Slowly, Alastor_Firefoot shouldered open the front door
of his Neohome and padded inside, carrying his book bag in his teeth. Dropping
the bag with a thud by the hall mirror, Alastor glanced over at his reflection
and sighed. Four paws, handsome canine head, perked ears and long tail, all set
in a well-groomed red coat of fur. Aside from the reading glasses still perched
upon his muzzle, he was the very image of your average Neopian Gelert.
"Alastor? You home?" jkuster, his owner, peeked
her head out of the nearby kitchen. "I was wondering where you were. Your brother
and sisters came home from Neoschool an hour ago. Stay late to do some extra
"No, Jenn," Alastor answered, taking off his
glasses and setting them on the little amber coral coffee table jkuster kept
in the hall for loose pocket junk. "I went and helped out at the book store
for a bit. The shop owner paid me 100 Neopoints for sweeping out the store."
A grin spread across the red Gelert's face as he held up a small, jingling bag.
Jenn came out of the kitchen, her shirt dusted in flour, and rubbed Alastor's
"Good job. You'll truly be a firefoot in no
time, at this rate."
And that was Alastor's greatest wish. Although
jkuster always had enough Neopoints for the important things, like food, their
NeoHome, and schoolbooks, there just wasn't a whole lot of extra Neopoints around
for… well… stuff like paint brushes. More than anything in the world, Alastor_Firefoot
wanted to be painted Fire! But for that to ever happen, he was going to have
to earn that brush himself.
As Jenn headed back into the kitchen to finish
making their suppers, Alastor trotted down the hall to the small bedroom he
shared with his brother, Rhio99. Heading over to his desk near the window, he
poured the handful of Neopoints he'd earned into a jar - now half full of coins.
Birthday points, Christmas points, allowance points -- they all went in the
jar. Still, Alastor looked at his meager savings and sighed. Still isn't very
much, he thought sadly, ears drooping.
Suddenly, there was the sound of a loud thunder
of paws coming down the hall. Alastor glanced towards the open door in time
to see a flash of yellow feathers blow past: his sister, Mirriadith, the yellow
Eyrie. And right on her tufted tail, a flash of stripy blue, which screeched
to a halt, digging claws into the hall carpet as jkuster yelled "Mirri! Rhio!
How many times do I need to remind you; No Running In The NeoHome!" Sheepishly,
the large blue Kougra in the hall let his head and tail drop for a moment.
"Sorry, Jenn!" Rhio called back, then padded
into his and Alastor's shared bedroom on huge, clawed blue paws, his long whiskers
twitching as he eyed Alastor's Neopoint jar. "Wow, 'Lastor," Rhio purred in
admiration. "Looks like you're rich!"
"Not rich enough," Alastor said sadly, sitting
down on the bedroom floor and looking at his paws. His plain red paws.
Rhio padded closer and sat down in front of
his younger brother. If Alastor was the family's studious member (and he was)
then Rhio was the athletic one. All feline muscle and speed, the blue Kougra's
main obsession was the Battledome. No one at school dared pick on Alastor or
their two sisters, not when they'd have to deal with Rhio! "Wish I could help
you get that Fire, Fire, Your Pants On Fire PB, 'Lastor," Rhio said. "But I
spent all my Neopoints on codestones last week."
"I know," Alastor said, forcing a smile. "And
you're still trying to get that Darigan Paint Brush. That costs even more than
the one I want!"
"Yeah," Rhio admitted, his striped blue tail
thoughtfully lashing against the floor. "Saving takes forever. I mean, look
at your points! You've been saving for months, and you still don't have enough.
There has to be a better way."
"Maybe we could get jobs at the Faerieland Employment
Agency," Alastor suggested. The Kougra shook his head.
"Still too slow."
"You can't be thinking of trying the lottery
or the slot machines, are you?" Alastor protested. "Those'll never work."
"Nah," Rhio agreed. "Too risky. What we need
is something faster… something… colder…" Puzzled, the young red Gelert wondered
at the sudden gleam in Rhio's green eyes.
"Colder? What are you talking about? If you
want to see if Mika and Carassa have any Paint Brushes in their garage sale,
I tried that last week…" He trailed off in sudden apprehension as Rhio bared
his long, feline fangs in a toothy grin. "No. You can't be thinking…."
"The Snowager," Rhio declared smugly, tucking
his tail around his forepaws in a pose of feline satisfaction.
"But-but--" Alastor protested weakly, staring
at his brother, "doesn't the Snowager collect Neggs?"
"I hear he collects everything, that old reptile,"
Rhio replied. "I bet he has dozens of paint brushes in that cave of his. And
does he use them? No! He sleeps on them. What a waste. I say we go and see what
we can find."
Alastor felt his mouth go dry, and the bottoms
of his paws got sweaty. He scooted backwards on his rump until he was nearly
under his desk. "No way. You're crazy, Rhio! He'll blast the both of us, and
then we won't ever need to worry about paint brushes, 'cause we'll both be permanently
"Don't be silly," Rhio scoffed. "No such thing
as being painted ice. Snow, maybe…." The blue Kougra rose to his feet. "C'mon,
if we hurry, we can be back in time for dinner. Show off our new paint jobs."
Shivering, Alastor backed further underneath
his desk, his nervous quivers causing the Neopoint jar above him to rattle.
"No, Rhio," he shook his head. "I'm going to get a job. Earn my brush the safe
Rhio blinked green eyes, then shrugged. "Suit
yourself," he said, then padded out of the bedroom and down the hall. Alastor
stared after his brother in disbelief. He wasn't really? He couldn't be! Alastor
crawled out from under the desk and leapt to the window, putting red paws on
the sill and peering out to see his sister, Reekooms the Shoyru, building sandcastles
in the yard. And past her, a stripy blue-furred streak loping off towards… Terror
"Rhio!" Alastor yelped. "Wait!" But the Kougra
rounded a corner and was gone. Frantically, Alastor dashed out into the hall,
knocking his precious jar of Neopoints flying. He raced past the kitchen, past
jkuster's startled face as she yelled.
"No running in the…." A surprised pause. "Alastor?"
And then he was out the door, running as fast
as he could, leaving his glasses and his Neopoints behind. He had to stop his
brother! Rhio was one tough Kougra, but he was no match for the Snowager! Ignoring
Reekooms' friendly wave from her sandcastles, the red Gelert galloped wildly
towards Terror Mountain as though Lord Darigan himself was on his tail.
On silent paws, Rhio99 padded up to the mouth
of the Snowager's cave, his thick blue fur protecting him from the snow and
ice underfoot, and the icy-cold draft blowing rhythmically out of the cave's
darkened maw, as though a wintry beast was sleeping inside. Rhio lowered his
head and squinted as a particularly cold gust tugged at his whiskers and watered
his green eyes. He shivered a little. Now that he was here, this didn't seem
to be as good of an idea.
Stubbornly, he set his teeth. Old 'Snowy was
probably sleeping. He'd duck inside, find a brush and get out. Even if it wasn't
the brush he wanted, he could always sell it or trade it…. Careful not to make
a sound, Rhio99 made his way into the shadowy, slippery-cold ice tunnel. He
could see light not far up ahead, glittering, shifting light, as though it were
reflecting off icy scales. For icy scales they were.
The evening Neopian sun filtered down through
a hole in the ceiling of the cave, shimmering off the crystal hide of the sleeping
Snowager, who was lying in a coiled heap on top of more treasure than Rhio had
ever seen in his entire life. Neggs. Weapons. Toys. Using a paw to shield his
eyes from the glittering sight, Rhio saw… Paint brushes. Several of them. Poking
out of the massive tumble of riches - right next to the twitching crystalline
tail of the gigantic snaky Snowager.
Rhio swallowed, and padded a step closer… and
a step closer… the icy creature was so big, it could swallow him in one gulp!
He could hear the monster's steady breathing, in and out, in and out…. Rhio
stretched out a paw, reaching for the handle of a brush….
Rhio froze and looked up -- right into the glittering,
ice-cold eyes of a very awake Snowager.
Panting with exhaustion, his tongue hanging
out, so hot from running he didn't even feel the chill of the wintry landscape
around him, Alastor_Firefoot skidded to a stop in front of the Snowager's cave.
He'd never been this close to the cave before. Never. And Rhio was no where
in sight. The Kougra's oversized paw prints were, though, pressed deep into
the snow. They led in, but none came back out.
Alastor hesitated, one paw raised to step inside
-- but he was so scared! Then, from the depths of the cave, he heard a rumbling,
snarling roar. Rhio's battle cry.
Slipping and slithering on the snow and ice,
Alastor forced back his fear and loped into the tunnel…. Was he too late?
Rhio leapt clear of the Snowager's icy blast,
the frosty spume turning a pile of nearby Neggs into a snowbank. He rolled and
spun, claws digging tracks in the ice as a snaky tail lashed out at him, trying
to squash him flatter than Faerie Pancakes! He had to get to the exit! Roaring
in challenge, the blue Kougra leapt on top of a rainbow frost cannon, as the
Snowager cut loose with another spray of ice and snow. Gathering every ounce
of strength he possessed, Rhio leapt for the exit, over the Snowager's lashing
And suddenly, Rhio's world turned upside-down
as that same tail whipped out and sent him crashing down, tumbling, head-over-paws,
finally skidding to a painful crunching stop in a pile of ice and snow. Dazed,
Rhio looked up dizzily, past two brush handles sticking out of the snow, at
the enraged face of the Snowager, maw open as it prepared a final blast - Rhio
knew he could never get out of the way in time.
And it was then that a small blur of red fur lunged out of the cave exit and
threw itself upon the Snowager's snaky back, digging in desperately with tooth
and claw. "Alastor?" Rhio said in disbelief as the Snowager shrieked in surprise
and pain, lashing it's snaky body in a frantic attempt to dislodge the terrified
young Gelert, who clung on for dear life.
"Rhio!" Alastor yelled. "Run!"
Shaking off the dizziness, the blue Kougra hauled
himself out of the snow and onto his paws, pausing only to snatch the two handles
before him. Gripping his prizes in one paw, he raced for the exit, just as the
Snowager threw Alastor off his back, the red Gelert yelping and paddling his
paws uselessly against the air as he flew backwards towards Rhio, who tossed
the brushes back over his shoulder, out the exit, and lunged up on his hind
paws in an attempt to catch his brother.
Gelert crashed into Kougra, creating a blue-and-red
ball of fur that tumbled backwards and out of the Snowager's cave, a blast of
ice and snow just missing the tangle of paws and tails as it shot over them.
Inside the cave, intruders evicted, the Snowager
settled down on top of its treasure pile to nurse its scratches. Outside the
cave, the tangled ball of multicolored fur moved.
"Rhio, mind getting your tail out of my nose?"
"Alastor, you're alive!"
"Yeah, I think I am."
"Then get your ear out of my ear!"
Slowly, painfully, the two brothers got to their
"'Lastor, I didn't think you were coming!"
The red Gelert sat down wearily in the snow,
checking to make sure all legs and paws were intact. "I couldn’t let you go
Rhio grinned sheepishly. "I'm glad you did."
Alastor returned the grin. "You know what? I'm
glad I did too. Even if it was all for nothing."
"Nothing?" Rhio said slyly. "Then what do you
call those? Alastor blinked, then followed the Kougra's pointing paw to where
two handles poked out of the snow. His jaw dropped, and he reached out a trembling
Slowly, Alastor pulled the first handle clear
of the snow to see… the stuffed, squishy shape of a Plushie Island Pet Paint
Brush. Disappointed, his face fell, and he looked up at Rhio. The Kougra shrugged.
"We can sell it. What about the other one?" Gingerly, the Gelert reached out
and gripped a solid handle. It felt warm to the touch. He pulled. And revealed
a blazing, gleaming, Fire, Fire, Your Pants On Fire Paint Brush!
Alastor's breath caught in his throat, then sadly,
he proffered the precious brush to Rhio. "It's yours, Rhio. This was your idea,
and you got the brushes. Maybe you can sell it, too, and get that Darigan brush
you want." But the blue Kougra, grinning, shook his blue-furred head.
"No way, brother mine. That's yours. For saving
one silly Kat."
Alastor stared, then clutched the brush to his
chest. "For me? You mean it? Thank you! Thank you so very much! But Rhio --
your Darigan brush -- are you going to try again?"
The Kougra shook his head again and winked. "Are
you crazy? I'm going to earn mine the safe way. I'm going to get a job." And
with that, Rhio picked up the plushie and padded off in the direction of home,
Alastor at his heels, tightly squeezing his new brush. They had a date with
the rainbow pool. And then they could explain Alastor's new look to jkuster.