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King Babar's Grand Palace Spooktacular

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“Ah, the Bride of Frankenstein. Can’t go wrong with an old classic.”

Lady Rataxes looked over herself in the mirror as she admired her costume. She was impressed that she managed to pull it off - especially the hair. After all, if wigs looked good on Pompadour, then why not on her?

“Marvelous! Basil, dear, come out, let’s see you!”

Basil entered the king and queen’s chambers, looking...significantly less marvelous. His purple, scaly, hooded costume didn’t quite have the same scare factor.

“Aw, you look adorable, Basil!” Lady Rataxes mused. “What a cute lizard costume!”

“I’m not a lizard!” Basil complained. “I’m supposed to be a deadly Fangasaurus! But they don’t make very deadly costumes in my size…”

“Oh, don’t fret, Basil,” Lady Rataxes said in a comforting tone. At least she was supportive. “There’s more to Halloween than scary things like that hand on your shoulder.”

“Huh?” Basil turned around to find a vampiric pachyderm staring him down, fangs ready to sink into his precious, tender flesh.

“Bleck! I want to suck your blood, Basil!”

The poor advisor nearly leapt out of his skin, cowering and sniveling at Lady Rataxes’ feet. But his terror dissipated when he heard familiar laughter coming from behind. Sure enough, Basil looked up to find that the vampire’s fangs were plastic, and his pointed crown was a dead giveaway.

“Gahahaha! You fall for that same trick every year with a different costume!” Lord Rataxes teased. “You little scaredy-cat.”

Lady Rataxes was laughing, too. So much for supportive. Basil stood up to face his king. “I’m not a scaredy-cat, Your Rhiness! You just startled me. There’s a big difference between being startled and being scared, you know…”

“Suuuure…”

“Alright, you two,” Lady Rataxes said, still giggling in the aftermath of the prank. “Stop fooling around and get ready, or you’ll be late for Babar’s party!”

“Hmph. Babar could’ve hired the Grim Reaper, for all I care. His party still won’t hold a candle to ours last week!”

Lady Rataxes shook her head. “Rataxes, I’ve told you before, it’s not a contest. Anyway, wish me luck, you two. I’ve got trick-or-treaters to attend to!”

Lord Rataxes turned to his shorter assistant. “Basil, go start the car while I get Victor. Try to not have a heart attack on the way. Heh heh…”

Basil slinked off in the direction of the front door. “You’re cruel, Your Rhiness…”
__

Across the jungle, Celesteville Palace was emanating a creepy aura. Inside, the Royal Family was hardly recognizable, as they made final preparations for the night ahead.

Queen Celeste - dressed as another queen, Cleopatra - looked up at the dashing elephant clad in heroic purple and green tights, a cape, and an archer’s hat, hanging skull decorations on the windows.

“My goodness!” she cried out. “Even the great Scarlet Pachyderm has come to our party? Would you sign an autograph for my husband?”

Babar slid down the ladder to meet Celeste. “I’d be happy to, Your Majesty.” Celeste handed Babar a card and a pen, which he signed with his own name. The queen let out a gasp of feigned shock. “Babar?! I never would have guessed!”

Babar removed his mask and winked. “I’m not just the King of Elephants, I’m also the King of Disguises!” In truth, Celeste knew Babar was the Scarlet Pachyderm...then and now, but that was their little secret.

“I must say, Babar, the hero look suits you!” Cornelius entered, sporting a lab coat, goggles, and rubber gloves over his hands.

“And the mad scientist look suits you, Cornelius,” Babar replied. “Excuse me--Dr. Cornelius.”

“Thank you kindly, Scarlet Pachyderm,” Cornelius said, taking a bow. “And now bear witness to my ultimate creation!”

No response.

“Psst! Pompadour, that’s you!”

Pompadour reluctantly trudged into the room, dressed as Frankenstein’s monster, groaning. But it wasn’t part of his act. “Must I be this...grotesque creature, Cornelius? Would someone like me not be more suited to play, say, a dashing yet terrifying vampire?”

Cornelius shrugged. “I’ve told you, Pompadour, my mad scientist costume only works if I have an ultimate creation! But Babar and Celeste need to look presentable for the guests, and Troubadour is already my assistant...” Troubadour scuttled into the room at the drop of his name, dressed up as Cornelius’ little lab assistant.

“Mom! Dad!” Babar and Celeste turned to see their youngest son, Alexander, trotting down the staircase, looking furrier than usual. “Are we ready to party?”

The elephant king chuckled. “You certainly are, son. Great werewolf costume!”

“Thanks! But you guys better watch out - I think there’s a full moon tonight! Awooo!”

“You’d all best watch out,” Flora called from the top of the stairs, wearing her witch costume. She stared everyone down as if she were about to cast a spell on them. She was really getting into the dramatics. “Or you might find yourselves enchanted, like this one here!” Pom emerged from the hallway, dressed as some sort of bug with paper wings and plastic antennae. “Behold! I’ve transformed Pom into a hideous insect! Hee hee hee!”

“Not just any hideous insect...” Pom explained, “...a cicada! Cool and creepy!”

Celeste applauded her children. “Very nice, you three! You’re really getting into the Halloween spirit!” Just then, she noticed her youngest child was absent. “Wait, where’s Isabelle?”

“Here I am, Mama!” Isabelle appeared, with a fancy, glittery gown, wings, and a crown.

Pom frowned. “Isabelle, are you a princess?”

“A fairy princess!”

Alexander facepalmed. “Isabelle, you’re supposed to be something scary on Halloween!”

Isabelle folded her arms and turned away. “I don’t like the scary part of Halloween! It’s too...scary! I just like dressing up and eating candy!”

Isabelle’s brothers continued to grimace, but Flora stepped between them. “Isabelle is something scary, you guys! Don’t you know what princesses deal with on a daily basis? Getting poisoned by witches, getting kidnapped by dragons, getting cursed by witches who turn into dragons...and then you’ve got to worry about evil stepsisters and--!”

“Stop!” Isabelle cried, covering her ears (which was very difficult for an elephant). “Don’t make princess-ing scary too!”

“But that’s the point!” Alexander chastened.

Babar could see that his children were having quite the altercation, so he decided to put in his two cents. “Now, children, Halloween is about more than just being scary. It’s also about having fun! And Isabelle has every right to dress up as whatever she wants. I think she makes a wonderful fairy princess.”

Isabelle beamed while the other children pouted. “Thank you, Daddy!”

“Of course, Isabelle. All that matters is that you enjoy yourself. And if I must say so myself, I think this party will be quite enjoyable. Cornelius?”

“Yes, Your Majesty! Ahem...Troubadour, pull the switch! Ooh, that was good, I frighten myself!” Troubadour flipped a switch and orange and purple lights, as well as fluorescent ghost-shaped trinkets, lit up, adorning the palace foyer and ballroom with their creepy glow.

“Oooh…” The children marveled at the sight.

Babar puffed out his chest proudly. “Yes, perfect! This party is bound to be at least three times as impressive as Rataxes’!”

“Careful, Babar…” Celeste said warily, as she stepped up next to her husband. “Don’t get carried away trying to outdo him!”

“Relax, Celeste. With Rataxes, I hardly have to try at all.”

“Speaking of getting carried away…” Pompadour said, looking out the window, “A crowd is assembling out front. I think it’s about time we let everyone in!”

“Very well! Cornelius, Pompadour, open the doors! Let the Celesteville Spooktacular begin!”

Cornelius and Pompadour pulled the doors back. Immediately, a flood of patrons poured into the castle. Within minutes, the mingling commenced. It didn’t take long for Babar’s children to find their friend, Victor. He was dressed like a pirate, eyepatch, hat, and all. He even had a plastic parrot on his shoulder, and it was clear from his expression that this costume was not his original plan. Pom and Flora snickered, while Alexander jumped at the opportunity.

“Arr, matey! All hands on the poop deck!”

“Shut up. It was the scariest costume my mom would let me wear,” Victor grumbled.

“Don’t feel bad, Vic,” Alexander said. “At least you tried to be scary.” He gestured to Isabelle, who was currently being fawned over by all the adults about how cute she was.

Victor grimaced. “A fairy princess? Ugh, I haven’t even eaten any candy yet, and I already wanna barf.”

Meanwhile, Babar shook the trunks of a few friendly citizens, and many children, who swore he looked just like the real Scarlet Pachyderm, before two familiar faces approached him.

“Howdy, Babar!” Zephir called from behind, and Babar turned to find his best friend wearing...an awfully familiar costume. Green suit, red bowtie, a crown made of yellow construction paper…

“Zephir, are you dressed as...me?”

“Can’t go wrong with an old classic!”

That got a laugh out of Babar. “Well, that much is true!”

“Hey, Zephir! Hey, Bab--oh...this is awkward.”

Babar turned again to find Arthur, also dressed as him, except not in his signature green suit. He was dressed in the same clothes Babar was in right now!

“Arthur?! You’re the Scarlet Pachyderm, too?” Zephir asked in shock. Clearly Arthur hadn’t bothered to tell anyone else what he was going as. If he had, they would’ve stopped him.

The two elephants stared at each other, as Arthur predicted, awkwardly. Arthur finally broke the silence.

“Well, I’m not gonna change.”

One of us has to!” Babar shouted, throwing his hands in the air.

Arthur’s expression suddenly turned intense. “Then there’s only one way to decide…” he reached back his trunk and pulled out his rapier. “With a duel!”

“Right!” Babar drew his rapier as well. The two took a fighting stance...before Celeste tugged on Babar’s collar.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “There will be no dueling at our Spooktacular.”

Arthur sighed, as he and Babar put their weapons away. “Alright, alright, whatever you say, Sis.” The younger elephant grinned and turned his archer’s hat sideways. “I’ll just be the younger, slicker, new-generation Scarlet Pachyderm!”

Babar rolled his eyes and turned away as Arthur left, only to be greeted for the third time by someone in costume. Only this time, it wasn’t a friendly face. Babar found himself face-to-face with his longtime rival, Lord Rataxes. Except right now he was looking more like Count Rataxes.

“Good evening, Babar…” he said ominously. Basil peered out from behind him. “Hi, Babar.”

“Well, isn’t that the perfect costume for you, Rataxes...after all, you already leech the life out of me on a daily basis.”

Rataxes scoffed. “Oh, please. As if I’d be caught dead sucking elephant blood! Even vampires have standards!” He looked around and raised an eyebrow. “For a Spooktacular, I’m noticing a distinct lack of chills and thrills.”

Babar made a cocky grin at his rival. “Rest assured, Rataxes, I promise to deliver on the scare front!”

“Ha! Good luck with that! In case you’ve forgotten, we rhinos aren’t afraid of anything!” Rataxes looked down at Basil, who had turned away, and smirked. “Well, most of us, anyway…” The rhino king pulled a plastic spider out from under his cape, and dropped onto his advisor’s head. “Basil, look out! There’s a spider on you!”

“Ah! Where?!” Basil panicked and flipped out, frantically trying to get the spider off him, while Rataxes burst into laughter. “Hahaha! That one never gets old!”

In his desperate attempt to free himself from the spider’s grasp, Basil ran off and bumped into Pompadour, falling to the ground, causing the plastic spider to clatter harmlessly to the floor. “Aw...I can’t believe I fell for that old trick!”

Pompadour looked down at Basil with annoyance. Would it have hurt for him to watch where he was going? “Goodness, Basil, I know Halloween is the time for candy, but you cannot tell me you’ve already gotten a sugar rush!”

“It’s not a sugar rush, Pompadour…” Basil sighed. “Lord Rataxes pulled another prank on me.”

“Do you need help, Mr. Basil?” Isabelle walked up to Basil, who was still on the floor, and helped him up.

“Thanks, Isabelle.”

“You’re welcome. I like your Fangasaurus costume! They’re not as scary as Alexander made them sound!”

Basil winced on the inside. No, his costume wasn’t scary at all, and that was the problem! But, he still appreciated the compliment from Isabelle, and forced a smile for her.

Pompadour cleared his throat. “Honestly, it appalls me that you allow Rataxes to push you around like this, Basil.”

“Don’t get the wrong idea, Pompadour!” Basil exclaimed, quick to defend his boss. “His Pranksterness is only getting into the Halloween spirit.”

“Maybe so, but wouldn’t you like to scare him for a change?”

“Oh, wouldn’t I! But take a good look at me, Pompadour. I’m short, stubby, and I’m dressed like a stuffed animal. This isn’t scaring anyone, let alone Lord Rataxes!”

“It’s okay, Mr. Basil.” Isabelle pulled Basil into a tight hug. “I like stuffed animals! Being cute is way better than being scary, anyway!”

“You are good at being cute…” Pompadour added.

Oh, drat. Did he say that out loud?

The two advisors blushed and laughed nervously. “Uh...thank you, Pompadour.”

Just then, Cornelius’ booming voice could be heard from the edge of the ballroom. “Attention, everyone! Dr. Cornelius’ Terrifying Tales shall begin shortly!”

Pompadour clapped excitedly. “Ooh, come quickly, Basil! You too, Isabelle! You won’t want to miss this!”

The partygoers gathered in front of the stage as the lights dimmed. Basil managed to find Rataxes and Victor, while Isabelle met up with her parents and siblings. Incidentally, this resulted in the two kings being almost shoulder-to-shoulder. Not that they minded, au contraire. This would give them the perfect opportunity to rub the success and/or failure of Babar’s party in the other’s face.

Cornelius suddenly emerged from the curtains, laughing maniacally as sounds of thunder were heard and the spotlight shone down on him. Pom gulped.

“Wow, Cornelius makes a convincing mad scientist.”

“Yeah, no kidding!” Alexander added.

Babar gave Rataxes a smug look. “Told you we’d deliver.”

“Tch. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and a Happy Hallow’s Eve to you all!” Cornelius chanted. He was taking his mad scientist role very seriously. After all, why shouldn’t he? After so many weeks of sifting through paperwork, the old bull was overdue for some fun! “Are you all prepared to experience thrills, chills, and possibly even spills?”

The children in the audience cheered. The adults, not so much.

“Then prepare yourselves, as I spin you a tale of terror and turmoil! Not to mention, fright and fear, horror and--”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, get on with the scares already!” Rataxes called from the audience. Babar thought about elbowing him--he was strong enough--but no, he’s above that. Cornelius heeded the words of his heckler and continued.

“Careful what you wish for, my friend. You might just get it...ahahahaha!” There was the thunder again.

Cornelius took a seat on the stool onstage and opened a book. Of course, it was just a regular old book of records, but for the sake of this show, Cornelius pretended to read from a book of horror stories. “Ah, yes, one of my favorites! This is the Legend of the Older King.”

“Older King? Heh, give me a break.” Rataxes muttered, quietly enough for only Babar to hear him.

“As we all know,” Cornelius began, “Our Old King was a benevolent soul. He was kind to his subjects, and a friend to all species. But the king who came before him was not so benevolent.” More elephants, members of Babar’s royal guard, emerged from the curtain, acting out the story as Cornelius was telling it. The biggest elephant, wearing a fake crown, was obviously playing the Older King, while the other elephants cowered in fear.

“The Older King ruled the elephant kingdom with an iron fist. He was highly possessive, and brutally attacked any other animals who tried to invade his kingdom. He was especially not fond…” Cornelius leaned forward. “...of rhinos.” The guard playing the Older King struck down the guard wearing a rhino mask to accentuate Cornelius’ point.

Rataxes scoffed. “Ooh, I’m shaking.” Basil, on the other hand, was shaking. Not in fear, but anxiety, because he just knew a scary part was coming…

The lights began to fade again as Cornelius continued. “Why, if his ill temper were to flare up, he might even bring down his hammer of justice onto his own elephant subjects, and...well for the sake of the children, I’ll spare you the details, but…” Screams and metal scraping could be heard in the background. “Use your imaginations. Hahaha…”

Now the kids and even Arthur were starting to shiver. But Rataxes, no such luck. Instead he leaned down and whispered to Victor. “Translation: Babar’s too chicken to write a murder scene.” Victor smiled uneasily, while poor old Basil was hiding behind Rataxes now.

Cornelius went on, “It was a great tyrannical rule, but it was not to last. For one day, karma finally caught up to the Older King, and he was felled on the field of battle. It was a fitting end for our king…” The spotlight turned red as the lead guard was struck down, and another elephant placed a white sheet over his body.

“...OR WAS IT?!”

The thunder struck again as the spotlight flashed and the lead stood up under the sheet, looking like a regular specter under there. The kids shrieked and huddled together, but Rataxes was grinning.

“Oh, brother, the old sheet-ghost trick? Talk about losing your edge!”

Babar glared daggers at Rataxes and growled. Was all this heckling really necessary? Their rivalry was one thing, but Cornelius and his makeshift troupe of actors were really trying up there!

Eerie, white light covered the stage as the ghost roamed around and ethereal music played. “It’s said that the Older King’s spirit still follows the elephant tribe, generation through generation, watching us in times of peace, and descending on our foes in times of war. No one knows if the legends are really true, but if they are...well, I doubt he’d be happy to see all of you intruding in his palace. Mwahahaha!”

The thunder boomed one last time as the curtain came down behind Cornelius. Various reactions rang out from the audience. Some kids were cheering, others had chills, some parents were assuring their children that there were such thing as ghost, and King Babar was only playing pretend. Overall, a satisfying turnout.

But Rataxes? Rataxes couldn’t even bother to applaud to spare Babar’s feelings.

Instead, the rhino king yawned.

“Bo-ring with a capital B. Right, son?”

Victor took a moment to snap out of his awe. “Huh? Oh, yeah, right, Dad. Totally boring.”

Basil was hiding under Rataxes’ cape, shuddering. “Oh, I don’t know, Your Rhiness…it was pretty spooky to me!”

“Pfft. Everything’s spooky to you, Basil! I want to say the show my rhino troops put on was four times scarier than this...but then again, four times zero is zero! Gahahaha! Better luck next year!”

Babar and Zephir heard Rataxes’ taunts, and Zephir scratched his head. “Boy, that Rataxes...why’s he gotta turn everything into a horn-measuring contest? We’re just here to have fun!”

Babar wasn’t listening. Instead, he sauntered up to the stage while the actors prepared for second story. “I’ll show him…” he grumbled. “Cornelius! It’s time to break out the big guns!”

The older elephant swallowed hard, but if Babar wanted it, he’d do it. He nodded, then stood up, quickly reassuming his mad scientist persona. “So, that story wasn’t scary enough for you, was it?!” Everyone looked back up at Cornelius. “Then why don’t I spin a different tale for you? A tale that happens to star our good friend...the Grim Reaper!” Gasps of shock and excitement rang out in the audience.

“Cliché,” Rataxes spat.

“We’ll show you cliché!” Cornelius yelled dramatically. “Now, my assistant, cue the lightning!”

Celeste’s eyes widened. Lightning? Babar never told her about this!

Troubadour flipped another switch, and the spotlights flashed again, but their intensity increased. The voltage had been turned up high, and the thunder sound effects were even louder now. It was as if actual lightning was striking inside the palace. This caught everyone’s attention, even the rhinos.

“Whoa, cool!” Victor marveled.

“Eh, I suppose…” was his father’s reply, but he did admit it was a step up.

However, it was all too much for Isabelle. She shut her eyes tight, covered her ears, and knelt down. Her siblings were too captivated to notice, but she was crying out. “No! It’s too loud! Stop it!”

In an instant, Isabelle got her wish. The lightning stopped. In fact, everything had stopped. There was no light, no thunder, no maniacal laughter. Was the show over?

Isabelle opened her eyes, and immediately she knew something was wrong. The ballroom was pitch-black. Elephants were muttering in fear and confusion. She could hear Cornelius, but he wasn’t the doctor anymore. Now he was back to plain old “My tusks!” Cornelius.

Suddenly, Isabelle felt her mother’s arms wrap around her. “Isabelle! Are you alright, dear?” Isabelle was too shocked and confused to answer.

“What’s goin’ on?” Victor asked. “Is this a part of the show?”

“There is no show,” Rataxes explained. “Babar went and knocked the power out!”

Immediately the mutters of confusion turned to jeers and groans of frustration. Babar laughed sheepishly as Celeste sighed. It was dark, but she could still her husband, so she walked over to him.

Babar scratched the back of his head. “Uh...oopsie?”

“I told you not to get carried away!”

Babar slumped his shoulders. “I know. I shouldn’t have let Rataxes get to me. But don’t worry, I’ll get this under control.”

Luckily, the guards still had their flashlights. With their dim lights guiding him, Babar climbed up onto the stage and took the bullhorn Cornelius used to announce his event. “Attention, everyone, attention! Please remain calm. We’re experiencing minor technical difficulties. We’ll try to get the lights back on as soon as possible. In the meantime, everyone please remain in the ballroom. I don’t want to lose track of anyone.”

Cornelius walked up to Babar. “I’ll take some of the guards downstairs, and we’ll have a look at the fuse box.”

“Yes, you do that, Cornelius. In the meantime, I’ll...try to think of a way to appease all of these guests.”

Celeste, who was holding Isabelle’s hand, could see the disdain on her husband’s face. Yes, he might have gone overboard with the effects, but at the end of the day, he just wanted to put on an unforgettable event for his subjects. “Oh, Babar…” Isabelle looked to her left and saw her siblings conversing.

“Man, some Halloween!” Alexander griped.

“The Spooktacular is ruined!” Flora cried.

“Hey, you guys, don’t get so down,” Pom said. “Only 364 days ‘till next Halloween, right?”

Meanwhile, Rataxes was miffed, to say the least. Bad enough Babar’s show was a bust, now he was wasting his son’s time, too! Well, he wouldn’t have it. Rataxes had the perfect plan to save Halloween for his boy. He leaned down and whispered discreetly to Victor.

“Victor, listen up. While these bozos are stumbling around in the dark, let’s make a break for the foyer and nab ourselves some candy! After all, it is Halloween!”

“B-But, Dad,” Victor objected, “King Babar told us to stay in the ballroom!”

“Ah, King Babar says a lot of things. You’re not afraid, are you? I promise you, there’s not one spooky thing in this castle!”

“Well...I guess no one would miss us for a minute.”

“That’s the spirit, kiddo! But just to be safe, Basil, you stay here in case anyone notices we’re gone. Got it? Good. Let’s go, son!”

“But, Your Rhiness--!” Rataxes was already gone. Basil’s last outburst caught Isabelle’s attention, and she turned to the right to see him standing alone. She looked up at her mother. “Mama, can I go see if Mr. Basil’s okay?”

Celeste faltered for a moment. It was a chaotic scene, yes, but Basil was a trustworthy man, unlike his boss. Besides, Babar was right there on the stage, and she had to check on her other children. “Alright, but be careful, Isabelle.”

Isabelle walked up to the purple-clad rhino and tapped him, which made him jump. “Huh?! Oh, it’s only you, Isabelle.”

“Where did Victor and Mr. Rataxes go?”

“They, uh...had business to attend to. B-but they’ll be right back!”

Isabelle got a pensive look on her face. Basil started to sweat. Did she see through the weak alibi any mind.

“Are you okay?”

Apparently she didn’t. Basil surveyed himself; he seemed to be okay, and he wiped his brow. “Yes, I’m okay, Isabelle. Although this Spooktacular was getting to be a bit much for me. There were so many thrills and chills, I nearly had a spill…Truthfully, I’m relieved it’s over.”

Isabelle looked over to her father longingly. He was sitting on the edge of the stage, bathed in the guards’ dim flashlights, lost in thought. Basil caught her eye, and frowned. “Oh...I guess everyone else might not be so relieved it’s over…”

Isabelle took Basil’s hand and headed for the stage. “Daddy?”

“What?” Babar sat up in shock. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”

“No, but you look hurt…”

Babar let out a heavy sigh. “I am, Isabelle. After all, I ruined everyone’s Halloween…”

Basil lifted Isabelle up onto the stage, and she sat next to her father. “No, you didn’t, Daddy! Not mine...I didn’t want a scary Halloween anyway, remember?”

“Oh, right. I guess I forgot that. I got so caught up in trying to spook Rataxes.”

Basil chuckled. “Well, King Babar, if it’s any consolation, you came closer than I ever did!”

Babar laughed with him. “Thanks, Basil, that does make me feel a little better.” Isabelle joined the two men in laughter, but then something caught her eye. She looked behind her and saw a black cloak and a false scythe lying on the stage. “What’s that?”

Her father’s laugh faded. “Those were for the guard that was supposed to play the Grim Reaper,” Babar explained. “But they’re useless now.”

Isabelle got a pensive look on her face. She looked around the stage and picked up Cornelius’ discarded bullhorn. “Maybe they’re not!”

“Huh?” Babar and Basil asked in unison.

“I think I know how to save everybody’s Halloween and spook Mr. Rataxes! Mr. Basil, you know where he is, right?”

“No! Yes? Maybe? Uh...yes.”

“Good, but we gotta hurry!”
__

In the foyer, Rataxes had discarded his plastic fangs, as he was currently putting his real chompers to work, scarfing down all the chocolate and nougat he could swipe from the various jack-o-lanterns in the foyer.

“Now, Victor,” Rataxes said, between bites. “Isn’t this a much better way to spend Halloween?”

“I dunno, Dad…” Victor replied. He had yet to take a bite out of his first chocolate bar. “Isn’t this candy supposed to be for everyone?”

“I know that! Don’t worry, I saved plenty of candy corn and black licorice for everyone else.”

Victor frowned. That was the lame candy that nobody wants, but surely his father already knew that. Reluctantly, he peeled back the wrapper on the chocolate bar.

But before Victor could take a bite, the curtains started blowing. A chill ran down the two rhinos’ spines, and they shivered. “Brr! Did somebody turn on the AC?” Rataxes asked.

“That’s impossible!” Victor stuttered. “The power’s still out!”

“Uh...it’s probably nothing.” The confidence in Rataxes’ voice was noticeably wavering, but he was just went back to eating. Like he said, it was probably nothing.

Then a sound pierced the air.

“Ooooohhh…”

“Uh, Dad?” Victor asked. “That was you, right?”

“No…” If the lights were on, Victor might have seen a bead of sweat run down his father’s head.

“Ooooohhh…”

“Ah, we’re probably just hearing things. My ears are still ringing from that lighting mishap.”

“Oh, yeah, that was pretty bad.” Victor giggled.

“Ooooohhh...you dare laugh in my presence?”

Rataxes stood up, dropped the candy, and took a fighting stance. “Alright, who’s messin’ with us?!”

“It is you who has messed with me, Rataxes!”

The rhino king took a step back. “H-How do you know my name? Who are you?”

“I never forget the name of an intruder!”

“Intruder?” Victor asked. Suddenly he went pale, and clung to his father. “Dad, it’s the Older King! He’s coming after us!”

Just then, the ballroom doors burst open, and Celeste, her children, and several other partygoers entered the foyer, along with some guards toting flashlights. “What’s all this?” Celeste asked.

As if on cue, lightning--real lightning struck outside, briefly illuminating the scene before them.

Rataxes and Victor at the bottom of the stairs, and on the top of the stairs, a black cloak seemingly floating in midair.

Alexander, Flora, and Pom saw the cloak, and looked about as pale as Victor. “I-is that…” Flora asked.

“It’s the vengeful spirit of the Old King!” Alexander cried out. The crowd began to mutter again, this time in fear, worry, and a kind of bizarre excitement. This certainly wasn’t on the flyer for King Babar’s Spooktacular.

Rataxes suddenly smirked. “Wait a second. This is a trick, isn’t it? I bet that’s Babar up there!”

Victor tugged on Rataxes’ cape, gesturing to the crowd. “Uh, Dad?”

“What?” Rataxes looked to the side and saw an elephant standing next to Celeste, wearing a Scarlet Pachyderm costume. “Babar?” The king’s face dropped as he quickly looked back and forth. “But wait--that’s--then he’s--” A switch flipped in his head. “That really is the ghost of the Older King!”

Rataxes moved away from Victor, walking towards the stairs. “Uh, listen, Older King, older buddy, older pal...I-I don’t want any trouble, you see?”

“Trouble? You’ve been causing my people trouble for years! You’ve made a mockery of my kingdom for the last time!”

The rhino gulped, but then stood tall. “Oh, yeah? What’re you gonna do about it? Haunt me? Big whoop!”

“Why don’t I show you? An example of what will happen to all rhinos who disrespect my legacy!”

Next to his cloak, the Older King “held” something up. A guard shone his light on the silhouette to reveal... a scythe, with an empty Fangasaurus costume hanging from the blade.
“Basil’s dorky costume!” Rataxes cried out. “But...where’s Basil?”

“The one you call Basil has already paid his debt. And I must say...his soul was delectable.”

Everyone gasped. No more bizarre excitement now, just horror. Rataxes stepped backward, mortified. “Basil...no! My little buddy got his soul sucked up by an elephant ghost? Oh, the shame!”

“Yes, indeed...but I’m still hungry for MORE!”

The Older King lunged forward, jumping from the top of the staircase straight down onto Rataxes. In an instant, the cloak covered him completely. Rataxes was on the ground, screaming, grunting, wrestling for his life. “No!” he cried out. “Don’t eat me! My soul tastes bad! It’s full of dark secrets!”

But the Older King wouldn’t relent...at least, Rataxes didn’t think he was relenting. If the ghost really was consuming his soul, he was doing it awful slowly. He hardly felt anything at all. But no, wait, he could feel it--a light washing over him, no doubt it was the great beyond. He could almost hear the spirit of the Older King laughing at him. He...sounded kind of odd. Like a mix between a little girl’s laughter...and...Basil?

Wait a second.

Rataxes stopped struggling. He removed the cloak from his head. The Older King’s spirit wasn’t inside. In fact, there was nothing in there at all. He knew this because the lights were back on, and he could see clearly. Rataxes looked up, to top of the stairs, and saw two figures he didn’t see before.

On the right, Basil, in his usual uniform, holding the scythe with the impaled Fangasaurus costume.

And on the left, roughly the point that the cloak swooped down from, a fairy princess, rolling on the floor with laughter.

The triplets then joined in laughing. Then Celeste, Pompadour, Zephir, and the whole crowd. Rataxes turned to see that even his own son was trying to contain his laughter.

“WHAT THE HECK IS GOIN’ ON HERE?!”

“It’s quite simple, Your Rhiness,” Basil explained. “You’ve been spooked. The Older King was never here! It was us all along!”

“B-but the wind...blowing the curtains!”

“That was me!” Isabelle jumped up ran to the edge of the balcony, revealing she could reach the curtains and shake them with her trunk.

“The creepy voice?”

Babar emerged from the darkness. “It always pays to keep a bullhorn handy.”

“Babar?! But the Scarlet Pachyderm was--”

“Nope!” Arthur chirped. “I’m the new-generation Scarlet Pachyderm. Must be hard to tell us apart in the dark, huh? Celeste and I heard somebody talking out here and opened up the doors. Guess it’s a good thing we had the same costume!”

Victor couldn’t hold back anymore, and started laughing, at both his father and himself for falling for the prank. “You’ve gotta admit, they got you good, Dad!”

“What are you laughing for? You were scared, too!”

“Yeah, but I’m just a kid! What’s your excuse?”

Rataxes gritted his teeth and growled. “Basil…”

Basil only shrugged. “I can’t take all the credit, Your Rhiness. This was Isabelle’s idea, too!”

“Happy Halloween, Mr. Rataxes!” Isabelle giggled.

“You mean to tell me I got spooked by Basil and Babar’s little brat?”

Rataxes growled and angrily stomped up the stairs. The crowd’s laughter died down as he got closer and closer to the top. Basil was so busy laughing, he didn’t notice his boss until he was right in front of him. He dropped the scythe and backed away slowly.

“H-hey, now, Your Furiousness...it’s all just good fun, right? Just getting into the Halloween spirit!”

Rataxes raised his hand, brought it down...and slapped Basil on the back.

“Ha! You really got me good, Basil. You finally toughened up and learned to bite back.”

“I...I did?”

“Sure! Not everyone can pull off a prank this clever! It sure turned this bore-fest of a party around.”

“R-really?”

“Yeah, Basil!” Alexander called from below. “That prank was awesome!”

“I really thought it was him!” Pom added.

“I still have goosebumps!” Flora said as she shuddered.

Basil smiled with pride. “Huh...I guess I did.”

Isabelle suddenly ran up to Basil and hugged him. “Mr. Basil, we saved Halloween!”

“Alright,” Rataxes grumbled. “Let’s not get mushy about it. C’mon, Basil, we better get going. Lady Rataxes is probably swamped with little bratty trick-or-treaters by now.”

Basil put Isabelle down. “G’bye, Mr. Basil.”

“Bye, Isabelle. And thank you!”

Downstairs, the crowd applauded as Isabelle took a graceful bow. Babar made his way down the stairs and met up with Celeste.

“So, did I make up for my little mistake?”

Celeste raised an eyebrow. “Little?”

“Uh...my big mistake?”

The queen smiled warmly. “Yes, you did.” The two leaned in to kiss, but before they could, Cornelius entered and jumped between them.

“Huzzah, Babar! We have power again! We--” Cornelius looked around to see Isabelle bowing, a crowd applauding, and Rataxes leaving with his arms around Basil and Victor.

“My tusks, what did I miss?”

Isabelle came down the stairs and hugged her siblings. “That was great, Isabelle!” Pom exclaimed.

Alexander kicked the ground bashfully. “Hey, sis...sorry for the way we acted before.”

“Yeah…” Flora said, taking off her witch’s hat. “We shouldn’t have tried to force you to be scary. We should have just let you have fun.”

“That’s okay!” Isabelle smiled with glee. “Turns out sometimes being scary is fun!”

Pompadour caught Basil on the way out. "Just so you know, Basil, I knew there was no ghost. I only played along for your sake."

Rataxes and Basil grinned. "Suuuure..." they said.

"What?" Pompadour called as they walked off. "I'm telling the truth!"

“Ooooohhh….”

That got Pompadour to jump. Alexander rolled his eyes. “Ok, Dad, you can stop with the moaning now.”

Babar blinked. “I didn’t moan...I left the bullhorn...at the top of the stairs.”

Everyone looked up to the top of the stairs...and saw Zephir holding the bullhorn.

“What? It’s fun! Try it! Oooohhh…”

Everyone shared one last laugh at that. Babar’s Spooktacular turned out not to be such a flop after all. And it turned out that sometimes, being scared was the best way to learn to be brave.