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||You are on Week 613
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 Six Hundred Thirteen Ends Friday, July 5
|Augusta had always heard that time could fly, but she had just never known exactly how fast it truly could travel. The Ruki had always been a careful and meticulous individual, which was good in her work as a jeweler, but there were still times when she wished that she had more hours in a day. It seemed as if she was always behind -- perpetually trying to get everything caught up but being unable to do so.
That was one of the reasons her friends had insisted she take a vacation.
She'd resisted at first. After all, she really didn't want to leave her small shop and all that unfinished work, but she was tired. After a bit she begin to think that perhaps a vacation was exactly what she needed and that it would be the perfect away for her to recharge. Before she had time to reconsider, she booked a cruise that would be headed to sunny Mystery Island for her first real vacation in years.
She had never really traveled much before, but the trip upon the ship had been very comfortable and relaxing and Mystery Island itself didn't disappoint. The sands were as white as depicted in pictures as the endless blue waters slapped at the shore. The sun seemed to smile down at her from the vast, azure sky as a gentle tropical breeze danced through the trees. This was paradise, and she could feel her tense nerves relaxing almost immediately.
As the days passed her vacation was almost perfect, but only almost. Her old nemesis of time raised its bone white face once again as she found it was impossible to do all of the things that she wanted to do. For example, if she wanted to go diving to search for sunken treasure, she would have to forgo the excursion up Techo Mountain. She was having more fun than she could remember, but a small part of her worried that she would always look back at the things that she didn't get to do simply because time had slipped away.
It was the final day of her vacation, and she went with a small group of tourists to take an evening stroll through the dense jungle. Their guide was a very informative island Xweetok who warned the group to stay together as he pointed out items of interest.
Augusta was thrilled for the most part, although she was sad that it was her final day in such a lovely place. As they walked, she noticed a beautiful flower with broad, crimson petals that she had to take a few minutes to examine. She was careful not to touch the flower for fear that it might be poisonous, but she couldn't help that she would love to take it home as a souvenir.
"Excuse me," she called out, hoping the tour guide could hear her. "What kind of flower is this?" She turned so that she could point out the flower, but saw that she was quite alone. Apparently the group had walked away while she had been examining the blossom.
Fear gripped her heart, but she fought to remain calm. She knew that, if you are lost, the best thing that you can do is remain in one spot so that you are easier to find. No doubt the guide or one of the other tourists would notice that she was missing and come looking for her. While she was thinking this, however, she felt a strangely cool breeze and looked up at the evening sky. It was later than she had realized and the sun was already hovering at the edge of the horizon, but what really concerned her was the dark clouds that had begun to gather. While she was no expert on weather, it was obvious that it was about to rain and she would need to seek shelter.
She walked ahead, jumping at every strange sound as she moved, until she found the opening of a small cave. The rain began to fall heavily just as she stepped into the cave and fell to the sandy floor in relief.
"I'll be safe here," the Ruki said aloud to herself, "I just have to stay calm." Taking a few deep breaths to relax herself, she decided to gather a few sticks and make a fire so that she could stay warm, since it had gotten quite a bit cooler since the rain had begun to fall. With this thought in mind, she set her plan into motion and soon had a fire flickering.
The golden light illuminated the cavern wall, and Augusta was surprised by what she saw...
Date: Jul 1st
..."EWAR," she said, reading from the carving on the cave wall. "Ewar?" she then asked herself. Augusta approached the cave wall for a closer look. "How peculiar," she said as she rested her head on her shoulder.
Suddenly, an enormous flashing rumble echoed throughout the cave, shaking the walls and knocking Augusta to the dirt floor, shivering with fear. "What in Fyora's name was that?" she cried. As if in reply, there was another great rumbling flash, but this time Augusta knew what it was. "Thunder!" she exclaimed. "It's only thunder. You're safe in here, August. The thunder can't get you in the cave." As she said that, the rain began to change. The drops that fell on the cave rooftop were escalating from *tap tap tap* to *thud thud thud*. "You'll just have to wait it out. Every storm runs out of rain," she said, assuring herself. Time, it now seemed, was in excess.
Augusta pushed herself onto her feet and brushed the loose dirt off of her legs and back. As she stood up, she realized that the word that had been carved into the cave wall looked different now. There was a partial letter that had been uncovered when the powerful clap of thunder shook the cave. The Ruki raised a quivering hand and brushed at the carving. The dust flew off of the wall, creating a small cloud before settling, which revealed an entirely new word.
Augusta began to panic. Beware? she thought. Beware of what? Her breaths fell short and her heart began to beat erratically. She stumbled her way to the entrance of the cave, where she desperately called out for help. Her cries, unfortunately, were drowned out by the intense island thunders. It was no use. She slowly tiptoed her way back to her campfire, where she stared frightfully into the dark of the cave, shivering. If there was anything to beware, she didn't want it to catch her from behind.
The rain was fierce. It came down heavily and was beginning to drip from the cave ceiling, right onto the Ruki's head. "Room service? There's a leak in my room," the Ruki joked, making light of a bad situation.
A rumbling sound suddenly came from within the cave. Augusta quickly stood up and called out into the dark of the cave. "Who's that? What do you want?" she bellowed. She was answered with only more rumbling. "I'm warning you! There are other Neopians out there looking for me! They'll know I've sought out shelter!" The rumblings intensified. Slowly, Augusta began to back up toward the cave mouth, and then she realized that the rumbling sounds weren't coming from something inside the cave... it was the cave itself! The roof was going to collapse...
Date: Jul 1st
...Augusta darted out of the cave and into the pouring rain. Heavy drops pounded down upon her, refusing to let up. In another moment, the cave that she'd once found refuge in crumbled to the ground in a heap of stone, dirt and dust.
Was that the warning? she thought to herself. No, it couldn't be. The one who carved that into the wall would not have known the cave was going to collapse.
The rain, somehow, began to fall with more force. Instinctively, she ran to a group of denser trees to seek shelter once again. It was much leakier than the roof of the cave, but far better than being directly in the rain.
The Ruki seated herself beneath a larger tree. Shivering from the cold, she pondered whether or not she could get away with building another fire. She decided that the chances of that were quite slim.
Augusta waited for what felt like hours, but she knew it had only been a few minutes. She was supposed to go home the next day, but what if she hadn't been found by then? Could she be lost because she moved? It felt like time was beginning to speed up all over again. The rain caused Augusta to grow more impatient with each second.
The Ruki jumped at the sound that seemed to have come from behind her and looked around the tree. It was probably just a tree, she thought to herself hopefully. Just a tree.
There it was again. Augusta slowly stood up and continued to squint through the ever-darkening area toward the sound's origin.
"Hello?" she called out, trying to be louder than the rain. "Is anybody there?"...
Date: Jul 2nd
...She waited for an answer, her heart pounding audibly in her chest.
There was no reply, however.
The Ruki walked a little further into the tree dense. "Anyone?" she sheepishly inquired as thunder rolled off in the distance.
She heard another thud, but this one came from the opposite side, near where she had previously been.
The source of the noise was moving.
Fear gripped her, but she attempted to think rationally. It's just a Petpet, she said to herself. Not a tree. Just a Tapira, or maybe a Lizark. Nothing to be afraid of.
She ventured closer to where she had been, toward the most recent thump. Augusta found the tree she had been beside earlier, and then she gaped as the situation became ever more surreal.
Carved into her tree was the word, "BEWARE."
This had gotten too strange for the poor Ruki. "I, er..." she started to no one in particular. Augusta turned around and yelled into the brush, "What do you want? Who are you?"
She heard no reply.
Maybe the BEWARE had been there the entire time, and she just hadn't noticed it. Maybe there were "bewares" all over this section of the forest.
She sighed and turned to face the tree again. The mystifying, foreboding wood.
She then noticed a new word under BEWARE; "RUN."
Run she did. Pausing only for a second, she dashed blindly out of the thick little forest.
However, the Ruki stopped after several meters.
Someone had called her name...
Date: Jul 2nd
..."Augusta!" the familiar voice called.
The Ruki unleashed a sigh of relief. "Contu! Is that you?" she called back as she turned around, seeing a glowing light peeking through the dark jungle.
Out from the forests came her island Xweetok tour guide with a lantern in hand. "There you are! What happened to you?" he asked the exhausted Ruki.
"I'm so glad you found me! You're not going to believe what happened," she frantically answered. "Something strange is going on."
"I know," he affirmed. "We're in the eye of the storm. We have to get out of here."
Augusta looked around, realizing the rain had suddenly stopped. She was in such a panic that she didn't even notice when it happened.
"The worst of the storm is yet to come," Contu warned. "We need to get you back as soon as possible. It will be getting dark soon, too."
"No, there's something else," she interjected. "Someone has been writing warnings."
The Xweetok chuckled. "I wouldn't worry about that. A lot of jokesters like to write things like that all over the island, hoping to scare tourists."
Contu's words failed to comfort Augusta. The Ruki felt something was amiss, but wanting nothing other than to get out of that jungle and back to her lodge, she decided not to keep pushing.
"Come, we'll get you back in no time," he assured her.
The pair then re-entered the jungle. As the sun had completely set and darkness shrouded the island, Augusta found relief in having Contu by her side, guiding her through the dark wilderness. As time continued to pass, though, the Ruki began to grow weary.
"Shouldn't we have made it back to the lodge by now?" she asked.
"Soon," he replied bluntly, as a stern look struck his shadowed face.
They continued in silence until Contu finally reached a stop. Only, they didn't appear to be anywhere near the lodge as Augusta had expected...
Date: Jul 3rd
..."This... this isn't the lodge," Augusta said, stopping abruptly at the sight of bubbling lava. "What are we doing here?"
They stood at the top of the mountain, at the mouth of the volcano. Augusta tried to shake her arm out of his grip, but Contu didn't look as though he was about to let her go anytime soon.
"I'm sorry, Augusta, but I have to do this," Contu muttered grimly.
"Do what?" Augusta said, breathless. "What are you doing?"
"The volcano requires sacrifices for the peace of the island, and--"
"The volcano? The volcano requires nothing!" the Ruki exclaimed, thrashing about in an attempt to escape. "Techo Mountain's not even alive!"
The low laugh that escaped him seemed to scrape against her nerves, and for a second, Augusta stilled.
"It's not alive," she reiterated, though this time, it seemed more to convince her than anyone else.
"Of course it's not," Contu said, almost smugly. "However, what dwells inside is..."
"No, he has the Underwater Chef to satisfy his appetite. I'm talking about the great beast -- he who lives within the volcano."
Augusta was silent.
"I'm talking about Moltenus," Contu snapped. "Surely you've heard about him? You must have been wondering why he never bothers us, what keeps him appeased... but even if you haven't wondered, I will tell you. You remember the flower, do you not?"
"The flower..." The flower. How could she forget the flower, the cause of her miserable final day, where she had been stuck in a rainstorm and found warnings that had destroyed any chance of enjoying a pleasant nature excursion?
"Let me provide you with a bit of backstory," Contu said. "If anything, you deserve that. The flower was formed many years ago, when a drop of lava fell from the volcano and landed in the jungle, where it flourished and blossomed into a beautiful flower with crimson petals. That flower was special -- only a select few could see it, and the ones who could had been chosen, so to say, by the volcano as a sacrifice..."
Date: Jul 3rd
"At first, we didn't understand. Not when it happened to Kanzi, one of the locals. We all thought the heat had gone to his head or something--Kanzi was always a bit of a botanist, but claiming a new species of flower that no one else could see! His sister, under the guise of bringing this discovery to some professors in Altador, actually took him to a mainland doctor." Contu laughed bitterly. "How everything fell apart after that. Mystery Island and all its inhabitants were tormented with scorching heat and instant crop failures. Even the tides of our beloved beaches seemed to ebb further and further away with each passing day."
His grip on her arm tightened.
"And on the twenty-third day, fire rained from the sky."
Beneath them, the volcano rumbled in response and Augusta was assaulted with a wave of dizziness.
Ash clouds shrouded the sun. Fire dancing in the treetops. Shacks and huts burnt to the ground. People fighting their own family for scraps of food. A lone Xweetok, trying to restore order. The volcano--chaos.
"I tried. And then one day, I found a patch of flowers, melted away by lava and all of a sudden, I realized who was to blame. So when poor Kanzi returned, I took him away and threw him into the volcano." Dark, unfeeling eyes landed on Augusta, who cowered back.
"Eri was the next one, then Theliel, and Ninya, Alda and Hux. I made it a point of being a tour guide so I would always hear of who could see mysterious flowers in the jungle. They were chosen--so many sacrifices... but better that one should die than have all suffer. What are a few individuals compared to the state of the island. You understand, don't you?"
Augusta renewed her struggles, with a new fervour. "You're crazy!" But the Xweetok's hold remained strong.
"But for the past two years, no one has had the Sight. At first I wondered if people had figured out what I'd done. I was so afraid that Moltenus might be angry and destroy my home again. Living in fear of ruin, of chaos, of the end of my world... and then you, an insignificant tourist from who-knows-where, made that one tiny comment and I knew."
The volcano pit frothed and fumed; it sent waves of heat towards the sky. The lava seemed to curl itself into a snaked tongue, beckoning her.
Contu, more or less done with his story, dragged Augusta even closer to the edge, until she was teetering back and forth. Why wasn't there a stick, or anything, around that she might've used as a weapon?
The Xweetok moved his paws to her shoulders in preparation for the push. "Any last words, Augusta?"
Panic rose up in her chest, bubbling like lava. No, she couldn't let this madman toss her over for some ritual! He must've been out of his mind!
There's still so much I want to do, Augusta thought ruefully. I haven't had enough time!
Gathering her courage, the Ruki shouted, "I won't!" And then she...
Date: Jul 5th
Saw it. She saw her entire life, as they say, flash before her eyes. It was quite boring, now that she thought about it. Her meticulous yet satisfying work as a jeweler slowed her down when she had the chance to take risks: Augusta preferred to set stones in the traditional matter rather than experiment and cut them in her own style. Augusta also recalled her life before she became a jeweler: she had been an avid battledomer but had retired after the war in... Oh, why did she have to be so afraid? Compared to now, she had all the time in Neopia back then.
Augusta wasn't going to make the same mistake again. She whirled around and dove between the Xweetok's legs, her tiny frame and thin dress allowing her to do so. With the speed of a tiny Ruki who had completed several quests from faeries in her time, she jumped onto Contu's back and pinned him to the volcano's edge. "Wait! This is a mistake!" Contu shrieked. "I'm not the one who's supposed to be sacrificed! You are!"
"You're wrong—about both things!" She gripped his fur, the lava's heat searing both the Xweetok and the Ruki's sides as they hovered over the edge. "You knew about the flower! It picked you first!" she gasped, her claws digging deeper into Contu's thick fur with rage. Adrenaline surged through her as she struggled to keep him from throwing her into the volcano. This risk-taking... just like the old days--it was thrilling! It was almost as exciting as her fixing a watch, or setting a stone in a valentines ring! She felt alive.
Augusta peered at the frightened and disheveled Xweetok. Something sparkled in the volcano's warm light. Augusta noticed the glint and dove for it. "What is this?" She picked up the tiny gem and studied it in her claws. Augusta recoiled, nearly pushing him into the volcano at that moment.
"The Tooth of Moltamus! Only a few are said to exist in the world!" Augusta exclaimed, her heart hammering in her chest even more.
"W-what? I… I don't know what you're talking about," Contu murmured, avoiding her eyes.
"Don't play Grundo with me. You know just as well as I do that whoever obtained one—stole it, rather—would be at great peril and would have to appease Moltenus one way or another." Augusta looked over the side of the volcano. "To be sacrificing for the sake of this…"
The little Ruki ripped the gem from Contu's front despite his protests, and tossed it into the volcano.
Instantly it surged, coughed, and spluttered, accepting this sacrifice. The land calmed down. The volcano, however, began to shake again.
Augusta gasped. Was it not enough? But no… faces she hadn't known… Neopets she'd never seen before emerged from a stairway in the volcano. They didn't look happy.
"You're alive!" Contu arose and spread his arms in greeting.
One of the victims, Ninya, grabbed his arm. "It looks like you have some explaining to do." With her large island Eyrie strength, she dragged him towards the shore, the Xweetok spluttering defenses as he struggled fruitlessly. "Thanks for freeing us, Ruki. We owe you one. As a matter of fact, Theliel here can give you a hand." Ninya nodded towards an Island Uni, who nickered and said, "Sure can, Miss!"
Augusta watched the victims go. To give over several Neopets over a gemstone… No, she understood. Greed could drive anyone mad. It had almost won her over once or twice.
"Are you coming, Miss?" The Uni, although singed, was antsy from being in the volcano.
Augusta nodded. "Yes, it's high time for me to get back to work."
She mounted Theliel, who beat his wings furiously, quickly becoming nothing more than a minute speck in the cloudless sky.
As the wind whistled and toyed with her antennae, Augusta tried to relax, her mind swirling with the events. Would she go back to battling for honor and Neopoints? Or would she be even more careful and do the work that calmed yet delighted her?
Augusta chuckled and ruffled Theliel's mane. Why not do both?
"Excuse me, could you not do that?" Theliel snorted as he landed beside her house, a quaint little home in Neopia Central that hardly looked different from the others.
"Sorry," she mumbled, handing him a few Neopoints.
"Take care," he said curtly. After nodding and accepting the Neopoints, he bounded into the sky.
Augusta was greeted, as she usually was, with unfinished work. There were the gems to set, and her station to clean up, and the commissions to sort through—what would she do first?
"I know just the thing," she said to herself, smiling.
The little Ruki flopped onto her couch, sprawled across it, and sank into the abyss of sleep.
She had time to finish her work later.
Date: Jul 5th
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