Coronation: Part Five
Also by bookworm7
An intense crack of thunder shook the house. I awoke and untangled my legs from beneath the couch throw. I looked to the window and saw the trees being blown relentlessly by the rainy gusts. The house was filled with the noise of rain slamming against the wooden roof, which sounded as though it would cave in at any moment. The third day of our seven-day journey was going to be grueling.
Saskia hurriedly passed through the living room and opened the front door. She bent over and pulled the Mutant Door Mat into the house to keep it from blowing away. She then invited me to join Yuruyuki who was already eating breakfast in the kitchen across the hall.
Not soon after, we left Saskia's house and followed her deeper into the forests near the Deserted Fairground. Our goal was to find Sophie the Swamp Witch and see what assistance she could give us. I was not expecting a warm welcome, but my stubborn attitude would ensure that I would not leave the woods without getting what I needed. We trekked through dead foliage, slid over muddy paths, and finally located Sophie's isolated cabin.
Saskia knocked on the door and swung it open. "Sophie, I brought some guests, and they're more annoying than me!" she called, tauntingly. "Hello?" We entered the cabin, but neither she nor her Meowclops were home. Saskia walked over to the pedestal table upon which Sophies Cookbook had been left open at a certain page. "Mutant Potion of Zafara Transforming," she read aloud.
I stood by the entrance and looked at a bottled potion that rested on the console table. It was clear and motionless like water, but it smelled like vinegar.
"Don't touch that," scolded the hoarse, shrill voice. I turned to see Sophie standing in the doorway with Ugly Mushrooms in her arms. "That's acid. I need you in one piece to turn you into a stink beetle." She walked into the room and placed the mushrooms next to her cookbook. She also removed her rain-soaked hat. "Saskia, I've warned you about pestering me. Why are you here?"
"I'm not here to pester you, you Zombie Calabat. They are," she said with that smug smile of hers.
Sophie looked at me sideways. I explained, "Sorry about our intrusion, but we need your input on a very important matter. The Masks of Dread are being possessed by undetectable ghosts, and we were hoping you could extract one out into the open."
Sophie grabbed her cookbook from beneath Saskia's lingering eyes and walked over to her ingredient chest. "You're out of luck, kid." She removed a couple of items from the chest for her recipe.
I awaited an explanation, but she did not speak. "Why am I out of luck?" I asked. "You've had plenty of experience with ghosts. Don't you know a way to summon a ghost?"
"Can't you see that I'm busy making a very important potion for Edna? The potion I'm making brews best while it's still raining. Come back another time."
I crossed my arms and tapped my foot. Sophie saw my adamant stance out of the corner of her eye. She picked up her wooden spoon and mirrored my stance. After an exchange of vile looks at one another, Sophie dropped her arms to her side and resumed preparing her ingredients. "The last time I tried the Dichotomy Spell, it failed miserably. Now leave."
I turned away and whispered to Yuruyuki, "Could you please pull out a mask for me?"
Yuruyuki removed the shoulder bag and pulled out the Stone Warrior Mask. She held it out to Sophie and said, "Maybe this time you will be successful!"
"No," Sophie said resolutely. "Spirits should not be tampered with. I'm not going to play with living souls for your sake."
I argued, "You just said you've done it before. What happened last time that makes you so scared of doing so again?"
Sophie remained level-headed even though she had every right not to. Her shoulders were hunched as she leaned over her cookbook. "I almost eradicated an entire race," she said solemnly.
I was intrigued at such a statement! What had this swamp witch done in her past?
I stepped in front of Yuruyuki and said, "Fine. Don't worry about the mask. But you'll have to explain to me what makes this 'Dichotomy Spell' so dangerous."
She closed her cookbook and looked at me right in the eyes. "That spell creates enough energy to temporarily separate a spirit from its current body! There is nothing more dangerous. There is a risk that the soul might accidentally pass on."
"So? We haven't even proved yet that there are spirits in these masks. Why can't you just try it?"
"It's extremely dangerous! I'm never using it again—"
I cut her off and bellowed, "Then tell me, what 'race' did you use it on?"
"I used it on the faeries!" she shouted. She leaned into my face and poked her index finger against my collarbone. "When Xandra turned them to stone, I thought I could save them by temporarily relocating their spirits from petrified bodies into ghost bodies. It was a risky and stupid idea that could have lost their souls forever! Luckily the spell backfired and their spirits stayed put in stone."
I was surprised that Sophie was brave enough to try such an act. Any error in the execution of relocating souls could have burdened her conscience forever. "I'm sorry to hear that you put yourself in that grim situation. What did the spell do when it backfired?"
Sophie's anger suddenly dissipated, but melancholy replaced it. "It was supposed to create a vast amount of energy that could be used to split the faerie's spirits from their bodies. Instead, it absorbed a ton of energy out of the atmosphere here in the Haunted Woods. To this day, I don't know where all of that thermal energy went."
Saskia surmised, "Oh, so that's the spell you used to make it snow on Halloween? I thought you were just sick of trick-or-treaters knocking on your door and disturbing your solitude!" Saskia chuckled.
"It's no laughing matter!" declared Sophie. "The universe has strict laws about balance. That thermal energy didn't just disappear. It was converted into another form of energy and put into something."
A memory struck me and made me panic. "Sophie," I said urgently, "could that energy have created a black hole?"
She thought about it for a moment and replied, "No, of course not. The spell countered, so theoretically its only effect was to permanently reunite unsettled spirits to matter. But that's what I can't figure out. There weren't any zombies or miraculous resurrections. Hubrid Nox did become a ghost during Y12, but he had already done so weeks before the spell was cast."
"That's where the masks come in!" I said abruptly, pointing to the Stone Warrior Mask that Yuruyuki was holding. "I bet you fused them with the wandering spirits of the Haunted Woods!"
"Calm yourself, girl," said Saskia. "I thought you were more rational than emotional. Fact o' the matter is I didn't start making any masks until Y13."
I put my hand to my forehead and realized how mistakenly single-minded I was. "You're right, Saskia. There wasn't even anything wrong with your masks in Y13. It wasn't until the Y14 Haunted Faire when they started showing signs of being possessed."
I was starting to get angry. At this rate I was never going to figure out why I could hear the Masks of Dread. I just wanted to know the truth, but all we had done so far on our journey was discover miscellaneous facts. I wanted nothing more than to finally see the unseen ghosts that lingered in the masks. And really, who cared how they had gotten there?
I wanted it badly. No, I demanded it! I wasn't going to wait any longer. I was going to force those ghosts out of the masks, even if I had to destroy each one to do so!
I grabbed the Stone Warrior Mask out of Yuruyuki's wing and began bashing it against the table. It gave out a horrifying yell, but I didn't care anymore.
Yuruyuki dropped the bag of masks. "Sin, what are you doing? Please stop!" She tried grabbing the mask from me, so I took it in with both hands and tried bending it.
It was stone. How could I break something made of stone?
Sophie put her hands on her hips. "Get out of here before you knock something over! Don't make me use my wand on you."
Knock something over? Oh, that was it! I ran to the front door and grabbed the bottle of acid. I slammed the mask to the tabletop and began dousing it in acid.
"What are you doing?" Sophie shouted. She grabbed her wand and used it to freeze my body motionless. She had reacted too late. The acid hissed and began to dissolve the mask and table. "Get out!"
She motioned her wand to the front door and my body followed, dumping me just outside the door. Yuruyuki grabbed the bag of masks and ran outside after me. I didn't get to see Saskia's reaction, but I just knew that she was wearing a sinister, satisfied smirk as she followed us out into the rain.
As I laid there in the mud, nothing mattered anymore. I didn't care about saving Neopia from unseen ghosts. I didn't even care if there really were ghosts in them. I was just going to focus on getting rid of this torturous burden that had been placed on my shoulders. Those muttering masks were going to be destroyed one by one until I could finally enjoy the satisfying silence of my victory...
To be continued...