"Just right!" Illusen smiled to herself as she took the
metal baking tray out of her Earth Faerie Oven. Two dozen perfectly baked cookies
sat in orderly rows on the hot aluminum. Their sweet, steamy smell rose up, melding
with the air in the little kitchen. Their baker smiled and began spraying blobs
of green-tinted cream on each one. They were all ready for that day's set of new
questers. The batch of leaf tacos and flower cakes were almost finished, as well.
"IL-OO-ZEN!" A high-pitched, frantic-sounding
shout came from outside the walls of the faerie's warm kitchen. Hooves beat
forcefully against the wooden door of Illusen's little cottage. The noise continued,
and the door shook under the pounding hooves of its attacker.
Somewhat alarmed, Illusen hurried out of the
kitchen, carrying the tray of finished cream cookies. She tried not to drop
it as she went over to the door, which was trembling under the onslaught of
whoever was on the other side. Balancing the tray on her knee, she turned the
doorknob with her free hand and pushed the door just enough to let the breeze
from outside blow it open.
"Ouch!" Illusen yelped, quickly taking the hot
tray of cookies off of her bare skin. With the cream cookies secure in her hands
once more, she took her first look at the visitor who had been so keen to get
A young green Kau, with a wide smile on her small
face, said cheerfully, with no trace of the panic that had worried Illusen into
making such a hasty move towards the door, "Illoozen!"
"Hello… Can I help you?" the Earth Faerie asked,
leaning over to look at her young caller. Her thin orange and brown braid swung
down as she did so, and was stopped in its descent by a protruding bit of mint-colored
cream rising up from a cookie. Illusen watched as her hair settled itself among
the puffy cream and wondered how she could get it out of that situation without
taking her hands off of the tray.
The green Kau grinned wider, revealing a missing
tooth in her childish smile. She bent down and took in her hooves two plushies
that had been sitting on the ground, most likely resting there while their owner
carried out the attack on the door. "I was afraid I was too late to see you,
Illoozen! I knocked extra loud to make sure you heard me."
"Don't worry, I heard you," Illusen said with
a smile and various odd jerks of her head, the latter of which was not directed
at the Kau but intended to free her braid from the grasp of the cream cookie.
"I bet you don't know me, or do you?" the Kau
asked. "You're an uber faerie--Mommy told me that means really super amazing--so
you probably do know me! Do you know my plushies, too? I bet you do, because
"Er…" Illusen gave one great jerk of her head,
along with a shrug of her shoulder, and her braid came free of the cream. It
immediately came to rest on another cream cookie, trailing bits of green cream
along the tray. Sighing inwardly, the Earth Faerie turned back to the Kau and
said, a bit hesitantly, "I'm sorry, but… I can't say I recall ever meeting you
The green Kau seemed none the more disappointed
for Illusen's lack of recognition. "Oh! Well, that's okay; you'll know me soon.
I'm Trika. I'm a Kau," she stated the obvious. "My mommy is saving up to paint
me Plushie, because I love plushies. See, this is Furry," she held up a yellow
Usul plushie, "and this is Maddie," holding up a blue Aisha plushie. "I know
Maddie has a better name, but I love Furry just the same." She petted the Usul
"How nice to meet you all." Illusen had now resorted
to giving large jerks and twists of her entire body, trying to flip her braid
free of the clutching cream. It only sunk in deeper, making itself comfortable
in the sugary softness. And after all the rainwater shampoo Illusen had used
"Do you need help?" Trika asked cheerfully. "Furry,
The faerie stood still as the little Kau raised
her plushie up to Illusen's face. Moving the plushie's tiny arms with her hooves,
Trika had the plushie take hold of Illusen's narrow braid and move it slowly
away from the cookie. Once done, she let the plushie release the hair, allowing
the cream-covered braid to drop against Illusen's dress. "Is that better, Illoozen?"
the Kau asked eagerly.
"Why, yes, it is." Somewhat embarrassed, but
nevertheless amused, Illusen asked, "Are you here for a quest, Trika?"
"A quest?" The Kau looked confused for a moment.
"No. We came to say hello to you. My mommy and I just moved to Meridell, and
I was sure you'd be glad to see us!"
For a moment Illusen stood looking for an older
Kau that might be Trika's mother, but finding no such being nearby, realized
that the "us" referred to Trika and her plushies. "I'm very happy to meet you."
"Me, too!" Trika exclaimed happily. "I always
knew you were a really nice faerie. Can I have a quest?" Trika reached for one
of the cream cookies on Illusen's tray.
"My dear, if you're going to have a quest, you
must complete it before you can have a cookie," Illusen said with a smile.
The Kau looked confused as she brought a treat
up to her mouth. "Don't you call the cookies 'quests'?"
"No, these are my special cream cookies."
"Oh!" Trika said happily, biting into the baked
sweet. "Can I have a cream cookie?"
Illusen watched as the cookie disappeared into
the Kau's mouth. "I usually reserve those as quest prizes," she said gently.
"Oh." Trika glanced down at her plushies. "Oops."
She let out a nervous giggle.
"It's all right. I think I'll have to give you
a quest now, though. Besides, you did ask for one." Illusen tried to think of
some item she needed for a spell. She still hadn't used all the ingredients
that yesterday's batch of questers had given her. There was one other spell
she didn't have all the ingredients for that she'd been eager to try. "Could
you bring me… a Blue Aisha Plushie?"
Illusen remembered the toys that the young Kau
carried just as the words left her mouth. She immediately berated herself for
asking for that item, of all things. The green Kau's eyes widened in horror,
instinctively falling to the Aisha plushie of blue cloth that she held.
Illusen said quickly, "Actually, I'd much rather
have a… a Red Buzz Toy."
"No," Trika said slowly, staring into the stitched
eyes of the toy she had just a few minutes before introduced as Maddie. "You
want a Blue Aisha Plushie."
"A Red Buzz Toy would be just as good…"
"I don't have a Red Buzz Toy." The Kau raised
her stricken eyes to Illusen's face. Her hoof squeezed Maddie tight. The Earth
Faerie winced; she hated to see the child looking at her like that. It was obvious
how much the plushies meant to the Kau.
"What do you do with the items people give you?"
Trika asked softly, dropping her gaze to the Aisha plushie she held.
"I… use them in spells, mostly."
"Not… not to experiment on, like the Dark Faeries?"
Trika's previously happy voice quivered.
"Of course not," Illusen said quickly, twitching
a bit at the mention of Dark Faeries.
"If I give her to you… will you take care of
Maddie?" Trika asked quietly.
"Honey, I didn't mean for you to give me one
of your plushies. You could get another one from the Shop Wizard, or…"
Trika shook her head. "No… I can't go to the
shops alone. Mommy won't let me."
Illusen bit her lip. "You know… you don't have
to do the quest." She was surprised at herself; had she ever advised a pet to
let one of her quests time out?
"But I do have to. I ate the cookie." Trika's
grave voice made it sound as if eating the cream cookie was undertaking a great
responsibility that she now had to pay for.
Illusen forced a smile. "What's one cream cookie?
It's all right; consider it a gift from me."
Trika's mouth bent into a small, thin smile.
"It's okay. You can have her. I know you'll take good care of her and be nice
to her, because you're the kindest Earth Faerie of all." Trika set the Aisha
plushie on the tray Illusen was holding, positioning the toy between cookies
carefully, and arranging its stuffed limbs so that the plushie appeared to be
eating one of the treats. The Kau pulled one of the plushie's ears to her mouth
and whispered, "You have a good time with Illoozen. She'll be your mommy from
now on. Help her make her spell, okay?"
Illusen wasn't sure what to say.
"Maddie's really nice. You'll like her. She
likes to help with baking cookies, too." Trika's eyes were pleading, looking
at the Earth Faerie and begging her to live up to the trust that the Kau placed
in her. She took a deep breath and managed to display her old cheerful smile.
"I know you'll be a good mommy, Illoozen."
* * * * *
The Aisha plushie sat on Illusen's kitchen windowsill,
its blue fabric tinted gold by the sunlight that shone on it. The Earth Faerie
looked at it and sighed. The Kau had left several hours ago, and Illusen had
since become occupied with the many other pets who came to her cottage seeking
quests. But she couldn't forget about Trika, and she stole a glance at the plushie
every chance she got. For some reason she felt that she should be doing more
with it than letting it sit against her window.
At one point, after handing out a leaf-shaped
comb to yet another quester, Illusen stole into the kitchen and picked up the
plushie. Stroking its upright ears, she began speaking to it. "Hello, Maddie.
It seems you're with me now."
This was awkward. Illusen shook her head; it
had been too long since she had actually played with a toy. "Well, Maddie, it's
clear I can't use you in a spell. You have a loving owner that you should be
with right now. Now, how am I going to return you to her?"
The plushie did not respond.
* * * * *
"Your mail, Miss Illusen. Got a big stack today."
The Eyrie dumped a pile of letters inside the faerie's entryway.
Illusen started, setting down the blue plushie
that she'd been turning over in her fingers. Nearly a week had passed since
Trika had entrusted her precious toy to the Earth Faerie. The Kau had not come
back since, and Illusen had made no attempt to find her. She felt guilty for
it; the sooner the plushie was returned to her true "mommy", the better. But
giving quests and working on spells had taken Illusen's time away.
"Thank you," the faerie told the mailman, heading
over to gather the many letters that were spilling over her floor.
"No problem." The Eyrie gave a nod and turned
to leave. "I'm just glad I don't have to answer all that mail. Whew, I'd hate
to be popular."
Illusen grinned a bit as the Eyrie left. She
sat down at her kitchen table to read the letters. The Aisha plushie sat on
the table, watching through her sewn-on eyes.
A small green envelope caught Illusen's eye.
A crayon drawing adorned the front, showing, as near as Illusen could figure
out, three creatures surrounded by flowers. The sender and recipient's names
and addresses were written in crude, childish handwriting, and were surrounded
by colorful borders drawn with crayon.
"'Trika the Kau'," Illusen read the sender's
name aloud. "'To Illusen the Earth Faerie'." She smiled and slit open the envelope.
A single, similarly decorated sheet of paper
was inside. It was an invitation to a tea party that Trika was hosting for her
plushies. "'I hope you come, Illusen. P.S. Can you please bring Maddie? Furry
and I miss her, and I think she's like to see us again too.'" The faerie smiled.
She sat at the table admiring the invitation
and its envelope for a few minutes, debating with herself whether she should
go or not. It would be a perfect opportunity to return the plushie to Trika,
but Illusen knew there would be a commotion among questers if she closed down
for the day and went to have a tea party with a child and her toys. She could
just imagine the rumors that would start up if she did that, not to mention
all the pets who would demand that she take time off to dine with them as well.
No, she couldn't accept the invitation now.
The doorbell rang then. Illusen answered it,
and found herself looking at a nervous yellow Moehog. He was wearing a shirt
with the number seven imprinted on it, along with a good luck ankh on a string
around his neck, and was twirling a four-leaf clover in his hoof. He was muttering
to himself anxiously, "My fiftieth quest! Oh, please, please, don't let me fail.
I can't fail; I won't fail. Please, please, let her ask for an easy item…"
Illusen resisted the urge to laugh. "Ah, just
the pet I wanted to see! You've done very well to come this far, Ernie. You've
never failed a quest yet."
The Moehog nodded quickly. "Oh, yes, yes, Illusen!"
"I know you won't fail me this time, either."
Illusen's eyes twinkled.
"No, no, I won't!" Ernie squeezed the clover
"Very well, then… may I have an Illusen Faerie
The Moehog staggered back. "Yes, Illusen," he
said feebly, clutching his good luck charms as he stumbled away. "She must do
this to torture me," he gasped under his breath.
Illusen chuckled to herself. "Poor Ernie. I don't
want to torture him, but how can I help it when the prices for faerie dolls
are so high? Besides, I have a good use for this doll. Maddie, you'll be going
to the tea party," Illusen said, stroking the blue Aisha plushie that sat silent
on the table. "Trika will be so happy to see you, I'm sure."
"Shocking!" an unfamiliar voice exclaimed. Illusen
whirled around. A Mynci was standing behind her, furiously scribbling on a notepad.
"Er, how did you get into my house?" the Earth
Faerie asked, a trifle annoyed.
"Climbed in through the window," the Mynci said
nonchalantly. Flipping his notepad closed, he said loudly, "Wait until Jhudora
hears that her rival still plays with plushies! She'll double over laughing,
and probably give me a raise!"
Illusen shook her head. It was these types of
pets that made her almost want to leave her cottage for a day and have tea.
"You hurry and tell Jhudora that I know about her secret collection of Usukis.
And please use the front door when you leave."
* * * * *
Trika stared at the table she'd set up in her
yard. Four teacups were set out on it, along with a teapot full of tea (or rather,
hot water that her mother had boiled for her) and a plate of tiny cookies. Only
two seats at the table were filled, one by the Kau, and the other by her Usul
plushie. The other two were reserved for a certain faerie and a toy Aisha.
"Honey." An older Kau poked her head out of the
house that stood in the middle of the yard. "You can't sit out there all day.
Sighing, the green Kau took her Usul toy in her
hoof and stood up. "She never came," Trika said to her mother as she headed
into the house. Her voice was disappointed. "And Furry was looking forward to
seeing Maddie again…"
"Honey, I wouldn't think about seeing Maddie
again," her mother said gently.
"Illoozen is a nice faerie," Trika replied staunchly.
"She wouldn't hurt Maddie."
Her mother didn't reply. She watched as her daughter
took the plate on which her lunch rested and carried it back outside. "I'm going
to have lunch at the tea table," Trika called over her shoulder.
As the Kau sat down, she glanced at the two seats
that had been sitting empty all morning long. She gasped.
In one seat was her beloved blue Aisha plushie.
Trika jumped up and grabbed it, squeezing its cloth body tight against her skin.
As she did so, she glanced to the other seat.
In it was a faerie doll with long green and brown
hair and large green eyes. The doll was a spitting image of Illusen, down to
the tiny braid that was partially sunken in a miniature cream cookie.