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Yell'Biga was struck with panic. That face… It couldn't be hers! Impossible! Where had her ever-so-pretty face gone? That one that inspired desire and jealousy in equal measure. Her normally enchanting eyes had been replaced by expressionless eyeballs with only emptiness behind them. As for her ravishing smile… It was no more than a distant memory…

For several days now, Yell'Biga had been keeping a low profile. She was doing everything she could to be as discreet as possible, only leaving her luxurious villa in Astrub when absolutely necessary. Which, of course, was causing chins to wag throughout the wealthy neighborhood where she lived… And since her husband happened to be on a business trip to the deepest reaches of frozen Frigost, the rumor mill was operating at top speed. Her neighbors, as fond as they were of gossip and rumors, were having a field day. They were getting together for their weekly game of cards, as always with their best bottle of Pandawa wine and their most extravagant theories…

"The other day, I was taking out the trash and… You won't believe it, girls! I saw her carrying on with her gardener! A young Iop with a lovely set of muscles on him, let me tell you!"

"Hee hee hee, what a fool! Of course she was carrying on with her gardener. They've been having a thing for months now! No, I think something else is up… She must have Bwork blemishes on her face. And that's why Mrs. Former-Miss-Amakna isn't showing her face outside!"

"Either that or… She cut her husband up into pieces, cooked him, and is now eating him with Meatyballs while drinking a big glass of Gataurade!"

"With her gardener!"

While her three "friends" were having a good time dreaming up far-fetched reasons why she'd gone into hiding, Yell'Biga was huddling in her bed in despair… Ever since she'd bought that dratted wig from Snippy Attitudez, her life had gone to Shukrute… Not only had her face completely changed, with her delicate features giving way to a terrifying ghoul face about as expressive as a Mumussel, but her entire mind was also under the grip of that blasted wig! The young woman had tried over and over to remove it, but it wasn't budging… It was as if the wig had been grafted to her skull. Even more terrifying: The wig had gotten blacker and grown as if it were… alive!

And if that wasn't enough… Yell'Biga was hearing voices. But she wasn't hearing them in her head, oh, no, she was hearing them ON her head! There was no doubt about it now: The young woman was the victim of a curse. That idiot wigmaker had been telling the truth! Not satisfied with turning her into a horrid ghoul, Shadofang was whispering insults and other nasty things. Every day, she was pushing her to do something truly horrible… Encouraging her to obey, sometimes through threats sometimes with golden promises…

Shadofang's soul was full of big plans that, once put into motion, would let her reign as master over the World of Twelve…

"Go on… Do it. What's it to you? Then they'll be like you… You won't feel so alone. I'll reward you handsomely, trust me."

But Yell'Biga, or rather what was left of her, had an impressively strong character. And the tiny bit of soul deep down inside of her that was left still had a will of its own. Reduced to a vegetative state, the young woman was nevertheless well aware of what she'd become. A puppet, a true slave even, whose Shushu was trying to use her to bring all Twelvians to heel. Despite everything, Yell'Biga resisted. And yet! The idea of teaching some of her acquaintances a good lesson was appealing… but not appealing enough. Even her most abiding grudge was no match for her empathy. Indeed, Yell'Biga intended to do everything she could to get rid of her "occupant" and by so doing save the Twelvians.

***

Nyrem Retseknal. That was the name of her old Sadida friend, skilled in witchcraft, making ointments, and magic of all kinds. She lived in a small cave of stone and moss, hidden away in the middle of the forest. Yell'Biga pushed aside the curtain of shells and beads hanging across the entrance. Her heart was beating wildly. For several days now, she'd been wanting to go see Nyrem but hesitated. Would her friend recognize her? Wouldn't her first reflex, on seeing a ghoul walk into her home, be to run away? And to make matters worse, the curse had also affected the young woman's speech. The words, or more accurately the sounds, coming out of her mouth were quite simply incomprehensible, even to herself! Making her friend understand who she was and why she was there was going to be a real challenge. But Nyrem was her last and only hope. Only she would be able to perform the exorcism.

Yell'Biga entered the cave discreetly.

"Humpf, glooou, haaanf, gneeuu…"

Old habits die hard… Yell'Biga had carelessly tried to announce herself and say hello. Luckily, her friend hadn't heard her. She pulled a piece of paper and pen out of her pocket, and wrote the following note: 

"Nyrem, don't be afraid, it's me. I've been turned into a ghoul and need your help. I'm begging you…"

Yell'Biga knew that her friend was usually concocting potions in her laboratory at this time of day. She stayed in the entryway and slipped her message under the door leading to the back room where the Sadida should be. They she waited fretfully until her friend was brave enough to come out…

A quiet click. A timid click. The doorknob turned as if in slow motion. A thick cloud of smoke came through the crack, followed by an incredulous voice.

"Yell'Bi? Don't tell me that… It can't be…"

The door opened wider, revealing Nyrem's statuesque and curvy figure, wearing her ever-present apron.

"Well, I'll be a Gobball's uncle…"

Yell'Biga's only response was to shrug her shoulders and raise her hands looking confused.

"My poor dear, who would do such a thing to you?"

"Dzeugneu fgnou humpf, bleeeuuurgs…"

"No, no! Don't say anything, deary… You'll tire yourself out. And I wouldn't understand a word you said anyway…"

Nyrem grabbed a notebook from a desk and held it out to her friend. She then asked her to write down what had happened to her. Once the saga of her misadventures was written down, the young woman sank down onto an armchair, exhausted by her own story…

After that, they two women tried to communicate as best they could. Yell'Biga's call for help had hit Nyrem hard. The Sadida got her settled on a sofa in her living room, and got her ready for an operation such as this – an exorcism to beat all exorcisms… She now held the life – or rather, the soul – of her friend in her hands. She had no room for error! And so, with sweat on her brow, the "witch" began her incantations.

"Edrou lo min, moun nu gual idwoun, hiar ô aith é nor é neath..."

Solidly attached to the sofa with her arms bound, Yell'Biga was breathing so heavily that it looked like her chest was going to explode.

"Manlou pidach noun é oar hin talethi… "

The young woman started trembling slightly.

"Eo a-iztoleoch nûd, ostaleou hèn, ostilae amoun…"

Suddenly, she started convulsing. Greenish froth came out of the corner of her mouth. Her eyes began glowing with a blinding purplish light. The sofa rocked back and forth. Nyrem continued more forcefully, chanting louder with an even deeper voice, hoping to intimidate the Shushu into releasing her friend.

"Fiog ô-vurv dën ni lunk ô ni ronk!"

This time, Yell'Biga fell to the ground because of the violence of her spasms. Luckily, the thick rug under her broke her fall. Nyrem was not at all reassured. While she was continuing her incantations, she noticed out of the corner of her eye that one of the straps binding Yell'Biga's wrists was about to give way. She tried to remain concentrated and picked up the pace to finish off that dratted Shushu once and for all! But just then the ghoul began to levitate and a purple aura surrounded the ghoul's body as it rose, rigid, to the ceiling. All movement stopped, and the young woman floated in the air with a disconcerting lightness. Nyrem couldn't believe her eyes. She'd never seen anything like it in her entire career as a sorceress. Was it a sign that her exorcism had worked? A wide smile started to form on the Sadida's face. Prematurely, perhaps… Because suddenly, Yell'Biga's mouth opened and let out a cry that was as atrocious as it was sinister. Her body was coming back to life, and her strength seemed to have doubled. With a sharp, energetic movement, she undid her bindings and threw them violently at her friend's face. She then stood and stared fixedly at her with death in her eyes. Her figure was even more impressive than ever. It was as if she'd suddenly gotten taller and more muscular. Nyrem's entire body was trembling. The creature in front of her sent a chill up her spine and clearly had nothing to do with the perky and kind Yell'Biga that she'd known for all these years… She had no time to react. In the blink of an eye, the possessed woman threw herself at her and kissed her passionately, sucking down her soul at the same time. When the Sadida was released from this embrace, her eyes were as empty as those of her friend who'd come to ask for her help, and her complexion was horribly ashen.

Nyrem had failed. But not Shadofang, who'd finally managed to convince her "puppet". The Shushu had begun to put her beloved plan into action: conquer the world…