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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 21st day of Eating, Yr 21
The Neopian Times Week 51 > Continuing Series > The Crows: Part Two

The Crows: Part Two

by geovii

SUNDAY. 12:00. THE doorbell rang. Alistar got up and slid open the door.

     "Hi, Alistar. Ready to rock?"

     Alistar stared. "May? Is that you?"

     She nodded.

     "Yes, well... you... er.... look... different."

     May smiled and nodded. "How do you like my new look?" She pirouetted daintily on both feet.

     Gone were the shining ribbons in her hair and tail. She now sported a bright read bandanna around her head with a white 'M' emblazoned on the front. Her light blue tank top read ROCK 'N ROLL in rather sharp black letters surrounded by some little pink hearts and a rainbow. Her paws sported a pair of black gloves with the fingers cut out, in some vain attempt, perhaps, to achieve what one could call 'cool'. And, though he wasn't quite sure, Alistar thought he noticed glitter around the area of her eyes.

     "It's... different?"

     "Thanks. You have no idea how good it feels to finally be out of that horrible pink waitressing dress."

     "And I hope I never do. Where's Flick?"

     "He's bringing the equipment. Flick!" she cupped her paws over her mouth and shouted down the hall. "Hurry up with my keyboard!"

     "Don't have a Kau, May! I'm hurrying as fast as I can!" came the muffled, echoing reply.

     "You play the keyboard, too?" asked Alistar.

     "What, like it's hard? All you have to do is push buttons."

     "Push buttons..." Alistar repeated. He'd never stopped to really think of music in terms of pushing buttons, but now that he did it made a sort of sense. After all, Wock 'Til You Drop topped the charts in Tyrannia, and all they did was hit things together. Pushing buttons? Well, why not?

     "What's taking Flick so long?"

     "Oh, the equipment wouldn't fit in the elevator, so I had him take the stairs."

     "What, your keyboard and his guitar wouldn't fit in the elevator?"

     "Well... we brought just a leeeeeeetle bit more than that."

     "Like what?"

     "Like that."

     Alistar looked in the direction May was pointing. A Monoceraptor sized pile of speakers, microphones, lights, wires, and recording equipment was making its way slowly down the hall. Trailing out behind was a yellow Shoyru tail.

     The pile stopped at Alistar's door. "Where do you want this, Alistar?" Flick's strained voice came from underneath.

     "Ah... anywhere will do."

     The pile met the floor with a rather musical crash. A cymbal rattled off down the hall.

     "Yeah... good... next time though, could you try aiming for somewhere inside the apartment?"

     "Sorry, Alistar. His heart's in the right place, but his brain decided to move out a long time ago." May rapped his noggin for emphasis.

     "Ow."

     "So let's get this stuff set up. Flick, get the lights. Alistar, if you wouldn't mind taking the mikes while I go get the speakers, I would be much obliged."

     "Where did you get all this, May?"

     "Like I said, I did some singing in college. This is surplus from my old band."

     "Surplus?"

     "Yeah, well, after we all graduated they hit it big in the music business. They got all this new equipment and let me keep the old stuff."

     "You didn't stay with them?"

     "Nope. They signed up with some big corporate sponsors and replaced me with another manager. So I left. No point in staying with them if I couldn't put my business degree to any good use."

     "You mean to tell me you gave up a perfectly good music career to wait tables at a coffee shop?"

     May laughed. "You know, that's exactly what they said to me when I left, and you know what I told them? I said 'we can't all start at the top' and that was that."

     Amazing, thought Alistar. This girl is either incredibly brilliant or criminally insane. And to think she wants to join my band.

     "Well, Alistar, whenever you're ready, we can start the audition."

     "Oh, right, the audition. Good. ER, what song did you guys have in mind?"

     "Well," said Flick "we could try Neohemian Rhapsody..."

     May shook her head emphatically. "No way. We're not ready for something that big just yet. Anyhow, we don't even have enough people for the vocals."

     Flick looked heartbroken.

     "Oh, Flick, I know it's your favourite song, but you know just as well as I do that we can't do that one yet. How about I'm Gonna Buy Me A Doglefox? You like The Myncis, right?"

     "Yeah, but can you really consider that one a rock song?"

     "Good point."

     They sat and thought for a moment. Suddenly Flick got up and shouted. "I've got it!"

     "What?"

     "How about I Love Rock N Roll?"

     May clapped her paws together. "Of course! How could we have forgotten? Flick you're a genius!"

     "You really think I'm a genius?"

     "Nah, I was just saying that for lack of a better cliché."

     "Oh."

     "Well, let's get to it! We have a rock band to join!"

     A shadow loomed in the hall. It moved with a slow but sinuous grace, and where it passed, darkness spread. One by one, the yellowed, upturned bulbs began shedding blackness in lieu of light. The air seemed to stretch thin to the point of snapping. Sound became muffled and distant. The darkness closed in on a single door. The echoing harmonics coming from within became magnified in the deafening silence.

     The shadowy figure halted at the door and listened.

     It's foot began tapping in time to the music.

     "Joan Jetsam," said the shadow in not entirely unpleasant tones. "At least they have good taste."

     It stood there tapping its foot to the beat.

     The song ended with a guitar riff that screamed with vain self-indulgence. Muffled congratulations could be heard from behind the door.

     The figure's green eyes narrowed. "They have talent, no doubt about that. Not that it really matters."

     A dark hand reached for the door.

     "By the time I'm through with them, talent will be the least of their worries."

***

Doors weren't supposed to rumble. That was Alistar's first clue that something was up.

     The trio stared at the door as it slid open in the manner of all doors with something particularly nasty on the other side. Darkness spilled into the room like a fine mist. A pair of glowing green eyes penetrated the inky gloom, and the outline of a tall, thin being materialised ominously.

     Shrouded in darkness, the shape slid across the room, black vapour roiling about it, obscuring all but its eyes and form. Just as it neared Alistar, the smoky shroud slid away from the intruder.

     Alistar found himself looking up into the pale violet face of a Dark Faerie.

     Strangely, she appeared very well kept. Her clothes were not dark and tattered as one might expect from the sort, and her deep purple hair was short and straight with a streak of brilliant green. She wore a black tank top and shorts, and tall purple boots with green trim.

     "You!" hissed May rather melodramatically as she recognised the Faerie as the very same one she had served the other night.

     Ignoring the startled Usul, the intruder turned to the stricken Kyrii, whose face suddenly seemed much greener than usual. "Are you Alistar?"

     Alistar opened his mouth, squealed feebly, and nodded.

     "Good. I've been looking for you. Now, to business..." she reached behind her back. Alistar gasped and, with a sudden burst of courage, gripped his guitar by the neck and brandished it.

     "D... don't try anything funny. I've got an axe and I'm not afraid to use it!"

     The Faerie only smiled and brought her hands forward.

     "AAAAH!" Alistar dropped his guitar. "WAND OF DARK NOVA!" He tried to duck-and-cover and stop-drop-and-roll simultaneously, found some difficulty in this, and then fell to his knees, covered his head, and whimpered.

     "Pleasedon'thurtmepleasedon'thurtmepleasedon'thurtme..."

     Flick walked up to the pathetic shivering mass on the floor and tapped it on the shoulder. Alistar looked up.

     "They're drumsticks."

     Alistar turned an eye towards the objects in the faerie's hand. The sticks looked as if they were made of ebony. They were deep black, and a dark haze seemed to surround them, partially obscuring their tapered shape. Alistar could still have sworn they were a pair of the infamous Dark Nova Wands if it were not for the fact that the sticks lacked the telltale motes that would have adorned the tips of each.

     Nevertheless, Alistar found himself wishing that they were Dark Nova Wands. At least he knew what they could do.

     "You need a drummer," she said matter of factly. "Where are the drums? Never mind," she said before Alistar could raise a finger, "I brought my own."

     "Did you? But where..." Alistar began.

     He was cut off with a wave of the Faerie's hand. She pointed the drumsticks towards the makeshift stage. The group was blinded by a black flash (insofar as black can flash). When they opened their eyes and saw before them the most incredible set of cannons any of them had ever seen. May was speechless. Alistar drooled. Flick almost removed his sunglasses to get a better look, until he realised he was still in public.

     The drums were the same hazy dark colour as the drumsticks. The cymbals and hi-hat were a brilliant, luminous silver. Despite its utter blackness, the drums shined like freshly polished lacquered wood.

     "They're... beautiful..." Alistar said, wiping his mouth.

     "Excellent quality," added May.

     Flick whistled. "Bet they cost a bundle."

     "Actually, I made them myself in my spare time. Didn't have to pay a thing, not a single Neopoint."

     She walked over to the drums and seated herself, looking like some dark queen on her throne. A menacing glow came to her eyes. She raised her drumsticks and they glowed with a green fire. Her foot began working the pedal and the drums pulsed green with each beat, like the heart of some great beast.

     She let her sticks fall. Time seemed to slow as Alistar, May, and Flick followed their descent as if they were bombs ready to explode. Viridian sparks leapt from the drums as the sticks drew near.

     The sticks touched down.

     The room exploded with brilliant green light.

     The glowing rods flashed from snare to cymbal and back, whipping around the figure in the center, pillars of green flame erupting with each stroke. Possessed by some strange force, the drummer continued the barrage with a feverish might that would have shattered even the heaviest of Tyrannian rock drums. Even from across the room Alistar felt a breeze.

     Without warning, the pace quickened. The sticks danced gracefully in her hands. Twirling, whirling, jumping through the air, all the while green light played about her, sporadically highlighting her features. She spun about playfully in her seat, never missing a single beat.

     Alistar tried to think of some way to describe the drumming. It was too musical to call machine gun fire, but at the same time it was not musical enough to truly be... well... musical. It was something wholly other than drumming, yet there was no better word to describe it. Certainly not a cacophony, though Alistar had heard less noise at the Tyrannian Concert Hall on Victory Day. It was a performance, pure and simple, from the master of an art.

     The room started getting windy. Loose papers began floating about in little whirlwinds. Alistar's ears popped. The paint on the walls began to curl and peel. Flowers wilted in their vases, and every spoon in the dishwasher bent over double. Somewhere, a Puppyblew howled.

     With a deafening crash, the drumsticks fell for the final time. May's stage lights exploded in a shower of sparks. Every window in the room shattered inward. Flick's sunglasses cracked.

     Alistar got up shakily, trying to blink away the red spots that drifted in front of his eyes. His mouth hung limp, his eyes were half closed, and his ears were ringing from the deafening silence.

     "What... what kind of drums... are those...?" asked Alistar, stopping mid-sentence to catch his breath. His voice was almost non-existent in the wake of the Faerie's percussive shenanigans, and Alistar wondered if it was because he was going deaf.

     "These," said the Faerie, who had not even broken a sweat, "are what I like to call the Drums of the Dark Faerie. They're one of a kind, and the only drum set I've found yet that can handle my drumming."

     "What are they supposed to be?" said Flick, still in shock over his glasses, "A Battledome weapon?"

     "Like I said, they're the only drums that can take everything I can dish out. Here, take a look for yourself." She tossed a drumstick to Flick. He caught it in both hands and staggered back.

     "It's so heavy! And cold," he looked up. "What in Sloth's name are they made out of?"

     "That's a secret," said the Faerie. "But watch." She grabbed an ordinary cymbal out of the pile of equipment and tossed it up in the air. As it descended, she swung, catching the cymbal full in the center with her remaining drumstick.

     The cymbal never hit the floor. It had wrapped itself around the ebony drumstick in the Faerie's hand.

     "Whoa, powerful!" said Alistar.

     "I've never seen anything quite like these," said May, examining the drumstick in Flick's hands. "My brother owns a Wand of the Dark Faerie, and it doesn't have nearly as much Dark Magic at work as these seem to. Were they made by Jhudora?"

     The Faerie's eyes seemed to narrow at the mention of the name. She snatched the drumstick out of Flick's hands. "No, they were not made by Jhudora," she practically spat out the name. "I told you I made the set myself, including the drumsticks. The last thing I need is people to start thinking I needed her help."

     "I take it," said May, "that you and Jhud..." she stopped as the Faerie glared at her, "that you and... her... don't get along well?"

"No we don't, and if you know what's good for you you'll not press the issue any further and not say that name in my presence ever again, not unless you'd rather I pack up my drums and find myself another band. Now do I get the job or not?"

     May smiled and held up a finger. "Just a minute, okay?"

     The three huddled.

     "I don't know about you guys, but I'm for it," May began. "How many bands can say that they have a genuine Dark Faerie as a drummer, hmm? Not to mention her talent."

     "Look at what her drums did to my apartment!" Alistar hissed. "You want to release that into the public? We'd spend all our money bailing ourselves out of prison on reckless endangerment charges!"

     "Not to mention my glasses," said Flick. "Do you think I want to waste all my money on a new pair of sunglasses for every performance? And Fyora forbid they should break mid concert! I can't be seen in public without my glasses! It's just plain indecent!"

     May and Alistar looked at Flick quizzically.

     Flick smiled weakly. "And... just look what she did to the apartment!" he said, desperately trying to redeem himself.

     "Right," said May. "Look, I'm sure she won't be nearly as harmful out in the open. Just think about it! Can't you imagine what she can do for the band?"

     "But she's a Dark Faerie!"

     "She has stage presence! Just look at her!"

     Alistar looked. He couldn't argue with that. She was very much present, and probably wouldn't be any less so on-stage.

     "Okay... fine. She can be in the band as long as she promises not to break anything."

     "Especially my glasses!"

     "Good, so it's settled."

     The trio broke the huddle. Alistar walked up to the Faerie nonchalantly. "Okay, we've decided to give you a shot."

     The Faerie smiled. "I knew you would." She waved her drumsticks idly. The drums disappeared.

     "Just... ER please try not to... you know... break anything."

     "Whatever do you mean?" asked the Dark Faerie.

     "You know... like... well... my apartment..."

     "What? Oh! Oh. Yes, sorry about that, so sorry," she said, noticing the mess. "I'll have that taken care of, don't you worry. I'll do it personally if I have to. I know some great NeoHome decorators. If you like I'll treat you to a stay at my place till they're finished."

     Alistar shook his head emphatically. "No, no, that's quite all right, I'll just tough it out here for a bit."

     "Oh. Okay then. I'll keep in touch." She started to leave.

     "Wait!" called Alistar. She stopped and turned around. "I didn't catch your name."

     "My name?"

     "Everyone has one, or so I'm told."

     "Well then, you can call me," a pause for effect, then: "Umbriel."

     Alistar cringed. By the way she said it, it might as well have been surrounded by a scrolling marquee of thunder and lightning.

     "Right. Okay then."

     Umbriel smiled, then turned and left the room.

     "Did she seem at all odd to you?" Alistar asked when she was safely away.

     "Could be," May answered. "I'm hungry. Any of you feel like stopping by Hubert's?"

     "Good idea," said Flick. "And maybe pick up a few slushies on the way back."

     Alistar nodded in agreement. "Sounds like a plan. Let's go."

     The three walked out. Alistar shut the door behind him.

     A lighting fixture detached from the ceiling and hit the floor with a crash.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

The Crows: Part One

The Crows: Part Three

The Crows: Part Four

The Crows: Part Five

The Crows: Part Six

The Crows: Part Seven

The Crows: Part Eight

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