The Gift of a Wishing Star
Darrow snuggled into the soft, freshly fallen snow, watching with glee as her snout and the snow merged and became one. She would never be found now!
“Ready or not, here I come!”
The faint voice was followed by the crunching of feet in the white blanket that covered the land, followed by a faint hiss of melting snow, each step getting louder and louder until the very ground shivered beneath the Ixi’s concealed form.
The fire Elephante was just on top of Darrow, looking around with confusion. Darrow kept watching, giggling to herself, as her friend looked down at her. Tory’s blank eyes told her that she was well hidden, especially when the Elephante began to stomp to the west, looking around trees and calling her name.
Twenty minutes passed and Darrow grew increasingly uncomfortable. She had a terrible itch in her side where a fallen twig was poking her, and unable to restrain herself any longer the Ixi jerked her hoof to scratch, and was quickly landed upon by Tory’s bulk.
“Found you, at last!” Tory beamed.
“It took so long,” Darrow mumbled sourly.
She hated being colored snow!
“Well, what should I have expected? It was a nice challenge,” her friend responded with a grin. “I guess it is my turn to hide now?”
Darrow shook her head, flakes of snow falling from her head at the gesture. “No way, it is getting dark and you stand out like a torch!”
“Oh?” The Elephante grinned slyly and suddenly the flames that surrounded her body dimmed until she glowed like a dying coal. Even the snow beneath her feet stopped melting from the heat of her fiery color.
The Ixi was impressed, considering that Tory had only been painted fire a few days ago. She heard how fire pets could control the intensity of their flames temporarily, but apparently it took weeks of practice.
“Nah, it would be unfair since it will be dark soon. Happy Valley looks fantastic at night; want to go see?”
“Sure!” Tory wiggled her trunk in a playful manner.
As they walked, Darrow kept a look out for things hidden in the snow. She loved finding all sorts of rare and useless treasures that others left behind. While playing with her friend the other day, she found a collectable coin that someone dropped! Buoyed by the thought of finding something else, the Ixi began to sniff around until something shiny caught her eye. A little neopoint! How did it get there?
“Hey Tory, look what I found!”
The Ixi waved her hoof, the shiny coin nestled firmly in the cleft. Tory swerved to look at it, and as her trunk got close to Darrow, the Ixi squealed and pulled back, gasping.
“What happened?” Tory asked worriedly.
“You... ow! My hoof almost melted!” Sure enough, the snow between her stone hooves began to melt from the Elephante’s fiery trunk, and as quick as lightning the Ixi plunged her injured foreleg into the snow, relaxing as the snow solidified again from the cold.
“I’m sorry, Darrow, I didn’t mean it!” Tory exclaimed.
Darrow knew, but she was angry at herself. Why did she have to be a snow pet? She didn’t blame her friend for being painted fire, but she did begin to blame herself. Why was she so poor that she couldn’t even afford a cloud paint brush? How would it feel, to float merrily among the clouds, or swim in the sea, or dance in the fiery pits of Tyrannia? She would never know, she would probably melt before even getting there. Snarling subconsciously, the Ixi just wished that she could peel off the snow and be something different for once. As the heat within her subsided, the snow Ixi simply shrugged, whispered an “it's okay” to her friend, and they continued their little trek in silence.
As soon as the sun disappeared, the two friends arrived on the cliff that overlooked Happy Valley. Under the light of the billions of stars in the sky, the place seemed to be bathed in an ethereal glow. Cheerful lights were strung up, and people were outside shaking hands, sharing chocolates and wishing each other a happy month of Celebrating. Little candles were lit and peppermint candies were given to children. Darrow was watching, her leafy tail waving from side to side, when suddenly she yelped and rolled aside.
“Oh, oh, Darrow! I’m so, so sorry!” Tory jerked up.
She sat on her friend by accident!
The Ixi stomped her hoof, tears of snowflakes falling from her face. “I hate being snow! I hate it, I hate it, I hate IT!” Darrow began to paw the ground with her stony hooves.
“Please, let me help...”
Tory recoiled from the word as if stung by a buzzer. Darrow saw her reaction and sobbed quietly. “We can’t be friends like this, Tory! Our colors won’t let us. You can... melt me.”
“It isn’t about the colors,” the Elephante pleaded. “It is about the heart. We are best friends, Darrow! Why should we stop? We can find a way around this, I promise!”
“There is no way!” Darrow’s voice broke, and then she ran.
“Darrow! Come back!” Tory called, her voice becoming fainter as Darrow ran farther away and her sobs became louder.
Part of the Ixi wanted to stop and turn back, to return to her friend and to comfort her. But another part needed the release, and thus Darrow continued to skip across ice and snow, across arched roots and stone, her warm breath coming out in short white puffs.
At last she could run no longer. Legs crumpling, the Ixi crashed into a snow drift and lay there, dead tired. She managed to scrape up her reserves and climb out, finding herself in a wide expanse of open plain, pristine and shimmering under starlight, with the very few trees here enrobed richly with snow. The mountains that encircled the valley were tall and gave her a feeling of comfort. Even the stars didn’t seem so cold and unforgiving. It was as if her outlook turned upside down, even though her anger remained.
As she looked up, she noticed one star shone more brightly than the rest, radiating a mixture of white, red, blue and yellow. Cocking her head, Darrow remembered exactly what it was. Tory told her of this star, the Wishing Star. If you wished hard enough, she said, if you really meant it so that your heart was wishing too, then your wish would be granted.
Darrow decided to take a shot at it.
“Wishing Star, I don’t know if you can hear me, you seem so far away, but I somehow hope you can, I really, really do. Wishing Star, can you turn me into a different color? I hate being snow; it won’t allow Tory and me to be good friends! So I wish with all my heart, Wishing Star, please change me into something else! Something better!”
For a few seconds, Darrow remained hopeful but then realized that there was nothing carrying her words save for her naiveté. Yet Darrow didn’t listen to her common sense. She gritted her teeth, and steeled her resolve. Maybe she wasn’t wishing with all her heart yet! Maybe she just needed to wish harder.
And so she did. The Ixi closed her eyes tightly and kept wishing over and over again until her mind closed with fatigue and she curled up in the snow – which felt so warm now – and knew sleep.
Darrow opened her eyes.
The snow had disappeared, the night and everything about it vanished, and all that was there was empty space. Wait... not empty space. She was surrounded by clouds!
The Ixi willed herself to move forward, and to her surprise she felt a great lightness, a floating feeling instead of that terrible falling sensation where your stomach flies up and your heart finds itself in your mouth! Was she really flying?
Darrow blinked her eyes and ran on air, moving forward at the same time. She was flying! At that moment she glanced at her feet and saw that she was not made of snow, but real, real Ixi fur! It was delightfully soft, almost fluffy, and a pale blue-lilac with little white splotches that reminded her of clouds.
The realization struck her like a snowball in the face. She was painted cloud!
Whooping with glee, the Ixi galloped across the skies, jumping along stronger clouds and falling through the weaker ones, a bubbling laughter filling her throat. She never felt so carefree, so light!
Suddenly her eyes fell upon a distant figure, seemingly struggling to stay aloft. The form was that of an Elephante... was it Tory? She hovered in for a closer look, but before she could see anything that could make her recognize the stranger, she felt herself plummet and fall. A moment of panic, and she was in a new place.
It was tremendously warm here, and Darrow at first had a surge of fear. She would melt! She had to get away! But for some reason she stayed, and realized that she was a different color. Fire!
Grinning, the Ixi touched her silky soft, soot-black fur and felt the heat radiating from the flames. But where was she? A volcano? It seemed like it!
It seemed to be the heart of a mountain, with jagged rocks and a single, vast central pool filled with bubbling ooze that she realized was magma. She learned once that fire pets could swim in magma, but could she? Mastering her fear, Darrow touched the molten rock and felt a thrill when she realized that she was not affected at all! At once she jumped in and began to swim through the thick substance, giggling at the tingling warmth that surrounded her.
It felt fantastic! Before, she couldn’t even walk into a warm house without running outside in fear of melting. But now she could dive into the hottest magma and do as she pleased. The feeling of the heat was intoxicating, and she just wanted to stay here forever.
But who was that on the ‘shore’? It was obviously a fire pet, but... was that a trunk? The figure was beckoning to her, but as she reached towards it with an ebony hoof, she felt the descending feeling again and found herself, again, in a totally different place.
It was cool, and she had a sinking feeling of being back on Terror Mountain, but the sensation of liquid made her realize that she was in water – WATER!? She was going to drown! Darrow began to paw the water with her frond-like limbs, but after a few moments realized that she could breathe.
But of course! She was a Maraquan Ixi now! Her streamlined body began to move of its own accord, her many green fronds stretching out before her, following the currents like a pteri in the sky. Darrow had never seen the sea before, and been under the sea for that matter, and it was beautiful. Bright corals and soft anemones stretched towards her, and fish of all kinds darted past her like silvery arrows. She felt utterly, completely relaxed in this aquatic environment.
The Ixi looked up at her name and spotted Tory, thrashing a bit, in the water!
“Tory, get back to the surface, you’ll drown!”
“No thanks.” The Elephante grinned.
“But... what about your flames? You’re a fire pet!”
“So what? Color shouldn’t get in the way of a friendship. I’m not about to let the friendship between us get quenched just because of some silly water.”
The Ixi’s eyes widened with surprise. Yes, why should it get in the way? What kind of friend was she, to abandon Tory because of her misgivings? Sure she was snow colored, but they could find ways to get around it, couldn’t they? As the realization of her mistakes crashed upon her like an avalanche, the Ixi didn’t notice the scenes around her fade.
She was falling!
Darrow reached up to Tory, but the Elephante and the water were all gone, leaving nothing but blackness. Frightened, the Ixi pawed the empty space before feeling herself surrounded by extreme cold.
She jumped, eyes wide, her breaths coming in frequent clouds of white. “I’m awake!”
Darrow circled for a few moments, shaking excess snow off her back, which probably blew over her as the sky was clearer than pure glass. Right above her was the Wishing Star, shining brightly.
Overjoyed, the Ixi stood up on her hind legs and called as loudly as she could: “Thank you, Wishing Star! Thank you so much!”
As she ran back to Tory, following her nearly faded tracks in the snow, she felt a weight, a guilt being lifted off her shoulders, and it felt fantastic.
Tory poured some hot chocolate into an ivory-colored mug, bringing it to Darrow as she sat comfortably in the Elephante’s warm room.
“This is delicious!” the Ixi declared, quickly sipping some more as a little light shot out from behind her and passed by her face protectively.
Tory poured another mug for herself and settled nearby, smiling. “I don’t understand, Darrow. Yesterday you appear at my front door and aren’t worried to come in even though you know I like it toasty here. And you still haven’t told me why you changed.”
“Hrmf?” Darrow chugged down her drink.
“Well, one day you are complaining about your color, and then a few hours later you are a happy camper. Do tell.”
Darrow wiped her mouth with a free hoof, smiling. “Well, I managed to scrape up enough neopoints to get myself a bottled light faerie, and after a bit of begging she blessed me with an ability that protects me from melting by using motes. She called it the ‘Mote Dance.’”
“That explains those little lights around you.” Tory grinned and added some marshmallows to her drink.
“They are very nice little guys.” Darrow giggled and tickled a water mote that found itself near her cheek.
“But Darrow, you still haven’t told me about how you got your outlook on your color to change so quickly,” the Elephante pressed.
Darrow grinned. “I just wished upon a Wishing Star.”