Be sure to read the very first "Usuls
Don't Snowboard" series. If you already have, then go on...
"Easy there," I said. "You can do it. That's right.
Okay, now try coming over to me."
The yellow Usul, his feet planted firmly on
my snowboard, gingerly tried sliding it to where I stood on the slope further
down. Instead, he overshot, wobbled, and fell off the other side onto his thick
"Tokum," I almost screamed, "we've been over
this how many times?"
Tokum Treedodger sat up and smiled at me ruefully.
"Holly, I'm just not cut out for this like you are, I guess."
"You could do it if you tried harder! It's
"Like you could ski if you tried hard enough,
I didn't say anything. He had me there. Not
being able to ski was a weakness in an Usul, and I was a year and a half old
and still as incapable as ever. However, I could snowboard, which was an ability
that no other Usul in our Usullyrn, or Usul group, had. In fact, the clan had
only accepted my snowboarding hobby last winter, when I had come in second in
the Young Neopets Division in the Annual Happy Valley Snow Sports Festival.
I was fuming, both from frustration at his
inability and being bested in an argument. Tokum came over and placed a paw
on my shoulder.
"Hey, it's okay. No harm in us doing our own
I turned to see my other best friend AngelDust
Skyleap speeding down the slope in tight small arcs on her skis. She came stopping
up between us.
"I thought I'd find you both here," she said
matter-of-factly, brushing the snow out of her green ruff. "Come on. We're getting
ready to leave."
"Now?" I asked, incredulous. "We usually don't
leave till the second week of summer! It's only the first day!"
"Well, your father says we're leaving today.
Now. So come on, let's get back."
My father was our Usullyrn leader after all,
and I didn't doubt he knew best. The snow never melts on the highest peaks of
Terror Mountain, not even in summer, though then it does soften quite a bit.
And every summer was the time that all Usuls in Usullyrns gathered together
in the one place that would accommodate all of us. It was a chance to socialise
and make new friends from the other Usullyrns, something we didn't normally
do, living on different parts of Terror Mountain like we did.
The three of us made our way down the slope
to our own Usullyrn. Angel and Tokum skied while I on my snowboard skirted around
them and weaved in and out of the rocks. I may have been a terrible skier, but
on my snowboard I was queen. Tokum followed me, both of us whooping with delight
at being alive. Angel skied stonily ahead for several minutes; then she gave
up and happily joined in.
All three of us dipped, swooped to and fro,
laughing with joy and mad happiness, taking turns to lead the way up and across
snowbanks and higher slopes, jumping and twisting, up and down, back and forth
in a series of dizzying swirling curling patterns across the new snow, until
we arrived home. It was like flying, really.
We arrived at the Usullyrn out of breath and
laughing uncontrollably despite that. All around Usuls were packing their belongings
that they wanted to take with them. Outside my own house Mother was trying to
convince Snowbelle my younger sister not to bring along her entire collection
of reject Plushies that we found--we don't have money or a need for it--while
Snowbelle's twin brother Icechip dashed up and down the front of the house cheering,
"We're going on a holiday! We're going on a holiday!" Even our grandparents
were there: Father's parents, Grandma and Grandpa Snowpaw, and Mother's, Grandpa
and Grandma Frostlight. Father's brother and sister were there too, Uncle Iceken
and Auntie Snowsky (Mother was an only daughter). Father himself was talking
exasperatedly to a red Shoyru in a sky-blue scarf and hat.
"Leader Snowpaw, sir, I have to at least say
"Miss Jibjamma, I must assure you again that
I have no idea of her whereabouts or when she will be back, though knowing my
elder daughter she probably won't come back until-"
"J.J.!" all three of us yelled, and we pelted
across the snow towards the Shoyru, knocking her flat. My old snowboarding tutor
sat up and grinned. "Well, speak of Maelstra..."
"Indeed," said Father, trying to look indifferent
as he watched the four of us chattering excitedly.
Mother, behind us, put her foot firmly down
on Snowbelle's plaintive pleas ("But *Mother*! Lucinda can't sleep without Mirabella
to keep her company!") and came to stand beside us, the cool, snowy whiteness
of her coat contrasting sharply with Father's buff coloured fur with its warlike
dark red speckles. "Well, Holly. Glad to see you back at last. Are you packed?"
"I'm not bringing anything but this, Mother."
I tapped my snowboard with a foot.
"That's my girl," J.J. grinned. "Anyway, I
only came to say goodbye. I'll be off, and do send me a postcard." With that
she stepped onto her own board, forest green with her initials carved into the
wood, and coasted off down the slope to Happy Valley far below, singing as she
"Well," said Father briskly, "come on then,
we'll be off." The other Usuls were assembled in the main place where Father
made his usual speech as he did before we went anywhere all together.
That done, we set off. The twins hadn't gone
before, so they were rather excited and curious. Angel and Tokum told them exhilarating
stories of the great ski slopes around the area, while I listened intently as
well. When we had last gone, I hadn't been able to ski or snowboard. I had had
to be carried there on my mother's back in a sling like a young Usuling, and
had spent all my time there moping about the empty village with the very small
Usulings and their mothers. Needless to say it had been a most boring experience.
Now, I thought, I could finally get some exploring done.
We flew over hill and dale, gaining momentum
from the slopes and gliding across level ground, jumping when we had the chance,
to if but briefly imagine we had the powers of flight. I was enjoying myself
thoroughly, feeling delightedly different on my snowboard yet going just as
well. Soon, we arrived at a wide rocky overhang where all of us stood and looked
out below us, us younger ones in awe and wonder. Glissade Haven was a large
place, encircled by rocky, snow crusted tors. Only from this high spot could
you see the snow village inside, with Usuls from other Usullyrns, no more than
tiny dark specks on the snow making themselves at home inside.
"There is only this spot," Father said, "and
this spot alone that you can get to Glissade Haven or know of its existence."
"Why, Leader Snowpaw?" piped up Tokum's young
sister Frostfoot. Her mother quickly shushed her.
"It's all right, Snowtail. The young one will
be answered. It is the only place high enough to see in, and the only place
where a jump can be made that will take you over the pass between the tors.
He pushed off and shot down the slope from
the overhang, Mother beside him. I followed with the twins. We kept our equipment
parallel to the slope, gaining as much momentum as possible. Finally we reached
the lowest dip of the hill and then shot up the slope between two of the tors.
I could see the pass ahead and braced myself for the jump. For a split second
I hung in mid-air and then came down the other side of the pass, seeing that
the slope on the other side was much gentler. I saw the village at the bottom
of the slope and turning my snowboard horizontal I coasted to a stop beside
my family. I could hardly keep from grinning.
"Whee! That was so awesome!"
Looking back I saw the rest of the Usullyrn
come soaring over the pass and down the side to join us. Father was just dusting
the giggling twins off when a group of Usuls strode briskly towards us and one
of them, a big red male, tapped him on the back.
"Well, Leader Snowpaw," he said.
Father looked indifferently into his face.
"Leader Sleet," he replied coldly.
To be continued...