Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 127,792,023 Issue: 260 | 6th day of Collecting, Y8
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Fire and Gold: Part Two

by silvormoon


When Gerra returned home, she was in the worst mood of her life. She had spent all her life dreaming of the day when she would finally become a Snow Eyrie, and now she was exactly the opposite of a Snow Eyrie. What was she going to do now? What was she going to tell her parents? To add to her misery, it was sleeting on Terror Mountain, and Gerra's fiery new paint job made the cold feel ten times worse than it ever had before. She wanted desperately to be warm. Steam rose off her back where the sleet fell on her and melted. Her paws melted a series of holes in the snow where she had walked, which quickly turned icy as the melted snow froze again.

      When at last she reached her home, she brushed the ice off the door handle and let herself in.

      "I'm home," she called miserably.

      Two snow-white heads poked around a corner - Terr and Sherra, Gerra's older brother and sister.

      "Gerra?" asked Terr. "Is that you?"

      "It's me," said Gerra sadly.

      "What happened to you?" asked Sherra, stepping closer for a better look. "Why, you're... you're..."

      "A Fire Eyrie," Gerra complained. "Why did this have to happen? I did everything right! This is so not fair!" She flopped down on the carpet and buried her face in her paws.

      "Gerra?" called a voice from the back of the house. "Gerra, honey, is that you?" Gerra's mother appeared, accompanied by Gerra's father. The both stopped short when they caught sight of her.

      "There had better be an explanation for this," said Gerra's father.

      Gerra sniffled. "It was that stupid Meerca," she said. She quickly explained what had happened at the Rainbow Pool. Her family listened in sympathetic silence.

      "Well, this is certainly very unusual," said Gerra's mother when she'd finished. "I've never heard of anything like this happening before."

      "What should I do?" asked Gerra. "I can't stay like this forever! I'll freeze!"

      "I'm sorry, honey," her mother said, "but once you're painted, you stay that way forever, unless you paint yourself again. That's just how it is."

      "Can't we get another Paint Brush?" asked Gerra.

      Her father shook his head. "That would take a long time, maybe years. We were barely able to afford the last one."

      "But I don't want to be a Fire Eyrie!"

      "It will be all right. We'll think of something," said her mother soothingly. She reached out a paw to pat Gerra's shoulder, and quickly drew it back. "Ow, you're hot!"

      Gerra felt a sudden sinking feeling as she realized the facts: her family were all Snow Eyries, and her new fiery feathers were too hot for them to touch. As long as she was stuck this way, she would never be able to hug her parents or tussle with her brother and sister. That was too much for her. She began to cry. Tears streamed down her beak and disappeared into clouds of steam before they hit the floor. Her parents looked at each other worriedly.

      "It will be all right," said her mother again, this time more firmly. "Don't cry. Come on - you'll feel better once you've eaten dinner."

      Gerra did not feel better once she'd eaten dinner. They were having one of her favorite treats: snow pizza, with blueberry snow puffs for dessert. Unfortunately, as soon as she touched the food, it melted, leaving her with nothing but a soggy pizza crust and a sticky blueberry puddle. To compound her unhappiness, she was still cold, even inside the house. As soon as the meal was over, she retreated to her room and covered herself with every blanket she could find. Only then did she begin to feel properly warm again.

      After a few minutes, her brother and sister slipped into the room. They sat down next to her at a careful distance.

      "Gerra?" said Sherra. "You okay?"

      "No," Gerra admitted. "But at least I'm warm now."

      "We've been trying to think of a way to help you," said Sherra. "We think we've got an idea.

      Gerra poked her head out from under the heap of blankets. "Really? What is it?"

      "The Snowager," said Terr simply.

      Gerra thought about that. The Snowager was, of course, part of life on Terror Mountain. Her daring brother had gotten his favorite plushie by sneaking into the Snowager's lair, and on special occasions, Gerra's father would sneak in and return with delicious Neggs for a treat. Of course, he'd also made the Snowager angry a few times and spent the next few days limping.

      "What has he got to do with anything?" Gerra asked.

      "Have you ever seen his lair?" asked Terr. "He's got all kinds of valuable stuff stacked up in there. There's bound to be a Paint Brush mixed in there somewhere, right? It might not be the kind you want, but anything is better than the way you are right now."

      "Well, you're right about that," said Gerra. And he was - anything, including being blasted by the Snowager, was better than spending the rest of her life shivering with cold.

      "I know what time he takes his nightly nap," said Terr. "I'll wake you up when it's time. Just sneak out tonight and go down to his cave and see what you can find."

      "I'll do it!" said Gerra.

      Feeling much more content now that she had a plan, Gerra settled down to take a rest. She would need all her energy when it came to facing down the Snowager.


      True to his word, Terr woke Gerra in the night and did what he could to help her into her snow things. He wished her good luck and saw her as far as the entrance to the Ice Caves before he turned back home, to make sure no one realized he was missing. Gerra wished he had decided to stay, but it was safer to face the Snowager alone than to bring friends - more Neopians meant more noise, and it wouldn't do to wake the sleeping dragon.

      Gerra shivered, and not just from nervousness. The inside of the Ice Caves felt, if anything, even colder than the outside world. The entrance to the Snowager's lair was up ahead, looking disconcertingly like a gaping mouth. She wondered a bit hysterically if the Snowager had made it look that way himself, or if he'd chosen the den for that particular feature. She swallowed hard and crept up close to the cave's opening, and peeked inside. She couldn't see a thing, but she thought she heard something breathing in there. What if her brother had mis-remembered the time, and the Snowager was awake? What if she woke him up? Well, there was nothing she could do about the situation now but go forward. Moving as silently as she could, she slipped into the cave.

      She just barely stopped herself from heaving a sigh of relief. The Snowager was asleep, curled up on top of a massive heap of treasures. Even as nervous as she was, she couldn't help but be amazed at how many things were piled in there, and such incredible ones! If she had been a greedy sort of pet, she would have been overcome with desire for some of the gleaming treasures spread out before her. As it was, she could only scan the hoard in hopes of spying a Paint Brush - any Paint Brush. Unfortunately, she couldn't see anything like one. She would have to take a closer look.

      The closer she walked, the bigger the Snowager looked, and the harder it was to think about anything but how uncomfortable it would be to be blasted by him. Still, she steeled herself and crept right up to the edge of the pile, and, finding no Paint Brushes in plain view, plunged a paw into the heap and began to dig around.

      Her paw closed on something furry. It yelped.

      Immediately, the Snowager looked up. Gerra did the only thing she could think of: she dove into the pile of treasure and buried herself in it.

      There was a rustling noise above her, and Gerra held her breath as she listened to the Snowager uncoil itself. It grumbled, and then slowly slid down to the floor and began slinking around, trying to find the source of the noise. Gerra watched it from her hiding place until it had crawled out of sight.

      "Whew," she sighed.

      "You said it," a voice agreed.

      Surprised, Gerra pushed her way free of the piles of odds and ends until she could see what it was she'd grabbed hold of. There was a shiny Gold Meerca sitting next to her, gleaming brightly even in the dim cavern.

      "It's you!" she exclaimed. Even though he looked different, she still recognized the voice and the face - it was the same cheeky Meerca who had caused all the chaos back at the Rainbow Pool.

      He looked slightly abashed. "Yeah, it's me," he admitted.

      "What are you doing here?" Gerra asked. "No, wait, never mind. We need to get out of here before the Snowager comes back."

      "Not without a Paint Brush," said the Meerca stubbornly.

      Gerra shook her head. "There's no time. The Snowager's awake. We'll never find one in all this junk before he comes back. We've got to get out now."

      She suited action to words by turning and trotting towards the door. She wasn't feeling too kindly towards the Meerca who had put her in this mess in the first place; if he was foolish enough to stay and tempt danger, she wasn't going to stop him.

      However, she hadn't made it halfway across the room before there was a mighty roar that sent icicle-stalactite plummeting down from the ceiling. Gerra didn't need to look to see that the Snowager was back, and he was angry. It took a deep breath and prepared to shoot a blast of ice at her. She stood frozen in panic, unable to move.

      "Hey, slush-for-brains, over here!" the Meerca shouted.

      The Snowager's head swivelled, looking for the source of the new sound. The Meerca scooped a chocolate Negg up with his tail and lobbed it at the Snowager. The Negg hit him squarely between the eyes, splattering gooey chocolate everywhere. The Snowager, blinded by the mess, roared again and shook his head, trying to rid himself of the sticky stuff in his eyes.

      "Run, run, run!" the Meerca squeaked.

      He took off like a shot, his metallic paws chiming against the floor. The Snowager turned to the noise and gathered himself for another attack. Gerra saw the attack and did the only thing she could think of: she took to the air. She swooped down and grabbed the Meerca a split-second before a rain of icicles hit the place where he had been. While the Snowager continued to try to clean his face, Gerra wheeled through the air, keeping her wingbeats soft and silent, and swooped out of the cavern. Soon they were safely far away from the Snowager and his lair, and Gerra dropped the Meerca in a soft pile of snow before landing gently next to him.

      "Did you have to grab me by the tail?" he asked her.

      "Would you rather have been blasted?" Gerra retorted.

      "I guess not," the Meerca admitted. "Um... I guess I should probably thank you for that."

      "You probably should," Gerra agreed, "but since you saved me by throwing that Negg, I guess we're even."

      "I guess so," he agreed. "Anyway, I'm Twee. Who are you?"

      "Gerra," she replied. "So what were you doing in the Snowager's lair?"

      "Um," he said. "It's kind of a long story."

      Gerra settled down on the ground and folded her paws beneath her, trying to keep them warm. "Tell me anyway. How did you get way up here? Last time I saw you, you were causing trouble at the Rainbow Pool."

      "Oh, you saw that, huh?" he asked.

      "It's your fault I'm stuck this way in the first place," Gerra snapped. "Thanks to you, everything I touch melts!" Sure enough, there was already a small puddle forming around her as the nearby snow and ice liquefied.

      "Hey, I don't like being this way, either!" Twee protested. "I was trying to paint myself Halloween."

      "You stole a Paint Brush."

      "Yeah," he said. "I used to be colored Shadow, and I hated it. I thought it would keep people from noticing me when I was trying to steal stuff - and it did, but then people stopped noticing me all the time, and I didn't like that. I just blended into the background, and nobody ever paid any attention to me. So I decided what I really wanted was to be something totally different. See, I live in the Haunted Woods, and there are a lot of really scary types living down there. Bigger Neopets are always picking on me and pushing me around because I'm so little, so I decided I wanted to be something scary - Halloween, or maybe Tyrannian. Something like that. Something to make people take me seriously. So I figured I had to get a Paint Brush somewhere, so I went to the Rainbow Pool. It would have worked if I hadn't gotten caught."

      "Well, you did get caught," said Gerra. "Anyway... how come if you stole a Halloween Paint Brush, you ended up like this?"

      "Like you said, I got caught," Twee replied. "Someone was about to grab me, and I tried to get away by jumping into the pool. A Pteri flew by and swiped the Paint Brush right out of my hands, and I fell into the water, and when I came out, I was like this."

      "Better Gold than Fire," said Gerra.

      "Huh, that's what you think," Twee replied. "Haunted Woods, remember? Dark, dank, spooky, all that stuff? I'd stick out like a sore thumb! I'd never be able to hide from anybody, and there are kinda lots of pets back there who I'd like to hide from, if you know what I mean. I can't go back there until I can turn myself back to some decent color."

      "And that's why you went to bother the Snowager?" Gerra guessed.

      "Right," said Twee, nodding. "I went in there and started poking through his things, and I guess he heard me. He looked up, and I curled myself up into a little ball. Kinda stupid thing to do, thinking I could hide when I'm this... shiny. I thought the Snowager was going to blast me for sure, but he just picked me up and stuck me in a pile of Neggs. I guess when I curl up small like that, I do look sorta round and Negg-ish." He illustrated, wrapping his tail around himself so that his face and paws didn't show. Gerra thought he did indeed look somewhat like a particularly shiny Negg.

      "I see," she said aloud. "Well... I guess it is kind of your own fault that you got painted the wrong color, and then got caught by the Snowager. Then again, you've probably been punished enough already, and you did help me escape. Maybe the two of us working together can find some way to turn ourselves the right colors again."

      "How are we supposed to do that?" asked Twee. "I couldn't even steal one Paint Brush, much less two."

      "We aren't going to steal a Paint Brush," Gerra replied sternly. "There's got to be another way we can do it."

      "Well, I can't think of one," said Twee.

      "Umm..." Gerra thought hard, her tail twitching in agitation. Then her eyes lit up. "I know! We'll ask Taelia."

      "The Snow Faerie? Hey, that's a good idea!"

      Gerra nodded eagerly. "She's very wise, and she knows magic - well, she is a Faerie, so I guess they all do. Sometimes she'll even give you good things if you do favors for her."

      "So maybe if we do something good for her, she'll give us a Paint Brush?" asked Twee. "Well, couldn't hurt to ask, I guess. She can't be as nasty as the Snowager is."

      "She's nice," said Gerra. "My parents visit her sometimes. We'll go visit her first thing tomorrow."

      Twee looked out the exit to the ice caves. The moon was still shining over Happy Valley. "Yeah, I guess we would make a better impression if we didn't wake her up. Let's try to get some sleep."

      Gerra nodded. Now that the excitement was over, she was feeling tired again. The two of them crept off into a corner where no drafts could reach them, and settled down close to each other for warmth. Within a few minutes, they were both sound asleep.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Fire and Gold: Part One
» Fire and Gold: Part Three

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