Darkness Gathering: Part Five
While Shine recovered, he wove in and out of
sleep. In his waking moments he would remember the pain and the mirror. When
sleep found him, his dreams were of his brother even more so than before. Many
times, Supernova had to soothe him after he awoke, trying to convince him, like
Harmony once did, that his dream was just a dream.
After about a week, Shine, though still slightly
injured, was fit for travel. Supernova an he made their way to the harbor, where
they paid for tickets on a boat that would lead them to the Haunted woods.
"Shine, I don't know about this," said Supernova,
skeptically. They were about to depart. "Maybe we should get off before the
boat pulls out. It's one thing going into an old abandoned house, and its another
to go to a place we know is haunted."
Shine laughed. He was enjoying the wind in his
fur. "Nova, don't worry. I have a very good feeling about this!"
"Lighten up, Nova!"
Supernova did not answer. She looked at the line
of boats, all going to different destinations. All the other boats were much
more crowded then theirs. She sighed.
The boat slowly pulled out of the dock, leading
a narrow line of boats. All the passengers were waving merrily to their friends.
This made Supernova feel alone. It did not boost her self-confidence. Her best
friend might be leading himself into a trap, and there was nothing she could
do to persuade him not to go through with it.
The waves beat against the side of the ship.
Sea foam sprayed in Shine's face, but he did not close his eyes. He was too
excited. Supernova my be nervous, but Shine's mood hadn't been better since
he left. He might actually be on the right path. Wherever his brother was in
Neopia, Shine would find him.
The sun was setting in Shine's face when he first
saw the shore. Supernova saw it too. It did not look inviting. There were three
major landmarks. To the far right, rolling and slightly forested hills. The
kingdom of Meridell. On the other side were sandy dunes; that must be the Lost
Desert. But dead ahead were trees that were untouched by the fading light. Shadows
were long and lights were few.
The Haunted woods loomed ever closer as the boat
sailed steadily on. Shine looked determinedly to the approaching horizon, and
Supernova frowned with foreboding. When they pulled into the dock, she could
not suppress a shiver.
As Shine got off the boat, he found that fear
was unavoidable in this part of Neopia. Even though he thought for sure he would
not show any signs of fear, he found his heart beat faster and that his knees
might buckle any moment. There was nothing he could do.
He was afraid.
Then he remembered the face of the Gelert in
the mirror. It swam before his eyes as if he could really see it again. This
illusion beaconed him toward the forest, where the trees were black in the twilight
and gnarled into grotesque shapes. It was almost if he no longer had control
over what he was doing and he pelted towards the shadowy trees.
Supernova was still taking in the new atmosphere
when Shine ran. She had to follow him, of course. He had chosen to take her
along after all. Harmony was counting on her to bring him back safe. As she
pursued him, she gave off a golden light.
Though Shine could see Supernova out of the corner
of his eye, he made no effort to meet up with her. He could easily lose her
in the forest. A part of him wondered why he wanted to lose her, but he repressed
this instinct. Though at the time he didn't realize it, he was being controlled.
Some other force was at work, altering his thinking.
At first, Supernova thought she was going to
catch up with the dark shadow ahead of her that was Shine, but then he turned
suddenly, and she had not followed closely enough. She had lost him, and in
this forest, that could be fatal. There was only one option, to go back for
help. Hopefully she was not completely lost. She made back in the way she had
come. Thankfully, she was about to meet some people who had come off the next
incoming boat who were more than willing to help…In fact they were on a quest
of their own.
Shine was still running when he ran into the
swamp his paws sank into the muddy ground. Though his progress was slowed, he
did not stop. He floundered along through the mud following the illusion of
the ghostly Gelert. But then it faded. Shine stopped, knee-high in the quagmire.
Then he heard it.
High maniacal laughter that made the hair on
the back of his neck stand on end. He never heard anything in his life like
that voice. He began to run again, but away from the voice, back the way he
had come, but he stopped. Suddenly the laughter was all around him. He couldn't
get away. Darkness was falling around him like a spell. Then, with a jolt, he
realized that it was a spell.
He tripped. His still part-injured leg gave way
and he fell into darkness. The Laughter was still ringing in his ears. Was this
going to be last thing he heard? He felt that all his will and strength were
leaving him. He lay his head down and thought no more.
He woke up in a cage. He didn't seem to be any
more hurt than he was before he fainted, though a bit more confused. Where am
I? Shine thought, but then a figure was coming toward the bars behind which
he stood. What -?
"Do you remember me, little one?" said the voice.
It was familiar.
"Barely," Shine replied. "Who are you?"
The voice laughed. He recognized it. Shine gasped
and said, "You are the one who lured me here. You gave me the illusion of the
ghost Gelert and laughed at me in the forest. You are some kind of enchantress!"
She stepped into the light. She was a dark faerie,
skilled in the arts of trickery and deceit. She was horrifyingly ugly. She smiled
and said, "Soon you will be just like the other occupant of your cage. Cursed
"So I am just another test subject for your wicked
spells?" Shine yelled, "That is why you brought me here? Nothing more?"
"That is, indeed, your fate." She walked away.
At this point, Shine turned and looked at the
other neopet in the cage, but the back of the cage was in complete darkness
and he couldn't see. Then, hopelessness overcame him and he fell. Silent tears
raced down his face.
"So now your quest is at an end." The ghost in
the shadows spoke.
"Y-yes," Shine said. "I've failed."
"I said it had ended," said the voice, kinder,
"I never said it had failed."
Shine turned again and stared into the darkness
gathering, toward the voice. "Who are you?"
The Ghost stepped out of the shadows and was
revealed. Shine recognized him at once for the Gelert he had seen in the mirror.
Pale teal fur that was semitransparent gleamed in the dying moonlight. His nose
was dark, his eyes over bright, as if he were close to tears. Shine stared at
the eyes in the dark face.
They were scarlet.
But there was more. There were two thin bite-marks
on the Gelert's left ear and a single thin scar over his right eye. Something
Shine didn't recognize, though, was what looked like a triangular shard of a
broken mirror on a chain around his neck.
It was Blase.
Shine rushed into his little brother's embrace,
but then fell on the floor. His brother truly wasn't alive anymore. "Wh-What
happened," Shine stammered.
Blase smiled a sad smile. Though he was different,
his voice, like his eyes, remained the same. "A few weeks after I had left the
pound, my owner didn't come home from her work. It was the next day she walked
through the door, completely different. She had traded her beautiful looks to
other darkness faeries and she became the faerie you saw today. She was evil
and powerful beyond reason. At first it seemed she still cared for me. But her
power overcame her. She wanted to see me crawl."
"The only thing I loved since I left the pound
was her floor length mirror, for it made me see who I truly was on the inside,
a fire Gelert with golden flames instead of red, who I had always truly wanted
to be. After my owner's transformation, she caught me looking in the mirror
and saw that I was good, not evil like she. She shattered the mirror into pieces
and left me to cry on the floor."
"She came back later with a potion to turn my
like this; a ghost and a shadow of my former self. I remember her forcing it
down my throat. Then she locked me in the mirror-room and never came back for
"I looked into one of the mirror's magnificent
shards, this one in fact," he said, holding up the broken glass that caught
the moonlight. Shine remembered that the mirror was missing a piece when he
looked into it. "And it still reflected the golden-fire Gelert that I knew I
could now never be. I began repairing the mirror. Piece by piece, shard by shard.
Now it is complete, and stands in the house, but I kept this piece as I began
to search for my owner."
"I've seen it," Shine said.
"And I fear we will never see any bit but this,"
he pointed at the broken glass, "again. But I'm not finished yet. I began to
look for my owner, for I thought she could be cured. I was wrong. When I found
her here, she imprisoned me in this cage and sent visions of me to lure you
"Now we are together, but I fear we will be stuck
in this accursed cage forever." And he began to cry. He may not be able to be
touched or felt, but his tears were real enough. They still expressed his grief,
his pain. Something stirred in Shine's memory.
Tell me, Shine. Do you believe that ghosts can
To be continued...