Legacy of Ice: Part Seven
"So that's why... My mother... Oh..."
Upon finding the mountain village deserted, the three pets had returned to their shop. A distraught Mist managed to assure her friends that the baker was a very nice pet, who would understand why they ate a good deal of what was in the shop. As they ate, Rathua had decided that Mist ought to know what the dark faerie had told him, and Flame helped to repeat what Rathua had told him, as his brother tended to jump from one point to another, leaving out what was in between.
Mist's reaction to hearing she held the fate of the mountain was not what they had expected. She had been greatly surprised to hear it, yes, but now she seemed to be treating it as the missing part of a puzzle, something she had always known part of but never understood the rest.
The Wocky's eyes had clouded over as she thought, but they cleared now as she looked up at her companions.
"It makes sense... My mother, she used to go away, every month or so... No one ever told me where, but my grandfather once told me she was going into the mountain's heart. And my father... He once told me that I would have to do it, one day. That I would have to travel into the mountain just like Mother did, and care for it, just like her..." Mist paused, obviously thinking of her family. She continued determinedly, though, "So, if they had to go into the mountain to talk to the Spirits, then that's just what we'll do. We might not know how to deal with them, but it can't be too hard, can it?"
A silence greeted this, causing all three to shift uncomfortably.
"Well... Maybe my family stayed? They were further up the mountain, maybe whatever drove everyone else off didn't reach them? My grandfather would know what to do, and so would my mother, except... Except my mother vanished a month ago, with my father. Grandfather seemed to know why, but he wouldn't tell me, he just shook his head sadly. Anyway," the young girl pressed on, "We should go to my home now - I think there are some fur coats there? Fake fur, of course, but still..."
With this added incentive both desert pets leapt to their feet. As Mist laughed and stood up herself, the assured her they would have gone with her anyway. She ran out of the shop, laughing all the louder. Grinning, both pets followed her.
It was a short walk up a steep track. Neither Flame nor Rathua really minded that they couldn't go through the tunnels - this part of the mountain was considerably prettier than the slope they had climbed the day before. Small, brave plants sprouted tentative flowers, and rocks had been placed in decorative patterns, by pets Flame assumed must have been fairly young. Some words were spelt out, giving friendly messages to those who walked past. "Hello!", "Hi there!" and "Yay, rocks!" were all common messages repeated a few times. "Hi Mist =)" was spelt out a bit further up, along with several other messages the Wocky's friends must have left for her. Flame read them all, interested in how similar and how different this place was to his home. Then a message caught his eye: "We're sorry we had to leave, Mist. Save the Frost!" The writer had used large stones for this message, to help it catch the attention of anyone walking past. Mist had managed to walk past it oblivious, though, talking to Rathua. Flame called to both of them, and instructed them to read the message.
"Wow..." was Mist's only comment.
Rathua studied the message, interested. "What's the Frost?"
"Oh, that's just what we call this mountain. It doesn't have an official name, but no one likes to just call it 'The Mountain' all the time. So most people have their own nickname for it. My family... We've always called it the Frost."
"Your family must have left the message when they left, then. They wanted to let you know they missed you, and hoped you'd return..."
"Yes," murmured the distraught Wocky. Her family wasn't here? They must have walked halfway across Neopia to find her family, and they'd left? But they hadn't forgotten her. They'd hoped she'd return... And they knew she had to save the mountain! "They must have known! That means they will have left me something, a way to know what to do... Come on!" She yelled the last part unnecessarily, as she had already started running towards her home, and Rathua and Flame were already following her.
They arrived at a door in the mountainside in a matter of minutes. Mist dug in the snow beside it and produced a key which she inserted into the lock, while Flame and Rathua stared at this unique way of building houses. The door opened onto a cosy, large kitchen. The embers of a fire still glowed in the hearth, and the room was in utter disarray as if the people who had lived here had to evacuate in a hurry. Rugs, most of them askew, covered the floor, and beautiful pictures of happy ice pets covered the walls. In the centre of the room, stood a table with at least ten chairs beside it, a good few of them knocked over.
A sheet of crisp white paper sat on the table, folded over, and with the words 'To my dear granddaughter' written in a curling script on the front. As Mist picked it up, the most awful noise began; a rumbling, coming from a place deep below their feet. It grew in volume and seemed to be getting closer. Mist just had time to be horribly reminded of the stone maze, and then the shaking started. Mist and Rathua were thrown against the ceiling, and Flame, who had only half entered, was thrown forcefully out the door. "Dark Faerie!" screamed Mist, but her voice was drowned out by the rumblings. It seemed Neopia - or at least the Frost - was going to tear itself apart, when at last the shaking subsided, leaving two badly bruised neopets lying on the mercifully soft rugs, and a bedraggled Scorchio crawling in through the door.
"I was thrown into three feet deep snow," Flame grumbled as he attempted to dry himself on the rugs. "Are you two alright?"
"Bruised, but alive. That - I don't think that was the work of the Dark Faeries. I think they were telling the truth about the mountain being torn apart. Mist, we need to stop this. Have you got the letter?"
The Wocky crawled over to retrieve it from the corner it had flown into. She carried it back to the center of the room, and righted one of the chairs. As she unfolded it, Rathua and Flame stood behind her, to read over her shoulder.
'To my dear granddaughter Mist,
I hope you are able to read this letter. Simply because if you can read this letter, you'll have to be alive, and I would rather you got out of whatever place those curst Dark Faeries sent you to. You might know the problem here by now, and know that you have to -' There was a large ink stain here, covering a good part of the page. 'Ah! I'm sorry about that Mist, it's all these tremors - They're getting more frequent too. That's why we have to leave. I am sorry we won't be here for you, dear, but if we wait much longer I fear that an avalanche will trap us in, and we shall be trapped if the Frost does tear itself apart. We waited as long as we could, Mist. All the other villagers left days ago. Your grandmother took your brothers and sisters away yesterday. I'm going to join them soon, but first I feel it is important to leave this for you - So that, in case you should get this far, you will be able to continue. Now... You know that tapestry hanging in your parents' bedroom? The one your mother revered? Well, behind that you'll find a tunnel. This tunnel isn't connected to any others, and it's the only one that leads to the Heart of the Frost. That's where you have to go, dear. Now, once you're down there you'll see a large oak door, engraved with runes. You're the only person in the whole of Neopia that can go through that door, darling! When you reach it, say these words: "I am the one you chose. You chose my" - you'll say mother in here, dear, though it's different for everyone - "before me, and her father before that. Let me in, to the heart of the mountain, so that I may confer with you and keep this land at peace." Not so hard, is it, darling? Now in there you'll need to talk to the Ice Spirits. It can be scary, but just stay calm. Speak nicely to them, but also stress that they -must- leave the mountain alone.
I know you can do it, Mist. Make an old Bori proud.
~ Edward Glacilie
Mist put the letter down and looked up at the roof of the kitchen. Last time she had been here had been so different. Her eyes welled up, but she rubbed the tears away. Her grandfather believed in her. She would make him proud. She stood up and walked to her parents' bedroom. Rathua and Flame followed, with a glance at each other. Both of them were full of pity for this poor girl who had had all this responsibility thrust upon her so suddenly.
Mist looked at the tapestry. It was a beautiful thing, with soft, swirling blues and glowing whites. Even though her mother had forbade her to touch it, Mist still loved to sit and stare at it. It seemed... calming. And so she stood there now, watching the gentle colours and gathering her thoughts. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and then another. "We're with you." Rathua told her seriously, and Flame nodded in agreement. Mist smiled at them, and then pulled back the tapestry.
To be continued...