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Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Two


by nimras23

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Yesterday's afternoon downpour had blown through during the night, much to Jeran's relief. He would not have liked to walk through the forest in a downpour of rain. A few fluffy white clouds rested on the horizon of a sapphire blue sky and wild petpets frisked about in both the underbrush and the tree branches; such a morning made it hard to believe that there was anything evil in the world.

     Danner had been right; the walk itself wasn't that far at all. Before Jeran knew it, they were to Duke Lether's pastures, where a mixed flock of Whinnies and Babaas sniffed him curiously, then decided the blue Lupe wasn't really all that interesting.

     "I think," Danner said, "that we've determined something very important."

     "What's that?" Mareian asked curiously, looking up from the Whinny she was petting.

     "Babaas don't like me."

     Looking around with a surprised blink, Jeran suppressed a laugh. While the Whinnies curiously followed the trio around, all the Babaas had moved to huddle together in the pen's corner furthest from the blue Wocky. "I don't suppose it was mutton you ate for dinner last night," he teased.

     "I'm not sure," Danner admitted. "I think last night was the mystery meatloaf."

     "Eww," Mareian said, "you actually ate the meatloaf?"

     "Beats Jeran's cooking," Danner shot back.

     "Hey!" Jeran exclaimed, pantomiming injury. "My cooking isn't that bad."

     "Jeran." The blue Wocky gave the Lupe a long look. "Even the Warf wouldn't eat the eggs you scrambled."

     "That was years ago."

     "It's still pretty bad." Mareian gave him a playful push.

     "You weren't even there," he retorted, pushing her in return.

     "That doesn't mean it's any worse." Giving him a toothy grin, she continued, "Besides, what are you going to do about it, prove me wrong?"

     "Nope." Reaching over, he easily picked up the tiny pirate Lupess and tossed her onto his shoulder like a sack of grain. "I'll just keep you here until you concede defeat."

     "Jeran!" Mareian swatted his back. "Put me down, you big blue doofus."

     At least that's what Jeran thought she said; between Danner's laughter and the pirate Lupess' giggles, some of the words were hard to understand.

     "I mean it, put me down or I'll - Jeran!" Her laughter turned into a shriek of terror.

     Jeran managed to swing her safely down to the ground right before a mass of dark brown fur slammed into him, throwing the large blue Lupe to the ground. Years of training and reflex took over as Jeran fought the mad blur, but the back of his mind was forced to admit he might have met his match. Fortunately, Danner and Mareian were there too.

     Danner's bolt missed.

     Mareian's dagger didn't.

     The brown blur of fur stumbled and dropped, much to the relief of Jeran. "A Werelupe?" Mareian asked. "Aren't we a little close to the glade to worry about those?"

     "They're pretty rare here," Danner agreed, "but it's not unheard of. It would also explain the missing petpets. Werelupes are smart; the barn's latches wouldn't slow one down at all."

     "I'm just glad he didn't wait until we split up," Jeran said, panting. "He was fast."

     Mareian looked up at him, then swore. "Jeran, you're hurt."

     "I am?" Jeran blinked. He didn't remember getting hurt. But the fight had been so fast... Glancing down to his arm where Mareian was staring, Jeran winced at the shredded cloth of his sleeve. She was right. "It doesn't hurt at all," he protested, as sick feeling rising in his stomach. He was being truthful; it honestly didn't hurt. But it should. He'd had plenty of experience to know what a slash like that should feel like. He should barely be able to use his hand. Unconsciously he flexed his hand into a tight fist.

     Mareian grabbed his uninjured arm. "Come on," she said. "We need to go see Illusen."

     "What about him?" Danner motioned to the still form. "We can't just leave a Werelupe in the middle of Duke Lether's pasture."

     "Grab one of the stable hands and have them carry a message to your office. Someone there can take care of it." Jeran was more than happy to let her take charge for the moment. He had far bigger worries on his mind, like trying to remember what percentage of Werelupe bites infected the receiver.

     Fortunately, Illusen's hut wasn't that far of a walk at all. Even better, the earth Faerie was home, tending to a late blooming berry bush against her house. Seeing Jeran's soaked and tattered sleeve, she quickly ushered them inside. Her eyes were full of questions she didn't voice until after she'd carefully cleaned his wounded bicep.

     "That," the Faerie said, "is a very nasty bite. What happened, did Mareian finally lose her temper at you?"

     Jeran grimaced. "Not quite."

     "We were checking out some missing petpets," Danner explained. "Someone's been raiding Duke Lether's herds. A Werelupe attacked us; Jeran got the brunt of it."

     Illusen arched an eyebrow. "The three of you were just standing around and it attacked you? It didn't wait until someone wandered off?"

     "Not exactly." Mareian made a wry face. "We were kind of goofing off. Jeran and I were playing push you-push me and then he picked me up..."

     Her voice trailed off as Illusen nodded. "That makes sense," she said.

     "I think we have a bigger concern than why it attacked," Danner interrupted. "Like if it infected Jeran or not."

     Jeran suppressed the urge to agree. That was the question he was worried about and the one he wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer to.

     "Don't be daft," Illusen snapped. "Of course he's infected with a bite like that." Seeing Danner's horrified expression, Illusen's face softened. "How much do you know about Werelupes?"

     "Not much," he admitted, "only that they're smart, dangerous, and can be contagious to other Lupes if they get bitten."

     Jeran stayed silent. Right now the little he did know was suddenly not enough.

     Illusen nodded. "This could take a while. Mareian, would you be a sweetheart and brew us some tea?" The tiny Lupess hopped off the perch she'd claimed as her chair and headed though the door that marked the boundary between the room they were in and the kitchen. Cocking his head, Jeran could hear the slight sounds of pots rattling. Mareian obviously knew her way fairly well around the hut's kitchen.

     Danner coughed, looking awkward. "Was there any particular reason you sent her away?

     Sweeping back her green streaked hair with her fingers, Illusen shook her head. "Not really, other than the fact that she knows most - if not all - of this already, and I'm getting thirsty."

     Jeran was curious where his Lupess had learned so much about Werelupes, but before he could ask, Illusen started her explanation. "I suppose the best way to describe a Werelupe is as a prototypical Lupe. All the control over the instinctual responses they learned as cubs is gone, and their wild, or maybe feral would be a better term, instincts rule. A Werelupe is as intelligent as he was before he was bitten, but he doesn't retain anything he learned before he transformed."

     Seeing Danner's confused face, she clarified, "If he'd known beforehand how to pick a lock, he wouldn't remember how after he became a Werelupe. But he could easily figure it out and teach himself to pick them again afterwards."

     "If they're that smart," Danner said, "then the one that bit Jeran should have known we'd separate eventually. Why did he attack us? Farmhands are in and out of there all day."

     Illusen shook her head. "That's where the inability to control their instincts comes in. Werelupes had a near uncontrollable pack instinct; protect their pack, protect Lupesses and protect Lupe cubs. He was probably perfectly content to watch you from afar until Jeran pushed Mareian. He wasn't attacking you, he was protecting her."

     Danner looked at the injured Lupe. "Bummer luck, Jeran. As if you weren't overprotective of her before."

     Jeran gave his friend a dirty look. "Thanks."

     "We're just lucky we knew within hours of Jeran being bitten," Mareian said, carefully balancing the tray of tea as she pushed open the door. "The cure takes a while to make."

     "So there is a cure." Danner's voice made his relief obvious.

     "Of course there's a cure," Illusen said. "The problem is, most people wait too long for it to do any good. Werelupe bites don't hurt, so they don't have a healer look at it, until they simply run out of time."

     Jeran accepted a cup of tea Mareian offered him, and drank the warm liquid gratefully. He needed a warm drink at the moment. "How long will it take to make the cure?" Jeran asked.

     "A couple of weeks; which reminds me, I'll need to borrow Mareian to fetch stuff for me while I work on it."

     Jeran nodded; he certainly wasn't going to begrudge Illusen any help she may need for this.

     "You'd think," Danner said, "that they'd simply keep the cure around in bulk so it didn't have to take forever to brew it each time someone got infected."

     "I'm afraid it doesn't work that way," Illusen made a wry face. "It has to be made specific for each person, and even then it can fail about a quarter of the time. Especially if they're sick with something else as well, or weak."

     Danner looked shocked. "A twenty five percent failure rate? What happens if it fails?"

     Mareian's quiet voice managed to have far more impact that Danner's demanding one. "They don't survive."

     While Danner gaped and sputtered incoherently, Jeran heaved a sigh and ran the hand of his good arm though the fur between his ears. It figured. Though if someone had to be bitten, he by far preferred himself over Mareian, despite what Illusen said about how a Werelupe would never attack her. Apparently sensing his distress, Mareian came and sat next to him, leaning against him comfortingly.

     Danner managed to finally find his voice. "There has to be a better alternative than that."

     Illusen shook her head. "There isn't, but I don't think Jeran's in too much danger. It's the old and the sick that have a hard time of it; Jeran's a full knight in his prime."

     Jeran began to cautiously feel better. Unlike Danner, Illusen and Mareian were both acting like this was something that could be dealt with. He trusted Illusen, and she didn't seem too worried about how this would turn out.

     "We'll have to take precautions of course," Illusen said to Jeran after a moment's reflection. "It's likely that you'll turn into a Werelupe before the cure is finished, and we'll need somewhere to keep you safe and from infecting anyone else until you're cured, Jeran."

     That, on the other hand, wasn't helping him feel better.

     "There's some solitary cells," Danner said after a moment's hesitation. "They're in a separate part of the jail; no one goes there. It should be strong enough to hold in a Werelupe."

     "If they're the ones I'm thinking of, those should be perfect," Illusen agreed.

     The rest of the week was all one big blur to Jeran. He hardly saw Mareian at all, as Illusen kept her busy with gathering the cure's ingredients. For the first time, he was truly glad that Lisha was in Brightvale teaching a class at the Royal University. She wouldn't have handled this nearly as well as Mareian seemed to. Though, he admitted to himself, her graceful handling of the situation may have more to do with how busy Illusen was keeping her than anything else.

     His mother, Anna, was handling it better than he would have thought too. The red Zafara calmly admitted that Illusen knew far more about such bites than she did, and other than re-bandaging his arm every day, the practical physician acted as if nothing had happened.

     In short, everyone had something to do and acting as if they had no worries about the outcome. Jeran envied them. All he could do was sit quietly and act like nothing was going on while he waited to turn into a monster. While the prospect of locking himself up was uncomfortable, Jeran was terrified of what would happen if he lost control while free. What if he hurt Mareian? Or one of the pages? He promised himself that he'd turn himself in to Danner if the word "tasty" ever entered his mind when he saw a Chia.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part One
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Three
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Four
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Five
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Instincts - Part Six



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