Keats VS The Ambassador

This was it. The final chorus.
The eight-bar guitar solo. The epic outro.

Silence. Keats squinted against the bright stage lights to see if his classmates were still there. That’s when they exploded into thunderous applause.

Keats grinned at his bandmates, Knox and Cato. They had only formed their band, The Crowd Pleasers, a few months ago and the Academy talent show was their first live gig. A cute girl in the front row smiled at Keats. He tried not to blush.

“Amazing, guys! Just amazing,” said a voice from offstage. It was Florian, one of the Academy’s most popular students and the talent show’s emcee. He waved the band over and lowered his voice: “If you guys want to play a real show, meet me back here after sunset tonight. Yeah?”

All three of them replied at once as Florian took to the stage to introduce the next act: “YEAH!”

That night, as promised, Florian was waiting for them. “Ready to have your mind blown?” he asked, as he reached his hand into one of the Academy’s many trophy cases, pulling a latch and exposing a hidden door in the brick wall.

Florian led them through a maze of underground staircases and into a cavernous room packed with people. And not just people – classmates from every grade in the Academy. Girls and boys!

“Welcome to the Throne Room, the Academy’s most exclusive venue,” said Florian. “Just think, by tomorrow you could be part of the cool crowd, like me. You in?”

Not really knowing what Florian meant, the band agreed.

They set up their equipment and Knox counted them in, “One and two and three and…” Before long, the sea of heads was bobbing up and down. The crowd loved them!

“You guys rock!” bellowed a boy in the crowd, yellow smoke spilling out of his mouth. Yellow smoke? Keats surveyed the crowd; they were all exhaling yellow smoke. And the more excited they became, the more smoke poured out of their mouths. Cheering and choking, thought Keats, worried.

He turned around to see his band falling apart behind him. Knox was slumped over his drum kit, gasping for air. Cato was struggling too. He looked thin, frail and… old.

What was happening? And where was Florian? Scanning the crowd, Keats spotted him standing by a pale woman in a long black dress. Only it wasn’t Florian. It was someone, no, something, holding a Florian mask in its hand.

Using his supersonic hearing, Keats tuned in to their conversation: “More smoke, Ambassador,” the pale woman ordered. “Yes, My Vileness,” The Ambassador replied.

More smoke spilled out of the crowd. Keats could hardly breathe. His knees buckled. Not knowing what else to do, he played his guitar louder and harder than he ever had before.

Bweeeeeeeeeeeeee. Neow neow, neow neow.

The smoke started clearing. The song, he realized, it’s clearing the smoke! Keats could feel himself getting stronger.

The keyboards kicked in. And then the drums. Cato and Knox were recovering too. Together, they played a song so powerful, the entire crowd began to heal – it was a Healing Melody!

Shadows of the Academy | The Crowd Pleasers - s7-p4-ambassador.png

As soon as the smoke had cleared, Keats unplugged his guitar and helped his friends offstage. The crowd looked confused; lost.

“Follow me,” Keats said to them. “I know the way out.” He turned toward the exit, with the crowd following close behind, and ran directly into Florian.

“I know you aren’t who you say you are, Ambassador,” said Keats, angrily.

Removing his Florian mask and tossing it aside, The Ambassador glared menacingly at Keats and growled: “Maybe I’ve been wearing the wrong face. Perhaps yours is the one I need to win over the hearts – and health – of your friends.” Then he reached his gnarled fingers in the direction of Keats’ face.

“Not today,” Keats replied, shoving The Ambassador into the angry mob behind him and running, with his friends, up the long staircase and out into the light.