Murgoh: Part Two
The den that Murgoh was supposed to go to was the den where
he and most of the Lupes in the pack had grown up. It was only used to raise young
Lupes, but Savak often used it as a meeting place regardless. The den was an earthen
cave hidden behind a large slab of granite. It was hard to spot from a distance,
so it was perfect for hiding helpless whelps.
As soon as they decided which way was home,
the three siblings moved as fast as they could and still keep together. Even
Ashley showed a little extra stamina on her part, which impressed Murgoh. She
never did well running long distances. She was a decent hunter, though, even
for her age. Somehow, she knew where prey was before anyone else did. But fighting
was another matter. She never got the hang of it. Savak always said it was because
she was so young, but Murgoh couldn't imagine her becoming any better at it.
Melissa on the other hand was an excellent tracker
and hunter, and she could match pace with Murgoh any day of the week. The only
thing Murgoh had over her was his fighting skill, and a few extra pounds to
bowl her over with.
As soon as Murgoh spotted the den, his spirits
lifted a bit. He was nearly home. He didn't care what Kosek said to him when
he showed up. If they hadn't stayed out all night, they wouldn't know about
this potential threat. As he drew closer, his pace quickened, and he didn't
stop until he had dashed behind the boulder, and bowled straight into Kosek's
hindquarters. Startled, Murgoh staggered back as Kosek, also surprised, swung
about to face his assailant. As soon as he saw who it was, he huffed.
"There you are," he said, annoyance seeping
into his tone. "We were about to go out and search for you. Where are your sisters?"
Murgoh shook out his fur before he responded.
As he said this, Melissa and Ashley stepped
into the den, holding back near the entrance. Kosek looked them over for a moment
until he was satisfied that they were alright, then he turned back to Murgoh.
"Now that that's settled, where have you been
all night? I told you to come straight here!"
"We got caught in the storm," Murgoh explained,
trying to keep his tone even. "We had to make a snow den, but we're alright."
Murgoh looked past Kosek to see his father padding
across the den. He turned to Kosek when he came up next to him. "I'll take care
of this," he said. Kosek hesitated for a moment, then nodded to Savak before
he moved deeper into the den. Once the yellow Lupe had left, Savak turned to
Murgoh. "Alright," he said. "Did I hear you right, you burrowed into the snow
to escape the storm?"
Murgoh nodded. "That's what we did," he said,
a little nervous that his father was questioning him now.
"But, I imagine it wasn't your idea," Savak
Murgoh hesitated, but he lowered his head as
he answered. "No, Melissa suggested it."
"I see. I expected as much," his father observed.
Murgoh looked up briefly to see his father look past him to his sisters. He
looked down again as Savak's gaze fell back on him. "Could you explain to me
why it took you so long to get home? This den isn't that far away from the pack's
burial place. The rest of us got here before the storm really took hold of the
plains and yet you three left before us and managed to get caught in it."
Murgoh didn't look up again, but he could feel
his father's gaze burning into him. He knew he wouldn't last long under Savak's
eye. He didn't know why that was, but it must have been a father thing.
"I was taking them to the den," he said, gesturing
to Melissa and Ashley. "But I must have lost my way when the storm picked up.
We slept under the snow, and when we woke up this morning, we... Melissa found
out that we had wandered into a neighboring territory."
Savak nodded. "I hope you got out without being
spotted. You do know that border disputes are at their worst during the winter."
Murgoh only nodded.
"There's something else," Melissa put in, padding
forward to stand beside her brother.
"More trouble, is there?" Savak asked. "By Fyora,
what else could my children have done other than cross into other territories?
Have you started a war for us as well?"
"It wasn't Murgoh's fault!" Ashley suddenly
exclaimed. "And if we didn't get lost, we wouldn't know about Kelthar Moonbane!"
"Kelthar?" Kosek exclaimed, crossing the den
again. Behind him came Heysha, Lilia, Kovo, and Thassa. "What's this about Kelthar?"
For a moment, everyone just stared at the quiet
white Lupess. Then, Melissa turned back to Savak. "That's the other problem."
"Alright," Savak said, turning from Ashley to
Kosek. "Who's Kelthar?"
"I only heard about him from my mother when
she was still alive," Kosek said to Savak. "But he's an insanely ambitious Lupe
who tried to take over all the plains. He had many followers, and many more
Lupes who followed because they were afraid not to. Many called him the 'Scourge
of the Plains'. Murgoh, your father Murgoh, built a temporary alliance with
several neighboring packs to drive Kelthar from the plains. Some of the packs
he gathered had already been driven from their territories. There was heavy
resistance, and Murgoh came close to catching the tyrant. They fought each other
and, when Murgoh cut a gash across Kelthar's face, the tyrant fled into the
Haunted Woods. No one dared to follow him, and we haven't heard of him since."
He gave Ashley a meaningful glance. "That is, until now. Who knows what happened
to him in the woods, but this new Moonbane title is new to me."
"Does this mean he's back then," Heysha asked.
"Our pack isn't that strong. Our children make up half our numbers!"
Savak glanced back at Heysha briefly. Murgoh
couldn't see his face, but he must have given Heysha a reassuring look, because
she calmed down a bit.
"I've dealt with ambitious Lupes before," Savak
said, rubbing the thin fur on his chest. "We'll pull through this."
Savak started pacing around the den, apparently
deep in thought. As he did this, Lilia spoke.
"But back then, you had a Faerie to help you,"
she pointed out. "And a magical medallion to protect you."
"A dark Faerie was controlling your mother,"
Savak said. "And Kaylee lost her so-called 'ambition' when her medallion lost
its power." He shook his head. "We can't really do anything about Kelthar until
we know more about what he's up to."
As Savak paced about the den, Murgoh saw Kovo
pad across from Lilia's side, giving him contemptuous look. Murgoh only smiled
as he approached.
"Over here," he growled as he passed. Murgoh
didn't move at first, but he followed the brown Lupe away from the meeting.
He sat down in front of Kovo, who was still giving him an angry glare.
"Do you think that this is some sort of game?"
the brown Lupe asked.
"What do you mean?" Murgoh replied, the smile
fading from his face.
"Every time you get into trouble, you always
seem to get out of it with only a few scratches," Kovo explained.
"So I have a knack for saving my own hide,"
Murgoh said, shrugging. "Is that any reason to complain to me about it?"
"Murgoh, Kovo, get over here," Savak called.
Murgoh nodded to his father, then turned back to Kovo, shrugging. Kovo only
narrowed his eyes.
"One of these days," he said as he passed Murgoh.
"You are going get into trouble, and there will be no one around to save your
Murgoh didn't move for a moment, watching as
Kovo walked back to the assembled Lupes. What exactly did he mean by that? He
knew Kovo didn't like him, but did he have it out for him? Shaking these thoughts
from his mind, he followed Kovo back to the meeting. Savak started speaking
as he approached.
"Kosek," he said. "I want you to take Kovo and
Thassa and work your way along the western border. See if any of the neighboring
packs know anything about this tyrant. Heysha, take Lilia and Melissa along
the southern border. I'll take Murgoh and Ashley to the north. If I don't find
out anything about him on the plains, I might try asking Lukas. He has contacts
"I'm not sure if his contacts cover the plains,
Savak," Heysha said.
Savak shrugged. "He still might know something.
Murgoh, Ashley, let's get moving," he said, turning to his children. To the
others he added, "Everyone be back here tomorrow. Once we've shared what we've
learned, we can plan our next course of action."
* * *
As they traveled across the plains, Murgoh trailed
behind his father and Ashley for most of the way. He would rather be hunting
for his supper than traipsing around, looking for information on a faceless
enemy. He didn't know who Kelthar was, except that his name, and apparently,
his reputation preceded him. He was glad, however, that he didn't have to deal
with the more rambunctious of his two sisters. And, when Ashley wasn't in one
of her frightful moods, she could be fun to have around.
As Murgoh trudged up one of the many snow-covered
hills on the plains, he noticed that his father had paused at the top and was
gazing down at something on the other side. When he reached the top, Murgoh
saw nothing down the hill but a small river, still flowing swiftly despite the
cold weather. He looked up questioningly at the red Lupe, but it was Ashley
who voiced the question on his mind.
"What's wrong, dad?" she asked.
"Nothing," Savak replied, shaking his head.
"Old memories, that's all. I had a bad encounter with this river when I wasn't
much older than you two were." The red furred leader said nothing more, but
walked down the hill, keeping abreast of the river as he followed it upstream
to the west. Murgoh stared at the river for a moment longer before following.
What Savak had said had perked his interest, somewhat. He rarely heard stories
about his father's puppyhood. There were a few stories about his grandfather,
Murgoh, the red Lupe who had left the pack some time ago to take a final journey,
alone. No one in the pack believed that he still walked Neopia at all.
There were also stories of his grandmother,
Jessie, a blue Lupess who was still living with her old owner, Jason. He had
met her only once in his short life, and that encounter had been somewhat comical.
He especially enjoyed the company of her housemate, Lukas, the red Kougra. The
overgrown cat was a riot, wrestling with all three of Savak's children at once,
and losing a few times, even when he didn't let them.
As the midday sun tried vainly to pierce the
overcast that remained over the plains, Murgoh found that his father was still
leading them west along the river, which was starting to narrow the further
they traveled. Having walked longer than he had before, Murgoh was starting
to get tired. He moved past his sister to tell him when Savak stopped dead in
his tracks, testing the air. He lowered his head cautiously, then looked back
at his children, silently ordering them to keep low.
Murgoh watched silently as Savak moved cautiously
to the top of the next rise, peeking over the top. After a moment, he backed
away a pace, then gestured to Murgoh to come over. When he reached Savak, the
red Lupe whispered into his ear.
"There's a pack of Lupes not half a mile from
here," he said. The fur rose along Murgoh's back in nervous tension. He mustered
up enough courage to take a peek himself. Looking over the rise, he saw six
or seven Lupes gathered together, talking, joking around, and laughing. But
they were in his father's territory! What were they doing here?
"I've never seen any of them before," Savak
said after a moment. "And I don't recognize their scents. What's worse, they're
between us and home. We're close to old Haklar's territory, but I know those
Lupes, and so do you."
"What are these Lupes doing here, then?" Murgoh
asked, baking away from the crest of the hill.
"If these Lupes are who I think they are," Savak
replied grimly, "then there's more where they came from, I'm sure. We're fortunate
that we're downwind, but we need to move on, or they'll be bound to notice us."
* * *
After the close encounter with the invading
Lupes, Savak led Murgoh and Ashley north across the river, which was narrow
enough to jump across at this point. By the time the sun had made it halfway
down the sky, the buildings on the outskirts of Neopia Central were clearly
visible. Murgoh didn't really like Neopia Central. Most of the surfaces were
as hard as stone, and his paws, being used to soft soil and grass, quickly grew
tired on the concrete paths. The only thing that kept his spirits up about coming
here was that he would get to see Jessie again. The only time he met the kind
old Lupess, she had spoiled him a little, along with his sisters.
The three Lupes entered a suburb a few hours
before sunset, walking in line along the concrete sidewalk. Murgoh didn't look
up to see the other Neopians playing in their yards in the last moments of daylight.
He saw no reason to. Most of them were strange creatures to him, and he would
only stare, like the ones who stopped playing would stare at him, his sister,
and his father. He had to admit, compared to the typical Neopian, a wild Lupe
was ragged looking.
Finally, Savak turned from the sidewalk and
approached a modest, two story house. Mounting the porch without losing the
rhythm in his step, Savak walked up to the door and gave it several good knocks
as Murgoh and Ashley sat on the far side of the porch near the path.
A moment later, the door opened, and a human
face appeared from behind it. The human, who Murgoh recalled was named Jason,
smiled brightly when he recognized the red Lupe at his front door.
"Savak!" he exclaimed. "My, it's been a long
"It's good to see you, Jason," Savak said politely.
Before he could go on, Jason noticed the two young Lupes on the other side of
"And you brought your kids too!" he blurted.
Then, he observed, "or two of them anyway. Where's that blue Lupess... what's
"Melissa," Savak put in. "She's with her mother."
Jason nodded. "Well, come in out of the cold.
Jessie will be glad to see you all."
To be continued...