What We Found in the Storm
It was a particularly cold morning on Terror Mountain, not to imply that the weather was ever warm. Even in the summer, Terror Mountain had snow on the ground. But at least in the summer, a fuzzy scarf could keep you warm enough or an all-day adventure through the beautiful mountain caves: ice-skating, snowball fighting, and (my personal favorite) a trip to the Slushie Shop for a cheeseburger slushie!
But on that day, since the brunt of winter was a mere month away, the average Neopian would have to be far more prepared (and careful) for a trip to the very tippy-top of Terror Mountain. Especially for a little Pteri like me, the wind can become too difficult to fly in. It was a fiercely stormy day, and the icy rain nipped at my tail as I clutched to my owner, Marie. I shielded her face with my wing as we carefully made our way up the rocky steps of Happy Valley. Wealthier Neopians could afford the ski lift, but we had to adapt to climbing the uneven stairs.
The voice of my younger brother Joboro, a blue Ixi, chimed in from behind us.
“This is terrible, ma! I want to go home!” he cried. “It’s cold and wet and freezing and rainy and cold!”
I sighed as Marie stopped to look back at him. “We’re almost there, Joboro. As soon as our bags are full, we will return home. And on the way, I will take you and Judi to Roo Island for some kabuggle mochas from the Coffee Cave and a ride on the Merry Go Round.”
Joboro sighed loudly. “Now, I want to go now.”
Marie continued forward, winking at me. “Judi,” she whispered. “thank you for being such a good sport and a good example to your brother. The more of us there are, the more items we can take back home for our little store.”
I nodded enthusiastically. I then quickly looked back at Joboro and stuck out my tongue. He glared back fiercely, his four hoofed feet stomping loudly against the ground. “I hate this,” he whined. “I don’t even have my lucky scarf!”
Marie and I continued on in silence, despite Joboro’s constant complaining. I loved my little brother (somewhere deep down), but we rarely got along. Marie and I had been together for years before she came home from the pound one day with a tiny, shaking, terrified blue Ixi in her arms whom she adoringly named Joboro.
At first, I felt sorry for him. He was always quiet and always gobbling down whatever food we offered him. It was if he had never tasted a chili and cheese jacket potato from Hubert’s Hotdogs, or a gooey caramel pizza from the Pizzaroo. Then again, from what I hear, they only serve slop at the Neopian Pound. And Joboro never spoke of the pound. If ever asked about his time there, he would only stare back in sad silence.
But Joboro’s shy, quiet demeanor began to change. It started when Marie presented me with a faerie paint brush for my most recent birthday. It was the happiest moment of my life, and I knew that she had saved her pennies for years to find one. Our small family store was finally beginning to make a modeet profit, largely due to our hard work. We were no longer sleeping on straw beds in the floor of our neohome, and Marie was finally able to begin purchasing small amounts of stock from the stock market and collecting enough daily interest from the Neopian bank to feed us.
I felt lucky that I never had to experience life in the pound, not once. But in my defense, Joboro had not lived with us in the years that Marie and I struggled to feed ourselves, often sleeping under one of the trees near the soup kitchen or standing in line for soup for hours with aching bellies. We made daily trips to Tyrannia to steal omelet from the enormous egg that baked under the hot sun. That was where we first discovered the skill (and art, if I must say) of reselling. Marie and I would share one third of an omelet, and take the rest back home to Neopia Central and sell it for pennies. We would spend the rest of the evening standing near the money tree and scrambling for any items we could refurbish and resell.
I was suddenly pulled from my thoughts as the sound of Marie’s cry of disdain.
“Closed for storm repairs, will reopen on Tuesday!?” she stammered, her eyes full of sadness. “Well, this is terribly unlucky. I wish I could have known sooner and saved us the trip.”
I examined the letter that was posted on the front door of the igloo. The igloo belonged to Mike and Carassa, two Chias, who had been offering discounted items daily for the past two weeks in preparation for their move to a new home. I didn’t think it was possible for two chias to own so much random stuff! Marie would often joke that, with how much stuff those two Chias had stuffed away in their igloo, it would be a miracle if they were ever actually able to sell it all and leave Terror Mountain. But piles upon piles upon piles of their belongings were posted for sale every day, and my small family had made the treacherous trip every day as well, in search of items to resell. We would fill our bags to the brim and drag them back down the mountain, back to our home in Neopia Central.
“Well,” I said. “This is unlucky. What will we do now, mother? Shall we try to haggle the marketplace vendors today instead?”
“No,” she sighed softly, looking down at her feet. “It will be dark by the time we return, and we will all be very tired. Besides, the shops in Neopia Central are far too busy. It has been difficult lately for me to find decent deals there with so many cust-”
“You’re kidding me, right?” interrupted Jodoro loudly. He stomped his right hoof against the ground dramatically. “You make me come all this way, in the freezing cold, for nothing?”
“I’m sorry Joboro,” Marie said soothingly. “I didn’t know Mike and Carassa wouldn’t be selling today. Luckily, neither of them were hurt with the storm damages but-”
“I don’t care!” Joboro screamed. “I want to go home right now!”
“Joboro,” Marie said sternly, eyes narrowing. “That is not the way you talk to your-”
“I don’t wanna hear it,” Joboro cried, tears welling up in his eyes. “You don’t care about me! You only care about Judi and whatever she wants!”
My mouth fell open, and Marie’s eyes widened in surprise. “How can you say that, Joboro?” she asked. “What has gotten into you?”
Joboro slammed his front hoof into the ground again, clearly upset. Tears began streaming down his face as he whimpered. “Everyone is always gawking at Judi, talking about Judi, wanting to know about Judi. Judi this, Judi that, ever since you gave her that dumb faerie paint brush. And I have to wear these awful rags, and no one cares about me!”
“Joboro!” Marie exclaimed. “That is not true! Your sister has worked very hard for a very long time in the family store. One day soon, you too will be given something special. But I promise you, we all care about you. And just yesterday, that faerie at the Faerieland Employment Agency commented on what a clever Ixi you were when you helped her catch that petpet running lose in her office.”
“No!” Joboro yelled. “You don’t care about me. You just wanted a second pet to carry around all of your stuff so that you can get rich and buy Judi faerie paintbrushes!”
“That’s silly,” I cried. “Joboro, enough! You’re acting like a fool!”
“Quiet, Judi” Marie said calmy. “Joboro, come here. We’ll talk at home.”
“I don’t have a home,” Joboro stammered. “People take me home just to forget about me. You’ll put me back in the pound when you’re tired of me, you’ll see! One day, I’ll go back, and you’ll see.”
Marie and I went silent. Glancing at each other, I could see the sadness in her eyes. Marie would never give us up, not for anyone. How could Joboro think that, even for a second?
At that moment, a warmly-dressed male Lupe approached us. “I’m a ranger, just in the area make sure everyone is prepared for the storm. It’d be best if you folk would head on home,” he said. “There’s another storm starting, and everyone on Terror Mountain needs to stay safe inside their homes for the night.”
As if on cue, the wind howled, whipping against our scarves. A blast of large snowflakes swirled around us, urging us to leave. Marie reached for Joboro to pull him towards her, but another gust of snowflakes blinded her view. As we stepped carefully down the rocky staircase to Happy Valley, we could see Joboro’s blue form already reaching the bottom. As he neared the Scratchcard Kiosk, I was suddenly pushed into flight by another gust of wind, tearing me away from Marie’s warm scarf. It spun me around, throwing me dizzily down through the air towards Happy Valley. The icy wind stung my skin, and I managed to steady myself in fight. But Marie was nowhere to be found.
“Mother” I cried. “MOTHERRRRR!”
Off in the distance, Joboro stopped to listen. He turned around to see what had happened and began walking back towards me hesitantly.
“I can’t find her,” I screeched at Joboro. “Only a second… the wind… where is she...” The howling storm was growing louder, making it difficult to hear.
I flew frantically around in circles, but all I could see was blurry whiteness. I scaled the mountainside, flying close above the snow in case Marie had been buried underneath.
Joboro, seeming to understand exactly what had happened at that point, began charging towards me. The tears on his face turned frantic as he cried out for Marie, digging through the snow like a bulldozer.
“Judi,” he cried. “Judi, don’t fly in that. The storm will take you away. We have to get help.”
It was at that moment when I was blinded by white. I didn’t know what was up or down, but I could feel myself spinning quickly through the icy air, finally plummeting deep into a blanket of snow. And from white, everything went black.
- - - (many hours later...) - - -
The scraping sound of a shovel woke me from a frozen sleep. “A faerie Pteri,” said a familiar voice. “She fits the description. Let’s get her inside and warm her up.”
I opened my eyes groggily. The Lupe my family had met earlier on the mountaintop peered back at me. “You’re lucky,” he said softly. “Last night’s storm was a bad once, worst we’ve had in years.”
“Last night?” I asked weakly.
The lupe nodded. “You’ve been here all night,” he said.
I fell in and out of sleep as I was carried through the Ice Caves to Happy Valley. It was at the Merry Outfits store where I was given a warm bath and wrapped in a long scarf. The scarf reminded me of Marie, and I immediately came to my senses. More alert, my thoughts returned to my family.
I turned to an Aisha folding clothes nearby. “My family?” I asked her.
She smiled and said softly, “they’ll be here any moment. They’ve been searching for you all morning. Your owner took quite a tumble down the mountain but only suffered minor injuries. She spent the night inside the storm. If it weren’t for your brother, we might not have found her. Your brother searched for you both all night and was lucky to not get lost in the storm as well.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, too tired still to rise to my feet, as the Aisha continued organizing the holiday outfits that adorned the warm cabin. - - - - - -
The moment I was reunited with my family was better than words can describe. Marie, with one of her arms in a sling, held me close. Even Jodoro cuddled close, completely silent. After an hour of warming by the fire, enjoying the quiet and the company of each other, we prepared to head home.
“I’m sorry,” Jodoro whispered to me. “You were right, I was being foolish.”
I smiled at him. “Just because we’re family doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree or get along,” I mused. “But one thing is for certain: we’d never let you go, Joboro. You’re just as important to this family as I am, and we need you.”
Joboro smiled softly. “One day,” he said. “When I’ve worked at the family story for as long as you have, I’d like to take it over.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he answered. “You and ma have always supported my agility lessons at the Swashbuckling Academy on Krawk Island. You’ve often let me spend all day at the bookstore, reading, while you two worked to support our family. I’d happily work a little more if it meant that you could finally start visiting the Tyrannian Concert Hall whenever your favorite band was playing.”
I smiled back at Joboro. “You’d be a great shopkeeper,” I said. “We can name the store after you! Besides, with how things are going, I don’t think we’ll have to continue making daily trips to the top of Terror Mountain much longer.”
With a few more words and smiles, we made our way carefully back home. After the crazy events of the night before, Marie was mostly silent the entire way home. I think we were all just happy to be together.
Once home, Marie headed straight for her bedroom. She returned with a bundle of red fabric, obviously hiding something within in it. “Judi,” she said softly. “I need to take your brother somewhere.”
I nodded. Joboro, hearing his name, peeked quiet from around the doorway.
“Let’s go for a walk, Joboro. There’s somewhere I want to take you,” Marie said.
Joboro’s ears fell slightly as he hesitantly walked towards the front door.
“You’re not in trouble, Joboro,” Marie chimed. “I just want to talk.”
Joboro ears perked up, and he was obviously relieved.
I pushed the front door closed behind them and proceeded to ready a copy of “More than Carrot Cake” in search of some new recipes to try. Cooking had always been a passion of mine. Dishes like eyeball pie or toe nail soup were exceptions to that, however. Yuck! It takes a special sort of Neopian to be able to swallow a dung sandwich or eyeball fungus.
It wasn’t long before the front door opened. I peered up from the pages of my recipe book, mouth already watering at the new ideas, to see Marie standing in the doorway. She winked at me. “I’ll be resting in bed, dears,” she said happily. “Let me know if you need anything.”
I nodded, my eyes following her before catching a gold sparkle from the corner of my eye.
Joboro stood in the doorway, holding his head high. Although smiling sheepishly, he was glowing with happiness. He was adorned in gold cuffs and a regal feathered hat rested on his head. A royal ixi, I thought. That’s why we had been making so many trips to Terror Mountain the past couple weeks… a royal paint brush!
“Prince Joboro!” I exclaimed playfully. “You look fantastic!”
“Thanks Judi,” Joboro said quietly. “I don’t feel like I deserve it, not after the things I said to you and ma last night.”
“Of course you do,” I said, rolling my eyes with a smile. “I know that it has hasn’t always been easy, but things are going to get better. You deserve it especially after last night!”
“Why do you say that?” Joboro asked, an eyebrow raised as he smirked. “Does the fact that I have been obsessed with royal paintbrushes make me a royal brat, too?”
“No,” I giggled. “You deserve it for finding mother in the snow, and for getting help and saving me. You deserve it for being my brother and being an irreplaceable part of this family. No matter how we came together, what our circumstances were, we will always be together and here for each other.”
Joboro nodded quietly, clearly at a loss for words. He closed the front door and sat down next to me, pulling a few of his favorite plushies over and opening a deck of cards.
“Do you want to play a game of Dueling Decks?” He asked.
“Of course! Loser does the dishes!” I replied cheerfully.
Up until that day, I had never been especially close to my brother. But the story of our accident on Terror Mountain served as a reminder of the importance of our family. When disagreeing with each other or not always getting along (even fighting), family remained more important than anything else. At the end of the day, family is worth more than how many neopoints are in the bank or how large a neohome is. It’s more important than all of the faerie paintbrushes in the world. Love and family are what being a happy Neopian is all about; although, I cannot lie. Paint brushes do help a little.