Secret of Silver Crest: Part One
Terror Mountain’s midday sun peeked out through its cover of clouds just for a few moments, giving off very little heat, but nonetheless brightening the glacial peak with an almost ethereal glow, as the light bounded off snow and ice.
As if that were a cue, a blue Bori stumbled on a snowdrift and fell, then lay there, unwilling or unable to get up. It might have been the cold that felled him, since he certainly wasn’t dressed for the weather. His clothes might have been considered uncomfortably thick just about anywhere else in Neopia, but were far too thin for Terror Mountain. He had little with him besides his clothes, only a medium-sized dagger on his waist and a wallet, reasonably full and hidden well out of sight.
The Bori himself seemed fairly young, perhaps just barely old enough to be called an adult. His face was plain but serious, his claws well worn, as someone who often labored with his paws. He was strong- as anyone who lived on the mountain had to be- but not even nearly enough to be able to stumble through the snow all night and emerge in perfect health.
So at the moment, he was tired, cold, and somewhat delirious.
He watched rather dully as a snowbunny hopped up to him and nosed him curiously. It sniffed him for a few moments, then hopped away and soon returned with a larger one.
“Go away, little petpet,” he said, addressing the larger one, and was surprised to find that his voice was just a croak.
It scowled at him. “I am not a petpet.”
He didn’t respond, since the world seemed to be growing dark, fuzzy, and oddly warm around him, and responding to what was clearly a hallucination didn’t seem to be worth the effort. With that thought, he drifted into unconsciousness.
He faded back into consciousness with a bleary sense of surprise, sensing that all of him except for his back paws was warm, and he seemed to be surrounded by rough white walls tinged with red. He frowned at it rather blearily, wondering how he had gotten there. The white walls were part of a shelter made entirely of snow that surrounded him, riddled with small holes- for ventilation, perhaps. A fire burned near the biggest hole- the entrance, probably- and the light outside seemed to indicate that it was late evening or early morning. It was hard to tell, though, through the light of the fire. He squinted at the sky outside, or what was visible through the snow, peaks, and fire, then flinched back as the fire floated accommodatingly to one side and gave him an encouraging smile. With a tinge of disappointment, he realized that the fire was actually a fire mote. It was too bad. He had heard that it was possible to have fires in snow shelters without the snow melting and had wanted to see if it were true. Fire motes could control their heat, he knew, so it wasn’t quite the same.
He shifted, trying to get up, and realized that he had been sleeping on two tiny sleeping bags that weren’t quite big enough for him, even when they were put together. Instead of blankets, he had been covered by tiny pieces of clothing.
As he was trying to figure out if the talking snowbunnies he remembered were actually real (possible, given the size of the sleeping bags) or just his imagination, one of them poked its head in.
“Finally!” it exclaimed. “You’re awake! Did you know you almost slept a whole day?”
As it turned out, the larger snowbunny wasn’t a snowbunny after all, but a Cybunny, pure white and as small as he’d ever seen. That being said, watching her hop around made him think that someone had somehow taken all the energy of a rabid Elephante and crammed it inside her tiny body.
She had bounced around and chattered ceaselessly from the moment he had emerged from the shelter. He’d gratefully accepted the food she gave him and could only sit and watch in wonder as she managed to talk, bounce, and fold clothes – neatly – at the same time.
Her name was Lyara. Her mote’s name (who named their motes?) was Fluffy. Her snowbunny’s name was Slothy. Slothy had found him yesterday and brought her to him, and she nursed him back to health. And he had been lucky too, since everyone had been saying that there would be a huge snowstorm, but it turned out to be a really small one.
“Wait,” he said, interrupting her as she started into what seemed to be a detailed analysis of the weather. “Not to belittle your medical abilities or anything, but wouldn’t it have been a better idea to have gone and gotten someone?”
She blinked up at him innocently. “I knew what to do. Besides, if you had gotten worse or stopped breathing or something, there’s a village not too far from here that I could have gone to.”
He resisted the urge to point out that finding a village would most likely not have been much help if he had stopped breathing. All indignities at having been left at the mercy of the medical skills of a Cybunny that had barely lost her baby teeth aside, she had saved his life, and there was no point in going into what-ifs.
“Thank you,” he said finally.
“You’re welcome.” Lyara beamed at him. “What’s your name, anyway?”
He inclined his head politely. “I’m Tiran of Silver Crest. And no offense or anything, but what’s someone your age doing out here all by yourself?”
The Cybunny scowled, an expression that might have looked ferocious on anyone else, but on her, only managed to look adorable.
“I’m running away,” she informed him. “I have seven siblings. Seven. It’s chaos. And I thought being the youngest was bad, but being a middle child is even worse. Ever since the twins were born, no one even looks at me, unless they want to give me more chores. I’m going to run away to the city and live by myself.” She paused. “What about you? Why are you here?”
Tiran was busy trying not to smile, as he remembered somewhat similar sentiments from when he was younger, although his amusement faded quickly as she asked the question.
He hesitated, wondering if he ought to make something up, but decided he probably owed her the truth in this case. “I guess you could say I’m running away too, but not exactly for the same reason as you. My, uh, parents are trying to kill me.” Seeing Lyara’s incredulous stare, he could only shrug. “I know it’s hard to believe, but I heard them talking the night I left. They were pretty cold about it too. I only listened for about ten minutes, but I don’t think I made a mistake.”
She continued to stare at him. “Why?”
He shrugged again. “I don’t really know. I honestly can’t think of any reason. The only thing that changed from before is that my grandfather died last week, and he left all his possessions to me. None of my relatives seemed very happy about that. But still, it couldn’t be about money, since everyone’s pretty rich.” He spoke indifferently, trying to keep the hurt out of his voice. And it did hurt, so much more than he would have expected, but it seemed to lessen if he pretended it didn’t.
Lyara’s incredulity was quickly replaced by little-girl skepticism. “Are you sure? Maybe you were really bad or something. Mom always says that if we’re bad, she’ll feed us to the snow beasts, but she’s never done it. Maybe that’s what your mom and dad were talking about.”
Tiran grinned slightly at her innocence. “Maybe that’s it,” he agreed. “At any rate, I’m not going back now. I’m trained as a blacksmith, and so I thought I’d go to Happy Valley and see if I could find work. If not, well, Neopia’s a big place.”
Lyara bounced happily. “Ooh, I’ll go with you. I can be your apprentice!”
He laughed. “Do you want to hit molten metal with hammers for the rest of your life? For some reason, I don’t think that would appeal to you. Besides, if I help you run away, your family will track you down, and afterwards, they’ll probably pull my fur off for helping you. Go home. Your mother misses you.”
Lyara scowled at him and sat in irritated silence as he finished his food.
“Oh yeah,” she said suddenly. “You dropped this.”
Rummaging through her tiny pack, she pulled out a silver medallion. It was small, streaked with an odd obsidian pattern, framed with delicate-looking golden wire.
“It’s very pretty,” Lyara said. “What is it?”
Hesitantly, he took it and turned it gently in his paws. “I’m not really sure.”
He had taken it more out of spite than of actual desire to keep it, since it was heavy for something so small, and rather ornate for his taste. But his relatives had looked so horrified when he had first found it and picked it up in his grandfather’s house that when he decided to leave, he had deliberately gone out of his way to get it. Looking back, he thought it would have been a better idea to bring more clothes.
“You can keep it,” he said, handing it to Lyara.
She grinned, slipping it over her head.
The chain was far too long for her, and the medallion itself hung very low, nearly dragging on the ground, and bouncing against her chest when she moved. All in all, it was somewhat of a comical picture, but Tiran knew better than to mention it.
“So then, ready to go home?”
She sighed. “Fine. But only if you come with me.” Seeing he was about to protest, she held up a paw to forestall him. “Pretty please? Just for a little while. My mom yells at me less when there’s a guest.”
Seeing the obstinate glint in her eyes, he grinned and acquiesced gracefully. “Sure. I definitely owe you that much.”
The two pets set off across the glittering landscape, Lyara’s cheerful chattering echoing through the crags and crevices as she loudly informed Tiran of her life’s story. And somewhere, deep within the mountain, something stirred. It wasn’t the noise that woke it, as it had slept through earthquakes and avalanches in its time, but rather a slowly simmering hunger that quivered through it like a small tremor. Slowly, it stretched its powerful limbs, its sluggishness belying its massive strength. Large, cold eyes inched themselves open, and massive jaws worked themselves carefully. Above it, Terror Mountain went about its business, unaware of the horror that had woken below.
To be continued...