Curse of the Werelupe: Part Five
Minotaur struggled to keep up with his siblings. He was still searing with anger that they had decided to leave without even considering what would happen. He ran up to them and tried to glare at both of them at once.
“You can’t just go traipsing off into the Haunted Woods on your own,” he snapped.
“We just did,” Kieavin replied, dodging around him. She grinned and began skipping, just so she could infuriate him.
“Do you even know what lives in here?” Minotaur argued. “Any number of them could pick us off easy.”
“That’s why I brought this,” Kieavin said smugly, holding up a Leaf Shield triumphantly. “And some other battle stuff that Mum bought me.”
Minotaur gritted his teeth. It was bad enough that they just took off, but the fact that Kieavin had actually been prepared was embarrassing to him. She had always seemed so airy and whimsical. But now she was proving him wrong. And it took a lot of self control for him to be proven wrong and be graceful about it.
He gave up and followed them again, still seething. Gioama gave him a sympathetic look, but only once. Then he joined Kieavin in calling loudly so that his voice echoed. Minotaur slapped his paw to his forehead. Could they be any more stupid? They were in the Haunted Woods for Fyora’s sake. You weren’t supposed to go crashing around.
A least they were on a path, which was only a small relief as the path was empty of all travellers other than themselves.
“So you even know where we’re going?” he called.
“Not a clue,” Kieavin said, grinning. “But we’re sure to meet someone eventually. And then we can ask for directions to the Marketplace.”
Minotaur paused in his retort, peering through the trees to the left. He was sure that he could see lights flickering in the distance. In fact, there were many lights, all flickering welcomingly in the seemingly eternal night of the Woods. He stopped and took a step closer.
“You two! I can see lights. I think there’s a town over there,” he yelled.
Kieavin followed his gaze and her face twisted. “What on Neopia would a town be doing that far away from the path?” she asked.
Minotaur stared at the supposed ‘path’. Now that he looked closer, it seemed more like a meandering trail that tracked pointlessly in spirals and zigzags. In other words inaccurate. He smirked at Kieavin.
“The question is: why on Neopia doesn’t this ‘path’ lead to that town?” he quipped. “I don’t think much of your sense of direction, so I’m going over there. You’re welcome to come with me.”
Kieavin snorted and began striding away. Minotaur followed suit, but in the opposite direction. Gioama was left stranded between the two, having to choose between the one with strict common sense, and the other whose common sense was almost as wandering as the path he was standing on. He chose the latter, jogging to keep up.
Minotaur let a smile of satisfaction appear in his face but then he hid it and turned to his brother. “Good choice,” he said whole-heartedly.
Gioama said nothing, gaze fixed ahead. Eyes wide. Minotaur saw an expression of fear and awe on his face. He had seen a glimpse of it before, but that had been from a distance. Now he realised what the expression was.
“Are you scared?” he asked softly.
Gioama nodded almost imperceptibly. Minotaur gave a small smile and put a paw on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it. We all get scared sometimes. And I have to admit that right now I’m getting a bit creeped as well.”
Gioama smiled at him. “Thanks for making me feel better,” he said quietly.
Minotaur stared at him. “Thanks for coming with me. I didn’t think you would after the way I sometimes talk to you.”
Gioama shrugged and Minotaur began speaking again.
“The other night, when we were going to get hot dogs. I was going to tell you. Jenn abandoned me, then she adopted me after you were hatched. I think I was jealous.”
He stopped to see Gioama gaping at him. “What? She? Why?”
Minotaur smiled grimly and nodded. Gioama’s eyes widened. Then he began speaking slowly. “I’m sure she didn’t mean for you to get hurt,” he said. “She wouldn’t have done it unless she knew she was going to bring you back.”
“That doesn’t make it any better,” Minotaur said. Silence reigned again, but this time it was thoughtful. Minotaur made a decision.
They approached the town slowly, and Minotaur stepped up his pace. Bright lights flickered, and in any other World they would have looked out of place. But in the Haunted Woods they looked natural. In fact, Minotaur realised with a shiver, the Haunted Woods would have seemed unnatural without it.
He looked behind him, almost certain that Kieavin would be following, but she was nowhere in sight. Sighing, he stepped into the town.
* * *
Fyri tapped Jenn on the shoulder. “Are you okay?” the Kau asked. “You were out for quite a while.”
I fainted...? Jenn nodded, then changed her mind halfway through and shook her head. The Grey Kau began to look confused. “You aren’t? Or you are?”
“I’m not... not really,” Jenn said. “I think my Lupe may have met this Shadowheart.”
Fyri’s eyes widened. “What makes you think that?” she asked slowly.
“Well, Fanger, my Lupe; He didn’t seem to get along well with one of his siblings. Would that be enough for Shadowheart to use?”
Just then the door to the Neolodge slammed open. Inside marched a green Shoyru. Jenn glanced up carelessly, then her gaze sharpened and she stood up, almost tipping the concerned Kau standing over her.
“Kieavin?” she said incredulously.
The Shoyru beamed her fierce gaze on her. Then in one swift movement she stepped forward and seized her wrist and dragged her to the doorway.
“What’s wrong?” Jenn asked immediately. “What are you even doing here? And where on Neopia are your brothers?”
“Well, two of them are in the Haunted Woods somewhere, and I’ve lost another,” Kieavin began. But that’s not the point.”
“What is the point?” Jenn asked, eyebrows raised and hands on hips.
“Fanger ran away,” Kieavin almost shouted. “And we don’t know where he went.”
Jenn placed her hand on Kieavin’s forehead. “Calm down,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady. “What do you mean he ran away? And where are Gioama and Minotaur?”
Kieavin stopped jiggling nervously and stared straight at her. “One night Fanger was in the house, all better. And now he’s gone! He just disappeared, and now we don’t know where he is.”
“And the others?” Jenn questioned.
“They... um. Well, they left me on the path a while back because they thought I was going in the wrong direction. And I thought Minotaur was joking when he went off in the woods. But I haven’t seen them since.”
“What?!” Jenn cried, throwing u her hands in exasperation. “You just let them wander off?”
Kieavin scuffed her toe on the ground, eyes lowered. Jenn sighed. Just then Fyri interrupted them, her face looking slightly resentful. Perhaps it had been because of Kieavin’s rude disturbance.
“I believe that your Lupe may be in the Haunted Woods at this very moment. There’s no other place a Werelupe would run off to. Any Halloween pet, for that matter.”
Jenn stared at her, then she realised that she was right. She stepped forward.
“Do you know where this Shadowheart lives?” she asked desperately. She had almost lost Fanger once; she wasn’t about to do so again.
Fyri smiled sadly. “The Haunted Woods are large, and there are many less desirable places deep inside. So I don’t have a clue. But the chances of getting him back after the next full moon is slim.”
“When is the next full moon?” Jenn demanded.
Fyri glanced out the window, where the first veil of twilight was deepening the shadows of the Woods. Then she turned back.
* * *
Gioama had felt comforted by Minotaur’s presence, even though he had formerly been afraid of the blue Yurble. Now that he knew why his brother was constantly on edge he felt bad, and he said so to Minotaur, who shrugged and kept walking. Gioama sighed and followed contently as Minotaur effortlessly traversed the Woods and led him confidently into the town.
The light was welcome, especially with the now fading daylight. Gioama shivered with the cold and Minotaur gazed at him with concern. Then the Yurble was somewhat distracted as he was bowled off his feet by a passing horde of ghost pets. It was quite strange to see him knocked over by transparent pets, because they looked like they were going to pass right through him until they didn’t and he connected with the ground.
The Yurble growled and tripped one that had lagged behind. The unfortunate Uni skidded in the dirt for a full metre, before picking himself up with huffy grace and spinning around.
“Which one of you pets knocked me over?” he bawled angrily. “It will take days for me to get the dirt out of my coat!”
Gioama nearly died of suffocation under a wave of laughter, rolling around on the ground, his fire-coloured fur crackling and sending out dancing sparks. He surfaced long enough to see both pets wearing disapproving looks on their faces.
“Really, Gioama, you shouldn’t act like such a child when you laugh,” Minotaur told him sternly.
Gioama stared at him.
“I couldn’t agree more,” the Uni said in a snobbish tone. “It is rather unbecoming.” He stared down his nose at the unfortunate Kougra. Gioama glared at him. The Uni looked away disdainfully. “Well, aren’t you going to answer my question?” he asked.
Minotaur nodded. “I tripped you. But you can hardly blame me when your friends are racing around here like they’re being chased by Balthazar.”
The Uni snorted. “Knocked you down, did they? As usual. So careless.”
“Well you happened to be racing right along with them,” Minotaur quipped.
“That doesn’t mean I’m careless as well.” The Uni preened himself. “And let’s get this straight; I don’t have friends, only acquaintances.”
“Then I’m almost pleased to meet your acquaintance,” Minotaur said, holding out a paw to shake. “I’m Minotaur, and this is my little brother, Gioama.”
Gioama nodded, seething at being called little.
“I’m Quui,” the Uni said, taking the paw and staring at him suspiciously. “What are you doing here, anyway?” he asked. “Our town is off the usual path.”
Gioama interrupted. “You mean that the path over there really is the main road?” he asked, pointing.
The Uni nodded.
“Why in Neopia isn’t your path near the road?” Minotaur asked. “It’s seems rather pointless to me.”
Quui’s eyes widened, and he gave a huge grin, as if enjoying himself. “This town is a choice attack spot for the Werelupes. That’s why my fri... acquaintances were running around; so they could prepare the town for the night,” he said.
“Werelupes?” Gioama asked eagerly. Quui’s face fell; almost disappointed in his reaction. “Our brother is a Werelupe.” He turned to Minotaur. “Do you think Fanger is here?”
At his words Quui jumped two metres back and glared at them. “You know a Werelupe?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Gioama. “Our brother got painted Halloween two days ago.”
“Being a Halloween Lupe and Being a Werelupe are two completely different things,” Quui said.
“What do you mean?” Gioama asked.
A howl interrupted the semi-quiet of the Haunted Woods, shattering the peaceful tranquillity in an instant, and sending Quui high into the air. The Uni remained hovering as around them the town exploded into hoarse shouts. Gioama gripped Quui’s ankle and tried to drag him to the ground.
“What is it?” he asked.
Quui kicked his paw off, unwilling to even be a metre near ground. “That’s the closest the howling has been for days,” he said, eyes wide. “They must be close.”
Minotaur immediately became alert and glanced around sharply. “What can I do?” Impatiently he dragged the ghost Uni to the ground and stared straight into his face.
Quui squirmed under his gaze, and Gioama felt a sort of satisfaction watching him being caught in Minotaur’s business stare.
“You can help us fend them off,” he said quietly. His bravado was long gone. It had disappeared along with the echoes of the howl.
Minotaur nodded curtly. “Good. What do the Werelupes usually do?”
“They usually just destroy a few buildings and run off again. But every now and then they attack real pets and people.”
Gioama watched as his brother padded away into the centre of the town. Now he was left alone with the Uni, who was shuffling uncomfortably.
“Uh... what did you mean that there was a difference between Halloween Lupes and Werelupes?” he asked uncertainly.
Quui actually chuckled, and stared him straight in the eyes. “The difference, Gioama? It’s easy: Halloween Lupes are tame – Werelupes are not.”
To be continued...