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||You are on Week 546
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 Forty Six Ends Friday, March 9
|Lord Hacienda von Sillyname (the Y, of course, was silent) was returning from his holidays.
The Lost Desert had been a most magnificent place and Hacienda had returned with a carriage full of priceless artefacts he had recovered from long-lost tombs, in addition to a heavy case of sunburn, if nothing else.
He relaxed as the carriage traversed the familiar roads back to his estate in Meridell. His adventure was over.
Or not, it transpired, as the carriage skidded to a halt. There were sounds of a brief scuffle outside, and Hacienda emerged to find his driver unconscious in the road. A Gelert was standing over him.
"Are you a highwayman?" Hacienda demanded.
"No!" the Gelert replied, staring at the Moehog as if he'd just said something outlandish. "I'm a hero!"
"Accosting citizens is hardly heroic," Hacienda pointed out.
"It is when done in the course of one's heroic duties!" the Gelert maintained. "Besides, my name's Phranc -- with a PH. You see how it sounds a lot like Frank, but is subtly misspelled? That's the mark of a hero, right there. You don't get villains walking around with subtly misspelled names. What's your name?"
"Hacienda?!?" Phranc practically exploded with excitement as he rushed forward to embrace the Moehog in a rather rough fashion. "Why, that's just perfect! Don't you see? You've got a name that's inconceivably abnormal -- like being named after a fruit, or the smell of victory... that makes you perfect sidekick material! I can tell we're going to be firm friends!"
"Yes," Hacienda answered, pushing the Gelert off of him. "That, however, does not explain why you have knocked out my driver."
"I had to," Phranc answered plainly. "I'm on a heroic quest. I've got to find my Boon."
"You've lost part of your sailing vessel?" Hacienda enquired.
"No, that's boom!" Phranc shouted. "Boon. With an N. See the difference? BooN. BooM."
Phranc proceeded to repeat the two words to himself, gradually increasing the emphasis on the final letter each time.
"What exactly is your boon, then?" Hacienda asked, interrupting him.
"Well now, that's a good question..."
Date: Mar 5th
..."I don't know," Phranc replied.
Hacienda stared at the Gelert blankly for a moment. He was starting to feel as though Phranc would be better off in the Meepit Oaks Sanitorium for the Psychologically Fragile, at least if the place hadn't fallen apart a few years ago.
"You... don't know?" Hacienda said finally.
"Yep!" Phranc replied, almost as if he was proud of that fact.
"So, let me get this straight..." Hacienda said. "You're on a heroic quest for your boon. You don't know what this boon is, but you know that, in order to find it, you had to knock out my driver?"
"Right so far," Phranc said.
"And now," Hacienda said, "With my driver knocked out, you want me to be your sidekick and friend as you search for this boon."
"Yep!" Phranc answered. "You catch on quickly. I'm now more positive than ever that we were destined to do this together!"
Hacienda just looked at the Gelert again. "One more question," he said. "What got you started on this, anyway?"
"Ah!" Phranc said. "Now that's an easy one." The Gelert rummaged through his pockets for a moment before pulling out a small piece of paper. "I was in Shenkuu a few days ago, and while I was there a blind Ogrin gave me this Fortune Cookie. The fortune said that, to find my boon, I would need to go and find an oddly-named stranger on the road!"
The Gelert gave a big smile at that, again like he was proud of the situation. Hacienda, meanwhile, was now more positive than ever that he was dealing with someone who might have taken more than a few bumps on the head.
"So you're on this quest because a Fortune Cookie told you to do so?" Hacienda asked.
"Right again!" Phranc said. "I thought it was strange too, but then the blind Ogrin said to follow it and see where my destiny took me. And then..."
Hacienda wasn't paying attention at this point, just letting the Gelert ramble on. He was actually paying more attention to his driver, in the hope that the JubJub would come to and they could escape from this crazed Gelert. As time went on, however, it became more apparent that he wasn't going to be waking up anytime soon.
"AH HA!" Phranc shouted out, suddenly gaining Hacienda's attention again. The Gelert was holding one of the vases that he had gotten from his trip to the Lost Desert. "This has the same design as the back of the fortune I got in the cookie!" Phranc said excitedly. "There must be a clue in it!"
Hacienda looked on in horror as the Gelert raised the priceless artifact over his head and smashed it on the ground below. Okay... he thought to himself, coming to the conclusion that he'd had enough of Phranc. He was going to settle this right then and there...
That is, until he saw something in the pile of rubble where the vase had been broken...
Date: Mar 5th
..."A slip of paper," Hacienda muttered. "You'd think there would have been something better in there than a slip of paper, if your story is actually true." Phranc quickly took offense to the statement.
"My story is as true as a Bottle of Black Sand is black!" Phranc remarked, snatching the slip of paper out of Hacienda's hooves. Hacienda rolled his eyes at the horrible analogy. "Besides, I'd rather have a clue on a slip of paper than on NOTHING."
Hacienda just shook his head, sighing. The Gelert scanned the slip of paper with great care and left the air filled with suspense. Hacienda waited, and waited...
"There's nothing on it." Phranc said, a bit sad.
Hacienda cracked. "Nothing?" he muttered, to which Phranc nodded. "Are you telling me that you came all the way over here, knocked out my driver, told me some made-up story just so that you could smash one of my ever-so-priceless vases, and all you have to say is NOTH--"
"Wait, there's a backside." Phranc said after flipping over the piece of paper. As Hacienda was about to explode, he just dropped. He gave up on getting rid of the Gelert, because he wasn't going away anytime soon. "There's writing on this side!" Phranc declared. "However, it's written in some... foreign language or something."
Hacienda leaned over to get a look at what was so foreign about the writing. He then sighed and turned the piece of paper upside down.
"Oh, much better!" Phranc exclaimed, patting the Moehog on the shoulder. Hacienda brushed his shoulder off like there was a giant bug on it.
Hacienda then took the paper from Phranc's paws and read it over, thinking that Phranc wasn't going to get anywhere on his own. "Lost Desert." Hacienda said. "Yeah, that's where the vase came from."
Phranc got excited hearing this. "The Lost Desert... so that's where the boon is!" the Gelert declared, hugging Hacienda. Hacienda quickly shoved him off, but Phranc didn't allow it to discourage him. "So let's go, partner!"
"But I just came from there!" Hacienda whined.
The Gelert grabbed his hoof and took off running. "It doesn't matter, we're going!" Phranc exclaimed. Hacienda moaned.
"Don't wake up until I'm back!" the Gelert called back to the carriage driver...
Date: Mar 6th
...The return trip was boring, but not quite as boring as it would have been if Phranc wasn't there. Hacienda frequently wished he hadn't "agreed" to come along, as the Gelert bungled EVERYTHING up. He kept on handing the wrong currency to everyone whenever they had to pay a ferryman or one of those Eyries you could hire to fly you to various places around Neopia. If Hacienda hadn't been there, he supposed that Phranc would've been in a dungeon by now.
As it was, however, they returned to the Lost Desert just a few days after their run-in with each other. Hacienda tugged a cloth over his face so that he wouldn't get a mouthful of sand whenever he spoke in the windy desert.
"Where to now?" he asked. Phranc frowned and then pulled out the piece of paper. Once again, Hacienda had to flip it right side up.
"Go to the fruit vendor with the crazy name to receive your boon," Phranc said, reading slowly. His ears then perked up. "Ah! We have to go to the market!"
Before Hacienda could even think to open his mouth and request a strategy, Phranc darted off. They were surrounded by vendors, everyone from Acaras to Zafaras selling their wares, and Hacienda couldn't tell where his "friend" had disappeared to.
This was his chance.
All he had to do was turn around and head back home...
Date: Mar 6th
...Hacienda immediately turned around and began to walk, hoping that Phranc wouldn't notice him leaving, but in his haste he bumped right into an Aisha carrying a basket of Tchea Fruit. The basket tumbled to the ground, spilling all of its contents into the sand.
"Now look what you've gone and done!" the Aisha said, turning angry eyes on him.
"I'm terribly sorry," Hacienda said, stooping down and picking up the fruit.
"It's alright," the Aisha sighed, stooping down as well. "It could've happened to anyone, I guess. What's your name?"
"Lord Hacienda von Sillyname," he told her.
"What kind of name is that?" the Aisha muttered. She stood up proudly and extended her paw in greeting. "My name is Ballyhoo Nuttyloon."
"That's a crazy name!" Hacienda said, swiftly becoming excited.
"No it's not!" Ballyhoo replied, looking offended.
"And you're a fruit vendor, too!" Hacienda pointed out, standing up and looking at the fruit in his arms.
"Of course I am," Ballyhoo said, not understanding what the Moehog was talking about.
Hacienda quicky looked around for Phranc before remembering that he didn't know where he was. Furthermore he remembered that, before he had crashed into the fruit vendor, he had been trying to escape.
"What's this all about?" the Aisha asked.
"It's... it's nothing." Hacienda handed the Tchea Fruits back to her. "I'm sorry for any inconvience I might have caused you."
Hacienda turned around, intending to go home and forget the whole business, when the Aisha called him back.
"I've got something to show you," she said, "Follow me..."
Date: Mar 7th
...He followed the vendor through the marketplace, weaving through the throngs of shoppers that crowded the plaza; every now and then he had to veer aside in order to avoid bumping into someone, the way he had done to Ballyhoo.
"This way," the Aisha said, leading him down a dark alleyway.
"Where are we going?"
She shook her head. "You'll see..."
There was hardly anything but doors and clotheslines in that alley, along with some smelly old garbage bags and rotting fruit lying on the ground. Hacienda held his breath, trying to block out the stench from entering his nostrils. Ballyhoo, on the other hand, didn't seem to care.
"In here," she said, stepping through an open door.
"I can't see anything--"
The room was suddenly lit by a bright light, and now, Hacienda could see the vendor as she knelt at the wall.
"You said something about a fruit vendor with a funny name, didn't you?" she asked excitedly. "Well, unless I've missed my guess, you're also looking for something..."
"I am looking for something!" Hacienda exclaimed. "How did you know?"
"Lucky guess. It's right through here, just follow me..."
Date: Mar 7th
...Hacienda stooped and followed the Aisha through a small, dark tunnel that twisted and dropped without warning. On and on through the chill gloom they progressed and, just as Hacienda was about to announce that he would crawl no further, Ballyhoo declared that they had arrived.
Pushing at a small, smooth boulder, the Aisha beckoned him to enter a dim chamber. Taking the lead, Hacienda squeezed through the narrow opening, and before his eyes could adjust to the ever-dimmer light, Ballyhoo was upon him.
"You thought you could just waltz in here and steal my Boon, did you?" Ballyhoo snarled as she rapidly hogtied Hacienda's hooves together. Not waiting for him to reply, the Aisha stuffed a cloth into his mouth, a cloth that stank of rotting and fermented Puntec Fruit. Gasping and gagging, the Moehog could only widen his eyes in a frightful plea as he watched Ballyhoo retreat and roll the stone back across the opening.
Hacienda strained and struggled, futilely, against the ropes but soon decided to reserve his energy to think on his situation. He began surveying his surroundings and noticed petroglyphs of some sort carved into the smooth stone ceiling of his cell. Something about them was naggingly familiar, but before he could really start pondering on their meaning, faint voices reached his ears from outside the chamber.
"Hello there," cried a known and irritating voice. "I didn't realise there would be anyone else exploring down here."
"Um, yeah," Ballyhoo answered hesitantly.
"I don't believe we've met. My name is Phranc -- with a PH. You see how it sounds a lot like Frank, but is subtly misspelled? I am a hero. And you are..."
After a slight hesitation, the Aisha answered, "Mary."
"Hmm. Mary, eh? Well, that sounds neither like a villain nor particularly silly... you see, I'm looking for a fruit vendor with a silly name, and all signs pointed me here." After a slight pause, Phranc asked, "You don't know any fruit vendors, do you? No?"
After another slight pause, the voices drew nearer. "What is that rotten Puntec Fruit smell?"
"I don't smell anything," Ballyhoo blurted.
Hacienda tried to cry out, to make some sound, but he knew his faint grunts would be blocked by the stone walls.
"Oh, I do," Phranc's voice said with excitement. "If I'm not mistaken, there must be a hidden chamber around here somewhere..."
Date: Mar 8th
..."Hidden chamber?" Ballyhoo retorted. "You must be out of your mind, Phranc."
"You know, Mary, many of the best heroes are a tad 'out there.'" Phranc said with a smile. "Just like my partner, Hacienda. He's one of the most interesting Moehogs you'll ever have the pleasure in meeting."
Hacienda, hearing the two's voices muffled from the other side of the stone wall, shuddered at the thought of that nutcase of a Gelert as his partner.
"Still, Phranc, there's really nothing here," Ballyhoo said. "You might as well go off touring for other vendors."
Phranc hesitated. "Nah, not until I'm absolutely sure nothing here is out of the ordinary." The Gelert just stood there and pondered, much to the annoyance of Ballyhoo.
She could stand being with him no longer. "I'm just going to go--"
"Tarry!" Phranc shouted as the Aisha began to leave, startling her in addition to a few passerbys. "A thought just occurred to me; I currently smell rotten Puntec, an obvious parallel to a wicked fruit vendor..."
She turned and faced him. "Er, I don't know what you're talking about," she responded hesitantly. Ballyhoo really couldn't believe he had deciphered her true demeanor -- perhaps he really was some sort of hero.
"Do you, or do you not?" Phranc asked, contempt present in his slightly obscure question.
Ballyhoo relaxed a little. Perhaps the Gelert really didn't know what he was referring to. "I do not," she replied casually.
At that moment, an Acara came by with a few crates. Each of the wooden cubes was marked with the name of a Lost Desert fruit.
Phranc presumed they contained fruit. He went up to question her. "What do these crates contain?"
"Fruit," she responded, a tad discomforted by this mysterious Gelert. "I'm here to take this shipment to Ballyhoo, the local fruit vendor." The Acara pointed at Ballyhoo, who immediately threw her arms in the air out of frustration.
Phranc ran over to her. "Aha!" he shouted. "I knew there was something off about you!" Ballyhoo began to run, and Phranc ran after her.
Shrugging, the Acara delivery woman went, using a key Ballyhoo had given her, into the hidden chamber where she had been instructed to store her deliveries. Unbeknownst to her, it currently housed not only crates of fruit, but a Moehog as well...
Date: Mar 8th
...Light spilled into the chamber as the Acara delivery woman lugged her crates through the door, scowling at the lack of light in the room. She had encouraged Ballyhoo to install a few lights more than once, but the fruit vendor had always waved aside her complaints, claiming that a dark, dry environment was better for the fruit.
The second he saw light, Hacienda started wriggling and writhing in his attempt to attract her attention. His feet knocked against a crate, providing a scraping noise that, coupled with his muffled screams, would hopefully alert the visitor to his presence.
It did. The Acara, hearing noises, left her crates to investigate and gasped at the sight of the bound Moehog. Quickly, she undid the ropes binding his arms and pulled off the gag, scrunching up her nose at the stench of rotten Puntec.
Hacienda leapt to his feet, ignoring the discomfort in his feet -- they seemed to have fallen asleep -- and yelled to the Acara, "Where did they go?"
"The Gelert and Ballyhoo?"
She pointed a finger in the direction of the main road and stared after him as he ran off. She could just hear him yell, "I'm coming to find you, Ballyhoo! No one ties up Lord Hacienda von Sillyname, no one!"
The Acara sighed. "What a nutter," she proclaimed. He was, if it were actually possible, even weirder than the Gelert.
Hacienda wasn't sure what had made him yell that, but it didn't matter. He rushed back to the street and, after a quick look at his surroundings, decided that he would need help locating the two.
"Have you seen a Gelert?" Hacienda asked, stopping every passerby in the vicinity. "About this tall, chasing after a fruit vendor?"
Some of the kinder Neopians provided him with a direction while the more impatient ones pushed him away; he ran through the city streets, keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of Phranc and Ballyhoo.
He finally spotted them. They were turning a corner into a small road that lead to some sort of residential area, surrounded by run-down houses. Hacienda followed them and, seeing the two run through a door, stepped over the doormat and into the house...
Date: Mar 9th
...It seemed he was just in time, for Phranc and Ballyhoo were engaged in a most unseemly skirmish.
"Unhand me, foul fruit vendor!" cried the Gelert, in typical Phranc style. Hacienda wasn't sure, but it wouldn't have surprised him if the Aisha had rolled her eyes. "Unhand me," indeed!
"You're the thief, but I'm the foul one -- right!" Ballyhoo replied with a snort as she succeeding in pinning the unfortunate Gelert. Producing a length of rope from within the folds of her robe, she proceeded to tie her opponent in much the same manner that she had bound Hacienda earlier.
Sneaking up behind her as she worked the final knot into place, Hacienda sprung silently and knocked the Aisha off of Phranc. Taking care to pin her hands behind her back, he had the presence of mind to shout back to Phranc.
"Are you all right?" he cried, wrestling slightly with Ballyhoo. Though she was apparently quite adept with rope work, the element of surprise meant that he had her in a position she couldn't easily reverse.
"I knew you'd be the perfect sidekick, Hacienda! Arriving just in the nick of time, as any good sidekick should!" Phranc shouted triumphantly, apparently quite pleased with himself -- and, more importantly, unharmed.
Hacienda rolled his eyes, and from her disadvantaged position, Ballyhoo groaned. "You two are really, really strange," she muttered.
"I am not!" Hacienda protested, indignant. "I'm only here because you tied me up first, remember?"
"You were trying to steal my boon!" the Aisha retorted, trying ineffectively to struggle. Inwardly, the Moehog was pleased with himself; he'd never tried to pin anyone before, and it was agreeable to find out he was actually good at it.
"You, my strangely named fruit vendor, are quite mistaken! He was here to assist me in finding my boon," replied Phranc, who had just succeeded in freeing himself from the incomplete ropework.
"It's not yours! It's mine," Ballyhoo cried, renewing her efforts to throw Hacienda off of her back.
"It most certainly is! I'm a hero, on a quest to find my boon! The Fortune Cookie told me so!" he proclaimed, puffing his chest out proudly.
"And I am his sidekick, here to assist him in recovering his boon!" Hacienda blurted. He promptly froze, unsure why that proclamation had burst forth. Phranc merely beamed at the stunned Moehog.
"Fortune favours the bold, my friend!" he said, clapping Hacienda cheerfully on the back. To his chagrin, that had the unfortunate effect of throwing the Moehog off balance and thereby knocking him off the struggling Aisha, who wasted no time in seizing the opportunity.
"Heroes, bah! I wish I'd never gone to Shenkuu," she grumbled.
Phranc's ears perked up. "You've been to Shenkuu?" he queried, studying the Aisha with renewed interest.
Ballyhoo groaned. "Of course I have! How do you think the Fortune Cookie maker knew to send you my way?" The Aisha looked very put out.
For once, Phranc was speechless; he merely stared at her, mouth agape.
"Do you even know what the boon IS?" Ballyhoo grumped.
When Phranc proved to still be tongue-tied, Hacienda replied. "Err, well... not exactly?"
"It figures," the Aisha snipped, looking sour. "None of you hero types ever do. If you did you wouldn't want it, but you've come to steal it anyway!"
All was quiet for a moment; Ballyhoo folded her arms across her chest and looked cross, while Phranc merely looked stunned.
Finally, Hacienda broke the silence. "We would never steal, dear lady. But please -- what is your boon?" he asked, taking care to be extremely polite.
She looked somewhat mollified by his tone. "It's a favor granted to me by Princess Vyssa. It allows me to buy fruit at a substantially reduced rate, a boon granted only to certain merchants. Do you even want to sell fruit?" she demanded, staring at them.
Phranc blinked. "Not particularly," he admitted.
"Then don't steal it!" she retorted angrily, glaring.
For his part, Hacienda was baffled. "Your boon is a price break? Then... why was Phranc directed to find you?"
Ballyhoo shuffled her feet. "I may have... tried to muscle my way into a deal on some exotic Shenkuuvian fruit. In doing so, I may have annoyed some of the local merchants there, one who may or may not manufacture fortune cookies..." she said sheepishly.
Hacienda laughed, a short bark of astonishment, and Phranc looked crestfallen.
"So... there's no boon here for me?" he asked, eyes wide and sad.
The Aisha snorted. "Not unless you really want to steal my discount," she replied acidly.
Phranc drew himself up stiffly. "Of course not, dear lady. My humblest apology," he said, bowing. "With your blessing, we'll take our leave now."
Ballyhoo did roll her eyes this time. "Whatever."
With one final bow, Phranc withdrew. Hacienda trailed along behind him, thinking.
"You know Phranc, the Fortune Cookie may have been a set-up, but there's two ways to define boon," he said thoughtfully.
"Oh?" the dejected Gelert asked, perturbed to have embarked on such a fruitless -- no pun intended -- endeavor.
"One is a physical object, an actual embodiment of fortune -- like the grant Ballyhoo was given by Princess Vyssa," he said, to which Phranc nodded. "But another way to define it is as something that's helpful or beneficial."
The Gelert nodded, not seeing where Hacienda was going.
"Well," the Moehog continued, "aren't sidekicks helpful, and isn't friendship beneficial?"
Slowly a grin spread over Phranc's face, transforming his visage.
"Indeed. I knew we'd be firm friends -- I think I found my boon after all!" he declared.
And, indeed, he had.
Date: Mar 9th
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