As Bael and Pix set down for a soft landing just outside the Den Pix hops off the broom and begins running her shoulders. “Seems I got a bit of a chill flying against the wind.” And with a knock on the door, Pix calls into the den.
“Ursa? Are you in?”
Ursa opens the heavy wooden door, her face breaking into a wide smile at the sight of her companions. “Hello, Pix! Bael! Do come in.”
Bael rubs his hands together eagerly and waves into the door, urging Pix to proceed.
“Hale and well-met, Wild Child! So glad to see you in! We have been scouting today and thought of you and, well, there are many things to chat about over hot tea and baked goods!”
“You have wonderful timing!” Ursa laughs, “I’ve just pulled a fresh batch of pastries from the oven. I’m experimenting with some new ingredients! These are filled with a sweet glaze of powdered cocoa beans.”
The door swings further, allowing them to enter. A fire is crackling merrily in the hearth; as they come through to remove coats and boots, the scent of freshly baked cookies meets their noses.
Pix shuffles past the moment the welcome leaves Ursa’s lips and heads straight to the fire. “Egad! My skin are as red as the fire!”
Ursa moves to the kitchen area to find plates and cups. The pastries she gestures to are made of wide dough with 4 extended ends that have sliced almonds added. “Bear claws!” Ursa giggles as she offers them to her friends.
“Oh, here!” She sets down the food and goes to retrieve a salve from a different shelf. “Bee balm. It will help sooth the wind chafing.”
Opening the lid, she gingerly smooths some onto Pix’s cheeks. Pix turns away from the fire and stops chattering her teeth to let Ursa apply the balm. “Oh. Oh wow. Thanks. I already feel it working.” As she tried very desperately not to touch her cheeks.
Bael raises a staying hand. “My skin’s red is on purpose,” he says with a smile. “And I’ve taken steps not to feel the cold.”
He raises a bear claw to inspect the layers, rich with butter and glaze. It sticks slightly to his fingers and he has to lick them clean, with pleased results. “Excellent!”
He turns to Pix. “*This* is what a mean. Imagine curling up with one of these and a good book?” He takes a healthy bite he can tear with his teeth.
“Are you honestly suggesting a bakery? We haven’t even put the library up yet. But I can see a genius idea when I see one.” Pix takes about out of a bear claw and with a “Yum.” and a smile nods her approval.
“A bakery? Goodness, no! This is the 3rd batch and the first edible ones. I don’t have the skill or patience to bake for anyone else but we few. Although if one were to open in town, I certainly wouldn’t object!” Ursa protests, a pink blush creeping across her face.
“Sorry to barge in unannounced but we could use you help with something. And since this was YOUR idea, we figured it best to get your advice on it.” Pix turns and looks towards Bael. “We need help with the library.”
She pauses at the mention of the library, however. “What kind of help with the library? Yes, please, whatever it may be.” The blush grows perceptibly more intense.
Bael finishes his pastry and waits for a moment, savoring the flavors and identifying one or two experiments of his own–he might not run a bakery, but he had Standards. He only then notices the gazes turned towards him.
“What? Oh! Yes. The library.” He grins and leans forward into the hearth’s heat. “I received a delivery from the wizard’s familiar, a pseudodragon, who brought me the amber seed from which the library will grow and so we were considering where we should plan it and–” he tilts his horns towards the shiny-cheeked human “–Pix mentioned wanting to build themselves a house. And since you and Leon are the only ones I knew outside the manor or Respite, that gave us just another good reason to stop by,” he says, reaching for the cup of tea.
There is suddenly an audible gasp heard from out of the empty air.
Then a delicate, high-pitched voice, like that of a precocious little girl, is heard saying:
“Lucius delivered his crystal *before* me?! UUURGH!”
Suddenly, the source of the voice materializes as a pair of glossimer wings appear right at eye-level; attached to them what appears to be a tiny elven girl, barely a foot tall, floating in the air with arms folded in mock anger and an exaggerated pout on her face.
“That little monster will never let me live this down, you know.” she protests.
Ursa lets out an involuntary scream of surprise. “BLOODY NINE HELLS, WHERE DID YOU COME FROM?!”
“DAMN IT. I dropped my bear claw. Was all the screaming for?” Pix turns and her cheeks go from red to pale white at the sight of the elven girl.
The tiny creature tumbles backwards in the air holding her ears.
“GAH! Well, presently I came from Alarius’ Castle…” she says, pretending to clean out here ears from the noise.
“But if you mean ‘where did I come from’ *originally*, that’s a bit of a personal question, don’t you think? We’ve just met, mind you.” She adds with a wink.
Bael stares around the three of them, wincing only slightly. He was a tiefling of breeding.
“Apologies,” he says as calmly as he dares. “Lucius visited me in the manor house bearing gifts from Alarius. How might we welcome you and any missives you may have for the mistress of this house?” He tips his tea cup towards Ursa.
Ursa scowls, a conflict of emotions across her face.
“Simply ‘from’ Alarius’s castle or sent by him? And does he recommend that you barge into people’s homes without invitation?” Ursa asks pointedly.
“Maybe I can just wipe the dirt off and it’ll be fine. Or just eat around it. That works too.” As Pix picks up the pastry and shuffles to the closest chair. “Ummm please continue?”
“We were both sent to deliver your rewards for freeing our great mage, of course!” She says as if it was plain as day.
“Though it wasn’t a *race* to deliver them, Lucius will insist it was because he *won* this time” She adds, under her breath. She begins to drift and dart about the room, partly like a listless butterfly, at times like an inquisitive hummingbird.
“As for ‘barging in’, I’ll have you know *my* entrance left NO warm air escaping your front door, unlike some *other* entrances I could mention.” she gives a side look to Pix and Bael.
“BUT, if it is an invitation you desire before you receive your gift, so be it.” With that, she lifts her chin up in a mock air of defiance and pretends to ‘walk’ purposefully thru mid air to the door, magics it open, flies out it, the door slamming behind.
Then, a moment passes before a diminutive knock can be heard on the door by a miniscule fist.
Blinking in mild disbelief at what she’s seeing, Ursa calms and recovers her composure. Glancing in bewilderment at Pix and Bael, she shakes her head as though to clear it and opens the door.
“Please, do come in,” she manages to say. “My company and I were having tea, would you care for some, er.. What is your name, messenger of Alarius?” She asks, turning to look at the winged being.
It takes a moment for Ursa to realize she had been talking to empty space in front of the door, but before she could look around or voice a concern as to where the creature had gone, she reappears behind her, looking over her shoulder.
“Oh, I would simply LOVE some tea, thank you!”
She breaks away from the door and zooms across the room to the teapot, inhaling deeply with an appreciative grin. “Oh, and you may call me Scribble.”
Ursa’s eyes narrow, but glancing at Bael and deciding to follow his better example, she shrugs off the rudeness of the messenger and makes her a cup, offering a treat from a plate of sweets as well.
“Well, then, Scribble, welcome to my den. These are my friends, Pix and Bael.”
Ursa is unused to putting on manners for someone who has tricked her, but she tries.
Bael places his cup down and approximates a tiny bow. “Well and adorably met, Scribble. I am a great admirer of your master and quite glad we had the chance to successfully lend him aid. We were just discussing how to place his gift of the library to best effect. Did you have something to deliver for our friend, the Wild Child, here?”
Ursa smiles gratefully at Bael.
The slurping noises heard from the half-tipped cup stop as the pixie’s face pops up over the rim of the cup three times the size of her head at the mention of the delivery. She reluctantly returns to teacup to an upright position as she sloppily wipes her chin with her forearm. Guess the tea and sweets will have to wait.
“Yes, perhaps it’s best to get that out of the way …though there seems to be no hurry *now* since I’m coming in second to that oversized flying gecko.” she says as she rolls her eyes at the thought of Lucius lording his victory over her.
She takes flight again, reaching into a satchel slung over her shoulder that is fashioned from an intricately folded oak leaf to produce a crystal identical to the one given to Bael, save for it being a brilliant Emerald green rather than amber in color, along with its own square of parchment.
She *almost* manages to put on an air of seriousness to the whole affair as she presents it to Ursa.
Ursa accepts the crystal with a smile and a nod of thanks, keeping eye contact with Scribble as long as possible, until her curiosity over the parchment takes hold and she turns her attention to it. With a self conscious look towards her friends, she slowly and carefully sounds out the words, desperately hoping she doesn’t make any mistakes.
The note reads:
I trust this note finds you well. I once again offer my unending thanks to you and your companions for such an heroic deed in freeing both myself and the cursed spirits haunting the castle. As what feels like a small recompense for such a gift you’ve delivered to me, accept this crystal as a fulfillment of your desire to have samples of my greenhouse.
I sincerely wish I could do you the favor of recreating the greenhouse in full, complete with fully grown flora, but sadly copying living things in such a manner as I had managed with the Library crystal is beyond my abilities. But rest assured that this crystal will recreate the greenhouse structure in every detail, but it will be populated instead with the offspring of my arboretum in the form of seeds and saplings.
I have, however, learned that you are in the company of a number of fey spirits of your own, an Ent among them, that can guide you on shortening your growing time.
Simply place this crystal in the ground about a foot deep and clear the area about it in a forty foot radius, The crystal will do the rest.
Thank you once again, and I wish for you prosperous growth!<>-Alarius-<>
Ursa finishes reading the note aloud, then passes it to Bael. The possibilities and promise of both gifts has her practically glowing.
Bael adjusts his pince nez and reads the tiny note, recognizing the same hand as the one who wrote his own. Alarius was not only wise, but kind–a rarity among the most powerful, in his experience. It brings a smile to his face as he sips the tea, washing the last of the sugary treat.
“So,” he says to Ursa with a grin. “You now get to plant two seeds: a greenhouse and a library! Perhaps we should rename Hope’s Bastion the Jewel of the West!”
As Ursa and Bael converse, Scribble turns her attention to Pix as her demeanor changes from precocious to giddy as she exclaims:
“You’re the bard! That sang for the adorable overalls adorned girl that night! Aren’t you?”
Stopping mid-chew on the clean side of the bear claw, Pix points to herself as her eyes shift to Scribble. “Mho mi?” She swallows.
“I do hope so, we quite enjoyed your performance and didn’t dare interrupt!” Scribble says, coyly.
“Yeah that was me. I was playing for Cora. Wait you were there listening?” A smack of pride travels across Pix’s face. “Well I’m glad you liked the performance. I shall have to perform an encore for you sometime. And I just might have to take Sin up on his offer.”
“And your name is ‘PIX’!!! Well, I cannot in good conscience let us part without giving you something befitting that wonderful name, can I?”
With that, she walks to the center of the table and clears a small area, unfolding a scrap of leather about a foot across and placing it down. She then stands in the center of it and takes a dancers starting position, as if to begin a ballet. She begins to hum a little tune to herself as she begins to eloquently gyrate and spin in a little dance on the scrap of leather.
Pix moves over to the table and begins to watch Scribble dance. Amazed at the form and grace of the pixie shifts to contained giggling, as the dignity of the performance lasts but a second or two.
It turns from hauntingly elegant to downright ridiculous as her dance switches from ballet to stomping, rain-dance-like grunting as she slaps her knees and thighs, bops her bottom on the table, and tussles her cherry-red hair in a display nothing short of comical. Pix glances back and forth from Ursa to Bael to make sure they are seeing what she is seeing.
It soon becomes apparent why she’s going thru such silliness as the dust that she had been lightly emanating this whole time; a barely perceptible cloud up until now, is pouring off of her like a torrent with every slap and stomp of her foot while it forms an impressive pile in the center of the leather tarp she had made.
Once satisfied that she had shed enough, she stops, slightly out of breath. “There, that should do it.” She says, wiping her forehead “About ten pinches worth, I should say.”
As Scribbles concludes the dance Pix stands and gives an applause. “Bravo. I never would have thought I would having my lifetime witnessed a pixie dance. Thank you.”
She gathers the ends of the leather, making a pouch which she ties off and presents to Pix. “We pixies can’t have one of our namesake going without Pixie Dust, now can we?”
As Scribble presents The leather pouch to her, Pix hesitates for the briefest of moments. “Damned with the rules. I dare not turn down such a compliment or gift for that matter. Thank you, Scribble. Thank you very much.
As Pix sat enthralled by the dancing pixie, Ursa deftly replaced the bear claw which Pix had retrieved off the floor when it fell with a fresh one.
Bael politely watches and schools his face–years of training in etiquette and proper decorum having been drummed into him from a young age–but he can’t help but bite the edge of his lip as his eyes twinkle merrily and he claps more-than-politely as the dance comes to a close and Pix accepts her namesake gift.
Ursa refills everyone’s tea and then fetches a small jar from a very high shelf above a window. It’s obviously honey, but the color differs from that of the wild hive or from the many hives she has established on the estate grounds. This has a more orange-red hue. She returns to the group by the fireplace and holds out the jar to Scribble.
“Please take this back to Alarius, with my best compliments. It is marigold blossom honey, made by my bee friends at the end of the summer.”
“Brava!” he says. “You do all of us and your master Alarius credit. Thank you for all of your gifts and fine company! And now, I would not wish to bore you with the particulars as we set our minds and hearts together to see what should be *done* with these presents. It was a delight to have met you, Scribble, and I hope that before you go, we might be of service to the Prizm Palace once again to help you all on your next leg of travel and be well met soon.”
He smiles and walks to the door, stopping with a little bow. “It was an honor and a pleasure and please do send our regards as well to Lucius and Alarius, both.”
With a grateful nod to Ursa, she heaves up the gift of honey into her arms with a tiny grunt and hovers up above the table.
“Oh my, at this rate I should begin my own delivery service!”
She bows to each in turn before zipping out the door, leaving a fresh sparkling trail of dust behind her.
Ursa politely returns Scribble’s farewell bow. Sitting down in one of the large, comfortable chairs, she gestures to her friends to sit if they would like. “Just when I begin to think I’ve seen everything…” she chuckles.
Pix joins in the laughter. “Quite the unexpected yet delightful performance. And now our workload seems to have doubled.” Pix picked up the fresh bear claw and does a double take. “Didn’t this have a bite out of it already.” She trails off and shrugged as she takes a bite. “So which do we decide to plant first? The library or the greenhouse?”
“Whatever we decide, I plan to spend as much time as possible in both.” Ursa declares happily.