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

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Week 314
You are on Week 315
Week 316

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 Fifteen Ends March 30

Suther sighed as he settled into the silky cushions of his chair. This was the Ruki's favourite time of day. The air had that peculiar stillness that was only there when things settled down early in the afternoon. The sun, no longer directly overhead, cast a gentle glow onto the creek bubbling merrily in front of him, causing the waves to look like a steady stream of diamonds. By the Ruki's elbow was a small, delicate table, bearing a porcelain cup filled with herbal tea, its aroma wafting gently into the air.

Retirement was nice, the old Ruki mused to himself. He hadn't been sure how well he would take to it, having gotten accustomed to the rough life of a warrior after all these years, but Suther discovered that he rather liked the peace and quiet. He'd never had time to just stop and crack open a book at his leisure, or take a short afternoon nap, or simply lie back and bask in the natural tranquillity of the scenery. And what magnificent scenery a place like Shenkuu offered! The regal mountains, the ethereal mist, the majestic waterfalls - as soon as Suther had moved there, he knew he could never leave.

As he sipped his tea, one of the Ruki's antennae lifted curiously out of habit. He had heard a noise at his door.

The noise was followed a second later by frantic pounding. "Suther?" came a voice he didn't recognise. "Is the warrior Suther residing within? Please, we must speak with you immediately!..."

Author: *sips tea*
Date: Mar 23rd
Suther tilted his head back and let the last of the tea slide down his throat, savoring the taste regretfully.

Naturally. As soon as he thought to himself that he could never leave, someone would try to get him to do so.

With a sigh, Suther rose from his chair and opened the door. He immediately raised an arm to block a hard red fist swinging down through where the door had been and toward his head. It was a very solid collision, but Suther was still a very solid Ruki.

"The retired warrior Suther," he said mildly, "and if you're so eager to get my attention, punching me isn't the best way to do it."

"I'm so sorry. I didn't--"

"I opened the door rather suddenly. Calm yourself. Come in and have some tea."

The tall red Scorchio folded her hands together, bowed, and came in, looking around in bewilderment. She seemed much calmer now that he'd let her in, but still concerned.

Suther smiled thinly at her and busied himself steeping two fresh cups of tea -- his own favorite blend for himself, and a special one for guests. "You had urgent business?" he prompted her.

She bowed again. "I did. Warrior Suther, Shenkuu needs your help."

"I somehow doubt that. Shenkuu has a plentiful supply of excellent warriors of its own, and hardly needs one decrepit Ruki from the Lost Desert."

"You are modest," she said, leaning forward, "but we... we need someone from the outside, right now. Someone of unimpeachable integrity. Someone without interest in Shenkuu politics. Someone... discreet."

Suther frowned and handed her the tea. He wasn't terribly interested in Shenkuu politics, but he didn't like the idea of looking for someone with integrity who wasn't interested in the local politics. There were some situations where you wanted someone neutral -- but most of the time, when recruiting a warrior, you wanted someone who was on your own side, or whose integrity involved doing what you paid him for. Language like the Scorchio maiden's, here, made him think she was after an idealistic dupe. Someone who wasn't so much disinterested as ignorant. "What seems to be the problem?" he asked neutrally.

She gulped half the tea and raised her eyes to his. "The littlest princess of Shenkuu is missing."

Suther's eyebrows shot up. "Why are you telling me of all people? An aging Ruki from the Lost Desert, an outsider! Hasn't she got soldiers out looking for her, who know the area? Royal detectives? What happened to her bodyguards?"

The Scorchio looked downright miserable. "I'm one of her bodyguards."

Suther stared at her. "What do you want me to do?" he asked gently.

"Help me," she said. "We fear she's been taken by bandits who mean to escape to the Lost Desert and pin the blame there." She swayed dizzily. "You'd want to... prevent...."

"Ah," Suther said. He set down his own teacup and moved to catch her and ease her gently down to the floor, immobilizing her on the way. There were advantages to having six limbs that could serve as hands, even if he usually used four of them as feet. "Liar."

"What!"

"The princess's bodyguards wouldn't come to me for help. I'm not that easily flattered, lass. If they did, they'd know the Lost Desert isn't one kingdom. And you're no more from Shenkuu than I am, or you'd have sipped your tea properly and balked at your host feeding you a slumbering potion."

He tied her hands with her own sash and used his to muzzle her, carefully pointing her face away from anything flammable.

And then heard the other noises.

He'd slipped up himself by missing one of her mistakes.

She'd said we.

Blast.

* * * * *

Suther swallowed most of the urge to groan as he regained consciousness. No point giving the enemy more information than he had to. It had been a fierce but short battle, and had destroyed many of the comforts of his home.

"Psst."

Apparently, at least for the time being, he would have to get used to the discomforts of being tied up and shoved into the corner of a hard floor. Ouch.

"Pssst!" He had ignored the first hiss, but this one was accompanied by a nudge.

He grimaced. Well, on the bright side, it probably wasn't one of his captors -- they would be considerably rougher than gentle prods and "psst"-ing. Unfortunately, his fellow-prisoner seemed determined to give away his state of consciousness.

Suther pried one eye open and found himself looking at a young, disheveled, annoyed-looking green Gnorbu who was not looking directly at him, although her foot was very near his. Her eyes darted sideways, and she spoke without moving her mouth. "Hi. I see they got you too."

He studied the bruises on her skin, a little more obvious than those under his carapace, and concluded that though she appeared to have been disarmed she had put up a decent fight herself. "So they did. I'm Suther. Who are you?"

She blinked at him for a few moments and then started laughing. "Sarai," she said, shaking her head. "Oh well. Think I have time to chew through your bonds before they come back?"

He couldn't see any of his bonds too clearly, but assumed they must be something she could bite. "Why didn't you chew through yours?"

"I'm not that flexible. But if you move around a bit I think I could reach yours."

Suther shrugged and managed to squirm around to present his wrists to her, as that seemed most practical. He couldn't get them very far off the ground, but she flopped over on her side and he could soon hear the grinding of teeth on fabric.

One of his antennae twitched. "Get up," he hissed, "someone's coming..."

Author: schefflera
Date: Mar 26th
...Suther tensed as the sound of footprints grew closer, and then passed the wooden door of their cell and continued down what appeared to be a hall.

Sarai shrugged, struggling to sit back up. “They walk past all the time,” she muttered, just soft enough to reach his ears. “They only come in twice a day to bring food, other than the time they dragged in you.”

“Do you know where we are?” Suther asked, keeping his voice equally quiet.

“A room, with stone walls and floor?”

Sutehr sent her a look though narrowed eyes, trying to determine if she was being serious or sarcastic. The Gnorbu’s lips twitched and her eyes glinted with humor. Great, not only was she a fellow prisoner, she was a fellow prisoner with a sense of humor. This could either be very good -- or very, very bad.

“Turn around again,” she urged, “the sooner I get those ropes off you, the sooner you can untie me -- and the lack of blood is starting to really make my arms hurt.” As they readjusted themselves to work on the ropes again, she quipped, “So, what brings a Ruki like you to a place like this?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Suther admitted. There was no need to give the full story of what had happened, but a short overview couldn’t hurt. “A red Scorchio came to my house, asking me to help save a kidnapped princess. She made too many mistakes though, and when I caught her in more than one lie, her companions jumped me.”

“I’m sure,” Sarai managed between gnawing on the ropes that bound him, “that it was an epic battle.”

“Oh yes,” the desert colored Ruki agreed with a wry smile.

With a sudden snap, the rope that held two of his arms came free. “Two down, four to go. Why did you have to be a Ruki and not a Jubjub?”

“Why could you not be fire, and burn though your own ropes?” he retorted, clicking his mandibles in amusement. Contorting around, Suther began fumbling with the knots that Sarai wasn’t gnawing on.

His fingers untied the last set of knots just as her teeth chewed though the last of the rope. “Here, turn and I’ll untie you. So what brings a young Gnorbu such as yourself to a place like this?”

“The usual damsel in distress stuff -- evil warlords, world domination plots, the end of the world, invasion by aliens, and the color pink. You know how it goes.”

Her tone was light, but Suther couldn’t help but feel that just like in his story, there was more than a small grain of truth in her answer. “And all that brought you here? This must be a very busy place indeed.”

Her voice suddenly serious, Sarai said, “You have no idea...”

Author: nimras23
Date: Mar 27th
..."Do you know who's in the next room?"

"I didn't know there was anyone in the next room until you told me."

Sarai's expression was grim; evidently, this was grave enough to dampen even her sense of humour momentarily. "Lisha. I've spoken to her through the walls a couple times when the halls had been silent for long enough to convince us that our captors were out, and it seems that in the cell beyond hers, Galgarroth is getting a taste of the wrong side of a prison door."

"Both well-known people close to their respective rulers," Suther reflected softly, connecting the dots instantly. The ramifications of one of the dots in question made the situation look especially bad. "I'm surprised the word isn't running rampant by now." He could only imagine what it would take to keep a situation like this one quiet.

Sarai made a face. "It's a recent development."

"How recent?"

"Three days, at least for me. I think the whole thing had been coordinated so that all the kidnappings would happen on the same day, and the abductors could get here - wherever 'here' is - with their catches before one kingdom could warn another. Whatever this is, it's wider-spread than spilled food on a clean floor, sneakier than the approach of a corny fad, and more deviously well-timed than a loquacious noble's dire need to talk to you just when you're about to head for the bathroom."

In spite of himself, Suther gave her a thin smile. If nothing else, her clever tongue would make an otherwise dreary imprisonment a little more bearable. Then his face darkened. "How many people have been captured?"

"Quite a few." Sarai hesitated, making a mental list. "I'm not sure precisely how many, but via wall-through-wall relay messages, I've contacted King Hagan's nephew, Queen Fyora's secretary, Princess Vyssa, the kitchen sink, Sabre-X, the Partridge from the Pear Tree..."

Suther closed his eyes. Vyssa. They had Princess Vyssa. His sweet, spunky little princess, his personal charge for so many years, was locked in a dark, hard cell like this. I shouldn't have retired, he thought bitterly. Staying with her wouldn't have helped, he knew; free-spirited Vyssa knew how to roughen a guard's road like few other princesses could, frequently forcing him to take measures to make sure that her incognito ventures outside the palace were uneventful, and giving the vehement lie to the rumour among his former comrades that his promotion from an army lieutenant to a bodyguard would allow him to go soft. Vyssa had never even come near to letting that happen. Roaming the streets of Sakhmet as she was wont to do, she had attracted more trouble to him than he'd let her know of in the past, and would certainly have gotten herself captured sooner or later. But still... If I had to be caught, at least I might have done it as a bodyguard should, fighting for her freedom.

But he hadn't, and even aside from racking him with guilt, that uncomfortable fact brought back the nagging question as to why he of all people should be on a 'to catch' list that seemed to consist mostly of advisers, mages, high military, and royalty.

"Please don't get depressed just yet," Sarai said, her half-sympathetic, half-amused voice slicing through Suther's thoughts. "When you mope your hands stop moving."

Blinking and silently chastising himself, Suther finished untying Sarai, then stood up. "Sorry," he said quietly. "I used to be Vyssa's bodyguard. Is her cell near enough for her to hear me, and do you think it would be safe to call?"

"She's in the adjacent cell on the opposite side from Lisha," Sarai answered softly, apparently aware of the emotional connection that was needed to drive an intelligent warrior to suggest such a potential tactical risk, "but before we spend too much time organizing reunions, don't you think we should look for a way to escape?"...

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Mar 27th
...Suther looked around, his antennae probing the cold air for a hidden sign of a passageway out. The wooden door appeared to be the only exit, and it was certainly locked; the old Ruki confirmed this by twisting the knob. But lock or no lock, it was only a wooden door, one that was trying to hold back one royal warrior and one apparently respectable fighter, both of which now had full use of their limbs. And beyond that door was a dungeon full of victims waiting to be rescued, including the one that Suther had to save if he was ever to retire in peace again.

Sarai gave him an understanding glance, but their plans were delayed as footsteps again began to grow louder from behind the door. The Gnorbu muttered to herself and put her newly freed paw to the ground, rubbing it idly against a stone in the floor. The stone rubbed back. It was loose, just another loose stone among dozens that made up the hard walls in this old prison. Out of boredom, Sarai pried it up to see how the floor had been laid down.

The rock came up easily, and under it lay a sheaf of paper, clean aside from a few scattered chunks of crumbling stone, and the curly script writing formed from shiny new ink. Sarai gaped. She quickly lifted up the unexpected treasure and began paging through the sheets. Suther hurried to her side and read over her shoulder.

As the Gnorbu’s paw turned page after page, the picture the words painted became all too clear. There were foreign spies in the Sakhmet palace, planted to keep Vyssa’s reign from lasting much longer; as for Vyssa herself, she was slated to follow in her father’s footsteps. As to which foreign country was responsible for this, Suther could only guess from the Shenkuu government seals that were stamped on every page.

Sarai stared at the plans and whistled softly. “I knew not everyone was in favor of Princess Vyssa, but I didn’t think she had enemies as far off as that. If she’s got rulers on the other side of the world plotting her death, what’s it like in her homeland?”

Suther sighed. “You have no idea.”

“Vyssa ought to know about this, don’t you think? Maybe it’d be worth risking a sappy reunion to tell her.”

The old Ruki eyed the plans critically. “Maybe not. Even if we have been captured by a division of the Shenkese government bent on Vyssa’s downfall, and even if this division is ridiculously careless with their most important documents, it doesn’t explain why these crucial plans were so conveniently buried under a loose rock in a prison cell, and an occupied prison cell at that. It doesn’t seem like the best place to keep something secret, nor the best choice for easy access. And furthermore, if it’s Sakhmet they’re after, what are they doing with rulers from all these other lands?”

* * * * *

“You’re sure they’ll all find them?”

“Absolutely. I know they’re in contact with each other, which’ll only make them more eager to escape. They’ll either figure out a way to get free, or they’ll spend so much time trying that they accidentally bump into the right stone while they’re writhing around.” The voice took on a gleeful tone at the idea of squirming prisoners’ futile efforts.

“You don’t think it might endanger the plan that they can talk to each other?”

“Why would it? If anything, it’ll help. Some may form alliances against others, but eventually the message will be clear that nobody is to be trusted. Some will think Shenkuu is endangering their country; others will suspect Altador or Brightvale. All of them will go back to their respective lands and warn their leaders, who trust their word, about the secret plans they found while held captive.”

The Pink Grundo’s red eyes gleamed. “And then there will be war...”

Author: nut862
Date: Mar 28th
* * * * *

Sarai blinked up a little sheepishly at her Ruki companion. "You're right," she said. "I was being silly. These have to be a plant of some kind." She glanced down. "I think it's safe to say that whoever's doing this is as much after the Shenkese government as any other, though, even if they're based here. Maybe more, if they're really based here."

"How do--" Suther checked himself. "Of course, there's no reason to believe the seals are any more genuine than the peculiar storage location."

"There's that," Sarai said, "and also, your Scorchio visitor told you at least one truth in the lies."

"Oh? What's that?"

"They did kidnap the youngest princess of Shenkuu," she said grimly.

Suther blinked. Then he stared at her. "You -- I thought you were a warrior yourself!"

The young Gnorbu blinked back at him, torn between offense and amusement. "I am that too," she said after a moment, "and I've had people dismiss the possibility before because I was too young, too small, or too female -- but this is a first!"

Suther paused over that. None of those had made him skeptical; he had taken her to be an inexperienced warrior, certainly, but muscles and calluses and the way she moved -- even in this restricted area -- had all subtly combined to convince him of what she was without her ever saying it. But for all his fondness for Vyssa, she was not cut out for combat, and so for a moment "princess" had wiped out all the other evidence for him. "I see," he said. "I beg your pardon, your highness."

"Call me Sarai," she said, eyes glittering in a pleased way. It reminded him abruptly of the sun-dazzle on his rippling creek. Well, she was Shenkuu, too. "Now... I think we're both right about the reunions."

The old Ruki tilted his head curiously, then caught her meaning and nodded. "Escape," he said, "and let her out." He studied the door, then tapped it a few times with a heavy claw and studied the shard of wood he'd pried free. "It may be trapped somehow, but I think it's our only way out. Let's go."

They didn't charge at it -- it was heavy, and that would be loud. They chipped away at it from the inside, stopping when footsteps came by, and finally burst through the outer layer into...

Author: schefflera
Date: Mar 28th
...a large, curved stone hallway. “They really don’t go for variety in the décor, do they,” Sarai observed, looking around. “At the very least we need to find who’s behind this to give them the name of a decent decorator.” She wrinkled her green nose, a surprisingly delicate expression.

Suther chuckled, now that was something he could see a princess doing. He’d seen a nearly identical expression on Princess Vyssa's face every time he’d suggested more security for her ‘outings’ into the middle of the city.

“We have to move fast,” Sarai said, “who knows how long it’ll be before someone walks by here and sees that we’ve escaped.”

“We can’t leave without Princess Vyssa,” Suther hissed, bristling at the very thought.

The Gnorbu gave him a disgusted look. “You don’t honestly think I’d leave everyone else here to their fate -- what kind of sick person do you think I am?”

“Sorry,” the Ruki said, immediately chastened. “It’s just...” He shrugged, unable to find words that could convey the huge amount of responsibility he felt for Vyssa’s safety.

The green Gnorbu’s eyes softened. “I know, we’ll get them all out -- but first we need to figure out how to open the doors, we don’t exactly have time to chip them all away, and we’ve got less time than it takes for Skarl to scarf down a whole roast chicken.”

Voices around the bend in the corridor made them both stiffen. “This way!” Suther whispered, backing away from the direction of the voices. Being careful to walk as silently as possible, the pair crept back, Sarai checking every door they passed to see if there was a room they could hide in until the unseen danger had walked past.

Two locked doors.

Three locked doors.

The Ruki and the Gnorbu exchanged grim glances.

Four locked doors.

Out of more habit than any actual hope, Suther tried the fifth door -- one located on the opposite wall than the others had been. It swung open silently, exposing a large, circular room with a huge table. Leaping inside, the pair closed the door behind them, each heaving a huge sigh of relief. They weren’t out of danger yet though, before long the broken door of their former cell would be discovered, and the guards would know to be looking for them.

Suther’s eyes remained glued to the door. Please, oh please don’t be headed for this room. That would be just my luck, he thought desperately. There was a muffled yell -- that must have been the discovery of their demolished door -- and then the sounds of running foot beats, past the room they were in, and fading further up the hall. The Ruki closed his eyes in relief; he wasn’t recovered enough yet to take on multiple armed opponents while he himself had nothing but his fists and feet.

“Come look at this,” Sarai murmured, looking intently at something on the table. “I think we may have a slight problem. You know, of the planetary magnitude.”

The Ruki frowned, and then walked up to the table. At first it just seemed like a stack of hastily scribbled notes and doodles, but then he realized the full ramifications of those ‘doodles’...

Author: nimras23
Date: Mar 29th
...Suther stopped breathing. His heart skipped a beat. "Talk about planetary," he whispered his thoughts aloud.

Sarai bit her lip. The doodles had consisted of dotted lines and icons, which were explained by a key. At first, it looked to her like a connect-the-dots puzzle, but that seemed out of place. It was so simple that she had overlooked its true meaning. Ironically, it did connect the dots, but in a different sense. It made sense of all of the strange clues that led up to it. There were so many different royal connections because there was going to be war. If these close friends or family members were held hostage, and their relations were tricked into thinking some other land had carried out the kidnapping, certain countries would attack immediately. The documents hidden under the loose stones were meant to rouse the prisoners' suspicions, so that if -- or rather when -- they returned home, those who wanted to play it safe would go into battle as well. It was a flawless plan.

Suther looked with a determined yet cold glare into Sarai's eyes. "I trust you realise how disastrous this could end up. It won't be long before the others escape, and then..."

Sarai nodded in understanding. This force, if put in motion, would be impossible to stop. They had to clear it up before anything monumental happened.

Suther put one of his antennae to the door to listen for any approaching guards. When he heard none, he motioned for Sarai to follow him. He slowly creaked open the door, looking out cautiously to see if there were any particularly silent guards. But instead he saw something else.

There was another door that was open but not broken through. Before he knew it, he was in excruciating pain. His last sight before falling unconscious was a pink Grundo holding a pan in his hands.

* * * * *

They had almost all of them.

Lined up along a wall were dozens of unconscious, bound-and-gagged prisoners. "Kaldor will be coming with the last load soon," a Buzz said to himself.

He was right. The pink Grundo shuffled into the room, dragging a few prisoners by the scruffs of their necks. "Tie them up," he barked, although he was not in command.

The Buzz flew over to a storage closet and grabbed a few pieces of rope. He dropped them by Kaldor's feet. "Here you are," he said, his voice filled with sarcasm.

"Thanks," the Grundo replied without the least bit of sarcasm, "When do you suppose they'll wake up?"

By coincidence, a prisoner let out a tired sigh, and her eyes opened, at first slightly and then widely. She shook violently, seemingly trying to wiggle out of her bindings. "Ah, Shenkuu's heir," the Buzz remarked. "If I remember, she was quite the feisty one. It's too bad, little lady. Your kingdom will be gone soon..."

Author: psychopsam
Date: Mar 29th
...Sarai's gaze focused on him, emerald fire flaring in her eyes as they narrowed like a shrinking star about to explode. They hadn't gagged her yet, and sharp teeth flashed as she snapped, "Over my dead body - although I suspect that is one of those rare points on which our intentions match."

Kaldor's mouth quirked. "I'm afraid not, Your Highness. We fully intend to have you alive and alert to watch the fun."

Sarai's gaze slowly traversed the room, taking in the assortment of limp, crumpled prisoners. Vyssa in particular caught her gaze, probably due to the company she'd been keeping of late; and the young Gnorbu's mouth tightened as she noted the dark bruise on the Usul's high forehead. Non-feline species notwithstanding, Suther was going to have kittens. "Don't you think it'll put a bit of a crimp in your plans," she quipped, "to have your would-be messengers out cold on the floor?"

Kaldor offered a thin smile, his crimson stare humorless. "I'm afraid you and your Ruki friend have already put 'a bit of a crimp' in our designs," he returned. "It seems a certain clever Aisha on one side of your cell overheard a little too much, and a bucktoothed Lupe on the other had his ear against the wall. Word traveled quickly, and a routine checkup on our part revealed a remarkable quantity of confetti covering the floors. It took some doing to salvage even part of our original plan."

Sarai smiled sweetly. "I'm delighted to have been such a help."

Another thin, dark smile. "I thought you would be. So I decided to give you another opportunity to lend a paw." With that, he gestured toward a large object draped in a silky curtain.

The imaginary needle in Sarai's cliche meter traversed 180 degrees, and so did her eyes. "Don't tell me. You've got a giant laser gun and you're going to aim it at Shenkuu and vaporize the palace if I don't play nice."

Kaldor raised an eyebrow. "Not a bad idea. I'll have to take it up with my superiors."

"Superiors?" Sarai's eyes brightened. "You didn't tell me you kept Spardels around here! Can I pet them?"

No witty rejoinder for that one came to mind, except for 'maybe if you survive what I'm about to do', and that edged a little too close to agreeing with the little wench's comments about his commanding officers to constitute an acceptable risk. So Kaldor simply ignored her, strode across the room, and drew aside the curtain to reveal the backup plan: a large, metal box, adorned with a profusion of wires that snaked across its exterior before vanishing into the floor. "You may have heard," he said by way of a subject change, "that Grundos tend to be good with machines."

"Actually, I heard that they tend to be dim-witted idiots," Sarai answered innocently.

Kaldor held back a scowl. "And yet you got caught by one. What do you suppose that says about you?"

Sarai let him think he'd scored a point for all of half a beat before replying, "That I got captured by a dim-witted idiot?"

The Buzz tried not to snicker as Kaldor gritted his teeth. "Great," the Grundo muttered as he opened a panel in the device and began flipping switches and pressing buttons. "The original isn't bad enough, so now we're going to have two of them to deal with."

For once, it was Sarai who had nothing to say. Noticing her silence, Kaldor said over his shoulder, "What, hadn't you guessed? The genuine articles didn't follow our game plan, so now we're going to add a few slightly more gullible pieces to the board. And you, my dear mouthpiece, shall get to go first."

Apparently on cue, the Buzz stepped forward, taking Sarai firmly by the arm. The Gnorbu thrashed and struggled, but she was bound, bruised and weary, and the Buzz was fresh and strong. Yanking the princess to her feet and getting a bright red set of teeth marks for his trouble, he hauled her unceremoniously over to the nearest side of the machine, which slid obligingly open in response to a command from Kaldor's dancing fingers. Sarai's eyes widened, but for all her ferocity she could not prevent herself from being dragged toward the yawning maw of a door.

Suther, however, could. The Ruki, half-bound, unconscious, and forgotten, had roused during the conversation, then slipped his hastily-applied restraints and come barging across the floor, a fierce battlecry rising in his throat as he flung his hard shoulder into the Buzz's startled face. Exoskeleton ground against exoskeleton, and as the two insects crashed to the floor Sarai tumbled free. Crashing and hammering, the Buzz and the Ruki pounded at each other, rolling and grappling across the floor as Kaldor and Sarai circled around them, seeking a way into the fray. Then Sarai got the bright idea of simply going after Kaldor instead, and lunged at the Grundo, taking him entirely by surprise and sending him sprawling.

And then, just when it looked like things were finally going the prisoners' way, a door at the other end of the room banged open, and a shout of "What is going on?" reverberated through the chamber.

As it turned out, Kaldor's superiors weren't Spardels after all...

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Mar 30th
...Dr. Sloth himself stood in the doorway, flanked by two leering Grundos. An unexplainable breeze fluttered around his cloak, and the angle at which his head was tilted would have been rather fetching if not for that wriggling smirk.

The prisoners and henchpets, sprawled on the floor, gawped. Suther froze in mid-grapple, pinning the Buzz against the wall.

“Ah,” said Sloth, looking upon the scene, “I see my plans for world domination are being ruined again.” His red eyes jiggled around the room for one stuffy moment. “KALDOR!” he snapped suddenly. “You dim-witted idiot! I was counting on you to do everything right!”

Sarai, sitting comfortably on top of Kaldor, tried not to smile.

“I did try, master,” croaked Kaldor, trying to look dignified. “I managed to grab all the prisoners, and I salvaged the original plan - well, part of it. I was just about to carry out the backup plan, really I was.”

“And I see you have made a mess of things as usual,” Sloth sighed. “Well, well, well. It looks like I’ll have to take things into my own hands again.” He glanced at his right-hand Grundo, who whistled.

Footsteps boomed outside. Fifty deadly robots marched into the room. Their metal bodies gleamed, and their laser eyes fizzed.

They were immortal.

Their clanking footsteps pounded on the edge of Suther’s hearing. The poor, pale face of Princess Vyssa was all he could see...

“Sarai,” he said, weakly.

Sarai looked up with a beautiful smile. She was holding Kaldor’s remote in her hand.

* * * * *

The sun shone brightly on the palace of Shenkuu. Sarai, Suther, Vyssa and several other nobles sat in the golden council room. A servant brought hot tea.

“I must commend you, Sarai, for your quick thinking,” said Vyssa. “If you had not seized control of the robots so swiftly and efficiently, we would never be here.” She turned to Suther. “And you too, Suther. I will never forget what you did for me.”

Suther returned a smile. “It was my pleasure, Princess.”

“Well, that was quite an adventure,” said Sarai. “I actually enjoyed turning the robots on Dr. Sloth and his henchpets. But, back to business. This will be a reminder to us that we must constantly be on our guard.”

“And remember that we have signed a peace contract,” Suther added. “No country should ever have reason to invade another, for years and years and years.”

“To the peace and happiness of Neopia, cheers!”

Light danced around the room, illuminating every happy face.

* * * * *

Dr. Sloth growled. “You dim-witted idiots!” he kept shouting. “You’re supposed to be good with machines!”

“She had control of my backup remote,” Kaldor whimpered.

“It looks like I’ll have to redesign my world domination plans again!” Sloth snarled.

“I’ll make some better robots, master.”

“You do that. And now, let’s see... the High Priest in Altador is rumoured to take afternoon walks alone... and King Kelpbeard is most vulnerable on his trips to other countries... oh forget it. I’ll start all over again next week. I’ll take over the world one day, you just wait!”

“Yes, master.”

The End

Author: yoyote
Date: Mar 30th



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