swung hopefully, fearfully to Tariana. "He wouldn't!" he cried again, begging her to agree; begging her to refute this nightmare.

"I'm afraid that he already has," was the Kougra's grim reply. "He's been to see Kalein at least four times now."

"Do you know what they're planning?" Tariana asked weakly, avoiding Mirky's eyes. She couldn't bear watching his heart break.

"Yes," said Isaria slowly, as though testing a still-developing theory on mental balances. "And I think, if you two are willing to help me, that we might be able to save both of our brothers."

"Save us from what?..."

Author: grace_unchartered
Date: Mar 9th
...The three Neopets, who had talked quietly amongst themselves, was startled by this new voice. Tariana felt her blood run cold and color drain from her face as she froze still; Isaria, on the other hand, jumped around to face the owner of that voice, forcing her startled reaction to turn into a fierce frown.

There, standing before her, was the topic of their conversation: that strangely dressed Kougra and a shadow Uni that was stamping his hooves impatiently. Isaria struggled to find her voice and managed a frail sound to peep out of her.

"Fr--from utter destruction," Isaria finally said, her voice growing stronger by the word.

Her brother laughed an unnatural laugh that was deep and low but managed to have the ringing qualities of a high-pitched one. "Utter destruction?" he repeated as he stepped closer to his sister. "You don't know what you're talking about."

Tariana turned around too, slowly lifting her head to face the familiar figure of her own brother. Tears of horror and despair began to leak from her eyes as she saw what her brother had become -- his eyes were blank and void of emotion, not full of that loving warmth that he had possessed before.

"How could you do this?" she whispered, taking a step back from the monster that had once stood by her side, protecting her, while the two other siblings quarreled coldly by themselves. "How could you do this to me?"

"I didn't do anything to you," he said. His voice was just the same as it was before -- easy-going and cool. But his eyes still lacked emotion as he spoke. "I'm better than ever now, Tariana." A grin flickered upon his face. "Do you see, Tariana? I can protect you from everyone, now. I'm stronger. I knew you would like this, Tariana."

Tariana took one more step back as she shook her head. Mirky, on the other hand, was not so weak and fragile as his friend. Leaping forward, he advanced where Tariana had retreated. "If you thought she would like it," he said angrily, his nostrils flaring, "then you don't know your sister at all."

It was the wrong thing to say; Andrew snarled and lashed out at the Mynci as he was blown back a meter. Tariana yelped and walked backwards away from the advancing creature and was cornered into the stall.

"I saved you, Tariana," he said triumphantly, a possessive gleam in his eye. "I saved you again. Aren't you happy?"

For a moment, Tariana was too shocked to respond. When she did collect herself once more, she shook her head slowly from side to side as the fear drained from her and was replaced by hurt and anger. "No," she whispered, her eyes downcast. "I didn't care when that bully took the better of you. I was... I was proud, that even when you knew you would be defeated, you stood up for me anyway."

She looked up to face her brother in the eye. "But not this," she continued. "I am not proud of this monster that you've become. I-- in fact, I hate it."

The younger Uni drew herself taller. Her brother faltered slightly and the first flicker of emotion crossed his face.

Shame.

"You-- you don't like me now?" he said, his voice cracking.

Tariana shook her head. "No," she replied coldly. "I don't."

She had not noticed that the Kougras had fallen silent in their argument and was toned into theirs.

Despair washed over Andrew. He had gone onto that dangerous trek only to meet up to his younger sister's standards, to be able to protect her. And somewhere along the way, he had lost all respect that he had held in her eyes.

The irony pained him. It nearly killed him with emotion and regret.

But he'd already come so far...

...and become someone that he was not.

A sad smile crossed his face. "I'm sorry," he whispered. His shoulders sagged and he ducked down his head. "I'm so sorry."

Tariana smiled slightly. "So am I," she said before walking to her brother, nuzzling her head against his to show forgiveness. "As long as you don't do something so ridiculous again."

He looked up. "I promise."

"You see?" Isaria said suddenly to her brother. "Do you see what a ridiculous thing you've been questing after? No one can be perfect; nothing but love! And what love do you have left?"

Unlike Andrew, her brother had fallen off track for far too long and was lost to the world of love, so that the word sounded so unfamiliar and meant nothing to him. His heart was cold as ice that could not be melted. "I have banished my weakness," he replied, his very voice unnatural with a frightening smoothness. "You would be smart to join me, sister."

"I would never," Isaria declared.

He smirked slightly. "Your loss, then."

As he turned to go, Isaria screamed his name. He stopped.

"Won't you change?" she asked desperately. "You were kind before; I know you still can be. It's in you."

Her brother only shook his head, the coldness never leaving his face. "Don't be a fool." With that, he leapt into the forest and disappeared, blending into shadow.

Tariana walked over to her newfound Kougra friend. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

Isaria only stifled her sobs and shook her head, blinking away unshed tears. "I knew it would come out to this," she admitted, defeated. "He had been departed from life for far too long to return to it."

"But there is hope," Tariana said encouragingly. "Maybe someday!"

Isaria smiled sadly. "Maybe someday."

"What about the Tombola Man?" the Mynci suddenly said, voicing the idea that they had forgotten in the fighting.

They turned to the shadow Uni who shook his head. "I don't have control over that," he said. He looked over at the Kougra. "Your brother does."

Isaria nodded. "Then I suppose we should close this stand forever," she said, fingering the wood of the stall. "He has never released any one of his prisoners. He is much too cold-hearted; I can no longer afford to hope." The others reluctantly nodded, realizing that they could say nothing, and they lapsed into a silence.

It was not one of those awkward ones where one does not know what to say, but one of mourning. The aura around them was still.

That is, until a familiar, gruff voice of a certain celebrity native said, "Hey, get out of here! Are you trying to steal these prizes or something?"

They all turned and found the Tombola Man standing there, arms folded, as though nothing had happened. He looked perfectly fine and in his normal attitude, not a memory of what had happened.

A smile crossed their faces as they ran into the woods together, not speaking a word.

Perhaps there was hope yet.

The End

Author: skgurlzguild
Date: Mar 9th



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