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||You are on Week 483
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 Eighty Three Ends Friday, November 5
Golden sunlight shone through the front window, casting a shadow of the letters half-glued to the front window: "Morc and Aquia, Menace Hunters." I stepped through the door (propped open by a stack of old-looking books) and started to look around.
The shop's walls were lined with bookshelves, tall affairs with glass sides and mirrored backs that made the scant collection seem more impressive. A Kau Print Desk stood in the middle of the floor, surrounded by a matching set of four chairs. A book was open on the table there, too.
"Can I help you?" the voice drifted out from behind a curtain. I turned to look, and the blue velvet parted, revealing a speckled Blumaroo.
"Morc?" I guessed.
"No, Aquia. Morc hasn't been in for... a while. Take a seat." She gestured toward one of the chairs. I settled into it and gave the room one more sweeping glance before she hopped into the seat opposite mine.
"So, my dear, what menace is plaguing you? Bullies? A swarm of Lightmites? Your neighbour's barking mutant Bearog? All of these things I can easily solve, for the right price." A half-grin spread over her face.
"Nothing like that," I assured her.
"Then what brings you here?" Her grin shifted subtly until she was giving me the most quizzical look I'd ever been given.
"This is going to take a bit of explaining..." I started, second-guessing my decision to look for help.
She gestured around the shop, drawing my attention to its emptiness. "I have all the time you need, sir."
"It started a few weeks ago," I launched into my tale. "At first it was just an odd feeling, almost like being watched, but, of course, no one was around! It got worse and worse until the feeling was constant... then it stopped. Next..."
She interrupted, "Are you sure no one was there? I can offer investigative services..."
I raised a paw to stop her. "I was told by a few very reliable sources that you and Morc are the greatest keepers of ancient lore in Maraqua."
"Oh." Aquia still looked puzzled, but her eyes lit up. "What do you need a scholar of ancient lore for?"
"After the feeling of being watched stopped, I felt like every time I turned around, the Monoceraptor or Dr. Sloth or some other villain would be there, staring me in the face. I felt like if I jumped high enough," and here she laughed, no doubt thinking about how she could jump that high, "gravity would just... stop working."
"How odd," she mused.
"Don't just think I'm crazy. I'm quite sane," I assured her, "and I know that Dr. Sloth has no reason to watch me and that if I jump, I'll come down again. And you see, this is what has me worried. Despite knowing all this, these feelings won't go away."
"You're probably better off seeking help from Kauvara," she suggested and started to get up.
"Wait." She settled back into her chair. "There's more."
"Every time it happens -- the villain and laws of nature thing -- within a few hours, something bad happens."
"I felt it right before the faeries all turned to stone. Ms. Aquia, I've somehow become a herald of catastrophe..."
Date: Nov 1st
"A herald of catastrophe?" she asked, a lopsided grin flitting across her speckled face. "Really now?
"Yes," I said, "and -- oh!" I think at that moment my face paled as I began to tremble. Her chair went flying across the room, hitting the wall as Aquia jumped to her feet and raced over to me. Holding my hand, she stroked it and murmured soothingly until I calmed down.
"Did you see something, dear?" she asked. I nodded. "What?" she prodded gently.
"Well... what is Morc?" I asked. She looked surprised, so I repeated my strange question.
"Morc is an orange Gelert," she told me. She gasped, a paw flying to her mouth. "Did you see Morc?"
"I -- I don't know. I saw some orange fur, and I think whomever it was is it Moltara." Looking into her worried face, I rushed to add, "Oh, I didn't sense too much danger. Not like with the faeries, at least."
"Did you see this?" she asked softly. "Did you see the faeries turning to stone?" When I nodded, the Blumaroo sighed and crossed the room.
I watched her browse the bookshelves in the room, muttering to herself as she tried to find whichever volume it was she was searching for. I shivered, feeling the presence of someone over my shoulder. When I looked I saw nothing. Turning back to Aquia, I realised I hadn't answered her question.
With a sigh I said, "Yes, Ms. Aquia. I did see the faeries turn to stone before it happened."
THUD! The dusty tome she held in her paw hit the floor, causing an echoing thud to resound and a small cloud of dust rise from the floor.
"Why didn't you tell anyone?" she demanded, hands on her hips and glaring at me darkly. "Why? We could have stopped this!"
"You can't -- you couldn't stop him." My voice was sad, and I felt close to crying.
"Him?" she demanding to know, stepping toward me. "Tell me. Tell me everything you saw..."
Date: Nov 1st
"I... I can't," I said.
"What do you mean, you can't?" Aquia demanded, bending down and leaning forward until we were an inch apart. I remained silent, beginning to count the freckles across the Blumaroo's nose. "You have to tell me or else --"
"I wish I could, Ms. Aquia," I interrupted, losing count of the freckles. The Blumaroo made a sound of impatience, straightening up and stepping backward in disgust. "You see, my... visions tend to be unclear, and it sometimes takes me days, even weeks, to remember some parts of them. I don't think I had a clear image of the villain -- but I sensed that he was male -- and even if I had one, I don't know how long it'll take me to remember it."
"That's convenient," Aquia finally said. I nodded in agreement.
Aquia went to retrieve the forgotten book from floor, lifting it up with a low grunt and brushing the dust off its worn leather cover to reveal the words 'Ancient Neopian Lore' written in gold calligraphy. She came and settled into the chair beside mine, opening the book and scanning the table of contents before flipping to what was supposed to be page 270. Instead, she found the shredded remains of the page still attached to the book's spine and a torn piece of scrap paper taped to page 272.
"What's it say?" I said, gesturing to the illegibly scrawled note.
"'Ripped out page 270/271 to take with me to Moltara. Didn't think you'd need it. Guess I was wrong. Hahaha. Morc'," Aquia read, crumpling it into a ball and tossing it in the general direction of the garbage can -- and missing -- in disgust. "I guess we're going to have to head down to Moltara and track him down."
Before I could reply, I saw a sudden flash of white light. I cried out, squeezing my eyes shut. But the light seemed to grow stronger, brighter.
"What's going on?" Aquia demanded, gripping my shoulders and shaking me.
"Vision, I think!" I cried, finally opening my eyes. The light had finally faded to reveal that I was no longer sitting in a chair in 'Morc and Aquia, Menace Hunters', but...
Date: Nov 2nd
...a bench in Cog's Togs.
Gears whirled around me excitedly, filling my head with noise. It wasn't torturous, though. That sound was nothing compared to the earache visions had a habit of causing.
"Welcome!" greeted the Shoyru shopkeeper. I could tell she was perplexed, but business is business.
"How did you do that?" Aquia asked, stumbling slightly as she stood on her tail. The Blumaroo decided that wasn't the best idea at the moment, and rested on her small paws.
"I have no idea," was my honest reply.
"May I help you?" Cog interjected, her face lit up in happiness. The tinkerer loved her job and was ecstatic no matter what occurred, as long as she was with her togs.
Momentary silence permeated the room as I fought the dizziness and malaise. It must have been a side effect of the transportation. "I don't think so," I answered her at last. Cog shrugged and walked away, surely to tinker again.
"Actually," Aquia called after her, "have you seen a Gelert recently?"
Cog's face lit up even more. "Yes! You must be Aquia. Just one moment."
I glanced at the Blumaroo beside me. "Do you think she's going to help us find him?"
Aquia hadn't the slightest idea. But Cog had just returned, and answered instead.
"Sorry, but I have no idea where that crazy fellow went. He just asked me to give you this." The Shoyru held out a torn piece of parchment, handling it with care. Aquia nearly fainted.
"That's just what we needed..."
Date: Nov 2nd
We both hurriedly looked at the piece of paper. However, many of the words were blurred from water. All we could make out were three words: "Magic...must...destroy..."
We stared at each, unable to comprehend this page that was held in our hands. Aquia frowned slightly and turned around.
"Excuse me. Are you sure he didn't give you anything else?" she called out to Cog.
Cog turned around and shook her head with an air of impatience. "I'm sure," she said firmly.
With that, Cog walked away, and Aquia and I were left with bewildered expressions on our faces.
Aquia sighed and turned around. I timidly asked, "Ummm... Ms. Aquia?"
She suddenly whipped me around and grabbed me by the shoulders. Startled, I tried to step back, but she held firm.
"Listen now," she said. "I have a plan to find Morc... but I'll need all the help I can get. Especially yours..."
Date: Nov 3rd
We snuck out of the doorway and into the city, where --strangely enough -- it was deserted.
I half-expected to see bunches of tumbleweeds come rolling down the street, but didn't. What had happened?
"Aquia," I said tentatively. "What, exactly, are we doing?"
"We're going to the heart of the magic itself," she said. "Igneot's Cavern."
"But isn't he a prophet?" I asked.
"Not necessarily. Plus, haven't you noticed that his cavern is filled with a great many fabulous treasures? Those are of great magic, and, I'm fairly sure, some of them are capable of 'destroying'."
We meandered over to the cavern, where Aquia knocked three times on the door. The cold, hard solidified magma of the door groaned and slid aside for us to enter.
I had never been to Igneot's Cavern, and I could only assume that Aquia had never either. Either way, she seemed sure that he would tell us how to find Morc, and I wasn't going to rain on her parade by telling her she was wrong.
We walked through a room -- an antechamber -- and prepared to talk to Igneot, to see if he would provide us with answers or send us off with another scrap of paper...
Date: Nov 3rd
The antechamber led into another room, a huge cavern carved out of what felt like the warm and pulsing heart of Moltara itself. Despite the heat radiating from the roughly hewn stone of the walls, a fire roared in the rocky fireplace, raising the temperature in the room to a nearly unbearable degree.
In the centre of the chamber, raising an arm in friendly greeting, stood Igneot himself. He leaned against a stone table, a table that held a most curious object: a replica volcano over which a small ball of molten rock spun in midair, apparently unsupported, apparently in defiance of gravity itself. As I watched it spin, I had to wonder if there was a link between its ability to float and my most recent encounters with gravity-defiance. Despite the great heat of the room, my body broke out in chills when Igneot spoke.
"I see you have a question for Igneot," he intoned in a jolly voice, not quite what I expected from a renowned prophet. "What is it you wish to ask?"
My mind was blank, struggling to compose a question worthy of the Gnorbu's time, when Aquia blurted out, "Do you have a message for us from Morc?"
I watched as the smile faded from Igneot's face. The flames in the room -- the fire, the candles, the burning ruff around the Gnorbu's neck -- all flared and spat in unison as he withdrew a piece of parchment from his robes. As he held it out to Aquia, it burst into flames and burnt pieces scattered to the floor in a smudgy shower.
"It would seem," Igneot said, his voice now devoid of its former good humour, "that the ashes have blown away like your chances."
Just then, I got that feeling again, that feeling of being watched by someone -- something -- of great and malevolent power. I spun around, hoping to finally catch the interloper in the act, but as every time before, there was no one there. The floating ball caught my eyes once more, and without conscious effort, my legs tensed, coiling like springs, readying themselves to jump, an urge I felt I could no longer control. Finally feeling like I could resist no longer, my mind lost in a blinding flash of light, I was just about to take the leap when Aquia caught me roughly by the arm.
"What did you see?" she demanded.
I snapped back to myself and was surprised to see the Blumaroo's face directly in front of my own.
"How did you get there?" I asked, trying to clear the confusion from my mind with a rough shake of my head.
"I have been here, staring you in the face for five minutes now. Where did you go? What did you see? Was it Morc?"
"I... I don't know. It was so blurry. There were the faeries, they had already turned to stone. But... one of them held something." I tried to remember and something came back to me in a flash as clear as anything I have ever seen in my life. "And Morc! Yes, he was there, and he was pointing to... yes, it was the pie! The stone pie that the faerie held. And he said... he said, 'Destroy the pie and destroy the magic.'" Looking at Aquia, I could see that the colour had drained from her face. "Does that mean something to you?"
"The stone pie? It... can't be. But, of course, the missing pages in 'Ancient Neopian Lore', if I remember them correctly... quick, ask Igneot about the pie. You still have a question to ask."
I turned to face the Gnorbu, his face now impassive and inscrutable. "Is the stone pie the key to the mystery of the faeries?" I chanced a sidelong glance at Aquia, who nodded her encouragement.
"Like the darkness this can be overcome," Igneot responded before turning and retreating to a hallway that led to an even deeper chamber.
"What does that mean?" I asked Aquia, afraid that my question had been wasted.
"It is just as I thought," she replied, her face lit up with satisfaction. "Hurry, let's get going."
"There's only one place in Moltara you go when you want information about a stone pie..."
Date: Nov 4th
The walk back from Igneot's to the main city of Moltara wasn't a terribly draining one, but the heat was beginning to feel as if the lava flowing through the place like a stream was congregating around my body. Still, it only seemed to get hotter as Aquia and I stepped into Molten Morsels.
The shop seemed deserted at first, the Bruce chef surprisingly absent. Aquia looked around anxiously, immediately trotting to the front of the store and peering over the counter.
"Hello? Hello!?" She scoffed, turning and looking around the shop quickly again. "Really, how could you leave a store unmanned in the middle of the day?" She brooded -- I was far too busy observing the note scrawled quickly on a small tablet of paper placed on the counter.
"Aquia... the owner isn't here, but look at this!" The paper was crumpled and dirty, two sets of handwriting staining the page. The first was unfamiliar, while the second definitely resembled that we'd seen in the tome at Morc and Aquia's shop. In the body of the note was a crude picture, a castle set upon a plot of dark clouds... Faerieland. An arrow pointed away and pointed at a sketch of a pie from a tiny island of cloud off to the side of the main land, a small structure resting on it, most likely a house. The handwriting that wasn't Morc's simply read "Top order, SP: Gelert, Orange." I couldn't decipher the second set of words.
Aquia bounded over, taking in the letter and gradually looking more and more puzzled. "This is Morc's art, no doubt... he was writing quickly, it's hard to tell what he wrote. I think it may be..."
Date: Nov 4th
Aquia squinted as she tried to see the squiggles on the paper, but finally gave up.
"I can't read it," she sighed, holding it up to the light.
"But 'SP' stands for stone pie, right?" I asked.
"Obviously," replied Aquia.
There was an awkward silence.
"Why would Morc want a stone pie, though?" I asked in an attempt to break the tension.
Aquia narrowed her eyes and turned to stare at me.
"You know..." she said. "That is a good question. Obviously the pie would have turned to stone with the faeries, right? The rose surely did. But if it was turned to stone, then why would Morc buy another one?"
"I think," I suggested, "that he was trying to switch the pies. I mean, in my vision, I saw him, and he was saying, 'Destroy the pie, and destroy the magic.' Maybe he's trying to switch the pies and break the spell!"
Aquia did a double-take.
"You mean he isn't working against the faeries?" she asked in shock.
"No!" I said excitedly. "He's been trying to break the curse all along!"
"We need to find him," insisted Aquia, pulling me toward the door. "Please, we need to find him!" she repeated.
I nodded and snatched the small scrap of paper from Aquia's hand.
"Let me try reading it," I said insisted, and squinted at the small characters written sloppily. "It says... 'Pie in... Pie in M.M... Pie in M.M.--Destroy.'"
M.M. stood for Molten Morsels, the very place we were.
"Aquia, if I read this correctly, there should be a pie here that Morc is trying to destroy," I said.
We searched around, but there was nothing.
Suddenly, Aquia shrieked. She had pulled open a cabinet door and peered inside, trying to find out what was there, to find a pair of eyes staring back at her.
She took a step back, causing me to trip.
As Aquia got up, she tentatively stepped forward and found herself face-to-face with an orange Gelert...
Date: Nov 5th
...or at least what had once been an orange Gelert. What tumbled forward from the cabinet was the statuesque form of a Gelert, vaguely tinted orange, now petrified, frozen forever in an expression of horrified surprise. Clutched to his chest he held a stone pie.
"Is that...?" I tried to ask.
"Yes," replied Aquia, wiping tears from the corners of her eyes. "That's Morc."
"Well, what now?"
"Well, this seems to be a map of some sort," the Blumaroo replied, her focus returning to the scrap of paper in her hand.
"Okay, a map of what looks like Faerieland, but what do those symbols mean?" I pointed at the undecipherable part of the message.
"That's an ancient faerie script, which I read fluently, of course, being an expert in ancient lore... and menace hunting."
Aquia leapt toward me, suddenly fuming and anxious, and waved the note in front of my face. "Yes, menace! What do you think we've been at all this time? Morc, my partner, is turned to stone. And this note, this map, the warning he left behind. He must have known what was going to happen to him, wrote out the warning..."
"Warning? You mean in the faerie script?" I started to retreat toward the exit. The heat of the food shop was beginning to make me nauseated and faint; I needed fresh air, to escape from the subterranean ovens of Moltara. "What does it say?"
"It says... well, it says that we need to get to Faerieland, to bring the stone pie. Don't you see? We can't destroy it until we reanimate it."
"How will we bring the pie? Isn't it... a part of him now?" I surveyed the Gelert squeamishly, not wanting to imagine severing the pie from his grasping arms.
"Well," the Blumaroo declared, "I guess we'll need to bring Morc, too."
Aquia's eyes looked shifty as she talked, looking everywhere around the room except into my own eyes. I knew she was hiding something. I groped behind me, searching for the exit, more desperate than ever to find my way out. As though reading my mind, the Blumaroo heaved the stone Gelert onto her back, grabbed my arm and began to lead me out the door and through the city, past the clanging metal and spuming steamworks, the whirring cogs and hissing gaslamps, the magma chambers, and looming obsidian shards, and finally to the sweet, fresh air of the Neopian surface world.
I breathed deeply, feeling my head clear immediately, and asked, "What now?"
Aquia pointed upward, directing my eyes to the floating clouds that support Faerieland. "Well, we go up. We know what to do when we get there."
"But how do we get up there? Neither of us can fly, and I don't see any ferries..."
"We don't need to fly," the Blumaroo said with a wink, "when we can jump."
I looked up again, marvelling at the distance to the clouds, and looked back at Aquia, my face no doubt a mask of scepticism.
"Neither you or I could..."
"No, not normally," she admitted with a smile. "But these are not normal times. You are not your normal self." From her cloak, the Blumaroo withdrew a familiar object: Igneot's trinket, the small volcano with floating magma ball she must have stolen from his cavern. "Just like before, stare at the ball as it spins. If the tome of 'Ancient Neopian Lore' is correct, if Morc is correct in assuming who you are, what you are, then this will work."
"I don't understa..." I attempted to protest, but the hypnotic effect of the ball was irresistible. Chills broke out on the back of my neck; I had that uncanny feeling of being watched but could not turn my head to look behind me. My limbs tensed and all of my strength seemed to centre in the muscles of my legs, readying myself to jump, to overcome the pull of gravity. A small kernel of doubt and fear attempted to intervene -- what if I jumped and really did never return? -- but the impulse to take the leap overwhelmed any better judgement. As I sprang into the air, headed for Faerieland, Aquia, still supporting Morc's form, grasped my arm and held fast.
We rose quickly, faster than I could have ever imagined, and the thrill of flight overcame my fear. As we shot toward and through the clouds, the smile fell from my face. Looking at Aquia, I asked, "How do I stop?"
"I'm afraid you don't."
"Well, according to... look! There they are!"
I followed the Blumaroo's gaze and saw that we were passing over the still and bucolic scene of the faeries at their picnic, each smiling face now solidly petrified, a frozen, stony silence cloaking the sight with a frightening, tomblike sense of finality. Everything about this place screamed out a warning. I turned to remark upon this fact, but Aquia released her grasp on my arm, and with Morc held tightly in her grip, they fell to the clouds below, turning to stone, a double statue of Blumaroo and Gelert in a heroic pose of rescue, before landing gently on the misty, cushioning ground.
I tried to cry out, but found myself rising higher yet, faster now without the added weight, surging toward the limits of the stratosphere, and as the air grew thinner, I passed out.
I awoke, lying on a sidewalk, cold and hard beneath my exhausted body. My muscles were shaky as I stood and looked around to get my bearings. I gasped when I realised where I was: in front of me stood a shabby shopfront, letters half-glued to the grimy window reading, "Morc and Aquia, Menace Hunters".
Had this all been but another vision? But when did it start? Was I truly a herald of catastrophe? What would become of me if I passed through the doorway -- was I doomed to make the jump that would never land? Would the faeries, Morc, and Aquia, be petrified forever? What would happen if I didn't take that leap?
I stepped toward the front window and peered inside. There stood Aquia as I had first met her, her large nose pressed into a thick and dusty tome. I knew what I must do.
I turned and walked away.
Immediately, I felt the chill, the uneasy feeling that someone was watching me, a feeling I ignored.
Date: Nov 5th
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