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Pet Name: Aunelese
Aunelese knew she shouldn't have ventured out in the snow alone.
Pausing for a moment in the frigid forest, Aunelese stopped to ponder how she had worked herself into this rather chilly predicament. Aunelese Nutmeg, a young Grey Draik, had been visiting her cousins at their cabin in Happy Valley for the holidays. Her cousins, Elsie and Oswald Nutmeg, were good friends of Mr. Blueben, the jolly old Bruce who ran the Wintery Petpet shop on the town's main street. Always eager to lend a hand, they often took in the shop's surplus Petpets to foster around the holidays. This year was no exception: when Aunelese first arrived at her cousins' residence, she nearly tripped over a Candychan who was excitedly scampering around the floor. Numerous other petpets could be seen running about, boisterously jumping up onto the furniture and tugging at the various festive decorations that cluttered the room.
"Oof!" Aunelese proclaimed, pulling her bag closer. She had assumed she was going to be the only guest and was surprised by the sheer number of additional visitors in her cousins' cabin. A rather hyper-looking Fir darted past her feet, spraying a few stray pine needles onto her new pink boots. Aunelese frowned.
"Oh, hello! Aunelese!" A busy-looking Elsie Nutmeg popped her head out from behind doorway that lead into the kitchen. The Striped Draik was holding a batter-covered spatula in one hand and a bright red mixing bowl in the other. She looked slightly frazzled. "I apologize for the mess; Oswald and I are fostering a bunch of critters from the Wintery Petpet shop for the holidays. They're a bit rambunctious today, I suppose they've gotten into some of the holiday treats I was baking," Elsie swatted away a hovering Ona with her batter-covered spatula. Splatters of cookie dough sprayed into the air. A few droplets landed on Aunelese’s pink fur coat. She frowned again. Prim, proper, and quiet by nature, Aunelese was distraught: this was not at all the way she had imagined her holiday!
Sensing Aunelese’s discontent, Elsie furrowed her brow. “I know it’s quite chaotic in here right now, but once Oswald gets back from doing some shopping, it’s going to get a lot better. My brother really knows how to wrangle these little fellas!” She shooed away the Ona again, sending him spiraling off into the depths of the crowded kitchen. “Why don’t you set your bag down and go out and play in the snow for a little while? That way, you can get out and enjoy some of the lovely scenery down by the Advent Calendar and the Slushie Shop. They just put up some beautiful new twinkling lights the other day, and I’ve been meaning to go check them out. Why don’t you go for me and tell me how they look? You can be my little messenger!” Elise gave her cousin a warm smile.
“I… guess so,” Aunelese was hesitant. She often felt nervous around large crowds and wasn’t too keen on the idea of exploring the streets of Happy Valley alone. She took another look at the cluttered cabin. Her cousins’ home was brimming with petpets- the kind of rambunctious, playful petpets who she knew would just love to make a mess of her precious Usuki collection and tear up her festive frocks. Aunelese looked at Elsie and nodded. “Sure, I can go out and play in the snow,” The Grey Draik hung her bag up on the coat rack, where she hoped the petpets wouldn’t be able to get to it. “I’ll be back in a few hours?” She looked at Elsie for approval.
“Sounds good, Aunelese!” Elsie waved her spatula at her cousin as she opened the door and stepped outside into the late afternoon sunlight. “Have fun!”
Once outside, Aunelese started walking in the direction of Happy Valley. “I guess I should go see those lights,” she muttered to herself, pulling her pink fur coat tighter around her shoulders and trotting off in the direction of the town square. However, as soon as she reached the main street, she was caught off-guard by the sheer number of Neopians mingling about. Happy Valley was bustling with holiday shoppers, carolers, and sight-seers: it was almost as crowded as her cousins’ petpet-filled cabin!
As someone who preferred peace and quiet over the cacophony of an (albeit joyous) crowd, Aunelese quickly veered off the main path and side-stepped through the snow towards the dense forested area behind the Scratch Card Kiosk. Moving quickly to avoid being spotted by an overzealous caroler or merchant peddling their wares, Aunelese slipped behind the wood-panelled kiosk and entered the forest.
At first, the forest seemed pleasant enough: the dense cover of pine muffled the sounds of the valley below, providing a peaceful refuge from the hustle and bustle of the town square. As she made her way through the woods, she noticed the ground getting steeper and the forest getting denser. The wind howled through the branches, and billowing snow began to cloud her vision. The sky began to grow dim as the sun set. A few last rays of golden sunlight quivered through the forest canopy as the sun finally slipped below the horizon, leaving Aunelese alone in the darkness of the snowy forest.
She was terrified. How was she supposed to find her way back now?
Frightened yet determined, Aunelese continued to stumble through the snow. She hoped that if she kept heading upwards- to the top of the mountain- she would eventually find her way out of the forest. While she’d never been there before, Aunelese had seen maps of Terror Mountain at Neoschool: she was fairly sure the forest would open up at some point. It was just a matter of getting there!
Aunelese’s train of thought was disrupted as she tripped over hidden log and landed on her face in a snowdrift. Cold and embarrassed (though thankful no one had been around to see her), Aunelese struggled to pull herself up, dusting off her snow-covered coat and searching through the snow for one of her mittens, which had slid off during her fall. Suddenly, she spotted a glimmer of pink fabric peeking out from under a fallen branch.
“There it is!” Aunelese exclaimed, scrambling up to grab her mitten. However, when she tugged it loose, she realized that it wasn’t her mitten at all: it was a ripped pink Fuzzle!
“How did you get here?” Aunelese turned the toy over in her shivering hands. It had no name tag or any other indication that it belonged to anyone. “I have to get you out of here!” She exclaimed, tucking it and her mitten-less hand underneath her coat. Aunelese had a certain fondness for toys (even broken ones) and was more determined than ever to rescue it- and herself- from the frigid forest.
As the blizzard raged on around her, Aunelese kept trekking through the forest. Undeterred by the lack of sunlight or the eerie howling wind, she kept the Fuzzle close to her, protecting it from the winter storm. After what felt like several hours (but was in actuality closer to thirty minutes), Aunelese eventually reached the top of the mountain. She pushed past the last few snow-laden trees and made her way towards a set of twinkling lights in the distance. As she moved closer, she could tell that the lights belonged to a small wooden cabin bearing a sign that read: “Toy Repair Shop”. Excited at the prospect of warmth and comfort, Aunelese sped through the last few snowdrifts, and made her way to the cabin’s entrance.
Aunelese pushed open the cabin door and was greeted by a welcoming chime of jingle bells as the door swung out into the foyer. “Aunelese!” Startled to hear a familiar voice call out, Aunelese swung her head around the room. She was shocked to see her cousin, Elsie, sitting by a roaring fire alongside Donny, the repairman!
Sensing her amazement, Elsie leapt up from her armchair and ran over to give Aunelese a hug. “When you didn’t come back by sundown, I figured you must’ve gone out into the forest. Luckily, I had a sneaking suspicion that you’re not the type to give up easily: I figured you’d make your way to the top of the mountain, so I fetched a sleigh ride up to Donny’s repair shop and have been waiting for you ever since.”
“You’re… you’re not mad at me?” Aunelese could feel her face turning red with embarrassment.
‘Of course not!” Elsie proclaimed, squeezing Aunelese tighter. “I’m just happy you’re safe.”
Suddenly, Elsie felt a furry lump peeking out from underneath her cousin’s coat. “What’s this?” She pulled the snow-covered Fuzzle out and held it up to the light. “A broken toy! Donny, what a coincidence!”
Aunelese had a sudden revelation. “Elsie,” she said slowly, reaching out for the Fuzzle. “Elsie, I think he led me here!”
Donny came over to inspect the toy. “He’s battered up, alright,” The Bori tapped on the Fuzzle with his rough hands. “You want me to fix him for you?”
Aunelese chuckled, pulling the Fuzzle closer. “No, that’s alright! He’s a bit of a misfit, just like me.”
Donny and Elsie smiled at each other as Aunelese gave the Fuzzle a big hug.
“He’s perfect exactly the way he is.”
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