A Story of the Haunted Woods:Part Three
"What kind of thing would a zombie search for?” continued Story.
Saskori rubbed her chin. “Maybe something that affected their life, like how ghosts haunt based on what happened during their lifetime or when they died. Maybe something that’s missing from them.” Saskori suddenly looked up at the ceiling again.
Storyweaver looked up at the ceiling too. All that was up there was the lamp hanging from one of the rafters.
Saskori took the lamp down. “I have a story of my own, I guess. One day, I happened across a house with a lot of lamps in the yard. Too many lamps for one person. I needed a lamp. So I took one. The end.”
Story studied the lamp more carefully. It was a bronze lamp, with a glass center. But it had no visible knobs.
Saskori spoke again. “Except I forgot to mention that apparently it was a magic lamp, because it never needed fuel or anything. And there’s no way to turn it off. I dunno, this is Neopia, I didn’t think much of a magical lamp. Not until now.”
Saskori twisted the bottom off the lamp, and pulled out the glass center. Except it wasn’t a glass center. It was a jar. A sealed jar. A glowing sealed jar. “You don’t think…”
Storyweaver took the jar and hefted it in her hand, looking at Saskori. “I can’t tell for sure. But I know how to find out.”
Storyweaver looked through the trapdoor at the zombie. “Open the jar and see what happens.”
Saskori looked at the zombie as well. “It’s worth a try. Hey tree! We’re coming down! Keep the zombie away!”
Saskori grabbed the jar and climbed down through the trapdoor. The tree caught her with one of its branches and lowered her down safely. Story followed after her, flying down. The tree kept the zombie held back with one of its other branches, the zombie shuffling without moving forward and looking vaguely confused about it.
From the ground, Storyweaver could see that the Zombie Buzz had a tattered white nightgown and long brown hair. Her impression was that it had once been a girl about Saskori’s age.
Saskori twisted the lid of the jar. And twisted. And twisted. “I can’t get a good grip on it. Hold on,” she said, handing the jar to Story. Saskori opened her satchel and pulled out a small knife.
“That’s a lovely knife,” said Storyweaver.
“It’s not a silver one, though, like a monster tamer should have,” replied Saskori. She took the jar back and hit its rim with the handle of the knife several times. “That should break the seal.”
She twisted again, and this time the jar popped open. Nothing happened for a moment. Then the glow lifted out of the jar and took on the vague form of an unidentifiable Neopet. The figure suddenly rushed to the zombie, and as it got closer, it took the same form as the Zombie Buzz. The presence brushed against the Buzz, absorbing into the zombie. .
The zombie gave a sudden gasp and looked around. In a young girl’s voice, the zombie said, “Where… where I am? What’s going on?”
“You’re in the Haunted Woods,” said the Storyweaver.
“Just south of Neovia,” added Saskori. “As to what’s going on...” Saskori looked at Story, “I’m guessing your soul was trapped in this jar. Or at least part of your soul. Because you were, and still are I guess, a zombie.”
The Buzz looked down at herself, lifting up a greenish-gray hand and studying it front and back. “This makes no sense.”
“What’s your name, if I may ask,” said Storyweaver.
The Buzz looked past her hand at Story. “Alvideria. Though most people just call me Ally.”
“I’m the Storyweaver, but you are welcome to call me Story as well.”
“And I’m Saskori,” said the Cybunny.
Ally looked back at her hand. “I don’t remember turning into a zombie.”
“What do you remember?” asked Saskori.
Alvideria pondered the question. “I remember a lot of nothing, emptiness. And I remember searching, longing, like a big part of me was missing. But before that, I remember living in Neovia.”
“What about more specific things,” said Saskori, “like what happened to you last, before you got turned?”
“I… I don’t… it’s just impressions and snapshots, like a dream,” said Ally. “I remember being in the Woods. I remember it was a part of the Woods I hadn’t been to before. And I remember a Halloween Bori was there. He needed help for something, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what.”
Saskori looked at Storyweaver. “Did you ever specify what kind of Bori he was?”
Story shook her head. “It wasn’t important to the story.”
“But you know, right?” said Saskori. “This isn’t just some coincidence, right? You know what’s going on.”
Story buried her hands in her face. “I tell you the story you need to hear. Sometimes it’s a true story, yes. But it doesn’t mean I know what’s going on, any more than you do. This is my gift. I tell stories. I don’t know where they come from.”
“What is going on?” ask Ally.
“Well,” said Saskori, “apparently this Bori guy is taking people’s souls in exchange to get his sister’s soul back from a Yurble named Samuel. And it kind of seems like he might have taken most of your soul as part of the deal, leaving you a zombie.”
“I told the story of this brother and sister to Saskori here, and then you appeared, and it turned out Saskori had acquired your soul, so she returned it to you,” added Story.
“I appreciate feeling whole again,” said Alvideria, “so it’s lucky that you happened to both be here. Who knows how long I’ve been wandering around looking for the rest of my soul.”
“Yeah. Real ‘lucky,’” said Saskori, staring at Story.
“It was not luck that brought us together,” said the Storyweaver, “but fate, the magic of the story. The stories I tell help guide people through their journeys.”
“Yeah yeah,” brushed off Saskori, “fate, luck, magic, whatever you want to call it, I guess. The Chia Cops must always be asking for your alibi with freaky knowledge of events like that. But whatever, I guess I’m okay with it, because Ally here is doing much better with her soul back intact thanks to you.”
They stood there silently for some minutes before Ally said, “So, we going after them, or what?”
“What do you mean?” asked Saskori.
“I mean, the Bori, the Yurble, the souls they’ve already collected, the sister that needs rescuing. Are we going to go after them? Or are we just going to ignore the fact that there’s someone out there taking souls, who took my soul?”
“I feel this story is not finished,” said the Storyweaver, “but this isn’t my story to decide.”
“Well, I haven’t had much dealings with warlocks and soul reapers,” considered Saskori. “I’m a monster tamer, and they aren’t really monsters, per say. But I’m always willing to expand my repertoire.” She grinned.
“Great!” said Alvideria. “And what about you, Story?”
Story nodded. “I am here to serve your story. I will help.”
Saskori rubbed her paws together. “So now we need to decide what to do next. Should we track down the brother? Visit the Yurble? Something else?”
“Well,” said Storyweaver, “I do believe you know where the Yurble lives, if you got that lantern containing Ally’s soul there. But are we ready to face him?”
“Are we ready to face the brother though, either?” said Ally. “I mean, if he’s a soul reaper, we’re all in danger from him.”
“We should stick together, at least,” said Saskori. “We’ll be safer that way.”
“Samuel is likely just as dangerous to face, though,” said Storyweaver.
“I dunno,” said Saskori, “I was kind of thinking maybe I could just set a monster on his house, and maybe grab the sister’s jar while he’s distracted.”
“Samuel supposedly has the sister’s soul well hidden, though,” said Story.
“If we could convince the brother to help us,” said Ally, “then we could all face Samuel together.”
“But how could we convince him to help us?” asked Saskori. “He’s kind of on Samuel’s side here.”
“It’s been however long, and he still doesn’t have his sister back,” said Storyweaver. “Perhaps he’d be willing to change sides to get his sister back.”
“And what if he’s not, and he just takes all of our souls as payment towards his sister?” said Saskori.
“None of these options are really that safe,” said Alvideria. “What we really need are more allies.”
Saskori considered that last phrase. “You know… I know where we can come up with more people who are opposed to Samuel. What about all those other souls he’s already collected? Doesn’t have to be the sister. We just swipe some of those jars he’s got, and bam, that many more people to help us bring them to justice.”
“Sounds like the beginning of a plan,” said Storyweaver.
To be continued…