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Once Upon a Christmas Morning


by really_awesome_d00d

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Signs of Christmastime were as apparent in Happy Valley as the snow. Tinsel and holly clung to the rooftops of nearly every cheery abode. Wreaths appeared on front doors, on windows, on street corners and on signs. Soft white candles glowed in the windowsills at nighttime. Christmas trees began popping up inside and outside of homes. The annual Happy Valley Christmas Tree had been set up, and the townspeople had begun the annual ritual of decorating it with glassy ornaments as big as their heads. The Christmas Nova had been chosen and placed at its peak. The town hall was so heavily clad in tinsel and surrounded in Christmas cheer it more closely resembled a giant mound of rustling silver, in which pets frantically scurried in and out. The mayor had made several public announcements about the approaching Christmas and everyone was excited. And they had every reason to be.

     It was Christmastime!

     Lorelei was no exception. The young, sapphire-eyed white Acara could never be seen without a whistle on her lips, a skip in her stride, and a merry twinkle in her eye. Every waking moment was spent counting the presents at the base of the tree, seeing if the number had changed since she'd last checked, or baking cookies, or setting up wreaths or more ornaments. Her bedroom was a glistening Christmas-town; tinsel hung from every wall, her shelves and dressers were bedecked in holly, and a miniature Christmas Fir was placed on her desktop, laden with ornaments. Candles were set upon every windowsill of the home; of that, Lorelei had made sure. Her mother and father never fully understood their daughter's enthusiasm, but as long as she was happy, they were happy, too.

     When Lorelei awoke on Christmas Eve, she burst from her bed in a frenzy, shrieking at the top of her lungs. "It's Christmas Eve!" she warbled, throwing open the curtains. "And it's snowing!" She threw on her faux fur coat and dashed out into the hallway, bypassing her mother, who was standing with a plate of pancakes in hand.

     "No breakfast?" her mother asked quizzically, sighed, and set the plate down on the counter.

     Lorelei had not heard her; she was already outside, leaping from snowdrift to snowdrift, belting out her joy in the most musical form. Her lovely alto voice had always kept her company, especially throughout this merriest of seasons. She made Snow Faeries in the snow, did a dance around the Happy Valley Christmas Tree, leapt for joy several more times, and then burst back inside her house.

     "Good morning, Lorelei. You forgot your breakfast."

     "Whoops, sorry, Mom. I couldn't help it -- it's Christmas Eve!"

     "Yes, of course, Lorelei. But I need you to do something for me, honey."

     "What, Mom?"

     "I need you to go pick some snowberries for your grandmother's snowberry soup. You know that she can't go out and pick them on her own, and she really wants to make a couple bowls for the Annual Christmas Eve Feast at the Town Hall tonight…"

     "Of course, Mom. That's not even a question." Lorelei laughed as she shoveled more pancake into her mouth. She finished quickly, licked the syrup from her lips, and dashed outside.

     "You forgot the basket!" her mother called. Lorelei dashed back in, retrieved the basket, and then happily strolled in the direction of the snowberry patch. Her mother only smiled.

     Lorelei could not help but sing as she skipped towards the bushes. She could already see the icy white berries, plump on the branches of the bushes, their fragrant perfume carrying over to her on the snowy winds. Oh, how she loved snowberries. Their taste was exquisite in any form; snowberry soup was one of her favorite dishes, and an old family recipe. It was her grandmother's passion to make a bowl for the Annual Christmas Eve Feast and she received nothing but compliments for her cooking.

     Humming pleasantly to herself as she neared the snowberry bush, Lorelei did not see the frozen eyes staring up at her from beneath a neighboring bush. She did not notice them as she plucked some berries from the branch and tossed them into her basket, nor did she see them any other time she whirled around to pluck some more off from the bush.

     She noticed them when she turned to move to the next bush and they took her completely off-guard. She gasped, but did not scream, and remained calm. Two glassy eyes were staring up at her, the face upon which they originated obscured by the snowberry branches. She stared inquisitively at the eyes, wondering what they could belong to -- they were so mesmerizing, like liquid flames, like sapphires of indescribable quality and brilliance.

     Before she knew it, she was suddenly on the ground, a quite feisty creature perched upon her chest, staring deeply into her own eyes.

     It was a Snowickle.

     Lorelei didn't know what to do, and so remained motionless. The Snowickle stared at her curiously for a moment, and then crawled nearer to her face. Lorelei felt her eyes water as the cold stung at them, and let out a gasping breath. The Snowickle ignored this and stood upon her collarbone, staring into her eyes. It bent over, and Lorelei felt a cold, faint, tickling sensation upon her chin. She giggled instinctively; the Snowickle was licking her chin.

     Seconds later it had pounced onto the ground and had landed in her basket. "Aren't you a friendly little fellow," Lorelei announced, patting its head amiably. "I'm Lorelei. Who are you? Are you lost, little Snowickle?" The Snowickle said nothing, and only stared up at her with its diamond eyes, those mesmerizing eyes.

     "I don't want to leave you here in the cold… I think I'll take you home. I've got enough berries here for Grandmother's snowberry soup, in any case. Just don't crush any of the berries, little Snowickle. I'll tell you what: if you don't crush a single berry, I'll let you have some leftover soup."

     Although she knew it couldn't understand her, or at least Lorelei expected as much, the Snowickle gave a quick nod and leapt onto her shoulder, which it clung to comfortably. Not a single berry had been squashed in the leap. Impressed, Lorelei trotted on.

     "You should taste some of her soup. It's simply delicious. No word can describe it…" Lorelei continued talking of her grandmother, of snowberry soup, of Christmas, and of the Annual Christmas Eve Feast until she reached her front doorstep.

     "Mother, I'm home!" Lorelei declared as she stepped inside, stepping out of her boots. She began shrugging off her coat; the Snowickle lunged to the ground, where it stayed, staring up at her expectantly. Grabbing her basket of snowberries, Lorelei headed towards the kitchen.

     "I'm right in here, Lorelei… Just set the snowberries on the counter, dear. If you're wondering, that's the smell of -- WHAT IN THE NAME OF FYORA IS THAT?!"

     Her mother loosed an ear-splitting screech, nearly dropping her asparagus casserole. Lorelei stared at her mother in shock for a moment, equally as taken aback; the Snowickle glanced up at her mother with its wide, mesmerizing eyes.

     "It's just a Snowickle, Mother. I found him alone up at the snowberry patch. I think he's orphaned. I said I would keep him; he looked pretty sad up there, all by his lonesome… Please, Mom, can I keep him, can I?"

     Her mother gave a nervous twitter. "Are you sure that's the s-s-safest thing to do, Lorelei? You know how I feel about Snowickles…"

     Her mother was frightened of anything that crawled, except maybe Snowbunnies. But who could be afraid of Snowbunnies?

     "Please, Mom?" Lorelei plucked the Snowickle from the ground and held it before her mother. The tiny creature let out a low squeal, eyes glistening. Her mother stared at it for a moment.

     "Oh, all right. But it better not cause any trouble."

     "Oh, thank you, thank you Mom!" Lorelei shouted, kissing her mother on the cheek. The Snowickle purred contentedly in her grasp.

     ~*~

     The rest of the day was spent in snowy bliss. Lorelei and her new Snowickle, which she dubbed Snowflake, played endlessly in the snowdrifts outside their home. When Francis and his friends threw a snowball at her, Lorelei initiated a snowball fight, and Snowflake fought bravely alongside her. She was amazed at how graceful the tiny creature was; its whole body moved fluidly, in an indescribable natural rhythm of the likes she'd never seen before.

     After that, she made a shoddy igloo. When she and Snowflake entered it, it collapsed, and she and Snowflake rolled, giggling, in the powdery snow. She quickly noticed how close she was becoming to Snowflake, and Snowflake to her. The affectionate Snowickle snuggled by her legs whenever she walked, and made soft twittering noises whenever she held it in her arms. She loved it, and she knew Snowflake felt likewise.

     It was dusk when it became too dark to stay outside. That was disappointing to Lorelei, who was halfway through building a snowman in the front yard with Snowflake. The little Snowickle was working tirelessly as it helped her roll its body into place, and fetched a hat, a carrot, coal for its eyes and buttons, and a scarf like an obedient Puppyblew. When she finally had to call it quits, the two entered the house, the petpet secure in its master's arms.

     She had a little while before the feast. Since she could not play outside, Lorelei decided to read. She picked up a rather heavy tome from her father's bookshelf, a book entitled Wintry Petpets: What They Are, How They Act, and Where to Find Them. She curled up on the couch, a wool blanket around her legs. Snowflake climbed on her shoulder, and when the Snowickle was comfortable, she began reading.

     It was not long before she found the section on Snowickles, the section she had been searching for. Snowflake was sleeping upon her arm when she did so.

     "When young, Snowickles are often seen as compassionate, curious creatures with openly sweet dispositions and inquisitive natures. They bond easily with pets and can quickly form lasting bonds with their owners. They love to give and receive affection and openly display their emotions to those they truly care about. They even display some qualities more commonly attributed to pets such as Warfs and Puppyblews, including steadfast loyalty, always following their owner, and fetching items. While loveable and caring, Snowickles are very sensitive and are not strangers to having their feelings hurt. Treat one well if you are to keep one in your care.

     As it matures, a Snowickle's personality and appearance will alter drastically. Not only will it grow at an explosive rate, but its sensitivity will reach great peaks, in which they nearly lose all traces of their once caring and sweet dispositions. They will become cranky, sulky, grumpy, and greedy, often taking shiny things and hiding them away where no one will think to look for them. As has been stated previously, they will also grow in size at a rapid rate. At only six months old, Snowickles are known to be able to take on fully grown Grarrls. Year-old Snowickles usually average twenty feet in length and weigh two hundred pounds."

     Lorelei was horrified when she read the entry. She was happy Snowflake was still snoozing pleasantly on her arm when she finished. Snowflake, sweet, loveable Snowflake, was going to turn out to be a greedy fiend? That didn't seem likely; the little petpet was full of vibrant energy and happiness and… love. Snowflake couldn't do that. She would make sure of it.

     And the whole thing about size was shocking. Snowflake, big? The tiny creature looked barely big enough to fit inside a pillow, much less take on a fully grown Grarrl. The thought of Snowflake, face contorted by greed, lips curled, fangs bared, eyes glistening hatefully, as it brawled some ferocious beast for something -- anything -- scared her deeply.

     "Lorelei?"

     Her mother's voice took her back to reality.

     "Yes, Mother?"

     "Are you ready to go to the feast? We have to leave. There's a snowstorm outside, so you'll need to dress warmly, okay, honey?"

     "Sure, Mom." Lorelei got up. Snowflake was roused into waking, and curled up cozily upon the sofa. Lorelei stared at the creature worriedly for a moment, thoughts of what it could become filling her mind. Throwing on her heaviest overcoat, mittens, gloves, and cap, she slipped into her boots and returned to the sofa.

     "Snowflake… You'll never become one of those nasty things they were talking about in that book, will you?" Lorelei stroked the Snowickle lovingly; it nuzzled her wrist affectionately, warmth radiating in its eyes. Lorelei felt tears come to her eyes as she realized her sweet little Snowflake may turn out to be something mean and vicious in temperament, so unlike the innocent little creature that was nuzzling her palm at the moment, squeaking pleasantly.

     "It's time to go, Lorelei."

     Lorelei arose, heading towards the door. Snowflake trotted alongside her; an idea struck the Acara.

     "Mom? Can I take Snowflake?"

     "No, dear. You can't take petpets to the feast; everyone knows that."

     That was the truth. Ever since Melinda's Snorkle, Snarf, ate every bowl of plum pudding three years prior, it had been an undisputed rule that petpets were not allowed.

     "I'm sorry, Snowflake, but you're going to have to stay here."

     The Snowickle stared at her for a moment, but did not acknowledge the words. It continued to follow her, even as she neared the front door. Her mother and father stood on the porch, warming their hands, preparing for the walk in the snow. It was coming down in heavy loads now; the air was full of whirling white flecks, dotting the starless night sky. The temperature was freezing.

     "Stay, Snowflake -- no, stay, you can't come, I'm sorry…"

     No matter how much she pleaded, the little Snowickle did not seem to understand. It kept trying to follow her outside, even she continued to push it back inside.

     "C'mon, Lorelei, we need to go," her father mentioned.

     "Wait, Father. C'mon, Snowflake, stay inside, stay inside--!"

     When she finally managed to get the tiny creature inside, it slipped past her legs and darted into the snow. Grumbling, she dashed after it, her father giving a disgruntled sigh. After wrestling with Snowflake in the snow for several moments, she managed to take it back to the house, the Snowickle squealing in her arms. She dropped it on the floor.

     "Snowflake, you have to stay. Do you understand? Don't worry, I'll be back later…"

     Snowflake already moved to leap onto the porch. Quickly Lorelei chased it; Snowflake whirled around, excited by this game of chase.

     "C'mon, Lorelei, we need to leave now!"

     "Wait a moment, Father… No, Snowflake, stay inside!" Frustrated, Lorelei slammed the door shut as Snowflake darted back inside.

     That's when it happened.

     There was a squeal of pain, and in horror, she realized the Snowickle's tail was pinched in the doorway. Quickly she pulled open the door. Snowflake turned and gave her a blank stare, its lips fumbling for words to say. It let out a lugubrious moan, its eyes piercing into the depths of her being. Lorelei felt numb, even within her faux fur coat. It let out another mournful cry, limping off to the side.

     "Snowflake, I'm sorry, I'm--"

     "Let's go, honey; we're going to be late!"

     "Wait just a second, Father! Can't you see he just got hurt?"

     Her father groaned.

     "Snowflake, I'm…"

     She was too late. Snowflake had disappeared within the house. The image of his sorrow-stricken eyes, staring up at her so sadly, made her want to cry. She tried not to think of what she had done as she walked off into the snow, her father mumbling about being late, her mother breathing hot air into her clenched paws. Lorelei turned back to look at the house. Faintly, she thought she could see something perched on the windowsill, staring out at her.

     Lorelei didn't speak for the remainder of the walk, too disgusted by herself to do anything. She wept silently, unbeknownst to her father and mother.

     ~*~

     "Lorelei, are you all right? You seem a little sulky… Are you okay?"

     "What's wrong, Lor? You excited about tomorrow? Wait… Is something wrong?"

     "You seem a little down, Lorelei… You all right? Did something happen?"

     "Why the long face, young one? Here, have some plum pudding; you'll feel better soon…"

     "Lorelei, have some cherry pie. You love cherry pie. C'mon, lighten up, honey."

     Lorelei shrugged them all off, trying to keep to herself, not wishing to talk to anyone. Why wouldn't they just leave her alone?!

     The feast was over, and Lorelei felt just as empty as she had before it had begun. She wasn't interested in eating anything, not plum pudding, not snowberry soup, not asparagus casserole, not her favorite, cherry pie. Everything seemed tasteless. And although everyone around her was belting out carols and merrymaking in the Christmas spirit, Lorelei felt more alone than she ever had before.

     When it was over, Lorelei rushed out, desperate to escape from everyone who was having a joyous time. She dashed out into the snow, desolate, alone, tears pouring down her face; she ignored the calls of her worried mother, her father, even Francis, who had tried to talk to her the entire evening and had failed to get much more than a couple mumbled words.

     She didn't know how long it was before she burst into the house, panting, and cold beyond feeling. She ignored all these factors.

     "Snowflake? Snowflake!" she cried. There was no answer. The house was silent, and very dark, minus the glowing candles on the windowsills. She searched beneath the dining table, on the sofa, underneath the cushions, in the kitchen, in the cabinets, in the sink, on her bed, under her bed, behind her bed, in her dresser, on her desk, and everywhere else a Snowickle might've run off to. She didn't find him.

     Feeling helpless, Lorelei slumped across her bed, sobbing.

     "Lorelei?! What's wrong, honey?"

     Suddenly, her mother was there, consoling her. Lorelei sobbed into her shoulder, happy to have someone who cared.

     "Did you see his face, Mom? That look on his little face… I couldn't bear it. I'd hurt him, so badly… Now I can't find him."

     "Oh, honey," her mother murmured soothingly, shushing her gently. "I'm sure he's in here somewhere. If there's anything I know, Christmas is the perfect time to forgive someone. I'm sure he'll show up tomorrow. C'mon now, you're exhausted. You can look for him in the morning, okay?"

     Lorelei felt tired, very tired, and nodded in acceptance. Her mother tucked her in, and tears glittering on her cheeks, Lorelei fell into a deep sleep, but not one riddled with dreams of what would lay in store for her on Christmas morning.

     Lorelei awoke feeling chilled to the bone. She didn't feel like opening her eyes. She felt chilled to the bone, even though her blanket was wrapped around her. Her throat was dry and a cold wind was blowing relentlessly onto her face. Finally she mustered the courage and strength to open her eyes, and gasped at what she saw.

     Her window was broken, and her Christmas decorations were ruined.

     Her Christmas Fir had toppled to the floor, its ornaments cracked and broken upon the floor. The tinsel she had so painstakingly hung to the walls and ceiling lay waving in the windy air. The holly was broken up upon the floor, and scratch marks lined her windowsill and the surrounding wall.

     There was a gaping hole in the window, one that had let in the chilling breeze and tiny flecks of snow with it.

     Tears filled Lorelei's eyes as she realized what had happened. She didn't even bother to call Snowflake's name. There was no need.

     This was, without doubt, the worst Christmas morning ever.

     ~*~

     Rumors abound of Snowflake and what happened to the little petpet. Some say his escape from Lorelei's house was futile; he perished in the snowstorms shortly after. Some say he fled to the mountains to rejoin his kind. Others say he ran off to a distant part of Neopia, never to be seen amongst the snowdrifts ever again.

     In any case, Lorelei never saw him again. Never… Never, as the small creature he had once been. She did see him again, but she did not know nor did she think it was him.

     The truth of the situation was that the coldness in Snowflake's heart took control of him. As he grew, a deep viciousness was instilled in him, and he grew the lust for everything he could lay his corded body across. All he wanted was more and more treasure, treasure to lay upon, the treasure he hoped would fill the empty void Lorelei's rejection had created within him. The treasure never did. It only left him with the feeling to gather more, and more, and more…

     Little Snowflake became much more than just a sweet little petpet. He became a ruthless beast, one who gained much renown and infamy as he gathered his glittering horde in the Ice Caves. A terrible worm that would fill legends with his greed, his bestial strength, his anger, his hatred, his empty, ice-cold heart…

     Is there any need to say what poor, misunderstanding Snowflake became? The myths and legends speak for themselves.

     And that, as they say, is that.

The End

 
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