And Professor Vinsjin Died
[Professor Vinsjin] and his crew, the Ghoul Catchers, were seen in the Perilous Catacombs around Halloween of last year. Busy catching ghouls. But in the Ghoul Catchers book, the one you can buy for actual money in various stores, the Ghoul Catchers retired. And Professor Vinsjin died.
"And the potion didn't make it the slightest bit drowsy!" The Wocky shook his head emphatically, a look of disgust on his face. "Any experienced monster hunter knows that you get rid of monsters with raw force and silver! If we were still in business, I'd...!" Brave Bren drove his fist into his open paw as he spoke, but the gesture was rather half-hearted.
Doctor Boolin said nothing, putting his hand on the Wocky's shoulder sympathetically. He may not have spoken much, but the Kiko was a fantastic listener.
Bren sighed heavily. "I know, I know. I should just let it go, right? The Ghoul Catchers have been retired for years, after all. But I can't help but miss the days of..."
The Wocky sprang up with a sudden burst of enthusiasm as he put on a voice not unlike what one would hear in a sales pitch. "Vampires getting you down? Pant Devils appearing in the night? You know who to call! The Ghoul Catchers have had many years experience in the extermination of ghosts, ghouls and other scary things!"
Boolin's shoulders moved in a silent laugh as Bren readjusted his top hat. "I just don't know. I was featured in the Caption Contest the other day, and no one even recognized me! It gets to you, you know?"
He shook his head. "I'm sure I'll get over it eventually." Bren waved his paw, dismissing the subject. "Anyway, I think I'll go get a glass of water. Do you want anything?"
The Kiko shook his head and Brave Bren left for the kitchen, still humming the tune of the jingle under his breath.
The Wocky lugged out the pail of well water with relative ease, his thoughts still wandering back to the monster that had crashed the Spooky Food Eating Contest. Granted, he may have thoroughly disagreed with the way Corbin and Kell were doing things, but at least someone was handling the situation. Maybe they would do a better job at catching it than they had putting it to sleep.
His ear flicked involuntarily towards the sound of someone coughing, breaking his train of thought. Was that Boolin? It must have been – there wasn't anyone else in the house. Perhaps the dust was upsetting his allergies.
The noise – more like someone clearing their throat then coughing, Bren realized – repeated itself, quite a bit louder this time.
"Doctor, are you sure you don't want a glass-?"
Bren turned around - and locked eyes with Professor Vinsjin.
"Hullo, Bren!" The bespectacled Blue Kacheek stood only a few feet away – strange, Bren thought, as he didn't remember hearing anyone walk in. Vinsjin raised his paw in greeting and the Wocky almost waved back before remembering one crucial detail.
Professor Vinsjin had been dead for several years now.
Brave Bren tensed up and started backing towards the pantry, moving as indiscriminately as he could manage. Vinsjin's voice took on a reassuring tone. "Now, calm down, my friend. Just let me e-"
In a flash, Bren grabbed a handful of dry rice and forcefully threw it at the feet of the Professor. "Doctor! You need to come here! Quickly!"
Back in the living room, Boolin started at the yell, dropping his copy of the Noise-Making Practice Manual. He rushed into the kitchen and was greeted with the sight of Vinsjin, kneeling and picking up the scattered rice. He quickly straightened up as Boolin approached.
"I was counting that because I wanted to," he insisted.
Any further arguing was cut off by the Doctor suddenly darting across the room to grab Bren's arm, which was holding a small hematite charm he had pulled from his pocket. He gave the Wocky a pleading look, his eyes, as always, speaking for him.
"...All right. I'll give "Vinsjin" a chance to speak," Bren muttered, slowly lowering his arm while shooting daggers at the Professor. "But I'm hanging onto the hematite."
The Kacheek stepped forward.
"I know what you're thinking, so I'll just go ahead and say it. I'm assuming I'm a ghost... though granted, I am abnormally corporeal,' he mused, holding his arm up for inspection. "However, we have encountered ghosts with similar properties before. I think it might have something to do with the amount of energy that's involved, but that's a thesis for another day."
Boolin cautiously floated forward a few feet to get a better look at his old friend, his question quite obvious.
"I really was hoping that we could skip all of this," Vinsjin sighed, taking off his top hat to run a paw through his fur. "Yes, it is me, Boolin. And, because I know that you two will want me to prove myself, one time we traveled all the way from Shenkuu to Krawk Island due to a sighting of a phantom on the docks. When we got there, we discovered that the "phantom" was nothing but a Palmplat that had gotten itself tangled up in a sail and that the reporter had had one too many glasses of grog. We told him we successfully got rid of the ghost, then proceeded to charge him three times our normal rate just for being such an idiot."
"Well, that sounds like you all right." Bren squinted at the figure, trying his hardest not to let a smile cross his face at the memory.
He and Doctor Boolin exchanged a glance.
"But if you are Professor Vinsjin, then why did you come back? Weren't we in agreement if something was to happen to any of us, we'd do everyone a favor and stay six feet under instead of terrorizing the living?"
Vinsjin took a moment to lightly perch himself on the edge of the nearest chair – perhaps a little too lightly, Boolin noted.
"In hindsight, I really should have told you two about this before I... decorporealised, but you have to understand that it's not the most pleasant subject for me to discuss. I suppose what's done is done, though. Allow me to start from the beginning to clear up any confusion."
Bren took the opportunity to grab the nearest chair as Boolin settled himself. Vinsjin adjusted his glasses, pondering the best way to start. "You both are perfectly aware of my great-grandfather's legacy, I'm sure?"
"You mean Thomas M. Vinsjin, the pet famous for single-handedly figuring out a way to banish the majority of Neopia's vampires? I happen to be a big fan of his work," Brave Bren remarked, wordlessly tossing the charm from paw to paw.
"Yes, well, one thing you might not know is what ended up happening to him." Vinsjin's eyes followed the hematite as he spoke. "As you can guess, banishing all vampires for almost a hundred years may be excellent news for those still living, but the members of the undead were... less than thrilled. And so, infuriated by his actions, they laid a curse on him."
"...Truth be told, I've heard of the curse before," the Wocky admitted, taking a sudden interest in the ceiling plaster. "It seemed rude to ask about it, though, and seeing as yo- Vinsjin never brought it up..."
Vinsjin nodded. "I've heard all sorts of rumors circulate about the family curse before, but I don't think any of them quite grasped the situation. You see, the undead community decided that the best way to get revenge on Thomas was to make sure he and his descendents would join them once their time was up."
The Kacheek held up a paw and started counting off names in an alarmingly matter-of-fact way. "My great-grandfather got bitten by one of the last remaining vampires, then was slain by his own team. My grandfather came back as a zombie and ended up infecting my grandmother, my father became a revenant, and-"
"You – if you are the Professor - came back as a ghost after a chance encounter with a pack of Werelupes," Bren finished. Vinsjin nodded again.
Doctor Boolin cleared his throat and crossed his arms, gaining the attention of the two pets. Vinsjin paused, noting the rather displeased expression on the Kiko's face. "Is something wrong, Doctor?"
"I think I know what he's getting at." Brave Bren turned back to his colleague, a sudden frown crossing his lips. "And he has a point! If you are Professor Vinsjin, then why did you wait so long to finally show up? There was nothing stopping you from appearing immediately!" His paw tightened threateningly around the hematite.
"Wait, listen! I didn't intend to take this long to finally show myself. It's just that, well..." Vinsjin shrugged and motioned to the scattered rice for an answer.
"You didn't show up because of uncooked rice," Bren deadpanned.
"No! I'm saying that I didn't know how you would react to all of... this!" The Kacheek motioned to himself. "As the Ghoul Catchers, we promised to rid Neopia of any pets that weren't living, did we not?"
"So I figured there was a high probability of getting attacked if I showed up! I don't think this curse will allow me to be laid to rest, and the idea of spending an eternity in another dimension or something of the sort isn't exactly appealing."
Professor Vinsjin paused.
"...Though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that you two didn't even try using sea salt. I can tell you haven't been practicing lately."
A bout of uncomfortable silence filled the room.
"... I think it was a danger to the living, wasn't it?"
"The vow. I'm fairly certain we agreed to rid Neopia of ghouls that were a danger to the living, didn't we?" Brave Bren glanced over at Boolin for confirmation, setting the hematite charm on the floor. "Not just the undead in general."
Vinsjin hopped down from the edge of the chair, clearly surprised at both the support and that Bren had finally set the charm down. "Wait. Are you really implying...?"
Doctor Boolin gave the Professor a stern look. "You're still our leader, Vinsjin. We're not going to attack you!"
"Really, we should be insulted that you would even think we'd do something like that! Do you really think we're that heartless?" Bren teased, smiling.
Vinsjin removed his hat, looking genuinely touched by his friend's gestures. "I... I don't know what to say."
"Then why don't you pass on the sentimentalities and go back to leading us? I kind of missed having you here to keep everything organized, I'll admit it."
He beamed as he put his hat back on, taking a moment to straighten his ascot professionally. "Right! Now then, we've got a lot of work to do in just a few short days. I've heard talk about a monster attacking a contest the town was holding. Is that true?"
"Unfortunately. Remember Corbin and Kell, from that time with the street lamps?"
Vinsjin shuddered at the memory. "As if I could forget! That mess took us weeks to clean up."
"Well, they've somehow ended up in charge of getting the thing under control. And - big shock - they haven't been doing a particularly good job at it so far." The sarcasm in the Wocky's voice was more than a little noticeable. "They tried to give it a potion to knock it out, but all that did was reveal the monster's true form."
"A potion? It figures they'd go easy on it." Vinsjin shook his head, letting out a tssk of disapproval under his breath. "While they're at it, they should invite it over for a nice spot of tea at the Crumpetmonger's!"
Boolin gave the Kacheek a questioning look.
"No, no, we can't steal someone else's job, no matter how incompetent they may be." Vinsjin put a paw to his chin. "Didn't they chase it into some catacombs under Neovia? Catacombs laced with curses?"
Bren's ears pricked up. "Word is they're technically vaults."
"Missing the point, Bren."
"But yes. It fled there after the mishap with the potion, apparently."
Vinsjin clasped his paws together. "What I'm thinking is that we should go in there and clean up all of that excess dark magic. We could do it for free, as a sort of "civic duty" type thing. It would be great publicity-"
"- And a great way to get the Ghoul Catchers back into the public's eye!" Bren finished, already rolling up his sleeves. "Count me in!" Above, Doctor Boolin gave a thumbs-up to show his approval.
"Excellent! Now, we're going to need some serious supplies in order to pull this job off. Containment fields, nets, silver..." Vinsjin paused, his face falling. "And you threw all our old equipment out, didn't you?"
Boolin shook his head and pointed to the ceiling. The Professor's eyes followed his gesture. "It's in the... attic? You still have it all?"
"We couldn't quite bring ourselves to throw it out," Bren admitted, looking a tad bit babaaish. "You never know when you might come across a haunting."
"Or your old leader coming back from the grave to make you get back to work," Vinsjin replied. "Now come on, let's go remind Neopia what proper monster hunters are like! You two get the supplies down and I'll meet with you in a moment." The Kacheek turned on his heel and walked off towards the kitchen, trying to be as indiscriminate as possible. Boolin nudged Bren's arm, and the Wocky grinned.
"Going to finish counting the rice?"
"Only because I want to. Obviously."