Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Two
Yesterday's afternoon downpour had blown through during
the night, much to Jeran's relief. He would not have liked to walk through the
forest in a downpour of rain. A few fluffy white clouds rested on the horizon
of a sapphire blue sky and wild petpets frisked about in both the underbrush and
the tree branches; such a morning made it hard to believe that there was anything
evil in the world.
Danner had been right; the walk itself wasn't
that far at all. Before Jeran knew it, they were to Duke Lether's pastures,
where a mixed flock of Whinnies and Babaas sniffed him curiously, then decided
the blue Lupe wasn't really all that interesting.
"I think," Danner said, "that we've determined
something very important."
"What's that?" Mareian asked curiously, looking
up from the Whinny she was petting.
"Babaas don't like me."
Looking around with a surprised blink, Jeran
suppressed a laugh. While the Whinnies curiously followed the trio around, all
the Babaas had moved to huddle together in the pen's corner furthest from the
blue Wocky. "I don't suppose it was mutton you ate for dinner last night," he
"I'm not sure," Danner admitted. "I think last
night was the mystery meatloaf."
"Eww," Mareian said, "you actually ate the meatloaf?"
"Beats Jeran's cooking," Danner shot back.
"Hey!" Jeran exclaimed, pantomiming injury. "My
cooking isn't that bad."
"Jeran." The blue Wocky gave the Lupe a long
look. "Even the Warf wouldn't eat the eggs you scrambled."
"That was years ago."
"It's still pretty bad." Mareian gave him a playful
"You weren't even there," he retorted, pushing
her in return.
"That doesn't mean it's any worse." Giving him
a toothy grin, she continued, "Besides, what are you going to do about it, prove
"Nope." Reaching over, he easily picked up the
tiny pirate Lupess and tossed her onto his shoulder like a sack of grain. "I'll
just keep you here until you concede defeat."
"Jeran!" Mareian swatted his back. "Put me down,
you big blue doofus."
At least that's what Jeran thought she said;
between Danner's laughter and the pirate Lupess' giggles, some of the words
were hard to understand.
"I mean it, put me down or I'll - Jeran!" Her
laughter turned into a shriek of terror.
Jeran managed to swing her safely down to the
ground right before a mass of dark brown fur slammed into him, throwing the
large blue Lupe to the ground. Years of training and reflex took over as Jeran
fought the mad blur, but the back of his mind was forced to admit he might have
met his match. Fortunately, Danner and Mareian were there too.
Danner's bolt missed.
Mareian's dagger didn't.
The brown blur of fur stumbled and dropped, much
to the relief of Jeran. "A Werelupe?" Mareian asked. "Aren't we a little close
to the glade to worry about those?"
"They're pretty rare here," Danner agreed, "but
it's not unheard of. It would also explain the missing petpets. Werelupes are
smart; the barn's latches wouldn't slow one down at all."
"I'm just glad he didn't wait until we split
up," Jeran said, panting. "He was fast."
Mareian looked up at him, then swore. "Jeran,
"I am?" Jeran blinked. He didn't remember getting
hurt. But the fight had been so fast... Glancing down to his arm where Mareian
was staring, Jeran winced at the shredded cloth of his sleeve. She was right.
"It doesn't hurt at all," he protested, as sick feeling rising in his stomach.
He was being truthful; it honestly didn't hurt. But it should. He'd had plenty
of experience to know what a slash like that should feel like. He should
barely be able to use his hand. Unconsciously he flexed his hand into a tight
Mareian grabbed his uninjured arm. "Come on,"
she said. "We need to go see Illusen."
"What about him?" Danner motioned to the still
form. "We can't just leave a Werelupe in the middle of Duke Lether's pasture."
"Grab one of the stable hands and have them carry
a message to your office. Someone there can take care of it." Jeran was more
than happy to let her take charge for the moment. He had far bigger worries
on his mind, like trying to remember what percentage of Werelupe bites infected
Fortunately, Illusen's hut wasn't that far of
a walk at all. Even better, the earth Faerie was home, tending to a late blooming
berry bush against her house. Seeing Jeran's soaked and tattered sleeve, she
quickly ushered them inside. Her eyes were full of questions she didn't voice
until after she'd carefully cleaned his wounded bicep.
"That," the Faerie said, "is a very nasty bite.
What happened, did Mareian finally lose her temper at you?"
Jeran grimaced. "Not quite."
"We were checking out some missing petpets,"
Danner explained. "Someone's been raiding Duke Lether's herds. A Werelupe attacked
us; Jeran got the brunt of it."
Illusen arched an eyebrow. "The three of you
were just standing around and it attacked you? It didn't wait until someone
"Not exactly." Mareian made a wry face. "We were
kind of goofing off. Jeran and I were playing push you-push me and then he picked
Her voice trailed off as Illusen nodded. "That
makes sense," she said.
"I think we have a bigger concern than why it
attacked," Danner interrupted. "Like if it infected Jeran or not."
Jeran suppressed the urge to agree. That was
the question he was worried about and the one he wasn't sure he wanted to know
the answer to.
"Don't be daft," Illusen snapped. "Of course
he's infected with a bite like that." Seeing Danner's horrified expression,
Illusen's face softened. "How much do you know about Werelupes?"
"Not much," he admitted, "only that they're smart,
dangerous, and can be contagious to other Lupes if they get bitten."
Jeran stayed silent. Right now the little he
did know was suddenly not enough.
Illusen nodded. "This could take a while. Mareian,
would you be a sweetheart and brew us some tea?" The tiny Lupess hopped off
the perch she'd claimed as her chair and headed though the door that marked
the boundary between the room they were in and the kitchen. Cocking his head,
Jeran could hear the slight sounds of pots rattling. Mareian obviously knew
her way fairly well around the hut's kitchen.
Danner coughed, looking awkward. "Was there any
particular reason you sent her away?
Sweeping back her green streaked hair with her
fingers, Illusen shook her head. "Not really, other than the fact that she knows
most - if not all - of this already, and I'm getting thirsty."
Jeran was curious where his Lupess had learned
so much about Werelupes, but before he could ask, Illusen started her explanation.
"I suppose the best way to describe a Werelupe is as a prototypical Lupe. All
the control over the instinctual responses they learned as cubs is gone, and
their wild, or maybe feral would be a better term, instincts rule. A Werelupe
is as intelligent as he was before he was bitten, but he doesn't retain anything
he learned before he transformed."
Seeing Danner's confused face, she clarified,
"If he'd known beforehand how to pick a lock, he wouldn't remember how after
he became a Werelupe. But he could easily figure it out and teach himself to
pick them again afterwards."
"If they're that smart," Danner said, "then the
one that bit Jeran should have known we'd separate eventually. Why did he attack
us? Farmhands are in and out of there all day."
Illusen shook her head. "That's where the inability
to control their instincts comes in. Werelupes had a near uncontrollable pack
instinct; protect their pack, protect Lupesses and protect Lupe cubs. He was
probably perfectly content to watch you from afar until Jeran pushed Mareian.
He wasn't attacking you, he was protecting her."
Danner looked at the injured Lupe. "Bummer luck,
Jeran. As if you weren't overprotective of her before."
Jeran gave his friend a dirty look. "Thanks."
"We're just lucky we knew within hours of Jeran
being bitten," Mareian said, carefully balancing the tray of tea as she pushed
open the door. "The cure takes a while to make."
"So there is a cure." Danner's voice made his
"Of course there's a cure," Illusen said. "The
problem is, most people wait too long for it to do any good. Werelupe bites
don't hurt, so they don't have a healer look at it, until they simply run out
Jeran accepted a cup of tea Mareian offered him,
and drank the warm liquid gratefully. He needed a warm drink at the moment.
"How long will it take to make the cure?" Jeran asked.
"A couple of weeks; which reminds me, I'll need
to borrow Mareian to fetch stuff for me while I work on it."
Jeran nodded; he certainly wasn't going to begrudge
Illusen any help she may need for this.
"You'd think," Danner said, "that they'd simply
keep the cure around in bulk so it didn't have to take forever to brew it each
time someone got infected."
"I'm afraid it doesn't work that way," Illusen
made a wry face. "It has to be made specific for each person, and even then
it can fail about a quarter of the time. Especially if they're sick with something
else as well, or weak."
Danner looked shocked. "A twenty five percent
failure rate? What happens if it fails?"
Mareian's quiet voice managed to have far more
impact that Danner's demanding one. "They don't survive."
While Danner gaped and sputtered incoherently,
Jeran heaved a sigh and ran the hand of his good arm though the fur between
his ears. It figured. Though if someone had to be bitten, he by far preferred
himself over Mareian, despite what Illusen said about how a Werelupe would never
attack her. Apparently sensing his distress, Mareian came and sat next to him,
leaning against him comfortingly.
Danner managed to finally find his voice. "There
has to be a better alternative than that."
Illusen shook her head. "There isn't, but I don't
think Jeran's in too much danger. It's the old and the sick that have a hard
time of it; Jeran's a full knight in his prime."
Jeran began to cautiously feel better. Unlike
Danner, Illusen and Mareian were both acting like this was something that could
be dealt with. He trusted Illusen, and she didn't seem too worried about how
this would turn out.
"We'll have to take precautions of course," Illusen
said to Jeran after a moment's reflection. "It's likely that you'll turn into
a Werelupe before the cure is finished, and we'll need somewhere to keep you
safe and from infecting anyone else until you're cured, Jeran."
That, on the other hand, wasn't helping him feel
"There's some solitary cells," Danner said after
a moment's hesitation. "They're in a separate part of the jail; no one goes
there. It should be strong enough to hold in a Werelupe."
"If they're the ones I'm thinking of, those should
be perfect," Illusen agreed.
The rest of the week was all one big blur to
Jeran. He hardly saw Mareian at all, as Illusen kept her busy with gathering
the cure's ingredients. For the first time, he was truly glad that Lisha was
in Brightvale teaching a class at the Royal University. She wouldn't have handled
this nearly as well as Mareian seemed to. Though, he admitted to himself, her
graceful handling of the situation may have more to do with how busy Illusen
was keeping her than anything else.
His mother, Anna, was handling it better than
he would have thought too. The red Zafara calmly admitted that Illusen knew
far more about such bites than she did, and other than re-bandaging his arm
every day, the practical physician acted as if nothing had happened.
In short, everyone had something to do and acting
as if they had no worries about the outcome. Jeran envied them. All he could
do was sit quietly and act like nothing was going on while he waited to turn
into a monster. While the prospect of locking himself up was uncomfortable,
Jeran was terrified of what would happen if he lost control while free. What
if he hurt Mareian? Or one of the pages? He promised himself that he'd turn
himself in to Danner if the word "tasty" ever entered his mind when he saw a
To be continued...