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Week 638
You are on Week 639
Week 640

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Six Hundred Thirty Nine Ends Friday, January 17

"No, no, you've got to poke him harder! Really wake him up!"

The Kougra who wasn't holding the envelope the size of a hewn stone bed was tentatively poking at the great ice worm with a long stick. He glanced at his partner every now and then, evidently reluctant to follow orders.

"Why couldn't we just let the Feloreenas deliver the Neomail as usual?" He gulped, shaking in his boots as he stared at the imposing Snowager. For as long as he could remember, he'd been told stories of the very same Snowager who had blasted countless Neopets -- each of which failed to return to his village. Not willing to join the hazy number of casualties, the Kougra squeezed his eyes shut as he pushed the stick barely close enough to graze the Snowager's thick hide.

"Oh for Fyora's sake, gimme!" the Elephante next to him hissed, thrusting the giant envelope under his arm and seizing the stick. "This letter is far too large for the silly Feloreenas to carry, and I'm certain the Snowager won't hurt us if he knows we're not here to steal from him." The Elephante gave said Snowager a decisive jab with the stick, as if to prove his point.

The Snowager's eyes flew open. A deep growl emanated from his throat and shook the unstable, treasure-laden ground beneath the two. "Now you've done it!" The Kougra squeaked and promptly dove into the pile of Neggs and plushies.

The great ice worm reared up, his eyes blazing with cold fury. Of all the thieves who attempted to steal from his rightly-earned hoard, these two had the sheer nerve to taunt him with a stick! How dare they! The Snowager's growl decreased in pitch but increased in volume, and a haze of frost began to appear around his mouth. These two would get even more than what was coming to them.

"Wait!" The Elephante waved his envelope-laden arm and held it up as a makeshift shield just as the Snowager had started to roar. "This is for you!"

The shards of ice he'd spewed stopped just short of the envelope as pale as his icy cave. The Snowager slithered closer, a look of extreme curiosity on his face. He tilted his head, unsure. Most Neopians braved the unforgiving caves that led to his home to try and take something from him, but to give? No. Not even on the Day of Giving, which he'd always slept through, would someone give the Snowager a present or send him a letter. He blinked, astounded, and tried to make sense of the envelope. It had a return address, yes, but the address he was most interested in was the larger one in the middle. The Snowager was astounded to find the following, written in flowing script:

The Snowager
Ice Cave #7
Terror Mountain

The address was absolutely correct, greatly reducing the likelihood that the letter was one big joke or conspiracy. He shifted his tail to reach out and take it, then stopped short yet again. What if these two planned to take his treasure while he was busy reading?!? That would never do!

The Snowager let out an ear-splitting roar and frost formed across his mouth once more. This time, however, the two Neopets got the message and tore out of there. "We made it out alive!" the Kougra squealed the entire way, while the Elephante sighed and shook his head.

The great ice worm heaved a blast of icy air a few times, almost as if he'd found the sight amusing. With his vast tail, he sliced open the front flap, gripped the letter within, and was equally amused to find that the letter was written on large paper, practically the size of the envelope itself.  Clearly, the author had taken the Snowager's far-sightedness into consideration.

Slithering over to the entrance and blocking the doorway with his body, the Snowager curled up and began to read.

Salutations, Mr. Snowager!
I'll bet you're wondering why I wrote you instead of visiting you personally. You see, there's something in your possession that I simply must have.

A thief honorable enough to write him first? The Snowager snorted derisively at this and continued.

Rest assured, I am no thief. In fact, I am most willing to pay you handsomely. You see, the object in question has been in my family for generations, and I am lost without it.

I will not tell you what it is, nor will I tell you who I am at the moment. I am just as wary of you as you are of me. How will I know you won't seal your cave and come after me if I tell you what it is I seek?

The Snowager raised an eyebrow. How, indeed?

No, I believe the best course of action for now is to begin negotiations. What is the estimated worth of the item most precious to you?

That is what I am willing to part with in exchange.

Just name your price and write back to me. I will be waiting in the lee of the mountain, so all you have to do is throw your reply away from the wind.

Warm regards,
Desperate

The Snowager read it once more, letting the proposal sink in. He sat there, motionless for several seconds. Just then, as though someone had struck him with a fiery sword, he leaped up and rummaged through his pile of treasure.

As luck would have it, he came across what he was looking for: an oversized piece of parchment and a pen that appeared to be stolen from one of the Neopian Times giants themselves.

With pen in mouth, and a fiercely executed cursive, the Snowager began to write.

Dear "Desperate"...

Author: flufflepuff
Date: Jan 13th
...Here, the giant ice worm paused as he glanced up toward the slate grey sky. The proposal was an interesting one and not one he planned to take lightly. He could ask for anything, but he had to take into account that the item the letter writer was seeking might be even more valuable than he dreamed. If only he could figure out which item the mysterious writer was after.

Never dropping his massive pen, the Snowager looked through his accumulated treasure. There were the usual items: plushies, Neggs, and assorted weapons. He knew little of their value, but he understood that the items ranged from the uncommon to the extremely rare. Somehow, he was determined to make the most of this deal.

With an odd smile upon his frozen face, the Snowager finished the letter.

I must say, I find your letter very interesting. It's hard to place a value on an item when you don't know which item it is. Therefore, I've decided to make a deal with you. I'll part with any one piece of my treasure for the sum of 1,000,000,000 Neopoints.

I hope to do business with you,
The Snowager

He looked over his letter and smiled. In truth, he had no need for Neopoints, and didn't particularly care for the coins other than their shine, but he knew how much the little Neopets seem to value their money. A billion Neopoints was surely more than this individual was willing to spend, so perhaps his counteroffer would lead to some clue as to what he was seeking.

The Snowager folder the letter twice and then tossed it into the wind as he had been instructed. It fluttered on the breeze like a forgotten autumn leaf, twisting and turning, until it was no longer within his sight.

Curious as to what response he might receive, the massive ice worm retreated into his cave and curled into a ball. This was normally when he napped, but he was too excited to rest. In all his years of lying here and collecting his treasure, this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened...

Author: tj_wagner
Date: Jan 13th
...Several hundred feet below the Snowager's den, an elderly grey Draik stared anxiously at the sky. Zipping his cloak up to his jowly chin, he scooted his old bones closer to the fire. All his joints were puffed with rheumatism, his eyes clouded with cataracts, and his lungs full of phlegm, but he refused to move from his cabin on Terror Mountain. He'd built it himself in his youth, back when he was strong enough to visit the Snowager every day. Now he could barely even hold a pen. This written request was truly his last chance at recovering his family heirloom. If the Snowager responded in the negative -- or worse, didn't respond at all -- then all of Neopia would be plunged into darkness.

The Draik's ears perked up at the sound of crunching footsteps. "You have returned," he muttered.

"Barely!" the Kougra huffed, collapsing at the Draik's side.

"Big, stupid worm nearly iced us to smithereens!" the Elephante exclaimed, flopping on the Draik's other side. "Phew, all this running makes me hungry!"

The Kougra groaned. "You're always hungry!"

"High metabolism," the Elephante said defensively. He then reached his trunk into his back pocket, pulled out a squished cheese sandwich, and took a defiant bite.

The Draik, seemingly unaware of the Elephante's antics, cleared his throat. "You delivered the letter, Emil?"

The Kougra nodded briskly. "Yes, sir."

"Mmm. Good."

"And he appeared... amenable to the request?"

Emil shuddered, remembering the Snowager's earsplitting, earthshaking bellow of rage. "Well, he wasn't exactly--"

"Hey, look!" the Elephante cried through a thick mouthful of cheese.

Something larger than a snowflake was drifting down to the three companions.

"Get it, Torren!" The Draik, startled by the forcefulness of his own voice, fell into a coughing fit.

Torren and Emil scrambled to retrieve the letter. It banked left and right, tossed just out of their grasp by capricious gusts of wind. Just when it had begun spiraling toward a craggy abyss, Emil raced up Torren's back, sprang off his head, and snatched the letter in his jaws. Torren grabbed Emil with his trunk before the Kougra could fall.

"Bring it here, bring it here," the Draik urged.

With trembling claws, the Draik opened the letter. He feared his heart might burst.

"What's it say? What's it say?" Emil asked.

Fortunately for the Draik's old eyes, the Snowager had large writing. However, the Draik's fortune ended there. One billion Neopoints was an exorbitant sum, indeed -- one even his cavernous bank account could not afford. Sighing, he dropped his head into his hands. "Leave me," he whispered. "It is over."

"But, sir--" Emil began.

"No, Emil. It is too late. The sun is already dying."

Emil and Torren glanced over their shoulders to see a large purple sun throbbing on the horizon.

"Somewhere in the Snowager's hoard is a Draik egg, and in that Draik egg, a hero is sleeping. In my youth, I thought I would be the one to wake him, but I was mistaken. He will sleep forever and, once the darkness comes to pass, so will we all..."

Author: reewuh
Date: Jan 14th
***

The night passed ever-so-slowly for the Snowager. Even after readjusting his position on the treasure hoard he sat atop so many times that he couldn't remember the exact number, he felt off. Guilty, even. What if the letter writer, "Desperate," really was desperate? Even though his heart was made of ice (quite literally, mind you), the worm couldn't help but feel a certain emotion.

It wasn't sadness, for he had never felt true sorrow in his long lifetime. However, it wasn't entirely guilt, either. It was more a feeling of longing, longing for knowledge. The Snowager couldn't deny that he was more than a little curious about the item "Desperate" had wanted so wholly, and that made him think.

"What if I humor this 'Desperate' fellow?" the ice worm thought with slight amusement. "After all, I could always eat him if he turns out to be a thief." The Snowager quickly realized that his logic was flawless, even if only to himself. This was a grand idea, one that would satiate his desire to know what "Desperate" wanted, even while keeping his remaining treasure safe.

Snorting out a cloud of icy mist, the Snowager set to work. Grabbing another roll of parchment and his trusty pen, he began to write in the same fierce cursive.

Dear "Desperate,"
I apologize if I came off a bit too harshly in my last letter. Maybe, just maybe we can come to an agreement on the item you seek...

Author: tttxyv
Date: Jan 14th
...I confess myself unwilling to relinquish any part of that which I have so painstakingly gathered over the years, hence my previous extravagant demand. I was more than aware the price asked for was nigh unattainable to even the wealthiest of Neopets.

However, it is my intention to repay the respect you have shown me in your polite request -- never before has a thief of my belongings asked permission for a barter, much less in such a serious manner. Therefore, I would like to rescind my previous offer and replace it with this request:

Come and see me. Alone.

Here the Snowager paused in his writing, wondering at the fact that he was willing to invite a potential thief into his home, all for the sake of sating his curiosity. Would it be worth it, even if "Desperate" truly turned out to be the very essence of his chosen namesake?

The giant worm turned his gaze to his piles of treasure and saw nothing out of the ordinary, no one item that stood out that could potentially make a Neopet want for it so urgently. Either the Snowager was truly foolish to entertain what was likely a prank, or he vastly misunderstood the value of his own possessions.

Neither idea sat well with the ice monster, and so he continued his letter, determined to at least see this through.

So long as you come to my lair with this letter in your possession, I will not attack you. I am curious to know more about you, and would like to conduct negotiations in person -- or not at all.

This is my final offer.
The Snowager

***

The old Draik woke feeling chilled to his very bones, despite becoming numb to the frozen climate of his chosen dwelling years prior. He knew it was because of his failed attempt at getting the Draik egg. He had dared to warm himself with a tentative hope, only to have the weight of reality thrust icily upon him.

The Snowager would never give up any one of his treasures, much less one so valuable, and the whole world would suffer for it.

He had to prepare for what was to come, and warn as many Neopians as he could now.

Just as the old Draik was closing the door to his cabin, a great white something caught his eye. He turned.

A large envelope was dancing along the ever-present howling winds, headed straight for the gaping chasm situated near his tiny house. The old Draik had been so preoccupied by his morbid, fearful thoughts that he had missed seeing the letter come down the mountain.

"Could it be?"

The old Draik cursed himself for sending away Torren and Emil the night before. He hobbled as quickly as his failing limbs would allow, walking stick plunging into the snow ahead of him to make for easier passage.

He had to reach that letter before it was sucked away into the dangerous ice chasms. He had to!

The giant letter landed precariously on the edge of the sheer cliff, the howling winds momentarily dying down to a gentle breeze, for which the Draik thanked Fyora for his fortune. He reached the letter, exhausted and out of breath, and bent down to pick it up.

The ice underneath the old Draik cracked with an ominous echo and he lost his footing. The snow began shifting under him, the letter slipping...

Author: the_kings_ballad
Date: Jan 15th
...Bracing himself for the fall, the Draik was surprised to find that the ice bed beneath his feet halted to a creaking stop. Holding his breath, he watched as the letter wobbled at the edge of the icy abyss. The deep snapping tones of the delicately balanced slate of ice posed a threatening ultimatum to the old-timer: jump back to safety or grab the letter and perish.

Gripping his walking stick tightly in one hand, he reached out toward the note with the other. He inched toward it slowly as deep tremors haunted each tiny motion. He could feel his heart pounding as if it were in his head, knocking black stars into his vision and throwing him off balance. In one faithful leap, the elderly Draik stretched forward and snatched the letter. A beat later, the sheet of ice beneath him gave way with a clap.

At the bottom of the gorge, the impact of the ice bed echoed and roared with the ferocity of the Snowager himself as it exploded into a flurry that rose like the billowing smoke of a burning building. Dangling from the lip of the frozen cliff, the Draik watched the destruction below while struggling to keep hold of his walking stick, which was jammed deep into the crevices of the stable ice.

Though his bones were trembling and his joints ached, the Draik held on with fierce determination. His wings no longer worked as they once had, and he feared he was not strong enough to pull himself up on his own. His palms grew sweaty. There was nothing above him that he could grasp, and even if he could reach something -- a branch, anything -- he would have to let go of the letter to grab it. His grip was slipping.

Just as the old Draik was about to fall, he felt something graze his head from above. "Stick your arm through it!" a voice called out from above. A thick rope, tied at the end like a lasso, drooped down before him, and without hesitating the Draik shoved his arm through the loop. Slowly, and in short jerking movements, he was pulled up to safety.

The old Draik embraced the solid ground, kissing the snow and thanking his lucky stars that he was able to escape the gaping mouth of death. "But who?" the Draik wondered as he turned to thank his savior. Standing there before him, gathering up the trusty rope, stood someone he did not expect to see...

Author: potential_ruler
Date: Jan 15th
...Or two someones, for that matter.

Emil stood there grinning at the shocked expression on the Draik's face as Torren continued to lasso the rope around his shoulder.

"Close one, eh boss?" Torren said.

Feeling faint from exertion, the Draik lay upon the snow, breathing hard in foggy gasps. He wanted to thank his assistants, but the power of talking seemed to be beyond him. Reading the question in his eyes, Emil explained.

"We know you, sir. We knew you'd probably end up going to the Snowager anyway, and we couldn't let you get blasted on your own. Besides, you'll need our help getting up there anyway with knees like yours."

They helped him up and he stood there, trying to suppress the urge to sink back down.

"Thank you," he murmured.

"What were you doing, anyway?" Torren asked. "By the time we got back up here, all we saw was you diving into the abyss. You weren't... diving into the abyss, were you?"

The Draik let out a raspy chuckle. "I was getting this." He held up the Snowager's latest letter, then opened it eagerly, his eyes raking over the words.

"What's it say?" Emil asked.

"I must go to see the Snowager, immediately," the Draik said.

"We'll come with you--" Torren offered.

The elderly Neopet shook his head. "No. I must go alone."

"But--"

"You can't--"

He held up a hand to silence the two.

"The fate of the world rests in the Snowager's grace. I must abide by his requests. Thank you again for all your help."

He gave them one final grin of gratitude, touching them lightly on the backs as he passed. With a resolute sigh, he planted his walking stick firmly in the ground and made his way toward the ice worm's cavern.

***

He walked with a determined foot into the beast's lair. The Draik knew that, if he showed any trepidation, the Snowager might mistake him for a thief and he'd be blasted before he'd even have time to say hello.

Yet, the sight nearly overwhelmed him nevertheless. He'd been here before, but the staggering piles of treasures were far more than he remembered.

The Snowager sat curled right atop the very center, looking down upon the Draik with a mixture of curiosity and distrust.

"We finally meet at last," the Snowager boomed, his voice echoing around the icy walls.

"Thank you for agreeing to see me," the Draik said. He spoke loudly, surprised by the lack of fear in his own voice.

"I confess, I am curious as to the item that you seek. No one has ever been so adamant to pay me for my treasure. What is it that you wish to obtain?"

"I am looking for an egg."

"Fancy an omelette, do we?" The Snowager snorted at his own joke, sending a icy blast of mist into the air. He loosened his position and slid closer toward his guest.

"It is a Draik egg," the Neopet explained.

"I have many Draik eggs," the Snowager retorted.

"This is no ordinary egg," the Draik explained. He reached into his pockets. The ice worm jerked, but the Draik merely withdrew a crumpled piece of parchment with a drawing. The egg on the parchment was solid silver, with one ornate golden jewel in the center. "It looks like this."

The Snowager came dangerously close to peer at the drawing. He nodded in recognition. The Draik looked at him in eager expectation, as the ice worm said:

"That Draik egg was stolen from me last week..."

Author: treeword
Date: Jan 16th
...The Draik's spirits fell. That was it. His chances of retrieving the heirloom had been reduced to virtually nil, and with its loss came Neopia's inescapable darkness... and all because he had waited a week too long to write that cursed letter.

"Before you fret," started the Snowager, "I have important information regarding this agile thief."

Had he appeared agitated? Probably, despite his best efforts to conceal his disappointment. "What do you know, oh wise Snowager?" The elderly Draik briefly bowed following the inquiry.

At that moment, there was a silence.

"You've only just arrived, though" the Snowager said, a smile barely perceptible upon his icy lips. "We've not been formally introduced. You know me... now, who are you?"

"My name is from a tongue as old as the glaciers themselves," the Draik began, "and is as difficult to pronounce as the whispery winds are to replicate. However, you may call me 'The Humbled.'" He bowed again. "Please, now, tell me of this thief."

The Snowager smiled. "Alright, Humbled, I shall do as you ask... but first, tell me of the importance of this particular egg. You claim it to be an heirloom?"

The Draik sighed and lowered his head in a forlorn fashion. "My father regaled me with tales about this oh-so-essential egg. Passed down among our kind for generations, it was lost one day... lost to a thief, a thief who on that same day came to visit you. Here, so belief has it, he perished... his possessions, including the item I seek, came to be yours." The Humbled paused. "One day, my father told me, he would brave the treacherous ice, the foreboding winds, and the labyrinthine caves. One day, he would confront you and take back what belonged to us."

Frowning, the giant ice worm seemed to stare into the Neopet's soul. "Your father was willing to attack me to gain the item rendering you 'Desperate'?" He slowly smiled, almost malevolently.

"Yes... but I am not willing to do the same," the Draik hastily added. "I want this transaction to be as quick and fair as possible."

"So you want it back simply because your father was willing to die for it?"

The Humbled grimaced. "He did die for it."

The Snowager paused. Guilt panged him once more as the air inside Cave #7 took on an unnatural lull. "So... what is so important about this egg? What is so important that your father... that I..." He couldn't finish the thought.

"Inside, a hero sleeps. He is to wake in a time of despair, and will save the world from falling into darkness." The Draik paused for dramatic effect. "That time is now."

The giant ice beast was not sure how to react to the new details of the situation. What would something so valuable to society even be worth, and what would he demand for it... if anything? Well, if he could retrieve it. Also, did he owe this senior anything in particular?

He shook himself. "As I said, I no longer possess the egg. That said, the one who does is a Chia attired in a tan and chestnut parka. He has stolen from me countless times... though I've tried blasting him before, the young thief is quick and adept."

The Draik nodded. "I know of who you speak. He has made quite a reputation for himself in Happy Valley as the one who frequently steals and gets away. It's said he sells the trivial objects for quick profit, but he keeps his most elaborate steals for himself, hidden from prying eyes."

The Snowager frowned. "I shall write him a letter, and you shall deliver it for me." Grabbing his pen and another slip or parchment, he wrote and read aloud for The Humbled to hear:

To whom it may concern,
You have, in your possession, an article that was once among mine. You have stolen it from me, and though I admit that I, too, had come to acquire it through the act of theft -- albeit somewhat indirectly -- I demand its quick return.

The item in question is none other than an ornate Draik egg, silver with a gilded gem pressed into its side. All my articles are of importance to me, and while I wish all that was ever stolen would return to my pile, said egg is now top priority.

Please come by -- you know the address -- and we can discuss the terms for how I might get it back. Perhaps we can work out a barter. I shall consider any object from my stock up for potential trade.

Sincerely,
The Snowager

With the giant envelope now in his hand, the Draik made the slow walk down to Happy Valley...

Author: rielcz
Date: Jan 16th
...As soon as Humbled returned from the Snowager's lair, Torren and Emil rushed to his side.

"Sir, what happened?"

"Are you alright? The Snowager didn't hurt you, did he?" The Draik chuckled and held up the letter to his assistants.

"The egg was stolen from the Snowager last week, but luckily, the worm knew who stole it and where is is." The two looked dismayed at the fact the egg had been stolen, but they both contained their disappointment the best they could.

"Sir..." Torren began.

"I hope the stealing of the egg doesn't upset you," Emil finished, stuffing his paws in his jacket pockets nervously. Humbled shook his head.

"Why would it? I just see it as another stepping stone that we must cross to fulfill our destinies. Also, the Snowager was kind enough to write a letter to the thief, and hopefully he will understand my position and why I absolutely cannot leave without the egg in my possession after reading it." The Elephante and Kougra jumped, startled, as they saw the Draik lurch forward as if he was going to faint. Allowing him to wrap his arms around their shoulders, Emil and Torren exchanged nervous glances. Humbled spoke his next words softly. He felt as if he couldn't get enough oxygen into his lungs from where he was, and he also sensed fatigue coming on.

"Boys, I think the lack of air up here is getting to me. Let's get to Happy Valley, and fast!"

***

After a few hours of treacherous climbing (and nearly falling, too), the trio made it to Happy Valley. The place they were trying to reach, in particular, was called the Happy Valley Inn. Humbled knew that the place, although it was a busy tourist attraction by day, was a black market for stolen goods by night -- and it was currently nighttime, from what the three could tell, as there was a bustling crowd gathered around the inn.

"I think I can walk on my own now. Thank you, boys." Humbled declared quietly when the three reached the front of the inn. Slowly, the Draik removed his arms from his assistant's arms, swaying back and forth when he did so. He managed to stable himself and then, pulling his trusty walking stick out, he placed it on the ground and began to walk toward the inn. Torren and Emil hastily followed him, hoping that the Draik wouldn't fall or slip. Eventually, the trio reached the doors of the inn, and although they received strange looks from the 'pets around them, they weren't stopped by anyone. As soon as the three slipped into the inn, though, they wished that they hadn't, for, sitting on a couch in the middle of the lobby, was Kanrik.

Sitting beside him was a Chia. What made the Chia stand out, however, was not his particularly messy haircut. It was the tan parka that was wrapped around his body. Torren, Emil, and Humbled remained as silent as they could. The two seemed to be involved in a debate of some sort, and weren't paying attention to anyone who came in or out of the room.

"Torren, Emil, step out of this room. Go back to our house. I need to handle this on my own." The Elephante and Kougra exchanged worried glances, but nodded and scampered through the door. Humbled shut it silently and glanced around the room for a disguise. His eyes finally landed on a dark robe. Striding over to it, the Draik let it fall over his body. Soon, there was nothing left revealed except for his eyes. Stuffing the letter in the outermost pocket of the robe, Humbled walked over to where Kanrik and the Chia were. The two looked up, annoyed at the disturbance.

"What is it, Halen?" the Chia asked, his voice bordering on anger. Humbled stepped forward as a glint from the Chia's bag caught his eye. An idea suddenly popped into his mind as he realized the egg he had been seeking was what caused the glimmer.

"Sir, it's just that someone is interested in purchasing the egg." The Chia perked up at the word purchase.

"Please, tell me more," he muttered.

"It's some fellow in the Ice Caves. He wants it to complete his collection, and," the Draik paused for a moment to add suspense to his dialogue, "he's willing to pay over 100 million Neopoints, in pure." The Chia jumped up from his seat at the information.

"I apologize, Kanrik, but I need to... do some business. I'm sure you understand." The Gelert nodded once and let the two leave. When the two left the inn, the other thieves bowed shortly to the Chia as he and Humbled passed by. Ignoring their respect, he picked up his pace. The Draik managed to keep up, although he wasn't sure how much his knees could take.

Finally, the two reached the Ice Caves. Humbled breathed deeply, his exhaustion getting the better of him for a moment.

"So, where's the client?" the Chia asked, rummaging through his bag.

"Umm..." Humbled began, glancing around. Suddenly, two figures came into view. They must've been Torren and Emil! "There are two clients, actually." The Chia looked up with a smirk on his face and a Draik egg in his gloved hand. The Draik gasped at the sight. It was so ornate, so beautiful... and it would save Neopia. As Torren and Emil came closer to the Chia, Humbled suddenly felt lightheaded.

"Oh no!" he began as he felt himself falling. Down, down. He was out cold before he hit the icy ground. The last thing he heard, though, was the Chia's voice.

"What's this, a letter?"

Author: tttxyv
Date: Jan 17th
...The Draik opened his heavy eyelids, feeling his head swim in a way that seemed meant as a warning. Two blurry orbs were bobbing in front of his vision. He blinked several times, and Emil and Torren came into focus.

"Sir!" Emil gasped. "Are you alright?" He put a helping arm around the Draik's back to help him sit up.

"You went out like a falling nova," Torren said. "What happened?"

"The shifting of elevations must have gotten to me. The air pressure fluctuations are harder to endure the older you get, I suppose." Humbled looked around. "Where's the thief?" He fumbled absentmindedly for the letter, but his pocket was empty.

The two younger Neopets exchanged awkward glances.

"He sort of... left, after he took your letter," Torren explained.

Emil nodded. "He started reading it, muttered something about the Snowager finally coming to his senses, and took off for the Ice Caves."

"We must go there too, then," Humbled announced, getting to his feet. He swayed a bit on the spot before Torren grabbed his arm.

"We?" the Elephante asked with a grin.

Humbled sighed. "Yes, alright. I admit, for once, that I need your help. It is imperative that I get that Draik egg!"

"Well, let's get going, then," Emil stated.

Humbled let his weight lay on the arms of his two assistants as they made what was, hopefully, their last trek up the mountain.

When they ducked into the ice worm's lair, they inched in the shadows until the sound of voices reached their ears.

Humbled wasn't entirely sure on his course of action. He was curious as to what the Snowager and the Chia might be discussing, and all-too-content to hang back and listen out of reach from the Snowager's blast, lest negotiations didn't go as planned.

He saw the blue Chia standing in front of the mountains of treasures lining the cave, the Snowager some distance away, protectively atop his hoard.

"--got word that you were interested in one of my collectables," the Chia was saying.

"Your collectable?" the Snowager spat. "I do believe that egg was taken from me."

"Poh-tay-toe, poh-tah-toe, beast. I am currently holding the egg, therefore the egg is in my possession, therein I own the egg." The Chia wrapped his arms around it protectively. "There’s nothing you can do about it."

Humbled thought that telling the Snowager this last part had probably been a bad idea, and by the look on the Chia's face, he seemed to regret the words the moment he'd said them, for the Snowager had narrowed his eyes.

The atmosphere seemed to drop ten degrees, as if the Snowager were somehow pulling every ounce of cold within the room toward his very spot. A frozen river of ice cascaded up his body and wrapped around his mouth as he breathed in deeply. One could practically see the frozen mist of air being swallowed before he blew it all out in one mighty roar of ice shards.

The Chia yelped, throwing his arms up in the air. The egg fell and clattered away across the floor as the Snowager left his treasured throne to chase the Chia around the room. His roars shook the ground of the cavern, sending a spike of adrenaline straight to the old Draik's bones.

"Quick!" Humbled hissed. "We must get the egg. It must not get damaged."

Plushies and Neggs went flying through the air as the three Neopets tried to dodge the fleeing Chia running around the room and the icy blasts from the pursuing Snowager.

Two events happened simultaneously.

Emil cried, "I got it!" while thrusting the silver egg into the air.

At the same time, the Snowager let out a tumultuous roar, spewing every ounce of energy toward the Chia, suspending him in mid-stride.

Even though the Chia was the only one embedded in ice, everyone in the cavern froze.

Humbled stared at the Snowager, who shot him a calculating look.

Finally, the ice worm spoke. "Leave. Take the egg, and never return. The Chia, however, stays with me." Small bits of ice were cracking off his body from the heat of the chase.

"Deal," Humbled said, and the three of them rushed from the cave before the Snowager could change his mind.

***

Humbled could barely believe his luck. He'd actually escaped from the Snowager's lair, unscathed and with the Draik egg securely in his possession. To think, he had been so close to believing all was lost on more than one occasion.

Emil and Torren had to help him down the mountain and back to the safety of his cabin, where the last embers of his fire were sending a small amount of light around the room.

He placed the egg lovingly on the table as they all crowded around.

"Is this it?" Emil whispered.

"The hero that will save us?" Torren asked. "How will you hatch it?"

"It's actually quite simple," Humbled said. He twisted the golden gem. It seemed to be stuck. Humbled frowned and, with one mighty push, the jewel cracked and the egg fell open.

There was no baby Draik. The three Neopets exhaled. Instead, there lay a piece of parchment.

"It's... a letter," Humbled said in disbelief. He opened it and began to read:

To the Chia thief: your days of trickery are numbered. I have stolen the real Draik egg right under your very nose. Perhaps you shall think twice in the future about who you take from.

--The True Leader of the Thieves

The End

Author: treeword
Date: Jan 17th



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