Vinsetta: Part Six
It was bitterly cold.
The Haunted Woods had grown much darker, after a heavy cloud crept over the sky and blotted out the half moon. Viena and Shor trudged through the forest in silence, wandering in no particular direction. They were lost.
But Viena wasn’t afraid. Though she couldn’t stop herself from shivering, even with the black shawl wrapped tightly around her, and though the two had been walking for a long, long time without passing any landmarks, she wasn’t afraid. The Wocky knew that someone out there needed her, and with the stick she had taken from Irina’s swamp still held tightly in her numb hand, she continued.
Shor had not spoken since they left the marsh. He merely flew alongside his friend, fighting against the gusts of frigid wind. As time passed, however, the green Shoyru grew worried. Viena could see it in his eyes: he was afraid.
“We’re going to find it soon,” said the Wocky, trying to reassure her friend. “We’ll find the grove, and we’ll save the faeries.”
Shor hesitated, flapping his wings as he hovered next to Viena. “I just don’t know if this is right,” he said. “When Irina said—”
“Don’t you remember what Hane told us?” said Viena. “He said that Irina had saved his life and helped him a lot. But he also said that she showed him things that he didn’t want to see. She tried to do that to us, too. But she gave me the wand, and she told me how to save the faeries. That’s what’s right, Shor. That’s what we have to do.”
“I don’t understand,” said Shor. “Why is this all happening to us? When I saw Emma in that dewdrop, she looked worried. And Irina was scared, and then the flower died and...”
“I know,” said Viena quietly. “I don’t understand it either.”
Both were silent for a while.
“I just don’t want to go home,” said Viena, and after she spoke those words, she saw a light between the trees.
Shor saw it too, and the Neopets looked at each other. “Is that it?” asked the Shoyru.
“It has to be,” said Viena, and she quickened her pace.
The two friends hurried through the Haunted Woods, making their way toward the colorful glow. Soon, they could see that it was indeed Balthazar’s grove; countless bottled faeries hung from the branches of the tall trees that surrounded a small clearing.
They approached, walking up to one side of the dilapidated hut that sat at the edge of the glade. Viena looked around carefully for any sign of the blue Lupe. “Do you see him?” she asked.
“No,” said Shor. “But he might be inside.”
They carefully made their way around to the front of the structure, where they could see that its door was ajar. Viena walked up to it, and carefully peered through the crack.
The cottage was very dark, and she could see nothing. The Wocky could hear her own breathing resonate in the small shack. She turned away. “I think he’s gone.”
Viena stepped away from the cabin and walked to the center of the grove.
“Do you remember what to do?” asked Shor, still standing next to the door of the hut.
“Yes,” said Viena, glancing up into the sky. It was still dark, veiled by a black cloud. “I have to wait until I can see the moon,” she said, holding the long stick tightly in her hand.
Shor walked to a corner of the old house and peered into the forest. “Irina said that Balthazar isn’t away for long,” he said. “We need to keep watch.”
Viena nodded, and the two friends waited.
The wind was stronger in the open space, and it relentlessly battered Viena as she stood in the center of the glade, clutching the wand and looking into the darkness of the Haunted Woods. The Wocky clasped the black shawl at her neck, but she still shivered constantly, her small body shaking as she clenched her teeth. The faeries that hung around the grove seemed to stare down at her, their bright faces indistinguishable.
Viena stood there for a long time, occasionally glancing up at the night sky. Sometimes, the clouds would wear thin and she would be able to see the faint outline of the half moon, but then it would be covered up once more and everything would become dark.
Shor remained at his post next to the hut, flapping his wings to stay warm, and peering into the forest. The green Shoyru was beginning to yawn, and Viena waited in silence.
“I think I hear something,” said Shor, his voice breaking a spell that had seemed to stop time. Viena looked over at him quickly.
“What is it?” she asked.
“It might be him,” said the Shoyru. “Wait.”
The two went quiet, and Viena glanced urgently up into the sky. The clouds were beginning to fade, and she could see the hazy light of the moon trying shine through them. She held the wand tightly, biting her lip.
“I can still hear it,” said Shor, his voice dropping to a whisper. “There’s definitely someone out there. We might want to leave.”
“How can you say that?” whispered Viena, staring at the hanging faeries. “We can’t just leave.”
“We could come back,” said Shor, turning to look at his friend. “We could go home and come back tomorrow. You still have the wand. It would be safer during the day.”
“Shor,” said Viena, shaking her head. “Don’t say that.” The Wocky suddenly felt very small.
“I think Irina might have been right,” said Shor quietly. “She said someone is there for you. Maybe we should ask for Emma’s help. Didn’t you see her in the water drop? She looked so worried.”
“I’m not going back,” said Viena. “The faeries are the ones who want me, not her.”
“So what happens when you free them?” asked Shor, and for the first time Viena could hear a distant rustling. It was still far away, but the sound was growing louder, and the Wocky knew that her time was running out. Shor looked behind him into the forest for a moment, and then back at his friend. “What happens if the spell works, and all the faeries escape? What then?”
Viena hesitated. “I’m hoping they’ll help me,” she said softly. “Maybe they’ll bless me with magic, or something. Or... maybe they’ll take me to Vinsetta.”
Shor took a step toward her. “Viena,” he said carefully, and she knew what was coming. “Maybe Vinsetta isn’t real.”
She stared at him. “What about Hane?” she asked. “What about those Neopets in the stories he told us?”
Shor continued to walk toward her, and the noise of whatever was approaching grew louder. “Hane didn’t know if it was real,” he said. “No one had ever gone there and returned, he said.”
“But he believed,” said Viena. “He knew that it was real. And so do I.” She watched the green Shoyru as he hesitated, halfway between the shack and the center of the glade, where the Wocky stood. “Why don’t you believe?” she whispered.
“Because you can’t dream all the time, Viena,” said Shor, as the rustling came closer. The Wocky felt tears begin to well in her eyes as the Shoyru stood there, unmoving. “Sometimes you have to wake up and see what’s real.”
“Why are you saying this?” asked Viena, a drop of water running down her cheek, feeling cold in the frigid air. “I thought you were my friend.”
Shor said nothing, and the Wocky wondered if perhaps her last words had been so quiet that the wind had carried them away. But then, the Shoyru looked down and said, “I am. That’s why I’m saying this.” He paused. “I don’t think you’re doing the right thing.”
Viena felt her heart drop, and in that moment, she knew that she was alone.
Also in that moment, the final layer of dark clouds faded, like a veil being pulled away, and the silver light of the half moon streamed through the tree branches.
Viena took in a shaking gasp of cold air. She looked at Shor, who stood between her and the hut, staring at his feet. She looked into the Haunted Woods, where the sound of a heavy creature making its way through the forest was growing louder. And then she looked up, and the Wocky reached to the sky with her arm, and pointed her wand at the moon.
She drew its power.
Viena filled every empty space in her heart—the spaces left by her mother, her father, and now Shor—with the magical moonlight. Every bit of loneliness, every void, every dark corner that for so long she had kept hidden, Viena bathed with the silver light of hope, until the energy was almost too much to bear.
The Wocky pulled the stick away from the half moon and turned to point it at the ground. A voice seemed to come from far away: “Viena.”
She knew that it was probably Shor, warning her that Balthazar was approaching, so the Wocky ignored it. Instead, she concentrated wholly on the task at hand.
With the wand in position, pointed straight down at the grass, Viena prepared to release the energy and cast the spell.
“Viena,” a voice whispered—or yelled, the Wocky couldn’t tell. She took a deep, shuddering breath, and then let the magic pour from her soul.
The tip of the wand began to glow, and the young Neopet opened the floodgates of her heart.
The voice was clear this time, and Viena was filled with a strange sensation. By reflex, she turned toward the source of the call, and in that motion, she swept the wand in a curving arc.
White light burst forth from the stick, like a whip unfurling, curling along with Viena as she moved to see who had spoken her name. Instead of being directed at the ground, the powerful spell spun in a half circle, the string of light expanding into a whirlwind.
Viena could only watch as the enchantment continued, and the magic traced a complete circle, surrounding her with a blinding light.
And then, it became a shock wave, spreading outward from the spot at which the Wocky stood. There was an explosion of silence, and Viena wondered if she had been deafened by the spell.
In that one moment, she saw every glass bottle shatter into countless pieces, every blade of grass and tree bend. Her shawl was pulled violently from her shoulders and carried away on the wind. And Shor, as Viena watched in shock, was lifted by the powerful force and hurled out of the grove, disappearing into the night.
And then, she was empty again.
In fact, as Viena sank to her knees on the one small patch of grass that wasn’t flattened, she felt emptier than ever before.
But there was no time to think, because the Wocky heard a loud fluttering sound, and when she looked up, she could see that the air was filled with countless faeries in flight.
Freed from their prisons, they stretched their wings and flitted around the glade, dancing with joy and diving through the air. They sounded like a million pages of a book being flipped, and their light cast a vibrant glow over everything.
And then they began to leave, trickling through the trees, all heading in one direction. Viena watched as the faeries flowed out of the grove, like a basin of colored water being poured out, until all that could be seen was a trail of light slowly vanishing in the distance.
Not one of them had stopped. Viena stood up to follow them, dropping the stick behind her as she ran out of the glade.
She tried to chase the dancing lights as they disappeared into the Haunted Woods, but her small legs couldn’t keep up. One by one, the colored glows began to fade, until all that was left for Viena to follow was a tiny yellow twinkle, coming in and out of sight between the trees.
She ran as fast as her tired, cold legs could carry her, and at last the Wocky caught up to one small light faerie. The creature had stayed behind her sisters, the only one to wait for the young Neopet who had saved them.
When Viena drew near, the faerie beckoned with a familiar wave of her hand.
The Wocky walked behind her, and soon, she saw something that seemed almost too incredible to be true.
All of the faeries, too many to count, were perched on the branches of an enormous tree. Every space was covered by a shining creature, making the boughs look as though they had sprouted colored leaves, which moved and breathed with a life of their own.
Its trunk split into two near the bottom, and it spread upwards in a gentle curve, reaching up to the dark sky above. And Viena knew what it was.
“Vinsetta,” she breathed, and something deep inside her leapt for joy.
* * * * *
Emma had been knocked off her feet by a powerful gust of wind, and she struggled to stand up once more. The cold night was fierce and ruthless, and the yellow Bori feared that it was impossible for a small Neopet to survive such conditions. Frightening thoughts crept into her desperate mind, and the Bori tried to push them away.
She pressed onward. She had cast away the burned-out lantern long ago, and the darkness of the Haunted Woods filled her. But more than that, the knowledge that she may have been the cause of all of this... it was almost too much.
Emma felt her heart sink, and she glanced up to the sky. It was then that she noticed something caught in the branches of a tree. The Bori hurried toward it, but as soon as she had seen it she had known what it was: a small black shawl.
It was too high to reach, but Emma knew that she was close. Perhaps there was still hope.
Not much longer, she came upon something that rekindled the fire in her soul. A green Shoyru plushie lay abandoned on the ground. Emma picked it up, and frantically scanned the surrounding area with careful eyes.
“Viena!” she called, her voice shaking. If she could just find the Wocky in time, she could explain everything. Perhaps it wasn’t too late. Perhaps she could save the relationship she had nearly lost. There was hope.
Emma ran as fast as she could, pushing aside branches as she made her way through the Haunted Woods. She couldn’t be too late. She couldn’t. “Viena!”
* * * * *
The small brown Wocky stood at the base of the tree. Its wide trunk reached upward and then split, just above Viena’s eye level, into two curving boughs. The faeries stared down at her from the branches, and she spoke.
“Is this really it?” she asked them, but none of the creatures replied. “Did you lead me here? Am I worthy?”
She thought of Hane, and Viena remembered how the Halloween Bori had so longed to be deemed worthy of Vinsetta. She looked up into the crowd of faeries and asked, “Can I bring a friend here? Can you help me find him?”
No reply came, and Viena started shivering again.
She stood there, at the base of the tree, waiting. And then, first one, then another, and then several of the faeries flapped their wings and took flight. They hovered in the cold air for a moment, and then drifted down to where the tree diverged.
One by one, they fluttered toward the place just out of Viena’s reach, where the two boughs split, and disappeared inside. And then, Viena realized that she had not quite found Vinsetta—not yet.
The Wocky watched as more and more faeries made the journey, vanishing into their haven and its promise of hope and happiness. “Can you take me there?” she asked quietly. “Can I come with you?” But the faeries said nothing, and continued flowing into the tree, until the area grew dim and the lights began to fade.
Viena’s legs couldn’t hold up any longer, and she sat down, nestling herself in the curving roots. Darkness came upon the forest, and she watched as the last few faeries disappeared into their home, until only one remained.
A tiny light faerie hovered there, at the entrance to Vinsetta. Her yellow glow was the only thing that Viena could see in the gloom.
“Doesn’t anybody want me?” she asked in a whisper.
The faerie reached up and put a finger to her lips, and then she drifted down in between the two branches, and her light faded away.
Viena snuggled up closer to the tree roots, but they didn’t hug her back. Her mind was becoming fuzzy, clouded by the cold. All she could think about was Shor.
She should have listened to him. He had been right all along. Now, she was alone. And she hadn’t been able to get into Vinsetta after all.
The night closed in upon her, and Viena closed her eyes.
Perhaps, if she stayed here, if she waited, he would find her. Shor would return, and they would visit Vinsetta together.
The half moon continued its journey across the dark sky. As day broke, and the sun began to warm the frozen fingers of the forest, a yellow Bori knelt at the base of a tall, spreading tree.
She wept, holding a green Shoyru plushie in one arm, and a brown Wocky in the other.