Vinsetta: Part Three
Viena stood on her tiptoes with her nose pressed against the cold glass, staring into the elegant ballroom. It was like she had stepped into a dream, and was witnessing everything through a fog, the pale light casting ethereal shadows. The musicians played their instruments on the stage, Neopets chatted as they sat around tables, and many couples moved across the dance floor. And among those who spun in graceful circles were Viena’s parents.
She couldn’t take her eyes off of them. Her father, a tall shadow Wocky, wore a handsome dark suit; her mother was draped in a gorgeous crimson evening gown. The white Wocky was beautiful and poised, everything that Viena had always hoped that she could someday be.
Shor had flapped his wings and flown up to peer through the window above his friend. He sought out the familiar faces in the crowd, pressing his small hands against the glass for support.
He then asked a question which made Viena feel as if she had been standing upon the roof of the stately mansion, and had toppled over the edge: “Why aren’t they dancing with each other?”
And then, it was as if Viena was seeing everything in a different light.
The brown Wocky’s father waltzed about the floor, leading an attractive Aisha with flowing, wavy hair, who wore a tight black dress that broadened into ruffles near her pointed shoes. Her mother turned in the arms of a polished Kyrii, his nose pointed out as he held her around the waist.
The party transformed before Viena’s eyes. The dim music which could be heard faintly through the glass became sinister, the notes growing lower and more powerful. The smiles on the chatting Neopets turned to sneers, dark scowls as they sat rigidly and sipped wine, conversing in unheard voices. Eyes that had exuded elegance now became stiff and cold with conceit. The beautiful gowns of the dancers twisted into gaudy fashions, and the pale light seemed to fade into a somber blue, bathing the ballroom in its icy aura.
The wind of the Haunted Woods suddenly felt colder, and Viena shivered. Shor came down from the window and stood beside her. “Maybe,” he said slowly, as the night pressed in upon them, “we should go...”
Viena looked between the curtains for a moment longer, staring past the flickering flame of the lone candle that sat on the windowsill. She watched them, dancing without each other... without her.
Their eyes were solemn, betraying no enjoyment or passion. They merely danced, moving like ghosts in gentle circles, rotating as Viena watched from outside.
And for a moment, as both mother and father turned on one beat, their eyes met those of their daughter. An instant passed in which Viena stared right at them, a split second glance. And then they moved on, their heads turning away as they danced, their eyes cold and emotionless, as if they had not even seen her.
Viena lowered herself from her toes, her hands sliding down the grey stone of the building. She looked at Shor and nodded once, slowly. “We should go,” she said quietly.
“Viena,” said Shor, hesitating and looking at the tall window.
She walked across the balcony and stood at the top of the flight of steps. She turned to glance at the pale blue doors of the mansion, and then at Shor. “Let’s go,” she said, and she began to descend the stairs.
Shor ran to catch up with her, flapping his wings occasionally to keep balance.
The palatial building soon faded into the darkness of the night, and once more the Wocky and Shoyru were alone in the Haunted Woods. Viena had not said a word, and Shor flew along beside her, sharing in her troubled silence.
Viena clutched her black shawl tightly at her neck, and she stared at the leafy ground as she walked. The wind took turns between buffeting her cheeks and lurking behind the trees, whispering dark secrets as the Wocky’s eyes watched her feet pad across identical patches of earth.
Viena heard a rustling sound nearby, and she looked up, only to walk right into a creature that had stepped in front of her.
They collided before she could open her mouth, and the small Wocky was knocked to the ground. She looked up and could see a frightening shape silhouetted against the half moon: it was incredibly tall, with jet black feathers sticking out at odd angles. A curving, sharp beak protruded from its head.
Viena scrambled away from it, kicking against the ground with her feet as she struggled to regain her balance. It reached for her with a long wing, and she leapt up, grabbing Shor’s hand.
The shadow lunged at them, but they were too quick; driven by fear, the two Neopets fled into the night.
Viena did not stop running until she was sure that they had shaken the pursuer off their trail. “What was that?” she asked, panting.
“Do you think it had anything to do with that Lupe?” asked Shor. “Maybe they followed us from the grove.”
“I don’t know,” said Viena, shivering with a mixture of fright and cold. She rubbed her arms together.
Looking up, the Wocky could see a faint light.
Shor followed her gaze. A flickering glow was visible not far off. “It looks like a fire,” said the Shoyru.
Viena nodded. “Come on,” she said. Blowing on her hands, which were growing numb, she hurried toward the nearby flames.
When they arrived, Viena and Shor could see that there was a small fire crackling on the ground, which had been cleared of leaves. It rested in the center of a curious ring of trees: they grew very close together, were very thick and tall, and were completely bare at the bottom, spreading into branches high above. The circle was not large; in fact, the clearing was small enough to be almost fully lit by the light of the flames.
The warm orange glow and its promise of heat was enough to make Viena dash through a narrow gap between two trees before she even looked to see if anyone else was nearby. Shor followed at her shoulder, and both of them hurried up to the neat pile of logs, reaching forward to heat their hands.
But no warmth came. The fire was as cold as the rest of the Haunted Woods, and Viena felt her heart sink, and then jump as a voice came from off to the side: “It’s not a real fire.”
The brown Wocky turned to see a sight that nearly made her shriek in fear. A white skull loomed in the darkness, set with blood red eyes and framed by two black ears. As it approached, Viena realized that it was a Halloween Bori: he had cracked bone plates running down his back, and his fur was dark as shadow. Tufts of crimson lined his ears and tail.
Immediately, however, Viena knew that he was harmless. She didn’t run away, or even turn her gaze. His eyes met hers, and the Wocky could see something in them that she rarely experienced: kindness, though tempered with pain that she did not understand.
He spoke again, in a quiet voice that sounded as if it came from deep within him. “It’s enchanted,” he said, motioning to the fire that Viena was sitting next to. “I keep it here as a beacon to the faeries, that they may find a haven here, in my home.”
For the first time, Viena saw a large hole in one of the trees. “You live here?” she asked, watching him as he sat down across the fire from her.
“It took a long time,” said the Bori, “to carve out my abode in this place. But I am skilled with these.” He lifted his large claws. “And now I stay here, alone, waiting for the faeries to find me and see that I am worthy.”
Viena watched him for a moment. She could see a strange emotion in him, and hear it in his voice, but she didn’t know what it was. “What is your name?” she asked.
“Hane,” said the Bori.
“What do you want to be worthy of?” asked Shor.
Hane glanced at the green Shoyru and then down at the fire. “Vinsetta,” he said softly, and Viena felt her heart leap with an unfamiliar joy.
* * * * *
Emma stared at the heap of red embers in the fireplace, leaning back in her stiff rocking chair. The neat pile of logs rested in the corner of the room, but the yellow Bori didn’t stand up to fetch one. All of the candles had burned away, and the cottage was quite dark. The wind wailed outside, and Emma was growing cold. But she still did not move from her chair.
Sleep didn’t come, and Emma sat there for a long time, until a loud knock on the wooden door pulled her from her trance. The Bori blinked and glanced at the fireplace; it was now full of only grey ash.
Someone pounded on her door again, and Emma stood up from her rocking chair and hurried over. She undid the latch and pulled the door open, letting in a gust of freezing wind. Ray stood on the front step.
“Did you forget something?” asked Emma, but when she saw the look in her friend’s eyes she knew that he hadn’t.
“Viena is a brown Wocky, right?” said Ray, and Emma noticed that his feathers looked wild and windswept.
The yellow Bori had never introduced Viena to Ray, but she had spoken of the young Neopet briefly on many occasions. “Yes,” she said slowly, glancing over at the door which led to the basement, where Viena slept.
Ray followed her gaze. He stepped inside quickly and slammed the door behind him. “I bumped into her, out in the woods,” he said. “She was carrying a green Shoyru plushie with her, and she ran away before I could grasp what was happening.”
Emma was silent, and for a moment the two Neopets merely stood in the cottage, unmoving. Emma then turned and hurried to the cellar.
She opened the door and descended the curving stone stairs; Ray followed. The yellow Bori could see that the quilt was askew, and the basement was very cold.
The half moon window had been pushed open, and a chilly draft filled the room. Emma ran up to the bed and pressed her hands against the stone wall, leaning toward the open space. “Viena!” she called out into the night. “Viena!”
There was no reply.
To be continued...