The Werelupe Hunter: Part Eight
The King padded forward, making his large body take small steps. He could feel the weight of his bone crown on his head and it comforted him. Though Gnarfas comforted him even more just by being there to watch his back.
Shadowheart stopped a metre before he reached the King, Redfang standing vigil behind him. “Your Majesty,” he said, bowing with mocking sincerity.
“You are no longer a Werelupe. Why would you bow to me?” the King asked with scorn.
Shadowheart made his voice as smooth as honey. “My dear King, we all know that Werelupes have great pride – myself included. I’m not afraid to admit that I am a very proud pet. And this pride is what makes a Werelupe a Werelupe. I am still a Werelupe inside.” He paused for a moment, then gave a short laugh. “I can’t believe how terrible that sounded from my own lips.” Then he made his face serious. “But they only see a brown Lupe. Just as they only see monsters where your people stand.”
“They should see a monster where you stand,” the King growled.
He passed his eyes over Shadowheart’s followers, seeing the tell-tale glint of red eyes that showed they were under his spell. He could also see a few humans in the crowd with normal eyes and worried faces, and he remembered what Daggerclaw’s sister had told them.
“Humans,” he called over Shadowheart’s shoulder. “Why do you attack us? What have we done?”
The pets remained eerily still, but the humans shifted, keeping silent until a male – the King had no idea how to tell humans of different ages – spoke up.
“You tried to attack us!” he shouted.
The King gave a sigh, and suddenly felt extremely tired. He was so sick of Shadowheart.
“They were led by a false King then, and he had my subjects under a spell. Just like your pets now.” He saw the humans moving and muttering while the pets still stood still, staring straight ahead. They seemed to notice the fact for the first time, and he saw many worried looks among them. “You can see that they aren’t thinking on their own,” he said. “And I would like to point out the pet responsible.” He lifted a paw and levelled it at Shadowheart.
As soon as he did the pets began to make noises of outrage, drowning anything else he might have said out. Shadowheart grinned in a self-satisfied way, and the only thing that stopped the King closing the gap between them and socking him on the jaw was his fascination by the pets and the humans.
He saw a female human put a hand on her pet’s – a Zafara from what he could see – shoulder, speaking to him. Obviously he could not hear a word they were saying, but her words had a calming effect on the Zafara. He shut his mouth and settled back, and then the King saw the red in its eyes flash briefly from red to blue, then back again.
The King’s mouth dropped open at a sudden revelation, and he turned to face Shadowheart, who was gloating.
“Tell them to be quiet for a moment, will you?” he yelled over the din.
Shadowheart looked thoughtful, then nodded, confident in his magical ability. The King knew better. If his spell could be broken twice, it could be broken a third time. And once someone had broken free from his spell they could not fall under it again. He couldn’t break the spell for the pets, but their owners could – because they had a bond.
Shadowheart raised a paw and silence reigned again. The King spared a glance back at his people, and was proud to see that they were still in rank, waiting silently, though not with the same unnatural stillness of the other side.
“Shadowheart.” The King locked gazes with the brown Lupe. “You got my message from Redfang. You can’t win.” He moved past Shadowheart, towards the pets that weren’t Werelupes, and the humans. The pets growled at him, but he ignored them and moved to a human. She stared at him with wide eyes.
“Your pets are under a spell,” he said. “Tell them to wake up.”
The human looked at her Gelert, who ignored her. She placed a hand on her pet’s shoulder and the Gelert still did not look. It was only when the human spoke the Gelert’s name quietly that the pet turned.
“Wake up,” the human said.
The Gelert blinked slowly and his eyes faded from red to orange, and then to yellow. He stared at his owner, then nuzzled up to her.
“I was stuck. I couldn’t fight it,” he whispered.
Those humans closest to then two pets and the King looked shocked, then scared. Most began to call to their pets frantically, while other spread the word. The King looked at Shadowheart and saw his shocked gaze. He waited until the chaos had spread nicely, then took a few steps back and raised his voice.
“So now who are the monsters?” he roared. “Me, and my Werelupes, or him.” He pointed to Shadowheart.”
The pets that had been woken up growled and began to advance. The King realised too late that those too far away to have seen or heard the Gelert, his owner, and the spreading dissent thought that it was time to attack the Werelupes.
He backed up fast and then two vaguely familiar humans burst out of the ranks with seven pets not far behind them. He recognised one as Silverfang’s owner and grinned in appreciation, remembering their first meeting. She had shown no signs of fear whatsoever, and he admired her for it. After a second look at the second human, he saw that she was Daggerclaw’s owner.
“Stop!” shouted Ember fiercely, throwing out her arms. Jenn stood beside her, a smile on her face, arms crossed across her chest. The pets formed a line behind them, heads raised proudly, with the exception of Kieavin, was pretending to examine one wing but was actually peering at Shadowheart. “Get a grip. You’re all idiots of you think that the Werelupes are the problem. You say they’re monsters, but who started this fight? You or them?” She paused, looking thoughtful, then aimed an accusing finger at Shadowheart. “Or him?”
“He did!” This was from the Gelert who had been freed from his spell. He took a few steps closer to Ember and the King saw Daggerclaw’s brother Minotaur glare at his spotted coat, though he had no idea why. “I’ve been fighting a fog all week, and it happened after I met Shilo.” The Gelert looked over Minotaur, then his family, and finally past them at one of the strangers Halloween Lupes that Silverfang and Daggerclaw had brought. “I’m sorry.”
There was no time for forgiveness because Shadowheart lunged forward and dug his claws into the King’s back. Gnarfas roared and made to intervene but Redfang distracted him as Shadowheart managed to get the King onto his back. The brown Lupe bared his fangs, then was knocked aside by the spotted Gelert, who had been closest at the time.
The King rolled to his feet, ready to attack, but Shadowheart stood where his was, head raised high, his expression a half-snarl as he saw his deputy Redfang pinned down by one of Gnarfas’ massive forelegs. He stood very still as the Giant Werelupe grinned down at him.
Shadowheart turned to the non-Werelupe pets and saw with relief that most of them were no longer hostile, merely confused at being so many kilometres away from their homes. All of the humans looked happy, but none of them approached the Werelupe army who stood opposite, still and waiting.
The King grinned, and feeling ecstatic, threw back his head and howled.
His subjects joined him, as well as the tame Halloween Lupes. Daggerclaw howled with enthusiasm, and the King decided that he would make a good wild Werelupe. Then he shut his eyes and lost himself in the moment.
When the last dying echoes of the Werelupes faded away – which took a fair while – the King saw that the normal Neopians were looking at them with fear. The King shrugged. Werelupes had always been feared, which was the natural way of things. What mattered was that there were few looks of hate amongst them, which meant they were less likely to start fighting anytime soon.
He turned his attention to Shadowheart and growled.
“What should we do with you?” he asked
“Don’t ask me,” Shadowheart replied scathingly.
“I have an idea.” Silverfang padded to the King’s side and whispered in his ear.
He bared his teeth in a grin and nodded. “It’s expensive, but I’m sure we can raise enough money.” He grinned even wider as he looked back at Shadowheart and chuckled. “I’ll send you a message when we’re ready,” he told Silverfang and then turned and padded back to his Werelupes. It was a long jog home.
Two weeks later...
It was hard for a Werelupe as conspicuous as Gnarfas to hide, but the four-armed Werelupe managed quite well, lurking in the shadows of some trees to the side of the square. He held Shadowheart firmly by the shoulder.
The King stood next to the Rainbow Pool, staring at the water with interest.
“It doesn’t look that magical to me,” he told Apsy, who was smiling in anticipation of her idea being put into action.
“It works,” Fanger said. “I got painted in there.” He didn’t mention the spell that had come after, when he had first been touched by Shadowheart.
The King shrugged after a moment, then beckoned to Gnarfas.
The giant Werelupe steered Shadowheart towards the Pool, though Shadowheart tried hard to get away. He wouldn’t have made it; Sky and Anubia were ready for him to break free, flanking him on either side. There was a reasonable turnout of Neopians. Judge Hog stood towering behind a few of them, glaring at Shadowheart. Most of the civilians stayed away from Gnarfas.
The only people near the Pool was Apsy and Fanger’s family, and she could see Jorange lurking in the crowd.
“Ready?” she asked Ember.
Ember nodded. “I gave it to Jenn.”
Apsy rolled her eyes and raised an eyebrow at Jenn, who grinned and whipped a Baby Paint Brush out of her jacket.
There was a strangled yelp as Shadowheart caught sight of the paint brush and realised just what his fate would be. Before he could try to escape Gnarfas lifted him bodily off the ground, ran the distance to the pool in a few steps, and tossed him unceremoniously in.
Jenn passed the brush to the King, who was to do the honours. He had argued with Apsy – saying it should be her who did it because it was her idea – but not for very long. She suspected that he wanted to do it himself.
He touched the tip of the brush onto Shadowheart’s sopping head, and Ember cackled with a malicious grin as the light blue and yellow spread on the formerly brown Lupe’s fur and he began to shrink rapidly.
Gioama gave out a raucous cheer and Kieavin let out a whoop at the same time. Then a few of those watching joined in as the Baby Lupe that was Shadowheart glared up at his sovereign.
Gnarfas reached a paw into the water and picked up Shadowheart by his scruff, lifting him in the air with his lower arms. The King beckoned Fanger and Apsy towards him and they came.
“You don’t have to worry about Shadowheart escaping; he won’t be able to budge the doors of his prison. And Redfang won’t be going anywhere either.”
“Any news of Macejaw?” Fanger asked.
“We found him. He’s in the dungeon as well.” The King looked satisfied. “I think for now, our problems are over.”
“Thank Fyora!” Fanger said with relief. “Now I can do something fun. Any ideas, Apsy?”
Apsy shrugged. “I don’t know... Sleep. Travel.”
“Eat?” Fanger suggested.
Apsy shook her head in disgust.
“Well, don’t forget you’re always welcome in the Burrows,” the King said. Then he padded out of the square, back towards the Woods. Gnarfas obediently padded after him, Shadowheart still dangling in his paws.
Apsy grinned and touched her Werelupe Fanger Necklace. Then she stretched and poked Fanger in the side.
“Let’s go,” she said.
Author’s note: Thanks again to theschizophrenicpunk (Ember) for letting me use her and her pets. Also, thanks goes to sockins33 for lending me Jorange and ghostgirl777 for lending me Viy. And thanks to all those people who commented on the other Werelupe stories and motivated me to write this one. ^^