Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 107,223,896 Issue: 214 | 28th day of Collecting, Y7
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Shadow Bars

by cpmtiger


Valli opened her front door excitedly. The Draik let the crisp, night air wash over her, tingling her orange scales. Looking up at the dark sky, Valli saw that Kreludor was covered in wispy, silver-gray clouds. She grinned as she pushed her pointed black hat out of her eyes. It was the perfect Halloween night.

      "Mom! I'm heading out!" Valli called.

     A tall golden Draik came to the door. She was dressed up as a royal Draik, carrying a purple bowl of candy. She smiled at her daughter and asked, "You've got your pillowcase?"

     Valli nodded and held up the red case. "I've got a lantern, too," she added, holding up a green paneled lantern. A single candle flickered inside.

     "Good," Valli's mother said, rearranging her headdress. "Now remember, follow all the trick-or-treat rules. Stick with your friend. Don't wander off. Try not to stay out too late. And don't eat any candy before I've got the chance to check it!"

     "Okay," Valli said impatiently.

     Glancing at the clock, her mother said, "Aren't you supposed to pick up Barron at eight forty-five?"

     Valli nodded. "Yeah, I'd better go. Bye mom!" She ran out the door, an excited grin spreading over her face. She was dressed as a witch this year, wearing a black, pointed hat, a long, midnight colored robe with an equally black belt, and tall black boots. In the robe's massive pockets were a wooden 'potion-stirring' spoon, a fake wand, and an old spell book.

     Valli rounded the corner, breaking into a trot. She stopped at the third house on the left. It was a two-story house, painted gold and blue. Running up the porch steps and pounding on the door, Valli looked around at the street's decorations. Fake tombstones, ghosts, pumpkins, and ceramic heads of Neopian bad guys dotted the lawns. The Draik's grin widened. She loved Halloween.

      The door opened, and a Lenny peered out at Valli. Valli's best friend Barron was pretty weird. He wasn't much of a reader, like the rest of his species. Barron preferred doing things as opposed to reading about them. Unlike other male Lennies, who wanted to be Mutant or Darigan, Barron wanted to be painted Faerie.

     That fact showed more than ever tonight. "What d'you think?" Barron asked, stepping onto the porch and spinning in a quick circle. He smiled, orange beak shimmering in the faint moonlight.

     Valli laughed. "It must've taken forever!"

     Barron was elaborately dressed as a faerie Lenny. Almost all of his normally red feathers were dyed bright green. Long, fake feathers were attached to the real ones on his tail with bits of wire.

     Barron nodded. "I spent over an hour just getting the tail feathers on."

     "Ready to go?" Valli asked.

     "Just a sec." Barron opened the door, and grabbed a dark green pillowcase from the front table. "Hey Dad!" he called. "Valli's here!"

     A teenage human appeared in the front room. Unlike most of the pets

     Valli knew, Barron lived with a human.

     "Don't stay out too late," the boy warned.

     "We won't," Barron assured him. "C'mon," he said to Valli.

     With a quick wave to Barron's owner, the Draik and Lenny ran off the porch and back to the corner.

     "Which way, Val?" Barron asked, eyes wide and excited.

     Valli pointed to a street past Barron's. "They give out good candy over there."

     Barron licked his beak. "Sounds good!"

     The first house on the street was strung with fake Spyder webs. Small, comic Pant Devils and Money Tree ghosts were propped up with metal stands. Barron almost tripped over a fake tombstone. Two poorly carved pumpkins sat grinning on the front porch. Valli knocked on the door, while Barron moved his pillowcase from his wing to his beak. The door opened, revealing a smiling purple Yurble.

     "Trick-or-Treat!" Valli shouted.

     "Ick-or-Eat!" Barron called around his beakful of pillowcase.

     The Yurble reached into her blue candy bowl, and dumped some candy into the awaiting pillowcases. "Enjoy!" she said, before waving and disappearing into the house.

     Barron spit his pillowcase out. "Bleh. We shouldn't use so much soap on these!"

      Valli rolled her eyes. "You knew you were gonna carry it in your beak! Why didn't you rinse it out?"

     Barron made a face. "I didn't know my owner used so much!"

     "Then just take out a wire and string it through the case."

     "No way!' the Lenny cried.

     "Then deal with it!" Valli said exasperatedly.

     About an hour later, Valli and Barron had trick-or-treated several blocks to the left of Barron's house. As they passed Valli's street, they saw a mutant Tonu limbering toward them. Valli and Barron slowed as he approached, and recognized him as Spike, one of their classmates.

     "Hey guys," Spike said, grinning. "Nice costumes."

     "Where's yours?" Barron asked.

     Spike's smile widened, revealing all of his sharp teeth. "Don't need one. When ya look like this, no costume's gonna make you look scarier." His eyes suddenly lit up.

     "Hey, didja guys go down to the old house street yet?"

     Mystified, Valli shook her head. "Why would we? Nobody there gives out candy."

     Spike winked knowingly. "Someone is tonight."

     "Really?" Barron asked.

     "Really," Spike confirmed. "Go on down if you want. Me, I've got more T-O-Ting to do."

     Once the Tonu had left, Valli turned to Barron. "Should we check it out?"

     Barron shrugged. "No reason not to."

     So Valli and Barron headed toward the place called Old House Street.

     As its name suggested, the street was famous for its old, mostly abandoned houses. Enormous houses complete with rattling doors and crooked windows, sprawled across vast, weedy lawns. The few trees that were there never had any leaves, even in the summer. When Valli had first trick-or-treated there, she'd gone all the way down the street, finding only empty houses and old pets who didn't give out candy.

     Tonight, the street was filled with more Neopets than Valli had ever seen on a single street. "Looks like we weren't the only ones Spike told about the candy," Valli remarked.

     "Probably someone else told him," Barron suggested, looking around at the crowds.

     "That's where everyone's headed," Valli said, stopping and pointing at one of the houses. She and Barron ran forwards, stopping in the middle of the lawn.

     A large, tan chair was on the porch. Inside the chair was a shadowy, blurred figure that looked like a human. A silver bowl sat on the figure's dark lap. With a quick glance at each other, Valli and Barron ran onto the porch.

     Without a word, the figure dropped a large candy bar into each of the pillowcases. Curiosity overwhelming her, Valli moved her lantern forward. Her eyes widened, and Barron had to tug at her robe to get the Draik off the porch.

     As soon as they were far enough away form the figure, Valli yanked Barron into the bushes bordering the path leading to the house.

     "What?" asked Barron in surprise.

     Valli whispered, "I moved my lamp forward to get a better look at him."


     "Nothing happened."

     Barron blinked. "What?"

     "It was still a shadow! My lantern was about five inches from his face, and he was just as shadowy as before!"

     Barron shook his head. "Oh, come on, Val!"

     "I'm not kidding!" Valli growled. "And it wasn't my imagination, either!" She opened her pillowcase and dug through it.

     "What're you looking for?" Barron asked.

     Valli emerged from the pillowcase, clutching a candy bar. "This's what he gave us," she said, reading the label and frowning. "Shadow Bar?"

     Barron shrugged. "Never heard of them."

     "What's weird," Valli said slowly, "is that the label has no decoration. Just 'SHADOW BAR' in plain old letters."

     Barron took the candy bar and studied the white wrapper. "So?"

     "It's not like other candy bars!" Valli snapped. She leaned forward to snatch the bar. The large, brown spell book fell out of her pocket.

     Valli picked it up, absentmindedly turning the pages. "I'm telling you, Barron," she said, "Every candy's at least got the company's name on-"

     Valli gasped, staring at a page in the book. "Barron!" she said. "Look at this!"

     The Lenny frowned, but moved behind his friend and peered over her shoulder. He blinked, then looked from the porch to the book.

     "No…" he said at last.

     "Yes," Valli said firmly, leaning forward.

      The page Valli had turned to had a drawing of a shadowy, human shaped figure sitting in a chair. Just like the one on the porch! Above the picture, in large, fancy cursive, were the words "HALLOWEEN SHADOW".

      Valli ran a claw along the text beneath the picture. " 'Halloween Shadows'," she read, " 'Are among the most obvious dangers, but one of the most easily dismissed. They are, however, fairly easy to get rid of. The Shadows sit on the porch of an abandoned house on Halloween nights, with a silver bowl on their lap. The figure remains shadow even when light is placed very near it. The treats Shadows give out, however, are the most dangerous aspect of the Shadows. If the Shadow isn't defeated by midnight, all who eat the candy will become Shadows themselves. The name of the candy is…"

      Valli stopped. "That part's been washed away. Looks like someone spilled water on it." She looked at Barron. "Wanna bet it says 'Shadow Bars'?"

      Barron let out a shuddering sigh. "It's not necessarily true…"

     Valli glared at him. "How can you believe that? It all adds up! You want me to read the description again?!"

     Barron rolled his eyes and sighed. "Fine," he admitted. "So it does sound like a Shadow. What's it say about getting rid of them?"

     Valli turned back to the book and read, " 'To defeat a Shadow, you must do the following: light a…a…"

     "A what?" Barron asked anxiously.

     "It's blurred again!" Valli said angrily. "There's a 'T', but that's all I can make out!"

     Barron clacked his beak in annoyance. "What's next?" he asked.

     "Wait until Kreludor is completely uncovered. The Shadow will be weakest then. Take your weapon and throw it into the…"

     "Another missing word?" Barron groaned.

     "Yep," Valli confirmed, tail thrashing angrily. "Just a 'B' and I think a 'C'. And there's an 'rs' at the end."

     "What's next?"

     Valli's frown deepened. "Remove your weapon and throw it at the Shadow. These steps must be done in the right order and before midnight, or the candy bars will turn all who eat them into Shadow." She smacked the book angrily. "That'd be way more helpful if we knew what the weapon was, and what we're supposed to do with it!"

     "The time'd be helpful, too," Barron added. "Too bad nobody's invented a clock that fits around your wrist or something."

     Just then, a voice from the street behind Old House floated toward the two pets.

     "Mo-om, I was only late by ten minutes!"

     "It was twenty!" a woman's voice snapped. "It's half-past eleven!"

     "Don't say anything," Valli advised, not wanting to ruin their good luck.

     "All right," she whispered to Barron. "We've got a half hour to figure this out."

     "Okay," Barron said nervously. "Let's try and figure out 'T'."

     "Thick? Trick? Tail?" Valli suggested.

     "Tree? Tire? Tornado?"

     "Wait," Valli said. "It has to be thrown, remember? We can't throw a tree or tornado."

     "Oh. Yeah," Barron said.

     Valli thought for a moment. "Starts with a T…you set it on fire…a torch?"

     "Yeah!" Barron said excitedly. "A torch!"

     "How about BC?"

     "Maybe it's not a C…" Barron suggested.

     "Then what could it be?" Valli asked.

     Barron thought a moment. "An O," he said at last. "B…o…Bowl!"

     "The bowl of Shadow Bars!" Valli finished in an excited whisper.

     Turning back to the book, Valli read, " 'To defeat a Shadow, you must do the following: light a torch. Wait until Kreludor is completely uncovered. The Shadow will be weakest then. Take your weapon and throw it into the bowl of Shadow Bars. Remove your weapon and throw it at the Shadow. These steps must be done in the right order and before midnight, or the candy bars will turn all who eat them into Shadow."

     "That's it!" Barron said. His face fell. "But what're we gonna use for a torch?"

     Valli plunged a clawed hand into her robe's pocket. She pulled out the wand.

     "Light this with the candle," she instructed. Barron blinked, then grabbed the lantern, opening it carefully. Valli began to stick the tip into the lantern, but Barron held out a wing.

     "Wait," he said, looking up. "The moon's still got some clouds on it."

     Valli sighed and pulled back. They waited as a small cloud floated across the sky.

     "It's almost gone," Barron reported. "But we've lost at least twenty minutes."

     "Let's hurry then!" Valli hissed. She stuck the wand into the lantern, and it immediately burst into flames. Running out of the bushes, she shouted, "You throw, I'll pull it out!"

     Barron nodded, grabbing the torch in his beak and hurling it toward the bowl. It landed inside, and the Shadow leapt up, hissing and screeching as the candy in his bowl burned. It tried to pull the torch out, but couldn't get close enough to the burning 'wand'.

     Valli leapt up the stairs and plunged her hand into the bowl, pulling the torch out and leaping away from the Shadow as it swiped at her. Claws were growing from the creature's shadowy hands.

     Barron clambered up the stairs behind Valli, ready to take the torch and throw it. But the Shadow lifted the heavy chair, and hurled it at Barron. Barron drew back, but not before his right foot became trapped in the chair's heavy leg. There was no time to help him; the Shadow was advancing on Valli.

     Aiming carefully, Valli hurled the torch at the Shadow. She grinned as it headed right toward it. The smile faded to a horrified expression as it veered to the left, missing the Shadow and striking the porch railing.

     The wood burst into flames. The Shadow whirled around, shrieking as flames landed on it's body. Valli ran over to Barron, and helped the Lenny move the chair leg.

     "Let's go!" Barron shouted, darting off the porch, Valli inches behind him.

     They turned around to watch once they'd reached the street. The house was covered in flames. Several shadowy shapes appeared in the sky; Shadow Bars, and the Shadow itself, immobile now.

     Before Valli and Barrons' amazed eyes, the many Shadow Bars vanished in wisps of smoke, followed by the Shadow, whose form hung in the air for several seconds before dispersing.

     After a moment of stunned silence, Valli said, "You know what? I don't think I'll complain when Mom checks my candy this year."

The End

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