Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 192,974,466 Issue: 673 | 12th day of Celebrating, Y16
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To Space!: Part Two


by 77thbigby

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"When you leave, I shall be coming back with you. The Torches always enjoy their visits here. I encourage you to do the same. The ghosts here will not harm you," Agneza said, rising to her feet, the Meowclops floating beside her.

      Brandi stood too, setting Abacuc on the floor beside her. She could sense that the alien Aisha wished to be alone and she was eager to explore the haunted mansion.

      There were stairs, a hallway, and two shut doors. With so many options to choose from, Brandi decided to see what information she could gather from where she stood. She used all four of her ears to listen. She could hear her cousins down the hall. That's one option out, Brandi thought.

      The young Aisha heard nothing behind either door. Of course, that meant nothing with a place full of ghosts. Finally, Brandi flexed her hands and looked up the staircase. She itched to race up the stairs but figured it wouldn't be polite to do so, especially when she didn't actually live there. Every other step creaked ominously under her weight, Abacuc keeping pace with her.

      At the top of the stairs, a short hallway was straight ahead and a longer hallway, bathed in shadow, went to the left.

      "Forward we go," Brandi said, exchanging a glance with her Petpet.

      The orange Aisha and Nedler walked down the hall. They passed an oddly shaped painting. Brandi paused to look at it. Like everything else in the mansion, it was covered in dust. Looking at it, she could make out the figure of a faerie but nothing more.

      Brandi cocked her head. "I wonder what the story is behind this painting..."

      With one last glance at the painting on the wall, Brandi continued on. There was only one door on the left. It was also shut but this time, Brandi didn't hesitate to open it. A room with sparse furniture and a cluster of ghosts was revealed. At sight of the stranger, a few of the ghosts vanished.

      The other ghosts merely looked curiously at the stranger. Brandi recognized the Kacheek from earlier. Catching her eye, he waved slowly at her. She smiled warmly at him. Then, she looked at the ghost standing next to him: a Lupe.

      Brandi gasped and raced forward. "Oh, wow! Are you the Ghost Lupe?"

      The ghost Lupe was caught off guard and took a step forward, shaking his head in a firm no. This didn't put Brandi off in the least. She took a short step back. A ghost Snowbunny sniffed politely at Abacuc while a ghost Cyodrake hovered nearby. Along with the Kacheek and Lupe, there was a Buzz, Tonu and Lenny.

      "I don't know if you're friend has told you yet but I'm Brandi and that's Abacuc. It's nice to meet you all," Brandi began, waving a hand at the Kacheek and then pointing to Abacuc.

      After that, Brandi spent time going from one topic to another: her history and the history of the painting in the hall. The ghosts seemed amused at their young guest's energy. Brandi had no idea how long she stayed in the upstairs room but she enjoyed every minute of it. One of the ghosts would periodically disappear and then come back; Brandi thought nothing of it. A firm nudge in her back made her turn to look.

      The Tonu was looking steadily back at Brandi. At first, she didn't understand. Then, the Tonu nudged her, again. This time, Brandi slid across the floor about a foot. Since she was being pushed in the direction of the wide open door, it finally clicked.

      "Aw, I've got to leave? OK, well, it was so much fun hanging out with you guys! I'd love to come back," Brandi said at the door.

      The warmth and friendliness she felt from the ghosts pleased Brandi immensely. She smiled and waved, before shutting the door behind her. She made her way down the stairs to meet Agneza, Amalia and Angela who were all waiting for her. Amalia looked cross while Angela was thumping one large foot on the wood floor impatiently.

      "Finally! Took you long enough," Angela complained.

      Ignoring her cousin, Brandi turned her bright blue gaze on Agneza. "Ghosts are so awesome!"

      Brandi was the first out the door and settled in the carriage. To her great relief, Agneza sat beside her while her cousins sat across from them. Since there was nothing interesting outside with snow falling in heavy white sheets, Brandi shifted in her seat to speak to Agneza.

      "So, how long have you been in, er, should I say on, Neopia, Agneza?" Brandi asked.

      "I've been in the Woods for almost a quarter of a century," Agneza said.

      "Wow! That's a long time. Then how long were you on Neopia before that?"

      "Brandi, I admire your enthusiasm. However, I'm going to decline to state."

      Brandi frowned for a moment, put off by Agneza's gentle but firm response. Amalia curled her lip with wry amusement and Angela snickered. Brandi sat back in her soft plush seat for a moment. She looked out the window at the unchanging whiteness. Then, her ears flicked.

      The young orange Aisha turned back to Agneza. "I respect that. I tend to get ahead of myself a lot. My parents say I must learn to look before I leap. That is hard for me to do."

      "Brandi, you are more precious than Kreludite. Young as you are, you see your faults so clearly and while you try to overcome them, you don't let them stop you," Agneza said with an easy laugh.

      Brandi beamed at this praise, not hearing Amalia's derisive snort or seeing Angela's jealous look. It wasn't long after that that the carriage pulled up to the Torch mansion. They all got out and went inside. Uncle Adam and Aunt Amorine greeted Agneza.

      "What a pleasant surprise, Agneza. My children always seem to visit you. It delights me to welcome you to our home at last," Aunt Amorine said graciously.

      "Thank you, Duchess Torch but I've actually come to speak to Brandi's parents," Agneza said, turning her red gaze on X and Nisha.

      Aunt Amorine could not hide the look of surprise that flashed across her face. X and Nisha exchanged a look, part curiosity and apprehension.

      "Brandi, were you a nuisance for Agneza?" X asked his youngest child.

      "No, she was nothing of the sort. I would like to discuss something with you in private, please," Agneza said.

      "We'll hear you out."

      "Come. There's only one secure room in the entire mansion," Uncle Adam said, stepping towards a closed door and opening it.

      The adults excused themselves.

      Zach looked at his youngest sister curiously. "So, you're not in trouble. What is that all about?"

      "I don't know! Oh, I wish I could hear," Brandi exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air helplessly.

      "Too bad. It's not possible. That room is more secure than the National Neopian," Amalia said.

      "Believe us, we've tried," Angela added.

      Brandi sighed and began to pace. Zach leaned against the wall as Yekaterina stood beside him. Ana cast a glance at Marc before moving to block Brandi as she paced. The twelve year old Aisha was almost as tall as the sixteen year old Bori. As their gazes met, Brandi's eyebrows rose.

      "I have a suggestion, Brandi, if you're willing to hear it," Ana began.

      "Go on," Brandi said, curious.

      "You should keep your mind off of what is making you pace. Instead, think about what you want them to be discussing."

      "Well, I know they're talking about me. That means it's got to be something related to space. I would love if Agneza could... I don't know, help my fascination with space or something!"

      "Why?"

      "Agneza is the first one to really understand why I'm drawn to space. She knows how strong the pull is. If anyone could communicate that to my parents, I believe it will be her."

      "I shall believe with you."

      "Thanks, Ana."

      "You're welcome, Brandi."

      It seemed that the suspense was building, however Ana wanted to help. The cousins remained in the main hall. A half hour passed. Finally, the closed door opened. The adults filed out, faces carefully controlled.

      On seeing their daughter, X and Nisha walked towards Brandi.

      "Agneza has spoken to us," X said.

      "She is very taken with you," Nisha said.

      "As you know, she comes from space. She is taking a trip back."

      "She has invited you along."

      "YES!"

      Brandi gave an exultant yell, hands stretching over her head. Flashes of fire shot from her palms. Horrified, she closed her hands into fists and pulled them towards her chest. Blue eyes wide, she looked over at her snow Gelert sister.

      "I'm so sorry," Brandi cried.

      Zach had moved in front of his twin protectively. The spotted Gelert's lips were pulled back in a snarl and he glowered at his little sister. It took him a moment but he relaxed. He understood Brandi's excitement and no harm had been done after all. He slowly stepped aside for Yekaterina.

      Yekaterina's hazel gaze was gentle and full of understanding. "Your apology is accepted, Brandi. Congratulations! This is a dream come true for you."

      Brandi relaxed under her sister's gaze and nodded her head enthusiastically. "Oh yeah! I can't wait! When are we leaving?"

      "As soon as you're ready to go," Agneza said.

      "I'm ready to go right now!"

      "That's what your parents said you would say. The nearest shuttle is in the Endless Plains. We'll wait until your family is done visiting."

      This took the wind out of Brandi's sails. She sighed, completely dejected. Of course they had to stay the entire week! Now the next seven days stretched out endlessly in Brandi's mind. Would it ever end?

      Finally! The week did indeed end. The only thing that helped pass the time was that Brandi could visit Agneza and the ghosts every day. This made Angela very jealous. Not that it mattered to Brandi; the only thing that did was make everyone breathe a sigh of relief as the animosity between the two twelve year olds finally came to an end.

      The Alms couldn't leave fast enough. Agneza rode with them. That evening, they arrived at the shuttle.

      "The shuttle leaves at midnight," Agneza said.

      "Oh, that's no problem. I stay up that-," Brandi abruptly cut herself off as she noticed her father twitch his long ears and fix his piercing blue gaze on her.

      With still four hours to wait, Brandi stood outside of the carriage, leaning against the ghost Uni that had been pulling it. Having spent an entire week with ghosts, most of Brandi's questions about them had been answered. Plus, this particular ghost Uni was now comfortable with her, not even flinching at her touch. When they had first met a year or so ago, Brandi had overwhelmed the poor ghost with her energy and questions. She winced at the memory.

To be continued...

 
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