Adopting the Awakened
Well, I never thought I would join the Awakened, but here I am, KQ thought to himself. If only his favorite faction, the Seekers, had been available, he would have chosen them. But sadly, that was not the case, and he didn't want to miss out on the skirmish. However, his confrontation with the twins of the Awakened was proving to be far more uncomfortable than he imagined.
Lanie and Lillie had just finished the process of inaugurating him into the group, complete with their bittersweet pledge, "Oath to Cake." Finally, it seemed they were happy with his promise to join. Both nodded to each other with approval. "We and our friends welcome you, Prince KQ," they said in unison.
KQ cringed. It had been a long time since he had heard his full name out loud. "Please," he smiled down at them, "Just call me KQ. "
Lanie and Lillie stared up at him, blinking their unwavering lavender eyes. Both exchanged glances of indifference, then looked back up to him. "We like you, Prince KQ. Come play with us."
KQ gave a heavy sigh and placed his hoof to his forehead. He was going to have to get used to this, it seemed. He shook his head and spoke to them again. "Listen, both of you, you can call me KQ. All my best friends do."
The twins frowned and crossed their arms.
"You're not our best friend," Lanie snapped.
"...yet," Lillie finished. "Maybe, if we like you a lot. We'll see."
"I-I didn't mean to make you mad," KQ stammered, backing away from them.
"We're not mad, we were just testing you," the twins replied unapologetically. "Follow us to your new home." Both Lanie and Lillie turned and skipped off into the mist, not so much as glancing over their shoulders to see if KQ was following them.
Lucky for them he was, but with some hesitation. New home? he thought to himself. How long do they think I'm going to be here? An eternity? Probably. He still wasn't sure if they were ghosts or zombies, or some terrible combination of both.
KQ continued to follow them until the three reached a desolate graveyard. This was pretty much what he had expected. Still, taking in the sight of so many variants of the undead was a hard thing to do. There was just one nagging question left on his mind, one that he wanted an answer to: "So, where are your parents? Are they here with the Awakened too?"
Lanie and Lillie turned to him, both with their eyes wide and mouths open. For a moment KQ was afraid he had offended them again, but instead they both stared at each other. Both stood in silence for a long time, pondering over the question with their hands on their chins.
"I don't remember ever having parents, do you, Lillie?" Lanie asked, turning to her sister.
"I don't remember ever having parents either," Lillie answered. "We did ask someone to be our daddy once. We buried him in one of these graves when we were playing hide and seek. He never came to find us. Do you think he's still here?"
"Maybe." Lanie shrugged. "Let's go check."
The twins dashed up to one of the graves and began digging furiously in the dark damp soil.
KQ watched the scenario unfold. Now, he wasn't the kind to get emotional over just anything. But seeing these children, however creepy they may be, without parents, was something that seemed to deeply pain him. KQ decided right then that he was going to solve this problem.
"Lanie, Lillie," he called out to them.
The twins stopped their digging and looked back at him with annoyance through strands of disheveled black hair. They were quite unhappy about being interrupted. "What is it, Prince KQ?"
"Listen, I know that I've just gotten here, and we have hardly gotten to know each other... and that I'm not even your "best friend" as you told me, but..." and KQ gulped, "The fact is, you both need someone to care for you. Not someone to tell you what to do, but someone who you can depend on no matter what, who you can turn to for help, and who will spend time with you to show they care. You don't have to agree with me, or even accept my offer. But, I would like to adopt you both."
There was a silence in the graveyard. KQ could feel the eyes of the other undead watching them, waiting to see what the twins would do. The twins frowned at each other. They huddled together and whispered to each other.
Finally, the silence was broken. "Nobody has ever cared about us before," Lanie said. "We'd like to say that we accept your offer. We are pleased to call you Daddy... forever."
The twins sauntered up to the Ixi and gave him the most bittersweet hug of his life.
KQ didn't think they looked particularly pleased, but for once he thought maybe they were being sincere. He returned their hug, and after what seemed like forever to him, the twins finally let go. "I think this calls for a celebration. What would you like to do?"
"We want to show you our special place," Lanie and Lillie told him. "We've never showed anybody else, ever. You can never tell anyone about it."
"I won't," KQ agreed. "I wouldn't!"
"Promise!" demanded Lanie, jabbing a finger in KQ's face. "Promise you'll never tell anyone!"
"I promise! I promise!" KQ agreed hastily.
"Promise on your life!" Lillie shouted. "Promise on your ghost, and the ghosts of everyone you know, and the ghosts of their ghosts!"
"I promise, I swear!" KQ cried. "I swear I promise!"
"Ok, we trust you," Lanie and Lillie smiled. Hand in hand, the two skipped off to find their special place, leaving it up to KQ to willingly follow them.
And KQ did follow them, but no less worriedly than before. He could only imagine, if the graveyard was their home, what their "special place" must consist of.
The three walked for a very long time, winding through the Haunted Woods on an old path that had nearly been swallowed by the roots of trees and the vines that hung from them. Finally, KQ and the twins emerged into a clearing. Lying deserted on the hill was a decrepit old Neovian-style house, obviously left to the elements many years ago. There was a creaking swing set near the far side of the house, and several child's toys scattered in the weeds. The cobblestone path leading away from the doorway ended at an old well.
KQ looked over the clearing for a long time. Finally, he understood. "Did you two used to live here?"
"We're not really sure," Lillie answered. "But we feel happy here. Like we belong here. We don't know why."
KQ nodded, and a feeling of grief washed over him. He was having trouble keeping it together. Part of him wanted to cry. But he wouldn't, not in front of the twins. Instead, he asked, "Would you like to show me the inside of the house?"
"Of course, follow us," the twins answered together. With their hands still locked together, like some inseparable bond, they wandered up to the doorway of the house and pushed open rotting door. There was a terrible noise from the inside, as if the house itself had been awoken and was crying out in despair.
Upon entering himself, KQ immediately noticed that the house was mostly empty, save for a scarce few pieces of furniture, and the old rug that stretched across the decaying floor. He could sense the odor of must, of dying plant life, and... cotton candy? That was odd.
"This wasn't what we wanted to show you," Lillie admitted to KQ. "We wanted to show you the well outside. Come on, let's go out the back door, Daddy."
The twins grabbed onto KQ's sleeves and guided him through the abandoned house to the other side. Upon passing by the living room, KQ noticed a large picture hanging above the fireplace's mantle. Despite being layered in dust, he could observe that the picture was of two kindly-looking Neopets of an unknown species. Before he could inquire though, the twins dragged him onwards out of the back door and into the silent yard. It wasn't long until the three were upon the stone well, gazing into the darkness on the inside.
"We like to toss stones into the well," Lillie explained. "We don't know how deep it is, but we never hear the stones land at the bottom."
At that moment, Lanie seemed to have an idea. "Let's find out," she suggested. "We can sit in the well's bucket and Daddy can lower us to the bottom."
The girls hopped up onto the well and began to raise the bucket from the depths of the well with the weathered rope and pulley.
"Wait just a moment," KQ interrupted, snatching the rope away from their hands, "We are not going to play inside the well. This place is dangerous enough as it is. Come on, get down from there so you don't fall."
The twins moaned with disappointment. "We thought you were fun," they pouted, crossing their arms and turning their heads away.
"Getting hurt is not fun," KQ sternly reminded them. He lifted Lillie off of the well by her middle and lowered her safely to the ground. "You too, Lanie." He reached out to take the second twin, but she pulled away from him.
As she did, the stones underneath her shoes broke loose and she lost her balance. With a gasp of alarm, KQ rushed forward and grabbed onto her hand.
There was a loud snap, and KQ watched in horror as Lanie tumbled down into the depths of the well. There was a loud splash from somewhere down below. He tried desperately to peer into the well and catch sight of the girl, but his gaze was returned only by the empty shadows. "Oh no, oh no," he gasped, sinking to his knees with his hooves over his eyes.
"Don't worry, Daddy, we can't die again," Lillie reassured him. "Look." Lillie walked calmly over to the well's rope, and began to pull.
After a while Lanie reappeared over the top of the well, seemingly without any damage done apart from being soaked from head to toe. "That was fun," Lanie told her sister.
"Thank goodness," KQ sighed with relief. He rushed to give her a tight hug, despite having his vest soaked through with water. At that moment, he become aware of an object in his hoof. He pulled away and examined the small, furry, greyish-green item with great confusion. "What is this?"
KQ cringed with disgust. Well, that would explain how he had managed to accidently let go of her grip.
"You're holding my hand. That's sweet of you." Lanie smiled.
KQ stared at Lanie with a look of surprise, then glanced over to Lillie, then back to Lanie again. Slowly, he grinned. They still sort of had a sense of humor. It was endearing, in a morbid kind of way. "Well, this won't do, will it? Come on, let's go back to the graveyard and I'll fix it for you." KQ slipped the hand into his vest pocket and led the twins back to the graveyard.
Once there, he took a needle and thread and sewed Lanie's hand back, all the while telling them about how he had once taken up a job as a tailor's apprentice to make ends meet. Turns out, he still remembered what he had learned. When KQ was finished working, Lanie wriggled her hand and smiled.
"You were right," she said to Lillie. "Getting a Daddy was the best idea you ever had."
"I agree," Lillie replied. "Now he can sew up all our friends. It's too bad that he isn't undead like the rest of us."
"Don't worry, we can wait," Lanie said. "We have all the time in the world."