Not Another Illusen Day
"Green, green, green, green!" she yelled as she hurled Fresh Green Potpourri across the room. It hit the opposite wall with a merciless crunch and subsequently shattered itself. In the corner cowered a Black Faellie, his trembling arms crossed above his head, his attention focused on blending in with the wall. Illusen stomped around in her tiny wooden living room, kicking anything green she could find, which happened to be quite a lot.
"Why, why," she continued, "do people insist on giving me green things. Year after year?" She turned around and looked inquisitively at her Faellie, which was still decidedly trying to vanish into thin air. "I mean, honestly, what do people think? Huzzah, it's Illusen Day, let's go and dump all the green stuff we found at home on her doorstep and she'll be grateful?" A set of drums was kicked unceremoniously as she took another turn and continued pacing.
"Does it never occur to people I might like another color? All this green, day in, day out, blugh. " Illusen sank onto a green chair and buried her face in her hands. As a sign of protest she had tried dyeing one of her green dresses black, which had resulted in a sort of blotched horror, now hanging in front of the window to dry. Stretching her long pale legs she wiggled her toes and fantasized of having nail polish that wasn't green on them. This thought relaxed her for a few minutes. "At least my hair isn't green," she mumbled as a petulant child might have after being punished. She ran her fingers through her fierce red hair and sighed heavily.
"What shall I do, Chestnut?" The Faellie lowered its arms and took a few tentative steps towards his mistress uttering soft whimpering cries. "I know, nothing." She scratched Chestnut behind the ear and lifted him into her lap. "All I can do is smile benignly at every fool depositing green things at my feet."
What Illusen dreaded most was the Festival held in her honor, every year, on Illusen Day, in Meridell. First there would be an official reception at the castle where King Skarl would make a long soporific speech in her honor and whisper bad jokes in her ear while all she could think about was buying him a toothbrush and some toothpaste. Horrible breath, please. Afterwards there is a big Festival on the green with lots of stalls, carnival artists, music, dancing, archery, etc. Yes, everyone else was having a good time, enjoying themselves, talking, blending in while she was confined to a throne-like chair, sitting on a slightly elevated construction overseeing all. She shuddered at the thought.
"I know I have to be present at the Castle, but oh Chestnut, what if afterwards I could just slip away and mix among the crowd?" Chestnut yawned loudly and turned around in her lap, finding a more comfy position, and having done so, promptly started snoring. "I can tell I have your support..."
Gazing out of the window, she mumbled to herself as Chestnut continued snoring and started drooling into her lap: "Tomorrow... tomorrow..."
Meridell Castle was swarming with overstressed Neopets carrying buckets and mops, running up and down the castle, cleaning every nook and corner, pushing every Spyder or critter out of the windows. Down every corridor you could hear King Skarl's booming voice echoing, handing out orders to everyone who crossed his path and generally just making a lot of useless noise. Then again, he had a lot of reason to be grumpy, there was only one day a year he woke up before dawn, all panicked and stressed-out at the thought of having to receive and entertain Illusen. What jokes would he come up with this year? He was running out of them and ,quite frankly, the Neopets who were supposed to make him laugh on a daily basis were doing a very poor job these days. In face to these insecurities he responded in the only way known to him: yelling at other Neopets. Subsequently there were a lot of Castle employees who tried to take a sick day or conveniently had some distant relative to visit in a very distant world. Alas, King Skarl personal secretary had devised a new roster which only allowed two Neopets a year to not attend on Illusen Day. The cunning Lenny patrolled the hallways, noting absentees and smirking as he greeted the employees.
There was only one more day left to Illusen Grand Feast and they were running out of time. The Lenny scratched his head wearily as two Kacheeks came hurrying by, carrying green streamers in their small arms. Albert felt he was getting too old to run this show anymore. He had to be strict with the other to keep himself out of trouble, but if he could have it his own way, he'd be lounging by the seaside on Mystery Island. If he closed his eyes he could almost feel the sand between his toes. Almost.
Illusen opened her front door cautiously and gently pushed a squirming Chestnut out with her foot. "Chestnut, go, you go first," she hissed. "They won't try to give you gifts." And with a last push Chestnut rolled out into the clearing and blinked uneasily in the sun. He looked left and right before giving a high chirp, letting his mistress now the coast was clear. There was a loud sigh of relief. Illusen opened her door wide and took a deep breath of forest air. She took a step. Crack. She looked down and to her dismay saw she had just crushed a Bottle of Green Sand that had been left on her doorstep.
"That's it. That's the final straw. Chestnut, pack your bags. We leave at nightfall!"
As the last rays of sun buried themselves in darkness, Illusen and Chestnut left their home through the back door. They stealthily crept from tree to tree, keeping their eyes peeled for any fans or admirers lurking. Thus they walked all night, trying to get as far away from Meridell as possible. Illusen had thought about using a bit of magic, but didn't dare for fear of being seen or discovered. She had been racking her brain about finding a good hide out. How hard could it be to find a safe place just for one day. But then as she started ticking of the possibilities she came to realize that she would be recognized everywhere and she didn't have any friends to shelter her. Save for Chestnut, she had nobody to turn to. Nobody. Unless...
It was raining hard when Illusen knocked on the heavy brass door and Chestnut was shivering against her leg. She knocked hard three times and waited with bated breath. Soon came the sound of reluctant footsteps, the rattling of keys and the unlocking of the heavy bolted door. The door opened.
"This must be a joke," said a cold voice.
"Hello, Jhudora," Illusen said pleasantly as she ushered a soaked Chestnut inside.
The large cavernous hallway sent shivers down Illusen's spine. It was lined with mirrors large and eerie torches set in even eerier brackets. She coughed dryly and turned hopefully to her hostess. Jhudora was scowling at her feet as she crossed her arms. The Earth Faerie picked up Chestnut who was clawing desperately at her leg and kept staring at her sister. Finally Jhudora met her eyes. Chestnut tried to hide under Illusen's armpit.
"You can't be serious, Illusen. You just can't show up her unannounced and on bloody Illusen Day!" She started pacing to and fro. "What did you think? That we'd celebrate the day together, eat candy and braid each others' hair? Did you now?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Illusen scoffed, dropping Chestnut to the ground and placing her hands on her hips. "The only reason I would come here is if I were desperate. Well guess what? I am. I came here to get away from all this Illusen Day craziness." Jhudora raised an eyebrow in a very convincing cynical way. "All I ask," Illusen continued, "is to be allowed to stay here for one day and then I'll be out of your hair."
Jhudora clicked her tongue impatiently as she deliberated. The trouble was she knew perfectly how Illusen felt. On Jhudora Day there would be all these strange Neopets with a hang for darkness and evil depositing the most horrible things at her door. Mutant Petpets, rotten food, jars filled with slimy pickled things. Yeurgh. Being dark, evil and mysterious always seemed quite overrated on those days. She had mountains of black and purple items stored in her caves and didn't have a clue as what to do with them.
"Fine," she muttered. "Follow me. I'll take you to your room and you are not to come out of it!" Illusen and her black Faellie followed Jhudora through many corridors harboring many dust-covered paintings, finally they entered the guest room. Illusen was pleasantly surprised, she had half expected to be escorted to the dungeons. Guessing her sisters' thoughts, Jhudora said: "Just because I'm evil doesn't mean I don't enjoy a descent bed with fluffy pillows." The Earth Faerie entered the room and dropped her bag on the back. She looked around and spotted a Defaced Portrait of Illusen hanging on the wall opposite the four poster bed.
"Cute," she shot at Jhudora. "Very cute."
"Nighty night," Jhudora said in a sneer as she closed the door with a sharp snap.
"Well, Chestnut, it's just you, me and ugly," she said pointing at her defaced portrait.
When she woke up, Illusen had to admit she had slept surprisingly well. The bed was soft but not too soft, as were the pillows, the room was neither hot nor cold and she hadn't heard any noise at all of someone being tortured in the dungeons. She stretched luxuriously under the covers and rearranged her pillows in a more comfortable position. Today she felt like the most blessed faerie of all. She was free, hidden and exempt from her Faerie duties. Pure bliss. She did feel a tiny twinge of guilt as she thought about Meridell and the feast, about King Skarl and his poor secretary Albert. But then again, she thought to herself, they always enjoy feasting those Meridellians, they don't need me as a pretext to do it.
Illusen had agreed to Jhudora's terms to not leave her room gladly since she had no desires for dysfunctional meals with her sister, but thinking of meals, she realized she was quite hungry and ached for some breakfast. She tiptoed towards the door and slowly opened it to find a silver breakfast tray at her feet. At first she was rather reluctant to touch it, fearing some cunning hex, but her stomach gave such a rumble she decided to take a chance and picked it up. She carried it to her bed and closely examined the victuals. There was toast, butter and jam, and also something that alarmingly resembled an Illusen Frosted Cupcake. She picked it up and a note fell into her lap. She unfolded the letter and read the following:
Just making sure you don't come looking for food downstairs and stay in your room.
Have a lousy Illusen Day
"Well, well," Illusen said, handing a piece of cupcake to Chestnut. "Guess who has a heart after all!"