A Tale of Two Bori: Part Two
It always began the same way.
The sensation of cold, slowly seeping into his conscious mind, was always the way it started. His nostrils flared, inhaling the brisk mountain air, welcoming the chill. He flexed his claws, feeling frost flake off as he shrugged his shoulders. His fur was thick with clumps of ice, which clattered against the floor of the cavern when he shook himself vigorously. Emerging from hibernation was a slow process; the sleep was so deep, it took time for memories to resurface, to regain control of one's body.
The next sound he heard was a long, low note – the horn, the call was being sounded. This was what had woken him up, though his drowsy mind did not fully realize this. He could feel other Bori around him slowly stirring, stretching and fumbling in the darkness the way he had moments ago. The horn rang out again, reverberating in the tunnel walls, causing little showers of snow powder to rain from the ceiling onto them. "The Keeper of Time," whispered the Bori nearby, their voices hoarse from disuse. "The Keeper of Time is calling us."
The next sensation was that of dread. The horn meant war. The Bori had entered their state of suspended animation in order to protect themselves from a great threat, a merciless entity of destruction that was hunting them down. Being awoken now meant that their slumber had failed them, they were in danger again. A sick feeling of fear gathered deep in the pit of his stomach, and his mouth went dry. He was ill-suited for combat, having trained as a guard but never experienced any actual battle. He gingerly adjusted the light armor he was equipped with, touching the cold helmet that shadowed his eyes. He would be expected to fight, but he was afraid.
The next sound that filtered through the clamor was the clash of weapons. There was a battle echoing in the lower caverns. Enemies had breached their mountain. He gritted his teeth, trying to muster up a sensation of bravery, but there was none to be found. Only terror, and the desire to flee. The Bori around him surged forward, shaking off their sleep and charging into the fray. He felt himself being pushed along with them, stumbling unwillingly, panic and bile rising in his throat. He didn't want it to end this way.
The clashing noises grew louder, deafeningly so. The Bori tribe crowded into the main chamber, lit with a thick red mist emitted from the Heart of the Mountain jewel that had preserved them during their torpor. Icy skeletons were everywhere – an undead army, bleached skulls and bones visible through the thick blue ice that encased them. Their rusted old armor and weapons gleamed dully in the cavern, their expressionless faces devoid of eyes but still flawlessly seeking their targets. Everywhere he looked, he could see the Bori grappling with them, using whatever they could to defend their home – mining picks, shovels, even icicles fashioned into spearheads and daggers.
In the center of it all was the shadow fiend himself, the Bringer of Night. The towering Moehog deity scattered their Bori forces with one swipe of his terrible scythe, glaring with such intensity in his fiery gaze that it unnerved many of them before they even got close. He himself could feel the chill that the terrible being wrought in him, the weakness in his knees, the chattering of his teeth. They couldn't win.
They could not win this battle. That was the only thought he could articulate, as their unprepared forces met on the battlefield. He was dragged along with them, openly trying to turn around and run back into the tunnel, but unable to move in any direction other than toward the danger. Why were they making him fight? They should all be fleeing, this was hopeless! He wanted to survive!
Finally he dropped to his knees, curling into a hard-shelled ball as the Bori rushed around him. The defensive instinct was too strong to fight – or he was simply a coward. Those horrible icy skeletons would soon overpower them and lay claim to the entire mountain, and he had to find a way out. Creeping along the ground, tucking his head low so that no one would recognize him, he slowly moved along the outside of the cavern. With a crash, suddenly a skeletal face was thrust in front of him, frozen in some ghastly blue grimace. His heart hammered in his chest as he tried not to scream outright – was this to be his end?
But after one moment passed and the creature did not attack, or move, he realized it had already been slain. Hesitantly he reached forward and poked it with his claw. It did not react. He could hear shouts coming from nearby, and when he glanced up, he saw to his dismay that new Neopets were pouring into the fray from a different tunnel. They were the Thieves Guild, armed with knives and staves and stolen swords, and they were regrouping behind the Bringer of Night. Why couldn't they have been reinforcements for the Bori?! Trembling visibly with shock and fear, he shrank back against the wall. And slowly, an idea occurred to him. It was a terrible, cowardly, awful idea, but it just might work.
He hid beneath the icy skeleton.
He draped its arms over his own, letting the dense weight push him closer to the cavern floor. It was surprisingly heavy, and colder than any ice he had ever touched before. The rusty armor was digging uncomfortably into his side, but he ignored the sensation, laying perfectly still. No one would be able to see him now, friend or foe. Let the battle play out, and figure out an escape plan once the fighting eased off. The clanking and crashing of weapons seemed to fade out as he closed his eyes, willing himself to survive no matter what.
It always began the same way.
The sensation of cold, slowly seeping into his conscious mind, was always the way it started. His nostrils flared, inhaling the brisk mountain air, shuddering at the chill. He flexed his claws, feeling frost creep in as they crystallized over. His fur was thick with clumps of ice, which spread and engulfed his hide, the deep enchanted shade of blue drowning out everything else. He tried to make a sound, to move, but the icy skeleton had him pinned, and now he was becoming one of them –
Trealiy awoke gasping for breath, his heart pounding uncontrollably.
It always began the same way – the same dream he had every night, the same nightmare he relived every day since the battle for the ice caves. He caught his breath, slowly trying to calm himself as reality filtered in.
It was night. He was in his own home, a cavern he had dug for himself in the permafrost of Terror Mountain. Snow was drifting lazily down from the starry sky, visible from the tunnel entrance. He was in his own bed, blankets tossed to the floor from his violent thrashing. There were a few books on the shelves, a few meagre furnishings that he had collected for himself. No mirrors, he could not stand to see his own reflection.
Trealiy was an ice Bori.
He had been thus transformed from his extended contact with the enchanted icy skeleton. The same beautiful, terrible blue ice had consumed him, and now that was all anyone would see when looking at him. His claws, tail, pelt, even his eyes were entirely made of ice – an impossibility, a rarity, a unique appearance that he never wanted. It was shameful. He had been a coward, and now for the rest of his life he had to relive that.
Wearily, he rose to his feet, gathering up the bedding and rearranging it into a cozy nest for himself. This happened every single time he fell asleep. He was always awoken by his flashbacks. He had taken it upon himself to live alone, to sequester himself from the other Bori rather than suffer their confused glances, the whispered comments, the gossip surrounding his unusual color. Of course he couldn't explain to them what had actually happened – they would all hate him. He couldn't stomach that kind of rejection, so he had willingly made an outcast of himself, living alone further up the mountain. It wasn't so bad, after all. He would visit the villages at the peak sometimes, peer into the Igloo Garage Sale or the Toy Repair Shop, wonder if someday he too would set up permanent residence.
Sometimes he thought about leaving the mountains entirely. The thought frightened him, though – his life was lonely, but at least it was familiar. If he left Terror Mountain, would he... melt? He knew nothing of the consequences of being composed entirely of ice. As a Bori, the darkness of tunnels was always the most welcoming sensation, and he did not relish the thought of leaving those comforts behind.
So Trealiy remained, haunted by his past and afraid of his future, frozen in ice.
To be continued...