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||You are on Week 357
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 Fifty Seven Ends February 22
"Doesn't anybody appreciate good music anymore, Bran?" Jac asked, staring forlornly at the empty guitar case at his feet. Usually, the red velvet lining of the case would've been almost completely covered by Neopoints, but for the last few days, no one seemed interested in music. "How can we expect to become famous musicians if we can't even get others to listen to our music for free?"
The yellow Xweetok sitting beside him nodded. "It can't be our music. After all, we're good musicians. We've just got to find the missing ingredient."
Jac groaned. "Don't mention ingredients! I'm starving. Hey, maybe we should go play in the Marketplace, so we can stop by the Soup Kitchen?"
"Maybe it's our look," Bran suggested thoughtfully, ignoring his skunk Kougra friend. "I mean, plaid trousers, Jac? You'd never see anyone from Moehawk wearing something like that."
"Oh, really, Mr. I've-Never-Seen-a-Striped-Sweater-I-Didn't-Like?"
"Why are we fighting?" Bran asked with a sigh. "Let's face it, we're never going to make it to the Tyrannian Concert Hall if all we do is play on street corners and argue with each other."
"You're right," Jac said, his voice sounding defeated. He carefully laid his precious green guitar into its case and started to close it when a long shadow fell over him.
The two friends looked up to find themselves staring into the glittering golden eyes of a tall blue Krawk, who grinned at them menacingly. "I couldn't help but overhear your troubles, boys. Might I be of some assistance?"
Date: Feb 19th
The Krawk's voice sent an apprehensive shiver down Jac's spine, and instantly, his golden eyes flickered over to the Krawk's face. The smile was by no means reassuring.
He swallowed his sudden fear. He was being unreasonable, he decided, by prejudging this Krawk.
But man, if he cares about fashion, that trenchcoat has got to go, he thought.
"Who are you?" His voice betrayed none of his sudden apprehension.
The Krawk's grin grew wider, revealing a mouthful of pearly, albeit sharp, teeth. "My name is Mr. Krawley," he smiled, "and I believe I can help you..."
Jac was still somewhat spooked, but he couldn't suppress a glimmer of hope. Was it possible that this Krawley could help him and Bran achieve the fame they'd always dreamt of?
Bran, too, was hooked, despite his own mistrust of the blue Krawk. "Would you really?"
Hold on, thought the Kougra. Another flicker of unease had stirred within him. Where have I heard that name before?
"Of course," replied Mr. Krawley in his velvety hiss. "For only a small fee, of course."
Reaching one clawed paw into the folds of his coat, the Krawk withdrew two gleaming bottles of potion...
Date: Feb 19th
"These," Mr. Krawley explained, "are guaranteed to make the quality of your music such that, ah, Neopians are practically unable to cease listening. Before you know it, you'll have thousands of fans."
"And you're just going to give them to us?" Jac asked sceptically. This almost seemed too good to be true. The feeling of unexplained anxiety in him did not help the situation, either.
"For a small fee," the Krawk replied smoothly. "But I'm quite positive you will be able to pay." He smirked.
"How much?" Bran asked, forgetting all about his initial mistrust.
The Krawk looked them over for a second. "Does 2,000 Neopoints for both sound fair enough?"
Both musicians-to-be nodded. Even though business had suddenly become slow, they could afford that. Jac and Bran pulled out 1,000 each and handed it over to Krawley. In return, they were granted a glimmering bottle of solution. Before they had a chance to thank Mr. Krawley, the blue Krawk had vanished into the shadows.
Almost as if he had never been there.
"Bottoms up?" suggested Jac, shaking his potion slightly. The name "Krawley" still bugged at the back of his mind, but it was sort of a dull worry now that the idea of fame and fortune was crisp and fresh in his thoughts.
In unison, the friends drank their potions in one gulp.
"How do you feel?" the Xweetok asked his friend.
"Kind of... weird," Jac replied, shrugging his shoulders. "Tingly."
"Me too," Bran said. "Do you want to try it out?"
Jac was already ahead of him, picking up the green guitar and beginning to play a few chords. As his fingers struck the strings, a passerby on the opposite sidewalk turned to glance. Bran noticed and became instantly overjoyed. Jac looked up and grinned.
"It works, Bran!" His words were drowned out, however, by the notes played on the guitar, which steadily got louder.
"You can stop playing now." Bran raised his voice to be heard over the instrument.
"No," Jac replied fearfully. "I can't..."
Date: Feb 19th
Bran looked on in fear as the crowd around his friend steadily began to grow.
"Look, Jac, just stop, OK?" Bran shouted over the increasing din of the guitar, but his words were silenced by the crashing music.
The potion, Jac mouthed, his fingers moving faster and faster as they glided across the strings of the guitar.
There was something eerie about the way the other Neopets were approaching Jac. There was an odd quality in their stare; they moved, zombie-like, closer and closer to Jac, as if they could not pry themselves away from him.
"I'll get help!" Bran shouted, leaping from his place on the pavement. "I'll run to... the Concert Hall, or something. I'll find someone who knows how to stop this." But would anyone know how to stop it? The sound of the guitar wailed menacingly, now playing louder than was physically possible. Although it hurt Bran's ears, the rest of the crowd did not seem to be bothered by the increasing volume of the guitar.
Bran ran toward the Concert Hall, edging his way through the massive throngs of Neopets who had now gathered around Jac. But as he tried to slip past them, they simultaneously reached out for him, pinning him still.
"Wait, what are you doing? Please, let go!" Bran struggled against the group, but they remained still, their cloudy eyes completely focused on Jac's guitar.
"Pllaaaayy," they murmured together. "Plllaaayy some music..."
Date: Feb 20th
"Pllllaaaaayy it... yoooouuu caannnnoottt sttoooppp..." they murmured, an eerie quality to their voices. Bran shivered. Did they really mean that, or was it just a coincidence?
"Why not?" he asked desperately, pushing his way through the crowd as his mind swam with unpleasant thoughts. He was so distracted by different solutions to the problem he had brainstormed, none of which would actually work, that he hadn't noticed what exactly he was pushing.
Startled by the noise, Bran looked down. The guitar, which had fallen out of Jac's hands and onto the ground, shattered into millions of tiny little pieces. Bran gasped. "I'm sorry, Jac, I'm so sorry--" he began, but Jac responded with a broad grin spread out across his face.
"Bran! Look! By breaking the guitar, you stopped me from playing!" Jac finally said, looking delighted. "Bran! All of our problems are solved!"
"Yeah! You're right!" Bran didn't really believe the words coming out of his mouth, but he would never say anything to ruin Jac's good mood. "Yeah! You're free!" He forced his lips into an unconvincing smile, but Jac barely noticed the unrealistic grin.
The two friends laughed together, Jac's laugh a relieved, joyful one and Bran's a false one. They stood there for a moment, just laughing the minute away. But they couldn't ignore the fact that the zombie crowd was not as pleased as they were...
Date: Feb 20th
"Pllaaaayyy foooorr uuussss..." moaned one Draik, lurching toward Jac.
"Keeeeep plaaaayyyiiinnng..." mumbled a Lupe from near the back of the crowd.
But even not a direct order from Fyora herself would have made Bran touch his saxophone, lying forgotten next to Jac's guitar case.
"Let's get out of here," whispered Jac.
"Agreed," Bran hissed back.
The Xweetok's eyes swept the crowd for an opening, a gap in the throng of Neopets. At last, he found one.
His eyes flickered to Jac, who nodded.
The crowd was moving sluggishly, as if the loss of the music had dulled their senses. A few lunged at Bran and Jac as they fled past them in a flash of yellow, brown, and black fur, but most just stared, vacant, mouths agape.
When they'd cleared the crowd and gotten a fair distance away, Jac stopped to take a deep breath.
"That was the freakiest thing in my life," the Kougra panted. "I'm never trusting that Krawley guy again!"
"Jac!" cried Bran abruptly. "They're following us!"
Indeed, the crowd was. When the enthralled Neopets realised that their two new idols were escaping, they began to stumble after them, in a gait that was hauntingly also zombie-like.
"Uhhh, run again?" Jac asked.
"Can't see why not."
The two pets took off again.
"Do you really think this is over?" Jac gasped as the two fled away from the Concert Hall. "After all, you took the potion too..."
Bran gulped. He'd forgotten about that.
Suddenly, Jac grabbed Bran's shoulder, pulling him back.
"What are you doing?" the Xweetok hissed.
The Kougra was trembling. "Bran, I think we have to go back."
"What?" Bran was appalled. "Why?"
"Mr. Krawley said," echoed Jac, his eyes wide, "that the potions were guaranteed to make the music so good that nobody could stop listening."
"Well, they'll have to," growled Bran, trying to push away from Jac. "I want to play music, not weave a spell."
The Kougra was insistent. "Bran, look."
At last, Bran turned around.
The crowd of enthralled Neopets was no longer chasing after them. Instead, they were all locked in various positions, frozen in mid-stumble, eyes wide. They were still as statues, still as stone.
No, they weren't as still as stone; they were stone...
Date: Feb 21st
"Oh," Bran groaned. He hated these little twists of grammar. "This is great. Great. We never should have bought those potions from that Krawley guy. We never should have drunk those potions."
"But we did," Jac said. "And we can't change that now, can we?" He sighed. "Bran, I'm not going to have a bunch of petrified Neopets on my conscience. Go buy us a new guitar. We'll just have to keep playing."
Bran frowned. "I don't like it. There's got to be some other way. Maybe we can go back and find Mr. Krawley? The only way we can solve this is if we get the old guy to reverse everything. I -- I wouldn't mind having to go back to tacky clothing and Soup Kitchen meals and -- and playing on the streets. Really."
Jac bit his lip in thought, staring at the sea of stone figures. "Okay, we'll try to find him," he agreed at last. "But are you sure? I know how much getting to play in the Concert Hall means to you, and --"
The Xweetok shook his head. "No. Come on, let's go back and find ourselves a Krawk."
In the shadows, Mr. Krawley watched the two get farther and farther away, waiting until they were far enough. Then, with a click of his fingers, the frozen crowd began to stir...
Date: Feb 21st
Unbeknownst to Jac and Bran, the zombie crowd shuffled behind the two retreating figures. They blindly followed the friends, walking mechanically. The Krawk watched in a satisfied way, his eyes glittering in the darkness of the shadows he was hiding in. The group was moving along in complete and total silence. As the large gathering of Neopets were receding into the distance, he crept after them.
After a while of walking silently, Jac stopped, looking around him nervously. Quickly, the Krawk snapped his fingers again and the crowd froze in mid-step. The Kougra shot a glance behind him and held out his arm to stop his friend.
The Xweetok turned around to face the gathering of Neopets behind them, stiff and unmoving. "What is it?" Bran asked. "They were like that before."
"No, they weren't," Jac responded sharply. "We've been walking for a while. They should be way behind us."
Bran shrugged uneasily. "Well, let's go."
Jac agreed, though his insides were still squirming with fear. The two began walking again.
Mr. Krawley had been listening closely, and he nodded to himself as he heard the Kougra's suspicions. He snapped again and the stone-Neopets began moving once more.
This time, the group was walking faster so that they were soon close enough to Bran and Jac to touch them.
Suddenly, a pair of ice-cold hands seized Jac from behind. Before he had time to open his mouth and scream, one of the zombies clapped a hand over his mouth and pulled him backward, toward the rest of the enchanted Neopets. He struggled, but whoever was holding him had him in a relentless grip. Jac realised with desperation that he was not going to be able to get free from the immensely strong hold he was in.
Bran, not realising that Jac had vanished, kept walking until he finally stopped at a fork in the path he had been walking on. "Where do you think we should go, Jac?" he asked.
Hearing no response, Bran turned around for the first time, looking for his friend. "Jac? Jac!"
He stared into the distance, where a moving assembly of Neopets was rapidly heading toward him, a blue Krawk at its lead and a blank-looking Kougra at his side...
Date: Feb 22nd
"What do you want?!" cried Bran, his voice shrill with the sudden fear that gripped him. "What have you done to Jac?"
The tall blue Krawk smiled his steely, elusive leer, as he took swift, graceful steps toward the helpless Xweetok. Bran backed up against a wall, eyes wide. The wall felt cold and smooth. He touched it -- it was glass. The glass window of an old, abandoned shop.
"You have just the talent I need," said Mr. Krawley. He pronounced it "neeeed," in a low, quiet, bone-shivering manner.
"But I didn't play the music!" Bran blabbered, rubbing his hands against the glass behind him. "Jac did. Jac was the one, Jac..."
"Listen, please," said Mr. Krawley. "You know what happens to those who do not listen of their own accord." Accooorrrd.
Bran's voice fluttered in his throat and faded.
"Good," said Mr. Krawley. "Now, you drank the potion, the same way your little friend here did." And Jac nodded with an eerie blank smile on his face. "But Jac was the one who drew the crowd. Jac was the one who couldn't stop playing. Jac was the one who noticed that the crowd couldn't stop listening. You were outside of the magic. You were able to resist. I have confirmed that you are the kind of apprentice I need.”
"So this was all just to... test me?" Bran squeaked.
"Not precisely," smiled Mr. Krawley. "Because if you don't come with me, then these Neopets shall never return to their original lives. But if you do come with me, you shall have money. You shall have fame. You shall never be small and insignificant again..."
Bran felt the potion stir in his stomach. The Krawk's eyes bore into his mind. He felt so, so sick...
If he succumbed, Jac and the other Neopets would be free. Or would they? What would he become, if he went with Mr. Krawley? Would he learn to make potent potions, would he be involved in destroying other Neopians' lives? Could he go on resisting, for his whole life?
Why couldn't he resist now?
The potion went on stirring in his stomach. Then, loudly, Bran began to sing.
"I will give you your music!" His voice lifted into the first notes. "A one, a two, a one, two, three, four..."
And the crowd shifted...
"O... there was once a Krawk named Mr. Krawley... he was as evil as can be..."
Mr. Krawley's eyes flashed. And the crowd danced...
"He made these potions, he made these prisoners... let's break free, free, free, free, free!"
The rich tone poured out of Bran's enraged throat. The magic spilled from him and into the listeners, giving them life, giving them freedom.
When the song ended, everyone cheered and clapped. The hypnotism was gone from their eyes.
"Bran!" gasped Jac, throwing himself into his friend's arms, as coins rained upon their feet. "How did you do that? You used Mr. Krawley's magic against him! Wow! This is enough money to buy ten more guitars!"
"Maybe we will make it into the Tyrannian Concert Hall after all," said Bran, his smile still glazed with shock.
Back in the shadow of an alley, Mr. Krawley gnashed his teeth. "I will be back," he hissed. "I will be back for you, Bran."
But for now, Jac and Bran were safe in the warm world of music.
Date: Feb 22nd
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