The Lost Child: Part Two
The wraith Korbat snarled and moved to stop Angela but before he could, a Captive Shadow Wraith removed herself from his belly and leapt into the child's open arms. The menacing Petpet purred softly in Angela's grasp. The Cybunny smiled wide and ran her hand over the wraith. Lure and Vicki were both caught off guard by this. The Korbat found his voice first.
"Allure has never acted like this with anyone else other than myself," Lure murmured to himself, bringing his hand to his chin.
The Korbat studied the pair in thoughtful silence with dark purple eyes. He turned to Vicki, still thoughtful.
"Who is this kid?" Lure asked, waving one hand vaguely at Angela.
"She's a Torch," Vicki said, wondering if omitting her surname originally had been a slip-up on her part; she didn't have long to wait.
"A Torch? Oh for the love of – You couldn't have mentioned that sooner?"
"Oh, so you've heard of the Torch family then. That's great."
"Of course I have. Everyone in the Woods knows the Torches."
Lure proceeded to give Vicki directions. He told her that it could take an hour walking, twenty minutes flying. She knew she wouldn't be flying, too risky.
"That's all I can tell you. Now, go away," Lure finished.
Allure immediately went to her owner and Angela flew back to Vicki. The wraiths at the cave entrance flowed back to their original posts and Lure and Allure faded into the shadows. Vicki and Angela headed off, back into the Woods.
~ ~ ~
Amorine's voice was hoarse. She had been searching Neopia Central with Adam all day. The sun was beginning to set, casting the sky in blood red light. The royal Gnorbu shuddered at the ill omen, closing her eyes. She swayed on her feet and immediately felt Adam's arms around her.
"Our baby... our baby is missing, Adam," Amorine sobbed.
The royal Kyrii murmured comfortingly to his wife, though his heart was just as broken as her's was. The royal pair headed back, utterly exhausted. The looks on the faces of the others said all they needed to know. Angela had not been found. So ended the worst day of the Torches' lives.
~ ~ ~
They had been traveling for half an hour when Vicki thought she saw a flicker of movement in the trees. It was... a ghost! Angela had also seen it and once more took off after it. Once more, she outpaced Vicki.
This time, the chase was not as long. Vicki came to a dirt path, with a rundown two story house, lights blazing out of it. She was already spooked but Angela was at the door. Just as Vicki was about to pull Angela away, the door opened. She was so startled by the alien Aisha who stood in the open doorway that she fluttered backwards and, of course, Angela flew under the Aisha's arm and into the house.
"Greetings, Angela. I did not expect a visit from you today," the Aisha said with a warm smile.
"You know her," Vicki gasped.
"Yes, I know the entire Torch family. I do not know you. My name is Agneza."
"Vicki. Agneza, could you please tell me where the Torches live? I'm not sure where it is from this point."
"Really? They live just a mile down the way."
"That's great! Angela!"
The faerie Cybunny did not come but there was a high-pitched scream and the front door slammed closed. Vicki had stepped into the decrepit house but jumped at this strange turn of events. The glowing Buzz whirled quickly, not sure what to do. Glowing red eyes looked through the window at her. She stumbled back, mouth agape.
Then, Vicki felt rough cloth and cool, almost clammy fur under her hands. That's when she screamed, voice high-pitched and tight with fear. It sounded more like a squeak than a scream. She turned to see Agneza looking calmly back at her.
"Vicki, calm yourself, please. They feed on your fear. You are just making things worse," Agneza said.
A disembodied cackle echoed in the room. Vicki shook with fear but then Agneza's words sank in. As always, Angela had shown no fear and had been completely comfortable in the Woods. After all they had experienced that day, they had not come to harm once. The little faerie Cybunny trusted Agneza, based on a relationship they had before.
So, Vicki now trusted Angela's judgment and since the child trusted Agneza, so would she. Vicki took a deep, shuddering breath to calm herself. She looked around but nothing else happened. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out; she realized her mouth was dry.
Vicki tried, again, "Please, would you fetch Angela for me? I'd like to get her home as soon as possible." I'd also like to leave this house of horrors right now.
Agneza stepped back and gave a curt nod, "Of course. Follow me, please."
With that, the alien Aisha walked down a hall. Vicki had no choice but to walk quickly after her. The old wood floors creaked. Doors lined the hallway, some shut, some wide open and some slightly ajar. Cobwebs were thick in the corners and hung from the ceiling.
Dust was also thick, making Vicki sneeze. In the rooms with the doors wide open, she caught glimpses of faded, rundown and broken furniture. There was a boarded up window at the end of the hall. Here Agneza paused in an open doorway. When Vicki saw into this last room, Vicki would have screamed but she was all screamed out.
There was Angela in a room full of ghosts! They were both 'pets and Petpets. Some of them glowered darkly at Vicki while others, she had to admit, looked merely curious and some seemed completely indifferent.
It took a moment but Vicki found her voice and realized she didn't recognize it when it was almost strangled with emotion. "Angela, it's time to go."
Angela looked up then and frowned, displeasure written on her face. Vicki, with her vast experience as a professional baby-sitter, recognized a temper tantrum when she saw one.
"No," Angela said with a frown.
A ghost Anubis barked a strange echoing bark and raced straight towards Vicki while a ghost Aisha snarled, moving to stand beside Angela. Vicki did not back down form this display and neither did Agneza.
"Angela's parents are expecting her home. She cannot stay any longer," Agneza said, her own red eyes meeting that of the Aisha.
"Yes, Angela. Don't you want to go home to your family?" Vicki asked, keeping her tone calm and removing the sunglasses she always wore to maintain contact with Angela.
Diffusing the situation always worked. The Aisha and a few of the other ghosts disappeared in thin air while Angela came forward. The little Cybunny seemed fascinated by Vicki's glowing neon eyes and followed the Buzz willingly out the door. They said goodbye to Agneza and began the last mile - hopefully, Vicki thought – of their journey.
~ ~ ~
It had been three days since Angela had gone missing. The Chia police had been informed and the entire family continued looking. There was thus far no trace of the lost child.
"I don't think Angela is even in Neopia Central," X said a low voice, speaking to his wife.
"Sh, X, don't say that. We have to keep looking," Nisha said, quickly placing her fingers over her husband's mouth.
The Aisha's efforts were in vain. Amorine walked into the room, a ghost of her former self: drawn and pale. The royal Gnorbu stared at X and Nisha and Nisha felt her heart twist with pain for her sister. She couldn't even begin to imagine what her sister was going through.
"If she isn't in Neopia Central, then where is she?" Amorine asked, voice wavering as she looked from X to Nisha and back again, desperately seeking an answer.
Unfortunately, they had no answer.
X shook his head slowly. "No, Amorine. I didn't mean to say that I knew anything about Angela's whereabouts."
"I'll never stop looking," Amorine said fiercely.
"No, of course not. We aren't saying that at all,' Nisha said, moving to her sister's side.
"I'll get Adam," X said, making his exit.
The sisters didn't seem to hear, each lost in grief.
~ ~ ~
A stone wall with wrought iron fencing soon came into sight. Angela sped forward but this time, the way was clear and Vicki easily kept up with her. Together, they entered into a gate that had what looked like a flame designed into its center. Vicki was in awe of the exquisite garden and even more so of the mansion as they got closer. As they reached the door, it creaked open slowly.
Angela flew in, calling out, "Gabr, 'Abbas, I'm home!"
A ghost Bruce materialized and looked first at Angela and then at Vicki. Then, he did a double take.
"Angela? Where are the rest of the Torches? Who is this?"
Angela did not respond but flew off down a hallway. The ghost Bruce turned a deep, red, penetrating gaze on Vicki.
"Don't move. I'll be back momentarily," the Bruce ordered before disappearing.
True to his word, the Bruce returned in just a moment. Vicki hadn't moved though she did wonder where Angela went as well as who the Bruce was.
"I just sent 'Abbas to Neopia Central with a missive relating to the Torches that their youngest daughter is safe and sound at home. They must be out of their minds with worry. Seven generations of Torches I've served and they all cause trouble. Some big, some small but trouble all the same. It's the Haunted Woods air, you see."
"A family stays here long enough then it seeps into their very blood. Now, you're going to tell me everything from the moment that you came into Angela's company," the Bruce said, hovering as Vicki did, a foot above the ground.
Not wanting to anger a ghost, Vicki did as asked, hoping to get her own questions answered in turn.
~ ~ ~
Adam and Amorine were sitting in the Alms' kitchen, taking a break from the search. Amorine's lovely purple eyes were dull and Adam felt completely helpless. The only thing that could make their world right was the return of their child. That's when a knock sounded at the front door. Being the only two in the house at the time, Adam had to be the one to answer the door.
Adam could not have been more surprised to see 'Abbas, his lifelong friend and messenger. The Quigukiboy Quiggle handed a sealed letter to him and he took it.
"You look like you got attacked by a mob," 'Abbas said.
Adam didn't look up, as he had opened the letter and read it. He let out a strangled cry, eyes widening and he turned to get his wife.
"Amor, Amor! My love, you won't believe who his here and with such news," Adam said, 'Abbas at his shoulder and proffering the missive to his wife.
Amorine read the letter and gasped, tears springing to her eyes, "She's found and she's safe. Yet, how did she get back to the Haunted Woods on her own?"
"A glowing Buzz brought her," 'Abbas offered.
Adam and Amorine gaped at the messenger. The Quiguki shrugged his broad shoulders.
"That's all I know. Gabr and I knew that you must have been delirious with worry so I didn't stick around to find out any more details," the Quiggle explained.
"We must get home," Amorine said.
"Home? What's going on," Nisha asked as she entered the kitchen, confusion on her face.
"'Abbas brought wonderful news! Angela is home!"
Nisha gasped and raced to hug her sister. More of the family came in. As the news spread, celebration followed. The Torches began to pack. They were heading home, as soon as they could get there.
For the lost child had been found.