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A Shadow in the Light: It has Begun - Part One


by rabbitofkittyhawk

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Upon the ridge the dark shadow sat, its ebon cloak hugging its form. The chilled night air was heavy with frost, and the moonlight that softly breathed on the earth seemed to freeze from the bitterness of late autumn. The figure waited patiently, its shadowed form low on the verdant grass atop a small hillcrest. Then, suddenly, a small crimson fire bloomed in the meadows below, and the figure stood and leaped toward the signal at a swift pace. Its face was concealed by the black cloak's hood and as was its body, save for two black paws that raced over the emerald blades.

      The fire was built between a circle of Kau hide tents, created by a small fire Lupe. The Lupe sat in front of its tent and glanced around at the other Neopets. They were nervous, even he was. It was not safe to let the fire glow, but they would die without its comforting warmth. The enemy was making matters considerably complicated. "Jayla, is Kaan asleep?" the fire Lupe asked softly to a brown Yurble.

      The Yurble nodded and said harshly, "Sovan, what's wrong? Are we going to be alright?" The fear in her voice was noticeable, and several of the others shuddered slightly.

      Sovan shook his head. "I don't want the child to be frightened," he said, words slow and almost youthful. He was small, but it wasn't because he was young in age, but his strangely tiny build. He was disgusted with himself for not being able to tell them. To have to let fate take its toll. To be the one responsible if anyone was hurt. "Excuse me, I'm going to patrol the camp," he said finally, his words bringing a few laughs.

      The figure slowed as Sovan stood, the cloak that had hidden its face sliding off its crania to reveal a shadow Zafara. His face was frustrated, and he crouched low to the ground to avoid being seen. "Sovan..." he said in a hiss. His crimson eyes narrowed, and he gritted his teeth in anger. The Zafara waited until the Lupe was on the other side of the camp before running the rest of the way to one of the tents, footfalls silent. He ducked behind the red tent and drew a small, rusted dagger.

      Sovan quickened his pace to create heat from the movement, but just as he finished his first circuit, he noticed a shadow by Kaan's tent. "Jayla, get Kaan!" he shouted, leaping towards the Zafara.

      The Zafara instantly turned his dial to the furious Lupe, but otherwise didn't move. His dahlia pools glared out at the canine, making Sovan stop. He smirked and slit a hole in the thin hide. He growled in frustration as he saw that the little red Yurble was no longer in the tent.

      "Manov! What do you seek! Leave Kaan alone and tell me. We may be able to settle this," Sovan shouted as the Zafara caught sight of Kaan by the fire with Jayla. Seeing that Manov wasn't listening to him, Sovan leaped at his cloak and unbalanced the intruder's pounce.

      Manov pulled away from the Lupe's grasp and lunged at Jayla and Kaan, red eyes focused on a chain around Kaan's neck. It was a golden chain holding a ruby heart pendant, and the firelight seemed to make the crimson jewel glow as Manov grabbed the chain. He ripped the chain from Kaan's neck, snapping it in two before running out the other side of the camp. Arrows rained down behind him, but his slim form slipped past them. He slowed slightly and sighed as he came to a complete stop. He overlooked the pendant for a moment, but then a searing pain sprouted from his shoulder. Sovan wasn't giving up the chase, and his dagger had reached the target. Manov gritted his teeth and bound away from the Lupe, quickly leaving him behind.

      Sovan slowed, knowing that he wouldn't be able to catch up. He rested his paws on his knees and gasped to catch his breath once more. 'Manov?' he thought. 'Manov, how could you do this to me?'

      Ten Years Before

      "Ha! Sovan, my good friend, you're losing your touch!" the young Zafara snickered.

      Sovan looked up into the tree at his friend and smiled weakly. "I haven't been climbing in several years. I guess I paid my price, eh?" He laughed at himself, and rubbed his arm on which he had landed on when he had fallen from the branches. He envied Manov. The Zafara was about a decade younger than he, and his energy never seemed to wane. They were about the same size if they were to stand next to one another, but yet Manov was lankier.

      "I suppose so," Manov responded softly, looking out at the blooming spring valley. "How is Shan doing? Has the NeoFlu broken yet?"

      "No, but she's getting better," he replied, thinking of his younger sister, Shanmei. "Well, come on down here you Feepit, and let's visit Dizzconnie or something," he said into the tree, looking up at his friend. "I heard that she got a new shipment of potato wedges yesterday."

      Manov landed next to Sovan. "Well let's go then, can't let good potato wedges go to waste!" And with that, the Zafara ran towards the small village of Ovalon.

      The Lupe smiled and shook his head. He had known that once he had mentioned food that the younger would get out of the tree's branches. He hated to say it, but the boy ate too much. "I wish I could eat like you do. Eat everything in sight and not gain an once," he called after Manov, who was nearing the village huts.

      The shadow Zafara shot into the village square and peered behind him before walking to Dizzconnie's small pub. It was dark, and quite a few pets were sitting at the high seated bar, sipping Neocola and talking to friends. He waved to the faerie Gelert behind the counter and took a seat at a small corner near the empty fireplace. When Sovan finally enter, the Zafara laughed at his friend's feeble attempts to hide his fatigue. "Have a good run, chap?" he asked, clearly amused.

      Sovan rolled his eyes and sat across from Manov. "Yes, thank you, I did have a nice run. Thanks for asking."

      "Sovan and Manov, 'ello lads!" Dizzconnie said warmly as she padded to their table. "How are the trouble makers doing today?" After they shrugged she laughed and asked, "Is there anything I can get you, or are ya here just to plot?"

      "I would like some potato wedges if that's alright," Manov said shyly, who was slightly embarrassed by his large appetite. "You need anything, Sovan?"

      The Lupe shook his head at Dizzconnie. After she left, he looked shot Manov a serious glance. "Stop staring at me like that, you look like you've seen a ghost!"

      The younger shook his head. "No ghost here, Sovan, but there's something wrong with Dizzie."

      Sovan was slightly worried by his friend's tone of voice. "She seemed alright, buddy."

      "No, she always asks me what I stole today at the market. She didn't ask!"

      Sovan lifted an eyebrow. "You're serious? Come on Manov, she just forgot, you're just getting a little paranoid." He shook his head and smiled as Dizzconnie swept by and placed the wedges in front of Manov. "Hey, Dizzie, everything alright?" he asked before she walked away. He shot Manov a fake look of fear.

      Dizzconnie let her eyes dart from Sovan to Manov and back again. "Is it that noticeable?" she asked, her voice somewhat shaky.

      Sovan's eyes grew wide. "Umm, uh, no, but Manov got some crazy idea about something when you didn't- What's going on Dizz?" He set his elbows on the table and put his dial in his hands. "I've got a headache."

      "Well" Dizzconnie started. "Lately we've been getting talk of some strange shadow clad people around Direwood. You know, the forest on the other side of Dire's Hill? At first I just thought it was just a group of kids, but now the village blacksmith has gone missing. And at his hut, they found a strip of black cloth. All this business has scared a few families away, and I'm starting to get a little scared. Do you think Frauns is alright?"

      Sovan and Manov were stunned. "When?" they asked in unison. Frauns was a good friend of theirs, and it was hard to think that he was gone.

      "Two suns ago, and to make matters worse, those black cloaked pets have been spotted right here in Ovalon. This is all so frightful."

      Manov shuddered. "Someone should go to Coursett, tell the king about what's happening," he said angrily. Coursett, the nearest kingdom, had rule over small Ovalon, but lately the kingdom had been ignoring the small village.

      "Everyone's too scared to go. You have to get through Direwood to get there you know," the Gelert said shakily. "Well, I best get back to work. Take care ya'll."

      "Sovan, that Warf of a king has to know about this, the people need encouragement!" Manov said frantically. "What do we do? Should we go to Coursett?"

      Sovan was stunned once more, but now by Manov's question. "Of coarse we don't go you idiot! We're the village nuisance, not the heroes." He sighed. "But since no one is going... I will."

      Manov narrowed his brown eyes. "Hey, what about me? I'm coming too, right?"

      "No, I won't let you get hurt because of this, friend. Anyway, you're too young."

      He didn't want to admit it, but Manov was hurt. "Alright, I see what you mean. You want to be like the village savior and be the hero. Well, no. I want to go so that Frauns can be found."

      Sovan stood and leaned close to the young Zafara's face. "You are staying here! You got that!?" he yelled, making everyone turn their heads.

      Manov stood also, but only glared at Sovan. He then walked out, leaving his potato wedges behind.

To be continued...

 
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