The Play's the Thing: Part One
In which our heroines attend the theatre, architecture is discussed, and there is much excitement from the thespians.
If you stop and think about it, there’s really only one explanation.
Someone, at some point in time, must have been selling ‘Build your Own Gothic Mansion’ kits in the Haunted Woods.
Why else would there be dozens of foreboding constructions scattered around the place which look virtually identical?
Eliv Thade’s mansion, Count Von Roo’s summer retreat, the Haunted House... and that’s without even mentioning that all of Neovia appears to have been built according to the same specifications.
At no point did a designer wander through the woods and suggest, “Let’s try something in Beige.”
Not that the small party of Neopets that were heading towards one particularly ancient mansion were concerned with variety. The green Tonu that seemed to be leading the group had picked it especially.
It had history.
It had ambience.
“Acoustics!” he proclaimed as he threw open the great doors.
His voice echoed around the deserted main hall.
“It’s also got a problem with rising damp, by the looks of it,” a Zafara pointed out as he peered over the Tonu’s shoulder.
This particular mansion had been deserted for a very long time. The roof in parts had caved in, letting in the rain, and as the Zafara rightly pointed out the timber in several walls had rotted.
“You want to put a show on in here?” a Kyrii asked, clutching her coat tighter around herself to protect against the cold.
“Oh, it won’t look like this!” the Tonu replied, adjusting his beret and striding into the hall. “The entire place is going to be restored. We’ll convert the ballroom into the actual theatre. It will be stunning, a masterpiece!”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just... go to Neopia Central?” a Scorchio next to the Kyrii asked. “There’re plenty of places we can use in the Art District.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” the Tonu replied dismissively. “But none of them have the connection to the script that this place does!”
The group stared at the Tonu.
“You did... read the script, didn’t you?” he asked.
“What does a run down old mansion in a secluded part of the Haunted Woods have to do with your script?” the Zafara asked.
“This is where it happened!” the Tonu replied with glee. “This is the mansion! This is Baron Friday-Lunchtime’s mansion!”
The group stared up at the leaky ceiling in a mixture of disbelief and disapproval.
No one noticed, but the wind picked up, ever so slightly.
Sophie the swamp witch slammed the poster down on Edna’s kitchen table with so much force that quite a few slabs of plaster fell from the ceiling.
Edna peered down at the advertisement, her nostrils already beginning to flare in the expectation of anger.
‘From the acclaimed writer and director of Requiem for a Meepit, and Neoflu: The Musical comes...
The Original Tragedy
The truth behind the first witch and the king of the zombies, told for the first time!’
Edna leaned back.
“Is it a book?” Morguss, the witch of the Darigan Citadel asked from across the table.
“It’s a play,” Sophie said with disdain, which was immediately mimicked by the other two.
“Can’t be doing with plays,” Edna told them. “Too much fancy talking and not enough getting to the point. They take half an hour just to say hello.”
“I don’t see what the problem is,” Morguss added. “People have been making up stories about Esmeralda and the Baron for years.”
“This one’s different,” Sophie told her. “They actually do know the truth.”
Edna and Morguss inhaled sharply at the same time.
“The whole truth?” Edna asked coldly.
“Everything,” Sophie replied.
There was silence.
They all knew what wasn’t being said. It had been their secret, what they had done to Esmeralda, the first witch, two years ago. No one else on the planet knew... aside from...
“Henry Dorchester!” Edna shouted at last.
“It wasn’t him,” Sophie replied quickly. “I’ve been asking around Neovia. Apparently it was the Faeries that let slip. It was the talk of the town in Neopia Central when the Baron turned up.”
“Faeries,” Morguss and Edna cursed at exactly the same time.
“There should be rules!” Edna snapped. “People can’t go around writing plays about... about the truth! What happened to princesses losing their shoes? Or orphans breaking into song about food? Have they run out of stories?”
“We should complain.” Morguss nodded. “We have a right to complain... we’re Witches.”
“Someone’s going to get such a Talking To,” Edna agreed.
Silence once again returned until Sophie added, “There’s more.”
“What?” Edna demanded.
“As word has got out that we were there when Esmeralda woke up, we’ve been invited to the first performance,” Sophie told her. “Vip tickets.”
She placed three tickets on the table.
“What’s a Vip ticket?” Morguss asked, picking up one of them. “And why’s it written in capitals?”
“I think it’s a new type of Virtupets technology,” Sophie said confidently.
Morguss immediately dropped the ticket as if it was coated in acid.
“Well, we can’t go,” she said. “It would be as if we were condoning the thing.”
“I want to complain,” Edna repeated. “Will the writer be there?”
Sophie shrugged, “I guess so. He’s the director as well. Apparently he’s really famous in acting circles.”
“Well, that’s acting circles for you,” Morguss observed.
Edna grasped the ticket in her hand and glared at it as if it could become volatile at any moment.
“We are going to the theatre,” she announced.
The Witches had decided to walk. In hindsight, that was a mistake.
They, being Witches, had not bothered to look for directions on the poster, and had instead set off for Neovia under the thinking that anything as fancy as a theatre would most certainly be located there.
When they arrived in Neovia and were promptly told by the nearest local they could find that the new theatre was actually located on the other side of the woods they were understandably a little annoyed.
When they reached the location of the foreboding mansion, nestled deep in the heart of the woods, they were slightly more annoyed.
The gothic mansion was lit up by great spotlights that made the place easy to find even half a mile away.
“Why are they having a play out here?” Morguss demanded. “It’s the middle of nowhere.”
“They’ve picked a posh place, though,” Edna added, taking in the mansion.
It was a magnificent building, with unparalleled masonry and several wings that disappeared back into the dense covering of the Haunted Woods. A clearing had been made in front of the mansion, and many expensive looking carriages had been parked outside. A crisp red carpet lay unrolled invitingly on the doorstep. The Witches, mainly out of principle, covered it in mud as they walked along it.
A large Kougra on the door that easily dwarfed the three Witches attempted in vain to stare them down as they approached.
“Tickets please,” he demanded eventually.
“Tickets?” Edna snapped. “We don’t need tickets, we’re Witches!”
The Kougra leaned down so he was face to face with Edna.
“Tickets, please,” he repeated.
Sophie grunted and shoved the three tickets in his face.
“They’re Vip tickets,” she told him.
The Kougra frowned slightly before examining the tickets.
“Ah, VIP,” he said loudly and clearly to make sure the Witches understood their mistake. “I’ll get someone to show you in.”
He pulled a chord behind him, and the great doors to the mansion opened. A small green Quiggle rushed out.
“Three for the VIP area,” the Kougra told him.
“Excellent!” the Quiggle beamed. “This way, please, ladies.”
The Quiggle gestured them inside. As the doors closed behind them, Edna shot a glance back to the Kougra and flicked her hand. She smiled with satisfaction as she heard the croak of a Mortog a moment later.
The grand entrance hall was lavishly decorated, and guests were milling about talking with drinks in their hands.
“This way, this way, I’ll show you to the VIP area,” the Quiggle said, escorting the Witches through a doorway.
It led to what must have been the mansion’s old library, and had been mostly restored. Other, clearly more affluent guests were gathered in this room.
“I’ll get Mr. Berkley, he’s dying to meet you,” the Quiggle informed them.
He rushed off to a corner where a green Tonu and a blue Nimmo were deep in conversation.
“Excuse me, Mr. Berkley?” the Quiggle interrupted.
“What is it, Archie?” the Tonu asked irritably. “Mr. Worthington-Smythe-Foxley was just telling me about his holiday homes.”
“Sorry, sir, but the Witches are here,” the Quiggle told him.
The Tonu’s face brightened and he made his excuses before heading over to the Witches.
“I’m so glad you could all came!” he said theatrically. “I am Heston Berkley, the director and writer of this humble play. Of course, I already know your names.”
Edna’s hand was moving before he even finished speaking. She jabbed him very forcefully in the middle.
“Why are you writing plays about Esmeralda?” she demanded. “Who told you? Which Faerie?”
Heston stumbled back slightly and smiled again, “I thought you already knew? When the Baron turned up in Neopia Central, everything came out. It seems the Faeries told one of their clerks, a researcher in the museum, and from there word quickly spread around about the true nature of the story. After I heard, I was inspired. The rest, as they say, is history!”
He turned to the Quiggle and added, “Archie, get these ladies some programmes and then show them personally to their seats. I have much to do backstage.”
He bowed towards the Witches before leaving them.
“Archie Twaddle,” the Quiggle said, without even looking at the Witches. “I’m his assistant. If you’ll follow me.”
He led them back out into the main hall.
“And just who is he?” Edna demanded.
“You don’t know?” Archie asked in amazement. “He’s only Heston Berkley, the most famous playwright in modern times!”
“And this is his house?” Morguss asked. “I’ve never heard of him.”
“No, no, no,” Archie explained. “He’s from Neopia Central. He bought this place because it used to belong to the Baron. His family’s richer than pretty much anyone; he did the entire place up especially for the performance.”
Archie pushed open a set of double doors leading them into a new room. It was a theatre, with rows upon rows of plush red seats all facing a polished stage.
“You’ve got some of the best seats in the house,” Archie continued. “No boxes, of course, I hope you understand.”
He paused at one row and signalled them to sit down. As they did so, he handed them all booklets.
“The programmes,” he explained. “Not that you need them; you already know the story!”
Archie scuttled off as the Witches got themselves comfortable. Other guests were beginning to file in and take their seats.
“I don’t like plays,” Edna growled.
To be continued...