All Hallow’s Eve: Part One
I want to thank my awesome friend Thunder (Patt788) for proofreading this for me. Thanks for catching all those stupid errors, and the witty way you did it.
Holly smiled as she saw her best friend Jasper turn the corner onto her street, the Blue Kyrii had his nose buried in a book. She opened the window and leaned out, calling to him. He looked away from his book, towards her.
"Jasper! Why don't you come in? I've just finished baking some chocolate scones, your favorite," Holly called.
"I don't know, Holly. I was just about to go into the Woods," Jasper said.
"The Woods will still be there tomorrow. My scones on the other hand, Douglas will probably devour them all when he returns from his croquet match at Julian's house," the Green Cybunny teased.
"Oh, all right, then," Jasper gave in.
Holly went to the front door and opened it for him. He came in and sat down in the sitting room. Holly went to the kitchen; she put a few scones on a tea tray already set with a tea service. She brought it out to the sitting room, setting it on the table between them, and sitting down.
"I really don't approve of you going into the Woods, Jasper," Holly said, as she handed him a cup of tea.
"What are you now, my mother?" Jasper teased as he accepted the cup.
"Someone has to look out for you, because you won't do it yourself," Holly laughed.
One of the things that had drawn Holly and Jasper together was that they both had been orphans from a fairly early age. Jasper was an only child, but Holly had a younger brother to take care of.
"No, I'm not teasing, Jasper. It isn't safe outside of Neovia. You shouldn't go out into the Woods," Holly insisted. "What's out there that you could possibly need?"
Jasper stared out the window at the ever gloomy Neovia. "Don't you ever wish for something more, Holly?"
"I don't understand what you mean by that, Jasper. All that lies beyond Neovia are endless woods full of ghouls and monsters. Neovia is safe from those things, what else could you want?" Holly sighed.
"The Woods aren't endless, Holly. If you can just get out of them, there are so many lands beyond! Holly, there is an entire world out there. I just need to find the way out of here, and I need to be stronger so that I can face anything that might try to hinder us," Jasper cried.
"Who else is going with you?" Holly asked.
"You and Douglas, of course. I'm not going to leave you two here," Jasper said.
"Oh, Jasper," Holly gasped in dismay.
"You would come with me, wouldn't you?" Jasper's voice was weak, as if it was the first time the idea she wouldn't go with him had occurred to him.
"Jasper, I," she waivered. "We'd go."
"Good, then I'll most definitely find it."
Holly looked out the window and sighed. She didn't believe that there was a world beyond the forbidding Haunted Woods, but she didn't want to contradict her friend, since he believed in it so strongly. She decided to see if she could change the subject.
"So, what is this?"
Holly leaned forward and took the book he had brought with him from the table to examine it. It was untitled and bound in faded and cracked leather. Jasper took it from her, flipped through it, and showed her a page with a map.
"It's only half a map, but that's halfway out. This book is the key to getting us out of here, Holly. If I can just find where this starts," Jasper explained.
Holly was about to comment when the door from the kitchen opened and a young yellow Kougra strolled in.
"How was your croquet match, Douglas?" Holly asked turning to him.
"All right, I suppose. Meggie won. Everyone else went to her house for tea, but I came home since you asked me to come back early," Douglas told as he took off his cap. "How are you, Jasper?"
"I'm well, Douglas. However, I have to be going. There aren't many hours of daylight left and I don't want to get caught out after dark. Good day, Holly. Thank you for the scones." Jasper got up and Douglas showed him out.
The boy came back and sat in the chair Jasper had vacated.
"What's got you so glum, old mum?" Douglas asked as he started to eat a scone.
"Jasper says that there are lands beyond the Haunted Woods, and that he is going to take us there. I'm not sure I believe that there is anything out there," Holly told, as she finished her cup of tea.
"Well, there is no sense in trampling on his dreams. If he's right, then we can all go see what's out there. If not, we're no worse off than we are now," Douglas replied, taking another bite of scone.
Holly smiled at her little brother. "Sometimes you seem so grown-up and wise, little brother."
"Does this mean you'll let me stay up past nine?" Douglas asked hopefully.
"Of course not, silly," Holly laughed as she handed her brother the last scone, then look the tea tray to the kitchen.
More than a week passed without Holly or Douglas seeing Jasper. Holly began to worry about him, since he didn't often go that long without stopping in to see her. She decided to go and see him. She packed a few fresh made jellies and scones in a basket, then made her way across Neovia to his home.
The gates to the park hung wide open. Holly entered the park and walked up the long drive to his home. She stopped to take in the sprawling old mansion he lived in. Feradean Manor had been the home of Jasper's family for the last three hundred years. In the past Jasper's ancestors had been the richest people in Neovia. They used to be at the forefront of the fashionable upper-class. Several of them had been the mayor of the town at some point in their lives.
Those days were long gone, however. Within the last few generations, the family had gradually faded and the descendants gained the reputation of being eccentric. Jasper's father had been a complete recluse, never once setting foot out of Feradean Manor in his life. Jasper was the last of the family, and more normal than most before him, but still odd by Neovian standards.
Holly knocked on the front door, but there was no answer. She kept knocking and he still didn't answer. She tried the door, but it was locked, so she walked around the house. She found a window open on the ground floor and climbed in.
Holly found herself in the library. It was a large room overflowing with bookshelves, tables, chairs, and sofas, all haphazardly arranged and most covered in a thick layer of dust. She looked around and cried out in alarm. Jasper was lying on the floor next to a desk. She dropped her basket and ran over to him. She dropped to her knees at his side, rolled him over, and examined him. He seemed to be fine. A moment later, he opened his eyes and looked up at her.
"Jasper, are you all right?" Holly gasped.
He sat up and rubbed his forehead. "You know, Holly, I think I fell asleep and fell out of my chair."
"Jasper! You scared me half to death!" Holly cried.
Jasper laughed embarrassedly as he stood up. He offered Holly a hand up. "You know I didn't do it just to scare you, Holly. How did you get in anyway? I haven't started to forget to lock the doors, have I?"
"I climbed in the window. I was worried about you; I haven't seen you in days," Holly explained.
"Oh, and what have you brought me?" Jasper asked as he looked in the basket. "Your famous scones and cranberry jelly! You are a gem, Holly."
"You really need to get a housekeeper, Jasper. This house is a disgrace and you take deplorable care of yourself," Holly chastised.
"Would you like the job, mother?" Jasper teased. "I'll pay you nicely."
"That's not a bad idea. I was thinking about seeking temporary employment. Douglas is growing like a weed, I can't keep adjusting his clothes, he could use a new wardrobe. I didn't expect this growth spurt so I didn't budget for it," Holly said thoughtfully.
"Have I ever mentioned that I really respect you for your sense of economy? I wouldn't know what to do in your position, I'm far too frivolous," Jasper replied.
"You would if you hadn't been born so rich. Papa left us comfortably off, as long as we are frugal. So, when do you want me to start?" Holly asked.
"Whenever is good for you, Holly," Jasper said. "You and Douglas should move in here. After all, it would be a lot easier for you not to be attending to two houses at once. I need a lot of looking after."
Holly laughed. "It would be, and to be honest I'm not sure I could manage two houses and the two of you separately at once. Still, are you sure Douglas wouldn't disturb you?"
"Not at all. If he does, I can always tell you and you can turn him outdoors for a while with his friends, or set him to cleaning the basement. I do have one of those, don't I? I've never been down there; I wonder what is down there?" Jasper was suddenly distracted by the idea of the basement.
Holly laughed and shook her head at him. "Spyders and many, many webs, I'm sure."
Jasper shuddered. "Ghastly things."
"Three days. I need time to close up my house and to make two rooms here ready for Douglas and myself," Holly decided.
"All right, up the main stairs, family bedrooms are on first hall on the right. Mine is the one at the very end of the hall, you may select any ones you like." Jasper sat down at his desk again and opened a book.
Holly headed out into the hall and shook her head at the dusty foyer. "I'm going to have my work cut out for me."
To be continued...