The blue Aisha sighed and drew in her cloak around her small, tattered skirt. The rain pelted down, and ran down in invisible fingers down the folds of her hooded coat. A cruel wind sighed, and tore through the trees, groping...
Who was the Aisha? She didn’t know. She didn’t even know her own name. She had often cried out the question: “who am I?”, but only the wind ever heard her. An owl screeched as branches blew into her face, cutting her and letting blood flow freely from the many small cuts they made.
Suddenly, she heard howling on the wind. Looking around her, she saw many little points of light, shining out in the darkness.
“Werelupes,” she cried, as she tried to run away from the glowing eyes.
As she ran, she heard a huge commotion. The Werelupes were chasing her. Their horrible howls brought even more Werelupes. The wind only seemed to magnify the horrible shrieking.
They were gaining on her.
She ran on, for a long time, the Werelupes ever gaining on her. The Aisha waded through a swamp, hoping to lose them there, but they followed her, snapping at her heels. The water was sloshing around her knees as the Aisha tried to leave the swamp. She ran out, running towards a clearing in the trees.
Too late she realised her mistake. There was no clearing. She was staring down the face of the cliff.
With a wail, one of the Werelupes tore the back of her cloak with razor-sharp teeth. The Aisha kicked it off, and the Werelupes stopped several centimetres from her. She slowly backed away, now a metre away from the Werelupes. But she hadn’t needed to.
The Werelupes were as rigid as stone. The Aisha realised that the ground between them was heaving and rolling, like waves in a storm.
The ground omitted a ghastly blue glow, and suddenly a pillar of light leapt from the ground.
From the ground, a ghostly figure of a Lupe materialised.
With a growl, he sent the Werelupes fleeing from the scene, wailing dismally.
“I have saved you, this time,” said the Ghost Lupe to the Aisha. “But if you meet Ilere, the queen of the woods, you shall not need me.”
The Aisha piped up, “Will she be able to help me in my quest?”
The Ghost Lupe replied, “That I cannot answer unless I know the nature of your quest. But ‘he’ knows most things. ‘He’ might be able to tell you.”
The Aisha was dismal. “Who is ‘he’? But I doubt that he could answer my quest, anyway. I am trying to find out my name, and my destiny.”
The Ghost Lupe faded away.
“Try asking the queen!” he cried and vanished away into nothingness.
The Aisha was alone.
* * *
The Aisha continued on. She trudged through the heavy rain, sad and alone.
She tripped over a rock, and fell face first into the many puddles the rain was making. She got up, and then went over to a log, completely and utterly distraught.
She sat down, tears streaming down her face, forming muddy tracks on her cheeks. Glancing up, she saw a large tree, grinning and hideous; it was mocking her.
Rain pelted down onto her, and the trees offered no protection. The darkness only got deeper.
After a few minutes, she stood up, and once again, trudged on deeper into the woods, her bare feet splashing through the puddles as she continued on.
* * *
Many hours later (day or night, she could not tell) upon climbing over a log, wet and slippery with moss, she saw it.
A pale green glow, peeking from between the trees, with an edge of malice.
Whatever it was, it was rapidly approaching, and the Aisha could not stop it. Within seconds, she was staring into the face of a tall, dark faerie, shrouded within a earth-coloured cloak. She was plainly deadly, yet extremely beautiful she was, in a dark, sinister way. Her green eyes seemed to pierce the Aisha’s heart.
“Who are you?”the Aisha questioned meekly.
“I am Ilere of the woods,” she replied in a deep, low voice; of pure malice was it composed. “You are here, searching,” she continued, her eyes holding the Aisha transfixed. “... but for what, you yourself are not entirely sure. There are dark tales in these woods, tales of a great power about to rise again. Yet you have no idea of this...” She stopped.
The wind tore throughout the trees, and a fell voice, strange and alien, lingered on the mist.
“We are not safe here!” she cried. “There are things darker and more mysterious in these woods than even I dream of.”
With that, the faerie grasped the Aisha and pulled her under her cloak. “Come with me, to my home.”
* * *
Later, within the spooky tree in which Ilere resided, Ilere continued.
“I cannot help you in your quest, which I know of. Only he can answer your question.”
Silently listening, the Aisha suddenly piped up, “How can you know of what I seek? I have not told you; it is for me alone to find my destiny.”
“I know of all in these woods!” Ilere cried, and suddenly seemed to grow larger, her eyes blazing with anger.
With a swift movement, Ilere sent a swift beam of dark green light around the Aisha, lifting the Aisha off the ground.
“None can know their destiny until it happens, and then it is too late. Many who wished to find out about their destiny later regretted it. For some, this journey meant death. But even if death is your destiny, it must be used to make the world better.”
The Aisha looked down at Ilere, now shrouded in the darkness that the few candles failed to suppress.
“Will my destiny be to die?”
“Even I cannot tell. But you have gazed upon the Ghost Lupe, I can see it in your eyes,” hissed Ilere, drawing up to the Aisha. “You have spoken to him.”
“He told me that you might be able to help me,” the Aisha retorted, “and so I have come here for help and protection.”
With that, Ilere released the spell and the Aisha fell to the floor.
“I cannot protect you now, I am far too busy,” Ilere said in a deep, low voice. “You will just have to protect yourself.”
“How can I do that?” the Aisha asked.
Ilere spat. “With this.”
She handed the Aisha a glowing orb, red with a golden frame.
“You now have the power to protect yourself.”
The Aisha stammered. “But I cannot do this!”
Ilere’s eyes blazed.
“Of course you can, and you will, because you have to!” she cried out.
And before the Aisha could do anything, Ilere had sent out another beam from her staff. Darkness surrounded the Aisha and she knew no more.
* * *
The Aisha opened her eyes. She now lay where Ilere had left her, on the top of a small knoll. She got up and clutched the orb that Ilere had given her.
It seemed to give her the energy to continue, and the Aisha descended from the hilltop.
The Aisha continued until she reached a boggy area. Carefully watching her step, she walked on. After a while she slipped on a small puddle, made by the pouring rain.
Her hand let go of the orb and it splashed into the mud in front of her. Gingerly, she picked it up.
She took a step, but fell off an unseen ledge into the muddy bog. Ice cold water swirled around her head, and she clambered out, wet and bedraggled.
But from the water where she had just risen from, a small, blue light appeared, rapidly rising towards the surface.
The Aisha backed away, not knowing what to expect. Suddenly from the surface of the water erupted a small ghostly figure. Not the Ghost Lupe, but a ghost meepit.
Red eyes staring, it slowly approached her. As if on signal, several others leaped from the water. Many more emerged from the woods.
Not knowing what to do, the Aisha ran. Clutching the orb, she raced out of the bog, with hundreds of the ghost meepits following her. She raced down the leafy forest path, with the trees flying past her.
All the more meepits were joining in the chase. Suddenly another group confronted her.
She wheeled around and raced off to the side, continuing down another path.
She then sped along a small ridge, the huge crowd of meepits still on her trail. Not waiting any longer, the Aisha sprinted down the embankment.
One by one, the meepits followed her.
She continued down the path with thousands of ghost meepits after her. It had seemed that almost every meepit in the Haunted Woods was after her. She leapt off the path and ran on, going deeper into the woods.
Upon seeing a small cave, the Aisha leapt into it, and hid behind a large boulder inside. Hundreds of the ghost meepits had passed her by, but then they all stopped; they had seen her.
She fled towards the back of the cave, the meepits blocking off her exit. Slowly they advanced.
Clutching the orb ever tighter, she cried out, “Ghost Lupe! Help me again! Please hear me!”
Suddenly, a blue mist formed beside her, as the Ghost Lupe appeared.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but this time, you have to do it yourself...”
“NO!” she cried. “Please help me!”
But he was gone.
The meepits were almost upon her.
She grasped the orb, and suddenly it grew warm beneath her fingers. The meepits were about to leap upon her.
Suddenly, the Aisha felt like a bolt of lightning was sent through her, making her cry out. The orb was ablaze, wreathed in flame. A shimmering dome was cast about her.
Then, the meepits leapt upon her, but came to a dead stop, all falling back onto the ground having collided with the dome.
The Aisha squeezed the orb, and the dome expanded, filling the cave and forcing the meepits out. Dejected, the thousands of meepits vanished, and were never seen by a living person again.
The barrier vanished and the Aisha fell to her knees, drained of all energy.
She thought about Ilere’s words to her. ‘You now have the power to protect yourself,’ Ilere had said. But only now did the Aisha realise what those words meant.
For hours, the Aisha had trudged on, going further and further into the woods. Cold and hungry, she was alone.
The trees seemed to bend towards her, and the moon gave her little light to see by.
More hours passed, and yet the Aisha had continued on. Weary, she lay down. The amulet threw out a warm glow, her only comfort now in the wilderness.
Suddenly, she heard a deep rumbling sound. She stood up, only just in time to see the ground rising as a humungous figure erupted from the earth. A monster, grey, and with red eyes. It was the Esophagor.
“I AMMMM HUNGRYYYYY! FOOODDDDD...”
It stretched a huge arm towards the Aisha, and picked her up.
“FOOODDDDDD... I HAVVEEE NOT EATENNNN FORRR DAYYYSSS... HUNGRRYYYY.”
The Aisha was raised towards the Esophagor’s mouth.
“Please,” she whimpered, “please, spare me! I am looking for ‘him’, although I do not know who he is..”
“HIMMM??? HIM?” the Esophagor cried out. “I WILLLL TAKEEE YOUUUU TOOOOO HIMMM... IFFF YOUUU CANNN SURVIVVVEEE THEEE GRAVVEEE...”
And with that, the Esophagor dragged the Aisha down, down under the earth.
* * *
The Aisha could feel solid rock passing over her like a rippling sea, bending and buckling as she passed deeper down into the earth.
“CANNN YOOUUU SURVIVVEEEE THHEEE WORLLDDD OFFF THHEE DEAAADDDDD...” the Esophagor cried out.
There was an increasing pressure on the Aisha’s head, and just when she thought she could stand it no more, she stopped, caught in the centre of solid rock.
“YYOOUUUU HAVVEEE SURVIVVEEEEDDDDD. I WILLLL TAKKEEEEE YOOUUUU TOOOOOO HIMMMMM.”
The Aisha suddenly felt herself rising up through the rock, and finally broke through the surface.
* * *
The Aisha lay in a small clearing, covered in leaves. A ring of trees surrounded the area, and one large tree stood in the centre of the circle, just in front of the Aisha.
From the earth below her a voice cried out,
“I HAVVEEE TAKEEENNNN YOUUU TOOO HIMMMM... HEEEE CANNN TELLL YOUUU WHATTT YOUUU WANNTTT TOOO KNOOWWWW...”
* * *
The Aisha looked up at the giant tree in front of her.
“This is him?” she said, bewildered.
“Yes. It is me,” an unseen voice replied.
The Aisha had almost jumped higher than the trees when she had heard the voice. She gazed at the tree, and what she saw was the most frightening thing that she had ever seen.
Ever so slowly, a face appeared. Sure enough, two eyes and a mouth were carved out of the bark. But what chilled her to the bone was that above the face, the tree grew a brain! She was so surprised to see a tree with a brain.
“Who are you?” the Aisha ventured to inquire.
“I am the Brain Tree,” the tree snapped. “I know all. I see all. Nothing can ever happen without my knowing it. I know of what you seek, and I know the answers to your questions.”
The Aisha was shocked.
“Then can you tell me, what my destiny is? Please tell me, for I have wandered for many days, weary and hungry. I don’t want my quest to all be in vain!”
“Your destiny,” said the tree, “is that you shall change the face of Neopia. A great leader of a huge and prosperous city you shall become. Your name will become famous throughout all of Neopia.”
The Aisha fingered the orb between her fingers.
The Brain Tree continued. “Is that all you want to know?”
Without waiting for an answer, the face and brain began to fade.
“Stop!” cried the Aisha. “One final thing! What is my name?”
But the Aisha was too late. The Brain Tree had faded away, leaving only the bare trunk.
No, only the wind heard her, but this time the wind answered her. And it is rumoured that on that day, a voice could be heard throughout all of Neopia, saying only one word: