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||You are on Week 665
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 Five Ends Friday, July 18
|"It is well known on Desmire Isle," the pirate Krawk in the boat behind Sonitri whispered, "that if you plant a tree on the side of a hill, then half of it will die."
Sonitri shivered. For the hours-long journey from Krawk Island, her companion had been silent. In fact, he hadn't spoken a word to her at all -- he had just nodded when she hired him to row her across the ocean to the location of the fabled cursed island, and when she asked what his price was he simply grabbed her coin purse, counted out a handful of Neopoints, and handed it back.
"That's impossible," Sonitri replied. "That's not how trees work."
"No, it's how this place works." As he spoke, the prow of the rowboat rode up on the sandy beach. Sonitri was nearly thrown from the wooden bench she was seated on. "I don't really want to know what business a Kougra like yourself thinks she has here, but you just let me know if you want me to turn this boat around right now."
He stared across the beach to where the stretch of sand gave way to a rugged treeline and Sonitri followed his gaze. It was hard to make out the shapes in the deepening dusk, but what she could see sent a second wave of shivers down her spine: great gnarled trunks, blackened branches, and bright green leaves.
"You will wait for me?" she asked.
The Krawk shook his head. "That wasn't the deal. I'll be back at dawn."
"How much more will it cost for you to stay?" Sonitri asked.
"You can't pay me enough to stay here overnight," the Krawk said, then paused. "The curse might rub off on me. If you're smart, you'll come back with me now that you've seen it."
"I can't do that, I told you," Sonitri said, mustering her courage.
"What's so important?"
"My brother." Sonitri stepped out of the boat. The sand was still hot enough to burn her feet, but she ignored it long enough to watch the Krawk and his rowboat disappear over the eventide horizon.
"Cabb!" she called out, turning back toward the island. "Cabb!"
In response, a thousand Lightmites started to glow, illuminating a line from the beach to a gap in the treeline. As Sonitri followed they flitted farther away, and she could see that they were showing her a path through the forest, deep into the heart of the island...
Date: Jul 14th
...It was Sonitri's determination to find her brother that carried her down that path. As the ocean grew further away, the trees became more overgrown and intimidating, and Sonitri felt a shiver run down her spine. The Krawk's words of a curse came back to her and, just as she thought of it, she was left in the dark of the island.
The glow of the Lightmites had faded, leaving Sonitri to squint in the distance to see if she could make out anything. She could not see or smell her brother anywhere, and with the Lightmites gone, dusk was fast approaching.
"I can't believe that Krawk left me. Some gentleman he is..." she found herself mumbling as she wandered deeper and deeper into the island, to a place that she was sure no one had come across in years. Though she had no idea where she was going, she trusted that she had come this far for a reason. There was no turning back now.
It was then that she came across a cove, which covered by trees and too dark to see if anything was inside. Sonitri gathered all of the courage she could find and walked nearer to the dark entrance. "Hello?" she called, voice echoing into the darkness.
"Cabb, are you in there?"...
Date: Jul 14th
...Sonitri heard a faint shuffling noise and the sound of water trickling over rocks. She blinked her eyes rapidly, willing them to adjust more quickly to the blackness surrounding her. She had never been afraid of the dark, but that was when she was safely tucked away in her own bed, not roaming around on a cursed island in the middle of nowhere.
"Cabb?" she almost whispered, more to hear the comfort of her own voice. If her brother was in here, then he would have responded when she first spoke.
Sonitri felt something brush up against her leg and she screamed instinctively, effectively announcing her presence to anyone within a one mile radius.
She stumbled on a few rocks and fell hard, her arm scraping against the jagged stones. She then squinted, trying to make out the plump shape before her.
It was a Petpet of some sort. He was round with a short, stubby nose and a small underbite, making his pointy teeth jut out from his lower lip. When Sonitri made eye contact with him, the Petpet licked her face and shook his body back and forth, presumably trying to wag his tail.
"You're a Barlow," Sonitri said, remembering his picture from a book about Krawk Island she had read before visiting the island. The Petpet shook more violently when she spoke.
The Kougra sat back on her haunches, relieved. "I thought you were a ghost," she muttered, patting the vibrating Petpet on the head. Maybe this island really was getting to her. "You haven't happened upon another Kougra that looks exactly like me, have you?"
Much to her astonishment, the Barlow grunted and turned quickly, walking over the rocks with surprising ease and determination...
Date: Jul 15th
...Sonitri blinked in surprise before scrambling to her feet and leaping after him. She covered the distance in a few short bounds; his small body had not allowed him to get very far ahead. She slowed to a gentle walk, moving so that she matched the Barlow's pace and stayed slightly behind it, allowing him to lead the way.
The Barlow then suddenly disappeared. Before Sonitri could react she walked head-first into the cove wall. With a yelp she leapt back, rubbing her head with her paws. She squinted out from underneath her tender scalp... where had it gone?
She scanned what she could see of the wall, unable see any sign of the Petpet. She turned and looked over the rest of the cove -- there was nothing. The water lapped at the rocks with gentle splashes; Kreludor's light shimmered and rippled in the depths. In the distorted light that was cast on the walls she could make out the silhouette of the occasional plant growing on the stone... the light was not bright enough to see any more than that. Beyond the water she could faintly see the gnarled trees growing on the land.
No Barlow, however.
Panic began to build in her chest, and she began to breathe faster, her heart pounding. It then started to dawn on her that she was alone, on a strange island, and who knew what could possibly live here? There could be anything lying in wait just around the turn of a corner, expecting a lone Kougra to wander by, fresh and ready to be snapped up. Her brother was probably long gone by now; what was the point? Why was she here? Why had she thought it a good idea to come to a place like this all on her ow--
There was a grunt from behind her.
With a terrified she shriek she spun around, hackles rising and teeth bared as she readied to confront whatever had snuck up on her. Her claws emerged from their sheaths and she stared into the darkness with large, crazed eyes.
The Barlow stared back with slight annoyance.
She almost wanted to cry in relief as she saw the little Petpet sitting there patiently. Her claws slid back into their sheaths and hackles fell flat as she sat down, trying to calm her frantic heart.
As she sat and calmed herself the Barlow patted the rock wall with one forepaw. She squinted into the darkness and could make out a vaguely darker area, which the Barlow promptly disappeared into.
Oh. She flushed as she finally saw the gap in the wall. Of course. The Barlow couldn't have possibly disappeared into thin air like that, what was she thinking? Blushing, she rose to her feet and crouched down to wriggle into the gap, pushing aside something soft as it slid over her fur, sticking somewhat in several places before letting go.
Thankfully, the tunnel on the other side widened slightly, allowing her to stand up properly. The Barlow was a little ways ahead, waiting for her. Lightmites lined the walls in mass clusters; it seemed as though every single one from earlier had packed itself into this one space. She stared at the walls in awe. The gap leading into the tunnel was covered with a thick overgrowth of plants that had stuck slightly to her fur as she entered the tunnel, and the plants were abundant enough to allow no light to exit into the world beyond, making the tunnel appear as no more than a darker splotch on the cove wall.
The Barlow turned and began to walk down the tunnel and she followed after, still looking at the stone walls in amazement. With her attention completely captured by the Lightmites, Sonitri failed to notice the dark shape that glided by the tunnel entrance, nor the red eye that peered into the light...
Date: Jul 15th
...All of a sudden, a hand clamped down over Sonitri's mouth. The Kougra jumped and let out a scream that became muffled by the gnarled claw.
"Shhh," a raspy voice whispered into her ear. "Not here. Come."
The mysterious figure pulled Sonitri forward along the tunnel, the Barlow continuing to tread daintily in front of them. Sonitri's heart beat faster and faster as she chided herself for her foolishness. She felt trapped. In contrast to her darkening inner monologue, the Lightmites continued to blink on either side of the tunnel, lighting the way for the gang of three that trudged further into its depths.
Sonitri could see a widening in the tunnel ahead and, sure enough, within a minute she was standing in a room. Someone lived here, that was clear. There was a bed pressed up onto one side of the room with a desk and a chair on the other. There even appeared to be a makeshift stove. Sonitri's surprise at finding a living space quickly dissipated as she remembered the cloaked figure behind her and the hand still clamped over her mouth.
"You may now turn," the figure whispered. Sonitri felt a chill crawl down her spine as the hand was removed. Halfway through her turn, she let out a piercing scream as she caught her first glimpse of the creature's face...
Date: Jul 16th
...It was not her brother. That much was certain.
Her first thought was that the Gelert was old. It had to be, with the mangled fur and the yellowing teeth and the one eye, turned white and sightless with a vicious scar. Upon further analysis, however, she realized how wrong that judgement was. The Gelert's body was lithe and muscled and strong, despite the matted fur. Age as a factor was impossible to determine.
"I apologize," the Gelert said, "for my rough and abrupt behaviour, but there are very few places on this island where it is safe to speak freely and openly."
The Gelert moved swiftly and, before Sonitri could process what was going on, was standing by the desk and removing what looked like a rucksack from their shoulder. A small group of Lightmites trailed after the Gelert softly, like sand dancing with the flow of the tide. The Barlow stood at the Gelert's feet, looking up at Sonitri with solemn eyes.
"I'll let you know," the Gelert reassured, "that I have no intention of harming you. You will be safe in this room. However, if you try to run, I can no longer guarantee what may happen to you. Visitors are not encouraged, and it is not my task to protect them." The Gelert removed several strange items from the sack, then turned their attention back to Sonitri.
"You must explain two things to me. One is your business on the island. The second is your name." The one blind eye seemed to cut into her just as deeply as the dark one. She shivered under the weight of the Gelert's gaze and suddenly felt like a child that was very, very young, who had climbed over the fence and into a yard she should not be trespassing on, no matter the importance of the item on the other side.
Sonitri realized that she was digging her claws into her palms so deeply that they drew blood and she released them with a small gasp. Cabb, she reminded herself. You have to be strong for Cabb.
"M-my name..." She swallowed once, twice, and then continued. "My name is Sonitri. I am looking for my brother."
The Gelert sighed. "Looking for someone. That's unfortunate."
The adrenaline of the previous situations gathered in Sonitri all at once and she felt herself clenching her fists once again with rage. "How about you? Who are you? What's your name? Why are you on this island?"
The Gelert stared at her for what felt like a very long time, but in reality must have been much shorter. "I have no name, only a title. That title defines my purpose here."
Sonitri found herself shivering before it had even been said.
"They call me The..."
Date: Jul 16th
Sonitri felt the breath she had been holding escape out of her lungs. She blinked, confused. She was expecting something a little more sinister, evil perhaps.
"Desmire Isle is home to many horrible, nefarious creatures," he continued. "There are secrets even I do not know the answers to. Did you know that, if a tree is planted on the side of a hill, that half of it dies?"
"Yes, I have heard that one before... please tell me, though: why are you called The Protector?" Her patience was starting to run thin. She could feel each second tick by like a wasted opportunity and suspected that she might be wasting her time here. She needed to continue her search.
The Gelert let out a sigh. "The island's superstitions, both true and believed, make it an unlikely destination for the wandering Neopet." He eyed Sonitri up and down. "Thus, it becomes the perfect place for anyone wanting to disappear."
Sonitri's eyes widened. "Want to disappear? But--"
"I give them the basics they need: a few supplies, a means of shelter. They are then on their own. Desmire Isle is the perfect place to go when you are forced to leave the life you used to live behind. My job is to keep it that way."
Sonitri was having a hard time comprehending this new information. Could her brother have come here to vanish? He wouldn't do that to his family and friends, would he?...
Date: Jul 17th
..."But that's... that's preposterous! He would never just abandon his home. H-he..." Sonitri was stumbling over her own words, struggling to fight back tears, unsure if she was trying to convince the Gelert or herself.
She knew Cabb better than anyone. The Kougra was strong, as well as smart and brave. Sonitri couldn't imagine him forsaking his old life, his friends -- his own sister.
"As I said," the Gelert began, cutting into Sonitri's derailing train of thought, "I am not here to protect those who do not belong, those who merely step onto Desmire Island without the desire to stay. If your claim is to retrieve your brother who has sought refuge here... that is something I cannot allow, either."
Sonitri's stomach suddenly lurched, feeling the air thicken with tension. She now thought that The Protector was a title meant as an ironic joke that failed to be funny. "Please... there's some mistake! I have to find Cabb!"
The name wrung in his ears as the Gelert went silent. His lone working eye darted back and forth in thought. "Cabb?" he whispered.
Sonitri nodded eagerly. "Yes! Cabb, he's my brother. Have you met him? He must have to told you the real reason he's here, right?"
Hope sprang back into the Kougra's heart. For the first time since she had arrived at this strange island, Sonitri found herself one step closer to achieving what she had set out to do.
"Cabb..." the Gelert mumbled to himself before shaking his head. "Sonitri, I can tell you now with certainty that such a Neopet has never set foot upon Desmire Island."
The words hit her like bang and Sonitri felt the air rush right our her chest, her fur standing on end. "What?"
It took her a moment to find her voice again. "I-impossible! Cabb, he's a Kougra. He looks just like me! You must have forgotten him, or--"
"No." The Gelert's answer was resolute, but Sonitri took it as cruel. "I know all those who have come here. That, at the very least, is a duty of The Protector."
The Barlow was restless now, pacing back and forth. It stopped to rub its nuzzle against Sonitri's leg, seemingly in an act of comfort. Sonitri felt empty and cold, however. Why was she even here, she wondered.
"Young lady, what made you think your brother was on this island?"
Sonitri looked up for a moment, but meeting the Gelert's blank eye made her lower her gaze. "I..." she started, but her throat was dry and she found it too tiring to even speak. Her mind was muddled.
"Sonitri," the Gelert said, breaking the silence, "are you sure you're really here to find your brother?"...
Date: Jul 17th
..."Of course I am!" Sonitri's voice was harsh, a defensive snap against her own confusion. She wanted to be mad at the Gelert for asking such a question, but a part of her knew she was just mad at herself for not being able to answer it. "I mean... why else..."
"Sonitri," the Gelert's tone remained calm, almost impassive in the face of her outburst, "how did you hear of Desmire Island?"
All she could hear was the phrase she'd been repeating to herself for months: you have to be strong for Cabb, you have to be strong for Cabb. For Cabb. Her brother, long lost and needing to be found.
"Everyone hears stories. I don't know if everyone quite believes in them, but everyone hears stories. Mothers tell them at night, saying to their children that they'll be taken away to Desmire if they don't behav--" She stopped abruptly, thinking about what she had said. "Though, perhaps they're actually mostly true -- no one was taken, but they disappear all the same."
"Sonitri." The Gelert hadn't interrupted her babbling, but something in his still-seeing eye had grown impatient. The other one was just intent, and this strange attention brought her back into the moment at hand. "Are you the one who wanted to disappear?"
She spluttered, but found that she could not speak to answer either way. She had been so focused, so driven by the idea of her brother, that she hadn't stopped to think of anything else. "I, I... but what reason would I have?"
"Sonitri," The Protector's voice was gentle, but firm, "where's Cabb? You know, don't you?"...
Date: Jul 18th
..."I--" Sonitri began, but then stopped herself. "I..." she tried again. "I... did nothing. I haven't a clue about his whereabouts."
The Protector nodded. "Denial," he uttered neutrally; he then cryptically added, "a hollow comfort to be found in its arms."
Swallowing hard, the Kougra attempted to compose herself. "My twin brother was a sailor. He disappeared a few weeks ago. I can't be certain where he went," she started, "but he left his charts behind. His maps. One of the locations among them was this island, Desmire Island, and learning that this place is where lost things go, where they disappear to... it only seemed natural he was here."
Her counterpart folded his arms. "Again, I do not recall his presence. If he did choose to disappear here, then it was done through his own accord and by his own means... else through the will of someone who wanted him gone." What remained of the Gelert's eyes burned viciously through Sonitri and she wanted to scream. "Did you come to find him," he continued rigidly, his mouth a neutral line, "or atone for your sin of sending him here?"
"I..." She burst out into tears. "I sent him here... to his death," the Kougra replied through frenzied sobs.
A very tense atmosphere replaced the awkward stuffiness about the enclosure. The Protector swallowed instinctively as she kept crying.
Mustering all of her available strength to fight back her tears, she found the courage to continue on. "I sent him here, as much as I can barely admit that to myself." She hesitated, but the Gelert's burning eyes forced her to continue. "We were in a feud, something of a war, but it was not claw-to-claw heated. I think he'd taken something from me, but I can't even remember exactly what it was about anymore," she admitted with melancholy.
"Regardless, feigning an admiral, I contacted him promising riches on Desmire Island -- I'd heard it was dangerous, but I believed it to be nothing he couldn't handle. I just wanted him to fear me, to admit that I'd won and then we could stop." She sniffled again. "He never came back, though."
She gazed absently toward the wall. "His charts did point to Desmire Island... he must have come here, at least." Sonitri began to sob again, though quietly. "Or sunk on his way."
The Gelert came up to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I've not seen Cabb," he started through gritted teeth. "Had he landed on this island, I'd have heard of it by now, especially if he left the mainland 'a few weeks ago' -- word travels quick among the many for whom I ensure refuge."
He paused. "Just as I can ensure refuge to you, if you'd like."
The Kougra froze. Refuge?
"Would you like to disappear?" The Protector inquired, his voice gentle yet reprimanding. "Forget about your troubles and start over?"
Sonitri had come to find her brother so she could put her mind at ease... or had she only come to do the latter? Swallowing hard, she declared, though she could not be sure where the words had come from, "Yes. Teach me, protect me. I shall disappear; I shall follow in the footsteps of Cabb."
The Barlow, as if in agreement with her decision, nuzzled her leg yet again.
The Protector stared at her, but no longer through her. "Then thy will shall be done."
In her own little cave overlooking a cove in the middle of nowhere in particular, a pot of stew simmered over an open flame; her meal and cookware she'd prepared herself, with some of The Protector's help. Kaylita the Kougra -- once known as Sonitri -- grabbed a dried leaf doubling as a spoon and tested her concoction. A bit warm, yet delicious.
She petted the Barlow, which had come to live under her protection.
It stared up at her, hoping for some way to communicate with her yet not knowing at all how. He wanted to tell her how he'd come upon the island, shipwrecked; how he was turned into a Petpet by some unknown force... how he was her brother.
For now, though, he was just content that the two were together again, with whatever animosities they'd once held toward each other evaporated.
The Kougra poured the stew into two bowls and offered the smaller one to her Petpet, who was always so grateful. She sat back in her cave and petted him, relaxing and taking in the setting island sun.
Disappearing was one of the greatest things she'd ever done.
Date: Jul 18th
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