Return to Lynwood: Part Twelve
"Search every corner of these quarters!” Isengrim barked as two of his packmates hacked down the door. “I want Vakhtang found!”
The sounds of fighting in the hallway rang in his ears as he and his thanes pushed into the headmistress’s old rooms, another contingent of Werelupes covering them from behind. As Isengrim thought, most of Vakhtang’s “pack” hadn’t been difficult to convince, but there was still some resistance.
But perhaps, Isengrim thought as he and his squadron fanned out to start searching, as soon as they dragged the false king out of his nest, the others would surrender.
Ears perked and sword raised, he stalked through the sitting room, into the office and the bedroom. The whole place smelled furiously like Vakhtang, but there was no sign of the rust-furred Werelupe as Isengrim’s forces overturned dusty furniture and checked walls and floors for secret passages.
“He’s not here, sire,” one of them finally said, setting the bed back down.
“We’ve searched everywhere,” another said.
Isengrim frowned. “We must find him. Come on.” He turned and limped back to the hallway, where the sounds of battle had faded, leaving a strange silence in their absence.
In the corridor, Werelupes congregated against the walls and on the floor. No longer raising their weapons against one another, instead most of them were treating each other’s wounds and passing around healing potions. Only a handful seemed to have refused to abandon Vakhtang’s goals, as they had been bound and placed under tight guard.
“Lord Isengrim, sir!” one of his packmates barked when she saw him. “Nearly everyone’s surrendered!”
Isengrim smiled. “Good to see you’re all getting along,” he said. He looked across the crowd for Gwyneth. “Terra, Suhel, how are you—“ His breath cut off when he saw the Ganuthor some distance away, and riderless.
Gwyneth paced restlessly on the creaking floorboards, whimpering, constantly looking back to the corner around which they had come as though she expected her owner to return at any moment.
A cold lump settled in Isengrim’s chest. He had trusted that his thanes could look after Suhel and the others, but now he regretted not trying harder to stay by their side. The thought of anything happening to any of them was too much to take. Lexora and Connor were dependent on him for their safety, and Suhel, Terra, and Pharazon were more precious to him than mountains of treasure. He could not afford to lose any of them.
And Vakhtang was on the loose.
Isengrim’s adrenaline spiked and he bolted through the crowd of Werelupes, ignoring the throbbing in his leg. “We have to find them!” he roared. “Terra! Suhel! Pharazon!” His chest heaved and his tongue flopped out of his jaw as he tore down the hall, his claws digging into the floor to launch him forward. Even so, it felt like he could not go nearly as fast enough.
“Isengrim!” Suhel’s bark echoed down the opposite end of the corridor, followed by a round of coughing.
He whipped around and ran back, toward the sound. “Suhel!” he called. She did not sound distressed, and the relief alone made new energy surge into his limbs despite the pain in his leg.
She staggered around the corner, holding Lexora in one arm like a child, and Connor, Terra, and Pharazon scrambled after her. Despite her coughing, the female Werelupe’s face lit up when she saw her king and friend.
Isengrim’s muzzle stretched into a grin as well. He cleared the distance between them in moments, and Suhel set Lexora down just in time for Isengrim to crash into his second and wrap her in a fierce hug. In his next breath he scooped up his owner and brother so they could join in. “Thank the fates you’re all right!” he panted.
“I’m so sorry we worried you!” Terra said, hugging him tightly. “We’re okay, I promise!”
“Gwyneth!” Pharazon called. Down the hall, the Ganuthor had also seen them and was making joyous noises in her throat. “Stay, girl, stay!” the Draik yelped. Isengrim knew that if Gwyneth broke into a full gallop here, she could very well punch a few new holes in the floor.
Gwyneth stayed put, although she shifted her weight from one paw to the next and grunted mournfully at not being able to join in the reunion. The Werelupes around her looked relieved, given her propensity for mass destruction.
“I’m so sorry I lost you back there,” Isengrim said to his companions. “I should have looked out for you better—“
Suhel cleared her throat. “Don’t fret about it,” she said, patting Isengrim’s shoulder. “You were trying your hardest—and anyhow, it all worked out for the best,” she added with a smirk.
Isengrim tilted his head. “What do you mean?”
Terra grinned. “Vakhtang’s in the basement, thanks to Connor and Lexora,” she said.
“Aye, they’ve got quite a bit of warrior spirit in them, methinks,” Suhel said, smiling down at the two.
Isengrim turned to them, still keeping his arms around his family and his second. The fear of losing them still lingered in his soul and he needed to keep comforting himself with their presence. “I am glad you are safe as well, Lexora and Connor,” he said. “You were not hurt, were you?”
“No, sir,” Connor said. “Although I am out half a litre of slothic acid.”
“Which is why Vakhtang’s in the basement,” Lexora said as she stood slumped against the wall. Even as utterly spent as the Kougra looked, she still managed a sly grin and her yellow eyes gleamed.
Isengrim laughed. “Impressive! Have no fear, Connor, we shall put in an order for a resupply when we return to the Burrows.”
By now, many of the other Werelupes had trickled down the hall, drawn in by the conversation and the return of their missing allies. Isengrim gave Suhel one last squeeze before turning to their packmates, and setting his family back down on the floor with some reluctance. “Vakhtang should be somewhere in the basement,” he said, “possibly unconscious. Find him, restrain him, and bring him to me.”
“What will we do with him?” one of the other Werelupes asked.
“I will bring him to Sophie, the Swamp Witch,” Isengrim said. “She is a just power in these Woods, and a skilled magician besides. She surely will know a way to detain him so he can no longer wreak his havoc.” He certainly would not hand Vakhtang over to any of the towns. He doubted they would be merciful, and Isengrim was determined not to allow cycles of anger and hatred to continue anymore.
He stretched out a paw toward the stairs. “Go! Hurry!” he barked. “I won’t have him get away!”
“Yes, sire!” someone said, and “Straightaway, milord!” said another, and a dozen Werelupes bounded down the hall.
Isengrim put his paws on his hips and sighed. Despite some brief worry, the entire situation had turned out rather well, he thought. He was proud of what they had accomplished today.
Then Lexora began to cough, and Isengrim remembered the other large problem hanging over their heads. The Kougra cleared her throat loudly and hoarsely, over and over, trying to catch enough breath for the next round of coughing. Her claws extended and dug into the wall, and dragged crackles of paint down as she sunk to her knees.
Suhel knelt next to her and put her arms around her, the only thing anyone could do as Lexora’s coughing grew more desperate. Isengrim closed his eyes, wishing he could help somehow, but his realm of knowledge lay in swords and forests, not curses.
Finally Lexora’s breathing cleared, although it was still labored as the effort had utterly exhausted her. She collapsed against Suhel with a moan, holding her stomach.
“We’ve got to break this curse,” Suhel growled.
Isengrim nodded. “I don’t suppose you found any clues concerning the matter while we were separated.”
“Not unless dust and mould count as clues,” Suhel said. She shut her eyes tight. “Oh, bother, I’m useless at this sort of rubbish.”
“Well, the curse was formed from too much negative energy,” Terra said. “Specifically from how everybody at Lynwood hated each other, right?”
“Aye,” Suhel said, “but how do we figure a solution from that?”
Connor bit his lip. “Who knows how long this is goin’ to take…”
Isengrim certainly didn’t, but he knew one Neopet here who would. He turned to his Draik brother. “Have you any ideas, Master Magus?”
“As a matter of fact,” Pharazon said, “I do.” He looked up at his owner. “Terra… I think you’re a Cursebreaker.”
The woman’s eyes widened. “Wait—are you serious?”
Pharazon folded his hands behind his back, over the staff perched there. “It would make sense,” he said, “considering the way you broke that almost-curse over the town with no name.” At nothing but slack-jawed stares from the others, he continued. “Remember all that negative energy we sensed there? And how it was gone by the time we left? And how the same thing happened again at the old keep? That was you, Terra.”
The owner put a hand to her heart. “Wow… I didn’t know.”
“And I wasn’t quite sure, myself, until the second time,” Pharazon said. “But it’s the only thing I can think of that would explain it.”
“You broke my curse,” Isengrim said, putting a paw on her shoulder. “When we were reunited.”
She glanced up at him. “I don’t know if you were really cursed… you’d just developed some incorrect attitudes about a few things that I helped you get rid of.”
“But perhaps even that was a sort of curse I put on myself,” Isengrim said. “After all, it seems you do not just nullify proper curses, but negative energies as well.”
“Hmmm…” Terra put a hand to her mouth in thought. “I guess that would also explain what happened when I took that curse Skoll threw at you. From what I understand, it was supposed to have been instantly lethal, but when it hit me instead, the effects lessened, giving you and the others more time to save me.”
“Which I’m sure was no coincidence,” Pharazon said.
Terra nodded. “But now that I know I’m a Cursebreaker… how do I help Suhel and Lexora? I’ve been travelling with them for a week now—shouldn’t I have somehow inadvertently broken their curse already?”
Pharazon shrugged. “Like I said before, it’s not a very well-studied phenomenon. I have no idea how it’s supposed to work, and you know how magic tends to do what it likes.” He looked around at the others. “And if you automatically destroy curses just by standing around, a number of these Werelupes shouldn’t be Werelupes anymore.”
Connor’s ears drooped and he looked away. He bit his lower lip and suddenly seemed as though he was going to cry. Isengrim’s heart went out to the boy, remembering Connor’s conversation with Pharazon about Cursebreakers some nights previous. The young pup’s only hope had been dashed, and it made Isengrim suddenly wish that Cursebreakers did automatically nullify every curse.
Terra closed her eyes for a moment, then knelt down next to the female Werelupe and the Kougra. “I think I have an idea,” she said with a smile. “Find something you appreciate about this school.”
Suhel frowned. “I appreciate nothing about this prison,” she growled.
“I appreciate that I only attended for a year and a half,” Lexora breathed. “Does that count?”
“I don’t think it does,” Terra said. “You’ve got to find something positive. Was there anything good or beautiful or fun about Lynwood?”
“Not in the slightest,” Suhel said. “You’ve been all over this building—it’s drab and ugly. Even the food was bad. Least likeable place I’ve ever been. It’s not beautiful and it’s never wanted to be.” She coughed, scowling.
Lexora put a paw on her friend’s arm. “Suhel… I know something I grew to appreciate about this place.” Weakly, the Kougra smiled. “It’s where I met you. I know we got off to a rough start, but in the brief time we knew each other, you taught me so much about how to be brave, how to be yourself and fight for what matters. Because of you, my life and my family’s lives changed for the better.”
Suhel stared at her for a moment, and then the severe expression on her muzzle melted as she stopped coughing. “I’m—glad I met you here, too,” she said. “You were the only Neopet in the whole cursed school who actually stopped to listen to me, who let me do something my way. And now… I’m privileged to have you as my friend. I’ve so enjoyed travelling with you this past week, Lexora.”
“So have I,” Lexora said, sitting up in Suhel’s arms. “You’re really like the sister I never had, Suhel. I was an only child—but I think if I’d had a sister like you, I wouldn’t have been the horrid little thing you met at Lynwood.”
Suhel chuckled. “We do not have to be blood relations to be sisters. I consider you my sister as well. I was an only child, too, and I think my childhood would not have been half so lonely or frustrating with you around.”
Lexora smiled and leaned in to hug her. “Well, then, I shall have to make up for it now, won’t I!”
A tickle started in Isengrim’s nose and he tried not to admit to himself that his eyes were watering. At the same time, his fur pricked, and his ears stood up straight as he realised the atmosphere of the old school had changed. Just like in the town with no name and the ruins of his keep, something dark and oppressive had left, replaced with peace and contentment. Even the cold daylight streaming through broken windows seemed a little brighter now.
“You know,” Suhel said, “as much as I hated Lynwood… it was worth it to find a friend like you, Lexora. So I’m glad I came here.”
“Me, too,” Lexora said. She took a deep, clear breath, and stood up. “I say,” she said, “I’m feeling much better.” Clearing her throat lightly, she pounded her chest a bit. “I suddenly feel as though I’ve got more energy. What about you, Suhel?”
The Werelupe pushed a fist into the floor to get to her feet. “Same,” she said, shaking out her arms, legs, and head like she was flinging away water from her fur. She took a few breaths and puffed out her chest. “My cough’s gone.”
“So is mine,” Lexora said. She took a few more breaths just to be sure, and then she grinned and leaped at Suhel with a girlish shout, hugging her friend. “The curse is broken!” she said. “We’re free!”
Suhel laughed and hugged her back. “Thank the fates!” Her green eyes fell on the owner who stood beside them, smiling quietly. “No… thank you, Terra,” Suhel said, putting a paw on Terra’s head. “You saved us.”
Terra ducked her head modestly. “Happy to help. I’m just so glad you two are feeling better.”
Lexora clapped her paws together. “I say, do you suppose everyone else from Lynwood will be well again, too? Or was it just us?”
Pharazon looked up and around at the old school. “All of the negative energy here is gone,” he said, “so I’m assuming that means the curse is gone, too. For everyone.”
“Splendid!” Lexora said. “We’ve given them their lives back, too!”
Suhel chuckled a bit. “I wonder if the faculty were cursed as well, not just the students. It’s silly of me, but I just can’t help but imagine old Miss Boggis suddenly leaping out of bed and doing a jig right now.”
Lexora laughed. “The maths teacher? That uptight Lupe always had a snide word for every girl’s hairstyle, didn’t she?”
“Aye, she did,” Suhel said, “but I can’t help but wonder if she was just jealous. She looked like she had such pretty red hair, but she always kept it bound in a bun… makes me think her parents never allowed her to do her hair the way she liked.” The Werelupe reached up and fingered one of the fangs she had woven into her own curly black mane.
“I see your point,” Lexora said, self-consciously reaching up to check that her own coiffure was not too messy. “You know… I can’t get myself to hate Lynwood anymore, Suhel. I’m not saying it was a pleasant place, but all of my anger for it is gone. And I’m glad we’ve broken the others’ curses, too. Perhaps now they can start to be better Neopets.”
Suhel nodded. “It seems we’ve all learned a lot from this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have, too. Things have a way of working out in the end.”
Isengrim was watching them with a smile when he spotted movement out of the corner of his eye. Connor was inching toward Terra, poking two of his claws together with his head bowed. “Erm… Miss Terra…” he said.
“Yes?” she asked.
He sighed and looked up at her. “Couldn’t you break me curse, too? Please?”
Terra studied his face. “I… don’t know if I can,” she said. “I’m just not getting a feeling for what to do to break your curse, Connor. I’m sorry.”
“If I had to hazard a guess,” Pharazon said, “I’d say she can only break curses that were meant to be broken. If that makes any sense.”
Isengrim let out the breath he had been holding. Despite how sorry he felt for Connor, he was relieved that this seemed to be why none of his thanes would suddenly find themselves normal Lupes against their will when Terra was around. It did make sense, in the roundabout sort of way that magic often made sense.
“Curses aren’t always a bad thing,” Terra pointed out as Connor’s tail drooped. “Remember what Pharazon said back at the Brownings’, how plenty of curses have beneficial effects too.” She smiled. “Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with a Lupe becoming a Werelupe.”
For a moment the expression on Connor’s face was unreadable—then he nodded slowly and stood up a little straighter. “I’m not a monster,” he said, “no matter what the townsfolk might think. I don’t like what happened to me, but it’s not the end of the world—and it won’t stop me from being a scientist.”
“It certainly won’t,” Isengrim said.
“Lord Isengrim!” someone shouted from down the hall. “We found him!”
Isengrim whipped around. The search party had returned. Slung over someone’s shoulder was a limp Vakhtang. The Werelupe King let out a breath in relief. The Haunted Woods would be safe now. Well, relatively speaking.
“Bind him,” he said, “and make preparations to depart. We’ll leave for Neovia immediately.” He gestured for everyone to follow him as he headed back down the hall, toward the stairs.
His companions and packmates clustered around him, but the other Werelupes hesitated. Finally, one stepped forward, the male patroller who they had met outside. “Ah… Lord Isengrim,” he said. “What about us?”
Isengrim tilted his head. “You are free to go your own way now. All I ask is that you leave the towns alone. The hunting is plentiful enough in the deep Woods, and you will not get half as much backlash.”
The other male nodded absently. “Aye, but… well, a lot of us have been talking, and… is there room in your pack for more of us? We’ve only known you and your packmates for a short time, but you’re vastly better than Vakhtang. We’d… like to give teamwork another try, at least the way you’ve talked about it.”
The Werelupe King smiled. “Of course. The Burrows has more than enough room for several times your number. Vakhtang could only offer you fear and worthlessness, but with my pack you will have sanctuary and family.” He glanced around at the others. “Any of you who would like to join my pack in Meridell are welcome to do so, but you are under no obligation to. But let’s head outside—I miss the feel of earth under my paws.”
They made their way back down the stairs, into the entrance hall and out the doors, where a clouded-over sky and damp grass met them. Isengrim’s leg was still hurting him and he had to hold on to Gwyneth for support, but he didn’t mind. Everything had been set right again.
“Those of you staying in the Haunted Woods, I ask that you return this loot to the towns you stole it from,” Isengrim said, looking around at the piles of ill-gotten goods. “To the best of your recollection, anyhow, and without anyone seeing you. Let Lynwood lie in its memories, and go back to your old territories.”
He folded his arms behind his back. “Those of you who would like to join my pack, step forward now.”
A surprising number of Werelupes, over half of Vakhtang’s forces, moved closer to Isengrim, including the two patrollers, and the pair that had accompanied Vakhtang in the woods the day that Isengrim had first met him. Some wore uncertain looks, but they all seemed to believe that this was the right choice for them.
Isengrim’s eyes widened. He wasn’t expecting to have this kind of clout, to get scores of Werelupes to want to join his pack after knowing him for less than an hour. Instinctively, he glanced down at Terra. She gave him a confident grin and squeezed his paw.
His heart swelled. Perhaps he really was not just a Werelupe King, but the one and true Werelupe King, the only one capable of ruling his kind with fairness, compassion, and order. Neopets like Vakhtang, who used a claim to kingship as an excuse to simply amass power and control others, could never be rightful rulers.
He looked back to their new recruits and spread his arms wide. “Then I, Lord Isengrim, King of the Werelupe Woods, formally welcome you to my pack. I am happy to have you with me, and I will do everything in my power to bring you happiness and prosperity as well.”
“Begging your pardon, Your Highness,” one of the Werelupes who hadn’t opted to join him said, “but what do we do with these holdouts?” She motioned to a scowling male tied up at her side, one of several still under close guard.
“Release them,” Isengrim said.
The other Werelupes gave him shocked looks. “But they’re just as bad as Vakhtang!” one of them said.
“Only because Vakhtang brought out the worst in them,” Isengrim said. “But I am giving them another chance.” Striding over, he looked each of them in the eye. “I trust that you will at least keep their distance from the towns, and not try to exercise unjust dominion over your brothers and sisters the way Vakhtang did. Can I ask this of you?”
These Werelupes glared at him for a moment, as though they were trying to be angry with him but were mostly just confused. “Fine,” one of them finally spat. “Whatever, just let us leave!”
“As you wish,” Isengrim said. He drew his knife and cut their bonds, then stood back.
The Werelupes rubbed their wrists, looked around at the others, and then turned and scampered off across the lawn, toward the woods.
“At any rate,” Isengrim said to the Werelupes who remained, “I also trust that if they overstep their bounds, you will act to stop them.”
“Definitely,” one of them said.
The Werelupe King smiled. “Well, I think that just about covers everything. My pack and I will be on our way, then. Good hunting, brothers and sisters.”
“Good hunting, Lord Isengrim,” many of them said in reply, and slowly they dispersed, moving to the piles of loot to try to figure out what came from which town.
“Lexora,” Isengrim said as he and his now many followers began to migrate toward the trees, “would it be an inconvenience to ask you to accompany us to Neovia? I would like to take care of Vakhtang before anything else.”
“Not at all,” the Kougra said. Isengrim was happy to see her so chipper, marching alongside Suhel at a clip that allowed her to keep up with the Werelupes’ long strides, the tip of her tail swishing contentedly. “I can even send a Weewoo to Beoffrey asking him to meet me there and take me back to Barrowmere. I’m not sure the townsfolk are quite ready to see any more Werelupes yet.”
“Good point,” Isengrim grunted with a nod.
“Not to mention I could probably find a good souvenir there,” Lexora added. “With all of this mess, I completely forgot about that over these past few days.”
Isengrim glanced over at Suhel, and the two shared a knowing smile, having both had the same idea. “Actually,” Isengrim said, “I do not believe you will have to search any further.” Reaching up to his arm, he untied one of the strings of fangs that hung there and gave it to Suhel, who presented it to Lexora.
“It is a mark of your bravery,” Suhel explained, “and also marks you as a friend of Werelupekind. It is a rare badge of honour for non-Werelupes.”
Lexora’s eyes lit up as she gingerly took the fangs, inspecting them in her paws for a moment before tying them around her neck—with their difference in size, an arm band for Isengrim made a perfect necklace for a slim Kougra woman. “Thank you,” she said. “I shall treasure it always. As I will the memories of this adventure.”
“So will I,” Suhel said. “And you and your family are welcome to visit the Burrows any time. Then, it will be our turn to cook you a feast!”
“Oh, the boys would love that!” Lexora said with a laugh. “But don’t think I’ve forgotten that I’ve invited you over for more breakfasts, too!”
“Of course,” Isengrim said. “It will have to be a required stop every time we are in the Haunted Woods.” Just the thought of Beoffrey’s cooking made the Werelupe’s mouth water.
As they reached the trees, Isengrim glanced over at Connor to see the boy eying the loop of fangs still tied around Isengrim’s other arm. “… Do I get one of those?” the young Werelupe finally asked once they were in the undergrowth.
Isengrim smiled down at him. “I think you have shown your bravery admirably lately. But for you and our new brothers and sisters, I would like to hold a proper induction ceremony once we return to the Burrows. Don’t worry,” he added to the others, “it involves plenty of meat.”
Murmurs of agreement rose up immediately. Isengrim particularly liked that part himself, but then he looked over at the owner who rode on the Ganuthor at his side. “Or peas, if that is your preference,” he said.
Terra shot him a grin. “I’m pretty sure they all like meat, though,” she said.
“I wanted to leave the option open,” he said, “just in case.”
“An induction ceremony?” Connor asked. “I’m… not quite sure I want to be part of your pack, yet…”
“I understand,” Isengrim said.
“But… I would like to stay with you for a bit,” Connor said. “You’ve got me curious about the Burrows now… and I have to admit, I really like the idea of havin’ me own laboratory.” A frown passed over his face, undoubtedly at the memory of his destroyed garden shed. “Who knows… maybe I could be the one to discover the Werelupe cure.” His fists clenched. “Maybe a Cursebreaker can’t help me… but that doesn’t mean I’m givin’ up.”
Isengrim nodded. “I will be frank—the rest of my pack rather enjoys being Werelupes,” he said. “But I am sure that is not the case for every Werelupe in Neopia. My old court conjurer probably would have changed back, given the chance.” He sighed, still having difficulty coming to terms with Skoll’s betrayal. It had hurt everyone in the pack, and Isengrim would never understand why some Neopets were so maliciously self-centered and vengeful.
“I will support you in your research,” he said. “It sounds as if you are working hard to further advancements in your field, and doing what you love, and that is just what every scientist should do, I think.”
“Thank you, sir,” Connor said. “I’m excited to see what the Burrows is like. Are there really crystal caverns there?”
“Aye, that there are,” Suhel said. “They’re right gorgeous! I’m sure you could figure a way to use some of the crystals, too.”
“You never know what sort of properties they might have,” Connor said.
A sound like a thousand claws tapping softly on wood told Isengrim it had started raining. The noise came from fat raindrops spattering onto leaves in the canopy, and after a few moments the water began to make its way down to the forest floor, dripping onto everyone’s heads.
Isengrim took one last look over his shoulder at Lynwood. They had rid the place of both a physical threat and an old curse, and now the stark grey building simply stood silent in the rising mist, waiting to be slowly reclaimed by the earth. But the friendships forged due to Lynwood’s influence would last forever.
As he turned back to look at the forest ahead, the expression on Terra’s face caught his eye. She rode behind Pharazon, deep in thought, her eyes trained on the trees.
Isengrim leaned closer to the Ganuthor. “Is something bothering you?” he asked his owner.
She glanced over at him. “Well…” She bit her bottom lip. “This is going to sound kind of stupid, but…” Pharazon turned to her, and she said, “I’m glad I’m a Cursebreaker and all, but it sort of makes me a little sad. I almost feel like I’m just special because I’m a Cursebreaker, not because of who I am as a person. I feel… quantified, if that makes any sense.”
Isengrim put an arm around her shoulders. “That’s not true at all,” he said. “You are wonderful because you are Terra, Cursebreaker or no.”
“I wouldn’t think about it too much,” Pharazon said. “’Cursebreaker’ is just a name given to a phenomenon, and you know how scholars like to label things. I’ve sort of got a hunch that it’s not really a ‘magic power’ so much as it is an inherent part of yourself, Terra. You’re a Cursebreaker because of who you are—not the other way around. It can’t be quantified and I don’t think it was ever meant to be.”
Terra smiled. “Thanks.” After a moment where they just rode in silence, she reached up and gave Isengrim’s paw a squeeze. “You know… I think I might know what it is.”
“Oh?” Pharazon asked.
“It’s love,” Terra said. “Like you said before… I love things into getting better, and I think I inspire others to do the same.” She looked back at Suhel and Lexora, who were chatting and laughing, off in their own little world of sisterhood. Still holding on to Isengrim’s paw, Terra gave her Draik a one-armed hug. “Love is the great healer.”
Pharazon laughed. “Then no wonder the scholars can’t explain it.”
“It makes sense to me,” Isengrim said. As they walked through the autumn rain, he felt very fortunate indeed to be surrounded by loving family and friends, and to serve them as their king. All was right, and with all of them working together and looking out for each other, he felt no curse could ever touch them again.