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||You are on Week 566
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 Sixty Six Ends Friday, July 27
|The high meadow of Brightvale led to the base of a ridge, a slope of coarse grass and crumbling rock. Farther up, the slope rose more steeply, into a forbidding stone wall -- where once there had been a dark opening leading into a cave.
An opening that had mysteriously disappeared, like a healed wound.
Yet the space of the cave itself still existed, hidden deeply behind the surface of the stone.
It was also greatly changed -- brightened by light from unnatural sources, its dank walls and dirt floor hidden by furnishings and carpets and hangings.
At the center of the cave, hunched in a high-backed chair, an earth faerie in a hooded gray cloak was working magic.
Staring with glittering eyes at a tapestry on one wall, she lifted a skinny hand and muttered a stream of words. At once the tapestry shimmered -- but its bright patterns remained unchanged.
The hooded faerie scowled at it. "Move, blast it!" she snarled.
She looked down at an open book on her lap -- small but incredibly thick, crammed with unreadably tiny writing. When she touched a page, however, the writing magically enlarged. Peering, she nodded. "There," she muttered. "I overlooked that..."
She repeated the words, but also moved one hand in a spiraling motion, and the patterns in the tapestry began to swirl and writhe, ever-changing.
As the hooded faerie smiled thinly, a large creepy mass stirred at the back of the cave, rising to its feet. A monstrous shadow, transpiring an uneasy presence, red eyes glowing in the unnatural light.
"Ilere my lady, are you still fooling with that?" the monster growled in a deep, hoarse voice.
"I'm not fooling," Ilere snapped, closing the book. "I'm improving my surroundings."
The shadow yawned, fangs glinting. "Why? You will be leaving before long."
"But while I'm here," Ilere said stiffly, "I want it to be pleasant."
The shadow grunted impatiently. "And I want to do something besides watch you decorate a cave. Something evil..."
"No," Ilere interrupted. "That would be an unnecessary risk."
"You do not tell me no," the shadow rumbled. "I do as I like."
Ilere glowered. "Would you endanger our plans just because you're bored?" Rising, she tucked the thick book carefully into her cloak. "As it happens, I think we should now be able to go back to the Deserted Fairground. It's been over twelve months, and everything should have settled down..."
Date: Jul 23rd
...Ilere took the book and a small glass orb from her cave. She unmade the entrance to the cave, and the shadow monster followed her out.
"Carry me," she told it.
"I will not be commanded!"
"Please carry me. You'll get what you want much faster."
Reluctantly he agreed. Grunting, he rose from the ground. Thankfully the night was cloudy, and they could cross unnoticed over the Haunted Woods. Ilere tucked the grimoire under her arm and slipped the orb into the pocket of her robe. The creature wrapped two shadowy tendrils -- his arms -- around her waist and lifted her into the air.
"Why do we have to do this in the Deserted Fairground?"
"I've told you this already," Ilere said, closing her eyes. The earth in her was still stronger than the dark; being so far off the ground made her queasy. "It was the last place she was seen. We need some kind of focus, or her past presence, or it won't work."
"And we need her. Not just any sorcerer will do?"
"There are few with her kind of power, and not all spirits will generate the same... kick when their power is separated from their being. I need both if our plans are to succeed."
Ilere remained quiet for the rest of the journey. When the shadow set her down, she flipped through the pages of her grimoire for a very special spell, one she had added to the ancient pages herself not so long ago. The writing on that page was a little bit bigger: Ilere didn't have to cast the magnifying spell to read it, and the flowing curves of her letters were perfectly legible. At the top corner of the page she had painstakingly painted an eye, much like her own jade, luminous eyes.
"Woods." She felt the magic she used to know so well, the deep, tainted earth magic, well up in her, and a smile crept across the dark earth faerie's features. "Woods, heed my call. Eyes of the Watchers, knots of the trees, turn, as I command!"
The shadow peered over the shoulder at the vellum page, but he couldn't read what she had written -- it was in the old faerie language, the language of secrets and hidden things.
She reached into her robe for the orb.
"This is your catalyst," she said, holding it up high into the night. "Look in two directions now, and only two -- after the ghost Acara whose power I seek, and into my Dream Orb!"
Green smog circled the orb for many minutes afterward, and slowly, Ilere's power dragged it into the glass ball.
The shadowy apparition floated a meter off the ground and looked into the orb before Ilere drew it back down to herself. "Is that the last piece?"
"That's the end of the beginning..."
Elmeria felt it, in the ground, shooting roots deep into the soil of the Haunted Woods. It was at once familiar and changed, recognizable and new.
The Acara drifted through the attic of the old house, in front of the window, and peered out over the gnarled treetops. Could it be?
Dark green light flashed in the sky, so quickly that her tired eyes almost missed it. She saw it, though, and she was certain. Had Ilere seen her? Did the faerie know where she was?
How long had it been? A year and a day? Long enough for Ilere's power to have grown back to full strength, certainly long enough for her to have learned what she needed to do to succeed this time.
To defeat Alethia and the armies of Faerieland, to supplant the power of the Faerie Queen.
She looked at the clock hanging from the chimney. 5:30. Darkness came early in the Woods, even in summer. At midnight... at midnight the spell Elemeria had woven to bind her power, keep it safe from Ilere, would wear off. Until then, she could still be stopped.
She floated down through the floor of the attic, through the floor of the first floor, all the way into the basement, where a chest stood, locked, for the last year and a day...
Date: Jul 23rd
...With a sigh, Elmeria took the key to the chest from its secret hiding spot -- underneath the welcome mat. It seemed ingenious at the time.
Twisting the key into the lock of the chest, she lifted her only hope of stopping Ilere's magic.
Indeed, it may LOOK like an ordinary Sausage and Pepperoni Omelette, Elmeria thought to herself. But in the right hands it can be...
"WHERE IS IT?!?" Elmeria blurted out in a state of panic. If Ilere's secret weakness was a simple egg, sausage, and pepperoni blend, you could have called in any two-bit chef in Neopia to deal with this situation. Unfortunately, cholesterol alone would not be enough to cease her dark magical ways.
Where in Fyora's name was the hidden weapon, that which only the one destined to defeat Ilere could wield?
In her small fit of alarm, Elmeria almost missed an envelope held in place underneath the sausage-y goodness of the omelette. Carefully removing the letter from the greasy embrace of the omelette, she read its contents.
"I know you want to defeat Ilere. If you want your only hope back, meet me by the Brain Tree in twenty minutes. What? Oh, wait, I don't know when you are going to read this. Well, on the night when Ilere is going to be restoring her power, meet me by the Brain Tree... and expect to fork over a... hefty reward. Hahahahaha! (If you would, please read that out like a maniacal laugh. It sounds much more dramatic in person.)"
The nerve of some commonplace scoundrel! First they steal her only hope of stopping Ilere, and then they expect her to imitate their evil laugh?
Elmeria set out of the house at once, for the first time in a year and a day, toward the Brain Tree to confront this troublesome stranger...
Date: Jul 24th
...Elmeria crept quickly through the thick, gnarled trees of the Haunted Woods, careful to avoid alerting Ilere to her presence. She soon arrived at the Brain Tree. Looking up, she shivered at its immense power. Elmeria peered around, searching for a cloaked stranger in the growing shadows.
"Ah, you came." said a thin, raspy voice from somewhere in the inky darkness.
"Show yourself!" Elmeria commanded, struggling to keep her unease out of her voice.
"All in good time, my dear, all in good time."
"Where is my omelette?!?" Elmeria demanded. "It's essential that you return it to me immediately." Elmeria fought hard to keep her voice steady and relatively pleasant.
"Patience, my dear," the mysterious stranger replied infuriatingly. "I will return your precious omelette to you, but only in exchange for... a favor."
"What type of favor?" Elmeria asked suspiciously.
"Something that only one with your powers can do. I need you to steal Ilere's inky partner and return him to me. Ilere stole him from me long ago, and I want him back."
"How am I supposed to do that?!? Elmeria demanded shrilly.
"I've left instructions at the apple bobbing station of the Haunted Faire. Now, go!"
Elmeria knew that she had no choice other than to do what the stranger asked if she wished to defeat Ilere, so she reluctantly hurried to find the instructions the cloaked figure had left...
Date: Jul 24th
...Elmeria hurried to Neovia; it wasn't far from the Brain Tree, but her use of curvy paths and un-walked trails added at least an extra 10 minutes to her journey. Precious time that she could be using to stop Ilere...
Soon, the familiar voice of Mr. Bart, the apple-bobbing connoisseur, rang in Elmeria's ears.
"Step right up, one and all! Try your luck at bobbing some apples!"
Elmeria rushed over. "Hello there, I'm looking..."
"Lookin' for a place to bob apples, my young lady? Well, you've come to the right place! I've got the best apples on this side o' Neopia!"
"No, I've been told that I was left instructions here... something about catching an 'inky partner?'"
"My young lady, I have absolutely no idea what yer fetchin' at. Why don't you bob for an apple? Only 2,974 a go!"
"But, I thought bobbing was fr..."
"Not today, sadly... been having trouble with ghosts stealing prizes these days, evil things they is. Who knows, another could be lurking on this very street..."
Annoyed, Elmeria quickly paid him. "I'm really just looking for information... could you please help me out?"
"Bob for apples, my friend!"
Now agitated, Elmeria splashed her head into the barrel. Bart silently nudged a particular apple toward her with his cane.
She pulled it out of the water, finding a peculiar message scribbled on its side. "For the beast you seek, listen to the words I speak."
Bart gave Elmeria a quick wink as she tried to remember what Bart had divulged to her earlier.
"You can't get much out of 'Bob for apples!'" she thought, but then it suddenly hit her. "2,974 Neopoints a go, EVIL things they is, lurking on this very STREET... it's an address!"
The smile across Elmeria's face told Bart that she had the answer she was looking for.
"Thanks so much!"
"Don't mention it, m'lady," Bart said. "Oh, and before you go, take this. I usually hand them out as booby prizes, but he told me that -- with your powers -- you'd be able to make good use of it."
"A POISONOUS JELLY? I'm not Queen Fyora, you know..."
Date: Jul 25th
...Shrugging, Elmeria took Bart's strange gift and trudged out of Neovia.
"Evil Street," she repeated as she reentered the woods. Luckily, she knew exactly where this road was located. She remembered going there regularly in her youth, all those years ago, before she had encountered Ilere. It was strange, though; she couldn't recall ever seeing a Number 2974.
She stopped at an open gate. Beside her stood a street sign reading "Evil St." Elmeria took a deep breath. It had been years since the last time she had visited this gloomy street, and now it seemed even more eerie than before.
"Where am I going to find Number 2974?" she muttered to herself, setting foot upon the street. As she did so, a shrill, high-pitched scream echoed in the air.
Having lived in the Haunted Woods for her whole life, Elmeria took no heed to the scream. Undaunted, she journeyed to the end of the street, passing several craggy tombstones and dying trees, finally halting at an ancient mansion. A gold plaque resting upon a decrepit wooden door read "2974."
"That's odd. This place used to be 2874," Elmeria whispered suspiciously. She slowly crept to the door and turned the knob. It was locked.
"Drat," Elmeria said, then knocked on the door. After waiting several minutes, there was no response.
The Acara sighed. "Open up!" she called as she pounded on the door, "or I'll blow this thing off its hinges!"
Still there was no response.
Elmeria let slip a small grin. "You leave me no choice," she whispered, a ball of light emerging in her paw. "Blast away!"
The ball of light flew from her hand and rebounded off the door, hitting her straight in the head and knocking her off her feet. The purple-and-orange jelly slipped out of her other paw.
"The jelly!" Elmeria yelled, springing to her feet and picking up the poisonous gelatin. "He said I'd be able to make good use of it..."
A firm look of determination burned in her eyes. Grasping the jelly with both paws, she began muttering a string of incantations while gazing intently at the door. The jelly began emitting a faint yellow glow from its centre. "It's worth a try..." she whispered, finishing her chanting.
Elmeria flung the jelly at the door, burning a small hole at its base. "Not entirely what I expected, but effective nonetheless," she smirked, ducking down to crawl through the newly-made opening. It was large enough for only her head, though.
Peering through the crack, Elmeria gazed around the room, stopping at an envelope in front of her. She pulled her head out. The letter was addressed to her...
Date: Jul 25th
I know why you have come, but I'm afraid I'll be long gone before you read this. Please don't worry, everything will be alright. Ilere is powerful, but if you get here on time and solve the cloaked man's problem, we can win this battle.
I can't say where I am because this letter could fall under the wrong eyes. This is also why I must be vague, but read the last bit closely in order to complete your mission.
Forget all your fears,
I have full faith you can do this.
Rise up and protect Neopia,
Evolve your powers and succeed.
The letter ended there. There was not a name at the bottom. It was anonymous.
What did the letter mean about studying the last bit closely? How would this help in returning Ilere's shadowed assistant, and who was this written by?
She had so many questions, but time was ticking away. The omelette was the only hope of stopping Ilere from taking over Faerieland. The spell would be complete at midnight.
The first thing I should know is the weakness of Ilere's partner, thought Elmeria.
"That could take forever," the Acara yelled at nothing. "Why couldn't I have more information?!"
Elmeria was furious. Everything had been so vague and mysterious up to this point, and nothing was making sense. There was some giant mystery that everyone else had apparently figured out, except her.
"Read the last bit closely."
Elmeria went through each line.
"Forget all my fears," she said to herself. "I've already done that. How else would I have gotten here?"
Full faith, the Acara thought. Blah, blah!
"Rise up and protect Neopia. That is what I'm doing! Why is everything so obvious? How is this helpful? Evolving my powers? Haven't I already?"
That's when it hit her. She saw it. The weakness of Ilere's shadowy partner, written directly in front of her. It spelled it out, the first letter in each sentence.
His weakness was fire...
Date: Jul 26th
...Really, it was mindbogglingly simple. "Fire," she repeated. Fire cuts through foliage... and the shadow creature was definitely comprised of some form of organic material. Elmeria had seen the beast up close, a year and a day ago, when it pummeled her physical body and she ended up in her present ghostly form. That was the past, though.
This was now.
Pocketing the letter, the Acara turned away from the house. That's when her skepticism rose, however, and she turned and walked back toward it, toward the golden plaque she'd so vigorously swore had once read 2874... and then she saw it.
The "9" in the address was not really part of the plaque, but rather, a piece of gilded cardboard, the digit copied in the same script as the rest of the address and cleverly placed over it. Elmeria took it down, revealing the familiar "8" underneath. "Drat," she proclaimed, expecting some kind of clue. A quick glance onto the other side of the cardboard gave her what she had been looking for, however; there was indeed some writing on the back of the 9.
Closer inspection revealed it to be a rather crudely-drawn map, with a star depicting 2874 -- where she presently was -- and another star that appeared to represent the location of some kind of cave. "Interesting," she said.
Elmeria had to follow the map. Whoever had placed the cardboard there must have known that only a true denizen of the woods would find it -- after all, only those observant enough to have realized the true house number would have even thought to look there. At the same time, time itself was running out. She judged that it must be around 9:00, maybe even half past... dangerously few hours left to complete the supposed quest and defeat Ilere. So, was she to follow the path outlined to her for the cave, or find some form of fire?
In the end, she decided on the former.
A short while later, Elmeria arrived at the cave. "Mysterious," she said to herself as she walked into its gaping mouth.
It felt strange... oddly familiar, though she couldn't say why. The Acara wasn't sure if the sensation was one she should bask in, or be afraid of... she eventually settled into a nonchalant kind of demeanor; this was jut another step in defeating Ilere. This is a necessary part of the mission that I'll just have to carry out, she thought.
Caught up in her self-ramblings, she nearly walked right into a wall.
It wasn't a cave wall, though it had been inadequately disguised to look like one. She felt the surface; a cold metal. "Curious," she remarked to herself. Once again summoning her power, she attempted to break through, but her magic attack -- once again -- failed. More extremely high security.
Glancing all around, she found what she had hoped to see -- some kind of control panel. However, she frowned when she realized that it was passcode operated. "What might that password be?" she said, contemplating.
That's when it hit her. "F-I-R-E," she typed into the console.
With a brief wisp of smoke, the wall departed. Elmeria gaped at what she saw on the other side...
Date: Jul 26th
...It was a place she knew all too well. She had been here before, a year and a day ago. But, but no... no cave... no system of caves could stretch that far, could it? She was dead center under the heart of the Haunted Woods, and yet, and yet...
Elmeria looked around. Where was Ilere? The shadow? These were Ilere’s tapestries, her sordid throne, her grimoire.
The Acara bent down to pick up the book, but her paw went straight through it. She tried to use the throne for leverage to stand up again, but her paw plunged straight through that, too.
"What?" she contemplated.
And then, the truth dawned on her. Everything in the cave was an illusion. This wasn’t Ilere's chamber. It was just meant to appear to be. The Acara grinned. She knew exactly what to do.
She raced back to the control panel. There were half a dozen menus, glowing blue, and the whole thing reminded her of 8-bit Neopians, and Dr. Sloth, and the strange fonts of the Space Station. She scanned them quickly, finding one that looked promising: "Disguises."
She tapped it with her paw, but much to her dismay, yet another passcode dialogue appeared, this one only accepting a two-digit number. Beneath the entry, there was a single line of text: "Three attempts remaining."
"How am I supposed to figure this one out?"
There was only one number she'd encountered since she discovered the omelet was missing, but it was four digits, not two. How do you reduce a four-digit number to a two-digit one?
Elmeria typed "29." The screen blinked, but nothing happened. A moment later, the text beneath the boxes changed: "Two attempts remaining." She tried "28" next.
"One attempt remaining."
"Oh! Obviously!" Elmeria exclaimed. "Adding! But which one?" She thought for a long time. She only had one chance left. Was the real house number the one she needed, or the fake one?
No, it had to be the real one. She added the digits in her head quickly, then double-checked her math; she took a deep breath, and keyed in 21.
Another menu popped up. She scanned it quickly, ascertaining that she could do what she had hoped -- add an extra illusion to the room, disguise herself as Ilere -- and smiled. Now, to lure the shadow creature back here.
Elmeria dashed down the street. There was a street lamp a few houses down, burning merrily. She needed fire first. She unscrewed the glass covering, lowered the bowl of oil, and carried it gingerly into the cave.
Taking a few minutes, Elmeria caught her breath. So much depended on her assessment of the relationship between Ilere and the shadow creature. If Ilere came for Elmeria herself, everything was lost, but Elmeria was betting that she wouldn't. She would send the shadow, and continue working on her spells, setting the last of her dark plan in motion. There was nothing left for it: it was time to get Ilere's attention. Time to lure the shadow here. The shock of walking into Ilere's den and seeing her where he expected to see Elmeria would give the Acara the time she needed. She hoped.
She walked to the entrance of the cave and stared at the trees across the street. "I'm here. Go tell your mistress where I am."
The tree branches swayed in her direction, despite the lack of wind. She had been seen. Someone was coming.
She punched the final commands into the control panel and walked into the cavernous chamber. The fire sat beside the throne. She couldn't risk holding it, since it would raise his suspicions too quickly, and besides, sitting on a chair that didn't exist while wearing an unfamiliar form was difficult enough without juggling fire.
Elmeria closed her eyes. She had to do this. She had no choice. For a moment, though, just a moment, she let herself feel fear.
And then the shadow came, cackling. Elmeria didn't expect the effect seeing it again would have on her, the memories that would surge to the surface. She almost didn't recover in time. He had started advancing on her by the time she had picked up the bowl, and was uncomfortably close when she tossed it.
He hissed and screamed. Elmeria ran around him, slammed her paw on the control panel to seal the chamber, and leaned against the cave-door, panting.
It was almost over.
"Where is the shadow?" the stranger asked.
"In the cave. The illusion cave." Elmeria answered. "I couldn't very well drag him here."
"Thank you. And now," he fiddled with something in the darkness. "This belongs to you..."
Date: Jul 27th
...Elmeria practically sighed with relief. She hadn't been expecting to have to go through all of this just to get back the special omelette to defeat Ilere.
"Yes, it does," Elmeria said impatiently. "Now hurry up and return my omelette!"
The cloaked figure said nothing, and as he continued to fiddle in the darkness, Elmeria grew more and more impatient. "Hurry up!" she practically growled. "I only have until the stroke of midnight to stop her, and if I don't, then all of Neopia will be doomed!"
Again, the dark figure said nothing, only the slight movements in the darkness and under his cloak seemed to signify that he was there to begin with. The Acara was getting very mad now!
"Just what is taking so..." she started, but then she looked down.
There was a thorny vine coming out of the ground, one that didn't look at all like one of the Brain Tree's roots, and it had gone up the dark figure's cloak. Elmeria looked on in horror as she pulled off the stranger's cloak with a flourish.
It was Count von Roo! More importantly than that, the vampire Blumaroo was nearly wrapped entirely in thorny vines! The slight fiddles and movements he had been making were caused by the vines constricting him, and his silence had come from the vines covering his mouth!
In his hands was the omelette that Elmeria was trying to get back!
"You were a fool, count," a chilling voice said from behind Elmeria, "to try and go against me like this. Your powers are nothing compared to mine..."
Elmeria turned around and saw exactly what she was fearing most. Ilere was behind her, her arm outstretched as she commanded the thorny vines to further engulf the vampire Blumaroo. Count von Roo was doing his best to free himself, but his struggles were growing weaker and weaker.
Elmeria knew she didn't have much time. She quickly turned back to the trapped Blumaroo and grabbed the Sausage and Pepperoni Omelette out of his grasp before the thorny vines had taken that, too.
"You forget who you are dealing with, child..." the chilling voice of the faerie echoed again. "I have power over the earth and trees, and that includes this one!"
A great roar came from nearby as Elmeria looked up and saw the Brain Tree glaring at her, a green haze in his eyes as Ilere's magic had control over him. Moments later, one of the Brain Tree's branches grabbed her, squeezing hard as she struggled to free herself.
That's when the sound Elmeria feared most began. The clock tower in Neovia began to ring. It was midnight. Soon, Ilere's powers would grow to the point where even she couldn't stop her.
The faerie seemed to know this as well. "It will all be over soon," Ilere said, almost as if she was trying to comfort her. "Just stop your pitiful struggles and accept it."
It was now or never. If Elmeria was going to stop Ilere, she had to act now! The omelette... she tore into it as best as she could, ripping through the meat and egg to get inside of it.
The clock tower had sounded off six times by the time Elmeria got to the center of the omelette, and the paper she had hidden inside. The Brain Tree suddenly squeezed her hard again, and Elmeria felt her hope fade as she dropped the paper, the spell on it to defeat Ilere slipping from her grasp.
"Too bad..." Ilere said. "Now, accept your fate..."
Ten chimes of the clock tower had passed, and Elmeria was out of ideas. She hung her head in defeat, but suddenly saw a speck of hope. The paper inside had landed face-up. She could still read the spell!
"KABELLA FORTUNX CREXX FELBEQUEEK!" she yelled out.
The paper began to glow brightly as the spell was read off of it. Ilere was forced to take a step back and shield her eyes from the glowing paper, when a bright flash of light shot out of it and struck the faerie!
"Aaaaaahhhhh!" she cried out in pain as she fell to her knees. She could feel her power draining again, being absorbed by the spell.
The clock tower rang twelve times, and the bright light had passed. The grip the Brain Tree had on her had loosened enough for Elmeria to free herself, and the thorny vines that had covered Count von Roo were receding back into the earth. The vampire fell to the ground, unconscious but still undead.
A thin column of smoke was now coming off of the defeated faerie as she looked up to the Acara with darkness in her eyes. "You have only delayed the inevitable..." she hissed. "You might have sealed my powers again, but this seal won't last forever. I will return again."
Ilere then vanished in a puff of smoke, gone off to hide once again to regain her power. Elmeria looked down at the piece of paper, her secret weapon hidden inside of the omelette. It would take another twelve months, but soon the spell would recharge with a new spell to seal Ilere's powers once again.
"And I'll be ready, Ilere..." she said as she gathered the spell and started walking back to her home. "I'll always be ready..."
Date: Jul 27th
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