The King of Werelupes: Part Eight
Somehow, Apsy failed to be surprised. The fact that Shadowheart wanted to take over Neopia wasn’t really jaw-dropping material for her, but the fact that it had taken so long to declare it was strange.
They were too busy trying to escape the clearing for Apsy to see Fanger’s reaction, but maybe he just hadn’t heard what Kieavin had said.
The green Shoyru was doing a good job of dodging between the trees as she flew above Apsy’s head, but then she pulled ahead and caught up to Fanger.
Apsy managed to keep the others in sight until they reached a gap in the trees large enough for them all to rest.
“What are we going to do now?” she asked.
The question settled in the air, unanswered. Then Kieavin gave a wide grin. “Well, we fight. Shadowheart can’t do much with only a few hundred Werelupes against the rest of Neopia.”
“But he can still do a lot of damage. And there are plenty Halloween Lupes out there that he can bewitch.”
“Oh.” Kieavin frowned. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“I agree with the Shoyru,” Gnarfas offered with a slight growl. “I’ll not let Shadowheart win. I’ll fight to put my King back on his rightful throne.”
The King was staring into the distance. He blinked and looked around, as if startled from sleep.
“Do you know exactly what Shadowheart’s plans are?” he asked Kieavin.
Kieavin shook her head. “Sonikki and Minotaur came to the edge of the Woods to get information, and apparently Shadowheart has named himself ruler of the Haunted Woods. No one had opposed him. But I don’t think anyone can really be stuffed in here anyway, seeing as Werelupes are just another fact of life.”
“So he’s still here?” Fanger asked. “In the Woods?”
“Probably,” Kieavin said with a shrug.
Fanger nodded. “Ki, I want you to go back to Jenn and tell her that I’m going after Shadowheart.”
Kieavin blinked. “Okay,” she said.
“What? No trying to talk me out of it?” Fanger asked.
“No. You’ve dealt with him before, Fanger. I’m sure you can do it again.” She patted him on the head and lifted her wings.
“Kieavin,” Apsy said suddenly, reaching out to stop her.
“Tell Ember that she’s not to come after me,” Apsy told her.
Kieavin gave a salute and then took off properly this time, skimming over the trees and out of sight.
“From what I’ve seen of Ember, giving her a message like that is more likely to make her come,” Fanger said.
Apsy gave an evil grin. “I know. Shadowheart won’t know what hit him.”
“Are they dealt with?”
Shadowheart spoke without turning. He had heard Redfang’s approach, and was itching to start his invasion. But not before all those who could contest his magic could be eliminated.
Redfang padded to stand in front of him and inclined her head slightly in greeting.
“Unfortunately, no. But fortunately, you still get a chance to do the job yourself.”
Shadowheart bared his fangs, half in a grimace, and half in a smile.
“As much as it displeases me that they got away, at least there’s still that to look forward to,” he agreed.
Redfang narrowed her eyes around the deserted clearing to make sure nobody was listening before speaking.
“The old King was with them, as well as that great brute he sees fit to keep around.”
“Gnarfas?” Shadowheart said, but not really surprised. “I should have known. He follows the old King around like a pup. And not even a proper Werelupe name either.”
Redfang nodded her agreement to his words. “So are we still planning the attack for tonight?” she asked.
Shadowheart swung his head up to gaze at the sky, which was almost clear; only a few wispy clouds still bothered to cover the deepening blue. And not yet in its full glory, the full moon hung overhead. He allowed himself a growl, not wanting to howl yet.
“Yes, we shall still attack tonight. What better way to scare the ordinary citizens of Neopia? And every full moon it gets harder and harder for a Werelupe to resist my magic.”
He debated on whether or not to give an evil laugh, and finally decided on a low chuckle. Redfang revealed her dark fangs in a wide grin.
“I’ll ready the troops, your majesty,” she said.
There was something exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping about stalking through the Haunted Woods at night. Apsy’s senses were finely tuned, and she could hear Fanger’s breathing right next to her as she padded silently through the trees.
Well, almost silently, she reflected as she crunched a twig with her large paw. It bothered her that Gnarfas was moving more silently than her, because he was more than twice her size, but he manoeuvred his bulk gracefully, red eyes flashing in the light of the full moon.
“I remember Jenn telling me that the full moon strengthens the spell,” Fanger whispered in her ear, the sound magnified tenfold by the eerie silence of the woods.
Apsy nodded distractedly as the King changed direction to avoid a corpse of trees.
They were heading to the edge of the Woods, so that they could intercept Shadowheart.
“There’s no point trying to find him because he’ll probably have guards,” the King had said. But I’m sure he won’t miss the opportunity to lead his troops when the time comes. Then he’ll be in the open.”
Apsy was finding it hard to concentrate with the moon above her. Every full moon she didn’t sleep; rather she went outside and sat on the lawn until morning, no matter how cold it was. Not that she got cold easily with her long fur. Fanger almost walked into a low tree branch, and she knew he was having the same problem.
“We’re here,” the King growled, gesturing at the small gap in the trees that just passed as a clearing.
“But we’re still pretty far in,” Fanger objected.
“I don’t like the open,” the King said, and Gnarfas gave a warning growl.
Fanger shrugged and lay down with his head tucked into his side. Apsy lay down next to him, but kept her ears pricked for any sound. She didn’t need to, because Gnarfas had positioned himself between two large trees, crouching on four limbs with the other two holding branches for support. His eyes were wide open and alert, and his ears were constantly changing direction.
“Hopefully the wind won’t change. I’d rather they didn’t know we were coming by scenting us.” The King’s voice came from somewhere next to Apsy.
“How are we going to stop more than a hundred Werelupes?” came Fanger’s muffled voice. “I know that Apsy and I have broken the spell before, but I only did that with help from my family. Do Werelupes have any family?”
Apsy remembered that she had forgotten her family while in her daze, and only when Fanger had broken out of Shadowheart’s control had the spell weakened enough for her to remember hers.
There was a lengthy silence.
“Werelupes only have each other for family,” the King said finally. “It is the King’s duty to look after the family like it was his own.”
“So, if you’re the rightful King,” Fanger stirred and lifted his head up, “you could break the spell.”
Apsy opened her eyes and turned her head to see the King standing on a rock above her, staring thoughtfully at Gnarfas’ back.
“I guess I could,” he said finally. Then a smile spread over his face. “Shadowheart won’t expect that. You two could probably weaken his magic, but it won’t matter unless the Werelupes have something else to hold onto to break free.”
He continued to smile as Fanger nodded.
“I just hope Apsy and I can actually weaken the spell.”
Me too, Apsy thought.
Gnarfas gave a low growl and a second later the scent of several dozen Werelupes drifted to Apsy on the wind.
The King stopped smiling and straightened up, his eyes narrowed. Fanger uncurled himself and stared towards the thicker trees before climbing to her paws. It took Apsy a few more seconds to get up, and then she stood next to him.
For the next few minutes there was utter silence, then Apsy began to pick up little sounds, like branches snapping and shifting, and soft footfalls. It was scary how little noise the host of Werelupes were making.
“We need to make sure Shadowheart sees us first,” the King whispered, so quietly that Apsy almost missed it. “Daggerclaw, howl.”
Fanger gave him a weird look, then lifted his head and drew in a long breath. Apsy listened to the eerie sound that emitted from his mouth with a shiver. The sound cut through the air, and anyone within ten kilometres could have heard it.
There was utter silence, then low growls, closer than Apsy had thought. There was an answering howl, and Apsy recognised it as Shadowheart’s.
There was the sound of running paws, and then the tiny clearing was surrounded by a thick wall of Werelupes, their shoulders touching. Shadowheart was among them, Redfang by his side.
“So here you make your final stand,” he growled. “I think it’s rather pitiful.” He stared balefully at the King. “You should join me,” he said, his eyes swirling and his voice persuasive.
Apsy watched the King’s eyes shimmer, and let out a warning growl. Instantly the shimmering stopped and the King shook his head wildly.
“No. Never,” he snarled. “That won’t work on me.”
Shadowheart shrugged and turned to Gnarfas, who was now standing over the King.
“I don’t suppose there’s any point trying on you either.” He sighed. “So I should just get this over with.”
He drew in his breath to howl, then something multicoloured hit him full in the chest and the howl came out as a whoof!
Ember came charging through the throng brandishing a rainbow gun, followed by Sky, Sonikki and Anubia. There was a whooshing sound overhead and a hundred tiny bubbles shot out of Kieavin’s bubblebeam and drifted into the confusion. She grinned and waved as Jenn, Gioama and Minotaur came through, Minotaur looking extremely stupid carrying a large lightning gun.
Shadowheart had recovered enough to make a leap at Apsy, but Ember whacked him on the nose and shot him a look so evil that he took a step backwards.
The newcomers formed a circle of their own facing the Werelupes. Shadowheart grinned.
“You can’t contend with us,” he said. “Give up.”
“Never,” Gnarfas snarled.
Fanger nudged Apsy, “When you growled before, Shadowheart’s magic couldn’t get to the King. Maybe if we howled together, then the King will get his chance.”
Apsy nodded. “It’s worth a try,” she said.
She drew in a deep breath, feeling the oxygen filling her lungs, and glanced at Fanger. He tipped his head slightly, and she released all the air into an ear-splitting howl. Her head was thrown back so she could see the full moon shining down at them, and she smiled.
When the King heard the sound he whipped his head to face Shadowheart. Shadowheart was standing stock-still, staring at the pair as the air left their lungs. The Werelupes beside him were standing still also, and red tendrils had started to swirl in their eyes. The King grinned.
“Free yourselves, and join with me to chase this tyrant out of our territory,” he howled, and launched himself forward so that he could tackle the false King.
Shadowheart lay limp, then began to struggle, but the King had a throne to reclaim, and he fought with a vengeance.
“Help me,” Shadowheart hissed to the Werelupes nearest him, but they stared blankly at him, the blackness in their eyes almost gone as Fanger and Apsy’s howls died away.
At last the King managed to hold Shadowheart down, and the slightly larger Werelupe glared up at him, eyes smouldering. “Redfang,” he said quietly.
The King was knocked to the side by the female Werelupe, and Shadowheart regained his paws. Without looking back, he fled through the trees, and Redfang followed him. A dozen Werelupes turned to pursue them.
There was a commotion and a moment later a struggling Macejaw was dragged in front of the King.
“He did not fight a fair contest,” one of the Werelupes holding him said, bowing as well as she could. “You are the rightful King.”
The King nodded. “He shall be punished. But first I have other matters to attend to.”
Apsy was out of breath. She had released every bit of air from her lungs in that one howl. She noted that the surrounding Werelupes no longer had dark eyes, and she smiled.
Ember strode up to her and pulled her into a tight hug. “I think we won!” she said jubilantly. “We won! We won!”
She pulled back suddenly and Apsy turned to see the King approaching.
“Thank you, Silverfang,” he growled. “You have the gratitude of the Werelupes. I don’t suppose you’ll want to stay here so,” he hesitated, then produced a necklace with a Werelupe fang on it. “This will allow you to enter the Werelupe Burrows at any time,” he said. “You will always be welcome.”
He pressed it into Apsy’s paw, and then turned and padded towards Fanger. Ember stared at her open-mouthed.
“That necklace... only very few Neopians have a Werelupe Fang necklace. Put it on and don’t ever lose it.”
Apsy smiled and pulled the necklace on. It fit perfectly.
Two weeks later...
Apsy ducked as a unidentifiable piece of food sped towards her. Anubia grinned from across the kitchen, and Apsy glared at her.
“Just because you’re painted baby, doesn’t mean you have to act like one,” she growled.
“But it gives me a reason too,” she said, picking up another morsel and chucking it at her head.
“Yeah, don’t ruin all the fun, Apsy,” Ember said with a truly evil grin, picking up the bowl of salad and advancing menacingly.
Sky and Sonikki watched with interest, then shrugged at each other and turned back to their cooking.
“We’re trying to prepare a feast for the visitors,” Sky said, and Sonikki added her disapproval by shaking her head.
Ember deflated. “Well... if you put it that way,” she said, and put the bowl back on the table.
Anubia looked put out, but then the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it!” Apsy shouted, squeezing through the kitchen door and pounding down the hall to fling the door open.
Jenn looked taken aback for a single second, then grinned.
“I can smell good food,” she said.
“The very best.” Ember managed to get past Apsy and pull her friend into a hug.
Apsy went out into the scorched garden, where Fanger was staring at the house.
“I know. It’s still pretty small. So far we’ve only got a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and three bedrooms. I only have to share with Sonikki, but Sky has to share with Anubia. Ha!”
Fanger grinned. “So where are we eating?” he asked.
“In the backyard. It’s mostly dirt now. The grass still has to grow back.”
Fanger nodded. “Still no word about Shadowheart. Looks like he got away. But he won’t be able to come back with the Werelupes on the watch for him.”
“Good,” Apsy said. “It’s bad enough that Neopia thinks that all Halloween Lupes are evil after Shadowheart’s almost-invasion.”
“Well, we’ll just have to prove them wrong,” Fanger said with a grin. “Now come on, I’m hungry.”
Author’s note: Once again, thanks to Ember for all her help, and giving me her official seal of approval. :D This story wouldn’t exist without her.