Mad Tea Party, or Now You Know
"This has to be a dream," I thought to myself. "There's no way this can be real."
I pinched myself hard. It hurt. I wasn't entirely certain that I believed the old pinch test, though; this was just too weird.
I was in a room decorated in shades of pink and light purple, from which I deduced that I was somewhere in Queen Fyora's castle. This was born out by the fact that I was seated next to Fyora herself on a comfy pink sofa. Illusen and Jhudora were seated across from us on a matching sofa, and a pale lavender coffee table between the two sofas held a lovely silver tea service. We each held a teacup and saucer, patterned in a delicate floral design of pink and lilac.
I took a sip of my tea. It was quite good tea, probably the best I'd ever tasted. That didn't make this any less strange, though. I thought I would scream if a white Cybunny carrying a pocket watch hopped through the room muttering about being late. But no one appeared; it was just me and three of the most famous faeries in all of Neopia.
I had no idea how I got here, which bore out the theory that this was all just a dream. I reached up to pull a stray strand of hair behind my ear and found my Faerie Kougra Pen stashed there. I looked down at my lap and saw my Waffle Notepad resting on my knee. For a brief moment the thought floated across my mind that it was too bad my pen resembled neither a syrup bottle nor a stick of butter. Then my budding journalistic instincts took over; I was sitting here having tea with three famous faeries, so I might as well interview them.
Clearing my throat I addressed the two faeries seated across from me. "So, Jhudora and Illusen, aren't you two supposed to be bitter enemies? It just seems so odd to see the two of you sitting here drinking tea together and not fighting."
Fyora smiled, and Illusen giggled. "We were never really bitter enemies," Jhudora replied. "It was more like a sibling rivalry that got out of hand on occasion."
"Very out of hand," Fyora murmured darkly, sipping her tea.
"What happened?" I asked.
Illusen leaned back and said, "Jhudora and I are twins, and when we were at the Faerie Academy we developed quite a sibling rivalry."
"You see," Jhudora explained, "in order for me to maintain my reputation as a dark faerie, I couldn't be seen being friends with a goody-goody earth faerie, even if she was my twin sister. So I started playing tricks on her whenever possible."
"And I learned to give as good as I got," Illusen said.
Jhudora poured herself another cup of tea and added, "Though you had a much easier time talking your way out of detention."
Illusen shrugged. "I'm not a dark faerie," she explained, "and there was still a lot of prejudice around at that time against dark faeries."
"I've been trying to change that," Fyora chimed in.
Illusen turned toward her and said, "Yes, but you hadn't been queen for very long at the time." Turning back to me she continued, "Anyway, our pranks gradually became more and more malicious, and more and more well-known. Then, the day we graduated from the Academy, Jhudora pulled her worst prank of all on me."
I was frantically scribbling this down in my notebook, and was thankful that Illusen paused at this point. When I was all caught up, I asked, "What did she do?"
The earth faerie replied hesitantly, "You know those dreams everyone has sometimes, where you're at school and you suddenly realize all you're wearing is your underwear?"
I nodded, recalling having had that dream a few times.
Illusen blushed and Jhudora picked up the story. "It was at our graduation ceremony. Just as Illusen was accepting her diploma from the Headmistress I cast an invisibility spell on her graduation robe and her dress, so it looked like she was standing there in her underwear." Illusen's blush deepened, and Jhudora burst out laughing.
When she calmed down the dark faerie added, "That was my best prank ever! It even beat the time I turned the Queen's tower invisible--I had to steal so many invisible paint brushes for that one."
"It does give my shop a certain mystique," Fyora commented, "though unfortunately it hasn't done anything about all the people that come in and ask me to just give them the items for free."
"That's what you get for selling such expensive items," Jhudora remarked dryly, sipping her tea.
My mind was reeling from all that questions that were piling up. "Okay," I said to Illusen, "back up a bit. So what happened after the incident at your graduation?"
She blushed again and replied, "Well, it seemed like everyone in Faerieland had either been at that graduation ceremony or had heard about it from someone who had been there. I couldn't even walk down the street without faeries pointing at me and laughing. It got so bad that I decided to move away from Faerieland."
"So she came to me," Fyora said, "and I recommended she move to Meridell, partly because I thought it would be the sort of place an earth faerie would enjoy living, and partly because I wanted an agent in that part of the world." At my questioning glance, she explained, "All the faeries that don't live in Faerieland keep me up-to-date on events and gossip from their parts of the world. It's not exactly spying, and it helps me know how to deal with Neopets from those areas who come to my court."
Wow. If this was real, I had to hope I would make it out of here alive, and if it was a dream, I hoped I was scribbling all this down on my sheets. I had the makings of a Neopian Times exclusive here. I persisted with my questions.
"So what about those Neopedia articles that mention your rivalry?" I inquired.
"Publicity stunts, pure and simple," Jhudora replied. She chuckled and added, "It tickles me to think that I am in the Gallery of Evil solely based on rumors I spread about my evil deeds and rivalry with my twin sister."
"That's another thing," I said. "If you two are twins, why are Jhudora Day and Illusen Day more than a month apart?"
Jhudora snorted. "You couldn't very well have supposed mortal enemies celebrating their birthdays on the same day, now could you?"
"But how did you pick those days?"
"The fun way," Fyora said. "I tacked a calendar up on my wall and threw darts at it with my eyes closed, then used the first two dates the darts landed on that didn't correspond to existing holidays." Noting the shocked expression on my face, she laughed and added, "Hey, just because I'm the Faerie Queen doesn't mean I can't have some fun every once in a while."
I shook my head incredulously. "This has to be a dream," I thought to myself again.
After pouring myself another cup of tea, I cleared my throat and asked, "So when is your birthday?"
"The third day of Running," Illusen and Jhudora replied in unison.
I scribbled this down in my notebook, then stopped and thought for a moment. After taking a large sip of my tea, I said, "Isn't that the day that's cancelled 'due to lack of interest' every year?"
"Yep," Illusen replied. "You see, Jhudora and I wanted to be able to get together and chat at least once a year without having to come up with some excuse for why we weren't giving out quests, so we asked Queen Fyora if she could come up with some sort of Neopian-wide day off, or something to that effect."
Fyora continued, "I thought that was a great idea, since I could really use a day off every once in a while. Anyway, after quite a bit of thinking and a few memory-changing spells I was able to convince TNT to cancel the third of Running every year, giving all of us a welcome day off."
I scribbled away frantically, hoping against hope that I wouldn't get into too much trouble if I ever managed to publish this stuff.
"What about your quest services, then?"
Fyora said, "Most of the items they collect are used in spells to keep the shadow wraiths out of Neopia, as are the items from the normal faerie quests."
"I do throw in the occasional item that I need for something else but am too lazy to go get myself," Jhudora admitted.
"Hah! I knew it!" Illusen exclaimed.
Jhudora rolled her eyes. "Come on, Illie, you know full well that it would ruin my evil reputation if I went into the Faerie Foods Shop and actually bought some food. Besides, you do the same thing."
"Only because there are a lot of items I can't obtain without leaving Meridell, which I hate doing, and the Shop Wizard refuses to allow me to buy stuff via neomail," Illusen replied haughtily.
"Ladies, please," Fyora said, a hint of warning in her voice. The other two faeries quieted down.
"Just one last question for you two," I said, turning back to Jhudora and Illusen. "What is the deal with Illusen disappearing from her glade every year on Jhudora Day?"
The two faeries grinned at each other and Illusen replied, "That was my idea. I figured it would enhance Jhudie's reputation to no end if I made it look like she'd kidnapped me."
Jhudora continued the tale. "So she made a cardboard cutout of herself, convinced me to make a voice recording telling people to do a quest for me instead, and made it look to all the world as if I'd celebrated Jhudora Day by kidnapping my rival."
"Meanwhile," Illusen continued, "I took the day off and went to this fabulous spa on Mystery Island that Jhuidah had told me about."
Fyora shook her head and said, "The first time they did this, I received complaints from all over Neopia. The Defenders of Neopia even contacted me and asked if I needed their aid in freeing Illusen. Of course then I had to go over to Jhudora's Cloud and ask her if she'd kidnapped her sister. She told me it was all just a prank, and I had to reassure everyone that Illusen would be back in her glade, safe and sound, the next day."
Illusen giggled and added, "The next day I was back in my glade handing out quests as usual, and everyone and their Spardel came over to ask if I was all right. The Neopian Times even sent a reporter over to interview me about how I'd escaped from Jhudora's clutches." She shrugged and concluded, "Now it's an annual tradition, and nobody worries much about it anymore."
Turning to Jhudora, I asked, "So, why don't you two do something similar on Illusen Day?"
Jhudora rolled her eyes and replied sardonically, "The good and kind Illusen kidnapping the dark and evil Jhudora? Do you really think anyone would believe that?"
Put like that, it did seem like a bit of a stretch.
She continued, "No, on Illusen Day I just stay home and work on other stuff, deal with the few questers who come my way, and of course pull some mild yet funny prank on Illusen."
"Such as?" I inquired.
Jhudora looked over at Illusen and said, "Let's see, there was the year I replaced her shampoo with purple hair dye."
"The year you turned everything in my glade purple," Illusen countered, smiling.
Jhudora chuckled. "Ah, that was a good one. Then there was the time I turned a bunch of her questers into Mortogs as they were leaving her glade."
"And don't forget the time you replaced my entire stock of cream cookies with a bunch of your infamous poisonous lollypops."
"Hey! Those lollypops are actually quite tasty!" Jhudora retorted.
"Okay, so they have a high risk of making you sick, but what's life without a little risk, right?" Turning to me, Jhudora continued, "Anyway, the best was last year, when I sent a bunch of rabid mutant Symols into her garden in the middle of the night. She woke up and found her precious garden completely ruined!"
I turned to Fyora and asked, "And you don't do anything about this?"
She shrugged and replied, "I don't really mind, as long as I don't have to intervene."
I frantically scribbled all this down in my notepad. Even if this was all a dream, I could probably still get this published as a conspiracy theory article, or perhaps a short story or two.
Having run out of questions to ask Jhudora and Illusen, I turned to Fyora and said, "You mentioned the Hidden Tower earlier. I've always wanted to ask you about that. What is the deal with Battle Dung? Where do you get it, and why in the name of all that is dark and chocolatey do you sell that stuff in the Hidden Tower?"
Fyora said evasively, "Surely you don't think Battle Dung is any stranger than some of the other weapons I sell."
"I've always wondered about that, too," Illusen said. "I mean, I'm all for recycling, but don't you think Battle Dung is going a bit too far?"
Fyora shrugged and replied, "The Battledome enthusiasts seem to like it, and now that I've finally gotten that potpourri spell working again in the Hidden Tower, it's not too bad."
"But what about collecting the stuff?" I persisted. "And where do you get it, anyway?"
"I'm the Faerie Queen, dear," Fyora said dryly. "I can afford to pay someone else to collect it for me--that's why it's so expensive. As to where Battle Dung comes from... let's just say you'd rather not know that."
Jhudora rolled her eyes and grinned mischievously. "In Faerieland, everything is magical. Even the sewage," she said, misquoting a line from the Neopedia article about the Soup Faerie.
"Something like that," Fyora replied evasively.
I could tell from Fyora's tone that she really didn't want to pursue this topic any further, so I wrapped up the interview.
"Thank you, my ladies, Your Highness," I said politely. I closed my notepad and stashed my pen behind my ear again. "This has been most informative. Tell me," I turned towards Fyora, "was this all a dream, or did it really happen?"
Fyora smiled at me. "You'll see," she replied enigmatically, winking at me. She pointed one slender finger at me and muttered something under her breathe. A sparkly pink mist surrounded me, and I felt my eyelids drooping...
"Mystie? Mystie, are you okay?"
My eyelids fluttered open, and I slowly sat up. I had apparently fallen asleep at my desk in our Neohome in Altador.
"Mystie? Are you all right?"
I slowly looked to my right, wincing at the crick in my neck. Merhlana, my Cybunny, stood there, concern showing in he wide sky-blue eyes.
"I'm fine, Lana," I said, calling her by her nickname. I massaged my aching neck. "What happened?"
"You came home from your trip to Faerieland and sat down at your desk, then fell asleep," Merhlana replied.
I blinked. "So, I really did go to Faerieland?" I asked.
Merhlana nodded. "That's where you said you were going, anyway. Are you sure you're okay?"
I ignored her, and reached out for the Waffle Notepad I saw lying on my desk. Flipping through it, I saw it was all there: everything from my chat with Fyora, Jhudora, and Illusen. I reached up and found my Faerie Kougra Pen stashed behind my ear. I leaned back in my chair and stared off into space, trying to put my thoughts in order.
"Mystie, if you don't tell me what's going on right this instant, I'll go get Merhlie's Meepit and sick it on you!" Merhlana exclaimed angrily, narrowing her eyes.
I patted her on the head. "It's all right, Merhlana, everything's fine. I just had the greatest idea for a Neopian Times article, that's all."
Merhlana sniffed indignantly, obviously disbelieving me, and hopped off. I set to work, writing up my story for the Neopian Times.
"Even if it was all a dream, what's the worst that can happen if I can get this published?" I muttered to myself.
Okay, so the worst that could happen would be for Jhudora, Illusen, and Fyora to all get angry at me and send Lawyerbot to sue me. Since I don't have enough neopoints to be worth suing, Fyora would then probably force me to collect Battle Dung for her until such time as everyone forgot about this story and its contents.
I'm still going to try to get this published, though. After all, what's life without a little risk?