The Perils in Lacking a Book Shop
All the magical stories my older sister – a Green Kyrii with fur characterized by a slightly more foresty green than my own – ever told me always involved a ball. Everyone would dress up in beautiful dresses, and they would head over to Brightvale Castle and dance away the night. A scribe would record the events of the night as music as sweet as the berries of Brightvale hovered in the air. Needless to say, these balls were the attention of the elite, and with a crowd so sophisticated, it was only natural that all the best stories came from the events that took place there.
Shaina, my older sister, had been to every ball the Castle had hosted since the time she could write. She grew up on those stories because she was there to witness the very core of them; she was the one who sat there writing, air brushing up against her face as dresses swirled all around her. She only heard bits of conversations, only phrases like, “Saturday, we really must pay a visit to the...” and “Your brother is really starting to...” It was up to her to finish them, to create a world to remember from those bits and pieces. It was her job to glue everything together.
Slowly, Shaina began to be able to write stories from less and less. A phrase would work, true, but it was much more interesting to direct her attention towards two young Koi across the room, imagining what could possibly trigger the facial expressions they wore. These balls gathered enough people to express every feeling in just a few minutes; as she watched, Shaina grew more and more acquainted with the reality of the world. And as she grew more and more familiar with the stories, she began to pique the curiosity of the elder scribe.
“The king needs a story. We can’t just have a king with no background! Where did he come from? Who is he? THE PEOPLE MUST KNOW!” The scribe paused. He was a rather petite Pink Peophin, and the pink of his cheeks had gone maroon through the frustration in that last exclamation. “All I’m saying is, the people want to know the story behind that facial expression of his. What’s he thinking about? And why?”
“Look, that’s all very understandable,” replied Shaina. “But how exactly am I supposed to just write the king’s story? It’s not like I can just walk up to him and ask.”
“Yes, yes, of course! But that’s the beauty behind it. You’d be working for him; he’d never notice a new employee anyway. Just spend some time in his presence and write what comes to mind. It’s not like you have to know what actually happened.” The scribe chuckled.
Shaina turned around to face the scribe. “What do you mean, it’s not like I have to know what actually happened?”
The scribe stared at Shaina, his eyes suddenly very serious, with the only twinkle in them because of the chandelier in the room. “What I mean is you don’t have to write the truth. No one will know the reality of it, after all. Did Hagan and Skarl fight over land or was it a silly bickering that started it all? No one knows, and frankly, it doesn’t make much of a difference. All we need is a story, no matter what the story actually is.”
Shaina now turned away and walked to the door. As she went to open it, the scribe said, “You’ll do it, though, won’t you?”
Without turning around, the young Green Kyrii replied, “Yes. I suppose I will.”
“Good.” And with that last word, the door was opened and closed with quite a bit of determination.
“Sire, I just think that lowering the prices in the Scrollery will encourage Neopians to buy them more often! The literacy rates are going down; hardly any young Neopians are—”
“How many times have I told you not to call our citizens Neopians? That makes it sound like we’re just regular habitants of Neopia, but, no, Advisor, we are not MERE habitants! We are intelligent citizens of the land of Brightvale, and should be called as such: Brightvalians!”
“Yes, of course, your majesty, but my point is that Neop—I’m sorry, sire, I mean, er, Bright... valians... won’t be intelligent in a few years if scroll prices remain so atrociously high!” The advisor was a poor little Blumaroo who was half running, half hopping to keep up with King Hagan as they walked down a hallway in Brightvale Castle. Shaina followed behind, pen in one hand, notepad in the other; and yes, a notepad, because scroll prices really were that high.
They turned the corner and entered the main hall, where King Hagan sat and talked to his... Brightvalians, and answered their requests every morning after his reading session. At the moment, though, there was a meeting to was going to be held to discuss prices in various shops around Brightvale. A large table had been placed in the room, engraved with the Brightvale star in the middle. King Hagan took his place, as did the Scrollery advisor, Shaina, and all the others.
King Hagan cleared his throat. “Well? Who else would like to criticize how I am running this land?”
The Scrollery advisor nervously looked down at his lap, his ears flopping around as he tried to settle down.
“Oh, would you relax, Advisor?” Hagan chuckled. “I would recommend that before you all present your reports, Advisors, that you keep in mind that we are not mere Neopians, but rather Brightvalians, as this poor Blumaroo seems to have forgotten.” A small grin played around the corners of his mouth as he said all this. All the Neopets sitting around the table, however, did not display the same ease as King Hagan did. They all sat rigidly with their reports in their hands, waiting to begin.
“Well, I see the only one who seems to be comfortable enough to present is this lovely Green Kyrii over here. Green’s a lovely color, you know,” he said.
Shaina looked up suddenly, alarmed that the king had picked her out. “Oh. Yes. Well. I’m actually not an advisor, sire.”
“Oh?” This only raised the king’s curiosity. Numbers are really quite silly anyways.
“Yes, I, um, I’m actually here to write. Not a report, sire, but rather a story.”
“Yes. Well, yours.”
The king raised an eyebrow, nodded, and pulled out something from his pocket. He unwrapped it, and took a bite out of the Milk Chocolate Blumaroo he had been saving for the meeting. The Scrollery Advisor whimpered.
The meeting didn’t take very long; only two people managed to present before the Scrollery Advisor jumped out of his chair, and half ran, half hopped significantly faster than he had been in the hallway, crying out, “I just can’t, I just can’t, I just can’t...”
“Alright, well, I suppose that’s enough for now.” King Hagan stood up, and as he did, so did all of the others. Surprisingly, only one of the five advisors remaining knocked over his chair when standing up. The advisors began to exit the room, and Shaina followed behind them, unsure of where to go. But, as she started walking away, King Hagan called out, “Kyrii, come with me.”
Shaina walked over, her notepad seconds away from slipping out underneath her arm. She adjusted it and replied, “Yes, of course, your majesty.”
They exited through a different door. The green carpet felt nice under Shaina’s paws, and she could smell the sweet aroma of Brightvale berries. Hagan slowed down his walking to match Shaina’s pace, and then he began to speak. “So what is this story you wish to write?”
Shaina thought for a second, unsure of how to proceed. “A few nights ago, after the ball, the elder scribe came up to me and gave me an assignment. To write your story, the story of your background. So that Brightvalians all around know who you are.”
At the sound of the word “Brightvalians,” Hagan smiled. “Yes, I suppose that’s a decent idea. But why didn’t he have someone close to me write it? Plenty of my staff know my story.”
“Well, that’s the thing. I don’t think the elder scribe particularly cares for the truth; he seemed rather distraught at the idea of me discovering the truth. I think he chose me because I have experience coming up with stories, with pretend realities.” Suddenly, Shaina felt that her history, her experience writing wasn’t something to be entirely proud of. She had been training herself to write lies.
“You know, Kyrii, I can understand why the elder scribe would say that. He doesn’t particularly like me. But what say you and I work out a deal? I’m sure we can give the Brightvalians the truth about their Brightvalian leader without offending anyone. Besides, I hear that scribe is from Meridell... now, them, they’re mere Neopians... worse, maybe...”
A month later, once again, Brightvale Castle’s ballroom was decorated with green and yellow, with long tables of food lining the walls. Of course, all the very, very, important Brightvalians were there; even the poor Scrollery Advisor managed to slip on a suit for the ball. Unfortunately, he had chosen a red suit, and besides clashing with his blue fur, he had been the target of a full thirty second rant of King Hagan’s. You try staying sane with a king yelling at for thirty seconds.
Shaina naturally fit in at the ball, being green, and she sat in her normal spot. She had written out the entire story, after having met with King Hagan every few days to have him tell her his story. And best of all, she had written the truth. It was by far her best work thus far, perhaps because her inspiration had been there the entire time.
King Hagan walked across the ballroom. Though he was headed for Shaina, he was interrupted every few steps or so by a store owner trying to talk to him about prices (the meeting still hadn’t been finished) or a Brightvalian berry farmer about this year’s crops. Eventually, he did make it over, and slightly out of breath, he asked, “Ready?”
“Ready,” Shaina said, and stood up. As they walked over to the pathetically pink elder scribe, Brightvale stars descended from the ceiling. King Hagan whispered in Shaina’s ear: “Kauvara’s really not the best, you know. Our Cybunny may look young and inexperienced, but she’s really something...” His sentence was cut off as they reached the scribe.
The scribe looked at them together, and was slightly surprised. “Well. What have we here?”
Shaina gave him the story. “I’m done.”
“Well done! I’m overcome with joy, truly. Did you find it was easy to write?”
Shaina grinned, her eyes filled with the same twinkle King Hagan’s had when he was talking about his Brightvalians. “Oh, yes. King Hagan was more than glad to share his story with me.”
The scribe’s face suddenly fell. “You mean... you got the truth?”
“Yes. Isn’t that fantastic?” King Hagan chimed in. “Now, listen, I’m well aware of the position you hold in our society. But tell you what. I can’t really handle a Neopian – one from Meridell, no less – stealing young Brightvalian talent. No matter what my advisors tell me, we do still have intelligent young Neopians out there, and Kyrii here is a fine example of that.
“So this is what you’ll do: you’ll publish this story, and not the pitiable one you had been hoping for. And please tell my brother Skarl that he really needs to choose better Neopets to come and work for him.”
The Pink Peophin’s look of devastation turned to bewilderment. “Yes, um, I’ll be sure to do that.” Taking the story in his hand, he gathered his belongings and left.
Another month later, Shaina received a letter. It arrived at her office in Brightvale Castle, where she had a desk and all the scrolls she could have possibly wanted.
I am really very sorry for what I did. King Skarl isn’t the kindest Skeith you’ll ever meet – to be honest, I haven’t met very many kind Skeiths anyways – and I didn’t have much of a choice. I hope you’re happy to at least have managed to meet King Hagan and receive a job offer from him; I’m sure you’re perfect for your job.
I really do apologize.
-The Elder Scribe
Shaina pulled out her old notepad. She opened its cover and was slightly surprised to find some of her old stories there. She read through some, and then ripped out a piece of paper. This wasn’t worth a scroll.
You always have a choice.
Suddenly, she heard a knock on her door. The door opened and King Hagan walked in. Seeing the letter on her desk, he picked it up and read it.
“Ah, well, what can you expect from a land that doesn’t even have a book shop?”