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||You are on Week 437
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 Seven Ends Friday, November 13
"Are you sure this is, well, legal? It seems kind of unfair," Jae said, twitching his wings. "This is my first Pteri Flying Championships, and I've been training for months, so I really don't want to get disqualified."
"It's definitely legal," his friend Quon replied, tightening the straps of the contraption to Jae's wings. "OK, probably. Definitely probably. It's like a Yooyuball player wearing cleats -- just a way of improving your game a little."
"Hm, I don't know." Jae beat his wings a few times experimentally. His wingspan certainly felt wider, his wings more powerful. Flying suddenly felt even more effortless than usual. When he landed gracefully beside Quon, the other Pteri fussed over him, brushing all of Jae's starry feathers back over the contraption. "If it was OK, why are you going to so much trouble to hide it?"
"Because I don't want anyone to steal my prototype, dummy. You'd better get going; the race is about to start. Make me proud, buddy."
Jae gave his friend a grin and headed off to the starting line. Soon, the race was underway, a cloud of Pteris filling the canyon like a colourful fog. After a few wingstrokes, though, Jae was already well ahead. Whatever it was that Quon had hooked on his wings made him feel truly lighter than air. He only had to beat his wings once for every three wingbeats of his competitors. It was brilliant.
Ecstatic, Jae looked down at the canyon floor, hoping to spot Quon among the spectators. He soon caught sight of his friend's rainbow head and was about to wave when he noticed Quon's beak curved in a malicious grin. And that's when Jae's wings...
Author: It's a conspiracy!|
Date: Nov 9th
...suddenly seemed to have a life of their own. Jae cried out in surprise and terror as he looked at his wings. Stronger and harder they flapped as his body was propelled into the clouds. Quon's tiny form grew smaller and smaller until Jae could no longer see him. The clouds reached out cool damp fingers as he soared higher.
With his own wings no longer responding to his command, Jae's mind began to swirl and dance as he thought of the past. He had met Quon when they were both young students and the two had immediately befriended one another, being the only Pteris in class. Yet, the two had never been close as Jae had trouble truly trusting his friend.
Jae had been a conscientious student who did all of his work and studied carefully for every test. His high marks had been the result of his work, and he had been proud. On the other hand, Quon never studied but actually did better on tests. Unfortunately, he almost never did homework and at times he only barely passed. "Brillant but lazy," was the most common comment from their teachers, and Jae had to agree it was accurate. Quon was always trying to find an easier way to do everything, and he was just smart enough to usually find at least one working shortcut.
Why had Jae allowed himself to trust Quon this time? He had practiced for months for this competition, and he had a good chance of placing on his own. Quon had thought it too much work and had just sat back and allowed Jae to do all the training. Then, just this morning, Quon had suddenly shown up with the strange homemade contraption.
Jae had to admit to himself the main reason he had listened is because he really wanted to win and thought that perhaps Quon could help him. All his life, he had worked hard but just this once the allure of the easy way had been too much of a temptation. It was only at the last second that he had allowed second thoughts to enter his mind, but then it was actually too late.
Higher and higher he soared, and Jae realised that this wasn't the time for woolgathering. He couldn't control his wings, so desperately he wiggled his body and tried to lean down to grab at the device with his beak. At first it seemed to do nothing, and he was about to fear he was going to wind up on Kreludor, but finally he felt the belt began to loosen and fall to the ground.
His wings ached, but finally he was free as he flapped a few times. He had no doubt lost the race, but at least he could control his own flight. Sighing with relief, he was about to dive down so that he could find Quon to give him a piece of his mind, but then something in the clouds caught his eye...
Date: Nov 9th
Long, lithe shapes, wove through the clouds. Hissis? He couldn't tell, they moved so swiftly and vanished with a blink. What are they doing so high?
It certainly wasn't normal Hissi cruising altitude, that was for sure. The ground was just an endless, blurry landscape with no distinct features. Even Jae, a Pteri, felt a sudden swell of vertigo looking down. And when he looked... he could swear he saw the faint glimmer of stars, only a feather's length away...
And now that the distraction of Quon's contraption was nothing more than an unpleasant memory, there was nothing to keep Jae's mind from the numbing cold that was creeping into his feathers, into his bones, weighing down his wings with a gossamer frost. It was cold up here... so cold... And how come he hadn't noticed the wind before? Harsh and bitter, winter without the magic of snow. Heavy gales suddenly swirled around him, and Jae struggled once again to keep himself from spinning out of control, hoping his aching wings would not give up before the winds did.
The very same winds spun the clouds, engaging them in an endless dance of metamorphosis. Every time Jae blinked back tears brought by the wind and cold, they seemed to be a different shape. Yet they never moved. The clouds constantly changed shape, but they remained eerily stationary. Even the harsh, roaring wind was unable to push them aside.
Jae blinked. That was... strange.
And the wispy figures (Hissis? Are they Hissis?) only seemed to slip in and out of of that one patch of clouds. The big, always changing, never-moving one.
Again, Jae found himself wondering what they were doing so high. Why would anyone want to fly up here, in the wind and the cold? Come to think of it... if it hadn't been for Quon's... contraption, he probably would have never made it this high; the wind would've pushed him back long ago.
The thought made his stomach squirm. Maybe that's why Quon had built it, had convinced Jae to wear it. Quon knew -- he knew -- what would happen once Jae spread his wings and flapped while wearing that thing. He'd fly higher and higher until he ripped it off.
Which brought the Pteri to one chilling conclusion, which he was certain had nothing to do with the temperature: Quon wanted him up here.
For what reason, he did not know. But... for some reason... call it instinct, if you will, he had a nagging suspicion it had to do with that mass of clouds and the lithe forms that danced there.
There... there was something behind those clouds. That's why they never truly moved, just changed shape in imitation of movement so the unwary would never notice they floated completely still -- it was hiding something. And those figures -- Hissis, whatever they were -- were guarding the very same thing.
And here he was thinking this was another one of Quon's silly pranks, cruel games...
Despite the wind and the ice forming on his feathertips and the apprehension weighing him down, Jae found himself struggling toward the clouds. He had no idea why he was doing it; he should've dived down to more comfortable skies ages ago. Was it curiosity? Wanting to know why Quon wanted him up here -- if that was even the reason, and also, why hadn't Quon just flown up here himself? Too many question, not enough answers... or was it personal inquisitiveness that pushed him forward?
Or maybe... just maybe... it was something else... pulling him to the cloud, to the darting figures... and like a magnet, he was powerless to resist...
Whatever the case, Jae flew forward, fighting against the wind and cold, nearing the clouds with every wingbeat until he was two lengths away, one length, a feathertip, and then he was lost among the Spyder's web wisps of cloud...
For a moment, he was lost in a storm of white, white, white, like being trapped in a piece of paper and unable to escape, but then he broke free, free of the endless white and found himself blinking as his eyes adjusted to the extraordinary, impossible sight in front of him...
It was a city...
Date: Nov 10th
It wasn't Faerieland; that much was sure. Jae had been there before as a child, and he fondly remembered the time he'd spent walking through the pink and purple marbled streets.
Yet... there was something similar about it. Here and there, great columns of pink marble rose out of the bed of cloud on which the city was based. It was darker though, and clouds seemingly carved out of stone protruded out of the ruined buildings, hanging there in eerie silence.
Jae touched down lightly on the solid cloud ground that covered the city, thankful at the chance to give his wings a rest.
The entire city seemed to be surrounded in a globe of the strange clouds he had passed through, and the lack of proper sunlight gave the place a deep blue hue.
The Hissis were here as well, though Jae was fast reconsidering his original judgement. They seemed wispy, almost as if they were made out of clouds themselves. If he'd been somewhere like the Haunted Woods he might have guessed that they were ghosts, but he quickly dismissed the idea.
Jae stepped forward gingerly and called out, "Is there anyone in here?"
His voice echoed through the deserted and ruined city, but up above, the Hissis or whatever they were, almost recoiled at the sound of his voice. They scattered to the cloud globe surrounding the city, and snaked there silently, watching the Pteri below.
Something was very wrong about this place, Jae could tell. He took a few more steps down one of the streets and ran his hand across one of the stone clouds that seemed to have demolished a nearby house. It was freezing to the touch.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jae caught a flash of pink moving across his vision. He turned to see it, but it was already gone.
Strange... in the brief flash he had seen... it almost seemed like some kind of Angelpuss... but they weren't pink...
"Is there anyone there?" Jae called out.
He turned a corner and almost tripped over a fire faerie.
"Careful!" she shouted from her position on the ground. "You almost ruined my game of marbles!"
Jae observed that she did indeed seem to be halfway through a game of marbles. "Sorry... is this Faerieland? Who are you?"
"Mind your own business!" the faerie shouted, returning to her game before adding in a whisper, "Ceth."
"I'm sorry for interrupting your game, Ceth, but you see I'm lost," Jae explained.
The fire faerie glanced up at Jae, an odd mix of pity and disgust on her face.
"Yes, you are," she said, returning to her game. "Everyone here is, that's why they call it the Lost City of Cumulonimbus..."
Date: Nov 10th
Jae tilted his head to the side, trying to retrieve a memory, some wispy fragment of recognition that the faerie's words had triggered. A wave of surprise travelled over his features: his brows shot upward, his eyes went from squinting with thought to wide with astonishment, and his beak fell agape.
It's just like a scene out of Neoquest II, Jae thought to himself, Quon's favourite game. He's always trying to find some way to beat that game, some shortcut, some cheat. But how...?
The Pteri shook his head slowly with disbelief and said, "The Lost City of Cumulonimbus? But... but that's not real! That's a place in a game; you're a character in a game!"
The faerie raised her eyes from her marbles and with a shrug replied, "So they based a game on a real place, on real characters. Big whoop. You don't think it's real? Why don't you kick some of those stoneclouds over there?" Ceth gestured toward some deceptively fluffy looking blocks that lay in a tumbled heap nearby, utterly obstructing an otherwise clear passageway through the city. "Or better yet," she continued, a mischievous spark glinting in her amber eyes, "why not ask the Devilpuss?"
Jae opened his beak to respond, closed it with consternation, and after several more false starts, finally blurted out, "The Devilpuss? You expect me to believe the Devilpuss is real?"
Ceth sighed with impatience, her wings beginning to flare up dangerously, and replied, "I don't expect anything from you. Scratch that. I do expect you to get off of my nice smooth playing surface and to let me get back to my game."
As the Pteri took an obliging step backward, Ceth shot a marble into a group of others and muttered, "You're just like all the others. So many questions."
Jae approached once more and asked, "All the others? What others? There have been others?" The Pteri looked up at the sky, at the swirling mist of apparently living creatures, and asked hesitantly, "Do you mean them? Are they...," Jae swallowed hard and continued, "...are they the ghosts of past Neopians?"
Ceth chuckled slyly and answered, "No, those are the Cloudbeasts that protect Cumulonimbus. But there have been others, many others, who have come through here, disturbing my game, asking questions. 'What can you tell me about the layout of the Lost City?' 'What kinds of monsters are there up here?' Always the same."
The Pteri looked around at the high walls of the city's buildings and at the roadways that at a glance looked to be mostly blocked by the stonecloud ruins. He then looked once more at the dark sky above, pulsing with sentient mist. "I just want to go home, Ceth. What's stopping me from just flying back the way I came?"
The faerie paused in her game and raised her eyes once more, "Always the same questions. The Cloudbeasts are stopping you, don't you see? There's only one way out of Cumulonimbus, and if you've played the game based on this very real city, you already have all of the answers. You must pass through the city. And you must confront the gatekeeper at the exit. And you do know who the gatekeeper is, right?"
Jae's eyes darted from the sky to the walls to the roadways, and finally met the faerie's glinting gaze once more. He nodded and barely breathed the words, "The Devilpuss."
Ceth cackled with malevolent glee and dismissed the Pteri with a wave of her hand. "Just remember to watch out for monsters along the way!"
As Jae took a bracingly deep breath and turned to enter the nearest building not blocked by tumbled stonecloud, he began to run over in his mind the various monsters that he could remember from this level of NQII. As he picked his way around small obstacles, he found himself distracted by the diminishing sound of the faerie's cackle and by the burgeoning resentment he was feeling for Quon's prank. What exactly was Quon up to? So distracted was Jae, that he very nearly ran right into...
Date: Nov 11th
...a wall. He couldn't be this distracted if he had to navigate through this insane maze to get to the exit.
Jae heard Ceth's mocking laugh behind him when he almost bumped into the wall. Trying not to get angry, he asked, "So, what mode am I in?"
The faerie leaned down, flicking another marble. "Well, that's a new one. Nobody ever asks what mode they're in --they just dive in and get destroyed by the monsters around them."
"Just answer my question," Jae seethed.
Ceth sat up, her mouth curved into a smirk. "My, my, what a temper you have there. But I will answer your question. You're on Insane mode, of course."
Quon looked up at the sky, grinning. The Pteri race was long past over, the canyon quiet and littered with the debris of the spectators. Some silver Pteri had won, but that didn't matter to Quon. He was thinking of Jae, high up in the clouds. By now, he had probably stumbled upon Cumulonimbus, and, if Quon's luck was with him, Jae was most likely talking to Ceth at that very moment.
Everything was going according to plan. With Jae up there, Quon knew that the starry Pteri would be able to distract the monsters and gatekeeper enough so that Quon could find Cumulonimbus's secret.
Many Neopians said it was simply a legend, but Quon doubted that. There was something hidden there among the clouds, he could feel it. Everything was falling into place. It was a simply a matter of going up there and finding it.
And so Quon did, hooking another pair of the prototype wings on his own and flying up into the clouds...
Date: Nov 11th
A sharp blow from the faerie renegade's spike-tipped staff knocked Jae flat on his back. He gasped for breath as he tried to struggle back to his feet. The renegade loomed over him, a wicked smile on her face, and his heart sank.
If only he had something -- gear, armor, weapons, magic, something! But of course he didn't have anything; when flying in the Championship, you carried as little as possible so as not to weigh yourself down. He was defenceless, except for his own reflexes.
The dark-haired faerie smirked and raised her spiked staff high, obviously intending to take him out with one final stunning strike. With a last burst of strength Jae didn't even know he had, the Pteri rolled back onto his wings and brought his talons up, snatching the staff from her hands and twisting it free. He swung it at her -- wildly, with no chance of connecting, but still she backed off, her pretty face twisted into an ugly snarl.
"Foolish little pet," she hissed. "You may have stolen my relic -- this time -- but you won't escape the Commander, or my Corrupted Sisters. You won't even make it to the fiend's lair. And you'll never find our secret!" With that, she brought her hands together and vanished in a whirl of darkness.
Jae lay on his back, panting. Well, he thought, at least I have a weapon now. He swung the spiky staff experimentally. Not that it's going to do me that much good...
He'd already fought his way past a pair of angry winged Noils and a twisted, armoured Krawk with a notched sword, with nothing to show for it but a collection of bruises, a mysterious potion that the Krawk had dropped -- and a few blocks of progress through the wrecked city. But it seemed like he had to keep backtracking, circling around places where the stoneclouds had broken through to bar his path. And every time he backtracked, he risked running into more of the wicked creatures who lurked in these ruins.
The faerie had said, "You'll never find our secret!", but Jae thought angrily, I don't want the accursed secret! I just want to get home! Frustrated, he swung the spiked staff at a chunk of stonecloud.
"Carefully," came an oily voice from above him. "You'll break it, and then what will you do, helpless little Pteri?"
Jae turned slowly. Perched on the rock above him was another faerie. This one looked like it had once been an earth faerie, but now it was a wicked mockery of the gentle, nurturing beings he had occasionally met. Instead of their glimmering leafy-green wings, this one had bat wings the color of pond scum; instead of their delicate garments of foliage, this one wore a tattered robe that looked as though it had never been washed. Her hair hung in lank tangles, and her fingers were tipped with long, curving claws.
"My name is Jae," Jae said, wearily hefting the spiked staff. "And if you want to fight me, why don't you just stop messing around and do it?"
"Oh, what would be the fun in that?" the corrupted earth faerie said, resting her chin on her palms. "It's so much more fun to toy with you first."
"Look -- " Jae said, but was interrupted by the sight of something hurtling through the sky above them both. Something that looked like... another Pteri?
He opened his mouth to shout some warning to the Pteri -- Don't land here! -- but it was too late. The earth faerie turned as well, raising her spiked claws. Jae's eyes widened as he realised....
Date: Nov 12th
... it was Quon, and he was hurtling straight for the mangy earth faerie. The Pteri didn't even blink as he sailed in and perched right on the faerie's shoulder, digging his claws deep into the mottled green flesh. The faerie gasped and fled, knowing this was not someone she wanted to cross.
"There, that should take care of her for now," Quon muttered as he landed again, this time next to Jae. "Hey, Jae, good job in the race, buddy."
Anger boiled up inside Jae as he looked at his friend's placid countenance. How could that traitor dare to act like everything was normal? Jae felt so betrayed and mad at Quon that at first he thought of smacking him with a wing and flying away from him. Instead, he took a deep breath and said calmly, "You're no buddy to me anymore."
"What do you mean, old pal?" Quon asked, trying to sound suave and composed. "I helped you out there in that race, and you could have won. It was just some bad luck..."
"Oh, don't give me that," Jae murmured, his tone dripping with malice. "You planned this and you know it. Maybe you wanted me hurt, I don't know, but you wanted me up here in this Lost City of Cumulonimbus."
"Hey, I didn't want you to get hurt," Quon cut in, his voice surprisingly as airy as the clouds. "Maybe I was testing how high the wings would get you, and well, if you got to this city, then it would be cool to know the secret--"
"Yeah, the secret," interrupted Jae. "That's all you care about, isn't it? You'd sacrifice the safety of an old friend just to pass a level in a game?"
"Hey, I came to check up on you, didn't I?" Quon asked with false sweetness. "See, I do care. Now come on, which way to get out of the city?"
"I don't want to travel with you," Jae said simply.
"Look. I got you into this mess, and now I'm gonna get you out of it," Quon said. It sounded to Jae like honesty, but he wasn't going to trust his friend for a second.
"Here's the plan," Jae said. "There's a fork in the road here, so we'll split up. I'll take the left fork and you take the right. Think of it as a race to get the secret."
"Okay, sounds good to me," Quon mumbled as he angled himself toward the right path. "See ya later."
Jae set off down the left path with a sure footing and the faerie's staff in his wing. He walked on for a while without a single obstacle, and he began to gather a false sense of security. Then, out of the darkness came something he really wasn't expecting...
Meanwhile, on the right path, Quon was having an easy time as well. Nothing came out at him, and he had no need for any weapons. Only this wasn't because of luck...
Date: Nov 12th
... it was because he knew exactly where he was going. After years of studying the layout of Cumulonimbus, finding all the shortcuts he needed in order to win almost every game of NQII he'd ever played, Quon knew how to avoid the creatures that wanted to attack him, how to bypass all essential obstacles. He had breathed a sigh of relief when Jae suggested he take the right path, his friend obviously unaware of the dangers that await him to the left.
"We'll see how long you last against the Devilpuss," Quon cackled, well aware that his friend was heading straight into the evil creature's lair. The left path, Quon knew, was full of potential dangers, and those dangers didn't stop simply at the number of enemies. Flapping his wings to gather some height, Quon surveyed his surroundings. Everywhere he looked, he could see stoneclouds jutting from buildings.
"There are few enemies I could possibly encounter on this path, unlike, poor, unlucky Jae..." Quon smiled menacingly, ducking underneath an overhanging cloud. He had not seen any other living thing since leaving Jae, and he relished his good fortune. However, Quon knew he could easily challenge any of Cumulonimbus's dark creatures; his sharp talons reinforced with steel. They were another prototype of his, specifically designed for the moment anyone tried to stop him from getting the treasure he so desperately wanted to possess.
"Let go of me!" Jae screeched, a water faerie grasping each of his legs. How they managed to move on land at all, Jae had no clue, but he did know one thing for sure: like the earth faerie earlier, these two were not the friendly type of faerie. Their tails were spiked and their hair mangy; these water faeries reminded Jae of exactly why he'd been so happy in the past to know that NeoQuest was just a game.
So much for that, thought Jae, still struggling to escape the hold of the two faeries. While the staff was still in his grasp, the way the faeries were holding him stopped him from swinging it.
Eventually, the trio reached a guarded doorway. The way in was barred by a Scorchio, a Blumaroo, and a Krawk, all heavily clothed in armour and each holding a vicious weapon.
"Who goes there?" growled the Blumaroo, his blue head tilted so he could see from his underneath his helmet and holding out his sword threateningly.
"We've brought this fiend to see the gatekeeper," replied one of the faeries, winking in a diabolical manner.
"He's trying to steal Cumulonimbus's great treasure," added the other, keen to get in on the conversation and a possible reward.
"Very well," replied the Blumaroo, replacing his sword by his side, "you may pass. The great Devilpuss awaits."
And with that, Jae was carried into the building, his whole head a mess.
Quon, where are you? he thought desperately, putting all doubt aside. At this moment, he'd give anything to have someone there to help him, even his conniving friend...
Date: Nov 13th
But then he quickly brushed that same thought aside. He had trained for the Pteri Flying Championships based on his own merit. And yet, at the last minute, he had doubted his own ability and succumbed to Quon's "help."
How could he accomplish anything if he couldn't even trust himself?
The future was always uncertain. Yes, there was a chance he might fail. But if he didn't face the future with courage, if he didn't give his best effort, then he was guaranteed to fail.
He wasn't sure why he was suddenly thinking in this way. But as the monsters forced him toward the Devilpuss, as he thought back to the manipulative smile on Quon's face, as he felt with renewed anger the pain in his bruises... he made a fierce decision never to be a victim anymore. Once was enough.
So it was a very, very determined Pteri who entered into the Devilpuss's presence.
The Devilpuss swooped down from the iron-grey sky, cackling as he landed on a crumbled pillar. His long, deep red tail whisked around like a whip. At the sight of Jae, his putrid eyes bulged. Then he lifted his crooked whiskers into a snarl and said, "So you're looking for a fight, are you? Well, I'm no sweet Angelpuss. I'm the most fearsome fiend in Cumulonimbus! Come on and let's have some fun!"
He hurtled toward Jae, who ducked.
"What's the matter? You a coward?" hissed the Devilpuss. "Are you afraid of the ultimate fiend?" He flicked around to charge again.
"I'm not looking for the secret of Cumulonimbus," Jae stated. "You're fighting the wrong Neopet. There's another Pteri making his way toward the secret, and if you waste time fighting me, he'll get it."
"I don't believe you," roared the Devilpuss.
"I'm telling the truth," said Jae, his voice boiling. "You want another piece of truth from me? Here it is -- I'm not afraid of you. And what's more, you're cute."
The Devilpuss let out an ear-piercing screech. He floundered in mid-air, gasping, as though horribly injured. Then he crashed to the ground, moaning piteously.
Jae glanced back at the ruins and at the watching monsters, who withdrew quickly into the shadows. He allowed himself a small smile before soaring through the gate of Cumulonimbus.
Jae sat on a cloud and watched the awards dinner down below. A silver Pteri, the Champion of the competition, was surrounded by admirers and well-wishers. Plates of luscious food were passed around, and dancers were fluttering in time to the music.
But from up here, the silver Pteri was only a spot in a crowd. The music was lost through the layers of clouds. And the trophy couldn't even be seen.
Quon caught up with Jae less than an hour later. Before the other Pteri could speak, Jae said, "I know the secret of Cumulonimbus."
"Oh yeah?" Quon flushed. He had energetically searched the city vault to no avail.
"There is no secret," said Jae. "Those adventurers who were only looking for glory couldn't survive the claws of the Devilpuss. There's nothing left in that city except broken dreams and weightless arrogance."
"Since when did you...?"
"Since you betrayed me."
Quon opened, closed, and re-opened his beak. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry it didn't work out. Next year, I'll build you a better appliance. I'll make sure you win the Championship."
Jae fixed him with a deliberate gaze. "You'll stay out of my endeavours this time, and I'll stay out of yours."
"But don't you want the trophy?"
"I want to succeed without gaining an unfair advantage over the others. You should learn to do the same."
And Jae spread his wings, hurting but still strong, and flew toward the future.
Date: Nov 13th
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