A Story of the Haunted Woods:Part Six
They headed back upstairs and approached Samuel’s cage. “So, about the safe in the cellar,” said Ally.
“How do you open it? Where’s the key? The combination?” added Saskori.
“How do I open it?” said Samuel. “Quite easily, though I think you’ll find it much harder. There is no key or combination.”
“Then how do you open it?” asked Saskori.
“I’m afraid I have no reason to tell you,” he replied.
“Well, then, I’m afraid we have no reason to release you,” said Alvideria.
Samuel considered this. “Very well, release me, and I will open the safe for you.”
“Okay-” started Ally, but Saskori cut her off.
“No, we’ll release you only if you bring the sister back. And all the other ghosts.”
Samuel frowned, but nodded. “Very well.”
Alvideria reached for the cage, but Saskori stopped her. “Wait, we didn’t say we had to do it right now. I don’t quite trust him, and I think Nathan can keep a better eye on him than we could.”
Ally smiled. “That’s a good point. Okay, the ghosts will stay here, and we’ll go get the others.”
Samuel’s frowned again. “I’m not sure I agree to wait.”
“Oh, like you have any choice,” said Saskori. “Let’s go, Ally.”
Ally followed Saskori out of the house, and back through the woods. The way was getting pretty familiar to the pair of them. As they got close to the treehouse, they could hear voices. They reached the crest of a hill, and could see Story, Nathan, and the tree, all conversing with each other, though Story was still tied up.
“Another good story,” said Nathan.
“Indeed, your stories are good,” boomed the tree.
The Storyweaver bowed her head slightly. “I do my best.”
Saskori entered the clearing. “Hey, we’re back, and we’ve got good news.”
Ally followed right behind. “We think we’ve found your sister!”
Nathan quickly sat up, and just as quickly slumped back down. “’Think’? But you haven’t actually found her yet.”
“Well, we’ve found a safe in the cellar that we can’t open, and we think she’s inside,” said Alvideria.
Nathan frowned. “I know what safe you talk of. I agree, she’s probably kept in there. But Samuel will only release her once-”
“Actually,” Saskori cut him off, “We’ve made a new deal. We’ve captured him, and once he’s released, he’ll bring your sister and all the rest of the ghosts back.”
“You’ve captured him,” repeated Nathan, “and created a new deal in the process. Really?”
Saskori nodded. “Yes really.”
“Prove it,” said Nathan.
“Go back to the cabin with us, and you’ll see for yourself,” said Ally.
“That I can do,” said Nathan. He went to release Storyweaver from her bonds. “Let’s go.”
“Thank you,” said Story, stretching after being freed from the ropes.
Together, the four of them made their way back to Samuel’s house, though Story was sure to walk behind Nathan. When they got there, Samuel was still trapped in his cage. Nathan went straight to him. “So, I understand a new deal has been struck.”
Samuel narrowed his eyes. “A new deal has been forced upon me, yes. I thought you more of a gentleman than this though, Master Clarke.”
Nathan crossed his arms. “I was once a gentleman, but your original deal with me forced me to become otherwise. If I had known it was so easy to change your mind, though, I would have done the same exact thing to you.”
Storyweaver frowned again, but Saskori was the one that spoke. “Well, let’s get this done with. How do we release you?”
“Press the Eo rune on the side here,” said Samuel.
Alvideria pressed the corresponding rune, and the cage collapsed back into a sphere. Samuel stood up straight, while Saskori quickly grabbed the trap and tucked it into her satchel. He didn’t seem to notice.
Nathan pointed at Samuel. “You lead the way.”
“Very well,” said Samuel, and he walked to the cellar door and down the stairs. The rest of the party followed.
Once Samuel reached the safe, he simply pressed his paw across the top, and the door swung open. Inside were some papers, gemstones, vials, and most notably, a glowing sealed empty jar.
Nathan grabbed the jar, turning it around in his paws a few times, almost disbelievingly. Then without another word, he twisted open the lid of the jar, not needing any help to break the seal.
Nathan, Storyweaver, Saskori, and Ally all watched as the glow left the jar and swirled into the form of a Ghost Pteri. She had a sad look about her, but quickly brightened up. “Nathan? Oh, Nathan! You’ve been healed! You’re better!”
Nathan smiled, though there was hurt in his eyes. “Annabeth, it’s so good to see you again. I’ve… I’ve waited so long for this.”
They stared at each other, but the moment was interrupted by a sudden explosion. Everyone was knocked off their feet, slamming into boxes and knocking over piles. Everyone except for Samuel. He stood at the center of it all, broken vial at his feet. “I think it’s time to negotiate a new deal,” he snarled. “Nathan, take care of these thieving no-good scoundrels, and I will return your sister to her original form.”
Saskori reached into her satchel and pulled out the trap she’d picked up, but Samuel waved his paw, and it was knocked out of her own. “That won’t work twice on me, little girl.”
Alvideria got to her feet, and ran towards Samuel, but he grabbed another vial from the safe and threw it at Ally. She was shoved backwards, and though she kept running, she made no forward progress.
Storyweaver disentangled herself from a pile of clothes she’d knocked over, and tried throwing a coat over Samuel’s head, but he simply dodged it.
Nathan got up and pulled out the rag he’d used on the Storyweaver earlier. Samuel smiled.
“That’s right boy, this is the only way to get your sister back.”
“Nathanial!” said Annabeth, “Is this any way to get me back, though?”
“I know what I must do,” Nathan simply said.
Nathan suddenly pressed the rag onto Samuel’s face. He struggled, trying to push Nathan away, but Nathan was much stronger. Samuel slumped to the ground. Nathan stood, looking down at him. “You know, in all my time working for the Yurble, I’ve never seen him actually revive a soul. But I had to hold out hope. Especially after all I’ve already done to try and earn Annabeth back.”
“At this point, you would be willing to just have her ghost back,” said Alvideria.
Nathan nodded. “I’m so far in debt to him. I don’t think I could ever catch up anyway. I’ll take any form of her I can get, even if it’s just a ghost of her former self.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through this, Nathanial,” said Annabeth. “I didn’t mean to cause you so much heartache.”
“No,” said Nathan, “you did what you had to, in order to save my life.”
Saskori picked herself off the floor. She nudged Samuel with her foot. “So what are we going to do with this guy here?”
The Storyweaver stared at Nathan. “I think there’s only one thing to do.”
Nathan looked at Annabeth. “We have to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“What are you suggesting?” asked Annabeth.
Nathan looked at Story and nodded. “Samuel deserves the same fate he gave to you.”
“Exactly,” said the Storyweaver.
“Seems rather harsh, does it not?” said Ally.
“He’s too dangerous, and it’s only fair,” said Saskori. “What he did to you, he would have done to me.”
“I suppose…” said Alvideria.
Annabeth closed her eyes and nodded. “I fear he would not only make such shady deals with others in the future, but that he would track us down for revenge.”
“Very well,” Nathan said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver knife. Nathan kneeled next to Samuel. Then he reached deeper into his pocket and pulled out a Ghost Paint Brush. He painted Samuel Ghost.
Nathan brushed Samuel’s ghostly form with the silver knife, and it clung to it. He then grabbed the jar that had contained Annabeth, and guided the ghostly form inside, where it condensed into a glow. Nathan quickly put the lid back on it, tightening it up very tight.
“Aren’t you going to seal it?” asked Saskori.
“The soul seals itself inside,” replied Nathan.
“Where are we going to put it?” wondered Ally.
Storyweaver spoke. “Put it in the safe. Only Samuel seems able to open it, so it should remain safe.”
Nathan put the glowing jar inside the safe, and made the close the door, but Saskori stopped him. “Wait! That stuff in there’s probably important, let’s take it out first.”
So Nathan brushed out the papers and gems, carefully removing the volatile vials. Then he placed the jar back in its place and closed the door. The runes on the safe glowed softly for a moment.
“It’s done,” said Story.
“Now what?” asked Alvideria.
“Let’s go into town and get something to eat,” said Saskori. “I’m starving.”
Annabeth and Ally both looked down.
“Oh, sorry, that’s right, you don’t eat,” said Saskori, rubbing the back of her head.
“But you do,” said Alvideria, “and we wouldn’t want to deprive you.”
“We can go to my house,” said Nathan. “It’s not that far. I would be happy to invite you all there.”
“That would be lovely,” said Story.
And so, they all went to Nathan’s house. They talked and wondered at how their adventure had turned out for the best, enjoying food and each other’s company. And the Haunted Woods was a little brighter that night for their companionship.