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Moonlit Peaks: Part Six


by battlesunn

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It was the afternoon of the day before winter solstice. Flurry was inside his cave, anxiously waiting for the sun to fully set so that he could slip out the pack's clutches and join HowlingWinter under the cover of darkness. Zarrelian watched him scornfully.

     "Sure, you get the easy job," he griped. "I have to sit there for Fyora knows how many hours while a bunch of mangy Lupes slobber their secrets in my ear. What am I, some kind of warped Scorchy Claws?" Flurry rolled his eyes.

     "The listening isn't the difficult part, Zarrel. You'll need to save all of your strength for your descent down the mountain; you'll only get one opportunity to land in the cave, and if you mess up..." He drew a paw swiftly across his throat. Zarrelian gulped.

     "I get the symbolism. I just hope that my wings hold out."

     The Ixi glanced doubtfully at his small, leathery bat wings. He had been exercising them a bit in preparation for his flight, but had found, to his dismay, that the cold air had rendered them numb and virtually useless. He was able to keep them extended for a little while, but he certainly couldn't flap, and it often pained him to leave them fully flared for too long. Flurry put a comforting paw on his head.

     "You'll be alright, Zarrel. Just get as close to the cave as you can; Howl and I will grab you, if all else fails," he soothed. Zarrelian jerked away from his touch.

     "Get your paw off me, Lupey. I don't want to catch fleas." The Ixi brushed imaginary dirt from his bright red coat, the slight crack in his voice betraying his anxiety. Flurry could tell that even though he tried to hide it under insults and jests, Zarrelian was genuinely frightened of what he would have to do.

     The Lupe turned back to the cave entrance, noting with some apprehension that the shadows that played on the walls of the cave were darkening and lengthening as the sun began to set. He shook out his starry coat and started towards the cave entrance. Flurry glanced back at Zarrelian and gave an overly optimistic smile.

     "Don't worry, Zarrelian. Everything will turn out okay." But even as he said it, the Lupe couldn't help but wonder if it was Zarrelian or himself whom he was trying to assure.

     ***

     Mr. Bronston's carriage was buffeted around like a leaf in a gale as his team of fliers strove valiantly through the ferocious winds. Another storm was moving in, and the Draik had had no luck whatsoever in locating his lost students. Mr. Bronston ran his claws through his graying plume of hair in frustration.

     "Where could they possible be?" he roared. "We've looked all around this mountain and seen neither hide or hair of either of them."

     One of the fliers, the Darigan Lupe from before, turned back to the Draik and bellowed a reply.

     "There's a major storm moving in, Andy! I think that we'll have to land, we can't carry on through this!" The rest of the team shouted their agreement. Mr. Bronston gritted his teeth.

     "Alright, fine! We'll touch down somewhere and keep on looking for them tomorrow. What place did you have in mind?" the Draik demanded. The Lupe spoke up again.

     "The Snow Faerie's cabin!" he yelled. "She's always willing to provide a good resting place for pets on the mountain. We can wait out the storm there!"

     Mr. Bronston nodded slowly, his eyes fixated on the small cottage that they were already approaching. Obviously, the team was intending to stop at the Snow Faerie's cabin whether he gave his consent or not. The Draik leaned back in his seat, rubbing his temples feverishly.

     "This storm had better break before tomorrow, and those pets better be in a really warm and comfortable place right now," he murmured darkly.

     ***

     Flurry padded tentatively through the cave, tossing fretful glances to the Lupes that huddled in their smaller caves on either side of him. Some of them were asleep, but a quite few were awake. They sat and watched him with revered silence, not making any move to stop him. Flurry reflected on what HowlingWinter had said earlier, how the Lupes probably wouldn't care if he left, so long as Zarrelian was still in their paws. If they had imagined Flurry to be a celestial guardian for their "Lungar", then they obviously did not intend for him to play a very important part in their upcoming ceremony.

     Flurry exited the central cave, pausing for a moment to look back into the shadowy structure, his insides twisting with anticipation of tomorrow's events. He hoped that Zarrelian would take care of himself. He hoped that he would be able to catch him when the Ixi leapt from the peak. The Lupe mentally shook himself. It wouldn't do him any good to stand around hoping. He had a part to play in the escape plan, too. He had to go and find HowlingWinter.

     Flurry racked his brain, trying to remember the white Lupe's instructions. What had she said, to go to the West side of the cave? Or was it the East? He couldn't quite recall her exact directions. Flurry tilted his head to the rapidly darkening sky, noting that there was definitely a storm moving in. He wondered idly if the Lupe pack would cancel their ritual in deference to the weather.

     The Lupe decided that he would go to the West side of the cave. He had plenty of time, and it wouldn't take long for him to determine whether or not he was in the right place. He would just have to look for the hollowed out stump that HowlingWinter had mentioned.

     Flurry started off in a westerly direction and was overjoyed to see the alleged stump, its long, gnarled branches reaching up into the icy air, a thin coating of frost making it shine in the waning moonlight. The Lupe trotted to the stump, standing awkwardly in the snow and puzzling over HowlingWinter's whereabouts, concerned that perhaps she had been unable to escape the pack's clutches.

     His fears were soon put to rest. HowlingWinter emerged from the inside of the hollowed stump, shaking wood chips and snow from her fur. She grinned at the sight of the starry Lupe.

     "Ah, there you are! Come in; I'll show you the tunnel." She turned and leapt back into the stump, waving her tail at Flurry impatiently.

     "What are you waiting for? There's nothing scary in there."

     Flurry steeled himself and followed suite, venturing into the shadowed region of the stump. HowlingWinter stopped, and then gestured with her paw towards a large hole in the ground.

     "The tunnel is in there. Come on, it's not a long drop." She jumped into the hole, disappearing into the ground.

     Flurry's eyes widened as he peered down into the dark abyss. He had always been a bit afraid of the unknown, and was not too keen on the thought of leaping into a hole of uncertain depth. Flurry gritted his teeth and reminded himself that he had to do it, and then hopped down into the pit.

     It wasn't nearly as deep as he had suspected. Flurry soon found himself in a dark tunnel, the only light coming from HowlingWinter's strange luminous blue eyes.

     "This way," she murmured.

     Flurry crouched low to then ground, the tunnel's low ceiling scraping his back uncomfortably. The two Lupes walked for what seemed like hours before the white Lupe finally halted and sat. Flurry crept over to her, his breath catching in his throat as he saw the end of the tunnel. The narrow space had been lit up by the bright moonlight, glowing with an odd silver gleam. The starry Lupe drew nearer to the large opening of the tunnel, sticking his head out into the open air.

     "Whoa," he breathed. "Is this the peak, Howl? It's really far down."

     HowlingWinter nodded. "Yes, we are under the spot that Zarrelian will be forced to jump off of. As you can see, it's fairly vital that we grab him as soon as he comes gliding down."

     Flurry turned away from the entrance, feeling a bit queasy after having looked out over such dizzying heights. How Zarrelian was going to jump off without dying of fright first was something that Flurry would never be able to understand.

     HowlingWinter sat beside Flurry, and nudged him gently with her paw.

     "I promised that I would tell you my whole story, Flurry. Would you like to hear it? It's a rather long tale, but then again we have quite a bit of time on our paws," she offered. The starry Lupe perked up and nodded vigorously.

     "Yes, please tell me! I want to know how you know me, and what your connection to the Snow Faerie is," he said eagerly. HowlingWinter stretched and lay down, curling her thick tail around her hind paws.

     "You may want to sit down," she said, tapping the ground. Flurry quickly sat. The white Lupe gazed idly out rocky opening. Snowflakes began to fall from the sky as she started her story.

     "I was born on Terror Mountain," she said, fur ruffling in the chilly wind that had picked up and was streaming into the tunnel. "My parents were both Lupes, one was wild, one was domestic. I never met my father, for he moved to Mystery Island with his owner. My mother did her best to raise me. None of the wild packs would accept her, because she had associated with a domestic Lupe, so she took care of me on her own. She only spoke Lupine, so naturally that was the only dialect that I could use." HowlingWinter got a faraway look in her eyes. "She died when I was about three months old. I wasn't necessarily a puppy, but I certainly couldn't fend for myself in the wilderness. Because of my mixed heritage, I was ostracized from all the Lupe packs. I staggered around Terror Mountain, searching desperately for some food and shelter.

     "Finally, I collapsed in the snow, having fainted. When I woke up, I was in the Snow Faerie's cabin. She had found me on one of her daily walks, and took me in. I wasn't able to talk to her, because she couldn't understand Lupine, but she was able to guess that I had no owner or pack. So, she took me in as her own pet. She taught me Neopian, and blessed me with this thick, shaggy coat so that I could survive in the coldest temperatures.

     "In return for the Snow Faerie's kindness, I became her servant. I would go out into the most treacherous of blizzards to collect ingredients that couldn't be found at any other time. She would use them to make potions and things like that. What I didn't know was that I was magically bound to the Snow Faerie, I couldn't leave her even if I wanted to.

     "I did not realize this spell was in effect until I decided one day that I had had enough of the monotonous life that she had forced me into and tried to escape. I was physically unable to. Only the Snow Faerie herself could release me." The Lupe's gaze hardened. "She didn't want to let me go, but I found a way to break the enchantment with the help of a noble Cybunny. You see, the only way for the Snow Faerie's binding spell to be broken is if you can find another pet who will willingly take your place. SwiftStorm did that for me. He was the only friend that I ever had... It's because him that I was freed from the Snow Faerie's enchantments."

     Flurry had listened in awe as HowlingWinter related her story. But there was still one more thing that he wanted to know. "But what about your connection to me? How did you know me?" he asked. The white Lupe answered patiently.

     "I was just getting to that. After I was released from the Snow Faerie, I was considered null and void. I was an unregistered Neopet. However, I was also not technically wild because I had had an owner of sorts, and I could speak Neopian. I was caught in a sort of limbo between wild and domestic. The Faeries don't like that. I would have to get myself officially registered as someone's Neopet or get a job in one of the shops before I would be considered legit."

     The starry Lupe furrowed his brow thoughtfully. "So... It's okay to have unregistered pets as long as they're wild? But not if they're technically domestic, like you?"

     HowlingWinter rolled her eyes. "The lines between domestic and wild are pretty interchangeable. The official definition of a wild pet is one that 'cannot speak of the common tongue', which would be Neopian. Seeing as how I spoke Neopian, I did not fall within the wild pet bracket. I had two choices: get a job, or get an owner. I opted for the latter, but I didn't want to go to the pound. Instead, I sort of accosted the first human that I came across, which happened to be your owner. She was taking you to the Snowager, I remember. You were just a little Lupe puppy at the time; I didn't expect you to remember me. Anyway, I told your owner my story and she agreed to legally adopt me as her Neopet. I even lived with you in Neopia Central for a few days, but..." The white Lupe sighed, a faint smile flitting across her snowy muzzle.

     "I loved the wilderness. I really wasn't a domestic Lupe. Your owner understood, and she let me go back to Terror Mountain, though I'm still officially registered as her pet." HowlingWinter put a paw to her neck, pushing aside some of her luxurious white fur to reveal a thin silver chain with a small tag hanging from it.

     "You see? That's my license. If anyone ever gives me trouble then I can show it to him or her as proof of my adoption. This way, I get to live in the mountains without having to work in one of the tacky little gift shops." The Lupe smiled softly. "I was prowling along the ridge of the mountain when I saw you with your class. I recognized you straightaway-- you've always had those lovely green eyes. I thought it would be best to not call attention to myself, but I kept my eye on you," she explained. "I watched you, and when I saw you get taken by the Lupe pack, I knew that I would have to do something. I would've appeared sooner, too, but I had to be careful about it. The Lupe pack is very meticulous, you see. After you were taken I planned out exactly how I was going to go about rescuing you. I'm sorry, Flurry. I wish I had been able to go to you sooner, but I wanted to be cautious, not just because of the pack, but also because of you. I didn't want to upset you. I know that it must be very confusing for you to learn that you have a sister..." HowlingWinter trailed off uncertainly. Flurry was trembling a bit at all the news that he had received.

     "My... I mean, our owner, she never told me," he mumbled. "She never said that I had a sister, I guess she agreed with you, and thought that it might upset me to hear that I had family in the wilds of Terror Mountain. I've been an only pet my whole life." The Lupe's whiskers twitched a bit. "At least, I thought I was." Flurry looked at HowlingWinter, his gentle green eyes shining with emotion. All his life he had wished for a sibling, someone who could relate with and talk to, and now he had one.

     "You're my sister!" he cried happily, flinging his starry arms around her neck. The female Lupe returned the embrace, patting Flurry on the head.

     "And you're my brother."

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Moonlit Peaks: Part One
» Moonlit Peaks: Part Two
» Moonlit Peaks: Part Three
» Moonlit Peaks: Part Four
» Moonlit Peaks: Part Five



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