The Story of Kanrik
The Gelert shivered in the night and coughed, his breath becoming visible in the chilly air. He had been wandering for hours, and still there was no one. No one but him and the howling wind.
He heard footsteps and dove into the shadows in an attempt to hide. He looked around in fear. His eyes widened as a Shadow Lupess came forward, followed by a Blue Lupe about her age. Siblings, or friends, perhaps?
Then she spoke. "He is here." Her breath did not show. Was it warmer where she stood?
"I see no one," said her companion as he glanced around. Kanrik ducked down to avoid being seen, but rose again after a moment.
"My visions have never led me astray, Balthazar. The young one is here." She closed her eyes, then looked sharply to where the Gelert was hiding. "There, I believe."
He held his breath as she met his eyes. Her own dark eyes carried the wisdom of another age, from one long ago.
Her voice took on a kinder tone. "Little one, you may come out. I see you hiding there."
He hesitated, then stepped forward, out of the darkness.
She smiled, barely visible in the night. "There you are. Young one, what is your name?"
"Kanrik." He shivered in the cold.
She noticed. "Silly me, keeping you out here in the cold. Come, I have a house nearby. You will be warm up there." She held out her paw and he took it. Warmth. Warmth sounded nice. He hadn't been warm in a long time.
"Are you settled?" she asked as she placed the mug in front of him. He nodded. "Good. Now Kanrik, tell me how you came to be in those woods."
The Blue Gelert took a sip from his mug. "I was lost. I was looking for a place to stay."
"Where are you from?"
"Why did you leave?"
"My parents left me when I was very young. I've been on my own and I wanted to come somewhere warmer. It was cold out there."
"Understatement of the century," the Blue Lupe muttered from his place by the window. "And yet the flying tyrants encourage people to live out there." He shook his head in disgust. "Irritating Faeries."
"You know as well as I that the Faeries will fall someday. We must wait until then." She looked back to Kanrik, who looked at them both in confusion. "Forgive him. My young apprentice and I have no love for the Faeries. But that will not interest you."
Balthazar snorted. "'Young' apprentice..."
"Who are you?" Kanrik asked.
"Of course. I am Alkalia. He is Balthazar, my student."
"Yes. I took him in when he was about your age, trained him, made sure he knew how to survive. I am prepared to make you a similar offer, my young Kanrik."
"You will live with me and I will watch over you, train you, make sure you are well for a few years. Then I will send you to someone who owes me a favor. You will become a thief, and a good one as well."
"Take the offer, kid," Balthazar advised. "It's better then it sounds. And you won't get that sort of offer anywhere else."
"Let him decide, Balthazar," Alkalia shushed. "Go and make sure that the cave I spoke to you about has not been breached. Do not go in, just check."
Balthazar grumbled about the cold, but grabbed his cloak and left. Alkalia turned back to Kanrik. "Well, Kanrik?"
Kanrik took another sip of his hot chocolate. "Why me?"
"I have seen two possible paths for you, as I have with many of my students. The first one is to go. You are homeless, yes? I'm sure I could find you a suitable home, one where you would be well cared for. The other path is one many of my students have taken-embracing their great destiny, and be remembered forever."
The Blue Gelert closed his eyes. Live forgotten or remembered forever. He opened his eyes. "I accept."
"Hold still," Alkalia said firmly as she tried to dab the healing ointment on his face.
He squirmed. "It burns."
"That means it is working. Do you want the scar to get infected or not?" she demanded.
He stopped moving. Alkalia sighed. "You should not have been near the caves. I warned you never to go in there."
"Why not? I know you've told me many times, but what's in there?"
"That is not your concern," she said coldly.
He cringed slightly at her tone, but it was one she had used many times to strike fear into him and her other students. "Does Balthazar know?" the young teenager inquired after he had regained his composure.
She paused. "No. No one but me. And do not bother going back unless you want another scar. You are lucky you did not lose an eye."
"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I won't go in again."
The Lupess shook her head. "No matter. You are going to meet my contact tomorrow, a thief by the name of Galem Darkhand. A word of advice? Do not trust him. He has many unexpected allies among the Thieves Guild. Balthazar will take you there."
"Take me where?"
She smiled dryly. "Always with the questions, you are," she murmured. "Your previous home, Terror Mountain. But do not fear-you are strong now, and the cold will no longer hurt you."
"I am not afraid."
"I know you are not."
"But why can't you take me?" he asked in confusion. Normally Alkalia always escorted her students to wherever their training required.
She closed her eyes for a brief moment. "Tomorrow is a full moon. I have somewhere to be." She reopened them. "Balthazar will take you. Now let me finish or the scar will get infected."
He fell silent after that.
"I am glad to see that you have grown strong, Kanrik," a voice from behind him said.
He whirled around, going for his dagger, but relaxed when he saw who it was. "You could have warned me about Masila."
"I warned you not to trust Galem Darkhand. I told you that he had many friends within the Thieves Guild. I am disappointed in Masila, however." Her eyes flashed with disapproval and anger. "I warned her that her emotions would lead to her downfall, but the foolish Acara did not take heed. However, I will deal with her later." The Lupe's dark eyes glinted dangerously. "I heard you had help from a young Usul named Hannah?"
"Tell me, the mark she got from the curse. What did it look like?"
He described it in as much detail as he could, but he hadn't gotten that good of a look at it. "Why do you ask?"
"You do not need to know." She turned from him, towards the entrance.
He hesitated, then asked "You told me I would be remembered forever. Is this what you meant?"
"Yes." She turned back to him, the hint of a smile on her face. "A few words before I go. Take a firm hold on the Thieves Guild. You can not afford any weaklings. And train your fellow thieves. There is a battle coming, and you need to be as prepared as you can."
"You have succeeded."
He looked up from the map he was studying and glanced behind him, not surprised she was there. "The Oracle is ours."
"For the moment. The battle will begin again, many, many times," she murmured, eyes closed where she stood. Then she opened them, an emotion flashing in them. Before he could figure out what it was, she had regained her usual icy calmness. "I will return. Have my tent ready. I would have words with the Oracle." Without waiting for him to reply, she left.
Kanrik shook his head. Alkalia had always confused him, even more so after his accident in the cave. He knew so little about her. Only that she never aged and that she got every war and attack on Neopia started. The cave was what had his attention, though.
What could possibly be in there that she didn't want anyone to know about? Obviously a monster, but what if it was guarding something? The secret to her immortality, perhaps? Jewels? Riches?
Whatever it was, it was of no importance now. The Gelert turned his attention back to the map. He had to prepare for the next battle.