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Week 393
You are on Week 394
Week 395

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 Four Ends Friday, December 5

"Wow," breathed Gyllis, peering through the stage curtains at the packed Concert Hall, "have you guys seen the size of that crowd?"

"Hey, Gyllis, stop peeking at the audience and come tune your guitar," said Ben, the lanky Techo lead singer of their band.

"But it's just so... awesome!" Gyllis cried. "Aren't you excited? I bet that crowd is bigger than the one at the first Mellow Marauders show!" Still, the Kacheek let the curtains fall shut and joined his bandmates.

Ben leaned over to him and whispered, "Of course I'm excited about playing the Concert Hall, but I think Lawrie's nervous." He gestured to their bass player, a young Blumaroo who was tuning the same string on his bass guitar for the fifth time in a row. "Best to not make it worse."

"OK, OK," Gyllis said, but he couldn't help but wander back to the curtains and peek out again. This was the biggest night of their lives -- after their first show at the Tyrannian Concert Hall, everything was going to change for them.

"Two minutes until you're on," the stage director said, poking his head out of the dark wings on the side of the stage. "Where's the rest of the band?"

"Huh?" Gyllis said, still staring at the crowd in the Hall.

"Where are your bandmates?" the stage director repeated.

"Right there!" Gyllis waved his arm behind him, indicating when Ben, Lawrie, and Keily had been sitting.

"Well, you'd better hope they get here soon -- the Hall has a capacity crowd tonight and somebody's going on, even if it's just you."

Gyllis turned away from the curtains, snapping, "What are you talking about? We're all here..." His voice trailed off as he turned fully around. His bandmates were gone. Sweat instantly sprang onto his forehead as his stomach seemed to drop into his boots. The murmuring of the crowd seemed louder than ever. "Where are they? They were right here!" He glanced at the stage director in nervous terror. "Is this some kind of joke?"

The Gelert shrugged. "If it is, it's definitely on you. You're on."

The curtains began to slowly open...

Author: Stage Fright!
Date: Nov 24th
As the audience roar built to a deafening crescendo, Gyllis froze in place, rooted by fear and confusion to his position in front of the microphone. A spotlight snapped on, leaving him blinking out into the darkness. This was supposed to be his cue to kick in with the throbbing power chords of their big hit, 'Grey Faerie Blues.' Automatically, Gyllis let one paw rest against the strings of his guitar.

If Lawrie had run off in a fit of nerves, he'd only have to carry the show until the others brought him back. That wouldn't be too bad. After all, what serious rock fan didn't enjoy a good guitar solo? For a moment it seemed as though everything could still be okay. He took up a dramatic pose, raising the tension by swinging his arm in two full circles before thrumming his paw across the guitar. This was where the music took over...

...except the only sound that came from his instrument was a strangled, metallic choking noise. It wasn't even in tune. Horrified, Gyllis looked down and concentrated on sounding out a few chords, but it was useless. He realised belatedly that someone must have unplugged the amplifier, although by then he could only be grateful that this meant only the first few rows in the audience would be able to hear the terrible, discordant noise he was making. Could this be sabotage? The cheering had faded into an awkward silence, and at the back it sounded like someone was beginning to boo.

"Psst!" A loud hiss from the left side of the stage caught Gyllis's attention, and he turned to see the furious-looking stage director waving both paws at him. "You'd better do something! If we have to refund all of tonight's tickets, it will be you lot who'll pay for it."

"Err, right." Gyllis turned back to the microphone, wondering what exactly he was going to do to entertain everyone without any music. Having been delighted to peek out on such a large crowd only moments ago, the Kacheek now only saw a sea of faces he was about to disappoint. Fumbling for something to say, Gyllis leant forward and called out something he'd heard a lot of singers yell during concerts, "Are you having fun yet?"

In retrospect, that probably hadn't been the smartest thing to pick. With the stony silence turning into loud booing, he tried another tactic. "So, a Poogle, a Zafara and a Skeith walk into a bar..."

It was an old joke, but to Gyllis's surprise, it didn't make the crowd boo any louder. Had he done something right? He looked out hopefully, but it didn't seem as though they were looking at him at all anymore. Slowly, the Kacheek realised that they were all staring at something high in the rigging above him. He raised his head to see...

Author: stariell
Date: Nov 24th
...three shapes entangled in the rigging.

Gyllis's first thought was that these were the Poogle, the Zafara, and the Skeith who had walked out of his joke and into a mess of wiring. However, upon closer inspection -- or rather, more decisive squinting into the spotlights -- Gyllis recognised the familiar outlines of a Techo, a Blumaroo, and a Wocky.

Otherwise known as the remaining members of his band.

"Ben?" called Gylllis worriedly. "Lawrie? Keily?"

There was an answering wiggle from at least one of the bundles of thick black cables -- bundles that reminded Gyllis of something, though he could not remember what.

All of the eyes in the audience were now on Gyllis -- they thought that this was part of an introductory performance and they waited expectantly for the next act.

Gyllis felt ill.

"A Techo, a Blumaroo, and a Wocky get inexplicably propelled upward into a tangle of cables," said Gyllis weakly, and the audience chuckled appreciatively before lapsing once more into expectant silence.

A quick glance at stage left informed Gyllis that the Gelert stage director was looking at him like he was an escaped pink furball from Meepit Juice Break. Gyllis smiled feebly at him and then turned to the audience, whose sheer number reminded him of the dozens of tickets his band would have to refund if he did not do something quickly.

Gyllis looked up at the crowd and took a deep breath. I'm going to wing it. Wing it like a Pteri with its tail on fire.

"So first let me sing you a little ditty about Techos, Blumaroos, and..."

Then Gyllis's mouth went dry: moving above the audience's heads, a horrible, many-legged shadow was scuttling with uncanny ease along the cables and rigging that made up the Concert Hall's ceiling.

The Spider Grundo!

Gyllis suddenly understood why the balled-up bunches of cables that were his three friends had seemed so familiar. That was how the Spider Grundo liked to prepare his victims, before he...

Gyllis could not finish the thought. Instead, he determined to distract the Spider Grundo in the best manner possible, which was to...

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Nov 25th
...make the loudest, most ear-splitting noise possible.

The Spider Grundo reigned in a kingdom of shadows, solitude, and silence. His eyes and ears were accustomed to the darkness and tranquillity of the thickets he called home.

Home... he was a far way from it, wasn't he? Why would he come out here -- to Tyrannia? Where the sun was harsh and bright. Let alone the Concert Hall... he can't be... following me, can he? Gyllis pushed away the thought with a shiver.

Elly had said that the Spider Grundo didn't like noise, didn't like luminescence. Fire. That's what had saved him last time. Fire and the disorienting clanging of pots and pans. Gyllis blinked and for a moment he felt like he was back there, in the forest. He could smell the smoke of the burning pine branches and hear the ferocious drumming and the hissing of the Spider Grundo as he... and Elly's voice, shrill and clear in his ear, telling him to run away, run and never look back...

Gyllis shivered. It had worked, all right. He had escaped. He had never seen the Spider Grundo after that. But then again... He hadn't seen Elly either...

Until now. For a brief moment, he half-expected to see her pop out of the shadows and tell him to get a move on. But of course, she didn't.

The Spider Grundo was back. Was here. Lurking above him, watching...

But Elly... Elly was gone.

Gyllis looked up to the crowd. Faces stared back at him. Excited faces. Smiling faces. Happy faces. Naive faces. They were like Myncis on a white-sugar beach, completely unaware that the clouds high above them were a vicious storm...

He slid his shaking fingers over his guitar strings. They were surprisingly cool underneath his fingers, comforting, almost... But useless. Utterly useless.

But that didn't mean hope was lost. No. What was it Elly had said? There was always something... always something.

Gyllis reached out and clutched the mike, pulling it toward him. He looked out into the crowd and forced a smile to his trembling lips. "So let me sing you a little ditty about Techos, Blumaroos, and Wockies," he said, picking off where he his voice had uncomfortably trailed off only seconds earlier. "But first, I need you to do me a little favour. I need you to scream as loud and as hard as you possibly can. So loud that Maraqua can hear you. Do you think you can do that for me?" He winked at the audience.

"Yeeeeeeeaaaah!"

The scream was deafening. Gyllis stole a quick glance up to the rafters. The Spider Grundo had stopped moving. The creature twitched once. Gyllis's heart leapt. It was working.

"Is that all you got?" he cried. More noise... more noise meant more time. He needed all the time he could get.

Screams, shouts, shrieks answered his call. The clamour was overwhelming.

"I can't heeeear you."

Thunderous, ear-splitting shrieks filled the hall. The building seemed to shake. Gyllis wouldn't have been surprised if they really could be heard from Maraqua...

He looked up and stopped.

The Spider Grundo was nowhere to be seen.

Gyllis paled and scanned the ceiling. The ten-limbed form was gone.

"Oh, please... no..." Gyllis looked up, over his shoulder, dreading the worst. But the squirming forms of his friends and bandmates were alone, the Spider Grundo wasn't there either...

Then where...?

And that's when he realised, the screaming hadn't stopped...

Author: reveirie
Date: Nov 25th
The Spider Grundo had descended upon the audience. He appeared surprisingly impervious to the shrieks his appearance had elicited from the crowd. Hissing, the monstrous Grundo began to spin his silk, entangling some unlucky audience members, while the rest fled from the Concert Hall as fast as they could.

Gyllis stood utterly still for a moment, his entire body gone cold. Then he shook off the shock and, unthinkingly, went running at the Spider Grundo, yelling at the top of his lungs.

"Go away! Get out of here!" the Kacheek cried, waving his guitar in as threatening a manner as he could. The Spider Grundo looked up from his newest thoroughly entangled victim to stare at Gyllis with deep, soulless eyes.

The Kacheek slowed to a stop. For a few moments that stretched on like hours, Grundo and Kacheek stared at each other in silence. Then the Grundo said a single word:

"Traitor."

"Wh-what?" Gyllis stammered, not quite believing what he heard.

"Traitor," the Spider Grundo whispered. The air seemed to shimmer around his form, and then the Grundo disappeared completely, leaving only a frantically wriggling Neopet lying on the ground, wrapped up with the strongest of silks.

No, wait... there was something else.

As Gyllis knelt down to help free the trapped audience member, he saw an envelope lying on the ground nearby. After pulling apart the sticky threads holding the other Neopet (who promptly resumed his panicked screaming and fled the Concert Hall), Gyllis picked up the envelope, opened it, and extracted the letter sealed within.

As he read it, his eyes widened.

"No..." he breathed. "It can't be..."

Author: cookybananas324
Date: Nov 26th
Clutching the letter in one trembling paw, Gyllis rubbed his eyes and scanned the contents one more time. As much as he willed himself to have made a mistake, the inky-black scrawl remained unchanged, and what he had to do about it was perfectly clear. There was, however, something else he had to do first.

*****

Ben groaned as Gyllis crouched beside him to pull away the last sticky remnants of the Spider Grundo's silk. The Techo had never had a head for heights, and being dangled upside down above the Concert Hall would have been bad enough without the fear that he might have been about to become an arachnid's appetiser. "Thanks, Gyl, I think I'm okay now."

Gyllis only nodded, rubbing his paws together to slough off the tacky residue. The usually excitable Kacheek had been quiet and withdrawn ever since he'd helped his bandmates down from the rigging. Ben thought his eyes looked strangely blank.

"Gyl?" Sitting up, the Techo tried to get his friend to look directly at him. "It was incredible what you did back there, you know. Charging at that overgrown creepy-crawly like that, I thought you were Grundo-chow. I wouldn't blame you for being shaken up about it."

Finally meeting Ben's eyes, Gyllis shook his head. "It isn't that. Listen, I have to go now, but Keily's agreed to walk Lawrie home, so you don't have to worry about it. I'm sorry tonight went so horribly wrong and I... I hope you'll be able to find a new guitarist before the next show. I have to go."

With that, he stood and started walking toward the nearest exit. He was at the door before Ben caught up with him, reaching to grab his shoulder. "Hey! Tonight's been bad, but that doesn't mean you have to quit over it!"

"It's not about the show. It's about this." Gyllis turned, and shoved a folded scrap of paper into Ben's hand. "Do you remember what I told you about Elly?"

Some of the terrible fear that Gyllis had been bottling up since reading the note crept into his voice, and it cracked as he said his friend's name. Elly. He'd never forgiven himself for leaving her that night, when the Spider Grundo had been waiting for both of them, deep in the jungle around the Tyrannian village where they all lived. He'd never forgotten her, even though his friends never seemed to say her name when he was nearby. Gyllis had been hailed as a hero that night, for warning the village about the monster threatening their home. They said he'd had to run, had to leave Elly for the sake of everyone else.

He didn't feel like a hero. He felt like a traitor.

Now his darkest fears seemed to have been confirmed. Gyllis pushed open the door and stood watching as Ben read the note, the Techo's face twisting through the same disbelieving contortions as his own had upon reading the words written there.

Traitor.

Will it be her life or yours? Finish what was begun. It ends tonight.

"I have to go," Gyllis said again, ducking out into the crisp night air of the Tyrannian Plateau. "I know what it wants me to do, and there isn't much time..."

Author: stariell
Date: Dec 1st
"Hey!" Ben yelled and ran out after him, grabbing Gyllis's shoulder as soon as he caught up. He stumbled a little, panting, as the fiery tingle of returning circulation pounded into his legs.

Gyllis started to jerk away, then groaned a little and held still as he realised that Ben was still wobbly from his ordeal. "Ben, I really do have to go."

"Gyl, THINK." Ben lashed his tail, thumping it on the ground absently to try to get its circulation going again too. "What if it's lying?"

"What if it's not?" Gyllis retorted.

"It's been months, Gyllis. Do you think it kept her," he swallowed, "kept her alive this long?"

The Kacheek blanched. His lips went miserably pale, and it almost looked as if the color started to drain out of his fur. "It could have," he said softly.

"Just to trap you? Are you that special to it?"

Gyllis shook his head. "I could see it," he said, "wanting to... p-play with it captives. Keep them around. Dr. Sloth made him, you know."

"That's the story, anyway," Ben said.

"Who else could turn a Grundo into that kind of monster?" Gyllis flared.

"Well, there's Hubrid Nox," the Techo said thoughtfully. "He goes in for mutants too."

Gyllis groaned and hung his head. "Elly was a Grundo, too," he said quietly. "A mutant Grundo, but even so, I don't think she'd have had the strength to fight him on his own turf for that long. He might have kept her."

"And followed you? You can't be the only one who's ever escaped him!"

"Well, obviously he followed me, even if I don't know why he did it!" Or didn't want to say. Finish what was begun. "But I have to go. If there's even a chance of saving her. I have to go." He realised he'd started talking about the Spider Grundo as a "he" at some point, not an it. Memories of that night swarmed over him -- memories from before the fire, of whispers in the dark, and an agreement he'd thrown away when Elly's spark had caught. "Don't you see?" he added pleadingly.

"Well," Ben said, "I guess so." He looked Gyllis square in the eye. "But you don't have to go alone..."

Author: schefflera
Date: Dec 1st
"Thanks, Ben," said Gyllis with a half-hearted attempt at a smile. "I guess it would be smarter to bring someone else along..."

"Exactly," said Ben. "Besides, the band owes you one."

They made for the edge of the Tyrannian Plateau, where the flat rocky expanse gave away to the steamy mysteries of the Tyrannian Jungle.

As they walked, Gyllis slipped into unquiet musings.

Hero, they'd called him at the village. Hero.

And he had felt like a fraud.

And now it was coming back to haunt him; the black many-legged shadow was a truth which marred his otherwise impeccable repute just as the Spider Grundo's note confirmed it, blackly, indelibly on a little white scrap of paper. Black marks of truth on the shining hero's white.

And it was forcing him to rethink the choice he had made all those moons ago -- her life or yours?

Well. Perhaps it was a chance for redemption.

But then again, Gyllis wasn't sure he was interested in redemption if it resulted in him being utterly at the mercy of the Spider Grundo's horrible appetites. Gyllis groaned at the thought.

"What are you thinking of?" Ben enquired when Gyllis's state of emotional turmoil was eloquently manifested by his inarticulate groan. "Something I should know about?"

"Nothing, really. I've just begun to understand how a Zytch feels when it's caught in a Spyder's web."

"Huh," replied Ben. "Speaking of webs..."

The sentence trailed off and was completed by a gesture: Ben pointed toward the single, tortuous path that led into the Tyrannian Jungle.

"Looks like he's expecting us."

The path was thickly coated with the Spider Grundo's silk; light-coloured threads criss-crossed over branches, stumps, and the murky Tyrannian undergrowth.

"Let's do this," said Ben, when Gyllis appeared to hesitate. "For Elly."

"For Elly," Gyllis repeated with a firm nod.

And Ben and Gyllis made their way through the dark path, fighting the sticky threads all the way until they began to make out a distant light a little way off, twinkling hesitantly in the gloom...

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Dec 2nd
As they approached it, they realised that they were becoming more and more hemmed in. The gluey, glistening silk laced more thickly through the trees and bushes. Gyllis brushed up against one of the strands and lost fur tearing himself free.

They hadn't noticed at first because the path itself was sticky, with thin threads slowing the way forward and lying along the ground to catch their ankles and drag at their feet, but the edges of it were impassible. There were only two ways to go -- out and on.

They went more slowly toward the light, expecting an ambush at any moment now that their route had been so restricted. But nothing happened; the silk only grew thicker, like some ropy fungus weighing down the trees, and the light grew closer.

At last they reached it. It wasn't even a real clearing, just a slight widening of the path so that three or four Neopets could walk alongside each other instead of at most two who got along well. The ground, for a wonder, was unwebbed.

Elly was there.

She was alive.

She looked like a shadow clothed in moonlight. She sat with her back against a tree. Light played across her dark green skin and white clothing from a geometrically elegant Orange Kreludan Lamp that sat incongruously at her feet, flickering with an air of exhaustion. Her white gown, gleaming in its light despite a faint dusting of dirt and bark, looked even more improbable than the lamp.

She didn't look up at their approach until Gyllis gave a strangled cry of "Elly!" and rushed forward. Then she put up one muscular arm, with a strange ripping noise, and a large, roughened green hand caught him in the chest and held him off. "You shouldn't have listened to him," she said wearily. "I wish you hadn't come."

"I abandoned you once. I couldn't do it again."

"You left to warn the town while I fought. You're faster; I'm stronger." She managed the ghost of a smile. "Wouldn't have worked the other way."

Gyllis hung his head. "I'd been trying to bargain before that...."

"I know. I wouldn't have trusted him to keep it. And I didn't agree to it. But he doesn't quit talking about it." She started to let her head fall back, but caught herself before it touched the tree. "I don't suppose you warned anybody before you left this time?"

"Uh," Gyllis said, "not exactly. But he did show up at our concert, so everybody kind of knows he's there."

Elly choked a little. "Him? At a rock concert?"

"Yeah, I know."

"I prefer private parties," said a low voice, shaping the more delicate letters carefully around its mandibles. "We seem to have a gatecrasher, though. And not properly dressed."

Gyllis whirled. Ben was standing very still, and the white Techo's skin was paling toward ghost, but without the glow.

With good reason. Although it hadn't yanked him into the treetops, the Spider Grundo had one claw on Ben's shoulder, and its massive face peered around the other side of his head.

Gyllis couldn't make sense of "properly dressed" until he swung his hand back and brushed Elly's knee. And it stuck. She swatted him free a second later, but he realised exactly how bad the situation was -- they were ringed in by cobwebs, the Spider Grundo was hanging his arm over Ben's shoulder in a mockery of a "good pal" pose, and Elly was wearing a dress made of spider silk.

And only Gyllis, now, was standing free and untouched... and the Spider Grundo was waiting for him to act...

Author: schefflera
Date: Dec 2nd
Gyllis wasn't sure if he could do this alone. He had to use his wits. He needed to set Elly free. To help fight the Spider Grundo. He needed Ben to help him set Elly free. He needed... to do so many things.

"Come on, THINK," he urged himself. Finally he thought of an idea. An idea that might just work...

"Ben, scream. Like this!" Gyllis let out a loud shout that even Elly jolted back from.

The Spider Grundo growled and dropped Ben, who had by then started screaming. He covered his ears and repeatedly yelled, "Stop it!"

Meanwhile, Gyllis stripped Elly of the spider-silk dress, after much difficulty.

"Let's get out of here," Elly said, standing up. They started toward the mouth of the silk cave.

"Not so fast..." The Spider Grundo rose up. "I did not appreciate your little performance very much... however, perhaps you would like to see MY performance?" As it spoke, it fired a trail of glistening web toward the mouth of the silk cave.

They were trapped.

Without hesitation, Elly launched herself upon the Spider Grundo, grabbing four of its limbs with much effort. Ben joined in, aiming a flying kick at its face. Gyllis stood rooted to the ground. Literally rooted. He had stepped on a humongous bundle of silk!

He struggled, but it was no use. He was stuck. He watched helplessly as Elly and Ben fought the Spider Grundo bravely. He could see them tiring, slowing down. And there was nothing he could do...

Author: shearesville
Date: Dec 3rd
Gyllis lurched sideways in a futile attempt to dislodge himself from the gooey threads.

It was useless; he was ankle-deep in the arachnid equivalent of Meerca Brothers Glue and going nowhere fast.

So he did the one thing that years of gigs with friends had trained him to do and do well: he sang.

He was neither in tune nor particularly coherent (his lyrics being comprised mainly of "We are all going to die!") but his voice was loud and steady, something which his earlier screams hadn't been.

Ben caught on quickly. Instead of attempting to physically beat the Spider Grundo (when he had never so much as set a foot in the Battledome in his life) he belted a powerful rendition of "Tyrannia, We Stand For Thee" right in the Spider Grundo's face.

Elly, who was musically inclined only insofar that she could crack her knuckles to "Scorchy Claws Is Coming To Town," joined in with a vibrant monotonous hum.

The three of them combined successfully redefined "cacophony," and the Spider Grundo's pleas for mercy were drowned by their discordant song.

Eventually the Spider Grundo fell trembling to the ground and wrapped his arms around himself with incoherent jabbering.

They hushed their singing as the Spider Grundo became still, and the four of them stood at a strange stalemate: Gyllis, Ben, and Elly were coated in the Spider Grundo's silk and would be hard-pressed to move, let alone escape. Meanwhile, the Spider Grundo was now utterly at their mercy, for song was a more potent weapon against him than any shouts, and now this weakness had been discovered.

Silence fell on the dark silk-strewn dell as each waited for the other to make a move -- but none was forthcoming from either side, and time stretched horribly in the stillness.

Finally, the Spider Grundo spoke in his softly sibilant voice.

"I only wanted to be a hero too."

Gyllis and Elly exchanged glances. "A hero?"

"Only wanted to tie you up," the Spider Grundo continued, and his trembling increased, "to make you listen, to w-warn you about..."

But it was too late: outlined against the dark forest was an even darker shape, whose crested head and red eyes were only too familiar to everybody present.

Gyllis could only hope that the rest of his band might come to his rescue wielding Skeith Clubs, because singing wasn't going to cut it any more...

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Dec 3rd
As the Spider Grundo fell silent, a low, resonant chuckle filled the clearing. Between glistening strands of spider silk stepped a figure more accustomed to space-age technology than the primitive, rock-hewn surroundings of Tyrannia. Recognisable from the front page of the Neopian Times, from old war banners and protest songs and, for one of the four gathered in the jungle, from painful, personal experience.

"Dr. Sloth." Gyllis choked out in a harsh whisper, only to see greenish lips peel back from yellowing teeth in a twisted smile.

"Thank you for dispensing with the introductions, boy. Time is of the essence." Sloth tilted his head in Gyllis's direction, the chilling grin belying a malevolent gleam in his eyes. He spared only a moment's attention, although it was enough time for the contents of the Kacheek's stomach to perform a triple somersault, leaving him feeling as though he'd just stepped off the ricketiest ride in the Carnival of Terror. He struggled uselessly against the silken restraints still rooting him to the ground, but Sloth had already moved on.

Now Neopia's most reviled villain was bending over a crumpled heap of shivering, tangled limbs. The Spider Grundo tried weakly to get to its feet, letting out a mournful cry of, "No, please..."

"What's this?" Sloth sneered down at his pitiable creation. "Have you run out of steam already? A pity. While I do enjoy the begging, it has a tendency to become dull all too quickly. What of your brave warning? Now I have two further subjects in addition to the two I came for, and all thanks to your valiant attempt at heroics."

"What do you want with any of us!?" Ben cried out. He too was trapped in thick spools of webbing, but his free arm wound up as though he'd like to deliver a punch to the very nose that Sloth was looking down at all of them from.

"He means me," Gyllis said quietly. "He must mean me, I'm the one the Spider Grundo has been following all this time."

"Gyl, don't--" Elly started, but Gyllis stopped her with a shake of his head.

"No, it's all right, I'm ready. This ends tonight, Dr. Sloth. I don't know what you want me for, but I'll go willingly if you leave the others alone." He'd come prepared to face up to whatever awaited him.

What he hadn't been prepared for, though, was the laughter. Sloth looked down at him in a mixture of surprise and genuine amusement at his offer. "Quite apart from the absurdity of your appeal to the kinder reaches of my heart -- I have all of you, why should I let even one go? It was never you I came for."

Responding to the confusion on Gyllis's face, Sloth turned and pointed first to the Spider Grundo, "I came to reclaim my experiment," then to Elly, "and my escapee."

Gyllis and Ben looked at Elly in shock. The Spider Grundo was known to be an accident from Sloth's lab, one strand of mutation missing the vital mind control element that allowed the evil scientist to manufacture his armies. Elly, though, she was different. Gyllis had been best friends with her ever since she'd moved to their village. She was too smart, too sweet, too normal to be bound up in the machinations of someone like Sloth. Wasn't she?

Elly bowed her head, dark green antennae drooping forlornly, "I'm sorry, Gyllis. It happened during the war..."

Author: stariell
Date: Dec 4th
"No," Gyllis said, silencing her. He didn't want to hear it, didn't want to be assured that his friend was an experiment or some sort of captive of Sloth's. This was definitely the worst day he had ever had, and he didn't want to lose his best friend again.

"Why?" Ben asked him, but Sloth's patience had been stretched thin enough.

"Silence!" he commanded them, and Gyllis shut his mouth.

Dr. Sloth started pacing back and forth between Elly and the Spider Grundo angrily. "I have been waiting long enough for this moment. Stories are of no importance to me, and I'm the one in control. You obey me, your master, and no one else."

Something he had said struck a chord with Gyllis. Sloth was right. What Elly had to say wasn't important, because no matter what this monster did to her, she had still been his friend through everything. Then the Kacheek realised something else.

With each passing moment, Sloth's pacing back and forth brought him closer and closer to Elly's reach. All Gyllis had to do was distract him.

"Dr. Sloth," he said, and the menacing figure turned to face him, only two steps away from Elly.

Gyllis thought frantically, trying to think of a way to send their captor into a rage. Suddenly, he got it.

He didn't have to send him into a rage. All he had to do was make him recoil in disgust, and Gyllis knew exactly what silk-spinner could do just that...

Author: be2aware
Date: Dec 4th
Gyllis looked sharply at the cowering Spider Grundo. "Follow my lead," he whispered, so low that only Sloth's experiment-gone-wrong could hear it. In his peripheral vision, he could see the Spider Grundo nod.

"Slo-oth!" Gyllis complained loudly. "This spider silk is so gro-oss!" His whining reminded him of one of the Myncis in M*YNCI having a nervous breakdown.

Sloth turned, abruptly distracted. "Please," he said. "Don't tell me you want me to get you out of that cocoon, do you?"

"But Slo-oth!" he cried again, motioning to his friends to follow his lead. "It's just so gro-oss!"

"Yeah!" Ben chorused, joining in, his whiny singer voice perfect in the melody. "Puh-leese?"

"Oh, yeah, Sloth!" Elly joined in now, and their whining grew louder. "Get us ou-out!"

Sloth's eye twitched at the whining. Whining wasn't something he ever took, not from anyone. He began in a commanding voice, "Now, look--"

"But, Slo-oth!" they whined, their voices having just the right level of annoyance.

Sloth backed away from the annoying voices quickly, toward his bag, desperate to get away. But at that moment, a sticky strand of web hit the wall next to Sloth, causing him to cower in disgust.

Gyllis smiled at the sight. Soon, he, Ben, and Elly were all untied and headed to the now unsticky mouth of the cave, along with the Spider Grundo.

But as they neared, they heard pounding footsteps in the distance, and Gyllis's eyes widened in fear.

"Sloth called back-up..."

Editor's Note: How do you want the story to end? Tell us!

Author: newmoon653
Date: Dec 5th
"No, he didn't," a familiar voice spoke out of the darkness beyond the dell. "We did!"

"Lawrie!" Elly cried, not certain whether she should be surprised, delighted, or just plain scared at seeing the youngest member of Gyllis's band overcoming his usual nerves to march boldly into the clearing. Lawrie held up a flaming torch with a paw that only trembled a little.

"Keily and I heard you talking outside the Concert Hall." The green Blumaroo explained, holding his torch out to illuminate Gyllis's face in its flickering orange glow. The small pool of light made everything around them seem darker, so that nobody noticed the shadows at the edges of the clearing, carefully pulling away the tangled weavings of the Spider Grundo's trap.

Keily stepped into the light, the Usul drummer bearing a torch of her own. "You saved the whole village last time, Gyl. Did you think now we'd leave you to face this alone?"

"I don't know what you think a group of petulant children can do to stop me..." Sloth sneered, picking the last strands of spider silk off his jacket. "Now I have two more subjects for the laboratory."

Another villager stepped into the light. Sloth frowned. "Three more."

Another villager moved to stand side by side with Elly and the band. Then another, and another. Sloth soon lost count of how many angry Neopets stood facing him. These were not soldiers; they were ordinary townsfolk. Mothers clutched saucepans and rolling pins as makeshift weaponry. Farmers had brought spades and hoes. On any other day, the evil tyrant would have laughed in the face of such a homespun army.

Any ordinary day would have seen Sloth surrounded by an army of his own. Like all bullies, Dr. Frank Sloth proved to be a coward, and a coward never fights alone. As Gyllis was learning, a hero never has to.

"This isn't over!" Sloth cried, shaking his fist as he pressed a button on his belt and dematerialised in front of them.

"Yes it is," Gyllis replied, laughing in relief as the rest of the villagers cheered. He turned to Elly and held out a paw, which she took nervously, before hugging him tight. "Don't worry, whatever he tries, we'll never let him come for you again."

The rest of the band piled up to join in the group hug, and Ben grinned at them. "Hey, I just had an idea for a song to open our next concert with. It's called 'Ode to a Hero.'"

The End

Author: stariell
Date: Dec 5th



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