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It wasn't long before the whistle blew and I set off towards those massive doors. I had already had it set in my mind that I would buy in three times just to get the kitty. The first go through didn't give me much of a fighting chance so I paid in. I watched the tournament holder smile as I handed him the five diamonds. He waved his hand with a flourish and blew the whistle. I once again ran off towards those massive doors. I did much better that time! I thought that score of over 233k would assure me a top 100 spot. I whistled and headed off to find Dal. I couldn't find her anywhere! I searched for 20 minutes and the whistle blew again. I thought about ignoring and glanced at the leader boards. I was dropping in rank so I ran through the massive doors! It was a horrid round with only 5 tournament chips found and a lousy 10%. The tournament holder nudged me when I came out but I refused to budge. I would wait and see! I set off to find Dal again but either she was hiding behind all of the people or she wasn't playing. I frowned and waited for the next blow of the whistle.
It came while I was wandering around the Underground Grotto and ran like the wind back to those massive doors. I finished up with slightly better luck but not to do any good for my score. I looked at the leader board and saw Dal two spots ahead of me with over 235k. So, she was out there somewhere! I ran all over but couldn't find her! I sighed and sat down in the tournament hall. I would wait! I sat there for twenty minutes but I saw no signs of her. The whistle blew and I was off! The round was pretty rubbish and I was giving up hope. I didn't have to beat everyone but I did have to beat Dal. I grimaced when I glanced back at the leader boards. She had jumped to over 275k. I winked at the tournament holder and tossed him five diamonds! I was still within my limit. I ran to the double doors but once again found only 5 tournament chips and a 10%. I came out and paid in again. I was determined to at least beat Dal. I smiled when I found 14 chips and a very nice wheel! I was happy with my new score and danced out of the tournament doors. There was still a little over 45 minutes left and I assured a place in the top 100. I would focus on finding Dal.
I searched high and low. I even made my way in to the Archives in hopes I would spot her down there. She was becoming a good little hider. I finally had to admit defeat when the five minute whistle blew. I would have to corner her at her house later. I headed back to the tournament hall and ran the massive doors one last time. That one gave me 12 chips but a bunch of zero's. I had used all of my luck. The final whistle blew and the mailman came to deliver my diamonds. The tournament holder called me over and handed me a cage. I looked inside to find the orange kitty. I glared at the tournament holder and let the poor animal out.
"Hi, I'm Champ the Champion! I'm a tiger! I can roar! I can fight! I'm the best," Champ boasted about himself.
"Uh-huh," I nodded, "How much food do you eat?"
"Only twenty unique," he grinned.
"I see," I said and picked him up, stuffing him back in his cage. I turned to the tournament holder, "Can i trade this in for something else?"
"No," he yelled and slammed the window down, "All winning prizes are final! He is your problem now."
"Roar! Let me out! You want a piece of me? Are you glaring at me," Champ snarled at me, "Hiss! Roar! Put 'em up! Put 'em up!"
"Great! I think I'll leave you in there," I threatened.
"You think I can't get out of here! I'm the BEST! I'm the greatest! I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!"
"Oh for the love of the rainbow," Brite muttered, "Do we have a muzzle? We CAN muzzle him, right?"
"We don't have a muzzle," I sighed and shrugged, "Worst winning prize, EVER!"
"Amen," Brite agreed.
"I can hear you! Wait until I get out of here! I will have rainbow dragon scale armor! I'll make human hide leather braces! I WILL!"
"Yeah, yeah," I rolled my eyes and headed for home.
I quickly made my way to Arabella in the Laboratory but she told me that she hadn't heard from Nimie. She had in fact only met her once and that was it. I frowned and asked where she would go if she was sick.
"That, I do not know," Arabella shrugged, "I guess you could try the Potion Shop."
"I'll do that. Thanks!"
"Hey, about my tasks..," she trailed off.
"I'm still waiting on the Keeper of the Castle," I flung over my shoulder as I walked out of the door. I hope that wait would end soon but this is Midnight Castle!
I ran to the Potion Shop in Cloud City and asked around but no one had seen or even heard from Nimie. I had reached a dead end. Where else could she go? I decided to head back to her house and search around for clues. There had to be something there! I was just about to leave Cloud City when the mailman came running up.
"Tournaments start in an hour," he cried and handed me my mail, "You might want to think about getting a mailbox!"
"I'll get right on that," I replied and waved him off. I wasn't really feeling the tournaments today but I knew I would join. I could search until I was blue in the face for Nimie but I didn't have a ghost of a chance if I didn't know where to start. I ran to her house and did a quick but thorough search. I came up empty except for a small Elephant statue that seemed to be replica of the one I had stolen. I tucked it into my backpack and hoped that this one didn't talk. I set off for the tournament hall and hoped that Dal would be talkative today.
Whispers on the Wheel
I made it to the tournament hall just as the whistle blew. I entered the massive doors and went to work. I found 13 chips on my first go through and spun the wheel. It gave three 30% and a 20%. That was good enough to give over 215k. The oddest thing happened however, during my last spin. I could have sworn the wheel whispered my name. I slowly back away when it clicked on the 20%. I submitted my score and glanced back at the wheel. I admit I didn't really try during the tournament. I only played the free tries and everything went to a very hot place after that. I roamed around the Castle waiting for my next chance and talked briefly to the Lord Chamberlain. He was worried about Nimie as she was working on a Card of Destiny for him. It had been weeks since she had reported back to him. I told him I was looking in to the matter and would let him know.
The tournament whistle came quickly and I rushed back through the massive doors. My luck had finally vanished with the chips and I found only one per room. I spun the wheel and once again heard it whisper my name. I swallowed the lump that was forming in my throat and backed away. I turned and fled when it whispered, "Help me."
I looked on the leader boards and saw Dal way down in the 300's but I had a small ray of hope when I saw Nimie in the 100's. I made my way over to their waiting area but I didn't see Nimie at all! I felt a small chill rise on the back of my spine and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. Was she dead? Had she come back as a ghost? If so, why couldn't I see her? I should be able to see her. I backed away and ran to the Pond of Life. I gathered up some water in a spare Flask of Miracles I had. If I could find Nimie's spirit hopefully this would work to bring her back.
The whistle sounded and I ran back through the massive doors. I collected exactly 12 tokens and spun. I had also lost my luck on high spins. I was getting that dreaded 10% between the 20% and 50%. I was getting used to the wheel whispering to me by now and only jumped slightly when it whispered my name again.
"Please, Rahia, help me," the wheel begged.
"How can I help you? Shouldn't you be helping me," I asked lifting an eyebrow and placing my hands on my hip.
"It's Nimie, you ninny," the wheel said.
"What in the blue blazes is going on?"
"I don't know. I don't even know where I am, exactly," Nimie's voice tapered off as I spun the last 10%.
"Blast, I'll have to try again. Wait twenty minutes, okay," I pleaded and hoped she would understand. I wasn't about to take a chance away from some one else by paying in. I didn't even mean to place to begin with, well not so high. The most I was hoping for when I went in the first time was 190,000 something. I sighed and walked out to wait my next turn. Was Nimie perhaps stuck somewhere in the Spirit Realm? Why couldn't I see her ghost? I was so deep in thought that I almost missed the whistle. The kind person sitting next to me nudge me and I set off. I found only 10 chips but that would enable Nimie to talk enough to give me something.
"Okay, Nimie! I'm back! What happened? I have your Snow Griffin. I haven't found your other pets but I am looking," I called to the wheel.
"I was attacked. I was weak from the poison. We had to drink it to enter the Elephant Brotherhood," she explained in between spins, "Dal did fine with it but they used some odd mushroom and I had an allergic reaction."
"Who attacked you," I asked on the last spin.
"I don't know. It wasn't the Elephant Brotherhood as I didn't recognize the voice. I think I'm dead, Rahia," she cried.
"Blast! I'll be back," I promised and stalked back out in to the tournament hall. I looked around for Dal but she was getting good at hiding her movements. I cursed and had no choice but to wait. I knew I would be able to play at least two more times without buying in. I hoped that would be enough!
I waited patiently for the whistle to sound. It seemed like it was taking forever and a day! I ran to the massive doors when I heard the call and rushed through the rooms. I made plenty of mistakes but all I wanted was the chips. I finally got to the wheel and yelled at it to give me 10%. Nimie's voice was clearer on the 10%. I only had two spins this time and I had to make them count!
"What do you see, Nimie," I asked.
"It's just darkness," she answered, "I can see enough sometimes to move around the Castle."
"So you are in the Castle," I smiled. She was near, at least!
"I think so. It looks like the Castle," her voice started to fade.
"I'll be back," I called and ran out of the tournament hall. I searched the Castle high and low. I even went down in to the market but I didn't find a trace of NImie. I really didn't expect to. I called out for her pets but I didn't know their names. I grimaced. I probably should ask their names but I didn't want to waste the spin. The whistle sounded for my final try in the tournaments and I ran back. I searched quickly and found 14 chips. I grimaced, slightly and offered up an apology to who ever came after me. I spun and asked, "Can you tell me anything else?"
"I think I can hear someone singing," Nimie said, "I don't understand the language, however."
"Can you move around?"
"Yes, that's how i made my way here but it takes effort," she explained, "It's like I'm here but not."
"I don't understand," I said, frustration filling my voice.
"I don't either. Perhaps if you find my body..," her voice trailed off.
"If I find your body, what?"
"I don't know," she sighed and that was it.
"Blast it," I screamed. If I wanted to hide a body where would I put it? I glanced at the time on the countdown but I only had ten seconds left until the tournament ended. That wasn't enough time! I would have to wait until the next tournament to see if there were more whispers on the wheel. I collected my diamonds from the mailman and headed home. Who would want to hurt Nimie and why? Was the mushrooms intentional or accidental in her poison? Why would the Elephant Brotherhood give their initiate's poison anyway? I'm so confused!
A Fate Worse Than Death
I awoke the next day to the tournament whistle sounding. I ran to the tournament hall to find I only had 10 minutes to enter. I ran through the double doors and quickly searched the rooms. I cursed a thousand times as I made mistake after mistake but it didn't matter. I needed to talk to Nimie. However, once I got the wheel it didn't whisper. Nimie was gone from the tournament wheel. My shoulders slumped and I walked out of the tournament hall half the height I walked in. There was nothing I could do to help Nimie. I headed down to the Archives and searched book after book about spirits and ghost. I came up empty handed and for once I wish that Daphne was still around. I laid my head on the table I was sitting at and sighed. This was getting me no where.
"Rahia, help me! Please, help me," I heard Nimie's voice and thought for a second I had fell asleep until I heard again. I followed the voice and it lead me to where Momo's sleeping place was. I saw snake skin that had been shed long ago. There were cobwebs and there in the corner was Nimie's body. She looked so frail. I picked her up and made my way to Arabella. I passed by Anabel and the Iron Knight who both looked on sadly. I could only hope the witch could help me.
"I'm sorry, Rahia," Arabella said glumly, "There is nothing I can do. She's been out of her body for too long the tether that held her to it has snapped."
"That can't be," I cried, "She's far too young! This can't be happening!"
"I'm sorry," the witch mumbled and patted my back.
"Me too," I said as tears fell from my eyes. I picked up Nimie's body and carried it home. I would prepare her body for burial but I would make sure she wasn't under the earth.
I arrived home and laid Nimie's body on my crafting table. I cleaned her up as best as I could and put her in fresh clothing. Her Snow Griffin whined the whole time. He nudged her hand and face. I guess he hoped she was just sleeping.
"So, this is what death looks like," a voice came from behind me.
It was so sudden that I nearly jumped out of my skin, "Nimie?"
"Yes, I'm here. I don't know where here is but I was able to follow my body finally. I guess where ever my body was was preventing me from coming back to it."
"I found you in Momo's cave," I said but didn't turn around. I was afraid of what she might look like or whether I could see her at all.
"That doesn't make any sense. I checked there," she screamed, or rather she tried to. It sounded more like a wail.
"I don't know what to tell you. I took you to Arabella but she said your tether had been severed."
"I see. So I am stuck like this," she noted and I saw her pale blue ghostly hand take her human one, "Well, it could be worse. I could be truly dead."
I didn't say, 'But you are!'. Oh I wanted to shout it at her but she always found a bright side to everything. Instead I just smiled and nodded.
"Huh, it looks as if I was beaten, perhaps tortured," she remarked, rubbing several marks I hadn't noticed on the side of her neck. I should have noticed them! How could I have missed them? It could have been that my vision had blurred from the tears.
"Will we ever know what happened to me," Nimie asked.
"I'm sure we will figure it out," I said, laying a hand on her should only to have it pass right through. I heard Nimie giggle and I wondered if this was a fate worse than death.
A Ghostly Companion
Nimie tried to adjust the best she could. She even found her backpack with all of her things still intact. It took several day but she told me she was content with her fate. She joked that at least she couldn't die again and I grimaced when I recalled Daphne. I just nodded and laughed along with her. I knew that my laughter sounded hollow but I couldn't fake being happy. We cleaned up her house as best we could and eventually all of her pets showed back up. I don't know how they knew but they did. She had the Blacksmith in Cloud City make her a little plaque with the words, 'Tomb of Nim' etched on it. She placed it over her front door and smiled.
I was worried as sometimes she would look off into the distance and I could see her eyes shimmering with tears that refused to fall. I wondered if this would take its toll on her, perhaps drive her mad. She seemed strong though so hopefully she could carry on. She took to following me around on my rounds or well whatever I was doing, she was there. It took some getting used to but we settled into a comfortable routine. I knew at that point that I had a new ghostly companion! I didn't mind to much as she pretty much did her own thing. She didn't play dice but she did love the Fortune Wheel. She barely did rounds but still sent out gifts from her meager inventory. I could learn a lot from this slip of a girl. This was how my weekend passed and I was looking forward to a new day in the castle.