Dantia entered the cave to find Stranger lying in the back with his head on
resting on his paws, looking melancholy. She was worried about him. He’d been
with them for about a week now, and although he’d seemed ecstatic at first at
the novelty of flying and being among Eyries like himself, she’d watched his
excitement gradually wear off as his depression increased. Approaching him,
she decided she needed to just be straightforward. “You miss them, don’t you?”
Stranger looked up surprised, obviously having not even realized that she was
there as he was lost in his thoughts. “Huh?”
“You know what I mean Stranger. You miss them-- your pack, the Lupes.”
Stranger looked as though he was about to deny it, but then he sighed and lowered
his head back to the ground. “Yes...I’m sorry Dantia.”
“You don’t have anything to apologize for. They’re your family. You-- you should
be with them.”
Stranger looked up again. “You know I can’t.”
“Maybe there’s a way,” she said. Stranger watched curiously as she walked over
to the pile of straw in the corner that was her bed and dug something strange
out of it. As she came back toward Stranger with the object held in her beak,
he saw that it was a bottle with some sort of strange blue liquid in it. As
he sat up, she set it down at his feet.
Stranger examined the bottle for a few minutes, sniffed at it, tapped it with
his paw, but he had never seen anything like it before. “What is it?” he asked.
“It’s a blue Lupe morphing potion,” Dantia explained quietly. “I found it on
the river bank one day a long time ago, and for some reason I kept it. It must
have floated down from the city. I hear that Neopets there change their species
all the time...”
“You--you want me to change myself into a Lupe?”
Dantia hesitated. “No--no, I didn’t say that I wanted you to. But if you did,
then you could go and be with your family. You could be just like the rest of
them. That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
Stranger stared down at the odd bottle in trepidation. Was that what he wanted?
Before, he would have given anything for this chance, to be a Lupe just like
his brothers and sister, to fit in with the pack as he never had. But now, as
he looked up from the bottle to Dantia, he wasn’t so sure any more.
With his shorter legs and the arduous task of tracking his Eyrie brother, the
journey that Stranger had made in two days had taken Mero nearly a week. He
was unaware that he himself had been followed the entire way by the young Lupe
Jexel, who in turn was being followed by the entire Lupe pack, who had all set
off upon realizing that one of their beloved cubs was missing.
Mero had stopped to rest for the night on the East side of the river, and as
he awoke on the morning of the seventh day, he crossed it, sensing that he was
close to finding the whereabouts of his wayward brother. As he ambled through
the waning forestry, he was suddenly halted as two large Eyries leapt down from
one of the trees to land in front of him. “What are you doing here Lupe?” the
red one demanded. “This is Eyrie territory.”
At the sight of the two menacing, Mero laid his ears flat back on his head
and bared his teeth in a defensive gesture, but he stood his ground despite
the sudden memories flooding his mind of the Eyrie attacks that Leer and Flep
always delighted in telling about. Still, he recognized that these two were
dangerous and he had to choose his words and actions carefully.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to trespass. I’m just looking for my brother, and
I’ll leave as soon as I find him,” he said, wagging his tail a little to show
his friendly intentions.
“There ain’t not other Lupes around here,” the red Eyrie replied.
Mero paused, wondering how to explain that his brother was not exactly a Lupe.
“Well, you see, he’s not-- I mean, er--his name is Stranger. Are you sure he
hasn’t been about here?”
“Stranger?” the red Eyrie snorted. “He’s no Lupe, he’s an Eyrie just like us.
What are you trying to pull?” Mero sighed shakily, unsure of what he could possibly
do to alleviate this situation.
Meanwhile, little Jexel had run into a confrontation of his own. He was close
on Mero’s heels, but as he tried to cross the log bridge over the river, he
was stopped halfway by a young Eyrie going in the same direction. “Hey!” he
exclaimed, “Get outta my way, blasted Eyrie!”
“What are you?” the Eyrie asked disdainfully.
“I’m a Lupe. Ain’t you never seen a Lupe before?”
“No, but everyone says they stink and don’t know their tails from their noses.”
“Well, my dad says that Eyries are just big, dumb animals, and I know it for
a fact, ‘cause I’m here trackin’ one that hurt my big brother. So let me through!”
But the little Eyrie just continued to block his way.
“No,” he growled, “This is Eyrie territory, and we don’t want any stinking
Lupes like you here!” Jexel bared his tiny, sharp teeth and leapt onto the Eyrie
angrily. They rolled about and tussled on the narrow expanse of the log, until
suddenly a huge cracking sound made them both stop stock still. They watched
in terror as the crack that had just formed in the old log grew larger and larger
until it snapped straight off, plummeting the broken piece of wood with them
on it into the swirling currents of the dangerous river.
To be continued...