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||You are on Week 273
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 Two Hundred Seventy Three Ends May 12
Hitori squinted up at the sky, trying to gauge if the weather would get any worse. The sea below him was already choppy, and the waves were hurling the little ship along in a manner that made him sick to his stomach.
"I still don't see why we have to be out here," the Lupe complained to the Mynci standing beside him. "I signed up for the Secret Ninja Training School! The description said 'volcano,' not 'middle of raging sea.'"
"Don't be such a whiner," his friend answered, looking amused. "A good fighter must have the ability to enter combat in any sort of terrain, including one that is constantly moving."
"That’s easy for you to say, Kazue," the Lupe grumbled. "You can just swing from the mast with your tail."
"Which, as you may have noticed, I am not doing," Kazue said, rolling his eyes. "We were brought out here to receive a lesson about balance, and that's what I plan to learn. It just might come in handy, after all, considering you live on an island? You know, those bodies of land surrounded by water?"
"Haha. Very funny," Hitori muttered, becoming more disgruntled by the minute. "The wind's picking up."
"Oh, you think everything's going wrong-" began Kazue.
"No, he's right," interrupted the voice of one of their training companions. A worried Shoyru appeared next to them on the deck. "The wind is getting much stronger. This storm is coming in much sooner and more violently than predicted. I think we're getting blown too far away from Mystery Island..."
"Hey, what's that in the distance?" another voice cried.
"It looks like another ship!" Hitori said, squinting through the rain that was beginning to fall.
"We're still close enough to the island," Kazue said reasonably. "If there really is a surprise storm, there must be lots of ships trying to get back to harbour-"
"No, it doesn't look like one of our trading or tourist ships!" said the Shoyru.
Suddenly, Hitori gasped as he caught a glimpse of the ship's flag, unfurling in the wind. "No, it’s not ours," he cried. "They're PIRATES!..."
Date: May 8th
...Even Kazue blanched at that -- he could see the flag just as well, that strange sigil as if someone had drawn a Kiko while looking through Cybunny X Ray Glasses. "Pirates," he breathed.
The rivalry between pirates and ninjas was legendary.
"They like it on the sea," Hitori said, gulping.
"And I doubt they're on a training voyage," said the Shoyru, Ninia. Her wings shifted uneasily, then spread to keep her balance as the ship pitched. "The odds are against it, anyway."
"Oh, no," Hitori moaned, his stomach forgotten. "They'd be just thrilled to find a ship full of trainee ninjas, wouldn't they."
"Well," Ninia said, swallowing hard, "it's not a good situation, given that we are in their element. On the other hand, the threshold requirements for getting into the Secret Ninja Training School are a lot higher than the ones for becoming a pirate!"
"That's true," Kazue said. "Just because we aren't experienced on water, or by comparison to our teachers, doesn't mean we aren't competent."
Ninia nodded firmly. "Right. Okay. Nobody else has sent up a cry about the pirates, so the first thing to do is to inform our teachers, and then follow their instructions. Most likely that will be to try to come about and avoid the pirate ship...."
"I don't know about that," Kazue said, staring out at the other ship. "It's hard to believe, but they look like they're in more trouble than we are..."
Date: May 8th
..."Ah-- what's going on out there?" It was more of an exclamation than an inquiry as Hitori's eyes widened with surprise. He dared not move closer to the railing of the ship, already fighting a losing battle with gravity for his balance atop the rocking wooden deck. So instead he stood close to the mast, squinting out toward unhappy waters that tossed both creaking ships in relentless waves. "Can you see?"
Kazue leapt up onto the mast and began to climb up for a better look, but stopped short with a yelp when the ship gave an outstandingly unfair lurch that nearly sent him and Hitori flying. The both of them clung for dear life to the mast, the Lupe scrambling in an ungainly fashion to stay on his feet, while the Mynci shifted his gaze up to the sky. "It's getting worse!"
Above, the sky was the color of melted steel, blanketed in clouds of remarkably the same shade, and a deep rumbling seemed to officially end this happy little training mission. Hatori, clawing at the wood as his feet threatened to give way beneath him, called weakly, "It's going to--"
Rain. And lots of it. Half of the clouds in Neopia seemed to feel the need to dump themselves in the ocean at this moment, at first in a steady drizzle that spotted the deck, and before anyone knew it they were all scrambling to steady the ship as it whined in protest against the ocean as it steadily became more violent. The cries of "Pirates off the starboard bow!" that had been trailing along the deck were now quickly silenced by the rumble of uncoming thunder.
"Oh no! What're we going to do?" Ninia squealed, fluttering above the deck as best she could under the bullets of rain.
"We have to get to shore! Forget the pirates! I don't know what's going on out there, but we're too far out!" Kazue cried over the hiss of the downpour, and promptly scrambled up the mast to help two others struggling with a sail.
Hitori stood dazed among the scramble, and turned a helpless look toward Ninia. He was just about to ask what they could do or how they would turn around, but something caught his eye. Something very large. And scrambling with a dock full of Neopets clad in bandanas and armed with every variety of unpleasant excuses for weapons imaginable. And coming fast.
"The-- the pirates--" Hitori stammered, staggering back in terror. "They're--"
But now, the pirates weren't moving. He could now see that their ship appeared to be stationary against a rock formation. Had they crashed? Why weren't they moving?
But that still left opened the question of just how they were coming closer. Ninia filled that in. "We-- we're not moving! We're being pulled out by the waves! And-- and right at those pirates!"
Something seemed to be pulling them. Ahead, the pirates on the ships were waving their arms and shouting. But just as Hitori was about to panic again, he realized that they looked just as panicked as he must.
Their faint voices reached him. "Turn back!"
There was something out there...
Date: May 9th
..."She can't hold against the wind!" cried Kazue, scrambling down from the mast. As he came to stand with Ninia and Hitori, his eyes took in the pirates agaisnt the rock coming closer. And now, closer, the pirates' voices became clearer. "Turn back! The water! Look at the water!"
Hitori lowered his eyes from the ragged band of Neopets and looked at the water swirling below their ships. It was unnaturally dark, black as midnight, swirling in strange patterns against the rocks. Worse still, the dark color kept the secrets below the surface hidden. Hitori could not see any light penetrating the sea, nor a single rock or plant underneath the water. He had the unnerving feeling that the sea had a mind of its own, and was taking care to hide its depths.
The sea was also pushing them ever closer to the rock, and no matter how they pulled the steering wheel or tied the sail the ship would not slow down, let alone turn around. All too soon, the rock was simply a couple inches away, and Hitori closed his eyes and braced himself.
They crashed with a booming sound, and the ship lurched and rocked dangerously among the waves. Hitori fell at last, and scrambled to hold the mast and struggle to his feet again. No sooner had the ship calmed a little, a couple seconds after the crash, that the Lupe managed to stand up -- and heard a terrified scream. He looked to see Ninia had fallen and, she being closer to the edge than he, was about to go overboard, her wings flapping useless in the furious wind.
Hitori began to run as fast as he could without sliding on the wet deck, but before he could reach her, Ninia began to fall. "No!" gasped Hitori, but then -- Kazue appeared on his left, and his tail grasped Ninia just as she slipped from the ship. Grabbing ahold of Kazue, Hitori helped pull, and soon all three friends were safely onboard.
"Maybe not safely..." thought Hitori, glancing around for the first time after the crash. Their ship lay tilted against the rocks, opposite the pirates'. He quickly examined his ship, and in relief saw that there was no hole or serious damage. Yet the ship continued to move unsteadily in the storm. The rain fell so hard now that Hitori could barely see the opposing ship through the silvery sheets.
But he could still see the swirling black water beneath the ship. And now, it was swirling faster, in circles, around the rock. He became aware of the panicked screams and sounds around him, their ninja mentors vainly trying to keep them calm. Looking closely, the Lupe saw the rocks begin to unnaturally slide slowly deeper into the restless black seas.
And as Hitori noticed the ship was sinking too... he realized the rocks were taking the boats underwater with them...
Date: May 9th
...The sea swirled in a hulking mask, a streamline of sheer energy and natural rage -- but Hitori could almost hear it laughing, hear it mock their desperation. All around him, the wind howled like the cries of his wild ancestors, robbing him of breath and tossing salt-spray into his eyes. Rocking precariously, the ship attempted to brace itself, to battle on -- but the ship was not alive. It was long-slaughtered wood and cloth, packed down with fear and far from shore. It could not be expected to compete, nor would it stand to compete, with the ferocity of the seas and skies.
The water roared and seemed to lunge at him, and it took Hitori a moment to face the realization: it would devour them all, every being on that foresaken boat would die that day, and mark their graves upon the sea. Both mentor and pupil, they wouldn't see the storm through.
He wouldn't see the storm through. And he would drown with his own screaming still running through his mind.
Perhaps it would've given him more strength to think of Ninia and Kazue, struggling against death for their own, but in the few precious moments one fears might be their last, it is not always heroic thoughts you think. This wasn't a play that Hitori had prepared for, he didn't mean himself to play this role -- victim to a demon of nature.
But it gave him strength none the less, and the Lupe struggled fiercely against the waves flooding the deck, seizing Ninia to hold the Shoyru firm. Kazue clung now to the rail, hand and tail curled about it, while his free paw twined itself hard into Hitori's fur. Hitori's panicked screams shattered into roars of defiance -- he would not be beaten. Refused to be beaten. His lupine pride would deny him the ability to bow down to fate.
Kazue chanced to glance over at him, with a rough, beaten grin on his face -- not quite inspired, though able to laugh inwardly at his friend's antics. Considering the moment, he was appreciative of Hitori's spirit -- though he could see Ninia shivering, struggling to keep her wings curled at her side.
But it was through half-open eyes he could see the ship through the cascading rains -- the pirates were not much better off, though they gripped hard at their weapons, eyes wide, ready to go down fighting.
But fighting what?
Hitori recognized this, and turned his muzzle over to Kazue. He didn't dare move it further - the boat was rocking harder now - but there was a strangled scream from Ninia, whose back was set against the railing, eyes wide as she choked upon salt water.
Her shriek was maddening, hysterical. "What... what IS that?!"
Then her voice died as, for the last time, the waves flooded over them - dragging the whole of their boat down with it...
But all the while, Hitori was searching frantically for something he had missed, something he didn't understand, and the words of the pirates fell, haunting, upon him -
"The water! Look at the water!"...
Date: May 10th
...He could not help but look at the water, he realized. He was utterly surrounded and engulfed by it. His eyes opened searchingly as the black water crushed against his body and trapped his last inhaled breath within his lungs.
Rather than being flooded with a surge of stinging salt, as he had expected, the water pressed against his open eyes without pain. Wonderingly he stared wide-eyed at the world beneath the violent, foaming waves, where even the roar of thunder was a distant, feeble noise.
Somehow, below the waves, the water was not black at all. It must have been an illusion formed by the roiling surface and the reflection of the angry clouds. Here the water was a pale blue, a mass of rushing bubbles and current-moved tides, and he stared for a split second at the world so unlike the one he'd been pulled from before.
Then the memories returned -- the ominous feelings, and the frantic questions. The pirates had been fighting something... but what? And where were--
He saw them, then, and almost gasped before he remembered the water would choke him if he did. Below him, pulled deeper by the sucking tide, his friends wrestled with dark, sinewey forms, writhing beneath the waves. The pirates were there, too, frantically hacking, but the creatures seemed uninjured by the blades, almost as if the steel passed right through them.
A burning feeling surged through Hitori's lungs. Air; he needed to breathe. He pushed upward toward the surface with his paws, scrambling desperately up to where the bubbles rose. His muscles burned with the need to gasp a fresh breath, and he clawed through the cool water with frenzied swipes.
A pressure jerked down his rear paw. The Lupe threw a glance over his shoulder, and a bubble of the precious air in his lungs burst out in surprise. One of the beings had hooked a coiled arm around his leg, pulling him down to join the others.
The Lupe struggled frantically a moment, certain that if he did not get a breath his lungs would burst, before he realized that the desperation to breathe had passed. His muscles were normal, and there was no urgency in his lungs.
In his wonder he forgot to struggle, and realized as he did so that the black figure was not fighting him at all. It was leading him.
His friends and the pirates were in a path before him -- all had been eventually overpowered by the creatures. Allowing himself to go limp, the Lupe wondered what this strange new test would hold for them...
Date: May 10th
...The path was alight in the surreal shimmer of the water. Everything seemed cleared now. The water scattered the light in every imaginable direction, in blues, greens, oranges, every color of the rainbow. Hitori thought he had never seen anything so beautiful. But the path itself was breathtaking; it looked as if it was carved out of the ocean, a large glassy tube with a current, pulling him ever deeper.
Hitori then took another glance at his guide. It was a tentacled creature, one of its tentacles wrapped securely around Hitori's leg. The tentacles were finned and hung about the creature as if it were floating in a dream... Hitori felt even more calmed by the sight of it. Its body was slender and a steely blue color, shining eerily silver, as if it has just emerged from one of the storm clouds that had whaled upon his ship earlier. Hitori looked back up and saw the watery tube stretch out behind them endlessly, riddled with other Neopets and their strange guides... his ears then popped. How far down were they going to go?
The answer came momentarily. With a half splashing, half popping sound, the two emerged from the wall of water. Hitori then realized he could breathe again. It was an air pocket.
When his feet found hard ground, Hitori stood, wobbly. As other creatures alighted near him, he found he was better off than most; all of the two-legged, even peg-legged Neopets were having trouble standing at all. Gravity was back, full force.
Then Hitori saw them. The creatures floated around in every direction in the air... as if the air itself were water. There were waves upon waves of these creatures, all staring down at...
"Why are they all looking at you, Hitori?" Ninia said, fluttering up beside him, strangely dry. A pirate followed close behind.
"Arr, matey, they all be glarin upon yer seafarin' features with them beady eyes... Ya might want ta be lookin' a bit less green; who knows, dem critters look the fightin sort." The ninja-in-training Hitori looked over at the bandanna clad pirate. The Eyrie grinned at him.
Never in my life would I have thought I'd be in an underwater pocket of air, receiving advice from the sworn enemy of my-
Hitori stopped. The wall of creatures above them seemed to be condensing... and moving forward, forward...
Date: May 11th
...With a quiet whimper Ninia pressed against Hitori, and the Lupe squeezed her arm encouragingly as he braced himself for whatever was to come. Around him, the walls of the air pocket began to shimmer, flashing with pale shades of silver, green and blue. The sea creatures moved closer, their silver eyes glimmering in the unnatural light.
Then they halted, a solid bubble of tentacled life enclosing the group of assorted ninjas and pirates. Hitori's guide drifted forward, along with an especially large, slender and graceful turquoise creature. The two sea-dwellers advanced slowly toward the Lupe, who interposed himself protectively between the strangers and his friends (and former enemies). Beside him, the Eyrie narrowed his eyes, brandishing a wickedly gleaming hook that replaced the right forepaw.
The being who had guided Hitori stopped, while the other continued its aproach until it was only a foot away from the young ninja. It raised a tentacle as if in greeting; then to the boundless surprise of every Neopet present it spoke, its voice somehow reminding them of the deep rushing of water cascading over a waterfall, and the delicate tinkle of drops falling into a subterranean pool, and the whisper of wind over the endless miles of the sea, all gathered together into a single unearthly but beautiful voice.
"Aldaro kithrah alamathra," it said, looking deeply into Hitori's eyes.
Hitori blinked. "Huh? I'm sorry, but I don't understand."
"Odoul, aldara kithrah alamanthra elath!"
The Lupe blinked, then held out his forepaws impotently as he repeated himself. "I'm sorry, I don't understand."
The sea-creature frowned. "Elacanth?"
"Is that a greeting? Or are you asking my name?" The strange entity looked at him expectantly, and Hitori cleared his throat awkwardly. "Um... my name is Hitori..."
The creature reached forward, taking Hitori by the paw. "Hitori," it said in a commanding tone, and the Lupe went first hot, then cold. He realized something inside him had changed, but he wasn't certain what until the being spoke again.
"Hitori of the upper realm. Brave spirit, dauntless. You can survive what we cannot. Surface dwellers, we need your help..."
Date: May 11th
"...against the Wrath of the Winds. It is an ancient curse, formed by an unwise sorcerer of our people, and has taken on life of its own. It delves beneath the waves with its arms of air, snatches us up and chokes us." The creature went on, describing the terrors of this living curse, its victims left with limbs tied in knots and dried out, gills brittle, blinded and never again able to breathe easily.
Hitori listened in growing horror. Ninjas might learn to use the shadows, but light and air weren't enemies, weren't inimical by nature. And yet this creature was made of them and malevolent, as dangerous to the touch for these creatures as putting his hand into a flame or breathing water would be for him. And he didn't know how he was expected to fight them!
In fact, what he really wanted to say, and yet couldn't quite find the nerve, was that these strange underwater creatures had the wrong guy.
He was just Hitori. He was a good fighter, with a fantastic Battledome record; he'd gotten into the Ninja School. He'd spent his Neopoints on training instead of paint, which was why his fur was still the plain green color the Eyrie Pirate had joked about. He liked the green, really.
But he fought for sport, against other Neopets who liked the same kind of thing -- the most unnerving thing about the Ninja School hadn't been the entrance tests, but knowing that by aligning himself with them he'd be setting himself officially against the pirates and would have a real enemy for the first time.
He wasn't that brave. He didn't like physical hardship and he got seasick and wobbly and annoyed Kazue.
"Light and air," Ninia was murmuring under her breath next to him. "Obviously water's not doing them much good, so we'll need dark and earth weapons, I think. If earth will work out here."
The Pirate Eyrie was giving the Shoyru a surprised and respectful look. Evidently she'd recovered from the shock of nearly being swept away by the storm. Hitori supposed he couldn't blame her for being shaky for a little while. He'd been whimpering before the storm ever hit. And Ninia was capable; she had a point about the weapon classes....
On the other hand.... "You nearly killed some of my friends with the storm, bringing us down here," Hitori pointed out. His own voice sounded harsh and awkward next to the sea-creature's mellifluous tones.
The creature bowed its head. "Both your ships were driven into the midst of our battle with the Wrath of the Winds. We saw that you survived its touch where we could not, but that you were not prepared and could not last long. So we brought you to us, and now we beg your help. For now that we see you, Hitori, you are known to us of old, by prophecy."
* * * * *
The green Lupe was still convinced that the sea-creatures' prophecy was a load of... well... kelp. But somehow, ninjas and pirates had agreed to the alliance, as if swept along by a strange current, and the sea-creatures had taken them deeper still to give them time to prepare.
And then the tube was there again, and they couldn't speak but were soaring up through the water, with no need to breathe, until they finally burst upward into...
Date: May 12th
...a whirling maelstrom of blindingly white water and whipping winds. Despite the serenity of the world below the surface, the elements did not slacken their attacks simply because the pirates and ninjas were unprepared.
The mysterious sea creatures had descended again to the safety of their depths, leaving Hitori and the others to live out the prophecy as best they could. They had been well-equipped by the creatures, and as Hitori finally lifted above the surface he felt first hot, then freezing. Something, again, had changed, but he was clueless as to the effects this time...
The creatures had also supplied weapons of dark metal and twisted wood, swords and staves of earth and darkness to counteract the Wrath of the Winds. Hitori wielded a long pole, worn smooth with use, tipped with a blade that could be used as a spear tip or to slash. The entire device seemed to shift with the light placed on it, toying with the shadows that fell across it. Truly it was a powerful elemental weapon.
Ninia was swerving wildly in the air, slashing out with her weapon, but losing to the Winds. The other pets lacking wings were floundering about in the water, for only a moment. Hitori felt a fleeting, unique sensation again, then found himself standing sure-pawed on a personal platform of glowing blue.
The mages that were stationed below the defenders knew their craft well.
Mentally going over the prophecy, the Lupe swung his weapon into the whirling winds. All around him was noise, blinding light, the tug of the wind and the tossing of the sea. His blade met nothing but air, but if the keen edge had found the Wrath of the Winds the living spell didn't show it. Finally comprehending the contrast between the world they had left and the world the pirates and ninjas were now in hit Hitori like a ton of bricks, and the words of the prophecy were broken in his mind. Still, he remembered, and shouted them in defiance to the wind as he slashed out with his lightweight weapon.
He of the earth comes to bind
The realm above, the realm below
Seeking in the endless light...
The pow'r of realms united shows
From the blue there came the white,
The servant shall the sea destroy,
Unless he can, with aid of night
Strength of paw and mind deploy
Find the calm amidst the storm,
Find the shadows in the sun,
Yield not to either and be shown
Balance when the day is won...
What did it mean? The pirates, whisked about by their glowing platforms, slashed out into the wind, blades singing as they cut the air. The flying pets fought the wind valiantly, but no headway was made. Even lost in his thoughts as he was, Hitori was holding his own. But still, nowhere did he see either shadows or calm. Unless...
Willing his platform to where the winds seemed more intense, Hitro summed up all his nerve and leapt for the brightest point he could see...
A thousand and one thoughts rushed through his mind as he left the safety of his platform under paw. Though he and his defenders seemed not to be doing much damage, but then, neither were the winds. Nobody had been hurt, only blinded by staring into the maelstrom or chilled by the never-ceasing currents of air. If he was right, then...all would come clear.
If not, Hitori wouldn't like to think...
Date: May 12th
...The winds tore at his ninja robes as he sailed through the air, flipping deftly around his wooden spear as he did his best to balance it against the eddies of the gale. The cries of pirates and ninjas alike faded into a deafening roar as the Wrath of the Wind showed him its fury. But there was nothing for it now; Hitori had taken the leap, and he could only hope his aim was true.
Onward he spun, growing dizzy as the blood rushed to his head and the wind spun his bearings into a vague uncertainty. He could no longer tell which way was up, and which down... and the wind, howling in his ear, was like the very spirit of evil itself...
And then there was silence. Silence, and calm. Wonderingly Hitori opened his eyes, regaining his balance. All around him he could see the whirling winds, and the splashes of dancing shadows, but here there was peace, and light. It was the eye of the storm -- the center of the Wrath.
A deep, happy peace flushed over him. This perfect circle was a bliss, a paradise -- as the winds were dark, here was light. As the winds were cruel, here was kindness. The urge to set down his spear and lie in the warm golden peace was almost more than he could bear.
As he began to kneel, though, and his paws weakened around the spear, a strange voice flitted through his head. Faint, almost a whisper, and far away, it was as if a distant bird sang it to him.
"Yield not to either and be shown
Balance when the day is won..."
Yield not to either? The words would not shake from his head. It was as if he were supposed to remember something... something important from the world he'd left behind...
The memories returned, then, in a sharp, heart-wrenching jolt. Ninia. Kazue. The Pirates. His fellow Ninjas. The creatures that needed their help. Would he choose to live here, in bliss, while the Wrath picked his allies apart? The winds had required strength of arm, yes, but to give up this place here required another strength entirely.
Hitori knew he had it.
Raising the spear far above his head, the dark point glinted once before he plunged it deep, deep, into the heart of the golden circle. A terrible note came pouring from the hole, almost like the crying of a beast, and the winds lost their direction and broke from their paths, lashing out in chaos. Hitori threw himself to the ground as a massive piece of debris sailed over his head. He could hear cries again, cries of the pirates and ninjas alike, but they were not cries of pain or alarm. They were cries of victory -- and cries of his name.
Only after Hitori opened his eyes did he realize he'd shut them. The pirates and ninjas stood beaming, holding their hands and hooks aloft amid the wreckage. The Lupe caught sight of a small bubble bursting up from beneath the surface, and the faint voice echoed once more through his head. "Thank you."
Then Ninia was there, hoisting him to his feet. "Are you okay?"
Hitori nodded. "Fine... I think."
The pirate captain strolled before him. "Nicely done," he complimented, but as he turned away, the Lupe heard his mutter, "fer a landlubber."
As the pirates turned away, off to work on rebuilding their ships and restoring their fleets, one of them called, "Don't be expectin' us to go easy on ye, laddies!"
Sighing, Hitori smiled as he glanced down to the placid waters. Some things would never change.
Date: May 12th
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