Highrock Pack History Songs: Song for Three Voices - Part Three
Startled Skree Shrieks Loudly glared at the intruder. A Tyrannian Ixi had no place in the territory of the Dragon Canyon Pack. “Leave now stranger, or you will be made to leave.” She growled softly. The other laughed outright, his shaggy fur rippling with his movements.
“And why exactly should I listen to you, lil’ lady? Sorry miss, but you wouldn’t even scare a feepit, much less a seasoned stone dome champion like me.” He swung his forward swept horns meaningfully. “I’m on my way to the plateau for just that reason, and you’re standin’ in front of the fastest route there from my hometown.”
Shriek growled, frustrated. She was used to being teased about her coloration. She had to admit, faerie wasn’t the most intimidating of colors, even in a Lupe. She would have to teach this interloper not to judge by appearances. He might have trained to increase his strength, but his instincts weren’t honed by a life spent living by his wits. The Ixi must have seen the defiance in her eyes, because he snorted and charged headlong towards her.
Shriek knew from bitter experience that any attempt to avoid a charge from a horned foe was futile. Jumping sideways would open her to his rear hooves. Trying to flee would lure him further into the pack’s territory. So, she didn’t try to avoid him at all. She charged forward to meet him. She could tell from his smirk that he thought she had made a mistake, and he was now sure of his victory. He lowered his head to hook her with those fearsome horns. Making sure that her wings were tucked firmly against her back, Shriek dove downward and swatted at his legs with a forepaw.
The startled Ixi was too caught up in his charge to firmly plant his feet, as the Lupe knew he would be. He went down like a felled tree, lashing out instinctively with his hooves and horns. Shriek, anticipating just that sort of thing, leapt clear, unfurling her wings and gliding a few feet away. Suddenly, there was a horrible squelching noise, and the Ixi gave a bellow of terror. He had fallen atop a primordial thing, and it had instinctively reached out with its tentacles to defend itself. As a commonly eaten treat in Tyrannia, it defended itself by wrapping up its attacker with its many tentacles to neutralize the threat. The Ixi was completely pinned down.
“Get this thing off of me! Let me up!” he cried. Shriek shook her head.
“So you can get back up and rampage through our territory again? I think not.”
“Let me up, and I’ll leave,” he panted, exhausted by his futile efforts to break free. Shriek smiled, turning her head coyly to the side.
“Maybe I will. Or maybe I should just leave you there for a while, to make sure that the lesson sticks.” She turned around, as if to leave. From the sounds behind her, she could tell that the Ixi was flailing wildly. Feeling a flash of pity, she sighed, and turned around. Picking up a stick in her jaws, she carefully poked the primordial thing’s pollen pod. All of the tentacles went limp in the same instant, falling free of the Ixi. He stood, shaking his shaggy head. With a snort, he trotted off in the direction he had come from.
* * * * *
“And so, a threat to the pack has been neutralized. I doubt that we’ll be seeing that Ixi again.” Shriek said, concluding her retelling of the events of the morning. The little pups gazed up at her with shining eyes, their tails wagging in excitement. She had relieved the babysitter around midday, taking her turn to watch the future of the pack. The pack needed this future. Many of her packmates had disappeared recently, without a trace. Try as she might, she had been unable to find them.
Suddenly, she heard a soft crack from behind her. The faerie Lupess whirled around, hackles raised threateningly. Any threat to the pups would have to get through her first. Nothing emerged from the underbrush, but Shriek could hear murmuring from deeper in the forest. A pack member would have signaled their presence by now, which meant that whoever was there wasn’t pack. A possible threat, so close the den where the pups where, could not be tolerated. With a flick of her tail, the faerie Lupess sent the pups scurrying for the safety of the den. While she was taking a risk leaving them, it was more of a risk to leave the unknown enemy out there.
Ears pricked, she slunk in the direction of the voices. She recognized the scent of White, the leader of the pack. The other scent was completely alien. What was White playing at, meeting with a stranger? There was no aggression in his scent, so he obviously wasn’t chasing the interloper off. Padding forward, she peered out of the bushes at the newcomer. It took everything in her power not to gasp in horror.
At first glance, it seemed to be some sort of Xweetok. His fur was jet black, with a stripe of ebony down his back. His eyes glowed deep crimson, a color that could only be described as evil. From his lips protruded dagger sharp fangs. Around his left foreleg was a metal band of some sort. He was muttering to White, when his ears twitched, and he spun around, looking directly at the spot where Shriek was hidden.
“Come on out little one,” he said in a sharp, cold voice. “It’s no use pretending you aren’t there. I can hear you breathing.”
Shriek felt a jolt of panic, and adrenaline flooded her system. How had he heard her? She had scarcely been breathing at all! Her cover blown, she had no choice but to pad out into the open. White chuckled. “Ah, young Shriek. I might have known that you would be the one to discover me.”
The faerie Lupess bristled. “What’s going on Lord White? Why did you let a stranger get so deep into our territory?”
The Xweetok laughed. “He let me in because I am his master, and I have been for years. He’s served me longer than you’ve been alive, little one. You see, I took him in when he was just a pup in the pound, abandoned by a hateful human owner.” The shadow spat the word “human” like it was a curse.
White took up the thread. “He took me from my place of solitude, raised me, and then recreated me in his image.”
Shriek’s eyes narrowed. “His image?” The faerie Lupess really didn’t like the sound of this.
In answer, White lifted his paw and pressed it to his neck. Suddenly, his form wavered, like a heat haze. Instead of a white Lupe, standing next to the Xweetok was a mutant. However, this mutant was far from average. His eyes were dull and unfocused, as if he hadn’t slept in days, and they glowed with a faint, sickly green light from within. Around his neck was a metal collar.
Pointing to the band, the Xweetok purred, “This is an obedience collar. I designed it myself. It takes over your central nervous system, rewriting your memories so that anyone wearing it will be totally loyal to me. It comes equipped with a hologram projector and a transportation device. Your packmates will learn to love them.” He grinned at the horrorstruck look on Shriek’s face, “Some of them already have.”
Suddenly, the faerie Lupe knew what had happened to her missing packmates. She had to get away, to warn the pack. She spun around, dashing in the direction that her packmates had gone hunting. A few seconds later, the Xweetok jumped down out of a tree, landing delicately a few feet in front of the startled Lupess. She stopped, gaping at the shadow pet in front of her. He lifted the paw bearing the metal band, causing it to glint in the sunlight. “I’m afraid it’s hopeless, dear. I’m not your average Neopian. You see, I am a genetically altered super-Xweetok. My senses have been enhanced, and I’m faster, stronger, and far more intelligent than the average pet.” He snarled, “I was meant to be a weapon of mass destruction, but those fools failed to see the extent of my power. I was judged a failed prototype because I had too much independence.” He smiled, “I showed them the error of their ways. Now, I, Prototype 12047, am going to amass an army of wild Neopians, and drive the humans off of this world. They are a disease on this planet, and I intend to cure it.”
Unable to think of what to say, Shriek padded backward, looking desperately for an escape.
“You could join us, you know. Think about it. The humans have tried to take your packmates to their disgusting pound, haven’t they? With them gone, you’ll be able to run wild and free forever, just as your ancestors did. Isn’t that what you want?”
The image that this Xweetok (what had he called himself? Prototype 12047?) had painted was tempting. However, there was one huge, gaping hole in it. “If I am a slave to YOU I will never be free. This is NOT the life the Mud That Slides Down Mountain wanted for her pack when she sacrificed herself to save them. I REFUSE TO BE YOUR TOOL.” She snarled, leaping towards him.
With a smirk, the Xweetok lifted his paw and swung it at Shriek. A howl ripped the air, one that was part roar, more scream. The faerie Lupess had never been in so much pain. I was as if she had been trampled by an entire heard of charging Tonus. She was certain that he had broken her shoulder. It was clear that he had been telling the truth. He was far stronger than any pet nature had given life. Hopelessly, she limped backwards, as Prototype 12047 lifted his paw to finish her-
Suddenly, he snarled in pain. Gripping his paw was one of the pups, the others were attached to his tail. He had been so busy taunting Shriek, he had not heard their approach. The smallest pup released his tail and turned to Shriek, a glow of wisdom beyond her tender age in her eyes. She opened her mouth, and from it came not the shrill voice of a pup, but a rich, chocolaty voice, the voice of a grown Lupess.
“Fly away, Startled Skree Shrieks Loudly. Fly, and find your brother. He yet lives, and only he can help you save your pack. Fly, for we of Skysong Pack can only empower these pups for so long...”
Mind clouded by pain, Shriek was unable to do anything but obey. She unfurled her gossamer faerie wings, and with a heave, she took to the sky. At least here, the Xweetok could not follow.
* * * * *
The lone faerie Lupess limped along the edge of the plateau. She had never been this far from her home before. Ahead of her was the land known to her pack as the Badlands, and to the humans as the Tyrannian Plateau.
She remembered the message that the pup had imparted to her. Find her brother? She vaguely remembered her mother telling her that she had once had a twin brother. What had she said his name was? Venom Of Striking Cobrall, that’s it. Supposedly, he had fallen into the gorge during a fire while still a pup. If he was alive, there was no telling where he was now.
However, her mother had taught her never to question the words of her ancestors. She would have to find her brother, Strike.
But where on Neopia was he?
To be continued...