The Wise Whoot: Guardian of the Elements - Part Eight
“I can’t believe they’re really there,” the red Lupe whispered.
The Starry Lupe slowly nodded his head. “So this was where you first met Zihark?” He gave a small laugh. “Strange how your past comes back to us, now.”
“I know,” Blaze grumbled. He continued examining the scene. There were a few trees overlooking the area, and there was a small pond nearby. It was smaller than the pond in the Heart of Neopia. Blaze remembered that very pond; it was the first time Blaze looked at himself as a Lupe, not a Doglefox. Zihark’s gift, Blaze thought. He shook himself to continue focusing on the matter at hand.
There were a lot of Darigan Petpets. Blaze guessed they were the ones who had attacked Lethe and Zihark. He finally found Zihark among those Petpets. A Symol had Zihark’s right side, a Faellie on his other side. Thankfully there weren’t a lot of the Petpets; there were about a dozen, not too many but still a lot to handle.
Then Blaze’s eyes rested on Kaleb, Zihark and Lethe’s brother. It was strange seeing a Green Whoot; Blaze had never seen one before. He looked just like Zihark, except he was a little smaller and was bright green. It almost seemed as if Kaleb was glowing. Kaleb also didn’t really look too green; there was a significant black and purple aura that surrounded him. Blaze assumed the aura was the darkness that had entered through Kaleb’s mind. Would they be able to stop this? He shook his head. Thoughts like that couldn’t distract him. They had to save Zihark... and Neopia.
“We should get back to the others soon,” Star warned. “If we stay here too long, one of those Darigan henchmen will see us.”
Blaze nodded. “Okay, we can leave after we figure out an opening.” Both Blaze and Star had left the others back at their campsite, hidden in some trees away from Kaleb’s camp. Blaze had changed into his Lupe form for the first time in a long while, so he could keep up with Star’s stride. The Starry Lupe might seem old, but he moved as swift as a Scamander. Even so, he carried his staff with the Whoot carving everywhere he went.
“Why don’t we surround them?” Star suggested. “There’s plenty of us; a couple could go in and save Zihark and the others try and take down the Darigan Petpets.”
“It sounds too risky,” Blaze thought, looking back at the enemy’s stronghold. Suddenly, Blaze thought he heard a rustle in the bushes behind them. He sharply turned around, expecting an attack. His eyes darted back and forth, but he saw nothing out of the ordinary. After a moment, a silent wind blew, and it began rustling the bushes. He sighed. “We should head back to camp. Eat something, then rest for another hour or so. That way we can all be recharged before the attack.”
“How are we going to attack, though?”
Blaze was quiet for a moment. “Perhaps a plan will appear on its own.”
“Daddy! Tell us another story!”
Dusk laughed at his daughters. “Now, now, no more stories. We have to get ready to help Zihark, remember?” He turned as he saw both Lupes coming toward the camp. His daughters met them first, then Lethe and Jewel. Both Jewel, a Faerie Doglefox and Lethe, a Faerie Whoot, had gotten along great since they met. It was good for Jewel, Blaze’s mom, since she was always worrying about her son. For the moment, her mind was off of things while she spoke with Lethe.
Blaze changed back into his Doglefox form. “Hey, we were gone for only a few minutes!”
Dusk padded up to them. “Any luck?”
Star looked at the Black Doglefox. “We found their camp, and Zihark. It’s right where Blaze first met him.”
Lethe glanced at them with hopeful eyes. “You found my brother?”
“Both of them,” Blaze replied, swishing his tail. “Kaleb has this dark aura surrounding him; it almost hides his green feathers.”
“Will we be able to stop them?” Rosa asked.
“Of course we will!” Rivulet snapped. “We have to!”
“What’s the plan for now?” Dusk asked.
“We’re gonna stay here and rest,” Blaze answered. “Eat something, then sleep for a while. We need all the strength we can get until we strike.”
Jewel and Plum, and even Lethe, made sandwiches filled with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. For dessert they had some jelly, which Star had exclaimed had come from Jelly World. Of course, no one really believed him, and they all laughed.
The girls got ready for bed as Star, Blaze and Dusk debated what was going to happen next. “I can take first watch,” Dusk said. “Then Blaze can, and then Star. We shouldn’t stay asleep for more than an hour and a half. We should at least get our strength by then.”
They agreed as Dusk took the first watch. Blaze found a spot beside Rivulet and fell asleep quickly, everything that had happened the past couple of days had tired him out. He had to be ready to face Kaleb, though. He had to be prepared and protect Neopia.
“Blaze?” Rivulet whispered.
“What is it?” Blaze mumbled, not opening his eyes.
“Be careful... promise?”
It was a sudden question, and Blaze didn’t give much thought to it. “Okay, I promise.” He yawned and fell asleep.
“Wake up, Blaze.”
Blaze’s eyes shot open, feeling his father nudging him awake. He looked up at him, remembering how even before he had ever met Zihark, it had been his father who used to wake him up all the time back at home. That was how Blaze recognized his father’s voice so quickly.
“Is something wrong?” Blaze asked.
Dusk shook his head. “No, everything’s quiet. Just keep your eyes sharp during watch, okay?” He nudged his son again. “Remember, don’t do anything reckless for the coming battle, alright? I’m your father, and I trust you.” He paused. “But you need to know that I’ll do anything to protect you and your sisters.”
Blaze nodded and got up. He went to sit down at a hill that overlooked the surrounding area. His father took his spot and slept beside Rivulet. He watched his family for a second. Blaze had chosen, had wanted them to come on this dangerous task with him. He thought about Rivulet’s words and his father’s gentle tone. Be careful. I trust you... I’ll do anything to protect you and your sisters....
He sat there pondering about his friends and family for a long time. Was he endangering them? All for the purpose of his one little plan that no one else knew of. He didn’t want to risk talking about it, in case Kaleb or his henchmen would overhear.
While he searched through the darkness for anything strange, he suddenly felt a throbbing pain from the back of his head. He fell to the ground, conscious that someone had struck him from behind. Blaze gave a cry, hoping someone would hear him. His vision began to fail, and his last thought was would the others get away.
Blaze groaned. Everything hurt all over, the back of his head mostly. Swiftly he remembered what had happened, and he opened his eyes. His heart lurched as he recognized the campsite. It wasn’t their camp; it was Kaleb’s.
“It’s about time you woke up!”
Blaze heard a cackling laugh and he turned. Standing before him was the Green Whoot, Kaleb. Of course, due to the shadows, his green feathers had faded into a darker color, mimicking a dark purple. Kaleb smiled at him.
“Allow me to introduce myself, Zihark’s successor.” The last word was spat out, as if Kaleb couldn’t control his anger. “I’m Kaleb, the Ruler of Darkness! Soon to be the Ruler of Neopia!” he cried, cackling again. He snapped one of his talons in quick movements, and in a moment Darigan Petpets appeared, serving as guards for their prisoners. Blaze gaped at his friends and family, all bunched up together, but they couldn’t do anything with the Darigan Petpets at their sides. Blaze growled, finding Zihark among them. How could anyone do this to the ones who were close to him?!
“As you can see,” Kaleb continued, “I have all of your friends in my clutches. Any moment now I can make them disappear.” He laughed again. Blaze felt vulnerable. How could he make it so that his friends and Kaleb were alone... how could he get rid of the Darigan Petpets? Suddenly an idea transpired, and he decided to risk it.
“I need something from you.” The Green Whoot eyed him. Blaze steadily met his gaze. “I want your powers, Blaze,” he said simply. He took a step forward. “Think about it: you can rule the world alongside me. We would be impossible to defeat. Then again... if you don’t join me.” He paused and his smile turned into an evil grin. “I shall have to take your powers by force. Or I can do a few things to get you to join me.” After he said this, he turned toward his prisoners, watching them with his dark eyes.
Blaze narrowed his eyes. This was his chance. If Kaleb wanted him, he would have to go through Blaze’s own test first. “But what if you could gain more power absorbing something else? Instead of absorbing my powers?”
Everyone stared at Blaze, and Kaleb watched him with untrusting eyes. “I’m listening,” he stated.
“I have a proposal,” Blaze told him. This is it, he thought bitterly. “You know of the Heart of Neopia, correct?”
Kaleb’s eyebrows creased. “I’ve never been able to enter that place since the day I last walked in it.” He paused and looked at the Doglefox. “Go on.”
“What if I was able to take you there? What if there was a powerful thing, more powerful than you could ever imagine?”
“What is this thing you speak of?”
Blaze didn’t falter. “The Guardian of Magic,” he said steadily. He heard a few gasps from Lethe and Rivulet, and he caught the eyes of Zihark and Star burning into him. Would they be able to trust him? Could his friends finally believe in him to do this? Please, I need you now, more than ever, he pleaded, hoping that his eyes could send them the message.
Kaleb’s eyes went wide at the mention of the name. “Why would you want to take me there? Isn’t that the place that you would want me to stay away from?” He paused. “What’s the catch?”
“Only one little thing.” He glanced at his henchmen. “I want you to send your Darigan Petpets away. Not one of them deserves to go to the Heart of Neopia.”
“And what about my prisoners? Do you expect me to set them free? Just like that?” Kaleb grew cautious.
Blaze shook his head. “I want my friends and family, all of them, to come with us to the Heart of Neopia. If they try to run away or do anything funny,” he paused, glancing at them for a warning, “you can do whatever you want with me.”
Kaleb was quiet for a while, thinking over his options. Finally he snapped one of his talons again, and the Darigan Petpets growled but stepped away from their prisoners. “I’ll take on your request. If your friends do anything funny, you have to promise to become my apprentice. Got it?”
Blaze reluctantly nodded. “Fine, it’s a deal.” He flicked his tail. “Leave your Petpets here, and I’ll show you the way to the Heart of Neopia.”
Kaleb chuckled. “Lead the way.”
To be continued...