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||You are on Week 649
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 Forty Nine Ends Friday, March 28
|The yellow Chomby peered into the mirror and gulped. His complexion looked yellower than usual and he was feeling queasy. Perhaps I shouldn't have skipped breakfast, he thought nervously. Behind him, he could hear the nervous chatter of the other contestants.
This was the big day -- the day Rigo could either make or break his career, which he had built up painstakingly for the past ten years. After years of performing stand-up comedy and creating lame jokes for the kids' section of The Neopian Times, Rigo was ready to face his ultimate task: the biennial Court Jester Contest held by the notoriously stoic King Skarl.
Every two years, comedians from around Neopia gathered to apply for the coveted position on King Skarl's court. The pay was rumored to be phenomenal, and according to residents of Meridell, the court jester was one of the highest positions of the kingdom.
"After all, if someone can make King Skarl laugh, then that makes them, like, extraordinary," a Neopet had once said.
Rigo retreated to the castle lobby, where the other Neopets sat waiting for their turn to present in front of the king. Rigo was contestant #242. The Chomby sat down next to a Mynci wearing #245. After a few calming breaths, Rigo reached into his pocket and pulled out his index cards, on which some of his best knock-knock jokes were written. He began memorizing them.
"Who's there?" the purple Mynci next to him quipped all of a sudden.
"Huh?" Rigo blinked. He didn't realize he had been memorizing out loud. "Oh, uh... I was just practicing... sorry."
"Oh. Well, you should know that knock-knock jokes won't work on King Skarl," the Mynci said. "You need interaction for a knock-knock joke. King Skarl just sits there like a log."
Rigo blinked. "What kind of jokes work best, then?"
The Mynci smiled smugly. "Now, that wouldn't be fair to reveal during the contest, would it?"
Rigo bit his lip. The Mynci could just be joking (trying to make his competition falter, ha), but the Mynci looked too calm --much calmer than everyone else in the entire lobby. The Mynci no doubt had valuable experience and tips.
As if reading the Chomby's thoughts, the Mynci spoke. "Tell you what, kid. I'll strike a deal. I'll give you a couple of jokes that'll for sure make you one of the finalists, as long as you..."
Date: Mar 24th
..."Wait a minute!" the Chomby quickly interrupted. He may have been in the business of laughter, but Rigo knew that it was still a cutthroat business and there were very few out there who could be trusted. After all, so many of the biggest comedians had climbed up the ladder by creating laughter at another's expense.
"How do I know I can trust you?" he asked, narrowing his eyes at the purple form next to him. "After all, why would you want to help me out if you're another competitor for this ONE position."
The Mynci chuckled lightly before his face returned to a serious expression. "Good for you, kid," he said as he slapped the Chomby on his back. "I can see that you've already learned the most important rule in this business -- trust no one."
Rigo stared into the Mynci's eyes, trying to figure out what was going on behind them. Cynical and helpful don't often pair well together, he knew. So, what was this Mynci up to?
The Mynci impatiently snapped his fingers, bringing Rigo back to the present. He opened his mouth to speak, but before a word escaped, they were interrupted.
"Number 239!" the short green Bruce at the door called out, signaling that the next contestant's turn was up. "Number 240, get ready."
Rigo turned his attention back to the Mynci beside him, panicked. He needed help -- no, he needed jokes -- and he was running out of time. The conversation with this Mynci had taken up all of his time to prepare, and he began to wonder if this was the Mynci's plan all along.
"Listen," the Mynci told him sternly. "We don't have much time, so let me speak -- you just nod along to show that you understand what I'm saying. Every two years, for the past fourteen years, I have been coming to this competition to try to win this position. Every time, though, I am sent home without any luck. The minute I saw you, however, I realized that I needed to change my plan. I don't need to get myself in -- I just need to get someone else in... someone that I can trust. That, my young Chomby, is you."
With that, the Mynci took out his joke cards and presented them to Rigo with a flourish. Rigo glanced down at the first one, a short joke about turnips, and chuckled. These were good... no, these were really great jokes. He shifted through the cards, feeling his confidence increase as he read each one.
Once he had committed them to memory, Rigo looked back at the Mynci and waited for him to resume speaking.
"Look," the Mynci said with a sigh, "I really need your help with this. I know you don't have to follow through on your deal, but the thing is... you're my last chance."
"Your last chance for what?" Rigo asked before quickly covering his mouth. Just nod, don't speak... those were the rules he'd been given.
The Mynci continued on without acknowledging the Chomby's error. "My brother won this contest sixteen years ago. You were probably too young to remember this, but my brother was a huge hit -- he was hailed the best of the best when it came to comedians. So, it came as no surprise that he was selected. What was a surprise, though, was who he was when he returned home after two years... I didn't -- actually, I still don't -- recognize him. It's like he's a completely different Mynci. I did some digging and he isn't the only one. Everyone who is selected returns home as a different Neopet. I don't know what happens while they are here, but I need to find out so I can get my brother back."
"So, that's where I come in," Rigo said breathlessly as he finished piecing together the immensity of the favor being requested of him.
"It is," the Mynci confirmed. "I need you to spy for me, since I cannot do it myself."
"Number 242!" Rigo suddenly heard, snapping his attention away from his thoughts and back to the waiting room. How had the Bruce reached his number already? He sat frozen, watching the green Bruce approach him before looking back at the Mynci, trying to ignore the weight of emotions bearing down on him.
"Go," the Mynci told him, pushing him out of his chair and toward the doorman's impatient form. "I believe in you."
"Wait!" Rigo cried, looking back at the Mynci. "I don't even know your name!"
The Mynci smiled at Rigo and...
Date: Mar 24th
...only replied with a wink.
"Come along, come along," the doorman hurried, pressing Rigo toward the king's chambers. The Chomby looked back over his shoulder toward the Mynci, who gave a short wave. A final wish for luck. The corridor they passed through was dark as night, with sporadic shafts of gleaming light. It felt like he was heading down, toward the dungeons Rigo thought with a gulp. He felt his legs start to shake beneath him, whether with nerves or terror he could not rightly say.
"Here we are then, lad," the doorman said as they approached a large wooden door that spanned from the corridor's floor to its ceiling. "Best of luck."
The doorman turned away, leaving Rigo standing there alone. With a deep breath and a hesitant hand he pushed the door open, though not without effort. Bright light flooded his vision. When it cleared he saw the king before him, Skarl himself, who was sitting upon his throne and absentmindedly chewing on a carrot. The blue Skeith filled the seat with his bulk, and his crown was placed lopsidedly upon his head.
"Number 242!" a voice to Rigo's left announced, which caused the Chomby to jump slightly, startled.
"Are we only that far through?" King Skarl grumbled as he squinted at the Chomby. "I'm starting to get hungry again."
"You may begin," the voice said.
Rigo steadied himself, struggling to remember the jokes that the Mynci has shown him only a few minutes previously. With a start, he began.
"Can we turnip the heat today?" he said in his most jovial voice, cracking the widest smile he could manage, “Or will we have to wait till to-marrow?”
It was certainly a good joke, Rigo thought, noting the slight smile forming upon the king's lips. His nerves settled slightly, his thoughts drifting back to the Mynci and his brother. With a slight shake of his head he brought himself out of this reverie; there was no point thinking about that now. He just had to make it through this first round.
"What did the Mortog say..."
He trailed off as his mouth fell open, when he suddenly noticed...
Date: Mar 25th
...the coveted jester hat sitting perched on its very own throne next to the king. It was made of rich purple, red, and yellow fabrics, with three shiny bells at the points of the cap. Rigo had spent many sleepless nights picturing himself in that very hat.
King Skarl cleared his throat loudly. "Well?"
Rigo gulped and tried to refocus his attention, saying in a fully confident voice, "What did the Mortog say to the princess?" He paused for effect and then puckered his lips. "Want to try that again, m'lady?"
King Skarl gave a visible chuckle and waved his hand to motion for Rigo to continue. The Chomby was feeling rather assured of himself at this point. The Mynci had not done him wrong.
"How long does it take a Skeith to finish a game of Cheeseroller?" Rigo asked, dramatically scratching his head. He shrugged and said, "No idea, but it takes him exactly five seconds to eat the cheese!"
The King gave a hearty guffaw, which echoed around the chamber. He laughed until tears formed in his eyes, and Rigo even heard the guards behind him dutifully laughing as well. The Chomby joined in with a rush of relief.
"That's the best routine I've heard all day," King Skarl announced, giving Rigo an approving nod. With great effort, the Skeith shuffled to his feet, his robes swaying languidly. "I grant you the honor of being Court Jester to the King of Meridell."
"Sir," came a voice from behind Rigo. He turned to see the green Bruce from before. Rigo had not even heard him enter. "You still have several applicants in the hall--"
King Skarl silenced him with a wave of his hand. "I grow tired of sitting all day. What is your name?"
"Rigo," the Chomby replied, bowing.
"Shall I make the announcement, then?" the Bruce asked.
Rigo stood rooted to the spot. He couldn't believe he was actually going to be the court jester! It was his lifelong dream.
King Skarl made to reach for the jester's hat and then paused. "Not yet. First..."
Date: Mar 25th
...King Skarl snapped his fingers and the green Bruce stepped forward. Rigo noticed that he was carrying a piece of parchment. "First," Skarl continued, "you must sign this contract."
"Contract?" Rigo asked. "What kind of contract?"
A dark frown crossed over Skarl's features, and it was very obvious that he didn't like to be questioned. Luckily, the Bruce was able to answer.
"It's rather standard," the Bruce quickly explained. "It just says that you won't go out and tell everyone about the inner workings of the castle. As the jester, you may be privy to conversations that can't be repeated outside of these walls. This just says that you won't talk to outsiders about what you might see or hear here."
"That sounds reasonable," Rigo agreed. He then took an offered quill made from a White Weewoo feather. As he started to write his name on the contract, however, he couldn't help but think of the mysterious Mynci he had met in the lobby. According to him, everyone that took this job was changed by it somehow, and Rigo thought that perhaps he should actually take time to read this contract before signing.
"What are you waiting for?" King Skarl boomed. "Sign the contract or get out. Someone else will be happy to sign such a simple agreement."
The Chomby smiled nervously as he told himself he was just being foolish. That Mynci no doubt was worried over nothing, and this was Rigo's big chance to finally fulfill his dreams. He signed his name boldly on the dotted lines.
A small part of him heard a strange noise after he had signed, like an ominous hiss, but he immediately ignored it. His eyes were on that brightly-coloured jester's hat that Skarl was now handing him.
"Show him to his quarters," the king commanded, "and bring in the food. I'm starving."
The Bruce bowed slightly and led the overjoyed Chomby out of the room as plate after plate of delicious delicacies were brought in. Together they walked down the hall and up a flight of stone steps to another hall. Rigo looked around and tried to get an idea of the lay of the castle, but there were just so many twists and turns to remember. Finally, they came to a huge wooden door, which the Bruce opened to reveal a spacious bedroom. Rigo was awed, as this one room was bigger than his entire house, and he stepped inside slowly as he looked around. Dominating the room was a massive bed covered with a luxurious purple blanket. He had never seen anything so majestic.
"I trust this room is to your liking," the Bruce said.
"It's amazing," Rigo replied in a breathless manner.
"Well, I'll leave you to get settled, then. My name is Ian, and if you need anything just ask. You now have free reign of the castle and the grounds, except for the dungeon. You wouldn't want to go there, anyway." He paused for a moment. "Are you hungry? I can have some food sent up if you like."
Rigo shook his head. "I think I'm too excited to eat," he answered.
Ian nodded. "It has been an interesting day," he said, "although I've seen it all before. As I said, ask if you need anything. I suspect you just want some peace and quiet so you can write."
Again Ian nodded. "King Skarl probably won't call for you tonight because he's seen so many jesters today, but no doubt he'll call for you in the morning. He likes to laugh before breakfast, and he always wants new material. Your jokes were great today, and I'm sure your new ones will be even better." He smiled warmly. "Welcome to the castle," he said as he closed the door.
Rigo stood alone as his limbs shook slightly, so that the bells on the jester's hat he still held jingled. He had been so excited to finally get this position that he had never thought ahead to what would happen if he had actually become the jester. The jokes he had told had been great, but it wasn't his material. His knock-knock jokes were still on the crumpled index cards in his pockets, but he knew he couldn't use those.
Sweat gathered on his forehead as he considered the matter, and he realized there was only one thing he could do...
Date: Mar 26th
...He had to find the Mynci. It had been the purple Neopet who had written the material he'd used and he who, in theory, had the ability to do it again -- or, at least, teach Rigo to write similar material of his own. The Mynci had, after all, expressed the wish that Rigo be selected for the court jester position. He'd wanted Rigo to get through so that Rigo could serve as his contact from the inside, and the only way Rigo would be able to stay in the castle would be if he received the Mynci's help. Surely he'd still be on Rigo's side.
The Chomby stifled a yawn as he cautiously opened the wooden door. The room truly was lovely, and he would've liked nothing more than to throw himself on that huge, velvet-draped bed, but he couldn't think of sleep right now. He had more pressing matters to attend to. As simple as the solution seemed, a problem presented itself within a matter of minutes. One corridor led to another that looked exactly the same as the first, and that corridor led to a flight of stairs that led to another corridor that led to yet another. Also, each and every door was made out of the same wood as his own bedroom door. He paused, knowing that he was hopelessly lost. This place was like a maze -- like some riddle he couldn't solve. How in the name of King Roo's dice was he supposed to get out of here?!?
Rigo knew he had to go down, at least, so he descended a staircase. First one, then a second, then a third, fourth, and fifth. Rigo hadn't remembered climbing so many staircases earlier. It was possible, though, that he'd been too lost in glee to notice how high he'd been taken. The hallway he walked down now was, naturally, much the same as the others he had just wandered. Stretching out beneath his feet were metres upon metres of polished timber. The wood led to two other passages that branched off in the middle of the walkway, one left and one right. On the walls were portraits of random Neopets and scenes from all around Meridell, as well as large doors precisely like all others he'd seen. At the very end of the space was an oak cabinet, tall and imposing with a display of trinkets within its glass sheeting. Yes, it was very much the same.
Halting in the act of turning left, Rigo backpedalled. In his periphery he'd noticed something that was very decidedly not the same as in the corridors he'd walked before. One of the heavy doors was ajar, ever so slightly. He gulped as he thought. He hadn't considered knocking on any of the doors he'd passed, though he'd been sure that some of them had to have been occupied. He'd been too worried that anyone he met would ask him why he wanted to get back downstairs when all he really should be concentrating on was writing new jokes for the king. It was for that reason that he'd tried to move quietly.
The closer he moved to the door, however, the more frantically Rigo's thoughts flew. He'd only just been appointed Skarl's new court jester. It wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that most Neopians wouldn't know that there had even been a new appointment, let alone that he, Rigo, was that appointment. Even so, the Chomby berated himself at the sound of a creak. One of the floorboards he'd trodden on was squeaky and he couldn't help but liken the timber board to a plank on a pirate ship. Was he walking the plank to his own doom? Rigo's breathing sped.
There was the sound of a cough, faint and feeble. Clearly someone was, indeed, inside. Summoning his courage, Rigo rapped on the door before he could lose his nerve. "Excuse me?" he asked. His voice was shaky.
The sound of hooves filled the air and Rigo dared to look up as the door slowly swung open. "Yes?" The face that met his gaze was blank. "Who are you? What do you want?" The pink Ixi coughed.
Rigo swallowed to moisten his too-dry throat. "My name is Rigo," he began. "I'm... well, lost. I was hoping for directions to the castle lobby."
"Lost?" The pink Neopet cracked a reluctant half-smile though her features remained otherwise rigid. "You must be new to the castle."
The Chomby's nerves faded enough for him to tell her that he'd only moved in that day. Twenty or so minutes ago, in fact.
Furry as the Ixi's face was, a new, quizzical crease could be discerned between the other Neopet's eyes. "Today?" she repeated, her eyes narrowing. "You wouldn't be the new jester?"
"I am," Rigo admitted hesitantly. If she asked why he wasn't in his room he could slip her the excuse that he was hungry.
The other Neopet's reaction was unexpected. Her throat worked and she seized Rigo's arm, jerking him toward her. This close, Rigo could see the mix of emotions playing out across her expression. The droop of her ears told Rigo that she was sad, even miserable, and the tightness of her jaw suggested a palpable anxiety. It was the shadows under her eyes and the almost haunted glimmer in their black depths, though, that stole his breath. They expressed a suffering so awful that Rigo wasn't sure that it could be phrased in words.
"My name is Adelaide," the Ixi told him. "I'm your predecessor and I want to give you a warning." Her dark eyes, once blank, were suddenly fierce...
Date: Mar 26th
..."Just forget them."
Rigo blinked. "Ex... excuse me?"
"Just forget about them," the Ixi repeated. Her voice was thick. "Whoever you were going to see. It's easier this way."
Well, that was ominous. Taken aback, he replied, "What do you mean?"
"Isn't it obvious? You're not going to be able to see them again -- not until Skarl gets bored with you and calls another tournament. You don't get to leave this place."
He couldn't leave the castle? He hadn't seen that on the contract. The clause of silence, sure, but not this. He tried to keep his voice steady. "I wasn't kidding about looking for the lobby. They're just in there."
"Huh." The Ixi sat down on her haunches. "In that case, you'd better say your goodbyes while you still can. You don't want to get caught sneaking out of the castle."
From the way her voice cracked, Rigo guessed she was speaking from experience. "Why wouldn't they let you leave the castle? Surely you get break days?"
"You're a jester now." Adelaide gave a quiet, bitter laugh. "You thought this was an honored position? You exist for Skarl's amusement. You eat here, you sleep here, you prance around and make new jokes and pretend everything's fine. Oh, it starts off as a dream job. Now? Now I just want to see my sister and hug her 'til the end of time. I never want to see another pun in my life." She shook her head. "Right now, you aren't whatsitsname the Chomby--"
"Rigo," he supplied.
"Right now, you aren't Rigo the Chomby. You're Skarl's jester, and you'd better get used to it, because that's going to be your life for a long, long time."
"What's so bad about this?" While he was definitely pretty uneasy, Rigo still didn't understand what was going on. The Mynci had suggested that there was some form of... brainwashing going on, and Adelaide was telling him he was literally a prisoner to his new position. He saw the pieces of the puzzle, but not how they came together. "I mean, I've heard... sinister things. What's really going on here?"
The Ixi sighed. "Well, first things first. Did a Mynci put you up to this?..."
Date: Mar 27th
...Rigo blinked at her in surprise. "How do you know about the Mynci?" He glanced over his shoulder wondering if King Skarl had spies around the castle. Surely, he might.
Adelaide rolled her eyes. "Did he tell you the same baloney about his brother being 'changed' and how you're his only hope so you must win the competition?" By the look on Rigo's face, she took that for confirmation and continued. "Yeah, didn't you think it odd that a total stranger just handed you the jokes that were sure to make King Skarl laugh and ultimately secure your position as jester?"
When she phrased it like that, Rigo felt oddly naive. He took to his own defense. "Why would he lie about something like that? He sounded sincere."
The Ixi rolled her eyes again and peered up and down the corridor. "I was like you -- eager to prove my wit and foolish enough to listen to the Mynci and his stories. The rules are tough, but I never noticed anything strange going on in the castle except for the fact the king likes to take midnight strolls through the corridors wearing Puppyblew pajamas. So, forget about the Mynci and be proud of your position."
Rigo didn't understand everything she was telling him. Her eyes were telling a different story than the one coming from her mouth. Even as she spoke, telling Rigo the job wasn't that bad, her eyes were round and almost terrified.
They heard footsteps approaching. Adelaide whispered quickly, "Just keep taking lefts and you'll make it to the lobby, but hurry!" She then slammed the door with a resounding creak.
Thinking the last few minutes had been the oddest conversation he'd ever had, and not wanting to get caught by a Meridell guard, Rigo took her advice and forked a left every chance he could.
He ended up in the same lobby where he'd sat so nervously only hours before. Unfortunately, it was now empty and silent. With a sigh, he turned and collided with purple fur.
"You!" Rigo cried.
"Shh!" the Mynci hissed.
"I will not shh," Rigo whispered angrily. "I want explanations. I ran into the old jester and she said you told her the same story you told me... that you lied about your brother and some sort of brainwashing going on here."
"Of course she did," the Mynci said. "She doesn't want you to back out of the position, does she? Otherwise, she can't leave!..."
Date: Mar 27th
..."She's being forced to stay here?" Rigo asked, eyes wide.
"Well, of course!" the Mynci replied, a slightly out of place look of concern on his face. "She'll be forced to stay here until the end of time -- it's in her contract, just as it's in your contract, just as it was in my brother's contract."
"But your brother doesn't exist -- and you yourself said he came home, so he could not have been here 'until the end of time,' anyway," the Chomby rebutted, his suspicions growing and eyes narrowing.
"Sorry," he said, completely unapologetically. "Her mind will be forced to stay."
The Mynci was withholding something. So was Adelaide... nothing here was adding up.
"Why," Rigo continued, "did you claim to need my help when you clearly had another spy already on the inside?" His eyes were slits, now.
The Mynci smirked connivingly. "You really shouldn't ask too many questions, dear Chomby," he replied. "Curiosity made the Meowclops blind."
"Answer the question," Rigo urged, a rigidness in his voice he did not know he could possess.
His counterpart sighed. "She escaped the castle and found me after she discovered some supposed news about the whole situation that was particularly... disturbing. Apparently the brainwashing is a very real thing, and the memories -- Skarl's secrets -- from the jesters are kept in magical tubes in a vault deep in the dungeons. I have no idea where in the dungeons they are, though, and only Neopians with authority are allowed there, anyway."
The Mynci stared at Rigo. The Chomby just gave him a quizzical stare, as though everything he said was a joke, at the very least extremely meaningless.
"Look," the Mynci continued, "before she could tell me the whole story she was captured by guards. I fled from the scene and didn't save her. She screamed insults at me -- though the guards, of course, thought they were intended at them or else no one in particular -- all the way as she was dragged back. She was reluctant to speak to anyone after that, especially me... from what I hear, the torments she suffered afterward made her somewhat... unstable."
Rigo's mouth made a flat and angry line. "So, you want me to undergo similar punishment and take you to the dungeons, and everything, just for you... and how's Adelaide going to escape--"
"Who?" the Mynci interrupted.
The Chomby could have punched him. "The Ixi! The old jester!" he practically yelled. "How will she survive the brainwashing?"
A pause. The Mynci shrugged.
Just then, however, a Draik arrived in the lobby, holding the hand of Adelaide. She had a strange smile present on her face. "You're free to go," he said.
As the Draik exited, she traipsed over to the two...
Date: Mar 28th
..."Look at all the Litemites!" she exclaimed in a crackly voice. She leaped into the air as she appeared to be trying to grab the Petpetpets that only she could see while laughing oddly.
Rigo's mouth dropped as he turned toward the Mynci. "What did they do to her?" he gasped.
To his surprise, the Mynci seemed rather unaffected by the entire situation. "That happens when anyone has to go in for repeated brainwashing sessions," he said. "I'm not even sure if there's a way to save her."
"So, what are we going to do?" Rigo demanded.
Again, the Mynci shrugged. "I'm going to keep searching for a way to save my brother," he said. "You're either going to help me or wind up trying to get nonexistent P3s."
His words were cold and harsh, and Rigo involuntarily cringed as if he had been slapped, but he saw truth in the Mynci's words. "Okay," he said. "Where do we start?"
"The dungeon," the Mynci answered, "but you'll have to go alone. I've managed to secure a position here at the castle as part of maintenance so I could help my brother, and I don't dare jeopardize that. I'll show you how to get to the dungeons, but I can't go with you."
That seemed rather cowardly to the Chomby, but he agreed nonetheless. They quietly exited the lobby and headed down another hallway that Rigo hadn't seen before. There were so many twists and turns, Rigo wished he had thought to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so that he could find his way out again. Finally they came to a narrow wooden door set to one side of suit of armor.
"The dungeon's down there," the Mynci explained as he opened the door to reveal a set of steps. "Guards frequently patrol this area, so you don't have long. Find the tubes and maybe you can find a way to save my brother -- and yourself."
Rigo took a deep breath as he stepped through the doorway and started down the steep staircase. The Mynci closed the door behind him and Rigo found himself surrounded by a claustrophobic darkness that even the burning torches on the wall did little to combat.
Deeper and deeper he descended until he reached the lower level. Just like above, there was a series of hallways and he had no idea which way he should go. As he stood there considering, he heard a soft, faint laugh off to his left. Stealthily, he made his way to where the laugh had originated.
He came to a stone room where the door was slightly ajar. Carefully, he peeked inside and was surprised to see the Bruce he had met in Skarl's throne room, diligently working at something inside. Rigo let out a slow breath and was about to move on, thinking that the friendly Bruce surely couldn't the feeling up until the moment Ian turned around.
On the table before him was a series of green tubes that hissed and bubbled. Ian was removing the cork from one of the tubes and, again, Rigo heard the same faint laugh as before, but now he recognized it as belonging to Adelaide.
"You!" Rigo gasped, "You're the one behind all this?"
Ian sighed with mock sadness. "I told you that you weren't allowed to go into the dungeon," he said, "It's such a shame you wouldn't listen. I truly thought you were funny and was hoping that you wouldn't have to be brainwashed at all, but I see that it must be done now that you've seen all this."
Rigo backed away and turned to run, but the Draik he had seen with Adelaide was standing there. Grabbing the Chomby, he forced him back into the room with Ian and stood there, blocking the door. Rigo looked desperately for an exit but saw there was none. "Why are you doing this?" he asked.
Ian frowned darkly. "I'm doing this for the good of the kingdom," he replied. "What would happen to Meridell if all his subjects knew that he was simply a slovenly king whose only wish is to be fatter and richer? If only those jesters could keep quiet about what they see or hear, but none of them could. They all wanted to go and talk about the way Skarl sleepwalks in his pajamas or his late night snacks." Here he paused as he tried to regain his composure. "You should be thanking me," he finally stated. "I'm the one who keeps everything in order. Truly, I'm sorry I have to do this, but it's the only way."
The Bruce whipped around and removed a dark sheet from the table. Underneath the sheet, Rigo saw his contract lying there beneath some sort of card. Ian closed his eyes and began to chant words in a language that wasn't recognizable to Rigo, and the Chomby immediately felt different. It was like someone was trying to steal his memories, and he desperately fought against it.
"There's no use struggling," the Draik instructed. "It will all be over soon."
"No!" Rigo shouted. With his last bit of strength, he grabbed the jester's hat from his head and flung it toward Ian. It flew through the air and knocked the card off the contract.
The spell had been broken, but Ian wasn't ready to give up just yet. "What have you done?" he cried, lunging forward, but his feet became tangled in his robe. He fell into the table, knocking all of the tubes into the air. Rigo watched as they crashed upon the rock floor and something like green smoke began to rise.
"No!" Ian yelled again as his body began to glow. Rigo would later have trouble describing what exactly happened, but as he stood there he saw the stolen memories of the previous jesters fly away as Ian's own mind was wiped clean.
The Draik ran forward to check on Ian and Rigo didn't dare waste the opportunity. He ran out of the room and upstairs, where the Mynci had been waiting.
"It's done," he said. "Now get me out of here."
In the following weeks, Rigo kept waiting for a guard or soldier to come knocking at his door, but none ever did. Apparently, King Skarl had been oblivious to the entire situation and the rest of the kingdom just carried on as if nothing had happened.
Rigo had heard from the Mynci later, who happily reported that his brother, Adelaide, and all of the other jesters had returned to normal. Even though hardly anyone would ever know what happened, Rigo felt good that he had been able to help.
He had returned to his life as a simple farmer and never spoke of the strange incident to anyone. As he would hoe his fields, however, he would often pause and look at the sky with an odd little smile on his face.
It almost looked like he was thinking of a joke.
Date: Mar 28th
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