Change of Tune: Part Five
I stood there on the green grass of Meridell at last after
coming so far. It seemed like years ago that I'd run away from my brothers, the
brothers I'd depended on so much. I wondered if they were looking for me. Did
they worry about where I was? At night before they tried to sleep did they think
Before they left, Speedwell's crew had
promised to come to my aid if I ever needed them in any of my endeavors. Would
I need them to hide me from my brothers when they came to King Skarl's festival
to take me back? If they even wanted me back.
"Moonabi," said Lana, "I think you're going to
want to look at this."
I walked over to where she stood by a tall thick
tree and gasped.
There was a drawing of my face, unmasked and
It was printed right under the words WANTED.
Lana tore it off, reading aloud, "For dishonoring
royalty, resisting arrest, theft of a royal ship, and piracy. If caught, will
pay the sum of 5000 neopoints…"
She stopped reading and looked at me with wide
eyes. "I wonder why my name isn't on here?" she murmured.
"They must not have seen you with me," I sighed,
relieved that at least she wouldn't be taking the fall for my actions. "What
am I going to do?"
"I hope you still have that mask," she said.
I did, but how long could I keep hiding behind it? Or hiding myself, hiding
my past, hiding the bad things I had done. I didn't think that mask would fool
my brothers who had known me my whole life and I didn't know how much longer
it would fool Lana. Lana, who had let me come with her without asking any questions
I didn't want to answer, Lana who had offered me friendship when I only gave
her lies, and Lana who saved my life who knew how many times. I knew she deserved
to see the real me. I owed her that much.
"Lana," I said, my voice shaky, "there's something
I have to tell you, a lot actually." She looked at me, grinning cheekily. "What,"
she asked, "do you turn into a werewolf of a full moon or something."
"No," I said, forcing a smile. It was much worse.
We sat down on the grass and I told her everything,
how my brothers had been rich traders and entrepreneurs, how they'd used people
to get to the top and how I'd either watched and did nothing or helped them
on the way. I told her about Fernypoo especially, how the whole ordeal hadn't
been over some stupid card game but something much more significant, something
that was much more my fault. I told her how I'd used her because I was young
and stupid and only wanted my brothers' approval. I'd wanted them to think I
was good at something then, and that maybe I still did, I'd wanted to show them
that I wasn't just the embarrassing good-for-nothing little brother. And so
I'd used Fernypoo for their advantage in the worst possible way- I'd manipulated
her feelings, her ability to trust and love and maybe I'd wrecked them forever.
I kept going on like that, spewing feelings I
didn't even realize that I had. When I was finished I felt like a weight was
lifted, like I'd been holding my breath in fear for so long only to finally
"I understand if you don't want to speak to me
again," I said, my eyes cast sadly on the ground. "I know I'm not the person
you thought I was."
Lana sighed heavily and seriously. "You're right,
you're not the person I thought you were," she said, "I knew you were rich just
by the way you acted, I mean I'm not stupid. But I tried not to judge. I don't
know, I thought that maybe that snob, step-on-anyone-who-gets-in-your-way attitude
wasn't you." She shrugged uncertainly.
"I'm not sure if I do want to speak to you again
after finding out what you really did to Fernypoo. She might be a brat Moonabi,
but she didn't deserve that kind of crushing heartbreak and humiliation. Maybe
because you're a boy you can't really understand that feeling, to have empty
compliments and praise. You feel ugly after that," she said harshly, "like maybe
they lie because you really AREN'T pretty."
Lana shook her head. "And I helped you get away
She stood up, brushing off the dirt. "I don't
think I can be around you right now," she put Melody on her shoulder without
even looking at me. I think that hurt worse than if she'd just openly screamed
in my face.
"I have to think about this." She turned away.
I watched her walk away with the most painful
feeling of loss I'd ever encountered.
And just like that, I was completely alone.
I stared up at the huge castle surrounded by
every kind of Neopian from the shrouded people of the Lost Desert to the dirty
commoners of Meridell. There were royal pets and Darigan pets, plushie pets
and fire pets, all crossing the drawbridge to enter King Skarl's castle and
maybe catch themselves a glimpse of the most renowned musicians in Neopia.
I was in no mood for singing, and dancing, and
poetry. But yet I knew I still had to cross that drawbridge and play, even if
it meant being captured or taken home by my brothers. I'd come too far not to,
and Lana or no Lana, I was going to play for a King.
I tied that black sequined mask around my face
one last time and, violin tight in hand, crossed the drawbridge and stepped
into the huge courtyard.
I had never seen so many musicians in my life,
all there by the hundreds. Trumpeters, cellists, harpists, every instrument
there and accounted for.
Kayla herself was there, mixing bright red potions
and then tossing them onto the ground where they exploded like crimson clouds,
giving off the scent of sweet berries. I wouldn't have been surprised if Illusen
even showed up.
Then King Skarl entered and the courtyard was
a roar of cheers and applause over the large dignified Skeith. After all, it
was his festival.
"Great musicians of Neopia," he said, and everyone
yelled as if in answer to the title they thought was theirs. "It is truly great
that after times of such wreckage and savagery that we can get all come together
again to celebrate the beauty and majesty of music!"
The applause was so loud I thought that I might
never hear again. The King held up his large hand to silence the massive crowd.
"And I know you all are to prove that your music
has more beauty and majesty then that of any other. But that job," he said,
"is mine to determine." His eyes scanned the crowd and he smiled. "So play from
your heart," he said and then walked to his gold plated throne to sit down.
I watched as musician after musician was chosen
to stand before Skarl and play a song or two, only to be waved away disinterestedly,
scoffed at, or even openly laughed at.
At last I felt a tap on my shoulder.
"King Skarl has taken a liking to your music,"
said a young Ixi squire mechanically, "and he requests to hear you play before
him especially." He motioned boredly, "follow me." I did, through all the bunches
of people, all who seemed to be looking at me. Were they all wondering who was
behind the mask?
And then I stood in the open, right before King
Skarl and everything I'd dreamed of since I saw a shiny violin in the music
shop. I could almost see all the wrinkles on the King's face, lines of worrying
about his once war befallen Kingdom. I was about to start playing when I heard
a startled cry from the crowd:
"Moonabi? Moonabi is that really you?"
I spun to see the oh-so-familiar glow of my brother
Jezak pushing his way through the crowd and Bell beside him trying to hold him
"Moonabi, if that's you, please come home," pleaded
Tears sprung to my eyes seeing my once proud
"Back!" shouted Skarl, "stay back! Guards! Keep
them away from the musicians!" Burly Grarrls emerged to push him back.
"Moonabi," said Jezak again, hopelessly trying
to break free of the Grarrl's hold, "tell them we're your brothers so we can
take you home." He gave up struggling. "We miss you."
I shook my head, hidden tears falling beneath
my mask. I turned away so that I didn't have to see the crushed look on my brothers'
faces, the look of finally finding someone you loved after not knowing where
they were for so long, only to find out that they didn't seem to care about
But I couldn't let them stop me. I had to do
this. I couldn't spend the rest of my life thinking and dreaming about 'what
ifs'. There was no turning back now.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, closing my eyes and
brining my bow across the string. And I really was sorry, for everything, everyone
I'd hurt, my brothers, Fernypoo, Lana, and even myself.
I took King Skarl's advice and I played from
All my apologies were in the music, all the pain,
and dreams, and empty wishes, and love, all spoken from the mouth of my violin.
And when I opened my eyes again I was greeted
by utter silence.
King Skarl was there before me, a great and powerful
King, with tears in his eyes.
"Never," he said quietly, "have I heard a song
like that before." He looked around the courtyard filled with an awestruck audience.
"I don't need to hear any more musicians," he said, smiling at me.
"NO!" A shrill scream cried from the crowd.
Skarl stood up, misty eyes replaced with fiery
ones. "Who dares protest my decision?"
"I do!" said the same voice, slowly pushing her
way through the crowd. She emerged, in all her white and glowing beauty. "Stella
The crowd gasped and I did too.
"How can you pick this marauder," she said furiously,
storming her way towards us, "this deceiver, this CROOK!"
"How dare you question me!" said Skarl in outrage,
but Stella went on, raving madly.
"How dare HE steal this from me," she yelled,
pointing a finger at me, "how dare he who is so undeserving steal this from
"I order you to get back!" boomed Skarl.
"I unmasked you before, O masked Zafara," smiled
Stella wickedly, "and you can imagine how pleased I was at the unexpectedly
disastrous results. I imagine that it will work just as well this time, what
with you being a wanted criminal and all!"
She lunged at my face with teeth bared, like
a crazy rabid animal.
Then a yellow fist struck her face.
With an "Oommff" Stella crumpled and fell to
"I told you she was a nasty little thing," said
I wanted to tell Lana how happy I was to see
her, I wanted to thank Skarl for choosing me, I wanted to hug my brothers, and
I wanted to stand atop Terror Mountain and scream out just how happy I was.
But there was something I had to do first, even
if it meant losing all of that.
I untied my mask.
"Why, you're the brown Zafara they've been looking
for," said Skarl, his mouth dropped in shock. The audience was murmuring questions
and looking about curiously.
"I've heard a lot about you," he said solemnly,
"you embarrassed a princess, stole her boat, survived a terrible storm, and
sunk a pirate ship." The crowd whispered louder in amazement.
"Yes," I said. "But I'm done hiding from it."
I threw the mask on the floor. "My name is Moonabi," I said, "my brothers are
Jezak and Bell-" I pointed to them in the crowd "-I ran away from them to come
here. Somewhere along the way I started hiding behind that mask," I looked at
the black sequined thing on the floor, "and I stopped being myself."
I held my head high. "But I don't want to anymore.
I am a violinist, a good one, and that's all that matters to me."
King Skarl looked down at me and smiled. He put
a huge hand on my shoulder.
"And me too," he looked to crowd, all waiting
expectantly. "Consider this Zafara's slate clean and all crimes forgiven!"
The entire audience cheered wildly but yet I
didn't really care. I turned to the yellow Kyrii I'd been traveling with for
"Lana…I…" I tried to search for the words.
"I know, I know," she grinned the half smile
I'd actually grown to love, "you're sorry, I'm sorry, we're all sorry. You knew
I couldn't stay away from you." She ruffled my hair.
I looked over at my brothers then, standing in
the crowd looking at me as if wondering if I was the same Moonabi they'd grown
up with. How could I show them that I was without having to go home with them
All I could think to do was offer them a smile.
They smiled back, and the next thing I knew I was being smothered in a giant
group hug between a glowing Kougra and spotted Gelert.
"I don't suppose you're coming back," stated
"Nope," I said. Too much had changed. Especially
"Then you're staying here," said Jezak sadly,
Forever? There was eternity in that word, and
did I really want to spend it in a castle in Meridell.
I looked over at Lana who stood outside my family
Something sad occurred to me.
"Lana," I said, "you never got to play for King
She just shrugged and smiled. "Kid, from the
first time I heard you play I knew I didn't stand a chance."
I smiled; I think it was the best compliment
I'd ever gotten, even better than Skarl accepting me into his court. I decided
that wasn't quite right, especially if it meant never getting to see Lana anymore,
I stepped towards the King. "Good King Skarl,"
I said to him as boldly as I could, "while I greatly appreciate your pardon
and liking for my music…I don't think I can stay." I could see the shocked faces
of my brothers and Lana. "There are just so many places I haven't been…."
Skarl sighed heavily. "This upsets me boy," he
said, "I chose you because I wanted to hear your music everyday. You're passing
up enormous fame and fortune."
My brothers practically winced.
"I might come back for that someday," I said.
Skarl laughed jocundly. "I'll hold you to it."
I turned to Lana who just shook her head.
"So," she said, "what is this great undertaking
that you've passed up Skarl's court for?"
"I don't know," I said, "I was thinking that
there may still be a few people in Neopia we haven't played for yet."
"We?" said Lana, her eyes wide.
"I don't know if I'm interested…" she said scratching
"What?!" I all but screamed.
"I've got just one condition." She smirked.
As I stepped off Speedwell Captain Scarlet
put a paw on my shoulder sympathetically. "It'll be over soon lad," he said.
Lana nudged me across the drawbridge and pounded
on the huge wooden door.
A startled blue Acara with flames in her eyes
I was down on my knees, heart pounding.
"Princess Fernypoo," I said, "I'm so sorry."