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||You are on Week 829
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 Eight Hundred Twenty Nine Ends Monday, March 2nd
Making appearances didn’t come easy to Clarence, and today was no exception. The feeling of being enclosed within a large crowd made him very uneasy; it was the sense of being trapped. He would have much preferred to be at home, inside, reading a book or perfecting a new recipe in his perfectly tidy kitchen.
Unfortunately, Clarence was a Blumaroo that lived on Roo Island. This meant that he absolutely had no choice but to join the crowd for the big parade on Blumaroo Day. He glanced at the clock. The parade was set to begin in exactly one hour. Grudgingly, he made his way down to the side of the island where the parade was to take place.
As the parade began, Clarence tried repeatedly to move backwards and away from the cheering crowd but it was no use. The jubilant Blumaroos on all sides of him bounced up and down and whistled as the merry parade floats went past. Clarence faked a smile as best as he could, and even managed a half-hearted bounce here and there to try to blend with the others.
As the last float finally made its way to the end of the route, which was in front of King Roo’s castle, a loud voice came over the loudspeaker.
“And now it is time to crown this year’s Parade King or Queen!” the voice boomed.
The crowd quieted down and Clarence started to relax a little. Soon, he would be able to go back to his quiet little Neohome, where he could get back to work on his new recipe for Lemon Scones. Perhaps another teaspoon of lemon curd would make the glaze just perfect, he pondered to himself.
Hushed chatter broke out amongst the mass of Blumaroos, sounding like a swarm of Springabees. Everyone was looking to the left and right to spot the newly crowned Parade King.
But he was nowhere to be seen…
Date: Oct 3rd
Why... how...? Clarence's heart was racing. He could hear the sound of scuffling feet and hushed voices above him while he cowered under the pier. People would be looking for him; their parade needs a king. But why Clarence of all Blumaroos...?
Is this some kind of joke? A prank? Clarence was practically a nobody - he wanted nothing more than to keep to himself. Who could've nominated him to be Parade King, let alone actually vote him into the throne?
Just the thought of being Parade King made his throat tighten with anxiety. All eyes would be on him, everyone would be watching, expecting something great... There's no way this was meant to happen. This must've been some sort of mistake. Maybe they wrote down the wrong name.
As he continued to ponder over every possible scenario, a speckled Blumaroo had noticed him, curled up in a ball beneath the celebration. Being concerned to see a Blumaroo on Roo Island who wasn't filled to the brim with merriment, she cautiously bounded up to Clarence.
"Is everything okay? What's your name?", she asked.
Clarence looked up. She didn't recognise him. She didn't know who he was. Maybe this wasn't some conspiracy that the entire island was in on after all.
He took a deep breath in and replied.
"My name is, uh... C-Callum. I'm Callum."
Date: Oct 4th
"Well, nice to meet you, Callum. My name's Darla." She looked at him with her head slightly tilted.
"Are you alright? Are you hurt?"
Her voice sounded far away in his head, as if he had plugged his ears. Clarence tried to breathe like his mother taught him to: In through the nose, out through the mouth. He took one more big breath and looked up at Darla who was still standing next to him. She had friendly eyes, but they were clouded with a hint of caution.
"I...I -uh", mumbled Clarence. "I-I need to go home." And I'm f-fine. Thank you."
He turned around and wanted to walk away, but Darla grabbed him gently by the arm. She retracted her paw immediately with a shy look on her face.
"Don't you want to see the crowning of the Parade King?" She stretched her neck and looked around. "Where is this Clarence anyway?"
Clarence felt his face turning red and proceeded to shuffle away from Darla backwards. "I-I really need to go", he said. He turned around and bounced away as fast as he could, hoping it didn't look like he was fleeing.
He turned a corner at the bakery and when he was sure he was out of sight, he leaned on the wall and tried to calm his racing heart. Just as he managed to calm down, Darla's head peeked around the corner. "There you are!", she exclaimed.
Date: Oct 7th
“I was afraid I’d lost you in the crowd. Now, something strikes me as odd that a Blumaroo wouldn’t stay for the crowning of the Parade King. Are you sure you aren’t up to staying, Clarence?” Darla ask.
“It’s Callum,” Clarence corrected her, hoping to quell any nerves that he could feel rising up in his throat. He intensely thought to himself, “Does she know who I am?”
“Oh, my fault! I just got your names confused,” Darla sheepishly grinned. It seemed innocuous enough, but Clarence was apprehensive about her. There was a knowing glint in Darla’s eyes that he couldn’t quite shake.
“I really should be g-getting home,” Clarence stammered. “I appreciate your concern but I really am not feeling well. Why don’t you get back to the parade yourself?”
Darla insisted again, overstepping the line between the two strangers. “I really think you should reconsider. I’d really like you to be there.”
“Why?” Clarence asked, this time with an air of defiance. “Why are you so insistent on me coming back?”
Darla’s innocent approach took a radical turn. “We need you for something bigger than this parade, Clarence. The Parade King has access to King Roo’s court for the day and you’re integral to our mission.”
“A mission? Who exactly is this ‘we’ you’re referring to?”
Date: Oct 11th
Clarence swivelled around to meet the new voice, only to freeze.
An Eyrie. A Kiko. A Lupe. Even more Neopets appeared out from the bushes, or rose from the water. All different species.
None of them Blumaroos.
"Uhhh....?" Clarence asked.
Darla's eyes were practically gleaming as she gestured to the group with a paw.
"Clarence, meet the Troo-ists."
Clarence could only stutter. "T-the what?"
The Eyrie from before strode forward. Large and broad-shouldered, he towered over Clarence with tyrannian horns and a jagged beak.
"Troo-ists," repeated the Eyrie. "You heard it right."
Someone in the back snickered, but quieted at the Eyrie's growl. Clarence gulped, trying to make himself small without drawing any extra attention, ears flopped all the way down.
But the Eyrie had his eyes trained directly on him.
"I am Et'korr, leader of the Troo-ists," said the Eyrie. "We have issue with King Roo."
"You know how the Blumaroo Day parade is closed to tourists and outsiders in general?" Darla asked from beside Clarence, and he nodded. "Well... let's just say the Troo-ists want in on the celebrations."
If he was anxious before, he was downright terrified now. Clarence played with his ear nervously.
"Couldn't you just... ask?" he ventured.
Et'korr and Darla shared a look, then smiled, shaking their heads. Guess not.
"We needed a Parade King or Queen who nobody on Roo Island really knows," Darla continued. "So that excludes me. We needed someone who wouldn't be followed by friends all the time, or get too swept up in things once they got into King Roo's court to help us. Someone like you, Clarence."
He frowned. "Y-you... you nominated me."
"We all did," Et'korr interjected.
Clarence stood there for a moment, mind racing. Outsiders at the Blumaroo Day parade. Joining a group of suspicious strangers for an unknown cause. Not being able to just go home and get out of this mess, because he was surrounded, a million eyes on him, and his heart was thumping a mile a minute, legs frozen to the ground.
Et'korr tilted his head. The Troo-ists seemed to be waiting for an answer of some sort. Clarence let out a deep breath. Okay, he had a choice. He could say no. He could leave. He just needed to say so. That was all. He could do this one thing, right? This one thing, and then he could go home and be comfortable and never come out again.
Having gained his resolve, Clarence mustered the small bit of courage he could find in his heart, puffed out his chest, and asserted himself.
"W-what makes you think I'd want to help yo--"
Darla interrupted him. "We can get you out of here."
Clarence's words died on his tongue.
"Tyrannia does not have parades," stated Et'korr.
"Kiko Lake is always peaceful and quiet," said a Kiko.
"Mystery Island loves cooking and making new recipes," a Kougra purred.
He could leave Roo Island? For a place that suited him more?
He'd never had the opportunity before this.
How had they known?
"You can go anywhere you want. Outside of here." Et'korr smiled, as if he could read Clarence's mind. "We had the means to sneak into Roo Island on parade day. We can sneak you out with us."
Everyone around Clarence seemed to exchange knowing looks. They had expected this. They had targeted him specifically. They eyed him, expecting an immediate answer, because both they and he knew that this offer would not last long. He was outnumbered, overwhelmed.
At Clarence's prolonged silence, Et'korr barked a laugh. It was gravelly and deep and sent ice down Clarence's spine. It seemed the leader of the Troo-ists had taken his silence for acceptance of their terms.
The Eyrie turned his back, then looked over his shoulder, as if expecting Clarence to follow.
"The plan starts now," said Et'korr.
Date: Oct 14th
Behind him, the same Neopet snickered again.
Et'korr whipped around and scanned his followers' faces with a scowl. "I meant the post-Clarence-recruitment phase begins now. I KNOW the plan began that night after the last Roo Day Parade..."
Clarence fell into step with Darla, tuning the Eyrie out. "So how did you get involved?" He snuck a glance at her face. "You don't look like an unhappy misfit or rebel."
"I fit in when I want to!" Darla smiled. "But I also want to show the best of our island to other Neopians. And the ban on non-Blumaroos at the parade is embarrassingly outdated." She lowered her voice. "Did you know approximately 10 percent of our population is NBO?"
"Non-Blumaroo Other. Ten percent according to records up to the year Advisor Broo cancelled the survey. We're against him on more issues than one."
"You're saying," said Clarence, "the Trooists are a non-governmental organisation that advocates for non-Blumaroo others? You're an NGO for NBO?"
"Our current project is codenamed NPO," Darla said with a straight face. "No Parade Omission."
Clarence felt strange, as if something was tickling him where he couldn't reach. The feeling only grew stronger when the others ahead of them stopped at what at first glance appeared to be a ruined hut.
"Our temporary headquarters," said the Kiko.
"Why does it look like an orange Slorg?" Clarence climbed in after Darla.
Darla laughed. "Don't be silly. It's the Merry Go Round Uni float that crashed during the last parade! We haggled it down to almost nothing and rebuilt it to magnificence!"
Before he could look at his surroundings and decide if "magnificence" would describe it, Clarence was guided to a seat and handed a folder marked "TROO-IST NBO NPO Y21". Someone lifted his arms and pulled a garment over him, while another set a mug on the table before him. Clarence looked down. He was now wearing something rainbow-coloured, edged in blue and gold trim -- the Parade King gown.
Darla took the adjacent seat, and everyone sat down with a folder.
A Lupe stood and cleared his throat. "We have less than one hour for briefing. Since we couldn't reach consensus last time, I think we should first decide who will be the decoy Clarences."
Date: Oct 16th
"Decoy Clarences?" Clarence asked. A number of the attending Troo-ists motioned to vote. There was no indication that Clarence would have a say in the selection process of the decoy Clarences.
"So no one notices you're missing!" Darla said.
"Why would I be missing?" Clarence asked. After all, as Parade King, he'd be the absolute opposite of missing. Everyone on Roo Island would know exactly where he was and exactly what he was doing for the whole day. That was the whole reason he didn't want to be Parade King!
"You, er, wouldn't be." Et'Korr assured him. "It's just a precaution."
Clarence watched as a costume rack was rolled into view. Two kacheeks and an aisha donned remarkably high-budget blumaroo costumes. Next to Clarence, Darla was handed a mask. She pulled the mask on over her ears, and Clarence turned to see her looking back at him with his own face.
"Why are there so MANY decoys, then?" Clarence asked.
Et'Korr reassuringly patted Clarence on the back, neglecting to answer the question. Then he nudged Clarence out of his seat, and back towards the exit of the float. Clarence, now cloaked in the remarkably heavy Parade King gown, let himself be shuffled along.
"Don't I need to be here for the briefing?" he asked, still moving towards the door.
Et'Korr shook his head. "No, no, you understand the situation. You need to go meet with King Roo, to give us our opening. We'll have our spies and decoys in place by the time you have an audience with the king."
Darla sounded like she was starting to say something, but it was too late. Clarence stepped outside, and this time, a collection of blumaroos recognized him immediately.
"Parade King!" they cheered, identifying him with remarkable ease. A troupe of dancers hoisted him onto their shoulders as they bounced down main street, towards the ever imposing castle. Just that morning, Clarence would have described this exact occurrence as his worst nightmare. It still was, arguably, his worst nightmare, but at least he was going through it for a good cause, he thought. Right?
He looked back towards the orange slorg one last time...
Date: Oct 17th
His stomach had turned to jelly by the time he reached the castle, and something was niggling at him about the whole operation. But the cheering of the crowd, and knowing that he was about to tell bald-faced lies to King Roo, drowned out any doubts. It was probably just nerves, he told himself.
It wasn’t long before he was in front of the impressively ornate wooden doors of the Castle. He took one last look back through the crowd before the dancers set him on the ground, but the orange slorg was long out of view by now. His legs and tail were shaking, and his mouth so dry that he couldn’t thank the dancers who had carried him here. Instead, he gave them a watery smile, and let a guard lead him inside the castle.
Once the doors was closed, silence hit Clarence like a brick to the face. Suddenly, all of his doubts came rushing to the surface, and his fur was quickly dampening with sweat. He looked around at the large empty foyer, which had three doors leading off of it. To the left was a sweeping staircase, but they went too high for Clarence to see where they led.
“Through here, Parade King,” the guard said. He was a stout polka dot Blumaroo, and he began to walk towards the centre of the three doors. Clarence, not knowing what else to do and having no clear instructions from the Troo-ists, followed him dutifully. The guard stopped with his hand on the door, and looked at Clarence with a suspiciously bright smile. “Are you ready?”
Clarence gulped. Was he? But it didn’t matter, because the guard was already pushing the door open. Clarence tensed but he couldn’t have prepared himself for what he saw on the other side of the door…
Date: Oct 23rd
Masked Blumaroos fitted in colorful suits and dresses of grandeur flitted and bounced before him like synchronized swimmers.
Through the crowd Clarence saw the real king, King Roo, smiling from a golden throne fitted with jester bells. Beside him stood two more knights, stone-face and poised.
Clarence felt a ringing in his ears.
"Callum!" whispered a Blumaroo, moving its mask ever so slightly to reveal Darla. "Hahaha..."
Darla gestured to Clarence's left where he saw his decoys waiting in the wings behind stone pillars.
How had they gotten here so fast?
The ringing grew louder. Clarence felt as if he might faint before realizing the ringing was the sound of King Roo's jester bells as he motioned for Clarence to move forward.
On cue, the dancing Blumaroos began lining up left and right to create a clear center.
The throne room had become so silent now that Clarence thought everyone in the room must have heard the bead of sweat dripping from his eyebrows hit the stone floor as he bowed before King Roo.
The royal blue king motioned for Clarence to rise as he grinned mysteriously.
"Parade King Clarence," he began, voice booming and mirthful as he glanced around the room at his subjects, "Do you like to play games?"
Before Clarence could answer trumpets began to blast and the crowd of Blumaroos searched for its source. The two guards gripped their spears tighter glancing at King Roo, who looked frozen.
This left Clarence frozen as well. He couldn't move if he wanted at this point.
From beyond the pillars crept copies of Clarence. More decoys climbed out from pillars on the other side of the room. More than he remembered back at the orange slorg. At least thirty. How had they managed to sneak in?!
He turned back to King Roo, panicked by how he'd react...
How will this story end?
Date: Oct 24th
But before that, the Troo-ist decoys descended on Clarence.
He was suddenly swept up in a crowd of Neopets dressed up as himself-- all of them cheering, dancing, yelling, creating a big ruckus. Clarence was jostled and bumped into, feet and tail trampled on as the Troo-ists jeered at the bewildered guards, sang to the masked crowd, blasted trumpets at King Roo, ringing bells and waving parade batons. He had to dodge and duck to avoid getting accidental elbows to the face. The Troo-ists were nuts. He could barely see past the mass of bouncing costumes and tails circling him.
It was as if the Troo-ists had started a mad parade of their own, right at King Roo's feet.
"Seize them!" an authoritative voice howled above the din, and suddenly the palace guard swarmed in on the Troo-ists.
The Troo-ists were prepared, pulling out staffs and daggers and makeshift shields to block the guards' spears. Yelling and roaring. Clanging and stomping.
Hands and paws and claws made a grab at Clarence, and he was suddenly hauled away, close to the floor, hidden as the other Troo-ists grappled with the guards. Voices hiss in his ear to be quiet as a few Troo-ists hide him behind King Roo's tall throne, away from the fight.
The rest of King Roo's court devolved into panicked screaming, the doors being thrown open as costumed Blumaroos tripped over themselves to flee. Clarence suddenly realised the purpose of the decoys-- it made it easier to hide the real Clarence away among a lot of fake Clarences. It seems they were protecting him from the guards, now that they'd successfully used him to infiltrate the court in the first place.
But why were the Troo-ists protecting Clarence so fiercely? Hadn't he already fulfilled his purpose?
Et'korr's war cry carried over the chaos. He yelled out orders and the Troo-ists followed. He was a good commander, though Tyrannians are known for being skilled in battle. The soft and bouncy Blumaroo guards didn't have much chance. It wasn't long before the scuffles begin to die down, and as the dust settled, Clarence craned his neck to see who won.
King Roo's guards lay in a groaning, unconscious heap on the other side of the court. The Troo-ists stood vigil at all corners of the room, blocking the door, watching the windows. King Roo himself was at his knees before his throne, paws tied behind his back, and he glared up in defiance at his captors. Crumpled confetti littered the marble floors, as did abandoned musical instruments, bells and hats, forgotten tools of merriment.
"Party's over," Darla remarked from beside Clarence, and he whipped around to see her smiling under her party mask. She took his paw and pulled him out from behind the throne, towards the center of the court, facing King Roo.
King Roo struggled with his binds. "With the ruckus you lot have made, the rest of the castle guard will be here in minutes."
"Really? Because with all the noise from today's parade, I can barely hear myself think." Darla chuckled. "Nobody's coming, Roo. We'll take our time."
King Roo frowned, watching Darla almost analytically.
"I do hope you enjoyed our little performance, King Roo," Et'korr drawled. His webbed wings were spread open as he stalked towards King Roo, a show of intimidation. "We have rehearsed this event for so very long."
"Non-Blumaroos aren't allowed at the parade." King Roo muttered, then looked towards the masked Darla. "You, the speckled one. You betrayed the Blumaroos on this special day, didn't you? Why?"
Darla stiffened for a second, but then began to giggle. King Roo seemed bewildered-- until she puled off her mask.
"Darla?!" King Roo gasped.
Darla-- Princess Darla-- flicked her mask at his face, and it hit his cheek.
Clarence's jaw dropped. Multiple gasps came from all corners of the room. It seemed even some of the Troo-ists had been out of the loop on Darla's true identity, though Et'korr didn't seem surprised. Clarence hadn't even known Roo Island had a princess. King Roo had always been an icon of fun and freedom-- the perpetual partygoer, the bouncy bachelor, with little to tie him down. But Darla's princesshood explained her mysterious disposition. Clarence had always felt like she was hiding something more.
Meanwhile, King Roo only grew more upset. "Darla, I thought you were g--"
"People change." Darla huffed another laugh. "But it was ironic, wasn't it? Being princess of Party Island when I couldn't enjoy parties myself."
King Roo stared at her, then looked down at the floor.
"It's true, you were never like the other Blumaroos," he said, as if to himself. "You never joined the parades, the parties... you were so sad, until I sent you off to Tyrannia on a vacation, hoping you'd find happiness there. You never came back, but when you wrote me letters... you seemed different. But I didn't think you had changed this much."
Darla shrugged. "Change is necessary."
"But why did you change?" King Roo presses.
"I met Et'korr. He taught me about the world outside Roo Island, Dad. He helped me realise why I always felt so awful here." She gestured vaguely to herself, smiling. "And now that I'm back, we and the Troo-ists, we're gonna change Roo Island for the better."
"For the better?" King Roo questioned. "Or are you simply changing Roo Island to suit your own needs? Must the world always revolve around yourself, Princess?"
Darla frowned lightly. Et'korr snorted, jabbing his head in King Roo's direction.
"Get the crown," the Eyrie growled.
A couple of Troo-ists descended on King Roo, taking his crown and cape, even his signature playing dice. Divested of his costume, all that was left of the King was a rather normal-looking blue Blumaroo. The Troo-ists handed the clothes to Darla, who weighed them in her paws thoughtfully.
"You're nothing without the crown," she said to the King. "Just some jokester. It'll be easy to replace you."
Clarence's heart began to thud painfully. Is this what the Troo-ists' plan was really about? A coup d'etat? Oh Fyora, what had he gotten himself into?
What has he done?
"You're just... going to crown yourself Queen?" he squeaked.
Darla turned to Clarence, face blank. But after a beat, her face broke out into her usual charming smile.
"Oh, Clarence. I could never be Queen Roo. Being Princess was hard enough. So many parties, so much noise, so much responsibility."
She tilted her head. "You haven't figured it out yet?"
Darla strode over to Clarence, and a chill ran up his spine when he realised she wasn't bouncing like usual. Just walking. The only Blumaroo he knew that didn't bounce is... well, himself.
"You're our new King," Darla said, plopping the crown atop his head.
"I never-- I never asked for this!" he said immediately, shaking his head to dislodge the crown. But the crown was heavy, and only seemed to jingle away with his movements. A couple Troo-ists immediately came in to restrain his arms, preventing him from moving. "I didn't want to be a part of this!"
"And yet, you never refused us," Et'korr reminded him. "Never had the backbone to."
The Troo-ists began to chuckle among themselves. Darla smiled at Clarence, a strange smile.
"Roo Island has been ruled by clowns for far too long," Darla said idly. "You can't run a kingdom with parties and games forever. And if things are going to change we want them, we need a new King. A weak King who will listen to us, and do what we say."
She looked him right in the eye. "A King like you."
The more she spoke, the more Clarence realised that the Troo-ists' plan had been Darla's all along, not Et'korr's. He'd been manipulated by Roo Island's very own princess. The odds...
"Anyway. You will establish No Parade Omission." Darla ordered. "Non-Blumaroos will be allowed to join the Blumaroo Day parades."
Et'korr laughed. "Finally."
"And we can't have every single day be a holiday, either." Darla scowled at King Roo. "Clarence, you'll have to implement some actual working days. Get those Blumaroos doing something useful with their lives, like I did while in Tyrannia."
A random Troo-ist's voice popped up. "On that note, we need to turn over the whole system... how can you decide national policy based entirely on the outcome of a Dice-A-Roo game?"
"Noted," Darla said.
"Y'know, I really hate the parade noises," said another Troo-ist. "Can we just cancel it entirely? Clarence, you'll need to get on that too."
The Troo-ists begin to air their grouses about Roo Island. Suggestions for change, for reform, even though most of the Troo-ists probably weren't even from Roo Island to begin with. Darla listened to them all, as if revelling in her victory, the potential for a new Roo Island.
Words. So many words, flying through his ears, over his head, past him. Scheming and laughter and politics and being talked at.
Clarence sniffed, catching Darla's attention.
"...I just wanted to escape the parade," he said.
Darla shrugged. "Well, parade's over, isn't it?"
"Y-you said you'd help me leave Roo Island," Clarence protested, though his voice came out like a bleat. "You never said anything about overthrowing King Roo."
Darla laughed, a cruel twinkle in her eye.
"Didn't I tell you? This is bigger than just the parade." She tilted her head at him. "There's no Neopet better at games than Blumaroos. You fell for my party trick."
Clarence opened his mouth, but no words came out. It was like his voice had escaped him, the floor fallen away beneath his feet.
Darla narrowed her dark eyes at him. "But you wouldn't know any of that, would you? You're not a normal Blumaroo, either. You don't like games, or parties, or parades, or crowds."
A lick of anger flared up in his heart.
"It's not my fault! It's just how I am. I'm just--"
"Grey?" she offered.
A stone settled itself at the bottom of his stomach, and he unconsciously flicked his eyes down to the grey fur of his body.
Rustling noises. Clarence looked up again to see Et'korr approaching them with something in his beak. Darla took it from him.
A blue paint brush.
"I know what it's like," she suddenly said, voice empathetic, lifting Clarence's chin with the handle of the brush. "It's like you were born in the wrong place, wrong time. Why am I a Blumaroo? Why Roo Island? Everyone's too loud. Too social. More parties than necessary. You just want to stay home. Be alone. By yourself, it's always about yourself. Can't see past yourself."
"But it wasn't my fault for feeling that way. I was grey too. And as I learned from Et'korr... I could just paint it off me." She waved the paint brush in her paw. "Problem's gone. Just like that."
Was it really? Clarence's disbelief must have shown on his face, because Darla frowned.
"Can't you see that I'm doing this to help you?" she murmured. "You, me, the Troo-ists, for Roo Island. Clarence, this world could change for the better. But for that to happen, we have to change ourselves first. We all have to sacrifice something."
Sacrifice? Fear and uncertainty gripped Clarence's heart. He desperately glanced over at King Roo, hoping for some form of help, and the King offered Clarence a small smile as their eyes met.
"You're the Parade King," King Roo said. "I know you'll do what's best."
Clarence could only stare at the King hopelessly.
Darla rolled her eyes. "Um, sure. Lock him up. We have a new King now."
King Roo said nothing more as a couple of Troo-ists dragged him away, down the hall, disappearing around the corner. As the King was taken away, Clarence's body was awash with a cold feeling. As if this was the start of something huge. A change for Roo Island like never before, and not necessarily a good one. He stared at his feet.
He had let this happen, hadn't he?
"Darla," Et'korr piped up, "we need to swap the Kings quickly. Before the Blumaroos return to take back the castle."
"Ah, right." Darla snapped out of what looked like some deep thoughts, then held the paint brush up to Clarence's face. "Hold still, Clarence."
"I don't want this," he protested.
"False," the Princess snapped. "You had a choice, and this is what you chose."
He glared at her. "We'll see about that."
The paint on his skin was cold.
Clarence closed his eyes. Once he opened them, something would be different.
Maybe he'd be less shy. Less lonely. Less sad.
Maybe he'd still be Parade King, carried over the crowds outside, the sound of music and revelry washing over him like a wave.
Maybe he'd be King of Roo Island, crown heavy upon his head, looking over the castle balcony. Swarmed by the Troo-ists who had appointed themselves as his council of advisors. Darla watching over his shoulder, controlling his every word, every move.
Maybe he'd be back home again, contentedly reading a book or working on a new recipe in his kitchen.
Or maybe his fur will just be blue instead of grey.
But regardless of what happened, Clarence resolved-- something swelling deep in his chest-- he was not going to let anybody walk all over him again.
King Roo's words echoed in his consciousness-- "Do you like to play games? You're Parade King, I know you'll do what's best."
If nothing else, Darla was right about one thing. If he wanted change, he'd have to be that change. But if the change she wanted was for him to be a King at her beck and call, then he would prove her wrong. He may not stand for Roo Island, or the Troo-ists, or Darla, or even Blumaroos in general, but he will stand for himself.
It may have been Darla's game to start, but it wouldn't be hers to finish. It was Clarence's turn to roll the dice.
It was his choice, after all.
Date: Oct 30th
...Luckily, he didn't have to react quite yet.
"PARADE KING CLARENCE," the King boomed, before smiling almost wickedly. "Of course you like games." His demeanor suddenly flamed into a fierce fury. "Why are you playing GAMES with me, CLARENCE?" he roared. "Your army of Troo-ists did an excellent job of breaking into my quarters, on a day when most of my army is out celebrating..." The royal blue Blumaroo's face twisted into a contorted grin. "But did you really think you and your mutinous militia could simply traipse on up and dethrone your King?"
Before Clarence could answer, the King stepped forward. In response, Clarence stepped forward. Another step. Another. The motions felt scheduled, as though he were an automaton. Soon, the two Kings met -- not in the middle, and with distance between them -- yet there was an understanding that here was the point of greatest contention, of no return.
Adding to the tenseness, the Parade King was distantly aware of his growing militia; NBOs continued to appear seemingly from nowhere, like Virtupets war machines ready to strike.
"Clarence, Clarence..." the King trailed as he shook his head almost teasingly. "Don't you understand? The Blumaroo Day Parade has a rich history amongst us Blumaroos. It is deeply ingrained in the culture of our species. You cannot have the revelry of Blumaroo Day without Blumaroos, and you cannot have Blumaroos without revelry. Don't you understand?" he reiterated cryptically. "Our beloved celebration is for Blumaroos only. Other cultures, other species, would simply taint the purity of OUR festivities. They do not think like us. They cannot party like us. They are NOT us." He gestured vaguely about the room. "NON-Blumaroo Others partaking in the BLUMAROO Day Parade isn't just absurd... it's sacrilege."
Clarence could feel the stares of everyone in the crowd as he looked down at his feet. The Troo-ists were counting on him. All the NBOs were counting on him. He waited anxiously for someone, anyone, to interrupt and say SOMETHING, ANYTHING... but no one dared to speak.
It had to be him. He had to say something.
Yet, all he could focus on was the King's booming voice, still echoing through the hall.
"Sacrilege? SACRILEGE?" Clarence asked with rage bubbling in his voice. "The only thing sacreligous here is you barring innocent Neopets from taking part in the parade!" the Parade King shouted at a volume even he did not know he could reach. "I am allowed to take part in this parade simply because I was born a Blumaroo?! I don't even LIKE the revelry of the parade!" King Roo seemed visibly shaken at his counterpart's revelation. "And here we have an audience of the Troo-ists... only making this fuss BECAUSE they want to be involved in the celebrations, BECAUSE they want Neopets who are not Blumaroos to be able to take part in the festivities! Shouldn't everybody be afforded that opportunity? After all, Roo Island is a place for games, for joy, for fun -- and yet you choose to define a fun that excludes Non-Blumaroo Others. Our annual parade is our pride and joy -- why shouldn't our fun be inclusive? Why shouldn't our fun be everyone's fun?"
Clarence did not realize what he was saying until he had finished. He almost expected himself to be trembling uncontrollably, unable to speak after his outburst. But to his surprise -- and possibly the surprise of everyone else -- he wasn't shaking at all. No, he stood tall. He stood proud.
"Look at everyone here." Clarence motioned idly about his doppelgangers. "They came to show their support for change. Traditions are traditions, but even traditions can change." He gestured at Darla, who sheepishly removed her Clarence mask. "There are many Blumaroos on this great Island who want to see NBOs take part in the parade. Isn't that idea at least worth considering?"
The King frowned contemplatively as he looked about the room, as all of them started to remove their Clarence masks. So many faces... so many Blumaroos, and yet so much Non-Blumaroo diversity. All just simply looking for a good time.
Something heaved within him. He knew what he had to do.
Clarence turned around just in time for someone to run into him and pull him into a hug; he barely managed to catch himself from falling onto the pavement. Once he regained his footing, he looked up to see a familiar speckled Blumaroo latched onto him.
"Darla, it's been a while," Clarence said. "How were you able to find me in the crowd?"
"Partially luck, admittedly... but I'd recognize you from a mile away." She chuckled. "I literally wore you once, after all."
He grinned at that. "Are you enjoying the parade?"
"Ohhh, yes," she practically squealed. "I'm having a blast! Finally, the NGOs can be open about participating in the festival as themselves. And there are SO MANY. Tourism has never been better! The Parade has never been bigger! I mean, just LOOK at all these new faces experiencing this for the first time!" She gestured wildly about the masses. "Everyone is having fun. Isn't it wonderful? You've done a truly amazing thing, Clarence." She looked happily into his eyes, before catching herself and gingerly glancing away. "And you? What brings you here, anyway? You hate these things."
It was true. Shortly after the King issued the decree lifting the ban on NBOs, thereby legitimizing the Troo-ists -- who quickly disbanded anyway, their primary goal being met -- he took off for Mystery Island and generally never looked back. The climate wasn't too different from Roo Island, it had an incredibly accessible harbour for other travels, and that Kougra certainly was right about getting to perfect his cooking skills.
"I might be living on Mystery Island now," Clarence started, "but I wouldn't miss THIS parade -- the inaugural inclusive event. What we fought so hard for."
She smiled at him.
"Speaking of which..." Clarence trailed off as he pointed to a familiar orange Slorg going down the float route. Et'korr, the Kiko, and the Kougra that had convinced him to go to Mystery Island were on the self-dubbed "Orange Slorg of Justice" -- as well as some other former Troo-ists, still wearing their Clarence masks, which had become something of a sign of resistance.
He had to laugh. With grounded exuberance, he took a perfectly-glazed Lemon Scone out from his package of Lemon Scones and offered one to Darla.
As the last float finally made its way to the end of the route, which was in front of King Roo's castle, a loud voice came over the loudspeaker.
"And now it is time to crown this year's Parade King or Queen!" the voice boomed. "...Et'korr!"
The audience erupted into cheers. Times really had changed.
In collaboration with chasing_stars44
Date: Mar 2nd
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