Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 193,472,657 Issue: 692 | 31st day of Swimming, Y17
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Trouble's Brewing

by flannelle


      Deep within the macabre wetland of the Haunted Woods, hidden by the swamp gases and crooked trees shrouded in tangles of spongy moss, there was a foreboding abode that stood on the muddy river bank. Composed of rotten-looking shambles of wood, it looked like the slightest gust of wind could knock the entire residence on its side. But it was the enigmatic ixi that called this dingy shack home that really gave rise to the mysteries. Her name was Sophie, Sophie the swamp witch; and as the dark windows of her house emitted ominous flashes of glowing green light, one could only wonder… What was that wily witch up to exactly?

      “Finally, I have gathered all the ingredients to conjure the perfect brew.” Sophie cackled deviously before a monstrous black cauldron. The wisps of steam wafting off its murky brown surface clouded around her nose, and she inhaled it deeply. The odor was more pungent than the Turmaculus’ morning breath. “It’s come to a fabulous boil,” she observed with anticipation coloring her green eyes, “which means it’s time to begin the spell!”

      She whisked away from the pot, crossing her shack eagerly. The wooden floorboards groaned and creaked under the pressure of her steps, which woke the witch’s snoozing Meowclops. The petpet blinked its bright eye open, staring up at Sophie from beneath the cabinet that held all her most arcane and priceless ingredients for her spells. The cabinet’s doors ceased to open without a wail coming from its rusty hinges. Sophie rummaged through vials and jars, some of which contained eyeballs of questionable origins and masses of goop with the most unnatural of colors, and plucked out a particular few. They clanked together in her arms, threatening to slip from her grasp should she make one foul step in her mad dash back to the bubbling cauldron.

      The Meowclops, now roused from his slumber, followed the witch across the pad, making hungry yowling noises after her. He pawed at her ankle, his sharp claws snagging the ragged end of her olive-green dress.

      “Confound it!” she exclaimed irritably, casting a sharp glare downward at her petpet. The ingredients she held in her arms clattered against the table as she set them down in frustration. “I just stitched the last snag you caused. Shoo, shoo, allow me some peace while I conjure.” She waved him off with a sniff. Sophie had no time for her Meowclops’ wails for attention. She had to get cooking while the roux was hot!

      The Meowclops grumbled, curling up by Sophie’s feet with a huff. Pouting. But at least he seemed content to wait for Sophie’s tender loving care. Or did he? The impish twinkle in his big, yellow eye suggested otherwise.

      Now that the Meowclops was pacified, Sophie summoned her old, leather-bound spellbook from the shelf beside her window. Her hand shone with an emerald glow as her telekinetic magic caused the book to float in midair. It travelled silently across the room, through the haze of her stew and into her hands. She flipped through the dog-eared pages of the book, settling on a spell halfway through.

      “Ah, yes,” she hissed, “this fabulous brew will surely make Edna even greener with envy.” Sophie giggled, leaving the book to hover beside the pot as she turned to the array of bottles congregating on the table. “First thing’s first… I need the Almost Gummy Rat.”

      The Meowclop’s gray ears perked at the murmur of Sophie. Did she say Almost Gummy Rat? He licked his chops. Oh, that was a tasty treat. He crept away from her feet, sneaking towards the back of the pot. He was careful to avoid the hot ashes from the pyre beneath the belly of the cauldron. That last thing he wanted was his thick, gray fur to be singed… again. He heard Sophie pop open the jar containing the food, and the Meowclops took a whiff of the air. Oh, it seemed this rat was grape flavor! His favorite.

      But how could he reach the top of the pot? The tireless growl coming from his stomach urged him to think fast. He could not scale the circular surface of the cauldron, it was burning hot and there was nothing to sink his claws into. The Meowclops glanced around. There had to be something in this shack that could help him…

      “Next, some fresh Clawmatoe!” Sophie read from the grimoire as she plopped the first ingredient, the Almost Gummy Rat, into the bubbling brew (much to the Meowclops’ dismay). The ripe, green and red fruit was plucked from its jar, but not without giving Sophie a prick on her thumb to remember it by. “Ah, blast, if I had a neopoint for every time that fruit scratched me… I’d have, like, ten neopoints.”

      As Sophie continued to mutter to herself, the Meowclops seized the opportunity to swipe up Sophie’s broomstick. It rested beneath the bookshelves nailed to the walls, waiting to be used at the perfect prop to scale up Sophie’s cauldron. He glanced back, making sure Sophie would not catch him meddling with her broom, but she seemed too distracted by her spell.

      “And the Glaring Eye Wrap comes after.”

      The eyeball snug within wrap that Sophie had spoken of glared across the room from between her fingers, directly at the cunning Meowclops. But Sophie failed to see what the food did: the petpet dragging the broom across the room by its frayed straw bristles. He worked quickly to reach the pot again, for his belly was begging to be fed. He could afford to miss out on the latest morsel being added to the concoction (seriously, that Glaring Eye Wrap tastes terrible!), but he refused to be cheated of the next tasty treat.

      “Oh, yes, and two handfuls of Ghost Marshmallows, for some added sweetness and extra spookiness,” Sophie continued to list off the required ingredients from her spellbook.

      The jar that held her oodles of mallows made an eerie giggling noise once she unfastened the lid. The sweet, but slightly stale aroma wafting off the marshmallows lingered in the air, tantalizing the Meowclops as he wrangled with the long broomstick in a mad dash for the pot. Sophie’s back was turned to the pot, for she was continuing to read the directions of the spell from the book, so she failed to see her Meowclops’ struggle. She nodded as she mulled over the instructions, cupping her chin after tossing the first handful of Ghost Marshmallows over her shoulder and into the brew. The second handful was tossed in soon after.

      The Meowclops hissed. Not the marshmallows! Those were so scrumptious. He was drooling on the wooden handle of the broom, imagining the sweet, white froth of melted marshmallows coating the surface of Sophie’s stew. He hurried and brought the broom to the side of the cauldron. It was now or never. He had to have a taste! Just one lick.

      “And for the final ingredient: a Blueberry Fish Pop without the stick.”

      Sophie smiled and twirled on her toes, cackling. The cauldron bubbled and burped up strange-smelling steam, hungry for the last addition. Adjusting her hat, Sophie scanned the numerous bottles waiting on the table, selecting one with a particularly fishy odor. Pulling out the pop, the frozen fish on a stick was a vivid blue color, and its lips were puckered thoughtfully. Sophie yanked the stick from the fish’s tail and tossed it aside, causing it to clatter against the gathered bottles. The ruckus was loud enough to disguise the clank of her broomstick hitting the side of the cauldron.

      “At last, I will have concocted a stew with enough bite and boil to outshine Edna’s.” Sophie breathed a sigh of accomplishment. The rival witch, a zafara residing in a tower beyond the woods, always seemed to conjure up perfect spells on accident! Sophie wished to best her in the most purposeful way possible, and this potion would do the trick. And she did not need the help of any other Neopian, either.

      Wiggling the stiff fish by its pale blue tail, Sophie snickered and threw it in with a flick of her wrist. “One Blueberry Fish Pop a’coming!” she announced. “What’s this?” The blunt end of her broomstick was peaking over the lip of the cauldron, and it caught Sophie’s eye. “How did my broom get there?”

      Oh, but that fish was coming all right, and coming fast! The fish flew through the air, and the Meowclops clambered up the broomstick in a hurry. Just one bite! That’s all he needed. His claws scratched at the stick, and he reached the top of the broom just as the scrap descended towards the brew. Licking his lips, the Meowclops readied his palette as he leaned over the stew. His jaws were waiting to clamp down on the blueberry-flavored scales of the fish.

      “Pesky Meowclops!” Sophie scorned. “Don’t you dare impede this potion or I’ll turn you into a Slorgclops!”

      The witch’s threat fell on deaf ears, for her Meowclops was far too hungry to care about being the victim of her magic. But when his paw slipped on the slick crest of the cauldron, he ended up being far too scared of being boiled to a crisp! Tottering on the trembling broom, which became unsteady after his slip-up, the petpet yowled in fright.

      “Watch out!” Sophie yelled, reaching for her petpet in a hurry before he fell into the boiling brew.

      The recipe did not call for fresh Meowclops! At the last moment, she was able to grab hold of a tail, but there was still a ‘clunk’ of something dropping into the pot. Sophie bit her lip nervously and retracted her arm away from the thick vapor wafting from the cauldron’s surface. With a loud sigh, she realized it was her Meowclops, thankfully, that she had gotten a hold of and not that fish’s tail.

      She held him over the pot with a fierce frown. “You naughty Meowclops! You’re going to make me sprout gray hair early!” She wagged her finger at him with scorn. The Meowclops, still hanging upside-down by his tail, gave a sheepish grin and mewed.

      Sophie rolled her eyes and brought him in for a warm hug. “If you had a lick of patience, you would have gotten a Blueberry Fish Pop without all that hassle,” she told him. The Meowclops meowed loudly, only hungrier after his brush with danger. Sophie laughed. “All right, all right, you cretin,” she murmured fondly, “one fish pop, coming right up!”

      This really would be Sophie’s greatest stew, but because it lacked one important ingredient: one troublesome, but beloved, petpet.

      The End.

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