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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 29th day of Gathering, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 4 > Continuing Series > The Strangest Lupe: Part Four

The Strangest Lupe: Part Four

by Tdyans

“Hey, I’m a Chia!” Stranger shouted, crouching with his rump wagging in the air playfully. “Come get me!”

At his word, three big Lupes pounced on him, causing him to roll across the ground as the clung to his ears, nape, and tail, mock-growling. He rolled onto his back, with his four massive paws sticking up into the air, and the three Lupes climbed onto his belly, standing triumphantly over their prey as he roared with laughter as their paws tickled him.

Many seasons had passed, and Stranger, Mero, Rasca, and Falen were full-grown now. Their excitement was due to the fact that tonight was the night that they, along with all the other young Lupes, were to be initiated into the pack. In the Lupe pack, acceptance into the pack as a pup was only the first step. To truly be considered adults and members of the pack, they had to perform some act of bravery, skill, or strength to prove themselves. Traditionally, as spontaneous opportunities for heroism do not often present themselves, the young Lupes who came of age all went on a Chia hunt each autumn.

“All right everyone,” Carrow called out to the many young Lupes who were gathered in the quarry, his children and Flep included, “Settle down and listen up.” Immediately the Lupes quieted and gathered intently around their graying leader. “It is time for your initiation hunt to begin. Work together, take care of each other,” he said, looking pointedly at his four offspring, “And when you return triumphant, your pack will welcome you as new members.” Excited yips and howls emanated from the group at those words and they set off into the thick of the forest.

The moon was high in the night sky when suddenly Falen, who was leading the group, halted, crouching down and waving his tail once in the air. The other Lupes knew this signal well and instantly slowed their pace, approaching the bushes that Falen was peering through quietly. In a clearing beyond the bushes they saw what had stopped Falen in his tracks, a small group of Chias standing about in a clearing at the base of a mountain.

Half the group, including Falen and his siblings, sighted on a red Chia while the other half zeroed in on a yellow one--both would be easier to follow in the dark of the night. “Ready?” Falen asked in a hushed voice and the heads on either side of his nodded, keeping their eyes focused on their prey. “Okay...Go!” he shouted, and the young Lupes leapt from the bushes into the unsuspecting covey of Chias.

The Chias scattered in all directions. While half the hunting group dashed after the yellow one that had run into the forest, Stranger, Falen, Rasca, Mero, Flep, and a few others went barreling after the red one, which ran up a steep mountain path. The path wound around the mountain, often only a narrow and treacherous cliff-side, and despite its well-fed appearance, the Chia was fast. Caught up in the excitement of the chase, Stranger, with his longer legs, soon found himself ahead of the rest of the group and right on the Chia’s heels. Finally, he saw his chance when the Chia hesitated for a moment, looking back at its pursuers. Without a second thought, he pounced toward the small creature. The Chia looked up at him as he came crashing down toward it, and he watched helplessly as it sped out of his way at the last minute.

Stranger crashed down onto the ground with all his immense weight. He could hear the rest of the group catching up to him, but he heard and felt something else also, and he realised too late what it was. He turned around to yell at them to stop, but the were already nearly on top of him and the narrow ledge was already beginning to crumble beneath his heft. As the ground collapsed from under their feet, things seemed to happen as if in slow motion for Stranger. He could see the looks of shock and horror on the faces of the Lupes around him; he could feel himself beginning to fall, and felt his fall jar to a stop as he threw his front legs out and dug his thick claws into the mountainside; he could see the others falling out of the corner of his eye, and he reached his head out to grab Rasca by the nape of her neck and could feel a jerk on his tail as Mero caught it between his teeth; and he looked down helplessly and watched as Falen and Flep fell unchecked into the darkness below.

Stranger looked up to see that a few of the others had managed to stop themselves in time and still stood staring down at them in shock from what remained of the ledge. They were a few feet up and over, and using all of his strength, he slowly climbed toward them with Rasca and Mero in tow. Once within a few inches, he said through clenched teeth, “Help her up.” Broken out of their daze by his words, the other Lupes went into action pulling Rasca up onto the ledge. Relieved of some of the weight he had carried, Stranger pulled himself up, with Mero behind him. After carrying his brother and sister, he was exhausted, but rather than lay down as his body told him to do, he went running back down the path, calling out, “We have to find them!” as the other Lupes struggled to keep up.

After a few minutes of blindly searching, the group found Falen and Flep at the foot of the mountain, buried beneath the rubble that had fallen from the cliff. They had been able to uncover themselves for the most part from the dirt and small stones, but there was one huge rock that rested atop their hind legs, effectively trapping them. The other Lupes pushed and pulled as a group at the large boulder with no effect. Finally, Stranger, still panting from his climb and run, pushed them aside and threw his shoulder against the stone, shoving with all his might. He screamed in tandem with the two trapped Lupes as the rock finally rolled slowly away and then he collapsed onto the ground, giving in to the blackness that clouded his vision.

***

There was a solemn tone in the air as the pack gathered around their leaders and the young ones who had been present at the accident on the initiation night, waiting to see what would be decided. Falen and Flep lay on the ground, both with broken legs that would take weeks or even months to heal. Stranger hung his head in shame as Leer spoke out, “You made a promise to me Carrow. You made a promise to this pack, that you would take responsibility for that Eyrie. Now he has shown himself to be dangerous, and according to our agreement that means that you are to step down and your family is to be banished.”

“What happened was not his fault Leer,” Carrow defended. “It was an accident.”

“It does not matter how it happened. Lupes, members of your pack, were hurt-- nearly destroyed-- and it’s made it clear that he does not belong here.”

Falen sat up indignantly. “If Stranger hadn’t been there, we’d still be trapped underneath that rock. He saved our lives!”

“And your lives wouldn’t have needed saving if it hadn’t been for him in the first place!” Leer challenged, and Stranger heard murmurs of agreement from the surrounding pack members. “Now, we had an agreement--”

“No!” Stranger shouted, stepping out. He looked at the faces around him, Lupes he had grown up with, had thought of as his pack. “Leer is right. I don’t belong here. I-- I’m not a Lupe.” He looked up at Falen and Flep. “You almost were harmed because of me. I know that, but don’t punish my family for it,” he said turning back to Leer. “I accept the responsibility, and I will leave.”

“Stranger,” Carrow said in distress, “You don’t have to do this.”

Stranger just shook his head as he faced his adoptive father. “I haven’t been a blessing to you Father, I’ve been a curse...I’m sorry.” He nuzzled his mother Jansa and his brothers and sister one last time, and then he turned his back on the pack and walked away into the sheltering forest.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

The Strangest Lupe: Part One

The Strangest Lupe: Part Two

The Strangest Lupe: Part Three

The Strangest Lupe: Part Five

The Strangest Lupe: Part Six

The Strangest Lupe: Part Seven

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