T he storm is approaching.
It is wild, reckless, paying no regard to the world it ravages. Ripping the shingles from the roofs of shops, and flooding the muddy pathways out to the square. It makes its way towards the homes and the village where they hide. It roars at them, bellows its defiance and rage to innocent ears. It doesn't care what it has to ruin before they are in its clutches. It yearns to punish the villagers, and to make them feel its indescribable pain.
She is holding her baby in her arms, the black cloak falling around her lithe figure and her soft white fur. The Usul smiles, as he gurgles and laughs unintelligibly at her. He is oblivious to the noise, to the wreckage and the danger. His green eyes are bright with their newness--he was born only five weeks ago. Freak accidents happen--the mother knows that. But she also knows that she has to keep her baby safe, so he might have a better life than one cut short in the mouth of a howling hurricane.
Beginning to shake, she now holds the baby in the crook of her left elbow as she moves towards the kitchen table. The brown sack is dusty, but stable enough. It is filled with bandages, canned food, the baby's bottle, a flashlight. The sack is over her shoulder as she again cradles the baby using both of her arms. She must leave eventually. And when she does, her life and the baby's life will not only will be carried by the moaning wind and the rain, but by the supplies and provisions she keeps.
He is old and tired. Leaning on his sturdy wooden cane, the old Ogrin is pouring out the contents of the teapot into a large blue mug. The steaming liquid smells of spice and apples, a familiar fragrance that reminds him of his youth and parents in Meridell. He drinks his tea without sugar or milk and likes it stronger than most.
He remembers when the wrinkles were not beneath his eyes and when the wobbliness wasn't present in his strong knees, and when he would try to evade the storm that ravaged the town now. But he knows he is useless against the might of the storm. The moment he steps into the wind he will be broken and battered to pieces. There is no point in trying to save his own life; it is lost to the hurricane already.
He is terrified, his tiny paws clutching onto the toy he holds. The soft likeness of a Faerie Bori is resewn in many places, but has been with him since birth. But not even it can placate the little Wocky from the fear of the storm raging outside his door. The wind will knock down the house soon and he has no idea what he will do when it does.
He has no one to protect him. His parents are gone--they have been gone for years. They have left him in the care of his elder brother, but he is on the sofa, tossing, turning and moaning in his sleep. He is not eating--even now his tomato soup sits on the side table, cold and untouched. The Wocky is quiet, with wide eyes, hearing the creak of the wood and burying his head in the soft fabric of his plushie.
If only it could help him in a time like this. ---
She is not afraid of the storm.
While many are stuck up in their houses for fear of what might become of them outside, she is out sounding the alarm and gathering up survivors. The Xweetok holds a lantern in her closed paw, guiding others forward, ahead of the hurricane, through the thick darkness. She is shivering and wet-- no one was able to spare her a coat for her trouble.
But despite her own discomfort, she is not about to let the lives of innocent pets be taken this easily by the hurricane. She draws them from their homes and leads them away from death itself. The storm does not seem close to subsiding--it is angry that they have escaped its grasp. It roars more as she desperately helps more pets from their houses. ---
He is sipping his crisp apple tea, when the doorbell chimes.
He didn't think anyone would come to save him, but a Xweetok had appeared at his door that night. She is small and youthful, and she is shivering. But he does not make trouble, and he does not resist her plea to join her in the rain. After all, he has nothing to lose but his worn, old body. She reminds him of himself in his younger years, strong and ready to take on anything. Maybe today's generation, he thinks, is not so cowardly.
She is found. They are both found, she and the baby, by a young Xweetok soaked in rain. Pity is in the Usul's crimson eyes. She gives the cloak to the young pet with a friendly smile and joins her in the rain and in the cold, although she cannot stop shaking. It must be nerves--she still fears for her life, and more importantly the fragile life of the baby now sleeping comfortably in her arms.
The Ogrin smiles, at her and at the baby. She smiles gently back at him. He wears a knit sweater and sturdy boots, and has fur as grey as soot. He is not saved from the rain--he looks as wet and cold as all the others in their party. They exchange the smile for moments longer until they have to walk again, to the next row of houses and towards their safety.
The Wocky is the last to be rescued.
His house is nearly reached by the thickest part of the hurricane when they find him. He finds himself scooped up by a friendly Xweetok who tells him that he will live through the storm. His brother leans on the shoulders of a Shoyru who is helping him carefully to walk.
Although he is found, he is not yet safe. The storm still rages and wails behind them and the rain beats down from above. He still fears, but at least he is not alone.
In numbers, they finally make it.
With about an hour spent trekking through the cold rain and wind, they reach safety inside a stronghold built in case of emergencies like this. Neopets rush into the building like a flood, cold and wet from the storm. Staff man the inside of the building, serving the freezing Neopets warm cups of Borovan and offering them fresh clothes. Although many take the workers up on their offers, some flock to each other.
Realization hits the Usul when she examines the shivering Xweetok sipping cocoa, her chestnut and red fur slick with rain and wide crimson eyes focused on the Zafara she is speaking amiably to. The Usul waits for their conversation to cease and approaches the pet, smiling.
Questions lead to answers, and through these exchanges the truth is revealed. This Xweetok is an orphan, never known for anything. She has lived her life at the back of the pound with no one even giving her a glance. But thanks to her deed, she will be known as a heroine, the Usul decides.
The news travels until everyone is handing the Xweetok Neopoints and showering her in pity and praise. Thanks to the Usul, she has become their heroine.
She doesn't get a thank you from the Xweetok until later, but she wasn't even hoping for one. All she said to her was: "No, thank you, heroine."