Highrock Pack History Songs: Song for Three Voices - Part Six
Ten days had passed since Shriek had fled. Though she had desperately searched for her lost brother, with no clues to go on she had gotten nowhere. Her wounded shoulder was getting more and more strained, yet she dared not stop to rest it. Her wings had long since given out from exhaustion, and with her wound she was unable to successfully hunt. Ten days of little food, less water, and sharp pains lancing through her shoulder with every step had worn her to the merest of threads.
This place where she had found herself was a barren field, with the occasional bit of scrub grass putting in an appearance. In the distance, she could see a city. If at all possible, she wanted to avoid any place that humans settled in. Her ragged appearance would surely mark her as a wild Lupess. Being a wild Lupess in the presence of a human would earn her a one way ticket to the pound, and then who would save the pack? The pack elders told terrible stories about the horrors of the pound constructed by humans to house unwanted, ownerless Neopets. There was no food, no water, and three pets crammed into a single tiny cage, hoping against hope that someone takes pity on them.
Her ears pricked. What was that sound? There it was again. It sounded like the uncertain footfalls of a wounded animal. She knew that sound all to well by now. She lifted her nose and sniffed. However, trying to sort through all of the scents around her was getting harder and harder, and she was unable to determine what was approaching her. She shook her head, and sighed. If it was a wounded creature, maybe she could catch it. She couldn’t remember not being hungry.
Her ears pricked, she tried to enter a stealth crouch, but her wounded shoulder wasn’t cooperating. She staggered forward, making enough noise to more than announce her presence to anything that had ears. Her uninjured paw landed on something slightly mushy, and she looked down.
Just in time to see a Reptillior bite her leg.
“Owwwrrfff!” she yelped, leaping backward as the petpet released her paw. She came down hard on her injured leg, and cried out again. As she gasped, she could feel a dull, throbbing pain shooting up from the bite. Reptilliors... that’s right... they’re the most venomous snakes in Tyrannia.
The venom was spreading fast. She could feel her grip on her consciousness slipping away. Have to fight it... got to stay awake... but I’m so tired... so... so...
A pair of red eyes gazed down at her, bright with concern.
* * * * *
“... And once we got the anti-venom in her system, she bounced right back. She looks bad, but this one’s a fighter, that’s for sure.”
“That’s good to hear, Doctor.”
Shriek opened her eyes blearily. She felt as if her mind was in a fog, and her limbs felt weak as water. She forced herself to focus on her surroundings. The first thing she was aware of was that she was lying on a surface that was disgustingly soft. She felt a tightness on her shoulder, and looked to see a gauze wrap around it. She gazed up at the sky.
There was no sky. Only a bland expanse of blank whiteness. In panic, she looked around to see that she was surrounded on all sides by walls. Her mind snapped into full wakefulness. What the? Where are the trees? There’s no sky! No sky!
She tired to force herself to calm down, but a whimper of confusion escaped her anyway. A door opened, and the head of a starry Ogrin poked inside her door. He pushed a pair of spectacles up his face, and smiled warmly. “Ah, the sleeper wakes. Good, you need to eat something, dear.” The head was withdrawn, and a few moments later he walked back in the room, pushing a tray heaped with leeks. Shriek curled her lip in distaste. Leeks were snowbunny food.
“Hospital food, eh? I swear, all nutritionists need to be hanged.” A Darigan Lupe padded into the room behind the Ogrin, grinning. He turned to Shriek and nodded politely, causing the fangs on his necklace to click. “I’m Kris. I found you just before you passed out, and I brought you here.”
“And a good thing too,” the Ogrin said feelingly. “Left alone, she never would have made it. You just barely got her here in time as it was.”
So the red eyes were his... Shriek thought. She glanced at the food. Disgusting as it was, she was ravenous, and hunger won out over pride. She choked the leeks down in a few famished gulps. She accepted the water the Ogrin offered, inspecting him cautiously. He was wearing some sort or white jacket, along with the spectacles. That could mean only one thing. Shriek was in a city. Only city Neopians wore clothes like humans.
She turned her attention to the Darigan. To her surprise, he looked pretty banged up. He had several bandages on his face and shoulders, and his right wing was in a splint. “What happened to you?” she asked, speaking up for the first time.
Kris (was that what he had called himself?) winced. “It’s a long story. Let’s just say that I won’t ever be seeing my brother Will again. Or as he calls himself now,” he added bitterly, “Venom Of Striking Cobrall.”
Shriek recoiled as if she’d been slapped. “Strike? You know where he is?”
Kris blinked. “Huh? What do you mean? Do you know something about this?”
The Ogrin looked amused. “I’ll leave you two alone. You clearly have much to discuss.” And he took himself out of the room.
Kris turned his attention back on the faerie Lupess. “First of all, tell me who you are.”
She winced. “I am Startled Skree Shrieks Loudly. Shriek, if you prefer. I am,” she winced, “I was a member of the Dragon Canyon Pack of wild Lupes.”
Kris gasped. “So you must be the Lupess that Troy was talking about! The faerie who chased him off on the way to the Stone Dome!”
Shriek felt a flicker of amusement. “If this Troy is a Tyrannian Ixi...”
“Than I am she who he has reason to dislike.”
“So...” Kris said, “why are you here, so far from your territory?”
Shriek sighed. “Know this. Even as that Ixi returned to his home in disgrace, I beheld a horror that no honest Lupe should need to see.” She shook her head sadly. “I found my leader speaking with a creature who wore the form of a Xweetok, yet had the heart of a monster. He called himself Prototype 12047. He sought to enslave my entire pack and use them as weapons in a war against all of humanity. He was about to eliminate me as an unnecessary witness, when I received a divine message. I was told to find my long lost brother, Venom Of Striking Cobrall, for he alone could help me save my pack.”
Kris looked horrorstruck. “So... so Will... I mean Strike... is your brother?”
Shriek sighed. “I do not know. You must tell me your tale, then I will judge.”
The Darigan Lupe grimaced. “My owner wanted to use a potion to turn Will into a mutant Draik. Will was furious, insisting that he wasn’t going to surrender his pride as a Lupe. He lost his temper, and left the house. When he didn’t come back, my owner sent me to find him. I was able to track him to your pack’s territory, where I found him begging to join the pack. He had this red cloth with him, and the pack leader seemed excited to see it-”
Shriek gasped. “That must be the sacred bandana of Mudslide! If this Will was able to find it, then surely that is a sign that he truly is Strike! So what happened?”
Kris sighed. “The other Lupe told him that in order to join the pack, he had to prove his loyalty by attacking me.” Kris swished his tail, taking in his injuries with the gesture. “He passed with flying colors, as you can see.”
Shriek shuddered. “If he was allowed to join the Dragon Canyon Pack, this means that Prototype 12047 knows about him now. He was there when I received the message.” Her eyes widened in horror. “It is likely that Strike is already in his hands.”
Kris and Shriek looked hopelessly at each other. If Strike, the only hope, was in Prototype’s hands, then all was lost for the human race. Yet, each saw a spark of defiance in the other, a kinship of thought that lit a fire in their souls. They knew what they had to do.
“We’ve got to save him,” Kris said.
Shriek nodded. This Darigan Lupe was a stranger to her, but they were united by a common goal. They had to save Strike, and stop Prototype 12047.
They had to.
To be continued...