The Wise Whoot: Guardian of the Elements - Part Six
Blaze sat there, stunned, looking over the Starry Lupe. “You’re Star? You’re Zihark’s old master?”
The old Lupe nodded. “Yes, I am. Come, this way. We need to talk.” There was urgency in his voice, as he led them down the tunnel of the cave. The two Doglefoxes hadn’t thought about going down there, in case some dangerous Neopet thrived in the place. Nor had Zihark offered to go deeper in the cave when apprentice and mentor had come here years ago to train. Had Star lived here all these years? Or had it been just a coincidence that they met here?
The Lupe showed them the way, with his staff in his right paw to keep him from falling. Blaze couldn’t help but wonder why Star was elderly... hadn’t Lethe described him as a younger Neopet? No matter, this was the mysterious teacher that had disappeared from Zihark and Lethe’s lives many years ago, no doubt about it.
“Blaze, you worry about my age?”
The Doglefox blushed. “N-no, sir.”
Star stopped in his tracks and turned to face him. “Blaze, you might also like to call me the Wise Whoot’s teacher.” He winked. “Remember how the Wise Whoot knows everything? Well, I know more than that.” He laughed a little before turning to lead again. Blaze felt that this wouldn’t be a walk in the park. No, this was going to be something more.
“So, Rivulet,” Star began, not turning toward her but raising his raspy voice so he could be heard. “How do you like the outside world?”
The little Blue Doglefox was a little startled by the sudden question. “It’s... different,” she admitted.
“Yes,” Star said, his voice fading. “Yes, indeed. It’s definitely different from the life you’re used to, right?”
Rivulet gave a small nod, but then remembered he couldn’t see her. “Yeah, it is.”
The Lupe nodded. They continued to walk down the tunnel in silence. Eventually Blaze could make out a light ahead of them. As if on cue, the tunnel changed shape, getting bigger and wider as they took each step. “Ah, here we are,” Star announced as they finally walked into an area that made both brother and sister stop in their tracks. All around them were stones that sparkled like the stars in the night sky. There was an astonishing moonlight ray that came from a crack in the roof, and it shone down on a small pond. Beside this very pond was a tree... a tree that looked similar to the Guardian of Magic.
“Welcome to the Heart of Neopia,” Star said.
The two visitors stared up at Star. “But I thought this place was back in Uni Meadows,” Blaze protested.
Star smiled and strummed his free hand down his beard. “Yes, that is also called the Heart of Neopia. You see, this place doesn’t abide by the rules. It can be anywhere at any moment. In a cave, in a meadow, on a snowy peak, wherever it wants to thrive.” He paused. “Plus, it can only be reached if someone has been invited to come here. It is a very special place.” He pointed to the tree. “As you already know, that giant tree is called the Guardian of Magic.” After that, he turned toward the pond. “And this pond is the Giver of Life. Every plant needs a source, so the tree gets its nutrients from the pond that gives miracles.”
“Miracles?” Rivulet repeated curiously.
Star nodded. “Yes, miracles. They say that if you take the water out of the Heart of Neopia, it becomes an antidote to many things; it can heal a broken bone or a disease in one little drop.”
Blaze looked up at the Lupe. “But if that’s true, then why hasn’t anyone done that?”
A sad look entered Star’s face. “If someone takes the water out of this place... that someone will have to pay a dangerous price. Darkness begins to form in their heart, and no one can prevent it from happening.”
“Could anyone heal that darkness?” Rivulet asked thoughtfully.
Star shook his head. “No, nothing can heal that darkness... at least, there is no known cure.”
There was silence for a while. “Is that what happened to Kaleb?” Blaze pondered. “I mean, did the darkness take over his heart?”
A light glistened in Star’s eyes. “Yes, that is exactly what happened... but the darkness took its sweet time with Kaleb.” He sighed. “Come down to the tree, both of you. I would like to tell you another story, to add to what Lethe told you.”
Blaze and Rivulet did what they were told, and took a seat, sitting down with their backs leaning against the tree. Strange how they were sitting in this very spot when listening to Lethe’s story... but that was in a completely different territory.
Star sat in front of them, his legs crossed, and he placed his Whoot staff beside him. His starry pelt was a sight to behold, and he looked so frail and innocent sitting there. Blaze wouldn’t dare miss anything this Lupe was about to say.
“What Lethe told you was true: about me finding the three young Whoots who were alone in this world. I stumbled upon them by accident, and I knew it was fate that brought us together. I took the three Petpets under my wing, and they were amazing students. Lethe the Gentle was very interested in helping others. She found a Petpetpet once and helped it find a nice owner to live with. Zihark the Wise was the one who memorized everything in the library. He was always talented in watching and learning what should be done, and what the bad things in the world were.” Star paused for a long time before continuing. “Then there was Kaleb the Trickster. Kaleb was always the funny one. He was always able to make jokes and make us all smile. His most special trait was able to make up poems. Kaleb was very creative.
“A couple years later, I broke the news that I would take Zihark as my apprentice. Both Lethe and Kaleb were disappointed. They both knew their brother deserved the honor, but they couldn’t understand why they both couldn’t be my apprentices, too. Without knowing it, both became jealous... but I needed to find a successor to learn everything I knew. My power had already begun to seep away into nothing, I couldn’t give up. I had a feeling that I would have to choose between the three, and Zihark became my successor.
“Some time passed, Zihark was a swift learner, but he still couldn’t see through his siblings’ fake smiles. So I finally sent Zihark out on a quick mission, so I could discuss with Lethe and Kaleb alone. He was excited for the sudden mission, and the Whoot flew off. His brother and sister watched with envy in their eyes.
“I talked with both of them. I told them all that I just told you; that my powers were fading and it could only go to one. They were still a little disappointed, but both of them eventually agreed that I had chosen well.
“The next winter was a bitter one. Unfortunately...” Star bit his lip, as if he was trying to find the right words to go on. “Unfortunately, Zihark became terribly sick that winter. Worst case of the Achy Head I’ve ever seen.” He sighed and shook his head. “We weren’t a very rich family, you see. I only had enough Neopoints to take care of the monthly groceries. We had no way to cure Zihark, and time was running out for my powers.
“Then, Kaleb boldly walked up to me one morning, asking me if anything could make Zihark better, besides the Magic Goop that we couldn’t afford. I thought for a long time, and told him the tale of the Giver of Life, the pond that could create miracles. After I told him the tale, he left. Now, for me to go on I should mention that when I first met the three Whoots, I had shown them the Heart of Neopia beforehand. Kaleb came back home a couple days later, a small bucket of water in his beak. He placed the small bucket before Zihark and told him to drink it. Before any of us could do anything, Zihark drank the water without a second thought. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, so we all went to bed for the night.
“I remember passing by Lethe’s room, and I heard whispers. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, but I felt I needed to know what Kaleb was doing. I heard him telling Lethe about the Giver of Life, and that he had used the bucket and scooped up some water for his brother. It was a gift of hope, a miracle, Kaleb called it. Lethe was astonished at Kaleb’s behavior, when just a few months before he had been deeply angry at his brother. ‘He needs my help,’ Kaleb had said. ‘And I never want to be jealous of my brother again. Never.’
“The next day Zihark was miraculously able to fly around the room without his burning headaches. When Lethe told him Kaleb brought the miracle water, Zihark was overjoyed. It seemed like the three triplets would never get mad at each other again. But then I had a vision, a vision of destruction and of darkness. Something evil was coming, yet it was too late to prevent it.
“Not a month later, Kaleb tried to take Zihark down. The Green Whoot asked for a friendly one-on-one match, for fun, but Kaleb tried to go too far. That was when I realized Kaleb was truly changing. I was able to grab Kaleb in my paws as he knocked Zihark down and almost gave the final blow. He struggled, saying that he wanted Zihark’s power, and that it should be rightfully his.”
“So that’s when you told Lethe and Zihark,” Blaze spoke up, “and said you were going to spend some time with Kaleb alone.”
Star nodded. “I knew I had to change him. Either that or figure out what was wrong. He had never acted like that before, and I was determined to get to the bottom of things. I told Lethe and Zihark that if they hadn’t heard from me in a week, leave and separate. It would be the only way to protect both of them.”
“So, what happened next?” Rivulet asked shakily.
The Lupe looked down at the ground and closed his eyes. “I took him out here, in this very spot. I told him that his brother and sister would do anything for him, and that they would never dream of abandoning him. But Kaleb shrugged and gave me a grin. ‘Nothing can stop me now,’ he said. ‘If you had never told me about the Giver of Life, Zihark would still be sick and you would’ve trained me instead!’ It was then when I realized the pond must’ve had some kind of effect on him, after he had taken the water out of the Heart of Neopia, and that was when Kaleb flew off. Sometime later, I came to the conclusion that there was a deep and evil darkness taking over his mind. It would grow out of control, and eventually ruin all of Neopia, and enclose it all in darkness. This is what we have feared.”
He opened his eyes to look at Blaze. “Kaleb had been in hiding until now. Now he wants revenge; not just on Zihark, not just on me, but on you, too, Blaze.”
To be continued...