I smooth the cover of my notebook down with my hand. It’s backed with a soft green felt, and embroidered with sequins. The book is bound shut, but I can see that the pages are thick, rich parchment. In the middle, there’s a beautiful emerald satin ribbon that I can use to mark my page, adorned with sparkly beads. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a pretty notebook.
But what do I use it for?
It’s far too pretty to doodle in. Maybe I should leave it for show?
No, that’s silly. It cost me too much.
I have this problem every single time I buy a notebook. Which is a lot. I love them. My bedroom shelf is full of different ones; paperbacks and hardbacks, leather and suede, lined and plain... I never know what to fill them with. Some are full of doodles, cover to cover. Others are half-filled with unfinished stories and poems. However, most of them are attempted diaries. The problem with a diary is that I forget I’m supposed to write in it often, resulting in around twenty notebooks with one entry, on the date I purchased the book.
No, I can’t let this happen here. This is too good, the buy was too lucky. I found it in Chesterdrawers’ antiques in Neovia, in a bucket of items the owners had collected over time. It should have been super cheap- they weren’t going to use it- but once the owners knew I really wanted it, they bumped up the price. Pfft. But I couldn’t just leave it, could I?
No. Of course not.
The book had been bound in a leather band at the shop, to keep it neat. I peel it off slowly, then begin to turn to the front page. Carefully, now... easy does it. Maybe I should use tweezers? No, no. It’s only a book. Come on, Ixvy. Be sensible.
I stare at the page in disbelief. Why didn’t I think of this? The page is full. From top to bottom, it’s full of neat, loopy italic writing. The previous owner of the book clearly did like to keep a diary, because the next page is full. And the next page. In fact, every single page right to the end of the book is full from top to bottom in the emerald green ink.
Gosh, I can be so stupid sometimes. I was so excited by the prospect of a newbie to add to my collection that I didn’t even check the pages! Annoyed, I pick up the leather tape and examine it. It reads:
Illusen the Earth Faerie, Meridell.
I gasp. Illusen? Surely somebody’s having a joke. They’ll jump out from behind a building any second and laugh. I glance around self-consciously. Oh, okay. Maybe not. I quickly open the notebook, and read the first entry:
17th day of Running, Y2
I’ve left Faerieland for good now, I believe. Although I will miss my sisters at Faerie Castle, the thought of being in the same land as Jhudora after what I have witnessed is unbearable. Despite how Fyora doesn’t believe I would lie, she also does not have the heart to banish a fellow Faerie from the realm forever. Not without proof. As this is the case, I hereby banish myself from Faerieland. My heart will always lie there, but my residence will be in Meridell. At least they love nature, and I can be sure that the Meridellians will welcome me graciously.
How odd. I’d always wondered why Illusen didn’t live amongst the other Faeries in Faerieland. I guess I’d always simply assumed that she preferred the rural life in the green land of Meridell, rather than the buzz of atmosphere amongst the pink fluffy clouds in Faerieland. But what does she mean- “after what I have witnessed”? I carry on to the next entry:
19th day of Running, Y2
Meridell is beautiful. The villagers were incredibly welcoming. They had a festival in my honour, as soon as I had arrived. They say that the 17th will be my day for years to come. Thankfully, I live in my own leafy glade, away from the main village. I crafted it myself, using my magic, within ten minutes. Yet despite all this I am unhappy, and I hate to admit it; how unfair to the kind Neopets of Meridell! Jhudora is in Faerieland, as she always has been. She doesn’t suffer, when she should. She is a most terrible creature, and she cannot be trusted!
Silently, I finish reading the first page. I had never understood why Illusen’s hatred for Jhudora was so much stronger than how everyone else felt. Normally, everyone trusted Fyora’s judgement. It had never really occurred to me that Illusen had seen something that nobody else had. Scanning the next few pages, I learnt that Illusen avoided mentioning Jhudora in the first few months of her life in Meridell. The entries became happier, as Illusen got used to the green world around her, and she began to love it.
I close the book after reading for around twenty minutes. Picking up the leather band, I tie up the notebook again. It's time for some research.
After a two hour journey in a Uni-flown carriage, I arrive in Altador. It has always been a beautiful place, and the proud residents keep it maintained. Clutching Illusen’s dairy, I set off in the direction of Altadorian Archives, my legs a little wobbly from the flight.
As well as documents about Altador, the archives have the full stock of Neopedia articles. As the Neopian Library is poorly stocked, I decide I had better turn to Finneus, the Altadorian Archivist. He is always happy to see me, as my brother Nequl helped Altador out of a sticky spot a few years ago.
“Ixvy, my dear!” he exclaims as I arrive. “It’s been a long time. What brings you here today?”
“Hello, Finneus! I’d like to look through the Neopedia, if that’s okay?” I ask as politely as my excitement will let me. I’m sure I had read something important about Illusen in an article before.
“Of course, of course!” He beams, waving me in the direction of the documents. I grin in thanks, and make my way to a small wooden table, surrounded by shelves upon shelves of articles. Running my index finger along the spines, I begin my search for Illusen.
F... G... H... ah! I.
Ice Caves... Ooh, Illusen.
I edge the book out carefully from the gap on the shelf, and wipe the dust off it with my sleeve before placing it on the table with a thunk.
Name : Illusen
Pronunciation : ill-oo-sen
Really? That’s interesting. I’d always thought it was ill-uss-en! No wait, focus.
I read the article through quickly, until my eyes rest on the final paragraph, taking it all in:
Though she is well-loved by most other faeries, Illusen harbours a hatred of a certain dark faerie that is mutual. No rivalry, it seems, is as great as the blind hatred that she and Jhudora share. Rumour has it that Illusen is the only faerie who has ever witnessed the very cautious Jhudora performing an act so evil that it could cause her to be expelled from the realm of faeries. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but who knows what may one day be revealed...
I knew I’d read it somewhere! Illusen is the only faerie who has ever witnessed the very cautious Jhudora performing an act so evil. That’s what Illusen was talking about in her diary. It has to be!
I turn to put the book back, and then notice another article for Illusen, entitled ‘Illusen, the Earth Faerie’. I swap the books, and turn my attention to the Earth Faerie article. The first part is much like a story... most likely fiction. I skip to the footnote:
No one knows why Illusen came to Meridell, although a few have their suspicions. Some say she left voluntarily, tired of the squabbling politics of the Faerie Queen's court. Others say the Dark Faeries forced her from Faerieland (led by Jhudora, of course).
I’d say both of those ideas were true. Jhudora probably caused the squabbles intending for them to drive Illusen, the peaceful Faerie, out of Faerieland. Well, she’d succeeded, hadn’t she? I shut the book noisily, too annoyed to care about creases for once. Hurriedly, I put it back in place and leave the Archives with a quick “Bye, Finneus!” to the Archivist.
After another tiring Uni Carriage ride, I find myself in Meridell. I don’t know what I hoped to do here. I vaguely knew where the glade was, but nobody knew for sure... and then what? I can’t tell Illusen I had found her diary. And even so, what would I do about Jhudora? I am a little Kacheek. Not a powerful faerie.
Feeling defeated, I wander into the beautiful forest, hoping a walk will clear my head. After around forty minutes of aimless wandering, I grow bored of walking and slump to the ground. I pull out Illusen’s diary and skip to the middle, flicking through it and reading bits here and there. After a while, I feel the unfamiliar feeling that I am being watched. I glance around, but see nothing. Am I being stupid?
I try to carry on reading, but I hear strange sounds... the whipping of air, like when you wave a tennis racket really quickly. I stand up, and turn around 360 degrees. Wait- what is that? My breath is growing short; I feel panic rise. A pair of-glowing?- green eyes are gazing up at me from the trees. I begin to scream. Then, as fast as lightning, a green blur pelts towards me.
“Ssshh! Don’t scream,” a soft voice begs. “Aw, no! I’m sorry- I didn’t mean to frighten you, little pet.” A hand pats my head awkwardly.
Hesitantly, I stop screaming and look at my company. No? Surely not?
It is Illusen herself.
Illusen grins, in a friendly manner, not like she hates the fact I’ve been snooping into her personal thoughts. “That’s mine,” she adds pointedly. Again, she sounds light-hearted and... intrigued.
She’s wearing a green dress, like in all her portraits, with a brown belt. Her hair is magnificent; half auburn and half leafy green. Her face is open and friendly, with cute freckles. She reminds me of my big sister, I realise, wanting to giggle. Instead, I decide to explain.
“I-I’m sorry. I thought it was a plain notebook. I was going to put it on my shelf or just write in it, but you see there was already writing in it- yours- and I didn’t mean to snoop, but I-”
“Sshhh, calm down, pet. It’s fine... I thought I’d lost it forever.” She sounds amused as she walks over to the diary and picks it up. “This was my first diary ever... helped me sort my thoughts out, you know? I’ve not lived without one since.”
“Don’t you keep them?” I ask, stupidly.
“Usually,” she laughs. “I wondered where this had got to.”
“I bought it,” I tell her truthfully. “From Chesterdrawers’ antiques.”
“Really? Gosh.” Illusen looks surprised. “At least it was an antique, eh? Better than being on the market.”
I smile at her humour, but I feel awkward. What now? Should I confront her about the Jhudora thing?
Illusen smiles wryly, as if she knows exactly what I am thinking. “Do you think I was a coward?” she asks, to my intense surprise. “To just leave Faerieland, with... her still there?”
“What? No!” I protest earnestly. “I think you did the right thing. Further confrontation would have torn Faerieland apart.”
She smiles weakly. “You’re right,” she sighs. “But I’ve always felt as if Jhudora had won. I mean, I love Meridell, really I do... but Faerieland was my home. And she ran me out of it.”
“We can do something about it!” I begin excitedly. “Tell Fyora!”
Illusen shakes her head. “No, I’ve tried that. It... it won’t work. Not without proof. And we can’t get proof,” she tacks on, realising I am about to start declaring I would help her find evidence. “Look, kid. We can’t do anything. I’ve lived here for ten years now. Jhudora’s won.”
Illusen truly believed that the case was hopeless, and she had given up. But I couldn’t let this go. It was so... so wrong! Jhudora had got away with whatever she had done... Wait a minute. Of course I can’t help if I don’t know what Jhudora did. But if I did know... we could find a way to recreate history! If whatever had made Jhudora so angry last time was to make her strike again- in front of Fyora- justice would indeed be served!
“Illusen! I know how we can prove to Fyora what Jhudora really is.” I pause. “But first you’re going to have to tell me everything.”
Weehee! I cannot believe we are actually going to do this. Right now we’re flying over the Neopian Seas at a steady ascent to Faerieland. I feel a little awkward, because rather than flying in a Uni Carriage, Illusen wanted to fly there herself. As a result, I find myself being carried in her arms. I must be really heavy, and it’s making me a little self conscious, if I’m honest.
“Not long now,” Illusen says, her voice quivering with excitement and anticipation.
Before we’d set off, she’d told me all about what Jhudora had done. She’d watched from a nearby cloud, as Jhudora had approached an innocent group of young Neopets. They were shaking with fright when they had seen Jhudora, as she was already infamous for her cruel ways. Little did they know they were going to be the innocent victims of an act so evil it would scar Illusen’s memories for the following decade, and probably the rest of her life. At first I had been cautious... it was too horrid of us to inflict the evil of another group of innocent tourists. It was then I had volunteered myself to be the victim of Jhudora’s cruelty. I was afraid, yes, but knowing that it could bring Jhudora’s downfall made me full of fierce determination.
“Right, Ixvy,” Illusen tells me now. “Are you sure about this? Yes? Okay... well, remember. We must be in Fyora’s sights. She sees me first, and welcomes me kindly. You are an innocent tourist. Got your autograph book? Perfect. You ask me for an autograph first, then Fyora. Once we have signed, target Jhudora.”
That was the whole point, you see. Illusen had told me. The whole reason Jhudora had unleashed her wild side on the tourists. They were asking for her autograph. She hated it. She despises the idea of a “little minion” owning something written in her hand. Ridiculous, I thought, but Illusen explained that Jhudora had always been sensitive about anybody knowing too much about her.
Of course, now you’re wondering what evil act Jhudora performed. It was awful. I was brought close to tears while Illusen was telling me... Jhudora was furious that any pet would dare ask for her signature, even just as a souvenir. She wanted to prove herself; she wasn’t just some Faerieland attraction! She wasn’t there for the benefit of ‘insignificant’ pets! A wave of fury rushed through her, burst out at her fingertips. Purple lightning aimed at the four young pets... and before Illusen could stop it, the four little pets had been replaced with four fat and warty mortogs. Don’t be too worried! They were alive and well! They were just a little... misshapen.
Jhudora had fled at the sight of Illusen, back to her room in a tower at the castle, waiting to deny any association with such dark magic. Illusen’s magic could match Jhudora’s, and she had turned the poor creatures back to their original states. They were perfectly fine, just a little shaken. And they couldn’t remember anything of the incident.
Illusen had rushed to inform Fyora of the events... but without proof. Nobody else had seen it, and the pets were unaware of any unusual happenings. Illusen had left that night and told nobody but Fyora.. She hadn’t even written it in her diary, her own private confidante. Until today. Today she had told me. And with that confidence, that Illusen trusted me, I was willing to risk anything to punish Jhudora.
“We’re here,” Illusen says now, bursting into my little daydream. “Now Ixvy, you’ll be okay. I can fix you like I fixed them. I promise. And thank you, thank you so very much.”
I nod silently, my nerves are overriding my other abilities. But no, I need to focus. My part has to be played perfectly, every bit of it. I clutch the autograph book carefully, a pen clasped in my other hand. We’re at the gates of Faerie City. Illusen smiles once more before flying over the gates, waiting for the announcement of her return. Taking a deep breath, I pushed open the large gates, and walk slowly into the city.
From my position, I see everything at once; gaggles of young pets and eager tourists are swarming around the city, looking in shops windows and buying large Faerie sundaes. Things I usually love to do when I’m visiting the thriving pink city. Then I see Fyora. She is half-running, half-flying down the sloping path from the wondrous castle. She’s seen Illusen. And she can’t be more happy.
“Illusen! My dear,” I hear her exclaim, as she envelopes Illusen into an embrace. “What a surprise! What a pleasure!”
“Fyora.” Illusen is happy too, I realise, not just because of Jhudora, but because she’s missed Faerie City so very much.
Slowly, I begin to approach the two Faeries, who are talking animatedly. As I walk towards them, I see Jhudora slinking out of the castle, wearing a smirk of amusement on her face. Perfect, she’s falling for the bait. She couldn’t resist getting her say.
“Illusen, miss! Fyora, your highness!” I squeak, finding the energy to rush over to them. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Jhudora stop in surprise. “May you sign this?” I smile, holding up the autograph book and pen.
“Of course!” beams Illusen, avoiding meeting my gaze, for fear she might laugh.
“My pleasure,” Fyora smiles, taking the book from Illusen.
“Thank you,” I smile, turning to Jhudora. I give her my most angelic beam. “And you, my lady?”
Jhudora stares, her eyes wide. Yes! We have her! She looks from me to Illusen, and back again. She knows what we’re doing, but it’s too late. Her mouth curls up into a snarl, her body shakes with fury. Oh gosh... I brace myself.
Pets all around turn to stare in horror. The seconds are blurring into one. Jhudora stares up at the sky, letting out a peeling yell, the lighting erupts from her hands in the same second I squeeze my eyes tight shut.
“It wasn’t so bad with the others last time... I think young Ixvy got a worse hit...” Illusen’s voice.
“She’ll be okay,” another voice reassures Illusen. Fyora?
“I hope so.” Illusen begins to cry, and I want to stop her, tell her it’s alright. But I can’t move. I’m tired. Weary. I just want to go home, pull on my purple fluffy dressing gown and go to sleep. Maybe they’ll let me if I ask. I try to open my eyes, but the weight of fatigue pulls them back down again.
“Her eyes flickered,” the soothing voice states suddenly. Yes, definitely Fyora.
“What?” Illusen stops crying. I try to open them again.
“Yes, Ixvy!” she yells in glee. “Wake up! Open your eyes!”
Oh, okay, fine.
I wrench them open and hold them wide to stay awake.
“What’s going on?” I ask, tired. “Did we get Jhudora?”
Illusen smiles, “Yes, you did it, Ixvy. You did it.”
Oh, good. I smile weakly. Sleep, I just want to sleep.
“Ixvy,” Fyora says gently. “You were very brave, my dear. You’ve saved the Faeries from living with a villain.”
“What will become of Jhudora?” I ask, interested despite my desire to have a little nap.
“She’s not banished from the realm... but she’s gone from the Castle. She isn’t allowed within the city walls. We’ve given her her own cloud. And that’s all.”
“Oh, okay. That’s fair. As long as she’s away from your lovely, lovely castle,” I’m only half aware that I’m not making much sense. Honestly, I don’t care. I close my eyes and drift back off to a long, deep sleep.
After the longest day of my life, I return home. Illusen had seen me put into a Uni-flown carriage before thanking me once more and giving me a hug goodbye. I reach into my bag for my house key, and find on top Illusen’s diary. Intrigued, I open it, only to find the pages blank. As I flick through, a message falls out. It read:
Ixvy, I have no use for this any longer.
My mind is at ease, all thanks to you.
I hope sincerely that this diary will help you, just as it helped me.
Your friend, Illusen the Earth Faerie.