I can clearly remember my first owner. Ciera was truly elegant. She was the only person to whom I could ever owe my allegiance. She knew me. Understood me. And abandoned me.
3rd year, 10th month, and 4th day of imprisonment
That distasteful Pink Usul, Lenina, gave me this fluffy “diary”. “So you can record your thoughts!” she giggled, “Gosh, I can’t believe you don’t have one! They are, like, the new thing!” As thoughtless as she is, she does have a point. When I finally get out of this prison and begin my legacy, I will want to remember the hours spent in resentment and misery.
3rd year, 10th month, and 10th day of imprisonment
Lenina’s sister, Ninale, who happens to be a Baby Usul, (the most obnoxious type) asked me why my previous owner painted me Darigan. “I mean,” she sputtered, “It’s just not pretty. Like, think how cute you, a Kougra, would look as, like, a Baby or Faerie!” I merely cast her a scornful glare, not feeling her worthy of my attention. But her question brought back a memory that had been lurking on the surface of my mind for a while. A memory of that day, the day I got painted. Ciera came home on a rainy day, drenched and carrying a large, slightly soggy package under her arm. Hishen and Fente pestered her, wondering if it was a present for them. Xelen and I hung back, aware she would reveal her secret soon enough. Slowly, she knelt down before me and handed me the package.
Looking into my eyes, she whispered, “For you, Zetstar. So that the world can know your courage!” I warily unwrapped the bundle, aware it could be any sort of trap. Instead, there was a gorgeous, faintly glowing Darigan Paintbrush.
For the first and only time in my life, I said, “Thank you.”
3rd year, 10th month and 17th day of imprisonment
Those pesky Usuls, Lenina and Ninale, finally got adopted today by some seven-year-old girl wearing a pink, feathery boa. She was extremely excited that they were sisters. She exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! It’s, like, a set!” Pets like owners, I guess. I’m relieved they’re gone. Seeing them together reminded me of my siblings, Hishen, Xelen, and Fente. Hishen, a mutant Hissi, barely spoke; he mostly grunted and, what else, hissed, but he was a hit at the Battledome. Anyone who hasn’t seen Hishen do his Fire-breathing-pound hasn’t truly lived. Xelen, a ghost Ixi, was almost always silent and sometimes rather frightening. She had a knack of staring at you in a way that let you know she could see each and every thought in your head. She really scared Fente when she did that; she used to stare at him to make him behave. Fente was a Halloween Uni; Ciera always said that it was the only proper Uni color. Fente was hardly proper, though. Being rude was his favorite past time.
But Ciera always said I was her favorite. “You have spirit, Zetstar,” she’d murmur, “Some day you’ll be greater than Sloth himself!”
3rd year, 10th month, and 20th day of imprisonment
I have a new cage-mate now. A white Grundo by the name of Invise. He’s much less irritating than the Usuls and has proved to be a vital source of information. He proclaims that pets are here for one of three reasons; their owner no longer cares for them, the owner is broke and can’t afford them, or they are sick and the owner doesn’t want to buy medicine. I snarled when I heard of this, “What kind of pet care is that! They treat us as inferior beings, provided only for their amusement!”
The old Grundo just looked at me. “That’s the way of the world, isn’t it?”
I gifted him with an icy stare. “Well, I intend to change that!”
Invise grinned. “Youngsters, always thinking they can take on the world. Anyway, to change anything, you got to get out of the pound!”
“I will!” I vowed. The fact that the adoption interview today had gone badly didn’t matter. The prospective owner wasn’t a owner I’d put up with anyway. She wanted a painted pet but wasn’t ready to attempt adopting a Darigan pet with an attitude.
“He’s so evil!” she had announced. “Can’t you find me something nice?” And just because almost all interviews went this way doesn’t mean anything. Someday the right owner would come for me!
3rd year, 10th month, and 26th day of imprisonment
Today while I was talking to Invise, he asked me why I was in the pound. “You talk about your owner like she’s Fyora herself, and yet, she’s the one who dumped you in here!” he said. “What’s your story?”
“None of your business, Grundo!” I snarled, showing all my pointed teeth.
“Okay, didn’t mean to ruffle your feathers,” he said placidly, looking directly at my purple and black wings, “Just an honest question out of curiosity.” But he couldn’t stop the flood of memories consuming all of my mind, going back to the day we lost everything. Ciera had come home later than usual in a black dress completely devoid of garnishes.
She sat us down and said in a low, sad voice, “A thief has stolen all my money and taken all my valuable items.” She paused and looked at our faces. “I cannot support all four of you anymore. I will place all of you except Xelen in the pound, but do not give up hope and let some petty Neopian adopt you. Wait for me. When I’ve restored my money, I will come for you.” The next day we said goodbye to Fente and the day after to Hishen. Then came the day where I would leave. The morning was bleak and gloomy and we felt small drops of rain as we walked to the pound.
As we entered, the Uni at the counter looked up and sighed. “Welcome to the pound. The adoption center is to the left. The room of abandonment is to the left. Have a nice day.” Ciera turned to the left and strode down the long hallway to the room of abandonment.
Before she placed me in the arms of the pound volunteer, she whispered in my ear, “Wait for me, Zetstar, I’ll come.” She never did come. I’ve given up hope of that.
3rd year, 11th month, and 2nd day of imprisonment
Curse that Grundo! Invise got carried off today by some elderly man who had a weakness for Grundos. Invise grinned at me over his owner’s shoulder, as if to say, “That’s how you get an owner!” I scowled.
3rd year, 11th month, and 24th day of imprisonment
This was, possibly, the worst day of my pitiable life. I was almost adopted by the most perfect owner ever, except, of course, Ciera. A lady walked into the pound and said in a strong, clear voice, “I am looking for a Darigan pet. I would like to see them all.” The only current Darigan pets were myself and a Wocky named Zana. The lady stared at us as we entered the room. She smiled at me. “A Kougra, huh? I’ve always wanted one. What is your name?”
I looked up coolly, as I had practiced for so long. “Zetstar.”
She frowned slightly, although I could not fathom why, “So you are male?” I nodded, disturbed by the frown creeping across her face. She turned to Zana. “What about you?”
Zana smiled wickedly. “I’m Zana, miss. So pleased to make your acquaintance.”
The lady smiled. “I’ll take this one,” she said, pointing to Zana. Zana smiled smugly at me. I gave her my coolest and most scornful look. I could swear I saw her shiver. But I have given up all hope. No one wants me. I am too powerful or scary or insolent for someone to truly want me. I will no longer write. My life is at a dead end.
1st day of Freedom!
My life has taken a twist no one could have imagined. Today, I was adopted. I was sitting in my barren cell, wondering vaguely when I would next be fed. I had not been fed for a few days because my feeder was afraid I’d bite his hand off. For some reason people are abnormally afraid of Darigan pets. Unfair, really. So, while I was dwelling on food, the door of the pound opened and in sauntered a beautiful lady. She was elegant and refined. But her image was completely ruined by the Baby pet she was holding closely. “I want to see all the Darigan pets in the pound,” she announced.
The Uni at the counter grinned at her. “Miss, no offense, but are you sure you can handle a Darigan? I mean, if you are used to Babies...” she tactfully let her voice trail off.
The lady gave her a scornful, icy glare. “Lucy isn’t mine. I’m pet sitting.”
“Oh!” exclaimed the Uni, blushing, “Well, come this way.” She led the lady to my cell. “This is the only Darigan pet currently,” she said as she unlatched the door and let me out. For the first time, I got a full view of the lady’s face. It was... Ciera! Ciera in all her glory and looking richer than ever. It took all my self-restraint to not smile and grovel at her feet. I did almost fall over from shock. “His name is...”
“Zetstar. I know,” said Ciera. She knelt down and said to me, “Zetstar, would you like to go home?”
I shook slightly as I gave my answer. “Yes.”
On the walk to her house, Ciera told the story of her rise back to riches. “You see, Zetstar,” she said, “I never did catch the thief. Xelen and I had to start from scratch. We did many odd jobs until we created the idea of pet sitting. As you know, many people just don’t trust the hotel to take care of their pet, especially the high-end type, like me.” Zetstar remembered her disdain for the hotel. Three years ago she had said, “The rooms are dingy and the food is fattening! I would never let you stay there!”
“Yes, I do remember you despising them,” I answered.
“Right!” said Ciera. “So Xelen and I did some advertising and people were really liked the idea. We made a business out of it. It’s hard work, since most people of my status have Baby or Pink pets. It took all my self-restraint to accept pet-sitting them. You don’t know how whiny and annoying they are! Anyway, about a year along we reopened our shop and ever since, the money has just been piling up! We found Fente on Wednesday and Hishen the day after. They’re back home and settling into their lives again. Oh, and I bought some gorgeous Battledome equipment for you. I think we should start training again as soon as possible!” Ciera flashed a smile at me, “Now, what’s your story?” I slowly went over my story, carefully making sure my details were right. Ciera was a good listener. She smiled and frowned in all the right parts. At the end she sighed. “I’m sorry Zetstar. I did not mean to make it seem like I abandoned you. I wanted to wait until I had enough money that there was no need to worry.”
I smiled wickedly. “It’s all right. Besides my time in the pound has given me a new goal. I want to have an organization that makes sure pets are being treated fairly. I don’t want pets to go to the pound just because their owner no longer finds them amusing or because they are sick. It’s unfair and cruel. And I’m going to put an end to it!”
Ciera applauded me. “You are truly noble, Zetstar. I’m sure that someday every pet will know your name and thank you.” I smiled. I had no doubt she was right.