Vinsetta: Part One
Emma watched one of her candles as the last bit of wick was burned and the flame sputtered out, leaving behind only a lump of hot wax in the silver holder. The room, lit by only a few stubby candles and a dying fireplace in the corner, grew slightly dimmer, although it was already nearly as dark as the night outside. The yellow Bori stared down at her teacup, half full of brown liquid that had now gone cold like the rest of the room.
“I think I’ll put another log on the fire,” said the shadow Lenny who sat across from her. He pushed his stiff wooden chair back from the table and walked slowly to one side of the room, where kindling was stacked in a pile. He picked up a log and tossed it into the fireplace, generating a shower of red sparks in the hearth. Dusting off his black feathers, the Lenny returned to the table and picked up the teapot, filling his cup with the steamy brew.
“Well, Ray,” said Emma, leaning back in her chair, “we’ve been talking for a few hours now. It is certainly a pleasure to see you again, after so long. I think we’ve covered just about everything that has happened in these months, haven’t we, old friend?”
Ray was quiet for a moment. “There is one thing,” he said. His dark eyes looked at his companion over the cup of tea that he held in his wings. The shadow Lenny appeared hesitant for a moment, as if unsure whether or not to continue. “You haven’t said even a word yet about Viena.”
Emma was silent. The yellow Bori looked down at the table, and then out the window, where the bare trees of the Haunted Woods were swaying in the blustery wind. “What do you want me to say?” she asked quietly.
Ray’s eyes were full of concern. “You could tell me what happened,” he said. His voice was soft, and the Lenny put down his cup of tea to lean across the table toward his friend. “You could tell me why she’s still staying with you. You could tell me why she isn’t with us now.”
“Viena is asleep,” said Emma. The yellow Bori did not meet her companion’s gaze. “It’s very late.”
“Of course,” said Ray. He stared at Emma for a few moments. “You have done a good thing, taking her in like this.”
“It’s not like I had a choice,” said Emma, continuing to stare out the window into the night. “They just dropped in and left her, saying they would return soon.”
“But they haven’t,” said Ray. Another candle flickered and died, and he glanced over at the fireplace. The Lenny stood and fetched another log.
“It’s a sad thing,” said Emma, finally turning away from the window to look at her friend as he sat down again. “A sad, sad thing,” she sighed, “for a child...”
“She’s lucky she has you,” said Ray. “Just imagine what would have happened if—”
“I know what would have happened,” Emma said quietly. “It happens every day.”
The fireplace crackled in the corner.
“I didn’t want her, either,” said Emma. Ray looked at her. The yellow Bori’s eyes were dry, and she was talking as much to herself as to her friend. “They didn’t, I didn’t.” She paused. “No one did.”
Ray was quiet, and the two friends sat in silence for a while. The logs that the shadow Lenny had placed on the fire were now burning brightly, and the small cottage was growing a bit warmer, a circle of orange light warding off the cold. Emma leaned back in her chair, which let out a low creak. “I don’t know if that makes me bad,” she said softly, looking down at her half-empty teacup. “All I know is that I’m still here... and she’s still here.” She met Ray’s eyes. “And that’s about all there is to say.”
On the windowsill, another candle puffed out.
* * * * *
A crack of orange light framed the old wooden door, and its glow gave a hint of warmth to the otherwise cold cellar. The stone walls were bare, broken by only a lone, half-moon pane of glass that let in some blue light from the starry sky outside.
A dresser cast a long shadow on the floor, which was covered in a thin layer of dust, its corners softened by spyderwebs. The only other piece of furniture in the room was a small bed, with a patched quilt lying on top of it and two creatures lying within.
A brown Wocky was curled up beneath the blanket, her petite, round face resting sideways on the pillow. Next to her, a green Shoyru plushie was tucked under the covers.
As the chilly wind blustered through the Haunted Woods outside, the loose latch on the window rattled loudly, and an eerie whistling sound could be heard as some of the cold air escaped into the basement around the curved edge of the half-moon pane of glass.
Viena shivered and pulled the quilt closer to her chin. Her brown eyes stared out from the safety of the bed, toward the curving stone steps that led up to the line of orange which betrayed the wooden door above. The Wocky wondered if Emma’s friend was still there, and what they were talking about, and why she couldn’t fall asleep.
She was bored, but it was past her bedtime and Emma didn’t want her around anyway. The brown Wocky glanced at the glass lantern that sat on her dresser, its candle all but burned away from the young Neopet’s long nights of looking at picture books and imagining that her cellar bedroom was the dungeon of a castle, and she was a spy desperate to escape.
At least she had Shor. Viena squirmed under the blankets and faced the other way, toward the wall against which the bed was pressed, and looked at the green Shoyru. His plushie chest rose and fell as she watched him, and Viena couldn’t help a smile. Shor was her friend. Shor loved her.
Emma didn’t love her – at least, Viena couldn’t see any evidence that she did or wished to. The Wocky frowned as she reflected on her situation. Emma hadn’t wanted her. No one had. She had just drifted through life, passed along like a basket of bad vegetables that no one wanted to try, or a dripping candle that no one wanted to hold, passed from hand to hand until somebody sneezed and blew it out.
Viena shooed away the thoughts as if dispelling flies from a plate of rotten food, or fanning out a flame. She glanced away from Shor and stared out the half-moon window. It was placed above her at ground level, and the Wocky could see hundreds of blades of grass pressed against its straight edge, crowded together as if trying to get inside out of the cold. Above, the bare trees of the Haunted Woods could be seen rising toward the sky, until they reached the curve of the windowpane and disappeared.
It was then, as Viena gazed longingly out into the blue night, that she saw a light in the distance.
A yellow gleam blinked between two trees before disappearing, and Viena sat up in bed. The little Wocky clutched the patched quilt up to her chin and peered outside, through the glass. And then, there it was again: a bright glow moving through the Haunted Woods toward Emma’s small cottage.
Viena tapped Shor until he woke up. The green Shoyru yawned and looked over at his friend.
“Look,” said Viena in an excited whisper, pointing at the window. Shor held the blanket close to him as he followed her finger with his gaze.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” said Viena, her eyes glued to the scene. The yellow beacon was drifting back and forth, going to and fro between the trees and staying low to the ground. It continued to draw nearer, and soon the brown Wocky realized what it must be.
“A faerie,” she breathed, and Shor squinted at it.
The shape was clearly that of a slender creature, a pair of delicate wings sprouting from her back, flapping hard to fight against the wind that slithered through the forest. Her light was very bright, and it reminded Viena of a bottled faerie she had once seen; it was so radiant that none of its features could be distinguished.
So it was with this one. As the faerie came closer, Viena could see that she was tiny, as if she had escaped from a glass prison but had never regained her stature. It was like the dreams that the brown Wocky often had, of sparkling lights dancing in a hidden glade; beautiful, colorful pixies prancing in the starlight.
“What do you think she wants?” asked Shor. It was clear that the creature was heading for the cottage; in fact, she was drawing very near to the curved window that led into the cellar. She flitted through the air making slow but steady progress, and the two Neopets inside could see her dangling feet brush against the blades of grass.
“Maybe she wants to come inside,” said Viena. She stood up on the mattress and reached to undo the latch. It was already broken, and with a nudge the Wocky was able to push the windowpane out slightly. A blast of cold air filled the basement, and Viena sat down again on the bed.
“It’s freezing,” said Shor. “I can see why she’d want shelter. I wonder where she came from, though?”
“I don’t know,” said Viena, hopping down to the stone floor. She opened a drawer of her dresser and pulled out a warm black shawl. As she wrapped it around her shoulders, the brown Wocky climbed back up to join her friend.
The light faerie had arrived at the window, which was open only a crack. She hovered just outside, her tiny face indistinguishable.
Viena stood up, the old bedsprings creaking under her weight. The young Neopet pushed against the window, which was difficult to move after years of being wedged shut. With a whine, it slid open enough for Viena to call out into the wind, “Do you want to come in?”
The faerie only moved back a little bit, her wings flapping quickly. Viena’s eyes had begun to water from the chilly air. She leaned away from the stone wall and turned to Shor. “I think she wants us to go with her.”
The green Shoyru frowned. “But it’s nighttime,” he said. “And it’s cold.”
A powerful gust accentuated his point, and the light faerie was nearly pushed out of view from the window space.
“But she needs our help,” said Viena.
“How do you know, though?” said Shor. He still clutched the quilt around his small body, and Viena looked down at him. She turned around to stare up at the wooden door, a crack of warm orange light still shining from underneath. The glow was homely, safe, a contrast to the dark blue of the midnight sky. Viena stared at it for a brief moment, quietly.
Then she looked away, back outside, where the light faerie was waiting.
“I know when somebody wants me,” said Viena. She pressed her hands against the cold window ledge.
Shor cast away the blankets and stood up next to her on the bed. “All right,” he said. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“I don’t,” said Viena, as she pulled herself through the semicircle gap and crawled onto the grass. “But I know that she needs me, and I’m going to do whatever I can.” She squeezed under the open windowpane and turned around to help her friend. “Because it’s the right thing to do,” she said, as Shor struggled out of the curved space.
Leaving the glass still sticking out on its old hinges, Viena and Shor stood up and followed the light faerie, who beckoned them with a tiny hand as she led them into the Haunted Woods.
The cold air swirled around the Wocky and the Shoyru as they headed away from the cottage, the silver glow of a half moon shining down on them from above.
To be continued...