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A Reluctant Lesson from the Count

by hilde_incognito


"I don't believe it," whispered Arraeya the blue Acara firmly.

     Her friend nodded nervously, knowing that once Arraeya had an idea, it would be a while before she let it go.

     Laylah sighed, wondering how long this would last.

     Arraeya stood up, and stared out at the sunny horizons of Roo Island, deep in thought.

     The optimistic and cheerful design of the island was visible as far as the eye could see... except for the dark, mottled crypt in one corner. Count von Roo's lair stood out like a bruise on a fresh apple.

     "He's never awake," continued Arraeya, gesturing towards the crypt.

     "Yes," replied Laylah, trying to imagine where Arraeya could be going with this discussion.

     "So I think that Count von Roo doesn't even exist!"

     Laylah let out a strangled gasp, and Arraeya smiled at her solitary audience.

     "Indeed! There is no Count von Roo! And why? Have you ever seen anyone come out of that building other than the stray Neopian that happens to wander in? NO!"

     Arraeya's eyes took on her signature plotting gaze, and her red Aisha friend squirmed anxiously.

     "So, Laylah, what we're going to do is find out whether or not von Roo exists. For the good of Neopia!"

     Laylah rolled her eyes.

     "You've been playing too many vide-"

     "Avast!" shrieked Arraeya, and pulled her friend by the arm. "All we have to do is wait... the legend says he awakens at midnight..."


     Later that night, Laylah found herself standing on top of the roof of her Neohome, staring out at the stars.

     Her owner was sleeping, so she must be extremely cautious. The full moon cast the complete glow of midnight over the land.

     It was time to meet Arraeya... and the Count, if he existed.

     "But I know he does!" Laylah beseeched to the stars. "Why can't Arraeya just go alone?"

     The yard was silent, and the Aisha sighed, winding herself around the drainpipe, and sliding down to the grass. As an Aisha, she was very stealthy and could see well in the dark-but even tonight, Laylah felt things going out of focus-and knew her vision wasn't to blame.

     Upon arriving at Roo Island, Laylah wandered cautiously over to the crypt, and sat down on a stone outside the mysterious building.

     "Where IS Arraeya?" she murmured, nervously. It was getting later and later-perhaps it was already midnight.

     Even as these thoughts rolled in her head, Laylah heard a creaking sound, that chilled her very essence.

     "Ah-ah-Arraeya?" she questioned the night, softly, but there was no reply.

     The sound, she now realized, could not have been Arraeya. It was coming from... the crypt.

     "Hey, you!" called another, unseen voice.

     Laylah stood up and looked around; finally noticing what appeared to be a large, dark figure in the distance.

     The figure, a hulking mass of pure muscle, clumped forward, apparently searching for something, and additionally, not afraid of the darkness that cloaked them.

     It glanced at Laylah, finally noticing her.

     "Kid, isn't a bit late to be-"

     His sentence was never finished. The Aisha, terrified of perhaps being arrested for being out too late, began to run blindly ahead, searching for any sort of shelter...

     Her eyes fell on the crypt, and, not thinking clearly, Laylah stumbled ahead, pulling open the rusty door and sliding into the home of Count Von Roo.

     The door clicked shut behind her, and Laylah could feel her eyes adjusting to the thick darkness that now surrounded her.

     "Greetings, child," hissed a quiet voice from the corner of the room.

     Laylah could not suppress a muffled shriek that arose as she noticed what appeared to be a coffin in the back of the room.

     A shadow shuffled forward, and, instantly, Laylah found herself looking into the eyes of the eeriest Blumaroo she had ever seen. His eyes were bloodshot and empty, as though he had lost years of sleep, but this could not block the fact that they held an irrepressible taint of... evil.

     "C-c-count von Roo?" she stuttered, unsure of what she should do to escape. Surely even the police would be preferable to this... oh, if only Arraeya was here!

     The Count chuckled.

     "Indeed. And how exactly would you know that?"

     He grinned, his fingers clicking together.

     "It's so nice to have a visitor, it's been-what? Weeks since I stole that Grundo's level?" He stared at the wall, where Laylah could see a large patch of strange markings.

     Count von Roo waved his hand dismissively.

     "Doesn't matter. Now, little Aisha-you seem to be rather young. Are you interested in... a game?"

     "I-I-I, uh..."

     The Count shuffled over to a corner of the room, by the coffin, and retrieved a large box, holding six items that Laylah recognized as dice, almost exactly like the ones the other inhabitants of the island used to play Dice-a-Roo.

     "I will have a die," he scooped two dice out of the box, "and you will have one."

     He placed the wooden cube in her quivering paw and continued.

     "We will both roll. If your die comes up higher, you will win a level."

     "A-a level?" murmured Laylah, almost forgetting her fear. If she went up a level, she wouldn't have to listen to Arraeya anymore, who constantly bragged about how she was Level Three.

     "However, there is a small catch," said Count von Roo sadly.

     "You see, if I roll the higher dice, I'm afraid that you, well, you know, lose a level."

     Laylah gulped. That would put her back on Level One. Was it worth it?

     She envisioned for a moment how she could be the leader of the two now, she, Laylah, level 3, survivor of Count von Roo...

     However, the image of Arraeya laughing and jeering at her as a Level One stuck in the back of her mind.

     Count von Roo was smiling absently, and tossing the dice lightly from hand to hand.

      Laylah continued to ponder. Was it really worth just being able to lord over Arraeya? Why, she would just be sinking to her level... literally...

     "C-count? Count von Roo? I've made a decision."



     The next morning, Arraeya stormed past Laylah's owner and into the Aisha's bedroom, where Laylah was sleeping soundly, exhausted from the night's endeavors.

     "Where WERE you?" screamed the Acara, tossing a pillow at Laylah, waking her up immediately.

     Without waiting for a response, Arraeya continued.

     "I waited all night for you by the merry-go-round, and you never came! That was the plan, you were supposed to follow it!"

     "WAS that the plan?" replied Laylah evenly. "Or was that simply what you thought I should do?"

      Arraeya remained completely silent, mouth gaping.

     "Lah-lah-laylah, you said more than one word!!!"

     The Aisha stood up, hands on hips.

     "You can bet I did. Arraeya, if you want to continue this friendship, you're going to have to be a little less... bossy!"

     Arraeya remained completely shocked and silent.

     "But-but-you never minded-that-I was bossy! You were just so-weak!"

     Suddenly, her eyes lit up.

     "Wait a minute! Did you meet the Count? Did you really go to the crypt? Did you gain a level? Did he possess you?"

     "The Count didn't do anything to me," responded Aisha firmly, "other than simply show me what was truly wrong with my current situation."

     Smiling slightly, she leapt out of her room to go leave a little something at the crypt. After all, even if she hadn't decided to play his game, Count von Roo had accidentally taught her an important lesson.

The End

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