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Needed Adventure: Part Ten


by tdyans

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Enzo was as surprised as Whooter to find himself suddenly sliding down the snow-covered hill. He tumbled head over tail for a few moments until he managed to right himself somewhat, continuing to slide down on his stomach.

     He had just begun to enjoy the ride when he caught sight of the base of the hill below, where the ground leveled out again. But something about that ground looked odd; there were no trees for some distance, and it seemed almost too perfectly flat.

     He was barreling down the side of the hill so quickly now, though, that he hardly had time to consider this puzzle before he met it head on, hitting the base of the hill and sliding out, spinning in circles, across the icy surface. Of course, he thought as he finally slowed and then stopped, a lake! He'd seen frozen puddles before, but never imagined the phenomenon occurring on such a large scale. He stared down in fascination at the solid water beneath him as he stood-- only to have his paws slide out from under him, leaving him to fall back down.

     "Enzo, are you all right?"

     He looked up to see Whooter just now arriving at the base of the hill and the edge of the lake. The whoot landed in the snow and cast a wary look toward the ice a few inches away.

     Enzo laughed. "I'm fine, Whooter. Isn't this amazing?"

     "Well, yes, I suppose it is quite fascinating from a scientific point of view, the wonders of nature and all...."

     Whooter was heading into one of his infamous speeches. Enzo rolled his eyes and tuned him out, concentrating instead on the task of getting to his feet without falling down. With a few tries, he managed it, though he still felt rather unsteady. He took a few steps forward, only to have his paws slide out from under him again, but the momentum that those few steps had given him propelled him forward as he fell, and he went sliding across the ice again, laughing as he did so.

     Soon enough he'd gotten the hang of moving about on the ice, and he was propelling himself around the lake as fast as he could go and twirling in circles and still, of course, falling every now and then, but laughing all the way.

     Whooter remained on the snowy shore, looking decidedly nervous, though Enzo was having too much fun to pay him much notice. "Enzo," the whoot called out after a few minutes, "don't you think we'd better get going? We should try to get out of the forest before it gets dark at least."

     "Oh, Whooter, lighten up!" Enzo called back as he went skidding by. "We've got plenty of time to go home, but we'll probably only be here once. Come on out here and have some fun for once!"

     "I'm not quite sure it's safe," the whoot said.

     Enzo laughed, pivoting and sliding back past his friend again. "Don't be silly. Look at me-- I'm fine! Come on, it's fun!"

     Whooter looked down at the ice again, then folded his claws. "No, I really don't think-- that is to say, we really should be going, Enzo."

     Enzo slid past again, sticking out his tongue. "Scaredy Whoot!" He laughed again and turned, careening off toward the far side of the lake.

     Whooter's feathers ruffled. "Fine," he muttered, "if it will convince you to head home at last, then so be it." He stuck out one claw toward the ice, as if he expected it to swallow him up or melt underneath him the moment he touched it. No such thing happened of course. He rested his claw firmly against the ice and then, tentatively, lifted the other from the snow to join it-- only to have the first claw slide out from under him, sending him falling backwards into the snow.

     He lay there, feeling the snow seep into his feathers and scowling up at the tree branches and the steel gray sky above. That was the last time that he listened to--

     His thoughts were interrupted by a sound that made his heart drop-- the loud, quick crack of ice breaking and the splash of it plunging into the icy water beneath. He sat up, staring out across the lake, trying not to panic. "Enzo?" he called out. There was no answer. He stood up, scanning the lake for any sign of the Gelert, but the black fur that should have been easy to spot amidst all the white was no where in sight. "Enzo, this is no time for joking! Where are you hiding?"

     Suddenly, a dark head and paws shot up from the middle of the lake with a splash. "Enzo!" Whooter took to the air instantly, flying to the spot where he could now see the ice had broken through-- and apparently with Enzo on top of it.

     The Gelert's paws flailed wildly in the icy water, as he gasped out, "Whooter!"

     "Enzo," Whooter said, hovering over the hole in the ice, "listen to me. Try to calm down. You have to be calm now, do you hear?" His own heart raced even as he gave the command. "You can't spend all of your energy panicking, all right? Now, try to get to the edge of the hole and pull yourself out. Over here-- this side looks the least likely to give." He landed on the side of the hole that he was indicating and waved his claws, encouraging the Gelert to swim toward him. "Come on now, Enzo, you can do it."

     Enzo panted as he tried to make his paws work in the freezing water; each movement was like a sharp bite, an unwelcome interruption to the numbness that was settling in. He paddled toward Whooter, trying as his friend advised to stay calm. He reached the edge and struggled to reach his paws up and over the lip of the ice.

     His right paw finally thudded on top of the ice. Panting, he tried to swing the other paw up beside it, only to have the first paw slip back into the water. He made several more attempts, but he could not get any grip on the slick ice. And with each failed try, he was left with less and less energy for the next. As he rested his chin against the ice, tongue lolling, the knowledge settled over him that even if he could get his claws into the ice, he would not have the strength now to pull himself out. Whatever chance he might have had at one point was lost. The realization should have frightened him, but his mind, like his body, was only tired and numb and ready to give in. His eyes drifted slowly closed and he felt his head begin to slip down from its resting place and toward the water....

     "Enzo!"

     His eyes snapped back open, and he looked up listlessly at Whooter.

     "Enzo, pull yourself out of there this instant!" the whoot commanded, the shaking of his voice betraying his authoritative tone.

     Enzo tried to keep staring at the whoot, but his eyelids were growing unbearably heavy. And his paws felt like balls of lead as well, pulling him down into the water, telling him to let go and let them carry him down. "I... can't, Whooter." His voice was little more than a whisper.

     "What do you mean, you can't?" Whooter took to the air, fluttering over the Gelert's head as if his own frantic motion would somehow energize Enzo. "Of course you can, you're Enzo! You can do anything if you put your mind to it, remember? Remember, Enzo-- escaping with Orla and Zinneus, and, and setting all of the lab pets free, and... Enzo!"

     The Gelert's eyes fell shut once again and he began to slip slowly down into the water. Whooter grabbed onto one of Enzo's long ears with his claws and flapped his tiny wings with all of his might, trying to pull the Gelert upward. It was all he knew to do at this point, but of course he didn't have the power to keep his friend from sinking. He found himself being pulled downward even as he tried desperately to fly up.

     "Come on, Enzo, come on," he cried. "I can't do this on my own. You have to help me, boy. Don't...." His throat constricted around this last thought, refusing to let him voice his fear and what seemed inevitable now. Instead he stopped talking and focused all of his energy on trying to keep Enzo's head out of the water, pushing away his usually-cherished logic that told him it was hopeless.

     He kept flapping his wings, kept pulling upward, refusing to give up, even as below him Enzo's muzzle, and then his nose, then his eyes and finally even his ears slipped beneath the water, and Whooter was left flapping just above the surface, still clinging doggedly to the very end of that ear.

     And then, suddenly, there was a noise behind him, a loud grunt and thumping and then sliding across the ice. He turned to see a creature-- just a mass of red through his tear-blurred eyes-- come sliding toward the hole. The presence of another soul in a world that had narrowed down to him and Enzo so acutely in the last few minutes shocked him so that his tired grip finally slipped and Enzo's ear went splashing down into the water with the rest of him. Whooter gasped at his failure, but he was quickly swept aside by a red paw moving past him and plunging into the water.

     Whooter held his breath for what seemed like hours but could only really have been a few terrible moments as the creature's arm moved about in the water, searching, until a grunt signaled success. Enzo's body was hauled up out of the water and onto the ice, soaking and near-frozen, but coughing and alive. Whooter had only strength enough left to carry himself toward his friend and fall down to the ice in relief.

     ***

     Enzo opened his eyes slowly. Beside him, a small fire threw a faint, fluctuating light on dark cave walls. As his eyes adjusted, he focused on the only apparent noise besides the crackling of the twigs in the fire. Before him, in the entrance of the cave, he made out the forms of a large, shaggy-looking Scorchio and an unkempt, bowless Usul who were grunting and chattering at each other as they fought over an acorn.

     "You're awake." Enzo turned his head, which still lay heavily on the cool cave floor, to see Whooter standing beside him and looking decidedly relieved.

     The Gelert nodded faintly and turned back to look at the pair of pets who were still arguing incomprehensibly a few yards away. "What happened? Who are they?"

     "Wild Neopets," Whooter spoke softly. "I've read about them before. They live deep in the forest without any owners. I don't think they even know what owners are, though the books say their ancestors had them, once upon a time, before they came to live alone out here for whatever reason." He hopped forward another foot and pointed at the Usul. "I believe you have her to thank for waking you," he said, and then pointed at the other Neopet. "And him to thank for saving you from drowning in that lake."

     "The lake," Enzo said as the memory came flooding back. Then he chuckled a little. "Hey, I bet that water was ten times colder than when Dad saved Mom from those pet smugglers, huh?"

     "Enzo," Whooter chided, shaking his head at the young Gelert. Then his tone changed abruptly. "Enzo... I-- I'm sorry... that I couldn't do anything to help you."

     "Aw Whooter, come on. You did everything you could. And hey, it turned out all right, didn't it?"

     Whooter sighed and patted Enzo's head fondly. "Yes, I suppose it did."

     Enzo's eyes moved about the small cave as he shivered and scooted closer to the fire. "Where are we?"

     "I believe it's a cave," Whooter replied. When Enzo glared at him, he cleared his throat and pointed at the Scorchio again. "I believe it's his cave to be more exact."

     Enzo looked back at the Scorchio, who was still stubbornly playing tug-of-war with the irate Usul over the acorn. "Are we sure he didn't save me to be breakfast?"

     "The books all say they're essentially harmless," Whooter replied. He turned to Enzo and noticed that despite the persistent noise of grunting and chattering, the young Gelert's eyelids were beginning to droop again. "Get some rest, Enzo. It'll be all right."

     Enzo needed no further instruction. His eyes fell closed and within seconds he was snoring lightly again. Whooter snuggled up against his dark, furry neck and kept watch throughout the night-- just in case the books were wrong.

     When Enzo next awoke, he looked around, slowly regaining his bearings, and noticed the wild Scorchio sitting in a corner and gnawing fruitlessly at the much-disputed acorn. The Gelert stood to his feet, swaying a little at first and groaning as his aching muscles protested the sudden movement. Then he approached the Scorchio cautiously, ducking his head a little and smiling to show his friendly intentions. The Scorchio looked up at him curiously. "Uh, I-- I just wanted to say thanks," Enzo said. "Thanks for saving my life."

     The Scorchio stood up and sniffed a few times, and then uttered a few grunts.

     "Uh, Whooter," Enzo said, looking down at the Whoot who stood beside him, "what's he saying?"

     "You think I can understand that barbaric grunting?" Whooter asked testily, folding his arms. "Just what are you trying to imply?" Enzo just sighed and rolled his eyes. Finally, Whooter sighed too and hopped up to face the Scorchio. "You there-- what is your name, sir?"

     The Scorchio looked down at him and scratched his shaggy red head in confusion. "Ungh?"

     "Your name, your name-- what are you called?" Whooter said impatiently, but the Scorchio showed no sign of understanding. Finally, the whoot fluttered up onto the top of Enzo's head and pointed down at the Gelert. "Enzo. En-zo," he said slowly. Then he pointed at himself. "Whoo-ter." At last he pointed toward the Scorchio. "And you?"

     A smile of understanding dawned on the Scorchio's face and he pointed proudly at himself and uttered the syllables: "Scorch-ee-oh."

     "Scorchio. Your name is Scorchio?" The Scorchio nodded enthusiastically at the skeptical Whoot. Whooter just sighed. "Well, that should be easy enough to remember. Then I suppose that would be Usul?" he asked, pointing over at the untidy Usul from earlier, who was creeping back into the cave, holding a stick out toward the fire.

     The Scorchio growled and lunged at the Usul, who leapt back quickly with her stick, which now had a tiny flame attached to the end of it. The little Usul chattered angrily at the Scorchio as he backed her against the cave wall and grabbed for the stick, which she swung away from his reach each time.

     Enzo darted between the two warring pets. "Hey, hey!" The Scorchio backed up a foot or two reluctantly, grunting and pointing angrily at the burning end of the stick. "You can share!" Enzo exclaimed. He pointed back at the Scorchio's fire. "Look, you don't have any less than you did before." Before the Gelert could reason with either of them any more, the Usul took the opportunity to dart out of the cave, waving her stick triumphantly and throwing a few taunting chatters back at the Scorchio, who went crossly back to chewing on the impenetrable acorn.

     Enzo stayed at the small cave's entrance, gazing out after the Usul in amazement. Scorchio's cave, he saw, was just one of many that dotted the walls of a huge, dark cavern. By the lights of the small fires that lit some of the caves, he could make out wild Neopets of all shapes and sizes engaged in similar fights over food or warmth or-- it seemed-- just about anything they could find to fight about. They all lived together within the walls of this cavern it seemed, but it was obvious that in many ways, they each lived quite alone.

     Meanwhile, Whooter had approached Scorchio again. "Right, now, I think this is as good a time as any to begin teaching you some proper Neopian." The Whoot pointed at the fire. "Fire." The Scorchio just looked at him and grunted, turning back to his acorn. "No, not 'grunt.' Fire."

     "Come on, Whooter," Enzo said, turning away from the cave entrance and toward his friend. "You're not gonna try to civilize 'im, are you? This guy's wild and free; I bet he has all sorts of adventures, and--"

     "Enzo, if we're going to spend the winter here, I'm going to have to 'civilize' him at least a bit for the sake of communication. Will that be all right with you?"

     "Spend the winter here?"

     "You're still weak from your ordeal," the Whoot said pragmatically, tapping lightly on one of the Gelert's front legs so that Enzo winced slightly at the reminder of his sore muscles. "And the weather's only going to get worse according to my calculations. I don't see much choice but to spend a winter with the wild pets."

     "I suppose you're right," Enzo replied, not quite managing to hide his excitement at the prospect.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Needed Adventure: Part One
» Needed Adventure: Part Two
» Needed Adventure: Part Three
» Needed Adventure: Part Four
» Needed Adventure: Part Five
» Needed Adventure: Part Six
» Needed Adventure: Part Seven
» Needed Adventure: Part Eight
» Needed Adventure: Part Nine
» Needed Adventure: Part Eleven
» Needed Adventure: Part Twelve



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