A place of pristine beauty, lit by nothing save for moonlight and the cold stars, and enshrouded by mists and the cloak of darkness. It is a place unto itself, hidden within the deepest folds of the Haunted Woods, the only place big enough to conceal it.
It was there since the beginning of Neopia, a place where neopet colors yet to be revealed would thrive. The neopets of that color would wander aimlessly through the winding paths of this land, waiting until one day they would be able to see the light of Neopia. Some never did, and Artharek was destined for such a terrible fate.
Artharek was a Hissi. Halloween Hissi.
He was among the inhabitants of this world, unable to see anything in color, for all was hidden by night and only the contours of one's body could be noted by moonlight. Now, many pets here liked Nightworld. It was peaceful, for one, but Artharek despised it with a passion. He learned of his future from a friend, Karuke, the baby Krawk. Baby Krawks could not exist, because Krawks evolved from the petpet versions of themselves. Therefore, Karuke was forced to wander Nightworld forever.
Karuke explained that Halloween Hissis were similar to Halloween Bori and his entrance to Neopia was doubtful at best. Ever since Faren (the Bori in particular) left the Nightworld, Artharek knew that his chances of appearing in Neopia were slimmer than his fangs.
A world that sounded all too sweet upon his unseen tongue. Through hidden means of acquiring knowledge, Karuke explained to his friend about this magnificent land that existed outside the borders of Nightworld. He told of oceans that stretched for miles, of mountains capped with snow – what a beautiful word – and of deserts where dunes stretched to the sky and obelisks and pyramids followed their lead. He also spoke softly of volcanoes and grassy hills, of shady isles and tropical paradises. All this served to inflame Artharek’s will to escape.
But no one could, which was sobering indeed.
Not one pet in this place knew how others went into Neopia. Some said that if they were destined to leave, Nightworld would part aside like a curtain and they would pass through and step upon Neopian soil. Others said that they would be enshrouded in fog and would appear in Neopia through magic. No one knew.
But Artharek hoped to escape. He heard that colors unlike any other existed in the outside world, and he yearned to see it.
“You will never make it,” said Ragaleth, a Draik whose color was unseen and was always the pessimistic sort.
“I will try! I will escape!” Artharek replied softly.
Ragaleth simply snorted and walked away to do as he wished, while Artharek stepped up to a body of water, a lake, and stooped to drink. The cool liquid, like everything in Nightworld, seemed tasteless to a tongue that yearned to know. To taste and to sense... what did water look like anyway?
At least it quenched his thirst.
“You seek freedom. I can help, I think.”
Artharek whirled around to see the squat form of Karuke nearby.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
Karuke shrugged. “I learned of it just now.”
How he did so was beyond the Hissi.
“Remember how I told you about Faeries?”
“Well, apparently some are capable of coming into Nightworld. There is one who might help you escape. Ilere is her name. Seek her out in the Blanket Forest.”
He thanked Karuke deeply for the information and hastily departed to see this Faerie... Ilere. Like the world Neopia, it sounded sweet. His heart was as light as a feather from a Tyrannian Pteri, and his hopes were high. Maybe now he would achieve the freedom that he sought after so!
“What do you mean?” Artharek’s voice was high with shock.
The instant that single, minute word was spoken, all his hopes crashed down upon him as if they were made of lead. It felt like a tree falling, but each leaf was stone. Ilere, a darkly cloaked figure with dark green wings, had strange and unnerving eyes that showed no emotion as she spoke that foul statement.
“It is not your destiny.”
Shock changed to unimaginable sorrow, and then was replaced by an immense surge of unparalleled rage.
“You shall not change my decision, faerie. I will escape.”
Ilere was busy working up a concoction in her delicate hands, but she did utter a snort as a reply. “How?”
“How? I don’t know,” Artharek admitted honestly, “but at least I will try.”
“Honesty is refreshing, but your efforts will be futile. The only way you can escape is by using my amulet,” a hand went to her chest, where a deep green pendant hung from a chain, “and you will never be able to get it.”
The wide room in which they were in was unique to the Hissi. It was a dome made of twigs, lit by a strange substance called fire. He had never really seen fire before, and it enthralled him in its flickering gaze. With it, he was able to see the colors of Ilere, but when he looked at his wings, all he saw was darkness. Even so, he managed to fold them and saw the shadows changed. He imagined himself holding the pendant, eyeing it and using it to exeunt from this wretched place.
Again rage overcame him.
“Ilere, you are just as bad as those Dark Faeries that my friend Karuke told me about,” he whispered.
Her hands froze, and then her transparent wings twitched. Artharek offered her a withering smile – he hit a nerve.
“You fool. You have no idea what you are talking about – Darkness faeries are far worse than I.”
“No. You ruined my hopes, my dreams and my wishes. Although I will try – I will try forever to escape, know this: you are nothing but a soul-less dark faerie with the garb of earth. And nothing you can ever say can stop me.” He spat furiously, and slithered out of the dome.
He never saw Ilere’s face split into a half-smile.
A wave of guilt overcame the poor Hissi, who felt tears streaming down his bony cheeks. Ilere was not responsible for his eternal confines, but he blamed her. He denounced her so terribly, and now felt unimaginably shameful. The heat of his fury dissipated as quickly as it ignited and left Artharek an empty shell. The strange, bony protrusions that covered his back seemed to grow tighter upon his skin as well.
With a soft sigh, he slithered, slowly, back to Ilere’s abode. The fire was out now, and not a single sign of life seemed to meet his senses. It was as if nothing lived here for the past few years, and his green eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Ilere?”
Not a single sound, except for the endless whispering of the wind outside.
“Ilere, listen. I am sorry I snapped at you, but I couldn’t help it.”
Artharek felt foolish when he realized that Ilere was not even here anymore. His piqued senses picked up nothing, not even a breath. The dark earth faerie had disappeared entirely! How she managed to do so in such a short period of time was beyond the knowledge of the Halloween Hissi, but he decided to analyze the situation later and look around, curious.
Platforms made of wood (he felt the grain) seemed to surround the modest shack, filled with either flasks or containers. Books were scattered here and there, and all sorts of working tools had their service. He found the chair, which was actually a carved tree stump, where Ilere had been sitting and slithered cautiously towards it. Learning that there was nothing to fear from there, Artharek began to feel the counter, intrigued.
Something cold touched his wing.
If he was more foolish, he would have screamed but the Hissi jerked back instead. What was that thing? It felt round and smooth, like a pebble. Although his eyes were used to the darkness, he could not catch sight of the object. At last, mustering up enough courage, he edged forward and picked it up, quickly glancing around as if it was some sort of crime. He felt drawn to the object, but when he held it in his bony wing, he realized that it felt wrong... wrong to hold it.
“I want to see it, though. Ilere won’t mind if I bring it outside to look at it,” he said in his mind with finality.
When he exited the shack, he held the object up to the moonlight and gasped. It was the amulet that Ilere told him about! His heart skipped a beat, and he felt a sense of awe fall upon him like a warm cloak. This was his ticket to Neopia! But why was it there, on the wooden platform? He wondered if Ilere was responsible for its coming, but then shook his head. He had treated her poorly prior to his discovery. Why would she do something so magnificent as to bestow him with this way out?
Stunned, Artharek fumbled with the magical pendant before at last getting a strong hold. Then, with a stumbling thanks to the shack for the gift, he quickly rushed out of the Blanket Forest to his home, and to find Karuke.
For the second time that day, Artharek was left bewildered. Karuke refused? How could this be? He blinked a few times and then rushed to implore his friend to reconsider. He told everything to the Krawk, but the small neopet declined the offer to escape to Neopia together.
“Listen, Artharek, it is your spotlight, not mine. Baby Krawks may never come into Neopia, but Halloween Hissis... well... why not? Sure you may look like Halloween Bori, but Christmas Ixi look like Christmas Gelerts. I realize this now.”
“No,” snarled the Krawk for the second time.
Artharek blinked back tears, but nodded in understanding. Karuke didn’t want to leave Nightworld, and it was not his place to change that decision.
“I will miss you.”
“I know. Have fun in Neopia, buddy.” Even though it was nighttime, Artharek felt his friend smile brightly, and didn’t hesitate to mirror that expression.
With a sigh, he turned around and raised the amulet to the cold stars above. At first nothing happened, but then, when he lowered the stone, it seemed as if a thin green tear appeared in the sky. It began to swell and pulse, opening up and then swallowing the Hissi whole. Artharek screamed with surprise, feeling himself warped and morphed. What was going on?
The world flipped upside down and inside out. He felt as if he was going to be sick, until the swirling vortex of terror opened up to reveal a bright white hole. Summoning his strength, Artharek, tore his way through the funnel and broke through the wall of light. The light broke apart into thousands of bright and never ending crystals, encircling his body and finally dissipating.
The Halloween Hissi felt as if his eyes were on fire. Such light! He had never seen anything like it before! Not even his dreams were this vivid and fiery. Burning curiosity filled his thoughts, and he opened his eyes a crack. What? What was that? He looked at his wing, and saw color. Beautiful, rich color!
Looking farther, he saw all sorts of wonderful and rich hues. Dark blue trees twisted into the sky, nestled upon a rich brown soil. It seemed as if everything was the same, but the sky seemed lighter. The stars above and the hidden moon were disappearing into a canvas of rich blue. Dawn, Karuke called it.
The sudden realization of his new location hit the Hissi like a rock to the head. He was in Neopia! He had escaped Nightworld! A bubbling joy filled his heart and he laughed out loud. Freedom! Sweet and wondrous freedom!
Looking out through the trees, he felt a cry rise up, and he opened his maw to allow it to be heard. “Neopia! The Halloween Hissi has arrived!”
Suddenly, his eyes caught something shiny. Enraptured, he leaned over and noticed that it was a pool of water. It was murky, but so colorful! Closing his eyes, Artharek tasted the water, and he smiled.
He found it sweet.