The Werelupe Hunter: Part Two
Apsy noticed the change in the pets. They had been momentarily stunned by her intervention, but now that they realised she was a Werelupe, they were going to keep coming. She tensed her muscles, ready.
The stranger Werelupe had managed to manoeuvre himself closer to her, protecting her flank. She counted out the number of opponents. Seven. That was okay, but not against two.
She needn’t have worried. There was the sound of heavy pawsteps and Fanger came up on her other side, a pleasant smile on his face. She wondered at the smile until she saw the other pets hesitate. No doubt he was feeling smug that they were having second thoughts after seeing his massive frame. Though that hadn’t stopped them from attacking the stranger, who was of similar build.
“What’s the problem here?” he said just as pleasantly, repeating her question.
The spotted Gelert, who appeared to be the ringleader, took a brave step forward and drew himself up to an important height. Though he barely came up to Fanger's chest.
“Like I said, we don’t answer to Werelupe scum,” he snapped.
“Well then.” Minotaur strode forward and prodded the Gelert in the chest. “You’ll answer to me. Just what were you doing fighting a good citizen of Neopia?” His voice was cold.
The Gelert narrowed his eyes at the blue Yurble contemptuously. “He was fighting us as well,” he growled.
“The fact--” Minotaur paused a moment, trying to find the right words. “The fact that he was outnumbered tells me that he was defending himself. I suppose you think it’s fair to have seven against one, but I don’t.”
“I don’t care what you think,” the Gelert said. “He deserved it for being what he is.”
The next moment the Gelert was doubled over in pain. Apsy didn’t quite see what had happened, but it had happened very fast. Minotaur looked furious. His mane stood up in all directions.
“And you deserved that for being an absolute twit,” the Yurble said harshly, in a voice that suggested he was trying not to shout.
“Why are you standing up for them anyway?”
Minotaur turned with flared nostrils on the shadow Eyrie that Apsy had knocked over. “What do you have against them, anyway?” he countered
“Because they wanted to take over Neopia!” the Eyrie said. “Would you let Sloth walk past you in the street without trying to tackle him?”
Apsy had been trying to hold in her temper, but after a few moments she wondered why she was even trying.
“Listen here!” she snarled, moving forward and feeling instantly gratified that she was taller than the Eyrie. “We’re pets just like you. Well, actually, not exactly like you, otherwise I’d cry myself to sleep at night. I’m trying to lead the life of a normal Neopian with my owner, as are all the other Werelupes that have owners.”
“Humph.” The Eyrie didn’t seem eager to pursue the argument. “You’ll all just as bad as each other,” she threw over her shoulder as she strode away. The other pets followed her, the Gelert limping painfully.
“Well, that was interesting,” Fanger rumbled, watching with one raised eyebrow.
“Man, what did you do to him?” The strange Werelupe didn’t seem at all fazed by the scratches and bruises he had earned. He was facing Minotaur, his expression gleeful.
Minotaur dusted his paws. “Secret. But he deserved it.” He gave a roguish smile, but it never quite reached his eyes, which were still smouldering with anger.
The stranger nodded, looking impressed. “Well, whatever it was, it worked.” He paused a moment, then turned to face Apsy. “I suppose I should say thank you,” he said. “I don’t think I could have taken them all down with me.” He nodded. Then he eyed Fanger, sizing him up. He nodded once again, satisfied about something. “I’m Jorange.”
He held out a large paw, first to Minotaur. The blue Yurble’s paw was lost as the Werelupe grasped it. Then he offered it to Apsy. It was a strong shake, a bit more forceful than was necessary, but Fanger got revenge for her by giving Jorange’s foreleg a powerful tug as they shook.
“I’m Fanger,” he said, grinning. “Some people call me Fang, but I don’t really mind. This is my lil’ bro, Minotaur.” He draped a heavy foreleg over his brother’s shoulders, which Minotaur bore with a grace that was unusual for him. “Don’t bother giving him a nickname.”
“I’m Apsy,” Apsy said, not wanting Fanger to ruin a perfectly good introduction.
“It’s short for something ridiculously long, right, Apsy?” Fanger said.
“Yep,” she said. “Now, where did those groceries go...?”
She glanced over to where they were lying abandoned halfway across the street. Jorange followed her gaze.
“I’ll help you carry them,” he offered. “It’s the least I can do.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Apsy asked.
“Hmm...” Jorange shrugged, and then he nearly fell as his knees buckled. “Maybe not.”
Fanger managed to pull Jorange upright and let him lean against his shoulder.
“Think you guys can manage without me?” Fanger asked with a grin.
“Sure, just trying to get out of carrying the heavy stuff,” Minotaur muttered.
“Excuse me!” said Fanger. “No offence, Jorange, but you weigh a ton.”
“Thanks,” Jorange replied wryly, clearly not impressed.
“To your house, Fang?” Apsy asked.
“It’s closest. Besides... I don’t think Ember would be very happy if she found out about this.”
“You mean helping a Werelupe?” Jorange asked.
“No, I mean she would blow her top if she heard that you were attacked for just being a Werelupe. She’d personally hunt those pets down. She’s my owner, by the way.” She turned to Fanger. “So your house? We can probably get you fixed up as well, Jorange.”
“Jenn won’t mind,” Fanger said distractedly. He was looking back behind them, and barely avoided colliding with a tree. Jorange nudged him aside at the last minute.
“Watch it,” he murmured.
“Sorry.” Fanger faced forwards again, a frown on his face.
They reached the front gate of Fanger’s house and Minotaur opened it. A black skid mark was on the grass, still smoking.
“What the..?” Jorange began, but he was interrupted by whooping as a fire Kougra came barrelling around the corner.
The Kougra was followed closely by a green Shoyru who was shouting friendly insults. The Shoyru swooped down and the Kougra dropped to his belly to avoid her claws. Unfortunately, he also lost his balance and ended up skidding on the grass. The friction caused his already sparking coat to heat up and burn up a streak of grass across the other one, so that there was a large lopsided X in the middle of the yard.
“Minotaur! Fanger! Apsy!” the Shoyru shouted out the names joyfully, then spotted Jorange. “Random stranger that I don’t know!”
Jorange looked quite scared, as he well should have. Apsy grinned. Kieavin could be a bit overwhelming to people who weren’t used to her overly happy and unselfconscious personality.
“Hey!” the Kougra said, climbing to his paws. He didn’t look half as bad as the grass did from the fall.
“Gioama! Look what you did to the garden!” Minotaur snapped.
The Kougra giggled. “Look what Ki did to the garden.” He pointed to a nearby flowerbed, which looked like it had been dive-bombed from above. Which it probably had.
Minotaur sighed and shook his head. “Take these inside,” he ordered, holding out his bags.
“Okay.” Gioama didn’t seem fazed in his enthusiasm as he grabbed them and bounded inside. Apsy grinned. He was the youngest in Fanger’s family, while Ki was the second oldest, a day younger than Fanger. But they shared the same traits.
“Right!” Minotaur said, taking charge as he usually did when Jenn wasn’t around. It was a good arrangement; he enjoyed telling people what to do, and they were content to listen to him because he was smarter than average. “Let’s get Jorange inside.”
Kieavin beamed. “Nice to meet you, Jorange!” she said. She landed on the ground and raced into the house, shouting, “We have a guest, Mum!”
Fanger led Jorange into the house and seated him on a chair. Jenn came down the stairs with Kieavin trailing after her. She took one look at Jorange’s injuries and grimaced sympathetically.
“Right, let’s get you fixed up,” she said. “Ki, get the first aid kit.”
Kieavin scampered off. Apsy looked around for Fanger and saw him lurking in the doorway, undecided about whether to leave the room or not.
“What’s up?” she asked as she padded over to him.
“There’s something... I swear I caught Macejaw’s scent before, when we were walking home.”
Apsy felt her breath catch. “But you can’t have. The King has him locked up in the Burrows.”
“Had him locked up. I know what I smelt, Apsy. I trust my nose.” Fanger’s eyes were narrowed. “Only Shadowheart and Redfang are before him in my list of scents I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Apsy nodded in agreement. Shadowheart was a Werelupe who had tried to take over the Werelupe King’s throne less than a month before. And Redfang was his loyal companion, with him from the start, and the only one who didn’t need to be bewitched by his magic, as far as Apsy could tell. Macejaw had tried to take over the throne as before Shadowheart, but Shadowheart had enchanted him as well, and he hadn’t tried to invade Neopia.
“Are you sure about this?” she asked Fanger.
He hesitated, then nodded. “Yes. I am. We have to go back now before the trail gets cold.”
Apsy nodded. “Do you think Jorange will mind?” she asked.
“I think he’s pretty tough,” Fanger said with a laugh. Besides, I don’t think Jenn will be letting him go anywhere soon.”
Apsy grinned. “Let’s go.”
“Right... it was somewhere around here.”
Fanger ignored the pedestrians no doubt watching and put his nose to the ground. Apsy took in a deep breath, trying to catch Macejaw’s scent. There! A tiny whiff of something familiar.
She moved away from Fanger until the scent became stronger, and then put her nose to the ground. Smelt mostly like dirt and dirty paws, which was gross, but she could definitely scent Macejaw.
“This way, Fang!” she shouted, startling a Moehog standing nearby.
She moved along the trail, the scent becoming stronger so that she could begin to move more confidently. Fanger guided her path, not so much nudging her out of people’s way as looking intimidating enough for them to scurry away.
“Uh... Apsy?” he said after perhaps half a minute.
“What?” she said distractedly.
“This is looking very familiar.”
“What do you mean?” Apsy paused long enough to take stock of her surroundings. She frowned. They were only a few streets away from her house. “No,” she whispered.
“We’ve been heading this way for a while. I think I can guess where Macejaw is at the moment.”
Apsy snarled. “If he’s hurt my family...” she let the threat trail off as she raced the rest of the way to her house.
To be continued...