Snowfall's Solstice: Part Two
“Snowsting?” I frowned. “I’ve never heard of you.”
The faerie’s eyes flashed, and I took an instinctive step back again. “I’m not surprised. I don’t think Fyora enjoys bragging about evil faeries who were smart enough to see through her reign.”
What? I didn’t understand a single word. “What do you mean?”
The faerie didn’t say anything. Instead, she turned around, and for a moment I thought she was going to walk away. Instead, she fixated her icy glare on a single icicle. The smooth, glassy ice glazed over, turning into opaque silver, before wobbling once, twice, three times. I held my breath as a thousand cracks spiderwebbed across the surface of the icicle, before it hurtled to the cavern floor and shattered.
“That was you,” I breathed. “You broke those icicles.” Instinctively I held up my paw again. The cut was still there, looking as painful as ever, even if it wasn’t.
“Don’t you break your more fragile furniture as well?” Sarcasm dripped from her voice like water from ice.
“You live here?”
“Stupid questions don’t deserve an answer,” she said softly.
So. The voice in my head pushed its way to my thoughts again. There’s a faerie living in Terror Mountain who claims to have lived here for thousands of years, hates Fyora, and is as dangerous as an untamed Grarrl. What’s wrong with this picture?
I froze. “What? What do you mean? How do you know my name?”
A sneer flitted over Snowsting’s face. “We faeries know things,” she said, her voice soft. A second later she had raised her palms in the air, closing her eyes. Frightened, I let out a pitiful squeak. Snowsting ignored me as she concentrated, and a moment later, two floating orbs of ice appeared in her hands. This can’t be good.
“Don’t worry,” the faerie said, reading my mind. “It isn’t.”
I had barely a second to compute this before she let loose. A torrent of icy magic whirled around my ankles. A flash of white – then blue – then white again. When the light had cleared, I was still standing, though my feet felt... strange. There was no other word to describe it. Staring down, I let out a yelp of horror. A sheet of ice was spreading across my paws, and up my ankles. I was freezing – literally! I could only watch as the ice slithered up my legs, to my knees, slowly, almost lazily. I was cold, so cold, and my feet were numb. I couldn’t even move – just watch.
“It was nice meeting you.” The faerie shot me a wink. “Or not.”
The ice had now hit my thighs, and I was paralyzed from the waist down. The deathly cold pain struck my stomach, and I knew my pathetically fluttering wings would be next. Oh, Fyora, why had I ever ventured into the mountains? I wondered what my family would do when they found out I was gone. Rain would probably ask if she could have my room. So this is the end. My wings tingled with pain as I squeezed my eyes shut, unable to watch any longer.
That was when I saw it.
A forgotten memory, buried under other thoughts, floated up into my mind, searing itself into my eyelids. It had been summer – we were on vacation in Mystery Island, and my sisters and I were only six years old. I watched, spellbound, as I watched the tiny figures. We had all been unpainted, and we were playing a game of tag. Psyria, who was It with Vera, attempted to tackle Rain, who dodged out of the way at the last second. I saw my six-year-old self laughing in delight as Rain ran away, when suddenly Vera came out of nowhere and pounced on me. Vera and I had always been the closest, I thought absentmindedly. Where did it all go? I continued watching as Vera and I wrestled around in the grass, and Psyria dove at Rain’s feet, who buckled over like a bowling pin and sprawled on top of Vera. In seconds we were rolling around like the innocent children that we were, laughing like crazy. I wondered how such a good memory could have escaped me over the years, and it was only then when I realized I had a family, only I had refused to accept it. And now it was too late.
And then I felt it.
A huge fiery ball of warmth, deep inside me, and I heard an earsplitting crack. Suddenly I wasn’t cold anymore. My eyes flew open, and I stared in disbelief as the ice – which was just about to swallow my neck – cracked and slowly melted away. I was free! How had that happened?
Snowsting voiced my thoughts. “What in the name of Dr. Sloth–” She stared at me for a long moment, but then her eyes narrowed. “You’re a fool, Castella, if you really think you can escape.”
I gulped nervously as Snowsting started to conjure up another snowball. Glancing around, I realized there was no means of escape, besides the way I had come in. I whirled around and started to run, my feet thumping against the ice, matching my racing heartbeats.
“You can run, but you can’t hide!” came a shout from behind. There was a loud fwish, and I knew that she had just released her snow magic. Bracing myself, I screwed my eyes shut and whipped around, raising my paws to defend myself. A second passed – two. I opened my eyes – and closed them again. A brilliant white light was flooding the room, magic that certainly didn’t belong to Snowsting. There was a screech – a bang – silence.
I opened my eyes. Snowsting was staring at me with a mixture of disbelief and – fear? – etched in her features. The light was gone now, and my paws were still outstretched. Feeling stupid, I quickly put them back at my sides, my mind spinning. What had just happened?...
“You’re the Snowlight!” Snowsting gasped, her eyes wide with shock.
She didn’t reply. Instead she whirled around and retreated into the depths of the cavern. I had no intention of following her. Racing out the cavern, I swooped down the mountain, my thoughts whirling around my brain. What happened? What was that all about? What’s a Snowlight? Was I just imagining things?
“Yeah,” I said aloud as I landed smoothly on the snow, my heart pounding. “It was just a hallucination. I must be going insane.”
By the time I’d gotten home, I had convinced myself that everything had been a figment of my imagination, and I’d conversed and fought with nothing but thin air for half an hour. What an idiot. I felt grateful that I hadn’t brought along anyone on the trip, then realized that I didn’t have anyone to bring. I didn’t have any friends, after all. Did I? My mind flashed back to the memory that had come up at the climax. Did that somehow have anything to do with the sudden melting of the ice?... No, I chided myself, flying back up to my bedroom window. It never existed. You’re going crazy. Gliding into the warmth of my room, I relaxed onto my bed and stared at my alarm clock. 5:53 PM. Just in time for dinner.
I reached up to brush a stray strand of brown fur out of my face, and that was when I saw it. I froze, staring at my paw for a full minute before daring to even breathe. Bringing my paw closer, not believing my own eyes, my heart sank to the tip of my tail. There, in the middle of the brown fur, were two long red scars, tingling with nasty memories. It all happened! It really happened! Why hadn’t the cut faded by now? Somehow I didn’t think it would. After all, Snowsting had made her mark.
“Come in,” I mumbled absentmindedly, still staring at the cut. The door swung open, and Vera stepped in. I didn’t even look up.
“It’s dinnertime, Cassy,” Vera informed me. “Hey, what’re you looking at?”
“Nothing,” I said, jerking my paw away, but it was too late. Vera grabbed my arm and inspected the cut.
“Ouch!” She winced. “That looks nasty. Where’d you get it?”
I yanked my paw away. “Paper cut,” I lied.
Vera tsked sympathetically. “You know what, Cas, we could hit the mall after dinner and I’d help you pick out some folders. Then you wouldn’t be as disorganized.”
I knew she was only trying to help, but I couldn’t help feeling annoyed. “No, thanks, I don’t need your help.”
Guilt flooded my senses, as a hurt look flitted over Vera’s face, then disappeared. “Whatever.” She flipped her violet hair – somehow without dislodging her pink cone-shaped hat – and made for the door.
“Wait,” I said, standing. Vera froze in the doorway, before turning around and glaring at me.
“Uh... I’m sorry.”
The person whom I had spent so much time with, was the subject of countless memories stored somewhere inside my head, and had shared so many secrets with me an eternity ago, paused. The person whom I should have been chatting with about the ridiculous idea of Snowsting and Snowlight, and laughing about what a joke it was, just stared at me. And then my sister flounced out the door.
I blinked, feeling terrible. Jessica was right. I had been the one who had deserted my family, and now it was too late to go back. What had I done?
“CASTELLA!” came a shout from below. “I said, it’s dinner!”
As if I could eat now.
- - -
Dinner turned out to be a Heavenly Roast Turkey, Faerie Leaves Hot Dogs and Faerie Baked Apple Pie for dessert. I knew Jessica had made it because it was my favourite, but I just didn’t have an appetite, with Snowsting and my sisters on my mind. I glanced at Jessica, who smiled uncertainly at me. I smiled back, and she looked away, relief sparkling in her green eyes.
“The NC Mall is the greatest thing TNT has come up with so far!” Vera was saying, pointedly ignoring me as she dug into her hot dog. “Have you checked out that new Twinkling Pink Tiara? It’d go great with my hair, don’t you think? I’ve also got my eye on that Prissy Miss Usuki Collector Dress, and those Sparkling Crimson Slippers. Add on a Floating Fyora Faerie doll, and a Hidden Tower Background, and a Stylish Red Purse, and I’d be perfect! Except that, you know, the whole set costs around 1,000 NC, and...”
“And we’re not spending much Neocash around,” Jessica said firmly.
Vera sighed, exasperated. “But Mom, you know I’d look great in it!”
“I think you’re thinking way too expensively,” Psyria interrupted. The Island Kacheek smiled as she chewed on a mouthful of turkey. “I’d choose a Mystery Island Summer Background, which is hardly worth any NC, and that’s it. Nothing else–”
Rain groaned loudly, the Ghost Ixi kicking Psyria from under the table. “I can’t eat, listening to this crazy chatter. You people are taking clothes way too seriously. Whoever heard of a ghost wearing clothes? But if I must, I’d choose Grey Faerie Wings, and Inconspicuous Gumball Machine, and–”
Vera rolled her eyes. “Inconspicuous Gumball Machine? Get real, sister.” Suddenly her eyes landed on me. “What about you, Castella? What’d you want?”
Startled at the sudden attention focused on me, I realized I hadn’t spent too much time looking at NC Mall items. “Uh... I really don’t know–”
“Ooh!” Vera suddenly shouted, scrutinizing me. “I know what’d be perfect for Castella! A Sparkling Faerie Dress! I mean, it totally matches her wings! And she’s a Faerie, you know? She’d look great in it!”
All of a sudden, everyone was chiming in, agreeing how the shade of teal in my wings matched the dress so well, and how it’d be a pity if I didn’t get it. Everyone started treating me like a mannequin.
“Yes, that’s perfect,” agreed Psyria. “And she’d look nice with a Faerieland Library Background, don’t you think? She’s always reading, and all...”
Even Rain was nodding. “A Green Neoboard Pen, because she’s always writing!”
“And a Floating Faerie Doll of some sort,” added Vera, “because she’s Faerie.”
“Hold on a minute,” I interrupted, holding up my paws. “Mom said we weren’t gonna spend much Neocash, so I think that first priority could be Vera or someone. She takes the NC Mall more seriously than any of us.”
Everyone started nodding, when Psyria turned to Mom. “Hey, how much NC do we have anyway?”
Jessica winced. “700 NC, and no, we’re not spending it all right now–”
“But that’s perfect!” Vera burst out, dropping her hot dog on her plate. “That could afford my dress, and the shoes! I could wait for the rest of course, but those are essential–”
“Nah! Let’s spend it on a Mystery Island Summer Background–”
“No way! Grey Faerie Wings are only 100NC!”
Suddenly all was silent again as all eyes turned to me. I wanted to disappear.
“What about you, Castella? It is your birthday tomorrow,” said Jessica.
Jessica raised an eyebrow. “Your fifteenth birthday? You know, the 22nd of the Month of Celebrating?”
“Oh. Yeah. Right.” I’d forgotten about it in the excitement.
“So, what do you want?”
My siblings all looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to say those vital three words. Sparkling Faerie Dress. But did I want it? I’d seen it before, once, when Jessica took us to the NC Mall and Vera had a field day trying on different clothing that she never actually bought. I’d seen it on a Kacheek mannequin in the middle of the mall, sparkling in the light. At the time I had thought it looked like something Vera would wear maybe once and then discard it in her closet, and I hadn’t spared it a second glance. But now, all my sisters thought I wanted it, just because it matched my fur. Something’s wrong with this picture. So instead, I said three other words.
“I don’t know.”
Vera frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t want anything from the NC Mall,” I said quickly. “I’m not really into clothes. We only have 700 NC anyway and we should spend it on you guys because you’re the ones who really want clothing items. I just want... um...” I desperately thought for something random. “Books! Yeah, books. They’re cheaper.”
Nobody was buying it.
“Come off it, Castella, why don’t you want a Sparkling Faerie Dress?”
I bit my lip. “I don’t want a dress, okay? Especially not a sparkly dress. I don’t know, I guess I’m just not the dress type. I’d really prefer a book.”
“What’s wrong with dresses?” Vera frowned. “You are a girl; it’s not like you can hide in jeans and T-shirts all day.”
“But that’s my point!” I sighed. “I’m a girl, but I don’t like dresses. It’s just my opinion, I guess. You can go get your prissy doll dress, or whatever it was called.”
“Oh, I get it.” Vera’s violet eyes were narrowed. “You don’t want to be like me! You’re afraid of turning into a fashion clone, aren’t you?”
“No, that’s not what I meant–” I began, but I guess there was a figment of truth in her words.
“It is too what you meant.” Vera was talking quickly, too fast for me to get a word in edgewise. Somehow I knew we weren’t arguing about dresses anymore, but about the reason why we had drifted so far apart over the years. “You’re afraid of turning into a girl who actually cares about what she looks like. You don’t like me, that’s why you don’t want to have anything in common with me. Someone different from you. Well, guess what, Cassy, I am different from you, and I’m grateful for it. Because no one wants to be some stupid, negative person who always tries to find the cloud in every silver lining. Who’d want to look at a bright, sunny day and complain it was too hot? Who’d want to look at her sisters and complain that they were just too different from her? Who’d want to be you? Definitely not me.”
And with that, Vera abruptly stood and stalked away. Her footsteps echoed around the room, and I stared at her discarded plate of half-eaten food in silence. Nobody said another word to me as they stood and set off in separate directions. Why is everything turning into a disaster? I knew the answer. Because you’re refusing to accept them, and you’re making all the wrong decisions. It was all my fault. Again. I had to correct all my mistakes, and I had to go apologize to Vera right now.
I looked up at Jessica. “What?”
Jessica looked as though she was going to say something, but hesitated, then shook her head. “Could you go get this week’s issue of the Neopian Times for me?”
Oh. Somehow I knew that wasn’t what she was originally going to say. “Sure.”
“They’re at the Gift Tags center,” she reminded me.
To be continued...