Needed Adventure: Part Eleven
Morning light was just creeping over the horizon, and the
cold air sliced through even Dantam's thick winter coat of fur. But it was only
this early in the day that he could find a quiet moment to himself. Soon the other
junkyard pets would be awake and he would have responsibilities to tend to-- a
day full of looking after the needs of others. Only in these early hours was he
able to devote his thoughts to the pet who he most worried after, and the only
one who he seemed unable to help in any way.
He walked quietly out of the junkyard and came
to the base of the familiar little knoll, only to look up and see that there
was already someone else sitting at the top-- a slender brown Gelert with only
one ear, who stared out expectantly toward the horizon as if waiting for someone
to appear. Dantam sighed.
"Your worrying spot seems to have been taken
Dantam turned at the sound of the much loved
voice to see Tessa approaching, commiseration in her gentle smile. She sat down
beside him, leaning her muzzle against his shoulder.
"Did I wake you?" he said, turning his gaze back
up to the other Gelert on the hill. "I'm sorry."
"Dantam," she said, soft laughter in her voice,
"I'm used to you waking up every morning at the break of dawn, and I'm used
to waking up at the same time. I follow you out here and watch you from a distance
every morning. Don't try to tell me you didn't know."
He smiled. "All right. I know you keep an eye
"While you keep an eye out for Enzo."
He flinched at his son's name and the smile fell
from his face. Tessa was about to say something-- perhaps to apologize or soothe
him-- but he quickly continued on with their conversation as if there had been
no interruption. "But, as you said, you usually watch me from a distance. You
don't normally join me...."
"I know you like to be alone to think," she said.
"But I thought that since your normal routine seems to have been disrupted,
you might enjoy some company for once."
Dantam smiled again. "Your company? Always."
Tessa smiled back, then looked up at the Gelert
on the hill. "And I'm guessing that Cambry likes to be alone to think as well.
You may need to learn to share your worrying spot now that someone else has
discovered its usefulness."
Enzo scowled playfully at her second use of the
name she'd come up with for the little hill. But his mood descended quickly
again and he sighed, his ears drooping. "Where could he be, Tessa?"
"I don't know," she answered honestly. It was
the only reply she could give. She nuzzled his neck, trying to comfort him,
as well as herself.
"It's been months since Cambry and the other
pets from the lab arrived--"
"And months as well since all reports confirmed
that no lives were lost in the fire," Cambry said, cutting off a negative line
"Yes, but where could he be?"
"I don't know, Dantam," she said again. "But
he's out there somewhere. You know he is. And worrying about him won't do him
or us any good-- but hoping for him might."
Dantam sighed and smiled, turning to touch his
nose to hers. "How is it you always know the right thing to say?"
Tessa just laughed. "You're welcome."
Together they turned and headed back toward the
junkyard, leaving Cambry still sitting on the hill, alone with her thoughts.
The other pets would be waking up and preparing for the day and might need their
help with any number of things.
"Anyway," Tessa said, "Whooter is still watching
after him, at least. I'm sure they found a safe, warm place to stay the winter...."
Enzo leaped through the snow, sending it flying,
as he did his best to keep up with the pack of wild pets. He had no idea where
they were going, but they had all set out this morning, barreling through the
snow as fast as they could, rough and tumble. Whatever hidden signal it was
that had gotten all of them so excited at once, Enzo was happy to follow along
and enjoy the ride, blissfully ignoring Whooter's protests as the petpet struggled
to fly after them.
It felt wonderful just to stretch his legs. It
had been a harsh winter, making excursions outside the cave few and far between--
and generally unpleasant when they did happen.
They came to a stop finally on the bank of a
river. The wild pets crowded the bank, shouldering and shoving to get at the
cold water and satisfy their thirsts. Enzo stood back a ways, panting and thirsty,
but thinking it better to wait until the others' frenzied rush to the water
had subsided. Whooter fluttered weakly up, panting heavily himself, and dropped
to the ground beside Enzo's paws. Enzo ignored his glare.
"Look at that, Whooter. The river's running again.
It was frozen just like the lake last time we passed by this way."
Still catching his breath, the whoot could utter
little more than a "Hm" in assent.
"The snow's a lot patchier, too. And slushy.
Whooter sat up. "Yes, it appears spring is on
its way in," he said. "Finally."
"Spring...." Enzo stared off at nothing. "Almost
a year, then," he said. "Since I left home."
Whooter looked up at the Gelert, trying to discern
his mood or what memory or idea that far off look in his eyes was aimed at.
A cacophony of cries, growls and roars interrupted
their contemplative moment, though. The pair looked over to where several of
the wild pets were now gathered around the base of a tree that stood on the
edge of the river. Usul had climbed about halfway up the tree, and the other
pets, having now noticed her secret endeavor, were voicing their outrage from
below, while she chattered angrily back down at them. And a few of them, with
Scorchio in the lead, were trying to climb up after her. The apparent object
of their quarrel sat at the end of a branch near the top of the tree: a single,
Whooter sighed. "Well, it seems the concept of
sharing still hasn't quite caught on."
"Mmm," Enzo agreed, "But I can't really blame
them this time. Acorns aren't like fire-- one can't very well be shared."
"True," the whoot conceded.
"After living with them for a season, I can understand
why they live the way they do, ya know? Everything's so scarce around here,
and it takes every little bit you can get just to survive. It's no wonder it's
every pet for himself. They can't afford to care about anyone else." As if to
punctuate his point, the Gelert's stomach gave a loud growl.
"True again," Whooter said with a chuckle. "You
know, Enzo, I could probably fly right up there and beat the lot of them to
"Why Whooter!" Enzo laughed. "How positively
uncivilized of you!" Still, he couldn't keep a certain amount of longing from
his gaze as he watched the little acorn bob and bounce with the shaking of the
tree from the wild pets' efforts to claim the high-up prize.
Enzo's mind wandered as he watched Usul chatter
angrily down at Scorchio and Scorchio growl back up at her as they chased each
other up the tree, the large Scorchio moving much more clumsily than the nimble
Usul, but determined not to let her get the acorn for herself without a fight.
He was used to their squabbling by now-- and there seemed to be a special animosity
between those two in particular-- and as he'd said to Whooter, he understood
it well enough by now as well. And yet... Scorchio had saved him those few months
back from drowning, and he still could not puzzle out why. He couldn't see that
he'd been any sort of benefit to the other Neopet, nor that Scorchio could have
thought that he would be. So why would a Neopet who spent most of his time watching
out only for himself have saved another's life?
His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden shriek
from above-- not a shriek of anger but one of fear. His gaze shot upward again.
Usul had reached the branch from which the acorn hung-- and was now dangling
from the end of it herself. Enzo couldn't understand at first what had happened,
until he looked at where the branch joined to the tree's trunk. It had cracked
beneath her weight, throwing her off balance, and it appeared that it would
splinter the rest of the way and fall from the tree at any moment.
Scorchio was clinging to the trunk just below
the branch and reaching out one arm toward the dangling Usul, all malice suddenly
replaced with concern. Usul swung precariously from the end of the branch, reaching
out one of her paws to try to catch his, but she was too far away. He stretched
out as far as he safely could without losing his grip on the tree trunk and
she made one more desperate swing toward his offered claw, but as she did so,
the base of the branch gave one final crack and she went tumbling down with
it-- straight into the river's swirling waters.
A startled silence fell over the crowd of Neopets
for a second that seemed to stretch on for hours. And then Usul's head broke
above the surface of the water, and they broke into a flurry of noise and activity.
Usul gave a strangled cry, flailing her paws until she caught hold of a rock
that jutted up from the center of the river and held fast. But the water's current,
freed from its winter imprisonment and fed by the melting snow, was too strong
for her to be able to hold on for long. Scorchio slid down the tree and dashed
toward the river's edge, reaching his arm out toward Usul again, but the effort
was fruitless-- she was too far out for anyone to reach. And anyone who would
swim out after her was more likely to end up in trouble himself than to do her
any good. The other pets gathered around him on the muddy bank and chattered
with anxious and terrified excitement.
Enzo pushed his way through the noisy crowd,
stopping beside Scorchio to look out at where Usul clung tenaciously to the
rock. He struggled to block out the sounds of the others and think.
"Listen," he said, turning to face them. They
continued their chattering.
"Listen!" he shouted, and finally they all fell
silent and looked at him expectantly. "Listen to me. We have to work together,
do you understand?" He looked from face to face with dismay. They didn't understand.
Whooter had done his best to "civilize" them, but their vocabularies were still
rudimentary at best. How could he explain to them what needed to be done? "We
have to...." He floundered, casting about desperately for the right words. "If
we're going to save Usul, we--"
"Yes, yes," Scorchio said suddenly, standing
up beside him. "Save Usul!" He turned pleading eyes to the Gelert. "Please save
Enzo could only nod, placing a paw on the distraught
Scorchio's shoulder. "I will. We will." He paused, still searching for
the words. "Just... try to follow what I do, okay?"
Scorchio nodded hurriedly, though Enzo still
wasn't sure how much he'd understood. Still, it was the best that he could hope
for; the Scorchio was at least anxious to help, and hopefully the others would
follow his lead. Enzo turned back toward Usul, walking up to the water's edge.
He hesitated, his heart speeding up as he stared down at the rushing water and
felt the cold spray hit his legs. His mind raced back to the too-recent memory
of falling into the lake, the bite and then numb of the icy water, the terror
of not being able to pull himself out....
He pushed the memory away and stepped into the
water, clenching his teeth against the cold. He took several more steps until
he stood with all four paws in the river. "Scorchio," he said, "hold onto my
tail." He waved his tail to make sure that Scorchio understood the direction
and felt the other Neopet grab hold. He looked back; Scorchio's expression was
a mixture of confusion and trust. Enzo offered him a reassuring smile and took
a few more steps forward until the water level was almost at his chest. "Hold
He looked back over his shoulder as he heard
Scorchio's large feet splash into the water. A look of understanding suddenly
dawned on Scorchio's face, and he turned toward the other pets who stood huddled
behind him on the bank, grunting at them in their peculiar language and waving
his thick tail. The others looked at each other, mumbling uncertainly at whatever
Scorchio had said to them, but finally a Blumaroo stepped forward, gave a strong
grunt and grabbed hold of Scorchio's tail. It seemed that his assertiveness
was all that the others had needed to spur them into action, for they soon lined
up as well, each pet holding tightly to the tail of the pet in front of him.
Once their line was long enough, Enzo turned
back toward the river, trying to keep his eyes fixed on Usul instead of the
cold water that swirled angrily around her. He swallowed back his fear, stuck
his chin up, and took another step forward. This time his paw did not touch
back down on the river bed. With the unexpected loss of any foothold, he found
himself swept downstream by the current and for a moment panic rose up in his
throat. But the moment ended quickly, as he felt a strong pull on his tail and
his movement through the water came to an abrupt stop. He turned his head to
look back at Scorchio's smiling face and let out a sigh of relief. "All right,"
he said to himself, "time to swim."
He paddled his front paws, wheeling back around
against the current, holding his muzzle out of the water and trying to ignore
the icy spray that flew at his face. Slowly but surely he made his way out to
the center of the river, supported and secured by the chain of pets behind him,
some swimming as he was, some standing in the water, and some standing on the
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, Enzo
reached the rock to which Usul clung. "Usul--" he struggled to speak through
the effort of keeping himself afloat. But Usul, looking wet and frazzled, needed
no direction. Before he could get another word out, she had leapt from the rock
onto his head, then onto Scorchio's head, and on down the line of pets until
finally she reached the bank and safety.
A sense of relief enveloped Enzo as he and the
others were pulled slowly back in toward the bank themselves. He shook himself
furiously when he finally reached the shore, and marveled at how good the solid
ground felt under his paws. He laughed as he watched Scorchio scoop Usul up
off of the ground and into a crushing hug; the Usul chattered at him and tried
to bat him away, but the effort was only half-hearted. Enzo looked up at Whooter
as the petpet alighted atop his head. "Huh," the Gelert said with a grin, "and
all this time I thought they didn't like each other."
To be continued...