A Faerie Like Me
Another Illusen Day has come and passed, here in Cedarbrook Valley, Meridell. My friends and I had a party to honour the occasion! We played outside in my garden all day, and pretended we were earth faeries. Peydon just laughed at us, but you had better believe he was first in line when Zami and Zackare brought out the leaf-shaped sugar cookies. Claare took lots of pictures for her photo album, because, she said, she never wanted to forget this day. I don't blame her. Today was so much fun, I'm sure Illusen herself would have enjoyed it. Today I couldn't stop thinking about the day I met the famous faerie. Do you remember, diary? It was last summer, shortly after we moved to Meridell....
"Mizuuneko! It's time to go!"
"Coming, Mama!" I picked you up, diary, and put you in my purse. You, a pen, and a change of clothes was all I packed for this trip. It was the lightest I ever traveled. I knew that that this weekend, I would have plenty of things to keep me occupied. What could possibly be more exciting than sightseeing in Meridell City? We weren't going strictly on a pleasure trip, though. Papa had business at the royal castle, which made things all the more amazing!
I pictured what the castle would look like. It would have high ceilings with crystal chandeliers, huge white stone walls, covered with tapestries of gold, red and blue, the most luxurious of plush carpets on the floor... I was sure it would be nothing but the total picture of pampering for Meridell's nobility. What would it be like to be royalty, I wondered. If I lived at the castle, I would spend most of my time outside, in the royal gardens.
There, there would be flowers as far as the eye could see. Roses, and tulips, and daffodils and pansies. Daisies and geraniums, lilies and dahlias. Maybe there would even be violets, my favourite flowers. There would be tall trees, that grew delicious fruit, and had lots of branches that every bird and tree dwelling critter in the kingdom would want to live in. It would be colourful and bright, and everything would smell so sweet and pure. It would be an absolute paradise for a nature lover like myself. A dream come true.
"Mizuuneko! Are you ready?" My mother was standing at the bottom of the stairs. She had a suitcase in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other.
"I'm ready!" I ran down the stairs to meet her. I was going so fast, that I nearly crashed into her, startling her and causing her to spill some of her coffee. "Sorry, Mama!"
She sighed, and went to get something to clean up the mess. "That's alright, Mizuun." She wiped up the coffee, then turned and said to me, "Did you remember to bring some extra clothes?"
"Yes, for tomorrow." I replied with a nod.
"You might want to bring one more outfit, or maybe two."
"Why, Mama? We're only going for two days."
She looked at the freshly stained rug, and then back at me. "Just in case," she mumbled.
I returned to my room, quickly grabbed two more outfits from my drawer, and before long we were off to Meridell City. The two hour ride seemed short, when I had the magical garden to think about.
When we got to Meridell City, it was like we were in a whole nother world. Carriages whizzed up and down the cobblestone streets, stopping to let neopets out at the many high-end shops we passed. Everywhere we looked, something seemed to be happening. There were pets on every corner. Standing in groups on the sidewalks, hurrying in and out of buildings, carrying shopping bags across the street. Everyone seemed to be trying to get somewhere, and as fast as they could. I was reminded of Neopia Central, where my best friend Zami had moved to Meridell from. Zami had said Neopia Central was noisy, and busy and pushy and shovey. This place seemed much friendlier, but it certainly was crowded. Even through the dense crowds, the city was impressive. But not as impressive as the Meridell castle!
"What do you think, Mizuun? Is it all you hoped it would be?"
"Everything and more, Papa!"
As we were lead over the drawbridge, and through the grand entrance, I felt like everyone was staring at us. Did we look like we didn't belong? Did my purple dress look okay? Did it still have that ugly mud stain on it, and I hadn't noticed? All these questions were going through my mind, as Mama and I were being seated in one of the lounges.
"I'll only be a few minutes," Papa had said, before going off to his appointment. "You and Mama will stay here until then."
At first, I thought it would be easy to sit still for a short time. The furniture was the most comfortable I'd ever sat on, and there were lovely paintings to look at on the walls. But after fifteen minutes had passed, and Papa still hadn't returned, I was starting to get fidgety.
"Mizuuneko, please sit back down."
"Sorry." I didn't sit down. I was admiring one of the paintings on the wall. It was a picture of rows and rows of flowers, growing high on a hilltop. "Do you think this is the royal garden, Mama?"
Just then, the elderly Blumaroo lady who was sitting on a couch across the room, looked up from her book and spoke to me. "That picture, right there? That's Illusen's Glade. Gorgeous, isn't it?"
It was gorgeous. So gorgeous, in fact, I was disappointed it wasn't part of the castle. "Do the royal gardens look anything like that?"
For a moment, the lady appeared to be deep in thought. "The gardens don't look quite like that, but they are rather magnificent. As a matter of fact, there are doors leading out to them right down that hallway. I'm sure it would be alright if you had a look."
I gasped and clapped my hands. My dream was coming true! "Oh Mama, may I go? Please?"
I thought my mother would have been happy for me. Why did she have that hesitant look on her face? It seemed like an eternity before she said, "Well.. I don't see why not."
I sprung from my chair and ran down the hallway. As I rounded the corner, I passed a pretty pink Lupe wearing a long satin dress, and the most incredible necklace of deep blue stones I'd ever seen. I couldn't tear my eyes away from it as I ran.
"Mizuuneko, watch out!" I heard my mother and another lady shriek, the sound of glass shattering, and then I was on the ground.
"Well now, just what do you think you're doing, miss?" I looked up to find myself staring into the angry face of the green Quiggle maid I had collided with.
"I-I'm sorry! I didn't- I didn't mean to," I stammered.
"You're sorry?" came a voice from beside me. It was the Lupe with the necklace! She didn't look half as pretty now, with her long hair dripping and her dress splattered with tea. Her necklace was also gone from around her neck. "Is your being sorry going to pay for this?"
I saw broken pieces of what used to be china tea cups, a large, deep blue stone rolled by me, and I came to the grim realization of what had happened. I tried to apologize a million times over, but no words came out. No words could express how sorry I was.
There were really no words to express how sorry I was, when I noticed everyone in the lounge was staring at me. Everyone including my mother, my father who had just come out of his meeting, and the well dressed white Kyrii who had come to invite us to dinner — Dinner at Meridell Castle!
"We would be much obliged," Papa had said. "My wife and I, and our young daughter, Mizuuneko."
At precisely that moment, the Quiggle maid marched me back to my parents, in the same fashion I'd seen Zami do with her two-year-old brother, Zackare. "Your daughter needs to learn to watch where she's going!" she said, non too quietly. "She just about ran me over, and made me spill tea all over the Lady Ebigail!"
Lady Ebigail? As in lord and lady? Oh gosh, I had really messed up this time. The Quiggle went on and on about the carelessness of young people, and the necklace that would have cost us thousands of neopoints to replace, if only one of the little sapphires had been lost. It looked like everyone in the castle had come to listen to her rant, which would have gone on for hours if the well dressed Kyrii hadn't stopped her.
"Alright Lana, that will be enough. I'm sure they'll keep their daughter under better control in the future."
Under control? I had to be kept under control now?! Oh, the humiliation! Now I really felt like a toddler.
"Better control, indeed! If she were my daughter, I wouldn't have her running around a strange place like a maniac! Talk about making a first impression," She shuffled away with her broom, grumbling and complaining to herself as loudly as if she were talking to another person.
"I apologize for Lana's behavior," said the Kyrii. "She doesn't take kindly to childish antics."
"We're the ones who should apologize, Mr. Simons," said my mother. "Is there anything at all we can do?"
Mr. Simons seemed to be looking at me in particular, when he said, "I think it would be best if you were to leave." This couldn't be happening. The same man who had just invited us to dinner was now telling us to leave. He was kicking us out, and it was all my fault.
My parents and I were escorted back over the drawbridge, and off the castle grounds. Did they do this with everyone, or did they want to be sure I was gone for good? I remembered back to this morning, when my mother had told me to bring extra clothing. I didn't understand why she had said it then, but I did now. My whole life was one unfortunate mess after another. I was always tearing things, breaking things, spilling things, falling and landing in the least favorable of places. I was a menace, and nobody ever told me outright. But they hinted it. Oh how they hinted it!
This was it. The Draik was going to leave us alone at the gate, and I would get the biggest scolding of my life. I prepared myself for it, shut my eyes and wished I was back in bed. But the Draik didn't leave, he was talking to my parents. "That was quite a display in the lounge, wasn't it?"
A display? Oh no. I hadn't been listening, was he talking about me? "It was very impressive. I didn't realize how many types of swords there were." No, they weren't talking about me, thank goodness. The conversation went on forever. I just stood there feeling embarrassed, still speechless in my shame. Waiting to be yelled at was like waiting for the world to end. I wanted to run away, and I saw just the place to run to, a narrow pathway through the trees. If I disappeared, just for a few hours, then maybe this whole thing would blow over, and I wouldn't have to go through being humiliated again. The small hope that that would happen, was enough to make up my mind, and I ran. Away from my parents, passed the carriage, along the side of the ravine, until I had reached the little pathway through the forest. I never looked back, I just kept running. I wanted to be far away by the time they realized I was gone.
"Mizuuneko, where are you?!"
It was my mother. I was already too late. But what could I do? I couldn't turn back, not now, so I kept on running. I might have tripped over a few tree routes and twigs, but that only reminded me of why I was running away, and made me go faster. I didn't stop until I was out of the forest. Or perhaps I was still in the forest, but in a clearing, like a glade.
Glade. Where did I know that word from? My thoughts went back to the intriguing painting I'd seen in the castle lounge. The Blumaroo lady had said it was of Illusen's Glade, and I had asked if the royal gardens looked anything like it. The royal gardens. The place I would never get to see. I was exhausted from running, so I sat down in front of a brook that ran alongside a high hill. In the sparking clear water, I could see my reflection. The baby Aisha in the water looked like she had been involved in some sort sort of disaster. Her purple dress was all dirty, and torn at the bottom from where she had tripped over a twig, and her dark blue hair looked like it had been in a tornado.
"You haven't been in a disaster," I said to myself. "You are a disaster." I had already been treated like a baby, I figured I might as well act like one, so I started to cry. I wanted to keep crying until there wasn't a single tear left inside me, but somebody heard me.
"What's the matter, my young friend?"
Another reflection appeared in the water. It was of a beautiful faerie, with olive skin, emerald eyes, and green streaked brown hair. Her wings and clothes were the colours of the forest, and she blended so well with the enchanting woods, she looked like she was part of them. I knew nothing about her, but somehow I could tell she was gentle and kind. There was just a sympathetic air about her, that made me want to tell her my whole, sad story. And so I did. I told her how I had been at the castle with my family, and how I wasn't able to sit still for fifteen minutes. I explained to her how I had been running, and how I collided with a maid who was carrying tea, and caused her to spill the tea all over Lady Ebigail, who broke her expensive necklace because of me.
"We had just been invited for dinner," I told the faerie through my sobs. "And I got us all kicked out. I'm a disaster."
She softly placed her hand on my shoulder. "You're not a disaster," she insisted. "You're Mizuuneko, the world traveler from Shenkuu. Am I right?"
To say I was shocked would have been an understatement. "How did you know that?"
She smiled mysteriously. "I've made it my business to learn about every pet in Meridell. And I know that you're a lot like me, Mizuuneko. You love to explore, and you're most at home in the outdoors."
"That's right!" I shouted in amazement. "I do love exploring, and I am most at home in the outdoors. I just love nature, and I had hoped I would be able to see the royal gardens. That's why I was running at the castle."
The faerie stood up, as if she were about to go somewhere. "Well, I'm very sorry you never got to see it. I don't know if it will be of any consolation to you, but I have a garden I would be happy to show you."
I clapped my hands together, as I always tend to do when I'm excited. "Oh, yes please! I would love to see your garden!" As I followed the faerie up the steep hill, everything began to look strangely familiar. It wasn't until we reached the top of the hill, that I realized where I was.
The hilltop was covered with rows upon rows of flowers! Big flowers and little flowers, flowers that grew on bushes, and flowers that crept along vines. There were flowers with long stems, playing tag with the sun, and flowering fruit trees that were teeming with wildlife. I even saw flowers I'd been told could not grow in Meridell, for climate reasons. But everything seemed to grow in this wonderful, whimsical garden. It was truly a paradise for a nature lover like me or...
"Illusen!" A little brown Acara came climbing up the hill, carrying a folded paper bag with both hands.
"What is it, Eli? Have you completed your quest?"
"Yes, ma'am." He handed the faerie, who was apparently the famous Illusen, the paper bag, and she peeked inside to make sure its contents were what she needed.
"Thank you, Eli, this is exactly what I need!" She put the bag down on the picnic table, and disappeared into her cabin to find a reward for the Acara. She came out holding a very pretty cupcake, with a blue flower made of frosting on the top. "Here you are, my friend! I hope you enjoy it."
"Thanks, Illusen!" He sat down at the picnic table and began to devour his reward.
"Your garden is the most beautiful place I've ever seen, Miss Illusen," I said. "When I saw it in the painting, I had no idea it would look like this."
"Thank you, my dear." She whirled around to face me, knocking the paper bag off the table with her wing. We all watched as a dozen little yellow wormy things, spilled out of the bag and vanished in puffs of smoke. "Oh, when will I learn to be careful," said the earth faerie, shaking her head.
Eli laughed. "Remember when you dropped that potion I brought you in the watering can?"
"Yes, Eli, I remember. Now, do you think you could bring me some more of those? I'll give you another reward."
"Another reward? I'll be right back!" The promise of another yummy cupcake was all the little boy needed to send him running back down the hill.
Now that I was alone with Illusen, it was my chance to ask her what exactly she meant by what she said when she knocked the bag off the table.
"I'm afraid I can be a bit clumsy sometimes. I just have to remember to look before before I act. It can be so hard sometimes though, you know."
I laughed. "I know exactly what you mean!"
I couldn't believe it, the great Illusen had the same problem as I did! We spent the next hour talking and laughing, sharing stories about things we had messed up and knocked down.
"There was nail polish everywhere! The air faeries were so angry with me," my new friend said, through fits of giggles.
"That's not as bad as the incident I had at the Rock Pool in Mystery Island!" I managed to say through my own laughter.
After that fun and unusual hour, I felt so much happier than I had when I first arrived. In my short lifetime, I'd heard lots of stories about Illusen the earth faerie. Stories about her kindness, her beauty, her bravery in protecting Meridell against the evil forces of the Darigan Citadel, and her generosity to the neopets who did daily quests for her. There was not one story of her being clumsy though, nor did anyone ever mention the fact. It made me wonder if she kept it a secret, although she didn't strike me as the secret keeping type. I contemplated this for a moment, before I decided that maybe having two left feet wasn't such a big deal after all.
"Goodness, look at the time. Your parents must be worried about you."
Illusen used her incredible earth magic to contact my parents, and tell them where I was. When they came to get me that day, they weren't mad at all about what happened at the castle. Oh no, they had a much more pressing matter on their minds.
"What were you thinking, running off in a strange city?! Were you even thinking at all?"
"We were about to send out a search party for you! You nearly gave your father and I a heart attack!"
They yelled for about a quarter of an hour, but I didn't mind. I knew it was what I deserved, for putting them through so much grief. When everything had calmed down, my mother asked me why I had run away in the first place.
"I was just so embarrassed and upset. I ruined our trip to Meridell City."
"As it turns out, Mizuun, you didn't ruin our trip at all. We never would have seen so much, if we hadn't been looking for you. We'll have to come back again sometime, I really enjoyed the scenery."
"Yes, we absolutely have to come back! My paradise is here in Meridell City."
"Your paradise?" At this, my mother was filled with curiosity. "Do you mean the royal gardens?"
"Oh no, somewhere much more wonderful. Illusen's Glade."
"I'd love to hear all about it. What was Illusen like?"
I grinned. "Well, Mama, she was clumsy. Just like me!"
So you see, diary, that weekend in Meridell City turned about to be a very good one after all. And to think if I had known at the time the importance of looking where you're going, I would never have met Illusen. I will always celebrate the 17th day of Running, in honour of the friend who helped me more than she could ever know.
I have to stop writing now. I still have a lot of packing to do for our week in the Brightvale countryside! I hear it can be pretty mucky out there, I'd better bring some extra outfits, just in case.