One Last Song: Part One
Author's note: If you haven't read my first series, "The
Price of Faith," I highly suggest you do so before you read this one, to better
understand it. This is a prequel to Radom and Pandora's first adventure, and I
hope you'll all enjoy learning about our heroic friend when he was young, in a
series of short stories on how he came to be the way he is now. This is Radom's
"I know, Radom. I am too. But we'll find something.
We always do, don't we?"
"But everyone down in Happy Valley has an owner
to feed them. How come we don't live with a human too, Mama?"
"That's just the way it is, I'm afraid. Not everyone
can be fortunate. We just have it a little tougher than everybody else, but
that doesn't mean--"
"But we're street rats!"
"Radomik! Don't you say that! What in the world
put something like that in your head?"
"But everybody else says it! That's what they
"Well, from now on, it'll be everybody less one."
"But Mama, don't they bother you too? Everyone
else is so mean to us, and it's 'cause we don't have a house or an owner or
"Honey, money means nothing. We may not have
all that, but you know what? We have something even better, I think."
"Well… we have each other."
Kaiya would be quite beautiful, if only she was
allowed that privilege. Her fur was the color of a crimson tulip nodding in
the summer sun, but had become muffled and dirty from never having seen a brush,
snarled and sticking up in places. She was a petite Lupe, graceful and as smooth
in motion as a dancer, but perhaps would be even more elegant if she wasn't
so thin from lack of food, or so well-built from constant physical action. Although
slightly rough in feature due to living high on the rugged terrain of Terror
Mountain, her bushy tail was known to wag, and she had a beautiful smile that
illuminated her face from within. And her eyes, a shade of such dazzling indigo
they could put the very flowers to shame, were always alive and bright in their
own radiance. To the rest of society, she was looked down upon, a wild Lupe
with no money, home, or owner, who sometimes had to resort to stealing to keep
herself alive. But to her son, she was a champion. The greatest being in Neopia.
And with each light step across the snow, his
small paws stepped in each of her paw prints close behind. He was just a pup,
at that stage in his young life where he was composed chiefly of ears and legs,
a lanky, clumsy mass with the unique ability to trip over himself and under-calculate
his own strength or just where his feet could go. He was getting bigger all
the time, but still had to trot to keep up with his mother's even pace now,
and had no idea what their strength comparison may be, for he would more readily
throw himself off the mountain than spoil a hair on her head.
He was awkward now, but Kaiya had faith that
he would grow into a handsome Lupe. He'd be bigger than her someday, and possibly
stronger and faster, but that day was a long way off now. Unlike his mother,
the puppy's fur was, in various tones, the color of rich chocolate, and while
her fur was rough, his was soft and downy. But he had her brilliant smile, and
soon he would master this mountain just as well as she had, gliding along smoothly
and without difficulty. His eyes, as yellow as fall leaves, were already tawny
and sharp, eager and alert. To society, he too was at the bottom of the ladder,
a mixed mutt with no future or life to speak of. But, to his mother, Radomik
The unusual pair made their way down the sloping
frame of Terror Mountain, snaking down to the valley below them. After all,
food couldn't be expected to grow on the merciless peak in unyielding blizzards
and ice, and often Happy Valley was the only place one could seek out some rations.
Although it was clear Kaiya hated the task of stealing what they needed, what
other choice did they have? It was for her son, not her. She'd starve to death
before she allowed her child to go hungry.
"Maaaa-maaa," the young Lupe whined, "I don't
want to go to the valley!"
Kaiya just smiled patiently, glancing back at
him as they made their way down. "But then how else are we going to get something
"I don't know, but everyone down there is so
"That's no excuse."
"But they call me names and say bad things about
you and say 'hey, mutt,' like that, and I don't like it! They don't even help
us; they make it hard instead! Isn't it okay to hate them?"
Her brow knitted slightly. "It is not. It's not
okay to hate anybody."
"But they have money and owners and still--"
"Radom, it doesn't matter who or what they are,
what they do or say; they are still people, and you will treat them as such.
It's a crime to hate."
That was the only time in his life Radom ever
heard her say it was a crime to do anything, so he took it to heart. "Oh." He
frowned and looked at the ground, his ears flicking back as he saw the town
coming into view out of the corner of his eyes. "Sorry, Mama."
She failed to suppress a smile. "That's alright,
He fell quietly into her tracks once more, trailing
after her as they wound into the outskirts of Happy Valley, the tight-packed
snow underfoot turning into fluffy flakes; the previously barren white landscape
now freckled with small, warm huts with gently smoking chimneys, and pets bundled
in warm clothing bustled about everywhere. The same old sight, shops galore,
and a small cave carved into the side of the mountain on the far outskirts their
usual first stop.
He knew the drill. Radom padded into the rocky
hole, out of the lightly falling snow, but turned to look back out at his mother.
"How come I can't go with you?"
"You know why. I can't have you getting hurt."
Kaiya always left Radom in a safe, secluded place nearby while she went out
and got them food, unwilling to endanger him in her sometimes risky stealing,
if all else failed. "You just wait here, and I'll be back soon, alright?" And
without waiting for his protests, the Red Lupe turned and trotted away from
the mouth of the cave and out of sight.
Sighing dejectedly, Radom flopped down on the
cold stone floor and rested his head on his front paws. Snow dusted his brown
fur, and outside he had a view of smooth white ground external of the main bustle
of shops and houses, with the frozen pond in sight. Not much to see. He never
got to do anything (or so he thought, while glowering accusingly at the rocky
A cold gust of wind swept across the area, stirring
the snow-blanketed bushes in one long, chilly sigh. Radom's ears perked as something
else was carried to him by the breeze. Voices. He lifted his head just in time
to see a bright red ball bounce over the hill and roll onto level ground, stopping
to sit harmlessly alone in the middle of the snow right outside the cave. He
could hear a group of children just out of sight from where he lay, clearly
looking for their toy that had been thrown too far.
"You kicked it too hard, dummy."
"Aw, shut up."
"I think it went this way!"
Radom went rigid. What if they saw him? What
if--? He shook his head, coming to the conclusion that after what his mother
had said, he should at least give them another chance. She had told him to stay
put, but… Oh! Maybe they'd even let him play with them! With this in mind, he
leapt onto his feet, his tail swishing behind him as he shot out of the safety
of his little cave without a second thought.
Bounding out into the open, he bowed his head
to snatch the ball off the ground without so much as a pause, and went scampering
over the hill to greet what he imagined would be grateful faces ready to receive
the savior of their beloved toy. "Hey, I found your ball!" he called, but slowed
to a rather sudden stop when the group appeared in front of him.
Framed by the colorful town well behind them,
a cluster of six young Neopets had stopped dead in their searching when they
saw him. In unison, they all looked at a stocky purple Yurble in their midst.
They were all dead silent for a moment, Radom's tail slowly drooping. The Yurble,
apparently the designated leader, was the first to speak up.
"What d'you think you're doing?!" he spat, glaring
daggers at Radom with eyes like black ink.
The brown Lupe tried to speak, his eyes widening,
but only made a muffled sound through the ball in his teeth.
"Ewww!" a speckled Acara burst out. "He's touching
"Give it back, thief!" the Yurble snarled, starting
Startled, he dropped the ball and staggered away
a few paces. "But I didn't! I was just bringing it back to you! I found it and
I just wanted to--"
"Don't get near my stuff ever again!" The Acara
had rushed forward just long enough to snatch her ball up, wrinkle her nose
in disgust, and then retreat back among her friends once again.
"Well-I was just trying to--" Radom stared around
in surprise, his spirits sinking when he was greeted by stony expressions on
all sides. "I… I'm sorry…"
After scoffing, a blue Kacheek went to sizing
the Lupe up tentatively. "Hey, isn't he the kid of that Lupe who stole from
your dad once, Dace?" he contributed uncertainly, glancing at the Yurble.
The alleged Dace flustered at once. "I knew it!
She stole some fruit from us, so my mom couldn't make more smoothies, so I
didn't get to have one! It's your fault!"
"What?! My mama stole that because we
"Why the heck should I care?" he huffed.
Radom could feel his eyes narrow as he swung
from fear to resentment. "All you guys care about is yourselves! How can you
be so selfish?" They were starving, and all this kid cared about was a smoothie?
"We are not! You're just jealous that
we're better than you! Because your fur is an ugly color and you don't have
any toys," the Acara snapped, although whether it was an accusation or a brag
was hard to say, for she smiled in a self-satisfied way as she held her red
ball close against her lovely speckled fur. "And you're just a mutt! A silly,
cowardly little street urchin, that's what my mother said!"
Radom could feel his fur bristle as he tensed.
See, he was right all along. It wasn't wrong to hate people like this! "What
does she know?! I'll bet none of you have ever done anything brave or hard in
your whole lives!"
Clearly feeling challenged, Dace stood tall and
glared down at him. "Have too!"
"Uh-huh, like what?" Radom retorted.
The Yurble paused. The corner of his mouth twitched
downward, and he glanced back at his friends for support. The green Mynci and
yellow Grarrl behind him shrugged helplessly, and their remaining friend, a
Christmas Bori, cleared his throat and looked away.
Radom raised his eyebrows victoriously. "See,
you can't even think of one thing." Feeling a bit bolder at his moment of triumph,
he added without thinking, "I'm not a coward, but I don't know about
But he regretted this choice of words almost
immediately. All six of the other pets froze and looked at Radom. Well, it wasn't
so much a look as a laser. Radom's ears slowly lowered, and the other children
could just about cause the spring thaw with their glowers alone, leaving the
Lupe to wonder just how much shunning would be dealt for his audacity to question
"I am NOT a coward!" Dace burst out, and Radom
half expected laser beams to fire from his eyes. "And if you're not, why don't
you prove it?!" Before Radom could open his mouth in response, the Yurble pressed
on. "And just talk won't get you anywhere! You have to show me you're not cowardly
or I'll never believe it!"
"Well, how do I do that?"
"You have to--" Dace did some quick thinking,
as after only a moment's pause a twisted little smile wiggled across his face.
Radom didn't like that expression at all. "You have to go into the Snowager's
Cave and come out with something."
"Like your first toy," the Acara muttered haughtily.
The Christmas Bori was quick to nod in agreement.
"That's right, or else you're just a scaredy Aisha!"
Severely outnumbered, Radom found himself facing
a wall of smug Neopets, with paws on their hips and scoffing faces, eyes glimmering
with the challenge. "I--" he hesitated nervously, remembering how his mother
had always told him to stay away from that cave, because it was too dangerous.
It was just to keep him safe, she had said.
"Ooooh," the chanting begun, "Mutt's a scaredy-Aisha!"
"I knew it!"
"That's why his mother has to do everything for
"Gosh, mutt, can't you even help your own mom
out by yourself?"
"He's too scared! Ha ha!"
"I am not!" Radom barked suddenly. "I can do
Dace grinned impishly. "Then prove it."
Frowning sullenly, Radom knew that his mouth
was several steps ahead of his brain all too often, but there was no turning
back now. "Alright, I will!"
"Then let's go. We'll all want to see this one."
Gesturing for his crew to follow him, the purple
Yurble turned and started toward the pathway up Terror Mountain, smirking smugly.
"Come on, mutt. If you don't back out first."
Snorting, Radom quickly followed, falling in
among this unlikely group as they all made their way toward the Ice Caves set
jaggedly in the mountainside above them. He didn't look back at his safe little
cave behind where he was supposed to be waiting, although each step that brought
him further away from it made his heart drum just a little faster.
A snow flurry that gusted over had left all of
their fur speckled with white, and most of the group was panting and tired by
the time they had hiked up to the Ice Caves. All aside from Radom, who was well
used to constantly moving through the snow that he hadn't slowed down once,
and now found himself standing in the Ice Caves, away from where most people
were and standing right outside the Snowager's Cave. Although underfoot there
was nothing but sleek ice, and all around were glimmering icy walls, and snow
clung to his thick pelt, Radom didn't think it was the cold that was making
him shiver now.
"Alright. Let's see you do it," Dace uttered,
although his voice had become no more than a whisper now, and all of his friends
hung back several yards and stared on with wide eyes. "If you want to get yourself
killed, all you have to do is walk in there!"
Radom had to take a deep breath before he could
muster another testing glare. But apparently he loved honor more than his head,
for he padded straight into the looming cave. His confidence was short-lived,
however, as at the sound of even breathing he slowed his pace cautiously and
kept low, his ears and tail back and wide yellow eyes scanning the dark cave.
Through the inky black, he could see the towering
shape of the Snowager coiled around his pile of treasures, sleeping quietly.
Radom winced at each step, feeling every light click of his paws against the
ice was far too loud, and that his heartbeat must be reverberating off the walls
at that moment.
But the monster was asleep, so all he had to
do was grab something and run. It wouldn't be so hard. Or so he told himself.
Why, if his mother could be sneaky, so could he. But the last thing he needed
to be at this moment was cocky, and that's just where he was headed with each
He was close now. So close. He could see the
outline getting bigger and bigger, make out the shapes of various plushies and
junk items, feel the serpent's frosty breath ruffle his fur and chill him to
the bone. Closer… closer…
There! Radom stretched out his neck and picked
up the first thing he could reach, and found a Yellow Scorchio Plushie hanging
from his mouth. His heart skittering, his ears perked up and he turned to look
over his shoulder at the yawning entrance to the cave, where he could see the
forms of the other kids staring on motionlessly. Feeling as though he had proven
his merits, Radom grinned at their gaping faces. They didn't think he could
do it, but they were wrong, and he sure showed them!
He took a step forward, but suddenly, Dace and
his group staggered back. Radom paused, but the others had scrambled over one
another before he could make another move, and with hardly enough time to blink,
all six of them had sprinted away and out of sight. What in the world…? He took
another step-- Click. Groan.-- but froze suddenly at the noise behind
He whirled around suddenly, his eyes growing
huge, but found that he was no longer staring at the sleeping serpent. Now,
it was raised up as though ready to strike, a low rumbling issuing through the
shimmering ice. And its eyes were right on Radom.
Still clamping the Plushie firmly in his mouth,
Radom let out a muffled scream and reeled around, making a wild dash for the
exit. But at that moment the Snowager let out an earth-shaking roar, and Radom
could feel a massive blast of cold air nearly bowl him over, and realized with
horror that shards of ice went plummeting into the wall ahead of him from behind.
He staggered, his claws scuffing the ice as he
wildly tried to maintain his balance while running, but he found they gave way
and sent him spinning across the ice. More blasts of snow hurtled past him,
but this time, he couldn't get out of the way. The sounds of his shrieks were
drowned out by the bellow of the beast, and just as his vision was becoming
packed with nothing but a flurry of white overtaking his little body, he could
have sworn he saw a flicker of red somewhere in the muddle.
And then everything went black.
"Radom! Radom, wake up! Come on, baby, please…
The Lupe pup moaned and blinked back into his
fuzzy world. It took him several seconds to orient himself enough to realize
that he was in a shallow cave, lying on a rocky floor safe from a blizzard howling
just outside, so that he could see nothing but white past the mouth of the cave.
The face of a red Lupe came into focus directly above him.
"Mama!" He tried to stand, but found himself
slumping back down as his legs gave way. His head throbbed tremendously. "Owww…"
Kaiya's face lit up with relief, but just like
that, it had flickered out into a stirring mixture of fear and anger. "Radomik!
What could have possibly possessed you to do something like that?! When I came
back to get you and found you missing, can you possibly imagine how worried
I was? And then I find you- Fyora help me- in the Snowager's Cave!"
"Radomik, you could have died! What would
you have done if I hadn't shown up at that very moment?! You could have gotten
me killed as well! Now you're hurt- and you stay down, Fyora help you- and I
just barely got us back here in one piece! And it could have been far worse,
I'll have you know! The food just barely made it, and you could have been killed
for a- for some toy!" She shot an accusing glare at the corner of the cave,
where the plushie he had retrieved sat harmlessly, a sewn-on smile greeting
her furious scowl.
"I told you to stay put! You disobeyed me and
put yourself in very real danger! How can I trust you if you do something like
that? How can I ever know you're safe? How can I even let you out of my sight
"Mama, listen!" Radom choked, his wide eyes glistening
with unshed tears. "It was those other kids! They- they were making fun of me
again, and you, and they called me a coward! I tried to talk, like you told
me, but they wouldn't listen! They said I was a coward who could never help
you if I couldn't prove I was brave! So I went in there to get something from
the Snowager, like they told me, to prove it, and- b-but Mama, they were right!
I'm not brave! I just wanted to help you, but I'll never be brave like you!"
His voice hitched, and his eyes blurred with tears as they began burning hot
trails down his cheeks.
Kaiya's face suddenly softened, and she slowly
sat down in front of her son, looking down at him almost sadly. "Radom… honey,
that's not what being brave is about… Everybody gets scared, including me, especially
today when I thought I might lose you. Nothing could be scarier in the whole
world. It's when you're scared and still do it anyway, that's brave. But not
just something like that… Honey, you don't need to prove yourself to those people.
They don't know you. It doesn't matter what they say, and you know it. You know
better than to listen to them, and what you did was not brave, it was a pointless
threat on your safety." She shook her head slowly, her voice stern but her eyes
endlessly gentle. "I was scared when I saw you in that cave. But I wasn't afraid
when I ran in there myself to save you. As long as you would be safe, I would
do anything. Anything. You got hurt, Radom, and you'll be alright. But that
scares me. I can think of nothing more terrifying than the possibility of losing
He bit back a sob at the prospect of frightening
his mother so much, all over him. "B-but I want to be b-brave too!"
"Radom, we learn from our mistakes. And if you
have learned nothing else, know this: Real courage is not the ability to do
something dangerous, to put your life on the line, or even to do something frightening.
Sometimes it takes real courage to do what's right, not what's easy or what
is asked of you. It's seeing things through no matter what, even if it seems
you can't possibly win. Going into that cave was not brave. Standing up to those
children, not listening to a word they said, believing what you know in your
heart and not what some nasty stranger tells you, and doing what's right no
matter what... Now that's what courage is. Sometimes it's harder than it sounds,
and people will be unkind to you for it now and then, but that's what it takes
to be brave."
Radom stared at his paws, his ears back as he
listened to her, knowing she was right. He blinked back his tears and whispered,
"I'm sorry, Mama…" How could he have frightened her and gone against her like
that? He knew she was right. She always was.
"You hold your head up. That's no crime. I just
want you to understand all that, alright?" Kaiya said softly, bowing her head
to be around his level.
Nodding slowly, he looked up at her, his amber
eyes meeting her indigo ones. She smiled gently and nuzzled her face against
Radom. "I'm just glad you're safe."
He sniffled and scooted closer, resting his head
against her front leg and closing his eyes as he nestled close. "You said it
wasn't okay to hate anybody. But how come, Mama? Even bad people like them?"
he asked softly.
"They're not bad, Radom. Nobody is truly bad.
We all have different reasons, thoughts, and feelings, but none of us are bad.
Just because someone is different than you doesn't make them wrong. That's why
it's not fair to hate anybody. We're all people, honey, no matter how different
we may be, and nobody wants to be hated."
"Oh... I guess… I guess even Dace has friends
and a family that he cares about, huh?"
"That's exactly right. See, everybody loves as
well, even if you can't see it."
"I guess… they're good, too…"
"Most people are." Kaiya smiled gently, lowering
herself to lie on the stone floor, and Radom cuddled up at her side. "Radom,
let me tell you something. And I never want you to forget it. Never. Can you
do that for me?"
He looked up, nodding enthusiastically with his
important task. "Uh-huh."
"Everybody has a song inside of them. I truly
believe that. We all have different voices and sing different words, but in
every last living creature in Neopia is a song. I think all of these songs are
beautiful, Radom, although some people don't let you hear it, or keep it from
you, or don't let it free. But it's there just the same, and I think all songs
are beautiful, once you finally hear them. You just have to listen, Radom."
"I want you to always do that for me." She lowered
her head and rested it beside him, closing her eyes gently. "Just… listen."
To be continued…