The Werelupe Hunter: Part One
Author’s note: This story is the sequel to my series Curse of the Werelupe and The King of Werelupes (in that order :P). So if you want to lug through sixteen parts just to read this, then you may. However, it is possible to understand this story without doing that, although you can get a better idea of the characters etc. if you do.
My waffle is over; read on.
The Werelupe was larger than most of his kind, but only just. He glanced around, trying to see any signs of pursuit through the trees. He paused as he heard a snap behind him, turning his head slightly, but he couldn’t see anything through the gnarled branches.
The moon hung above him, half full, and he took in the sweet scent of freedom. Only minutes before he had escaped the Werelupe Burrows, using the last vestiges of his strength to shove away the boulder that blocked his cell. He had been preserving his strength, waiting for the King to lower the guard from two to one on his cell. That guard was now lying unconscious in the deeper tunnels.
Lightly – lighter than a Lupe of his stature and weight had any right to move – he picked a path through the trees, away from the Burrows and the Werelupes who had imprisoned him for trying to take over the throne months before.
He paused again. He had heard the sound of a pawstep. It wasn’t his imagination. It had been real.
He turned to face the direction of the sound, his lips drawn back in a snarl. His jaws were impressive; larger than usual, and extremely strong. He could crack a bone with those jaws, as the victims of his wrath knew only too well. A low snarl escaped from them as he heard the pawsteps stop.
He took a step forwards, then another. No movement or sound. Still with his teeth bared he approached the spot where he had heard the sound. He didn’t see anything until he almost walked into a large furry shape that had been concealed under the shadows of a particularly large gnarled tree.
He couldn’t make any details, though it was understandable because the shape was right up in his face. He could see the rise and fall of what he thought was its chest, but he couldn’t be sure.
“Back up, give a Lupe some room, would you?”
The smooth voice startled him, and he jumped back a few paces. Then slowly he began to back away as the shape moved and rose up even taller. It moved out into the light and he could see that it was indeed a Lupe, an extremely large one.
As the light fell on the coat he felt a jolt of fear as he saw it was brown – could it be that the Werelupes had already discovered his escape? But upon closer inspection he realised that the fur was too short, was too well groomed, to belong to a Halloween Lupe. The other Lupe certainly had impressively large fangs, but they couldn’t compete with the inches-long Werelupe ones.
“Let me introduce myself, shall I?” the brown Lupe continued, his voice purring, though he didn’t sound remotely happy. “I’m a new phenomenon. I am a Werelupe Hunter. Neopia hates Werelupes right now, so why not humour them, eh, Macejaw?” And he bared his fangs in a grin.
The Werelupe narrowed his eyes. “How do you know my name?” he challenged.
The smooth, honeyed voice changed in an instead to a gravelly growl, full of menace.
“I know plenty of things about you, Macejaw. And about a whole lot of other Werelupes too. That’s why I’m such a good hunter. I made myself look as similar as possible, so I can get close to you. Ha! Try to catch my scent.”
Macejaw took a few extra steps back, just in case the stranger tried anything funny, then took in a deep breath. He could scent the smells of the Woods; trees, earth, things rotting underground. He could even catch a whiff of himself – how could one manage to stay fresh deep underground? But that was it. Nothing else.
He frowned and tried again. The stranger grinned wider. His voice became mellow again.
“You see, Macejaw. No Werelupe can tell I’m not one of them from a distance. I mean, look how huge I am.” He reared up onto powerful hind legs to emphasise his point. “And they can’t catch me hunting them if they can’t smell me. Wonderful, isn’t it?”
“Well you can’t blame me for saying that I don’t find it that wonderful,” Macejaw said, trying to be as contemptuous as possible while trying to imitate the stranger’s smooth tone.
“Fair enough.” The stranger paused and cocked his massive head to one side. Macejaw still couldn’t believe that a non Halloween Lupe could be so freaking huge, but he had to accept it. “So you don’t recognise me?” the brown Lupe asked, his ears pressed flat against his head as he tried to look crestfallen.
“I’m sure I would have remembered someone so dashingly handsome,” Macejaw said sarcastically. “Now I have to run; sorry to disappoint.”
“Indeed you have to run.”
Creepy. The voice had a third tone: deeply chilling. Macejaw half turned his head to see the stranger with a lopsided smile on his face. It was then that he noticed that the stranger’s eyes were blood red, unheard of in normal Lupes. They were narrowed.
“I’m a Werelupe hunter. You’re a Werelupe. Making sense?” the brown Lupe asked innocently, smooth again.
Macejaw stared at him, trying to make sense of his words. “You can’t be serious?” he snorted.
“Oh. Very serious.” The chilling tone was back. “Run. Run away and at least give me some decent prey.” This was accompanied by an equally chilling smile.
And Macejaw ran. He turned tail and fled into the night, eyes wide and heart pumping. His breath came in short gasps as he pounded through the trees, not caring about being too noisy, not caring about the Werelupes who by now would be looking for him. All he cared about was getting away from the stranger and the creepy chilling smile.
“Do you ever get the feeling that people are watching you?” Fanger asked Apsy as they strolled through Neopia Central, carrying bags stuffed with food.
The Halloween Lupess made an exaggerated show of looking around the streets, where a good third of the citizens walking past glanced at the pair of Halloween Lupes before just as quickly glancing away. The other two thirds hurried past, trying to avoid looking.
“No,” she replied sarcastically. “None at all.”
Her gesture made Fanger look around, and he took in the scared people hurrying past.
“Be quiet,” he growled in mock annoyance. But then he became serious again. “They’re not exactly giving us... nice looks, are they?”
“You’re being almost as dense as Ki,” Apsy said, referring to Fanger’s sister, a rather vague-minded green Shoyru who seemed to enjoy creating unintentional havoc. “Of course they’re not giving us nice looks. They’re scared of us.” Her eyes narrowed at the thought. Then she grinned. “Not that you don’t look like an uncivilised beast or anything.”
She ducked away to avoid him whacking her and grinned smugly. He pouted for a second and an orange Nimmo in his line of vision squealed and started heading in the opposite direction. He frowned.
“I just don’t understand it,” he muttered. “It was never this bad before.”
“And then Shadowheart declared war against Neopia along with all the Werelupes in the Woods. Now why would ordinary Neopians fear us after that? They just must be extremely paranoid.”
Apsy drenched her words with sarcasm, but Fanger still managed to use them to his advantage.
“Exactly. Paranoid’s the word. They’re being way too paranoid about all of this. I mean, Shadowheart’s gone now; the King would never do anything like that. He wants to protect his citizens, not start a war.”
Fanger jumped at the noise from beside them. He did a sort of half-jump turn and faced the owner with his hackles raised.
“Oh, it’s you, Minotaur. Where did you come from?”
“Um... he’s been with us the entire time, Fang,” Apsy said.
At the same moment Minotaur snapped. “Oh, just because you’re so large you can’t see me in your shadow!”
“Sorry!” Fanger held up his paws in a gesture of peace.
“The only reason Jenn asked me to take you with me is so you can lug all the groceries home,” his brother reminded him, running a paw though his mane. “And I’m just about the only one in the family who she can trust to get the right food these days. Not since you went and bought the shop’s entire stock of steak.”
Fanger grinned. “I was hungry.”
“Not to ruin the family bickering,” Apsy interrupted, “but you were going to say something, right, Minotaur?”
“That’s right.” The blue Yurble frowned. “I was going to say that Shadowheart was the King of Werelupes at the time, so to the rest of Neopia he wasn’t Shadowheart, he was the Werelupe King. How should anyone else know that he had put a spell over the Werelupe population?”
“That’s true, I suppose,” Fanger agreed. “But the invasion was cancelled, the Werelupes disappeared back into the Woods, and we haven’t heard from them since. They’re keeping to themselves.”
He absent-mindedly fingered the Werelupe Fang Necklace around his neck, a present from the Werelupe King after he and Apsy had broken Shadowheart’s spell and given him back his throne. Apsy had a similar one around her neck, and neither of them ever took them off.
“I keep hoping that the King will visit or something,” Apsy said. “Or maybe even Gnarfas. Remember him trying to get into our house?”
Fanger grinned at the memory of the giant four-armed Werelupe in his tiny living room. Then he frowned as he heard loud shouts and howls coming up behind them.
The trio turned as the noises came closer. Fanger frowned as he distinguished certain sounds. There were angry snarls and also mocking shouts and laughter. He guessed they came from two different parties.
And he was right. Around the corner came a group of maybe seven or eight pets. One of them was a Werelupe, about Fanger’s size, who seemed to be trying to fight and retreat at the same time. And Fanger had to hand it to him; he was doing a good job.
Most pets would be too busy attacking (or defending, as the case may be) to have any thoughts left over for footwork. But this Werelupe was throwing punches whilst backing away. A spotted Gelert took the hit and reeled backwards, but another pet took his place. The Werelupe was so badly outnumbered it was a wonder they hadn’t taken him down yet.
After a few seconds, Fanger realised that Apsy had left his side. He watched as her brown form streaked over to the mêlée and knocked a shadow Eyrie onto its back. She stood with her teeth bared, feet planted firmly on the ground as she glowered at the pets.
“What in Fyora’s name is going on?!” she howled.
Her tone managed to stop the attacking pets. They paused and turned to stare at her. Then the Gelert recovered from the other Werelupe’s hit and growled at her.
“You’re just another Werelupe. We don’t answer to you.”
The other pets murmured in agreement and Fanger realised that they were about to continue the fight.
To be continued...