A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 91,831,644 Issue: 177 | 11th day of Awakening, Y7
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Savak: The Search - Part Two


by zephandolf

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Palm trees swayed freely in the sea breeze, dancing to the sound of the ocean waters as they rolled onto the sandy banks of Mystery Island. The sun was directly overhead as the ferry pulled into the dock and allowed its passengers to disembark. Among the humans and their pets, the four Lupes padded onto the docks, taking in the sights and scents around them.

     "This place is certainly different from the plains, isn't it, Gerthen?" Savak asked.

     "Yes, it is," Gerthen replied. "Can you feel that warm sun above us? I could bask in it all day."

     Savak smiled at the silver Lupe, then gazed down the docks. A number of local islanders were greeting the visitors, decorating them with flower necklaces and other adornments. Upon spotting Savak's pack, one of the locals, an island Lupess, ran down the dock to greet them.

     "Hello there!" she said. "Welcome to Mystery Island. Is this your first time here?"

     Savak nodded in greeting to the Lupess. "It's my first time, yes," he said. "And I'm fairly sure it's the same with everyone else."

     "Excellent!" she said. Savak was amused by her flamboyant energy. His amusement turned to astonishment as she threw a flower necklace around his neck, then went on to do the same to the others. "These flowers are a symbol of welcome among the people of this village," she explained, padding to the front of the pack again. "Welcome."

     Exchanging looks with Gerthen, Savak turned back to the island Lupess, looking her over. She had a number of flower necklaces strung around her neck. They were all fairly long, and were probably made to fit larger tourists. She wore a red topical bloom behind one of her ears, which had a way of bringing out her hazel eyes. Though she appeared healthy, Savak couldn't help feeling that she looked a little too slim. Also, with the way her gaze turned from one Lupe to another, it seemed she was looking for something from them.

     Savak pushed this notion aside, thinking it best to get back to business. "Is there a map nearby?" he asked. "I would like to plan our…'stay' here."

     "Yes," the Lupess said, seemingly disappointed. "There's one at the end of the dock."

     "Thank you." Savak nodded once more to the island Lupess before padding past her down the dock, gesturing for the others to follow.

     Setting foot on land again, Savak spotted a billboard with a large map of the island on it. Seating himself down in front of it, he immediately noticed a number of areas that had no other description other than "beware the natives" on them. Though he was concentrating on the map, he wasn't too deeply focused to notice that Gerthen had taken a seat next to him.

     "There's a lot of island to search," Savak said finally. "Where do we begin?"

     "I suppose we should begin where the disappearances occurred," Gerthen suggested.

     "And where would that be?" Savak asked, looking over at the old Lupe.

     "Where would what be?"

     Both Savak and Gerthen turned to see the island Lupess padding over to them, closely followed by Kosek and Jessie. Savak looked uneasily to his silver companion when the island Lupess continued. "Are you here to investigate the latest disappearances?"

     "How…" Savak started, but he was cut off by Gerthen.

     "Yes, we are," the silver Lupe said. "Though, we're new to the island. Do you know of someone who could guide us?"

     Savak glanced at Gerthen, and he was going to ask what he was up to when the Lupess answered him. "I could guide you. I know all about this island, and I'm always looking to get some extra Neopoints."

     At that moment, Gerthen looked a little uneasy. Savak felt the same way. As wild Lupes, they had no need for money. They hunted for their food, lived outside, and took care of each other while resisting the elements. They were fortunate enough that the ferries were free, otherwise they'd never get anywhere other than on the mainland.

     As Savak pondered their situation, he took notice of the Lupess once more. Her mannerism was hiding her suffering. He realized that she wasn't just slim, she was starving. This Lupess was homeless. She wasn't looking for "extra" Neopoints, but for any Neopoints she could scrape together.

     At this point, Savak came up with a plan. He stepped up to the island Lupess, taking a seat in front of her. "Unfortunately, we don't have any money to spare," he said. "However, we are willing to provide you food and protection so long as you remain with us. Is it a deal?"

     The Lupess looked a little surprised. She had apparently not expected such an offer. "You're offering me food?" she asked with a tone of skepticism. "You've got to be joking!"

     "Not at all," Savak said. Then he leaned forward and whispered, "I'm not sure if the others have noticed, but I can see your ribs through your fur. Now either you're skimping on your diet, or you're not getting enough food. This is all I can really offer you, take it or leave it."

     Resuming his former position, Savak watched the Lupess ponder his words. Her eyes darted about, avoiding each of them, as she thought deeply.

     "Alright," she finally said. "I accept your offer. But…can I get a down-payment first?"

     "Certainly," Savak said, looking to Gerthen. "Take Jessie and search the jungle over there. Look for anything even remotely edible, then return here by sunset." Gerthen nodded as he padded off, shoulder to shoulder with Jessie. Savak watched them a moment before returning to the Lupess. "Now that we've settled business, might I ask your name?"

     "You mean I…? Oh, I never did tell you, did I?" she asked, looking embarrassed. "I'm Lilia."

     "Nice to meet you, Lilia," Savak said. "I'm Savak, and this yellow Lupe here is Kosek. The silver Lupe is Gerthen, and the blue one is Jessie."

     "It's nice to meet you," she said. She looked to where the two Lupes had disappeared into the jungle. "Are you sure they'll be alright?"

     "They'll be fine," Savak said. "They're masterful hunters, and Gerthen has many years experience in just about everything I can think of." He allowed a smile to cross his face before he changed the subject. "So, are you homeless?"

     "What? How do you know she…?" Kosek started asking. Savak raised a paw to silence him.

     "Are you?" he asked again.

     "Yes," Lilia admitted. "I…I don't remember having a home. I don't really remember much of anything before…before the time I found myself alone on the beach. I must have been washed in with the tide. I was very young then. When I came around, all I could remember was my name…and my mother's eyes. I could never forget those eyes. I started out by living off the berries that grew just inland of the beach, and I managed for myself for a little while."

     "So how did you end up passing out flowers?" Savak ventured.

     "It's silly, really. At first, I managed to live off the berries. But soon they weren't enough for me. I started growing, and I knew I had to find something else. I visited the shops, but they only accepted Neopoints for their items. I had no way of getting money, so I always went away hungry."

     She sighed before she continued. "Then I saw some natives passing out flower necklaces to the tourists coming in on the dock. Some of them were actually selling them. So I got the bright idea of doing that myself. It took me a while to figure out how to braid the flower stems together, but I managed it, and was soon on the docks with the rest of the natives. I tried selling my necklaces at first, but no one would buy them. I had to resort to giving them away and hope someone would be kind enough to give me something in return." She sighed. "Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. But I managed. Sometimes, they gave me a toy, or a keychain that I could sell and get food. I'm not sure how I would have survived otherwise."

     Savak nodded. "The point is you did, I suppose," he said, turning to Kosek. "I'm going to scope out the beach. Keep our guest company."

     "Yes, sir," Kosek said. He was none too pleased with his task, but he wasn't about to show this in front of a stranger. As Savak walked away, he heard the two Lupes talking. Perhaps this homeless Lupe would loosen up Kosek's prejudice about non-wild Lupes.

     * * *

     The sun was sinking toward the horizon when Savak returned. To his surprise, he noticed that Kosek and Lilia were crouched side-by-side, still talking to each other. A smile crept onto Savak's face as he thought that leaving them alone actually did something. Setting the thought aside, the white Lupe padded forward.

     Kosek noticed his approach and sat up immediately. "Savak!" he said. "You're back so soon?"

     "Soon?" Savak asked, sitting down. "I've been gone for hours. Haven't you noticed the sun?"

     "The sun?" Kosek asked, looking west. Then, he observed, "It's sunset."

     "Yes, it's sunset." Even as he said it, he grew worried. "Have you seen Gerthen or Jessie?" Kosek shook his head. Savak sighed. "They should have been back by now. We have to go look…"

     He paused mid-sentence as he spotted an unusual figure walking down the beach. It was hard to make out at first. From where he stood, it was almost as if its body was made of mist. As it drew closer, its form became clearer, and it looked to be a Lupe. Its eyes were glowing red, and its body seemed to have no substance. Savak's fur stood on end when he realized what this Lupe was. He stood rigid as the wayward spirit approached. He wasn't even aware of Kosek and Lilia as they padded up next to him.

     "Is that what I think it is?" Kosek asked.

     "It's the Ghost Lupe!" Lilia exclaimed. "He's never been to this beach before.

     "Be quiet!" Savak commanded.

     As he spoke, the Ghost Lupe turned their direction. No one moved an inch as the spectral figure approached Savak. His red eyes seemed to look through him. He studied the white Lupe for some time before he turned to Kosek and Lilia.

     When the ghost turned in Lilia's direction, Kosek moved to put himself between her and the ghost. This surprised Savak. He didn't think Kosek would move to protect an outsider like that. His action surprised the Ghost Lupe as well. For a moment, he just stepped back, taken by Kosek's action. He stood a moment, just watching the two, then he turned away and passed them all, continuing down the beach. The three Lupes watched as the ghost passed by. It wasn't until his image began to fade that Savak broke the silence.

     "What was that all about?" he asked.

     Lilia shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "No one can predict his actions. Sometimes he helps people, sometimes he hurts them, and sometimes he leaves them alone."

     "Savak!"

     Savak turned around, relieved to see the familiar silver Lupe bounding over. Gerthen wasn't carrying anything, but Jessie's mouth was full of prey.

     "Gerthen!" Savak called. "Where have you been? It's already after sunset!"

     Gerthen stopped when he reached Savak, nodding his head. "W...we saw the Ghost Lupe on the beach just before you noticed it. We didn't emerge, because I didn't think we could do anything to improve the situation. I know we're late, but we brought enough food for all of us."

     Savak nodded. "Good. Let's get eating then."

     As Gerthen and Jessie divided the catch, Savak looked down the beach in the direction the Ghost Lupe had traveled. He hadn't said a word. He didn't know if this was a good thing or a bad thing. As Lilia said, that Lupe was unpredictable. Who could tell what was going through his head from one moment to the next? Sighing with the numerous worries and unanswered questions that filled his mind, Savak resigned himself to a meal with the pack, and their newly hired guide.

To be continued...

 
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» Savak: The Search - Part One
» Savak: The Search - Part Three



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