Come dance with the Wanderers... Circulation: 183,437,693 Issue: 474 | 17th day of Celebrating, Y12
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I'll be Home for Christmas: Part Two


by fuzzymonkey31

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Beno and Lightfoot stood on solid land, their legs shaking.

     "I am never sliding across ice as a mode of transportation from a frozen boat to the mainland ever again," said Lightfoot, high voice shaking like a tree in a windstorm.

     Beno grinned and agreed with him. "But hey, it got us here without cracking under us, right?"

     "I was freaking out the entire way," Lightfoot said, his brow furrowed and eyes flaming dark fire. "I was sure that any moment we were going to be falling through a thin patch of ice and would be encased in ice cubes instantly. And they'd never know what had happened to us," he added darkly.

     "Well, we're here now, so let's put the past behinds us," Beno said. "And think now about how we intend to get the rest of the way up." He gestured to the snowy monster in front of them.

     Standing at the base of Terror Mountain and looking up is a daunting sight that can take the wind right out of you and replace your stomach with butterflies. It's even worse when the weather is terrible.

     "Look at that," said Lightfoot, pointing. "There's a storm up on the top, like a jaunty little cap." He pulled a spyglass out of his knapsack and pointed it upwards. "It looks like Happy Valley isn't experiencing the weather in its full anger." He looked at Beno and smiled weakly.

     "Huh?" said Beno, scratching behind his ear, obviously confused.

     Lightfoot rolled his eyes. "Nothing. I was just going to say we can climb up to Happy Valley within an hour or two, then we stay there until the weather calms down."

     "That sounds good to me," said Beno.

     "Good."

     And with that they threw themselves at the mountain and began climbing.

     — — — — — —

     Nel got up from her seat and went to use the bathroom near the front of the trolley. As she left the facility, feeling marginally better, she heard some of the onboard engineers talking about the problem.

     "Every time they try to melt the ice, it just freezes again," said one of the voices.

     "They think the best possible method they can use is putting that fancy new car on the line that melts the ice as it runs, move the passengers on this one to that one–"

     Here a helpful voice interrupted, "–take the fancy one back down, drop the passengers off, then wait for the weather to pass to get this one unstuck."

     And ancient voice spoke up, coughing a bit as it did. "Or, instead of waiting, they'll hit the emergency release on this one once everyone's off it, let it drop down the mountain, then let the fancy one continue up the wire to drop off the passengers here."

     "Would they really do that?" asked a younger voice incredulously.

     "Might. Time is money, after all. Gotta keep the trolley moving somehow, even if it means sacrificing good ol' number 16."

     "Aw, poor thing," said the second speaker. "I love 16, I've been here all of my life. I'd hate to see it go down in smoke."

     Nel snuck away from the door and went back to her seat.

     "What took you so long?" asked Kale.

     "Sorry. I lost track of time," Nel lied. She sat back down on her seat and put the petpet carrier back on her lap. The furry bodies inside helped keep her warm.

     — — — — — —

     The small group of neopets in the lodge sat at the dinner table, waiting for Meka to finish their dinner/late night meal. They each would get a grilled cheese sandwich, scrambled eggs and a glass of orange juice. Meka didn't have the kitchen expertise (or the ingredients) to do anything fancier.

     Lille was playing with her silverware and Komi had fallen asleep on her plate when Meka finally brought the food out.

     "Sorry, everyone. It's ready now," Meka said, putting a sandwich and scoop of eggs on each plate. Key came behind her, filling the glasses with orange juice.

     "It's s'okay, Meka," mumbled Komi, rubbing her eyes.

     Jhin sat in the chair nearest to the window and she kept turning around to look out, just in case someone was coming.

     Packy patted her shoulder and told her to relax.

     The group ate their meal in silence. Time was ticking away and over half their group was absent. It was a very sobering thought, and no one wanted to talk over dinner. Everyone finished in silence, put their dishes in the sink in silence and when to bed in the same.

     Jhin let Meka tuck her into her little four-poster bed in the babies' room. But when the lights were all out and everyone was asleep, she took her blanket and and an extra pillow and went to sleep in the window seat. She was lulled to sleep by the wild snow and whistling wind, and her dreams were all pure white, filled with cold and voices calling out for her help.

     — — — — — —

     Beno and Lightfoot stumbled into the Cable Car company's main building, panting and covered in snow.

     "Why aren't the cars running?" Lightfoot said as he gasped for breath.

     "Car 16 got frozen to the wire," the old Chia behind the counter said. "We're trying to get them running again, but the weather's not helping."

     The two friends stumbled over to a little bench near the fireplace and collapsed into it. Beno shook his feet repeatedly, trying to get the snow out of the place between the pads on his paws. Lightfoot was trying to bring his tail back from its stiff numb state.

     "Kale and the others were on car 16, weren't they?" asked Beno when he finally got his breath mostly back.

     "I think so," Lightfoot said, his tail twitching back to life. "Nothing we can do, though."

     Beno looked at him and sighed. "I suppose so."

     The Chia looked at the two, wondering why they were here.

     "If you need to get up the mountain, you could go through the ice caves."

     "No, we can't," said Beno. "The place we need to get to is only really accessible from Cable Car stop 3.75 or by scaling the wall of the mountain itself," he explained miserably.

     "Well, you could rent a sled from Sally's place if you need to get up there," said the Chia.

     "Thanks, we'll look into it," Lightfoot said, instantly leaping towards the door. Beno stayed on the bench until Lightfoot came back and shook him violently. "What's wrong?"

     "Eh, tired," said Beno. "Perhaps we should just rest-"

     "Shut up," said Lightfoot, and he dragged the Lupe out of the office.

     — — — — — —

     Beno stared at their rented sled, rubbing his paws together. Lightfoot looked a bit more skeptical.

     "Well!" said Beno. "One can ride while the other wears the harness and pulls! Then we can stop, and switch."

     "Ok," said Lightfoot, and started to put the harness on.

     "What are you doing?" asked Beno. "I intend to pull first."

     Lightfoot stared at him. Beno was as lazy as Lupes come, and never volunteered to do something first if it involved difficult physical labour.

     "Ok," Lightfoot said, and let Beno put the harness on. He climbed into the sled and pulled his tail around himself. His friend leapt to the job with surprising energy and up the mountain they went, progressing towards the storm.

     — — — — — —

     "Arai! Arai, can you hear me?!" Rati screamed at the small girl who she held in her arms. The twin Bori and the Usul sat next to her, looking very worried. They sat in an abandoned cave, having had to stop when Arai, the littlest of them had shown signs of not being awake.

     "Mmm," the little Bori whined, tears frozen near her eyes. "Sooo c-c-c-ooold," she cried, sniffing.

     "It's okay, we've stopped for now," Rati said soothingly. She clicked her claws in front of Gwy's face. Gwy started and looked at her. "Get Licht," she said.

     The Bori nodded and reached inside his cloak and pulled out a candle. He lit it by scraping his claws together. There, on the wick, was a Melton, his petpet. The little fire fox leapt onto the ground formed a warm circle around the little Arai and Rati. Arai started to cry, since the warmth hurt her numb limbs, but Rati told her to be quiet.

     The group sat there, feeling tired and hungry. This was turning out to be a very bad holiday, and it might turn out to be Arai's last. Her vital signs were looking bad and despite the warmth of Gwy's petpet, she shivered violently.

     Hex sat near the cave mouth, looking out to see if anything out there might miraculously come to help them.

     — — — — — —

     The engineers of the Cable Car were passing out hot cocoa with marshmallows and emergency rations of odd, dry food-like bars that were tasteless and had a horrible texture but they were remarkably filling. You ate one and you weren't hungry for a long time.

     Julio had fallen asleep sitting up and Min had fallen asleep with her head on his lap. Kale was leaning against the wall in her corner seat, watching the snow darkly.

     Nel had dipped her bar in the hot cocoa and found, to her surprise, that it made the crumbly, odd thing actually taste pretty good. Then she realized the bars were dehydrated and had been intended to soak in something before eaten. She passed this knowledge on to the guy who handed them out and he explained this to the passengers over the loudspeaker.

     Nel sat back, using Min's tail as a pillow. As far as holidays were concerned, this one was as far from fun as possible.

     — — — — — —

     Beno had switched with Lightfoot after about an hour of running, and now they were both walking, sharing the weight of the sled and moving towards a light they saw on the mountainside through the storm.

     They could hear Rati's voice singing a lullaby, and they knew where Rati was was where Gwy would be, and Gwy always had Licht with him, and right now the two friends really needed that source of warmth.

To be continued...

 
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» I'll be Home for Christmas: Part One
» I'll be Home for Christmas: Part Three



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