Reunited: Part One
Night in Neopia.
Night was a peaceful time. All of the world turned out their lights and climbed into their soft beds. Dreams awaited them in the their slumber. Dreams of faeries, knights, and some just outright ridiculous ones.
Others had nightmares. Of ghosts, Werelupes, dark faeries, and (of course) the occasional meepit. Nonetheless, they slumbered. The stars in the sky twinkled in delight, and the little light faeries in the academy snuck out of their rooms to try and count them all.
Night in the Haunted Woods.
Even the nightmares were welcome to most of its inhabitants. Sleep for them was a getaway from their daytime fears. Children lay huddled in corners, whispering tales of ghosts around the fireplace, reading of ancient local legends and curses, or talking of the witches. Werelupes howled outside the doors, which parents locked to keep their children inside. Korbats woke from their daytime nap and traveled in huge swarms, often so large that they blocked out the moon’s light completely.
Or, in the case of this night, a large storm had blown in, making sleep difficult. Children jumped at every lightning flash or ominous crack of thunder. Fireplaces were lit to guard the neopets from the chilly breeze blowing through the windows.
All were huddled indoors, sleeping.
All, that is, save for one...
A young Lupess walked down a dirt path, rain pouring down on her hooded cloak. Thunder roared above her in the pitch black sky. There was no moon, no stars, nothing to give her light in the darkness. Lightning crackled, and she was careful to keep a distance between herself and the tall trees. The trees themselves were ominous, with gnarled overhanging branches that looked a little too much like outstretched hands.
The Lupess was used to these creepy things, however. She had been in the Haunted Woods for quite some time. Though all others stayed indoors on this stormy night, she alone walked the roads. She feared nothing, for she had nothing to lose. She had lost everything already.
She was loyal to few, and likewise few were loyal to her. Some who happened to gaze upon the small Lupess thought she was a mere shadow. Some thought she was a ghost, under some terrible curse, that came out only at night. Others knew better, though few of these had ever tried to get too close to her. It wasn’t that she was an unpleasant person; most just thought that since she wore a hood and preferred to walk in the solitude of the trees, she must not be fond of company.
Her name was Shanna. Though her cloak hid most of her features, she was a very pretty young brown Lupess. She was of average height, thin, and had very striking dark eyes.
She tilted her head back to let the raindrops hit her face. She actually loved rainy nights. There was something about them that was just so peaceful, and in the solitude she didn’t feel lonely in the least. Perhaps she would head deeper into the woods and visit Sophie the Swamp Witch. She hadn’t seen Sophie in quite some time, and had started to miss the eccentric green Ixi.
She took a detour through the trees to get to Sophie’s shack, since it was hidden deep within the woods. When she finally arrived, Sophie was sitting in an old dilapidated rocking chair on her likewise rundown porch. She seemed a bit troubled, as if she was staring at something far away but not really seeing it. When she heard Shanna’s light footsteps, though, she was immediately alert. She grabbed her witch’s staff and quickly rose to her feet.
“Who’s there?” she called into the night. “I’m warning you, I’ve had it with you nosy trespassers!”
Shanna laughed a little and stepped into the light from the lantern on the porch, so Sophie could see her. “Sorry, Sophie, next time I’ll make an appointment.”
Once she had seen her face, Sophie smiled at the brown Lupess. “Shanna? Well, it’s certainly been a while, you ungrateful little whelp,” she said, not unkindly. It was Sophie’s own way of telling Shanna she was pleased to see her. It was also an invitation to enter Sophie’s humble home; Sophie had already walked inside, but had left the door open behind her. Shanna quickly followed the Swamp Witch inside, as the rain was starting to make her very cold.
Once inside, Shanna sat down contentedly in a rocking chair near the crackling fire, and removed her soaked cloak. Underneath she wore a simple outfit of loose brown trousers and a matching shirt, which were not nearly as wet.
“So,” said Sophie, entering from another room with a large pot of tea and a suspicious looking plate of pastries. “What brings you here, my dear? You haven’t visited in months.” She carefully poured the boiling tea into a wooden mug, which she handed to Shanna.
Shanna accepted the drink thankfully. “Well,” she began after she had taken a drink, “I’m not actually sure. I was just taking a walk in the rain and decided to come this way.”
Sophie was now chewing absentmindedly on one of the pastries. “How very odd. I had a dream about you last night, and I was just thinking about you, wondering where you were, when you showed up.”
Shanna laughed. It was very unusual how very like minds were sometimes. “So,” she said to Sophie, picking up a pastry and taking a bite before continuing, “Has anything interesting happened to you lately?”
Sophie frowned reminiscently. “Actually, yes. Just yesterday in fact.”
Shanna paused in the middle of a bite, seeing something wiggle in the center. She carefully placed the pastry on her lap; she should have known better than to trust Sophie’s cooking skills. “What happened?” she asked instead.
“Well, it was very odd. This huge shadow Lupe was being chased by a pack of Werelupes. Poor thing. He was all worn out and torn up, so I told him to run inside my shack, where he’d be safe from the beastly things.” Sophie sighed. “The Werelupes proved to be irritatingly persistent, sniffing and prowling around. In the end, I had to use a rather nasty smell to plug their noses, and they finally gave up. I came into the shack, and there he sat, looking half dead, in the rocking chair you’re sitting in now. He had some rather nasty scars, but I determined immediately that they were claw marks, and thanked Fyora he hadn’t been bitten. I patched up some of his nastier wounds while he was sleeping, and he was awake again within the hour. The moment he woke up, he thanked me, limped up and walked out the door,” Sophie finished dramatically. The green Ixi loved telling tales, and she obviously enjoyed the mysterious exit most of all.
None of this fazed Shanna, however, since Sophie described the appearance of the stranger, her heart overflowed with a mixture of sadness, hope, joy, relief, and the pain of the past. Apparently these emotions showed clearly on her face, for Sophie gave her a concerned look, and asked if something was wrong.
Shanna shook her head slowly, then sighed, embarrassed that she had let her inner feelings show, even if it was Sophie. “It’s nothing, Sophie.” With another sigh, her logical side shouted at her words of common sense. There were many shadow Lupes in the Haunted Woods, after all, and there was no sign that it was the one she thought of. She didn’t wish to listen, however. She wanted to believe.
“It’s something,” Sophie argued, returning her to the real world. “I said something that troubled you.”
Shanna’s eyebrows lowered in anger. Why did Sophie have to see through her? “It’s not that, it’s just,” Shanna paused, “It’s easier if you know the whole story.”
Now Sophie looked eager. “So what is the whole story?”
“It’s long,” argued Shanna.
“I have time.”
“It’s getting late,” the Lupess said with a groan.
“You love the night.”
“You argue too much.”
Sophie smiled sweetly. “I’m just too good at it for my own good. And yours.”
Shanna sighed, realizing she could never win with Sophie. Besides, if the Swamp Witch wanted to know badly enough, there was probably some sort of spell she could use to make her tell. Shanna mentally kicked herself for that thought. Eccentric as she was, Sophie was one of her dearest, not to mention only, friends, and would never use her magical ability to take advantage of her. Still, she saw no harm in telling her tale to Sophie, except her own buried pain.
But what if Sophie could help her find him? She had searched for years on her own, and had heard nor found anything until just moments before. Now her logical side was screaming again, this time encouraging her to confide in the Swamp Witch. She decided to listen to it.
Taking a deep breath, and closing her eyes as if watching the moment in her mind, she softly spoke, “Have it your way, then. Let me take you back to ten years ago...”
To be continued...