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

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Week 362
You are on Week 363
Week 364

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 Three Ends April 4

"Come on, Poia, it'll be the best trick ever! All of Neopia is going to be pulling pranks today, so we have to do something amazing to stand out!" The Shoyru gave his friend an imploring look. "I really need your help with this."

The Lutari's sceptical expression didn't change. "I don't know, Aodhan. It sounds really dangerous, plus it'll just scare innocent Neopians."

"It won't be dangerous at all!" the Shoyru cried. "All we have to do is gather some wood and trash like rotten sandals from the Money Tree, and then set the pile on fire. Everyone will think that the volcano is erupting! It'll be hilarious!"

"It'll cause mass hysteria, more like. Sorry, Aodhan. I think you've gone too far this time," Poia said sadly and walked away from her friend.

"I don't need her anyway," Aodhan muttered to himself, flapping his orange wings in irritation. "She'll see. This will be the greatest prank ever pulled in Neopia!"

********

The first day of the month of Eating dawned, and the tricks and pranks began in earnest. Poia enjoyed most of them, though she couldn't help but worry about Aodhan's plans for the day. She hoped he had given up his silly volcano scheme.

As she made her way toward the Giant Omelette (which she half-feared would be full of dung as a joke), the Lutari noticed Neopians milling around in a panic.

"What's going on?" she asked a frightened-looking Techo. "Is there something gross in the Omelette?"

"The volcano's erupting! Look! We have to flee!" The Techo pointed toward the horizon, where the volcano's bulk rose above the plateau. Sure enough, a narrow stream of black smoke seemed to be rising from its crater.

"I can't believe this..." Poia murmured and began running toward the volcano.

"Hey, you're going the wrong way!" the Techo shouted after her, but it was too late.

When she got closer to the volcano, Poia could see Aodhan's shape darting above the rim of the crater.

"Aodhan! Come down from there! You're scaring everyone; it's not worth it!"

The Shoyru landed gracefully on the volcano and threw another bit of wood onto his bonfire. "It's the best prank Neopia's ever seen, Poia! Lighten up!"

Poia shook her head sadly, running a paw over her forehead. Her friend would never learn. "Aodhan, please come down." There was no answer, however. She looked up at the volcano's rim. It was empty except for the crackling bonfire. "Aodhan? Aodhan! Where are you?"

Author: April Fool
Date: Mar 31st
Silence.

"Aodhan...."

Poia groaned. She wasn't sure whether he'd just ducked off for more fuel and couldn't hear her over the fire and wind, or if he was playing a trick on her, or if he could be really hurt.

It was Aodhan, so playing a trick was pretty likely; on the other paw, he was her friend, so she had to go check.

The Lutari started up the volcano, struggling to climb it. Unlike Mystery Island, no paths were worn into these slopes, and unlike Aodhan, Poia had no wings; she had to haul herself up rock by hot rock with admittedly sturdy claws, but her paws far better adapted to water.

Still, she was stubborn enough to keep going, muttering to herself about what she'd do to Aodhan for worrying her if he did jump up and say it was a prank.

She made it at last, hauling herself up over the rim of the crater and promptly doubling over to cough violently as a billow of smoke stung her eyes and throat. She wiped her watering eyes at last as the wind changed and patted out a spark that had landed in her fur.

"Aodhan!"

She surveyed the area warily. There was a good-sized ledge just below her, with the bonfire burning merrily out at its farthest extremity. Beyond it, to her astonishment, was a lake -- deep, beautiful blue, and deliciously inviting. The volcano's crater must have filled with water over time.

Poia shook herself and tore her attention away from the lake. Where was Aodhan? She scanned the ledge, squinted past the smoke to see if he had flown off somewhere...

Her heart stuttered as she saw an orange lump lying still among the bundles of fuel for the fire. She raced forward...

Author: schefflera
Date: Mar 31st
"Aodhan!"

The gasp left Poia's throat in an urgent cry. This couldn't be happening. Not to Aodhan, who had survived more dangerous pranks than this. Scrambling over the piles of fuel, the frenzied Lutari kicked an old boot out of the way, dashing toward the orange lump that lay in the midst of the mess, smoke threatening to obscure her vision once more as she raced closer, then skidded to a halt.

It wasn't Aodhan, though Poia didn't know whether to be relieved or not. She paused in her brief contemplation of how best to gag the Shoyru with his own wings for putting her through this stress when the orange item again caught her eye. Squinting, the Lutari dropped to her knees to examine... whatever it was.

Onyx claws reached for the strange object, brushing over it before recoiling in horror.

"Revolting!" Although no one was there to hear her, Poia couldn't keep her disgust silent. It appeared to be fur. No. Not fur, hair.

Puzzled, the Lutari blinked slowly. What in Neopia was a bright orange clump of hair doing in the midst of the fuel pile? Poia's gaze slowly shifted forward, drifting over the discarded old boots, rotting apple cores, and broken fishing poles that were scattered in a haphazard fashion around the smouldering bonfire.

Scattered as if once neatly piled. A sudden chill washed over the Lutari. If nothing else, her friend was a master of his art. Aodhan took great pride in every prank he played. Poia knew the Shoyru would have spent hours piling each junk item with meticulous care, probably in order of what would burn brightest.

And here the mess was scattered wildly around, Aodhan nowhere to be seen.

Poia scratched her head slowly. Who would have disturbed Aodhan's work? Who cared that much about cheap laughs and nasty pranks?

Who left orange hair behind?

The Lutari shook her head, letting her gaze drift slowly back to the lake. Idly she wandered toward the crystal waters, a faint smile playing upon her lips. Had Aodhan known about the water? It seemed likely. He would have needed some method of extinguishing his wicked blaze; it seemed unlikely that the Shoyru would abandon returning to the plateau and laughing at the miserable and fooled in favour of flying buckets of water to the top of the volcano.

Suddenly, the Lutari blinked, gazing down at the shimmering liquid that lapped softly against the rim of the cavernous volcano. Bobbing merrily among the aquatic blue was something bright red. Long, shiny... a shoe?

Laughter echoed behind the Lutari but brought no smile to her face. An eerie understanding was settling over her, mind slowly ticking over, linking each aspect of the scene. Already she knew it wasn't Aodhan giggling behind her. The Shoyru's gleeful cackle was nothing like this ominous, screeching laughter. She knew the approaching footsteps were silenced by rubbery shoes, similar to the one floating before her.

And now she knew exactly who had such an interest in clowning around.

Scuttling to her feet, the Lutari whipped around, meeting her pursuers in fright and rage. Was this what had befallen her friend? Could they literally stand no one else having a more wicked reputation for clowning than they?

What in Neopia did they want with her?

Poia didn't think she wanted to find out. With a short scream, she turned to flee, just as the group of Chia Clowns began to close in...

Author: anjie
Date: Apr 1st
Another group of clowns suddenly appeared and began to move toward her, waddling with amazing speed, from the other direction. The Lutari was trapped upon the ledge, helpless to do anything but watch as that horrible sea of garish, orange wigs came closer. Their red noses glowed in the sun like warning lights as their painted-on smiles never wavered. For a moment, Poia thought her number was up.

All at once an idea bloomed in her mind like a precious blossom in an arid desert - the water! She wasn't sure how well those Chias could swim, especially in their oversized green pants, but she felt confident that, as a Lutari, she was a better swimmer. Quickly, she ran to the edge and jumped. The warm air above the water caught her and almost suspended her momentarily before she fell into the crystalline lake below.

The water was warm and slipped through her fur with silky fingers. Any other time, she would have taken a moment to appreciate a good swim, but she feared the clowns would soon be in pursuit. Expertly, she dived deep below the sparkling surface and made her way toward the depths of the mysterious lake.

She could hear a disturbance in the water and suspected that the Chias had clumsily dived in behind her, but she didn't turn around to confirm her suspicion. Slicing through the water, she continued to dive as the water grew warmer and bubbles now tickled her delicate nose.

A light slowly flickered into view ahead, and Poia swam toward it. She had no idea what could be ahead, but at this point it had to be better than what was behind her. The light grew and grew, as if this lake had managed to swallow the very sun that rose and fell in the sky, until the Lutari had to squint to see. She continued forward until her paws met slight resistance.

It was like pushing through a bubble, but Poia propelled herself forward. Suddenly, she found herself falling through dry air and onto a rocky patch of ground. She rubbed her head for a second, trying to regain her senses, before dodging behind a large rock. Just behind her, the group of Chia Clowns fell, landing almost comically upon one another. They all rubbed their heads as their wigs tangled with one another and stepped on each other with their large red shoes. Finally, they all righted themselves and began to walk away.

Poia breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the Chias weren't going to look for her. Once they were out of sight, she clambered to the top of the rock to get a grasp on her surroundings. She couldn't believe what view stretched out before her like a surrealistic painting.

Somehow, existing in a bubble beneath the lake of the volcano, there was a city of clowns. Buildings of bright, clashing colours leaned at precarious angles as clowns ambled through the streets. There was procession making their way down one of the streets like some sort of evil parade. The Lutari peered at the group.

She gasped when she saw a very frightened Aodhan at the front of the group. Even from this distance, she could see he appeared dazed, tied up with a series of brightly coloured scarves - and dressed in full clown garb...

Author: tj_wagner
Date: Apr 1st
There was no sense of perspective here. Everything was twisted or slanted, buildings clashing wildly as if battling for supremacy over the rocky, crazily bent ground. The street stretched out before her like one crazy, nonsensical lump, with weird, unexpected sudden changes at every turn.

Just walking down it made her feel nauseated, trapped in a world where everything seemed like an optical illusion, the manic laughter of Chia Clowns rising up every time she stumbled or fell awkwardly on the bricks, her head tangled in a dizzy mess.

"You've lost your way!" giggled one, as she passed it, fresh from picking herself up for the umpteenth time. His robotic nose lit up, metal jaw hinging squeakily to allow for the unnatural machine voice.

Poia stared at it, made nervous by the strange, distant glare that emanated from its unmoving beady eyes. She gabbed a little, unsure what to say.

Suddenly, the clown began to shriek out a demonic laugh, spinning in erratic circles with its big red shoes. Poia whimpered, placing her hands over her ears, for the noise was horrible, like needles driven through her ears.

And then, as suddenly as it had started, the clown stopped. Its mouth hinged shut, and it made a neat about-turn. It started back down the rolling street, waddling away robotically with the perfect rhythm it shared with its kin, the turning clockwork screw spinning gently in its back.

Poia looked over her shoulder, thin, silent words trailing like colourful ribbons from her mouth. The clown was indistinguishable now, identical to the thousands of others that moved on the street alongside him. They stared forward with blank expressions, laughing softly at nothing in particular. Whatever interest they had initially displayed in her presence was now gone, and they paid her about as much attention as they would a speck in their fuzzy orange hair.

The Lutari struggled to the top of the street, legs more doddery now than ever before. There she encountered Aodhan, and the clowns fussily prowling around him, poking and prodding and applying extra splotches of makeup to his face.

"Poia!" the Shoyru gasped, seeing his friend. "You found me! Thank Fyora you're finally here. Listen, you have to get me out of here, okay? These clowns don't look all that friendly. I'm afraid they might..."

One of his captors stuffed a bunch of silken hankies into his mouth.

"Silence, captive," it droned. "We must prepare you for your coronation..."

Author: puffpastry654
Date: Apr 2nd
Aodhan's eyes bulged in fear as the clown forced the gag into his mouth, and Poia watched with horror as another one stepped forward, bearing the object of her friend's "coronation."

It could hardly be called a crown. The object looked more like a space helmet, with three orange prongs sticking out of it just as the hair spiked out from the Chia Clowns' robotic heads. Poia stared, frozen, as it was placed on her friend, and the group of clowns backed off slightly.

Aodhan turned his newly crowned head to look at Poia, and she could see that he was terrified out of his mind. She was too, but the Lutari knew that she had to stop whatever was going to happen, or else her friend would be giggling away like one of the robots themselves.

Without hesitation, Poia pushed her way through the crowd and strode up to Aodhan. The clown who had placed the apparatus on the Shoyru's head was still standing next to him, fiddling with some sort of remote control that looked like a water gun.

Poia wordlessly knocked the device out of the robot's hands with her strong black claws, sending it skipping across the street before sliding to a halt. The clown turned to her, and the entire city seemed to follow its gaze. Poia now found herself being stared down by thousands of blank, humourless eyes.

There was a tense moment of eerie silence, and then the Chia Clown spoke, its mechanical tones echoing through the streets. "Not funny," he said simply. The clown turned to another robot, the one who was standing closest to the fallen remote. "Commence the coronation," he continued. "And this one" -- he pointed to Poia -- "can be next. She needs a bit of... lightening up."

As one clown reached down to pick up the controller, others stretched out their stubby arms toward Poia, shuffling toward her with their red shoes. The Lutari saw the clown press a button on the device, and she swiftly reached out, grabbed the helmet by two of its prongs, and wrenched it off of Aodhan's head...

Author: reggieman721
Date: Apr 2nd
She had the helmet in her hands only for a second, fully intending to hurl the awful machine away from her and Aodhan, when the Chia Clown firmly pressed the button on the remote.

Time seemed to freeze as every clown suddenly stopped, staring directly at the Lutari.

Get rid of the helmet, now, before it's too late! her mind commanded, but her body couldn't respond. Her muscles were locked in place, and she could only watch in blank shock as the thing in her hands began to vibrate. All its prongs lit up and began flashing. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the helmet turned limp in her grip.

"Wha-" she began numbly, but before she could mutter another sound, a fog filled her mind. All of her thoughts and feelings were buried, leaving only one robotic voice to echo in her empty head.

I. Am. Ruler. Of. Chia. Clowns.

The thought to fight or struggle against the mechanical voice didn't occur to Poia. Of course she was going to comply with the helmet's commands, it was her destiny. She had to embrace a new life.

"I. Am. Ruler. Of. Chia. Clowns," she repeated in no more than a murmur, but the sound spread over the hushed mass of robots gathered around her. And from a swift command from her helmet, she pressed the metal upon her head.

"No!" A clear voice suddenly broke the silence. She turned to look for the source of the commotion and saw Aodhan, who, as everyone had turned to watch Poia, had spit out his gags and torn free of the scarves binding him with tremendous strength. "No, Poia, no!"

The Lutari gazed emotionlessly upon the orange Shoyru before her. Of course, her new crown told her, this was not her friend. This was just a poor Neopet stupid enough to trespass on the lands of the Chia Clown village, trying to disrupt their ways. Naturally, the intruder had to be eliminated.

"Remove. Trespasser," she told her people in the same mechanical voice that the helmet used with her.

For the first time, the robots seemed uncertain. Their future king was now being declared an unwelcome visitor and the one who had originally been intruding was now their queen. But the sight of the helmet upon the Lutari's head, in all its metal, three-pronged splendour, told them they had to listen to its supreme power at all costs.

A ripple moved through the Chia Clowns as they slowly set in motion toward Aodhan. "Remove. Intruder," they repeated blankly.

But the Shoyru wasn't going to surrender without a fight, and as the group began converging on him, he lunged toward the Chia with the remote...

Author: zylp
Date: Apr 3rd
His hand swiped the remote out of the Chia's stubby paw, but the clown was ready for it. It retaliated with a jab from its spotted purple umbrella, holding it like a sword. The remote went spinning out of Aodhan's grip to the slanted street, where it began to roll.

Nimble as a Dartail, the Shoyru leapt back, away from the umbrella's range, and dove for the remote. A banana cream pie whistled past his ear, thrown at an unnatural speed. Another grazed his left wing.

His hand curled around the remote just as two of the Chias pounced on him.

But Aodhan wasn't going to give up so easily.

Poia watched the struggle apathetically, her eyes cold. The fool Shoyru had a stroke of adrenaline, but he was bound to lose. Her army was powerful. Invincible, even. And then the intruder could be eliminated.

Aodhan grunted, rolling aside to avoid another blow from the umbrella. His initial strength was starting to wane, replaced with a heavy weight of hopelessness. Another clown joined in the fray. The Shoyru heaved with all his might, shoving the mechanical Chia off of him and onto...

There was a sharp snap and a few bluish sparks as the remote was crushed.

The Lutari's eyes opened wide, her emotionless features flooding with a rage that she didn't understand. They narrowed to slits, and her ebony claws curled into fists.

He. Has. Destroyed. The. Sacred. Icon. Our. Legacy. Will. End. With. Me.

Her mouth parted. "Annihi-"

No.

Some invisible force seemed to catch the words in her throat, preventing her from completing the order, the order that would destroy her friend. A tiny whisper in the back of her mind, but with more power than Fyora's sceptre.

I. Have. No. Friends.

The smaller voice was desperate. Aodhan. Aodhan, Aodhan, Aodhan. Can't you remember? You've known him for years, he's a prankster and Fyora knows he's a bit of a pest at times, but he's still your friend!

Confusion overtook Poia's face. She stared at the Shoyru blankly. The brawl had stopped; her clowns were upright, expectant, awaiting their order. Something fluttered in her mind, just out of her reach. Memory?

I. Do. Not. Know. Him. He. Is. Disposable.

Yes, yes, the crown was right. It was power. She was power. She was the leader of Chia Clowns.

No--

"He. Is. Disposable," she murmured, still half-dazed. Aodhan recoiled, startled, his sudden hope changing to icy fear. Poia looked up, her eyes blazing with cold fire.

"Annihilate."

Aodhan trembled, terror threatening to overtake him as the Chia Clowns turned toward him once again. This time, he was surrounded, and his one hope was lost.

Or was it?

He stared into Poia's unfeeling eyes, and clear as crystal, an idea bloomed in his mind...

Author: dianacat777
Date: Apr 3rd
Aodhan watched the Chias getting closer and closer. He knew timing would be key. He prepared himself to do something that was very crazy, and when the Chias came close...

...he laughed. It began as a small giggle, but it got bigger and louder, and Aodhan began rolling on the ground. The Chias watched him for a few moments, just as Aodhan still had his eye on them, waiting for them to do what he hoped they would. And then it happened. A Chia near the front of the group that had previously been closing in on Aodhan started laughing too. More Chias followed suit, and it wasn't long before every clown in the room, including Poia, was laughing.

While they were laughing, however, they didn't notice Aodhan jump into the sky and fly away. He couldn't fly far, but he could hide and try to think of what to do next without the pressure of mechanical clowns closing in on him. He found a suitable hiding spot at the top of a building in the village, and sat down as he watched the Chia's laughter die down.

"Find. Him," boomed the voice of the helmet through Poia. "Annihilate." Several of the Chias left the group and spread out.

Aodhan had to think of a way to rescue Poia, something he could do to get the helmet off of her. He looked around to see if there was anything he could use as a weapon, before finally setting his eyes on something he could use.

It looked like a suit, except it was metal and looked like a Chia Clown. It was also slightly larger than Aodhan and open. Aodhan smiled to himself. This was going to be the best prank ever...

Author: flying_tree
Date: Apr 4th
He slipped inside the suit, folding his wings carefully against his back, and pulled it shut. There was plenty of room inside the round body. He had a little trouble with the short arms and legs, but after a little experimentation, he found himself controlling them fairly well.

Good.

Aodhan peered through the eye-holes and trundled forward until he realised that there was nothing under his leading foot. He rocked dangerously forward, getting a good look at the ground a long way down. Ordinarily this wouldn't alarm him, but his wings were shut up in the suit! Aodhan windmilled the clown-suit's stubby arms, but he teetered... tipped... and went over the edge!

He panicked inside the suit, struggling and battering it and trying to get it open so he could fly free instead of being dragged down and smashed. It was all to no avail. Down he went... he was going to land and the suit would smash; he'd be revealed and battered to pieces, and Poia would be stuck here....

Think sideways, Aodhan told himself desperately. Think outside the suit! This was a prankster's world, a joke world; he ought to be able to find his way out. What would be funny?

Oh! Right.

Aodhan pulled out his purple umbrella and opened it. It caught him, tugging him back upright, and he floated gently down to the street.

"Find him. Find him," droned several approaching clowns. "Find him. Annihilate. So speaks the Queen."

"Find him," Aodhan said, trying to imitate the clown-voice and being shocked when it came out perfectly. He could hear his own voice inside the suit, but the clown-ears carried in a perfect clown voice! How very interesting. And convenient.

"Have you seen him?" one of the Chia Clowns said, stopping to face him.

"Not yet," Aodhan replied, enjoying this, even though he was worried about Poia. "I have an idea," he invented. "Maybe he went back through the water."

"Back through the water," the clowns murmured thoughtfully. "Back through the water. Would he think that was funny?"

"Maybe," Aodhan said. "We should ask the Queen."

"We should ask the Queen," they agreed and began trundling back toward her, occasionally giggling.

Aodhan began to feel a wild urge to laugh himself. The weird gait of the clowns was beginning to feel more natural, and he was going to get back to Poia, but safely. He hoped.

As he approached her, however, another Chia Clown trundled up from behind, orange hair streaming with its speed. "Coronated One," it said. "It is not funny! The Coronation Suit is gone!"

"The Coronation Suit is gone!" echoed the other clowns, and then they suddenly began to laugh and cackle hysterically.

"SILENCE." Poia shouted the word, but in the same monotone as before. "The. First. One. Was. Right. It. Is. Not. Funny." The laughter died reluctantly away.

"He. Hides. Among. Us." The helmet sounded angry, however mechanically or electronically. "I. Command. Coronation. Suit. Come. Forward. Open!"

Aodhan trundled forward slightly and then realised, to his horror, that this wasn't in response to any motion of his. The suit was moving on its own. He struggled inside it and managed to slow its motions to a crawl by throwing all his strength against it, but it didn't get tired. Every time he eased up the tiniest bit, it continued its motions.

The other Chia Clowns stood waiting.

The suit responded to the commands of the helmet.

And it was going to give him away.

****

Deep inside the fog from the helmet, Poia had felt a leap of hope. Coronation Suit? Aodhan must have taken it.

The anger had slammed into her mind again, though, across the fog that kept trying to mute her thoughts. She couldn't remember what she'd been so happy about a moment ago.

Aodhan. The tiny voice was back. Poia considered the blank, foggy space in her head and unthinkingly relayed the helmet's commands while she drifted down, looking for the odd little voice. Perhaps she would annihilate it.

But when she moved toward it, reached for it, something snapped together and she remembered herself.

The fog was still there, and the anger, and the voice of the helmet. It controlled the motions of her body the way it had when the remote had first been activated, but she could think again, with difficulty, even though it was still on her head. Part of her still wanted to annihilate the little voice.

But she was the little voice.

And she knew that the orange Shoyru was Aodhan, her friend, and he was about to be in very serious trouble.

"I. Command. Coronation. Suit. Come. Forward. Open!"

She heard her own voice, felt her mouth and jaw move. Her mind whirled, even though the fog dragged at it. He was hiding among them? That meant the Coronation Suit looked like a Chia Clown.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw one moving forward. Minutely, jerkily, but forward.

Aodhan.

No.

Think, Poia told herself.

No. Need. To. Think. The helmet sounded almost annoyed. Listen. To. Me. The fog grew heavier, like a smothering blanket.

The Coronation Suit, Poia thought painstakingly, looks like a Chia Clown. The crown, she remembered, was angry. The crown was thinking -- it had thought through her -- that its legacy would end.

What legacy?

The answer crystallised in her mind. There had been more than one Coronation Suit. There had been more than one captive. There would be more again, if she didn't find a way to do something about it.

She had one idea, but to carry it out, she would have to let her consciousness back out of this almost-sheltered corner of her brain and risk having the helmet take over her thoughts again as she fought it for control of the rest of her body.

Well, she would just have to risk it, then.

Poia swarmed out; she turned all her attention to making her jaw and tongue and lips move. The helmet smashed down on her thoughts, its mechanical voice so deafening it almost overwhelmed her essential idea. I. AM. RULER. OF. CHIA. CLOWNS.

"All. Corrr---"

The crown sent its own impulses down her nerves, making her mouth clumsy and slurring her speech, and it thundered in her head. I. AM. POWER.

I am Poia! she thought fiercely. And then, cunningly, You haven't gone far enough.

It hesitated. Poia wrested control and declared, as fast as she could, "All. Coronation. Suits. Open! Now!"

And they did.

*****

Aodhan couldn't altogether stifle a yelp as his suit stopped trying to walk forward and simply sprang open instead, spilling him out onto the ground. He leapt up and looked around, expecting to be set upon by clockwork clowns at once.

Instead, he saw more than half the other Chia Clowns standing open like his own suit, with other Neopets flopping out of them onto the ground. Most of them looked terrible, tired and wasted and cramped from long captivity.

Aodhan looked wildly at them and then shouted, "Get the crown!"

A Mynci leapt up and grabbed two of the prongs, but he went limp and blank-eyed, and Aodhan realised in horror that he'd made a mistake. He rushed over and grabbed the Mynci, yanking him away. Something else, something....

"Water!" shouted a faerie Acara.

Aodhan nodded, eyes going wide. "Flyers," he yelled, "grab her! Grab the Lutari, get her to the water!"

He pounced. So did a Draik and a Darigan Lupe. Poia struggled, but they had her off the ground with no leverage and were racing for the barrier-bubble that kept the water out.

Aodhan glanced down and saw that most of the ground-bound Neopets were struggling with the Chia Clowns. Water pistol shots jetted back and forth, cream pies flew, and umbrellas poked, but the Neopets had seized weapons from the suits they'd been trapped in and seemed to be holding their own. Anyway, he had to get Poia -- and her crown -- to the water.

They hit the edge of the bubble and bounced.

"Uh," Aodhan said, "again, slower?"

They flew more slowly, despite their hurry, and hovered as best they could while thrusting Poia head first against the bubble. They watched it bend, dimpling against the three prongs of the crown.

They pierced it.

Lightning flashed in a triangle among the prongs, and Poia screamed.

*****

NO. NO. NO. NO. NONONONONO.

Poia had never felt such pain, screaming down into her head; she tried to shut it out, tried to pretend it wasn't hers, but it was no good. The helmet's thoughts weren't her own, but it used her brain for them. Its pain wasn't hers, but she definitely felt it.

It was like lightning striking her brain. Then it went dark, and choking; she couldn't breathe and she couldn't claw at whatever had her mouth, and she couldn't think past the agony, as if every nerve was going off at once and then being pinched quiet.

But when she collapsed to the ground at last, and the grips on her arms and legs dropped away, she couldn't hear it anymore.

She opened her eyes, raising a paw to wipe away the tears from them, and then cautiously felt the top of her head.

"It came off," Aodhan said, sounding unusually subdued. "Eventually. It shorted out in the water, and once it stopped looking... electrical, we brought you up here. I was afraid to pick it up still, and we didn't want to leave it down there. So Vorgla--" He pointed to the Darigan Lupe. "She knocked it off your head and I kicked it into the fire."

Poia blinked blearily and looked around. They were up in the volcano's crater again, next to the lake and the bonfire. Several dripping-wet Neopets she didn't recognise were sitting around her, and more were climbing out of the lake, which was strewn with sodden wigs and floating shoes.

"I think," she said unsteadily, "we should put out the fire and go home. Can we?"

"Yeah. I'll give you a lift down." Aodhan kicked at the ground a little. "And maybe I'll think about what you said about pranks that really scare others."

"Well," Poia said, glancing over at the twisted, charred remains of the crown, "I can't complain that you had the fire here anymore."

She looked around as they began carefully dousing the fire, keeping it away from the remaining fuel. As they finally wetted down the last of it, she said, "I'm guessing we're going to have a lot of homecomings soon."

Aodhan grinned. "And that's no Eating Fool."

There was a low rumble, deep below their feet, a vibration and a growl. Aodhan looked down in alarm. Poia looked out across the water, which had shivered into ripples. "Down?" she said.

Aodhan nodded. "Definitely time to get out of here."

They didn't want to be too close if the volcano played a prank of its own, after all.

The Neopets departed, leaving behind a lot of ashes, a lovely lake, and a thoroughly charred, mangled, and shattered crown.

Deep below, there was a giggle.

The End.

Author: schefflera
Date: Apr 4th



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