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Hour of The Haunted Woods

by alexrae963


"Are we there yet?" a whiny voice asked for the twentieth time that day. Jake, the Baby Lupe, groaned miserably as he paced on all four paws across the muddy, swampy grounds of the Haunted Woods. It had been Lila's idea - his older sister, a Cloud Bori - that they spend the day together for some family bonding time. Lila had suggested the idea, so Jake had been the one to propose where they go.

      "Jake, if you don't shut up in the next ten seconds I'm going to-" Kimble began, but shook her head and let her annoyance blow over. There was no point in lashing out at her brother. The Faerie Kacheek glanced over at her younger sister, Shootingtail, the Shadow Xweetok, and asked softly, "How long do you think it will take to get there?"

      "I don't know," Shootingtail replied drowsily as she held back a yawn. "We've been walking all day - Jake, was it honestly worth taking a boat just to rummage around in some creepy old forest?"

      "Duh!" Jake replied excitedly, grinning at Shootingtail in a strange manner. The Xweetok sweat-dropped as her little brother went on. "This will be fun! I mean, come on, think about it: how often do we ever get to leave our home on Mystery Island, unsupervised, and get the chance to live a little? Besides, it's not a school-day, so we have plenty of time to enjoy ourselves!"

      "I suppose you're right," Lila agreed softly. With a little sigh she dared to ask, "I just have one question, Jake: Why the heck did you have to choose these dumb WOODS!"

      Crokabeks soared up from their hiding places among the treetops and took to the air, spiraling upwards into the sun's light until they were tiny specks. Lila, Jake, Shootingtail and Kimble all froze, truly observing their surroundings for the first time. The trees were stripped of their leaves, and the air held a bitter chill, unlike the warm sunshine and tropical breezes on Mystery Island. The trees' branches were so thick, it was a wonder that any sunlight could get through the maze of twigs and dead leaves.

      "Because..." Jake murmured, looking around shiftily, as he allowed a small smile to cross his face. "These woods are filled with mystery, and only the misunderstood dare to dwell here."

      Kimble rolled her eyes as she murmured teasingly, "The misunderstood? In that case, you'll fit right in here, Jake."

      Lila and Shootingtail both gave a small hoot of laughter and continued pacing ahead, their doubt and uneasiness slowly evaporating.

      After a half an hour of walking, Jake groaned once more, "Are we there yet?"

      "For the last time Jake, no!" all three of his siblings snapped at the same time.

      "Hey, look, we're here!" Jake chirped up, ignoring his sisters' bewildered looks.

      "Great timing, too," Kimble mused thoughtfully, stretching her wings, as she allowed herself to drop onto her feet and resort to walking, rather than flight from here on out.

      The four Neopets nervously - except for Jake, who was brimming with excitement - walked along through the gates. A crooked old sign rocked on hinges that had aged read in fearsome lettering, "Deserted Fairgrounds: Enter If You Dare." Of course, being the intelligent Neopets they were, they decided to ignore the openly-placed warning and entered.

      "OH MY GOD, LOOK!" Jake yelled excitedly, pointing at the first booth they saw: Coconut Shy. "Can we play? Please? Please, please, please, please, pleaseee?" Jake begged, dropping onto his knees as he looked up and gave his sisters the irresistible cute eyes. Oh no, not the cute eyes! The cute eyes were Jake's favorite trick. Inwardly, he smirked, knowing that his siblings would be unable to say no.

      Lila gasped and yelped, "Quick, shield your eyes before it's too late!"

      "It's too late for me," Shootingtail sighed as she reached into her backpack and pulled out a paw-full of Neopoints. "Knock yourself out, Jake."

      "YES!" Jake cheered, eagerly taking the Neopoints away from his sister as he purred, "Thank you, Shootingtail, you're the best!" He gave the Xweetok a grateful hug and took off, dashing ahead towards the rather intimidating Quiggle who ran the game.

      "Sorry," Shootingtail mumbled, lowering her head.

      "Hey, it's alright," Kimble said, giving Shootingtail a reassuring look. "Hey, if you hadn't done it, I would have given him the Neopoints! His innocence is just too much!" She laughed heartily before walking after Jake.

      Shootingtail and Lila hurriedly paced after them and made it in time to see Jake hurl chuck his first ball at the coconut, which hardly wobbled at the force of the impact. The Quiggle smirked evilly and eyed Jake with little interest as he handed him his 50-Neopoint prize.

      "What?" Jake hissed, narrowing his eyes. "That was a perfect throw!" He gave a snort of disapproval and thrust another 100 Neopoints into the Quiggle's hands before grabbing another ball. He reared back his right paw and threw the ball with such ferocity it missed, hit the curtain, and bounced back, nearly smacking the Quiggle in the back of the head.

      "Hey, watch it, kid!" the Quiggle grumbled. "A little less strength, more aim, please."

      "Sorry," Jake mumbled, dipping his head apologetically, as he handed the Coconut Shy keeper another 100 Neopoints.

      Shootingtail narrowed her eyes thoughtfully as she observed the coconuts a bit more closely. Were those nails sticking out of the base of the coconuts...?

      At that same second Jake threw the ball, which rammed into a tall narrow coconut. The coconut didn't even budge.

      "Another loser! Here's 50 Neopoints," the Quiggle sneered as he gave Jake his booby prize.

      "B-but..." Jake whined, staring pitifully at his prize. "That isn't fair!"

      "Big deal. Life isn't fair, kid," the Quiggle shrugged as he counted his Neopoints with a delighted grin.

      "Hang on," Shootingtail growled as she paced towards the game caretaker. "If I'm not mistaken, sir, aren't those nails sticking out of the coconuts, or am I mistaken?"

      "WHAT?" Jake growled as he whipped around to glare eye-to-eye with the Quiggle. "You ripped me off?"

      "N-now-now," the Quiggle gulped, swallowing nervously, "Th-there's no need to ma-make a scene, is there?"

      "Scene?" shrieked Jake as he jumped on to the Quiggle's shirt and began shaking him violently. "GIVE ME MY TEN THOUSAND NEOPOINTS NOW, OR I'LL REPORT YOU TO THE DEFENDERS OF NEOPIA!"

      "Jake!" Lila, Kimble, and Shootingtail gasped, as they all ran forward to try and pry Jake off the poor Quiggle's shirt.


      About ten minutes later, Jake walked off triumphantly, snuggling a bag of ten thousand Neopoints, while his three sisters followed behind him. It had taken a little while to finally get Jake to calm down, and the Quiggle had finally agreed to give him the ten thousand if the little Lupe released him. We should all feel bad for the Quiggle who runs the Coconut Shy, for now he had a terrible fear of Baby Lupes.

      Lila rolled her eyes as she asked softly, "Okay, where to now?"

      "I don't know about you guys, but I'm starving," Shootingtail moaned as she licked her lips, imagining sinking her teeth into a juicy apple, or some nachos. Anything, really.

      "Me too," Kimble piped up, stretching tiredly in the afternoon light. "It's around 12:00 P.M. NST, right? It's about time for lunch."

      "Good idea," Lila agreed with a nod. With a swish of her clouded-tail, she made her way towards an interesting-looking pink stand with a sign that read "Spooky Foods."

      "If it croaks, flaps, or slithers, chances are you can buy it here! Yummy!" a spooky-looking Bruce greeted them with a formal nod.

      Lila blinked awkwardly before turning towards her brother and sisters, declaring, "Pick what you want to eat and I'll buy it."

      "Thanks!" Jake said as he merrily approached the cart, accompanied by the others.

      "See anything you like?" the Bruce asked, smirking evilly. For some reason, everybody at the Fairgrounds liked to smirk evilly...

      Lila's eyes widened as she stared in horror at the crazed concoctions for sale. Kimble's face turned a pale white while Shootingtail gingerly picked up a green, slim object and whispered, "Wh-what is this?"

      "Why, that would be a Sun Dried Techo Claw, dearie," the Bruce replied calmly, raising a curious brow.

      "Dude, isn't that cannibalism?" Jake asked, eyes wide in alarm.

      "Uh, no," the Bruce coughed awkwardly, looking around shiftily.

      "Ick!" Kimble croaked with a look of disgust. "Who in Neopia would eat this stuff? Wait, don't answer that question. I'd rather not know."

      "Let's just get something that looks safe enough to eat," Jake suggested, pointing at the pumpkin pie for sale. "See? That looks pretty decent."


      "I couldn't have said that better myself."

      "Let's hurry and buy it, then go."

      After the four had eaten, they left, feeling a bit more bright and confidant. Just then, a horrid looking mutant Blumaroo with a fearful expression hopped past, yelling fearfully, "The Master will be angry if I do not bring him his Phear Spines!"

      "Keep close," Shootingtail ordered, flicking her silver tail nervously. "Some of the creatures in these woods aren't right in the head."

      Jake nodded, then added thoughtfully, "Didn't I tell you guys earlier, they're not insane, just-"

      "Misunderstood, we know," Shootingtail, Kimble, and Lila interrupted him mid-sentence with a small laugh.

      "Hey, look, isn't that the Brain Tree up ahead?" Kimble pointed out.

      "Yeah, it is," Lila whispered, blinking in surprise. "He sure does look fierce and intimidating."

      "Let's go this way," Jake suggested. "I think I see a campsite ahead."

      The four Neopets bravely ventured ahead towards a mustachioed Elephante, who beckoned them over with a wave of his hand.

      "It's dangerous to get lost in these woods," he says. "Trees and creatures roam the night, and they can swallow the unwary. It's no accident that so many legends and myths surround this place; in fact, I was reading about one just now. Would you like to hear-"

      "No thanks! Bor-ring!" Jake grumbled, stretching in the warm campfire's light.

      The Elephante looked astonished. "B-but," he protested, "you must listen to my story in order for you to become curious and decide to venture off into the woods and discover Neovia, the locket, and begin completing the plot-"

      "Sorry, sir, but what you're saying to me is only going in one ear and out the other," Jake interrupted sarcastically, shrugging. "And what are you talking about? There's no such thing as plots, or Neovia! That's a myth! Come on guys, let's go." With saying that, Jake stood and walked off with Shootingtail, Lila, and Kimble following closely, leaving a baffled Elephante behind.

      "As I said before," Lila mumbled loudly, shaking her head, "the Neopets around here are just plain crazy. Now, who else would care to go visit Edna and see if we can do one of her quests?"


      "I said get out!" a furious Edna shrieked, shaking her stirring fork at the sky, as Jake, Lila, Kimble and Shootingtail pelted out, looking rather startled.

      "You just had to knock over the cauldron and get us kicked out, didn't you, Jake?" Lila panted, once they were a safe distance away from Edna's Tower. "And I was just beginning to try and persuade her in letting me keep one of her pretty flower-painted neggs, too!"

      "Sorry!" Jake whined, pressing closer to Kimble, who patted him on the head.

      "It's alright," Kimble soothed, giving Lila a warning look.

      "Actually," Shootingtail spoke up, "I think my doing of accidentally stepping on Edna's t-tail might have been what ticked her off..."

      Lila waved a paw and replied sullenly, "Sorry for snapping at you guys. I just - hey, wait, where are we, anyway?"

      This question caused them to spin around in time to watch the Esophagor rise from the ground and moan. "I muuuussst haaaave food. Yoooou theeerree-" He raised a hand and pointed at Shootingtail as he spoke. "Bring meeeee foooood anddd I wiiilll rewaaarrrdd you weeellll..."

      "Uhh," Shootingtail coughed awkwardly, shrinking under the Esophagor's agitated stare. "S-should I do it?" she squeaked, crouching even lower against the ground.

      "I don't know, I mean, what's the worst that could happen?" Kimble suggested boldly, as she stepped forward towards the Esophagor. "Alright, what do you want, Esophagor?"

      "Briiiinnnnggg meeeeee Bowl-O-Bonessss," the Esophagor ordered.

      "What?!" Kimble yelped, looking rather startled. "Are you insane? Those things cost 94,000 Neopoints!"

     "BRINGGGG MEEEEE BOWL-OF-BONES NOOOOWW!" the Esophagor roared, lurching forward.

      "RUN FOR THE HILLS! LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!" Kimble screamed, as she instantly took to flight and stretched her orange wings in the air. Lila sped after Shootingtail and Jake, whom had sped ahead on all fours.

      "Just when I thought we would get killed," Jake panted, as he skidded to a halt. Kimble lighted down next to Lila as Shootingtail voiced meekly, "I-I don't know about you guys, but the Haunted Woods n-now officially creeps me-me out."

      "Now I suddenly regret coming here," Jake murmured with his tail drooping and ears flattened against his head.

      "Let's find the exit and get out of these creepy woods," Kimble suggested with a slight shudder, suddenly glancing around. "Where exactly is the entrance, anyway?" she asked with a nervous laugh.

      Jake, Lila, Kimble and Shootingtail all gulped, their eyes widened, as they slowly glanced around. These parts of the woods were darkened, unlike the rest, and through the overhanging branches, the first glimpses of the moon and stars began to glow; the sun was now well below the horizon line. Suddenly, Jake inched closer to Kimble as he heard an eerily familiar sound - the cry of a Lupe, lost and angry, its cry filled with the intent of revenge and pain.

      "What time is it?" Lila asked.

      "Late," Shootingtail answered tersely with a quick glance around.

      "How could we have gotten lost?" Kimble asked. "Didn't you have the map, Shootingtail?"

      "I gave it to Lila after you gave it to me," Shootingtail answered. She glanced at Lila.

      "I certainly don't have it," Lila stated formally. "I gave it to Jake." All eyes fell on the Baby Lupe, who had been slowly inching away.

      "Well... I... kinda got hungry, since that pumpkin pie hadn't been very filling, so I..."

      "YOU ATE THE MAP?!" Lila screeched as she grabbed Jake by the scruff and began shaking him. Kimble and Shootingtail both slumped to their feet as Lila shook Jake. "HOW COULD YOU HAVE EATEN THE MAP?"

      "I was hungry!" Jake whined as Lila released him. If it hadn't been for the seriousness of the situation, the scene would have looked extremely comical.

      "Besides, we Lupe are proud trackers and can easily navigate without the use of stupid maps that most Neopets require-"

      "We're not Lupes, though," Lila reminded him in annoyance.

      "Let's try retracing our steps," Kimble suggested, trying to be the voice of reason.

      The four agreed upon this and began walking backwards, but after an hour of endlessly searching, they retreated to the edge of a clearing to rest.

      "We're doomed to become ghosts without the Paintbrush and wonder aimlessly for all of eternity!" Shootingtail's voice became a sarcastic wail as she looked around.

      "Hey, aren't Xweetoks supposed to be good trackers?" Kimble asked hopefully, smiling.

      "S-sorry, I'm not much of a woods folk," Shootingtail replied, frowning in dismay.

      "Guys! Guys!" Jake's voice rose high into the night as he scampered towards them, his blue eyes gleaming with excitement.

      "What is it?" Lila asked.

      "I found an old abandoned cemetery not far from here!" Jake panted as he skidded to a halt. "There was a candlelight beside one of the graves, so I ran back to fetch you guys."

      "Wow, Jake, for once you actually did a good job!" Lila beamed at her brother.

      "Thanks - hey, wait a second," Jake growled, narrowing his eyes in both amusement and annoyance.

      "Let's hurry!" Shootingtail urged as she suddenly bolted ahead with cunning speed, which all Xweetoks seemed to posses. Kimble easily kept up, while Lila and Jake found this some what harder to do. It wasn't long until all four raced down a slope, churning up dead leaves with their paws as they ran, and skidded into the clearing.

      "Where is this candle you saw?" Kimble asked as she hovered on gentle wing beats.

      "This way," Jake answered, and spun around, cautiously pacing forward with his ears pricked. Hesitantly his siblings followed; a moment later they stood beside a large tombstone that was shrouded in dust and mystery, the writing on it old and hard to read.

      "Where is this candle you mentioned?" Lila asked.

      "Yeah," Kimble grumbled. "All I see is a bunch of dug-up graves."

      "B-but there was a candle here! And I heard voices talking in a harsh whisper!" Jake protested.

      "Stop it, this isn't funny," Shootingtail stated abruptly.

      "You guys, I-" Jake began, but cut off in mid-sentence as he gazed in utter shock. Behind his siblings, unknown to them, a pale-furred Kougra, now a ghost, most-likely, stood behind them, its eyes gleaming with a deadly intent.

      "Kimble, Lila, Shootingtail," Jake squeaked, "slowly walk forward, away from where you're standing."

      "What are you talking about?" Kimble asked as she poked Jake on the head. "Lila, does his forehead feel warm to you? I think he may be delirious from eating that map."

      "I'm fine!" Jake shrieked, puffing out his chest. "BEHIND YOU!"

      Lila, Shootingtail, and Kimble spun around wildly, only to stare at the endless sea of graves. "There's nothing there," Kimble pointed out.

      "B-but," Jake gasped as his sisters glared at him.

      "This is serious-" Lila's voice suddenly trailed off as she froze, eyes widening like full moons. She began trembling violently, her eyes fixed on something past Jake's shoulders. Slowly, all three Neopets turned to follow Lila's gaze, which was fixed on a large group of ghost Neopets. Their eyes were clouded over; death glowed in their eyes like fire; and they all glared at the intruders whom had invaded their resting place, which had been disturbed with recent activity of grave digging.

      "G-G-G-G-G-Ghosts..." Shootingtail squeaked, slowly backing away.

      "See!" Jake piped up obnoxiously, oblivious to the fact that the legions of the undead stood hardly ten feet away from him. "There are ghost-"

      "Not the time," Lila whispered, swallowing nervously.

      "Hi," Kimble awkwardly greeted the ghosts. "We're, uhhh, just lost. Yeah, uhh.. We'll be leaving now."

      "Intruders," the Ghost Kougra from earlier growled, his eyes raging storms of anger. "Take intruders to leader," he hissed in a voice that could rival the Snowager's fierce roar, yet at the same time, was as soft as the wind.

      "RUUUUUNN!" Lila screamed the command and whirled around, running in the same direction. There was no need to wait for her siblings; they had the same exact idea, and didn't need to be reminded twice.

      As the wave of ghosts followed, Lila panted to Jake as they ran, "I'm sorry I didn't believe you!"

      "It's... alright..." Jake answered as his lungs fought with the effort to breathe.

      "I can see the exit to the Haunted Woods!" Kimble cheered, her eyes wide from fear as she increased her stride.

      "The ghosts are gaining!" Shootingtail shrieked.

      Just as the four Neopets raced through the gates of the Haunted Woods, leaving the Fairgrounds behind, the most amazing thing happened: when Lila glanced back over her shoulder, expecting to see the worst, what she saw stunned her. The ghosts had stopped at the very entrance of the gates and glared after them, their fiery stares burning through her clouded fur.

      "Look," Jake marveled curiously. "It's almost as if they can't leave."

      "Well, then, we're in luck," Kimble pointed out as she watched the spirits slowly fade away like morning mist. "I can already sense dawn's arrival. Come on, let's head back to Neopia Central - it'll be another few hours before we reach there if we begin walking now."

      "Aww," Jake whined. "More walking?"

      "Hey, be grateful," Lila sighed. "C'mon, let's shake a tail and get on with it."

      As the four siblings made their way in the opposite direction of the rusted gates which marked the entrance to the Haunted Woods, Lila murmured softly, "Jake?"

      "Yes?" Jake asked casually.

      "The next time we decide to spend the day together, please choose somewhere normal."

      "Okay," Jake replied, grinning. "How about next time we explore the caves of Terror Mountain? I'm sure the Snowager likes company-"

      "Jake!" everyone yelled at once in exasperation.

      "What?" Jake purred, his eyes glinting in amusement. "It was a joke. Next time, Shootingtail can decide."

The End

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