The Fallen: Loved - Part One
Months had passed slowly, one fading dully into the next. Everything melted together in Javiod’s mind. All of it began as a blur of colors, and then faded to mere black and white as his soul crumbled away, and his heart mourned. As the weather became lukewarm and then chilled, Javiod barely noticed the transition. As white began to blanket the ground upon which he sometimes trudged, Javiod was unaware of the numb quality of his paws.
The closer the month of Giving came, the further down Javiod sank into his despair. His heart ached as those around him celebrated each other and friendship. Even the nightwalkers seemed to be particularly jovial, tolerating each other much more openly than usual, rather than sneaking around in a solitary fashion as they were often given to.
Javiod felt lost and out of place in the midst of them, and he did nothing to alleviate that discomfort, willingly placing himself away from the groups as they huddled near the fireplace at night, hissing and cackling happily as they told stories and bonded in the coldest winter month. The Werelupe remained in his room unless he was needed, and the only times he found himself needed were when Mezzanotte was entertaining important guests or having difficulty keeping some of her minions in line.
He was a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. An object at Mezzanotte’s disposal. He held no more importance than that. His friends were gone. He was not surrounded by ones that cared for him like the rest of the population in Mezzanotte’s castle, which was really saying something for a place that was located in the Haunted Woods.
“I fear my Werelupe king is unhappy,” Mezzanotte remarked on one particularly cold evening.
Javiod did not look up to meet Mezzanotte’s critical gaze across the long, oak table. He kept his head bowed, stirring the contents of his bowl of soup with a spoon without a thought to taste it. He hadn’t had much of an appetite in some time.
“I’m fine,” he disagreed, though there was no conviction in his voice.
Javiod heard Mezzanotte release a dainty sigh. To the untrained ear it might have sounded like the sound a concerned friend would make, but Javiod wasn’t fooled. Mezzanotte only cared about his well-being if it affected her plans for power.
“Remember what I told you on Halloween? You’re strong, my king. You can stand alone.”
Javiod frowned. He didn’t care about strength or standing alone. He wanted to stand with friends. Especially now, during the month when every other Neopian was surrounded by their family and friends. He was only reminded again that his family had betrayed him, and his friends had left.
“I remember,” he responded gruffly.
“Good. Well then, I was going to discuss with you my--.”
Whatever Mezzanotte planned to discuss with him was drowned out by a panicked yelp that echoed down the hallway into the dining room in which both he and Mezzanotte were situated. Both of them gave a startled jolt, and Javiod finally glanced up from his meal.
There was a look of unease on Mezzanotte’s face, but she didn’t seem to have any intention of investigating the noise. Javiod watched as she took a deep breath, her face contorting into a frown, and lifted a paw to her eyes, momentarily shielding whatever played through them from Javiod.
“Oh no,” she muttered quietly.
Javiod lifted a brow. It was a rare occurrence to see Mezzanotte look anything but cool and composed, but, even now, Javiod watched as Mezzanotte’s slender frame tensed in expectation. It seemed as if she already knew the source of the noise.
“What?” Javiod questioned.
Mezzanotte dropped her paw, and her eyes looked uncharacteristically tired.
“Wehn,” she told him, and left it at that.
Wehn? Javiod frowned. What or who was Wehn?
A shout rose into the air, echoing down the hall to them once again, followed by the sound of shuffling feet and then a loud crash. It sounded as if something made of glass had just shattered into a million pieces.
Now the shouts turned angry.
“My vase,” Mezzanotte supplied, sounding and looking as old as a Neopian more than three times her age.
Where had her cool composure gone? And who was this Wehn that could so easily destroy it? Javiod was tempted to find out. It was the first thing he’d been truly curious about in some time. Momentarily, his forlorn thoughts dispersed as he listened to the sounds in the next room that sounded like a scuffle had broken out.
“Wehn! You little scoundrel! Must I teach you a lesson about destroying my home?”
Javiod recognized this voice to be Noctivas, Mezzanotte’s brother, though he couldn’t tell if it was angry or amused. Maybe a mixture of both.
“If you think you can take me, uncle!” an unfamiliar voice retorted.
Something else smashed.
Mezzanotte sighed loudly and shoved her chair away from the table. She gave Javiod a somewhat apologetic look and got to her feet . Reluctance made her slow.
“If you’ll excuse me, Javiod. I’ll discuss my plans with you later.”
Javiod nodded, but he wasn’t ready to depart back to his room just yet, locking himself up with his despair as he always did at night. Instead, he stood and followed Mezzanotte as she disappeared down the hall, not waiting or expecting an invitation.
He entered the room several steps behind her but just in time to see her step in between two wrestling Gelerts. One was Noctivas, and the other was a younger Halloween Gelert. Javiod studied this unknown Gelert and immediately caught on to the similar characteristics he shared with the Gelert he’d been grappling with. The youth had a very noticeable resemblance to Noctivas and Mezzanotte.
Javiod caught sight of an amulet strung around the Gelert’s neck, and noted that it was of similar make as the ones that Mezzanotte and Noctivas wore.
“That’s quite enough,” Mezzanotte snapped, wrenching the two apart.
“He started it,” Noctivas teased childishly, winking at the other Gelert behind Mezzanotte’s back.
Mezzanotte turned to scowl at him and the younger Gelert made a face at Noctivas while Mezzanotte’s head was turned.
“You’re supposed to set an example for our cousin, Noctivas. This is no way to make an impression on Wehn.”
Cousin? Javiod’s brow lifted as he stepped quietly into the room, keeping his back to the wall and trying his best to be unnoticeable as he watched the scene he hadn’t been invited to witness. He hadn’t been aware that Mezzanotte had any other family than Noctivas, but there was no denying the resemblance between the three Gelerts.
Noctivas placed a paw to his heart. “My sincerest apologies, sister.”
Wehn snorted, but tried to keep a straight face in fear that Mezzanotte’s wrath would be turned upon him.
Mezzanotte rolled her eyes. “I’m sure.” She turned and placed her arm around Wehn’s shoulders. “You know where your room is. It’s been prepared for you. Now, run along and get unpacked. I’ll see that a warm meal is waiting for you when you come back.”
Javiod smiled slightly as Wehn groaned. He recognized the reluctance in Wehn to leave a battle he’d yet to win against his uncle. Javiod remembered times when he’d indulged in similar banter with his brother.
But those times were long gone...
Javiod swallowed and looked away as Wehn strolled past him without as much as a backward glance, obediently doing as he’d been instructed. Mezzanotte gave her brother one last meaningful glare and left in the same direction, shortly after followed by Noctivas as well.
And, just like that, the moment of family intimacy was gone, and Javiod was left in the room with the ghosts of his past, a stranger spying on a life that was not his own.
Javiod soon learned that Wehn had been sent by his guardian to spend the Christmas holiday with his cousins. The reason for this—Javiod had soon after discovered—was that his guardian was an aging Gelert that had grown rather wary of watching over Wehn, a task that took a great deal more energy than his guardian still had remaining in his old bones.
It was also agreed, in so many words, that it would do Wehn good to shadow his elder cousins and learn the workings of ruling over hundreds of Neopians. Javiod also found out that Wehn was next in line to rule, should anything become of his cousins, and he had been in training for this possible upgrade in his position since a young age. It had been the duty of his guardian to school him, but the older Wehn had become, the more difficult this task had grown.
Javiod hadn’t needed anyone to explain to him the reckless nature of Wehn’s soul. He was a positively restless force that never seemed to stop running the halls of the castle and looking for mischief. Javiod found him amusing—a nice change of pace—but he kept out of the young Gelert’s way.
He had no desire to be trampled over.
“I can hear you both, you know,” Mezzanotte’s exasperated voice spoke.
Javiod glanced over his shoulder to catch a rather guilty expression on Wehn’s face, though Noctivas was doing a decent job of looking innocent. Both Gelerts were sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace while Mezzanotte sat several paces away on an elaborately upholstered chair.
Wehn offered a winning smile in his aunt’s direction. “I just thought it might be a bit of fun.”
Mezzanotte rolled her eyes. “The zombies are our allies, Wehn. I don’t think they would appreciate that. Besides, your amulet is not a toy. You must use it responsibly.”
Javiod wasn’t entirely positive what they were talking about. His own sense of hearing was very keen, but his attention had been elsewhere as he’d stood before the floor-length window in Mezzanotte’s living room, staring out into the wintery scenery.
Wehn pouted so that his bottom lip protruded in an exaggerated, theatrical manner.
“I know,” he grumbled.
Mezzanotte’s gaze then cut to Noctivas. “And you, stop encouraging him.”
Noctivas snickered but said nothing. Javiod was truly curious now as to what it was that he was missing. He had begun to feel more and more outside the loop since Wehn’s arrival a week previous. The three Gelerts together seemed to be all the company they needed. Javiod usually wouldn’t have minded, but he needed something—anything—to hold onto, and it wasn’t as if he wasn’t slightly curious about Gelert tradition and folklore, since he knew little of either and lived with more than a dozen of that exact species.
“What are you talking about?” Javiod asked, finally.
The three Gelerts turned abruptly in his direction, each one seeming to have forgotten his presence in the room with them. That was hard for Javiod to believe, since he felt his presence was so large that it was nearly impossible to miss, but he let it pass.
Wehn’s eyes were particularly keen with interest as they landed on him, as if the young Gelert had only just now realized his existence, and it was true; Javiod hadn’t made that existence apparent to the Gelert previously. He’d preferred to watch rather than be watched.
Finally, Mezzanotte cleared her throat. Her pale blue paw went to her neck, looping gently around the golden amulet that hung at her neck. The gem in the middle was completely black, and it seemed to lack the shine that most gems contained.
“Our amulets,” Mezzanotte told him.
Javiod’s brows furrowed. He’d noticed these amulets before, but he hadn’t guessed that they’d had any real purpose. They were identical in make, except that the gems boasted different colors. Noctivas’s gem was somewhere between blue and gray with what looked like one, unsettling staring eye in the middle, while Wehn’s was a swirling blue color. Javiod’s eyes lingered on Mezzanotte’s now.
“What do they do?” he questioned.
It seemed apparent to him now that he should have imagined that they did something. His paw lifted reflexively to the crescent moon-shaped charm that hung around his own neck. He had the powers of the Lupe Moon Charm, so shouldn’t he have expected that the Gelerts had something to their advantage as well?
Javiod caught the uncertain look that Noctivas sent his sister, but Mezzanotte appeared unaware of it. She was peering at Javiod with a serious expression on her face, as if she was trying to decide whether or not this was information she wanted to divulge.
Finally, she shrugged her slender shoulders. “Nothing. They’re just heirlooms.”
Javiod didn’t believe her. Not for a second. The pause between his question and her answer had been too long, and the way she touched the amulet seemed to speak of something more as well. However, Javiod was fairly certain that he was going to learn no more, because, all at once, the face of each Gelert in the room suddenly became skillfully blank.
To be continued...