Stranger and Dantia were still both worriedly pondering the morphing potion
when suddenly both of their ears pricked up at a distant sound. It was two sounds
really--a tiny howl that bordered on yelp and a frightened screech--both clearly
made by young ones and both calling for help. “That sounds like one of our kits!”
Stranger nodded, but his mind was whirling with the implications of the other
sound he had heard. “And one of our pups--Jexel, I think!” Without another word,
they both sped out of the cave, launching themselves into the air and flying
as fast as they could toward the sounds of distress that still echoed around
Dantia and Stranger landed on the West side of the riverbank to find nearly
all of the Eyrie tribe already there. But in amongst the Eyries, Stranger spotted
a familiar patch of rust-coloured fur. “Mero!” he called out, pushing his way
through the crowd to join his brother on the bank of the river. “What are you
Mero continued to stare out toward the centre of the river as he answered,
“I’ll explain later. Right now, we’ve got other things to worry about.” He nodded
toward where he was looking and Stranger saw that in the centre of the huge
river were Jexel and a young Eyrie. The flow of their log down the river had
been halted by a stone that jutted out of the water, but the log waved back
and forth unsteadily, and it was clear that it was only a matter of time before
the strong current pulled them along again. The two cubs, their differences
forgotten, clung to each other in the centre of the broken log, wet, cold, and
frightened to death, and obviously sensing that if they moved even an inch,
they risked being swept away.
As Stranger took in this scene with trepidation, he saw out of the corner of
his eye more figures gathering on the opposite bank of the river. He looked
up to see the entire pack there. They had come running the rest of the way upon
hearing the same cries for help that Stranger and Dantia had. On any other occasion,
he would have been delighted to see his family, but for now both groups, on
the East and West sides of the river, stopped and stared at the two young creatures
caught in the deadly waters, not knowing how to solve this problem.
“We have to do something Mero!” Stranger said, “What are we going to do?”
Mero continued to assess the situation with a grim expression. Quietly, he
turned to his brother and replied, “I don’t know Stranger. One of us Lupes could
swim over to them, but we’d never be able to keep them above the water if we
tried to swim back with them.”
Stranger turned then to Dantia and her father Creegan who was now standing
beside her. “What about you? If one of your Eyries swam over there, they could
fly the cubs out of the water, couldn’t they?”
Before the king or his daughter could answer, the red Eyrie who had been harassing
Mero interrupted, “Ha! Are you crazy? Eyries can’t swim.”
“And we wouldn’t be able to fly over there either,” Dantia added. “There’s
no way we would be able to land on that tiny rock or the log.” At this statement,
the NeoPets on both sides of the river bowed their heads at the hopelessness
of their situation. There was one creature though, who did not do so. Everyone
watched in amazement as Stranger backed up a few steps and then ran at full
speed, launching himself into the river over Dantia’s cry of “Stranger, no!”
Stranger found himself plunged beneath the surface of the river, struggling
to get his bearings amidst the shock of the icy water. But, like all Lupes,
he had been taught to swim at an early age, and soon he was pulling himself
back up to the surface. He heard Dantia sigh in relief as his head appeared
above the thrashing rapids, but he knew the danger was far from over. The current
was even stronger than he had imagined, pulling at him relentlessly as he paddled
with all his strength toward the two stranded cubs. He stopped for just a moment
to try to catch his breath and was quickly swept a few more feet downstream
before he began paddling again, nearly allowing himself to be swallowed up by
the mighty river.
Finally, with all his might, he lunged through the water and caught hold of
the rock with his front paws. He bent his head toward the cowering young creatures
on the log and shouted above the thundering water, “Climb on, and hold on tight!”
After a moment, they did as they were told, carefully climbing up onto Stranger’s
neck and clutching his fur for all they were worth.
Dantia had been right; the rock was far too small for an Eyrie to stand atop,
but Stranger was at least able to lift the upper half of his body up out of
the water, with the cubs clinging on safely. Then, as he had seen his adoptive
parents do a thousand times and had learned to do himself, he shook himself
furiously, drying his fur and feathers just enough. With all his remaining strength,
he pushed as hard as he could against the rock with his forelegs and launched
himself and the cubs up into the air, quickly descending back to the safety
of the riverbank.
Stranger collapsed exhausted upon the ground, panting as the Eyrie tribe along
with Mero surrounded him, gathering up the shivering cubs. For a few minutes,
he could hear nothing but the sound of his own labored breathing, but then as
he lay there he began to hear the words of praise that the Eyries around him
were lavishing on him. Dantia emerged from the crowd and nuzzled his wet face
lovingly. “Oh Stranger, you were so brave!” He smiled dazedly up at her, and
then in the background he heard another sound that made his heart soar. Every
Lupe on the opposite bank was leaping about excitedly, whooping and hollering,
and all for him.
“Stranger,” Mero said, appearing suddenly by his side. “That was something
no Lupe could have done.”
Creegan stood regally over them all and nodded. “And no Eyrie either.”
In their relief at getting their cubs back safe and sound, a peace had been
achieved between the two groups the likes of which had not been seen in many
seasons. Now the Eyrie tribe and Lupe pack feasted and frolicked together under
the clear light of the moon and stars, celebrating the safety of their children,
the new pact between their leaders, and their mutual hero, Stranger. Some of
the Eyries offered rides to the younger Lupes of the pack, who delighted in
their first flights through the night air. In another part of the large clearing
that everyone had gathered in, a group of Lupes was teaching some of the Eyries
their traditional howling songs, and the Eyries were screeching along as best
they could. Everyone was in high spirits, eating, talking, and laughing together
as they relished in their newfound friendship.
Stranger, meanwhile, was on top of the world. Even Leer had been able to forgive
and accept him after he had rescued his smallest son, and thus the pack, with
his father Carrow officiating, had just held a ceremony pronouncing him an adult
Lupe and an honorary member of the pack after his act of bravery. He had howled
with joy, not noticing the distress that passed over Dantia’s face. Now she
approached him with a familiar object held gently in her beak.
Dantia set the bottle of morphing potion before Stranger as everyone watched
curiously, and she said quietly, “I guess you’ll want to use this now Stranger.”
Stranger looked at the bottle for a moment, but then he resolutely nudged it
away with his large paw. “No, I don’t.”
Mero, who was on his right side, said, “But Stranger, don’t you want to be
Stranger looked at him and answered, “I *am* a Lupe.” Then he turned to Dantia.
“*And* I’m an Eyrie.” Her face lit up and he paused, wondering if he should
go on and finally deciding. “And...I think--I think I’m more than that too.”
He ducked his head sheepishly, not sure that anyone would understand what he
was trying to say.
“Of course you are,” King Creegan said, stepping up. “You’re a hero.”
“He’s a swimmer!” Jexel offered.
“And a flyer!” the little Eyrie added excitedly.
“He’s a sweetheart,” Dantia said, leaning into Stranger affectionately as he
“He’s a brother,” Rasca stated, smiling across at him.
“He’s a son,” Jansa intoned proudly.
“He’s a friend,” Mero said, placing a paw on his brother’s shoulder.
“He’s Stranger,” Carrow concluded as his wise eyes looked upon the creature
who had grown up from the tiny hatchling he had found that night long ago. “And
he is a blessing to us all, for teaching us that *who* we are is more than *what*
The forest echoed with the agreements of Lupes and Eyries alike and as Stranger
gazed up at the full moon above he felt an incredible sense of contentment as
he truly knew for the first time who he was and where he was meant to be.