A Story of the Haunted Woods:Part Four
Alvideria nodded. “So we go to Samuel’s house, distract him, take some jars and open them, and then release the souls inside?”
“Pretty much,” said Saskori.
“But how do we distract him?” asked Ally.
“I could set a monster loose in his house,” said Saskori, “Though that’d be cruel to the monster, if he were to try and stop it. Not everyone believes in the Monster Tamer philosophy.”
“I could tell him a story,” said the Storyweaver.
“That could work,” said Ally. “Are you good at telling stories?”
The Storyweaver looked down bashfully at this. “I do my best.”
“Good?” said Saskori. “She’s great! She’s a traveling storyteller that’s traveled all over Neopia, and she was telling me a story before you got here. The story of the brother who now collects souls, as it so happens.”
“Wonderful,” said Ally, “Story, you come up with a story to tell. Saskori and I will steal some jars while you talk.”
“Wait!” said Saskori. “Don’t we need a reason to be there? You know, besides just to tell a story?”
“I often just show up to tell stories to people,” said Storyweaver. “They seldom turn me away. But we could say we were wandering the Haunted Woods and happened across his house, and we’d like to rest for a spell there.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Alvideria. “Saskori, you know where Samuel’s house is. Lead the way.”
Saskori looked back at the tree. “Hey, I’ll be gone for now. Watch after April, will ya?”
“Nothing shall harm your little monster” boomed the tree, “and may no harm befall you either. You venture outside the domain of the woods. The trees cannot shelter you there.”
“Yeah, I think you’re pretty cool too,” said Saskori. “Okay, let’s go!”
Saskori led the way back to the path that Story had taken earlier and back to the main road. It was still quiet there, though at least none of them were alone. They walked the wide trail to Neovia, but before they reached it, Saskori pointed to another path branching off the main road. “This is it, the path that led to the house with too many lanterns.”
Even from the road, they could see a brightness up ahead in the woods. As they got closer, they saw it was a house lit up quite brightly, with many lanterns in its fenced in yard. Saskori opened the gate, and led the other two inside the yard. There were lanterns hung on poles, but no trees within the property line.
“The trees really aren’t able to shelter us here,” said Story.
“And I bet they’re mad about it too,” said Saskori. “Trees really can be quite nosy.”
Alvideria stopped to look at one of the lantern poles. “You know, we could probably just take one of these, and not have to face him at all.”
Saskori stared at Ally. “That’s… brilliant.”
“Yeah,” said Story, eyeing the house, “Might as well avoid him if we can. Though he’s bound to notice if so many lanterns are missing, even if he didn’t miss the one you already took.”
“Let him notice,” said Saskori, grabbing a lantern. “We’ll be long gone.”
There were a dozen lanterns in the yard, and the trio grabbed all of them, taking a couple per arm. Then without another word, they left the yard, quickly walking back to the path and down the way back to Saskori’s treehouse.
Once they finally made it back, the three of them set down the lanterns.
“That was nerve-wracking,” said Ally.
“Yeah, it sure was,” agreed Saskori.
“It needed to be done,” replied Storyweaver.
“Well,” said Saskori, “Let’s get to opening these lanterns.”
She unscrewed the base of one of the lanterns, pulling out a glowing jar. Saskori struggled to open the jar before getting her knife out to break the seal again. “He really made sure these things are on tight.”
Saskori opened the jar, and the glow of the jar drifted out and formed into a Ghost Jubjub. It looked around, confused. “What’s going on?”
“You were trapped in a jar as a ghost by an evil man,” said Story. “We rescued you, and we were hoping you could help us rescue the others like you.”
“I’m a ghost?” replied the Jubjub.
Saskori eyed the other lanterns. “You know, this is going to take forever if we have to explain everything a dozen times. If you don’t mind Mr. Jubjub, let’s open these other jars first, and then we’ll explain everything.”
“The name’s Sticky,” said the Jubjub, “I didn’t choose the name, it came with me. But sure, I guess I can wait.”
The Cybunny, Buzz, and Xweetok all started opening jars, passing Saskori’s knife between them to make the jars easier to open. Soon they were surrounded by the ghosts of a dozen different Neopets.
“This is freaky,” said Saskori.
“So many lives lost,” agreed Storyweaver.
“Well,” said Ally, “best to start filling everyone in.”
So the Storyweaver explained how the Bori was trying to earn his sister back by taking the souls of others. And how they were apparently victims too of the Yurble’s scheme.
“That’s awful,” said a Ghost Skeith.
“They must be stopped,” added a Ghost Ruki.
“Yeah,” agreed Saskori, “we agree; they need to be stopped. Which is where we were hoping you guys might come in. We were hoping you could help stop Samuel, and free the other souls.”
“Do you think you could go to Samuel’s house and do some reconnaissance for us?” asked Ally.
“If you were able to open jars, that’d be even better,” added Saskori.
One of the ghosts tried to pick up a jar, but all they managed to do was nudge it.
“Uh, we’ll work on that,” said Saskori. Then she suddenly facepalmed. “Ugh, we’re going to have to walk all the way back to Samuel’s house, aren’t we? Should have just opened the jars there.”
“It was not to be,” said Storyweaver.
“Let’s go,” said Ally.
The trio walked back to the path, this time followed by the ghosts they had released. The way was easy this time. They traveled back to the main path to Neovia, walking until they reached the path that led to Samuel’s house. “It’s just down this path,” said Saskori.
“We’ll do some spying, and then help formulate a plan,” said the Skeith.
The ghosts made their way down the path, turning invisible as they got closer for better stealth. The three of them watched for another minute, then quietly went back the way they came, Saskori leading the way, followed by Alvideria and the Storyweaver.
The main path was easy enough, but once they reached the side path that led to the treehouse, the going was tougher. They tripped over roots, and branches seemed to grab at their clothing. Suddenly Saskori broke the silence. “So… how are we going to stop Samuel, when the time comes? He’s a warlock, and we’re just the three of us.”
“You know,” said the Storyweaver, “there’s a story about a judge who was impressed by a certain criminal. So impressed that the judge asked the criminal for help in another case. The judge described the crime, and the criminal came up with a creative and fitting punishment. ‘You have come up with your own fate,’ said the judge.”
“So we need to find a judge?” said Saskori.
“Or maybe we need a criminal to come up with something fitting for him?” wondered Ally.
“Or,” said Story patiently, “we go to Samuel asking for help against another warlock and use whatever he gives us against him.”
“Oh. Oh! That’s so clever!” said Saskori, pushing a branch out of the way. “You’re so smart.”
They made their way through the trees blocking their path, and soon they were in sight of the treehouse again.
“Danger!” boomed the tree. “There’s danger in these woods!”
“Well that’s a new greeting,” said Saskori.
Storyweaver gave a muffled yelp. Ally and Saskori turned around to see that she was being held back by a Bori holding a rag over her mouth. Even as they watched, Story stopped struggling, falling unconscious. The Bori laid the Xweetok on the ground, but before he could finish, something ran into his midsection.
“Leave her alone!” yelled Saskori, trying to knock him over with her sudden rush into him.
The Bori was taken by surprise by Saskori’s sudden attack, dropping the rag he held. He tried to push her aside, but was laden down by the arrival of another in the onslaught. Ally had joined in the fight, grabbing him from behind, wrapping her arms around his neck.
The Bori staggered under the combined weight of the two girls, but didn’t fold. He alternated between trying to push Saskori off and trying to pull Alvideria’s arms away from his neck. He staggered again, towards the tree, within reaching distance now.
Suddenly, a branch knocked all three over. Before any of them could react, a couple branches grabbed Saskori and Ally and held them high, out of the Bori’s reach. “Only those who prove themselves worthy may enter here,” the tree boomed, swiping another branch at the Bori.
The Bori rolled nimbly out of the way, and back out of the tree’s reach. “Well played,” said the Bori, “having a tree on your side.”
The Bori had dark fur and red hair tied back into a ponytail. He was a Halloween Bori. “Nathan?” said Saskori.
The Bori looked surprised at Saskori knowing his name. “Do I know you?”
“No,” said Saskori. “But I know you, or at least know of you.”
“Well,” replied Nathan, “I know of you too. You’re the thieves that stole from my master’s house. Did you really think he wouldn’t put a tracking spell on his lanterns after losing the first one?”
“Oh...” was all Saskori said.
To be continued…