It was a darker night in the Haunted Woods than usual. Two young neopets wandered under the sinister glare of the trees, trying to return home to Neovia. Out of the blackness, glowing eyes peered at them, waiting, always waiting, for the right time to strike. The dark itself seemed to whisper menacingly to the cold breeze which blew through the two friends' fur causing them to shiver not only from the cold.
"I don't like this," Jake said nervously. "This place is creeping me out." He pushed his longish dark blond hair out of his eyes.
"That's what you get for living in the Haunted Woods," the white Kougra walking beside him replied. They continued to walk through the woods, it seemed like hours to Jake, and the trees just seemed to grow meaner looking.
"M-m-matt?" Jake said. "I think we're lost..."
"I'm sure you are," said a friendly but unfamiliar voice. "I can show you the way."
"Funny voice, Matt," the brown Lutari snapped. He turned to his friend. But Matt wasn't there. In his place was a ghost Wocky. It grinned devilishly. Jake let out a scream, and turned to run.
"Wait!" the ghost pleaded. "I didn't mean to scare—come back!" it shouted after Jake who was running blindly through the forest.
"MATT! WHERE ARE YOU?" Jake shouted.
"Right here," Matt said, stepping out from behind the trees. "I went ahead to see if I can find a path home. This place just goes on. What's wrong?" He suddenly noticed his friend shaking.
"I saw a g-g-g-ghost!" Jake replied, panting hard.
Matt frowned. "Not funny. Come on, let's go." He signaled his friend and they continued on their way.
"This is your fault," Jake said angrily. If you hadn't begged me to go off the path so you can pick flowers for MY SISTER, we wouldn't be lost with ghosts after us." He huffed angrily, and continued to walk, staring straight ahead.
"They were the unusual kind, colorful and alive like you'd find in Meridell, not around here. Everything else is all undead. I knew I had my chance now! Jamie loves flowers. Besides, who would have thought walking off the path for TEN SECONDS would make it disappear."
"Could you guys stop arguing?" They both whirled around in surprise. The ghost was there again. He didn't look like he meant to hurt anyone.
"Whoa! So you did see a ghost!" Matt said to Jake.
"I told ya so," Jake snapped. But he wasn't afraid. He had a feeling this ghost was nice... if it was possible.
The ghost floated along with them, to Matt's right. "I'm Henry," he said, holding out a transparent paw. Matt tried to shake it, but his fingers curled around air—cold air.
"I'm Matt," the Kougra introduced himself. "And this 'fraidy Aisha here is Jake."
"I'm not a 'fraidy Aisha," Jake said defensively. "Nice to meet you... Henry."
"It seemed you guys were lost," Henry said. "Where are you from?"
"Neovia," Matt replied.
"I think I can show you the way home," Henry said. "Follow me." He made a sudden turn and Jake and Matt had to jog to keep up with him. He flew through the woods making more turns here and there. After another curve or so, they arrived at a clearing, right in front of an old abandoned mansion.
"...Neovia?" Jake said.
"Whoops, must've made a wrong turn. Accidentally headed home, I'm sorry," Henry apologized. "Hang on, I know the way to Neovia from here." His ears drooped.
"Is something wrong?" Matt asked.
Henry sighed. "Nothing the living would care about."
"You're helping us. We're friends now," Jake said. "We'll help you too. Just tell us what's wrong."
The ghost shifted nervously, and then looked to right and left. "Well... Two very unfriendly ghosts who think they rule the Haunted Woods decided they want my mansion as their home, so they kicked me out." He stared at the ground. "Of course, they're bigger and older than me, so I couldn't fight and stand up for what's mine..."
"We'll help you," Matt said. "Right, Jake?"
Jake gulped. "Right..." The fright on his face was clear. He didn't like the idea. But the Lutari was a loyal friend and knew he was going to help Henry.
"No. You don't have to," Henry said. "I'll... find a new place to live."
"It's your house! You found it, and you've lived in it for a while, right?" Matt said.
"Yes," Henry replied. "But it's not like that with ghosts..."
"Those ghosts are going down," Jake said. "Come on, let's go now." He walked bravely toward the house. Suddenly he froze in place.
"What's wrong?" Matt called.
"There are ghosts in there," Jake replied. "That's what's wrong. Ghosts are scary, except for Henry... And Henry said these ones aren't friendly. That's even worse."
"I've got your tail," Matt said. "Don't worry." He gently pushed Jake forward. The Lutari's bushy tail twitched, but Jake walked up to the door, mastering his fear. Henry floated behind Matt.
The double doors to the mansion swung open with a loud creeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaak before Jake had a chance to touch the knob. In front of them was now a deserted hall full of cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. The carpet was filthy and ripped, as was the wallpaper. A large chair that had lost most of its stuffing leaned against the peeling wall. Lots of doors lined either side of the hall. The dead silence in the mansion was unnerving.
"Home sweet home," Henry whispered. He grinned a ghostly grin at his friends. "I was just wondering, really, you know, just curious, what are we going to do when we get to them?"
Matt and Jake looked at each other. "Um..." Matt said.
Jake stared at the floor uncomfortably. "...We..."
"Hey! Who are you and what's your business?" A ghost eerily floated out from one of the rooms. His bright red eyes stared down the three. Jake was ready to turn and bolt but Matt had a firm hold on his jacket and wouldn't let him move. Henry looked frightened also but stood his ground bravely.
"This is my house," the ghost Wocky said. "That's my business. You have no right to be here." He suddenly seemed to grow in size and was more menacing. The other ghost backed up, but then smiled.
He chuckled. "Not anymore. Now get out, you're not welcome here."
Henry looked at his friends for back-up. Matt stepped forward. "Sir, I believe my friend has been living here for a while. You can't just kick him out. Find a different mansion to haunt. This one already has a ghost," the Kougra said.
The Eyrie laughed. "Now it has three ghosts. Leave." He charged at them. "Now."
Jake kicked open a door and the three of them raced inside. He slammed it shut. "That should keep them out," he panted.
The ghost's head and shoulders popped out of the wall. "I think you forgot, boy, ghosts can go through walls," it said, and laughed. Jake shrank against a corner. Matt and Henry stood on the other side of the room. Matt held something behind his back.
"What's going on in here?" Another ghost floated through the walls. "George, who are these... people?"
"We have visitors. And they brought that ghost kid who was living here before," George replied. The rest of him floated out of the wall. "Shall I get Neville?"
"Who's Neville?" Jake asked in terror.
"He's our butler," the other ghost (named Geraldine) answered. "And he deals with unwelcome visitors."
Jake swallowed. "Well, nice meeting you all, but we better get going if we want to get home on time for dinner," he said timidly, and turned to leave. He walked right into a... thing. It resembled a Draik somehow, but was tall (very tall) and skinny. Its skin was grey and its eyes were black. It wore a well pressed tuxedo.
"That, would be Neville," Geraldine said. "Neville, say hello."
"Heeeellllloooo," said Neville.
"Hi," Jake squeaked. He walked backwards until he bumped into Matt. "We were just going."
"Yeah, just going," Matt echoed. He nudged Jake. The trio started for the exit. Matt heard George let out a low chuckle. The Kougra was angry. Before they left, he turned back to look at the ghosts and their butler. "We will be back," he said bravely. "This house belongs to Henry."
"Neville," Geraldine said. "Escort these kids out of the house, please." The Draik walked toward them. They ran. Henry took the lead. Jake and Matt followed him through twists and turns and they were suddenly standing on a hill overlooking Neovia.
"Henry! Thanks a billion!" Matt said to the ghost. "I'm sorry we chickened out."
"That's okay," Henry replied. He looked sad.
"You can stay in our attic until we go back and reclaim your house," Jake said. "I'm sure Jamie won't mind..."
The streets were empty; all the citizens of Neovia were at home enjoying their evening meal, so Henry didn't hide. They walked a few blocks into the city and arrived at a small house. The paint was old but still in good condition. Jake opened the door and led them inside to the front hall.
"Jamie!" Matt shouted. "We're back!" A slim Usul appeared in front of them from what seemed out of nowhere. She crossed her arms.
"Where have you been?" Jamie asked, irritation, worry, and relief all at once were in her voice. She gasped when she saw the ghost.
"We got lost," Jake explained. "And had to help a friend. Mind if he stays in our attic for a bit? Mom and Dad are away, and he got kicked out of his haunted mansion by other ghosts."
"Um..." Jamie's expression had changed to surprise and slight fear, but she was braver than both Matt and Jake, and wasn't afraid of ghosts. "If this is a prank, it's not funny, guys," she said.
"It's not," Matt assured her. "There was this big weird guy. He chased us out. Let him stay for a while. At least until your and Jake's parents get back."
Jamie sighed. "Okay, only until they get back. Just fly up until you reach the attic."
"Thank you," Henry said. "I won't bother you." He floated up through the ceiling and was gone.
"I'm going to go find something to eat," Jake said. He wandered off into the kitchen.
"What happened?" Jamie asked.
"Well..." Matt began.