Rosalie planted her hoof in the snow and drew back, looking at the tiny print it had made. The little baby Gnorbu fumbled after the herd, her large, glossy eyes fixed on each of her family and friends.
“Wait up!” Rosalie squealed. Amelie was the first to turn around and watch the youngling sprint towards her. This would be understood: Amelie was Rosalie’s only family.
The beautiful white Gnorbu stood in the snow. Each member of the herd peeked at the sight of the pair. Bounding up to Amelie full of energy, Rosalie waited patiently as her sister nuzzled her furry muzzle. Amelie laughed.
“Rose, you remember that I told you to keep up. I can’t keep stopping the herd for you every time you fall behind. Now you’ve got to walk in front of me.” Amelie smiled, pushing the little Gnorbu up in front of her.
The herd reassembled, and began their long trek across the dusty, snowy glaciers of Terror Mountain. Each of their hooves moved in perfect unison to one another, their movement synchronized and yet slow. Rosalie kept up her pace in front of Amelie.
As time wore, however, she slowed. By the time it was nightfall and the herd planned on stopping to rest, she had held them back at least twice more, much to the distaste of many herd members.
“Are you tired, little one?” Amelie asked, nuzzling the top of her sister’s head. Rosalie nodded and yawned simply, snuggling deep into the snow beside her sister.
“Yes, I’m very tired,” was her response. Rose’s head lifted and she smelled the cold air of the sky. Something did not seem right in the air, and it did not take long for her to come up with this conclusion.
Amelie’s soft fur made an excellent pillow, and she soon grabbed the attention of Rosalie. The older sister dipped her head low and looked into the campfire that several Gnorbu were working diligently to keep ablaze.
They nodded politely to Amelie when they saw her looking. It was not as though Amelie were royalty in this clan, and neither would Rosalie be; it was that, in spite of all their difficulties, they remained respectful between each other.
However, those past few months had been driving the Gnorbu clan insane. Politeness was harder and harder to come by. Friends had become enemies. Food became scarce. They were all very worried about what would happen if they did not reach Snowy Valley in time for the supposedly fierce upcoming winter.
A shadow fell across the sisters. It was Elias, the leader of the herd. He was strong in his nature, with toned muscles rippling underneath his shaggy brown pelt. Rosalie trembled every time she laid eyes on him. He easily fooled Amelie.
This was because Elias was clever, and had more generalized smarts than any of the rest of them. While they were savage beasts that worked painstakingly to survive, Elias was cultured and well mannered, commanding the ultimate respect. That was why Elias was the undisputed leader of the herd.
“Amelie,” Elias whispered, although his voice was still quite loud, “It is time for a herd meeting. I trust that you will send your sister off to bed before you join us?”
Amelie stood up in the snow. Herd meetings were issues of utmost importance, and attendance to such a meeting was compulsory, at least for fully initiated herd members like her.
Some meetings, Amelie recalled, she enjoyed. Others were completely serious and totally unbearable for the free-spirited Gnorbu. Such a character Amelie was completely.
“Y-yes, sir,” Amelie responded. She stuttered when she spoke to Elias because of the fear that he caused her. Before he had joined the herd, it had been their parents in the lead. Elias had used his wit in his favor and their advancing age against them, and he had completely driven them to the brink of insanity. No longer were they members of any herd: they had simply disappeared.
“You heard Elias,” Amelie coaxed, turning to her sister. “You must go to bed now. It is time for a herd meeting.” She used her hooves and nose to push the snow up around Rosalie, trying to keep the little Gnorbu warm.
“Good night, Amelie.” Rosalie yawned and snuggled into the snow. The pair walked off into the dying light of the embers, and Rosalie’s eye peeked open. She had been waiting for a very long time to put her plan into action: Rosalie was going to spy on the herd meeting, and she was going to learn secrets that none of the initiated herd members bothered to share with her.
Rosalie shook out her fur and carefully climbed up out of her bed of snow, and then she proceeded to make her way across the campsite, out of sight, until she reached a small gathering of Gnorbu in a pitched tent.
The little Gnorbu waited patiently on the side of the pitched tent, listening very attentively to everything that her superiors said.
“Hard times have befallen us,” Clarisse said. “We cannot feed everybody in the herd any more. We will have to drive more of our members out.”
At this information, Rosalie’s already wide eyes grew even wider. Throw members of the herd out? Was this what Elias had done to her beloved parents? Rosalie leaned in closer to the tent, straining to hear and not be heard.
“I say that we throw out that girl and her little sister!” yelled an unidentified Gnorbu. Rosalie was trembling outside of the tent, her teeth chattering. She tried to stop herself from making noise, but it was completely useless.
“You can’t throw us out!” cried Amelie. “We don’t hurt anybody! None of you have any evidence that Rosalie or I are harmful to this herd, and according to the pact, you have no grounds to throw us out if you can’t come up with some kind of evidence.”
Elias’ loud, booming chuckle came from inside the tent this time, and in the shadows of the lantern inside, Rosalie could see his majestic head dip in amusement.
“Oh, Amelie, but don’t you see? Don’t you see how Rosalie trails behind the rest of us as we trek across the snow? What would happen to her if she were caught by a snowbeast?”
Amelie went quiet. Rosalie heard and saw as Elias got to his feet and made his way to the outside edge of the tent. She scrambled to get up, to try and run away unnoticed, but as she was fleeing she felt him grip her by the scruff of her neck and swing her into a heap upon the snow.
“Don’t you ever try that again... filth,” Elias spat, and Amelie came rushing out of the tent, followed by the rest of the initiated herd members. She had a hardened, disappointed look on her face. It sent Rosalie into a fit of hysterics, and the little Gnorbu got up.
Rosalie ran. She didn’t know where she was running to, but she had to get far away from Elias. He sent shivers down the back of her spine, and they were relentless shivers that did not ease as time went on. The little Gnorbu pummeled through the snow, leaping over rocks and dying stems of baby trees.
She landed out of breath in the middle of a patch of snow, impaired by anything and everything that had just happened. Rosalie willed herself to stand back up and continue her flight; she could see the lanterns off in the distance. She stood again, her legs nearly giving out from underneath her body.
“Oh,” Rosalie cried, sobbing in the wet snow. Her eyes closed, and she fell into a deep and troubling sleep.
Rosalie awoke with her limbs sprawled out all around her, and a campfire blazing beside her. She rubbed her eyes with her paws, and studied her surroundings.
“Good morning, Rosalie.” Amelie yawned happily. Rosalie’s eyes momentarily widened with terror, until she let Amelie’s appearance soak in. What about Elias? What about the rest of the herd? They were absolutely gone from sight.
“Where is everybody?” squeaked Rosalie, and this made Amelie very solemn as she said it.
Snow whipped around the sky, carried by the wind, and joined by the snowflakes now falling all around them. Amelie stood carefully and sat beside Rosalie, nuzzling her as she usually did. It was Amelie’s way to nurture her sister.
“I ran away, Rose, and I came to find you. We are going to Snowy Valley on our own,” Amelie responded, conserving as much heat as possible.
“What about the rest of the herd, Aimee? How will we get there? What happens if we see them there and Elias tries to hurt me?” Rosalie cried, and Amelie tried to shush her.
A smile grew across Amelie’s face.
“Sweet Rose, we’ll find a way. And we’re going to leave Terror Mountain, I promise you. We’re going to Neopia, and no matter what gets in our way, we’ll find a way to stay there.”