Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 102,279,292 Issue: 202 | 5th day of Hiding, Y7
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Wanderlust: Part Three


by extreme_fj0rd

--------

The morning came early, streaming through the windows of the small house. Snow was piled on the windowsill and a thin layer covered the glass, filtering the light into something gentler and purer than that.

      Jamie woke slowly, to the absolute silence that took over Terror Mountain when the winds didn't blow. He yawned and sat up from where he'd been curled in the armchair; his gaze fell on the blanket that was folded into the seat of the chair opposite, and he smiled. He hadn't woken in the middle of the night from the cold, but now, with the fire down to embers, he wrapped it around his shoulders.

      He glanced back at the fire; a bottle on the floor caught his attention, and he started.

      "Annalise!" he said aloud. He'd nearly forgotten her, in the quiet beauty of Terror Mountain's morning.

      A snorting breath made him jump again, and the Kyrii turned to look at the far corner of the cabin. The Lenny who'd lent him shelter was sitting up in her bed, a blissful smile on her face. She glanced over at him and smiled.

      "How was your rest, then?" she asked, grasping her cane and levering herself out of bed.

      "Fine," he replied absently. He reached over and picked up the potion bottle, and stowed it back in his satchel.

      "Which way are you going, to look for your sister?" the Lenny asked. She took up the poker and stirred the embers around, rejuvenating the fire.

      "I--I don't know," Jamie admitted.

      "Ask around," she said briskly. "She'll have had to stop somewhere for the night; all there are around here are cabins like mine. I'm sure someone will have heard which way she went."

      "Thanks," he said, watching her hobble over to a cupboard.

      "What's your name, then?" she asked, just as if he'd spoken.

      "It's Jamie," he said.

      She gave a nod, as if that meant something to her, and opened the cabinet. "Mine is Anthea," she said, and took out a loaf of bread and a wheel of cheese. "There, we're introduced. I'm afraid this is all there is," she added.

      "Oh! I don't want to--to impose on you, I have omelette--"

      "I insist," Anthea said. "You're my guest." She set the bread and cheese on a small table and motioned for Jamie to drag the armchairs over, which he did.

      "Now," she said when they were both seated, "you'll want to start with Bella, she's two houses up. A terrible busybody; if she doesn't know, you can ask around, but you probably won't find anyone else who can tell you."

      Jamie nodded and took an absent bite of cheese.

      "And you'll need proper winter clothes," Anthea continued, "so you can take my old coat. It won't fit quite right, but it'll be something."

      The Kyrii nodded his thanks. "Anthea--why are you doing all this?" he asked as she trod slowly over to the fireplace to fill a kettle and hang it over the embers.

      "Because I can," she answered, and turned back to him; he just caught the wistful expression on her face as she said, "Because what you tell me of your sister reminds me very much of me."

      Suddenly businesslike again, she added, "I know that Bella has an extra coat, too. Make her give you that for your sister. She'll never use it herself, and Fyora knows your sister will probably need it."

      Jamie nodded again, slowly. "Thank you," he said, and Anthea smiled. She didn't reply, but she didn't need to. Jamie stood after a moment and fetched the teacups from the cupboard, and set one down for each of them, and the Lenny smiled her thanks.

      "You're a good boy," she said. "Your sister is lucky to have a brother like you."

      "Two houses up," Jamie muttered, slogging his way through the snowdrifts. "Two houses..." His foot caught on a branch, buried in the snow, and he tripped, just barely managing to catch himself. "Up," he panted, and kept climbing. The houses, which Anthea had made sound like a small village, were spread out over half a mountainside.

      He took the last step up the hillside with relief and rapped on the door of the second house up from Anthea's. He'd left her after breakfast, with profuse thanks. She'd brushed off the comments, saying only that he could keep the coat.

      The Kyrii smiled now, thinking of her. She was the sort of elderly female he'd despised back in Neopia Central, but here... here she was a friend.

      He rapped again on the door, and this time it opened. An Eyrie stuck her beak out. "Who're you?" she asked, her beady eyes focusing on him.

      "I'm Jamie--I'm looking for a brown Aisha. My sister," he said.

      "Ah, the Aisha," she said wickedly. "Come right in!" She pulled the door open to let him step in, which he did gratefully.

      "Well, she was staying with Eleanor," the Eyrie said as he wiped his feet on the mat just inside the door. She could only be Bella. "But this morning, when Eleanor woke up--she was gone! She took Eleanor's best coat, too. Crazy girl," she added, under her breath. "Do stay for tea."

      Jamie shook his head. "I have to go after her," he said breathlessly. "Which way did she go?"

      "She left before the winds stopped, so her prints are gone," Bella said, peering down her beak at Jamie, who let out a cry of despair, "but she said something to Eleanor last night that made her think that she was going north."

      "North," Jamie muttered. "Thanks."

      Bella nodded. "Are you sure you can't stay for a cup of tea?" she asked.

      The Kyrii shook his head again. "Sorry," he said. "She's my sister, you see."

      "I do see," Bella said, with a nod. "I do see. Good luck," she called as Jamie opened the door again.

      He stepped out and called back, "Thanks!"

      The Eyrie closed her door; she wound a scarf around her neck and pulled on a pair of gloves, and then hurried out to tell all her neighbors about the crazy boy who was following his sister up Terror Mountain.

           Jamie struggled up the slope, bent double to catch at the snow with his front paws as well. He nearly crawled up the last few feet, and stopped to catch his breath. He'd only gained a few feet off Bella's house; but it was something. He turned back to the north, to the peak of Terror Mountain, and let out his breath. It was so tall, so icily pristine--so tall--

      The Kyrii began once more to climb, using both his hands and feet. He panted for breath like a feral Lupe, clutching at his sides, when he paused; halfway up, he took a break, patting some of the snow into a seat.

      After a few minutes, though, he began the climb again, intent on catching up with Annalise.

      His back paw slipped, sickeningly, on ice; he clutched desperately with his front paws.

      The other back paw slipped.

      He had a moment to think--Oh, Annalise--and then he fell.

      Tumbling head-over-heels, through snow drifts and past the halfway point where he'd rested, his breath was taken away by the wind of his passing, snatched and held beyond his reach. He was brought back to himself, with a jolt, when he ran out of slope and tumbled just once more on the plateau above Bella's house.

      He let out a moan, feeling the bruises he'd gained from the fall, and pushed himself up again.

      The Kyrii immediately noticed the absence of something; the absence of his satchel. He glanced around for it frantically, standing up without realizing it.

      It had fallen halfway up, and his hopes died as he saw it. For around it on the snow was a stain; a stain of maroon hue, the color of the Potion of Containment. The savings he'd hoarded over an entire year. The medication for Annalise's disease.

      All gone, with ill luck and a patch of ice. Jamie stared numbly at it before letting his head slump. He'd failed, then. He might as well go back to Neopia Central, back to Thomas, and say he'd lost her trail, say he hadn't been able to force her to drink the potion--any lie, any at all, to take away the truth. The truth of his failure.

      He half-crawled, half-staggered, up the slope, not even caring any more whether he fell or climbed; he fell on his knees before the red stain and scooped some of the blemished snow up in his paws. He stared at it for a long moment, then threw it away. There was no use trying to save it. It was gone; all gone.

      Jamie didn't quite know why he did what he did next. Maybe it was the memory of Anthea, telling him wistful memories of her wanderings. Maybe it was the feral look in Annalise's eyes when she paced her room in Neopia Central. Maybe it was his fear of failure; maybe it was something quite different, or one, or two of those, or all combined.

      Whatever the reason, he scrambled to his feet and began once more to climb, upwards and onwards in search of Annalise.

     He came upon her at a cliff; she sat on the very edge of it, her back paws dangling dangerously over the precipice. She was bundled up in a white coat that blended well with the snow, but she had no hat; her brown fur made a sharp contrast to the chalk-white surroundings.

      He didn't speak at first; he crouched in the snow several feet away, watching her. She didn't seem to be in the same wild mood she'd been in in Neopia Central; instead there was a sense almost of peace.

      Annalise turned, scanning the snow with sharp eyes.

      "Who's there?"

      He stood up hastily, much too aware of the ill-fitting coat he wore, of the fact he bore no satchel with the medicine--and saw the look in her dark eyes. It was as peaceful as Terror Mountain itself.

      "My brother," she said, and with a smile stood up, crossing the gap between them with a few swift strides. She embraced him, and he returned the hug shyly, not quite sure why he was not at ease. Annalise was his sister; he'd been searching for her.

      She stepped back after a moment and regarded him. "You come to cure my illness," she said softly. "But it does not need curing. Look, my brother." The Aisha flung a paw out at the vista over the cliff.

      He frowned at her; then he looked where she pointed.

      Fields of snow, and hills, melted smoothly together in the sloping foothills; forest-green pine trees stood against them, silent sentinels of the mountain. The sunlight shone down upon it all, pristinely beautiful, and Jamie could not remember a place more perfect than this.

      He looked back at his sister, understanding something, now, of her Jitters--her Wanderlust.

      "There are many more places like this," she whispered. "In every part of Neopia, in every village and land, there is a view as glorious as this one." She took a step back. "Now do you understand, brother?"

      The Kyrii simply nodded. He did not speak for fear of breaking the silence; but when Annalise left the cliff to indulge her wanderlust, Jamie went with her.

The End

 
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» Wanderlust: Part One
» Wanderlust: Part Two



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