Misadventures of an Innocent Bystander 3: Taelia
All over Neopia Central, pets were laughing, admiring the new green grass that had popped up like daises after the long, cold winter, jumping into puddles, and gladly shedding their coats and trading them for thin jackets and short sleeved shirts.
My winter boots were not happy about this, and neither was I.
That was why three of my four pets: Protector and my Bori twins, Poldon and Moiry, decided to take a trip to Terror Mountain. Aupey refused to travel with us, as she did not want her plush exterior to get soggy from the snow. The keepers of the Terror Mountain traveler's lodge would be thrilled to have us: around springtime, tourism took a sharp drop as most people were relieved that winter was behind them at last.
Not us. My pets were hardcore. Protector wanted to test the stability of his joints in the cold, Moiry wanted Poldon to take glamorous pictures of her in the snow, and Poldon just wanted to burrow and pretend he was an Abominabori. Though how something as gentle and fluffy as he could be abominable in any sense, I certainly did not know.
At last, we were at the base of the mountain! I loosened my scarf and let my thick brown hair flow in the winds which actually had substance. That substance was my favorite winter substance of all: snow! Feeling like a child again, I whooped and raised my arms as Protector sped through the snow like a Pteri in the annual Pteri Flying Championships.
When my princess, Moiry, couldn't take any more running, she did not flinch. She merely stopped in the middle of the snow and waited.
"Protector, stop for a second." I patted my Ogrin's neck. "Moiry?" I asked, turning around.
"I shall be okay. My younger brother can take care of me." Poldon's ears flattened, but he smiled good-naturedly. "You go on ahead. We'll stay here. Happy Valley isn't that far off anyway." The Christmas Bori wagged his tail at me, then began to serve the immobile Moiry who seemed to be frozen in place. How appropriate for an Ice Bori!
"We will get them later, won't we? Are you certain they do not require protecting?" Protector beeped. I stroked his neck. "They'll be fine. They were born for the cold," I chuckled, watching Poldon run circles around a very amused and sedentary Moiry.
Having been relieved of those two, I grinned and faced the frosty wind. "Protector, let's see how fast you can go!" I gently tapped his metal hindquarters but had to cling desperately to his neck in the next few seconds so I wouldn't get thrown off. Piles and piles of snow and snow-covered trees flew past us in a blur and I couldn't help but whoop once more. I lifted my gaze to the cheerful grey sky and couldn't help but open my mouth to try and catch some snowflakes. Nobody was watching, after all.
"This is the greatest day e--" The word ever was stuck in my mouth as my tongue glued itself to Protector's icy neck. "Eber," I mumbled, horror turning my entrails to ice.
"Ththop!" I cried out, pushing away from Protector's neck, but no, my tongue held fast. Mercifully, my Ogrin obeyed.
"It would please me if you detached yourself from my neck." He said, tossing his head this way and that.
I winced. It would certainly please me too.
A new thought made more of my insides freeze, and I shivered at it. As much as I was fond of the Snow Faerie, since I'd been well acquainted with her in my youth, I would have much preferred meeting her under different circumstances. However, weighing my options, I realized I had no choice but to see her. "Can... you... thlowly walk... northweth?" I asked to the best of my ability.
Protector rapped on the thick wooden doors with one metal paw, and from inside I could feel the intense heat of Taelia's fireplace and heard faerie wings rustle. The door creaked open, and Taelia's pale face showed at the gap, not mocking, but pleasantly surprised to see me.
"It's been far too long, Cassie. I haven't even seen you grow up!" The faerie's wings wilted at her statement, but she seemed happy to see me. "Do come inside and warm up. And who might this be?" she gestured to my Ogrin.
I gingerly nodded so as not to upset my tongue. "Thath Plotecter."
The door shut behind us and I heard a small giggle. Dismounting Protector, I turned both of us to face the source: a blue Wocky with a hot chocolate mustache, just barely hiding a wide grin.
"Hi." I greeted flatly, clearly not amused by his cold welcome.
The Wocky's only response was to burst out into peals of laughter, slamming his paws on the arms of the chairs beside him. As if things could not get any more humiliating, I heard a gentle chuckle come from the Snow Faerie. "Now, now," she laughed, composing herself. "She was lost just like you, and has every right to come and see me for something like this. Robot armor is notorious for sticking to tongues."
With that, she gripped my head with a pinch not unlike that of a Crabula and pulled, murmuring a spell that even I couldn't make out despite her proximity. My tongue grew numb despite the heat, but it was comfortably numb, in a way.
A sound like peeling an overripe Zeenana filled the air as my tongue detached itself from my Ogrin's metal neck. "Phew!" I gasped, poking at my now not-numb tongue in relief. "I'm glad that's over."
"As am I!" Protector beeped loudly, shaking his head and leaning his neck this way and that.
"I'm not," muttered the Wocky in the chair, stirring his hot chocolate nonchalantly.
I glared at him, then turned back to the Snow Faerie. "However can I thank you?" I grinned at Taelia, throwing my arms around her fluffy teal coat like I used to so many years ago.
Taelia smiled. "First of all, we could catch up on a few things before I make my rounds around the mountain to rescue other lost travelers. Oh, and would you fancy a quest?"
Would I ever! I nodded enthusiastically. It would be like reliving part of my childhood all over again!
"Excellent. Let's just make your pet comfortable first." She turned to Protector. "Would you like some hot chocolate with marshmallows in it?"
I had to stifle a giggle as Protector perked up like a Puppyblew at the word "marshmallows." "I would love some!" He let out a series of happy beeps with a sort of tune in them, and his tail wagged--something I hadn't seen since I'd first offered him marshmallows just after adopting him. I smiled at the memory and felt my eyes grow moist--but also felt other eyes on me.
Recovering quickly, I cleared my throat. "Just, erm, not too many marshmallows. He gets very hyper very fast."
As if from thin air, Taelia brought out three steaming mugs of hot chocolate and handed one to me and one to Protector, who promptly put his face in the hot chocolate, not caring if he short-circuited. The nearby Wocky watched him closely and began talking with him, but quietly. I couldn't make out anything those two were saying.
"So tell me, what have you been doing these days?" Taelia delicately stirred her hot chocolate and looked at me attentively.
I took a sip and instantly felt every cell of my body radiate with cocoa and warmth, forcing me to relax and not worry about my Protector. "I write for the Poetry Contest a lot, and I try for Storytelling, I've been battling, but I do wish I had time to draw. The rest of the day, I'm being nagged by Kristy to go somewhere or do something or other that I don't want to d--"
Taelia slammed her mug onto the coffee table. "Did you say Kristy? As in... Kristy Kimmy?" Her pale face grew paler and her hands were clasped tightly around the mug, gripping it as though she wanted to strangle it.
"Yes," I responded shakily, surprised at her reaction. "We're friends--do you know her?"
"Know her?!? I--" For a split second I thought I saw an angry glint in her eyes, but it quickly subsided into the calm I always knew and loved. "Yes," she purred, stirring her hot chocolate again with a little more energy. "But she hasn't regaled me with her presence for quite a while. I rescue Neopets from time to time, but it still gets lonesome. Here," she said, handing me a small purple box with a ribbon on it. "If you see Miss Kimmy, can you give her this box? I've been meaning to hand it to her for a long time."
I glanced uneasily at her pleading face, but quickly decided that my old childhood hero meant no harm. I slipped the box into my messenger bag. "Don't worry, Taelia, I'll take care of it."
She smiled. "Good. Now, I'd better get going and make my afternoon rounds. Why don't you head home, or to Kristy's? Consider it your quest."
"You got it! Thanks for everything, Taelia!" I hugged her again, and turned to find Protector with a huge hot chocolate mustache. Sighing, I pulled out a napkin from my bag and began to dab at his metal cheeks.
"You're something else, you know that, right?" I shook my head and smiled, completely ignoring the Wocky gagging (presumably at the sweet act).
Picking up the Bori twins was an easy task: Poldon was more than willing to carry a "far too tired" princess on her back, but he did mutter to me that I let the princess thing go to her head. He was probably right, but who was I to shatter her dream? Not many Ice Bori existed, and even fewer were princesses. It was only fair that I let her live as she liked, so long as no one got hurt.
And so we headed home, I on Protector's back, and Moiry on Poldon's. Returning to the realm of spring and summer felt like a weight was put back on my shoulders and tired me out, but I remembered Taelia's quest. Surely it wouldn't take too long.
"Protector, you're in charge. I'm heading over to Kristy's." I patted his head.
He beeped and puffed out his metallic chest. "You can count on me," he purred like a motor, electricity crackling around his body with his enthusiasm.
I made a mental note to make the trip quickly so Protector wouldn't create an electrical fire and burn down my Neohome.
Luckily for my Neohome, Kristy didn't live very far away from me, so I was reassured that the visit wouldn't take long at all. I knocked on her door, expecting a swift reply. Kristy was always full of energy and usually took less than a second to answer.
I knocked again, growing slightly worried and looking around. Through a window, I could see her sitting facedown at a desk with a pen in her hand. "Kristy?" I asked, rapping at the window gently.
"Kristy?!" I shouted, growing even more worried. She hardly ever let herself fall asleep at her desk! Something had to be very wrong.
"WAKE UP!" I cried, more out of concern than out of the need to deliver Taelia's present.
"Danger! Danger!" she cried, her head shooting up from her desk as she awoke. She looked around, her blond, wild hair flying as she tried to focus her gaze. She stared right into my face, and I noticed her eyes were baggy, as though she hadn't slept for several days.
"Are you all right?" I asked, mentally wondering if I should back away from her. Kristy tended to be unpredictable.
"I'm fine. I've just been working a lot these days. This is nothing new." Kristy shook her head. "How can I help?"
"Are you sure... oh!" I remembered the gift and handed the purple box to her. "Someone I knew a long time ago wanted to give this to you."
Kristy brightened as the box was passed into her hands. "Ooh, how nice! Who's it fro--"
The resulting explosion drowned out my answer. "Taelia," I coughed, spluttering and struggling to breathe as the ends of Kristy's hair and my hair were singed.
Kristy and I exchanged soot-faced expressions of total shock and disbelief.
I decided to quit my job as a delivery girl right then and there.