The Nameless Warrior: Part Four
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?"
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
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.
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
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
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."
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
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
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...