Dark Fate: Part One
Sunlight, soft and golden, brightened my window early
this morning. A thin beam fell across my face, making me squint. Blearily, I
stumbled out of bed and let my paws hit the hard wood floor.
I hadn't slept at all; my sleep was filled with
nightmarish visions and guilt consumed my every waking moment. Who was I, to
become so entwined in foolish ideas that I would abandon my family? Why had
I done this? When it got right down to it... I didn't know. I think I was searching
for something, a thing that could be found only through travel and experience.
I wanted excitement; I needed a change, something
different and new to inspire me. I wasn't going to find it in my hometown, in
the house I'd shared since the day I was born, nor in the familiar surroundings
of the forest, with the same old faces bearing down on me, day after day. It
was a selfish thing, this feeling, but it wasn't something I could help.
And so, three days ago, I had a choice to make.
I chose the evening meal to make my announcement.
Celia, the eldest of our little trio, had spent most of the day preparing steak
and asparagus stew with carrot vinegar sauce. As such, our small kitchen was
humid despite the snow gathering outside, and the air was full of delicious,
"Cara," I said carefully, looking sideways at
my youngest sister. Her long, pink Aisha ears were tied loosely in a bow. "Do
you think Celia could take care of this place on her own now?"
"Why do you say that?" she quizzed, eyes suddenly
narrow and suspicious. I shrugged.
"No reason. I just think she's grown up a lot
since... well, you know." At that moment, Celia strode over carrying three plates
"Dinner's ready!" she chimed, placing a plate
before each of us with infinite care and grace. We were all too hungry to talk
again until the meal was finished. I knew I couldn't keep putting it off. It
was today or never and never was not an option; I had made my decision, and
would stick to it.
"That was delicious," Cara said. "One of your
best ever, Celia."
"Yeah, it was great. Thanks." A lull of silence
fell over the room momentarily. "Actually, I have something to say to the two
"Is it important?" Celia asked, her exhaustion
showing in her voice. "I need to get these dishes done."
"Kind of, yeah. You see, the thing is... I'm
planning to leave the village for a bit. There's a lot out there that I still
want to see, and to be honest... I feel trapped." By the time I finished, both
of my sisters were staring at me--Cara in horror, Celia in a mixture of pain
and understanding. The fading light cast her long, pearly white Wocky fur into
shades of grey.
"Why are you doing this? Why are you leaving
us, Fyr?" There was no accusation in her tone, only hurt. Her crystalline blue
eyes were glazed, inscrutable. She sighed softly.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I've been thinking about
this for a long time now. I really don't want to leave you here alone, but there's
so much to do that can't be done from here. I won't be gone forever; you know
that, don't you?"
"Well... yes, of course I do." She smiled weakly.
"I'm going to miss you, but it's for the best. You have to follow your heart,
Fyr - seize the moment. You might only get one chance; plenty more don't even
get that." I recognized truth in her words, and my resolve stiffened.
"But... but," Cara broke in, tears forming in
her eyes, "I thought you'd be here forever! Just the three of us, working together
to survive. I thought you liked it here. I thought you liked us." Despite
the light of the candles hanging from the ceiling, the kitchen seemed darker
and more threatening than ever before.
"I do," I said, struggling
to explain in a way she would understand. "I love it here; really... it's just
that... well..." I trailed off. "You'll understand one day." Tears tracked through
her fur, leaving salty stains. Head bowed, she turned and ran upstairs. "I'm
so sorry, Cara."
The following day, I packed my most precious
belongings into a small bag. My paws lingered longest on the small piece of
amethyst, sent to me for my last birthday by the mother I had never seen or
spoken to. As I gazed into the amethyst at the milky, incomplete reflection
of a shadow Lupe, I wondered what it could possibly mean.
What part is mine to play?
That was another thing this journey might achieve-I
might be able to dispel some of the mystery that clung to our lives like deadly
mist, shielding us from the truth. Even if that truth was worse than ignorance,
I wanted to know; for until I did I was trapped with the fear of the unknown,
and what it might mean for my family.
Finally, everything was packed, and the amethyst
hung around my neck, suspended on a piece of thin black string. As a precaution,
I placed a purse full of Neopoints in my back pocket. When I turned to face
the door, I found my two sisters waiting to see me off. Tears rolled freely
down my cheeks despite my vain attempts to hold them in.
"My ferry leaves in a couple of hours," I said.
"Take care of yourselves while I'm gone, okay?"
"You don't have to worry about us, Fyreth. We're
going to be just fine!"
"I'm glad to hear it, Cara. Never lose that optimism,
and things will turn out okay. Belief is a powerful thing," I said, offering
a small, sad smile. I didn't know how right I was.
Time was ticking; the ferry on which I had a
place would be leaving before noon. Luckily the dock was only an hour away on
foot. I was almost afraid to leave; this was my childhood home, a place of safety
and sanctuary for me since the beginning of my memory. It was also my prison.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," I promised.
"You just wait. I'll bring something special back for both of you."
"Good-bye, Fyreth, and good luck." Shouldering
my backpack, I turned to the door. As I stepped out, the breeze flung it shut
behind me with a creak and a crash. A sea of white covered everything, masking
the world and making it beautiful at the same time. A flurry of flakes melted
on my grey-black fur, leaving icy dew-drops behind.
It turned out to be less than an hour's trek
through the forest, but by the time I reached my destination my paws were numb
with cold. A serene mist hung over the sea, obscuring the horizon and turning
the newly-risen sun milky-gold.
The dock was overflowing with pets of every colour
and species, pets from every walk of life, and they all shared a common purpose--to
board the boat that would take them to the much larger dock at Neopia Central.
A friendly buzz of conversation drifted through the waiting crowd.
At the far end of the wooden pier sat a proud
ship--big enough to ferry five hundred, at least--the SS Golden Eyrie.
True to the name, the figurehead was a gold-painted Eyrie, wings spread as if
preparing for flight. Its twin, the Silver Eyrie, had set off for Mystery
Island the previous day.
The gathered pets fell silent as the plank was
lowered. Those who already had their tickets were ushered on board first; the
rest of us had to line up. I knew some would face disappointment. I was determined
not to be one of them.
"Tickets! Buy yer tickets here!" I ducked through
the throngs of people in the direction of the voice. The ticket vendor was a
stately-looking white Krawk in a red-and-gold embroidered suit. I pushed my
way to the front, producing a meagre handful of Neopoints as I did so. The fierce
gaze of the vendor fell upon me momentarily, burning into me, searching, questioning.
Finally he looked away, and I dared to speak.
"How much is a third class ticket?" I recounted
my Neopoints nervously.
"Two hundred and fifty Neopoints per traveller,"
the Krawk stated. It was everything I had. With a soft sigh, I surrendered the
coins and was given a small piece of printed paper in return. "Thank you for
travelling on the Golden Eyrie!"
Ticket in hand, I left the vendor behind and
sought to board the ship before it got too full. The sun grew ever stronger
in the sky as I made my way back across to the pier.
"Ticket, please?" A blue Yurble, wearing a fake
smile and the same uniform as the ticket vendor, held one hand forward for the
ticket. I handed it over without returning his grin. My breath still rose in
a pillar of mist, and the last remnants of melting slush clung to the edge of
the wood. The bustling crowd, the familiar faces, the snow-covered trees-all
that was behind me. Confidence surged through me as I stepped past the plank
and onto the deck of the ship.
"Welcome aboard, son." I whipped around, ears
pricked, to the sight of an elderly white Lupe in a blue-and-gold uniform and
tri-point cap of similar colours. "Is this your first trip on the S.S. Golden
I was struck by the way his fur seemed to move
in the wind, though the air was still; by the glazed intensity of his gaze as
his eyes met my own; and most of all, by his voice. He spoke in a low, rasping
whisper, and his words dragged as though speaking pained him in some way.
"It is," I said quietly,
eyes sinking to the floor. He had a certain air of power and nobility; it was
easy to see how he had earned the title of captain. "I must say, this is a magnificent
"Isn't it?" His gaze drifted away from me and
towards the distant horizon. I felt my nerves calm fractionally. When he did
not speak again, my mind returned to finding my quarters and acquainting myself
with the vessel on which I would spend most of the week, including Halloween
As I turned to leave, a familiar rasping froze
me in place.
"Fyreth," the Lupe said quietly, "be careful.
I have reason to believe we will run into trouble on this trip." Wait. Wait
just one second. How does he know my name...?
Throwing caution to the wind, I looked him squarely
in the eye and said, "Who are you, and how is it that you know my name?" For
the first time, his face appeared sunken and sullen, as if a great sorrow weighed
"I can tell you no more. It's not the time, and
unfriendly ears gather around us." A quick glance around the deck revealed that
no one else was near enough to hear us talking.
"What are you talking about? There's no one else
"Don't be so sure about that," the old captain
rasped. I could have sworn I heard laughter in his voice, but I did not dare
contest it. Suddenly all the superstitions I had discounted as idiocy over the
years came flooding back with new and inexplicable credibility.
"I'm going to explore the ship now." He remained
silent and made no move to stop me, so I broke into a run and didn't look back
until I was halfway down the stairs. Thankfully, I had not been followed.
Below deck, the Golden Eyrie was a hive of activity-musicians
and bards lined the hallways, and everyone seemed relaxed and cheerful. Flames
ensconced in brackets on the walls cast a dusky ambience over everything. A
carved sign on the wall said,
FIRST CLASS - FOLLOW RIGHT CORRIDOR
SECOND CLASS - FOLLOW LEFT CORRIDOR
THIRD CLASS - DOWNSTAIRS
I passed the lavish first-class cabins and the
reasonably well-decorated second-class hallway without looking too closely.
A narrow passageway led to a dark, slippery staircase carpeted only with dust
and slime. I kept one black paw on the banister during my descent to guard against
a fall. It surprised me how hard it was keeping my feet moving in the right
way now that the ship was in motion.
Again, once I reached the bottom, I found myself
Third-class turned out to be a series of sparsely
blanketed wooden bunk beds lined up against each wall. The damp, encroaching
smell of mildew permeated the air. This is what I get for 250 Neopoints?
I've been saving up for months! With a sigh I collapsed on one of the beds
and tried to forget my frustration. If what that Lupe said has any basis
in reality, I'm going to need all of my strength and wits...
I spent three hours on the bed, stretched out
fully, and allowed my mind to wander. It was a meditation technique my sister
taught me when we were both much younger. The gentle roar of surf carried me
away into a waking dream, an alternate reality. Gradually, I became aware of
a soft singing - a voice of silken beauty that rose and fell in time with the
waves. As it grew stronger in my mind's ear, a terror grew within me; the terrible
certainty that the ship was sinking. Everyone on board would drown. I tried
to breathe, tried to swim, but the current was too strong. The waves were no
longer allies; they had become the monsters that haunt nightmares, with row
after row of sharp teeth and a cruel, inhuman, suffocating strength.
Breathing hard, fur on end as if charged with
static, I pulled myself from the waking nightmare and collapsed in a panicky
heap beside the bed. It was quiet; almost too quiet. During my rest someone
had been in and placed a candle on the shelf beside my bed. Night had fallen.
I was still the only pet in the room--obviously, no one else was travelling
At least the waves had settled again, for the
time being. At least the monsters had returned to their shadows. That was something
to be grateful for. Instinctively, I felt around my neck for the amethyst. It
was gone, string and all. I felt the panic rise again in the form of a nasty
voice in the back of my head. What if that dream came to you for a reason?
What if you were meant to prevent a disaster? What if you're too scared to say
But I won't be. Cautious as ever, I took
the candle from the shelf and held it before me to light the way. In this fashion,
I made my way up the two flights of stairs and onto the deck of the ship. I
saw a few pets gazing at the full moon; they were all alone, never in pairs
or groups. They were the loners, the individuals. The dim light of the moon
made every shadow seem more malevolent. Immediately I cast my eyes around for
any sign of the captain, but (to my great relief) I was the only Lupe on deck.
"Excuse me?" I called to a blue Shoyru in a long
black cloak. "Have you seen anyone wearing a piece of amethyst on a string?"
He did not respond. I drew closer; his eyes were
wide and blank, the eyes of one caught in the depths of a waking dream, and
they were fixed on the horizon. I followed his gaze. Nothing but the stars and
the ocean. Nervously, I moved from one pet to the next. They were all dreaming.
Even more disconcerting, it seemed they had lost the ability to respond to anything
I did. I yelled, waved a paw in front of their faces, even shook them by the
shoulders--it was as if they had been paralyzed.
"What's going on?" I wondered aloud. I was ready
to run back down the stairs--maybe to hide, maybe to find help--but something
stopped me. Something in the form of an insidious creaking; the sound of laboured
breathing and the steady step of padded paws on wood.
"That's a fair question," came the rasping voice.
"I know the answer. The question is, do you want to know?"
Heart sinking, I turned myself to face the captain.
His shock-white fur stood out like a beacon against the dark surroundings. I
considered his question for only a moment before answering.
"Ah, but how do I know I can trust you?" he said,
eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Speaking of which, one of my staff found this in
the third-class bedroom..." he reached into one of his many pockets and withdrew
a darkly glittering amethyst suspended on a string.
"That's mine!" I leapt up and tried to snatch
the amulet, but he was too fast; before I knew what was happening, I was on
the floor, and the amethyst had been spirited back into the pocket. Now the
Lupe was laughing-a low, booming laugh that seemed to make the deck tremble.
"Nice try. Now, I want you to make me a promise."
I felt so helpless. The fiend had me cornered--he must have known what the amulet
meant to me when he had it stolen. How could I have been careless enough to
let this happen? What would he ask me to do?
"If I share this knowledge with you, it must
remain a secret between us. If you tell anyone else, anyone at all, the amulet--and
your soul with it--will shatter, leaving you an empty shell at the mercy of
wandering spirits." He grinned wickedly. "Secondly, you must agree that under
no circumstances will you oppose anything I do, lest you and everyone on board
be cast into the ocean forever more." His face was twisted and somehow feral;
his hissing voice more terrible than ever. "In return, I will answer every question
you care to ask and return your precious amulet. Do we have a deal?"
I took a deep, steadying breath. It seemed like
a bad idea to disagree with this Lupe, whoever-whatever-he might be; it seemed
like a worse idea to trust him. I pulled myself to my feet and backed towards
the railing. The amethyst was the one thing I had that linked me to my mother,
to the past I knew nothing about. If I gave it up, there would be nothing left
but to return home, lost and without purpose. I could not let my most treasured
possession fall into the hands of this monster. So, against my better judgement,
"I accept your terms." I held out a paw to receive
"You may feel a slight shock," the captain snarled.
"Don't be alarmed - it's only the amulet forming a connection with your soul,
so that should you ever break the promise..." He trailed off. I knew what he
meant, and he knew that I knew. In one quick movement, he lifted the stone from
his pocket and dropped it into my outstretched paw. A momentary coolness shot
through me. It felt like a part of me was being stripped away, even as I placed
the stone around my neck and fought to control the shaking that had taken hold.
"Now," I said, determined to make the most of
what control I had. "What have you done to them?" I gestured with my paw to
each of the other pets, all of whom had remained eerily still.
"I made certain that they would not be in the
way." I looked at him quizzically.
"In the way of what?"
"The transformation." He was no longer grinning.
"If this is true," I said carefully, "Then why
was I not treated in the same way?"
"You are one of us. Our blood runs in your veins.
It would have been wrong to deny it." His eyes glimmered with anticipation.
"We are the Werelupes."
To be continued...