The History of Backgrounds
Pete the green Kyrii settled down on the hill looking up on the Altador shores. He unfolded his easel and chose some paint colors. After arranging the paints on his palette, he began painting the lovely scene in front of him.
As you would guess, yes, Pete was an artist. Actually, a painter, to be specific.
Pete had painted so many places in Neopia. The beaches of Mystery Island, the caverns of Terror Mountain, even the reefs of Maraqua. And many... interesting scenes came to be when he was stuck at home, bored to tears.
Pete sighed, mixing together the shades or orange and yellow in the sky with his brush. He had endless compliments on his paintings; not a single negative one yet. But he just couldn't get to sell them. What was the point of a stupid painting, after all?
The dark orange rooftops of the Altador homes stood out against the rising sun, as it got lighter and lighter, endless shades of yellow and orange mixing together so smoothly. Crystal clear water rolled onto the shore, sunlight sparkling down on it. An Altador-style boat rowed by, in one perfect movement, docking by one of the buildings on the far side of the shore. A mountain climbed up the horizon, the Altador-style homes dotting the side of it.
Pete wasn't sure how he managed to paint the entire scene; but it came together nicely, pure perfection. He wasn't a huge fan of arrogance, but he did happen to be a fan of his own paintings. The Kyrii had managed to finish the sky before the color changed too much. He continued his painting, until the sun was high in the sky.
Pete was finishing up his painting, coloring the grass in front of him, by the time it must be past noon. Satisfied with his work, he swung his backpack off of his shoulders and unzipped it. He left his painting out to dry, setting out a red picnic blanket on the grass. He dug deeper into his backpack and grabbed his sandwich, eating as he watched boats come and go on the far side of the shore.
"Altador is wonderful," he muttered to himself with his mouth full. He had come here on a long three-day boat ride from Neopia Central just to paint a scene at sunrise, and it had been worth it by far. He had even seen some of the other Neopian lands on the way, such as Mystery Island and Meridell.
He was going to take a second boat ride home tonight. He just had to make sure his painting was completely dry. Packing up his picnic blanket, Pete gently dotted the painting with his finger all over, checking for wet paint. After finding none, he placed it delicately in his backpack, folding up his easel and preparing to head to the docks. He swung the heavy bag onto his shoulders and headed down to the shore.
He finally arrived into town. Neopets were busy running around with their owners, buying things from markets, or splashing in the shallows of the shore. Pete sighed. He had a wonderful owner and six siblings, but he traveled alone. It was much easier when he only had to look after himself and his paintings on his trips.
Pete slowed at a small stand in the road selling fresh Altador goods. He gave the Skeith a few neopoints and took a fig to snack on until he arrived at the boat. It was so sweet, nearly just like candy.
He finally arrived at one of the docks, with a boat headed to Neopia Central. It left in less than an hour. Pete had come just in time.
Heading up to one of the docks, Pete met up with the same captain that had taken the boat here. "Can I see that painting you were talking about?" the Lenny asked curiously. Pete nodded, unzipping his backpack. He slid the painting out, showing it to the captain.
"It looks more like you took a picture! You truly have skills." The Lenny nodded. Pete slid the painting back into his bag, putting it back on his shoulders. "Thank you, sir," Pete replied blankly, handing him some neopoints. He headed up onto the boat, settling down on a seat, watching the sun sparkle on the water.
* * *
"There he is!" Flow shouted from the shore. Flow was Pete's owner. Six neopets gathered around her, waving.
The boat ride home hadn't quite taken three days this time, but Pete was glad to be home. Altador was great and everything, but he did miss his family. He hugged Flow, her long red hair getting in his face. "Can we see your painting?" she asked hopefully. The other neopets jumped all around him, clearly excited to see it as well.
"Yes," he laughed, setting down his bag. He took his painting, sliding it out. He held it up for them to see. They stared in awe. "Wow!!" Pete's little sister, Catherine exclaimed. "I feel like I'm actually in Altador at sunrise!" The blue Acara's eyes were bright. His other siblings chimed in with their compliments.
"Thanks, guys." Pete sighed.
Flow ran her fingers through his thick Kyrii hair. "I'd like that picture in MY room," she declared.
Pete smiled. "Sure. It would match your orange theme," he said, placing the picture back.
Flow took his backpack from the ground and swung it over one shoulder. "You've been carrying this for days. I can manage," she said gently, starting to walk down the dirt road. Pete thanked her, following his siblings down into the trees.
It didn't take long to arrive at their wonderful home. They didn't live far from the shore. Flow unlocked the door, letting her neopets run into the kitchen.
The first thing Pete did was lie down on the couch, sighing. "I haven't had a good sleep in DAYS," he moaned.
Flow kissed the top of his head. "I know. Look, I'm going to go hang this wonderful piece of work up in my room, then go cook dinner. Just rest here for a bit."
Zo, a glowing Zafara and Pete's older brother, settled down in one of the chairs near the couch. He had a copy of the Neopian Times with the news page on it. He was reading it. "Listen to this, bro," he exclaimed suddenly, nearly jumping from his chair.
Pete blinked open his eyes, preventing himself from groaning. "What?" he snapped.
Zo clutched the news. "It says there's going to be a new thing called customization soon! We're going to be able to get dressed up!" he shouted.
Pete sighed. "I don't care. Hmf."
"They're going to change the way our profiles look, too," Zo continued with excitement. "We won't get to have our good old circle background anymore, though. Oh well, small price to pay."
Pete bolted up with a flash of excitement running through him. Zo was too wrapped up in the Times to notice. "I just had the coolest idea ever!" he exclaimed, running to his room.
He shut the door behind him, and began rustling through his drawers. Finally, he found it. A slip of paper with a picture of him, his statistics, and other information about him. His profile.
Pete looked around his room, so many paintings hanging on the walls. He grabbed his favorite one; a basic nighttime scene from Neopia Central. A crescent moon hung in the sky, stars dotting the scene around it. Darkness of the night engulfed the rest of the scene.
He jumped down from his bed; which was messy still, from him never making it. The Kyrii hopped to the other side of the room, standing the painting up, balancing it on the door. The profile camera had last been in his room, and right now it was in the corner, on its stand. He moved it forward, looking through the lens until it was focused on the background. He put the camera on a 10-second wait. He ran over to the picture, posing in front of it.
The camera printed up Pete's profile, but instead of the original circle background, it looked as if Pete were standing in Neopia Central at night. He gasped with excitement.
"Flow!" he screamed, dashing across the living room, arriving in the kitchen. Flow turned from her work over the stove, startled. "Look, look!" Pete shouted, handing her his profile.
She gasped in astonishment. "You added... a background." She hugged him. "That's one of your best pieces of work, too!"
"Uh-huh!" Pete exclaimed, snatching his profile back. "I'm going to contact the customization people and suggest my idea! Maybe they'll even want to use my paintings!" He ran back into the living room, snatching up the news and Neopian Times that Zo had abandoned. There was a "contact us" neomail option at the bottom of the customization article. Pete took it and quickly jotted down a good neomail.
* * *
The next morning, Pete was up extra early. He was very anxious for some news.
He sat on the couch, reading a book. The sun was barely rising. So much for a good night's sleep that night.
The neomail carrier arrived at the door, dropping the neomails in the inbox. Pete startled the Neopian as he threw the door open, digging everything out of the inbox and rushing back into the neohome.
A few mails were there for Flow, from friends, some for his siblings, and then there it was. A mail with the subject he had sent as "Customization Idea".
Pete tore open the neomail, barely able to keep himself from shaking with nervousness.
We appreciate your input for the customization idea and we think it is a great one! We would like you to come to the Neocash Mall later today or tomorrow and chat with a worker of ours named Brooke. She will talk to you about your idea.
Pete nearly screamed with excitement. "Flow!" he shouted, running across the room, nearly knocking down her door.
She was lying in her bed, hair a mess, blinking her eyes open. "What is it, Pete?" she moaned, yawning.
"Read my neomail!" Pete said, handing it to her.
Her eyes brightened as her eyes skimmed over the words. "Well, let me make us some breakfast and we can go. I saw the construction for that place going on when I was out grocery shopping in shop central." She quickly got up, shooing Pete out of the room so she could change. This was fantastic!
* * *
Neopians were already filling up the shops of Neopia Central, running errands and restocking. Smells of food drifted from the food shop, making Pete hungry despite his recent meal. On the far side, Pete could make out the NC Mall.
He ran along the dirt path, Flow at his heals. It was completely locked up, and two large Grarrls guarded the entrance. Tons of Neopians jumped around the outside, begging for a look in, screaming, filling the silent morning with noise.
Pete and Flow shoved their way through the crowd, making it up to the Grarrls, finally. "I'm Pete," the Kyrii shouted over the noise, "The one that came up with the background idea!"
"They've been waiting for this one!" One Grarrl said to the other. "You'll have to wait out here, Ma'am," they said to Flow.
"But-" Before Pete could hear his owner's protest he was shoved inside. It was huge. Sparkling clothing hung everywhere, accessories and trinkets too.
A blue Nimmo was sitting on a chair in the far side of the mall. Her hair was tied up in a bun, and she looked very serious. "Excuse me!" Pete called. "Is there anyone by the name of Brooke here?"
The Nimmo said nothing, but got up, and walked over to Pete. When she finally arrived a few feet from him, she replied. "I am Brooke. You must be Pete?" She shook his hand.
"Yes, I am. Now, about my idea-"
"This is what is going to happen," Brooke cut him off. "You're going to supply me with more of your paintings, and I will supply you with neopoints you can use to open a neopoint store. Everything I reject is yours to sell in your shop. Backgrounds are going to be a hit--I can tell. Are we understood?"
Pete nodded. This was so exciting. He was going to have his own store.
"I brought some of my paintings with me. They're smaller versions, though." He dug in a smaller sack he had brought, laying each background out. In reality, he had brought every painting he had ever made here.
Brooke knelt down, placing the background in two piles. Pete was astonished at some of the things she had rejected--his moonlight painting, especially.
She scooped up the pile she had chosen, handing him a sack of neopoints. "Use that to open your shop," she advised. "I want you to paint me up seasonal backgrounds as well. Halloween, Christmas, and all that."
Pete nodded, ready to explode with happiness. He darted for the door, sliding out as Neopians attacked the nearly opened mall.
"What did Brooke say?" Flow called. As Pete caught up to her, they started away from the noise, and it was easier to talk. "The best thing ever. She took some of my paintings for a background shop in the NC Mall, and paid me neopoints. I get to use them to open a shop with the rejects!" He held out some of his paintings.
Flow squatted down and cuddled Pete. "I am so proud of you," she murmured.
Pete smiled. "I'm naming the shop 'Mystical Surroundings'."
He knew, he just knew, that backgrounds would be the most successful pieces of customization.