Robiian's Werelupe Adventure
Robiian slammed the book shut. Myths and Legends of Neopian Fantasy, the title read. A split Lenny smiled up from the cover, the portrait of a Neopian scholar. His name, Dr. Fableman, was scrawled beneath his smiling beak and there was a red star plastered on the corner of the picture with glaring yellow letters spread across three lines: #1 Neopian Times Bestseller.
Robiian's lips curled and he bared his teeth, just a little. The words from the page were still fresh in his Scorchio mind: "The most widespread myth in all of Neopia is, perhaps, that of the 'Werelupe.' Werelupes, known to scientists who study Neopian species as a variety of Halloween Lupe, do not exist." How, Robiian demanded to know, could such a terrible lie masquerade as truth?
He shivered--the stone room was cold and the fire had started to sputter out--and walked to the window. The sky was cloudy and a warm breeze, probably the last of the season, rustled the leaves of his neighbor's trees. The sun seemed orange, shades off of its usual bright yellow, and the streets were empty. Robiian smiled: he could imagine, in every house on his block, the young Neopets getting dressed up in costumes and putting on makeup. Some had already started to roam the streets, going from door to door with swelling bags of candy and toys.
So much for a quiet Halloween at home, he thought. Robiian shook off a yawn and trotted across the room and into the hallway. "Allariae!" he called.
"What?" the Bori yelled back.
"Get ready to go!"
"But I didn't think we were going trick or treating. You said--"
"We're not. Hurry up."
"Then where are we going?"
"Into the Woods."
Silence followed, deathly silence. "Why?" the answer finally came.
"Just hurry up. I'll explain later." Robiian bounded down the stairs to grab his cloak.
In her own room, Allariae put up her journal, stashed her pen carefully so it wouldn't leak, and grabbed the nicest coat she could out of her closet. She took her time down the stairs, resigned to accompany Robiian on another of his ludicrous adventures.
She met up with him in the front hall, and together they stepped out into the evening air. Judging by the sun, they had at least two hours before they wouldn't be able to find their way.
"Are you sure about the Woods?" Allariae asked. "Can't we do something else to celebrate, like splatter Edna's tower with Faerie Foods?"
"I'm on a mission," Robiian replied. "And the only way to accomplish my mission," a wide grin spread across his face, "is to venture into the Haunted Woods."
"Couldn't we do it tomorrow? I mean, it's Halloween and, and, well, you know what they say about the woods on Halloween."
"It can't wait. The injustice of it cannot be allowed to continue for a minute--no, a second--longer than it absolutely must, and that means going now and getting back as fast as possible."
"Getting back before dark?" Allariae asked hopefully.
Robiian grinned, from one Rainbow ear to the other. “If we’re not back by midnight, we get to find out what the Haunted Woods is like after dark!”
There was a wind blowing through the Haunted Woods that afternoon, a dry wind, chilling to the very bone--the kind of wind that dries out your throat and makes you dream of water. The sun was not its usual yellow, but a full orange in the sky as it sank, with no hints of the welcome red or purple of a sunset, but spattered with an ominous blue. Robiian drew his cloak tight around him and shivered. Allariae did the same. They walked through the familiar streets of town, past Bagatelle and the Scratchcard Kiosk, past the giant hammer of Test Your Strength and the line of Neopets waiting to win the jackpot, past the Wheel of Misfortune, sitting atop a hill of ashen items, and to the very edge of the Haunted Woods.
Robiian shivered again, not from the cold this time but from the thought of the woods. He could see, between the tall trees and the prickly bushes, pockets of a darkness so intense that he was sure not even a faerie light could pierce it. And he smiled.
“Are you sure about this?” Allariae asked. “I mean... look at it. It’s not even dark and, and....”
“And,” Robiian answered, “and look at it! The most feared place in all of Neopia! Home to creatures of legend, undiscovered mysteries, and whatever else we might be able to find there!”
Allariae smiled weakly in response. She took the first step across the tree line, into the shadowy darkness of the forest.
Reggie was half a step behind her. His eyes, keen to the darkness after reading under the covers and pretending for years to hack through the jungles of Mystery Island, adjusted to the spots of light filtering down through the canopy. Allariae stepped forward, moving each leg inch by inch to lessen the impact of any tree she’d run into or root she’d stumble over. Before they’d taken four steps into the forest, Robiian was ahead by a step and a half. Allariae followed the rustling he left in his wake, trusting that he wouldn’t run her into anything painful. Or dangerous.
“How can you see?” she demanded.
“Magic,” Robiian responded. “Pure, simple magic.”
She rolled her eyes, protected from his retort by the darkness that hid the motion. “How are we supposed to find one of these things anyway?”
“They’re not things,” Robiian insisted. “They’re Neopets, like you, like me, like everyone else. Neopets, not things.”
“Honestly, Allariae, have some pity. They’re no different than you, with your Halloween Bori Paint job. Only... only they had a run in with the bad side of a Halloween Paint Brush, the sinister side that makes everyone afraid of the Haunted Woods. Would you ever call a normal Lupe names? To his face?”
Allariae shook her head. “I guess not, but--“'
“How are we supposed to find them?”
“Follow the trail.”
“The trail you’re on right now. They have to live deep in the forest, or else everyone would know they exist.”
“There’s not a trail here,” Allariae protested. Her eyes had grown a little more accustomed to the darkness, enough to see that they were walking through a stretch of unexceptional forest.
“Of course there is. Don’t you see? The trees are close there,” he pointed off into the distance, “and there,” he pointed off the other way. “Here they’re still close together, but there’s a gap.”
Allariae looked around. It was true that there was a line through the forest where no trees grew. The “path” was strewn with dead leaves and rising roots, and a scuttling rose up from beneath them, the scuttling of petpetpets waiting to leap on any innocent petpet that got too close.
“And you’re sure they’re going to be in the middle of the forest?”
Allariae sighed. Her breath rose in front of her as a pearly cloud. “Okay."
Robiian grinned. “Thanks,” he whispered. Only the petpetpets could hear him.
The forest trail was perilous, littered with things to trip over, bordered by things to run into, and crawling with things to step on. Twice Robiian and Allariae, hearing a howl in the distance, stopped in their tracks. Twice they stood, completely still, in the middle of the Haunted Woods for four or five long minutes, waiting to see if the howl was going to come any closer. It didn’t, either time, and after they’d caught their breath the two adventurers continued on their way. For the most part, walking into the Haunted Woods proper was uneventful.
Then something soft and furry ran into Robiian’s legs. Allariae heard a yelp from the path in front of her and the crash as Robiian toppled to the ground.
“Robiian?” her voice trilled, panic creeping into every sound. “Robiian? Robiian?"
“Grumph,” he moaned.
“Fine. Fine. I’m fine,” he said. He could feel whatever had run into him, pressed against his side, half squished by one of his paws: it was a petpet.
“Meow!” the petpet yelled.
“Sorry. Sorry. I’m so sorry!” Robiian lifted his paw off the poor petpet and lifted himself to his feet.
Allariae laughed. “A Meowclops? You ran into a Meowclops? As if it doesn’t have a giant, glowing eye that everyone everywhere can see from the Lost Desert?”
“A Meowclops? Well. It’s good to know what it is. I’m sorry, little fellow.”
"What’s it saying?”
“It’s not saying anything. It’s meowing. Petpets don’t talk, silly.”
“Right. Right. But what does it want? I mean, it ran right into me, straight into me, like he meant to do it.’
“He probably did. What did you do to him?”
“Nothing! I was just here, walking along, and... BAM! Meowclops.”
“MeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeOOOOOOOOOOWWW,” the Meowclops demanded.
“Well,” Allariae said. “He wants something.”
The Meowclops’s eye suddenly showed up, and Allariae knew why Robiian hadn’t seen the petpet before he ran into it: the Meowclops had been running with his eye closed.
“Meow,” he demanded simply and started walking away--off the path and through the woods themselves. He stopped a few steps away and looked back at them, his big, round eye pleading. Allariae realized what he wanted, but was afraid it would keep them in the Woods after dark. And Robiian probably wouldn’t be up for it.
“Maybe,” Robiian started, “we should follow him.”
Allariae smiled and nodded. “Let’s.”
And so they started off after the Meowclops. Using his eye as both a beacon and a lantern, they followed, careful not to trip over tree roots or brush up against the sharp bark of exotic tree species. They dodged prickly bushes and ducked under low branches, stepped on pointed twigs and used the layer of fallen leaves as cushioning against the cold ground.
“Meow.” The Meowclops looked back and urged them on every few feet, as if he were wondering why they couldn’t move through the forest with the same speed and grace he managed.
“We’re new here,” Allariae wanted to explain to him. “We don’t know these Woods too well.” But she didn’t say anything; she followed Robiian, who followed the Meowclops, who was leading them somewhere deep, deep in the Haunted Woods.
All of a sudden, the Meowclops stopped. Robiian tripped over it, struggled for a moment, and had almost caught his balance before Allariae ran into his back and sent them both toppling. They looked up, from the ground, to survey their surroundings: they were in a clearing of some sort, shaped like an oval with slightly pointed ends, with some low bushes framing the edges. The ground was covered with mangled tree roots and three stumps stood in a triangle, all three about a meter high, in the center.
In the center, between the tree stumps, caught up in the roots, was a Neopet.
“Meow.” The Meowclops bounded across the clearing and licked at the Neopet.
“It’s...” Robiian started.
Allariae ran across the clearing after the Meowclops. “It’s hurt.” She threw herself at the ground beside the Neopet, clawing at the roots wrapped around its legs.
Robiian followed. He picked at the roots, trying to cut them away from the Lupe’s legs. He stopped for a second to look at the Lupe, face down in the center of the clearing, and his mouth dropped: a Werelupe.
He went back to work and a few minutes later the roots--the Lupe had tangled himself in them trying to get free--were pulled away and the Werelupe rose slowly to his feet.
The Meowclops danced around the Werelupe as he stood up, a huge grin visible in his huge eye, meowing and licking at the air. He turned and looked at Robiian and Allariae, fixing them both with his eye in turn, and meowed his thanks at each of them.
“You-You’re a Werelupe!” Robiian stuttered.
“Robiian!” Allariae reprimanded.
The Werelupe nodded. “Thanks?”
“You don’t talk to Neopians much, do you?”
“You’re not... afraid to talk to me?” the Werelupe asked slowly, searching for words he hadn’t used in years.
“No,” Allariae answered.
Robiian’s answer was slower, and his voice was quavering.
“Thanks,” the Werelupe repeated, not sure of what else he was supposed to say.
“What’s your name?”
“Mooney, I’m Allariae, and this is Reggie.”
“What are you two doing... all the way out here? Neopets... they don’t come here, do they?”
“See,” Robiian started, “I was reading this book...” At the mention of a book the Lupe stepped back, away from Robiian. “Just a book, nothing scary about it, and the author--he’s not the brightest person in the world, Dr. Fableman, was talking about Werelupes--err, Halloween Lupes--and how they don’t exist. I wanted, I wanted--”
“To prove him wrong,” Allariae finished.
“You want me to go out there?” the Lupe guessed.
“Well, you don’t have to,” Robiian started. “I mean, I know now that you all exist--I assume there are more of you, at least--so that’s good enough.”
“But,” the Lupe protested, “I want to go on an adventure! Neopia.” He rolled the word around on his tongue. “The town’s still there, right, with all the carnival games and all those strange shops?”
“Yes,” Allariae answered.
“Then let’s go!”
The Meowclops, in its infinite knowledge of the Haunted Woods, led the three pets back to the fairgrounds. There was a split Lenny standing at the edge of the woods, a book in his hand opened to a specific page. He shook his head when Robiian, Allariae, Mooney, and the Meowclops emerged from the Haunted Woods.
“All science is fact,” he told Robiian. “You can’t prove facts wrong!”
Robiian smiled and looked up at Mooney. “What fact have I proven wrong?”