Start of Darkness: Vira
The morning was brisk, but warm, usual weather in the depths of the Haunted Woods. Vira thought that the trees were particularly ugly today, but she held everything to low respects. With the dying vegetation and gloomy atmosphere, there wasn't anything to fawn over around the Woods— except Vira herself. The young, purple Acara had gathered many admirers since she had moved into the neighbourhood of the Woods, if not for the sole fact that she was one of the few inhabitants that was not a grotesque monster. Vira didn't let that detail change her mind in the slightest; the conceited Acara continued to look at herself in the highest regard.
She made her way into the small town of Neovia, where although misty and dark, kept a homely feel that Vira quite liked—that and the bread freshly baked by the Crumpetmonger. Vira knew to be there early in the morning or else the old Meerca would devour it all herself, a bad habit she diligently denied. This particular day, the Crumpetmonger was outside her shop, but without her usual bag of assorted pastries. Vira frowned to herself; had she really eaten them all already? But getting closer she saw that the Crumpetmonger was circled around a group of women, hunched together whispering among themselves.
"Good morning, Miss." Vira smiled.
The old Meerca jumped out of her skin. Slowly, she turned to face the young Acara. "Oh, it's you! You nearly scared me half to death there, lass, coming up behind me like that."
Vira gave a nervous laugh. "I didn't mean to give you a fright. I was only curious. I don't usually see everyone standing around here this time of day—unless there's something going on around town."
One of the women, a young Pteri, perked up. "Haven't you heard? A new family just moved in!"
"Someone moved here? To Neovia?" Vira furrowed her eyebrows.
Neovia was such a small place, hardly anyone outside of Haunted Woods even knew it existed, let alone bothered to move there.
The green Pteri eagerly nodded. "Yes, just a few days ago a matter of fact! And to my surprise, what a beautiful family they are!"
The Crumpetmonger chuckled. "It's true, Vira. They have a small girl, too. What was her name, again, Sully, Stuffy, Toffee—something like that? The doll is just absolutely adorable, never seen a cuter soul."
The rest of them shook their heads in agreement, "Her brothers are quite the young charmers, too!" a chubby Mynci added.
Vira pursed her lips. "Is that so? Do you think it's really possible that a family like that would move to Neovia?"
"That's what I thought," the Pteri quipped. "Funnier things have happened, I suppose."
"We were actually just on our way to visit them," the Crumpetmonger explained. "I baked three baskets fresh just for their family as a welcoming gift. Would you come along, Vira, dear?"
"Oh, that's alright, Miss. I need to get along on some errands, but send them my wishes," Vira said in her sincerest voice.
She bid goodbye to the ladies, without buying a single morsel and made her way back to Haunted Woods. Tried as she may, jealousy was burning hot on Vira's face. She hated to be bested, and by a little girl she'd never met, no less! Vira was convinced that she'd greet this family, but not before she became perfect. Vira wanted to show Neovia, maybe even all of Neopia, that she was more beautiful than some small child, more beautiful than anyone that ever lived.
Standing before a long, scraggly keep, its dents and curves seeming to form a face, Vira figured that Edna's Tower was the best place to start.
The stairs winding up seemed to drag on forever, Vira thought. If that crazy Zafara was every lonely, she had these steps to blame—and probably that sour attitude of hers. Slowly but surely, she finally reached the top of the tower, where a large wooden door greeted her. She gently knocked three times, but to no avail. Vira did it again louder, but still no answer. She frowned. The Acara was about to turn away, until she heard a sound resonating from the other side.
"Don't come back till you have you have it!"
Suddenly the door slammed open and a feverish, blue Gelert was ushered through, short green arms pushing him down the stairs.
"Actually, don't bother coming back at all," a voice snickered, as the Gelert was out of earshot.
Standing at the doorway was a stout, green Zafara—Edna, Vira instantly thought. Edna turned her head, taken aback by the young Acara standing there.
"Who are you?" Edna narrowed her eyes. "Eavesdropping, were we?"
Vira quickly shook her head. "No, of course not! I came here looking for you actually. I'm Vira."
Edna peered down the stairway. Seeing no one coming, she led Vira in, closing the door behind the two.
"Vira, was it? What do you want?" Edna continued to survey her suspiciously.
"Well," Vira started slowly, accessing the situation, "I need your help, actually. I wanted a special potion brewed for me, one that happens to make the drinker...."
She trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. Edna grew weary. "What, girl? Spit it out!"
"I want to be beautiful— even more beautiful and I figured with all your knowledge you could help me, Edna."
The Zafara paused for a moment. "So, you came here to ask me if I could make a potion to make you beautiful."
Vira nodded. "You get it perfectly!"
"You must be out of your mind!" Edna spat. "Do you think I would waste my time on a brat like you? Your request is ridiculous."
The Acara's face fell. "Please, Edna! I'll do anything, I'll go on a silly quest for you, give you all my Neopoints—anything you want!"
"The answer is still no! Someone like you asking that of someone like me, it's preposterous. I'm not a fairy granting wishes to greedy girls. I'm a witch with a very busy agenda. Now leave!"
"Edna, it may seem like greed, but it's my only dream in the world! Don't you understand? I need this, I need to be beautiful! I'd do anything, please, Edna."
"You need to be beautiful?" Edna murmured to herself.
"What?" Vira's ears perked up.
"Nothing." Edna shook her head. "You need this you, you say? I'll make this potion for you, then."
"You'd really do that?" Vira grinned. "Thank you, Edna! Thank you, thank you!"
"Stay here, girl. Don't touch a thing, I'll be back."
Before Vira could reply, Edna vanished into a room.
Closing the door behind the eager Acara, Edna figured it was time to start. She made her way to the books piled on the shelves, dragging her thick fingers past each title, quietly reading them aloud.
"Not this one... I didn't even know I had books like that... Ah, this is it. Perfect!" Edna cracked a wide smile as she held a dusty, green book into the air. "Potions and Brews for Any Neopian."
Skillfully, she flipped through the worn pages. The corners were tearing away; the ink used for the lettering was fading into blotches. Edna only stopped when she came onto a page, its title written in beautiful, bold calligraphy. Reading the ingredients, she began grabbing various components from her drawers and cabinets.
"A bulb of bumroot, three stems of slorgblossom, and four cups of crushed jurpleberries" she said, dropping each thing into her bubbling cauldron. "And last is a pinch of salt!"
With the last item being added, Edna stirred vigorously, chanting the last incantation needed.
"Oh Vira, Vira, so petty and vain,
Asking for favours without any shame.
A pretty Acara who talks so smugly,
With this you'll turn into a creature so ugly!
You'll grow wings on your back and horns on your head,
A figure so hideous you'll want to be dead.
You'll be cursed to roam to lands with that face,
Without a cure for your horrid mistakes!"
The brew made a small flare, signalling its completion. Edna carefully ladled the liquid into a small, clear vial, widely smirking at her reflection in the glass.
"I'll show her how it feels to have your dream crumble away," she cackled. "This potion will be just what that little girl deserves!"
The Zafara motioned Vira quickly into her cauldron, handing her the special elixir.
Vira scrunched her face. "This is supposed to make me beautiful? But it's disgusting looking... Wait, is that a hair?"
"No, no!" Edna shook her head. "That's how it's supposed to look, in three days' time it will be ready for consumption."
The Acara sighed. "Are you sure, Edna? I'm surprised you even made this for me, you sounded awfully bitter before."
"Is that, so?" Edna scoffed. "Don't worry about such a thing. I would never do anything to hurt a child, especially one that has come to me for help, no less!"
Vira smiled, satisfied with the answer. "Thanks again, Edna! When I become famous for my looks, I'll make sure to give you my regards."
With a quick bow, she departed, clearly eager to leave the castle that gave her feelings of discomfort.
"Oh, there will be no need for that," Edna whispered, "No need for that at all."
In three days' time, Vira examined the vial. From its bubbling, slimy green color it had changed to adapt a soft, purple hue. She peered deeper into the liquid, unable to see any strange objects floating around in the concoction like before. Vira figured Edna meant it to be ready by now. Hadn't that witch said something about it changing appearance, but the Acara couldn't recall. She shrugged it off and with a deep breath; she downed the potion with one gulp.
The subsequent scream could be heard all round the thickets of Haunted Woods, her piercing echoes reaching into Neovia's heart. For a long while, townspeople could only wonder what had happened to the beautiful Vira. Certain inhabitants could swear that they saw a monster flee from her house, and were convinced that it had stolen Vira away. Others believed that when she had seen the hideous beast, she screamed so loud that it had caused her to explode, but most rational folks figured she had just died and wanted all the talk of such a horrid subject to stop.
Among all the murmurs and whispers of the mystery behind Vira's disappearance, a cackling could be made out. Emitting from a dark, eerie tower, a shadow of a maniacal Zafara was bobbling about, faint laughter bouncing against the walls.