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Ozzmosis carefully placed his paws among the twigs, branches,
and twisted roots of the trees, wings pressed flat to his spine and tail
straight out behind him. Riana crept beside the Eyrie and, ahead of them,
Kezsia and Gray Isolm slunk through the shadows, appearing and disappearing
like ghosts in the darkness. T'kil flitted through the branches above
the quartet, eyes flashing in the sunlight.
The gray wolf sniffed the ground in front of her, then
lifted back her lips. It has been this way. We are closing in.
How far ahead of us is it? Kezs replied.
Half a kilometer, Isolm returned. The gray wolf
growled low in her throat, ears flat to her head, and dropped lower into
a slinking crouch.
As they walked, the wolfrunner's mind kept wandering
back to what the Beast said about Wolfrunner San…"She called to the
other wolves that belonged to the wolfrunners and the wild wolves of the
forest. They came to her, and attacked the Lupe with the fury of a hundred
But she also ran around in her mind that San never figured
out how she called the wolves, and had never duplicated the stunt in the
rest of her life. Kezsia knew that if the Ancients, with all of their
technology that had been lost to them now, couldn't defeat the Black Lupe,
she seriously doubted that she and her wolf with a dragonet, Neopian,
and Eyrie could defeat it. They would be destroyed trying, and the wolves
that had helped San wouldn't help the last wolfrunner.
Gray Isolm suddenly stopped, and her ears pricked forward,
and her eyes narrowed. It is up ahead of us.
Kezs motioned for Riana to join her, and pointed fifty
meters ahead of them. "The Lupe is up there. Get your blades ready." The
wolfrunner drew her own sword and palmed a knife; Riana did the same.
Ozzmosis growled low in his throat, and unsheathed his claws from each
toe. T'kil swooped down from the trees, and perched on Kezs's shoulder,
eyes gleaming faintly in the light. Gray Isolm snarled in the back of
her throat, lips wrinkling back and black snout creasing.
They started forward again, and covered the fifty meters
in a matter of seconds. There was a break in the trees that faded into
a meadow five meters across and eight meters wide; in the center of that
meadow stood the Black Lupe, crouched and facing them with a snarl dancing
on its lips. Its pupil-less red eyes were glaring at them; its black claws
dug into the ground; and as they watched, flames grew from its fur and
twisted in the air while spikes erupted from its neck like a bad collar.
"What do we do?" Riana asked, voice shaking. For the
first time in the excursion, she was afraid, and so was the wolfrunner,
only she didn't show it.
"We fight until it is gone," Kezs replied. "This time
for real, and not letting it retreat to the recesses of the Underworld."
I agree. Let's go, Gray Isolm snarled in Kezsia's
head. She erupted from the trees like a demon and lunged for the Black
Lupe, meeting fang to fang with the beast. Ozzmosis screeched and leaped
from the brush, flapping his wings and blowing dust upon the two combatants;
T'kil shrieked and dove upon the Lupe, spewing flames from his nostrils.
Riana leaped out after her pet, and tried to stab the Lupe, but it blocked
her blow with the spikes on its neck.
Kezsia walked silently out of the brush; the Black Lupe
saw her, and snarled low in its throat, almost as if it recognised her.
She undid the clasp that held her cloak around her shoulders, and let
it fall to the ground behind her. Her violet eyes flashed lupine yellow
as she lifted her blades, and squared off with the Lupe.
So, you have returned from the Land of the Dead, San,
the Black Lupe said in Kezsia's head. Just to fight me, haven't
you? How flattering, but too bad you will just be defeated again and I
will take this world where the Demons have failed.
Riana had heard the Black Lupe, and stared at Kezsia;
for a brief instant, she saw the young woman's image flicker with that
of a slightly older woman, wearing a circlet on her head and a silver-gray
wolf at her side. Even if Kezs did not want to believe it, she was truly
the granddaughter many times over of Kisania.
The Black Lupe leaped at Kezs, but Ozzmosis knocked it
to the ground with a flying tackle and began to rip with his claws; he
screamed inhumanly and stumbled back: his good eye was gone, tore out
from the Black Lupe's spikes. Riana cried out, and rushed to her NeoPet,
then glared balefully at the Black Lupe. With blind fury, she leaped at
the Lupe and slashed with her blades, slicing through flames and hacking
off one of the spikes around its neck. The Lupe roared and lunged at her,
catching her on a blind spot and closing its fangs around her wrist.
Gray Isolm howled and hit the Black Lupe in the side,
wrenching it off of Riana. The girl's wrist had been shattered from the
Lupe's fangs, and she fell back to the ground, next to her NeoPet, who
was pawing at his eyes. She and Ozzmosis were useless in the fight now;
only Kezsia, T'kil, and Isolm remained to destroy the Lupe for good.
T'kil swooped from his hidden perch and flamed the Black
Lupe directly in the face; it snarled and swung a paw, knocking the dragonet
aside and into a tree. Kezsia didn't have time to react to the dragonet's
destruction before the Lupe lunged at her, trying to reach her throat.
The wolfrunner brought up her sword and blocked the Black Lupe's blow
and delivered one of her own, cutting into the beast's leg and drawing
a foul-smelling black liquid that must have been the Lupe's blood. It
screamed in fury and attacked her more forcefully.
The gray wolf, which the Lupe had forgotten temporarily,
lunged at the beast, and closed her long fangs on its flank, ignoring
the black liquid that washed over her teeth. The Black Lupe snarled and
tried to whirl around on the wolf, but she leaped back and faced it with
raised hackles and dripping fangs. They again met fang to fang, claws
tearing into each other, but Gray Isolm managed to wrench herself away
before losing an eye like Ozzmosis.
We can't win! We're are going to be destroyed!
Kezsia cried out silently. In the back of her mind, she heard the faint
howl of a wolf, and the cries of a wolfrunner, distracting her for an
Wolfrunner! Gray Isolm howled. Kezs suddenly smashed
into the ground, the Black Lupe on top of her, with its fangs just inches
from her throat. Her sword and knife blades were pressed against the massive
spikes around the beast's neck; its hot, foul-smelling breath was on her
face, choking her.
Isolm! she screamed. The wolf howled in her head,
and more joined the gray voice of the single wolf.
Suddenly, Kezsia felt her mind explode, and strands of
it raced across the landscape, weaving around trees, sliding over mountains,
and streaming through rivers. Each strand touched a wolf, calling it to
her, and it howled in her head, until a din of wolf voices filled her
mind. Paws pounded inside her skull; yellow and amber eyes gleamed in
her head; and gray voices threaded through her mind. A mere twenty wolves
came running through the forest to aid the last wolfrunner, and erupted
upon the scene moments later.
The massive wolfpack attacked the Black Lupe with the
strength of a hundred wolves, tearing with their fangs and ripping with
their claws. The Black Lupe howled and tried to fight back, but the fury
of the twenty-one wolves overwhelmed the Lupe unlike it had hundreds of
years ago. They were stronger than they ever were centuries ago, and they
were faster, smarter, and more vicious.
Kezs rubbed the back of her head and shifted to her knees,
and saw the almost two dozen wolves attacking the Lupe with unbridled
fury. She sheathed her sword, and transferred her knife to her right hand,
pointing the blade at the Black Lupe. The wolves saw this, slashed the
Black Lupe once more with their fangs, and leaped back. The last wolfrunner
hurled the knife, and it imbedded itself in the beast's right eye.
The Black Lupe screamed in pain, pawing at the knife
hilt with a paw, trying to dislodge it. The spikes around its neck retracted,
and the flames on its body diminished; the Lupe staggered toward Kezsia,
a snarl on its lips, and collapsed.
Who are you? San never had aim like yours, it
Kezs stood over the beast, glaring down at with malevolent
violet eyes. "I am Kezsia, last wolfrunner of the planet Neopia. Why are
you still alive?" She reached down and removed the spike from the Black
Lupe. It screamed and burst into flames, throwing the wolves and wolfrunner
back. The flames leapt toward the sky then shrank back into the ground
as the Black Lupe vanished forever.
"Riana!" Kezsia said. She ran over to the girl, and bent
to examine her wrist; she gingerly touched it, and the girl muffled a
shriek of pain. Then the wolfrunner went over to Ozzmosis, who was whimpering
and pawing at his shredded eye. Kezs felt sorry for the beast, for she
knew he would never be able to see again, but that wasn't what hurt the
wolfrunner the most.
She went over to the body of her faithful T'kil, who
had died trying to protect her. She lifted the small creature in her hands,
gently running a finger across the gleaming black scales. A single tear
ran down her face as Kezsia looked at the crushed and broken body of the
dragonet; she sensed the presence over her shoulder, but didn't look up.
"I'm sorry, Kezsia," Riana said softly. "We have to go."
The wolfrunner nodded, and rose, still holding the body of T'kil in her
hands. Gray Isolm whined in the back of her throat, and pressed her soft
head against the young woman's thigh; the other wolves uttered a low,
mournful howl for the lifeless dragonet, telling of the bravery the small
skybeast had shown. They watched the wolfrunner and the others leave,
then turned and disappeared into the woods, yellow and amber eyes gleaming
in the darkness of the forest.
She stood in silence under the moons on a cliff overlooking
the forest, eyes flashing beneath the strands of stray black hair that
blew into her face. A massive gray wolf stood at her side, yellow eyes
gleaming green in the light of the moons. The wolf growled and pressed
its black snout into her hand, opening its mouth and revealing long fangs.
There was a scrape of claws behind the pair, and a low,
harsh voice reached her ears. "You are a legend, Wolfrunner. There is
great talk of your battle with the Black Lupe in Tyrannia,
and other parts of Neopia."
Kezsia remained silent for several moments, and the Beast
thought that she had not heard. Then she said, "If I am such a legend,
then why are my friends disabled for life, and T'kil is gone? Legends
do not harm their dragonets, nor do they take their friends into situations
where they know that they can be injured or destroyed."
"I do not know," the Beast replied. "But I have read
many legends where the hero has lost everything but themselves to tragedy."
"Name one of them."
"It is true, Kezsia." The Beast lowered his head until
it was level with Kezs's, and he spoke into her face. "Just weeks before
her own battle with the Black Lupe, her mate, Ranir, was destroyed in
an accident dealing with a skimmer. But do you know what happened that
hurt her most?" Kezs shook her head. "You remember that person that was
first defeated by the Black Lupe? It was her son, Sanir."
The wolfrunner almost blanched at hearing such a grim
detail. "Her own son and mate were defeated? Then she had a reason to
go after the Lupe, while I did not."
"The people still remember San, Kezsia, and they know
that you are a descendant of hers. They knew that you could defeat this
beast, and you did," the Beast said, raising his head.
"And what becomes of me now, since I completed my one
purpose in life?" the wolfrunner demanded, looking the Beast straight
in the eye.
He raised his head and looked over the forest; below
them, the flashing moon-silvered bodies of the wolves could be seen through
"You teach others about the wolves, and more wolfrunners
will emerge. People will not forget about the wolves that saved them all,
nor will they ever if you show them," the Beast said. He opened his wings
and launched his body from the rocks, flapping his immense wings to keep
him aloft. "Do not forget what I said, Wolfrunner. You still have at least
two hundred years left in you to fulfill your destiny." He turned back
toward Tyrannia, and flapped his wings, gray fur flashing like a wolf's
in the light of the moons.
"Right," Kezsia said softly. Gray Isolm turned and
walked back through the rocks from which they had come, disappearing into
the shadows. The wolfrunner turned to follow, but something flashed in
the corner of her eye. She looked, and, lying in the dust of the rocks,
was a silver circlet with a black stone set in its center. Kezs picked
it up and carefully shook off the dust. There were intricate patterns
etched into the circlet, those of a language long gone; the wolfrunner
gripped it in her right hand and followed the wolf back through the tumble
Shafts of moonlight flashed upon the place where Kezsia
and her wolf had been standing; for a brief instant, a woman and a wolf
stood there, an invisible wind blowing back the woman's clothing, and
plastered the wolf's fur to its muscled body. Then the image faded, leaving
nothing but a dusty cliff behind.