The Fallen: Loved - Part Two
The Christmas festivities grew more and more elaborate and cheerful as the days passed. Javiod was surprised to find lights strung around the inside of the castle, stockings hung, and the habitual smell of something delicious roasting in the kitchen each day. Though no signs of merriment were strewn around the outside of the castle, the inside was beginning to look something like a Christmas card.
The holiday sentiments still refused to warm him, however, and Javiod became more of a recluse than ever. In the one Neopian he expected to be cold-hearted and uncaring when it came to holidays, he found no solace. Even the strictly-business Mezzanotte seemed won over by the Christmas season.
At least partially. Only enough so that her habitual cold and composed face broke into more smiles than he was accustomed to, though they were all mainly aimed in Wehn’s direction. She still spared her customary scowls for her brother.
It pained Javiod to be near this family, as it only made him more and more aware of the absence of his own. He couldn’t even boast of a relationship with a resemblance to what they had. The Werelupes were gone, and his brother...
Javiod sighed and pushed away from the windowsill of his bedroom. He’d been standing there staring out across the snow-caked Haunted Woods for the last hour or so, searching over the treetops for the small dot in the distance that was his castle.
His brother’s castle now.
Javiod trudged away from the sight and dropped himself onto the edge of his bed. Giving into a surge of weakness, he propped his elbows onto his rugged shorts and dropped his furry face into his paws. He pushed away the painful memories of Christmas days in his past, but they continued to return, unwilling to be forgotten.
“I didn’t know that Werelupes hibernated.”
Javiod jolted, nearly sliding off the edge of the bed into the floor, and looked up. Wehn was sitting in an armchair by his door, studying him openly. A door that was still shut, as he had shut it upon entering his room, and one he hadn’t heard open again. Gelerts were awfully silent creatures.
“What are you doing in here?” Javiod demanded, gruffly, as if his voice was thick with tears.
That was absurd. He was the king of Werelupes. He didn’t weep.
Wehn shrugged, unaffected. “Aunt Mezzanotte told me that you’re Javiod, the king of the Werelupes.”
Javiod looked away from Wehn’s scrutinizing gaze. The young Gelert looked extremely curious about this bit of information he’d uncovered, and Javiod was already not enjoying the direction that this was threatening to take. He didn’t want to answer questions about himself, because he didn’t want to have to think about those answers.
“Yes,” Javiod replied curtly.
“Really?” Wehn asked eagerly, instantly sliding to the edge of his seat. “Aunt Mezza said so, but I didn’t believe her. Why would the king be here?”
Javiod noted that this was posed as another question, but he ignored it and still refused to look in Wehn’s direction. This did not seem to deter Wehn in the slightest, however, as his mind was as restless as Javiod had discovered his body was when he’d spent the first few days running up and down the hallways. Both were unable to sit idly and be content.
“Aunt Mezza wouldn’t tell me about you,” Wehn admitted, and Javiod was silently thankful that Mezzanotte was courteous enough to keep his past to herself. At least, whatever she had guessed of it. “Will you tell me about it?”
Javiod stiffened. “Shouldn’t you be pestering Noctivas right now instead?”
Wehn grinned from one long ear to the other. “Uncle Noc told me you were grumpy.”
Javiod scowled at this. What did that Gelert assume that he knew about him? Javiod had rarely indulged in any sort of acknowledgement of Mezzanotte’s brother, and had figured that it was best that they kept their distances. Now he was going to make assumptions?
Almost as if to prove Noctivas wrong, Javiod snapped, “My brother destroyed my home.”
In more sense than one.
Wehn’s eyes popped open wide appreciatively, his mouth forming an “O” of surprise. For a moment, Javiod felt pity that the Gelert’s youthful innocence and naïve nature wouldn’t last forever.
“Why would he do that?” he demanded, sounding almost as indignant as Javiod felt. “Brothers aren’t supposed to do that.”
Javiod shook his head. That much he would not divulge.
“Those are not matters I’m willing to discuss. Now, please, I was getting ready to take a nap.”
A nap would be nice. He could escape into the oblivion of unconsciousness. He would be safe from his past there.
“But—.” Wehn started.
“Wehn!” Mezzanotte’s voice echoed down the hall outside of Javiod’s room.
Wehn frowned at the door in response, but didn’t seem to be making any move to leave. Though Javiod desperately wished that he would.
“Your aunt is calling for you,” he told him, as if Wehn hadn’t heard.
Wehn turned his frown in Javiod’s direction, but Mezzanotte could be heard calling his name once more, and Wehn reluctantly succumbed. Slowly, he slid off the chair and went to the door. However, he paused before slipping out, sending Javiod one last curious glance.
“I’ll be back.”
Javiod grimaced as Wehn departed directly after, leaving him with what sounded like a warning to his ears.
“How come Javiod is here?”
Mezzanotte glanced up from her plate of food to find that Wehn was watching her, his own plate untouched. She saw the curiosity that lurked behind his eyes, and was slightly exasperated. There was no Neopian on the face of all Neopia that asked as many questions as Wehn did.
“He had nowhere else to go, so we made a deal.”
Wehn frowned. “But he’s a Werelupe.”
Mezzanotte shrugged. “Sometimes we work out our differences when there is something of value to gain.”
There was plenty to gain from an alliance with Javiod. Despite the grudges she’d had against him, she’d managed to get over them when she’d found out exactly how beneficial a Werelupe was at her side. Yes, she had even become accustomed to the wild smell of Werelupe that now occupied most of the breathing space inside her castle. Though it was still slightly suffocating. Especially when Javiod was in the room.
“What did you gain?” Wehn continued.
Exasperating. “An ally.”
She could see this answer was unsatisfactory to Wehn, but, thankfully, the Lupe in questioned trudged into the dining room and eliminated the chance for Wehn to question her further. Mezzanotte turned her attention back toward her plate as Javiod dropped himself into a seat at the other end of the table.
His plate had already been filled and waiting for him, and he absently reached for his fork without a word to either of the Gelerts.
Mezzanotte jolted slightly in her seat, surprised by the sound of Wehn’s voice in her mind. From the corner of her eye, she cut him a look, and found that he was staring back at her expectantly. She’d somehow forgotten about the amulets that hung around their necks and enabled them to speak silently to one another with nothing more than a thought. Wonderful. Now there would be no escaping Wehn’s curiosity.
“Look at him,” Wehn’s voice whispered through her mind again.
Mezzanotte briefly let her gaze flick back to Javiod. The Werelupe’s head was down, but, instead of shoveling the food into his mouth, he was currently stirring it around on his plate disinterestedly. Mezzanotte frowned at this. She hadn’t noticed his obviously depressed demeanor before.
She’d been too busy trying to watch over Wehn.
“Why is he sad, Aunt Mezza?”
It wasn’t her business if he wanted to mope over circumstances that could not be changed. As long as he filled his compromise with her, he could be as depressed and sullen as he pleased. She didn’t concern herself with affairs that were not her own. Keeping her face impassive, Mezzanotte went back to the food on her own plate. She, for one, still had her appetite.
“I don’t know,” she replied curtly to Wehn.
The tone of her response left no room for more questions, and Wehn, for once, obediently fell silent. She was thankful for the silence, but she noticed that Wehn’s attention was still on Javiod. The young Gelert was openly studying the larger Neopian, and Mezzanotte, after some time, couldn’t keep from glancing his way either.
She frowned at what she saw. He looked tired and defeated. Even in size he appeared considerably less imposing. Had he lost weight?
She glanced down at his untouched plate. Obviously.
That was simply not acceptable. Despite the fact that she refused to meddle in the affairs of others, she wasn’t beyond doing so if it began to disrupt her own plans. Obviously, if Javiod began to wither away to nothing, he wouldn’t have the same sort of power over the Neopians she needed to control by wielding his physical size and demeanor for intimidation.
Something had to be done about this.
To be continued...