A Haunted Path: Part One
“You’re a fool!” the red Bruce proclaimed, shaking his head over his cup of Borovan.
Telos’s eyes narrowed at his old friend, Gavin.
“What’s so foolish about it?” he demanded.
Gavin turned a little to study his young friend. The Bori was sitting straight, his shoulders back, and his head up. Gavin knew this to be his fighting stance. The Bori had a head harder than rock. Sighing a little, he set his cup down.
“The Haunted Woods is a long ways away from Terror Mountain, my friend. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re invincible.”
Telos’s long golden hair bristled. “I’m not completely dim, Gavin. I know the risks.”
Gavin shook his head. “Then why are you so determined to go?”
Telos lifted a paw and extended a single claw. “You know the reason. It’s where my sister is.”
Gavin frowned and turned away from him. He peered down into the liquid in the cup as if it would offer up all the answers.
He didn’t want to use his next ploy to get Telos to stay, but it was his last option left. He didn’t believe that Telos would survive if he made the journey. At best case, he’d simply get lost forever. Gavin couldn’t let that happen.
“She left of her own free will, Telos. Let her go. She wasn’t your real sister anyway.”
The words stung, but Telos let them roll off of him as he conjured the image of his adopted Aisha sister to mind. “Arabella was falsely enticed to go. She wouldn’t have gone if she had thought it through. She would have stayed here.”
Arabella, Telos thought, had always been free-spirited. She’d always gone whichever direction the wind had blown her. She’d confided in Telos once that she enjoyed the excitement of never knowing where she’d end up next or what would happen. Now, she was somewhere in the Haunted Woods, probably crying herself to sleep every night wishing she could come back home.
Or at least that’s how Telos imagined it, and that’s the way he saw it in his dreams at night.
“You’re lying to yourself,” Gavin insisted.
Telos merely glared in response and turned his back. He went to the backpack he’d packed days before. Everything he needed was inside of it. He had a hefty supply of food, clothing designed for warm weather and for the cold, and a plump drawstring bag of neopoints. He’d been preparing for this trip for months. The time to act was now.
He swung the backpack onto his shoulders, snatched his woolen scarf off his favorite rocking chair, and twisted it around his neck.
“Take care of my house, Gavin. It's yours if I don't come back.”
“Wait!” Gavin sputtered, so certain the Bori would not go through with it until he saw Telos’s paw touch the door of his neohome. “You can’t be serious!”
“I am,” Telos called over his shoulder, swinging the door wide and greeting the frosty wind even as it nipped at him. “The time for talking is over. Goodbye, Gavin.”
With his mouth hanging open, Gavin watched the door swing shut behind his friend. He stared dumbly at the door, thinking that he had just seen his friend for the very last time.
Telos waved happily at a couple of his neighbors as they stared at him as if he was crazy trekking through the snow. Telos grinned; they were Kaus, originally from Neopia Central, and they were not adequately equipped for the extreme winter weather Terror Mountain was accustomed to. Telos had grown up and spent his whole life on Terror Mountain. The cold hardly bothered him. His body had long since taken the precautions against the blizzard weather.
His yellow coat was thick and long, and his skin itself was rough. Together, they made a hard shell around his body and protected him from the cold. Nonetheless, he had shrugged into a sweater earlier that day to aid in fighting the chill, which he was glad for now.
The temperature was far below zero and seemed to be plummeting still yet. The snow came down in sheets, slanting sideways, and driving into Telos. He turned his head and caught snowflakes on his tongue now and again, and was otherwise unaffected.
He was too excited to be worried. He was anxious to reunite with his sister, but he’d also left the other reason for his journey out of his argument with Gavin. He thirsted for a change, a bit of an adventure. Though he loved the snow, it was tiresome seeing it every single day with no change. Terror Mountain seemed to be frozen in time, never changing, always the same old thing. It was time for a change.
And that was why Telos didn’t take one last look over his shoulder as his home disappeared behind him.
Telos traveled at a quick pace for the entirety of the day. The snow was not cumbersome to the Bori. The steep rocks proved of little challenge as well. His claws were sharp and strong, and he stayed firmly wherever he planted himself. He began to hum a tune he’d learned as a child, and continued to repeat it over and over until he realized night was beginning to fall. The last note trailed off as he looked around at the coming darkness. The sun was rapidly disappearing behind a steep mountain, and daylight was nearly finished.
That also meant colder weather. Telos wasn’t bothered. He scouted out a small cave within a matter of a few minutes, and he set up camp, which simply meant that he found a warm dry spot in the back of the cave and presumed to curl up.
Telos had only had his eyes closed for a few moments before he heard a grunt, and a sound recognizable as someone breathing agitatedly and heavily out their nose.
Telos opened an eye.
“Hey, how’d you--”
Telos’s sentence was abruptly cut off. The small brown creature in front of him flitted his tiny wings, dropped his head, and, with a little kicking of his hooves, charged Telos. The two-horned creature head-butted him before he could move away.
“Hey!” Telos shouted. “Ouch!”
He sat up straight, a paw to his tender forehead, and scowled down at the little Dofrey.
“What was that for?” he demanded, and took a swat at the creature.
The Dofrey danced back and avoided the swing. He blew out his nose again and seemed prepared to take another charge.
Telos caught him in the middle of his charge and lifted him into the air.
“Now stop that!” he ordered. “That’s not very nice. What did I do to you?”
The Dofrey squirmed, tossing his head from one side to the other, making his grunting noises more loudly. He nipped at Telos’s paw, but only managed to get a mouthful of claw.
Telos smirked. “I bet that didn’t taste good. Will you stop now?”
The Dofrey eyed him but ceased movement.
“Good, now, what’s wrong with you?”
The Dofrey snorted in reply. Telos was left to his own devices to figure out the problem. He was silent for a moment contemplating, and then he took a guess.
“Was this cave your home?”
When the Dofrey took another nip at him, Telos took that as a yes.
“Well, I didn’t know,” he told him. “I really need a place to stay though. Will you please let me stay here? I’ll be gone first thing in the morning. I’m on an adventure to the Haunted Woods, you see.”
He took the chance of setting the Dofrey down, and he thanked his lucky stars when it remained immobile and didn’t appear to have any future plans of charging him.
“I’ll be out of your hair by sunup,” Telos assured him, and he curled back into his previous spot.
He felt the Dofrey’s eyes on him long after he’d fallen asleep.
Telos was good to his word, and he tiptoed out of the cave at sunrise, making certain to be silent and not awaken the Dofrey again.
That was why he was a little surprised when something softly rammed his ankle. Telos looked down and saw the Dofrey at his heels.
“What are you doing?” Telos asked, surprised.
He’d hardly made it two feet from the cave. Had that funny little creature slept at all?
The Dofrey grunted and pranced up beside him. Telos understood the meaning very clearly.
“You’re not going with me,” Telos informed him. “This is a solo journey.”
The Dofrey dropped his head again, but Telos was able to sidestep around the attack. The petpet turned and prepared to take another run.
“Okay, okay!” Telos shouted, not at all willing to sacrifice his ankle to another blow, let alone his head. “You can go, but I’m telling you, you won’t enjoy it.”
The Dofrey immediately looked pleased. Though it irked him, Telos was mildly relieved to have company.
“Come on, let’s go. I want to make it to Tyrannia by tomorrow. You better not slow me down,” Telos warned.
And he wasn’t let down. The Dofrey was on his heels the entire day, never slowing, stopping, or showing signs of weariness. Telos wasn’t sure if it pleased or disappointed him, but he had to admit that he was glad the Dofrey had tagged along when the petpet found their cave for the next night. He himself was more tired than he’d let himself appear, and he dropped down at the back of the cave for a night of well-earned sleep with little ado. He was on the verge of sleep when he felt a small warmth snuggle up against his side.
That night, he dreamt of his sister. He couldn’t see her, but he knew that she was there. He could hear her smoky voice carrying on the breeze through the darkness. He was in the heart of the Haunted Woods, but he wasn’t afraid, because he could hear her. Her laugh was like music to him, and over and over again he called out to her, promising her that he was coming to save her.
The dream was cut short when Telos found himself rudely rapped on the skull again. He hissed into the darkness and opened one eye to glare at the Dofrey. He was about to yell at him, when he noticed that the petpet appeared to be frightened.
The question died in his throat as he heard a noise outside of the cave. Something was coming towards them, and it sounded massive. Thinking fast, Telos snatched the Dofrey and dove behind a large boulder just in time.
The maker of the noise hulked into the cave. Telos’s fur stood on end at the sound of heavy breathing, and a grunting noise that sound as if it came from the belly of a great beast. Telos listened to whatever it was shuffling around for what seemed like eternity, his back pressed hard against the boulder and the Dofrey clutched tightly against his chest.
He waited until he was finally certain that the beast was moving to the mouth of the cave to leave before he peaked over the boulder. His heart quaked in fear at what he saw. The beast was gigantic, covered in arctic white fur, and it walked heavily on all four legs. Telos was certain that if the beast had stood, it would have had to have bent far over to fit inside the cave.
The young Bori ducked, as the beast cast a curious glance over its shoulder, as if sensing him. Telos’s heart hammered long after the beast disappeared from the cave. It wasn’t until he realized that the Dofrey was trying to bite him that he discovered he was holding the petpet in a chokehold. Telos released him and slumped against the boulder.
“I think-- I think that was the Abominable Snow Bori,” he choked. “Sleep lightly tonight, Dofrey; we’re getting off of Terror Mountain as soon as possible tomorrow.”
To be continued...