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The Shadow Usul Files


by winterrosedragon

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Toby the Gelert had always been a fan of the occult, and reading the Gallery of Evil had definitely become somewhat of a passion of his. Ever since that fateful night when he swore he caught a glimpse of the Shadow Usul he’s been hooked on finding the truth. He tried every day to convince his friends of the Shadow Usul’s existence, but sadly they would never give him the time of day.

      Then one day, during an interview with an old Eyrie, he just… vanished. We never could figure out where he went, but no one wanted to believe it had anything to do with the Shadow Usul. Until now at least… My name is Iora and I’m just your average Usul. I love my Usuki dolls, love my family, and I DON’T get caught up in scary things. In fact I do my very best to avoid them! I do not break any mirrors, I do not walk under any ladders, I do not let black Kadoaties pass my path, and I do NOT go into the forests around Neopia Central at night alone to look for any Shadow Usuls! But the other day my mom sent me into the woods to look for some stupid shop because she just HAD TO HAVE a mega rare plushie only stocked there. I thought it would be so easy, but halfway into my journey… I got lost…

      So now here I was, wandering this stupid forest, looking at all these dumb trees that look exactly the same when BAM! I trip over something hard and crash on my poor beautiful face! When I managed to pull myself back up from this I found a tattered journal and pencil, but who just leaves trash on the ground? I hate litterers! I picked it up and when I did a page fell out of it. Slowly I leaned over to pick up the page, but as I did I couldn’t help but gasp, “Toby…” the name was written neatly on the top of the piece of paper that fell out and I knew it couldn’t be a coincidence. My paws were shaking as I lifted the paper up to my face to keep reading, “This is that interview he said he was going to do…” I remembered him talking about it forever ago, but when he disappeared the Defenders of Neopia questioned the Eyrie he spoke to and the old Eyrie could barely even remember talking to Toby so the case just ran cold.

      I decided to take a look at the rest of the journal, and that's when I saw it on the very last page, “Do you want to know what happened to Toby? Come play a game with me!” the words were written in a jagged font, with some of the words pressed so hard into the paper it ripped through the back of the journal, I started to breathe heavily and plopped down on the ground, “This can’t be real…” I whispered to myself. I don’t know how long I just sat there and wished I was home, but I finally was able to calm my nerves enough to stand back up, “If Toby is still around, I have to find him, I might be the only one that can!” I looked back at the paper, “But if that means going up against the Shadow Usul…” my tail stood up straight and shivered, “I don’t even know where to start!” My eyes darted around the forest looking for anything suspicious, by this time the sun was starting to set so it was becoming difficult to see. I squinted hard and kept looking until I saw a pile of rocks… codestones maybe… in the distance. I ran straight there and took a breath when I stopped.

      I sighed deeply, it was just rocks! A pile of codestone-sized rocks just perfectly stacked and out in the middle of the Neopian forest for no good reason at all, you know, regular day-to-day stuff… Suddenly I heard a soft giggle from somewhere behind me and whipped my body around to find the giggling intruder, but as I hopped about searching for the one behind this I only saw shadows, “You’re letting this get to your head, maybe Toby is just playing a prank!” I wanted so badly for this to be true, “Just a really long prank where he hides in the forest forever…” I could almost cry. Holding my breath with all my might I decided to reach out a paw and push over the pile of rocks. Right as I touched them the pile began to quiver and shake, I jumped back to continue watching. Without warning the rocks began to shoot off in every direction! I tried to dodge them as they flew out but was pelted by a couple flying towards me. BAM! My arm took a hit. BAM! My stomach was hit and I bent over in a coughing fit. I could do nothing but watch as the rest of the rocks flew to different parts of the forest and as I tried to recover I could hear that faint giggling from behind me again, “STOP IT!” my voice echoed into the night and died off in the darkness, “I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO DESERVE THIS!” I screamed until my throat felt sore. The giggling only stopped when I stopped screaming, “Come find me little Usul…” a soft voice crept out of the woods, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from what direction, “W-what?”

     “I said..”

     “COME FIND ME!” the voice boomed all around me and assaulted my ears, I had to pull them down and try to cover them as best as I could. I had no idea what else to do, I was lost, alone, and being taunted by the ghost stories I was told as a little Usul. I grasped Toby’s tattered journal tight in my paw and lifted myself up high, trying to find my courage, “IF I FIND YOU, YOU HAVE TO GIVE TOBY BACK!” I shouted back in defiance. Silence was my only reply. I brushed myself off and finally looked back at the rock pile, or what was left of it. Where once a pile was now another piece of paper that looked like it was torn straight out of Toby’s old journal. I leapt at the journal page and snatched it up before anything weird could happen, “Foraging in the forest is a great way to make friends” I shook my head, “Foraging? What the heck does the Shadow Usul want me to do now?” It felt like she was toying with me, making me do silly things just so she could laugh at me when I fall. “For Toby!” I shouted to psych myself out and began my trek deeper into the forest hoping I would find something that makes sense.

      It felt like hours of searching, wandering in circles and listening to the giggle of the Shadow Usul drift in and out of the trees before I started to smell something truly foul.. A toxic shroom, “Oh ewwwwwww! I thought these were only found around Jhurdora's Bluff?” as I got closer to it more toxic shrooms began to pop up out of the ground, “AAAAAH!” caught by surprise I jumped back until all the toxic shrooms finished popping up, “Is this what you want? For me to pick ugly, smelly, shrooms?!” I threw my head back in exasperation, was the Shadow Usul just playing the kind of pranks a little kid would?! No answer… the shrooms had shot up from the ground in a line, looking a lot like a trail to the scene of the crime. “Foraging… makes friends…” mumbling to myself I realized I would probably have to follow this trail, no matter how bad it smelled. “I can not believe this…” worried about the toxicity of being around so many of these shrooms I did the only thing I could think of. I untied my pretty red tail ribbon and tied it around my face instead like a mask, “There, nice and snug.” I pulled at the knot to make sure and began following the trail. The deeper I went the stronger the smell and I thought I was going to pass out from the putridness of it! My head was swimming and I could swear the giggling was now right behind my shoulder, whenever I turned to look I could see glimpses of a shadowy bushy tail flicking back behind the trees. The Shadow Usul was following me…

      Practically gagging and having to keep myself from falling over I came to a ring of toadstools in the middle of a clearing, “TOBY!” I couldn’t believe my eyes, my heart raced and I ripped my ribbon off my face so I could talk better, “TOBY IT’S REALLY YOU!” my voice became more frantic as I ran straight to Toby, who was lying in the centre of the toadstool ring motionlessly. I threw myself to the ground and lifted Toby’s head up, “WAKE UP!” I gave him a shake and pleaded with him. Toby was bruised and beaten, but obviously still breathing. I had no idea how long he had just been here, or how he was still alive, but he was breathing! “Toby please, the Shadow Usul is here and I don’t know how to get home!” tears fell down my cheeks and plopped onto Toby’s face. Finally, Toby began to groan and open his eyes, “Iora…?” with a shock, I dropped his head, “OW! HEY!” Toby’s eyes went wide as he hit the ground roughly, “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!”

     “I’M SORRY OK I JUST GOT SCARED!”

     “SCARED OF WHAT?! WHERE ARE WE?!”

     “WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHERE ARE WE?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!”

     This exchange went on for some while until Toby could sit himself back up and noticed I was still holding his tattered journal, “Wait, why do you have my journal? Why am I still in the forest? Nothing makes any sense!” I handed his journal back to him, “Toby, you’ve been gone for a long time, don’t you remember anything? You interviewed that old Eyrie and then POOF! No one saw you again!” Toby’s eyes lit up for a second, “Oh yeah, the interview! I-” he groaned and held his head, “I can’t remember a lot, but I remember being attacked!”

     “Did you see who?!” all along I knew the answer, but I was really hoping he would say something else, “The Shadow Usul..” he shuddered and I did as well, “I was hoping you wouldn’t say that.” I stood up and offered to help Toby stand up as well, he leaned against me for support as he got up, “We have to get out of here,” my voice trembled, “The Shadow Usul is still here and she led me here, I don’t know how much lon- WHOA!” Before I could finish my sentence she appeared in front of us sitting on a tree branch and laughing, “Now I have two friends to play with!” she pointed at us mockingly, “Watch out!” Toby screamed and pushed me away right as a swarm of acorns flew across the air and right through where I had been standing, I gasped and caught myself by my hands, “Toby!” I didn’t have enough time to do anything but scream as she launched another assault of acorns, twigs, and rocks at Toby this time. Luckily Toby was able to duck just in time, barely missing a frontal assault. The Shadow Usul’s giggle grew darker and darker with every attack and we were getting worn down fast trying to dodge them, “LET US GO!” Toby yelled up at the Shadow Usul, but she said nothing in return, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO US?!” I tried to get the Shadow Usul’s attention but she just flung more rocks at me. Scrambling to breathe and still move, Toby and I grabbed onto each other to help pull the other along, “She’s never going to stop Toby!” I was at my wits end and I could tell by the gasps and groans by Toby that he was as well, “We have to find a way out of here, or a way to distract her!” Toby yelped as another rock whizzed by and grazed his arm, “If you could distract her for just a second I could try to remember what I’ve learned about the Shadow Usul before,” Toby searched the field frantically for anything worth using, “Look!” he turned me around and pointed at the toxic shrooms that had led me to him, “Do you think you could hit her with one? The fumes from the shroom should confuse her, even if just for a second!” I wasn’t known for my throwing skills, but it looked like this was all we had, “I can try!” We nodded at each other and I slipped loose from his grip.

      I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, they were so sore from running and jumping, but I just had to make it to a toxic shroom! I ran as fast as I possibly could while she lobbed more projectiles at Toby and I, luckily she was laughing so much I don’t think she saw me slip away. I jumped on the shroom and swooped it into my hand, “This better work!” with all the force I could muster I launched that shroom straight at the Shadow Usul’s face!

     POW!

     The Shadow Usul shook her head furiously and started to cough, the toxic shroom had landed right on her head and engulfed her in its terrible smell. She stumbled on the branch she was perched in and fell straight to the ground. While she clutched her head and coughed I ran back to Toby, “So what do we do now?!” I shook him and he pushed me off to search through his journal, “I… I don’t know! I mean she must have some weakness, right?” he flipped through the pages furiously trying to find anything useful, “But no one ever sees her! We don’t really know what she can and can’t do!” Toby kept flipping pages and huffing when nothing was there. I couldn’t take it anymore, “We don’t have time for this! She’s down right now, let’s get out of here!” I grabbed Toby’s paw and urged him to run with me, “Do you know how to get out of here?” Toby’s voice was tired and scared, “No,” I admitted, “but I am NOT staying here, you can think of her weakness while we run!” and with that I took Toby and ran back through the trees and away from the Shadow Usul, we had enough adrenaline left in us that we didn’t really notice our lack of breath and burning muscles, but we still couldn’t see an exit to the forest, “Are we ever going to make it out?!” I tried to focus only on running, but our head start wouldn’t last for long.

     “NIGHTTIME!”

     The shrill, angry, shout boomed over the trees and all around us before our vision went black, “How many abilities does she know?!” I lamented, “Well no one knows for sure but I would say at least more than 5 which is-”

     “NOT THE TIME TOBY!”

     “Sorry…”

     We were forced to stop moving and huddle together, the Shadow Usul wasn’t laughing anymore, and now her voice came in low growls, “Toby, now would be a good time to have remembered something we can do.” Toby sighed and sat down with a plop, “The only thing I know is light, she hates the light, but it’s over now, she’s got us in the dark…” ripe with exhaustion I fell to the ground with Toby, “You have to be kidding me…” Toby found my paw in the dark and grabbed onto it, “I’m sorry I got you into this.” I could hear him starting to tear up and couldn’t help but do the same, “It’s not your fault! I’m sorry no one believed you!” I gripped his paw tight and we listened as the growls of the Shadow Usul crept closer, “I bet you thought you could just get away with that, didn’t you?!” her voice was low and filled with venom, “I’m not letting my two new playthings get away so easily!” we could hear her running at us now, but with nowhere to run and nothing we could do we just held onto each other and shut our eyes tightly.

     “Sun Ray!” A soft yet concerned voice rang out, “Aaaaaaaaaaaah! Stay away! Meddling faeries!” we heard the Shadow Usul wince in pain and run, but we were too scared to open our eyes to find out what had just happened. “What are you two doing here? Little ones shouldn’t be wandering the forest alone! Something terrible could have happened to you both!” I felt a warm hand being placed on my shoulder and flinched, “I don’t know who you are, but just leave us alone”

     “I promise we aren’t even tasty!” Toby and I shuffled away clenching our eyes tight even more, “Oh my…” the soft voice sighed, “I don’t know what happened to you two, but I promise you aren’t in danger anymore.” Toby and I took a deep breath, we weren’t sure what to do, but the Shadow Usul didn’t seem to be around anymore. I gave Toby’s paw a squeeze and slowly opened my eyes. Standing in front of us with her red bandana and a basket of fruits and veggies was the Soup Faerie! I blinked in pure surprise, must have been out collecting food for her pot!

     Toby also opened his eyes and gasped in shock, “The Soup Faerie!” he pointed up at her and she nodded slowly, “Of course, “ she looked us up and down and scowled, “You both look terrible, how long have you been in here? Did the Shadow Usul do this to you?” we both shuddered at the name, “It’s…” I began, “A long story…” Toby interrupted. The Soup Faerie frowned, but didn’t ask for details, “Let's get you two out of here, your parents must be scared half to death!” she extended her hands to us both and we gladly grabbed ahold and pulled ourselves up. The sun was finally starting to shine through the trees and we could see where the Soup Faerie had entered from, “You’re lucky I was harvesting today!” the Soup Faerie began to lecture us on safety, but we could barely hear her, we were so focused on behind us, knowing the Shadow Usul couldn’t be too far away. We eventually hit the entrance to the forest and the Soup Faerie waved goodbye to us as she left for her Soup Kitchen.

      “We made it…” I sighed in relief and look towards Toby, “Oh Toby…” he was crying silently to himself, holding his journal tight. I gave him a big hug, “It’s OK now, we’re out, you’re out, we’re going to be OK.” Toby sniffed and rubbed his eyes, “Y-yeah, I just… I don’t even know why she took me in the first place…” I scratched my head and frowned, “She wanted me to find her and kept talking about games… I guess maybe in her own twisted way, she just wanted some friends?” Toby scrunched his face up in disgust then started jotting things down in his old journal, “Are you seriously still writing about the Shadow Usul?!” I shook my head and couldn’t help but laugh, Toby blushed, “It’s all very good information! I need to document what happened so we can study it later!” I stopped in my tracks and choked on my words, “W-we?”

     “Well yeah, I kinda thought that you would help me research more of these guys now, you know? We need to know more of their weaknesses so we can help others! It’s our duty to Neopia to record this knowledge for future generations!” Toby had shaken off his fear of the Shadow Usul and was already droning on about our next investigations. “We’ll see Toby, this was a lot to go through, I don’t know if I’m ready to go on any more adventures!”

      I walked him to his home while listening to him ramble about other ghosts and evil creatures. When we got to his place you could tell it had been a while since he had been home. Toby examined the cobwebs on his door and sighed, “This is going to be a work in progress.” He wiped away the webs from his doorknob and turned back to look at me. “Thanks for not leaving me in the forest… I don’t know what would have happened to me otherwise.” I smiled gently, “Just don’t make me do it again.” I teased playfully, “And maybe… just MAYBE I would be willing to learn some more about all these creatures. I mean, who else is going to figure out how to fight them if not you, and since I’ve been through this, I feel pretty uniquely qualified for the job now.” Toby’s face lit up, “You mean it?!”

     “I said maybe!” I crossed my arms and Toby laughed, “Ok ok…” He opened his door and cringed at the inside, “Looks like I have a lot of cleaning to do, come visit me tomorrow, ok?” I nodded sincerely, “I will, and I’ll bring some cleaning supplies!” We laughed together at that one and I turned to finally go home. The only scary thing now was wondering how my mom was going to react when I showed up late, and without her super mega rare plushie!

     Maybe I could visit Toby again and hang out there instead…

     The End.

 
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