Pride, Prose, and Princes: Part Eight
“A few years ago, my father made me head of the Brightvale Department of Prose. It was a position of some prestige, and I, not being much of a writer, did not deserve the title—but my father wished me to follow in his footsteps as a literary expert. So I took the position, if only to please him.
“At first, my ignorance of the art of prose was not much of a problem. Numerous advisors with lifetimes of experience were given me, and it was them who made decisions concerning the prose itself. The advisors would decide whether a work was worthy of being entered into the libraries, which authors were most worthy of a certain prize or medal, and so on. All I did was organize meetings, record payroll, and give my seal whenever the advisors needed it. I was content, my father was pleased, and the advisors were happy. Everything was going perfectly well. Then Mariava came.
“Mariava Briar-Rose the Cybunny is now, as you know, the vice head of the NPWS. Back then she was only their under-administrator. But somehow she managed to attach herself to one or two of my advisors, and before long, they were petitioning me to let her join on the Department of Prose council. Trusting my advisors completely, I consented, and have long lived to regret it.
“She could make powerful friends and enemies in the snap of a finger, and her influence knew no bounds. Within three months she had risen in the ranks until she was second only to the head advisor. This feat she had accomplished not through any particular talent in prose—in fact, her writing was said to be rather choppy, and dull. No, Mariava had risen through sheer trickery and plotting, mastering the art of deception so well that none of us knew what she was doing until she’d done it. But I get ahead of myself. In order to continue, I must introduce a new character into this strange tale, one with which you have met briefly—a kacheek, named Vincent.
“When I first met Vincent, he was a poor apprentice at the Brightvale Armory. The hard work was very ill-suited to him, because apparently he had been raised in luxury. His family, however, had lost their money through some misfortune, making it necessary for him to learn a trade. This meant that Vincent had to leave the Royal Academy of Brightvale, where he was excelling in poetry and fiction. He left grudgingly, but took his pride as a scholar with him, quoting from Advanced Learning until he drove the armor master mad.
“When I first saw him, he was muttering to himself behind the Armory building, polishing a helmet. He spoke quietly and without expression, but even I can know true talent when I come across it. He was telling himself a well-worded, descriptive story about an ingenious prince who was forced, by evil forces, to become an apprentice. I asked where he had read the story, and he told me he’d made it up. So I took him from his master and brought him to my advisors, who examined him and found him to be extremely gifted. They let him join the Department, and declared him to be one of the most promising young artists they’d ever seen. With that kind of attention, naturally it was not long before Vincent caught the ever-watchful eye of Mariava. Unfortunately, Vincent has always been rather susceptible to flattery and after a bit of compliments, a whispered word of praise in his ear, and she won his trust completely. After he practically began to puff up every time he saw her, Mariava told him, sweetly, that there was a place for him at the NPWS.
“Vincent was ecstatic. The Brightvale Department of Prose pays better than the NPWS but it’s, well, only Brightvale. NPWS is Neopia-wide, distributing media from the Haunted Woods, to Mystery Island, to Shenkuu. The thought was irresistible, and Vincent accepted the offer—and Mariava’s conditions, with which, Miss Lindsey, you are quite familiar. Before they would accept him, Vincent had a month to write one new, original piece of prose exclusively for the NPWS.
“The poor fellow poured his heart into it. Never had anyone seen him so earnest, so hopelessly devoted. The story was his passion, his child, his—But I need not explain. No, you are well aware of how an artist becomes attached to their work. Suffice it to say that, I had never seen Vincent happier than when he presented his story to Mariava. She fawned over him, warmly bid him congratulations, and had him sign some contracts. Then she took his story, and, promising to get back to him, left the castle.
“Every morning, Vincent would faithfully check the post for news of his story, or confirmation of his acceptance. None came. After two weeks I received, via post, a resignation notice from Mariava. She made no mention of Vincent, or even why she was leaving the Department. But even this was not enough to weaken Vincent’s blind trust of her. No, not until the next issue of the NPWS Magazine could he finally acknowledge the NPWS’ treachery.
“They had published his story, and it was a hit. Copies were selling at impossible rates, and the NPWS nearly doubled the year’s income from sales of that one issue. Vincent should have been a rich man, a famous man—but they gave him nothing, not even credit. They told the media that the author of the story wished to remain “anonymous,” and proceeded to collect 100 percent of the story’s profits. This uncovered the reason for Mariava’s resignation—she had been promoted to vice-president of the NPWS, as a reward for her successful con work. Of course, my advisors and I did not hesitate to take legal action.
“But the NPWS had been sly. Apparently, by signing Mariava’s contracts, Vincent had unknowingly forfeited all rights to his work, and the Neopian court could do nothing for us. From there we tried denouncing the Neopian Prose Writer’s Society to the media, but the Society was always one step ahead of us—they had minions on ever newspaper staff, every magazine board of directors, and they kept us from getting anything through. Vincent’s name had been blacklisted in the publishing world. He was ruined.
“I offered to let him keep his place in the Department, but Mariava had poisoned the minds of many of the members, inciting them to loathe Vincent. They bullied him in significant but subtle ways, so that even I could not protect him from it all. Eventually he could no longer endure it, and resigned. Rather than have him return to his Armoury apprenticeship, I gave him a position in my household as my manservant. He is still quite proud and very haughty—but broken inside. Since the incident, he has not written one line, or even once mentioned his literary talents.
“To verify this story, you may ask Vincent, any advisors on the Brightvale Department of prose, or even Mariava herself—she is not ashamed of her actions, and has too much control over the media to fear exposal. If, as I have guessed, she has already rejected you because you missed the deadline, she will have no scruples in relating her true intentions for your future.
“And there you have it. For these reasons I interfered with your work, and for this reason I was so haughty toward you at the Gourmet Club Bowls. When I first met you, Miss Lindsey, it was implied that you were a member of the NPWS. I assumed that you were one of the villains themselves, instead of their victim. When you made it clear, in the Lost Desert, that you were not a member but working on a story for acceptance, I told you my opinion of the NPWS.
“Naturally and wisely, you did not accept my opinion without question—and this hurt my foolish pride. But I was determined to play, as you said, ‘the benevolent prince.’ So I took—stole— your story, convincing myself that I was saving you from yourself. I see now how much I erred—I should have told you what I knew and then left you alone to make your own judgment. It was, as you said, your right. But you had—had injured my ego, so to speak. Though my father is strict with me, he surrounded me with surplus privileges and submissive servants throughout my entire childhood. I was not accustomed to having my opinion, however little supported, be contradicted. So I childishly convinced myself that (1) you were incompetent of making the right choice, and (2) that it was my princely duty to ‘help’ you.
“So I thank you, Miss Lindsey. Until now, no one has dared show me my true character—and now, through you, I see it plain.”
As his speech had progressed my knees had grown increasingly weak, and by the time he’d finished the part about Vincent’s ruin, I had to sit, shocked, on a nearby bench. So close. I had been so close to being completely ruined, to having my future snatched away from me. His story was consistent, sincere, and made perfect sense. He’d even given me references. But—
“If the NPWS wanted my story so badly,” I asked him, “then why were they so uptight about the deadline? I told Mariava I could rewrite my story within a week.”
“Competition. The NPWS needs hit-making stories fast enough to make their magazine deadline, or a rival magazine will outshine them with their hit-making stories. By missing their deadline, you probably just cost the NPWS a lot of profit—if they haven’t got other victims already lined up, which is unfortunately likely.” He hesitated, and then said, “Your story is in my carriage, and I’ll send for it now. I suppose there’s nothing more for me to say now, except that I’m very, very sorry.”
“I forgive you.” The words came out of my mouth automatically, and after a moment, I realized that I meant it.
He looked at me, first with disbelief, and ten with intense relief. “I can’t thank you enough. Would—would you mind shaking hands?”
“Not at all.” We shook. “Truce?”
A month later, Jordy found me writing fervently at my desk.
“New story, Linz?”
“No—I’m rewriting an old one.”
She peeked over my shoulder. “Hey, that’s the one you wrote for—for them, ” she commented. Ever since I told my family about the NPWS scams, they’d refrained from calling the Society by its name. “That’s the one about pride, right? The one that ends with everyone becoming dust...”
“Yep. But I’m changing the ending. After all, it’s not like proud people can’t change, right?”
Jordy smiled. “That reminds me, this came in the mail for you...” She handed me a cream-colored card, engraved with gold letters. I read it aloud—
“The members of the Gourmet Club cordially invite
Miss Lindseymaher of Neopia Central
To their monthly Gourmet Club Bowls,
As the special guest of Prince Stormington II of Brightvale.
Event occurs the following Wednesday
At half past eleven am.
Please bring this invitation upon arrival.”
“Well?” prompted Jordy, after a moment. “Are you going?”
“Of course I’m going.”
“But I thought you hated snooty parties...”
She grinned. “So you’re going in order to protect Storm from the snooty people’s clutches?”
I looked at her in surprise. “Why, no. I’m going so I can finally cream him at Gourmet Club Bowling.”
“Fat chance, Linz!”
“Don’t laugh! I’ve been practicing. Besides, it’s not like he’ll be a sore loser,” I added. “He is my friend, after all.”
A million thanks, cherished readers, for persevering through the whole series! Feel free to neomail with comments or feedback. Unfortunately, this is (most likely to be) both my first and last Neopian Times series. So I hope you enjoyed it; thanks again! ~~Jordy
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» Pride, Prose, and Princes: Part One
» Pride, Prose, and Princes: Part Two
» Pride, Prose, and Princes: Part Three
» Pride, Prose, and Princes: Part Four
» Pride, Prose, and Princes: Part Five
» Pride, Prose, and Princes: Part Six
» Pride, Prose, and Princes: Part Seven
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