The Great Race: Part Five
“Have you been here?” Sirenia asked Kanuah.
They were standing just outside the trees that marked the border of the Haunted Woods. It was dawn.
“Nope, this is one place that I never really wanted to go.”
Sirenia nervously put a hoof on her blaster. “Let's get this over with. Where's the checkpoint?”
“Next to Edna's Tower.”
“Here goes nothing.” Sirenia ran in, Kanuah followed.
“Wanna buy a paintbrush?” A Halloween Blumaroo pulled back his cape to show a stock of paintbrushes. All fake.
“No.” Kanuah shouldered him aside, and kept up a steady lope.
Sirenia had her blaster drawn. She had had a brush with a zombie who had eyed her head hungrily and wasn't going to take chances. “Where's the tower?”
Kanuah kept running as he looked at the map. “It's next to the haunted house up... Ouff!”
Because he wasn't looked where he was going, Kanuah ran straight into a neopet.
“Sorry,” he apologized as he rubbed his head. His eye caught a flash of tan.
“Ankhele!” Sirenia exclaimed.
The island Peophin scrambled up. “Kanuah, Sirenia!”
Kanuah looked around. “Where's Luke?”
Ankhele scuffed a hoof. “Around.”
Kanuah laughed. “Did you lose him?”
Ankhele looked at the ground. “No.”
Kanuah gave her a hard look.
Kanuah turned to Sirenia and shoved the map in her hands. “Go find the contact, then come back.”
Sirenia nodded and ran off.
Kanuah turned back to a sulky Ankhele. “What happened?”
“So we're here, and we're going to go.” Ankhele opened the door of the gray Neovia house.
Their host put out a hand of warning. “I wouldn't do that if I were you.”
“Why not?” asked Luke.
“The Haunted Woods is a different place at night. Things wake up, things move, paths that were there before are gone.”
Ankhele continued out the door. “I'm too old for ghost stories.”
Luke hesitated and then followed.
The host watched them go. “Beware of midnight, the bewitching hour.”
“I think we're lost,” Ankhele admitted two hours later.
“I know we're lost,” Luke snapped angrily.
Ankhele sat down on a log. They were in the middle of a dark forest, with no markers of a path that were visible. “We could just wait for morning.”
“We'll have to wait for morning; walking will just get us even more lost.” Luke put down his pack. “I hear a river. I'm going to get some water; I'll be back.”
“But you just said....”
“I can smell you.” Luke walked away.
Ankhele wrapped a blankets around her shoulders, the forest was bigger when Luke wasn't around. She hoped that he would be back soon. It was then that she heard a yell. It sounded like Luke! She jumped up and dashed in the direction that he had gone. “Luke?”
There was no answer.
She tripped over something. It was Luke's canteen; there was no Luke.
“And I just kept wandering around trying to find him,” Ankhele finished her story.
Kanuah shook his head. “You should have listened to your host.”
“I know that now!” Ankhele snapped.
“Hey, guys. I found the checkpoint.” Sirenia galloped up.
Kanuah repeated Ankhele's story to her.
“Did you see anything around where he disappeared?” asked Sirenia.
Ankhele pulled something out of her bag. “I found this.”
Kanuah took a small scrap of cloth from her. “Red on one side, black on the other.”
Sirenia snatched it from him. “I know who that belongs to!”
“Who?” the other two asked.
“Count Von Roo.”
“The vampire?” Ankhele turned pale.
“That one.” Sirenia's eyes lit up. “And I know how we're going to get your brother back.”
“Who would you like to challenge?” the Halloween Meerca who ran the Stone Dome asked Sirenia.
“Count Von Roo.”
The Meerca marked down the name and handed Sirenia a slip a paper. “He'll be available at midnight. You can come back then or wait here.”
“Thank you.” Sirenia exited the dome and ran outside where Kanuah and Ankhele were waiting. “I got the challenge, but we have to wait until midnight.”
“What do we do till then?” Ankhele looked around nervously.
“There's always the Haunted Fairgrounds,” Kanuah said, showing his fangs in a smile.
“I've had enough of everything haunted,” both Peophins said.
Kanuah got up. “I'm going to check it out. I'll be back in an hour or two, or at least in time for the battle.”
“Will he be okay?” asked Ankhele.
“He's scarier than most things around here when he gets mad; he'll be fine.”
“Sirenia, why are you guys helping us? You could be to the Lost Desert by now.”
Sirenia smiled as she cleaned her blaster. “No race is worth the loss of a friend.”
Ankhele suddenly hugged Sirenia. “I'll remember that.”
“Where is he? It's already eleven thirty.” Ankhele shifted from one hoof to the other.
She and Sirenia were waiting in the prep room of the Stone Dome for the fight to begin.
Sirenia strapped on her Bracers of Fury. “He's....”
“Right here.” Kanuah pushed open the door. He ruffled Sirenia's mane. “Ready?”
“Yup.” Sirenia shoved her blaster into its holster. “I have my blaster and Illusen's potion.”
Kanuah handed her a jar. “You might want to take these too.”
Sirenia held it up and made a face. “Spiders?”
Kanuah took off his katana. “You might want to have a blade on you also.”
Sirenia took it. “Thanks.”
The Meerca that ran the dome opened the door. “Ready?”
“Yup!” Sirenia jumped up. “Is he here?”
“He's waiting in the arena.”
“We'll be cheering from the stands.” Kanuah guided Ankhele to the door that led to the viewing area.
Sirenia pushed open the door that led to the fighting arena. “Let's go.”
The floor of the dome was stone, not Sirenia's favorite thing to dive on. But there was a ring of water around it that would let her use her water techniques. Count Von Roo was standing on the far end.
Sirenia pointed a hoof at him. “Hey!”
The count looked up.
“You have a friend of mine. I want to add a bet to the fight.”
“His freedom or your imprisonment?” the count asked in a cold voice.
Sirenia wasn't really planning on betting herself, but now that he had put it out there... “Sure.”
“Begin then.” He wrapped his cloak around himself then opened it. Lightning shot out.
Sirenia dove and rolled and pulled out her blaster. The sooner she ended this, the better. She fired. The count moved swiftly, too swiftly; the laser missed him easily. The count pulled out an umbrella and a telescope. It was an auto targeting type.
Sirenia reached towards the water. “Quench!” A wall of water rose out of the ditch. Count Roo fired. Sirenia flung her wall of water at it, drowning the fire. She ran at an angle towards the count. She threw Illusen's potion at him and shouted, “Fireball!” A ball of fire grew between her hooves. She waited for the potion to hit then she threw the fiery ball. She skidded to a halt beyond him to see the effects of her attack.
The count stumbled slightly as he got up but then he released something from his hands. Something hit her in the chest and threw her backwards. Out of the corner of her eye she saw his ring glitter. She winced as her skin connected with hard stone. She blinked the dust away just in time to see a spider zipping across the arena towards her. It jumped up and bit her on the arm before she could avoid it. Through the waves of pain, an idea came. As Count Roo's spiders scrambled down to return to him, she pulled out her jar of spiders and opened it. Now there were eight spiders running towards the count. He didn't know which one was his and which one was attacking him. In the confusion, Sirenia made her move. She pulled out Kanuah's katana and charged while slipping her blaster behind her back. She slashed at the count who was still looking for his spider. He saw her just in time and dodged to the left. At the same time, Sirenia took her blaster out from behind her back and let off a shot. It was a point blank shot.
The count landed with a groan. “I surrender.”
“Sirenia_Aya wins the match!” announced the scorekeeper.
Sirenia panted as she sheathed the katana. “About our bet?”
The count bowed. “You fought well.” He swirled his cloak around himself. He disappeared and in his place was a very scared Luke.
“Luke!” Ankhele jumped out of the stands and ran to her brother. “You're okay!”
Luke hugged his sister. “For the most part.” He looked at Sirenia over his sister's shoulder. “Thank you.”
Kanuah put his sister's arm over his shoulder. “You did well.” He handed her a super strength healing potion. “I got this too; thought you might want it afterwards.”
Sirenia pulled the cork out with her teeth and drained the contents. “Thanks, and you're welcome, Luke.”
Ankhele put Sirenia's other arm around her shoulders. “Let's get you somewhere you can rest.”
Luke walked after them. “How about we all go back to our hosts. I could use a rest too.”
Kanuah nodded. “We could do that.”
Sirenia smiled at Ankhele. “But after that, we're going to beat your tail to Shenkuu.”
Ankhele smiled back. “Not if I can help it.”
To be continued...