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||You are on Week 333
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 Thirty Three Ends August 17
For what felt like the millionth time that day, Tegustus polished his shield. The round shield was already as clean as it could be, the burnished gold emblem in the middle shining like the sun it represented, but he kept rubbing at it with a cloth out of habit. He couldn't stop himself from fidgeting otherwise.
Finally, the Lupe forced himself to put the shield aside and began pacing instead. Outside, he could hear the muffled roar of the crowd over the trumpet fanfare. Nervously, he bent down and adjusted his greaves.
"Listen up, now!" the Skeith general shouted at his company. Tegustus instinctively straightened up and listened carefully. "King Altador is out there, so let's give His Majesty a good impression when we march out, all right, soldiers? The gate opens in three minutes."
"Three minutes," Tegustus whispered feverishly to himself, as he felt his heart pound even faster. This was it. King Altador had been his hero since he was a young boy; the King was the entire reason the Lupe had become a warrior. And now the King was sitting right outside those doors, and Tegustus’s sovereign would be looking right at him...
Before he could think any further, the gate in front of him began to creak open, revealing the sprawling Altador Colosseum...
Date: Aug 10th
...Tegustus was flooded with nervousness as he and the rest of the company marched in perfect formation out into the Colosseum. Cheering and clapping greeted them as they trooped out. The Lupe tried to keep his face neutral; he tried to ignore the thudding of his heart against his chest.
He marched with the rest of them until they were centered before King Altador's elevated seat where he peered down at them. His gaze was neutral, if still appraising. "They look quite able-bodied, general." The Skeith bowed quite low at the compliment. King Altador was not finished, however: "But I would like to see a demonstration of their skills."
From the deafening crescendo of the crowd, Tegustus knew this was what they had come for all along. For that matter, almost everyone had realized that this would happen. Their general reacted calmly.
"As you wish, Your Majesty," he said smoothly. Taking a step forward, he turned completely around to address his troops. "Men!" he barked. "Battle positions! Give it all you've got."
In one fluid movement, Tegustus and his companions had unsheathed their choice weapons and brandished them in such a way that would serve appropriate for both a quick attack or defense depending on what the situation called for.
King Altador looked at them for a moment, seemed to feel this was up to his standards, and gave a flick of his wrist. With that signal, the opposite gate began to slide open. Tegustus gripped at his sword and waited for the challenge to begin...
Date: Aug 13th
...Creaking, the massive gates opened, and Tegustus's heart was caught in his chest. Bathed in the evening light was one, simple scared-looking Zafara. Did this mean the... they had to kill it?
"Your challenge," King Altador's smooth voice said, "is to capture her."
The thirty men in the company looked uneasy and glanced at each other with questioning looks. What type of challenge was this?
Tegustus was the first to react: with his sword drawn he crossed the floor of the Colosseum to the Zafara, who backed herself into a corner.
"Come here," he said, paw held out. The Zafara looked terrified.
"Help me," she whispered. Tegustus looked into her pale-blue eyes.
Something clicked in Tegustus's mind; he had a strong inclination to help her for some reason. Why was King Altador asking them to do this, anyways? She hadn't done anything wrong -- to his knowledge. And the King, while he valued bravery and heroism in battle, would never knowingly let harm befall one of his subjects, soldier or civilian.
Meanwhile, the other guards started towards them with swords drawn. "Help me escape!" her frantic voice said. "King Altador... isn't King Altador!"...
Date: Aug 13th
..."What?!" Tegustus gaped at the Zafara. He must have heard wrong. He must have.
She pointed desperately up at where the king sat. He noticed that she was trembling, her fur standing on end. Her entire body was rigid with terror. "That's not the king," she hissed. "You've got to believe me!"
Something in her eyes made her plea seem more earnest. She was not lying. Or at least, she did not think she was lying, he mentally corrected. Keeping his head deceptively still, Tegustus frantically swept his gaze over King Altador. His majesty seemed at ease, calmly watching his warriors rush toward the Zafara. His hand was splayed comfortably over one knee, tapping in rhythm to a music only he could hear. A soft, triumphant smile quirked the edges of the king's mouth.
He was watching as one of his helpless citizens was about to be captured -- on his orders. And he was smiling about it!
Tegustus heard footsteps behind him. He didn't hesitate. With one swift, fluid, movement he swung his shield around and slammed it into the oncoming horde. The first three warriors staggered back, knocking into those behind them and crashing to the ground in a crumpled, struggling heap. The first warrior to untangle himself leapt up, disbelief written all over his face.
"Tegustus," he snapped. "What are you doing?"
Tegustus took a tighter grip on his sword. "Serving my king," he said, his voice breathless with tension. Then he put all his weight into one vicious blow. The other warrior blocked it with his own shield, but the force behind it was enough to send him sprawling. Tegustus was stronger than his slim frame seemed.
He whirled back to the Zafara, to tell her that everything was going to be all right. But her eyes were wide, focused on something behind him. He flung his head around.
King Altador had risen to his feet, his eyes flashing. "Well, well, well," his lips formed the word soundlessly. His smile at once seemed more menacing...
Date: Aug 14th
...“So,” boomed King Altador, his voice laced with uncharacteristic menace. “We have a second traitor. Seize them both!”
The oncoming horde of warriors brandishing swords and shields polished to the same high gleam as Tegustus’s hesitated for just a moment. Tegustus knew exactly why -- they were wondering how he could be a traitor, thinking of the hours spent together in lessons and training, their lives in the barracks and the rich camaraderie that existed between them.
Seizing his mere second of protection, Tegustus grabbed hold of the Zafara’s wrist and clutched it with all the strength of a truly skilled warrior. Yanking her around, he sprinted away, gaining speed and skirting around the edge of the Colosseum towards the wooden gates, their only chance of escape. The world had become a blur, consisting only of the roar of the crowd, the cries of instruction from he who claimed to be King Altador, and the persistent thud of paws and hooves charging after him. He was no longer part of the company of warriors, he knew. Aside from that first moment of disbelief, he would be shown no mercy. He was a traitor. There could be no turning back, not until the truth came out.
If the Zafara’s truth was the truth after all.
Banishing the thought, Tegustus saw the gates loom up in front of him. The mysterious Zafara’s arm was still caught in his grip, though she was keeping pace with him. Desperation had given them both strength, and slowly they were building a tiny lead on the advancing guards.
With relief they burst through the still open gates and into a dusty courtyard beyond. Heaving for breath, Tegustus continued to run, leading the Zafara. Suddenly they were into the cobbled streets, a periwinkle sea shining in the distance; the perfect postcard picture of Altador. Tegustus’s heart wrenched at the sight as it flashed past him. Was he right to be doing this, perhaps betraying his kingdom?
As they rounded a corner, everything whirled and Tegustus felt a breath of wind stir his fir. He felt himself rise upwards and land abruptly with a thud. Dizzy and disorientated, Tegustus leapt up, searching for the cause of this unexpected motion, but realised that the Zafara had launched them upwards with a powerful jump. They were on a clay-tiled rooftop in the middle of the city just behind the cover of a large decorative statue perched on top of the reddish-brown tiles. He could hear the powerful surge of his fellow warriors rush along the road they had just vacated.
A surge of elation filled him and he grinned -- they had escaped the guards. But his grin was extinguished almost instantaneously as the full gravity of his plight fell upon him like a lead weight.
“So tell me,” he whispered, still breathing heavily, “before we go any further- who are you, what's going on, and why should I believe you?”...
Date: Aug 14th
..."My name is Laixa," the Zafara wheezed, completely winded from the impressive leap she'd made. She wasn't nearly as athletic as Tegustus, or at least, she didn't have the same stamina as a warrior who spent every day training.
"Lye-chah," the Lupe repeated phonetically, interested by her foreign name. "I'm Tegustus."
But -- if she was from a different land, perhaps she was some sort of spy... He shook his head quickly, dispelling the thought. He had put his blind faith in her; he needed to listen to what she had to say... after all, Laixa was now the only Neopet in Altador, maybe in the world, who would trust him... Tegustus the Traitor...
"I was born in Shenkuu, and I served as a maid in the Lunar Palace. It was a fair life -- I had a roof to live under, clothes, and food, although nothing as extravagant as the royal family..."
Laixa paused to catch her breath, pale blue eyes fluttering from exhaustion. Today had not been easy for her.
"...King Altador came to visit, accompanied by a huge royal escort. It was a diplomatic gesture, to establish trade between our prosperous merchants, and their traditional craftspeople. The elders of our land took to those from Altador, and good relations were established. However..."
She frowned, a disturbed expression crossing her face. Tegustus silently watched her, waiting for the Zafara to continue.
"There was one who disapproved of this treatise, as he disapproves of all change. He is the medicine man, the powerful wizard steeped in the magic of our people. When he found that he was out-voted, he grew angry and retreated to the mountains. The noble King Altador, believing in the power of his own negotiating skills and love of peace, chose to follow the sorcerer -- alone..."
Tegustus inhaled sharply. "That's a terrible tactical error," he murmured, brows furrowed sharply. "His Majesty should have at least taken a guard for protection, rather than pursue a powerful wizard onto unfamiliar territory! What in Neopia happened to him, Laixa?"
"...No one knows for sure. That night, the king returned to his party, instructing them to make sail and return home. He seemed... different. I knew it, as soon as I saw him -- the sorcerer, Crane, is masquerading as him! I stowed away in order to warn those of you in Altador, but Crane recognized me. Crane, he... he's trying to ruin Altador, to ensure that Shenkuu remains untouched by your ways...!"
The Zafara grasped Tegustus's paw, concern and fear etched across her countenance. With a start, he realized his paws were empty -- somehow in the chase, he'd discarded his sword and shield... He was an unarmed fugitive, now in the company of a runaway spy...
"But... what can I do? What's our plan, Laixa?" Tegustus asked softly, disheartened. He believed her, but since both of them were on the lam, they had no way of convincing anyone else...
"And... where is the real King Altador?"...
Date: Aug 15th
...Laixa glanced down at the tiled roof. “King Altador,” she said softly, “is in here.”
Tegustus stared at her, confused. “But didn’t you say that no one knew where he was?” A terrible suspicion was growing inside him. “How did you-?”
“No, I said no one knew what happened to him,” the Zafara said wearily. “While I was stowed away on Crane’s ship, I heard him talking with one of the Altador guards -- perhaps one easily enough convinced to trade his loyalty for gold -- about keeping the King ‘well-fed, because it would be a pity if he died, wouldn’t it?’ which made me think that the real Altador was imprisoned somewhere onboard. When we docked, I followed the soldier and Crane, and they carried a crate to here and put it inside. And in that crate was King Altador.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Tegustus said flatly. “An Altadorian soldier would never trade his loyalty to our land away like that...”
Tegustus gaped at her. “But -- that was different,” he faltered, “wasn’t it?”
“Yes, but all the same...” She sighed and shook her head. “What are we to do now?”
“Rescue the King, of course. What else?”
Laixa looked at him sadly. He returned her gaze with alarm. “What is it? Laixa, tell me!”
“King Altador... is much changed,” she said softly...
Date: Aug 15th
..."And that's supposed to mean what?" Tegustus demanded. "Come on, we've got to do something! If someone is in danger, and we can help, well... isn't it our duty to help them? No matter what."
Laixa shook her head. "That's not what I mean," she said. "King Altador has changed. He's not King Altador anymore."
"You aren't helping!" Tegustus shrieked as loudly as he dared. He flapped his arms in a rough imitation of an irritated Lenny, lacking a sword to wave about his head.
"Neither are you," Laixa pointed out, irritable as well. "If you would just shut up for one moment, maybe I could explain, okay?"
"Shut up. Thank you."
Tegustus mouthed several words to her, gawping like a fish out of water.
"Tegustus, King Altador is under a spell. Big time, top-degree, major-scale spell. I've seen him with my own two eyes, and--"
"Cut to the chase already," Tegustus muttered.
Laixa shot him a pointed glare, but complied anyway. "Point is, King Altador is a statue. Happy?"
Tegustus frowned at this new piece of information. "How do you feed a statue? I mean, come on -- rocks don't eat!"
"It's all part of the spell, you dolt. And besides, rocks DO eat. I happen to have one, and it eats everything from my slipper to the silverware," Laixa snapped back. "Now come on: like you said, we've got a king to save! A spell to undo!"
Tegustus had just opened his mouth in an attempt to argue -- or at least to reply -- but Laixa had already leapt down from the roof, only to land in front of the glaring figure of...
Date: Aug 16th
...a very ruffled and upset Finneus. The archivist jumped and nearly dropped the pile of books he had been carrying as the Zafara dropped in front of him, but he recovered his wit and his balance quickly, giving Laixa a glare. "And who are you?" asked the Lenny. "What are you doing, jumping around on someone's roof?"
Tegustus decided it would be best to remain hidden; his name and description had probably spread throughout the whole city by this time.
"My name is Laixa," said the Zafara quickly; she had obviously not been expecting to nearly land on top of someone, let alone a prominent Altadorian. "And I was--"
"Nevermind," said Finneus, attempting to wave her away with his wing but only succeeding in shifting his pile of books off balance once more. With a shriek, he tried to readjust, but the books got the best of him and toppled to the ground.
The Lenny let out a heavy sigh and bent over to gather his books. From the roof, Tegustus could see several titles of the scattered books, and one caught his eye: History of Spellwork. The Lupe decided to take a chance. "Here, let me help you," said Tegustus, sliding off the roof and dropping to the street next to the archivist.
Finneus suppressed another shriek, but his eyes widened in surprise as he dropped one of the books he had been bending over to grab. "What's going on here?" he asked angrily, glancing from Laixa to Tegustus. "Am I to expect Neopets dropping from the sky at every turn?"
"No," said Tegustus, "there's just the two of us." He leaned to gather some of the archivist's dropped books, but as he did he couldn't help but recognize a running theme in their names. "But I do have a question for you."
"And what," sighed Finneus, trying to stack the books into a pile once more, "is that?"
"Why are you carrying a stack of spellbooks?" The archivist narrowed his eyes, and Tegustus took a bold chance. "Does it have to do with King Altador?"
The gamble worked. Finneus, who had been bending to try to lift his pile of books, straightened and looked Tegustus in the eye. The Lenny stared deep into the Lupe's eyes, but Tegustus returned the gaze with confidence. Finneus nodded slightly, seemingly in approval, and turned to Laixa. "Yes," he said. "I assume you know the truth then." The Zafara nodded. "Good," continued the archivist, "because I need your help..."
Date: Aug 16th
...Before he could say "Yooyuball", Tegustus found himself and Laixa seated in the west wing of the Altadorian Library. Finneus scuttled about, dumping stacks of dusty books on the table before them, scattering piles of papers, and making what appeared to be a humongous mess.
Laixa shot the Lupe a confused glance, obviously wondering why he had put his implicit trust in this eccentric Lenny. Tegustus shrugged helplessly, not wanting to explain aloud how prominent Finneus was. He'd known about the enthusiastic archivist for almost as long as he'd known King Altador himself!
"Here we are, that's finally all the materials," Finneus announced in his reedy voice, collapsing into his cushy leather chair with a relieved squawk. "Now allow me to explain why I am beseeching your aid, dear roof-jumping children. Those tomes you saw me transporting are not mine. No, no, no, that's not at all right -- they certainly WERE mine, but they were requisitioned recently, and I needed to -"
"Cut to the chase already," grumbled Laixa. Tegustus grinned at her -- she'd beat him to it.
Finneus frowned, ruffling his feathers in a disgruntled manner. "Young people," he muttered in disapproval, but continued his monologue in a more timely fashion, lowering his voice to a conspirator's whisper.
"Recently, books have been disappearing from my archives. When I began to notice, and cross-reference where they came from, I noticed they were all relating to spellwork and magic. It was more than just some curious child or petty thief -- this was a methodical large-scale cover up. Someone didn't want a spell to be noticed or counteracted. Realizing this, I began to question the latest actions of our monarch, and put two and two together. I found the stolen books in crates in that red-tiled building... I was frightened by your appearance because I thought for sure you were guards of some sort. What are you two, anyway? You're more astute than the average Neopets your age, and you're very well-informed..."
"Um... a former soldier and an ex-maid," Tegustus replied vaguely, waving his paw airily. "Go on, continue."
Finneus sighed. "Well, I have no choice but to trust you anyway... I know that King Altador is an impostor, under what appears to be a Lunar charm of transformation. Shenkuu Lunar magic waxes and wanes with the moon itself, and tonight is the new moon, when it will be weakest. This means that now is the best time for any action, because this imposter's spells will break at midnight. He will have to re-cast them after that point, meaning if you can free the real King Altador at midnight..."
"We can expose Crane!" Laixa exclaimed, pale eyes bright with excitement.
"And save His Majesty's kingdom!" Tegustus cried with gusto, slamming his fist onto the table enthusiastically. Papers and dust flew up in a cloud around him.
"Careful!" squealed Finneus, gathering all the disrupted documents before gingerly placing them back. Tegustus cringed before the Lenny's hurt glare.
"Well, that settles it in my mind. Tegustus the former soldier, you are in charge of rescuing King Altador. That's an action-based job for you, since there will be at least one guard in that red-roofed building. Laixa, you will help me read through all of these relevant passages in the two hours we have before midnight, searching for a way to combat this Crane fellow's magic. Now hurry -- we haven't much time, but now we've got a chance!"
* * * * *
Crane reclined comfortably in his throne room, toying with his flowing white beard. "I may grow one of these myself," he remarked with a cruel smile, admiring his stolen body. The door creaked open slowly, casting a faint light into the dark room. Crane's eyes narrowed -- he had ordered his guards to allow no man through tonight! It was dangerously close to midnight, and if anyone saw his transformation reverse, his charade would end in ruin!
"Who goes there?" he barked, paws tightly gripping the arms of the throne.
A thin young servant girl curtsied, bowing her Zafara head respectfully.
"Not to worry, your Majesty, it is simply the maid. I was ordered by the head cook to bring you this," she murmured, pale eyes staring at the tiled floor. She bore a tray with a single glass, a drink of some sort.
"It is a foreign delicacy, from the land of Shenkuu. Chef says it brings great success if it's drank at midnight on a new moon, or so legend dictates..."
"Bring it here, and then leave," Crane growled in King Altador's borrowed voice. If it was from his beloved Shenkuu, he'd be happy to try it. He was sick of this heavy Altadorian fare. And if it really brought success...
Laixa curtsied again, settling the tray on the arm of Crane's chair. Years of being a maid had taught her how to be ignored by those in power. But her heart was beating so hard in her chest -- Crane had recognized and captured her once before. If he did so again, all would be lost -- he would never partake in the potion she and Finneus had concocted...
Crane watched the subservient Zafara scuttle from the room, head bowed. She looked familiar... But no, worry about that in the morning. Now was the time to drink to success. He smiled, watching the inky night sky for a few moments more. Then it was midnight, and he felt his disguise melting away. "To Shenkuu, and the power it deserves!" he whispered in his real, quavering voice, and downed the glass.
* * * * *
Finneus and Laixa had succeeded in creating their "anti-Crane" drink. The moment the potion touched his lips, Crane's lunar power was restricted to the level it was at when he drank it -- which was, of course, zero. He was unable to conceal his true appearance -- that of a wizened old Techo, bent double from the weight of his years.
Tegustus used his bravery and skill to defeat the guards surrounding King Altador's statue, where he waited diligently beside it until the stroke of midnight. He watched in disbelief as the stone melted back into fur, revealing his childhood hero. The King was shaken, but alright, and -- having been conscious throughout his petrification -- was perfectly willing to follow his fellow Lupe to the palace.
After being exposed for treason and malicious acts against the crown, Crane was arrested -- but after fierce debate, was allowed to return to his beloved homeland of Shenkuu. The Techo was banned from Altador as well as the Council of Elders, and retreated to his home in disgrace.
King Altador listened to Tegustus and Laixa's tale in full, and after his reinstation as ruler, pulled some strings for them. Tegustus was allowed to return to the King's Army -- not as a member of his company, but as a commanding officer. He was now happily in charge of his training mates, who were glad to have him back. They never could believe that he betrayed them, and agreed that he made a better leader than the Skeith...
Laixa the Zafara never went back to Shenkuu. Instead, she was instated as Finneus's apprentice, discovering that she enjoyed archiving a lot more than being a palace maid. Plus, her pet rock could take care of any book discards or stray papers.
So in the end, peace was restored to Altador, and everyone to their rightful places. Laixa and Tegustus had found where they belonged -- but despite living in what seemed like different worlds, the two continued to visit each other. They had become steadfast friends after all.
Date: Aug 17th
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