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||You are on Week 743
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 Forty Three Ends Friday, September 16
|It was hot; the heat was oppressive, and the sun shimmered in little waves of distortion off the hot ground. But Aliana was used to the heat, because on Lutari island it was always hot. Hot wasn’t notable. The danger was when it wasn’t hot, because then a storm was coming. But Aliana wasn’t thinking about heat or storms. Sweat dripped down her neck, but she barely noticed – sweat didn’t mean anything more than she was alive. As the elders said, everybody except the dead sweltered in the jungle heat, and privately, Aliana wondered about even those neopets.
No, all of Ali’s focus was on the neopet in front of her – an outsider, an other. Dangerous, unknown. His eyes were dark, and they glittered like the black rocks at the mouth of the cove – beautiful, but full of malice for the unwary. She was wary though. She knew the danger, but she knew the reward too.
“You are late,” he hissed quietly, his voice so flat she nearly flinched. Nearly, because she did know the danger, but he was her ticket off this stifling island.
“Apologies,” she said, just as quietly, and noted with pride somewhere in the back of her mind that her voice was as cool as his. “I was delayed; it could not have been avoided without exposing you.”
She took care to keep her wording formal, to avoid lapsing into what she knew he considered native slang. Impression was everything, image was everything with him.
His eyes narrowed. “You have it?” he asked.
She nodded, extending a paw. Slowly, she let her fingers fall open, hoping the fine tremor would be mistaken for conscious movement. She doubted he noticed though, because her open palm held all of his attention…
Date: Sep 12th
Within her paw was a single bead.
Even alone and unstrung, the bead was clearly a work of art; it was painted in stripes of yellow, green, and blue, with tiny letters inscribed upon it painted by a finer brush than Aliana had ever owned, by someone with a surer paw than Aliana ever hoped to have.
The bead seemed to hum in Aliana's grasp, though the Lutari didn't know whether it was her own imagination or the magic encapsuled in the bead that made it seem so. Perhaps it didn't matter.
"Ah," the stranger breathed, his eyes growing slightly wider. "Yes."
He held out a claw to take it, but Aliana hurriedly closed her paw tightly around the bead again.
"We had a deal," she said.
The stranger nodded, slowly. "So we did. You bring me that little trinket, and I give you this.
The Scorchio reached into his satchel and withdrew a potion full of a golden, glowing liquid.
Now it was Aliana's turn to look longingly at the prize she so desired--the prize she'd robbed her own cousin for. It was her cousin who had crafted the bead she now held--who had carved it, painted it, and chanted a spell as he painted words of power all around its circumference.
Her cousin, Orisi, the apprentice to the village beadworker, who everyone said would surely surpass his teacher before too much time passed. His skill with a carving blade and paintbrush was unmatched; he had an eye for color and design, paired with an almost-unnaturally steady paw that let him do incredibly delicate work.
Aliana had always envied him for his gifts. Even so, she felt guilty over her theft.
But it was only one bead. A heavily-enchanted bead, yes, but still, just a bead. Aliana could apologize later, if necessary.
It would all be worth it--provided the potion worked.
"Give it to me," said Aliana. "If it works as you've said, then I'll hand over the bead."
The stranger snorted. "Not on your life. Do you think I'm a fool? You'll take it and be gone, off into the forest, and I'll never catch sight of you again. No. Give me the bead, I'll give you the potion, and we'll part ways."
Aliana clenched her paw over the bead. Could she truly trust the stranger's word on what the potion could do?
Did she even have a choice?
She took a deep breath, and started to answer--but just then, her ears caught the sound of a voice calling--"Aliana! Aliana."
Ali shot a quick glance over her shoulder, back at the trees behind her, before turning to the stranger to warn him to hide--but he clearly needed no warning. He had already disappeared.
Gritting her teeth at the interruption of their deal--and with a pang of shame, and fear that what she'd done would be discovered--Aliana turned to face the Neopet who was now emerging from the trees...
Date: Sep 13th
A small, gold-coloured, disheveled figure. It tumbled out of the bushes, straightened itself up, and stumbled forward again, calling, "Aliana!"
Pretty soon Aliana was looking upon the sweating face of her fellow Lutari, Orisi.
Orisi looked exquisite, even when he was in such a desperate hurry. His artist's paws were long and dexterous, his eyes keen and sensitive. Next to her shining gold cousin, Aliana the Green Lutari felt ordinary and clumsy.
"Aliana," Orisi panted. "Jenva told me she saw you come this way. Please, please, tell me: have you seen the bead I was working on this morning? I seem to have lost it, and my last memory of it was when I was showing it to you." His amber eyes were full of tears.
Aliana swallowed. The bead was slippery in her fist. "No, I haven't seen it," she said.
"Can you help me find it?" Orisi asked. "I haven't shown it to anyone but you. Only you know what it looks like. Please, Aliana. You're my only friend in the world."
"I--" Aliana stopped. It was true. Orisi spent so much time in the crafting room that he barely played with others. Her sense of shame deepened. "But where would we start?" she said finally.
Orisi brightened. "We could start in the crafting room, where I last saw it. Maybe it rolled on the floor somewhere."
"There are so many things in there, though," said Aliana. "And it might not even be there."
"I know," Orisi sighed. "But do you remember seeing it anywhere else after that?"
"No, you're right. Let's start in the crafting room. I'll meet you there in a few minutes?"
"Why-- are you busy? Can't we go right now?"
There was nothing she could do in response to those brimming, amber eyes. "All right..."
Back in the depths of the cove, the Shadow Scorchio watched the retreating figures of the two Lutaris. He did not like where this was going. No, he didn't like it at all. In order to make sure his plan didn't fall apart, he would have to follow them...
Date: Sep 13th
..."Where should we look first in the crafting room?" Osiri asked with anxiously expectant tremor in his voice.
"Er... how about the... drawers of pre-carved blank beads?" The green Lutari tried not to sound too apathetic, or, worse -- guilty. "Perhaps someone came in and set it with the only other beads there."
Her cousin nodded. "It could be possible." And then he frowned. "But who else would go in there?"
Aliana shrugged, forcing down a wince. "Elders? It is your best bead to date, maybe they took it as... evidence?" She grinned, but thankfully it came out looking sheepish rather than desperate.
"Evidence of what?" Osiri batted one of the low-hanging palm-like leaves just before the main path to the village. Shortly the two would be at hut comprising the crafting room.
"Your... brilliance?" She nudged him playfully in the ribs, her grasp on the litte bead unshakable.
He frowned. "I don't know, Ali..."
At last they reached the crafting room hut. It was a medium-sized abode, filled with tools and pieces and benches and brushes... A veritable miss-mash of artistic devices centralized in one neatly disorganized space.
"After you," Aliana started as she held the door with one hand and, with the other, sneakily set the bead firmly in the waistband of her purple grass skirt.
Just as they walked inside, the Scorchio peaked his head out from inside the foliage. His mouth was a neutral eyes, his dark eyes, gaze fixed on the hut, darker than usual. A plan was forming in his mind.
He had to go tell his henchman on the boat on the shore about this.
One bead would give him spending money.
The bead maker himself would give him wealth...
Date: Sep 14th
"It's no use!" Osiri said, sinking into a chair. He sounded desperate, which hurt her more - it would've been easier if he were angry, upset, irrational. But he just seemed sad, and Aliana's stomach churned from the guilt.
Beads, powdered dyes, paintbrushes, and all other manner of bric-a-brac surrounded them in messy piles. She poked at a large yellow bead with her toe, watching it roll across the floor. "I'm sorry, Osiri."
He buried his head into his paws. "It's not your fault ..."
She frowned, turning away. "No, I know - I just, I wish we could find it, is all."
"I worked so hard on that one, Ali ..." His voice trailed off, mumbled from behind his paws. And then, a confession: "I was going to give it to Lyka."
Aliana started, excited in spite of herself and the situation. Osiri had pined after Lyka ever since they were all pups, running around the island and getting in trouble for taking midday swims instead of going to classes. He was always too scared to really talk to her but now -
- she couldn't, she couldn't take away the bead. She'd give it back or, better yet, slip it onto the floor and pretend to find it. It would all work out. However, as she kneeled down to drop the bead ...
Date: Sep 15th
...The door opened.
A Moehog entered first -- another other -- followed by the Neopet Aliana had simultaneously feared and revered.
There they stood, two against two.
"You there," began the Moehog as he pointed to Osiri, "we can do this the easy way, or the hard way." He slammed his hooves together, making a cracking sound.
Osiri looked mystified.
Aliana looked horrified.
"What do you mean? What are you going to do with him?" the green Lutari gagged in harried frenzy. "Our deal had nothing to do with him!"
"Of course it did," started the Neopet with the glittery black eyes, somehow blacker than before. "As it takes two interested parties to make a trade, it takes a bead maker to make a bead." He tented together the tips of his fingers.
"Deal? Bead maker?" her cousin interjected before giving something of an adorable frown. "What's he talking about Aliana?"
"It doesn't matter," Aliana concluded, folding her arms. "I can't in good conscious make this trade anymore. The deal's off, sir."
The Scorchio's eyes just continued to glisten as he held up the golden vial.
And then another.
"Would you like to think about your decision?" He spoke slowly, confidently, with an air that what he was asking was the most important question ever asked.
"Aliana, what's all this for?" The golden Lutari cast a look of doubt mixed with resentment at his cousin. "You're hiding something, that much I know."
Aliana fidgeted. She tried to maintain her crumbling composure. "Yeah, well, I... I..." she broke down into sobs, then, before throwing the bead onto the floor, where all eyes watched it roll. "I took it! I stole the bead!" She was quickly becoming a hysterical mess. "I was going to trade it to that man in exchange for one of those vials so I could sell it to the smugglers on the other side of the island and leave this wretched isolated place but then you came and then you took me away from him but clearly he found me and you and now he wants you or something and I don't know what he wants anymore!" She buried her face in her hands.
There was an awkward pause, then, filled with Aliana's crying.
The Scorchio spoke first. "I was going to ask your, er, cousin -- the bead maker -- if he might consider coming to the mainland with the two of us," he said, gesturing to himself and his henchman.
"He would never do that, I'm his only friend -- he doesn't want to go with strangers!"
Osiri, however, just blinked. "Save for, obviously, the wealth attached to those bottles, why would I want to go with you?" he asked the others.
"The wealth attached to bead making itself," the Scorchio said, his black eyes twinkling in a manner that both disgusted and enchanted the green Lutari. "These beads, something you Lutaris craft from materials worth mere Neopoints, fetch unbelievably high prices on the markets." He paused for dramatic effect. "And not one bead maker has ever come to Neopia. You'd be the first, you'd be famous -- and I, one of the greatest marketers in Neopia's center of commerce, could sell your beads for you and give you a share of the profits." He smiled charmingly.
Osiri contemplated this, and then turned to his cousin. "You said you were my only friend... true as that may be or may have been you were all too willing to not only take my masterpiece but leave me behind here while you left for the world. That doesn't sound like much of a friend."
Aliana just gaped.
"Sir," Osiri spoke to the others, "I'd like to accept your offer on the grounds you let me take with me another, a girl called Lyka."
"If she is willing, then I will not object," said the Scorchio.
Osiri grinned, which stabbed through Aliana. "Promising her wealth beyond her wildest dreams as the partner to the first bead maker..." The golden Lutari picked the bead up from the floor and handed it to the Scorchio. "It'd be perfect."
"Then let us go," said the Neopet with the black eyes. He then snapped his fingers, and the Moehog took the shelf with blank beads and the three left.
This left Aliana alone. Alone in the bead maker's room.
The green Lutari sobbed softly.
She had wanted a chance to be off this island so badly she stole for it... And in the end she realized she lost not only that chance but a cousin, a friend.
And for what?
Clearly there was a lesson here...
Date: Sep 16th
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