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||You are on Week 573
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 Seventy Three Ends Friday, September 14
|I remember well the day the stranger came to town.
It was the epicenter of summer and in the middle of one of the worst heat waves to ever strike the area. To simply say it was hot was a massive understatement, but there simply are no words to describe the soaring, scorching temperatures. Each day, the sun would rise up into the azure sky like a fiery beast, and everything withered beneath its reign. We were a farming community, not that far from Meridell, so our biggest concern was our crops. Struggling plants lay wilting in the fields, but we were helpless to do anything. Trying to care for the crops during the heat of the day was foolishness, so farmers did their best in the early morning and late evening, but there simply didn’t seem to be anything that could be done. There was the hint of relief on the distant horizon. For days, dark clouds had gathered like a spreading bruise, and the low undertone of thunder could be heard rumbling. This itself was a concern, however, for rain after an intense bout of hot weather is often brutal and unforgiving. Old timers called this hard rain "dry weather drops" and often told how they had seen it pounding the already fragile plants until all was destroyed.
I was sitting just outside of town on that particular day under a large tree that grew near the crossroads. One path led to Meridell, and it was the way most everyone traveled. Only my friends and neighbours took the other one. The tree itself was a large, proud tree and one of the oldest in the area. The outer leaves had taken on a slightly brown appearance, but it still provided me with a little shade and relief from the sweltering heat. At my feet, there was a small stream bed, although the stream had been sucked dry by the greedy, parched soil. Normally, I would dip my feet into the water to cool them off, but instead I was just playing with the small, smooth pebbles -- rolling them in my paws like marbles. I was absorbed in this small game when, for no reason I can explain, I looked up to see a stranger walking down the road.
He was a tall, thin Kougra -- his long arms swinging disjointedly while he walked, as if he was nothing more than a rag doll come to life. The vest he wore was colourless, except for the dirt that clung to it like a gossamer veil, and dark glasses hid his eyes. As he passed, I saw there was a strange parcel attached to his back. What it could have contained, I could have never guessed at that moment. He didn't speak or even look in my direction as he passed, but then I saw he was taking the path toward my town.
I was on my feet in a second, a thousand questions whirling about in my head. The first one that made it to my lips was perhaps one of the sillier ones, but at least it served its purpose. "Where are you going?" I called out to him.
He paused for the briefest of moments and turned only slightly toward me. There was no verbal reply, but he pulled down his glasses slightly so that I could see his eyes. Never in my life will I forget those eyes -- grey and electrifying as those distant rain clouds. I stood there transfixed until he pushed his glasses back into place and started to walk away once again. Still curious, I began to follow the stranger. His long strides were twice as long as my own, but his pace was slow and steady, so I caught up easily. I half expected him to turn around and tell me to get lost, but he just continued on as if being followed by a small Cybunny was just normal business for him. In silence, we walked down a small hill and into town.
I had never really thought before about how our town might appear to outsiders, but now I saw it with new eyes. There were just a few homes and businesses, all struggling up from the ground like weeds in a field of rocks. Although it wasn't a particularly old town, the buildings all looked ancient, as if they were about to collapse under their own weight. There weren't a lot of townspeople out simply because of the heat, but they seemed to sense the stranger's presence. Soon, heads appeared in every window and doorway to watch him as he strolled to the center of town.
He didn't pause until he came to the ramshackle building that had served as our town hall. There, he stopped and slowly turned around. I could just imagine his mysterious eyes looking all around him as a small group began to gather. He then opened his mouth, and I will always remember what he said...
Date: Sep 10th
"My name is Jodav. I have come with a warning."
Everyone took a step back, surprised by the stranger's voice. For such a frail-looking blue Kougra, it was loud and low; he spoke with an air of importance, almost urgency, yet he stood completely still and firm, not even glancing around him. I couldn't help comparing the sound to the rumbling thunder we often heard in the distance.
After a significant pause, supposedly to allow the crowd to recover from their shock, he continued. "You've observed the signs: storm clouds gathering in the day, and wind howling late at night. I am here to warn you, it is coming soon."
There was another moment of silence as his words sunk in. This time, though, before the Kougra could continue, someone stepped forward. An aged Nimmo, whom everyone knew as Mr. Lannen. "Well of course the drop's coming," he said grouchily. "We've been afraid of the dry weather drop all summer, and we don't need no strangers waltzing into our town to remind us!" he concluded. A few others nodded, some chatting quietly amongst themselves.
In exasperation, Jodav took a deep breath. "I am not just referring to driving rain," he explained patiently. "There's something else I came to warn you about." He inhaled again, tiredly, as if speaking with that thundery voice of his exhausted him. "A flood is coming." This claim stopped all the chatter immediately, and all eyes turned to the stranger.
"I've tracked this storm a long way and know for a fact that, in just three days, the clouds will burst in this exact spot. There is enough rain in those clouds to last for weeks, and the fact that this village is built on such low ground doesn't help, either."
I looked around again. Just as I had seen the town before, I looked at the hills surrounding us for what felt like the first time. While before they had felt like walls, protecting us, they suddenly felt suffocating.
"But," he said loudly to regain our attention, the word like a clap of lightning, "there is one way to save your town, and I have the solution here with me." He brought his hands up behind his back and untied the package I'd seen before. Facing the box toward the crowd, he removed the lid.
Inside, surrounded by black foam to hold it in place, was a glass flask. At first, it appeared that sunlight was gleaming off of it, but after a moment, I noticed that the light was somehow coming from inside the bottle. Just looking at it somehow made the heat around me seem worse.
"What is it?" I was compelled to ask. I regret doing so to this day.
The light from within the bottle caught Jodav's glasses as he smiled. "The only antidote to a rainstorm. Sunlight..."
Date: Sep 10th
...The crowd muttered to themselves as Jodav watched in silence. The light from the bottle seemed to shine brighter and brighter, so much so that it reflected off of his glasses, blocking his eyes from view.
I don't know why, but seeing him with his glasses shining like that just made Jodav look frightening.
"Yes. Sunlight," the Kougra boomed. "I have found a way to gather a tiny amount of light from the sun, and with it, I will be able to disperse the coming storm, preventing the flood from destroying your homes."
That seemed to be greeted with more mutters from the crowd, but by the sound of them, the majority of those from my hometown were approving of his methods. I was starting to get a strange feeling, through, like Jodav wasn't telling us everything.
I apparently wasn't the only one who felt like this, and I heard another voice pop out in the crowd. "Don't you think it would be better to let at least some of the rain come, and then get rid of the rain before it got to a flood?"
I recognized that voice as one of my friends from the tree earlier, a Lupe named Anthony, and I could see from the look on his face that he hadn't quite bought into Jodav's explanation.
"While that should be the case, yes," the Kougra said, "you are not fully aware of how horrible this storm can be. I am a fully licensed and accredited meteorologist from Faerieland University, and I can tell you with all confidence that this storm will create enough floodwater to destroy your town in a matter of hours."
That got the crowd going again, talking with each other, the sounds of fear echoing throughout the gathered Neopets. Still, I could tell that Anthony wasn't buying it. He was shaking his head and started to break away from the group as Jodav continued to address the crowd.
At this point, I was more concerned with my friend than with what the Kougra had to say, so I broke away, as well, to follow him. Jodav continued to address the others, but I was no longer listening to his explanations.
"Anthony, wait up!" I said, chasing after the Lupe. He turned to see that I was following him and stopped for a moment.
"Where are you going?" I said, once I had caught up to him.
"I don't trust that guy," Anthony said. "It was like Mr. Lannen said, we don't need someone else coming here to tell us the weather, and we don't need their strange bottles of sunlight. Did you hear how he started to hide some of the details, like how he managed to get it? I don't trust him. Also, if there is a flood coming, then I want to try and find a different way to stop it. I've gotta be quick about it, too, because it sounds like the town elders are going to go with whatever his plan is with that bottle of sunlight."
"What are you going to do?" I asked, as Anthony started to go down the path that was leading out of town.
"I'm going to find someone who knows more about light than anyone," Anthony said. "I'm going to find Siyana..."
Date: Sep 11th
...I placed a hand on Anthony's shoulder and turned him around. I stared at him incredulously, and then uttered, "Siyana, one of the twelve founders of Altador? That Siyana?"
Anthony nodded promptly before pulling away. "Yeah, that Siyana."
"Where do you expect to find her?"
"Altador, of course," Anthony exclaimed. The Lupe tore his gaze away as I flashed him yet another incredulous look. "Look -- I don't care what you do, but I'm going... with or without you." He then started down the path again.
I chewed on my lower lip nervously, but eventually propelled myself forward and tailed him like a shadow. "How do you expect to get there?"
Anthony smiled smugly, and then took a sharp turn down an uncommon trail. I had never taken a keen interest in this trail, so I'd never bothered to take it. This time, though, my curiosity got the best of me, and I pulled ahead of Anthony. He had never looked so pleased with himself.
The trail was thin, so I had to keep my arms out in front of me to push by brambles and treelimbs. As I was nearing the end of the trail, the Lupe confided, "If there's one thing that Kougra and I have in common..."
I stepped into a grassy glade and gaped at the immense structure found at its center.
"...it's this," Anthony finished with a sheepish grin, gesturing toward the blimp...
Date: Sep 11th
...I gaped at the large, sleek, helium-filled airship.
"Where in Neopia did you get this?" I asked, my tone an odd mixture of awe and concern.
"It isn't mine," my companion replied. "It's Jodav's; I'll only fly it."
"You know how to pilot a blimp?"
"To reiterate, it's the only thing that Kougra and I have in common." He smiled nervously and made his way toward it.
"How did you know it was here, though?" I asked him.
"I saw it flying through the cloudy skies. I was curious, and when I saw its descent I noted the angle and predicted where it would land. I felt that it must be carrying someone who wished to intrude upon our fair town, and I'm now absolutely sure of it." He frowned. "It has to be Jodav's."
Opening the door in the gondola, we stepped in and he turned on the controls.
Oh, if only he hadn't done so...
It's too late to focus on the trivial past, however.
The fans on the side roared into action, and we were soon flying, navigating toward Altador.
That's when something caught my eye; it was a gilded suitcase, nestled neatly at the back of the passenger area...
Date: Sep 12th
...I reached for it, curiosity getting the better of me. With Anthony at the helm, steering us ever higher in an attempt to reach sufficient altitude and avoid the billowing clouds in the distance, I felt only a dull sense of anxiety, perhaps even excitement. I had always been the "good little Cybunny" everyone wanted me to be. I was quiet and sullen at times. But now, with my friend by my side, I had done what I could never have imagined! I had commandeered a craft and was off to some faraway land.
Those emotions, so different than what I had been used to, made me blind to fear and apprehension. With little in mind but adventure, I grasped the handle of the suitcase and clicked it open with ease.
Now that I think back on those short minutes, perhaps it was fate that a gust of wind, so unlike the calm air we had been flying in, hit us. I jerked to my left with the aircraft, tumbling down and losing my hold on the suitcase. It sprang from my hand and a collection of loose papers flew into the air.
"Are you okay?" Anthony called, glancing back at me and the ruckus even as he tried to keep the blimp under control.
His words were seconds too late however as the suitcase (and most of its contents) tumbled over the wooden side of the blimp, which was still listing to the left. In desperation, I grasped for anything that I could reach, but found only a thin, slow sheet of paper that hadn’t quite blown into the unforgiving open air. Little did I know that this sheet was all I would need -- for a few seconds, at least, I lived in utter, blissful ignorance.
The blimp leveled just as I brought the paper to my chest and thumped down, only just realizing how hard I had been breathing. With my adrenaline pumping, I had not even realized how close I had been to falling from the aircraft myself. I panted heavily, trying to look as though I were in control.
Finally, once I had found my breath, I looked at the one thing that had been salvaged from the suitcase. It looked like a letter, and as I read it my eyes grew large with disbelief and fear.
It was a letter to a Kougra, a Kougra named Jodav. Dated nearly one year ago, it was a statement of expulsion from the Faerieland University of Meteorology, and the cause of expulsion --
"Anthony!" I called out. "We have to go back! Now!" I jumped up, reaching for the wheel and trying to jerk it from my companion's hand.
"What are you talking about? Let go!" he yelled in retaliation. He attempted to shove me away, and only then did I find my voice. I waved the paper in front of his face.
"That bottle! His bottle! It doesn't give light! It takes it!" Anthony must have read truth in my eyes or voice, because he paused and took the letter. His dark eyes scanned it, and when he was done his teeth were gritted in anger and fear. I had never seen fear in those eyes before, not like that.
He grasped the wheel and spun it around violently, tilting the craft at such an angle that I had to hold onto one side to keep from flailing over the edge. By then, however, it was too late.
It came with a sound similar to the shriek of wind and rain, and then it was upon us. Blackness...
Date: Sep 12th
...The sounds of rain smashing against the glass and the booms and cracks of thunder were all I could hear as the little blimp sank slowly, down through the darkness. We were descending at an alarming rate, and within a matter of seconds, I could hear the tops of the trees as they grazed the bottom of the craft...
We then crashed, finding ourselves tangled up in branches. Several panes of glass had shattered, leaving their sharp remains scattered all over the floor, which allowed the rain to pour in in torrents. My eyes had shut during the crash, but now -- as I forced them open -- I could see Anthony, hugging the steering wheel tightly... he probably never let go.
I let out a groan, trying to move my limbs. They were still functional, I found, which was a relief. "Anthony," I whispered hoarsely, trying to move over to him. "Are you okay?"
He stirred, and opened one eye.
"We have to get out of here," I rasped.
"Doesn't matter," I told him, searching for the door. "We can't stay here. It's Jodav's blimp... I wouldn't be surprised if he did something to it."
He didn't protest as I hauled him over to the door, kicking it open and then throwing him out of the craft. I jumped out after him.
"We have to keep going," I said. "Do you know where we are?"
"Over land. We headed east."
"We're either on an island or near Altador."
"We were fairly close when the storm started up."
We sat there in the open, somewhat shielded by the remains of Jodav's blimp, as the rain continued to pour. It didn't seem as though it would stop anytime soon.
We stayed there, sitting, for quite some time. It could have been minutes, or it could have been hours. Just waiting out the rain. Neither of us really wanted to face the reality of being on foot from here on...
Date: Sep 13th
...Time continued on. Each passing second slipped away into nothingness.
The rain let up to a slight drizzle, though the blackness of the fluff above remained; darkness was still prevalent.
The awkward silence about the fallen craft had become almost ominous; the air drifting listlessly around the airship's carcass had become daunting, nearing the supernatural.
Neither Anthony nor I could bear it.
"We have to leave here," I suggested with some vigor.
"You're right," the Lupe replied. "But we have no navigational equipment; we'd really be wandering aimlessly through the drizzle."
"We can't stay here either, though," I said. "We're in the middle of nowhere; the closest town is Altador, and we have no idea how to get there."
"That's my point," Anthony said, a tad annoyed that the conversation had begun to circle. "We'll perish if we go."
"And we'll perish if we stay, too," I said, concern thick in my voice. "We've no food, and no means to capture the rainwater."
The Lupe paused and thought, and then seemed to agree. "Alright," he said after a while, "let's go."
So then, out into the forest we ventured.
Now, I'm not going to say that we chanced upon a bit of good luck -- this entire tale is bathed in misfortune -- but we did manage to find something that neither he nor I had expected to locate: the resting place of Jodav's gilded suitcase, as well as some scattered (yet ink-stained, from where the water had run over them) papers here and there, which were being tossed around by the light gale.
I ran and picked it up by its handle, which felt icy cold. Digging through the few items left in it, I found the one thing that would certainly help the two of us out -- a compass.
Once Anthony had re-established his bearings based on the readings, we were soon walking toward Altador.
Siyana returned to the two of us, having grabbed a clear bottle from her shelf. "Long have I known of the theft from the Faerieland University of Meteorology, when a bottle used to capture light -- designed principally by me -- went missing. Many suspect its disappearance was the responsibility of this Jodav you mentioned, though no one's been able to find him since he was dismissed from the facility."
She placed a bottle in my hands.
"This bottle shall capture the opposite of sunlight -- the raging, unpredictable storm itself. I designed it to be the opposite of the stolen one," Siyana continued.
The perfect counter to Jodav's light-snatching bottle...
Date: Sep 13th
...We all knew we didn't have much time. We didn't know what Jodav was planning with the storm, nor why he was planning to take our sunlight. We just knew that, if we didn't stop him, then not only would our home be flooded, but it would then be cursed with eternal darkness.
Siyana was aware of this as well, knowing the Kougra could only have evil intentions in mind with the stolen bottle. It was at this moment that the last of the good fortune that this tale had was used up. To hasten our trip back home, Siyana enlisted the aid of Psellia to speed us along our journey.
The air faerie said we wouldn't notice it, but with her blessing, the long trip from Altador to our home would only take about an hour on foot, as well as give us protection from the strong winds of the storm until it passed. It was the best we could hope for, considering we had crashed our previous transportation. Before we departed, though, Siyana left us with this warning.
"You must use this bottle in the center of your town," the light faerie said, "Or else the entire storm will not be contained."
We thanked the two faeries and practically raced over the mountains, trying to get back to our home as fast as we could. Psellia had been right, and we hardly noticed the distance that we had traveled on foot, and we only became aware of the powerful storm once we were past the mountains and back into the forest. It wasn't until Anthony had pointed out how hard the trees were swaying in the strong winds that I had realized how effective the air faerie's spell had been.
"We need to hurry!" Anthony said. "If this storm gets any worse, there won't be anything left to save!"
I nodded in silent agreement as both of us started running. The speed of the winds felt like nothing as we dashed back, hoping to have a home to return to.
What we saw when we got there filled both of our hearts with dread.
The flooding had already started, with the dry bed of the stream already overflowing with water. There was at least a foot of water covering our home. I could see our friends and neighbors huddled together in fear through the windows of their home.
In the center of town was Jodav, laughing like a maniac and holding his bottle full of light. It was shining even brighter than before, and all around him, the winds were blowing fiercely, tearing parts off of the buildings. Lightning struck a few trees. Rain was coming down in torrents. There were even funnel clouds forming in the distance.
"Anthony!" I shouted to him. "Quickly! We need to use the bottle!"
That was when this story truly became a tale of woe...
Date: Sep 14th
...I was running, uncorking the bottle at the same time, when all of a sudden I caught my toe on a loose rock in the path and fell forward, spilling the contents of our bottled storm...
We were nowhere near the center of town.
The storm spilled out anyway, though, gushing out like a river and then taking flight, rushing and spinning and swirling around. Unlike Jodav's storm, this one was made of light. It was every bit as powerful as his, but made of light instead of rain.
We were thrown around by the force of the two storms as they battled each other for control of the sky.
In the distance, I could see Jodav's eyes widen with shock. His mouth opened, presumably to scream, but the noise of that scream was lost in the storm.
There would be no harvest that year. The drought had dried out the majority of the crops, and the storm had killed what had managed to survive the summer.
The sky had cleared, as Siyana's bottled storm had finally managed to defeat Jodav's stolen one. The streets were still full of water, but drainage efforts were underway; farmers were in the fields clearing away the dried and then battered crops.
There was still one corner of town, however, where the rain raged on. Tripping and spilling the bottle too early had made it so that Siyana's storm hadn't managed to cover the entirety of town, leaving one small portion in the north untouched. So then, in that section, it continued to rain, heavily and violently.
It was, by no means, large enough to cause any damage, however. No one really knew what to do with it, but I personally hoped they would keep it. As a token. As memorabilia. Besides, if we ever had another drought, we could always use the rainwater to water our crops.
Anthony and I were lazing underneath a tree -- a different tree than the one from the other day. Just a few paces away the remains of Jodav's storm was still raging on, and we stared at it, not speaking. Then, all of a sudden, I remembered something.
"Anthony," I said. "What happened to Jodav?"
He lifted his eyes to meet mine, then broke into laughter.
"Oh yes, there's a story to that," he replied. "Once the storm was over, he knew he had been defeated. The town elders were all running toward him, to try to catch him, and he just yelled back at them, 'You can't get me!' or something equally stupid.
What he didn't know, however, was that his method of escape was stranded in pieces, somewhere in the Altadorian mountainside."
I laughed along with him, relief bubbling up inside of me.
"Hey look," Anthony said, pointing toward the sky. "Look at that."
I stopped laughing immediately as I caught sight of what he was talking about.
"They do occur after the rain."
The rainbow stretched from the highest point in the sky, finally disappearing into the distant green hills of Meridell.
Date: Sep 14th
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