Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 90,554,371 Issue: 172 | 7th day of Sleeping, Y7
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Change of Tune: Part Two


by twirlsncurls5

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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 red roses.

     "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 terrified.

     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.

     Until now.

      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 ever learned."

     "Are you kidding?"

     "Do it."

     I did.

     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 white teeth.

     "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 played victoriously.

     "But now," shouted the King, "let us dance and be merry!"

      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 did.

      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 of her.

     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 still pounding.

     "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 me.

     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...

 
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Other Episodes


» Change of Tune: Part One
» Change Of Tune: Part Three
» Change Of Tune: Part Four
» Change of Tune: Part Five



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