Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 177,588,188 Issue: 185 | 8th day of Eating, Y7
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Moonlit Peaks: Part One


by battlesunn

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"I can't believe I have to be paired up with you!" Zarrelian grumbled as he glared peevishly at the large starry Lupe that sat beside him in the Eyrie-drawn carriage. The Lupe ground his teeth together in response.

     "Yeah? Well I'm not too enthusiastic about you, either," Killerflurry (for that was the Lupe's name) --replied. Zarrelian snorted, ruffling his leathery bat wings.

     "I still find it annoying. I had to be your partner for our science project last term, and now I'm your 'explorer buddy' for our stupid field trip to Terror Mountain!" the Halloween Ixi whined. Flurry rolled his eyes.

     "Look, if you're going to complain the whole way--"

     "Quiet back there! We've almost reached the mountain." It was their teacher, Mr. Bronston, a middle-aged Draik with scales as fiery red as his temper. He had strategically placed himself in the same Eyrie carriage as the two Pets, knowing all too well that Zarrelian would probably generate some conflict. Mr. Bronston continued to glare threateningly at his two students before deciding that they had learned their lesson, turning himself back to face the front of the carriage.

     Flurry sighed, plopping his head on his royal blue paw and gazing idly out the window at the huge expanse of untouched white snow. It was quite beautiful on Terror Mountain in the winter. Of course, the topmost peaks were always snow-capped, but in the winter the scenery seemed to be even more breathtaking. The Lupe was roused from his reverie by a sharp jab in his side. Flurry snapped his head around and found himself face to face with his annoyed partner.

     "Stop daydreaming, Killer. We're finally here, so the Eyries are going to land and you've got to fasten your seatbelt," the Ixi said. Flurry bared his teeth.

     "I told you not to call me 'Killer'. Call me Flurry, okay?" Zarrelian huffed disdainfully. The Lupe smirked.

     "You wouldn't like it if I called you 'Zarry', now would you?" he asked mockingly. Zarrelian's eyebrows shot up.

     "Fine, fine. Flurry is!" he huffed. Flurry shook his head and shifted his gaze to his lap, carefully doing up his seatbelt in preparation for their sharp descent into the Terror Mountain region. Beside him, he could hear soft, frustrated grunting noises that could only be Zarrelian struggling with his own safety harness.

     Flurry was about to go back to his window when the carriage banked suddenly, stooping rapidly down as the Eyries that were harnessed to the taxi went into a steep dive. The Lupe lurched, clutching his stomach. He had never been terribly fond of heights.

     Thankfully, the descent didn't take long, and soon Flurry found himself back on solid ground. He, Zarrelian, Mr. Bronston and a handful of other Pets filed out of the carriage and into the fresh powder snow. Flurry stepped into the snow-blanketed world with wonder sparkling in his gentle green eyes. It was the most beautiful place that he had ever seen-- the magnificent, rocky peaks of Terror Mountain jutted sharply into the overcast gray sky, snow-covered trees dotted the wintry landscape as the faint rays of sunlight that managed to strain through the clouds gave the entire scene a soft, subdued glow. Flurry didn't have much time to appreciate the view. With a loud splat, a huge icy snowball thwacked into the side of Flurry's head, followed shortly by the sound of Zarrelian's high-pitched giggling. The Lupe growled, angrily brushing the remnants of snow from his star-spangled fur. He whirled around and scowled at the Ixi.

     "Be careful, Zarrel," he growled. "I don't really mind the snow. I've got fur that's thick enough to withstand the cold. But you, on the other paw..." Flurry circled the Halloween Ixi, grabbing one of his thin, leathery wings between his paws and giving it a good pull. "You wouldn't last a day in this kind of an environment. Your wings would fall right off."

     Zarrelian stopped sniggering. He wrenched his wing from the Lupe's grasp, lowering his head so that his horns were level with Flurry's chest. "Want a bet, Lupey?"

     Before a major fight could break out, Mr. Bronston came stomping in, looking rather miffed after having paid the Eyries their outrageous fares for passage into Terror Mountain. The Draik growled at the two Neopets, twin plumes of silvery smoke beginning to waft from his nostrils. Flurry and Zarrelian instantly froze, knowing how serious a sign it was. Mr. Bronston snorted, pulling his thick woolen scarf tighter around his scaly neck.

     "That's enough, you two. I'm already angry after having been forced to drag my entire class up on this Faerie forsaken Mountain for some stupid field trip, and I certainly won't tolerate any more fooling around. Do I make myself clear?" he demanded. The two students nodded. Mr. Bronston narrowed his menacing yellow eyes.

     "Good. Now, gather 'round, class. I'm going to give you your instructions for the day, as written by our beloved principal."

     The students assembled swiftly around their teacher, all conversations temporarily silenced in the presence of the volatile Draik. Mr. Bronston strutted up and down the row of students, folding his claws behind his back.

     "Alright, students. Today is the day of your MUCH anticipated field trip into the heart of Terror Mountain. Now, I must make this absolutely clear right now because if I don't then I'm liable to get fired. It is very dangerous on Terror Mountain in wintertime. The storms have come in early this year and they aren't even allowing the public up here anymore. The only reason that we got clearance to go is because we had booked this trip in advance and because the principal bribed the Terror Mountain officials. That is why it is absolutely essential that you stay with me throughout the duration of this trip and don't stray from me or your buddy. Now, does everyone have a buddy?"

     A chorus of "yes sir!" rippled through the crowd. Mr. Bronston nodded curtly.

     "Good. Now, keep track of your buddy. That way, at the end of the day, I'll just say, 'has anyone lost a buddy?" and if no one says anything then I'll know that I've got you all and we can go home without even having to do a head count." The Draik allowed himself a satisfied little chuckle. "I came up with the system myself, because I always hated doing head counts." Mr. Bronston turned and began marching off towards a large cave.

     "Come with me, class. My stupid itinerary says that I have to take you on a tour of the Ice Caves, so off we go..." The Pets roused themselves and began to doggedly follow the Draik, trudging unenthusiastically through the snow. Flurry sighed resignedly.

     "Oh well, let's get this over with, Zarrel." The Lupe paused. "Zarrel? Zarrelian? Where are you?" Flurry looked around and gasped. The Halloween Ixi had set off on his own, trotting gleefully through the snow in the exact opposite direction of their teacher.

     The Lupe's breath caught in his throat. Mr. Bronston was quite far away by now. There was no way that he'd be able to go to him and alert him of Zarrelian's departure in time. By the time he reached the Draik, told him the story, and ran back, Zarrelian would be miles away. Flurry had two options. He could just follow Mr. Bronston and forget about Zarrelian, or he could go after the Ixi himself and catch up with the rest of his class later. Flurry sighed. Was there really any doubt as to what his decision would be? The Lupe shook himself furiously and then trotted off into the distance, after Zarrelian.

     Flurry caught up with the Ixi about fifteen minutes later. He ran in front of him, cutting Zarrelian off.

     "What do you think you're doing?" he roared. "We're supposed to stay with Mr. Bronston! Did you even listen to his talk?"

     Zarrelian grunted exasperatedly. "What, that boring speech that he was giving? Look, I've taught myself to pretty much tune Mr. Bronston out. I don't hear to him past 'okay class' anymore."

     Flurry gaped at the Ixi. "You are such an idiot. Anyway, it doesn't matter anymore, we can still catch up to them. Now come on, let's go!" the Lupe pawed anxiously at the ground. Zarrelian didn't seem too eager to leave.

     "Oh, come on, Flurry. Break the rules for once in your life. Do you really want to listen to Mr. Bronston make up the history of the Ice Caves because he can't remember how it actually goes? He won't even notice that you're gone, he's only aware of the students to the front, sides and back of him," the Ixi said airily. Flurry bit his lip worriedly.

     "Even so, if we don't hurry back then we might miss the Eyrie Taxi home. And if that happens..." The Lupe shuddered a little. "We'll be stuck here until they open the Mountain publicly again, assuming we could even survive that long."

     Zarrelian rolled his eyes. "Alright, fine, if you're so worried then we can go back." The Ixi yawned. "It's kind of dull here, anyway. And my wings are cold."

     Flurry turned and galloped back in the direction that he had come from, Zarrelian cantering a little ways behind. The Lupe set his jaw, worry creasing his starry brow.

     I just hope that we make it back in time... he thought.

     ***

     Mr. Bronston stood in front of the two express Eyrie carriages, clipboard in hand. The Draik shielded his eyes against the brightening sun and peered out over the sea of students.

     "Okay," he barked. "Now, is anyone missing a buddy?"

     No one spoke. Mr. Bronston grinned.

     "Great! The buddy system was a success, then. I wonder how much money I can get from patenting it..." He glared suddenly at the Pets. "Well? What are you waiting for? Get in the taxi!" The students scrambled to attention, piling quickly into the carriages. A satisfied smirk crept across the Draik's reptilian features as he climbed into the roomier taxi and signaled to the Eyries to start flying.

     "I guess that field trip didn't go so badly after all," he mused, settling into his seat as the Eyries took off, shooting into the sky and towards Neopia Central.

     ***

     Flurry panted as he and Zarrelian broke into the small clearing where they had first disembarked from the Eyrie carriages. The Lupe glanced around with a puzzled expression.

     "That's odd," he said. "You'd think that they'd be back from the Ice Caves by now." Zarrelian came strolling up beside him. The Ixi gave a harsh laugh.

     "Well, look at that, Flurry. You were wrong, they aren't even back from their little excursion yet."

     Flurry frowned. "That doesn't make any sense," he whimpered, cold fear creeping into his chest. "They ought to be done with the exploration by now. They should be here. They should... Unless..." The Lupe bounded quickly over to the spot where the taxis had landed, thrusting his snout into the snow and sniffing frantically. Flurry snapped his head back up, a horrified look in his eyes.

     "Zarrel," he moaned. "They're gone! These imprints and tracks are far too recent for them to have been from our arrival! They're from our class leaving! Leaving without us! They're gone, Zarrel! And we..." The Lupe tilted his head to the sky, his gaze roving around the bitter, snowcapped peaks. He blinked suddenly, thinking for a moment that he may have caught a flash of movement on one of the crags, but swiftly chased that thought from his mind.

     "They're gone," he whispered. "Gone. We've been left behind."

     Flurry's worst fear had become a reality. They were abandoned; alone on the mountain.

To be continued...

 
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