Wicked in the Woods: Part Four
Wrey looked at Garith in disbelief. “You know him? How could you know the Werelupe King?”
Garith didn’t say anything; he was still cradling the Uni’s younger brother Rilo in his arms as he stared the gigantic King down. The little white Lupe had his face pressed up against the armor that coated the Kougra’s chest and he shuddered with cold and fear. Garith looked downward at him for a moment, then set the boy down, nudging him toward his sister.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” The Werelupe King leered. “You brought me my escaped prisoner too, I see; perhaps you’ve had a change of heart?”
“My heart has never changed,” the Kougra muttered softy. “It really has been a while, though, Korik.”
The King reeled on the spot as if he’d been stabbed. After a moment he recovered and hissed, “That isn’t my name anymore and you know it. You’ve changed quite a lot too since last we both stood in the sun.”
“What do you mean?” Wrey cut in, looking at the Werelupe King warily.
The Lupe turned to look her in the eyes, and the feeling she got from his glare made Wrey feel as if her hooves had turned to stone. “It means he’s not a pretty looking faerie anymore. He sold his happiness and his image for strength.”
“I sold those things to follow you!” Garith exclaimed suddenly, his fists clenched. “You wanted power, you wanted to rule, and I followed! I accepted that potion from you! Why would I not? You were the only friend I ever had, Korik!”
“That’s no longer my name!” the Werelupe roared angrily. “I am simply the ruler, the king; I need no other identity!”
“I left the moment you started to think that way,” Garith said, unsheathing the sword that he had on his back, mindlessly eyeing the Werelupe King with fury in his voice. “I decided I would return one day to destroy you.”
Wrey stood and watched the whole exchange in disbelief, and when Garith had drawn his sword, she retreated to the walls of the cavern, her brother following close behind. From the look on his face, the Kougra had forgotten that the two siblings even existed. He was completely fixated on defeating the King now.
Garith approached the huge Lupe, his sword held up in a blocking position as he neared. The King smiled sadistically, his sharp fangs glittering eerily in the torchlight and his muscles bulging against his fur. The Kougra moved nearer and nearer, circling and waiting to find an opportunity to strike.
The Werelupe King struck first, swinging his unsheathed ebony claws at Garith’s face. He raised his sword in time to block the most damaging part of the blow, but when the Werelupe King retreated again, there were two deep scratches above the Kougra’s left eye and blood was trickling down his cheek. Garith retaliated quickly, zipping toward the huge monster before he had time to regain his stance; he drove the butt of his sword into his chest cavity, winding him before forcing all his weight on the Werelupe, which sent them both sprawling on the ground.
Garith quickly scrambled on top of the King, bringing his sword inches away from his neck. The Kougra’s eyes were burning with a very deep hatred as he looked at his former friend. “It’s time to say good-bye,” he whispered, his face splitting into a grin that was shockingly like the one that Wrey had seen the Werelupe King wearing earlier. “It’s time to end everything, Korik.”
“Wait!” Wrey shouted from across the room, running over to Garith’s side as he raised the blade up and prepared to plunge it into the Lupe. “Stop it right now! This isn’t like you at all!”
Garith turned to look at the Uni’s desperate face; the fury seemed to radiate out of him. “What do you know about me? We met a day ago! You have no idea who I am!”
“I know some things, Garith,” the Uni said gently. “I know that you get embarrassed easily, I know you think more than you say and you don’t like the way you live, I know you get lonely but you don’t mention anything about it, I know there are some things that really hurt you, like what this pathetic beast has done, and what I know most of all is that you are kind, and if you do this, then you’ll destroy yourself. So don’t go through with this, because he isn’t worth any more of your happiness.”
Garith felt his stomach lurch at Wrey’s words as he looked down on the form of the Werelupe King, who glared defiantly back at him. “She’s right, you know; you aren’t worth any more of my time or happiness,” he said, sighing. “I’m afraid if I don’t finish you now, though, you’ll hurt so many more pets than just me, so I have to kill you.”
“Please stop,” Wrey pleaded, tears running down her face. “You don’t have to do this, Garith.”
“I have to, Wrey,” he said, raising his sword up again above the Werelupe’s throat.
“That won’t be necessary,” a voice cut in.
Wrey and Garith both looked up, startled. They had been so wrapped up in the situation that they hadn’t noticed the crowd that had gathered around them. At least fifty Werelupes had surrounded them, and they parted to make way for the Halloween Kougra commander that they had seen earlier. He was holding Rilo by the scruff of the neck and he whimpered softly at his sister.
“Let my brother go!” Wrey shouted when she caught sight of him.
“I’d be happy to,” the commander said dispassionately, tossing the pup toward the Uni. “I only brought him here in his best interest; some of the others aren’t very good at holding their appetite.”
“Thank you for saving the boy,” Garith said strongly before Wrey had the chance to say anything else. “What do you mean it won’t be necessary?”
“What I mean is that you dethroned our King. That is enough; someone new must take his place now that he has proven himself to be weak.” The Halloween Kougra looked at Garith carefully. “If you so choose you could take the throne yourself.”
“I’m not a Werelupe, though,” Garith said disbelievingly, “and even if I was I wouldn’t ever choose sit upon that throne.”
“Then who do you name in your place? If you disband this kingdom, these men will run rampant throughout the woods unchecked, so I wouldn’t advise it,” the commander uttered knowingly, then added dryly, “You can get off of him now if you like; there’s no reason to keep him pinned there.”
Slowly and awkwardly Garith removed himself from the former King’s chest and stood up. He sprang up behind Garith and tried to lurch at him but three very burly guards had stepped forward to restrain him. Garith turned to look at the strict looking commander who was staring back expectantly.
“You can rule them if you like,” Garith said hesitantly, “but if you ever do what Korik did, I’ll hunt you down and finish you off myself.”
The Kougra smiled, his yellow eyes gleaming. “Spoken like a warrior, indeed; I accept and swear to control my subjects.”
Garith nodded and turned to Wrey and Rilo. “Let’s get out of here; I never want to set my eyes on this place again.”
The two enthusiastically agreed with Garith and they left quickly, this time lead by an escort of three guards to the mouth of the cave. From there Garith led them back to the Deserted Fairground without any trouble; Garith again remained silent the entire time.
“Here we are,” he said as they reached the gates of the Fairground. “It was nice meeting you, but I have to go now.”
“Wait? You’re leaving?” Wry blurted out, her eyes wide. “But we were getting along so well!”
Garith laughed wearily. “You can’t seriously want to keep the company of a thing like me.”
He turned around to leave before Wrey had anything more to say on the matter but a small tugging on his shirt made him stop. He looked down to see what it was and Rilo was there looking up at him, the little white Lupe looking very close to tears.
“Don’t leave,” he whispered, his blue eyes welling up and small body trembling. “I like you.”
Garith felt his resolve melt away as he looked at Rilo’s tiny quivering paws and teary eyes. “Where am I supposed to go?” he asked. “We’re going to have to part... you clearly don’t live around here and I can’t afford to live anywhere else.”
“You aren’t attached to this place, are you?” Wrey asked curiously.
“I hate this place,” Garith replied bitterly.
“You’d rather live somewhere like Neopia Central, right?”
“Of course I would; I’d like to live anywhere that isn’t a rickety shack, for that matter.”
“Perfect!” Wrey cried, causing both Garith and Rilo to jump. “You can move in with us then! We have an extra room anyway and you won’t have to live here anymore.”
Garith opened his mouth to protest, but before he could, Rilo had flung himself into his arms and was crying happily. “You can live with us! I always wanted a big brother! Please come live with us!”
After a moment he sighed. “Alright, if you want me to come so badly, I will, but the second you get tired of me, feel free to fling me out.”
“Oh, you know that won’t happen,” Wrey admonished him playfully. “Now come on, we better get you there before you change your mind.”
The Uni led and Garith followed her, Rilo clutching his hand like a life line. He wasn’t sure what his future was going to bring anymore, but the thought made him smile. It had to be better than wasting away in this dark place, trying to gamble away his troubles day after day. Garith felt tears press against the corners of his eyes; he wasn’t going back to a place that just had four walls, a ceiling, and a floor anymore. He was going to a place where he was wanted and needed. For the first time in a very long time, he was really truly going home.