The Winged Menace
The lithe creature padded low to the ground as he stalked his prey, adrenaline pulsing through his veins. He drew his ears back as he paused to sniff the air. The night was cool and crisp, and the moon shone bright and full. The trees stood tall and gnarled and a thin layer of fog hung about their exposed roots.
The Tyrannian Lupe felt most at home in the forest surrounding the Haunted Woods; it was his domain once the sun set; he knew every inch of it. The feel of freedom and power over lost Neopets made him a loner most nights, but he enjoyed every solitary moment. A twig snapped beneath his paw and the prey, a lone Blumaroo, froze, warily eyeing the trees around it. The hunter bit back a growl of frustration that threatened to escape his bared teeth.
The Lupe could tell this traveler had lost their way and a faint smile played on his face. The traveler pulled his jacket closer, muttered something about Meepits, and continued on his way, walking briskly. He wore glasses and looked like a professor of some type. The Lupe followed at a distance, always making sure he knew exactly what path the traveler took. Soon one of the paths came to a dead end.
The Lupe waited for his prey's next move. Would he go back the way he came? Or continue through the trees searching for a shortcut to civilization? The Lupe's pelt bristled with excitement as the traveler continued walking on unmarked ground. The Lupe knew the direction would not take him anywhere near the Haunted Woods or Neovia.
"You're a brave one," he whispered to himself amusedly.
He followed slowly, unsure of the Blumaroo's next move as he watched him wind through the trees, making quite a bit of noise as he attempted to avoid the tree roots and other obstacles.
He's so clumsy, it's as if he wants to be something's prey, the Lupe thought to himself.
After watching the poor, lost Neopet stumble around for a while, the Lupe decided it was time he made his move. Creeping up from behind, he readied himself for the pounce.
"Why on Neopia have you been following me?" the traveler whipped around, and annoyance sparked in his voice as he pointed a gloved finger in the hunter's direction.
The Lupe winced at the voice and carefully revealed himself from the undergrowth, stunned at the Neopet's boldness. No one except for his human and siblings would have ever spoken to him in such a manner, and he lashed his tail in offense. He kept his cool, however, as the Neopet looked his follower over.
A small gasp escaped the Blumaroo's mouth as he stared at his follower, whose yellow eyes were narrowed slits.
"Don't think I'm afraid of you," the Blumaroo said, a faint shake in his voice. "I know exactly where I am and I've encountered worse."
The Lupe gave a menacing grin that revealed his teeth, sharp as daggers. The Blumaroo's eyes widened but he refused to move or show fear to this creature.
"Not afraid? My dear acquaintance, I do not strive to inflict the feeling of fear into those who 'know where they are' as you say."
The Blumaroo's jaw dropped a little when the Lupe spoke.
The Lupe noticed but yawned as if bored with the conversation already. He stretched his scarred wings then the rest of his body before circling around a patch of moss to sit. He cocked his head, glaring menacingly as he waited for the Blumaroo to realize what a dangerous situation he was in. Instead, the Blumaroo looked on with curiosity, particularly examining his Tyrannian Wings, which only annoyed the Lupe more; this Neopet should be shaking with fear or tearing blindly through the woods like the rest.
"Okay, maybe I don't exactly know where I am," the Blumaroo finally said as he smiled faintly reaching up to fix his glasses.
An amused glint came into the Lupe's eyes and he stood to shake off the moss that clung to his pelt.
"Well, don't you worry, my friend, because it just so happens that I do."
The Lupe saw a wary glint of hope in the Neopet's eyes and he tried to seem friendlier as he led the Blumaroo back to the path with the dead end.
"What are you doing out here anyways, Sir? If you don't mind me asking," the Lupe said to the Blumaroo once they got to the path.
The Blumaroo paused and sighed, fixing his glasses once more.
"I'm looking for evidence," he replied a little tartly. "You'll probably think I'm crazy like the rest, so I won't go into detail. But I will tell you it involves tracking a certain creature, which is why I knew I was being followed. I have quite a bit of experience," he said proudly.
The Lupe nodded but didn't press although curiosity burned at the tips of his claws.
"Anyways, I should ask what do you want in return for helping me out of this creepy place?" the Blumaroo asked warily as they pressed forward.
The Lupe snorted at the last two words.
"Not to offend you of course, I'm sure it's a lot lovelier in the sunshine," the Neopet said quickly, nervously pushing up his glasses.
The Lupe chuckled as they walked through the fog.
"How about a name?" he asked the Blumaroo.
"Tavely," he replied. "Yourself?"
"Call me Shado."
The Blumaroo hesitated as if finding the right words. "Well, that is a very fitting name."
Shado laughed, "I guess it is. My human did well."
The Blumaroo scratched his head and murmured 'human?' under his breath.
They walked in silence and Shado noticed Tavely pause to pull a small notebook and pen out of his jacket pocket. He looked around but a look of disappointment shadowed his face.
"If you're looking for a street sign or something, I'm sorry to inform you that you are a little out of luck," Shado said, grinning.
Instead of responding, Tavely just placed the notebook and pen back in his pocket and muttered something about 'the primitive nature of Haunted Woods folk', but Shado pretended his highly trained ears hadn't picked it up.
To fill the silence, Shado said, "So about that return offer of yours."
The Blumaroo slowed his pace and Shado felt the slightest bit of discomfort from the traveler as he waited for Tavely to speak.
"Er... Yes, I believe I mentioned something of the sorts," Tavely said nervously, as he shoved his gloved hands into his jacket pocket.
Shado's tail dropped and he pretended to be a little offended.
"Don't look so afraid, my friend, I just want to show you my gallery; I've collected quite a bit from my travels around these parts," Shado said innocently.
The Blumaroo shuffled his feet and looked at the ground, obviously embarrassed with his reaction.
"Oh. I would love to see it, I'm a bit of a collector myself," Tavely said proudly. He waited for Shado to ask what it is he enjoys collecting, but got no such question as they continued walking.
Instead the Blumaroo asked, "What is it that you collect, Shado?"
Shado stopped and penetrated Tavely with a playful gaze as frightening as his teeth, but he smiled as kindly as he could at his new friend.
"Well, you'll just have to wait and see now won't you?" he replied circling Tavely and butting him forward with his massive head.
He added a few seconds later, "So I kind of want to know what creature you've been trying to find. I might be able to be of assistance. If it exists, of course."
Tavely cleared his throat and began. "Well, the creature is a huge, menacing beast with teeth like knives and eyes that see right through his victim. Its wings are very powerful and it has been known to use them to grab onto its prey. Neopets who have spotted this creature say they were walking alone when it snuck up and pounced on them, growling and laughing hysterically. It has not been known to hurt Neopets, however, except for a few bruises and scratches they get from trying to get away."
Shado flicked his ears, confused at Tavely's description.
"What do they call this beast?" Shado asked lightly.
"Well, there are a few names for it but most call it 'The Winged Menace'."
Shadow stopped Tavely and said, "Sir, if there was such a beast, I believe it would be known to me due to the fact that I spend most of my time in these woods. I believe you're efforts have been wasted."
Shado began walking again, dismissing this made up creature and hoping Tavely would as well.
At least my gallery is close, he thought.
Tavely began to chuckle uncontrollably and had to lean against a dead tree to catch his breath after his fit of laughter. Shado looked on, impatiently lashing the tip of his tail and clawing the hard ground as he waited for Tavely to explain his behavior.
"Shado," he laughed, once he has composed himself. "This said creature I've been searching for; it's you."