Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 155,374,162 Issue: 219 | 9th day of Celebrating, Y7
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Snowstorm


by _jadestorm_

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Snowstorm surveyed the snowy plains beneath her.

     The snow came down in swirls, the bitter wind was ruthless, and the night dark and cold. But Snowstorm didn't feel anything. Nothing felt her presence either, and the snow and the wind blew right through her as if she were nonexistent. Only under the moonlight could one see a faint outline of a Wocky, but there was no moon, so Snowstorm stood on the hill like an invisible phantom, watching the swirling snow with cold, deep eyes.

     It was a bit belated, perhaps, for phantoms to come out of their tombs. That occasion had passed. Snowstorm herself wasn't too sorry that she had missed it - she preferred to haunt alone, on snowy hillsides rather than dark, ominous graveyards in crowded towns. Still, company might have been nice once in a while.

     Somewhere far away, a Lupe howled, its desperate call resounding in the hills around her. Snowstorm shivered. She didn't like Lupes at all, and the mere sound of a Lupe howl made her blood run cold.

     If she had blood…

     Blood and a body were mere attractions to her, ones that any ghost could live without - a possession, not a necessity. She had heard of city ghosts who coveted physical features, and laughed when she heard of them. "Flesh and bone will only rot away some time and cause noise, leaving imprints everywhere," she had said with an air of scorn. "I much prefer leaving no track or shadow."

     She trotted soundlessly up the hill, until she was at the very top. She left no tracks, so much as even a small depression in the snow. The snow bore down at her like a shower of arrows, but Snowstorm, as a ghost, did not feel the attacking snowflakes as they went straight through her to land on the ground. She sighed. Just once, she wished that she could feel cold, snow, and wind. Just once, feel the world around her. Just once.

     If only she hadn't been so arrogant, so disobedient, so willing to prove herself by taking unnecessary risks. But that was what she was before, and it was too late to change anything. She looked at the flickering lights of a village several miles away, and sighed again. If only she hadn't done that - that stupid, dumb act, she would be joining those villagers down below, feeling, tasting, touching. But that was too late to change.

     Glancing behind her, she saw a shadow looming over her. Tall, jagged ridges, slippery and sharp stone. Long ago, when she still could feel and touch, when she had a body, she had tried to climb this mountain. Terror Mountain, they all called it. Snowstorm herself hadn't believed the name to be suitable for the mountain, until she had tried climbed those treacherous slopes long ago.

     Long ago…

     * * *

     The fire shone bright in the hearth, illuminating the comfortable room. Katy sat by the fire, her electric Wocky fur shimmering with the warmth of the leaping flames. A pink nose breathed in the fresh pinecone smell of the room. No more school, no more exams, no more marks, no more homework. Winter break was just perfect. She yawned, and took a sip of hot chocolate. Letting the warmth absorb her body, she sat, relaxed in perfect meditation. "Aaaaaaahhhhh…"

     The door opened, welcoming the howling snowstorm outside. Two girls Katy's age walked in, shaking the snow from their hair and coats. "Whew!" exclaimed one of them, a shadow Gelert. "What a blizzard!"

     Her companion, a pink Cybunny, nodded, too frozen to speak.

     "Hey Candy! Hey Cy!"

     At once, Katy and her friends, Candy the Gelert and Cy the Cybunny were caught in warm and excited embraces.

     "Close the door, one of you! The cold's gonna be let in!"

     Still giggling, Cy went and closed the door.

     "I never thought that you guys would arrive!" said Katy, delighted.

     "Yeah, well, we did. Isn't it great, having this cabin, right below Terror Mountain, ALL BY OURSELVES?"

     "I know!"

     For the past few years, the trio's leisure time had been severely reduced due to the fact that Katy's watchful parents tagged along. But now, the girls were 15, and the adults had felt that their responsibility level was adequate.

     "I'll make you guys some hot chocolate," Katy said. She made for the shelf, pulling out two packs of powder labeled "Chocolat Chaud" and poured them into a boiling pot of water, humming as she stirred.

     "So, did any of you face the wrath of The Jelly?" Katy asked, naming her least favorite teacher. "I did."

     "Yeah, so did I," replied Candy. "You should have seen him! I saw steam coming out of his ears!"

     Cy kept silent, and giggled at the part about steamy ears. The Cybunny was always the good student.

     Cy was the quiet one, Candy was the hyper one, and Katy fit in perfectly in the middle. They were best friends since they were three years old, and they never argued.

     "Y'know, I bet we could climb the mountain," Candy mused. "It doesn't look too deadly. I dunno why it's even called Terror Mountain."

     "Yeah, it doesn't look too steep." Katy liked to be brave.

     "In this blizzard? You're kidding me!"

     "Aw, come ON, Cy, you yourself said that the blizzard and the slope weren't too bad!"

     "Yish."

     "We'll take the south end of the mountain, Cy," Candy assured her. "It's just like a hill. I climbed it once."

     Cy looked skeptical, but she still flung on her coat.

     "That's the spirit, bunny friend," Katy said soothingly. "C'mon, lets go."

     Candy took a flashlight and Cy took a whistle. Katy took a hot water bottle and put on her coat. Together they went out into the swirling storm, mittened hand in hand, their breath lingering in the cold air. The wind howled wildly, but all the girls felt snuggled and warm in their fur coats.

     Candy shone the flashlight towards a moderately steep slope. "That's South Terror," she announced, her crisp voice cutting through the wind. "That's our slope."

     "You're right, Candy," Cy murmured. "It's a tiny hill."

     "Told ya so!"

     "You didn't say TINY hill!"

     "TINY hill, hill, same difference."

     "Guys, stop arguing."

     The argument about tiny hills stopped, cut short by Katy's voice. "Sorry," Candy muttered.

     With heavy, fur-lined boots, the three friends trudged up the slope, singing mutated versions of various Christmas carols. Candy's voice was the loudest because she had invented these parodies, but occasionally, Katy might alter the libretto a bit more. Their joyful voices echoed through the hills and mountains, drowning out the cold, wild wind.

     Candy's flashlight shone on a deep depression beside the trail. "Don't go there," she told them. "The snow blows real wild in there, and you'll get lost."

     "I bet we all could, even without the flashlight," Katy said suddenly. "We could feel our way out."

     Candy and Cy rolled their eyes. Katy always wanted to be the courageous one. "Don't even THINK about it, Katy," Candy warned, her voice suddenly deadly low. "Hey, y'know what? Let's play Hannah and the Ice Caves!"

     "Aren't we a bit too old…"

     "Nah, we all need times of youth. I'll be Hannah, Cy can be Armin, and Katy can be the thieves."

     Katy grinned. Being the bad guy was always fun. Together, the friends whooped and chased each other, catching everyone else and "attacking" them. Tumbling in the snow, they giggled, laughed, and made snow faeries.

     After a while, Candy proclaimed, "Let's go on."

     The girls mounted the mountain, gossiping, and singing. Reaching the summit, they all cheered. "We've done it!"

     "See, Cy, I told you so!"

     "Yeah, yeah, whatever."

     Candy solemnly reached inside her pocket and took out a small flag. She bent down and stuck it into the snow, murmuring, "I rename this mountain Mount Candy, after the brave and daring adventurer who scaled it."

     "NO! I want it named Mount Cy!" the Cybunny protested.

     "All right then, we'll name it Mount Candycykaty," Candy said, groaning a sigh of defeat.

     "What do you think, Katy?" The girls turned around.

     "Katy?"

     A chill pulsated through the girls. Katy wasn't behind them. They couldn't see her. She was missing.

     "Candy, shine the flashlight," Cy said quietly.

     The beams from the flashlight illuminated the snow, but still, Katy couldn't be seen. "No…"

     "We'll call for her," Candy proclaimed firmly, trying to hide her fear.

     Together, the two girls stood, back to back, and yelled, "KATY!!! KATY!!! ARE YOU THERE?" in nervous and hysterical screams. Cy frantically blew her whistle.

     But their only answer was the wild wind that blew, and their voices, echoing down the slope. "Katy…katy…are you there…there…there…"

     "Oh, no…"

     The girls sat down, and leaning against each other for warmth, began to cry, their tears far from frozen under their scarves.

     Meanwhile, Katy, the self proclaimed Brave Wocky Adventurer, Sailor of the Seven Seas and NeoQuester, was lowering herself into the depression. It's not TOO deep, she thought. I can manage.

     Slowly, both feet touched the bottom of the depression. Candy was right, the snow did blow wildly in there. But Katy, under her coat, hood, mittens, and boots wasn't bothered. Still feeling her way around the depression, she felt for a way out.

     Far in the distance, she thought she heard her name. "Katy…Katy…"

     She wasn't too worried. She was just taking a look down there, Candy and Cy would soon find her with their flashlight. Then they would go back to the cabin and have some more Chocolat Chaud. Simple enough…

     Katy tried to feel her way back out, but couldn't. She couldn't find any slope, anything that gave a hint of the edges of the depression. Biting her lip, she tried again. Suddenly, she called out. "ARRRGH!"

     The ground under her seemed to give way, so one second ago, she was on firm ground, and a second later, she was falling. "AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!"

     She landed in a clump of (mercifully) soft snow. One of her boots was off, and a mitten was missing. She stuffed her instantly cold hand and foot into her coat, to warm it. Shivering with fear, she realized that her plan wasn't working too well.

     Her legs ached, caked with bruises. "Owwww…" she moaned. Tears flowed down her face, and her head felt dizzy. Laying her head on a snow covered rock, she closed her eyes.

     Suddenly, light filled her eyes. Not blinding, but cold, blue light. "Fyora…" she muttered, gasping.

     A faerie stepped out from the light. Her hair was dark and covered with snow, her skin as pale as the moon. Her lips were blue to match the blue fur coat that she wore. Her wings and eyes were ice colored, and at once, a cool air wrapped Katy, strangely warming her.

     "Taelia!"

     The Snow Faerie gazed at her, her icy eyes deep and searching. "I name you Snowstorm," she said, her voice as gentle as the North Wind. "Snowstorm, Guardian of the Mountain. You will keep Neopians from straying off the path, like you did. You will prevent them from making your mistake, and keep them safe."

     Heart beating fast, Katy's voice cracked as she asked, "Am - am I d…"

     "No, you are not," the Faerie replied wisely. "But I guess you'll still be a ghost. I find phantoms more … suitable for this job."

     And with the dawning rays of the morning sun, both Katy and the Faerie vanished, one as a faerie, one as a phantom.

     Morning…

     * * *

     The rays of the morning sun blinded Snowstorm, but Snowstorm's eyes didn't react. They stayed open, searching the red, snowy horizon. Fifty years ago, she had strayed off the trail and gotten lost, and became a phantom - the Guardian of the Mountain. If only she hadn't been so rash and bold, she would still be a regular Neopian, living her life with a body that felt hot and cold. But she had sworn to be the Guardian. The Snow Faerie made sure of that.

     Far away, she heard voices. "Bertha, I'm glad you warned me not to go into the depression."

     "You're welcome, Tiffers. I was just trying to keep you safe."

     For once, Snowstorm smiled. The first smile in fifty years. The next generations would be careful not to stray off the pass like she did, for her disappearance had given them a warning. They would be safe from the wrath of the perilous mountain. She had done what Taelia had told her to do, and she was ready to do more.

     Her smile reflected off of the bright, crisp snow on the ground, and as she trotted away from the hill, it was the only imprint she left.

The End

 
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