I engineered this story specifically to make readers feel sorry for Isengrim, and if you don't then you have no soul. :)
This short story is important because it was really the seed for almost everything that came after Worth Fighting For--and I think the way in which it came about was a really wonderful illustration of how the creative process can work. I had a beta reader for my first draft of Worth Fighting For who commented that the Werelupe King in that story had no clear motives for wanting Terra to adopt him, so I remedied that by coming up with a backstory that he had actually once been created by an owner, and turned into a Werelupe after being abandoned by his creator. That unfortunate beginning gave Isengrim an (un)healthy dose of the Neopet equivalent of developmental trauma, which led to several neuroses.
And then I realized with a backstory like that, he needed a family again--for good this time. And thus I started brainstorming for the next long fic, Worth Searching For (which I will put up here eventually, but it's a whopper, over 30 chapters, so that will be a rather big project).
Anyway, that's why I appreciate this story so much. I feel like after this one I just kept writing about this cast and never looked back. It was a wonderful exercise in how a group of characters that you enjoy writing can just keep building and expanding, and their world along with them. Maybe someday I'll have an original fiction cast where that happens, but for now I'm really proud of what I accomplished with my Neopets characters.
This story was published in issue 639 of the Neopian Times, but I edited it a bit before putting it up here, mostly to make Isengrim's personality fit what I established for him later. It's kind of tough when you have an initial personality concept for a character that turns out not to work, but you only discover that after you've written several stories about them. But I think I did a good job editing those previous stories and helping everything flow more smoothly character-development-wise.
And yes, I know Isengrim's character design doesn't look too much like the canon character design for the Werelupe King. They are one and the same individual, but as I continued to write Isengrim he just kept looking more and more like this illustration in my mind's eye. I'm kind of not sorry about this because I rather like this design better, and I'm a little bit of a rebel when it comes to changing stuff I don't like. :)
Anyway, it's time for sad backstory!
Isengrim pawed through the forest undergrowth, a powerful scent lingering in his nostrils. Dropping to all fours, the Werelupe stalked through the shadows, silent as night itself. His shoulderblades rippled beneath his dark fur. He was on the trail.
“Milord,” said a female voice beside him.
“What is it, Suhel?” Isengrim asked. He did not have to see the other Werelupe to know she was there. He recognized her scent, and his quivering ears picked up every time her bare paws stepped on dead leaves, her bone-crafted armour brushed against branches, or she breathed quickly.
“Aren’t we too far away from the keep?” she asked. “I believe this is Hubrid Nox’s territory, sire.” They spoke in low whispers. Even though their quarry was far out of earshot, in the Haunted Woods, other things could be listening in. Maybe even the Woods itself.