Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 98,662,396 Issue: 167 | 19th day of Storing, Y6
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Whiteout: Part One


by scarrift

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Whiteout: Snow, Secrets and Sanity

“Not again,” I groaned through gritted teeth as I pulled my woolly brown coat tighter around myself, the wind slashing through it like a sharp Ghostkersword. It had only been about an hour since the snowstorm let up but it had suddenly returned with a vengeance, the howling gale plastering cold snow into my face and threatening to sweep me off my furry feet. Thick though my coat, both of them, maybe I was but a Kacheek and couldn’t hope to stand for very long in this blizzard. Slowly I made my way through the deep snowdrifts, my head bowed low against the biting wind until finally I slumped, exhausted, behind a lonely boulder jutting out of the snow. With the wind shielded for the moment, I caught my breath and squinted my eyes, sweeping my head left and right, searching desperately for a suitable shelter.

I can’t die like this! Not like this! Not here not ever! I’ve got to find somewhere to take shelter … but I feel so sleepy. I’ll just close my eyes for … NO! I shook myself out of my stupor and for added measure slapped myself with one half-frozen paw. No I can’t fall asleep. Must find shelter …

Then, in the distance, I saw it. Silhouetted against the thick flurry of snow I saw the faint outline of a tower-like structure. With fresh resolve and hope in my chest, I set off in the direction of the building. As I drew nearer the edifice revealed itself as a derelict looking tower set into the face of a snow-covered cliff. Soon, my legs nearly giving out from under me, I fell onto the doorstep and with the last remains of my quickly fading strength I pulled open the heavy oaken door and fell into the tower, landing in a heap, subconsciously kicking the door shut behind me.

Jerkily, I picked myself off the cold floor, shaking the last flakes of snow off my coat and scraping off the ice crystals that had formed on my forehead, and took a look at my surroundings. My jaw dropped and my eyes widened in surprise.

The circular room I was in, far from the dump I had imagined, was finely decorated and looked fit for King Skarl himself (if he could fit in, of course). The fact that the place was still freezing cold was pushed to the back of my mind, compared with the sheer riches that lay before me. Pale, blue light filtered through strange icicle-shaped light sources and reflected off a multitude of solid gold fixtures. Gold candlesticks, gold framed pictures, mostly of various types of codestones, and a small, unlit gold chandelier all gave off a dull glow from the low light. Even the doorknobs on all three other doors, including the one I had just entered from, were made from gold. Not gold coated, pure solid gold. Sure there may have been other pieces of furniture that lacked gold fittings but they too, most of which consisted of Regal furniture, were of the highest quality possible. Totally forgetting to wait for whoever owned the place to come and greet me, I found myself walking around the lavish living room, examining every corner, touching the cold surface of every gilded object and stroking the plush furniture.

“Whoever lives or lived here must be filthy rich,” I whistled to myself. “And terribly messy,” I added, noting that the place looked like I hadn’t been dusted for at least a year and that various articles were arranged haphazardly throughout the room, as if someone had thrown a party and forgotten to clean up after. Draping my now dripping wet outer coat on a chair next to an empty fireplace I shook my head. I’ll clean up later, I promised myself and proceeded nonchalantly, as if I’d been living here for years, through a small door made of aged oak wood. Turning its gold handle, I pushed open the door and entered.

The room I entered resembled a study, about twice as long as it was wide to accommodate at least two rows of shelves filled with an assortment of tomes big and small and a sturdy-looking wooden table at the far end. As expected, the study was far from clean. Various rolled up scrolls and pieces of paper littered the floor, cabinets, shelves and table with the odd bottle or two of ink here and there. Carefully, I waded through the mess and picked up as much papers as I could but there were so many I finally gave up and set those in hand down in a neat pile on the table. Then my eye caught a couple of books sitting on the table and it widened considerably when I read the titles, the ‘Book of Ice Magic’ and ‘Book of Symbols’ among them. All were rare tomes that very few possessed. Then, as I shifted the Book of Symbols aside, I found a small, inconspicuous book, simply titled ‘Arrazaddan’s Property: Do NOT Disturb’. Ignoring the cover, I open the book curiously and started leafing through it. Apparently it was diary.

- 28th Day of Storing – I know I’m supposed to sleep but I was lonely. So I chatted up with Snowy outside. He doesn’t talk much but Nivo assured me Feepit Snowmen Petpets don’t talk much.

I looked up from the book and remembered there was no such thing Feepit Snowmen. Shrugging, I continued to read the next entry.

- 20th Day of Celebrating – Nivo and his friends visited me today and we had a cup of borovan. After taking a sip he told me borovan isn’t supposed to be made of dung. I wondered what he was talking about. Mine tasted fine but the rest seemed rather queasy after that.

- 25th Day of Celebrating – My relatives from the south disturbed me again. Now, I like my Meridell cousins but not ‘all’ of them. Day of Giving, bah! They only gave me a headache with all their chattering. If I had my way I’d give ‘them’ a piece of ‘my’ mind and freeze them like popsicles.

I raised an eyebrow and continued reading. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable sitting in this person’s home. The howling of the wind outside snapped me out of my thoughts and I lowered my nose to the book again.

- 29th Day of Sleeping – Kacheek Day is today. I love Kacheeks and I wish there were more of them around these parts -

I smiled coyly but my eyes widened at the next statement.

- Hopefully my wish comes true so I can turn them into nice soft plushies to hug when I’m sleeping. Or maybe an ice sculpture would do fine.

I looked around quickly and thought I heard something.

“It’s just the wind,” I told myself softly, more to reassure myself that it wasn’t the owner. With the sound of creaking floorboards and the whistling wind in my ear I proceeded to the next entry.

- 13th Day of Awakening – Dear diary, Valentine’s Day is coming soon and I hope that Vira gets my Valentines. Personally I think she’s cute, next to Kacheek plushies of course. Strangely, Snowy has melted. Nivo says they’re seasonal Petpets. Oh well.

- 15th Day of Awakening – Nivo saw you my diary and teased me about my Valentine’s. I had to endure his jokes all day. It was lucky I liked his gift, a box of Chocolate Chias, or I would have turned him into a Chia Pop. Thus I have put a spell on you so that you, my precious diary, will warn me in future whenever someone looks at you.

As I read the last word I heard a loud crashing sound from above me. A stomp and a howl rent the tower and, just as I threw down the book in panic, the door to the study burst open with a bang. I would have screamed but my mouth was dry and naught a sound came from it. There, framed in the light from the doorway, I saw a Draik. His eyes were narrow slits and his snout was a bright red. His twitching arms grasped a small, deadly looking wand that was emanating an intense cold.

The Draik fluttered unevenly towards me, as if struggling against launching himself at me. I wanted to bolt but my legs felt like jelly and simply refused to budge. As he got closer I noticed that his scales were a bleached white and almost glass-like, like ice, not the product of any paintbrush I had ever seen. With a hiss, the Draik came right up to me and stared at me nose to nose.

“Ye read my diary, didn’t ye,” the Draik said in a low, sinister voice with a thick Meridellian accent.

“I’m sorry, mister, I didn’t know, I … I mean I didn’t mean to. It’s just your diary was fascinating … I mean, I’m sorry,” I stammered. Then in a blink of an eye the Draik’s expression changed.

“Ye really think I am fascinating?” the Draik said in a bemused voice. He tapped his wand on his cheek, seemingly ignoring the cold, then looked at me, his eyes twinkling with amusement.

“Thank ye for the compliment. I am Arrazaddan an ice mage and also master of ancient portal magic. Come, let me brew us some of me special borovan. It’s been awhile since Nivo visited so maybe ye could accompany me. What do ye say?” Arrazaddan said very quickly.

The colour returned to my pale face and with a feeble smile I managed to say “I’d be pleased to” before I was ushered out of the room. Involuntarily I shuddered from the Arrazaddan’s touch; it was as cold as a glacier.

“Ye cold, eh Kacheek?” Arrazaddan commented from behind me, noticing my shudder. Much as I wanted to say yes I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I just shook my head. Arrazaddan raised one white eyebrow and shrugged. “Righ’ this way then.” The Draik pushed me into the living room and up to a small picture of an Orn codestone. With a wave of his claw the surface of the picture rippled as if made of water and gradually the picture expanded until it was about Arrazaddan’s size. Then I heard a weird chuckle behind me. “Jump through the wee little portal,” Arrazaddan cackled and I felt a hard push on my back.

With a small yelp, I fell straight into the picture’s surface. I was soon immersed in the clear watery stuff and immediately I felt a chill so intense it seemed to penetrate deep into my very soul. Just as I felt I would freeze to death I felt my two feet touch solid ground. I stumbled forward and almost fell onto my face when a claw grabbed the back of collar and hoisted me up again. “Careful there Kacheek, ye nearly fell o’er there,” Arrazaddan stated. I was shivering furiously by that time and had no more desire to protest, much less move, so I just stood there, teeth chattering wildly. A look of pity crossed the Draik’s face and he moved to an empty fireplace nearby. He pointed another claw at the hearth and said something unintelligible. Immediately a roaring fire appeared and Arrazaddan jumped back quickly as if seriously burned.

Seeing the warm flames I quickly rushed to the fireplace and held my pale paws up to it, savouring the comfortable heat from the dancing flames. After a moment of warming up over the fire I finally remembered about Arrazaddan. I turned around and saw that he was sitting down on a furry sofa in a corner, facing away from me. Hesitantly, I padded to the corner and tapped my paw on one of his cold shoulders. In a whirl of movement he turned around and brandished his icy wand again, his face twisting in fury. I backed away and promptly fell over a stool and fell on the hard stone floor, screaming in horror.

“DIE DEMON SC—” Arrazaddan screamed in rage but suddenly stopped half a foot away from me. A sad look came over him and he quickly replaced the wand in his belt. “I’m sorry about that,” he said apologetically, proffering me a clawed hand. “I’m just a little nervous, that’s all.” Cautiously I took his hand and pulled myself on my feet. “Say I didn’t quite catch yer name, Kacheek.”

“Oh how rude of me,” I said quickly, my cheeks flushing in embarrassment. “My name is Samantha.” Arrazaddan shook my paw.

“Nice to meet ye, Samantha,” he replied warmly, though his claws were still freezing cold. “Ye’ll be wanting something to drink then?” It was then that I noticed that I was in what looked like a small underground kitchen with no windows that had an almost similar design as the living room minus most of the gold fixtures and add an extra door. I nodded politely and followed him across the room to where a small oak table and two furry chairs were situated. With a flick of a claw, a pewter tray with a jug and two mugs lifted up from a shelf at one side and floated onto the table. “I hope ye like cold borovan because that’s all I ‘ave right now.”

As he poured the brownish liquid into a mug I remembered the diary entry about ‘dung borovan’ and started shaking my head. “No, sorry but I’m not thirsty,” I said quickly. Arrazaddan shrugged, still pouring the ‘borovan’ into the second cup.

“It’s yer loss, ye don’t know what yer missing,” he muttered, setting down the jug and taking a sip from his mug. “So what is a Kacheek like ye doing in these parts, Samantha? Not many of yer kind come up here.”

“Well,” I started, staring down at the sticky liquid in my mug. “I was on this skiing trip down Terror Mountain with some of my Usul friends. You know how they like skiing. But you see I didn’t know how to ski but I couldn’t tell my friends that could I? So eventually the rest left me behind, too engrossed in their fun to see me. Then a blizzard came out of nowhere.” I shivered a little at the mention of the dreadful snowstorm. “And I really thought I was going to die when I saw your, err, tower in the distance. So I stumbled inside and here I am.” I looked up to see Arrazaddan staring suspiciously at me.

“Skiing? What is this skiing? Is it some kind of battle technique?” Arrazaddan asked with his eyes narrowed. I managed a nervous laugh.

“No of course not,” I said, surprise at the lightness in my voice. “It’s a kind of sport that Usuls just love, like Whack-a-Kass is for Meridellians.” Arrazaddan’s eyes widened.

“Oh, I see now,” he replied brightly. “I used to love Whack-a-Kass. Do they hit Kass dolls around in skiing too?” I laughed again in amusement and proceeded to tell him as much as I knew about skiing and my ski trip. I barely noticed the sounds of the blizzard abating as I chatted with the funny Draik.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“So that’s it then,” I finished with a smile. “So what about you, Arrazaddan? Tell me about yourself.” The Draik took another sip from his mug and proceeded to talk merrily.

“As ye know I’m Arrazaddan, Arrazaddan Zaknarin, Court Wizard for the Royal House of Skarl of Meridell,” Arrazaddan bellowed importantly. I giggled at his boasting. “And also the most promising student of the arcane arts. Why, not even that whippersnapper Lisha could contest my skill. I was the best in the land, master of the ancient elemental Ice magic.” He paused to pour some more borovan in his mug.

“So why are you here then?” I asked curiously. He suddenly slammed the jug on the table and glared angrily at me.

“Don’t speak to the Court Wizard before ye are spoken t –” Arrazaddan’s red face suddenly faded into its normal pallor as his voice trailed off. He looked down on the floor and rubbed the back of his head with one claw. “Sorry ‘bout that. Maybe ye should—”

“No go on, I’m listening,” I said softly, my nerves a little frazzled by the latest outburst. I need to thread carefully around Arrazaddan, I thought warily.

“All right then,” Arrazaddan continued slowly. “During my studies as a Court Wizard I stumbled upon an old, sealed book somewhere in the library. I don’t remember much but I managed to get the stubborn thing to open. It appeared to be a book of Time and Space magic; a sphere of magic I didn’t even know existed. The knowledge in the tome was complicated and hard to understand but I set myself to the challenge.

“Then things got too noisy in Meridell, what with all that fightin’ and Lisha cryin’ and all,” Arrazaddan’s suddenly turned cold and his eyes widened frighteningly. “I couldn’t study there, I had to GET AWAY, I thought. Then it hit me: why not go to Terror Mountain? No one’ll disturb me studies there, NO ONE.” I was starting to get a little unnerved with his unsteady voice. “SO I built this here tower,” Arrazaddan rambled. “So that NO ONE will disturb me, not when I’m this CLOSE to unlocking the powers of Time and Space.” Arrazaddan’s voice changed in a blink of an eye.

“I don’t know how many years have passed, how many decades have passed, but I will continue with my research, even if it means my untimely demise,” he said in a controlled tone. He held up his pallid scaly arm. “This.” Then he waved his arms in a wide sweeping gesture. “And all this is all due to my work.” At that point I gave a slight shiver and noticed that the fire had burned out.

“Don’t you think it’s a little chilly in here?” I asked, wrapping my coat tightly around myself. The Draik shook his head.

“I no longer need heat,” he muttered. “I no longer need sleep nor do I need sustenance. I eat and drink when I want to and when I need to entertain guests. I can hardly feel my own beating heart anymore.

“But I am more than willing to sacrifice for my art. The portal you just came through,” Arrazaddan said, gesturing to a large picture of an Orn codestone. “Is one of my many creations. Dozens of portals crisscross the globe and soon my web of dimensional gates will help all Neopians to travel freely, quickly and effortlessly. Soon …”

I watched the Draik stare blankly straight past me, as if remembering something. The silence was deafening and the only sounds came from another picture/portal that was emitting a whirring sound.

“Err, Arrazaddan,” I began. The Draik nodded, still looking into space. “Who’s Nivo?” Arrazaddan’s eyes became clearer and as he opened his mouth to answer a loud noise sounded in the distance. Arrazaddan picked up his wand and I immediately crouched under the table. Peeping out from under the table, I saw Arrazaddan level his wand at a nearby door. The sounds became clearer and clearer until the distinguishable sound of heavy footsteps was heard.

“ARRAZADDAN! WHERE ARE YA?” A voice shouted from directly behind the door. Arrazaddan yelled and sprayed the door with a stream of razor sharp icicles. The door groaned under the onslaught but yielded not an inch, pierced by dozens of ice shards. I heard the sounds of loud cursing. “STOP IT YA BERK! DON’T YA KNOW IT’S ME?” The muffled voice yelled again. I saw Arrazaddan freeze and lower his wand slightly.

“Nivo? NIVO IS THAT YOU?”

“COURSE IT’S ME YER DURNED FOOL! NOW GET RID OF ALL THIS ‘ERE ICE, THE DOOR WON’ BUDGE!”

“TAKE THE TAI-KAI PORTAL!”

“YA KNOW I DON’ LIKE THEM THINGS!” The voice stayed silent for a moment. “FINE THEN!” The sound of footsteps faded away. Arrazaddan put away his wand and went up to me, offering his claw once again to help me up. Just as I got up the large picture of a codestone in the corner rippled and a very red faced Nimmo stumbled from its frame, followed by a Kougra, two shivering Kyriis (who looked exactly alike), a Techo and a Zafara. Every single one of them, except the Zafara, were pirates.

The Nimmo swaggered unsteadily up to Arrazaddan.

“An’ what do ya think yer doin’?” the Nimmo snarled. “Leavin’ us in the middle o’ the bloody sno’ storm, not ta mention blastin’ us with yah bleedin’ wand. Ya could ‘ave gotten me and me mates killed!”

“Then don’t ye go thundering in my home then,” Arrazaddan replied evenly. The Nimmo suddenly looked past him and pointed at me.

“And who, pray tell, is that?” the Nimmo asked. The others looked around at me, some looking suspicious, others looking curious. Arrazaddan went up to me and put one cold claw on my shoulder.

“This here is Alastar Nivo, the captain of the Black Quiggle,” Arrazaddan said happily to me, pointing at the Nimmo. “The Kougra would be Ferrod, the twins would be Dan and Murray, the Techo is called Shin and that there would be Mary the Zafara.” One by one he pointed at the others, who either bowed politely in confusion or glared questioningly at me.

“And she is Samantha, my new friend,” Arrazaddan stated, motioning to me. Nivo stared at me then to Arrazaddan.

“So when is she leaving? ‘morrow?” he asked.

“Actually not fer a month,” Arrazaddan stated matter-of-factly. “That’s when the snow melts.”

“WHAT?”

“And I hope we can all be friends. In fact why don’t ye get all of us some borovan as a token of our friendship, Samantha?”

I grinned awkwardly and proceeded to the shelf where I had seen the borovan. Little did I know that the simple act would bind me to the freezing cold mountain home for a long, long while with a half-mad Draik and a pirate captain and his crew.

How could I fail to notice the part about ‘token of friendship’?

To be continued …

Author’s note: What other surprises will Samantha find in the freezing home of Arrazaddan the Draik? What are Captain Nivo and his crew going to do? Who exactly is Captain Nivo? You’ll have to wait and find out.

 
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