THE BAND LEFT the Java Joint that night in a wave of
cheers. They made their way excitedly towards the van.
"Can you believe it?" Alistar said, hefting the
bag containing the night's earnings. "652 Neopoints in one night!"
"Quite a substantial amount," said May. "We should
be able to make it last the entire month."
"Month nothing!" Alistar waved his hand dismissively.
"A few more gigs like this and we'll be rolling in enough dough to make the
Bread Master's jaw drop!"
"Don't count your chickens, Alistar," Umbriel
May nodded in agreement. "She's right, you know.
I'll admit, this performance was a lot more lucrative than I thought it would
be, but the manager was pretty lenient in the area of money. He only charged
us 25% of the earnings as rental fee. We were lucky. He could have charged us
a set amount for the stage and made off with more than half. And he didn't count
tips towards the percentage."
"I'm happy just having five Neopoints to my name,"
"Speaking of which," said Alistar, "we don't
have a name for the band yet."
"Hey you're right," Flick replied. "What kind
of a name do you suggest?"
"I'm not sure."
Alistar thought it over for a moment. "It would
have to be something powerful. Like the way the audience reacted when you walked
out on stage, Umbriel."
Umbriel only smiled proudly.
"A name like that. Nothing big or flashy. Just
short, sweet, and to the point."
"Perhaps," May suggested, "we could try for something
dark. And ominous."
"Oooh, I like the sound of that," said Alistar.
"What do we know that's dark and ominous?"
One by one, they turned to Umbriel.
"What?" she asked confusedly. "You want to call
the band the Umbriels?"
"No, no," said Alistar. "But nobody knows dark
and ominous like you, Umbriel. You're a Dark Faerie."
"I prefer luminously challenged," she corrected.
"Right. So what's dark and ominous, hmm?"
Umbriel held her chin thoughtfully. "Dark and
ominous, eh? Okay, then. Stormcrow."
Flick raised an eyebrow. "Stormcrow?"
"Sure. The harbingers of ill tidings. The embodiment
of misfortune. The very essence of dreadful portent. And a powerful literary
"I like it," said Alistar. "But it's too long.
Needs to be shorter. More direct. How about just... The Crows?"
May oohed. Umbriel aahed.
"And what, pray tell, is wrong with that name,
mister?" asked a rather annoyed May.
"It's horrible. I didn't quit going solo just
to join a band named after a silly bird that spends its time making annoying
caw caw noises up on your roof. Back home I had one of the nasty things
stuff up the chimney with a nest. I had to fight for every inch of it!"
"Fine then. If you're so smart, why don't you
think of a better name for the band?" May tapped her foot impatiently.
Flick wrinkled his brow in thought. He shifted
his head from one side to the other. He 'hmm'ed a bit.
"Nope. Can't think of a thing."
"Stick to writing our lyrics, genius." May knocked
him over the head.
They reached the van, and were busy packing up
their stuff, when a little blue Aisha poked her head around the corner. She
cleared her throat politely and stepped into view.
The gang turned to look at her, and she lowered
her head and kicked her feet shyly.
"Hey there," Alistar said. "You need something?"
"I saw your concert," the little Aisha said,
"Really? Did you like it?"
Slowly, she brought her head up. "I thought it
was great. You guys are cool."
Alistar smiled. "Thanks."
She looked at the ground again. "Umm... I was
wondering. Could you... umm..."
The Aisha took out a pen and pad and offered
it to Alistar. She blushed.
"No kidding?" said an astonished Alistar. "You
want my autograph?"
All the little girl could do was smile and nod
"Cool." Alistar took the pad and pen. "What's
"That's a nice name." Alistar quickly scribbled
out his message onto the paper. "Sorry if my script is a little messy." He signed
the paper and handed it back to the little girl.
"To Kaylie, my first true fan," she read, "Glad
you enjoyed our first concert, we hope to have many more. Alistar."
The girl looked at Alistar with her mouth agape
in wonder and admiration, as if she couldn't believe he had just signed a meaningless
piece of paper for her. Suddenly, she ran up to him and gave him a gigantic
hug. "Thank you so much!" she said.
Before Alistar could get to the Y in 'You're
welcome', the little blue Aisha was gone.
"Aww, Alistar, that was so sweet," May said,
walking up to him. "I think she really likes you."
Alistar scratched his head, puzzled. "I wonder
what made her do that?"
"Hah!" Umbriel laughed. "You'll have to get used
to it if you want to make it big. Fans do crazy things."
"C'mon," Flick said impatiently. "Let's just
get outta here. I don't want to stay out here any later than I have to."
Alistar woke up screaming, drenched in sweat.
For three nights now he couldn't sleep. He kept
having the same horrible dream. A shadowy figure, and those glowing green eyes,
and a feeling. Like someone reaching into him with cold fingers and wrapping
them around his spine. And a voice. Not an entirely unpleasant voice. But something
about it made him shiver. The words were just on the edge of his memory, but
he couldn't remember them. He didn't want to remember them.
He looked at the clock next to his bed. 1:31
AM. He sighed and laid his head back down on the pillow.
Just when things were starting to look up,
he thought to himself, I start getting nightmares. And really bad ones,
too. Maybe I should see a specialist or something. He stared at the ceiling,
his eyes refusing to close.
"Hey Alistar. Ooh, you don't look so good."
The band was gathered for a jam session in Alistar's
apartment. Flick and Umbriel got busy setting up the equipment while May spoke
"What's the matter? Didn't sleep well?"
Alistar turned to face May. His hair was in disarray,
and his eyes were dark and sunken.
"Trouble sleeping, huh?" said Umbriel from across
the room. "Nervous?"
"No," Alistar sighed. "Nightmares."
"Ooooh, nightmares!" said Umbriel, almost excitedly.
"Please don't do that?"
"That thing you do with your voice. It's... unsettling."
"What, you mean this?"
Alistar shivered again. "Yes, that."
"But all I said was nightmares."
"Aah! Stop it!"
Umbriel puckered up her lips and put on a baby
face. "Awww, wassa matter? Is Awistar afwaid of a widdle nightmare?"
Alistar plugged his ears with his fingers. "Lalalalalala!
I'm not listening to you!"
"All right, Umbriel, that's enough," May said.
"You've had your fun, now stop torturing the Kyrii. He's got enough trouble
as it is, he doesn't need a Dark Faerie making his life miserable."
Umbriel crossed her arms. "Fine," she said, and
walked away. "And it's luminously challenged!"
Alistar took his fingers out of his ears. "Is
"Yes, she's gone now, Alistar. So, I've got some
"Let's hear it. I could use some good news right
"Well, I got us another gig."
"Really? Where is it?"
"Neopia Central Park, at 5:30 this Saturday."
Alistar whistled. "How'd you manage to get us
"Well, you remember our last job, right?"
"You mean the wedding? How could I forget? Flick
almost ruined the whole thing!"
"Hey," shouted Flick from across the room. "That
wasn't my fault! I always cry at weddings. I can't help it."
"Well," said May, ignoring the Shoyru completely,
"the father of the bride just happens to be on the city Planning Board. He was
so impressed with the job we did that he spoke with his superiors and managed
to get us a permit application."
"Now, the permit's gonna cost us a little bit,
but I think it'll be well worth it."
"How much is 'a little bit', exactly?"
May took a breath. "3000 Neopoints"
A light crashed on the other side of the room,
where Flick had dropped it. He stared. "3000? That's your 'little bit'? That's
a lotta bit!"
"I know, I know," May said. "But we can make
up the difference in ticket sales if at least 300 pets show up for the concert.
Not to mention the publicity we'll get."
Alistar's eyes brightened. "Publicity?"
"Oh, yes, tons of publicity. How could anyone
miss this one? It's smack dab in the middle of Neopia Central."
Alistar smiled. "You're right. We'll be famous
in no time!"
"That's the ticket!"
Alistar stood up with a twinkle in his eye, his
strength renewed by ambition. "Well then what are we waiting for? Let's jam!"
Alistar looked up from his magazine in the waiting room. A rather large throat
had just been cleared.
"Are you... uh..." the big red Skeith looked
at the card in his hand, "Ally-star?"
"Yes I am," said Alistar. "And it's Alistar.
"Right, right, Ah-lih-stir," the Skeith said,
repeating the syllables slowly. "I'm Biff. Biff Gordon. You played at my daughter's
"Yes, I remember."
"She loved the way you and that Shoyru fella
played the wedding march on your guitars. Here now, no sense talking out here,
come on into my office."
Alistar followed the lumbering Skeith into the office. It was small but comfortable,
with a polished hardwood desk holding a computer and some personal effects,
one being a picture of his daughter and her groom from the wedding.
"First of all, let me congratulate you on a job
well done," said Biff, taking Alistar's hand and shaking it. The Kyrii's body
wobbled like a vase in an earthquake.
"Th...thank...k... you... ou... ou..." he stammered.
"Now, to business. I'm sure you were told by
your manager about the little surprise I fixed up you. Otherwise you wouldn't
be here, now would you?"
"Yes, she informed me, and I must say it's a
most generous offer..."
"Good! Good! And do you accept this offer?"
"After careful consideration, the band and I
have decided to take you up on your offer."
Biff smiled, revealing rows of big, sharp Skeith
teeth. "I knew you would. After all, what band could resist an opportunity like
that, eh? Have you filled out all the necessary applications?"
"Yes I have."
"And the permit fee?"
Alistar hefted a large bag onto the table. "Present
and accounted for."
"Good! Well then, there's only one thing left
to do. Here's your copy of the permit," he said, handing Alistar the paper.
"I expect you all to do a great job at Saturday night's concert. I wish you
the best of luck." Another handshake followed.
"Th... thank... k... you... ou... ou..."
"See you Saturday!"
Alistar somehow managed to stumble out the door
To be continued...