The Fallen: Cursed
“Javiod, are you sure that you know what you’re doing?”
The Lupe in question grimaced. Rhoswen’s constant worry tested his nerves. He had so very few nerves left, and they were clinging together in tatters at best. The Lupe king--or ex-king, really--glared at himself in the mirror set before him. It was encrusted in gold, and it stood on iron claws in his bedroom, or, at least, what used to be his bedroom. He hated the way his fur grew now. Long and coarse and of the deepest brown, it was always shaggy and always unkempt, and there was nothing he could do about it. Even shaving himself like a Gnorbu during sheering season had little effect.
It always grew back.
It was irreversible. Just as the color of his eyes would never be able to be his own again. At least, not truly. During the day, sure, he was himself again, but it was just a costume at best. One that covered up what he became in the moonlight. A pained growl rumbled in Javiod’s chest, but he made himself continue to peer into the reflection of his own green eyes. That way, he would not forget, and he would not be deterred.
He’d suffered so much, so much that he’d nearly been broken, and now it was his turn to return the favor. His brother would pay for his betrayal. Javiod swore it to himself, swore it to his reflection. His ugly, monstrous reflection. A beast stared back at him that he was just beginning to become accustomed to. The untamable fur, the glowing green eyes, his massive size. Even the sight of the jaggedly ripped pants that clung to his waist was becoming typical. He should have given up clothing altogether, because, as soon as the moon surfaced at night, whatever he wore was destroyed as he received an erratic growth spurt.
But he couldn’t seem to give them up completely. It was his last hold on all that he’d once been, his last hold on his civilization. To think that everything he’d worked for in his life had come to this. Javiod clenched his massive paws into fists, his jaw line firming resolutely.
“I’m positive, Rhoswen, this is what I have to do,” he told him, keeping his voice low. “If you’re having second thoughts, feel free to go back to the woods. I’ll return when I’m through here.”
The Werelupe at his side was considerably less impressive in size than Javiod, but the former king trusted the light brown Lupe like he no longer trusted any other. He had been Javiod’s right paw since the day he’d lost everything he’d ever loved. As always, Rhoswen reminded Javiod of why he allowed the Lupe to be such a close friend.
“No, I’m staying. I just... I was wondering what would happen if we were to get caught,” Rhoswen admitted.
Javiod shrugged his massive shoulders. It was not a worry that he had considered, or even acknowledged. He’d already lost everything, so he had nothing to fear. Nothing else could be done to him.
“My brother is at a banquet in the great hall. You saw that for yourself. I know him. Alston won’t return for quite some time. Even if he does, what chance does he stand against two Werelupes?” Javiod pointed out.
Javiod knew that Rhoswen was sensible enough to see the truth in his words, but he also knew that Rhoswen had good reason to be apprehensive. He did not know Alston like Javiod did, nor did he know much about the inner workings of the castle. Rhoswen had been a Werelupe for a much longer span of time than Javiod. He’d hardly had any chance at all to be civilized, to live in a well-furnished home, to buy food rather than hunt or steal it.
“You’re right, of course,” Rhoswen acknowledged, “I was just having silly second thoughts. I simply fear that something should occur and the brethren be left with no leader.”
Javiod drew in a deep breath through his nose. Having become the leader--or makeshift king--to the Werelupe brethren had been an honor bestowed upon him that he had graciously accepted upon his transformation and banishment to the Haunted Woods. However, that didn’t necessarily mean that it had been what Javiod wanted. He’d accepted, because the Werelupes had been in desperate need of diplomacy, of some type of guiding force, but also because it was in his nature to rule, and, without his crown and kingdom, he had felt lost. The offer the Werelupes had presented him with had been a saving grace.
Now that he was back inside the castle walls, however, Javiod was reminded of his reluctance to accept the title. Though that reluctance had been too soft spoken to truly weigh in his decision when he’d made it, it came back now as he remembered all that he’d once had, all that he’d rather have.
“The brethren will be fine with or without me,” Javiod assured both himself and Rhoswen, but continued on quickly before the other Lupe could interrupt, “but have faith that I plan to return to them before the moon has disappeared to make way for daylight. My task is simple, and we will only be here for a few moments longer.”
Rhoswen nodded silently. There was nothing else he could say to his king. Any fear he spoke aloud would be dismissed, and he had to admit that, in Javiod’s presence, he really felt very little fear. There was something that commanding and powerful about the Lupe. Rhoswen kept near the wall out of Javiod’s way, and allowed his king to fulfill the task for which they’d broken into the castle.
Thankful for Rhoswen’s new silence, Javiod finally turned away from the mirror--a mirror he himself had purchased and placed in this room--and dug into the damaged pocket of his pants. He withdrew a vial and held it up so that what moonlight that did filter into the room through the high window across from him reflected against it.
The vial was filled with a dark liquid, and only the tiny cork in the top kept him from completing his goal. It could be easily removed. Javiod did not have to search the room to find what he was looking for next. The golden goblet that his brother habitually kept near him at night was already waiting upon Alston’s nightstand. Crossing to it, Javiod noted that it was also already filled with Alston’s preferred drink. His brother had always had the obsession of keeping a drink close by at night, because he often thirsted in the middle of the night, and wandering around the castle halls to the kitchen was never an easy task in the dark.
Javiod uncorked the vial and lifted the goblet in his free hand. For a few moments filled with thick tension, Javiod simply stared from vial to goblet. This was it. This was the night in which he would reap his revenge.
Very calmly, he spoke to Rhoswen without turning, “This is it then? This is the Werelupe venom. You’re positive?”
He didn’t have to see Rhoswen to know that the Lupe would be vigorously nodding his head. “Yes, sire, that’s the vial. Your brother will be one of us within a day of drinking from it.”
Javiod’s mouth formed a grim line of satisfaction. “Very good.”
He touched the neck of the vial to the lip of the goblet, but did not yet pour, transferring one liquid into the other. It seemed now, of all times, that his conscience was going to catch up with him.
You would do this to your brother? that secret, inner voice questioned.
To which Javiod inwardly replied to himself, Yes, he did it to me.
It was a plausible excuse. Anyone would want vengeance for this curse, but, still, he couldn’t seem to tilt the vial to the necessary angle to pour it out. Javiod closed his eyes for a moment.
Remember what he did to you, he told himself. Remember, and use it to move your paw against him.
He opened his mind, and all of his bitter old memories poured in on him. The wall he’d used to keep them out, collapsed, and he allowed himself to be submerged into the past...
The day had been joyous, wonderful; the most brilliant, beautiful day of his entire life. He had been named king. Such an amazing surprise, considering that he’d had a twin. Still, his father had named him with his parting breath, and now it was he that would rule the kingdom.
He’d been blind with his delight, deaf to all words except those uttered in congratulations and celebration. Perhaps that was why he hadn’t noticed Alston’s instant self-inflicted solitude. His brother had all but disappeared the second their father had named Javiod as king, and the last expression he’d seen on Alston’s face that night before the ball in his honor would be branded vibrantly in Javiod’s mind for the rest of his life. It had been an indescribable hate. At the time, Javiod has written it off as jealous, but, in the future, there would be no confusion in his mind that it had been hate. Pure, unhidden dislike.
His own brother.
Javiod should have been more worried over his brother’s vanishing act, should have wondered where Alston had disappeared to, but the celebrations that had begun the moment his name had left his father’s lips had kept him very occupied. A ball had been planned and executed the very same night. He, being the subject of this celebration, had had plenty on his mind. How foolish of him.
But he had been young and naïve, and he had received his first taste of power, and how sweet and luxurious it was.
The night had proceeded. The celebration had been lavish, his citizens all taking turns in approaching him with congratulations and delight, all with something to say about how happy they were that it was he who had been crowned. Javiod’s ego had swelled inch by inch, and he had thoroughly enjoyed the night.
He’d eaten from the banquet of food that had been presented to him, eaten like a real king. He’d laughed with his friends and his knights over dessert, and he’d shared dances with princesses and countesses and queens. He’d danced and ate and laughed and joked.
And he’d never once thought of Alston’s absence. He’d actually completely forgotten all about his brother’s very existence until the Lupe himself had suddenly reappeared. Like magic.
Unlike when he’d last seen him, Alston approached him that night with a merriness that Javiod should have been instantly wary of. However, blind as he was, he’d actually believed his brother was happy for him, actually believed that his brother had gotten over the fact that he had not been chosen. A very bad mistake on his part to be fooled by such obviously fake merriment.
But it’d been an even worse mistake to follow his brother outside, to have believed his brother’s excuse that he wanted to speak to Javiod in private to rightfully congratulate him where it wasn’t so hard to hear and be heard. He’d followed his brother into the rose garden, and, there, his happiness had ended.
Alston had had a Lupe waiting for him there. A Lupe that had been bribed with a generous amount of neopoints. A Lupe that was prepared to share his curse with Javiod. A curse of the Werelupes, a curse that would strip him of his title and crown, of his entire life up to that point. In a few quick seconds, he’d been pounced on, bitten, and turned. Now Werelupe blood flowed through his veins, and he would always be a creature of the night.
Javiod opened his eyes, surfacing from the pain of the past.
Now, it was time for Alston to get what he so justly deserved for stealing what was not his. In the morning, his brother would be no better than he was, once again. In the morning, his brother would be just like him: a monster, a curse. And Alston would be banished, because no Werelupe could remain king. The citizens tended to fear the gigantic beasts. They would cast Alston out, just as they had cast him out. Javiod flinched.
Rhoswen had noticed the change in his master’s demeanor, how he’d went from determined to uncertain. Still, Javiod had done the deed he’d promised he would. It was unnecessary and a little disrespectful to question him now, but Rhoswen felt that he couldn’t remain silent when his king was in turmoil.
“Are you certain this is what you want?” he questioned.
It would be easy to dump the contents of the goblet and disappear into the night, as if nothing had been disturbed, no dark deed carried out.
“Yes,” Javiod answered immediately, leaving no room for doubt in his own mind or Rhoswen’s.
The Lupe Moon Charm that hung around his neck had warmed slightly, warning that daylight was approaching. What was done, was done, and it was time to leave. He would not go back on it now.
“But, sir, if it’s not really what you want, I’m sure there’s another way to--” Rhoswen was not allowed to finish his sentence, because Javiod cut in sharply.
“Sometimes, vengeance is all that we have,” Javiod informed him darkly.
Rhoswen winced, but he immediately turned and hurried after his king as Javiod, positive that he could not turn back now, left the goblet in its new, tampered form, and disappeared into the night.