It was a beautiful day in Terror Mountain. A fresh blanket of snow covered the ground, sharp icicles dangled from rooftops, and a chilly breeze blew through the air. The inhabitants of this winter wonderland were busying themselves with the usual tasks of opening shops and shoveling pathways. Some were even attempting to get past the legendary Snowager. Everyone seemed as cheerful as ever, with one exception.
"Why does it always snow!" growled Perrin the Lupe. He was sitting in a snug cottage that overlooked Happy Valley. His teeth chattered as he tugged a warm blanket closer about him.
Sighing, a chocolate Blumaroo placed a steaming mug of tea on the table in front of him. She sat in the chair next to his and said absently, "I know it's a change from Meridell, but give it a chance. You're spoiling your visit."
"I don't understand how you do it, Lyreilla," Perrin remarked, warming his paws against the hot mug. "How anyone could love this land is beyond me. It's just so... cold!"
"There's beauty in everything, Perrin, you just have to open your eyes to be able to see it," Lyreilla said before springing out of her chair. "Come on, I'll show you how to love it here!" She grabbed his paw and tugged him out the door.
Perrin trudged alongside Lyreilla with his large jacket buttoned tightly against the cold. While he didn't wish to hurt her feelings, he could not see any reason to enjoy Terror Mountain. He couldn't see why anyone would choose to visit, or even live here. The cold wind felt like icy teeth raking through his jacket as if it weren't even there. Today would be a long day.
"Well, hello there, Lyreilla! Good morning to you and your friend both!" A friendly-looking Lutari smiled at them both. He was pushing an Ice Cream cart, which boggled Perrin's mind.
"Hey Mr. Chipper," Lyreilla greeted him with a grin. "This is my brother Perrin. He's visiting from Meridell." She leaned in and stage whispered, "I'm giving him a grand tour to change his opinion of Terror Mountain."
Mr. Chipper chuckled and shook his head. "I see, well, it sounds like you have a fun day ahead of you. Take some ice cream cones, on me." He rummaged in his cart and pulled out two strawberry ice cream cones.
Perrin accepted his wordlessly, feeling a complaint lodge in his throat. There were inches of snow piled on the ground, and the shopkeeper was crazy enough to sell ice cream! Instead of voicing his opinion, Perrin smiled and thanked Mr. Chipper.
Lyreilla glanced sideways at her brother – she could tell that he was baffled by ice cream in this weather, but he surprised her by thanking Mr. Chipper. She did the same and they continued on their way around Happy Valley. A small smile stole upon her face. He would love Terror Mountain just as much as she did by the end of the day.
They stopped at the Pink Runner rink, sitting on the surprisingly warm wooden benches to eat their ice cream. Various neopets were skating around, frolicking on the ice. Perrin felt his gloomy mood disappear a little as he watched a Bruce teach other neopets. Everybody seemed to know each other as many passersby's greeted Lyreilla and even him with genuine warmth and merry attitudes.
Soon they were on their way again, this time stopping at the Slushie Shop. It was a popular place, with a fast-talking striped Eyrie as the shopkeeper. Perrin watched in awe as Lyreilla haggled the price down on two apple cinnamon slushies while still remaining perfectly friendly.
"Oh alright, I'll take 999 neopoints for each one!" the shopkeeper said, pulling their slushies out. "Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you folks again!"
"Wow, where did you learn to haggle like that?" Perrin asked as they left the Slushie Shop. He hardly even noticed the chilly wind blowing through the air as he sipped his slushie. It tasted just like warm apple cinnamon baked in the oven, yet cold and icy. "Everyone seems too friendly up here to haggle!"
Lyreilla took a sip of her slushie before answering. "Haggling isn't a vicious tug of war up here. We think of it more as good sport." She nodded matter-of-factly before draining her slushie in one big slurp. Perrin laughed and did the same, taking the empty containers to drop off in a recycling bin.
"Now where to?" he asked, not noticing the eagerness in his tone. Lyreilla picked up on it and smiled, pointing to the sign in front of them. It read – 'Ice Caves'. Without waiting for his reaction, she bounced ahead of him. Perrin laughed and began running to catch up. Their race warmed both of them up and soon they were in the Ice Caves.
"Whoa," Perrin said as different reflections of them bounded throughout the icy glacier. "We're in a glacier? I thought these were just caves!"
"Nope, we're deep inside of a glacier," Lyreilla told him, walking expertly on the icy floors. "Watch your step; sometimes it can be slippery."
Light bounced off the icy walls, ceiling and floor, throwing glimmers and sparkles onto everything. The shops and houses carved of ice positively shone, and the grand ice arena was immense. Even the pathway they tread on shimmered.
"It's beautiful." Perrin was in awe of the entire place. He had never seen anything like it before.
"Are you new here?" a tinkling voice asked curiously. Perrin stopped marveling at the Ice Caves to see Kari, the Negg Faerie standing in front of them. Her shock of short green hair and colorful dress seemed out of place in the Ice Caves.
"He's visiting me from Meridell, Kari," Lyreilla answered, hugging the faerie. Perrin gaped in astonishment. In Meridell, faeries were revered – no one was that familiar with any of the faeries he knew.
"Welcome then, would you like to see my Neggery?" she asked kindly, gesturing to a building carved to resemble a negg. A small sign stood outside of it, with 'The Neggery' in swirly green letters.
Perrin nodded, then blushed. "I'm Perrin," he said, abashed that he hadn't introduced himself.
Kari's laugh tinkled through the caves as she smiled warmly at him. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Perrin. Come, you and Lyreilla are more than welcome."
They entered the Neggery, and immediately Perrin's eyes feasted on the bright splashes of color within. Bright yellows, fiery reds, vivid hues of purple and red decorated the Neggery. There were countless neggs inside, some that he had never seen before.
"How did you come by all these?" he asked wonderingly, astonished that so many different neggs existed.
"I spend my days collecting them," she replied simply.
"Why?" he asked, not noticing Lyreilla dropping some tokens on the counter.
Kari smiled slowly and said, "It's what I do." She fluttered over to the counter and counted the tokens, then turned to Lyreilla. "The ones I am thinking of?" she asked her.
Lyreilla nodded and smiled. Kari disappeared into the center of the Neggery and then came back, holding a Crystal Negg. When she went over to Lyreilla, his sister shook her head and gestured to him. Kari fluttered to Perrin and handed him the Crystal Negg. "I think your sister wishes for you to have this to remember this day," Kari said carefully.
Perrin accepted the negg and thanked Kari. "Your Neggery is beautiful, and somehow fits perfectly with this place. Thank you for having us visit."
They said their goodbyes and continued on the paths through the Icy Caves. Perrin felt unexpected emotions rising through him. He hadn't expected the day to go anything like this. A sense of gnawing ate away at him as he guiltily obsessed over his earlier actions.
Lyreilla could sense her brother's mood and wanted to make him feel better. If she knew one thing, it was how to distract him from his thoughts.
"Dare me?" Her voice cut through his thoughts, and he focused on her.
"Do you dare me?" she asked mischievously.
"To do what?" he asked, confused by the question.
Lyreilla pointed to the cavern behind her. 'The Snowager' was written in large, spiky letters. The cavern loomed frighteningly, something large slumbering in its depths.
"No way!" he whispered, sure that the Snowager could hear their conversation. "Are you crazy?!"
Lyreilla laughed and said, "He's sleeping, silly! What are you, scared?"
Perrin narrowed his eyes at her. "That sounds like a dare."
An impish smile curved on her face. "Maybe it is."
A moment of tense silence passed between them. In a rush they were both off, sneaking as quietly and quickly as they could down into the depths of the Snowager's home. Large piles of treasure were everywhere, and soon Perrin discovered that half the trick of not being caught was not tripping over anything. Then he saw it. The Snowager was immense, larger than anything he had ever imagined before. Its deep rumbles sent vibrations running through the cavern and echoes bouncing off of the walls. Every now and then it shifted in its sleep, sending terror through him. Still, he kept at it and finally found something he wanted to take with him. With a dart of his paw Perrin grabbed a keychain and ran as fast as he could out of there, not daring to look behind him.
Lyreilla exited at the same time as he and they both collapsed in front of the entrance, breathless from their daring venture. Adrenaline left his body and he looked at the plushie in her hand to the keychain in his. Then he broke out into helpless laughter.
"You go through that just for these?" he asked her, holding up his keychain.
"It's not about the prizes!" Lyreilla said, standing up and brushing off her plushie. "It's about the adventure." She helped him up and put his negg back in his arms. "We have one more stop, are you up for it?"
Perrin felt his energy come back with a rush. "I'm up for anything," he said, excited to see where they were going next.
They passed by a sign that said 'Top of the Mountain' and continued their way upwards. They emerged out of the icy tunnel to see a mountaintop completely blanketed by snow. Flurries of snow were falling and peaks of the mountain that jutted high into the air were covered by snow. Lyreilla pulled two pairs of snowshoes out of the backpack she was wearing and handed Perrin a pair. "You'll need these."
Without complain Perrin strapped the snowshoes onto his paws and they slowly made their way through the thick, powdery snow to a huge hut. The door swung open to them and Lyreilla entered first, pulling her snowshoes off. Perrin followed closely behind and did the same.
"Welcome, Perrin and Lyreilla," a melodious voice said. "You've traveled far in a day and had many adventures. Please come warm up by the fire." A faerie stepped out to greet them both with a hug and some tea. She had lovely blue-black hair that was worn short, and pale snow-white skin. Her feathery wings were shut close to her body, but their sky-blue and cream hues matched her warm coat perfectly. It was Taelia, the Snow Faerie. Perrin had heard all kinds of tales about Taelia, including those saying she was an enchantress. Somehow, it didn't surprise him that she knew their names, or that she had known when they would arrive.
Lyreilla and Perrin hung their coats up and left their snowshoes to dry. Taelia beckoned them forward into a cozy room. When they were seated on the softest chairs Perrin had ever experienced, she placed tea in front of them. With a kind smile she sat upon a chair opposite of them.
"How did it go?" Taelia asked simply, turning knowing eyes onto Lyreilla.
The chocolate Blumaroo sat up straighter and put the mug she had been drinking out of down. "I think it went wonderfully, Taelia, but I'm not the one who can tell you."
Taelia's gaze fell upon Perrin. "How was your day?" she asked simply, settling back in her chair.
Perrin fidgeted in his seat, feeling as if he was missing some key component of the conversation. "What do you mean?"
"Did your sister succeed in helping you open your eyes?" the Snow Faerie asked, smiling at him gently.
Perrin thought back to the day they had shared, and everything he had done and seen. In the end, it hadn't been about the cold or the weather. It was the neopets, the heart of Happy Valley that had made it so beautiful. They went about their day with unflinching cheerfulness, always willing to make new friends or take on any challenge. There was an unexpected beauty about that kind of heart thriving in such a cold and unforgiving place. Even the Ice Caves, with their stark and natural beauty and adventures within. Lyreilla had been right, Perrin realized. Terror Mountain was one of the most beautiful places he had ever been. He had just been too dense to realize it.
Taelia nodded slowly, her kind eyes focused on Perrin. "You learned to see beauty in the most unthinkable of places," she said, as if she had read his every thought. "You've come a long way, Perrin. It just takes an open mind and heart to see the beauty that is hidden away in things."
He knew her words to be true. For now on, he resolved, he would be open to trying and seeing new things.