Reign of Ice: Part One
Neopets everywhere were taking shelter; it was just about high noon. A giant cloud blew in from the north. The land’s people were at first relieved; rain falls in The Lost Desert two or three times a month. But something was wrong. The scholars of Sakhmet were the first to notice it. When rain comes, it is almost always blown in by a maritime wind, from the east. This cloud was amongst the biggest that had ever come from the Haunted Woods. But as soon as people started to dismiss the cloud as a bizarre storm blown in by a freak wind, the unbelievable happened: a gentle snowfall!
Irena and her brother, Brendon, were finishing breakfast and getting ready to pay their respects to the late King Coltzan III. Irena is a cloud Blumaroo, and training to become a mage. Brendon is a speckled Kiko. He has been training at the Mystery Island Training School. He isn’t exactly known for his patience or his politeness. He has a tendency to force his way through obstacles. Irena often has to patch things up when he offends someone, which is at least once a week.
The siblings departed from their home on Roo Island. “Is it just me,” Irena asked, “or is it a bit… chilly this morning?”
“Seriously, grow some fur,” retorted Brendon. “Winter ended a month ago.”
“That’s just the thing. It never feels cool like this during the month of Eating”
“You worry too much,” returned Brendon.
“Well, if I didn’t worry, chances are that you would have started a war between Roo Island and the rest of Neopia,” sassed Irena.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Honestly, you call one monarch a grump who cares more about his stomach than his kingdom and suddenly you’re banned from the kingdom for life.”
Irena gave him a disapproving glare.
“What?” asked Brendon, trying to look as innocent as possible.
“Let’s just get a move on.” Irena was clearly annoyed. “A boat is leaving for the mainland in ten minutes. If we hurry, we can just catch it.”
After boarding the boat, the siblings took off for the bow. They never tired of travelling by boat. It sure beat traveling by balloon. They loved the salty sea air, the waves rippling across the surface, the breeze in their faces. Every couple of trips, they saw a Koi or a Flotsam leaping through the sky, shattering the calm of the sea like it was a fragile mirror.
Upon reaching Neopia Central, they immediately noticed something was amiss. The ground was dusted with a cool white powder. It looked liked… but, no, it couldn’t be! This was the middle of the month of Eating.
“This is getting weird,” remarked Irena. “Have you ever seen these conditions at this point of the year?”
“You look like you’ve never seen an April fool’s joke. Honestly, people say you’re the smart one.” Brendon was being sarcastic; he knew Irena couldn’t stand when he was rude like that. “Obviously, no one got around to cleaning up the entire town.”
Irena was not amused, and she made a point of showing it. “Oh, so you’re saying someone just so happened to have the time and materials, and ran around covering every inch of this town with this white stuff? And furthermore, you’re saying that no one, not even the Yurble Janitor, could be bothered to clean it up?”
Brother, Brendon thought to himself. “Do I need to take out my Kiko Claws? Or can you put a sock in that pie hole of yours by yourself?”
The cloud Blumaroo took a deep breath, and counted to ten. What would the good king think if he saw these two young Neopets squabbling over something as silly as this white powder? “Let’s just get going. We want to make it to Coltzan’s Shrine before dark.”
The Neopians made their way south to Faerieland. The speckled Kiko wanted to get to the Healing Springs to heal their tiredness.
“What are you complaining about?” griped the Blumaroo. “You’re a Kiko. You don’t have to do any walking. You don’t even have feet. Do you expect me to just whip out my Wand of the Air Faerie and create a whirlwind for you to ride all the way to The Lost Desert?” She never left home without her Wand of the Air Faerie. She also took her Lightning Scroll with her everywhere.
Groaning, Brendon changed the subject. “Look, there’s the crater!” Faerieland wasn’t quite the same since the incident. The faeries were all so busy that they rarely had time to get a Harris down from a tree.
Upon arriving at Faerieland, the Neopets found at once that the temperature was much more normal. “The low elevation must protect the kingdom from any passing fronts,” deduced Irena.
“Will you stop being a know it all. What makes you think the stuff in Neopia Central was anything more than the residue of a local storm?”
“If it were residue, the snow would be a lot more, oh I don’t know, slushy!”
The Kiko rolled his eyes.
As they made their way to the Healing Springs, they overheard an interesting conversation between some local Faeries.
“You mean you still haven’t gotten a reply from Taelia? You sent that letter last week.”
“I know. That Snow Faerie knows how important this is. Fyora day is in less than two months and do you have any idea how long a party this big takes to book?! It only comes once a year.”
“How are we going to get any ice cream? She’s the only one who can get anything out of that cart.”
“Did you hear that?” Irena asked her brother.
“I can’t believe it either,” agreed Brendon. “No ice cream on Fyora Day? Prepositional!”
Irena gave him a blank stare. “Two things: one, I believe the word you are looking for is ‘preposterous’, and two, I was talking about the Snow Faerie failing to respond to the letter. Something is not right.”
“Maybe Valin the Quick got into her igloo again,” the Kiko chuckled.
Irena gave him a look.
Irena said nothing.
At the Healing Springs, the Neopets asked the Water Faerie, Marina, if she knew anything about what they just heard.
“No, I haven’t heard anything about Taelia lately,” responded Marina. “It’s always so busy here; I never have the chance to leave. I haven’t had a day off in years, unless you count the recent incident with Xandra.”
As the siblings departed from the springs and headed south, a cold wind blew from the north. A colossal storm was pouring over The Lost Desert. Mysteriously, a fog blew in with the wind, just thick enough to obscure the storm.
“This is weird. This fog came from nowhere,” observed Irena. “We were just in Faerieland, and we would have definitely noticed this fog. It just blew in from that direction.”
“Just ignore it,” her brother replied. “You‘re the one who makes a daily routine of paying respect to the king who’s been dead since year 3. I get seriously tired of traveling all this way every day.”
“Again, you are a KIKO. You don’t walk. You don’t even have legs.”
“You’re just jealous that I can float.” The Kiko was very smug about this.
Changing the subject, the cloud Blumaroo said, “Look here we are at the desert.” The fog was intensely thick by now; the children could barely see the ground beneath their feet, or more specifically, under Irena’s feet. There was no way they could tell the ground was white and not sand-colored, but the moment Irena set foot on the desert ground…
“YOW! This is COLD!” Irena screamed in shock. “Something’s very wrong here.” Her face was stung by the icy wind; the snow crystals were like a swarm of Skufflers.
“We have to get to Coltzan’s Shrine.” The Blumaroo continued, “The good king will surely know what is going on. This is no blizzard in Mystery Island. There’s something weird about this storm… it’s unearthly.”
The Neopets trudged onward. The sky was dark, and the storm showed no change. By the time they reached the shrine, the snow was half a meter deep. In the distance, the cloud Blumaroo and the speckled Kiko could see the pyramids. Though they normally look like golden sculptures of sandstone, now they looked like white marble.
Brendon was the first to meet with King Coltzan. “What up, Big C? How’s being a ghost working out for you? I may want to try it someday.”
Irena made an angry face. “It’s called paying our respects, not paying our DIS-respects.” She counted to ten and took a deep breath. “King Coltzan, the great and wise ruler, we come to thank you for your great deeds.”
The spirit of the late King Coltzan III faded in seemingly from nowhere. “I will do what I can to help you.”
A Kings Lens appears at the feet of the Neopets. King Coltzan begins to fade away, but before he vanishes completely, Irena interrupted the ghost.
King Coltzan’s spirit becomes as solid as it was a moment ago. “Why is it you keep an old soul from his rest? Do you seek the cause of this unearthly blizzard?”
“Yeah, actually, Irena was just talking about it when we entered the desert,” commented Brendon. “Come to think of it, wasn’t that the… yeah, that’s the exact word she used.”
Irena and Coltzan stared blankly at the speckled Kiko.
“Anyways,” Continued the spirit, “This artifact will guide you on your quest.” A tiny key appeared in front of the shrine. “This key will open the door to a secret cavern in Terror Mountain. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you where the chamber is on the mountain, nor can I say how you will find it. All I can tell you is this: the sorcerer who hides in the lair shrunk this key to prevent anyone from entering his lair should he lose it. The Snow Faerie, Taelia, created a snow storm to carry the key to the foot of the mountain. She intended to recover it, but she was frozen by the sorcerer before she could leave. This blizzard has brought the key all the way here, to the Lost Desert.”
“How do you know all this?” The Kiko was confused, and even the least bit suspicious.
“Taelia is one of the greatest wielders of magic in all of Neopia,” explained Irena. “She clearly sent him some sort of mind message, or a magic code, or something.”
“No, actually, there was this letter attached to the key.”
Some of the snow on the ground shifted, and where the snow had been now lay a white parchment. The paper was cold to the touch, but not the slightest bit wet. Taelia’s magic had protected it entirely from any external moisture. King Coltzan’s ghost faded away as soon as the letter was exposed.
The letter read:
“To the person(s) who find this parchment,
I have sent this key with the intent of retrieving it at a later time. The White Sorcerer shrunk the key to his lair so that if he loses it, no one will be able to enter his lair. He has taken up residence in a secret cavern. One map exists with its location; I unfortunately know not where it can be found. The White Sorcerer is a very powerful student of ice magic; however, I have seen his power waver on warmer days. If I do not come for the key, or if it ventures far from Happy Valley, you may assume the worst.
Upon examining this letter, Irena and Brendon immediately had different response.
Brendon wanted to leave right away, saying, “Well, that makes this a job for heroes, who we most certainly are NOT!”
Irena, on the other hand was already contemplating what needed to be done to stop the mysterious White Sorcerer. “Okay, it looks like we have three objectives before we set off for Terror Mountain. We need to find a way to restore the key to its full size. We need to find a heat source we can use against the White Sorcerer, should worse come to worse. And, we need to find that map with the hidden cavern marked on it.”
“Does this mean we’re going on this quest after all?” The Kiko was not exited, but he knew better than to argue with his sister. Irena was one of those people who, once her mind was made up, would not be changing it.
“Yes, yes it does!”
To be continued…