Not a Monster, Just Different
No one understood her and no one will ever understand her. That was the most frustrating thing about all this. No, what's frustrating is the fact that no one ever really tried to understand her. But then again, how could they? After all, she wasn't like the rest of them.
No, she was different.
Alina snuffled as she waded through the snow storm blistering around her. Sheets of ice and hail fell in heavy torrents as the wind howled at her delicate Cybunny ears. The cape she was wearing did nothing to quell the freezing cold. Teeth chattering, Alina pressed forward as she made her way across the top of Terror Mountain. Despite every fiber of her being screaming and begging for her to turn around and go back to the Happy Valley, she couldn't.
She was different. She didn't belong in the valley where there were glowing fireplaces and the smell of gingerbread. No, she belonged up here where the snow was cold and the weather was cold. Cold like her soul.
Alina didn't like thinking of herself as cold but it was truth. Beneath her cloud patterned fur was a pit of ice where her soul should be. Alina could never forgive herself for that.
"I can't go back... I can't go back..." Alina whispered with every step she took. "I have to find... I have to find shelter... and I have to find... I have to find..."
A cave, there had to be a cave somewhere for her seek refuge in. Everywhere she looked, however, was nothing but white. White hail. White ice. White snow. The only other color that colored the white landscape was gray. Dark gray clouds swirled above her. Gray shadows danced around her. How many many days have passed since she ran away from home? How long has it been since she last had a decent meal?
Miscalculating a step, Alina stumbled and fell into the powdered snow. The ice rained down on her and Alina shivered from its contact.
"I wanna go home..." whimpered Alina. Her tears froze at the corner of her eyes as she gripped her cape tighter around her. She curled into a ball, wanting to cry but unable to due to the storm. "But I can't... I can't go home..."
She was tired, too tired to move, too tired to fight. As the world around her started going dark, Alina saw in a light floating in the distance. The light floated closer and closer and Alina could see a shadowy figure emerge from the storm. Her eyes closed and Alina felt mind drift off. Before sleep fell over her, Alina felt a pair of hands gently lift her up and a warmth envelope around her.
- - -
The first thing Alina noticed was the sound of crackling flames and the smell of chocolate and peppermint.
As she opened her eyes, Alina realized that she was no longer out in the cold of Terror Mountain. No, she was indoors in a room that was entirely white - white and beautiful. From the bed she was sitting in to the walls surrounding her, everything was white. When Alina inspected the frame of the bed she was on, she saw that everything wasn't just white - it was made of snow. Snow bed frames. Snow walls. Snow bookshelves. Even the fireplace with a merry fire dancing within it was made of snow. Alina rubbed her eyes with her paws and wrinkled her nose. A fireplace made out of ice? How is it not melting?
Turning to the nightstand next to her, Alina saw a little red mug with what looks like hot chocolate in it. Next to the mug was a note with pretty cursive writing on it. Alina took the note and read it.
Hello Dear Alina,
I do hope that you are feeling better after the ordeal you have just endured. It is not very wise for Neopets, especially one as young as you, to venture through a snow storm like that. However, now is not the time to lecture. Instead, you will find your favorite peppermint hot chocolate waiting for you (it will still be very hot, so be careful). On the chair, there is a set of dry clothes for you to wear and when you feel ready, I would like to invite you to have tea with me in the parlor.
After reading the letter twice, Alina frowned. Who was her mysterious savior and how did they know her name? In fact, how did they know that her favorite drink was peppermint hot chocolate? A friend? Alina didn't have very many friends and what happened, Alina doubted that she had any friends at all. Still, the peppermint hot chocolate smelled delicious and inviting so Alina took a sip. The warmth traveled her her mouth to the very tip of her toes. For the first time in what felt like forever, Alina smiled.
"Well... whoever this is... they can't be all bad..." said Alina after finishing her peppermint hot chocolate. She then turned to see a pretty blue dress waiting for her just as the letter had promised. "I should probably go and see who this friend of mine is."
Once she had changed into the blue dress, Alina made her way out of the room. The letter told her to meet in the parlor but as she wandered through the gleaming white corridors, Alina realized that she didn't have the faintest idea where the parlor might be. Wherever she was, this place was more than just big, it was huge.
Soon Alina found herself at a balcony overlooking what looked like the entrance of the mansion she was in. She blinked once. She had found the entrance. This was her chance to escape. Just as the thought crossed her mind, Alina saw that there was a door open on the lower floor.
"That must be where the parlor is..." she said as she walked down the stairs. Alina looked towards the entrance again before inhaling. No, it would be rude to just walk out on the mysterious stranger that saved her life.
The parlor didn't look like a parlor at all. Instead it resembled a giant library moreso than a parlor. Alina's eyes widened as she looked around. Books, there were books everywhere. Books of all shaped, sizes and colors lined the snowy shelves. As Alina spun around slowly, trying to count how many books there were, she stumbled backwards onto a chair and a soft laugh caught her attention.
"You really are a bit of a klutz, aren't you?"
Looking up, Alina's eyes got even wider when she saw who was speaking to her. It was Taelia, the Snow Faerie. Her savior was the Snow Faerie! A red blush started to form as Alina sat up and straightened out her dress. Growing up, Alina have only ever heard of stories about Taelia and her generous heart. Never did Alina think she would have to be rescued by the Snow Faerie herself.
"I'm sorry..." muttered Alina as she placed her paws on her lap. "I didn't- you didn't- I just..." When Alina looked up, she saw that Taelia holding a plate of chocolate chip cookies with a gentle smile on her face.
"I thought you would want a little something to eat," said Taelia as she set the plate down on the table in front of Alina. "Something to give you strength. It's a long way back down the mountain to the Happy Valley."
"No!" Alina protested before she could stop herself. When she saw Taelia's questioning look, Alina set the cookie she had been eating down and bit her bottom lip. "I can't go back..."
"Well, why not?" asked Taelia.
Silence. Alina didn't dare look up at Taelia. How could she, a lowly cold Cybunny, be able to tell someone as warm and wonderful as Taelia why she could never go home to Happy Valley?
Taelia watched Alina with compassionate eyes before she sat up from her chair. She walked over to Alina and knelt down in front of her. Tilting her head until she met Alina's eyes, Taelia smiled.
"Tell me, Alina, why can't you go home where you belong?"
Tears started to form again as Alina failed to blink them away.
"Because..." started Alina before the tears began falling, "Because I did something horrible. I did something really really horrible!"
"It can't be that horrible."
"Yes, it is!" Pulling away from Taelia, Alina sniffled as she got up from her chair. She looked around the room. Her gaze fell on the fire in the fireplace. "Watch..."
When she raised her paws at the fire, a flurry of ice formed and flew at the flames freezing the fire, putting it out instantly. Alina then turned to the plate of cookies and raised her paws at it. Another flurry of ice came and froze the cookies. Once she was finished, Alina broke down and cried.
"See? See what happens? That's why I can't go back! I'm different! I'm a monster! I hurt my best friend because I'm a monster! Which is why I came to the top of Terror Mountain. I was trying to find you to cure him! But I only want you to go back to Happy Valley. I can't go back, they hate me! They all hate me! So please... go with out, go help my best friend..."
Walking over to the frightened young Cybunny, Taelia sat down and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. Never had she seen a young witch with powers quite like hers. Never had she seen talent that was this strong. Talent that would need to be pruned and mentored.
"It was an accident, Alina..." said Taelia, "You're different, yes, but you're not a monster..."
"What would you know about being different?" asked Alina.
Taelia smiled softly as she looked at Alina. "I know everything about being different."
After a moment, Taelia stood up and placed a hand out for Alina to take. Hesitant at first, Alina finally placed her paw onto Taelia's and stood up. Still she couldn't meet the Snow Faerie's eyes. "I can't go back..."
Touching Alina's chin, Taelia gently pulled Alina's gaze up to meet hers.
"Yes, you can."
- - -
Throughout their entire walk back to Happy Valley, Alina stuck close to Taelia. The Snow Faerie said that she knew everything about being different but Alina couldn't understand how. Taelia was beautiful. She was kind, smart, generous. Plus, she was faerie. Everyone loved her and cherished her. How could Taelia ever know what it means to be different? Still, Alina didn't dare ask but as the pair of them approached Happy Valley, Alina stopped walking.
"I'm scared, Taelia."
Taelia looked back at Alina and offered her hand again. This time, Alina took it without question and followed the Snow Faerie through the streets of Happy Valley. It was early in the morning. The residents of Happy Valley were awake and starting their day. They all whispered as Taelia and Alina walked past.
"Is that her?" muttered an elderly Bruce. "Is that the little troublemaker?"
"I can't believe it, is that the weird little Cybunny that causes so much trouble?" whispered a nosy Xweetok. "And is that the Snow Faerie walking with her?"
Pressing closer to Taelia, Alina did her best to do what the Snow Faerie told her to do: Keep her chin up and keep walking. She was different, that's all, not a monster. What happened was an accident and what mattered is that she was here to make things right. So she ignored the accusing glares and curious children peering at them as she lead Taelia to her best friend's home.
It was a quiet home, rather small compared to the rest of the houses on the street. Alina walked up to the door and swallowed hard. Her curled her paw into a fist before knocking on the door.
There was no response.
Alina knocked again, her knocks firmer this time.
After a minute or so, the door opened and Red Poogle opened the door. She looked down at Alina and visibly inhaled.
"What are you doing here?"
"Hi Marianne... I came here to see Brandon..."
Marianne scowled at Alina's response. Instead of slamming the door shut, however, the Poogle gripped the doorknob tighter and glared at Alina.
"Why?" she demanded. "Why do you want to see my brother? Didn't you do enough when you almost froze him to death?"
"It was an accident, Marianne!" pleaded Alina, "We were sledding and when Brandon fell I tried to make some snow to cushion him! I didn't mean to hit him with my magic!"
"But you did and I can never forgive you because Brandon wouldn't wake up even after we managed to thaw him!" Slowly the Poogle fell quiet as she started to glare at Alina. "And then you ran away. You froze my brother and then you ran away! You ran a-"
"She ran away to find me." Marianne and Alina turned to see Taelia stepping up behind Alina and resting a hand on the Cybunny's shoulder. Taelia smiled down at Alina before she looked up at Marianne. "And she came back me to help me heal your brother."
Stunned by the sight of the Snow Faerie, Marianne nodded slowly. She looked down at Alina and averted her gaze. "I'm sorry," said Marianne as she lead Alina and Taelia towards her brother's bedroom. "It's just... I was angry and... and..."
"Scared?" finished Alina, looking up at Marianne.
Slowly, Marianne nodded.
Alina fell silent before he gave Marianne a small smile. "It's okay, I was scared too."
Marianne stood outside Brandon's bedroom as Taelia and Alina entered it. The bedroom was still just as Alina remembered it. Brandon's books sat in the corner, untouched from the last time they read together. His stuffed animals sat on the ground as a pile of marbles glistened in the corner. Meanwhile, a young blue Bruce laid in bed as if asleep. Quickly Alina hurried towards him. It scared her that she couldn't see the rise or fall of his chest.
"Brandon?" whispered Alina as she came to a stop next to her best friend. "Brandon, it's me, Alina. I'm sorry I took so long but I found her, I found the Snow Faerie. You remember her, right? We used to pretend that we were explorers and that she would help us in our journey. Well, she's here now, Brandon... Brandon?"
Brandon didn't stir.
Alina looked back at Taelia who only smiled. "Just as I told you, Alina... just as I told you..."
The Cybunny looked back at Brandon and inhaled deeply. Courage, she had to have courage. Taking her best friend's hand, Alina placed a paw on Brandon's cold chest. She closed her eyes and willed the ice from his heart.
"The bitter chill of ice and the bitter chill of winter
Has never once and can never ever overpower
The strength of friendship and the strength of love
I command the ice to melt and release his heart
So that his friends and family can be with their beloved
I command the chains of snow to now break apart."
At the last syllable in the spell, a warm blue glow formed at Alina's paws. The blue light started to spread throughout Brandon's body and within minutes his eyes opened. Brandon blinked a few times before he turned. Once he saw Alina, a bright big smile formed on his face.
"Alina!" cried Brandon as he threw his arms around his best friend. "I had a dream about you!" He then paused and pulled back, a worried look in his eyes. "It was a bad dream. You were lost and cold and scared and-" He stopped again and looked past Alina. "Then the Snow Faerie rescued you, just like in our games..."
Alina laughed at her best friend's hug, happy for his return. She then turned and smiled at Taelia who watched with pride. "Taelia, I want you to meet Brandon, my best friend."
After nodding a polite acknowledgement towards Brandon, Taelia then looked at Alina. "You are quite a talent, Alina... A talent like yours needs to be nurtured."
It was as if all of Neopia stood still as Alina stared at the Snow Faerie. Was Taelia asking her to be her apprentice?
"I'd... I'd..." Before Alina could answer she felt Brandon's flipper around her paw. She turned and saw her best friend looking at her with both apprehension and excitement. "I'd love to but I can't."
"Why not?" asked Taelia and Brandon, both surprised.
Alina pulled her paw from Brandon and looked at Taelia. "I think I understand now... being different doesn't mean that you are bad. It's how you choose to be different. And being brave means not running away... I can't keep running away anymore..."
"But you wouldn't be running away, Alina," said Brandon. "The Snow Faerie is asking you to be her apprentice! How exciting is that?!"
As Brandon continued talking about how cool it was for Alina to becoming Taelia's apprentice. Taelia turned to Alina and gave her a knowing smile.
"You wouldn't be running away this time, Alina. Think of it as a camp of sorts. You'll come with me on the weekdays to train your magic powers so that you may control them better. On the weekends, you will come back here to be with your friends and family."
Alina looked back at Brandon who was grinning widely and nodding for her to go. Laughing a bit, Alina felt a warm spark starting to grow inside of her. Not wanting to let that go, Alina looked up at Taelia and grinned.
"In that case, I guess I will go. We're both different, but being different isn't something bad at all. Just like how you're not bad..."
Taelia laughed as and looked at Alina with kind eyes.