Inevitable Betrayal: Part Five
Sobbing, Losely fled through the forest. Gnarled arms of tree branches reached for her as she went. Some caught at the hem of her dress; others tore at her bare arms. She thought she heard the whispers of voices and the haunting echo of a maniacal laugh. She barreled on regardless, whipping her way through underbrush and disregarding the angrier bushes with thorns.
All she knew was that she had to reach the safety of her cottage, and she didn’t stop until she’d done so. Shoving through the door, Losely, exhausted, fell to the floor on her hands and knees with a grunt. She hardly felt the sting of her knee scraping wood.
The blackness was trying to haze around the edges of her vision, and she attempted to blink it away.
“No use,” the voice growled. “It’s mine now.”
“No,” Losely snapped. “No, it’s not. This is my body. Get out.”
Her hands balled into fists on the floor. Now that she knew everything, now that she could remember, she knew she wasn’t crazy, and she knew she had to fight this. Whatever was speaking to her had evil intentions. Whatever it was that was trying to take control wanted to rule Neopia in darkness.
“It’s your turn. It’s your turn to be sealed away,” the voice chanted.
The skull necklace heated against her chest, and Losely glanced down at it, petrified. That was what had caused this? That necklace? In disbelief, she watched as the two blue jewels in the skull’s eye sockets flashed brilliantly back at her. It was staring at her, watching her. Panicked, Losely pushed herself back onto her bottom and reached for the necklace. Her leg was briefly exposed from beneath her dress, and, in mounting horror, Losely saw that the green-hued patch on her leg was quickly disappearing.
Her paws burned from the heat as she took hold of the skull and tried to pull it off. She ignored the blisters that were surely forming on her paws and attempted to wrench it over her head. As if in response, the chain of the necklace tightened suddenly, shortening its circle so that it became like a collar, like a wicked, malicious choker wrapped around her neck.
“NO!” Losely cried, but she couldn’t get free of it.
The necklace had her. Whatever was in the necklace had her too.
“Goodbye, Losely. Goodbye,” the voice whispered.
And, though she struggled against it, the next wave of darkness was too powerful to resist. With a small cry, Losely was sucked down into the abyss as the spirit took complete control and sealed her inside of the skull necklace. Like falling into an eternal slumber, Losely Bones disappeared.
Replacing her triumphantly, Ellestra pushed to her feet in her new body.
“Yes,” Ellestra purred. “Finally.”
She lifted her dainty pink paw for examination and sighed in delight. The transformation was complete. Smiling to herself, Ellestra closed her paw around the skull necklace briefly, delighted to find that its heated surface was rapidly cooling. Losely was trapped.
Poor, poor Losely. What a fool. Ellestra clucked her tongue. To think that her last ditch effort to resist her would be in vain. She’d felt that fleeting sense of hope Losely had departed with, that weak thought that Damis would rescue her as she disappeared into the darkness, and Ellestra was not sad to disappoint her.
As if she hadn’t already planned on Werelupe retaliation.
Ellestra snickered darkly. Everything was already falling into place. Soon, world domination!
But, right now, she had to change this ghastly wardrobe.
Zharick had been meditating quietly on his throne in the Werelupe cave. His eyes had been closed, his breathing even, and he’d appeared to have been sleeping. But he wasn’t. How could he sleep? Would he ever sleep again? Not likely, unless they quickly found this Ellestra character. Still, Zharick had hidden behind the pretense of sleep to be alone with his thoughts.
He tried to focus on the scent of burning timber from the fire that blazed in the corner of the cave, or the almost unnoticeable, distant burbling sound of a small stream that ran through the depths of the cave. But his mind could not be diverted from its thoughts.
He couldn’t stand the pleading, panicked stares from his comrades much longer. What did they expect him to do? He was only so powerful when compared to an evil spirit with supernatural power.
Anxiety curled like a bitter taste in the back of his throat, and Zharick wondered what he would do if things reached the evil end that was a possibility if they didn’t find the spirit soon.
The truth was, he didn’t know.
The alarmed shout brought Zharick’s eyes open wide. His gaze fell upon his prophet. He’d known Sepheren had been pacing a straight line back and forth in front of his throne, but now the old Werelupe was frozen stiff somewhere at the middle of that line.
Before Zharick could react, Sepheren’s eyes seemed to bulge from his head, and he released a strangled growl as one of his paws went to his chest, clutching uselessly over his heart. Zharick was out of his seat immediately, racing to the prophet’s side.
“Sepheren? What’s happening?” he demanded.
He was more than panicked when he found that Sepheren was gasping for breath, as if he was choking on his own air.
“No, no, no!” Sepheren choked through gulps of air. “No, no, no!”
“Get him water!” Zharick shouted to the Lupe nearest him.
“No, no, no!” Sepheren continued to gurgle.
“Sepheren!” Zharick attempted to call his attention.
It was no use. The prophet stood as rigid as before, gasping for air, and clutching wildly at his heart. Zharick tried thumping him on the back, wondering if maybe he’d choked on something, but it helped little to none at all. He was helpless. As always. The prophet’s eyes continued to bulge as if they might explode from the sockets.
“HELP!” Zharick started as a new voice echoed down the entry tunnel and into his cave. “HELP ME!”
He started to turn, to glance in confusion at the mouth of his cave, to seek out the voice that went with the heavy footsteps that were pounding in his direction, but Zharick froze. As soon as that unknown voice echoed off the walls, Sepheren’s entire body had suddenly gone slack.
“HELP ME!” the voice pled again, and Zharick could tell that the unexpected guest was nearly to the cave.
Abruptly, Sepheren blew out an enormous, shaky breath, closed his eyes, and then opened them slowly again.
“It’s too late.”
Sepheren’s quiet statement was whisper soft, but Zharick caught every word of it, and his heart clenched in fear. He turned, feeling his fate inevitably sealed, and found a Halloween Kougra darting into the midst of the Werelupe cave. The Kougra’s face was painted in fear, and Zharick felt his heart and his hopes drop to his feet.
“Help me! You have to help me! You have to help me save her!” the Kougra yelled.
He braved darting through the midst of the Werelupe pack and straight to Zharick himself. The Werelupes were so surprised by the creature’s intrusion that most let him pass without objection when they usually guarded their king fiercely. Perhaps they already sensed what it was the creature had to tell. Zharick grimaced as the Kougra fell at his feet.
“King Zharick, you have to help!” the Kougra pled.
“Who are you?” Zharick questioned. He had to stay calm.
Calm for his pack.
“Damis,” the Kougra told him. “Damis Denalis. You have to help me save my friend. Help me save Losely!”
Though he didn’t feel any more stable than Damis appeared to be, Zharick reminded himself that he had to have control. He had to be calm, to be wise. More than just this Kougra seeking help depended on him. But he already feared the worst.
“What is wrong with your friend?” Zharick asked.
There was a small shift of movement behind him, and Zharick was all too aware of the fact that Sepheren was now standing directly behind him.
“I think... I think she’s sick. I think she has the disease. The disease everyone keeps talking about,” Damis admitted. “There’s something wrong with her. She’s not herself!”
“Elaborate.” It was Sepheren giving the command now.
Zharick allowed this shift of power wordlessly.
“I should have known earlier. She’s been acting so strange,” Damis mumbled, and then spoke louder. “Sometimes it’s like she’s asleep, but her eyes are open. She’s like another person. Her hair has grown back in. Her eyes have changed colors. Her fur is pink now. She was yelling at herself. She asked me to stop her, but I don’t know what from.”
Tears pooled without warning into his golden eyes, and he was oblivious to the sudden collection of held breath in the room as each Werelupe realized what the Kougra spoke of. Zharick felt a foreboding cloud gathering above them, spelling doom silently.
Now what? It was all that he could wonder.
“Take us to her,” Zharick demanded, answering his own question.
Damis’s tears stopped immediately, suspicion clouding his vision, as if he suspected some underlying meaning in the king’s tone. “Why? What are you going to do to her?”
“There’s no time,” Zharick snapped. “We’ll explain on the way. Take us to her.”
To be continued...