Finding The Vandagyre
The day we had found her we knew we couldn't just leave her there in the cold. We had no idea how long she had been there or exactly why; all we knew was that she needed food and warmth quickly. Lertucas was a bit skeptical about it, and we all understood why, but it pained my heart too much to think about leaving her there in the snow bank with what seemed to be a broken wing.
~ ~ ~
"That's not fair!" Rennala cried out, trying to catch the Bouncing Tennis Ball our brother, Lertucas, had passed to me.
"It's Monkey In the Middle. Do you honestly expect us to just toss the ball to you while you're in the middle?" Lert had said, rolling his eyes.
She puffed out a warm breath. "You don't have to be mean about it!"
"Just throw the ball, Hiko." Lert sighed.
I threw the tennis ball, but just a little too high. It soared over Lertucas's head and landed right in the snow bank behind where we were playing. It landed with a soft thud.
"Go get it, Monkey," Lert said, narrowing his eyes at Ren. She sighed deeply before running as fast as she could through Terror Mountain's two inch snow fall. Lert laughed silently at her trying to get the ball as fast as she could. I jabbed him with my elbow and he quickly stopped.
"Hey, uh, guys! I found something- err, I mean someone!" Ren's voice was full of confusion and worry. Lert and I ran quickly to see what it could be- or who it could be, rather.
In the snow bank lay a blue creature of some sort- nothing that any one of us had ever seen before. Its back faced us as it lay on its right side. I felt whatever tiny bits of hair that was on my blubber body stand up at the sight of it. I couldn't quite explain the feeling I was having.
"What is it?" Ren whispered.
"Should we . . . poke it?" Lert whispered back.
I used my foot to poke its soft back and quickly pulled away. Its body was covered with soft, but frozen feathers. I felt tears prick my eyes.
It made a weird groaning noise before turning to lie on its back. Its eyes fluttered open and we all gasped. Its pupils were dilated and its beak was slightly cracked on the end; it looked as if it had been in a rough battle with someone.
"A-are you o-okay?" Ren asked quietly, obviously scared.
It didn't speak for a few seconds, probably pondering whether or not to trust us or maybe too scared to make words. Its eyes lay on all three of us and when its eyes landed on mine, I knew we had to help it.
"W-who are you?" she asked just as softly.
Lert puffed out his chest as if he was her knight in shining armor. "I'm Lertucas and this is my brother and sister: Hiko and Rennala." A moment passed before he whispered, "Well, Ren is more or less a foster sister." Ren stuck out her tongue at him.
The creature attempted to laugh, but instead wheezed and coughed uncontrollably. When she had stopped, she held tightly to her chest and said a barely audible, "Ouch".
"What happened to you?" I finally had found the courage to ask.
She shook her head and I saw tears leak out of her gorgeous gold eyes. "Please help me."
After some serious tugging and pulling, we managed to get her out of the snow bank. She was covered head to toe in snow and it was then we noticed her broken wing. She smiled shyly at us before turning away.
"Where are you going?" Ren asked.
"I'm not sure," the creature replied, looking back at us.
"Do you have a place to stay?" I found myself asking.
She shook her head. "I've never had a home."
Ren faced me and begged, "Please, can we take her home? Please?"
"I don't think Mama would be okay with that," Lert replied, referring to Kara, our owner who we addressed as 'Mama'.
Ren looked me in the eyes. "She has no place to go, Hiko. She is going to freeze out here. We can't let that happen."
I knew we couldn't. If we did, I would regret it for as long as I was alive. She was damaged as it was. I nodded to Ren and walked up to the Neopet.
"Look, we have food and warmth at home. Come stay with us. You're in no shape to walk out all day and night long. Let us help you."
She looked at all of us for a minute before looking at the snow at our feet and nodding.
When we got home, Mama was in the kitchen making dinner. We couldn't hide the strange Neopet for very long, we all knew this, so I walked up to Mama with the creature wrapped in my green blanket, and told her the situation.
"Of course she can stay," Mama had said, a smile plastered onto her face as huge as the moon. "I hope you're hungry! I'm making Sweet and Sour Soup."
"Yum, my favorite!" Gilli had said, rubbing her stomach at the dinner table.
"Feel free to sit down. We have a vent right underneath the table. It'll keep your little toes all toasty warm!" Mama walked us to the table where all of our brothers and sisters sat waiting for the delicious meal to be served to them.
Everyone looked at her weirdly as if to pinpoint exactly what she was. She was unique and I could feel her sense that in a way. Gynisha was the first to speak up.
"So what are you?"
She jumped as if she never heard an Xweetok speak before. Mama looked at Gynisha with a scolding looking that said it all: it's rude to ask what species someone is.
"I'm a Vandagyre," she calmly replied after a while.
"A Vandagyre?" Ren asked, obviously amazed. "Are you like, endangered or something?"
"I think that's enough questions for now," Mama said, coming to the table with bowls upon bowls of Sweet and Sour Soup. She handed all of us one and when she placed the bowl of warm soup in front of the Vandagyre, she patted her soft head and I could see that the Vandagyre appreciated that.
She shrugged at the question. "It's okay. No, we're not endangered. There are many of us, actually."
"Where?" Gilli asked, slurping up her soup in a disgusting way.
The Vandagyre shrugged again. "Nowhere, really. We're everywhere. We just like to stay hidden, I guess."
"So what's your name?" Lizzie asked from down the table.
It took a while before she shook her head. We were all confused. Does she not have a name? Who could not have a name?
"It's okay to not have a name." Mama sat, finally filling in at the end of the table next to the creature and me. "We could give you a name, in fact, if you'd like."
She nodded and we all looked at Mama, but it wasn't Mama who spoke up. Niquilous suggested, "How about Phylesia?"
"That's beautiful!" Mama said, clapping her hands. "Do you like it?"
"What's it mean?" she asked before accepting the name.
"It means mysterious lady," Niquilous piped up, quite happy to show off how smart he was.
She smiled a real big smile that made my knees weak for whatever reason.
"I like it," she said. "Hi, I'm Phylesia."
We all laughed and devoured our soup. Phylesia ate fast, almost as if she's never had an ounce of food in her belly before. It made us all content to see her eat as much as she wanted (and she did, too! She had three or four bowls!). I could see Mama's dark chocolate eyes tear up at the sight for she loved to help people, especially Neopets. It made her feel useful.
After dinner we all washed up. Phylesia was the last to bathe, and we were glad too. She absorbed all the hot water and when she was done, the filth left a terrible dark ring around the inside base of the tub. Later we found out that was her first bath. She loved how soft her feathers turned out and how they smelled like rich Blackberries.
Rennala was happy to share her bed with Phylesia. With my room behind right next to theirs, I fell asleep to their soft conversation that lasted well into the night. Ren had asked how long Phy had been in the snow bank. Phy had claimed she didn't know, but she guessed a few days. Ren asked if she had a family. I could hear Phy move around in the bed and softly say no, that she had always been alone. When Ren asked how her beak and wing got ruined, I fell asleep.
The next morning Gilli shook me awake, panic in her eyes. "Wake up, wake up!" she shouted.
I got up and everyone was in my room, eyes full of worry. "What's wrong?" I asked my voice still full of sleep.
"We can't find her, Hiko. She's gone," Ren said, tears leaving her big eyes.
"She must've left in the middle of the night. I was the first awake and I couldn't find her," Gilli said, her voice shaking.
Mama came into the room asking what the commotion was. Gynisha explained while Mama held a weeping Ren in her arms.
"Oh, babies, it's okay. Maybe she has a family she has to get to. Someone surely misses her, don't you think?" Mama said, cooing Rennala.
Ren pushed her off softly. "No, she doesn't, Mama! She has no one! She told me last night! She's never had a family."
Mama looked at all of us and said, "Well, she did only want to stay for one night. We can't exactly force her to stay with us another day, now can we?"
Mama had a point, but I knew better. Phy had touched all of our hearts last night, every single one of us. We didn't want to let go and I knew what I had to do.
I jumped out of bed and grabbed my coat. "I'm going to find her."
Mama got up as if to protest, but I hugged her and said, "Mama, please. Let me do this."
"You're surely not going alone," she said finally.
When I left the house, Gynisha and Gilli had joined me. As we made our way to Terror Mountain, a place I was about ninety-percent sure she went back to, it began to snow. The snow fell in large quantities and before too long there were a few inches of the fluffy specks on the soft ground.
"It's cold," Gilli complained, shivering.
"You should've brought a heavier coat," Gynish responded, irritation heavy in his voice.
We were normally quiet on the way there from our Neohome to the frightening mountain. It was Gilli who broke the silence of course.
"What if we don't find her?" It came out as a whisper.
I turned and faced her. Her eyes widened at the sight of my reaction and I could tell she wasn't expecting any response from me at all. All I said was, "We will."
Just as I turned around, we had our feet stuck in Happy Valley's snow. All around the excited valley were Neopets enjoying the snowfall. Several Neopets were with their owners at the Rink Runner which looked like a competition was being held there.
"Gilli, why don't you watch the Rink Runner?" I asked, trying to get her out of finding Phylesia with us. Gilli wouldn't be able to handle the emotion if we stumbled upon something terrible.
"But I want to help find Phylesia!" she whined.
"Gilli," Gynisha snapped. "Go to the Rink Runner. We'll find her."
With that a very unhappy Gilli walked slowly to the Rink Runner. I thanked Gynisha in a hushed whisper.
Gynisha and I walked up the large slopes of snow to the very top of the mountain. The air dropped several degrees while we progressed and a few times I had slipped, but Gynisha was below me holding me up. When we finally reached Terror Mountain, my flippers were ice cold and Gynisha's fur was stuck with tons of snow.
The wind nipped at our faces raw; I almost wanted to turn around and go back home. It had never been this cold in Terror Mountain before! I could sense Gynisha thought the same.
We scanned the area until I lay my eyes on the very snow bank Rennala had found Phy. We ran to the bank, but I already knew what lay there before we reached the destination: nothing. I was right.
I put my teary eyes in my cold flippers and began to sob uncontrollably. I felt like I had just lost a huge chunk of my heart.
"Hiko, look!" Gynisha tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the Super Happy Icy Fun Snow Shop. I knew the yellow Lenny that owned that shop for there was many times I had stopped in to enjoy a Snowflake Winter Coffee here and there. He always loved to see me.
Outside of his shop was a blue pet of some sort; we couldn't really tell exactly what kind of Neopet it was from our stance. The Lenny was hunched over as if scolding the poor Neopet for whatever it had done. As Gynisha and I got closer, my heart sprung up. It was Phylesia!
We raced to the Snow Shop just as the Lenny had stopped talking to her and faced us.
"Why, how nice of you to stop by, Hiko!" he greeted me. "I'm sorry to inform you of this, but it seems that I have run out of your favorite Snowflake Winter Coffee." His eyes locked right on Phy's.
"That's alright," I comforted him. "I'm actually here for her."
He looked quite surprised. "This ugly thing here? Why would you ever want anything to do with her?"
My body tensed up. I could feel my insides boil. "She's our friend." I said through gritted teeth. "I'm here to take her home."
"I have no home!" she cried out, shivering from the cold.
"Now you do," Gynisha said, his voice softening. "We're your home now. Let us take care of you, Phylesia."
"Why?" she asked, her voice cracking.
I let out a breath. "You're in no shape to be on your own. Look at your wing! Let us fix it."
Her body relaxed and she nodded. "Thanks, you guys."
Gynisha and I helped her up and she embraced us. "I can't thank you guys enough. Honestly."
"It's okay," I calmly said, patting her soft feathers. She still smelled like rich Blackberries.
~ ~ ~
The warmth of our Neohome engulfed us as we stepped through the door. Thank goodness we came home just in time too, for a blizzard was in the brewing outside. I could see Phylesia being concerned about it as we made our way back.
In the entry way stood everyone including Mama. In Mama's hands was a tray full of Banana Cookies. Everyone shouted, "Welcome home!"
Phy's large eyes filled up with tears once again as everyone tried their hardest to get their own little hug from her. Rennala was the first and I could see how pleased she was that we found our friend.
"Here, have a cookie." Mama said, holding out the tray to the little Vandagyre.
"I've never had a Banana Cookie before," Phy admitted. We all watched with uncertainty as she took her first bite. She smiled as wide as she could. "I like it!" We all grinned in unison.
Later that day after Mama examined Phy's broken wing and beak, she told us the results. Phylesia was attacked by the Snowager after trying to find some warm place to sleep and possible food to take. She ran out of the Ice Caves and weakly found herself in the snow bank for a few days until we had found her. I was thankful that we had.
For dinner we had Beefy Cheesy Hot Dogs and Gravy Hot Dogs. Phy devoured them like no tomorrow which made Mama ecstatic.
"Can I ask a question?" Phy asked as we helped Mama clear off the table after dinner. We had a few leftovers that Mama would probably crush up for Meliyra and feed her lunch the next day with her being a Baby Korbat.
"Of course," Mama answered for us.
There was a long moment of pause before she asked, "Why help me?"
We all stopped what we were doing to look at her. It was I who broke the silence with, "You're family."