The Fallen: Betrayed - Part Two
Javiod shifted, his lips pulling down into a frown. How uncomfortable this throne was, but it was silly to expect anything more. What more could possibly come from the Haunted Woods, from his Werelupe brothers? Supplies were rather limited in the fancy and comfortable department. He was simply lucky that his throne didn’t look like it was about to eat him or anything. Javiod winced at the Meepit seat he’d once encountered in a decrepit shop in the Haunted Woods. Why would anyone want to sit on something with teeth?
Javiod propped his elbow onto the hard, stone arm of his throne, nestling his chin in his palm. He stared, without really seeing, at a dark patch of shrubs, just inside of the circle of trees that bordered his makeshift throne room.
It was hardly a room. Actually, it wasn’t really a room at all. It was simply a clearing in the midst of the woods in which his brethren had constructed a back-breaking stone throne for him to sit upon. He felt ridiculous, but not just because he was sitting in the middle of the woods on a lopsided throne, but also because of the crown that’d been created from twigs and leaves that sat upon his head. He’d thought of refusing it, but it seemed to give his Werelupes some sort of strange satisfaction to be able to crown their king.
Javiod inwardly mourned for the ruby-encrusted crown of gold that had once been atop his furry brown head. Javiod sighed, pained, as he recalled that his head hadn’t been brown then, but, rather, it had been blue. He pushed that thought from his head lest he wanted to cast himself into his frequent bouts of despair.
How had he failed? He wondered again. He’d been so certain that his plan to curse his brother would have succeeded, but it’d been several days since the night he’d seen fireworks, and he knew that his brother remained untainted. He’d never thought once that when his brother had awakened from deep sleep that he would have actually discovered that there was something unusual lacing his drink. Javiod knew that his brother had indeed discovered it rather than simply not waking and taking a drink. Otherwise, there would have been no fireworks display the previous night.
It had been a gesture his brother had made to mock him, though he was sure that Alston had played it off to his people as one of his habitual celebrations, of which needed no cause other than his desire to have a party. Javiod gritted his teeth. His brother was going to cast the kingdom into ruins with his lack of commitment to anything other than his own enjoyment.
Javiod’s green eyes suddenly cut to a darkened tunnel to his left that had been made of young, weak trees that the Werelupes had bent together to form a sort of arch. At least a dozen howls rose hauntingly on the night breeze.
The moon charm that hung around his neck heated to its peak before fading back to its cool, metal feel, his sign that the moon had reached its highest point in the night sky. As if the howling Werelupes weren’t proof enough. Javiod kept his green eyes trained on the paw-made tunnel, though there was really nothing to see, for it was far too dark in its depths. However, Javiod knew what was at the end of that tunnel. It was another so-called “room” that housed more than a dozen gigantic, furry Werelupes. That room, however, was a clearing near a cave, and the cave was where the Werelupes lurked in daylight. The cave was as wide as it was long, and it went several miles underground. It was, Javiod believed, the darkest place in all of Neopia. He hovered there sometimes himself, though he had a cave of his own, a necessity for any Werelupe king.
He preferred his cave, though he didn’t go there all that often except to sleep. Unlike his brothers, he didn’t fear daylight. It saddened him, pained him, but he did not fear it like the others did.
A Werelupe that walked in daylight became himself again, if only for the span of the day. As soon as the sunlight met shaggy fur, the beast receded, and in its place was left the frame of the Lupe the creature had once been. The others found this a daunting process, and hid from it. Some did so because they had accepted what they now were and preferred it; others were simply tired of being taunted with all that they’d once had. It was such a cruel joke to have one’s old life back only for the handful of hours of daylight just to have it ripped away again when darkness fell.
Javiod hated it with the same sort of passion as his brothers, but he also craved it. He yearned to see his old face, yearned for his old body, even if he had to repeatedly suffer the pain of losing it again at night. Sometimes after a day in the sunlight, Javiod would recede into his cave when night fell, and the other Lupe brethren were haunted by the sobs that echoed from his cave.
Javiod pulled himself from his ponderings as a rustling sound reached his oversensitive ears. He hadn’t looked away from the tunnel, so when Rhoswen emerged at the end, the other Werelupe was already in his sights. Javiod stood and met him in the middle of the clearing, the urgency in Rhoswen’s eyes drawing him to his feet.
“What is it?” Javiod demanded of his friend.
Rhoswen almost seemed reluctant to speak, but he did so anyway. “Your brother.”
Abruptly, one lone Werelupe howl split the eerie silence of the woods, adding a menacing note to the end of Rhoswen’s short reply. Javiod stared at his most trusted citizen with a look of disbelief etched across his broad face.
Rhoswen shook his head. “He is here, my liege. He just arrived at the other clearing. He demands to see you.”
Javiod could hardly believe his ears. Alston had dared to venture here, to the midst of the Werelupe pack? How ridiculous! His brother was a coward at best. He’d never be brave enough to step foot into the boundaries of the woods. He was far too concerned with his own well-being. Which he rightfully should have been. Javiod wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t use his first opportunity to repay his brother for his treachery.
Javiod’s gaze sharpened.
“Do not joke with me, Rhoswen,” he snapped.
Rhoswen shook his head again and nervously licked his lips, momentarily exposing two rows of sharply-pointed teeth. “I would never.”
Javiod frowned deeply. Impossible. Why would his brother come to the woods unless he had gone mad?
It seemed he was about to receive his answer. Another howl rose into the night air that had suddenly gone still, but this howl was different. It held a note of warning. It appeared Alston was coming to him. Javiod narrowed his eyes and listened intently.
As if it knew it had an audience, a breeze picked up at once, rustling the leaves on the overhanging branches of the trees that surrounded him in their tight-knit circle, but there was another sound underneath that. It was the sound of hurried footsteps, and they were coming fast in his direction. It appeared that the meeting Javiod had considered convening between himself and his brother was nearly ready to begin, not on his own terms, but beginning nonetheless.
Javiod spared his companion a glance, and silently said, “Leave us.”
Rhoswen nodded without question and darted away. He did not use the tunnel, aware of its current inhabitant, but instead squeezed through the soldier trees of Javiod’s circle, unafraid of the wild forest behind the trees. He didn’t require a path to travel as Javiod knew Alston did.
Javiod waited for his brother to emerge, squaring his shoulders and clasping his large paws behind his back. He wanted to look formidable, a feat that was not difficult for the Werelupe king, the largest Werelupe of them all.
Gradually, Javiod began to make out the outline of his brother. He waited as that outline became more distinct, until it took on a solid shape and form. The shadows began to dissolve, and a being that seemed to have been created from them stepped forth. Alston’s black coat nearly made him difficult to see in the darkness of the woods, but Javiod had very keen eyes.
Javiod stared at his brother--a sight he had not laid eyes on in many moons--and a feeling began that was so horrible it burned up his insides, nearly made him double over. This was it. This was the meeting he had been waiting for.
But, there was only one problem, Alston wasn’t the Werelupe the laced potion should have made him into.
Javiod was disappointed when his brother stepped from the darkness of the tunnel into the pale shine of the moonlight that filtered in from the trees as the shadow Lupe he’d always been.
Javiod gritted his teeth. And he was the only one that was still a monster.
To be continued...