Who I Am
Special thanks to Mikan_girl94 for helping me with this story! :D
My blue fur bristled as the icy wind of Terror Mountain slyly whipped around me, chilling me. Sunny, a yellow Lupe, trudged through the snow next to me. She quickly shot a glance behind her shoulder and sighed.
“Max, why in Neopia did we decide to bring her to Terror Mountain?” she muttered.
I followed Sunny’s gaze over to a medium-sized blue Gelert with a tight brown winter hat sitting firmly on her head and a woolen scarf wrapped around her furry neck. She was shivering in the cold and her tail dragged behind her.
“Lassie, keep up, will you?” I groaned. My breath came out in large, white clouds that disappeared into the air as I spoke.
“Easy for you to say – Lupes are used to this kind of temperature,” said Lassie, shivering.
“Well, you should’ve gone to Maraqua with Lollypop and Sky!” snapped Sunny, eager to move on.
Our owner, Lollypop, had decided to take our cloud Peophin sister, Sky, to Maraqua for the day, and since Sky was going to her favorite place in Neopia, Sunny and I decided to go to Terror Mountain – our favorite place in Neopia, leaving Lassie to decide weather to go with us, her sister, or just go somewhere on her own. That was unlikely.
“You know I don’t like being underwater for so long,” the Gelert whined.
“Quit moaning, will you?” growled Sunny before stomping off to the Slushie Shop.
“We could’ve gone to Meridell,” I heard Lassie mutter under her breath before bounding after Sunny.
The wind began to pick up a little as we walked, or stumbled in Lassie’s case, through the thick snow. Suddenly, a flash of red caught the corner of my eye, but when I glanced over a second time, I saw nothing but pure white snow.
I decided to shrug the thought off, and scampered over to my sisters, who were by then standing outside the Slushie Shop.
“Darn – it’s closed,” said Sunny once I’d caught up with her.
“There are plenty of other places to go in Happy Valley,” I said simply, looking around at all the small wooden buildings, and the skating rink with a sign next to it with ‘Rink Runner’ printed in large, white letters on it.
“Preferably somewhere warm with a fire,” said Lassie, her teeth chattering.
I realized by now that the wind had picked up dramatically, and small specks of snow began to whip into my face.
“Oh look, the Slushie Shop just had to be closed in time for a blizzard!” groaned Sunny.
She was right. There were more flakes swirling down every second, and they’d grown into large, white splats. My face stung as the wind flew them at me. I soon realized, through the swirling white around me, that my sisters were slowly walking in the direction of the Ice Caves.
I started to follow, my head down against the vigorous wind and snow. It was a long, hard walk to the caves, and Lassie stopped continuously, complaining that she was too cold to move. Sunny would stop and look over her shoulder, anger blazing in her yellow eyes, and I’d carefully nudge the blue Gelert on, assuring her that the faster we moved, the closer we’d get to shelter. And, at last, I saw the ragged, gray path that led to the caves.
But, as I put my paw on the cold stone path, I glimpsed something red further up the mountain. I examined it closely, soon to realize it was moving.
“Guys, there’s a pet up there!” I yelled over the roar of the wind.
“No-one would be crazy enough to stay out here,” Sunny called back, before taking a few steps forward.
“I’ll go and check up on it,” I said, hating my words when I was so close to shelter. Lassie swirled around and faced me.
“Don’t even dare! You’ll freeze!” she yelped.
“But it might need help – I’ll be back, don’t worry,” I said, before scrambling up the snow-covered slope.
“Max!” I heard Sunny’s voice rise, but I ignored her. I wouldn’t be long. Sunny’s yell began to fade away, but I continued to trudge up the slope, my paw slipping every now and then in the snow. But no matter how far I walked, the pet seemed further away. I struggled on through the swirling chaos, trying to keep in mind that the pet might be injured or something.
I kept my head low and walked on, paw by paw, sinking into the chilling snow. As I looked up, I realized the pet had stopped moving. Had it collapsed? I hurried forward, hoping to reach it faster than I’d expect. Of course, it didn’t, but as I approached the pet, I realized it was an enormous and muscular red Lupe, and it hadn’t collapsed – instead, it stood tall, its red fur blowing wildly in the wind as it gazed at me with its large, amber eyes.
He tilted his head for a moment, flicking its watchful gaze from me to the paw prints I’d left that were quickly fading in the heavy snow. “Follow me,” he said in a strong, yet almost bewildered, voice. His bright yellow eyes blinked with interest as I briefly nodded.
The large Lupe swung round, and began to trek up the mountain, and I followed obediently. I had no idea where we were heading, and I could barely see the Lupe in front of me, the thick snowflakes fell from the sky so heavily. With effort, I kept up with him. I longed to be out of the cold, safe in the ice caves with my sisters, but I’d completely lost direction, so I stuck with the red Lupe.
As we walked on, I noticed a large, dark circle plastered to the mountainside in the distance. A wave of relief swept over me as I realized it was a cave. My pace quickened, and soon I found myself in a large, stone cave. I collapsed with exhaustion, happy to be away from the biting cold outside. The red Lupe shook the frost from his fur and walked swiftly past me, barely noticing the shivering blue lump that I now was. I gazed about the cave. There was nothing much to it apart from its curved stone walls and high ceiling, the cold air and the quiet dripping of water coming from the depths of the cave. Large rocks sat in certain places on the floor, some big enough to hide behind and some about the size of a petpet.
Suddenly I noticed a glimpse of orange fur behind one of the large boulders. My ears twitched as an orange Lupe appeared from behind it, the red Lupe at her side. She stared at me, long and hard.
“I really cannot believe you did this, Ranno,” she finally said.
“I couldn’t help-” began the red Lupe.
“I’ll listen while you talk to Star,” snapped the orange Lupe, and then she looked straight at me. “I have no idea why you were out there in the cold, but lucky you found the softest Lupe in our pack.”
“Pack? W-what do you mean?” I stuttered, half from the cold.
“We live in a group, duh!”
“You mean there’s more?”
As if to prove my point, at that very moment a speckled Lupe appeared.
“He can learn more about us later; can’t you see he’s cold?” she said. Ranno and the orange Lupe looked at each other guiltily. The speckled Lupe sighed. “Bring him deeper into the cave; he’ll be warmer.”
I picked myself up and walked heavily over to a nearby rock, and lay back down once I reached it. I then learnt the Lupes’ names – the orange was called Dusk, and the speckled was called Clover. Another Lupe appeared as I lay there, an old Darigan named Shadow.
“I can’t believe you, Ranno!” Shadow barked. “You lead a pet right to our cave? Right to us?”
Ranno shrank back in guilt, his ears back and eyes bigger than before. “I-I’m sorry, but he looked lost, and-and-”
“Oh, Ranno, stop. Shadow’s just being crazy again,” Dusk sighed as she lightly brushed her tail along the large Lupe’s shoulder. She turned to Shadow, eyes blazing. “Shut up, would you? Don’t you think it’s a good thing we have shelter for this pet?”
Shadow’s ears swung back and the purple fur between his wings rose angrily. “What do you think Star will say when she gets back?”
“I say one of you should go and sit next to our visitor – he’s probably freezing to death.”
A white Lupe entered the cave. The snow that sat on her back matched the color of her fur and her voice was calm and soft. She effortlessly shook the snow from her fur as Clover hurried to my side, the heat from her fur seeping into mine. She lay down beside me, keeping me warm.
“Er, what’s your name?” she whispered into my ear.
“Max,” I replied quietly. I could already feel exhaustion dragging me to sleep.
“Where are you from?”
“Neopia... Neopia Central...”
Once again, I heard the white Lupe’s soft voice as I began to doze off.
“Hush now, Clover. Let him sleep.”
And with that, I plummeted into darkness.
Panic rose in my chest as my eyes fluttered open to see nothing but stone. Stone walls, stone floor, stone everything. It was the chilling temperatures that reminded me that I was no longer home. I turned my head a little to see Clover, who had fallen asleep herself whilst trying to keep me warm. I could just about see the cave entrance. It was dark, but I could still the fat flakes of snow flying crazily outside.
“It’s almost dawn, so it’ll be a lot lighter soon,” said Dusk in a hushed voice.
She was sitting about a meter or so away, her orange fur standing out against the grey rock. I sat up and stretched. My paws ached.
“I slept through the whole night?” I said, yawning.
“And the rest of the day,” chuckled Dusk. She got up and walked towards me. “Star says that you can stay as long as you like, but suggests you shouldn’t leave until the storm is over. I think everyone suggests that, actually.”
I looked at the swirling snow outside, and shuddered. These Lupes seemed so unaffected by it all. Dusk seemed to read my mind.
“We aren’t Super Lupes, you know,” she chuckled. “Lupes are supposed to live here; we’re built for this kind of weather. You’ll probably be used to it after your visit.”
She spoke to me as if I wasn’t really a Lupe, and it disgusted her. I decided to change the subject.
“So, what’s so important about Star?” I asked. Dusk’s eyes widened.
“Typical. You don’t even know why we treat Star better than each other. She’s our pack leader, the most important Lupe of us all. She’s the one that makes the decisions around here,” she said. “Lucky for you. If it was me or Shadow making that decision, you’d be out in that storm right now.”
Her scorn made my fur rise. “Why do you speak to me like that? Is there any specific reason why you don’t like me?”
“You’re a pet,” she hissed. “Pets shouldn’t know about us.”
Before I could ask why, I saw Ranno stretching his huge body as he woke up, his jaws parting into an enormous yawn. Beside him, Clover began to stir, while Shadow simply grunted and turned in his sleep. I looked into the cave entrance to see that it had gotten much lighter since I’d first woken up. Ranno looked at me, blinking his tired eyes.
“So you’re awake... um... what’s your name again?” he said, stifling a yawn.
“Max,” I answered. Ranno smiled.
“Good morning, Max!”
The storm lasted for three days. In those three days, the wild Lupes taught me everything. I learnt about them, that they called themselves a ‘pack’, and how they came together – turns out they were all pets once, but they’d either been abandoned or run away, and they’d all somehow found the pack and became a member. Star would often teach me things like that, and I learnt more and more about them each day. Clover, Ranno and even Dusk often played with me, teaching me battle and defense moves that they guaranteed to help me in the future. Shadow would often tell me myths and stories of all kinds, ones that I’d never heard before, about the first Lupe to live on Terror Mountain, or about the coldest winter of all time. Every day they’d make me step out of the cave and into the blizzard to help me get used to the cold, and, soon enough, I began to love the biting wind ruffling through my fur and the whipping snow lashing at my face. And, slowly but surely, the happy little Lupe pack grew closer and closer to me, and as those three days flew by, I began to feel like I was part of this pack.
But then the storm stopped.
I opened my eyes one morning, and saw the same stone floor, stone walls and stone ceiling that I was used to. I turned my head. Clover lay next to me, next to her lay Dusk, beside her was the large red Lupe called Ranno, and beside him was Shadow. On a large rock on the opposite side of the cave lay Star. All five Lupes slept happily, yet another familiar sight. But outside the entrance of the cave, I saw something different. A still, undisturbed blanket of snow sparkled beneath the clear, blue sky. I got up and walked up to the entrance. The sun washed the whole of Terror Mountain in cold light. I stepped forward, listening to the simple crunch of my paw sinking into the snow.
“Ah, so the storm’s finally ended,” Star said from behind me. I turned to see her leap off her rock and stretch, her long claws scraping the stone floor. I nodded.
“It’s very... very beautiful...” I muttered.
“You don’t seem yourself. Aren’t you happy that you can now return to your family?”
I nodded slightly, but I wanted to stay. I’d learnt too much to leave now. I wanted to stay at least a few more days and explore Terror Mountain with them.
“You know, you’re more than welcome to stay a bit longer,” whispered Star. I looked into her eyes. There was nothing there to say that she wanted me to leave. In fact, it seemed as though she wanted me to stay. I nodded.
“Okay, I will stay, but just for a few more days.”
But those few more days turned into weeks, and those weeks turned into months. Whenever Star spoke to me of returning home, she’d always offer to stay longer, and that same, hopeful glint would return to her yellow-gold eyes, and I could never reject her offer. Eventually, these conversations simply faded away, and Star never asked me whether I’d like to stay longer or if I’d like to leave – but I could still see in every Lupe’s eyes that, by then, they wanted me to stay.
One night, months after the storm, I woke up to see only four other Lupes in the cave, all sleeping soundly. Star wasn’t sleeping on her rock, though. I immediately sat up and scanned the cave. She wasn’t there. I walked to the entrance to see a trail of paw prints leading higher up Terror Mountain.
I followed them. It was a clear night, and the full moon made everything glow in a silvery light. All of a sudden, a howl pierced the air. A long, high-pitched howl that seemed filled with happiness and freedom. I continued to follow the paw prints until I spotted Star standing on a narrow ledge at the peak of hillside. I continued to walk until I was only a few feet away from the white Lupe. Star shuffled to the side of the ledge and flicked her tail, inviting me to her side. I walked over to her, and instantly gasped at the view.
I’d never been this high up before, and below my paws was the Top Of The Mountain – I could see the Toy Repair Shop and Shop Of Mystery, all of which were empty and closed for the night. It reminded me so much of Neopia Central. Past the Top of the Mountain, I could just make out Happy Valley, looking tiny from where I stood. Past that was a large field of snow, and then the icy sea, timidly rippling beneath the night sky. The whole view was washed by the moonlight, making the snow twinkle like tiny fallen stars.
“This is beautiful,” I breathed. Star smiled, her eyes glowing in the dim light.
“It truly is,” she whispered. “I can never tire of this view. I often come up here at night, especially when the moon is full.”
“What, so you think there’s more chance for the pets in Kreludor will hear you howl?” I chuckled, and then blushed. “I mean... er...”
Star laughed. “Don’t worry; it’s a habit of mine. Lupes have been howling for centuries – surely Shadow told you that?”
“Yeah... he did.”
We both stood in silence for a moment, taking in the view. A light, icy wind blew through our fur.
“Max, do you know where you are right now?” Star asked suddenly.
I looked at her, confused. “Er... Terror Mountain?”
She shook her head, and then leant forward, as if telling a secret.
“You are at the highest point of Terror Mountain,” she whispered. “You’re literally on top of Neopia.”
I stood in a breath-taken silence. Star’s words made me feel powerful, undefeatable.
“It’s amazing here,” I said.
“Yes, it is,” Star breathed. She paused. “Better than Neopia Central?”
I froze, and looked at her.
“I remember you saying that’s where you’re from, isn’t it?” she asked curiously.
“Yes.” I nodded. “Although I don’t really like to talk about it that much.”
“Why? Do you not want to go home?”
I stared into her gold eyes for a long moment, and neither of us moved. “No, I don’t. To be honest, I never did.”
“Hey Ranno, watch out!” I called as I threw a snowball towards the large red Lupe. He was too slow and the snowball landed directly at the side of his head. Dusk burst out laughing.
“Perfect throw, Max!” she yelled as she laughed. Almost instantly after that a snowball hit her shoulder. She whipped around and glared accusingly towards Ranno, but it was Clover’s laugh that gave away the real culprit. Gathering some snow together, Dusk was ready to throw when her nose twitched. She froze and dropped the snowball. She began to growl.
“A pet’s on its way,” she said, the orange fur on her back beginning to rise.
Clover and Ranno froze. Star, who had been talking with Shadow, lifted her nose and sniffed the air. I copied. A sweet scent reminded me of a place I’d almost forgotten.
A long time ago I wouldn’t have understood why these Lupes were so tense at the smell of a pet, although by then I knew. Pets to them were almost completely different creatures. They had owners, neohomes, neopoints. It was all a thing of the past to them, and they no longer wanted it in their lives.
We didn’t go back into the cave. We just stood there, wondering if the pet was walking towards us, whether we would see it at all. We did see it. It was only a few meters away. My heart raced and my eyes widened as it came closer. A yellow Lupe.
“Sunny!” I called at the top of my voice.
My sister paused for a moment, and for the first time seemed to notice the large group of Lupes that were watching her. She stared at us, as if daring herself to believe the voice she’d heard.
“Sunny!” I called again.
First her tail wagged, and then she ran. I ran too, and when we met we crashed into each other with wagging tails and overjoyed eyes. She playfully swatted a yellow paw over my ear.
“I can’t believe it’s you! I’ve actually found you!” she cried happily.
“What are you doing all the way up here?” I laughed, lightly nudging my paw on her shoulder in response to her swatting my ear.
“Looking for you, of course!” she replied. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you since you left in that blizzard! Lollypop’s been worried sick!”
“Really? You didn’t think of just... looking up here?”
“Sky said it was too dangerous to travel this far up the mountain. But I did, and I found you! Everyone’s going to be so happy to see you when you come home!” Sunny cried enthusiastically.
“Max?” Star’s quiet voice came from behind me. “Who is this?”
I turned around to face her. “Star... this is my sister, Sunny.”
Star’s ears twitched. “And you’ll be going home with her, now that she’s found you...” She trailed off. I instantly noticed the sorrow in her gold eyes. My heart ached at the thought of leaving her, leaving the pack. I turned back to Sunny.
“Sunny, as much as I’d love to see Sky and Lassie and Lollypop again... and it’s great to see you, too...” I paused, and then sighed. “But I can’t leave them.”
Sunny froze. Her tail twitched. “What?”
I took a deep breath, and explained everything to her. How I found Ranno, how he led me to the cave, how the pack looked after me, and how I never wanted to leave. As I did, tears welled in my sister’s eyes.
“So you aren’t coming back home?” she whispered.
“This is my home now,” I replied. “I can’t leave now, Sunny.”
The yellow Lupe took a shaky breath. “We’ll miss you... you know, back home...”
“I know. I’ll miss you, too. But I’ll be safe here, this is where I belong. Who I am.”
Sunny nodded. “I can’t argue with that. I’m sure Lollypop will understand, too,” she said, and looked at Star. “Look after him. Treat him like family.”
Star gazed into my sister’s eyes. “He already is.”
Sunny smiled as a tear rolled down her cheek. She looked at me. “Goodbye, Max.”
“Goodbye...” I said with a shaky voice.
With that, Sunny turned, and with the sun glowing on her yellow fur, she left. I watched, blinking back the tears that stung in my eyes, and as she disappeared into the snow I turned towards the pack. They were all smiling back at me. Star stepped forward. When she spoke, her voice was calm and soft.
“Welcome home, Max.”