The Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls
Frostys smirked. Today she was wearing a bright,
garish pink and turquoise jacket, with matching hat and goggles. She was probably
the only Usul to wear these things, seeing as our fur was so thick we didn't
need them, and we only wore our goggles when the snow is the kind that flies
into your face and eyes going downhill; snow blindness is nothing to us, our
eyes are designed to store and reflect light anyway (a handy trick in battling).
Turning, I saw Angel looked as disgusted as I felt.
"Well," Frostys began, in a voice that was
as smarmy as Diamond's could be, "Diamond has told us how simply amazing
you are on your snowboard, Holly. We were just wondering if you'd care to show
"Show you what?" I snapped, trying vainly
to get past. It was no use; Cobrall was rather narrow and there were enough
of them to form a roadblock.
"Oh, just do a little something. You know."
"Out with it, for Faerieland's sake!"
Frostys snatched the map out of my paw. I noticed,
disgustedly, that she was wearing a pair of lime green mittens trimmed with
Babaa wool. "I dare you to go down here," she said, her awful mitten pointing
at a trail that was far away from anything else. It didn't even have a name.
Angel clutched my paw.
"Holly, don't do it. My father told me about
that run, he warned me not to go down it, he says it's the most dangerous run
"But Angel, we've been down double-blacks
"I know, Holly, but please, please listen
to me on this one. He says it's really dangerous, not the run, but because there's...there's
things, he said. Down at the bottom, there are things...creatures like
none other in Neopia! He says that every Usul who went down it was never seen
again! That's how it got its name. No one dares go down it now. They call it
the Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls."
"Usulings' stories," snapped Frostys rudely.
"My father told me not to believe the silly things." She turned back
to me. "So, Hollyfrost Snowpaw? Ready to show us how good you are? Unless of
course, you're Peadackle..."
The other Usuls made mock cackling and squawking
That did it. I wasn't going to be pushed around
by the likes of them. "Lead me to it," I said simply. Angel groaned. Tokum grabbed
my paw, hard. "Look, Holly. I can't let you get yourself into trouble-"
I shook myself free. "Tokum, what could possibly
happen? I'll just go down and come up." We made our way carefully to the Ridge
of the Vanishing Usuls and peered down it. The run disappeared into swirls of
white mist as it descended. The mist wasn't even that thick near the peak. Frostys
looked at me, a smug grin on her face.
"Well, there it is, Snowpaw. If you want to
back out now, you still can."
"I'm not backing out," I snapped into her
face with such vehemence that she stepped back slightly. I could see from her
face, with some satisfaction, that she hadn't expected me to go through with
it. Angel called out to them, half frustrated, half fearful, "If anything happens
"Angel, don't worry. I'll be okay." I pushed
off and set off down the hill. My ears picked out Frostys' last words to the
group on the top.
"She'll soon be back up here like a scalded
Angelpuss, the big showoff."
Seething inwardly, I changed my mind. Frostys
was far more unpleasant than Diamond. The mist was so thick I could barely see
in front of myself. There was nothing to do but keep going down, as slowly as
I could. It was like being in a whiteout.
"Don't panic," I kept telling myself. "Don't
panic, don't panic, don't..."
All of a sudden I found myself out of the mist
and onto flat ground. In front of me was a wide snowfield, with a large crack
in the ground some distance off. There were several ice-encrusted rocks and
crags as well. Well... I thought to myself. Is this all? I was
beginning to think that perhaps the Vanishing Usuls were just an Usulings' story
when I saw part of the snow on the other side of the crack move. I looked quickly
towards the spot but there was nothing but ice and large snow lumps. Then one
of the lumps stood up, massive and towering on its hind legs, a great enormous
creature I had never seen before, with black claws, a wide mouth, and tiny eyes
that almost disappeared in the thick, shaggy, yellow-white fur that covered
its entire body. It looked up and spotted me.
It immediately began to lumber towards me with
surprising speed. There was an expression on its face, a look of greed and hunger
that made me immediately pick up my snowboard and run back up through the mist,
the way I had come. Fortunately for me, ages of living in the mountains have
evolved us snow Usuls, and we can run on snow with perfect ease, even uphill.
Eventually, I reached the top. From what my ears told me, the creature had long
given up the chase and gone back to the snowfield. Angel and Tokum dashed to
me, obviously relieved I had come to no harm. The other Usuls looked at me with
strange expressions on their faces. Frostys had evidently been worried (although
I suspect this was less about my safety than if she would get in trouble with
my father). I looked at them.
"Well? I did it."
Frostys was enraged. "You...you...you haven't
heard the last of this, Snowpaw!" she burst out, and with the other Usuls in
tow, skied away.
Tokum examined me. "Are you sure you're all
"I was so worried!" Angel cried. "Don't ever
do anything like that again!"
"What was down there anyway?"
I ignored the question. "C'mon, let's get up
to Lookout Point and down to the village."
When we had made the jump and arrived back
home, Mother came to greet us. "Better go and freshen up, Holly dear," she said
brightly. "We're having the feast tonight. That's why all the Usulwives stayed
home; we were making the food."
We rushed to our respective houses to clean
up and groom ourselves. Every Usul to some degree cares about his or her personal
appearance. I smoothed my fur, running branches through my ear, ruff and tail
fur to get rid of the dampness and tangles and tied some new, clean, yellow
ribbons around my ears and tail (careful to avoid large floppy bows around the
ears). My elf-cap was sadly rather wet and dirty from the mist, and I only had
one. Oh well. I'd look like the average yellow Usul; despite my paint job the
fur had grown back to cover my ears due to the coldness of my daily environment.
The sun was nearly gone over the horizon, and
in the last light of day the other Usuls were gathered around an immense round
table in the middle of the valley, made of polished ice fortified by firmly
packed snow. Usulwives were rushing in and out of the houses bearing plated
piled with the sort of food we eat in the mountains- mainly things that we can
learn to make from snow, such as snow puffs, snow pizzas and other snow food.
There were also several varieties of berries and nuts that grew on the lower
slopes during summer, and preserved by the cold.
We eagerly rushed in and plumped down with
our respective families. I ran my paws over the smooth, glassy surface of the
ice and waited. The twins soon arrived, as did Mother and Father. Soon nearly
everyone had turned up, when suddenly Leaderwife Glacia Sleet came rushing up,
wringing her paws in despair.
"My daughter! My daughter hasn't come back!
Where is my Frostys?"
Something turned over in my stomach. Leader Sleet, who had been sitting at
the table with Mistletoe, sprang up in shock.
"Frostys is...gone? Frostys gone! But how-"
Suddenly, Diamond, accompanied by several of the other Usuls we had seen her
with that day, charged in right behind Leaderwife Sleet. She pointed an accusatory
black paw at me.
"It was Hollyfrost Snowpaw's fault! Frostys
went down the Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls because of her! She dared her to!"
Leader Sleet turned on Father in a fury. "Snowpaw!
Now look what your...your snowboarding daughter has done!"
"My Frostys!" wailed Leaderwife Sleet. " Gone
down the Ridge of the Vanishing Usuls! We'll never see her again!"
A hot anger boiled in me at the injustice.
"That's not true!" I yelled at the top of my voice. "It was your daughter that
dared me to go down the Ridge!"
"You little liar!" Leader Sleet bellowed back
"My Frostys would never-"
"Icedart!" Father's voice had a commanding
rage in it that I hadn't seen since the day he had discovered my snowboarding.
"Do not call my daughter a liar!" All of us fell silent. Father turned to Diamond.
"Now you tell me exactly what happened. And I want the truth!"
Diamond, looking rather small under Father's
stern gaze, choked out the real story of what had happened on the mountains.
She added that they had returned to the Ridge when we were gone, and that Frostys
had gone down it. They had waited until sunset, but Frostys had not returned.
"I don't believe it," hissed Leader Sleet.
"Holly, you went down the Ridge?" Mother looked
"She did, Leaderwife Snowpaw," Angel called
out. "We saw her. And she came up again, too."
"It's true." It was Tokum's voice. I felt
some of my anger subside at the intervention of my friends. Mother looked as
though she didn't know whether to be angry or relieved.
"What did you see down there?" Father demanded.
A vision of the massive snow-creature filled my mind.
"Just some ice and snow," I said airily. In
my mind I was forming a plan.
Leader Sleet still looked as if he didn't believe
me, but was quelled by a glance from Father. "Well then, I assume we are all
agreed on what happened. Tomorrow we can organise a search party to go down
the Ridge and find Frostys."
"But...Leader Snowpaw," called one of the
Usullyrn Leaders, "Leader Sleet's daughter did vanish, even if yours didn't.
What if we all disappear?"
An excited murmur broke out among the assembled
Usuls. Obviously they still were considering the stories of the Ridge, as well
as Frostys' disappearance. "We'll hold a council in the morning," said another
Usullyrn Leader. "Meanwhile, we should just eat and sleep on this whole situation."
This suggestion was met with agreement, though
on the whole the meal was a rather solemn affair, and I don't think anyone really
enjoyed themselves. Leader Sleet kept darting suspicious glances at me throughout
the evening. It was easy to see he wasn't quite convinced, and made me even
more determined to put my plan into action.
To be continued...