Stained Glass Windows
A story dedicated to artists and writers. I hope you enjoy it.
Ryan hated art.
Anything that involved art such as painting, poetry, stories, sculptures, and music; you name it, he hated it. Despised, loathed, abhorred, and detested every single thing that can relate to art.
But the Techo in camouflage color didn’t use to feel that way about art. Back then, you could say that it was the love of his life. When did it all change? When did he begin viewing what was exalted and brought amazement to many, with bitterness and repulsion?
It probably started back when he had just come of age. It was at that time that his parents had high expectations of him, and gave full and complete attention to what career he’d decide to take.
His father, a strong and willful type of person, had always wanted him to be a warrior.
“Think of how the masses would adore and respect you! Imagine the cheering of the crowd as you enter the Battledome, ready to strike fear into your opponents! If you train hard enough, you’d be so famous and well established that even the kings of different lands will want to make you the general of their armies!”
His mother, a practical and serious type of person, preferred he become a shopkeeper.
“Oh sweetie, why would you want to become a warrior? All those battles will only leave you getting hurt if you’re careless. Now a shopkeeper, that’s a very safe, wise, and practical occupation for you. So many opportunities to meet people, establish connections, and make loads of profit.”
And so at first, Ryan tried the path of a warrior. He didn’t like it all that much. Let’s just say that watching battles were much easier than being in the actual fight itself. He tried his luck with being a shopkeeper, but he only ended up losing money instead of earning a profit.
His parents moaned and argued with him to just keep it up and persevere, that eventually, he’d get the hang of it and improve. This kept going on for days before the jarring reality dawned into the camouflage Techo that neither of his parents really cared about what he wanted, but what they themselves wanted for him instead. It was at that moment of revelation that resistance had taken root in his heart and made him pursue a career that would neither give him fame nor riches.
He became an artist.
In retrospect, you might say that he was full of hopes and dreams. You could also say that back then, he was young. So young and blinded with resentment to his parents that he became deaf to the voice in his head that he should have persevered instead. At least if he persevered, he wouldn’t have been thrown out of what was once his home.
He wasn’t always the starving artist that he is at present. Years ago, he managed to scrape up a handful of admirers and fans. He was even given invites and commissions to work on a handful of paintings and some sculptures. But at that time, he felt that he was still to make his masterpiece yet.
The opportunity to make his masterpiece – which was to be a mural, came when a very wealthy faerie Uni, who had more than what she could ever spend in her lifetime, came to her one day.
“I have a vacant house in Brightvale that I want you to work on. No one seems to like the place because it looks so drab. Redecorating and refurnishing will take forever, so I decided to hire you instead. I’ve seen some of your works and I’m quite impressed. Perhaps you could do a painting or something to brighten up the place?”
Eager to please (not to mention make a large amount of money), Ryan accepted the job. His muse sang melody after melody, as he painted vigorously like his own hands had a will of their own. He neglected to eat and sleep. He didn’t care about himself or the outside world at all until he finished what was to be his greatest work yet. After a month of hard toiling, the camouflage Techo finally signed his name in the bottom right corner and stepped back to view the finished product.
Wild desert flowers and plants delicately bloomed in the borders of the image that stood before him. You could see masses of desert petpets spiral in a vortex of frenzy and savagery towards the center. At the very center of the painting, majestically stood someone he had only heard of before.
A brave and just looking Lupe stood proudly in the whirling sphere of desert petpets. Noble in its features, the fierce yet gentle eyes of the figure seemed to peer into your very own eyes. Ryan had never laid eyes on King Coltzan III, but he felt that he had captured the essence of the great king well enough.
The camouflage Techo had then sent word to the rich faerie Uni that it was finally done. Excited and nervous, he had hoped that this mural would be his lucky break into a world of fame and fortune. The faerie Uni arrived, took one look at his work, and shrugged.
“Well, it’s not what I had in mind, but it’ll do,” the faerie Uni remarked as she handed the payment to the camouflage Techo.
“You didn’t like it?” he gulped, taking the payment of five hundred thousand neopoints from her.
“To be honest, I was hoping your work would be more Altadorian in style. You know, like your painting ‘The Secret History’, or something like that.”
“But... I didn’t paint that...”
“What! You mean you’re not Elsie?!” she gasped. “I wasted so much on some painting made by a nobody?!”
Ryan was too stunned to wonder if he should feel insulted or pleased. In the end, he left the ranting Uni, taking the payment with him, and paying a large portion of it to some shady looking darigan Kyrii to spray a bit of graffiti on it. The camouflage Techo felt that he did a great service to Neopia by doing so.
Was it mentioned that Ryan used to have friends who were artists as well? The phrase ‘used to’ emphasized of course. Friends such as Elsie, (yes, the same one the faerie Uni mistook him for), Blain, and Lucas. He had long lost touch with them ever since their rise up the ladder of popularity. Well, actually, it’s more of them deciding to simply... forget about him. After all, who would like to be friends with a complete nobody such as him, right?
And so Ryan spent the rest of the days wasting away in a shack in Meridell. He became a complete bum, making a living from odd jobs at the farm or scavenging in the dump. He had given up on the career he had chosen for himself. His muse was coldly silent, and his hands no longer had life in them. He hadn’t held a brush or chisel for what felt like an eternity.
He was brooding over the biggest mistake in his life as he walked towards his next odd job, when a light faerie, softly radiant and gentle in appearance, approached him.
“Are you by any chance the one who had painted the mural of King Coltzan III?”
Ryan looked at the faerie with surprise; he didn’t think anybody aside from him and the faerie Uni knew about his self-proclaimed masterpiece.
“Come again?” He blinked, not quite believing what he just heard.
The light faerie repeated her question to the camouflage Techo.
“Yeah... I made that piece of junk. Are you here to punish me or something for making somebody’s eyes bleed or something?” replied Ryan.
“No... it’s not that at all. You see, a festival in Brightvale will soon be celebrated, and a wonderful exhibit of stained glass windows will be held in the castle.”
The camouflage Techo continued to stare at the faerie, not willing to get his hopes up.
“And how does this have anything to do with me exactly?”
“Well, I and a few other light faeries were thinking that you could make one for the exhibit.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Ryan mumbled. “I’m a complete nobody! Why don’t you ask Elsie or some other famous artist out there instead? I’m sure they’d do a better job than I do. Heck, I’m not even what you call a has-been. I’m a never-was.”
“But don’t you see? This could be your chance to shine! Stop wallowing in self-pity! Are you, or are you not going to make windows for the castle?”
Minutes passed as the light faerie’s eyes bore into Ryan’s like his painting once had. All of a sudden, he could softly hear the aria of the muse he had long thought deserted him.
“But... it’s been so long...” the camouflage Techo sighed.
“If you’re worried about financial matters, I assure your payment.”
“Okay, fine. I accept. But don’t come crying to me that King Hagan wants to burn down my work.”
“Marvelous!” She clapped her hands, and together, the light faerie and the camouflage Techo made their way to Brightvale.
Ryan then began reminiscing, as he once again saw the flourishing land of Brightvale. He was busy mulling over his past in the place that he failed to hear the light faerie’s instruction.
“Were you even listening to me?” she said.
“Huh? Oh, sorry. What did you say?”
“I said go to the castle and check the dimensions for the windows. You’ll also meet other artists that I’ve asked to make stained glass windows as well. Isn’t that exciting?”
“Well, I still say you’re making a big mistake.”
Once Ryan made it into the castle, it seemed that the light faerie had commissioned four other artists as well. Just his luck, he knew all four of them.
A Maraquan Cybunny stood proudly in the group, her eyes surveying the place with complete utter boredom.
“Elsie...” Ryan found himself uttering. The Maraquan Cybunny heard him; he was sure she did. As usual, she chose to ignore him like she had for so many times now, and continued surveying the castle.
A green Blumaroo had his eyes closed, but Ryan remembered them to be dark brown. As always, he was strumming a guitar that according to him, helped with the creative process. Blain might deny it, but it was true that he was a frustrated musician.
In one corner, a ghost Quiggle was talking to himself or most probably to the castle walls themselves. His red eyes peered almost everywhere they could in a manner that spooked Ryan even then. Let’s just say that when Lucas “forgot” about Ryan, the latter was relieved.
The last artist, a blue Shoyru was busy scribbling something in her hands. The camouflage Techo had never met her, but he had heard a lot about this artist. She was one of the “new” talents that were discovered in Neopia. She was an artistic genius that would never tell anybody her name and preferred to be called with the nickname, Princess. The blue Shoyru had spent the recent months producing artworks like mad, or so he had heard.
The camouflage Techo felt so out of place and insignificant. He considered bolting out of the castle, but then he realized that he didn’t really have a place to go.
“Looks like I’m stuck here” Ryan muttered to himself.
“Everyone here?” the light faerie called as she arrived. “I’d like you to meet the last commissioned artist. He is – “
“Don’t bother, Sidney,” Elsie shrugged, “we don’t have the time and we have a deadline to meet.”
“Yeah, the sooner we start, the sooner we finish,” chirped Princess.
Sidney frowned slightly and seemed unsure. “Well, alright. If you guys say so...”
Ryan hated art more than ever at this point, but a job was a job. He should just get it over with.
Over the next few months, the artists began working with each of their own stained glass windows. Ryan noticed that the other artists would go about and add suggestions to the other’s work, but the four didn’t seem to notice him at all. He didn’t blame them really, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.
The artists soon had to present their design to Sidney, before they started turning them into glass. The light faerie was both kind and honest, giving constructive criticisms and pointing out the positive and negative. She even made everyone comment on each other’s work.
Ryan was quite surprised and pleased when the group gave a positive feedback to his work. The camouflage Techo gave the others a much deserved positive feedback as well.
However, Ryan felt that something was still missing in his work.
He had voiced this concern to the other artists, but they simply shrugged it off and said that it was wonderful as it was.
“It’s only because it’s yet to be made into glass, but you’ll feel it’s complete once you see the finished product,” Blain explained.
“Don’t tell me you’re getting self-conscious about your work...” Princess said with an arched brow.
Elsie and Lucas said nothing. They always did prefer receiving praises and comments rather than giving them, but even with their approval, Ryan felt it was incomplete. It took only four words from Sidney before the camouflage Techo figured out what it was.
“It has no heart,” she said before bidding everyone good night.
That evening before the designs were to be made into glass, Ryan scrapped his original design. With maddened vigor, he began to draw a pattern, and the sensation he once had with the mural was felt once more. Gone were the faeries he had painted. Gone were the colors of fiery crimson and royal azure. Gone was the heartless mask he had created to simply satisfy the other artists.
What replaced it all was a myriad of colors and shapes. No discernable pattern was forming, but Ryan somehow felt that something would surface and take shape soon. Exhausted, he soon quickly finished before heading off to sleep. For the first time in ages, he did so with a smile on his face.
His masterpiece was finished.
When the day the festival came, the windows took their place within the castle, and everyone from all over Neopia came to see the exhibit of stained glass windows.
“Oh, such an exquisite work! You have my praises, Miss Princess!” a red Acara squealed with delight. The blue Shoyru’s window had captured the majesty of King Hagan. It had also captured the adulation of the crowd, and Princess deserved each and every praise.
“I am in great awe of your work, Sir Blain!” a royal Kyrii remarked as he gazed at an abstract window of different motes.
“You never fail to amaze me, Miss Elsie!” a spotted Kougra praised. Elsie’s window depicted a beautiful and colored scroll in a wonderful pattern background. It was fitting that a wonderful work will receive wonderful praises.
“This is truly inspired,” a starry Shoyru remarked over Lucas’s window of the Wheel of Knowledge in lively colors that seems to spin in a whirlpool.
And as for Ryan’s work, let’s just say that it was overshadowed by the other windows. The camouflage Techo felt at least relieved that nobody had declared his work to be an abomination and implored the king to take it down.
While more people were still coming to see the exhibit, Ryan slipped out of the castle and made his way to his old mural. He didn’t know why, but he felt like seeing it, even if it was another one of his pitiful attempts for fame and fortune. When he thought about it, Ryan felt that those things didn’t really matter anymore.
He arrived at the empty house... it was run down and abandoned. Apparently the faerie Uni hadn’t bothered even selling it. He looked at his mural, which was covered in graffiti. Deep inside, he felt like destroying the mural. Tear it down piece by piece.
But instead, he sat down and stared at the mural for hours.
Did he still hate poetry? Did he still hate music? How about sculptures and paintings? He asked himself.
Did he still hate art?
A voice in Ryan’s head told him that he should know the answer to that.
It was then he realized he had never really hated art. Not even for one brief moment. The truth was that he just didn’t understand what it was about until now.
When he finally returned to the castle, the exhibit was over.
“Everyone’s gone to celebrate in town,” Sidney explained as she saw the camouflage Techo enter.
“I’ve had a long day,” she continued. “I was surprised with the design of your window. You didn’t ask for my approval.”
“Well, it had nothing inappropriate in it.” Ryan chuckled. The two of them stood beneath his window and stared up at the colored glass.
“Do you know why I chose the five of you to make the stained glass?” Sidney asked.
Ryan shook his head.
“Stained glass windows are beautiful on their own, but they become even more beautiful with light.” She began. “When I looked at the other’s works, I could see a part of them in it, shining wonderfully with light. When I saw your mural, I saw your heart in it in spite of the graffiti, and I wanted to see the beauty a heart like that would have with light shining through it.”
The camouflage Techo blinked in surprise and stared at her the way he did back in Meridell.
“I like how you replaced the faeries with a kaleidoscope. It’s not as elegant, but then again, it’s more relatable to everybody. The way we always change with a twist or a turn,” Sidney continued.
“No,” Ryan simply said.
“No... what?” it was the light faerie’s turn to blink.
“No, the kaleidoscope isn’t more like us.” He grinned. “It’s more like our hearts.”
“Yes, you’re right.” Sidney nodded as the two of them continued to stare at the stained glass windows.