Petpet Adventures: Let It Snow - Part Two
Tvarla felt the rush of cool air as the icicles descended. She tensed her body, eyes clenched shut, but then there was a loud swishing noise and the sound of ice tinkling onto ice. She slowly opened her eyes to see shattered fragments of the stalactites raining down all around her. Shaking, she looked up.
Poised above her was a sight so terrifying that she squeaked involuntarily. Now she knew why Askar was so cautious of everything. The Snowager looked down at her with eyes as sharp as the ice scattered on the floor, and just as cold. Its body gleamed like silver, reflecting most of the light, but letting some pass through the crystalline depths of the icy coils.
A massive head reared above her, jaws parted slightly. The jaws themselves were a jagged as the ice fragments around her. She crouched low, knowing it was hopeless.
Then the head slowly turned to survey the wreckage. She followed its gaze and saw that a coil of the Snowager's body had been thrust against the snow that had been chasing her, while another was posed above her head; it was this that the icicles had hit. Now the coils were carefully removed. The gathered snow behind one did not budge. What appeared to be a smile of satisfaction passed over the Snowager's face and it began making its stately way back to its den.
Tvarla hesitated, waiting to see what it would do next. She was worried for Askar and Emari, who she hadn't seen ever since the Snowager had made its appearance. Lost in trying to find them, she started as a powerful voice emanated towards her, seemingly from the Snowager's mouth.
One word, spoken in an unmistakably male voice, and with unmistakable authority, and she moved. There was nowhere else to go, anyway, with the snow packed behind her in a wall three times her height. She followed the transparent tail as it weaved to and fro, until she was in the entrance to a massive cavern, fully ten times larger than any she had seen. It had to be, to house such an enormous host.
She gazed around. To her it seemed rather messy; there were all sorts of useless items littered just about everywhere. She prodded one, fascinated at the spongy feel, so unlike the crisp crunching snow or hard unyielding ice of her home. Looking up, she could see things dangling off stalactites and looped around stalagmites, and a few neggs were even frozen half out of the walls. She returned her gaze to the ground and caught sight of Askar near a pyramid of neggs, and beside him Emari. Both were flinching away from the massive creature in front of them, just as she would have been in their place. But somehow she knew that the Snowager was not out to cause her harm. After all, he had saved her.
Emari caught sight of her and rushed forward, her legs and wings working simultaneously and furiously as she tried to go as fast as she could. Then she stopped, glancing at the Snowager, still too close for comfort. But he was gazing firmly, and somewhat sadly, at a spot in the middle of the cave. Obviously there had been something important there.
Tvarla took a few steps towards him, and he turned his icy stare on her. He blinked slowly, as if registering her presence for the first time. She swallowed, but his eyes seemed to be compelling her to say something.
"Thank you," she managed at last.
For a few moments she thought he had ignored her, then he inclined his head.
"It was my fault that you were being chased by an avalanche in the first place," he said in a gravelly voice. His jaws looked set in a grim smile, but Tvarla could not be sure.
Askar had by now taken the few cautious steps to join her. He looked up at the Snowager, then back at the spot where the creature had been gazing at so sadly. He opened his mouth, but them shut it firmly again. The Snowager was still watching, however and opened his mouth.
"Speak," he said in a commanding tone.
"I-I was just wondering if it was you who started the avalanche," he murmured, looking down, away from the piercing eyes.
The Snowager paused, troubled. "Yes, I did." His tone then turned into a snarl that made Tvarla's blood run cold. "I was fine until they stole it." He stopped, gaining his composure in a matter of seconds.
Emari, always curious, piped up. "Who stole what?"
The Snowager's eyes narrowed, and Tvarla felt an icy chill down her spine. She prepared to bolt; knowing full well that it would make not the slightest difference if the Snowager decided to give chase. Emari tensed as well, but then the Snowager relaxed, a series of emotions sweeping across his face.
"If I tell you, will you agree to help me?" he rumbled at last.
Emari nodded immediately, too curious to consider the question properly. Tvarla glanced at Askar, who looked like he was about to object, then nodded as well, forcing him to follow suit.
The Snowager watched, and then apparently satisfied, he opened his mouth again.
"I have so many things in my cave, that some would think I could not possible care for all of them. However, everything here was earned with hard work, and whenever anything I'm particularly fond of gets taken by meddling pets, I lose my temper. "
He stopped to take a deep breath. Tvarla waited expectantly.
"Today I woke up. I had not been asleep for very long, only a few minutes, but I sensed something was wrong. Then I saw that my favourite negg had been taken."
He shook his head, making the air around him vibrate. Tvarla decided to speak up.
"Where was it?" she asked.
"That's what worries me," the Snowager murmured. "I always keep it close to me when I sleep. Which means that whatever pet stole it knew that it existed."
"Why—" Tvarla began, but she was cut off by Emari.
"What makes you think it was a pet that stole it?" she asked.
Tvarla swivelled her head to stare incredulously, and the Snowager answered by way of a huge snort. Tvarla was more than just a bit shocked; the entire Ice Caves seemed to shudder.
"Do you honestly believe that a petpet would come in here seeking any of this? Most of you would just consider it to be junk," he said quietly. "No petpet would come in here unless they were sent in by their pet. Would you take anything from here?"
Emari took an involuntary step backwards. "N-no," she stuttered, and Tvarla would have felt sorry for her, if she hadn't been amused that her friend could actually be forced to stutter.
"And why not?" the Snowager asked. He seemed to expect what answer he would get.
Tvarla spoke up to cover Emari's loss of composure. "Because no petpet is shallow enough to steal something while you're in the vicinity. And also because nothing in here is of any interest."
Emari nodded, casting her a thankful glance. Askar brushed off his fur and Tvarla spotted a few white hairs on the ground.
"Askar, why are you moulting?" she asked. "Surely it can't be that hot?"
Askar looked around in surprise, but the Snowager was over in an instant, the muscles on his neck rippling effortlessly. He bent his neck to peer at the fine white hairs, then he grunted angrily.
"These belong to none of you. They are too long, and too ragged. My guess is a Bori."
Emari gasped. "A Bori? Do you think a Bori stole your negg?"
The Snowager nodded gravely and she spoke again.
"But we saw some Bori before, didn't we? Along with that Eyrie?"
Askar nodded, thinking deeply. But Tvarla was just confused.
"I never saw any Bori," she protested.
"That's because you were too busy picking yourself out of that white Eyrie's feathers," Askar said wryly. "All the other pets with it were white Bori. I think there were about four or five altogether."
Tvarla nodded, aware of the Snowager's towering presence above her. Then she started. "They could be those pets I saw loitering around the Ice Caves before the Snowager roared."
Emari nodded. "It would make sense. So what's so special about this negg anyway?" she asked, addressing the Snowager directly.
His coils stiffened and instantly the tension of the cave, which had been the anticipation of ice cracking, became that of a huge beast ready to crush something if anyone made a wrong move. Then he shifted his body a little, and the mood passed, but when he spoke it was clear his temper was dangerously held back.
"Is that important?"
Emari was in the act of shaking her head, then she stopped and began nodding it, speaking strongly. "Yes. You asked us to help you, but we can't do that if we don't know why this negg is so important." There was a silence, and she gulped a little at the idea that she had made a demand of the ancient creature.
"I want it back. The Bori had no right to steal it. Isn't that reason enough?" The Snowager's voice was still hushed, though still louder than anything Tvarla could have shouted.
"Yes," Askar interrupted, speaking directly to the Snowager for the first time.
His cautious nature usually prevented him from talking to strangers, just the opposite of Emari's endless questions. The Snowager seemed surprised at his conviction.
"I'm glad you see it that way," he rumbled. "But I see from your friend's questioning eyes that it won't be enough. Very well, I will tell you." He turned his piercing eyes on Emari. "If that negg got into the wrong paws, it would spell disaster for the whole of Terror Mountain. It has a power that controls ice and snow."
Tvarla gulped. "You think that the Bori knew about it, don't you?"
The Snowager nodded gravely. "And that's why I need it as soon as possible."
He seemed to retreat into himself, thinking deeply. Then he let out a breath, sighing loudly.
"They couldn't have timed it better," he growled after a long minute of silence. "Its power is almost at its peak, and soon it will be at the command of any who has it."
Tvarla felt it strange that this massive beast had asked them to look for the negg. What really confused her was why he didn't just go out searching for it himself. But casting a glance about the cave, she realised that he had to protect his hoard. Pets were just too greedy. She shook her head in disgust.
The Snowager was speaking again. "You have promised to help me if I told you the full story," he murmured. "But I would not force the matter upon you. Will you help me?"
Tvarla was surprised that Askar was the first to answer this time.
"Of course," he said. He had an unknown, fierce look on his face, as if remembering something extremely important that linked with what he was saying.
Tvarla knew that the Snowager knew what her answer was going to be, but she nodded anyway. The Snowager relaxed greatly.
"Thank you," he said. "I am glad that you have agreed to help me find these fiends. But I can give you nothing in return, except for my protection, if you should need it."
He scooped up another negg, this one the size of a small rock and an iridescent blue, with his tail. "Take this. I do not know where the Bori and Eyrie are, but I hope you can find them. What disturbs me is how they knew about it."
He shook his head, as if clearing his head of this thought. Then he turned and retreated to the other side of the cave, his eyes watching them steadily and unblinkingly. Tvarla realised that he would say no more, so she turned to the others and beckoned, leading them to the wall of snow that had been so ready to bury her.
It took a long time, but eventually they found a safe spot to clamber up. Emari held the blue negg gingerly in one paw, as if it was burning her, and when Tvarla touched it herself, her hoof went numb with sudden cold. Finally Askar took it, his much thicker coat staving off the worst of its icy bite. When they were out of the Snowager's vicinity Emari spoke.
"What do you think that was about?" she asked.
"The Snowager lost something, and now he wants it back," snapped Askar, and Tvarla looked at him in surprise.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
Askar jerked his head around to look at her; the same fierce look from before crossing his face. The he turned away. "Nothing," he muttered.
When Emari opened her mouth to ask him more questions, he just shook his head and continued up the slope.
To be continued...