The Poossession: Part Two
Leowinn wasn't sure she should help, since she had scared Collux off in the first place, but Huval convinced her.
"You know this forest better than anyone. If I get lost too, you'll be here to make sure there aren't two new Poogle inhabitants in the woods."
Leowinn didn't have much trouble at all finding where Collux was hiding. Ghosts and wraiths had similar thought processes, it seemed.
"Look, he may be scared of me, but he's still your friend. He'd want to make sure that I don't hurt you, or at least that you don't do something stupid. And I bet he wanted to hear our conversation, so he's probably somewhere nearby, inching away as he realizes I have an idea of where he is. He'd want a perch with visibility, camouflage, and an easy escape plan. I'll bet he's in that hollow log over there."
Sure enough, as Leowinn said the words hollow log, a flash of purple shot out of said log.
"Wait, Collux! No, come back!" Huval cried.
The purple paused, floating at a treetop. "No way am I going anywhere near her."
"Would you rather be back with the MSPPs? She's not going to poke you."
Leowinn smiled. "I promise."
Collux squinted his eyes. "I don't trust you."
"Well, if I read the situation correctly, you're going to have to. Huval has no idea how to get out of the woods."
Collux sighed. "That's the truth. Alright, yes, I was listening to the conversation. You're correct. And I am in no way volunteering, but suppose Huval and I did want to get rid of the MSPPs. How would we go about that?"
"Well," Leowinn began. "I'm not entirely sure. They generally leave me alone, but it's sort of an unspoken mutual agreement. I don't go around bothering them either."
"You mean you're not going to help us?" Collux exclaimed. "I knew we shouldn't trust her, Huval."
Leowinn shook her head. "Calm down, little wraith. I'm helping you right now. It's just that if I start actively bothering the MSPPs, they might decide to start bothering me back. This is your mess, and I'm being quite generous to tell you what I know." She paused. "Now where was I? As I believe I mentioned earlier, they won't be leaving unless they feel there is better plundering and mischief to be done elsewhere. You can't reason with them. I highly doubt you can bribe them, especially since they seem to have taken everything you own. With those two options off the table, I'd say your best bet is—"
Collux put his paws together as if to beg. "We ask nicely?"
Huval put his paw to his face and took a deep breath. Why was Collux always suggesting ridiculous things? Leowinn had almost gotten to the point, after regurgitating a bunch of facts they already knew. "Sure, Collux. You go ahead and do that."
Collux stuck his tongue out. "Nyeh."
"Now, boys, if you'll stop bickering for one moment… Trickery. Your best option is trickery. If you want those MSPPs to leave, you're going to have to become one again."
"And then we can ask nicely?"
"If Huval will let you," Leowinn replied through clenched teeth, clearly annoyed. "But in all actuality, no. And you won't be able to assert your dominance over them either. Cloezi will eat you for breakfast."
Huval gulped. He hoped the eating for breakfast was only figurative. As helpful as Leowinn was, she had her own creepy streak at times.
"You'll have to plant the idea subconsciously in Cloezi's head. Make her think it's her idea. And how are you going to do that? Tell her there's loot to be looted somewhere else. And then describe it in vivid, irresistible detail. Her greed will get the best of her, and then her and her sock puppet posse will leave town. At least until they realize you cheated them."
Collux began to open his mouth but then thought it better to keep quiet.
"Anything else?" Leowinn asked. "But be careful, anymore and I might start charging. I could make a business. MSPP exterminator—no, extermination consultant. That way I don't actually have to get my hands dirty."
Collux whistled. "Well, looks like we've got our work cut out for us. See you around. Come on, Huval. Let's get out of here."
"Dude, you said it yourself. I don't know the way home."
"Seriously, Huval? Can you please try to figure it out?"
Huval hoisted his foot in the air and swung it around to face what appeared to be an exit path. "Thanks for the help, Leowinn."
Leowinn was unimpressed. "Your home's not this way; it's that way," she said, pointing directly behind him.
"Right, of course. I knew that."
"Mmhm. And do you know the chances of running into that MSPP clan again on your way back?"
Collux's face drained of color, leaving him a pale shade of lavender. "Huval?"
"Alright, no. I don't! If this is a test, just flunk me already. I don't know any more than you, Collux. I am just infinitely better at faking it. You can't expect me to always lead you around! We have to take help from others sometimes." He paused. "Wow, that was harsh of me. I'm really sorry, Collux. But if we want to get home, Leowinn knows the way. And I don't."
It was difficult to read the empty eyes of a wraith, but Huval was fairly sure he'd hurt his friend. "I'm not agreeing to it, but I might follow you if you follow her."
"Fair enough, and again, I'm so sorry."
"its okay, man." But, Huval wasn't quite ready to believe him.
"Well, now that we're done here, I'll take Huval back to his village," Leowinn said, smiling as if she'd just won some sort of prize. The smile perturbed him a little, and he hoped Collux couldn't see it. He might decide to camp out in the forest after all the emotional trauma he'd been through today.
"Follow me," she said, leading them down the same path she had told Huval was incorrect only moments earlier.
Safely out of the forest, Huval and Collux were happy to wave Leowinn on her way.
"This is as far as I can take you. I prefer to keep to myself in the woods." Leowinn said, backing away.
The two Poogles began to walk the path back home. "Thank goodness," Collux mumbled. He turned to Huval. "What do we do now? I'm a little scared to go back in there."
"To be quite honest, so am I. But we have a responsibility, don't we?" He paused. "Oh, and I truly am sorry. You just looked so hurt I can't imagine you'd forgive me. Can I do anything to make it up?"
Collux sighed. "Huval, you're not making much sense. But I think I know what you're talking about. I get it. I was a little upset, but I think something about Leowinn was messing with your mind. It's like she was pitting us against each other, in a weird way."
Huval was reluctant to blame his poor behavior on Leowinn, especially since she'd helped them so much, but she hadn't exactly been a ray of sunshine either. Something about her was a little off, and perhaps Collux had stumbled upon what it was. "Maybe you're right. I'll help you with anything anytime Collux. Even when I have no idea what I'm doing, at least, if you want that."
"If that's what you've been doing up until now, it's worked fine." Collux scrunched his eyebrows. "Most of the time. You know what, maybe give me a warning when you don't know what you're doing. So I can plan on running for the hills. But other than that, business as usual."
"You rock. So I guess we're really going through with this, huh?"
At that moment, the gates of their village appeared, and waiting in front of them was none other than Mrs. Donnelbary. "Boys, you're okay! I was worried the MSPPs had gotten a hold of you."
Oh no, Huval thought. Collux, you better not—
"Oh, Mrs. Donnelbary, you'll never believe it! You were right; it was the MSPPs!"
Dang it. You're wrong, Collux. She won't have any trouble believing it at all. Huval forced a smile. "Mrs. Donnelbary, I think I see them over there!"
"Where? You two better get out of here!"
"We will," Huval promised, already halfway to safety. He tossed the Test Your Strength flyer in the trash in his frustration. Collux followed apprehensively behind. Just because the town had actually been ransacked by MSPPs wasn't an excuse to cry with Mrs. Donnelbary about it. The villagers were already leery about Collux; they might give him the boot if they found out he was conspiring with Mrs. Donnelbary.
"Collux, we don't need to mention what happened to anyone else. They might ask how we survived, and then we'd be stuck explaining how you possessed me. I don't think anyone would be cool with that, even though I didn't—well I minded, but not in the way they're going to mind."
A look of realization dawned on Collux's face. "You don't think…"
"Collux, I don't know. Better safe than sorry, dude. I know it's not your fault you're a wraith, but people don't get that."
"Oh, it's just that, I kinda hoped we'd get backup for this MSPP thing. I don't want to do this all alone."
"Come on, buddy." Huval ruffled the purple flickers where Collux's hair was. "We can fake our way through this. But I have to ask, you don't have any secret wraith friends, do you?"
"Well, I wouldn't use the term friends. They're terrifying."
Huval laughed more genuinely than he had in a long time. "That was a joke, right?"
"Sure." But Collux smiled in a way that almost made Huval believe otherwise. "But I don't think I want to do this if we're alone."
"We'll just have to find a way to make it worth our while." His friend needed a pick-me-up, fast. Maybe some of Huval's good old-fashioned scheming would bring back relatively good memories. "What got us into this mess in the first place?"
"Hahaha. Close, money. And what's going to get us out of it? Money."
"Huval, I think money will only get us deeper into this mess."
"Relax, trust me on this. Who's helping you with anything anytime? Me."
"Is this one of those times when you don't know what you're doing?"
Huval put his arm around Collux. "Oh no, my friend. I know exactly what I'm doing." Not that he would admit it, or even recognize it, if he didn't. "So who has money? King Hagan. Who doesn't want MSPPs terrorizing his subjects? King Hagan."
"But Huval, they're not in his territory."
"Not yet. The plan is, we get them out of here, into his place. Now I'm not trying to pawn them off on him; I wouldn't do that. We don't have a way to contain them. Like Leowinn said, they'll just come back when they realize they've been tricked. Surely the King has the resources to contain them somehow. And then we get the reward money to rebuild our town and hopefully are revered as heroes in the history books."
"I don't know, Huval. Your plan sounds absolutely horrifying."
"I know. Don't they always? You're not getting out of this one, Collux."
To be continued…