"Cyrus! Cyrus, where are you?"
The petite Usul knelt down on the varnished wooden floor, peering under the large couch in the extravagant bedroom. Her hair was afflicted with specks of dust contrasting with it's bright orange-hue and gold laurel decorations, and her red, rose-accented gown was in similar condition. But she paid it no mind.
She got back to her feet and sighed. Scanning the rest of the room, she carefully tip-toed towards the suspiciously quivering mound of blankets on top of her bed. With careful concentration, she held a paw to her mouth, and blew.
The resulting whistle instantly roused the faerie moltenore from his hiding spot. The creature's sudden flight began to fling the silky, colourful fabrics across the room.
Lycille laughed. "Cyrus, you must stop doing that."
The moltenore chirped mischievously and flew into his mistress's arms. Despite the flames, it would never burn her. The little creature had the ability to regulate it's body heat; including the flames on it's exterior, which allowed it to interact with others without burning them or other things. Before long, the blazing wings of the petpet began to grow dimmer as it began snoring.
The Usul cradled the fiery troublemaker. Slowly, she lowered the moltenore into a basket filled with cotton, cloth and pillows next to her bed.
The two had been playing all day. The royal Usul had a free day from her lessons, and her petpet had seen it fit to seize the opportunity for play. Exhaustion had finally caught up with him however, and the little creature had succumbed to slumber.
With the fatigue of a whole day's worth of physical activity afflicting her as well, Lycille sat down on her red velvet bed. White lace lined the sheets, and every bed knob was formed of pure gold. Smiling, she began fiddling with the rose set on her bedside desk. Gently, she lifted the crimson bloom from the glass jar, and began turning it around, examining it.
It was a large one, quite a bit bigger than any of the ones grown in the castle gardens; or Brightvale in it's entirety. She fleetingly wondered if it had been enchanted by the faeries, but the thought quickly vanished. She had just remembered something important.
Getting up, she peeked at the outside sky from her balcony. "It's already evening...," the Usul bit her lip. "I should make haste."
Quickly dusting her dress off, the Usul ran out of the bedroom and down the stairs to the eerily silent castle halls. She was a blur as she maneuvered through the maze-like hallways, and she quickly headed past the library, kitchen, and countless other facilities.
Before long, she managed to find her way to the entrance of the castle. Hastily, she put on her slippers and placed her paws on the regal doors. With a final cautionary glance to see if she had been spotted, she heaved the doors open, and sneaked out into the night.
"Drat, my clothes are getting torn."
The starry Lupe brushed aside the thorns and leaves surrounding him. His normally smooth brown hair was a mess; and he mentally berated himself for not casting a simple protection charm as he made his way through the undergrowth.
Looking down, he sighed as he saw the copious amount of dirt covering his shoes as well. Such was his fallacy for being forgetful.
"I'm going to make quite the impression, I would think."
Before long, the Lupe emerged outside of the vegetation; and into the moonlit field that was his destination. The sky had transformed into a dark blanket of stars and light, the moon sitting serenely in the very middle.
Fenrir smiled at the sight. "I've missed seeing these."
His concentration was broken, however, by a sudden voice. "Fenrir?"
The Lupe turned around. A petite Usul, about two-thirds his height, was leaning against a rock, panting heavily. She beamed at the surprised pet.
"Lycille? I wasn't expecting you to have be here this early."
She shook her head. "I had only just remembered about an hour ago. I was in a rush to get here is all."
The Lupe smirked. "Well, perhaps too much of a rush."
The Usul laughed. "Oh, hush. Besides which," the Usul pointed at his clothing. "You're looking somewhat worn down."
Fenrir sighed. "My apologies. It seems my lack of foresight has ruined my outfit."
Lycille stood up and held the Lupe's paws. "I don't mind. I'm just glad you're here now."
The Lupe smiled. "As am I."
Lycille mused to herself. "I can't believe that no one's gotten the wiser to that underground tunnel."
The Lupe laughed. "The most marvelous of things are hidden in plain sight. Without this, we would never have met each other that day."
The Usul chuckled to herself. "Me, of royal, Brightvalian blood, and you, a Meridellian "commoner". My parents would have a fit if they knew we've been meeting here for years. I'm glad though." She sighed, exasperated. "They never did approve of you the lone time you met them."
"Perhaps for the better." The Lupe smiled. "They mean well, but I must say, they have terrible taste in company."
The Usul grinned. "For the most part, I'll have to agree."
"But regardless," the Lupe glanced at the Usul. "How have you been?"
Lycille looked up. Even though he was leaning back against a tree, she could see that Fenrir was giving her one of his signature stares; his gold eyes even more striking against the backdrop of a moonlit night. It had always been a sign of genuine curiosity in him, and had always beckoned those who he used it on to answer.
The Usul put on a small smile. "Things have been going fine. Just the same as ever, I suppose. Father and mother have been getting more and more ill these days, however. It's... disconcerting."
She looked down, a grimace taking over the smile. "I'm the princess and only child of the family, and thus, heir to the Cantus throne. We're far from the most important family in Neopia, but we're still an off-shoot of King Hagan's line. I must be strong enough to take over their place as ruler of the castle, and head of the family one day. That's what everyone keeps telling me."
The Lupe listened quietly. "But you don't want to be the heir?"
"No. No, I just-," the Usul sighed. "I just wish things could be easier. There, I admit it."
Fenrir placed a paw on her shoulder. "We all wish that. But you've been so strong about this. You can't just give up now, Lycille."
The Usul looked up. "I know. I know." She took a deep breath. "Thank you, Fenrir."
The Lupe smiled. "You're welcome."
"So, how has life been for you?"
The Lupe shrugged. "Thing have been... interesting."
"I've told you about that girl, correct? Anisele?"
The Usul tilted her head in contemplation before recognition dawned on her. "That Xweetok illusionist?"
Fenrir nodded. "Yes. I didn't tell you this before, but judging from what I've seen; and felt... I believe that she's using actual magic. Dark magic, to be precise."
Lycille gasped. "But how would that be possible? You told me yourself; the Order of the Red Erisim keeps it's grasp on all magical artefacts, including those cursed with dark magic. You had said that none of those, or any of the tomes pertaining to that kind of magic, have gone missing."
The Lupe closed his eyes. "I don't know myself. But whatever the case, it seems as if she still isn't immune to the price of using it. I can tell, she's been draining her own life-force with every performance."
The Usul gave a troubled glance to her friend. "Then what are we to do?"
"You, do nothing. I'll handle this on my own."
"That's final, Lycille." The Lupe looked at the night sky. "The last time I got others involved in something like this, they lost their lives. I left the Order because I'm not strong; or capable enough, to be a part of it."
The Usul clasped her paws. "... Fine. But I'm still going to help you with other things if I can."
Silence passed between the two pets, the rhythmic sound of nearby mortogs croaking filling in the void. After a few minutes, the Lupe held a paw to his mouth and coughed. "It's getting late. You should head back to the castle now."
Lycille shook her head. "There's no need. Our servants are leave until tomorrow afternoon, and my parents are too tired to check if I'm gone."
"I'm not talking about whether you'd be found out. I'm talking about your health. You need to sleep."
The Usul shook her head. "I'm fine."
Fenrir sighed. "Lycille, please. Your legs are quivering, and there are bags forming under your eyes. You're exhausted, and I don't want you to deprive yourself of rest for my sake."
"No, it's not." The Lupe interrupted sharply; but it wasn't long before that gave way to quiet pleading. "Lycille, please."
The Usul nodded. "Okay. Okay, I'll go back."
Carefully, the Usul got up from the rock and began walking down the hill. At the last second, she turned around and gave her friend a sad stare. "Fenrir, please. Be careful."
The Lupe cast her a weary smile. "I always am."
She turned around and continued her path. She was half-way down when she whispered to herself with a frown.
The Lupe continued looking at the stars. Each one luminous, bright. And with a sharp eye, each one still distinguishable even with countless others dotting the sky.
He looked for the brightest one in the sky, the one that he had loved as a child. He laughed to himself, knowing how obnoxious it must have been for others to have heard him, often, very loudly, "claiming" it for himself.
But after several back and forth searches of the sky, he couldn't find the star at all. That troubled him.
He recalled how a recurring star disappearing from the sky was an ill-omen. He frowned.
With a sigh, he looked down at the dirt ground.
"I suppose I'm going to be that Xweetok's falling star."