The Werelupe Hunter: Part Three
Apsy’s house looked suspiciously peaceful as the Halloween Lupess skidded to a stop on the kerb, her eyes narrowed. Fanger was a few steps behind. He eyed the two storey house for anything that might indicate a raging fire, which was what had happened the last time Macejaw had visited the house.
He was actually impressed at how the house was looking after only a month. No doubt Ember had been very good at convincing the builders to work extra fast.
“Can you still smell him?” he asked Apsy.
She was breathing heavily, though he couldn’t tell if it was anger or just the run. Probably anger; it took a lot more than a few blocks to get a Werelupe out of breath. Apsy started and took a deep breath, then stalked towards her front door. Fanger followed, his ears pricked and alert.
There was a large tree next to the front door, and Fanger could just make out a large shape lurking in the shade. Wait... not lurking. As they came closer the shape moved backwards, trying to make itself smaller. It was more like cowering.
Apsy saw the shape move too and lunged, her teeth bared. She knocked into the shape, which reared up and batted her away, then instead of attacking, it backed away, out from under the shadow of the tree.
Fanger’s jaw dropped. He had been expecting a hulking Werelupe to appear, but instead a green Lupe emerged. He had a powerful jaw, which had given him his name, and his eyes were still red, but other than that he was no longer a Halloween Lupe.
Macejaw continued to back away from the growling Apsy, further out into the centre of the lawn.
“Apsy,” he called.
“What?” she snapped, eyes on Macejaw.
“I don’t think he’s here to hurt you. Or your family. Just look at him. He’s pathetic.”
It was true; Macejaw’s fur was ruffled, torn in places. Fanger studied his face, and saw fear and confusion in his eyes, but no malice. He was still backing away, flinching every time Apsy growled.
Apsy shook her head. “He could be pretending.”
“I’m not.” The voice was a shock. It was quiet and strained, as if speaking was an immense effort. “I came here because... I didn’t know where else to go.”
His voice sounded so forlorn that Apsy looked surprised and let her shoulders relax. She took a proper look at him for the first time.
“What happened to you?” she said.
Macejaw’s eyes scanned the yard fearfully. “Not out here. He might find us.’
“He?” Fanger asked.
“The one who did this to me.” Macejaw shuddered, closing his eyes at some horrific memory. He was far from the powerful Lupe that had tried to take over the throne.
“Should we take him into your house?” Fanger asked Apsy.
The Lupess narrowed her eyes, then sighed. “If we must. You knock on the door. I’ll follow with... Macejaw.”
Fanger nodded and ran up to the door, thumping it with his paw. A few seconds later a mutant Ixi pulled the door open and squinted at him.
“Oh, it’s you, Fanger,” he said.
Fanger raised one eyebrow slightly. Apsy’s brother Sky had recently been a Desert Hissi, but Ember had morphed and painted him into a Christmas Zafara. Now it had seemed she’d transmogrified him into a mutant Ixi.
“Hey, Sky, can we come in?”
The mutant Ixi’s eyes narrowed, and he drew himself up. “I’m not Sky,” he snapped. “I’m Anubia.”
“But... you were a girl... and now you’re a guy!” Fanger exclaimed.
“So are you,” Anubia retorted. “It’s actually not as great as you think it is.” He peered over Fanger’s shoulder.
“Hey sis. Tell this great ball of fur how dumb he is.”
“You’re pretty dumb,” Apsy said seriously “Anubia’s been to the Lab Ray.” Then she returned to the task at paw. “Can you please get out of the way so we can get Macejaw inside?”
“Macejaw?” Anubia looked stunned. For once. He stood open-mouthed in the doorway. “Isn’t he one of the pets that burnt down our house.”
“Yes,” Apsy said. “Now honk.”
Anubia backed off. “Better go warn Ember. And then hold her back or something.”
“Good thinking,” Apsy said. She had forgotten about Ember.
Fanger led the way into the living room with Macejaw behind him. The green Lupe surveyed the room with narrowed eyes, then moved into a corner so that he could see all the windows and doors, still standing. Fanger exchanged a look with Apsy, then went to sit down on a chair.
“So why are you here?” Apsy growled. “And how did you get away from the Burrows.”
Macejaw smiled, the first time he had done so, and it could possibly have been a grin if it hadn’t been in such a worried face.
“With great difficulty. But I managed it. Then...” He stopped smiling. “I bumped into a Lupe. A brown Lupe with red eyes.” He shuddered. “Those eyes...”
“And?” Apsy prompted impatiently when he was silent for more than a few seconds.
“And he told me he was a Werelupe hunter. And he smiled. And the smile made me run. I’ve never run so fast in my life... but he caught me. And. I remember waking up by the Rainbow Pool, with this colour.” He sounded disgusted. “I...” He paused and looked at them. “I don’t like you, and I don’t like the other Werelupes after what they did to me.”
“Don’t you mean what you did to them?” Apsy hissed furiously.
Macejaw shrugged. “But that Werelupe hunter. He was bad. That’s the simple way to put it. And I think he’s determined to keep hunting. So I thought I’d come and warn you. I don’t want any more Werelupes to lose their colour, their dignity to that beast.”
“How can we be sure you’re telling the truth?” Ember strode into the room, her eyes blazing as she stormed up to Macejaw. Anubia and Sky trailed after her, both rubbing newly formed bruises. Apsy’s sister Sonikki followed, sans the bruises.
Macejaw drew back from her anger. Then he drew himself up. “Do you think I painted myself green? I have as much dignity as any Werelupe. And I am a wild Werelupe. I was born a Werelupe. It’s my birthright, my heritage. To take that away from me...” His voice was filled with bitterness. “I would do anything to save another wild Werelupe from this fate, even if it means putting myself at your mercy.”
Sonikki tapped Ember on the shoulder and the teenager turned as the Halloween Cybunny scrawled on her notepad. She showed Ember the piece of paper and Ember nodded.
“Sonikki thinks he’s telling the truth,” she said. “As much as I hate to say it aloud.”
Macejaw stared curiously at Sonikki, who stared back at him defiantly. She was mute, but she wasn’t ashamed of it. He shrugged and turned his attention to Apsy and Fanger.
“You need to warn the Werelupe King about this,” he said in an urgent tone. “He has to know.”
Apsy nodded seriously. “If there is a Lupe transforming Werelupes into normal Lupes, he would want to know. I wouldn’t like being painted another colour now. And I haven’t even been a Werelupe my whole life.”
“Good.” Macejaw nodded and started to slink towards the door.
Ember cut him off, hands on hips.
“Where do you think you’re going?” she growled. “You have to go back to the Werelupe Burrows.”
Macejaw shook his head. “The Hunter might follow me. I have to leave as soon as possible and draw him away so that Daggerclaw and Silverfang can warn the King.”
Apsy hissed as he used their Werelupe names, but didn’t comment.
Ember glared at the green Lupe. “That has some merit to it. But you’re probably just going to run off.”
“Probably.” Macejaw grinned. “But would you want the Hunter here?”
Ember didn’t answer, so Macejaw walked around her and out into the hall. He paused in the doorway.
“Just a warning,” he said. “The Hunter is brown, so he looks like a Werelupe in the dark, or from a distance. And he has no scent either; he said it was a potion. So you have to be always alert.”
Then he disappeared and they could hear the front door slam.
“I should probably tell Jenn I’m going to the Haunted Woods,” Fanger said at last.
“I’ll pack,” Apsy said. “See you in, say an hour?” She looked at Ember, then at the darkening sky outside. But Ember just shrugged. They were Werelupes, after all – no one would attack them at night.
Fanger nodded. “Done.”
He left the house. He could still taste Macejaw in the air, but as he headed towards his own street, the scent disappeared. He was heading back along the way they had come originally, from the Rainbow Pool, but soon he would peel off and head a different way.
He didn’t even hear or see the shape as it bore down on him from behind. He had forgotten Macejaw’s words about the Hunter having no scent. He felt something heavy come down on the back of his head, and his knees buckled as the world spun around him.
He hit the ground and rolled, which saved him from another vicious blow. A massive brown Lupe stood over him, with glowing red eyes.
“Hello,” he snarled almost happily. “I’m the Werelupe Hunter.”
To be continued...