Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 90,556,196 Issue: 161 | 8th day of Collecting, Y6
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Of Lights from Within: Part Eight


by chocolateisamust

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Also by blubblub317

It wasn't Hubrid. Maddi knew this instantly. The tone was too soft, too gentle, too feminine to belong to the villain. His eyes shot to the dusty ground, and his heart started pumping faster by the moment. Maddi recognized the voice. He didn't want to, but he did.

     Nagria.

     Shaking. He was shaking so hard. But somehow the Kougra managed to wobble up to his paws and suck in a deep breath. His eyes crept slowly toward the voice, until finally they were focused straight at its source. Straight at the one who spoke the words.

     Maddi had been right. It was Nagria. Not Hubrid. Hubrid wasn't even in his site. Just the Pteri; that oversized Pteri that had at first frightened the Kougra. Frightened him such a short time ago, yet a time that now seemed years back. Seemed. It wasn't, it just seemed to be.

     He didn't dare speak to her. He wanted to, perhaps, but the words became choked up in his throat before he could say them. Instead, Maddi let out a long, distressed groan. Just a groan. Nothing else.

     Absolute silence flooded the room, holding it under a tense feeling. Nagria paced silently towards Maddi - towards the tiny Kougra child she had so carelessly betrayed. For what had she done it for? What reward was there to be given? Hubrid had promised her a leading rank among his minions. She had believed him at the time. Believed every word he had spoken about the upgrade. He had been lying. Nagria knew that now. But there was no turning back. No changing sides. It was too far along in the game.

     Then she stopped, and just studied Maddi. He was shivering so fiercely, his breaths heavy and his eyes drooping. You've destroyed a childhood. Another childhood.

     Yet, as unsettling as this thought would be to most, it left Nagria unmoved. She turned robotically toward Kylan, and offered a soft smile. "Thank you for your important role in this mission," she said sincerely.

     Kylan nodded blissfully, obviously feeling honored. Being talked to in such an appreciative way by one of his superiors was not something that happened everyday. "You are welcome, Nagria."

     She nodded as well. "We must take him to Hubrid's castle now. Our leader is getting quite worked up about this all. Such close contact with Fyora earlier made him edgy."

     "Understandably."

     "Shall we leave then, Nagria?"

     A nod. "Yes, we shall. Do take extra caution so that our dear friend Maddi won't 'accidentally' slip and fall to his doom. Understood, Kylan?"

     Now the Gelert nodded. He arose from his shabby chair and grasped a dark black cloak from beside where he had been sitting. He slipped it over his head, and the petrifying creature he had been when Maddi met him was there again. It wasn't the nice and gentle Kylan the Kougra had grown to trust. Not at all.

     Fear captured Maddi's whole body, from the tip of his ears to the curl on his claws. Such menacing creatures Nagria and Kylan were now. So different from earlier. How could they do this to him? It seemed impossible. He should have never trusted the two. Never ever. But he had. And it had led to this.

     Nagria impassively hoisted Maddi onto her back, and Kylan scrambled on quickly after. The Gelert grasped onto the Kougra's scruff, holding him absolutely still. There was no turning back now. No time for second chances.

     The large Pteri turned back toward the door and ambled silently out. Flapping wings followed. And the three of them were off in the air; two heartless betrayers and the small Kougra who had been too trusting.

     ***************

      A gentle land was all it took for Maddi to feel immediately sick. Such a grueling feeling; spreading through his stomach and upwards towards his weak mind. Swirling, swirling; the images surrounding him were merely a blur.

     "Get off," Nagria grunted when she had come to a halt, forcing a pushing motion on her back.

     Kylan quickly slid off Nagria's back, but for some strange reason, Maddi didn't. He simply sat there, his eyes carrying such an uncanny blank expression. Through Kylan's eyes, it seemed as if Maddi wasn't a Kougra anymore. He was merely a body that was now left with no soul.

     "M-Maddi?" Kylan peeped, his mouth ever so slowly broadening.

     No reply. Only a distant, haunting gaze.

     "I think something's wrong with Maddi, Nagria," Kylan whispered, his emotions hitting an abrupt stop and flipping to a sour, nervous note.

     "Get off my back!" Nagria barked again. She pushed two of her claws off of the soil, and leaned her back downwards, forcing Maddi to quickly plummet off. The Kougra's body fell limply to the ground, but not a word escaped his lips.

     "Get up!" Nagria yelled furiously, giving a slight nudge to Maddi's ribs.

     Crick…

     The echo of the moaning trees in the Haunted Woods soared throughout the desolate air, piercing the ears of Nagria and Kylan.

     "What is wrong with him?!" Nagria exclaimed, frustrated. She kneeled down and began shaking Maddi violently, hoping that he would escape his bizarre trance. To the Pteri's dismay, nothing happened. The Kougra simply laid there, his eyes wider then before.

     "You think we should go get Hubrid?" Kylan anxiously inquired, never peeling his eyes away from Maddi.

     Nagria gazed at the baby Kougra, her maw releasing quick pants of air. A pause ensued, but as quickly as it came, Nagria broke it. "Yes," she whispered. "There's no point in waiting here for him to do nothing."

     Kylan finally broke his eye contact from Maddi. "Then let's go," he mumbled, his mind dazed from what was happening to the child.

     The faerie Gelert jumped onto Nagria's back, his brow bearing great beads of sweat. Without saying anything at all, Nagria fluttered her wings for a few seconds, and then leaped into the air, flying off to Hubrid's castle.

     Seconds slowly dragged by, nothing but the sound of the trees and wild creatures being perceived throughout the lingering area. There was one creature in particular, however, who could hear it the best and it made the hair on the back of his neck fly up. The creature was Maddi.

     "Finally!" Maddi suddenly bolted up from the ground, gasping for the precious air that he needed. "Oh, those two are finally gone!"

     The Kougra sat still for a moment, breathing as hard as he possibly could. He had been holding his breath for approximately a minute and a half now, and his chest was burning with pain.

     "I can't believe them," Maddi whispered crossly. "Betraying me like some fool! Curses to them!" He glared at the soil, his fists scrunching up into balls. "Well, it looks they're the stupid ones right now," the Kougra hissed. "They actually thought that something was wrong with me!"

     Maddi gradually stood up from the ground, his backside heavily bruised because of his abrupt fall from Nagria's back. Oh well, it was worth it, he thought. Maddi would now be able to travel to the castle freely. It was going to be enormously dangerous sneaking in and creeping around Hubrid's palace, but there was no doubt in the Kougra's mind that he would do it. He would get a hold of that puzzle box once and for all. He would destroy it, no matter what. Determination getting the better of him, Maddi slunk off silently.

     ***************

     It shouldn't have been hard to find a large castle in the middle of a sinister forest, where it was pretty much deserted. One would assume that at least. And Maddi had, and his hypothesis had failed him. It wasn't easy. Not at all.

     The Kougra padded as quietly as he could through the darkness, trying to be unnoticeable. He was ever-so alert, too, in case Nagria or Kylan approached. He was ready to flatten himself against any surface in a second, or dive down into a gnarled bush or rotted tree-trunk. But despite this, Maddi didn't travel slowly.

     His steps were quick; silent, but speedy. Wasting time now was not an option. Not that it ever really should've been, but now especially. The rules had become stricter. Don't be seen, don't ever trust, stay silent, stay hidden.

     The slightest sound made Maddi's hairs prickle. It could be a simple gust of wind, but to the Kougra, it could've been the world collapsing and he would've felt no different. Scared was not a strong enough word to describe his emotions during that trek through the Haunted Woods. Petrified… panicked… horrified. No, those weren't strong enough either. No word was strong enough. Not one in the dictionary.

     Maddi couldn't help himself. He suddenly felt tears burning in his eyes. The intensity of the situation had been aware to him for quite some time now, but it had just then reached the point of being too complicated for the child to understand. The Kougra longed for the comforting hug that only Nora could provide - the kind of hug only between a pet and owner. Would he ever feel a hug like that again? Would he even ever be hugged again?

     His alertness level dimmed as he pondered over this. Before it had seemed like everything would turn out okay, kind of like in those old storybooks Alli always used to read him. The main character would come back home and find his family all joyful and they'd live happily ever. Were those endings only in storybooks, though? Did they ever come true?

     Then he heard them. Voices in the distance. They were too far for him to hear the exact words, but Maddi knew his ears weren't deceiving him. These were real pets talking. The tones were muffled by the sounds of the Haunted Woods, though. He couldn't hear them very well at all; couldn't place them with anybody he knew. Did that mean it was help? Did that mean it wasn't Nagria and Kylan coming out to search for him? Was he saved? Would he discover a nice group of pets to help him find this puzzle box?

     Maddi was a little too eager for his own good, and in the bottom of his heart, he knew this. He knew that if he excitedly ran over to the voices that it would probably be his enemies. But… but what if it wasn't?

     The question stabbed at him like a sword in the Battledome, bewildering him beyond words. The urgent need of help haunted his mind. He had to be able to trust. He had to be able to take a chance…

     He walked slowly over, in an almost daze-like state. Maddi was so nervous, so unsure of his decision. Such a mistake this could be. Such a drastic mistake…

     He saw their silhouettes in the shadows. Three of them, standing hunched together. They were still talking, their voices low. But Maddi could finally comprehend the words.

     "For Hubrid's sake, Jacob, stop stalling! Nagria seemed pretty agitated and angry so this must be important!" a voice irately exclaimed.

     "Sorry," another voice murmured. "But I honestly don't see why you take so much faith in that Pteri, Lila. She's much higher-ranked than us three - she could be pulling our tails just for fun. This could be a scam, for all we know."

     A low growl. "Yes, she's higher-ranked. For a reason! She's not pulling our tails! You saw how Hubrid looked when he came in earlier! Miserable! This is definitely serious!"

     "I wouldn't be so sure, still, Lila. Honestly, you could be wrong and -"

     "Will you two PLEASE stop arguing?" A third voice. A voice Maddi recognized immediately. How could he not? "Nagria's not lying," it stated.

     "Yeah, sure, go on her side."

     The name pounded in Maddi's mind.

     "He's making the right decision, Jacob. He definitely is… being on my side, I mean. Aren't you, Kylan?"

     Kylan. The Gelert who had ruthlessly betrayed him. Before Maddi could even think, he took off running, his paws thumping against the ground harder than ever. He didn't look back. Didn't look back to see the three of them pursuing…

To Be Continued…

 
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Other Episodes


» Of Lights from Within: Part Five
» Of Lights from Within: Part Six
» Of Lights from Within: Part Seven
» Of Lights from Within: Part Nine
» Of Lights from Within: Part Ten



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