Coronation: Part Six
Also by bookworm7
I bounded over the encroaching roots of trees blocking my path. I had no destination in mind; I only knew I had to get away from them. My feet slid endlessly on the mud, and the rain kept falling harder. My shoes were rubbing annoyingly against my soggy socks with every step; my soaked clothes were stuck against my chilled body.
What had I done? Why did I act so irrationally?
I kept running, and my guilt fueled my determination. The bag of masks clashed against my legs, but my momentum did not cease.
Why? Why couldn't they just leave me alone?
I made my way back to Saskia's house and leapt onto the back porch. I stopped my motion gracelessly by purposely running into the wall of the house. I leaned against it and waited to catch my breath.
It was all their fault. I wouldn't have messed things up if they hadn't done so first.
I turned around and looked at the path leading straight away from Saskia's back porch. A large stream of runoff was beginning to swell in her backyard. The raging storm blew the leafless trees repeatedly in one direction.
Something in the distance caught my eye. I dashed off the porch to get a closer look. The strange object leaning against a tree finally registered in my mind as a Howling Axe. It was Saskia's Howling Axe, the axe she had used to make some of her masks.
I dropped my shoulder bag and yanked out the first mask I could get a hold of. It was the Evil Coconut Half Mask. I placed it with precision onto the chopping block and swung at it. The axe howled as it split the mask in half and sent the two pieces flying. One half fell to the ground next to my bag. I watched as the ever-burning flame in its eye began to dwindle and fade into nothingness.
I shouted to the stormy sky in acclamation.
The excitement of my victory over that mask enticed me to grab another. I reached into the bag and pulled out the next mask. I placed it on the chopping block and swung at it. The axe struck the mask but rebounded. The blow hurt my hands, so I dropped the axe and shook out my wrists. The Mystical Geraptiku Mask sat on the chopping block unscathed.
I heard someone call my name. "Where are you?" Yuruyuki shouted from afar.
They were on my trail! I had to leave. I had to keep running.
I grabbed the undamaged Mystical Geraptiku Mask with my left hand. My right hand was still stinging from the deflected impact, but I grabbed the bag of masks with it anyway.
The bag was more than a muddy sack now; it was a reminder that I had just shoved my best friend, Yuruyuki, to the ground. She had refused to let me have it. Maybe she deserved it for standing in my way. Anyway, I could worry about apologizing to her later.
I needed to escape. It was hard to distinguish directions while being surrounded by a swarm of identical trees. I darted away from the approaching voices and toward the Deserted Fairground.
The Mystical Geraptiku Mask was locked in my grip and silently awaiting its fate. But how could I seal that fate? The axe hadn't worked on it even though it was made of the same wood as the Evil Coconut Half Mask.
I kept running mindlessly towards nowhere and found myself at the Gypsy Camp. I was exhausted, so I knelt down and hid myself behind a barrel. There was no one else in the camp on account of the rain, yet I couldn't risk being seen by any passersby. My clothes chilled my body. My hair was soaked, so the rain kept pouring into my face.
Miserably, I looked around the camp for shelter and saw a roaring fire at its center. I risked being seen and approached it to warm up. The fire continued to burn fiercely despite the rain. How was it doing that? It seemed to be some sort of magical, self-fueling fire.
I looked down at the Mystical Geraptiku Mask and had an epiphany. The last time I had seen this mask, it was in the hands of Fuhnah the Fire Faerie. She had tried incinerating it during the Faerieland meeting!
I grinned and ceremoniously tossed the mask into the fire. The straw immediately turned black and began to curl. The dried-out wood of the mask caught the spreading flame and began to blacken. I had done it! Another vessel for the evil spirits to inherit was on its way to oblivion.
I looked back at the bag of masks that I had left next to the barrel. I forgot about how numb my extremities were becoming and raced back to it. At this rate, I would cure myself of their influence by nightfall.
Where were Yuruyuki and Saskia? Were they on my trail?
I reached into the bag of masks and retrieved the Toothy Grin Mask. Oh, I simply dreaded that mask. I closed my eyes and remembered the first time Yuruyuki and I had encountered it.
Two months ago at the Y14 Haunted Faire, Yuruyuki and I were excited for our second year of Saskia's enjoyable riddles. We couldn't wait to trick-or-treat together wearing her masks and amass a ton of candy. But we were unable to execute those plans. On that unforgettable first day of the faire, I'd grabbed hold of the Toothy Grin Mask, and it had unleashed an unexpected, bloodcurdling scream. I'd dropped it out of sheer surprise! At first I'd thought it was a harmless prank, so I had tried laughing it off. I'd picked the mask up again, but for some reason it had resumed screaming.
"Okay, I get it," I had said nervously, but the mask hadn't stopped. Its eyes had suddenly animated, bulged, and darted to and fro. Its jaw had ripped out of place and started shouting, "Kill! KILL!" I had felt it struggling against my grip as though it had wanted to leap out of my hands and bite my face like a vicious, Mutant Meepit. I'd wanted to let go of it, but I hadn't been able to control my body!
I opened my eyes and looked down at the mask. Not two months ago, this mask had scared me senseless, yet now it wasn't doing anything. It wasn't screaming; it wasn't fighting back. It sat motionless in my hands like a scared, submissive Snorkle knowing he was about to be eaten for an avatar.
What was I to do with it? It was solid bone.
I hurriedly staggered away from the Gypsy Camp and towards the Game Graveyard...
"Some friend she is," Saskia said bitterly, "pushing her only pet into the mud like that over a purse."
Yuruyuki continued to sob audibly as they wandered through the woods. She wiped tears and rain from her eyes with her wings. "There's something wrong with her. I... I can't blame her. Those masks are making her crazy somehow."
"She was crazy to begin with," muttered Saskia under her breath. "Anyway, she'll be easy to find if we keep following her footprints. The real problem will be figuring out how to calm her down once we find her."
"It's the masks! Maybe if we take the masks away from her, she'll stop."
"No, the reason why she shoved you is because you had the bag of masks. We'll have to try something else. For example, isn't she normally a rational person?"
Yuruyuki nodded her head in agreement. She had stopped sobbing but couldn't bring herself to feel optimistic.
"Then maybe we can try talking some sense into her. She'll calm down and figure out how to get a real handle on the situation in no time."
"Maybe," Yuruyuki nodded again. "Sin always comes up with a solution to our problems. Like the time when I was really scared about fighting against Zaira, but Sin was super smart and thought of a way to cure her from her hypnotism right on the spot."
"Hypnotism? I thought you girls told me that Zaira wanted to blow up Neopia with the Ultimate Neggs of Destruction."
"No, it was the Clockwork Amulet that made her do it."
"Wait, so you're saying that Zaira went crazy because she came in contact with an amulet?"
"Well, Sin said the Plant Negg was also part of it, but otherwise, yes, it was the amulet."
"Well then, how did Sin stop the hypnotism?"
"She had us grab onto the amulet and pull on it until the chain broke."
Saskia stopped in her tracks. "Seriously? You touched an evil, enchanted artifact? When did this happen?"
Yuruyuki also stopped walking. "It was a few months ago, right before the Altador Cup VII."
"Well, that's got to be it! Whatever made Zaira go crazy is doing the same thing to Sin!"
Yuruyuki realized her conclusion was valid and concurred. With this vital realization, they quickened their chase, following my aimless footprints throughout the Haunted Woods...
To be continued...