Apprentice to Evil: Part Three
Also by chivo
When Meti arrived at the Haunted Woods, he wasn't sure what to expect.
His last job had ended in a disaster, with the Island Faerie having a massive mess to clean up from her ruined cooking pot and the Ghost Lupe furious. They weren't really the types of creatures he wished to be on the bad side of! The journey to the woods themselves had not been easy, as they were some distance from his home on Mystery Island and the Haunted realm was hardly famous for its warm hospitality. The barren trees had sounded like they were whispering about him as he had dashed through the trail leading to the Witch’s tower, the hungry roar of the ever-starving Esophagor to the west only adding to the slight paranoia and fear that seemed to be slowly engulfing the small Draik.
The Witch’s Tower was a crooked structure. It jutted upwards at odd, uneven angles, the bricks misplaced here or there, the windows alight with a sinister jade glow which made Meti shiver. The door was massive and wooden, some of the panels which created it worn with age, a massive doorknocker in the middle, ornate and extravagant. With a trembling paw, he lifted the knocker and banged it three times against the solid strength of the door.
The noise resounded around him, echoing and vibrating back against the whispering, bare trees that surrounded the tower like a line of vicious sentinels. A slow creak sounded as the massive door swung open and an irritated, bright green Zafara peeked out from the shadows. This must be the famous Edna. Her eyes were bright and full of wicked laughter, an ebony, battered hat, peaked and pointed perched atop her head, squeezing floppy green ears out from under it. Meti was intimidated and bowed.
"Gracious Edna, oh witchy one! I am..."
Edna rolled her eyes, swinging open the massive door.
"Yes, Yes, I know. The Ghost Lupe contacted me. You're Meti, you're here to work."
He beamed and nodded. Edna smirked.
"Then work you shall, little Draik! All day folk come to me seeking quests. Let me bring you items, they whine."
Meti tried to follow her rambling.
"But they take forever to bring the items my spells need! Sometimes they don't show up at all! It's a pest when my magic needs to be about timing, about precision."
The Draik nodded again, feeling it was the safest response. Edna looked satisfied.
"So you'll be in charge of gathering items I need for my potions. And be snappy about it! I've had enough of last quest seekers!"
Meti nodded hurriedly and bowed. Edna was the type who would turn you into a Meepit at a whim; he didn't wish to upset her in the slightest. He was shown to his room, a little stone alcove with a creaky wooden bed and a small table with uneven legs, then informed he must show up for work within the hour. As he had so little to unpack, this didn't seem an issue and he made sure he was even a little early.
Edna was in her potion room, pouring a strange, silvery vial's contents into a simmering pot. From the mixture gentle fuchsia fumes rose in soft, dreamy plumes of smoke, leaving Meti curious.
"That's a pretty spell."
Edna laughed, throwing her head back and cackling. It was, thought Meti, very unnerving.
"It's a Bubbling Spell of Negg Frazzling, Draik!"
Meti smiled in his most polite fashion. He tried not to let on that she might as well have told him that in the language of Mystery Island coconuts, for he hadn't understood a word. This didn't seem to bother Edna, who gave the mixture a slow stir with crooked wooden spoon before turning to the Draik.
"I need a Hot Worm Hot Dog, a Stuffed Frog and an Ant Eaten Ham. Pronto!"
Meti quickly scrawled the request onto a small notepad, making a shopping list of sorts. Edna waved her stirring spoon around in agitation.
"Now Draik! You have an hour! Run!"
Meti took off down the main path that wound its way through the woods, glancing quickly at the list. Hot Worm Hotdog was the first item, so he went in search of one. Near the Brain Tree's sprawling roots he found a rather dubious looking Nimmo with a small cart of food, selling items. This seemed like his lucky break! Rushing, he dashed up to the Nimmo.
"Do you have a Hot Worm Hotdog?"
The Nimmo smirked.
"I have a hot dog bun, and a worm. Couldn't you just heat it up yourself?"
Meti considered this. The item was going into a bubbling pot, it would surely heat up there. He nodded decidedly.
"I'll take it then, thanks. While I'm here, do you have Stuffed Frog, or Ant Eaten Ham?"
The Nimmo searched his cart.
"I have the frog..."
Meti looked anxious as the Nimmo hissed.
"Ah. Ham. Not ant eaten, it's far too fresh. I'm about quality, don't you know?"
Meti blinked, nodding slowly.
"Er... I suppose so?"
The Nimmo threw the ham in the bag with the frog, worm and hotdog bun.
"Consider it a freebie. Maybe you can find some ants to nibble on it!"
Meti beamed. Folk in the Haunted Woods didn't seem to be all bad, when you go down to it. He paid the Nimmo proudly and headed over to a nearby clump of grass, searching for ants. It wasn't a hard mission; there was a trail of the little creatures snaking their way toward a discarded loaf of bread. Meti beamed. Luck seemed more on his side with this job. He placed the ham down and waited happily, but the ants were slow. To pass the time he glanced up, watching the hypnotic movement of the Brain Tree's waving arms, before jumping. Something in his bag had moved!
Gingerly he peeled back the top of the bag and peered in. A plump, grinning frog stared up at him. Meti gasped!
"You're supposed to be stuffed!"
"RIDDUP!" was the frog's firm response.
Meti groaned. Perhaps the Nimmo hadn't been so generous; this wasn't what the witch had asked for at all. He was gazing down in despair at his hopping friend, when he noticed a very conspicuous absence. The worm he had purchased was nowhere to be seen and the frog indeed looked smug about something. Meti blinked.
"Did you... eat the worm?"
The Frog chuckled. "Riddup!"
Meti stomped his foot.
"What does that even MEAN? You're not meant to eat! I'm taking you to Edna! It's vital that you see Edna! The Witch!"
The Frog blinked and in a most unbecoming manner, burped. Meti imagined he could smell worm on the creature's breath and wasn't pleased.
"Couldn't you have at least eaten the bun, too, so you would be stuffed of food? It would be something."
He waved the bun in what he hoped was a tempting manner beneath the frog's nose, only to be rewarded with a loud croak before the creature leapt from the bag altogether.
"Stop!" cried Meti, franticly chasing the Frog. His progress was hindered however as he tripped, landing hard on the grass. Rubbing a rather bruised tail, he glanced around, seeking whatever it was he had tripped on, only to find a bare ham bone. In the time he had been conversing with the now long gone frog, the ants hadn't just nibbled at the ham, they had devoured it!
Despondent, he glanced around. The Nimmo and his food cart were nowhere to be seen and all he had to show for his hard work was the passing of fifty seven minutes and a slightly squashed hotdog bun. He wondered whether it was better to go and attempt to purchase more of the items Edna had requested, or return on time. He had heard of plenty of pets returning without the items on time, but none who had been turned into Baggus remains, or a Meepit Plushie. It seemed that the best possible course of action would be to return and throw himself on the witch's mercy.
He hurried off down the road, starting to notice an odd pattern upon the trail. Every few feet a tiny indent was made, coated with slime. Little footprints, miniscule and webbed. The Frog!
Meti followed the trail of little frog prints wildly, eyes wide. He followed them around the Brain Tree, past Eliv Thade's castle and down through the darkest part of the Haunted Woods, right up to the open door of... Edna's Tower. From the screams of rage inside, each of which was accompanied by a crash or the sound of glass breaking, it sounded like the Frog had listened to his statement that he was to be taken to Edna!
Meti rushed inside to find a scene that was far worse than the one he had previously caused on Mystery Island. Bottles and vials were smashed upon the stones that formed the floor, cauldron after cauldron was turned over, tipped over or broken. Worst yet was the sight of Edna, perched on a chair and squealing in rage as the merry frog hopped around in circles, smacking into this and that. The witch wasn't pleased in the slightest.
"Meti! Thousands of Neopians have failed my quests! You are the first to ever ruin my tower in the process!"
The Draik was stunned. He weakly fished the squashed hotdog bun from his bag and held it up as a peace offering. Edna snatched it, examined it, then hurled it at him.
Meti sighed sadly. This wasn't much of a surprise. Gathering his bag, he turned to leave, halting as the witch called out to him.
"I have no place here for the foolish, Meti. But I may know someone who does..."
The little Draik was terrified to utter a word, cringing as the villainous frog tipped over another cauldron, covering Edna's floor in a sticky blue goo, similar to the shade of the Space Faerie's hair. The witch gritted her teeth, speaking very slowly, almost hissing.
"Try Meuka. He's been looking for someone to help him out for a while now. It's not the cleanest work, but at least he won't mind if you make a mess!"
Meti bowed his head, whispered a terrified thanks and fleeing, not daring to look back lest she turn him into a frog to join the trouble maker who had just broken another potion bottle. He ambled down the road slowly, deep in thought. Working for Meuka? It wasn't going to be pretty. But time was running short and concert tickets didn't come cheap...
To be continued...