A Bad Experience
Balthazar stood on all four of his legs as he watched and waited. His targeting eyes were staring straight forward into a swamp. His purple-blue fur swayed slightly as a breeze blew by. Then it returned to its messy and tangled form. The oversized Lupe had been famous for capturing and selling faeries. It had made him rich. Now, he wanted a bigger challenge with a bigger reward. He knew what he wanted, how to get it, and whose help he would need. His ears perked up as he heard someone wade through the mucky swamp. He saw who he had been waiting for, Sophie.
The green Ixi walked cautiously back to her small shack in the swamp. In her hands was a pile of mushrooms, herbs, and berries for her experiments. She groaned as her filthy blue dress dipped into the mud. It was hard to believe that she had once belonged to a fine family a few months ago. Her flowing green hair had become knotted and twisted. Her fur was covered in dried mud and dirt. Sophie sighed in memory of her family. She turned her head in the direction of Neovia, but she immediately continued walking to her house. She was too busy to feel nostalgic; she had to help her town. After the townsfolk had been cursed by a mysterious Krawk, they had become angry. Sophie had fled into the Haunted Woods for safety. When she returned, the town was empty. She had visited the deserted town every week to see if she could find anything, but it was always the same. Then on Hallowe’en she had seen her family and friends, but they could not see her. That was why she was here now, experimenting on potions and spells. She knew that in one of her many books there was a cure for Neovia.
The dark swamp would scare most Neopians, but not Sophie. She had never feared the dark, and she did not mind the old, dead trees. She had long gotten used to seeing and hearing the spooky petpets who wandered by her home. Sophie approached her home and entered. The shack was not much, but it kept her reasonably safe and warm. She dropped her ingredients into a box and slumped down into her rocking chair. Normally, it would be outside, but with the winter winds arriving she had decided to move inside. She looked onto her table and saw one of her favourite photographs. It was in a beautiful gold frame incrusted with dazzling jewels. But it was not the frame that Sophie admired; it was the picture. The photo showed her and Bruno playing a game of catch, while Reginald apprehensively watched. Sophie smiled as she remembered when Reginald had tried to play, he could barely throw past his two feet. Then she felt depressed again as she remembered that her family was gone.
Sophie heard that sound of soft foots steps outside her door. She put the picture in her pocket and curiously went to investigate. She came up to the door and prepared to open it. She gasped as a large grisly paw broke through the door and grabbed her. She screamed and punched the arm. She looked up at her attacker and went silent with fear. Towering above her was Balthazar the bounty hunter. The Lupe had a victorious grin and two savage eyes.
“Hello, Sophie,” growled Balthazar. “I need your help.”
Sophie wanted to say something, but her mouth was dry and no words would come out. She only stared up in fear.
“I’m not going to play around,” declared Balthazar, “You are going to do exactly what I say if you want to keep breathing. I believe that you know about the earth faerie, Ilere; I need to find her. You are going to lead me to her. If you do, I will let you return to your little shack and never see me again.”
“But-but,” Sophie tried to explain that she did not know where Ilere lived.
“No buts!” barked Balthazar, “Take me to the earth faerie or else.”
The bounty hunter tightened his grip around her ribs. Sophie realized that he could snap her in half, if he wanted to.
“Okay, I’ll take you to Ilere,” Sophie screamed.
Balthazar put her down and grinned smugly again.
“Smart choice,” he growled. “Now, get going!”
Sophie was frantically trying to think of any way she could get herself out of this situation. Balthazar was watching her carefully as she stepped out of the shack. Sophie noticed her staff lying next the doorway. That could come in handy. She bent down and picked it up.
“What are you doing?” snarled Balthazar.
“It’s just a walking stick,” lied Sophie. “I don’t want to fall in any hidden holes.”
Balthazar looked at her suspiciously, but said nothing. Sophie stepped into the swamp and headed into the woods. Balthazar was behind her, creeping silently. There was no way that Sophie could escape; Balthazar was much too fast and agile. The green Ixi and large Lupe walked through the spooky forest without speaking. Sophie recognized each tree and rock. Eventually, she had a vague idea of a plan. She figured that if she kept walking as if she knew where she was going, she could bring Balthazar to a populated area. He would not harm her in public. She could make her escape into a crowd; that was as far as her plan reached. Sophie continued to make her way through the woods. She saw a rock which she remembered pointed to the direction of the Desert Fairground. She was certain that she could escape now. Unfortunately, she forgot that Balthazar had a strong sense of smell.
“I smell people; where are you taking me?” barked Balthazar.
The large Lupe rose to his hind legs, ready to attack at Sophie. Sophie’s logical thinking shut down for a brief second when she brought out her staff and smacked it on the Lupe’s snout. Balthazar curled back; he was not in pain, only surprised. Sophie used this chance to dash for the Deserted Fairground. She could see the colours and people. She heard Balthazar following her furiously. She turned around for a fraction of a second to see the bounty hunter charging on all four legs. The Ixi gasped as she tumbled down an almost visible hill. Her vision become a swirl of colours and mud as she rolled through the dirt. Once she was able to think again, she dug her staff into the ground to stop her from moving.
Sophie got up and groaned in pain at her bruises. She did not have time to worry now; Balthazar would find her any second. She clutched her staff tightly and proceeded to the carnival. She felt that she would be safe here now. It was strange to see people since she had been alone for so long, but they paid no attention to her. Sophie found herself in front of a game called Test Your Strength. She wondered why it seemed so popular, since no one ever one.
Sophie heard something hut the ground behind her. She turned around and realized that Balthazar was not giving up so easily. The Lupe had tumbled down the hill with even less grace than she had, so she had a chance to run. Sophie pushed her way through the crowds of people. She passed a couple other tricky games such as Coconut Shy and Bagatelle. Not far behind her, Balthazar was pushing Neopets out of his way. The people seemed less frightened than offended.
“These Haunted Woods folks are so rude,” sniffed a royal Aisha before marching off.
Sophie realized that she had stared too long; Balthazar had caught sight of her! She decided to try to blend with a crowd. She walked up to a group of children watching the Coconut Shy, and pretend to be part of them. After a few minutes, she turned around to see if she had lost Balthazar. He was nowhere in sight. Sophie sighed and stood up. Suddenly, two massive paws wrapped around her waist.
She heard Balthazar growl in her ear, “You didn’t really think that you could escape from Neopia’s greatest bounty hunter, did you?”
Sophie struggled to be free of the Lupe’s firm grasp. Her foot hit part of the Coconut Shy stand. The yellow and red stand began to crumble, revealing that it was very poorly built. Many people scrambled out of the way. The shoving bodies caused Balthazar to loosen his grip on Sophie, so she had a chance to escape. She saw a coconut roll over to her foot, and decided to toss it at Balthazar to buy her more time. When she picked it up, she was surprised at how heavy it was.
“No wonder no one ever wins,” she muttered to herself.
Just as Balthazar was ready to pounce on her, Sophie dropped the coconut on his foot. He howled in pain. Again surprise had saved Sophie; the Lupe had not expected such weight. Sophie took this short chance to run as far as she could. She darted between people; unfortunately, her dress made it hard to for her to run very fast. When she stopped to catch her breath, she found herself at a cart.
“Hey, little girl,” beckoned an evil looking Bruce with a red bow and Korbat wings. “Wanna buy some spooky food? You look famished; maybe a devilled steak will fill you up.”
Suddenly, an idea popped into Sophie’s mind.
“No thank you,” she said politely, “but do you think that I could borrow your cart? It’s an emergency.”
The black Bruce open his mouth wide; the only sound that came out was a ”What?”
Sophie saw that Balthazar would be on her very soon. She back up, jumped, and pushed the cart. The force started the cart moving downhill towards the main part of Haunted Woods. She held on tightly as she zipped through the woods bumpily. Each rock and clump of dirt Sophie hit caused more spooky food to roll off of the cart. Suddenly, Sophie could see the main area of the Haunted Woods. She was going to escape! She gasped and closed her eyes as she realized that she was going to collide with an obstacle. The food cart made contact with the object and collapsed to the ground. Sophie was shaken and very dizzy. Everything in her vision was spinning uncontrollably. As she sight become more clear she felt two bony arms wrap around her. When she looked up, she saw that they were not arms, but branches. She also saw that the obstacle was the Brain Tree.
“How dare you attack the Brain Tree?” boomed the monstrous tree.
His branches held Sophie firmly and lifted her up. As she felt her chest being squeezed, she saw that Brain Tree clearly. His bark was a roan red, but not as red as his scarlet eyes. On top of him was his orange, pulsing brain.
Sophie knew that Balthazar would arrive soon so she tried to explain, “I’m really sorry; it was an accident. I’m in a real hurry because a crazed Lupe is chasing me!”
“Lies!” cried the Brain Tree. “You are one of those mischief making kids, aren’t you?”
“No,” Sophie gasped as he crushed her harder.
“You are always causing trouble, making it impossible for me to get any peace of mind. You must be punished,” bellowed Sophie’s captor.
Sophie could make out a hulking figure approach her location. She had to find someway to beat the Brain Tree before Balthazar found her again. She was sure that the Brain Tree must have had a weakness. She looked desperately at the tree for some frail point. Suddenly, she realized that it had always been in front of her; she had to hurt his brain. If any small object hit the tree’s brain, it would cause him pain. As the Brain Tree became more aggressive and began to shake the young swamp witch, Sophie reached for her staff. Unfortunately, it had fallen to the ground and was out of reach. Sophie’s vision was going black as she reached into her dress for anything that she could throw. Her hands reached something rectangular. She grabbed it and tossed it at the oversized brain. The Brain Tree moaned in pain as he released Sophie. She fell to the ground. She quickly got up, grabbed her staff, and ran faster than she thought she could. As she looked back, she saw Balthazar getting into a similar argument with the Brain Tree; he would never reach her in time.
When Sophie arrived backed at her shack, she had no breath left and her heart was thumping rapidly. She sank into her rocking chair and sighed with great relief. Once she had calmed down from the day's traumatic events, she began to wonder what she had thrown at the Brain Tree. She reached into her pocket and realized that she had thrown away her photograph of her family. She gasped at the thought that now she had nothing from her past life. Tears streamed down her eyes because she might never see Bruno’s smile again.
“NO!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “I hate Balthazar! I especially hate that stupid Brain Tree!”
For the rest of Sophie’s life she hated Balthazar and the Brain Tree for making her lose that precious photo. However, she never wondered why she never saw Balthazar again. Balthazar never bothered Sophie again, but she had no idea why.
The reason why was because Balthazar was about to have a bad experience of his own. The large Lupe had gotten away from the Brain Tree with a few scratches around his face. He knew that physically he would heal, but he was might not get over the fact that a small girl had evaded him.
“I’ll get my revenge, Sophie!” he howled. “Then I’ll make millions of neopoints from that earth faerie, Ilere.”
A nearby bush rustled and revealed a dangerous looking earth faerie. Her eyes were a toxic green and hair were dark jade. She had a mysterious glare. She wore a long, draping hooded cloak.
“I am Ilere; did you want to see me?” she asked icily.
Balthazar felt himself inexplicably horrified by her. His mouth went dry and he just stared.
Eventually, after looking into her venomous eyes he squeaked like a pup, “No.”
“Good,” said Ilere, smiling darkly now. “Then I never want to see you again, and don’t bother Sophie, understand? She’s under my protection, whether she believes it or not.”
Balthazar nodded, then ran as far as he could from the earth Faerie. From that day on he vowed to just stick with catching normal faeries.