The Road to Pyramid Parade: Part Three
Three days had passed uneventfully as they traversed the green fields of Neopia. Sean and Kirsche’s conversation had waned, and humans, pets, and petpets walked onward in silence. The air had grown chilly, and no matter what they were wearing, it was a chill that seeped into their very bones. Desi couldn’t stop her knees from shaking. She knew they had to be nearing the Haunted Woods.
“Hi!” said a red Poogle as it hopped past them, no owner in sight.
“Ugh, another useless random event,” said Kirsche once the Poogle had vanished into the woods. “Why can’t we find a codestone or something?”
Sean nodded, but said nothing. He’d been actively raising his Neopets long enough for that same red Poogle to hop past him and greet him about a thousand times, after all. He’d probably learned to tune it out.
The Desert Lupe was now very certain they were in the Haunted Woods. Trees had begun to line their now-dirt path, and the chill was intense.
“H... how can this place border a desert?” shivered Kirsche, folding her arms futilely for warmth.
“Beats me,” said Sean, not seeming cold at all, though Desi knew he had to be.
“Well... to be fair,” said Desi, “deserts are very cold at night.”
Kirsche looked up at the sky. The sun could not be seen.
“Well, it always looks like night in the Haunted Woods,” said Majikn. “So you can’t tell from here. We’ll have to go by the clock.”
“Right,” said Kirsche.
As they walked, determined to get to the desert on the other side, a gaggle of ghosts burst from the ground.
“Another random event?” said Desi as the ghosts stared evilly at them.
“Looks like it,” said Majikn.
“Okay, game’s over,” said Kirsche, walking towards them. They didn’t move. “Move aside or we’ll just have to walk through you.”
The nearest ghost lashed out with a clawed hand. Kirsche gasped and drew back, clutching her arm. Shakily, she removed her hand. Blood was welling up at five neat cuts on her arm.
Desi felt her ears go back as her owner stumbled backwards. “This isn’t good...”
As one, the ghosts charged. As their eyes glowed red, the group of living Neopians was overcome with an unnatural fear, even the travel-hardened Sean and Majikn. Reason subdued by terror, the six scattered, petpets dropping from their owners’ shoulders to scurry or flutter off.
Desi ran as fast as she would allow, a ghost just barely inches away from the white tip of her tail. Her ears were flat against her head, her body was low to the ground, and her paws moved at blinding speed, her eyes wide, and her tongue hanging out in a delirious pant. With a whimper, Desi dove into an open door, and it swung shut behind her. She tensed and waited for the ghost to come through the door after her, but it never did.
She sighed in relief as its spell of horror eased, and her ears slowly stood up again.
“Glad this building was here,” she panted, moving to nudge the door open.
It didn’t move.
“If you wish to escape, you must answer this riddle first,” said a sonorous voice.
Desi looked around wildly for the source, but there was none.
And then she realized where she had hid – Eliv Thade’s manor.
“Alright,” she said calmly, suddenly confident knowing she was being challenged in a category she was strong in. “I’m good with words. Try me.”
“Very well. Niamicag.”
Desi tried out several sounds. “Aimin... no. Gacian... wait. Magician!”
“Well done,” said Thade, sounding impressed. “You are free to leave.”
The door swung open to let her out, and Desi left, silently thanking the Kacheek’s spirit for not making her go through the entire manor like that Usul.
Unfortunately, her walk brought her face-to-chest with a very large dark blue Lupe carrying a huge brown sack in his jaws.
Balthazar! Desi thought, panicked.
Through his clenched teeth, Balthazar laughed as he watched her ears once more flatten in fright. Intentionally shoving her aside, he pushed past her and walked off. He didn’t notice, however, that two bottles fell from his sack as he jostled her, and before Desi could even make a move towards the imprisoned Faeries, he was gone.
“You two are lucky,” said Desi, pulling the cork off of the bottle emitting a blue light.
A Water Faerie materialized before her, gratefully gasping the air of the Haunted Woods.
“Thank you,” she breathed. “I am in your debt. Where is your owner?”
“We got separated,” said the Desert Lupe, her tension easing in the healing Faerie’s presence.
“Well, here’s something that will keep you healthy until you find each other,” said the mermaid-like woman, lightly kissing Desi’s forehead. A blue mark appeared there for a few seconds, then vanished.
“I have given you the ability to Heal,” said the Faerie. “I hope you will never need to use it, however. Best of luck!”
With that, the Faerie’s form shimmered and vanished.
Her body still tingling from the Water Faerie’s blessing, Desi uncorked the red-glowing bottle. Predictably, it was a Fire Faerie that appeared full-size in a puff of smoke.
“Like my Water sister, I’ll give you an ability, too. Here.”
Desi looked down as flames appeared around her feet. The fire seemed to swell inside her, but it did not burn. Instead, her orange-furred body tingled with the power of another gained ability.
“I’ve given you the ability Smoke Screen,” said the Fire Faerie. “Use it well.”
With that, the Faerie was off, soaring into the gloomy sky on wings of flame.
Desi had little time to think about this, however, as a scream pierced her ears.
She turned, and barely ducked in time for Majikn to swoop over her, chased by two ghosts. The Island Shoyru cowered behind her, his draconic body quivering. He was still under the spell of fear the ghosts had cast.
“H... Help. Hide me!” he stammered, his voice barely above a frightened squeak.
Now it was time to draw on those abilities she had just gained, before she, too, was overcome by fear.
Smoke began to swirl around her paws, slowly at first, but as it grew higher, it spread out faster and farther, eclipsing the ghosts in a gray fog. Clamping down on Majikn’s wrist firmly, but not too firmly, she dragged him away from the confused ghosts and the smokescreen, and he calmed as they traveled out of the spell's range.
“Thanks,” Majikn sighed, slumping in relief against the ground. “I thought I was a goner back there.”
“No problem,” said Desi. “Let’s find our owners and petpets.”
“Right, good idea,” said Majikn. “We should head towards the desert, since that’s where we all would go anyway. I’ll fly up high to get our bearings.”
With that, Majikn spread his bright green wings and flew into the sky, his striped body vanishing into the darkness of the canopy of shadows.
Soon enough, he came back down, folding his wings behind him as he landed. “The path is behind us,” he said. “Let’s move.”
Desi nodded, and the two Neopets set off.
As they emerged from the trees onto the path, they saw another group of travelers doing the same farther ahead.
Kirsche and Sean stopped and watched their pets run towards them, Kirsche holding Fortuna under one arm and the luggage the Fangy once held in the other.
Desi skidded to a halt, showering her owner and petpet with profuse grateful greetings, but when she turned to Majikn, hoping to see him enjoying the same reverie, she saw instead a look of worry and panic on his face.
“Where’s Rai?” he said. His petpet was the only member of the group missing!
“Rai?” The Shoyru rose into the air. “Rai!?” His voice became a little more frantic. “RAI!?” he yelled.
The forest was silent.
Desi let out a heavy sigh as Majikn, tears welling in his great eyes, landed, his posture drooped. Sean reached out a hand to comfort his Neopet, but Majikn turned away.
Suddenly, Fortuna squealed in delight, jumping from Kirsche’s arms to run away from the path. Before any of the others could follow her, she had returned, with a scratched-up Island Faellie in tow.
“Rai!” Majikn cried, rushing to embrace his injured petpet. He cradled it in his arms. “What happened to you?”
Time for her other new ability. Desi walked up and placed a large paw on the Faellie’s heaving chest. She closed her eyes, and blue light washed over the petpet’s body. As it cleared, Rai was revealed to be in perfect health, and he sprung up, fluttering at full vitality. Gratefully, he circled Desi’s head before landing on Majikn’s shoulder.
“I’m glad we’re all together again,” said Sean.
“Yeah,” agreed Kirsche. “And look!”
Desi followed the direction she was pointing, and she felt her heart do a flip-flop as she saw the golden peak of a pyramid through the dead trees.
“The Lost Desert!” she cried out joyously.
“Let’s go!” said Majikn, taking to the air at the humans’ shoulder-height.
The temperature rose as the desert came into view, cast into gold-red beauty by the setting sun.
But just before they cleared the last stand of trees, the world around them went white.
To be continued...