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||You are on Week 438
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 Eight Ends Friday, November 20
In the beginning, for the first few days after the gypsy wagons had halted and began settling in, Mira had been afraid of the Haunted Woods. She had travelled all over Neopia in her family's wagon and seen sights that most could only dream of, but in spite of that, the crooked limbs of the trees and the long, hungry tongues of fog had frightened her, to say nothing of the frolicking ghostly Petpets and the numerous witches.
Now, after years of being settled in their little corner of the Woods, it was starting to feel like home. When she was younger, the wagons had been constantly rolling along, visiting many places but settling in none. Even the older gypsy folk, who often spoke of how travelling was in their blood and how their feet itched to be on the move again, seemed comfortable in this dark, misty forest.
Mira skipped happily along the stony path toward the gypsy camp, her belly full of warm pastries from The Crumpetmonger and her basket even fuller. The afternoon was cool and foggy, as usual, a weak pale sun trying to shine bravely through a veil of mist. By now, Mira knew which trees in the forest would reach out to grab her when she passed, which tombstones often had strange, frightening creatures lurking behind them, which locals to avoid if they appeared on the path. It was the thought of a warm, glowing fire, stories from the jolly Elephante, and a cup of hot tea that sped her feet along the path, not fear.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to stay here, she thought, humming merrily. We could always travel a little and come back again, if we wanted. I think most Neopians call that "going on holiday."
The young Acara bounded over a fallen tree and pushed aside the curtain of vines and moss that concealed the circle of gypsy wagons. The happy tune died on her lips, and her basket fell from her paw and rolled away, spilling golden pastries on the forest floor.
The clearing, usually so cluttered with gypsy wagons, was empty. All that was left was the ring of stones where the fire had burned each night and a pile of cold ashes...
Author: Must be moving on...|
Date: Nov 16th
Mira approached the ring of stones and grabbed a fistful of the ashes. Confirming that they held no heat, she allowed them to drop from her fingers, sprinkling to the ground like dark confetti, a fitting topping to her dire mood.
The Acara dropped the breadbasket from the crook of her arm and ran to where her family's wagon had been parked just a scant hour earlier when she had left on her errand to The Crumpetmonger. She scanned the grass for the imprints that the wagon wheels would have left, desperate for any clue as to where the gypsies might have gone, but she could find no such signs no matter how hard she looked.
She was alone. For the first time in Mira's life, she had been left alone.
What have I done? Mira wondered, running through her memories like flipping through the pages of a comic book. Stopping at a scene of herself, just a half hour ago, stuffing herself with warm pastries, guilty fingers crept up the back of the Acara's neck as she thought, Grandfather once told me that the ultimate punishment to the gypsies is to banish a member, but surely this is reserved for worse crimes than taking more than my fair share of the baked goods? Surely Grandfather didn't leave without me? Over cream puffs? But where is the fire that burns every evening without exception? Where is our wagon? How could the camp disappear without leaving any traces at all?
Mira began to panic, and the warm pastries that had happily filled her tummy earlier now weighed her down like cold stones. She ran back to the fire circle in the middle of the clearing and started looking for clues, moving outward in ever-widening circles, until she reached the beginning of the Haunted Woods that protected her caravan from unwanted attention and visitors. Not a blade of grass was flattened, nor a twig bent, nor a stone overturned in any direction.
The gypsy camp was utterly deserted.
Mira flopped to the ground and hid her head in the crook of her arm, the billowy sleeve of her shirt muffling her sobs. Suddenly, a sharpthwock sounded off the trunk of the tree behind her. Sniffling a little, Mira raised her head just in time to see a stone come hurtling toward her from across the clearing. She ducked her head in time for it to miss, but not before seeing...
Date: Nov 16th
...a Nimmo, a playful look on his face before he disappeared behind the tree again.
Mira never considered herself to have a temper, but suddenly she lashed out, whether it was from the camp abandoning her or the absurdity of such a situation. Running quickly behind the tree he had hidden behind, she was angered to not find a thing.
Another rock hit her in the shoulder, and she whipped around to see the Nimmo standing on a branch in the tree above her, his arms crossed, smiling that crookedly playful smile he'd had before.
"What are you doing?" Mira seethed, looking at the Nimmo with pure anger.
"Ooh, what a temper this one's got," the Nimmo commented, a sly smile stretching across his face full of mischievousness.
Mira simply responded with a glare before asking yet again, "What are you doing?"
"Trying to get your attention, silly little gypsy!" The Nimmo hopped down from the tree lithely, sticking the landing perfectly.
Mira's eyebrows raised in surprise. "Oh, really? What a funny way of doing it."
The Nimmo leaned back against the trunk of the tree, shaking his head. "Oh no, you're the funny one around here, trust me."
Mira simply rolled her eyes, ignoring his comment. "So what did you want from me, anyway?"
"Oh, just wanted to tell you that I know where your gypsy camp has gone."
He said this in a nonchalant way, but it was anything but as hope welled up in Mira's heart. "Really? Where are they?"
Satisfied, the Nimmo held out a piece of paper to her. "That'll tell you all you need to know," he explained.
The Acara took it eagerly, reading it aloud...
Date: Nov 17th
"The Silly Devilpuss."
"What does that mean, 'The Silly Devilpuss'?" Mira demanded, even more frustrated than before.
"Do you really not remember?" asked the Nimmo tauntingly.
"Remember what?!" snapped the Acara.
"Well, I just thought that since you loved your grandfather so much, you should recognise those words," explained the Nimmo.
"Look, I've just had all my friends and family disappear, I don't have time to think of some childish phrase!" Mira yelled at the Nimmo. "If you know where the gypsies went, then why don't you just tell me?"
"There's no fun in that," pouted the Nimmo. "I'm being nice enough by giving you that clue; I hope you realise that I didn't have to give you anything at all."
"All right," Mira sighed. "Let me think, where have I heard of this silly Devilpuss?"
The Acara scrunched her face as she scanned through her brain. After much pondering, she found a slight memory of her Grandfather telling her something about a silly Devilpuss.
"It was a story that Grandfather told me when I was young, right?" Mira said uncertainly.
"And what happened in that story?" the Nimmo giggled gleefully.
"I don't really remember, it was so long ago," Mira sighed. "I know it was about this Devilpuss who loved to play tricks... I think by the end she got stuck in the swamp."
"I'm not going to give you any more hints, so that's what you're going to have to go by," declared the Nimmo.
"So are you saying that my friends are stuck in the swamp?" Mira asked, confused.
"Maybe," chuckled the Nimmo.
Mira was tired of going between frustration and disappointment, so she felt it was time to leave this mysterious figure behind.
"All right, I'll go to the swamp," she declared.
She was unsure why the wagons hadn't left any tracks, but this was the only lead she had. Mira walked off, determined yet nervous, into the woods. Once darkness had completely consumed her figure, the Nimmo smirked and disappeared into a swirl of purple smoke...
Date: Nov 17th
Although she had indeed been living here for quite some time now, she never got used to the ways the darkness of the woods played tricks on your eyes. One minute, you'd think you were seeing a silhouette of a beautiful flower, but when you got up to it closely, it turned out to be a sickly, evil-looking black weed. It was quite different here than it was anywhere else she had lived. She knew Neopia was a magical place, but here the magic seemed twisted, dark...
A twig snapped.
Mira stopped dead in her tracks. She had experienced fear before, especially in these woods, but she always had the reassurance of knowing her grandfather was nearby. This time, she knew she was completely alone.
Her and whatever had made that noise.
She could feel the presence getting closer to her. Wildly she whipped her head around, but all she could see was the darkness and mist, and the occasional figure of a twisted tree. It was very disorienting. The fear overwhelmed her, and for a moment she forgot what she was doing, she could only stand there, trembling...
Grandfather, she thought.
The single word snapped her back to reality, and she bolted away from the clearing. The blood pounded in her ears. Her breathing rebounded off of the stillness and sounded like yelling in the silence. She didn't stop running until she felt water splash around her paws.
I made it, she thought.
The swamp was a dreary place. The other gypsy children used to play in it, until one day they all came back shaken, scared, like they had seen something terrifying. Mira shivered. She hated this place.
Well now what? the Acara thought. She was very fed up with that Nimmo, playing games with her. Why couldn't he just save her the trouble and tell her where her family had gone? I ran all the way out here and there's nothing here! she thought as she looked around the misty wetland. It was all purple and green, everything, misty and cold...
A spot of white flickered on the edge of her vision.
Without thinking, she lunged for the piece of paper submerged under the water. This is it! Ignoring the bitter cold of the water, she smoothed the paper out on her dripping paw, excitement running through her veins.
Her blood turned to ice.
She recognised the sly voice at once and her head shot up. "You!" she yelled at him.
"Yes. Me." He landed in the water gracefully, making barely a splash. "You know, I'm sorry for giving you quite a scare back there in the woods."
Her blood turned hot. "That was you?!"
"Of course it was." He grinned slyly.
She thrust the paper under his nose. "What am I supposed to make of this?" she burst out. Her patience had more than run out.
"Make of it whatever you want." He looked at Mira, his crystalline green eyes strange and deep, almost hypnotising.
"You aren't making any sense, you know."
He smirked. "I've been known to do that." He hopped onto the muddy bank, shaking his skin free of water. "You know, there might be more to that paper than just meeting me again. Maybe you need to think outside the box."
Mira looked down at the sopping paper and frowned. "How do I know if I'm right, though?"
She looked up, but the Nimmo had gone.
Sighing, she thought it might be worth a try to follow the strange note from the swamp. Feeling slightly idiotic, she looked up into the sky. The only things she saw were the treetops and the sun, which was feebly trying to poke through the leaves. One stream of light, however, had penetrated the canopy easily, leaving a bright beam of light through the dark forest. Her gaze travelled along the beam and she saw...
Date: Nov 18th
...the forest. It was a reflection of the swamp, an exact reflection: the trees with vines enveloping them, the muddy water decorated with wilted lily pads, and even the few flowers that had managed to survive the oppressive choke of the forest. The sky held a mirror image of the earth around her, down to the ripples in the pond where a frog had jumped a few seconds ago. It was a faint, translucent image, though. If Mira squinted, she could just about make a slight outline of the massive oak next to her, but it was there. And it frightened Mira.
The Acara shuddered, positive that her eyes were playing tricks on her. How come she had never noticed this second universe? Maybe she was hallucinating. Mira squeezed her eyes shut for a few seconds and then slowly reopened her eyes. The mirage in the sky was still there.
Mira had never heard of a second Neopia before. Even her grandfather -- her grandfather who knew all the old folktales, who was a master at storytelling -- had never mentioned anything like this. Or had he? She thought back to years ago, to a nearly forgotten memory of hers. Her grandfather may have mentioned something about a hidden Neopia, a land that almost perfectly complemented the real one. Mira tried to remember his exact words -- he had definitely given her a warning of some sort, but the memory was long gone.
Fascinated and only a tiny bit scared, Mira examined the mirage in front of her. She found that it was the clearest when she had her head tilted slightly, and dissapeared completely when she straightened her head. At most angles, it was impossible to see.
"Enjoying your new discovery?"
By now, she recognised that smirking voice and wasn't the least bit surprised to see the Nimmo lounging in front of her. Best be polite, she thought. He had helped her before, so perhaps she could wheedle some more information out of him. "Yes, quite," she replied. "Have you ever seen it before?"
The Nimmo raised an eyebrow, shocked that the Acara hadn't bothered to yell at him. "Of course, but really, it's quite an unusual trait, having the sight to see it."
Ah. Now we're getting somewhere. "Oh? Yet you and I can clearly see it," said Mira nonchalantly, trying not to reveal the emotions of anger and despair inside her.
"Mmhm. One can only see it when it's their darkest day. Metaphorically, of course." The Nimmo whistled a little tune, all the while watching Mira closely.
Mira nodded. "So? Why did you tell me to look at it?"
The Nimmo sighed, putting on an exaggerated face of despair. "You know, I was really hoping you could figure it out yourself. Look at it again." The Nimmo tilted his head to the right. "See anything different? Glaringly different?"
The Acara focused intently. "It's a mirror reflection. I don't see anyth-- oh!"
Mira gasped, realising in a heartbeat what was wrong. It was...
Date: Nov 18th
... almost an exact reflection, but Mira soon noticed that no living creatures were reflected above. Surveying the Neopia in the sky, Mira could again identify every tree, pond, and vine there that was down here that was also up there, but when she looked at the place where she and the Nimmo should appear, a dark void filled the space.
"Where are we in the second Neopia?" Mira whispered, reaching out and attempting to touch the mirage, to no avail. For one, she was no where near close enough, and secondly, it did not appear to be solid.
The Nimmo laughed. "A sentient being can only exist once. A second, identical being would be inevitably a dangerous consequence for any world, should the two meet. A polar clash of the two identical beings would emerge, and as they would be completely the same it would be impossible for either to win."
Mira took this information in slowly, and at first not a word of it made sense. She had never been good with complex terminology and theories, and now was not the time to rectify this. The Acara took a step toward the Nimmo, tearing her gaze with hesitance from the sky.
"What's your name?" she asked, surprising even herself that she had not asked such a simple question earlier.
The Nimmo jumped up, approaching Mira until his face was only centimetres from hers.
"Why did it take you so long to ask?" he asked, and Mira could feel his cool breath on her face.
"Just answer the question," she replied, backing off, "Answer it!"
The Nimmo sighed, pulling away. "My name is Iyun. I am the grandson of Gorunda the Wise." He added the last part with an air of pride, and a tone in his voice told Mira that she should recognise the name.
Again racking her memories, Mira pulled all blanks to the name Gorunda. Iyun looked at her expectantly, and Mira felt as if she should know the name. Sighing, the Acara shrugged.
"You've never heard of Gorunda?" Iyun asked, his voice dejected. "I expected you to have heard of her with such a talent of sight as yours... but no matter. Gorunda is a well known crone of the swamps surrounding the Haunted Woods. In her time, she has laid many a trap for the unexpecting wanderer..."
As if to make a point, Iyun hopped down to the water's edge, and stopped. Grabbing a stone from the ground, he threw it at an exact point toward the centre of the murky depths, and as if on cue a snapping creature emerged from the water and quickly devoured the stone. Gulping, Mira felt her hand fly to her throat. She sure didn't fancy falling into one of Gorunda's traps.
"What does Gorunda have to do with my camp disappearing, though?" Mira asked when Iyun returned to her side.
"That is for you to find out," the Nimmo replied pointedly, casting his gaze once again to the sky, where the mirage still filtered among the clouds. "And the Neopia in the sky is your next clue."
"But..." Mira tried to break in, but the Nimmo held up a slender finger to silence her.
"However," he continued, "my grandmother knows many secrets from the beginning of Neopia, and she has passed these on to me. One of the oldest of these stories in the story of how two Neopias once lived together in harmony..."
Date: Nov 19th
"Iyun?" Mira asked. But he was gone. Now, she was alone. Again. The silence scared her. Anything could happen. She took a deep breath and looked down... or should she look up? Well, the Nimmo -- Iyun -- said the Neopia in the sky is my first clue...
SNAP! A twig broke.
She looked around, holding onto the hope that she would find them. Them. I've been trying to find them, but really, it didn't seem like I was. Them. "Why do I keep hearing that word!" It was stressful. "Iyun? Where are you?" He was gone. But, no. He wasn't.
"Hehehe!" the Nimmo laughed, running through the trees... in the second Neopia.
Mira was startled. Here, in the real Neopia, a dark void was moving where he was. But, there was also another void in the real Neopia, but it wasn't moving. Mira moved her eyes, trying to find where the mirror image for the void would be.
There was just another void.
Mira widened her eyes. Two voids? That can't be right. Then, she thought of the story of the two Neopias. She remembered. Her Grandfather told her that story.
It was the same story with the Silly Devilpuss.
"Iyun!" Mira screamed.
He screamed, too. And Mira could only watch as...
Date: Nov 19th
...the void started to move. Gradually, but it was definitely moving, and it was moving toward Mira.
"Iyun!" Mira screamed again, as the usually euphoric Nimmo stared straight at the other void, transfixed by its dark and depressing figure. It looked like a dark cloud, moving slowly but steadily toward Mira. Mira looked on in horror as the void began to swirl, and it began to move faster, closer to Mira.
"Iyun, help!" Mira shrieked desperately. She tried to move, but her legs felt like lead, and with a shock she realised that she could only move her arms. As the mass of despair and death that was the void moved toward her, she heard a low, guttural growl, seemingly coming from nowhere. At that sound, suddenly Mira remembered the story.
Once long ago, there had been a Devilpuss. He was a silly Devilpuss, always playing jokes and fooling around. But one fateful night he had walked into the depths of the Haunted Woods, looking for someone new to play jokes on. That was when he had found another Devilpuss, but the strange thing about this Devilpuss, was that physically, he was exactly like him. It was his identical twin, but it was a darker, more evil side of him. He had tried to make friends with it, but at first, the other Devilpuss didn't like the silly Devilpuss. Over time, however, they became friends, and the darker Devilpuss asked the silly Devilpuss to come to another land, one just like Neopia. The silly Devilpuss refused, which angered the darker Devilpuss. The silly Devilpuss was no longer friends with the darker Devilpuss, but there would always be that connection between them.
Mira remembered her grandfather telling her that the moral of that story was that sometimes you can make friends with even the those you don't at first like.
Suddenly, Mira was galvanised back into action when she heard the distinct low growl again, sending powerful shivers down her spine. Mira looked up at Iyun, who seemed to be trying to shout at her, but she couldn't hear. Mira continued staring at Iyun, however, and suddenly, the meaning of her Grandfather's story rang true within her, reverberating around her mind. She looked back at the void that was creeping toward her, and knew what to do. She would...
Date: Nov 20th
...do nothing, but stand and wait for the void to reach her. Mira knew that things looked bleak, that she should most likely move, but while her body screamed "move" her mind told her to stay. Keeping her gaze fixed on the void, Mira let all sorts of memories run through her mind. If this was the end, she didn't want to regret a thing.
She remembered a time when she was younger, accidentally breaking one of the other gypsy's vases and blaming it on the wind. She remembered "borrowing" her grandfather's favourite possession, his century-old watch, and losing it in the forest only to claim she didn't know its whereabouts. Then, she remembered just earlier that morning, promising her grandfather that she wouldn't eat a thing before making sure everyone in the camp was able to eat.
Mira gulped, and she suddenly knew why the camp had deserted her. An old riddle came to mind, one that was told time and time again within the gypsy camp.
One is fine, for the sake of mind,
Two and your resolve is proven weak,
Three and you'll see; your outcome is bleak.
If you take it any further, the consequence you can't avoid,
You must prove yourself to the ancient void.
When she was younger, Mira had never understood the meaning of the riddle. To her, it had just been another old fictional story passed down by the older gypsies. She had never thought that it could possibly come true, until today, when the consequence of all her lies reacher her.
Suddenly the void reached Mira, and for a second it paused. Mira knew what she had to say.
"It was I who broke the other gypsy's vase, I that lost my grandfather's watch. I admit to gluttony, and breaking a promise. I'm sorry for all the lies I've told -- sorry for everyone who believed them because they once believed in me. Now I know the true meaning of trust, it's something that is easily taken for granted, something difficult to lose and something that should never be broken."
The void jerked back into motion, inching just a little closer. For a moment it twisted and turned, until it took on an identical appearance to her own.
"I am a manifestation of all the lies you have ever told, Mira, all the bad you've ever done," the void said, its voice also the same as hers. "Because you have admitted that you have learnt your lesson, and because I have the ability to see that you are truly sorry, I shall lift the spell on your camp. Once again you will be able to see your friends and family and they you, but they will know where you have been. They will know that you broke their trust, and you must learn to re-earn it."
Mira bowed before her twin, and the darker copy began to move again. As soon as it touched Mira, she began to jerk, the void being absorbed by her body. Mira let out a scream of pain, feeling the pain of her lies and wrongs as they re-entered her body. It was over as quickly as it began, and Mira fell to her knees, panting. When she looked up, the second Neopia was again invisible to her. She smiled, standing and wiping the dust from her dress before heading back in the direction of camp.
"Mira!" her grandfather shouted when she emerged from the vines that protected the camp. The older Acara ran over to his granddaughter, reaching to take her for a hug, but recoiling from something. Mira had been smiling since she first saw her camp back in its place, now she felt her face drop.
"I'm sorry, Grandfather," she whispered, reaching for him. This time he didn't back away, enveloping Mira in his arms.
"I can see you've done some great wrongs against the camp," he whispered in her ear, "but I still love you. This doesn't mean I trust you; no, you will have to re-earn that, but it does mean I will do my very best to forgive you."
"Oh, Grandfather!" Mira cried, and she knew that she had a big task ahead if she were to truly feel remorse and re-earn the trust and respect of her camp.
Date: Nov 20th
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