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||You are on Week 378
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 Seventy Eight Ends Friday, August 1
The wind tossed the ship back and forth, making waves slap hard against its wooden sides. Some of Linae's Kou-Jong tiles slithered over one another, falling out of their intricate configuration, and finally slid onto the deck of her cabin as the Cyodrake's Gaze tilted precariously. The Kougra sighed and knocked the rest of her tiles onto the rug with a frustrated swipe of her paw.
"Come on, Hoban," she said, getting to her feet. "We'd better go out and secure the sails before the storm gets much worse."
The yellow Aisha navigator glared at her from under the edge of his hat. "You can go on without me. The last time I helped out during a storm, I ended up spending the next few days floating in a crate on the open sea."
Linae rolled her eyes. "Only because Bonju pushed you. Now come on."
The Aisha didn't budge, so Linae slammed the door behind her and headed toward the main deck. Shumi and Captain Tuan were already there, soaked to the bone with rain and struggling to tie down the sails. Linae looked around for some rope to help them, but the usual coils of rope on the deck were gone, already knotted around the larger sails.
"I'll go down to the storeroom for more rope!" she shouted to the others over the howling wind.
Linae's paws left a trail of rainwater as she headed toward the storeroom. She was about to open the door when Shumi ran up behind her, panting and dripping with water.
"Don't!" the Scorchio cried as Linae's paw closed around the doorknob.
"Why not? We need some more rope and..."
"Just don't open the door," Shumi insisted. "I'll get some more rope from somewhere else..."
"Don't be silly," Linae said with a nervous smile and twisted the doorknob.
As she opened the door, something rushed past her from out of the darkness of the storeroom, disappearing down the hallway.
"I told you not to open the door..."
Author: A Sinister Stowaway?|
Date: Jul 28th
Linae turned to face Shumi with her hands on her hips. "Well, you could have been a bit more persistent!" she said. "If you'd told me that you'd locked a... whatever that thing was in the storeroom, I would have been more careful."
The first mate shrugged. "I didn't know," he said, glancing down the hallway where the mysterious creature had disappeared. "Orrin is the one who works in the storeroom, not me. He just warned me not to go in there, or to let anyone else in either."
"Why didn't he warn me?" asked Linae. "I'm just as important as you are."
"Ask him," said Shumi, glancing past the pink Kougra.
Linae turned to see the red Nimmo hurrying toward them through the corridor. Orrin stared worriedly at the open storeroom door and asked, "What have you done?"
"You tell me," said Linae.
Orrin glared at Shumi. "I told you not to let anyone open that door," he said.
"Don't blame me!" said Shumi. "You're the one who was keeping a pet in there. Besides, I tried to stop her."
"What is going on?" cried Linae, throwing her hands up into the air. "Orrin, what was that thing?"
The Nimmo sighed. "Come on," he said, opening the wooden door as the floor rocked to the side briefly. The storm seemed to be growing worse, and the Cyodrake's Gaze needed rope to secure its sails. Urgently.
Orrin led Linae and Shumi into the storeroom. Crates of supplies were stacked along the wall, as well as many barrels and sacks of merchandise that were being transported on the merchant vessel. The Nimmo lit a candle quickly and set it down on a table.
"Start talking," said Linae, folding her arms.
Orrin sighed. "It happened just earlier today," he said slowly. "When we left Meridell two weeks ago, I had everything organised perfectly in this room. But after a few days, I started noticing that some of the food bags had small rips in them, and one of our barrels of water had been opened. I thought maybe Bonju had been down here pilfering extra ingredients for meals, but when I asked him about it he said he only uses what I bring him."
"Bonju isn't exactly known for being truthful," Shumi pointed out.
"I was still suspicious," continued Orrin. "That is, until I saw it."
"What?" echoed Linae and Shumi together, just as the ship lurched to the side. Linae glanced at the door, which was swinging on its hinges. "And hurry it up," she added. "We still need rope."
"So I saw this... this thing, hiding in one of the crates. I've never really gotten a good look at it, but I know it has wings and is very ragged. I didn't want to get close to it, because it would hiss every time I came near. For the past few days, I've let it be, and it hasn't caused any harm. I thought the best thing to do would be let it off when we next reach land."
"And you didn't think to tell anyone about this?" asked Linae.
"We'll be making port soon," said Orrin. "Besides, I didn't want anyone to think that I'd done a bad job keeping track of what we put on the boat. I honestly don't know how this thing slipped past me when were were loading."
"It's slipped past you twice now," said Linae. "This thing is roaming the ship as we speak."
As if on cue, footsteps echoed in the nearby corridor, and Hoban's face appeared silhouetted in the doorway. "There's something happening!" he cried out, his voice ringing in the small storeroom. "A monster just appeared in the galley..."
Date: Jul 28th
The Aisha was shaking. His fur, slick with the storm's rain, stood up in uneven yellow spikes. Whatever he'd just seen, it wasn't pretty.
"A monster?" Linae echoed, glancing at Orrin. Just what was this thing he hadn't told anyone about?
The Nimmo was already running past them, down the hallways, followed by Hoban.
Shumi hesitated for a second, and then strode after them. Linae tagged along.
"Tuan told me to fetch you," the Aisha panted. "The storm's getting really bad. I haven't seen its like in years. He can't spare himself to help us right now."
The ropes! Linae felt a twinge of guilt. She'd need to go back to the storeroom quickly. The sooner the sails were taken down, the better.
And then they were at the galley. Even through the closed door, the clamour in the kitchen was audible. The Nimmo did not hesitate to open it.
And there, five feet away from a spatula-wielding Bonju, the beast stood.
It was big. Really big. Perhaps as large as Captain Tuan, if not even bigger than that. It was a dull grey, with large ears and a long, twisted tail that ended in an arrowhead. Two tattered grey wings flanked its thin frame. The creature's eyes were pale yellow. It looked slightly like an over-sized, very deformed Korbat. It bared its teeth, a continuous, alarmingly loud hiss pouring from its jaws.
"What is that thing?" hissed Linae. The Kougra's pink fur was bristling.
Orrin's jaw dropped.
"It's the Bat Thing..."
Date: Jul 28th
The entire crew, with the exception of poor Captain Tuan, alone on deck battling the tempestuous storm, stared foolishly at the hissing, spitting beast that had just ripped the spatula from Bonju's grasp and was deftly ducking and weaving to avoid being smacked with the frantic chef's rolling pin.
"The Bat Thing?" Linae gasped, none of them hurrying to help the chef. It wasn't that he was disliked, though no one rushed to do night watch duty with him since the little issue with Hoban... it was merely that there seemed so little they could do.
Orrin nodded, fear in his eyes, even as Linae thought he must be mistaken, the Nimmo hissed one word, uttered in such terrified, low tones that the rest of the crew had to glance at one another, not certain they had heard right.
The Bat Thing's massive ears seemed to perk up, that sickly yellow gaze fixating on the terrified crew, huddled in the doorway. For a moment it seemed the beast might launch itself into their midst and devour them all, but Bonju, sensing a moment of distraction, acted fast. With a triumphant cry the chef swung his prized rolling pin as hard as he could, bringing it down upon the startled creature's head and jumping back as the beast slithered to the floor, unconscious.
"Ah! Again someone learns not to challenge Bonju!" The chef's bragging seemed to draw little response, apart from a bitter smirk from Hoban.
Slowly the crew edged forward, crowding around the unconscious beast that lay sprawled upon then galley floor.
"Is it really Darigan? I thought he had been redeemed!" Linae uttered the question to anyone who would listen as she gazed down at the pathetic figure before her. As much as fear still taunted her nerves, she couldn't help but feel a soft wave of pity wash over her.
"He is. I mean, he was." Orrin seemed unsure at the validity of his response. "He ceased to be the Bat Thing long ago when Kass fell." The Nimmo gingerly prodded the unconscious creature with a toe.
Linae studied the Nimmo at her side, puzzling with the same questions that seemed to linger before them all. Who was responsible for Darigan's regression back into a sheer beast? Why had he wished to flee? What had he been doing in Meridell? What in Neopia did he want with the crew?
"Perhaps we should put him in the storeroom before he wakes up?" The voice of reason appeared to be Shumi, who was standing back a little, peering out from behind Linae.
With much complaining and hushed arguing the crew managed to drag the heavy beast toward the storeroom, Orrin deftly locking the door as soon as they dumped the Bat Thing inside.
"We need to go tell the Captain."
At Orrin's suggestion, Linae's eyes widened in distress. She had forgotten all about Tuan up on deck, battling the raging wind and howling sea by himself. She had gone to fetch more rope and allowed herself to forget all about her duty!
Muttering in anger at her own folly, the Kougra led the charge up onto the deck. The sky above was furious and gray, clouds having gathered above the ocean so thickly that it seemed as if a miserable, pallid blanket had been draped across the horizon. Raging waves lashed at the deck, sails flapped uselessly in the wind...
Wait a second. Sails flapped uselessly?
Linae glanced around frantically. The main sail rope seemed to have snapped, its smaller counterparts unsecured and tattered. Their Captain was nowhere in sight.
Shumi and Orrin ran to the deck, searching the angry sea as the others called Tuan's name, shrieking above the screaming winds.
But only the storm replied.
Holding down his hat, Hoban dashed to the small sails, trying to secure the torn fabric to little avail. Dashing over to help him, Linae's eyes widened in shock.
The sails hadn't merely been ripped by the wind; they had been shredded by something very, very sharp...
Date: Jul 29th
Panic began to engulf the Kougra. Not only was their captain missing and the ruler of Darigan locked away in a storeroom, the sails were completely shredded, rendering the ship victim to the oncoming waves that were no longer an annoyance, but a fatal disaster waiting to happen.
"What could have done this?" questioned Linae to Hoban, who was now clinging to the ship in fear of being blown away.
"I don't know, but it certainly looks as if there has been a struggle!" replied Hoban, his shouts barely audible above the howling winds.
It was then that Linae noticed the countless amounts of smashed crates that messily smothered the deck. Artefacts and herbs, which they were transporting from Meridell to Shenkuu, were strewn all over the place, constantly being moved by the winds. Vicious claw marks dug deep into the rails of the ship, and the dark clouds ahead suddenly seemed darker.
"Guys! Up here!" yelled Shumi from the captain's helm, his wings dreadfully dampened by the torrential downpour. Orrin waved his hands frantically to beckon them closer.
Hoban and Linae rushed toward them, followed by an angry Bonju, whose hat had flown away with the last powerful gust of wind. Orrin pointed at the wheel in shock, followed by an assortment of gasps from the remaining crew members.
The wheel had been bolted down, forcing the ship to turn slightly to the left. Whoever had attacked them and their captain was planning on taking the ship somewhere other than Shenkuu.
"Oh no!" shouted Hoban as he reached into his pocket and retrieved a small compass. "We're heading to the east instead of the west! We're making our way back to Meridell!"
The Aisha squinted his eyes as he gazed into the open seas, yet these were smothered with a dense black fog which entangled with the strong dark waters below. The group looked at each other in disbelief.
"Who--" began Orrin, yet this was cut off by a very loud and disgruntled cough from behind them.
Startled, the crewmembers turned around to see a small silvery figure strewn across the floor, the presence of which was formerly camouflaged with the wide array of herbs that had leaked out of a nearby crate.
"Anshu!" they all yelled simultaneously as they sprinted over to the elderly Ruki.
He was completely soaked, his ears shivered in the chilling winds, and his usually warm eyes were as dull as the seas around them. His body was indented with cuts and bruises, leaving him even more fragile and weak than ever.
"Who did this?" asked Shumi, frantically searching the surrounding herbs for pain reducers and medicinal healers.
"I came to deck to see what was taking Tuan so long to control the ship... when... when they attacked..." He coughed once more, releasing a small amount of water from his mouth.
Linae opened her mouth to ask who attacked, but this was soon answered as a number of mysterious figures landed from midair and plummeted toward the deck.
All of them were darkly coloured, yet their red and yellow eyes pierced through the night sky with a threatening demeanour. Their teeth snarled together with such vile hatred and anger. All in all, Linae could make out at least 20, yet from the sounds of heavy breathing, she could tell there were much more.
"Give us back our leader, you kidnappers!" bellowed a Darigan Scorchio as the group of Darigan pets slowly forwarded onto the crew members.
"Escape is futile; we are heading straight back to Darigan now!" screeched a Darigan Usul.
"Darigan needs its true leader!" came more calls of anger.
"True leader?" hissed Linae to Bonju, who was now a quivering wreck at her side. "What do they mean?"
"I don't know..." he replied. "But it sounds as if someone got rid of Lord Darigan and stole the throne..."
Date: Jul 29th
"A stolen throne? Oh, I don't much like the ring of that. It makes me sound like an usurper."
The gang of angry Neopets parted, hostile expressions slipping from their faces like runny eggs and replaced by looks of demure reverence. From their midst the speaker strode, a Darigan Draik. He was slightly smaller than most of his kind, but the same venomous purple coated his scales. The horns that curled around his triangular face glittered dangerously.
"After all," the Draik continued, a sly smile touching the corner of his lips, "we all want the same thing, don't we?
"And what's that?" snarled Linae, her fur once again on end. She put a paw around Anshu's shoulders, supporting the Ruki as he sat up.
The Draik strode across the deck like a thespian for his audience, the raging sea and howling wind creating for him the perfect stage. "We want," he declared, stretching his wings thoughtfully, "to restore the rightful ruler to Darigan." This drew murmurs of approval from the assembled pets. The Draik's smile grew wider.
"But first, we must find our fallen lord. Secure them," the Draik commanded, absentmindedly waving a hand in the crew's direction.
"Wait!" Orrin cried as several pets advanced, their hostility suddenly reawakened. Many of them were armed with long coils of rope -- so that's where the rope went, Linae thought angrily. They had no chance against numbers so great; there was nothing to do but accept capture.
"Why?" Orrin persisted, even as his hands were pulled violently behind his back. "Why OUR ship? Why the Cyodrake's Gaze?"
This question seemed to startle the Draik into a response. He turned slowly, a cruel grin lighting his features. "You don't know? Oh, how delightful." He laughed, displaying two rows of very sharp teeth.
"We're here for the same reason Lord Darigan is here." The Draik's eyes glimmered with ill intent. "Did you really think that you were transporting Meridell's fall harvest to Shenkuu? No, your cargo is something far more precious..."
Date: Jul 30th
"What? What are you talking about?" Orrin asked, perplexed. "There's nothing but fruit and vegetables in our cargo. I know; I looked!"
"That is doubtless what you were intended to think, blind pawns that you are," snorted the Draik, tossing his head. "But the truth, you see, is a bit more complicated...
"Enough of that. Your part in this game of power is nearly over. Once I hold the Sceptre of Midnight in my claw, and once we have... recovered... Lord Darigan, we shall return to our homeland and leave you to finish your journey."
Orrin fell silent. Could it really be that easy? They just had to wait it out, and all would be well?
Was anything ever that easy?
"Why bother tying us up?" The Nimmo looked accusingly at the Draik. "Why couldn't you just tell us what was going on? If we had known that Lord Darigan was looking for his sceptre thingy, we would have been happy to help!" Well, perhaps not entirely happy, but at least willing.
"It's not his," the Draik hissed under his breath, barely audible. Sharp fangs were flashed in a vicious snarl, but the Draik made no further reply to Orrin's question.
"Lord Ailbek!" A Darigan Aisha, holding one end of an enormous Marrow, staggered over to the Draik before both she and her Usul partner dropped it with a resounding thud that seemed to make the whole ship vibrate.
"We believe that this is the one. Nothing else is nearly large enough to hold the sceptre," said the Aisha with a graceful bow.
"Good work," Ailbek replied with a curt nod. The Draik whipped out a sword from the scabbard he wore at his waist. "Soon the Sceptre of Midnight, the emblem of the true rulers of the Citadel, will be mine!" He swung his sword in a silver arc, cleaving the Marrow cleanly in two.
But there was nothing inside...
Date: Jul 30th
Ailbek's face contorted into a snarl.
"Where is it?!" he bellowed at the Darigan soldiers.
"We-we searched the hold, your lordship," the Aisha stammered. "There was nothing else that could have held the Sceptre."
"They searched the storeroom," Orrin whispered to his friends, "but they don't seem to have found Lord Darigan."
"He must have escaped," Hoban whispered back. "Maybe he has this Sceptre they are talking about."
"Or maybe someone else got there first," Linae suggested.
"Like who?" Hoban asked.
"No one's seen Kentari since this whole thing started," she pointed out. "Not to mention that the Captain is still missing."
"You think the Captain and Kentari knew what we were carrying?" Hoban scoffed.
"I certainly wasn't informed of anything, and I outrank Kentari," Shumi said importantly.
A low cough interrupted the conversation. The Darigan soldiers and Ailbek were all looking at the crew, bound on the floor of the deck.
"So," Ailbek said, the evil smile returning to his face. "Two crewmembers missing, is it?"
He spun round elegantly.
"Search the ship, every last inch," he ordered the soldiers. "Three Neopets can't hide in a ship this size for long."
The soldiers nodded and scuttled off below deck. Ailbek spun back around, staring coldly at Orrin.
"You, you said you have seen Darigan," he said, more than a hint of malice in his voice.
Orrin nodded. "He's been hiding in this ship since we left port."
"What did he tell you?" Ailbek demanded, coming closer to the bound Nimmo. "What did he do? Did he seem... coherent?"
"He was like the bat-thing, the horrible creature I heard he was during the second Meridell war," Orrin answered.
The smile broadened on Ailbek's face.
"Good," he sneered. "The spell worked perfectly then."
"You? You did that to him?" Linae gasped.
"I had to get him out of the way somehow," Ailbek replied simply. "He was all that stood between me and the throne of the Citadel."
Anshu, still badly wounded, narrowed his eyes at the Draik.
"Pride comes before a fall," he said wisely.
"Fall?" Ailbek laughed. "I am in control here -- there is nothing you can do to stop me! I am--"
There was a dull thump, and the Draik collapsed forward. Behind him, a small Shoyru stood with a plank of wood in his hands.
"Kentari!" Bonju shouted happily. "You gave that villain his just desserts!"
"There's no time to explain," Kentari told the crew as he rushed forward to untie them. "The Captain and Lord Darigan are in grave danger. We must act quickly..."
Date: Jul 31st
"What do you mean?" Linae asked, alarmed. "The Draik definitely had ill intentions, but the others want to help Lord Darigan, don't they?"
"That may be, but I doubt they'll do much good," Kentari said grimly. The weapons master pulled a small dagger from the sheath at his side. He sawed efficiently at the ropes as he explained. "When Captain Tuan realised we were being invaded, he naturally went to the weapons storeroom. I was there, sharpening blades -- we couldn't find anyone else."
"We were in the galley, dealing with the Bat Thing," Orrin offered helpfully.
"No, you must have already made it back to the deck, because we found the Bat Thing in a locked storeroom." Kentari finished with Linae's bindings and moved on to Hoban's.
"We just barely missed each other," Hoban sighed. "If the timing had been slightly different, we would have known to avoid the Draik's trap."
"I would still have gone on deck," Anshu said sadly.
"At any rate," Kentari interrupted, his tone urgent, "Darigan had been wounded -- " Bonju blushed slightly " -- but he managed to tell us what was going on."
"Wait, he can speak?" Linae inquired as she massaged feeling back into her paws. "He never said anything to us -- but then, we didn't give him much of a chance..."
"Yes, he speaks," Kentari said impatiently. "Darigan found the Sceptre of Midnight. It had been hidden in the same storage room he had been locked in, inside of this huge pumpkin. To prevent anyone from taking the sceptre, the Captain took him down in the dinghy to escape."
"In this weather?" Shumi gasped anxiously. The tiny craft would be broken to pieces by the raging sea in a matter of minutes.
"It was the only way to assure Lord Darigan's safety," Kentari asserted. The final fraying piece of rope snapped; the crew was free. "But we have to turn the ship around before it's too late."
"Wait," Linae said, pointing to the limp form of the Draik. "What are we going to do about him?"
"You don't need to worry about him," Kentari growled, scowling at Ailbek. "He was as much a pawn as he believed those beneath him to be. He's harmless. No, the curse on Lord Darigan was cast by another..."
Date: Jul 31st
"...Lord Kass himself!"
"Stop," interrupted Linae again. "Lord Kass can cast spells? And didn't he disappear after the end of the last Meridell war?"
"No one knows what became of Kass after his run-in with the Three. As for the spell-casting, it's possible that he's in possession of another magical amult, I suppose..." Kentari sighed, exhausted.
"Well, how do you expect us to stop Lord Kass, if it's even him? We don't even know where Lord Darigan is!" chimed Shumi.
"We're still close to Meridell. If we turn around now, we can go back and help."
The conversation immediately stopped. All of them knew that forsaking their cargo and returning to Meridell would ensure they never got a job again.
"We should do it," said Shumi decisively.
"He's right," agreed Linae. "We're in."
A smile lit up Kentari's face.
"All right! OK, I'll go turn the ship around, while you lock the Darigan pets up."
Shumi and Linae dragged Ailbek into the storeroom, then locked the door. Behind them, Kentari had taken the wheel, and the ship was turning.
"The rest of the Darigan pets flew off in chase of Lord Darigan and the Captain," said Shumi.
Over the next day and a half, Shumi kept watch for the dinghy that carried such precious cargo, while Linae cleaned up the broken crates. Finally, they reached shore.
"Land ho!" yelled Shumi, and then stopped.
"The dinghy!" he cried out, and there it was. The little boat was dragged up onto the shore, and clawprints led away from it.
"Hurry," yelled Linae, who had rushed up next to Shumi.
A few moments later, the ship was docked, and Shumi and Linae dashed off after the Captain and Darigan. Kentari followed with Hoban and Anshu.
They reached the crest of the hill, and stopped. There, before them, the Darigan Citadel loomed above Meridell, every light in the fearsome Citadel ablaze.
Kentari came up behind them, and said what everyone was thinking.
"Something momentous must be happened in Darigan for the Citadel to be that lit up."
"A coronation," said a voice behind them, and all five sailors whirled around. There, before them, was the Captain and Lord Darigan.
"Kass is planning on taking his throne back, and Lord Darigan is going to stop him," continued the Captain.
The Neopets nodded in agreement and started running again. Darigan stared at them, bewildered, but recovered, and flew toward the Citadel at top speed.
Quickly, they reached it, and their jaws dropped. Everywhere, Darigan pets were roosted, all focusing on a throne in the middle of the usually floating platform.
There sat Kass, a crown behind him.
Lord Darigan did not hesitate. He flew right at Kass, before any other Neopet could react, and engaged him in a fight.
Hoban blinked, then a light came on in his mind. "Come on," he said, and followed Darigan.
The Neopets, unsure of what Hoban was up to, followed him in faith, until he suddenly stopped.
"Grab some," he whispered, and pointed into the shadows. There, laying undisturbed, were three coils of rope.
The crew of the Cyodrake's Gaze all grabbed a rope and simultaneously got into position.
The crewmembers ran at Kass, and just before they reached them, Darigan pushed away. The ropes formed a triangle around Kass, and the sailors quickly tied him up. They threw ropes to each other, and wove him so tight he couldn't escape.
"Curse you," he screamed, but Hoban couldn't hear him. He rushed over to the crown, grabbed the Sceptre from where Darigan had dropped it, and rushed to Darigan.
Staff in hand, Darigan sat on the throne, Hoban behind him. Hoban lowered the crown onto his head, and the spell was broken. Lord Darigan was back in power, and the group of sailing Neopets had saved Meridell.
Date: Aug 1st
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