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Chicken Dance

by really_awesome_d00d


Also by Laurelinden

"It should be here somewhere," Brett told himself, and held his lantern a little higher, as if it would make a hidden sign apparent amid the tangle of twisted, dying trees. The brown Yurble edged warily down the thin trail of the Haunted Woods, glancing up in worry at the ever-darkening sky.

     He thought in dismay of his sister Nena, back in Neopia Central, who had become convinced, somehow, that she was a chicken. What had begun as an innocent cluck here and there soon expanded into a constant storm of arm-flapping and pecking at the ground. The disease soon became so advanced that she'd begun to "molt" out of her brown coat, and Brett had rushed her to the hospital. The staff member there told him that the cure, Herbal Scrambled Eggs, was out of stock, and his only chance of finding them was to travel through the Haunted Woods, to Edna.

     Unfortunately, though, it seemed the nurse's directions had been poor. I should be there by now, Brett realized, as the last of the gold slipped from the sky, leaving the hue of the Woods an eerie mass of grey and black. She said I'd be there before nightfall.

     A sharp, mournful cry cut through the night, raising Brett's hair on end. It seemed awfully near. He scanned the shadowy path for a place to hide, and jumped behind a promising wayside bush just as a bulky shape emerged where he'd been standing moments before, howling miserably. The form was large and cloaked in the shadow of night; despite its size it appeared lithe and almost graceful. From the dim light of his lantern a shaking Brett could only discern that the creature, whatever it was, was roughly the size of an Eyrie, though it clearly wasn't one. Towering above him, the figure howled several times, its call lugubrious and agonized, before bolting off down the path with the speed of an angry Poogle.

     As the being's howls faded into the night, Brett breathed frantically in an attempt to remain calm. Horrifying scenarios of being ambushed in the darkness by that awful creature hit his mind like needles from all directions, and he could do nothing to stop them. He'd always been easily frightened, but now he was in fear for his life.

     What in the name of Fyora was that? Brett asked himself, rising slowly to his feet. The lantern rattled in his other paw as he tried to center himself, and concentrate on his goals. I need to get to Edna, he told himself. I need to get my Herbal Scrambled Eggs. Nothing else matters.

     Stepping back out onto the path, Brett watched with dread as a slow, silky mist crawled over the path. "Oh no…" the Brown Yurble mumbled, sighing. "Please, no." But the heedless mist continued to envelop the path like a hungry beast, sweeping past him in a chilled wind and leaving him feeling wet and cold.

     He took one step forward, the lantern still shaking in his clammy grip, and the shrill, agonized howl sounded through the woods again. It seemed close; perhaps at the end of the pathway. His throat tightened as his stomach churned - what could he do to escape?

     The howl echoed out again, and this time it was even closer. It was then that Brett heard the frantic footfalls of some crazed abomination charging. It took several seconds for Brett to realize that, ahead of him, the mist was shuffling as something parted its silvery interior - the creature.

     Breaking into a desperate run down the opposite direction, Brett heard the howl again. The pursuing monster was close enough to have been able to reach out and strike him. Glancing backwards for only a moment, a truly horrifying sight greeted him.

     Racing down the center of the road, the mists curling around him like water, was the tall, looming figure of a Werelupe.

     Brett's knees almost failed him, but after a sickening lurch in his stomach and a strange surge of numbness creeping over his limbs, he mastered his rebellious body and ran. His heart raced faster than a Snowbunny's as he fled with impossible speed through the patchy darkness, crunching in half-stumbles over layers of dead leaves and broken twigs, flying wildly, aimlessly, down the path.

     The feel of the Werelupe's breath on his neck almost made him faint with terror. If the Werelupe caught him - if he were bitten - he would be cursed for the rest of his life, doomed to wander in the depths of the Haunted Woods, never to return to his family.

     His sister.

     As Brett's initial rush of adrenaline waned, he began to feel the cost of the mad flight on his body. His ragged, gasping breaths filled his ears and his arms and legs felt to be made of wood. The Werelupe behind him pounded rhythmically, tirelessly, intent on sinking his fangs into the fleeing brown Yurble and making him one of them.

     But Brett could not let that happen - if he couldn't escape for himself, he would have to do it for Nena.

     He realized that running was not going to work; the Werelupe was the stronger of the two. He would have to use his mind to get away. An idea popped into his head. It's risky, but it just might work. If not… He shuddered.

     As the rapid footsteps of the Werelupe grew ever nearer, Brett gnashed his teeth and whirled around. Mist curled around his shaken, beaten frame as he shouted at the top of his weary lungs, "STOP!"

     The Werelupe came to a rigid halt, taken off guard, and stared befuddled at Brett for a moment before lunging at him ravenously. Brett, meanwhile, had snatched the opportunity to gather some rocks from a nearby bush. "Take this!" he shouted, hurling a stone at the Werelupe. The desperate throw flew true - it hit his adversary in his foaming jaw.

     The Werelupe let out another of its terrifying cries and snapped back at him, flickers of agony and rage dancing in its scarlet eyes.

     Then it lunged for his throat.

     With a cry of despair, Brett threw another rock at the Werelupe - and missed. The Werelupe, annoyed, growled lowly, its eyes flickering with a intense, pulsating hatred. Leaping at him, it swiped at his face.

     Brett ducked just in time; the shadowy claw missed him by only a few inches. The Werelupe toppled to the ground, but gracefully righted himself in a fluid, continuous motion. The mist around them began to thin and disperse as the full moon glinted downward upon his hunter.

     The Werelupe had seemingly been awaiting this moment; when the moonlight illuminated its shaggy, monstrous frame it rose up on two legs and let out a howl charged with agony.

     Louder than any other howl of the creature, it echoed in the still woods, and Brett understood at last the meaning of "haunted."

     The Yurble fled again, leaping over and around boulders, brambles, bushes, saplings, charging without thought or concern into the heart of the Haunted Woods - anything to escape the horrifying fate that would await him if he stayed behind with the Werelupe.

     He turned back to see if the Werelupe was following his crazy charge into the forest, tripped over a rotted log, and fell flat on his face. The footfalls of the Werelupe resumed their deadly beating behind him, but its howl was still muffled by distance. He still had time - he still had a chance.

     Before him stood a six foot gorge; Brett did not think of safety when he leapt down into it, only that he had to escape the Werelupe. In his descent, he dropped the lantern, which fell to the ground and burst into shards of metal and glass. Its flame extinguished immediately. Cursing his bad luck, Brett crawled under a rock in the gorge, wishing with all of his might that the Werelupe would not scent him, but he knew the wish to be in vain.

     He heard the Werelupe's bounding steps pause above the gorge, and the intake of breath as it sniffed out the trembling Yurble. Your mind, he told himself desperately. Use your mind!

     Then a second idea took shape, and he only hoped it would be enough this time.

     Grabbing a long, sturdy stick from the mass of dead tree-parts littering the ground, Brett emerged from the hole and held it aloft. "Down here, you n00b!" he screamed, thinking of the first insult that came to mind.

     The Werelupe's lips curled back in a frightening snarl as he spotted his victim below. Mad with rage, he launched himself down, down, down -

     Onto Brett's stick.

     The Yurble jumped backward as his adversary roared in pain, ripping the stick from where it had sunk deep into his shoulder. If my strength alone was not enough, Brett told himself, then I just had to use his.

     The Werelupe shot a resentful glare at Brett before leaping to the top of the gorge to nurse his wounds.

     Sighing in relief, Brett grabbed loose rocks and roots embedded in the soil, hoisting himself up on the ground. He leaned down to dust himself off, and when he looked up gaped in awe, and rubbed his eyes to make sure the dim light did not lie.

     Before him, with its crooked piers and reaching turrets, stood Edna's tower. The Werelupe had chased him right to it!

     Brett couldn't believe his luck. Paying no mind to the Werelupe's departing form, the brown Yurble bounded off like an excited schoolboy towards the tower, letting his mind linger on thoughts of coming back to his cozy house to cure his sister of her strange disease. He would be warm... She'd make him some soup once that crazy chicken-look was out of her eye… Chicken soup, perhaps… That would be fitting…

     Knock, knock.

     The door to Edna's tower creaked open, and a foul odor met Brett's nose. Flinching, he rushed inside and slammed the door behind him, lest the Werelupe decide to get revenge. He tried to take a deep breath to calm himself, but it turned into a choke, so he crept down the green-lit hallway as he struggled to inhale the acrid odor, glancing to and fro at faded portraits of warty witches with sinister sneers.

     Brett heard a faint bubbling as he made his way deep into the tower. It was coming from the top of a spiraling staircase. He realized it must be the fabled Zafara witch's brew, and rushed up the stairs.

     The first thing he saw at the room at the stair's top was a bubbling black cauldron hovering over a green flame. Edna stood beside it, throwing pinches of strange powders into the mess. Puffs of emerald smoke ocassionally rose from the simmering brew, and Edna soon began pouring small helpings of strange liquids.

     "Hello," she spoke with a voice as creaky as the front door. She didn't even look up as she flipped idly through a potion book. "I suppose you're here for a quest?" She pulled a bottle labeled "Essence of Slorg" and dumped half of it into the cauldron. Thin wisps of white smoke rose from the mixture within.

     "Y-yes," Brett stammered. "I was wondering if you could help me. You see, my sister thinks she's a chicken, I'm trying to find the cure--"

     "Ah, Herbal Scrambled Eggs," Edna murmured fondly. "One of my greatest creations. It'll cure her right up, believe me." She cackled in such a way that Brett's hair stood on end for what seemed like the millionth time that night.

     "So you can make it?" Brett inquired as Edna began stirring the cauldron with gleaming eyes.

     "Of course I can make it!" Edna scoffed. "What do you think I am, just a petty potion-maker? I can whip you up Herbal Scrambled Eggs in a jiffy. I just need the proper ingredients."

     "Well, what do you need?" Brett asked. Edna's dark eyes gleamed, reflecting the green flames beneath her cauldron.

     "You'll need some egg yolks, a spoonful of Slorg residue, powdered leaves of the Clawmatoe plant, and..." Edna hesitated for a moment, a grin forming on her old lips. Brett hid a shudder.

     "And...?" he prompted, cocking his head slightly in anticipation of listening to the final ingredient - anything to make his sister well again!

     Edna's smile reached from one ear to the other.

     "The tooth of a Werelupe."


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