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Of Truffles and Such

by shadowcristal


With a twitch of his sharp nose, the blue Lupe inhaled the exotic smells that were coming out of the Chocolate Factory. Jerad looked at the mysterious building wistfully before he continued his walk. It wasn't a pleasant walk by any means, more like a scavenger searching for food in the slums of the city.

     Jerad sighed as he found some scraps of meat left in a hastily packed bag in a gutter. That was food for three, and then there was only he and Amanda left. He thought fondly at the four younger siblings in their rickety old home before turning around to search again. Desperation clutched him, as the sun continued its relentless path down the sky. If he didn't find enough food and got home safely...

     The Lupe shuddered as he walked along the streets, eyes never leaving those uneven cobblestones for one second. How he envied the rich! Those pets with their purses filled with gold coins, never having to worry about food or shelter, squandering money on luxuries such as chocolate...

     Chocolate... Jerad sighed once again, throwing a last look at the factory. No. Unlike those rich, spoiled brats, he couldn't waste time on such distractions.

     "Care for a sample of our truffles?" a kind voice asked him. The Lupe spun around to find a toothless Chia grinning at him and holding up a perfectly round piece of mouth-watering chocolate.

     "A sample?" Jerad's voice was coarse and nervous, but his paw had already instinctively reached out for the food.

     "You look like you need it," the female Chia said kindly, pushing the chocolate into his paw. "I'm sorry that I can only give you one. Factory orders, you know..."

     "Thank you," the Lupe said, expressing genuine gratitude. "I'll be sure to enjoy it."

     "I'm sure you will," the Chia smiled before turning to another pet that was also walking down the street to offer more samples.

     As he walked on, Jerad couldn't help but take a look at the chocolate. The Chia had called it a truffle... It was a soft, moldable piece that would easily melt in his mouth. The Lupe restrained himself from wolfing it down, knowing that it would only be fair if he shared with all of his siblings. He was sure that little Amanda would love it, and it would be selfish if he ate it now. Still, only the scent was enough to bring a promise of something delicious...

     Jerad shook his head and kept walking, though his eyes occasionally darted to the truffle to make sure that it was there. This was surely his catch of the day! That he had gotten so lucky...

     The Lupe knew that he ought to be grateful, but his paws felt greedy and he wished for more. No, he mustn't... he had a whole family to support, and they lived way too far from the Soup Faerie to have some proper food. He must hurry up in order to get some more scraps, and then undertake the long journey home...

     Having found another couple of leftovers, Jerad made a u-turn and walked back to the direction where he had come from. As he passed the factory again, he couldn't help to notice that the factory now looked a lot more mysterious, a lot more shadowy. Then again, the first rays of dusk were searching their way up the sky, and the sun grew a flaming red as it slowly dipped beneath the horizon.

     He stopped by the forbidden place again, letting his nose enjoy the exotic and exciting smells. The grim face that Jerad had worn all day softened a little, letting a small smile escape. For now, he had a token as a reminder of that delicious chocolate. If only, if only... If only life had been different... If only he could've been a little bit luckier!

     You should be glad with what you have, the Lupe told himself. In any case, if he wished for too much, perhaps greater power would punish him for that. But it didn't hurt to wish, did it?

     As if someone had heard his wish, there was a smiling, rather muddy, brown Kiko standing behind him with a violet hat neatly placed on top of his head.

     "Want to be a sampler?" the Kiko asked kindly, reaching out a hand with nails that had a faint touch of malevolent indigo hue. Jerad's mind ignored the warnings, and suddenly his stomach growled. It wasn't much of a surprise, considering that he had only eaten cold, yucky Asparagus Soup at the Soup Kitchen for lunch.

     "Sample?" The Lupe couldn't believe his luck. His suspicious nature took over immediately, and Jerad stuffed the food he had collected during the day in his pocket. Just in case, he told himself. He did not easily trust strangers, even if they looked fancy and had nail paint.

     "Why, yes... I'd love for you to try some of our newest truffles and tell me what you think. Of course, it's all free." The Kiko smiled kindly, almost warmly.

     "Free?" Jerad said, eyes growing to be narrow slits. "You promise?"

     "As long as you do what you're supposed to do... which means no touching new experiments and such; there are no consequences."

     The word 'consequences' formed a cold chill, as long as the word, to run down Jerad's spine. "All right," he agreed reluctantly, not sure if this was a good idea. Then the prospect of free food took over, and he wasn't all that unsure anymore. This was free food! This was luxury! This was chocolate!

     "Follow me," the Kiko said, and obediently the Lupe followed the chubby little pet into the factory. The doors opened magically when the Kiko raised his left hand, and closed behind them. Worry surged into the Lupe's mind when he realized how dark it was. In fact, if he didn't hurry up, he wouldn't make it home before the sun went down!

     The pungent aromas of different kinds of chocolate soothed him, and created little bundles of joy that diminished the sense of duty and commitment he had felt when he thought of home. But what about poor little Amanda?

     "Try the chocolates," the Kiko said, stepping aside to reveal a table that was filled with small, clean white plates. Upon each place balanced a tower of tiny bits of chocolate, and the contents varied from plate to plate. Some were of a fresh, minty green, while others were more grown. The one thing they had in common, though, was the fact that they were all truffles. Soft, round chocolates with a delicious, hand-poured filling stood there, glowing warmly and invitingly, practically begging him to place his teeth there...

     "I can't," Jerad said modestly, knowing how much money and effort that had been placed into these chocolates. This was almost too good...

     "Oh, really?" the Kiko asked, but it was not a question. They both laughed when the Lupe's stomach replied to the offer with a loud rumble. The Kiko's laugh was short, icy and satisfying, the Lupe's nervous and apprehensive, but eager to have food.

     "Go ahead, they're all yours," the Kiko said.

     "Oh," Jerad said in a small voice. He looked at the Kiko, unsure if he really could take the liberty to eat these chocolates. They lay there so innocently, so perfectly, so good... It was almost a shame to eat them up, and much less by an unworthy one such as him. "By the way, what's your name?"

     "I'm nameless," the Kiko said with a mysterious smile. "But what's your name?"

     "Jerad," the Lupe said, eager to please. He could feel a faint click in the distance, as if something important had been revealed, laid bare for enemy attack. But there were no enemies here, were there? Once again his eyes wandered to the chocolate.

     "Come on, Jerad," the nameless Kiko said, and it looked as if the chocolates were beckoning him to go. "No need to be shy... They're all free, just waiting for you to taste them."

     No longer able to withstand the temptation, the Lupe ventured forward and cleaned the first plate of truffles he saw. They were milk chocolate truffles, solid on the outside, but the inside melted away like liquid inside his jaws and slid down his throat like honey. Running onward, they warmed his stomach in a way that only mild, brown chocolates can do to one, and he felt a surge of happiness.

     "Try some more," the Kiko said. "That one was good, but it pales in comparison to the other ones."

     The Lupe looked at the remaining plates, and it looked to him as if there wasn't too much of a good thing anymore, but just enough. Something inside him had released, and that annoying voice called conscience had completely vanished. He was free to do as he pleased.

     Aching with hunger, Jerad grabbed the next plate and gobbled it all down. This time it was rich, throaty dark chocolate, having quite a strong taste. The truffles truly fit the definition bittersweet, being bitterly crisp on the outsider and having an adorably sweet filling. The Kiko had been right; this was quite the experience compared to the plain milk chocolate.

     Jerad's shyness was fading, and he didn't need any words of encouragement to keep on eating. There was marvelous, pure white chocolate, fluffy and soft... And then there was the crisp, refreshing mint chocolate, making his head feel as if he was among the clouds in Faerieland. There were many more kinds than he could count, among those orange-brown crispy chocolate, flaming red sugary truffles and many more exotic ones

     The Lupe felt quite sorry for himself as he gobbled down the last piece, a sky-blue chocolate that held the promise of blueberry and a soft scent of the sky.

     "Truffles truly are amazing," the Kiko commented when Jerad turned around for directions. "I hope you've enjoyed yourself?"

     "Very much so," Jerad said politely. His stomach was digesting all the chocolate, and he simply felt wonderful.

     "Thank you for sampling it all," the Kiko said, taking out a box that the Lupe hadn't seen before. "There's one more thing... But heed my words. You can only look, but you can't eat."

     "What is it?" So much chocolate had made the Lupe a bit sluggish, but the prospect of more chocolate excited him, and he peered down at the words that were inscribed upon the box.

     "Truffle of Temptation," the Kiko read out loud. "Well, you are allowed to look, but you aren't supposed to eat. Have a good look." With faint hands that were painted maliciously lavender, the Kiko opened the box.

     Inside laid the most beautiful truffle that anyone had ever set their eyes upon. The perfectly round piece of chocolate was white with some black splotches, practically shining of promise. One could see tiny dark spots inlaid, and suspected that they were crispy and crunchy. The filling couldn't been seen, but if the outside was that beautiful, the inside must've matched its beauty...

     Suddenly the Kiko closed the box. "That's for seeing it," the pet said, and put the box away. Jerad sighed audibly; he would've loved to see more of that wondrous truffle.

     "I think it's about time for you to go home," the Kiko declared, and suddenly the Lupe remembered his home, his poor family... They must be starving, waiting for him!

     "Thank you so much," he said as he raced out of the factory.

     "It was nothing," the Kiko said as Jerad disappeared from the factory grounds. The pet smiled a crooked smile. "But if you return for this, it will be so much more than nothing..." With those words, the Kiko placed the box on one of the empty plates and faded into the shadows. "Why those new, stupid regulations? Guess you have to return from your own free will before I can do anything," the Kiko mumbled, watching the box intently.

     Jerad ran down the streets, heart beating with worry for his family. What would they think of him? Ever since that famine years ago, he had been responsible for food and he had never failed his duty... And now he was late! The Lupe thrust his paws into his pockets to make sure that he hadn't lost the food he had gathered prior to that amazing sampling...

     Speaking of the sampling... Unconsciously Jerad slowed down, his legs trotting off to the place where those delicious chocolates were made. Suddenly he realized something. Why couldn't he have asked the Kiko for some to take home for his siblings, instead of selfishly gobbling up everything?

     Guilt filled the Lupe as he resumed the run. If he didn't make an effort now, they'd really be worried. Besides, there was the truffle that the Chia had given him...

     Truffles... There was also the truffle in the box! If he could ask for that to give to his siblings... Jerad shook his head. The Kiko had said 'no touchy', but maybe he could ask?

     The Lupe looked at the dark sky and decided that it wasn't too late. He had been lucky, and maybe his lucky streak would continue... Jerad imagined the shrill noises of joy his siblings would make if he brought such a treasure to them. All those exotic and exciting smells of the delicious truffles returned to him, and worries such as home escaped from his mind.

     I'm doing it for a good reason, he told his conscience, who seemed unusually weak and not quite resistant. Jerad raced back and took a skip over the high gates. His lean, powerful muscles enabled him to do a long jump in order to pass the gate, and soon enough he was in the same place that the Kiko had led him to.

     There was the table, and there were the clean, white plates... But wait! The Lupe's eyes widened when he discovered the box. Sure enough, there were those fancy letters inscribed upon it. Almost touching it with his paw, Jerad found that the top of the box fell away to reveal that beautiful, untarnished, perfect piece of art sitting serenely on red velvet.

     The truffle mesmerized him... It drew him closer and closer, and finally the Lupe picked it up. As his paw touched the chocolate, he could feel the promise of a delicacy run through his veins. Here, right in his hand, was the most delicious chocolate in the world! He did not only suspect it, but also practically felt it.

     Before he had known it, the truffle had reached his eyes. His mind had lost its grip to all those exotic and aromatic samples before, and he wasn't as disciplined as he ought to be. Jerad wanted to stop, but the greedy and grubby little selfish soul inside him, the very same one that had allowed him to gobble down all those chocolates for himself was stronger. His jaws snapped open, and the Lupe took a bite of that tempting chocolate.

     Immediately he felt warm and soft white chocolate on his tongue, but unlike the ones he had tasted before, this one was crispy and clearer than a jewel. The black little spots were pieces of bittersweet, dark chocolate that gave him tinges in his spine. Then he tasted the filling, and it was like nothing that he had ever tried before. Unlike all those other liquid fillings that would melt in his mouth, this filling was icily crisp, and required some soft chewing. It was delicious, nevertheless. The truffle was as good as it had promised, but much more than that...

     Suddenly the Lupe discovered movements in the shadows. Horrified, he dropped the half-bitten truffle and looked around suspiciously. But nothing seemed the same, after eating that heavenly chocolate...

     A familiar pet stepped out of the shadows, and Jerad's breath caught in his throat when he saw who it was.

     "Well, well," the Kiko said, pointing to him with a purple staff. "We did say look, but don't eat... And now you've gone and ruined everything! Well, it is just as bad, I mean, just as good, that you did it..." The Kiko let out a horrendous cackle that made Jerad's fur stand on top. "I said that you would suffer consequences, and I do keep my word..."

     The Lupe was too horrified and shocked to speak. Part of his mind had some sense to realize the horrible things he had done. He had failed himself, to bite in that enticing chocolate before bringing it home! He had failed the Kiko in eating it! He had done the forbidden!

     "Of course," the Kiko said, looking at its nails, "I suppose it can't be helped." A puff of lilac smoke surrounded the Kiko, and in its place stood a high, beautiful dark faerie. She smiled the way the Kiko had done, only much more terrifying.

     "So, dearie," she said, "I'm glad that you willingly proved yourself worthy." The Lupe shuddered, but found himself frozen when she cupped his chin. "You know, you shouldn't have given your name out so willingly. Names have great power. Then again, it was kind of a challenge to lure out that monster in you..."

     Monster? Jerad's mind reeled, and he remembered all those times he had lashed out at his younger siblings. If only he could've been nicer, if only he had tried harder...

     "Too late now," the faerie said, as if she had read his mind. "I'm glad that I get another servant, though." The purple wings flapped with hostility, daring him to run. Jerad found himself frozen as the dark faerie drew herself closer and closer. His eyes were white with fear, and he truly regretted wishing for anything.

     "Thank you for sampling the truffles," the faerie said mockingly, letting out an icy laugh that seemed to fill the air with its evil. As Jerad found his mind dissolved and taken over by darkness, his last desperate cry was to those he had failed, to his poor family that would go hungry...

     "There are always truffles," her voice whispered, brushing him with a smoothness of that of silk and ponds without ripples. As a cloud of darkness enveloped the poor trapped Lupe, the dark faerie took out a basket of truffles. She scanned around and saw a little yellow Aisha at the gates. Her purple lips curled up thoughtfully before she sent her new servant somewhere else and walked forward to her new victim, taking the shape of a female Chia.

     "What's your name, dearie?" the Chia asked.

     "I-I'm Amanda, and I'm looking for my big bro Jerad..." the little Aisha stuttered. "Have you seen him? He's a big, blue Lupe..."

     "I'm sorry, but no. I know you're busy, but..." The Chia made a sympathetic face as she selected a truffle from her basket with care. Taking a deep breath and making her voice as sweet as possible, the Chia asked, "Care to sample one of our truffles?"

The End

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