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Week 471
You are on Week 472
Week 473

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 Two Ends Friday, August 20

The following compilation was pieced together by yours truly based on the word of all traceable witnesses of the events of the 7th day of Hiding, year 12. Together, it establishes the framework of an extraordinary story that began on an ordinary evening, as its characters converged in the setting of Roo Island.

I can only hope my research has been worthwhile.

Sincerely,

J.

***

Approx. 8:41 p.m.

By word of an accomplice

Even at nighttime, those on this island find that the colours and charm of the place do not fade with the rays of the sun; everything carries on in merry firelight.

Amid the jugglers, the carnival owners, and the easy laughter of those who travel here at sunset to seek relaxation after a day's work, a die is rolled, but its outcome cannot be established from the crowd's reaction -- shouts, of delight, or equally likely of dismay.

But it can certainly be said that whatever showed decidedly at the top of the die, it served as the distraction a Tonu had been waiting for... and with her calm eyes flashing behind a mask of smooth indifference, she slits the side of a hanging pouch and swiftly tips its contents into a bag of her own.

A blink of an eye and she's gone, slipped between the cunning shadows.

***

By word of the evening shift guard

A Scorchio storms past a boat tier, barely checking to see if the little Wocky behind him is keeping up. "I can't believe you made us miss the last ferry off Roo Island!" he exclaims, glancing angrily at his tiny companion out of the corner of his eye. "What will I say to Aunt Heather when she tells us we had her worried sick?"

His cousin gives a pout, then shakes it off and presumes to imitate him (unknowingly inaccurately) as she'd done for some time now to keep herself entertained. "Can't believe you make us miss fast lerry off Roo Island!" she chimes contentedly.

The Scorchio groans, running a tired paw across his face. The other was too young to realise the magnitude of their problem -- of being stranded from home until early next morning.

***

By word of the Ixi himself

"I had just finished gathering the last of the firewood," he says, "from the forests to the south. The best firewood's there, you know, and the folks at King Roo's place need plenty on most nights. But the trick is to finish fast; Roo Island's a friendly place, but in these parts, it's best not to loiter.

"Now on that particular night, I was done exceptionally early -- three hours before midnight, which is when anyone with sense would scamper before... before anything wakes up.

"And yet there was something strange, all right. I could see the lamps of the Merry-Go-Round lit brightly, but there was another light -- closer to the place the Count called home..."

Editor's Note: This week's Storytelling beginning was written by _razcalz_. For the entire month of August, user-written beginnings will kick off each week's Storytelling Contest, so send in your opening entries! If yours didn't make it this week, be sure to check back next week!

Author: _razcalz_
Date: Aug 16th
***

By word of an expert

"Count von Roo is, simply put, dangerous. He has all the usual vampiric advantages (strength, speed, etc.), but he also possesses an extremely cunning mind and a vicious streak.

"He is not content with merely feeding on the weak. He prefers to select a strong victim and then best him or her on more even terms. He will lead his prey in a vicious game of Kadoatie and Miamouse, which almost invariably ends with von Roo winning. For von Roo, the hunt is more satisfying than the kill.

"The Count usually stays within the walls of his estate and rarely ventures out into the surrounding woods. It is even rarer that he wander into the populated areas of Roo Island, although such incidents have been recorded.

"Fortunately for the Roo Island tourist, von Roo only feeds four or five times per year, making the risk of abduction minimal."

-Arthur Grarrlson, On the Inhabitants of Roo Island (Neovian Press, Y8), p. 35.

***

Approx. 9:03 p.m.

By word of an urchin

The Tonu darts into an alleyway and pauses, standing perfectly still for several moments. Once she is sure she was not followed, she pulls a pouch from her pocket, loosens the drawstring, and peers inside. She sifts through the bag's contents, moving slowly in an attempt to mute the jangling of Neopoints. Finally, she grabs a small item and pulls it out. She peers at it closely, and then a hint of a smile slides across her face. She holds tightly onto the item and takes off running again, letting the bag drop to the ground. Thousands of Neopoints' worth of coins roll out, but she doesn't come back to collect them. Whatever it is that she holds in her hand must be even more valuable to her.

***

By word of a storeowner

A yellow Tonu comes into a business. The doors are about to be closed for the night, but she sweet-talks her way in. She asks to see the proprietor.

The owner appears from a back room and asks the Tonu if she wishes to buy a ring or necklace. He gestures to the display cases in front of her. She shakes her head and says she's looking for an appraisal. She opens her hand and shoves it forward with a few words of explanation.

The old Wocky furrows his brow sceptically. He reaches for a jeweller's glass and carefully picks up the item. He twists and turns it, examining it from all angles. At last, he hands it back to the Tonu. He tells her that her hunch is accurate: it was indeed made by the legendary silversmith Sir Reabon of Brightvale. If it is a forgery, he informs her, it is an incredibly good one.

The Tonu merely nods. The Wocky eagerly asks her if she would like to sell it. He offers her a good price, but she refuses. She tosses some coins to the jeweller and exits his shop.

***

By word of an innkeeper

A Scorchio asks to rent a room for the night. The young Wocky with him happily examines some stray Petpetpets crawling on the floor and plays with an Usuki doll.

The Scorchio becomes angry when he is told that there are no rooms available. He storms out, dragging the Wocky behind him. She barely has time to shove the Usuki into a pocket of her overalls before they're out the door.

The last of the sunlight is fading from the sky, and the air is growing chilly.

***

An old Roo Island proverb

When sun's out, walk about. On night's shore, get indoors.

***

By word of the Ixi himself

"Obviously, it would be stupid to do anything other than turn around, drop off the wood at the castle, and go home. But hey, it was still early. I had my lantern. Besides, they wouldn't be expecting me at the castle until ten or eleven.

"So I did something stupid."

***

Ed. note:

I interrupt the narrative here to provide some background information that the reader may find relevant. Sir Reabon of Brightvale was a pet who lived approximately two centuries ago. He is best remembered for his contributions to glassblowing, as he created several vibrant pigments and pioneered some innovative techniques that are still in use today. But he was also a skilled metalworker and produced pieces of unprecedented complexity and detail. His works fetch astronomically high prices today, and many say that no silversmith since has equaled -- or even come close to -- his brilliance. He died under mysterious circumstances during a visit to Roo Island, where he was hand-delivering a piece that had been commissioned by the Roo royalty.

The Ixi whom I have been quoting is, of course, one of the three survivors of the ordeal about which this volume is concerned. He has asked me not to use his real name for reasons of privacy, and I have complied with his request. When he is referred to by name in the remainder of this volume, it is a pseudonym (one which he specifically suggested). I must admit that I am puzzled as to why he did this, as his name has already been trumpeted in headlines across Neopia. This incident was, after all, rather sensational news. Still, I defer to his wishes.

Likewise, many of the other sources I interviewed have asked to remain anonymous. I have decided not to reveal any of their names unless it is pertinent to the story (and not unless they have given me permission, of course).

As for concerns about the honesty of their statements, I am afraid that I cannot reassure you. In a narrative pieced together by hearsay and secondhand accounts, there will inevitably be exaggerations, misrememberings, omissions, and possibly outright lies. I tried to verify as much as I could, and I left out testimonies that contradicted the hard evidence or came from extremely unreliable sources. Beyond this, though, there was nothing I could do. I leave the final judgment up to you, the reader.

-J.

***

By word of an accomplice

The Tonu sits in a tent on the edge of a forest and examines her new acquisition. Several of her fellow thieves crowd around, but she pushes them back with a glare. She tells them that this treasure belongs to her alone.

There are some protests: some claim that they deserve a share since they aided in the heist. Some murmur that she should sell it, since a silver trinket isn't nearly as practical as a mountain of Neopoints. But all grow quiet when the Tonu rises from her seat.

She tells them that she is leaving for the night. She says that there is an errand she must run, something she must do. There are a few grumbles, but not many. The thieves know that this is how their leader operates. She likes to be alone after a big heist. They know that tomorrow she'll be more reasonable. Maybe then they can convince her to sell tonight's acquisition.

The Tonu walks out of the tent, holding the piece of silver in her hand. None of the thieves realise that this is the last time they will ever see her...

Author: rosabellk
Date: Aug 16th
***

Approx. 9:27 pm

By word of a shopkeeper:

A Scorchio enters a store just about to close up for the night. Clutching his paw is a young Wocky gamboling around; her face is in direct contrast to what appeared to be her older sibling. The Scorchio was tired and bore a look of mingled frustration and resignation, whereas the younger pet has not a care in the world. She has a Usuki with her -- a Magical Hair Usuki, clearly well-loved, recounts the shopkeeper -- which she proceeded to build a makeshift fort for out of his wares as her older brother bought a tent for two.

"I told him he'd be best not to go campin' out in the woods in these parts, but he dinnae listen one bit," the shopkeeper reported in our interview. "He said somethin' bout Roo Island not havin' enough lodgings an' that he didn't believe in old superstitions anyway. What a pity..."

***

By word of a bystander

"Yeah, I saw them all right. Holding a cheap fold-up tent was a green Scorchio -- not unlike that one who's always flying by and spouting that 'I hope you're having fun!' nonsense, I wouldn't be surprised if he was the same one that made me miss that restock on--

"What? I am being on topic here, I'm positive it's the same guy! Oh, right, he had a little Wocky with him. A wild child -- she was bouncing off the walls, looking as cute as a baby, but I bet she was just using those antics to pickpocket everyone around her, 'cause I'm pretty sure I was two hundred Neopoints short when I left the park, and I only rode the Merry-Go-Round four times that day.

"Anyway, the Scorchio seemed a little hesitant -- I wouldn't have thought a Random Event nutjob like him had any sense, but apparently he did -- but that little thief next to him kept sproingin' around, squealing about how much she loved camping. They went off on the little path near the Roo Island Properties that veers off into the woods, and that was the last I saw of 'em."

Ed. note:

At this point, I was forced to pretend I had seen the Golden Pteri and chase after him to get this... erratic... pet off my back. It's questionable whether or not his testimony is any worth, but he did confirm, despite the probable low value of his word, that the Scorchio and Wocky were going off into the woods. Overlooking his exaggerations, the basics of his story seem correct enough.

***

By word of a passing scholar

It was a gorgeous night, reported the witness, Kreludor and Neopia were in perfect alignment, and the stars of Marak the Wave were clear as suns eighty degrees overhead. The Altadorian Peophin was on a trip around Neopia to chart the different angles the constellations were at in each location and time of year. She had just been setting up my telescope near the castle when a Tonu charged by, knocking over her array and setting her star maps aflurry. The ruffian was quite preoccupied, not even pausing to apologise, and something silver gleamed in one paw. As she veered off toward the woods that sprawled away from the castle, this unknown object caught the moon's light for an instant.

Instead of shining silver highlights in the moonbeam, it sparkled as red as spilled blood...

***

By word of the Ixi himself

"I remember that night pretty clearly. By the Three, even the slowest Skeith wouldn't have forgotten a detail. It's the sort of thing that gets burnt into your mind, not the sort of thing you forget easily.

"It was a nice night out. Pretty stars, you could see a lot of them. I'd considered dropping off my load at the castle, but it was a long way to walk, and if I went, I probably would have just gone home and had a perfectly ordinary night. I wish. I set down most of my firewood in the middle of a clearing, taking only one large branch with me. Protection from thieves or something, you know.

"I took a little stroll, did some casual stargazing, got a little lost, stumbled upon the same glade I'd set down all my wood in by accident. It was a memorable clearing -- one of the trees had 'Bob loves Sally' etched into the trunk, and another one had a huge knot on it, so it was definitely the same place. Would have kept walking if I didn't notice something.

"All the firewood was gone..."

Author: dianacat777
Date: Aug 17th
***

By word of the past

(Ed. Note. The following was copied directly from a collection of documents taken from King Roo's library. The original was in poor condition but I believe this is a correct rendering. J.)

Thirteen day of Hiding, Y4 Dear Diary,

His name I dare not write or say.
He came to us in a dream and left us in a nightmare.
He took Robyn,
And left us only with his memory.
Perhaps I'm going insane.
When will the night end
And will he come again
To whisk me to his domain?
I'm afraid, need I admit I am afraid?
I am afraid.

Signed,
-removed by request-

***

Approx. 9:48p.m.

By word of a gambler

"I admit it had been a long day." The Lutari raises a claw to rest by the side of his face and beneath his chin. He looks across the table with a sly smile. In his other hand a pair of dice dance around each other, a blue and a white. "But the dice were in my favour, but then again, they always are."

He leans forward, and his voice is but a whisper. "I was taking a walk, you see? A walk toward that Merry-Go-Round, you know the one?"

His paw closes around the dice.

"Well, for some reason or another he always turns that cheerful music on a notch too loud. Perhaps he is trying to attract customers to the night ride. He never has many at night, you see? And I was going to go tell him to turn the child's ride off if he wasn't going to get any customers. It was distracting and I was, perhaps, getting a little irritated."

He lets the blue die tumble from his closed paw, and it falls in seemingly slow motion -- hitting the table with a deep echoing clatter.

"But when I was only about halfway there, I was practically knocked to the ground by this galloping Tonu. She was holding something, you see? And clutching at her arm as if in pain. All of a sudden, as I'm sitting here, stupefied as the Neopet runs past, a wind comes up. As if a chill is coming from the west. I get nervous, stand up, decide to head back you see?"

He pauses.

"And there in front of me is a shadow on the path. It's looking at me with such red eyes, they glowed. He smiled then, you see, a large grin, white teeth and such. But was really got me was this, he had fangs. Reminded me of some crazy Lupe or something. I had never seen anything like it."

Another pause.

"The next thing I know, I'm on the ground, ten paces from the path. The shadow's gone."

He opens his paw and lets the second die drop from his paw.

***

By word of Brightvale Records

Sir Reabon received a request on the twenty-third day of Gathering by the King of Roo Island. To this day the exact request retails have been lost, but with the assistance of a Roo Island investigation team it had become known with some amount of certainty that it took the silversmith approximately seven attempts before the King was satisfied with the work.

It has also become known that in no way did the King contribute to Sir Reabon's death.

However, this does not rule out the indisputable fact that the silversmith's death was not in any way, shape, or form an accident.

-Lenniard, Nicholi A., Historic Neopians, places, and times. (Brightvale Publisher, Y6), v. 3 p. 35.

***

By word of two amateur astronomers

The Scorchio passes with only a short word of greeting to the pair of stargazers, and though they mention the fact that he and his younger companion ought not proceed far into the forest they continue forward, a large tent and pair of blankets clutched beneath one arm.

The Scorchio is grumbling; however, the young Wocky simply skips merrily after him, a doll swinging from her hand. It's all just an adventure to her, or at least that is how it seems. The pair watch them retreat into the shadows when a gust of cool air begins to pick up and throw their loose possessions about. They head home, complaining about the sudden turn of the weather.

***

Taken from list of Mythology and Legend Qualities of Vampires:
Abnormal strength
Abnormal speed
A weakness to light
A weakness to Faerie Water
A weakness to garlic
A necessity of blood to survive
The ability to appear in more places than one

***

By word of the Ixi himself

"At first I figured someone was messing with me, or had moved it themselves. Maybe another gatherer of firewood had found my pile and just taken it. But by this time I was pretty deep into the part of the forest most didn't dare venture into, not at night.

"I couldn't have been more than a five-minute walk from... his estate.

"That's when it started getting cold. I hadn't noticed it before, maybe it was because I was moving but all of the sudden, all I could think about was that the temperature had dropped oddly low for summer.

"Right after this thought, I felt a sharp pain against the back of my head and then nothing..."

Author: the_final_truth
Date: Aug 17th
***

Approx. 10:02 p.m.

By word of a sleepless local

"I work the early shift at the docks, see?" the Xweetok informs me. "So normally I go to bed quite early and sleep like a log. For whatever reason, though, on that night I just couldn't get comfortable. Eventually I went downstairs to the kitchen, thinking a glass of water might help. That's when I saw it.

"My kitchen looks out onto the street. As I stood there drinking, a Tonu ran down from the direction of the Merry-Go-Round. She was clearly panicked and was holding her arm. I thought I caught a glimpse of something silver, but it could have just been a trick of the light, I suppose.

"Anyway, about halfway down the street, she paused, and looked back toward the direction she'd come from as if she were looking for something. After a couple of seconds, she darted to the nearest door and started banging on it. Of course, it was Mrs. Grouse's, and she's deaf as a post."

Ed. note: I attempted to corroborate this story with the aforementioned Mrs. Grouse, but was unable to gain any more constructive testimony than "What?!" I believe this section of evidence is nevertheless worthy of inclusion, due to the nature of what followed.

"The Tonu was shouting a lot of things," the Xweetok continues. "But I distinctly remember, she said 'He's after me.' I imagine if she'd have stayed, someone else on the street would have opened their door, but a wind picked up that seemed to catch her attention, and she ran off in the direction of the palace."

***

Ed. note: At this point I think it relevant to include the following passage. The book itself is based on hearsay and little direct evidence, but this passage in particular may help explain the situation in part.

"Vampires are notoriously hard to get rid of, and records of successful vampire hunts are few and far between. Therefore, much of vampire lore has been spread by word of mouth, and as a result polluted through the ages. Indeed, the weaknesses and strengths of vampires vary between cultures and time periods. It was believed, two hundred years ago, that silver was the key to destroying a vampire. For whatever reason, this myth has fallen out of fashion, but there are persistent rumours that a successful vampire hunt in Brightvale some two hundred years ago may have used an artefact of silver.

"Whatever method one chooses to combat a vampire, it is certain you must be quick. The creatures are so agile and powerful that those who fail on their first attempt will likely not get a second. Only two options remain to the victim then. One can either submit to the vampire and hope for mercy, or run. At the time of writing, neither method has shown considerable success."

- Hans von Fielding, The Undead: Hidden Truth (Brightvale Books, Y6), p. 23.

***

By word of a hunter

"I was heading home for the night," a Gnorbu tells me. "I normally get a good catch in the woods, but that night something had spooked the local wildlife. There wasn't anything to catch for miles. That's when I came across them in the clearing. A Scorchio and a Wocky, setting up camp.

"The Scorchio was making a meal of the tent, so I stayed for a few moments to help them out. I tried to convince them that they were staying too far into the woods and too close to... his place, but they wouldn't have it. The little Wocky kept saying she wanted an adventure. If I'd known what was going to happen to them... well, of course I would have stayed, or forced them to come home with me. But I didn't think, I just... didn't think."

Ed. Note: At this point the witness found it too difficult to continue with his testimony. Out of respect, I ended the interview there.

***

By word of a hermit, residing in a cave near the Count's estate

"Aye, I saw the one you mean," the old Ruki testifies. "An Ixi, just past ten at night. He was being dragged from the woods toward the Count's place. It was a strange fellow doing the dragging. Looked as if he had some kind of hump on his back..."

Author: herdygerdy
Date: Aug 18th
"...except it was kind of pointed at the edges. No, not a hump... more like some kind of cape, maybe."

***

Approx: 10:15 pm

By word of the Ixi himself

"I woke up with a splitting headache.

"What happened at this point was really foggy. Looking back, I get the impression that I was hypnotised or something, but at the time, I felt like I was half-awake. Sort of like sleepwalking. I could hear everything, but I didn't really comprehend it.

"I remember the eyes. They seemed to go on forever; I was staring into two bottomless crimson pools. I couldn't look away. I couldn't even think.

"There was a paw on my shoulder then, my ribs. Appraising, almost. The paw was cold. I was cold, too.

"Only in retrospect do I understand what that horrible voice said. At that point, I could hear, but nothing made sense. It was just those two eyes. Nothing else existed.

"'Well, well, aren't you a skinny one?' That voice was a hiss and an echo. I'd never heard anything like it before.

"The paw patted me some more, and then the thing sighed. And chuckled.

"'This won't do... but it's not like there's any fun anyway in just knocking out a stray like you. Why don't we make this... a game? You're not getting off the hook, oh no, but why don't you be a good Ixi and bring back some friends for me?'

"There's a gap in my memory here, but the next thing I knew, I was running through the woods without any idea why..."

***

By word of a historian

...In Y3, there was a most interesting -- and troubling -- case on the Island. A young Tonu girl showed up at the door of a civilian's house, sobbing and begging somebody to help one morning. The worried Neopet brought her to a local hospital, but the Tonu is said to have resisted all attempts to help her, wailing that her sister was the one who needed it.

It was impossible to divine what had really happened, as the only words anyone could get out of the Tonu pertaining to the incident were ramblings about 'the eyes', 'the teeth', how she 'didn't want to go back there', or her sister (to this date, nobody can find proof of whether this sister actually existed. No family of this Tonu was ever successfully found and contacted). Weather records note the night before her sudden appearance as being exceptionally cold. The case was closed in early Y4, on the grounds of her being sick with hypothermia and hallucinating the majority of events.

-Cloudfoot, Artemis J., Roo Island; A History. (Roo Island Publisher, Y7), p. 97.

***

By word of Brightvale Records

Sir Reabon was a knight as well as a silversmith. Accounts from this time period are few and far between, but it's been said that Reabon was a Blumaroo of legendary strength, who crafted all his weapons from silver. Some speculate that he also employed the enchantments of a faerie, because a few epics and odes to his glory note that his blades and battle-axes glowed or left trails of light when swung. Of course, it's entirely possible that this was just hyperbole on the poets' behalves.

Sir Reabon's death was never confirmed, but it is known that from his final assignment on Roo Island, he took a party of Brightvale's finest knights on King Roo's request, and that not one ever returned.

-Lenniard, Nicholi A., Historic Neopians, places, and times. (Brightvale Publisher, Y6), v. 3 p. 36.

***

Approx: 10:21 pm

By word of a passing Draik

A shadow passes over the bright full moon for an instant -- a Draik flies over Roo Island, cruising on powerful wings as he heads home towards his native Meridell. The updrafts carry him over the thick woods towards the southern part of King Roo's domain, but what reason has he to worry? He is a pet of the sky, able to escape the tragedy that struck that night.

For an instant, he looks down. Sharp eyes pick out an unusual sight on the island -- a Scorchio and a small Wocky are clambering into a tent, even if the latter appears to be doing so somewhat unwillingly. A small campfire has been banked, but smoke still drifts languidly toward the stars.

Moments after they had passed out of his line of sight, there was a loud, echoing crash...

Author: dianacat777
Date: Aug 18th
...followed by an earsplitting scream. After a moment's indecision he loops around in the sky and goes to investigate.

He lands with a dull thud on the hard forest ground where he had seen the Scorchio and Wocky, but it seems he is much too late.

All that remains of their campsite is a pile of scorched tent and a smouldering Usuki doll.

***

By word of a fellow thief

"I first met [the Tonu] a year ago. None of us know much about her before that -- she didn't like to talk about her past at all -- but I think she used to have a sister. I think that sister's the reason she joined our... well, our group. None of us really minded not knowing much about her, though; she was a good thief.

"A few months after she came -- after she'd earned our trust and even become something of a leader to us -- she started talking about something she was looking for. Something silver, magical, and very, very important. Well, silver and magical, that's what mattered to us -- must be valuable, right? So we decided to help her look.

"The few days before we managed to find it, she didn't seem herself. She started talking about how cold it was getting, muttering things about how it was exactly the same as before -- before what, I have no idea. But she put even more effort into finding this thing she was looking for and kept pushing us to do the same. Her nagging got annoying pretty fast, but we put up with it because of the money.

"Well, right after we found it she took it and disappeared."

***

By word of an old doctor

"Yes, I know the Tonu. I was there when they brought her in -- all upset and screaming about something that had hurt her sister. They said she hallucinated it.

"I'm not so sure about that. That night, you see, she had a... well, a stone. It was a fascinating object -- pure silver, yet somehow... something else. I'd never seen anything like it.

"I took it," he says simply, and in his voice there is not guilt but bitterness. "But don't worry, it's gone now -- pickpockets got to it. Can't blame them really, though, can I now?

"However, in a way it was -- perhaps -- a good riddance. There was something very unnatural about it. When I held it, it made me... remember things. Only that's not quite the word. It made me feel as if... as if I was in the past. I would become quite convinced I was reliving old memories -- and not good memories.

"Quickly, of course, I learned not to touch it directly, but I kept it -- for study. Surely, I thought, it must have some purpose besides making the owner half-crazy.

"Well, apparently it didn't. I couldn't find one, at least. And it's gone now -- perhaps we'll never know."

***

(Ed. Note: During the course of my investigation, I was approached by an old woman who gave me a single worn piece of paper. She wouldn't oblige me with an interview but claimed that the paper was all that was left of her grandfather's diary. She believed it would be of use to me -- if I could decipher the faded writing.

The following is my closest rendering.)

By word of a diary

[the date is illegible]

We leave at first light -- which only makes sense, considering our task. We go to kill him -- or it, whichever is more appropriate -- on the order of the King himself. Reabon chose me with seven others, and explained to us exactly [what we were getting in to].

We are all very aware of the danger. We know we could be faced with a fate even worse than death, and that is what frightens me most of all. Death would be nothing compared to becoming... [here some words are illegible] ...like him.

Reabon believes we have a decent chance -- he speaks of some kind of secret weapon -- but I have accepted that these may be the last words I write. Know that we go bravely.

***

Approx. 10:27 p.m.

By word of the Ixi himself

"I kept running until I ran out of breath. That's when it occurred to me that I didn't know what I was doing -- what had that thing been, anyway? What had he asked me for? I thought of firewood but wasn't sure why. Was I supposed to be getting him firewood?

"The one thing I knew, as I stood there panting for breath, was that I was afraid. That man, monster, whatever it had been... I had to get away from him. Stay away from him.

"Then I realised I had to win his game. Sure, it seemed a completely random thought, and I had no idea what it meant, but somehow I knew that it was key to my continued... health. I shuddered, then began to walk -- more slowly this time -- through the forest, looking for... something. Anything.

"I found a Tonu. She was sprinting through the woods and nearly ran me over -- so I guess it was more like she found me. There was something silver in her hand, but when she saw me looking at it she shoved it into a pocket somewhere and demanded to know what I was doing in the forest.

"Well, I could have asked her the same thing, couldn't I? But I didn't. I knew what I had to say, and I said it.

"'I'm going to the Count, too,' I told her, even though I hadn't been before. Hadn't I actually been trying to get away from him? But I was certain it was the right thing to say. 'Maybe we can help each other.'

"She seemed startled that I knew where she was going, but somehow she didn't argue. She seemed almost... distracted -- then again, I wasn't exactly in my right mind either -- but she agreed that she needed all the help she could get.

"So we started toward the Count's estate..."

Author: 4_ever_soccer
Date: Aug 19th
"It was on the way to his estate that we came across two more Neopets. Well, I guess that they really came across us, because they ran into us. I mean, they literally ran into us.

"The older one, a male Scorchio, told us that he was coming for us, that we'd better leave the woods fast if we wanted to live to see daylight.

"I knew that he was talking about the Count right away somehow -- I guess that it was intuition or something -- and I told him that the Tonu and I were actually going to the Count, that it was even better if he was coming to us.

"The Scorchio questioned my sanity, saying that it was dangerous to go anywhere near him -- he didn't want to say the Count's name for some reason -- and pointing out that the Tonu I mentioned wasn't anywhere in sight. He thought that I imagined running into her, but I knew that I hadn't. I told him that she must've run off or something, and that I had to find her right away.

"So, I ran off in the direction she had gone in -- no offence to her, but she was a pretty heavy gal, and she had left footprints in the dirt -- thinking -- no, knowing -- that I had to find the Count before her if I wanted to win the Count's game.

"I heard the Scorchio shouting that I was being irrational, but I was so obsessed with winning the Count's game at that point that I ignored him and kept running. I think I heard him and the Wocky coming after me, too, but I'm not sure. Like I said, I was pretty much obsessed with the whole 'winning the Count's game' thing."

***

Ed. Note: The Ixi stated that he wasn't certain that the Scorchio and the Wocky had followed him. Therefore, I had to verify this event myself. Fortunately, I was able to find a witness -- a restless Shoyru that had believed that some exercise (flying) would help him sleep -- that confirmed that the Scorchio and the Wocky had, in fact, followed the Ixi.

The following entry is the restless Shoyru's account of what transpired:

Approx. 10:44 p.m.

By word of the restless Shoyru

"I mean, I thought that it was kind of weird seeing four Neopets [the Tonu, the Ixi, the Scorchio, and the Wocky] running around in the woods so late at night, but I thought that, hey, maybe they can't sleep either and thought that some exercise would help them fall asleep, too.

"But I still thought that it was kind of weird, because everyone knows that going into the woods this time of day was, well, pretty much a death sentence. I assumed that they were tourists or something and didn't know any better, so I decided that I'd warn them before, well, you know.

"Anyway, I flew down low enough that they could hear me, but not so low that I'd be in trouble if [Count von Roo] suddenly showed up out of nowhere. You know, vampires do that kind of freaky stuff all of the time. I mean, I haven't personally seen it myself, but my brother has a friend who has a cousin who has a neighbour who -- oh, right, sorry. So, back to what happened." The Shoyru pauses for a while.

"Oh, yeah. I tried explaining to the Neopets why they should get out of there [the woods] while they still could, but all of them ignored me. So, I flew off, thinking that they'd deserve it if [von Roo] got them. Of course, I didn't really mean that. I was pretty annoyed at the time.

"Anyway, like, a minute or two after I flew off, I heard screaming. I was pretty sure that [von Roo] had gotten them. Of course, I wanted to fly down and help them, but I didn't. I mean, would you have? So, I decided to do the next best thing: fly off to get help."

***

Ed. Note: The Shoyru stated that he was only fairly certain that Count voo Roo had 'gotten' the Ixi, the Tonu, the Scorchio, and the Wocky. However, I was able to conclude that von Roo had, in fact, made an appearance before the four Neopets -- amongst other things.

The following entries are what led to this conclusion:

Approx. 10:59 p.m.

By word of the hermit residing in a cave near the Count's estate

"Aye, I saw [Count von Roo] leave his estate and head into the woods, all right. Methinks it was a couple of minutes after he headed into the woods that I started hearing screaming. It sounded horrible -- as if someone was being tortured in the most terrible way..."

Author: lil_miss_sunshine807
Date: Aug 19th
"...but I knew I couldn't do anything, didn't I, so I didn't try to stop him. I never try to stop him."

***

By word of the Ixi himself

"He appeared in front of us. Appeared, materialised, popped out of thin air -- you get the idea. Was suddenly there, in all his evil brilliance.

"The Wocky screamed. She and the Scorchio were behind me, but it took me a moment to remember who they were. I felt as if I was waking from some sort of trance -- shocked out of it by her scream, maybe. I wasn't entirely sure how I had gotten here -- I remembered gathering firewood, getting knocked out, and waking to coldness and fear. Now here I was.

"Then he laughed. It was a terrible thing, and suddenly it wasn't difficult at all to understand the way he could chill the air.

"I was aware of the Wocky's sobs behind me and the Scorchio's futile, panicky attempts to console her, but I didn't care. Not one bit. I had to get away, no matter what it took, no matter who I had to leave behind. I wish I could say it was the vampire's magic that caused that selfishness.

"But selfish or not, it was too late. I started to back away, but then he was behind me -- I felt him even before I could turn to face him. When I did turn, I was staring right into his colourless face.

"Icy hands clamped down on my shoulders, but I couldn't have moved anyway. All I could see were his eyes. Those red, depthless eyes. 'Welcome back, my little friend,' he whispered. 'It seems you've had a rather successful hunt.'

"'Did I... did I win?' I stammered.

"He smiled. It was a cruel, too-big grin that showed his terrible fangs; the fangs that told me I had lost -- had always been destined to lose. 'You played well,' he said, 'but I'm afraid it wasn't quite enough. I will, however, grant you a quick death. For your effort.'

"And that would have been the end of me if she hadn't come back. The Tonu.

"She yelled something, and all I saw was a flash of silver over the vampire's shoulder before he flung me aside and leapt at her, unleashing a battle cry from those cold, dead lips that was even more terrifying than his laugh."

***

By word of the hermit

The old Ruki appears to be thinking hard over something, and for a long moment he sits in silence. "I've lived here a long time," he says finally, with an air of resignation. His expression is grim. "Aye, long enough to have seen his place change." He motions in the direction of the Count's estate. "You seem to be taking this story of yours right seriously. I suppose I ought to tell you everything." He sighs.

"I take you as a thorough type. By now you'll have heard the name Reabon, for sure.

"Well, my guess is that I was the last to ever see him, that Reabon -- to see him how he was before, I mean, o' course. I saw him leave the castle with his horde of knights, so confident in that quest o' his. He had a very special weapon, see, a weapon I meself taught him to forge -- maybe I shouldn't have, but I did. He would have gone either way, after all. He was famous for glassblowin' and workin' with silver, but that wasn't enough -- oh no. He wanted to be remembered as a hunter.

"I taught him to forge the bloodstone -- Sanguis Lapis, that's its proper name -- and forge it he did -- right well, too. When he finished, it was stronger than I would've ever dreamed, and I admit -- it scared me. I told him to destroy it, right then and there, begged him even -- didn't he remember anything I'd told him? The warnings? The consequences? Well, maybe it was too late by then. Maybe the bloodstone had already begun to take his mind.

"Reabon and his knights were seen for the last time when they rode away from the castle that morning -- so says the story." He pauses. "And aye, it's true that none of the knights ever returned, but I believe Reabon completed the King's quest." Another pause, then, "I imagine he slayed that vampire right easily, in fact, although I doubt the creature went without a tussle. I'd be willing to bet that that bloodsucker got at least one good hit in before it was all over.

"I'd also bet, see, that Reabon lost the battle against himself. Aye, the bloodstone kept its hold on him for a long time after that fight, mark me words -- for a long time after Reabon had been bitten..."

Author: 4_ever_soccer
Date: Aug 20th
Ed. Note: After this point in my conversation with the Ruki, he refused to answer any more of my questions. He wasn't at all rude or confrontational; he just started to talk about the weather and the local flora, ignoring everything I asked. I began to think that living alone for so long had affected his sanity, and I was ready to write him off as a non-credible source. After all, he claimed to have personally known Sir Reabon, when it is a well-documented fact that Reabon's journey to Roo Island happened well over one hundred years ago. I excused myself and walked back to the inn where I was staying.

But for some reason, my mind kept coming back to the Ruki. During all of the next day's interviews (including an extremely nonproductive follow-up with Mrs. Grouse), I couldn't get thoughts of him out of my head. At last, I decided to pay him another visit.

When I arrived at his cave after a long hike, I found it completely empty. Even the extremely crude furnishings that had been there before were gone. A few Spyder webs and several large rocks were all that the cave held. I waited in the cave for several hours, but the Ruki did not return. I went back to the cave the following morning, but there was still no sign of him. I searched the surrounding area of the woods, but did not succeed in locating even a trace of the hermit.

I decided to dismiss the testimony he gave. I thought that perhaps he had been a local who had heard of my investigation and decided to play a cruel prank. Or a lunatic of some kind. I considered that my meeting with him could have been a dream, or even some kind of hallucination. Before I hiked back to town, though, I took one more look through the cave. And that's when I found the bloodstone.

It was near the back of the cave, resting on a flat rock. I wasn't sure how I had missed seeing it before. It matched perfectly with the descriptions of the bloodstone that I had heard. It was the size of a large pebble, irregularly shaped and perfectly smooth. It had the distinctive shine of pure silver to it, but when I tilted my head, I would sometimes catch a glimpse of deep crimson.

Having heard such ominous tales about it, I did not attempt to pick it up. I even feared to handle it through a leaf or touch it with a branch. After examining it for several minutes, I left the cave. I never went back. I know that this is not proper behavior for an investigator. To be completely thorough and follow every lead, I should have returned. I should have retrieved the stone and scientifically tested it, or at least given it to an expert on enchanted objects for study. I should have searched for the Ruki throughout the entire island, or at the very least asked other inhabitants about him. But I did none of these things.

These are my failings, and I apologise for them. I debated whether to include any of this matter in my findings. It would have been easy to omit my interview with the hermit and stick to the better-defined, more reliable facts. But in the end, I decided to leave it up to you, the reader. It certainly is a stretch to consider that a two-century-old Ruki helped a silverworking knight to forge a magical stone, and that the knight then defeated a vampire before becoming one himself. But is it impossible?

Either way, the main body of this narrative is not affected. The four pets crossed paths with a vampire Blumaroo, and three of them returned from the encounter. That much is certain. Beyond that, everything is theory. Was the Blumaroo the original von Roo, or Sir Reabon, who had gone mad from the bloodstone and taken the Count's place? I leave that up to you to decide.

I apologise for the length of this interjection. I shall now return to the story.

-J.

***

By word of the Ixi himself

"Now, I'm not too sure about this next part either. Remember, I was still partially under that vampire's hypnotism or spell or whatever it was. But I think that the Tonu did something to the vampire with the silver thing. I think she held it in front of her and pressed it into the monster's face.

"They were rolling around on the ground, and it was hard to see anything. But I could hear things. The Blumaroo was making this terrible screeching noise. It was like nothing I'd ever heard. It was like... if a whistling kettle was evil, you know? That's a stupid example, sorry.

"But I knew he was hurt somehow. He was still fighting, though. He was lashing out at that Tonu, trying to bite her. She was just barely holding him off. He might have even bitten her for all I know. And that's when I heard another noise. The little Wocky started screaming again.

"I looked away from the fight and my instinct to run kicked back in. The Scorchio was already standing. He'd grabbed the Wocky's paw and just took off. I glanced back at the battle behind me, and it looked like von Roo was sort of... crumbling, if that makes any sense. But then I came to my senses and I started to run too.

"Before we even got out of the clearing, though, the little Wocky tripped and fell. I guess the Scorchio didn't notice, because he just kept going. I was terrified, obviously, and I knew that if I stopped running for even a second, I might not make it out at all. But then I made up my mind. I ran over to the Wocky, swept her up in my arms, and kept running. Make sure you write that. That I saved the Wocky. Write that down. I accidentally got her and her cousin swept up in this whole thing, and nearly got them killed just because they followed me. And I don't know what the Tonu's story was, but I never saw her again, so I can only assume... and that was probably because of me too. But just -- just be sure to write that I picked up the Wocky."

***

Approx. 11:30 p.m.

By word of the restless Shoyru

"I told you that I went to get help, right? Well, when I reached Roo Castle, two of the guards said they were waiting on an Ixi woodcutter who matched my description. They were pretty worried about him. And even more worried when I mentioned that there was a kid back there too. They told me that it was standard policy not to enter the Count's forest after dark, but that they'd try to round up some volunteers.

"I waited outside the castle gates a few minutes, and then out came at least thirty armed guards. I guess that Ixi must have had quite a few friends in the castle. They asked me to lead them to where I saw the four pets, so I did.

"To get there, we had to march straight through the centre of town. The noise woke pretty much everybody up."

***

By word of a gambler

"All those guards were stomping through the streets. Got me out of bed instantly. I had no idea what was going on. Once the word started to spread among the townsfolk, some of us joined up with them."

***

By word of an amateur astronomer

"I got up when I heard the crowd, just like everybody else. Nobody had ever done something like this before. I mean, going after the Count was just too dangerous. I don't really know what was different that night. Maybe everyone thought there was safety in numbers. Or maybe they got worked up because a kid was in danger. Or maybe they'd just finally gotten fed up with that no-good vampire. Who knows? I don't really know myself why I joined up with them."

***

By word of a sleepless local

"It was crazy. All of us, just heading to the forest. Most of us didn't have any weapons, lots of us were still in our nightgowns. There was just this... this spirit of unity in all of us. We didn't know how exactly we would help, but we were going anyway. We wanted to save these fellows from von Roo."

***

By word of the restless Shoyru

"Anyway, by the time we got to the edge of the forest, there were at least a hundred of us. Probably more. But when we got to the edge of the trees, we stopped. We didn't really have any plan. It's not like we could just march into the woods and demand that von Roo let them go. None of us knew exactly how strong he was; for all we knew, he could kill us all.

"But fortunately for us, we didn't have to go anywhere."

***

Approx. 11:50 p.m.

By word of the restless Shoyru, several Roo Island guards, two amateur astronomers, a bystander, a shopkeeper, a sleepless local, an evening shift guard, an urchin, an innkeeper, a passing scholar, a gambler, a hunter, and a passing Draik

A mob stands at the threshold of a dark forest. A few flickering torches illuminate them. The guards at the front hesitantly hold their hands on the hilts of their swords. There is a nervous, uncertain atmosphere.

Suddenly, a crashing sound comes from the woods, quickly growing nearer. Heartbeats quicken and a few fearful gasps are heard. The swords are rapidly drawn. The crowd seems to be preparing to throw itself into the trees.

A figure emerges from the forest. It is not the Count, but rather a Scorchio. He is soon followed by an Ixi carrying a young Wocky.

There is initially confusion and fear. The escaped victims are panicked and shell-shocked. The Scorchio is terrified when he realises his cousin is not with him, then relieved when he sees the Ixi holding her. A few castle guards scout the forest and confirm that the pets are not being chased by the Count. The mood turns almost celebratory.

The restless Shoyru reminds the crowd that there were four pets. The Tonu is still missing. Voices grow hushed.

The Ixi steps forward and recounts what he can remember of the battle. The guards sadly shake their heads. If the Tonu was in hand-to-hand combat with the beast, one guard says, it's almost impossible to think that she would survive. He tells the assembled pets that there is no use going after her now.

But despite this loss, there have still been three lives spared this day. The three are escorted back into the town. Celebrations last well into the morning, at tables brightly illuminated by torches, and nearly free from shadows.

***

By word of the Ixi himself

"The next day, after the adrenaline had worn off, folks started to look at what happened, trying to figure it out. I worked through my memories, but everything was so fuzzy and twisted-like that I didn't know how much of it was real. Once it was safely light, I led some of them into the woods, back to where the Count had appeared. I could tell it was the right place 'cause of all the footprints and scuffed-up ground. They didn't find very much there, though. Certainly not that silver stone. Just a cape and a pile of dust.

"Everybody figured that the Tonu got eaten by the Count, but the Count lost his cape in the fight. Nobody knew what the dust was, but we all thought it was probably just what happened to victims once their blood had been drained. That seemed logical enough to me. King Roo put up a little plaque in that spot."

***

By word of a memorial

An unnamed Tonu perished here,
after giving her life in order to save three others.
Her courage and selflessness are commendable.
We thank her.

***

By word of the Ixi himself

"There were lots of interviews and reporters in the next few days. By then, the Scorchio and the Wocky had already left, gone back home. I haven't talked to either of them since that night.

"But eventually, all the fuss died down. Life went back to normal. I gave up my job, by the way. Didn't want to be anywhere near that forest. Can you blame me? Now I work at a bakery. Nobody even recognises me any more, which is just fine with me.

"Actually, you're the first to talk to me about that night in nearly a year. Why are you so curious about it anyway?"

***

By word of rumours

Since the 7th day of Hiding, year 12, inhabitants of Roo Island continue to be taken from time to time by the Count. And, as always, there are sightings of the vampire on a fairly regular basis. Most of these are dismissed as the result of an overactive imagination or as a cry for attention, but some pets would swear on their lives that they saw a mysterious, shadowy figure creep through the woods and then disappear.

But there is something different about these sightings. Instead of a tall, thin figure with a long tail, some of these witness claim they saw a much larger creature. Some say it has a horn.

***

Ed. Note: That ends my account of the events of the 7th day of Hiding, year 12. My research will hopefully provide the reader with a more complete understanding of the events than was given by newspapers at the time. Make of this information what you will. As I have previously written, these accounts are not entirely reliable, and thus should not be taken as absolute fact. Many of the theories I put forward are just that: theories. In particular, the statements about Sir Reabon are included mainly for the purpose of novelty, and are not to be taken too seriously. I hope you have found these words to be informative and helpful.

I dedicate this work to my sister.

-J.

***

The author stood and blew on the parchment to dry its ink. She then slid it into a folder, which was already stuffed with newspaper clippings and pages torn from books. She tied the folder shut with a length of twine and slid it into a large envelope, onto which she affixed several stamps. She neatly wrote on the front: "To the Roo Island Royal Archives."

She put the parcel on her bed and looked at it for a moment. She sighed. She picked up a scrap of paper from her desk. It was one which she had decided not to include in the folder.

***

By word of a reporter

A sickly Tonu was recovered today by a kindly Roo Island doctor. He says that she has suffered a trauma brought on by cold. She did not speak sense when recovered, merely babbling gibberish. Witnesses said that at one point, she began speaking coherently. She is reported as saying, "You have to find her. My sister. She went to his castle and took his jewel. Now he's mad. She gave it to me, but he's got her trapped. You have to save her!" After this, she returned to her former state.

The doctor says that she is recovering well, but is reluctant to speak about her past. All she will say is that her name is Jasmine.

***

The author put the newspaper clipping away and once again looked at the folder. "Why did you have to steal that stone, sister?" she whispered. "Why didn't you try to find me once you escaped his castle? And why couldn't you have left him alone? Why did you have to go back and kill him? Why did you have to..." She paused for a moment, fighting back tears. "Why did you have to become him?"

She stood and picked up the envelope. She walked over to her fireplace. She lit a fire. She threw the envelope in. As the flames lapped greedily at the paper, the fire painted dancing shadows on the walls of the author's room. Once the folder had been reduced entirely to ashes, the Tonu sat back down at her desk.

She remained motionless for hours. At last, she pulled out a blank sheet of paper and picked up her quill. She began to write:

"The following compilation was pieced together by yours truly based on the word of all traceable witnesses of the events of the 7th day of Hiding, year 12. Together, it establishes the framework of an extraordinary story that began on an ordinary evening, as its characters converged in the setting of Roo Island..."

The End

Author: rosabellk
Date: Aug 20th



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