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How Nightlands Joined a Band

by yrouel


     One day while Nightlands was practicing the drums, the little red-furred Kyrii who lived across the street came to listen. He tried to show off in front of her, but didn't play his best. She didn't seem to mind.

     When he was finished, she said, "I envy you."

     Nightlands was astonished. She envied him? For what? He hadn't played very well.

     "Your rare Magma colour," she explained. "You must have had quite an adventure to get that."

     It was true. He had gone on an adventure, and now he told her all about it.

     "But the original reason for it," he admitted, "is that I envied you for being so popular."

     "That's easy to fix!" she exclaimed. "I can share my popularity."

     Nightlands had never heard of such a thing.

     "How is that possible?" he asked.

     "I play an instrument, too," she said. "Let's form a band, and anyone who comes to see one of us will see the other as well."

     So, from then on, whenever Nightlands practiced his drums, she would come over and practice her guitar, too. She wrote some songs for them to play. The songs were all simple and sounded pretty much alike, but Nightlands didn't mind, because that made them easy to learn.

     "It's our stylistic choice," she told him. "This way, our fans will be able to tell when it's one of our songs."

     It sounded like a dream to Nightlands, to have such loyal fans someday, so he practiced diligently every song she wrote.

     As soon as she was satisfied with their sound, she said it was time for them to go into town and advertise. She made a stack of fliers that said, COME HEAR THE NEW BAND IN TOWN!

     "We don't even have a name yet," Nightlands pointed out.

     "It will come to us," she assured him. For the first time, Nightlands had the shadow of a doubt that she might not know exactly how to go about this business. However, she seemed so sure of herself that he went along.

     When they got into town, she handed him half of the fliers.

     "Just hand these out, leave them in shops, paste them up on walls," she said breezily. "When you're finished, we'll meet back here in the town square."

     "A lot of these walls say POST NO BILLS," Nightlands pointed out.

     "If we're not asking for Neocash, it's not a bill, right?" she asked rhetorically, and skipped away with a cheery wave before Nightlands could reply.

     Not for the last time, Nightlands found himself doubting that she knew what she was doing. However, he picked up his fliers and started walking.

     Passersby refused to take them. Shopkeepers threw him out. He posted a few on side streets, furtively, hoping that no one saw him.

     Before long, he found himself back at the town square, still with a sheaf of fliers, and no trace of her in sight. Not wanting to look as if he'd been shirking, he started to paste up a flier right there in the town square.

     A Pea Chia caught his arm.

     "Vandalism!" the Chia growled. "You'll go to jail for that!"

     "Wait, I can explain!" Nightlands squeaked, dropping the rest of his fliers, but to no avail. The Chia hustled him to the courthouse, which was conveniently nearby.

     Inside, the Chia pushed him into the dock. Then the Chia walked around to the judge's bench, threw a black robe over himself, and sat down.

     "On the basis of the officer's testimony, you're sentenced to jail!" the Chia roared.

     "Where's my defense attorney? I'm a first-time offender! Who drafted a law like this?" Nightlands protested.

     "The mayor did!" said the Chia, pulling a curled white wig over his head.

     "He's the police, the judge, and the mayor?" Nightlands thought to himself. "This must be a very small town."

     "Take the culprit away!" the Chia shouted, slipping out of the robe and wig. "And make sure the newspaper covers this, for my law and order campaign!"

     The Chia took Nightlands by the arm again, and marched him to the jail, conveniently located right behind the courthouse. As Nightlands was thrown in a cell, a flashbulb popped in his face, and he heard the familiar voice of an assistant page layout design artist.

     "Congratulations! This picture will make the front page!"

     "This is not the way I wanted to return to The Neopian Times!" Nightlands wailed, grasping the bars.

     Then he noticed how far apart the bars were, and that he could slip through them easily if he wanted to.

     "Oh, that's deliberate," the photographer said. "The publicity value comes of throwing Neopets into jail, not keeping them there. Have you noticed how small this jail is? You had better leave soon, to make room for the next comers."

     Nightlands thought that there was something different about his old acquaintance.

     "Weren't you a Flotsam the last time I met you?" he asked.

     "Yes indeed! I'm on a self-improvement course where I pay visits to a Lab Scientist. It's been really great for my health. You can see I have the endurance to take a field position like this instead of a desk job now," the photographer said proudly. "There are some side effects, though."

     The former Flotsam was now a buff-looking Bori.

     Nightlands cautiously looked in both directions, but the Chia had turned about-face and left as soon as Nightlands was in the cell, so the corridor was clear. He slipped between the bars.

     "Come with me," the photographer encouraged him. "Don't worry about the mayor, he doesn't mean to keep you. Think about it, did he specify a length of time for you to stay in the jail?"

     At first, Nightlands had been too shaken to notice, but now that he thought back on it, no time had been specified.

     "If you're not supposed to spend any time here, you had better get out," said the photographer, and Nightlands couldn't argue with that.

     As they walked out the back door, they passed a security guard on duty outside. He was the Chia.

     "Come again soon!" he said, and waved.

     The photographer led him back to the town square. There, standing next to the bundle of fliers that Nightlands had dropped, was a little red-furred Kyrii, looking all around anxiously.

     "Ahoy there!" the photographer called out. "Are you this kid's partner in crime?"

     When they were all together, Nightlands made the introductions.

     "VirusX, this is Coronium, the leader of our band. Coronium, this is VirusX, a photographer for The Neopian Times."

     Coronium's face lit up. Then she noticed Nightlands' drooping ears, as VirusX explained how Nightlands had managed to run into her this time.

     "I'm going to get that picture on the front page," VirusX declared happily. "After a success like that, I can try for a promotion!"

     Nightlands saw that Coronium was thinking hard, which scared him a little. However, if there was one thing he knew about Coronium by now, it was that she could be very persuasive.

     "You said Neopets get thrown into that jail all the time," Coronium said. "Maybe that's not such an outstanding story."

     VirusX looked less happy.

     "Those stories are always popular, but you're right, there are a lot of them. But what else can I do? I have to get a picture today."

     "Come to the town hall and take a picture of us performing! Someday we'll be starring at the Tyrannian Concert Hall, and you'll be able to say that you had the very first press coverage of us!"

     Nightlands was startled to hear that they really would perform, as Coronium led them to the small town hall. He was stunned to see large, slick posters advertising that the great band Jazzmosis was playing there today. He was running low on synonyms for surprise by the time he saw the small banners hastily pasted on top of the posters, saying BY POPULAR DEMAND, NEW OPENING ACT!

     "Every now and then, Jazzmosis like to get out of those big arenas and play somewhere with a more club-like atmosphere," Coronium was saying. She was taking them around the back to the stage door.

     There was a gatekeeper outside, and Nightlands was not surprised at all to see that he was the Chia. However, he was flabbergasted when the Chia actually smiled at them and ushered them through.

     Nightlands spent the next half hour in a daze, getting ready backstage, hearing the audience come in and settle down, then finally being told, "You're on!"

     He ran onstage with Coronium, and, for a moment, just froze. Then he saw the first few rows of the audience. Coronium's friends from their hometown were there, each holding one of her advertising fliers. That explained how she had managed to get popular demand for their act even though no one knew its name.

     He was among familiar faces. He started to play, just the way they had practiced it back home. He had been afraid to go onstage at first, but by the end of their brief set, he didn't want to leave.

     As they came offstage, they passed the members of Jazzmosis waiting in the wings. One of them goodnaturedly tossed Nightlands a pair of souvenir sunglasses.

     "Thank you!" Nightlands exclaimed, clutching them close. "I'll never take them off."

     Coronium looked at him critically.

     "You should act like a pro now, not a fan any more," she said. Then she saw Nightlands' ears start to droop again.

     "Except for dark glasses," she added hastily. "Those are always cool."

     She pulled out a pair of sunglasses of her own and put them on. Hers didn't match his, but that wasn't important.

     "If we both do it, it's our stylistic choice," she explained.

     Back in his room that evening, he could hardly believe everything that had happened. So what if it was only a small town hall? As Coronium put it, that way the fans could get close to them. So what if the fans were really there to see Jazzmosis? They were on the same stage as the great Jazzmosis. So what if they played only three songs? Instead of throwing chokatos, the audience politely applauded!

     Nightlands was over the moon Kreludor. He was so excited that he thought he would be up all night, but he was also so exhausted that he fell asleep as soon as he lay down.

     He awoke the next morning when Coronium rushed into his room with a copy of the latest issue of The Neopian Times. Suddenly, all the tension of the previous day's events returned to him. Which picture was on the front page, the concert or the jail?

     "I knew I could convince her!" Coronium said. Indeed, the picture was the one of the concert. However, the headline read NOTORIOUS OUTLAW DUO'S DEBUT PERFORMANCE. VirusX had combined the stories.

     "We even have a name for the band now! Didn't I say it would come to us?" Coronium said enthusiastically.

     Nightlands perked up. If "Outlaw" was just part of the band's name, then he could claim that the jail photo was just a publicity stunt. In fact, if VirusX was correct, it was meant to be a publicity stunt -- for the mayor.

     "Turnabout is fair play," Nightlands thought to himself.

     "Let's go thank VirusX and see if she got that promotion," Coronium said.

     So Nightlands led the way to the press room of The Neopian Times. It looked as hectic as ever, and he couldn't find VirusX anywhere.

     By chance, he bumped into the lady Lupe he had met on his previous visit. It was a lucky accident, because he wanted to thank her, too. She was trying to get a large crowd of Mynci to move along, but she recognized Nightlands as a friend of The Neopian Times, and stopped to talk for a moment.

     "You said something about being behind a keyboard that inspired me," Nightlands said. "But I can't play the keyboard, so I took up the drums instead."

     The Lupe looked puzzled for a moment, and then laughed.

     "I meant a typewriter keyboard," she said. "I'd offer you my old one, but it looks as though you're doing all right the way you are."

     "Don't you use yours any more?" Nightlands asked.

     "Management is trying a new experiment," the Lupe explained. "They want to see what they get if they put these one hundred Mynci behind typewriters."

     "What do they have so far?" Nightlands asked.

     "Mostly existential angst and complaints about sitting indoors at a typewriter all day," the Lupe said.

     "You so blithely call it angst, this bone-chilling grasp of the certainty that my most desperate plea, wrung from the tormented depths of my heart -- nay, my very soul -- will be flung, utterly unheeded, into the indifferent Void. Oops," one of the Mynci grumbled bitterly. He had accidentally jostled the Mynci next to him, knocking down some of the supplies she was carrying.

     "Mostly spilled platen cleaner and complaints," the Lupe corrected herself. "But what brings you back to The Neopian Times?"

     "We're looking for VirusX," Nightlands explained. "She said something about trying to get a promotion."

     The Lupe shook her head.

     "I haven't seen her all day. She made a big fuss about challenging the Editor to an arm-wrestling contest, with a promotion to director of the art department at stake. But since she's not here, the match was declared a forfeit."

     The Lupe couldn't dally any longer, so Nightlands bid her good day. However, Nightlands and Coronium were now worried about VirusX.

     "She was looking forward to it so much, I can't believe she wouldn't show up," Nightlands fretted. Coronium agreed to help him search.

     Along a cluttered corridor, they found a supply room with a small sniffling noise coming from the inside.

     "VirusX, are you there? It's Nightlands," he called.

     "Don't open the door," came her voice from inside.

     "What happened? You can tell us about it," he said.

     "One more, I went to the Lab Scientist just one more time before the arm-wrestling contest because I wanted to be strong," she moaned.

     "Are you all right? Come out and talk to us," Coronium urged.

     Slowly, the door opened, and Nightlands and Coronium saw a dejected Jubjub.

     "I can't arm-wrestle if I've been disarmed!" she wailed.

     Nightlands saw that Coronium was thinking hard. Now he trusted her to come up with something to help a friend.

     "What you need is a little change of pace," she said. "Take a week off and come on tour with us! You can be our official photographer."

     VirusX shook her head sadly. "I can't take photographs for anyone except The Neopian Times."

     Coronium didn't give up.

     "Do you play an instrument?" she asked. "You can join the band."

     "I play, but the paper already ran a story about your band as the Notorious Outlaw Duo," said VirusX.

     "Even better!" Coronium said firmly. "We'll be the only three-member duo performing in all of Neopia!"

     And so it was settled. It was hard to say no to Coronium.

     They had less trouble getting gigs now that they could show the article in The Neopian Times, and they went home at the end of the week after playing in town after town.

     Before they parted, though, there was something VirusX simply had to ask Nightlands.

     "Whatever happened to all the amusing alliteration you were accustomed to use?"

     "Trite and tedious tricks turn tiresome in a trice, true?" Nightlands replied.

     "Touché," she said.

     VirusX returned to the office feeling like a new Neopet after her vacation. It helped that she had visited the Lab Scientist again and was now a sleek Kacheek. During the week, her co-workers had been so distracted by the one hundred Mynci that they had largely forgotten her embarrassing incident, and she saw no reason to remind them by trying to take any more shortcuts to promotion any time soon.

     The most dissatisfied of the Mynci quit the paper and went into the souvenir business. As he put it, he was combating the impermanence of memory. When Coronium and Nightlands heard about it, they were busy taking down all their original advertising fliers. (To be sure, they had not pasted any on the walls that specifically said POST NO BILLS, as Nightlands would have explained to the mayor if he'd had the chance.) They gave the fliers to him, and he marketed them as collectors' items.

     Coronium still secretly envied Nightlands. From swimming in the Magma Pool to going to jail, all the best adventures seemed to happen to him. (Nightlands would not have viewed it the same way, but she didn't consult him.) Privately, she asked VirusX where to find the Lab Scientist. Even if she hadn't had all the adventures, maybe she could still get a rare colour.

     As for Nightlands, he had begun to think that he had better get stronger if he was going to keep traveling with Coronium. However, he intended to try something more conventional than VirusX's method.

     One fine morning found him standing in front of the Pirate Academy with a dubloon in his pocket. He had heard stories about the pirate captain who ran it. They said he was a terrible pirate and a veteran of many fierce battles. Nightlands paused outside the door.

     However, that is a story for another time.

     The End.

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