No Gift Too Small
The storm was unrelenting. Heavy rain poured onto the lush
fields, creating spongy mud with fertile soil. Fortunately, no one had to plough
the land that evening. It was Valentine's Day, and all in Meridell had been invited
to the castle for a ball.
Above the great hall, in a small balcony, Jeran
clutched a square pink box nervously. From his vantage point, he watched silently
as the boisterous crowd greeted friends, neighbours and even strangers with
loud cheers and presents. He had given his friends their presents earlier in
the day. At the moment, his eyes scanned the party for someone special.
The exquisite box held an assortment of homemade
candy. Jeran had spent weeks pondering on the perfect gift, and he found his
answer in an old book of recipes for organic candy. The unique sweets were made
from herbs and petals cooked with sugar over a slow flame. It gave the concoction
a light, au natural aroma, which the Lupe knew was irresistible to that someone
whom he owed much thanks to.
She was Illusen.
The popular faerie had helped him more than once.
His quick recovery from battle with the fearsome minions of Darigan was largely
due to her healing salves. When his well-worn blade snapped just before a tourney,
it was she who loaned him her formidable staff. But above all, he was grateful
for her generosity with the myriad of plants in her large garden. Many a time
he had dropped by her glade to collect nutritious roots, which were an essential
ingredient in preparing Lisha's favourite dish of root gruel.
His attention was drawn back to the ball. Almost
immediately, he saw her bantering cheerfully with King Skarl. Striding down
the stairs, he made his way through the crowd as quickly as he could.
"Look! It's Sir Jeran!" a Yurble squealed, thrusting
a pink card into his paws. The exclamation caught the attention of those around
her, and they surrounded the Lupe for handshakes and greetings.
Jeran watched in dismay as Illusen bid the king
farewell and headed out of the castle. He endured the attention of his ardent
admirers as politely as he could while inching closer and closer to the exit.
By the time he managed to make it out of the
palace, it was nearly midnight. The storm was still raging as strongly as ever.
By Skarl's orders, a carriage was already waiting to take him home, keeping
the bravest knight of Meridell dry and well. But Jeran was not returning home
"To Illusen's glade, please."
Her home was unexpectedly muddy. The rain splashed
mercilessly onto the soft earth, and Jeran felt his boots sink into moist dirt
with each step he took. Undaunted, he trod under the shelter of the large canopy
of trees until he saw the quaint cottage. Standing at the edge of the glade,
he could see a light in a lower window. With a paw on his pocket, Jeran felt
the small bulge of the present and sighed with relief. The gift was safe and
Just as he was about to make his way across the
grass, a cloaked figure appeared at the door. Illusen warmly welcomed the mysterious
guest into the house. Filled with curiosity, Jeran crept under the large leaves
until the window was in full view.
"Thank you Kanrik, it's lovely," grinned Illusen
as she held up a large crystal with both hands. The jewel glistened and glowed.
"Actually, I have to thank you," said
the Gelert. "That honey potion you gave me was extremely effective in dealing
with some guild rebels. By the way, this is for you as well. Happy Valentine's
Day." He gave her a box intricately tied up with red ribbons, which she opened
with a delightful squeal.
"Oh, you all shouldn't have," said Illusen, "Look
at all the presents I have already!"
Jeran turned his gaze to where the faerie was
pointing at and barely suppressed a gasp. Illusen's living room was strewn with
gifts, big and small, bouquets, cards and boxes, piled atop one another. It
was like the day of giving, except that this time the theme was pink and red.
He slumped against a tree trunk and sighed. It
was no surprise that Illusen's home flooded with presents on this day when everyone
went around in a frenzy to spread their appreciation of friendship and love
with one another. The earth faerie was a friend to practically everybody in
Meridell. But sighting the mountain of gifts, some obviously rare and valuable,
made his previous enthusiasm of the homemade candy fizzle out right away. And
then there were Kanrik's presents. His sweets paled pathetically in comparison.
What was he thinking when he decided to make them?
At the sound of a latch opening, the Lupe dodged
behind a tree.
"Bye Kanrik," yelled Illusen as the master thief
glided out of her home and disappeared into the dark.
A sudden gust of wind shook the branches of the
tree that Jeran was taking shelter under. Some of the larger leaves fell, leaving
a gap in the canopy where rain gushed through. Jeran shook huge droplets off
his face and pulled his cloak tightly to keep the cold out. If he did not find
a more reliable shelter soon, the pink box that lay in his pocket would be soaked.
Does it even matter anymore? With a frown,
he turned to leave the glade.
"Jeran?" Illusen called out as she squinted in
the dark. A familiar shape stopped backing away into the forest, and turned
towards her. "Come inside, it's pouring!"
The faerie's cottage was warm and cosy, in stark
contrast to the unforgiving storm outside. Jeran stood awkwardly as she spelled
his cloak dry. He tried to forget the unworthiness of his gift in the face of
the heap of presents.
Illusen served him a cup of hot tea. "What brings
"Uh, I came to say thanks for all the times when
you helped me, and for the never-ending supply of Lisha's favourite root," said
"You are most welcome. I have something for you,"
she said, reaching into a drawer, "This is the best blade polish in the whole
of Neopia. I made it with Fyora's recipe. Happy Valentine's Day!"
Jeran placed his cup on the table and gingerly
received the pink bottle from Illusen. There was no backing out now.
"Actually, I have something for you too," he
began, and pulled out the box from his pocket, "But it's nothing much, compared
to all the presents you have already."
The faerie followed his gaze to the large sparkling
jewel, which sat atop a shelf. "That's from Taelia. It's a magical ice crystal
that I ordered from her a month ago. It was delivered tonight, but isn't a present
for this occasion," she said.
"And what was that about your gift not being
comparable to all these presents?" Illusen went on, as she unwrapped the pink
box, "It's not how big or expensive or rare your present is. It's the thought
that counts. As long as you give from the heart, every gift is precious. Valentine's
Day is a time for spreading messages of love and friendship. Even if you give
me a mossy rock, you'll still be one of my greatest friends."
Jeran smiled weakly and blushed. Outside, the
insistent pattering of rain on the ground had stopped. He watched with bated
breath as she undid the ribbons and lifted the cover of the confection box.
"Organic herbal sweets! You can't buy them anywhere
nowadays," gasped the faerie, popping a heart-shaped candy into her mouth, "Yum.
Where did you get them from?"
"I made them with a recipe from Lisha's library,"
"That must have been a lot of work," she exclaimed
as she chewed on the delicious blossom-scented candy.
"Anything for Illusen," Jeran replied softly,
"Happy Valentine's Day."
At that moment, red and pink fireworks set off
from the castle burst over Meridell, marking the end of a day filled with appreciation
of friendship and love.