All Neopia's a Stage
The quill quivered as if it had a will of its own. It shook with anticipation, and Bard tightened his grip on the hollow, ink-stained shaft. He could feel dozens of eyes staring expectantly up at him, awaiting their chance to have a piece of greatness bestowed upon them. The Draik took a deep breath and put quill to parchment:
“To be or not to be…in drama club next year. Have a great summer!”
With a sigh and a half-hearted smile, Bard closed the yearbook and handed it back to the young Acara, who scurried off with her friends in a fit of giggles. It wasn’t that Bard didn’t love coaching the Little Thespians Club, but the end of the school year was always rather bittersweet for him. It meant that not only was his pet project at an end, but also that his own classes at Brightvale University were on hiatus for the summer. Bard was finishing up his degree in Theater Arts, and the stage was his passion.
Once the last little thespian was merrily on his way home, Bard packed up his belongings and walked out of the auditorium into the bright summer sunlight.
All around him, excited Neopets buzzed about their plans for the upcoming months. Bard knew already that his friends would all be busy with their various other interests. Too busy for him. Quickly, he checked the bitterness that threatened to creep into his thoughts - his friends weren’t at fault for having interests outside of the theater. How else would Brightvale win next year’s Altador Cup if the Yooyuball team didn’t sharpen their skills at Yooyu camp over break? How would Neopians continue to pick berries at Meri Acres Farm if Farmer Gelert had no help to tend the fields? Who would help run the Tiki Tours on Mystery Island or the Glass Bottom Boat Tours at Kiko Lake for the families on vacation?
Understanding though he tried to be, Bard still indulged in a quick kick at the ground as he contemplated his impending solitude. His singular motivation was acting, and he certainly couldn’t put on an entire production without a cast, much less without an audience. Rather than dampen the mood of anyone around him, Bard took to the sky and floated on the light breeze blowing south towards Faerieland.
Gazing down through half-closed eyes, Bard silently ran through his options.
“I could get a job, I suppose.”
The thought surprised him, as he had never really considered having any practical skills beyond acting and writing, but the more he thought about having extra money of his own, the more he warmed up to the idea. Just think of the new costumes he could buy for his upcoming productions next year! He hoped to put on the grandest performance of Much Ado About Meridell that anyone has ever seen.
Invigorated by his new plan, Bard stretched out his grey wings and flew with renewed purpose towards the Faerieland Employment Agency. Arriving amidst the amethyst towers of Faerieland, Bard identified the building he needed and entered through the arched stone doorway.
Behind a brightly polished front desk, sat an equally bright and cheerful looking Vandagyre.
“Coupon?” She asked with a smile and waited. “Do you have a job coupon?” she tried again.
Bard was overwhelmed by all of the job opportunities he saw before him, and suddenly felt shy and out of his element.
“I’ve never done this before, and I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do. I don’t have a job coupon. Does that mean I can’t work?” asked Bard.
The Vandagyre behind the counter waived her hand in the air and said, “Not to worry! We have plenty of job listings that don’t need coupons. Look right over here,” she said as she led him to an opposing wall. “How many neopoints do you have?”
Bard turned his pockets inside out and emptied a handful of neopoints into his claw. “Is that enough?” he asked.
The Vandagyre tried to stifle a giggle. “Why don’t you just take a look and see what piques your interest, and we’ll go from there,” she suggested.
Bard turned his attention to the job listings and browsed for something that he thought he could accomplish (and afford!). As he was starting to feel discouraged, his eyes were suddenly drawn to a familiar sight – tomatoes!
Find 3 of: Baby Tomatoes
Time: 59 minutes Base Reward: 4,635 NP
Every stage actor has acquired his fair share of tomatoes without ever having to pay a single neopoint. True, they were usually being thrown at him at rather high speeds, but that hardly mattered. He had a plan! Grabbing the job posting, Bard darted out of the agency, calling over his shoulder, “I’ll be back soon!”
Now Bard needed to find a populated place where he could perform, and hope that the locals would have some tomatoes handy to throw his way. Instinctively, he knew that his best chances would be in Neopia Central, as the shops and attractions were always bustling with busy Neopians on various errands. He soared through the summer sky until he circled over the center of town. The first place that caught his attention was the Money Tree. Neopians were always throwing things away over there, and there was a steady stream of visitors all day. Perfect!
Bard landed in the grass and found a prominent spot in the sun to begin his performance. He began with a long, passionate soliloquy from a recent production he had starred in at University. The words and emotions of the speech came flooding back to him, and in his excitement, he closed his eyes and delivered a resoundingly brilliant performance.
Clink, Clink clink.
Bard opened his eyes to a crowd full of appreciative smiles, throwing neopoints at his feet in admiration. Not a single tomato. As the crowd dispersed back in the directions of their errands, Bard accepted his failed plan with sense of pride, knowing that there had to be enough neopoints there to purchase the tomatoes he needed. Suddenly, as he bent down to collect the coins, he heard a loud “Hhrumph!” from behind him. Spinning around, he was faced with the angry countenance of the Money Tree.
“No one collects neopoints around here but me! You’re using my land and stealing my donations with your mediocre (at best!) performance,” growled the Tree. Without warning, a ghost rose out of the ground and took all of the neopoints, putting them on the Money Tree.
“Mediocre!” Bard exclaimed, offended. “Well I never!” Knowing that ought to leave before the ghost returned and took what neopoints he had remaining in his pockets, Bard grudgingly walked away in search of a new location.
He was running out of time, and he knew it. He couldn’t fail at his very first job! What would he do with his summer then? His visions of lavish costumes and props started to fade in his mind. Deciding to collect his thoughts, Bard sat down on a rock beneath a nearby Fir tree.
Bard threw his hands up in disgust and raised his head to find the source of that horrible, incessant mewing. It was driving him completely mad! How could he think like this?! If he did, in fact, have a tomato, he would gladly have thrown it at the guilty party to make it stop. Scanning the nearby walkways, he spotted the source – a Mutant Kadoatie sitting outside the Petpet Shop. It continued its incessant caterwauling, pausing only when crazed passersby stopped to pay it neopoints out of desperation to end their suffering.
Bard’s mood changed quickly from angry to ecstatic. He rushed over to the Petpet Shop and immediately inquired about adopting the Kadoatie. The timid Usul shopkeeper was all too happy to accept Bard’s money for the petpet, as her nerves were almost destroyed, and her business was suffering greatly due to the ugly creature’s commotion. Not even the donations it brought in were worth that.
Seemingly unphased by her change of situation, the Kadoatie continued to screech from one end of Neopia Central to the other. Every Neopian driven mad by the sound paid Bard 5,000 neopoints to take it away. By the time they reached the far side of the marketplace, Bard and the Kadoatie had collected more than enough not only to complete the job, but for Bard to purchase plenty of costumes for his upcoming theater productions next semester!
Tucking the Kadoatie under his arm, Bard quickly took to the sky and flew as fast as he could to the Neopian Health Foods to purchase the needed tomatoes, and then onward back to Faerie City. Bursting into the Employment Agency with only seconds to spare, Bard proudly plopped the tomatoes down on the counter in front of the Vandagyre.
With a broad smile, she exclaimed, “Good job! You got all the items we wanted. The job took you 58 minutes, 10 seconds. You have been paid 4,635 Neopoints. Not bad for a first timer. I see you came back with more than just the tomatoes!” She gestured towards the Kadoatie.
For the first time, Bard had a chance to take a good look at his new petpet, and despite her disheveled, rather unattractive appearance, she was the most wonderful creature he had ever set eyes on. He pet her lovingly on the head, scratched behind her ears, and smoothed out her wiry whiskers. She looked up at him with squinty, crooked eyes, and purred loudly.
“You know, I’ve been so worried about being lonely this summer, but now out of nowhere, I have a new best friend. And it all started with a soliloquy! That’s what I shall call her.” Bard carried his new petpet, Soliloquy, out of the Employment Agency and towards their new adventures together in Brightvale. This would be the best summer yet.