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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 4th day of Relaxing, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 88 > Short Stories > Pain In the Piano

Pain In the Piano

by terrabondayle

Pre-reading Author's Notes: I have to thank my music teacher for having a similarly bad experience with his hoarse-throated music teacher. I know I am mean. The addresses used have no connection with anyone, should someone own a NeoHome on those streets. Ms. Diastole is a fictional character so please do not Neomail me saying how your teacher Ms. Diastole is a sweet and kindly person, because they are not the same people. However, I do appreciate feedback.

The faint notes of music drifted up the stairs and filled the house with a soft, melodious tune. It was a simple song-for one who does not have fingers cannot be expected to play something complicated-but it was filled with energy and expression. Those who had enough perseverance to perfect such classical pieces were less numerous now and instead, preferred the loud, booming music that caused many to lose a good portion of their hearing.

     Upon hearing the piano being played, DenorAiDevlin a skunk Eyrie, flew in a trance down the stairs, following the invisible path of sound. He floated as though in a dream into the living room where his bond-sister RaigaraRanailez, an Island Uni, was playing the piano. Her eyes were closed in the bliss of listening. She had played this piece many times and knew it from memory. Devlin noticed she never stumbled on a wrong note. Even if she did, it sounded correct.

     Her Weewoo, Sylune, was sitting on the piano top; her eyes also closed in happiness. A moment later, Calanthil fluttered up and joined in the listening. As Raigara reached the final, double forte notes, the petpets jumped to avoid being shaken by the sound. A decrescendo and the notes faded into the air.

     "You amaze me again, bond-sister," Devlin said with a smile. "But what is particularly amazing is that you have never been taught."

     Raigara flushed. "Well, I suppose it could be some hidden talent… but it really isn't a big thing. There are certainly better pianists out there."

     "Perhaps, but they must have had training of some sort. And what about you, Raigara? Have you considered looking for a teacher to further bring out your abilities?"

     The Island Uni looked thoughtful. "I have thought about it once or twice, but I have never thought over it seriously."

     "I think you should at least give it some thought. Your playing is truly wonderful, and I could only marvel at what it would become if you had someone to teach you more." The Eyrie nodded to himself and left the room, Calanthil by his heels.

     The Uni sighed as her bond-brother left the room. "You mistake me, Devlin," she said softly. All I have are hooves and what beautiful music could I play with such primitive tools? Might as well let Sylune play with her feet." The Weewoo, quiet as always, gave the Uni a reproachful glare, her tail swishing irritably.

     The Uni took her petpet in her hooves. "I'm sorry, Sylune. Although the piano may not be your instrument of choice, I should not have made such a comparison."

     Sylune ruffled her down coat indignantly, but was satisfied.

     Raigara sighed. "What do you think? Should we go look for a teacher?" The Weewoo nodded and chirruped softly. Raigara stood up and let Sylune down. "As long as I can still keep on playing the way I am…"

***

Down the streets of Neopia Central, pets and owners alike were busily going from shop to shop. Raigara, along with Sylune, walked down to the residential area, following the address directions they had received from the bulletin board messages. They reached a humble looking house with a fitting brown roof. The garden looked nicely tended to and the whole place seemed welcoming.

     With newly gathered confidence, the Uni walked up the porch steps and rang the doorbell. After a moment, a hoarse, croaking shout of 'WHAT?!' was heard coming from inside. Startled, Raigara blinked and remembered to speak.

     "Um… I'm here to see Ms. Grace Diastole for the piano teach-"

     "One minute!" the raspy voice shouted. "Give an old elder a moment to get to the door!"

     Raigara shifted her hooves nervously outside the door. It opened and standing before her was an old, haggardly Techo, a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. She stared down at the Uni from over her glasses, her eyes weighing the pet before her like a scale.

     "So!" Raigara tried not to cringe at the sound of her voice. "A new student, eh? It hasn't been that long since my last one. After all, 20 years isn't a lot when you're my age!"

     Her laughter was worse than her voice.

     "But what are you doing, just standing here. Come in! Come in! We'll test you and see what level you're at." Her eyes gleamed with the judging scales again. "Have you had previous teachers?"

     Raigara stepped in cautiously. "Huh? Oh, no… I-I'm self-taught…"

     Ms. Diastole raised an eyebrow. "Really! Well, that is something. I suppose we'll have to start you off earlier in the basics than I expected."

     The Uni twitched with indignation. "I… I suppose. But weren't you going to hear me play, first?"

     "Oh, yes, of course." She looked over Raigara again. "But look at yourself! You have hooves! How can you play the piano properly?"

     Another twitch. "I try my best, Miss, albeit I cannot play anything complicated, I play what I can the best I can."

     Ms. Diastole sniffed, but led them to the living room where a grand, black piano rested. Raigara sat tentatively on the seat; her hooves were already itching to play. Suddenly, the elderly Techo's throaty cry rang in the room.

     "What's that thing doing here! Shoo! Off the piano you lice-infected fuzzball!"

     "Sylune!" The terrified Weewoo leapt into Raigara's arms and began to keen piteously.

     Ms. Diastole's shadow loomed over the Uni and her petpet. "No friends!" she croaked in a no-nonsense tone.

     "But Sylune is-"

     "I said no friends!"

     "Please! Sylune won't be any trouble, I promise!"

     The yellow Techo glared, but nodded curtly. Sylune stopped her keening but still trembled. Ms. Diastole pulled out an old music book, turned it to a random page, and dropped it on the piano stand.

     "Play!" she barked.

     Raigara almost jumped out of her seat. She settled herself and looked over the music carefully. It was a simple piece that she had played before many times, and from this, she drew her confidence. Her hooves danced across the piano keys, and she re-created a musical microcosm. She looked up only once during the time she was playing and saw her soon-to-be teacher caught in the musical trance.

     It's working! she thought silently. The Uni smiled and continued through the maze of notes.

     When it was over, she let her hooves off the piano gently, with a touch of grace, and waited, hiding her expression of satisfaction. Ms. Diastole's eyes opened, but they were narrowed. Raigara gulped.

     In a placidly, sound voice, Ms. Diastole said, "You played the staccato notes legato in bars 2 to 5, played F natural instead of sharp in bar 21, played too loud in bars 24 to 36 and missed the Sforzando in bar 18. Your music lessons will commence tomorrow, and from then on, you will come here 6 times a week for lessons. If you wish, you may have your owner negotiate the fees tomorrow."

     Raigara's jaw dropped and Sylune stared wordlessly. This was not what she had in mind.

***

"No! Not like that! You are an eight beat too slow. Keep the tempo!" Raigara sped up her notes but missed a triplet in the process.

     "You missed the triplet!" her voice snapped harshly. "Play that section over."

     "I can't, please, my hooves are tired," the Uni moaned pleadingly.

     "Stop slacking! You will play it over and over until you get it right!" Her dry voice sounded in her ears until she could no longer stand it.

     Over, and over, and over, and over…

     She woke up screaming. Sylune jumped awake at the sound, and sounds of objects falling to the floor in the room next door suggested that Devlin had also awoken.

     "Raigara? Are you alright?" he asked from outside the door.

     It was a dream, she thought to herself relieved. "Yes, Devlin," she called just loud enough for him to hear. "It was just a nightmare."

     Devlin opened the door a few inches. "Do you need me to get you something to calm your nerves? Thistleberry tea? Hot soup?"

     "No, I'm fine. You can get back to bed. Thank you, Devlin."

     "Sleep well," he said, and closed the door behind him.

     Raigara sighed and checked the clock. The hands pointed at 4:12 AM. Tired as she was, she could not sleep. It was only 5 hours until her next music lesson; until another day of her teacher's ragged voice berating her for every detail missed. I have to do something. It cannot go on like this forever. One day, I will tell her that she must put away that whip and learn some compassion…She stared at the ceiling of her room, and waited for that day.

     Until the day finally came.

     The wooden baton came down with a crack on Raigara's hooves once more. It had been weeks of labouring practise and she feared that this experience would cut away her interest in music forever. She moaned and rubbed her sore feet gingerly.

     "Stop exaggerating," her teacher barked. "It doesn't hurt that much. How are you going to learn anything if you're so rickety?!" The Uni cringed again at the old Techo's voice. She wondered how anyone could stand listening to Ms. Diastole for more than 2 minutes. Raigara certainly could not.

     "Play it again! With the dynamics this time!"

     It was with dynamics the first time, she thought sourly. You just lost your hearing aid… Raigara dared not to mutter the slightest word under her breath for fear of the wooden baton coming down on her purple wrists. She began to play, fiercely concentrating on every detail.

     Unfortunately, she missed one. "NO! B flat in the key of F!" The baton came down once more, but this time it was intercepted by an unexpected, flying Weewoo. Having seen enough of her friend's torment, Sylune leapt from her stand on the piano, crashed into the stick, and landed in a heap onto the floor.

     "Sylune!"

     "Stupid bird! I told you it was a nuisance, but I softened at the time. I knew I shouldn't have let that dastardly thing in the house to interrupt your learning."

     Furious, Raigara jumped to her feet. "Learning?! What learning? I'm not learning anything from you! The only thing I am getting is a coat of purple without the paint brush.

     Ms. Diastole gasped. "Why, you ungrateful-"

     "I have nothing to be grateful for. I will never learn anything from you and your pain-inducing methods of teaching. From now on, I am no longer your student!" She picked up the dazed Weewoo from the floor and headed out the door.

     "You'll regret it, Uni!" the Techo cried after her, waving her baton in the air. "We'll see who else can teach you as effectively as I can! Just wait and see! You'll come crawling back in no time!"

     Her cries faded as Raigara sped away, letting the wind carry her wherever it willed. Sylune clutched onto her mane and held tightly.

     "It's okay, Sylune. We'll find someone else who isn't as crabby and demanding. I hope…" Her despair made her run faster until she could no longer feel weariness and lost track of time.

     "Whoa, Uni! I bid thee hold!"

     Raigara screeched to a stop and turned around to see an Air Faerie glide down towards her with silver wings that reflected the sun. Although she had nothing to fear, she took a step back warily. "How may I be of service, Faerie of Air?"

     "Why so apprehensive, dear Uni? Have you not been given a quest before?"

     "Well, yes… I have."

     The Air Faerie examined her for a moment. She took one hoof carefully, and her eyes seemed to grieve. "I can only wonder at the tale of a Uni, whose wrists are bruised yet she has been speeding the winds so fast that they left blisters as their reprimand."

     Raigara loosed the Air Faerie's hold and looked away. Until they had been mentioned, she had not felt the sores of her wounds.

     "Will you tell me the reason for such injuries?"

     "I…" The Island Uni took a deep breath and let her story flow out. The Faerie listened attentively, and made a few non-committed sounds. Her face remained passive.

     "But now that I think about it… was I too harsh? I really do appreciate the lessons, just not her method of teaching them."

     "Harsh? I do not think your teacher will take those words at heart. However, someone should tell her excessive hitting won't help students learn faster… Perhaps I will look into that. In the mean time, I understand what you feel. I once played the piano before I became a full-time Faerie," she chuckled softly at her memories. "I think I can help you. Come to 214323 Faerie Avenue tomorrow and…"

***

Raigara stepped flew peacefully into he residential square of Faerie City, a book of sheet music held in a newly strengthened hoof. She looked about nervously, but all the passing Faerie faces were friendly. The house she was looking for came into view, and she landed carefully on the front step. She took a deep breath and knocked gently on the door.

     "One moment!" a harmonious voice drifted out from inside through the open window. The door opened and a young, yellow Kyrii stood at the entrance.

     "Hello! You must be the new student I was told about. Please come in," she smiled warmly and gently led the now, shaky Uni into the house. Raigara could not help but twitch at her touch.

     The Kyrii looked at her, startled. "Oh dear, why are you so tense? Relax a little, or you won't be able to play to your full standards!" She patted the Uni's shoulder to try to calm her. Raigara blinked.

     "Your voice… so clear… you're not going to hurt me?"

     The Kyrii looked at her incredulously. "Of course not! What ever gave you such a notion?"

     "Past experiences," she said still in a daze. Finally, she smiled back at her new teacher. She would forget her old nightmare and start her experiences anew.

The End

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