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||You are on Week 348
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 Forty Eight Ends December 14
"Chomatoes! Pyrapples! Get your fresh fruits here!"
Tomos peered around the corner as the fruit vendor continued to call out. "All right, Zina," the Lupe whispered to the Zafara beside him, "you create the distraction, and I'll grab enough for everyone's breakfast today."
"I created the diversion last time and almost got caught; it's your turn this time," Zina protested.
Tomos turned around indignantly. "Maybe you wouldn't have gotten caught if you were more careful!"
Zina returned his stare evenly. "Maybe you should show me how then, O master thief."
The Lupe, seeing that his companion was not going to budge, shrugged and crept off. "Fine," he called over his shoulder. "But make sure you grab me a pyrapple!"
A moment later, there was a scream from the next stall. Zina looked around just in time to see a basket of Cobralls tipping over, releasing the wriggling Petpets. A screaming Uni stood on top of a crate, shrieking, "Get them away! Get them away!"
When the fruit vendor turned to look at the commotion, the Zafara slipped in front of his stall and grabbed a tchea fruit with one paw -- only to feel the vendor’s iron grip around her wrist.
"Zina, is it?" the Ruki said, staring at her with narrowed eyes. "I've been expecting you. Where are your little pals? Horace? Tomos?"
Before the Zafara could even gape in surprise, a Cobrall went flying through the air and landed on the vendor's head. Immediately, the Ruki released Zina and began flailing about, trying to pull the panicked Petpet off.
"Come on!" Tomos cried, as the two of them ran to safety. When they finally stopped in a deserted alleyway, the Lupe shook his head. "You apparently can't do the stealing part either!"
Zina glared at him. "You know just how good of a thief I am, Tomos. No, something's wrong. That vendor was expecting us... someone must have given him the names and descriptions of the Desert Scarabs."
"Who would have enough of a vendetta to do that to us?"
"Rival thieves? Who knows? But I have a bad feeling about this..."
Author: Desert Scarab #42|
Date: Dec 7th
The pair wandered warily through the labyrinthine streets of the city, keeping an eye out for any pursuit while at the same time trying to look as innocent and carefree as possible.
Zina had to fight the urge to peek over her shoulder every few seconds. That would hardly help with the innocent act. Still, she couldn't shake the feeling that someone was watching them.
Finally, they reached their hideout.
The building looked rather ordinary, if a bit run-down. That was part of the point -- it wouldn't be much of a hideout if it looked like a thieves' den.
"Hey! You bring back a good haul?" asked Horace, the Blumaroo member of the Desert Scarabs, as Zina and Tomos entered. Horace had suffered a sprained ankle a few days before and still wasn't quite healed enough to go out on looting trips, however much he protested otherwise.
"I'm afraid not," said Tomos. "Someone tipped off the fruit vendor to our visit."
"What!? Who would have done something like that?" asked the Blumaroo.
"That's what we have to find out," said Zina. "Otherwise, we might end up jailed... or worse!"
Tomos sighed. "But we don't have any enemies that I know of. We're pretty small-scale thieves, as such things go. I mean, we only steal enough fruit to feed us from day to day. It's not like we're major jewel thieves or something. Who would even want to bother with us?"
Horace shrugged. "I can't really think of anyone who'd--"
Horace was rudely interrupted by a shout from outside: "We know you're in there, Desert Scarabs! Come out right now, and don't try anything funny! We have you surrounded!"
"Oh no! The city guards! How'd they follow us back here?" moaned Zina.
"Maybe our mystery enemy led them here," Tomos suggested.
"But nobody knows where our hideout is besides us," said Horace.
"Not anymore." The Lupe shook his head. "Either way, I'm not letting them take me. Horace! Lean on me. We're getting out of here, one way or another..."
Date: Dec 10th
"...and we're not leaving anybody behind."
Horace opened his mouth to protest, but then shut it. Tomos wasn't going to budge on this, and arguing would just slow them down. "Where can we go, though? If they know where we are...."
"They might not know the underground entrance," Zina said.
It was the only one that didn't have ominous noises outside it, anyway. Zina gulped and moved the table aside. There were loose boards under it, and though to a casual glance it appeared that there was just a sunken hollow in the earth beneath, there was actually a narrow opening to the side where the ground fell away more steeply.
Tomos nodded. "Good idea. Zina, you go first and help Horace from below. I'll put the table back and try to conceal the entrance as I go down."
Zina squirmed through, and Tomos supported Horace as the injured Neopet wriggled downward through the narrow gap. Zina took him by the bad leg, carefully above the injury, and eased him down.
Tomos looked around before he left. He yanked the curtain from a high window, smashed a pottery jar deliberately, and then scattered the fuel out of the fireplace. He yanked up the grate, knocked as much soot as he could out of the narrow flue that connected to a bakery's chimney, and then pulled the table back into place, writhed his way down, and dragged the boards over the hole.
He dropped down into darkness...
Date: Dec 11th
"Are you two both here?" Horace asked softly.
Zina nodded in the blackness, tripped over the Blumaroo's tail, and let out a mutter of irritation. "Light," she snapped, then, "Oh, sorry Tomos," as she fell over the Lupe as well.
It took five matches, three burnt fingers, and a continuous stream of angry mumbling from Zina, but at last Horace's hand held a torch that flickered unsteadily in the dark of the tunnel.
"All right," Tomos said. "We have a light, we have a passageway, and we have a bunch of guards above us."
"Let's go," Zina agreed, "before they find our underground entrance as well. If they..." She fell silent, words hanging ominously in the half-light.
Horace shifted about uneasily and handed the torch to Zina. "You lead," he said. His voice was trembling.
Tomos nodded and they set off.
The soft padding of their feet echoed in the otherwise silent passage. Eerie shadows leered at them from rough-hewn walls. On and on they went, walking for what felt like an eternity until--
"Light?" Zina breathed, the first word any of them had said in the last hour. "Something's off." The tunnel should have led to a set of stairs, dark as the rest of the tunnel would have been without the torch. The lantern hanging just above their heads was entirely wrong. Someone had been down here recently, and it certainly had not been any of the Desert Scarabs.
"Should we turn back?" Tomos asked uncertainly. He exchanged glances with Zina. They had both noticed the echo their footsteps had left had been different, lingering just a bit too long, as if someone had been following them.
Zina eyed the tunnel, and then the stairs. "Do we have a choice? Who knows what's up there? But I still say we vote. And I say we turn back."
"I say we keep going," Tomos said.
Horace was silent.
"Horace? And you?"
Silence. Because Horace was gone...
Date: Dec 11th
Tomos cursed silently under his breath. He could feel Zina trembling as she placed a paw on his shoulder, even though she desperately tried to hide it.
"We should go," she said, voice sounding like a whimper.
Tomos shook his head. "We can't. We're a team. We don't leave people behind."
Zina bit her lip. "B-but what if it gets us?"
Tomos rolled his eyes. "What if what gets us?"
"The thing that got Horace..."
He sighed. "Zina, we'll be fine. Whatever got Horace won't bother us, as long as we stick together."
"No buts. We keep moving on. It's not like we have another choice. If we turn back, we'll get captured. And that's the last thing we want. Let's keep going. Who knows? We might even find Horace."
Before Zina could protest, he took a step forward. Zina could do nothing but follow him. She had no intention of being left behind. She didn't want to get captured as well...
They moved in silence. And with each step, the eerie glow of the lantern faded farther into the distance. Zina trembled with each step. Something wasn't right... Something was not right...
"Tomos," she said suddenly in a low voice, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.
"I-I have this really bad feeling. We should turn back. Please."
Tomos sighed. "Why, Zina? Turn back to what?"
"Tomos, just, please." Her voice sounded small and meek, frightened even, not the usual confident boast of the Zafara he had come to know.
"Zina-" Tomos swirled around and was cut off as the dancing fire of his torch echoed only into darkness. He stared ahead, dumbfounded. How could this be? Zina had been there just a few moments ago...
Tomos shivered. "Zina? Where are you? This isn't funny..."
Tomos took a step forward, peering into the murk. "Zina?"
Suddenly, he felt very afraid. He was all alone. Alone... and vulnerable.
Something caught his eye, and Tomos backed away quickly. "W-who's there?"
No answer, of course. But Tomos could've sworn he'd seen a flicker of movement in the shadows. He gulped. "Show yourself."
There was the sound of a single footstep, and Tomos could see the flash of blazing eyes in the firelight before the figure lunged toward him.
Tomos's cry of surprise was muffled as the figure attacked him. He struggled, trying to pull his attacker off of him. But then a voice hissed into his ear...
"Quit struggling, you idiot. I'm trying to help you."
Tomos froze and his eyes widened in shock. That voice was familiar... Too familiar...
Date: Dec 12th
"Of course it's me!" the pink Ixi hissed quickly. Her tone was sharp, but Tomos could hear the underlying concern in her voice. Something was up.
"Where's Zina?" he asked. "And Horace and..." He paused, catching his first good look of the Ixi. She was dressed in her old Desert Scarabs garb: patched up and violet with a thin piece of gauze covering half of her face. Back in the old days, seeing her this way would have been fine, but things had changed. After all, she was now Queen of Qasala. "What's with the clothes?"
"I snagged them as I left the palace," Nabile whispered, dragging Tomos up the flight of stairs that they had stopped at before. "Now come on."
Looking around carefully, Nabile pulled out a hair pin and inserted it into the small lock. After a few seconds of wriggling, the lock clicked and the door opened.
They made their way into what appeared to be a small Neohome, dark and dim but well-furnished: there was a rug, carved wooden furniture, and paintings on the walls.
"It's an outpost," Nabile explained quickly. "I'm not sure if they'll think to come here right away, so it gives us some time..."
"Time for what?" Tomos asked impatiently. "And you still never answered my question: where are Zina and Horace? And who are 'they'?"
Nabile turned and glared at Tomos. "'They' are the palace guards, and for some reason or other, they've suddenly turned on everyone in the palace. For the past week everyone unfortunate enough to be stuck inside has been treated like a prisoner and placed in the dungeons. And now that I've escaped, they've set out to capture anyone who has any sort of connection to me, and that includes you..."
Date: Dec 12th
Tomos snorted derisively. "Great. Just what I need. A bunch of crazy guards on my tail right when I wasn't thinking about even going near the palace."
"Just help me out here," Nabile hissed, still scowling. "We need to form some kind of plan."
"Get Horace and Zina back," Tomos replied promptly.
Nabile gave a dry, humourless laugh. "Us two, against all the guards of the palace? And if we went inside to get them, wouldn't we be walking straight into their prison?"
Tomos ran his paw over his forehead, turning the matter over in his mind. Nabile had a point. She always did.
"Nabile," he asked after a second of silence. "When you came down to help me, did you bring a lantern?"
"No," Nabile answered curtly. "You know I can work as well in the dark as I can in the light."
Tomos silently agreed. She had told him this a thousand times. "Then what was a lamp doing in the middle of the passageway?"
Nabile's cold, collected expression immediately transformed into one of surprise. "There was a lantern?" she demanded. Tomos didn't like the sound of her voice. It was harsh, but he could detect a trace of fear in it too.
Without waiting for an answer, Nabile spun around began running through the dark outpost, nimbly sidestepping chairs and tables. Tomos hurried to keep up.
And as he followed her, he could hear her mutter to herself, "This is worse than I thought..."
Date: Dec 13th
"How much worse?" he panted as quietly as he could. "I mean, once Horace and Zina disappeared, I kind of figured they must have gotten into the tunnels..."
Nabile paused and looked over her shoulder at him, her eyes almost luminous in the dim light and her expression solemn, then hurried onward. Her voice floated softly back to him. "If they're hanging up lanterns, especially underneath Sakhmet instead of Qasala, they're not just sneaking around to find you. It means they've been down there a lot. And that means they could have gotten to the secret vaults."
Tomos's fur stood up at her tone. "They're guards. Don't they know about all the vaults?" And if they didn't, why was she talking about them openly where -- if the guards were indeed sneaking around in the tunnels -- she could potentially be overheard?
"The secret ones," Nabile said grimly, "are where Razul did his magic. We'll have to go there."
"What if they're there?" Tomos asked. Then, hoping she'd get the hint, "What if we're followed?"
She looked back at him again, eyes bright and cold. The expression was familiar; the Desert Scarabs might be small-time thieves, urchins, but even they had had to be ruthless sometimes.
Nabile was beautiful, smart (she'd even managed to learn to read despite her lack of schooling; it had taken her a while to realise that she had picked up several different alphabets, some of them no longer used, which had come in handy in Qasala), and kind-hearted, but she had a hardness to her that Tomos supposed was probably as necessary for a queen -- with all the problems of politics and betrayals and assassinations and the occasional plague of zombies -- as for a thief who didn't have the power or luxury but normally weren't noticed personally by anybody more alarming than an angry merchant.
"Then we're followed."
Ah, Tomos thought, rushing after her. She has a Plan. Either that or she's too angry to care.
Well, either way... she was the only friend he knew how to find, and he was sticking with her.
"Toss them on in," a voice outside the room said roughly. "Maybe if they're all together she'll come looking."
Jazan looked over at Nightsteed, who had been locked in the royal bedchamber with him. The guards had acquired a sorcerer -- adept enough, if nothing else, to keep even two individuals of their power confined while the room was sealed. The guards had pretended to be doing their jobs at first -- you only noticed the problem if you tried to leave the palace! -- but since Nabile had given them the slip, they'd stopped pretending.
But this sounded like a mistake. He had noticed that the guards had not entered the room since this close confinement, only pushed food or water through. (This was actually unnecessary, as far as keeping the prisoners alive; the royal bedchamber was fairly well-stocked, and once he was alive again, Jazan had paid handsomely to learn preservation magic, so the food storage kept everything as fresh as any Safety Deposit Box could. Not to mention, Nightsteed didn't actually have to eat.)
But the point was, with the sorcerer present, no one actually put any body part across the plane of the door. He did not sense the sorcerer's magical presence now... so perhaps this was an initiative on the part of someone who didn't understand the spell.
Nightsteed's eyes met his, and they both nodded slightly.
The door opened. A red Zafara and a yellow Blumaroo, both in ragged clothes, were shoved in...
...only to collide with a charging Uni and Kyrii. There was an explosion of fire, the door flew apart into charred splinters, and the guards slammed back against the opposite wall and slid down it, unconscious.
"Let's go!" Jazan said.
The Zafara stared at him, mouth agape. "Where?"
"Just follow," Nightsteed said. "Those aren't the only guards, and they've all apparently gone mad. Out."
"I can't--" The yellow Blumaroo looked pale and sweaty; he was holding one ankle and supporting half his weight on his tail.
Nightsteed muttered, "Jazan, put him on my back." He didn't give rides regularly to anyone but Jazan, but this was obviously a special occasion. Jazan boosted the unnerved-looking Blumaroo onto Nightsteed, grabbed the Zafara by the hand to make sure they didn't lose her, and sprinted off...
Date: Dec 13th
"Where exactly are we?" asked Tomos, after what seemed like an eternity of silence. There was no sound, except the plink, plink of dripping water from the stalactites. The tunnel was far more earthy now, and the torches were becoming more frequent.
"We're almost at the vaults," said Nabile grimly. "And I'm almost afraid of what I'll find there. Something's wrong. I can feel it."
Plink, plink went the water.
The light of several torches flickered ahead. It was the entrance to the vaults.
"Nabile?" said Tomos suddenly, his ears flattened. "Can you hear that?"
"Hear what?" she responded, almost irritably. "The water?"
"No, the sound of your fears coming true. I really doubt that chanting is a good thing."
Jazan held a torch in his left hand. It was for Zina and Horace's benefit; he and the Nightsteed were not even remotely visually impaired by the darkness of the tunnel. His right hand was raised, tracing the hieroglyphics on the wall. He knew these writings; they were almost there.
"Are they going to find us down here?" asked the Zafara impatiently.
Jazan turned around and flashed her a wicked smile. "No, my friend. We're going to find them."
A smoky scent suddenly permeated the air.
Nightsteed whickered faintly and nudged his lord's side. "Smell the air, Jazan. That fire ahead is not the torches. No, it is something else."
Jazan's eyes had a troubled, apprehensive look to them. "Something else I happen to remember quite clearly."
Horace was not so good at masking his fear. "And what exactly is it?"
They had arrived at a large, cavernous circular room. They stood on a ledge that circled the room. There were seven glittering, jewelled vaults spaced evenly on the walls, and all of the doors were open. A multitude of torches hung on brackets on the walls, but that was not what was causing the scent.
There was a stairway that wound its way some ten metres down. At the bottom, five guards stood in formation, chanting. A circle was drawn on the ground, darker than blood. And in the circle, written in that same strange liquid, were a group of hieroglyphics.
Jazan's heart nearly stopped. He knew all to well what those symbols meant.
Before anyone could say anything, the symbols burst aflame. Fire shot out of the ground, causing rocks to clatter to the ground and the earth to shake. Stalactites fell down in a deadly rain, narrowly missing Zina.
The fire was coalescing, though, some of it turning black and spiralling up to shape something. No, not something... someone.
Razul was back once more...
Date: Dec 14th
The coal burst into flames and Razul twisted around immediately, the familiar, dreadful eyes of his mask fixing on Jazan.
"Ah, how nice it is to see you again, my son," Razul said, his voice echoing from every corner of the cavern. His words would have been truly fatherly if they had not had a background of menace and hate behind them. The five guards, confused at first, spun around to see Jazan, chin high and rebellious, but his eyes wide and disbelieving.
"Don't look so shocked, Jazan. We all knew this day would come. I can never truly die." Jazan could imagine a smug sneer on the mask.
The Kyrii's lips drew back in a snarl, but he knew full well he could not face his father, not in his own magical vault anyway. So instead, hating himself for it, he turned and fled from the guards and Razul, grabbing Zina's hand once more and pulling her away...
...only to be stopped as Razul flicked his hand lazily and a wall of fire stretched from wall to wall, blocking their escape.
* * * * *
"Is it just me," Tomos gasped as they sprinted to where the chanting had come from, "or is it suddenly hotter in here?"
Nabile didn't even bother answering. She felt the heat too and since the chanting had stopped, she knew they didn't have much time. And if she knew Jazan well enough, which she obviously did, then he would have escaped. And if he escaped, he'd be at the vaults already.
"Tomos, I think Jazan is in danger." Nabile cast a worried glance at her friend.
"He's always in danger," Tomos muttered. "If Razul came back from the dead once, he's bound to come back again. There's no stopping that maniac!"
"Not helping!" Nabile snapped, skidding to a stop, ears back against her head, her nose stopping barely an inch from a huge wall of fire. "Jazan!" she screamed.
* * * * *
All heads turned to the fire wall.
"Na...bile?" Jazan panted. He had only faced Razul for a short period of time and already he was beginning to tire.
The five guards lay, slightly burned, Razul having discarded them after their services. Zina, stood behind Jazan, supporting Horace on her shoulder. Nightsteed stood faithfully at Jazan's side, lending as much help as he could, but he too was tiring.
"Nabile," Razul spat out the name distastefully. "She can't save you this time, Jazan. She won't be able to save you or your little friends. And after I'm done with you, she and that annoying Lupe will be next!" He laughed manically and shot another burst of magic at Jazan, who diverted the attack with much effort.
"Nabile, run!" Jazan winced with pain. "We'll get out of here!"
Nabile ignored Jazan. She wouldn't, she couldn't, leave him.
"You have your dagger, Tomos?" Nabile asked, thinking quickly.
"Don't ask, I'm probably insane for doing this." Nabile grimaced.
Tomos produced his dagger and Nabile took out her own.
"You have your own!" Tomos raised an inquiring eyebrow. "Why – oh..." He knew what Nabile planned when she stuck the dagger into the cave wall, stuck the next one in, and began to climb. "Hey! I want to come too!" he cried, realising he was being left behind.
"Sorry, but this is one adventure you won't be able to come on, Tomos!" Nabile grunted back as she neared the top. She could hear crackles of energy and cries of shock, terror, and pain on the other side.
That was good since it meant they weren't dead. Yet.
Nabile scanned the field below. Utter chaos. Jazan lay at Razul's mercy, defenceless and exhausted. She tensed, waiting, waiting, NOW! She pushed off of the wall, clearing the wall of fire and headed straight for the battle scene.
* * * *
"Helplessness isn't very becoming to you, my son, but it seems to be a position you get into quite often."
Jazan snarled and threw a bolt of magic at Razul. The demon caught it easily and tossed it back at him. Jazan rolled out of the way in the nick of time.
"Oh, so you still have some fight left in you, hm?" Razul chuckled. "Not for long." Two balls of flames appeared on his palms.
A flash of magenta suddenly landed on Razul's back.
"Nabile!" Jazan grinned weakly. Seeing her, Jazan found the last store of energy inside him and, pushing himself slowly to his feet, began chanting, ancient words rolling off his tongue. Words that he hadn't known he knew.
Razul howled with fury and tossed the Ixi off his back; she crashed against the wall and slumped, unconscious. Zina hurried over to her, half-supporting, half-dragging Horace.
Jazan finished the chant, panting, trying to stay conscious as the magic drained his energy.
Razul lunged for him, flames dying, ashes falling, crumbling from his body. Jazan ducked, a brief wave of heat washed over him, and then there were ashes.
Jazan didn't get up, instead he welcomed unconsciousness and joined his wife and Nightsteed, who had been struck by a stray blast of magic, in the blissful peace of it.
The wall of flame died away and Zina glimpsed Tomos halfway up the wall to where two daggers lay embedded in the rock, where they would stay until nature took its course of actions.
"You've got to be kidding me!" Tomos cried. "I missed the whole thing!"
Date: Dec 14th
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