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

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Week 333
You are on Week 334
Week 335

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 Four Ends August 24

"Don't make so much noise."

"I can't help it. It's too hot under this cloak!"

"Quit complaining! Do you want to find that fire gem or not? Remember, we are representing the Thieves' Guild here. We can't let them down."

* * * * *

"Arr! Ye say this gem gives the wearer great powers?"

"Aye, Cap'n! It be worth our while to give it a searchin'!"

"And ye say ye has a map?"

"Here, sir!"

"Arr, mateys! Set a course for north by northwest! We search for that fire gem in the mornin'!"

* * * * *

"Your Majesty, this gem could be extremely dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. We suggest that, for the good of the kingdom, it be kept here in this treasury."

"I fear you may be right, Advisor. Send out two of our most elite warriors to search for this so-called fire gem. Tell them it is essential to the safety of Shenkuu that the jewel be found!"

* * * * *

"You know that gem rightfully belongs to us! Who else could have made such a fire gem but the fire faeries?"

"Hush, sister. Your impetuousness will get us into trouble."

"Nevertheless, I speak the truth."

"Queen Fyora believes that faerie magic should be shared with all Neopets. She will not agree with your view that the jewel belongs only to us."

"Ha! Can you imagine a gem of such power in the hands of a clueless Neopet? No, sister. For all the fire faeries in Neopia, we must find it ourselves..."

Author: fire gem power!
Date: Aug 17th
... The eager fire faerie, still somewhat young, glanced up into her older sister's sceptical face. The elder sighed.

"Maraya, whichever of our kind created the gem meant for it to be hidden and found again by one brave enough to seek it. I imagine its creator was clever and made sure that the one to find it was not clueless. Nor would they be cowardly or weak of mind and body."

Maraya glared impatiently. Her wings fluttered slightly, so that she hovered a couple of inches above the ground. "Still, if this creator meant for it to be a fair race, then anyone should be able to find it, whether faerie or Neopet." She hesitated for a split second, then plowed on, "Whether you agree or not, Kanori, I am leaving."

She floated gracefully toward the door, and Kanori had no choice but to follow. "I warn you, sister, you are bordering on the point of foolishness," she cautioned, but Maraya wasn't listening.

*****

A quiet outbreak of muttered curses sounded from behind a bush, and several startled Weewoos abandoned their perch in a tree at the commotion. It was abruptly followed by a sharp shushing noise.

"How many times do I have to tell you to be quiet?" a shadow Techo reprimanded his companion around clenched teeth.

"Face it, Ehvo, we're lost through and through. You claimed you knew where this gem was, and look where it's gotten us - digging around behind a bush!"

There was a muffled thunk as a Wocky with muddied paws dropped a spade on the uprooted earth. Ehvo's eyes flashed, but he dared not make another noise and kept digging instead.

For a few minutes there was silence as the Wocky nursed his sore paws and Ehvo kept on digging in slightly varying places. All of sudden, there was the unmistakable sound of metal hitting stone, causing the Wocky to look up. Wearing an odd expression that was a mix of greed and satisfaction, Ehvo removed a thick gray stone.

"Wonderful gem," the Wocky growled, but he couldn't suppress a note of curiosity. He craned his neck to have a closer look at the stone in Ehvo's hands and started slightly as he realized there were words etched upon it.

You have discovered the clue of Grey,
This will aide you on your way.
Treasures of scarlet and fire you seek,
So in a place of warmth you must peek.
Wait for noon when no clouds obscure the sky,
And look for shadows that quickly fly.
Then proceed to the tallest rock,
And be careful for a flowing red-hot shock.

"What in the world...?" murmured the Wocky, but Ehvo wore a look of dawning comprehension. He slowly glanced up and murmured two words...

Author: zylp
Date: Aug 20th
* * * * *
..."Techo Mountain, you say?" Kanrik mused, tossing the heavy grey stone from one hand to the other. "Techo Mountain's where the fire gem's at?"

The Quiggle nodded rapidly, eager to please the revered leader of his new guild. "Damon swears it, he does! He hears the big Techo say so, he does, right before he steals the grey stone."

Kanrik's lips curved into a smile. "Thank you, Damon," he said to the Quiggle. "You've proven invaluable in our search for the fire gem. Consider yourself a genuine member of the Thieves' Guild."

Damon chortled happily, bowing low to the Gelert. "Damon is very pleased, he is!"

Kanrik waved to the female Lenny in the corner, cloaked in shadows. Nobody knew her true origins nor her true name, but what they did know was that Shoot was an incredible thief. Kanrik smiled grimly. "I expect those pirates to fail in their quest. See to it."

Shoot's eyes flashed. She nodded, then turned around and glided off, Damon hobbling behind her.

* * * * *

"Techo Mountain it is, then," the Shoyru murmured, making a move to leave.

Haiza shook his head, placing a restraining hand upon the Shoyru's forearm. "No," he said, eyes glinting in the darkness. "We wait."

* * * * *

"What do you mean, it's gone?" the Wocky growled, eyes wide. "It was in your pocket before!"

Ehvo patted down the ragged waistcoat he had on, dipping into all sorts of pockets, hidden or otherwise, and still his hands remained empty of the grey stone. "It's gone, Aviz. I must've dropped it. End of story. We still know that the fire gem's here at Techo Mountain."

Aviz flicked a droplet of sweat off his brow, staring into the scorching, bubbling depths of the volcano. "How are we supposed to find it then? I'm not going down there."

In the melancholy silence that ensued, neither noticed the shadow that moved toward the volcano. The figure dropped an item into the lava, then glided off into the shadows once more.

Ehvo suddenly gasped, throwing his arms out for balance. The volcano rumbled ominously, a loud rumbling that grew and grew, so that Ehvo felt it in his very bones. Bubbles erupted on the surface of the lava, always growing, always popping, an endless cycle that added to the noise. It seemed as if the very volcano shook. The noise grew steadily louder, until the sound hurt their ears, and then suddenly, everything was quiet. A single object popped from the depths of the volcano and into Ehvo's hands.

A stone. A red stone. And, like the grey stone, there were words etched on the back.

You have uncovered the clue of Red,
So vital for you to move ahead.
Treasure so magnificent is not easily found,
And so these clues are designed to confound.
In the heat you have looked, in the flames you have sought,
You must now search in a different spot.
Smugglers and thieves make this place their lair,
The next clue is there, do not despair.

Ehvo gave a mirthless laugh, clutching the codestone in his hand. "Great. Now we've got to go to..."

Author: quince
Date: Aug 20th
..."Krawk Island."

Aviz couldn't help but brighten at the thought. Krawk Island was, after all, a pirate's natural habitat. It would be good to set his paws on the familiar soil once again. "So we set off immediately?"

"Of course," the Techo answered. "After all, we can't have whoever stole the grey stone beating us to the next clue."

Aviz nodded, then frowned. "That's one thing that rubs me wrong, though. This clue - what set it off? Why did the volcano suddenly boil up and toss us this stone?"

Ehvo shrugged. "Maybe whatever spell controls it could somehow sense that we had found the other clue. Who cares? We've got the next clue, so now we have to follow up on it."

Aviz nodded, albeit a little uneasily, and followed his companion as the Techo began to wind his way down the warm slopes of the mountain.

* * * * *

"Damon is very impressed, he is!"

As the little Quiggle leaned forward, his bugged-out eyes wide and filled with admiration, Shoot restricted her answer to a thin nod. Whether she was pleased by Damon's awe, or merely found his exuberance irritating, was not revealed or even hinted at by her darkly impassive features. The decoy clue she had planted appeared to have worked; those brainless buccaneers had taken it hook, line and sinker. Well, at least one of them had. And even the other one had failed to fully see through it.

"Damon is very excited!" Damon went on, his peculiar method of speaking accompanied by a queer little jig that made the already strange Neopet look like a child on too much sugar. "What do we do now?"

"We brace ourselves, and speak no secrets," Shoot answered evenly, her facial expression not changing in the slightest and her eyes remaining fixed dispassionately ahead of her as she added, "because we are being watched."

* * * * *

"Shoot," Haiza muttered, unaware that he was speaking his adversary's nickname as he crouched slightly lower in the brush. "How did she know we were here?"

"Because you are noisy," came the bland reply from the blue Lenny on which Haiza and his fellow Shenkuuan knight had been spying.

"What is our next move, sir?" the young Shoyru, Kali, asked, and the tall Cloud Lupe beside him set his paw on the hilt of his sword.

"Now, we find out how strong they are, and how much they know."

* * * * *

I cannot help but think, my dear sister, that it might have been a good idea to find out where you are going before you tried to go there.

It was the fifth time in the last ten minutes that Kanori had thought this, but she still had yet to voice it. The longer it took Maraya to find the starting point of her journey, the more hope there was that she would simply give the whole ridiculous idea up, and Kanori certainly wasn't about to be of any help.

"You aren't being of any help whatsoever," the younger fire faerie pointed out crossly, pacing around in midair. "Now come on, help me figure out where the gem is before some stupid Neopet finds it!"

"If a Neopet is capable of figuring out the gem's location more quickly than you are, I should hope that that Neopet could not be classified as stupid."

Maraya shot her sister a scathing glare. "That doesn't mean that they are worthy of wielding the gem!"

"And my impulsive little sister is?" A trace of amused fondness had crept into Kanori's voice as she said that: an echo of childhood memories, and the lingering sight of her sister running after every hopeful fantasy that came within sight of those wide golden eyes.

"I just might be!" This latest exclamation was laced not with anger, but with sudden excitement and hope. "Kanori, we're going to the library. What better place to find clues about a gem of the faeries than in a collection of faeries' books?"

Kanori's eyes sparked slightly; perhaps her sister had a little more of her head in this than she'd thought. Two sets of orange-gold wings snapped into blurs as Maraya set out with Kanori in pursuit, and the clouds rushed past them until the two young faeries came to rest in front of the doors of the library. Maraya burst in eagerly, not bothering to join her sister in exchanging brief polite pleasantries with the Library Faerie before racing to examine the shelves.

"On another little quest, is she?" the Library Faerie asked fondly a few minutes into the conversation; she remembered the excitable little tyke she had helped with her initial flying lessons.

"M-hm," Kanori answered, glancing over at Maraya, who had stopped skimming through the shelves and was staring intently at a single volume. She wouldn't like them talking about her secret mission, Kanori knew; but since they were speaking in very general terms, and neither of them was taking her seriously, Maraya could hardly accuse Kanori of leaking information about the gem. Kanori was just about to turn back to her long-time friend to continue the dialogue when her sister suddenly appeared beside her, her voice dropping to an excited half-whisper.

"Kanori, come quick! I think I've found something!"

* * * * *

It was dark. It was dark, as all the world had always been, dark except for the perpetual crimson glimmer that played across the walls like light being bent by water into wires that swayed and twisted across the bottom of a pool. A harsh light in a heartless blackness, a brooding glare stabbing through an endless pool of night that could slowly suck the mind and soul out of any who were stranded too long within it.

And she had been stranded there for a very long time.

Within the heart of the fiery jewel, the brooding owner of a watchful gaze that skimmed over the world felt a quiver of anticipation run through her captive soul. They had finally become aware of it. The little Neopets and eager faeries had finally begun to answer her call, for the first time in one hundred years.

One hundred years. Had it really been no longer than that? Had the millennia that had seemed to grind slowly over her truly been compressed into a mere century since the last seekers had come looking for her and perished in the attempt?

Maybe, maybe not. Time no longer mattered, just so long as not too much more of it passed before this latest attempt succeeded. Then she would finally be free, free as she had not been since the day of the Accident, that terrible event that had sealed her within an artifact of her own creation...

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Aug 21st
* * * * *

"Don't make me laugh."

Haiza held his sword out in front of him, arms taut, teeth clenched, feet spread apart on the dusty surface of the crater. Kali hung back, his wide eyes reflecting the orange glow of the lava and the red light of the sun, which had risen silently and was now climbing slowly higher in the sky.

Shoot remained sitting. The blue Lenny's eyes betrayed no emotion as she watched the Shenkuuan warriors, one poised for attack. Damon stood next to her, although even standing the small Quiggle did not surpass Shoot in height.

"Laugh all you want," said Haiza, not letting his glance fall from the Lenny thief. "But you're going to tell us everything you know."

"Am I?" asked Shoot. "And how do you expect to make me talk? Not by force, surely."

Damon laughed. "Damon knows who's going to win this fight, he does," the Quiggle sneered.

"Wait," said Kali, just as Haiza took a step forward. The young Shenkuuan warrior looked from the thieves to his friend, and he knew that nothing good could come out of a fight. "We both know that neither pair of us can find the gem alone. Not without another clue."

"You don't know that," said Shoot. "We could have the gem with us right now."

"If you did," said Kali, "you wouldn't be sitting here. I know that you both are just as clueless as we are, so there's no use denying it. I think we should put our pieces together."

"Sure," said Shoot. "Why not? I'll take your information and then dispose of you." She shrugged. "Tell me all you know."

Kali looked up at Haiza, but the Lupe could only give him a helpless frown. The Shoyru decided to take a gamble. "All we know," he said, "is what we've overheard. That, and the hundred-year-old legend."

* * * * *

"Treasures of scarlet and fire you seek, So in a place of warmth you must peek. Wait for noon when no clouds obscure the sky, And look for shadows that quickly fly. Then proceed to the tallest rock, And be careful for a flowing red-hot shock."

"Would you shut up?" growled Aviz. "We're already done with that clue; we have the second one." The Wocky tossed the red stone from one hand to the other, tempted to strike his companion over the head with it.

"It just doesn't make sense," said Ehvo. The Techo frowned. "We didn't follow the clue exactly. It said to wait until noon and look for flying shadows."

"I'm not going to wait another couple hours and watch clouds roll by!" cried Aviz. "I told you, we're done with that clue. It's time to go to Krawk Island, like the second clue says."

"I don't know about this," said Ehvo, shielding his eyes as he peered into the sky. "Maybe we should just wait a little longer."

"Or maybe not," muttered Aviz as they kept walking. A few clouds still hung over the horizon, but the rest of the sky was clear as the sun continued to climb.

* * * * *

The Library Faerie walked down the aisle from which the two young fire faeries had just run off. The book they had been examining still lay open on the table: Legends of Mystery Island. The curious faerie bent down to look at the page that lay open. All she could see was a beautiful illustration of a blood red gem and a small block of text, which read...

Author: reggieman721
Date: Aug 21st
...Of the legends and stories that have been attributed to Mystery Island, there is no greater than the legend of the Fire Gem. There have been many rumors of sightings throughout history, but of proven fact there is none. Most believe it to reside in Techo Mountain, as volcanoes and fire have a strong affiliation, and it fits the description mentioned by those rumored to have seen it. There is, however, no credible source of proof.

Although the Fire Gem is said to possess great powers, there have been legends suggesting that the gem's creator was imprisoned inside it with a spell of her own creation. Locating it and using it would make the finder powerful, but at a dangerous cost, for --

Here, the Library Faerie's face contorted into a glare. The bottom half of the page was torn off entirely. There were frayed bits of words left, suggesting that a clean cut had not been sought after. But there wasn't enough left for her to realize where the foolish Maraya and Kanori went.

"Maraya was always impulsive, but I never imagined her to rip apart a book. I know that Kanori knows better. Why on earth would they defile the pages of the book like this? Unless it wasn't them that did it."

* * * * *

Maraya was flying as fast as her wings could beat toward Mystery Island. Kanori had long since given up trying to keep up. Since their discovery of the book, the younger sibling had been even more intent on getting there. If the book was right, any pet that got there was in danger.

Maraya glanced up for one moment. The noontime sun was directly above her, no cloud to obscure it beating down on her back mercilessly. She glanced down and saw something that drove the intense pressure of the heat on her back away. Techo Mountain was directly below her.

* * * * *

Ehvo was trying to keep his pace slow as the sun rose above him, his hand raised to keep it out of his face. Whether Aviz wanted to wait or not, Ehvo was sure that there was more to the clue.

At precisely the wrong moment, Ehvo lowered his gaze so the sun wouldn't leave spots in his eyes permanently.

Or the right moment.

"Aviz! Look up, quick!"

As the Techo had glanced down, a dark shape obscured him slightly. It was gone, but not before he realized what it was.

It was a shadow, thrown across the ground swiftly. A shadow made by something moving quickly through the air. A shadow, that could only have its precise definitions if cast by the sun directly overhead without cloud interference...

Author: apatheticfeather
Date: Aug 22nd
* * * * *

"So pretty much, this is all we have to go on. The Fire Gem is rumored to be in Techo Mountain, and finding the thing would make the user extremely powerful somehow. We got all that out of a book in the library in Faerieland, but the rest of the page had been torn out." Kali finished his story, and stared at the two thieves in front of him, waiting for their reaction.

Slowly, Shoot reached into a small pouch that was tied around her waist and pulled out a crumbled piece of paper.

"I believe this is what you'll be needing," she said calmly, and smoothed the parchment out between the four of them. It was hastily torn, but the markings upon it were still mostly legible.

Kali leaned in closer. "Is that... is that the rest of it?" he asked breathlessly.

"I believe so. I took it from a couple of buccaneers who were visiting the Volcano. Along with a clue. There's some sort of illustration drawn there. It looks sort of like a map. I haven't been able to make sense of it."

"A map?" Haiza asked, also leaning in for a closer look. He examined the piece of parchment closely.

"Do you understand it?" Shoot inquired, rather politely.

"I understand the illustration part. It's just a map leading to Techo Mountain. Nothing special. No, it's those words above it that intrigue me." Haiza leaned in even closer, his face practically touching the torn book page. "It looks like it's been purposely smudged out. I can read the beginning of it."

... whoever finds the gem runs the risk of releasing the captive inside and...

"That's all I can make out," Haiza said slowly, still bent over the writings. "A pity. There's obviously something important written there, or else no one would have bothered ripping the thing out."

"Well, I guess we're heading back to Techo Mountain at any rate. Come, Damon," Shoot commanded, and the Quiggle hopped forwards excitedly.

"Not so fast. We can still help each other. We'll escort you back to Techo Mountain. That seems the most likely location. You haven't really been of much use to us yet, but I know your time will come," Haiza said, getting in the way of the thieves.

Shoot smiled slyly. "I guess I could use your help. All I have is little Damon here." She gave the Quiggle a slight kick.

And together, the four adventurers started to make their way towards the burning lava of Techo Mountain.

* * * * *

"Avis, we have to turn back!" Ehvo exclaimed, upon seeing the shadow.

"What? Why?"

"Don't you remember the clue? Wait for noon when no clouds obscure the sky, and look for shadows that quickly fly! This is it!"

Without saying another word to his companion, Ehvo started to run back. He had been right all along, there was more to the clue after all.

Aviz stared at the retreating back of his partner, and decided to follow.

* * * * *

Would the darkness never cease? Would that glimmer never fade? Would she never escape from her prison?

Excitement coursed through her. Or, what was left of her. There was so little left. They were close. They were standing outside her cell, trying to free her. All of them, right outside the gates. The Faeries. The Neopets. All working towards the same goal. Her freedom. Her destruction. Her revenge.

And yet, all was still dark. The glimmer still shone. And she was still trapped...

Author: ishmalian42
Date: Aug 22nd
...Before she could suppress it, a stab of panic tore at her insides. What if they had somehow found out the last words of the paragraph of the library book? It would discourage them from ever setting her free. They would surely then repair the library book, which would ensure that anyone else was not tempted to seek her, and she never lived to see the beautiful world of Neopia again.

Another ripple of doubt flowed through her, her initial burst of emotion starting an avalanche of fear. Her confinement had made her unstable, and it took a good amount of time until she could calm herself down again.

The gem gave powers beyond compare, she reassured herself, and even though this imprisonment extinguished these powers, you did manage to smudge out the words in the book...

* * * * *

A strong breeze was blowing around Mystery Island and Maraya had to battle against it to finally reach those sandy shores. Kanori, being older and stronger, managed to get along better than she could. Finally, her feet touched the ground and she hurried towards Techo Mountain wordlessly, unaware that on the other side of the mountain, four Neopets were doing exactly the same...

* * * * *

At the base of Techo Mountain Haiza turned to face Shoot, opened his mouth to say something, decided better of it, and turned around again. The Lenny gestured wordlessly and the Lupe, Lenny and Quiggle began to climb, Kali flying behind them.

* * * * *

Ehvo now moved on with an unbreakable determination. Aviz struggled up Techo Mountain's slope, panting.

"What - are we - looking for there - anyway?" he gasped. "I thought we - already found the clue."

"It was a fake," Ehvo replied, not looking backwards.

"How can you - be - so sure?"

"I'm positive." Ehvo lifted his chin and kept struggling upwards.

* * * * *

"Maraya, wait!" Kanori called out, rising higher in the air than her sister.

"No, sister, now is not the time to pause," Maraya called back, flying as fast as her wings could carry her towards the top of Techo Mountain.

"But look!" Kanori protested, squinting. She could see six figures walking up to the crater at perpendicular angles. However, her comment was unheard by Maraya, who had finally reached her destination. Kanori followed quickly and landed. And just as her little sister was about to say something, the six others, all Neopets, reached the top of the crater.

All of them glanced at each other, at loss of words, and then, as one, glanced up into the sky and down into the frothing lava. And it was becoming frothier by the second...

* * * * *

Yes - yes - they were so close now, Neopets and Faeries, so close she could almost, almost see their features.

I am waiting...

Author: zylp
Date: Aug 23rd
...The red hot lava from deep within the volcano’s depths seemed restless, churning and bubbling, pouring heat upwards that stung the anxious faces of the eight Neopians who rested on the lip of the mountain. But no one cared. Instead they were all glaring at one another, greed filling their hearts at the thought of the treasure just beyond their grasps.

“The Fire Gem will be ours!” Ehvo called out defiantly, hoisting the grey stone that had been their first clue. “We found the stone of grey! We were here first! Now leave us alone!”

“Quite amusing,” Shoot said with a smile, “but I believe that you are mistaken. The gem will be ours, property of the Thieves Guild, but we do thank you on behalf of Kanrik for leading us right to it.”

“Yes, Damon thankful!” the Quiggle piped up, his eyes wide and his large mouth attempting a gloating a smile.

“What?” Haiza asked outraged, shock registering on the Lupe’s face. “Kali and I helped you two and this is how you repay us?”

Shoot raised an eyebrow. “Like I’d ever work with you, Haiza. We’re thieves; what did you expect?”

“That’s it!” Haiza shouted, drawing his sword. “If you put even one feather on that gem, I’ll run you through!”

Kali gasped at the tenaciousness of the general, but Shoot merely shrugged the threat off. “Like you would ever do that,” the Lenny said skeptically.

“Yes, I would,” the general replied through clenched teeth. He normally wasn’t so quick to anger, so easily set off, but something wasn’t right. It was almost as if the air itself was tainted, clouding everyone’s judgment and filling their heads with thoughts of power and greed.

Shoot glared at the Lupe and withdrew a small dagger from the folds of her cloak. “If that’s how you feel...” she started, but was quickly interrupted.

“LOOK!” Aviz shouted, gazing into the volcano’s depths.

The lava movement had suddenly become erratic, the liquid rising higher and higher and sloshing from side to side. Smoke billowed into the air smelling of sulfur and a deep rumble came from within the earth. Then, without warning, something shot out from its depths, a stone as red as blood, and the Fire Gem flew into the air, ready for the taking.

“It’s... mine!” Shoot shouted, coughing in the smoky air. She had dropped her weapon and was groping blindly in the sky, hoping to snag the gem.

“No, it isn’t!” Haiza countered, reaching upwards.

“Get out of the way!” Ehvo growled, elbowing Aviz to his left.

“Mine! Damon reaches, he does!”

“Almost...”

“MARAYA! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!” Kanori’s shout was loud enough to muffle the sound of the volcano’s roar, but Maraya didn’t hear her reasonable sister. Instead, her eyes were on the prize, the glistening gem inches from her fingers as she flew out over the billowing volcano top. She was a fire faerie: smoke and heat didn’t affect her like it affected everyone else and that was what was going to enable her to gain back the gem that rightfully belonged to her people. “Almost...” she whispered, stretching, and then, feeling it brush her fingertips, she clenched her hand around the hot gem.

Yes, a voice suddenly whispered from within the gem.

Maraya froze. The voice didn’t belong to her or anyone else she knew for that matter, and it was only as intense pain flooded through her body from the gem did she realize how foolish she had been.

Yes! the gem hissed once more. Your body is mine!...

Author: vanessa1357924680
Date: Aug 23rd
...Panic exploded through Maraya's mind. "No, it isn't!" she choked. "My body isn't yours!"

The pirates were attempting to take the thieves apart. The thieves were dividing their attention between the pirates and the Shenkuuan knights. The knights were trying both to deal with the thieves and to watch Maraya and the Gem at the same time.

And Kanori stood rooted to the spot, watching in stricken horror as a hideous change came over her little sister.

Maraya's body stiffened, arched and thrashed in midair, as if her soul was being wrenched from her body and another's was being shoved in to replace it. Her mouth was wide open in an ongoing soundless scream, and her eyes were squeezed tightly shut. Faint choking noises forced their way up through her straining throat, and her breath came in struggling gasps. Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes, but they were scorched into wisps of steam the moment they found their way onto her cheeks.

You are mine, the Gem hissed as she clutched it tightly in her white-knuckled grasp, desperate to let go, but unable to force her body to act on her will. You have freed me after all these years, and as a reward you shall serve as my vessel for the rest of eternity. You are mighty, you are immortal, you are mine!

No! Maraya cried back, silent shrieks resounding in her heart. No, I am not yours! I am going to drop this Gem, and then you will have to let go!

Mocking laughter rang in her head. My hold on you is unbreakable. We are becoming one!

Steam and fire lashed around Maraya's slender body as the volcano roared in a fury of lava and flame. Below her, the Neopets set aside their differences to evade the greater enemy of the hot rivers that began to flow down the side of the Mountain, and Kanori's screams for Maraya to please tell her that she was all right pierced the bone-shaking thunder like lightning stabbing into the night.

Maraya was oblivious to all of it. Darkness had begun to swirl in her vision, slashed through here and there with wires of a strange crimson light. She could feel herself shrinking, collapsing into the dark. Kanori... Kanori, help me!...

* * * * *

Far below the stricken faerie, the assorted treasure-hunters turned to watch as a wild crimson glare leapt into the sky, blotting out the sunlight and sending their shadows speeding out ahead of them as they paused in their desperate flight. Trembling piteously and clinging to Shoot's leg, Damon whimpered, "Damon is terrified, yes he is, and he wonders what those things in the fire are."

Shoot's eyes were narrowed, the quivering bundle on her leg unnoticed as she stared into the light, a wing upraised to shield her eyes. A single point of piercing light shone out in the midst of the fire, trembling and pulsing; and a smaller pinprick, this one a tiny patch of darkness in the glare, was racing toward it.

"It's the fire faeries," Kali reported, drawing everyone's attention as he hovered in the air. "The one that grabbed the Fire Gem is glowing, and shaking like a leaf. The other one looks like she's going to help her." The young knight's voice was tight as he spoke; two of his fellow Neopians were in serious danger, and he did not dare go back and help them.

Sensing his companion's thoughts, Haiza shook his head. "There's nothing we can do. We have to get back to Shenkuu, and warn the Emperor about what's going on."

"You go on ahead," Kali told him, reluctant to turn away from the scene that was playing out above the raging volcano. "The Emperor needs to be warned quick; but somebody also needs to be able to tell him exactly what the Gem does. I've got wings - I'll be relatively safe, and I should be able to catch up."

Haiza nodded, and was about to turn away when the glare was abruptly extinguished, plunging the world into night beneath the volcano's canopy of smoke.

* * * * *

Fyora the Pretender will fall, the Gem promised as the flood of pain continued to work its way through Maraya's system. She, who forced me to make this Gem as a defense against her - it is her fault that I was trapped! And she will pay for it a thousand times over. And those feeble Neopets who she allows to pretend to rule over little bits of Neopia - they will be my slaves. The rule of Neopia will be mine, and no other's! The forgotten name of Shayara will never be buried again!

Vivid images were playing through Maraya's mind, images of destruction and revenge, of slavery for Neopets and a glory for one person whom she had by now come to hate more than she had ever thought possible. No... she silently pleaded, Kanori...

"Stop!" The piercing voice rang out loud and clear, sharp and real in the flaming phantom world of horror. Maraya turned - or the power that held her turned her - and the darkness cleared enough to allow her to see her sister, shooting toward her through the fire. "Let her go!" Kanori commanded, her voice filled with the fierce authority of an older sister whose sibling was in peril.

"I will not!" Shayara returned through Maraya, speaking audibly for the first time. "This foolish child is mine!"

"That sister is mine," Kanori retorted firmly. "And I will take her back, at whatever cost!"

Smirking, Shayara raised Maraya's hand, and a sizzling blast of power raced from it. Kanori raised her own hand just in time, a bolt of power shooting forth to block the other faerie's attack. "Hm, you are powerful," Shayara commented, experimentally shooting a few more attacks at Kanori and smiling as they were deflected. "Stronger than this child I had been going to take. I think I will claim you instead."

And with that, Shayara swung Maraya's hand around, catching Kanori by the wrist as the young faerie swept past her and pressing the Fire Gem against her hand. And as she did, she released her hold on Maraya, flowing back through the Gem and into Kanori.

Or at least, that was the way she had intended it. But at the point at which she had been going to enter Kanori, theory and reality diverged with painful abruptness, for Shayara had made a horrible mistake.

Kanori didn't want the Gem. She wasn't interested in its power, nor was she open to the seduction of its beauty.

The doorway to her soul was closed.

Screams resounded through Shayara's mind as a fierce, wrenching movement of Kanori's arm sent the Fire Gem flying free, tumbling out of Maraya's grasp and bouncing down the Mountain. Maraya stiffened, the screams that her constricted throat had denied their freedom finally making their way into the open air in a single long cry of pain and alarm that faded slowly into dazed silence. As the fierce light of the Fire Gem's power fell away into empty night, Maraya could feel her body drifting downward in a helpless plunge... only to come to a sudden gentle halt as her sister's thin, strong arms wrapped themselves around her, carrying her softly to the ground well beyond the foot of the mountain and laying her down on the grass.

Very slowly, Maraya opened her eyes, wondering at first if she had been stricken blind. Then a tiny flame, not the horrible fire of Shayara's might but a simple and beautiful blaze from Kanori's upraised hand, illuminated her sister's gentle face, and Maraya could feel the terror that had racked her draining away into weariness. "Kanori," she whispered, "I'm sorry."

"It's all right," Kanori answered softly, unable to help smiling with pure relief. "It's all right. You're safe now."

"But... the Fire Gem... where is it? We can't let anybody else touch it."

Kanori nodded, this time agreeing with her sister wholeheartedly. A pattering noise drew her attention to the jungle around her, and Kanori tensed slightly as two Shenkuuan knights sprinted into view. "Are both of you all right?" the young Shoyru asked while his tall Lupe companion surveyed the situation in silence.

"Yes," Kanori answered, "more or less. But Maraya will need medical attention, and I need to find that Fire Gem before it lures somebody else."

Haiza gave a single, professional nod. "I couldn't agree more. And we'll need to move quickly - that giant light show will have drawn all sorts of curiosity. Kali, help the faerie find the Gem. I know a bit of first aid - I'll stay here with the other one until you get back."

Kanori hesitated for a moment, reluctant to leave her sister; but Maraya nodded her agreement. "Yes, Kanori - go. Make sure that the Gem doesn't hurt anybody else."

Kanori paused another moment, then gave her sister's shoulder a gentle parting squeeze and set off into the undergrowth along with the Shoyru. Watching them go, Maraya asked Haiza, "Is everybody else all right? There were other Neopets there besides you - they weren't hurt, were they?"

A slight frown crossed Haiza's face. "I honestly don't know. We parted ways when the light went out - we came back to find you, and I have no idea where the thieves and pirates went."

* * * * *

"Damon loves the pretty ship, yes he does!"

It was fortunate, Shoot couldn't help but think, that there was little or nothing on the open seas for Damon to run into. The enthusiastic little Quiggle was hopelessly inexperienced with the helm, and if there had been anything with which to crash, he would have crashed them by now.

Still, it didn't worry her. And the booty they'd found in the pirate ship's cargo bay made the hassle of handling the vessel well worth it. Glancing back toward the Island that was slipping away behind them, Shoot allowed her emotionless face to be coloured by the faintest hint of a smile as the two bungling buccaneers skipped and shouted on the beach, their howled curses dashed away by the breeze long before they could reach the Lenny's ears.

They may not have gotten the Fire Gem, but Shoot doubted that Kanrik would want it anyway, once he found out what it did to those who obtained it. Those fire faeries had certainly come in handy. And the pirates' collection, comparatively petty though it was, would at least serve to blunt the edge of their leader's disappointment.

All in all, it hadn't been the best of quests, but it hadn't been the worst, either. Whatever one thought of it, Shoot was certainly having a better day than this vessel's former owners were, and that was good enough for her.

* * * * *

Five hundred years later...

"Worthy are you to wield the might
Of scorching fire and crimson light?
Long is your journey and hard is your way
But at the dark end of the dismal day
If your mind is firm and your strength at its peak
The next clue will show you the treasure you seek...

That's strange, the next part's been torn out," the Aisha explorer commented with a frown as he stared at the dirty piece of paper.

His Nimmo companion groaned. "You're saying we came all the way from Terror Mountain to Mystery Island just to find out that the most important part of the next clue is missing?!"

"Nobody said this was going to be easy. After all, according to the legend, the last people who found this Gem lost it, and it somehow hid itself so that they couldn't find it again. It only comes to those worthy to wield it."

"And how are we supposed to be worthy to wield it if we can't even keep our blasted clues together? Was that paper like that when you found it?"

In the bushes a little ways off, a grinning Acara snickered to himself. It had been so easy to pinch the bottom half of the paper - this quest was going to be easier than he'd thought. Still smiling to himself, he turned away from the squabbling duo and began to make his way toward the fires of Techo Mountain, his thoughts filled with the crimson beauty of the Fire Gem that awaited him.

Yes, I am still waiting...

The End

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Aug 24th



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