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Week 490
You are on Week 491
Week 492

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 Ninety One Ends Friday, January 14

Yanti should've been enjoying this. She usually loved the ocean, and today the water looked like a field of Blue Fan Flowers, all waving in the breeze, stretching out for miles in every direction. Sunlight dripped down onto the sea's restless surface, glimmers knocked gently back and forth among the water until they were beaten into a golden froth. It was a perfect day for sailing.

The Wocky didn't notice any of this, though, because she had her head buried in a book. She wasn't reading it -- no, she was just pretending to in order to make a point. Her father had taken her out for a sail as a way of passing a long, lazy Mystery Island afternoon, but Yanti wasn't having any of it. She'd wanted to sail for Krawk Island. Now that would've been exciting -- all the swashbuckling pirates, the rough-and-tumble smugglers. What was fun about bobbing like a cork in perfectly calm waters?

At least her father had the good sense to stay below deck now. He'd been hanging about on the deck earlier, trying to get her to fish or go swimming, but he'd gone away after Yanti had threatened to throw her book at him.

***

The sun was shimmering fat and orange on the horizon, and Yanti was still on deck, still gazing down at the pages of her book without seeing them, still bored silly and stewing with anger. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, she heard a chorus of singing voices and the slap of oars.

Yanti scrambled up from the deck and ran over to the side of the ship, peering overboard. A small boat with five Neopets, all but one of them pulling oars and singing cheerfully, had drawn up alongside her father's boat.

The Lutari who was standing at the front of the boat glanced up and saw Yanti staring down at him. He smiled widely and called, "Ahoy there!"

Without really knowing why, Yanti found herself smiling back. "Hello! Why are you making such a racket? There are Neopets trying to relax out here, you know!"

Before she knew what was happening, the Lutari and his crew were climbing up the rope ladder that dangled from the side of her father's ship. In a second, the Lutari stood in front of her, still grinning.

"All Neopians will be spared as long as they go quietly. So, do you surrender the ship...?"

Author: Chaser of rainbows
Date: Jan 10th
Yanti blinked. "What?"

The Lutari looked at her as if she had just sprouted an extra head. "What do you mean 'what'? Don't you understand what's going on?"

"Um, not really." Yanti actually had a vague sense that the Lutari was trying to take over the ship, but how was that possible? He didn't look like the typical pirate: in fact, he was an Island Lutari with a yellow bandana on his head and a bright smile. And on his belt, instead of a sword, was just a small brown bottle and a pouch which she bet had no more than a few thousand Neopoints.

"Oh, well, this is awkward," the Lutari said with a frown. "Er... here, Claus, why don't you explain it to her?"

One of the Neopians behind him, an orange Draik, fumbled in his pockets until he found a soggy scroll. "Dear Sir or Madame," he read, "Your ship/dinghy/rowboat has hereby been taken over by Captain Chear and his band of Smiling Pirates. Please cooperate. We hope you have a nice day/afternoon/evening/night. Sincerely, Captain Chear and his band of Smiling Pirates."

Yanti looked from Captain Chear, who was still grinning broadly, to his eager crew. She had never expected to run into pirates in the still waters of Mystery Island, let alone a band of pirates that looked as menacing as a can of Neocola.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm still a little confused."

"About what?" Captain Chear said, sitting down in a striped lounge chair. "I'll be happy to answer any questions of yours, as will my crew! We like to keep the best relationship we can with our takeovers."

Yanti highly doubted they had taken over anyone, seeing as they had arrived in a small rowboat, but she shook her head. "First of all, are you serious? You're a group of Smiling Pirates? Under the leadership of a man named Captain Chear, as in cheery? How is that frightening at all?"

Captain Chear made a "tsk" sound with his teeth. "My dear Wocky, you obviously have never sailed the Krawk Island waters."

"No, I haven't," Yanti said indignantly. "But you have?"

"Yes, I have. We all have!" he said, gesturing to his crew. "Unfortunately, pirating over there is a bit... dodgy. There's violence all the time, and name-calling, and unsanitary conditions." He shivered at the memory. "So, I decided I had enough. I still wanted to be a pirate -- it was all I knew -- but I wanted to be a pirate on my terms. A Cheary pirate. So, I rounded up a crew, got ourselves a boat," he gestured to the rowboat slowly drifting away, "and set sail to be a new brand of pirates!"

"Well, if you ask me," Yanti said, "it sounds a bit ridiculous. You don't even have swords! How do you plan on getting others to submit to your will if you don't even have swords?"

At these words, the Lutari's green eyes glinted maniacally. "Oh," he said, patting the bottle on his belt, "I have my ways..."

Author: vanessa1357924680
Date: Jan 10th
Yanti scoffed.

"I see. A bottle of warm and flat Neocola. Or is it a melted slushie? Very intimidating."

The Smiling Pirates snickered and murmured to each other. "She does not know... but she will be sorry... very sorry."

Captain Chear smiled.

"You don't want to cross paths with me, young Wocky. Trust me on that. Now, about you surrendering..." He looked expectantly at Yanti, as if waiting for her to get on her knees and literally beg for them to take her father's ship.

"I don't have to do anything I don't want to." Yanti's voice came out strong and confident, even though she was shaking inside.

Captain Chear shrugged. "Fine. Looks like this is going to happen the hard way," he replied as two of his crew, a Quiggle and a Kyrii, grabbed onto Yanti's arms. Captain Chear dramatically pulled the bottle off of his belt and stepped toward her.

But then Yanti heard a door open behind her. All the pirates turned around to see who it was and gasped. Captain Chear stuttered. Yanti twisted around to see her father, then looked at the pirates. They were all on their knees, as if bowing to royalty. Captain Chear looked up and managed to say something that shocked Yanti.

"Sir, it's a pleasure to finally meet you. Never in my life I would have expected to meet Captain Jarkii, sailor of the Neopian seas..."

Author: lollibopz
Date: Jan 11th
"...and the biggest Cheat player that ever flipped a Dubloon."

The skunk Xweetok crossed his arms. "And here I thought I was rid of you for good."

Chear shrugged his golden tattooed shoulders. "Hey, how was I know you'd been reduced to sailing around in this dinghy?"

"Of the two of us," replied Jarkii, in the soft voice he used when scolding, "I am the only one who still has a ship."

The Kyrii still holding Yanti snarled, but Chear shook his head.

"Nah, mates, that's not how we do things. Smile." A broad, white grin split his face. His tail swished slightly in the wind, and Yanti suddenly noticed the flask was missing.

"Hey, where--"

A slimy elbow jammed into her ribs, and the still-grinning Quiggle laughed loudly to cover her cough of pain and surprise. He'd knocked the wind clear out of her.

"Well, Cap'n, we should be leaving, so..." Chear waved his paw and Yanti was pulled closer to the Lutari. Jarkii crossed his arms, his normally cheerful face sombre.

"Leave my daughter alone," the Xweetok murmured.

Chear's grin never faded. "Oh, now, is that fair? I'm letting you keep the boat, even though I could dose both you and your pretty little daughter--"

"You don't have the guts. You're the softest pirate I've ever seen," Yanti snapped suddenly, springing to her father's defence.

"Claus, let her be," the Lutari chuckled as the Draik from before started to open his mouth. Chided, the Smiling Pirate stepped back as Chear advanced.

"Do not confuse mercy with weakness," the Captain smiled, tweaking the Wocky's nose and dipping his head to her father again. There was a splash beside the boat, and a Maraquan Zafara pulled her chin up to the rail.

"Boat's back, Captain," she panted, and Jarkii shot them a suspicious glare.

"If you please, Chear. Get off my boat and release my daughter." A sword was suddenly in her father's paw, pointing at the Lutari.

"Thank you, Laph. Now, Smiling Pirates, we go!"

Chear was actually in midair when Jarkii lunged. Despite the quick attack, the Lutari seemed ready, and he tossed the contents of the bottle in the face of her father. Yanti screamed...

Author: saro_the_legendaerie
Date: Jan 11th
“Dad, look out!” The Wocky dove toward her father, attempting to knock him out of the way of the fine, white powder that flew from the open mouth of the Lutari’s bottle. Too late to save her father completely, Yanti did succeed in blocking him from defending himself, and as they landed in a tangled heap on the boat’s deck, the powder easily hit its mark, completely covering the helpless pair’s faces.

Yanti could hear her father’s groans beside her mixed with the cheers and catcalls of the joyous pirates all around and above her; they were aboard and happily taking control of the ship. A stinging in her nose caused the Wocky to breathe more deeply, which caused the powder, and the stinging, to spread through her sinuses and throat. Not wanting to open her eyes until she had cleared the powder from her face, Yanti blindly rolled on the deck and gained her knees. Wiping frantically at her eyes, not knowing what damage the powder was doing to her, Yanti felt the stinging turn to a tickle in the back of her throat.

The Wocky tried to cough but it came out as a giggle.

“Quick, Yanti,” Jarkii called, “we need to, tee hee, wash this, heh heh, powder off.”

“Dad?” Yanti answered. “What’s, ha ha, going on?” Despite the dire circumstances, despite being attacked by pirates, Smiling Pirates with suspicious powder-filled bottles, the Wocky had an uncontrollable desire to laugh. What started as a giggle and a short series of snorts soon turned to full out laughter.

“Tickle, har har har, powder, Yanti,” the Xweetok managed to reply through gasping breaths.

“Wha...?” Yanti’s ability to talk was overwhelmed by her need to laugh. The Wocky convulsed with whoops and howls, echoed by the laughter of her father, and she clutched at her sides as sharp pains began to grow there. Yanti felt as though she had been run through by a Pirate Cutlass, although she knew what she was feeling was simply the effects of her incessant and uncontrollable laughter. When she heard her father begin to walk with heavy, staggering steps, the Wocky opened her eyes in time to see him dive overboard and land in the ocean with a robust splash.

“Must... ha ha ha... wash... ha ha ho ho.. powder,” Yanti said to herself as she struggled to her feet, the pains in her sides causing her to buckle over and lurch toward the ship’s rail. As she neared the side of the boat, a strong hand grasped her by the arm, causing her to spin and look up into the face of the Quiggle, his no doubt smiling mouth covered by a bright orange bandana. Looking around quickly, the Wocky noted that all of the pirates were wearing protective bandanas over their faces.

“Not so fast,” came the Quiggle’s muffled voice. “You’re what we call insurance.” The bandana did not conceal the joyous twinkle that sparkled in the Quiggle’s eyes, and although she was filled with a sudden cold fear, Yanti continued to hoot and howl with irresistible laughter.

“My... ha ha ha... my father...” Yanti managed, the air required to speak not sufficiently reaching her voicebox through the spurts of laughing, causing her voice to come out thin and reedy.

“Will be just fine,” Captain Chear said as he appeared in front of her. “That old sea dog is not only a fantastic swimmer, but he also has the use of my rowboat. It’s really not that far back to Mystery Island.” Looking out toward where the sun was slowly dropping to meet the sea at the reddening horizon, the Lutari added thoughtfully, “He might even make it before moonrise.”

With a joyous chuckle, Chear clapped his hands together and began to bark orders. “Raise the topsi’l, Miss Laph. Climb the rigging, Choartle, and ready to unfurl. Man the halyard and all hands ready to sail!”

As the Smiling Pirates busied themselves, all but the Quiggle who continued to hold her tight, Yanti leaned out to try and spot her father in the expanse of the turquoise waves. Through her tears of fear and continuing, helpless laughter, the Wocky was shocked to see…

Author: mamasimios
Date: Jan 12th
...her father paddling the rowboat efficiently away. His shoulders juddered only now and then, presumably from lingering bouts with the Tickle Powder. He was leaving her. She was glad he was alive, she really was, but he was leaving her.

He was leaving her.

Real sobs mixed with the painful, choking laughter. The Quiggle holding her perceived them. He snickered and let her sag to the deck, bent double by the strain. Leaving. Heading for Mystery Island, leaving her with the Smiling Pirates whose apparent lack of menace had turned out to be a truly horrible joke.

What else could he have done, though? Maybe, maybe, her father's astonishing past meant that he could fight five other Neopets and win. She'd known he was unusually strong and agile -- she'd even known that, in the course and guise of play, she'd picked up some of it too. That didn't necessarily translate to being an expert fighter, but seeing the Smiling Pirates kneel to him? Maybe he could do it. He didn't have a weapon along the lines of Chear's Tickle Powder, however (just that sword she'd never thought to wonder about when it was on the wall), and Chear had a hostage.

Well, she thought through the pain, could she get out of being a hostage?

Curled in a helpless, shaking, weeping and laughing ball at the Quiggle's feet, she leaned against his shins as the ship swayed one way, then rolled with it the other way. His relaxed grip slipped, and she plunged over the edge.

Wind raked her fur, and she hit the water with a painful smack. She sank like a rock, of course; her abdominal muscles were clenched uncontrollably tight, and what little air she'd last managed to gasp in was now trickling out with her continued laughter, bright bubbles streaming up to the mottled blue light above.

Hard hands then seized her, and Yanti hung limp over Laph's shoulder as the Zafara hauled her back up the ladder and dumped her in a puddle at Captain Chear's feet.

She looked up through tears and seawater. He wasn't smiling. Laph looked downright grim. "Now, now, Miss Yanti, what was that all about?" Chear asked. "Surely you didn't think you could catch up. Were you expecting him to come back for you?"

Yanti coughed a few times, stinging salt water coming out of her mouth and nose, and whispered, "I just fell. I couldn't hold on to anything." She hadn't thought she could catch up to the rowboat, but she'd figured the Smiling Pirates would probably rescue her so they could keep their "insurance." She didn't particularly want to contemplate what would have happened if they hadn't. Now she could only hope they wouldn't replace the Tickle Powder that had washed out of her fur. She tried a fake hiccup and giggle. "Please," she added, "listen. I -- I always wanted to meet pirates, but he wouldn't let me." Now she knew why. "He never told me anything. Can't I be part of your crew?"

The Lutari's eyebrows rose, and then he suddenly seemed to remember that he was supposed to be smiling. He tapped Laph on the shoulder, and the Zafara spread a grin across her own face. Her bandana was a sodden wad in her fist. "He really didn't tell you much, miss 'I don't have to do anything I don't want to,' if you think you can get away with an attitude like that in a pirate crew. We're all one happy family here, but that, now, that would be a quite shocking lack of discipline."

Yanti swallowed her reaction to the appalling irony and said meekly, "But I wasn't part of your crew then, sir."

Chear laughed aloud, slapping his thigh. "I'm not such a fool as to trust you," he said at last, sounding almost kind again, "but perhaps I'll give you a chance to earn it. Swab the deck, lass, but stay away from the railing."

Yanti coughed again, wiped her nose with a paw, and tried a tentative smile of her own as she got up and headed -- a little unsteadily -- for the mop and bucket that remained secured above deck in good weather. The light dimmed as they ran with the wind straight east, away from Mystery Island and the warm sunset, and she worked steadily. At least she wasn't laughing anymore. After a while she dared to ask, "Captain, where are we going? Sir?"

"Hah!" the Lutari replied, gesturing to the darkness ahead with starry eyes. "We're going to the island. With luck and a fair wind we should reach the Mists by dawn."

Yanti noticed that the stars were remarkably lacking in that direction, come to think of it. Her eyebrows drew together in thought. "The Mists?"

"Oh, yes." Chear had moved to the bow and was gazing raptly outward, but he spared a glance back at her. "Wipe that frown off your face, Miss Yanti."

She hastily rearranged her face into a parody of a smile. Evidently it passed in the moonless night, because the Lutari turned away again. "That's better. Come on, lads and lasses joyful all -- sail for the Mists! Sail for the Island! Sail for the storm..."

Author: schefflera
Date: Jan 12th
Despite herself, Yanti felt herself start to... smile. But beneath the smile, there was something darker, something telling her that what she was doing was wrong. Joining Captain Chear would be completely dishonouring her father.

"Isn't this what you wanted?" whispered a voice in her ear. "I mean, you told yourself that you wanted adventure in Krawk Island, and this is what you're getting. Why do you still feel bad?"

Yanti quickly brushed aside the voice of her conscience -- was it her conscience? When she looked around, there was no one but Laph, the Maraquan Zafara, leaning over the railing as she smiled vacantly -- and pretended that nothing was wrong.

"I know you feel bad," continued the little voice. Whipping her head around again, there was no one but Laph, who this time was staring intently at her.

"I shouldn't, though," said Yanti, keeping her voice low. "My father simply left me."

"But didn't you read it?"

"Read what?" Her heart rate quickened, her palms started sweating... somehow, just somehow, she knew that she was missing something...

"Your father left you a book."

"So?"

"Read it."

She found herself obeying the voice. Yanti no longer cared who it was -- her conscience or Laph, it mattered not.

Captain Chear was deep in conversation with Claus, as they looked over a map charting their route to Krawk Island; the Kyrii and Quiggle were laughing noisily, none of them noticing anything. Yanti crept over to the recliner she had left the book on, picking it up and flipping through the pages.

Once upon a time...

She closed the tome immediately. Once upon a time was cliched and stupid.

"Aren't you going to keep reading?"

At the urging, she opened up the book once more.

The moon and stars were her only companions in the cool, calm night, as the four disappeared beneath deck, no doubt to get some rest. She was completely immersed in the story, swept up by the words, the words tumultous like the tides and waves of the ocean that tossed the boat around carelessly. Finally, she came to a stop. The book had been read.

"Well, that certainly..." She couldn't find the words to describe it.

"Certainly what?"

"It was awful."

"Why?"

The voice was more real this time, louder and somehow, Yanti felt less insane believing someone was talking to her. She looked around, and there was Laph, nonchalantly lounging on the deck.

"It just stopped in the middle," replied Yanti, feeling inexplicably stupid.

"Enlighten me," said Laph, gesturing for her to continue.

"It was about someone who was sailing and got attacked by pirates, and they forced her family members to leave the ship. She stayed on the boat... and it just stopped."

Laph raised an eyebrow, and Yanti realised that there was something she should have done from the start.

"So this is it," Yanti continued, slowly. "I have to do something about this... Do I?"

The Zafara shrugged. "I don't know. Do you...?"

Author: chocolate_lover67
Date: Jan 13th
Yanti looked at her with narrowed eyes, suspicion suddenly reasserting itself. Something very strange was going on.

She'd been left on deck with only one guard. That was not too unreasonable since Laph could almost certainly overpower her. Now that guard was talking to her about a book that eerily mirrored her own situation, started with 'once upon a time,' and stopped in the middle in direct contravention of most storytelling conventions.

Yanti had not been paying a great deal of attention when she picked out the book that morning, but she was reasonably sure it had not been described either as experimental literary fiction or as magical reader-biography. (The latter was actually a stunningly popular genre, mostly written in imitation of the dark-Whinny bestseller Dusk.)

She was dithering about what an awful daughter she was for betraying her father, when she had swallowed her pride and begged to join Chear's crew so she would be less of a vulnerability -- maybe even an advantage -- when he came back for her. Or better, maybe she could rescue herself, although she had her doubts about getting the ship away from five more experienced Neopets by herself.

And the crew had been studying a chart for Krawk Island, for which Chear had expressed such disdain -- when they had been sailing, were still sailing, east from Mystery Island, which was the exact opposite direction. Away from the setting sun, and now, toward a murky turmoil ahead that must hide the moonrise.

"Miss Laph," the young Wocky said in a level voice, "are you casting an illusion on me, and if so, why?"

"Heh. Caught," Laph said. She lowered her voice. "Bearing in mind that if you tell the Captain any of this, he'll believe me over you -- I don't care for him. He's right that Krawk Island is rougher than he usually has to be with his current strategy, but I don't mind that so much. This pretending to be in a good mood all the time, though -- arr, that's fit to drive me mad."

Yanti raised her eyebrows. "You're testing me, aren't you?"

"Believe what you like," Laph said. "Forget Captain Jarkii and give your loyalty to Chear if you must."

Oh. Yanti almost laughed herself. That accounted for some of the features of the illusion, if Laph had believed her show. She felt suddenly lighter and freer, smiling faintly as the moon crept into view above the clouds they were blowing toward.

"But I haven't gotten to the main point yet," Laph growled.

"And that is?"

Laph pointed ahead. The sailing spells were managing, just barely, to deal with the challenge of running safely with the wind.

But ahead, instead of merely murk, Yanti could see the storm. Heavy fog, untouched by the whipping breeze that carried them along, and roiling thunderheads lit by lightning-flickers above it. "Oh, my," Yanti said weakly.

"Aye." Laph leaned close. "He's broken up twelve ships now, heading into that mess."

Yanti frowned. "Why? What's in there?"

"Supposedly? An island that roves the seas, swathed in the Mists and battered by storms. His home."

Yanti's eyes widened in bewilderment. His home? Laph was telling her Chear was capturing ships and destroying them to try to get... home?

"Miss Laph." A level, calm, and utterly terrifying voice. Chear. "What is the meaning of this...?"

Author: schefflera
Date: Jan 13th
"Nothing, Captain," Laph said, scrambling to her feet.

"Well, you better get yourself busy doing something. We're approaching the Mists and will need to take over the sailing manually. Enchantment is no match for what lies ahead." Turning to Yanti, he added, "If you can't be useful, just try to stay out of the way."

The Wocky nodded meekly, remembering to add a weak-looking smile. When the Lutari strode off, she turned back to Laph, who gave her a knowing wink before resuming her post in the bow.

As the ship neared the murky patch of ocean, a towering wave slammed against the hull and Yanti was thrown hard against the ship's rail. Clutching desperately with both arms, the Wocky marvelled at the calm yet determined actions displayed by the Smiling Pirates. The ship pitched and heaved through increasingly more dangerous waters, and Captain Chear walked steadily across the deck, shouting out orders to his efficient crew and smiling broadly as though enjoying the peril. As wave after wave pummelled the ship, the Lutari flourished his arms through the air, as graceful as a symphony conductor. Indeed, to Yanti, it appeared as though Captain Chear was directing, rather than reacting to, the frightening storm.

Yanti's eyes grew large with amazement as a water spout formed on the surface of the turgid ocean, seemingly close enough to touch, but the beauty and mesmerising motion of it filled her with wonder rather than fear. Blinking the spray out of here eyes, the Wocky was sorry to see the twirling funnel move away from her and disappear into the Mists. The abandonment left her cold and empty.

Entering the Mists, the ocean became eerily still, the rocking of the ship stopped and the air took on a surreal, otherworldly quality. Although it became hard to see, Yanti could not properly call it dark or light but marvelled at the effect of being somewhere in between, as though the water droplets that shrouded all around her were both refracting and blocking any light that chanced to enter the fog.

"Miss Choartle," the Lutari crowed. "To lookout."

A flash of lightning illuminated the scene and Yanti saw a green Mynci scramble to the top of the mast and steady herself with hands and feet while scanning the horizon. A crack of thunder boomed, and although the Wocky cringed with fear, Choartle remained solidly atop the wooden beam and called down, "Land to starboard, Captain!"

"Hard to starboard, Claus," Chear called to the Draik, who held the wheel tightly between white-knuckled fingers.

"Aye, Captain." The Draik began to spin the wheel hard to the right, and the ship slowly turned about in that direction.

From the top of the rigging, Choartle's voice called out, "The island is straight ahead, Sir."

"Straight on, then, Mister Claus, and steady as she goes," Captain Chear scrambled to the bow of the ship, and the smile that overwhelmed his features seemed genuine and infectious; as Yanti watched, the faces of the entire crew lit up with bright and happy grins.

Smiling Pirates, indeed, she mused. They must be pleased to be going home. Home. Will I ever see my home again? My dad?

As they bobbed along in the current that drew them toward the island, Yanti realised that she was still gripping the railing, and she released her hands, now stiff and numb. She noted that dawn must be near, as the view was not nearly as dark as it was just moments earlier, and the Wocky craned her neck to see what land might lie within the domain of the strange Mists. She was startled by what she saw: waves gently lapped up against the sandy shores of a small, lush island. She could see mountains peeking through the tropical treetops like candles on a birthday cake. What struck her most were the strangely beautiful thatched huts, festooned with brightly coloured feathers. The entire island looked like a nest of faerie Lennies, resting peacefully.

"We'll hold fast here," Chear declared, his grin matching the gleeful tone of his voice. "Now, if only we still had a rowboat."

"Captain!" Miss Choartle called from her lookout post. "A rowboat is approaching from the island. Fast."

The Lutari ran to the bow of the boat and whooped. "So there is. Miss Yanti, you might want to see this."

The Wocky cautiously joined the Captain and looked out to where he pointed, wondering if the familiar shape she saw hauling at the oars was an illusion or perhaps just wishful thinking. With incredulity, she said, "Dad?" As the boat came closer and she could see more clearly, the Wocky began to jump up and down, clapping her hands together with joy, yelled out, "Dad! Dad!"

She ran to the side of the ship that had the rope ladder and unrolled it, soon allowing her father to tie up his small craft and climb back aboard his ship. As soon as he was safely on deck, Yanti squeezed him with a hug and said, "I knew you'd be back, Dad."

The Xweetok wiped his daughter's hair out of her eyes so they could lock gazes and he replied, "Of course, Yanti. I never left you." Yanti couldn't understand this statement, she had seen her father rowing away after all, but she was too happy in his embrace to worry about that right now.

As soon as they released each other, they could see that Captain Chear and his crew had surrounded the pair. The Captain held his hand on the small, brown bottle once more and asked, "What brings you back here, Jarkii? Looking for some laughs?" The Lutari's smile now twisted his features cruelly.

"Well," the Xweetok replied. "I came back for my daughter. And my ship."

"Hmm, as I have both -- and a crew -- and you are alone, I can't imagine why I would just give them to you."

Jarkii reached a hand into his jacket, and the Quiggle pirate drew a cutlass, training it on the Xweetok's chest. Jarkii froze and said, "If I could just show you, Chear?"

The Lutari looked at the Quiggle and nodded. The Quiggle allowed the blade to drop, but he did not resheath it.

The Xweetok withdrew his hand from inside his jacket and offered a deck of cards to the Lutari. "I thought," Jarkii said with a merry grin, "perhaps we could play some Cheat. All or nothing."

Chear smiled, nodded his head thoughtfully, and said, "Well, I already have 'all' and you have 'nothing', so I don't know why I would..."

"But do you have 'all'?" Jarkii interrupted. "I don't think you have the sword, do you?"

The smile momentarily slipped from Chear's face, revealing a naked malice, but he quickly recovered and said steadily, "You still have the sword, Jarkii?"

"I do. I have the sword. The sword that will allow you to get home. That was a rather rookie mistake, don't you think? Allowing me to escape with it as you did? So. Want to play?" A wicked merriment danced in the Xweetok's eyes as he took the cards out of their box and began to shuffle them with lightning-fast moves that dazzled his daughter. Yanti thought of the sword her father had drawn on the Lutari earlier, the sword that had hung below deck for all these years. Was he trying to give it to Captain Chear, or was he really attacking? Yanti wondered at how much of her father's past she did not know.

"Miss Laph," the Captain commanded. "It looks like we'll be playing some cards. Bring out some chairs, enough for all of us, and put them around this barrel here." Turning to Jarkii, he asked, "You don't mind if we all play, do you?"

As he continued to flip and shuffle through the cards, the Xweetok shrugged and said, "I've beaten a bigger crew than yours in my time."

As the Zafara started to place some chairs around the barrel, Yanti moved to take a seat. Her father stopped her with a gentle hand to the shoulder. "I think maybe you should go get some rest. Why don't you go back to reading that book I recommended?"

The rebuff struck Yanti like a slap. She was about to protest when her father gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze and flashed a brief wink at her. Illusion. The book must have been enchanted by that Zafara, just like I thought, Yanti concluded. She stole a glance toward Miss Laph and was confused when the Zafara also winked at her. Maybe when Captain Chear said that enchantment doesn't work in the Mists... maybe that means the book won't be enchanted anymore, and I'll be able to see what Dad was trying to get me to learn in the first place. Resolute, the Wocky nodded and turned to find where she had stowed her book earlier.

Settling down on a wooden crate with her back to the others, Yanti looked once more at the book's title. Sunset On Mystery Island. "Boooring," Yanti muttered to herself. "No wonder I didn't want to read it earlier. Here's hoping it's not a strangely written fairytale that oddly mirrors my own situation without actually providing an ending."

The Wocky cast a quick glance over her shoulder and opened the book to the title page. What she saw there caused her to sit up straight with shock. She glanced casually over her shoulder once more to ensure no one was watching her and she read, My Journey to Lutari Island: Why the Pirate's Life Is Not for Me, by Captain Jarkii.

Yanti avidly turned the page and began to read...

Author: mamasimios
Date: Jan 14th
Once upon a time... The beginning was still the same, and Yanti had to surpress the urge to throw it to the ground, but somehow, her eyes moved to see the illustration on the other page...

It was a Xweetok, the pencil sketch of him uncannily like the one in real life. He was surrounded by a Lutari in a bandana, with a Maraquan Zafara -- Laph -- smiling to the side. The caption underneath read, With my new family.

Did this mean that her father was once with them? She snuck a glance in their direction, hearing her father yell, "Cheat!"

The next page was simply details about his first few days at sea -- monotonous days of nothing. Flipping foward a few pages, Yanti finally found the area where things got interesting...

I soon had my ship ambushed by a group of pirates... most peculiar ones, too, headed by an Island Lutari armed with only a bottle. In his crew he had a strange, secluded Maraquan Zafara, who I learned was named Laph. When I conversed with her, I learned that she was once an unwary sailor out on the Neopian seas, who had gotten her ship taken over by Captain Chear, the Lutari, who promptly crashed it into 'The Mists'. She advised me to surrender and join forces with Chear, thus maximising my chances of survival and escape.

Yanti nodded to herself, realising why it was that Laph didn't care about Captain Chear -- she was simply acting as such to get away from him.

She opened the book to the end, where an illustration of her father, this time holding the hand of a young Wocky with flowers in her hair, stared up at her. Yanti smiled at the fact that her father had included her in the story.

After my escape from the pirates, I managed to build myself another ship, for my old one had been shipwrecked off the coast of Lutari Island. These days, I am sailing around the world with my daughter, who I hope will remember the lesson I have left for her: Laughter comes not from a bottle, but from the heart.

Closing the book, Yanti tucked it under her arm and ran outside, where her father victoriously stood up and clapped his hands together, proclaiming, "I have won the game of Cheat, as we all can tell, and therefore, I request that you release my daughter and give me back the ship."

"Not quite so fast, Jarkii," the Lutari said. "Don't you remember what happened last time?"

Yanti, without quite knowing what she was doing, snuck around the Cheat table, and no one seemed to notice her. The Wocky crept behind Captain Chear; with one deft hand motion, the bottle of Tickle Powder was dangling between her fingertips.

"What do you think you're doing?"

She turned and saw the Mynci -- Choartle was her name -- glaring poisonously at her. Before Choartle could do anything, Yanti flung the bottle over her shoulder. The small sound of a splash as the bottle hit the surface of the water...

Chear's scream echoed throughout the deck.

Jarkii took advantage of the distraction, and soon had the Lutari pinned against the wall, the blade of his cutlass pressed against his throat.

"So, Chear, you going to give me the ship?"

The Lutari's eyes bulged as he gasped for breath.

"It's not as though I have a choice..." he hissed.

"Good idea," decided Jarkii, and guided the Lutari toward the railing. "I'm going to let you go now, but remember, if you ever come back, I'll be waiting for you."

Chear gave one last poisonous glare, directed toward Yanti, before diving off into the sea. His crewmates followed him, all but Laph.

"Laph, why aren't you going?" asked Jarkii. "Don't you want to follow your captain?"

"No, Father, she's staying here." Turning to Laph, she asked, "Right?"

The Zafara smiled. "Absolutely."

"Welcome aboard, Laph. I'm sure you'll be a source of light and laphter wherever we go."

They all laughed at Captain Jarkii's terrible pun.

The End

Editor's Note: Due to a holiday on Monday, the next Storytelling Contest will begin on Tuesday, January 18. Thanks!

Author: chocolate_lover67
Date: Jan 14th



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