The sky told a story of hideous tragedies. Gray storm clouds gathered together, hanging around and rumbling to each other, exchanging tales. Once in a while it would grow violent and white-hot lightning would streak across the sky, tearing at the clouds, ripping them away from each other. Raindrops poured down in quantities of millions, drowning the grass and pounding on the sidewalks and roofs.
A couple of Lutaris stood at the forefront window of their large house, watching the storms roil. One of them, a brown male, looked perfectly content to watch the rain; the other, a bright-pink female, had a look bridging worry and annoyance scrawled across her face. "I'm worried, Andy," the woman finally said, glancing toward the brown Lutari.
Andy, the brown Lutari, shrugged lopsidedly. He kept his eyes trained on the amassing puddles outside, as if expectantly waiting for them to morph into a flood. "There's nothing to be worried about," he answered easily. "It's just a little thunderstorm."
"That's not what I'm talking about."
Andy frowned slightly, one corner of his mouth dipping downward in a crooked expression. "I know what you're talking about, Eliza. I don't think you're going to have any problems though. He's... terrifying, but I don't think he's evil."
An ominous crackle of lightning followed Andy's words. Eliza winced. "I'm scared," she finally mumbled, now keeping her eyes on the rain as well. Andy didn't respond: he didn't need to. Andy had never been very good at expressing his emotions, but Eliza had known him long enough that he no longer needed to say anything for her to understand.
The two Lutaris stood there for a few minutes longer. Andy said when he grew tired of watching the storm, "I'm going to see what we've got in the kitchen. I'm sure the little one is hungry by now." Eliza and Andy exchanged a smile, both thinking of their son. Andy headed for the kitchen, crossing through the living room that he had previously been standing in; upon reaching the kitchen he saw that his son had already located a package of cookies himself.
"What are you doing?" asked Andy, folding his arms and eyeing the little green Lutari in a mock-serious way. The door to the living room swung shut behind him as the Lutari looked up, askance. He smiled, his teeth full of chocolate. "Oh, come on, Andrew," said Andy, walking over to take the now-empty package of cookies. "You didn't even leave any for me!"
Andrew snickered. "I was hungry," he said simply, sliding down off the counter he had seated himself on. His white Noil, Roland, scampered over and began to rub against Andrew's legs. Andrew bent down to pat the Noil. "What were you and Mama talking about?"
This was dangerous ground. Andrew was incredibly perceptive for a four-year-old, and Andy had to school his expression to make sure that Andrew would believe his patronizing words. "Nothing really," said Andy, smiling. Andrew watched with clear suspicion; Andy toned it down a little, letting the smile fade. "We were actually just talking about your birthday. It's coming up in a couple of weeks."
"It's not going to be in forever!" exclaimed Andrew dramatically. "Why would you want to talk about it now?" He suddenly grinned, all semblance of suspicion falling away. "Are you going to get me a sailing ship!?"
Andy sighed. Of all the things Andrew could possibly want, he wanted a ship. Andy guessed that it was probably his grandfather that had given him all these wild ideas about adventuring. Andrew, Andy thought, probably assumed that traveling took very little time and was never dangerous. Andy made a mental note to send his father a Neomail. "That depends," said Andy, playing along. "Just how big of a sailing ship do you want?"
"I don't care!" Andrew answered happily. "Just so long as it's a sailing ship and I can use it!"
"Would you mind if it's only big enough to play with?" asked Andy. "That would be okay, wouldn't it, Drew?" Andrew nodded excitedly. Andy couldn't help but laugh at the extreme excitement on his son's face – and then there was a loud crash from the living room.
Andy immediately whirled around and made for the door. He shoved through it, stopping short when he saw what Eliza had dreaded standing there, watching idly. Andy had the presence of mind, his practicality cutting even through the alarm, to twist around and order Andrew to stay put. Andrew looked at him in confusion but nodded anyway.
Andy stepped into the living room, keeping his eyes trained on the big ghostly figure by the window. "What do you want?" Andy asked hesitantly, edging toward Eliza. Eliza was a few feet away from the imposing figure, looking paralyzed by fear. The infamous Ghost Lupe smiled lazily at Andy, and then looked over at Eliza.
"You both know what I want."
Lightning struck somewhere outside. Andy could have sworn he heard the sound of a tree falling. "Is there anything we can do?" Andy asked, starting to lose his calm. The Ghost Lupe merely grinned mysteriously before ever so slowly shaking his head. Andy swallowed hard, fighting against the lump that was rising in his throat. "Why not?" Andy queried, hysteria beginning to paint his voice. "Tell me why not!"
"Relax," hissed the Ghost Lupe, blearily turning his red eyes on the brown Lutari. "It's not you that I want. It's her." He gestured to the pink Lutari seemingly frozen in front of him with his tail. "It's simple. I told her when she asked for my assistance what the payment would be."
"You agreed –?" gasped Andy, at a loss.
"I had to!" Eliza suddenly shrieked. She took a trembling step backward, almost tripping over an armchair. "He wouldn't leave Drew alone unless I agreed! Jhudora wouldn't leave Drew alone unless I made him agree!"
The Ghost Lupe looked back to Eliza. "It's true," he said softly. "The Faerie required my assistance. There was no other way I would agree." He absently added, as if he were remembering the echo of someone else's words, "No other way."
Andy looked back and forth between the two for a moment, torn. Finally he burst, "Take me instead!"
"No!" yelled Eliza.
"I don't want you," snapped the Ghost Lupe. "You are worthless. I need someone darker, someone who's done worse. That constitutes your precious Eliza here." The Ghost Lupe smiled creepily. Andy's heart felt as though it was going to burst out of his chest. "There is nothing either of you can do to stop me."
Before Andy could lose the gumption, he grabbed the nearest lamp and hurled it at the Ghost Lupe. The lamp simply passed through the phantom, smashing into the wall and then shattering on the floor. "Nice try," said the Ghost Lupe quietly, just before lightning struck again and the power went out.
The room was consumed by darkness. Eliza shrieked; the Ghost Lupe laughed; Andy roared; and the door connecting the kitchen to the living room crashed open. And then all was engulfed by silence.
Just like that everything changed. Andrew didn't get a sailing ship, toy or real. Andy couldn't focus enough to pay any attention to the once beloved son of his. Andy's father informed him that he needed to do something about this, go to Fyora. Andy thought Fyora wouldn't care enough to help a random Lutari family on Mystery Island.
Andrew started going to school soon after the abduction. All the kids had been from around here, though, and knew what had happened. They all stayed as far away from him as possible, maybe somehow thinking that he would taint them with his presence and make the Ghost Lupe come after them. The only friends Andrew had were a Faerie Kougra named Vanessa and her little brother Jordan.
The Lutari grew, and he even changed his color a few times with the aid of paint brushes. Somehow, though, everything was wrong. Andrew didn't go by Andrew anymore, and Andy hardly even noticed. It must have been one of these things that set him off because one rainy day Andy woke up and Andrew was just gone.
He discovered a note sitting on the table by the front door.
It's not right. It hasn't been since she went away. I'm going to find her, Dad. I won't stop until I find her. I love you, and don't you ever forget it. I'll find her, I promise.
The skies outside lightened to something more pleasant than roiling gray-blue. The wispy summery clouds floated away from each other, slowly fading. And inside a large house on Mystery Island, Andy Colchester sat down and cried.