A Singer for the Awakened
Moonlight shone down brightly through the trees of the Haunted Woods, bathing everything in a pale white glow. In a clearing located in a part of the woods not far from Neovia, a ghost Ixi was dancing and singing. Her long wavy hair whipped about her as she pranced and twirled through the clearing. Though she was a good dancer, singing was what she really did best. Her high, crystalline soprano voice was lovely and at the same time quite eerie as it rang out through the trees.
The Ixi's name was Cordeilla. Before becoming a ghost, she had been an up-and-coming young singer who performed at the Neovian Opera House. After several years of being in the chorus and playing the occasional supporting character, she finally was cast in her first leading role. She was very excited and rehearsed for weeks, but unfortunately fell terribly ill not long before the opera was to open. Miserable and bed-ridden, Cordeilla was forced to resign herself to the fact that it was extremely unlikely that she would to be able to perform.
Then one day, she woke up feeling completely better. It was rather strange that she had made a full recovery so quickly, but she didn't question things. All she cared about was that now she could be in the opera after all. She rushed down to the theatre, eager to tell everyone the good news. But to her confusion, she was met with horrified stares.
"What's wrong with you all?" asked Cordeilla. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Everyone screamed and took off running.
When Cordeilla figured out the reason for their reaction, it was indeed a shock to her, but she was ultimately unfazed. Sure, she was a ghost, but other than that, she was still the same Ixi she had been before, and she was still capable of performing. But the opinions of the theatre management were not to be changed. They refused to have a ghost in their opera company.
Unable to continue the career she had in life, Cordeilla found herself wandering through the Haunted Woods with a lack of purpose. She kept herself occupied by singing and dancing the way she used to on stage. Whenever she would do this, she would imagine that she was being accompanied by an orchestra and that there was an audience in front of her.
But a good imagination can only take you so far. Often, reality would set in and Cordeilla would be filled with loneliness. She wanted to interact with other Neopets and share her talent, but she knew that because of the aversion most Neopians naturally had to ghosts, it was unlikely she'd ever get a chance to.
As Cordeilla reached the end of her song, she leapt forward, landed deftly, and took a bow. Then the ghost Ixi's eyes snapped open and she looked up in shock. She hadn't expected to hear actual applause!
Standing right in front of her were two little Wocky girls—absolutely identical twins. They were clapping slowly and staring at her, their faces devoid of any sort of expression. The sight of them gave Cordeilla such a start that she fell backwards with a cry of surprise. Once the initial shock of having a real audience—though a small audience, in more ways than one—wore off, she began to wonder who the girls were and where they had come from. What were they doing out so late at night, and why were they wandering alone in such a frightening and potentially dangerous place as the Haunted Woods? And... why were they not scared of her? She was a ghost. The only explanation she could think of was that perhaps they were too innocent to know to be scared when they saw a ghost. It was lucky for them, then, that the ghost they chanced upon was a friendly one.
Cordeilla was about to ask the two if they were lost when they spoke up.
"We like your singing," said one.
"It is very pretty," added the other.
They spoke in monotone, which Cordeilla found to be a bit unsettling. Still, she appreciated being complimented. "Er... thank you," she muttered.
"Psst!" hissed one of the twins to her sister abruptly. She pulled her aside and they began whispering to each other. Though Cordeilla couldn't hear the ensuing conversation, she watched them both with curiosity.
"Our next party would be much more fun with music, wouldn't it Lanie?"
"Yes, Lillie," her sister agreed. "It would be."
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Lanie?"
"I believe I am." Lanie pointed to Cordeilla. "She could sing at our party."
"Yes," Lillie replied. "We are always in need of new friends to join us."
The two little Wockies smiled and nodded at each other in agreement. Then they walked back toward Cordeilla and addressed her.
"We are having a party," said Lillie.
"Would you like to come?" Lanie asked.
Cordeilla was understandably taken aback by the question. Before she could even think of a reply, though, Lillie quickly added, "As we told you before, we like your singing, which is why we were also wondering if you would like to sing at the party."
Immediately Cordeilla's face lit up. A chance to perform in front of an actual audience! Well, it would be at a children's party of some kind, she guessed, but that was still something. Then a thought occurred to her—it would be a complete disaster if she came to the girls' party. Even if they didn't recognize the significance of her being a ghost, their other guests surely would notice and be frightened away.
"I would love to come, but are you sure you want to have me at your party? There's something about me that I'm not sure you're aware of—I'm a ghost."
"We know," stated Lanie and Lillie together.
"So... that doesn't bother you?"
"Of course not," replied Lanie, a bit indignantly.
Cordeilla looked at them both incredulously. "And your other guests won't mind?"
"Why would they?" Lillie asked. Both twins seemed to genuinely find Cordeilla's concerns to be strange and perhaps even ridiculous.
"Uh, I just thought, you know, since..." Cordeilla's voice trailed off. The girls were looking at her with bewilderment and some impatience.
They can't say I didn't warn them, thought Cordeilla. She shrugged. "Well, all right, then. Count me in."
Lanie and Lillie smiled. "Hurray." They handed the Ixi an envelope. She opened it and found a party invitation inside. After glancing at it for a few moments, she looked up and asked, "Oh, little girls, do you need any help finding your way... home?"
The twins had vanished.
When Cordeilla arrived at the party, she was quite surprised. At first she had wondered if she was even in the right place, because the directions on the invitation the twins had given her had led her to a lonely graveyard hidden deep within the Haunted Woods. It was near Neovia, but it wasn't the graveyard now used by the townspeople. In fact, from the looks of it, this one was rarely—if ever—visited by anyone anymore. The tombstones were in disrepair and surrounded by weeds, and no flowers adorned any of the graves. Curiously, though, there did seem to be a lot of candy wrappers scattered on the ground.
Any concerns that Cordeilla had about being out of place instantly disappeared when she saw the other guests. All of them were undead—there were zombies, monsters, mummies, and some ghosts like her. She had had her suspicions before that Lanie and Lillie were not ordinary little girls, and now upon seeing the sort of friends they had those suspicions were confirmed. Cordeilla was even beginning to wonder if they were undead themselves. They didn't really look like they were, but it was either that or they were living girls with the absolute strangest taste in friends she'd ever seen.
Cordeilla decided that the first thing she needed to do was find the twins, so she went off in search of them. As she was walking through the crowd, another ghost, an armor-clad Hissi, spotted her and floated over to her. "Hello! I haven't seen you before. Are you new here?"
"Er... yes," replied Cordeilla. "The little girls... Lanie and Lillie... asked me to come. Uh... if you don't mind me asking, why are they having a party? Is there a reason to celebrate?"
The Hissi chuckled. "Not really. Well, there's no particular reason, anyway. We're the members of the Awakened. It's sort of a group for the undead. It was Lanie and Lillie who started it. They throw parties like this all the time for us to attend. It's very nice of them because it gives us all something fun to do. The afterlife can be quite boring at times, as I'm sure you're aware."
"I'm Echo," said the Hissi. "What's your name?"
Cordeilla told her. She also explained that she had been asked by the twins to sing at the party.
"Hmm," muttered Echo, "They didn't tell us anything about that. I guess they're saving it for a surprise. How exciting. Music is a good thing to have at a party."
At that moment, an Usul mummy came plodding up to the two of them. "Oh, there you are, Echo! I wondered where you'd gone off to."
"Halima, this is Cordeilla," Echo told her friend. "She's a singer. She's going to be singing for us tonight."
"Ooh, really?" exclaimed Halima, who then turned and grinned at Cordeilla. "I love music, you know. I haven't heard any in such a long time. My crypt... well, it's as quiet as a tomb!" She let out a dry, raspy laugh. "So, when are you going to get started with your singing?"
"Well, first I need to find Lanie and Lillie..."
The Ixi whirled around in surprise. There, staring up at her, were the very girls she had been looking for.
"Oh, hello," Cordeilla said. "I was just wondering..."
"...When you were going to be singing?" Lanie and Lillie smiled knowingly at the ghost Ixi. They were very good at finishing sentences, sometimes even ones that were not each other's, it seemed. "We would like you to sing now. That is why we wanted to see you. Come with us."
Cordeilla barely had time to wave goodbye to Echo and Halima before she was dragged off by the twins. She was surprised at how firmly they were able to grip her transparent and hardly tangible arm as they pulled her along. They led her to the far end of the graveyard, then stopped and pointed.
"Here is where you'll be singing."
Cordeilla looked in the direction they were pointing and saw a little performing area that had been created by draping long, tattered cloths across some tree branches. The ends of the cloths hung down to the ground and looked very much like curtains. In between them was a platform made from jagged wood.
Lanie and Lillie went on over to stand on the platform, but indicated to Cordeilla that she should stay back until they signaled for her to join them.
"Attention, everyone!" they announced, loudly enough to be heard over the crowd but still in their usual monotone. "For this party, we've planned a special surprise for you."
One of the zombies ventured a guess. "Brains?"
"No..." answered Lanie and Lillie, rolling their eyes in unison. Even they found the zombies' continual desire for brains to be rather irritating at times. How would brains have been a special surprise, anyway?
"We have found a new friend," the twins continued. They motioned for Cordeilla to come forward. "We would like to introduce you to Cordeilla. She is going to sing for us all tonight." After a moment's pause, they said, their voices as flat as ever, "Surprise."
Cordeilla couldn't help but giggle to herself at this lackluster introduction as she stepped up onto the platform. It was strange that Lanie and Lillie seemed unable to show much emotion. She wondered what could have possibly made them that way. There were a lot of things about the little twins that the Ixi didn't understand, but she had to admit she was becoming quite fond of them. It really meant a lot to her that they thought so highly of her singing that they wanted her to be the entertainment at their party.
Looking out at the undead Neopets assembled before her, Cordeilla found that they were staring at her expectantly and murmuring with curiosity—at least, she hoped it was curiosity. All at once she became rather nervous. It had been a while since she had performed in front of anyone, and never in a situation where the audience's attention was focused solely on her. What if they didn't like her? Neopia's undead were certainly not the sort of audience she was used to. Many of them did look quite intimidating. But Cordeilla reminded herself that looks could be deceiving. That was something she knew for a fact. She was a ghost herself, after all.
She began to sing. Once she had the music in her head, all her worries fell away. Her voice gained more confidence as the notes soared higher and higher. She had chosen to perform the big aria she would have sung in the opera she hadn't had the chance to be in. It was from the main character's mad scene and, appropriately enough, it was a very haunting piece. Cordeilla's voice was mesmerizing as she sang it.
When the last few notes drifted away, all the zombies, ghosts, monsters and mummies began clapping and cheering. Several of them came up to Cordeilla to tell her how much they enjoyed her performance. Though some of the zombies and monsters had a very limited vocabulary, they still managed to convey their enthusiasm through their incoherent mumbling.
Then Lanie and Lillie approached Cordeilla. They looked very pleased.
"You did well."
"We knew you would."
"We would like you to sing at all of our parties."
"But first, you will have to join the Awakened."
"All right," replied Cordeilla. "How do I do that?"
"You will need to sign this." One of the twins handed her a piece of paper. The other handed her a pen. Cordeilla looked the document over. It was sort of a mixture of a signup sheet and a contract which basically stated that by signing, she was agreeing to be a member of the Awakened forever. An additional requirement, hastily scribbled in, was that in her case she was also agreeing to be the musical entertainment at all future parties held by the twins.
Cordeilla signed her name on the line at the bottom. Lanie and Lillie took the paper from her and said, "We welcome you to the Awakened, Cordeilla."
"We can see you're going to be a very special friend," added Lanie.
"A very, very special friend," Lillie finished.
One of the twins held out a lolly to Cordeilla. She took it, a smile slowly appearing on her face. Even if it wasn't in the way she had originally thought, she was going to be a famous singer, just like she always wanted.