Tea with Thade
Eliv glared out his window at the child who approached his castle. The Christmas Zafara's face showed no fear, just confusion, and that cleared away when she saw a castle ahead of her. He could imagine what was going through her mind at that moment.
"Oh, good, a house! The people there can show me how to get back out of these woods."
Thade turned away from the window with a malevolent grin. "Itsh uhdosl eb nfu."
"No, I don't want to buy a scratchcard, Sidney!" Kristykimmy shouted in frustration.
"Yesssss, you do, Krissssssty." Sidney liked the fact that Kristy had an s in her name and took every opportunity to tease her when she came to the Deserted Fairground.
Kristy walked quickly through the fairground, her arms full of spooky food, Yanli by her side.
"Come back ssssssssoon, Krissssssty!" Sidney called after them.
"I don't like the Haunted Woods," Kristy groused as they walked along.
"Then why are we here?" Yanli asked skipping along.
"Your big sister turned into a zombie again this morning. Until I can purchase a paintbrush to fix her, we need to feed her spooky food to hold her over," Kristy explained.
Yanli giggled uncontrollably. "I remember the last time that happened. It was funny!"
"You and Inna just love to see me suffer," Kristy continued to complain.
Yanli threw her arms around her mother's waist, nearly knocking the bags out of her arms, and shouted, "I love it when you make funny faces and scream! You're so funny! You're a great mom."
Kristy's grin was sarcastic and amused at the same time. Before she could respond to her Zafara, a Chumablah ran by them.
"Stop! Someone, catch that Chumablah!" the Cybunny who ran the Spooky Pets Shop shouted.
Yanli darted after it and, before anyone could stop her, into the woods. Kristy raced after her but a root snaked up out of the ground and wrapped around her waist.
"No!" boomed the Brain Tree. "Those woods lead to Eliv Thade's castle. You cannot go in there alone; you will never come out again."
"But, Yanli!" Kristy protested.
"Go to Neovia and seek out Gilly and Sophie. They can help you, but if you go after her alone, neither of you will be coming back out." the Brain Tree explained.
Kristy looked into the woods and bit her lip as she nodded.
"Gotcha!" Yanli cried as she pounced on the Chumablah.
She held the squealing creature tight and tickled his chin. "I'll call you Chummy! Now, let's get you back to the nice lady at the pet shop."
Yanli looked around and realized that she couldn't see the way out. All directions looked similar to her.
"Oh, Borovan," Yanli whined. "I'm lost in the woods, again! Kristy is gonna be mad!"
Yanli picked a direction and started walking. Chummy eventually stopped struggling so she pulled the ribbon out of her hair, tied it around Chummy's waist and around her left shoulder, and let him sit up there. After walking for a while she came to a clearing and ahead of her was a castle.
"Ooh, look, Chummy! A castle; maybe if someone lives here they can tell me how to get back to the pet shop," Yanli cried excitedly.
Chummy chittered nervously as Yanli ran to the door and knocked. The door swung slowly open and Yanli went in. She looked around at the dust covered surfaces and abundance of Spyder webs.
"Really? What is with the trend in the Haunted Woods to have such dirty houses? Kristy would have a seizure if I let my room get like this," Yanli said aloud.
It was then that the doors slammed behind her.
"There must be a window open somewhere." Yanli calmed Chummy. "Don't get scared."
Yanli walked into the library and looked around. "Hello! Is anyone here?"
Thade appeared at that moment, blocking the library door. Chummy screamed and tried to flee. Yanli stroked the creature and tried to soothe it.
"Hi there, sir! I'm Yanli and I'm lost. Would you tell me how to get back to the Spooky Pets shop?" Yanli explained to Thade.
"Pphears, fi oyu voels ym zpluze," Thade said with a malevolent grin. "Lrfoew."
"Flower," Yanli replied promptly. "Now tell me the way out."
"Nto os asft! Cnenhantmet," Thade cried.
"Enchantment," Yanli answered. "Now?"
Thade growled in frustration.
"Prestidigitation." Yanli yawned.
Half an hour later they were still at it. Yanli had taken to wandering the castle out of boredom and Thade followed her giving her anagram after anagram. Yanli was currently digging through the kitchen out of curiosity as Thade tried to come up with one that would stump her. Yanli had already forgotten that she was lost.
"Mister, this game is boring! Can't we play Kacheek Seek instead?" Yanli whined.
"On." Thade glowered.
Yanli grinned huge. "On? As in 'It's on?' Awesome! You count, I'll hide!"
"Ouy onkw htta's nto hwta I emnat!" Thade shouted after her as she raced away.
Thade followed after her, but lost her in the maze of his own castle. He spent the next hour looking for her. Finally he found her in a wardrobe in the attic.
"Yay, you found me!" Yanli cried. "Now you get to hide. I'll count."
Yanli turned her face to the wall and counted to fifty. When she turned back, Thade was still standing there.
"Found you! You're a good seeker, but not a good hider." Yanli laughed. "I'm thirsty, let's go get a drink."
Before Thade could say a word, Yanli had grabbed his hand and was dragging him down to the kitchen. She found a teapot and tea leaves while Thade quizzed her on anagrams relating to tea.
"I'm glad I live in Meridell a lot. I know how to make tea from loose leaves," Yanli said as she made the tea.
She found two cups, washed them, and then wiped down the table. Thade stopped quizzing her on anagrams to watch her. Seeing her do the dishes and clean up the kitchen a little brought back long dead memories of when servants used to bustle about cleaning. Thade had forgotten the days before his obsession with puzzles consumed him and eventually led to his madness.
Yanli dusted off a chair for him and said, "Sit down."
He did as he was told and she dusted off hers and sat down and carefully poured him a cup of tea and passed it to him. She poured herself some and poured some into a saucer for Chummy.
"I wonder where my mom is. We've been playing for a long time now. Do you think she is lost in the forest?" Yanli asked.
"I don't know," Thade said without speaking in anagrams.
Yanli smiled. "Well, knowing Kristy, I'm sure everything is fine and she'll be here soon to get me. Why don't I tell you about my Faellie?"
"Do you think she is okay?" Kristy asked as she hurried behind Sophie and Gilly.
"I don't know. She's really young; she could be in a lot of trouble," Gilly said as she led the way.
The castle loomed above them. They burst through the front doors and looked around. Suddenly laughter broke out from the kitchen, Yanli's high laughter with Thade's dark, cracked laugh. They ran down the hall and stopped dead at what they found. Thade was almost doubled over, in tears, from laughing and Yanli was waving her hands wildly as she was telling some story.
"Then she said, 'Well, at least it wasn't Chet Flash!'" Yanli finished.
"Hatt si ihliruaso!" Thade gasped out.
Yanli looked up and noticed the threesome standing dumbfounded in the doorway.
"Kristy!" Yanli shrieked.
Yanli dived at Kristy, knocking her to the ground, hugging her tight.
"You're okay!" Kristy cried in relief.
"Of course I am. Mr. Thade and I had a lot of fun. We played Anagrams and Kacheek Seek, and we had tea and told stories. He's really nice!" Yanli laughed. "And I caught Chummy!"
"Elolh, Gilly," Thade said, looking over at the newcomers. "Si tish yuro otmhre, Yanli?"
"Yep, this is Kristy," Yanli said as she picked up Chummy.
"Um, nice to meet you, Mr. Thade. Thank you for taking good care of Yanli," Kristy said politely, though still confused.
"I have to take Chummy back to the pet shop now," Yanli explained.
Thade held out a bag of Neopoints. "I ktinh I llwi ekep Chummy. Ilwl yuo gvie isth ot het ept hspo eonwr?"
Yanli took the bag of Neopoints and nodded. "Take good care of Chummy, Mr. Thade. I'll come back to see you soon. Bye, Mr. Thade!"
The foursome left and headed for the pet shop. As they were walking back through the forest Kristy suddenly groaned.
"What's wrong, Kristy?" Yanli asked.
"I dropped all the spooky food I bought when you ran in the forest. I have to go back and buy more," Kristy whined.
"Would you like to buy a sssssscratchcard, Krissssssty?" Yanli laughed out.