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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 15th day of Sleeping, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 127 > Continuing Series > The Path to the Stars: Part Four

The Path to the Stars: Part Four

by buddy33774

The Raggedy Pets

The week passed quickly. The Conundrums had gotten into the studio immediately and began recording as much as they could. They were working hard, if it wasn't recording, it was practicing. If it wasn't practicing, it was writing new songs. If it wasn't writing new songs, it was recording ones they'd already written.

     But the cloud that had once hung over the group seemed to be quickly dissipating. Where once, Tranis had once thought it was impossible to go on, he found things were getting much better. No more eating out of garbage cans, as Bey and Sparta had once had to do. No more going to sleep freezing cold, as it had once existed for Zaines during his residence in the homeless shelter. Mister Basen had paid their way when it came to everything from room and board to food to time in the recording studio. He was truly the only kind soul any of them had met.

     Where once people and pets turned away when the band had tried to discuss their problems, Mr. Basen encouraged it. He listened, then told whomever it was to put it down into song.

     But their manager and producer didn't want them to spend all their time in the studio. It was important, he said, to start making noise as soon as possible to help build as much momentum for their forth coming album as soon as they could. It was never too early.

     They had to get their new, revamped demo on the air. Of course, Mr. Basen owned a radio station. But one wasn't enough. To ensure everyone heard it, they had to get their music played on all of the radio stations in Neopia, or at least as many as possible.

     So, with nothing but a demo in their hands and the encouragement of their manager behind them, the band now stood once again before the towering home of KBMN.

     "Don't worry," the Grarrl spoke heartening. "You guys are great! He'd be crazy to turn down an advanced offer to play your music!"

     Somehow, Tranis wasn't so convinced.

     Inside, all their manager had to do was tell the receptionist his name and she let them through immediately, without a second thought (was it that he had a nice suit?).

     They marched down the hall towards the cafeteria; musicians with a mission. DJs, writers, sound technicians and radio show producers all sat eating and chatting merrily.

     A certain fire Krawk, one by the name of Fonteal, in fact, was just entering the room by the opposite door and had had his sights set on a table where other suits sat munching. But the Krawk stopped dead in his tracks, squinting at Basen, as though he could've been a mirage. What was he doing here?

     "Basen?! Wow… I haven't seen you in… a while… station doing fine, I hope."

     Basen, the band in trail, crossed the room swiftly, bringing themselves so they were just a few feet from Fonteal. "Quite so, in fact! You?"

     Fonteal smiled. "Great? Though, I can't quite remember? Whose station is winning in the ratings, again?"

     Basen smirked back, unflinching. These smiles were too big to be real. "Why, it would be yours of course! And I believe I may have something that might just keep it that way." He waved his paw across the pets standing behind him like a magician waves his hands over a bunny he just pulled out of his hat.

     Fonteal took one glance at the pets, then looked back at the Grarrl, a look of boredom on his face. "Yes, I believe we've met before. I told them, though. I'm not interested in playing their music."

     "I think you should reconsider. You're looking at the next big things! This band will be huge very soon. Now, how would you like to get in on the ground floor in playing what they have to offer?"

     "No thanks."

     "Oh, but you don't get it.."

     "No, friend, you don't get it! I'm not interested!"

     "But Fonteal…"

     "Look," the Krawk snapped out, mock friendliness gone. "You may think these are the next big thing, but I can take one look at them and see your wrong! I mean, look at what you've got here! It's…it's a joke!"

     Tranis swallowed hard. Criticism was one thing, but this…

     The Grarrl continued to smirk. "How do you figure?"

     Fonteal stared, dumbstruck. It was like asking what was one plus one! "How do I figure? Just look at them! It's like a… a… a freak show! First, you have a basest who looks like he can barely hold up his guitar! Little buddy, grow some arms, why don't ya!"

     Zaines clutched his heart, as if he might have a heart-attack. He let his arms droop, hanging limp in front of him. His weak, tiny arms.

     "And you have a girl for a drummer! Girls don't play drums! Never have and never should! This is embarrassing and an insult to drummers everywhere!"

     Sparta growled, baring her teeth menacingly. Girl indeed!

     "There's a saxophonist, which I just don't understand! Saxophone is jazz, not rock! Send him back to the night clubs he belongs! This is the world hard, powerful rock! And that's what pets want! Not some weak Lupe blowing into a bent piece of metal!"

     Bey gave off a similar response as Sparta, bristling his hair up in a fighting stance. They were brother and sister, after all.

     "And as for the lead guitarist." The Krawk turned finally to Tranis, who, unable to stare the Krawk in the eye, looked down at the, ashamed. "He's the sorriest of them all. Look at him. He looks like he's never properly bathed in his life. His hair - it's just an unbelievable mess. A pitiful leader for a pitiful band. They're a bunch of raggedy pets who will go nowhere! And it's pitiful you can't see that, Basen!"

     Everyone in the band were either ready to break into tears, or ready to rip Fonteal's head off. And Basen -- was smiling!

     He'd been smiling the entire time. In fact, he'd never broken eye-contact with the Krawk at all. "You're making a bug mistake, Fonteal."

     "No!" shouted the Krawk, angered that the manager continued to stand there, unfazed, in all his insubordinate ways. "You're making a mistake! You're anglin' for the wrong fish. You had better throw it back, or it could very well drag your whole boat down."

     By now, the entire cafeteria was staring at them. A small circle had even been formed, as if the words might turn to blows. But it didn't. Basen simply said his goodbyes, turned and left, his demoralized band following in wake. They were no further than before.

***

A week passed with all the same luck. No station wanted to play their music. They were turned away immediately, most not even bothering to sample what The Conundrums had to offer. Some were just as mean as Fonteal, few nicer. Some didn't even give them a chance to try to persuade them, the band was simply turned away at the door. Once, a station even called them. The person at the other end told them not to even bother coming down, as they had no hope of "peddling that crap here."

     With no one willing to listen, they would have to find another way... But how? The only way to sell albums was to get pets to hear your music. In order to do that, you had to be played on the CUP. But no one wanted to give up even a second of air time to a group of pets who seemed to have popped out of thick, smog-filled air around them.

     But the manager found a way. All the stations, record labels, and industry insiders from across Neopia were gathering to hold a convention. If they could just get a chance to play there, just enough to play one song, Basen had confidence someone would want to play their music.

     Tranis couldn't help but not feel nearly as confident. And, on that cool night, sitting in his dressing-room, he could already feel the agony of defeat and loss climbing up from the pit of his stomach, like some gruesome worm. He could already hear the laughter, the jeers, the booing. He could already sense the dreaded feel of humiliation within him.

     His paw trembled as he raised a comb to try and groom his fur. It felt like lifting a brick. His breathing was shallow and weak. A knock on at the door startled him. He jumped, nearly tripping to the floor, then called for the knocker to enter.

     His manager walked in, smiling as always. He didn't seem a bit nervous. Then, he wasn't about to go out on stage and perform.

     "Ready?" he asked. Tranis could just barely manage a shrug for an answer. "You'll be find," his manager replied, sensing the anxiety in the Kyrii.

     "How can I play for them?" Basen turned back from leaving the room and faced the Kyrii once more. "I mean," Tranis continued, "they're so much better than me! How am I supposed to be the best, when I'm being measured up to them?"

     The Grarrl simply responded with a smile. "Don't try to be the best guitarist in the room." He responded simply. "Just try to be the best guitarist on stage."

     He turned and walked out, closing the door softly behind him. Not five minutes later, however, he received word: they were to go on next.

     Waiting just behind the curtain, Tranis was weak. He had eaten plenty of dinner, but all that energy drained from him when he saw all the pets and humans sitting out in the dining room; they were the best, and expected nothing less of him.

     The stage and the area around it were much cleaner than it had been at the Battle of the Bands, but Tranis didn't notice it. He didn't hear the final words of encouragement Mr. Basen gave. He didn't hear the announcer broadcast to all in the dining hall the band's name, nor did he hear the round of applause all gave when they walked out on stage and set up their instruments.

     Staring out into the audience, something happened to Tranis. He was no longer weak. He no longer felt tired or at the brink of passing out. He had energy. Maybe it was the adrenaline. Maybe it was lights above him, giving him more energy (he had read that somewhere that light gives pets more energy).

     But thinking back on it years later, Tranis thought he understood. It was the audience. He was up there for one reason: to perform for them. They wanted something good. And he felt compelled to give them it, no matter what. It drove him. And as he played the first chord on his guitar, the song began:

     It started out with just Tranis, his voice and his guitar. The instrument sprung to life with the pluck of each string, while his voice echoed through the microphone; rugged like the wilderness, but smooth like a brass pole.

     Wandering, been lost for so long,

     Amid a desert of concrete and steel,

     Been knocked down, picked up, and knocked down again,

     Hit for so long, I've forgot how to feel.

     Now, the Lupess manning the drums behind him began keeping time with the hi-hat, while Zaines' bass rang out, adding depth. Like a train starting up it's engine or a snowball beginning it's roll down a large hill, the music built.

     Climbin' this mountain before me,

     Keep yellin' for help, but no one hears a sound,

     I keep tryin' to go further,

     But this chain on my legs, it keeps draggin' me down.

     It's our moment of triumph,

     No more defeat, getting shoved out the door,

     It's our moment of triumph,

     We are the lion and this is our roar.

     Suddenly, it all changed. No longer were they playing on a slow, steady beat. It had seemed that they were building up to something, something big. The audience had been sitting there, watching it. The music finally reached the point of climax it had been building up to.

     Na na na na na na na na,

     Na na,

     Na na na na na na na na,

     Na na.

     Don't know what I'm in store for,

     Can't see nothing comin' in front of me,

     As I wade through this ocean,

     This forest of darkness and uncertainty.

     And as I reach up to the heavens,

     As this cool mountain breeze ruffles my hair,

     I can barely see the summit,

     And the sun peaking through, I'm almost there.

     For the bridge, Tranis broke out of the shell which he had been wearing not two moments before. He put his heart, his soul, his blood, his tears into it. He had no idea what chords he was striking on his guitar, just that it felt right. The energy seemed to move from his soul, through his fingers, through the chords on his guitar, through the air, and into the souls of those out in the audience.

     It's our moment of triumph,

     No more defeat, getting shoved out the door,

     It's our moment of triumph,

     We are the lion and this is our roar.

     Na na na na na na na na,

     Na na,

     Na na na na na na na na,

     Na na.

     As the last note died of into the winds, the club erupted in cheers. Pets and humans alike were on their feet, some calling for encores, some shouting words of praise to the band.

     Tranis looked over to the side offstage and saw Basen, smiling. It was the same smile he'd held from before. As if he'd been pre-smiling, as if he'd already known.

     The raggedy pets were finally on their way down their path.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

The Path to the Stars: Part One

The Path to the Stars: Part Two

The Path to the Stars: Part Three

The Path to the Stars: Part Five

The Path to the Stars: Part Six

The Path to the Stars: Part Seven

The Path to the Stars: Part E


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