Taelia's Pride: The Beginning - Part Four
Allie looked out the window at the weak autumn light penetrating the gloomy sky. The heavy clouds had been moving in all week, and the first real snowstorm of the season was supposed to begin today.
Only a few months had passed since she’d first arrived in Happy Valley, but as she sipped a mug of hot tea and looked out at the mountaintop, she felt like she’d aged many years. She still heard her family’s voices in the lucid state between waking and dreaming, but after Taelia told her that there was no explanation, she had begun to attribute it to wistful dreaming.
Taelia had a big day of quests and had asked her to deliver some packages to Carassa, Tarla, and Donny. Allie looked over the packages with quiet speculation. With the holiday season approaching, traffic would start to increase, but Allie didn’t think it was related to that. More likely, Taelia was just doing her neighborly duty and delivering some cinnamon cakes—Allie had smelled them baking the previous night.
She’d become familiar with the other residents of Terror Mountain during her stay, so it was no surprise for her to drop by anymore. The community was close, and someone always had a fresh pot of hot chocolate they were willing to share. It was such a remote location that they really had to work together.
Allie sighed and picked up the packages. They were not too heavy, and the trek through the snow was not bothersome. Mika and Carassa were happy to receive her, showing her a rare wearable they had unearthed in the attic earlier. It appeared to be some sort of charm. Mika had strung it on a piece of leather cord, turning it into a necklace.
When she left, they were both waving cheerfully. Allie smiled shyly as she headed to Tarla’s cabin.
Tarla was just as happy to see her, inviting her in all the more eagerly when she noticed the packages in her arms. “Come in,” she said. “I’ve just finished emptying out my shop, so I will take a few minutes for a break.”
Allie smiled at the Ixi and sat in a comfortable chair.
“By the way, do you think it will really storm soon?” Tarla said conversationally. “I heard during the weather broadcast that it might be delayed a few more days, but it sure looks like it’s about to come down, doesn’t it?”
Allie shrugged. “I don’t know. The Usuls will surely appreciate a fresh snow, though. They’ve been getting ready for skiing season for weeks now.”
Tarla showed her out of the house with a smile, and Allie headed for Donny’s little house. Tarla was always fun to visit with, but today Allie wondered if Tarla might be right about the weather. The grey clouds were looking as grim as ever, but there was no sign that they were willing to drop their burden.
Donny let her into his house with a grumble. Allie smiled at his back as she followed him into his workshop. The Bori was constantly bellyaching, but she had come to understand his personality much better the more she talked to him.
He took the last box from her hands with a gratified sniff, before looking around and speaking unexpectedly. “Say, Allie. I’ve got a favor to ask. You’ve been practicing magic, right?”
“I sure have, Donny,” Alzyia replied. “Do you need me to cast another light for you?”
“No, the one you made me last time worked fine, I don’t need another one,” he grumbled. “One of the customers who came in earlier with a broken kite told me he found this guy shivering in the snow, and asked if I could look him over. Trouble is, I don’t know head or tale about Petpets,” he continued. “Can you take him to Taelia for me?”
As he spoke, he bent behind his workbench and emerged with a small box in his arms. He held it out to Allie, who took it without having any other idea of what to do. A few rags lined the rough wood surface, and a small reptile lay curled up and motionless. It emitted a soft, ember-like glow.
“Sure,” she said doubtfully.
“Don’t worry about him, he’s fine. Ate right out of my hands a few minutes ago. But I suspect the snow didn’t agree with him too well,” Donny said with a shrug. “Well, thanks.”
Allie exited his workshop quickly, rather taken aback. While Donny had always been rather abrupt, dropping a Petpet on her and Taelia seemed very sudden. Allie looked back down at the little lizard as she returned to the Igloo, too intent on her burden to notice the first few solitary flakes beginning to fall.
Once inside, she found Taelia sending yet another quester off in search of some items. Allie explained the situation as best she could, finishing with, “And so Donny gave him to me...” and showed Taelia the box.
Taelia looked into it and sighed. “Vacationers never want to leave their petpets with a Petpetsitter, so we’ve dealt with escaped petpets before. It seems pretty foolish for someone to bring a Moltenore, though. I’ve got a bit more on my plate now, Allie—can you take care of him? I’ll see if I can locate his owner and find out how he got lost, but I need you to watch him for me.”
“Alright,” Allie said mechanically, nodding and exiting.
In the living room, Allie set the petpet’s crate on the table and stared speculatively at it for a long moment. Finally, she decided the best thing to do would be to find a book that could tell her what to do. She found a big volume called Petpet Biology and returned to the living room before leafing through it. The section on fire petpets jumped out at her, and she began to read.
Donny had definitely been right about one thing, Allie thought grimly as she perused the text. Moltenores certainly didn’t get along with snow. She glanced back into the box and noticed that the rags were slowly turning blacker. Allie suspected if the petpet had been in better health, the rags would burn right through. The book suggested some sort of insulated, fireproof pillow that was sold at Petpet Supply Stores in Neopia Central, but Allie had no clue where she’d find something like that. She glanced around the room before her eyes settled on the fireplace. The fire hadn’t been rekindled all morning, but a few coals glowed among the ashes.
Allie used the fire tongs and the little pan nearby to lift a few of the coals out of the grate. She carefully placed them around the Moltenore, nestling the little lizard between the warmest spots. After returning the tongs and the pan, she sat back down on the couch. There wasn’t much more she could do, as far as she could tell.
While the Moltenore slept, Alzyia brewed a fresh batch of hot cocoa. After setting the kettle on the stove, she turned to look out the window, and noticed the gentle snowfall. Big, puffly flakes were drifting down at quite their leisure. In fact, unless Allie had known otherwise, she never would have guessed that a snowstorm was coming. The snowfall seemed like the same weather they’d experienced for most of the summer and into the autumn, just enough to give the houses a light dusting of snow but not enough to stick for long. Allie wondered if the Usuls would be upset by this. They’d been able to start earlier in previous years, according to Taelia. For some reason, the snow seemed to be later than usual this year—at least, the proper stuff that they could use for skiing.
The kettle whistled and Allie turned off the stove. Taelia would be taking a break soon, and Allie suspected she’d enjoy a mug.
The Snow Faerie entered at that moment, followed by a tearful Usul wearing a sumptuous fur coat. “Where is he?” she sobbed.
Allie watched quietly as Taelia led the Usul into the living room and showed her the box where the Moltenore was resting. She poured two mugs of hot chocolate while the Usul sobbed into Taelia’s shoulder.
Allie served both Taeliea and the Usul before looking into the box. The Moltenore looked greatly improved, with small flames flickering across its skin. The Usul was explaining distractedly how she had lost the petpet when it opened its eyes, squirmed free of its nest, and jumped into the Usul’s lap.
Allie smiled at the owner’s delight as she left. Taelia closed the door behind the Usul and sighed. “Thanks for taking care of it. She seems to be happy to have him back.”
Allie nodded. “What exactly happened?”
“Just a negligent owner who lost a pampered petpet. The same thing that happened last time, and the time before that.” Taelia smiled at Alzyia before returning to her duties.
* * *
That evening, once dinner had been cleaned up, Alzyia asked Taelia a question she had never had the courage to ask before. “Taelia, you always say that you need certain items for your quests because they can help you with your spells. What sort of spells do you do that require so many items?”
Taelia looked up. “Well, one of the duties entrusted to me is to watch over the pets traveling within my sphere of protection. Some of my spells are protection spells. I also monitor the weather patterns, so that everybody can plan accordingly. Things like that.”
Allie was silent. She had read more about the Faeries than she’d known before, but she hadn’t ever really considered what Taelia did, besides help pets that got stranded in the snow.
“So is the next storm going to be really large?”
Taelia looked thoughtful. “I don’t know for sure. It seems like a lot of snow will come down, but I thought it would have started by now, and we’re still only getting a light dusting outside. It might start during the night, though.”
Alzyia looked out the window. Once again, the only flakes falling were the large, slow-moving kind.
“But I have to tell you something important.” Allie looked back at Taelia. “I have to leave for a few days, and I’ll need you to keep things running smoothly around here.”
“But I can’t do the spells you do,” Allie protested.
“I’m shutting down quests for the time I’m gone. I don’t like to do it, but it looks like I have to. I just have to take a trip to Faerie City, and I shouldn’t be gone for very long. But if you can keep the spells on the Igloo running, and help anyone who needs it—just the sort of stuff you’d do if I was here, but you don’t have to bake any cinnamon cakes or anything like that—and you can take a break from your studies, too.” Taelia clearly wasn’t asking for a favor, but expected Allie to comply with her wishes.
Allie didn’t intend on disagreeing, anyway. She could keep the igloo running on her own for two days. It seemed pointless to disagree, anyway. If Taelia thought that she could do it, then she’d trust the Faerie. She nodded once in understanding.
“Alright, then get to bed. I’m only here for one more day, so tomorrow’s going to be busy.”
* * *
Taelia had been swamped with questers as soon as she opened her doors—people who wanted a chance to complete one before she’d close up. Allie decided to stroll around the mountaintop while she had the chance. One last time to stretch her legs and enjoy the brisk, fresh air until she was stuck inside for a few days.
Fat snowflakes still fell lightly from the steely clouds overhead, sometimes landing on Allie’s eyelashes and melting there. The thin layer of fresh snow crunched under every step. Tarla was sitting outside, enjoying the morning, and gave Allie a friendly wave. Allie waved back, smiling, before continuing her walk.
The previous day had been exciting. Allie didn’t know that much about petpets, and helping take care of one and learning about it had been new and interesting. More than that, she felt happy when she knew that she had helped the petpet, and helped make the owner happy. She felt like it was something she’d done that really made a difference to someone else, for one of the first times in her life, instead of just being a difficult burden to others. Someday, she hoped, she might be able to pay back Taelia for her kindness and for taking her in and teaching her.
Allie stopped walking and looked up at the sky. Despite what Taelia had said, there didn’t seem to be any increase in the snow coming down. She kneeled on the ground and sifted some of the fresher powder though her hand. It blew away quickly in the wind. None of the snow was wet enough to stick together. Allie sighed and stood up, dusting herself off before turning back. The weather was certainly acting strangely.
A voice howled on the wind, and she paused, looking around cautiously. Flurries were spinning wildly through the sky, but there was no sign of life further out. Allie closed her eyes, concentrating, and heard the voice again, calling her name.
She opened her eyes, shivered slightly, and hurried back to the igloo.
* * *
After lunch, Taelia reminded Allie of her responsibilities and the basic maintenance spells she might need to practice, like rekindling the fire or keeping any plumbing from freezing. Allie nodded, showing her a list of spells she had written down to help her remember. Then she was gone, and Allie watched her disappear through the sparsely-falling snow until there was nothing left to see.
To be continued...