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What's in a Name?: Part One


by herdygerdy

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Witch – A female Neopet with the ability to use one or more forms of magic. Derived from the ancient Darigan verb, weik (to bend, alter).

     Witches, of course, often claim that the use of magic isn't what makes a witch. That it's perfectly possible to be a witch without having a magical bone in your body – magic just makes the job easier. They say being a witch is really about keeping the Balance, some sort of metaphysical tight rope act that keeps the universe ticking. Sometimes you need to be good, sometimes you need to be bad. There must always be Balance.

     But that's all a lie. It's just an excuse that witches use so they can sleep at night after they deny aid to those in need. It's alright, you had to do it, or the universe would collapse in on itself. You're a good person really.

     The truth is that they could do so much more, but they won't. And they are going to pay for that.

     There may not be Balance, but what goes around comes around.

     ***

     The Acara stumbled over a thick root, falling hands first into the swamp and drenching her purple fur.

     "Ugh!" she cursed to no one in particular, groping forwards to the flaming torch she had dropped. "Cara!? Cara! Can you hear me!?"

     No response came from the darkness of the swamp. Beyond the little circle of light her torch was casting, she could see nothing.

     Except, maybe one thing...

     In the distance, the Acara thought she could make out a faint light from between the trees.

     "Cara?" she called out. "Is that you?"

     No response came, but the light seemed to wobble slightly. The Acara wasn't sure if she was just imagining the light, but she decided to investigate. She'd already left the woodland path when she had become separated from her new friend, things couldn't get much more dangerous if she went further into the swamp.

     The Acara pushed forwards through the swamp, stumbling as she followed the light. It seemed to be moving, as if it was leading her somewhere.

     "Cara, stop playing games! This isn't funny!" she shouted. "It's me, Jenna! Cara!"

     Eventually, the light seemed to stop moving, hovering in the distance. Jenna's small circle of torchlight illuminated a clearing as she grew closer. The light, some kind of pale white orb, was hovering in the centre.

     "You're not Cara," Jenna said with growing dread.

     The orb let out a bright flash and disappeared from view, leaving Jenna completely alone in the swamp's clearing. In her hand, Jenna heard her torch flicker. She turned to stare into the flame, which seemed to be moving rhythmically, pulsing ever so slightly. As Jenna squinted against the bright light of the flame, she thought she saw two eyes floating in the flames. Evil eyes... hungry eyes.

     Jenna's eyes grew wide with horror, and the torch flickered again, the flames suddenly growing in power. Jenna let out the briefest gasp, and the torch fell to the floor.

     Jenna was gone, only the torch remained. Inside the flame, the tiny eyes still floated, looking less hungry than before.

     ***

     The banging continued for a good five minutes until the door opened, and the sight that greeted the worried young yellow Wocky was not a pleasant one.

     A green Zafara stood with bloodshot eyes, a mane of green hair tangled atop her head. The Zafara's clothes were blacker than night, as if a special form of dye had been invented just for her.

     "Mistress Edna?" the Wocky asked.

     The yellow Wocky was worried, but there was sweetness in her voice that suggested on any other day of the week butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. This alone made the Zafara so much more annoyed. It was so much easier to hate people who gave no reason to be hated.

     "What?" Edna demanded.

     "I... I need your help," the Wocky told her.

     "You woke me up," Edna stated, ignoring the Wocky's reply.

     The Wocky hesitated. "I'm sorry, Mistress, but I really do need your help."

     "Do you know what happened to the last person who woke me up?" Edna asked.

     "No," the Wocky replied.

     "Neither does anyone else," Edna said darkly. "They never found the body. Consider that as you explain why you woke me. It had better be a very good reason, child."

     "My friend is missing," the Wocky blurted out.

     Edna stared at the girl sceptically. "And?"

     "She wandered off the path and I couldn't find her!"

     "Perhaps she was trying to get away from you?" Edna suggested. "I think she had the right idea."

     Edna moved to close her front door.

     "Wait!" the Wocky called out. "There were lights!"

     Edna paused. "Lights?"

     "Hovering in the swamp! That's why she left the path; she was chasing them!"

     Edna gave the matter some brief thought, before sighing.

     "I know I'm going to regret this," she muttered. "Wait here."

     The door slammed in the Wocky's face. Sounds of quick rummaging came from within the Witch's tower, and a moment later the door was opened again.

     The mass of tangled hair had vanished, contained within a hat as black as Edna's robes. Her eyes had somehow recovered from their previous bloodshot state in the few moments she had been gone. Now they were alert, daring the universe to throw its best at her and see what it got in return.

     "You're not taking a wand, or potions?" the Wocky asked.

     The glare from the Zafara silenced the Wocky.

     "Show me where your friend went missing," Edna instructed.

     "It's on the path, near the swamplands," the Wocky explained as she led Edna away from her tower. "I'm Cara, by the way, nice to meet you."

     "I'm sure it is," Edna replied gruffly. "Personally I've never had the pleasure."

     Cara led Edna away from the sparsely populated areas of the woods, and into the Deep Woods that grew near the swamp. The woodland path was thin and twisty, and the trees packed in tightly, restricting the light. Though Edna claimed to be able to see perfectly, Cara complained for some time that she could not. Eventually Edna became so irritated that she lit a tree branch with her magic, forming a basic flaming torch, which she passed to the young girl.

     Eventually, Cara called them to a stop.

     "Here, I think," she told Edna. "Jenna left the path here, heading into the swamp."

     Edna bent down. At the edge of the path, there were footprints in the mud. Someone had indeed left the path there.

     "Follow me," Edna instructed. "Closely."

     Cara did as she was told, coming in close behind Edna as the Witch plunged into the swamp. The pair were instantly in water up to their knees as they sank into the thick bog that surrounded the trees, but Edna carried on regardless as if there was no obstacle. Cara had significantly more difficulties, and gradually fell behind until Edna stopped abruptly.

     "Here," Edna said, kneeling at the foot of a tree as she gently touched a root. "She fell here."

     "How can you be sure?" Cara asked as she caught up.

     In the dim torchlight, the Wocky couldn't make out any signs that the root had been disturbed.

     "I just know," Edna replied vaguely, before looking up. "She went that way; she was looking for something."

     "The lights?" Cara asked.

     "Perhaps."

     Edna was off again before she finished talking, and Cara had to madly scramble to keep up with her wake.

     "What do you think they are?" Cara called after her. "The lights? Why did you agree to come when I mentioned them?"

     "I'm not sure..." Edna answered. "I'll know more when we find this Jenna of yours..."

     Edna stopped again as she reached a clearing, "... if we find her, that is."

     Cara gasped as she entered the clearing. There was a torch on the ground, the last embers of fire still burning at its tip.

     "Jenna's?" Edna asked without turning.

     Cara wordlessly nodded, but Edna didn't need to see to know she was right. The Witch marched forwards, and Cara moved to follow, but was distracted as her own torch flickered ever so slightly. Cara stared at the fire curiously; no wind had blown into the clearing.

     "This torch just died," Edna said, taking Cara's eyes away from her own fire. "Looks like your friend has gone."

     "Gone where?" Cara asked.

     "Just gone," Edna stated.

     She picked up the dead torch, holding it at arm's length.

     "What now?" Cara asked.

     "We ask for help," Edna explained, extracting a small leaf from inside her hat which she screwed up in her free hand.

     She blew into the hand gently, which glowed green briefly with magic.

     "They'll be waiting at my tower when we get back," Edna added. "We need to do tests on this."

     "A torch?" Cara asked.

     "A torch," Edna confirmed.

     She led the young Wocky back out of the clearing, and once again Cara struggled to keep up with the Witch's pace in the swamp. It wasn't until they returned to the woodland path that Cara was able to walk beside Edna again.

     The two retraced their steps, heading back to the populated areas of the Woods. On the way, the pair got a few strange looks from passing locals, on their way to Neovia.

     One such person was carrying a small oil lantern, and for a moment Cara thought she saw it flicker as they grew near, just as her torch had back in the clearing.

     Edna was maintaining a steely silence, and didn't look to be in the mood to be bothered with more questions. Instead, Cara kept her silence, hoping there would be answers back at the tower.

To be continued...

 
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