For an easier life Circulation: 135,120,768 Issue: 263 | 27th day of Collecting, Y8
Home | Archives Articles | Editorial | Short Stories | Comics | New Series | Continued Series
 

Dark Fate: Part Two


by yatomiyuka

--------

At first, I didn't dare believe him. To do so would have been to surrender my sanity. To save myself, I thought back to the Werelupe legends I had read as a child. None of them seemed possible. Tales of magic and corruption, hatred and love, fear and respect--but they were all just fantastic stories.

     "I don't believe you." My voice was low, determined, but remarkably steady. "This is a joke. A half-baked Halloween joke."

     "Believe that if you want to," he said. "Right now, you, me and three members of staff are the only ones not entranced. Tomorrow night is Halloween. Tomorrow night, we will rise again." A harsh laugh escaped him. "If there is nothing else, I must retire. There is much to be done tomorrow, and you will help me." He turned, and began to pad back towards the door.

     "Wait." The old Lupe froze in his tracks and turned to face me again. "When we first met, you spoke my name. How did you know what to call me?"

     "If you must know... your mother was a friend of mine. She saved my life a long time ago, before any of this happened." I opened my mouth to inquire further, but the Lupe was gone.

     I cast my eyes at the sky. Thick black clouds like billowing smoke covered the stars and moon and deepened the shadows of the night. A sleek tongue of lightning whipped across the sky. Is this a dream? What's happening to me? Please tell me. Someone. Anyone. I'm so scared... so scared...

     The candle had been extinguished when I dropped it. Cold and frightened and with only the thunder for company, I loped the length of the ship and began the long journey back to the third-class cabin.

     ***

     I couldn't sleep that night. The storm crashed around me, creating chaos parallel to my troubled mind. Less than a day after setting out, I had met with an acquaintance of my mother, who had stolen her amulet from me and traded it back for secrecy. Not to mention the possibility that Werelupes were real, that I was one of them, and that great danger lay ahead for all of us. I wished that everything would go away, fade like the shattered remnants of a dream--but then, wasn't this what I had wanted, deep down? Adventure, and excitement, and the opportunity to learn more about my own past?

     No. Not at this price.

     As much as I tried to deny it, though, there was some truth to it. Sometime between night and early morning, I realised that fighting fate would do more harm than good, and that whatever was due to happen was already in motion. If anything remained to be decided, it was in the future.

     "Rise and shine, Fyreth." A young silver Lupe stood by the staircase, holding a tray of breakfast. I rubbed my eyes and hopped out of bed. "The captain needs you on deck as soon as you've finished eating." Without another word, the younger Lupe was gone.

     "So," I said, addressing my reflection. "It's just one weakness after another with you." I wolfed down half the breakfast and, leaving the rest, loped away up the stairs. The harsh morning light forced my eyes to close as I stepped out onto the deck. As promised, he was there waiting.

     "It's nice to see you're up early," he said, flashing me a white-fanged smile. "I could use some help with this."

     In the middle of the wooden deck, there sat a series of small boats. Several of them were dilapidated wrecks that would have sunk in the shallowest of puddles. Three of the staff were clustered around the nearest one, working away to fix the holes and replace the mouldering wood. In the end, I think it might have been easier to build new ones. I had the sense to keep my mouth shut.

     The captain's fur danced in the breeze; that awful smile stuck to his face. I wanted to wipe it off. But I couldn't. I had made a deal, and some promises were not made to be broken.

     "What do you want me to do?" I asked, trying to keep the anger in my voice to a minimum. He could tell I was losing my patience.

     "Just go over there and help them. They'll tell you what to do." So I went over and offered to help fix the boats. The worker handed me a pile of tools without a word.

     "Charming."

     For the rest of the morning, I slaved away to make the boats seaworthy. All the time, in the back of my mind, I wondered and worried and feared about what could be coming, what all this could mean. The repairing proved to be thirsty work. Several of the men collapsed, exhausted, only to be replaced by new ones. Eventually, I started to notice that some of them were passengers, still in their trances. It was only when I became too exhausted to continue that I let the tools drop to my feet and returned to the captain.

     "You have worked well, and I can tell that you're tired. Very well. Get some sleep now, while you have the chance. You're going to need the extra energy."

     ***

     On the way back to my room, I saw something that made me stop and look twice. It was a black door. There was nothing particularly remarkable about this door, save for the fact that it had most definitely not been there before. I hesitated, one paw hovering near the handle, then pressed it down. The door swung open soundlessly to reveal a deceptively spacious room with varnished wooden walls and a luxurious red carpet. A round desk held a blue book in the far left corner. But without a doubt, the centrepiece of the room was a rather comfortable-looking bed, decorated in red and gold.

     "Wow," I said softly. "Who would have the money to stay in this room?"

     "I would." A surge of pure terror hit me as I realized that the captain I had known was no more. On the outside, he was almost recognizable. His face was longer now, with more shadows; his eyes were round and vivid yellow with thin slit pupils; his claws were deadly curved scimitars, glinting cruelly in the low candlelight.

     And he looked very, very mad.

     "I-I," I stuttered, stumbling backwards, trying to find something to shield myself with. I could hear his breathing from the far side of the room, where I took shelter behind the polished table.

     "I didn't know this was your room!" I screamed desperately. "How could I have known?"

     "Silence," he hissed. "You may go. But if I ever find you here again..." There was no need for any elaboration on his part. I understood very well what would happen.

     "Sorry," I said quietly, turning back towards the door. The dark walls seemed to bear down on me, dragging me into a pit of fear and despair. My amethyst felt like a ten ton weight tied to my neck with a heavy chain. After this, I could feel the demon's eyes on me everywhere I went, no matter how many doors were between us.

     I am a part of this now. There is nothing I can do about that.

     ***

     After the incident, I returned to the run-down third-class dormitory, where I slept for what must have been hours. I dreamed in that time; dreams of terror and screams, dreams that became nightmares as they progressed. Every time I woke up, it was with a cold sheen of sweat on my fur, heart beating like a bass drum, paws clenched into futile fists. It went on and on. In fact, it got worse; even meditation did nothing to soothe my terror. In the end, I gave up on getting any more rest, and returned to the scene of my undoing: the deck of the S.S. Golden Eyrie. There were no staff workers left. Those who had fainted were piled unceremoniously in one small corner. Three ships had been fixed in total; now there was only one left to do, and daylight hours were dwindling. The single comforting thing was that the captain was himself again.

     "The time is drawing near," the captain said to me, voice lower and more deadly than ever. "I think you had better leave the heavy work to the others. In their present state, they have no idea what they're doing, or how exhausted they are becoming. You do. And I need you to help me tonight. You can't be exhausted." He was muttering half-coherently, now, eyes narrowed in anticipation.

     "What does this all mean?" I asked. My black fur stood up on the back of my neck. Far from looking feral, the captain now appeared to be less of a monster than ever. His long, white fur was shorter and brighter now, and his uniform and hat looked completely new. His eyes hadn't changed, though; they betrayed his anger, his loathing, his greed.

     "I am to be crowned King of the Werelupe nation tonight, at midnight exactly--and you... you will be the prince." He examined his sharpened claws critically. "You will be in charge of our army. I can train you to be the finest warrior in our ranks. Together, we can take Neopia by force."

     "Why?" I asked, suddenly feeling bold. "What good would it do?"

     "As if you have to ask," he laughed. "We could have everything. The world would be a much better place with us in charge. I have to say, Werelupes are a very... misunderstood... race."

     "I see." I breathed in deeply, trying to stop myself from screaming or going flat-out crazy. "Who else would benefit under this scheme of yours?"

     "Everyone would benefit," came his reply. "There would be no need for money. The strongest pets would be the best fed, and they would share their prizes with poorer pets at their discretion."

     "Many would starve."

     "There would be fewer weak pets in the world. The fewer weak pets there are to drag us down, the further we can evolve, as a race and individually. Perhaps you think this is harsh. Sometimes, harsh is the only way. What is easy to do is not always right."

     "How can you think that way?" I spat. "There is more than one kind of strength, you know. Think of those you are condemning... they are the ones who would save you, given the chance, despite what you are. They are the ones who could make this world great. You... you are nothing but a monster." He had no reply for this. I was still afraid, but it was a more... dream-like fear. The amethyst trembled and grew hot against my fur; I fell to the ground, suddenly weakened. A triumphant smile broke upon the muzzle of the captain.

     "You can't do it," he said. "Because of the promise you made to me. You can talk all you want about how much you hate me, but the moment you try to do anything, snap!" His smile grew into a laugh that shook the ground beneath my paws.

     "I will find a way," I snarled. "Somehow, I will find a way."

     ***

     I did not move from my position until night was upon us. Instead, I simply watched and thought. There has to be a loophole somewhere, I reasoned. But as the shroud of darkness grew to cover the sky, hope began to slip away.

     "It is done." The droning voice of one of the passengers drifted to me where I sat. In its own way, it was worse than the voice of the monster that controlled it. There was something awfully lifeless and corrupt about it, and that was what really scared me. I could end up the same way.

     "Most excellent. We can begin to lower the lifeboats into the water." Lifeboats. More like death-boats. The two exchanged a few more words, then the wakeful-dreamer scurried off to prepare the first of the smaller boats for launch. I didn't notice the approach of the captain until he was beside me.

     "So," he hissed. "After your little outburst earlier, I have decided that you should be kept in the largest lifeboat, where our best fighters can keep watch over you." I didn't trust myself to say anything. "If you are not going to help, you can board the ship now, before we lower it into the jaws of the ocean."

     Wordlessly I struggled to my feet and followed him to the boat, which would be my prison until we landed. I pretended not to notice as he placed steel chains around me and tied my paws together. As he and his men lifted me onto one of the ships and placed me in a cage of steel, I closed my eyes and feigned sleep. He knew that I was seething inside; he took joy in the fact that I was powerless.

     "I know you're trying to fight it," he said. "You can't hold back forever. It feeds on your anger, and soon it will take control."

     "Never," I spat, knowing full well that his words were true. I was out of control already. There was no way to know how bad it would get, or that I would have any of my own mind left by the end of the night.

     "Launch boat!" I could hear the heavy breathing as they laboured to lower the vessel into the salt-water embrace. I only hoped that it was seaworthy enough to get us to our first destination. After that... after that...

     Splash!

     The steady roar of the ocean drowned my thoughts, and I fell into a peaceable silence. One by one, I heard the other boats follow us down. It was going to be a long night.

     ***

     It was nearing the hour when we drew towards our destination. I felt the boat lurch beneath me. Then, stillness and silence.

     "Look. They wait for us." I struggled against the chains; tried to stand, to see what he was referring to. It was utterly futile. Laughter echoed around me as I continued to struggle, clawing and biting and straining to be free of the shackles that bound me. The only thing it achieved was making me angrier and less rational. Exhaustion threatened to drag me down into an unwilling sleep. "Stop," the captain growled. "You will need that energy, as I have told you already."

     How did he dare taunt me, knowing what was inside me, growing and festering by the second? I felt angry tears forming in the corners of my eyes. With no warning at all, I felt my strength return; and with it, my fury became more intense than ever. There was only one thing left to do, and that was to destroy. I think, in those few seconds, the old Lupe saw something familiar reflected in my eyes. He backed away, eyes narrowed, snarling viciously.

     "Don't underestimate me."

     Fur flew, wood burned, the ocean churned below. I cleaved the air in three swift strokes, cutting the chains that held the shackles in place. My captors watched in awe as, with one heavy paw, I tore the pillars of steel from around me and cast them aside with a resounding clang. Three of them ducked in time. The others weren't so lucky. And the worst was yet to come.

     "Not so fast." The three lucky Werelupes stood before me, teeth bared in invitation. I felt my own lips lifting to reveal a monstrous snarl. I won't lie--it was exhilarating, fighting back after being bound in a metallic prison with nowhere to go and nothing to do but brood. Oh yes, I was bitter and I didn't care who paid for my misfortune, as long as it wasn't me.

     One after the other, they tried to flee, and one after the other I brought them down. Their mercy had been their downfall. They had dared to underestimate me, and they had paid the price. Vicious rage still twisted, hurricane-like, in what passed for the remainder of my soul, but it was beginning to fade. In my anger, I had destroyed the small boat; there was nothing but the ocean now. Lucky, then, that I had taught myself to swim a long time ago. I let my breath out in a long, low howl, and launched myself into the icy waters.

     My fur, once neatly trimmed, was now long, thick and decidedly raggedy. If it had been black before, it was like charcoal now. Using my new muscles to propel me through the water, I turned towards the nearby shore, where a gathered crowd was waiting. None of them made any sound. They had seen my battle with the other Lupes, and knew exactly what I was capable of.

     I cast my eyes around for the other boats, realised they must have gone in different directions and turned my attention to the distant coastline. Even with my newfound strength, it would be a difficult thing to accomplish. I became more and more tired, once again, until I wished I could fall asleep--but the beach was in sight, and the crowd was watching me with a mass of green and yellow eyes.

     Finally, with a gasp of relief, I find myself upon the beach and before my fellow Lupes. A brown Lupe rushed forward and, taking my paw, pulled me to my feet.

     "Our leader has returned!"

     A great howl rose from the gathered crowd, who now stood around me in a circle. In all, I counted at least twenty; probably more than that. One by one, they bowed before me respectfully. They all looked stronger and more feral than I; most of them were much older, too.

     "I have returned!" That voice. It was like a thunderclap in the darkness; it came from nowhere and filled my heart with terror. They meant him, not me! Before I really knew what was happening, I had been lifted into the air and slammed back down with incredible force.

     I'm going to pass out, I thought sleepily. I tried to lift my head. It didn't respond. Every sound was suddenly amplified to five times the usual volume; the words I heard were strangely slurred, like they had been slowed down somehow. A burst of light came into view, half-blinding me. A crackling sound, almost lightning but not quite. Muffled screams. Then darkness reigned.

     ***

     By the time I woke again, daylight had returned to the skies. A quick glance told me I was the only pet around for miles in either direction. The ocean lapped at my paws, as if trying to cleanse them of the night's events.

     "Wow." I felt much better than I had even before setting out, as if something in me had been set right after years of being broken and useless. The air around me was fresh, the ocean pleasantly cool. With nowhere else to go, I simply sat there, and thought about what I had witnessed.

     Evil lurks just below the surface of our everyday lives; it lurks in every one of us, just waiting for the opportune moment to arise. What I saw, and what I felt, was a particular brand of evil. Darker than most, maybe, but not indestructible, I thought. No, I know it can be beaten, or at least controlled. I know I'll survive somehow. I have hope, after all, and a home to go back to. What does he have that's worth saving?

     Nothing, I thought. Nothing at all.

The End

 
Search the Neopian Times




Other Episodes


» Dark Fate: Part One



Week 263 Related Links


Other Stories


---------

That's Just Wrong - Happy Halloween!
Balthazar? No, he's my brother... right?

by happychick111



Submit your stories, articles, and comics using the new submission form.