A Haunted Path: Part Three
The red Aisha blew past them without even a glance. In her arms she clutched something large and golden, but the object made no difference to Telos. His eyes were locked on the Aisha herself.
“Arabella,” he whispered in disbelief at the Aisha’s retreating back.
The Aisha turned hard and disappeared down the path that marked the way to Brightvale.
Apt looked up. “Who?”
But there was no time to answer. A Lupe was running down the path toward them, his sword drawn and waving. He clanked loudly in his armor, and, from a distance, he looked like a very magnificent creature. It did not lessen the closer he got, and when Telos began to make out blue fur, he gaped.
“Jeran?” he wondered aloud.
“Move out of the way!” the Lupe bellowed.
Telos’s mind finally caught up.
“No!” he shouted, spreading his arms as if to block Jeran. “Don’t! She’s my sister!”
This made the brave knight stop.
“Your sister?” Jeran grabbed Telos by the front and brought him closer. “Are you a thief as well?”
“W-What? No!” Telos stuttered. “And neither is she!”
“Then why, pray tell, did she steal a golden statue from the King?” Jeran asked, his voice dripping of sarcasm.
“I don’t know!” Telos shouted, shoving away. It was too much to comprehend at once. “Something must be wrong.”
Jeran snorted. “Obviously. Now, move aside so that I can go arrest her.”
Telos’s eyes widened. “No!”
“Not a good choice,” Apt whispered, but Telos ignored him.
Jeran’s eyes narrowed. “Do you really think you can stand in my way?”
Telos searched for an answer. “No, but she’s gone now, and you don’t know where she’s going. Let me find her, and we’ll sort this out. You’ll get your statue back.”
Jeran laughed. “Like I would trust the brother of a thief.”
“You’ll never find her without me,” Telos reminded him as the Lupe went to step around him.
Jeran paused, considering. He looked in the direction the Aisha had disappeared. She could be heading anywhere by now.
“All right, but, as soon as we find her, I’m taking her into custody.”
“You can’t!” Telos argued. “Please, something must be wrong. We’ll get your statue back, but please don’t arrest her. There’s got to be a good explanation.”
“We’ll see,” was all the Lupe said.
He clapped a hand onto Telos’s shoulder and headed toward the place where Arabella had disappeared.
“Lead the way,” Jeran ordered.
Telos gulped and complied.
They arrived at the Haunted Wood within a week. They would have made it faster, but Jeran felt obliged to pay his respects to King Hagan as they had passed through Brightvale. He called it his duty as a knight, and because of said duty, the trio was delayed several hours by the long, windy stories Hagan had to tell.
Telos felt almost relieved to see the Haunted Woods, which was an odd emotion for anyone to feel when they came upon the woods, especially when it was nearly night as it was now. However, somewhere in there was his long-lost sister.
Telos glanced at Jeran who had taken the whole march from Meridell to the Haunted Woods in stride, never breaking out of his cool, confident façade. Telos had once imagined Jeran to be the greatest hero in Neopia. Now, he wasn’t so certain he liked him that much. Maybe it was just because the knight was now a large threat to his sister’s well-being. Apt seemed to read his thoughts.
“There’s no way to shake him.”
Telos glanced down at the Dofrey at his side and nodded once.
“What did he just say?” Jeran’s crisp tone interrupted.
Telos stiffened a little. The knight was very perceptive.
“He said he was one of your biggest fans,” Telos lied straight-faced.
Jeran rolled his eyes. “I get a lot of those.”
They passed by the Esophagor, and Telos’s attention was drawn away. The Esophagor spotted him staring, and his large red eyes seemed to glow.
“Me hungrrrrry. Feeeeeed meeeee.”
Telos made a face. “So he’s really like that?”
Jeran’s hand found its way to his shoulder, and he moved him along again. They stopped in front of the castle of Eliv Thade. Telos gaped up at the tall estate, and was so taken in by its chilling appearance that Jeran had to ask him the same question twice before he received an answer.
“Where is your sister?”
Telos’s eyes trailed up the stepping stone path that led to the castle’s front door. He imagined being brave enough to walk up to the door and greet the twisted Kacheek that lived inside.
“Where is your sister?” Jeran tried again, swatting the Bori’s ear.
Startled, Telos refocused on his surroundings.
“My sister? Oh.” He had to recollect his thoughts. “When she left home, she ran away with a Gypsy tribe.”
“The gypsy camp,” Jeran supplied and turned on heel and began to walk.
Telos had to jog to keep pace with his stride.
“Where are you--”
His attention was broke again as a Halloween Cybunny waved at him from a stand. Her eyes were wicked, but her smile was worse.
“Why, young Bori, you look as if you are in need of a suitable petpet. One of mine is best. Get rid of that silly Dofrey and take this.”
She felt out a paw. Resting on top of it appeared to be a tongue, but the tongue had eyes and a mouth. It dripped with saliva and Telos’s stomach turned.
“How disgraceful,” Apt snapped. “To think she’d believe you’d trade me for that disgusting thing! Telos, come along.”
Telos turned back around to see that Jeran was already way ahead of him. Now he had to run to catch up.
But he no longer wondered where they were going. He saw the ring of the Gypsy camp directly ahead. A fire winked at him through the coming darkness. The noises rose out of the gloom. Voices carried on the wind to greet them, and Telos was reminded of his dream. He heard laughter and cheer, and a single voice had broken out into song. It sounded like a place of merriment, and it was sorely out of place in the Haunted Woods.
Telos followed on Jeran’s heels as he broke directly into the circle of the gypsy camp. Most of the mystical Neopians ignored him as if he was invisible, but two or three turned their eyes to him. A few of the glances looked a little apprehensive.
“I’m looking for--” Jeran paused, turned. “What was her name again?”
“Ah-- Arabella,” Telos supplied.
“I’m looking for the Aisha named Arabella,” Jeran told them.
One of the gypsies opened their mouth to speak, but didn’t get the chance. Someone else spoke for them.
Telos spotted his sister immediately. She was standing toward the outside of the gypsy circle, as if she had been prepared to flee. The golden statue was in her arms.
“Arabella,” Telos whispered.
With a strangled cry, the Aisha dropped the statue and scrambled toward her brother. Gypsy skirts billowed out around her.
Jeran sighed as the priceless statue thumped hard into the dirt. He went to retrieve it.
Telos caught Arabella in his arms. “Bella, are you all right?”
She hugged him hard, desperately, and then leaned back. “Oh, Telos, how did you find me? I thought I would never see you again.”
“I’ve wondered about you since the day you disappeared. I set out alone to come find you.” A voice only Telos could hear interrupted him. “Oh, and this is Apt. He’s my Dofrey. He helped me.”
Arabella gave the Dofrey a watery smile. “I thank him for bringing you to me then.”
“I can’t wait to tell you all about it. We saw a beast, and I communicated with a Tyrannian, and I...”
Bella listened affectionately until her brother was done. “That sounds magnificent, brother.”
Telos smiled down at his sister and kissed her forehead. “But it can’t compare to finding my sister. Bella, I was so worried about you. I kept having these dreams that you were calling to me,” Telos admitted, and then something else struggled from his lips, “Why did you leave?
Bella’s expression saddened. “You know me, brother. I always leapt before I looked. I wanted adventure. Terror Mountain was incredibly ordinary.”
“I figured as much,” Telos admitted.
Telos’s smile evaporated as Jeran, having retrieved the statue, appeared behind Arabella with a stern expression on his face. The Lupe gestured at the statue in his arms and then at Telos’s sister.
“Listen, Bella, I need to know why you stole the statue. You have to give it back.”
Bella nodded. “Of course I will. I didn’t want to steal it. I--” she trailed off and looked around. “Come with me. There is something I need to tell you.”
Telos didn’t like the look in her eyes as she spoke. There was something horribly wrong in her gaze.
“Okay,” he agreed, and the three of them followed the Aisha.
To be continued...