Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 135,120,767 Issue: 266 | 17th day of Storing, Y8
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One Last Song: Part Two

by mutedsanity


There was one thing about Terror Mountain that sometimes never seemed to get better no matter how long one had lived there or how used to it they had become. And that was that it snowed. A lot. Constantly. As a matter of fact, people like Kaiya and Radom who had never left the mountain all their lives probably didn't even know what color grass was. And that snow, which made itself present always in falling, gusts, flurries, blizzards, and all other means, could be quite unkind to one with no means of heat other than a thick pelt to speak of.

     And it was on a day such as this one that made things particularly difficult. The snow had fallen so hard the night before that a huge clump had fallen off the side of the mountain and blocked the main route to Happy Valley, trapping people on either side until it could be cleared.

     Several months had passed since the Snowager incident, and Radom had gotten a little bigger, steadily gaining on his mother. He was still a pup, but she was letting him help her more often now that he was more capable, and each time he helped get them some food he felt wonderfully important.

     Now the two of them were looking for an alternate path down to the valley, and with little luck. "Too steep... the snow's too deep... too loose..." Kaiya could be heard muttering to herself with each possible way they found down, but none seemed to be safe enough for anyone to pass.

     "Mama," Radom had piped up absently, "do you like your name?"

     "My name? Yes, I suppose I like the name Kaiya. Why do you ask?"

     "'Cause I don't like mine." He was in that stage of youth that every living being seemed to go through, when they didn't like their name or appearance or something else that was entirely not their fault. "Radomik... Radom... it's a weird name."

     Kaiya tried to stifle a smile, but didn't make it. "Well, don't you think I like your name?" She paused to size up a downward drop in the hill, but apparently saw some invisible problem with it, as she shook her head and continued on.

     "Well, yeah, I guess. You named me, after all."

     "That's right. I happen to think Radom is a wonderful name, and that's why I chose it for you. Babies can't name themselves, after all, but don't you think the mother is the next best thing?" She glanced playfully over her shoulder at him.

     "I guess you're right. Maybe it's not so bad."

     "Of course it isn't," Kaiya agreed with a chuckle. She paused, then, apparently having given up on her search for an alternate path. "Well, I suppose I'll just have to go through the Ice Caves to get there."

     Radom sighed dramatically. "That'll take longer!"

     "I know, and that's why I should go alone this time. It'll go faster if it's just me. So you meet me back at the cave, alright?"

     "Okay," he mumbled.

     And with that, Kaiya had taken off toward the Ice Caves, leaving Radom alone in the snow. He grumbled something or another under his breath and trudged the other direction, figuring he ought to make himself useful by poking around up here for possible winter plants or anything else that might be of use to them.

     He had climbed fairly high into the mountains and a while had passed with no such luck. That was about when he saw her.

     Something pale green with white speckles- or was that just snow?- staggering through the flurry. Up this high the wind always picked up, so he had to squint through the snow to make her out, a moaning gale tousling his brown fur. Could that be...?

     Unfortunately, his assumption had been correct, for as he trotted closer her saw that it was, indeed, the Acara from Dace's gang. But she didn't look so tough now. As a matter of fact, Radom realized with a start, he saw tears glimmering in her eyes.

     "Are you alright?" he called out over the wind.

     She jolted at the sound and wheeled to face him, her eyes widening for a moment. She looked so scared, he noticed with a pang of awkwardness. "Y-Yes! Go away!"

     He frowned faintly. "Then why are you crying?"

     "I a-am not! Just l-leave me alone!" she shouted, turning her back to him and quickly wiping her eyes with the back of her paw.

     She started to storm off, but Radom trailed after her, tipping his head curiously. He had followed her several yards when she finally stopped and turned towards him again in a huff. "What do you want, you dirty mutt?!" she snapped, causing Radom to stop in front of her.

     "For you to tell me what's wrong."

     She just stared at him coldly.

     "Where are you friends?" he ventured slowly.

     No response.

     "Are you looking for something...?"

     No response.

     "What are you doing way up here, then? You're awfully far from the valley."

     No response. She seemed determined not to tell her persecutor the time of day.

     Radom sighed. "Are you lost?"

     Finally, she was moved to a faint nod.

     "Oh. Then that's easy." The Lupe grinned at his minor victory of getting something out of her. "I know the way, but the path is blocked off by snow, which is probably why you can't get back down. You have to go through the Ice Caves for now."

     The Acara fidgeted and looked at the ground, frowning deeply.

     "Well, what's the matter now?"

     "I..." She managed to swallow her pride long enough to mumble, "I don't know the way there, okay?! I have no idea where I am! I can't tell left from right up here!"

     Everything looked the same, but having been a part of it his full young life, Radom knew it like the back of his paw. "Well, I could show you the way."

     He thought he saw her eyes go wide for a moment. "You could...? No! No, I don't need your help!" But she caught herself a moment too late, and found herself glowering dejectedly at Radom's smirk.

     "Yes, you do," he replied smoothly. "Come on, nobody has to know. I'll just lead you to the Ice Caves and go; nobody even has to see us together, alright?"

     Clearly she was in no position to argue, and with a deep scowl, she nodded in agreement. "Oh, alright. But I'll have you know if anything happens to me you'll be in big trouble!"

     Rolling his eyes, Radom turned around and started off in the opposite direction that she had been headed. "Yeah, yeah. Come on."

     The Acara followed him, her head held high despite how she faltered and nearly tripped several times, on each occasion shooting Radom a particularly venomous glare as if daring him to even think of laughing at her. But after several minutes of silence, her icy fa├žade seemed to be cracking slightly as she felt the downhill slope of the mountainside and seemed content that Radom really was leading her home.

     "Why are you helping me?" she asked suddenly.

     "Because you needed it." Radom didn't look back at her. "If I didn't, who knows what could have happened to you?"

     "I would have been fine," she muttered bitterly.

     "Well, maybe you would have done the same for me if I needed help."

     "No..." She paused as she admitted softly (and Radom could have sworn he heard some guilt in her voice). "I... don't think I would have..."

     Glancing over his shoulder now, he saw that she looked almost stunned at the truth of that statement. "Maybe you would now?" he offered obligingly.

     "Now... yes, I suppose I would..." She wouldn't look at him.

     "Okay then. No regrets." Flashing a quick grin her way, Radom looked ahead once more as he charted the safest path through the snow.

     The Acara frowned thoughtfully at his tail in front of her. "Dace said that you were mean and a no-good thief..."

     "Well, Dace doesn't know everything. And he doesn't even know me at all."

     "No, I... I guess he doesn't," she agreed softly, and sounded almost stunned at the prospect. "And you would help me even after we made you go into the Snowager's Cave before?"

     "Uh-huh. I thought you were bad, but my Mama told me... well, even if we're really different, that doesn't make either of us bad, you know?"

     She looked almost taken aback. Shaking her head slowly, she murmured, "I guess I was wrong about you..."

     "You're not so bad, either," Radom agreed, grinning to himself.

     "I- I'm s--" She stopped herself, closing her mouth tightly as she saw the jagged mouth of the Ice Caves yawning before them.

     Stopping the open distance of several yards away from it, Radom included his head toward the caves, and then smiled at the Speckled Acara. "Well, here you go. You can do the rest on your own, right?"

     "Of course I can." She started forward, but only made it a few paces before she stopped and turned toward him, furrowing her eyebrows. "Um... my name's Nela, by the way."

     "Nice to meet you." He flashed a quick grin. "I'm Radom."

     "Radom?" she repeated, wrinkling her nose. "That's a weird name."

     Shaking his head slightly, he just chuckled under his breath. "Suits me." It was the choice of his mother, after all. "It's better than 'mutt', anyway."

     She flustered at that and quickly turned to leave. This time she made it to the entrance before turning around once more and staring across the snow at Radom. She opened her mouth as if to speak, failed a few times, and them finally managed to call, "Thank you!" before she had vanished into the caves.

     Thank you? Blinking in surprise, an almost bewildered smile touched Radom's face. Those two simple words gave tangible evidence to everything his mother had told him. See? Nela had a pretty song too. Soft... but it was always there.

     Maybe they had both taken the first step toward listening now. Maybe that was the first note they had heard in each other.

     That evening, when Kaiya returned to their den with some food, Radom told her about what had happened. And she had absolutely beamed at him and said, "That was the right thing to do, Radom. See, that was courage, right there. Doing what was right even if it the other person made it seem otherwise. I'm proud of you, honey. I'm proud."

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» One Last Song: Part One
» One Last Song: Part Three
» One Last Song: Part Four

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