Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 195,181,382 Issue: 829 | 1st day of Relaxing, Y20
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A Haunted Mansion in Neovia


by cardinally

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     Sometimes, Percy really didn't know how he got into these situations. It had been a nice, slow Tuesday at the office when his boss had stopped by. There he was, two revisions deep in his latest article over the local junior Altador Cup game. The little rascals that called themselves the Neopian Central Rainblugs, which was one of the worst names in the junior division, had just beaten the Maraquan Marafins 12-5. It had been a rather entertaining game, especially when the fight between the coaches broke out. There were rumors that Debbie, the coach of the Rainblugs, had snatched a member of the Marafins right from under their nose - wait did Maraquan's even have noses? Percy paused in his writing to ponder the question. Nostril slits perhaps? Regardless, it took three parents to pull Finny off of her. All and all, an event that caused the game to be on hold for twenty minutes and would only get a brief mention at the end of this week's article, artfully disguised and fluffed as a simple disagreement.

     Percy was still deep in thought when Jess, his boss stopped by. She was perfect - her hair was perfectly coiffed and piled on top of her head, her outfit an immaculately pressed and fitted cream blouse and purple skirt, her eyes accentuated by a little wing, in a nice, contrasting brown to her pink fur. She was effortlessly trendy and chic - as Milly, the Quiggle in charge of the style articles swooned about.

     "Mr. Smith, what are the assignments you have for the rest of the week?" Jess paused, and gave an evaluating look. Then, she cut Percy off as he started to stutter about the next junior division Altador Cup game on Thursday. "Mr. Mulder, our regular interviewer and local correspondent for Neovia has taken sick leave for the rest of the week. You have been meaning to break into something other than these sports articles, haven't you?" Another frosty look from her green eyes, then, "this would be a good step to real journalism, if you are ready for the next step."

     Sometimes, Percy thought, Jess was much more likeable when she sat behind her desk and just sent very angry revisions to her victim of the minute.

     "I'd be happy to! What was his story, what do I need to do?" Percy was still, completely weak to Jess's wishes though, no matter how cruel she could be to him.

     Much to the chagrin of his roommates as he came home that night.

     "Really? An assignment in Neovia?" Chaz, the Poogle had said. He was busy strumming on his guitar - a practice Percy was pretty sure they had asked him not to do when they were all home.

     "Have fun with all those creepy people - and don't forget to pay your part of the rent!" Neo, his other roommate, an Ogrin said. And it had only been once that had happened.

     Percy chewed on another slice of pizza instead of replying.

      ----

     "Hello, Ms. Wethers, is it alright if I call you that?"

     The sentence was shy, stunted, and hung in dusty, old air.

     The Lupe gave a nervous cough, and set his pencil and paper down again. Bored, he dragged a paw through the dust covered coffee table in front of him. The lint was thick, and he hurried to wipe it off on his dark trousers. How he got volunteered for this interview he'd never know.

     Actually, he did, and it was all because he was weak to anything Jess, his pretty, pretty Xweetok of a boss, wanted done.

     His roommates were right, he was such a loser.

     Wind rustled through the sitting room, making a whistle sharp enough to cause him to cringe - or, perhaps that was the chill that just entered the room.

     "Oh, yes dear, you can call me that" a ghostly figure cut through the room, giving her antique, old clothes an eerie glow.

     She was Ms. Meri Wethers, notorious writer for the original Neopian Times. She wrote articles on pottery of the Lost Desert before it could even be found to be called lost, she wrote poetry about aging by illustrating the Snowager's massive growth from a Snowickle with carefully chosen words, she was just incredible in her youth. Her life. Her un-deadness…? Really, there was no way to phrase it in a way that didn't sound awful, he thought, pondering on how to phrase it for his article.

     All of her writings and time had amounted to this - a sitting room, all dark, stiff-with-time, green velvet, low sofas and chairs, dusty paintings of her parents sternly peering over the interloper, and an empty mansion. The local rumor, he had found, was that she had gone mad after her parent's death, and locked herself in the home. The next time anyone had seen her, it had been years later, and only as an apparition. The periwinkle of her faerie skin had muted and dulled, her wings disappeared, and her aura leached out to the seen world. 'Mad Meri' the adults had warned him about, was still sick with grief after all this time, at least going by the screams that came from the mansion. 'Mad Meri lost her mind, locked herself up to pine, groans and shrieks all night long!' the children had chanted at him. Well, it did need some work to be a truly memorable pneumonic.

     Even now, with that odd washed out grey-blue glow, she was stunning. Dark hair wrapped tightly into a bun, dark eyes - bloodshot - he noted, dark beak with an even darker mole to the right of it, a heavy necklace to conceal her neck, and a flowing, green dress in true Neovian style. Truly, a socialite with the sad delusion that time, and the world with it, had not passed her. She was also exactly as Drake Mulder had described her.

     And better yet, the newest subject to be interviewed for the next edition of the Neopian Times.

     "I'm here to ask you some questions about your life," Percy said, and here, she gave a low, throaty chuckle that sent shivers up the yellow Lupe's back, and echoed in the empty room, "do you have any comments you'd like to make right now?"

     "Despite what you may think, in this empty home, I am quite happy" she snapped. "My life was a grand adventure, filled with worth and treasure, and not for gawking after the fact!" She gave a disgruntled eyeful at him, giving a particularly angry look at the streak of disturbed dirt he'd left on her table.

     Well, Drake Mulder had warned him that Wethers had gotten a little testy in her old age. And that he had possibly made her angry after his last visit. The Lupe still hadn't expected this hostility right at the beginning, though.

     "I meant no harm by anything, just marveling at how nicely things held up" oh, he winced internally at that, and cursed himself for not thinking before speaking again, "and how nice you look, even after all this time".

     While a frown came over her face at the last bit, she brushed imaginary dirt off of her dress, and folded her hands over it. She was still hovering in the air, four feet floating above the opposite chair from the Lupe, and gave him a cool once-over.

     "I try my best" she said. "Now, let us begin the discussion. What do you want to know?"

     "Whatwasyourchildhoodlike? Er" clearing his throat, the Lupe continued, "What was your childhood like? Was there anyone you looked up to, that inspired you and the life you had?"

     "My mother was a Pteri , flighty thing you see, always nervous that my brother or I would get in trouble, or get hurt outside. She was sickly as I grew up, so she was very nervous that we had inherited that illness. She was tempered by my father, a Bruce, who was a surveyor for Neovia." Wethers clearly took after her father, tall like most Bruces, however missing the facial marks of either species. The Lupe tilted his head, examining her and the painting she floated in front of, looking for any ounce of the Pteri in the woman in front of him. The nervous looking spotted Pteri had a matching neck piece to her daughter - most likely a family heirloom. On the Pteri though, it looked more like an oversized collar than a piece of jewelry. The other member of the painting, a blue Bruce, was large and blusterous compared to the Pteri next to him.

     "Your brother? Who was he, he isn't mentioned in any of your works?" A brother wasn't even mentioned in the autobiography Wethers had written - or at least, he wasn't mentioned in the summary the Lupe had read on the back the night before. And all Mulder hadn't mentioned a brother at all - just the standoffish Bruce in front of him, and a little note with a question on it.

     The ghost gave a sigh, then "He took after my mother, more Pteri than I ever was. As children, he was very protective, and scared off the anyone else. My parents were a bit concerned about that behaviour, so when I began to go to school, my brother was sent to off. To a boarding school," she clarified, "and we lost touch. He was the elder child, and was supposed to take over my father's business. We never were really close again, after that. He came home much rougher than the kind young boy I knew, he went to a all-boys school up north. I don't think of him very much."

     Somewhere in the house, there was a loud shrieking groan, and the Lupe jumped at the sound, out of surprise. Wethers explained it as "a window left open, the wind had been very horrible lately" with a pointed look.

     "My father would always bring me books of adventurer's, stories of lost cities and civilizations. He'd read them to me when my mother had one of her spells, she had a weak constitution" Wethers was slowly nodding as she spoke, as if she was trying to convince herself. "I began writing to the local newspaper with little stories, and eventually decided that's what I wanted to do. After my twenty-fifth short story, I was granted a small allowance as long as I kept writing to them, so I started traveling as far as I could, and explored."

      "I began writing for the Neopian Times after I found the most charming ceramicist in the desert, really a lovely Peophin" Her exploits at the Lost Desert, thats right. Soon, the only sounds in the mansion were Wethers voice, the scritch-scratch of the Lupe's writing, and the shrieking of the wind from that window.

      -----

     "I think that's about it for now, Ms. Wethers, thank you for having me." Percy gave a little stretch at that. "Do you have anything else you'd like to include?"

     "No, thank you." a demure answer, of course.

     "Oh!" as Percy stood up, ready to leave, a slip of paper fell from his pockets. That's right, Mulder had written some questions he hadn't been able to ask before catching the sneezles.

     "Ms. Wethers, I hope you don't mind, my colleague who previously interviewed you had some questions he wanted answers to, before he fell ill. Would you mind if…"

     "It's no problem" and Percy took that que to sit back down, even if his legs gave a little protest.

     "Do you remember a blue Krawk coming around, and peddling some potions?" Mulder's scrawl was made of too thin letter stretched out almost comically. At least Percy had experience with reading horrible handwriting, Chaz had the writing ability of a baby Pteri .

     All of a sudden, Ms. Wethers stiffened up. "Why would you want to know about him?" her eyes were narrowed, evaluating.

     "Ah, it just seems that you would've been around for that particular instance, he was just wondering if you had a run in with the Krawk, or perhaps a family member?" that part of the note was scrunched up, like the writer knew it would cause a fight. Suddenly, Percy wasn't sure that it was a legitimate case of the sneezles, based on Wethers's reaction.

     "My brother" she spat the words out, angrily, "fool that he was, when he returned from a break at his school, met that peddler and took a potion. For strength, clarity of the mind, happiness, to heal mother, he tried to justify that drink to my parents all kinds of ways." her voice was mocking now, before turning back to righteous fury, "He snuck that drink into theirs, and killed them. And then, he tries to drink it himself. What does he get? Turned into a monster - big, bulbous, and molting!"

     And then, there was a loud groan, as something came out of the shadows at her yelling. It was a large, mutant Pteri - for a second, Percy was glad it was just that instead of an actual monster. The thing gave a hurt moan - and Percy took a second to think - that thing was the brother.

     "Ohhhhh don't give me that brother! You do that to our parents! You do this to me! And you have the nerve to act like the victim in this!" Wethers was absolutely shrieking at this point, and the house shook.

     Well, Percy thought as he grabbed his things and ran towards the door, the two siblings too preoccupied to notice him, the Times did not pay him enough to sort out this.

     ----

     "I really thought you had more to you than this Mr. Smith" Jess, his boss said with a frown. Percy had returned to Neopian Central without his notes, without an article, and without a care.

     "I'll stick to my sports articles, if it's all the same to you Jess" Percy said with a shrug.

     He'd seen what people like Jess, people too worried about being 'real' journalists became in their old age - angry, mean-spirited spirits.

     Forgive him if that took some of the charm out of Jess.

     Percy grumbled internally at the note Josh the intern left on his desk about Thursday's game. 'Tyrannian Trumpadon v Neopian Central Rainblugs 8-4'. That kid had no talent for writing, he sighed.

     

     The End.

 
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