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||You are on Week 470
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 Seventy Ends Friday, August 6th
I wish I could be with you, there, right now, instead of here, wherever I am. I do not know, anymore. The skyline is unfamiliar, the horizon vague in the setting sun. By the time it rises again, over the other hills and crooked trees, I will be gone. By morning, they will come for me.
I do not know if this letter will find you, but I hope it does, dear Cecelia, for this ink and parchment and the words they carry... they are all I have left.
This ink is old, dark, rotten, perhaps; the quill stolen. This parchment is long, curling at the edges, but I fear even it is not long enough. I have so much to tell you, Cecelia, I hope I have enough time. Time is a blessing, Cecelia, use it well. Use it in the way I was never able to. I hope you don't follow in my footsteps, Cecelia, as you once told me you would. I can't bear to see you fall like I have.
Do you remember what I said to you? I hope you have. For if you don't... if you don't...
I hope you remember what I told you. That night, before I left. (I shouldn't have, I really shouldn't have, but fool I was, I thought I had no choice. There are always choices, Cecelia, always, always, always. Remember this. Remember this and you may not stray as I have.)
Even though I am undeserving, I hope you keep that secret. Store it deep within your heart, Cecelia, lock and key. You must never let anyone know. Secrets are precious, Cecelia. Dangerous, too. They need to be kept. Promises, however, are broken much too easily.
I'm afraid I won't be able to keep mine. I wish I could, you know I do -- or at least, I hope you do. Promises, they are like wishes. Too many are made, and too few come true. I suppose it is our fault, though. Falling stars are not falling stars, but rather space junk burning through the atmosphere. Falling stars are nothing but fire -- beautiful, bright and destructive. Fire brings ash, ash is like dust -- it chokes. I know that, now. I hope you do, too.
If you are reading this, Cecelia, as I hope you are, there is a chance I may still be alive; I just won't be coming home.
It pains me to write this, dearest Cecelia, pains me to let you know just how much of a monster I have become, but it is my choice, mine, and if anything, you deserve to know. It is the least I can do.
For you see, Cecelia, I have made a terrible mistake...
Editor's Note: This week's Storytelling beginning was written by reveirie. For the entire month of August, user-written beginnings will kick off each week's Storytelling Contest, so send in your opening entries!
Date: Aug 2nd
...in trusting the honeyed promptings of words over that of an anxious, dear friend.
You, that was. Did you guess?
I remember (and I so deeply hope you do too, for if you do, then I still have a place in your heart, if one I do not deserve in the slightest) -- I remember how you'd sensed I was planning something, even though you didn't know what, because you always knew me best; and what you'd said to me...
"Brian, as deeply as your discontent may be flowing, the present will always be a gift. So live in the present as you used to, and dwell not on mysteries..."
It comes to my mind as clearly as light through glass, glass with an etching of a tinted red Uni just like you, and my sole intention of reliving this moment through writing is to tell you that I wished I could have said yes to you, I so dearly did. But I couldn't, and curiously, as I went down this thorn-strewn path that would eventually lead to my dead end, I did come to find what I was looking for. Such is the way of life.
...Light through glass... light. Cecelia, I do not remember the light of sun anymore, and it lobs me into a well of despondency from which I feel there is no more lucky escape.
The poet that was I, he wanted much... he had a talent, a friend, and peace of mind for a while -- it was truly a gift, as you said, but he did not consider it so, and slowly the emptiness crept in like an opening crevice in his heart, and not even the most beautiful of his words could fill it.
The poet wanted spontaneity, to ground-break, to burst free of whatever cycle tried to hold him in, even when that cycle was one he found happiness in... Cecelia, I couldn't stay because I wanted to be as changing as the verses I used to read aloud to you -- perhaps I was foolhardy even, because I believed that the poet who created those words must have the same qualities within him -- eloquence, uniqueness, a myriad...
My wanderings brought me far, and for a time, I found solace again, and my verses reached greater skies, always mirroring my own heart. Those who heard them all said the same: that I in my creations had managed to capture no less than pieces of the stars...
How was it to arrive at a dungeon where memories of light withdrew from me as I had from home?
I remember, in my desolation, the words I scratched into the mud walls with my dirt-crusted nails.
"They murmur, and they
hiss: the shadows flung from my dying
torch, as if flame itself yearned to
cast out the taint of their existence...
A cackle, and a taunt, and all done
without a sound.
So soulless yet so spry."
Then I met him, the Draik clutching the other set of bars, so deep-set in the gloom that at first I thought him just another mocking shadow. He heard me whisper, and he told me...
Date: Aug 2nd
"It's curious, how even restless talent can be caged by mere metal, left to waste." His voice echoed with the sound of cattails rasping against each other in a summer breeze. "It leaves a bitter aftertaste, does it not?"
Bitter does not adequately describe the flavor of ambition shattered by clanging steel and the twist of a key, of hope devoured by a misplaced modifier that led to an incensed king. The residues taste more of ash, the burnt crisps of what should have been caramel.
He continued. "A conjurer, that's what you are."
I approached him, footsteps amplifying the anticipation in the air. "A poet," I corrected, though the word fell weak against the solid darkness. Poet, poet -- a word I had once cried out with pride was now dampened, weighted by shadow.
"And what is a poet? A poet conjures a thought and translates it into words to be spread as art." He hummed to himself, breathing a note too flat. "I was once a conjurer myself. A storyteller."
I should have been alerted to this ready admission, but the dark that shrouded my prison seemed to invade my mind as well, a murky cloud that blinded me. Here was a prisoner who once fashioned words for weapons, words he was now unsheathing. And I -- I, who understood the blade every syllable could bring; I, who crafted words to bend and twist and lure and tempt -- I had fallen prey to what I fancied myself a master of.
Perhaps I craved his beautiful words and devoured them because I was a poet, because I needed such majestic words to thrive in a void that hungered for the seams of my soul, because his words gave me strength and vision -- and they were there to take, touch, breathe...
His words guided me to exactly where he wished me to be and exactly where I thought I wished to be. Here was opportunity spreading newborn wings, I believed. Here was the future of shattering the sky and stilling the moon, of freezing the sun and burning the planets. Here was -- at last -- completion.
I had never thought to ask him why he allowed himself to linger behind the safety of unforgiving bars as he planted me in soil fertile for death...
Date: Aug 3rd
"Shall I tell you a story, while we bask in the gloom of our prison? Does that suit your fancy, Poet?" I was a poet Cecelia, and poets are attracted to words, syllables dancing in an endless dance; rhythmic, fading, rising, pausing, stopping, ending, lying. I always believed my words came alive within me, left me as less than just sounds, becoming something alive and poignant-strong in their own will. I gave them truth but they gifted themselves with meaning -- do you remember when I told you that? A poet can put his heart into his poetry, but the real gift of those rhythmic phrases is that those who read the immortal words give them importance.
He was a shadow, a shadow painting words in the lonesome of that desolate place. I could do nothing but listen, I was a slave to his words that rose in pitch and then fell like some great immortal thing taking longing breaths toward bliss. I desired that story, Cecelia, would you have? Would you have sat next to me so that you could hear the words as clearly as I hoped to? No, I don't think you would have. I was a fool.
A blind, terrible fool who desired something that would consume him, mind and body. His story came.
"There was once a dream,
A dream that desired. Desired reality,
Because reality is truth and dreams
Are not. Whose dream? Whose
dream? It does not matter because
A dream cannot be reality. That is why
It is a dream."
His voice danced, Cecelia. It coloured the desolation of that hideous place until all I could see, all I could feel, were his words, and even my own heart, buried deep in my chest, could not help but strum to the rhythm of his voice. It scared me and attracted me until I was so conflicted that all I could do was let his words flow through me. I sunk to my knees, so overpowered by the strength of his words. His swords, each consonant a stab, each vowel a swipe against me, and it was only then that I realised he was waging war with those words, and my only weapons were caught in my throat unable to be free to protect me.
"But when a dream desires that
Which it cannot have, it begins to unravel.
First at the seams, fraying, becoming
Everything and nothing. This dream desires
Reality, the reality freedom brings. A dream of a
Dream, a dream of light, a dream of
I felt weak and lost. Everything blurred until I could no longer remember where I was or why I was there. All I could see was that tinted glass window, that red Uni looking down on me, pained and regretful. Why did you regret, Cecelia, or was that my regret mirrored in your opaque eyes? But each of his words, growing in strength and power until each indistinguishable sound were waves battering against a fragile broken coast, began to crack your image. The glass could not sustain against such strength, and slowly crack after crack appeared until, in an explosion of fragments, I was left in darkness with only his words to fill me.
"But then someone else came,
Another dreamer into this dream's
Desire. A tool to be used, this dream,
A tool for revenge. A tool of fate.
A dream cannot become reality,
Until reality sleeps and now,
Everything faded into a tortured nothingness...
Date: Aug 3rd
Instead of being frightened at this nothingness, I revelled in it. It was boundless, everything and nothing all in one. I longed to fill it with my own words, but my mind became blank and empty, for once no words coming. This was my torture.
And I could still hear his vile words, echoing along the nothingness that was my everything. He filled it with his words that cut into what was left of me like a thousand swords, edged with poison that burned my wounds.
These words echoed through my consciousness, unrelenting. His words dredged up memories that were meant to be forever buried, forgotten, and he twisted them so that they were much worse than the truth. Each was worse than the one before it, crippling me, making the pain the only thing I could bear.
Yet I clung to this pain, because it helped me know that I was alive. I was not gone just yet.
He sensed this and flung his words harder. They were filled with frustration and anger, daring me to join the nothingness. He took my memories and weaved them into a story of hate and misery, in which you were the protagonist, my dearest Cecelia. You were in pain and woe by my own hand. He knew these were worse than any pain inflicted before, because they held you, the one who mattered to me most.
Every time I hurt you with my words, every time you worried about me was shown before me, amplified a thousand times. And I accepted each blow, each word with grace, because I knew they should be true, that you hate me. Do you? I wondered this. You should after every little thing I've done to you. Yet you always welcomed me back every time, loving and forgiving. These were the moments that his story did not show, and these strengthened me.
Suddenly my head was filled with a thousand words, itching to be let out. And so I did. I fought his dark words with my light ones, giving the nothingness something. His parrying words were becoming less and less powerful as mine gained strength. As he became close to nothing, I delivered the final blow...
Date: Aug 4th
A rose by any other name is just as sweet, my dear Cecelia. Do you remember the first time I told you that? You were still but a child -- but then again, so was I. I still remember that day, it was the day you chipped one of your front hooves... the left. You were worried that the other Unis would accept you no longer, and that's when I casually tossed you that quote. How I wish it were that simple to make everything right now...
When the Draik fell silent, I did not let my mind even begin to imagine what I had done to him with my words of light. Instead, I delighted myself by closing my eyes and imagining happier times, times with you, Cecelia. When I was thinking about you, I could almost forget about my whereabouts, my desolation. The only thing that dragged me back, forced me into reality were the Draik's still-stinging words about mixing dreams with reality. With a sigh I tossed my dreams aside, forcing myself to accept the reality of my situation... my distance from you. If only I hadn't done those things to you, then chosen this terrible, terrible path. If only, Cecilia. If only.
With my cell quieter than ever before, I allowed myself to hum. I hummed to a tune I could not remember the name of, and then slowly words began to emerge. I placed the words to the tune, though gibberish they were. I could not tell you now what those misshapen lyrics were -- but I can tell you that the majority were about you, Cecelia. That much I remember.
The day I last saw you... the day I left, I promised you that I would never forget you, no matter how dire the situation. I tossed you words only a poet used with no care to your feelings. I saw the future as my gift, instead of the present. I didn't listen -- not enough. They always say that the older sibling is the grounded one, but whoever 'they' are, they are wrong. I miss you, Cecelia... my darling younger sister...
Date: Aug 4th
...whom I have had the pristine honour of watching grow and blossom from a tiny, delicate foal into an absolutely beautiful young lady. I can state (with much, much regret) that when you first arrived into my life, I loathed you. It pains me to recall the days when our mother gushed over you, tending to your every need, leaving me unaccompanied. How bitter I was! I wanted no part of you or your life, for you took away the one Neopet who respected me and gave me her love and care. But I was a young pup, with my maturity an absentee.|
As you occupied our mother, I sat in envy in the parlour of our home, glaring out the window and taking note of every tree, every branch, and every leaf that grew outside in the forest that towered in the backyard. I sadly did not recognise how magnificent the sight of the woodland was at the time. I only saw it through the eyes of a lonely, lonely child. Mother always kept the stationery in the parlour, and one day I felt such a sense of abandonment that I wrote my first poem.
The leaves are
Black. The tree is
Black. I see the world in
Black. And I am fine with that.
Terse, wasn't it? I wrote poems like that for years, slowly progressing so that they no longer lacked detail, but more importantly had a deeper meaning hidden beneath the ink and paper. But as you grew older, I recognised the exquisiteness and bliss you radiated, and you became my sole inspiration. I had felt emptiness all along, and it was not caused by the absence of Mother, I soon learned. It was caused by the absence of you.
Eventually your life contained only me as your sole guardian. But instead of attending to you, my dear Cecelia, I once again locked myself in the parlour and wrote those gloomy, sinister poems. I refused to accept the fact that I was once again alone, and my anger was transferred onto the parchment. You needed me more than ever at the time, and I chose to be a coward and write those stupid poems! Spiteful, spiteful me! I deserved to be locked in that cell. I deserved to be there forever after the pain I put you through. I can still hear your soft cries coming from your room, silently praying for tomorrow that I would pull away from my routine and pay some sort of attention to you. I can and will never forgive myself, Cecelia.
I did escape my routine of writing, but if only I had not. If it was not for Giovanni's unexpected arrival, I would still be home. Can you remember the day? My old friend Giovanni stopped by for a visit, mostly because I had failed to see the light of the world for a few months, and he felt the urge to check on me and my well-being.
I must have been tending to you or something, because I had abruptly left my poems unguarded and sprawled out on the tabletop. He read through a couple before I returned, and he was mystified by the passion I had put into the writing. Giovanni urged me to get them published. He was completely serious, and he convinced me thoroughly that I had talent. I believed him, for he is a well-known poet in the region, and his work is unbelievably awe-inspiring. And before I could even determine where I was headed, I was leaving you to journey along the struggling path of becoming a world-renowned poet.
But alas, here I am. Alone, perplexed, miserable... it is a poet's worst nightmare. When a poet is without his prized inspiration, he is as lost as a speck of cloud in the sky. I need you, Cecelia. But I will never get the chance to see you again. I cannot blame anyone for my mistake. Not Giovanni for giving me the idea to get published, not Mother causing me so much grief, and never you, my sister. I can only blame myself. I kept writing those sinister poems with every last bit of rage stashed away in my heart, and it was like whoever read them was overtaken. Sounds silly, for that is what good poetry is all about, being able to convey your emotions to your audience. But whoever read my poems almost became entranced by the hateful words. I never figured out why.
As I write this sentence, nighttime is all but present. I must squint to see the writing, and I deem it is a sign for me to go and become prepared to face my demise. How I do not want to leave you with just this humiliating letter of how weak I have become. But before I bid my last farewell, Cecelia, I have just one thing to say that is of the utmost importance. If you do not read this entire letter, then by Fyora's name please, just read this part...
Date: Aug 5th
You were never alone, Cecelia. Even as I left my world behind, the world you urged me to keep, I made sure that Giovanni checked in on you. I wonder if you know this? Perhaps you met Giovanni when he went to see you. Or maybe you never did at all. I can only hope he was a true friend, keeping track of you like I asked him to.
When I left you, I made sure of that. At first in my letters to Giovanni, I only asked fleeting questions, so wrapped up in my shallow life that I couldn't pay attention to you, my beautiful sister. And he answered with similarly fleeting answers, saying that you were fine. His letters focused more on his poetry than on you, so he didn't mind the quick questions. He was eager to continue talking about himself, what he was doing -- I always had more knowledge of him than I did of you. I regret that.
But in the months ahead, I felt my own poetry waning. Words did not come as easily. They were forced, superficial. Nothing more than ink on paper. I strived to remember what caused the words. I scoured my old poems, wondering what had given them such life. Then, in another letter from Giovanni, saying that you were again "fine," I realised that it was you.
This time I asked more questions: How were you doing? Did you have friends? Did you have any hobbies? Did you write? In return, Giovanni broke from speaking of his poetry to say that you that you were "fine," he didn't know whether you had friends or wrote, but you had just performed a solo dance at the school you were attending.
I remembered how you danced: you were more beautiful than you had ever been, losing yourself in the music. Your moves were graceful and elegant, forming perfect lines as you moved across the dance floor. You were inspiration.
As soon as I thought of you and your dancing, words flowed once more. I made more poetry than I ever had before -- though half of them I didn't share with anyone, hoping that I could show them to you first. With that, I decided to return home...
Date: Aug 5th
...but first, I had one last poem to write, one very important poem. Oh, Cecelia, if only I had known what lay ahead for me, I would have returned to you at once! I almost returned immediately, but the pull of ambition overcame me.
I had been commissioned to present one of my poems at the king's coronation. It was the most important poem I had ever been commissioned to write; the payoff would have been enormous, for in addition to receiving a large sum, I also would have become world-renowned at last. I could not give up my dreams of fame, not even to return to you. I felt that I had no choice.
So you see, dearest Cecelia, how another poor decision led me here. I wrote one last poem, in the king's honour. I planned to recite it at the coronation, as I had been hired to do, before returning to your side immediately, and continuing my work only if it did not require me to leave you again.
I know now that the best of plans are always the ones that never reach fulfillment.
I have already told you of my lost hope, told you that it was poetry that placed me in this cell. I should have known better, but I was foolish and arrogant. I forgot the most important rule of writing for a king. If the king does not like a poet's words, the poet is ruined. If a poet offends the king, he will never be seen in society again. You already know, Cecelia, that the latter is my fate. I am afraid that you are not the only one who has once been hurt by my words.
Oh, how have I managed to stray so far from the purpose of this letter? I intended to tell you everything, but there is so much more you must know.
The secret is the key, Cecelia, the secret that I shared with you, the night before I left. I can only hope that you remember, and that you keep your promises better than I have kept mine.
I don't know how much time I have left. It seems that the night fell such a long, long while ago, and I have no idea how long I have left. When the sun rises, they will come.
This is the part that I dread to write. I must tell you now, Cecelia, how my story ends. I must tell you why that Draik came and used his words against me, and prepared me for my dark fate. He set the trap, Cecelia, and I walked directly into it...
Date: Aug 6th
The Draik was in the audience while I recited my carefully plotted poem at the king's ceremony. I recall him well, for he was sitting toward the front of the crowd surrounded by nobles and other famous spectators. He was a conspirator, a fellow poet who yearned for new inspirations to form beautiful poetry from. He sensed that I had an inspiration by the way my poem was written with such passion and devotion, and he wanted my talent so badly that he went so far as to be purposely thrown in the dungeon after I had been.
The king had me apprehended, for I had offended him. You see, the poem was in no way inspired by the king. I talked of grace, loyalty, and strength. I am not sure if those words described the king, but I pretended like they did. In reality, I was describing you, Cecelia. I believe the king even knew the words I spoke were not in honour of him, for I took one look at his face after I finished the second verse, and it was full of scorn. I could not write a poem about him, when all that was on my mind was you.
In the dungeon, that was when the Draik cornered me. There he used his inner powers to overtake me, to see what the source of my poetry was. If I had not fought back, the Draik would have discovered that my inspiration was you. And he would have searched for you endlessly once he was freed, and when he would have found you... he would take you away.
I refused to let him harm you in any way, Cecelia, so I retaliated with every fighting word I had. I was successful, but there are consequences from actions. The Draik had fallen silent because he was spellbound by my words. Little did I know that he would be silenced permanently. A dungeon guard had seen the entire spectacle, and I was accused of being a wicked sorcerer. My trial now awaits me, and the future is certain to be grim.
The guards are here for me, Cecelia. I do not know where I am going, but I can only imagine the horror I am about to face. I refuse to leave you with just this letter, but I am sadly afraid I cannot overcome this situation. I beg of you, remember the following sentences and keep them close to your heart.
Cecelia, I love you. I absolutely adore you, and
I always will. Remember me not for what I became,
but who I was before. Never forget me as I will never forget
you; that is all I ask of you. Stay strong through
the hard times, and know I will always be
watching over you.
Mother would be proud of you, Cecelia.
The parting words of the letter made Giovanni's skin crawl. His heart sank as he turned the letter over, scanning it once more before placing it back on the table. This was Brian's last letter. Giovanni knew it would come one day, but he did not expect it would this soon.
The parlour door creaked open, and Giovanni hastily folded the letter and stuffed it in his blazer pocket. A Uni poked her head from behind the door and then stepped inside. She wore a beautiful white leotard and light pink tights with matching ballet slippers. Cecelia has already returned from dance class, Giovanni thought to himself.
"Giovanni?" she asked in her lighthearted voice. "Did you receive anything from Brian?"
The Kougra poet froze and then wearily shook his head. "No, Cecelia, he has failed to write back."
Cecelia said nothing, eyes gazing down at the floor. "Why has he not written any letters? I thought he would have written at least one after he left. Do you think he's all right?"
"Brian is a strong-willed soul. He is fine, and he'll write to you one day, I am sure of it," Giovanni assured her.
Cecelia nodded understandingly and left in silence.
Giovanni stood, and a shiver sent down his spine. He made his way over to the fireplace and stared into the dancing orange and yellow flames. Brian had travelled down the path of becoming a poet, only to fail like so many others before him had. But this time it was the saddest downfall, for he had left his younger sister behind. Giovanni wanted to be close to Cecelia, but the pressure to keep up with his work was much too great to form a friendship with her. He did not see her as a burden, however. And now with Brian's permanent absence, Giovanni promised himself to become the authority figure in Cecelia's life.
"Brian, old friend, you have nothing to fear. Cecelia will be all right," Giovanni whispered.
With that, the poet slipped Brian's last letter out of his pocket, crumbled it up, and threw it in the blazing fire. The letter's fate resembled Brian's, Giovanni thought bitterly. Both had gone up in smoke.
Date: Aug 6th
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