CONJUROCALYPSE: Part Three
"How much longer to do have to go until this Neolodge, kad?” The small Aisha asked. She had lost track of what time it was. They had made their way to the Haunted Woods. It was dark with a swirling unending mist circling around the gnarled trees. The small Aisha could swear the trees held faces upon their malevolent bark that stared at them as they passed by. It unnerved her, but she kept trudging forward. She couldn’t see the sunlight through the leaves anymore and was unsure if it was still day or if night had fallen.
“Not much further, Aissshy. It’s near the gated entrance. Guard yourself, there are always quessstionable creatures lurking around the Haunted Woods. They love to play tricks on the weak and weary.” The kad kept its eyes forward, locked onto the upcoming town. Was almost like it was staring danger in the face, the kad never blinked. Maybe she should prepare for the worst?
The gate to the Haunted Woods was a rickety old iron gate that was busted and laying against the stone moss covered walls on each side. It looked as though no one had taken care of it in a long time. She peered towards the rest of the town and the rest of the buildings looked the same way: dark, shambles of something that used to be.
The larger building in the middle of town looked like it was filled to the brim with questionable characters. There were some outside staring as others walked in with dark demeanors. She could see in the windows that the Neolodge wasn’t very well lit. Only the sporadic candle here and there to cast shadows on faces. As they got closer, the small Aisha could see a wooded island inside where a lot of the Neopians were gathered. They climbed the broken down steps and walked inside. It smelled of soured slushies and rotten neggs.
Mutini lead the small Aisha through the rows of tables filled with Neopians. It was rather loud in here. Many were trying to speak over top of each other. One Werelupe had called out a Mutant Acara from across the room. They met in the middle, and was exchanging things other than words to each other. They stepped around and approached the island.
There stood a light green Quiggle on the other side. Taking slushie orders and talking with the locals. Her Quiggles were louder than most of the Neopians in the lodge. It was deep and filled the room. She made locked eyes with Mutini and slowly made her way down the line until she met up with them.
“Well, well, well. Look at what the KAD yanked in! ITSELF! Quiggle.” She said.
“Hello Glambia. You look delightfully loud tonight.” The kad spoke of her sequence dress that she was wearing. It sparkled fiercely in the candlelight.
“What brings your sorry excuse for a kad into my Neolodge, yet again? Looking for scraps ain’t gonna get you anywhere darling.” The Quiggle flipped her purple hair out of her face and smiled. “Who is you? What did this sorry excuse promise you?” She glared sweetly at Mutini and then looked at the small Aisha.
“I’m a friend.” The small Aisha replied softly.
“A friend? Boy ain’t that the darnedest thing I’ve heard all day. I’ll believe that when a prince from a far off land comes and kisses these pretty Quiggle lips and saves me FROM ALL OF YOU SORRY EXCUSES OF MISCREANTS!” Glambia turns and yelled down the line at the island. The Neopians all cheered and drank their slushies. Some of them slurped pretty loud that they were done and she went down to give them refills and came back quiggling just as loud as she had been before.
“Glambia, we’re looking for some information. Care to help this mangy kad out?“ The kad leaned in and smiled sweetly, trying to con the Quiggle out of information.
“Information. Information on what, darling? Glambia always has information for you. Quiggle, Quiggle.” She stared at Mutini and the small Aisha.
“We’re looking for the whereabouts of Crone.”
The Quiggle’s eyes shot open wider than what they already were. She motioned for them to follow her to the end of the island where no one was sitting. Her head dropped low and she spoke clearly but softly.
“What in Jhudora do you guys want with that guy? He is nothing but trouble, I say. Quiggle. Nothing but trouble. You negg heads trying to get yourself into serious danger? What you all thinkin’? Quiggle.” Glambia whispered.
“I think he stole my guild’s magic. I want it back. Crone needs to pay for the crimes against Conjure.” The small Aisha was direct.
“Con-Quiggle-jure? Did you just say Conjure? As in the Conjurocalypse? That guild? Darlin’ no one knows what happened to that guild. No one is alive to tell what happened.” Glambia spouted off.
“I am … someone concerned about restoring Conjure to their original state. Crone needs to answer to crimes against Conjure. So where are they?” The small Aisha asked.
“Quiggle. I kicked him out of here days ago. They started bantin’ on about something crazy and got all my customers all stirred up. They started breakin stuff being all puf-fey with each other. Quiggle. And I told him to take his business elsewhere. Quiggle.” Glambia sighed.
“Do you know where he went? “ Mutini asked out of boredom.
“Kad, does it look like I be his keeper? Quiggle. Glambia is no Neopian’s nanny. No way. I can ask around to some of my better trusted locals and see what they heard through in the rumormill. In the meantime, let's get you a room to settle in. I need to work my Glambition on these Neopians. Quiggle.”
The small Aisha and the kad were given keys to a room on the second floor of the Neolodge. After morning light came and the Neopians had cleared out, Glambia stopped in and they discussed a plan. A bit of history was discussed that involved how Mutini knew Glambia and how the kad would hang around trying to swipe Neopians that weren’t paying attention to grabbing up scraps that were dropped on the floor. The small Aisha grew to felt sorry for the kad, having to live such a hard life.
They discussed that the best course of action was to hide out in the room for a few days and take turns watching and listening for any signs of Crone. Glambia would work her magic and have her locals report back to her. Mutini would go back to performing his normal routine in the Neolodge and try to eavesdrop on any conversation it could pick up. The small Aisha was to move around outside and see if she could find any traces of the black creatures or feel any of her guild’s magic anywhere.
A few days turned into a week.
A week turned into two.
Two weeks turned into a third.
By the third week, the small Aisha had given up hope the was going to find any information about Crone from Haunted Woods. Glambia and Mutini both reassured the small Aisha that information does take time and for the right person to spill at the wrong time. Glambia’s locals had no information nor had they heard anything. The small Aisha suspected the kad never heard anything because it was too busy feasting on scraps even though they had full meals by Glambia each day.
The hope she discovered after leaving the guild headquarters dwindled each day. She often found herself sitting in a small group of trees opposite side of the Neolodge that were different colored than the surrounding bland, dark woods. The bright, colorful leaves of the trees stood out from the rest. It reminded the small Aisha of Conjure, slightly. Every member she could see in the leaves. Each member to her stood out, unique. Each one brought a new sense of unity and belonging to Conjure. Each time their numbers grew, it always made the small Aisha proud. Conjure was her home. Without her home, she felt alone and empty. This small group of trees were the only place that felt like home to her.
She noticed that she was always cold in the Haunted Woods. She could never sense any warmth anywhere. Maybe Crone had moved on. If they did have her guild magic, she should be able to sense it, like she did in the magic shop. Defeated, she made her way back to the Neolodge and up to her room.
She heard commotion inside and opened the door to find Mutini on the bed with Glambia standing over with a worried look on her face.
“What’s going on? What happened to Mutini?” The small Aisha rushed in. She seen a spilled slushie on the ground. It was teal and purple in color.
“Mutini ordered the usual Teal and Purple Juppie Slushie so I had it brought up to y’alls room and when I came to collect the cup I found ‘em like this.” Glambia pet the mangy kad and it hisses softly out of reflexes. “Oh calm y’er nerves ya mangy kad. Quiggle. It’s only me and your Aisha friend.”
The small Aisha carefully picked up the slushie off the floor and smelled it. It smelled horribly of Juppies and something else.
“You think someone spiked Mutini’s slushie?” The small Aisha was surprised.
“I don’t see how, or who or with what. But it's Juppies so it’ll mask anything. Mutini, did ya see anything? Quiggle.” Glambia asked.
“You negg headsss think if I would have saw sssomething I would have drank it? No. I can hear you rotten neggs talking but I just can’t sssee straight.” The kad hissed at them both, irritatedly.
The small Aisha smelled the slushie again. Was that.. Malice Potion that was inside?
“I think this is spiked with Malice Potion. Maybe that’s why Mutini can’t see anything. Why would someone do this? I know kads can be annoying but Mutini isn’t THAT bad.” The small Aisha laughed.
“AISHY I can hear you! I’m not deaf! I’m just … blinded, sorta. Someone get me some Cooling Ointment? If that’s what I have, then I ssshould be able to see right away again.” Mutini whimpered.
“The pharmacy doesn’t open up until the mornin’ negg head. Y’all have to wait until then.” Glambia sighed.
“Mutini, did you see or hear something lately that would have caused this? … Wait, did you take someone’s Neopoints?” The small Aisha asked seriously.
“Why would I need to take someone’s Neopointsss when I’m living off of yours, Aishy? I got a good thing going here. I’m not gonna mess that up.” The kad spoke softly and sincerely. This was the first time the small Aisha heard Mutini speak so. Her heart wanted to break for him, too bad it was already broken.
“Did you hear something you weren’t supposed to? I wonder if you heard something you shouldn’t have and didn’t know at the time. Or maybe someone is after something with us… Do you think it’s Crone? Think they know we are here?” The small Aisha asked.
“Slow down, slow down. Let’s not get ’head of ourselves. Let’s not put all our baby Pteri eggs in a single basket. Quiggle. We’ll catch who ‘ver did this. I don’t want this happenin’ again.” Glambia looked at both of them concerningly.
They decided it was best that Glambia sit with Mutini to rest while the small Aisha went disposed of the slushie far away so no one else would suffer. The small Aisha dumped the slushie down the drain and took the container outside to the dumpster. She wanted to visit her normal spot of autumn colored trees but decided the best course of action was to head back up and sit with Mutini.
She got back up to their room and Glambia was sitting in a chair, sipping from a small delicate teacup decorated with pastel colors. It appeared to be hot because she was sipping it slow. She motioned for the small Aisha to join her. To her surprise, it was hot tea. A much needed break from all the slushies she’s had lately. They sat in silence, sipping their tea while the small Aisha started outside towards her autumn colored trees. The small Aisha broke the silence.
“I haven’t been completely truthful, Glambia. I think the reason Mutini was hurt was because of me and it bothers me. So many have been hurt because of this Crone character and I don’t want anyone else to be hurt. I am… or used to be… the guild leader of Conjure. I’m seeking Crone out to get my guild magic back so I can restore Conjure’s members and my home.” The small Aisha sighed.
Glambia looked up over her tea, across to the small Aisha. She smirked and Quiggled softly. “Ya’ll think that Glambia is a negg head and didn’t know? I had my suspicions. Confirmed it a few weeks ago with one of my locals. Not every day you run into a Transparent Aisha without a story. Quiggle.”
“What do you mean ‘without a story’? Are they really that rare?” The small Aisha was surprised to hear that.
“Quiggle. Yeah they are. They only come out of some science quiggly experiment or a moment of pure heart break. Any Neopian can become Transparent. But the magic that surrounds them needs to be filled with rage of a pure broken heart. And none of that there love stuff. Quiggle. Think of it as the same way when a Neopian turns Grey ‘cuz they are so sad. Transparent means you everything you knew and loved is now gone. Pure, heart break. Quiggle.” Glambia spoke the truth softly.
“When I lost Conjure…” The small Aisha sighed disheartenedly.
“Yes, darlin’. When you lost y’er guild. But you’re supposed to have gotten all these powers with it that is supposed to help you restore that power. Quiggle. Much like your telepathic talkin’ you’re doing now. Transparent can speak, but most don’t know how to do it. I’ve seen one do it, but it was bad mojo when it happened.” Glambia’s eyes widened.
“So why help me then, if you knew I lied to you?” The small Aisha felt ashamed now.
“Cuz you don’t seem all bad like most Transparents get. They can get downright evil. Quiggle. And you have a noble quest about you. Quiggle. I appreciate that. Most Neopians around these parts are only for themselves.” Glambia smiled.
“Yeah, you think that. All I can think about what I want right now. I don’t feel like being cooped up in a Neolodge. I want to be out there in that little circle of autumn colored trees by the woods. It’s the only place that feels like home.” The small Aisha dreamed of her secret spot she discovered.
Glambia’s eyebrows raised.
“What trees you talkin’ bout? Quiggle. There’s no trees like that around here.”
“Yes, there is, see? Out by the edge of the woods. I can see the colored leaves from here.” The small Aisha pointed out the window.
Glambia stood up and looked out the window. She searched the wooded area and said she didn’t see any such thing. The small Aisha was confused. She pointed, again, straight at the autumn colored trees, but again, Glambia said she couldn’t see anything. The small Aisha was confused. She stared out the window.
The small Aisha decided she was going to go take a closer look at those trees. Glambia must have thought the same thing.
“Go on, I’ll watch over the mangy Kad while you’re gone. Quiggle.” Glambia looked concerningly at Mutini.
The small Aisha walked over to Mutini and gave it one last longing look before heading off to the autumn trees that only she could see.
The small Aisha made her way to the autumn trees after a brisk pace. She wasn’t sure why Glambia couldn’t see the colors like she could… was it just wishful thinking? Did she create a small space to escape? She had to know for sure.
As she approached the small grove, she noticed there was a black creature there, frantically digging at the rock in the center. She ducked behind a tree and peered through the underbrush at it. She placed her hand over the plushie in her cloak’s pocket, worried that the black creature might be after it. She watched as it tried it’s hardest to dig at the rock, claw at it. It was acting like an angry Springabee. It buzzed angrily all around the large rock. It's black claws dug into the ground.
It snarled and hissed as another joined it at the rock. The small Aisha noticed that behavior. There had to be magic around that rock! She climbed the tree she was hiding behind to get a better view. About three branches up she had possibly the best view she was going to get. She seen another black creature join the first two. They all frantically clawed at the rock trying to get into and under it.
The small Aisha was glad she climbed up the tree because suddenly there was a swarm surrounding the rock. They all hissed and snarled at the ground and it was only a few moments when they broke down under the rock through a hole. One by one they all slipped under the newly dug hole. It didn’t take them long to all disappear under it.
The small Aisha waited a few minutes to allow her racing heart to slow down before she climbed back down the tree. She waited a few more agonizing moments to make sure no more black creatures were around to investigate the hole.
The hole was at the side of this large rock, angled in. She looked down into the darkness and listened. She couldn’t hear the black creatures hissing. All she could hear was silence. The same type of silence she heard in the guild halls. A deafening silence. She clawed at the hole a little more to widen it so she could slip in. She decided she was going to follow them. Her heart hummed with excitement. Finally, a sign she’s been waiting for.
She slipped her body through the dirt hole. For a few moments, she felt like she was free falling until it was confirmed when her body connected to the ground with a large thud. The small Aisha stood up and shook off the dirt from her body and cloak. She looked up and could see light coming from the hole in the ground she could no longer reach.
She only had one way she could go now: forward.
There was a pathway in front of her. Large enough for about two Neopians to walk side by side in close proximity but not comfortably. She let her sunken dark eyes adjust to the lightless path she was going to follow. Her heart hummed. She started down the path.
She seemed what like forever that her feet and hands touched dirt on the floor, along the walls. There was no light in sight. There was no sound to be heard. There was only the radiating warmth she felt the further she walked.
There is Conjure magic down here.
Crone must be here.
I must restore my guild!
The small Aisha’s rage churned inside her. Her broken heart hummed loudly. Her eyes narrowed to the further part of the hallway that she could see. The hunger started to take over her soul. She snarled as her face twisted with that same burning passion she felt in the magic shop. She took off running as fast as her legs could carry her towards the void.
To be continued…