The Night of Nothing: Part Two
Also by spoonguardonline
“Excellent work, minions.”
A voice made Gilly turn. A screechy voice, just like a poor Pteri screaming, emerged from her mouth. A Dark Faerie, a good inch taller than the others, emerged from behind one of the mysterious trees. She was clad in a long purple dress, long-sleeved with a high neck. The rest of the Faeries around bowed their heads as she approached Gilly, who stared defiantly back at her.
“Madame,” said the Faerie who had frozen Bruno. “Unfortunately, you just missed the dramatic ending of the previous part.”
“Did I?” Madame looked slightly vexed.
“You did, Madame,” said a second Faerie. “We keep warning you about this.”
“I’ll pay closer attention next time.” Madame’s eyes moved across the clearing, and her eyes fell onto the rigid frame of Bruno. “There was a Gelert here? I thought this place was deserted.” Her gaze shifted across to Gilly. “Who froze the Usul?”
“Nobody has touched her, Madame,” another Dark Faerie answered. “She probably froze herself, in fear.”
In fact, Gilly was nothing of the sort. She felt indignant that these... creatures (for lack of a better word) would consider her fearful of them, and she waved a foot in passive protest. It was a futile gesture, though - she didn't know what to do, where to move. She looked to her left, at Bruno's once joyful features, and vowed that she would reanimate him. She then remembered her cloak. Why is everything happening to me? she thought, bitterly.
A cold breeze whistled through the clearing, reminding her of the temperature. It also ruffled her hair further, and she felt a vague, almost inexplicable anger that, if they were to freeze her, she would spend the rest of time looking as though she’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. She tried to grab her cloak, only to remember what happened earlier.
Finally, she moved her head up to face her great enemy. She saw the Dark Faerie giving some orders to the rest of the Faeries. But they spoke quietly, and she could not hear their voices.
I need to do something... and quickly! Gilly thought. She wasn’t a fast thinker; in fact, she often wasted time in situations like these reminding herself that she wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer - she was even blunter than most of the spoons. But what could she do?
Gilly was amazed by herself. That thought was quick, efficient, and would work. Sophie would know what to do. After all, she lived in Neovia – evil overlords trying to take over Neopia were as much a feature of day-to-day life as the postman. And, with the two of them combined, they might stand a chance against those Faeries.
The only problem that Gilly faced now was how to run towards Sophie. The Dark Faeries were busy, but they could all too easily freeze her with a flick of their wand. That thought made her jolt, causing her hair to mess even more!
“So!” cackled the Faerie Madame. Gilly was still looking up at her. Madame's piercing eyes scanned Gilly's face. “Let the celebrations begin!” She laughed to the night and, closing her eyes, she began to spin in a tight circle, chanting some magical words. (At least, Gilly assumed they were magical words. They could have just been gibberish, but, given the situation, this seemed unlikely)
That's my chance! Gilly thought, deciding to think something useful for the second time today, a personal record, and, as the Faerie was halfway through her turn, she took to her heels and started running back, through the trees and along the faint tracks that she and Bruno had made a matter of minutes previously. Behind her, Madame must have finished her rotation, as a sharp cry sounded from behind her, and a sudden flash of light from her wand nearly blinded Gilly, shooting over her head. The flash abstractly spread around the forest, at no specific direction. She kept on running. She knew that, sooner or later, all roads led to home. Sophie's home, she hoped... but would it be soon enough?
“She’s escaping!” Gilly heard a Dark Faerie shouting (wresting the Pointless Statements award from her fellow minion), and a hum of several dozen wings sounded behind her, as the Faeries began to rise over the ground. She realised quickly that they would reach her in seconds, and forsook valour and honour for being alive, by hiding nobly in a bush.
The Faeries drew level with her. She could feel their evil aura, smell the stench of fear in the air, see their dark hands grabbing the air, searching.
“We’ve lost her!” said one. The evil aura of them was very close to her. She could smell something rotten. She wasn't sure what it was, but the scent punched her nose; hardly!
“Do not worry!” said Madame. “It is better this way. She must be hiding nearby; she will be able to see us. A demonstration for her, perhaps!”
“You’re going to freeze her?” squeaked one of the smaller and younger-looking Faeries excitedly. Madame scoffed.
“No, no,” she said. “Freezing is so last malevolent scheme.”
Madame raised her wand again and pointed it at the distant path. A quick flash of light, green light, erupted from the end, and Madame lowered her wand onto the nearby path, making a straight line.
“See that?” she shouted to the night. “That is a taste of the future! Onwards!” She slipped her wand into her sleeves and ordered the rest of the faeries. As one, the mob rose, and flew onwards through the fading moonlight, into the heart of the Haunted Woods.
Gilly silently got out of the bushes, cleaned her clothes and looked around her. Her heart was beating quickly as she moved towards the ground where the Faerie had zapped. Her brow furrowed as she looked at the single object sprouting from the ground. It seemed a very odd thing for a Dark Faerie to produce.
Planted firmly in the ground was a solitary Cheery Plant.
Suddenly, from the line that the zap had passed from, started to bloom smaller and smaller Cheery plants. Each one smiled merrily up at her, and Gilly stood, puzzled, for a moment. Something here didn’t seem quite right – what was a Dark Faerie doing producing these? And why did the air smell, faintly, of something rotting? Her brain, however, intervened at this point, refusing to let her forget her mission.
“To Sophie,” she sighed, taking a deep breath and starting to run. Her hair was in a complete state now – if anybody saw her, and they weren't the faeries, they would be entitled to give her the ‘Messiest Hair' award.
She knew that she was about as far from Neovia as it was possible for her to be, and she would need to cut through the Haunted Woods. Worryingly, though, the faeries seemed to have taken the same path – was it possible that they too were after Sophie? She chose a path and ran, ran like the wind, through the undergrowth. Eventually, she made her way onto a muddy footpath, and she followed the unfamiliar road, in what seemed vaguely the right direction, hoping against hope that it would lead her right.
The path twisted and turned, but grew wider as it went, before she found herself on one of the main routes through the Woods. She refused to stop, though. She would not get distracted.
“A quest, young lady?”
Gilly stopped in her tracks. Distracted was one thing, but this didn’t seem right, and, despite her haste, she turned suspiciously to face the voice.
The Brain Tree stood on the side of the path, beaming at her. His roots were covered by a sea of colour, and a pair of Pteris were roosting in some of his higher branches.
“A quest?” she echoed, surprised. “I thought you only gave them to those who asked,” she continued and looked up. Those branches that used to look like orange brain, were now covered with small nests.
“Did I?” The Brain Tree thought for a moment. “Perhaps I did. Anyway, when and where was Alan Draik born?”
“Look, I don’t have time for... wait, born?”
“Yes,” he said, looking at Gilly.
“I thought you did deaths?”
“Deaths?” The Tree looked taken aback (a difficult look for any tree to achieve). “How morbid! That sounds horrible! No, I much prefer investigating the start of life.”
Gilly stared at him for a moment, then shook herself. This can’t be happening, she told herself, and she started down the path again.
“Come back!” called the Brain Tree after her. “I haven’t asked you when George Kacheek’s birthday is yet!”
She ignored the voice, and began to run again, darting along the path.
Very soon, the path started to turn again – but the wrong way. Gilly groaned – she had been following the wrong path. Muttering, she turned, and made her own way through the trees. They were thinner in this part, and she was able to easily navigate through them.
She stepped on something. Something that squelched under her foot. And something that said “Owww!” with a voice that was the epitome of the word ‘squeeze’.
She stepped back, and had another look at the tiny creature on the floor, that she had missed in her haste. It seemed to be made of grey jelly, and, as she looked at it, it moaned slightly.
“What... sorry, who are you?” she asked.
“Youuu knnnow whooo Iii aaam,” it groaned.
“Oh, come on,” Gilly muttered. “This is ridiculous.”
“I ammm fulllll!” said the blob. “Fiiind meee annn innndigggessstion currre annnd Iii wwwill rewwward yooou!”
“Sorry, I don’t have time,” said Gilly. “I need to save the Haunted Woods.” Without a glance back, she continued quickly on her way.
“Honnnestly,” said the Esophagor. “Sooome peoooppple havvve no ressspeccct forrr lazzzy overrr-innndulgggers.”
Dashing through the forest Gilly suddenly found herself recognising the way that she was travelling. With relief, she took the familiar turns, until she found herself standing at the gateway to Neovia.
“I am getting in,” she told herself, and passed through the gate of the entrance of the city.
It was quiet for a night in Neovia. Gilly was used to the screams and screeches of those old zombies, but something felt different here. Something in the air wasn't right... She tried to smell. For once she was scared it smelled rotten, like the Faeries, but it didn't. Nor the other significant smell, though!
This is it! Gilly snapped the thought and let her hands go from hugging herself. She looked around her – no sign of life. The place seemed abandoned. She made her way to the nearest building, the bakery.
“Hello?” she called out. No answer. No bread or cookies were being made, and the lights of the bakery were off; as was the stove. The shopkeeper was supposed to be there and Gilly knew that the Crumpetmonger never closed.
“Suspicious, isn’t it?” said a voice from behind her. It was a friendly voice, and one that Gilly recognised.
“Sophie!” Gilly exclaimed as she turned around. “I’ve been searching for you.” That was the moment that Gilly waited. The moment where she would hear an insult, an order, some thing rude; something that would make her feel like Haunted Woods. She felt the sigh of relief coming out of her mouth but...
“Gilly, my little Usul,” Sophie said, in a sweet tone that sounded unnatural coming from the mouth of the Green Ixi.
“Sophie? Is that really you?” Gilly asked with a weird expression. Something didn’t seem quite right – the tone and the person didn’t fit. It was like hearing Dr Sloth recite a poem about a flower.
“I am perfectly fine, Gilly!” Sophie laughed out loud. “Why on Neopia would you think I wasn’t?”
Gilly's heart skipped a beat. The rest of the Haunted Woods was turning nice – the last thing she needed was for her one friend and ally to do the same. Bruno needed them; so did Neopia.
“Sophie, there’s something I need to tell you...”
“Something to tell me? I have something important to tell you too,” she said. Gilly frowned at her – did she know something about the Faeries?
“I am not sure if I shall buy a sofa or an armchair,” she continued. Gilly felt like she had lost her voice. This couldn't be happening!
“What?” she eventually croaked out.
“I know,” said Sophie airily. “I mean, it shouldn’t be a question. The sofa is the obvious choice...”
“Sophie,” Gilly cut in firmly. “We have to do something really, really important...”
“Oh, can it wait? I was going to go to the nearby furniture store. There’s this darling little lamp I saw on sale there, that would look perfect in my new lounge. You could see the sofa too.”
In spite of the situation, Gilly had to ask.
“A lounge? I thought you lived in a shack?”
“So did I,” said Sophie. “Apparently, I don’t any more. I’d just finished repairing my roof, and realised that the roof was two stories higher than it used to be. I guess it was that potion I had been stewing earlier today. Or rather, yesterday.” Sophie yawned. “I don’t know. These nights confuse me – I’m not used to being out this late.”
Gilly sat down on a rock. There was definitely something up.
“Sophie, you’re a witch! You spend all night brewing potions. Look, I need to tell you something; something really important and frightening!”
Sophie blinked, and Gilly could make out the vestiges of her old personality, starting to take form.
“What’s happening?” she asked. “And where’s Bruno?”
“That’s part of it, really...”
* * *
“...and then I came here, and found you affected by it too,” finished Gilly. Sophie’s expression had changed more often than the Stock Market in the course of the tale – going from confusion, to horror, to fear, to anger.
“What?” she yelled. “That's dangerous! And poor Bruno. But what can we do?”
“That’s what I came to speak to you about. You know anyone who can help us?” Gilly said. Approaching footsteps made her turn, to see a Meerca approaching.
“Hello Sophie. Usul,” she greeted the pair. It was the shopkeeper of the bakery.
“Hello, Crumpetmonger,” Sophie said suspiciously. “Where’ve you been? You never leave your bakery!”
“Oh yes, sorry about that. I was just going around giving out some free food. You know me – I hate to keep too much for me,” the Meerca said. “If you hold on for a second, I’ve got an apple tart in here with your name on it.” Nimbly, she stepped into her bakery, and lit a lamp. Gilly’s eyes widened excitedly. How my luck has changed, she thought.
“That's really odd!” Sophie said and looked at Gilly. “What did you say that the faeries did?”
“They zapped things with their wands, and things got more... pleasant,” Gilly said, stopping her weird look. Sophie nodded.
“Seems like a conventional Cheery Spell. Easy to cure, obviously,” Sophie said, and Gilly didn't care to ask how, “but we need to sort out those Faeries, before they get too far. If the whole Woods become jolly, there’ll be nothing I can do. After all, I’m part of the spell now.”
“I thought you were cured,” said Gilly. “I mean, you seem a lot more aware now.”
“Oh, I’m far from cured,” Sophie said. “You’ve made me a bit more aware, but I’m still far too happy for my own good, and I’m resisting the urge to invest in soft furnishings. No, we need to sort out this Madame once and for all. And there’s only one who can help us with that.”
“Who’s that?” Gilly asked, and she whined as Sophie grabbed her hand and dragged her away from the bakery – she had been looking forward to the free food.
“Come,” said Sophie, leading Gilly away from the finest cooking in Neovia. “We’re going to find Balthazar...”
To be continued...