The Eternal Paint Brushes: Part Two
King Altador howled. He howled as Lupes long before him had. No, it wasn't a majestic growl; it was a savage noise that erupted from the bottom of his lungs as he saw the full moon moving high over the remote corner of the Haunted Woods that he was in now, standing on a cliff from where he could see for miles around him. He stopped after a while, and considered the fact that such a growl didn't suit someone like him.
Yet, he couldn't deny it, he may be a king, but that didn't change who he was on the inside. It couldn't get rid of the Lupe instincts that dwelled deep below inside of him. Being inside the Haunted Woods had heightened his natural instincts, and as he descended down the cliff into the rest of the dark and dreary woods, he couldn't feel a bit nostalgic and remember his days before he had founded the city of Altador. Out here, deep inside the thickets of the Haunted Woods, he wasn't King Altador any longer.
He was the Hunter. All of his senses were heightened, he could smell the many scents around him, and though the moonlight was dim in this part of the forest, he could see around him as clearly as if it was daytime. His ears could hear the bristling of leaves against the trees, the patter as a drop of water hit the ground. He couldn't remember how long it had been since he had been in these woods in search of the Darkest Faerie's statue. As he walked down the trail deeper into the forest, he made a mental note that he couldn't lose himself in these woods. It wouldn't be proper for him to forget that he was King Altador, though he was finding it harder and harder to fix that thought in his mind. He touched his sword fastened at his belt, and unsheathed it.
"Your senses are better than I expected," a voice behind him said. King Altador had heard this new visitor's footsteps long before he heard his voice. There was another faint sound. King Altador sniffed the air, yes; there were three of them.
"Deep down, brother, I think we all have the instincts inside of us," he said to the Werelupe directly in front of him. All three of them looked the same, but the other two were crouching, ready to pounce.
"Brother? Don't think you can soften us by calling us your Lupe brethren. We have no relation with you. I heard they call you the Hunter. Let's see how right they are." There was no more warning from the Werelupe, the other two immediately pounced on King Altador.
He deflected their claws with his sword, but he found it difficult to keep up, as it was three on one. All he could manage to do was to deflect their claws, the moment he poised to strike one of them, another one would leap at him. They were unexpectedly swift and strong, snarling and growling. King Altador found himself pushed back a few paces.
He wasn't sure what happened next, he only felt the Lupe instinct deep inside him roar, and stepping forward, he deflected an attack from one of the Lupes, and then, with his bare hands, grabbed another one with immense strength, and threw it at the third. The two Werelupes collided with each other, and while that disoriented the first one, King Altador lashed out with his sword. His sword met some resistance, so he was sure he had hit the Werelupe, but it rolled away quickly. The other two retreated besides the first, all three of them were panting. King Altador felt his senses heightened even more than before, it was as if the entire forest had a breathtaking, unreal aura around it.
"Seems best to retreat for now," one of them said.
"Retreat? Do you know what she might do to us if she knows we failed?" the other one said, and King Altador was surprised to hear a bit of fear in its voice. What could possibly scare a Werelupe?
"She wants him dead more than anything. Let's retreat and regroup, we'll tell her that we've laid a trap for him, and that should spare us from her magic for a while." The other Werelupes seemed to agree, and immediately bounded away even deeper into the woods. King Altador just stood there, and after twenty minutes of listening for more danger, he felt the adrenaline slowly ebb away. His reason began to return.
He considered what the Werelupes had said. There was someone they reported to, and that someone was obviously very powerful. What had one of them said, 'spare us from her magic?' That probably meant that they whoever it was, it was a magic user. Most probably a dark faerie, the king thought. He now considered what he should do. The Werelupes had fled, but they would no doubt return. It seemed that whomever they took orders from really wanted him dead. That meant that they would be coming back.
King Altador made up his mind. They would come back, and he wasn't going to hide. That was for prey to do, he was the Hunter. He would have to take down the Werelupes before they, or whomever they worked for, took him down.
He sniffed the air, yes, that Werelupe scent was unmistakable. He started walking forward briskly. He knew that while he may be stronger than the Werelupes, he wasn't nearly as swift, and for a moment reconsidered chasing them. No, it was fine, one of the Werelupes was wounded, and they would surely rest at whatever hiding spot they had thought of.
As he followed along the trail they had taken, King Altador noticed that the forest was getting darker, something he had thought impossible. The darkness in this part of the woods seemed to be an actual thing; it seemed to surround him as if it was merely waiting for the correct moment to engulf him. His hair stood on end, all of his senses alert. On his way, he saw many Werelupe prints, fresh, proof that he was getting closer to them. It was clear that they had run all the way, the prints were far apart from each other.
Suddenly, the prints stopped appearing. Their scents appeared fainter. King Altador felt a shiver run down his spine, and, with apprehension, continued forward until he reached a clearing in the woods.
He couldn't believe what he saw. The moonlight in this clearing filtered down without any resistance from the trees. It was deserted, save for an object that stood out in the moonlight in the very center of the clearing. The silver moonlight glistened off the dark stone, the stone that the statue of the Betrayer was made up of. To think, after so much searching, he had found it here, in this odd place in the woods, in the middle of a clearing where it looked like someone had deliberately placed her.
He realized that it was most likely a trap, but stepped forward cautiously. He touched the statue. Nothing happened. No Werelupe army came bounding from all around him, no trap sprung up suddenly. He inspected the statue carefully. Yes, this was it. He would have to carry it back. He took out his sword, and from the hilt, drew out several lengths of rope. Tying it around the statue, he began to go back, outside of the woods. The statue was heavy, but then again, King Altador had heard the Yurble janitor complain a lot about that. However, with a lot of effort, he began moving. He wouldn't be able to fight suddenly towing a statue behind him, so his senses were alert. As he moved the statue, it may have been his imagination, but the darkness around the forest seemed to recede a little.
Before leaving the forest, he gave one last, long howl staring at the moon.
After several hours, he reached the edge of the forest. There was a small village where he decided to spend the rest of the night. Surprisingly, most of the villagers were awake. There seemed to be something going on in the center of the village. One of them, a Yellow Lupe, saw him, and shouted,
"You're King Altador, right? There's been this suspicious person in the village, and we think he's a thief. We were wondering if you've ever seen him." King Altador walked forward; the villagers stepped aside to let him see the Striped Lenny cowering in fear.
King Altador let go of the statue for a moment, and almost groaned, his entire body seemed to protest in pain at all he had done in the last few hours. However, he still stepped forward. The Lenny seemed to become even more fearful and his eyes widened as King Altador stepped forward, and he grabbed the Lenny by the throat, lifting him high.
"So, tell me, what are you doing in this place?" King Altador asked. The Lenny seemed to have no answer.
To be continued...