The Enigma of Friendship: Part One
Almost anyone could tell you that playing in the Haunted Woods was a risky endeavour if you had little idea of what areas were safe to roam. Though he didn't visit the Woods often, he had studied a few maps of the locale and had a vague idea of where he and his younger brother should stay when traversing the forest. However, he knew that knowledge could only work so well when one had little experience to back it up. As such, he stuck a few paces behind his more adventurous and, quite frankly, FASTER younger brother. The black-coloured Lenny in front of him, dressed in a light blue shirt and grey shorts would glance back and grin every so often in a show of support of his older brother's nervousness and somewhat in relief that the other Lenny had not yet gotten lost as he had predicted prior to their venture in the Woods.
The red Lenny, wearing a dark blue sweater vest and black slacks, frowned at one point when his brother looked back at him. That caused the younger to stop and let the older catch up. "What?" the younger asked in a sympathetic tone. "Am I still walking too fast for you? Or are you upset with something else?"
"Oh, Lit..." The older Lenny sighed as he used one of the many nicknames for his younger sibling. "I really think that we shouldn't be here. They're always telling us how dangerous it could be in certain areas..."
Lit chuckled and shook his head in amusement. "Con, Con, Con... adults are always telling us stories in order to get us to behave. I thought someone as smart as you would know that. 'Sides, you stay inside too much, so the least you can do is go exploring with me every once in a while. There's a lot more to the Haunted Woods than you probably realise, so you may actually have fun!"
Con still had his previous frown etched into his beak, but the expression weakened at his brother's continual smile. "Fine, fine. As long as we don't get lost, I'll tolerate it. But if something bad happens, I hope you'll understand it if I don't want to come here again."
"That is if we survive whatever 'bad happening' you're proposing," Lit chimed, turning away just in time to avoid seeing a look of fear dawn onto Con's face. He reached back and grabbed onto his older brother's hand. "C'mon, let's get going. It's still morning, so we can spend a long time here before needing to leave before nightfall." He glanced over his shoulder at his brother and rolled his eyes at the contemplative look the older Lenny now had. "Con?"
The red Lenny was glancing to the sky and to the time, seeming to mutter to himself though no words were coming out of his partially moving beak. "Judging by the rate the sun has been moving, in addition to our current time, date, and location, I'd say we'd have nine hours, fifty-five minutes, and twenty-nine seconds before nightfall occurs."
"Mm-hm. Right. Is that with or without consideration for the possibility of the sun extinguishing?" Lit asked, immediately regretting it when he saw that his brother was thinking it over again. "Stop, stop. I was joking. You are seriously too smart for your own good. You're lucky I can tolerate you, since not many others would appreciate you constantly asserting your superior intellect."
Con frowned partially and went silent in response. He followed the black-coloured Lenny quietly, not keen on the prospect of having another random outburst of over-thinking. He instead just paid attention to where they were going and what was going on around them. More Neopets were starting to appear on their path, so he assumed that they were nearing the entrance of the main area of the Haunted Woods. Lit let go of his hand then and quickened his pace to what Con knew the younger Lenny found more comfortable than his own "sluggish" speed. The older Lenny glanced up at his brother and saw that Lit was looking over at another group of young Neopets that he recognised well enough. "Not expecting your friends to be here?" he asked with a small smile.
The quicker Lenny slowed down once more and sighed. "Well... no. Listen, it's not that I'm embarrassed to be seen with you... I just don't want them to... I mean I'm worried you'll... I was planning on hanging out with only you today, but if they see me with you, they might…"
He smiled at his younger brother and shrugged. "It's fine. Your goal was just to get me to spend less time at home, right?" He looked up at the approaching archway and sign designating the entrance to the main area of the Woods. "You can go spend time with them, and we can just meet up here in a few hours or so."
"Are you sure?" Lit asked, casting his brother an uneasy look. "What will you do by yourself? You're not very... comfortable with strangers. Especially not here."
Con shrugged and nodded. "I'll find something to keep myself occupied. You don't need to worry about me."
"If you say so, bro." The younger Lenny looked at his sibling one last time to see if he would change his mind. When there was no other argument, he turned and ran toward his friends.
The older Lenny watched as his brother joined his friends and watched them laugh at some inside joke that he didn't hear. He felt his smile disappear as they went through the archway to go have fun without him. He was used to it. A lack of friends was the normal reason he situated himself at home, though his brother was trying to counteract that reasoning today and only failed. His younger brother seemed to be his only friend, though it was understandable to him why that was so. Con knew that what Lit had told him earlier was true. Not very many Neopets were tolerant of his spontaneous outbursts of superfluous analysis of various problems and quandaries, or even just of everyday life.
Con sat on a decent-sized boulder, careful to not dirty his slacks. He brought his knees against his chest and sighed. Maybe he could just spend the day on that rock, entertaining his advanced thoughts in silence and solitude as he waited for his brother to present himself later that day after a day of fun with his friends.
He groaned softly and shook his head in shame. He and his brother were both smart, though Con was the one who had a higher IQ. However, Lit was the more athletic and more sociable one. Con could barely run down the street without tripping once or twice, and he was horrible with talking to anyone. He couldn't bring himself to be jealous of his brother, of course, but he did wish that he could have his own friends.
The sound of chuckling broke him from his thoughts, and he looked to the sound just in time to be pushed onto the dirt ground by its source. Con tried to stand up but was only pushed back into the ground, landing on his tail feathers.
"Hey, lookit this loser," the assailant, a rather large Korbat chuckled. "I hardly touched him and he hits the ground." The two others in his group, a Skeith and a Grarrl, laughed as well. Con frowned at them and gave a quiet exasperated sigh.
"Superb. I am being harried by an assemblage of malefactors." The confused silence that followed allowed him time to back away far enough to be out of reach of any of the three as he stood up. Unfortunately, the silence was not long enough to allow him to escape. Con was soon caught and held upside down by the Skeith and the Grarrl.
"You talk funny," the Korbat told him with a glare. "I dun like that." He cracked his knuckles in a show of toughness that Con would find laughable if he weren't the victim in this case.
The Lenny was shaken, probably in an attempt to get him to drop any valuables. Fortunately, or perhaps it was unfortunate, he thought, he hadn't carried anything with him to the Woods. He was dropped onto his head, and he scrambled back up. "At least I speak with correct grammar, you unsightly brute." The affront proved to be the wrong thing to say, as the Korbat then took hold of his sweater vest and pulled him close to growl into his face.
"Did ya just insult me?" He glowered, and Con paled and quivered in fear. The Lenny stuttered responses for a short moment before ducking his head under a thrown fist just in time.
Con snaked his way out of his sweater vest, leaving the white-collared shirt on that was underneath, and ran off before one of the bullies could take hold of that article of clothing as well. It wasn't as if he had a significant lack of more vests like those in his closet. But that was unimportant. He just needed to escape the three who were now chasing him.
The red Lenny tripped over what seemed to be every rock on his path and eventually stopped, paying mind to where he was going in order to focus on not tripping over anything else. He looked up in time to see that he was about to run into the doorway of what seemed to be a rather large and ornate decaying manor, but was unable to stop himself from hitting the door and falling inside as it swung open on his weight.
He stood up quickly and out of the way of the entrance, when suddenly the large wooden door slammed shut and a familiar locking sound resonated in the particularly quiet foyer. He jumped instinctively at the small, yet seemingly loud noise and turned to the door to try it. The lock was stuck, and he was unable to turn it to open it, meaning he was now trapped inside the mansion. Con muttered wildly to himself as he tried to simultaneously keep himself calm and figure out how much force would be needed to get the door open without breaking it and trapping him more. Curtains were drawn open on a nearby window and, looking through it, he could see the pets who were chasing him run past, none the wiser of his current location. At the very least, he wouldn't have to deal with them any longer. A sudden chill caused him to shiver and stop his useless mutterings. Of course, he would still have to deal with whoever owned the mansion that he was now trespassing in.
Con could only hope that the air of evil he was feeling was of no correlation to the owner's actual demeanour and was just the result of paranoia and years of ghost stories about the Haunted Woods.
There was a small whisper that took hold of the quiet foyer, and the Lenny looked around for the source. "Owh radse...?" Con shivered further and backed away from the door as the whispering gradually become louder. "Owh radse?"
"Who...?" The young Lenny felt a presence behind him, and now extremely fearful, he slowly turned around from morbid curiosity in order to face it. His eyes widened and he gasped at what he saw.
To be continued...