Nonlinear Companions: Dawn: Part Seven
As we approached the Happy Valley exit of the Ice caves, I could see the snow violently swirling round in little concentric circles. The sky had become a deep grey and the few neopets that were outside, were being tossed about like ragdolls in the wind.
"What are we going to do?" I asked Westron.
He didn’t answer, I could see the look of worry furrowing his brow. I started to panic, what if we couldn’t leave the Caves? What would happen to us? What if the snow got so heavy we could never leave? What would happen if we did leave, but our cabin was buried in snow? What if we never made it to the cabin? Terrible thoughts and images went round in my mind, until I felt almost dizzy and a bit weak. I needed to sit down.
Westron on the other hand was getting nearer to the exit, I could see him leaning into the wind to stop himself from being blown back into the Caves.
"Come on Rae!" He yelled, I looked at him nonplussed, there was no way I was going out in that weather.
Until he added, "Drake's waiting for us! Hurry!"
I leaned into the wind and followed him. He was right, there in the entrance was Drake in his sled. The poor bika in charge of pulling the sled looked like he was freezing, but he stood proud and tall. Drake was covered from head to toe in snow gear, so much so that I couldn’t even recognise him.
He had a huge woolly hat on, pulled right down to his eyelids, a scarf wrapped around his face and neck, covering his beak entirely. He had ski goggles on and I could barely see his eyes. His warm ski jacket was covered in a thin layer of snow about his shoulders and he had a thick blanket covering his lap.
When he spotted us he hopped down and ran to Westron.
"Oh, Master Westron, I was so worried about you, please we must leave now, before it's too late." He shouted over the howling of the wind. "We must go, I brought you these, put them on as fast as you can!"
He thrust a bag at Westron, in it were more hats, scarves, mittens and ski goggles. We put them on as speedily as possible on top of what we already had on, and hopped into the back of the sled. Westron reached down, pulled up a thick purple blanket over our laps and indicated to Drake that we were ready.
"Hold on tight," Drake warned us, "It's going to be a bumpy ride!"
I grabbed onto the side of the sled with my mittened hand and grabbed Westron's hand with the other.
Drake hadn't been exaggerating, it was like being in a game of Barf Boat: Extreme Mode. Just how the sled stayed the correct way up, I have no idea. I also had no clue as to how Drake had any inclination as to which way we were going. The snow was coming down so fast and thick, I could barely see the end of my snout, let alone any obstacles that might be in our way.
After thirty treacherous minutes, during which at several points, I was convinced I was going to fall off the back of the sled and be left in the snow, we eventually arrived at the cabin. This time, Drake hopped right off the sled grabbed my hand, helped me down, then helped Westron down. Westron lead the way to the cabin.
"You better stay the night with us Drake, it's too dangerous out here for you." Westron yelled over the blizzard.
Drake nodded, turned to his bika and removed the restraints, lead him round to a lean-to by the side of the cabin then followed us to the door.
We burst in, in a flurry of snow, clothing and feathers. Westron slammed the door shut behind us.
"Phew," there was a collective sigh.
Half an hour had passed, we were all sitting around the fire, watching the blizzard outside, roaring through the window and nursing cups of hot cocoa. Our house guest had barely uttered a word since we had entered. He was clearly uncomfortable.
We had all been sopping wet when we got in, I had gone to my room and changed into my pajamas, the boys had done the same, thankfully Westron had brought a spare pair and Drake had accepted them gratefully. They were a little on the small side for him, as Westron was such a short krawk, and the plump darigan bruce had to keep pulling the top down to meet the trouser tops.
The silence between the three of us was so awkward. "I'm gonna go to bed," I announced.
"I think it's best if you sleep in my room tonight, Drake and I can share your room, since it has two beds." Westron replied.
"Sure, I'll just move my stuff over." I smiled, I had wondered what the sleeping arrangements might be.
So I took all my night things into Westron's room and he moved his stuff into my room. I snuggled down into the big bed. It felt like I was in the middle of a vast ocean, there was so much room. And this bed, oh, it was so comfortable. I felt like I was laying on a cloud.
I could hear Westron and Drake in the next room, discussing something in semi-hushed voices. I knew I shouldn’t eavesdrop, but I was curious as to what the bruce might be saying. After all we had sat in the sitting room for so long without a word uttered, I had almost forgotten he could speak.
So I sat up on the bed and pressed my ear to the wall.
It was difficult to make out everything that was being said, most of the words were too muffled.
"…....I'm going to tell her everything....." I could make out Westron saying.
"What? You can't do that! Don’t you remember what happened last time?" I could hear Drake saying.
"Yeah........ she's different though..... she'll be more accepting...... I don’t like lying to her." I could just make out some of what Westron was saying.
"You aren't lying to her.....just not the whole truth." Drake mumbled back.
"What's the difference?" Asked Westron.
"…....." I couldn’t make out what Drake said. I pressed my ear closer to the wall. "Look, you're my brother, and I love you, but I just don’t...... this is the right thing to do, you’ve gotten way too close to this draik...... too fast...... how well can you really know her?"
My mouth fell open. Brothers? How could that be?
"Well, if she doesn’t want to be my friend after I tell her, then I don’t want someone like that being my friend anyways. So the way I see it I can't lose." I heard Westron reply.
"….....that's why you're waiting until you are about to leave to tell her? So you don’t have to....... after she inevitably rejects you?" It was getting more and more difficult to hear Drake through the wall.
I gave up and sat cross-legged on the bed, stunned. What could Westron's big secret be? And how was it possible, that such a friendly pirate krawk like Westron, could be brothers with such an reserved darigan bruce like Drake?
I decided that I would reserve judgment until I knew what the secret was. But now I was more curious than ever, to know what my new friend was hiding. I couldn’t think what Westron could possibly reveal that would make me not want to continue our friendship.
Since last night's conversation was one I was not supposed to be privy to, I decided not to say anything the following morning. I knew Westron would say something to me at some point, I just had to wait for him to be ready.
I had slept fitfully all night, waking occasionally from bad dreams, involving a locked door at the end of a long corridor, and a fruitless search for the key to open the lock. Some of the dreams I could hear Westron behind the door. Sometimes he was in trouble, other times he was laughing evilly. One time Drake was also there, holding the key just out of my reach, shouting 'No! You cannot know! You cannot be trusted!'.
I laid on the bed, staring at the ceiling for a good half hour after I awoke. Waiting and listening to see if the boys had risen yet. Eventually I heard stirring noises from the adjacent room and decided to start moving myself.
I showered briefly, not really paying attention to anything, just kind of staring at the glass doors of the shower enclosure in a semi-dreamlike state. Until I dropped the soap bar on my toe. The loud bang it made as it hit the floor of the shower brought me back to the real world.
I could hear Westron's panicked voice from outside the bathroom asking me if I was okay.
"I'm fine!" I shouted over the shower.
I dried and dressed as speedily as I could, and joined Westron in the kitchen for some coffee.
"What were you doing in there?" He asked as I entered.
"Ah, I just dropped the soap bar," I told him. "Sorry if I worried you."
"As long as you're ok," he replied. "Do you want some coffee?"
"Please." I said as I plonked myself onto a stool.
We sat there a few minutes sipping coffee and yawning. After a while I broke the silence.
"Where's Drake?" I asked.
"He, uh, had to leave early, had some neopets to pick up from the ferry port." He said taking a gulp of his coffee.
I decided to change the topic, "So, are we going skiing today?" I asked as jovially as I could.
Westron seemed to relax at this question, I could see his features visibly brighten.
We were stood at the peak of Terror Mountain. I glanced over at Westron. I wasn’t sure if this was such a great idea, but he had seemed so certain that I would be able to manage the Red Run, after only five attempts at the Nursery Slope.
I held my breath as I moved my ski's into position and started to glide forward and downward. It was even steeper than it had looked. I tried in vain to remember everything Westron had taught me on the nursery slope. 'Snow plough to slow, snow plough to slow,' I kept repeating to myself, it was all I could remember. But as long as I remembered how to slow myself down I would be fine, at least that’s what Westron had said.
I bent my knees in and allowed myself to be caught up in the thrill of the downhill. Last nights blizzard had left a nice thick soft cushion of fresh snow everywhere, which was good, because no sooner had I let my guard down and started to allow myself to enjoy the experience. I fell, rather impressively, head over heels and landed with a thud, square on my back.
I sat up in the snow. I was so used to Westron being there to take care of me, that I was surprised when I looked ahead to see he was already about a hundred feet away from me, gliding like the wind further toward the foot of the mountain. I guess he was too far away to have heard me fall.
I wanted to cry. My back hurt, and my pride was bruised. I wanted my friend to come and help me up, but he was too far away to have noticed. Why hadn't he held back to keep an eye on me? 'Come on,' I said to myself. 'You're a big girl, you can do this.'
I stood up carefully. Straightened my skis and resumed my position.
This time I went much more cautiously. Using the snow plough technique that Westron had taught me for slowing, to carefully make my way down the side of the mountain. I fully intended to go the whole way in this fashion. I didn’t even care if it took me hours to reach the bottom of the slope. I didn’t want to fall again. I would spend the remainder of the day on the nursery slopes, unless I felt ready to try again, which I doubted.
After twenty minutes of the slow going, the slope levelled out a little, so I decided to go a little faster, then a little faster, a bit more, and then before I knew it was going as fast, if not faster, than I had been at the start when I fell over.
Suddenly, I felt a rush of adrenaline, at once the whole experience became enjoyable, not torturous. I sped up, weaving in and out of some big lumps of snow, the chill wind beating at my face. This was exhilarating! In an instant it all made sense to me, why Westron hadn't held back to keep an eye on me. Who on Neopia would want to miss out on this feeling?
By the time I reached the foot of the mountain I was so enamoured with the whole experience, I had completely forgotten my earlier trepidation. Westron was there, waiting on a bench, eyes turned to the slopes. Watching me glide smoothly over to him. I waved at him as I approached.
"Wow!" I breathed as I sat down beside him, "That was incredible!"
To be continued…