Yuletide Witches: Part Four
The Baby Yurble giggled at the sight of Edna.
“The Shoyru sapped him of all his powers; he’s been left as nothing more than an infant,” Chestnut explained.
“Here was me hoping he’d just be tied up or something,” Stanley sighed. “What do we do now? Can you fix him?”
Edna glanced at the other two witches.
“Possibly... but we’ll need to get back the power that’s been stolen from him,” she conceded. “That won’t be easy.”
Chestnut glanced up at the mantelpiece above the fire. He caught sight of the gently ticking clock and began wringing his hands nervously.
“We don’t have time for that,” he told them.
Edna followed his gaze to the clock.
“It’s almost dawn,” she said disdainfully.
“What does that mean?” Stanley asked.
“It means people will wake up soon and discover what’s wrong, by then it’ll be too late, people will stop believing in him and what little power he has left will evaporate,” Sophie explained.
“I have an idea!” Chestnut gasped, before running off through a doorway at the back of the room.
Edna scooped up the Spirit of Giving and handed the bundle of rags to Stanley.
“I don’t do children,” she said stiffly, before following Chestnut into the backroom.
Had Edna not been a professional witch, she might have gasped as she entered the workshop. Stanley certainly did. The room was as big as a warehouse, yet on the outside the Spirit’s cottage had appeared no bigger than a standard house. Machinery that was built to churn out toys sat in eerie silence. The conveyer belts were stationary, making the place seem almost dead.
“What are you planning?” Edna asked the little Candychan as he sped between the various machines.
“All of the original toys are still intact. They just threw them off the sleigh,” Chestnut said as he flipped a few switches that made the roof of the warehouse open up. “We keep a spare sleigh ready just in case the original has any performance issues on the night.”
Another flip of a switch and one of the walls slid back to reveal a gleaming red sleigh and a stable clearly built for several Raindorfs.
“We still have presents, and we still have a sleigh,” Chestnut concluded as he trotted back to them. “We can put this right, we still have time.”
“You’re going to deliver the presents?” Morguss asked.
“Not me, us... you, you have to help me; I don’t have enough magic in me to do this all by myself,” Chestnut corrected her.
“We don’t do Christmas!” Edna snorted.
“This is the only way,” Chestnut protested. “You know what will happen if he goes!”
Edna stiffened slightly at the Candychan’s words.
“Fine,” she muttered, “But I’m not doing any jolly laughing.”
The Candychan smiled broadly, before rushing off to the sleigh to prepare it.
“What did he mean? What will happen if he goes?” Stanley asked, rocking the Spirit of Giving gently in his arms.
“This is more important than Christmas,” Edna said flatly. “There’s balance.”
She stalked off to the sleigh and commenced being generally critical about the entire operation. Stanley turned his searching eyes on Morguss.
“There’s balance with all things in Neopia,” Morguss said happily, clearly expecting Stanley would need an explanation. “Up and Down, Left and Right, Light and Dark... you know, that sort of stuff. Anyway, Christmas is a very good season. Neopians hang up all their hatred and are generally nice to each other... but there’s balance, there needs to be, in order to keep things in check. That’s why we have Halloween, a night for the wicked to be truly wicked. It’s the opposite side of the same coin, and because both are there, things are kept in check.”
“...and if Christmas goes away...?” Stanley questioned.
“Then the balance is upset, and there’s too much badness in the world,” Morguss answered. “When stuff like that happens, unless it gets fixed quickly, things start to break. The universe slowly pulls itself apart, and things come through the holes.”
“Things?” Stanley asked.
“Remember when Neovia came back after the Spirit of Slumber?” Sophie butted in. “You remember the shadows that invaded the town? You remember last summer when they came back? Well they are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s hundreds of different things lurking in the darkness outside of reality, just itching to burst through.”
For some reason Stanley felt the odd urge to cover the Spirit of Giving’s ears.
“What you are saying then, is that the absence of Christmas... will essentially cause the end of the world?” he asked.
“Yes,” Morguss added. “This world, and all worlds. The whole kit and caboodle.”
“Oh,” Stanley remarked, at a loss for words.
He looked down at the baby Yurble in his arms, snoozing gently. He smiled as he remembered his own children, Susan and Brian, still softly dreaming in their beds back in Neovia. Their lives, their entire existence, depended upon the little Yurble’s survival.
“We have a problem,” Edna announced as she marched over to them.
“I’d say we have several,” Stanley chuckled, but quickly fell silent as Edna glared at him.
“The Raindorfs are out of action--seems they were morphed into Zomutts by the Shoyru after he’d dealt with the rest of the Candychan workers,” Edna explained. “The Zomutts are with the Shoyru now, and we can’t catch up to him without some sort of transportation.”
“So we’re stuck here?” Stanley asked.
“Not quite...” Edna told him, a wry smile spreading over her face.
Her eyes drifted down to Sophie’s feet, and the Meowclops sitting patiently at them.
He purred anxiously.
Sophie’s Meowclops had lived in the swamp with the witch for many years. It was never really clear exactly how she had come to own him, he just seemed to have appeared in her shack one day and stuck around despite Sophie’s attempts to get rid of him. In his years with the witch, he had been the unfortunate lab rat for many of Sophie’s more risky and outlandish potions and spells. He had been mutated and cursed more times than he cared to imagine. As a result, he had come to recognise the look of someone who was about to do something very unpleasant to him involving magic.
It was no surprise that the creature bolted straight through Edna’s legs as soon as he saw the look on the old woman’s face.
He scrambled madly up the sides of one of the warehouse’s machines and stood there hissing down at the witch.
“Here, kitty kitty kitty,” Stanley beckoned with his free hand. “What’s his name?”
“Name?” Sophie snorted. “Why would he have a name?”
“You never gave him one?” Stanley asked.
“Of course not, why would he need one?” Sophie said flatly, before turning to the Meowclops with a stern look. “Get down, now.”
The Meowclops stopped hissing and gave Sophie a pleading look with his eye.
“It’ll be fine,” she reassured him. “I promise.”
The Meowclops purred reluctantly and allowed Sophie to scoop him off the top of the machine.
“Right then, we don’t have much time so we’d best get started,” she said as she leant down to him.
Half an hour later the sleigh was ready. The big bag of toys from the back of the warehouse had been magically lifted onto the back of the sleigh, while Sophie had busily harnessed up her Meowclops at the front. Through various potions and spells, she had copied the little Petpet, and eight ghostly forms stood waiting in the reins behind the original. They were not quite solid enough to be definable, but solid enough to pull the sleigh. The original Meowclops had been given an additional potion, one that made his yellow eye glow brightly so that he could light their way.
Stanley checked his pocket watch as the witches all clambered aboard.
“Will this work? It’s past four in the morning now... and we have all the houses in Neopia to go to,” he asked.
“It’ll be fine,” Morguss replied as she took the Spirit of Giving off him and deposited the sleeping Yurble next to her on the seat. “The sleigh has some of the Spirit’s residual magic; we should be able to bend time enough to make them all.”
“It’ll still be close, though!” Chestnut added as he scrabbled up onto the top of the present bag to get a good view.
“Oh, there’s one last thing! I found these in the Spirit’s front room!” Stanley said excitedly as he sat down next to the three witches.
Out of his pockets, he produced four matching Christmas hats. The witches looked scornfully at the red fabric with white trim.
“Absolutely no way!” Edna snapped.
“We have to do this properly, don’t we, Chestnut?” Stanley asked as he put one of the hats on.
The Candychan nodded enthusiastically as he too took out a little green hat with a bell on top.
“I swear... you breathe a word of this,” Edna growled as she snatched a hat away from Stanley.
“I don’t wear hats,” Morguss said firmly.
“I thought ahead,” Stanley grinned, producing a length of silver tinsel which he handed over to the Moehog.
For one night only, the witches hung up their black hats. Sophie and Edna placed the new hats on as if they might burn on contact, while Morguss carefully wrapped the length of tinsel around her shawl. All three sat in absolute silence, their faces fuming with anger.
“Right, let’s get underway then!” Chestnut called from his perch atop the presents.
Edna let her nostrils flare audibly as she grabbed the reins.
“Hurry up!” she shouted at the Meowclops.
The little grey creature scrabbled into life, as did his ghostly copies, and the sleigh shot forwards and upwards as the magic flooding through the Petpets carried them up into the air. At once, the cottage and the valley were fading views behind them.
There was a flash and a small bang, causing the sleigh to rock slightly. When Stanley dared look over the side, he saw that they were no longer in the realm of the Spirit of Giving. They had arrived back in Neopia, Happy Valley was passing underneath them.
“Right,” Edna announced as she pulled on the reins, making the Meowclops bank round and circle down. “Let’s get to work.”
To be continued...