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||You are on Week 466
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 Sixty Six Ends Friday, July 2nd
"This is my favourite garden in all of Neopia, I think," Natasha said, inhaling the sweet flower-scented air appreciatively as she looked over the rambling, blossom-filled garden. Butterflies and Buzzers flitted from flower to flower, and each time the breeze shook the leaves, plumes of glittering golden pollen would stream across the garden. "I think the Neopet who lives in this Neohome must have one of every plant known to Neopia."
Natasha's friend Cassandra sneezed and wiped her nose miserably on her handkerchief. "It's pretty, I guess. But don't you think it's odd that there are no Rowzez in it? I mean, Rowzez are one of the most popular flowers in all of Neopia."
"Are you sure there aren't any?" Natasha asked. The Acara leaned over the garden fence, trying to peer into the shady depths of the garden. "Well... maybe the gardener is allergic to them," she said finally, glancing over at her friend with a smile.
"Yeah, that's probably it. Come on, we'd better go. If I don't get this Grilled Veggie Bowl home soon, my mum will say that I've ruined dinner again."
After that, Natasha went back to the garden every day looking for Rowzez. She walked all along its perimeter, staring over the fence. A few times, she was tempted to open the adorable little gate that was hung between two Spring Birches and go inside, especially since there never seemed to be anyone at home, but she didn't. She even started to dream about the garden.
One day, when she was walking past the Neohome on her way back from the shops (she planned all of her walking routes to include the garden), the Acara noticed that a spiral of smoke was coming from the chimney of the cosy little cottage.
"Someone's finally at home," she murmured to herself. "Maybe I should ask them why they don't have any Rowzez?" Natasha took a deep breath, opened the gate, and walked up the mossy stone path to the front door of the cottage.
A smiling old Quiggle answered her knock. "Yes? Can I help you?"
"Hello... I, um, my name's Natasha, and I've been admiring your garden for ages, but -- this is probably a silly question -- but I was wondering why there aren't any Rowzez in it?"
The Quiggle blinked, her smile faltering, and a faraway look came into her eyes. "Oh... that's a very long story. You see..."
Author: A Rowze is a Rowze is a Rowze|
Date: Jun 28th
"...there was a time when such Rowzez were considered to be more than just flowers."
"Er... they aren't just flowers?" were Natasha's first words. She looked quite surprised -- her imagination had envisioned an answer to her curiosity many times, but this was not one she had contemplated.
The Quiggle's nose gave a reminiscent twitch, as if the sweet scent of Rowzez had come meandering back with her memories, and she nudged the door fully open. Natasha caught her first glimpse of the interior of the cottage -- she found herself surprised once more, for the entrance hallway and the space beyond looked quite bare and cold, in stark contrast with the beautiful, carefully tended garden.
"Ah, no. But one as young as you may not have come to know... that a gift of Rowzez meant much, much more than any ordinary bouquet. They were sentiments, only to be discerned by the receiver."
Natasha contemplated for a moment, then nodded to show she understood. "The flowers represented the sender's emotions, then."
"No, no," said the Quiggle again. "I did not mean it in a figurative way -- Rowzez were feelings, as though sentiments had a materialistic form. You could touch the petals and hear the whispers, breathe the scent and feel joy, brush the leaves and sense the warmth, and..." Here her voice gave way slightly, and Natasha tilted her head curiously. "And sometimes... you could test the thorns and feel their anger."
Natasha opened her mouth as if to inquire about this, but then the Quiggle went on in a firmer manner, "But only those who have ever received Rowzez could truly believe this, of course."
"Then you have?" the Acara asked without thinking. She was too engrossed in the lady's words to register that soon she would be expected home. "Oh, sorry, I haven't even asked your name," she added, embarrassed. "I'm Natasha. I haven't seen you around the neighbourhood, Miss...?"
"Fhirra," the Quiggle answered with a smile. "And no, I imagine you wouldn't have seen me, owing to this very story which I have introduced to you... I have received Rowzez, years ago -- indeed, more than once."
This sounded very intriguing to Natasha, who suddenly longed to hear the rest, and perhaps Fhirra had sensed this.
"Natasha," she said, "I presume you know where the wild Rowzez grow?"
The Acara replied with a nod. She loved the flowers so, and the fields, too, would sometimes visit her in dreams.
"Then if you would like, return here tomorrow with three Rowzez, and they will help you understand my story," said Fhirra.
Natasha's eyes widened. "Yes, I'll do that!" she agreed, imagination whirring away at what the Quiggle could possibly want with three of the flowers. Fhirra bade her good day, and Natasha departed from the cottage garden with head abuzz...
Date: Jun 28th
...and her thoughts of the rest of the evening were a blur until she woke up the next day.
It had not even reached noon when Natasha had slipped out of her home to find the wild Rowzez. Planted deep within the wooded area beyond the bustling Neopia Central Marketplace was where they grew undisturbed. Those who enjoyed adventuring to places other than stores escaped to the extraordinary woods. Natasha was one local who loved the scenery, and now as one of the dozen times before she was there, lingering down the field of wild Rowzez, scrutinising which one contained three flowers. She quietly plucked a stem from the ground bearing three bright pink Rowzez that she barely skipped over. Satisfied, Natasha took the dainty flowers down the familiar pathway toward Fhirra's home.
At the sound of her name, Natasha turned to see a
faerie Uni galloping toward her. "Cassandra! Where are you going?"
"Anywhere but my house where an endless supply of chores are waiting," Cassandra smirked as she trotted beside her friend, noticing the Rowzez in Natasha's grip. "Going to go plant those somewhere?"
"Nope, I'm bringing them to Miss Fhirra."
"She owns the garden that we visited. The one I can't stop admiring?"
"You actually met the owner?"
"Well, yeah." Natasha shrugged. "Why not? I complimented her on her garden. And she's going to show me a trick with these Rowzez. You should come meet Miss Fhirra with me!"
Cassandra froze, realising that the two were now standing at the beginning of the walkway that led up to the mysterious cottage door. "Maybe another time."
"Cassandra, she's really sweet--"
"I'll wait outside," the Uni insisted. "In case she turns you into a flower or something. Then I'll run and get help."
"You're ridiculous." Natasha left her side and knocked on the door, just as Cassandra disappeared around the bend of the sidewalk, inspecting the majestic garden but keeping her nose guarded by her already soaked handkerchief.
Fhirra immediately answered, and her aged eyes sparkled at the sight of the familiar green Acara. "Oh, Natasha, you're back with the Rowzez, I see. Please come in. I've even prepared some tea."
"Great, thanks," Natasha entered, gripping the Rowzez in her paw. The Quiggle motioned for her to sit in one of the stools that were placed next to a wicker table. As Natasha sat, the dusty stool creaked as if no one had been seated there for years. Fhirra placed a cup filled with piping hot tea in front of Natasha before taking her seat.
"Nice selection of Rowzez." Fhirra took them from Natasha's outstretched hand, gazing at their radiant colour. "You surely must be an expert in some sense."
Natasha chuckled and sipped her tea to appear polite to the Quiggle. "I like to think so. So, will you tell me the secret of the Rowzez?"
"Not a secret, it just has yet to be fully appreciated. But this is how it works; I simply recall a past event of mine while holding the Rowzez. Then once you clasp them, you are overtaken by whatever I was feeling." Fhirra closed her eyes and embraced the Rowzez, her memory collecting an event in her past. Natasha watched in awe as the deeper Fhirra went into thought, the more the Rowzez began to quiver. The petals slowly vibrated even though Fhirra's grip on the stem was light. After a minute, her eyes opened. "Your turn, Natasha."
She gave the Rowzez to the hesistant Acara. The instant she took the stem, Natasha winced as her eyes jammed shut, fingertips touching the stinging thorns that sent abrupt shockwaves throughout her body. The soft leaves were jagged and slid against her fur, and she gasped when she discovered the normal sweet smell of the flowers was now bitter. "Goodness, Fhirra, I feel... aggravated! And so angry... why?"
Fhirra chortled, eyes lighting up as Natasha grew more tense. "My dear, what you are feeling is revenge..."
Date: Jun 29th
Natasha dropped the flower like it was on fire. "Revenge?" she asked incredulously, incapable of believing that malicious intent could come from such a kind Quiggle.
Fhirra simply laughed. It was not in the same tone her kind voice once held. This was different, as it had an unsuspected edge of malevolence. "I do not regret my decision, not in the slightest."
"But why?" Natasha asked, still confused as she resisted the urge to run away right at that moment.
"Why don't you ask your 'Cassandra'?" Fhirra suggested, the sarcastic quotation marks easily recognisable in her voice, even though she didn't point it out. "I'm sure she'd love to tell you."
Natasha felt even more confused than she had been two seconds ago. What did Cassandra have to do with anything? "She doesn't even know you," the Acara pointed out.
Fhirra laughed once more, the edge of spite still in her guffaw. "That's not the only thing she's lied about." Before Natasha could respond, Fhirra continued, "Once you hear her side of the story, you can come back to hear mine. Now go, and do not come back until you've heard her side."
Natasha knew there was no arguing, so she left the cottage. As soon as she walked out, she noticed Cassandra waiting for her patiently, looking at the flowers without interest. Could the Uni standing only feet away from her be a liar? No, no, she couldn't be, Natasha thought, though there was a small part of her mind that wondered if it was true.
Natasha closed the gate behind her, looking into her friend's relieved eyes.
"Good, you're not a flower," Cassandra noted with a grin.
The Acara simply sighed, knowing that it was better to get this over with now. "Cass," she began slowly, "have you been lying to me?"
When Natasha finished the question, she was horrified to see a sudden flash of recognition in Cassandra's eyes...
Date: Jun 29th
"You have been lying to me, haven't you?" Natasha demanded in an accusatory tone that attempted, but failed, to conceal the betrayal that she felt upon seeing her "friend's" guilty expression.
"I have, but I had to, Tasha. You see--" Cassandra attempted to explain, but Natasha interrupted.
"Don't call me that!" Natasha snapped, narrowing her eyes and hoping that Cassandra couldn't see the tears in them. How could she have lied to her all this time and how could she dare to justify that? "Only my friends can call me that," Natasha added, emphasising the word 'friends' in an attempt to hurt Cassandra the way that she had hurt her.
It worked. But instead of enjoying the pain that she had caused Cassandra, Natasha regretted what she had said and wished that she could take her words back.
It was too late though. Cassandra, now with tears in her eyes as well, turned her back on her and began walking away.
Hesitating for only a second, Natasha jogged to catch up with the Uni and tentatively placed a paw on her shoulder that was immediately shrugged off.
"Look, Cassandra," the Acara began, "I didn't really mean that. I only said that because I was hurt."
Cassandra's steps faltered for a moment, but she continued walking as if she hadn't heard a word.
"I'd really like to hear your side of the story," Natasha continued, relieved that the Uni had stopped and had turned to face her.
"All right," Cassandra finally said. "I do owe you that much at least.
"You see, I may pretend that I don't think much of Fhirra's flowers, but I have always felt jealous that my family didn't have the Neopoints to grow and maintain a garden of our own.
"So one day, I decided that I would sneak into Fhirra's garden that night and steal some of her flowers. I tried to justify what I was doing by telling myself that she had so many that she wouldn't miss them, but I still felt guilty doing it.
"At the same time, I felt thrilled that I had stolen enough flowers to start a small garden. But it wasn't even close to the size of Fhirra's, and I decided that I would keep sneaking into her garden to steal flowers until I had a garden that was as large as or even larger than hers.
"One night, while I was uprooting some Rowzez, I heard someone behind me, and I looked over my shoulder to see Fhirra glaring down at me. She told me that...
Date: Jun 30th
...she knew what I was doing all along. She had known from the beginning, but she was being lenient. The Rowzez were the last straw -- apparently, they meant something more to her."
"I was terrified. I kept apologising and I promised to return everything that I'd stolen, but she would have none of it. Fhirra seemed to concentrate only on the Rowzez that I held. She grabbed them from me and held them against her chest. She closed her eyes and bowed her head. It was so odd, she was so melancholic; it was almost as if she were in mourning. I offered to pick some wild Rowzez for her as a replacement, but she snapped at me and told me that it wasn't the same, that I'd ruined everything."
"As she stood there, I turned and ran away. I didn't look back." The Uni paused. There was a sense of foreboding in her tone.
"Then, as I was nearing my Neohome, I felt my body start to go limp. My vision became blurred, and I heard a ringing in my ears. I tried to stand, but I just couldn't. The next thing I knew, I was unconscious."
Natasha gaped at her friend incredulously. "How did that happen?"
"Well, I think Fhirra followed me home. She must have been really angry to have been able to catch up with me, since I was galloping at top speed. She must have cast a spell or a hex on me or something," Cassandra sighed.
"That isn't even the worst of it, though," Cassandra remarked unhappily. "I woke up the next morning on the pavement a few yards away from my front garden. As I walked through my garden, I inhaled the scent of White Lulus and immediately broke into a sneezing fit. And it isn't just the White Lulus. Every flower I so much as catch a whiff of makes me sneeze and dribble like I've got a bad case of the D'achoo."
The Uni extracted a damp handkerchief from her pocket. "This," she explained, "has been my constant companion since then."
Natasha felt a wave of sympathy for her friend. She was wrong to steal the flowers and Natasha disapproved of that, but surely this punishment had gone a little too far.
Both Neopets stiffened as they heard the front door of Fhirra's cottage creak open. Fhirra stood at her doorstep, her beady eyes fixated on Cassandra. She didn't bother to hide her disdain. Her nostrils flared and the sides of her mouth curled into a nasty scowl...
Date: Jun 30th
Slowly, Fhirra stepped outside the shelter of her cottage, and walked over to the shivering Uni.
"Is this who I think it is?" Fhirra asked coldly.
"Perhaps," replied Cassandra, her lips pale and thin.
"I suppose there is only one way to check," laughed Fhirra quite evilly. She walked over to the flourishing garden, and plucked a pretty Snap Draik. Hiding the flower behind her back, she stepped over to the trembling Uni, and held out the flower.
Cassandra did everything in her power to not sneeze. To just hold it in, and make sure Fhirra wouldn't get the pleasure out of it.
"Is there something you would like to say?" asked Fhirra in a very sweet voice, much unlike her own.
"No, ther... A'CHOO!"
The Quiggle smiled grimly and set the Snap Draik down in the grass. She walked toward Cassandra, who was now dabbing her nose with the handkerchief. Natasha felt another rush of sympathy for Cassandra. She didn't deserve this, not at all. The Acara now saw how evil the situation was.
"Now listen," began Natasha. "My friend might have done wrong, but you didn't have to magic her into some allergic-to-everything Uni!"
Fhirra stopped in her tracks. "You think she got the worst end of the deal, do you?"
Both nodded, and were soon shocked to see Fhirra in tears.
"What's the matter, Fhirra?" asked Cassandra. Natasha was shocked; she had never heard the Uni speak that kindly to her and mean it.
"Those Rowzez meant something to me. More then any of you could imagine. Those Rowzez held memories..."
Date: Jul 1st
"Memories?" Natasha asked hesitantly. "But I thought you said the flowers held feelings."
"Memories of feelings," Fhirra muttered, caressing a Rowze lovingly. "Like this one, for instance. The first time I tried chocolate ice cream. The slight shiver you get as it slides down your throat, sending waves of delicious contentment." She closed her eyes and smiled. "It's been my favourite ever since."
"And this one," she continued reaching for another flower, "Riding my bicycle on a warm sunny afternoon. The sun tingling my skin, wind blowing through my hair. Feeling the adrenaline of pedaling, my heart pumping in tune to my pace."
She breathed in deeply as her fingers touched the Rowze's petal.
"I really had no idea," Cassandra pleaded. "Please, I could just give you the flowers back--"
"It doesn't work that way," Fhirra spat, plucking the Rowze and brandishing it under the Uni's nose. Cassandra's eyes watered and she coughed.
"Once the Rowzez are plucked from the ground, the memory fades!"
She waved the flower again, making Cassandra sneeze and fall backward into a bed of daisies.
"Please, Fhirra, there must be some way to get the memories back--" Natasha tried to reason with the Quiggle.
"You took the most important memory to me, and now I shall never get that feeling back!" The Quiggle's eyes began to bug out as she shook the flower in Cassandra's face.
The Uni sneezed and wheezed, trying to crawl away.
"Stop!" Natasha barked. "She'll have an allergy attack!"
Fhirra laughed loudly. "My Rowzez are gone, and soon you'll be gone too..."
Date: Jul 1st
Something in Natasha snapped when she heard that. She lunged toward the Quiggle, snatching the Rowze out of her grasp in one attempt. Fhirra screeched angrily, struggling to reach the Rowze with all the might that she could muster, but the Acara overpowered the old lady easily and pinned her arms behind her back.
"Let -- me -- go!" Fhirra hissed, wriggling in vain. Her eyes bulged with fury as they shot daggers at a trembling Cassandra.
"Then you have to stop hurting my friend," came Natasha's firm reply.
"Stop hurting her -- after how she hurt me? Don't make me laugh," Fhirra snarled, as the sniffling Uni cowered on the ground.
"Those Rowzez that your friend uprooted," she continued, glaring at Cassandra, "held my feelings when I achieved the GREATEST goal in all of Neopia. It was when I planted my Faeriewing plant."
Fhirra jerked her head in the direction of a lone Faeriewing plant, its glittery translucent leaves sparkling beneath the shelter of a tree. Natasha and her friend exchanged quizzical glances.
"That," Fhirra spat seethingly, "was when I had planted every single plant known to Neopia in my garden."
Fhirra paused, her eyes brimming with angry tears. "I can't quite describe the feeling," she started, her tone softening as the dissipating memory revisited her. "I never feel like that anymore. It was a strange kind of ecstasy; I felt surreal, like I was floating. It was the happiest day of my life."
"Whenever I was feeling alone or empty, all I needed were those Rowzez. They brought me back to a time when I had everything going for me. They were an escape from reality, an escape into a world that existed only in my past."
Listening to her story, Natasha could not help but feel a tinge of pity for Fhirra. The Acara guessed that the lonely Quiggle probably needed those Rowzez quite often.
"And YOU," Fhirra said, contempt returning to her voice as she glowered at Cassandra, "took that away from me! Now I will never feel like that again!"
Fhirra made an inspired attempt to wrench her arms out of Natasha's grasp, but with the way that Fhirra was still glaring at her friend, Natasha felt it was best to retain her firm grip on them.
Cassandra, who had been quiet throughout Fhirra's tirade, stood up suddenly and faced her. Her expression was deliberate as she said, "I might have an idea..."
Date: Jul 2nd
Fhirra snorted quite viciously at these words, her desire to wound fuelled perhaps by the indignation of being pinned motionless by a young Acara. "You? You know nothing of flowers."
Cassandra's eyes snapped toward her, but what looked like a flash of defiance was restrained by a stronger feeling -- the determination to resolve. "I may not be a seasoned gardener like you," she said, humbly acknowledging the Quiggle's words with a nod, "but what I do know is that I am sorry, and there's one way I can show you."
And the Uni's wings raised as she bent to touch her head to the Rowze on the cobbles, where it lay discarded by Fhirra's fury.
At once, Natasha realised what her friend was about to do, and her eyes widened in warning. "Cass, your allergies...!"
But Cassandra had closed her eyes, seeing and feeling only what she must do...
And with a flourish and the resistance of yet another sneeze, she nudged the Rowze away, where it landed quite gently at Fhirra's feet.
"Just... just hold it," she said to the now-expressionless Quiggle. "That's all. Please."
Natasha released her already lessened hold on the elderly pet, feeling it was at last safe to do so.
Fhirra bent stiffly to retrieve her flower, her gaze locking Cassandra's as she did so, and all at once, everything changed...
She was a young Uni passing the garden, the same garden that she had passed yesterday, and the day before... with every cycle of the sun and rain, the flora flourished and bloomed ever more brightly, but the longing in Cassandra -- envy, even -- was always the same...
She could not wait for the far-off day when she would have the means to nurture a garden of her own! Not while she had to look at this one every day...
What beautiful flowers...
Lilies, cinerarias, morning glory. Bluebells. They whispered their allure to her, and thoughts blossomed by their scent...
She would be happy always, if only she had some to call her own.
Cassandra's voice broke the memory, and when she spoke, a new emotion -- sincerity -- reverberated through the connection.
"If you'll let me say so... the Rowzez are just figments of what we treasure -- the source is where the memories truly are, and that is inside of us... all the same, I am very sorry."
And Fhirra knew, try as she might to hate that young Uni for her thieving, to declare that she had acted on selfishness and whim --
-- she knew those memories of Cassandra's, those sentiments the Rowze in her hand were guiding into her mind, because years and years ago, she had been exactly like this Uni.
The scene conveyed to her what the apologies could never tell. Fhirra, too, had felt the allure of a Neopian garden from the start -- why else would she have then devoted half her life to bringing this one to full splendour?
The Uni had a dream just like she had -- perhaps it couldn't be helped. And for the first time, the old gardener understood, and sympathy surfaced through the waters of anger and took its breath. Cassandra was right also that the flowers never were the real memories themselves, but mere likenesses... and even as the Rowzez wilt as they always eventually do, memories by the holder remain untarnished.
So lost in her thoughts she was that Fhirra looked almost startled to find the two young pets looking at her as she grasped the Rowze.
All of a sudden, she didn't know what to say. "Sorry"? "It's okay"? What she'd felt, and how she had been able to find solace, could not be put into words by one who had been alone for so long, with no company save for the fluttering petals. Especially after the tension that had flared between them...
"You two should probably be heading home," she managed at last, to Natasha's great surprise. "Thank you for your compliments to my garden..."
Cassandra, however, seemed to understand, and gave a small smile.
And without a word more, Fhirra stepped back through the greenery and flowers that were her life's work and slipped back into the little cottage, from which the smoke still dribbled.
For Natasha and Cassandra, though, things could not taken a better change. Upon her coming home, the faerie Uni's parents had been quick to ask how on Neopia a fully grown and thriving garden, suddenly the jewel of their neighbourhood, had blossomed in their yard over the duration of a single afternoon. It was thus that Cassandra learned that bestowing allergies (and lifting them) was not the only talent of the Quiggle who lived down the road...
She took it that Fhirra had forgiven her by giving to her a garden better than her own, and for this she was grateful.
"Maybe she didn't want you to get in more trouble stealing from other gardeners," Natasha had suggested teasingly, but for the Acara, new contentment had come in a simple form:
The Rowzez that now bloomed were so dazzling a pink behind the fence of Fhirra's garden that no other passerby would think they had ever been missing at all.
Editor's Note: Due to a holiday in the U.S., the next Storytelling Contest will begin on Tuesday, July 6th. Thank you!
Date: Jul 2nd
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