Curse of the Werelupe: Part Seven
Jenn sighed as she stared out the window of the Neolodge. She could feel her spirits ebbing away. It had been two days since Kieavin had come to the Haunted Woods, but none of her sons were to be found. She stood up as she saw a familiar green Shoyru in the doorway.
“Hey Mum,” Kieavin said brightly, stepping inside the moderately expensive suite. She shook raindrops off her tail. “It’s pouring out there!”
“Hey, Ki,” Jenn said, giving her daughter a hug. “Did you find anything?”
Kieavin gave a small smile. “I think I have,” she beamed happily. “And Fyri helped, of course. I think she went to a town attacked by the Werelupes a few days ago. Among other places.”
Jenn began to feel excited. “What did she say?” she asked desperately.
Kieavin was about to speak when her jaw dropped. Jenn whirled around to look out the window after her. Then she gripped the chair in front of her hard. “Minotaur? Gioama?”
“And it’s about time, too,” Kieavin said with a grin. “I lost them days ago.”
Jenn smiled at her. “You seem happy to see them,” she commented with a hint of sarcasm.
Of course Kieavin missed it. “I’m really happy,” she said. “I was just saying that it took a lot longer for them to follow the road than I did.”
“Didn’t they go off the road?” Jenn asked. “Never mind. Let’s just go greet them.’”
At once Kieavin had bounded out of the room, Jenn following rather more slowly. She stepped carefully down the rickety stairs of the Neolodge and the lobby came into view just as Kieavin flung herself at her brothers, knocking them both onto the floor, across the carpet and finally into the wall.
Jenn ran forward to help, then decided against it. It was just too funny to watch. She saw Minotaur untangle himself from the pile and Gioama hugging his sister back. And she half expected Minotaur to begin scolding Kieavin, but the Yurble just stood shaking his head, his expression one of amazement.
“Miss me much?” he asked, rubbing his arm.
Kieavin sat up and grinned at him. “Why wouldn’t I?” she asked innocently.
Minotaur’s face broke into a hearty smile and he patted Kieavin on the head. “Indeed. I missed you as well.”
Then he turned to Jenn, who was shocked that Minotaur had been nice to his sister. The Yurble grinned at her. “Hey, Mum,” he said brightly. “Sorry about taking so long. We just had to fight off a few Werelupes.” He sounded so nonchalant and Jenn was shocked. She also realised that it had been the first time he had called her Mum since he had returned from the Pound.
“Yeah!” Gioama interjected. “We fought ‘em off. They didn’t stand a chance!”
Minotaur rolled his eyes, but Kieavin looked excited. “Really?” she asked, jiggling up and down with impatience. “Tell me all about it.”
“I’ll just leave them to their retelling of great adventures.” Minotaur sighed. “But we saw Fanger. He was with the Werelupes.”
“We figured after some help from a friend,” Jenn told him as the made their way up the stairs, leaving the other two behind to discuss the same topic, among other things.
She opened the door to her room, left unlocked in her haste to get downstairs. Minotaur plonked himself down on the bed, settling down appreciatively. Jenn pulled out a chair from the table and sat down opposite him.
“So what did you see?” she asked him.
His face became sober. “We left the path, as I’m sure Kieavin told you. And we went into a town where they were preparing for an attack from the Werelupes. Then the Werelupes came and Fanger was with them. Only he thought his name was Daggerclaw.”
Jenn nodded slowly. Then she told him everything Fyri had told her. His eyes became two full moons as he listened, widening with every word. When she was done, he sank down into the bed.
“So we have until tomorrow night to get him back,” Minotaur queried. He ran a paw through his mane. Jenn smiled at the familiar gesture.
Minotaur caught the smile. He gazed intently at her. “Mum...” he began. “I’m sorry about being so resentful when I came back. I guess I just... well, I think I was jealous. Of Gioama. But now I know that he feels bad, and I feel bad as well...” His voice trailed off.
Jenn smiled at him and pulled him into a hug. “You don’t have anything to be jealous of,” she said softly. “I should never have abandoned you.”
She almost missed Minotaur’s next words, so quiet they were almost imperceptible. “Thanks, Mum...”
* * *
Daggerclaw sat in a lone corner of the clearing, trying to clear his mind. All he could think of was the attack two nights ago. There was something familiar about those pets, but he couldn’t put a paw on it. He rubbed his temples vigorously, hoping to clear his mind. But it didn’t work, and it left him feeling listless as ever.
He was startled when a branch cracked behind him, and he spun around quickly, only to find himself face to face with Shadowheart. The massive Werelupe looked down at him, and Daggerclaw couldn’t help but feel a stab of fear. Then Shadowheart settled himself on the ground and spoke.
“Tomorrow night, and you will finally be one of us,” he murmured in a gravely voice.
Daggerclaw nodded, shuffling uneasily. Shadowheart’s crimson eyes beamed onto him and did not move away. “That’s what you want, isn’t it?” he asked softly in a honeyed voice. “Because I’d never force you to do anything.”
A hacking cough behind them signalled the arrival of Redfang. She stumbled out of the trees behind them, looking like she had just heard a great joke. She subsided when Shadowheart sent her a dark look, hovering at his side. Daggerclaw wondered what had made her cough so hard. In fact, it had sounded suspiciously like a cough...
Shadowheart cleared his throat and stood up, padding slowly away. Redfang followed him. He glared at her and growled.
“Why did you barge into our conversation, and with that expression on your face?”
Redfang shrugged. “I guess it was just too much fun listening to you. He looks so innocent. The innocent ones are the best sport.” She grinned and he gave a small shrug.
“As true as that may be...”
“Come on, tomorrow is the Full Moon. It will be near impossible to fight your magic after that.”
Shadowheart just grunted and padded away. Redfang turned and saw Daggerclaw standing up and loping out of the clearing, away into the dark recesses of the woods. She watched him, a smile of satisfaction on her face. But if she had known what he had been thinking, she wouldn’t have been so satisfied.
Daggerclaw wasn’t sure what he was going to do. On one hand, the Werelupes had made him feel so welcome, but there was something sinister about the way Shadowheart spoke to him. And he couldn’t remember what had happened before he had joined them. If only he knew, it would make his choice so much easier.
He stared up at the sky, where the moon was slowly becoming more visible, and let out a sigh of satisfaction. At least the moon would always be there. One thing in his life that would remain constant. He closed his eyes and felt himself drifting off into sleep...
* * *
Jenn shielded her eyes against the bright glare of the Kreludor. The full moon’s light was brighter than she had expected, and the weather was chilled. It seemed eerie that the storm clouds from yesterday could still be hovering in the sky – a constant threat to that night’s purpose – and yet there was a gap in the clouds where the moon could clearly be seen.
At her side strode Minotaur, paws clenched around a Rainbow Gun that he had found whilst browsing the market. If he hit Fanger by accident, it wouldn’t do much more than daze him. Kieavin stood on her left, wings carrying he silently through the night. She only flew when agitated. Gioama ran constant circles around them, eyes bright with excitement. It got to a point where Jenn sent him a quelling look. Sobered, he padded behind her.
The night was almost completely silent; the only sounds were a cool breeze rustling the branches overhead and their footsteps, barely noticeable. Jenn felt a certain sense of expectation hovering in the air and shivered. They didn’t even know where they were going.
After Minotaur and Gioama had told their complete story, adding which direction they had seen the Werelupes flee to, Kieavin had admitted that it was the same place that Fyri had told her. And now they were stumbling blindly through the Haunted Woods, not even sure if they were going in the right direction. Jenn clenched her fists. It was better than trying nothing.
“What do you think they’ll do?” Gioama asked rather too loudly for her sense of caution. She hushed him with a gesture.
“Probably try to eat us,” she joked feebly. “But we have to get Fanger back first. Then we’ll deal with the Werelupes.”
Gioama frowned as Minotaur gripped his weapon tighter. “How come Minotaur gets a weapon and I don’t?” he protested.
Jenn sighed and fished out the Rainbow Gun she had kept hidden in the hope that she wouldn’t have to trust Gioama with it. Then she realised that she couldn’t exclude Gioama because of his youth. She had excluded Minotaur in a much nastier way when she had abandoned him, and look where that had ended up. It was the reason Fanger was a Werelupe to begin with. Gioama had explained the difference between a Werelupe and a Halloween Lupe, and somehow she believed him fully.
“Shhh...” Kieavin hissed suddenly. She froze and turned to the left, raising her Leaf Shield. Then she peered over it hesitantly. Two crimson eyes peered out from the undergrowth. Jenn gripped Minotaur’s fur, and the Yurble’s nostrils flared. But not because of her.
“It’s Redfang, isn’t it?” he asked lazily. Jenn was amazed at the calmness in his voice.
A large Lupe stepped out into the light of the moon. Her fur was a deep silver from the moon’s ray, and there was no trace of brown. But her fur was long and mangy, and along with her eyes and claws revealed that she was still a Werelupe.
“The meddling little Yurble,” she said in a cool tone. “And his little brother.” She paused to survey them all. “Tsk, quite a gathering, isn’t it?”
Jenn stepped forward. “And we came for one purpose. Where’s Fanger?” She wasn’t in the mood for pleasant chat.
“Fanger?” Redfang said mildly. “I don’t believe I know anyone with that name.” She inspected a gunky claw carefully, and Jenn shuddered, repulsed.
“You might call him Daggerclaw,” Minotaur suggested. “But he’s my brother, and he’s a part of our family. We want him back.”
“Oh, but you’re a little too late for that,” Redfang said, a growl beginning to form in her throat. “Go back to where you came from. Daggerclaw is one of us now.”
There was a scuffling noise on the other side of the clearing, and all five turned to see another Werelupe wending his way through the trees.
“Am I really?” he asked. Bright eyes shone out, as bright as the moon. They were half red, half green. Gioama recovered first.
To be continued...