The Highlands: Part Two
When Jordan woke up the next morning, he felt like going
back to sleep. It's far too early, his mind reasoned. Give the sun a
chance to get settled first. But Danger was already up and preparing for their
hike into the snowy regions of the Highlands, and so Jordan groaned and pulled
himself to his feet. Flinching, he looked down. His paws were bruised and tender
from the rough hike yesterday. It had been mainly over rocky paths, and normally
Jordan would have complained, but he reasoned that Danger must have gotten tough
paws like he had by roughing it, and so he said nothing.
After eating a quick breakfast of leftover fish
and fruit, they set off again. It seemed surprising to realize they were a third
of the way there. "We should make it to the Reingar camp by late afternoon tomorrow,"
As the morning wore on Jordan's feet grew sorer,
and got cuts from the sharp rocks. Not far off he could see the snow. The snow
would be softer on his paws, he thought, and so he kept silent.
An hour before noon they stopped for lunch. "This
is the last place we'll get fresh fruit," Danger explained. "It's too cold in
the snow for fruit to grow. We'll take some with us for tonight, but we won't
be able to keep it until tomorrow."
They only paused briefly, and then moved on.
The ground around the path was muddy and cold. Soon they began passing patches
of snow, and before he knew it they were walking on the cold, white substance.
Instead of being soft on Jordan's paws, however,
the snow burned them, stinging the cuts. He began to limp, but was afraid Danger
would think he was being weak if he said anything. Fyora knows how long he would
have gone on like that, but Danger turned around after a while to point out
rocks you could turn into flint, and noticed Jordan was limping. He frowned.
"Come here, kid."
Jordan obediently limped up.
"Let me see your paws."
Sheepishly, he sat up on his shanks and held
up his front paws. Danger looked at them for a second and shook his head. "You
should have said something." He reached into his rucksack and rummaged around.
"I didn't think they were worth worrying about.
I didn't want to complain."
"I need to teach you a lesson, Kid." This was
how Danger usually announced he was going to give Jordan some advice. "There's
a difference between being tough and being stupid. Sometimes it's not very big,
but it does exist." He pulled out some bandages and began to wind them around
Jordan flinched slightly. "How can you tell the
"It's hard, and sometimes you have to guess.
A good guide is, though, if it can't be helped, changed or acknowledged to some
benefit, don't grumble. But if you're in pain, and someone can do something
to help, don't be afraid to speak up. What do you think would have happened
if I hadn't told those two Kacheeks on Terror Mountain I was cold and wanted
shelter?" He finished tying the bandages. "See how that is."
Jordan put his paws back on the ground, and was
relieved to find they didn't hurt anymore. "That's much better. Thanks."
"Let's move on, then."
As they walked higher the air grew colder. Jordan
didn't notice, though, because the hike kept him warm. They passed through innumerable
valleys and over countless hills, waded through ice-cold streams and nearly
became lost when it began to snow heavily. All the while Danger was teaching
Jordan everything he knew, from how to start a fire with damp wood to how to
stalk and enemy to climbing up sheer rock faces to making a toboggan and to
how to camouflage yourself in forests.
Jordan couldn't remember when he had last enjoyed
himself so much. That night they camped out in an old cave, and Danger told
Jordan more stories about places he had been, but Jordan fell asleep after only
two. The day had exhausted him.
When he woke up the next morning he was sore
and stiff. He got up and shook himself.
"Are you cold, kid?" Danger asked.
"Yeah, I am."
"Best cure for feeling cold is to start the day
off with a jog. C'mon." The big Lupe sling the rucksack over his shoulder and
set off at a lope down the hillside. Jordan groaned and followed.
He had never thought snow could be so bright.
The day before had been overcast, but today was sunny and the light reflected
off the snow. Before long Jordan was hot, and his coat became matted with sweat.
Danger slowed down into a walk again and began teaching Jordan about telling
if a track was made by a wild Neopet or a domestic one.
A little before noon Danger halted and barked;
"Look sharp, kid!" This usually meant Danger had seen something, and wanted
Jordan to identify it.
Gazing around, Jordan tried to make out what
Danger had seen. Away in the distance a mountain seemed to be moving.
"What in Neopia is that?"
"Avalanche," Danger replied, watching it. "Snow
slide. You get caught in one of those and it's nearly impossible to get out."
"What caused it?"
"Snow built up on that mountain until it couldn't
hold it any more. Maybe a loud sound set it off. Maybe something large walked
on it, and its weight was too much. Possibly the Snow Beast."
Jordan looked at Danger wide-eyed. "The Snow
Beast? It actually exists?"
Danger snorted. "Of course it does. Where do
you think all the stories come from?"
"Will we see it?"
"Not unless it fell down in the avalanche. It
usually only lives on the other side of the Highlands, and sometimes on the
"Wow," Jordan breathed.
The avalanche had stopped, and they went on.
A little after noon they came to where the avalanche had fallen. The snow was
fresh and light from being churned, and their paws sank into it deeply. After
a little way they came to a hill, and Danger climbed up it. The view from the
top was incredible.
"Look at this, kid!" Danger yelled over the wind.
"We are now standing at the highest point of the Highlands!" He pointed north,
where a massive mountain loomed only a few miles away. "Terror Mountain! We'll
get to the camp midafternoon!"
Jordan felt exhilarated. The wind rushed past
him, rippling his coat and stinging his eyes. Slowly he gazed around himself,
marveling at the view. Standing between them and the camp at the base of Terror
Mountain was an expanse of frozen water. According to Danger, in the summer
the frozen canal would melt, and ships would sail between the two chunks of
land; but now it was winter and the water was frozen and they would have to
walk over it.
"C'mon!" Danger called. "We're at the highest
point of the highlands, and that means one thing: it's all down hill from here!
I'll race you!"
Down they sped over the fresh snow, running and
laughing and panting. Danger was kind enough to let Jordan win.
Rounding the corner of a valley, Jordan ran to
a clump of snow covered boulder and scrambled on top of then. A second later
Danger leapt into sight and stopped short. The smile disappeared from his face
and he yelled out, "Kid! Get away from there!"
Unsure of what was wrong, Jordan jumped off the
rocks and ran back to Danger. His ears were pinned back on his head, and his
fur stood on end. "Get behind me, kid!" he snapped. Jordan obeyed, just as the
rocks he had been climbing moved; declaring themselves not to be rocks at all.
Jordan whimpered and cowered behind Danger as
a huge and terrifying Snow Beast stood up groggily and looked around. Blinking
stupidly, it moaned and began to lumber towards them.
"Kid!" Danger hissed. "We need to get past him!"
"The valley's too narrow! Can't we go back?"
"No! We need to go forward! I'll distract it.
When I go out, count to three and run past it to the right. Do you understand
Terrified, Jordan nodded. Danger ran out towards
the snow beast. One... Jordan counted. Danger leapt at the huge beast and got
a death hold on its neck. The Snow Beast roared and batted him off.
Danger leapt again, snapping fiercely. Again
the Snow Beast batted at him, but this time Danger ducked. Unexpectedly the
Snow Beast kicked out with one of its feet, and sent Danger flying into a snowdrift.
Danger darted out and ran between the Snow Beast's
feet. Momentarily it became disoriented as it looked for its pesky attacker.
"RUN!" Danger yelled.
Jordan ran. He ran as fast as he could, past
the Snow Beast and through the valley. The monster saw and with a roar began
to chase him. Danger jumped again and got another hold on its neck. Fiercely
the Snow Beast pulled him off and threw him away. He landed with a yelp and
struggled to his feet. Running after Jordan, he caught up just as they reached
the expanse of ice that separated the Highlands from Terror Mountain.
"Keep going!" Danger gasped as Jordan showed
signs of hesitating.
As they sped across the ice field Jordan heard
a roar echoing from the gully they had come out of. Glancing behind, he saw
the Snow Beast was chasing them. Ahead he could see Terror Mountain. It would
take them what? Three minutes to get there at the rate they were going. The
Snow Beast was fast, though, and not far behind. He would catch up before they
Suddenly, he heard a huge creaking, groaning,
cracking sound coming from the ice. Glancing down, Jordan saw a crooked line
appear between his running feet. Another line zigzagged off to his right. The
Snow Beast was too heavy for the thin ice crust to hold its weight.
The Snow Beast roared again and lunged for them.
Danger darted to the left, knocking Jordan to safety. The Snow Beast landed
heavily on the ice, and with a cracking sound like thunder, it collapsed.
Jordan screamed as the piece of ice he was on
turned upright and dumped him into the ocean. The water was freezing. He clamped
his mouth shut so he wouldn't lose any precious air, and kicked upwards. Thank
goodness Danger had taught him how to swim.
Breaking the surface of the water between two
pieces of ice he swam towards the still whole ice sheet that stretched towards
Danger suddenly surfaced next to him, and gave
him a shove onto the ice. Scrambling up next to him, the two Lupes stood gasping
and shivering on the edge, looking back at the chaotic mess behind them. The
Snow Beast was nowhere to be seen.
"Wow," Jordan managed to gasp. "We beat the Snow
"I'm not so sure about th-"
The rippled surface of water in front of them
literally exploded as The Snow Beast lunged out of the water and at them. Jordan
leapt back as the ice under his feet crumbled. The Snow Beast grabbed at Danger
and dragged him back towards the churning water. Writhing, he managed to free
himself, and clung to the edge of a piece of ice as the Snow Beast sunk back
into the depths. Jordan scrambled around and looked back at Danger. The big
Lupe was clinging to a piece of ice, but when he tried to climb on top of it
it tipped precariously. Jordan tried to go forward to help his exhausted teacher,
but the cracked ice threatened to throw him into the water.
Danger closed his eyes and tried to concentrate.
His breathing was harsh and shuddering, and he could sense the Snow Beast was
swimming back for him again. Forcing the pain to the back of his mind he tried
to work out what his priorities were. Finally his thoughts cleared, and he saw
the only thing he could do.
"Kid!" he called. "You need to get to the camp!"
"Head straight for Terror Mountain. When you
get there, look for an outcrop of rocks to the left of the tunnel leading to
the Ice Caves. The base is in there. I'll do what I can here. Go! Now!"
The Snow Beast broke through the ice again, and
taking a deep breath, Danger let it pull him back into the water.
"NO!" Jordan screamed. "NO!" He darted along
the edge of the ice, but couldn't get to the water. In a panic, he did the only
sensible thing he could have done. He did what Danger had told him to do. He
turned and ran for Terror Mountain.
Tears of shock and fright ran down his face and
mingled with the salt water that matted his fur. The bandages around his paws
had come undone and running on the hard ice stung the cuts, but he didn't care.
The only thing he cared about was getting back to the camp, where he could be
with people again. His mother. He would be able to hide there. Hide from the
pain and the loss and the fright.
His breath was coming hard and his legs were
telling him to slow down, but he didn't. Because Danger had told him to run
to the camp, he would.
At last he came to the base of Terror Mountain.
He found the outcrop of rocks, and looking around them found a hidden door that
led into the Reingar base.
Inside was a lot like the base outside the Haunted
Woods. It was wooden and a fire burned in the corner. Shadowed characters leaned
against one of the walls, talking. Jordan didn't look at them. Danger had been
one of those people once. Instead he walked, gasping, to the desk where a sweet
looking Xweetok was standing.
Concern clouded her eyes as she looked at his
soaking, shivering, frightened form.
"What in Neopia happened to you, son?"
In a breath he told her, and shaking her head
sympathetically she rummaged in a cupboard and found a towel.
"These things happen. I know Danger. It's too
late for us to do anything to help now. He's a good swimmer. He still has a
Jordan shook his head but allowed the Xweetok
to lead him to a chair in front of the fire.
"Your mother should be here in an hour or so.
I'll bring you a cup of tea while you wait." The Xweetok smiled and left him
Thoughts swirled in his head as he curled himself
up miserably in the chair, but he must have fallen asleep because he was suddenly
woken up by a familiar, rough voice.
"Hey, Kid, I have a couple days free next month.
You wanna come on a trip up Terror Mountain with me?"
Jordan jumped out of his chair and stared wide-eyed
at the wet Lupe standing near him.
"DANGER!" he yelled in delight. "You're all right!"
Danger snorted. "Course I am. And you seem to
be, too, by the way you're yelling."
Jordan threw his arms around Danger's neck ecstatically.
The big Lupe awkwardly patted his back.
"All right. You can let go now. No need to strangle
Jordan let go and looked at his teacher. A glint
in his blue eyes betrayed he was pleased.
"So how 'bout this trip? You wanna come?"
"Do I ever!"
Danger grinned. "Mark my words, kid. We'll make
a Reingar member out of you yet!"