Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)
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||You are on Week 361
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 Sixty One Ends March 21
Princess Amira sighed as she stared out her window at the rolling golden sand dunes and brilliant blue sky. Another day of listening to citizens' petitions and having meetings with her various advisors stretched out before her, as seemingly endless as the sand outside. What she would have given to be out there on the dunes, with Sakhmet at her back, riding off toward adventure!
A polite cough coming from the doorway drew Amira away from her daydreams. Senator Barca who stood there, with two shadow Meercas behind her. They were holding a large chest between them. The Meercas seemed vaguely familiar to Amira, but she saw so many Sakhmetians each day that she couldn't really be expected to remember all of them.
"Yes, Senator?" said Amira. The chest was probably a gift from the latest of her many suitors, hoping to tempt the princess into marriage with gems and baubles. As if my royal coffers were incapable of buying all the jewels I could ever want, thought Amira. How dull.
"I apologise for the disturbance, Your Highness," Senator Barca said, licking her lips nervously. The Acara didn't look like her usual unflappable self, Amira noticed. Tiny beads of sweat quivered on her forehead, her eyes darted from side to side, and she was almost wringing her paws. "It seems these two, uh, worthy citizens of Sakhmet wished for an audience with you as soon as possible. They have something of great importance to share."
Amira was just barely able to keep herself from rolling her eyes. "Very well. Let them come forward."
Senator Barca dropped a quick curtsy and scurried away. The two Meercas approached Amira's throne, setting their chest on the carpet before her. Upon closer inspection, they were strange-looking fellows, their black fur streaked here and there with brown. They threw open the lid of the chest.
"If Your Majesty would come a bit closer, she would be able to see the great treasure we have brought for her," one of them said.
"If you insist," Amira replied, irritation clear in her voice. She stood and descended the steps from her throne. The chest was quite unspectacular for something that was supposed to hold a great treasure -- it was just plain wood and had a few black smudges on the lid and handles.
"Now!" one of the Meercas shouted, and Amira felt strong paws on her back, shoving her toward the chest. She tumbled into it, and the lid slammed over her head before she could even scream...
Date: Mar 17th
Trapped inside the dark, stifling depths of the sinister chest, Amira's thoughts raced. In a frenzy she hammered her fists against the thick, unyielding wood, crying out, uttering threats, shrieking ancient Sakhmetian curses.
"A pox on you! Release me!"
Sinister laughter drifted through the dense trunk that had suddenly shifted from a possible object of disdain into a prison.
"Oh, don't worry, Your Highness. Our journey is only a short one, then you'll be out of that nasty box!"
The voices seemed more familiar now. Those mocking, lyrical tones filled with the smug satisfaction of a wicked deed well done. Amira's heart sunk. How could she have been so stupid? Had the excessive predictability of desert life become such routine to her that she had lost the ability to even be on her guard? Two Meercas had approached in what now seemed obviously to be a disguise of shadowy paint, and that slimy film of onyx had been enough to make her forget two names that stained the pages of desert history.
"Heermeedjet and Meerouladen."
She whispered the names to herself in the unforgiving darkness, almost taunting her own memory and foolishness. Those two wicked beasts who had almost brought the desert realm to its knees in a carefully designed plot filled with intrigue and ambition. Had Barca known when she had led them to the Princess? Somehow Amira suspected she had, recalling the senator's nervous air.
An awkward jolt threw the delicate Aisha back against the lid of the massive structure and she gasped in outrage.
"They'll work out who abducted me!"
Mocking laughter sounded, followed by a slow, sinister hiss, dangerously close to her.
"We're counting on it..."
Date: Mar 17th
Amira leaned back against the wood, listening to the frantic thuds of her heart. This definitely wasn't what she had been hoping for when she'd longed for a more interesting life! If those Meercas managed to kidnap more leaders of Sakhmet... but did they even know what they were doing? Crafty and cunning though they might be, Hermeedjet and Merouladen were but petty thieves, interested only in gold!
"Why are you doing this?" Amira demanded, trying to summon her rapidly diminishing royal attitude. "Is it gold you seek? I have access to some of the richest coffers in Sakhmet. Release me, and you will receive more payment than anything your master could possibly give you!"
The ear-scratching laughter sounded again, echoing. Amira pricked up her ears -- were they in some sort of secret tunnel that she didn't know about? But this was her own palace!
"She thinks we're working for a master!" howled one of the Meercas, so piercingly that Amira could envision his tears of glee.
Surrounded by haunting laughter and darkness, Amira felt her cheeks grow hot with anger and bewilderment. "How could you not?" she repelled haughtily. "Somehow I cannot imagine filthy thieves like you planning elaborate kidnapping schemes all by yourselves. Somebody must be hiring you to do their dirty work."
"Oh, you are certainly right in that regard," hissed a dark voice that Amira guessed to be Merouladen's. "But our mistress is more powerful than you, dear Princess. Were you under the illusion that you held power over all Sakhmet? She has been planning her ascent for years... when we are done with you, she will reward us more richly than you can. You don't even control your own citizens anymore, let alone your coffers."
"How dare you!" cried Princess Amira, hurling a futile kick at the wall of her small prison. "I have hundreds of officers at my command. They will come to my rescue at any moment..."
"You think so, do you?" shrieked the other Meerca, possibly Heermeedjet. "What about your Senator Barca? She led us to you willingly enough! Do you believe her to be on your side?" His shrill voice trailed off into laughter again, merging with the chuckles of his brother.
The chest rocked roughly from side to side. Amira lay back in the darkness, struggling against the sickly feeling that threatened to engulf her. Senator Barca had been one of her most trustworthy advisers for years. How could she betray her to this new usurper, whoever she was?
Then a memory burst into Amira's mind, so sharply that she nearly cried out. How could she have been so blind?
The name found its way to her parched lips, "Vyssa..."
Date: Mar 18th
Vyssa the Usul, so young and so much potential, but utterly naive. The power she wielded as a princess was enormous and, in her hands, extremely volatile. She'd always been jealous of her sister, complaining of the rule that she had been denied. In some ways, it had only been a matter of time before she stopped listening to the Royal Council, got sick of Amira sitting on the throne, and made a move against her.
It was sad to see that time had finally come. In her heart of hearts, the Aisha had secretly held a little spark of hope that maybe, against the odds, it might not happen. It seemed that she had been wrong.
"You poor fool," sneered the voice of Merouladen. She could almost feel his piercing gaze burrow through the wood and deep down into her skull. "What must it be like to be turned upon by your own sibling, I wonder? Ironic, don't you think, that there is more honour among thieves than royals."
Amira could imagine them swapping almost pitiful gazes. Strange as it seemed, she knew what the Meerca meant. There was a tangible bond between him and his brother. Somehow you knew, just by hearing them talk together, that though they may be prepared to double-cross, rob, or cheat nearly anyone else, they could never do it to one another. Amira had never had that with Vyssa. There had always been a rift between them, as if they had never quite known each other despite spending years in each other’s company.
Now Vyssa had turned upon her, and Amira felt a strange sensation in her heart. Something about the turning was horribly cruel, though she had known full well that it would happen some day. The final severance of trust, maybe, or something akin to that.
The Aisha lay back and folded her arms about her body. There was a chill wind in the box. Maybe it was the cold of the realisation, but she didn't think so. It was a far more physical cold than that.
Was there a hole in the box? She didn't think so. She still sat in a shroud of complete darkness; it was too black to see anything. And besides, she was in a well-heated palace in the middle of the Lost Desert. Nothing should be even remotely cold here.
Though there was one place... nobody was supposed to know about that, however, save for herself and a few select guards. Was it possible that they'd turned against her too...?
Suddenly, a voice announced in a mocking voice, "New arrival, Your Majesty!"
The huge box was placed roughly on the ground and the top flung open. Before Amira's eyes could adjust to the dazzling light again, another body was flung in beside her.
She gasped. The shapes were still reforming in her mind, but there was no doubt. Beside her, sprawled in an untidy heap, was...
Date: Mar 18th
"Vyssa?" Amira gasped, confused. Vyssa wasn't the one behind this?
The Usul's eyes widened, and she shook her head quickly.
Vyssa made frantic hand motions. "Be quiet," she whispered, so softly it could have just been the distant moaning of the desert wind. "I've got a lot to tell you. Don't interrupt. Don't say anything that might warn the two fools up there that we know."
Amira nodded. "But what are you doing here?"
"I got caught while trying to get to your secret chamber to get earrings of yours that totally matched an awesome new necklace I bought in Sakhmet all of two hours ago," Vyssa said sourly, and Amira offered a half smile. That explained why her finicky little sister was in that stinking pile of peasant rags, but Amira had no idea that Vyssa knew where her hidey hole was. Who else, she wondered, might also know?
"So what do you have to --" She stopped, and the bright light disappeared abruptly. Someone had put the lid back on their box, plunging them back into total darkness.
"Amira," Vyssa said, her confident voice suddenly shaky. "Amira, I'm scared."
All those years spent apart seemed to have eaten away even Amira's memories. But now she finally remembered Vyssa had always had a fear of the dark. It had something to do with falling into a pit filled with nasty Cobralls as a child.
The Aisha sighed. "It's all right. Here." She felt around the tiny box until she found Vyssa's shaking paw and held it. The box shook, and Amira sensed they were moving again. Great. Hopefully, this ride was almost over.
It was over too soon. In about two minutes (the time it took, Amira noted, to travel down the staircase leading to her chamber), the box hit the floor again. Whatever important information Vyssa had was going to have to wait.
"For a bunch of brainless Meercas, that was pretty fast," a cold voice noted. It sounded familiar, somehow, and Amira wondered who it could be. Someone from the court, though, she was sure.
"Amira," Vyssa whispered. "This is what I found out. But I had no idea she would be here, too!"
Huh? Amira felt like she was missing out on something. "But who is 'she'?"
"I can't believe you didn't recognise her. That's Princess Sankara..."
Date: Mar 19th
Before Amira could even draw a breath in to gasp, the trunk lid was flung open and the Aisha found herself blinking as bright light blinded her once again. But her eyes didn't need time to adjust; she recognised the figure in front of her immediately.
"Sankara." It was Vyssa who spoke first, curtly greeting the Aisha with a slight stammer in her voice.
Sankara beamed. "Vyssa, dear, how are you?" But before the Usul could reply, Sankara had already started greeting Amira. "And Amira, darling, I hope that journey wasn't too rough on you."
Amira gritted her teeth and felt a surge of anger toward her fellow Aisha. Being trapped in that dreadful box had been a terrible experience. She never wanted to see the wretched thing again. Now that her "Vyssa-wants-the-throne-back" theory had been eliminated, she was left confused and clueless, a feeling she did not exactly enjoy. She wanted answers. Now.
"Sankara," Amira began, but she was cut off as the Aisha turned around dramatically and gracefully dropped herself into an elaborate chair hidden behind a wooden desk. It was then that Amira realised where they were -- it wasn't a place she came often, but she recognised it instantly. The war room. Spears leaned up against the walls like soldiers, and maps and charts of ancient battle plans were pasted here and there. Why, out of all the places in the palace, would Sankara bring them here?
It took a while for Amira to realise the Aisha in question was talking. "--sorry that I had to be so brash and crude, but it really was the only way I could get you two to speak with me." Sankara smiled at them warmly, as if they were guests at a tea party and not recent kidnapping victims.
"Sankara--" Amira said again, but like the previous time she was interrupted.
"Now, let's get down to business..." Sankara's smile had slowly faded away and her eyes acquired a cold look. Amira shivered, the expression almost frightened her.
"As you know, I have been a loyal member of the royal court for numerous years and--"
"--I think it's time I got something I've been wanting for a long time--"
"We are not going to give you the throne!"
Amira jumped. Vyssa's sudden outburst surprised everyone, but it seemed to do the trick. Sankara stared at them with shocked eyes and an extremely startled expression before bursting into laughter.
Amira exchanged glances with her sister. That certainly hadn't been what she was expecting.
"You think I'm after the royal crown?" Sankara gasped between giggles. "That's ridiculous! I have never, in all my years of living here, ever wanted to become queen of the desert. That title belongs to one of you two." The Aisha's laughter faded and the cold flicker returned to her dark eyes. "No... I do not want the throne. What I want is something much simpler, but no less powerful..."
Vyssa frowned. "What are you talking about?"
Sankara smiled and settled back into her chair. "I believe you two are familiar with my story, yes? Years ago, my beloved kingdom of Khamtef was destroyed by that vicious warlord, King Heksas. As well as being the heir to the Fourth Khonsu Dynasty, I was the only known member of my kingdom to survive. That's when I came here, to the Lost Desert, where I was welcomed with open arms and a new home. It was what I needed, yes, but not what I was looking for. I always have dreamt of the day when I would raise an army and seek revenge against King Heksas. And although your late father was very kind to me... the one thing he refused to grant me was an army."
She smiled darkly, and although Amira knew the almost bloodthirsty look in her eyes was not directed at them, it made her shiver. "But, alas, Coltzan is gone now. And although I miss him dearly -- he was almost like a father to me -- it is time for change, for me to finally get what I want."
Vyssa was still frowning, still confused, but Amira got it instantly, and she desperately wished she hadn't...
"You don't mean..."
"Yes," Sankara smirked. "You will give me the title of general and the use of a small army, so I can seek out the one who destroyed my life and potentially destroy his. In return, I will grant you your freedom..."
Date: Mar 19th
Amira shook her head. "I will not -- cannot -- condone this," she replied icily. "Sakhmet cannot afford to be ensnared in a war with anyone, not now, and especially not against Heksas. He is a... barbarian," she spat.
"Which is exactly why I desire to defeat him!" Sankara shot back, voice rising. "I must regain control of my kingdom! If I do not, my kingdom will never return to the state it once was. With your help, Khamtef can be restored to its former glory! Sakhmet and Khamtef can move forward into a golden age, an age full of happiness, and more importantly, we will be safe. You need this as much as I do, Amira."
She opened her mouth to respond, but was interrupted by Vyssa. "There's more than one way to do this, Sankara. Why do you insist on a war?"
The other Aisha laughed with the air of knowing something the sisters didn't. "You think I am the one who came up with this plan? You two are more ignorant than you seem."
Amira's insides flipped once more. "Please, Sankara, enough with the games. I cannot take any more awful surprises."
Sankara eyed her carefully for a moment, then sneered. "Very well. I shall attempt to explain it all in ways you two can understand."
Vyssa glared at her, bristling, but Amira placed a hand on her sister's shoulder. There were times to retort; this was not one of them. Her sister frowned and closed her mouth before the insult could materialise. "Continue, Sankara," Amira said in as civil a voice as she could muster.
"As I have said, my years in your court have been spent campaigning for a diplomatic solution to the horrific situation in Khamtef. And time after time, my attempts have been denied. The senators, it seems, are uninterested in the affairs of neighbouring kingdoms.
"They are fools. They do not understand the basic rules of government. No kingdom is an island, not even one stranded in the desert. But I was certain that one day the fools in power would see it my way, that they would be willing to help me in any way possible, and so I tirelessly continued campaigning.
"And that day came but a few short weeks ago. I was approached by one of your oldest and wisest senators, who claimed she had a plan that would achieve both my goals and strengthen Sakhmet in the process. Needless to say, I was intrigued. The plan made sense, and I agreed to do whatever it took to see it succeed."
"Which included kidnapping?" Amira replied with contempt.
Sankara nodded. "It had to be done," she said, voice barely above a whisper.
"But who was the senator?" Vyssa asked. "I see them all on a daily basis; I know that none of them would be willing to do this."
"Then you do not know me well enough," a new voice said from behind the sisters. Amira turned on the spot to meet the gaze of her most trusted adviser.
"Senator Barca?" Amira asked blankly. "You're behind all of this? You orchestrated my kidnapping?"
The Acara nodded grimly. "As Sankara said, it had to be done. I regret that it had to be done this way. But don't you see, my dear? By assisting Sankara in recapturing her kingdom, Sakhmet will solidify what our government has been working toward since the unfortunate death of your father. We will assume our rightful position as the dominant force of the desert!"
"You cannot do this!" Amira replied, appalled that these words were pouring out of Barca's mouth. "This is a peaceful kingdom!"
The Meerca Brothers, who had been silent throughout the lengthy speeches, broke the atmosphere with a sharp snicker. "Peaceful, Your Highness?" one of them asked.
"Better take a look out the window to be sure," the other said between chuckles.
Amira looked past the brothers and let out a mix of a gasp and a shriek. For there, in four tight columns, was her army, marching past the Sakhmet gates...
Date: Mar 20th
"Peace never lasts long," Sankara said in a calm, cool tone as she watched Amira's reaction. "And besides, being a princess, is it not your duty to protect your kingdom?"
"Protection?" the other Aisha spat. "This has nothing to do with protection! This is revenge!"
There was a glimmer of regret in Sankara's eyes. "I'm sorry. But it had to be done. Khamtef must be restored... and I could never see the same happen to Sakhmet."
"What?" Vyssa interjected. "Heksas was going to attack Sakhmet?"
The flash of regret was gone. "No. But it was a possibility that could not be allowed to occur."
Senator Barca stepped in. There was a strange glitter in her eyes. "Besides, peace never spawns glory."
"Glory?" Amira whirled around. "What are you talking about?"
"I thought we already discussed this," Sankara said, smirking at Amira. "With Heksas's threat over and done with, Khamtef can be restored. And Sakhmet will become even greater."
"And how many Sakhmetians are going to end up dying for this glory?"
Senator Barca smirked. "At least three."
Sankara turned around to face her, not comprehending. "What are you talking about?"
The Acara laughed, a high, cold cacophony that sent tendrils of ice up Amira's spine. This wasn't the wise adviser she'd known.
"You're all too concerned about your own little dramas," she sneered. "Little Amira wants peace, Sankara, some pathetic vindication, and Vyssa? Cosmetics." She spat out the last word. "None of that will help Sakhmet. But I... I have larger plans. And they don't include you."
"Traitor!" Sankara gasped.
Barca smirked. "Took long enough for you to figure that out."
Amira's head reeled. "But why would you want to send out an army to Khamtef?"
Another high-pitched, icy, ringing laugh. "Because Sakhmet's not enough. Khamtef can be restored... under a different banner. Mine. I will be ruler of the whole desert..."
Date: Mar 20th
Shock seemed to echo through the now silent room. Amira shook her head in disbelief. "You're crazy."
"Most geniuses are," Barca replied with a wicked smirk. The Acara clapped her hands together, and the Meerca Brothers left their positions by the wall to join her, their eyes shining darkly with excitement. "Now then," Barca continued in a cold voice. "I think it's time I dealt with you three troublesome pests. There is no need for you in my new empire."
Amira heard Vyssa whimper beside her as the Usul hid behind her sister. Amira bit her lip. "You are not going to get away with this!"
Barca chuckled. "I already have."
"Sakhmet will never obey your command."
For a moment, a flicker of unease crossed the Acara's darkly confident face. But it was gone as quickly as it appeared. "Oh they will, they will..." She turned to Heermeedjet and Merouladen. "You know what to do."
They grinned viciously and advanced. "Come along, Sankara. It's time to join your little friends in the box."
Ah, the box. With all that was going on, Amira had almost forgotten the dreadful thing. Both she and Vyssa struggled against the gripping paws of the Meercas, but the brothers were too strong, and the sisters soon found themselves crouched in that hateful box once again.
The Meerca Brothers seemed to have no difficulties with Sankara. The Aisha didn't even try to resist; Amira figured she was paralysed with shock. Heermeedjet led Sankara to the chest and Merouladen shoved her in, laughing.
As soon as Sankara entered the trunk, Amira realised she was being uncharacteristically silent for a reason.
Sankara tilted her head in an almost unnoticeable way and whispered, "I have a plan."
Although Amira longed to get out of the wicked box and be free at any cost, she was still seething with rage toward her fellow Aisha. "Why should I trust you? In case you're forgetting, you betrayed me as well."
Sankara looked as if she had been slapped in the face, but after a while she let out small sigh. "You're right. And I'm sorry."
Amira sniffed in reply, determined to not look at her.
"I know it's hard to accept my apology," Sankara added quickly, "but we can not let Barca triumph."
"Fine," Amira hissed. "I'll help. But for the good of Sakhmet, not for you."
Sankara nodded sadly. "I understand. Now, here is what you have to do..."
Date: Mar 21st
Outside the box, Senator Barca felt a rush of cold power flood through her veins. This was it.
"Now," she commanded the Meercas.
Inside the box, Sankara, Amira, and Vyssa concentrated grimly. This was it.
"Now," whispered Sankara.
And the Meercas pushed. Barca watched, waiting to see the box topple out the window, but instead it tipped, rolling backward. The Meercas lost their balance and went down with two surprised yowls. Barca roared, the box wobbled, and the three princesses within gritted their teeth, forgot everything else and pushed hard together. The box picked up speed, tumbling straight toward Barca's voice.
Barca's eyes grew wide as sun-discs. Then she fell.
The lid of the box clattered open with the impact, spilling the three princesses out into the light. Sankara leapt up immediately, pounced on Barca, and looked as though she might throttle the bewildered Acara. Amira and Vyssa picked up the empty box and promptly put it over the two dazed Meercas. Then they grabbed whatever heavy objects they could find and, one by one, piled them on top of the box, trapping the Meercas securely inside.
"Hey!" shouted the Meercas. "Let us out!"
"Hey!" shouted Amira. "Didn't I tell you that you were obeying the wrong orders, you petty thieves?!"
"Hey!" shouted Sankara. "This is what you get for not keeping your word, you traitorous old Acara!"
"Hey!" shouted Barca. "This is no way to treat an elderly Neopet!"
"Hey," said Vyssa. "Does anyone have a brush?"
They all blinked. Then Amira turned to her sister and said, "What do you need a brush for?"
"Well, we've just been through a physically draining ordeal," said the young Usul. "After all that unseemly athletic exertion, is a bit of fur grooming too much to ask for?"
"For Khamtef's sake!" exclaimed Sankara. "We've got work to do! There's this old traitor to tie up, and a whole army to stop!"
Amira stared at her fellow Aisha. "But I thought you wanted to take revenge on Heksas."
"I thought I did," said Sankara irritably, "until this filthy betrayer showed me the extent that evil and violence could go to. Now will you help me tie her up?"
Silently, Amira pulled down the flags of the war room, knotted them together, and brought them over to Sankara. Vyssa sighed and got down beside the other two princesses, working the makeshift rope round and round the corrupted senator.
"Look," Barca began, but Amira stuffed a flag of Sakhmet into her mouth. "Gnfff."
"I wish I didn't have to do this, Senator," said Amira heavily. "I used to trust you with all my heart. You were my mentor, my guide. I listened to you... and look where you've taken me. I'm sorry, Senator. It's time for me to take charge now. Gone is your naïve, sweet little princess."
"Gnf," Barca replied, tears swimming in her pale eyes.
"Now don't you try that on me," said Amira, standing up. "I haven't got time to forgive you. I have to undo your evil deeds first. And then, when I get back, I'll see."
She turned and smiled softly at Sankara. "Let's go. We have a royal order to issue and enforce."
"Yes," the heiress of Khamtef replied, "and a peaceful arrangement to achieve."
"I am so glad you finally found peace in your heart, Sankara," said Amira, putting her hand in Sankara's. "You've always been so ardent, so desperate for revenge. I can't imagine the pain you must have gone through when you lost your kingdom. You are so brave... I can't stress this enough... to put aside that sorrow for the good of the Lost Desert."
"Thank you for forgiving me," was all Sankara said.
The third princess lagged behind, smoothing her fur uncertainly.
"Can I stay here?" asked Vyssa in a small voice. "I'll... keep watch. It's been such a long day..."
"Oh, come on, Vyssa," said Amira. "You're a princess! Didn't you always complain about your lack of power? Here's your chance! Stand up and lead, for Sakhmet!"
"All right," the younger princess sighed.
In the middle of the Lost Desert, Coltzan's Shrine stood, sedate and grand. As the Sakhmetian army turned in the distance and came marching back, led by three beautiful figures, the sun seemed to blaze brighter. For just one gleaming moment, the shrine seemed to grow taller, crowned with golden joy.
Date: Mar 21st
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