The Wheel of Misfortune
"Quiet," Veret hissed, pressing his finger to his lips sternly. The Krawk trudged forward, intent on a particular booth. I reluctantly returned to my perch on his shoulder, though my fur still bristled with fear and contempt for what possibly lurked around the corners of this desolate utopia; the Haunted Woods. We approached the small, decrepit wooden booth, on which stood a large wheel with several pictures, the majority depicting sinister images; a scarlet vial containing a malicious liquid, the pant devil clutching his sack of stolen goods, a few neopoints spilt from a bag, a book engulfed in emerald flames, the murky figure of dung, a single neopoint fleeing on lustrous wings, an odd creature which I could not quite comprehend and a single and pleasant-looking gift. I growled in distrust of this selection of devious losses. A sign set atop the booth read, 'CLOSED, COME BACK TOMORROW.'
Veret stepped forward, grasping the lever in his bony hands. I meowed in protest, yet he paid no heed and gave the lever a hard yank that sent the wheel whirling, the pictures flying past our eyes. In a matter of seconds, the wheel had begun to gradually slow and with a few final clicks, it halted completely.
"What do I win?" Veret smiled, glancing up at the section he had landed on. His grin vanished, leaving an expression of pure confusion. "What? That picture was never even on the wheel at first... how did it?" he trailed off, gazing to me for some sort of help. I blinked my single eye at him, letting it wander towards the design engraved in the wood. Veret was correct. He had spun what appeared to be a petpet, a Meowclops like myself, though its single eye lay shut and its mouth hung ajar as if it were deceased. I bent over as a wave of nausea coursed through me, throwing me off balance.
I awoke nestled in my usual nook, a small petpet bed with a tattered orchid blanket. I was home in the quiet tranquility and grandeur of Neovia; though confused as I did not recall the events that occurred after our perilous spin at the Wheel of Misfortune, I groomed myself all the same and trotted elegantly to my position before my currently empty food dish. I meowed in irritation, attempting to summon Veret from his chambers. Moments passed in silence, which allowed me time to think. I could vaguely remember how we had come to return to our quaint abode, though it was blurred and appeared in shattered fragments.
Veret darted through the labyrinth of twisted vines and gnarled branches, clutching me in his arms. Tears streamed from his eyes, splashing onto my curled figure. He arrived at the clearing that we had snuck through only last night, he cantered towards the anile booth. A figure rose from the shadows that writhed beyond us, revealing a cadaverous Gelert. The Gelert grinned.
"Hello, little Krawk. Are you here to take a spin?" Veret winced at the Gelert's unearthly voice that seemed to echo from all directions.
"No." Veret glanced up, revealing his face to the Gelert for the first time.
"I see that you have returned, thief." The Gelert gave a cruel laugh.
"I am no thief," Veret insisted, momentarily forgetting his fear of this man.
"No? You and your Meowclops spun the wheel past hours, tsk, you didn't even pay the fee. As punishment, your Meowclops had to pay for your mistake," the Gelert snarled, gesturing to me. Veret unfurled his arms, holding my limp body out to the Gelert.
"Please, I'll do anything to get her back," Veret pleaded. The Gelert's face twisted into a grin.
"Anything?" he whispered in a hoarse voice.
I shuddered in realisation, everything that had come to be last night flooded back into my memory. I furrowed my brow in concentration, determined to figure out a reasonable rescue plan. I leapt from my open window, landing gracefully on the cobblestone path. I wound expertly through the crannies and alleys of Neovia. Which eventually led me to an unfamiliar clearing that opened into the woods, with a deep breath, I stepped forward boldly. Veret and I had wandered these paths many times; apart we have our undeniable flaws, but together we are quite a pair, Veret is a very mischievous Krawk that loves to cause havoc about the Haunted Woods, as if it weren't chaotic enough. I recalled how he would steal the infamous hat from Apple Bobbing Bart as he slumbered, and how he always attempted to wear it before the Gnorbu would awake and angrily snatch it back. I sighed to myself wearily, growing tiresome of this tedious search. At last, I came to the edge of the murky swamp, which fell away to reveal an unkempt cottage. I carefully stepped onto a single stone that lay firmly embedded in the muddy ground of the swamp, stepping to another until I had crossed the disgusting waters and found myself standing before the a green Ixi, who had regarded me from her seat on an aged rocking chair.
"What is it, now?" Sophie grumbled. I opened my mouth to speak, though the fact that I am a Meowclops rendered incapable and a pathetic mew was all that escaped my lips. Sophie beckoned for me to follow her into her shack. As I entered, I was greeted with a series of sputters and flashes of color that erupted from her cauldron. She strutted past me and began browsing her large collection of potions that lay in a clutter on her shelves.
"Ah, here it is," she muttered to herself, plucking a vial filled with a thick liquid, which held the faint hue of swamp water.
"Drink that," Sophie commanded, opening the bottle and pouring it into a dish that she had set in front of me.
I eyed the liquid that bubbled and frothed in the dish with both curiosity and abhorrence. I put my tongue to it and lapped at it gently; the taste surged through my mouth, filling my nostrils with the odor of rotting vegetation and swamp gas.
"YUCK! That stuff is terrible!" I complained, and then gasped at my own speech.
"I-I can talk now," I stuttered. Sophie smirked at me.
"Yep," she said, her voice layered with self satisfaction.
"Now tell me, what did you come here for?" Sophie demanded impatiently.
"My owner, Veret, needs your help. The Gelert that runs the Wheel of Misfortune has lured him into doing something idiotic, I just know it."
"And what makes you think that I am going to help you?" she jeered. I swallowed hardly, I was all too familiar with Sophie's rude and selfish demeanor and feared that her own pride would hold strong against my plea. I would have to choose my words carefully if I were to persuade her.
"Please, Sophie? You're the most superb witch in all of Neopia, Edna and all those others don't hold a candle to your power. You are the only witch great enough to help me," I adulated. Sophie looked at her dirty nails nonchalantly, letting the flattery seep in.
"No, I suppose they don't," Sophie added airily.
"Fine. I'll help you two, but only because I'm in a particularly good mood today," she snapped.
"Great," I chimed, pleased at my successful endeavor. She walked towards a closet, from which she retrieved a broom. Clutching it in her hand, she held it to the ground as to allow me to get on.
"Hold on tight," she warned, hunching over and gripping the handle of the broom tightly. I clung to the handle desperately, wrapping my legs around it to lessen the chance of plummeting to the ground.
"Scaredy-clops." She gave a stale laugh and kicked off the ground. The broom shot upwards, and soon we were well above tree level, admiring the beauty of the night sky.
"Don't get too comfy," Sophie said. "We're landing soon." As she said this, the broom halted momentarily, and began its descent to the ground.
The rush of the wind through my fur was exhilarating, and as we plunged downwards, we began to pick up speed at an alarming rate.
"WE'RE GOING TO CRASH!" I yelped, my claws digging into the broom. As the ground neared, Sophie uttered something under her breath and pulled sharply on the broom, bringing it to an immediate stop. She leapt from the broom, which was hovering closely to the ground, and pulled my stiffened figure from the broom. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" she laughed. I blinked my eye at her in an annoyed fashion as I ambled along at her side. The booths of the Haunted Fair loomed around us, obsolete for the night. I approached the Gelert that stood at the side of the monstrous wheel. He eyed me with anticipation.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the brave little Meowclops here to rescue her troublesome owner, what a pity. And what is this? I see you brought a companion," he chortled. I narrowed my eye at him.
"Let Veret go."
The Gelert pulled his face into a gruesome smile, imitating my voice as he spoke. "Let him go, let him go. HA! Now why would I do that? You have to earn his freedom," he explained, and pointed his appalling finger towards a design on the Wheel that I had not yet seen. It was a drawing of Veret.
"You have to spin him to win him," the Gelert said, his voice tainted with malice.
I positioned myself against the lever that Veret had pulled not long ago, intent on a prize but given my fate. The Gelert outstretched his hands holding the lever in place with one while the other was held out as if he expected something from me. Sophie nudged my side softly with her boot, in her paw she held a bag of gleaming neopoints, enough to pay for a spin. I handed the bag to the Gelert, whom then let go of the lever. He counted up the neopoints and announced that I had enough to pay for one spin, only one. The rusty lever groaned as I forced it down, it began to rotate, my eye darted from image to image as they flew in a blur past me.
It clicked quietly a few time as it slowed and the wheel halted; I had spun the Dung.
"NO!" I cried out as tears welled in my single eye.
"I lost... I can't believe that I lost."
The Gelert gave a callous grin.
"Oh, too bad. It looks like you are all out of luck." He leaned against the wheel, his arms folded and his lips curled into a smile. A single metallic click emanated from the wheel as it shifted at the weight of the Gelert.
"You won," Sophie whispered in disbelief.
"What?" I stared upwards in surprise, my eyes meeting the section I had spun, which had now shifted to the portrait of Veret.
"I won!" I gasped. The Gelert grunted.
"Yeah, right," he said this with immeasurable faith in his answer, though he still glimpsed upwards.
"YOU WHAT?" he bellowed.
"It can't be... you lost," the Gelert said frantically. Sophie took her broom and placed its handle to his throat threateningly.
"Listen, buster. She won fair and square. If you don't give Veret back, we're going to take him from you using blunt force," Sophie intoned. The Gelert slumped down against the wheel in defeat. With limp wave of his paw, a thick mist enveloped us. From the mist, the silhouette of a Krawk formed before them and soon to shape until he had emerged entirely.
"VERET!" I laughed, pouncing into his outspread arms.
"I missed you so much," I said.
"Wait a moment, you can talk?" he inquired, addled by my new ability.
"Hey kid, I want to thank you," Sophie interrupted, smiling cheerfully down at me.
"I hadn't gotten out of that ghastly swamp I call my home for weeks. That was great! I have to leave pretty quickly here, so you two sure you'll be fine on your own?" Veret and I both gave her a reassuring nod before she mounted onto her broom and with a quick wave had vanished, lost in the bright colors of dawn that washed throughout the often gloomy sky. As I took a tentative step from the stand, I looked back only to see the Gelert waving a bitter 'goodbye'.
"So, what shall we do now?" The Krawk beamed.
"I'm way ahead of you," I simpered as I clenched Apple Bobbing Bart's curious hat in my teeth and ran into a nearby bush.