True to Isengrim’s word, they feasted on the array of foods in his larder, and once the rest of the pack arrived it became a veritable festival. Werelupes sang newly-composed lays celebrating their clan’s valour in battle and the heroics of their king, his adoptive family, and Celice in saving the Werelupes’ home. Pharazon was given especial credit for defeating the treacherous Skoll, and the pack lauded his courage and strength.
Blynn, Hyren, and the Lupe sorceress were guests of honour, and Blynn and Hyren got to stay in Isengrim’s grotto, where the family laughed and chatted for what felt like hours every night before getting to sleep. For his part, Hyren never would have thought that sleeping on furs in a cave would be so comfy.
The snow did indeed turn into a blizzard, and they ended up staying for a fortnight, taking the time to rest and recuperate after all that had happened. Isengrim was a gracious host, and an enthusiastic sparring partner besides. Hardly a day went by that he and Hyren did not end up clashing blades—good-naturedly, this time around.
After the snowstorm abated, the Werelupe King took Terra, Hyren and Blynn on tours of the woods, looking for the first signs of spring. They visited his fiefs and got to know the villagers, and took home bushels of produce—and mended relations between the peasants and their Werelupe lords.
Pharazon and Celice, meanwhile, spent their time going through Skoll’s study. They sorted through the sage’s belongings and destroyed any dark artefacts, although those that were nice-looking enough they de-spelled and gave to Isengrim to add to his horde.
In the end they couldn’t quite decide what to do with everything else and the grotto itself, although Celice kept making noises like they should keep the entire arrangement. She wouldn’t say for what, although Hyren caught her several times in some sort of conference with Isengrim, Suhel, and a magic communication window like the ones Seradar had used.
Suhel continued to call Pharazon a runt, but always did so with a smile on her muzzle. And he went with her to see the Great Prism Hall and enjoyed it immensely.
Still, there came a day when the morning dawned cool and misty, dew dripped from budding branches, and Hyren knew their time here was up. Isengrim told them they could stay as long as they wanted, but Terra’s family did have to return to Altador sometime.
So that morning they all stood beneath the yawning mouth of the Burrows’ skull-gate. Gwyneth shifted her weight on the muddy path outside, her saddlebags loaded with supplies for the trip back to Altador, while Pharazon checked the straps on her harness.
Isengrim unwrapped the belt holding the claymore from his waist. “As I said,” he said as he presented it to Hyren. “I was only borrowing it.”
“No,” Hyren said. “It’s a gift. Honestly, none of us can use it. It’s in much better hands with you.”
The king put a paw on his chest and bowed to the diminutive Grundo. “You have my alliance forevermore, Hyren,” Isengrim said. “You have proven true on the field of battle and honourable in your deeds. If ever you need me or my pack, call and we shall descend on your enemies like the floodwaters.”
“Thanks,” Hyren said with a smile. “I’ll let you know.”
Isengrim turned to Terra and crouched down, regarding her for a long while before he spoke. “Thank you,” he said, his voice breaking. “Thank you for everything. You have changed so much here—you have healed so much. I cannot begin to repay you.”
Terra hugged him. “I just want you to be happy,” she said.
“I am, thanks to you,” he said, hugging her back. “But… I will miss you. It will not be the same without you here.”
“I’ll miss you, too,” Terra said. “But remember, you’re welcome in our home any time. I mean it. You can even drop by unexpectedly and I’ll just be happy to see you and start cooking you food.”
Isengrim’s tail wagged. “I shall come whenever I can,” he said. “And I extend the same offer to your family. Please come and visit the Burrows again.”
“We will,” Terra said. “Definitely.” She gave his paw one last squeeze and then climbed aboard Gwyneth. Once she got herself situated, she paused and dug around in her bag, pulling out the golden comb Isengrim had given her. “Oops, I forgot—did you want this back?”
Isengrim smiled. “No,” he said. “That is yours, I gave it to you. Would that I could give you all your heart desires, but that will have to do for now.”
“Thank you,” Terra said. “I’ll treasure it always, because it came from you.”
“What about you?” Blynn asked Celice, who still stood with the Werelupes. “Going back to Brightvale?”
“Actually,” Celice said, “I’ve been engaged in talks with Isengrim and King Hagan, and Their Majesties have appointed me the official diplomatic envoy for the Werelupe Woods! We’re going to work toward getting them recognised as a legitimate kingdom by Neopia at large, although there’s quite a fair bit of red tape, as you can imagine.”
“So that’s why you wanted Skoll’s study!” Pharazon said from Gwyneth’s back.
“I can’t believe we’re trusting another mage,” Suhel said, “and a non-Werelupe, no less.” She glanced over at Celice with a smile, which the white Lupe returned. “But… I suppose I’ll get used to it.”
As Pharazon tapped Gwyneth’s head and the Petpet started to lope down the path, Terra gave the Werelupe King a wave. “Send me a Weewoo once in a while, why don’t you!” she said to him.
“I shall send you the treasures of kings if you so desire it!” Isengrim said.
“Er—I’m good there,” Terra said as Gwyneth took off into the air. “Just Weewoos will be fine! I already have the Pack Rat avatar!”
Isengrim’s laughter sent them off as they soared through the sky, away from the mountain range separating Brightvale and Meridell, toward the higher mountains far to the west. And on the other side of those—home.
Hyren sat pensive, fingering the pommel of his blade, trying to digest everything that had happened. One of his most maleficent enemies had become one of his greatest allies. They had neutralised a threat to the entire region. And he’d lost half his family and then gotten them back despite impossible odds. There was something to be said about that.
“Hyren?” Terra asked from in back of Blynn.
“Yeah?” he asked.
“You okay?” Terra asked.
“Yeah,” Hyren said. “Just thinking.” He took a deep breath. “I, uh… I’m sorry it took us so long to find you. I understand if… if you feel like I’ve failed you.”
Terra looked surprised. “No—I don’t think that at all,” she said. “Have you been feeling this way this whole time? I’m so sorry.” She put a hand on his head. “I’d never think that. You’re wonderful, Hyren. I’m so glad I have you in my family.”
“Even though you have a Werelupe now?” Hyren asked.
“I care about you both,” Terra said with a smile. “Isengrim is Isengrim. You’re Hyren. You each have strengths that are so important. That’s what makes our family special.” She mussed the fur on Blynn’s head. “You too, Blynn.”
“Yay!” Blynn said. “Don’t worry, I’m not insecure.”
They all had a good laugh at that. They were together again. Everything was back to normal. No—it was better.