The Crusaders of Kindness: Day of Giving
Three days before the Day of Giving, the bi-monthly meeting of the Crusaders of Kindness took place in Mr. Arnold Fairtree's living room. There were five of them altogether, not including good Mrs. Featherby who only came by to bake cookies for the group and regale them with tales of the wildest scandals happening all across Neopia. The Crusaders, not being accustomed to such atrocious stories, gasped and cried out, prompting Mrs. Featherby to delight the noble pets with even more devastating news of who had been seen stepping out whose carriage and what the mayor of Krawk Island did on his days off.
Aside from that giddy old Lenny, there five of them. Arnold Fairtree himself was the self-proclaimed leader of the Crusaders, fashioning himself as Captain Kindness and wearing a so-monogrammed cape whenever the mood struck that worthy Bruce. Priscilla Fairtree, the sister of Captain Kindness himself, was not nearly so ambitious as her brother, and was known to the Crusaders only as Lady Love. To these two were joined Arabella Froom, a delightful Kau with a fondness for toffees and song. Her moniker, which she so joyfully picked out only two years prior, was Miss Manners. Though the rest of the Crusaders would never say it to her face, they had always found the name slightly silly.
The other two noble members of the Crusaders of Kindness were Travis and Trevor Biddleton, twin Pteris, younger than the other three but with a capacity for kindness that rivaled even that of Arnold Fairtree himself. Understandably, these two Pteris forwent the picking of individual nicknames and chose instead to be known as the Tolerant Twins, a title that was sure to strike fear into the heart of wickedness, mistrust, and general mean behavior.
And so it was, three days before the Day of Giving, that these five honorable pets came to be seated in the Fairtree residence alongside Mrs. Featherby, who never quite managed to become one with the Crusaders' goals. The cookies were excellent, the minutes were read, and the meeting was called to order. As was usual, the first point of business was to figure out precisely what act of kindness they would be performing in the upcoming days.
"It'll be the Day of Giving soon," piped up Lady Love as she bit into a delectable chocolate chip cookie. "I say we do something extra special kind!"
"I agree!" shouted one of the Tolerant Twins.
"I agree too!" shouted the other one.
Captain Kindness simply laughed, a good, hearty laugh, and adjusted his cape. "Of course we'll do something extra kind! Everyone is nice during the Day of Giving, so we have to go out of our way to be even nicer than everyone else. But... how do we do that?" The Captain's brow furrowed into a sad line, marring his noble features. At the sight of this, everyone in the room (with the possible exception of Mrs. Featherby) wilted slightly.
"How about... we do something nice for everybody?" suggested Miss Manners. "Nobody is nice enough to give everybody gifts."
This suggestion was received with a delighted round of murmurs and a few gracious pats on the back. Mrs. Featherby, however, continued to talk to nobody about the affairs of one Lord Norheim.
"That is a splendid idea, Miss Manners, but I'm afraid we haven't the funds for it!" Captain Kindness was blunt yet gentle in his rebuke, and Miss Manners, though initially upset, quickly recovered her former joy.
"Perhaps if we do something nice for someone evil! Nobody is nice enough to give evil people gifts!"
This suggestion was met with somewhat less murmuring and definitively less pats on the back. Mrs. Featherby, however, continued to talk to nobody about the affairs of one Mr. Prigpants.
"Someone... evil, Miss Manners?" Captain Kindness had never once performed kind acts towards those whose who were the very bane of his existence. "Why in Neopia should we do that?"
"I get it, Mr. Fai- I mean, Captain Kindness!" one of the Tolerant Twins trilled. "Here, look at this milk." He took the two glasses containing his and his brother's milk. "So we're the glass on the left and-"
"Your left or our left?" Lady Love's question was well-meaning and meant only to clarify.
The Tolerant Twin looked at her blankly. "This one," he said, pointing to the one on his left. "Now, this is us over here, and the one on the right is someone that we normally help. They've got some good and we've got some good! So when we help them out..." He poured the milk from one glass into the other. "Now they've got, like, twice as much good!"
"Okay, but what does this have to do with evil people, young Twin?" Captain Kindness had smiled at first at the young lad's initiative, but he was rapidly losing the conversation.
"Look, look, look! So now we're the cup on the right with a lot of good, and the evil person is the cup on the left with no good. So when we do something good for them..." He poured the milk completely from one glass into the other. "Now they've got, like, like, like, probably infinity times more good!" The young Pteri threw his wings into the air at the thought of so much good, and everyone laughed at how joyous and excited he was. Miss Manners picked him up and twirled him around the room while his twin began twirling about on the table in a nonsensical dance. Lady Love clapped her hands in time to the juvenile jig, and Captain Kindness watched it all, booming with laughter. Mrs. Featherby, however, continued to talk to nobody about the affairs of one Queen Fyora.
"Crusaders, Crusaders!" Captain Kindness finally called above the happiness that had taken hold of the small house. "We clearly have found an idea in Miss Manners! We must find an evil person and perform a great kindness for them!"
"But who?" Miss Manners puffed, still trying to catch her breath from the bout of laughter that had seized her but moments ago.
"Think, my dear friends! Where do we live? Who do we know that resides in those deep, dark woods that we call neighbor?"
He left the question hanging in the air for all to ponder. For a few seconds, all was silent, but then, all at once, the five Crusaders burst into laughter once more and joined hands, skipping around the room in anticipation of what would surely be a joyous Day of Giving.
Three days later, on the Day of Giving itself, the Crusaders of Kindness found themselves hauling bags, boxes, and all manner of containers through the dead, twisted trees of the Haunted Woods. Captain Kindness strode in front, bearing his cape with pride and bearing a hefty sack, overflowing with tinsel, garland, and daisy chains. The other four followed behind, each carrying a similar burden in their arms or on their backs.
"We're almost there!" called Captain Kindness over his shoulder. "I can see something orange up ahead!"
The cheers and whoops of the Crusaders echoed dismally in the empty forest.
"Look, there he is!" cried Lady Love. "He's all alone on the Day of Giving... That's rather sad, isn't it?"
"It is," sniffled Miss Manners. "I didn't think he would be quite so lonely."
The Tolerant Twins, coming to this realization, broke into heart-wrenching sobs and had to be scooped up by Miss Manners, who shushed them gently and fed them pieces of warm gingerbread from her purse.
Then, in the clearing before them, the Crusaders came upon the object of their trek: the Brain Tree.
"I have a job for you, weaklings!" the Tree boomed, showering his evil and hatred upon the valiant Crusaders.
The voice was black as burnt cake, vile as soured cream, and harsher than a ruler across the knuckles. Were it not for the presence of Captain Kindness, the other four Crusaders might well have turned tail and fled to the safety of their little village. But the sight of that caped Bruce, standing mighty against the foul Tree, holding a sack in one hand and one of the Tree's branches in the other, gave them all courage and might to stand against their enemy and shower him with love and kindness.
"Don't you know what day it is, Mr. Tree?" Captain Kindness stressed the noble title.
"I... have a job for you... weaklings?" The Tree's voice was softer now, gentler, like a Puppyblew's nose or the whiskers of an Angelpuss.
"It's the Day of Giving!" cried out the Tolerant Twins in unison.
"Today's the day when all creatures of Neopia, big and small, gather together to show their love for each other," added Miss Manners.
"And since you, Mr. Tree, are a creature of Neopia, we decided that you could use some love!" Lady Love herself said this as she drew nearer to the Brain Tree and gently took one of its branches in her hands. "Have you ever celebrated the Day of Giving before, Mr. Tree?"
"Boris... Boris Tonu died a long-"
"Shush, Mr. Tree." Captain Kindness wrapped his arms around the trunk and patted the old wood gently. "Today is not a day for grieving lost friends." He released his hold and looked up into the Tree's crimson eyes with his own water blue ones. "Today is a day for kindness."
"For all these things!" Captain Kindness cried, turning to face his friends. Tears ran down his face, mingling with those of his fellow Crusaders as their eyes watered the barren soil together. Though their eyes showed sorrow, their mouths were smiles all.
"What... the...?" The Tree's voice, once gruff and unforgiving, had melted into something mild as if clotted cream atop a fresh-baked scone.
And then, there was color! A veritable rainbow on display for all to see! Ornaments and streamers flew out of sacks, while strings of colored lights seemed to weave their way across the ground. Popcorn and cranberry chains, holly garlands, snowflakes and pine cones and glittery gold stars all made their way up, up out of the boxes and into the air as the Crusaders of Kindness unleashed their goodwill upon the Brain Tree.
Miss Manners hung the lights while Lady Love and Captain Kindness clambered through the branches, hanging ornaments to fill every last one of the good Tree's branches. Slowly but surely, the empty twigs of that evil plant were filled with all sorts of cheer. The Tolerant Twins, who were far too wee to help in any of the branch decorating, dug through a discarded sack and found a model train set which they set to building around the trunk of the Tree with much hollering and laughter.
Through all this, the Tree was silent, only issuing forth the occasional "wh" sound as if to start a question. But there was no question what was happening in that clearing on that wondrous Day of Giving. Good had conquered evil. Kindness had conquered apathy. Love had conquered hate. The train choo-chooed along its track, the lights flickered on and off, the ornaments twinkled merrily in the multi-colored glow.
"Lookit, lookit!" One of the Tolerant Twins pointed up into the sky above them. "It's a Day of Giving miracle!"
The other four Crusaders looked up at what the tot had pointed to and gasped in awe. Snow was falling all around them! Tiny, precious flakes of snow began to fill the ground, fit for snowmen or snow angels or a toboggan ride through the forest. At once, the friends fell from the branches and dove to the ground, flinging the white fluff hither and yon, basking in the chill that only newly-fallen snow can deliver.
"It even smells like happiness!" sang Miss Manners, throwing her hoofs above her head and twirling in circles.
"Oh, Miss Manners, happiness doesn't have a smell!" laughed Lady Love, rolling on the ground in mirth and kicking her feet in the rapidly accumulating snow.
"How could it get any better?" Captain Kindness lifted one of the Tolerant Twins onto his shoulders and began dashing around the clearing, circling the Tree and making sure not to step on the tracks of the Caring Express.
"Faster, Captain Kindness, faster!" squeaked the Pteri, holding on for dear life.
"Warp factor kind!" Captain Kindness leaped through the air and landed in a snow drift.
The Twin popped his head up out of the snow and giggled. "How did it snow so much in only a few minutes?"
"It's... it's the magic of kindness..." The voice of the Tree caused all heads to turn towards the decorated behemoth in the center of the clearing. Sap flowed sticky and clear from the burning red eyes, rolling through the cracks of the trunk and pooling on the ground.
"The magic of kindness?" Captain Kindness had never heard such things coming from a creature of evil.
"It never snows... in the Haunted Woods... because of all the evil here. But you... your kindness broke the spell... "
"Does that mean...?" Miss Manners was too nervous to even finish her question.
"Yes... the Day of Giving has cured the Haunted Woods of all evil."
The Crusaders of Kindness cheered as they had never cheered before! They ran at once to the Tree and wrapped their arms around his trunk, covering themselves in the sticky sap of his tears.
"It's better than I could ever have hoped for, Captain Kindness," said Lady Love, wrapping her arm around her brother.
"I never thought our kindness could do something so powerful. I think everyone knows what this means."
"A song!" they all shouted, the Brain Tree among them.
And so they all broke into song, caroling first about the Twelve Days of Giving and then the Little Ruki Boy. They sang of presents under a tree, of winters and wonderlands and being home for the holidays. The voices of the children mixed with the voices of the adults, and they all mixed wonderfully with the crackly groans of the tree. And smiles were plastered wide across every face, for despite the snow, they were all bathed in the warmth that was love and joy. And even though he was covered with tinsel and garland, with ornaments and popcorn, one might have even seen a wide grin forming on the face of that old plant.