Nina wandered through the pound, glancing left and right at the cages. Atop each, a nameplate showed the identity of the neopet inside. The majority of these tags were plain and gray--some few of them were brightly colored and designed, but these seemed restricted to the painted pets, the ones whose previous owner had created one beforehand.
A few of the cages held well painted pets. Unlike most prospective owners, Nina ignored them. Several more held well named, though ordinarily painted pets. Oddly, she passed these too. The owner walked squarely to a tiny cage in the back that held a small red Usul. Her nameplate read Lrrnyane. Nina stopped next to the frightened-looking pet and handed over her points. "I want this Usul, please," she told the Uni firmly.
The adoption Uni cocked her head to one side. "Are you sure? Her name is unpronounceable, her stats are horrid, and she's just an ordinary red Usul."
For the second time, Nina smiled and just as firmly insisted, "I'd like to adopt this Usul, please."
Although confused, the kind Uni leaned over to unlock Lrrnyane's cage. "All right then, L. It seems someone has adopted you. Here's your tag, in case you'd like to keep it."
Nina leaned over and caught the tag from the Uni's hand, smiling. "Thank you. We'll keep it. Perhaps we'll drop it in the Mystery Island volcano!"
* * *
Lrrnyane ran to keep up with her owner. "Thank you for adopting me. I know I don't have a name... I'm sorry. I'm very nice, though! Um... what should I call you?"
Just then, Nina arrived at her house and led the confused Usul inside to a small doorless cardboard room. She gestured to the walls, which were covered with pictures, and, oddly, the nameplates from atop the pound's cages. "What do you see here, dear?" she asked Lrrnyane.
The Usul gazed at her new owner. "It's a bunch of neopets just like me, pets without names. But what about it?"
Nina smiled at the Usul. "You may call me the Namer."
Slowly, Nina led her new pet around the room, pointing to various pictures. "That is Danetil, and over there is the first pet I named, Larisa."
Lrrnyane looked mystified, which was understandable. "But that Grarrl doesn't have a name, much less a decent one like Danetil. He's called Ddntl035. And that Acara is Lrrrsssa."
The Namer nodded. "Yes, that is what they were called. But that is not what they were named. I... oh, just a moment." Quickly, Nina snapped a picture of the Usul. "This will go up with all of the others. Now... "
Nina almost had tears in her eyes as she held Lrrnyane. "Your name is pronounced Luh-rin-e-ana. You have a name, dear. You aren't nameless. That is what I do. That is why I am the Namer."
Lrrnyane felt her mind realize the importance of this. She was a somebody! She had a name, a true name, one that people didn't cringe at. She was crying with the knowledge. She had a name!! Laughing, Nina led the young Usul outside, and watched as the neopet cried out "I have a name!" over and over again.
The pair settled in chairs outside and Nina handed Lrrnyane a cup of borovan. "Do you mind if I call you Rinny?" she asked politely.
"Not at all," Rinny replied, delighted to have a name to draw a nickname from.
Nina sipped at a cup of tea before gazing at her pretty young neopet. "Would you like to know how I became the namer, Rinny?" she inquired.
Rinny nodded. "Yes! How did you start doing this?"
Nina relaxed. "I'd only been a user for a few months when the pet trading became allowed. The pets I had at the time had nice names. In fact, I'd been saving, so they were well painted. Imagine my shock when I went to the pet board! I asked as an inquiry what I might get for my pets, to judge how well I was doing in this new world.
"Several users popped up, offering their Darigan and faerie pets. One explained that they would over offer because their pet was badly named. I looked at their pet and convinced the user to let me meet her. I was astonished when she claimed that her owner's pets, her stepsiblings, shunned her because her name was bad. To me, her name was obvious! Inventively spelled, but obvious. However, for some odd reason, she insisted to me that she had no name."
At this point, Nina raised an eyebrow. "Gee, Rinny. Does that remind you of someone?"
Rinny giggled. "I didn't know my name then. Please continue, Namer."
Nina smiled and nodded. "I realized that there were a bunch of pets, considered badly named. They don't see past the spelling, and often the lack of vowels, to see the name beneath the covering."
Remembering her first visit, Nina smiled a bit. "I found Lrrrsssa almost instantly. It's always clear to me which ones need my help. The pets that seem to have the loveliest names are the ones nobody wants."
Lrrnyane looked at Nina with wonder. "You thought my name was lovely?" she asked, eyes wide.
Nina smiled, nodding. "Way back in the farthest corner, plain, simple... your name was the best in the entire place."
Shyly, Lrrnyane gazed down and shuffled her feet. "Namer... could I go back to the pound? I'm not fond of it there, but... I have a name now. I can find a home, and a family!"
Nina had to laugh at the Usul. "Certainly you can. Oh! Before I forget--here's some things for you. I try to get some little things for all of the pets I name... just to help you some, when you go back. None of them have stayed."
The Namer handed Lrrnyane a few packages. She squealed as she opened the first one. "Oh! An usuki! And a play set, too! Oh, thanks so much!"
Nina shrugged. "I don't think you'll be in long, but that's something for you to play with. Be more careful opening the next one."
Delicately, Lrrnyane opened the box and lifted out an altachuck. "Oh, thank you. Now I'll have a friend! And what's in this one?"
The Namer grinned as she leaned across the table to open the final box. Inside lay a simple paper tag, inscribed with the same name as the one hanging above Lrrnyane's picture, now taped inside the room with the rest. But where that one had been gray, this was a bright red, with carefully drawn bows circling the name. Lrrnyane clutched it tightly.
* * *
The next morning, Nina and Rinny headed for the pound. After dropping Rinny off, Nina headed for the adoption area and joined four or five other owners, searching for that perfect pet.
As she wandered aimlessly, Nina kept an ear out for the comments of other owners. About halfway down the row of cages, she met a red Usul, standing tall and clutching a neatly dressed usuki. Lrrnyane caught Nina's eye and glanced toward a blue Grundo whose nametag read Antrl. Smiling, Nina handed her points to the Uni. Behind her, a user stopped in her tracks to smile at Lrrnyane. The two pets, one who just found her name, and one about to find her name, parted ways just outside the pound. Both were smiling hugely.
Whoo! I'm in! Feel free to neomail if you have questions. Oh! and Antrl's name will be Anitarel.