Moltara's Winter: Part One
Also by saltsman
Five hundred feet below Moltara's surface, two Kacheeks quietly plotted their overly rehearsed plan. The youngest of them, Rhoman, felt uneasy, with his belly queasy.
"Are you sure?" he asked his master.
"Aren't you?" the master replied. "We've been through all this trouble to get what we wanted and you want to back down?" His tone implied that he didn't do well with cravens.
"No, not at all, my master." Rhoman lowered his head.
Vaughn, the master, however, felt like nothing could beat him today. Finally, after years of planning, the day to put things in motion had finally come. His dearly beseeched revenge was upon him, and nothing would be able to stop him now.
"Pass me the key, Rhoman," he ordered.
Rhoman carefully picked up the golden key from the case in which it was kept. The gilded surface had sculptures all over it: old drawings of ancient, magical Neopians. Grabbing hold of it, Vaughn felt a surge of power like never before. It really is magical, he thought, with his hands shaking. Without hesitating, he approached the shiny machine before him and placed the key in the lock. Every single obsidian on the five-feet-tall device started emanating a bright, sparkly light. Vaughn cackled.
"It's working, Rhoman!"
Carefully, he turned the key. A churning sound filled the Kacheeks' ears. The white light grew so strong it hurt their eyes. From the gap on the top of the device, dry ice smoke started vaporizing its way up, entering the pipes above through the fend Vaughn had created on them earlier.
"Now what?" Rhoman's voice was soft, like a quivering whisper.
"Now we wait." Vaughn's determination showed in his ambitious tone. "And after that, we get back what's rightfully ours."
Jon woke up feeling extremely happy. Today's the day, he thought joyfully. He jumped out of bed and reached for the calendar atop the bedside table. With a red marker, he crossed the 24th day of the Month of Storing, today, his birthday. It was the day he would finally receive his long awaited gift.
Flapping his wings out of his room, he straightly ran straight into his parents' room. They were still asleep, but Jon's excited shouts did a good job waking them up.
"Son, it's 6 a.m.," complained the Kougra.
"I know, Dad, but we got to go! You know I want to spend my birthday looking just like you!" He jumped on their bed and the mattress sunk.
"Don't you worry, darling." He felt his mom's Kougra paws soft touch drawing him in and getting tighter by the second. "You are already like us."
"No, Mom, I'm not. I'm green and you guys are Magma! I want to be like you!"
His dad chuckled. "Happy birthday, my boy."
Jon rejoiced that moment with his parents. It still looked like incredibly unreal that only one year ago, he was suffering at the pound without anyone to tend to him. When they told him a family wanted to take him home, he didn't even believe it. By then, he was miserable enough to deem himself unworthy of love and caring. But their foster parents proved him wrong. They brought him all the way down to Moltara and started raising him the best way possible.
When Jon first arrived in Moltara, ten months ago, he felt like he didn't belong. The walls were damp and cavern-y, it was always too hot and people weren't that gentle, especially to him, a green Shoyru. But, as the days went by, he learned about their culture, their history and, most important, felt for the first time of his life like he belonged. Then, he knew he needed to take one step further to truly becoming a Moltaran - he needed to take a dip into the lava pool and be reborn as a son of Magma.
He'd been nagging at his parents to take him there for months now, but they kept avoiding it because they didn't want him to lose what made him stand out. However, Jon's insistence finally broke on through, and they agreed that on Jon's tenth birthday, they would take him down there and let him go through with it.
"So, when are we going?" he asked anxiously. He couldn't wait to see how he would look like covered with Magma.
"Well, how about after birthday breakfast?" His dad got out of bed, smiling. "I'm going to make us something delicious. You wait here with your mom. We eat, and then we go. Is that okay with you?"
"More than okay! I want Magma Blaster Cereal! And a magma slushie! Ohh, and..."
"Don't worry," his dad tranquilized him. "I've got it covered!"
When Gale left, Jon looked up to his mother. She was giving him the greatest of smiles. Jenna couldn't believe how lucky she was that she adopted such a beautiful son, a son so brave, with a lot of strength of character, honest and tender. It felt like winning the lottery. It was her desire that they adopted a kid from Neopia Central, the land where she and Gale grew up. Upon Moltara's discovery, they moved in to escape from their lives and start fresh.
Gale came back with a tray filled with goodies: a bowl filled to the top with crunchy cereal that resembled lava rock, a magma slushie, coffee, fruits, bread and eggs. Jon wolfed down his breakfast, washing it with long gulps of the hot beverage he liked so much. Actually, he ate so fast that when he was done, he felt dizzy and about to explode.
"Okay, can we go now?"
Jenna and Gale exchanged a longing look, and nodded together.
It took no more than five minutes for Jon to get ready and wait for his parents at the door. He looked at the house across the street, the Turner's house. Sarah and Paul Turner were his Draik best friends. He wished they were awake to see him transform. Well, why not wake them up?, he thought cheerfully. Crossing the street rapidly, he rapped his closed fist against their door six times.
Their mom, Mrs. Luna Turner, opened the door, groggy and scratching her eyes. She was wearing a pink robe and her hair was completely disheveled.
"Jon? Is everything alright?" She harrumphed twice to fix her hoarse voice.
"Yeah! Are Sarah and Paul awake? I'm going down to the Magma Pool and I wanted them to come with me. It's my birthday today, Mrs. L!"
"Oh, sweetheart, I didn't know that. Do you want to come on in? I'll get them ready."
"No, I actually have to wait out here for my parents. Can you hurry them up, please?"
Luna smiled. "Of course."
When Jon's parents came out of the house, locking it, they were surprised to find their son sitting on the neighbor's lawn. Jon hurried back across the street to explain himself.
"Hi! I decided that I want Sarah and Paul to watch me do it!" He smirked.
"Ooh, that's nice, dear," said Jenna, caressing her son's head.
The Turners didn't take long either. Jon was surprised to acknowledge that their mom was tagging along with them. Luna was wearing a different and more sophisticated robe, a brown, leather one and her usual half-moon glasses. Sarah and Paul wore the same white outfit. They were twins and they loved looking alike.
Two parties were instantly formed: the children's one that took the lead, and the adults that guarded the rear. Jon trotted cheerfully through the streets he already knew by heart, telling his best friends all about his days in the pound. What better moment to recollect the worst parts of life than the one when you feel complete?
When the Magma Pool came into view, Jon started jumping around and hooping in the air. Luna giggled at the sight of it. His flipping happiness was so engrossing no one could look away or not feel contaminated. Every step closer made the little Shoyru's heart thump faster against his chest. It was finally here, the moment he would truly feel like another person. He would emerge another person, letting his troublesome past sink far enough, burning all the way down. It was time.
"Finally going to take a dip, Jon?" asked the magma pool guard. Everyone knew about Jon's desire to do it as he was a big blabbermouth.
"You deserve it, buddy." The guard patted him on the back. "Happy birthday."
"Thank you. Can I pass, please?"
"Well, you do know only true Moltarans at heart can get through, right?" The guard's stern voice almost made Jon's heart stop. "And no one deserves it more than you do." He grinned and cleared the path.
Jon stood at the border. The lava wasn't bubbly today as he remembered, but it didn't matter. He looked up and took a deep breath.
"Go Jon!" cheered his parents.
Feeling blessed and overjoyed, he leaped into the pool. He instantly sank down, but the whole ride was nothing like he expected. Somehow, the lava felt colder than he would have thought. The liquid didn't seem so dense and not at all that orange underneath. Puzzled, he came back up for air, and he was greeted with gasps from his friends and confused mutterings. The first person he saw was the guard. His countenance was severe and quizzical, whereas his parents, now on the edge of the pool, looked worried.
"Jon..." Paul began, shifting closer to the edge as well. He didn't know how to finish.
Knowing something was obviously off, he looked down, staring at his own hands. They were still green.
"It didn't work!" he muttered to himself, tears streaming down his cheek. "Mom, Dad." He looked up, tearing up. "It didn't work!"
To be continued...