Lila and Jane, NEWLY UPDATED!
Cherry sat in her laboratory. She pulled back from the potion. It felt like someone had whacked her in the chest, hard, but it hadn’t hurt. She gasped for breath and made it over to her couch. Her gray lap cat, Mistress, yawned and meowled at her. Cherry caught her breath and pet the cat, calming her down. The cat yawned again, showing fangs, and went back to sleep. Cherry’s jaw set. What just happened? No, she knew the answer.
She knew that magic had been brought into the world, new magic, and things were restored a bit. Wait…
Cherry frowned. She sat at her desk and covered her eyes. She picked up her pen without looking at it and began to write.
“Not new magic…” she wrote. “Very old. And not brought into the world…
It had to happen today. Today, not tomorrow, not yesterday. Today. Lila felt the need to run, to fly, and most of all…
…to hit something. But Lila would not hit anything physically for a while; however, she would definitely hit some things magically. There was an energy now that was here, one she couldn’t ignore.
It all started with an ordinary girl, her two brothers, and her three sisters. At least (apart from belonging to an eight-person family), Lila thought she was ordinary.
Look at Lila. She’s seven years old, bright, and she has blonde hair and blue eyes, perfect for looking cute. She knows that this will probably make some people jealous of her when she gets older, but she doesn’t understand why — why would anyone care? Especially since she’d decided that she’d never really get into boys, though she liked to confuse them with long words.
When Lila was younger, she dreamed of being able to fly, like all kids her age. She didn’t think, now that she was seven, that this dream would ever come true. She’d basically ditched the whole idea – she now thought it was babyish.
But enough backstory.
It was winter in Chicago, Illinois, where Lila lived. Unlike most people, Lila’s family had a house and yard, not an apartment. Lila liked winter, but hated being cold. She sometimes wished that something would somehow magically appear to heat her up. But that wouldn’t happen, especially since their mom couldn’t cook to save her life, and they were out of hot-drink mixes.
This was one of those days. Lila was playing around outside, getting cold, and, as usual, dreading the moment her fingers would go numb.
“Lila! Get the mail, would you?” Her mother yelled out the door.
“Okay!” Lila shouted back, but her mom was now busy screaming at her brother, Leo, for trying to dig a pit near the fence that enclosed their back yard, through the snow. Lila didn’t know why he was trying to do this, but she got the hint it was something explosive and would probably scatter their fence and house to somewhere around Mexico City. Boys.
Lila opened the mailbox. But there wasn’t her dad’s subscription to Boring Monthly, or Mom’s Tasteless Cooking, but instead a thermos of hot chocolate. She had no idea where it came from or why it was there. Being seven, she didn’t see anything wrong with this. It appeared to be the “something” she wanted.
Curiosity didn’t always kill the cat. In some instances, curiosity made the cat stronger. In only the most rare instances, it did… things that nothing else could ever do. It could… make things, and it didn’t just happen to cats. There would be only one time, however, that it would happen to a seven-year-old girl…
Lila decided that this was for her. After making sure her mom was still freaking out over Leo, she drank some, and hid it, avoiding her mother’s lecture. It didn’t appear to do anything. In fact, Lila felt normal after this odd coincidence…
She was almost disappointed.
But the thing was, she wasn’t cold anymore. Like she’d always wanted. Even an hour later. Even after a few hours later. After one hour, she felt like unzipping her snowsuit. By two, she had taken it off. Leo paid no attention, grumbling as he filled in the pit. Her mother, who had gone in, called her in from the kitchen window without looking out of it (as always). “Lilac Elle Peterson! Time for dinner! Good grief, aren’t you cold yet?” Lila cringed as her mother used her full name. She hated being called “Lilac.” It sounded to her like really bad perfume, especially since her mother used to spray lilac perfume on her baby clothes. She’d always hated it. “A lilac-scented Lilac,” her mother always said, and she would cringe. Ugh!
Lila knew her mother would be suspicious if she came in with her snowsuit off, and then she would have to explain about drinking the hot chocolate, and then either she would get a severe talking-to about not drinking anything unless you know what it is and where it came from and what was in it and you saw the nutrition facts and everything (and it had been approved by the FDA) and you knew every little detail about it, or she would be yelled at and/or sent to her room for “lying” or “making up stories that aren’t true” or something stupid.
A seven-year-old girl. This one instance of unjudging curiosity would change a life – for the better, the worse, and the much, much more interesting. This poor little girl; such a stress to have the fate of the universe set in your nearly incapable hands, like a mouse riding down Niagra Falls on a piece of driftwood. The small hands of a girl such as this one could never hold the power, the energy of the universe… not without the strong-willed, stubborn determination that only one seven-year-old possesses…
Typical. Lila sighed, put her snowsuit on and went in.
Lila showed up next day at second grade, going into the classroom. Mrs. Jolt’s classroom always did English work first. Lila liked English, because it helped her read, and sometimes the teacher would read a chapter or two of a book to her. Lila was still adapting to chapter books, but she thought they were more in-depth than a book you could read in five minutes. She sat at her desk, and listened intently to Mrs. Jolt read a poem about a willow tree like some good little girl. Lila had perfected the art of looking innocent. It often got her candy. In any case, she, personally, thought poetry was interesting – how someone would take the time to write something, and they bothered to try and make it rhyme. But Lila had a lot of opinions, and she knew not all of them mattered to everyone else. Jane, her friend, for instance, didn’t care what anyone said about this. She always said that trees were trees, not poems.
Education. An extremely dangerous thing, but also extremely useful. Dangerous if it happened to be wrong, especially in medicine education. Useful, however, if it happened to be right. And downright boring if you knew it already. That was even more dangerous than if it were wrong; especially if you were young, and it went to your head. Only a few could control it, deeming them the most powerful in terms of education. Education, curiosity and dreams… could lead to other things. But even the most powerful begin to relax after a first battle. If you weren’t one of these educationally empowered people, you should never go into battle. After the first battle, you will relax, thinking you’re all done. Then, when the second battle comes, it catches you by surprise, and it can make you paranoid and jumpy. You will never face another battle, because no one will trust you in war, not anymore. But the mentally strong could control it…
…and the innocent could use it.
Mrs. Jolt passed out worksheets. Lila started working. All of the questions seemed even easier than before, and Lila thought, “Is she just giving us a break or… what?” At that time, Lila didn’t know what else it could be. She wrote the last few letters on her paper, edited it and looked at the clock. Still thirty minutes left, and Lila’s paper was done. All the other students were still looking down at their papers. Still working.
Lila was done. It was normal for her to finish the English worksheets first. But thirty minutes?! This was strange, even for her. The worksheet was supposed to take up the rest of English time. What happened? Oh well, whatever. She pulled out her book and read for the rest of the period.
Up next was Science time. She didn’t like Science a lot, but she liked it better than Math. Science was cool, but Math class was boring. Lila liked watching and thinking about stuff, like in a story, where she could almost see the characters doing what was written, and in Math there was nothing to look at or imagine except maybe watching Mrs. Jolt write subtraction problems on the board. She had tried this, and found out it was really, really boring. Lila had also tried reading the math books, since she liked reading. The math books were not only nonfiction (as a second grader, Lila thought that nonfiction was the most boring thing in the world), but they were even more boring, because there wasn’t a hint of excitement in them. Wahoo. Jason has five cats and he gives two to Britni. Wow, the fun is just too much. And who spells “Brittany” like that?
Other than that, even Lila’s vivid imagination couldn’t think of an interesting story about numbers. That would be lame.
All mentally strong people have weak points; if they have head knowledge but are foolish all the same, they complain about them. If they have any common sense, they ignore them. If they are wise, they build around them.
If they are young and foolish, they try to avoid talking about them. If they are young and wise, they strengthen them regardless of any past experiences and never let anyone put them down in their minds because of their youth.
After watching Mrs. Jolt do an experiment, explain it, and point out that one potted flower, which sat in some sunshine near the windowsill, had grown more than the one in the dark corner. She then proceeded to explain the basics of photosynthesis, and added that nobody had to completely understand this to pass, since everyone was still young to fully understand.
A collective sigh went around the room. Lila was glad that nobody would have to do any projects on it. She had seen many puzzled looks in the room. She grudgingly went through the rest of her subjects, trapped in class… sigh. But somehow she seemed better at everything.
At lunch, Lila sat with Jane.
“Were you able to make anything out of that photosynthesis thing?” Jane asked.
“Not much.” Lila replied. “I don’t know why the teacher bothered.”
“The rest of the class couldn’t translate any of that dumb teachery stuff!” Jane said. “Waste of time. Totally boring.”
“Tell me about it,” Lila agreed.
“Not even Diane understood it. I’m surprised you got anything out of it.”
“Actually, everything seems easier today. Even Math. I dunno why.” Lila shrugged and kept eating her hot dog.
“Really?” Jane paused. “Has anything weird happened in the past few days? If Math is easy, I don’t know you.”
“Well…” Lila thought about telling Jane about her find yesterday, and recalled that she’d always been able to trust Jane with a secret.
“So you drank it?” Jane stared at Lila like she was insane.
“Right. I thought it was just …” Lila paused defensively. “A wish come true.”
Jane’s head shook a little in uncertainty. She’d never really believed in anything like wishes and stuff, and she was pretty sure Lila didn’t either.
“But it heated me up for hours,” Lila said, defensive. “After a while I had my snowsuit off.”
Jane raised an eyebrow.
“Completely,” Lila added, as if to save her dignity.
Jane cocked her head and sighed. She was three months older than Lila, but sometimes it seemed to her that that made a whole lot of difference in the common sense area.
“But since then it seems just to improve my grades,” Lila said.
“Can I have some?” Jane asked, suddenly approving. Jane would do anything to make her homework easier. For all she cared, school could take a flying leap off a cliff.
Lila just laughed.
It is your job to remember what was just taught. It is Lila’s job to figure it out. She will, regardless of the fact that she is about to get her hands full.
Jane went to her friend’s house after school. Lila poured a cup of hot chocolate for Jane, who drank the whole mug with maybe a little too much pleasure. Soon Jane was feeling the same, and they were both enjoying it thoroughly. Jane had always noticed that when Lila was happy enough, she seemed to glow, and her step got lighter until she seemed to glide through the air without touching the ground.
That just took on a whole new meaning.
Jane almost screamed. She stopped herself in time, but her face said it all. What the heck? Why was Lila off the ground? Jane didn’t see anything that would tell.
Jane pointed at Lila’s feet.
Lila looked down. With a start, she realized, that she was two feet in the air, and got so freaked out that she dropped to the ground in a heap.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Lila asked, struggling to get up.
Jane nodded. “I don’t think it’s going to do any harm, but it would be hard to explain to anyone else. Wait a sec… I read this in a book. Get up there again and relax,” Jane said.
Lila took a few minutes to figure out how to float like she did. Then she relaxed her shoulders. Out spread a pair of bright blue-and-green wings. She stayed in the air. Jane whistled.
“Well. THAT explains a lot.”
“What is it? Has Leo tangled a helicopter into my hair again? Strong magnets in my shoes and in the floor? Some complicated contraption barely visible?” Lila shook her head. “He is going to GET IT.”
“Um. Well, that, too, but… not what I mean. Just watch I probably have the same effect as you, so watch this.” Jane held her breath and tightened her shoulders. Up she went. She let her breath go, loosened her shoulders, and relaxed. Jane had yellow wings, unlike Lila, who just stood there, not knowing what to say.
Jane glanced behind her. “Yep. Mine are yellow, but yours are blue and green.”
“We’re faeries?” Lila was still shocked. She reached up and tugged a wing down over her shoulder to examine it. It was solid and you couldn’t see through it, but it glimmered regardless of the fact that it was cloudy outside; it had a sort of light of its own.
“Yeah. I think the hot chocolate did this. Like I said, it’s not really ‘normal’ but it’s not going to do any harm to our lives either.”
“Now I’m curious.” Lila said.
“About what?” Jane was curious about what Lila was curious about. It’s a second-grade-girl thing.
“Do you think that there are other faeries than us? I mean, it’s a dumb thought, but maybe those little kids and the people who make up stories… aren’t so crazy after all?”
“Maybe. We should check it out.” Jane said. “At least it’s finally Christmas vacation, and we don’t have to plot to get out of that. Any ideas as for our parents?”
“Yeah. Tell your mom that you are staying at my house, and I’ll tell my mom I’m staying at yours. If anyone asks, it’s OK with our parents. If they call, we try to answer the phone and do imitations of our own parents, as long as they’re not around. If they are, pretend they’re at the doctors’ or something. Then you and I can fly above the clouds and look for other faeries.” Lila said. “I think we’d better use our money to buy food. Put your lunch bag in your backpack so we can keep the stuff in there. Meet me here tomorrow.”
“Why use our money?” Jane asked.
“Kids who are at a friend’s house for the night don’t make food vanish out of the refrigerator. Yes, moms notice. Plus, my mom doesn’t stock HoHos.”
“I can only imagine how you know that,” Jane giggled. They slapped high fives.
Lila and Jane bought their sandwich ingredients (which was a bit hard because people were gasping, pointing and making fools of themselves with butterfly nets. Jane found it rather funny when she snuck up behind them and said hello rather loudly). They found a hidden spot behind a water tower and started up. They flew until they reached the clouds. Or, at least, Lila flew, because Jane couldn’t go high enough yet and Lila had to carry her up.
Lila laid down on the cloud, exhausted. Jane questioned the possibility of this, since clouds are more or less high fog, and she was really lying on high fog, which is made of water. Lila shut her up by saying that faeries don’t follow the same laws of physics, as humans. They had started flying upwards at 6:00, and by now it was 9:00. Obviously, they were exhausted. Then Jane spotted something – there was something on the horizon. It might have been a weather balloon, but Jane was too tired to think of this possibility.
“Come on! I see something,” Jane said, and she tried to wake Lila.
“Mmmmtired…” Lila stirred.
“Fine. Hmph.” Jane started to carry Lila. Who says these girls aren’t pulling their own weight?
After carrying Lila for thirty minutes, the yellow dot got bigger. But Jane was too tired to go any further without resting. The something came closer…
… and finally it took shape – a small faerie with glowing yellow wings like Jane’s and a flowing gown of the same color. She reached the kids.
Looks. Looks are very, very deceiving. When it comes to true faeries, this deception can be deadly unless you are fortunate enough to have them on your side. A true faerie is a true warrior, clever and cunning. They prefer to battle the clever foes, as clever foes often know that they are clever and happen to let it go to their head. Faeries cannot match brute force very well, and it takes a lot of teamwork to get through a battle like that. This makes it very hard for faeries to defeat brute forces. They like to work alone. They dislike depending upon others to get a job done; what if the others do no work at all? If that is the case, the others are just in the way and you would be better off working alone. If a faerie is forced to work with someone else, they choose the person who can get things done, the most responsible warrior they know. They have no tolerance for irresponsible, untrustworthy people. They also don’t like people joking around when they have an important job to do. That is a sign of pure laziness. It is for this reason that it is perhaps once every fifty years or so that you will ever see a Shapee (explanations later) in Faerie land.
“Eep!” she said when she saw Lila. This was what she had been sent to search for, but she never expected to succeed, and was too tired to try and go for help. So she decided to go and sleep here, and wake them up in the morning.
When Lila woke, she found a limp faerie body belonging to Rose, a very small faerie with yellow wings, like Jane’s. After waking Jane, the two followed a sign that simply looked like an arrow. Lila had a hunch the faerie’s home was that way. Boy, was she right. After following more signs pointing in other places, the found Faerie Land. Hidden in the realm of magic, the city was visible to no airplanes or helicopters.
They found, inside the city, a very large castle standing in front of them. The gates were closed. There was a little microphone and a button hooked to the gate.
“Hello,” said a voice when Jane pushed the button (Lila was still cradling the eight-inch-high faerie in her arms). “This is the security guard, state your business.”
Jane sighed – such a cliche. Obviously, Jane and her impatience for over-used lines were not going to answer the question.
“Hello, security guard. My name is Lila, and I have a faerie here that we found who…”
But the gates were already open.
“That works too,” Jane said.
They entered the castle to find someone who could help. The entire place smelled of rosemary, mint and lavender. Odd, but still better than lilac. It was mostly empty, except for the security guards who helped them. They called an innkeeper to take care of Rose, but they took Lila and Jane to another place. There was another faerie stretched out on a couch, reading letters. Again, she had wings more like Jane’s than Lila’s. In fact, all the faeries near the castle seemed to have yellow wings.
The security guard shoved Lila and Jane into the room nervously and hurried out.
“Well, that was unusual,” said Jane.
“Unusual seems to be very common right now,” said Lila.
“How ironic,” Jane agreed.
“Hello?” The little faerie on the couch said, looking up from the letter she was reading. “Oh. Um. Yes. Okay. Erm. It’s you How do I explain this? Well. We’ve kind of been expecting you, for…” She consulted a nearby calendar. “About several millennia. Do you know why you’re here?” She swept her hand around the room.
“Get comfortable. This is long.” She sighed. “There was a time, an ancient time, where there was no “fly up to the cloud to get to Faerie Land,” because there was no Faerie Land. All of the faeries living on Earth were scattered across the world. It started when the three in the USA met. The three that met were fairies called Kira, Cherry and Sky, who is me. Kira and I became friends when I released her from a bottle floating in the ocean. Her memory had been wiped, which was not very uncommon then and still happens a bit today. We stuck like glue. Then after a while, we found Cherry, who didn’t know what to do with herself. You see, America hadn’t been found by humans yet. But Cherry knew they were coming. If they found us, who knew what could happen? We had to hide somewhere. Cherry looked up at the sky in hopelessness, but Kira thought she meant we could hide there, on a cloud. Crazy but true. The idea was so insane that it worked. We gathered the thirteen faeries from all over the world and founded Faerie Land. Each faerie brought a special characteristic to Faerie Land, like Kira was optimism (looking on the bright side) and I was leadership, and Cherry was wisdom, so on.
“There were only two men among the thirteen, and Cherry fell in love with one of them. He was named Aaron. The other guy, Havark, decided that since he was richer than Aaron, he should have ‘first rights’ to Cherry. He tried his best to curse, kill or otherwise get Aaron out of the way. But Cherry defended Aaron. Finally Aaron gave up and left the city. Cherry refused to marry Havark, reminding him it was something they both had to agree on, and he did not love her. She also reminded him, annoyed, that he had tugged her around like a possession, trying all that ‘first rights’ stuff on Aaron. Then she marched off, mumbling about how he would be a better match with Marcella, whose characteristic was concept of war. Havark left in a huff, angry and ready to seek revenge on Aaron. There haven’t been any men in Faerie Land since.
“Cherry’s characteristic was wisdom, so of course she was the one to find out that Havark was not a faerie… but she knew, we all knew, that there was a thirteenth faerie out there. We just didn’t know that she was not born yet.” The faerie stopped. Lila sat there, waiting for her to continue. The room was silent.
The foes that faeries enjoyed battling most were the mental foes, the unthinkable. The creativity and intelligence required to battle these made it a challenge. Fairies took challenges as invitations to know more. More, more, more, more, more…fairies felt the need to know things like this. They became a sort of walking library, because they collected knowledge like others collect stamps.
The silence didn’t last long, because Jane didn’t wait long before saying, “Well, duh. Lila, you’re the thirteenth faerie!”
“Well, why? I mean, there must have been other faeries before me who would have been the thirteenth. Why me?” Lila asked.
“Ah, sweet innocence. You have no idea what you just got into, dear. There is a group of rebel faeries running wild. They have named themselves the Drearies. Guess who’s responsible for them.”
“Havark,” Lila and Jane said in unison. What kind of an evil name is Drearie?, she thought. Can’t a supervillain come up with something better then “Drearie?”
“Duh,” the faerie said. “Anyway, sweet, I pity you. Each of the thirteen faeries has a bit of a job… I’m leadership, so I have to do that queen thing that’s in every fairytale. Unfortunately, unlike the fairytales, it isn’t such a pretty job. But, even more unfortunately, your job is even worse. You are prophesied to defeat the Drearies in battle. No one cares how you do it, just do it.”
“Okay… Continue until you have any possibility of making sense.”
The queen sighed. “I can’t. There is nothing more to say. Prophecies are never easy to explain. Not even Marcella can beat the Drearies. It is something only you can do. Only you can understand this. But don’t worry – you will understand before you face them. Nobody else will, ever. If you don’t do this, your kind – faerie-kind – is destroyed before the battle even begins. If you succeed, we are saved.”
“Well… I’ll try, but I can barely fly, and I can’t do magic. If you want me to do this, you gotta give me a break and show me the basics,” Lila said.
“Well, I’m impressed you can fly at all. I’ll make sure by the end of today, you’ll be whizzing around like everyone else. As for magic, I can teach you a few tricks, but most of it you will have to discover on your own. Everything else you will learn here. We’ll teach you sword fighting and all that other stuff you’ll need. Today will be supply-shopping day. I’ll give you a list and money.” The queen handed them a piece of paper. This was written on it:
Buy two each of these:
Wielding a Dagger by Randy Om-faerie
Making Camp by Oter Guy
Finding Food by Cherry
Master Of Disguise by Marie Faerie
Faerie’s gown (go to tailor)
Purse and wallet
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Shampoo and conditioner
“There was actually a faerie named Cherry?” Lila asked.
“When you see her, the name fits.” The queen snickered. “And she was named Cherry, so she thought it was only right to write a book about finding food.”
“Oh,” Jane said.
“And ask the tailor to make your gown the same color as your wings. It’s a custom. That way we know who has found out they are faeries and who hasn’t – safety precaution. Cherry has a red gown, in case you were wondering. Here is 100 faerie currency. We call our money jingas. I really don’t know whose idea that was, but whatever. At least they’re amused, whoever they are. Here, 90, 95, 100. Oh, get yourselves some lunch.”
100 faerie currency. Well, Lila thought. She looked at Jane, who had the expression on her face that said she was thinking the same thing.
They looked at each other and said in unison,
Sky bust a gut laughing.
“Okay. That looks like a busy block.” Jane pointed at a street crowded with faeries. They headed toward what looked like a bookstore on the corner, walking in. The faerie behind the counter gasped. Apparently she hadn’t heard the news… yet.
“Well! Lila! What an honor for you to come into our store,” she said quickly. Another faerie stood at the counter, mouth agape.
“Jane and I are shopping here for… training supplies. Do you have any?”
“Right this way.” She led the two to a quiet wall stocked with books.
“Any specific books you need?”
“Wielding a Dagger, Finding Food, Master of Disguise and Making Camp.”
“Good. So simple these days. I remember school as carrying seventeen inch-thick books a half mile to the academy. And school was a lot longer back then…” She flew up, chattering, got each book, and handed Lila several colorfully covered books. She made sure to get two of each book.
“Oh yeah, I bet you need a few other things. We got some other stuff, stationary and things, over there, just in stock.”
They got their stuff, then checked out.
“I guess we go to the general store, and get our toothpaste and all that stuff,” Jane said.
Faeries could never really understand humans. The humans… wanted fame. They longed to have pictures taken of them, to have everyone want their autograph. Faeries found this very annoying. They had jobs to do and books to read. Books, books, books, and more knowledge coming from them. They love books, just like the mermaids, and they naturally like the mermaids too, because, they can chatter on about the book they hated. The book discussions always got quite odd – they’d talk to a mermaid who liked and hated the same genres as they did, and then they would rattle off a few titles they liked in three seconds and then chatter and make fun of the books they didn’t like but read all the same so that they could make fun of them. (If a faerie didn’t like reading books just to make fun of them later, they’d do it with TV commercials.) You only had to listen to them for a bit before you started snickering. Of course, other mermaids couldn’t listen in because the mermaid talking would sense the vibrations in the water.
It was the same with the general store and the purse store. People gaping at Lila. Deja vu. Leaving the purse store, they saw Cherry. Unlike the other faeries, she was about three inches tall (very short for a faerie – most were at least six or eight inches tall), and she had red wings.
Lila noticed that although all the faeries (except her and Cherry) had yellow wings, they were all different shapes. Some faeries’ were angular, others curvy. Lila found it interesting.
Cherry shoved a wad of red jingas at Lila.
“Cash for stuff in the hidden grove,” she said. “I fly out every day and drop a bunch from the sky. This way the all of the faeries can eat, even students, who don’t earn much. I thought you might like some. The food’s really good, ask anyone, and there’s other stuff too.” She lowered her voice. “You would be amazed at how good you can get a getting people to buy a lot of junk they don’t need. I don’t recommend it. I did that myself for a long time, makes ya packratty.”
“Did you just make up that word?” Jane giggled.
“On the spot, kiddo. It’s a talent. Learn it. It’s useful.”
“Why don’t you show us the place before we go to the tailor’s?” Jane was curious, as usual.
“Ok. Come on.” She held out what looked like a key and pressed a button. Suddenly they were in a grove, cherry trees no less.
“Cool spot. Got any food made up?” Cherry’s slang was catching, but Lila didn’t care because she was getting hungry.
“Ya like subs?”
“One… thingy, two subs. Yes, I’m half insane. I used to be a teacher… kids can do that to you.”
“Only half?” Jane whispered, and Lila nodded slightly.
They paid, ate, and then Cherry escorted them out of the grove. She handed them a key.
“The green button gets ya into the grove, and the red gets ya out,” Cherry said, then pointed them at the tailor’s.
“Name’s Rena. She’s the one you really want to talk to about gowns,” Cherry added.
The two went inside.
“I was told to ask for Rena. And that both of our gowns are the colors of our wings. The usual.” Lila said to the faerie behind the desk.
“Oh my. Right this way,” she said. Great, another faerie gaping. Couldn’t anyone talk to Lila like a normal person? Other than Sky, of course. Sky was reasonable, like a colleague. In fact, she was, in a way, a colleague. They did have similar jobs. Oh, and Cherry, but then she has a direct connection with Sky and is also one of the 13. And mostly insane. Lila liked Cherry. Even if she was really crazy, she was a break from everyone else.
The desk faerie led them behind the counter, through a long hallway, then she stopped at a door. She knocked twice, then opened the door. The tired little seamstress’s eyes lit up when she saw Lila.
“Lila needs a gown.” The faerie gestured toward Lila. And how did she know Lila’s name? Exactly.
“Your gatherers will find you some blue and green material, Rena. For now, it seems her friend needs one too.”
“I am willing to pay ten jingas for each gown. Extra if you need.” Lila wanted to see what would happen.
The normal price for a regular gown was three jingas, so Rena’s jaw dropped. So did the jaw of the faerie at the desk.
“Oh, it is more than enough! You don’t need to pay that much, even though we don’t have blue or green material yet. We should be grateful that you pay the regular price.”
Jane snickered as the faerie practically dropped at Lila’s feet.
“No, I will pay very generously to a nice faerie.” Lila smiled. “I insist.” She was a good actor. The faeries were going insane. She was smiling, of course, to keep from laughing out loud.
The two argued around about the price. Lila was having a jolly old time when finally Jane got tired of watching, and interrupted both parties at the same time.
“OKAY! Regular price for mine. Five for her.”
The others agreed to this. Lila tried not to scowl, and Rena said, “They’ll be ready tomorrow at noon.”
The two headed on their way back to the castle with lots of teasing coming from Jane.
“…you are such a goody-two-shoes! What was that all about?”
“Oh, just shut up already,” Lila said.
The queen was surprised that they had gotten everything on their list all in one day.
“Of course, it didn’t hurt much that every sales person dropped at Lila’s feet.” Jane just had to put that in.
“The gowns have to be picked up tomorrow.” Lila was giggling at the memory of the seamstresses. “You know that I was joking around about the prices. I knew they would do that. It was hilarious! You should have seen it.” Lila turned to the queen. “I told them I would pay ten jingas for each gown! Their reaction! It was great!”
Sky burst out in laughter. “Ah, that’s why that seamstress never gets ahead in the world. Won’t take a good offer when she sees it. Oh sure, your company’s in the toilet but no. You can’t take MONEY! Especially not from one of the main people who are here to help! I’ve been trying for years to get money to that company. Cherry pointed the place out to you, didn’t she?”
“Yeah. We had lunch at her place.”
“Ah, Cherry is our spy. If you don’t tell anyone, I’ll tell you a secret. Whenever we drop her potion – the hot chocolate, of course, because it gets us a lot of kids – we have Cherry spy on them to watch over them, waiting until they… well, we tend to call it “seeing magic” or something like that… it was the dragons’ idea. Tradition. Anyway, it’s easier to explain the “you’re a faerie now” thing when they look behind them and see wings, y’know? After they’ve seen magic, Cherry drops by and helps ‘em to the faerie realm. Remember, you could barely fly. Most can’t fly at all, not at first. Levitate, yes, a few feet off the ground, but not using wings.
“She had been spying on you, and I had to call her up from Earth because you were up here. She knew you would do something like that. Ha ha, good ol’ Cherry. Sneaky, in more than one way!”
“It’s getting late. Where do we sleep?” Lila said.
“Student apartments. Take your books there. But be warned, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll be treated like royalty.” Sky took them to two apartments, which looked… very clean. Lila would have to put some stuff in it to make it seem friendlier. Both she and Jane liked a fairly clean room, but not pristine like this. At least each had good furniture and a TV and Internet access. Jane was happily surprised Faerie land got TV. Sky claimed that they just tapped into the humans’ signals, so they got satellite, every channel, and Cherry had also hooked them up in such a way that the computers would never be offline.
First on their schedule was Jija, who would teach them swordsmanship. Jane and Lila got out their copies of Wielding a Dagger.
“Hold it like this, being careful not to chop your finger off… That’s it, good work. Now sharpen your dagger, and slash through this block of hay the size of a Drearie. Get used to that height, now. When you are fighting Drearies, slash their arms off first so they can’t attack back at you. It is also easy to hand their ammo to your own soldiers,” Jija said, then stuck a few sticks into the now-battered hay.
“Practice what?” Lila wasn’t sure.
“Practice choppin’ a Drearie’s arms off!”
Lovely teachers. If you get a teacher who makes you laugh, or at least tries (even if they ARE nuts), listen to them. Would you rather have this, or a Screaming Mimi?
Lila gave her a weird look, then hit the sticks off the eight-inch-high pile of hay.
“Good. Class dismissed. Tomorrow, we’re going to write a three-paragraph paper on why slicing your finger off is a bad thing.” The teacher folded her arms and nodded in satisfaction.
This class needed Master Of Disguise, taught by Lola. “If you don’t want to be seen as a faerie, press your wings together and they will disappear. They will still be there, but only close relatives who believe in faeries, close friends, and you can see them. However, you can’t use them, because obviously that would blow your cover. Sometimes it is better to play it safe and do this than try to fly away, especially when the person you’re escaping from has a net.” Lola gave a demonstration.
Lola continued going on and on about this subject, and when and when not to fly away. When she finished, Lila and Jane went to Making Camp, then Finding Food. Then they went to Cherry’s for lunch. It wasn’t very crowded. For a week, then two, then three, then a whole month. They spent the summer there.
Then the queen said, “You’re ready. Maybe. I hope.”
“The Drearies are coming soon. Here is a key to your hidden refuge center. If you need something, press the green button. You will find yourself in a fort…. thing. There’s water and medical supplies and all that stuff. Try killing ten Drearies, then go to your fort and re-hydrate. You will get thirsty a lot. Use this technique until you find one that you like, or your instincts kick in. Follow your instincts.” Sky looked broke eye contact for a bit, as if this were some scripted thing she was told to say. “To get out of the fort, press the red button. Keep in mind that once you do so, you will end up in the same spot as when you pushed the green button. This can be very strategic, and you can easily catch a crowd by surprise. Here is your dagger, and your armor. There is a reason the leg armor is three inches thick. Drearies are absolutely wonderful fighters, and that is why our police system did not – could not put them in jail to rot. Go put your armor on. You’re part of a prophecy – so no pressure!”
“Oh great. What about Jane?”
“She will fight with you. Tell her I said to put her armor on. This will be good.” She grinned.
The two marched onto the battlefield. Sky had given Jane a key too.
“Oh my.” Jane’s eyes got big. To a normal second grader, the Drearies looked scary, to Lila, challenging, and to Jane, real dang ugly. Summary?
Torn, jagged purple wings
Purple hair that looked like it hadn’t been brushed in ten years
Fangs, if they had any teeth
A face that was indescribably beat up
Torn black shirt and black jeans with a belt that looked like it was about to bust – or has already done so
Barefoot with toenails that you don’t want to know about
Lila was speechless. This was a challenge, but she was all that stood between these critters and Faerie land. She was expected to do something, but what if she couldn’t? She shook her head. That was a question she didn’t want to find an answer to. She was trapped. There was no way out of this battle she had wriggled herself into.
No. There had to be. But what? She couldn’t beat them the old-fashioned, sword-and-shield way – they were too tough. Lila knew this because a few of her soldiers had been trying to ward them off while she was lost in thought.
They were losing.
She knew only one other way… and that was magic. She didn’t know how to use magic except for making the hot chocolate potions. She didn’t think the Drearies would fall for that.
Jane shook Lila and tried to “bring her back to the real world”, but Lila shook it off and tried to remember something… something that was thought to be lost a long time ago. Something… or someone… was calling her. But what? Who? Sleepy and confused, Lila simply stood there. She hung on to that one thought, that one word on the tip of her tongue…
She remembered what it was! A song, lost in the mists of time, but lost no more. Magic. How did she know this song? There was no clue. She knew its history, its origin, even its name, but not how she knew it so well, word for word…
But she didn’t remember who…
There is a very, very thin line between insanity and intelligence. Many people have both, but don’t recognize it, and it stays dormant all their life. This is why ther is only one seven-year-old who came into this power, the power in the universe and the life-giving power of light and unity. Not many recognize this power before turning thirty, and only one under ten years old…
“Lila! This is no time to go crazy!” Jane shook Lila harder. Lila shook her head as the words of the song unintentionally fell from her lips: The Song of the Six, now united in the quaking seven-year-old girl standing in the battlefield between a city and a bunch of really, really confused Drearies.
“I fly over the treetops
I am carried by the wind
I am showered in the sunlight
The good will always win
“I swim the tidal waters
I change shape and form
I find the fire here
Do not be forlorn
“I am the one to fix this
To banish evil here
No more evil in this land
No more plotting, planning, fear.”
At that instant, Lila fainted. She alone did not have enough magic to defeat this amount of evil, but every faerie, everywhere, in the streets or in the buildings, unintentionally cast up their magic, which was whisked into the spell and taken to the evil army.
What evil army?
The Drearies were standing there, but they weren’t. They were standing around, but restored to their former faerie form. Jane, unlike all the other faeries, still had some magic left. She took Lila to the hidden fort and used the rest of her magic to help heal her. She then took Lila to safety.
Lila awoke in a hospital. She tried to remember something, anything, about yesterday. Finally, she could remember one thing clearly: the song. It seemed to be all she could remember. She wished she had paper to write the song on – it might jog her memory, and that way she wouldn’t forget the song itself. After thirty minutes of being lost in thought, the nurse came in and Lila was forced to let her run her little checkup stuff, and everything, and then the other nurse came in with breakfast, which she set on the table beside Lila’s bed. Then came the dreaded words: And the mail… The faerie lugged in a huge black garbage bag filled with nothing but fan mail. Great… Lila always seemed to be getting lots of unusual stuff in the mail. If she found hot chocolate again…
Except for one letter. One envelope refused to be pink, yellow, blue, green or purple. It was in fact white. The odd child that she was, Lila reached for that one first.
Of course, Sky had written this one. It read: Keep the Song of the Six not only in your heart and mind, but also your pocket. She had included paper and a pencil. Lila had no idea what the name of the song meant, but she knew that it was very important, something not to be forgotten.
But, naturally, Lila wouldn’t forget this, because it was a part of her, and she was the song. This would always be remembered…
So the Drearies are defeated, Faerie land is at peace, and everyone is happy.
Lila and Jane wiped their parents’ memory, as well as the entire school’s, and made sure that they thought that the two had always been there. They did visit their families, but spent most of their time in Faerie land. They didn’t bother to wipe the memories of their siblings, because, after all, that would be “telling stories.”
“Hmmm. She hasn’t been around the castle for a week. That’s odd.” Sky wondered what happened. She decided to go to Lila’s apartment and check.
The place was empty. Had something happened? The queen had a magic mirror which allowed her to see the approximate location of the two faeries, and a video clip of their current action. The approximate location was a house five blocks down the street from their human home, but the video was blurry.
“Oh no. They didn’t. Didn’t they pay attention to Master of Disguise?”
Sky went to the house. It was just as she thought. Lila and Jane finally got trapped in bottles. Sky had been waiting for this to happen – it always did with the younger faeries, accidentally, of course, but the younger ones had less experience getting out of those situations. And screw-on tops, too. That was mean. Sky watched in pity as Lila tried to unscrew the cap from the inside.
Sky went back to Faerie land and got Cherry. This is when you find out how Cherry is different. Cherry has a special ability. A little girl walked out of the house. Cherry immediately changed her shape and size to a little girl’s. She had been sent by Sky to spy and figure out how to free Lila and Jane.
“I’m havin’ a birthday party tomorrow. Wanna come?”
This was just the thing Cherry needed to get into the house and find how to free the faeries!
“Sure,” Cherry said coolly. Sheesh, she thought, just hand it to me.
The little girl handed Cherry an envelope.
“It’s at noon tomorrow, like it says on the card! Bye!” The little girl skipped off happily.
Cherry shrunk back to her normal three-inch size and went to tell Sky what she had found out.
She had a mission now, and wasn’t about to fail it.
Cherry showed up right on time. She tried to get a look inside the house, but to her disappointment, the girl’s father led her to the party – outside. Sigh. Cherry figured that she had better make friends with the little girl, because she might let on a clue.
“Hi. I’m Cherry.” Cherry hoped she would not find her name a little too suspicious, or that she thought that it was a nickname, because she wasn’t sure if the two faeries’s captor was her, or someone in her family. The girl’s face showed no suspicion.
“I’m Day. At least, that’s what my friends call me. My real name is Deja… and my last name is Vu. I prefer Day.”
“So it’s your birthday?”
“Where do I put the present?”
Cherry had brought a magically enhanced plant that wouldn’t die no matter how much she watered it. Just then Cherry caught a glimpse of Day’s father. Cherry wanted to talk to him.
“Hi. I’m Cherry.”
“Is that a nickname?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Cherry blinked innocently.
“Anything I can help you with?”
“Can I use your bathroom?”
“Fourth door on the left.”
Cherry just wanted to get a look inside the house, find and free the faeries, and enjoy the rest of the party.
After a while of looking around, Cherry finally found two bottles.
“I have come to free you, but…”
That would be very hard to do without calling attention to herself, and probably getting captured. It would be too noisy. This is why: They were wrapped up like birthday presents!
“Just trust me.” Cherry turned and left them. Cherry waited the rest of the party until it was time for Day to open her presents. The party guests each brought their gifts to Day, and she opened them. Some of the guests were boys, and had absolutely NO idea how to shop for a girl. Nevertheless, most had gotten Day some pretty good gifts, in a crummy way. Tacky dress-up sunglasses and feather boas did not seem to interest Day too much, but she tried to pretend she really liked them. Day was not a good actor. Some of the boys whispered, “Well, I tried.”
One of the boys actually got Day a dart gun, which she seemed to like more than the girly dress-up accessories. He seemed to know her better.
Maybe he was actually a friend, Cherry thought, remembering how Day hadn’t even asked Cherry’s name to hesitate inviting her to her party, instead of someone who walked past her on the street.
“Thank you all for coming. You have all given Deja very nice gifts.” Day’s father said. Day cringed. “I have a very special gift for her.”
Cherry had a bad feeling about this. Sure enough, the two bottles containing Lila and Jane got carried outside, and plopped in the grass.
“Ooh! It’s a big one!” Day shrieked. She quickly tore off the paper, revealing the faeries. Cherry figured this would happen.
“What are they, Daddy?” Day asked.
“They’re faeries, Deja. Real faeries. You can keep them in the bottles, or convince them to grant you a wish.”
“I hate to keep them trapped in the bottles,” Day said, pushing out her lower lip.
She pulled the corks off of the bottles. The faeries sprang out. They were still small from being trapped in the bottles.
“I wish I never had to do homework again!” Day blurted out. “Do whatever you need to, as long as I don’t have to do homework.”
Lila pointed her finger at her other palm and a mug of hot chocolate appeared in her hand.
“Drink this and you never will.” The tutors never gave out homework unless you asked them to.
Day gulped it down.
“On the count of three, grab my hand. You too, Cherry.”
Day’s father started toward them with a butterfly net, determined not to let his daughter get kidnapped by the faeries.
“THREE!” They all grabbed hands and flew off. Lila did a quick memory wipe, and they zipped off without a word, up to Faerie land in a flash.
“Ahh. Here we are.” The queen looked pleased with Cherry when she flew up, holding Jane’s hand. Even more so when Lila flew up two seconds later with Day on her arm.
“This is Deja, but she prefers Day.” Then Lila added, “Please ask the tutors never to give her homework.”
“Welcome, Day.” The queen said, then thought to herself, I think I’ll adopt her. She looks a bit young.
Apparently Lila was thinking the same thing, because she said,
“Day, if it’s okay with the queen, would you like to be a royal faerie?”
“Okay, as long as I don’t have to wear dresses or anything like that. Or do homework.”
“It’s a deal. The tailor can get you a tunic and shorts instead of a dress.” Sky looked happy.
“Lila, there is a law in Faerie land. You, by law, get a reward for bringing a new faerie into Faerie land. You can do whatever you want with it, but here it is. One thousand jingas. You too, Cherry. Any questions?”
“Nope,” Day said.
“Let’s go to Cherry’s grove and have tea. Money burns a hole in my pocket – my treat!” Lila changed the subject.
So, Faerie land is at peace, and everyone is happy. For now. Until they weren’t happy or at peace, Lila had other problems. Bigger ones.
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