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The Pianist's Quandary: Part Three

by micrody


"So what did you do?" Nevan asked Ellamara as he swept the ballroom's floor the night after Ellamara had agreed to let him restore her house to its former beauty.

     As she played the piano, her song slightly a bit less doleful than the night before, Ellamara answered. "I cannot recall if I was truly a princess or not, but my father always called me his little princess. After I became a ghost, when I woke up here, he was nowhere to be seen. I am not quite sure what happened to him... I miss him terribly."

     Nevan sighed sadly, though he continued to sweep.

     "Anyway, though, I used to play the piano at all of my father's banquets. We had at least a dozen chefs and they would cook the finest food in all of Neopia! Of course, I had not tasted all of the food in Neopia, but that is what my father used to say. It is sad how, when I awoke here, playing my piano, all of them were gone. Sometimes, I wonder if they have all died as well, or if they simply moved away and forgot about me..."

     Nevan had nothing to say in response, so he let Ellamara continue.

     However, she did not continue talking of her past. Instead, she asked of Nevan's. "What did you do before you moved to Faerieland?"

     "I had my own Neohome in Neopia Central," Nevan answered, wiping the sweat from his brow and admiring the large pile of dust that he had already swept up. "I used to work with the Neopian Stock Market. I made millions, still have most of it, too, but that life simply wasn't fulfilling for me. I wanted something more. So, I moved here."

     "But why Faerieland?" Ellamara asked and stopped playing for a moment to gaze at Nevan as he swept, trying futilely to sweep up every last fleck of dust that had become, in the past hundred years, a part of the floor itself. "There are so many wondrous places in Neopia; what made you choose to move to Faerieland?"

     Nevan thought for a moment before he answered. "I had initially thought of Mystery Island, but there was nothing there for me. It's too carefree there. I need to work to keep sane. I need order to be happy. Yet, I needed to get away from the ordered chaos of Neopia Central. It seems everyone new to the world ends up there, and that causes a lot of confusion. I didn't want that. Faerieland seemed to be the place for me. It had work, yet it wasn't chaotic like Neopia Central has become. Not too overcrowded, you know?"

     Tentatively, he added, "And it's a good thing I came to Faerieland, otherwise I would've never met you." Glancing sheepishly at Ellamara, Nevan caught the slightest twinge of a blush in the ghost Xweetok's cheeks. Happily, she returned to her piano, and he, to his broom.

     The next night, Nevan showed up to the house with a long rod that had a claw-like structure on one end that had been covered with hundreds of scraps of cotton fluff. When Ellamara asked him what he planned to use it for, he didn't answer with words, but instead reached it deeply into the high shadows of the room and started gathering the innumerable amount of cobwebs that littered the ballroom.

     "Nevan," the Xweetok asked as she played her piano, "what day is it?"

     "It's a Tuesday," Nevan answered, grunting slightly as he swung the long rod around a chandelier, only narrowly missing it mid-swing.

     "And what is the year?"

     "I've always considered it to be Year Eight."

     "Year Eight of what?" Ellamara asked, her song pausing awkwardly.

     "I'm not sure," Nevan said lightly. "Since about eight years ago, Neopia has been using a new numbering system for their years. Come to think of it, I can't remember what year it would be now if we hadn't changed to the new calendar system."

     Ellamara sighed. "I remember when I was alive... I do recall it was the year 1453 of the reign of Morrighan, who was then the Faerie Queen. Now, the Faerie Queen is Fyora and the year is eight." Ellamara played a few sullen notes on her piano and sighed. "Do you know why Morrighan is no longer the Faerie Queen? And is it, perchance, that it is the eighth year of Fyora's reign?"

     Nevan grunted as he lowered the rod and sighed. "I don't think it's year eight of Fyora's reign; she's been the Faerie Queen a lot longer than that." The blue Wocky looked around the high shadows of the room, trying to see any cobwebs that he might have missed. "To be honest, Ellamara, I've never even heard of the name Morrighan."

     "Oh, I see," the ghost Xweetok said quietly, her voice as soft as ever as she returned to playing her piano. "Once must wonder, or at least I must wonder, what happened so many years ago that the world as I knew it has changed so much since then... "

     The next night, Nevan spent his time with Ellamara scrubbing the walls of the ballroom, which had already begun to recover some of its lost sparkle with simply one less layer of dust on the floor and all of the cobwebs removed.

     Tonight, it was Nevan's turn to initiate the conversation when he asked Ellamara what Faerieland used to be like when she was alive, or at least when she wasn't a ghost. She stopped playing her piano and closed her eyes for a moment, conjuring a mental image of the past before she finally answered the question.

     "It was very different than today. The houses were simpler, and Faerie City was very much smaller. Then, only a few towers existed where Morrighan dwelled. Fyora must be a much kinder Faerie Queen if Faerie City has expanded so much.

     "When I was alive, Neopia was under the rule of Faerieland. At that time, the rule of Neopia shifted. At first, long, long ago, Tyrannia ruled, and then there was rule from Terror Mountain. Those times were cold... not necessarily dark, but cold. Then... well, my knowledge of Neopia's history is not as good as it once was. Who rules Neopia now?"

     Nevan couldn't help but laugh. "No body 'rules' Neopia. Many countries are independent now, like Tyrannia, Terror Mountain, and of course, Faerieland, too. The world is such a vast place... I guess they just realized it was too much for one person to rule peacefully. What was the rest of Neopia like?"

     "Oh, I do not know, Nevan," Ellamara said. "I never left Faerieland. My father was quite protective of me; he hardly even let me out of the house. It was like he was hiding the world from me. I have no idea why he would have done that, but it always seemed as if there were more to the world than what I was allowed to see. I guess it was just a child's curiosity; after all, I was quite young then." Without hesitation, Ellamara turned back to the piano and begun playing it once again.

     Over the next few nights, Nevan and Ellamara talked very little as Nevan explored the rest of the house and was unable to talk while he cleaned if Ellamara was to play the piano. Nevertheless, the two chatted now and then when Ellamara would take a break from playing the piano to welcome Nevan or to wish him a good night when he left.

     Another few weeks or so passed before the entire house, which was much more like a mansion than a simple Neohome, was entirely swept and relieved of its thousands of cobwebs. However, the entire house was far from finished. A few stairs needed repairing and many doors had fallen off of their hinges in the house's disuse. Many more of the chairs and furniture needed repair as well. In the last days of this house's life, Nevan imagined, it must have been trashed by monsters, or at the very least, angry Neopians.

     After a few weeks, Nevan had completed all of the house's repairs, though the house was still grey with more than a hundred years of grime. As time went on, however, the house continued to get brighter and brighter as room after room was cleaned entirely. Finally, Nevan took his work outside and finished the last bits of work that had to be done.

     At long last, after months had passed, the house had been restored.

     "It is beautiful," Ellamara said with awe as she and Nevan ran through the house, admiring its newfound glory. The wooden floors were now a dark brown like the brown fur of most Xweetoks. The walls had been painted and repainted until they shone with a new splendor the likes of which Faerieland had never known. The ballroom was the most beautiful of all. The floor scintillated in the starlight; the burgundy and deep-blue stone tiles that made up the floor were celestial in their beauty. The high ceilings were illuminated by dozens of luminous candles, the light of their serene flames sparkling off of the shimmering, golden chandeliers. Even the piano had been polished and it now glowed with a newly restored aura of beauty and elegance.

     "It's wonderful," Ellamara exclaimed as she gazed around the ballroom and then directly at her piano, which was still tucked beside the tall window that encompassed nearly the entire right wall of the room. The window itself, which weeks before had been strewn in tattered rags and shattered glass, was now draped with burgundy curtains that flowed flawlessly over glass that was now clearer than the purest of waters in all of Neopia.

     Ellamara could think of no more words to say, so instead she turned towards Nevan and reached her arms out to him. But her hug was unfelt, however, as her arms passed through him. Over the past few months, the Xweetok had come to love dearly her new friend. And yet, as much as she wished to thank him with a caring hug, she could not.

     The ghostly Neopet drifted somberly back to her piano bench and sat down. She placed her paws upon the keys and for the first time in weeks, her song was sad and doleful once again. Her sadness, having been pushed aside by a friend, had since returned.

     Feeling unable to do anything to comfort his friend, Nevan whispered a good night and left, walking sadly back to his house down the street. As he crawled into bed that night, the blue Wocky decided to take a day off. He had more important things to do than work.

     * * *

     "Ellamara," Nevan said the next night as he stood in the ballroom's doorway, holding his paws behind his back, "do you remember the question you asked me a few months ago?"

     The ghost Xweetok stopped playing her song and turned to face her friend. "No," she whispered, shaking her head lightly, "what question was that?"

     "You asked me to find out if you were dead or not. I didn't have an answer then, but I have an answer now. I know how we can figure out if you are dead or alive."

     "How?" Ellamara asked, her voice sounding hopeful as she stood from her piano bench and floated nearer to Nevan.

     "With this," Nevan said and pulled a Faerie Paint Brush out from behind his back. "If you can be painted, we'll know that you aren't dead, but alive."

     "But..." Ellamara whispered, "I cannot go out in the daylight, and we will never make it to the Rainbow Pool in time..."

     "Yes, we will," Nevan said, "I have a Uni Taxi waiting outside." Ellamara's eyes burst to life with a new sense of hope and she ran towards Nevan, who led her outside and into a two-wheeled carriage that was attached to a friendly-looking Uni. The Uni began striding forward, the carriage's wheels rolling along the street and the sound of the Uni's hooves like a heartbeat in the sky. A moment later, the carriage was lifted from the street and the Uni began flying them towards Neopia Central, the wind blowing into their faces.

     * * *

     "Here we are," Nevan whispered as the two walked up to the Rainbow Pool hardly an hour after they had boarded the carriage. The pool's water was still before them, the reflection of Neopia's moon flawless upon its silvery surface.

     The two Neopets were silent as Ellamara walked to the water's edge and then slowly waded into the pool until she floated in the center, treading the water around her. Nevan walked quietly up to the pool and dipped into it the Faerie Paint Brush, which dissolved into a pastel stream of colors that soon covered the entire Rainbow Pool.

     Hesitantly, Ellamara submerged herself beneath the water.

     Nevan was silent as he waited. The water became still, yet Ellamara still had not emerged from the pool. The wind blew quietly past, rustling through the leaves of a nearby tree. The stars sparkled in the sky. An orange flash scuttled across the surface of Kreludor. The waters of the Rainbow Pool became clear as crystalline glass, the pastel colors fading away and the few ripples left there rippling towards the center of the pool and vanishing.

     Ellamara broke free of the water, rushing into the sky upon wings of translucent glory as silvery drops of magic departed from her tan fur and fell through the air, catching the moonlight and igniting the night with wonder and amazement, silver rainbows sent cascading across the pool. A moment later, the Faerie Xweetok landed before her friend and flapped her diminutive wings, still not believing that this was all happening.

     "Thank you," she whispered to her friend, taking his paws in hers for the first time in her life. "Thank you, Nevan, so very, very much. You have given me new life, allowed me to be whole again." She smiled happily, feeling more elated than she had ever felt before. "More importantly, Nevan, you have been my friend, my very dear friend." She dropped his hands and gave him a hug, wrapping her arms tightly around him until they almost tumbled over in happiness.

     * * *

     "Might I have this dance?" a blue Wocky dressed in a suit asked a Faerie Xweetok who was playing the piano in a ballroom full of dozens of Neopians, all dancing in unison.

     "But who would play...?" the Xweetok asked quietly.

     "Nobody has to," Nevan said with a grin.

     "But somebody has to," Ellamara protested.

     "I can play," a nearby Shoyru said and Nevan recognized her as the Employment Agency's receptionist.

     "There you have it," Nevan said, taking Ellamara's paw and lifting her from the piano bench. "Someone will still be here to play the piano."

     "Yes, I suppose," Ellamara said, still reluctant to leave her piano.

     "Now," Nevan said as the Xweetok followed him to the center of the ballroom, "let us dance." And dance they did, the Xweetok's burgundy and deep-blue gown spiraling around her, conjuring an image of sheer royalty and splendor that would never be matched again upon the cloudy, enchanted streets of Faerieland.

The End

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Other Episodes

» The Pianist's Quandary: Part One
» The Pianist's Quandary: Part Two

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