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||You are on Week 532
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 Thirty Two Ends Friday, November 11
|"What is this?"
A gentle clinking of metal sounded as a royal Cybunny, his baby blue eyes narrowed in curiosity, observed a delicate looking necklace of gold. A sapphire was set in the center of the amulet, dusty but otherwise in good shape.
"Ah, one of my rarest, good sir," the merchant next to the cart, a large green Elephante, said enthusiastically. The royal Cybunny raised a brow. "Comes from deep inside the pyra--"
"If this is one of your rarest, then I'm wasting my time here," Hunefer interrupted, dropping the amulet back into the merchant's cart carelessly. Without waiting for the green Elephante to respond, he continued along his way amongst the merchants of the Qasalan marketplace. Though none of the shops seemed to have anything he found himself interested in, he knew that he would find something special, something no one else had.
After all, he wouldn't have traveled from Meridell to the Lost Desert for just anything -- even if he was just going off of a hunch. Though some might consider a hunch to be something easily disregarded, Hunefer always listened to his instincts. It was an ideal his mother had taught him long ago, and the royal Cybunny had lived by that idea since.
"'Scuse me, my good man..." a low drawl implored, catching Hunefer's attention. "Can I interest you in buying something special today?" He turned to face the speaker, a lanky blue Gelert in a worn out brown robe with the hood pulled down almost completely over his eyes.
"I beg your pardon?" the royal Cybunny responded blankly.
The Gelert laughed in a husky chuckle that made Hunefer feel uneasy. "Name's Argus," he said cheerfully, reaching out to shake the Cybunny's paw. Reluctantly, he took it. "Pleasure to meet ya."
"Hunefer," was the Cybunny's only response. He let his eyes wander over the entrance to the blue Gelert's shop, then raised a brow at him, as though waiting for him to go on.
"Well, why don't ya step inside, see if you can find anything to tickle your fancy?" Argus asked, sauntering backward, through the swinging door that led into his shop. After a brief pause, Hunefer followed...
Date: Nov 7th
Hunefer scanned the shop's interior with a cool, practiced look. The pale sandstone walls were lined with shelves, meticulously kept dust-free. Artefacts were displayed somewhat haphazardly, precious stones and metals gleaming in the dim lighting. In just one glance, the Cybunny felt his paws begin to tremble -- he was in the presence of rare and powerful items, like none he had ever seen before. His hunch had been correct, but there was one small problem...
"They're stolen," he spat, glaring haughtily at Argus.
The Gelert laughed heartily, slipping his hood back to reveal his face. A tattoo ran from his lower jaw all the way to the base of his ear -- a scarab. He brushed a tear of amusement from the corner of his eye, seeming genuinely pleased that his potential customer was so observant.
"My good man, I cannot deny that I may have... re-appropriated... some of these delightful little fancies. My question to you, however, is whether this violates your trust in my establishment -- or are you so fascinated that you don't care where they came from?"
Argus was shrewd, indeed. Hunefer already felt his righteous indignation fading into a helpless attraction to the strange items on the shelves. There was a dagger crafted of maractite, which cast shimmering blue reflections on the wall behind it; an iridescent crystal ball trapped in the jaws of an obsidian Garfir; a beautiful mirror with delicate silver vines carved throughout the handle. Every single item on Argus's shelves was equally fantastic and enchanting. Hunefer wanted them all.
He jumped at the sound of the Gelert's husky chuckle -- how long had he been standing there, hypnotized by these wondrous gallery pieces?
"Tell ya what," the dealer drawled, slipping a small wrapped package into the pocket of Hunefer's robes. "Why don't you take this one as my treat? Then, if you ever find yourself in my neck o' the woods again, you be sure and buy something..."
Before Hunefer could articulate a response, he found himself alone on the dusty Qasalan streets. Night had fallen. He turned around, expecting to see Argus and his quaint shop, but the marketplace was empty. What exactly... had happened?
Date: Nov 7th
...Hunefer shook his head. He must have been so distracted by all of the various goods that were in the store that he lost track of time. In that daze, he must have gone to a different part of the marketplace.
Yes, that had to be it. After all, stores just don't vanish like that. He must have lost track of time and walked to a different part of the marketplace. That's all. Nothing strange or unusual about it at all.
Well, it's getting late... the Cybunny thought to himself. I really should be going back to my room. It might have been a hunch that brought him here, but just because it was a hunch didn't mean he was going to sleep in the streets. For that reason, he had arranged to stay with an old family friend that lived just a few streets away from the marketplace.
Hunefer made his way through the dusty streets toward the location where his friend lived. His outfit seemed to attract attention from a few of the poorer residents that were out on the streets at night. Hunefer slowly moved his paws to keep a hold on his wallet and the small package he'd got from Argus for safekeeping.
Still, Hunefer got to his destination without incident. There was a light on inside, so he knocked on the door three times.
There was some shuffling inside before the sound of foodsteps grew louder, and soon the lock on the door clicked.
"Ah, Hunefer!" the large fire Grarrl said. "You made it safely! Come in, come in!"
"Hello, Gamon!" Hunefer said, accepting the invitation to enter. "It's been far too long. Thank you for your generosity!"
"Think nothing of it!" Gamon responded boisterously, motioning for Hunefer to have a seat, which the Cybunny accepted. "So, how was your little foray into the marketplace?"
"It was alright," Hunefer replied as Gamon sat down himself. "Most of the objects there were either of low quality or stolen, though."
"A typical day at the marketplace, then!" Gamon said with a laugh. "That being said, did you find anything worth your attention?"
"Well..." Hunefer began, reaching into his robe pockets to pull out the tiny package. "I didn't so much as find anything, but I did have this thrust upon me by one of the merchants."
"Oh, what is it?" Gamon asked.
"I'm not sure. Let's find out," Hunefer said, and then slowly started to unwrap the package...
Date: Nov 8th
Peeling back the bits of string and paper, Hunefer wondered what could possibly be concealed inside.
Upon opening the package, a rather large blue gem fused in the center of a golden disc was revealed. While the light emanating from Gamon's oil lamps was dim, the reflection cast off the object was immense, the gleam and sparkle overwhelming.
"It's... beautiful," Gamon said in a dazed stupor.
"It is a rather nice piece," Hunefer agreed.
"As if Queen Fyora herself had forged it," Gamon continued. He was thoroughly impressed.
"Don't be ridiculous," Hunefer spat. "I've seen virtually every gem and stone-related object in all Neopia," he said with a frown. He had never seen anything like this, though.
"Trust me, there's no way this was made in Faerieland. It's obviously from the Lost Desert," Hunefer proclaimed, continuing his rant. He desperately searched his mind in the hope of recalling any objects that might've been similar to the treasure.
The Grarrl waited for his companion to respond, but seeing nothing except a blank stare on Hunefer's face, he piped in. "Could you elaborate?"
Thinking back to one of the desert history books Hunefer had read, he remembered a red gem against a silver disc being found in a pyramid not far from there. "I now recall seeing something like this; it had been found in one of the pyramids. Which one, I'm afraid, is lost to my memory."
Gamon frowned. He would have liked to know a bit more about this object that was so thoroughly captivating him.
The Cybunny sighed. "I can't really say much more than that." His insight on the subject proved lackluster; he would have to go back and do some research in order to dig up more details.
"Is there anything more in the package?" Gamon asked excitedly. Before Hunefer could get a word in, Gamon had already gone to fetch the parcel from the table it had been left on.
Coming back several minutes later with a desolate look on his face, the Grarrl shook his head and uttered a sigh of desperation.
Judging by his companion's appearance, Hunefer asked if he could see the remains of the package, to check for anything Gamon might have missed.
Gamon handed the ball of paper to the Cybunny. Hunefer unwrinkled it and, although Gamon had been convinced that the package held no more clues, Hunefer found a small handwritten note on the wrapping paper's interior.
Hunefer gazed accusingly at Gamon. "Did you check the package wrapping as well as the contents, or lack thereof?"
The Grarrl frowned and looked sadly toward the ground.
"You could never make it in the sleuthing industry," Hunefer said with a snicker.
The Cybunny peered down at the transcript. "Thanks fer stoppin' by," he read aloud, imitating the shopkeeper's drawl. "I hope you enjoyed my curios, and thanks again fer gettin' the authorities off my back."
"What do you think that could mean?" Gamon asked, staring at Hunefer.
"Isn't it obvious?" the Cybunny responded as he held up the gem, its glinting reflection shimmering all around the building's sandstone interior. "It means this beauty is stolen."
Almost as if the entire affair had been staged, there was a knock on the door and a call from outside the house.
"This is the Lost Desert Peace Force," a voice shouted in a tone that was neither angry nor compassionate. "We have reason to believe you're harboring stolen goods."
Gamon became worried. "Hunefer, you're wanted for more than just stolen gem possession," he whispered.
Hunefer nodded and pointed at his companion's back door.
Hunefer re-wrapped the gem and, sheltering the package under his arm, quietly followed Gamon out of the door. Outside, the two made a mad dash away from the residency, pausing momentarily near the marketplace to catch their breath...
Date: Nov 8th
Gamon gasped, pointing towards one of the stalls. A police official was standing there, questioning the green Elephante that owned the cart. With a jolt, the Cybunny recognised him as the merchant he had spoken to earlier. Horrified, Hunefer watched the shopkeeper gesture wildly, imitating himself picking up a sapphire necklace and making a face.
"Come on," he whispered to Gamon, grabbing the Grarrl's arm and leading him down a nearby alleyway. "We need to think of a plan. Some way to get rid of this accursed gem."
Even as he said it, Hunefer was caressing the package that had the gem packed safely inside. Gamon, knowing his friend's critical nature, was amazed. He had grown attached to the jewel already.
"We could always try slipping it back into the shop, couldn't we?" the Grarrl asked. But Hunefer was shaking his head.
"The Peace Force have already been informed it's in my possession and they won't take no for an answer. By the time we convince them to go to Argus' shop, it'll be gone. Sold to someone else, I'd guess."
Just as Gamon was about to reply, the pair saw a dark figure beginning to run towards them through the alley...
Date: Nov 9th
...Hunefer shrank back, shielding the package from view as Gamon protectively stepped forward. The big Grarrl was a friendly, peaceful fellow, but there was no way a stranger would know that. The shadowy figure wasn't a police official; they would have immediately flashed their badge, unlike this cloaked and hooded silhouette.
The dark figure faltered, clearly hesitating at the intimidating sight, but pulled its cowl tighter to hide its face and rush past them, bumping into Hunefer in a great hurry. The Cybunny scowled moodily, brushing the dust from his robes as he watched the fleeing Neopet scale a drainpipe and vanish over the rooftop.
"Did he hurt you?" Gamon inquired, to which Hunefer shook his head as he patted himself down.
"No, the brat only shoved me... the package!" he hissed, suddenly alight with rage. "That thief stole the gem!" He gnashed his teeth together, clearly anxious to chase the hooded figure. It couldn't have been Argus; the stranger was much shorter than that lanky Gelert. It had almost seemed like a child.
"Hunefer... the gem is gone. Isn't that what we wanted?" the Grarrl probed gently, concerned for his friend. "Perhaps that pickpocket will be caught, which will clear our names. We just have to lay low until it resurfaces."
"Lost Desert Peace Force! You there, in the alley, we need to question you about the robbery of the Sakhmet Royal Repository!" Gamon blanched at these words, as a uniformed Lenny captain began striding down the alley toward them.
"H-Hunefer, that gem was stolen from Princess Amira?!? They could toss us in the dungeons just for suspecting us! Then, if they find out you're wanted--"
The Cybunny had already grabbed his friend's arm, rushing him down the dark lane. "Sorry for getting you involved in this," he muttered, silently adding a malediction on Argus's name for planting the evidence on him. He would tie that Gelert's ears in a knot the next time they met!
The guard was in close pursuit, squawking for assistance from the other peacekeepers in the marketplace. There was no time to hide, and it felt like a certainty that they would be overrun.
Hunefer suddenly yelped in surprise as his paws left the ground -- Gamon had caught his royal robes in his teeth and swung the Cybunny up into the air. He tumbled down onto the rooftop, his heart racing with fear. "W-wait," he stammered breathlessly, realizing what his friend was doing.
"Go find that thief," Gamon rumbled, "and don't get caught by anyone!" The Grarrl then roared loudly, attracting the attention of the Peace Force officers. Uniformed guards came clamoring and shouting into the alley from both ends. He was creating a diversion, so that they wouldn't follow Hunefer up on the rooftops.
Hunefer felt a rare pang of guilt at this selfless act; would he have done the same? Gamon was a loyal friend, and he definitely did not deserve to be arrested. Frowning, the Cybunny turned his back on the upsetting scene. There would be time to rescue him later. For now, he had to find that hooded pickpocket and get the gem back. That would be the only way to prove Gamon's innocence...
Date: Nov 9th
With renewed purpose, Hunefer took off across the rooftops, each one so close to the other that they almost formed a secondary roadway up above the city. In some cases, small bridges had even been built for this very purpose. There was no time to stop and admire the resourcefulness of the Lost Desert citizens, however; he had a thief to catch.
In the dark shadows far in front of him, Hunefer thought he detected a flicker of black like a cape in the wind. Without hesitation he took off after it, his agile Cybunny paws carrying him nimbly across the rooftops.
Several houses down, the rooftop path suddenly ended, leaving Hunefer staring into a dark alley below with no signs of the thief around.
"Where could he have gone?!?" the Cybunny demanded, stamping his feet in irritation. Just as he began to utter another angry sentence, a paw covered his mouth and he was grabbed from behind.
"Shh," the mysterious figure holding him whispered.
Angry, Hunefer moved in an attempt to free himself, but movement from below caused him to freeze and hold still...
Date: Nov 10th
...The cloaked figure skidded to an abrupt halt in the alleyway. He cast a wary look around him to ensure there were no pursuers before reaching inside his voluminous cloak and pulling out a thin object. He sucked in his breath as he raised the object to his lips, and then gave a hard blow. A high-pitched whistle reverberated throughout the empty backstreet. It must have been a signal of sorts, because two dark forms promptly materialized out of the shadows like wraiths. They stepped forward until they were a few paces in front of the thief, but remained concealed in the darkness, as if they had an aversion to the light.
"You'd better have the package this time, imp," one of the figures bit out into the darkness.
"We were deeply disappointed when you let that fool Gelert steal it right from under your nose. I'm sure you'll recall what the price of failure is," said the other one in a deep, menacing voice.
The Mynci threw back the hood of his cloak and touched a scabbed-over gash on his cheek. It was hard to see in the darkness, but Hunefer could tell that he was, indeed, very young. The Mynci drew the stolen package from the folds of his cloak. He untied the wrappings, then let the gem catch the light from the lanterns on the street and glint off the nearest building.
"Good, the boss is going to be very pleased," the gravelly voice said. "Meet him at the safe house so he can... compensate you for your efforts."
With that, the wraith-like figures disappeared into the darkness as quickly as they had come. The Mynci re-wrapped the gem, then stuffed it back into his pockets. He started scampering down the shady alleyway again, more than likely eager to conclude his business with the unsavory Neopets he had the misfortune of getting entangled with.
Hunefer made toward the ladder on the edge of the building that would lead him into the street, but the cloaked figure grabbed him by his ruff to stop him.
"That Mynci is walking straight into a trap, you realize," the stranger said. "Those Neopets don't plan on compensating him. I doubt they even have plans of letting him leave that safe house once they've got what they want."
"And who are you exactly? Why is any of this your business?" Hunefer asked, noticeably agitated.
"You can call me Hanso," the Neopet said as he stepped into the light. He was a blue Ixi with dark blue hair and luminous golden eyes. "Believe me, the less you know about all of this, the better. I can say, however, that the gem is a pretty powerful faerie artifact that's about to get into entirely the wrong hands. I've got the somewhat dubious pleasure of reacquiring it for the faeries before it can do some major damage."
"Well then, maybe we can help each other. I help you get the gem, and you help me get the Mynci so I can turn him over to the Lost Desert Peace Force and clear my name and that of my friend."
"Look, no offense, but I think you're completely out of your league," Hanso said. The Ixi cocked his head to the side as if he'd just had a brilliant thought. He eyed Hunefer from head to toe, then asked: "Unless... how would you feel about me using you as bait?"...
Date: Nov 10th
...Hunefer puffed out his chest and snorted with indignation.
"You're kidding! Me?!? As bait? I'm royalty!" The Cybunny glared at Hanso with contempt. Smirking, the Ixi nodded.
"Yes, of course. You are too important to be used. Not even if it helps save Neopians from the dangers of that artifact falling into the wrong hands, no." Shaking his head mockingly, Hanso looked up at Hunefer. The Cybunny's eyes were slightly glazed as he stared off into the distance.
Hunefer was thinking about Gamon, alone, chained in a cell somewhere, awaiting an unfair sentence. Only he could save his friend now. If acting bait was the answer, then so be it.
"I'll do it," Hunefer huffed. He couldn't leave his friend to the mercy of the Lost Desert Peace Force. Hanso beamed, slapping him on the back.
"That's the spirit! You won't regret it!" he said, shooting a sly grin at Hunefer that made him doubt that very much.
"Now, here's the plan. You take this and find some Peace Force officials." After rummaging in his coat's many pockets, Hanso handed the Cybunny a replica of the brown package the Mynci had stolen.
"Peace Force officials? What if I get caught?" Hunefer asked, taken aback. It was almost impossible to NOT get caught!
"Actually, you see, I want you to get caught. It'll probably scare the thieves out of hiding to come grab the duplicate of the gem. I can then track them back to their hideout and turn them in."
"Gamon and I would be released as well. Well, Gamon anyway..." Hunefer's eyes widened as he realised what he had just said. His paws shot up and covered his mouth. Hanso was looking at him suspiciously.
"And why would that be?" the Ixi asked, narrowing his eyes. Hunefer took a deep breath and said...
Date: Nov 11th
"If I'm caught, they'll never let me go."
In the back of his mind, Hunefer was proud. His voice didn't shake, or catch, or do anything to give away the fluttering that his stomach was doing. Despite that, the arrogant Ixi in front of him was unimpressed.
"And why," Hanso drawled slowly, "Is that?"
The regal Cybunny was silent for a long moment, mentally working through an explanation he had been sure he would never share with anyone other than Gamon.
"Because," Hunefer answered in a precise, measured tone, "I stole something very valuable from the princess that I never gave back and could never remedy, can never make up for. Something that was strictly forbidden."
Hanso looked impressed in spite of himself. "What was that?" he asked when the Cybunny didn't continue.
"Her heart," came the soft reply.
The Ixi blinked, then blinked again -- twice, three times, quickly thinking through the ramifications.
"I'm sorry," he said finally, apologetically, "But as much as I know the royal family would love to get their hands on you... there isn't another way."
Hunefer nodded with all of the dignity he could muster. He had known that his past with the princess would catch up to him one day, that the cost of his heart's whims would someday find him. At least this was on his own terms, for good cause. "I know," he replied, "I'm ready."
Hanso only nodded. There was nothing else to be said.
When all was said and done, it was much simpler than Hunefer had even thought it would be. He'd barely been out on the street among the public for ten minutes before the Peace Force found him.
"In the name of the crown, you're under arrest!" boomed a nameless, anonymous voice. The Cybunny found himself trussed and immobilized so quickly that his head spun; so dazed was he that he didn't even have the wherewithal to note the faceless Peace Officer's species.
The walk back to the Qasalan jail passed in a blur. The Peace Officer muttered and cajoled, but Hunefer barely heard him. He had been caught, the fake package had been seized. Hanso would catch the other thieves and Gamon would be set free -- and none of the rest of it mattered in the least.
When they arrived at the jail he was roughly searched and the fake package was seized. Finally, he was asked his name. This is it, he thought.
"Hunefer," he replied evenly.
"Hunefer of where?" demanded the Peacekeeper.
"Hunefer... of Sakhmet."
There was silence for a beat. Then, the Peace Officer began to laugh. The sound was coarse, and nearly cruel. "Perfect," he said, greed shining in his voice. Inwardly, the Cybunny winced. He had forgotten that there was quite probably a large reward attached to his name.
The rest of the ordeal passed in a blur. Hunefer was thrown into a cell with Gamon, who stared at him sadly. He could manage only a weak smile. "Don't worry, my friend -- there's a plan in motion; you'll be released soon," he told his Grarrl pal and sat down on the floor, back to the grimy wall.
"But they'll never let you go, old chum, and it's not your fault," his friend said sadly.
Hunefer could not find it within himself to reply.
Hours passed in the cell. Occasionally, Gamon would attempt to start a conversation, but monosyllabic replies would inevitably lead to silence. When commotion hit the jail, Hunefer couldn't even find it within himself to care, other than taking a measure of grim satisfaction that his loyal friend would soon be released.
The sounds of a battle rang out amidst shouts and a frenzy of motion, but even his friend's agitation could not raise Hunefer from his self-indulgent stupor. Vaguely, he recognized Hanso's voice in the commotion and he knew the situation was being explained, but the royal Cybunny simply withdrew further. It didn't matter.
When they came to release Gamon, Hunefer roused himself to say good-bye. He couldn't find the words for more, but the solemn look on his face told him that the Grarrl understood.
At last, there was silence as night fell. No one approached his cell after a sparse dinner was delivered, and it seemed apparent that his cell would be home for quite a while -- unless he was transferred to an even more dank cell (which was, he realized, a distinct possibility).
At peace with what had happened, if not happy, the Cybunny lay down on his bare cot to sleep. There was, he reflected, nothing else to be done.
When he was roused some hours later, blackness told him it was still night and he was, at first, uncertain of what had roused him.
A familiar scent in the air made his heart catch in his throat, however, and a feminine voice whispered as delicate hands shook him awake. "Hunefer... it's time to go. Hanso will take you, and I'm sorry, but you must never, ever return to the Desert. He tells me the faeries will succor you, but you must flee," she told him, and he knew -- he recognized the voice, though at first he was certain he was dreaming.
When Hanso yanked him roughly to his feet, though, sleep finally cleared from his brain and he had the presence of mind to hug his princess one last time. "I am sorry," she whispered, and then withdrew as Hunefer and Hanso silently made their escape from the cell.
For a long time after they parted, Hunefer didn't speak. "I'm sorry," Hanso finally said. "The faeries are good folks, though, and they owe me one... at least."
Hunefer nodded. "Thank you," he said. There wasn't anything else to say. Gamon was free... and though he could never be near the princess again, somehow, his heart was lighter. He'd never escape his past -- he was, however, going to have a place where it wouldn't haunt him.
At least, it wouldn't haunt in a way that would change the way he lived his life... and that would just have to be enough.
Date: Nov 11th
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