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||You are on Week 662
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 Sixty Two Ends Friday, June 27
|The first thing you'll want to know is how I did it. You'll want to ask how I managed to escape the most brilliant of authorities, including Judge Hog, the leader of the Defenders of Neopia. You'll want to know how I did it without the help of the Thieves Guild and the likes, how I did it without aid from Jhudora and her dark faeries -- or any magic at all.
Of course, a small blue Moehog like me didn't become a criminal mastermind by giving away my secrets to anyone who asks. It takes years of experience and agility; years of practice. I've already had to dodge all invitations from that awful Sway guild. Neopian secret society? Ha! Don't kid me. I work alone.
I'll start from the beginning to satisfy your curiosity, though.
It was a sunny day in the Lost Desert. I had just finished a game of Fruit Machine -- a totally rigged game, by the way, though not as rigged as the games in the Haunted Woods -- and I was wandering aimlessly along the marketplace. It was then that I bumped into a desert Aisha sitting outside the walls of King Jazan's palace.
She was silent, but exuded a mysterious aura. I can't really describe it. All I can say is that she looked wise beyond her years, and I suddenly felt compelled to sit down and strike up a conversation with her.
She introduced herself as Aimee. Aimee the Aisha told me that she used to work as a musician in King Jazan's court. This is something impressive in itself, since King Jazan only hires the top musicians for his palace. Anyway, we had a hearty laugh over stories she shared about King Jazan, including his unusual habit of scraping the cheese off his pizza.
Aimee then said, in a wistful tone, "I only wish King Jazan hadn't fired me. I loved living in the palace."
"Why were you fired?" I asked, intrigued.
"The king accused me of stealing his golden goblet. The other servants must have set me up -- I've never touched that goblet in my entire life!"
Even though I'm a master criminal, the one thing that irks me is when someone frames somebody else. That's a big no-no (and why I refuse to join the Thieves Guild, since they frame one another all the time).
"When did this incident take place?" I asked Aimee.
"Just a few weeks ago, actually," she answered sadly, gazing into the distance. "I've been lost ever since."
"Well, don't worry Aimee. I'll get your name cleared once and for all," I said, looking up past the stairs that led into King Jazan's palace. "First, though, you need to tell me everything that happened that day."
"Well, certainly," Aimee said, a little surprised by my offer. "It was a sunny day. I had just finished practicing some music on my piccolo when..."
Date: Jun 23rd
..."I heard shouting from inside the palace. King Jazan was in a foul mood. Servants and the other entertainers started pouring out into the garden, but I took my job more seriously than they did. So, instead of running from Jazan's rage, I walked into the palace -- piccolo in hand -- and went straight to his council chamber, where I expected he would be."
"I need you to back up a little bit," I said. "I need to know exactly where you went in the palace, and who you passed. Even the smallest detail is essential to figuring out how you were framed."
Aimee hesitated, but I smiled reassuringly at her. That was the first trick I taught myself: appear open, friendly, and most importantly, honest. Pretend that you belong and no one will blink an eye. I kept smiling, waiting patiently. I saw her barriers as they fell and she opened up to me.
"There's one main entrance from the central gardens to the inner sanctum of the palace, on the north side of the courtyard. All of the archways look identical, but that's the only one that leads anywhere important. Just inside, there's a narrow wooden door to a flight of stairs. There are high windows along the staircase, and sometimes there are guards posted on the outside."
"Did you see anyone on the stairs?" I asked.
"Oh, no... not even the guards. They're only there at night, or when something very important is going on. Well, actually, I did see someone. There was a Bruce coming down the stairs as I was going up."
"What color was he?"
"I don't remember."
"Of course you do," I said. "It's just locked deep in your brain because you didn't think it was important. What's the first color that comes to mind?"
"Okay, what's the second color?"
Aimee thought hard for about three seconds -- far too long for my technique to be effective -- before she answered. "Desert."
"Okay, good. Was he carrying anything? Close your eyes and think back."
"He had a bag in his hand. A sack, but it was full of stuff."
"What happened when you got to the top of the stairs?"
"I opened the door and King Jazan was standing alone behind the table. I started to play, but then he noticed that his goblet was missing. He called the guards and they threw me out."
"Where did the guards come from?"
"That you had just come up? The stairs that had no guards posted?"
"Uh... yes?" Aimee replied.
"I'm sorry, I must not have remembered correctly..."
"No, you did, and I know exactly who framed you."
"It was that Bruce, wasn't it?"
I shook my head. "It wasn't the Bruce."
She had given me everything I needed to prove her innocence and restore her job. I would do those things because I didn't betray those who put their trust in me, unlike other thieves that I knew. Fortunately, King Jazan hadn't put his trust in me...
Date: Jun 23rd
..."Wait, how do you know it wasn't the Bruce?" Aimee asked, interrupting my thoughts.
Of course, I couldn't exactly tell her the truth, which was that I knew it wasn't the Bruce because I happen to know the desert Bruce of which she spoke. I wouldn't exactly call us "partners," but Dale and I work together occasionally. I later chided him for being so careless in his stealth.
So, I instead said, "I saw a desert Bruce around the marketplace selling some... acquisitions from the palace. A golden goblet wasn't one of them," I added, as she looked quite hopeful, remembering the bag in his hands.
My explanation wasn't entirely a lie, so I didn't feel guilty for keeping specific details from her. She didn't need to know that Dale was actually there (with my assistance) to steal something of significant worth, but the Bruce had declared King Jazan's palace surprisingly lacking in wealth.
The truth was that someone had beaten us to it. There was another thief out there and he'd outsmarted me. Meeting Aimee was the luckiest coincidence I'd come across in a while, and I needed her help and knowledge of the palace.
"Tell me, did you ever see a desert Kiko floating around King Jazan?"
"Yes!" Aimee hissed. "Azar, his advisor. Well, his new advisor, anyway. He's been around less time than me, but for some reason he's never out of King Jazan's sight. I always thought he seemed fishy... untrustworthy..."
I nodded. "It's the black eye makeup."
"You think he's the one who set me up? Why would he want me to get fired, though?"
"Well," I confided, going with the truth. "I think King Jazan is in danger..."
Date: Jun 24th
..."Danger?" Aimee squealed. "In what way? Also, why would Azar see me as a threat?"
I knew things about Azar. Thieves are criminals, yes, but most thieves are not evil. They steal for profit, mostly, and sometimes just for the thrill of it. Some steal from the rich; others, to make ends meet. They are not evil -- unlike Azar.
He was a different sort of criminal, the sort who could crumble entire nations if he so wished. That's why he was with King Jazan.
A shiver went through me, but I kept my composure. Azar didn't care who he hurt, and to him, the king was disposable. We had to stop him before it was too late, but first of all, I needed to get some more information out of Aimee.
"Azar is a dangerous criminal with an evil mind," I said in reply to Aimee. "He will use King Jazan to get what he wants and then destroy him."
I looked firmly into the Aisha's eyes. Her gaze met mine and I was glad that her eyes were strong and determined. She would make a great ally.
"Aimee, you were fired because you know something that made the Kiko panic. You're a threat to him because he knows that you know something about him."
"I don't know anything, though!" she cried.
"You're wrong. There's a memory lodged in your subconscious. It's giving you the vibe that there is something not quite right about Azar. You saw something, didn't you?"
Aimee sighed. Perhaps I was being too firm, so instead, I tried a different tactic. It was rather poetic, but metaphors sometimes helped.
"Think of yourself as a key, Aimee. You saw something bad, but you locked it away. Azar did something, and you saw him. If you can unlock that memory, then you can save your king."
The Aisha gulped hard. I could see beads of sweat dripping down her brow. Then, suddenly, her eyes lit up.
"I remember now!" she gasped...
Date: Jun 24th
..."It was evening," Aimee began. "Something close to a month ago, perhaps two. I had just finished performing for the day and was on my way to retire for the night, and that's when I saw him."
"Where?" I pressed.
"How do you get there?"
"There is a long hallway covered with wall panels and decorative vases -- the best from Osiri herself -- and to the very end of that hall there is a false curtain that leads up into a narrow spiral staircase. That staircase opens to a small balcony, and from there you can access the entrance to the royal aviary."
Aimee had closed her eyes in reminiscence, but now she opened them wide. "At the end of a long day," she explained, "I often like to clean my instrument while watching the sun set over the city. There is a birdkeeper within the aviary, but the balcony itself is too small to have a guard stationed to it. Few locations in the palace are as peaceful."
I nodded. From the few brief details Aimee had given me, and an old blueprint of the palace I had once studied for a previous caper, the map of the palace had begun to take shape in my head. The aviary would be a location that was both quiet and secluded, away from the watchful eyes of the king.
Aimee glanced over her shoulder and was idly playing with her hands. I felt a tinge of guilt and hoped that the memories I had dredged up were not too dangerous. To soothe the girl's nerves, I placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and led us into a leisurely stroll. The Aisha followed without hesitation.
"Azar was on the balcony that night," she continued. "There was a delivery Horus with him. He must have been corresponding with someone outside the palace, for I saw him place something -- a scroll, I think -- inside his pocket when he heard me approach. He looked surprised to see someone on the balcony and chastised me for being up there, telling me servants did not have the grace to wander."
"So the letter-- "
"No," Aimee whispered softly, so softly I did not catch it. She shuddered suddenly, and I could feel her skin beneath, much too cold for the warm desert air. "It was not a letter. I believed it to be at the time, I think, perhaps, to reassure myself. However, it was not a letter..."
Date: Jun 25th
..."What makes you say that, Aimee?" I asked, taking my quiet tone from hers. If there had been something to clue her in as to the nature of the scroll then I needed to know. "Small details are important, remember? Think back, just think back carefully." If it hadn't been a letter then what had it been?
The other Neopet blinked and the spark in her eyes dimmed even as her lips parted. Shoulders sagging, Aimee flicked me a tight, anxious look. "It's on the tip of my tongue," she complained at length, "but I... I'm finding it hard to... keep a hold of the memory. One moment it's there," she went on, shaking her head in confusion, "but the next, it's slipped from me completely."
Azar's done something, I realised, rocking backward. It was evident that a block of sorts had been placed on Aimee's mind; a hypnotic suggestion, perhaps, that she forget what precisely she had witnessed. Azar was crafty, by all accounts, and hypnotism was entirely in keeping with his character -- and success. A decent criminal, whether dangerous or not, worked to ensure that his or her tracks were covered for their operations to be untraceable, and Azar was among the best.
"Azar?" Aimee repeated, biting her lip in concentration, and I swallowed. Azar had been clever and, I thought, it was likely that Aimee might never have stood a chance at recalling what she had seen without my urging.
"Don't worry about that now," I told her. "Focus on grabbing hold of that memory. You're doing great, Aimee." I gave her an encouraging nod and she returned my glance with a steady look of her own. It wasn't impossible to out-manoeuvre a trick, however clever. "Keep thinking of yourself as a key," I reminded her, voice soft. "Keep pushing." Were Aimee to pull back then access to her memories would remain closed off and specific answers locked away on the other side of the door, so to speak.
Aimee's features creased as fresh sweat beaded at her forehead. "Azar stepped toward me," she recalled, her frown deepening. "He... he broke the seal off... off the scroll as he approached."
"Good," I commended her. "What colour was the seal? Keep pushing at the memory." She was very nearly there, and knowing the colour of the seal would be crucial to uncovering the exact nature of the scroll and, from there, the purposes it might further.
The desert Neopet's breathing hitched and she paused to wipe at her sweaty face. "It... it was... pink. Rose-pink." Her eyes widened at some recollection. "I... I remember," she went on, "because... because he read from it and... I couldn't tear my gaze away." She took a deep, steadying breath. "Why?" she asked, now more to herself than to me. "Why couldn't I look away?"
I took a steadying breath of my own as my mind assembled the pieces of the puzzle we'd been trying to solve. Aimee's difficulty in recalling the finer details of the event should have tipped me off earlier. "That's because," I replied, "the paper he read from was a Hypnotic Scroll..."
Date: Jun 25th
...Aimee just gazed at me for a few moments like she couldn't quite understand what I had said. "I was hypnotized?" Her eyes widened further. "That makes sense now. King Jazan has been acting very strange since Azar starting working for him, doing things he wouldn't normally do. Azar must be hypnotizing the king. I should've known when I heard the cook say that he ordered Cheops Soup to his chamber one night. He hates Cheops!"
I laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder, pausing our stroll right in front of the palace doors.
"Aimee, remember when I said the Bruce didn't steal the golden goblet?" She nodded, looking at me expectantly. "Well," I continued, "that's because you stole the goblet."
The Aisha shook her head, slowly at first, and then more vigorously. "No, I swear that I didn't! I would remember... oh."
As the realization hit, the vehemence left her so quickly and she looked like a deflating balloon. I almost laughed, but I had grown quite attached to this stranger through our short time together and found myself wanting to help her more than ever.
She put her hand into her palm. "Azar hypnotized me and made me steal the goblet," she muttered, as if saying this statement aloud would make it more believable to her.
"Unfortunately, no," I said, using my thief's intuition. "See, I think King Jazan was resisting his hypnosis, so Azar was getting desperate. He decided to poison the king using his golden goblet, which you witnessed. One can sometimes throw off a hypnotic state when what they see interferes with a strict moral conduct, so you stole the goblet to prevent the king from being poisoned."
"I... I don't remember." Aimee gave me a strange look. "How can you possibly know all of this?"
Because Azar is my mentor and taught me everything I know. "I read a lot of mystery novels."
"So, what do we do now?" Aimee asked.
"We need to find that goblet."
Aimee still had a look of hopelessness on her face. "Why?"
So I can steal it. "To prove your innocence..."
Date: Jun 26th
...I confidently strode between the guards at the palace entrance. Glancing behind me, Aimee had her head poking out from behind a large pot, eyes wide and jaw slackened in awe. I frowned. What was she doing all the way back there?
"Hurry up," I muttered into the mouthpiece. "The spell doesn't last forever."
Aimee's ears perked up in attention. She cautiously got out from behind the pot before scurrying over. Eyeing the guards worriedly, Aimee likewise entered the palace.
"I didn't think you could use this outside of battle," Aimee said as she stroked the Purple Invisihat on her head in admiration.
"Many don't think to try. Now, back to the goblet." I started walking.
Aimee snapped back to focus and followed. "Right."
"You don't have the goblet with you, so that means it's still somewhere in the palace. The guards would have searched you after you were accused. Since they threw you out instead of jailing you, they must not have found it. Neither King Jazan nor Azar noticed you stole it until after it was gone. All of which means..." I trailed off expectantly.
"I'm sorry, I don't follow."
I sighed. "You hid the goblet, Aimee. You hid it in the council chamber. Oof--"
In my excited explanation, I wasn't really watching where we were going. After all, I had already memorized the map of the palace. As a result, I had bumped into something hard. Looking upward, I saw...
Date: Jun 27th
...Hasim the Desert Tonu, who was the captain of the palace guards.
I covered my mouth and backed up quickly and quietly.
Thank Coltzan I'd been wearing my trusty Cloak of Night, which shrouded me. Hasim seemed startled and looked all around him, but he saw nothing. Gathering himself back together, he let out a loud snort and went back to his duties.
Aimee (who had been standing behind me) gave me a big sigh of relief.
"That was WAY too close. I think we'd better hurry up," the Aisha said to me in a whisper.
I agreed and we both ran as silently as we could down the large ivory hall.
As we finally arrived at the council chamber it appeared to be empty. I motioned for Aimee to not go in yet. First, I had to go in and make sure no one was really in there. It appeared to be completely empty, except for Jazan's Petpet Djuti sleeping in its cage.
Moving my arms toward myself, I gave Aimee the okay to come in.
"Do you think I can take this hat off now? It's making my head itch and it's so heavy," Aimee asked me, sounding annoyed. She kept on scratching her head, and every time she did so the Purple Invisihat would fall partly off and reveal her anyway. Therefore I told her that she could, but to close to doors first. She gladly did and came back over to me.
"I'm going to have to ask you to concentrate again, Aimee. Be that key again and walk around the room. You will remember where you hid the goblet once you get near it," I said with my calmest and most confident voice.
"Nothing here seems familiar but you've gotten us this far. I will do my best to find it," Aimee responded. On her tiptoes she crept around the large circle-shaped room. The Aisha did this so slowly that I got a little impatient. To move things along I began to look around as well. I'm sure Aimee just thought I was being helpful.
"Do you come into this room often, Aimee? Like, is there a certain place you sit to play your piccolo?" I asked her as we both continued to hunt for the treasure.
"Yes, actually. King Jazan loves music during his council meetings. It soothes him, as these discussions can get quite heated," Aimee replied.
"Good, very good... now, show me where you usually perform," I asked the Aisha, hoping that she'd maybe finally find it.
Aimee walked to a small bronze chair that was by the Djuti's cage.
"Here... right here is where I sit, since I like being by animals as I play. It also keeps me out of everyone's way," Aimee said to me, grinning.
As she told me this, I knew exactly where the golden goblet was. It was out in the open this whole time and neither I (nor Aimee) saw it. Without saying a word I leaped up to the cage and opened its door. The Djuti woke up and flew out of it... and there it was. The goblet had been behind Jazan's prized Petpet. Its cage was pure gold, so it was very easy to camouflage a golden goblet inside it. I pulled my hood back to be able to see more clearly. I then took out the goblet and held it up to the light. At that point, Aimee was thanking me and began yammering in excitement. I ignored her as I continued to stare at the goblet. Her words were muffled to me as I could only think of my prize now.
The Aisha then tugged at my cloak, which grounded me back to reality. I had almost forgotten she was still here.
"You are my saviour! Is there anything I can do to repay you?!? I'm going to be forever in your debt for saving my career and my reputation," Aimee declared as she shook my hand.
"You've already done everything I needed you to do, Aimee. You have been a great ally, and I thank you for that," I said to the Aisha as she looked at me with admiration.
"Well, I'll figure out something, but for now, shouldn't we be going to King Jazan? Once we show him that his goblet is still here, I think everything else will just fall into place. His kingdom will be saved!" Aimee jumped for joy after she spoke these words.
That very moment was, for her, the best moment of her young life -- until she stopped jumping and turned around.
"Where?!?" Aimee asked in a startled tone.
I had disappeared from her sight...
Date: Jun 27th
...By the time Aimee realized that I was no longer with her, I was already in the next hallway; I could still hear her shouting, though, her confused cries growing steadily more desperate.
I stopped running once I was out of the palace. I waited until I was safely tucked in a back alley before looking at the goblet.
I instantly knew why Azar had stolen it -- not only was it beautiful, it was priceless. I rubbed a thumb over one glistening ruby, marveling at the way its cuts and facets reflected my image -- like a kaleidoscope. The one gem itself could buy me half of the Desert. Azar had certainly taught me well, I thought with some satisfaction. Then again, it wasn't all from him -- stealing from another thief was a tactic I had developed by myself, and look at how well it served me.
I stashed the goblet back under my Cloak of Night and headed back out into the daylight. I should have known something was going on.
I should have known betrayal would not get me the results I wanted.
The guards swarmed around me like flies the moment I exited the alleyway, one of them clamping a set of chains around my wrists, another around my ankles, and a third grabbing the cloak away from me. The goblet fell to the ground with a clatter, only to be snatched up by another hand.
"This is it," King Jazan declared. "My goblet."
I struggled against my chains, as a captured thief was wont to do, yet the iron held fast and the guards led me -- no, dragged me -- down the streets. The blood rushed from my head and, in my dizzy, trance-like state, I could have sworn that I'd caught a glimpse of a desert Aisha, with long hair that fell about her shoulders like a curtain and dark eyes that caught my gaze for a moment but held absolutely no mercy.
When I awoke next, I was in a cell -- thick stone walls on three sides, bars on the fourth. In one corner lay a makeshift bed, which really consisted of little more than a pile of blankets and some straw, and in another corner lay a small stool. If I peered through the bars, I could see the desert Kiko in the cell across from mine... Azar?
"You're awake," he commented. "It took you a while to come around."
"What happened?" I asked, rather groggily. I clapped a hoof to my head, feeling a lump that throbbed dully.
"Your friend," he remarked.
He shook his head ruefully, though with a small smile. "A smart girl. It's a shame she became a musician instead of a thief. She would have gone far--"
"Did she take the goblet?"
"No, she took her position back," Azar remarked. "Though not before she did some investigating."
"Is that how you--"
"She saw me with the Hypnotic Scroll, but she was smarter than she let on. It took her a while, but she realized that Hypnotic Scrolls are easily accessible, and someone seeking to procure one could easily buy one from a vendor -- they would not need to send for one."
"What are you saying?" I asked. In any other time, I could have easily pieced together the story, but the pain in my head prevented me from comprehending.
"She guessed that I was corresponding with someone, and I was," Azar told me. I guess there was no point in concealing, after what had just happened. "She found my letters and turned them in to the king, who immediately conducted a search of my quarters and found the evidence."
"That little rat," I hissed.
"No," Azar said. "I'm actually fairly impressed by an amateur like her."
Of course. Hadn't I pegged her as "wiser than her years" when I had first met her?
"So, now, here we are," I remarked. Bitterness flooded my tone and I made no effort to conceal it. "Having made the same mistake."
Both of us had tried to use Aimee for our own ends... and both of us had ended up in chains.
A few hours passed. Azar fell asleep -- I could hear his soft snoring from across the walkway -- and I sat within the pile of blankets, feeling dejected. The dull throb in my head persisted.
Then there was a slight clink -- I recognized it at once as metal against stone -- that caught my attention. I raised my head to catch a glint of bronze lying against my cell floor.
I leapt up at once and fit the key into the lock that kept my cell closed. The door swung open. I wasted no time in slipping out of the dungeons and back into the city.
So much had happened in just a few short hours, but the city was as lively as ever, the onset of night having done little to deter them from the outdoors. I wove through the crowd, breathlessly, knowing that I had a limited amount of time before the guards discovered I was gone. There was only one place to go, and that was away.
I was so distracted that I hardly noticed where I was going, and then I bumped into something--
I looked down into the wise, wide, eyes of a desert Aisha, and the corners of her mouth curved up into a hint of a smile.
So, you see, that is how I did it. Not with the help of magic, but with the help of an Aisha named Aimee, who played the piccolo and showed me more mercy than I had ever shown her. I'm still a master thief -- don't get me wrong -- and I'm probably going to stay that way for a while. However, as I prowl the streets at night, I remember the kindness that Aimee did for me. I had betrayed her and left her desolate, but she still got me out of the dungeons, and because of that, I find myself drifting toward the palace sometimes, where I'll stand beneath the open windows and just catch the crystal-clear notes of her piccolo.
Date: Jun 27th
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