Vinsetta: Part Two
The light of a half moon shone down through the dense, bare branches of the trees as three figures flitted through the night. In the lead, a glowing light faerie darted back and forth, staying close to the ground and flapping her wings rapidly against the cold wind. Behind her, following in silence, a brown Wocky wearing a black shawl padded across the grass and leaves, and a green Shoyru flew next to her.
Emma’s small cottage had long since faded into the distance. Viena and Shor were alone in the Haunted Woods, with only a lantern in the form of a radiant faerie to guide them. The Wocky’s eyes watered a little in the breeze, but the dense forest provided a slight barrier against the gusts; they could be heard much more loudly in the upper branches than on the ground, where the breeze slithered through the maze of smooth, leafless trunks.
“Where do you think she’s leading us?”
Viena could tell that Shor had been waiting to ask the question in hopes that their destination would be revealed, but the green Shoyru was now growing a bit apprehensive in the darkness. Viena had been wondering the same thing, but she too had kept silent, waiting for the faerie in front of them to provide a clue.
At Shor’s words, the creature turned around and merely beckoned them with a tiny hand; her face was too bright to read. Viena glanced at her friend. “She came all the way to the cottage to get our help,” said the Wocky. “I’m sure it’s something important.”
Shor didn’t say anything, and Viena kept walking. Her feet were a little bit cold; she had tucked her hands in underneath the shawl several minutes ago to keep them warm. They continued the journey in silence.
Viena’s thoughts began to stray. She wondered if Emma was still sitting at home, drinking tea with her friend. The yellow Bori probably wouldn’t even notice that Viena was gone. If the Wocky returned before morning, Emma would never know the difference.
As she frowned slightly, Viena looked up and noticed a light in the distance.
Just past the yellow glow of her tiny guide, a second glimmer could be seen. It filtered through the trees, looking blurry and distant. “Is that where we’re going?” asked Viena hopefully.
The faerie only beckoned them with her hand.
Viena glanced at Shor. The green Shoyru flapped alongside her quietly, keeping his eyes on the light ahead of them. “I wonder what it is,” he said.
It grew brighter as they came closer. Soon, Viena could see that it was not one light, but many: red and green and yellow and purple and blue all mixed together in a mirage of color.
It was not long before the group arrived at the edge of a small grove, and the brown Wocky could finally see the source.
It was beautiful. Faeries were everywhere, resting in glass bottles which hung from thin strings of twine, making them look like dewdrops on strands of a sypderweb. They were suspended just above the Wocky’s head, dangling from long boughs and shining brightly like tiny painted lanterns. The forest floor was dappled with their many colors, and the glade was filled with a mystical glow.
Shor looked around with wide eyes, and Viena smiled in awe. “This is amazing,” she breathed, staring up into the branches, where the faeries pressed against the glass with their tiny hands. It was like entering a magical kingdom, as if Viena had stepped into one of her own dreams. Hundreds of beacons were hung around the edges of the clearing, like teardrops, glistening in the night.
Viena was gazing so intently above her that it took a tap from Shor to get her attention. “Look,” said the Shoyru, pointing to the opposite side of the grassy space.
A dilapidated cottage sat nestled at the edge of the trees, sagging like a chocolate house that had melted a bit in the sun.
The light faerie was flitting back and forth in front of it, her wings buzzing as she darted toward the two friends and then back again to the cottage. Her hands motioned toward the splintered door, and Viena could see that the windows were boarded up.
“What’s this?” she asked quietly, taking a step forward. The creature continued to flutter about excitedly. “Do you live here?”
Viena crossed the small glade and approached the house. Its slanted roof was missing many shingles, and the greying wood looked like it had been eaten away in places. The decrepit little structure was a sharp contrast to the beauty of the hanging faeries, and Viena began to walk around its perimeter, peering at it curiously.
“I don’t like this,” said Shor, hovering at Viena’s shoulder. “What is this place?”
“I don’t know,” said the Wocky, turning around one corner of the building to look at its other side. “But our friend led us here. It has to be important.”
The light faerie buzzed over to them, beckoning urgently. “What is it?” asked Viena, staring at her with concern. “What do you want us to do?”
The winged creature darted back around the corner, to the front of the cottage. Shor glanced at his friend. “I think we’re supposed to follow her,” he said. “Maybe we need to go inside.”
Viena nodded silently and took a step, but as soon as she did there was a sudden creak from within the building. She stopped in mid-stride. “What was—”
A shrill whine could be heard from the front of the cottage, almost instantly followed by a heavy thud. To Viena’s horror, the tiny light faerie could be seen hurtling away from the house, where she struck the side of a tree and fell to the ground.
The Wocky ran to the corner of the cottage and peered around it. The wooden door had been flung open on its hinges, colliding with the faerie as she hovered in front of it. A stiff, shaggy arm was sticking out of the open space.
Viena looked over at Shor, whose eyes were wide with fear. The two watched as a large creature stepped out of the cabin, his mouth open showing jagged yellow teeth, and his wild eyes looking intently at the slumped figure of the faerie.
He was an enormous blue Lupe, with ragged, untamed fur and long, sharp claws. His heavy footsteps crunched the fallen leaves underneath them as he emerged from his home, walking slowly across the glade. He withdrew a glass bottle from the belt at his waist and carefully slipped the light faerie inside, sealing the top with a cork.
As he unwound a bit of twine and looped it around the bottle’s neck, Viena gasped.
The Wocky looked up above her, at the countless faeries who were hanging from the tree limbs encircling the area. The beauty and wonder was replaced by horror as she realized that they were all captives, trapped in glass prisons with no hope of escape.
And she... she had not listened to the light faerie who had been motioning so frantically to her. Viena watched as the Lupe dangled his newest prize from a high bough. It was her fault; she had let her new friend be captured.
“We have to get out of here,” said Shor worriedly. “He’s going to see us.” The Lupe had now turned around, and the two friends withdrew their heads from around the corner.
“We can’t just leave her here,” said Viena, her voice tense. “We can’t just leave all of them!”
The hundreds of glowing faeries seemed to gaze down at her from above, their eyes boring into her, pleading. Shor grabbed the Wocky’s arm and tried to pull her away from the house. “Viena,” he said. “We can come back later. We can’t do anything now, though.” Viena turned away from the Lupe, who was walking back to the door of his house.
“We’ll come back,” she said. The brown Wocky hurried away from the rundown cottage, stepping into the dense trees of the Haunted Woods. She and Shor walked quickly away from the glade, with its colored light growing dim in the distance.
“They need our help,” said Viena softly, almost to herself. “I’m going to help them.”
The Wocky and Shoyru made their way deeper into the dark forest, and soon, the glow from behind them vanished altogether, and they were alone in the Haunted Woods.
The silver light of the half moon shone down on the two friends from above, as they made their way through the forest. Both were silent, and this time they had no one to guide them. Neither of them said it, but they were lost.
Viena was lost in her thoughts as well, as she padded over the cold ground. Wrapping her shawl more closely around her shoulders in the frigid wind, the Wocky couldn’t help but think about what had happened. She now knew why the faerie had seemed frightened and urgent, but what could she do? There was no way that Viena could stand up to that Lupe, even if she were able to find her way back to the grove.
Maybe she should go home. Maybe Emma would help her. But as Viena’s thoughts drifted to the yellow Bori, she knew that Emma would only say that she had been dreaming, and then forbid her from going outside into the woods alone again.
As Viena let out a sigh and glanced at the identical trees around her, she spotted a light nearby.
It was a pale, dreary color, but nevertheless was a welcome change to the endless bare branches of the Haunted Woods. Viena grabbed Shor’s shoulder. “Do you think it’s a house?” she said, walking more quickly as she and her friend made their way toward the glow.
“I hope so,” said Shor, breaking into a smile. “I’m freezing.”
The two could soon see that it was indeed a house; in fact, it was a mansion. The building loomed up out of the forest like a palace: tall, grey, and old. Its architecture was beautifully symmetrical and quite ornate, yet with an almost dreamlike air about it. Candles lit every window in front of nearly-drawn white curtains; columns lined its front, tapering into what looked like elegantly-carved clouds as they melted into the rest of the stone.
The mansion was like something Viena had only imagined, a forgotten fantasy that could only contain magic and mystery. The young brown Wocky was almost at a run before she and Shor arrived at the flight of steps that brought them up to its tall, pale blue double doors.
The silver knockers were in the shape of Kazeriu heads, and Viena reached up on tiptoe to rap one of them against the wood twice.
The Wocky was panting, and she could see her breath turn to vapor as it escaped into the cold air. Now that she was standing still, Viena could hear a dim noise from inside the house. It was difficult to distinguish, but she was almost certain that she could hear a stifled hubbub of voices over a faint musical undertone.
Shor sneezed. “Why isn’t anyone answering the door?” he asked, rubbing his hands together.
Viena stretched out her arm to tap the knocker again, three times. The faded noise continued from behind the double doors, but no one came to open them.
“Come on,” said Viena, walking along the raised porch toward one of the windows. “Maybe we can see inside.”
Though the faded, embroidered curtains were mostly closed, a small gap had been left so that a burning candle could be placed on the windowsill inside. The bottom edge of the glass was quite high, but Viena could peer over it on tiptoe. Shor tried to flap his wings and hover next to her, but it proved too difficult and he landed beside the Wocky. “What do you see?”
“It’s a beautiful ball,” breathed Viena, her eyes reflecting the small orange flame of the candle. She stared into the vast room, which was lit with pale lanterns that created an ethereal atmosphere. Silky banners lined the walls, and a long, polished floor was filled with dancing couples, wearing extravagant garments and gliding effortlessly in graceful patterns.
“There are musicians on one side,” said Viena as Shor listened eagerly, “and there are some tables along the wall. Most everyone is dancing, though, in beautiful gowns and dresses and jewelry. It’s wonderful.”
Her eyes roved around the room, taking in every detail, and she longed to be with those Neopets in the ballroom, so sophisticated, so proper, so perfect. She watched them with wide eyes, examining every face, until she found one, and then another, that she recognized.
Viena felt her heart lurch. Her face must have shown it, because Shor said, “What is it?”
She couldn’t tear her gaze from the window. “My mother,” she said in a small voice, the words sounding almost unreal on her lips. “My father.”
To be continued...