Yuletide Witches: Part Two
Witches do not celebrate Christmas.
If anyone were to ask, they would most likely explain the reason for this as maintaining cosmic harmony and ‘Keeping the Balance’.
It is however no secret that witches are not traditionally cheery people, and as such, find no joy in a season of good will.
Halloween is their time to shine, a time of year where the whole planet celebrates the wicked and the scary. After Halloween is done, most witches close their doors and sit in front of the fire for a few months, carefully sipping cups of soup.
So it was that Stanley Argyle noticed the scenery becoming more and more unwelcoming and unkempt as his made his way through the woods near Neovia.
Sophie lived in the very heart of the swamp, where little sun or moonlight could penetrate the overhanging trees and moss. Stanley found himself falling into the swamp several times, and by the time Sophie’s shack was in sight, the Elephante was quite soaked and shivering in the sub zero temperatures.
The place looked dead and deserted. There were no lights on inside, but Stanley remembered that it was the dead of night – Sophie would most likely be asleep.
He banged on the door rather louder than he had meant to, and the rotten wood almost gave way.
“Sophie?” he called out. “Are you in there? Something’s wrong with Neovia!”
He banged again on the door to emphasise the urgency of his plight.
There was a muffled grumbling from within the shack, and the door was opened suddenly with force. Sophie the swamp witch stood in the doorway, with a frown etched across her green Ixi face. She wasn’t wearing her hat, and her knotted hair exploded haphazardly from her head.
“You woke me up,” she growled.
“Sorry,” Stanley apologised, “But there’s something wrong with Neovia.”
“There always is,” Sophie sighed, yawning slightly. “What is it this time? Gypsy curse? Mutating potion? Magical pastries?”
“Someone’s stolen Christmas,” Stanley informed her.
Sophie blinked once.
“Good for them,” she replied, and closed the door.
Stanley banged on the door again, a moment later Sophie opened it again.
“You’re not going to help!?” Stanley protested.
“Do I look like I do Christmas?” Sophie asked.
A Meowclops emerged from Sophie’s shack and began to snake his way between Stanley’s legs, purring gently.
“But... there was a Shoyru!” Stanley tried to explain. “It wasn’t the Spirit of Giving!”
“Have you ever seen the Spirit of Giving before?” Sophie asked lazily.
“No... but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t carry a pitchfork and he doesn’t wish people a Merry Halloween!” Stanley snapped.
Sophie cocked an eyebrow at the Elephante.
“A Halloween Shoyru?” she asked.
“Yes, he looked no older than a child,” Stanley confirmed.
Sophie stared at the Elephante for a moment.
“If Gilly put you up to this so she can lure me into some kind of surprise party, I will hold you personally responsible,” she threatened.
“Please!” Stanley begged.
“Wait here,” she instructed, before slamming the door once more in Stanley’s face.
The Meowclops stretched his legs, clearly expecting some form of excitement. A moment later, and quicker than Stanley had ever known any Neopet get ready, Sophie opened the door.
Her hat was jammed very firmly over her head, and her broomstick and staff were ready in her hands.
“Well? What are you waiting for? Let’s go!” she asked impatiently.
Sophie’s original scepticism soon disappeared when they reached Neovia. It was clear that something was wrong as soon as she looked in through the first front window.
“It was a Halloween Shoyru that did this?” she asked again.
“Yes... do you know him?” Stanley replied.
“Loosely,” Sophie told him. “That is... if it’s who I think it is... did you happen to see which way he went?”
“Up the chimney,” Stanley said helpfully.
Sophie scowled, and turned her attention to her Meowclops, which was bounding through the snow on the streets.
“We’ll need help... you can’t fix Christmas with a click of your fingers,” she muttered more to herself than to Stanley.
She reached up inside her hat and produced a dead looking twig with a few shrivelled flowers on it. As she prepared to pluck off one of the flowers, her Meowclops began to hiss.
“Would you be quiet?” she snapped. “This requires concentration!”
The hairs on the back of her pet were standing on end, and it was staring off down the street, hardly paying attention to Sophie.
“What’s gotten into you?” she sighed.
Glancing up the street, they didn’t see anything out of the ordinary... aside from the skulls on doors and the pumpkin topped snowmen.
But then, out of the corner of her eye, Sophie caught some movement. There was something moving in the snow, carving out a trench down the street. Whatever it was, it wasn’t visible above the snow, and must have been no bigger than a Petpet.
“Who’s there?” Sophie called out.
At once, whatever was making the track stopped dead.
“I know you’re there,” Sophie continued as she carefully took out her staff.
A little red and white striped face peeked up above the snowline. Two emerald green eyes stared timidly out at Sophie.
“Please don’t hurt me,” the Petpet begged.
“We’ll see about that, when you answer my question,” Sophie told it plainly.
The creature climbed up above the snowline, allowing Sophie to see its full form for a few moments before it sank back down. It was a Candychan, one wearing a workman’s apron. As the creature fell back into the snow, he fluttered his wings and lifted himself into the air with difficulty. He managed just enough power to propel himself to the top of a nearby step before his wings gave way.
“My name is Chestnut,” the Candychan explained as he set down on the edge of the step.
“A talking Petpet?” Stanley gasped from behind Sophie. “Is he with the Shoyru?”
“No!” Chestnut shouted. “I work for the Spirit of Giving. When the sleigh was stolen, I stowed away hoping to somehow stop all this, but I fell off when we landed in Neovia.”
Sophie kneeled down next to the Candychan.
“Tell me what happened,” she demanded.
“It was a Shoyru, a magical one. I could feel the power brimming off him. I’ve never felt power like that outside of the workshop... he had a Skeith with him, a big brute of a thing that destroyed most of the equipment in the workshop,” Chestnut explained.
“The Spirit? Where is he now?” Sophie asked.
“The Shoyru tied him up back at the workshop, and sapped him of his powers. There was nothing we could do... look what’s happened to Christmas!” Chestnut replied, finally breaking into tears and sobbing into his apron.
Sophie stood up, and took a shrivelled flower from the twig she had been holding. She held the flower firmly in her fist, and breathed a few magical words into it, causing it to glow a deep green colour.
“Neovia, now,” Sophie stated to the flower, which exploded into a hail of sparks.
“Who are you calling for?” Stanley asked.
“The Coven,” Sophie told him, as if he should have known what that meant.
She bent down to her Meowclops and fixed him squarely in the eye.
“Be nice to the Candychan,” she threatened.
The Meowclops got the message, and seemed to almost deflate from its agitated state, returning to the more pressing business of playing in the snow.
“Chestnut, was it?” Sophie asked the Candychan. “Is the way to the pole unblocked?”
“What do you mean?” he frowned.
“The Shoyru didn’t raise any magical wards or anything?” Sophie asked again.
“Oh, no, I don’t think so,” Chestnut told her.
“How long until your Coven gets here?” Stanley asked.
“They’re already here,” Sophie smirked, looking up into the sky.
High in the frosty night sky, two figures were circling down towards Neovia. Each was clad in black robes, riding a broomstick. One was a green Zafara, holding her hat onto her head and scowling deeply. The other was a green Moehog in a tattered robe with a large hood.
“What is it now?” the Zafara asked as she touched down lightly in the snow.
“Someone’s taken over from the Spirit of Giving,” Sophie informed her.
“About time he had a break!” the Moehog said cheerfully as she landed harder than she meant to, causing her to stumble a little.
“It was our Spirit that did it,” Sophie added.
The Moehog’s face fell.
“Our Spirit?” she questioned.
“A Halloween Shoyru,” Sophie confirmed.
“Who are the extras?” the Zafara asked, narrowing her eyes at the other occupants of the street.
“This is Stanley Argyle, he caught the Spirit in the act, and this is Chestnut, a worker from the Pole,” Sophie said quickly, preparing her own broomstick.
“Charmed, I’m sure,” Stanley said, holding out his hand to shake the Zafara’s. “Might I ask your names?”
The Zafara glared at him indignantly.
“Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean we fall off the face of the planet, you know!?” she snapped. “I am Edna, Witch of the Tower.”
“Morguss, from the Darigan Citadel,” the Moehog added, waving cheerfully at the Elephante, and supplying a hiccup.
Edna turned her glare upon Morguss.
“Too much Neggnog, sorry,” Morguss explained, covering her mouth.
“That diet of yours has gone out of the window then?” Edna asked critically.
“Always does around Christmas,” Morguss shrugged. “Anyway, are we off then?”
Sophie nodded as her Meowclops climbed on her broomstick.
“Mr. Argyle, was it?” Morguss asked. “Care for a ride?”
She patted the space on her broomstick behind her.
“Me?” Stanley asked.
“We need someone like you; we’ll explain on the way,” Sophie told him.
Stanley nodded eagerly and clambered aboard.
“Can you take the Candychan?” Sophie asked Edna.
The Zafara’s nostrils flared for a moment, before she marched over the Chestnut and picked him up by the back of his neck. She deposited him at the top of her broomstick.
“Make any noises, and you’ll spend the rest of your days as a magical talking Mortog,” she warned him.
The three witches nodded at each other, and then kicked off from the ground, soaring silently up into the night sky.
“I don’t suppose it would be too much trouble to know where we are actually going, would it?” Stanley asked.
Morguss chuckled lightly.
“Where else would we be going?” she asked him. “The North Pole!”
To be continued...