It was a cold evening in the Haunted Woods as a huge green Grarrl and a tiny baby Kougra made their way down the semi-abandoned dirt road. “You should have seen me on the Keelawocky, my good Dimm!” the Grarrl laughed, carrying the Kougra upon his tail. “Scarblade’s minions surrounded us, but the lads didn’t give up the fight! We pushed them right to the edge as the sea whirled around us in a tempest...”
He flung up his hands with a smile. “Ah, that was the life! Did I ever tell you how I single-handedly defeated the massive Meepit?”
Diminuendo shook his head lazily and closed his eyes and mind from his friend’s constant talk of adventures unparalleled. He always looked up to Forte, the Grarrl that traveled throughout Neopia with nothing save for his mind and his sword. He was very brave, and personally, Dimm idolized him. But sometimes Forte tended to repeat his tales, and it was during those times that the Kougra slept soundly upon his friend’s sturdy tail.
The duos were traveling through the Woods to search for adventure. And as one knew, there was always something to be found here, where ghosts and zombies roamed, and werelupes ran amok.
Back along the path was an inn that they stayed in throughout the night. It was cold, musty, and damp, and certainly not without its fair share of creaks, groans and strange noises. But Diminuendo trusted Forte, and slept soundly, although he was slightly upset that Forte left his blade back at the inn. ‘We adventurers sometimes forget.’ He chuckled, but refused to come back and get it, restating how he defeated the Cave Chia with his bare hands.
Oh how Dimm yearned to speak of glorious tales like Forte did! He wished that one day, he and his friend would switch places, but the young Kougra doubted this, as he was so small and Forte was so big. Earlier, he had tried wielding the rapier, but ended up sticking it into a picture of an old Krawk, resulting in a nasty glare from the Grarrl and a hasty escape to find adventure, wherever it was.
Suddenly, his head bumped up against scaly skin and he looked up groggily, realizing that Forte switched from the meepit story to another wild adventure about the Snowager. They were exciting tales, but they seemed so astounding that there was a little doubt that the Grarrl fabricated some parts. Not that Diminuendo minded. He loved Forte’s stories.
The woods began to grow dark indeed – a suffocating darkness that covered both neopets like a thick blanket. The twisted caricatures of trees seemed to grin eerily at them, and once or twice Dimm heard Forte gulp audibly and increase his pace. The moon finally blessed them with a cursory glance, peeking from the clouds and bathing the Haunted Woods ghostly silver.
“Let’s go back now...” murmured Forte.
“But why? This is so cool! Do you think we will find a raging werelupe?” Dimm grinned eagerly.
“I’d rather not.”
Dimm pouted as his friend turned around, angry that they couldn’t continue. He wanted the thrill of adventure pulsing in his veins! The joy of the wind billowing before them as they fought together against an ominous threat!
“If you don’t want to go on an adventure, I’ll go by myself,” whispered Diminuendo to himself and leaped off the tail onto cold, dark earth.
Forte began to disappear into the mists, and Dimm realized that he was alone. But surely no danger would come to him? Forte said that danger comes to those who seek it, and he was not seeking danger, so in fact he was quite safe. Dimm beamed and began to sniff around, exploring the Haunted Woods and standing totally ignorant to the harsh caws of the crokabeks and the groaning of the wind between the malevolent trees.
This was exciting! Diminuendo stepped towards a rock formation and growled. “You are my prey; I shall get you!” With a laugh he leaped upon the rock, snarling and giggling at the same time, until suddenly he heard a cry.
It was Forte!
In an instant, Dimm stopped his play and ran as fast as his stubby legs could allow, maneuvering through the tree roots and branches that seemed eager to grab him and push him away.
It was not hard to find Forte – he always left a trail of destroyed things in his path – but for some reason it seemed he was more careful, and there were only scents to guide the baby Kougra as he searched desperately for his noble friend.
Another painful cry came, and Dimm felt an ice pick of fear spread through his tawny chest.
There, beyond the tree line, was an ethereal glow. It was now or never. With a ferocious, or at least an attempted cry, he leaped past the trees and into a clearing. There was Forte, lying down and sobbing softly, while some little ghost-lights pranced and danced around him. When one jumped on his back, he released a great cry that rang into the air.
Dimm began to cower with immense fear as the little lights began to take a shape, filling the sky with child-like laughter and loud, unnerving meeps. They were ghost meepits!
Frozen to the ground, unable to move, he watched as they stopped their dance and one by one turned to look at him. Again, fear washed over his small frame and he felt his belly brush with the earth.
Like lightning three were upon him, laughing. “Meep!” The largest ghost cried out, and pointed towards Dimm with an unsubstantial finger.
Diminuendo gulped a lungful of air and felt his cracking voice finally break through. “L... l... let... let my f-friend go...” he said haltingly.
“Ehh-ehh-no,” the leader-like meepit said menacingly and then burst into peals of laughter.
“P-please!” Dimm cried out. “I’ll do anything!”
That caught their attention.
They turned to look at each other with unnerving eyes and then grinned evilly. “Thirsty!” they said in unison.
The meepits said together, looking down at Dimm’s shivering form. Dimm dared a glance at Forte, who was looking at him with pleading eyes. “You want something to drink?” he asked. “How’s about some juice?”
“Juice is eww!”
“Something good!” said the leader after the others quieted down. “Meep. Bring good drink, we spare big-pet. Bring bad drink, we take little-pet! Meep, meep!”
It didn’t take a second order for Dimm to swiftly run back the way he and Forte had come, terrified by the affair. Many branches passed over his head as he ran, vowing to save Forte from the ghostly meepits, even though he had no idea how to do so.
His little paws finally reached an open path with a ruined sign that read ‘Deserted Fairground’ and he switched his direction to go there. But he went hardly a step, for something ahead of him made his feet slip and Diminuendo fell headfirst into some dark mud.
A groan of frustration was replaced with one of fear when he opened his eyes to see a sad-looking ghostly meepit sitting on a rock just ahead of him. Dimm scrambled backwards a few steps and slipped once again, only stopping when his paws gained good purchase on some solid earth.
The little meepit looked quite sad, and the fear was replaced with curiosity. “Wh-what’s wrong?” Dimm crouched and looked at the little petpet with interest. “Are you alone?”
A nod and a sad meep followed the question. Dimm saw that the little petpet looked harmless, so he carefully sidestepped the mud and sat down beside the ghost. “I am sad too. Some ghost meepits like you captured my friend Forte, and they won’t release him unless I give them something good to drink. But I don’t know what!” Tears filled Diminuendo’s eyes, but he blinked them back when he felt the meepit tug his fur with a hint of urgency.
“Pip,” it said, and began to hop like a Cybunny in the direction of the Fairgrounds.
“Where are you going?” Dimm asked, standing up and watching the meepit wave to him in a gesture that meant that he was to follow.
Again he was overwhelmed by curiosity, and began to follow the little meepit down the rough road. Already in his mind, he decided to call the meepit ‘Pip.’
Pip hurried up ahead and squeaked every once in a while as if to assure Dimm that he was going in the right direction. Soon, the woods opened up into the Deserted Fairground. Quite the contrary; it was filled with neopets who were shopping or playing some of the available games. Laughter came from one side of the Fairgrounds, and Dimm spotted his little friend jumping up and down beside a funny sketch on a wooden board that was bolted to a signpost.
It showed a floating, white cup with an expression of horror, filled with milk. Beside it were the words ‘Spooky Foods’ and Dimm’s despairing face split into a wide smile. “Good job, Pip! We can go there!” But Pip was pointing to the scrawled cup.
“That is haunted milk,” Dimm said.
Pip nodded in response and uttered a joyful meep.
“Is that what the ghosts want?” His heart started pounding in his chest.
Again Pip nodded and proceeded to bound towards a pink and white stand that was situated beside a large building and a slightly smaller one to the left. Each step was filled with joy at finally discovering the secret to the wishes of the meepits, and as Dimm stepped up to the stand and jumped up onto a tall chair, he noticed Pip was looking around. No one was there.
A sudden crash resounded from the smaller building and Dimm clambered down the chair to look inside. Much to his surprise, the door was ajar. Pip passed through the door without any need to open it, but Dimm was not a ghost and he pushed it open to look inside.
A short, squat Bruce with wide robes was scrambling after an escaping octornapie. The little tentacles were scrambling to get away, and the Bruce only managed to catch it after he crashed into some jars of pickled eyeballs. “There!” he growled and taped the pie, tentacles and all, to a table.
Only after showing a fork to the pie did he finally convince it to stop moving. Seeing Dimm, who was staring incredulously at the shopkeeper, he straightened his robes, pushed back his black, oiled hair and put on a smile. “Forgive me, those octornapies are rascally little foods. How may Zheel help you?”
Dimm shook his head and managed a nervous smile of his own. “Do you by any chance have any haunted milk?”
“Haunted milk?” Zheel glanced nervously at Pip, who was inspecting some pumpkin cookies, and proceeded to open up a dusty book and flip through the pages.
The entire room was filled with all sorts of foods. Diminuendo spotted some pumpkin pies, ghostkersandwiches and peanut butter spiders, all piled up neatly into rows.
“Sorry, got none.”
Dimm was startled out of his thoughts. “None?” he murmured, feeling the stings of tears in his eyes.
“None,” repeated Zheel and closed the book. “Sold my last batch a few days ago. Zheel can make another batch in three days, when ingredients come in.”
“I don’t have much time left!” wailed Dimm, letting hopelessness fill his limbs.
Zheel looked sympathetic, but then a huge crash echoed throughout the room and the Bruce roared with anger, rushing back to chase after the octornapie, who managed to wriggle free and was now running around, followed by an angry shopkeeper.
As Dimm slowly walked out of the storehouse, he heard a meep and looked down to see Pip holding a wad of papers in the crook of his arm. “What is that, Pip?” Dimm asked sadly.
Dimm opened the papers and noticed nine spooky treasure map pieces, dusty but overall in readable condition. “The prize is spooky food; we have a chance!” The baby Kougra’s eyes grew wide with joy. “Where did you find this?”
Pip looked in the direction of the storehouse, where one could still see Zheel chasing the fugitive with surprising zeal.
Again was there a grin upon Diminuendo’s face, and he jumped up with joy. “Do you know where the Spooky Treasure Map redeeming place is?” he asked Pip.
The ghostly meepit jumped up, leaving a trail of teal light that dispersed quickly, and then began to run in the direction of a path behind the coconut shy.
Dimm avoided the ugly Quiggle standholder and sneaked down a less dusty path. In an open clearing stood a neopet enrobed in a cloak of black, holding a dark, but huge bag with it.
Apparently Dimm was the only one in the clearing, and with a slight murmur of fear he moved towards the cloaked pet, who at first glance looked like an Acara. She looked at the map pieces that Dimm cautiously handed to her and nodded gruffly, giving them back not just the map, but also a shovel. “Good luck.” She grinned menacingly.
The duo followed the map for a while, nearly losing their way until they finally stood upon a mound where an ‘x’ was marked in red. A bit of digging turned out with success, and there was a bag hidden in the ground. It was terribly heavy, and Diminuendo, being small in stature, was unable to exhume it from its earthly prison. “Need a hand?” came a kindly voice, and there stood an Aisha, holding a bag of her own.
“Yes please.” Dimm accepted her offer and together they pulled out the bag, quickly opening it to see the contents.
“Roast tentacles, a ghost wrap, a couple gummy rats, some junk, and oh, brain candy mix! Nice job!” said the Aisha, but Dimm was too upset to thank her kind words. “Are you okay?”
It took the Kougra a couple of minutes to explain his situation before bursting into sobs. Pip hovered nearby, much to the Aisha’s chagrin, but after a while she became conditioned to his presence, and a couple of comforting pats were followed by a chuckle.
Dimm was about to ask – angrily – why she was laughing at his misfortune, but the Aisha spoke instead. “What a coincidence, I found some haunted milk myself.” She dug around in her bag and revealed a moaning and howling cup.
Her smile turned into a grimace and she managed to speak loud enough over the cries of the cup for Dimm, who was stunned, to hear. “I’d rather not have it anyway. Why don’t you take it to help your Forte friend?” she asked.
Diminuendo took it in his shivering paws, quite literally flowing with thanks, but his words could hardly be heard.
“Put it in the bag!” said the Aisha.
As soon as the deed was done, the moans quieted. Dimm once again thanked the Aisha warmly for her generosity, and when they both parted ways, and Dimm began to walk in the direction of the Haunted Woods, he never noticed the dark Acara quickly materialize from the shadows, take the spade, and fill the fresh hole with some spooky foods before covering it up and disappearing into the shadows.
“Here is your drink.”
The ghostly meepits crowded around Diminuendo with cries of glee, each one looking at this strange drink that was covered by a glass jar. Its imprinted face was contorted into one of a screaming creature, but it could not be heard at all, thank goodness.
“Meep thirsty!” shouted the leader, who tried to take the milk with his unsubstantial hands when Dimm (with as much bravado as he could manage) pulled it away.
“Release Forte first!”
It looked like Forte had suffered from the meepit’s dance, which seemed to have a painful effect on the one who stood in the middle of their circle. The Grarrl awakened and was looking at the baby Kougra with a mixture of awe and joy. Awe at the fact that he complied with the seemingly impossible demand of the ghostly meepits. Joy at the fact that he was finally going to be set free. But then, the leader turned his teal nose up and uttered a loud meep.
“Bad-drink! We keep big-pet!”
Dimm was suddenly filled with an angry rage, something that seemed to fuel him and make him feel much bolder... much stronger. “But we had a deal!”
“Eh, eh, no.”
The meepits began laughing and were preparing to surround the Kougra, when suddenly, Pip jumped up to the glass jar and opened it with a huge tug, releasing a terrible, shrill scream into existence that made the laughing ghosts clutch their ears and scream in pain.
Forte and Diminuendo closed their ears to the splitting sound, but Pip was still holding the cap, struggling against the waves of sound as they erupted from the vengeful milk. In a burst, the leader disappeared, and soon his little horde followed, rolling their angry eyes and bursting in a blast of teal light alongside, leaving nothing but soft glows in their wake.
When the last meepit vanished, Dimm grabbed the cap and screwed it back on the jar, the ethereal scream fading until at last it was heard no more. “Pip!” he cried, looking down at the little meepit with horror.
Forte stood up and came to look down beside Diminuendo at the small, barely moving ghost meepit that could hardly keep his eyes open. “Will he be okay? I dare say that was the bravest thing I ever saw!” the Grarrl said.
“Shh! He is trying to say something!” Dimm crouched beside the petpet and listened.
“Thirsty?” Forte gave Dimm a glance, and Dimm knew what this meant instantly.
“Okay... close his ears, I will open the jar.”
Forte gulped, and Dimm noticed that his friend looked very weak. “By the way, thanks for saving me. Those meepits were horrible, it was as if they were sapping my strength away.”
Dimm nodded, and gritting his teeth, he opened the jar. Again the haunted milk started screaming, and in an instant Forte’s claws were upon Pip’s ears, while he winced and thrashed his tail. The sound was simply devastating!
It was only with a scrap of self-control that Dimm managed to ease the liquid in the cup down Pip’s throat via his open mouth. With every drop it seemed that the milk was quieting down, until it was so quiet that one could only hear Pip gulping the milk down as it eased into his belly.
Through the translucent body, one could see the milk drip down into his stomach and dissipate, and when at last the cup was silent, Dimm cast it aside and dropped down beside the meepit, still hearing a strange buzzing in his ears.
Forte sat down beside him and looked down at the petpet, a toothy smile spreading upon his features. Diminuendo glanced at the meepit as he stirred and sat up, looking at both Grarrl and Kougra with big, glowing eyes.
“Not thirsty! Meep!”
Diminuendo sat upon Forte’s head, regaling his good friend with his adventures as they walked back to the inn to get their belongings. Pip floated near the tail, meeping occasionally and staring at the passing trees with huge eyes.
Forte announced that he was impressed with his friend’s journey, and was grateful at his success. He also told Dimm that it would not be long before he too would become a lone adventurer, traveling on some dangerous exploit in the jungles of Mystery Isle to the cold wilderness of Terror Mountain.
Dimm puffed his chest proudly at the praise, but in his heart, he knew he was ready for anything thrown at him. And even though Forte said otherwise, he already knew that he was an adventurer.
If you want to know about what happened to the octornapie, it escaped, but was never seen again. ;)