Before the Tale: Part Four
“I cannot believe you did that!” Jaycee yelled at Sebastian as they were following a worn path through the Woods. “After I explicitly told you NOT to, you went and did it anyway! Why do you never listen to anything I have to say?”
Against her will, Sebastian had scratched the card Sidney had given her. Much to their horror (and Sidney’s delight) a shower of black rain had descended upon the little blue Blumaroo and gave him the horrible disease of ‘Blurred Vision’. Jaycee was very unimpressed that he kept walking into her and stepping on her paws.
“At least he told us where to go. I took one for the team, okay. Just be glad you don’t have this,” Sebastian said irritably, rubbing his sore eyes for what felt like the hundredth time.
“Took one for the team?” Jaycee echoed incredulously. “You didn’t have to take it at all; it’s your own stupid fault!”
“Never mind, it’s done now. Now, where did he say next?” Sebastian looked around and saw... well, not much at all, really; his eyes had almost completely blurred over.
“Follow this path until we hit a graveyard, apparently. But I don’t see any graves, do you?” She looked back at him and saw him trip over a stray tree branch. “Oh, sorry.” She ran back to help him up and dusted the dead leaves off him. She held his hand and led him along the path for what left like days until they finally came across something that could pass as a graveyard.
Really, it was just a few tombstones sticking out of the ground in no apparent order or system. Quite disorderly.
“Alright, at the graveyard, pick a path through it, making sure we pass a grave marked with seaweed, belonging to some pirate Krawk or something. And we need to take a piece of the seaweed, but we have to leave the grave as we found it. Well, how are we going to do that??” Jaycee asked, looking down at the piece of paper she had written Sidney’s instructions on.
“Magic?” Sebastian suggested unhelpfully.
Jaycee ignored him.
“And after that we need to exit the graveyard through the gates on the other side. We should get started; it’s getting darker.” It was indeed getting darker, something the trio didn’t think was possible. Their only source of light was a dimly lit lantern that they had hung around Sock’s neck to make sure they didn’t lose either him or the light.
“Then let’s go!” Sebastian said enthusiastically, bouncing forward and smashing into the fence. “OW!”
“Come on,” Jaycee sighed, grabbing his hand again and leading him into the graveyard.
They found their way through the middle, winding around the scattered graves, keeping their (Jaycee’s) eyes open looking for seaweed. Only when she was nearly pulling her fur out in frustration did she finally notice a suspicious-looking grave, and on closer inspection it was in fact the grave they were looking for. Scraps of seaweed were strewn over the tombstone and on the ground around it.
Jaycee leaned down and gently lifted up the seaweed draped over the words and held it up so she could read the engraving before letting it fall back into place.
“Krawley... I feel like I’ve heard that before, somewhere,” Jaycee said, looking thoughtful.
“Never mind that, how are we supposed to take a piece of the seaweed AND leave the grave how we found it. It’s not possible, is it?” Sebastian leaned against a random tombstone for support.
“I don’t know, but he definitely said take a piece. ‘You’ll need it later’, he told us,” Jaycee said, reading through their instructions once more.
“I wouldn’t touch that grave if I were you...” a cold, slow voice drawled from the darkness.
Jaycee spun around wildly and saw a blue Krawk standing in the shadows, his eyes gleaming gold. He stepped forward and grinned at them, his sharp teeth sparkling in the lantern’s dull light.
“What is it? Who? Where? Jaycee!” Sebastian looked frantically in every direction.
“Don’t worry, sir, I’m no harm to you. But what are you doing here, miss?” He addressed Jaycee, looking her up and down.
“None of your business,” she snapped, both frightened and irritated. “Were you following us?”
“I would never...” the Krawk drawled, smirking. “I’m just visiting an... old friend.” He gestured to the grave marked ‘Krawley’. “Are you paying your respects also?”
“I... yes, we are.”
“Then who’s Krawley?”
“I... that doesn’t matter. It’s no matter of yours why we’re here, so why don’t you just leave?” Jaycee said, reaching to grab Sebastian’s hand, as he still couldn’t see and was flailing his arms around, and was in danger of accidently knocking himself out.
“I know who he is.” The Krawk smiled infuriatingly. “We’re... close, you could say.”
“The Tale of Woe... be glad you haven’t heard it. Do not talk to any Krawks. Any of them.”
The Gypsy Elephante’s voice rang in her head and Jaycee’s eyes widened impossibly.
“I think we’ll be going now,” she said, gripping Sebastian's hand tighter, making him squeal.
“But we haven’t taken any seaweed yet,” he protested, still struggling in vain to see the person talking to them from the shadows.
“Why would you be needing a piece of that seaweed, sir?” the Krawk asked politely, tilting his head up and studying the three of them, Socks sitting on the floor at Sebastian’s feet and looking up at them curiously.
“Well, Sidney─” Sebastian was cut short by Jaycee stepping on his tail, bringing (more) tears to his already blurry eyes.
“We just do,” she snapped, hastily picking up Socks and grabbing a piece of seaweed off the tombstone.
“Do you know why it’s there? Look around, miss, there aren’t any caretakers in this graveyard, and that seaweed is fresh. Didn’t you notice, it’s dripping with saltwater, straight from the ocean. How is that possible? Who put it there?”
“Do you know?” Jaycee asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
The blue Krawk smiled, as if he had known exactly how the conversation was going to go.
“No one puts it there, miss. Krawley died at sea. He is a great and powerful magician; he can make a potion for anything. But something went wrong, and he drowned. This was a long time ago, mind you.”
“Then why is his grave here, in the Haunted Woods?” Sebastian asked, massaging his sore tail and frowning at Jaycee.
“Because he lives in the Haunted Woods. It’s only fitting that his grave be found there.”
“So what’s the deal with the seaweed?”
“A reminder to those who pass through. Say, sir, I see you have some trouble with your eyes. Can I be of assistance? I happen to have the perfect remedy right here, this potion will do wonders you didn’t even think were possible.” The Krawk held up a small bottle filled with bubbling red liquid.
“What is it?” Sebastian asked cautiously, leaning forward and squinting his eyes at it.
“Sebastian, no! You mustn’t.” Jaycee looked horrified.
Sebastian paused for a minute, frowning.
“Wait a minute, you said this Krawley lives in the Haunted Woods, not lived. He’s dead, he can’t still be living here!”
“Can’t he?” The Krawk grinned and flashed his pointed teeth at them.
“I think we’ll be going now...” Jaycee gave Sebastian a push in the direction of the gate.
“Can’t you stay? We were getting along... swimmingly.” The Krawk laughed.
“No, we really have to go.” They hurried out of the graveyard as fast as they could, leaving Krawley standing alone by his grave, his laughter following them all the way down the path.
They did not see the place from which they’d snatched a bit of seaweed magically regrow, and the grave returned to looking exactly as it had before.
They kept running until they were what they deemed a ‘safe’ distance away from the graveyard and the Krawk named Krawley who might or might not be dead and who might or might not have eaten them.
Jaycee would have bet on the latter.
“I HATE THIS PLACE!” Sebastian raged as they walked briskly down the old path leading them to what was most likely another close encounter with the undead, or a disease, or a disappearing Gypsy or a Chia Clown or a screaming Brain Tree. He kept hearing footsteps behind them but when he turned he saw... nothing. Everywhere he looked he saw nothing because of Sidney and his DARNED SCRATCHCARDS! Why couldn’t they have left Socks at the Gate? Why did the STUPID MEOWCLOPS HAVE TO TROT UP TO THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE?? WHY COULDN’T THEY HAVE JUST GONE HOME AFTER THE CONCERT AND LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER?!?!?!?!
Why hadn’t Jaycee stopped him? This was all her fault. If she hadn’t agreed to trek through the mud and monsters to return the thing back to Sophie (THE SWAMP WITCH!), they would never have gotten this far.
He was seriously over it.
To be continued...