Tula's Terrible Truth
The sun was setting over Faerieland. Tula watched as everything around her slowly became shrouded in a dusky light. She dipped her hand into the blue green water of the lake by the Faerie Caverns. Only minutes ago the water had been warm and welcoming - now, without the rays of the sun, it was already beginning to cool.
"Isn't it marvellous?"
Startled by the sudden, unexpected voice, Tula jumped, splashing water on to the lilac gauze of her dress.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to surprise you."
Tula smiled, a flash of perfect white teeth. She had the best smile in the whole of Neopia. You could say it came with the job. "Please, don't worry about it." She nodded at Illusen in agreement. "You're right, it is marvellous. So many new things we're experiencing now we live down here on the land." There was a slightly wistful tone to her voice.
Illusen looked at her sympathetically. "You miss the clouds?"
"Why yes. Don't you?"
The Earth faerie laughed merrily. "I'm an Earth faerie! I love being down here, surrounded by trees and leaves and plants and earthy delights!" Illusen smiled kindly. She was holding a basket of large, ripe fruit. "I must take these to Faerie City and then get back to Meridell. Do come visit my glade, when you have the chance. No doubt you have a busy night ahead of you?"
"Yes! Yes, of course!" Tula sounded far more enthusiastic than she was actually feeling. "It's been lovely seeing you, Illusen."
"You too! Keep up the good work!"
When she was sure Illusen had flown out of sight, Tula extracted the list of her evening's work from her small bag and stared at it dejectedly, for it contained only three names. Once upon a time, the list would have been almost endless and almost certainly taken her until sunrise to complete. Tonight, however, her three jobs would be done within the hour.
Tula peered up into the darkening sky. Life was so much more complicated, it seemed to her, now that the faeries no longer lived on a cloud hovering above Neopia. Much had been to rebuild Faerieland, but Tula couldn't help feeling nostalgic for previous times.
Keep up the good work, Illusen had told her as she departed.
What work? Tula thought wryly. There was hardly any work for her! That was the problem. And if Fyora found out ...
Tula sniffed sadly, and furiously blinked away a tear.
No matter where Faerieland existed, whether it be on a cloud in the sky or down here on the land, Faerieland was her home, and she would hate to have to leave!
Tula vowed that Fyora, the faerie queen, must never discover how little work Tula now had to do.
Something had to be done about it. But what?* * * *
Tula had always loved her job. She was one of the few unique faeries that existed in Faerieland. Very few Neopians, or even faeries for that matter, knew her by the name of Tula. Mostly she was known simply as the Tooth Faerie. She cut a striking figure in her white and lilac clothes, with her bright blue hair matching her long blue gloves and boots. She was famed for her dazzling smile and her sunny, cheerful nature. Being the tooth faerie meant everything to her and she was never happier than when she had a full list of baby teeth to collect during the night, and a full list of older Neopians to visit during the day with reminders about dental appointments. Nothing pained her more than seeing a neopet with bad dental hygiene. "Remember to floss!" she'd chirp out perkily to anyone she would encounter on her travels. "Don't forget your toothbrush" she'd remind Neopians about to go on holiday. She was generous with her advice, often rewarding Neopians with neopoints and an avatar for lost baby teeth and good dental habits. So popular was she that a furniture range had been designed in her honour and the faerie furniture shop did a roaring trade selling tooth faerie chairs and bean bags. There was even a tooth faerie oven! The Grooming Parlour in the Neopian Bazaar (Ironically next door to the chocolate shop!) sold her range of tooth faerie toothbrushes, toothpastes and mouth wash. But perhaps what Tula was most proud of was the new line of tasty treats now available in various food shops across the whole of Neopia. Ice lollies, gum, muffins, sweets, mushrooms, pizza - all deliciously tasting yet sugar-free and good for your teeth!
In that respect, business was booming.
But for the last few months, Tula had found herself with so few actual jobs to do she was verging on the point of idleness. Her lists of neohomes to visit for tooth collections and friendly appointment reminders were diminishing day by day, night by night. Neopians seemed not to need her anymore and this alarmed Tula. The downfall of Faerieland had frightened her and made her and everyone else aware of just how precarious the importance and standing of the faeries was in Neopia. If someone had envisioned a future without faeries and nearly made this a reality, then there was no guarantee that Tula would always have a job as the tooth faerie. Surely if Fyora and the other faeries realised that Neopia no longer needed a tooth faerie, then it would make sense for them to cast her aside and banish her forever. Every faerie had to be useful, and Tula was feeling anything but.
Just as she had expected, her three jobs took hardly any time at all. She left more neopoints than she normally would have in exchange for the three teeth she collected and placed into her bag. Her last job had been in Haunted Woods and she now found herself fluttering near the Esophagor. She fluttered too close and was hit by an almighty, overpowering stench of bad breath. "Oh my word!" she exclaimed, recoiling. Then her tooth faerie instinct took over. "I have just the thing!" She reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of her famous mouth wash. "Esophagor, you must take this, please!"
The Esophagor roared with laughter, his earthy mass shaking. "I am the Esophagor!" he boomed. "People pay thousands to have this stench bottled and used in a battle to defeat their opponents! Do you think it would have the same powerful effect if it were minty fresh?! Be gone with you, tooth faerie!"
Dejectedly, Tula quickly flew away. She was about to head back to Faerieland when she spotted a well dressed ghost Lupe lurking near the entrance of the Deserted Fairground. "Sir!" she called out brightly. She was still holding the bottle of mouth wash so she waved it at the Lupe. "Please accept this mouth wash as a token of goodwill! Remember to always ..."
The Lupe cut her off mid-sentence. "Yes, yes, I know," he growled. "You're wasting your time. I already have your avatar. I don't have any baby teeth. I have all your dental hygiene products at home. I only ever snack on your sugar-free products. I haven't had a cavity for years." The Lupe bared his teeth and Tula nodded her approval at his well-looked after gnashers, so pearly white they seemed to almost glow in the darkness surrounding them. "There's nothing you can do for me, tooth faerie. My teeth are in tip top condition. I follow all the rules outlined in your book, Tooth Faerie Dental Care. You're a victim of your own success, dear tooth faerie! Perhaps you should be encouraging us to eat more sugary snacks - then you'd have more work to do!" He raised his eyebrows. "Joking of course. I bid you a good night."
Tula watched him disappear into the Deserted Fairground.
A victim of her own success?
A plan was beginning to form in her mind.
Perhaps there was a way for her to keep busy after all!* * * *
Fyora, the faerie queen, sat at her desk in the Hidden Tower, puzzling over the sheets of paper in front of her. She circled some figures in pink pen and frowned thoughtfully. Something wasn't right. These figures simply weren't adding up. Sales in the tooth faerie's dental range and her line of sugar-free snacks were ever increasing and yet Neopia had never before experienced such an epidemic of tooth decay! She studied the list of neohome visits for the upcoming night and was shocked and dismayed to find the number was well over one hundred. Even more worrying was the fact that the majority of lost teeth were not baby teeth from younger Neopians as one would expect but permanent teeth from their parents! The Neopian dentist had recently taken on extra staff to cope with the increased demand for cavity treatments, and shops across Neopia had all reported that sales of dentures had sky-rocketed.
A sharp rap at the door snapped Fyora from her reverie. One of her tower guards, a faerie Kougra, entered. "The tooth faerie," he announced to her, "as requested."
Fyora dismissed him with a gentle nod and a softly spoken "Thank you."
"Tula, good day to you."
Tula was visibly nervous. She couldn't ever remember having been summoned by Fyora to the Hidden Tower before.
Fyora smiled at her kindly. "Come, sit down." Over the years, Fyora hadn't had too many dealings with the tooth faerie before. To her knowledge, the tooth faerie had always done an impeccable job, meaning Fyora rarely had to get involved with any tooth faerie business. Indeed, up until recently so impressed had Fyora been with Tula's work at keeping the teeth of all Neopians in such perfect condition, there had been ideas of introducing a national tooth faerie day to celebrate and show appreciation of everything Tula did for Neopian teeth. Every time Fyora had seen Tula busily fluttering around Neopia, she had marvelled at the effort Tula put into everything she did, and how enthusiastically and cheerfully she did her job. Fyora had always considered her to be a credit to Faerieland, one of her most dependable, reliable faeries.
Now however, the faerie who timidly fluttered before her looked a shadow of her former self. Her once electric blue hair seemed faded, her wings lacked their shimmer and shine, she seemed drained of her very essence of faerie being. In fact, the only thing that seemed unchanged about her were her teeth. Although Tula grimacing rather than smiling, Fyora could still see her perfect set of teeth gleaming whiter than white.
"Tell me, Tula," Fyora urged gently, "how is it that you manage to keep your teeth while all around you Neopians are losing theirs?"
"W-w-what?" Tula stammered. "I don't know what ..." Her voice trailed off.
Fyora eyed the faerie more sternly. "These figures don't add up. Nothing makes sense. Why, we've paid out more neopoints for lost teeth in these past few weeks than we have done in a year! You're overwhelmed with your workload and yet things are getting worse, when they should be improving! How has this happened? My faerie instincts tell me you know what's going on, Tula."
The tooth faerie suddenly burst into tears. "I was so frightened," she gulped between sobs. "I was so afraid you'd banish me from Faerieland because I had no jobs to do, being a tooth faerie is all I know, and now I've done a terrible thing and you'll have to banish me. I don't deserve to be a tooth faerie!"
Horrified, Fyora listened as Tula explained to her how she had added large amounts of sugar to all the sugar-free products and even to added it to the toothpaste and mouthwash.
"I thought if I increased my workload you'd never have to make me leave Faerieland. Faeries have to be useful and no one needed me anymore. And now everyone needs me but it's all because I've ruined their teeth!"
Fyora was stunned. "But Tula, the first rule of being a tooth faerie is prevention is better than cure! The fact that you had less teeth to collect and fewer jobs to do meant you were a successful tooth faerie! You successfully educated everyone by promoting good dental hygiene! You were doing your job perfectly and I couldn't have been happier with your work." Fyora sighed. "You've betrayed my trust, Tula, and the trust of Neopians everywhere. You're right, I should banish you. Neopians have suffered so much with the fall of Faerieland, and it's so important to us that they have faith in all the faeries that serve to protect them."
"I'll never forgive myself, Fyora. I'm so sorry."
Fyora rose and walked to the window, looking out upon the land they had worked so hard to rebuild, pondering the terrible situation. Finally she turned back to the trembling tooth faerie. "You were misguided," she said, "but you are not evil. Banishment would not be the correct punishment. You're being punished already by seeing all those poor Neopians suffering with their cavities. Go, Tula. You have work to do."* * * *
The tooth faerie never did find out how close she had come to getting a national holiday in her name, and Neopets across Neopia never found out the cause of their sudden but short-lived tooth decay epidemic, they simply woke up one morning and all their cavities had disappeared, as if by magic, faerie magic.