Zere: The Inbetween Years

The Aftermath of the final Battle of Yaxham and Nakuum

The young brown Lupe pup cowered on the bank, watching with wide terrified eyes as the water level rose steadily, eating away at the mud beneath his paws. A terrified whimper escaped his jaws as the water licked at the tips of his paws, swirling round the bit of land he was cowered on. A sudden surge of the water submerged the bank he was standing on, knocking him off his paws and into the water. He went under briefly, and then surfaced again, front paws flailing wildly, seeking something to hold onto.

The current seized hold of his form, pulling it along as if it were just a simple piece of wood. Starved of breath. Zere struggled to rise to the surface, to suck in some air, but the current was too strong, and before long, black spots danced in his vision, and he blacked out, the current carrying him along. Several minutes later, he was ejected from the current, thrown onto dry land where he lay, unmoving; body half in and out of the water, the liquid tugging and shoving at his body. After what seemed like hours, he stirred, paws twitching as he attempted to pull his waterlogged body out of the water and onto dry land, the memories of what had happened swirling refreshed into his mind.

He collapsed suddenly, howling unashamedly on the bank, wishing that he was dead. As far as he knew, he was the only one living, and it pained him to be separated from his new found Nakuum friends Sly and Beowulf. Struggling to his feet, Zere looked around, casting one look back at the vast expanse of roaring water before moving on in silence, determined to live on for the three of them.

The young Lupe kept moving, stumbling over stones and sticks as he entered a large forest, the familiar smell of wood burning reaching his nose. Perking up at this, Zere sped up his pace, trotting as fast as he could towards the smell. Maybe here was someone who would allow him shelter for the night. With that thought in mind, he kept onwards until he reached a clearing, spotting a small cottage.

He headed for the cottage, raising a paw to knock on the door as he reached it. He turned around while waiting, and after a few seconds, his ears picked up the sound of the door creaking open. Turning back round to face the door, the young Brown Lupe saw that the owner of the cottage was an elderly Shadow Gelert, blind in one eye. Padding forward, Zere waved his tail in a friendly greeting to the other canine.

"Is it alright if I stay here a while? I just need to rest while the storm blows over and then I'll be on my way..." He began, glancing hopefully towards the open door behind the Gelert. As if noticing the Lupe standing before him suddenly, the Gelert regarded him in silence for a few seconds before turning back round and entering his cottage, his tail beckoning Zere to follow him. The young Brown Lupe followed him willingly, his eyes lighting up at the thought of spending somewhere warm for a night.

The Brown furred Lupe's head soon drooped as his thoughts drifted back to his friends and the battle that had occurred. His mother had been ignorant of the Ancient Ones' and their rules and they had all paid the price for it. Sighing, he trotted into the cottage, nosing the door shut behind him.

The next few days passed with relative ease, the older Gelert had allowed him to stay for a while on the condition that he helped out around the cottage and the garden in the back, weeding, dusting, cleaning and carrying things to and fro for the older canine. Things continued like this for a while, and Zere settled into the routine set by the Gelert with little effort. Weeks flew by seeming like seconds to the Brown Lupe, until one day, three years after he had joined the Gelert; there was a fearsome storm that came out of nowhere, knocking down fences and turning the ground to a thick mud.

Both Zere and the Gelert, whose name was Tsuki rushed out to try and rescue what vegetables they could from the ground so that they could be stored in the dry for later use. However, Tsuki being as old as he was meant the Gelert was partially blind, had not noticed that he was too close to the edge of the cliff, and without Zere noticing until after Tsuki had fallen, it was too late to try and prevent the Gelert from falling. Fortunately, the Gelert landed on a ledge several feet down the cliff, but the fall was severe enough to mean that Tsuki had broken his back in the fall. Zere managed to find some rope and pull his old friend back up the cliff, but he did not last the night, and the next morning,

Zere dug a grave for his friend, burying him with a simple stone marker to show where he was buried. With a heavy heart, Zere stayed at the cottage for a few more days, gathering what he could use before leaving the cottage where he had grown up with Tsuki and left that part of Meridell behind, wandering the plains around the Eye of Meridell for several months, where he had set up his camp. Zere spent his time battling the various monsters that lurked in Meridell, gradually growing stronger and faster. It was during this time that he happened to meet the much younger Earth Faerie Illusen, befriending her. This is where the story really begins: three months later in Illusen's glade.

Chapter One: Blossoming friendship.

The Earth Faerie known as Illusen watched with quiet amusement as the young brown colored Lupe attempted yet again to cast a spell, sitting in a meditative pose, paws spread wide and face screwed up in concentration, his tongue sticking out between his two front canines. Between the Lupe's two front paws, a ball of water was forming, rippling and shifting constantly as the Lupe concentrated on trying to keep it between his paws without dropping it. After a pause, the silence was broken by a loud splash, followed by the Lupe's annoyed moan.

"Not again! I almost had it then…" He grumbled, returning to all fours, shaking off the water much like a normal dog would do. "That's better" He murmured, stretching lazily, glancing at his Earth Faerie friend. "So what jobs are there to do today, Illusen?" Zere asked as he moved towards her. In the three years he had spent with the old Gelert and his Baabaa, Zere had doubled in size, becoming all lanky frame and paws too big for his body.

The brown Lupe had matured a lot during that time, growing stronger and larger. He had only known Illusen for a few months, but he and the Earth Faerie had become good friends, and she'd agreed to teach him how to use magic, something he had a good grasp of using, but it was hard to learn the spells Illusen showed him, but that didn't deter the young Lupe, and he was close to mastering the latest spell that Illusen had shown him, the water sphere.

Illusen smiled softly at the large brown canine before her. "The plants need watering and there's weeds to remove. And one of the Meridellians needs help with harvesting their turnips. Do you think that you can manage those jobs, Zere?" The Earth Faerie asked with a small smile. "Hey shouldn't take too long, and then you can spend the rest of the day practicing the water sphere."

The brown Lupe nodded enthusiastically. "They sound fine, Illusen." He replied, a grin crossing his face. "I'll water the plants and remove the weeds first, then head down to Meri Acres and help the farmer harvest his turnips." He grinned. "Living here with you is so nice, Illusen. I never want to leave you or Meridell. This place is like my second home…" He said sadly, shooting the faerie a painful smile. "You've been so kind to me, Illusen; I honestly wouldn't know how I would repay you for your kindness. I ask that you let me stay here in Meridell." Zere shifted his eyes to Illusen, waiting for her reply, a grin crossing his face as the faerie nodded in reply. "Of course you can stay, Zere, for as long as you want…" She told him, her wings fluttering gently on her back.

Unknown to the young Lupe, however, Illusen was dreading the day in which she would have to tell him to leave Meridell and move on in the world. The young Lupe deserved more than a life staying with her. As much as she wanted him to stay, she knew what she was going to do was the right thing. Zere was a wild Lupe, he didn't deserve to stay in one place for his life, he needed to see more of the World. Perhaps she'd send him on a sightseeing vacation, to allow him to experience more of the things Neopia had to offer, then if he wanted to return and stay with her, she would have no problems with doing so.

"Illusen... Illusen! Illusen! Are you okay?" Zere asked as he noticed the Earth Faerie zone out in front of him. "Illusen!" He barked again, trying to catch her attention and after a few seconds of calling her name, the faerie responded, looking down at him with a soft smile.

" Tell me, Zere, have you ever seen anything beyond the borders of Meridell and Brightvale? Have you ever seen anything else Neopia has to hold?" Noticing that the Lupe shook his head at her question. "In that case, I have something I want you to do for me, Zere. I want you to go out and experience the world of Neopia and the things it holds."

The young Lupe stared at her in confusion, his tail waving from side to side behind him, his eyes shining bright with his confusion.

"What do you mean, Illusen?" He asked a look of uncertainty on his face. "Are you sending me away?" He continued, a note of panic entering his voice, making it tremble. "Why do you want me to leave, Illusen? Aren't we friends?" He demanded, fear now evident in his voice, his eyes focused on the sad face of the faerie before him.

"I only want the best for you, my friend... and that means not being limited here to Meridell and myself. You are a wild Lupe, the last of your pack. You do not belong in civilization; you should be where you belong, wild and free. This life will only end in sorrow, one day; you would have to move on, make new friends and meet new people." She continued, gently laying a hand on the distressed Lupe's head.

"Until you return to me, having seen the world and done what must be done, this is goodbye, my dear friend. I will grant you powers that may aid you in your journey. Remember that I am still your friend, no matter what happens, Zere. I shall never forget you, or the memories we've shared. I can only pray that we meet again some day, in better circumstances…" She finished, the hand she had placed on Zere's head glowing with a warm leaf green color.

"I bestow on you all the wisdom and knowledge that is mine to share, the abilities that I call my own and all the weapons at my disposal. All you have to do is think of the weapon or spell you wish to use and it will be yours to command. Farewell my friend, until we meet again." She whispered, withdrawing her hand gently, giving his ears one last fond scratch, trying to hold back the tears that already flooded the Lupe's brown eyes. The pain and betrayal in his eyes was the last thing she saw of him before he wheeled round, a heart-rending howl of farewell escaping his maw before he leapt forward, not looking back at her or the place he had once called home.

(Haha, this is the end of the first chapter of Zere, which is dedicated to my friends Kila (Spiritual Wolf) and Sade (Mistress of Serenity)! Flames and constrictive criticism welcome. Feel free to point out any mistakes you can see so I can correct them.)