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||You are on Week 731
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 Seven Hundred Thrity One Ends Friday, June 10
|It had been eight days, two hours and twenty seconds since Jani had found the box. Not that she had been counting, mind you. But you tended to notice the time when you had something strange in your possession, hidden under your pillow. You tended to notice time when you were the one holding something so strange, beautiful and mysterious. It was hardly what one normally found under the shady branches of the benevolent Money Tree, really.
Such a little thing, really. A small, shimmering cube, no larger than Jani's own hand. Given that Korbats were not known for huge paws, this suggested that whatever inside had to be tiny.
The box had completely captivated her. For eight days, two hours and... Well, it didn't matter, really. The point remained the same. There was SOMETHING about the shimmering box. Something about the glistening, dark sapphire colour. Something about the intricate, woven gold designs that encircled each corner, weaving and winding around each cool surface. Something about the coldness of the structure, the impossible, chilling smoothness of the cube. Something about the strange words etched in silver on the top. Eight words, utterly foreign to Jani.
Most of all, there was something about the fact that she couldn't open it. prying it with her claws only broke a nail. Banging it against the windowsill simply dented the windowsill itself. Commanding it to open? No chance.
With a sigh, Jani gazed at the box. How had it come to be at the Money Tree? Gently, she etched her fingers over the silver, glittering characters, then frowned.
Something... She hadn't noticed before...
Date: Jun 6th
Jani continued to trace her fingers over the symbols, focusing on their structure and shape. There was something oddly familiar about the mysterious writing, even if she couldn't understand it. She traced over the words again and again, knowing the answer was on the tip of her tongue. Suddenly, it hit her. The smooth, effortless flow from letter to letter; the cool silver coloring...
Ancient, ANCIENT Maraquan was beautifully adorning this mysterious little box.
Continuously tracing the letters must have made Jani's body react with an automatic muscle response. She remembered now, how the calligraphy course she had taken in school required her to practice with Ancient Maraquan letters. The language, while practically untranslatable, had a lovely flow, comparable to modern calligraphy.
However, even after discovering the language carved into the box, the mystery only deepened. Why would this seemingly un-openable box be riddled with characters from an ancient language? And why would it be abandoned at the Money Tree?
Jani laid the box back under her pillow and adjusted the covers over her body. She had to get some decent sleep. She knew what she needed to do tomorrow...
Date: Jun 7th
Jani woke to Pteri song and bright golden sunlight.
She yawned widely, stretching out her paws and wings. Her neck felt a little stiff – a constant over the past eight mornings, sleeping with such a solid object wedged under the pillow tended to do that – but something about the shining cube made her anxious about letting it out of her guard.
After a cursory check under her pillow to make sure the cube was still there – which it was – she picked up the artifact and went straight for the door.
She felt rested now, but it had been a rough night – one of tossing and turning and strange, heavy dreams that rippled as if underwater. Of course getting to sleep had been difficult, now that a clue had finally unraveled itself from the tangled-tight mystery that had haunted her for the past week, but she hadn’t exactly had a choice in the matter. Rest for a long day ahead was always a good idea, of course, but sleep had been necessary for another reason – she knew where she had to go now, and that place had not been an option last night.
Jani needed to see her old calligraphy professor.
It had been four years since she’d taken that class, and while she retained enough to recognize the silver, looping script embossed on her beautiful box, she wasn’t quite fresh enough to remember what those words meant. The script was her only clue towards opening this enigmatic treasure, and there was no way she wasn’t going to follow it.
It was a half-hour walk to her old Neoschool, but with the bright sun overhead and the gleaming box in her paw, Jani felt rejuvenated. Today was going to be the day she cracked the mystery of this box – she could feel it.
Her luck was in full force today – not only did her professor have the same office she remembered, but he wasn’t teaching a class at the moment, either. The slightly paint-splattered Lupe flicked an ear as his door opened, but didn’t turn to face her.
“I’m sorry, but I’m quite busy right now – if you want ideas for your upcoming project, I’ll be happy to assist you in class later today.”
She cleared her throat. “Actually, Mr. Lupid, I’m not here about a project. It’s, um...”
He finally turned around, swiveling his chair around in the slightly harried fashion she so well remembered. “Ah - Jani!” He did a double take, and one of the papers fluttered free from his desk. He scrambled to catch it, knocking over a paint palette in the process. “How – oof – good to see you again! What brings you here today?”
Jani felt a smile tugging at her lips. Mr. Lupid had always been one of her favorite teachers. “It’s about the calligraphy course I took with you in Y14,” she said, holding out the cube for him to see. “I’ve recently gotten my hands on something that has Old Maraquan script, but I can’t decipher it – I was hoping you might be able to help me out.”
“Of course! I can always make a minute for…” He trailed off as his eyes fell across the delicate silver script. “Jani… where did you find this?”
The Korbat swallowed, suddenly feeling uncertain. “The Money Tree, about a week ago. Why?”
“If memory serves me right, this is…”
Date: Jun 7th
"If memory serves me right," he said slowly, reaching for the treasure, "this has to be Panora's Box."
Jani relinquished hold of the box for her old professor to examine. "Panora's Box?"
"Yes," Mr. Lupid whispered. His breath fogged the shimmering surface. He looked up at her in awe. "You say you found this at the Money Tree."
The Lupe gently traced the words on the box, murmuring something under his breath. Then he stopped. "I know these words well," he told her without looking up from the thing. "They were my inspiration for learning, and indeed teaching, what little known there is of this fine language."
Jani practically bubbled with excitement. "What does it mean??"
Lupid's eyes glazed over in his response. "Alimar ke tashe vur umatach seh meture ru," he read. "It means, 'Vengeance in light. Mercy in darkness. A new world.' Scholars have argued over its meaning since the translation over forty years ago. Some say it was a prediction, others say it's a curse. But all agree..." Lupid blinked his eyes clear and held up the box. "Panora's Box is never to be opened."
Date: Jun 8th
Jani thought it best to not tell Dr. Lupid about how she had dented her windowsill in attempt to open the box after what he said. Instead, she asked, "So what does the Money Tree have to do with Pandora's Box?"
Dr. Lupid seemed oblivious to what Jani was saying. His dark eyes were still fixated on the box as his long paws caressed its surface.
"Dr. Lupid?" Jani asked timidly. "Is...is everything okay?"
"Hm? Oh yes, Jani, of course," he replied as if he had been listening to her the whole time. He took the box in both of his hands, cradling it like a baby Lupe. "Listen, I think I better hold onto this for you. We don't want it falling into the wrong hands."
"But--" Jani started, but was interrupted by Dr. Lupid's unnervingly strong push towards the door.
"I'll be sure to let you know if I find anything out about it, Jani. Thank you so much for bringing this here. Have a lovely day."
And with that, Jani was face to face with the dark brown door that was now barring her from Dr. Lupid's classroom.
Date: Jun 8th
It took Jani a moment to recover from the shock. Dr. Lupid had been one of the teachers she admired the most, but his expression as he cradled the strange box… It was eerie. Unnerving.
It was almost unearthly. Like he was fixated.
Jani’s mind wandered back to the days following the discovery of the strange object. Had she not felt the same fixation? Slept with the accursed thing under her pillow? Traced the strange words again and again, trying to sound them out…
Had she not constantly feared the box would be taken from her?
Two conflicting emotions coursed through Jani’s heart. Firstly, she was gripped with a cold anger. How DARE he take her prize? She had found it! She was the one it had been left there for, surely. Why else would she, of all Neopians, have ambled by the Money Tree at that moment?
The second emotion was more concerning.
Not just for herself. The anger had her concerned enough, but for the Lupe she so admired. Dr. Lupid had sometimes been a little vague and absentminded, always mixing up the ink pots, or walking into walls because his nose was buried in some book on obscure calligraphy… But he had never had that strange gleam in this eyes, the one that Jani had just observed as he had gazed at Panora’s Box like it was some treasure beyond all concern for one’s own safety or sanity.
Jani forced herself to focus. Not easy, when one’s emotions seemed to be conducting a battle within you. She had three choices here. One, forget the box, assume Dr. Lupin was fine, and wander home.
Not really an option. Not now. Not after that expression in Lupid’s eyes.
Find out who Panora was. A bit of research might help her uncover the mystery, discover what was so dreadful about opening the box. Maybe Panora had done so and was fine. Who knew?
Sneak in the classroom window and steal the box back from Dr. Lupid. Part of her wanted to protect the amicable teacher from the object. But a small part, somewhere dark and deep within her, just wanted the treasure back in her paws.
It wasn’t really a choice. There was only one thing to do.
With gritted teeth, Jani turned…
Date: Jun 8th
...towards the library. If the box inspired anything like the same emotions she was feeling, Jani knew Dr. Lupid would not let it out of his sight, not ever leave it unattended. If she didn't learn more about this box, there was no way she could hope to combat its chilling effect.
Jani started flying faster, as if that would somehow lessen the strong desire she had to race back to Dr. Lupid's office and... do something she might later regret. She rounded the corner and saw the giant archway that was the entrance to the school's library. It may not hold the answers she was seeking, but hopefully she could at least find somewhere to start.
The library was almost deserted. The librarian at the circulation desk, an orange Kougra with spiky hair, looked up from the book she was reading and hurriedly arranged her face into a welcoming smile. "Welcome to the library," the Kougra said. "Is there anything I can help you find?"
"Do you have anything about someone named Panora?"
The Kougra tilted her head thoughtfully. "The name seems familiar, but I can't quite..."
"Is it maybe related to Ancient Maraqua?" Jani didn't mean to sound impatient, but her fear, combined with her stress level, had shortened her temper considerably.
The Kougra brightened. "Yes, that DOES sound familiar..."
Date: Jun 9th
..."I believe we do have something about a legend concerning Panora's box."
Jani's heart would have stopped, if that were actually possibly. Instead, it beat even more wildly than before, like a Halloween Lupe wanted to jump out of her chest.
"YES," she said, maybe a bit too emphatically, because the Kougra held a finger to her lips to shush her. "Excuse me, but that sounds like it exactly. Do you have a book on it?"
"I believe we do. One moment." The Kougra disappeared for what was much longer than a moment, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, and returned with a raggedy book made of the waxen, waterproof paper on which Maraquan books were often printed.
"Sorry that took so long. We keep it in the basement, in the archives. This is a copy of a journal that once belonged to the first owner of the box," said the Kougra.
Jani gingerly picked up the old book and sat down at a table. This was it. This book was her only chance at finding any answers. Hopefully it would tell her what she could do to help Dr. Lupid.
She opened to the first page...
Date: Jun 9th
...and began to read.
The story told in the journal was tragic. The first owner of Panora's Box was a simple man who discovered it. But the tale it told said that as the years passed, eventually he became more and more possessive of it. His thoughts eventually turned more towards the box and what it must possess. But as the days, weeks, and then months passed, he never found a way to open it.
The obsession with it eventually drove him out of business, alienated him from his friends and family, and finally he wrote how he needed to break himself from it's hold before it ruined him completely. It took all of his willpower, but he tossed the box into the ocean, and hoped to Fyora that no one would find it again.
"How terrible." Jani thought to herself.
However, he later noted that, although for the next few days he still obsessed over the box, the longer that it was away from him, the sooner things started to return to normal. It took ages for him to get his life back together, but he managed. He wrote that his one regret in life was finding it in the first place, with a warning to others to not let it get a hold on others.
Still, he had never managed to open the box. The mystery inside was still a mystery.
Jani realized that whatever curse or power the box had on both herself and Mr Lupid, it was still strong and still pulling on her.
"It's like it pulls out the strongest, most negative emotions in someone and brings them to the surface. Greed, jealousy, pride, envy, wrath..." Jani thought, "Strong enough to make even kind Mr. Lupid want to use his talents to deceive someone."
Jani closed the journal and started to think. Her thoughts were still focused on the box. But now, part of her was trying to think on how to be rid of it. But first, she had to get it from Mr. Lupid. Perhaps....she had an idea....
"Excuse me." Jani said, the journal in hand as she returned to the desk and to the librarian, "Do you think you could do me a favor, and bring this to Mr. Lupid's office? He would like to read this, but I have to head elsewhere. It should only take a minute of your time, please."
The Kougra looked towards her and stood up, taking the journal when Jani offered it to her. "I suppose it shouldn't take too long, and no one else is here."
It might only buy her a minute, but hopefully that one minute he would be distracting Mr. Lupid would be enough time to get the box...
Date: Jun 10th
...Jani watched the librarian walk back toward Mr. Lupid's office, hanging back under the pretense that she was going somewhere else, however, she did her best to blend in with the other students and followed him. The Kougra knocked on the closed door. "Dr. Lupid? It's Amelia, from the library. A student of yours asked me to bring you a book you wanted." The Kougra paused for a moment, weighing waiting patiently with her need to get back to the now-unattended library. Amelia finally made the decision to open the door.
Jani was close enough to hear the creak of the heavy wood. And the suspicious melody that filled the hallway when the door opened. It was tinkling, disjointed as though it was out-of-key and haunting - or maybe that was just Jani's subconscious at play because she knew the sound could only be from one thing.
Dr. Lupid had - somehow - opened the Panora's box.
Amelia halted in the doorframe, seemingly mesmerized by the box and its music. Jani knew the time for stealth and sneaking was done - she had to act fast, so she darted into the office as fast as she could.
r. Lupid's desk was the box, but it was opened on a set of hinges. Inside, was a tiny yet intricate shape - perhaps a Maraquan Draik, but it was hard to tell as the shape was pitch black - spinning as it spewed the trance-like melody. A melody that, thankfully, Jani appeared to be immune to, just as she had been immune to the greed that had manifested in the original owner and in Dr. Lupid.
Dr. Lupid was nowhere to be seen. He was not unconscious on the floor, he was not under his desk, he was not in the room anywhere that Jani could see. He was just... gone. Vanished.
Jani knew it was only a matter of time before Amelia snapped out of the trance and demanded Panora's Box as well, so the Korbat scooped up the box and hastily exited the Neoschool. She kept her hands clamped over the box, but its song could still be heard. She had to get it away from people; she didn't have the luxury of time to learn how to properly deal with this anymore. So she turned and flew into the woods on the outskirt of town, heading for the coast. The Korbat knew from the journal that throwing it in the ocean was only a crutch - a temporary fix to a much larger problem set into motion by her old professor - but she was just one Korbat and it was the only answer she had.
She could only hope that - not if, but when - the box would turn up in the future that her additions to the records on it would help future academics figure out how to dispose of Panora's box for good.
At the shore, Jani stared at the box in her hand. The song still played on, the figurine still spun. "I wish I had never found you, but then who knows how many more lives you may have ruined than just Dr. Lupid's," the Korbat hissed, narrowing her eyes at the tiniest source of trouble she had ever seen. "May your song get drowned out by the waves and whosoever finds you next, breaks your foul spell once and for all."
And, like the previous owner before her, Jani threw the box with all her might and watched it sink below the surface. The haunting melody slowly faded from the air on the surface as the device was swallowed by water.
It had been twenty days, eleven hours and forty-eight seconds since Jani had thrown the box into the sea. Life had gone on, returned to some semblance of normalcy.
Amelia had been taken to the hospital, but discharged after she snapped out of the trance; she bore no recollection of the incident or of the events leading up to it. She was able to return to her position after a few days of bed-rest.
Dr. Lupid was still nowhere to be found. Jani joined the school and her fellow former students in celebrating his life and his achievements, although Jani knew in her heart that he was not gone. He was still SOMEWHERE, although she didn't know where.
Jani herself took to painstakingly chronicling her experience with the box, including even purchasing a variety of musical instruments and taking composition classes to try to recreate the melody from memory as best she could. Although she felt pride and relief at having saved present Neopians from Panora's box's threat, she couldn't help but feel guilt for dooming another generation whenever the box felt like surfacing again. Her penance - in her mind - was to ensure that that generation had as much knowledge as possible about the box.
The Korbat became a historian of sorts, studying all sorts of relics and artifacts although, thankfully, the one that occupied her time and thoughts the most never again crossed her path.
Panora's box sat wedged in thick sediment, still spinning - it WAS Maraquan, after all - still playing its song. The melody was almost beautiful underwater, as though the measures taken to make it play well in water were what caused it to sound so jarring in air. It remained there for years, decades, still spinning, still singing its melody, as though it planned to stay there until it decayed in the waves.
Cailea, A young Shoyru ran along the beaches of Mystery Island, giggling intensely. She loved visiting the beach! Her favorite time of the year was her family's annual vacation to the island paradise. Her play was interrupted, however, when her foot caught on something just beneath the sand's surface.
Mystery Island was known for having all sorts of things wash up on its shores, although the Tiki Tack Man usually scooped up most of them to sell in his shop.
Thankfully, sand was soft and Cailea just had the wind knocked out of her with her fall. She rolled over and examined the spot. A strange sound she had not noticed over the crashing waves emanated from it and she scooped the sand away to discover a small little music box. The box was ornate and pristine, but the figurine within was black, as though the paint had faded from it. The Shoyru frowned. She normally liked music boxes, but she didn't like this one's song. It didn't sound right.
"Cailea, darling!" she heard her mother call. "It's almost time for the Gadgadsbogen feast! We have to go get cleaned up! You can come back to play tomorrow!"
"Coming, mom!" Cailea called. She examined the little music box for a second longer, but decided that she didn't want to keep it. Maybe it was someone else's and they dropped it? They might come back and look for it. She let the little box slip out of her hand and down into the sand as she ran to the beach's edge to meet with her parents.
Perhaps it was just luck and trajectory, or perhaps it was something more, but when Cailea dropped the music box, it spun in midair and landed at an angle. The figurine snapped off from its base. The melody wavered on its final eerie note for a second before ending abruptly.
Date: Jun 13th
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