To all the wonderful authors of The Neopian Times, both old and new, and
the yet to be . . .
As I peered out of my NeoHome’s windows, I could see
the Neopian sun hanging low in the eastern sky, shooting off vibrant hues of
purple and pink. Hardly a sound was to be heard in the entire Neopia Central
neighborhood where I lived. The lovely flowers in my Neogarden were laden with
morning dew. I smiled widely. It was time!
I burst through the doors of my NeoHome with
unmistakable excitement on my face. I raced across the soft, emerald grass of
my Neogarden and bounded cheerfully down the street. Everything was so perfect!
The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and the morning air was brisk and clean
– just the way I liked it! A gentle breeze carried distant Beekadoodle songs
to my spotted Gelert ears. Even the flowers seemed to be cheerful, showing off
their bright colors to anyone willing to take the time to look. Yes, today was
the perfect day to bring the Central Gelert Choir’s Neopian Tour to a close.
I had only joined the choir a few months earlier,
but somehow I had qualified to go on the tour around Neopia with some of the
most talented Gelerts in Neopia Central. We sang almost everywhere; before Mumbo
Pango in Mystery Island, at the Townsquare in Tyrannia, even before King Skarl
in Meridell! But, despite all the well-known places we had visited, we decided
to save our finale for the place that mattered most to us: Our home, Neopia
We had always sung in front of strangers before,
but now we would finally be able to show our family and friends how good our
choir was! I tried to expel some of my excitement by skipping around puddles
from the Rainbow Pool, but it was no use. I was so glad to be performing at
home I simply couldn’t calm down!
I raced past Hubert’s Hotdog Stand and the Chocolate
Factory, then around the Wishing Well and past the Alien Aisha Vending Machine
before finally looking up at my destination. It was a modest building, not nearly
as opulent as King Skarl’s palace, or as colorful as Mumbo Pango’s retreat,
but it was perfect for a hometown performance. Neopia Central’s Neoschool gymnasium’s
brick walls were painted a pretty light blue all the way up to its curved roof.
Small, green bushes surrounded the entire building, and brand-new rowzez were
planted on either side of the entrance. I grinned, knowing the school janitors
had been busy making the gym look tidy.
I could already hear the excited chatter of my
fellow choir members inside the gymnasium, so I went inside after I paused to
smell the pretty Rowzez. Inside, I could see we were expecting a large crowd
– rows of chairs reached all the way to the back of the gym, and the stage was
placed as far on the opposite side as it could possibly go. I crossed the gym
floor, noting its freshly polished surface beneath my paws and admiring how
clean everything looked. This was certainly a special occasion! I had never
known the school janitors to go to such lengths to make the gym look this nice.
I mounted the stage and quickly found my seat
beside one of the best singers in the entire choir, a checkered Gelert named
Daera. No – she wasn’t one of the best singers; she was the best
singer! Everyone marveled at the beauty of her voice. It was tender and kind,
yet forceful and distinct. Daera could lull a babe to sleep as easily as she
could excite a crowd with her enthusiasm. Anger and peace, grief and joy were
all things she was able to express with the greatest of ease. I could only hope
that one day I would be like her.
Daera looked at me and smiled as I sat down.
I couldn’t help but grin back. After I joined the choir, Daera had taken the
time to work with me on my singing and help me improve to the point that I could
go on tour. If it hadn’t been for her, there was no way I would be sitting where
I was, next to her on the last day of our tour. But Daera was more than a mentor
to me; she was my friend. On days when I was homesick, Daera was always willing
to talk about it. We kept each other laughing at our silly jokes and ridiculous
stories. We even got into trouble together when we decided to go exploring in
Taelia’s quest headquarters.
But I noticed something in Daera’s eyes as I
returned her smile, something I hadn’t seen before. It was a joyful look, but
also a little sad at the same time. I wondered if she was feeling sad about
the tour coming to an end and asked her about it, but she shook her head. “No,
Leial, everything is great,” she replied. I wasn’t sure whether Daera was telling
the truth, but I had never known her to lie. I decided to say nothing more about
it and listened to our director who had just come onstage. Our director was
a rather robust silver Gelert affectionately known as ‘Marv’. He looked up at
us with a wide grin on his face and began leading us through our pre-performance
Performing in the morning was one of the trademarks
of our Gelert choir. Marv thought everyone’s voices sounded better in the morning
after they had been rested and insisted that we practice and perform before
noon. Most of us disagreed with his sentiment, since almost everybody woke up
with ‘Mortog Voice’. But the silver director held true to his rather strange
custom, and we were willing to comply with his demands.
After our rehearsal, we waited backstage while
our audience arrived and was seated. I sat on a bench quietly, listening to
the bustling and chit-chat of the growing crowd. This was the part of performing
I hated most -- waiting. There was too much time to think about what might go
wrong; missing a note, falling off the stage, suddenly losing my voice, a surprise
attack from evil Meepits... even the most ridiculous scenarios entered my mind
at a time like this. I had learned while on-tour to distracted myself by watching
choir members talk. Watching others was a little boring, but it was better
than thinking about Moach-eyed Meepits overtaking Neopia.
Before long, my eyes rested on Daera, who stood
off to the side speaking with a rather official looking Kacheek dressed in an
expensive, dark blue suit. I had never seen him around Neopia Central before,
and was more than a little curious about why Daera would be speaking to such
a stern looking Kacheek. Just when I stood to investigate, our director prompted
us to take our places onstage. We were due to perform in just a few moments.
Daera immediately bade the Kacheek goodbye, and joined me in the line to go
onstage. We filed out and stood in our proper places, waiting for Marv to come
make his customary introductions.
In a few moments, our director finally appeared
and began welcoming the crowd and telling them about our Neopian Tour, detailing
several of our experiences. I had heard this speech several times before, so
I entertained myself by squinting through the bright lights to look at the crowd.
Hundreds of Neopians had come to see us! I thought I could see members of each
species in the audience! Poogles, Chias, Meercas -- even a Krawk or two! I was
amazed so many Neopets had come out to see our choir perform. I was sure this
performance would be one of our best.
Soon after Marv finished his address to the audience,
he turned to face us and put his paws at the corners of his lips, reminding
us to smile. Everyone sang beautifully! The melodies and harmonies flowed together
so well, it was as if we had been singing together all our lives. Daera’s solo
was especially moving. She really put her heart into what she sang, and it showed.
The simplicity of her voice only brought more life and fullness to the notes.
I don’t think anyone who listened wasn’t touched by how she sang. I wanted to
both laugh and cry when I heard her, but, of course, I restrained myself and
concentrated on the sound of her soprano voice echoing off the walls of the
After our performance, we politely talked with
members of the audience who wanted to congratulate us. We smiled and said our
thank-yous and even signed a few autographs! Talking to everyone was a special
experience, especially since we were in our hometown! I felt so honored
when little Ixi came and asked me to sign their autograph books! However, the
real star of the hour was Daera. A never-thinning mob of Neopians crowded all
around her, asking questions her questions and telling her how much they enjoyed
Daera responded to all this in her usual, humble
way. She never frowned or rolled her eyes at a single question, even the ones
she had been asked three or four times before. I quietly watched Daera with
admiration. It wasn’t until the last of her fans left that Daera finally moved
from her spot. To my surprise, she didn’t come sit with me, as was her custom,
but walked to the back of the gymnasium and began talking with that same strange
Kacheek! She was quite excited as she talked to him, but her voice also seemed
to carry a bit of sadness. I was immediately reminded of the look in her eyes
I had seen when I had first sat down on stage. I sat on the front row for awhile,
quietly watching the two of them chatter. I wondered what they were talking
about, but didn’t dare guess for fear I would be wrong.
After awhile, the Kacheek finally left and Daera
came and sat beside me. Just as I was about to ask her what was going on, our
choir director called us together to discuss our performance. Marv thought it
was important to discuss our concerts as soon as possible after the performance.
I snorted and followed everyone back onstage and sat down. I was tempted to
whisper a question to Daera, but I decided against it. Marv hated it if we talked
when he wanted our attention. Instead, I folded my paws and quietly waited for
him to begin speaking.
Usually, Marv would start one of these conversations
with ‘So, how do you think our performance went?’ But today was different.
Today, he started with a solemn but excited voice, “Everyone, there’s something
Daera wants to tell you about.” With that, he motioned to Daera to take his
place in front of the choir and sat down.
As soon as Daera looked up at us, I could see
that sorrowful but glad expression in her eyes again. Somehow I knew that whatever
she was about to say would explain the conflicted expression etched in her checkered
face, and something told me that Kacheek would be involved.
It took a few moments for Daera to say anything.
As great as she was at singing in front of crowds, she had never really like
speaking in front of them. She looked down at her black and white paws before
staring back up at us. “Everyone,” she began, “I’ve been invited to join the
All-Neopian Choir.” This announcement was immediately met with a shouts and
cheers from everyone. The All-Neopian Choir was a group made up of the very
best singers from every Neopian species from every corner of the planet! To
be in that choir was to be one of the best of the best, and we were all extremely
happy for Daera. Oddly enough, Daera merely looked down and waited for us to
finish cheering. “But...” she began to fidget with a long ear, “that means I
can’t be in this choir anymore.” She looked up at us, the sadness in
her eyes now fully revealed. Everyone fell silent. Somehow in the midst of our
happiness for Daera, we had forgotten the fact that the All-Neopian Choir was
so demanding of its members they never had time to be in other choirs. “I have
so many friends here,” Daera said hurriedly, “I promise I’ll come back and visit!
I love you all...” She looked down, obviously distraught.
We sat there in silence for a few moments, completely
dumbfounded. Daera was leaving us? Our best singer, the one who had pushed us
and encouraged us to do better, to give everything we had to singing, was leaving?
How would we get on without her? Nothing would ever be the same without Daera
to push us on. She was one of the main driving-forces behind our Gelert Choir,
and none of us knew what to do with the notion of her not being there for us
Daera looked completely disappointed, and rejected.
I could tell she had hoped we would be happy for her. She turned to go back
to her seat when a Gelert boy in back shouted out, “Daera, you’re awesome! Go
for it!” With that, almost everyone resumed encouraging Daera, shouting encouragement
and praise her way. We knew this was something Daera had wished for, and so
everyone decided to put his or her own disappointment aside to congratulate
her. Everyone, that is, except me. I simply couldn’t bring myself to pretend
I was happy for her. I could see she was relieved the majority of us had accepted
this change, but as her eyes settled on me, she looked disappointed.
Marv quickly went to the door of the gymnasium
and brought in the Kacheek Daera had been talking to earlier. “This is Mr. Cambiare,
everyone,” stated the director, “He’s the All-Neopian Choir’s head scout.”
Mr. Cambiare proceeded to tell us about the All-Neopian
Choir and how the recruiting process worked. He even complimented us on how
good our performance was and said many of us had a chance of being invited to
the Choir when we had improved a bit more.
But no matter how great I knew this was for Daera,
I couldn’t help feeling betrayed at losing such a vital member of our Gelert
choir. I thought Daera was my friend! Why was she doing this? Why was
she leaving? Didn’t she know I needed her? I couldn’t understand her reasoning.
Sure, the All-Neopian Choir was more widely known and had a better sound, but
what was wrong with staying in the Central Gelert Choir? Here she was loved
and cherished! Who knew what would happen to her as soon as she left? She was
deserting us, deserting me.
I meandered slowly out of the gymnasium as soon
as we were dismissed. I purposefully avoided Daera. I needed to think things
over – figure out what was going on. I felt sick at the thought of not hearing
Daera’s beautiful voice at our next practice. My heart ached when the reality
hit me that I wouldn’t be seeing my friend again for a very long time.
I walked past those same lovely rowzez at the
entrance to the gym downcast and sorrowful. The cheerful sun no longer reflected
my mood. Daera had a real chance to do something she loved for the rest of her
life. She could sing and express herself in ways impossible in our Gelert choir.
She would meet new friends and set new goals. She would pass me by. I couldn’t
stand those thoughts, simply because I couldn’t see myself with Daera in the
All-Neopian Choir. I would never be good enough to join her!
My mind began to dwell on future without Daera.
It didn’t look like the Central Gelert Choir would be going on another tour
any time soon. Would we ever have another talented Gelert like Daera? And worse,
what if Daera forgot about us? What if she didn’t fulfill her promise to come
back and visit? If she did come back, would she be different? Were we going
to lose our humble, sweet Daera due to her new success?
As I slowly past the Alien Aisha Vending Machine
and plodded around the Wishing Well, I felt like I was going to cry. By the
time I had reached the Chocolate Factory I wiped the first tear from my eyes.
I tried to comfort myself by thinking of what Daera might sing at a time like
this, but thinking of her only made things worse. I shoved all thought of Daera
from my mind and determined to walk home without another thought to the whole
situation. I began kicking a rock ahead of me, forcing myself to only think
of the rock until I got home.
I was passing the Rainbow Pool when I heard it;
someone singing off in the distance. It was a kindly, clear voice that echoed
in the barely-busy streets of Neopia Central. I couldn’t make out the words
to the song, but the voice struck me so much I curiously followed the sound
around the Rainbow Pool and up to the top of a small knoll.
In the middle of the knoll sat a tiny, young
Gelert, singing a children’s song about the Rainbow Pool as she watched Neopets
paint themselves. Her voice was so sweet and innocent... so soft and pure I
sat behind a bush and watched her for awhile.
As I sat watching the tiny pup, the answers to
my questions finally came to me. Daera had matured. She had grown up. It wasn’t
that she didn’t love our choir anymore or that she was hungry for fame, she
had simply outgrown it. That didn’t mean she didn’t care anymore. It didn’t
mean she cared nothing for me anymore. It simply meant she needed to move on
and find something new that challenged her to become a better singer. Our choir
had been a steppingstone for her to reach her ultimate goal of making singing
her lifelong career.
As painful as it was to see Daera move on, I
could easily see now there would always be other talented Neopians willing to
step up and fill the void left behind with their own unique, beautiful voices.
The tiny, ruby-colored Gelert before me was a testament to this. She looked
a little too young to join our Gelert Choir this year, but maybe she could join
next year. As I listened to her, I was sure she would make a fine addition to
As soon as the Gelert stopped singing, I came
out from my hiding place. She was a little startled at first, but I quickly
smoothed over my abruptness by introducing myself, “I’m Leial, what’s your name?”
“Saewan,” the little Gelert replied, looking
a little nervous.
“You have a very pretty voice,” I smiled, trying
to look friendly. After all, I didn’t want her to think I was mean!
The pup looked up at me with big brown eyes,
“You really think so?”
I nodded. “You know, I’m in a pretty nice choir.
You’re probably a little young to join right now, but I know our director would
love to listen to you!”
At this, Saewan’s ears pricked forward and she
asked with genuine interest, “Really? I’ve always wanted to sing with other
Neopians! Do you think I could join?”
I nodded again, “Certainly, when you’re old enough.
You’re really good!” We talked for a few more minutes until Saewan’s mother
called her. She gave me a childlike hug and pranced off, shouting to her mother
about an all-Gelert choir she wanted to visit.
As I walked down from the knoll, I noticed the
sun was now in the middle of the sky. How things had changed in one morning!
But I knew this change was for the best. After all, if people like Daera didn’t
eventually move on, our choir would become full of the best Gelert singers in
Neopia Central, and there would no longer be room for Neopets like Saewan and
I, who were new to singing. I realized I too would become a good singer, maybe
even as good as Daera. My season to be in the Central Gelert Choir would come
and go. I would eventually move on as well, but there would always be others
to take my place. And if I ever wanted to come back and visit my old choir,
there would be a group of Gelerts who loved me and would welcome me with open