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Week 497
You are on Week 498
Week 499

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 Eight Ends Friday, March 11

Something wasn't right. Johann felt slightly guilty for even thinking such a thing; after all, he was a guest at Entoni's Neohome -- the first time anyone had ever invited him to stay -- but he couldn't help but feel a bit unsettled by it all. For one thing, Entoni's home wasn't so much a Neohome as a castle, set on a remote vista between Brightvale and the place where Faerieland had crashed. Then there were the servants... except Johann wasn't quite sure if there were servants at all, because he never saw them. Things just... appeared. If he thought of having a nice cup of Borovan before bed, one would appear, fragrant and steaming, on his bedside table, before he ever asked for one out loud. Huge banquets for Entoni and Johann were cooked and set out by invisible hands. All of the food was delicious, of course, but having it materialise out of nowhere was unsettling, to say the least.

Johann shouldn't have expected anything less from Entoni, though. The Scorchio had always been eccentric. The first time they'd met, Entoni had told Johann that his family was the richest in all of Neopia. Johann hadn't known what to say, so he'd just offered a pleasant, "Really?" Entoni had taken that as an invitation to go on and on about his family's riches, in a very matter-of-fact voice.

"Our greatest treasure, though," he'd told Johann in a half-whisper, "is the Golden Scorchstone."

"But many Neopians have those!" Johann had protested, finally worn out by Entoni's boasting.

"Not a Golden Scorchstone the size of Kiko Lake," Entoni had replied smugly. That was when Johann had known he had to visit Entoni's family home. He had to see all of the things Entoni had described for himself.

Now he sat in the lavishly decorated guest suite he'd been given, contemplating the helping of the Most Delicious Ice Cream Ever that had just appeared before him. "It has to be the Scorchstone," Johann murmured to himself. "This all has to be magic of some kind." He poked at the ice cream with his spoon, suddenly disinterested in eating it. As if it had read his thoughts, the dish disappeared.

"That's it," Johann said out loud. "I'm going to get to the bottom of this. I'm going to find that Scorchstone..."

Author: The Shabby Gift of Disillusion
Date: Mar 7th
Johann stood up from the table, and instantly noticed the torch that appeared at his side. He shuddered lightly, but grabbed it in case he needed it. By the looks of the castle-sized Neohome, he would.

Johann passed room after room of lavish and expensive details. Marble statues, gold trimmings, the finest silk sprawlings he had ever seen. He swallowed a little in disgust; so much extravagance here, when that poor overworked Soup Faerie tends to millions of hungry Neopians, he thought.

His hopes grew every time he passed a huge door, most that flew open at the slightest touch of his hand. He found a grand ballroom, glittering with more gold and gems then he had ever seen in his entire life. He noticed the huge stained glass windows high above the room, depicting Entoni's entire family, and far at the end of the hall, a golden glazed window of a Scorchstone. Johann huffed in disappointment.

The next few massive doors housed an indoor swimming pool, a tennis court, and even a running track. Judging by Entoni's paunchy form, these rooms stayed relatively unused. There were numerous kitchens and dining halls, bedrooms and baths. Each door was a surprise, ending in only disappointment.

The day was growing dim already, and Johann didn't want to rouse suspicion of his continued hunt by turning on the huge crystal chandelier that hung in every room. He clicked on his newfound torch, and its dull light spewed forth. On a small hunch, he untwisted the end, and found that no batteries were even inside. "Figures," he muttered.

It was an almost endless labyrinth of hallways and doors, his head spinning lightly as he tried to mentally map his way around. He had been at this for a few hours now, and almost every room was starting to look the same, none of them even capable of holding an enormous Scorchstone.

Exasperated, Johann slumped up against a nearby wall. He lay his head against the cool stone and sighed loudly, "How will I ever find the Scorchstone in here?" A loud creak sounded, and Johann was answered by the lack of wall suddenly behind him.

With the loss of his balance, he tumbled through the wall into..

Author: filter
Date: Mar 7th
...a patch of ferns.

Wait. Ferns?

Johann pushed himself up on one hand and looked around. He was sitting in the middle of a courtyard garden, surrounded on all sides by imposing grey stone walls but filled with a riot of lush plants. Ferns and shrubs carpeted the ground, and trees reached skyward, festooned with blossoming vines and thick swathes of moss. Flowers bloomed in abundance, and Johann could smell the sweet scent of Aurora Lilies, Kauslips, and Lazydels. He stood with mouth agape. How could all this be within the Neohome?

The air was warm -- too warm for this time of year. On a hunch, Johann let his eyes travel upward, and discovered that it wasn't a courtyard, but a massive greenhouse set right inside the castle-like home. But it was like no greenhouse garden Johann had ever seen before. It didn't appear to be growing according to any plan; instead, flowers and plants from all over Neopia mingled without rhyme or reason. Furthermore, they all seemed to be blooming, even those that usually bloomed at different times of the year....

"How strange," Johann said aloud, stepping further into the greenhouse. He walked carefully, trying not to crush the delicate Fernplants or the wide purple blooms of the Peabeanjay flowers, but he couldn't help squishing them just a little. There were no paths to walk on, nor even narrow Ixi-trails, just a carpet of verdant growth. "It must be the Scorchstone's magic again."

"What's strange?" said a musical voice behind him. Johann whirled.

Standing in the fern patch, her hands folded neatly in her sleeves, was an earth faerie. Her leaflike green wings glowed faintly as they fanned behind her, and her thick auburn hair was glossy and tied neatly back, but Johann thought she looked tired.

"This garden," he said. "I didn't expect Entoni's castle to have anything like this! It's so formal and orderly, and this garden is so wild and untamed. Beautiful, though."

"I'm glad you like my garden," said the faerie. "But tell me: who is this Entoni of whom you speak?"

"Um," Johann said, surprised at her question. "He's the Scorchio who owns this castle?"

"What castle?"

"The castle -- this castle! The one right through that door!" Johann pointed, and the faerie turned to follow his gesture.

But the passageway he had fallen through was no longer visible. Gripped with sudden worry, Johann ran past the faerie to where he had emerged into the garden. He felt all over the stone wall with his fingertips, but felt nothing: not even the faintest crack that might once have been a doorway.

"If there was a doorway out," the faerie said, "I wouldn't be here myself." She looked up, sadly, at the sky just visible through the glass of the greenhouse roof. "But where are my manners. I am Tyllele. And you are...?"

"Johann," Johann said, dropping his paws from their fruitless search along the wall.

"Then Johann, though we have only just met, I am afraid I must beg a boon of you. You see..."

Author: barnowl42
Date: Mar 8th
"...there is, in fact, a way out."

Johann turned around to look at her in confusion. "What? I thought you just said there was no way out."

"Allow me to explain myself," the earth faerie sighed. "There is a way out; however, it is not so simple. I cannot leave on my own accord, therefore I cannot guide you out. I can, however, provide the necessary directions for your escape. Come." Tyllele stood and walked smoothly through the thick expanse of greenery behind her. Johann had no choice but to follow.

For several minutes there was nothing but the shadows from the sunlight-absorbing plants and the deep green of the faerie's wings to follow. Suddenly the endless labyrinth of plants came to an abrupt halt, and the two stepped out into an enormous clearing. Johann's mouth dropped open.

Standing in the middle of the enormous clearing was the largest gold Scorchstone he had ever seen.

In the large area containing little plant life other than grass, sunlight gleamed unblocked. The Scorchstone, reaching to perhaps a quarter of the size of Entoni's castle, literally glowed. Now that Johann thought about it, this greenhouse in which the Scorchstone resided probably took up almost half of the castle!

"Magnificent, isn't it?"

The Scorchio snapped out of his amazement at the sound of the faerie's voice.

"Yes, it is." He couldn't believe that during his accidental arrival had actually stumbled upon what he was looking for!

The earth faerie's face was stony. "This magnificence to me has long since turned from bittersweet to simply bitter. You see, long ago I was offered a job to guard this," she gestured to the Scorchstone, "in return for all of this." She swept her arms open to refer to the greenhouse's endless garden. "I was not such a... popular earth faerie. I was not well-liked among the others. So I accepted. But..."

"You didn't know you would be staying for so long," the Scorchio finished.

Tyllele nodded. The two lapsed into silence.

Something popped into Johann's mind. "Didn't you need some help with something? You mentioned earlier--"

"Yes, I did," the faerie said suddenly. "I will provide you with your way to leave, but only if you, being the only one here in power to do so, provide me with mine..."

Author: grammy27272727
Date: Mar 8th
Johann nodded. That seemed fair enough. An escape for an escape. Clean, easy, precise, not like what he was used to seeing, mingling with the rich as he so often did...

"Just... how do I do that?" Johann asked. "Get you out of here, if you're chained to this place?"

"There's only one way," Tyllele sighed. "Or at least, that's the way it seems, but who I am to..." She shook her head, sweeping away her train of thought before it had the chance to debark. "Once you are free, you must find someone, and bring them back here to take my place. Only then will I be able to leave."

Ah. There it was. The catch.

Johann narrowed his eyes. "So, basically, you want someone to take your place as prisoner?"

Tyllele's eyes flew wide open. "Please, it's not like that. It's not..." She rose, then sank like a wayward balloon. "Well... it is, I guess. But it is not as terrible as it sounds. I... I took someone's place. And the one before me, they did the same. It's... it's how it works."

"And besides," she added, attempting a smile, but frowning instead. "It isn't so bad at first. Anything you could possibly want -- it will appear, it will be yours, as long as you wish and for as long as you wish..."

"You just can't wish to leave," Johann finished.

She nodded sadly. "Yes." The faerie looked desolate, as if she could see the emptiness in her words and believed them just as much as Johann did, but when she looked at him with pleading eyes, he knew he had to help her.

"All right. I'll help you."

"You will?" Tyllele smiled, and it was such a strange smile, halfway between a grin and a sob, that Johann didn't know what to do with it, so he simply nodded.

"Now, um, how do I get out of here?"

Tyllele turned back to the Scorchstone, smile vanishing. She walked toward it, stopping a step away from the golden statue. Johann followed inquisitively.

"You must climb."

"Climb?" Johann echoed. "The Scorchstone?"

Tyllele nodded. "It is the only way out. You can't climb the trees or scale the walls or even fly if you have wings. You have to climb the Scorchstone. When you reach the top, there will be a single pane of glass missing in the skylight. Climb through that and you'll be free."

Johann looked up, trying to see where the giant Scorchstone ended. It seemed much smaller, somehow. Yet heavier. "Does it really reach the ceiling? It doesn't look that big..."

"You never really realise how big it is until the last moment," Tyllele answered cryptically. She fidgeted slightly. "Don't... don't forget to come back for me."

"I won't," Johann said, wondering whether it was a promise or not. He stuck his hand out and touched the statue, half-surprised it didn't burn him when he did. The metal felt cool and strange beneath his fingers. He wondered how he'd ever manage to climb such a thing.

"Good luck," Tyllele whispered.

Johann opened his mouth to say something in return, "thank you," perhaps, or to ask why he needed the luck, but he did not say a word, he had already started the climb...

Author: reveirie
Date: Mar 9th
The first few steps were easy. He started off on the tail, grabbing onto the spikes on the large, golden tail and soon managed to pull himself onto the Scorchstone's knee. He was about to climb onto the Scorchio's belly, which was covered in ridges. They formed a ladder, which Johann climbed easily. He was at the Scorchstone's neck, now over twenty feet in the air. He continued on, up the Scorchio's neck and over his face, the nose and eyes providing a place to step off from, despite his sweaty palms that slipped every now and then.

And there was the big challenge. Getting up the golden ball the Scorchio held, the stone part of Scorchstone. No matter where Johann looked, the sphere had no way up. He could try to hold onto the side and climb, but the rounded surface proved difficult to grasp.

He looked around quickly, searching for something that could help him get up the side. Tyllele was staring up at him, but he was too high up to make out her facial expression. Johann sat down on the Scorchio's large, golden head, but found that he was sitting on a pile of leaves.

Leaves?

He turned his head and was smacked by a low hanging branch dangling over the Scorchstone. Johann was 99% sure it hadn't been there a few seconds ago, but he wasn't complaining. The tree it grew from was high, too, the highest leaves of which brushed the roof of the greenhouse. The branch supported his weight. Johann sighed, deeply relieved, and eased himself onto the branch, which despite some ominous bending and the occasional falling leaf, managed to get him to the main tree trunk. Still at eye level with the Scorchstone, Johann took to the task of climbing up the tree.

He then chided himself for not remembering to wish for a way up in the first place.

Climbing a tree was so much easier than climbing the Scorchstone, Johann found soon enough. In just a fraction of the time it took to climb the Scorchio, he stood at the top, where another leafy branch led to the top of the sphere...

Excited, Johann scrambled onto the branch; the top of the ball was just ahead. As he gripped the branch tightly, Johann quickly made his way across.

But just as he was about to get to the top, a sudden noise startled him...

The noise of a branch cracking.

He gasped, letting go and instead standing up, and with his weight concentrated on that one section of the branch, the wood splintered and was about to break off...

Johann jumped, closing his eyes. I wish I'd land safely. I wish I would land on the Scorchstone.

And he did.

When he finally opened his eyes, he was at the top. The tree he had just climbed up was gone, the greenhouse full of flowers and bushes, but completely void of the large tree with conveniently placed branches. Johann vaguely wondered if he had imagined the whole thing in his moment of desperate delusion.

But no matter. Tyllele was the size of a doll, standing at the base of the greenhouse and staring up at him. Johann laughed victoriously and turned back to the ceiling; it was only a few inches above him, and when he searched, he could just see that missing pane of glass...

Author: chocolate_lover67
Date: Mar 9th
Johann hooked his claws over the edge of the missing pane and heaved himself up, scrabbling with his back legs for a grip. Soon enough he was standing, not within the greenhouse but on top of it. Beneath his hindclaws, he could see the golden curve of the Scorchstone and, below that, the vibrant green of the gardens. It was so far beneath him that it was nothing but a green blur.

The glass beneath Johann's feet was cold, and Johann soon realised why: this high up, the wind howled and gusted mightily. He didn't dare look down the slope of the greenhouse to see how far up he was. His Scorchio wings could keep him from falling all the way to the ground far below, but he wasn't as strong a flier as a Uni or an Eyrie, and he wasn't sure how well he'd fare in the powerful winds.

He dug his claws against the glass of the greenhouse and began to walk into the wind, determined to find a quieter place where he could glide to the ground.

But before he'd even taken a dozen steps, a swirl of glittering gold spun before him. It resolved itself quickly into the shape of Entoni.

Johann had always thought Entoni to be a bit of a ridiculous character, paunchy and sedentary and full of bluster. But suddenly, standing on the greenhouse roof hundreds of feet above the ground, with nothing around but the glass beneath his feet and the wind wailing in his ears... Johann had to revise his opinion. Right now, Entoni didn't look ridiculous at all, and what had once looked like pudge now seemed imposing indeed.

"This is how you repay my hospitality, Johann?" he bellowed, and as he bellowed, it felt like the mighty wind picked up.

"You should talk!" Johann replied, dropping to all fours to keep the wind from blowing him sideways. "You've trapped a faerie -- a living being who ought to be free -- just to protect your precious giant Scorchstone!"

Entoni's face spread into a fanged smile at that. "So now you believe me about the Scorchstone," he said.

"I believe that you have no idea what's important, if you think a huge magic rock is worth trapping one poor creature after another!"

"And how are you any better?" Entoni asked, his voice dripping sarcasm. "You promised that faerie that you'd trap a new guardian for me, didn't you?"

Johann was momentarily at a loss for words.

Entoni waved a clawed hand. "It doesn't matter. You're confused. Soon you will understand. Let me tell you the history of the Great Golden Scorchstone, and this castle, and my family... and yours." Johann could barely hear him with the wind howling around them. Entoni frowned and added, "You don't seem to be paying attention."

"I can hardly hear you!" Johann hollered back in frustration.

Entoni frowned, then shrugged and waved a hand. A trickle of the same golden glitter seemed to rise from the gap in the greenhouse roof. It whirled around them both, and then Johann felt his ears pop as though he'd flown too high, and suddenly he was not high on the roof but within a comfortable small room.

The room's walls glittered faintly, as though they'd been powdered with faerie dust; in stark contrast to the windy rooftop, it was warm and quiet. Silk cushions littered the floor and elaborate hangings adorned the walls, all in shades of cream and daffodil and sparkling gold.

"Now you can listen properly," Entoni said. "You see, it is not the faerie who was wronged. Let me tell you the story of Scorch Castle."

Glad to be down from the windy roof but still suspicious of his duplicitous host, Johann settled himself on a silk cushion, wrapped his arms around his knees and listened.

"I am Entoni Scorch, and my family is very old," Entoni said. He was pacing, as though even within this comfortable room he couldn't relax. "Long, long ago, before the Darkest Faerie fell from grace, before the Space Faerie left Faerieland for the skies, even before Fyora was queen... long, long ago, my family, the Scorch Clan, were the treasured aides of faeriekind. The faeries walked Neopia, infusing it with magic, and we were there to help. And our greatest and most honorable task was guarding the Orb of Golden Fire, a wellspring of magic on which the faeries drew. It was a proud and noble task.

"But all too soon," and now Entoni's voice curled into a sneer, "the faeries decided that Neopia wasn't right for their greater magics. They began distilling their potent abilities into little things... potions and magic rings and daggers. And soon they began drawing off the powerful magic of the Orb of Golden Fire, shrinking its majesty down into those tiny, useless trinkets you know. And they even shamed us by calling them 'Scorchstones,' and pretended it was an honour. Pah! As though the noble family who had once been the Guardians of the Orb would be pleased to lend their names to such debased magic!" Entoni paused, his chest heaving with anger, and then gradually calmed himself. "So, before the Orb could be wholly depleted, we hid it away. And ever since, we have kept it within Scorch Castle, and set a guard to keep that meddling Fyora from finding it and weakening its magic. That's why that earth faerie --"

"-- her name is Tyllele," Johann protested.

Entoni waved his hand as though that was of no import. "--that earth faerie must stay until I say that it's safe to find a replacement." Entoni whirled around to meet Johann's eyes, and for the first time Johann could see that Entoni's were reddened with madness.

Entoni continued, "And that's why you cannot leave until you see the truth of what I say and understand why it is right and proper that the Great Scorchstone of the Scorch Clan remain here, its magic at the family's disposal. And so you will stay here."

Johann felt panic grip his stomach. As calmly as he could, he said, "Where's 'here'?"

Entoni's smile widened. "Hadn't you guessed? I expected better of you, Johann. Right now, you're within the heart of the Great Golden Scorchstone -- or, should I say, the Orb of Golden Fire..."

Author: barnowl42
Date: Mar 10th
Johann's eyes widened as Entoni cackled. The room suddenly felt too small to him as he pictured being nestled inside the large orb of the Scorchstone. His mouth dropped in protest, but with a smirk, Entoni vanished in a soft twinkling of light. Johann took long strides across the room, pressing upon the walls, checking the seams, silently hoping that this entire debacle was just a dream. As he searched the last wall of the tiny, glittering room, his heart sank. His always curious mind would be his undoing, for now he was trapped here just for wanting to find out the truth about the Scorchstone. He was witnessing it first hand.

He fell to his knees on the soft golden carpet. Despair enveloped his body as a tear began to form in the corner of his eye. His own situation was bleak, but his heart felt worse for the poor trapped faerie. "Tyllele," he mused to himself, "you don't deserve this. You don't deserve the punishment that has fallen on your shoulders because of your heritage."

Johann suddenly lurched up and raised an angry fist. "Entoni, you can't do this to us! If you want to be selfish about it, watch your own Scorchstone!" Johann threw his fist into the nearby wall in anger, at the same moment the tear released from his eye, splashing upon the ground.

The room rumbled in response, the glittering walls quickly spinning into a chaos of colours. Johann gasped as the small room became smaller still, rushing in upon his form like a wave. The havoc encased his body, submerging him in its magic. He tensed up his body and closed his eyes, paralysed in fear from the sudden onslaught. With a loud pop, he felt the ground whisked away from his body. His stomach lurched as he felt himself falling, and the sudden blast of bright, pure light danced on his eyelids. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking quickly as he realised he was no longer within the beautiful jail cell of a room.

His wits returned with just enough time to compute the fact that he was free-falling back down through the greenhouse. The large tree directly in his path of descent seemed more a hindrance then a help, but his rotund form could not turn in time. Johann smacked face-first into the trunk of the mammoth tree, and very dazed, lazily slid his way down. He plopped onto the grasses at the base of the tree with a small thud, his paws rushing up to soothe his aching head.

Jarring back to reality, he stood in a rush. He certainly didn't wish to leave the Scorchstone in such a brash way, but he wasn't really sure if that was the magic giving him what he wanted or casting him out. No matter, he had to find the keeper of the garden, she was their only hope.

Tyllele's eyes widened in amazement as she saw the Scorchio running toward her. A little confused, but elated to see him all the same, she yelled out to Johann. "You came back!" she called with a smile, though her smile soon changed as she noticed Johann's grimacing face. Her own demeanour turned to sadness as he approached her, and she spoke softly, "Did you not find someone to take my place?"

Johann grasped Tyllele's shoulders frantically. "It's in you, the power to leave, the power to get us both out of here, is inside you, and... that," he yelled, turning and pointing to the huge Scorchstone. He looked back into the earth faerie's eyes. "Your people did it ages ago; they harnessed its power and drew it out -- now it's your turn!"

The faerie swallowed hard, watching the Scorchio's face, her eyes drifting to the Scorchstone. She looked back to Johann again. "I've been here for so long now, trapped here. I never knew about the stories of why I must guard this stone, only that it's my duty to." Tyllele looked around herself, all the flowers she'd taken care of, the beautiful flora that she had created. She looked back at Johann's scared eyes, inhaled sharply, and nodded. "Let's do it."

The pair ran for the stone. Johann stopped short at its base, turning to Tyllele and watching her face as she approached. The earth faerie bit her lip as she eyed the Scorchstone that she had guarded for so long, unquestioning.

Tyllele placed her hand upon the Scorchstone and closed her eyes...

Author: filter
Date: Mar 10th
A loud, ear-splitting noise started filling the greenhouse. Johann covered his ears immediately after the sound reached them. A bellowing wind swept through the grasses and flowers of the mysterious garden. Johann looked down at the ground and looked back up at one of the most shocking sights he had ever witnessed. "Tyllele!"

Her body, like sand on a beach, seemed to be slowly disappearing into the warm, fresh air. She looked back and smiled sweetly, her hand still on the enormous stone. Beads of sweat were falling down Johann's face. He would not allow himself to be trapped in such a horrible place. Johann screamed, "I wish for the wind to cease!"

The winds slowly dwindled to nothing but a quiet breeze. Tyllele's body was slowly starting to reform, just as the stone was started to melt into nothing. Huge droplets of gold bashed the ground like bombs. Johann had to dodge out of the way to avoid being smashed.

The top of Scorchstone was gone, and all that remained was a headless figure holding an orb. THe bright golden colour of the gigantic relic was dimly glowing a faint grey. The gold colouring was disappearing into the air like dust. Johann's eyes were wide as he watched this majestic phenonemon. Tyllele was sobbing; tears with a faint green colour hit the ground and sparkled.

"Johann, it's working! It's really working! I can finish this."

Tyllele seemed to be absorbing the colour of the statue into her own body. Her wings, hands, and feet were starting to glow. This faint glow eventually raced through her entire body as fast the Scorchstone was disappearing.

The Scorchstone was half gone now, only half the orb was present in the beautiful greenhouse. Johann looked up at the top of the stone and saw a small wormhole start to form. The hole in space opened up...

Author: richboy125
Date: Mar 11th
...and Entoni plunged through it, howling in rage. "No! NO! You can't do this!"

The gold-gleaming earth faerie turned toward him.

"You can't DO this!"

He threw himself at her -- Johann ducked, and immediately felt guilty -- and bowled her over.

"You -- can't -- DO this! To me! To my family! To the ORB!"

Tyllele sat up, then stood up, shaking Entoni off as if he weighed nothing. Beyond them, the Scorchstone continued disintegrating, silver overtaking gold, great globs of material falling to the blasted ground, and the wind picked up again -- but this time Tyllele, blazing green and gold, stood untouched.

"You tricked me," she said, and her voice echoed as she spoke. "You trapped me here to guard what your family received from the faeries in the first place, that you and your kin were not willing to release when they came to claim it!"

The grey passed the Scorchstone's equator and accelerated.

"It was ours!"

"It was yours to guard." She spoke slowly, and she looked at him with a terrible pity. "You were not always a poor guardian, Entoni Scorch. You were not so unkind a captor as you might have been." His eyes burned at the faint praise.

The last of the Scorchstone's colour whirled away, so Tyllele glowed as brightly as the sun. She regarded her own hands in some amazement as the last of the great orb, now silvery-grey, collapsed into a massive puddle. The roof of the greenhouse vanished, leaving them open to the sky.

Johann looked around, dazed. They stood at the shore of a vast burnished-silver lake with an eerie mist over it, but the plants beyond its boundaries were still as lush as ever. He rather thought some of them had been rearranged. There was a large house in the middle distance.

Entoni, faced with a faerie at something well beyond her usual full power, faced with the loss of all he had ever enjoyed, was on his knees and weeping. Green tears glittering gold ran down Tyllele's face as she turned it to the sun and spread her arms wide, and was lost in the sunlight.

Johann staggered toward Entoni, who looked at him and then back at the golden lake. "I thought you were my friend," Entoni said bitterly.

"I was," Johann said. "I am, I guess. Even if you did try to trap me. What were you thinking, Entoni?"

The Scorchio didn't answer, perhaps unsurprisingly. He'd been trying to protect what his family had been entrusted with, their pride and joy and source of fabulous wealth. He'd kept -- well, his family had kept -- the magical guardians in a luxurious prison, the last of them the earth faerie who'd taken residence in his grandmother's day. They hadn't dared let a faerie back out with the information, and there she had gone anyway. He stared numbly at what was left of it -- a giant puddle and a greenhouse now open to the sky.

Johann tugged at his arm. Entoni hadn't been a bad friend, most of the time. Full of himself, delighting in extravagance, and clearly capable of much worse... but generous and, once he ever shut up, a good listener and a ready wit who laughed at others' jokes even when they weren't very good, for the fun of laughing with friends. "You should get up," Johann said. "Get inside and clean up. I don't know about you, but I could use a bath."

"It's gone," Entoni said dazedly. "The house was made with the Scorchstone's magic."

Johann looked pointedly over at the mansion standing off at the edge of the garden. "I'd guess things don't do themselves just because you think you'd like them done anymore," he said, "but there are worse fates. It certainly looks like your house."

Entoni turned his eyes that way, and some hope lit in them again. "But the faerie took the magic back."

"Her name," Johann repeated, with a little acid, "is Tyllele."

"She said it wasn't ours and she took it back! Why would the house be there?"

Johann opened his mouth to answer, but instead the response whispered in the air around them, thrummed in the soil beneath their feet. "You were not always an ill guardian, Entoni Scorch. Perhaps you forgot your purpose, but at least you were not faithless. Keep your home. Keep your wealth, though you will wish yourself no more." A pause. "Your task is ended. Be at peace!"

They walked on to the house in silence. Johann saw Entoni through basic hygiene and sent him to bed, then walked slowly through the massive hallways, unpestered by helpful wish-granting invisible magic.

The true quiet was even more eerie.

The true quiet was less eerie than the golden humming he began to feel when he quietly walked out to breathe the open night air.

Tyllele seemed to coalesce out of a cloud of Lightmites in the air, a figure of power and glory. After a moment, though, the glow went away, and an earth faerie with muddy tear-streaks on her face and dirty feet sat on a small hummock next to him.

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"You're welcome." A pause. "I'm glad I didn't have to find a replacement for you. I was thinking I might have to be it, just to give you a... a chance to get out. If that had worked...." He hesitated. "Would you have maybe come back for me eventually?"

"I hope so," Tyllele said seriously, after some thought. "I don't know. I hadn't thought of it." She sighed. "How is your friend?"

"Drained. How are you?"

"Filled. More powerful than I've ever been. Free for the first time in aeons." Tyllele sighed. "Tired. I still don't get along very well with... others. Faerie or Neopet."

"You're getting along okay with me."

"Mm. And how are you?"

Johann gave this question serious consideration. "Croggled," he said finally, and the faerie laughed in surprise. "But all right," he added quietly. "I haven't exactly lost Entoni, and I've made a new friend."

Tyllele looked at him in surprise, and the glow of her smile was not that of the great Scorchstone, but simple, sudden joy.

The End

Author: schefflera
Date: Mar 12th



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