The Fallen: Betrayed - Part One
The banquet had been long and joyous. The food had been lavish, just as he’d ordered, and the guests had been pleasant. The whole ordeal had lasted a tad longer than he’d expected, but, as Alston traveled up the winding stone staircase to his room, he didn’t think he could complain. Though the moonlight was waning outside one of the long, thin windows he passed on his inclined venture, he was scarcely tired.
Celebrations of any kind always placed Alston in a mood of contentment. Even now there was a faint trace of a smile on his lips. The shadow-colored Lupe was very pleased with himself. And why shouldn’t he be? He ruled a magnificent kingdom, had the respect of noblemen and women, and slept in the softest bed at night.
The thought of how he’d obtained all these glorious gifts was barely a tickle in the back of his mind. To Alston, the past was the past, and all that mattered was his own personal gain, and he’d certainly gained plenty in the past year or so. Such a far cry from the Lupe he’d once been. Once he’d been the fellow in his older brother’s shadow, now, he was the one standing in the daylight.
Alston’s lips quirked quickly as if he’d just enjoyed some private joke. However, he was decent enough to suppress the chuckle that tried to follow, and he played it off by running thick paws through the straight black hair that fell from the top of his head to his shadowy, thick-furred shoulders, considering, for at least the hundredth time, growing a mustache. He found that they were rather awe-inspiring contributions to one’s face, and he did like to inspire awe.
Alston continued to climb upwards, vaguely wondering how many stairs there were exactly winding from the first floor up the tower to his bedroom chamber, and enjoying the cool, smooth feeling of stone pressing briefly against the pads of his paws. He’d really worn himself out dancing. Perhaps he’d gone a little overboard with continuously asking for several of the guests to escort him into a dance, but he had always believed that no party, celebration, or banquet was ever complete without a dance.
Something his brother hadn’t necessarily agreed upon. He’d always been too business-orientated. There had been no time for fun and games for his brother.
Too bad for him, Alston thought dismissively upon reaching the last stair.
The solid oak door of his bed chamber gave a half-hearted groan of resistance as he shoved his weight against it until it swung slowly inward. He’d been meaning to have one of the castle hands to take a look at it.
He frowned at it as he made an effort to shut it behind him. Yet another one of his brother’s strange little eccentricities, leaving the door so poorly functioning like that upon his move from his own bedroom to their father’s. Really, he was going to make much better use of this--
Alston stiffened from head to toe as he turned back to his dark, quiet room, every sense in his body springing into alert. He was immediately aware that something was out of place, something was not quite right, though nothing appeared to have visibly changed. Directly across the room from him, his own reflection peered back, a look of suspicion etched across his dark face, causing his muzzle to pull down into a frown.
Alston stared at his reflection in the floor-length, crow-footed mirror for several long moments, as if he half-expected that the inanimate object itself was what had caused the disturbing shift in the atmosphere.
He stood like that for several long moments before finally shaking his head. He was allowing himself to become far too paranoid. Especially since it was rather obvious that the moonlight streaking weakly into his window was his only companion.
Fiddling with the clasp of his dark blue cape, Alston finally unhooked it and released himself from its somewhat strangling hold, allowing it to fall to the floor by his door. He left it there as he crossed to his bed onto which he lowered his furry body and began to tug the boots off of his feet.
Once freed, he wiggled his clawed toes and gave a sigh of relief. They’d began to throb not long before he’d retired to his room, reminding him that he’d overdone it a bit with the dancing. He shrugged to himself. He’d enjoyed it, and that was all that mattered.
He let both boots fall noisily to the floor and allowed them to remain where they’d fallen as well. It was habitual that things went where ever he desired to place them. If things became messy, the servants would simply clean up after him. He had more important things to do than simple housework.
With this thought, he cast wary eyes across the room to the wooden desk stationed against the wall. It was piled particularly high with paperwork that had, thus far, not been touched. A quill lay beside the stack, looking forlorn and abandoned. Alston wrinkled his nose and turned away. That was the part of his job that he hated. Hated with a passion! Paperwork was really too troublesome, and so tedious and boring! It seemed ridiculous that a king should have to bother with it at all.
A king had more important things to be doing. Like holding balls, and banquets, and mingling with guests, and rubbing elbows with other royals. That was really all that mattered to Alston: the power, the fame, the obedience. Why should he have to trouble himself with the betterment of those beneath him? The farmers, the laborers. They were hardly his responsibility. They should have been looking for ways in which they could serve him better.
Alston nodded to himself and crawled underneath the covers, inhaling and exhaling a yawn. The satin sheets whispered quietly against his fur, and he murmured a sigh of delight as the cushions beneath him pillowed his body gloriously. Satin sheets and plush cushions were exactly what a king deserved to retire to at the end of a long day of entertaining.
The naïve and greedy Lupe licked his lips and squirmed a little to find the right spot for him to sleep in. His eyes closed sleepily, and he settled in for a night of sleep that he knew would be filled with the dreams of all his successes. His dreams were always golden.
A faint grin tainted the outskirts of Alston’s lips, and he allowed his mind to drift. Within seconds, he was asleep. Sleeping, quite literally, like a baby Mynci after a long day of tree-climbing. Just as he’d expected, his dreams were all but lined with gold, satin, and riches. Just as they always were for the Lupe that didn’t own a conscience.
However, around the earliest hours of the morning, Alston’s eyes opened again, slowly focusing on the still-darkened room, and he licked his lips again. This time, however, they were rather dry. He sighed. It was habitual that he woke up in the middle of the night thirsting for a drink, but it was still rather annoying to be pried from his dreams.
Rubbing a paw across his eyes, Alston threw back the covers and slid his legs over the side of the bed. A little blindly, he pawed the air until his claws scraped across a wooden nightstand. From there, he groped in the dark for the stem of his goblet, curled his fingers around it, and lifted the cup to his lips. He’d take a quick gulp and dive right back down into those lovely dreams.
Alston was already smiling when the goblet touched his lips, was already imagining what would grace his dreams next, and had nearly tilted the goblet far enough into the air to drain some of the liquid into his awaiting mouth, when he stiffened rather abruptly, both eyes popping open wide and startled.
With a jerky movement, the king whipped the goblet away from his lips and stared at accusingly through the darkness. His lips were tingling from their near fateful encounter with what should have been water in his goblet.
But it wasn’t.
Alston’s eyes narrowed immediately as he inspected the goblet more closely than before. Very carefully, he moved it until it was under his nose, and he took a couple of tentative sniffs of it. Just as he’d suspected, the liquid was contaminated. There was a scent lurking in the liquid in his goblet that was not that of water. Though that scent was very, very faint, it was not nonexistent, and it could not fool him.
Alston scowled. So his brother had paid him a visit and hadn’t even had the courtesy to stick around and offer him a pleasant chat, a little catching up. He was awfully interested to see how his brother was fairing in his newly claimed form of a Werelupe. Alston’s scowl turned wicked.
He imagined that form was exactly what his brother had been trying to push onto him. A little gift-giving, so to speak. An eye for an eye. It really did grind on his brother that he’d stolen the throne from him.
Alston snorted and abruptly dumped the contents of the cup onto the wooden floor beneath his feet. A soft hissing sound could be heard.
Werelupe venom. He wondered if the venom lacing his water had been his brother’s.
Alston replaced the goblet back onto the nightstand and ran a paw through his black hair. This sort of attempt was exactly what he’d been expecting ever since he’d overthrown his brother.
But why couldn’t Javiod see that the better of the two was now sitting on the throne? Their father had been delirious and senile, and hadn’t meant to speak Javiod’s name as his successor. Of course not. Alston was merely reclaiming what was his. Javiod didn’t have what it took to be king. He didn’t even understand what it meant to be king.
He’d been far too uptight, far too business-minded. He’d been the one that had poured over the paperwork that Alston continued to leave discarded on his desk. He’d been the one to claim that banquets and balls were luxuries that could only be afforded very rarely. He’d made the other royals snore with disinterest, and he’d thrown all of his focus onto the betterment of the silly farmers and laborers: the dirt poor Neopians of Neopia.
Annoyed, Alston changed his mind and batted his goblet away with the back of his paw. It flew across the room, smacked into a wall, and then clattered loudly to the floor. No matter. He shrugged. A servant would pick it up tomorrow.
Tomorrow when he was still king, when Javiod was still the only Werelupe in the family, the only one to be cast out of the kingdom. Tomorrow when everyone still listened and obeyed him, when he was still the one with the power and the castle and the servants.
Alston grinned devilishly. His brother was just going to have to let it go. He was going to have to relinquish his dreams of being king again. He was cursed now, and Alston was not. Javiod was not the brother that was meant to be king, and he was just going to have to get used to it.
Some grudges died hard.
Alston would show his brother that he was unaffected by his rage, his bitter feelings he stilled harbored against him. The next evening, his brother would find that his plan to overthrow him had failed. He’d show Javiod just exactly who still had everything, and who would remain in the shadows in which he did belong.
Anxiety had poured through Javiod’s entire form throughout the next day. He’d worried and wondered and became desperate to know whether or not his plan had succeeded, whether or not his brother had become a cursed Lupe like he. Disappointment had gnawed heavily on his soul the longer the day progressed without turmoil.
And, that night, when darkness set, despair broke through his defenses and weighed the fallen king down into darkness.
He stood at the outskirts of the Woods, his eyes and body turned toward the darkened silhouette of his kingdom, but it did not remain in shadows for long. Javiod’s breath caught at the sound of a monstrous noise followed by a high, squealing hiss, and then the night sky exploded with light as a small circle of light burst forth into colors of red and blue. Another explosion followed seconds later, flowering into a brief rain of purple before those lights twinkled out somewhere during their fall back to the ground.
After that, the sky was a series of explosions and colorful light as fireworks screamed through the air to burst forth in their one moment of glory before fading from existence.
It was a celebration. Which could only mean one thing.
The bulky frame of the shaggy, brown Werelupe staggered sideways, as if the occupant of the body had lost the will to stand. Javiod all but fell against the trunk of a great oak, slumping heavily into its hard, unyielding wood.
Brown lids slid down over green eyes with a pained expression. Defeat streamed out around the spot where his heart had once been, but he could no longer believe that it beat.
He’d failed. He’d failed. He’d failed...
How had his brother found him out? How had he known that he’d been meant to drink poisoned water? Water that was laced with the curse of the Werelupe? This couldn’t be true. He’d whole-heartedly believed that his plan would yield favorable results. And now...
Now, his brother was celebrating. Javiod opened his eyes once more to glare at the hateful bursts of colors. Celebrating to show Javiod that he had failed, that Alston was the brother that would remain in the light. That he would be the one that had been foolish enough to let himself be betrayed by his brother, and now he would have to suffer with the results.
No! The kingdom, the title, it was all his!
Javiod abruptly pushed away from his crutch of a tree, staggering out of the boundaries of the trees, into the open field so that moonlight and fireworks could wash over his body.
He tilted his head up toward the mighty orb of the moon and released a wailing, mournful howl that resonated from somewhere deep inside his chest and carried on the wind to his pack brothers.
His heart was full of vengeance.
He would never, never give up. For that was the will of a Werelupe King.
To be continued...