A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 194,605,131 Issue: 779 | 28th day of Eating, Y19
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Haunted Woods Hero: Part Two


by lily_death

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      Varicose's eyes snapped open, meeting the sheer red curtain of the four poster bed. He sighed with relief, believing for a moment that this was all just a bad dream. Then heavy lightning flashed, offering a fast glimpse of towering paintings and long mirrors lining the pale brown, and peeling, walls of the castle's guest room.

      Another thunder clapped, like clashing iron pans, and Varicose leapt out of bed. "I'm out of here!" He said, screaming as he made his way down the winding corridors. Again, he slammed into Eliv, who happened to be standing in the middle of the hallway.

      "Where are you off to in such a Ryhur?" Eliv asked.

      Varicose shook his head, trying to maintain his balance as he climbed to his feet. He said, carrying forlorn in his voice, "I need to get out of here. With all due respect, Mr. Eliv Thade, this place is too spooky, even for the Haunted Woods."

      "Of course you Yam go," Eliv said.

      "Thank you," Varicose said, sighing with relief. He tried to walk past Eliv, but he purposefully stood in his way and crossed his arms.

      "What are you doing?" Varicose said, looking up at him with perplexion, "You said I could go."

      "Correct," he said, "but only if you pass my three Stest."

      Varicose said, "That's not what we agreed."

      "You shall not Saps!" Eliv said, sending shivers down Varicose's fabric, knowing that it may not be the last time he'd hear that phrase.

      "Alright," Varicose said, dropping his eyes, "I'll do it. What do I do?"

      "Three paces Dinheb me leads to a room, which then leads to another hallway, and another Moor, and a final one of each after that. In order to reach the end, you must solve my Lezpuz to move forward. After that, you are free to go. Understand?"

      "I think so," Varicose said.

      "Good," Eliv said, "For each puzzle, you will be unscrambling a word I hand you on a piece of paper. If you solve correctly, you may move Wardfor."

      Thankfully for Varicose, spelling was always his strong suit. It really came in handy on those days when Hugo couldn't get past the morning crossword puzzle, though he was shy to ask for help.

      Eliv interrupted his sentimental thoughts and handed a piece of paper out to him.

      Varicose gulped as he opened the folded piece and read the difficult six-letter word:

      'Restody.'

      The sound 'est' stuck out to Varicose, so he started with that as a clue. 'R' was already in front of that and didn't make sense, so he replaced it with 'D', the only consonant left. 'Dest.' That left three simple letters to tag on the end.

      "DESTROY!" Varicose shouted, a bit too loud for Eliv's liking.

      Eliv paused for a moment. "Rectorr!" He said, pleased in his voice, yet unsmiling in his temperament, "You may pass."

      Varicose walked past Eliv with his chin held high and went through the Castle door, which lead into a guest bedroom similar to one he had slept in.

      "Atiw," Eliv said, coming up behind him.

      Varicose turned around and furrowed his brows at him.

      "You didn't ask for your reward," Eliv said, dropping a small squirming Mootix ball in his open yellow paw.

      Varicose looked down and frowned. He said, "Aren’t these from the Bagatelle game?"

      "Sey," Eliv said, "I have a feeling it may come in handy for you, Taler."

      "Riiighhhttt," Varicose said, shaking his head.

      "Well, go on," Eliv said, nudging him, "You need to get to the next Wallhay."

      Varicose grinned and scooted through the door, which lead to a hallway similar to the one they exited previously. He stepped backward, causing a tile in the floor to collapse and he jumped a foot in the air, knocking into Eliv again.

      "Raceluf," Eliv said, simply.

      "Sorry," Varicose said, sitting in a spot by his side.

      Eliv said nothing, while maintaining a scowl, and handed him the second folded piece of paper. Varicose looked at the wrinkled cream paper and looked back at Eliv, and gave him a nervous glance. "Well, go on," Eliv said, "Dear it."

      Varicose opened up the paper and looked down, then raised his brows. The word said:

      'Yortish.'

      "YORTISH!" Varicose said, whining. He looked up at Eliv with a helpless glance.

      "That Stnouc as an answer," Eliv said, "and an incorrect one at that. If you get two more, you will be doomed to Teaper these trials again!"

      Varicose dropped his mouth, wanting to scream a protest, but he feared anything other than the correct answer would get him another strike. He looked at the word again. Yortish. Yort-ish. Ish...his. Hisyort. There were too many vowels after 'His.' Hist. The three letters left on it made sense when scrambled the right way... "HISTORY!" Varicose shouted, making a triumphant leap and spin into the air.

      Eliv cowered and covered his ears, then grimaced at him. "Rectorr," he said, grumbling, "Now, let's move on."

      "That's two halls we passed now, right?"

      "For now," Eliv said, "If you pass the third trial, you'll find the one to cross that leads to the exit, as I said. Are you Deary?"

      "Yes," Varicose said, feeling a new sense of confidence and triumph that Eliv would be all too pleased to change, with the right word.

      They passed into the third bedroom, a copy of the previous one, and Eliv touched his shoulder. "You keep forgetting about your Warder," Eliv said.

      Varicose looked up at him and squinted, trying to discern what he meant with that scrambled word. "Oh!," he said, "You mean my reward!" Varicose stuck out his paw, expecting a grander prize than the one given on his first trial.

      Eliv plopped a brass key in his hand, prompting Varicose to give him another confused glance.

      Varicose looked down at the key, then back at Eliv, and back at the key again with a twisted face. He said, "Does this open a door somewhere in this Castle?"

      "Not in my Stacle, no," Eliv said, "But you may find it opens a special door in someone else's."

      "I'm not sure I plan on going to another castle after this," Varicose said, handing the key back.

      Eliv crossed his arms at him and made a scowl. He said, "I will not take your Ripez! Onward!" He pointed toward the door which led to the third, and final hallway.

      The last hallway was darker than the others, and filled with more noticeable holes fading into the dark distance. Varicose gulped and looked up at Eliv, who now wore a large grin on his face. "Many have Dirte, but few have passed," Eliv said, cackling, "though I must admit I'm a little more confident in your success than the previous guests."

      He reached in his waxy lab coat and pulled out the third, and final, folded piece of paper. He said, "If you solve this, you may leave. What you do from then on is your Nessibus."

      Varicose accepted the paper and gulped, then opened it to reveal his final word.

      'Gooples'

      Varicose shook his head, then chortled. "Seriously?" He said, giggling. The word could not have been easier for the final, most nerve racking, challenge.

      "Incorrect," Eliv said, raising one very high brow at him, "Strike two. Three strikes and you go back to the beginning. Try again."

      Varicose gulped loud, then hoped Eliv wasn't so unfair that he would assume his gulp was some kind of answer. He said, "Poogles." Then he said nothing else, waiting for Eliv's answer as silence fell over them.

      A few long seconds passed.

      "Rectorr," he said, rolling his 'R' consonants, "You may pass."

      All of the holes cleared up instantly and the lights brightened, bringing out the fresh blue jelly-like skin in Eliv's face. Varicose took half of a step, then looked up at Eliv. He said, "My prize?"

      Eliv smiled, finally pleased with someone other than himself. He said, "My third reward to you is my Divace. If you want to know something, like where this friend you seek is, go ask the Brain Tree. He is quite smart, you know. "

      Varicose's face lit up. He said, "I know where that is! I used to see the tips of his gnarled sppoky branches every time Hugo and I-" he paused and dropped his head, "Well...we used to point it out together."

      "I must warn you," Eliv said, ignoring his sentiment, "He will not do it for Reef. There's always a price!"

      Varicose said, raising his head with pride, "I'll give him whatever he wants. I just want my best friend back."

      Eliv said, "So you shall. Be on your Yaw, now. May our paths not cross here, again."

      Varicose nodded. "You can say that, again."

      "On!" Varicose said, grimacing.

      Varicose made an awkward smile, then scurried to the end of the carpeted hall towards the arched Castle door, which opened freely for him to let him pass into the black darkness ahead.

      to be continued...

 
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