Reunited: Part Four
It took them much less time to get back to Sophie’s hut than it had when they were looking for Smokey. Granted, they didn’t have to follow Werelupe tracks or go in circles. Soon enough they were back in Sophie’s shack sipping hot tea by the fire. Sophie had disappeared from the room, probably to give brother and sister some time to be alone. Neither of them spoke, however, only smiled at each other occasionally, and soon Sophie returned, carrying once again a tray of pastries. Shanna didn’t even dare take one. Smokey, who had no experience with Sophie’s cooking, took one and bit into it. Shanna held back a laugh at his look of disgust. When Sophie wasn’t looking, he thrust the rest of the treat at the same plant that Shanna had poured her stew into. It still looked dead, but it had now sprouted a few strange new leaves that looked oddly like tentacles.
It was then that conversation began at long last.
“So,” said Sophie as she chewed on her treat. “Why is it that you doubled back, Smokey?”
The large shadow Lupe glanced at Shanna. “I need to get my father.” While he had been addressing the Swamp Witch, his eyes had never left Shanna’s.
Shanna could hardly believe it. A feeling of uncontrollable joy and elation swept over her. “Father’s here!”
It came as a surprise when Smokey’s nod was a grim one. “Surely you’ve wondered why the Werelupes were hunting me so passionately.” The other two nodded for him to continue. “The Werelupes are very protective creatures.”
Shanna gave him a doubtful look, and Sophie let out a resentful, “Ha!”
“No, really, they are... well, to cubs at least. They found me on the shore and took me with them, under the impression that I would be killed if I remained on that shore... they probably would have taken you too, but I think when we were swept to land we must have been separated.”
Shanna, once again, could not believe what she was hearing. “You mean to tell me that you were taken in by Werelupes!”
“Do not judge them so harshly, Shanna. The Werelupes are poor cursed creatures. They only kill when they must, or at the full moon, when their curse is strongest. They can’t help it.” Her brother’s face held a pitying expression for the poor creatures.
“Now, to continue with my tale. As I have said, the Werelupes were very protective and wished not for any cubs to go missing, so for many years I could do nothing but remain with them. When I got older, I gained more freedom. There were times when I could get away for a while and visit places in the Woods. I went to Neovia, among other places, but I could never find you or Father.”
Shanna nodded in understanding. Shanna did not often pay visits to Neovia, as she was somewhat of a social outcast to most of the world.
“Somehow, nearly a month ago, Father discovered me. But by then, the Werelupes wished not to give me up to him. They considered me part of the pack, and would do anything to prevent my leaving.” He paused, and Shanna could hear the sadness in his voice. “They hid Father some place I did not know. Soon, I found the place, and attempted to rescue him... that was four days ago. When they discovered what I was doing, they of course tried to stop me, so I ran.”
He took a deep breath, as if he could once again feel the wind rushing through his face as the Werelupes trotted behind him. “I had gathered some very nasty little injuries from things like those trees back there, among other oddities. I was running for two days when I finally happened to come across Sophie here.” He smiled gratefully at the Ixi.
If Shanna had been tired before, she certainly wasn’t now. She was suddenly full of unexplainable energy. She wanted to go now and find her father.
She didn’t even notice that she had actually risen from her chair, and Sophie and Smokey were giving her looks of confusion.
“Shanna, what -”
She cut the Swamp Witch off. “Why are we all just sitting here - we need to go NOW!”
Judging by the looks the other two were giving her, they were about to give her a reasoned argument. How she hated reason!
“Look, Shanna. It’s the dead of night; worst of all we’re getting very close to the full moon. The Werelupes will be more uncontrollable tonight than we can handle.” How could Smokey talk like that, when it was his father as well who needed saving?
“No ‘buts’, Shanna, it’s far too dangerous. Now, I think we should all get a good night’s rest, then we can come up with a proper plan.” He put particular emphasis on the word proper.
The brown Lupess stomped away haughtily to the room where she usually slept. Beside Smokey in the opposite armchair, Sophie sighed. “I hate family reunions.”
She tried, she really did, but the urge to sleep would not come to her. She groaned in frustration and punched her pillow as if it had done her a great personal wrong. Why did everyone have to be so logical and cling to their reason? Why was it that no one could go out on a limb anymore?
She sat upright in her bed, knowing that she’d heard something. She strained her ears. Someone was moving...
With amazing agility, she rose to her feet without making a sound and quietly opened the door. Much to her satisfaction, the door did not give its usual menacing squeak. She stole a careful glance into the room from where the movement came, and was surprised to see her brother, fussing with an old sack.
“And just where,” she began to ask him, “do you think you’re going?” She had the pleasure of seeing him drop the bag, whose contents spilled out onto the creaky wooden floor, and jump out of his fur.
“Shanna!” he exclaimed through gritted teeth. “Go back to bed!”
She was doing her best to keep her anger thoroughly bottled up inside her, but when she spoke there was an iciness in her tone. “So, this is what you call a proper plan? Running off in the middle of the night to do it alone? What happened to ‘not in the middle of the night’ and ‘we’ll all go together’?”
Smokey did not speak for a long moment, rather picked up the various items that had fallen to the floor. Finally, when all of the items once again rested in his bag, he responded, “Look, it would be too dangerous for you and Sophie to come along, so I’m doing this myself.”
“Sophie and I are just as capable as you! You’re just being the typical overprotective big brother that you’ve always been!” She was touched at Smokey’s concern, but she had just as much right to go after her father than her elder brother, and would not take no for an answer.
Smokey still continued to argue with her. “After all that’s happened over the last ten years, can you blame me for being the ‘typical overprotective big brother’? Shanna, all these years, I barely dreamed - I thought that you were -”
He apparently did not wish to complete that thought, and left it hanging.
“I’m coming with you, now stop arguing!”
Smokey opened his mouth as if to make a retort, but then thought better if it. “Fine,” he said, with obvious misgivings, “but be careful.”
Shanna laughed. “Aren’t I always?” It didn’t come as a surprise when the tall shadow Lupe failed to laugh along. The brown Lupess quickly gathered up what supplies she might need, including her dagger, the potion Sophie had made, and her large brown traveling cloak. She still had no idea what purpose Sophie’s potion would serve, but it seemed the height of foolishness not to take it along just in case. Sophie had obviously brewed it for a reason, after all.
“Ready?” said her brother’s deep voice from the door. He seemed to be having second thoughts about taking her along with him.
“Yep, let’s get going!” she exclaimed, not giving him the time to have his second thoughts. The two of them headed out the door alone, or so they thought.
Now that they had vanished into the night, Sophie the Swamp Witch fully opened the door behind which she had been standing. She found their argument amusing, but was nonetheless angry that they had not bothered to wake her. Shanna knew that Sophie had wanted to come along. Smokey, who had known Sophie for a very short amount of time, probably didn’t know any better, but Sophie would make sure he did after all of this was over.
Once she was content that they would not hear her coming outside, Sophie grabbed her own sack, which she had never unpacked, and she too headed out the door, locking it behind her as she went. She hadn’t even noticed that her witch’s staff was still leaning against the fireplace...
To be continued...