The Tale of Herald the Poet
Herald chewed on the end of her pencil, staring at the blank page in front of her. It stared back, as though it were taunting her. The put the lead against the paper, began to write, and stopped. Began again. Stopped. This cycle continued through for a few more times before she threw the pencil down on the table and let out a frustrated sigh.
"I give up!" she conceded, leaning against the back of her chair and letting her head fall back. Her ears fell in her face, and she didn't move to brush them aside. Her Meowclops, Feral, gave her a judgmental glance from underneath the table where Herald was working. "Oh, don't give me that look," the Xweetok snapped. "I don't see you offering up any ideas!"
Feral yawned and stretched, curling into ball before returning to her rest.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Herald said, sticking out her tongue. She stared back at the paper on the table, still blank. She mumbled as she retrieved her pencil, which had fallen onto the floor. "It's not my fault. It was my idea to start the book club, but not to write the stories for it."
And this was true. She'd proposed they meet in the library -- all the books they could ever need, and all of them free -- but Maybell was never available the hours that the library was open. No one wanted to spend their own hard-earned neopoints on new books, and Faew said it was too soon for them to hold a bake sale. "We could all write stories instead," he'd suggested. "Herald, why don't you go first? You're the one who made the club. And isn't that what your name means, anyway? Story teller? Something like that. Just make sure it's something everyone would enjoy." She'd been too exhausted from trying to come to a decision about what to do about the book situation that she didn't have the energy to argue. And now she was paying for it.
"That's not even what my name means." It frustrated her that Faew always seemed to make up things to sound like he was smarter than he really was. "A herald is someone who reads news in a town square. They don't make the news, they just read it." The little red Kyrii wouldn't have cared if she'd told him that, though. He always had to be right. "I'd like to see Faew come up with a half-decent story," she muttered as she sat back down in her chair, pencil in hand. She pushed her fur out of her eyes and glared down at the paper. "I bet it'd just be about those space pirates he likes so much. That's all he ever wants to talk about, if he's not 'solving problems.'"
She wrote four words on the paper. 'Space pirates are dumb.' It was hardly the start to a story, but it made her feel better, at least for a moment. She ripped the paper out of the notebook and set it aside, tapping the pencil on the table. After about thirty seconds of waiting for something to miraculously come to her, she decided she needed something to help her clear her mind. She got up, stretched, and walked to the door. A leisurely stroll couldn't hurt anything. In a split-second decision, she snatched up her notebook and pencil. Maybe a different venue would make things easier.
Faerieland was particularly pretty today, and though Herald missed the feel of clouds under her feet, the ground was warm from the sun and beams of light played through the trees. She scribbled on her pad absentmindedly as she walked. The words were fragmented bits of the thoughts going through her mind as she walked. Clouds; trees; sunlight; beauty. Some of the words weren't even finished, one thought morphing into another. Some trailed off into little doodles. Finally, she climbed up into what she had come to refer as "her tree." It overlooked the Poogle Racing track, and it was a great place to watch neopets and faeries alike come and go.
A breeze gently blew through the tree, ruffling her notebook paper slightly. Once again aware of her task, she sighed and looked from the current Poogle race to the page she'd scribbled all over. It looked like one of Maybell's rough drafts. "Why isn't she the one writing the first story?" Herald asked herself. There was a good question. Maybell was a clumsy little Kau, which made her the last person you wanted to call when you needed help with many things; cooking, cleaning, dancing. But if you needed a good story, she was the first one you should ask. She traveled all over the place, writing about anything she saw fit. She could probably write a story about lint and make it interesting. Most of her stories lacked a strong ending, though.
"That's the hardest part," she'd sigh mournfully whenever Herald would read over her work when they went out to lunch together. "I know how it needs to end, but it always comes out sounding wishy washy." Herald had become her editor of sorts, pointing out plot holes, spelling errors, and unbelievable characters. They'd have lunch in the Art's and Literature District, by the story telling circle, and Herald would look over Maybell's latest manuscript. She couldn't do much to help with the endings, though.
Herald loved it there, in the deep catacombs, among the artists and writers. Specifically, she loved the poetry readings. Ambiguous, or emotional, or playful, any kind of poetry, Herald loved almost all of it. She could sit at the readings for hours and find herself lost in the words each new poet spoke. She'd tried her hand at writing it too, and she wasn't half bad. If she were writing a poem for book group, she'd be fine. "It has to be a story," Faew had stressed. "Only stories go into books."
Herald knew this to be untrue, but again, Faew always had to be right. Even when he was blatantly wrong. Maybell didn't try to correct him either, she just continued munching on her grass and daisy salad as though she hadn't heard. She knew better than to go stirring up trouble with Faew.
Herald looked down at her notebook, full of scribbles, doodles, and scattered words. "This is probably better than any story I could write." The statement amused her a bit. She turned to a clean page and stared at it's utter blankness. It really was a shame about the whole poetry thing. She'd been improving a lot lately.
A thought struck her like lightning. What if she could write a poem -- a long one -- and make it a story? It'd been done before. William Shakespeophin wrote entire plays that were, in essence, really long poems. Who was to say she couldn't do the same? She began writing furiously.
The book club sat in Maybell's living room, catching up on what had happened in the three friends' lives. Herald relaxed in a pastel yellow chair, sipping a mug of hot chocolate. Maybell turned her kind eyes to her after a moment.
"Herald, you were going to write us a story, weren't you?" she asked. Her voice was warm.
"Oh, I did say I'd do that, didn't I?" Herald replied, feigning forgetfulness. She then laughed and pulled her notebook out of her bag. She stood, and turned to the page where her poem rested, and began reading.
"Listen my friends, please lend me your ear,
I tell you of pirates in space.
A captain named Renny the Rhymer,
It's a tale that time shall not erase..."
And so she began telling the tale of Renny, a notorious space pirate captain who was known for speaking in riddles and rhymes. His dying wish was that his story would be told to all in the way he would have told it. At the end, both Maybell and Faew sat silently, digesting it.
"Was that a poem?" Faew finally asked.
"Yes. Yes, it was."
He paused for a moment.
"Do you think there are any poetry books out there?"