Also by dreagoddess
Collecting 1, Year Eight
A blue Korbat circled the sky over Neopia Central, then
plunged down and fluttered to a landing next to his best friend, who was sunning
on her roof. "Hey, Cass! What are you going to be for Halloween this year? General--
Cassandra, a Darigan-painted Eyrie who deeply
resented her name, had just rolled over and placed a paw on his face. "It's
Sandra," she said, "and if you finish that sentence I will injure you."
The Korbat, Daniel, put both hands around her
wrist and pulled it away to finish innocently, "Crustygums?"
Sandra laughed in spite of herself. "I'm not
sure how I'd dress up as a Tyrannian Grarrl."
"The other one would be easy for you --hey!"
He yelped and jumped backward off the roof as she swiped at him, then came back
and batted her with a wing. "Would be easy for you, but I don't think I'd make
a very convincing Lord Darigan. Not tall enough."
"And I don't look enough like a Pile of Sludge
to be what's left of General Kass," Sandra said drily. She huffed and looked
at him sheepishly from one eye. "I hate to say it, but I'm getting tired of
trick-or treating, anyway."
Daniel's eyes widened. "Tired of trick-or-treating?
How can you get tired of trick-or-treating? It's -- it's -- trick-or-treating!
C'mon, Sandra, it's our day." He looped up in the air and did
a backflip, coming back around to grin at her. "I know what this is really
about. You just know I'm going to get more houses than you, General Slowpoke.
"Oh no, you're not, and you do not get
to count every hole in an extended family's hollow tree--!" Cassandra controlled
herself and settled back on her haunches, unruffling her feathers. "I've run
out of costume ideas that I'm willing to do and don't foul my wings, and I think
I'm losing my taste for sugar." She eyed him. "Which obviously isn't a problem
you have! Flibbertigibbet."
"It's not the sugar; it's the thrill of the hunt!"
Daniel struck a grand pose for a moment, then drooped down to pleading. "C'mon,
Sandra, how can we know who wins if you're not even going? You don't
have to take the candy!"
"If I let you have my candy, you'll be vibrating
until Borovan Day," Sandra said. "I don't know. I've been wanting to really
stretch my wings lately--" She stopped, and her red eyes lit up. "Stretch our
Daniel eyed her. "Are you coming up with some
weird costume idea?"
"No! A race. You always care more about
who goes the farthest than the candy anyway. Let's put it to the test!"
The Korbat stretched out on his stomach on the
roof, kicking his legs and fluttering his wings idly in the air. "I'm listening...."
Sandra grinned. "We're old enough to stay out
the whole night now, right?"
Daniel's wings lifted and flared. "Yes...."
"How about we visit all the lands of Neopia?"
He sat right up at that. "Are you serious? I've
never even been to half of them--!" His eyes were alight now too.
"It's not like you'll have any trouble finding
your way in the dark."
"What dark? Kreludor will be full."
"Right! Then no problem." Sandra's wings rustled
eagerly. "We leave from here Halloween night, right when trick-or-treating starts.
Then we choose our own paths and visit each land, or as many as we can get to,
and meet back here at the end and see who wins!"
"But if we're not getting candy, how do we make
sure we really visited each place?"
Sandra shrugged. "So we stop at one place in
each land and get something. Like a scavenger hunt!"
Daniel's eyes glittered. "Perfect. If we get
to the same number of worlds by dawn, we compare who has the better tokens."
Collecting 31, Year 8
The two had pored over maps of Neopia throughout
the Month of Collecting, setting out what lands should be included in the count,
plotting their respective flight paths and goals based on proximity, air currents,
and endurance. Daniel intended to head north immediately after sunset, while
the air was still as warm as it would ever be that night; even with his blood
pumping from flight, he didn't care to freeze his wingtips off in the freezing
air of Terror Mountain just before dawn. Sandra's thick, insulating fur and
feathers made this less of a concern for her, but she'd argued strenuously (and
lost) against counting Meridell, Brightvale, and the Darigan Citadel separately
and intended to get them over with first.
They had each taken advantage of the free training
on Krawk Island on Eyrie Day and Korbat Day earlier in the month, and each wore
a lightweight flier's rucksack, designed to sit comfortably and release easily
without fouling their wings. As a nod to the idea of costumes, not to mention
visibility, each wore a fluorescent Halloween-orange fabric mask tied across
their eyes. They stood together next to the Rainbow Pool, the spray causing
brief flickers of strange colors and trinkets across them, and then slowly fading,
and watched for the sun to set.
The sun set; the shadows melted together; Kreludor
rose round and silver; Neopets all across Neopia Central scattered out of their
houses or lit lanterns at the door to invite (friendly!) guests; and Sandra
and Daniel bounded into the air.
They flew together at first, as they had many
times, Daniel's rapid wingbeats keeping pace with Sandra's longer stride. But
just outside of Neopia Central, they separated; Daniel veering north for the
ice and snow of Terror Mountain. Sandra watched him fly out of sight as her
steady, strong wingbeats took her east towards Meridell. Well, Darigan, to be
more exact. She thought her coloring might make it easier to gain a good token
there so early in the evening... and even though the curse was lifted, she was
still a little uncomfortable about being there too late at night!
The Citadel loomed dark and foreboding, the silver
light from Kreludor seeming to shy away from touching its surface. There wasn't
nearly the activity on the surface as she'd left behind on Neopia Central, but
a few children were running around merrily.
There were some gasps and wide eyes as she landed,
and Sandra winced. She should've thought of that before visiting, but at least
she hadn't worn a military costume! Instead she just smiled as brightly as she
could and said, "Trick or treat?"
"Oh, you're one of the crazy folk who got painted
this way on purpose," said a Darigan Techo after a moment, laughing. "You know,
lass, we're not that much for candy here."
She smiled back a little uncertainly, trying
not to blush under her feathers. "Well, I don't really need candy. Just something
to prove to my friend that I've been here."
"Oh, a dare, is it?" That didn't sound quite
"It's a race," she explained. "We're trying to
visit all the lands in Neopia before the night's out. Daniel went north first;
should be along sometime later tonight. He's a blue Korbat--" She stopped as
a long shadow fell over her.
"A blue Korbat, hm?"
She turned slowly and looked up. Way up. "L-Lord
"I'm pleased to see we're getting a few visitors
who don't want to traipse through my study." He tossed a Drackonack Yoyo at
her and smiled. "I'll keep an eye out for your friend. A couple of mine have
suggested I bring a group down to Meridell; would you care to fly with us?"
She gulped and tucked the yoyo carefully in her
sack. "Yes, um, my lord, that would be, erm, nice. That was my next stop, actually."
She ended up carrying three small Darigani children,
in her arms and clinging to her back, who weren't able to fly alone, and they
poured like a dark river over the edge of the Citadel. Sandra was startled by
how nervous she felt in Meridell, with her dark fur and claws, and how much
more comfortable she felt under the protection of Lord Darigan's group. She
ended up with a Meridellian Potato and a Parchment Fruit from Meridell and Brightvale,
respectively, and left for Kiko Lake feeling very thoughtful indeed.
Daniel had been saving a Blue Ice Cream Machine
Coupon for months, and thought that this would be the ideal time to use it.
He stowed his souvenir from Happy Valley in an insulated box and jumped nearly
out of his skin when the Snowager burst roaring out of the mouth of the Ice
Caves... and then withdrew, snickering quietly to itself. He would go to Tyrannia
next, then down around to Shenkuu, Altador, and the Lost Desert....
Sandra chose to head out across the sea while
her wings were still fresh.
They'd discussed things and decided they needed
to leave out Maraqua, Kreludor, and the space station for purely practical reasons,
so her strong wingbeats carried her across the sea to Mystery Island. She chatted
for a few moments with the Tiki Tourguide and got an Official Coconut Mask for
her efforts. Krawk Island (and a die from Bilge Dice) was next, and then she
was making the higher flight up to Faerieland.
It was midnight when Daniel made his way to Roo
Island, having flown over it on his way to Terror Mountain. It was a place of
wild revelry; evidently King Roo was very generous. Still, Daniel hesitated.
He perched atop the merry-go-round and thought very hard before making a dive
for the dark building toward the south of the island.
He would visit Count Von Roo.
It was dark. Well, it was late. But it was Halloween,
the night most Neopians stayed up as late as they could manage. He landed at
the base of the enormous, oddly shaped castle and looked around. Should he knock..?
Before he had made up his mind, the doors burst
inward, and the enormous silhouette of a Blumaroo loomed up between them. "Welcome."
The voice was sepulchrally deep, the word long and drawn out. "Would you care
to have a wager with me?"
"...Well, I don't really have a lot of time.
But maybe something quick? I'm actually on a kind of... um, a race, or a scavenger
hunt. I'm trying to visit the all the lands tonight."
Von Roo frowned fearsomely around his nose. "You
will remain," he intoned, "and play the game of Deadly Dice!"
There was a boom from behind Daniel, who hadn't
realized he had been drawn inside the doors. He flinched and looked over his
The doors were still open.
He gave the Blumaroo vampire a puzzled look.
Count Von Roo loomed. "Well?"
"...Er," Daniel said intelligently. Then he swallowed,
shrugged his wings, and said, "Sure, why not? Who goes first?"
"We shall cast the dice together. If yours is
higher, you gain a level. If mine is higher -- which it will be -- you lose
He'd never had much luck with dice, Daniel thought
with a sigh. Maybe he should just leave and see if someone else was around to
claim a token from. This was taking too long! But he shrugged again and cast
"A tie!" cried Count Von Roo. He bared his fangs.
"Shall we go double or nothing?"
Daniel looked back over his shoulder at the doors.
"I'm sorry. I'm really in a hurry -- my friend's a fast flier --"
"Let us go double or nothing," Von Roo said,
leaning forward. Daniel felt a breath across his neck; it was icy cold.
He gulped and cast again. He rolled a three,
Von Roo a five; thunder cracked from nowhere, and Daniel felt suddenly... drained.
"I win!" Count Von Roo said. He looked thoughtfully
at Daniel, then reached over to open the young Korbat's pack and tossed the
pair of dice in. "On your way, then. I have more games to play."
Daniel swallowed. And took to the air as quickly
"Thanks, Coltzan!" Sandra said gratefully as
she picked up the brilliant red gem from the sands in front of the shrine. Visiting
a real ghost on Halloween was a great idea! (And it meant not waking anyone
up, too. It had gotten quite late.)
Sandra took a moment to stretch her wings as
she thought about where to go next. The logical place was the Haunted Woods.
She could go up to Terror Mountain and Tyrannia from there, then stop by Kiko
Lake and Roo Island on her way home. But... the Haunted Woods. On Halloween.
In the middle of the night. Alone.
The Eyrie swallowed nervously, clicked her beak,
and launched into the air again with a flurry of sand.
Heading for Tyrannia.
"Thank you, King Hagan," Daniel said politely,
bowing out of Brightvale with a book. He'd had an unexpectedly warm welcome
in the Darigan Citadel, even if it had started with Lord Darigan himself of
all people looming up at him. The older Korbat had been sitting so still, grey
and black in shadow, that Daniel had initially mistaken him for a gargoyle,
which was rather embarrassing. King Hagan, on the other hand, had assigned him
Daniel was starting to tire, so he flew high
and spread his wings their farthest to catch a current and hang on the air as
he slid south and west. He was feeling both frightened and foolish -- he had
one final destination, and he could have gone there much earlier in the night
and had it over with, but instead he'd gone looping around to visit the southern
islands first. He wasn't sure how far along Sandra was, but he guessed she had
gone at least as far as he had -- faster if she'd taken a more sensible route.
But he couldn't put it off any longer. The Haunted
Woods loomed up as he approached them, inky darkness seeming to spread above
the trees, though there were no clouds.
A closer shadow sprang out of the air at him,
and Daniel yelped and went reeling. The shadow squawked.
Squawked? And was that a streak of fluorescent
orange? Daniel let out a short ultrasonic squeak and then cried out in delight.
"Sandra! It's you!"
"Wha-- oh, Daniel!" Sandra righted herself in
the air. "So, uh, how far along are you?"
They looked at each other. Daniel coughed a little.
"Don't tell me a big strong Darigan Eyrie is scared to go into the Haunted Woods."
Sandra huffed through her nose. "Aren't Korbats
native to the Haunted Woods?"
"Yeah, but there's a reason I live in Neopia
Central." He glanced down. "Go in together, race you on the flight home?"
"Sounds good. Who do we visit?"
"...None of them seem very friendly, from the
stories. And I don't really have time to play with anagrams or go on a quest."
Circling overhead, Daniel noticed something he hadn't heard of before in the
tales of the Haunted Woods. "Hey, that looks like a gypsy camp. They'll probably
be nice, right?"
"Maybe," Sandra said. "Or the camp could be an
illusion used by magical spirits to lure people down and steal them away to
Daniel stared at her.
"Um, or they could just be perfectly nice real
gypsies," she added hastily.
As they dived down into the Haunted Woods, they
noticed that the place was remarkably loud. There were screams, shrieks,
creaking, cracking, people running... wild laughter, thundering through the
ground with a high cackle over it in the air. The two friends stuck close together
as they landed just outside the edge of the camp's circle of firelight.
A pink Elephante with heavy eyebrows and a book
on his knees looked up from talking to a somewhat disheveled Usul. "Ah, more
visitors!" he cried. "Come warm yourselves by the fire. Would you hear a tale?
Or tell one?"
"We're trick-or-treating," Daniel said. "We were
racing each other around Neopia, but we got here the same time."
"Hmm." The Elephante's black eyebrows jumped
and drew together as he eyed the young Korbat warily. "And what tricks do you
Sandra's eyes widened a little. "We're not looking
to trick anybody," she said hastily. "It's just an expression."
"It's just an expression you may want to be careful
of in these woods!" was the reply.
"Erm, sorry. We're just trying to visit all the
lands in Neopia, and bring back some kind of a, um, token from each. You know,
to prove we were there. This is our last one. It doesn't have to be anything
much, really..." Her voice trailed off.
The Elephante looked at them thoughtfully, then
settled back onto his seat with a chuckle through his trunk. "Prove to whom?"
They glanced at each other and laughed. "Well,
each other, really," Daniel said. "It's just a game. But we did have to stop
down here and ask, or it wouldn't have counted."
"All the lands in a night, just for fun? Quite
a flight!" Their host rumbled another laugh. "Well, if this is your last stop,
have you time to rest and tell us of it?"
"We're supposed to be home by dawn," Daniel said,
"but we have a little time...."
"Tell swiftly, then," the Elephante said. "Cheerier
stories than those in my book are better for this night!"
Sandra blinked. "They are? --But I thought Halloween
was for scary stories."
The little Usul shook her head, grinning. "Every
night is for scary stories in the Haunted Woods -- except Halloween, when everything's
for fun. Can't you hear the celebrating?"
They stopped and listened... and with this new
perspective, they slowly began to realize that the cacophony among the trees
and clearings, for all its spooky sound, was really a party.
"I think I've learned a lot," Sandra said slowly.
The Elephante chuckled. "Isn't that the point
of traveling, my fine young friends? You get to learn new things about the places
you visit, and about yourselves!"
They smiled at him.
And told their tales.
And in the end the Elephante stretched and said,
"Those were good stories, and daylight is coming. You must be home before it
arrives, and we must be... away. This young Usul Gilly is not of our camp, and
has lost her way in the dark paths before. Might you bypass them and fly her
"Gilly?" Daniel said in surprise. "Wait -- are
you that Gilly?"
She grinned. "Yes. I'm not actually lost tonight,
but I was when I first found the camp."
"I can carry you," Sandra said, "if you point
me the right direction. ...If this doesn't sound too stupid, could we have your
"Are you kidding? Nobody ever asked me that before.
They half expected to end up lost on the way
to Gilly's home, as she seemed to have a habit of ending up in improbable places,
but arrived without incident. Granted, Sandra and Daniel were fairly disoriented
by the time they got there -- but they still knew which way was up, and once
they were above the trees they had no trouble.
It no longer seemed quite so important to win
the race home, somehow, but they had to fly fast nonetheless -- they'd be in
trouble if they weren't home before the sun came up. They touched down together,
just as the eastern sky was brightening.
"That was wild," Daniel said, collapsing gently
onto the ground like a half-folded umbrella. "But a good idea. Want to do it
again next year?"
Sandra shook out her tired wings. "Not on your
life!" But then she stopped to think about it. The thrill of flight, the real
challenge in distance and speed, the people she'd met and the ways they'd surprised
her.... She knew there were real dangers (for instance, there was a reason she'd
stuck to the touristy areas of Mystery Island, and not ventured into the heart
of the jungle), but it had definitely been worthwhile. "Actually," she said
more slowly, "sure. Make it a tradition." They started walking toward their
Neohomes. "But next year, I'm going to exercise more."