Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 135,120,765 Issue: 267 | 22nd day of Storing, Y8
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Everyone Has a Name: Part Four


by dark_goddess_rising

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Frank's directions proved true. The side path that would lead Demon and her Meerca to the Haunted Woods was hard to find. The break in the shrubbery wasn't human-width and the road beyond it was so littered with dead leaves that it blended in with the rest of the forest floor.

      Only the worthy are able to find it, Demon thought, her writing-mode mind kicking into action. If her logic was sound, Sruthair was the worthy one, not her.

      Looking around, the Meerca noticed there was a line though the woods to his right where no trees grew. Upon investigating, he discovered the gap in the bushes.

      Naturally, the bushes guarding the path's mouth were tall and spiky. The only way to pass them was to go through them. Demon, being the owner, took the honor of going first.

      "Ouch, ouch, ouch!" she yelped. Creeping through didn't help her avoid the prickly leaves. It just made things worse.

      Sruthair had a better idea. He raced through the gap, minimizing the time he spent squished between the thorns. Demon laughed when she saw his scratches.

      "Yours are worse, Miss 'I'm gonna move the branches out of the way and walk through the opening'," he responded, rubbing his cuts in hopes that it would make them sting less.

      "I tried something, at least." She brushed the leaves off her dirt and clothes.

      "Maybe you should try thinking a bit more before you try something," he suggested.

      "Oh, well. If that's what you think, next time I will do some thinking and you'll be on the receiving end of my diabolical plot." She tried to mimic Frank's laugh. She failed miserably.

      "You should take lessons for that, Demon. If I'm going to be stuck with you and you're going to insist on laughing evilly, please try not to embarrass me."

      "Who says you're going to be stuck with me? I might just, oh, I don't know... leave you somewhere." That playful glint was back in Demon's eyes again.

      "If you want to get rid of me, you're going the wrong way. The pound is in Neopia Central. Back through those bushes. The ones that hurt." He grinned. "And something tells me you have no desire to add to your collection of discolored skin. Pink doesn't go very well with that blue finger of yours."

      "I was thinking the same thing. At least the pink will go away eventually. It's not my favorite color by any stretch of the imagination," Demon was very vocal about some things. The color pink was among them.

      She soon became very vocal about paths hidden in the woods. The sun was sinking fast and the road around them faded with the light. Trees were the only markers. Where there were no tress, there was the path. Unfortunately, Neopian darkness was absolute. The growing shadows concealed even the trees.

      "This could be a problem," Sruthair announced the third time his owner ran into a tree.

      "Yes, I noticed." She rubbed her sore head.

      "No, not the bit about not being able to see where we're going. The bit about you running into trees. Pretty soon, you won't be able to think straight. Oh, wait. Never mind. You couldn't think straight to begin with." His laugh was the only thing that pierced the darkness.

      "That's encouraging. Is there any chance for some light?" Demon thought of everything in her bag. Maybe I could use those coins to bounce some light around. Only, there's not any light to reflect.

      "This is Neopia. Do I have to keep reminding you?" the Meerca demanded.

      "I know, I know. There's not any chance of light, right?" She turned her head from side to side, but the view didn't change. Everything was black.

      "Of course not. How could the Chia Police stop bandits if there wasn't any light? See, there's this species of petpet called Flightning Bug. All of the Chia Police officers have one. Their tails light up, keeping the roads lit at night. They're not the nicest looking petpets, but they have their uses." He tried to look around without much success. "We just have to wait for them.

      "How do you know so much?" Demon asked.

      "Listening. Watching. Living in the woods for all that time got boring, so I started exploring. You can learn a lot of stuff by listening to what people say, you know." In the darkness, Sruthair winked. It was a wasted effort.

      "So, why doesn't anyone want to go to the Haunted Woods?"

      "Because the woods are possessed. If, that is, you believe the stories." He paused for effect. "Which you shouldn't."

      "Possessed? A forest?"

      "Not the trees and plants themselves, at least not most of them. It's the creatures that live there. I'll admit it's not the safest place to be. I've heard stories of strange things happening there. The creepy sort of strange." Sruthair wished there was a campfire.

      "Strange as in people going missing and things going bump in the night?" Demon asked.

      "More like howling Werelupes and ghoulies and ghosties." Lights flashed down the main path as the petpets took up their posts. "Just a few more minutes now."

      Somewhere farther down the path, a Werelupe howled. Sruthair couldn't have planned it better. He felt the air around him change as Demon jumped.

      "Was that-?"

      "A Werelupe? Of course. More commonly known as a Halloween Lupe among those that don't frequent the Haunted Woods," he explained. The Meerca prided himself on all the hours he had spent staring into the waters of the Rainbow Pool.

      "If Werelupes are a type of Neopet, does that mean I can turn you into one?"

      "No. Well, technically you can, but you're not going to. I like being green. And being a Meerca," he added for good measure.

      I could have my own Werelupe, Demon thought, to send out at night to scare people. "Don't be too sure about that. It's tempting."

      "I am too sure about that. See, turning me from a green Meerca into a Halloween Lupe will cost you a fortune. Not a small one, either." Sruthair wondered exactly how much it would cost Demon to turn him into a Werelupe.

      "How much of a fortune?"

      The Meerca pulled a number out of the air. "Half a million, at least." It sounded good to him. The Flightning Bugs sweeping down the path illuminated the expression on Demon's face. Suddenly, Sruthair didn't care how much it would really cost.

      "Half a million? As in five hundred thousand?"

      "Yep."

      "You're joking. Who could make that much? Five hundred thousand. And I only have about a hundred." Demon couldn't imagine how much that many coins would weigh.

      "Would I joke?" he demanded, keeping a straight face.

      "Yes, you would. In fact, I'm sure of it," she proclaimed.

      "Really? What makes you so certain?"

      "I'll explain it as we walk. Let's get moving." The path was much easier to follow now that it was lined with floating petpets.

      It was warm and a tad on the humid side, a prime example of a summer night. The petpets lined the edges of the path half a foot apart. Every foot there was one floating in the air about Demon's eye level. Their lights were surprisingly bright, adding to the spooky aura.

      "It's really nice out here," Demon commented. She immediately reprimanded herself: What kind of a description was that?

      "I'm still waiting to hear why you're so certain I'm joking about the half million," the Meerca was eager to prove himself right, even though he knew he was probably wrong.

      "Because you don't want me to turn you into a Halloween Lupe. Knowing you - which I don't - you'd most likely try to discourage the notion by making it seem impossible." Her reasoning was accompanied by violent gesticulations.

      "Well, if you think that," Sruthair announced, "you'd be right."

      "I knew it. Nothing can possibly cost half a million of those gold coins." Neopoints, right?

      "But, that's where you're wrong. Plenty of things cost half a million Neopoints. In fact, there are things out there that cost tens of millions of Neopoints."

      "That's impossible," Demon insisted, "you wouldn't be able to carry a million Neopoints around with you. A hundred are on the heavy side."

      "You wouldn't want to carry a million Neopoints around with you. Something might steal them." In the distance Sruthair could see the lights from the town. "We're getting close."

      "If you don't carry them around with you, what do you do with them? Bury them someplace only you know about?" Demon's eyes were only human. She had to trust her Meerca that the town wasn't much farther away.

      "No. Someone would definitely find them. You put them in the bank or invest them in items that are easy to sell, items you can use as a bargaining chip. Like paint brushes. The ones you can sell are highly sought after."

      "There are banks in Neopia?" Somehow, this astonished Demon.

      "There is a bank in Neopia. The National Neopian. You should open an account. They pay interest. You'll make a few Neopoints a month."

      "Do they have a branch in the Haunted Woods?"

      "Demon, take a look around. You are in the Haunted Woods. We just haven't made it to the town yet."

      She took his advice. The trees around her weren't green with life. They were green with mold and grey with death. Trunks and branches were twisted into grotesque forms. Some of the trees looked like they had eyes and a mouth. Demon was tempted to ask what they ate. She felt right at home.

      "So, do they have a branch in town or not?" Demon asked again.

      "I don't know. We'll have to ask."

      "I like the idea of looking around for it better than asking for directions. They are total strangers, after all," Demon responded, drawing a laugh from her Meerca.

      By now she could see the lights from the town. They were a harsh white from what looked like magical spheres. The gentle yellow light the Flightning Bugs put off was more welcome to the eyes.

          Soon, Demon and her Meerca stepped into the harsh white light. Mustering her best whispering-announcer voice, she welcomed herself to the Haunted Woods. Sruthair burst out laughing. A type of Neopet new to Demon emerged from a tall building nearby.

      "That," Sruthair whispered, "is a yellow Chia."

      "Chia, as in Chia Police?"

      "The very same."

      Demon prepared to put on a show of her best manners. They weren't the most acceptable, but she could behave when behaving was absolutely necessary.

      "What are you two doing out here?" the Chia demanded. "The sun set an hour ago. Are you crazy?"

      "Probably." Demon coughed.

      "I didn't catch that." As the Chia scolded, Sruthair sniggered. Demon tried to make him stop, but it just earned her a strange look from the officer.

      "We're new here. Is there something wrong with being out after sunset?"

      "Come with me," the Chia commanded. Pet and owner shared a look and a shrug, but they followed. "I'm Marcus, by the way."

      Marcus ushered them into the same building he had scurried out of just moments before. He approached the reception desk and made arrangements of some kind.

      "Here. You're on the first floor. The stairs are over there." He handed Demon a brass key and pointed across the lobby. "You can stay here until you can find somewhere else to go. For future reference, you don't want to be out there in the dark. It's dangerous."

      "Ummm... isn't this the first floor?" Demon was confuzzled.

      "No. This is the ground floor. Now, get up to your room, both of you." The Chia left them for a hallway behind the reception desk.

      Once they were upstairs, Demon and Sruthair had no trouble finding their room. It was at the end of the hall and equipped with an excellent view of the forest. Demon dropped her bag on the round table under the window and heard the unmistakable sound of muffled glass against wood.

      "The potion," she remembered.

      Sruthair bounded across the room and dug it out of the bag. He examined it for a few minutes, silently debating on whether or not he wanted to drink it.

      "Are you really going to drink that?" Demon asked. She didn't think he would. He loved to prove her wrong. He drank it.

      His skin deepened to a dark blue and sprouted a covering of fur. Two big, yellow teeth grew down over his bottom lip, followed by a few smaller ones to either side. His hands and feet gained three huge nails each and his tail curled up beneath him. The transformation ended when the Meerca's eyes clouded and turned red.

      "What?!" Demon screeched.

      "A Transmogrification Potion." Sruthair was a mutant.

The End

 
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Other Episodes


» Everyone Has a Name: Part One
» Everyone Has a Name: Part Two
» Everyone Has a Name: Part Three



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