Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 171,760,959 Issue: 398 | 26th day of Relaxing, Y11
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Stars: Another Beginning


by micrody

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The blue Lupe warily eyed the cave before him, but was unable to turn back now. He rose up upon the hill, sliding forwards without stepping so, as if a force, a voice led him onwards. It carried him from the light of day into the darkened depths of the earth eternally bathed in night.

     He flowed through the cave until it forked in three directions ahead of him.

     “Choose your path,” the voice said. “Only you can know which path is the right one to follow.”

     The blue Lupe shook his head. No, this wasn’t real, this wasn’t true. None of this was true. But perhaps truest of all was that he truly could not choose his own path. He knew in his heart any choice he made would lead him astray, would lead him away from where he was meant to be.

     But the voice kept prodding him. “You know where to go. You have always known your home.”

     He’d walked to the hill straight from his home. He’d had to pass through the scholar’s to make it here, but he’d made the choice then to keep going straight. He’d not veer to the right or swerve to the left. He already knew where he was going because he was already going straight ahead.

     The cave was already swallowing him deeper and deeper as the realisation of his path dawned upon him, and as he ventured down through the narrowing tunnel into a greater hall, bright golden light flooded his vision and poured down upon him like the purest rain of spring.

     “Therein lies your greatest treasure,” said the voice. “Therein lies everything you need. It is all that you could ever want. Take it in your hands and cherish it for all that it shall ever be for you.”

     He stepped forward, consciously this time, and waded into the golden deluge. Finally he reached the fountain at its core, and as his blue claws clenched around the undulating orb, the light withdrew into the sphere and became a star in his palms. Waves of aura poured like waterfalls through him and the cave became one with the star. The world was nothing now, all existence concentrated in a single point. But the blue Lupe couldn’t care. He knew what he was holding.

     Confidence.

     “You may take it if you wish,” the voice said, “or you may leave it for safekeeping.”

     He wanted to keep it. He needed it.

     “When you are ready, return from the cave.”

     He turned around slowly as the world reformed and when he finally reached the grassy knoll again, he paused for a moment and breathed. He held the golden sphere to his chest, begging it to flood into his soul so he could live again. He held it so hard his heart ached, and still the confidence stayed in his claws, in his paws, in his jaws even as he tried unsuccessfully to swallow it.

     Then he saw it, a flash in his mind. He turned towards the cave again. His vision raced through to the end and he saw a room full of glorious pink light. Love and friendship. He looked down the third tunnel and saw a flood of green sparks. True faith. Strength and wisdom.

     He’d made the wrong choice again.

     “It is time,” the voice said.

     The world began drawing away from him, slipping away as he clawed at it but only tore it further into pieces.

     “Feel the pulse returning to your palms. Feel the linens you rest upon.”

     No! He’d failed. He’d failed again. Everything was lost for him now.

     “You may open your eyes.”

     * * *

     They had no library here. For a town as small as theirs, even under Brightvale’s rule, all they had were the scholar’s tomes. He’d ventured there one day, asked what he could do to find himself.

     The Ogrin acquiesced, grabbing a tome, and grinned. “Lie down, make yourself comfortable.”

     The blue Lupe obliged.

     “Close your eyes and take a deep breath. In... and out... In...”

     And out. He was soaring, flying, being guided towards the hill in the distance.

     And suddenly he was here. The edge of town on a moonlit night. He wasn’t sure how or why but what mattered was that he still held the golden sphere of confidence in his hands.

     Or so the orange scholar had said to him as he left. “Nothing ever leaves you for eternity.”

     But even when the blue Lupe looked down at his paws, they were empty. Even when he licked his lips to taste the golden nectar he’d tasted once before, all the flavor had gone from his mouth. Even when he closed his eyes and pretended, he couldn’t see its golden light anymore.

     He jumped to his feet as a bell toll broke the air. A werelupe in the parameters. So near the Haunted Woods, they were always a threat here. They even breached the city on occasion.

     He stood still for a moment, listening for signs of the monster. Silence. The wind blew, and dervishes of dust skidded across his hindpaws. He shuddered and shivered and turned for home.

     * * *

     “Look, there, see that star?”

     He nodded. A chill wind swept over him, and he clenched his arms tighter around his body.

     “No, no,” the astronomer said, stepping aside and waving his paw. “Look through the telescope.”

     He shrugged and sidled forwards, bending at his knees before placing his bright eye to the lens. His sight stretched on through the darkness, a world of darkness until, at its end, a circle of perforated light met his eyes. The smaller stars sparkled, but the one at the center just steadily shone.

     “It’s Sirius,” said the scholar’s twin, “the Lupe star. I thought you’d like it.”

     He stepped back and nodded again. It was the brightest star he’d ever seen, round and golden.

     “And...?” the Ogrin prompted.

     He hesitated to speak. It... it was still just a star, wasn’t it? Just a star with his name?

     “Ah, I get it now!” the astronomer exclaimed. “You just don’t get it yet, do you? You just don’t understand!” He clapped his hands together and laughed boisterously. “You should give my brother a visit. He’d help you, lad, he’d help you find what you need.”

     He smiled, and the astronomer beamed as he led the blue Lupe back to the stairs and into his storage room, through his hall and towards the door, into the night to send him homewards.

     * * *

     He turned the corner and kicked a pebble in the dirt. His home wasn’t too much farther now, just a shack on the outskirts of town. He shivered again as another wind blew past, and he spun around at the sound of yells and footsteps.

     A half-dozen villagers with torches and pitchforks hurried down the street towards him.

     “Aye,” one of them yelled, “there’s a werelupe out here. Get back inside, boy!”

     He nodded quickly as they flew past him and then he hastened his steps towards his shack. He saw it at the village’s end, saw the thick trees beyond it and paused again. Stillness. Silence.

     He nodded and dashed for his door.

     His hand hit the wood and it swung inwards. He whirled around, pulling across the wooden slab that kept those outside from coming in and then sank back against the door with a relieved sigh.

     Small holes littered the shack’s four walls, and a missing corner of the ceiling let starlight fall inside. Just underneath, he saw his ramshackled bed. Just next to it, a pair of yellow eyes.

     He jumped up and dug his hindpaws into the dirt, but the door wouldn’t budge behind him. The werelupe recoiled, forced itself deeper into the corner and whimpered.

     The blue Lupe stopped struggling, but kept shaking. The werelupe went on whimpering, slapping its forepaw against the dirt. Something shimmered and caught his eye, and the blue Lupe looked downward at the dirt before him. Burgundy and bright, it looked like fallen stars. It was blood.

     He looked back at the werelupe. It still failed to stand on all fours, its right forepaw snapping back every time it hit the ground. It shook and sniveled, and something caught the light on its muzzle, around its left eye. The blue Lupe leaned in closer: It, too, was blood, caught and caked in its brown fur.

     He followed the starlight through the shadows, back to its forepaw. A puddle of fresh blood had appeared beneath him. The blue Lupe knelt down and knelt forward, reached out his own forepaw to reach for the werelupe’s.

     The werelupe whimpered more loudly, recoiled when there was no more room to move.

     He lowered himself forward and slid his first knee an inch closer, then a second. The werelupe kept pushing backwards and shook the walls, threatening to tear the two apart, but as the blue Lupe drew ever closer, ever more slowly, it finally submitted itself and remained still.

     The blue Lupe nodded and reached out towards its right forepaw. The werelupe growled, a guttural thing, and he stopped. When the werelupe was silent again, he reached forwards.

     It let him take its paw in his this time. He gently lifted it and drew his face closer, saw the thorn still sticking out from its back. He looked up at its face again and saw the scratches all around it. His eyes followed its thick brown fur and saw dozens more leading to its tail.

     A Thornberry bush. They were common around here. The poor thing must’ve just run into one.

     He leaned closer to its paw and held it in his other hand as he gripped the thorn with his first. He looked into the werelupe’s eyes, stared into him and nothing else, then pulled.

     A howl. A yell. A roar as the fire leapt up around them.

     The werelupe snapped and spun around, charged so fast the walls cracked and he escaped into darkness. The blue Lupe lurched after him and crawled through the hole; he reached the path just as the ceiling caved in and his entire life went up in flames behind him.

     “Great Fyora, Bob, the kid was inside!”

     Another rushed up to him as he tried to stand, still mesmerized by the towering flames and the clouds of ash as his house caved in again and a wave a sparks leapt into the air before him.

     He felt the villager take his shoulders to steady him and then grabbed his arm.

     “Eh, John, he’s been bitten!”

     “Bloody no, Bob, are you sure ‘bout that?”

     “Sure as Siyana.”

     “That blasted--”

     He swayed and his knees buckled--the villagers were under him in a second.

     “The healer, John, let’s get him there quick.”

     The other grunted and they began dragging him away. He watched the fire as another plume of sparks scattered in the air like a thousand golden stars through the darkness. They pulled him around the corner and the fire’s light faded from existence. Just like the cave.

     Like the world. Like his life.

     “Just a bit longer now,” one of them grunted. “Hold on, kid, just a bit further now.”

     He slumped a little as the one stepped away, then heard harried banging. A quick swoosh of wind as a door flew open. “My heavens!” A woman’s voice. “What happened?”

     “He’s bitten, Darla,” one of them said, his voice cracking.

     “Well, gosh, then, bring him in.” He moaned as they moved him again. “Quick, now, take him to the bed.” He felt the weight fall from beneath him and softness overcome him. “That’s right, John. Fetch him some water now, will ya? And gosh darn it, Bob, would ya shut the door already?”

     “Aye, ma’am.” The floor creaked as he moved away. “Think he’ll make it?”

     She said nothing and got to work.

An ending.

See the story unfold in part two: The Werelupe.

 
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