Coronation: Part Four
Also by bookworm7
"Oh, that was so embarrassing," I moaned as I regained consciousness. I was lying down in Jhuidah's bed. "So what ended up happening? Did any of you hear the scream?"
Yuruyuki was perched on the footboard. "No," she said wearily.
Saskia and Jhuidah were enjoying some drinks at the nearby coffee table. Jhuidah put her drink down and said, "You shouldn't have gotten near the pot. The potion's odor is powerful enough to make anyone dizzy and faint, and you spilled potion all over yourself."
"Quite a mess, really," Saskia added.
I asked, "What about the masks? Which ones did you put into the counter potion?"
"All ten of them," Jhuidah responded. "Of course, the first mask is ruined."
"Ha!" Saskia chuckled. "It was a very theatrical demonstration."
"Thank you, Jhuidah, for your help. By the way, why do you have this heavy winter coat?" I removed the coat that had been laid upon me to keep me warm while I recovered. It was certainly Jhuidah's, but she had no use for it on such a blazing hot island.
"I purchased it in Faerieland a few days ago when Taelia made it snow for our meeting. Faerieland was beautiful but awfully chilly. I've never seen it that way before."
"Faerieland looked pretty ugly to me," commented Saskia. "I much prefer the gothic look of the Haunted Woods any day, especially that one time when it was eerily covered in snow. It made a muddy mess o' things when it melted, but—"
"What? It's never snowed in the Haunted Woods before," I said.
"Y'know, it only happened once. One of Sophie's spells went bonkers. It was... two years ago? Right on Halloween night, too. No one was around to enjoy the snow, of course, on account of Xandra's Wraiths being out and the faeries turned to stone. The Y12 Haunted Faire event had to send tourists elsewhere in Neopia to do their trick-or-treating that year because of the chaos; that's why you don't remember the snow."
Yuruyuki hopped off of the bed and sat next to Saskia. They began chatting, but I interjected with my sudden realization. "Saskia, why didn't you ask Sophie the Swamp Witch to brew the indestructibility potion for your masks? She's practically right next door to you."
"Please, I would never work with that batty ol' hermit. Besides, have you seen her haphazard method of throwing ingredients into the cauldron?"
"I guess where you brew the potion doesn't matter now, but that still gives me an idea. Do you remember the Tale of Woe? Sophie's a master at dark magic and ghosts. Maybe she could help figure out what's hiding in the masks."
"Splendid! You can drop me off at my house while we're there since the mystery has already been solved."
After arguing some more while enjoying glasses of Jhuidahs Tangy Fruit Juice, we thanked (and generously paid) Jhuidah and left to return to the Mystery Island Harbour. Once there, we boarded a small tourist ship modeled after the Cyodrake's Gaze as it sailed in the direction of the Haunted Woods.
While the sun was setting on our second day, I decided to interview Saskia about her masks, even though I was sure to get more grief than answers out of her. We leaned against the railing of the quarterdeck and looked out onto the vast ocean.
"Saskia, you mentioned that the Y12 Haunted Faire was almost cancelled due to the chaos of Wraiths, petrified faeries, and bizarre weather conditions. What made you want to join the Haunted Faire the following year?"
Saskia turned to face me but didn't seem irritated by the question. The serenity of the sun setting over the sea seemed to subside Saskia's cynicism.
After a moment's thought, she said, "Becoming a mask maker was sort of an undiscovered passion. I knew I wanted to do something with my life that was both self-fulfilling and selfless. Y'see, growing up in the Haunted Woods as a kid was tough since I was constantly surrounded by deceit and misfortune, but it helped me realize how much I valued putting smiles onto faces. And that literally gave me the idea to create masks.
"You actually seem a bit like myself," she commented. She glanced at me and raised an eyebrow. "Not that I'm talking about your stubbornness and insanity, but you have found something that you love doing. It may be lots o' work and not worth the pay, but at least you love doing... whatever you do.
"Same way with my masks. I get inspired to make something beautiful, and I want to share its beauty with others. My masks are now something that everyone looks forward to each year. And as an artist, I know that the best art is something that everyone can appreciate and learn from. That's why I'm trying to create the ultimate mask."
After listening to Saskia open up to me, I couldn't figure out how to respond. I simply kept looking at the ocean and said, "As long as you don't name it the Ultimate Mask of Destruction, I'm sure everyone will love it."
Though Saskia didn't quite catch the joke, she smiled while I cracked up laughing.
After I calmed down I asked, "Now that I know what drives you as an artist, where do you get your inspiration for your creations?"
Saskia turned away from the ocean view and rested her lower back against the railing. "All my ideas come from dreams that I have. The color palette is fascinating, the scenery is always impossible and intriguing, and the strange characters I meet are friendly, all of which you could never find in the Haunted Woods."
"Wow, it sounds like you have an amazing time putting your talents and vision to work!"
We continued to converse for several minutes. Unfortunately Yuruyuki was not there to hear us being kind to each other for once.
About an hour after the sun had set, the ship pulled into the port of Faerieland. Yuruyuki and I hesitated before leaving the ship, as we weren't sure exactly how to get to the Haunted Woods from the Faerieland port. Saskia took the lead and briskly led us along the path towards the Haunted Woods.
During our trek through the darkness, I kept stumbling on the rocky road that ascended out of the Faerieland crater. Within the hour, we crossed into the heavy forest and made our way to the outskirts of the Deserted Fairground.
Saskia found her cart and made sure that it was still locked up and untampered with. We then walked a short distance beyond it into the forest and entered her house.
"I don't have beds for you, but I'm sure you can get comfortable on the couches."
Saskia walked down the hall to her bedroom and left us in the entryway living room. The Meepit Chair sitting in the far corner creeped me out, so I laid down instead on the Bone Detail Sofa. I tried getting comfortable, but there was something that kept jabbing my thigh.
I sat upright and emptied out my pocket. I pulled out Fyoras Looking Glass and noticed a large crack down the center. Immediately I felt guilty that I had somehow broken Fyora's mirror. I was looking at two of the same reflection of half my face.
"Oh no! Yu, look what happened. I wonder when it broke."
I flipped the mirror in my hand and held it out to her. She looked at it and tilted her head. "I don't see anything."
"Uh... don't you see the huge crack in it? I probably fell on it when I fainted."
Yuruyuki glanced at me and then back at the mirror. "I don't see the crack. Where is it?" She leaned in closer to get a better look.
"It's right down the center," I said as I turned the mirror back to me. Yuruyuki was right; there wasn't a crack in the mirror anymore. "Whoa! That is really odd."
I inspected the front and back of the mirror, but nothing looked out of the ordinary. Yuruyuki speculated, "Queen Fyora did say it was going to show you important stuff."
"Well, she said 'the truth of things,' but what could a crack have meant?"
After brainstorming ideas and discarding them one by one, we eventually said good night. I could not sleep, though, for I kept trying to connect everything we had learned over the past couple days.
I was still the only person who could hear the Masks of Dread even after we had made them vulnerable to breakage. The Ghost Lupe confirmed that there could possibly be spirits possessing the masks, yet neither he nor the faeries could sense their presence. I knew that there were spirits in them, though, and I knew that those evil spirits were slowly corrupting the Neopets that came in contact with them.
Maybe the spirits of the masks were slowly taking over our minds and bodies! They could be wandering spirits so hungry to once again be physical beings that they would be willing to strip us of consciousness and brainwash us into becoming their zombified vessels!
Okay... maybe not. But there is still an impending black hole in space, unheard-of changes in weather patterns, and worldwide increases of crime and disappearances. How in Neopia could just one person fix everything?
No matter how much I feared the disasters that loomed over me, we were going to have to tackle every question one by one in order to get to the bottom of this mystery...
To be continued...