Stealin' From the Snowager
*THUMP* “Catritc69745! Come here this instant!” Kormani yelled at the top of her voice as she stamped her foot on the wooden floorboards.
Catritc sighed. He had been dreading this all afternoon. The Christmas Shoyru put down the Shoyru Cracker he was looking at and dejectedly shuffled into the kitchen.
“Sometimes I can’t believe that such a knucklehead could be my older brother!” Kormani raved. “You know we don’t have a lot of NP, and yet you go and blow our bank account on party crackers!” The Striped Shoyru crossed her arms and shot an icy glare at her brother.
“But, Kormani...” Catritc began.
“Don’t ‘but Kormani’ me!” snapped the Striped Shoyru. “There’s no reason to spend our money on frivolous things like that!” Kormani sighed and shook her head. “I swear, you may be my older brother, but sometimes I wonder.” With that, Kormani flopped into a nearby chair. “I’m done talking about this. Please just try to be more sensible, okay?”
Catritc sighed and shuffled out of the house. He hadn’t gotten a chance to say that those crackers weren’t for himself, but for the unhappy disowned pets in the Neopian Pound. Ever since he had started helping out at the Pound, he had felt sorry for every pet that was left there, and more than anything, he wanted to make their time there a little more bearable, which brought him to his current dilemma- how to acquire the funds to purchase toys for several hundred Neopets.
Catritc strolled down the pathway leading into Neopia Central, running various money-making scenarios through his head. Nothing seemed to work. Suddenly, the Christmas Shoyru became aware of a loud ruckus, which snapped him out of his thoughts. A large crowd had gathered around... Something. Catritc cautiously waded into the crowd to see what the commotion was.
The latest issue of the Neopian Times had just been published, and as the crowd was shouting over one another about the front page article, Catritc read the headlining article.
Rags to Riches- Neopians Wealthy Overnight, Thanks to Snowager
Terror Mountain- Many know it as the home of Taelia, the Snow Faerie. However, just yesterday, a pair of daredevil Draiks found themselves receiving an unexpected windfall on this frigid mountain.
“We were just on our way back down the mountain after visiting the Igloo Garage Sale,” said one Draik, “when we saw a humongous cave. We of course had to investigate. Inside that cave, we saw the biggest hoard of treasure you could possibly imagine!”
“We took out as much as we could carry, but there was still way more in there,” replied the other Draik.
Inspiration hit Catritc faster than the Monocerous chasing after a passle of Jubjubs. This was the answer to his problems! He’d just take what he could from the Snowager, and get what he needed with the money. It was so simple! The Christmas Shoyru excitedly flew back to his house, to tell his sister the exciting news. Suddenly, Catritc stopped. He couldn’t tell his sister. Kormani would say it was not sensible, and forbid him from going. Dismayed, Catritc tried to think up an excuse so he could go to Terror Mountain. The Christmas Shoyru sat down outside the Food Shop, and thought. He noticed a pair of Chias walking by, and happened to overhear their conversation.
“So I went to see Taelia on Terror Mountain, to do a quest for her, like I told you before, and she gave me an Ice Cream Coupon! I was ecstatic!”
Catritc smiled. Once again, the answer had been laid into his lap. Besides, Taelia might know something about how to safely take stuff from the Snowager. The Christmas Shoyru hustled home to put his ruse into play.
* * *
Meanwhile, Kormani was enjoying a bowl of Chunky Cauliflower Soup at home, thinking about what she had said earlier that day.
“Maybe I’m being too hard on Catritc,” the Striped Shoyru thought to herself, “I mean, he is usually thrust into doing things he doesn’t particularly want to do... And he does get them done. Maybe I should be less pushy.” Kormani shook her head. “No, he needs to be less wishy-washy.”
Kormani heard the door open. Good, Catritc was home. Maybe now was the time to discuss this. The Striped Shoyru stood up from the table, and waited for Catritc to come into the kitchen. Much to her surprise, the Christmas Shoyru dashed in, grabbed a handful of Beef Jerky, and sprinted out the door again, mumbling something about Taelia needing him for a quest.
Kormani chased him out the door, and watched him take off towards Terror Mountain. The Striped Shoyru shook her head again and smiled. She’d figure out what was going on, she always did.
* * *
The cold wind ruffled the fringe on Catritc’s Christmas Suit Coat as he flapped furiously, trying to gain purchase in the rapidly-thinning air surrounding the peak of Terror Mountain. After hours of frenzied effort, he finally saw Terror Mountain’s summit. Catritc hastily landed, and collapsed into a snow bank, letting the cool snow soothe his burning wings.
After a brief moment, Catritc stood up and quickly located Taelia’s Igloo. It was much larger than the Catritc had expected. The Christmas Shoyru quickly stepped inside, awed by the massive scale of the Snow Faerie’s abode. At the end of a long hallway, Catritc found the Snow Faerie sitting upon her ice throne, giving instructions to a pair of Chias, about to undertake one of her quests.
“... and you must return within 1 hour and 15 minutes, or I won’t be able to finish my spell.”
“Yes, Ma’am! You can count on us!” replied the Chias, as they dashed out of the igloo.
As Catritc cautiously stepped up to Taelia’s throne, the Snow Faerie smiled warmly at him. “Ah, welcome to my humble home, what can I help you with? Have you come to undertake a quest for me? I have just the one...”
Catritc shook his head. “No, mighty Taelia, I haven’t come for that. I’ve actually come because I need information.”
Taelia folded her hands in her lap. “What kind of information?”
“I need to know about...” Catritc hesitated, “...the Snowager.”
The Snow Faerie’s smiling visage quickly turned sour. “I will not tell you anything about that, for your own protection. Ever since that insipid article about those two incredibly lucky Draiks was published in the Neopian Times, I’ve had a never-ending line of fools wanting to rob the Snowager file in front of me. The first few Neopets that went off promptly got themselves frozen. No, I will not assist you in that manner.”
“But Taelia,” Catritc pleaded, “I’m not trying to get rich quick, I just want to get the money I’ll need to help the pets in the Neopian Pound! They always seem so sad, and I just want to make them happy...”
The Snow Faerie sighed. “Your intentions are noble, but it’s still far too dangerous to go hunting for treasure like that.”
Catritc grew indignant towards Taelia. “What do you mean, it’s too dangerous!? I could swoop in, grab an armful of treasure, and be out of there before that fat WORM knew I was there!” The Christmas Shoyru turned on his heel and stomped back out into the frigid wind on Terror Mountain’s peak.
“Stupid faerie doesn’t think I can do it,” Catritc murmured darkly to himself, “but I have to. It’s my only option right now. I’d better return home and rest up until tonight.”
With that, the Christmas Shoyru jumped off the top of the mountain and began gliding back down to Neopia Central.
* * *
Kormani met Catritc at the front door of their neohome. “So, how was it? Did you get to meet Taelia?”
Catritc put on his best cheesy grin. “You betcha! However, she didn’t have a quest for me after all.” The Christmas Shoyru let his face fall.
“Oh, that’s okay,” Kormani replied, giving her brother a hug. “You’ll get your chance soon enough.”
Catritc, suddenly feeling much better about himself, walked upstairs into his room, hanging his coat on a coat rack. After reading a few chapters of Shoyru Heroes, he fell fast asleep.
* * *
When Catritc awoke, it was still dark outside. “Now’s my chance,” he thought to himself, “but I have to go quickly; it’s going to be light in a few hours.”
The Christmas Shoyru jumped out of bed and grabbed his coat off the rack, accidentally knocking it over in his haste. The coat rack clattered to the floor with a loud clatter. Catritc froze. If Kormani figured out what he was doing... Suddenly abandoning all attempts at stealth, Catritc jumped out the window, his speckled wings catching an updraft that lofted him into the crisp night air. The Christmas Shoyru soared off towards Terror Mountain as fast as his wings could carry him.
* * *
Catritc hit the frozen ground in the Ice Caves running, racing to get in and out of the Snowager’s Lair before he awoke. However, another problem presented itself- which cave was the Snowager’s? There was no time to ponder. Catritc started into the largest cave, reasoning that a bigger cave held more treasure, thus the Snowager would be attracted to it.
The Christmas Shoyru paused for a moment outside his chosen cavern. He heard a rhythmic breathing sound, a deep Waaahhhhhhh-Whhhhoooooo. Catritc realized that he had indeed found the cave he was looking for. Catritc drew his coat tightly about himself, and cautiously stepped inside. The cave was dimly lit, and very cold, even colder than the peak of the mountain had been earlier that day. Icy stalactites hung motionlessly from the frozen ceiling, looking almost like a macabre chandelier. Catritc trembled as he continued towards the back of the cave, staring at his feet the whole way. Suddenly, Catritc noticed something lying on the ground. Upon picking it up, the Christmas Shoyru realized that it was a Red Neocola Token. The Christmas Shoyru looked up and saw what he had been looking for.
A pile of treasure so massive, that massive wasn’t even the proper term to describe its size. Gaggles of gold and silver dubloons, stacks of scratchcards, piles of perfectly polished weapons, all laid out before him. Catritc’s heart skipped a beat. The Christmas Shoyru then looked up even higher, and saw the being that jealously guarded this hoard- A gigantic ice wyrm, so large that its tail wrapped down from the top of the pile it was sleeping on and encircled it twice. The Christmas Shoyru had never felt so small in all his life. Catritc almost turned around and fled, but then he remembered why he was here. He had to do this, for all the miserable pets he had seen. Catritc steeled his nerves and began quietly shoveling all the items he could get his hands on into his pockets.
Several minutes later, pockets stuffed to the brim, Catritc turned and took off into the chilly air to return home with his ill-gotten gains. In midair, the Christmas Shoyru turned around to gloat a bit at the Snowager. He had outwitted one of the most powerful beings in Neopia. Smiling to himself, Catritc turned around to continue his hasty exit...
... and flew smack into a stalactite with a loud crack. The Christmas Shoyru plummeted to the frosty ground, landing on his back. Dazed, Catritc stood up and tried to regain his footing to take off again. He flapped his wings, and they protested by firing searing bolts of pain down Catritc’s spine. The Christmas Shoyru cried out in agony, forgetting where he was, and sat down again.
It was then that Catritc heard a shuffling noise behind him. Terrified of what he would see, the Christmas Shoyru turned around slowly. A gigantic icy orb transfixed itself on the helpless Shoyru. The Snowager had awoken.
Catritc watched in abject horror as the Snowager reared up and fired a frigid blast of ice at the crippled Shoyru. Catritc rolled on the ground, avoiding the blast and antagonizing his injured wings even further. Not to be dissuaded from its prey, the Snowager inhaled again, preparing to deal the final blow. Catritc knew now why Taelia had warned him away from the Snowager’s lair, and he wished he had listened.
As the Snowager fired, Catritc felt himself get hit by some unknown force. He tumbled over and over again, away from the Snowager’s attack, stopping by crashing into a wall. Catritc looked up- and saw his sister Kormani standing stoically in front of the Snowager.
Kormani held up an icy blue ring, and the Snowager’s blast was diverted around the Striped Shoyru, parted by an invisible force. Kormani’s ring promptly shattered, its power diminished.
“Catritc! I figured you were up to something!” Kormani shouted at her brother as she stared down the ice wyrm, “but I didn’t think you’d be this knuckleheaded! Taelia’s on her way to get you out of here.”
Catritc stared at his sister. “But... What about you?” asked the Christmas Shoyru.
“I’ll be fine.” Kormani winked. “I’ve got to teach this worm what happens when he messes with my big brother!” The Striped Shoyru held her hands out in front of her, and a swirling ball of flame and light coalesced between them. Kormani leapt into the air and launched the orb of heat at the Snowager, crying, “Shoyru Inferno!”
The Snowager responded by firing another blast of ice. The Snowager’s counter engulfed Kormani’s attack, and continued on, freezing the Striped Shoyru with frightening efficiency. Kormani crashed to the ground, her skin taking on a blue color. Catritc was stunned. Kormani couldn’t be frozen. It wasn’t possible. Not his little sister. The Christmas Shoyru dragged himself over to his sister, as the Snowager inhaled one last time. Wrapping his sister in a protective embrace, Catritc realized that Taelia was on her way here. It was his only hope. At the top of his voice, Catritc cried out, “TAELLLIIIIAAAAAA!!!! WHERE ARE YOUUUUU!?”
The Snowager fired his icy breath, and it was parted just before it hit the pair of Shoyrus. Catritc couldn’t believe it. He looked behind him, and saw Taelia the Snow Faerie calmly striding towards him with a palm extended towards the Snowager. Without looking at Catritc, Taelia quietly said, “Get a good grip on your sister, we’re leaving.”
The Christmas Shoyru hugged his sister close, and felt them both getting lifted away, out of the cave, and towards Taelia’s igloo atop Terror Mountain’s peak. Catritc heard the Snowager bellow in rage as he realized that his quarry had escaped his wrath. The Christmas Shoyru suddenly felt very tired, and drifted off to sleep, enshrouded in Taelia’s spell.
* * *
Catritc awoke wrapped in warm linen blankets, his injured wings wrapped in soft cloth bandages. They still hurt when he moved them. Catritc looked around, and saw Taelia staring at Kormani, who still had not awoken, but had at least regained her normal coloring. The Snow Faerie looked up, saw the concern on Catritc’s face, and calmly said, “She’ll be perfectly fine. She is not the first Neopet I’ve had to tend to after tangling with the Snowager.” Pulling up a chair, Taelia sat in front of Catritc’s bed. “Well, it seems you are not to be dissuaded when you set your mind on something. It seems that that’s a bad thing in this case.”
“How did Kormani know I was going to rob the Snowager?” Catritc asked.
“She came to me last night, saying that she had been awoken by something clattering in your room. She then remembered that you had come to visit me earlier that day, and asked if I had seen you or knew where you were. I told her you had mentioned wanting to steal from the Snowager for the reasons you told me, and she told me to come to the caves with her. I wasn’t able to keep up, she flew so quickly.”
Catritc fiddled with the edge of his blanket. “So, she figured it out...”
“Yes, she did. I must say, you are very lucky to have a sister that cares about you as much as Kormani does. I have never seen anyone willing to do what she did to protect another.”
Catritc bowed his head. “I suppose I owe her an apology, then...”
Taelia nodded. “It would only be fair.” After a moment of stony silence, the Snow Faerie grinned. “After you left, I worked a bit on something that you probably would enjoy. You left before I could tell you I had this.”
Taelia walked over to a shelf, retrieved a small box, and handed it to Catritc. “In this box is a year’s supply of Ice Cream Coupons. I know it’s no bevy of playthings, but I’ve found that most pets do enjoy an ice cream on occasion. Do with it what you will.”
Catritc was stunned. Once again, the answer to his problems had been laid in his lap. This time, quite literally.
Across the room, Kormani stirred. Catritc jumped out of bed, and hobbled over to his sister.
“Hey Kormani, it’s me, Catritc. Are you okay?”
Kormani looked confused for a moment. “Catritc? Is that you?” she asked quietly. Then she sat up and looked at the Christmas Shoyru.
Catritc looked at the floor. “I... I really appreciate what you did for me back in the Ice Caves. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t been there.”
Kormani stopped him with an outstretched hand. “You would have been turned into a lime-flavored Shoyrusicle. But I accept your apology. I just want to add that while you’re a knucklehead, you’re MY knucklehead of a brother, and nothing is going to change that.”
Catritc, with tears in his eyes, wrapped his sister in a bear hug. “I promise I’ll never do anything that insensible ever again.”
Kormani smiled. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
Three weeks later
Catritc smiled as he watched a Bruce happily licking a Strawberry Brucicle. He still hadn’t made a dent in the Ice Cream Coupons that Taelia had given him. He figured he could probably make them last at least another six months on top of the year that Taelia had quoted. The Christmas Shoyru then flapped his wings experimentally and winced. They still hurt a bit. Had all the trouble he had put himself, Kormani, and Taelia through really been worth it? He then looked at the line of pets eagerly awaiting their turn at the Ice Cream Cart and grinned. Yes, yes it was.