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The Nameless Warrior: Part Four


by moonlit_danaa

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ZipStreamer, now an Island Eyrie, stood forlornly by the docks. His owner, Dhiibshowl, stood beside him.

     "Maybe he got free," Dhiibshowl suggested.

     ZipStreamer shook his head. "Then he would've come and visited me. You are keeping an eye out in the Registers, right?"

     "Yes."

     They stood in silence, gazing at the dark castle that dared them to come closer. Finally, Dhiibshowl sighed.

     "Well, all we can do is hope for the best," he told ZipStreamer before returning to their house.

     ZipStreamer grudgingly took his gaze from the cloud and sighed. "It's been two months," he whispered to himself. "Where did you go?"

     Balthazar returned to his den and noticed that his young charge - still nameless, which was nice and simple like Balthazar liked - had returned and was napping. His coat shone a bit more, was a bit healthier now that he was getting better meals. Newly formed muscles from sparring rippled underneath the red fur.

     "Boy," Balthazar grunted.

     The Lupe jumped awake, instantly alert, an instinct that Balthazar approved of. He blinked a minute and sat up. Still a small, runty pup, he nevertheless had grown broader in chest and had taken to Balthazar's lessons with a ferocious intensity that had surprised his mentor. Balthazar could see he still didn't approve of catching and selling faeries, but since the pup never voiced any objections, he really didn't care what thoughts roamed through that red head.

     "How many'd you get?" he asked.

     "Ten." The pup poked at his bag.

     "Good," Balthazar said. "You hungry?" A pointless question, really; the pup had hit a growth spurt of some kind and now was perpetually hungry no matter how soon he had last eaten. Thankfully, the pup had learned to roam the world and found his own pickings, so Balthazar didn't have to worry about keeping a stash of food in the den.

     "Yep."

     Balthazar humphed to himself and dug in his bag. "Found this in the Desert. Shouldn't be that bad."

     The pup took it eagerly and scarfed if down, another habit that Balthazar suspected came from a previous home in which he was not given enough food. Turning to his own bag, he lined the shelves with the bottles he had filled.

     "We'll need new bottles. When you go out again, keep an eye out."

     Nodding his head - his mouth was full of food - the pup watched him line up the bottles. When he had swallowed, he told Balthazar, "Another village in Meridell got raided."

     Balthazar snorted. "I know. I've been offered a position in Kass's army."

     The pup kept silent. Balthazar glanced at him. "What're you thinking?" he asked.

     "Whether or not you'll agree." The pup glanced at him sideways - he never met anyone's eyes, for any reason.

     Balthazar grunted. "I haven't had a Battledome challenger for a long while. Haven't seen anyone worth inviting."

     Still, the pup remained silent.

     Grumbling about annoying pups, Balthazar turned around. "Yes, I'm thinking about agreeing. The pay's good."

     The pup wrinkled his nose but offered no protest. Balthazar could tell that the pup disliked the idea, but he didn't care what the pup thought.

     "Go, wander around a bit." Balthazar turned back to his bottles.

     The red Lupe entered Neopia Central and glanced around. As always, it was busy, people milling about with their pets. The slight pang of jealously kicked in, like normal, but he ignored it to slip into a ship heading towards Mystery Island. Hiding under a seat on which a boy sat with his Shoyru, he listened into various conversations:

     "- don't really like her."

     The Shoyru sighed noisily. "I don't care. You're only complaining about her 'cause she rated your shop a 1/10. And you've already told me how cool her shop looks -"

     "But she could've been a little nicer."

     The boat stopped moving and people rose to disembark.

     "Maybe she's being truthful in her opinion. She doesn't have any reason to dislike you." The Shoyru paused. "You have the right codestone this time, right?"

     "Yeah, yeah, I do. I still don't like her."

     The voices grew fainter and he poked his head out. All clear. Slinking through the shadows, he leapt quietly down onto the shore of Mystery Island and melted into the forest, heading towards the Training School.

     From trips made often before, he knew a small, barely used path that would allow him to sneak close enough to watch the students train and not be noticed. Balthazar's lessons and the abilities Jhudora had given him helped him immensely, and he soon situated himself and watched the sensei teach the various pets.

     A chill crept over him, and he whipped around to stare into ghostly eyes. Mouth agape, he leapt sideways, into the bushes, and stared in shock and surprise at a huge ghost Lupe.

     "Who are you?" the ghostly form asked; the voice echoed oddly, as if the speaker was at the end of a long tunnel.

     Gathering as much courage as he could, he whispered, "I have no name."

     The ghost peered down at him. "Why do you come here so often?" it asked instead.

     "I - I like to watch the students train," he mumbled, plastering himself to the ground and inching away.

     "Why do you watch them train?"

     "To learn," he muttered, apprehension starting to wane.

     A long silence followed, and after ten minutes, the Lupe looked up at the ghost. Floating serenely, the ghost still gazed at him with an inscrutable expression on its transparent features. Finally, it said, "I could teach you if you so desire it."

     The Lupe sat up in surprise, eyes wide. "You - you would? You - you really would?"

     The ghost looked at him disdainfully. "I have said so already, have I not?"

     The Lupe sunk back down respectfully. "Yes sir," he said in a subdued voice. "I would like that very much, sir."

     "Then follow."

     The ghost suddenly left, and the Lupe scrambled to his feet and chased after him. Turning a corner, he came face to face with a huge cavern. Poking his head in, he saw the luminescent shape in the back of the cave.

     "Come forward, take up the sword. The first step to becoming a warrior is not of the training of the body, but the training of the mind."

     Lord Kass's attack on Meridell was on the lips and tongues of everyone; it only drove the red Lupe mad with boredom. Living close to the action, seeing the bodies of dead pets, smelling the stench of death, scouring the field for survivors, had seriously disturbed him, and he hated the way that those around him talked so casually about it. Balthazar had parted ways with him earlier - while he had not officially joined Kass's troops, he did take part of the spoils from the towns. Of the late, he had been staying in Tyrannia; he stayed in the Lair of the Beast, since it really didn't care as long as he didn't travel all the way down the tunnel.

     But he had gotten truly fed up with all of it; he kept away from Meridell, though he could not escape the gossip that haunted him.

     Except when he visited Mystery Island and studied under the Ghost Lupe, as he was now. Checking to make sure no one was watching, he disappeared into the woods of Mystery Island, to the deserted cave.

     He felt the familiar presence, and turned to see the ghost standing there. Glowing in the dark, his mentor analyzed him carefully before saying, "You have come far from what you were."

     The red Lupe bowed his head in thanks, a small glow of happiness and pride burning bright.

     "Your journey is one you must walk alone," the ghost said finally. "Your path is long, filled with the evils of the heart, but you should be able to withstand them."

     The Lupe blinked and looked up. "What?"

     "You have reached the limits of my teaching. What you must learn now is not of words, but of the heart. Your path starts in Meridell." Then the ghost began to fade.

     "Don't -!" the Lupe cried, jumping to his feet and stepping forward.

     The ghost gave a tiny twitch of his head, and the Lupe obediently sat back down. "Take up the sword. Use the armor. And find your path in Meridell."

     And then the Ghost Lupe was gone.

     For a moment, he sat there forlornly, feeling adrift. Before it was Balthazar who gave him purpose, and then it was the Ghost Lupe who took over the guiding of his life. And now he was left without anyone. Left alone, as he had been before . . .

     Determination stole onto him. He had the training now that he could face his life alone, without needing anyone. And he wouldn't need anyone. He'd go to Meridell and help the villagers there. There was only so much Jeran could do alone, what with King Skarl ignoring the pleas of help in favor of watching that new dancer.

     And he'd respected. Admired.

     And maybe even cared about.

To be continued...

 
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