Everyone Loves the Undead: Part Three
Robert came to with a long groan, rolling on the hay away from the sun now burning above him. It was a good job the full moon had been on a Friday, or he would have been very late for work.
There was an odd taste in his mouth, raw food. Somewhere nearby he could hear Gobblers.
Gobblers? There were no Gobblers on the Helm...
A sharp intake of breath came from Robert as he leapt to his feet, panic in his mind as he thought for one awful moment that he had somehow found his way into the city proper in his Werelupe form. Who knew how much damage he could have caused?
He sighed with relief as he realised he was standing next to a barn on the outskirts of Kau Kau Farms, a corn field stretching out in front of him. Farm hands, immigrants from Shenkuu, were busy tending to the crops. Thankfully, they did not work at night – Robert had not endangered any citizens.
But even so, he had never before roamed away from the Helm during his transformations. Why had he suddenly decided so move now?
Another groan came from the stack of hay nearby as a new figure roused from their sleep.
A striped Lupe stood up, giving a little stretch before turning and realising she wasn't alone. She gave a little yelp before adding a sheepish smile.
"Sorry about that!" she said. "I didn't realise anyone else was around..."
She paused as she noticed Robert's attire – the ragged remains of his trousers from the previous night. Briefly she glanced down at her own trousers, which had been similarly damaged.
"You're... like me, aren't you?" she asked.
"Like you?" Robert gasped. "You mean you are a Werelupe?"
Robert rushed forwards to shake her hand, adding, "I've never actually met another! I mean, I assumed there must be more in the city, but it's not exactly the sort of thing you advertise, is it? I'm Robert, Robert Benn."
"Jane," she replied. "Jane Entwhistle, nice to meet you. It's dangerous to be transforming in the same area as another Werelupe, you should have scouted the area before the full moon. Next month, I'd appreciate it if you found your own spot."
With that curt reply, she turned and reclaimed a fresh set of clothes from the pile of hay.
"I... I didn't," Robert protested.
Jane merely glared at him. "I'm going to change my clothes."
"Oh... oh!" Robert said, spinning around so that he was facing away. "Anyway, as I was saying, I didn't transform down here. I've been up on the Helm for the last few months now. First time I've ever strayed."
"I've finished," Jane signalled, allowing Robert to turn back around. "Sorry, I didn't mean to be so short with you, a lot of new Werelupes tend to come straight to the farmlands without realising I've already claimed this territory. When two transformed Werelupes meet, it doesn't tend to end well. Seems to be an odd piece of luck that we didn't attack each other."
"Other Werelupes?" Robert asked. "You've met others?"
"Of course," she answered. "I've had... the condition, for a few years now. Most Werelupes I've met have moved out of the city, tending to prefer a solitary life, but a few that I stay in contact with have stayed. Only a handful of us though."
"That's amazing!" Robert positively beamed. "I've been thinking I was the only one this entire time! Would you mind if I walked with you back into town?"
Jane gave the sort of look that conveyed that perhaps she would mind, if she could think up an excuse quickly enough, but agreed nevertheless.
Thaddeus Oldnose had drifted about aimlessly for most of the night. In the old quarter, the sight of a ghost drifting through the streets was nothing special, when he crossed the river and headed east he started to get a few more odd looks.
Eventually Oldnose drifted into the Docklands, where people avoided giving looks of any description to anyone in case the person on the other end was a mugger. He found a backstreet tavern known as the Prince's Noose. One of the zombies, George Beastbanks, had once mentioned that he frequented the place, so it surely had to welcome the living impaired like Oldnose.
He sat on one of the barstools for much of the night, until at last, sometime in the morning, the tavern master sidled up to him.
"Look, I've let you stay tonight, because I don't like to kick people out on the street..." he said. "But if you're not going to order a drink, you're taking up space for my other punters."
"I can't exactly order a drink," Oldnose pointed out. "Or carry Neopoints."
"I know," the barman admitted. "And I know that I can't force you to leave if you don't want to, either. But I can see you're a personable sort of ghost, so please?"
"I don't have anywhere else to go..." Oldnose said glumly.
"You know they closed off the Catacombs?" the barman supplied helpfully. "Well, folks like me can't get down there anymore, but there's no reason you can't float yourself through the cave ins. You'll find more like yourself down there."
"There are ghosts in the Catacombs?" Oldnose asked.
"Of course!" the barman laughed. "Why else do you think they call them the Catacombs?"
Night fell in Neopia Central. The full moon had passed now, meaning the Werelupes were once more free to roam the city as normal people for the next month.
Robert had made plans to meet with Jane that night, who had reluctantly called a meeting of the few Werelupes that she still had contact with. Robert was overjoyed at the idea of finally having some company in his curse. He'd had friends before becoming infected, of course, but since then he'd felt disconnected, and had gradually let their relationships slide. But now, the prospect of spending time with people who really understood Robert's plight was looming.
He made his way across town towards the Doglefox & Cobrall, a fairly popular tavern in the business district. He completely missed the small black carriage that was following behind him as the sun set. The windows were tightly shut, not even letting a single ray of the dying sun in to the occupants.
The last of the sun sank behind the horizon, Robert only a few streets from the tavern, when he suddenly felt a strange sensation. It was familiar, in that he felt it every full moon – but tonight was not such a night.
Then, the thing he knew was coming, dreading was coming, happened. His heart stopped beating. The familiar crack followed as his bones broke, forcing him to the floor as they slotted into new formations. Robert let out a painful scream as the second crack came, heralding the end of the internal changes.
The scream had drawn the attention of the others on the street, and as Robert's green fur became longer and discoloured, he glanced up at them. Through a mouth that was rapidly becoming filled with different, sharper teeth, he used the last of his breath to speak.
"How...? This isn't a full moon!"
The people were coming closer, and he lashed out at them with one hand, now becoming clawed, "Don't come close! Get away! Run away!"
Then he felt his head become foggy as the Werelupe's feral mind surfaced, replacing his own, and he knew that it was too late.
The Werelupe stood on all fours, and howled towards the moon. Behind him, the black carriage had sped up, the door flying open to reveal the two vampires within. Frommholtz took aim with his dart gun and fired, the Werelupe whimpering and slumping forwards as Craven jumped out of the carriage. The Korbat reclaimed the sleeping Werelupe, dragging him back into the carriage and firmly closing the door. At once, the carriage sped up, leaving only confused onlookers in its wake.
Inside the carriage, Craven turned to Frommholtz.
"Once we're in a safer location, I'll stick the beast with something to wake it back up, and drop the scent in front of it. Hopefully it'll lead us straight to our thief, thinking it was the one that attacked it."
Craven eyed the sleeping monster. "I hope you're right."
Oldnose did as the barman had suggested, heading straight for the ruined entrance to the Catacombs. Once, it had been marked by a large statue of a Chia in poet's garb, but that had been uprooted and moved to Roo Island along with most of the people who had worked in the more hospitable areas near the surface – they had fled the riots in the city, and by the looks of it they would never be returning.
Now, the entrance to the Catacombs was just a boarded up cave near Rydall Park. Defenders of Neopia symbols warning anyone against entering had been painted on the woodwork, but Oldnose merely floated through it, heading down into the depths.
The torches had all long since been extinguished, but the Meerca's ghostly glow now lit his path. It cast an eerie glow over the now deserted stone shops. The area where the storytelling campfire had been had fallen victim to rocks falling in, and was now buried.
"Hello?" Oldnose called out.
His voice merely echoed back; he was alone.
With a sigh, Oldnose drifted off towards the art gallery. Most of the paintings had been taken over to Roo Island, but a few of the older ones were still there, covered in dust, or ripped from the speed of the evacuation.
On the edge of hearing, Oldnose thought he caught a note of music. He turned, and heard another note. Pressing on further into the cave system, the Meerca could certainly make out a tune. Someone was down in the Catacombs, and they were playing music.
Oldnose paused for a moment, worried that it might have been some of the thieves that the Guild had thrown out before they evacuated, but then he remembered as a ghost they couldn't harm him, and he carried on.
He emerged into a small cavern, filled with burning torches and music. There were voices, laughter, and a small bar in the corner. It seemed to be some sort of underground tavern, but that was not the most important detail. Oldnose, of course, noticed it immediately.
The tavern was filled with ghosts.
There wasn't a single Neopet in there that had a body, even the barman was a ghost. It seemed like the owner of the Prince's Noose had been right, there were ghosts in the Catacombs. And they were having a party.
A ghost Moehog drifted up to him, and Oldnose stretched out a hand to stop him.
"Excuse me, what is this place?" he asked.
The Moehog smiled happily. "First time here? This is the only ghost tavern in Neopia Central. Welcome to the Last Tango!"
To be continued...