The Statue Collector: Part Four
We found Genie and Delacorte again and told them that I had managed to snag all of the ingredients. We needed Delacorte to show us the way back to the earth faerie; plus, it didn’t seem right to be taking advantage of her favor with her not there. After having already got us there once without any problems, the Kiko was much more confident in herself this time. She even shared stories with us and I found myself liking the brave Kiko quite a bit. After all of this was over, I’d have to go visit Genie and her family and become better friends with them.
When we arrived at Endivan’s house, it was clear that she had been waiting for us. She had a cauldron on the fire that was billowing eerie clouds of dark green. The smoke didn’t rise to the ceiling as most smoke did. Instead, it seemed to creep across the ground sluggishly and roll lazily out the open door then just kind of dissolve into nothing. I didn’t like that smoke any more than I liked the shadows, I knew it was issued by a dark spell and I really didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
Endivan threw my ingredients, bottles and all, into the cauldron, which issued a fresh batch of the putrid smoke. Then we sat at her table to wait for it to simmer. She explained to us that despite her magical knowledge, she did not know how to find Avawna and her cave. It was disappointing news, but I figured, at least we were going to have the counter spell. That was a start. Endivan further explained that I would have to basically dump a bottle of the counter spell on the mermaid in order to release the neopets from her power. This presented an interesting problem since I would be underwater but she told me that she knew no other way. I’d have to make it work someway.
It seemed like we sat there for hours of small talk and I grew impatient. I wanted to do something useful, not just sit here while the smoke roiled around our feet. Eventually, when the smoke was no longer green but an ugly shade of purple, Endivan poured the contents of the cauldron into a bottle. It was a thick, bubbling liquid that looked highly toxic. I knew one thing was for certain, I wouldn’t want that substance poured on me. The kind earth faerie wished us luck and sent us on our way. It felt like we were no better off than we were before because we still didn’t have a way to find Avawna.
Delacorte came to the rescue again. “I don’t mean to point fingers, but it sounds like the official who you spoke with actually knew what you were talking about. Perhaps they know about Avawna but keep it a secret because it would look very bad for Maraqua if everyone knew that they had an enchantress turning lost tourists into statues.”
I couldn’t help but gawk at the Kiko; not only was she brave but she was more shrewd than she appeared. In my gut, I knew that she was right; it just sounded too right to be wrong.
So, we decided that the only way to begin our journey was to go speak with King Kelpbeard. It was easier said than done, for his attendants refused us, stating that King Kelpbeard could not be bothered with our complaints as we were not citizens of Maraqua.
Unable to contain my frustration anymore, I yelled at them, “We’re not here to complain, you daft gills. We know how to fix your problem with Avawna, but the longer you keep us waiting, the more likely it is that she’s changing another neopet into a statue.” Immediately, one of the Flotsams that had been so gallantly blocking our entrance swam into the throne room while the other Flotsam stared at us, his chin almost touching his chest.
The other Flotsam returned and exclaimed, “King Kelpbeard will see you.” As if there had been any doubt. We all swam into the throne room and what a group we must have looked like with Genie and Silent in air bubbles.
The intimidating king grumbled, “I don’t normally entertain surface dwellers but my doorman feels you have news that would be pertinent to my kingdom.”
Silent, being quite educated in manners and such, floated into a bow and then replied, “Your kingship, I believe we do have news that would be very important to you and your kingdom. You see, CoralWhispers, my Island Koi, accidentally stumbled into the domain of Avawna. We were told that she wasn’t real, but we believe not only is she real, but that you guys are covering for her for fear of the bad publicity.” At this, the king glared at her and began impatiently stroking his beard. Silent was not bothered and continued, “However, we have found a counter spell that we believe will release the neopets within her power. We do not know if it will stop her from continuing to antagonize your kingdom, but it will save those who have already fallen her victim. The only problem is that we do not know where she’s located, but we believe that your people do.”
The king snarled and looked away from us, clearly trying to devise some sort of plan. Finally, his gaze found its way back to us and he commanded, “You are correct in your assumptions that we do know where she is to be found. If you truly believe that you have a counter... spell, then, I will have my chief advisor show you the way.” There was a squeak of startled fear from a Peophin who had been sitting so quietly next to the king that we hadn’t even noticed it. From the look of sheer terror on his face, it was clear that he was the chief advisor.
“Thank you, that is all we ask of you.” Silent did another floating bow and then the Peophin lead us out of the castle. The Peophin didn’t talk to us; perhaps he was taking courage from ignoring us, but either way, he seemed as if he was pretending that we didn’t exist. That was fine with us; he wasn’t the focus of our swim.
Presently, we reached the outskirts of Maraqua and I recognized the beautiful kelp and seaweed that had so near tempted me to my doom. I decided to recount how I’d lost my way and fallen into the webbed hands of Avawna. It didn’t sound nearly as brave a tale as standing up to the Pant Devil, but I figured, I was making up for it by having braved the Snowager and even Meuka.
After swimming through the frightening rock formations, the Peophin suddenly stopped. “This is as far as I will take you. I won’t venture any nearer to her dwelling, I don’t want to be cast under her spell.” The Peophin looked around fearfully as if expecting Avawna to be behind him, then he added, “Her cave is behind those outcroppings; may you be successful or else we will never see you again.” He didn’t even wait to see if we made it to the cave; he took off as if Jhudora herself were swimming after him.
“I think what we need to do is have me go in on my own. That way if she doesn’t respond to the counter spell, you guys can try to get something else to help. But if we all go in there, she might catch us all.” Those words sounded strangely fake coming from my mouth, for I didn’t feel that way at all. I wanted everyone to come with me and keep me from becoming Avawna’s statue, but I was trying to be brave. I was trying to be courageous like Delacorte and when I was swimming to the cave, completely alone, I wished that I had just tried to be more like me. I was scared out of my wits.
The living quarters of the cave were just as I remembered, but I didn’t stop there. I continued swimming into the farther recesses of the cave but I couldn’t find Avawna. Finally, I knew that I had to check the hall of statues. If she wasn’t there, she wasn’t home. I swam slowly into the room, wishing that as before, Bubbles was with me but we had deemed it wiser to leave her at home.
The statues stood completely still, each frozen in that helpless state of terror, and it was difficult to see if anyone was in the room.
Then a voice, once soothing but now frightening, called out, “I knew you’d be back. You thought you came to rescue them, but you were brought to me by a spell and now you will join them.” Avawna appeared before me with a bottle of dark purple goo that looked strangely familiar to the potion that I held.
“Sorry, Avawna, but I have no intention of becoming a statue.” I didn’t wait for her response, but dumped my bottle on her. The potion didn’t float away as I expected it to in the water; instead, it clung to her as if it were a living organism.
She began screaming hysterically and clawing at the gloop, her bottle falling unnoticed to the bottom of the cave. I couldn’t stand her cries; they were terrible, and I covered my ears and closed my eyes. Her shrieks became more intense and I thought my eardrums would burst, then I noticed there was another sound accompanying her cries of horror.
I opened my eyes and saw beams of bright green light shooting out from cracks in all of the statues. The cracks grew wider, casting the light about so that it was almost blinding. Then, almost at once, all the statues exploded, spraying the room with chunks of stone and debris. Moments later, there were neopets chattering ecstatically, hugging each other and touching their skin in disbelief.
Someone tapped me on my shoulder and I jumped to find Delacorte drifting behind me. “What are you doing in here?” I asked.
“I couldn’t let you do this on your own. It’s no fun facing a monster on your own; it’s always easier with company,” she explained and I hugged her. I knew then and there that I would always be friends with the Kiko. Then she pointed. “Look, there’s one left!” I turned and saw a statue of an Aisha mermaid, her webbed hands poised in a clawed motion above her, her mouth open in a silent scream. I had completely forgotten about Avawna in the excitement of the released neopets but now I remembered her and almost felt bad for her. She had suffered her own curse and was now stone.
So, next time you’re in Maraqua and perhaps get a chance to visit King Kelpbeard, you can see his statue of Avawna. Yeah, that’s right, I got her turned into stone but it never would have happened without the help of my friends. Just goes to show you that not all stories with villains and curses start out on gloomy days, but most of them do end with happy endings.
Thanks to Genie and Delacorte for showing their faces in my story; one can’t ask for better online friends.