Change of Tune: Part Two
The inside of the mansion had been cold despite the heat
on Mystery Island and I marveled at the velvet wall hangings of the summer home.
As Jezak and I walked down the hallways enormous portraits of princess Ferneypoo
in different elaborate dresses were there to greet us.
"That's her," said Jezak pointing to the picture.
"She's the same age as you, Moonabi. Her Dad says she's really looking forward
to meeting you."
"Aw, I don't wanna meet her, Jezak," I whined.
"Bell told me she was a spoiled little brat." Jezak growled but then inhaled
sharply and forced a wide smile. "Her father and I have some business to attend
to, Moonabi," he said slowly, still smiling, "very important business. And I
need you to uh…" he paused, "sweeten the deal."
I looked up at him warily. "I'm not sure I know
what you mean."
"She's a boy crazy teenager, Moonabi, and I
need to get us into the Kings favor to make sure he buys our shipment."
"Are you telling me to woo Princess Fernypoo?!"
I all but shouted. Jezak hushed me and then pulled me close to his face.
"Just play her a pretty tune on your violin and
she's all yours. Make sure to give her these too," he handed me three beautiful
"That doesn't seem right Jezak…"
"I'll make you a deal then. If you get Fernypoo
to like you," he leaned in closer and whispered in my ear, "I'll get you any
paint brush you want."
I did a horrible thing then. I agreed.
All that summer I'd walked with the princess
on the beach, let her beat me in cheat, and told her how the sunset made her
look beautiful (that one was Jezak's idea). She'd bat her eyes and say "Play
me another song, Moonabi" and I would, saying I'd written it just for her. It
felt terrible but I just kept thinking about that brown paint brush I wanted
and how cool it would look. Not too flashy, but just enough to get attention.
It went on like that until Jezak stormed up
to me as I waited outside the tiki tack for Ferneypoo to finish trying on a
blue grass skirt.
"What happened?" I asked.
"After all that haggling and negotiating the
King just decided to buy nothing at all!" fumed Jezak, "so we're leaving." He
started to drag me away.
"Hey!" I said pulling my arm out of his grasp.
"At least let me say good-bye to Fernypoo."
"What do you care?" he snorted. "It's not like
her affections made us any money anyways."
"You mean after all that work I don't even get
my paint brush?"
A little whimper sounded behind us and both Jezak
and I wheeled around.
My heart stopped in my throat.
There was little princess Fernypoo crying softly
in her little grass skirt after hearing every word.
"How could you Moonabi?" she squeaked. I could
think of nothing to say.
She'd run off crying and Jezak and I had fled
the island before the King found out what we'd done. I'd felt guilty until we
received a notice from him saying that if either of us set foot anywhere near
his daughter again, we'd find ourselves at the bottom of his moat. Then I felt
But then Jezak gave me that brown paint brush,
maybe in apology or just in keeping his end of the bargain, I never really knew.
As soon as we went to the rainbow pool all my remorse and shame was painted
too, covered up along with my old color. Thoughts of vanity and pride masked
those of heartbreaking, and I never thought about Fernypoo again.
It felt like I'd just closed my eyes when Lana
shook me the next morning. "My gosh you like to sleep," she grumbled, shaking
me again even though I was already awake. I groaned and waved her away. "Princess
Fernypoo's bash is tonight and I'm not going to be humiliated by your lack of
talent!" she said.
I sat up with a start. I hadn't even thought
about playing. "Well, get up!" she said. As soon as I was on my feet, Lana tossed
my violin case at my stomach, which I caught with an "Oof".
"Hey," I said, "be careful with that!" She ignored
me. "Okay," she took in a deep breath, "I want you to play every song you've
"Are you kidding?"
The Kyrii would yell for a fast song, and I'd
play with as much fervor and passion as I could muster. She told me to move
my feet, stop moving my feet, that I was too still, or I was too jittery. She'd
yell out song names and I'd play them, or yell out ones I'd never known and
then groan and sigh when I told her so. She put an awful hat on my head and
told me just when to tip it during "The Ixi Trot" and "Flight of the Buzzer".
By the time dusk fell again I knew exactly when the King would request which
songs and to improvise along with the other violinists so that the hall wasn't
a deafening mass of dozens of different songs playing at once.
As we watched the guests slowly arrive from the
hilltop, each crossing the now deathly and menacing moat by drawbridge, Lana
looked over at me with a little half-smile. "I think you're ready," she said
in approval. I hoped so.
I walked through the castle like a baby Skeith
in the chocolate factory - my eyes wide and my mouth gaping. Every wall was
covered in enormous tapestries of long ago battles or scenes of princesses being
whisked away by princes. The ceiling was higher then at least twenty of me stacked
on top of the other, but if I looked up I could see the stained glass windows
of brilliant sunrises and velvety nights. But all that was nothing compared
to the ballroom.
It was a huge circular room bigger then the
Battledome, lit by what must have been hundreds of candles. A diamond chandelier
that was probably worth more then anything all the guests owned hung in the
center. But everyone there still seemed well dressed and beautiful enough to
own their share of Neopoints. Even Lana seemed to be impressed.
As we walked in, the first thing I heard was
the soft music of a piano and the low buzz of tons of different voices. Then
I heard was the cracking of knuckles from behind us. Lana and I turned around
slowly and then looked up at a huge red Grarrl. He smiled down at us with long
"Where do you two think you're going?" he said,
his voice deep and frightening. Melody ducked behind Lana's head. Personally,
I panicked and stood there both speechless and motionless, hoping that maybe
if I didn't make him too mad he would make my pummeling a little less severe.
But Lana just calmly pulled out the yellowed flyer she'd found advertising for
musicians and showed it to the Grarrl. "We're minstrels sir, I'm a flutist and
my silent friend here plays violin as well as the day is long."
"Well then," said the Grarrl, "you may enter."
He leaned in closer to us and put a claw on each of our shoulders. I could feel
the hair on my neck stand up. "If your talent is, well…lacking…know that you
shall be punished most severely by yours truly." I gulped hard.
"And what of our payment good, sir?" asked Lana
with her smirk. She was clearly unfazed by the burly guard's threats.
"You will receive it along with the other minstrels
at the end of the night," he shoved us into the ballroom, "now play."
As soon as we found a section along the wall
to stand by we began to play soft songs to greet the guests as they entered.
I started to scout out some of the other minstrels that we'd be facing at Skarl's
festival, but none seemed very significant aside from this one Usul near us.
She sat beside her harp, stroking the strings elegantly in a long white dress
that spilled onto the floor. She almost glowed.
Lana looked at me and tisked. "That's Stella,"
she said pulling the flute away from her lips, "and don't be fooled by her angelic
aura. She'd cut your throat while you sang just to ruin your song."
Still I couldn't stop looking at her. I envied
the purity of her music.
But then trumpets started playing and the crowd
silenced and parted.
The King entered the ballroom with Princess Fernypoo
by his side and I could watch nothing else. I saw the resemblance between the
two blue Acaras for the first time, their hard set eyes and determined jaw.
I prayed she wouldn't see me through all the people.
They stopped at the front of the room and the
king spoke in a booming and commanding voice. "Good people, thank you all for
coming to honor my daughter and her fabulous cheat tour this year." He grabbed
her hand and smiled. "With your support, I know that someday my lovely girl
will be champion!" The room exploded in applause and cheers, and the trumpeters
"But now," shouted the King, "let us dance and
And on that note all the musicians in the hall
began to play and the room was a roar of notes and sounds. Song after song we
played, and after each one I began to relax more and more, realizing that Fernypoo
would never be able to see me out of all the minstrels and guests.
That was why I was caught off guard when she
Everything had been going well, I had been laughing
as Lana played a note and melody mimicked it perfectly, when I looked across
the room to see Fernypoo's eyes on me. Then a dancing couple passed in front
What could I do? My heart was pounding. I looked
frantically about for somewhere to hide when I saw a sequinned black mask on
the floor. I scurried to pick it up and tied it around my face just as Fernypoo
broke through the crowd. She almost looked disappointed as she walked by. "Oh,"
she said uninterestedly, "I thought you were someone else." She dropped and
handful of Neopoints onto the floor in front of me. "I always did like violinists."
Lana looked over at me with wide eyes after the
princess walked away. "What was that about?" she asked. I shrugged, my heart
"And why are you wearing that mask?"
"I just don't want someone here to recognize
me is all."
Lana nodded and didn't press any further. She
just told me to make sure to grab my money before someone else did. I thought
that the night's worries were over.
But little did I know that Stella had overheard
She walked up to me a few minutes later just
as gracefully and poised as her playing. "I couldn't help but notice your obvious
talent masked Zafara," she said smoothly, "and I was wondering if you would
join me in a duet in the front of the ballroom. The King has requested a special
slow song so that the princess might have a dance with a gentleman here."
I looked back hesitantly at Lana, not sure about
being thrown into the spotlight so quickly. Yet while she glared openly at Stella
she still nudged me forward. "They'll throw lots of coins," she whispered.
And so the next thing I knew, I was before the
entire room, violin in hand. "Let's play Ballad of Clouds and Glade," whispered
Stella. I nodded; it was one of my favorites. It was about the rivalry between
Illusen and Jhudora. I played the high and somber notes of Illusen's sorrow
at fighting someone of her own blood, and Stella played the low, angry tones
of Jhudora's hostility and darkness. Even the music battled against itself,
high and low and low and high as if arguing and thrashing, like one would attack
first and then the other with more severity.
I could hear the ping of coins being thrown at
our feet, but the music overpowered everything else and I was lost in the sound.
I didn't even notice Stella reaching behind me
and pulling the string on my mask.
But I noticed it fall. I reached down and tied
it back but the damage had already been done.
Fernypoo gasped, but her shock soon turned to
anger. Her eyes were red and flaming and she screamed out in fury, "How dare
you ever show your face again!"
Everything stopped, sound movement, everything.
The entire room looked up at me.
"Did you think that mask and paint could hide
your true colors Moonabi?" the princess screamed. The crowd parted again, this
time in fear of the princess's infamous temper. I was too scared to move or
even breathe. "I hope your brown color was worth the hurt you caused me," she
said acidly, "and worth dining with the goldys at the bottom of my moat."
To be continued...