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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 26th day of Relaxing, Yr 21
The Neopian Times Week 47 > New Series > Usuls Don't Snowboard: Part One

Usuls Don't Snowboard: Part One

by shelleylow

Just Another Morning
My story starts as quite an ordinary-seeming winter's morning. As I wiped my eyes of sleep, sat up in bed and pressed my nose to the icy windowpane, I couldn't have imagined what was in store.

The snow had come in the night, and had stopped in the wee hours of morning. All of the paths over the mountain were covered in white, soft powder like icing sugar. The dawn was beginning to herald its coming over the horizon in pale, fresh patches of pink and grey and blue, illuminating the white blanket below which glowed a soft pearly colour in the gentle light. In short, it was the promise of a perfect day.

I was reveling in this beauty, as I always did and still do, in fact, when it occurred to me that my mother was calling from the dining room of our little snow house. I yelled an answer, jumped out of bed and brushed my fur, tied my bright, butter-coloured ribbon in a floppy bow about my tail, grabbed my little elf-cap which jingled welcomingly and placed it carefully on my head before running into the dining room to join my family.

There they were, waiting for me smilingly; my father, mother and my younger twin siblings IceChip and Snowbelle. I skidded to a stop, nearly knocking a chair over in the process, and mumbling an apology about being late sat down between them.

"Well, Hollyfrost," said Father, inclining his red-splashed head graciously toward me.

He was the leader of our Usullyrn after all, but it still felt strange being called by my full name. Nobody else from FrostPromise Usullyrn called me Hollyfrost. See, though most Neopians don't really know this, that high in the unexplored Terror Mountain range where the snow never melts, the wild Usuls who are really, really fanatical about skiing live in small groups, called Usullyrns, consisting of a few families. We build our own houses from snow and make our own skis out of pinewood and fresh ice. It is always so cold up in the mountains that the ice never melts for a good long time, and once it does, there is a plentiful supply. Our group was rather large, to be sure, nearly ten families. It was like another city, almost. And as I previously said, Father was heading it.

"It snowed last night," Mother said, seeing my discomfort and trying to change the subject. She curled her snowy tail elegantly around her body.

"Great!" burst out Snowbelle excitedly, switching her own peach-coloured tail to and fro, its crimson ribbon dancing with the movement. "There'll be powder then!"

"Been a while since we saw some decent powder," mumbled IceChip with his mouth full of Snow Puff. Bits of it crumbled and fell in crusty, sugary multicoloured bits to hang in his blue ruff. "And it stopped already, too. I can't stand going down a slope with all those flakes flying into my face."

I just sat quietly, listening to my siblings' animated chatter and wishing I could be more cheerful.

After breakfast, we all set out to gather our ski things. We had dressed up in hats and goggles but there was never much need to overdress, because our thick fur provides a lot of insulation in itself, and of course the ruff of silken fur around our necks makes the perfect scarf. Already the other Usuls of FrostPromise Usullyrn were doing the same and heading out.

Snowbelle and IceChip were joining their friends, skis and poles in paw, and heading off, chattering excitedly to their favourite runs. Mother and Father went off together towards the chairlift that would take them up to Euphony Bowl's double-diamonded slopes. Sighing, I gathered my equipment, and trudged off to where the other young Usuls my own age were putting on their skis.

I had been right to trust the dawn's word; it was what I would call a perfect day. The sun had risen now, and the gleaming rays were glancing off the powder snow on the ground, dazzling any eye that looked upon the vast expanse of white. I sat down and clicked each foot paw into the slot on the skis, then used my poles to heave myself up onto my feet. Almost immediately, my legs slid violently forward from under me, and I fell flat on my back.

I may as well tell you now as later. I don't know what made me delay it for so long, to be honest, even though the fact scarcely bothers me anymore. I can't ski.

You're probably scratching your head right now and thinking: An Usul that can't ski? But, I'll tell you, if you were (or are) an Usul, and knew something of my history, you'd probably be saying: A Snowpaw Usul that can't ski?

Yes, if you are familiar with Usulin history, my great-great-great (and a few more greats, I can't recall the exact number) grandfather was FrostPromise Snowpaw, the Usul who first discovered skiing through a dangerous trip into the human world. Someday I might tell you that story, but it would take up too much time, as it is quite a long one; so I can't tell it to you this instant. He liked the sport so much that he formed the first Usullyrn, and yes, gave his name to it. And yes, again, it is the very Usullyrn that I have lived in since my birth and that the eldest males of my family, the whole Snowpaw line, have always been leader of.

My father was the strongest skier among all his siblings, my mother was an excellent skier in her own right, and I knew for a fact that as the first-born Usuling of such a union I would be expected to be even more phenomenal than either of them. As it was, the first time I was put on skis as a month-old Usuling I skidded out of control and into a snow bank, from where my parents had had to extract me. Whereas my mother had soothed me and assured me that she'd always love me, ski champion or not, my father, I knew for a fact, was sorely disappointed. It had been his dream that his first-born would represent our family in the annual Happy Valley Snow Sports Festival held every winter at the base of Terror Mountain. However, he had always treated me as if he wasn't, though there was always a certain coldness and formality in his manner towards me, and had resigned himself to the hope that I might improve as I got older. But I was a year old already and my skiing abilities had yet to get any better. And to make matters worse, for me, the twins had been born half a year ago, almost two seasons younger than me, and both of them had already marched onward to the slopes marked as intermediate, while I could not even tackle a beginner's run.

Mocking laughter made me raise my head.

"Still can't ski, huh, Holly?"

I groaned as I recognised the voice. A very pretty Skunk Usul was standing menacingly over me, a smug grin on her sleek features. Two other Usuls appeared behind her, a blue and a white. It was BlackDiamond Alpine, only the most experienced skier among the youngsters of our age group, who had been born a year before in the first days of winter. She and her two friends, a pair of twins called Sugarfrost and Winterheart Icefall always did their best to make me miserable about my plight.

"Eat snow," I snapped, struggling vainly to drag myself to my feet yet again. They drew back in mock fear and started giggling nastily again. "Ooh, someone's grouchy today, isn't she?"

"Leave her alone, why don't you?" My best friend AngelDust Skyleap came skimming over the snow, her buff-coloured fur and bright green ribbon and ear-bands flying in the wind to where we were, and helped me get to my feet. "It's not her fault she can't ski, and she's not doing you any harm."

BlackDiamond grinned at Angel. It wasn't a nice grin, either. "Fine, then. But I bet she couldn't even take this slope right here." She waved her paw towards the run in front of us. It was gently sloping and smooth, and here and there were Usuls teaching the month-old Usulings to ski. On a rock, just beside the start of the slope, was painted a rough green circle. It was the easiest run on the entire mountain. I couldn't let Diamond get the better of me here; my tail and ear fur was beginning to stiffen and harden in anger.

"Fine." I pushed off with my poles.

"Holly!" Angel yelled, but it was too late. I was hurtling down the slope, trying so hard to keep my balance that I wasn't looking where I was going, so I shot straight into the deep powder at the bottom, double ejected and fell flat on my face.

I didn't even try to get up. I knew that Diamond, Sugarfrost and Winterheart were collapsing with laughter at the top of the run.

"Holly." It was Angel. She tapped me on the back with one paw. I looked up at her miserably, and saw Diamond and her cronies disappearing over the crest of the hill in the background.

"One day, Angel, just one day! I'm going to out-ski her, then we'll see what she has to say, the stuck up…"

I was close to tears, and Angel knew it. She squatted down in the snow beside me.

"Maybe your dad's right, Holly. Maybe you will get better when you're older. Maybe when the time comes you'll be exceptional… maybe even better than Diamond." I nodded, stiffly, even though we both knew it probably wasn't going to happen.

"Meantime, let's just go down and join the others. The boys will be trying out the jumps today, and we don't want to miss that."

I nodded again and she helped me to my feet. Together we dug my skis and poles out of the powder. I held on to her tail, and she pushed off down the next slope while I kept my balance and turned with her. We sliced down the mountainside in large, graceful arcs. Skiing in shorter arcs would have made us faster going, and Angel loved to go fast. I'd seen her face as she flew down the slopes; it was always shining with joy. But she didn't, not while I was with her. And whenever we changed runs at the cross-roads, Angel always opted for the smoothest, gentlest runs possible, all with green circles marked on rocks or trees near their tops. I knew she could have easily taken on one of the hardest runs, and liked it too, but she was willing to sacrifice her pleasure just to get me down safely, and for these little acts I was deeply grateful. Eventually we got down to the little rocky valley where the young males of our age were practising their jumps. Most of the Usuls of our own age were congregated there, including Diamond, Sugarfrost and Winterheart. Angel and I advanced and went to stand with them. I looked up, and immediately froze. The young blue male Usul at the top of the slope was just preparing to slide down. He was strong looking and well formed. I recognised him at once, as I always did from a distance: Chillbane Mogul, the most accomplished male Usul skier our age and, in my most private opinion, the best looking.

Chillbane pushed off. He cut down the mountainside, plumes of snow flying out from under his alternate skis as he shifted his weight through each tight, small arc. The Usuls at the slope's bottom gasped in wonder; I just stood watching him as he slid over the rock and soared out into open space. For a Beekadoodle's wing-beat he hung in the air, framed against the blue and white of the sky and clouds, and then descended in a graceful parabolic curve to make a perfect two-point landing on the lower, gentler part of the slope. He cut down that in the same tight turns, both skis parallel, before sliding to a stop at the very bottom.

The crowd that had gathered by then applauded warmly. The rest of the male Usuls began to push off from the top and jump off the rock but to my gaze, there were none of them to even equal Chillbane. Angel's brother Ridgerunner, a red nine-month-old and well known for being extremely fast down the runs, shot down the slope with amazing speed, and made a good jump but unfortunately his landing was inaccurate and he ended up falling head-over-tail. Luckily he was unhurt. Tokum Treedodger, a rather shy yellow yearling, was more successful, but he was more cautious than the other two and didn't ski quite so fast, which meant that his jump was not quite as spectacular. His landing was also a bit dithery, but he managed to regain his balance at the end, which earned him cheers from several of the Usuls gathered.

I turned away from looking at Tokum when I realised that Chillbane was approaching. Trying not to look conspicuous I fluffed out my fur and brushed away snow crystals.

Chillbane stopped in front of us and smiled. "Hi Di," he said warmly. "It's been a while since I've seen you."

"Hey, Bane," Diamond giggled. "The funniest thing happened the other day, let me tell you…" The two of them skied off, side-by-side, talking and laughing happily, and flanked by Sugarfrost and Winterheart. I watched them go helplessly. Angel noticed my expression.

"Holly, it's all right. Not being able to ski like that isn't a crime. I'm not good down the jumps either." I sighed. "Still, I can't help wishing…" Angel smiled and put out a friendly paw.

"Come on, let's get down Krawk Bowl to the Blue Lulu Chair so we can make it up to Kabuggles Pass. It's a nice little one."

I grinned back and reached to hold onto her tail again. I couldn't tell even her that it wasn't my ski jumping ability I had been referring to.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

Usuls Don't Snowboard: Part Two

Usuls Don't Snowboard: Part Three

Usuls Don't Snowboard: Part Four

Usuls Don't Snowboard: Part Five

Usuls Don't Snowboard: Part Six

Usuls Don't Snowboard II: The Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls - Part One

Usuls Don't Snowboard II: The Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls - Part Two

Usuls Don't Snowboard II: The Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls - Part Three

Usuls Don't Snowboard II: The Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls - Part Four

Usuls Don't Snowboard II: The Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls - Part Five

Usuls Don't Snowboard II: The Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls - Part Six

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