The Mysterious Girl
The Mysterious Girl14 mins 303 14 mins 303
It was nearly dusk in Stelris when the silhouettes of two children sitting by an apple tree could be seen. Stelris was a magnificent kingdom with its outskirts devoted to orchards of various fruits. The children of this kingdom were told tales by their parents or grandparents that the orchards were a gift from a fairy to the king who ruled at that time. It was a gift to return his kindness towards her during her difficult times. It was also said that the fairy had promised the king that kingdom Stelris shall always prosper and the fruits of the orchards shall keep growing every year according to their seasons (or it would be suspicious to the other kingdoms to see all fruits growing throughout the year!). As the kingdom was never short of food, the kind king allowed people to pluck a fruit or two from the trees. Of course, none of them took more than they should as the population there was very less, and there was enough food for them to eat in their whole lifetime!
Of the two children who were sitting by the tree, one was Cassiestra and the other was Rikki. Cassiestra was a tall, beautiful girl with her hair as black as her eyes. Her sleek hair was only a few inches below her shoulders. She wore a blue frock which was studded with at least twenty pearls, and it looked good on her slightly wheat complexion. Anyone who has met Cassiestra could not deny that her inner beauty was as beautiful as her appearance. But the only thing which one could not understand was the mysterious glint in her eyes.
Rikki was an eleven-year-old boy who was slightly plump. He was as friendly as Cassiestra was or perhaps even more. Nevertheless, he, too, had an enemy—Stard. Rikki, unlike others, had not felt anything strange about Cassiestra (though she seemed three years older than him) for he had just met her. He stood up and tried to pluck an apple from a low branch whilst Cassiestra watched him and started humming softly to herself. Finally, he managed to pluck two apples, and sat beside her.
'Take this apple, Cassiestra. It looks delicious,' he said, giving her an apple, and began eating his apple.
Cassiestra had a bit of her apple and said, 'This is the most delicious apple I have ever had,' she smiled, 'Thank you!'
'Aren't you from Stelris? We always eat such apples.'
'No, I am from a neighbouring kingdom—Floris. You must have heard about it, I believe. It is famous for its flowers, perfumes, and clothes. Kings of both the kingdoms are friends, so citizens of each kingdom trade in the other. As this is an idyllic place to trade, my parents come here to sell few a goods, and stay here for a couple of days in a temporary house. I have asked them if they can take me, too, and they agreed.'
'Ah, Floris… I heard that the streets there smell of perfume. I wish I could visit it once.'
'You can always come there—Who is that? He's been watching us for a while,' she said pointing towards a nearby bush. Rikki stood up and started approaching the bush to take a closer look. But he stopped midway and gaped. On seeing him stop there, she went close to him and said, 'Do you know who he is?'
'Yes, he is Stard, a bully,' he replied, with hatred shown clearly in his face.
To Rikki's surprise, Cassiestra strode towards Stard; she smiled and said, 'Hello, Stard! I am Cassiestra. Any problem?' for he was white in his face, and as she observed, he regained his colour quickly. She could find traces of sweat too. She gave him a smile of understanding which neither Rikki nor Stard could explain why (their faces showed that they were bemused).
Stard was a ferocious-looking, muscular boy. On looking at him, one could easily say that he was good at punching or hitting. He strongly disliked everyone whom he saw as weak people. And as Rikki said, he was indeed a bully who loved seeing others suffer due his work. He found it amusing, while the others—including his parents—did not. It is not a surprise for anyone that he did not have any friends. Although he had some, they did not last for a long time.
'Problem? No, nothing—everything is fine,' said Stard. Cassiestra observed what Rikki could not—he was struggling to keep his voice steady.
'Well, if you don't want to tell, it's fine. But let me tell you that I can always help you.'
'I said I don't have any problem. Anyways, Roundworm—sorry, Rikki, your mummy has asked me to tell her baby—sorry, you to come home,' he said in a so-called friendly tone with a weak, fake smile. Cassiestra smiled again.
Rikki glared at him, and said, 'I thought you would never act as a messenger between anyone.'
'Really? Come let's go together. Aren't our houses in the same street?' replied Stard, in the same tone, but there was some improvement.
'Oh, can I join you? I haven't got any chance to explore this place yet!' said Cassiestra cheerfully.
Before Rikki could reply, Stard said, 'Of course, you can.'
'Thank you, Stard. I hope Rikki hasn't got any objection.'
'No, I haven't,' he replied
Rikki couldn't stand it any longer. He couldn't believe that the person he hated the most had suddenly turned friendly, and he was suspicious about it. This conversation with Stard certainly seemed a bit too long for him!
They set forth towards Rikki's and Stard's houses passing the fruit orchards and entered the market. The market was full of shops that sold different things from food items that were made from fruits of Stelris to the perfumes that were imported from Floris. The market was filled with a sweet smell coming from the bakeries that made all sorts of breads, jams, pastries, cakes, biscuits, pies, and everything one could make with the fruits of the orchards nearby. It was said that any newcomer who has entered the market could not stop themselves from buying something from the bakeries as they were good not just for smelling or admiring their looks, but for eating too! Cassiestra was among the many people who stopped there to buy a loaf of fruit bread for themselves. The fruit bread was fresh and it had generous amounts of cherries and was topped with some nuts. Unlike Cassiestra, Rikki and Stard did not stop by any shop to buy anything for themselves, but they merely accompanied her to the bakery.
They left the market to see the deserted street where Rikki's and Stard's houses were. Cassiestra smiled again as it was absorbed by her that as they drew nearer and nearer to their destination, Stard's pace was becoming slow—the one who was leading their way through the orchards and market is now lagging! It was not due to tiredness or to escape a trap which he has laid for Rikki (in reality, he hasn't done anything of that sort on that day. But it so happens that Rikki, who has lost count of the number of times he has been befooled or pranked by Stard, is expecting one). Rikki looked more cautious than the three of them. He started feeling suspicious about Cassiestra too. Stard was all ears listening to any distant sound he could hear, and with his eyes wide open he tried not to miss even a single movement in the dark as though expecting a monster to pop up anytime. But Cassiestra was different. She was a keen observer and can stay cool in the most difficult of her situations (all due to her past experiences).
But what was the reason behind their strange behaviour? What could possibly go wrong in a peaceful kingdom like Stelris?
Stard stopped suddenly causing the others to stop too. He was petrified as the deafening silence was broken by the growls of a dog—a wrathful dog. The dog was ferocious-looking; its eyes had a piercing look in them, and let's not forget its crystal-white teeth that were glistening in the dark—reflecting the light from the lamps and lanterns nearby. Apparently, it has been waiting for someone, and they have just arrived.
Not everyone had the same reaction. Stard was in freeze mode— he was white in his face and started sweating again. Rikki did not know what to do. He had a million things in mind—Hatred towards Stard boiling inside him, suspicions towards Cassiestra, and yes, he was in fight-or-flight mode. Cassiestra's reaction was something which none could expect. Her face was smoothly inscrutable.
'I think I know this dog,' said Rikki slowly, 'Isn't this the one whom you were hitting with stones last evening, Stard?'
'N-n-o,' stuttered Stard, who was overcome by fear, apparently regretting what he had done, 'I-it was its p-puppy.'
'It's not time to fight,' said Cassiestra coolly, 'Stay here, both of you.'
She started moving slowly towards the vindictive dog and stopped only when Rikki approached her and said, 'What are you doing?
'The d-dog b-b-bites,' said Stard, weakly.
'Please,' said Cassiestra, in a voice which stopped Rikki and Stard from speaking any further, 'I know what I am doing. Stay where you are as I said.'
As Rikki was going to Stard, he heard him say, 'Sh-shall we g-g-go from here?' in a way that made Rikki glare at him. Stard was so scared that one could easily say that it weighed his face down and words could not come out from mouth with ease. 'Fine. We'll st-stay here.'
Meanwhile, Cassiestra, still clutching her packet of fruit bread in her hand, approached the dog and crouched. How she has managed to calm the dog is still a question that puzzles many minds. But we can tell you something about what happened later. She opened the packet to pull out her loaf of bread only to feed the dog. Then, she lowered her voice to an extent that neither Rikki nor Stard could hear. 'You need not worry, friend,' she said to the dog, with a bright smile spread over her face, 'Everything is fine. None shall be harmed anymore.'
She stayed there until the dog ate the last of its bread. Then, the dog left the place licking Cassiestra's hand twice. Cassiestra now turned towards the other two only to see that Stard—who was no longer transfixed—was clutching Rikki's hand as tightly as he could. It looked as though he had been doing it all the time and Rikki never minded it as he was striving to know what Cassiestra was doing whilst Stard was shaking him with fear (of course, Rikki never knew what happened!)
'Now that the dog which has been taunted by someone is gone,' began Cassiestra, and Stard loosened his grip on Rikki, 'I think, we can keep moving.'
'Oh, yes,' said Stard, in a voice that was almost fearless, 'Let's keep going.'
Cassiestra looked as though she was waiting for something. Rikki glared at Stard, who seemed to have understood the reason behind his glare and said, 'Thank you, Cassiestra.'
The voice in which he thanked was definitely not pleasing enough, but nevertheless she smiled. Stard waited for a while if the other two would come, but they did not. So, he strode towards his house. Cassiestra and Rikki began to walk slowly and conversed again.
'He's got a knack of getting himself and others into trouble, you know,' said Rikki, 'But it took me so long to realise it this time.'
She laughed and said, 'That's quite natural.'
'I never knew that it was his mother who had asked him to come home early… my mother never does that because she knows that I will be home on time.'
'Well, it looked as though he had seen the dog and panicked. So, he came to us for help.'
'How did you manage to do it anyway?'
She was coy about her little adventure. Meanwhile, Stard reached his home and knocked on the door, waiting for his mother to open it. Seeing this Cassiestra said, 'He might be a bully, but he is not evil, is he? And yes, he has shown us a bit of cowardice tonight.'
'Maybe,' he said. For some reason, he did not mind the change in topic.
She looked into his eyes and said, 'It is never too late to extend a hand of friendship, and it is not wrong to be the first person to do that either.'
Rikki took some time to understand it. By the time he understood what it meant, Stard's mother opened the door. Rikki decided to go there now. What was only a few metres away a couple of minutes ago, now seemed to be miles away from him. With Cassiestra's soft voice ringing in his ears (saying "It is never too late to extend a hand of friendship, and it is not wrong to be the first person to do that either."), he went to Stard. He hesitated for a while, but he smiled and extended his hand towards Stard. Stard's face was blank and so was his mother's. If Rikki was trying to befriend him, it would be very strange for both Stard and his mother. Surprisingly, that was what he was trying to do. Stard, too, hesitated for a while. He was regretting what he did. Finally, they shook their hands!
'We're best friends, aren't we?' said Rikki
'Yes! But I am s-s-sorry,' said Stard. No sooner did these words come out of his mouth, his mother flung her arms around him. Rikki smiled brightly with Stard.
Rikki could understand how happy Stard's mother was. He decided to thank Cassiestra for it. Bringing two enemies, full of hatred against each other, together is definitely not an easy task to do! He turned towards the place where Cassiestra had stood when Stard and his mother were talking about the miracle that occurred that night.
What he saw was something which none would expect. That sight only increased his suspicions towards her… Cassiestra was nowhere to be seen—she disappeared.
I do not want to leave you in a haze of confusion like Rikki was left in. So, I'll try to give you all the information we can give.
Cassiestra was neither from Floris nor Stelris. She belonged to neither of the kingdoms for she was not a human being like us—she was a fairy. Yes, she was the fairy who promised the king of orchards and the prosperity of Stelris. You might wonder what difficulty could a fairy like Cassiestra have. But let me tell you that it was not just Cassiestra who faced the problem—it was the whole population of fairies who were worried.
The times were dark. As the population of humans increased, the population of fairies declined. Not all fairies could be immortal. It was said that to attain immortality, one must choose the right person to help. That help shouldn't be given to selfish people as the other people will not be benefitted. The growing population should have given them more choice, but that did not happen. To find the right person was a difficult task, and not many were able to do it. Cassiestra feared that her life would come to an end soon. All these things had a huge impact on her.
One day, she absent-mindedly went to Stelris as she was so depressed by her thoughts. It was during those days when Stelris was among those unpopular kingdoms who could not gain popularity as they hadn't been selfish. The king welcomed her. He did not know that she was a fairy, nor did the courtiers. She felt comfortable there, and also felt that the king was the right person. She used the last of her magic to check him. It worked! Then, a miracle occurred—she was filled with happiness and hopes to live, and she regained her powers too. She took her time savouring it. Later, she promised to help the king. The king was elated to hear the news that she could help him.
'Oh king, I would like to thank you and the rest of your kingdom by gifting you something only I can. You have helped me realise my true potential,' said Cassiestra in a voice so sweet that none of the courtiers had missed out a single word.
'We will be happy to receive them unless any of us shall be harmed by them.'
'Trust me, king. None without an evil mind shall be harmed or suffer from any evil being. I shall swear it if you want me to do so.'
The king smiled. Cassiestra continued, 'We are not allowed to tell what we are supposed to do; I am sorry, king. But I assure you that Kingdom Stelris shall prosper in a way that one has never dreamt of. I must leave now.'
She left the palace and those who went to see her leaving could not find her anywhere. Orchards—which provided protection, food, and many other things—grew around the perimeter of the kingdom, leaving everyone bemused. Tales about the mysterious fairy began circulating in the kingdom as quickly as fire. That was only the visible part of what she has done; she has many more things in store for the kingdom.
The one who knows that Cassiestra is a fairy can guess that she had used her magic to save the two from the dog with an enchanted piece of bread. But what actually happened there shall always remain as a secret between Cassiestra and me.
Just look around you… perhaps, you can be among the very few people who have met her!