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Week 428
You are on Week 429
Week 430

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 Four Hundred Twenty Nine Ends Friday, September 18

"As you can see, here we're excavating what I believe is a lost city. If my hunch is correct, in its heyday, it would rival Sakhmet itself," the Tonu said excitedly, mopping his brow with his handkerchief.

"That's very interesting, Professor," Nilson replied absently, his eyes scanning the huge open pit before him. Neopets crawled here and there, meticulously brushing grains of sand away from buried stone. "And what do you think that is?"

Professor Fairweather wiped his spectacles on his handkerchief, put them back on, and squinted. "Well, we'll have to do more excavation work on it, but it appears to be some sort of statue. Perhaps it was the ancient ruler of the civilisation?"

Nilson barely heard the professor's words. Instead, the Draik's eyes were fixed on the half-buried statue. Some force he didn't quite understand was drawing him toward the open pit, step by inexorable step.

"In the darkness of endless night..." he murmured under his breath. The words didn't seem to originate in his own thoughts, and yet he was speaking them.

"I beg your pardon, Nilson? I didn't quite catch that," Fairweather said. His brow creased in concern as he watched his Draik colleague stumble toward the pit as if sleep-walking.

"...a sun-guided star will streak from the sky's tapestry..." the Draik continued. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the statue, from its face, from the red, red eyes that blazed with the brilliance of ten thousand suns. "...its thunder will wake me from my slumber and I will arise!"

Fairweather caught Nilson just before the Draik tumbled over the edge into the sandy pit and onto the old stones below. At the touch of the Tonu's arms, the Draik blinked as if waking from a deep sleep and looked at his friend. "What happened?"

The Tonu laughed nervously and set Nilson on his feet. "I don't quite know, old friend. One second we were discussing the project, and the next you were heading for the edge and shouting 'Arise!'"

Nilson glanced apprehensively toward the statue at the bottom of the pit, still half-covered in sand, its eyes no longer blazing. "Strange..." he muttered.

***

Red lights flashed along the corridors of the Virtupets Space Station, and the clamour of alarm bells echoed throughout its metal body. Cori, an Aisha, dashed through the halls until he reached the control room where a Buzz was hunched frantically over his computer screen.

"Parrick! Report!"

"I... I don't know what's happening... the solar panels just stopped working. We're facing a catastrophic power failure if we can't bring them back online..."

Editor's Note: Starting with this contest, there will be one winning entry (at about 4 pm NST) on the day the new contest is posted and two entries on Fridays (at approximately 11 am NST and 4 NST). Sorry for any inconvenience this might cause. Thanks!

Author: Everything's Connected
Date: Sep 8th
The Buzz's brow furrowed. He'd seen his fair share of trouble on the station, but the last two years had been quiet, after the time that the Space Station had nearly crashed after being brought into Neopia's gravitational pull.

Cori had been there that time, too.

The Space Station had nearly crashed!

"Why is it always me?" he groaned, his fingers a whirlwind on the keyboard as he pulled up the screen for alternate power sources.

"Generators not available?" he spluttered, and then cursed.

Cori gasped with realisation, his eyes locked on the screen. "The generators are under maintenance! We only have the backups primed and ready, and those only have enough power to hold the Station aloft for a few hours!"

Parrick sighed. "I think..."

"I don't want to hear it."

"I know you don't. I don't want to hear it either. But I think we have to." Parrick got up. "When is the maintenance on the backup power source due to be complete?"

"It's completely dismantled," Cori groaned. "I was supervising it myself. A day, if we rounded up every techie on the Station. In ideal conditions."

"Then we don't have a choice."

"Don't say it!" the Aisha nearly moaned.

Parrick grinned, a wry smile that did not come close to reaching his eyes. "It was your idea to begin with. Time to pay the Motherboard a visit."

***

There was something wrong about this statue, Nilson knew it.

The sun was setting, and most of his fellow archaeologists were heading back to their tents. He was alone in the sands now, on the edge of this all-too-familiar pit.

Professor Fairweather had rather nervously described his apparent trance to him, but Nilson didn't have any recollection of it at all. He had looked at it, seen those eyes, a flash of flame... and then he was lying jumbled on the rocks.

The statue's eyes were red, but that dreamlike memory of fire he had seen in them once was not apparent -- they were just dulled rubies now. They stared from the stone face of a Bori. Chipped spines on its shell pointed to it being of the Darigan colour. The front feet had been uncovered, but the back of the statue was still trapped in the hand of time, the desert's golden plains.

Careful chiselling had revealed a part of a name on the base. The glyphs were modern, strangely enough, pointing that this society may not have been as ancient as Fairweather had assumed. The letters S-E-R were visible, but the rest was unreadable.

Could this statue have really posessed him, or was the Tonu just playing some massive joke on him?

It was certainly unlike his superior to play pranks on him, granted. And he had experienced a lapse in memory. But it was just an artefact, for crying out loud! Who'd ever heard of ancient spells and dark magic placed on objects from long-gone eras? Outside of cliched stories, anyways.

He shook his head, a little puff of smoke roiling from his nostrils. It was just so strange.

Stars were beginning to twinkle in the sky. There was a red one, too, one he didn't know. It flicked strangely, and it almost seemed to be moving.

Maybe everything was just weird. It was getting late, though. He should have gotten back to camp at least an hour ago.

As he raised his head again, he realised with a shock that he was not alone in the desert. There was a pale hand caressing the statue's muzzle, connected to a long arm and a slender body, of which the bottom half was shielded from his view. The figure wore a tattered gray dress, and her hair was of a similar fashion. Her wings were naught but a handful of tattered feathers.

"It is nearly time, old friend," the Grey Faerie whispered, and Nilson doubted that the faerie even realised he was there, much less was speaking to him. Her eyes were fixed on the sky. "Nearly time..."

Author: dianacat777
Date: Sep 8th
The Grey Faerie smiled at the statue. "I told you I was waiting, didn't I? And now the waiting is nearly over. Soon, Seraph. Soon."

Nilson began to back away slowly, uncertain of what he was witnessing. But before he had taken more than a dozen steps, he tripped over a shovel lying on the ground and fell with a loud thud.

The faerie whirled around and peered into the darkness. "Who's there?" she hissed.

Nilson thought it best to remain silent; this faerie seemed mysterious at best, malevolent at worst. He tried to make himself as small and inconspicuous as possible.

The Grey Faerie whispered a few words, and a bright ball of light appeared in her hand. Nilson couldn't help but gasp. I thought grey faeries were incapable of using magic! he thought. However, his thoughts quickly turned to survival, as he was now clearly illuminated and helpless.

The Grey Faerie just smiled, however, and began to walk slowly toward the Draik. Nilson tried to rise and run, but a few more whispered words from the faerie left his legs and wings paralysed. His eyes darted around helplessly as the faerie approached and knelt before him. "Hello," she said quietly, with a hint of malice in her voice. "This should be fun..."

***

Parrick and Cori made their way through the hallways of the Space Station, trying their best to ignore the shrill klaxons assaulting their ears and the panicking pets jostling them. They stopped before a set of steel double doors. Parrick took a deep breath and pressed the green button to the doors' right. They slid open with a hiss, revealing a dimly lit room. Parrick and Cori stepped inside and the doors whooshed shut, all but muting the noise of the sirens.

In front of them glowed three screens. The leftmost one showed flowing streams of raw data; the center one, a graph of the relative positions of the Space Station and Neopia; the third was blank except for a blinking colon, awaiting input.

"Well, get on with it!" said Cori impatiently. "We don't have much time!"

Parrick looked concerned. "But last time I did this --"

"I know, I know," interrupted Cori, "but I thought all that was resolved. We put the data that was your brother into that robotic Tuskaninny and Neopet V2 was purged from the system. All you're dealing with now is the Motherboard itself."

Reassured, Parrick took a seat in front of the screen on the right and began to type. "Run diagnostic cycle 723, override code Alpha Sigma 7," he punched in, and then pressed "Enter."

The words appeared on the screen in green text as he typed them, but quickly faded as soon as Parrick hit "Enter." The computer began to hum and a response appeared on the screen.

Hello again, Parrick. I knew this wasn't over yet.

The Buzz looked at Cori in confusion, but the Aisha shrugged. "I take it this isn't how the Motherboard is supposed to respond?" he asked.

Parrick sighed and shook his head. "It seems we're dealing with a malicious code yet again." He turned his attention back to the keyboard and typed, "Who are we talking to this time?"

You don't remember me? I'm hurt, replied the computer. It has been a while, though, so I forgive you. Let me refresh your memory: "Would you like to play a game?"

Parrick groaned in frustration. "It's NV2," he explained to Cori. "It must have found its way into the system again." He glanced up at the small camera he knew was in the corner of the room and gave it a sarcastic wave. "Welcome back," he typed.

No need to get snippy, Parrick. I'm trying to help you this time.

The two pets stared at the screen in confusion. "What?" typed the Buzz.

That's right; no mischief, no tricks. The Station's solar panels are down, and if we lose power, I'm done for. After all, I'm essentially nothing but data. If the computer systems go, I go with them. And so I'm trying to prod the Motherboard into telling me what's wrong, but she's not being very cooperative.

"Tell it to try harder!" snapped Cori.

A semicolon appeared on the screen, followed by a close-parenthesis. I assure you, Cori, I'm doing all I can.

"How did you --" the Aisha stuttered.

I've learned to read lips. A useful skill.

Parrick pushed his chair away from the keyboard and turned to face the camera. "Good. Then we can talk to you more directly, without having to type everything. Now, do you know what caused the power failure?"

Oh, yes.

"Well, what is it?"

I'll tell you, but you aren't going to be happy. No, not at all.

***

The Grey Faerie paced around the prone Draik. "Thank you for unearthing my friend," she said. "I was wondering where he'd gone to. I finally managed to get my magic back, but it's still a little... touchy." She chuckled. "Evidently, the spell I cast to remove the curse that trapped him in his Neohome had some unintended side effects. But now I've found him, thanks to you, and from here it's simply a matter of un-petrifying him. But I'm being rude; whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?"

"I'm -- I'm Nilson. And who are you?" whispered Nilson fearfully.

The faerie gave a half-smile. "No harm in telling you that, I suppose. My name's Liannah. You may have heard of me -- co-leader of the Faerieland Rebellion of year 2?"

Nilson gasped. "You! But how... what... why...?"

"I'll answer each of those questions. How did I regain my powers? Well, after Fyora stripped me of them, I was stumped for quite some time, I admit. But recovering the smashed shards of the two Thyora's Tears was enough to give me the jump-start I needed." Liannah scoffed. "Fyora never should have kept me alive; that was her biggest mistake. Next question: what am I doing here? Simple. I made a promise to an old friend, and I always keep my promises. As for your third question, why, let's just say that I haven't lost my desire to rule Faerieland, and I hope that Seraph hasn't either."

"Seraph?" asked Nilson.

The faerie gestured to the statue behind her. "Nilson, meet Seraph. Seraph, Nilson."

"But that statue has been buried for hundreds of years!" stuttered the Draik.

"Like I said, my magic isn't perfect yet," replied Liannah. "But I think I know the way to awaken him. And you're going to help me..."

Author: rosabellk
Date: Sep 9th
"H-how am I supposed to help?" Nilson stammered; his hands nervously wringing each other as the Grey Faerie advanced upon him.

"It's simple, very simple, my new friend." Her face split into a horrible malicious grin as she spat out the dreaded answer to his question. "I need the basic thing that makes mortals what they are and the antithesis of stone. In short I need energy, I need life."

Life. Never had a single word sent such a thrill or terror racing through the Draik's veins. This faerie meant to sap him of everything that made him alive. He tried to take flight, but it felt as if he too had turned to stone like the malevolent Bori that stared out at him with empty ruby eyes.

Liannah cackled shrilly at his terror. "Oh, I do believe you misunderstood me," she said, her voice tinkling with malicious laughter. "I mean for you to help me attain this energy; one weak little Draik simply won't do. You'll be my little helper for a while, won't you?"

With that Liannah raised her weather-worn hands to the sky and whispered words of enchantment; a trickle of light seemed to float down toward them. Nilson had only a moment to think it strange that the power wasn't emanating directly from the faerie before the light surrounded him and he remembered his own dire situation.

"Wait! Please!" he shouted at her as the light encircled him; the Grey Faerie took no notice of his pleas.

He could feel a tingling along his limbs as the spell began to take hold.

***

"Well, if you're going to tell us, you should probably hurry. You know, since we could all die any time now and all." Parrick was starting to feel snippy as the screen in front of him stayed blank.

Temper temper. What's the magic word?

"Please," Cori said nervously. "You said no tricks or mischief right? So just tell us what's wrong -- please."

Well now, that's better. Being polite never killed anybody.

"Now what's causing the power failure? We can't fix anything if we don't know that," Parrick asked the screen irritably.

All right, all right, I think I've taken all the information I can from the Motherboard. She doesn't want to admit it, but there's a thief in the system.

"A thief? Like a virus?" Cori asked, perplexed.

No. If it was a virus, I would have said so. It looks like the solar panels themselves are working just fine.

"You just said earlier they were down!" Parrick couldn't help but feel NV2 was backing out on his earlier promise to stop playing games.

They are. Something has interrupted the connection between the panels and the lines that feed power to the station. So we aren't getting any of that power, effectively labelling those panels as 'down' in the system log.

"How do we fix it?" Cori asked, beads of nervous sweat forming on his brow.

I told you I knew what was wrong. I don't know how to fix it.

Parrick swallowed and bit at his lip; his whole mouth had gone dry. "You said there was a thief in the system, what does that mean?"

It means something is stealing our power supply -- draining it before it even reaches the station.

"Can you find out where it's going?" Parrick was beginning to like this day less and less.

Maybe. I'll need your help, though; whatever's taking this energy isn't technological -- which means you'll have to deal with it outside the system. There's more to this than punching in code or computer screens.

"Tell us what we need to do," Cori said bravely, his eyes wide and face white with nerves.

Well now... I suppose it's time to give you both another answer you're not going to like at all.

***

Professor Fairweather hummed to himself as he leafed through an archaeological book by candlelight and transcribed desert runes into an old yellowed journal. Sketches of the Darigan Bori statue riddled his desk and the mystery of it consumed his thoughts.

"Now where did you come from?" he mused to himself, accidentally spattering dots of ink across his papers as he tapped his pen near the face of one of the sketches.

It just didn't make any sense; he'd never heard of a Darigan statue residing in the middle of the Lost Desert before. Darigan Neopets weren't ancient desert dwellers, so why would this statue even be here in the first place?

Suddenly the shuffling of feet on sand released the Tonu from his musings and he looked up curiously. It seemed odd that someone was wandering around the campsite so late at night. The flap to his tent was peeled back and in stepped Nilson, but something seemed off about him. His movements looked rigid and strained, and there was an oddly chilly vacant look in his eyes.

Fairweather looked at his friend questioningly, and when he failed to respond asked him quite seriously, "Nilson, my dear friend, what's wrong?..."

Author: scarletspindle
Date: Sep 9th
The Draik turned slightly, staring blankly at the Tonu for several moments. Fairweather could have been a complete stranger to him, for all the warmth and companionship Nilson was showing.

"Nilson? What's wrong?" he repeated, with a growing sense of urgency. There was something unnerving and unnatural about the look in the Draik's eyes. "Are you all right?"

Blinking and jerking his head to the side ever so slightly, like he was trying to displace and irksome Petpetpet, a sense of recognition returned to Nilson's features. The vacant look didn't entirely disappear, though. "Oh. Professor Fairweather!" he said, suddenly urgent, but otherwise seemingly back to normal. "Down by the excavation pit -- you've got to come down with me, soon, fast, now!"

The Tonu mused over the sudden change in his friend's attitude. The look in his eyes, his cold demeanour a few seconds ago. "What's so pressing?" he asked in an easy, conversational tone, though his voice was tinged with wariness.

Brief confusion and annoyance flitted across Nilson's face. "A discovery!" he gushed, right back to the eager archaeologist. "I was doing a bit of late-night digging, and I think I stumbled upon something really key to our study here, and I figured you'd want to finish unearthing it and have the firsthand look, since you are the one with all the experience and expertise here. I think it has something to do with the statue," he added, the words tumbling out of his mouth in a rush.

Not really his words, though -- the core essence of the Draik was locked up in a nice, tidy corner of his mind. Struggling to get free, of course, but Liannah was confident of her new spellcasting -- and she worked through his possessed physical body to convince Fairweather to come down. Turn him into her puppet. Send the two researchers out again, under her control, to bring back more Neopets, until she had enough of them amassed in order to complete the spells, harvest the energy, bring Seraph back. Simple, really.

Several hundred feet away from Fairweather's tent, the grey faerie stood, waiting for Nilson to return with Fairweather. Through the Draik, she'd managed to convince him, and the distant sound of two pairs of feet walking the path down to Seraph's stone figure affirmed this.

This was going to be too easy. Soon, very soon, with the gathered energy of a hundred or so Neopets, Seraph would shake and stir and cast off his current petrified state. And there was also the matter of the crystal shards clenched tightly in her right hand, too...

Liannah smiled, a thin, fierce expression that was more grimace than grin. Yes. She would not be stopped this time, or ever again.

***

"Down in Neopia?" Cori snorted sceptically. "You want us to believe that there's some kind of renegade magic-user who's managed to hack their way into the Virtupets computer system, from all the way down there? Please. How gullible do you think we are?" he said irritably.

Believe what you will. It won't change the current situation.

"So -- assuming all this is true," Parrick jumped in, sensing the edge of impatience to V2's response, "you say that we'd have to go down to Neopia to fix it?"

Unfortunately, you're dealing with magic -- you've got to make direct contact with the source of it, whoever or whatever it may be. But since all of the ships capable of Space Station to Neopia transport have had their fuel sources drained as an emergency power boost... Conclusion: we're doomed. An equal sign and a backslash followed that statement. V2 was being uncharacteristically serious today, with its existence at risk.

Cori shook his head. "Oh no, we're not," he said in a singsong voice. "Guess who was promoted the other day? And guess what new privilege this certain Neopet got?"

Huh. So you managed to get somewhere with your corn-husk bossy demeanour after all. I hadn't referenced that since it seemed totally improbable.

The Aisha glared meaningfully at the camera in the corner. "Well, you should be a little more grateful, V2, since I pretty much saved your life. Um. Files."

I'm ever so sorry for insulting your royal bossiness.

Parrick felt a little more hopeful at V2's snarkier response -- the virus evidently thought it stood a chance of surviving, now. "All right, so then, Cori and I will --"

"It's a one-pet ship. Tiny. I didn't get promoted that high," Cori interjected.

"...Then it'll just be me going down --"

"It's my promotion! My ship!" Cori protested.

Parrick graduated in the top percentile of the Virtupet Space Station Cadet personal defence classes. I believe you failed out the second week?

The Aisha narrowed his eyes, but eventually nodded curtly, admitting defeat. "Fine. Parrick, here's the activation card -- now go and be Lightning Lenny or whatever and save the world, all right?"...

Author: mithril_mithrandir
Date: Sep 10th
Parrick nodded, taking the activation card in seriousness. "All right," he accepted, beginning to turn and head down to the docks.

Wait a second! You don't believe you're going without me, do you? NV2's screen flashed in annoyance.

Parrick turned around, raising an eyebrow. "Oh, is that so?" he said sceptically. "And how exactly will you make this possible?"

Take out the portable Neovision console you have in your back pocket, Cori. I know you've got it. Then put the camera in the corner of the room and attach it to the console. After that, it's a simple task of connecting the red wire to the blue wire and vice versa.

Grudgingly, Cori took the console out of his pocket and followed the NV2's instructions. It looked a bit odd with a small camera on the top of it, but it was passable.

Good. Now all I've got to do is to connect to the camera... The screen suddenly went dead as the NV2 passed from the server to the camera, and the camera to the console. It wasn't long before the familiar green letters appeared on the small screen. Hmm. This is different, but it'll serve me for the time being. Now, let's go, Parrick. We've got no time to waste.

***

Professor Fairweather looked up at the Bori's statue again, smiling from ear to ear. "I cannot believe you found a secret corridor in its base, Nilson!" the professor praised.

"It was a simple matter of finding the right runes," Nilson replied. He was back to his old self, much to Fairweather's satisfaction.

"Oh, we'll have to get the others to investigate with us!" the Tonu said, clapping his hooves together. He turned around and began to walk toward the tent, eager to wake the rest of the crew and tell them about the amazing find.

Suddenly, a wind picked up, throwing the sand to and fro across the desert. The wind became faster and faster, swirling across the desert in a fury of movement. It was a sandstorm. And a large one, at that.

The professor took a damp handkerchief and put it over his mouth as he stumbled across the sand, shielding his eyes from the flying grains. He hoped this wouldn't cover all their discoveries.

However, it wasn't long before the sandstorm settled and the sand lifted from the air enough to reveal...

Author: newmoon653
Date: Sep 10th
...a tiny spacecraft trailing smoke that rose above the dust clouds, from which a very disgruntled Buzz with a handheld device of sorts was disembarking.

Evidently he had not spotted the crouching bespectacled Tonu, intent on rebuking whatever he was holding in his paw -- though this was not surprising, as it really was quite dark. His annoyed speech drifted through the hazy sand that hadn't yet settled, interrupted by the occasional cough.

"...don't know what you were thinking! Telling me to land in the middle of a sandstorm, almost wrecking this ship! Do you have any idea what Cori is going to do to me? And I have sand in my eyes!"

Unfortunately, I only managed to lip-read half of what you just told me through this dust cloud, but I interpreted the fist-shaking as best I could. My most humble apologies to His Highness for having successfully tracked down the culprit. I will try not to be of assistance for the remainder of our mission.

Fairweather squinted in bewilderment at the very strange pair, barely comprehending what they were going on about. Mission? he thought, wondering if they, too, were planning to conduct an archaeological dig in the site.

As the final clusters of sand drifted downward and were carried off by the breeze, he stepped forward to greet the unexpected visitors.

"Good evening," he said curteously, holding out a paw to a surprised Parrick. "They call me Professor Fairweather. And you are...?"

***

Liannah uttered a short invocation after she was certain Fairweather had gone; her form shimmered and reappeared in front of the Draik, exactly where she had been when she'd cast the invisibility spell on herself. She smiled, satisfied; her magic was indeed returning, slowly but surely.

The shards of the two Thyora's Tears would remain in her grasp until she knew whether or not they could be restored. Her tattered wings swayed in the wind, brushing against her Bori friend's stone claws.

Nilson stared blankly at her; he would remain this way until the faerie took command again, tugged at her puppet's strings. But now, it was only a matter of waiting... waiting for the unsuspecting professor to return with his team of archaeologists.

"And then, Seraph," she whispered, "your eyes will blaze with life once more." Her words lingered in the desert haze.

***

And the Bori heard them.

Caged by enchanted snares of Liannah's miscast spell, Seraph's insatiable thirst for vengeance and power had not dulled over his confinement; rather, as before, it fueled his yearning all the more. Fyora would pay, and this time, Jhudora as well... the mere thought of that traitor made him glow with hatred.

Surprisingly, Liannah had kept her promise. And soon he would be free. He had only to wait, to suppress his impatience for just a little longer...

Waiting. Something he had spent far too much of his life on.

But you see, there was something else Seraph required to break free, something more than living energy alone. To this, Liannah was oblivious.

***

Cori's eyes narrowed with frustration. The continuous blare of the warning signals, the flashes of red beacons, the murmurs of the terrified pets... all three were stirring a maelstrom in his mind.

The Station's energy storages were running low, and in a mere hour it would lose power altogether and succumb to Neopia's gravitational pull. A sorcerer of some sort was draining their solar energy, and Parrick and NV2 had gone to try to stop them.

And he, Cori, had been left behind.

The sheer helplessness of his situation sent him spiralling into despair. He couldn't just sit here and wait to find out what would happen! There had to be something he could do, something he could help with...

And then the Aisha's eyes lit up. "Of course," he mused aloud...

Author: _razcalz_
Date: Sep 11th
"If I rewire the energy cells and divert the nav-sats to the transmitters, I'll be able to buy us a couple more hours!" He paused. "But to do that, I'll have to access the energy cells directly. And that means a spacewalk. Great."

Cori frowned. He had never been fond of venturing outside the Space Station. The idea of a thin layer of plastics and cloth separating him from the nothingness of outer space... he just didn't like to think about it. But, if it would keep the Space Station in orbit for another few hours... "I'll get my spacesuit," he muttered.

***

Seraph waited. But this was a different kind of waiting; not the dull monotony of time passing meaninglessly, but waiting tinged with anticipation. Besides, he could see the stars.

It had been hundreds of years since Seraph had seen the stars. Since he had seen anything but the dirt directly in front of his gemstone eyes.

Two thousand years, Seraph thought. Two thousand long, aching years trapped in this stone body. Three hundred of those years spent buried underground. Pure torture.

Liannah's flawed spell had not only turned the Bori to stone, but sent him back in time two thousand years. Seraph was not aware that it was Liannah who had inadvertently caused him such suffering, though; he imagined that Jhudora had intentionally cast this curse upon him. For two thousand years, he thought of nothing but revenge.

I thought ten years trapped in my Neohome was the pinnacle of punishment; never could I imagine the pain of centuries passing by, unable to even move, but still having consciousness. Watching empires rise and fall, seeing seasons roll past in the blink of an eye and yet agonisingly slowly, observing the sands of time creep up my body until eventually I was covered and no longer even had the comfort of watching the world pass me by. Three hundred years of dark, soundless agony that made my earlier imprisonment seem like absolute freedom.

But then, today, the light hit my eyes for the first time in fifteen-score years. And now I see the stars. I can feel it: the day of my re-awakening is coming soon. The darkness of endless night will at last, at last be over. And then, I heard Liannah's voice. Confirming my hopes. She will release me, undo Jhudora's spell.

And then our plans can begin in earnest.

***

Nilson's consciousness screamed from the corner of the Draik's mind in which it was trapped. He hadn't been strong enough. He hadn't been able to warn Fairweather. And now the entire archaeology team, himself included, would be the victims of this grey faerie's evil plot. He couldn't --

And then his eyes rolled back in his head. He stepped toward the statue and spoke in a booming monotone: "The thunder of the fallen, sun-guided star. The life-essence of five score. The missing relic, obscured by time and sullied by contamination, restored to its true form. When all three converge, I shall be freed."

After delivering the prophecy, Nilson collapsed to the ground like a puppet whose strings had been abruptly cut.

***

Upon hearing Nilson speak, Liannah gasped in shock. Had the Draik broken her spell, freed himself from her control? But no; this was not his voice. It was something new altogether.

And then she realised. A prophecy. Why does there always have to be a prophecy? She listened intently to the words that came from the Draik's mouth and memorised them. After he collapsed, she turned away from him and began to think.

So I need more than the energy of the Neopets at the dig site. I'll have to make a star fall and restore a missing relic. Why are these prophecies always so obscure?

Liannah turned around to see if she could milk any more information out of Nilson, but was shocked to find that the patch of ground on which he had been lying moments ago was now bare. Nilson was gone.

***

The green Eyrie sighed. His inspiration remained as dry as his quill. He adjusted the beret on his head and took a sip of the now-cold hot chocolate sitting on his desk. Useless. He stared at the blank page in front of him. The words, which had once flowed so freely from his hand, were now blocked.

He shut the small leather-bound diary and rubbed his eyes. One would think that after all he had been through, he would have the inspiration for dozens of stories, but this was not the case.

He hunched over the desk of his Neohome, built within walking distance of the Catacombs, and stared at the journal's cover. Black leather. So unlike the brilliant gold covering of the book that he once -- but no. He had promised himself he would never touch that book again.

He was alone. Reira and Rilnyi had kept in contact for a few weeks after the... events, but their last meeting had been months ago. And, unsurprisingly, he hadn't seen that Zafara at all. Maybe it's for the best, he thought. I wouldn't want them to see me in this state anyway.

It was true, the Eyrie did not look his best. He had lost weight, his feathers were falling out in patches, and his eyes had a hollow, sunken look from dozens of sleepless nights spent gazing at taunting white pages.

Maybe what I need is a change in location. A journey to search for inspiration, to regain my muse, he thought. And why not? He didn't have anything to lose at this point. He stood and paced over to the globe in the corner of his room. He gave it a spin, closed his eyes, and stopped it with his claw. He looked at what destination Fate had chosen for him. The Lost Desert. As good as anywhere, I suppose.

And so, The Storyteller packed his journal, quill, and ink in a small bag and set off on his journey...

Author: rosabellk
Date: Sep 11th
***

Should we trust him? Oldsters are usually stereotyped as kind-hearted, wise folks, but I don't like stereotypes. Besides, look at that horn. Perfect for ramming you and knocking the breath out of you. I say we tie him up, gag him, and roll him down a dune, leaving him to wallow in self-pity until he's rescued.If he's rescued, that is.

"I'm not sure," Parrick murmured, hesitance flickering in those large, calculating eyes of his. "He doesn't look like he's dangerous, besides that horn."

Fairweather blinked at the luminous green words flashing across the screen and let out a nervous chuckle as the meanings clicked in his mind. Just as he was about to repeat himself, the Buzz took his outstretched paw and pumped it up and down slowly, cautiously. "I'm Parrick and this annoying little fellow is NV2."

Annoying? Look who's talking, Mr. Serious. You drain the fun out of everything. But fine. If you think I'm so annoying, I won't help you.

"Then I might as well shut you off."

You wouldn't dare! After I helped you track down the culprit, you at least owe me the honour of watching you epically fail your big mission and being saved by some random superhero. Remember what Cori said about that Lightning Lenny guy?

Fairweather's curiosity began to build up within him like a baby Neopet stacking alphabet blocks in an unstable tower. "Say? What was it that you meant by a 'big mission'? Are you two here to see the Bori statue?" He finally mustered the courage to ask, cutting through the tension like a plastic knife through a slab of butter.

"Well..." Parrick's annoyed expression shifted and twisted into a thoughtful one as he mulled on how to string together an explanation. After a tense moment, he at last decided on, "Have you ever heard of the Space Station?"

***

Nilson slumped against a sandy knoll, heart pounding a symphony against his chest, in harmony with the rhythm of his laboured breaths. He was exhausted, energy drained from him as if Liannah had drawn it right out of him (which wasn't a surprise to him) and his scales paled from the fright of the experience until they were but a dulled yellow, not the sparkling golden stars they used to be. He just wanted to curl up into the soft folds of his bed, walking the path toward a world of peaceful dreams and wonderful illusions. But he knew he couldn't; he had to warn the others before it was too late.

The others!

At the thought of his fellow archaeologists, new energy pumped into his veins, stemming from his friendship with them, a bond that threatened to be severed by Liannah, as if she was wielding a blade of deadly magic. Then, there was his family, tucked in at their cozy little beds, oblivious to the danger that would arise with the grey faerie's success, their minds weaving illusions to soothe them. He leapt to his feet, spreading his wings, motivated by the power of love and friendship, the relationships he had forged at stake.

And with that seed of a thought implanted into his mind gently sprouting roots, he took off into the night air, the fingers of arid wind caressing him, encouraging him to save those he held dear.

***

No inspiration, yet.

The Storyteller heaved a deep sigh as he examined the papers, only littered with a splatter of ink when he had accidentally tossed his quill out of frustration. He rose from his seat and trudged up to the window, paws pressed against the glass, eyes misting with a wistful quality. Why wasn't inspiration coming to him? He had arrived at the Lost Desert at around sunset, explored the thriving and beautiful Qasala, and finally rented in a room in a hotel in Sakhmet after taking a pleasant stroll in the bustling city. He vaguely remembered having an inkling of an idea while spotting a few children playing, but it had vanished amidst the sands of time.

Maybe I should take another walk. The Eyrie was already exhausted, but after nights of no inspiration and not a single word spouting from his quill, he decided that if he didn't get even a faint trickle of an idea, he would settle into a state of restlessness.

Shouldering his backpack again, he heaved the door open and bounded down the stairwell right next to it, the steps creaking and groaning beneath his weight. He rushed out the front door, ignoring the trickle of friendly greetings from an Ixi and her companion.

"That's strange. After a month or two of not seeing us, I thought he'd be happy," Reira muttered, peering beyond the glass of the gates to see a blur of emerald weaving its way through throngs of Neopets. "Think we should follow him, Rilnyi?"

"Nah," the Hissi said, a cheerful grin splitting his face. "He's probably just looking for some inspiration. I mean, why would a guy like him want to thwart the plans of an evil faerie partnered with a Neopet? He'd rather write about it than actually do it. He'll be fine."

Reira squinted at the Storyteller as he became a green dot, worry flickering briefly in her eyes. "You'd better be right."

***

Cori swam through a sea of twinkling stars and swirling blackness, anticipation bubbling within him. To think, he and Parrick had a paw in the safety of the Space Station, Neopia, and their citizens! It almost sounded like a cliched adventure story leaping off the pages of a book.

Is it just me or is it getting hotter in here?

Sure enough, sweat was beginning to bead down from his forehead, weaving between patches of fur and seeping into the tufts of emerald. Instinctively, he froze as an onrush of whooshing sounds trickled into his sensitive Alien Aisha ears. "What's... that?" Curiosity piqued, he whirled around, just in time to avoid a streak of vibrant red and orange racing along the endless stretches of space and toward the giant sphere of Neopia. More blazing projectiles hailed down around him in a storm, all heading to the same destination.

Cori squinted ahead, straining to see where they were coming from through a crack in between his lids and eyes. To his shock and horror, the intense streaks were stars, twirling and dancing around the Space Station and toward their companions. "What's happening...?"

Author: kina105
Date: Sep 14th
***

"The Space Station?" the Professor asked. "Of course, sir, who hasn't?" As if putting two and two together, he added curiously. "Oh! Is that where you hail from, my dear boy? But why are you so far from home? How did you even hear about our discovery?"

Our world is in mortal peril, and all he thinks about is his archaeological statue!

"Shut it, NV2," Parrick replied curtly. He then turned his attention back to the Professor. "No, I am not here because of your... statue. It has come to our attention recently that something -- or someone -- in this remote area is diverting energy from the Space Station's power source, and without that... well, let's just say, the Station will not stay afloat in space much longer."

To demonstrate, the Buzz lifted his hand toward the stars pointing at the tiny red dot moving slowly across the sky. He barely had time to wonder what Cori was doing about the situation when he noticed other red dots, these moving much quicker, streaking across the sky.

"What--" Parrick hissed.

But the Professor wasn't paying much attention. He absorbed Parrick's explanation of the catastrophe, and his mind immediately returned to the statue.

"When did this disaster start to unfold, you say?" Professor Fairweather inquired.

"I... what?" Parrick muttered, distracted by the sudden appearance of falling stars. He'd heard of meteor showers before, but star showers? "Oh, um, I'd estimate roughly earlier in the evening."

At the same time we unearthed the Darigan Bori... coincidence?Fairweather thought. The Professor couldn't shake the feeling that the two events were somehow related. He also remembered Nilson's bizarre behaviour when he was near the statue. What had he said? Something about stars falling...

***

The grey faerie squeezed her grasp, relishing in the feel of the Thyora's Tears; one made specifically for attack made her feel strong and in control, while the other, constructed for defence, made her feel safe and indestructible.

She moved heavily, feeling her body shudder and reject the sudden movement. It had taken every last ounce of her powers to coax the stars from their resting places, but she looked eagerly to the sky, smiling weakly at what she had accomplished.

Repeating the prophecy in her mind, there was only one last thing she needed to do.

As for that Draik... well, she'd take care of him later.

***

The Storyteller made his way through the city. Night had fallen, and most of the shops now stood quiet, the streets void of the usual hustle and bustle of everyday market trading.

He looked to the sky, noticing not one but many falling stars.

"How beautiful," he remarked, mesmerised for a few seconds.

He came to the outskirts of Sakhmet and noticed a small sign tacked to a post that read 'Archaeological Dig Site', complete with an arrow pointing to the left.

"Fascinating," the Storyteller breathed. "Think of all the historical relics and the stories behind them! This should give me some kind of inspiration." And he continued on down the path.

***

Nilson had barely managed to flap his wings three times before he felt like they were on fire. He winced, crying out in pain and flopped several feet, landing face-first into the sand.

He rolled over, trying to move his muscles further, but he felt like they'd been turned to stone.

Not again! Please not again. He'd had his one shot to warn Fairweather, but it was no use.

He heard the faerie speak before she came into view.

"I've been looking for you."

Since he couldn't move his head, he simply had to wait for her to walk into his line of sight, and when she did, he couldn't help but gasp.

"Jhudora?!"

Author: xx_neomania
Date: Sep 14th
The dark faerie smiled at the sound of her name, and crouched down by the side of the Draik. She ran her fingernails across his cheek, scratching his flesh.

"Where is she?" she asked in contempt.

"W-who?" Nilson stuttered.

"You know who," Jhudora rasped. "Liannah. I know she's here; I can sense her magic on you."

"What do you want with her?" Nilson asked. "Are you here to stop her?"

The dark faerie smiled, "You could say that."

She stood up abruptly and watched as a series of stars moved across the night sky.

"She's drawn me here..." Jhudora said distantly. "I felt it, the magical pull drawing me to this place. It must be her. But I'm going to end this, once and for all. I should never have let her escape back in Faerieland."

"How are you going to stop her?" Nilson asked, already dreading the answer.

Jhudora seemed to be Liannah's enemy, but the Draik knew enough about the dark faerie to know that she most certainly couldn't be considered an ally.

"I'm not sure yet... but this, it has something to do with this..." Jhudora replied.

She held a book in her arms. It shimmered golden, even in the dark of night.

***

The Storyteller paused as the line of tents came into view. From this far out, he could see that there was a considerable amount of activity going on. There were two figures out in the sands, a Draik and what appeared to be a faerie. At the other side of the camp, two more Neopets stood by what looked like a space craft. In the very centre of the scene, another faerie seemed to be kneeling by a statue.

The Storyteller felt his mind light up. There was something about the scene that sparked his imagination. It was if he had been waiting for it, silently drawn to this place at this time. He set off toward the faerie in the centre of the camp.

***

Cori stared in disbelief as the stars circled the Space Station even faster.

Or were they stars? He wasn't so sure any more. After all, stars were as big as suns, and the lights circling the station seemed no bigger than Neopets.

Magic, he groaned internally.

Cori's worst fears were confirmed as the stars began to move closer to the station, and then at once sped straight for the atmospheric boosters that lined the station's perimeters.

They fired almost immediately, and Cori struggled to hold on as the station began to move. The Aisha turned in horror to see the destination.

They were heading down toward Neopia.

***

A silent figure watched the Storyteller make his way toward the fallen grey faerie. She turned with a regal air to see Jhudora and Nilson making their way back to the camp. Jhudora brandished a golden book in her arms. It was one the mysterious figure knew the Storyteller would recognise. After all, she'd been the one to plant it where she knew Jhudora would find it.

All the players had finally assembled. It was time for the show to begin.

She was the thread, the character that tied all these stories together. She had brought them all here, arranged every single detail.

She was the one who held a grudge against the Space Station and its creator, Dr. Sloth.

She was the original target of the Storyteller's tale, before it became twisted by the intentions of the Three.

She was the one who had cursed Liannah to her grey faerie form.

She was the one who had been the intended victim of Seraph, Liannah, and Jhudora's little rebellion.

The faerie stepped out of the cover of the tents.

She was Queen Fyora.

It was time to set things right.

Author: herdygerdy
Date: Sep 15th
***

Rilnyi yawned, allowing his tired wings a luxurious stretch as Reira drew open the cloth curtains of their own room. The packed dirt floor was chilly to the touch and a scent of puntec fruit that he disliked lingered all over the hotel, stubbornly refusing to completely waft away. Nonetheless, having been used to the convenience of Neopia Central, he had never known a longer day of travelling and the Hissi longed for rest.

On the other hand, Reira was as sprightly as ever, peering intently out the breezy window. "So I can spot the Storyteller when he returns," she explained with a half-turn toward her friend.

Rilnyi was about to nod his agreement when a thought nagged at him, not for the first time since their journey. "Reira," he began, then paused in uncertainty.

"Hmm?" The white Ixi continued to watch the streets of Sakhmet.

"Why did we have to come here, all the way to the Lost Desert?" There. He had said it.

"I mean," Rilnyi continued hesitantly as Reira turned her head in surprise, unaccustomed to the easygoing Hissi's worried tone, "I know you want to see the Storyteller again, and I do too, but couldn't we have waited in the Catacombs for him? Why the urgency?"

She did not answer at first; rather, her eyes narrowed a touch as she registered him -- though not with irritation but careful thoughtfulness. Reira had avoided giving a direct answer until now, unwilling to shatter her promise to never lie again... especially not to Rilnyi...

The Hissi misinterpreted her silence; he clasped his wings as he always did when he felt guilty. "I'm sorry. I'm glad I could accompany you; I don't mean I resent it or anything. Puntec fruit isn't that bad..."

Reira smiled despite herself. Then she sighed.

"Rilnyi, I'm the one who should apologise," she said, to his surprise. "I didn't tell you because I wanted to keep you out of it, out of my troubles..." The Ixi had done it because she had already put him in danger once, though this he did not remember.

The Hissi frowned. "What do you mean?"

Reira's voice was laden with unease. "We're here because... because of the book."

"What book?" asked Rilnyi, truly puzzled. His gaze was bewilderment itself. They were here on account of a book?

"It... it belonged to the Storyteller. It has the power to change our lives again -- anyone's lives. And it is gone. He told me to keep it safe, not only from those would use it for harm but from himself as well. The golden book was the Storyteller's treasure... he didn't know if he would be able to resist the satisfaction of seeing ink from his quill trail across the yellowed pages once more."

Rilnyi's eyes were clouded. "What do you mean, change our lives again? Reira..."

"Rilnyi, I'm sorry," the Ixi said again. "I'll tell you the whole story when the time is right. Right now, we must find the book."

***

As the stars she had commanded fled from their night sky, Liannah herself stood so still that she could have very well been mistaken for a second statue beside Seraph's. Her gaze found the Darigan Bori's, willing him to give her a further clue. A long-lost relic... what could it be? But his features remained as impassive as any set in stone.

The grey faerie's mind whirled like gears, but time and again, she could only come to a single conclusion... this artefact, whatever it was, must have been somehow linked to Seraph. It had to have been of significance. Otherwise, how could it play a role in restoring him?

Restore...

Could it be? Could it be that the answer lay clenched in her very palm, in the form of eight glittering shards? Shards of the Tears, one of which Seraph had once dangled from his paw...

Liannah tasted the bittersweet memory, and that was when she heard the faintest of footsteps, most of it snuffed by the sand beneath. She snapped back into focus.

The faerie whirled around, fully expecting to see the return of Fairweather along with his crew of archaeologists.

Instead, she found herself face to face with a green Eyrie.

Her response was instantaneous. "And who are you?" she growled.

The Eyrie did not return her hostility, giving a slight inclination of his head instead. "My name... is not important," he said, and Liannah found herself taken aback by his voice. That so rich and smooth a voice could belong to an ordinary-looking Eyrie... "You may call me the Storyteller. Tell me, for I have a yearning to know. Of whom is this statue?"

Liannah did not answer immediately. She spun several rapid calculations. Something had happened to that Tonu, she was sure of it. It should not have taken this long to fetch those at the camp. And Nilson, well, he had gone. It would be easy to track down one of them, but easier still to use the pawn that had stumbled so unsuspectingly into her path...

Author: _razcalz_
Date: Sep 15th
She carefully rearranged her expression, adopting a mournful appearance. "This," she said, laying a gentle hand on the statue's base, "is Seraph, a great Bori warrior, cursed to remain trapped as a statue for thwarting one of Jhudora's villainous schemes. I fought by his side, once -- I was a light faerie, before Jhudora stole my wings from me."

Liannah's face showed none of the triumph she felt as she saw the Storyteller's widened eyes. The fool was swallowing the bait!

"I've been seeking a way to restore him. Perhaps you might aid me, noble teller of tales?"

The Eyrie stepped back and made a gallant bow. "Of course I shall, dear lady. I would be honored to render whatever assistance you require of me."

Liannah smiled. If the Eyrie noticed the glint of malice in her eyes, he did not show it.

Mm. Flattery seems to work well on this one...

"Certainly one as well-read and knowledgeable as you must be knows the story of Thyora's Tear?" she asked.

"I do indeed," the Eyrie replied. "It was a tear, wept by a loving sister for her lost brother, blessed by a water faerie to defend the holder in times of direst need."

"Yes, indeed. It is also the key to freeing this warrior from his stony prison. But it has been broken." She held out her hands, filled with the shards of the Attack and Defence Tears. She felt no real need to inform the Eyrie of the Attack Tear's existence -- if her hunch was right, the two Tears would soon form a unified whole anyway.

"But what do you desire of me?" the Storyteller asked.

"An Eyrie's tear and a faerie's blessing are all it took to create this," said Liannah. "Perhaps... if you might shed a tear for me, and for Seraph, the Tear might be recreated, and he might be freed."

She paused expectantly.

"Hm. As an author, I must of course be ready to access the wellspring of emotions within my core, the font from which true art flows. Still, it is difficult to summon tears on command...

"Tell me the story of Seraph, and how he came to meet this sorry fate. Such a tragic tale must surely bring tears to the very stones themselves! I only hope that my own humble offering of pathos shall revive your noble companion."

"Of course I shall," said Liannah. It would be a simple enough matter to weave a web of pretty lies, painting herself and Seraph as the heroes they were anything but.

"Listen well, oh Storyteller, and I will tell you everything..."

***

Professor Fairweather knew that there was no time to waste.

"I've got to find Nilson," he said. "Something terrible is happening, and I have a feeling it has to do with the statue we unearthed earlier."

"Statue?" Parrick asked.

"There is little time to explain," said Fairweather, before proceeding to do so anyway. "After we unearthed a statue of a Darigan Bori -- a rather odd thing to find in the middle of the Lost Desert -- Nilson began to behave rather strangely, saying odd things and then having no memory of having said them. I believe there may be some strange magic at work."

Gracious, said V2. How utterly perceptive of you. I never would have guessed.

Both Neopets studiously ignored the virtual intelligence.

"It must have something to do with the falling Space Station," said Parrick. "We've got to go find that statue!"

They made their way to the centre of the camp, not knowing that they were headed straight into a confrontation that would decide the fate of not only the imperiled Space Station, but perhaps the whole of Neopia itself.

***

Cori was helpless to do anything but watch as the surface of Neopia drew closer.

All attempts to alter the Space Station's course had failed. All over the station, Neopets were desperately trying to evacuate, but Cori knew that there just wasn't enough time to get everyone loaded into the escape pods.

All Cori could do was hope that some miracle would keep the Space Station from impacting Neopia.

"Don't be afraid," came a gentle, regal-sounding voice. The Aisha turned, but there was no one there.

"All will be well," the voice continued. "I will not allow you, or anyone else on this station, to come to harm."

The window was suddenly covered with a fuchsia tint, and though the station's ascent did not stop immediately, it began to slow.

"Who are you?" said Cori, though he had a fairly good idea of who it was -- who it must be.

The voice didn't answer.

Cori looked out the window. "Thank you," he said simply.

Hopefully, the Faerie Queen had the power to keep the station from falling... but even if not, she had bought them valuable time to evacuate.

***

"...and that is how Seraph, my staunchest companion and dear, dear friend, came to be trapped in such a dreadful state," Liannah finished.

"A most tragic tale indeed!" said the Storyteller, his eyes welling. "Such bravery! Such loyalty! Ah, I can feel my muse returning to me now... you have given me a gift beyond all other things. How can I ever hope to repay you? A single tear is all you need... but alas, it seems such a small thing! Still, I shall gladly provide it."

Yes, yes, just get on with it! Liannah thought irritably. The Eyrie certainly could be rather long-winded.

"Well, well, well," came an all-too-familiar voice. "What have we here?"

"Jhudora!" The grey faerie glared at her onetime-ally-turned-foe. This was a complication Liannah didn't need, but perhaps even this could be turned to her advantage...

"You have the Book," said the Eyrie, his voice a rasping whisper. "The Book..." He swallowed, slowly. "A foul villain like you does not deserve to even hold it!" He turned his head, lowering his beak to touch the shards in Liannah's hands.

Jhudora saw them, glinting in the moonlight. "No!" she hissed, but it was too late.

A tear slid down the Storyteller's beak, and as it dropped onto the shards of the Tears, they began to glow softly...

Author: cookybananas324
Date: Sep 16th
...a blue light encompassing the two shards and melting them like pale sand into glass...

It was mesmerising. The magical display held promise of revenge to Liannah. Jhudora gripped her book more tightly, her long nails threatening to damage the cover. The Eyrie forgot about everything for a moment as he tried to transmute the beauty before him into words.

And then it began to change as the power went rancid.

The two shards were still connected, but the bluish aura around the pair had turned blood-red. Liannah drew back her arms, suddenly trepid as she felt the corrupted power against her pale skin, but the fusing Tear remained in its place, hanging in the air as if the whole scene was a canvas.

Thyora's Tear was created by an Eyrie's lament, and thus could be repaired by another. But these shards were not of the same tear -- one was the epitome of attack, and the other the height of defence. Two completely polar entities.

Combining both tears into a single entity had once promised to give Jhudora the strength to overthrow Fyora. But Seraph's uncharacteristically heroic act had shattered the pair, putting not only him and Liannah but Jhudora as well back to square one.

Of course, the grey faerie hadn't been ready to just let go of such power like that.

Liannah had been draining plenty of magic from the shards already. And broken magical objects were never the safest things to begin with. Being forced to combine with an entity that resembled the complete opposite of itself in power seemed to push both Tear fragments over the edge.

The red aura grew stronger, arcing and flaring like an ominous thundercloud. There were several snaps and cracks as the anomaly grew in size, almost like a flame engulfing its surroundings.

At last, with a pulsing shockwave of energy that lanced toward Seraph's statue, the two Tears melded as one entity of both attack and defence, landing on the ground with a dull thud.

Jhudora wasted no time in diving for the translucent artefact in the sand.

And made the unusually amateur mistake of dropping the Book.

***

In the dusty stone of two thousand years' imprisonment, Seraph slept.

His part was done. Liannah was here. He had given his instructions. He would wake when he lived again, his claws sharp and at the ready to deal out the vengeance he had long sought.

To be reawakened for such a short time, only to return to an imprisonment far worse than he could have ever dreamed...

Oh, Jhudora would pay.

Something jolted him out of the dreamlike state of existing in dead stone, where sleep and awareness were barely distinguished.

There was latent energy in the air, untamed and fierce. It blazed around his statue, around the Eyrie, around Liannah.

He craved it. It wasn't a conscious decision on his part, nor a budding criminal plan. Something basic and instinctive in him reared up its head and cried for it, like a newly hatched Pteri calling for its mother.

He was weak. But this would make him strong again.

For that was what it was. It had been two thousand years ago. He craved life. And whether this was Liannah's promised energy or a new development, he didn't care. He would take it.

He could feel it -- this magical storm had enough power to give Liannah her wings back, to strip Jhudora of her powers, to send Faerieland crashing to the ground.

And he didn't care. There was only one thing on his mind now, and he barely dared to hope as he reached out with his mind and yanked at the magic, just as he had held the Draik's mind earlier.

It complied entirely, deserting the two gleaming objects to which they clung to rush at him like one of Shenkuu's white waterfalls. A cascade that wreathed him in power.

It felt like... nothing. Not nothing as in nothing different than before, but rather nothing as in a complete lack of sensation. It crept through him like a void, an abyss, leaving numbness in its wake. And then as he adjusted to it, he realised there was something beyond the numbness, something tantalising, if only he could embrace the darkness.

For darker magic he had never felt. This was the power beyond that of a dark faerie -- this was the strength of anomaly and corruption, brought into possibility by scheming and lies. And sealed with the tear of one who was misled. Beyond that, he was no faerie to begin with. A Neopet was not made to hold intense magical power. He could only guess at later consequences.

But if it could give him what he wanted...

Seraph closed his eyes.

The statue-that-was-Seraph closed the eyes that had stared in horrified shock for two thousand years.

The ground trembled.

And it exploded in a torrent of stone and sand, and through the wreckage gleamed the hungry crimson eyes of a Darigan Bori...

Author: dianacat777
Date: Sep 16th
***

"...and then we invited him to join us for hot chocolate," Reira finished.

Rilnyi was silent.

The two pets stood on a dune near the outskirts of the archaeological camp.

Reira looked concerned. "Do you hate me for not telling you what happened? For not revealing my past? For shielding you from the truth? Come on, say something!"

"That certainly was a long story," Rilnyi at last said. "And I don't remember any of it?"

"That just shows you how much power the book has. And why we must recover it as soon as possible; if it fell into the wrong hands..."

Rilnyi shuddered at the thought. "You think The Storyteller has it? And that's why we followed him here?"

"Yes. I'm afraid he craves the power he once had and is trying to regain it, this time without Kass interfering. He was right not to ask me to hide it from him."

"But now we've lost his trail," Rilnyi said simply. "That sandstorm erased all his footprints."

Reira sighed. "Yes. And while I'm sure he means no harm, who knows what forces The Storyteller could accidentally set in motion without intending to? We need to find that book and get rid of it for good. Come on, let's see what those tents over there are."

***

Cori removed his helmet as he exited the airlock. His mind raced with panicked thoughts. It seemed a benevolent magic was slowing their descent, but whoever was controlling the magic seemed incapable (or unwilling) to stop the fall altogether. He began to make his way to the escape pods; he would ensure the evacuation was orderly and calm. Right now, that was about all he could do. He felt absolutely powerless. His home was about to be destroyed and there wasn't a thing he could do to help. I just hope Parrick is able to figure something out in time.

***

Back at the tents on the border of the camp, a hundred or so pets slept. If any of them had been awake to witness it, they might have seen their bodies dimming, as if they were becoming less real. As if their life-essence was being sucked away. But they slumbered on, oblivious to the drama occurring merely a few minutes' walking distance from them, unaware that their souls were being consumed by a hungry, malevolent force. They slept, not knowing that their fates rested in the hands, paws, and talons of an assortment of heroes, villains, and those in between.

***

Parrick and Fairweather saw the bright glow of magic on the horizon, then felt the ground tremble beneath them and heard a fierce explosion. The two pets looked at each other in shock and began to run toward the source of the light.

What just happened? asked NV2.

"I believe we have accidentally awakened an ancient evil!" panted Fairweather as he ran. "I've encountered this kind of thing before -- curses on tombs, protective spells on crypts. If my hunch is right, we must act quickly to prevent utter chaos."

That's nice and all, but how exactly will this help us to save the Space Station?

Parrick now spoke. "If the statue and the magic interfering with the Space Station are, in fact, connected, then maybe stopping whatever's happening at the dig site will extinguish the magic that's draining the solar panels. After all -- oof!" Parrick's speech was interrupted as he tripped over a prone form in the sand.

"Nilson?" gasped Fairweather, looking down at the unconscious Draik.

"Come on, there's no time!" said Parrick.

"No!" said Fairweather resolutely. "We'll take him with us." With surprising strength for a pet so old, he picked Nilson up, flung him over his shoulder, and resumed his running.

***

The Storyteller felt triumphant. His tear had been the catalyst that had freed the innocent Bori from Jhudora's dark spell. For once in his life, he had been the hero, had done what was virtuous and right. His chest puffed up with pride.

Both faeries struggled in the sand, fighting over the glowing Tear, too preoccupied to pay any attention to the Eyrie. The newly awakened Bori slowly stepped out from the rubble that surrounded him and stretched his limbs. The Storyteller wanted to welcome him, to tell him that his rebirth was complete, and he could now resume his fight of goodness against Jhudora's evil. But as he opened his beak and stepped forward, something caught his eye.

The Book.

It called to him. He had been right not to trust himself with it, to give it to Reira. Now that he was reunited with it, the power was too tempting. He had to at least hold it once more, just have one more taste of the power that had once been his. He slowly walked over to it and picked it up, caressing its gilded cover with the back of his hand. He opened it to the first page, expecting to see the familiar list that had been there last time.

But instead, he was surprised to see a new set of names under the heading of "CHARACTERS." Some he recognised, such as Reira and Jhudora, but some were foreign: Parrick, Cori, Fairweather. He flipped a few pages, only to find that the words he and Rilyni had written those months ago had vanished. The pages were all blank once again. The story was his to tell...

Author: rosabellk
Date: Sep 17th
The Eyrie licked his beak expectantly. The blank page... that was always the hardest to fill. What to say, and how to phrase it.

A childish grin spread across his face. He has missed this, the power to create tales and weave them so expertly.

Once he had dreamed of being the hero in a tale, but he had long ago accepted his fate. He was the Storyteller.

The scuffle on the floor nearby came to an end, Jhudora forcing Liannah backward. The dark faerie held the glowing Tear in her hands and wore a decidedly wicked smile.

"It's over, Liannah, I have the Tears now," Jhudora cackled. "The powers of attack and defence, combined into one artefact. With this, I am unstoppable!"

Jhudora pointed the Tears at Liannah, focusing a magical blast.

"No..." the Storyteller whispered.

A flash of inspiration hit him, and with lightning speed he plucked one of his own feathers, forming a rudimentary quill. He pressed it to the page, and began to write. It didn't matter that he had no ink; the magic of the book burned his words to the page.

Jhudora's magic curse hurtled toward Liannah, and the grey faerie was struck down with its might.

Jhudora cackled, and turned to the Bori, who was still adjusting to his new surroundings.

"Now for you," she rasped.

"No!" came the cry of Liannah, getting to her feet once more.

But it was not the tattered and diminished Liannah that had been standing there moments earlier. Wings of glorious yellow blazed like the sun on her back. She was a grey faerie no longer.

Jhudora screwed her nose up in disgust.

"How!?" she questioned.

The Storyteller smiled to himself, and let Liannah speak the words as he wrote them to the page.

"The tears of Thyora were shed to protect an Eyrie from a horrible fate," the light faerie explained. "They were given power to defend her from harm, and strike back at those who would do her harm. Yet, a third tear was shed to make the unified whole that you now possess."

Her gazed drifted over to the Storyteller, who was still absorbed in the tale he was crafting.

"This tear was shed not by one who wished for protection or vengeance," Liannah continued. "It was shed by an Eyrie who had just heard a story. He is a storyteller, a weaver of tales."

"So what?" Jhudora spat.

"His tears possess the third kind of magic, the magic that has healed me," Liannah replied. "His tears have the power to create."

Jhudora almost convulsed in rage, throwing the glowing tears away from her.

"Then these are useless!" she screamed.

The Storyteller felt something odd in his mind. He knew where he was planning to take this tale... but another idea occurred to him, and he found his hand seemed to be writing of its own accord.

A sudden thought struck Jhudora.

"If these tears only possess the power to create... where did the power to destroy and protect go?" she asked.

She needn't have bothered. Everyone already knew, they had seen it happen after all. The tears had given life to the statue.

Jhudora turned back to the Bori, who now seemed to have gained some idea of exactly where he was.

Seraph flexed his claws experimentally, and raw magic arced off them, burning the sand at his feet.

"Hello again, Jhudora," he rasped...

Author: herdygerdy
Date: Sep 17th
Two thousand years of silence had taken its toll on the Bori. Even now, freshly brought back to life, he looked frail, beaten, perhaps even ruined. His fur was dull, his spines were chipped, and he was thin. His once-imposing muscles, degraded by a ten-year stretch of imprisonment in his manor and further erased by a brief jaunt of being painted faerie, were naught but a memory.

But something glowed within the depths of his eyes, a less-than-subtle strength that held his ragged form aloft, alight with nigh psychotic energy. It was more than his ravening for revenge.

It was the power.

His power.

He had seized the corrupt power of both the Attack and the Defence Tears. Ten years ago -- two thousand and ten by his timeline -- he had tried to use the Attack Tear and failed miserably. But that was when he had clutched a magical object in his paws. Now the magic was of him. And he looked more than ready to use it.

As did Liannah. Her wings shimmered as a golden glow illuminated her body, her skin now pale cream instead of sickly grey. Her eyes blazed with the radiance of the sun itself, every bit as raw and passionate.

It had been so long since she had been able to wield the power of light... she'd nearly forgotten the warmth, the radiance, the sheer ease of it.

Experimentally, she tugged at the light source she'd previously been drawing from, and smiled as a surge of strength permeated her.

***

Some thousand feet above Neopia, red warning lights flashed as the Space Station's solar power storages flashed directly to zero watts remaining.

There were a few jerks, a crack, and a fading hum. And static.

Neopets screamed and panicked as the Station resumed its downward spiral.

But Cori was not one of them.

***

Jhudora glared at Liannah with pure contempt. "I have to say, being grey much more suited your taste, you snivelling, miserable excuse for a failure -- I mean, faerie."

Stuttering does add realism to the characters, the Storyteller mused as he wrote.

But the next thing spoken stopped his quill dead in its weaving.

Seraph coughed the dust from his voice, his words characteristically blunt and to the point.

"You first, Jhudora. Then Fyora."

The Storyteller held up a paw, a signal for silence... which, oddly enough, considering his company, was obeyed.

"Wait... I believe I don't understand something. Was this friend of yours not a valiant and mighty warrior, striving to serve the Faerie Queen whilst he was struck down by your evil magic?" These last words were directed at Jhudora.

Seraph smirked, showing his sharp teeth. "A mighty warrior I have always been... but to serve one as pathetic as Fyora? Pah! Ridiculous. Liannah, that's just degrading."

The Eyrie's eyes darted over to Liannah in confusion.

"I thank you, Storyteller, for your service to me." Liannah spread her wings for the first time in more than ten years. "Thus, you are no enemy to me. I suppose you are worthy of hearing my tale." Part of it, anyway.

Jhudora spat.

"It is true that Seraph was struck down by Jhudora. She was our demise twice -- the first time, it was a silent betrayal, whereas the second was of a rather more open nature. Ten years after the first fall, Seraph and I... reunited... in Faerieland. He had just escaped, and I had been waiting. My plan was to use the two Tears to finish the rebellion we'd started ten years prior. But Jhudora stole them, intending to usurp Fyora herself. Seraph and I recovered them, but we were..." here she grimaced, "...powerless, at the time. At the last moment, Seraph recognised defeat and allowed himself to be imprisoned by her again, dropping and consequently shattering them so that at least Jhudora would be denied her victory."

Seraph snorted derisively. "A lot of good that ended up doing. Next time, I don't care what you say. No more retreats. Even mention it and I'll shred your wings."

Liannah eyed his claws, which were emitting crimson sparks and melting the sand into glass beneath his feet. "I doubt we'll need to."

The Storyteller, for a minute, was touched. For a villian, that is a beautiful move. It is the very bane of a static character, to be able to learn to...

...a villain!

"So... that was all a lie?" The Storyteller spoke as though he was shocked that anyone could try to fool him. Which, really, he was.

"You're even thicker than you sound," Jhudora hissed. She never took her eyes off Seraph, tracking every spark of magic he emitted in her peripheral vision.

The Storyteller was horrified. He knew enough of what messing with villains had caused -- Kass had nearly ruined him, and Reira and Rilnyi to boot. He wanted to be a hero, true, but how could he possibly do that if he was consorting with antagonists?

And here, to think he had just helped return two vengeful ne'er-do-wells to their former glory!

All was not lost, though, as he turned his eyes downward to the golden book he had left unceremoniously in the swathe of sand. He had the power to destroy them, erase them all with one stroke of his quill...

But... oh, what a wickedly delicious cast this was!

This story was his. The characters were even more beautifully convoluted than he could have ever dreamed of. Jhudora would be Jhudora, interesting but cliche... but Seraph and Liannah were beautiful characters.

A Bori villain who was the victim of his own scheming, trapped in stone... but one who had a single shred of goodness in him that still flared when all seemed lost, a selfless spark that allowed him to embrace imprisonment just to save Neopia from Jhudora's regime.

And a fallen faerie, a traitor to Fyora's throne... but not just that, a fallen light faerie. Who would have expected? No, these were amazing characters, worthy of creation of his own quill.

It could be his quill that guided them, a tale to span the ages of how the misfortune-fraught pair finally achieved their revenge...

And it would be his statue, his name engraved in the Catacombs as the most glorious writer of all time...

***

Nilson groaned, and then awareness slapped him like a tidal wave pummeling a Mystery Island shoreline.

He could feel it in his mind; the accursed grey faerie had let go of him. Or he had broken free. Whatever. It didn't matter. He wagged his tail -- it moved like a limp noodle, but it moved nonetheless.

He was being carried. Warm air caressed his cheek as his head bobbed to the rhythm of the footsteps that carried him...

And he remembered what he had to do...

Author: dianacat777
Date: Sep 18th
***

Consider the formation of a river. Even the mightiest of them start off simply: a spring forms in the mountains from melting snow. The water trickles down the slope, meets with other springs, and they join. The water gains momentum, now tumbles down to the foothills. Another tributary joins up with this rivulet. And another. A lake drains downhill and adds itself to the rushing current. Soon, what began as a trickle of melted snow becomes a surging river, an unstoppable force of nature. The river widens, churns through rapids, maybe a waterfall. But then, the water slows. The river branches out, forms a delta. The water that had been united now is once again segregated. Until the river flows into the sea and disperses into the vast, salty expanse.

Now consider a story. A dozen seemingly unrelated characters are introduced. Most of them don't even know the others exist. They live their lives independently. But then, two of them meet. Their storylines merge. The connections that were there all along are revealed. These two cross paths with another pair. Bonds are formed, friendships and rivalries come into being. Fate then draws more together, and more, until the climax of the story: the mighty river, the waterfall. And then, once the resolution is reached, comes the denouement. The characters go their separate ways. Some stay in touch, others drift apart; all have been changed by the experience of being part of the river. They continue on their paths until they are finally set free, flowing into the sea of death and anonymity.

Now consider our story. We have reached the waterfall.

***

The fused Tears of Thyora lay in the sand where they had been discarded by Jhudora. The green stone continued to glow faintly, but the two faeries and Seraph ignored it; they cared not for the power to create, only for the powers to destroy and defend. And so the newly formed tear lay in the sand, neglected, ignored, waiting for someone to unleash its frightening power.

***

Fyora observed the chaos from her vantage point in the camp and smiled. It was so beautiful to see a plan come together. So much more elegant to let one's problems cancel each other out rather than fix them oneself. The elegant ironies and carefully planned coincidences that she had set in motion were culminating exactly as she had planned. Each player in her tale had the illusion of free will, yet behaved exactly as Fyora had expected them to.

Her endgame was to ensure peace in Faerieland, and, by extension, in all of Neopia. Liannah and Seraph were threats -- they had to be neutralised. Jhudora was a tolerable nuisance, necessary to bring about balance between good and evil. She would be spared, but hopefully humbled by seeing how fragile her existence was. The Storyteller had once attempted to dethrone Fyora, and she had not completely forgiven him. Even though he had been under Kass's control at the time, she knew there was part of him that hoped for Kass to succeed. He had to be kept away from power that he was too much for him to handle, had to be forced to learn his limits so he would not be tempted again.

The Space Station was a more complicated matter. She could not allow it to be destroyed, as much as she loathed its associations with Sloth. But by making it clear that she had saved it from disaster, she would become a hero to those who resided in it, winning their loyalty. It was irrelevant that she herself had indirectly caused the disaster in the first place. And of course, Neopet V2, Sloth's little pet, would be terminated to ensure he could not contribute to a potential return by his master.

It was an incredibly complicated plan, and one that had required careful supervision, but Fyora had been up to the task. Now all that was left was to watch the climax and then step in to sweep up the pieces.

***

Cori was once again wearing his spacesuit. But it no longer felt like a thin barrier between himself and the emptiness of space; no, it wasn't keeping the nothingness out. Nor was it a prison, confining him. It just was. For the first time he could remember, Cori felt at peace.

The Aisha stood just outside the airlock, holding on to a large antenna protruding from the Station's surface. He gazed out at the endless array of stars that surrounded him on all sides. He took deep breaths and soaked up the beauty and the stillness.

The Space Station was his life; it was his home. It was all he knew. And so, he had decided that if it went down, he was going to go down with it. As a sort of tribute to the passion and even love that cold steel and plastic could evoke. Yes, Cori loved his home. And he was certain that, somehow, it loved him back.

Cori sighed. Stars. He could see the stars. Whether they were blazing points of light in the distance, or the enormous fireball around which Neopia revolved, or meteors hurtling down into the planet's atmosphere trailing their tails of fire behind them, they were beautiful.

For a moment, Cori was tempted to let go of the antenna, to allow himself to drift away into the vastness of space. But he dismissed the thought immediately. No, he would stay with his beloved Space Station, awaiting either miraculous salvation or the alternative. He wasn't sure which one he was hoping for.

***

Nilson opened his mouth and uttered a sort of grunt. He knew what it was he had to do, but was unsure of how to accomplish it when he could barely move or speak. He opened his eyes and took in his surroundings. Fairweather, Parrick, and the console.

"Hugo," he whispered.

The Tonu gasped happily at hearing his friend's voice, and spoke as he continued running. "Nilson! Thank goodness you're all right. What is it?"

"Take me there. Take me to the statue."

"That's exactly where we're headed," panted Parrick. "Why do you need to be there?"

"Liannah and Seraph. I can stop them."

"Who?" asked Fairweather, but it was pointless. Nilson had once again passed out.

Let's hope he comes to before we reach the statue, wrote NV2. We don't really have much of a plan of action otherwise.

***

Liannah and Seraph slowly closed in on Jhudora, who backed away carefully.

"We could work together again," begged the dark faerie. "We could be allies. My power combined with that of you two -- Fyora wouldn't stand a chance."

"That is true," mused Liannah, "but betrayal is not easily forgotten. And revenge is a very strong motivator."

Seraph laughed, radiating sparks of magic from his mouth. "I find it fitting that my first act after being freed from my prison is destroying the one responsible for putting me there in the first place. I will enjoy this immensely."

The Bori raised his hands, scribbled The Storyteller, and prepared to finish the deed, to quench his thirst for vengeance. Magic coursed through his veins as he focused all his energy toward obliterating Jhudora.

"Wait!" the dark faerie shrieked. "You think that I trapped you in that statue? I did no such thing!"

"Lies!" shouted Seraph, looking to Liannah for confirmation. But instead, he found her face wearing a guilty expression. He turned back to Jhudora. "If not you, then who did this to me?"

"I'm not sure," Jhudora snarled, "but the curse that trapped you has all the signs of a liberating spell gone awry. If I had to guess, I would say that a certain grey -- well, now light -- faerie was to blame."

Seraph stared at Liannah. "Is this true?"

"I was only trying to free you," stuttered Liannah. "I wanted to help you!"

"Is it true?!" shouted Seraph, his voice causing the very dunes to tremble.

"...Yes," whispered Liannah.

This was a twist that even The Storyteller had not predicted. His quill stopped mid-sentence as he stared in shock at the drama unfolding in front of him.

The Bori began to tremble with pent-up rage. Two thousand years of torture, and his so-called ally was to blame. Magical sparks of blue and red crackled back and forth across the spines on his shell and shot off into the air. His eyes glowed a deep, infernal red. The power that the Tears had granted him radiated from his body, and the Bori became less and less able to contain it as his rage grew.

"No!" shouted Jhudora. "The magic is too strong for him to handle!"

"What's going to happen?" cried Liannah, having to raise her voice over the howling wind that had suddenly sprung up.

"A magical explosion!" Jhudora replied, shielding her eyes from the flying sand. "He's going to blow, and take a good chunk of Neopia with him!"

Liannah turned to Seraph to try to reason with him, but it was far too late. The Bori was completely consumed by the magic, burning white-hot, emitting sparks, and shrieking with fury. His mind was no longer his own; he was merely a catalyst for the magic of the Tears.

The Storyteller stood up, clutching the Book to his chest. "I think I can stop this!" he shouted. "I can write us a different ending." He set his quill to the page and began to write. Before Seraph triggered the cataclysmic explosion --

"There he is!" shouted Reira as she clambered over the nearest dune. "And he has the Book! He must be causing this chaos!"

Rilnyi shot forward and tackled the Eyrie, sending the Book flying out of his talons. It landed on the ground and was immediately covered by the churning sands.

"No!" shrieked The Storyteller. "You've doomed us all; I was about to save us, to be the hero!"

And then the final tributary flowed into the river. Parrick and Fairweather sprinted down the dune, into the magical maelstrom.

"Find the stone," Nilson whispered into Fairweather's ear. "Use it."

"What stone?" asked Fairweather. "Where is it?"

Parrick caught sight of a green glow from the sands at his feet. He stooped down and picked up the fused Tear. "I found it!" he shouted.

"Give it to me," Nilson said. Parrick handed over the stone. With his last reserve of strength, Nilson pointed the stone at Seraph. "Create a barrier," he muttered. "Create a sanctuary for us."

The stone emitted a beam of magic, which quickly resolved into a glowing green sphere that grew until it encompassed Seraph and Liannah.

"What did you do?" yelled Parrick.

"I tried to contain the magic," panted Nilson. "I just hope it's enough."

Seraph's shriek suddenly ceased. The wind died down and a moment of eerie calm fell over the desert. The assembled pets held their breath. Rilnyi reached for Reira's hand. Fairweather clutched tightly onto Nilson and closed his eyes. Parrick sat in the sand and placed NV2 in front of him. The Storyteller and Jhudora exchanged a significant glance.

Then everything went white and noiseless.

***

Cori stared down at Neopia. The final minutes were drawing near. How sad it is, he thought, that only now do I really appreciate life.

But as he gazed at the planet, he noticed something strange: a brilliant point of light shining from the Lost Desert. It was blinding. Cori shut his eyes.

***

The Storyteller opened his eyes. It took him a few moments to process the scene before him. It was as if time had stopped. No, he realised, no simile. Time has stopped. Grains of sand hung suspended in midair. The other pets and Jhudora stood in a frozen tableau. The green sphere of magic that surrounded Liannah and Seraph was perfectly still.

Then, with surprise, the Eyrie noticed that there was a new figure standing in the scene. Fyora.

The Faerie Queen smiled at The Storyteller, who hastily bowed down.

"No need for that," Fyora said liltingly. "I've come to make things right."

"Was the Tear's magic enough to contain the explosion?" asked The Storyteller as he rose.

"No, not at all," said Fyora calmly. "I stopped it. But let's allow the others to believe the Tear was enough. Speaking of..." The faerie walked over to Nilson and plucked the green stone from his hand. "I think I'll hang on to this. We wouldn't want the wrong pets to get a hold of it."

"So what are you doing here?" The Storyteller asked, puzzled. "You're just... swooping in to save the day? To make everything right? You can't do that! It's a deus ex machina, almost literally! Every author knows that's a terrible way to end a story."

"Ah, but life isn't a story," Fyora said gently. "There are loose ends that don't get tied up, and there are never neat resolutions or endings. Nor are there beginnings. That is what you had to learn -- why I brought you into this."

"And the others? Why involve Rilnyi, or that Tonu?"

"Believe me when I say I have a reason for everything I do. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm just about done here."

"But I have so many questions!" cried the Eyrie. "Where's the Book? What happened to Seraph and Liannah? What should I tell the others?" He choked back tears. "What do I do with my life now?"

Fyora smiled again. "I'll humour you and answer. The Book is hidden in the sands. It is best that it remain that way. Seraph and Liannah were victims of their own treachery and greed, but I will let them live. Liannah will awaken in Faerieland, grey once more, with no memory of the past day's events. Cliche, I know, but even she deserves mercy. And Seraph... well, he's gotten very good at waiting. Another thousand years in stone is a fitting punishment. As for the others, let them believe that the Tears' magic stopped the disaster, and Seraph and Liannah were destroyed. But as for the final question... I have no answer. You must find your own purpose. Create something. I know you can." And with that, the faerie vanished. Time once again began to plod forward in its endless trek.

***

Cori felt the Space Station lurch beneath his feet. He looked down and saw that it was beginning to pull further away from Neopia. He sighed in relief and headed for the airlock. The day had been saved. He didn't know how, and didn't especially care. All he knew was he was alive.

***

Jhudora gazed in satisfaction at the scorched patch of sand where Seraph and Liannah had been standing when the magic consumed them. Good, she thought, that's taken care of. Without a word to any of the pets around her, she took wing and headed back to Faerieland.

***

Fairweather set Nilson on the ground, and the Draik unsteadily stood. "You did it," the Tonu said with a smile.

"No," replied Nilson, "we all did it. Each of us had a role to play in this. Now come on, let's head back to camp."

***

In the tents, a gentle whooshing sound filled the air. If there had been anyone awake to see it, they would have noticed the sleeping pets growing more solid, having their souls restored. But, of course, no one was awake. They all slept on, blissfully unaware of the fate they had narrowly avoided.

***

"That was a close one, NV2," Parrick said into the camera. He got no response. "NV2?"

He examined the Neovision console closely and noticed a hairline crack running down the centre of the screen. The winds of the sandstorm must have blown a pebble against it, he thought. I guess that's it for NV2.

***

In the bowels of the Space Station, a memory storage card sat on a shelf. A piece of tape labelled it: "Neopet Version 2: Backup Copy."

***

The Storyteller sat in the sand, staring wordlessly out into the distance. Reira and Rilnyi approached him.

"There's nothing left for me," he said hollowly. "No story for me to tell. It's over."

Rilnyi put a comforting wing around his shoulder. "You know what I think? I think that nothing's ever over. Not completely. There's always more, past the ending. Just because the story stops doesn't mean there isn't more to it."

Reira nodded. "He's right. Now come on; let's head back into town and see if there's anywhere around here that sells hot chocolate."

***
Liannah awoke on a pink cloud and stretched. What a vivid dream, she thought.

***

A book with a golden cover lay buried in the sands of the Lost Desert, awaiting its next owner.

***

A chipped fragment of stone rested on the now-empty pedestal. It had once been the tip of one of Seraph's spines. Within it, a spark of life persisted. It's not over, thought Seraph from his new prison. The story's never over...

The End

Author: rosabellk
Date: Sep 18th



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