The Battle of the Lucky Coin: Supplemental Text - Part One
"Hush," the Wocky warned in a harsh whisper to his partners.
"We may not be alone here."
The job of Ghoul Catcher is every bit as stressful
as it implies. So why, after countless close encounters with Neopia's most dubious
spirits, and as many revivals of his fainting cohorts in the aftermath of these
encounters, did brave Bren (the Wocky) still insist on doing it? Well, he's
never actually said so explicitly because he's never been asked, but if you
were to ask him, he would say it was in fact the thrills that went along with
that very stress. His job is one that most Neopians would be unwilling to undertake,
and with that bravery there comes a sense of pride in what he and his two partners
do, for even though they fainted on the job constantly, Bren was nonetheless
aware of their unwavering loyalty to him, and he admired their peculiar kind
of courage in doing so.
"If we happen to be not alone, Mr. Bren," whispered
Dr. Boolin the Kiko, "let us hope that whoever else is here is sleeping,"
The other member of the party was Professor
Vinsjin (a Kacheek), who at that very moment had been asking himself how anyone,
or anything, could sleep amid the howling Haunted Woods wind bullying its way
through the black trees taking dead leaves and dust with it in the process.
Were he listening more carefully to the exchange between Bren and the Doctor,
the Professor would have realized that they were not whispering as quietly as
they believed they were, in their attempts to hear each other over the relentless
Bren had been advising his cohorts to stay close
together when Professor Vinsjin's eye caught a gleam of metal generated by the
moonlight and persevering through a tight tangle of branches a short walk away
from where the trio were conversing. Vinsjin was squinting his eyes and leaning
towards the gleam to verify its presence when Bren turned to him and asked what
it was he saw.
"Oh I wish I hadn't been the one to see this,"
thought the Professor. "We have certainly been in some frightening spots before
but I reckon this is certainly the worst. I mean, how many places in Neopia
are actually called Haunted? And what terrible things could we hope to find
out here, or even worse, what could find us? Oh, what could Mr. Bren have been
imagining when he..."
"Professor," Bren snapped, "what is it you see?"
Vinsjin, brought back to his senses, pointed
meekly in the direction of the shining metal. "Excellent, Professor," said Bren.
"There is something in behind those trees. With a little luck, we may have come
across an old tomb. Let's investigate."
Bren's experience in such matters served him
well, for when they arrived at the source of the light, it in fact turned out
to be a casket that caught the Professor's eye with its reflection of the moon's
rays. Bren wiped away the debris revealing a shine that was surprisingly intact
despite the harsh weather conditions of the woods. This was nowhere near surprising,
however, as the discovery of an inscription on the casket's lid. In bold lettering
it said: TELL ME WHAT THIS OBJECT IS, BOLD TRAVELLER, AND WAKE ME FROM THIS
ACCURSED SLUMBER: THE MAKER DOESN'T WANT IT, THE BUYER DOESN'T KEEP IT, AND
THE OWNER DOESN'T SEE IT.
After several seconds of silence, Dr. Boolin
was the first to speak. "Well," he said, "a riddle. Unfortunately riddles are
not our business, so let us carry on with ghoul catching, shall we?" And with
that, they turned to leave.
"Now hold on, Doctor," said Bren, guiding him
back with his hand. "The business of ghoul catching depends just as much on
the wits as it does the eyes, if not more. And if our experiences have taught
us anything, it's that the uncovering of spirits rarely occurs without the involvement
of obstacles. As this unfortunate fellow speaks of an accursed slumber, I feel
it is our duty to try and help him, so we shall remain here and attempt to solve
this riddle that has been left behind."
The Doctor and Professor both groaned to themselves.
"A most noble and excellent idea, Mr. Bren," said Professor Vinsjin.
The trio stood in silence for some time afterward,
as Bren set about the mental task of deciphering the riddle that apparently
would free the tomb's contents of its curse. Dr. Boolin, meanwhile, set about
the task of disregarding the flickering crow's wings and owl's hoots that descended
on his ears from the trees above. His head swivelled from one direction to the
next as swirling objects all around him constantly caught his eyes. "Please,
oh please, let it be blowing leaves I keep seeing, and not the tails of vicious
and malicious little animals scurrying past me," he thought.
Professor Vinsjin was also preoccupied. "Oh
I hope Mr. Bren knows what he is doing," he thought, "for what if the spirit
turns out to be less kind than he believes? What if this riddle is a trick meant
to wake some vicious and malicious creature from the past and set him free..."
"Professor," snapped Bren, "you and the Doctor
here look scared out of your wits. This is a time to be strong and hopeful,
for not only do we have the chance to communicate with a spirit, we have the
chance to perform a good deed by breaking his curse. I feel a strong connection
to whoever is in there. I feel he is a good soul in need of our assistance."
As was often the case with the Professor, he
was spooked by Bren's apparent ability to know what he was thinking. "My thoughts
exactly, Mr. Bren," he said.
Hours passed, and the Ghoul Catchers - now quite
cold but spurred on by Bren's enthusiasm to solve the riddle - continued to
pace around the metal casket, for even Bren himself was unwilling to sit on
the ground for fear of contact with dangerous insects (his partners remained
on foot for fear of contact with any insects). Then the sun came up, the winds
died down, and the ominous birds above flew elsewhere. The breaking of day proved
to be a source of inspiration for Bren, for he was suddenly hit with the realization
that the answer to the tomb's riddle was right there in the wording itself.
"It says to tell him what the object is!" exclaimed
Bren, startling the Doctor and Professor, who were looking skyward and admiring
the silhouettes of the beautiful black crows against the sunshine. "What this
object happens to be is the item described in the riddle: THE MAKER DOESN'T
WANT IT, THE BUYER DOESN'T KEEP IT, AND THE OWNER DOESN'T SEE IT. And that item
is a casket!"
Suddenly the item in question began to shake.
It started as a low rumble but was soon bouncing off the ground with such vigor
that even the Doctor's Kiko eyes grew bigger with astonishment. Then the lid
slammed open and up rose a figure clad in bandages that cast its eyes upon the
amazed Ghoul Catchers. From the shape of his head and the four legs that emerged,
Bren determined that it was a Ruki, just before being knocked over by the fainting
Professor, who took both his partners to the ground with him.
The Ruki's stare remained fixed upon the grovelling
trio struggling to their feet. Bren's eyes met the Ruki's eyes again and there
was a moment of heavy silence as the Ghoul Catchers sized up the bandage-laden
creature before them. Who among this fatefully assembled group would speak first?
Suddenly the Ruki's eyes tightened in a look
that froze the curse breakers right through to their very breaths. His jaw,
long inactive in his sleep, quivered and cracked as it spread wide open for
the first time in who knows how long. With his long arms raised triumphantly
over his head, his image underneath the strengthening sun's glow was grimly
menacing. Then his mouth emitted a howl that seemed to shake the very ground
below the Ghoul Catchers' feet. The Doctor fainted.
When the Ruki lowered his arms and head to meet
the saucered eyes of his petrified wakers once more, brave Bren was the first
to speak. "Good spirit," he said, "we surmised you were entranced by a sleeping
curse and sought to free you from it. My associates and I mean you no harm."
To be continued...