Haunted Woods Hero: Part Three
Varicose only needed to wander between the shop of Spooky Petpets, where the little creatures wails were soon no match for his own, and the dwelling of the sweet mutated Blumaroo who 'only wanted to ask a question.' 'He would have to ask it to a pile of dust,' Varicose thought, which is exactly what he left in his wake as he ran at full speed down the path.
Varicose screeched to a halt before the twisted root base and looked up, then cowered before the mighty gnarled trunk that climbed towards the dark thunderous sky. The massive figure bent down, intimidating him further with his narrowed eyes.
"Are you here to take on my legendary quest, young Neopet?" He said, his voice chocked full of grace and wisdom, which was a sharp contrast to his twisted appearance.
"Not your typical quest, no," Varicose said.
"Then, what is it you seek?"
"It's Sssidney. He took my friend Hugo and I need to find out where he is," Varicose said, quivering in his paws. The towering tree dripped crumpled leaves at his side as he waited in silence for an answer.
"That sounds like quite the predicament," the Brain tree said, "I will be glad to help you. But in return, you must also help me."
"Alright," Varicose said, "I'll help you."
"Tell me, young Neopet, in what year and place did Chris Pooglie die?"
"I don't know," Varicose said.
"Of course you don't!" The Brain Tree said, "I need you to see out the Esophagor and bring the answer back to me. In return, I will answer your question."
"But...," Varicose said, "That's all the way back there, where I just came from!"
"Do you accept?"
"I guess," Varicose said, sombering his voice, "I just didn't think there would be so much running around."
"Be on your way, young Neopet," he said, "and return here with my answer."
So Varicose went back the way he came, no longer intimidated by those massive sleeping trees that he had to pass several times now. He wasn't unsure of his steps, nor fearful of getting lost on the path. He would have realized this too, if he wasn't so distracted by his own sighs as he hung his head.
A single howl into the night told Varicose he was near.
"Foooood," the Esophagor called, wailing into the ears of anyone who would listen, "Feeeeeed me!!!"
Varicose walked up to him boldly at first, then took a few steps back lest he got too close to that gaping mouth that raised above him like a howling cave.
"FEEEEED MEEE! I'M HUNGRRRRYYYYYY!" The Esophagor said.
"I will feed you, " Varicose said, "But in return you must answer a question."
The Esophagor paused his howling for a moment and looked down at the little Neopet. Varicose thought he was going to say something, but he simply stared.
"In what year and place did Chris Pooglie die?"
"I know the answer," The Esophagor said, "and I will tell you if you bring me some food!"
Varicose was not looking forward to running around Haunted Woods for too much longer, while Hugo was in peril, but nonetheless he gave in. "Alright," he said, "What would you like?"
"Bring me," the Esophagor said, "Mummified Ice Cream."
"Where am I going to get that?" Varicose said, tilting his head with curled brows.
"Do you accept the quest?" The Esophagor said, ignoring his question.
"But I don't know where to find it," Varicose said.
"Do you accept the quest?" He repeated.
Varicose sighed. "Yes," he said, "I accept your quest." Then, it hit Varicose. He knew exactly where to find some! His face lit up for a moment, then dropped. There was a little stand between Bagatelle and....Sssidney's Scratchcards. What would he do if Sssidney was there and wanted to capture him, too? Though he was looking for him, he hadn't thought of what he'd do if he found him.
"FOOOOOOOODDDDD!!!" The Esophagor wailed, distracting him from his thoughts.
"So you CAN say something else," Varicose said, shaking his head.
Varicose went on his way, bypassing the dreaded Eliv Thade Castle and catching just a glimpse of the tips of the Brain Tree's, ahem, brains, along the way. As time went on, Varicose focused less on the fearful things he could run into here, and more on his inward complaints that this place felt like one big chore. These thoughts occupied his mind, distracting him from the time it took to complete the long winding distance to arrive at Spooky Foods.
The little bell dinged on the Spooky Foods shop as he entered, and he was hit by the stenchy waif of gross food confectionaries behind a winding glass case. A humble Bruce, who didn't seem so bad in his vampire getup, greeted him by peeking halfway behind his raised black cloak. He said, "How may I be of service?" He blinked at Varicose, then narrowed his eyes with a sharp smile he revealed from behind the soft cloth.
"I'm on a quest for the Esophagor," Varicose said, "and the Brain Tree, too, as it happens. And I need a Mummified Icecream."
The Bruce nodded and pulled this dripping bandaged treat out from behind the glass case. He handed it to Varicose, then pulled it away. He said, "150 Neopoints, please."
Varicose reached behind and pulled out a handful of Neopoints, then studiously counted as ice cream dripped on the Bruce's bare feet, making them quite sticky against the blue tile floor. Not wanting to part with all of his money, Varicose took a chance on this spooky Bruce. "I will offer you 75 Neopoints," he said, blinking as the shopkeeper remained quiet for a moment.
"I can accept nothing less than 99 Neopoints for this item," he answered.
"90!! That is my FINAL offer!!!"
Varicose gulped. He said, "Can I do 89?"
"AGHHHH!!" The Bruce responded as he threw the ice cream into the air, spooking Varicose so much that it knocked him back on the floor, "I ACCEPT!" Then he looked down and frowned, noticing he dropped the ice cream on the floor. He shook his head and pulled a new one out from behind the counter, as if this incident was commonplace.
Varicose handed him the Neopoints in exchange for the Mummified Ice Cream, inciting a smile from the appeased Bruce. "Good luck on your quest," the Shopkeeper said, "Feel free to come back again, if you are willing to accept fair prices for my sweet yet putrid items from now on."
Varicose nodded and cupped the ice cream with his mouth, dripping it across the ground as he ran back in the direction of the Esophagor. "Just one step closer to finding Hugo," he thought. He was also relieved to find Sssidney did not cross paths with him after all, but that relief was bittersweet. Hugo was still nowhere to be found, either.
By the time Varicose made it back, only the sticky pink syrup and loose mummified bandages remained, and even that was stuck to the inside of the waffle cone. Varicose certainly resisted eating it himself, but he couldn't stop it from both dripping under his feet and in his mouth.
"FOOOOOOOODDDD!!" The Esophagor said.
Instead of responding, Varicose simply tossed what was left of the mummified bandage in the Esophagor's mouth.
The Esophagor swallowed it in one big gulp, not caring if it was just a morsel left compared to what he expected, and let out a pleased sigh. He said, "Chris Pooglie died in 39 BN."
Varicose jubilated. "Thank you!" He said, jubilant, "and I need to know where he died."
"What?!" Varicose said, dropping his wide smile, "I just brought you food!"
"FOOOOOODDDDD!!" He repeated.
"You have got to be kidding me," he said. Varicose fell sideways and laid in the dirt, exhausted of these trials. He remained there, stiff as a board, until he fell asleep before the roaring beast.
The wail of the Brain Tree snapped him from his slumber. "You have twenty-five minutes to complete this quest," The Brain Tree rang in his ear.
Varicose leapt up and looked around, seeing the Brain Tree was nowhere in sight, only the brooding Esophagor. He said, waiting with a surprising amount of patience, "Do you accept my quest?"
Varicose lowered his eyes and nodded, only motivated by the thought of reuniting with Hugo. He knew he couldn't go on without his best and only friend in all of Neopia. He had to find him, no matter what it took. He said, with a somber tone, "I accept."
"Twenty-four minutes," the Brain Tree called.
Varicose widened his eyes and looked up at the now silent Esophagor. "Quick!, he said, "Tell me what food you want and I'll bring it for you!"
"You must bring me," The Esophagor said, raising his already garganuate statue towards the sky, "Cheese Ghostkersandwich!!!"
"That's a mouthful," Varicose said, tilting his head. He shrugged, "but I can do it."
Varicose ran at full speed down the long winding path towards Spooky Foods, inciting stares from the confused locals along the way.
He busted through the entrance door to Sppoky Foods, causing even the stoic Bruce to flail against the cabinets behind him.
"Fifteen Minutes," The Brain Tree called, sending chills into Varicose's wheezing body.
"There's...no time," Varicose said, huffing at the floor, "I need....a Cheese Ghostkersandwich!"
"I knew you'd be back," the Bruce said, taking his time as he pulled out the stale-looking sandwich which leaked flaps of pale yellow cheese. He always brings them back here. Are you ready to negotiate? This item is fifteen-hundred Neopoints.
Varicose threw every Neopoint he had across the counter, a bit more than required. "Here," he said, finally catching up to his breath, "Take it! Take it all!!" He bit down on the sandwich and snatched it from the perplexed Bruce, then bolted though the door as fast as his feet would carry him. Tears welled up in his eyes as he approached the Esophagor again, to the tune of the Brain tree chiming that only ten minutes remained.
Varicose, without stopping, chucked the sandwich into the Esophagor's gaping mouth with valiant satisfaction. Another heart-pounding couple of minutes passed as he waited for him to finish chewing.
"PLEASE!" Varicose said, "Just tell me where Chris Pooglie died!"
The Esophagor smacked his lips, "Chris Pooglie died-"
"Yes?" Varicose said, widening his eyes in anticipation.
"Seven minutes," The Brain Tree called.
"at Terror Mountain!"
"Got it!" Varicose said, raising his voice in triumph. Once again, he was seen by passerbys charging down the paths in the Haunted Woods, but he ignored them, running ahead until he finally reached the Brain Tree.
"One minute," The Brain Tree said.
"Chris Pooglie died in 39 BN at Terror Mountain," Varicose said. His answer was so quick that it sounded like a single word. Somehow, against all odds, he made it. He fell to his side, once again needing to catch his breath.
"Correct," The Brain Tree said, "You have completed my quest."
"Now," Varicose said, "Will...you...help me?"
"I shall," The Brain Tree said, giving him a sharpened grin.
"Where can I find my friend, Hugo?" Varicose said, rising to his feet with an exhausted groan, "I need to bring him home! I last saw him with Sssidney."
"I last spotted Sssidney with an unfamiliar character, looking somewhat like yourself, near the Bagatelle Stand," he answered.
"Great!" Varicose said, "So all I have to do is find the stand and ask where he went!"
"I hope you brought Neopoints," The Brain Tree answered, "As he only gives to those who play."
Varicose sank to the ground as he remembered giving his last Neopoint to the Shopkeeper at Spooky Foods, but then something squeaked beneath him. He reached down and pulled out a wriggling, yet sad, little Mootix ball.
"Or not," The Brain Tree said, "That may do just fine. Good luck, young Neopet. You'll need it."
To be continued…