Ridley's Ruin: Part Three
Seriously, how hammy could this guy get? I rolled my eyes and followed him to the parlor. The stick-thin Lenny maid trotted at our sides, my guitar magically appearing in her wings. I wrested it away from her and jogged to keep up with Genson, who walked with such great long strides I was surprised we weren't halfway to the Haunted Woods by now.
"They are waiting for you in the parlor," Genson sniffed, all business and rich snootiness again.
"And where exactly do all of them come from, anyway? Not the poor sector, I assume." I was positively wheezing by now. The guy must have been a professional walker or something.
"Some of them are friends, or friends of friends. Some of them are from other bands." Genson coughed raucously, the sounds bouncing around the vaulted ceilings, and put his hand on his chest as if to steady himself.
"So how'd you get so rich, anyway?" I asked, completely forgetting every bit of etiquette Mama had ever taught me.
"Erhmm," he mumbled, coughed again, and then threw open the parlor door.
The first thing I saw were the instruments. Not the pets, but the instruments. The band was currently practicing, which was great because it meant I could hear them. And apparently the parlor was soundproof, too, because I hadn't heard a peep out in the hall.
The drums were flat-out amazing. So was the keyboard. Both were high-end instruments with amazing sound quality. And the amps. To die for.
But the bass guitar. I felt like my ears were bleeding just listening to it. Maybe I was spoiled by Fay's superior guitar-making skills, but the bass was just awful.
"Who made that bass?" I asked Mr. Genson softly, so the bassist couldn't hear me.
"What?" he tapped his ear. "I can't hear you."
"I said, who in Fyora's name made that horrible bass?!" I screamed.
He looked hurt. "I did. Or my company did, rather."
I rolled my eyes. "Figures." I stepped forward and clapped my hands. "Alright, punks, listen up. Ridley's here and things are goin' down. . . "
"Helios." The fire Tonu bassist stepped forward and shook my hand. He had about a hundred piercings in each ear and his mane was spiked into a mohawk. "Glad to meetcha."
"Li," said the white Techo at the drums. He had a henna tattoo of the Cyodrake's Gaze on his forearm and a long black mustache. "From Shenkuu's Quin Rock."
"I'm an old pal of Genny here," the Tonu rumbled. Mr. Genson made a pained face. "We go way back," Helios continued.
"Barry," said the blue Moehog at the keyboard. "I dunno who this Genson is everyone keeps talkin' about, I came 'ere for the money." Genson shot him a nasty look.
"He's lyin'. He's a concert pianist," Li muttered.
"Former concert pianist," Barry corrected him. "Got kicked out for playing a song a little too wild for the Neopian Piano Hall."
"So, Ridley, was it?" Helios asked. I nodded, and the Tonu continued. "We're workin' on a song called 'Road to Faerieland'."
"Sounds. . .great." I faked a smile, wondering how in Neopia a song with the word 'Faerieland' in the title could possibly be a rock song."
"It is. Hit it, boys!" Helios yelled, and Li started banging on the drums and Barry started playing chords on the keyboard. The loudest song I had ever heard in my life started blaring from the speakers. It was definitely not about anything Fairyland-related. Li hit the vocals and started singing some song about running and fighting, interspersed with Shenkuuvian words.
"That was great," I said, once the music stopped and my ears stopped ringing. "Got the music?"
"Yup." Helios handed me a couple sheets. "Here are the chords and stuff, and then you can come up with a riff. You know, for that part where Li-li's singin' about the stormy clouds of light or whatever."
"If you call me Li-li again, it won't be the drum I'm bangin' on. And it's the stormy clouds of night, smartie," Li sniffed.
"Sure. Whatever, Li-li," said Helios. I doubted anyone had the courage to hit Helios, who was about six feet tall and almost as wide.
"Before you all start, I need you to sign this release, yada yada yada," Genson said, his tone bored, and passed around a piece of paper with a load of fine print that I signed without a second thought.
So we started. The chords were basic and the beat wasn't too fast, so I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. Li and Barry accompanied pretty well. I could tell Barry had been a concert pianist; he was good with his fingers. The only problem was Helios. Don't get me wrong, he was a great player, that I could tell. The only problem was his bass. It was awful.
After practice, when Li and Barry were packing their bags, I confronted Helios. "Helios. You've gotta get a new bass. That one is, quite frankly, horrible."
"I know." He grimaced. "But Genson said I could only be in the band if I used his products. And. . .this is it." He held the bass at arm's length. "It's a good thing he let you keep your own guitar, because they're just as bad." He sighed. "I can't talk him out of it."
"Well. . .just try to play quietly," I said, biting my lip. This was no good. A band without a proper bass was no band at all. Maybe Fay could make Helios a guitar. I'd talk to him about it.
. . .
"Maybe," Fay said, biting his lip and staring off into space, a habit I'd picked up from him. "I've never made a bass before. Can't the guy just use his own bass?"
"Genson won't let him." We were in Fay's forge, the only place in Neopia Fay felt completely comfortable. It was like his fierce outer exterior completely melted away and his shoulders finally relaxed as he imposed his well on the fire and metal.
"That's dumb." Fay dipped a long strip of metal into the bucket of water by his anvil and steam floated up from the bucket, toward the brick ceiling.
"Yep." I leaned forward on my elbows, and he pushed me away with his foot. "It's hot," he said, holding the strip of metal away from both of us and laying it next to three others on a stone table.
"Oh, we have a concert coming up soon," I said, remembering something Li had mentioned to me as we were leaving.
"When?" he asked, frowning.
"Next weekend. Can you come?" I didn't think I could manage it otherwise. I'd never performed in front of a huge group of pets before. . .just those who passed by me as I absently strummed my guitar.
"Mmm. . .maybe. Lemme check my book." Fay kept a meticulous record of everything he'd done, everything he was doing, and everything he had scheduled. Seriously, the guy even scheduled in time to brush his teeth. Fay grabbed his worn notebook and flipped through it. "Sunday or Saturday?"
He grimaced. "I have an appointment."
"What? Where?" I grabbed the book and examined it. Sure enough, on the date of the concert, were the words 'Appointment with Nosneg'.
"Tell this Nosenegg or whatever to reschedule," I grumbled. "This is my first concert. You can't just miss it!"
"He kind of offered me a lot of money," Fay mumbled.
"Well," I muttered, and for the rest of the day I wandered around in a sour mood kicking things and making the Flint babies cry. Fay couldn't stop me, because he was working in his precious forge. When he finally came home and saw me he put his hands on his hips.
"You're fabulous," I said, my mood darker than Jazan's guyliner. "Strike that pose again and you could get on Neopia's Top Model."
He dropped the pose and glared at me. "Rid, you're being unreasonable. Mr. Flint threatened to kick us out of the tent if you keep this up."
"Yeah, right. That guy would let a petpetpet push him over."
"Rid, I'm being serious. You're scaring the kids."
"You sound like an old couple," yelled a passerby.
"Nobody asked you!" I yelled back. The passerby ignored me.
"Look, Ridley." This was serious. He seldom called me by my actual name. Just as I seldom called him Faycee. I was his Rid, and he was my Fay. That was the way it was supposed to be.
"What?" I looked up at him.
"Cut it out. I'm serious. I'll go to your next concert. I promise." He bent down on one knee to look closer at me. "Or I promise, I'll throw out the forge."
I cracked a smile. It was impossible not to. "You can't throw out a forge, silly."
"I'll find a way." He smiled and then quickly returned to his normal face, a deep scowl. Which didn't mean he was mad, on the contrary. It meant he was satisfied with the conversation having taken a turn toward the better, so he could relax and return to his usual frightening exterior. He was a big Lupe, and quite frankly, smiles looked downright terrifying on him.
"Great." I leaned back against an empty barrel that happened to be lying around. Really, I had no idea where it had come from. It could be toxic waste. Meh. "I'll go to band practice tomorrow and ask them to reschedule."
. . .
Helios had a doctor's appointment that mysteriously happened on every date I suggested to replace the Saturday, and Li was flying back on an extended trip to Shenkuu to visit his relatives right after the Saturday concert. And Barry claimed he was robbing a bank every time I asked him if we could reschedule, although Li confided in me afterwards that Barry's schedule was jam-packed with piano recitals.
So that was that.
But I'd find a way to get Fay to one of my concerts. I had to. He was the only family I had.
To be continued...