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

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Week 956
You are on Week 957
Week 958

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 Nine Hundred Fifty Seven Ends Friday, January 26

In a deep, sludge-filled pit in the depths of the Haunted Woods, the Esophagor wallowed. He was hungry, he thought with a moan, but Neopets rarely came to this out-of-the-way and unpleasant section of the Woods.

Maybe one would come by soon, looking for answers to a question from the Brain Tree. The Esophagor was good at those questions, and he could trade those answers for food!

He could really go for some Pumpkin Ice Cream right now, and maybe a Menacing Brew to wash it down! He mused about what foods he would ask for from the next Neopet to come along while he waited for the telltale sound.

Bushes rustled. Someone was coming!

The Neopet that emerged was a Candy Elephante that looked so delectable the Esophagor almost forgot about the other foods on the spot and reached down to gobble her up! She clearly saw his intention too, because she flinched a step backwards as he loomed up over her. It wasn't enough though. If he wanted to, he could grab her and devour her so easily...

...But a pang of desire for Pumpkin Ice Cream stopped him. He couldn't have it if he ate this Neopet.

"Yooooouuuuu haaaaave cooooome seeeeekiiiiing aaaaanswerrrrrs tooooo aaaaa quessssstion?" He moaned.

"Erm... No, Mr. Esophagor, sir."

"Nooooo?" The Esophagor was momentarily befuddled, and the Elephante took the opportunity to gather her courage and continue.

"My name is Peppermint, Mr. Esophagor, and I've come to offer you this."

She proffered a flyer, and the Esophagor leaned forward curiously.

"Caaaaan Iiiii eeeeeat iiiiit?" He rumbled.

"Erm, well... You shouldn't." Peppermint said, with a shake of her Candy- striped head. "See, I'm here as a representative of a fun new gift exchange program that's described on this flyer."

She laid it carefully down in the mud in front of the Esophagor, who peered at it suspiciously.

"The premise is that you sign up to give a gift and then you get matched up with someone else who also signed up. You give a gift to them and they give one to you. Would you be interested?"

The Esophagor considered this for a moment. After the constant hunger, boredom was the biggest hazard of living out here in the sludge. Maybe this would be a fun way to pass the time. Maybe he would even receive a gift of some new type of food he'd never tried before!

"Iiiii willllll siiiiign uuuuup." He agreed ponderously, and the Elephante sighed with relief. "Whaaaaat dooooo Iiiii dooooo?"

Peppermint gestured to the flyer.

"Just sign that." She said, and the Esophagor nodded and scribbled muck onto it with a clawed finger.

"Perfect! That'll send the information right away to our state-of-the-art system and match you with another Neopian.

The paper shimmered with a soft green glow.

"There! It's been magically updated to list their name. Have a look, and see who you'll be exchanging gifts with!"

The Esophagor plucked the page from the mud, and shook it clean, then squinted at the updated text. He groaned as he saw the name...

Author: midnightfrost444
Date: Jan 15th
Turmaculus was printed in large blocky blue print. The typeface so bold, it was undeniable. He cast the page aside with a vigorous shake of his head.

"Noooot theee Kiiiiing of Peeetpeeets," he said with a disappointed groan. The Esophagor considered himself the hungriest beast there was across all the Neopian Lands. In his mind, the only rival he had was undoubtedly Turmaculus, the giant Turmac who ate so much he amassed his tremendous size. To be paired with this Meridellian was a disaster, the only bigger insult being that the Esophagor was supposed to bring him a gift of all things.

Peppermint knelt to the muddy ground and scooped up the paper before cautiously handing it back to the Esophagor. "You committed to the program when you signed up, so you'll have to keep that," she said apologetically, sensing the swamp monster's distress. "If you don't mind me asking, who is Turmaculus and where does he live? I don't think I've come across his name in all my time in the Haunted Woods!"

The Esophagor huffed dismissively, judgement coloring his tone. "Thaaaat's becauuuse he liiiives in Meriiidellll, siiillly giiiirl," he explained.

Oh!" Peppermint exclaimed in surprise, pulling a clipboard out of her bag and scanning it helplessly as if searching for answers. At her reaction, the Esophagor bristled.

"Whaaaat's wroooong?" He demanded.

"Nothing wrong per se," she murmured carefully, with a little shrug. "It's just far, the system has only matched participants with other Haunted Woods residents. I'm surprised to see a match from a land so far away is all."

"Gooood pooooint," the Esophagor said slowly, lost in thought. "Whaaat wiiiill I geeet my rivaaaal theee Tuuurmaaaacuuuulus? And hoooow wiiiill it beeee deliiiivereeeed?"

The Candy Elephante flushed, taking a huge step backwards, as if bracing herself for a negative reaction to what she would say next. "That's actually up to you to figure out," she explained, wincing. "The program unfortunately does not offer a delivery service of any kind so the next step will be up to you..."

Author: therainbowsheep
Date: Jan 16th
The Esophagor placed a hand where his chin would be. He was not exactly known for being mobile. There was a reason why he usually placed his errands on puny Neopets who wandered by asking questions for the Brain Tree. Usually, he was the one to ask for things to be delivered to him.

That was it. If Neopets can deliver things to him, Neopets could deliver things from him.

"IIIIIII ttthhhiiiiinnnnk IIIIIII hhaaaaaaavvvvee aaaaann iiiiideeeaaa ooooffff hhoooww toooo deeeeliiiiverr," the Esophagor moaned. He looked down at Peppermint and smiled.

"That's wonderful!" Peppermint cheered. Her smile slowly washed away, however. "Still, there is the matter of what you would want to give the Turmaculus. Do you need any help with that?"

The Esophagor looked down at the Elephante inquisitively. "Doooonnnn't yooou havveee othherrr rreeesssiideeeennnts toooo taaaalllk toooo?"

"Bah! I've got all day!" The Elephante waved a hand around dismissively. "There are other Neopets part of this, anyway, and it seems like you're in for quite a task. From the sounds of it, this Turmaculus guy is a hard guy to gift for. Why don't you tell me about him?"

"Weeelllll," the Esophagor hummed. "Heeee isss a giiaaant Peeetpet. Asssss larrrge assss IIII. Heeee feeeeedsss on othherrrr Petpets to have groowwwn to hiiis siiiize." He snickered. "Laaaazy bummm heeee issss. Sleeeeeps for moooost offf the daaaaay. IIIII knoooww IIII'm noooo gooood aaaat moooving eeeiiitthher, buuuut iiiit'ssss nooot lliiiike IIII havveee muuuuch offff aaaaa chooiiiice."

"So he's a big eater like you." Peppermint tapped her foot. "Why don't you make the Turmaculus something to eat? Homemade gifts are one of the best and everybody loves receiving food as a gift."

Those words stewed in the Esophagor's mind. He supposed if there was some commonality between the two of them, it would be eating. Still, the thought of eating live Petpets is a thought that perturbed even the Esophagor. Even then, the Esophagor's quest-goers were always willing Neoepts and hardly anybody asks for their Petpet to be devoured.

Though the idea of making Turmaculus something to eat sounded like a better and better idea. Cooking is something the Esophagor hardly got to do, but surely he was better at it than Turmaculus. And if he made something that even Turmaculus enjoyed, it would prove that the Esophagor's taste in food is even better.

"Yooouu knoooowww, Peppermiiiinnnt," the Esophagor said with a grin, "IIIIII thiiiinnnk IIIII knooowww juuussst whaaat toooo maaaake..."

Author: chasing_stars44
Date: Jan 17th
In the eerie stillness of the Haunted Woods, the Esophagor began to lay out his plan to create a culinary masterpiece for Turmaculus.

The next time he heard the sound of a Neopet rustling in the bushes, undoubtedly seeking answers on behalf of the Brain Tree, he summoned them forward. A timid Quiggle approached, quivering at the sight of the massive creature.

"Yooouuuu thereeee, Quiiiiggle," the Esophagor moaned. "I neeeeed ingredientssss for a feasssst. Bring meee Ghoooostly Greeeens, Spooooky Pooootatoes, and a daaaash of Sliiime Saaauce."

The Quiggle, though initially frightened, nodded nervously and scurried off to gather the requested items. The Esophagor continued summoning Neopets, each tasked with bringing back a specific ingredient. An Almost Gummy Rat. Two scoops of Mummified Ice Cream. Six dozen Magic Ghost Marshmallows. One large cauldron.

When all the ingredients for his recipe were accounted for, he dumped them all into the large cauldron and lit a flame underneath. Quickly, the concoction began to bubble and glow as it brewed. When dark clouds began to swirl over the concoction the Esophagor became confident that he had brewed a masterpiece.

However, the flames underneath grew in intensity and quickly a billowy smoke began to fan from the pot. Before the Esophagor could extinguish the fire with sludge from the swamp, his masterpiece had overboiled. All that remained was charred goo and... the smell of potato?

The Esophagor groaned at the disaster that so quickly unfolded. Staring at the miserable and smokey remains of his creation, he decided it wouldn't hurt to try, a little bit.

Using his hands, he placed a dollop of the concoction on his tongue, and his tongue began to sizzle. The Esophagor screamed in pain.

As he recoiled into the slimy depths of his swamp, he could hear a cackle from overhead. The source of the cackle? Edna's Tower. The Esophagor squinted through the fog and could see her illuminated silhouette, lit by the bright light of her cauldron, as she stirred one of her many magical brews. Just then... the Esophagor had an idea.

Author: tylerhuyser
Date: Jan 18th
The Witch's Tower rose above the treetops of the Haunted Woods like a ghost, looming in the fog. The topmost window glowed an eerie neon green, and the rest of the tower pulsed with it, like it had its own heartbeat. Inside, at the tower's peak, was the potionery room of the Haunted Woods' infamous sorceress, Edna the Zafara.

She was standing over her cauldron, just putting the finishing touches on a Bubbling Potion of Chia Charming. A nervous-looking Baby Aisha hovered near the doorway, clutching the handle of the red wagon upon which she had dragged in a handful of ingredients for Edna's latest concoction: a Poogle Spinning Top, a Super Duper Scooter, and a Dark Chocolate Kougra Paw.

The cauldron illuminated Edna's wicked grimace in a neon green that made her look even witchier. As she dropped the last item in, a vapour cloud in the shape of a Chia floated up from the mire, and the scent of melting chocolate filled the room.

Edna threw back her head and cackled.

"Does... does that mean it worked?" peeped the Aisha, antennae drooping in fear.

"Yes, lucky for you." Edna cast the Aisha a sharp-toothed grin, delighting at the way the little Neopet began to tremble, fearfully.

A tap-tap-tap at the window caught her attention. Edna turned her head to see a Mutant Batterfly hovering at the glass, its double wings pumping hard to keep it afloat. It held a swamp-soaked scrap of parchment in its feet.

"What's this?" Edna grumbled. She pawed through her shelves until she found a Tongue with Veggies, tossed it to the baby Aisha, and told her, "Scram, kiddo."

The Aisha let out a meek, "Thank you, your spookiness," and scrambled out.

Edna put on her best scowl and heaved the window open, grumbling at the Batterfly, "Don't tell me even Petpets want my potions now."

The Batterfly dropped the parchment in her hand as an answer. It was still slick with swamp slime, which made even Edna grunt in mild disgust. But she unfolded it and saw an unfamiliar and equally unexpected scrawl.


"What nonsense is that overgrown mudpile up to this time?" Edna grunted.

She glanced at the clock on the wall. It was mere minutes from the witching hour. A perfect time to meet under the bright-eyed moon and exchange arcane secrets. Even if she didn't admit it fully to herself, some part of her was intrigued by the mystery of what Esophagor could want with her. Perhaps a new and enchanting Spooky Food, to bargain for rare ingredients from desperate, pathetic little Neopets.

But Edna was an honourable witch, so she tossed the Batterfly an Eye Candy before she shut the window, donned her cape and peaked hat, and set off outside to find out.


Esophagor was not waiting long when he saw Edna's hunched silhouette moving between the trees. She emerged through the dense thicket surrounding Esophagor's swamp, put her hands on her hips, and declared in a creaky, cranky voice, "You really made a helpless old woman travel all the way out here?"

He narrowed his red eyes. "Iiiiii caaaaaannooooot eeeexaaactlyyyy waaaalk oooouuuut tooooo yooooouuur toooooooweeeeer, yooooouuuu knooooow."

Edna only harrumphed in response to that. She waved the paper and said, "What's this bargain you're talking about?"

Esophagor smiled. The Zafara was so much smaller than him, and she glared up fearlessly, as if he was only another annoying little Neopet.

"Haaaaaaave yooooouuuuuu heeeaaaard oooooof theeee leeeeegeeeeend oooooof Peeeeeetpeeeeet Groooowth Syyyruuuup?"

The witch's eyes widened. Not even Edna could hide her interest at the mention of the Meridellian potion maker's great creation, whose recipe was never replicated. A red Zafara with a bright and sunny disposition -- Edna's total opposite in every way.

Edna scoffed, sniffed, and said, "You mean that awful Kayla's creation?"


"Meh." Edna examined her fingernails. "I've heard of it, but it can't compare to my potioncraft."

"Eeeeexceeeelleeeent. Theeeeen yoooouuuu aaaand Iiiiii caaaaan coooooome tooooooo aaaaaan aaaarraaaangemeeeent."

Esophagor leaned in and spoke in a low voice as he began to explain his plan....

Author: imperatrix_xoco
Date: Jan 19th
“Iiiiii waaaas maaaaaatched wiiiith theeee Tuuurrrrmaaaaaculuuuuus iiiin aaaaa speeeeecial giiiiift exchaaaaaaange,” the Esophagor explained.

“Wait, you’re giving the only other monster in all of Neopia who eats as much as you a gift? Doesn’t that make you natural rivals? The last time I checked, it didn’t make much sense to give a gift to an enemy,” the witch said with a scoff.

“Nooooot unleeeeeess youuuuu’re tryyyyyying tooooo oooooutdoooo aaaaaand… Deeeeeceiiiiiive theeeeeem,” the swamp beast declared.

“Ah, now I understand. You’re gonna make that gigantic Petpet the best meal he ever had and make him grow to an egregious size,” Edna replied, tapping her crooked witch finger to her chin.

“Preeeeeciiiiiiiisely,” the Esophagor purred. “Heeeeee’ll beeeeee sooooo biiiiig heeeeeee’ll beeeeee ruuuuuun ouuuuuuut ooooof Meeeerideeeeeell.”

“That’s evil and I love it. I’ll help, but only because I love revenge and debauchery,” Edna said mischievously, turning on her heels to return to her tower.

“Thaaaaaaank yoooooou, Eeeeeednaaaaa,” the Esophagor called out to his Haunted Woods counterpart. However, he barely made it through the second word of his gratitude before she was out of sight.

The towering swamp creature awaited for the next Neopian to grace him with their presence. He decided that, because cooking didn’t go so well for him, he could lace one of his favourite treats with Edna’s magical syrup. He just needed someone to fetch it for him.

“Heeeeellooooo theeeeere. Briiiiing meeee Graaaaavy Niiightmaaaare aaaandd Iiii wiiiiill reeeewaaaard youuuuu haaaaandsoooomely,” the Esophagor bellowed to a cowering Yellow Kacheek.

“Y-yes, sir!” the Kacheek squeaked out before running off.

The delectably haunting gravy would be the perfect consistency to hide a generous amount of the Petpet Growth Syrup. Now, the only thing left to do was to figure out how to deliver his peculiar present…

Author: i_lovee_icecream
Date: Jan 22nd
Meanwhile, Edna, back at her tower, was busy concocting the Petpet Growth Syrup. She cackled to herself, thinking about the chaos that would ensue once Turmaculus grew even larger. The Zafara witch was always up for a bit of mischief, especially if it involved outsmarting someone like Kayla.

As she added the final ingredient, the potion bubbled ominously, emitting a sinister glow. “Perfect,” Edna murmured, her eyes glinting with wicked delight.

Back at the swamp, with Edna's potion ready, the Esophagor waited impatiently for the Kacheek to return with the Gravy Nightmare. He planned to mix the gravy with Edna's syrup, creating a deceptively delicious but potent concoction.

When the Kacheek finally returned, panting and clutching the Gravy Nightmare, the Esophagor wasted no time. He carefully mixed the gravy with a generous dose of the syrup, ensuring it was well blended to avoid any suspicion.

Just as Esophagor finished the mixture and was waiting for the next Neopet to show up to deliver the gift to Turmaculus for him, a new concern cast a shadow over his scheming mind. Would Turmaculus actually consume the gift? The giant Petpet was notorious for his lazy, sleepy demeanour. All effort would go to waste if whoever delivers the gift can not wake him. He needed to devise a strategy, a foolproof way to ensure Turmaculus would not only awaken but be enticed to indulge in the deceptive treat. The success of their plan depended on it, and so, deep in thought, he began to contemplate a solution to this unexpected predicament...

Author: renfazhe92
Date: Jan 23rd
The Esophagor decided to disguise the Gravy Nightmare as Meridell Gravy, to make it more appetizing and familiar to Turmaculus. He instructed the Red Wocky who arrived next to visit Turmaculus at a particular time -- 11 NST -- with her tap-dancing Petpet. He was sure that this would wake the Turmaculus up because he was an expert at dates and times. The Red Wocky was entrusted with the delivery task and for taking the disguised gravy to Turmaculus in Meridell.

All was going to plan until Peppermint showed up to check up on the Esophagor again.

"Is your gift ready to be delivered?" asked Peppermint.

"Buuuuut offfff couuuuuurrrsse ittttt isssss," answered the Esophagor. "Whyyyyyyy woooouuldddn't itttt beeeee?"

"I had a suspicion that you and Edna may have tampered with your gift. It is against the rules of the gift exchange to tamper with gifts. We do not wish to be held responsible for anyone getting hurt in the process," replied Peppermint.

"Iiiiii diiiiiiddddnnnn'ttttt dooooo anyyyyythhhhiiiinggg toooo thhhee giiiiifft," lied the Esophagor. "Ittttt waaassssss Meeeeerrrriiiiidell Graaaaavyyyy wittttth noooooo trrrrraaaaacccce offfff Peeeeettttpeeeeetttt Grooooowttttth Pooooottttttionnn whaaaattttsssoooooeeevvvverrrr."

"Petpet Growth Potion!" cried Peppermint in surprise. "That would be one of the gifts that is against the rules because of the harm it would cause to the gift recipient. No, no ... that simply will not do."

"Iiittttt isssss nooooot a harrrrrrmfulll gifft," insisted the Esophagor. "Isssss ittttt aaaaggggggainnnnnst thhhhheeeee ruuuuulllleeessss toooo beeeee deeeeccccceitttttfullllll? Hoooow aboooouuuut Iiiiii cleaaaaarllllly leeeeeeet Tuuuuurmaaaaaculusssss knooooow aboooouttttt theeeee pooootttttion inssssideeee offfff theeeeee grrrrravyyyyy, annnnndddd theeeeeen heeeee caaaaannn deeeeeciiiiide ifffff heee waaaaantsss toooo eaaaaat ittttttt?"

"I am sorry Esophagor," answered Peppermint, "It would have to be a gift of either Gravy Nightmare, Meridell Gravy or Petpet Growth Potion. It cannot be all three at once. The exchange cannot accept this gift and it should not be delivered to Turmaculus."

"Buuuuut thisssss issssss theeee onnnnlyy giiiifffttt Iiiii haaaaaveeee!" cried the Esophagor in protest, "Iiiiii woooorkkkkked sooooo haaaardddd onnnnn ittttt. Iiiiii ammmmm alsooooo afraaaaid thaaaat ittttt issss tooooo laaaaate. Iiii haaaaave alreaaaaadyyy seeeennnnttt theeeee gifffftttt. Ittttt wiiiillll beeeee deeeeliverrrrred ssssooonnnn."

"Oh no!" cried Peppermint, "I've got to stop the gift from being delivered to save Turmaculus!"

And so off Peppermint went in a rush to stop the Esophagor's gift from reaching Turmaculus. She could only hope that she would get there on time....

Author: nguyeplm
Date: Jan 24th
With each frantic step, Peppermint felt time slip from her grasp. Her breath hitched. Her mind fluttered from one thought to the next, playing out the unpleasant scenarios that could come to be if she didn't manage to stop the delivery. What if she was fired because of the breach in rules? What if the Turmaculus grew so large that he crushed all the buildings in Meridell? What if he was allergic to gravy?

She shook her head. Now was not the time to catastrophize. The thicket of trees marking the edge of the Haunted Woods was already beginning to give way to green plains. She glanced at her watch, squinting in the slowly waning darkness. The hands verged on 11 NST, the supposed delivery time — "Wwwwhhhyyyy wwwwoooouuuulllddd Iiii llliiiieeee?” the Esophagor had asked, looking disgruntled. “Iiiiiinnnnn ffffaaaaccccttt Iiiiii aaaammmm sssoooo eeevvviiillll tttthhhhaaattt Iiiii wwwaaaannnttt yyyyoooouuuu tttttooooo gggeeetttt tttthhheeerreeee oooonnnn tttttiiiimmmmeeee tttttoooo wwwwiiittttnnneeesss ttthhheee ppaaannddeeemmooonniiiuuummm.”

Lie or not, all Peppermint could do was trust him and keep going. With each breath forming a sharp stitch in her chest, she charged ahead.

Soon, the kingdom of Meridell floated into view. As Peppermint hurried down the winding paths, she scanned the crowed for the Red Wocky she’d been told to look out for. She couldn't help but wince at the sight of jolly Neopians going about their day. A queasy-looking Skeith glanced between two Mortogs while their Grundo owner cackled, "Kissy kissy kissy!" The Merifoods shopkeeper called at passersby, cajoling them to peruse through the fresh stock. Cheers rose from the Turdle Racing arena nearby.

Peppermint’s heart sunk to somewhere around her stomach. If she didn’t make it in time, there would be rather… weighty consequences for everyone.

Finally, as she approached the last bend in the path, a fluffy Red tail flashed in the distance. Peppermint’s heart jolted. 

“Wait!” she croaked, her dry throat making her voice crack. She waved a hand in the air. “Miss Red Wocky, stop!”

Several Neopians glanced her way in curiosity, but the Red Wocky kept on her way. Peppermint forced her tired feet forward. Several steps behind, she lurched through the crowd and turned the final corner.

The Turmaculus’ lair loomed over her. There, plain before her eyes, the giant creature was blinking awake, already eyeing the bow-wrapped parcel the Wocky — accompanied by her enthusiastically tap-dancing Petpet — was proffering. Before Peppermint could even open her mouth, the Turmaculus plucked the parcel from his visitor’s paws and popped it into his mouth.

Peppermint’s jaw dropped.

The Turmaculus idly surveyed his surroundings, seemingly unperturbed. The Wocky backed away, tugging her Petpet with her. The seconds dragged.

Then, the Turmaculus grunted. Shifted. Smacked his lips once, twice.

And Peppermint watched in horror as…

Author: annaisme2006
Date: Jan 25th
...nothing happened.

Well, that wasn't entirely true. Turmaculus did spit out the wrapping paper with a displeased grunt.

"What?!" shrieked a furious, witchy voice from over Peppermint's shoulder.

Peppermint whirled to see Edna not far behind her -- breathless and panting. She had ripped off her witch hat in fury and looked as if she wanted to throw it on the ground, stomp on it, and begin howling in fury.

"But I followed the recipe precisely," Edna bellowed.

The uproar she was making caused both the Wocky and Turmaculus to look at her in confusion. Turmaculus just looked sleepy, but the Wocky looked truly guilty to see that he had a surprise audience. He picked up his Petpet, a Turtum that was looking increasingly greenish and belching, holding its stomach.

"What's going on here?" the Red Wocky said, defensively.

"That Gravy the Esophagor sent you to deliver," Peppermint explained fast before Edna could launch into another furious rant. "It was a trick! We have to get out of here before Turmaculus gets even larger."

The Wocky looked at his feet and admitted, patting his Turtum's shell. "My poor little Petpet got so hungry on the way, I actually let him eat it. I just bought a new Meridell Gravy when I got here. I'm sorry. Please don't tell Esophagor! I don't want him to... esophagate me."

Peppermint's jaw dropped but before she could say anything, the Turtum in the Wocky's hands began to shiver and wobble at the edges. The Wocky gasped and fell forward as if his Petpet had suddenly doubled or tripled in weight.

"What's wrong, Merry?" he asked his Turtum, cupping the Petpet's cheeks. "Did that gravy upset your stomach?"

"You should back up," Peppermint said, twisting her trunk anxiously.

Behind her, Edna started up a delirious, witchy cackling. She doubled over, clutching her knees. "Oh, this is too good," she said. "This is delightfully wicked."

Then the Turtum abruptly began to expand. It bloated like a Turtum balloon being inflated by one big breath, then two, then three. The Petpet opened its mouth in perfect shock, as it went from being only as high as the Wocky's ankles -- to his waist -- and suddenly gazing at him at eye-level.

The Red Wocky gasped at his expanding Petpet and cried, "Merry! You're... you're HUGE!"

The Turmaculus let out a sound that could only be described as a giggle. A huge, baritone giggle, deep in his chest. He licked his lips and gazed at the Petpet like he had just seen the most delectable meal he had seen in a long, long time.

Peppermint covered her eyes, even as she heard the crunch and swallow, followed by a huge self-delighted belch from Turmaculus. She looked up, and there was nothing remaining of the giant Turtum. Just the stunned Wocky, holding a rare badge that Turmaculus only awarded in a bittersweet moment that he chose to make a snack of a visiting Neopet's Petpet.

Turmaculus flopped down, his huge belly even huger, and let out a contented sigh. His lip curled in an expression almost like a smile.

The Red Wocky shrieked and scampered away before Turmaculus could get up again.

"That was an awfully cruel trick to play," Peppermint scolded Edna, who had finally stopped laughing but stood grinning, hands on her hips.

"Oh, relax. We're all winners in the end. That Wocky got his reward, I proved I'm an even better witch than that awful Kayla and your precious little gift exchange is just fine."

"But..." Peppermint frowned at Turmaculus. "What about Esophagor?"

That's when Turmaculus opened one eye, grunting as if he had just remembered something important. He reached behind his back and produced a small package, wrapped in orange paper with surprising care, for such a giant Petpet.

It was labeled: TO: ESOPHAGOR

Peppermint turned to demand Edna take it, so she could be done with this whole mess but the witch had already strode off, singsonging to herself about being the greatest potioneer in all of Neopia.

So the Candy Elephante sighed and retreated the long way to the Haunted Woods.

It was almost dawn when she finally stepped through the glade to the Esophagor's home -- hoping, desperately, she wouldn't make this journey again for a long, long time.

Esophagor was waiting for her, expectantly. His red eyes brightened as he said, "Hooooooow diiiiiiiiid iiiiiiiiiit gooooooooo?"

"You are very lucky that Wocky made a mistake and fed your present to his Petpet."

Esophagor harrumphed, crossing his arms and pouting. "Haaaaardlyyyyy seeeeeeems liiiiiiiike Iiiiiiiiii gooooooooooot luuuuuuuuuckyyyyyyy. Myyyyyyyy plaaaaaaaaaan faaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiled."

Despite everything, Peppermint smiled a little. "It ended up being the best present that Turmaculus could have asked for. He ate that poor giant Petpet in one bite. I think he's going to spend the entire Month of Sleeping napping and digesting."

That made a rare emotion enter Esophagor's eyes: uncertainty. He looked down as Peppermint held out the present for him.

"And he gave me the present he got for you, too," Peppermint said.

The Esophagor plucked it with surprising gentleness from her hands. Peppermint braced herself to run. She'd already seen too much strangeness for one night, and she was afraid of another awful trick.

But the Esophagor opened his present. A real, heart-warming smile spread on his face as he unwrapped a Pumpkin Ice Cream, still frozen.

"See, Mr. Esophagor?" Peppermint said, with a tired smile. "Giving gifts isn't about tricking people. It's about helping others and making them feel happy. Isn't it a nice feeling?"

The Esophagor sighed and said, "Peeeeerhaaaaaaps yoooouuuuu're riiiiiight. Thaaaaaaaank yooooouuuuu, fooooooor eeeeeeeveeeeeryyyyyythiiiiiiiing."

Peppermint walked home, utterly exhausted, leaving behind a very happy Esophagor, crunching down on his ice cream treat. She resolved to never, ever volunteer for another gift-giving program.

Or at least, she wouldn’t let the Esophagor plan his gift alone next time...

The End.

Author: imperatrix_xoco
Date: Jan 26th

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