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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 24th day of Eating, Yr 21
The Neopian Times Week 75 > Short Stories > The Phantom Healer

The Phantom Healer

by in_the_shadows_light

          'Tis the will of the breeze takes us over the seas,
          We will sail by sun and by moon!
          By night and by day we will sail on our way,
          In search of those shining dubloons!'

     The voice paused before the chorus. It was a female, slightly timid voice, more suited to lullabies than Krawk Island's famous sea shanties. The song seemed to come from everywhere at once in the tall and silent forest.

     Antikia the Shoyru stepped out of the bushes and into a clearing. A pair of light faeries was circling her head, prompting her to continue in thin high voices.

     "But I can't remember any more of the verses!" Antikia protested. The faeries, however, continued their protests. "Oh, all right. One more chorus." Antikia gave in, and opened her mouth to sing.

          'Yo, ho! Yo, ho!
          Over the brine and over the foam,
          By night and by day we will sail on our way,
          In search of those shining dubloons.'

     The light faeries giggled, fluttering around her head a few more times before vanishing into the treetops. Antikia smiled after them.

     Most neopets coveted the little faeries for the blessings they could give. To Antikia, they were just friends. It had been that way ever since she could remember, when she was left at the Faerie Queen's doorstep as a baby. The Queen had taken pity on her, and Antikia had grown up among the faeries.

     As she grew older, she took an interest in the healing arts: spending long hours with the Water Faerie learning the secret ingredients of healing potions, researching the properties of plants in ancient and dusty books. The books contained tales of far away places: the Lost Desert, the Haunted Woods, Terror Mountain.

     She began to find life in the palace boring, becoming restless for a change in routine. The Queen noticed her discontent, and in order to satisfy the Shoyru's love of healing and fascination with the outdoors, gave her the honour of tending to the Healthshrooms in her secret forest.

     Antikia loved the forest. It was shadowy, cool in summer but warm in winter, and there was always something new to do - planting seedlings, asking the Earth faeries to tend a patch of Healthshrooms, picking the ripe ones and sending them all over Neopia. Her Healthshrooms supplied the Water Faerie, the Apothecary in the Haunted woods, and a myriad other places.

     She listened to the sounds of the forest. Shoyru's had good hearing, and Antikia could hear the whisper of wind in the trees, the bell-like chatter of distant faeries, the slight gurgle of a nearby spring. The familiar noises were reassuring.

     But then she heard something else, something that shouldn't have been there. It was a tearing sound, quiet as a whisper but distinctive in its way: the sound of a Healthshroom being picked. But who could be here? No one knew about this forest except for herself and the faeries. And whoever it was, they were stealing the Healthshrooms... She listened harder, trying to locate the sound. It was coming from her right.

     Timidly she turned. The bush wasn't too thick, and she could probably push through it... but what if it was someone dangerous? Maybe she should go get one of the Faeries. The Queen would know what to do if someone was stealing Healthshrooms.

     But by the time they got back, the thief might have gone. She had to go and see who was there, and she had to do it now. Antikia couldn't bear the thought of failing in her responsibility.

     Heart pounding, she pushed her way cautiously through the bushes, trying to make as little noise as possible. She barely dared breathe. Holding back a branch and stepping delicately to avoid breaking any twigs, she peered out through the leaves to see the Ghost Lupe.

     Antikia had seen him once before when taking the Water Faerie her Healthshrooms. He had materialised from thin air and healed one of the injured pets in the queue, then vanished again. Apart from that, she knew nothing about him.

     She backed away, suddenly realising that although he may be a ghost there was a very definite possibility of him hurting her. The Queen would know what to do...

     There was a sudden loud crack. A twig below her foot had broken.

     The Ghost Lupe looked up, pushing the picked Healthshrooms aside where he could defend them better. "Who's there?" he asked. His accent was strange, but the threatening tone in his voice was unmistakable.

     Antikia had no choice but to show herself, pushing timidly out of the foliage. She tried to look brave. "They're the Faerie Queen's Healthshrooms," she said, her voice higher and thinner than normal. "You shouldn't be picking them."

     The Lupe snarled at her, and Antikia's heart thudded almost out of her chest. He bent low to the ground. "I need them," he hissed.

     Antikia stood still, petrified, too afraid that if she ran, he would chase her. She gathered her last bit of courage, and said in a stuttering voice, "L...leave them a...a...alone." She beat her wings, taking off to hover a few inches in the air. "I'm going to get the Faerie Queen."

     The Lupe roared and leapt. For an instant he was in the air, a translucent grey mass of strength and muscle. Then he landed on her, knocking her flat, head crashing down through twigs and leaves to hit the ground painfully.

     When she opened her eyes, it was to be met with a snarling Lupe. Just looking like a ghost apparently made him no less solid.

     "Don't go and get her," the Lupe growled, and Antikia was surprised to hear a note of fear in his voice.

     "Get off me!" she pleaded, her voice a squeak. The Ghost Lupe snarled, holding her down with his two front paws.

     Antikia was certain for a minute that she was going to faint. She saw two dots of light dancing at the edge of her vision, and felt as if the world was rushing away from her.

     The dots of light started chattering in high voices, and Antikia blinked. They weren't dots of light at all, she realised, and with a surge of hope she recognised her friends the light faeries, their voices angry. They began circling the Lupe's head, using bright flashes of light to distract him.

     The Ghost Lupe glanced at them, baring his teeth. Without warning he lashed out, grabbing one of them in his teeth. Antikia screamed, but the light faerie wasn't so easily defeated. She let out a blinding Sun Ray, and the Ghost Lupe let go, whimpering. He scuttled backwards to his pile of stolen Healthshrooms, leaving Antikia and the faeries alone.

     But the Purple Shoyru had gained confidence from her friends' victory. "Leave them alone! They're not yours!" she shouted, leaping to her feet and running over to tug the Healthshrooms away.

     She was surprised to see a ghostly tear drop from the Ghost Lupe's eye. "Please," he whimpered, "I need them..."

     It said a lot for Antikia's kind nature that instead of merely snatching the Healthshrooms away, she was moved by the Lupe's obvious distress. "Why do you need them?" she asked curiously. The light faeries circled her head, warning her in their chirruping voices. She hushed them impatiently.

     The Ghost Lupe bowed his head in resignation. He sat on the ground, looked Antikia in the eye, and began to speak.

     "A long time ago, I was known throughout Neopia as a brave Lupe Knight. I fought the creatures of evil, aiding in the attempts to drive them out of Neopia forever. I was married to my one true love," he smiled, closing his eyes and remembering, "Emmeline. She was beautiful, and kind, and caring..."

     The Ghost Lupe opened his eyes, and now they were filled with anger. "We were on Mystery Island, looking for the Swamp Ghoul. The natives found us as were searching by the shore. They attacked us and... killed my Emmeline."

     The Ghost Lupe paused, turning his head to one side in an attempt to hide a tear. Despite the fact that he had attacked her only a minute ago, Antikia felt sorry for him. Even the light faeries had settled on her shoulders to listen, and she saw one of them wipe away a tear made entirely of glowing light.

     "When I realised I was a ghost, I vowed to avenge Emmeline's death. I vowed that I would roam Neopia, healing injured pets in hopes that I might prevent someone else suffering the same loss that I had, and that wherever I saw a native of Mystery Island, I would attack them. I have wandered Neopia for centuries." He stood, and paced back and forth across the clearing.

     "My ability to Heal has become weaker and weaker over the years, and recently it's stopped working altogether. I have to fulfil my vow! So I need these Healthshrooms, to continue healing the pets. Don't you see?"

     Antikia nodded. She felt intensely sympathetic towards the Ghost Lupe. Imagine wandering Neopia for all those years... "I wish I could help... but these Healthshrooms aren't mine, they're the Queen's. She'd be angry with me if I just gave them away."

     The Ghost Lupe nodded. "I see." Dejectedly, he began to hover in mid air, rising almost instantly to the height of the treetops.

     "Wait!" shouted Antikia. "I have an idea!"

     The Lupe looked down at her. "What?"

     She opened her wings, flying upwards to join him. She was sure this idea would work, it had to...

     "You say your healing ability has stopped? Couldn't the Water Faerie get it back?" she asked, face flushed with excitement.

     The Ghost Lupe nodded slowly. "Yes... but she'd never help me."

     "She would if I asked," Antikia persisted. "I'm her friend."

     The Lupe looked doubtful. "Well I suppose we could try..."

     Twenty minutes later, they were flying through the centre of Faerieland. People glanced curiously at the Purple Shoyru, Ghost Lupe and pair of light faeries that flew overhead in a mad rush. Someone tried to bottle one of the faeries in a jar, but one look at the Ghost Lupe's snarling face and they backed off hastily.

     "There's the Healing Springs!" Antikia pointed to their destination. The queue to see the Water Faerie was long, stretching right to the edge of the cloud. More people waited to join the queue on the neighbouring cloud, where a shop proudly proclaimed that Faerie Petpets were for sale.

     "Looks pretty crowded," the Ghost Lupe commented.

     Antikia ignored him, flying straight over the queue to where the Water Faerie was seated on a rock, her mermaid tail flashing in the sunlight.

     "Antikia!" the Faerie exclaimed. "I meant to talk to you: I need to order more Healthshrooms. They run out really quickly."

     The Shoyru nodded. "Can we speak to you for a few minutes? It's important..."

     "We?" questioned the Faerie. She looked around and saw the Ghost Lupe hovering in the air a little way behind Antikia. "Ah, you. You've been making a lot of work for me recently; there's been a lot of Mystery Island pets coming up here with stories..." She trailed off, raising a menacing eyebrow.

     The Lupe frowned, and seemed about to break into another account of Emmeline. Antikia cut in.

     "He vowed to attack them all long ago when they killed his wife. But he wants to help the other pets; only his Healing ability has worn out. Can you help him?"

     The Water Faerie frowned. "I don't think so... once an ability's worn out it can't be replaced."

     The Ghost Lupe hung his head dejectedly. "What am I going to do?" he asked miserably. Antikia felt as dejected as he looked. She had been so certain the Water faerie could help.

     "I suppose..." began the Water Faerie. She waved a hand at the queue. "I could use some help around here, as you can see. It gets very busy sometimes. Would you like to work as my assistant? You don't need the healing ability, you can just hand out Healing Potions and Healthshrooms."

     The Lupe's head snapped up. "Do you really mean it?" he asked.

     "I suppose so." The Water Faerie smiled. "And when there aren't many people you can heal the pets around Neopia that can't get here. Just one thing: no attacking anyone while you're working. All right?"

     The Ghost Lupe considered this. "All right." He smiled at the Faerie, beaming with happiness.

     "Come along then, there's lots to be done..." The Water Faerie went back to the Striped Kiko who had been waiting patiently in line.

     "After all," the Lupe whispered to Antikia, "she didn't say anything about attacking them when I'm not working..."

     Antikia laughed. She had a feeling the Ghost Lupe would do very well here.

The End

Authors Note: The character Antikia was based on a real Neopian: she's featured on collectable card number 22.

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