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Week 394
You are on Week 395
Week 396

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 Five Ends Friday, December 12

Lia stared wistfully at the pretty, brown-haired Usul dancing on the table, her voice ringing out over the cheers of the restaurant's customers. To the young Krawk, Hannah seemed to have it all -- beauty, talent, and a knack for finding adventures. All Lia had was a boring job clearing tables at The Golden Dubloon. It just didn't seem very fair.

Hannah's song ended and she hopped off the table, promising the crowd that she'd be back soon for another song or story about her many travels around Neopia. Lia thought about going over to the Usul and complimenting her on her exciting tales; after all, maybe if they were friends, Hannah would let her tag along on a treasure hunt some day. But before the Krawk could reach the Usul, a large Lupe blocked her way and began speaking to Hannah in hushed tones.

Even though she knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, Lia couldn't help herself and craned her neck to try to hear better. Over the din of the restaurant, she could only make out a few words: "Midnight... caves... north coast... a ransom in treasure..." Hannah was nodding excitedly, her eyes bright, so Lia figured the Usul was plotting another treasure hunt, stealing it right out from under the noses of pirates.

Why should she have all the adventures? Lia thought. My shift is almost over -- I could find those caves long before Hannah! The Krawk felt a little tickle in her stomach that could've been either fear or excitement at the thought.

***

Lia held her pocket watch a little closer to her small torch and tried to see the time in the flickering light. It was almost midnight. Outside the cave, everything was quiet except for the slap of waves against the shore. She pulled her cloak a little tighter around her against the chill and settled in to wait. After all, adventure didn't run on a schedule.

She must have drifted off, because the next thing Lia knew, she was being shaken awake by rough hands. The Krawk blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to make them adjust enough to the darkness of the cave to see who was shaking her, but all she could make out was an enormous black silhouette.

"We've got her, Captain!" a gruff voice said, sounding awfully pleased with itself. "We've finally got the famous Hannah..."

Author: Careful What You Wish For...
Date: Dec 8th
At the pet's words, Lia's head shot up. Hannah? They were mistaking her for the famous Usul?

"Wait, I'm not..." she began but was interrupted before she could finish her sentence.

"Well, well, look at who we've got here. If this isn't the famous Hannah. Don't you always sing about your adventures? Your wit and your strength? And now we've got you here, sleeping in one of our caves."

An evil laugh echoed through the cavern as Lia was lifted to her feet and pulled forward.

Closer to the entrance of the cave, she could finally recognise more than dark shapes. She saw bandannas and golden earrings, wooden legs and hooks. Pirates, she realised with a jolt.

"But I'm not Hannah," she protested loudly, her heart hammering in her chest. Couldn't they see that she wasn't even an Usul but a Krawk? Surely they must recognise that she was not the pet they had been looking for.

"Sure, and I'm the emperor of Shenkuu." A Scorchio walked up to her, his golden hook reflecting the faint moonlight. He mustered Lia closely. She whimpered as he ran the metal hand over her face, but did not dare moving away from his touch. "You are Hannah. Do not dare lying to me again."

The ridicule in his voice had disappeared, replaced by a malicious tone that made Lia lower her eyes.

She gasped at what she saw.

Those were not her feet. She did not know the shoes, or the fur on her legs. Heart racing, she looked at her arms, once covered by tough skin, that were now as furry as her legs. But what surprised her most was the dress she was wearing. She had seen it once before that evening, on Hannah's body.

No wonder the pirates mistook her for the Usul.

But if she was here, looking like this, what had happened to the real Hannah...?

Author: iloenchen
Date: Dec 8th
* * * * *

Hannah was not pleased.

The Usul was standing knee-deep in cold, dark water. Her skirt helplessly floated on the waves like seaweed; it did nothing to protect her from the harsh, icy winter ocean. She reached up to run her fingers through her long, silky brown hair -- a habit she had picked up when she was annoyed.

Hannah sighed and glared at her companion. "I do not like this, Raydon. It's cowardly."

The Lupe beside her smirked, teeth gleaming in the shadows, frighteningly sharp. "It's not like we had another choice."

"But we did," Hannah cried. "I don't like knowing I got someone innocent wrapped up into all of this."

"Innocent? She followed you here, Hannah. She wanted this. And would you rather it be you in her position?"

Hannah frowned. "For one thing, I wouldn't have let myself be captured. Secondly, couldn't we have just... knocked her out or something? So she didn't run into... them?" Despite her best efforts, she could not disguise the shudder in her voice.

"They would've seen her anyway. And you know what they do with witnesses. It's better this way."

Hannah opened to her mouth to argue, but ended up glaring instead. "I hate it when you're right."

She gazed around the cave corner. An Usul with long brown hair was speaking with the pirates. Or shrieking, more like it. She was too far away to hear the words, but Hannah had a feeling she knew what Tia was saying... or at least, she thought that's what the poor Krawk's name was...

Hannah shuddered and tore her gaze away. It was unnerving. Seeing someone else in her body... she couldn't imagine how confused Sia was.

"I hate this magic thing," Hannah muttered bitterly.

Raydon chuckled. "Well, you'd better get used to it."

Hannah looked back to the group of pirates. They were herding a squirming Mia away; for a moment, she felt sorry for the poor girl. But then she saw the crates, light seeping from in between the cracks... she tensed.

Magic. She had never liked magic. Especially after the whole incident on Terror Mountain... but the treasure. She closed her eyes, letting a fleeting moment of bliss wash over her. The treasure... think of the treasure. It was worth it. Even if it meant spending time with a freaky magician like Raydon.

Yes. It was all worth it. For that single, single treasure...

If Grandpa could see her now...

A sudden thought occurred to her. She opened her eyes. "Raydon? What's going to happen when the spell fades? I mean, she can't look like me forever, can she?"

Raydon didn't answer.

Instead, he pushed himself off the wall, shifting his position into a stance. "It's time."

Hannah nodded.

"We've only got one shot at this," Raydon continued. "One shot."

"I know."

Hannah peered around the wall again. The pirates were slowly moving away toward their ship. All they had to do now was follow...

...and hope for the best... Her fingertips tingled, a familiar rush flooded through her body. Suddenly, the water didn't seem as cold anymore. Hannah couldn't help it. She smiled. "Let's go..."

Author: reveirie
Date: Dec 9th
* * * * *
The lure of treasure was such that Hannah was occasionally prone to a sort of tunnel vision: she saw only the glittering pile of treasure at the end of a passage and did not perceive, or consider, the dim figures which moved on its shadowy periphery.

One of those dim figures was Lia -- bold and thirsty for adventure, yes, but also a young and fundamentally inexperienced Krawk who was now prey to the whims of a rough pirate crew.

Needless to say, Lia was utterly terrified.

She found herself being dragged toward the pirates' ship by a pair of raggedy deckhands led by the golden-hooked Scorchio. All around her echoed jeers and laughs, and at each new shout Lia's heart sunk further into her (or, more accurately, Hannah's) boots. From what she gathered, she was being brought aboard the ship to help the pirates find a legendary treasure -- but what exactly this entailed was left unsaid, save for whatever dark message the pirates' sinister sneers conveyed.

"They call her Hannah the Brave," sang out one pirate amid the jeers.

"Because she sent the Bringer to his grave," joined in another.

"But she cleaned out spittoons --"

"-- at the Golden Dubloon --"

"Before she ever set foot in a pirate cave!"

* * * * *

For the second time in so many minutes, Hannah was not pleased.

Raydon stifled a laugh as Hannah's face turned an interesting shade of red.

"I never cleaned out a spittoon in my life," muttered Hannah. "For your information."

"Indeed."

Hannah and Raydon proceeded in silence, keeping a wary distance from the noisy pirate crew ahead of them (complete with their impromptu shanties).

"They're bringing her on the boat, just as you had predicted," Hannah remarked at length when the figures began to cluster around the rope ladder leading to the decks.

Raydon did not look surprised. "Of course they did. I'm always right."

"And how are we getting on the ship, Raydon? Stow away like a couple of rats?"

"That won't be necessary. I specialise in appearance-shifting magic," said Raydon, and he smiled his sharp smile. "We're going undercover."

"Undercover as --"

"I thought kitchen hands would be least obtrusive."

"Great."

The next thing she knew, Hannah was clambering up the rope ladder dressed in raggedy pirate gear, closely followed by her fellow cook's assistant, Raydon.

As she clambered on deck, she had one last glimpse of her doppelganger Lia's fluffy tail before she was whisked to the Captain's cabin.

* * * * *

As soon as Lia was shoved into the cabin, the door behind her was locked.

She swallowed and peered around the dark cabin and then could not withhold a gasp of surprise at what she saw...

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Dec 9th
Since she was dragged onto a pirate's ship, she naturally assumed she'd be confronting a peg-legged, one-eyed, hook-handed pirate captain. Instead, she was shocked to see a tall, alluring Acara with deep violet eyes and a vicious smile.

"You're...you're..." was all Lia could utter.

"Greetings, my dear," said the Acara, rising from the chair. "It's good to finally meet you face to face. I'm sure Kanrik has told you about me." She had spoken in the lightest of tones, yet she didn't bother to hide the malice in her voice.

"I-I don't think..."

"He didn't? No, of course not, the traitor. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Masila, and I have been waiting for this meeting for a very, very long time."

Masila stepped toward the frightened Usul, unsheathing a golden dagger with a shining green jewel in the hilt. The Acara toyed with the weapon as if it were nail file, not taking her eyes off her guest.

"It's been hard these past few years since our Terror Mountain adventure," Masila continued, circling Lia while she spoke. "Not only did you stop me from becoming leader of the Thieves Guild and gaining control of the Bringer of Night, but thanks to your influence on Kanrik, I was banned from the Guild and had to rely on the help of savage pirates to carry out my plan!"

"P-plan?" stuttered Lia. "What do you mean? What are you going to do?"

Masila chuckled. "Oh, Hannah. I've read enough of adventure stories to know you must never reveal all the details of your plan to your mortal enemy. But don't worry; you'll have a front row seat when it's time, I promise."

Lia kept praying that she'd wake up from this nightmare. How could this be real? She remembered drifting off after entering the cave. Surely this all had to be in her head. No, she could still feel the bruises on her arms from where the pirates...

Her arm! That's when Lia remembered something that would finally prove she was telling the truth. When Hannah had returned to Krawk Island after the adventure on Terror Mountain, she had been cursed with the mark of Ta-Kutep. Patrons of the Golden Dubloon had begged Hannah again and again to show that strange red marking on her arm, so much that Lia had the detail memorised.

As Masila had been speaking, Lia rolled up her sleeve to see if the mark was there. Nothing but plain, brown fur. Lia finally found her proof! Now if Masila would shut up and listen to her...

"Masila, ma'am," Lia begged. "I don't know how else to explain this, but I'm not Hannah! I know I look like her, but..."

Masila shot up her hand, silencing her. "Oh, don't bore me with your petty mind games! Couldn't you do something less pathetic, like grovel for your life?"

"But I'm not Hannah! Look!"

At first, Masila wasn't even going to bother, but then noticed the lack of glowing red from the Usul's arm. She had watched her from the shadows so many times in the past and had seen the unmovable marking many times. Not even Taelia could remove it. How had Hannah managed...

Before Lia could blink, Masila had her pinned against the wall with the cold dagger pressed to her throat. Lia's toes were barely touching the ground as she stared into her captor's eyes, which seemed to pierce her very soul.

"Who are you?" she hissed.

Lia gulped and tried to speak the best she could. "My name is Lia! I-I work at the Golden Dubloon and all I wanted was some fun and excitement! When I saw Hannah talking to that weird Lupe, I couldn't help..."

"Lupe?" said Masila, more to herself. She loosened her grip (a little), and Lia could see that she was in deep thought. A wicked smile spread across her face.

"Oh, Raydon, you naughty boy..."

Author: bitsy_dj
Date: Dec 10th
* * * * *

Raydon the naughty boy was feeling remarkably un-naughty and unglamorous as he scrubbed at a vilely crusted plate in the dark, smelly galley. Beside him, Hannah was using a fork in an attempt to lever off the dried remains of some sort of gruel from a cracked bowl.

"Disgusting," whispered Hannah.

"Yarr," said Raydon in pirate-y agreement.

"And when yer done with that lot, ye can start the pots -- haven't had time to wash them since the Giant Squid took me leg back in Year 6..."

Hannah slumped at this new command from the Kyrii cook, who was perched on a stool peeling spuds and watching his two fresh kitchen hands appraisingly.

"More elbow grease there, young Usul, afore I clean that bowl for ye usin' your face."

"Yessir," said Hannah, and she pushed at a stray strand of crazily curly black hair (courtesy of Raydon's magic) and kept scrubbing.

* * * * *

Back in the Captain's cabin, Masila was grilling Lia for all she was worth.

"You said you heard the Lupe talk to Hannah."

"Y-yes..."

"What did he say, exactly?" Masila asked, and paced in ever-tightening circles around Lia.

"Something about a treasure -- I'm not sure --"

"What about a treasure?"

"I don't know any more -- please, let me go, I'm just a Krawk who --"

Masila stopped her pacing and turned with deliberate slowness to face Lia.

"You're a Krawk."

It was a statement that seemed mundane enough -- but Masila was looking at Lia so intently that she felt compelled to confirm it.

"Yes, I am a Krawk..."

Then Masila grinned dangerously.

"Raydon is a very naughty boy."

Masila gave Lia a last piercing glance before she unlocked her cabin door and called out:

"You there! Ixi! Take this message to the main deck -- Captain Masila says we're changing routes: head to Krawk Island's north shore. Make for the Fungus Cave. Immediately."

"But Cap'n, the wind is --"

"I said immediately.”

* * * * *

In the galley, Raydon heard the sudden commotion of stomping feet and pirates shouting orders for sails to be brought in as Masila's command trickled to all of the deckhands. The cook snored on his stool, completely oblivious to it all.

Raydon peeked out of a grimy round window and noted with a start that the ship was being turned around.

"What's the matter, Raydon?" whispered Hannah beside him. "You've gone pale..."

"Oh -- it's nothing," said Raydon. "Nothing at all. I'm pale because I made myself a white Lupe, remember?"

"Right," said Hannah sceptically, and she returned to cleaning out a pot. "I suppose you made yourself a queasy-looking white Lupe on purpose, too."

Raydon did not favour Hannah with an answer, and he waited instead for her to be reabsorbed by her work before he started edging away from her. His plans did not frequently go awry, and when something like this was happening -- well, it could only mean one thing.

Raydon knew what he had to do...

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Dec 10th
...as he picked up a large pan and swung it at the back of Hannah's head. There was a low clang and Hannah collapsed to the deck in a heap. Raydon glanced nervously at the cook to see if he had awakened, but years of rowdy pirates had dulled his senses, and the Kyrii continued snoring. The newly white Lupe would have to undergo one of his most powerful transformations if he wanted to make it off the pirate ship alive. He ducked into the pantry and barred himself in the tiny space, immediately beginning to mutter spells and phrases.

*****

Masila returned to her cabin, locking the door once more. Lia gulped nervously, her bushy Usul tail twitching. The Acara poured herself a glass of water and sat back, watching Lia with malice etched on her beautiful face.

"Raydon is an extremely skilled magician; it seems he was the one who changed you. Now, if you tell me every single detail you can remember about this conversation he had with Hannah, not only will I not kill you, but I will help you to return to your Krawk self. Agreed?" she said, toying with her razor-sharp dagger in one hand and holding her drink in the other.

"Y-Yes, Masila, but like I s-said, I only heard a few words..."

"What were those words?!" Masila snapped at the trembling Usul, who had the misfortune of being the mirror-image of the Acara's most hated enemy.

"Umm... let me think... just a second... Hannah asked him if he had any more leads about the treasure. And Raydon said the treasure had belonged to Ta-Kutep. He said there was some magical thing in the treasure stash, but Hannah didn't seem to care about that. I'm sorry, Masila, th-that's all I heard."

Masila's violet eyes glittered, and her hand flew. The golden dagger flashed across the room like lightning, and Lia screamed. The dagger lodged with a thud in the cabin wall, grazing Lia's shoulder and pinning her shirt to the timbers behind her. Masila approached the Usul, glowering murderously.

"Tell no one of this. Not the crew, not even my first-mate. You are Hannah, there is no treasure. If you do otherwise I will surely kill you," she hissed, then turned and flung her door open.

"Sailor! Take Hannah belowdecks and shackle her in the bilges!" she screeched.

*****

In the galley, the cook jolted awake as Masila screamed from her cabin. "Urgh, that Acara is murder on the ears," he growled; he glanced around his galley and noticed his assistants had stopped working.

"Where are they?" he roared, standing and lumbering around the table. He nearly tripped over the curly-haired Usul, Hannah in disguise. A dented pan lay on the deck beside her head.

"Where's the other fellow gone...?" the cook began, but then his eyes fell on the glowing mark of Ta-Kutep on the Usul's arm...

Author: sudanese
Date: Dec 11th
"Wait till the Captain hears about this!" screamed the cook, launching himself across the table toward the Usul, who was lying on the ground.

She jumped nimbly out of the way, dashed across the room to the cupboard and took out a bronze pan with which she boldly struck out at the bewildered cook. He ducked, picked up a rusty pot from the ground and swung it at Hannah's legs. She toppled over against the table and collapsed onto the ground.

The cook stood up and brought his pan down toward her head. It was just about to make contact when suddenly someone flung themselves against him and pinned him to the wall. The Kyrii found himself staring into the eyes of the Lupe, Raydon. He saw the Usul picking herself up just as Masila burst through into the galley.

The captain drew a glittering steel sword from her belt and pointed it straight at Raydon, hissing, "Hold it right there!"

Raydon released the cook, who fell sprawling on the floor. Masila inched the sword forward toward Raydon's throat, a gloating smile on her face. "Ooh, Raydon, you've been a very naughty boy," she whispered, touching the point to his neck. "You've tried to deceive me and I'm afraid I can't let you live."

Raydon gulped as the sword pressed yet harder against his windpipe. Suddenly Lia burst into the room, seized Masila from behind by her delicate gold necklace and pressed the dagger that Masila had previously thrown at her against the owners throat.

"Hold it right there, yourself!" she yelled, just as several other crewmembers came rushing through the door. "Nobody move or your captain dies!" she shouted at them. Everybody froze.

"I don't think so," smiled Masila, staying surprisingly calm under pressure. She muttered something under her breath, and suddenly the green jewel in the dagger's hilt began to glow with a soft light. Propelled by some strange magical force, the dagger jerked out of Lia's hand and back into Masila's grip. "Now you're in trouble," she smirked...

Author: cuteipie2842
Date: Dec 11th
... as she dove at the Usul. Lia shrieked and narrowly dodged the dagger. The blade cut a lock of her (or to be more accurate, Hannah's) hair; it fell to the ground with her. Masila snarled, but before she could react, she was kicked fiercely in the knees by Lia, most likely by accident. With a slight groan, the Acara stumbled, giving Lia just enough time to scramble to her feet and grab the first thing that her fingers touched -- a spatula.

She looked down at the kitchen utensil and frowned. "This won't do me any good." She dropped the spatula and reached to grab a much more effective weapon, a long, silver kitchen knife. She spun around just in time to see Masila leap to her feet, eyes fierce, blazing, the dagger in her hands. "And so it continues..." The Acara hissed, leaping at the Usul to continue a never-ending dance of narrow escapes and missed sword-swipes.

The crewmembers, stunned for a moment, sprang into action. With roars, they ran to aid their captain, but stopped short as a dark, curly haired Usul leapt in front of them, wielding a rather menacing-looking frying pan. A large white Lupe took a step beside her, his fingers sparkling with miniature blue lightning -- magic.

The cook, from his spot on the floor, gulped and scurried under the table.

Hannah and Raydon leapt at the crew, and the battle continued. Vegetables flew everywhere, tables were turned, and the air was filled with the clamour of pots and pans hitting the floor. Shouts and cries echoed through the ship, tings and tangs of sword against sword added to the rhythmic music of the fighting.

The pantry door swung open and a Lupe stepped out.

With a ferocious growl, Masila threw her dagger at Lia. Lia ducked and threw a strainer at the Acara. The dagger sailed through the air, over the heads of the fighting pirates, coming straight at the Lupe's head.

He didn't make an effort to dodge it. He didn't move at all. He didn't even flinch. He stayed perfectly still as the dagger flew through his head.

It disappeared the second it grazed his fur, vanished into thin air, as if it were nothing more than an illusion...

That's exactly what it was.

An illusion.

The fighting continued.

From first glance, it looked like an actual battle was going on. But if you looked closely, you'd see that no strike hit its mark, every attack missed. Every dodge was too agile, as if they knew exactly what was coming. It was too rehearsed to be real.

Because it wasn't.

Raydon smiled as he surveyed his work. He took a step away from the pantry, stumbling a bit. The incantation had taken more out of him than he had intended... but it was a beautiful spell, he had to admit. Pure genius.

He walked calmly through the skirmish.

He passed his doppelganger, who was weaving through the crewmembers with unearthly agility. That was probably the one thing that was real - the crew. They did not notice him, they were much too absorbed by the battle. It was by pure chance that they had stumbled upon the kitchen battlefield. They had no idea they were fighting air. Better for him, there would be no one to intercept him as he explored Masila's ship...

Masila...

He looked over at the emerald furred Acara, who was wrestling with "Lia" in the corner. So that's who was behind all of this. He was slightly surprised to see it was her. (He had woven the spell so that a duplicate of the captain appeared; he had no idea who that was.) Although he wasn't exactly surprised. He tsk-tsked. It was so like her... so like her.

He just wished he knew what she was doing. What plans lurked in that vicious little mind of hers.

He glanced at Hannah. Or rather, Hannah's clone. Curly hair flew everywhere as the Usul ran on top of the shelves, chased by a swarm of pirates, knocking pots down on them and filling the chaotic atmosphere with even more curses. The real Hannah was still lying on the ground, unconscious from her early blow to the head. She was disguised as a sack of flour. She lay miraculously untouched, considering what was going on around her.

Raydon aimed himself in her direction. He couldn't allow her to stay here and become trampled. As much as he hated to admit it, he needed her. That was the reason he had chosen her -- out of all the potential candidates in Neopia. Only her. She was the only one that could do this.

Raydon picked her up, swung her small body over his shoulder like a sack of flour, and walked through the door, up the stairs and away into the ship.

There was so much more that needed to be done...

* * * * *

Lia was walking along a dark, damp path when the shouts started.

The taunts of her pirate escort fell silent. He blinked his eye (the other hidden behind an ebony eye-patch) and frowned.

"Come on," he said gruffly, and proceeded to pull Lia quickly through the bilges, much faster than before. His grip was iron around her arm, hard and cold.

Lia did nothing to resist. Head down, eyes glued to the floor, she followed him.

"Get in." The Shoyru snapped, pushing her to the ground. Lia fell and hit the ground hard. An iron door slammed harshly, and the Shoyru ran off, his footsteps pounding against the wooden planks, leaving Lia all alone in the damp shadows.

She curled into herself into a tight little ball and let the tears cascade down her cheeks.

* * * * *

Masila stood on the deck, her cloaks billowing behind her dramatically. Her eyes were narrowed and malicious, glaring out at the sea, as icy as the wind that tore at her hair. She was beautiful. She was dangerous.

"Why," she hissed through clenched teeth. "Is this taking so long?"

The Yurble at the wheel avoided her gaze. "I-I told ye, Cap'n, the wind is against us. Ye cannot fly 'gainst the gales."

Masila glared at him, and the Yurble shivered as if a blizzard were storming the sky at that very moment.

"Well, find a way," she snapped bitterly. "Or else..."

She didn't need to finish the thought. With a sweep of her cape, she disappeared beneath the deck.

* * * * *

He had seen the dagger fly through the Lupe's head. He had seen the Lupe walk on, unharmed. He had seen the Lupe walk through the battle, untouched. He had seen the Lupe pass his twin, his copy, his mirror's reflection. He had seen the Lupe calmly pick up the bag of flour and walk out of the kitchen.

The cook blinked. He didn't have flour in his kitchen.

The Kyrii peered from beneath the rotting table. He saw some crewmates run past him, chasing after the raven-haired Usul -- who he was now certain was not a part of his crew.

He frowned. Something was not right.

The Usul ran by the table again. Not quite knowing what he was doing, as if he were possessed... he reached out and brushed his fingers against her skirt, but he felt nothing at all.

His frown deepened. Something definitely was not right.

The Kyrii crawled out from under the table. Standing up, he was nearly pushed down again as a Gelert shoved past him. Sputtering, he looked around. His eyes were drawn to the form of the white Lupe, the twin of the Lupe who had run out of the kitchen, only seconds earlier.

The Kyrii grabbed a spatula from the floor and threw it at the Lupe.

It sailed right through him, hitting the far wall with a smack -- a sound nearly lost in the commotion of the battle.

Now he was convinced that something was not right.

A smile curled his lips. Oh, how the captain would love to learn about this...

* * * * *

Raydon set Hannah down on the floor; she was still unconscious. He stood up and looked around the Captain's cabin. "What are you up to, Masila?"

"Why don't you just ask me that yourself?"

Raydon whirled around. The Acara stood in the doorway, face shadowed by the hood of her cloak. She took a step forward, and the lantern by the door illuminated her cruel, sharp features. She was both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

Raydon couldn't prevent a low, dry chuckle from escaping his lips. "So here we are."

"Again," Masila whispered, a faint smile hovering on her lips. She took a step forward.

"What mischief are you up to this time, sister dear?"

The smile -- however distant it was -- vanished in an instant. "Don't call me that."

"I see you haven't changed."

"Quite on the contrary. I think I have." She dashed forward so quickly, it was as if she had teleported. She had withdrawn a dagger from her cloak and pressed it against his throat.

"You've been a naughty, naughty boy, Raydon," Masila cooed in a mocking voice.

He chuckled. "You have no idea."

"Now tell me..."

"What I'm up to?"

Masila smirked. "While I'm sure what you've been doing since we last saw each other is very interesting, I'm not interested in your magic tricks..."

Her eyes blazed. "Tell me where Hannah is."

Raydon smiled. "I think you know that answer..."

The cool dagger pressed closer against his neck. "I think you should know by now, it does not pay to play games with me. I know that that girl you sent me is not Hannah."

Raydon paled. Despite all his instincts, he could not help but sneak a glance at Hannah. Good. She was still disguised.

He looked back at Masila, but she was no longer looking at him. She had turned around and was staring at the sack of flour on the ground...

Raydon was calm. The illusion was still up. He had nothing to worry about. Nothing at all...

"You can't fool me, Raydon."

"Wha-?" The Lupe looked down at the sack of flour... except it wasn't flour anymore. No, like gossamer strands of a Spyder's web drifting away in the wind, the illusion was unravelling. And from the sack of flour, the form of an Usul appeared...

Hannah...

Masila's face erupted with malicious glee. "At last..."

* * * * *

Whenever she had dreamed of adventure, she had never quite pictured it like this.

She was supposed to be brave and courageous. Everything was supposed to work out fine. She wasn't supposed to be here, in the a dark, cold dungeon...

Whenever she had daydreamed of adventure, it always ended happily.

Now, Lia was convinced that there was no happily ever after to her story. Just an ending.

Traces of tears lined her cheeks. She looked up, staring into the darkness. Why... why did it have to be this way?

She looked down at her paws. Paws... she was a Krawk. She wasn't supposed to have paws. She looked down at her fluffy tail, her brown locks. This wasn't right. This wasn't her.

She laughed painfully, the sound was choked. Funny... earlier this night, she would've given anything to be here, to be her... Hannah.

But she wasn't Hannah. She never was. She never would be.

She wasn't a brave. She wasn't a hero. She was just Lia. Just... Lia.

And right now, she just wanted to be home.

Lia sighed and stared down at her feet again. Her yellow, clawed feet...

She blinked. Claws?

Lia shrieked and stood up. She brought her hands to her face, examined them. Gone was the golden sheen, the dainty paws, and the silky fur. All she saw now were the tough scales of a Krawk.

Despite everything. Despite everything, she found herself laughing.

Lia was back. Lia was Lia again.

She looked up, at the iron door. At first glance, it appeared locked. But if she looked closely... she could see that the pirate had never properly shut it in his haste to join the fight. It was open, just barely, but it was open...

Lia stood up.

She hadn't been very much help as Hannah. She hadn't done anything good as Hannah.

But maybe that's because she wasn't Hannah...

She wasn't the famed Usul, the charismatic hero. She hadn't experienced all those incredible adventures.

As Hannah, she was nothing. Just a wannabe in a heroine's body.

But as Lia... as herself... maybe, just maybe, she could do something.

The door was open, just a sliver. Lia pushed it open all the way...

Author: reveirie
Date: Dec 12th
...and nearly crashed into the red-faced Kyrii cook.

The cook stared at her for a while, steam appearing to rise off his head as he contemplated the mind-boggling situation. "Illusions, duplicate Neopets... now where did this Krawk come from?" he asked himself, but to Lia, his mumbles sounded like, "Erm gerg om mmn blurgh." After an awkward minute, the Kyrii determinedly clamped his eyes shut, shook his head once or twice, and marched toward a thick wooden door, which was muffling some very interesting sounds.

Not meaning to behave like a creepy illusion, Lia followed.

The cook wrenched open the door to reveal a scene even more interesting than the sounds it had been concealing. Masila, the impeccably evil Acara, was prowling around a defenseless Hannah, like a compass needle circling a centre, only with the needle pointing inward. Nearby, that strange Lupe was fidgeting with his paws, summoning sizzles of magic that swiftly faded away. He looked exhausted, powerless; his pale face was gripped only by the energy of anger.

Into the midst of all this bumbled the cook. "I have some news fer ye, Cap'n," said the Kyrii eagerly, but stopped short upon seeing the real Hannah and the real Lupe.

"Go on," said Masila, not taking her eyes off Hannah.

"Er, there's a fight going on in the kitchens," the cook continued lamely. "An illusion. There's a duplicate fer ye, fer Hannah, fer him o'er there..."

"I see," said Masila, shooting a dark glance at Raydon. "Well, thank you. You may return to the kitchens."

"But, Cap'n, with the fight going on..."

"Oh, is it preventing you from preparing a proper dinner?"

The cook gulped. "No, Cap'n."

"Good."

The door closed.

Masila placed the tip of her blade delicately against Hannah's neck, and smiled dazzlingly at Lia. "How are you enjoying your restored body, little Krawk?"

Lia did not answer. She was staring at the helpless Usul on the ground.

Hannah. Not Hannah! Not the charming, vigorous heroine who had inspired Lia for so long! Lia stared at the pathetic figure on the ground and felt all the most precious dreams in her world flutter apart... dark caves full of glittering treasure, skirmishes with pirates aboard wind-strewn ships, midnight scampers across wet, moonlit slopes... all the dreams that had sustained her through night after night of scrubbing tables at the Golden Dubloon were fading, fading, fading.

She was in reality now. Hannah was no more than a selfish treasure-seeker who had sacrificed Lia for her own interests. And even Hannah had limits... even Hannah could not go on dancing forever, whirling through adventure after adventure like some crazy tornado. Why, the great Hannah was lying on the ground now, at the mercy of Masila, another Neopet whom she had wronged...

"I have Hannah now," said Masila, curling her manicured claws around the Usul's shoulder. "Thank you for your cooperation, little Krawk. Now, about that treasure in the Fungus Caves... you will help me to unlock it, won't you? You have been a very good girl so far, not like Raydon over there. If you continue to be good, I may give you a reward..."

Treasure. Caves. North coast... Lia felt slightly dizzy. Would she have her own adventure to sing about, at last?

Hannah raised her head. "Don't listen to her, please, Sia. Help me."

Well, that was the last straw for Lia. If her heroine couldn't even pronounce her name right, then she had no business admiring her.

No, the life of a heroine was not for Lia.

"I fulfilled my end of the agreement, Masila," she said. "I told you what I knew, and you helped me become a Krawk again. Now I'd like to go home."

"But the treasure!" cried Hannah.

"But the treasure!" hissed Masila.

"But the treasure!" gasped Raydon.

"It can stay locked up in the Fungus Caves for all I care," said Lia. "That'll give you thieves rather less to fight about."

And before Masila could move, Lia was out the door.

*****

The Yurble up on deck whimpered as he wrestled with the wheel. The Captain was crazy. There was no way he could get the ship to reach the Fungus Caves with this wind blowing...

A slender figure slipped toward him. "Listen, could you drop me off at the nearest coast we come to? I can jump off with a barrel, anything, to get off this ship. Just tell me when we're close enough."

The Yurble blinked. He had had enough stress for one night, and wasn't going to fight any further. "Sure," he said.

*****

"Yer resigning?!" the owner of the Golden Dubloon growled incredulously.

"Yes," said Lia cheerfully, casting a last glance around the sodden floors, the smooth brown tables, the barrels, the singing customers. Her gaze lingered for a while on the tabletops where Hannah used to dance, and then she looked back at her old boss. "I'm moving on now," she said.

The blue Lupe sighed. "Fine, take yer Dubloons an' go..."

Lia took her Dubloons. And then, her heart singing, she leapt out into the glittering night, in search of her own golden future.

The End

Author: yoyote
Date: Dec 12th



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