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Moonlit Peaks: Part Four


by battlesunn

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Mr. Bronston glared at the group of assembled Neopets before him, arms crossed over his chest and an expression of disgust etched on his scaly face.

     "I can't believe that you're refusing to help me," he spat. "Me, your old friend, is in trouble and none of you will do anything about it!"

     One of the Pets, a burly Darigan Lupe, stepped forward and smiled slightly at the agitated Draik. "Now Bronsty," he said, flinging a dark purple paw around Mr. Bronston's shoulders. "It's not that we're refusing to help you, we just won't do it for free. It could be dangerous, you know. They've closed all the Eyrie taxis, and we've had to pull enough strings with the Terror Mountain officials to even gain permission to fly up there." A murmur of agreement rippled through the crowd of winged pets. Mr. Bronston stifled a snarl.

     "Payment? I'm a teacher, for crying out loud! Do you think that I'm rolling in Neopoints?" he demanded. Another one of the pets, a Halloween Kougra, sniggered and flexed her claws.

     "Of course not, Andy," she said smoothly. "And we won't ask for much. I just want, say, a thousand Neopoints."

     The Darigan Lupe nodded. "Sounds fair to me. A thousand Neopoints per flier for a team of four... That's not a bad deal."

     Mr. Bronston sighed, digging resignedly into his pocket for the requested sum. "Alright, fine," he grumbled, tossing each of the pets a sack of Neopoints. "We'll head off as soon as we can. I need to rescue those two pets before their lunatic owners lose me my job."

     The Kougra daintily opened the bag of Neopoints, her yellow eyes flashing with greed as she scanned the bag's glittering contents. Satisfied, she retied the jingling sack and gestured to the rest of her companions.

     "Great. We'll meet you back here in an hour. From here, we'll fly up to the mountain and retrieve your students."

     ***

     Flurry gazed in wonderment at the huge cave that the Lupe pack had brought them to. It was easily twice the size of the Tyrannian Concert Hall, and peppered with smaller, family sized alcoves. Within them, Flurry could see smaller groups of Lupe families, mostly pups and those who were too old to go out in hunting parties. All of them stopped whatever they were doing and raised their heads quizzically as Flurry and Zarrelian passed by, staring with shock at the strange intruders in their home.

     Finally, the red alpha Lupe halted outside of a particularly large mini-cave, jerking his head meaningfully at the entrance. Flurry bent down next to Zarrelian.

     "I think that he wants us to go in there," the starry Lupe murmured. Zarrelian grinned.

     "Cool! I get the big heap of straw for my bed!" The Ixi galloped excitedly into the cave, his hooves clopping noisily on the stone floor. Flurry winced. It was not at all a pleasant sound, but it was one that he would probably have to get used to, for it looked as though they were going to be staying with the wild Lupes for a while.

     Flurry padded into the cave with a bit more reserve than Zarrelian, taking care not to bump his head on any of the low-hanging stalactites that clung to the cave's ceiling. The alpha Lupe watched them for a moment, and then left, the rest of his pack trailing behind.

     Flurry watched them go, his sensitive nose twitching at all the foreign smells. The Lupe sighed and turned, walking slowly to the very back of the cave and flopping wearily to the ground. Zarrelian approached him, grinning as though they were in the AstroVilla for a weekend getaway rather in the clutches of a wild Lupe pack that could turn on them at any minute.

     "Isn't this awesome?" he crowed. "They think that I'm some all-powerful Ixi moon thing! They'd probably do anything to keep me happy."

     Flurry gaped at him. "Are you completely insane? Do you have any idea how dangerous of a situation we're in?" He gripped Zarrelian by the shoulders. "Zarrelian, sooner or later they're going to want some more proof of your authenticity, and when they do, they're going to be very disappointed!" Flurry shuddered. "And trust me, we do NOT want to have to contend with a pack of vicious, angry Lupes."

     Zarrelian pried the Lupe's navy blue paws from his shoulders. "Oh, stop worrying. We're perfectly safe," he insisted. Flurry wrung his tail in frustration.

     "Don't you get it? We'll have to leave at some point, but what if they don't let us? We certainly can't stay here for the rest of our lives!" he said frantically. Zarrelian scoffed.

     "Well, not forever, but I don't see why we can't stay here for a little while. It's just like a vacation at the Mountain Lodge, only better because the irritating bellhops don't talk." The Ixi glanced up at Flurry. "That reminds me. I need you to go and talk to that ugly red Lupe for me. Tell him that I like Earth Faerie brownies and vegetarian burgers for supper."

     Flurry raised an eyebrow. "Zarrelian, just because I'm Lupe doesn't mean that I can speak Lupine."

     Zarrelian cocked his head to the side. "Lupine?"

     The Lupe nodded. "Yes, all wild Neopets have their own sort of 'pseudo dialect'. It's not a language, necessarily. It's more of a system of signals and gestures and certain growls and snarls that mean different things. There's Shoyran, Usulin, Gelertan, Ixine... You get the picture. You can't learn it or speak it if you were raised in a Neopian family." He furrowed his brow thoughtfully. "Although, I do instinctively know what they mean when they do some things, and a lot of the gesture reading falls under common sense." Flurry glanced back at the Ixi. "But that doesn't mean that I can give them your dinner orders."

     Zarrelian scuffed the ground angrily with his hoof. "Drat. I was really hoping to get some decent food tonight." He raised his eyes to Flurry. "What do you suppose they'll give us to eat?"

     Flurry bit his lip. "Um, well, they are wild Lupes, and wild Lupes hunt... Er, wild Chias."

     Zarrelian's jaw dropped. "WHAT?" He began galloping towards the exit of their cave. "I am not going to eat that, Flurry. I'm leaving right now!"

     "No!" Flurry shouted as he bounded forward, grabbing Zarrelian's tail with his mouth. He dragged him back into the cave, the Ixi's hooves scraping agonizingly on the stone floor. He released his hold on Zarrelian and looked him square in the eye, speaking with a calm, even tone.

     "We can't leave, Zarrel. They won't let us, I know they won't."

     Zarrelian glared at him. "How would you know, you can't even understand what they're saying!"

     "I know for a fact that they wouldn't have bothered bringing us back and putting us in this cave if they didn't intend for us to stay here for awhile. That's common logic." His gaze hardened. "They've got something planned, I'm sure of it. I just don't know what..."

     Zarrelian opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by a resounding bark coming from the entrance of the cave. The two pets snapped their heads around, only to see a small yellow Lupe with what looked like all of Meridell's flora on a makeshift wooden sled that he dragged behind him. Zarrelian smiled from ear to ear.

     "Food!" he whooped ecstatically. "And it's salad!" The Ixi ran forward and grabbed an edge of the plank in his teeth, tugging it forcibly into the cave. Flurry glanced down at the offering.

     It was a standard vegetarian platter. Leaves, berries, nuts... Flurry could even spot what looked like a few edible roots. Zarrelian attacked the food with gusto, piling what he could into his hooves and stuffing it greedily into his mouth. Flurry noticed, upon closer inspection, that there were also some fresh eggs among the foliage. These he gathered quickly, taking care not to crack or break them. The starry Lupe retreated to his corner of the cave and feasted on the eggs, grateful that he wouldn't have to eat Chia to stay alive.

     The yellow Lupe inclined his head in a little bow and then scampered off, his task completed.

     Flurry finished eating his eggs and stretched out on the stone floor, feeling full and rather content. He yawned, realizing only then how tired he was. The Lupe folded his arms and laid his royal blue head upon his paws, closing his eyes as he drifted into sleep.

     ***

     Flurry awoke from his nap to the feeling of sharp, jabbing pains in his side. The Lupe blinked blearily and nose to his feet, yawning with fatigue. He turned and was not at all surprised to see Zarrelian sitting beside him, who was looking fairly pleased with himself.

     "I suppose you enjoyed waking me up," he said dryly. Zarrelian sniggered.

     "I got a pretty good hit in with my horns; it was around the time when you starting mumbling in your sleep about some white Lupe."

     Flurry snapped to attention. "What was that?" he asked, trying to sound casual. Zarrelian examined his hoof.

     "Yeah, you were saying stuff like, 'she's getting closer', and 'I know her from somewhere'."

     Flurry's stomach gave an unpleasant lurch. "Really," he choked. "Well, it was just a little nightmare, that's all." He glanced down at Zarrelian.

     "Why'd you wake me up anyway? Is something happening?" Flurry asked. The Ixi nodded.

     "Well, not really. Something happened, but you missed it because you were asleep," he replied. Flurry frowned.

     "What happened?" he inquired. Zarrelian shrugged.

     "It was kind of weird. The red Lupe, the one that you said was the leader or something, he came in with this really old and really ugly blue Lupe. They sort of stood around growling and snarling at each other, and every so often they'd point at me and nod. Then the old blue one came and kind of walked around me, and he pulled on my wings and tail and stuff. And then they started growling at each other again and then they left," he finished. Flurry gnawed one of his claws, deep in thought.

     "That's odd. I wonder what they were doing." He looked to the exit. "It's really quiet. Did the Lupes all go somewhere?" Flurry asked. Zarrelian yawned, looking bored.

     "Yeah. All the big, strong ones went out hunting or something. It's only the puppies and the really old Lupes that are left."

     Flurry gave a sigh of relief. "Good. Then we should be able to escape without any trouble." He started towards the cave's exit, not wanting to waste any time. Zarrelian trotted up beside him.

     "Wait, why are we leaving?" he demanded. Flurry continued to stride forward.

     "Because I really don't trust them. They're definitely planning something and I don't want to hang around to see what it is."

     They broke out into the main cave, and Flurry was relieved to see that all the remaining Lupes were sleeping.

     "Thank Fyora," he murmured, stepping softly across the frigid stone floor. "We should be able to make a clean getaway."

     Zarrelian followed, doing his best to soften the blows of his hooves against the rock. "You know, I think that I'm starting to believe you," he said. "That blue Lupe was really weird. And the red, he just kept on staring at me, it was creepy!"

     They crossed through the cave without any problems, reaching the exit and stepping swiftly out into the snow.

     "Come on," Flurry grunted. "We have to hurry, the hunters could arrive back home any minute."

     They set off at a fast pace, skirting as far away from the cave as possible. Flurry noticed to his dismay that they were leaving very obvious tracks. Lupes, particularly wild ones, were fantastic trackers. Flurry tried to push the thought from his mind. Hopefully it would start to snow again soon, and then their trail would become impossible to trace.

     They paused for a quick break just beside a large, frozen pond. Flurry sat on his haunches in the snow, relishing the feel of the cool frost on his sweaty fur. Zarrelian tapped the ice on the pond with his hoof, testing its thickness for no reason other than it was something to do. Flurry leaned back in the snow, gazing out over the mountain scenery.

     It really was quite beautiful. The sky was a moody, overcast gray, perfectly outlining the glistening white peaks and bright evergreen trees. Flurry smiled slightly. With any luck they would soon be back in their own homes. After all, the Terror Mountain officials wouldn't let two young pets remain stranded in the wild for too long. Eventually, someone would be sent to find them, and the Lupe was certain that they wouldn't fail in their task.

     Flurry was just about to suggest that they continue walking when a small, white snowflake fell from the skies and landed on his nose. The Lupe's breath caught in his throat. Could it be? Was a storm approaching? Flurry looked up. Yes! Thousands of the tiny snowflakes were streaming through the crisp winter air, twirling and spiraling in their steady descent. Flurry could've howled with joy. The snow would cover up their tracks and their scent, and the Lupe pack wouldn't be able to find them. Flurry looked up at the peaks again, only this time, the sight that met him wasn't nearly as cheering.

     It was the white Lupe again. She-- for Flurry was certain that it was a she-- was standing on the top of one of the peaks, staring at him with an appraising glare. Flurry barked in surprise and quickly grabbed Zarrelian by the arm.

     "Zarrel!" he shouted, pointing a quivering paw in the Lupe's direction. "Zarrel, look! It's the Lupe, the one from the dream! I've seen her before but I didn't tell you about it, but there she is! Look!"

     Zarrelian strained his eyes, peering at the spot on the mountain that Flurry had indicated. "I don't see anything," he grumbled. "Are you sure that you aren't hallucinating?" Flurry stared at the Lupe desperately.

     "No, she's there! How could you not see her? Are you blind?" he demanded. Zarrelian snarled angrily at the Lupe.

     "Well excuse me for not being able to see a WHITE Lupe on a cliff covered with WHITE snow against a WHITE sky in a BLIZZARD!" he shouted. Flurry looked ready to tear his fur out.

     "This is driving me nuts! Why can't you see her? She's there, I know she's there!" The Lupe dropped his paws, collapsing wearily to the ground. "I'm not just seeing things," he whimpered. "And she's so familiar! I know that I've seen her before, it's like she's a long lost cousin, or friend, or something like that."

     Zarrelian snorted. "It wouldn't surprise me to hear that you had wild Lupes in your family."

     Flurry closed his eyes, rising shakily to his paws. "Forget it. It doesn't matter. We should keep going, the pack could still find us."

     They trudged onward, Flurry in the lead, forging a pathway through the knee-deep snow. Zarrelian followed in his paw steps, shivering under his thin fur.

     "I'm cold," he complained. "It's freezing and we're not getting anywhere. You're probably just leading us in circles." Flurry gritted his teeth.

     "We're fine, Zarrel. I know where we're going, we're going away from that nutty Lupe pack."

     Zarrelian's teeth chattered. "I'm starting to think that it was stupid to leave the Lupe pack. We're not even sure if they meant us any harm. Besides, at least it was warm in that cave. It's like a million degrees below zero out here, my wings feel like they're going to fall off and my tail's gone numb!"

     Flurry frowned. "Oh stop whining, Zarrel. It's not that chilly out, I don't feel cold at all."

     Zarrelian scowled. "Yeah, well we don't all have natural insulation like you!" he shot back. Flurry stopped dead in his tracks. He turned back to the Ixi.

     "Are you calling me fat?" he asked. Zarrelian rolled his eyes.

     "Would you prefer festively fluffy?" he asked sarcastically. The Lupe growled, using every ounce of restraint that he had to keep himself from putting his paws around the Ixi's neck.

     "Just keep walking. We'll get home eventually," he grumbled. Flurry paused suddenly, a look of terror creeping across his muzzle.

     "Oh no," he groaned. "It's the Lupe pack! They've found us! Run, Zarrel, run!"

     Their attempted escape was in vain. The Lupe pack was quick to form an indomitable ring around the two pets, still using the reserve that would suggest that they still believed Zarrelian to be a powerful being of mythology. The red alpha came forward, his head lowered in respect. He stared at Zarrelian's hooves and began to communicate in a series of grunts, barks and growls. The Ixi nudged Flurry with his elbow.

     "So can you understand what he's saying?" he asked. Flurry shook his head.

     "Of course not. Though I'd be willing to guess that he's requesting for you to return to his cave."

     Zarrelian smiled. "Oh, good! I can just politely refuse, then," he said cheerfully. Flurry sighed.

     "I don't think that it's really negotiable, Zarrel."

     Indeed, the two soon found themselves marching back to the cave, flanked on either side by a very formidable looking Lupe hunter. Flurry cast an edgy glance at the huge, well-muscled green Lupe that strode solemnly beside him. He frowned. No, polite refusal was most certainly not an option.

     The mysterious Lupe stood on the deserted peak, her snowy white fur ruffling in the wind. She watched as the starry Lupe and the Halloween Ixi were led back to the cave by the Lupe pack, her icy blue eyes flashing as a low growl rose in her throat. She leapt nimbly from the peak, landing softly in the snow below. The Lupe stood for a moment, watching the retreating pack and waiting until they were a good distance away. When she was satisfied, the Lupe tilted back her head and howled, a haunting warning to her quarry as she took off through the snow, hot on the trail of the pack and its two strange visitors.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Moonlit Peaks: Part One
» Moonlit Peaks: Part Two
» Moonlit Peaks: Part Three



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