Finding Crystal: Part Five
The Krawk’s arrow struck true. With a cry, the Bori galloped away, and only then did the Krawk lower her bow.
She was young, in her early twenties, covered by a plain green robe and holding a crossbow in one hand and a small vial full with a pale blue liquid in the other hand.
Rue jumped down from her perch in the trees and stood over Henry. The vines crept up his chest.
Rue uncorked the bottle and it evaporated into steam with an explosion of blue light. The vines shrank and withered and crawled back. Rue tossed the vial aside and grabbed the boy with one arm. She ran, half-dragging, half-carrying the Xweetok.
She only stopped when she’d reached her cottage. She flung the door open and dropped the crossbow in a corner. She slammed the door shut. The Xweetok collapsed on the floor, breathing hard.
“What’s your name, boy?” Rue asked, walking quickly over to her cauldron. She lit a fire and poured a bucket of water into the cast-iron container.
“H-henry,” the boy stammered. Rue threw her traveling cloak over to him, and he clutched it, shivering.
“What’re you doing out in the middle of the Haunted Woods? There are worse than that Bori here.” Rue began rummaging around in a shelf for potion ingredients.
“Like what?” the Xweetok asked.
“There are zombies that’ll eat your brain and turn you into one of them. Ghosts, too, but they won’t physically hurt you. They do like to give you a good scare.”
“Why do you live here, then?”
“Because I do. I ask the questions, boy. Henry. Where do you live?” Rue sprinkled some powder into the cauldron.
“Where are your parents?”
“At our house. I went out to look for herbs and I got lost.”
“Do yourself a favor, boy, and move.”
The Blue Xweetok, startled, jumped up and scooted back a few feet.
“No, no,” Rue said, exasperated. “Move out of the Haunted Woods. Even Neovia isn’t safe enough. You saw what happened before, didn’t you? The whole town cursed.”
“We just moved here. My father’s studying the plants here.”
“Well, I’m sure he can study the plants in Faerieland or someplace without ghosts and zombies.” Rue reached into the cupboard again, withdrew a cup, and dipped it into the potion. The liquid inside was a frothy orange. She handed it to Henry. “Strength potion,” she explained. “Drink.”
He drank. “Can you take me home, Miss. . .?”
“Rue. The witch.” The Krawk nodded curtly. “I have a broom. The skies are safer around here. We’ll go to Neovia.”
“Thank you, Rue.”
. . .
Chris stared at the notebook.
Rue walked into her room. “Great Fyora, Chris, you’re slower than a. . .” She broke off.
Chris slammed the notebook shut.
Rue sighed. “Oh, Chris, he hasn’t come. He didn’t come. I don’t think he will.”
“You never told me.” Chris stood and kicked the book. It hit the pile of neatly stacked books under Rue’s bed and they spilled onto the floor.
“Your father. . .”
“Yes. Good girl. Henry. I saved his life when he was a young boy. I didn’t think he’d remember. Then he came back, said his wife was ill. Wanted to know if I could make her better, just like that. . .”
“He left me!”
“It was for the best.”
“He hasn’t come back. He’s forgotten all about me. In fifteen years, he hasn’t remembered me!”
“No. He hasn’t.”
Chris looked down at the floor. The cover of Ghost Summoning stared back at her. She picked it up.
The book flapped open on her palms. “‘To summon a ghost that you know the name of and have one of their hairs. . .throw the hair into the sky and yell their name, then the incantation. . .’” Chris read aloud.
“Oh, no. Chris, no.”
Chris ignored her mentor, turned away. She walked outside, the book still in her hands.
. . .
Carly and Tess ran after their father. They saw him disappear into a boat, completely unaware of the fact that he was being followed.
Carly was still carrying her backpack. She opened it and bought two tickets for the boat that her father had leaped onto with her lunch money.
Carly walked onto the boat. Tess clutched her sister’s arm. The Brown Xweetok looked down at her sister, and Tess nodded once.
They stepped inside. The gangplank was raised up as the last two passengers closed the door behind them. The boat began to move.
. . .
Chris held between her fingers one of her own hairs. Rue’s notebook had said that Chris had the same color fur as Chrystal. She hoped it would work.
Chris threw the hair into the air and shouted Chrystal’s name and the incantation. She waited.
The air shimmered in front of her, and a bluish form appeared, wavering slightly, blurry around the edges. The figure blinked, and Chris blinked back.
It was like looking into a mirror. The exact same shade of fur. The exact same eyes and height. The only thing different on the ghost was that her fur was longer, silkier.
The ghost hovered about two feet above the ground. She did not speak.
“Why haven’t you come for me?” Chris asked.
“I’ve been lost,” the ghost answered.
“Lost?” the younger Xweetok echoed.
“Yes,” said the ghost. “For eight years I wandered. Over the seas, through the clouds, I have never stopped searching.”
“For Henry. For you. For Carly. For my baby, my Tess.” The ghost paused. “I suppose she’s not such of a baby anymore.”
“Why did you leave me?”
The ghost turned away. “I was very sick. I knew that my time would not be long. Henry and I lived in Neopia Central. I had just acquired the illness. . .no doctor had ever heard of it. Henry became desperate.”
Chris said nothing. She only listened.
“He remembered once, when he was a young boy, how he’d lived in Neovia for a time. He had been rescued by a Krawk, a witch, called Rue. He remembered the simplicity and the efficiency of her strengthening potion. And so he sought her. He found her.”
“What about me?”
“I was very much so weakened by your birth. I knew that I could not care for you. I was too weak, too sick. Rue gave me potion after potion. We both knew that it was only buying me time. The sickness never really disappeared. Rue proposed to care for you, to train you as her apprentice when I could not care for you.”
“She did. And she did an excellent job of it.” Chris felt a sudden rush of gratitude toward her mentor.
“We agreed. Rue told Henry that he could come get you when you were old enough to care for yourself.
“But I became weaker. A year later, Henry and I had a new child: your sister.”
“My sister?” Chris looked numbly at her mother.
“Yes. I was much stronger by then. Henry and I even had hopes of the illness disappearing for good. We named the girl Carly. And then some years later, we named her sister Tess.”
“I have two sisters?”
“Yes.” The ghost paused again. “But I was becoming very, very weak again. Neither Henry or I knew why. Henry prepared to go to Rue again. We’ve never had much money. He had to wait until he could pay for a round trip to the Haunted Woods and back. But I was getting even more weak than I’d been the first time, and it all happened so suddenly. And then. . .after I had gone. . .Henry left. I know not where he went. He told no one. He took Carly and Tess with him.” The ghost stopped, staring into space.
Chris looked at her mother. “But I’ve found you, Mother. I was trained by Rue as a witch. She raised me. Now that we’ve found each other, we can search for Henry and Carly and Tess.”
. . .
Within a few hours, they were at their destination.
Henry charged through the undergrowth blindly. His feet retraced the steps that he’d taken so many years ago.
Carly and Tess stumbled along in their father’s wake. The little Red Xweetok tripped and landed face-first on the ground. Carly picked up her sister and cradled her in her arms. She ran, not breaking pace even as withered vines reached at her ankles. Her sprinting feet tore them as she ran.
. . .
Rue ran after Chris, a wooden ladle still in her hand, dripping with the potion she’d been busily stirring minutes before. The Krawk stopped, and tripped on the long grass. Her ladle spun out of her hand and landed at Chris’s feet.
Henry stumbled and fell. He could see Chris and Rue, the Krawk on her hands and knees, through the ghost’s near-transparent form.
“Crystal!” the Blue Xweetok shouted. “I’m sorry I left! I shouldn’t have!” He, too, was on his hands and knees now. “I couldn’t stand to be in a place that you’d been in, only you weren’t there. I couldn’t stand the memories!” He reached his hand forward. Crystal turned toward him. She bent forward slowly and picked up the book that Chris had used to summon her.
The moment Henry’s hand touched Crystal’s, she disappeared, book and all.
Carly and Tess collapsed a foot away from their father. Tess rolled to the ground as her sister fell, exhausted, onto the grass.
Chris stared at the three other Xweetoks.
“Crystal?” Henry asked.
Chris stepped forward. “Not Crystal. Chris. Never Crystal.” There’d only been one Crystal, in hers and her father’s memories.
Henry stood, and Tess gripped his hand, using it to pull herself up. Henry looked down at her, and a smile flickered on his tired face.
Carly stepped forward to stand beside her father, staring at the White Xweetok.
Chris looked back at Rue, who was standing by now. The Krawk nodded, picked up her spoon, and walked away. Chris turned away and did not look back.
Silently, Carly reached toward Chris. The White Xweetok raised her hand to meet her sister’s.
The four Xweetoks turned, and began walking back the way that three of them had come. They had found what they’d come for.