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Week 434
You are on Week 435
Week 436

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 Thirty-Five Ends Friday, October 30

"Aye," said the old Krawk, scratching his chin with his hook, "when the Lady Venuquin docked at Krawk Island, there were not a soul aboard. 'Twas as ghostly and quiet as a tomb."

The young Neopets sitting in a circle around him listened raptly, the firelight gleaming in their wide eyes.

"There wasn't any sign of them at all? Where could they have gone?" squeaked a tiny Korbat from behind her witch's mask.

"'Twas no sign o' struggle nor fire, which ye'd expect if the ship had been boarded by pirates. 'Twas as if they'd disappeared into thin air, as if magicked away by one o' them dark faeries. Some guessed that they'd taken the lifeboats to flee from some sort o' menace, but the lifeboats were still danglin' from the side o' the ship, just as they had been when she'd left. Aye, 'tis a true mystery to this day, what happened to the 100 Neopians on that there ship." The Krawk nodded sagely.

"So what happened to the Lady Venuquin?" asked a young Shoyru, his skeleton costume making his sceptical frown look even grimmer. "She's not docked here anymore."

"Well, as to that," the Krawk replied, "nary a captain'd sail her, not even the scurviest pirate. All said that she was cursed. And that thought didn't change when the ship herself disappeared one morn. Her moorings hadn't been cut -- the loops at the end were still there. The ship had just dissolved into nothing and gone."

"That's impossible," said the Shoyru. "Come on, everyone, we have trick-or-treating to do. There's no time to listen to made-up stories that aren't even scary."

The other children rose reluctantly and gathered up their trick-or-treat bags. The old Krawk just smiled and said, "I reckon the old yarns of a sea-dog ain't that interesting to you lot. But before ye run off, there's an end to the tale o' sorts. First, the only sign of the crew and passengers was two words carved in the wall o' the captain's cabin -- 'They come.' Now, I don't know who 'they' be, and neither does anyone else."

The Shoyru rolled his eyes impatiently and said, "And the other thing?"

The Krawk's smile widened into a toothy grin. "Now, that might interest ye a bit more. You see, it's said that on Halloween nights when the moon be in the right quarter, ye can still see the Lady Venuquin out there on the dark water..."

Author: Do ghost ships have ectoplasm sails?
Date: Oct 26th
He wiggled his fingers; the spooky effect he was going for might have seen a little more success if both of his hands had actually had fingers, as one bore nothing but an ornately designed golden hook.

The Shoyru got to his feet, the bone-coloured streaks of his skeleton costume catching the firelight in an almost ominous fashion. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."

The old Krawk shrugged modestly. "Aye, it be well-known that you youngsters don't have nothin' on the mind other than candy this fine night."

He got to his feet, and some unspoken binding to the gathering broke. Mutters circulating like the red embers leaping off the dying flame in the congregation's centre, all of the children rose, getting their trick-or-treat pails ready and adjusting their costumes.

And the Krawk watched.

***

"That," the Shoyru said, turning excitedly to his friend, a Draik, "was awesome!"

The Draik tilted his head. "I thought you didn't believe him."

"Of course I did." The skeletally clothed Shoyru playfully punched his acquaintance's shoulder. It wasn't the wisest thing to do, because the Draik's knight costume was rather... hard. "But you know old folk. Whenever you say you want to do something that's even slightly dangerous, they freak out and start fawning over you like a Petpet."

"But..." The little Korbat from earlier was hurrying along to catch up with the group, her witch's mask falling askew. "Aren't ghost ships, you know, dangerous? Everyone just vanished on it last time!"

"So we are going to look for the Lady Venuquin?" rumbled a Skeith in his gravelly tones.

"Of course!" The Shoyru shook his empty pail dispassionately. "Gathering candy in stupid faerie suits is for little kids."

(At this, a Wocky dressed as Ilere glared at him.)

"Every year on Halloween," the Shoyru continued, "we all get together and dress in the same boring costumes, go to the same boring houses, get the same boring candy, and all go to my house to eat it all. And then we go home and continue on with our boring lives. Why can't we create a Halloween to remember?"

The Korbat still looked uncertain. "Well... then, what if the ship's not there? He did say that the moon had to be aligned right. Then we'd just have to go back anyway..."

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," pointed out the Skeith.

"It has to be there," the Draik said reasonably. "Whenever old pets start rambling about legends and ghost stories, they're always true. I mean, I haven't read a book yet where the hero went off on his grandmother's advice and didn't find the secret faerie treasure or slay the overgrown, cursed Cyodrake."

The Wocky rolled her eyes at this, but refrained from commenting.

"Look," said the Shoyru, losing his patience, "I'm going to the harbour. And if any of you want to chicken out, feel free to say so now."

Multiple glances were exchanged. Nobody said a word.

"That," smiled the Shoyru, "is what I like to hear..."

***

"And that," said the old Krawk aloud to nobody, "is what I like to hear."

His palm glowed golden with a nimbus of magic. Time itself distorted around the old Captain's remaining claw, and yet, he clutched at the faltering air as if it were a ship's wheel...

"Aye, me sweet Lady of the salty seas, I haven't forgotten ye. I may be too old and creaky to take yer journey, but mark me words, I'll bring you more passengers tonight, just like ye asked fer..."

Author: dianacat777
Date: Oct 26th
And the memories flooded through him, soft, bittersweet. They lingered on his mind like dream he could not quite remember: there, but too far away to reach....

And despite everything, despite the nagging guilt at the thought of leading more innocents into the Lady's watery clutches, his grimace twisted upward and he smiled. Soon...

They would come. And maybe, just maybe, this time they would give back what they had taken from him.

* * *

"So, where exactly are we going?"

They were walking across the beach, navigating carefully among the rocks that stuck out here and there like awkward branches.

The Wocky glared, waiting for a response.

The Shoyru winked. "Oh, you'll see."

The Wocky rolled her eyes. She was getting good at it. Although, granted, she had lots of practice considering who she hung out with.

"It's... dark here," the Korbat whimpered, pulling her witch cape tighter over her shoulders. The Draik gave a shaky nod in agreement.

It had been different, back there. Talking about it, about the adventures they would have, safe in the warm glow of the lanterns. But out here, all alone on the dark beach with only the stars and a sliver of Kreludor in the sky... it was different. What had seemed like such fun was suddenly... scary.

"Again, where are we going? Midnight strolls on the beach aren't exactly my piece of cake..." the Wocky continued, determined to keep jabbering until she got an answer.

The Shoyru smirked. "You'll see."

"It's Smugglers Cove, isn't it?"

The Shoyru stopped dead in his tracks, disappointed that his enigmatic surprise had been revealed prematurely.

"How did you know?" he whined.

"It's not like it's that big of a secret," the Wocky mumbled. "I mean, where else would you take us?"

"Yeah. If we're going to go out looking for some fabled ghost ship, the Cove seems like a good place to wait," the Skeith added. "I mean, that place is practically synonymous with pirate ships!"

"Was it even a pirate ship?" the Draik wondered.

"Whatever."

They continued in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, half-wishing the ship would appear and half-wishing it wouldn't. The Cove loomed in the distance, the great gaping entrance smiling at them like a carved pumpkin.

"So... what do we do when we get there?"

"What else can we do? We wait..."

Author: reveirie
Date: Oct 27th
***
"This is stupid," the Skeith grumbled as he gazed lazily out onto the calm ocean.

The group of five Neopets were splayed out on the rocks at the entrance to the cave, all staring out into the night, waiting for something to happen, though none were quite sure what.

"Yeah," the Wocky agreed. "We should have done something else." She looked down longingly at her faerie-winged trick-or-treat bucket, which was, not surprisingly, empty.

The Shoyru shot her a glare, before he resumed his pacing in the sand.

"We can't be expected to wait all night. I have to be home soon anyway," the Draik pointed out.

"And some houses might still be giving out candy on the way home!" the Korbat added hopefully.

"Come on! It's still early," the Shoyru said. "Don't you want to be able to say you saw a ghost ship on Halloween?"

The Wocky rolled her eyes. "Sounds exciting, but ghost ships don't exist. Obviously the Krawk was an old loon who likes telling spooky stories to young Neopets to scare them is all. Come on, you guys, let's do something fun."

She stood, hands planted on hips, and waited for the others to join her. The Draik and Skeith both made to follow, and after a furtive glance to the Shoyru, the Korbat rose also.

"Come on, guys," the Shoyru pleaded to their now retreating backs. "Fine! Leave, I'll stay here by myself."

He released an angry sigh, grabbed a piece of coral embedded in the sand, yanked it up, and tossed it furiously into the ocean. It made a slight plopping splash before all was silent again.

He had almost decided to quit also, grabbing his bucket and preparing to follow the others, when a sloshing sound made him stop. He turned slowly around, and in the spot where the coral had landed, instead of smooth black water, there now stood a whirlpool, small at first, but slowly gaining momentum. The calmness present before was interrupted by waves now pummeling the shore.

"What did you do?" the Wocky cried.

The first thing they saw was a ship's mast protrude from the centre of the spinning water, then black billowing sails, followed closely by a ship's bow, which thundered from beneath the expanse of the water and landed with a deafening splash on the surface.

"Wow," breathed the Skeith.

"It can't be," the Shoyru whispered.

The frothing of water had subsided, and the five Neopets stood rooted to the spot. A large ship now sat quite placidly before them whereas moments before there had been nothing. The sea was one again calm, and the slight mirror of Kreludor from the water's surface reflected just enough moonlight on the ship's hull to allow them to read the two words painted on its side, which subsequently made all five gasp.

It read Lady Venuquin...

Author: xx_neomania
Date: Oct 27th
The tiny Korbat, looking even more insignificant as she stood on the dividing line of the vast sea and sky, tore off her witch's mask to get a better look at the looming hulk of the ghostly ship. Swallowing with difficulty, she turned to the Shoyru and asked in a voice both hoarse and wavering, "What do we do now?"

The Shoyru turned to his friend and stated with confidence, "Well, now we board her." After a slight pause he spread his hands and added, "Le duh!"

The Korbat staggered backward slightly as though pushed by her friend's words and she lowered her head, shaking it nearly imperceptibly and muttering to herself.

The Skeith stepped forward and demanded, "And how will we get out there?" He swept his arm to indicate the expanse of star-studded water that separated the friends from the ship. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I do know I'm not getting my costume wet." He turned toward the Wocky and Draik, and noting that they were nodding their agreement, he turned back to face the Shoyru and folded his arms across his chest confrontationally.

"Well," hedged the Shoyru, darting his gaze around and trying to think quickly on his feet, "this is Smugglers Cove, right?" A thought occurred to him and he turned excitedly toward the others and continued with more confidence. "And what do smugglers have?" He plastered the same condescending smile on his face that their teacher Mr. Frypley used when he posed impossibly difficult math problems to their class. "Hmmmm? Hmmmm?" he prompted. Just like in class, though, no ideas were forthcoming, and the Shoyru was left to answer his own question. "Boats, of course! There must be an old rowboat out here somewhere."

He headed toward the scrubby bushes that dotted the inlets on the far side of the beach and whooped with a triumphant joy when he got near to them. Covering the last of the distance at a trot, he was soon tearing at the beach grass and shrubs that did indeed conceal a small craft moored in a hidden channel. As he hauled at the rowboat, the Shoyru called over his shoulder, "Come on, guys! Let's get this turned around and get going!"

When no one joined him after several minutes, the Shoyru stomped back along the beach to confront the others who were noisily involved in an animated discussion. "Well?" asked the Shoyru. "Aren't you coming?"

The Wocky took the lead this time and replied, "We don't like the look of this. A ghost ship? Stealing a smuggler's hidden boat? All we wanted tonight was some candy." Shaking her empty treat bucket, she added, "Unless you think there's candy on that ship, we're out of here."

As she turned, the Shoyru placed a restraining hand gently on her shoulder and said, "I can't promise you candy, but I can promise you something more." The moonlight gleamed mischievously in his eyes as he barely breathed one word, "Adventure."

The Wocky shook her head sadly and replied, "No. We're leaving." She approached the Korbat and asked, "Are you coming or staying?"

The Korbat continued to slowly shake her head and mutter to herself, and the Wocky shrugged and motioned for the Skeith and Draik to follow her toward the path that climbed the steep cliff above Smugglers Cove.

The Shoyru stomped his foot with spite and dislodged another piece of buried coral. Having cut his foot on its jagged surface, the frustrated Shoyru picked up the coral and threw it with all of his might into the inky sea. No sooner had it broken the surface than the points of light that bespeckled the murky expanse began to effervesce and rise into the air like the bubbles on the top of a newly opened Achyfi can. The lights swirled around like sparks from a campfire and coalesced into an illuminated fog that obscured the deck of the Lady Venuquin.

The stunned Shoyru turned to the Korbat and stammered, "D-d-did you s-s-see that? I thought those lights were the reflections of the stars."

The Korbat raised her left arm slowly, followed by a jerky lifting of her head, and said in a robotic monotone, "They come."

The Shoyru hesitated before bursting out laughing. He raised his own arms and started lurching around the beach like a newly risen zombie saying, "They come... they come... they come..." He stopped right in front of the Korbat and twisted his face into a parody of her deadpan countenance, but when he couldn't get her to join in the laughing, he started to wave one hand frantically in front of her eyes.

Unable to break her concentration, the Shoyru took a step backward and shifted his gaze between his Korbat friend and the now ephemerally fogbound ghost ship, lost in thought and planning.

***

The old Krawk lurked at the top of the path to confront the three young Neopets who had abandoned their friends in the Cove below. "As the fortuneteller told me, 'When the five join the one hundred, the one will be returned.' How long have I waited for the right circumstances? For the moon to rise in the right quarter on Halloween? For five friends, no more or less, to rise to the bait of an old seadog's tale?"

Narrowing his eyes as the approaching footfalls grew nearer and louder, he said, "I will wait no longer. Tonight, there will be the five..."

Author: mamasimios
Date: Oct 28th
"...and the selfish poison of one pet's words will simply not do, methinks."

His golden hook began to glow, the carvings on it swirling and twining amongst the lustrous metal as if they were alive.

***

"This is ridiculous. Why did we even go look for that ship?" muttered the Wocky.

"There probably isn't even any candy left," moaned the Skeith. "This is going to be the worst Halloween ever."

"I won't say 'I told you so'," gloated the Wocky.

"I think you sort of just did," pointed out the Draik mildly, his golden scales glittering in the moonlight. His fake Meridellian sword seemed dull in contrast. "But really, the thought of having to mooch off my brothers' leftover candy is mordant." He pantomimed falling backward, a look of comical devastation plain on his face.

"The only thing remotely scary at the Smugglers Cove are Super Attack Pea-crazed restockers," rumbled the Skeith. "Not stupid 'ghost' ships."

The Wocky's reply sounded a bit like "yehno", past the choked gurgle that separated the two syllables.

Both Draik and Skeith stopped and turned around.

"Hmm?" asked the Skeith.

"No," said the Wocky, her voice suddenly falling flat. There was a tenseness, a rigidity in her posture, and her muscles twitched erratically...

"No what?"

"We are going the wrong way," droned the Wocky. "My Lady..." Here, she broke off into a fit of coughing. When she regained her voice, it was a bit too bright. "We should go back to the Cove! Before the Lady Venuquin goes away! Otherwise, we're going to be dubbed as scaredy-Kadoaties for the rest of our lives. We can't let those two have all the fun!"

The smoothing over of the magical control was too late, though. Both friends were backing away from the Ilere-dressed Wocky as if she were an angered version of the real thing.

"Hey... is something wrong?" pointed out the Draik, somewhat obviously.

The old Krawk didn't even bother making the Wocky reply to this. Instead, she merely stared at him with growing intensity.

Literally growing. Her eyes were beginning to glow.

Suddenly frightened, the Draik tugged at his Skeith friend's shoulder. When the lumbering pet turned to face him, he realised with horror that his eyes, too, were unnaturally illuminated.

"The Lady Venuquin awaits us," he droned.

Before the Skeith even finished the phrase, the Draik had started running.

Unfortunately, in his panic, he made the error of running in the wrong direction.

Right down the path to the Cove.

***

The Korbat's knees gave way suddenly, and she stumbled in the sand, a pant escaping her mouth. "Mmph."

Startled, the Shoyru turned to face her. Behind the witch's mask, her eyes were glowing like torches.

"Hey, are you okay? You kind of wonked out there for a minute."

"I'm fine!" the Korbat said cheerfully as she got to her feet. "And ready to explore!"

"Err... what did you say again?"

The little pet was unfazed. "Everyone else completely chickened out. But this is so cool! I can't believe they're being so boring. I'm with you on this, though."

Surprised at his friend's change of attitude, the Shoyru was bemused. At any other time, he would have cracked a joke, or questioned her about the unexpected one-eighty. But he was so excited at having one of his companions join him on his adventure that he made the grievous mistake of leaping right ahead.

"Great! Now we just need to get that rowboat I found over here."

Her little Korbat's voice was oddly -- almost eerily -- calm as she replied.

"Oh, I don't think we're going to need a boat..."

Author: dianacat777
Date: Oct 28th
She waved her wing out over the waters.

"There is a path, a path of light, to guide us to the Lady," she said, sounding as though she were reciting something.

And as the Shoyru looked, he saw the glowing fog that had coalesced around the ship begin to move, as though blown by the wind.

But the air seemed to have gone completely still.

The fog stretched out over the water until it reached the beach where the Shoyru was standing.

The Korbat's voice became, once again, strangely cheerful. "We can use the path to reach the Lady Venuquin!"

The Shoyru looked at her oddly. "It's fog. You can't walk on--"

Before he could even finish his sentence, the Korbat hopped onto the ethereal path. "See? It's easy! Come on now, or are you too scared?"

The Shoyru frowned. This wasn't like his Korbat friend at all...

But should he really look a gift Alabriss in the mouth? At least now one of his friends had finally gotten excited about having a real adventure.

The Shoyru stepped onto the fog path. It felt cold beneath his feet, but strangely solid. The way was clear.

"Wait up!" came the familiar voice of the Wocky. "We're coming too!" She stepped up onto the path as well, followed by the Skeith.

The Shoyru grinned. "Great! This is going to be amazing, you'll see!"

And if something sounded a bit off in their voices... and if their eyes looked a bit strange... well, that was probably just the Shoyru's mind playing tricks on him.

Too bad the Draik hadn't come back, too. It just wouldn't be the same without all five of them... anyway, the Shoyru would be sure to tell the Draik all about the ghost ship when he got back.

"C'mon, slowpokes! Race ya!" said the Shoyru, laughing as he ran down the path to the Lady Venuquin.

***

The Draik, hidden behind a rock, watched his friends head toward the ship.

He wanted to stop them. More than anything, he wanted to call out for them to come back... but he didn't think they'd listen. They all seemed to have fallen under some strange spell.

"I--I have to go back. I have to get a grown-up. They'll know what to do."

He nodded, standing up on shaky legs to head back into town.

"Well now, young'un, what are ye doing all the way out here?"

The Draik gasped in relief. It was the old Krawk from before, the one who had told them about the Lady Venuquin! Surely he could help!

The words spilled out of the Draik's mouth helter-skelter: "They went--went on the ship, and there was this path, but it was made of fog, and they were all under some kind of spell, and they--you have to get them to come back!"

"Whoa, whoa there! Ye're not making a lick of sense. Calm down, take a deep breath, and tell me exactly what happened."

The Draik went over his story again, more slowly this time. The Krawk nodded gravely.

"Yes, it seems yer friends have been struck by the Lady Venuquin's curse. Odd that ye weren't taken by it as well! But ye know what this means, young'un?"

"What?"

"It means ye have to be the one to save their skins. If yer immune to the curse, then it has to be ye to go on the ship and bring yer friends home!"

"B-but I--"

The Krawk laid a hand on the Draik's shoulder and looked him square in the eyes. "Buck up, kiddo."

The Draik's eyes grew hazy for a few moments, and he blinked slowly.

"Okay," said the Draik in a dreadfully calm voice. "I'll go get them."

"Good." The Krawk patted the Draik on the shoulder and turned him about and watched as the final of the five friends made his way toward the Lady Venuquin.

The Krawk let a slow, satisfied smile spread over his face. There. It was as good as done. All he had to do was wait...

And wait...

And wait...

The Krawk frowned. Surely the Draik had reached the ship by now. The Five had joined the Hundred, just as the prophecy had said! Why wasn't anything happening?

Growling softly, the Krawk looked to the Lady Venuquin, his old ship.

"I see. I have to come to ye, don't I? I have to finish it where it started..."

And then he too made his way down the shining path to the ship.

***

The Shoyru shivered. He was scared, but it was the good, excited kind of scared, like when you were walking through a haunted house with all your friends.

And all his friends were now here. The Draik had shown up on the ship not too long after the other four had boarded.

He was acting kind of funny, too, now that the Shoyru thought about it, but he shrugged it off. Nothing was going to ruin this night for him, now that he was getting to explore a real live ghost ship.

He'd just peered into a cabin. It must have been the captain's, because just as the Krawk had said, two words had been carved into the wall.

"They come," said the Wocky, the Skeith, the Draik, and the Korbat in unison.

It wasn't until the Shoyru turned around that he realised that they weren't just reading the words off the wall.

Silently, suddenly, a legion of ghosts had appeared on the ship.

They flowed into the cabin through the doorway and the walls, until the room felt quite crowded.

Their eyes were mournful, and every one of them was looking sadly at the Shoyru.

One of them, a Gelert, spoke with a voice like creaking timbers:

"You should not have come here..."

Author: cookybananas324
Date: Oct 29th
"What do you mean, not have come?" the Shoyru asked, confused. "I'm having the best time of--"

"Captain, you must secure the ship!" the Gelert called out suddenly, interrupting the Shoyru. His eyes were now distressed, and he rushed up to the desk, unfurling an aged map that sat upon it.

The Shoyru's brow furrowed. "Huh? The ship is secure and--"

"What is it, mate?" someone called out in a booming voice. The Shoyru turned around to see it was his Skeith friend, but he was quite different than usual. His Sloth costume had been switched with an pristine ruffled suit, compete with a powdered wig and all. A captain's hat was perched proudly on his head.

The Shoyru turned to the rest of his friends and found all their costumes replaced with the clothes the Skeith had, the Draik dressed in almost identical clothing as the Skeith, except without the hat. The Wocky and the Korbat were dressed as twin serving maids, both rubbing their hands together in worry.

But the most disturbing similarity among all his friends was the fact that they were all translucent, just like every other ghost on this ship.

All this happened in a split second, and it was not long before the Gelert was crying, "The pirates! They're about to board our ship!"

"That'll not do!" The Skeith lumbered forward to the desk, commanding and authoritative. "Tell them to fire the cannons without ceasing! We must not let them on this ship!"

The Gelert nodded, running out of the room, the other ghosts that had filled the captain's cabin going along with him.

"Oh, how horrible this is..." the Wocky sighed, tangling and untangling her paws nervously. "And on Halloween night as well!"

The Shoyru stopped in shock at the Wocky's last statement as he realised just what was happening.

They were reliving the night the hundred had disappeared...

Author: newmoon653
Date: Oct 29th
The Shoyru looked down at his own hands, flexing them experimentally, and reassuring himself that, for whatever reason, the ghostly transformation had not affected him... yet. He stood at the centre of a whirlpool of activity as various spectral beings prepared the ship to do battle with the pirates, the deck beneath his feet trembling with the reverberations of constant cannon fire.

He left the cabin in search of his friends but could not pick them out in the whirl of preternaturally fast motions that swirled the ghosts around the deck in a numinous mist. As he stood, scared and confused by the turn this adventure had taken, the Gelert approached him once more. Lifting a single bony finger in front of his eerily transparent face, the Gelert asked, "Did you not get my warning?"

The Shoyru stumbled backward and shook his head vehemently, unable to voice his thoughts.

"I was like you once, the last of my friends to transform. I had just enough time to carve a warning into the cabin wall before I lost myself to the spell."

"You?" asked the Shoyru. "You wrote the message, 'They come'?"

The Gelert nodded sadly and replied, "I only wish I had the time to finish the message." He swiped his single claw at the mast behind him and shrugged as it passed straight through. "Now that we are transformed, we may perform the regular duties of the crew, but we can no longer affect the ship itself." Brightening slightly he added, "But you! You still have time to bring the warning, and maybe, even save us all."

"M-m-me?" stammered the Shoyru. "What can I do?"

"The warning should have said, 'They come for the one hundred and five, for the enchanted one is still alive'."

"B-b-but who? Who is the enchanted one?"

The Gelert narrowed his glowing red eyes and hissed, "There is no time to explain. Don't you see? You are number one hundred and five. If you transform, the spell will be permanent, and an untold evil will be unleashed. But, if you escape, the spell can no longer be completed. You must hurry before you transform." Reaching into his waistcoat, the Gelert removed an aged book, worn and yellowed by time and salt spray. "The answers you seek are in here. Now run!"

The Shoyru grabbed the book and headed for the path of light that they had climbed to reach the Lady Venuquin. As soon as he stepped onto it, however, he was stopped by a gleaming, golden claw that was shoved roughly into the centre of his chest.

"I've waited too long for this night, sprog," growled the Krawk who had been hiding on the shining path in the shadows of the ship. "Now ye'll just be returnin' to the deck afore I turn ye into a skeleton... permanently."

The Shoyru eased himself back onto the deck, and looking down at his skeleton costume, he swallowed hard and nodded meekly to the Krawk. But as soon as he was beyond the Krawk's reach, he turned and began to run, removing his costume as he did so, and when he reached the far side of the deck he unfurled his wings and took to the sky.

A cry of frustration reached his ears as he soared high above the ghost ship, and he looked down to see the Krawk leaping onto the deck and yelling, "Then it will be me, my enchanted one. Let me be one hundred and five!"

The Shoyru felt his stomach lurch as he realised the import of the Krawk's words: if he did not find a way to help before the Krawk transformed, the spell would be permanent and his friends would be lost. He hurried to the cliff above Smugglers Cove and took a close look at the book the Gelert had given him. Before opening it, he ran his fingers along the raised golden letters on the cover...

Author: mamasimios
Date: Oct 30th
The title of the book was the ship's name: Lady Venuquin.

The Shoyru opened the book to the first page, reading as quickly as he could.

When a hundred and five lost souls are trapped upon the Lady Venuquin, her captain shall be restored to his full power, and he shall wield all the powers of sea and storm. He will name himself ruler of the ocean, and none shall stand against him.

But on the night of the final five, if the transformation of these final souls can be reversed, then the curse shall be broken, and the captain of the Lady shall haunt the seas nevermore.

Listen well, reader: Each Halloween night, the lost souls are forced to enact the events of the Lady Venuquin's disaster, when a terrible curse and the captain's treachery destroyed all but one of those onboard.

To break the curse, you must break the cycle.

To break the cycle, you must save the ship.

Steer the Lady through the troubles that have beset her and defeat her captain, and those trapped shall be freed.

But know this: there is a great price. The one who frees the trapped souls will themselves be trapped to sail the seas forevermore.

Make your choice, then. Will you flee, placing your own survival above all else? Or shall you try and save the trapped souls, knowing that you will never return home?

Choose now, and may you not regret what has happened this Halloween night.

If you choose to try and save them, know this:

Nothing happens without reason. Find the reason, and all will fall into place.

The Shoyru closed the book and swallowed hard. He wished he'd never pushed is friends to explore the ghost ship. He wished he'd just gone trick-or-treating, even if that was the same thing they did every year.

But it was too late for second thoughts now. Tucking the book under his arm, the Shoyru did the only thing he could:

He flew back to the Lady Venuquin.

***

This was not how it should have happened.

The Krawk hissed angrily as he felt himself being drawn back into the events of that night. He was supposed to stand above the pattern -- it was supposed to serve him, returning his lost claw, giving him back his ship, and granting him power over the sea.

But the old Krawk was transported back to that dreadful night, when his viciousness and greed had led to his crew's destruction.

In their travels, the crew of the Lady Venuquin had come across an ancient map. The map had mentioned a treasure and a curse, but the Krawk was far more concerned with the former. Talk of curses was naught but silly nonsense, as far as he was concerned.

He had had his crew dig it up and bring the chest back to the ship. It was heavy, and surely laden with dubloons and valuable jewels.

Strangely, though, no one could open it. The hard wood of the chest turned aside swords and axes, magic bounced right off it, and the lid refused to be pried.

No matter. The Krawk was certain that it would be well worth their while, and as the captain, he'd get the biggest share...

But why share at all? Accidents happened at sea all the time... surely no one would think it unusual if a few crewmen happened to disappear?

It had seemed sheer providence when the pirates had struck. Surely no one would notice a few extra losses.

But it seemed that these were no ordinary pirates. They were skeletal creatures, unfazed by cannon fire or blade.

But even if they were invulnerable to the pirates' weapons, their ship was not. Though a few of the terrifying spectres had managed to climb aboard, the cannon fire had managed to sink the ship before more could come.

But these few were terrible enough. They had no mercy for any of those onboard. The captain's magic saved him from destruction... though he paid little heed to the cries of his crewmen. If the skeletal pirates chose to do his work for him, so much the better.

Once it was done, he summoned up the last of his magical reserves and blasted the skeletal creatures over the side of the ship, but not before the Krawk had lost his good sword claw to an unlucky strike by one of the pirates.

Finally, there was only one Neopet left onboard.

Laughing maniacally, the Krawk had tried to steer his way back to Krawk Island. But it takes more than one to handle such a ship, and the captain ended up caught in a terrible storm. All he could do was cling to the steering wheel...

But he held on... and on... and on...

Eventually, he blacked out.

The next thing he knew, he had washed up on the shore near Smugglers Cove. His good sword claw was gone, and the Lady Venuquin nowhere in sight.

The ship had come into harbor somehow, but the chest that had started all the trouble had been nowhere to be seen.

The Krawk had gone half-mad for a time, until a fortune-teller's prophecy had restored purpose to his life:

If only he could lure enough Neopets to the ship, he could be restored.

And so he had, countless times. This night, he had sent the final five to their doom.

But things had not gone according to plan...

The Krawk blinked slowly, flexing two good claws.

What had he been thinking about?

The treasure. Of course. He had to get the treasure... it had been all he had thought about for weeks, now.

And so was the final of the hundred and five returned to his old identity in order to act out the events of that night for the final time.

The Krawk, grinning wickedly, drew his cutlass from his belt. Soon, the ship would be empty, and the chest would be all his.

***

On the ship, all was chaos.

The Lady Venuquin was firing broadsides as quickly as it could manage, but the pirates seemed unfazed.

Grappling hooks were tossed, finding hold on the ship's railing, and the pirates sent over a boarding crew.

The ghostly crew had seen the pirates before, many, many times, but they were still surprised as they had always been. There was no escaping the immutable past...

Beneath ragged kerchiefs and pirate hats grinned, not ordinary Neopets, but skeletons.

They reached the ship at the same time the Shoyru did.

The Shoyru stared at them, horror-struck. How could he possibly hope to defeat these... creatures? He was just a kid! He didn't know anything about fighting...

He heard a scream. The leader of the boarding pirates, who appeared to be a Lupe, had grabbed hold of a serving maid, a Korbat.

The passage from the book flashed through his mind:

Find the reason, and all will fall into place.

"Wait!" the Shoyru cried. "Wait!"

Everything went still.

The Shoyru looked at the pirates. "Why are you doing this?"

It was a simple question, but one no one had thought to ask on that fateful Halloween, so many long years ago.

As one, the skeletons turned to the Shoyru. They could not speak, but the Shoyru was struck by a sudden understanding.

They wanted their treasure back.

All the ghosts seemed to have frozen in place. This happening was outside of the story they had acted out, year after year, and no one seemed to know what to do now.

It was all up to the Shoyru.

"Well," he said, "I... you can have it, then! We'll give it back to you, and then you'll leave, right?"

As soon as he said it, the Shoyru knew it was true.

"Um, you! Where is their treasure?" he asked, pointing to the Gelert.

He thought he could see something in the Gelert's eyes... a sense of relief, or gratitude... but the Neopet's words were wholly businesslike.

"In the captain's cabin," the Gelert said sharply. "I'll have four of the crew bring it up here shortly"

The heavy chest was brought to the deck, and the skeletal Lupe placed a bony claw on it. He nodded, once, before both he and the chest disappeared.

All at once, the pirates and their ship were gone, as though they had never been there at all.

"It's done," said the Gelert quietly. And with that, he smiled at the Shoyru. "Thank you. Now we can rest..."

With that, he was gone too, along with all of the others save for a Wocky, a Draik, a Korbat, a Skeith, and a Krawk.

The Shoyru's four friends lay on the deck, apparently unconscious, but still very alive. The Krawk, on the other hand...

"You stole my victory from me, Shoyru, my treasure... everything!" the Krawk snarled, brandishing his hook. "Years and years waiting... all wasted, and for what? Some meddling brat!"

The Krawk whirled, grabbing the steering wheel and turning the ship.

"But if I can't have what I want... neither can you!"

The Shoyru could see a storm building in the distance. If the Krawk steered the ship into that...

"W-wait!" said the Shoyru, but it seemed that that particular approach would only work once. The Shoyru desperately tried to grab the steering wheel and turn the ship away, but the Krawk simply swung his claw at the Shoyru.

The Shoyru backed away. "Why are you doing this?"

The Krawk didn't answer, but only lunged at the Shoyru again, who barely managed to dodge.

"Please! Don't do this!" said the Shoyru, his back against the ship's railing.

There was no reason in the Krawk's eyes any more, only madness.

The Krawk leaped at the Shoyru, roaring in rage... and the Shoyru stepped aside.

The Krawk had misjudged his leap, and instead went sailing over the railing. He made one last agonised scream before disappearing into the water.

Looking once more at his friends, the Shoyru took the wheel.

He'd never steered a ship before, but somehow it came to him as he touched the steering wheel. He brought the ship safely back to harbour, where he left the Wocky, the Draik, the Skeith, and the Korbat.

His friends would be found soon, he knew.

But as for himself...

He'd stopped his friends from transforming, but in doing so, he had become connected to the Lady Venuquin.

He sailed off into the distance. When his friends awoke, they told everyone about what they had seen. Few believed them, of course. Not many are willing to listen to the tales of children, not when they talk of ghosts and such. But the Shoyru had disappeared, and no one knew where he had gone.

***

"But what happened to the Shoyru?" a young Ogrin asked, brushing the hair from her Fyora wig out of her face.

"Why, he became the new captain of the Lady Venuquin," the storyteller explained.

"But wasn't he lonely? Didn't he miss his friends and family?" asked an Eyrie dressed as a Meridellian archer.

"Of course he missed them, but he didn't have a bad life, all told. He had always wanted to see a real live ghost ship... and now he had one of his very own. And he wasn't lonely all the time. You know, some say that he comes ashore each Halloween, to tell ghost stories to children."

The Ogrin giggled. "Now you're just being silly!"

The Shoyru chuckled. "Maybe I am. Now, run along, young'uns. You've got a lot of trick-or-treating to do, if I'm not mistaken!"

The crowd of young Neopets dispersed, leaving the Shoyru to his own thoughts.

He smiled, remembering when he had been young.

Then he walked back to the harbour, to return to the ship he had grown to love, and the wide and beautiful ocean he never tired of exploring.

The End

Author: cookybananas324
Date: Oct 30th



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