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||You are on Week 526
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 Twenty Six Ends Friday, September 30
|It was a thoroughly pleasant life in Meridell. At least, it was for Constance Dearheart, who'd never had a care in the world. She was, or at least had been told that she was, a great beauty. It was common knowledge that she had a well-rounded knowledge of things young ladies should have knowledge of, and her manners were quite impeccable.
She wasted away the days of her youth as those with wealth were inclined to do, by throwing small parties for her immediate and sometime less immediate family and friends.
It was during one such gathering that a curious event happened. Miss Frothersham had just finished playing a delightful piece on the harpsichord, and Mr. Derby, who was in possession of a most remarkable wit, had told an uproarious anecdote about his hunting days on Mystery Island.
Then at once the doors to the drawing room burst open and Greaves, the butler, escorted in Mr. Oldsham, a local businessman of some repute. The event of course caused a sudden change in countenance for all present, for they were the type of guests to possess countenance, and not expression.
The gash on Mr. Oldsham's arm was immediately apparent to all in attendance, causing Miss Forthersham to feel quite lightheaded. As Mr. Derby escorted her to the fainting room with the hopes it would aid her swift recovery, Mr. Oldsham provided the group with an explanation.
"You have my apologies, of course," he stated. "I would not wish to intrude on your gathering under any normal circumstances. However, I was set upon by a collection of rather odd fellows while passing through the village. One of them happened to bite me before I could make good my escape."
"But, who were they?" Constance enquired.
"I believe," Mr. Oldsham replied with some trepidation, "that the popular term in less educated circles is that of 'zombie'..."
Date: Sep 26th
A frisson of horror circled the room.
"My good man!" exclaimed Mr. Colby, a dear friend of the family. "Such things are mere superstition!"
"You must have imagined them in the dark, quite understandable in your state. A pack of wild Petpets, perhaps?" Constance said with a sympathetic smile. Mr. Oldsham only shook his head, quite overcome.
"Miss Constance, if I may," Greaves murmured, "I have heard of such creatures originating near the Haunted Woods. They are becoming a more common sight around Neopia."
"Good grief!" Mr. Colby patted his brow with a handkerchief.
No one spoke for a couple of minutes. The only sound in the room was Mr. Oldsham, wheezing slightly and clutching his arm. His face was a sickly shade of grey.
A sudden knock on the door made them all jump. As Greaves bowed out of the room to answer it, Constance took a deep, steadying breath.
"Miss Constance," Mr. Colby said, touching her elbow briefly. "Should we not inform your father?"
Her heart sank, and she shook her head minutely. "No, he is... quite ill at the moment. It would -- it would be best not to disturb him." Mr. Colby nodded in understanding.
A loud exclamation, followed by a sudden crash brought them running into the main hall. Greaves, collar torn askance, was leaning against the main doors.
He smiled slightly, his face white with shock. "I regret to inform you that we have additional guests, Miss Constance, who are not quite so welcome as the last."
As Constance stood dumbfounded, a sudden scream from the fainting room pierced the night...
Date: Sep 26th
"Egad - Miss Frothersham!" Mr. Derby cried in alarm. He turned toward the door of the fainting room, intent upon saving the hapless victim from a fate surely worse than death - and then a soft hand upon his shoulder halted his flight.
"Dear Mr. Derby, I do hope you don't think I am being forward, but I feel compelled to advise you that direct confrontation is not the best way to deal with creatures such as these."
"What do you know of these creatures, Miss Constance?" he inquired of his hostess.
"I am exceedingly well versed in zombie lore," said Miss Constance. "I read extensively, and as it so happens my favorite authors touch upon this subject often and at great length. Zombies," she continued, her voice growing more sure as she spoke, "are not living in the physical sense. They are hapless beings who have left this earthly plain, only to be reanimated by means unknown. In order to defeat them we must find out what has caused them to reanimate. Fortunately, they are slow moving creatures, without independent thought. They cannot formulate plans, so in that we have the advantage. However, they must not be allowed to bite you! A zombie bite will invariably contaminate the victim. There is no cure."
"Mr. Oldsham, you were bitten." Derby stated. "If Miss Constance is correct it is only a matter of time before you turn into a zombie. I'm afraid we will need to confine you for the safety of the guests." Mr. Oldsham gave a shuddering sigh, then inclined his head in agreement.
"I understand completely, sir. I shall retire to one of the upstairs guest rooms; perhaps Greaves would be so kind as to lock me in?" Greaves nodded curtly, and the two individuals left the room. Derby then turned to Constance.
"Miss Constance, we must ascertain the fate of Miss Frothersham - save her if it is possible, and if it is not then we must save ourselves. Can I count upon you to help me?"
Constance nodded. "Of course, Mr. Derby."
"I think it would be allowable for you to call me by my given name of Hunter at this point, Miss Constance. I have a feeling we are in for a very long night." Steeling himself, he turned and threw open the door of the fainting room. He was completely taken aback by what he saw within...
Date: Sep 27th
…or rather, the lack of what he saw within.
"Not a zombie in sight," he murmured, glancing around the room.
"How quaint. I wonder what had Miss Frothersham screaming, then."
"Miss Fothersham is nowhere in sight, either."
Constance nodded grimly. "Perhaps we should find her?"
"Do you think the zombies are hiding?" Mr. Derby -- Hunter; she must call him Hunter -- inquired, stooping and sneaking a look under the seats. His search seemed to have yielded no results, as he rose again without further comment.
Constance shook her head quite confidently.
"They haven't the intelligence," she stated, "as I have said before. Something -- or someone -- controls them, and this is what we must find."
"Then surely their controller would be able to tell them to hide?"
"In theory, yes, though for such complex orders to get through to them, their animator would need to be in close proximity. Telling a zombie to simply attack others is simple. Telling them to be subtle while doing so, that's much harder."
Mr. Derby pondered her words for a few seconds, then said, "I suppose their animator is quite a ways away."
"We can't be certain," Constance interjected.
At this point, their conversation was cut short by the sounds of shrieking from the floor above.
"Mr. Oldsham," Constance murmured.
"Greaves," Mr. Derby added, his voice barely a whisper.
"We should probably go back outside..."
He followed her out of the fainting room. Multiple things seemed to happen at once: the moment they stepped foot out of the room, Mr. Oldsham came flying down the stairwell, his normally neat hair a wild mess and his coat and shirt all ripped up; at the same time, the doors rattled, threatening to break, until they finally burst open...
Date: Sep 27th
Zombies poured into and infested the hallways. These appeared unusually fierce, however. Certainly, they were far more aggressive than those Constance had encountered in bound tomes. Whereupon contact with any object was made, the creatures seized the thing feverishly and with moulded gums gnawed and ghastly nails scratched. From their gaping mouths and rotting flesh escaped the most pungent of fumes, those which nearly asphyxiated the rooted Constance and Hunter. The creatures, however, noticed not the horrified Zafara and Ixi at the far end of the corridor.
Incredulous and terrified, Constance found herself in sudden want of the fainting room behind them. Hunter quickly pulled a handkerchief from his vest and thrust it to the maiden beside him. Constance pressed the fabric to her nose and mouth to banish the rotting odour from her airways.
With his arm pressed against his nose, Hunter spun around and madly searched the fainting room for a makeshift weapon. Arresting a small stool, he ran back to Constance’s guard. He grasped her gloved hand, and to her horror, pelted forward.
The Zafara swung the stool like a mace, and in his frenzy dislodged several of the creatures' browned teeth. The zombies stumbled into each other and in their mindless confusion initiated temporary attacks on each other. Constance fled as fast as she could alongside the valiant Hunter, but found she could not very well keep his pace for a journey longer than the corridor. All the time, her thoughts were on Greaves and her ill father. She surrendered to the realisation that likely neither could be saved. They had now to find the animator – or Necromancer– and terminate the chaos.
Constance felt a tug at her curls and shrieked. A greyed and gormless Oldsham had clutched a handful of her luminous hair.
"Back, accursed fiend!" came Hunter's roar.
Hunter lodged a reckless swing at their infected acquaintance, sending him against the wall. The pair coughed as the fiends' scent continued to foil their breaths. The lady clung desperately to the gentleman's hand and they continued their sprint down the seemingly endless corridor.
As they fled past rooms, Constance caught a fleeting glimpse of a familiar figure slumped in the corner of the dining room, the windows behind them agape...
Date: Sep 28th
"Father!" Constance cried, stopping in her tracks and trying to tug Hunter toward the figure in the corner.
"No, Miss Constance! You simply cannot!" Hunter yelled, pulling her away from the room.
"But my father!" she sobbed, taking another desperate step in the direction of the dining room. "He... he's..."
"No, Miss Constance! As a gentleman, I cannot allow you to take one step further into that room! Now, come!" Hunter scooped the Ixi up in one swift motion and proceeded pell-mell down the corridor.
"Mr. Derby! You will unhand me at once!" Constance shrieked, which only served to make the zombies hurry after them with even more determination. "Hunter! My father is back there!" She cast a glance over the Zafara's shoulder, only to find the dining room empty. "But... but he was... right... there..." she murmured.
"Hya!" Hunter had stopped only for a moment to kick at the doors leading to the outside world, but it was enough.
"Hunter! The creatures!" Constance said, wriggling out of the Zafara's grip. "They've caught up."
Hunter continued to smash away at the front doors. "They... won't... give," he grunted.
Constance plucked an umbrella from the bucket by the front door. "I'll try to buy you some time," she said confidently.
"You know how to fight these things, madam?" Hunter asked.
"Not well, but I've read the books..." Constance replied, then took a swing at the nearest zombie and heard a sickly crunch as its nose was smashed.
"Oh, because books are so very near to the real thing, of course" a voice chuckled. A chill went down Constance's spine. She looked in front of her, to the top of the stairwell. There stood the very last person she had ever thought to see...
Date: Sep 28th
Miss Frothersham stood before them with a confident smile and blazing eyes, arms folded as she gazed down at them.
"She seems to have recovered," Hunter pointed out weakly before remembering the doors and returning to the task at hand.
"But... what in the world?!?" Constance stared at the other young woman over the heads of the shambling undead. "How can this be? Surely you're not behind all of this."
Miss Frothersham laughed airily. "Oh, but I am."
"That's impossible!" Constance declared, then ducked as a zombie swung a clumsy arm in her direction. She rammed the umbrella into the creature's middle, causing it to fold over in mild, brainless surprise. "Ever since we were girls, you've always been so delicate! Why, I remember the time our carriage went past Meri Acres farm, and the merest whiff of dung made you faint!" The constant sound of banging from behind her told Constance that Hunter was continuing his attack on the doors, but she had no time to spare a glance as another zombie lurched at her.
"Ah, you don't seem to understand," Miss Frothersham replied, utterly at her ease. "I am not the Miss Frothersham with whom you are acquainted. I have merely possessed her for a time."
Constance remembered the scream from the fainting room. "You mean you attacked her, and took over her body? Who are you, then?" The hordes of zombies were becoming more difficult to fend off. Constance's carefully crafted hair was half-undone, and she was panting in her desperate effort.
"You mean you haven't figured it out yet?"
A final, deafening crash came from behind Constance. She whipped her head around to see that Hunter had succeeded at last.
"Come, Miss Constance!" the Zafara insisted, grabbing her gloved hand and pulling her through the ruined doors. Constance stumbled slightly over the fallen shards of lumber.
"Wait, Mr. Der-- ah, Hunter!" she shrieked. "The Necromancer has taken over Miss Frothersham's body! We must do something! I'm sure I've read about situations like this. I just need a moment to think..."
"We haven't got a moment!" he bellowed back, still dragging her along. The well-manicured lawns of the manor house stretched before them. "We must attend to our own safety first, and then we can plan!"
Contance stumbled along in his wake, but suddenly, he halted and she ran into his back, nearly sending them both to the ground.
"What?!?" she gasped, righting herself.
"Look," he said grimly.
Constance stared in horror. Another group of zombies was closing in on them, droning in their guttural voices. They were trapped...
Date: Sep 29th
"Honestly, Ms. Dearheart, Mr. Derby, I am rather disappointed in your feeble escape attempt," came the voice of Miss Frothersham, taunting them.
Constance drew herself up to her full height. "Where is my father?" she demanded.
Mr. Der--Hunter, she corrected herself... gave her a rather exasperated grimace. In truth, she hadn't meant to ask that at all, but her heart had asserted its own demand before her mind had had its chance to catch up.
"Tsk, tsk, is that honestly the best you can come up with? You still haven't even the faintest of clues who I am, and yet you presume to screech in such a manner? That's not very becoming," chided Miss Frothersham.
Stung, Constance squared her shoulders and collected herself. "I did not screech," she responded, putting forth a serene countenance.
Beside her, Mr. Derby eyed her as if she had begun speaking a foreign language.
"Who are you? What is it you want?" he queried, remaining calm in the face of her taunts.
"What do I want? Well, I want... all of you, of course. Total and utter domination, unlimited power, to be the King of Neopia... you know, the normal things that supervillains of magnanimous genius want, I suppose," she responded, sounding rather bored. At that point, Constance quite got the impression that Miss Frothersham might have been examining her fingernails for stray chips or specks of dirt rather than discussing their imminent demise.
"King?" she asked, picking up solely on that word.
Mr. Der--Hunter, she chastised herself again... narrowed his eyes in thought.
"I'm afraid I've no time for further blather. I have other business to attend and others to eliminate. Carry on as you were!" Miss Frothersham responded airily, her voice fading in the end, as if she were walking away.
On cue, the zombies began advancing toward the beleaguered Ixi and Zafara again. Reflexively, Constance found herself clutching Hunter's arm.
"Oh, this is dreadful, Mr. D--Hunter, just dreadful! Whatever shall we do?" she cried, clinging with both hands.
"My dear Ms. Dearheart, I'm afraid there is only one thing we can do! My apologies for being so forward, but circumstances being as they are..." he said, grasping her hand.
Ignoring the affront to her person, she stared at him imploringly. "Only one thing? What?" she beseeched, fear making her heart beat faster.
"Run," he instructed grimly, dragging her to the side and darting onto a path that appeared unblocked by the zombies.
As they ran, it took a moment for Constance to process their actions, but once she did -- and remembered where that path led -- she tried to halt their progress, pulling ineffectually at her companion's arm.
"Oh no!" she cried out, dismay colouring her voice. "We mustn't follow this path, not now! It leads to--"
It was too late, though, for even as she spoke momentum carried them forward to the end of the path. To her horror, Hunter had led them directly into...
Date: Sep 29th
...the Dearheart family's ancestral cemetery. Without hesitating, Hunter flung open the black wrought-iron gates that preserved the hallowed ground and bade Constance to follow him.
Rows of granite grave markers littered the grassy field, and a few large and ornate marble mausoleums stood at the edges of the graveyard as testaments to the Dearheart’s economic prosperity.
Hunter whipped his head toward the nearest mausoleum. It was different from the others. Where they were smooth, white, and pristine, this one was decidedly unkempt. It was cracked and crumbling; in its state of decay, thorny vines had twined themselves up along the length of the columns that stood at the entrance. Constance's heart sank as Hunter started dragging her behind him toward the ghastly-looking monument. She tried to brace her legs against the ground to halt him, but he was simply too occupied with getting them to safety to notice.
They reached the large stone door and Hunter went to push it open. "Hunter!" she said frantically, "Please, we must find another hiding place. We absolutely musn't go in there!"
"My dear lady, we simply haven't the time," he said while trying to force it open. He looked back and saw a number of zombies shambling toward them. He savagely shouldered the entrance in an amazing display of strength, and the door reluctantly gave way with an angry squeak.
Hunter pulled Constance inside the tomb with him and shut the door with a thud. It was mostly dark inside. To Hunter's surprise, there was what appeared to be a fiery torch hanging on a grate in a corridor across the entrance room.
"I hope you forgive my forwardness in advance, my lady," Hunter said as he grabbed her hand so they wouldn't get separated in the pitch black. They made their way toward the torch slowly in the darkness. Once they came upon it, Hunter grabbed it from its sconce on the wall and held it in front of him so he could see what lay up ahead. There was a staircase, its steps leading down into darkness.
"Do you know where that leads, Constance?" Hunter asked, thrusting the torch down to illuminate the steps.
"The... catacombs," she replied with a frightened whisper.
"We need to find a way out of this place. For reasons apparent, we cannot go out the entrance; it's flooded with those foul creatures. We must continue on," he said determinedly.
Hunter gripped the torch and they started making their way down to the catacombs, the click of their shoes echoing off the stone that surrounded them.
After what seemed like a considerable length of time, Hunter and Constance were surprised to discover that there was a source of light flooding up the staircase. They finally reached the last step and took a look around where they had been deposited. They were somewhat baffled to note that they appeared to be in a large anteroom with a crystal chandelier hanging overhead. The place looked clean and... recently inhabited.
"Surely someone isn't living down here?!?" Hunter said.
Constance was curiously silent, instead walking over to a table and picking up one of the manuscripts. "A Treatise on the Undead," she said, reading the title aloud. "I can't even count the many times I have read this book, so fascinated was I by the prospect of undead monsters. What a fool I was, Hunter. This is a living nightmare, and I simply want to wake up!" she said with tears teeming in her eyes.
Hunter crossed the room and enfolded her in a comforting hug. "We shall find a way out of here, Constance, you have my solemn oath. No matter what comes, we will face it together."
Constance gave a tentative smile, then nodded. "Let us continue on, then. The longer we linger in one spot, the more time I have to my depressing thoughts."
Hunter and Constance left the antechamber and entered a darkened hallway. There were doors leading to other rooms, and Hunter was just about to turn the knob to the nearest one when he heard footsteps shuffling down the corridor. Constance grabbed his arm tightly.
"Halt! Identify yourself, fiend, or prepare for an altercation!" Hunter yelled. He brandished the torch in front of them. The figure limped into view, clutching a gash on his head.
Constance took in a sharp breath, and then her arm shot out, firmly gripping Hunter's hand to halt his vigorous torch swinging.
Date: Sep 30th
"Constance," her father answered, sitting down heavily on the floor in front of her, leaning against the wall. "As I feared, it has finally happened."
"What has happened, Mr. Dearheart?" Hunter asked, squatting next to the elderly Neopet.
"Something beyond your wildest dreams, Mr. Derby." Mr. Dearheart coughed vigorously into a handkerchief. "And I'm afraid it's all my fault."
"Your fault, father?" Constance asked, kneeling in the dirt next to him. "How could it be your fault?"
"I was a fool," he said, followed by another bout of coughing. "I'd thought the curse was simply a legend."
Constance stood up. "The curse?!" she asked, shrieking in horror. "Father, you didn't!"
"I'm afraid I did, my dear," he replied, coughing some more.
The Ixi thought for a moment. "Well, it would certainly explain a lot."
"What are you talking about?" Hunter asked, thoroughly puzzled. "What curse?"
"A curse was placed upon our family ages ago, before the Neopia as we know it existed. One of my ancestors vowed to return one day to avenge himself -- for some reason, he considered himself wronged. He had been thrown out of the family for plotting the downfall of the faeries and went to his grave swearing revenge. He said he would return one day... if someone were foolish enough to read his journals, which were left in his tomb."
"And this... is his tomb?" Hunter asked, looking around them.
"Yes," Mr. Dearheart said, then struggled to his feet. "The curse was enacted when I so foolishly - foolishly! - read his journals. Oh, I am so undeserving!"
"It explains your illness, father!" Constance cried. She picked up the journal. "All we have to do is lay him to rest again!"
"Oh, so you've finally figured it out, have you?" a cruel voice snickered from behind them.
Hunter jumped up, whirling around and flashing the torch.
There stood the figure of Miss Frothersham. In this light, it was clear that her eyes were glowing an eerie red.
"You... shall not pass!" Hunter declared bravely, thrusting the torch in her direction.
"Oh really, Hunter Darby? I believe I shall," Miss Frothersham said, then strode up to him and knocked the torch from his hands. "You really are a fool."
"Is that the only word you know? 'Fool?'" Constance quipped. She hid the book beneath her skirts. "Father, keep him busy," she whispered. Her father coughed in agreement.
"Leave us, Constance Dearheart," Miss Frothersham sneered. "You are not the one I'm looking for. He is the one that I have been looking forward to meeting," she declared, pointing to Mr. Dearheart.
"Of course you have." Mr. Dearheart closed his eyes and coughed again. "You have every reason to."
Miss Frothersham arched her eyebrows. "Oh, have I?"
"Yes, you do."
The voices faded into the distance as Constance made her way deeper into the Catacombs. She knew that, somewhere in the distance, she would find her ancestor's crypt. Then, she could set everything right again.
She fought her way through cobwebs, clutching the journal tighter to her chest. It'll be okay, she thought. I will get out of here.
Eventually, she came to a brightly-lit, round room. In the center of the room lay a sealed black coffin.
"Finally," she breathed.
"Finally?" a voice echoed.
The hairs on the back of Constance's neck stood up. Behind her, Miss Frothersham was waiting, dragging both Constance's father and Hunter with her.
"Wh-what have you done?" Constance whispered, horrified.
"Wh-what have I done?" Miss Frothersham echoed. "Wh-what have I done?" She shook, jerking her arms this way and that before dropping her two captives.
Constance backed up against the coffin. "Miss Frothersham...?"
"Miss FROTHERSHAM!" Miss Frothersham shrieked, her voice hitting high C. "MISS FROTHERSHAM! MISS FROTHERSHAM! Oh, curse this accursed body!"
Miss Frothersham dropped to the floor, and a dark cloud rose up from her. It was unsettling.
"No..." Constance said. She was trapped.
"Yesssss." The cloud circled her and watched. "Here to keep me from my ressssst?" it hissed.
Out of the corner of her eye, Constance saw Hunter prop himself up on his elbows. She knew she had to keep the cloud's attention.
"Your name has been erased from our family records!" she cried, knowing that this would keep the cloud from noticing Hunter. "You are nobody! You do not belong in this family!"
The cloud cackled. "You are wrong!" it snarled. "Wrong! Wrong!" It drifted closer.
Constance dropped the book behind her back, stamping her foot to cover the sound. "No! I am not!" She hoped that Hunter would know what to do with the dog-eared page -- she hated dog-earing pages, but it was the only option she had. She kicked it toward Hunter and slapped her left hand on the coffin. "You are in the wrong here!"
"I belong in thissss family more than you," the cloud snickered. "I am the the great Felix Dearheart! I am the one who will rule this world -- and all the others!"
Constance saw Hunter scramble to reach the book. He opened it straight to the page and stared up at her in confusion. She begged him with her eyes, but did he understand?
Apparently he did; he began to crawl around the room, and Constance turned to keep the cloud's... back? ...to him. Once Hunter was positioned beneath the coffin, he looked back up at Constance. She nodded slightly.
He began to read.
"What is that?!?" Felix shrieked, turning to face his eternal resting place. Constance saw, to her horror, that he was beginning to take the -- very noticeable -- shape of a Lupe.
"Faster, Hunter!" Constance shouted.
Hunter finished the chant.
"No! You fooooolssss!" Felix screamed. The black mist he was composed of began to elongate, stretching toward the coffin. "I was so closssssse!" With a final screech, he was sucked back into the crypt, which sealed fast behind him with a hiss.
"You did it!" Constance cried. She helped Hunter up from the floor.
"You did it, Miss Dearheart. Congratulations on distracting him long enough for me to finish reading," Hunter replied.
"Congratulations to both of you," someone coughed. The two turned to see Mr. Dearheart propping Miss Frothersham up. "Now, will one of you please help me get this poor girl back to the daylight? I think we shall find no more zombies once we return to the surface." He winked at his daughter, and she laughed.
"Well, Miss Dearheart?" Hunter asked, extending his arm.
"Constance," she corrected.
"Miss Constance, shall we return to the surface and see if we can find our fellow partygoers?" Hunter said with a smile.
"I should like that," Constance said, picking up the journal and placing it atop the crypt. "But I believe you should carry Miss Frothersham back to the fainting room first. Let us hope she sleeps until we get there."
"One can only hope," Hunter laughed, and the threesome slowly made their way out of the crypt, wondering what they would find when they emerged.
Date: Sep 30th
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