Wicked in the Woods: Part Three
“Soldier!” a gruff voice barked from the shadows. “Sleeping on the job is not allowed!”
Quickly the guard shot to his feet, his eyes still foggy with sleep. “Yes sir,” he mumbled, looking towards the ground.
“Did you notice that just then, soldier?” the commanding voice asked from the gloom of the cave. “Something moved from behind those bushes.”
“No sir,” the guard muttered, suppressing a yawn.
The owner of the voice stepped forward into the dusty beams of light that seeped through the gnarled trees surrounding the cave. He was a huge Halloween Kougra, his yellow eyes narrowed into thin slits and his teeth bared menacingly at the unlucky guard. “Then I suggest you check before I turn you into a ghost.”
As the Werelupe guard lumbered over to where Garith and Wrey lay hidden in the bushes, a feeling of dread washed over them. As the guard neared, the amulet given to the Uni by Sophie began to hum gently and a strange feeling washed over her, one that made her feel warm and safe.
“Garith,” she hissed at him under her breath, “hold on to me; I think the amulet will hide us.”
The mutant Kougra looked over at her and blushed furiously but did as he was told, wrapping his left arm around the spotted Uni’s neck. Right after he had the bushes were separated and the Werelupe sentry was close enough for them to feel the heat of his breathing on their faces. He blinked dully, his eyes glowing a faint green as he looked around half-heartedly and grumbled about his commanding officer under his breath.
After a moment that felt like hours, he turned around again to face the Kougra. “There isn’t anything there sir,” he said sullenly.
Wrey and Garth both breathed a very silent sigh of relief; it appeared that the amulet did make the wearer invisible to anything threatening. Sophie had woven her magic well. The Werelupe guard, though, was less lucky, the Kougra who was his commander was still looking very displeased about his subordinate sleeping on the job. As the Kougra continued to berate the Werelupe, Wrey nudged Garith and jerked her head toward the entrance of the cave, which was now momentarily clear.
They got up slowly, careful not to disturb any of the vegetation at their feet, and slipped out of their hiding place, Garith still holding on to Wrey’s neck. Slowly they inched behind the angry Kougra and his unlucky victim and entered into the shadows of the cavern unseen. The moment they were out of sight, Garith let go of Wrey quickly, refusing to make eye contact with her as he began to walk down the tunnel at a very fast pace. Wrey looked at him with surprise and then smiled at the Kougra’s back; he really was bad with social encounters and physical contact.
When they came to a fork in their path, the mutant Kougra only stopped for a second before he chose the right passage. This pattern continued on until Wrey felt completely lost, but Garith still seemed to know where he was going. They had to hide a couple of times as guards marched up and down the passageways, Garith always hesitating before grabbing onto Wrey so he could share the power of the amulet.
After what felt like hours of wandering in the dark, they came upon a lighted passage that looked different from the others. Branching off of it seemed to be all sorts of rooms. Wrey’s eyes widened as she realized that they must have found the dungeons.
She began to move ahead of Garith, but he held out his arm to stop her. “Don’t be foolish!” he exclaimed under his breath.
“My brother’s here!” Wrey snapped back softly. “I can feel it! He’s down one of these halls!”
“Just give me a minute,” he pleaded with her. “I’ll be able to tell you which one if you just hold on.”
Wrey relaxed slightly and looked up at him. “Okay... I’m sorry... I just want to know he’s okay so badly.”
“It’s okay.” Garith smiled at her weakly. He paused again, this time smelling the air, and then pointed to the passage second farthest to their left. “I’m pretty sure it’s that one.”
Wrey followed Garith to the passage he had pointed out, trying her hardest not to dart ahead of him. Before they entered the small narrow tunnel, the Kougra looked around cautiously, then motioned for Wrey to follow him. The walk was short and it simply stopped with a dead end, but between the back wall and the pair was a set of bars, and behind the bars lay a little white Lupe.
“Rilo!” Wrey cried, forgetting to stay silent as she saw the form of her brother on the floor.
The tiny figure got up quickly and darted against the back wall in surprise, a look of feral terror in his eyes. As he looked from his sister to the Kougra standing next to her and back again, he seemed to relax a little. “Wrey?” he squeaked uncertainly.
“Oh thank goodness you’re alright! Someone told me they were going to turn you into a Werelupe!”
“Oh... that’s what they were keeping me here for?” he asked very quietly, clearly afraid. “Can you get me out of here before they come back? They seem to check in every few hours and it’s been about that long since the guards were last here.”
Wrey felt her stomach drop out; she had no idea how they were going to free her brother from his cell. “Yeah... that is, once we know what we’re going to do... I guess I could—”
“I could break the bars down,” Garith cut in helpfully. “They’re not fastened really well to the rock or anything; see, it’s chipping right here.” He pointed toward where the grating and the rock met, and it did indeed look unstable.
“Yeah.” Wrey looked over at him gratefully. “Could you please do that, Garith?”
“Sure, no problem; stand back or they might hit you when they fall, though,” he warned the Uni seriously.
The little Lupe watched their exchange in silence. His stare had not once left the mutant Kougra since it began. Garith was pleased and a bit embarrassed to note that after his suggestion about tearing the bars down the look on Rilo’s face had changed from fear to reverence.
Garith cracked his knuckles and prepared to brace himself against the bars of the cell. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then began to pull. Muscles and tendons bulged on his arms as he did, and slowly but surely the bars began to bend and grate against the stone they were mounted to. The Kougra pressed his teeth tightly together in pain and effort as he kept tugging, determined to free the little Lupe he had come here to save.
After a monumental effort, they finally crashed down, leaving Garith leaning against a wall gasping for air. The Lupe immediately ran for his sister, clung to her neck, and buried his face in her mane. Garith watched, smiling softly at the two, even though the sight made him feel a bit lonesome.
“We have to start moving now,” he said gently. “We don’t want to get caught.”
The three walked back to the main tunnels and were beginning to backtrack when there was a cry from behind them. Rilo’s escape had been discovered. Making sure to keep to the shadows, they kept moving, speeding up their pace. From up ahead of them there was the scraping of claws on rock as a huge guard moved their way. The three clung to each other, sharing the power of the amulet, fully expecting to work; this time, however, it didn’t.
The huge guard stopped and looked directly at them; his face twisting hungrily as he spotted the Uni. Wrey instantly recognized him as one of her original pursuers and let out a yelp of fear. She looked down quickly to see why the amulet wasn’t working, and a sickening wave of panic washed over her; though the amulet still dangled around her neck, the stone that held all of its power had fallen out.
“Run!” Garith shouted, startling their attacker just long enough for him to scoop up Rilo and sprint the other direction, Wrey galloping close behind him.
They wove in and out of random tunnels, trying to lose the guard. It worked, but when they slowed down, they were lost themselves. Garith looked close to exhausted now. The combination of pulling the grating off Rilo’s cell and running away at top speed from the guard had taken its toll on him. Still he pushed on, holding the little Lupe close to his chest in a protective manner.
The Kougra still lead with a look of steely resolve on his face. He picked all the tunnels very carefully and Wrey had absolute trust in where he was guiding them. The room that they entered when they reached the end of the corridor somewhat weakened that belief, though.
They had walked into a humungous cavern with torches set up against all the walls. In the middle sat a huge throne and Wrey noted with a nauseating jolt that it was made entirely out of bones. The occupant of the throne was looking directly at them, his eyes gleaming scarlet in the dim light. His mouth was twisted in an evil grin that made her wish she was back in the dark tunnel with their previous enemy.
“It’s been a while, Garith,” the Werelupe King growled, his smirk growing wider as he stared the Kougra down. “I was wondering when you’d come to visit.”
To be continued...