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||You are on Week 518
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 Five Hundred Eighteen Ends Friday, August 5
Alone and isolated from the world around her, Rae's long Ruki legs were folded beneath her, faerie wings drawn back. Though she was sitting in what was probably the most popular berry field in Meridell, no one paid her any attention. A few passed in front of her, some went behind her, while others didn't even bother to give her these courtesies. A few younger children looked at her with bated glances; most, however, saw right through her, like everyone else.
She could feel the ache in her throat from withheld tears, yet still she refused to cry. She was brave -- she'd been a monster slayer, a warrior, and a protector. That was who she was, but never had she had to fight this, to war against such loneliness. Well, that wasn't entirely true... since, after all, she'd been born to fight loneliness. It was in her very nature, but the loneliness she'd been meant to battle had never been her own. She was an imaginary friend.
Zeena, her friend -- rather, her former friend -- had been her princess, and Rae had been her loyal protector. She had fought the monsters beneath Zeena's bed, put the demons in her closet to justice, fought off great evils and sadnesses, as well as been there for her friend whenever she'd been needed. And yet, what did she get for her loyalty and strength? Rae hung her head.
The Ruki had always known that, one day, little Zeena would grow up. She would shed her shyness, make friends, and realize that there were no monsters beneath her bed. One day she'd forget that she had an imaginary friend and leave her somewhere, unable to return. Just because you know something is going to happen doesn't make it hurt any less, though. No, if anything, it just makes it harder to bare. Rae wondered whether she'd be able to find another young Neopet to befriend, despite the bond that she'd had with Zeena, her creator. If not, she supposed that she would just disappear eventually.
She rubbed her eyes, trying to keep the tears at bay, her armor clattering lightly against itself. She missed the days when her only worry was little Zeena's monster in the closet. She didn't think loneliness would feel so... alone.
Her vision blurred and she sobbed silently. It didn't last long, though, because something -- or rather, someone -- caught her eye. From across the field someone was watching her. He was clad in white, with cloth wrapped around him like an inhabitant of the Lost Desert. Only the piecing yellow eyes of an Eyrie could be seen. They looked cold and dark, but were almost welcoming in a way.
How was it that he could he see her? Adults could never see her, their eyes so blocked by the stresses of age.
Suddenly Rae's eyes went wide. He shouldn't have been able to see her, unless...
Date: Aug 1st
"Yes," the voice of the stranger said.
In a moment, he was standing next to her - his voice was as cold and commanding as his eyes - but that was now of secondary concern.
"How did you...?"
"Imagination," the stranger stated plainly. "Don't tell me you've been walking about normally? How long have you been here?"
Rae's hand tightened on the sword around her waist - she was itching to draw it and threaten the stranger, just as she had in countless afternoons of playing with Zeena. Old habits died hard, but Rae managed to keep her hand where it was.
"But yes, I am what you thought I am," the stranger added. "Imaginary, like you. My name is Onen - Onen, do you understand? It is very important you remember that. What's your name?"
Onen smiled, seemingly softening his harsh exterior.
"Rae, I won't forget your name," he said. "I believe in you."
A strange sensation came over Rae; she felt oddly empowered by his words - as if his belief was somehow nourishing her.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I am Sultan Onen Al-Futan the 49th, ruler of a desolate and cursed desert kingdom, plagued with mummies, evil wizards, and ancient mystical magics. I have fought back legions of the undead, saved countless lands from impending and uncertain dooms... I was the imaginary friend of a boy named Quentin from Neopia Central. I imagine that, from then on, our stories are not so dissimilar - he grew up and forgot I existed. By the way, when someone tells you that they believe in you, it is generally considered good etiquette to return the favour."
"Oh," Rae said. "Sorry... I believe in you too, Onen."
The Eyrie seemed bolstered by the words, just as Rae had been.
"So, why are you here?" Rae asked.
Onen smiled and replied, "That's a very good question..."
Date: Aug 1st
"I am here because..." Onen's words stopped short. He was staring at a shadowy being standing a few feet away. Its form wavered, but retained the general shape of a beast.
The Eyrie growled, but the amorphous creature was unfazed. It lunged for him; Onen blocked its attack with a desert staff that he quickly pulled from midair and then shot a few blasts of gold magic from it. Rae brandished her sword and slashed at its side. The creature moaned and faded from the combined attacks.
"That was oddly sudden," Onen said. "There should be no reason for us to worry about monsters anymore if neither of us has a child to imagine them..."
Rae's thoughts turned over in her head. So, if they had really just fought a monster, did that mean Zeena hadn't left her behind? If Onen could also fight it, did that mean Quentin still wanted him?
It would be unusual for two abandoned imaginary friends to be wanted again at the same time.
"Over there!" Rae exclaimed, pointing her sword at a green Uni who was running from a beast similar to the one they had just defeated. The newly-paired allies charged toward them, only to stop short...
Date: Aug 2nd
The beast suddenly rose up into the air, stretching its dark shape against the sky like a malevolent storm cloud - only to vanish as suddenly as it had appeared. Rae and Onen stood side by side for a few minutes, still poised and ready to fight, before finally exchanging confused glances with one another. The danger seemed to have passed.
The Uni ran up to them, out of breath but still managing to smile as he gasped. "Thank you," he said, "I'm usually prepared for anything, but not for that."
"You're welcome, but we really didn't do anything," Rae replied, "It just sort of vanished on its own."
"What's happening?" Onen asked, "What are these creatures, and where are they coming from?"
"I don't know," the Uni answered. "All I know is..." Suddenly, he cried out as if in pain and dropped down to his knees, then began disappearing before Rae's terrified eyes. The Uni's form quickly begin to fade, as if it had no more substance than smoke.
"I believe in you!" Onen shouted, but his words appeared to be too late. "I believe in you!"
Tears sparkled in the Uni's eyes as he struggled to get a few last words before fading into nothingness. "All I know is that something's after the children..."
Date: Aug 2nd
"What is it?" Rae asked desperately. "What's after the children?"
"Find them... find the believers... and defeat him..."
"Who?" Onen whispered. It was too late, though.
The fading Uni managed one last line before he vanished, dissipating like smoke, and it wasn't the answer to Onen's question.
"I... I believe in you."
"We believe in you, too," Rae said, feeling the tears well up in her eyes.
And then he was gone.
After a moment of silence, Rae finally spoke. "What do we do now?"
"I don't know," Onen said, shrugging. "I guess we... do what he said -- find the believers and defeat him, whoever he is."
"I wonder who that Uni's Neopet was..." Rae said, talking more to herself than Onen.
"Who knows? We'd better get going. The monsters are coming."
"How are there monsters without someone to dream them up?" Rae wondered out loud. "They don't appear unless someone imagines them."
"Someone must be imagining them," Onen said. "Strange. Children usually think that the monsters lurking under the bed only target them..."
"And the monsters they dream up do go after them, exclusively," Rae finished. "But why would there be monsters that attack everyone? No child's clever enough to imagine a monster that would go after everyone, not just them."
"Maybe it's not a child doing the imagining," Onen suggested.
"Him. The 'him' the Uni mentioned."
There was another silence.
"So, where do we start looking?" Rae asked.
Onen thought for a moment. "The one place monsters love to lurk..."
Date: Aug 3rd
The few Neopians doing some late night shopping rushed to and fro around the Neopian Bazaar, clutching their bright shopping bags, oblivious to the presence of Rae and Onen. One girl that passed, giggling, looked remarkably like Zeena. Rae sighed and turned her mind back to the task at hand.
"Are you sure this is the place?" she asked Onen doubtfully.
He nodded, eyes fixed on the Neohomes Superstore's front door. "Positive. Quentin used to be terrified of this place. After all, it has more beds in one spot than anywhere else for miles around, and it's getting dark. Come on."
They slipped into the shop - a figment of imagination, Rae had never been held back by doors. Inside, rows and rows of brightly-colored beds went on into the distance. They carefully edged their way forward, weapons at the ready.
"I wonder who 'he' is," Rae murmured. "And why he would want to hurt imaginary creatures?"
"Some people don't like imagination," Onen said quietly. "There are things imaginary creatures can do, thoughts they can inspire... dangers only they can overcome."
Rae felt a foreboding shiver run down her spine. She gripped her sword tighter, sensing that something was watching them. Sure enough, everywhere along the floor long shadows began to spin: black monsters, with claws outstretched and teeth bared, began to rise from the puddles of shadow.
"Onen!" Rae called out. "This place isn't a lair, it's a breeding ground! We have to get out..."
Date: Aug 3rd
To his credit, Onen took her statement at face value, with no questions or strings attached. He simply grabbed her hand to run back the way they had entered – but to their surprise, they found the wall as solid to them as it would have been to the children who imagined them.
Frowning, the Eyrie patted the wall, trying to phase through it as he had before.
"Onen, they're coming!" Rae cried, staring at the advancing line of monsters.
In an instant, Onen shifted gears. "Then we fight," he said simply, voice resigned. Withdrawing his staff, he adopted a posture of grim readiness.
Following his lead, Rae drew her sword and slung her shield from her back to her front, listening with dark satisfaction as it clanged satisfactorily against her armour. At least battle she understood.
"I believe in you, Onen, and I will never forget your name," she told him formally as they waited in the eternal seconds between the acknowledgement of battle and the arrival of their foes.
"I believe in you, Rae, and I will never forget your name," he replied softly. Strength surged through her limbs at his words, and for the moment, she felt hopeful.
And then that moment passed – the beasts arrived. The battle held a frightening edge to it because, though Rae had fought often throughout Zeena's childhood, they had always been monsters that had come to exist in the same manner Rae had. Truly, she had never fought so many..
The battle seemed endless, though in reality it couldn't have lasted very long. Dancing between the snaps of vicious black maws, her back to Onen as his back was to hers, her sword flashed in the darkness. The creatures howled as they fell to her sword, and behind her she heard the Eyrie's staff whistle through the air, landing with dull thuds against the beasts.
How many did they fight? Rae couldn't say – it seemed as if her existence became filled with the thrust of her sword and the deflection of her shield, the dance away from the snap of teeth and the darkly graceful turns between blows.
When the last beast fell, it took her a moment to realize that the battle – for the time – was over. Behind her, Onen thumped the ground with his staff and grunted with satisfaction.
Their moment of victory and relaxation was short lived, for nearly immediately, a cold, cruel voice rang out in the darkness of the Superstore.
"Well, well, well... it would seem as if I have uninvited guests," he said, his voice at once horribly cultured and horribly sharp.
"Who are you?" Rae demanded, her voice displaying a confidence she didn't feel.
"No matter," the voice mused, ignoring her question entirely, "Uninvited or not, you have shown me something very valuable... to succeed, my creatures must be stronger. Perhaps these are better suited..."
Eerie green eyes began to glow in the darkness...
Date: Aug 4th
Rae was ready to attack, and so was Onen. They stood back to back, weapons in hand, as the new type of monsters surrounded them. They looked like the old ones, but Rae could tell "he" had something up his sleeve and that these creatures were it. Seconds ticked by, and yet none of the monsters even touched them. Rae nervously glanced at Onen for a sign to attack, rather than waiting for the creatures to strike first. Onen stood fast, though, staff at the ready, simply waiting.
Nothing seemed any different until a familiar odor wafted into Rae's nose. The smell was a pleasant one, of sunflower sugar cookies and peppermint toothpaste. It smelled like Zeena... who then appeared in front of her.
"Zeena?" Rae asked the yellow Mynci before her.
"Don't give in!" Onen yelled at the Ruki. "It's not her. I see Quentin, too, but it's not them. It's the beast's way of getting you to let your guard down."
It was too late, though. Rae had dropped her sword and run to Zeena, engulfing her in a hug. As her arms wrapped around her, however, Zeena disappeared into a puff of smoke and vanished within a matter of seconds. Instead, Rae now found herself encircled by monsters...
Date: Aug 4th
Bright, acid-coloured eyes shone at her in all directions. The monsters themselves gleamed like oil, black as the darkest pits. Rae wondered what would happen if she touched one of them with her pincer. Their oily skin seemed only like a veil, separating this world with a world of darkness. Is that what they really were? Portals to another world? Or was the darkness within them so dense that it gave the illusion of some gigantic parallel universe?
Suddenly, the huge, gaping maws of every monster opened up, revealing not a set of sharp teeth, but rather slick rivers of darkness. Beads and streams of blackness merged together, until they formed a bubbling torrent. As it cascaded onto Rae, she coughed and spluttered, forcing her eyes shut. The darkness that her lids produced was as bright as a sunny day compared to the darkness that was upon her.
Rae spun 'round and 'round, lost and disorientated, not knowing what to do. Images of her owner flashed through her head. Was Zeena really here? No. Just an illusion. She had to focus. She forced herself to open her eyes again, but when she did they stung and started to water. The darkness was cloying and suffocating. What was this stuff? Poison?
Enough was enough. She had to get out. They were advancing on her. Mustering all of her strength, the Ruki lifted her shield up and spun around in a full circle, wielding it. The monsters screamed in unison as it cut through them, and then, in a final puff of the acrid darkness, they were gone. All that was left were the imprints of those acid green eyes. Their colour seemed to have been engrained into the air. After blinking hard, the Ruki could no longer see those eyes.
She turned around to a troubled Onen. He was muttering, "No. No. No." over and over and over again. Tears were streaming down his face.
"Onen, what's wrong? What is it?" She dropped her weapons and hugged him tightly. "You're not... fading, are you?"
"No, it's worse than that. I... I saw Quentin. I thought 'he' had conjured an image of Quentin to distract me, but the Quentin I saw was no image. Quentin is... 'him'..."
Date: Aug 5th
The words had barely left Onen when something silvery and transparent surrounded them. It was like a soap bubble, encapsulating Onen and Rae within itself.
"You have fought well," the cold voice stated, clear even though it came from outside the bubble. "Apparently my monsters cannot defeat you. Therefore, I must imprison you."
And then, out from the shadows, stepped a boy. He was older than the Quentin Onen had described -- he looked about fourteen, the same age Zeena would be by now. His eyes were calculating and cold as he observed them. "You are the last ones, you know. The last imaginary friends that have not yet been destroyed by my monsters."
"Quentin," Onen barely whispered, attempting to walk out of the bubble. He could not move beyond it, though, no matter how much he tried.
"Onen, that's useless. I created you... I created that prison... you cannot escape."
Rae tried to move outside of the bubble, but she felt herself weak -- fighting the monsters had been exhausting. She could not move beyond its bubble wall, either.
"You didn't create me, though -- you cannot keep me imprisoned!" Rae said fiercely.
"Perhaps not, but I can assure you that you will start to begin feeling weak... you might have felt a shift already. Nobody believes in imaginary friends anymore, see?"
"Why, Quentin?" Onen asked, hoarsely.
"Why?" Quentin repeated sharply. "Because imaginary friends cannot be trusted. You left me, when I had no other friends. For years I searched for you, tried to imagine you back, but you never returned... so I came up with a plan. I would create an imaginary friend that would never leave me. It had to be extra powerful, though, as powerful as hundreds of imaginations, so I began to harness imaginary friends, using their essence, collecting it... simultaneously saving hundreds, thousands of children from the heartache that ensues when your imaginary friend leaves you!
That's why I created the Uni, to lure you in, so I could finish what I started..."
"But I didn't forget you!" Onen pleaded. "I thought you forgot me!"
"A true friend would not have given up so fast," Quentin said, walking closer to the bubble he had imagined. "A true friend stays."
Quentin's eyes moved from Onen to Rae.
"You are extremely resilient, though," Quentin said with displeasure, his gaze evaluating. "I am not surprised to find you so, Onen. I did imagine you with very many details, after all. It surprises me to find that someone created you, Ruki, with an equally powerful imagination as mine... no, that cannot be."
Quentin turned his back to them. "You will fade away soon enough," he declared.
"Not if it's up to me," said a voice that came from up ahead. A new figure walked toward them. Rae couldn't believe her eyes -- after all the illusions she was wary, but she couldn't help but hope that what she saw was true... it was Zeena, approaching Quentin. She took in the bubble that held Rae and Onen captive.
"Rae, Onen... I believe in you," Zeena said. Rae felt strengthened -- new life seemed to fill her.
"Zeena, what are you doing here?!?" Quentin asked, his voice betraying a hint of panic. "You had an imaginary friend too?" he asked incredulously, clearly having lost his footing.
"I have Rae," Zeena simply said.
"Zeena... how?" Rae asked, breathless with emotion. "Do you know Quentin?"
"I dreamed you, and I remembered. You hugged me, here, in this shop. Quentin lives only a few houses from ours." She turned to face Quentin. "Why are you doing this? I remember you talked about 'true' imaginary friends... I didn't understand what you meant. I recalled Rae, and she was a true friend."
"Was she?" Quentin challenged. "She forgot you."
"No," Zeena said, correcting him. "I forgot -- and there is a time to forget, a time to move past imaginary friends, Quentin."
Her words rang in the empty room.
"But I didn't forget Onen, and he left!" Quentin said stubbornly, looking at the Eyrie.
"You imagined me as an explorer," Onen said. "I only went on a long journey. When I came back you had forgotten."
"I only pretended to!" Quentin said.
"What good was that?" Zeena asked. "You could have had your friend for longer. But now, Quentin, it's time to let go. The time for imaginary friends has passed. Onen and Rae should find new children, ones with time for them, and children should have the freedom to create imaginary friends -- you cannot control others' imaginations. You have no right to."
Quentin slumped on the floor, and the bubble surrounding them melted away. Rae ran to Zeena, hugging her tightly.
"Quentin, you did the right thing. That I disappointed you does not make it right to ruin it for others," said Onen.
Quentin's eyes glistened in the darkness as he watched Rae and Zeena embrace.
"I hope... I hope I did not disappoint you, Onen," he said. "I hope that in time you will forgive me."
"I will, Quentin. Imagination knows no bounds and is a richness -- you, of all people, know the value of it. But you must not merely dwell in it and forget to live. It has come time for us to say our farewells."
Date: Aug 5th
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