To Know the Rain
Vynder only knew the dark and fire. His sight was filled with fire and magma, the smell of brimstone. His own skin was of rock and lava, his eyes a light with fire. Fire danced around his neck, a live collar of flames. They drifted off his skin smoothly, his paws would leave trails of embers. His house was made out of stone, of old lava dried but still warm. The streets were once lava, now just warm underneath the touch. He was a citizen of Moltara and had known only of fire and heat. It was he only things that his life knew.
He would have been content to continue on in such a naive manner until he stumbled upon a book of the world beyond Moltara. Vynder had been wandering in out of the shops when the store boasted of new literature. Times were always changing and Moltara had always been a slow place. As Moltara grew in tourism after it's discovery, neopets and traders from across Neopia came into the city. Normally, Vynder would have moved on. He was not a reading sort of Wocky, and preferred to playing with his friend, Chander or exploring the tunnels. Teasing the Tonu who guarded the Magma Pool. But the book called to him and he stopped. He exchanged a few neopoints and opened the pages with the tips of his paws, not to char the paper. Illustrations of worlds beyond Moltara jumped out at Vynder. Of a city sitting on clouds purple and white, a kingdoms beyond the mountains and treasures found within the desert. But what truly amazed him was oceans. Of a city underneath the sea, of floating ships. Water. Rain. So blue! So colourful to the city of Moltara which was filled with warm colours. Things he had never of before, things he had never felt.
He talked to his friends and family about the world beyond but Moltarans were stubborn citizens and content with their city. They told Vynder to forget about it, to return the book and forget. Only Chander dared to listen to Vynder for long enough, but even then she grew tired of his talk. She was sympathetic and interested enough, but she was content in her kingdom. "Just forget about it," their friends would say.
But the Wocky couldn't. His thoughts were consumed with ideas, with sensations he had never felt of. His dreams were filled with the ocean, of dipping a paw into the water. He wondered what rain felt like. Was it hot like the volcano rivers or was it cold like the fabled Terror Mountains? Soft? Hard? Did it come in different colours?
The more he yearned for water, for the rain - he shunned his own city and pelt. He asked for traders to bring in books of Maraqua and Mystery Island. He started to plan trips to Krawk Island, to visit the Golden Dubloon and taste the salty ocean air with his own tongue. He ignored the traditional Moltaran games, throwing himself at Maraquan literature - teaching himself how to write and read Maractite.
His family and friends tried to support his odd fantasies, his dreams filled with dancing in the rain.
Until it was Vynder's birthday. He had asked for an authentic Maraquan book but was astonished when he opened his present and found a cask of water. "It's from the pools in Mystery Island," Chander said shyly. Vynder couldn't believe, so cool and calm in hands so different from the heat he was used to. He laughed, tugging at the cork, not knowing what to expect.
The last thing he expected was pain. The water bit at his flame, dowsing his coal exterior and drowning his fire. His friends covered him with warmth, the water lost in their panic to evaporate. He sobbed in pain and sorrow, so disappointed. Even his tears were on fire, two twin rivers of lava that trailed down his cheeks.
His sweet dreams were nightmares for how could a pet made out of heat and fire itself ever hope to love and know the rain. He shelved his books of set places, burying plans to the underwater city. His heart was broken.
He wandered through the days sadder than ever before. He claimed to considerate friends that he was fine, that his obsession with the ocean and the sea were just a phase. Even to Chander who approached him every day with a cautious voice and a gentle paw on his shoulder. Vynder never told them that he still dreamed of dancing in the rain, tasting it on his tongue. Oh, how it hurt when he awoke each morning knowing it would never happen.
He would have remained in a state of eternal sorrow if it hadn't been his friend, the magma Lupe who had given home the cask of water so many months ago. She smiled sweetly, offering a fire proof blindfold.
He hesitated but she insisted so he reluctantly agreed. "Chander," Vynder asked. "Where are we going?"
The Lupe opted with silence until after a long time of walking, fresh, cool air hit his face. He lifted paw to raise the blindfold of his face but Chander was quick to swipe it away. "Soon," she crooned.
For what seemed forever and a strange trip, Vynder was truly lost. Then Chander pulled off his blind-fold and his heart raced. For he stood in front of pool of swirling water, churning as a great faerie looked on in subtle happiness.
"I don't understand," he said, turning to his friend, reaching for her open paws.
She clutched his own, holding them tight. "I hate seeing you sad. Whenever I talked to you, you never listened. Your eyes were always focused on what you couldn't have. I can't stand you being so miserable, Vynder. So I'm giving you your birthday present early," she said softly, stretching out a paw to the pool, which swirled with colors new to his eyes.
In the back of his mind, Vynder was reminded that Chander had said something on getting a Fountain Faerie Quest but it was blurry and hoarse, his mind preoccupied with the wonders of the rain. But it occurred to him what Chander was doing and he shook his head fiercely. "No, Chander. No! You have no idea what you're giving up! You could be anything you wanted!" he said, pleading with his friend.
She laughed, sparks coming off her cheeks and tongue. "I am happy the way I am. I am pleased to know fire runs through my blood. But you, Vynder, you are so sad," she said softly, her grip on his paws tightening with reassurance.
"But I'm scared," he whispered softly, eyes wide with fright.
"I will be with you, every step of the way," she said, paw letting go of one his own but still remaining tight on the other.
So they walked over, greeted by the sapphire coloured eyes of the Fountain Faerie who greeted Chander with a smile. "So you've decided?" she said, her voice sounding like a river rushing over rocks. The magma Lupe nodded with a smile, and tugged her friend forward.
"Yes, I'm giving my friend this chance."
The Fountain Faerie looked at them both, slowly before smiling. "Of course. Step inside." She gestured to her den with open arms and Vynder froze.
But Chander was behind him, just like she said."Well, go on, silly!" And she put her paws on his shoulders and pushed.
He expected pain, just as he experienced at his last birthday. But there was only cool relief and strange new feeling passing over him as he sank into the pool.
Above, the magma Lupe awaited eagerly for her friend to return to the surface in his new skin. From where she sat, the Fountain Faerie looked on in curiosity. "That was a very generous thing of you to do," she said softly.
But Chander shook her head. "That's what friends do," she said firmly.
Finally, Vynder surfaced. No longer of heat and fire, brimstone and coal. Sparks did not leap from his fur and embers did not dance in his eyes. Instead, he was cool and liquid, stepping from the pool. His eyes were warm and filled with moisture and his smile swam on his face. He was water now, pure and clear. He laughed in delight as he looked at his new form and he rushed to greet Chander who reached to hug him. But they were of opposite elements and Chander's fire would steam against his water and his water would drown Chander.
They stood as close as possible, though, unable to touch all the way back to the Moltaran Gates. There, they waited, looking at one another. Vynder could not return to his home, for the heat would surely melt him and Chander could not follow him to the sea. But rather than leave on bitter terms, with hearts filled with sorrow, they smiled.
"You promise to visit?" Chander whispered softly, smile growing.
"Always. Keep on eye on the family at home," Vynder said softly, briefly brushing his best friend's hand. Although it hurt, they treasured the small moment before Chander disappeared into the gate. "Write to me," he called from where he stood and inside, he could hear her laughter, echoing off the walls. From outside, Vynder waited, his whole future stretched out beside him.
And softly, ever so softly, it began to rain.
It was everything he thought it would be.