Barnaby Willacre looked happy to see them. “You made it!” he exclaimed with a warmth that seemed to be in direct contrast to the skeevy circus man Davy met before he had entered the tent. Davy and Steve were back in front of the tent again, having walked out of the same opening they had previously walked into to start their challenge.
Barnaby saw that Davy was covered in blood. “What happened to you?” he asked.
“I got bled on,” Davy answered.
“The meat forest, right? That place is weird,” Barnaby said. He then caught a whiff of Steve. “Don’t tell my you actually got into that moat,” he said, his hand over his nose.
Steve nodded confidently. “I had to get the key!”
Barnaby sighed. “You know I left a net there. A big net. By the moat,” he said.”You weren’t supposed to get in there.”
Steve stood still with a strained, blank look on his face. After a second he seemed to regain his composure. “No big deal. I enjoyed the challenge,” he said in a way that made it clear that he in fact, did not really enjoy the challenge.
Barnaby wrapped his arms around Davy and Steve in an uncomfortable group hug. “I’m just so glad that you two made it through and that I get to give you the artifact!”
“Wait,” Davy said. “You wanted us to succeed?”
“Of course,” Barnaby replied. “You’re the one from the prophecy. The one Lady Gut Possum said would help save us.”
Steve wiped some of the remaining sludge from the forest off his sleeve. “So you know the Possum Lady?” he asked.
“Of course,” answered Barnaby. “She’s the one who gave me the Ember Sack of Unrelenting Sorrow.”
“So why did you make us go through the haunted house if you wanted us to get the artifact?”
Barnaby shrugged. “I don’t know, that’s her thing. Something something hard work.” He wrung his hands together apprehensively. “By the way, what did you think? My wife and I worked really hard on it.”
“Your wife?” Davy asked.
The ghost woman from the haunted hallway–still wearing a burlap sack on her head–floated up out of the ground and next to Barnaby. She was the size of a regular person now. But she was also still a ghost.
“Yes, I can’t believe I forgot,”Barnaby exclaimed. “This is Jean. She’s my ghost wife.”
Davy hesitantly extended his hand. “Nice to meet you,” he said. He tried to shake her hand. It didn’t work, because she was a ghost. His hand went through hers.
Jean maintained a polite smile. “Nice to meet you too,” she said. “We’re happy you have proven yourself, but you must keep moving. We have sensed that the dark forces we are trying to avoid have made it to this world. These forces are also aware of the prophecy against them and are likely looking for you.”
“Well, that sucks,” Steve interjected.
Davy was a bit more worried than Steve about the forces of darkness that may now be pursuing him. “What should we do now?” he asked Barnaby and Jean.
Barnaby pulled something out of his pocket. “Take the sack. It will sap the willpower of those who oppose you,” he said, handing the Ember Sack of Unrelenting sorrow to Davy. “And head southeast to the coast. Your city called Heaven’s Head? The next artifact will be there. Your task will be more clear once you arrive in the city.”
Jean held her hands together and looked at Davy and Steve. “Anything else? she asked.
“Yeah,” Steve replied. “What about my house?” He pointed at the tent behind him.
Barnaby sheepishly held the back of his neck. “That was your house? You lived in a restaurant? Sorry, but it’s gone now. Sorry, I didn’t think anyone lived there.”
Steve wasn’t happy “Where am I supposed to live now?” he shouted.
Barnaby raised his hands to his sides. “Uh, well the tent is still there. You can live in my hideous house of horrors. You should be able to travel freely around it now that you’ve completed it.”
Steve wasn’t sure how to take this news. “…so I own a haunted house then?”
“I guess so,” Barnaby answered.
Steve thought this over. “I guess that’s kind of cool,” he finally said.
It seemed Barnaby could sense that the situation was getting awkward. “Well, I’m glad I was able to help you on your quest. Get to Heaven’s Head. We’ll be keeping track of you and wishing you the best.” He turned to Jean. “Come ghost wife! Let us be off!”
Jean jumped onto Barnaby’s back and held her arms around his neck. Barnaby started shaking for a few seconds before he began rise up in the air. Flames were emitting from beneath his feet. Barnaby continued to rise, like a rocket taking launch. Suddenly, he shot up into the air, a jet stream following him. Once the couple had disappeared into the sky, Davy turned to Steve. “That was really weird,” he said.
“They gave me a haunted house,” Steve said,oblivious to Davy. “Not sure if that’s cool or not yet.”
“So, ready to go to Heaven’s Head?” Davy asked.
“Don’t you have class tomorrow?” Steve replied.
“Yeah,” Davy answered. “But this is more interesting. And if dark forces are after me, I’d rather they didn’t find me in class. The professor might notice me and ask me to answer a question or something,” he added sarcastically.
“Okay,” Steve said. “I’m gonna see if there’s a shower in my haunted house. Wanna meet at the bus station in an hour?”
“I’ve got a car. I can drive,” Davy replied.
“Yeah, but I got a rewards card with he bus company. Just two hundred more miles with them and I can get a cappuccino machine.”
“Okay, fine,” Davy said. “I’ll get packed and see you there in an hour.”
“One more thing,”Steve said. “The Ember Sack of Unrelenting Sorrow? Can I have it?”
Davy looked the sack in his hand. It was an artifact, sure, but he noticed it also smelled really bad. Like Barnaby had been holding it in a sweaty place for a long time.
“Sure,” he said and tossed the sack to Steve. “I guess I’ve already got a golf club.”