Stealing the Stolen
"Well if you’re so great, you take on Balthazar then!” Farren08 shouted as he slammed the door in Stevens40’s face. After their argument, Farren didn’t want to be around anyone- he was a horrible werelupe that might snap at any moment after all. Stevens probably thought Farren had tainted blood because of his species and upon meeting the great Balthazar he would turn traitor on his own family. Plus, as their argument had actually been about, Stevens had better Battledome stats so of course he thought he would be better suited to free the bottled faeries than Farren.
Farren knew the Haunted Woods better than anyone, so he headed towards the wooded area near the Deserted Fairgrounds without paying much attention to the route he was taking. He always ended up in familiar territory, and if not he knew he could always count on the moon to guide him. As he walked, he let his thoughts wander as well. Even if he did run into Balthazar, Farren wasn’t sure what Stevens meant by turning. Did he think he’d run off to join Balthazar in the faerie hunting business? That was absurd…everyone knew Balthazar was one warped Lupe with a crazy obsession with the faeries because of his run in with dark faeries as a pup.
Really though, what would he do? Even though he’d trained to level 52 and the faerie’s he’d managed to free so far had given him enough blessings to learn the Lens Flare ability…he was admittedly still no match for Balthazar. Stevens was definitely a closer match, being level 156 with 307 health points, not to mention he had a better weapon set. Mom said Farren would get better weapons once he hit level 100, but that would be a while since he had to endure even training. While it was nice to gloat about having more well rounded stats than Stevens, Farren did hate wasting time on agility. One of these days Mom would get tired of the training expense and let it go, he hoped at least.
Farren was so lost in his thoughts about Battledome stats that he didn’t realize how far he’d gone into the woods. He must have walked for an hour and he was suddenly very aware of the darkness surrounding him. In the distance, he could see a tiny speck of light, probably from a campfire judging by the faint smell in the air. If it weren’t for his keen Lupe senses he might have not seen the fire at all, let alone catch its scent. He figured he was already in deep enough, so he might as well go see who else was out here.
He left the old overgrown pathway and headed east, so he could get closer to the campfire but stay downwind. His pace was slow and cautious, but when he was close enough to hear pieces of a conversation, he couldn’t believe what he heard.
“… no … wait … sun … up …”
“But I’m telling you, I can make it!”
“The faeries will still be there in the morning. We wait.”
Faeries? What are they talking about, he wondered. He took another step toward the campfire to hear more and snapped a twig underfoot. Crack! He froze and tried not to make a sound. Whatever the conversation was, it stopped. He waited 5 seconds, 10, 20. Still nothing. He was about to take another step when a green blur came out of nowhere and stopped right in front of his nose.
“Hey!” The green blur demanded, “What are YOU doing here?”
“Um, nothing really. I just saw the campfire and came to see who was out here. Who are you and what was that about faeries?”
“I’m GrendelGecko the Techo. Are you friends with Balthazar?” The green blur named Grendel eyed Ferren with suspicion.
“Balthazar? No way. Are you?”
“Not at all. In fact, my friend and I are going to sneak into his lair at first light and save some faeries he’s been capturing.”
Ferren was quite impressed by this bold statement. “That sounds like fun! Can I help?” he asked, hoping his new friends weren’t going to berate him over his stats like Stevens did.
A blue krawk jumped up from his spot near the fire and came over to Grendel Gecko and Farren. “See, Grendel, this is working out great! I bet Balthazar will be scared of this werelupe. And with three of us, it’ll be easy to sneak in, grab the faeries, and get out quick before Balthazar even knows what happened.” The krawk then looked at Farren and said, “I’m SmeagolBeagle, by the way. What’s your name?”
“I’m Ferren. I doubt Balthazar will be scared of me, but I know my way around these haunted woods pretty well and I’m ready for an adventure.”
Smeagol grinned a big toothy krawk grin. “We should go tonight while it’s still dark. Easier to sneak in and get away if Balthazar can’t see us as well in the dark.”
Grendel, still reluctant, looked at Smeagol and back to Farren and decided, “Alright. But we need to be quiet. None of us wants to battle Balthazar if we don’t have to. He’s won too many Battledome fights to be trifled with.”
“Woohoo!” Smeagol was practically bouncing with energy and risked a celebratory dance and shout. He was so excited that Farren didn’t have the heart to tell him how well Lupes could see in the dark.
“Ssshhhh! What if Balthazar is nearby?” Grendel cautioned. “Since Farren knows the woods, Smeagol and I will create a distraction once we get to the lair. Farren will run in and grab the faeries then run out as fast as he can and we just have to worry about dodging Balthazar until we lose him in the woods.”
Farren and Smeagol nodded in agreement and Smeagol said, “Ok, let’s go save some faeries!”
As they travelled, Farren got to know his new friends better and he couldn’t help but notice that even though Grendel had much lower Battledome stats than Smeagol, Smeagol still treated him as an equal. He wondered if that was something that all pets grew out of after level 100, or if his own brother just wasn’t very nice. Thinking of Stevens…well Farren had to admit to himself that he wished his brother were here. If Balthazar did catch them and challenge them in the Battledome, none of them stood a chance. Recalling their earlier argument, Farren realized he might’ve taken things too far since Stevens hadn’t actually said that Farren would turn on their family. All he’d said was that if Farren wanted to rescue the faeries he would need his brothers help, which was exactly what Farren was thinking now that facing Balthazar was becoming a reality instead of a mere conversation.
“Hey, look!” Smeagol whispered as he halted his companions. “That’s Balthazar’s cave! We made it!”
Grendel looked a bit greener than he had before, and Smeagol’s features seemed to be a reflection on how Farren felt: eager but lacking confidence. They were both ultimate geniuses, so lacking confidence was logical.
“You know, now that we know where Balthazar’s cave is we could always come back after we’ve trained up some.” Farren knew he had to say it; else they’d back themselves into a corner. Well, a cave in this particular scenario.
“Or you could go on with your plan and if things go sideways you’d have me on your side.” Stevens familiar voice called from the nearby treetops. He climbed down gracefully and approached Farren and the strangers cautiously. He knew Farren had been mad at him but he was hoping that the anger had dissipated. Hoping to get the air cleared between them once and for all, Stevens swallowed his pride and said “That was all I meant earlier you know. That we could be a team. I didn’t mean that I was better than you in the Battledome.”
Farren was so happy that Stevens had followed him he forgot all about their argument as he ran up to give his brother a hug.
“Now that sounds like a great plan to me! With you on our side, Balthazar doesn’t stand a chance!” He said confidently to Stevens. To the others, he introduced his brother and explained that if any of them stood a chance against Balthazar, it was his brother. The four companions headed towards Balthazar’s cave with renewed enthusiasm.
As they were sneaking inside, they were very careful to keep quiet so they wouldn’t accidentally wake Balthazar who was snoring loudly in the center of the cave. Farren found the stash of bottle faeries that Balthazar had collected recently off to the side of the cave and he carefully handed several bottles to Grendel, Smeagol, and Stevens. As he was collecting the last few bottles, he realized it was eerily quiet in the cave.
“Do you guys hear that?” He whispered to his friends.
They looked back at him in horror as they realized Balthazar wasn’t snoring anymore. They slowly turned around to find Balthazar staring at them with a mad gleam in his eye.
“What do you think… Who do you think…” He sputtered angrily, trying to fathom who would enter his cave with the guts to try and steal his faeries. He let out a roar that echoed maddeningly through the cave.
“That’s our cue to run!” Grendel shouted to snap everyone out of their daze. They got out of the cave as quickly as they could, but Balthazar was hot on their heels. Smeagol cleverly knocked a pile of rocks into Balthazar’s path, while Farren ran ahead and created a dust cloud that they could disappear into. Meanwhile, Stevens was back in the trees, throwing exploding acorns at Balthazar’s head. As a team, they’d managed to create enough of a distraction to slow him down enough so that they could escape with the bottled faeries. As they ran to safety, they could hear Balthazar shouting in the distance:
“You’ve earned a new Battledome Challenger! I’ll see you in the Rattling Cauldron!!”
“Yeah, and I’ll see him there,” Stevens muttered, then looked at Farren, “but maybe after my stats get a little more evened out!”