Just An Autumn Stroll
It's another late night in the Haunted Woods, a classic scenery for any autumn stroll, hm? The path is one less traveled by (but that would never phase you, as one who particularly values their privacy, especially on contemplative walks such as these), shrubs and thorny vines closing in on the less-than-worn trail, threatening to choke it in their haste to establish a place to grow in this lupe-eat-lupe land.
Leaves blanket the ground, making it impossible for anything to sneak up behind you without sounding the alarm as crisp crunchy leaves crackle beneath careless claws - a comforting thought, considering the creatures rumored to bump in the night around here. There's nary a breeze, but the air is cool and feels dry against your fur, a nice contrast to the wet, miserable heat of summer. Thin, pale beams of silvery moonlight filter down to illuminate the earthen floor, scattered by the gnarled overhead branches of ancient, proud trees.
If you're not careful, you'll tumble over the sprawling roots of these leafy giants, your gaze distracted by the beauty of the night, perhaps - not that you can see any stars through the grizzled, twisted branches forming the canopy of the forest - or craning your neck to identify the source of that disconcerting sound.
Which is precisely what befalls you.
Out of the corner of your eye, you glimpse a gleaming form glide past, taking refuge behind a tree trunk. All without a sound. No leaves tattling on tip-toeing toes as they traipse across the leaf-littered landscape. Either this strange being flies... but you don't recollect hearing any wing-flaps in the still night air. If it doesn't fly, it must... not be real? Or at least that's what you'll suppose for now. Until you see it again, creeping along beside you, stopping behind a tree when you stop to stare curiously out into the forest, then taking up the same pace as yourself when you head off again. You're being followed, undeniably. Just when you thought you'd merited some alone time. Shaking your head, you decide it's merely one of the harmless night creatures - it surely doesn't seem to be causing much distress at the moment - and make up your mind to go about your way.
But then, there it is again! What, red eyes? As you subconsciously lean forward for a closer look, one of those dreadful roots reaches out, grabs your foot, and tows you to the ground with malevolent force! Not again, right? Mmmhmm. I warned you about those roots, lad. Or lass. Sorry, didn't have time for formalities before this, did we? Had to set the mood and all. Well, onward, as they say. *clears throat*
So you're on the ground.
The strange glowing form stands - er, floats - before you, large mouse-like ears pricked interestedly, one notched mysteriously. Long, extravagant lashes veil apologetic scarlet eyes as they blink down on you. Oh, so it's a female, you realize with a blush. Her fur is blue-green and gleaming brilliantly, marbled with grey stripes and lighter in shade on her muzzle, chest, and underbelly. She has a long cat-like tail and huge playful paws which would probably be put to better use playing volleyball or ping-pong. Dressed in a patched vest, skirt, and headscarf dyed faded colors of green, dusty pink, grey, and teal - all in traditional gypsy fashion - you dismiss her as merely a nosy Neovian girl wandering around at night because her parents are busy playing Top-Chop or waiting in line for the Wheel of Slime.
You decide to be diplomatic. "Who are you, lassie?" you ask sweetly, smiling kindly the same way you would to a baby under 60 days. Despite her edgy appearance, she has an infectious smile, one both wry and pitying.
She arches a grey brow. "Mistrush O'Neira of Brightvale," she answers simply. "Misty, to friends and family."
"Brightvale?" you repeat in disbelief.
"Brightvale," she confirms.
"With the -"
"Castle? Yes, that's the one."
"And King Ha-"
"King Hagan? Right." She nods approvingly.
This time it's your turn to raise an eyebrow. "But you're a gho-"
G-g-g-ghost?!" she screams, apparently terrified, scarlet eyes wide. She glances from left to right, as if scanning the area.
It's so convincing, it even rouses a strangled gasp from you.
"Yes, thank you for noticing," Mistrush continues, deadpan now. "Not all ghosts are from the Woods, you know. What, we've hardly met and you're already being stereotypical? Not very impressive to say the least," she scolds dryly. The cat-like creature takes a seat, curling her ringed tail around her large paws. She tilts her finely-chiseled head to one side. "Your turn," she meows expectantly.
You shake your head, holding up a palm to silence any such queries. Your, um, employer has forbidden you to reveal your identity.
Another charming grin. "No need for introductions. Must've seen me following you, no doubt." She gets to her paws and circles you slowly, trailing her tail around your legs as any feline would. "Must've assumed me a common gypsy cat, no doubt." She ends her route before you, fixing her eyes on yours. "Must've been wrong," she says firmly. "No doubt."
When you part your lips to utter a few things about what you're beginning to doubt, she silences you with one completely feminine glare. "Oh, sure, I live in Brightvale. A quaint little cottage situated cozily between a broken stone wall and a clear spring-fed creek, halved by a homely little bridge connecting our comfy little meadow with the neighbor's lot."
Another piercing stare has you thinking that perhaps this feline takes lessons from a meepit. But her next statement is to send more than just shivers down your fragile spine.
"Just as you do." Her smile broadens. "Oh, yes, I know you quite well. You're a scholar of Hagan's, born and bred. You commute to the castle each day, on foot, at approximately 8 a.m. Neopian standard time and return to your perfect country estate before 6 p.m., overwhelmed with scrolls and all manner of maps. Unpleasant, I'd imagine, without so much as a hand basket to aid your endeavors at managing such an unsightly load. But it's your picnic."
While you puzzle out what she could possibly mean by changing subjects so fast - I mean, come on, from Brightvale to hand baskets to picnics? - Mistrush idly paws at the leaves, pondering her next cryptic statement.
"Done yet?" she inquires, eyeing you strangely.
Frowning, you ask whatever she could mean.
"Are you quite done being a fool?" she snaps.
You blush, very much aware of the fact that you trifled with her earlier, when she mentioned she lived in Brightvale. Prompted by your bashful nod, she continues.
"You're in cahoots with Hagan. You work in his offices, read his official documents, run errands at his beck and call, and know all his tasty little secrets."
Not expecting this female to be as observant, you pull at your collar, slightly. Is it getting hot in here? But, alas, it's still the dead of night and off in the distance you can hear werelupes rejoicing at the full moon. An eerie breeze whips through your hair/fur/feathered clothing, dispelling any notions of oncoming tension. However, the feline creeps ever closer, until her sparkling scarlet eyes are level with yours, intent on yours. You can smell the sweet fragrant scent of her breath against your head/mask/semblance of a face.
As her lips pull back into another unsettling grin, you see her flawlessly white fangs flash in the moonlight. Slowly, you back away until your backside/fragile spine/unusually pointy shoulder blades meet with the rough bark of a tree trunk. She's cornered you, the sly lioness. There's no escape. You glance nervously from left to right out of your peripheral vision, but to no avail. Trees surround you, crowding and twining together at the trunks as they compete for any stray ray of golden light. This female was fast, you could tell that much from her lithe, athletic build. She'd catch you in an instant, like a zytch in a box snare trap. With a wince, you meet her frightening gaze sidelong, pleading as to what such a distinguished spy could want from you.
She parts her jaws again, revealing those imposing fangs, and whispered, "You know how to 'impress King Hagan with your wisdom'. We've been trying for generations, scoffed at each and every time." For a brief moment, Mistrush is shamefaced. Then she grips you by your collar with her large paws. "You must share your secrets!"
*happy dance* First entry!