Author's Notes: Thank goodness for the "&" character. Otherwise, this chapter title (with the episode title) would be too long for the little chapter title doohickey...dropdown menu...Chamber of Secrets...thing... (Yeah, for someone who enjoys writing, I really can have trouble picking terms sometimes.)
Chapter 3: Might and Right
Less than an hour after leaving Dilly's Frillies, Junko was approaching the forest where a cluster of four guards were standing with spears in hand. It was dusk now, and already the owls were starting to hoot. Sundown. Time for the ritual.
Junko turned around and faced his friends before he went in. "I am serious, guys," he said, gesturing to them. "Promise me, you won't try to interfere." He knew any one of them would be willing to jump in to save his life, and none of them looked happy about not being able to. They all cringed, and Radarr, who was hanging off Aerrow's back, looked ready to hide behind his boy.
From within the forest came a mighty Wallop roar. One of the guards, the same man who had been Junko's messenger, called to Junko. "Chief Thragg is ready."
Junko lifted his head higher. This was it. No going back. He did his best to march proudly toward the forest between the lines of guards, his hands clenched in fists.
The others sadly watched him go. Finn said solemnly, "We're never gonna see Junko again, are we?" Piper gulped, and Radarr followed Finn's statement with a whimper.
Junko's own fears were not still, and he knew very well the risk he was taking. But he had to try. Despite how afraid he was, he was never surer of anything in his life.
His walk took him deep into the forest until his friends and the guards were out of sight. He kept his eyes peeled for Chief Thragg, but there was no sign of him. Yet soon enough a gruff shout rang through the forest. "What are you up to, Junko?" Junko looked around for the source of the sound, but all he could see were shrubs, ferns, and thick trees with fungus growing on them. Again Chief Thragg's voice came. "You want to beat me? Become the new chief?"
Junko's ears were pricked as far forward as they could go, trying to detect the location of the sound, but there was so much echo within that ancient forest that he could not pinpoint the spot of origin. Even so, he answered back as bravely as he could. "What you're doing is wrong!" He swiped his hand in front of him forcefully as he said it. "I'm here to save our terra!"
At that moment, his sensitive ears detected the snapping of a twig behind him, and he froze. "Huh?" He turned around to find Chief Thragg looming above him in a tree . . . right before he leaped down on top of him with a roar.
The next thing Junko knew, he was pinned to the ground underneath a very angry chief. "Wallop doesn't need saving!" Thragg shouted furiously.
Without any warning, the chief lifted Junko high above his head, spun him around, and then flung him forward. Junko let out a cry as he went flying through the air and smacked his belly and chin right into a tree. Momentarily knocked senseless, he fell to the forest floor.
But Chief Thragg was just getting warmed up. With another roar, he grabbed a log and lifted it high in the air like a club.
Junko got to his feet, staring up at him. A log? Where had . . . ? Junko looked around and noticed for the first time that the clearing Thragg had thrown him into had apparently been the battleground of an earlier ritual. There were many logs lying around from the trees that had been knocked down in the process.
Chief Thragg leapt off the incline above Junko with a mighty roar, the log held over his head. But before he could bring it down on top of Junko, the younger Wallop picked up his own log and held it above him like a shield, blocking the blow.
Chief Thragg paused a moment and glared at Junko, a snarl on his face. His eyes were no longer that of a wise and controlling chief but of a madman, full of rage and hungry for battle. Junko barely had time to prepare himself before the chief roared and charged him again. Junko met his attack, their logs locking like too swords. Knowing he needed to take some offense, Junko unlocked the struggle and swung his log, hitting Thragg's hand and knocking the log out of his hands. The log merely spun in the air, and Thragg caught it easily.
Junko took the opportunity provided by the distraction. Whis his own roar, he charged at the chief, trying to attack, but the older Wallop met his log with his own. Junko tried again, but again the chief met his attack. They held, pressing against each other, roaring in each other's face, neither seeming phased.
But Thragg was most certainly the stronger Wallop. He finally threw off Junko, causing him to leap backward to keep his balance. Thragg leaped at him again, his log held high above his head. Junko held his log lengthwise above his own head to block the blow again and closed his eyes, but this time it wasn't enough. He yelled as something sharp and jarring slide past his hands. When he opened his eyes, his hands were empty, and his log lay at his feet, snapped in half. "Oh!" he said in surprise. It's not a good feeling to find your only weapon destroyed during a fight.
But he didn't have time to linger over the loss. Thragg roared again and held his log over his head before throwing it at Junko. It hit Junko lengthwise in the chest, and with a cry, the young Wallop was sent flying backward into a tree, the log snapping in half on impact.
Thragg's smirk was that of a lunatic. He was experiencing the thrill of battle, and he was ready to finish this.
Junko caught his breath as he rose on his hands and knees, recovering quickly. Okay, so maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Chief Thragg was obviously the better fight; that's how he became chief. But couldn't he get the chief to see how stupid he was being?
Junko rose to his feet as Thragg stalked toward him. "The Cyclonians will betray you," he warned the chief angrily, "just like everyone else!"
That made the chief stop in his tracks. But he didn't look convinced; he looked even angrier. "You think you know more about leading Terra Wallop than ME?!" he shouted, pointing a thumb at his chest.
"No!" Junko answered back, standing tall. "But I do know a thing or two about Cyclonians!"
"The Cyclonians and Wallops have a lot in common, Junko!" Thragg told him, a speech that convinced Junko to take a battle stance, realizing this wasn't over. "They're both strong! While you and your Sky Knight friends are WEAK!" He picked up a boulder next to him and threw it at Junko.
Junko cringed, but there was no time to dodge. With a cry, he drew back his fist and then punched the boulder as it approached, shattering it in mid-air.
But while he was distracted with the boulder, Thragg had leaped at him, and no sooner had the dust from the boulder cleared when the chief's fist met Junko's face.
Pain exploding in him, Junko was sent hurtling backward with a cry, smacking into a tree with such force that he chopped it straight through before tumbling down a hill with another cry.
Chief Thragg stalked forward with a growl, his fists clenched. Junko, thinking fast, ducked out of sight behind a boulder.
Chief Thragg walked on, looking about as a creature's howl rang out from the forest. "Come out and face me!" he called out as he walked right past Junko's boulder. "Go down fighting! You'll bring honor to the clan!" Thragg stopped in his tracks. "In a way," he admitted, "I envy you, Junko!" He looked around, but there was still no sign of his opponent. "There's no shame in losing! Only shame in fear!"
Junko, meanwhile, was sneaking around behind the chief, listening to his words. Fear, was it? He was the one afraid? No. Junko saw it differently. "I'm not afraid, Chief Thragg," he called out.
Thragg's ear twitched as he heard a twig snap behind him, and he spun around. There stood Junko, glaring at him. "But you!" the young Wallop said, pointing at the chief and making him snarl. Junko stalked up to Thragg. "You're afraid of standing up to the Cyclonians!" He stopped in front of Thragg, shouting in his face. "You know they're evil, but you won't fight them because YOU are afraid!"
Thragg snarled his most menacing snarl yet. He was afraid? Junko dared to insult him so?! His fist clenched tighter. "I'm afraid of NO ONE!" he roared.
Absolutely furious, Chief Thragg began his most ferocious attack yet! He punched at Junko, who dodged, and punched again, only to have Junko block it. Taking advantage of his fury, Junko got down low and kicked Thragg's feet out from under him. Thragg landed flat on his back with a groan.
Junko stood up. If Chief Thragg truly was not afraid, then he needed to prove it. "Then stand up to them!" Junko shouted at the chief, swiping his hand in front of him.
Ignoring his words, Thragg grunted as he kicked at Junko, but Junko just dodged and grabbed his foot. The young Wallop would continue to fight, but that didn't mean he couldn't keep trying to reason. "It's still not too late!" he reminded Thragg. With a cry, he picked up Thragg's foot with a cry, swung him around, and let go, letting him fly through the air.
Thragg glanced off a tree and landed on his belly on the ground with a grunt. As he pushed himself up with his hands, he peered over his shoulder at Junko, snarling. "Cyclonis is too strong!" he answered.
With that, Thragg leaped to his feet, roared, and ran at Junko, swinging his fist at him. With a cry, Junko blocked the punch and then landed one of his own, right under Thragg's chin. Thragg let out a cry of pain as he was sent flying backward.
Junko knew that wouldn't be the end of it, so while the chief growled and got to his feet once more, Junko got in a battle stance, his fists poised and ready.
Then, Thragg charged.
Even if you are a tall, strong, thick-skinned Wallop, seeing an even taller and stronger Wallop barreling your way and snarling audibly is pretty intimidating. Junko knew just by looking at this charging beast that he was not going to be able to put up a fight to that charge. So he did the only sensible thing; he dodged at the last minute, somersaulting out of the way.
Thragg couldn't stop his momentum. He ran headlong into a tree with a force that shook the forest and made a sound like a cannon going off. Thragg was disoriented for a minute, his head a bit jumbled by the collision, but he soon shook it off.
Junko heard loud cracking sounds and looked back over his shoulder and up toward the tree. The tree was shaking and swaying. The collision must have caused its trunk to crack. It would be ready to fall very soon.
That gave Junko an idea. If he couldn't win this fight through strength, he would use the one thing few Wallops ever used: strategy.
He figured this out just in time. Another roar met his ears, and he spun around to see Thragg charging him. Aware that his back was already to a tree, he waited for the chief to come to him, and once more, he moved out of the way at the last minute.
Thragg's fist met the tree, cracking its base. Junko looked up to see the vine-filled tree swaying and hearing the audible cracks. This was going to work. He backed up to another tree.
Thragg roared again and charged once more. Again, Junko dodged. Again, Thragg's fist hit the tree, breaking its trunk.
Thragg spun around to see Junko, in battle stance, backed up to another tree. He charged again. Same result.
Junko now stood in the center of those trees. Thragg turned and stalked toward him, refusing to take the bait and charge this time.
Junko looked up at the tree Thragg walked away from. It cracked some more. Come on . . .
Yes! The tree started to fall toward Thragg's back. Smirking at Thragg, Junko quickly ran out of the way.
Wondering what Junko was running from, the chief looked over his shoulder just in time to see the tree falling on top of him. He cried out, but there was no time to dodge. Thragg grunted in pain as he was pinned to the ground on his belly by the fallen log.
He started to push himself up off the ground, the log lifted into the air on his back, when another tree he had chopped through came falling down on top of him and the other log. He let out another cry, but already pinned under the first log, there was nothing he could do. The second log came down on top of him, and Junko winced as a third joined it. Two more fell and joined the pile, then another.
When the final log fell, Thragg let out a pained, frustrated cry. He was trapped under a huge pile of logs. He tried to lift himself up, but it was no use. One log was not a problem, but this was enough to truly pin him. His furious roar sank into a stifled gasp as he slammed his fist into the ground.
Junko could hardly believe it. His plan worked! He had a feeling Piper would be proud.
Junko walked forward toward Thragg and loomed over him. It was over; he had won. Even the chief could see that now.
Or at least, he thought so. Seeing his shadow lying over him, Thragg looked up at Junko with a smirk on his face. It unnerved Junko. "Why are you smiling?" he asked nervously.
Thragg sighed. "There's no greater honor than being defeated in the Ritual of Strength by a stronger Wallop," he answered with a proud grin. "You'll understand that some day . . . Chief Junko."
His words sent a chill of fear and dread through Junko. "I don't want to be chief!" he answered sternly.
"Only the chief can stop the treaty with the Cyclonians," Thragg reminded Junko. "You want to cancel the treaty?" He wiggled his fingers and then clenched them into fists. "You know what you have to do! Finish the fight!"
Junko looked at his own fists, raising them. Thragg was right. With one blow, he could end this. With one blow, he could lead Terra Wallop in the right direction.
Chief Thragg closed his eyes, preparing himself for his greatest honor: death at the hands of the next chief.
Junko hesitated. He thought of everything he had learned about what was right and wrong, about killing and honor and war. What would the other Storm Hawks think of this? And what did Terra Wallop really need?
At last, Junko made his decision. With a mighty Wallop roar, he raised his fist and struck.
The Storm Hawks heard a Wallop's final yell and heard a blow that shook the entire forest, sending up birds in a panic. They stared at the forest with open mouths, knowing it meant the battle was over but afraid to know the outcome.
Aerrow squinted into the forest when he heard footsteps. A Wallop figure was lumbering their way. "Somebody's coming!" he announced to the others.
At his announcement, the Wallop guards started muttering amongst themselves. Once the victor stepped into view, the Wallops let out a chorus of "Oh!"
Junko, weary and sore, stepped into the sunlight.
"Yeah!" the other Storm Hawks cheered. Piper and Finn threw their fists in the air, Finn yelling, "Alright, Junko!" and Piper screaming, "Wahoo!" They ran at Junko to greet him with Aerrow and Radarr running after them, Aerrow laughing his cocky "I knew it all along!" laugh. Stork followed them at walk, his hand on his chest, letting out a very relieved sigh.
Junko scratched his cheek and smiled sheepishly at their approach . . . because their celebration didn't exactly match the chain of events.
"You did it!" Piper cheered happily once they were in front of him.
Finn shoved her out of the way. "Ye-hes!" he agreed. He flexed his arm muscles as he asked, "So how's it feel to be the new chief of Wallop?"
Junko looked down at the ground. Time to admit it. "I'm not the chief."
"But you won!" Aerrow said with a shrug, clearly confused.
Junko scratched his cheek again. "Not exactly," he admitted, meeting Aerrow's eyes.
The Wallop guards raised their eyebrows at him in confusion as more murmuring arose. Then one of the guards heard footsteps and looked toward the forest. Everyone followed his gaze, and all the Wallops gasped aloud.
An absolutely livid Thragg was stalking out of the forest, his fists clenched. He had been humiliated, his family disgraced by this excuse of a Wallop, and his chance of an honorable end denied him.
He headed toward Junko.
Seeing his face, Finn squeaked and retreated from Junko. Junko turned around to face Thragg, knowing that the chief would have a hard sentence to pass.
A short while later, the clan was gathered around the Condor as five guards, with their spears, guided the Storm Hawks toward the ship.
Junko was banished from Terra Wallop . . . which meant all his guests were banished as well.
All the Storm Hawks winced as they passed by Chief Thragg, who glared at them with pure hatred, his arms crossed. His eyes switched between Junko and Aerrow, wondering which was more of threat and which he hated more. He would never forget them, and if he ever saw them in battle, he would show them how real Wallops finish things!
The Storm Hawks had almost reached the plank that led into the ship when Junko stopped dead in his tracks. It couldn't end this way. If the chief couldn't see things his way, then maybe the clan would.
"I used to be ashamed," Junko announced over his shoulder, turning around, "because all the other Wallops were bigger and stronger than me."
The other Wallops snarled at him and clenched their fists, ready to prove him right. Chief Thragg snarled at his impudence to give a speech, but he didn't stop him.
So Junko continued. "I thought being strong was the most important thing." He clenched his fist. "But strength means nothing unless you have the courage to use it for good." He beat his fist against his chest, emphasizing his point.
At that, the guards lowered their staffs, and all the Wallops dropped their fists and gazes. This was not something they were often told to think about. But perhaps . . .
Seeing the influence Junko was having on the crowd, Thragg snarled in rage. He took a few steps toward Junko. "You dare mention courage after you didn't have the courage to finish the ritual?!" he growled.
This was Junko's last chance to sway him. He stepped up in front of the chief. "Please, Chief Thragg," he begged. "Stop this treaty before it's too late!"
At first, Chief Thragg just stared at him, and Junko hoped he was considering his words.
But it was not so. Chief Thragg shoved Junko away, screaming, "YOU'RE NOT A WALLOP!"
Junko stared at him as he caught his footing, shocked and hurt by his words.
"You're a disgrace!" Chief Thragg added. And with that, he turned and walked away. The other Wallops followed, the messenger from before shaking his head sadly as he did so, as if he did not believe Junko was in the wrong.
This one act gave Junko enough courage to speak up once more. "I am a Wallop!" he called after them with a small smile. Some of the Wallops murmured and glanced back, but no one stopped. "And I'm also a Storm Hawk!"
That comment made Thragg stop and glare over his shoulder. The other Wallops stopped, too.
Junko smirked "The good guys!" he finished.
Though Chief Thragg kept his cold snarl of hatred, the other Wallops stared at him in awe and confusion. He recognized some of them; not only was the messenger looking at him imploringly, but Dag and Urgi, who exchanged glances, were also among the Wallops, and they seemed to be remembering how the Storm Hawks had once saved them.
Junko turned around to look at his friends, taking reassurance from them. Radarr, who was hanging off Aerrow's shoulder, and Stork smiled at him, and Aerrow nodded encouragingly, grinning proudly. Junko turned to the other side of him, where he met Piper's and Finn's warm smiles as well, Finn with his hands on his hips, impressed.
It was clear to Junko that he had said all that had needed to be said. With one last smirk at Thragg's snarling face, he turned around and led his squadron up the plank into the Condor.
As the Condor drove away, the moustache Talon on Terra Wallop watched her soar overhead. He turned to the burlier, blond, bearded Talon next to him. "Alert Cyclonia," he ordered him. "The Storm Hawks have left and they won't get far." At this, the two Talons smirked and started toward their tent.
Unbeknownst to them, the messenger Wallop was hiding just around the corner of the building behind them, listening to them. And he wasn't alone. Four other Wallops were hiding in the alley with him. "I think Junko was right," he whispered his companions.
The brown, bearded Wallop closest to him, hiding behind a barrel of Berry Blitz berries, hummed thoughtfully. "Hmm. But what can we do?"
"We'll meet tonight," the messenger announced, and the bearded Wallop nodded in agreement. "Just because Thragg supports Cyclonia," the messenger added, gesturing his head toward the Talons, "doesn't mean we have to."
In the Condor, headed back to the library on Terra Atmosia, Junko was staring out the window, his hand on the glass, unaware of the impact he had made and feeling like he had lost. He sniffled, trying not to cry.
When he turned around, Piper was beside him. "What you did was great, Junko," she assured him, resting a hand on his shoulder.
Junko smiled at that, but his face quickly fell. "Didn't do any good," he muttered. "The Cyclonians still have Terra Wallop.
Aerrow walked up behind Piper. "But you did the right thing," he said proudly.
"Yeah, I know," Junko answered. He stared out the window again, watching Terra Wallop get smaller in the distance. "It's just I might never get to see my home again." The place he was born, the place where his family lived, and the place he had once thought he'd return to forever, would no longer accept him back. Now he was an outsider, too.
Finn and Radarr peered from behind the frame of the curve leading to the window, smirking. They knew what would make Junko feel better! "We snagged you a little souvenir before we left," Finn said, Radarr nodding. They stepped out from behind the frame, Finn holding something behind his back, while Junko turned around. "And they're the last ones on Wallop!" Finn added.
From behind his back, Finn brought out and fanned a huge, white, flower-printed pair of underwear. Radarr gestured to it and squawked as if to say, Ta da!
Junko took the underwear and laughed when he recognized the brand. "Bumpy Rumpies!" he said. "Delicate and frilly!"
He looked up at the pipe above his head and banged the underwear against it. They hit with a loud CLANG that made Piper cringe. The pipe was dented by the blow.
"And indestructible!" Junko added joyfully.
The Storm Hawks laughed together as they drove into the rising sun. And Junko knew then that it was as Aerrow was always telling them. He wasn't leaving his family behind on Wallop; his family was right here. The good guys!
Author's Notes: Aw, I like my ending! And Junko really has my favorite Storm Hawks quote ever in this episode. "Strength means nothing unless you have the courage to use it for good!" So true!
And now, on to "Payback"! That's going to be cool! And obviously, because the Storm Hawks split up, I'll do a lot of changing points of view, but the main point of view will be Stork! *Stork fangirls cheer*