A Settling of Differences
The spirit of Christmas comes in many different forms. It often symbolizes togetherness, family, caring for one another, ending one life while slowly building another. One can assume that there’s something magical behind watching children throw snowballs at one another, sitting by a fire with a hot cup of borovan at your finger tips, the mothers and fathers flooding shops to shop for gifts. But in most occasions, Christmas is nothing more than an opportunity for change, a day of giving.
This was not one of those occasions.
Up in the blistering tundra of Terror Mountain, there was a breed of beasts that refused to adhere to any of these nonsensical traditions one may collectively call ‘Christmas’. It is not that they lack the intelligence or the emotion, but that they choose to express it in their own way unique to that of ours. In this case, the Snow Beasts choose to profess their admiration of each other through the only methods they know possible; grumbling, and rolling snow down a mountain.
It all started with cookies.
Gingerbread cookies, to be exact. Nobody is entirely sure how the Snow Beasts obtained such treats, but there are some theories to it; one proposes that they stole the recipe from their previous Neopian owners, before evolving into the mutated monsters they became. Another says that they invented the recipe, albeit using snow and bits of meat they found in the caves (it is not a popular theory for obvious reasons, but for now we shall assume it has equal standing to the other). One other more likely theory points at the possibility of theft from the Neopians. No matter which is true, all that we know is that the Snow Beasts owned gingerbread cookies, and though they all gathered in one cave to celebrate the momentous hour, they were not keen on sharing it.
“Oy! Hands off me biscuits, won’t ya?” One of them, red furred and a head smaller than the one he was threatening, screamed, pointing at his brethren. (Of course, this is all rough translation, as if we were to write what they were actually saying it’d all be ineligible groans.)
“Now, see here, lil’ rascal,” the larger gray Snow Beast yelled back, “I don’t mean for ye to get hurt, cause’ you’re a youngin’, see? ‘Round these parts, we respect the little ones. But where I grew, you’d get a mouth full of sand and a loose tooth wit’ that talk.”
“Who you callin’ young?” the previous Snow Beast yelled. “Son, I might as well be your grandpops!”
“Essen! Vor!” Quiet. Presently, an older female Snow Beast entered the vast cave, carrying a tray of cookies and various snow-made desserts. “Is that really necessary? There’re children round you, boys! Now they’ll be puttin’ it in their noggins that its proper to scream at your siblings.”
“He ain’t me brother, though, ain’t he Matilda?” Vor, the smaller red Snow Beast, said.
“Frankly, I could care more for them folks down there in the Valley,” Matilda groaned. She loudly dropped the trays on the ice table, scowling at the two. Little Snow Beasts clamored towards the trays, picking out the cookies like Tyrannians would pick the meat off bones. “Now, you two play nice in front o’ the kids, or I’ll roll ya back down the mountain without lunch.”
Fearing the possibility of starving in the cruel cold, the two relatives continued their breakfasts in peace, ignoring the children fighting over their cookies. The Snow Beasts’ Christmas went on uneventfully, climaxing with the arrival of several guests in the evening.
Vor’s brother, a more mature crimson Snow Beast by the name of Jed, came to the mouth of the cave with a young blue Snow Beast by the name of Ela. The latter was observably more intelligent than her male relatives, though not at all expressive of it; she was content in watching Jed calmly argue with his hot-tempered brother on coexisting with Neopets.
“Now, don’t ya give me that look Jed, I know you know what I’m talkin’ bout,” the irritable younger brother started, his plate of bones and spare meat shaking every time he smashed his fist down. “These Neopets, they don’t know nothing ‘bout keeping out of others business.”
“Of course, brother, and I certainly agree,” Jed replied, picking at his meat with his fingers. “But violence isn’t always the answer. We could gather all the Snow Beasts in the world and start a revolution, but the Neopians have shown more than once that their numbers and technology would easily topple us.”
Vor sat back, folding his arms over his chest. “And to think you were the optimist.”
“Yer brother’s more the smart one, Vor,” Essen chuckled. “But that ain’t a hard thing to do, considering who he’s competing with.”
“Boys!” the echoing voice of Matilda screamed, before she entered the dining hall, dropping another tray. This one was filled with the cookies from the morning, except sprinkled and glazed with frosting and sugar. Immediately, Essen and Vor assaulted the tray, devouring whatever was in their way. The children participated, climbing on to the table and digging in.
Ela watched with keen interest as she picked up a cookie thrown from the mess, biting it slowly. “Your family,” she told Jed, “They’d make very interesting subjects for behavioral studies.”
Jed shrugged. “You’d know better,” he claimed. “Living in dysfunction blinds one from its more intriguing points.”
The white Snow Beast chuckled, turning back to the trays. All the cookies had been efficiently consumed, with the exception of one. Vor and Essen stood on the table, pointing fingers into each others’ chests, yelling.
“I saw it first!” Vor claimed, “It’s mine! Mine, I tell ye!”
“Now, but I laid a finger on it,” Essen argued. “It’s my property now. And besides, you’ve eaten more than all the kids combined!”
“Mine!” All five of the little Snow Beasts chanted, jumping up and down. Several of the plates vibrated off the table, crashing onto the ground. “Mine! Mine! Mine!”
“Hush, you lunatics,” Matilda sat up from her chair, scowling. “Look at poor Jed and Ela! Why, they haven’t taken a single cookie off that plate.”
“Oh, who cares for the two?” Vor screamed back.
Vor and Matilda proceeded to rumble for a moment, leaving Ela to chuckle at the dramatic dullness of the situation. She sat back, watching it unfold, before clapping her hands two times in order to request attention. “Well, obviously, the cookie belongs to someone,” she said. “I suppose the problem at hand is in deciding who it is.”
“Mine!” Vor started.
“No, mine.” Essen replied.
“Mine! Mine! Mine!” The little Snow Beasts chanted, before Matilda slapped one of them in the head.
Ela smiled. “Well, whoever it is, we won’t be able to see it with quarreling. No, there’s a skill made for this sort of thing. An advantage the winner must have over the other,” she said. “I propose an alternative on settling matters. A game, perhaps. To the victor go the spoils.”
Vor looked at Essen, and Essen looked at Vor, and Matilda glared at the two of them in repugnance. It was only Jed who stared at Ela, wondering what she had in mind. The young Snow Beast stood up, walking towards the mouth of the cave. The night sky came to her, black with sprinkles of white gold about. Colored lights bounced off the snowy caps of the mountains, as the town below celebrated with enthusiasm. She turned to the other Snow Beasts. “You’ve all played Snow Roller, haven’t you?”
Vor glared at her. “Who don’t?” he said. “What’s yer point, lass?”
She looked up at all of them. “Well, Vor, Essen. Children,” she smiled. “I propose a little game.”* * *
Happy Valley was as joyous as it always was.
One would think that a land that experiences Christmas daily would find the festivities of the holiday humdrum, but some say the Valley is never truly alive until the Month of Giving starts. That day was no exception, as Neopians from all corners of the world gathered in packs to the stage in front of the Advent Calendar.
It was rumored that the mayor, a chubby Chia with an elongated white beard and a brown hat to hide his bald spot, would announce a new color. He stood on the stage, discussing something with several of his officials, laughing jollily. While the people around him chattered, he took on the megaphone, a wide smile on his face. “Good evening, everybody,” he announced. “Thank you for coming here today. Now, I’d like to start off to address the rumors here: there has been word that we’re to release a new color.”
The crowd fell silent, then, all eyes on him. “And though I wish it hadn’t been leaked to the public, I cannot lie for the sake of a surprise. As a matter of fact, we do have something special to show you all; though I can’t say it’s a new paintbrush color. No, that would be boring.” he said. “So now, everybody, I’d like to introduce you to--”
The ground beneath them rumbled. Somebody in the crowd screamed, a good number of them pointing up at the mountains. A snowball grew monstrously in the distance, hurling towards them. The mayor didn’t get to finish his statement, and it was understandable. Most found it difficult to speak under several feet of snow.* * *
“Hm. Hard to say who won this one.”
“Well, it’s me, obviously,” Essen started, pointing at himself. Ela chuckled at the Snow Beast’s confidence, before being rudely interrupted by the other Snow Beast,
“You’re one to talk. Mine is clearly bigger, see?” Vor pointed at the destroyed city below. “That pretty much took it all out.”
“No, ours is bigger,” the children began. “Ours took it all out.”
“Oh, be quiet, you knuckleheads,” Matilda said, pointing at the tray on the table. “It doesn’t even matter anymore. See? The cookie’s gone!”
Vor and Essen snapped towards the empty tray. The two of them looked at each other, angrily. “Well, what’s with that? You took it while I was looking, didn’t ya?” Vor accused Essen, assuming the Snow Beast was smart enough for it. “When did you eat it, eh? What did you do to it?”
“Me? Why you think it’s me? Why, for all I know, it could be you,” Essen shot back. “Or one of these rascals here.”
The children only looked down to their feet, whimpering. “Cookie!” they mourned. “Cookie!”
The two older Snow Beasts continued their argument, leaving Matilda to comfort the little ones. All of them, with the exception of Ela and Jed, went deeper into the cave, thinking over their fates. “We’ll catch up soon, Matilda,” Jed said when Matilda asked if he was coming in, before joining Ela at the mouth of the cave.
He looked down at Happy Valley, watching what little light came from it. It wasn’t as bright as before, considering everything had been buried in the snow. There were signs of life climbing out of the snow. “I almost feel sad for them,” he told Ela.
Ela smiled. “Well, that’s how one might treat petpetpets,” she said. She pulled something from her pocket. “Would you like your cookie back?”
Jed snapped to her fingers, analyzing the gingerbread cookie in her fingers. After realizing what had just occurred, he grinned. “You little sociopath.”
She shrugged. “I try.”
Jed took the cookie, before breaking it into two. He handed one half back to her, looking down at the city. “You’ve buried an entire city to steal a cookie,” he said, laughing. “That’s going a little too far.”
She nodded. “As I said. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody; I only meant to do behavioral studies. And your relatives proved me right. They were extremely interesting to study,” she took the cookie to her mouth, biting into it. “And besides, they’ll live through it.” She thought over it. “They’ve lived through much worse.”