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||You are on Week 398
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 Eight Ends Friday, January 9
"So did you make any New Year's resolutions this year, Bixle?" Sedrine asked her Gnorbu friend as the two strolled along one of Neopia Central's bustling thoroughfares. Even though the holidays had just ended and spirits were still high in Neopia, with everyone hopeful about the New Year, the weight of responsibility had already settled on the Aisha's shoulders. Luckily, nothing cheered her up like spending time with Bixle.
The Gnorbu frowned for a second and then grudgingly said, "Yeah, I resolved not to tell any lies for a whole year."
Sedrine had to smile at that; much as she loved her friend, she had to admit that he did have a way of bending the truth a little... or a lot. "That sounds like a good resolution," she said, trying to hide her amusement.
"How about you?" Bixle asked. "Did you make any resolutions?"
"Not really." A sad look flickered briefly over the Aisha's face. "I guess I have more important things to worry about right now than not eating too many sweets or saving more Neopoints, you know?"
Bixle reached out and squeezed his friend's paw. "I know."
Tears started to well in Sedrine's eyes. "I'm just so worried about my sister," she whispered. "She got so sick right before the Day of Giving, and my father had spent so many Neopoints on gifts that we couldn't afford medicine..."
"We'll figure something out, Sedrine, I promise," Bixle said.
Sedrine nodded, wiping her eyes. "Hey, I need to stop in at the Pharmacy. Could you wait out here for me?"
The Aisha disappeared into the Pharmacy, and Bixle stood outside, watching the crowds of shoppers flood past. Suddenly, there was a loud bang, and smoke began pouring from the Pharmacy's doors. Bixle watched in amazement as a lithe, black-masked Aisha ran through the smoke and disappeared into the crowd, her pink ears streaming behind her.
He started to run for the Pharmacy door, wanting to make sure that Sedrine hadn't been injured in the robbery, but then he stopped dead in his tracks. Pink ears. Sedrine was a pink Aisha. But... it couldn't be!
Before Bixle could head into the Pharmacy, a firm hoof rested on his shoulder, and he turned to find Judge Hog looming over him.
"Hello, young Gnorbu. We Defenders heard there was a robbery here -- did you see anything?"
Bixle opened his mouth to speak, but then stopped. Was it lying to just not say anything? Could he turn Sedrine in to keep from breaking his New Year's resolution...?
Author: An Ethical Conundrum!|
Date: Jan 5th
Now, everyone knows that Gnorbu are fun-loving Neopets who love to make others laugh. What few know is that although they have a curious lack of natural agility, this fact is utterly unknown to the Gnorbu themselves. The result of this peculiar disability is that Gnorbu in general, and Bixle in particular, think of themselves as superlative acrobats and contortionists who have the power to astound others with their talent.
Consequently, Bixle stared meaningfully into Judge Hog's eyes, thinking to affix the Moehog to his spot by the sheer force of his will, and then, ever so slowly, Bixle began to tap his rear legs in an arrhythmic, shuffling beat. Noticing that a crowd was beginning to form in a circle around him, Bixle thought to himself, It's showtime! But what the crowd was thinking, collectively and individually, was, Someone needs to show this Gnorbu where to find a restroom!
Never taking his gaze from the ever-widening eyes of Judge Hog, Bixle quickened the tempo of his seemingly random foot shuffling, and then redoubled the tempo again into a graceless and violent stabbing of feet and legs through the air, slipping and stumbling, building a crescendo of furry fury, toward the promise of the proverbial "big finish," until, suddenly, he rose up upon his rear legs and spread his front legs as though signalling to the crowd that this would be the appropriate time for applause. When none was forthcoming, he added a helpful prompt of "Ta-da!"
Bixle was beginning to think to himself that this might, finally, be the opportune chance to publicly unveil his latest accomplishment -- a forward somersault with very little sideways tilting -- when the scene was interrupted by a very muscular and intimidating green Buzz.
"Commander," he barked, "we have intelligence that the robber was an Aisha who ran that way." He pointed a chiselled appendage toward Kiko Lake, and noticing the Gnorbu sweating and shaking with the effort of holding his bipedal position added, "Um, have you learned anything here?"
Judge Hog shook his head with a confused pity and said, "No, Brexis, I don't think this poor fellow knows much of anything at all. To Kiko Lake then!..."
Date: Jan 5th
And with that, Judge Hog and the brawny Buzz left. Bixle was somewhat disappointed that they had ignored his stunt, but relieved that he had avoided both turning in his friend and breaking his resolution. The Gnorbu let out a relieved sigh and haltingly smiled at the crowd still clustered around him.
"There's a bathroom that way..." one of the members of the crowd offered helpfully. Bixle nodded and the throng began to disperse.
"What was that all about?" came a voice from behind Bixle, and he felt a tap on his shoulder. He whirled around to see --
"Who else would it be, silly?"
"But you... you're at Kiko Lake!"
Sedrine stared at her friend. "Why would I be there? Are you feeling all right?"
Bixle pawed at the ground in confusion. "There was a robbery at the Pharmacy. Right after you went in."
"I know, isn't it horrible?" Sedrine said, her eyes betraying nothing. "I'm just glad no one was hurt. Well, let's keep going."
But Bixle needed some time to think the situation over. "You go ahead, and I'll catch up in a bit."
Sedrine looked at Bixle with concern. "Are you sure you're feeling fine?"
Bixle nodded and the Aisha headed off down the road. Now that he was alone, the Gnorbu could consider all sides of the situation. It seemed to him that there were two possibilities: either Sedrine was lying to him or she was actually innocent. However, Bixle was sad when he concluded that the later was rather unlikely given the evidence. His spirits sank even further when he gazed at Sedrine's retreating figure and saw a black, formless shape sticking out of her pocket. Could it be -- Bixle gasped -- a mask?
But before Bixle could pursue this train of thought any further, he felt another tap on his shoulder and turned around once again. The towering figure of Judge Hog loomed over him. "Excuse me, do you have any information -- oh, you're that Gnorbu from before. Did you find a bathroom?"
"I thought you were going to Kiko Lake," Bixle stammered, surprised and somewhat intimidated.
"Super speed," Judge Hog chuckled, glancing down at his muscular legs. "It comes in handy in situations like this. And it turned out that Kiko Lake was a false lead, probably planted by the thief himself."
"Or herself," Bixle said without thinking.
"What?" Judge Hog asked, his ears perking up.
"Oh, I mean to say..." Bixle gulped. "I think I may have some information about the thief after all..."
Date: Jan 6th
Bixle closed his eyes, steeling himself to speak, but as he did so Sedrine's disappointed face flashed in his mind.
"How could you? Now Aeli will never be cured..."
The Gnorbu gritted his teeth. He couldn't lie, but he couldn't tell the whole truth either...
"Ah, I, er, I think I heard the thief saying something," he stammered (and it was quite true -- Sedrine had just spoken to him, after all), "and the voice was definitely female."
"But what did she say? This could be vital evidence!" said Judge Hog, leaning in closer.
"She... she said that she was glad that no one was hurt. So... so she isn't dangerous, see? She's not going to hurt anyone, so you should focus on the real villains, not her!"
The large Moehog's eyes narrowed. "She robbed the Pharmacy, citizen. How many sick Neopians will go without medicine because of her crime? She did plenty of harm... and I find your attempt to put the Defenders off of her trail rather suspicious." Judge Hog stood straight and placed a hoof on Bixle's shoulder, much less gently than before. "I don't think you're telling me the whole truth..."
Date: Jan 6th
Bixle took a deep breath and mentally prepared to execute the somersault he was holding in reserve -- after all, what worked once to distract the Moehog should work again, shouldn't it? Just as he tightened his muscles, preparing to spring forward with a dazzling display of speed and agility, his concentration was interrupted, yet again, by the brawny Buzz.
"Commander," Brexis cut in, "further intelligence has informed us that the perp was an Aisha. Presumably pink, most probably female."
"Good, good." Judge Hog nodded thoughtfully and instructed, "Sweep the perimeter for likely suspects." Applying more weight to the hoof on Bixle's shoulder, making the Gnorbu wince with pain and dread, the Moehog added, "We'll make a lineup. I'm certain our friend here will be able to help with an identification." Turning to Bixle he asked, "You did see the thief, didn't you?"
Bixle's mind scrambled like a caged Pawkeet, fighting between the conflicting imperatives of honesty and loyalty, but as he hesitated and Judge Hog increased the pressure on his shoulder, the Gnorbu was forced to reply with a sigh, "Yes. I think I saw her."
"We anticipated your order, Commander," Brexis said. "We have rounded up a group of six and they are lining up right now behind the Post Office. The pharmacist is also coming along, but she says that she doesn't know if she can make a positive ID." Turning to Bixle he added, "Your help is of the utmost importance, citizen."
Bixle released the tension in his muscles, and allowing himself to be herded toward the Post Office by the DoN heroes, he despaired that protecting his friend while remaining truthful might just be the hardest trick he would ever pull off. As he shuffled along, he ruefully muttered under his breath, "Ta-da."
Bixle stood beside the Elephante pharmacist as the suspects were led into a row against the Post Office wall. He alternated his gaze from the wall to the sky to the ground to the crowd gathering around, looking anywhere but at the suspects as they assembled. He was miserable as he anticipated what was about to happen; in his heart he knew who the criminal must be. Just as he began contemplating what sort of a distraction he could provide to prevent the inevitable, his thoughts were interrupted by the pharmacist's uncertain and quavering voice.
"I... I just can't tell. It all happened so fast, and... and the thief was wearing a mask, and I'm afraid it could be anyone here, really."
Bixle's heart skipped a hopeful beat as he allowed his eyes to run over the group of Aishas. First, he recognised the gypsy, Megan, whose haughty and protesting demeanour belied her shady past. Next to her were the Fontaine Sisters, and although only Loretta was a pink Aisha, Bixle could easily imagine that she and her flirtatious sister could have worked together to pull off the heist. Next in line were two shadow Aishas, and although Bixle didn't recognise them as Purrow and Meesha, their countenance suggested malice and mischief. Bixle couldn't believe his good fortune. It could be anyone here, he thought to himself.
After rescanning the first five suspects, the Gnorbu finally allowed himself to look at the last Aisha, who was, indeed, his friend Sedrine. She had a look on her face that suggested she was thrilled to be a part of this wonderful game and she beamed widely at Bixle.
The Gnorbu broke into a relieved smile, and just as he was about to agree with the pharmacist that he couldn't possibly make a positive identification, Sedrine lifted one hand to discreetly wave hello to her friend. As she did so, an object fell out of her waistband and rolled to a stop in front of Bixle. He froze in horror as Judge Hog stepped forward to examine the jar, and the Gnorbu's heart nearly stopped when the Moehog boomed, "Cactopus Cream! Arrest her!..."
Date: Jan 7th
"But, I didn't!" she cried. Sedrine's eyes widened, a perfect display of innocence.
"Oh, but you did," Judge Hog accused, his eyes narrowing.
"And if I did," she began, dropping the innocent act and returning the Moehog's glare, "you'd never find me."
"Ma'am, you're--" Judge Hog began to protest, but stopped when Sedrine dropped a dark, circular object on the ground.
Somebody, recognising the object, screamed, "Quick, before it--" But it was too late. The Thick Smoke Bomb had exploded, engulfing everyone in its pitch-black mist.
Mass chaos broke out, with many shouts of "Get her!" and "Grab the thief!" and "I can't see past my own paw!" But, from the duration of the pandemonium, Bixle could tell that Sedrine hadn't been caught.
Suddenly, a voice hissed in Bixle's ear, "Come with me." It was Sedrine's voice, though it wasn't like the Gnorbu had a choice. She started dragging him away by his tiny tail.
Bixle wanted to cry out for help, but he wouldn't. He couldn't. He would give away Sedrine, and then she would hate him forever. Especially since she had a chance to cure Aeli...
Bixle opened his eyes, drowsy. He hadn't even realised he had fallen asleep. He now found himself in a cave, sitting beside Sedrine, who was tending a fire in front of them.
"Hey," Sedrine murmured quietly.
"Hi," Bixle muttered, still somewhat sleepy.
"So..." she began nervously.
The uneasy tenor in Sedrine's voice reminded him of what had happened before he had visited dreamland. "So why'd you do it, Sedrine?" he asked accusingly.
"For the same reason you would," she replied bluntly. "To save Aeli."
"But you could have gone to the Healing Springs or something, Sedrine! You didn't have to risk it!"
Her eyes widened at the knowledge. "Yes, I could have, couldn't I?"
Before Bixle could answer, there was a ruffling sound outside the cave.
"Oh, no," Sedrine whispered fearfully. "They've found us..."
Date: Jan 7th
"Just come clean and admit it that you did it!" said Bixle, instinctively jumping to his feet. "We're in a lot of trouble as it is! Okay, actually you're the one in trouble, but..."
Instead of answering, Sedrine quickly doused their fire with sand, grabbed her friend, and backed against the cave wall. She kept one paw over his mouth and whispered, "Shush, you'll give us away!"
The Gnorbu sighed, but shoved her paw away and dropped his voice. "Sedrine, you didn't have to..."
He paused; he could hear footsteps, and they sounded like they were getting closer. The paw keeping him quiet began to quail. Bixle tried to form a new plan in case they were caught -- should he try dancing his way out of it again? Maybe if he was lucky, he would only have to do community service as a dancer, raising Neopoints for...
A shadow fell through the cave entrance, and a tiny, frail voice spoke. It echoed through the cave, and Bixle heard Sedrine draw breath.
"Seddie? Is that you, Seddie?"
Sedrine's paw fell away from Bixle's mouth. They watched as the shadow grew bigger and heard the steps continue.
At last, they saw their visitor -- a small, solitary Aisha wrapped up in a coat a few sizes too big for her. She was heaving and looked extremely exhausted, as though she had run several miles.
Before she could start looking through the cave, Sedrine approached her, Bixle close behind. At first he couldn't believe it, but after a closer look at the Aisha and after seeing Sedrine open her arms and embrace her, he had to.
Date: Jan 8th
The younger Aisha swayed back from her sister and sat down heavily, reaching up to scratch at her neck, then one long drooping ear. "Hi, Bixle," she said wearily.
Bixle shook his head helplessly. Last time he'd seen Aeli, she had been a rather pretty-featured little striped Aisha with a lot of energy. Now she moved as if she were on the verge of collapse; she was gaunt under the too-large coat, her features were distorted, and the pale blue and pink that tipped her fur was nearly lost in the reddened swelling of her skin. No wonder he hadn't recognised her.
Aeli scratched again, this time trying to get at her stomach through the layers of clothing. "Seddie, why did you want me to meet you here? I'm so tired."
"I kow, Aeli, I'm sorry." Sedrine came over with the little jar of Cactopus Cream in her hand. "But look what I've got!"
Aeli looked, and her eyes widened. "You said you were going shopping.... But -- but I thought we couldn't afford it! Dad said...." She looked up at Sedrine with huge sad eyes, still scratching herself vigorously. "Oh, Seddie, did you sell all your Day of Giving presents?"
Sedrine winced a little, perhaps at being reminded that there was something else she could have done instead of resorting to theft. But she crouched beside Aeli. "Never mind that," she said, "I just wanted it to be a surprise. Don't you think Mummy and Daddy will be surprised? Now, show me where that nasty Reptillior bit you."
Aeli began tearing at her clothes, pretty much literally; her hands were swollen too and a bit clumsy, and the tiny claws that tipped them shredded one of the several socks that wrapped her left foot. Bixle wondered about the choice to wear socks with no shoe until she got the last sock off. Then he saw that the swelling was even worse there, the skin a violent red, and two fang punctures marked her ankle. She wouldn't be doing any impromptu dance routines any time soon....
Aeli saw him looking, as she drew her hands back and sat on them to keep from clawing at the angry skin there. "We were visiting Tyrannia," she whispered, "and I stepped on a Reptillior." She lowered her head. "I don't think he meant to hurt me, really."
Sedrine looked at her little sister with fond exasperation. "She's always wanted a Reptillior for a Petpet," she explained. "Even this horrible sickness hasn't convinced her this was a bad idea."
As Sedrine dipped a paw into the Cactopus Cream and reached toward Aeli's ankle, however, a deep voice bellowed, "I have you now!"
She jumped and dropped the jar...
Date: Jan 8th
...and Bixle watched as it fell, watched it fall past the astonished eyes of little Aeli, watched the shiny red jar shatter upon the floor...
The moment froze. Aeli's mouth was slightly open, with a sort of meek bewilderment. Sedrine's gaze was drawn toward the cave entrance, her long ears tense, her arm suspended. Bixle's hoof was half-raised in a suppressed impulse to dance away. Only the precious, spilled cream moved, oozing gloomily along the ground.
And now the shadows came.
Brexis entered first, his large Buzz wings trembling with excitement. Judge Hog came immediately after, blocking the light temporarily with his impressive bulk, then releasing it to reveal a group of grim faces. The Elephante pharmacist was there, her normally kind, round eyes wide with silent anger. A few patients and onlookers had also followed along, some ferocious, some amused, some merely curious.
Sedrine's arms tried simultaneously to do many things: reach for her mask, use her spare Thick Smoke Bomb, save her sister, grab her friend... but received no input from her brain. A tear started to swell sullenly in her right eye.
"That's the perp," repeated Brexis firmly. "The pink Aisha we've been looking for. Shall I arrest her, Commander?"
Judge Hog looked at the wild-eyed Sedrine, and the trembling young Aisha just behind. "Not so quick," he answered.
The Elephante pharmacist spoke up, staring deliberately into Sedrine's eyes. "Look, I'll try to be understanding. I know you need the medicine, but stealing isn't the way to get it. If you just pay up, I'll let you go this time."
"I don't have money," whispered Sedrine. "And the Healing Springs faerie couldn't save Aeli fast enough. We've been there so many times, all with no success, and I..." She lowered her eyes. The broken pieces of the jar winked up at her. "Well, I can't return the Cactopus Cream now," she said, in a helpless choke-laugh. "Just... do with me what you will, I guess."
Judge Hog glanced at the crowd and sighed. "We'll take her in to the Defenders of Neopia headquarters, Brexis."
The intimidating Buzz started to move forward.
"Wait!" cried Bixle suddenly. "Don't arrest her. It was me, all right? I told her to steal it. I'm the one you want. I'm..." His face burned, his shoulders stiffened, and the lie steamed in front of his eyes. He felt his New Year's Resolution come crumbling to bits around him, but strangely, he did not feel guilty anymore, or even afraid. He was a liar. That was what he was. A stupid, bumbling liar. But at least he was a loyal friend, too. He was lying for Sedrine, for poor Aeli. The lie poured out of his throat, almost delicious to his tongue.
Everybody paused to listen...
Editor's Note: How do you want the story to end? Tell us!
Date: Jan 9th
After a few moments of hesitation, Bixle began to speak -- and the more he spoke, and the more he invented, the more fluidly the lies poured out as his truth-bending penchant returned full-force.
"I'm the one you want," Bixle repeated. "I asked her to steal it -- it was for me. Cactopus Cream is a... a stimulant for the feet, the Cactopus essence is, um, spiky, it helps you lift your hooves and keep the rhythm, so that when you break into dances -- Gnorbus are really good at dancing -- you're extra fast and light on your feet, as you might remember from when I danced for you before, Commander, you know, I really ought to be compensated for putting my artistic integrity on the line for having danced at a crime scene, dancer's immunity and all that --"
Bixle's babble was veined with the lies he had grudgingly promised to stop telling -- but as he spoke, he began to understand that lies could actually be made to serve the power of good.
In a convoluted sort of way.
"-- so you really shouldn't be arresting her, Commander. Or me either, for that matter -- that would be a terrible blow to Neopia's artistic community, my dancing is first-class. The Catacombs themselves would crumble if I wasn't around to sustain them with my incredible moves. Pure grace. Pure elegance. Kind of like the pharmacist over there -- a pillar of the community! Look at her -- so gentle and kind, never letting poor Neopets suffer..."
Bixle's lies grew and expanded into unabashed flattery that his audience was utterly unequipped to resist.
"...I'd say she would give out Sporkle Syrup for free to any Neopet that needed it. She's a kind soul, I can see it in her eyes. Kind as you are, Commander. Fighting for the right and the good... and Brexis, sir, he was my hero growing up -- still is, actually, I wish I had those pecs. And his bravery is rivalled only by your noble courage, Mister Hog! And Madame Pharmacist's frank good nature..."
Bixle stopped to wipe a tear from his eye and his addressees seemed prepared to do the same.
"Oh, dear," said the pharmacist, whose face had softened back into its usual benevolent lines. "I do hate to see young Neopets suffer..."
"Bravery," said Brexis, and he posed heroically in an imaginary spotlight. "Yes. Quite."
"Noble courage," murmured Judge Hog. "Yes, nobility was always one of my strong traits, Mother always said..."
The pharmacist, flanked by Brexis and Judge Hog, approached the trio of young pets in front of them and virtually illuminated the area with intended munificence:
"I will provide the sick child with a week's supply of Cactopus Cream -- free of charge, of course --"
"We can't punish a sister for trying to help her littlest sibling, that wouldn't be brave..."
Sedrine looked utterly bewildered at this sudden change and Bixle watched the proceedings with a bemused smile: he had just brushed against a larger understanding of something beyond his limited capacities. He had touched a reality that was hidden from most -- he now half-understood that lies are a necessary composite of something else: invention.
In his fibs there was a genuine creative force that ought not to be subject to disdain and contempt, but rather, respect, because in the heart of the lies, there was a creative truth. And it held a power to change things and to do good. Lies were truths bent into story; they had a transformative power which he could barely grasp but whose scope extended to beyond --
Bixle's epiphanic moment was interrupted by Judge Hog:
"Well, citizen. You did your friends proud today."
"Thank you, Mister Judge Hog, sir..."
Judge Hog held up a hoof. "I'm not finished yet. You could make them even prouder by making a new New Year's Resolution, since in light of these developments, your old one -- that Sedrine citizen is talking about it -- won't hold..."
"I suppose so..."
"May I propose a new resolution, citizen?"
"Take dancing lessons."
"But I --"
"That's an order."
The cave reverberated with laughter and the group made its way out into the sunlight. Sedrine walked beside Bixle, holding Aeli by the paw.
"Aeli has a different suggestion for a new New Year's Resolution, Bixle," said Sedrine.
Aeli gave the Gnorbu a shy smile from around her sister's arm.
"I think you should take up Storytelling."
Date: Jan 9th
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