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||You are on Week 485
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 Five Ends Friday, November 19th
To any normal Neopian. the cavern at the base of Terror Mountain, conveniently known as Terror Cavern, was a place where no one was supposed to go. Many years ago. a group of Scorchios were said to have entered the cavern and never come out. Signs were posted and the creepy hole in the side of the mountain was left alone. Even the snow near the entrance was not disturbed.
To one group of Neopets, though, it was their meeting place. Arabella waited until it was pitch-black outside before leaving her small cabin and making her way to the cavern. Slung over her shoulder and bouncing between her purple wings was a simple brown sack.
She scurried over to the cavern and raced inside, peeking out of the gaping hole to make sure the wind and snow were covering her tracks. Nodding to herself in a satisfied way, she headed down into the cave, grabbing a stick and lighting it with her flame breath.
Drip... drip... the sound of water dropping from the stalactites atop the cavern resounding with the echo of her footsteps. Was the walk always this long? Sweat began to form on her brow but at the sound of the laughter of her companions she raced forward, her heart bouncing in her chest with excitement.
At last she had found the source of the laughter, a large open area deep within Terror Mountain. The room was lit with several lanterns that swayed slightly on their cords. Glistening, sparkling piles of Neopoints were placed around the room, along with several more treasures than Arabella remembered, including Pirate Paint Brushes, Anniversary Neggs, and what looked like a Deluxe Faerie Queen Doll.
And there, in his large throne-like chair sat the leader of The Thieves' Guild, Kanrik...
Date: Nov 15th
Somehow, the assembly had already been alerted to her arrival. (Had they changed the locations of the hidden triggers along the tunnel yet again? But that was hardly a surprise.) Several of her fellow thieves eyed the sack strung across Arabella's back and pondered its contents, but others remained focused on their leader, alert to every subtle shift.
Kanrik. His cape draped easily from his shoulders, his dark boots planted firmly to the floor, knife sheathed at his belt. His cool gaze flickered once.
"Arabella," he greeted her, "what news?"
The Scorchio inclined her head, but had begun to speak even as she raised her eyes. "The very best, Kanrik," she announced in clear tones, ignoring the urge to let loose a torrent of speech in her eagerness. "I have at last heard word from our old informant. A ship sank, two nights ago, very near the icy shores along the mountain's base."
"Ah," said Kanrik from his place in the shadows. Shuffles of interest dispersed through the summoned guild.
Finding confidence in their attention, Arabella went on without further pause. "Her crew are said to have abandoned it; the ship was wedged into the ice, and bitter snowfall through the night worsened its condition. The crew scattered across land in an attempt to seek relief."
Kanrik tsked quietly. "There won't be settlements so close to shore, this time of year. They were foolish to sail the ice with winter approaching."
Arabella nodded, shifting the weight in her coarse-woven sack. She gave a slight smile. "As for the name of the ship -- and its contents -- I believe you know it well..."
The night seemed to change with every step taken beneath the overhanging pines on the mountain. Specks of snow had begun to tumble softly from the dark veils far above, dazzling when touched by the streams of filtered moonlight, but it was nothing the hooded Acara hadn't seen before.
She strode on, heedless of the rocky unevenness of the ground or the harsh chill, to both of which she was also already well acquainted.
Not far now...
If anyone knew just how conflicting thoughts could be, it would be this Acara -- for though she withstood the cold and drove herself onward for what she believed would be the taste of sweet revenge, deep down she did not know whether she was here to lure the Gelert who had failed her, or to warn him instead.
Masila shook the musings away. Even Kanrik would not turn her away into the freezing night, not while she claimed to have news for him -- or so she hoped. There would be time enough to establish her next move...
Date: Nov 15th
"The Bringer Battler. Hannah's ship has sunk."
"Hannah's ship has sunk," Kanrik repeated. "Impossible. She had the best crew, the best captain." Suddenly his thoughts turned to darker possibilities. "Survivors?"
Arabella lowered her eyes momentarily. "All escaped the ship," she informed the Gelert, and he relaxed slightly. "If they can survive kilometres of barren ice, they will be fine."
Arabella could read Kanrik's face well. He was a thief at heart, but he owed his assumption of power to Hannah and Armin. However, the rest of the Guild didn't. Kanrik knew this.
"As you all are well aware," he announced to the cavern, "I am in debt to Hannah. But this is an opportunity, irrefutably the best we have had in ages."
The Thieves Guild waited dutifully, though one eager initiate sneaked toward their equipment.
"Arabella will lead the expedition to The Bringer Battler. Anyone who wishes to accompany her may go. There will be much treasure. All of you together may just be able to carry it all. There are only two rules. Arabella's word is final on this journey. Uphold the honour of the Guild."
A roar went up in the cave. After three minutes of preparatory time, every thief in the cavern went with the Scorchio thief. Kanrik sank into his chair, alone.
Masila pushed through the wind. It tried to cut her off, misdirect her. Her willpower was too strong. She would get into the hideout.
After all, who else would know of The Bringer Battler's destruction, and its curse...
Date: Nov 16th
As Masila approached the mouth of the cave, a chill, in no way connected to the bitter cold, ran quickly down her spine. She sucked in a deep breath of the freezing air and entered the cave. All she could hope was that no one would stop her from reaching Kanrik.
After all, it was her choice to leave The Thieves' Guild in the manner in which she had some months ago. Claiming to be above all the nonsensical behaviour of several of the members there, she decreed that something terrible would soon happen to everyone involved, and she would have no part in it. Kanrik was the only one who didn't scorn her for her outburst. He did advise her never to return unless she had an incredibly good reason.
What better reason than to... oh, she didn't know anymore. Kanrik had been, after all, usually kind to her, merciful even after her betrayals. Stopping in her tracks, she suddenly lost her nerve. What was she really doing here?
Suddenly, a sound caught her attention. Kanrik, sly as he was, had somehow gotten behind her! She whipped around and faced him, noticing right away the torch in his left hand illuminating the drawn sword in his right.
"Masila? That is you under that foul hood, is it not?" Kanrik growled. "You always did have a very distinctive aura about you."
Masila removed her hood and stared directly at him, an expression of confusion mixed with determination on her lovely face. Still trying to sort out her reasons for her coming, she could not speak and merely nodded her reply.
"Have you nothing to say?" Kanrik questioned her as he lowered his weapon. "Last time I saw you, you were leaving for bigger and better things. What has you crawling back to our humble abode?"
"I... have news, Kanrik," she finally managed to utter. "Hannah's ship, The Bringer Battler, has sunk, and the crew has..." She stopped when she saw the smirk on Kanrik's face.
"I already know this. Arabella and the rest of the thieves present left just minutes before you arrived to go claim the plunder."
Masila frowned and looked away. Arabella, that cheap excuse for a thief! How could she have gotten here with the news before her?
"Surely there is another reason for your surprise visit, Masila," Kanrik sighed. "You never were one to give all the information you hold at once."
Masila met his gaze again. What should she do now? If she kept quiet, Arabella would soon be out of the way, along with all the ruffians with her who laid their hands on that one specific treasure that would doom them all. Arabella had obviously not known the vital piece of information concerning the cursed locket.
"No, I have no other information than that, Kanrik," Masila lied, instantly regretting it.
Kanrik closed the gap between them and stared straight into her eyes, a look of disapproval darkening his face.
"My dear Masila, I do believe you are lying to me..."
Date: Nov 16th
The Usul looked into the horizon, hoping to see any signs of life -- or even better, someone to rescue her -- to prove that they would have a chance for survival.
Her ship was a pile of wood, her crew huddling together for warmth. The ice had torn a large hole in the hull of The Bringer Battler, causing the ship to be beyond repair. Things weren't looking good.
But what was that?
How could that be? Actual Neopets, coming to rescue them? How did they know of her shipwreck?
She waved her arms, jumping around wildly. Her crew stared strangely at the Usul, who was screaming for help.
"Do you see it?"
"I don't believe so... unless that could be..."
The Scorchio stared into the distance, her eyes scanning the pieces of ice, searching for any sort of movement.
"Maybe that is. We shall go and see," Arabella commanded in a tone that struck fear -- not fear, exactly -- into her companions.
They ran over the glassy ice, sliding here and there, as they made their way to something that could have been a ship -- it was difficult to tell -- or merely a mirage.
As they got closer, however, it became clear that they weren't the first ones on the ice: the first thing they saw was the tiny shadow of a Neopian, jumping up and down in the distance. Her hair bounced with her, her Usul ears quivering. They were just able to make out what she was saying.
"Help! Over here!" she yelled.
"Lying? Kanrik, dear, I would hardly say so."
Masila half-smiled, her lips curling, but her eyes remaining cold, scheming; the Gelert's eyes narrowed.
"Supposing I take your word for it." Kanrik moved to block all paths of escape, preventing any form of fleeing. "Supposing that you aren't lying, then why are you back here? You left the thieves, so why would you ever return?"
The Acara wracked her brains.
"I came to warn you," she said, the words -- Kanrik briefly considered the chances of those words being lies -- slipping off her tongue easily. "Those incompetent fools will not be returning any time soon."
"Is that so? I should not have sent them off, then. Arabella should know well," Kanrik retorted. "And why will they not be returning?"
Masila's smirk grew.
"Why must I tell you?" she asked wryly. "I could be lying, for all you know."
Kanrik cursed himself for letting Masila manipulate him into this position.
"That is a chance I will take," he finally decided. "Now, tell, how will they not return?"
Secretively, Masila whispered in his ear.
"It's all in the locket..."
Date: Nov 17th
Hannah couldn't believe that her luck was finally changing. First she lost her crew to that cursed locket. Then her ship crashed, and most recently, she'd lost Armin. Somewhere in the crash, her best and fellow adventurer was lost. He left no trace, and now Hannah was all alone.
And now, finally, things were turning around. Here were some kind Neopians coming to help her! But as the group came closer, Hannah's heart sank. She recognised a few of them: they were members of the Theives' Guild. And if they were here, without Kanrik, that meant one of two things.
One possibility was that Kanrik knew she had crashed and sent his crew to plunder her treasures, but didn't come himself out of debt to Hannah. The other option was that these thieves had come without consulting Kanrik, for they knew he might forbid them from stealing from Hannah. Neither option seemed good.
Hannah stopped her bouncing and waving, and walked up to the Scorchio who seemed to be leading the group. What would she say? Would they help her? Hannah only knew one thing for sure...
"Take me to Kanrik," she said, without offering further explanation.
"The locket?" Kanrik questioned, being sure to read into Masila's every move.
The Acara leaned back and turned away. "Oh, so you didn't hear about that from your precious Arabella?" she mocked.
Kanrik growled and stalked forward, gripping the former thief on the shoulder. "Tell me what you know," he muttered menacingly.
Masila shrugged as if she didn't care and turned around nonchalantly. "I happen to know from a very reliable source that Hannah recently came into possession of a certain locket. This locket is cursed, and all who touch it become gravely ill, perishing within 24 hours."
Kanrik's face turned white. "So Hannah is -- gone?"
Masila's face darkened. "Don't worry, Little Miss Perfect is still alive. For some reason, she and Armin never touched it. I'm not sure if they know, but if they do, I can't imagine why they'd keep it. Anyway, because Arabella failed to tell you this, I'm guessing she herself doesn't know. Too bad, it looks like you'll have to manage without her." The Acara let out a short barking laugh.
"Nice to see you too Masila," came a voice from the tunnel behind Kanrik. Both pets spun around to see Arabella leading the entire group back, Hannah walking beside her.
Masila snarled as Kanrik's face betrayed his intense relief.
"Hannah," he said...
Date: Nov 17th
The entire group, sensing that they should leave, promptly left. Arabella stayed behind.
"Kanrik." Hannah turned to face the Gelert, cheeks and lips rosy from the cold outside, and smiled sadly. "I asked... Arabella?" -- she paused, turning to face the Scorchio, who nodded, before turning back to Kanrik -- "to bring me here because I was hoping that you'd be able to help me."
"Of course I can help you." I'd do anything to help you, Hannah, Kanrik wanted to say, but he thought better of it. Masila and Arabella, he thought, wouldn't understand, much less sympathise with, his and Hannah's complex history and complicated relationship. Without Hannah, he knew, he wouldn't have been in the position of power that he was in today; without Hannah, he wouldn't be alive today.
"That's such a relief to hear," Hannah said. "I have to find Armin and this locket --"
"You are aware that that locket is cursed?" Kanrik interrupted.
Hannah frowned. "How'd you know about it? I suppose that that isn't important. But, yes, I'm aware that it's cursed. My crew... they..." she trailed off, unable to say the words. "I have to destroy it. I can't allow anyone else to... to..."
"I understand," Kanrik said, sparing Hannah from having to say the words. "I'll lead the rescue group myself. Arabella and three of my most trusted thieves" -- Masila snorted at the oxymoron -- "will come, too. We'll leave around sunrise tomorrow."
"We're leaving around sunrise?" Hannah repeated. Kanrik nodded. "Can't we leave now?"
Kanrik shook his head. "It's the middle of the night. It's freezing out --"
"Exactly," Hannah interrupted, bottom lip trembling. "What if Armin... what if he freezes?"
"I suppose that that's true," Kanrik finally agreed, sighing. "I'll go see if the three thieves want to come. I won't force them to under the circumstances." He turned around, striding deeper into the cavern.
Hannah, Masila, and Arabella were left in awkward silence. Hannah looked around the cavern, Masila alternated between gazing at Hannah and Arabella with an unreadable expression, and Arabella stared at a small crack in the cavern wall.
Kanrik finally returned. The three thieves hadn't come with him.
"They didn't want to come," Kanrik explained, shrugging. "It's going to be us three only."
"What about me?" Masila demanded, scowling. "Don't I count?"
"You want to come?" Kanrik asked. Masila nodded. "You won't cause any difficulty?"
"I promise that I won't," Masila said, smiling sweetly.
"All right," Kanrik said, hoping that he wasn't making a mistake. "Let's go."
With that settled, the four Neopets ventured out of the cavern...
Date: Nov 18th
...and beyond, out to the ice. The group Arabella had guided to the ship and back crept to the cave entrance to watch them, then turned and returned to the deeper caves and the fires, glad to be somewhere warm again and none quite voicing the opinion that the four Neopets who'd gone out again were a little mad.
After all. You never knew who might relay that to Kanrik.
Outside, the wind that had driven Hannah's ship against the ice began to pick up again. Arabella huffed fire to help keep herself warm and tried not to laugh when the other three drifted unconsciously closer to her as they walked.
"Once we find Armin, how do you plan to destroy the locket?" Kanrik asked Hannah, and Arabella kept her wings from twitching as her mind went to the unasked-about contents of her backpack. There was a reason Kanrik didn't list her among his 'most trusted' thieves... and it was that she was relatively new. But if he ever found out how much she kept to herself....
"I have some ideas," Hannah said shortly. Her eyes cut sideways to Masila.
Masila smiled and said, in comforting tones, "I never doubted it, Hannah. You're so talented. It's not your fault your crew is slaughtered, your ship destroyed, and your friend missing. You'll have no trouble fixing one of those, with our help."
Arabella sighed, disguising it as a steady stream of warming flame. Masila's temper was getting the better of her, unless she had some reason to be obvious about her poison. She was good at the tone, but really, who could miss that?
Not Hannah. The Usul's eyes narrowed to slits. "Oh, it's certainly partly my fault," she said, "but I admit, I didn't arrange to have someone who'd helped me lost in winter weather."
Kanrik's long ears twitched with the memory, and he glanced down, not at either of the two sniping Neopets, but at Arabella. "I think," he said, ignoring their comments entirely, "we should begin our search as close as possible to where the ship was destroyed."
Hannah agreed, and neither of the others argued with this obviously sensible procedure. Hannah guided them to the shipwreck and the heap of surviving wood; the bulk of the ship had sunk, weighed down by its cargo, but every loose or broken piece of wood had floated and eventually drifted against the ice.
Kanrik paced the area and then, to the others' surprise, stumbled against what appeared to be thin air. "What in--"
There was a thin, distant wailing at the edge of audibility. Kanrik frowned and knelt down, patting at the air. "Hannah," he said slowly, "did you have a custard Chomby as part of your crew?"
Hannah blinked. "Why, yes, I did...."
"And what was the effect of touching the locket?"
"A... a painful illness, complete collapse, death, and then fading from view..."
Kanrik tilted his head, then rose, one hand forward, and started patting at the air again. "How sure are you about the death? Because while I can't see anything and can barely hear them... this feels remarkably like a number of very much alive Neopets huddled together for warmth."
Hannah charged over with a cry of disbelieving joy and felt at the area as well. One of her former crewmembers was annoyed enough to give her a good smack -- the blow muted by semi-intangibility -- but this didn't really dim her relief much.
Unfortunately, no one could communicate clearly enough to explain much of anything, and there was still the issue of Armin. Arabella quietly and practically laid a fire with the fragments of the ship and lit it; Masila paced the area but did not run into anyone.
"It's something, at least," Hannah said, "that everyone else is together. What we need to do from here is start searching outward in sectors -- longer ones toward the current, I think --"
Below them, the ice began to creak...
Date: Nov 18th
As a crack formed, Hannah pulled the rest of them to the side, yelling, "Get away from the crevice! Don't fall in!"
It was just her luck that no one fell in, at least, not that she was aware of. The Usul peered into the crack, hoping to find something of assistance. She was hardly expecting to find...
a Bori, small in stature, huddled, at the bottom. He looked up at the ruckus Hannah was making, his eyes widening with surprise.
The Usul was practically dancing with glee. Armin smiled quietly to himself at the sight of his friend.
"Can any of you get me out of here?" he called from his location in the crevice.
"Hold on!" Kanrik yelled back. "We'll get you out of there!"
He turned to Masila and said, "Can you reach down there and get him?"
The Acara briefly considered refusing, but in a sudden burst of empathy, she nodded.
Grabbing Armin's hand, Masila pulled him out of the crack. The second the Bori's feet touched the ground, he was immediately enveloped in a giant hug.
"Oh my goodness, Armin, I missed you so much..."
Arabella smiled to see the reunion of friends.
"We've found Armin," she said, turning to Hannah, "and maybe he knows how to reverse the locket's spells."
"We should get him something warm to drink first," suggested Kanrik, noticing Armin's shivers. "Let's return to our headquarters."
No one could argue with what was obviously the truth. Hannah insisted on bringing the rest of her crew with them --their semi-intangibility could not be counted as an excuse against bringing them to shelter.
As they wrapped themselves in blankets and drank a cup of Borovan, Hannah asked the Bori, "How did you get to the bottom of that crack?"
"I'll tell you that story later. Right now, we have to reverse the spell. The locket doesn't necessarily bring upon the end of one's life, but if you don't reverse the curse for too long, the results will become permanent."
Everyone stared at him, those in sight and those who could not be seen.
"How, exactly, will we break the spell?" asked Arabella.
Armin took a deep breath and faced the Scorchio. "We're depending on you, Arabella."
Before Arabella could decipher his cryptic words, Armin reached into his pocket and pulled out...
Date: Nov 19th
...the silver locket.
"Armin!" Hannah cried when she saw the Bori come in contact with the metal. He shook his head.
"When I escaped the wreckage, I slipped on the ice and fell. The locket was in my pocket. It escaped, and I instinctively caught it. I'm sorry."
Hannah moved as if to embrace the cursed Neopet, but thought better of it. "It isn't your fault, Armin. But what are we to do?"
The Bori looked apologetically at Arabella. "You have heard the tale of this cave?" Arabella nodded.
"Long ago," Arabella began, "four Scorchios entered this cave, intending to explore its true depths. They were searching for a clue to the beginnings of Terror Mountain.
"One of them stepped on a sharp object. 'Ow!' he shouted, and it reverberated off of the cavern walls. When the others rushed over, he lifted his foot. There, impressed into his skin, was a ruby. Only something strange was happening. His foot disappeared as well. The others tried to pull the ruby out. They disappeared too."
"Exactly," Armin said, and unlocked the locket. Everyone gaped. Inside was a stunningly brilliant, rosy red ruby.
"No way," Arabella gaped, and Armin nodded.
"Do you know the myth associated with the myth?"
"The Scorchio spirits reside within the ruby. If they feel the touch of a Scorchio flame, they will fight the ruby's power to save their brethren."
Then it hit Arabella. "It can't be that simple," she murmured, but Armin laid the locket on the ground, the ruby exposed.
Arabella exhaled slowly, steadily. The flames licked at the precious gem. They caressed it, heating the red colour into a fiery blaze. Then, she stopped. Nothing was different.
"Did anything happen?" a custard Chomby asked. Kanrik shook his head, then stopped. Who was this Chomby? Hannah noticed him too.
"It worked!" she shouted. "Armin, you're a genius!"
Hannah and Armin celebrated, drawing Kanrik and Arabella in as well. The entire missing crew rejoiced in their flesh. No one noticed Masila slip out the front door, after lifting an object off the ground in a cloth.
"Perhaps you should safeguard the locket from now on," Kanrik suggested to Arabella. Hannah and Armin agreed.
"I'll guard it to my last breath. But, where is it?"
Alarm swept over the faces of everyone present. Except Kanrik.
"I have a feeling it's in careful hands," he whispered to himself. "Let us hope they never slip."
Calmed by their leader, the merry band of theives and sailors went back to celebrating. And the Neopets danced through the night.
Date: Nov 19th
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