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Give My Regards to the Ixi of Doom: Part One


by battlesunn

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Zarrelian the Halloween Ixi eagerly clutched the script that he clasped in his hooves as he mentally revised his lines. Today was the day that the auditions for the school play, "The Fruit on the Oak Tree", were being held. Zarrelian was quite excited; he had been looking forward to the production for months. The Ixi was ready to show Neopia what he could do; to make his big stage debut! Of course, a shoddy school play wasn't exactly the best vessel for his rise to stardom, but everybody had to start somewhere, right?

Mr. Bronston, a Draik with vibrant red scales as fiery as his temper, smugly surveyed the long line of students vying for a role in the play. He would picky, and very selective. Not just anyone was fit to be in his show! Out of his thirty students, only twenty-nine pets would be selected to act in the play, as that was the number of roles that it had. Mr. Bronston had written the play himself, after having volunteered to do so. He had jumped at the opportunity to display his skills as a playwright, and prove to all of Neopia that he ought to be doing that for a living and getting paid millions as opposed to teaching at a low-rate Neoschool for less than a hundred Neopoints an hour. "The Fruit on the Oak Tree" was his pride, his life's work, and he would make sure that only the best actors would represent it. Well, you know, the best actors that could be found in a second-rate public Neoschool.

Kybalt the Zafara calmly smoothed back the charcoal-colored tuft of fur on his otherwise flame-licked head, eyeing the stage--and the competition--with a haughty, experienced gaze. Out of all the hopeful would-be actors, Kybalt was the only one who could truthfully claim to have participated in the theatrical arts. The fire Zafara had performed in numerous plays, ranging from the comical, lighthearted "Chia Clowns" to the solemn, tear jerking "Scorchio and Jubjubette". His real claim to fame, however, was his appearance in an advertisement for Krawkade energy drink alongside his personal hero, Roland Lombard. Mr. Lombard was easily Neopia's most famous and accomplished actor, having starred in nearly every production to ever grace the Royal Brightvale Theater, and Kybalt had hero-worshipped him ever since he had been old enough to say the words, "this isn't mineral water!" The Zafara smirked as he watched his fellow students practicing (and bungling) their lines. He would show them what a real star was made of! His friend, (though Kybalt referred to him as his "associate") Terracota the Christmas Moehog, grinned enthusiastically up at the Zafara.

"This'll be awesome, Ky! You're awesome, Ky! This play would be totally not awesome without you, Ky!" he jabbered. Kybalt smirked.

"I couldn't have said it better myself."

Zarrelian grinned, noting with a mixture of excitement and anticipation that it was his turn to audition. The Ixi leapt nimbly upon the stage, self consciously folding his leathery bat wings to his sides. Mr. Bronston scowled at Zarrelian, hoping that the Ixi would have a terrible reading so that he would have an excuse not to cast him. It would probably be a good idea to mention that Zarrelian and Mr. Bronston had each had shared a mutual dislike of the other that had taken root on the very first day that they met. Zarrelian had no interest in learning from the Draik, and Mr. Bronston had no interest in teaching the Ixi. The rest, as they say, is history.

Zarrelian quickly matched his teacher's glare and disdainfully cleared his throat, holding his script at an arm's length as he began to rattle off his lines.

"And so, I have realized, that in the heat of summer, the oak tree bears no fruit," the Ixi said, waving his hooves about in the air in a vain attempt to make himself appear more dramatic. Mr. Bronston grinned in sheer delight at Zarrelan's total lack of acting skills.

"Alright, stop! That's plenty, Zarrelian," he snapped, cutting the Ixi off. "I think that I've heard enough to make a fair, ahem, assessment of your... 'abilities'." Zarrelian brightened up.

"So you think I have good abilities?" he asked eagerly. Mr. Bronston smiled.

"Let's just say that you have a certain flair for the mediocre," he replied in a snarky, condescending tone. The Draik gave a cruel little chuckle. "Or, in layman's terms--"

"Oh, you don't have to simplify it for me, Mr. Bronston," the Ixi interjected. "I can understand your big words just fine." With that, Zarrelian turned and trotted down the stage, his oversized head held high. He giggled.

"Heehee, he thinks that I was AWESOME!" Zarrelian gushed. Back on the stage, Mr. Bronston shook his head with a manner that one could almost call pitying... But not quite. The Draik snorted, making a little red "X" mark next to Zarrelian's name on his clipboard.

"I think that I'll have demote you to stage crew, Ixi," he mumbled to himself. A sharp, "a-hem!" brought Mr. Bronston back to reality. He snapped his head up and glanced around, searching for the source of the sound.

"What is it?" His gaze came to rest on a rakishly dapper fire Zafara. "Oh, Kybalt, it's you. I suppose you want to audition?" Kybalt rolled his eyes.

"Obviously! Really, this entire affair is so unorganized," he groused. Mr. Bronston narrowed his eyes.

"I believe that's 'disorganized'. And besides that, you're wrong. Now are you going to stand around insulting my production all day or are you going to impress me?"

Kybalt, looking slightly taken aback, grasped his script and quickly readied himself. The Zafara exhaled deeply.

"I am finding my center... There are Puppyblews, and a waterfall..."

"READ THE DARN LINES!"

"Ah, yes sir." Kybalt cleared his throat, taking a step forward. "It was a beautiful day when we planted the oak tree, though we knew full well, that the tree would yield no fruit, for it was summer, and the heat bows down to no tree," the Zafara paused and held his position of one paw forward, one hand in the air for exactly three seconds before relaxing into a theatrical bow. Mr. Bronston applauded, his large yellow eyes glistening with emotion.

"Bravo, Kybalt! That was fantastic! You really showed the true emotion of the farmer who planted the oak tree: extreme rage. I am so pleased with your performance!" the Draik exalted. Kybalt buffed his flame-licked paw on his chest.

"Oh, thank you. Really, it was nothing!"

Terracota scrambled up onto the stage, practically groveling at the Zafara's feet. (He could've been wearing a sign that read, "I am a shallow, one-dimensional character with no purpose other than to provide moderately entertaining slapstick").

"Wow Ky, that was your best yet! You just get more and more awesome every time I see you!" the Moehog exclaimed.

Zarrelian had watched the entire audition from behind the curtain, growing angrier and more jealous by the second. The Ixi snorted.

"That puffed-up Zafara may have extreme rage, but I've got something that he doesn't have! I have--" Zarrelian paused. "Wait, what do I have?" He was still puzzling over that conundrum when he heard Mr. Bronston's voice ring through the stuffy auditorium.

"Everybody gather around! I have made my casting decisions!" the Draik yelled. Zarrelian perked up.

"Oooh, goody! I bet that I got a really good part, because Mr. Bronston loved my audition!" The Ixi allowed a chauvinistic grin to spread across his face.

"After all, he said that I had a flair." Zarrelian gleefully clip-clopped out onto the main stage, a balloon of excitement swelling up in his chest.

Mr. Bronston stood in the center of the stage, surrounded by a phalanx of hopeful pets. Zarrelian immersed himself into the crowd, waiting along with them for the casting announcement. The Ixi noticed, with some distaste, that Kybalt had chosen to stand a few feet away from everybody else, looking exasperated and very annoyed at having to be in such close context to mundane, un-actors. Zarrelian, thinking that this was the way all good performers acted, quickly squirmed out of the group of pets, sitting a little off to the side instead. The students all seemed fairly confident about their auditions.

"He's got to give me a good role, I rocked that audition!" a random Kougra whispered. His friend, some Aisha, scoffed.

"I had the best performance! He said that he would contact me, and that I didn't have to contact him. That's GOT to be a good sign!"

Mr. Bronston shot a thin jet of fire into the air, signaling that he wanted silence. The class understood, quickly calling a halt to all conversations. The Draik harrumphed, strutting up and down the stage like a drill sergeant.

"Okay, pets. As you know, I have just finished making my final decisions regarding casting." He tore a sheet of paper from his clipboard, holding it aloft for all to see. "This sheet contains all the roles with their respective actors. Remember, you shouldn't feel bad if you're not in the play, because it's nothing personal..." He glared pointedly at Zarrelian. "It's just because I hate you. Now, the list!" He whirled around and swiftly taped the casting sheet to the broad wall of the stage, stepping back just in time to narrowly avoid being trampled by the horde of stampeding, hopeful students.

The random Kougra's eyes lit up. "Hey, check it out! I get to play the farmer's son! That's like, the co-starring supporting main role!" he squealed. The Aisha frowned.

"Aw, I got cast as the magical spine vine. That's just like being a prop that can talk. And move. And sing. Darnit!"

Zarrelian, who was rather short, was having trouble seeing over the heads of his un-vertically challenged fellows. The Ixi jumped up and down, trying to scan the list while he was momentarily aloft. Finally, a Grarrl took pity on him and allowed Zarrelian to perch up on his shoulders so that he could read the list. The Ixi squinted, frantically searching for his name.

"I don't get it," he said. "My name isn't there! Everyone is on the list but me!" Zarrelian leapt down from the Grarrl's shoulders and galloped up to his teacher.

"You cast everybody in your play except for me!" he accused. Mr. Bronston glared at him.

"I reserve the right to decide who will act in my production and who will paint sets for my production, Zarrelian," he retorted, folding his arms over his chest. Zarrelian pounded the floor with his hoof.

"But that's not fair! You gave everyone else a part! You even made up new roles so that everyone except for me could be in the play!" he cried. Mr. Bronston sighed.

"First of all, that's not true. There was always a magical spine vine in the play. Secondly, Zarrelian, what you don't understand is that I'm helping you. I'm doing this for your benefit. It's tough love, Zarrel." He knelt down so that they were at eye-level.

"I shatter your self-esteem because I care," the Draik insisted. Zarrelian snarled and turned on his hoof, stomping back to the casting sheet. Mr. Bronston chuckled.

"Another day, another point against the Ixi," he sniggered.

Zarrelian glanced over his shoulder at the sniggering Draik and gritted his teeth. He would show Mr. Bronston, oh yes! He would get a part in the play if it was the last thing he did!

To be continued...

 
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