Spiral: Part Two
Part 2: The Haunted Woods
R otting leaves rustled underfoot. Charmifire, Blaz, Cree and Frostrym held each other close as they manoeuvred through the dense, looming forest. The branches creaked ever so slightly, swayed barely so much, as to perturb any stranger, any lost being that should wander in its midst.
The group ceased any movement. The forest fell silent. Nearby, a glowing caught their focus. Wearing a frilly dress, and a neat bow, slowly, a wispy translucent Kacheek floated into the vicinity, a short distance away…
They could hear a noise…
Her sobs, they grew.
Tears began to flow.
Crying. Her crying became louder
High-pitched screams turned to turbulent wails.
The forest erupted into a rustle of leaves and boisterous wind.
Blaz, Cree, Frostrym and Charmifire fled, scrambling over fallen logs, darting past caves, both of which seemed to harbour creatures with glowing eyes. Stopping to catch their breath, an echoing giggle seemed to come from all directions. Suddenly a lumbering thump caused the four travellers to swish around. Lying on the ground was a lump of stone…but beyond it stood a fragment of fading maroon wall. Upon the wall, a portrait of an elderly Hissi glared with ferocious contempt. Hearing a creak, the four friends shifted their gaze to the side, setting their view upon a sloping, curved staircase that seemed to vanish into the treetops
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?” a stern voice demanded. Their muscles tensed. From the shadows of the treetops, green eyes pierced through the dark. Elegantly making her way down the stairs, was a figure with flowing dark-green locks and a petit pointed nose. She seemed to almost glide with every movement. In one hand she carried a large eye. In the other, a bulb-like flask containing a murky liquid.
“You shouldn’t be here! You shouldn’t be this far into the Haunted Woods” the figure frowned. Her dull, grey-green and pink wings faced them.
“An earth Faerie” Frostrym whispered
“Ilere” the Faerie snapped. Suddenly her features softened. She closed her eyes. Breathing in through her nose, the glowing of her eyes re-appeared alongside her voice “I sense great promise in all of you, as I had once done so before in another, a long time ago. Here, help me stir” An onyx spoon and a coal-shaded cauldron manifested themselves before the group. A bubbling, glowing ooze spluttered within the pot. Ilere added the eye and murky liquid. Clouds overflowed from the concoction. One by one the four friends took the spoon in turn.
Floating eyes manifested beyond Blaz’s right shoulder. Turning around, the eyes shifted elsewhere. Sensing their presence he diverted his attention. The eyes moved again. Thinking briefly, Blaz spun around. The eyes disappeared.
“What’s up Blaz?” Charmifire asked
“Yeah, what’s wrong?” Frostrym echoed
“I thought-” Blaz halted “Nothing” he dismissed sheepishly
“The cauldron speaks” Ilere stated in an unnervingly calm tone. Staring into the clear bubbling liquid, a scene began to play out
“That’s enough” Fyora commanded. Back turned, the one being addressed froze. Slowly, they began to stand. Without warning their entirety began to quake
“Hm Hm, Ha, hahahahahahahahaha” They turned to face the Faerie Queen. Long, flowing, white locks, sharp, threatening fangs; the androgynous Usul’s pointed claws curved at the end of hunched arms. On their wrist they wore an artefact which curled around the bottom half of their lower arm
“You’re too late you ancient Greeble. I have the item” the curled, golden antique had on it a small, sparkling green stone
“Legends speak of the chosen who will thwart your evil. Prophecies foretold long ago of your demise. Though your identity was clouded, you shall not prevail” Fyora countered
“Silly old FOOL. You think me naïve enough to be unprepared. Your so called ‘heroes’, your ‘chosen’ will, in a moment’s time, appear round that mountain ridge, and when they do…”
The Usul began to charge an attack.
Fyora turned around. Her eyes widened as she gasped.
Blaz, Cree, Frostrym and Charmifire stood silently around the cauldron for quite some time. Placing her connected thumb and longest finger amidst the group Ilere clicked.
“We haven’t got time for this” green sparkles glittered around the group as they snapped out of their trance
Wrapping her cloak tight, Ilere dashed across the floor of the dwelling, into a black twisting mass of branches North-West of where they stood. The four friends followed after writhing paws and a snout began to emerge from the Hissi’s portrait. Sneaking a glance back beyond the tunnel of thorns, a grey-blue, semi-transparent Lupe stared back, standing by the cauldron whose shade was coal. Endless trees seemed to rise before them
“Stay close and do not dally for I shall leave you behind if you stray. Be swift. Be silent” Ilere warned continuing to glide through the forest.
“What was that?” the group heard as they passed by a red Kacheek in an open brown vest. Various screams, from those unseen, emerged from whereabouts unknown. As they passed by a tower and iron gate the four friends were sure that a fleeting expression of nostalgia had crossed Ilere’s face, they’d dare not ask her though.
Ilere brushed aside the cobwebs impeding their progression through the woods. Tiny Aboogalas skittered across the forest floor. Cree lifted her hooves to avoid them. Though they had evaded Neovia’s glow, the town’s river continued to flow long after they had left the lights behind. The babbling of the murky waters drowned out nearly every other sound. Sweeping aside the drooping fronds of a wilting willow, Ilere revealed a small stone bridge. Holes in the bridge meant that they couldn’t simply walk to its other end. Meandering across, a cobblestone path slightly submerged by the rogue diversion of water from the river’s run met them. Hopping off of the last cobble-turned-stepping stone, the group found themselves within a dark floored clearing.
Above the full moon was surrounded by a night sky speckled with stars; …and yet… the moon’s glow seemed a little paler…and the stars seemed like glistening tears. A flapping signalled the arrival of someone…or something…
Emerging from above the foliage were a pair of sharp, dark wings, but attached to them, was not a faerie
“NO! How did you find us?!” Ilere’s statement was more of a demand rather than a question.
“Hm hm hm. All faeries are the same” the Usul simply stated. Pointing out their arm a blast of energy narrowly missed the four friends. Ilere had redirected the attack just in time. The Usul snarled. Raising the rods in their hand, Charmifire and Frostrym ran at their foe. The Usul continued to flap where they were and merely grinned. A double strike caused the expression of the Usul to quickly change. The Usul looked to the winding artefact on their arm. Hearing the approach of Charmifire and the stave that the Shoyru wielded, the Usul became airbone, dodging the attack. Charmifire flew up. The Usul thrashed him with one of their wings. Halting the Shoyru’s crash, Cree lifted Charmifire back up into the air. Frostrym brandished the Negg Staff in her hand, sending wave after wave of wind-blades at the Usul. Their enemy blocked every single one. Coming to Frostrym’s aid, Cree’s horn and translucent pink wings shone. Dazzling lights spun around the Usul. Drawing their wings in then rapidly spreading them out, their foe broke through the attack’s momentum, only to be met by a bludgeon from a pocket-watch at the end of a long chain. The Usul unleashed their fury, darting towards the watch-wielding Lupe.
Ilere sent a flurry of glowing leaves at the Usul, knocking them into the hardened bark of a nearby tree trunk. Falling to the ground the Usul was only barely able to lift themselves up
“One day you won’t have the faeries protecting you. Then what?” the Usul remarked, trying to instil fear into the group. Abruptly the Usul teleported.
“Hmm. It seems as though some traitors possessing our magical abilities have armed the Usul well” Ilere commented. “High up, we may have friends who’ll be able to help you”
Taking their leave, the group continued on their way.
Despite the night’s already cold air, somehow the temperature seemed adamant to continue progressively plummeting. Slowly the moon drifted further and further from its highest point in the sky, and by moonset the group had arrived at the border of the Haunted Woods.
As they had done on the opposite edge, the wood’s trees formed a cage like structure at the forest’s end. Placing up her palm, the trees bent to Ilere’s silent demand. Frostrym, Charmifire, Blaz and Cree stepped through. Towering above them, despite still being quite a distance away, stood a monolithic behemoth encased in ice. The mountain boasted an overbearing confidence in its stance, intimidating those who sought to scale it, and in the brief instance that the four friends took in its presence, the mountain seemed to roar.
“This is as far as I will take you. Good-luck, young Neopians” And with that, Ilere’s glowing green eyes disappeared back into the darkness of the harrowing forest.
To be continued…