A Story of the Haunted Woods:Part Two
"Very well,” said the Storyweaver. “Let’s begin.”
“Once there were a brother and sister who lived in the Haunted Woods. The brother was a carpenter while the sister was a secretary. Each day, they’d walk the path to Neovia together, and each night, they’d return to their home in the woods.
“One night, as they traveled home under a full moon, a beast attacked them. With shaggy brown fur, long ears, and green eyes, it seemed to have leapt out of nowhere onto the pair of them. The sister, a Pteri, flew out of the way, but the brother, a Bori, had no such option. He fought off the beast as best he could, but the beast continued its attack.
“Suddenly, the sister swung her brother’s toolbox at the beast’s head. The beast whined and ran off. The sister brushed a stray strand of hair out of her face and said, ‘Nathan, are you okay?’
“‘I don’t think I am, Annabeth. That thing got me pretty bad.’ The brother struggled to his feet, but looked much worse for the wear. He swayed on the spot.
“’We’d best get you to the warlock,’ said the sister, Annabeth, rushing over to hold him up.
“Nathan simply nodded, and leaning on Annabeth for support, they made their way through the woods, this time not headed to their home, but to Samuel’s house. He was a warlock who took for payment strange things, like a lock of hair to heal a cold. He too lived in the Haunted Woods, and was considered eccentric by the people of Neovia, as were most who chose to live in the woods.
“It was true that he kept his house unusually bright, and that he had a strange penchant for empty jars. However, he was also willing to serve those others wouldn’t, and for that, the brother and sister were grateful.
“Eventually they made it to Samuel’s house, shining in the darkness like a beacon of hope. Annabeth knocked at the door, and a Starry Yurble answered it. ‘Yes-? Oh dear, looks like Master Clarke got himself in a bit of trouble now. Come in, come in, and I’ll sort you right out.’
“The pair crossed the threshold before Nathan’s legs gave out. Annabeth let out a soft scream. ‘Nathan!’
“Samuel reached over to close the door, then bent down to have a look at Nathan. ‘Ooh, not doing well at all, what happened?’
“Nathan struggled to stay conscious.
“’We were attacked by a strange beast,’ said Annabeth. ‘One with shaggy brown fur, long ears, and green eyes.’
“Samuel glanced out a window at the full moon. ‘I think I know what it was. I can heal him, but the cost will be high.’
“’Anything,’ was the last thing Nathan heard his sister say before he slipped away.”
“It’s a Kyrii,” said Saskori.
“What?” said the Storyweaver, jarred by the interruption to the story.
“It’s a Kyrii,” said Saskori. “A Werekyrii, to be exact. They’re the lesser known cousin to the Werelupe. But I mean, the green eyes, long ears, shaggy brown fur, not to mention the full moon. The brother was attacked by a Werekyrii. I’ve read about them.” She gestured to her stack of books.
“Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn’t,” said Story, “But the real question is, could Samuel heal him?”
“I mean, if he’s a warlock, probably so,” said Saskori.
“Let’s continue the story and find out,” replied the Storyweaver.
“When the brother came to, he found himself lying on the kitchen table of Doc Samuel’s kitchen. He was feeling fine. Great, really. He sat up. No pain at all.
“’I see you’re up,’ said Samuel. ‘You were attacked by a Werekyrii.’”
Story grinned right back. “’You’re lucky you came to me,’ said Samuel, ‘I happened to have the antidote potion stocked in my supply.’
“’That must be one heck of an antidote,’ said Nathan, feeling he side and finding no sign of injury.
“’I used some other magic to heal you up as well,’ said Samuel, ‘You were in bad shape. Had to use some pretty steep stuff on you. But your sister there was willing to pay the price, so I could afford it.’
“’Where is Annabeth anyway?’ said Nathan, looking around.
“’Well, that’s the thing, Master Clarke,’ said Samuel. ‘The price was her soul.’
“’What?’ said Nathan.
“’Her soul, it’s mine now,’ said Samuel. ‘I collect souls, you know. I would have taken any soul, but there was no time for her to get another. So she gave me hers.’
“’What? How?’ said Nathan.
“’Of course, you can have it back,’ said Samuel. ‘But you’ll need to replace with another. I’ll give you the supplies needed, and one week. If you don’t return with a soul by then, well, I’m afraid I’ll have to start charging interest, but it’s still possible earn your sister’s soul back.’
“Nathan stood up from the table and grabbed Samuel by the shirt collar. ‘What did you do to my sister?’
“Samuel seemed unaffected by the threat. ‘I told you, I took her soul. And you won’t be able to find it, I might add, as I’ve put it where you’ll never be able to get to it. It’s in none of these jars.’
“’These jars…?’ Nathan looked at the dozens of sealed empty jars that Doc Samuel kept. Except, he now realized, they weren’t empty. He let go of Samuel and reached up to turn off the gas light. The kitchen wasn’t plunged into darkness, however. It was now illuminated by the soft glow of the jars.
“’Souls glow?’ said Nathan.”
Saskori glanced up at the ceiling before looking back at Story. “Souls glow?” she repeated, hugging her blanket.
“Indeed,” said the Storyweaver, continuing her story. “Souls glow, and the brother now realized what Samuel had done, and what he must do to earn his sister back.
“’These are souls.’
“’Ghosts outside the jars, but yes, pure souls,’ agreed Samuel.
“’You’re a terrible Yurble,’ said Nathan.
“Samuel smiled. ‘It’s agreed, then. Let me show you the basics, and then send you on your way.’
“A week passed, and Nathan had nothing to show for it. Another week passed, and the same result. Finally, on the third week, Nathan returned to Samuel’s house, glowing jar in hand.
“’Here,’ Nathan said, looking down, ears drooping. He shoved the jar into Samuel’s outstretched hand. Samuel examined the jar.
“Nathan said, ‘We had a deal. Give me my sister back.’
“’Actually,’ said Samuel, ‘we had a deal for one soul in one week. It’s been three weeks, and this isn’t even an entire soul. You left some of the soul behind, creating a zombie in the process, I’m sure. At any rate, the cost has gone up since your week past. One soul a week, and you’re up to three weeks. I’ll be nice and count this as one of your souls, so you still need two more.’
“’Why you-‘ Nathan shouted, but the Yurble held up one paw to stop him.
“’Tsk, do you want your sister back or not? You need me, Bori. Besides, now that you’ve gone this far, there’s no going back. You’re committed now. You are a soul reaper for me now, until your debt is paid.’
“The brother gulped and slowly lowered his ears. He nodded.
“And they say the brother wanders these woods to this very day, searching for souls to earn his sister back.”
The Storyweaver spread her arms wide and smiled. Saskori frowned.
“That’s it? That’s the story?”
The Xweetok nodded. “Indeed. That is the story.”
“But, but, like, there wasn’t even an ending! The sister wasn’t rescued! The brother is still going after souls! The Yurble isn’t in jail! What kind of ending to a story is that?”
Storyweaver flicked her tail. “I never said that it was the end of the story.”
“But that’s where you ended it,” said Saskori.
“I rather think it’s up to you to finish the story,” replied Storyweaver.
Saskori leaned her head back in disgust. “Ugh… don’t tell me you’re one of those ‘artsy’ storytellers who uses too many metaphors and tries to make their audience guess at what they meant.”
“Maybe I am…” started Story.
The treehouse shook. April stirred in her sleep. The branches of the tree moved.
“…or maybe I’m not,” finished Story.
Outside the treehouse, the pair could hear the booming voice of the tree. “Who goes there?”
There was no reply. Saskori put a finger to her lips in a shushing motion, and quietly opened the trap door. Outside, at the base of the tree, there was a Zombie Buzz. As it tried to advance forward, the tree gently pushed it back with one of its branches. “Only those who prove themselves worthy may enter!” it boomed.
Saskori sighed. “It’s just it again. That Zombie keeps coming by here. But of course, it can’t come in, because it doesn’t talk, so it can’t answer the riddle.”
“And this doesn’t concern you?” asked Story, noting Saskori’s nonchalance about the whole thing.
“Not really,” said Saskori. “There’s many different types of Zombies, depending on how they were made. This is a harmless one, even the tree knows that, look at how it just pushes it back instead of attacking it. But it keeps coming back here.”
“Do you know why it would come here?” questioned Story.
“Not really. It’s not a sentient zombie, so it’s hard to tell what motivates it. Sometimes it’s a craving, sometimes it’s searching for something, and sometimes it’s just wandering around for no reason at all.”
To be continued…