Outcast: The Tale of Rhoswen - Part Three
Lyekan, the black, red-tinted Werelupe, straightened, and he nodded as well.
“You wear the necklace. You are king,” Lyekan proclaimed, as if this made perfect sense.
Rhoswen had all but forgotten about the necklace in the midst of all his other miseries, but he glanced down at the golden crescent moon now, as if it was some foul thing stuck to his chest.
“This?” he asked. “This isn’t mine. The Werelupe that bit me put it on me.”
Several of the Werelupes started whispering amongst each other again, and Rhoswen could infer the doubt that now laced the voices speaking. Lyekan appeared nonplussed, however, by this revelation. He shrugged his broad shoulders.
“It was King Torval’s. He disappeared a long time ago. He must have decided you were his heir. He bit you, and he gave it to you. That makes you King of the Werelupes,” Lyekan stated, matter-of-factly.
Rhoswen gaped in response. KING of the WERELUPES? Was this creature INSANE? No one had ever wanted anything to do with him his entire life, and now a pack of wild Werelupes thought he was their king? Absurd! He was no one’s king! He didn’t want to be anyone’s king! He didn’t want to lead anyone. He preferred being in the background. He preferred to be looked over. It was better that way. No one could discover all of his imperfections that way.
“You’re wrong. I’m not king. That doesn’t make me king. I don’t even want to be your king!” Rhoswen snapped.
Lyekan looked taken aback by this, as if being named Werelupe King should have been a joyful occurrence. He glanced at the brown Lupe at his side, who shrugged in response, and Lyekan appeared perplexed.
“But...” he started, looking suddenly saddened. “It’s Werelupe decree. We follow whoever wears the necklace. It’s been calling to us, and we finally found you. We have to have a leader. You’re supposed to lead us into the new age.”
“All right. Well, that’s easy then,” Rhoswen told him, “I’ll just give it to you.”
Before Lyekan could accept or refuse, Rhoswen closed his paw around the necklace and gave a tug. To his surprise, the chain didn’t give away. Like a piece of solid metal around his neck, it held on tight, and it would not come loose no matter how he pulled. When he searched for a clasp, he found none. It was stuck.
Terrified, Rhoswen looked up at Lyekan to see that the Werelupe was watching him in a slightly annoyed manner, as if Rhoswen was a slow-learning pupil.
“You can’t just give it to me,” he explained. “The Lupe Moon Charm picks its own neck. It picks those worthy to be King.”
Rhoswen’s mouth worked silently for several seconds before he could finally spit out, “But your king randomly chose me! And he gave it to me!”
Lyekan shrugged. “Lucky guess. Torval probably tried many others before you.”
A weight like a solid rock sank to the pit of Rhoswen’s stomach, and he felt unexplainably doomed. It must have showed on his face, because Lyekan stepped forward, a glint of desperation sparking in his dark eyes.
“The Werelupes must have a king, sir. If they don’t , anything could happen. The Werelupes don’t know what to do without a king, and if we cause any more trouble, Countess Mezzanotte will have our heads!”
Lyekan looked terrified by this, but Rhoswen was unable to appreciate the threat of the wrath of Mezzanotte, whoever that was. He hadn’t been in the Woods long enough to learn everything he probably needed to know to live here. Still, he knew what it was like to be disappointed and let down, and the stare Lyekan was fixing on him at this very moment was too difficult to refuse.
“Okay, okay, fine,” he surrendered. “I’ll be king, but only until I find a replacement.”
A ripple of excitement immediately went through the pack, but Rhoswen’s mood was indefinitely sour. He was going to have to find a replacement king fast. He didn’t like all this Werelupes relying on him. He wasn’t strong enough for such a burden.
His only problem was, he wasn’t sure how to find another king, or if the necklace would let him know when he found someone worthy.
He found out the answer to his questions several months later, when he was just starting to reach his peek of desperation to find a new leader for the Werelupes. Thus far, he’d been able to keep them mildly subdued and under control, but he wasn’t certain how much longer he could do so.
They needed a king that knew how to keep order and care for his citizens, and he’d also learned that they were waiting for “the chosen one”, and had been waiting for him for years. Apparently there was some sort of Werelupe legend that Moon charm would eventually choose a leader that would lead the Werelupes into a new age in which other Neopians understood them rather than feared them. Rhoswen didn’t believe for a second that he was “the chosen one”, because he had not a clue how to do this.
Thankfully for him, there was one Lupe that did, and, after he’d suffered through several months with the Werelupes, he was finally relieved.
His answer came in the middle of a dark, stormy night. A bad night. The moon was covered with storm clouds, and the Werelupes always took this as a bad omen. They roamed restlessly through the woods, at times filling the thundering air with their own baleful howls. Rhoswen, feeling antsy himself, had ventured to the outskirts of the woods to get a better view of the sky.
He wasn’t sure what it was, but something in the air that night, along with the wind and rain, had felt peculiar, as if it carried change on its stormy back. He’d waited there, watching the sky and listening to the cries of his Werelupes, long into the night.
Until, quite abruptly and out of nowhere, he saw an approaching figure in the distance. This figure was windswept and being pelted with rain and also heading straight for the line of trees in which Rhoswen had been using for shelter as he watched the storm. It was a large figure, of Werelupe size, though Rhoswen couldn’t think of a single Werelupe in his pack that would be coming from this Lupe’s direction, let alone one that would be wearing a cloak which was rippling angrily in the wind behind him as he ran.
As the figure grew closer, Rhoswen made out dark brown fur and bright, brilliant green eyes, as well as the most pained and broken expression he’d ever seen on anyone’s face his entire lifetime. The figure, which was, Rhoswen had discovered by that time, indeed a Werelupe, was dressed in the ragged remains of what looked like clothes made out of fine silks.
Rhoswen watched, somewhat mesmerized, as the Werelupe came crashing into the Woods a few feet away from him, oblivious to his presence, and he’d been too intrigued not to follow him. The Werelupe had sprinted through the treacherous cropping of trees and undergrowth for quite a distance before he finally collapsed in a heap on the forest floor.
Rhoswen spied on him from a few feet away, though he imagined he could have been standing inches away from him, and the fellow wouldn’t have noticed. His massive body was being wracked by sobs as he cried unabashedly, believing himself alone. Seeing this display, Rhoswen felt guilty for spying during the Werelupe’s moment of vulnerability, but he couldn’t make himself turn away.
There was something different about this Werelupe, something he could almost relate to.
Certain that he was overstepping his boundaries, Rhoswen moved closer until he was close enough to squat down beside the Werelupe. Pitying him, Rhoswen chanced extending a paw and patting him on the shoulder.
And then, a very peculiar thing happened. The Werelupe ceased crying immediately, his head popping up and his eyes narrowing suspiciously at Rhoswen, and Rhoswen had only stared back in amazement, because, as soon as his paw had touched the other Lupe, the Lupe Moon Charm had miraculously unfastened itself and fallen to the forest floor by the mysterious Werelupe’s elbow.
Mystified, Rhoswen asked him, “Who are you?”
His fur damp with tears, and his pride obviously suffering, the Werelupe tightened his jaw and responded, “Javiod, King of...”
The Werelupe, Javiod, trailed off, his face tightening with pain.
“King of nothing, nothing at all,” Javiod finished bitterly.
But Rhoswen did not share his sour, bitter mood. Instead, he stared in amazement from Javiod to the Lupe Moon Charm lying beside him, and back to Javiod again. This was him. This was the Werelupe that would be their king.
Whoever this Werelupe was, however he’d come to them, the moon charm had chosen him. Perhaps he would be the answer to the desires of the Werelupe pack. Perhaps he would be able to lead them into a new age where Werelupes were no longer seen as savage, dim-witted beasts. Perhaps this was the Werelupe that should have been chosen instead of him, the one that could actually lead them into a new age.
An age where Rhoswen himself might actually find that Neopians found him normal.
Though, staring down at the Werelupe, Rhoswen had to admit that Javiod might have some obstacles of his own to overcome first.