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Harmony's Melody


by parody_ham

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     There was once a strawberry-haired maiden named Harmony, a well-muscled Rainbow Lupe with a fading purple dress, sunhat, traveling sack, and work boots. She lived on a farm outside of Meridell with her aging parents, a Puppyblew, and three younger brothers. When the harvest time came, they would pick the fruits of the land, ripe and sweet, while singing merry tunes of sunny days and gentle breezes. Upon those days came a barrage of mouthwatering dishes, marrow pies and veggie stews, braised meat and colorful salads.

      There could be no happier family than they.

     But as with all things, there must be change.

     A cool spring breeze blew strong and steady on the day Harmony set out to town. She sought a parcel of land from which bushels of vegetables could be sold at market. It was a hurried day in Meridell, with merchants clamoring for the attention of passersby, wheeling carts filled to the brim with large fruits, potions, and tools. Children tore through the streets with giggling games of find-and-catch, while overeager Meowclops stood on their hind paws begging for treats.

     Compared to the small, wooden farmstead from which her family dwell, Meridell was a maze of cobblestone paths and brick-laden buildings.

     After a morning of failed negotiating efforts, there was but one building left of interest in the market square, a finely furnished office with a hand-carved sign that read: “Coin and Family Land Management.”

     Harmony gave the door a few good tugs before it budged. It creaked open with a loud screech. Within the shop’s walls was a dimly lit office countered by lime green wallpaper and an enormous looking glass near the stairs.

      “Hi there,” she said with a curtsy to a stout, teenaged Bruce with a tri-cornered hat and fancy trim upon his cloak. “I was wondering if you could help me.”

     The Bruce gave a warm, businessman-like smile before ushering her to a velvet chair. His gaze lingered on her fading clothes and mis-matched boots, even as he spoke to her.

     “And how might I help you, good lady…?”

     “Harmony. Harmony Planter.”

     “Ah. Such a lovely name. So, I take it you’re farm folk?”

     She nodded. “We are. My parents are getting old and they’ve four other mouths to feed. I need a plot of farmland to work so that I can help them out.”

     A young Neopian himself with small, rounded glasses and a ponytail, he acknowledged her plight. But then again, he was not a charitable sort.

     ”I admire your eagerness, Miss,” he took note of a money sack hanging from her belt loop, “but the Neopoints in your possession could not possibly purchase an area fit for farming.”

     She held in her breath before exhaling lightly. This reply could not deter her, nor did the other five rejections she faced prior. She rattled the Neopoints bag and held it above his desk before emptying it on the table. In response, the Bruce quirked his brow.

     “I’ll make it work,” she said, crossing her arms.

     The Bruce shook his head. “With all due respect, the only land this sum could afford is the most desolate of plots. It’d grow naught by dust and dirt.”

     She gave a confident chuckle. “And by my paws, it’ll spring fruit.”

     Sighing, the Bruce removed his glasses and held them in his flipper. “Miss. Not to deter your enthusiasm, but I shan’t willingly set you on a path of poverty and despair. It wouldn’t be responsible.”

     She placed her right paw upon her heart. “I have a will of iron. Nothing can deter me.”

     The Bruce sighed loudly, kneading his forehead as he did. “Not even common sense, my good lady?”

      “I’ve got pockets filled with marrow seeds, a place to put them, a walkable stream, and my voice. That’s all ya need, Mr. Coin. And that last one’s especially important, ya know.”

     Coin stood up from the desk, straightened his back, and fiddled with his glasses. “Mr. Artemis Coin is my father. I am Ernest Coin, sans the Mr. My sister is Emerald Coin or Ms. Coin… but I digress. Your voice, you say?”

     The Lupe nodded.

     “You sing to the plants?” Ernest placed the glasses on his desk. “That’s your secret to success? Surely you jest.”

     Harmony cleared her throat, before releasing a vibrato verse about a carefree lass prancing in the royal court. Hanging through the air in the office chamber were her reverberating soprano notes. Curious market-goers flocked to the windows, their shadows casting long in the flickering candlelight.

     “Huh.” Ernest’s eyes had widened, his brows arched as he tapped his chin with the tip of his flipper. “Huh huh huh… I suppose you can always sell your talents in the square between your, ah, farming ventures.”

     Harmony shrugged. “I intend to.”

     The Bruce let out a chuckle, then promptly apologized. “You are a very odd Lupe,” he said, “but I admire your enthusiasm. I can grant you a season’s lease upon this parcel. If you can raise the money for next season, I can lease it to you once again next year.”

     “For real?” she tried to hug the banker, but he recoiled away.

     “Goodness!” He noticeably shuddered. “While I enjoy your… exuberance, it is my earnest”—Harmony laughed—"hope that you will be fruitful in your ventures, either by voice or by vine.”

     “Both,” she said simply. “It’s both.”

     He exhaled loudly. “Both it is. I only wish success for my investments, and you’re an interesting one indeed.” With a waddling step, he took a piece of parchment from a well-organized shelf, placed it upon his desk and scribbled upon it the terms of ownership with a white Weewoo quill. Upon her eager signature, the Bruce gave a bow.

     “This property is your own for a time. May it and your talents bring you good fortune for this growing season.”

     With a squeal and a dream fulfilled, she set off for the parcel. It was small, perhaps twice the size of a modest home, but it was hers. A bramble of weeds covered the ground, many of them thorny. Rocks, some of size of her fist, peppered the ground.

     She stood with her paws on her hips, scanning the ground. With a nod, she removed a hand plow from her sack and began to till the dirt. It took a few tries to make a steady line. Every few feet, rocks had to be dug up and tossed aside. Eventually, the stones became the foundation for a crude wall, then a second and third. Before she knew it, the foundation of her home stood in the plot’s center. In the meantime, she tore away the vines and lay them in a mulch pile.

     It took over a day to put together more than a simple lean-to and fire pit, but with luck, no rain graced her whilst she slept under the stars. A ration of corn bread, dried marrow, and salted meat made up her diet, with the occasional cooked meat. Stucco, petpet hair, and mud covered the stone base and made a sort of shanty, but at least it kept her safe from the elements. With some spare straw bequeathed to her by a kind neighbor along with some petpet fur from her family Puppyblew, she had a more comfortable place to lay her head. All of this she had done within a week.

     Amid her construction efforts, she planted a marrow seed about every foot’s width apart within the field, patted a ring of cheap soil around it with her paws, and sprinkled a cup of water.

     In the evening, she would sit in the plot and sing a tune. Her favorite was a simple refrain about the harvest time.

     Shall it be a sweet harvest of fruit, vine, or wheat,

     Of bountiful baskets and marrow so sweet.

     Let the dances be grand as we treat to the sound

     Of family and friends as they all gather ‘round.

     To a table abound with the labor of paw

     The gifts of the harvest! Lift up your hurrah.

     Before bed each night, she would sing this tune, patting the ground around each seed as if tucking in a child. Then, under the waning sunlight, she would travel to the market square and sing songs of bonnie lasses picking flowers in a field, laddies traveling on grand adventures, feasts of the harvest, and the fineries of royal court. There were but a few Neopians who would walk by at first, slowing their gait as they neared, and continuing upon their routine as they passed by. Some would throw in a copper piece, nodding to her as they passed. Occasionally, a Neopian would stop and stay, swaying to the sounds of her voice. Some of them even left a coin before departing. At the last sun’s rays, she would curtsy to the townsfolk, carry her money in a milk can, and head back home.

     A little over a week into her venture, Ernest Coin stopped by for a visit. Harmony was busily watering the marrow seeds when he arrived.

     “Good day, Miss Harmony,” he began, his eyes scanning her humble abode and a well-watered and tilled, but otherwise barren field. “How do you fare in your pursuits? I’ve heard good things from a client about your voice. They say it brightens up Meridell Market on the daily.”

     She wiped a dirt-covered paw across her face, flinging the sweat that clung to her fur. Ernest involuntarily cringed, covering his mouth with a flipper to keep from gagging.

     “Yeah, singing’s been really good around here. And it brings in enough to keep my food ration’s stocked.”

     He quirked a smile. “Lovely to hear. And how are the fields?”

     Harmony exhaled, placing the watering can on the ground next to her. “Well, you know how it goes. Sometimes it takes longer for the plants to grow. They’re all just readying themselves for the big bloom is all.”

     “I see.”

     “But don’t you worry, it’ll be a bumper crop soon. I’ve poured my whole heart into it.”

     “Oh, yes,” he said. “I look forward to seeing it.” He tottered up to the milk can before dropping in a gold coin. It landed with a metallic ring. “This is for your lovely performance before. I felt it only fair to compensate you for your time properly.”

     The Lupe let out a gasp. “Thanks kindly for the support, Mr. Ernest, it’s real kind of ya.”

     “… It’s just Ernest, Mr. Coin is my father. And no thanks needed, Harmony. I am but giving you the credit that you earned.”

     The Lupe merely shrugged. “If ya say so.”

     Another week went by.

     Each day, she would pat the soil around each plant and sing it a sweet song.

     Coins dropped in her bucket, enough for a meager fare of bread and cheese. Ernest stopped by once more, exchanging pleasant words of her talent.

     Not a sprout erupted from the soil.

     “Next week for sure,” she said with a wavering smile.

     Ernest gave her a sad look. “I wish you well,” he said, before turning away.

     Another week went by. Another song, another day without green fields. Around her, neighbors were starting to see twisting vines, fanning leaves, underripe fruits. The peddlers walked about, advertising their roots and salad leaves for sale.

     Not even the slightest sapling grew from her soil.

     Still, she headed to the square each day, singing songs about farmers with far greater gifts than she could even fathom. Bumper crops and feasts fit for kings. This time, a well-dressed Draik stopped to hear her through four songs. She quietly hummed a tune or two before leaving a single silver coin in her bucket.

     “I shall be back on the morrow,” she proclaimed. “Please bring your lovely voice here.”

     “I shall!” Harmony forced a smile, her ears betraying her feigned happiness with their droop. “I’ll see ya tomorrow!”

     That night she dragged herself back to the house. Her well-worn boots now had a hole the size of a thumb.

     It had been well over a week since Ernest came to visit. From time to time, he’d leave small bags of leftovers near her front door. “To keep up your energy,” the note always read, “for a songster and farmer must have plenty to succeed.” She kept each note in a little treasure box and left it by the bed.

      Nary the slightest of growth had made it way to the surface, yet she still, through sheer force of will, found herself singing to the plants, near begging them to grant her fruit.

     “I gave you my whole heart,” she said, wiping away a tear from her eye. “Won’t ya please give me just a bit of yours? Just a little bit?”

     She awoke the next morning with a sigh, readying herself for the day. With a push, the door swung open.

     Upon the otherwise barren land stood one vine. It poked through the soil like a beacon of light in a storm.

     She squealed, hurrying over to pet the vine. It was real. And it was hers.

     “Could this be my big break?” She wondered aloud, nearly skipping to fetch the water and tend to the grounds.

     That afternoon, she arrived at her usual singing spot alarmed to see a small crowd and a raised platform. The Draik from before stood there was a pleasant smile, waving as she approached. In her right claw she held a box.

     “Y-y’all came for me?” Harmony stammered. “And ya even set up this nice stage and everything? I-I-I don’t know what to say.”

     “Then how about we say thank you,” said the Draik, “for bringing your lovely voice to our square, for cheering up both peddler and peasant alike.”

     A few of the crowd turned their mouths up at her words, but they clapped for Harmony in any event.

     She gingerly stepped on the stage before closing her eyes. Exhaling loudly, she then recounted a song about the world’s largest marrow, “Old Bessie.” Hoots and hollers rose up from the crowd, apparently this one was a local favorite. One of the merchants shouted, “I remember Old Bess! She was a beaut!”

     Copper and silver coins poured into her milk can. She quickly wiped away the joyous tears in her eyes before she chose the next song. She tapped at her chin for ideas before recalling the glorious vine within her plot, the one that slithered on the ground like a mighty Cobrall, ready to strike.

     Humming aloud for a few seconds, she decided on a tune familiar to her beloved plants and Neopians alike, the “Harvester’s Joy”:

     Shall it be a sweet harvest of fruit, vine, or wheat,

     Of bountiful baskets and marrow so sweet.

     Townsfolk held paws and joined in a circle. They echoed each line with exuberance.

     Let the dances be grand as we treat to the sound

     Of family and friends as they all gather ‘round.

     The circle turned left and right, until its participants met in the center with excited yells.

     To a table abound with the labor of paw

     The gifts of the harvest! Lift up your hurrah.

     Even the youngest around joined in hearty hurrahs, throwing hats and handkerchiefs in the air. One little Tonu ran up to give her a hug. Harmony couldn’t help but grin. Never had she felt so welcome by the community. It no longer looked like a daunting conglomerate of winding streets and faceless Neopians, but a family.

     Merchants excitedly requested songs, bouncing like children when their tune was picked. And with each tune, she was reminded of the times her father would sit her on one knee and sing to her, mandolin in paw. It was after each field day that he’d pat the soil and regale it with a lullaby, before singing a love song to her. He’d always end each piece by bringing his forehead against hers and gently squeezing her shoulders. “I love you, sunshine,” he’d always say. She could feel her heart aching for those simpler times, from before her parents began to struggle in the fields. Thankfully the boys could handle their chores whilst she sought financial success. If only she could earn enough to bring them all happiness.

     At the end of “The Great Sir Borodere,” she received thunderous applause. There were four particularly spirited teenagers: a bespectacled yellow Aisha, caped blue Blumaroo, tabard clad green Quiggle, and red Zafara with a pointed, star-covered hat.

     “Woo hoo! Go, Jeran!” shouted the Aisha.

     Taken aback by the attention, she shyly bowed, nearly losing her well-worn and fraying sun hat in the process.

     It was at this moment that the Draik sauntered up towards the stage and handed Harmony a wooden box carved with the image of a clover.

     “Open it,” the Draik insisted. “The merchant union, including my brother and I, all pitched in. We just want you to be comfortable. You work ever so hard.”

     Unlatching a metal hook, she gingerly opened the lid.

      She gasped.

     It was a new pair of leather boots with purple laces and a small, green clover on the sole.

     Too shocked to say anything, she burst into tears, covering her mouth as she did.

     The merchant guild gave her a round of applause, including the Draik. Some of them, including the Zafara, awwed.

     “How…?” She tried to say between sobs, “How can I… How can I ever… thank you… thank y’all so much. Everyone… thank you. Can I? Can I hug ya, Ma’am?”

     The Draik looked upon Harmony’s faded dress and sucked in her breath a little. “Ah, yes. Yes, that would be fine. Oh, and, I prefer Ms. Coin to ma’am… Or Emerald, if you prefer.”

     Losing herself in the moment, Harmony went for a bear hug, to which Emerald visibly stiffened.

     “You, ah, you certainly are a strong one,” she choked.

     Embarrassed, Harmony unlatched her arms and took a step back. She then rubbed her head while chuckling. “Sorry about that, Ms. Coin.”

     For the next while, Harmony spoke at length with the townsfolk about their childhood memories, their favorite melodies, and the universality of music. After a time, Neopians dispersed, their chattering hanging in the air until almost evening. Fireflies glowed in the streets, lighting lanterns for the now exhausted Harmony to wander back home.

     Before she left, she offered a gentler hug to Emerald, a gesture she hesitated from, but ultimately accepted.

     Firefly light glowed softly along an otherwise dark pathway to Harmony’s home. She lit a single candle, prepared a cheese sandwich, and laid down to sleep.

     The next morning, she awoke with a slight smile, recalling the previous night’s festivities as if a dream. Carefully she lifted the new boots from their box, hugged them tightly, and put them on her feet. They were remarkably comfortable.

     After arching her back to stretch, she set outside to water her beloved vine. But what lay before her was no vine.

     A marrow the size of her house covered the center of the plot. Only this was no ordinary marrow—it was bright yellow and shimmering in the sun.

     Harmony dropped her water can to the ground. Mouth agape, she stood in stunned silence. Nearby townsfolk were already starting to gather, pointing and chattering over the spectacle.

     It took until a flipper gently tapped her shoulder for reality to set in.

     “Uh, Miss Harmony.” Ernest had removed his glasses and was furiously polishing them with a cleaning cloth. “Are my eyes deceiving me? Have I lost my marbles to overwork or is that a marrow the size of a carriage? And that color…”

     But little the Bruce said was even registering. She turned towards him with acknowledgement, then turned back to face the enormous vegetable. Or rather, the enormous, golden vegetable.

     The land broker, and now his sister Emerald, slowly crept up towards the towering plant. He gave it a knock, then jumped back as if jolted by lightning. Confused, Emerald did much the same, down to her immediate shock.

     “Uh. Miss Harmony.”

     The Lupe pinched her cheek a few times, shook her head, and nodded. “Yes?”

     “T-this marrow. T-that is to say that this particular specimen of marrow…”

     “It’s gold.” Emerald gave it another knock. “It’s solid gold.

     “S-s-solid? Gold?” Harmony’s legs turned to jelly as she collapsed to the ground. “B-b-but how? How?”

     “Well, don’t look at me. This isn’t caused by any magic I know. Sure is weird, though.” Everyone’s gaze traveled to the red Zafara from yesterday. She was curiously poking around the vegetable. “And I don’t think Lisha has the capability to cast anything quite this powerful. Not that she would in any event—think of the chaos it would cause. Oh. Oh oh oh! My apologies!” The star clad Zafara offered a paw to Harmony, who still sat in a crumpled heap. She hesitantly accepted but had to be caught once again to keep from falling. “The name’s Kayla. I’m the court’s potion master and a part of the merchant’s guild. You have a lovely voice, by the way. I wonder if it carries a sort of magical ability? Or could it be that this soil is resonating with something else…”

     “Uhhh,” Harmony blinked a few times.

     “Well, in any event… it’s real.” Kayla inspected it with awe. “It’s really, really real. And it grew in overnight, too. Incredible. I wonder how…” she drifted off, practically prancing about in childlike glee. “I’ll be back in a jiffy. I can’t wait to tell my friends about this one!” From down the lane, she shouted to no one in particular, “Gosh, this is gonna blow Serian’s mind!”

     Meanwhile, Ernest put a flipper on Harmony’s shoulder. “Consider your plot paid for in perpetuity. Of course, if you fancy something more lavish… it is yours.”

     Catching her breath, Harmony managed to slow her racing heart. “I found a home here,” she said with a grin. “But more than anything else, I want my family to be worry-free. I want from the bottom of my heart for my parents to live happily so that they can sing without care, for my brothers to know not what hardship is, for this town to become my permanent dwelling.”

     The Coin siblings looked at each other, baffled.

     “Are you sure that’s all you want?” Ernest offered.

     “You could live like a queen!” said Emerald. “We could see to it that you’d live the richest of lives with all of the fineries Meridell has to offer.”

     Harmony bent down to hold a clump of dirt in her paws. “I have all that I need: a place to live, a plot to improve, friends who care, and a place to belong. There could be no greater life than that.”

     And so, a former pauper found the greatest of riches. If you stop by, Meridellians will tell you that she’s working her little plot each and every day. With the money she gained from selling the golden marrow, she bought topsoil, manure, house-improvement supplies, and a variety of seeds, but there was always a spot closest to her modest home for the marrow. Each seed would be gently patted into the ground. And each day she would sing softly to the plants with a lullaby. Although never again would there be a marrow of gold, she had found something far more valuable: friendships, family, and a place to call home.

      And during the harvest season, you will hear the merry tunes of Harmony, her parents, her brothers, and an excitable Puppyblew echoing through the streets as they regale a field of fans with their tales of sunny days and gentle breezes. And in those times the community shares in mouthwatering dishes, marrow pies and veggie stews, braised meat and colorful salads.

     Truly, there could be none happier than they.

     The End.

 
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