The Fallen: Twisted - Part Three
Javiod rolled in his sleep. Restlessness weighed heavily on the Werelupe, even in his slumber. Something was amiss. Whatever it was, it plagued him with disturbing dreams, images of chaos and destruction. Somewhere in the background of his nightmares, Javiod watched a castle crumble to the ground with a monstrous roar as screams of fright and pain echoed loudly in the air.
The massive Lupe tossed from left to right, grunting softly in his distress.
A loud howl rose into the air, echoing painfully in Javiod’s ears. His face contorted into lines of anxiety in his sleep. The sound was one of warning, traced with panic. Something was happening. It was a warning siren, that one, lone howl. One that meant trouble was coming quickly.
Another howl sounded to join the first. This one was slightly more expressive. Trouble had been terming whatever was happening too lightly. Something horrible was going on. The Lupes creating these howls were in great distress.
In his dreams, Javiod watched the tumbled ruins of the castle as dawn painted the sky light pink across the hills. But something told him even this was wrong. This castle—as horrid as it was to see it in ruins—was not the cause of his brethren’s fear.
The Werelupe king jolted, coming abruptly out of his sleep and sitting up bolt straight as the sound of his name echoed loudly in his cave. It took no time for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, or for him to decipher the owner of the voice that had called to him.
Rhoswen was already rushing to his side, his friend’s face painted with remnants of shock and despair that was overpowered by his urgency. That urgency brought Javiod immediately to his feet.
“What is it?” he demanded, already fearing the worst.
Rhoswen’s eyes were two large orbs of emotion, both vying to scream out their troubles to Javiod with one expressive look. Javiod almost wanted to wince away from his gaze, to tell Rhoswen to keep whatever bad news he bore to himself.
But he couldn’t do that. He was king. It was his responsibility to shoulder bad news.
“Your brother,” Rhoswen panted, and it was then that Javiod realized his companion was breathing hard and fast, as if he’d just ran a great distance. “He’s here.”
His brother’s appearance was disturbing, but Javiod could hardly believe that he’d caused so much confusion just by showing up.
Another howl pierced the night, and Javiod’s eyes narrowed.
“He’s brought the villagers,” Rhoswen gushed. “All of them. They’re here. With fire and pitchforks. They’re destroying everything! What do we do, sire?”
A horrible ball of dread knotted in Javiod’s stomach, and he gently pushed Rhoswen aside to hurry to the mouth of his cave. Even with Rhoswen’s miniscule description, Javiod was already ready to fear the worst. Setting his jaw, Javiod forced himself to move.
Fire and pitchforks? What had his brother done now?
He found out before he’d so much as stepped foot outside the cave opening. In fact, he was still halfway inside the cave when his eyes detected the strange, burnt orange glow that was flickering inside the forest. The smell of smoke burnt his nose, and Javiod nearly gagged.
Not because of the smell, but because he knew what that orange glow was.
For a few moments, Javiod remained rooted to his spot, unable to move, hardly able to comprehend. He was vaguely aware of the sound of Rhoswen coming to stand beside him, faintly alerted when Rhoswen touched a paw to his shoulder.
“The villagers are in a frenzy. I saw madness in their eyes. They’ve lit trees on fire. I told the others to scatter. I didn’t know what else to do. You didn’t want the villagers harmed, I knew that.”
There was a rock lodged somewhere in Javiod’s throat. He couldn’t swallow, could hardly breathe. The orange glow was in the perfect direction to tell Javiod that the trees that were burning were those situated around his makeshift throne room, the small clearing his brethren had created for him.
They were destroying one of the only symbols he’d been left with after his brother had betrayed him. He had nothing. Nothing but the twig crown atop his head.
Javiod listened dimly as more howls rose, mostly short, but vastly communicative. The Werelupes were trying to pinpoint each other’s locations, trying to successfully flee together, leaving no one behind. Everyone thought the Werelupes a dim breed, but they were very intelligent. Especially as a unit.
Javiod would have to herd them up later, find somewhere new for them all to live.
But for now...
Rhoswen was silent for a moment. “He led them here, but he disappeared shortly after, sire.”
Had he fled already? He’d known his brother was a coward, but to this extent? Javiod wanted to sneer, but he had seemed to have lost control of his facial muscles.
“Gather the others and take them to the boundaries of our territory, nearest to the castle of Countess Mezzanotte. I’ll find you all there.”
Javiod felt the air shift as Rhoswen nodded and obediently left him to do his bidding without another word. What else could he say? No words could adequately describe the pain either Lupe was feeling as their homes burned.
Javiod ground his teeth together. He’d left his brother in peace only to be rewarded with this.
He had to do something about it. Almost mechanically, Javiod began to move, slowly placing one foot in front of the other, forcing himself to follow the narrow path that led to his throne room.
Concentrating, he kept his mind blank of everything but the simple goal to find Alston. If he didn’t allow the pain to surface, he could remain in control. He wanted to drop his eyes to his feet instead of keeping them ahead so that he could see the destruction that had taken place as he ventured closer to the orange glow.
Watching his feet would have been less painful. By far. The simple motion of placing one foot in front of the other. Right, left. Right, left.
The rock in Javiod’s throat seemed to expand as he began to pass charred and blackened trees and shrubbery, as the ground beneath his feet began to crack and hiss as he stepped on burnt twigs and leaves.
His home. His home was gone.
What now? Where would he live now? Who else would accept a Werelupe into their homes? The Werelupe territory was being destroyed. Where else could they go?
Javiod forced those thoughts aside and stepped into the clearing that had once been his throne room. His eyes dully turned, only once, in the direction of his rock throne. The stones had been knocked over. His throne lay in pieces on the darkened ground.
His gaze then ventured to the tree-formed tunnel. It was still burning. Javiod could feel the heat of the fire from here.
“We’ve taught them!”
“Now they’ll never bother us.”
“We got to them first!”
Confused, Javiod stared at the flames as he listened to the voices. They didn’t belong to any of his Werelupes. They must have been the villagers. By the direction they were coming from, Javiod guessed that they must have been done destroying his home and were now retreating back to their kingdom.
They continued to cheer amongst each other, but their voices grew fainter and fainter. What had they meant they’d gotten to them first?
Javiod’s chest ached as he watched the forest to his right burn as he turned over their words again and again.
What had Alston done? What had he told them? How had he forced this to happen?
“There you are, brother.”
For the first time since he’d woken to chaos, Javiod came fully alert, fully aware, as his head snapped up, and he whirled around. Alston stood behind him, his feet spread apart in an arrogant stance with his arms folded over his furry, black chest.
“Alston,” Javiod hissed. “What have you done?”
His brother shrugged nonchalantly. “Simply acting first.”
Javiod’s eyes narrowed, disbelievingly. “Acting first? Before what?”
A hiss and crack signified the death of one tree as a large branch, no longer able to withstand the heat and destruction of the fire, fell to the ground with a loud thud. That thud echoed in Javiod’s heart.
“Before you could carry out that little threat you made,” Alston informed him.
What threat? Javiod mentally stumbled. What was he talking about? It was so hard to comprehend anything outside of this pain. This horrid, horrid pain. Javiod forced himself to think, to recall making any sort of threat.
And then it came to him. That silly threat he’d made the last time he’d laid eyes on his brother. The one that warned Alston that he would not claim another full night’s sleep of deep rest.
It had been an empty threat. Javiod had only meant to frighten him, to give him a few uneasy nights. He’d never intended to act on it. He could never have brought harm to his kingdom.
But Alston had taken him literally. Alston had not guessed that he had been bluffing. He’d destroyed Javiod’s new home because of an empty threat.
Javiod’s paws tightened into fists until he felt his claws dig into his palms.
“That’s why you did this?” Javiod wanted to shake Alston by the front of his pristine white shirt that was now covered in black soot smudges. “You did this because you thought I was going to do something to you?”
It was Alston’s turn to pause as he noted the incredulous tone of Javiod’s voice. He lifted a brow.
“Of course, brother. I had to strike first, remain one step ahead. You know that’s how I conduct my business.” He shrugged again, regaining some of his confidence. “The villagers were easy to provoke. All I had to do was create some mastermind plan that I told them you’d constructed in order to terrorize them, and they were all too ready to strike first.”
Javiod couldn’t breathe again. He’d known his villagers had not and could not accept the Werelupe he’d become, but that they could create this violent act upon him stunned Javiod. They did not care for him, and it did not matter that he’d once been their favored king. They turned on him as easily and mindlessly as Balthazar the faerie hunter could have turned on his own mother for the price of a faerie.
And his brother was completely smug and triumphant about this. He didn’t care that he’d just destroyed his own brother once again, just crushed the only trace of happiness he’d regained.
Javiod had never been so consumed with hate and contempt in his entire life. It engulfed him all at once, as hot and as untamed as the fire that was eating away at the forest around him. He was almost blinded by it.
With a quick jerk of his hand, Javiod jabbed a clawed, furry finger at his brother, and swore his vengeance.
“You. Will. Pay. For. This.” Javiod snapped every word in a deliberately slow manner.
He saw the fear that crept into his brother’s gaze, and he was glad for it. Javiod whirled away on his heel, and stalked into the forest that was still green and alive, heading for the destination in which he’d told his Werelupes to meet him.
He knew what he had to do now. There was only one thing left. He’d have to make a bargain with the most twisted soul in the Haunted Woods, but he had to. There was no other way. Alston had brought this upon himself.
And, at the moment, Javiod felt no remorse for the Neopians that inhabited his kingdom.
Seeing how the night was just beginning, Mezzanotte was already awake when three, loud knocks sounded against one of the large oak doors of her castle. The knocks sounded more like large boulders being slammed against the door, but Mezzanotte knew the cause of this.
She’d heard the Werelupe howls earlier, and, though she wasn’t a Lupe, she’d been able to detect the distress in the tones of the noise. Something had gone quite scary in the Werelupe territory of the Haunted Woods. And Mezzanotte had a feeling that whatever it was might work to her advantage.
After all, why else would she be opening her door to the sight of Javiod the Werelupe king? Mezzanotte knew it would be him before she’d even touched her paw to the door to swing it open.
Sure enough, he was exactly who she found on her doorstep.
“Good evening,” she greeted the Werelupe, eyeing the decently sized pack that lurked behind him. There was a restlessness so strong in the air that Mezzanotte could sense it, but she needed nothing else but the expression on Javiod’s face to be enlightened to it. “What brings you to my doorstep at this hour, Werelupe?”
Javiod seemed reluctant to share his reason, even as a wave of muted conversation rippled through the crowd behind him. Each face was scowling and smeared with black soot, some eyes were pained. Werelupes shifted from one foot to the other, a nervous half-dance, as if they were prepared to run.
Mezzanotte lifted a finely sculpted brow and waited for Javiod’s response.
Finally, he gave it to her. “I accept.”
Mezzanotte pursed her lips. “You accept what?”
Abruptly, the ruby amulet around Mezzanotte’s neck heated, and, only seconds later, she heard the sound of her brother’s voice inside her mind.
“What do they want?” Noctivas questioned inside her thoughts.
Mezzanotte frowned. Usually, their family’s gift of silent communication was a blessing, but, at the moment, Mezzanotte did not want her thoughts interrupted. She was far too intrigued by the sight of Javiod and his pack to worry about her brother’s nosey and curious nature.
She guessed that he was somewhere near, perhaps at a window, trying to eavesdrop. She imagined that all of the occupants of her castle were doing the same, seeing as how one would have had to have been deaf not to hear the sound of Javiod’s noisy knocking. She wondered how many curious eyes were peering out the windows now at the Werelupe pack.
“I don’t know,” she thought in response to her brother’s question, knowing that he’d hear her well enough.
Her attention shifted back to Javiod as he took a deep breath.
“You offered my pack a place in your castle in return for us to drop our guard around Alston’s kingdom. I accept.”
Now both of Mezzanotte’s brows rose, but she tried to suppress the triumphant smile that tried to paint its way across her face. Though she hadn’t meant his whole pack when she’d offered him a place in her castle, she’d meant only Javiod. However, if she had to take the whole pack to get the most powerful Werelupe in the Haunted Woods on her side, then she thought she could manage.
“Perfect,” she purred. “I’m sure we can arrange something comfortable.”
A Werelupe she would not have known as Rhoswen, Javiod’s trusted friend, stepped forward to address his king.
“Sire, our allegiance will always be yours without question, but...” he paused to flick a weary glance at Mezzanotte. “We’d prefer to stay in the Woods, if that’s okay with you.”
Mezzanotte smirked. “Feel free to use the Woods around my castle. My home is your home as long as we have an agreement.”
She looked expectantly towards Javiod, who did not disappoint her, though he still gave off the impression of a reluctant soul.
“Fine,” he agreed. “It’s done.”
Mezzanotte’s face was finally allowed to break into a wicked sort of smile as she stepped back and gestured for Javiod to come in. She did not know what it was that was driving the Werelupe into her corner, forcing him to make a bargain with her, but she did not really care.
As long as it was exactly what was happening.
“Come in, Javiod. It appears you have a castle to reside in once again.”
With his elbows propped on the sill, Javiod leaned halfway out of the window of his new room in Mezzanotte’s castle, his eyes focused on a small crowd of Neopians as they immerged from the woods in the darkness. They were making quite a bit of noise, moaning and groaning like souls in horrible pain.
Javiod wouldn’t have been surprised if they were. Some of them seemed to be barely holding together. Every now and again, he thought he saw a limb or some other appendage depart from its owner and fall to the ground, left behind like a discarded piece of clothing.
The Zombie Neopets were really, truly gruesome creatures. Javiod frowned down at them as he watched them make a crooked line towards the the dark silhouette in the distance. They were headed for the kingdom that was no longer protected. The kingdom ruled by his brother.
He would not rest easy again.
Javiod ignored the dull, throbbing ache in his chest that had become a constant companion of his over the last couple of weeks in which he’d moved into Mezzanotte’s castle and situated his Werelupe pack around the outside of the castle, just inside of the woods that bordered her structure.
His pack had a home again, and, though it could never compete with the one they once had, it was a home again. He’d done his duty as king and provided for his own citizens. His loyal Werelupes.
But he couldn’t dismiss the feeling that he’d sold his soul to do so.
Javiod’s eyes became pained as he watched the departing Zombies. He would not stop them. Not this time. This time he encouraged them to create havoc. He wanted his vengeance.
Didn’t he? He questioned his troubled heart.
He did. There was no other way now. He’d already set things into motion. He’d created an allegiance with Mezzanotte and her kind. He was Javiod the Werelupe king and right-hand Lupe to Mezzanotte.
Werelupes did his bidding.
And he did Mezzanotte’s.
Javiod closed his eyes. This was the price he had to pay for his vengeance. He closed his paw around the moon charm that hung about his neck. There was no turning back. This was his fate, and there was no changing it. This was all that was left.
He was Javiod, the fallen king.