Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)
If you have any questions about the competition then read our awesome FAQ!
||You are on Week 393
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 Ninety Three Ends Friday, November 21
"So when does Princess Amira need these vases?" Lady Osiri asked, looking at the message sceptically, one eyebrow raised.
"As soon as possible, Lady Osiri!" the messenger said. "Her Highness is having a grand banquet two days from now, and she requires vessels of the most elegant form and quality to fill the palace with desert flowers."
"Two days?!" Osiri exclaimed, her voice incredulous. "It takes time for the clay to dry, for the pottery to bake in the kiln... plus, I have to paint each piece by hand..." Her voice trailed off as the enormity of the task hit her.
"Well," began the Meerca messenger, reaching to take the message scroll back, "I suppose I could find another potter to take the job, maybe in Qasala."
Lady Osiri snatched the message out of his reach. "No, no, I'll manage!" Somehow, she thought to herself bitterly. Still, she couldn't lose Princess Amira's patronage. Osiri's work was popular with the citizens of Sakhmet, but Amira was always generous with the payments she made for the pottery she bought.
"Very well," replied the Meerca. "I shall inform the Princess that the vases will arrive in time for her banquet." With that, he gave a slight bow and left the shop.
Lady Osiri hardly noticed him leave, though. She was still staring blankly at the paper in her hand, scratching her forehead. "I might as well get started," she murmured finally and headed back into her workroom.
Hours flew by as Osiri spun vase after vase on her potter's wheel. Setting a vase aside before baking it, she then grabbed another mound of clay for the next. As the Aisha dug into the clay, she heard a noise behind her, as if something were wobbling back and forth.
Osiri turned to find the three vases she'd just taken out of the kiln swaying from side to side.
"No!" she cried, diving toward them, even though she knew they were still too hot to handle.
Before her paws could reach them, though, the vases fell, smashing into hundreds of clay shards.
"How could..." As the words left her mouth, three more crashes shook the workroom, and Osiri spun around to see the ruins of the vases she'd made earlier.
What she didn't see, however, was the tail exiting through the workroom door...
Author: It's OK to cry over broken pottery|
Date: Nov 17th
Heart heavy, Osiri reached down to touch the clay shards. This work had taken hours to complete and she didn't have time to spare to redo it all. With a sigh, she grabbed a broom to sweep up the mess. She couldn't understand how the vases had fallen -- she always made sure to place them on even surfaces so something like this wouldn't happen.
As she swept up the broken vases, she saw something other than clay in one heap. Carefully she pushed one shard aside to reveal a piece of paper.
"What?" she murmured, picking it up. It looked like someone had dropped it, but the handwriting wasn't hers. The note read:
I'll meet you at the outskirts of Qasala at dusk. Remember, don't let the potter see you!
"Don't let the potter see you?" Osiri murmured. "What's that supposed to..." The words clicked together in her mind. "Did someone do this on purpose?"
The thought infuriated her. All this work! All this time! Someone had dared to shatter her handiwork... but why?
Osiri glanced at the note again. "I'll meet you at the outskirts of Qasala at dusk," she read again. Maybe, if she were to go, she would see who had done this. She could report them to the princess.
But if she were to leave now... she'd never get the rest of her work done. Torn, she looked from the note in her paw to the kiln. Back and forth, her gaze went. Finally, she made her decision...
Date: Nov 17th
Osiri set her jaw and nodded firmly to herself.
"I am going to get to the bottom of this mess. And when I catch who is responsible..."
Osiri kicked out the embers of the kiln and placed a light white wrap around her head to cover her tell-tale Aisha ears and features, and she set out toward Qasala.
As she walked, Osiri mused upon the strange note. "Karjara, Karjara... that name doesn’t tell me anything."
More by force of habit than anything else, Osiri paused at Coltzan's Shrine before crossing the little bridge that led to Qasala's shadowy ruins. She faced the Shrine and thought aloud:
"If only I could get some sort of a clue -- a sign, anything..."
A sudden breeze made Osiri shiver and pull her wrap around her closely, though the Desert was as warm as ever under the sun's dying rays -- but nothing appeared, no ghostly floating head with words of comfort or of wisdom. Coltzan did not chose to help her this time.
Osiri sighed heavily. Just as she turned to keep walking, however, her attention was drawn to something which lay half-buried in the sand at her feet. Apparently the breeze had been of some use after all: it had unearthed something for her.
Osiri bent and picked up what had formerly been an exquisite desert flower -- only it was now a limp bunch of petals barely hanging together at the stem, with its beautiful blue bruised to a deep purple. It looked as though it had been deliberately trampled on, much as Osiri's pots had been deliberately smashed.
"The messenger mentioned that Princess Amira wanted the vases to be filled with desert flowers," Osiri murmured to herself. "What can this mean?"
More determined than ever to get to the bottom of the mystery, Osiri moved swiftly toward Qasala's rock-strewn outskirts. There she hid behind a large boulder and waited until dusk.
Eventually, both sets of Osiri's ears perked up: light footsteps were coming her way.
Osiri edged slowly around the boulder to catch a glimpse of who it was, and saw...
Date: Nov 18th
...a Meerca and a Uni skulking beside one of the towering heaps of rock that served as signposts in the shifting sand.
The Meerca wrapped his short arms around himself, shivering as the desert's heat fled swiftly with the sunset. He crouched close to the lingering heat in the sand. "Where is she, Karjara? I don't see her anywhere on the road."
"Maybe she's not coming," the Uni said drily, stamping her feet and snorting irritably. The moisture from her breath quickly condensed in the chilly dry air. "Maybe she didn't fall for it, Zatheb. Or maybe she really didn't see you. Or the note."
In contrast to her tone, she unfolded a wing and draped it comfortingly over the Meerca's round body. He scrunched up his tail underneath him to keep it from losing heat and let her pull him against her side.
"I don't like this," he muttered.
"So are you going to tell me what your esteemed brother is up to this time?" Karjara asked, her voice still desert-dry, "or am I just the muscle?"
"Don't be silly. You're also the air transport." The Meerca elbowed her affectionately, but his grin died quickly. "I'm just worried...."
Osiri frowned. Fell for it? Worried? Brother? The Meerca could be the messenger from that morning... or could there simply be a strong family resemblance? Why would they destroy her work and trick her out here?
She was alone. She had, apparently, been duped; and with the lost work and now the lost time, she would not be able to complete Princess Amira's full order. She turned the squashed flower in her hand and wondered where exactly they were expecting to find desert flowers anyway -- and where this one had come from. Ordinarily, they only grew after a rain. The barren desert would bloom, then. But it was very hard to predict.
Osiri considered her options. She could try to sneak away, but if she went to the road she would be seen, and if she didn't, she would probably be heard, stumbling among the stones and shifting sand. She could flee, but she was no racer, and was unlikely to outrun a Uni.
So she tucked the flower into her pocket and stepped boldly out from the rocks. "I don't appreciate your tricks," she said, her voice cool and angry despite half-expecting to be set upon and robbed or carried off. "Are you only trying to ruin my work and reputation, or do you have some other way to explain all this?"
Instead of attacking her or looking alarmed or guilty, the two waiting Neopets slumped in relief. It made the Meerca look like a balloon losing its helium.
"Please, forgive our subterfuge," said the Uni -- Karjara, apparently. "But Princess Amira must not have the flowers she has been promised, and we need your help...."
Date: Nov 18th
Osiri narrowed her eyes. "There are better ways," she said dryly, "to ask for help than destroying my handiwork."
Karjara looked away uncomfortably. "I... we were not certain that you would agree to aid us. And so we felt it best that we make it... difficult... for you to fulfill your obligation to Princess Amira."
"And why would I agree to help the ones who knocked over my painstakingly crafted pots?"
"Because," said the Meerca, "your vases would only have been used to perform a great evil."
Osiri arched an eyebrow. "Explain."
"Princess Amira has been acting strangely as of late," said the Uni. "Zatheb's brother Khamaft works in the palace as a messenger, you see, and he noticed that Amira's behaviour had changed right after she hired that new royal florist."
"There's a royal florist?"
"There is now. We fear that he is no mere florist, but a sorcerer of some kind. He seems to take it upon himself to advise the princess on many matters of the palace, and she agrees with him every single time!
"We think it must have something to do with his flowers. Khamaft mentioned that he picked up one of the florist's flowers once, and felt woozy and almost hypnotised for the entire day.
"And... you know of the custom, when there are desert flowers at a royal banquet, to give one to each guest at the banquet's conclusion?"
Osiri nodded slowly. "You think that the sorcerer florist intends to take control of the Sakhmetian nobility?"
"Yes," said Zatheb. "Exactly! My brother has gone to sneak into the sorcerer's workshop in order to find proof... but he hasn't returned yet."
"And with good reason," came a new voice, heavy with menace.
The Uni and Meerca gasped as a shadowy figure came into view...
Date: Nov 19th
"We are in grave peril," spoke the shadowy figure again, and as it approached, Osiri recognised Princess Amira's Meerca messenger.
"What is it, Khamaft?" asked Karjara. "What did you learn?"
"Does the name Jubart Igig ring any bells?"
Karjara and Zatheb stared blankly at Khamaft, but Osiri tilted her head quizzically at him.
"I remember a tale about Jubart," said Osiri. "A wandering gypsy Elephante told me about him, a long time ago. Wasn't he the Lupe who --"
Osiri paused as the full implications of the story, coupled with the current happenings in Sakhmet, suddenly manifested themselves before her: "-- who became the Spirit of Slumber?"
Khamaft nodded grimly. "One and the same. I found his sceptre hidden behind an enormous potted Star of Paradise. And do you know what else I found?"
"Slumberberry Potions. Rows and rows of them, all stacked up to the ceiling. He put them behind a trellis of Curly Vines. I think that's what he's using in his flowers."
Osiri took the limp flower that she had found in the sand and held it to her face. "Slumberberry Potion, you say? I don't smell anything unusual..."
After breathing the green smell of crushed petals and sap for a few moments, Osiri detected something else -- an odour so slight that it was barely noticeable, a sweet lingering smell too nebulous to describe and which she therefore kept inhaling, and kept breathing, trying to identify it -- until under its influence, Osiri's willpower and her sense of self collapsed suddenly into a happy, docile bliss...
Date: Nov 19th
...like floating on a cloud. A happy little cloud in a deep blue sky. Osiri stretched her arms out wide. Her wrap fell to her shoulders and the wind picked it up, so it unrolled behind her like wings.
* * * * *
"What the heck is she doing?" Karjara muttered.
The usually poised Aisha was running around in circles, her arms spread out, her eyes closed and a happy smile on her face.
Zatheb pointed to the desert floor, where the flower had fallen from Osiri's hands and lay on the sand, partially covered in a golden blanket.
Khamaft reached down and picked a small object. Sand trickled off the black and blue petals, sparkling in the dying sun. His eyes narrowed as he lifted the flower to his eyes.
"This..." he began, voice trailing off with appropriate suspense.
Karjara and Zatheb leaned in close. Osiri twirled around and hummed an old desert folk song.
"...is nothing like the flowers in the palace." The Meerca let the flower fall to the ground. "The spell seems to put the victim in a deranged state of bliss. Amira was... nothing like this at all. She was blank. She had dead eyes like..." He shuddered despite the heat. "A doll." He cast a casual glance at Osiri, who was still spinning in circles. "It was nothing like that at all."
Karjara sighed and straightened up. Zatheb groaned. "So... That helps us, how?"
"It doesn't," Karjara stated bluntly. The Uni stared blankly into the distance, the colors of the fading sky lighting up her eyes.
"So what now?"
"We continue with the plan." Khamaft said.
"Yeah... about that." Zatheb bit his lip to prevent a giggle from escaping. He snuck a glance of Osiri from the corner of his eyes. "I don't think she'll be able to help us in this state."
"Oh, I wouldn't be too sure about that." Karjara's gaze was fierce.
"What do you mean?"
"Just look." She pointed to the sand, where the footprints of Osiri's erratic dancing created a strange, mosaic-like pattern.
Zatheb returned his gaze to the ground, his brother stared at it intensely. His lips twisted into a frown. "Nope. Nothing."
Karjara sighed, exasperated. "Look closer."
He did. "Honestly, Karjara. Has the heat gone to your head? I don't see any..."
And then he did.
Karjara nodded. "Yes, oh."
"Can someone please tell me what's going on?" Khamaft muttered in a somewhat whiny voice.
Karjara pointed to the wispy trail, the trio of triangular shapes, a snake like ripple, and then a large 'X.' "I can't believe you don't see.
"It's a map..."
Date: Nov 20th
"Yes, Jubart, I think that this seating plan will be quite satisfactory," said Princess Amira dreamily as she deeply inhaled the sweet fragrance of the fresh corsage that her new florist had just handed to her. "And your new menu, and offer to provide a special punch for the formal toast? I don't know how I ever ran the kingdom alone before you came along." With another deep breath, she turned to the Lupe and said, "I'm suddenly feeling quite sleepy. It must be all of the excitement over the banquet tomorrow. If you will excuse me?"
The Lupe bowed deeply and replied, "As you wish, Your Highness." As soon as Amira had left the room, the Lupe appeared to crumple and deflate, his glowing red eyes turned a more natural shade of amber, and he addressed the seemingly empty air above his head. "I... I feel weaker and weaker every time you take over my body, Jubart, I... I don't know if I can keep this up."
A sepulchral voice replied, hanging in the air like the stench of the rot of a thousand tombs, "Patience, fool. After tomorrow, if you follow the plan, I have no doubt that you will have the Princess's gratitude, and eventually, her hand. The kingdom of Sakhmet will be yours. But, I need that body to be strong tomorrow, go rest it."
Too weak to protest, the Lupe turned and left the room. Faintly, the disembodied voice floated through the space like a lingering stench, "That's right, fool, rest that body. After tomorrow, it will be mine... permanently. All of Sakhmet will be slumbering... and under my control."
The sun was setting quickly behind Coltzan's Shrine, casting a long, thin shadow across the desert sands. Karjara stomped her hooves impatiently to stop the bickering of the two Meercas. "It doesn't matter who saw it first or last. What's important is that we find where the X on the map is indicating before we lose the light. Here, look, those are the pyramids, and there's the river that bisects the Lost Desert into Sakhmet and Qasala." Twisting her neck to mark her bearings, the Uni continued, "I make it just north of Sutek's Tomb. Climb up on my back, bring the potter, and let's get moving."
Khamaft and Zatheb broke off their argument mid-sentence and nodded their agreement. Grabbing the twirling Aisha, the three mounted the Uni and were soon soaring over the lengthening shadows down below. In a matter of minutes, Karjara landed beside a very small, very ordinary, green oasis, and she looked around in confusion. As the last of the sun disappeared below the horizon in a final gasp of saffron and crimson light, the heat also disappeared like an extinguished flame. As the cool of the night settled over the shivering Meercas, the oasis burst into bloom in a riot of sparkling pink blooms. The effect on Osiri was immediate.
She had resumed her happy, carefree dance around the oasis when Zatheb had helped her to dismount, twirling around with a look of blissful euphoria on her face. But as soon as the flowers had bloomed, she stopped dead in her tracks and began to shake her head, trying to dispel the lingering spell.
"Wh -- what happened? I -- I was flying!" said Osiri with childlike wonderment.
"Yes, yes, we were all flying," retorted Karjara. "But what broke the spell?"
"The flowers!" said Khamaft and Zatheb simultaneously, but before they could begin to argue over who said it first, Osiri broke in.
"Those flowers," she said, and stooping to pick a blossom, she continued, "remember I told you that the gypsy Elephante once told me the tale of the Spirit of Slumber? Well, he was defeated once with flowers, and from the Elephante's description, they looked just like these." Osiri took a deep draught of the flower's sweet perfume into her lungs and felt an immediate clearing of the spell's foggy residue.
"I think," said Osiri with mounting confidence, "I know what we need to do..."
Date: Nov 20th
The next day, the afternoon of Princess Amira's banquet, saw the searing desert sun hanging high in the sky, baking the land below. Even those used to the arid regions were loosening their collars and wiping sweat from their brows.
Lady Osiri stood in the middle of a cool oasis filled with desert flowers, and smiled as she breathed in their intoxicating fragrance. For a moment she could imagine she was standing in one of the tropical forests of Mystery Island, reaching out a hand to pluck an exotic pink petal, while spectacular new Gadgadsbogen fruits ripened on the trees above.
"Are you quite finished daydreaming?" Khamaft's voice snapped her out of her reverie. He was using the crisp, official tone he had employed when he first brought her the order for the vases, and she looked up now to see that he was being followed by an anxious-looking Lupe.
"Is everything ready?" the Lupe asked, his own voice far less practised at officialdom than the Meerca messenger. There was a tremor in it that he couldn't quite hide. "The vases were all completed, and the flowers are arranged exactly as I described? He will be... I mean, the Princess will be greatly angered if something goes awry tonight."
Osiri smiled calmly, and gestured to the rows of clay vases that lined the exquisitely laid out dining tables, each display setting off the place settings perfectly. Not every vase was quite to the standard she would have liked, but the order had been completed in record time, and with the help of two slightly clumsy Meercas, and even a Uni -- not a creature used to such delicate work. The important thing was that the order had been completed, and any flaws in the handiwork were well hidden by the beauty of the sparkling pink flowers that spilled out from the top of each vase. Only a princess could possibly afford the opulence of so many fresh flowers in a desert land.
"As you see, sir, nothing is out of place. The banquet hall is ready, and the individual flowers for the guests will be passed out by waiters as they enter."
Osiri's serene manner seemed to reassure the anxious Lupe. He nodded and turned to leave the hall, addressing her over his shoulder. "Well done, potter. You can leave now, and be assured you will be paid handsomely for your efforts. Khamaft, see the Lady Osiri out."
With Jubart gone, Khamaft joined Osiri amid the flowers, muttering to her in a low voice, "Everything is in place with the real plan, as well. I couldn't switch the tainted flowers that the guests will be given, but as soon as they enter this room, the scent of these ones should counteract the effects. Karjara and Zatheb should be destroying Igig's remaining stash of Slumberberry potions as we speak. With luck on our side, we might just pull this off."
"Great! I'm going to conceal myself behind the drapes. After all this work, I can't just go home and wait to find out what happens." Osiri's eyes glittered with nervous excitement, and Khamaft nodded at her.
"Of course, it will be useful to have back up when we--" The Meerca stopped, eyes wide, cut off by a sudden almighty crash of shattering clay from the other end of the hall...
Date: Nov 21st
"Jubart!" cried Princess Amira, appearing in the hall with her lovely veil just slightly askew. "Are you quite all right?"
The Lupe had apparently collided with a table, causing its pot of flowers to crash to the floor. He straightened up now, wiping his brow. "I must apologise for my clumsiness, Your Highness. It must have been the strain of preparing for the banquet. Please do not trouble yourself... I will see to it that everything proceeds exactly as planned."
"Good," said the princess, but there was a shadow of uncertainty on her face as she retreated from the hall. Was it just her imagination, or had the Lupe... changed somehow? He had seemed so tired, so absentminded, only moments before, and now he was energetically setting the table straight again. It was almost as if a new spirit had entered his body.
"We must have these flowers replaced at once," Jubart told a nearby waiter. "The original ones were soiled when they touched the ground. You know where to find the fresher supplies."
Across the hall, Osiri gasped. Khamaft guided her quietly into her hiding place behind the drapes. Jubart Igig had returned, and had just ordered the replacement of a vase of flowers. Those flowers just might break the critical balance between enchantment and reality...
Khamaft gritted his teeth. "There's nothing we can do now, Osiri. We'll look too suspicious. But I think that as long as Karjara and Zatheb make sure that the rest of the Slumberberry Potions are destroyed in time, that servant will not be able to get any more tainted flowers. We must hold on to hope."
The shadowy Lupe prowled around the far end of the hall, making final inspections and giving last-minute commands to servants. The hour of the banquet was drawing near.
The last drop of Slumberberry Potion trickled deep into the sand.
"Is that all of it?" panted Karjara, rubbing her hoof anxiously against the ground.
"I should think so," Zatheb replied, his quick Meerca eyes scanning the storeroom. "Now let's leave, before anyone finds us."
As they navigated the corridor, a servant appeared, bearing an armful of flowers. Zatheb and Karjara had no time to hide, but fortunately, the servant seemed too distraught to notice that they weren't supposed to be there.
"Here," he gasped. "I forgot the way to the supply room. Do you know where I can find fresher flowers to replace these?"
Zatheb and Karjara exchanged looks. They had just done great injury to Jubart's supply room. But Zatheb was a quick thinker. "It's okay," he said. "If you just add a bit of water they'll look just as fresh. There's no need to replace them at all."
"But the master will..."
"There isn't time," said Karjara. "The banquet is starting."
"Oh, Meepits," moaned the servant, as he hurriedly dabbed water onto the flowers and hurtled back to the hall again.
The guests were beginning to meander in. Karjara, Zatheb, Khamaft and Osiri all carefully watched the scene. Each guest picked up a tainted flower and sailed dreamily into the hall... but once they were seated at their tables, they appeared clear-headed again. Jubart and Princess Amira greeted the guests, and presently the entertainment began.
It was a wonderful banquet, full of life and activity. Dancers showed off their glittering movements, and words sprinkled the air like gold dust. Only Jubart seemed to grow paler, less vivid, with every passing minute. His dream was fading...
That night, a Lupe awoke in the royal Palace, sweating. The presence he had felt for so long was gone... there remained only an immense relief. But the promised glory had not arrived. There was only the lingering sigh of the wind around the dunes...
At least his body and mind were plagued no longer. Humbly, he packed his bag and trudged into the sandy mists of the horizon.
"Come in!" called Osiri, in answer to the knocking at her door. Khamaft entered, beaming, followed by Zatheb and Karjara.
"Nice pot," said Karjara with admiration. "Wish I could work as well as you do, but at least I've begun to learn!"
Osiri smiled. "What news?"
"The princess is very grateful to you for your service," said Khamaft proudly, opening a box full of gold. "You have done much more for her than she could ever understand."
"So have you!" exclaimed Osiri, setting aside her pot and embracing her friends. "I must congratulate you too, Khamaft. As I understand, you have recently been appointed to take the place of Jubart as royal adviser. I feel we deserve a little celebration!"
They went out into the marketplace and bought fresh fruit. Nothing like fruit on a really hot day.
In that great desert of numb immortality, lives continued to flourish like so many valiant candles. The Spirit of Slumber would always be kept at bay, so long as lives danced together to withstand it. So long as every Neopet worked patiently through the days, smoothing out the clay, patching up the tents... so long as there was industry, faith, and the courage to seek out a better future.
Nothing was dormant in Sakhmet. In fact, Princess Amira had just ordered new flowers for the palace to help dissipate some fumes from a troubled past.
Date: Nov 21st
IMPORTANT - SUBMISSION POLICY! By
uploading or otherwise submitting any materials to Neopets, you (and your parents) are
automatically granting us permission to use those materials for free in any manner we can think
of forever throughout the universe. These materials must be created ONLY by the person
submitting them - you cannot submit someone else's work. Also, if you're under age 18, ALWAYS
check with your parents before you submit anything to us!