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Isadora's Curse


by dizzyblackberry

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Isa was home visiting for the holidays. She shared her small abode with her twin sister and Taelia the snow faerie on the top of Terror Mountain. That suited her perfectly; her icy skin was more suited to these chilly climes.

     Today, Isa was on a mission. She was a scholar at Brightvale's Royal Academy, and had spent, perhaps, too much time in the library this semester, tracking her family tree. She and her sister were orphaned at a young age, and never knew any of their family. She drank from the precious genealogy scrolls like they were long lost treasures; the knowledge they contained gave her a sense of place in the world. She traveled back hundreds of years and met her too-many-times-great-great uncle, the first Hissi to be in line for the throne of Brightvale. She learned about her good-hearted mother, who died soon after the birth of the twins, and the wonderful charity work she had done for numerous unfortunate Neopians.

     It was within those pages that she had discovered her grandfather, Owen. She quickly realized that she and he had much in common—more than most people would care to know. Though he seemed to have disappeared from the face of Neopia just a few years before she was born, Isa knew, with the sudden chill of utter truth, where she could find him.

     She had to meet him.

     The snowstorm now riled up outside her door was even too much for an ice Hissi such as Isa. She donned a fur-lined cloak, fastening it securely at her throat. She pulled the hood up over her perfectly groomed pink hair and clutched it below her chin with one wing, pushing the outside door open with the other. Snow blew in the door, and she slithered quickly outside, closing the door behind her with effort.

     She glanced quickly at the chairlift, confirming what she already guessed. It was closed down in this weather. Her resolve wavered not even an inch and she turned left towards the Ice Caves. At least it wouldn’t be as stormy in there. She battled her way through icy drifts, small bullets of ice zinging against her face, making her wonder if she looked as dinged as she felt. The storm seemed to sense her purpose and unwavering determination and set itself even harder against her, winds swirling around her and plucking at her cloak and hair, laughing as they whistled in her ears. Against all odds, she made her way to the entrance of the Ice Caves, though it took longer than she had hoped. Though, she thought to herself with a grimace akin to a smile, at least I didn’t meet anyone on my way down here.

     She quickly regained her bearings and slithered down the icy slopes. The cavernous arches of ice echoed every sound back to her tenfold. Looking down on the shops, she could see that many had gotten caught in the storm and taken refuge here until the chairlift opened back up. Though she would have given anything to avoid that mob, her path would take her directly through the center of the shopping area. She steeled herself for that encounter, something which took far more effort than walking into the storm of the century. It was harder than she had hoped. Three years of being picked on at school had not made her reclusive tendencies any less potent. She cringed at the thought of that, and eyed the crowd below warily. For anyone else, she would not have made the trip, but Owen Ager was more than just a grandfather. He was a kindred spirit, a fellow sufferer.

     She had to meet him.

     With that, she straightened her back and marched straight into the middle of the throng. Though she went for the most part unnoticed, there were some tourists from warmer climes that couldn’t take their eyes away from her; an ice pet was anomaly enough, but one that looked just like the infamous Snowager? Others could hardly keep their mouths shut. The locals, at least, recognized her. She had lived in the same small cave since she was born and all they saw was the little girl that used to get under their feet while they catered to the visitors—and victims—of the Snowager. Had they not known her, they might have noticed the strange glint in her eyes, obvious to strangers, which had appeared in the past few years. A look that many people would notice and recognize, but never be able to place.

     Her grandfather Owen shared that glint. Most Neopians had met him, though none knew him by his proper name, until Isa dug him out of his dusty hiding place among the stacks of the library and brought him back to life.

     She turned right and headed up the icy slope to the towering cave opening in front of her. An old grandmother Bruce with a chipped beak and dingy grey feathers remarked as she passed, “He’s awake, you know.”

     Isa made no comment but continued into the cave, more resolute than ever. The entrance was nearly as massive as the entrance to the ice caves itself, worn away by the tides of time. Only just within the entrance, she could hear rustling movements coming from inside, indicating that the grandmother bruce spoke the truth. Isa rounded the last corner before the main chamber, her excitement tinged by apprehensiveness. There, before her, lay the body of the great beast that was the Snowager. Its massive coils moved sluggishly, both from sheer girth and inactivity. Piled around and on top of those coils were mountains of treasure any Neopian would die to get their hands on; silver, gold, and obsidian were studded with gemstones, some unknown to Neopia. Around this rich treasure lay a thick ring of junk treasures—scratchcards, snowballs, and some old Battledome items. Despite the fact that she knew how the cavern of the Snowager looked, she was still awed. She had never been to visit the Snowager, even when he was asleep. Taelia thought it was too dangerous, though it was more dangerous than even she knew.

     The Snowager’s great head swiveled towards Isa, his eyes fixing on her as she took another step forward. He made no move to attack or approach, simply waited.

     Isa removed her hood and looked the Snowager straight in the eye, a great distance above her. “Hello, Grandfather,” she said.

     Owen Ager inclined his head. “Isadora,” he replied. “I was expecting you earlier.”

     Isa looked away. “Had I known, I would have been here sooner,” she said, a bit of a sting in her voice.

     Owen coughed, saying nothing, but it was clear to Isa as if he had said it aloud that he thought that was her mother’s fault. And as clearly as if she had told him, his countenance changed and he realized his mistake.

     I didn’t know she was dead, said his expression. I am truly sorry.

     Isa shook her head, and returned to speaking aloud. “I need to know, Grandfather. I need to know how you can stand it.”

     Owen understood her perfectly. The Snowager glanced at his vast hoard of treasures, and moved his ample tail so it tightened around them protectively. He moved suddenly and stared at Isa, a low hiss building in his icy throat. Isa knew the warning signs. She threw herself behind a tall pillar of ice, just as the Snowager cast an icy blast out of his mouth in her direction. Jagged pieces of ice broke off the pillar and were thrown to the floor in front of her, shattering as they hit the ground at unbelievable speed. Isa braced herself, just managing not to topple over in the cold wave of air.

     She waited, holding her breath expectantly. The Snowager retreated, sensing no further danger to his hoard, and lowered his head to rest on the tallest peak of treasures. Owen let out a great sigh. Isa emerged slowly from her hiding place, never taking her eyes from her grandfather.

     “I don’t, my child,” he said. “I have given up my family, friends, and all of Neopia for the sake of my curse.”

     “But was it worth it?” Isa asked breathlessly. “Would you have chosen elsewise?”

     A flash of emotion passed through Owen’s eyes, though whether it was sadness or anger, Isa could not say.

     “I do not know what it could have felt like, to have a choice. So I could not say whether or not I could be happier any other way. This is who I am, who I was born to be. Who you were born to be. You cannot resist, and you cannot win.

     “You will alienate everyone you love, everything you hold dear. Your curse will make you do deeds you never thought you would be able to justify to yourself. You will never stop seeking for new items to add to your collection, never stop hunting and plotting and scheming.

     "I am able to restrain myself now because I kept myself in these caves. I grew to such a size that I can no longer leave the caves, even if I wanted to. Your fate will be the same as mine; there is no use pretending otherwise.”

     Isa eyed his pile of treasures once again, a dark craving growing within her, her hand outstretched in front of her. She could see herself coming back when the Snowager was asleep, taking all she could carry and starting her own little hoard. Gems divine, glittering precious metals running through her fingers...

     The Snowager hissed a low warning. Isa lowered her hand and donned her hood again, her normally pink hair now a reddish orange, wildly strewn about her face. Her eyes were bloodshot and she was breathing heavily.

     “Alright, Grandfather, I’m leaving,” she said, turning on her heels to go. She turned her head back once to look at him as she left the cave. He was lowering his head, resting his chin on the highest point of his pile of treasures. She turned back and kept moving forward, towards her future, the one that would so resemble the Snowager's past.

The End

This story is about my ice Hissi, Idoros. She’ll be appearing in more stories in the future, so stay tuned!

 
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