The Fallen: Faint-Hearted - Part Two
“Lure? Lure, wake up.”
Unlike many of the other voices that Lure winced away from, this one always beckoned him forward. Though there was already a dull pain pulsating at his temple, Lure fought toward the sound of the voice instead of shying away and losing himself in the oblivion of unconsciousness, a place where he could hide from physical and mental pain.
Groaning softly, he opened his eyes, finding himself on his back, staring up at the canopy of dark green leaves above his head. Gradually, a silhouette blurred into focus, becoming the imposing shape of Javiod.
“Ugh,” Lure moaned, pushing himself up onto his paws.
Javiod obligingly stepped back to give him some room. With a few deep breaths, his lingering nausea evaporated, and Lure was able to sit a little straighter. Rejoining reality, he was glad to find that Javiod was the only one in the clearing with him.
“Are you all right?” the king asked.
Ashamed, Lure dropped his gaze. “Yes.”
Javiod didn’t press further, but merely nodded his head and turned. Pacing away, the mighty Lupe slid into his throne, sighing contentedly, as if he’d been absent from this chair for a longer period of time than he found comfortable. Lure glanced his way, wondering bitterly how Javiod could seem so comfortable in a chair that stood for so much.
“Svella was worried. It’s past dinner now. I told her I would come and find you,” Javiod told him, almost conversationally.
Lure sighed. “Thank you, uncle.”
A curious smile touched the corner of Javiod’s mouth. Though Lure wasn’t completely aware of it, there was a great deal of affection for him in Javiod, who had—as Rhoswen had wished—become more of an uncle to him than any blood relative had. It was he, after all, who would have to guide Lure in the upcoming years.
Already, he knew Lure too well.
“I found that Ifram went missing around the same time as you,” he commented.
Lure looked away. “Oh.”
Though he was quite aware of what must have gone on, Javiod let this matter slide, though his disappointment in his own son was something he would deal with later. Though he loved Ifram, his son had some strikingly similar characteristics to a shadow Lupe that Javiod no longer considered his own brother, though he was by birth. Though Alston had disappeared long ago, he still lingered in the most unexpected places for Javiod. The fact unsettled him, but he pushed it away.
“You will be fine, you know,” he told him.
The spotted Werelupe did not seem so easily convinced. “Do you ever faint?”
Javiod chuckled. “Everyone copes differently.”
Lure frowned. “Ifram’s right. I’m not suited for this.”
“Don’t say that,” Javiod snapped.
Lure was taken aback slightly. Javiod had never looked quite so fierce so abruptly. Frightened, he dropped his gaze, and immediately heard Javiod sigh.
“Listen, Lure, the necklace picked you. It would only have picked the most worthy.”
Lure was revisited by the idea that the necklace must have become disfunctional with old age, but he didn’t voice the idea to Javiod, fearing another, harsher reprimanding. What was the point in trying to explain to anyone? Only Ifram and his friends seemed to see the truth.
He was a coward and unsuitable for the crown.
“Yeah, okay,” Lure mumbled. “Well, I better get home. I’m sure Mom is worried. I—I’ll see you later.”
Lure didn’t look up to catch the softened expression in Javiod’s eyes as he turned and hurried away from the clearing.
It was almost completely silent, the only thing disturbing the quiet was the occasional slurp as one of the three Werelupes in the cave took a sip of soup from a spoon. The tension in the room was as thick as the soup, and almost as if in response, Lure’s shoulders were hunched as he ladled food into his mouth.
His mother sat at one end of the table, his father at the other, and Lure himself was located somewhere in the middle, uncomfortable by the idea that either side of his body was being studied intently by one of his parents.
They hadn’t said much when he’d arrived at the cave later than normal, making feeble excuses about where he’d been for the last couple of hours, not daring to touch on the fact that he’d been unconscious.
His mother would only look upset, and his father would just remind him that he was the chosen one, and that there was no one else better for the job. He could say this as many times as he wanted, but it would never make it true. Rhoswen simply didn’t understand. Plus, Lure didn’t want to give him a reason to quarrel with his friend just because Javiod’s son was a bit of a brute.
A hot, mushy carrot slid into his mouth in his next spoonful, and Lure munched on it thoughtfully, not quite brave enough to look up and face his parents.
But it was obvious that the tension would not dissolve until someone had spoken to clear the air. Rhoswen seemed to sense this, or maybe it was simply his unspoken thoughts that were clogging the air to begin with.
“You know, what Ifram says doesn’t matter,” Rhoswen grunted finally, ignoring how his son stiffened at the name. “He’s not the one that’s going to be king. You are, Lure. Remember that.”
How had he known about Ifram? Had he talked to Javiod before joining them at the dinner table? Or perhaps it was just obvious. It wasn’t exactly a secret that he and Ifram were at odds with one another.
Lure stared mournfully at his soup. “I can’t forget it.”
Svella made a slight noise in her throat. “I don’t know how Ifram could be Javiod’s son. He’s so different.”
Rhoswen frowned suddenly, as if he could imagine where Ifram got his sour streak from, but he said nothing, not wishing to discuss the Werelupe that was cropping up to being his son’s foe. He kept his thoughts on Ifram to himself in respect for his friend.
“Djetzin is so polite,” Svella pressed on, thinking of Javiod’s second son, “and Jima is a sweetheart. She’s always respectful.”
Lure tried not to grind his teeth. “That’s because neither one of them were in line for the crown.”
He felt immediately sorry for having said such a thing, as he had nothing against Djet or Jima. Jima having been one of his childhood friends. But it was still true. Would they not have been different if they’d been the oldest? If the necklace hadn’t chosen him, it would have been passed on to Javiod’s eldest.
“They wouldn’t have been leaders anyway,” Rhoswen cut in, as if reading Lure’s thoughts. “The necklace always picks the next heir. Passing down to your oldest child is just a default measure put in place. It’s never been used.”
Lure shrugged his shoulders, stirring his soup without interest. This lack of enthusiasm seemed to be a constant point of strain between Lure and his father, who had high hopes for his son having the glorious life he’d been deprived of in his own youth.
“You’re going to be king, Lure, and a good one. These fainting spells will pass. It’s just cold feet.”
“Yes, of course,” Svella seconded.
Lure finally glanced up, looking left at his mother. She was twisting her own soup spoon in her paw—a gray paw, like the rest of her coat. But it was the expression in her green eyes that caught him. They were shifting between emotions, but it was easy to misinterpret the look of concern in her eyes for disbelief. Especially for Lure, who already had so much doubt in his own abilities.
“Sure,” he grumbled.
And immediately jolted, nearly falling out of his chair, as Rhoswen abruptly slammed his paw onto the table, jarring the dishes and the lone, waning candle in the center of the table. Svella even gave a little yip and rocked back.
Terrified, Lure looked at his father. Lure had never seen such a stern expression on his father’s face, mixed with both exasperation and anger. He should have expected, however, as his father constantly beat against the sturdy wall of Lure’s disbelief in himself.
“Listen to me,” Rhoswen snapped, wagging his finger at his son. “The necklace chose you. It would not choose you unless you were the best suited. It has picked several generations of Werelupe kings, and none of them have failed us yet.”
Shamed, Lure dropped his eyes, only to see the glint of the gold of his necklace.
“You should have some confidence, some pride, son! Maybe if you did, you wouldn’t pass out every time someone mentions anything stressful in your direction. When I was your age, I was dealing with being the laughing stock of town,” Rhoswen reminded him, “and you're letting Ifram—one single Werelupe—destroy you! Lift your chin up, Lure! You’re a Werelupe, a future king, and my son. Be proud for once!”
With this, Rhoswen shoved his chair back and sprang up. His appetite must have diminished in the glow of his speech, because he tossed down his spoon and stomped off through a tunnel in their cave that branched off into his and Svella’s room, leaving an awkward silence between Lure and his mother.
“It will be okay, Lure,” she told him.
He didn’t answer for a moment, but only stared at the mouth of the tunnel that had just swallowed his father’s retreating back. He was a complete disappointment to his family. Why hadn’t his father raged at him like this before? It was so clear now. He couldn’t live up to their standards, and he couldn’t make them proud. He was going to embarrass them, and that would be worse than embarrassing himself.
As if desperate, Lure turned to his mom. “You don’t really believe that do you, Mom? You’ve seen it. I can’t even stay conscious when things get oppressive. I’m not fit to be king. Can’t you explain that to Dad?”
Svella surprised him by looking suddenly stern as well. “Yes, I do believe that, Lure, and so does your father, and so should you.”
With that, she rose from the table as well, collected the dishes, and disappeared down a different tunnel, leaving Lure’s company for the solitude of the kitchen.
Leaving Lure with a load of guilt on his shoulders.
So he didn’t have an ally. Everyone was determined to be delusional enough to think that he could pull this off. That only left one choice: he’d have to leave, to cut himself from this picture, before he was given the chance to prove himself a failure as their king. It would be better that way. Javiod could stay king, and then Ifram—who was strong, capable, and intelligent—could take over after. Even if he was a brute, he would still surely make a better king.
With this settled, Lure packed and left that very night.
To be continued...