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Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)

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Week 420
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Week 422

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 Four Hundred Twenty One Ends Friday, July 17

The ship was about to leave. Naleri watched it bobbing in the harbour like a fat Mallard, a gigantic fat Mallard that was ready to swallow her up. This isn't helping, you know, Naleri told herself, trying to push away such thoughts. It was just a ship... a ship that she'd be stuck on for the next week, until it landed in Altador. A ship that would take her farther away from her family and friends than she'd ever been. A ship on which she didn't know a single soul.

Naleri shifted her suitcase to her other paw and almost dropped it as the handles slid against the sweat on her palm. She took a deep breath and tried to forget about the voyage ahead, focusing instead on the beautiful blue sky, the cool breeze coming off the water...

It was no use. The gangplank was down now, and other passengers streamed aboard, all of them seeming excited about their upcoming trip. You should be excited, too, Naleri thought. This assignment could really improve your position at The Neopian Times. You could finally become a reporter like you've always wanted.

Finally, Naleri, dragging her feet all the way, slowly climbed the gangplank, Batterflies bouncing in her stomach. Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, she made her way to the compartment she'd been assigned to.

When she got there, though, her stomach dropped into her shoes -- someone was already inside! The Kacheek checked the number on the outside; sure enough, this was the compartment listed on her ticket. Timidly, she slid open the door and, keeping her eyes on the floor, mumbled, "Excuse me, I think there's been a mistake. This is my compartment."

"There's no mistake at all. I've been waiting for you, Naleri..."

Author: Fear of, um, Shipping?
Date: Jul 9th
Naleri sighed, shaking her head. A mysterious Ruki would not make this trip any easier. "What do you want?" she asked. "And who are you?"

"Don't you recognize me?" the Ruki asked, raising an eyebrow, only to get the Kacheek to shake her head. "I'm Celeise Ingledonn, lead reporter for The Neopian Times."

Naleri's eyes widened with disbelief. Her favorite, most honored reporter at The Neopian Times was here... for HER?!? It couldn't be possible... could it?

"Anyway, I've got a lead for an amazing story on this ship," Celeise whispered, her eyes sparkling with excitement. "Something that could change the whole of Neopia as we know it."

"But why are you here for me?" Naleri squeaked, starstruck.

"Simple. You're an ambitious young kid, right? So I'll just make all your dreams come true. After all, I heard you were going to Altador to do that story on... fake Yooyus, was it? Please. Like that will get any readers. This story will be so much bigger and better, and with a star reporter like me, you're bound to get noticed." Celeise flipped her antennae cockily.

"I don't know..." Naleri murmured, biting her lip.

Wrapping her arm around Naleri's shoulders, Celeise pitched, "Just think about it, kid. Your name up in lights, with a quote from your story on the front page, or even better, a featured article with your name on it -- with mine, of course. You'll have the article you always dreamed of."

Naleri tipped her head, thinking about it. It was the best job she'd ever gotten, working with a big time reporter like Celeise... a dream come true. Better than anything she could have come up with on her own.

"Alright," the Kacheek accepted, "I do--wait. What's the catch?" She stepped back from Celeise, her face skeptical.

"You caught me," Celeise said, and laughed. "All you have to do is..."

Author: newmoon653
Date: Jul 13th
…put on this hat."

Naleri stared as Celeise pulled a large hat out of the suitcase she had lying on the bed. The hat was… well, it was indescribable, but this humble author shall take a stab at describing it. It was feathery. It was enormous. It was a garish shade of green. Sequins and ribbons were attached at every conceivable place. A phony stuffed Weewoo had been sewn on, and it leaned at a disturbingly crooked angle off the brim. Dozens of tiny baubles and trinkets were fastened to it here and there, giving it a lopsided look, as if it were about to collapse in on itself at any second. In short, it was a hideous hat.

"That is a hideous hat," said Naleri.

Celeise nodded. "I know."

"Do I really have to put it on?" asked Naleri.

Celeise nodded again. "You do."

Naleri was unsure. "…," she said, and followed that up with an articulate "Erm."

Celeise took Naleri's ambivalent noise as one of assent, and so, with one smooth motion, plopped the ugly thing on the poor Kacheek's head.

The hat, being rather large, as already mentioned, was far too big for Naleri's head, and so immediately fell to her shoulders, completely covering her face. The weight of it made Naleri teeter to the right for a moment. After the shock passed, she straightened herself out and gingerly lifted the brim so she could see out from under the monstrosity. "…," she repeated.

The Ruki took a step back and held her claws up to her face, framing the picture before her. She squinted at Naleri and cocked her head to the side, then grinned broadly. "Perfect!"

"What's so perfect about it?" asked Naleri, feeling dwarfed by her headgear.

Celeise lowered her claws and sat on the bed. "It looks ridiculous on you."

Naleri was having a hard time envisioning a Neopet upon which the hat wouldn't look ridiculous, with no success. "And why is that a good thing?" she asked her idol.

"Because," answered Celeise with a sly wink, "it completely dominates one's attention. It's like a black hole, sucking all eyes to it."

Naleri blew a dangling feather out of her face. "So what? What does that have to do with journalism?"

"Everything," replied Celeise. "That hat is the secret to all my great scoops. The story about tainted Juppies exported to Meridell? Thanks to that hat. The article on underground watermelon juggling contests in Neopia Central? All due to the hat. That expose on corruption in Walter's Fencing Corporation, known in the popular media as 'the Walter's gate scandal?' You guessed it: that hat."

"But how?" said Naleri, her voice muffled since the hat had once again fallen down to her shoulders.

"Simple," Celeise said. "When someone sees that hat, all their attention goes to it. They wrack their brains trying to figure out why someone would wear it. They agonize over its garishness. And, while their attention is diverted, you can ask them anything you want and they'll give you an honest answer."

Naleri was dubious. "I'm dubious," she said.

"Let's try it out," suggested Celeise. She stood and went to the door. "Yoo-hoo!" she called out.

An aristocratic-looking Tuskaninny wearing a waistcoat and a monocle poked his head out from the neighboring cabin. "Yes?" he said.

"Would you mind coming in here for a moment? The drawer in my bedside table is stuck, and I was wondering if you could have a go at opening it," lied Celeise blithely.

The Tuskaninny shuffled his way into the room, muttering something about "careless commoners," "bourgeois beatniks," and "lousy lower-middle-class louts." But as soon as he saw Naleri, he stopped dead in his tracks. His mouth fell open. The monocle popped from his eye rather comically and dangled from its chain. "That hat!" he gasped.

"What's your name?" asked Celeise.

"Charles Tumbleton," answered the Tuskaninny absentmindedly, still staring at the hat. "What… how… who…" he mumbled.

"What are you doing on this ship?" enquired the Ruki.

"Going to Altador. Business. But that hat…!"

"What's your biggest secret?" probed Celeise.

"Embezzled millions from my company. No one knows. Covered my tracks," muttered Charles Tumbleton, his attention completely monopolized by the… thing sitting on Naleri's head.

"That's enough, thank you," said Celeise as she shooed the Tuskaninny from the cabin and closed the door in his still-staring face.

"Wow," was all Naleri was able to say.

"See? I told you it was powerful," said Celeise.

"But why me? Why couldn't you just wear the hat yourself?" asked Naleri.

"Good question. I would obviously have preferred to wear it myself and therefore not have to share the credit for the story we're about to break, but the fates machinated against me. Me, Neopia's star reporter! It seems that recently my antennae have grown a few inches, and therefore the hat… does not fit on my head!" she gasped melodramatically.

Naleri considered making a remark about the reporter's oversized ego swelling her head, but she was able to hold it back. Instead she said, about two minutes too late, "All right, I'll wear the hat."

Celeise clapped her claws together in delight. "Wonderful! Now come along with me, we've got investigating to do!" She grabbed Naleri’s paw, pulled open the cabin door, and drug the Kacheek out into the hallway, making a beeline for the engine room…

Author: rosabellk
Date: Jul 13th
Naleri's stubby legs barely touched the ground as they flew through the corridor. Heads turned at the sight of a flying Kacheek in a hat that looked like it had started out as couture and ended up as the scrap basket for a leprechaun tailor. Naleri barely had time to blush before she was whisked down a spiraling staircase to the lower belly of the ship.

"Where... are we... going?" she managed to gasp out.

Celeise didn't answer. Instead, she skidded to a stop before an industrial steel door, lifted its heavy latch, and pushed her way inside.

Naleri found herself in an enormous room, the likes of which she'd never seen before. It was a tangle of piping, with furnaces bellowing, dials spinning, whistles whistling, and pumps pumping. Engineers ran, hopped, and flew to and fro, pulling levers and examining readouts. This was what it took to keep the ship afloat? In such a confusing place, any small thing could go wrong, and then...

Neleri turned a shade of green to compete with her headwear.

A Skeith wearing blue overalls and a matching cap was ticking off items on a clipboard. He turned his head when the door opened. "Hey!" he said. "You can't come in--oh, heavens to Betsy!"

Neleri tried to duck behind Celeise, but the Ruki pushed her forward. More engineers were staring now. Neleri felt her ears grow hot.

"What's your name?" Celeise demanded, whipping out her notepad.

"Faverick McGutt," said the Skeith. A couple of the engineers muttered their names, as well.

"Position of employment?"

"Assistant Chief Engineer aboard The Peophin Star."

"And what secrets would you like to share with us today?"

"Chief Engineer Steadnose plans to sink the ship."

Naleri did an actual, honest-to-goodness double take. Her jaw felt numb for a moment. "What?" she whispered.

"Why?" said Celeise. Naleri was impressed by how calm she sounded. A true reporter. She sighed.

"Don't know."

"Do you have any ideas?"

"He didn't get the raise he was hoping for. Rumors are that he wants revenge... probably figures the customers will get out on the lifeboats, but the captain will go down with the ship."

"The captain's name?"

"Lucian Wingwell."

"On deck. Dressed in navy blue, beak to claw."

"Thank you for your time, Faverick. Come on, Naleri."

Naleri allowed herself to be dragged back into the hall, while twenty pairs of eyes blinked stupidly at her. The steel door slammed shut. Celeise was scribbling furiously on her notepad.

"Well, kid," she said. "Is this a story or is this a story?"

Naleri looked at her. "The ship is going to sink!" she said. "We have to find the captain!"

"Good thinking," said Celeise. "A quote from the captain will be priceless two days from now. 'A Waterlogged Wayfarer's Last Words.' Could be a headline... needs a little work, though. Well, come on!" She grabbed Naleri by the wrist and started to run again.

"Wait!" cried Naleri. "Forget about the story! We have to tell the captain! We have to WARN him!"

Celeise did not appear to be listening. She only sprinted through the hallway and back up the spiral stairs.

Naleri had a stitch in her side, she was dizzy from this new information, and she was wearing a ridiculous green hat. If this is what it takes to be a reporter, she thought, then maybe I ought to look into a different line of work...

Author: the_ninth_planet
Date: Jul 14th
Naleri's lungs seemed to be collapsing as her questionable hero ascended the ship, deck by deck, and ever faster with her in tow. When they reached the top deck the night air hit her like a glass of ice water in the face. Naleri reached up and placed her paw on the accursed hat so that it would not fly off her head.

Celeise gripped Naleri's wrist extra tight as they raced down the side of the ship and then around the bough. Just as they came around to the other side of the ship Naleri was hit in the face by something a lot harder than the night air. She felt a sensation not unlike a rugburn on her skin. She had come in sudden and forceful contact with the musty, felty, and slightly moist pea coat of Captain Wingwell.

It took her a moment to step back and compose herself. Once she was able to get a good breath she realized that the Ruki reporter, in her excitement, had failed to recognize the captain and kept on running.

Good! she thought to herself. Now she would have a head start in explaining to the captain without that nutty Celeise trying to get some kind of story. Certainly, journalism was her dream, but never at the expense of an entire ship's safety!

"My dear!" bellowed the captain. "Where on the face of Neopia do you think you are going at such a frightful pace? Don't you know that there is no running on my ship!?"

"Captain Wingwell, sir! I apologize for running, but we were trying to find you! There is something you have to know!" Naleri insisted, still out of breath.

The captain just stared blankly at the top of her head, seemingly oblivious to anything she had just said. Oh, that crazy hat... she thought to herself. She took it off her head and hid it behind her back.

"Oh, there you are child. Were you saying something?" It seemed the captain was no longer blinded by the hat so Naleri tried again to plead her case.

"There is something very important that I have to tell you! It's about the ship. A member of your crew is planning to sink it!"

Captain Wingwell blinked at her for a moment, then his brow wrinkled. "Poppycock! I'll have you know young lady that I have the finest crew in Neopia! Not one of them would ever dream of betraying their Captain in such a way! I order you to restrain yourself from being dramatic while on my ship. After all, I would hate to have to confine you to your quarters because you needed some attention! Now, good evening... and no running on my ship!"

The captain left Naleri standing there. She was beside herself with anger that the captain would treat her like such a child, and feared that Chief Engineer Steadnose might actually get away with his plan. It hadn't occurred to her that the Captain wouldn't believe her.

Then, in a moment of clarity, she realized that it would be up to her to stop Steadnose from carrying out his dreadful plan. Maybe she could get Celeise to come to her senses and help, but she was uncertain about that. Celeise would be back for her at any moment, though, so she had to come up with a plan, and fast...

Author: silverkiss1979
Date: Jul 14th
"Yoohoo!" the arrogant squeak interrupted her thoughts and the Kacheek turned. Waving frantically with her quill wavering above her head, Celeise was calling. The Ruki now stood over by the far starboard.

Drat! Naleri hissed to herself. It was too late to merely stand and think, she had to execute a plan -- immediately. Fumbling slightly with the weight of the vulgar hat, Naleri attempted to move toward the inner quarters of the menacing ship.

As she clenched onto the hat, The Peophin Star began to rock vigorously, causing the poor Kacheek to take a tumble, her arms scraping upon the wooden deck. Celeise seemed to have also been caught by the sudden movement, as her horrifically dramatic scream was now shrouding the ship.

Naleri attempted to regain herself, yet The Peophin Star once more began to bounce upon the waves, causing crates to begin cascading over the deck. In an attempt to stand, the Kacheek released her grip from the hat and clenched onto the railings, sending it into a collection of hefty crates and out of sight.

What’s happening?

The Kacheek glared toward the wheel where the Captain was relentlessly trying to harbour control over his ship -- yet to no avail. In horror Naleri watched as a horrific wave shrouded him, causing him to slip away from the wheel as if standing on an icy floor.

"All crew on deck!" he called as he, too, clenched onto a nearby railing, yet his voice was unheard over the boisterous sea.

Naleri's stomach was beginning to churn with the repetitive rocking motion of the ship and, with a forceful sprint, the Kacheek charged toward the nearby door leading into the kitchen.

Pots and pans were clanking endlessly upon the walls and Naleri blocked her ears with her hands to avoid the metallic chaos. This is it, she thought to herself as a harsh rock sent her tumbling toward a nearby stove. Chief Engineer Steadnose is doing this to the ship.

It was as Naleri removed her hands from her ears that a small muffling was heard, the harshness of which was coming from a nearby cupboard. Racing toward it the Kacheek placed a quivering arm upon the handle and tugged, causing a vast amount of supplies to fall out. Herbs, spices, a Lenny… what?!?

"Oh, thank goodness you found me," began the Lenny, his face pale and sickening. "I thought no-one would ever let me free."

"W-who… who are you?" the Kacheek stuttered, her eyes widening with shock.

"Why, I'm Chief Engineer Steadnose…"

Author: icesmith
Date: Jul 15th
Naleri stumbled back, confused. "B-but you're supposed to be sinking the ship..."

"What's this about sinking the ship?" Steadnose asked, raising an eyebrow.

Naleri shook her head, trying to get rid of the thoughts raging inside. How come he wasn't sinking the ship? If he wasn't, who was? Additionally, why wasn't he distracted by her hat? The last question she voiced.

"It's just a hat," Chief Engineer Steadnose said, shrugging. "A very ugly hat, but just a hat. I have no choice what people like to wear, no matter how ugly."

"Amazing," Naleri breathed. She hadn't thought it possible -- somebody could refuse the power of the hat!

At that moment, Celeise came barreling in, a smile plastered wide on her face. "Naleri, I was wondering where--" She turned, noticing the Lenny. She cocked her head to the side in confusion. "Who are you?"

"I'm Chief Engineer Steadnose," the Lenny answered. "Why do people keep on asking me such a ridiculous question...?"

"How'd you get in there?" Celeise questioned, her head completely cocked to the side. "Aren't you supposed to be sinking the ship?"

"First of all," Steadnose explained, "I was in this cupboard because someone stuffed me in and closed it, until this lovely young Kacheek opened the cupboard and set me free." He gestured to Naleri, who blushed as red as the sequins on the horrid hat. "Second of all, what is all this talk of the ship sinking and me? I am not sinking the ship, for I am right in front of you."

Celeise's eyes widened as she finally reached the point that Naleri had come to long ago as she murmured, "Well, if you're not sinking the ship, then who is?..."

Author: newmoon653
Date: Jul 15th
The Ruki scratched her head with a sharpened pincer for a moment, the gentle clinking and the sound of swells of water thrashing against the hull of the boat rapping against the silence threatening to settle. "Wait!" she cried, her voice laced with exhilaration. "Who was it that shoved you into this cupboard, Steadnose?"

"A Tuskaninny wearing a monocle and a waist length coat." Steadnose responded, caressing his chin in a thoughtful rub with a feathery blue wing. "Why? Do you know him?"

"Who, Charles Tumbleton?" Celeise asked, digging with a pincer into a compartment woven into her leather coat. She pulled out a notebook coated in fuzzy blue fur, the pages tattered and a pencil slipped into the plastic arcs threaded into it. "Not very well, but I'm sure this'll make a great article."

"You're thinking of an article right now?" Naleri inquired, eyes sparkling with bewilderment. "Our lives are at stake and..."

"Hush!" Steadnose scolded, muffling any further words spilling from her mouth by pressing his wing against it. "Someone's coming. Hide!"

Celeise slipped her notepad back into her pocket and grabbed her antennae, her agile legs propelling her toward the counter. Steadnose inched his along, his wing still resting against Naleri's mouth. Once they reached where Celeise was, the two ducked.

A male Faerie Tuskaninny swooped into the galley, his tattered wings whipping against the air. Settling onto the floor, he adjusted his monocle, which framed a piercing red eye.

"Now, where did I put that morphing potion?" He asked aloud, slithering further into the room. Unbolting cupboards, peering into the metallic confines of pots, sifting through the sink overflowing with dirt smeared dishes... finally he lifted up a bottle brimming with navy liquid and uncorked it, raising it to his lips and draining the drink.

A blue glow bathed him, his chubby form thinning and lofty legs edged with talons sprouting to support his weight. A growth ending in a pointed tip straggled from his face and feathers coated his body. As the light faded, a Lenny that resembled Steadnose was there, a smirk tearing across his beak.

Another whiff of Steadnose's feathers was too much for Naleri. Heaving her face away, she issued an accidental sneeze. She clasped a paw to her rosy nub of a nose, but it was too late...

Author: kina105
Date: Jul 16th
...Chief Engineer Steadnose's imposter, or Charles Tumbleton, or whoever he was that had just drunk the morphing potion spun around, searching for the source of the noise. He stopped as he noticed the cupboard where he had placed the real Steadnose. Its door was wide open, swaying precariously on its hinges with the rocking ship. Most alarmingly, though, was the fact that it was empty...

"O-ho!" he said, turning back to the counter and seeing one orange talon sticking out from underneath. Steadnose quickly withdrew it, but Charles Tumbleton had already spotted the talon. "Steadnose!" he bellowed, "How did you get out of that cupboard?!? Tell me now!"

Nobody moved. It was as if the whole ship had ceased its nauseating rocking for a moment, and time had suddenly stopped moving forward...

Bravely, very bravely, Chief Engineer Steadnose got out from under the counter, subtly nudging the hat out of view.

"Nobody let me out. The lock must have broken as the ship was rocking about." If he was surprised to see what was now his double, or frightened of him as it was he who shut him in the cupboard most unceremoniously, he did not show it.

That's when the ship gave an almighty lurch, sending a wave of pots and pans cascading toward the door. As Naleri closed her eyes and held on very tightly indeed to the sides of the counter, she felt Celeise slip away from her. Once it was quiet enough to stand up, Naleri did so. At that point there was nobody else in the kitchen. Panicking, she opened the kitchen door and ran on deck. This is what she saw.

Two identical Lennies arguing, surrounded by a very angry and battered-looking Captain Wingwell, along with a number of his crew.

"Naleri!" shouted one of the Lennies when he saw her emerge from the chaos of the kitchen.

"Naleri!" echoed the other of the two Lennies. She was suddenly dumbstruck -- she had no idea which one was the real Chief Engineer Steadnose... unless...

Naleri knew exactly what to do. The real Steadnose was the only one who was immune to the hat -- wasn't he? She took the hat out (which had been wedged under one arm) and placed it on her head. Turning to the first Lenny, she said:

"Who are you?"...

Author: brilliance109p
Date: Jul 16th
All attention instantly went to her. She even thought she heard an accompanying sound effect: Whup!

The first Lenny stared at her, blinked twice, and then said very deliberately, "I am Chief Engineer Steadnose."

The second Lenny moaned. "I'm the real Chief Engineer Steadnose, and I have a duty to protect this ship!" He turned, but Captain Wingwell and the other crew members were standing, dumbstruck, in his way, completely frozen to the rocking deck.

Naleri started to take off the hat, but a Ruki claw restrained her arm.

"Now hold on a second," came the calm voice of Celeise, accompanied by a swift fwoop! as she whipped out her notebook. "What is going on here?" She turned to the gawking Captain. "Captain Wingwell! Tell me, why is this ship sinking?"

Passengers screamed in the background as the ship shook again.

"Chief Engineer Steadnose is sinking it because he didn't get a pay raise!" said Wingwell blankly, pointing to the first Lenny. "Fortunately, my assistant engineer Faverick was able to contact me before Steadnose could do further damage. My crew and I here are trying to prevent him from doing further damage to the engine room, while Faverick is in there fixing the engines."

"No!" shouted both Lennies.

Celeise frowned. "And who is this other Lenny?"

Wingwell obediently pointed to the second Lenny, the one Naleri thought was clearly the real Chief Engineer. "This other Lenny here," said Wingwell, "is Steadnose's mad twin brother, whom we're trying to return to his cabin. I assure you, however," Wingwell went on, "the passengers will be completely safe. It is my professional duty to ensure that risks are minimized in the event of any crisis."

Celeise was smiling sunnily as she wrote all of this down, leaning against a crate, oblivious to the cries and crashes in the background.

"Thank you for your time, Captain," said Celeise, moving toward the engine room. Nobody made a move to stop her. "Come on, Naleri! Let's get a quote from the assistant engineer before the ship sinks!"

Wingwell made no protest to this last phrase.

For a few moments, Naleri was as stunned as any hat-gawker. A few things were clicking together in her head.

First, Celeise had promised her a lead for an epic story on this ship. Then, Celeise had led her straight to the engine room, where, indeed, the Assistant Chief Engineer had provided said lead. Which turned out to be inaccurate, by the way, because Chief Engineer Steadnose was apparently a victim rather than an evil mastermind. But Celeise's epic story hadn't been destroyed right there. No, an imposter Steadnose had conveniently appeared to play the part required in Celeise's story, and now, under the power of the hat, Celeise's sources were playing along, providing the perfect quotes.

Reporters weren't supposed to know leads before they had even investigated a story. They were supposed to collect facts and quotes first, and only then put the story together. In some cases, they knew when and where there was a story to be found, for example, if a special event was going to be held. But mostly, stories were unplanned. Naleri's editor had asked her to investigate the fake Yooyus because he had received information that dishonest vendors were selling fake Yooyus to Altador Cup fans. So Naleri was heading to Altador to collect more details, to interview buyers who had been ripped off, to take photos of fake Yooyus, and so on. It wasn't the most attention-grabbing article, but it was truthful. Readers would learn from the article; they would know how certain vendors had advanced in their cunning, and they would be careful about buying fake goods.

Celeise's article was stunning, but it was harmful, because the whole "lead" was a lie. Celeise had planned for the ship to sink. The real culprit wasn't Steadnose at all, it was Celeise.

Celeise's spectacular articles were sewn together with hat-induced quotes. And the imposter was her partner-in-crime, ready to step in if a story didn't go according to plan. From the point of view of any witness who happened to pass by, Celeise would have been conducting a real investigation.

Rage welled up in Naleri's chest. Tears poured down her cheeks which were once so bright with admiration. In one great sweep, she cast the hideous hat into the ocean, and without waiting for Celeise to gasp, she grabbed hold of the real Steadnose's wing.

"Come on," she said. "You have to get into the engine room and fix the engines!"

Steadnose gave her a gaze of true gratitude – one that no quote could ever fully capture – and ducked into the engine room.

Around Naleri, Neopets were blinking, as though awakening from a spell. Wingwell let out a cry. "I cannot believe I just said that!" he exclaimed, looking around at the thunderstruck Celeise. "What in Neopia made me say such things?" He glanced inadvertently at Naleri's hatless head before his eyes met hers. "I'm sorry I didn't listen to you earlier, young Kacheek. Seems that I've let some troublemakers onto my ship!" He beckoned to a sailor. "See to the Ruki and that Lenny," he ordered. "Have them confined in their quarters until we land."

"Yes, Captain." Celeise's shrieks faded into the background.

As the ship stabilized, Wingwell smiled at Naleri. "We're on our way, miss. Where are you headed?"

"To Altador," said Naleri proudly, "to pursue a career as a real, honest journalist."

The sea spread open before her, aglow with the sun.

The End

Author: yoyote
Date: Jul 17th

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