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Week 585
You are on Week 586
Week 587

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 Five Hundred Eighty Six Ends Friday, December 21

It was a particularly dim dusk in the town of Neovia, as a rather well-dressed Bruce stood outside the Crumpetmonger, staring fixedly at the ground. Paying no mind to those passing by loaded with the evening’s paper from the Neovian Printing Press or the odd Golden Clawed Bath Tub being carted down the gas-lit street, the Bruce's attention was on a single shabby brown glove lying on the cobblestones.

"Curious," he mumbled to himself, walking in a slow circle around the glove to absorb as many details as possible. He reached into the inside of his stylish brown suit jacket and pulled out a worn notebook, and then proceeded to jot down a vast number of notes. He was just beginning to draw a rather complicated diagram of the scene when his focus was interrupted by the jingling of the Crumpetmonger's shop bell.

"Ah, there you are, Haven. Thank you for waiting. Are you sure I can't interest you in a pastry or anything? Alice was just telling me about their latest creation -- Jetsam Witchdoctor Cupcakes. Already flying off the shelves! They sent out a huge order earlier, or else she would've kept one aside for me. Ah well, I’ll have to come back tomorrow to try one," a portly Usul said as he left the shop and stopped beside his friend.

"No, I'm perfectly alright, as I said before. What do you make of this?" Haven asked, waiting impatiently as the Usul chewed a large piece of bundt cake.

"Make of what? The cake is quite delicious. I think they've done something slightly different with the icing--"

"Egads, Weatherby. I'm not talking about the cake! I'm talking about this glove!" Haven said, pointing with his pencil to the glove between their feet. Weatherby squinted down at the object of interest.

"Well, it's a glove. As a matter of fact--" Weatherby began.

"It's more than a glove, old chap. Why, I believe it's evidence in a kidnapping plot! Do you notice the angle of the glove? Forty-five degrees north east. I daresay someone was walking down the street, perhaps to indulge in a baked good like yourself, and was carried off into the night! The glove's position indicates that there might have been a struggle, though the current wind patterns are throwing off my calculations. There's a curious blue mark that I can't quite account for..." Haven explained, bending down and pulling out his trusty magnifying glass for a closer inspection.

Weatherby sighed. It was always the same with his friend, Sherbolt Haven, burgeoning Neovian sleuth. A long-time fan of mysteries, Haven had recently started solving crimes. Of course, Neovia was a somewhat quiet town, and Haven was forced to find his own crimes, no matter how small, and drag along Weatherby as his reluctant assistant. Though he had his brilliant moments (like finding a missing statue behind a secret door), he had a habit of sometimes overlooking the obvious.

"I hate to disappoint you, Haven, but I don't think that's what happened," Weatherby started as Haven stood up and tucked away his magnifying glass. "Instead of a struggle, I believe it was a hungry Usul who dropped a glove without realizing it on his way to the Crumpetmonger. As for the blue stain, I had a blueberry tart last week and forgot to wash it, but thank you for finding it for me," Weatherby finished, reaching down to pocket his glove.

"Well then, mystery solved, eh? Another successful case for Sherbolt Haven, sleuth extraordinaire!" Weatherby rolled his eyes.

"Shall we be on our way, then? It's getting chilly and I fancy a cup of tea to go with this cake," Weatherby said, walking in the direction of their shared office.

"Yes, yes. After all, I need to properly record this case, and finish up the forms for Mr. Crosby. Did you read over--" Haven was suddenly interrupted by a piercing scream that rent through the night. With a glance at Weatherby's unamused expression, Haven turned and ran toward the canal...

Author: rock_star_megs
Date: Dec 17th
...Weatherby rushed after his friend, struggling to keep up and having to stop and catch his breath several times. At last he rounded the corner to the canal, finding Haven already crouching down by the railings that led down into the water.

"I shouldn't have run," Weatherby complained with a loud belch. "That cake's repeating on me now."

"Weatherby, come look at this!" Haven shouted excitedly.

The Bruce was examining a discarded shawl on the cobbles, but there didn't seem to be anyone about -- certainly no sign of whoever had screamed.

"A genuine kidnapping!" Haven exclaimed at last.

"Now Haven, old chap, we've just been through this..."

"No, look!" Haven hastily explained. "The shawl is ripped, as if a struggle has taken place. Here, a few strands of blonde hair on the inside, long length, as is the fashion with girls in the town this year... and here, on the railings, a piece of fabric from... yes, I do believe it is a dress, from the Prigpants winter collection if I am not mistaken. Expensive, and limited edition. Only someone from a very wealthy family could afford such a garment. Why, I believe there is only one such wealthy family with a child of that age in all of Neovia! Do you know what this means, Weatherby?!?"

"No," his friend replied honestly.

"Priscilla Ashby, heiress to the Ashby fortune, has been kidnapped by ne'er-do-wells," Haven explained. "There is no other explanation."

"Yes there is, Haven," Weatherby replied.

"Such as?"

This time, the Usul faltered.

"I suppose she may have fallen in the canal? Tripped? It is an icy night, after all."

"Either way, she is missing!" Haven declared like a greedy child who had just found a stash of chocolate. "We must make haste to the Ashby estate at once..."

Author: herdygerdy
Date: Dec 17th
...Haven wasted no time, and with the suspicious shawl tightly in hand, he took off running into the lamp-lit gloom toward the heart of Neovia.

Weatherby peered anxiously over the railing, but could make out nothing in the dark water. He grunted as he straightened up, less than thrilled about the idea of more running. He could have used a few more moments to catch his breath, but by this time, the clack-clack of Haven's feet on the cobblestones was already distant. With a final deep breath, he bustled along after his friend.

The Ashby estate loomed over its surrounding residences. Even at the best of times, it was a little foreboding, with its ornate turrets and glaring gargoyles. Now, however, on the dark and silent street, it was downright spooky. Haven seemed oblivious to this, and was already banging on the knocker with great enthusiasm.

A well-dressed Techo opened the door promptly and was nearly injured by Haven's still-knocking arm. Weatherby, still wheezing slightly, stepped forward to address the man.

"Good evening, Mr. Ashby. We are but two concerned citizens, and--" he began. Haven silenced him with a hand.

"Weatherby, this is not Mr. Ashby. This is his butler," Haven explained, as if it were obvious. He turned his attention to the butler. "Excuse me, kind sir, but could we perhaps speak with Mr. Ashby?"

The butler looked a tad uncomfortable. "Sir, it is quite late, and I don't think that--"

Whatever he did not think, they did not get a chance to hear it, as Haven gently pushed the butler aside and stepped into the foyer. Weatherby followed, smiling apologetically at the bewildered Techo. Haven showed himself into the living room, bowing to Mr. Ashby, who was sitting in front of the fireplace.

Ashby was a meticulously groomed Aisha, and his face displayed great surprise at the strange Bruce and Usul that were now in his living room. Ashby struggled to regain his speech.

"I say, what are you doing in here?!" he sputtered.

Haven, unaffected by his anger, confidently responded. "Sir, we have just come from the docks, where we discovered this scarf. We have reason to believe that your daughter may have been kidnapped."

"That is utterly ridiculous!" Ashby countered. "Priscilla is neither allowed out of the house after sunset, nor allowed anywhere near the docks. I can assure you that she is asleep upstairs, where she belongs. Now I must ask you two gentlemen to leave."

Haven ignored this and asked, "Mr. Ashby, does your daughter by chance have blonde hair?"

"Well, yes, but I don't see what that--"

"And does this shawl belong to her?" Haven continued, holding it out for their inspection.

"I believe she does have one like that," Mr. Ashby muttered. "But surely lots of girls--"

"And was she, perhaps, wearing a pink dress from the Prigpants winter collection today?" Haven continued, unbothered.

Ashby looked shocked. "Yes," he said slowly, "I... I think she was. How could you know that?"

"We also found a piece of a dress matching that description at the docks," Weatherby interjected. Ashby looked at him as though he had not realized he was in the room at all.

"But I sent Priscilla to bed over an hour ago," the Aisha said uncertainly.

"Sir, if you do not believe me, then why don't you at least check on her?" Haven suggested.

Mr. Ashby nodded silently and started up the stairs, the duo following right behind him. Upon reaching the door at the end of the hall, he turned the knob...

Author: pl00fles
Date: Dec 18th
...and found that the room was empty.

There was nothing but the open window that led out to Priscilla's balcony greeting the trio. That open window was the only thing that was out of place in Priscilla's room. Her bed was perfectly made -- not a single sheet nor pillow out of place. The vanity stood untouched with her combs and makeup still intact.

Ashby rushed into the room. A look of abject horror and confusion riddled his face as he looked around. "How can it be? Where could she have gone?"

"I don't know, Ashby," Haven said as he walked in after the Aisha. His magnifying glass was out as he looked around Priscilla's room. "I'll get to the bottom of it, though, starting with that window over there. Where does that balcony lead?"

"Nowhere! Well, it leads somewhere," the said Aisha after taking a deep breath to compose himself. "Priscilla's room overlooks the front garden, but there is no possible way she could've left her room without my knowing."

Not so certain of this, Haven walked over to the balcony and observed every inch of it. He stepped outside into the night and looked around, his keen eye absorbing each detail. Priscilla's bed was made, so she couldn't have used the sheets to climb down from the balcony. There was no sign of a struggle -- at least, there didn't seem to be any signs of a struggle. That was when the ivy crawling up the Ashby's manor caught Haven's eye. There, in the ivy, was a shoe -- caught and wedged within the plant vines and stone wall.

"I believe I have discovered something of interest here. Could someone perhaps come and help me retrieve--" Haven began, but before he could elaborate any further Weatherby's loud cough caught his attention. "What is it, Weatherby? Did you find anything new in our case?"

"I believe so, Haven... I believe so."

There, in Weatherby's hand, was an opened envelope and a letter written in curly handwriting. Before Haven could walk over to examine the letter, Ashby tore the letter from Weatherby's hand and read it. With every word he read Ashby's eyes grew wider, until finally he handed the letter back to Weatherby.

"She's run away..." the Aisha said. "My darling Priscilla has run away from home.

Haven frowned and walked over. It was now his turn to read the letter. Raising the magnifying glass, the frown he wore deepened.

"I have run away from home. Don't bother looking for me. I am not coming back," Haven read carefully, tasting each word as he said it. "Mr. Ashby, do you happen to have anything belonging to Priscilla? A letter, or a diary perhaps?"

Ashby nodded and gestured toward the expansive bookcase in Pricilla's room. "All of her school books would be over there. Notebooks and penmanship books are on the third shelf. What are you insinuating here, Haven?"

"I just want a little bit of clarification." Haven looked at the bookshelf before selecting the most recent penmanship book he could find. He opened it to the last page and placed the letter next to it. "Judging by the loops of the l's and the dots on the i's, along with the funny way her z's and y's are written, I'd say it's safe to conclude that..."

Author: noxlyx
Date: Dec 18th
"...her hand was shaking as she wrote the letter. Which also concludes that she must've been frightened, which of course means that your daughter was probably threatened into writing that note."

Ashby's eyes were wider than ever before now. "But... who would have done such a thing?"

"That, my good man, remains a mystery. But as I said I will get to the bottom of this." Haven walked briskly back out on the balcony. "You see, I found a shoe caught in the vines here."

Weatherby came over and looked at the shoe with interest. "So she climbed down. It was voluntary then."

"Not so, Weatherby." Haven smiled. "You see, if she were actually running away voluntarily, then she would have taken the time to untangle the shoe from the vines; I'm sure no girl would want to walk around at night with only one shoe. She was probably rushed out by whatever fiend did this to her." Haven's smile grew even more as she said this, regardless of the fact that he was describing a kidnapping.

Ashby noticed this and stomped over to him. "Do you think this is some kind of joke? We need to find her! We need to punish whoever--"

"Calm yourself, Ashby," Haven said, assuming a more serious approach. "I have an idea of where she might be--or at least, I know somewhere we could find out."

"And where would that be?"

"The Haunted Woods..."

Author: peronalodis
Date: Dec 19th
Weatherby coughed uncomfortably. "Sir, I don't wish to... er, question your sleuthing talents, but what on Neopia could make you think-"

"Two things, Weatherby," Haven said, taking off his coat and tying the sleeves around his waist. "First, because the Haunted Woods is the closest prospect for a hiding place. Second," he continued, swinging a leg over the balcony rail and climbing down the vines, with Weatherby trailing after him in a confused daze. "Second, because it is the safest place to hide something--or someone valuable."

"Sir, I'm afraid I don't understand-" Weatherby began, but his confidant cut him off again.

"The Haunted Woods is extremely dangerous to those even familiar with it. There are virtually no Neopets in the world who dare to penetrate its shadowy boundaries."

"Well, then who's going to get her out?" Ashby called from on top of the balcony as Haven planted his feet on solid ground again.

"We will," he answered gleefully.

"SIR!" Weatherby slipped and fell the rest of the way down the vines, and landed with a *thump* by his friend. his face nearly cracking at the ears with shock.

"I said virtually no Neopets were brave enough, Weatherby," Haven continued calmly as he helped a dazed Weatherby to his feet and brushed the dust from his waistcoat. "But that doesn't mean there is literally not one single Neopet who couldn't do it. Or two..." Haven added, much to Weatherby's distress.

"Don't worry about calling the police, sir!" he called up to Ashby, who was gripping the rail and wondering if he should follow Haven or go back inside and call a "real" detective. "We'll get your Priscilla back to you by tomorrow night. Or perhaps the day after if we find her late."

"Haven...?" Weatherby was very confused.

"Well, if we were to find her right before bedtime, for example, we'd want to check into a hotel before bring her home," Haven explained carelessly. And, without another word, Haven strode confidently out of the shadows of the Ashby manor house, with Weatherby trailing helplessly behind him.

The Haunted Woods were situated at the northernmost edge of Neovia, near the Ashby manor. Before Weatherby had time to recollect his senses and come up with a good excuse to worm his way out of this, they were already staring down the shadows surrounding the mysterious, gnarly, grey trees. Weatherby gulped, but Haven delved fearlessly into the trees.

"Isn't this marvelous, Weatherby?" he said as his partner scurried to keep up with him. "My first real kidnapping. I wonder how large our reward shall be? Of course, the adventure itself will be plenty a reward, but since we are dealing with one of the richest families in Neovia, I'm certain we shall walk out of this with some extra Neopoints, don't you agree..." Weatherby nodded absentmindedly as Haven chattered on carelessly. The plump Usul had to worm his way in between the sharp, tangled branches, which was made doubly uncomfortable when he realized that he was hungry again.

"Oh, botheration..." Weatherby mumbled, shoving a thorny bush out of his way. Suddenly, he realized that Haven wasn't talking anymore. He looked up. He couldn't see his friend anywhere.

"Haven...?" he called into the fog. The eerie silence was the only reply... Weatherby was alone...

Author: tigerfriend130
Date: Dec 19th
...The plump Usul walked on, lost and hopeless. He really had no idea where Haven was now, or even any idea of where he was. Weatherby tried calling out for him once or twice, but there was no answer.

Truth be told, Weatherby probably had enough calories in his body to survive without eating for over a week, but he was still afraid for his life. After all, blubber can't help you against, say, Werelupes.

He wondered how long it would be before something found and devoured him; what’s a poor, chubby little Usul to do to defend himself? The Haunted Woods were turning out to be a nerve-wracking place. A howl and the rush of distant footsteps here, a scream there, and then just deafening silence all around. Not exactly a vacation in Mystery Island.

However, the more Weatherby walked on all alone, the more he realized that it wasn't that bad. Sure, the fog made him squint, and he tripped every now and then, but all the wailing and snapping of jaws sounded so far away.

That was when it had his trail.

All Weatherby saw was the snap of jaws in his face when he jolted from his inner utopia and ran. The beast screamed behind him, continuing to tailgate his, well, tail. The Usul whimpered, but didn't stop, as another set of footsteps began to steadily pound into the marsh behind him, and then another and another. In an attempt to lose them, he cut in another direction, but then cliffs rose up in front of him. The beasts -- Werelupes, he realized -- were right behind him.

Suddenly, a hand grabbed his arm and pulled him into the shadow of a cliff-crack that he hadn't noticed. The howling of the pack quieted in confusion. A lantern lit in front of him. A young Aisha was standing in the shadows. "We don't have much time," she murmured.

She was wearing one shoe...

Author: ellbot1998
Date: Dec 20th
..."P-P-Priscilla?" Weatherby stuttered, utterly shocked. The Aisha nodded, and smiled a little. Weatherby stared at her in the dim light from the moon, noticing how beautiful she was.

Priscilla was a soft, warm purple, and her blond hair was tied back with a red bandanna. Her tattered pink dress was covered with dirt and was slightly damp from the fog, but otherwise she looked unharmed.

"Are you alright?" Weatherby asked in a nervous voice. "Where are the ones who captured you?"

Priscilla laughed softly. "Oh, them. They didn't know what they were doing," she said. "I'm pretty sure they've never even attempted a kidnapping before. They took me down to the canal, and were about to load me onto a boat and take me away from Neovia, but I managed to distract them long enough to escape. I then ran toward these woods. You know, for supposedly being haunted, they're really not as bad as everyone says. I come here all the time when I need to get away."

Weatherby was confused, and quite shocked by Priscilla's bravery. He felt that he had rather expected her to be some kind of sheltered, scared little princess, but instead he found a daring, beautiful Aisha with more nerve than either Haven or himself -- one who went to the Haunted Woods for fun. "But..." he began. "But we heard a scream!"

Shaking her head, Priscilla sighed. "No, the scream wasn't mine," she said. "It was one of the Acaras that kidnapped me. I... well, I pushed her into the canal. I'm pretty sure she could swim, but the water was freezing and it took her a while to get out. While the others were trying to help her, I ran. I think I must have dropped my scarf in my haste to try and escape, because it was gone when I reached the woods."

"Wow..." Weatherby breathed. "Well, it looks like Haven isn't quite the sleuth he thinks he is... he certainly missed a lot of the story."

"Who's Haven?" Priscilla asked, tilting her head to the side. "I feel like I recognize the name."

Weatherby pulled his jacket closer around him, and shook his head. "Haven's my associate, and the wannabe master sleuth of Neovia," he sighed. "You may have read about him in a small article that was printed in Local Happenings."

A look of recognition passed over Priscilla's face. "Ah, yes, that's it," she said with a nod. "He's the one who found that statue behind the secret door at the Crumpetmonger's, isn't he?"

Weatherby nodded, thinking that Haven would be ecstatic to hear that the daughter of Neovia's richest citizen knew who he was. "That's him."

"Well, where is he now?" Priscilla asked. "Did he come with you?"

"Yes, he did," Weatherby said, glancing around nervously. "I lost him in the fog, though."

"That won't do at all, now will it?" Priscilla declared, taking his arm. "We'd better go and find him before he gets himself cursed... or eaten." She dragged him out of the crack in the cliff, pausing to look around for the Werelupes, who had evidently wandered away after Priscilla had saved Weatherby.

"Looks like it's safe," she remarked. "Let's go..."

Author: ladylord_4
Date: Dec 20th
...Haven, in the meantime, was not having a lot of fun. After being separated from Weatherby, the Bruce had only managed to get himself even more lost as he ventured into the woods. He had no idea where he was going, but suddenly he heard voices arguing. Using stealth that Bruces don't actually have, he quietly approached the sounds of strife, which lay just beyond the edge of the woods.

"You idiot!" an Acara, who was a dark shade of red, roared at another Acara, who was blue. "You should've tied that Ashby girl up as soon as we'd gotten her away from the estate!"

The blue Acara, who was shivering and apparently damp, whined back, "I'm not the only one of us who could've thought of that! Neither of you thought of it, either!"

A third green Acara interjected, cutting off the red and blue Acaras' arguing. The red Acara looked like it was about to explode from anger.

"Quiet, both of you. It doesn't matter. There's no use crying over spilled Borovan--"

"I wouldn't cry over spilled Borovan!" the blue Acara complained.

"Hush! The point is, there's no point blaming each other. The girl is gone. We should start searching for her. We've wasted enough time."

"Huh, what's the point in searching for her?" the red Acara asked. "She's probably gone forever. She's in the Haunted Woods, for Fyora's sake! What are the chances she'll come back out? We don't need her anyway. We'll just demand a ransom from Ashby and he'll never know the difference."

"You imbecile," the green Acara venomously. "How's that supposed to work? You said you had the girl write a note claiming that she was running away!"

"Oh..." the red Acara said. "Um, well... I guess I didn't plan that out as well as I could have."

"Wait, did you just hear something?" the blue Acara asked. "I'm certain that I just heard something."

"What?" the other two Acaras snapped.

"It sounded like..."

Author: blondygirl1893
Date: Dec 21st
...and the blue Acara stopped mid-sentence.

Haven quickly realized that he was exposed and sought refuge deeper in the brush.

Alas, the Acara's keen ears are not just for show.

The blue Acara instinctively turned her head toward where Haven lay. Hesitantly, still shivering, she pointed in his general direction.

The three Acaras slowly walked over toward the bush where Haven was hiding.

Haven decided then that it was time to run.

Getting up, he dashed away from the three apparent kidnappers, but his plump figure -- he wasn't as heavy as Weatherby, but still round enough -- didn't allow him to get far.

Very soon, the three Acaras (shortly joined by a fourth) had him surrounded, encroaching upon him.

"Please don't hurt me, you three!" Weatherby pleaded. "I have... people, that I know!" He was really grasping at loose straws by then.

The recently-arrived yellow Acara spoke first. "Look, sir," she started, "we know who you are."

"You do?" he asked in between his panting. My, was he unfit... it was the accursed Crumpetmonger, supplying him with free food because of the whole statue incident. Not that he didn't like free pastries and the like, but--

"Of course we do," the red Acara said, interrupting his line of thought.

"You're Mr. Haven. We read about you and saw your picture in Local Happenings," the green Acara continued, excitement spreading out about her cute face.

"You see, we want to offer you a... well, a task," concluded the red Acara, whom Haven then took to be the leader.

"What sort of task?" the Bruce inquired.

"Well... are you familiar with Priscilla Ashby?" the red Acara asked.

The Bruce smiled. "Why, I've just--" he then stopped himself from saying, "Why, I've just been hired to locate her," as he came to a realization -- these Neopets here must be her kidnappers! Frankly, he should have seen it earlier, based on their conversations from before.

Haven certainly could not reveal information that would make them suspect he was hunting Priscilla, or they might take him and demand some form of ransom from Ashby, the one who was paying him.

"I've just read about her in... a special edition of Local Happenings," he shakily concluded with a nervous smile. "Apparently... she's missing."

The four Acaras turned and huddled, speaking softly to each other. However, Haven -- whose ability to eavesdrop was another feature of his detective prowess -- picked up most of their conversation.

"Is this guy telling the truth?"

"Yeah, they've never run special editions of Local Happenings before."

"Well, Ashby is a powerful Aisha."

"That's true."

The four turned and faced Haven.

"Alright," the yellow one said. "So, you know about her. That's good -- how would you like to make some money?"

"Well, money's nice," Haven agreed with a slight chuckle.

"You see," the red one started, "we were the ones who attempted to kidnap Priscilla. Of course..." she paused for dramatic emphasis, "it failed miserably. That said, there is, undoubtedly, a reward for her safe return to the Ashby estate. We'll help you find her, and then you can collect the reward money, giving some to us!" She smiled mischievously.

"What if I refuse?"

"Then... I don't know, we'll kidnap you. Apparently, you have people."

A smile slowly came to Haven's face. He went out to shake the girls' hands. "I accept."

He had a feeling that everything would turn out alright in the end, and as a sleuth, sometimes you just have to go on those feelings...

***

Meanwhile, Priscilla and Weatherby wandered gleefully through the Woods.

Well, Priscilla seemed to take enjoyment in it, though Weatherby just followed alongside her, attempting to stay alive...

"Where did you say he went?" she asked him.

"I haven't the foggiest," Weatherby replied.

Priscilla laughed. "Oh, you are so funny, Usul," she responded. "You said he got lost within the fog earlier."

"Did I?"

"Yes."

Priscilla paused. Haven did likewise. "Actually," she said, "around this time of year, the fog tends to drift..." she did some quick mental calculations, "...northeast. Based on the likely paths taken when entering the woods, there's only one place, then, where you could have encountered fog. Follow me," she declared and took off.

Weatherby did his best to keep up. My, he thought to himself, those free desserts Haven gets at the Crumpetmonger certainly do a number on me, as well.

***

"Where are we going?" Haven asked the four Acaras as they wandered in what seemed like an aimless manner through the dense forest.

"Well," the red one started, "I know quite a bit about the Ashby family, and Priscilla in general."

"If you know so much about her, than why'd she escape?" the green one inquired semi-sarcastically.

The red Acara ignored her. "Anyway, she ran into the woods, which has to mean that she knows where she's going. In no way would she risk getting lost."

"That makes sense," the yellow Acara agreed.

Haven nodded.

"Thank you," the red one said in response to the yellow Acara's comment. "So, where is she likely to be? Well, she could be anywhere, frankly, but I believe that she would -- just before nightfall, when she thinks it safe -- travel along the path that extends right beside the Ashby mansion. This would allow her to get home easily."

"Oh, I see," Haven responded with a smile, "we're going to go wait by the entrance to the woods most close to her home."

"Precisely," the red one said.

I should have thought of that, Haven pondered as they continued walking.

***

The pair were soon at the point Weatherby recognized as he and Haven's entry into the woods. Staring off to the side he noted the Ashby mansion, just its very top poking its head out from behind the dense brush. Fog rolled around listlessly.

"How did you know all of this?" Weatherby asked, his voice hardly above a whisper.

"I told you, I love exploring the woods," Priscilla responded. "Especially if father has banned me from doing it," she whispered to him with an affectionate giggle.

Weatherby smiled.

***

"I told you, I love exploring the woods," an unknown voice said from nearby.

"There!" the red Acara whispered to the group. "It's Priscilla! Now, you know what to do, Mr. Detective." She urged him forward.

"Alright," he announced.

"Keep quiet!" the blue one stressed in a low voice.

"Alright," Haven reiterated in a much softer tone.

***

"Alright," someone said from deeper in the forest.

"That sounded like Haven!" Weatherby said emphatically to Priscilla.

"Did it?" She wasn't quite sure what a Haven should sound like.

A puzzled look spread across the Usul's face. "Yes."

Shortly thereafter, Haven appeared.

"Oh, Haven," Weatherby said, running up to his friend and hugging him. "I was worried about you!"

Priscilla joined in, too. "Yes, Haven. I'm... not entirely sure who you are, but a friend of this Usul here is a friend of mine, I suppose." She smiled.

"Look," Haven whispered. "I met up with your kidnappers."

Priscilla looked shocked. "You did? Did they hurt you?"

"I thought you said they were mostly harmless?" Weatherby inquired.

Priscilla giggled at this rationalization of them. "Well, yes... to me," the Aisha said with a smile. "Regardless, what did they want?"

"They said they wanted a fraction of the reward money in exchange for my release and finding of you, and turning you in."

"Hmm... here," Priscilla said as she reached into her coat pocket and retrieved a single golden coin. "This should get them off your back."

Weatherby and Haven stared at the coin and laughed.

Shortly thereafter Haven returned to the Acaras, telling them that the exchange of Priscilla and the money was quick and effortless.

Content, the four walked away. However, the quartet started arguing over who would get to hold the coin not 20 feet into their journey through the woods.

Haven shook his head and laughed at them before returning to Priscilla and Haven.

***

"We found her in the woods," Haven announced as Mr. Ashby hugged his daughter vigorously.

"I told you, sweetie, the woods are a dangerous place. This I why I enforced your curfew and told you not to go there." He didn't sound angry... rather, his tone was very matter-of-fact.

"But, father--"

"Priscilla..."

"Look," Haven chimed in. He then explained the whole story.

Weatherby finished with, "She's a beautiful, courageous young lady, not a little girl. You can't be so restrictive."

Mr. Ashby thought about it. "I... I suppose you're right," he agreed, defeated. "Fine, Priscilla, I revoke my ban on letting you into the woods alone. I guess I can... also lessen your curfew."

"Thanks, father," she said with a smile, and the pair hugged again.

"As for you two," the Aisha started, turning toward Haven and Weatherby. "You, apparently, realized my daughter was missing before even I had. That takes skill." He smiled before continuing. "I want you two to be my family's private detectives from now on."

Visions flew before Haven's eyes as a bewildered excitement fell upon him.

"You will certainly be famous, here in Neovia and beyond. Plus I'll pay you a fair amount, including--"

"Deal!" Haven interrupted as he went to shake Mr. Ashby's hand.

"Terrific!" Ashby exclaimed. "I've been looking for a great sleuth for a while, now, and... well, for your next assignment, I wish you two to investigate where my Prigpants Summer Collection from Y12 has disappeared to."

Haven and Weatherby exchanged glances. They then smiled at each other.

This was going to be a most excellent life...

The End

Author: rielcz
Date: Dec 21st



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