Lip's Size Attack

(Mab and Cubed Cinder)


Chapter 1, written by Mab

"Lip?"

"Mmmmphhh," the young princess of the fairy world Poppliss groaned, stirring in her bed.

"Your Royal Highness? I hope you're asleep in there. I'd hate to be you if someone should find out you were deliberately ignoring me."

"Mmmm... hmm?" A thoroughly tired Lip slowly crawled out of her huge, pink four-poster bed (more than a mite too big for her), slipped into her favorite pair of boots, and walked over to a mirror hanging on the wall. Bedhead, loose hair, still clad in well-worn flower-print pajamas... Lip didn't normally care about her appearance too much, being rather tomboyish for a princess, but she still didn't want to be seen in such an unkempt state.

"Lip! I'll not be calling you again!"

"I'm awake! Be right there!"

Several minutes passed before Lip opened the door, now clad in her usual yellow dress/pink skirt/hair ribbon/ponytail attire. "What is it?" she asked, rubbing away what sleep remained in her large blue eyes as she glanced up at Marshal, one of the palace's staff.

Marshal bowed to Lip and continued, tweaking his black mustache a bit. "Her Majesty requests your presence in the throne room. I'm afraid I'm not certain of the details, but it would seem she needs you to do something for her."

There was a pause. Lip stared off into the distance. "My hair looks awful, doesn't it?" she eventually pondered. "Be out in a minute."

"Your Royal Highness, if I may say that your coiffure looks wonderful tod--" Marshal was cut off as Lip slammed her bedroom door in his face.

---

Lip swung open the double doors of the palace throne room and entered. At the end of the huge chamber was her mother, the lovely Queen Cordelia of Poppliss, seated upon an ornate golden throne.

"What is it you want of me, dearest mother?" asked Lip, bowing before the queen. "Obviously, if you've called upon your own daughter, it must be something important. Well, don't worry!" she continued, twirling her flower wand around in her hands and posing dramatically. "As a strong, independent young lady and your immediate successor, I promise that whatever you need of me, it shall be done!"

"It's nothing that important, Lip," said Cordelia, smiling.

Lip froze, staring wide-eyed at the queen while doing her best to hold the pose she had struck. "...Oh. Well, now I just feel silly," she said as her shoulders slumped and her hands fell back to their usual positions.

"I have a favor I'd like to ask of you," said the queen as she folded her hands across her lap. "Could you please go to the castle town marketplace and buy some sunfruit seeds? We've run out of them, and if experience has taught me anything, they sell like... what is it the children say these days? Like fruitcakes?"

"Pardon me for asking, mama, but why can't you do it yourself?"

Cordelia smiled sadly. "Well... being a queen doesn't mean being able to do anything you like, sweetheart. There's... quite a bit of paperwork involved." She lifted up a large stack of forms, letters, flyers, and all sorts of other business papers from beside her throne.

"Is that as boring as it looks?" Lip asked, tilting her head to the side like a confused puppy.

Cordelia laughed. "...Yes. Regardless of the fun factor involved, however, it's more pressing than buying fruit seeds, I'm afraid." As her daughter didn't seem convinced by this alone, the queen continued, "Consider it your first official duty as the future queen of Poppliss. Could you go?"

A spark of excitement awoke inside Lip's heart at her mother's words. Although she was still quite nervous about soon having the gravity of an entire country's worth of citizens hovering over her ponytailed head, this would be a good way for her to practice having the responsibilities of a full-grown genuine Popplian monarch. "Yes, ma'am!" she said, giving a small salute and bonking herself on the head in the process.

"Thank you, sweetheart." Cordelia rose from her throne and moved to kneel down in front of Lip, handing her a small burlap bag. "Here - take this. It's 50 gold pieces; that should be just enough to buy the seeds. Unless my memory is failing me, however, the next batch of seeds won't be here for a good week or so, so you'd better hurry in the event that they-- Lip?"

Lip was already gone.

---

It was a lovely spring day in the bustling castle town surrounding the palace. Colorful flowers blossomed on tree branches, from the grass, and from flowerpots in windowsills. Peaceful rivers babbled lazily beneath scenic bridges. Anywhere one looked, there was a bright and smiling face to talk to.

Yes, Poppliss was a beautiful country - but Lip had little time to enjoy any of it. She had an errand to run, and by gum, she was going to run it!

Of course, those who take notice of a famous figure hurrying through the streets aren't likely to just ignore her. As Lip whizzed past a sidewalk cafe, one of its customers stared after her, rubbing her eyes in a double-take. "Say, isn't that the princess? Wonder where she's off to in such a hurry."

"Well, if she's going that quickly, it must be something important," said another townsfairy, sitting at the same table. "Or she could just be buying something for the queen. Who am I to understand royals?"

 

---

"Come try some of my fresh fruits! Have a nibble of my juicy veggies!"

The nature fairy Thiana sat within a little wooden stall she had set up in the marketplace, hawking her merchandise to passersby. "Finest produce in all of Poppliss! Have a bite... your tongue will thank you!"

Lip ran up to her stand. "Morning, Thi--!!" was all she had time to get out before slipping on a fallen banana peel and landing on her bottom.

"That wasn't mine," Thiana noted in a timely manner, darting her green eyes back and forth.

Lip giggled a bit at her pratfall and got back on her feet. "Morning, Thiana."

"Good afternoon, Lip, is more like it. It's 12:30."

"Details." Lip rolled her eyes. "My mom's super-busy, so she asked me to buy some sunfruit seeds for her." Making a worried face, she continued, "You, uh... do still have some, right?"

"Ooh, you're in luck." Thiana rummaged around underneath the counter and pulled out a small packet. "Tah-dah! This is the last bag I have in stock for the week.

...Wait." Thiana turned the packet around and read the label on the front:

Apple Seeds

"OK, that's not it. Hold on." Thiana ducked back beneath the counter and re-emerged, holding... a bag of grapes.

"That's not it either."

Thiana chuckled nervously, held up a finger as if to say "wait just a moment", and furiously rummaged through the pile of junk she had accumulated within the stall.

"No... nope... how'd that plastic flamingo get here? Ah-hah!" When she finally stuck her head back up, Thiana presented a silk bag upon which was embroidered a stylized yellow fruit in the shape of a starburst.

"Here you go, Lip. Sorry for the... ahem... wait. That'll be 45 gold pieces."

"It's no problem, really," Lip said, nodding apologetically as she dropped the bag of gold onto the counter. "There you are! We're friends, so you can keep the change. Bye!" And just like that, the princess had darted off again, back towards the palace.

"See you, Lip...?" Thiana said, waving after.

Lip sighed with relief as she dashed through the streets. If Thiana had been sold out, I'd have had to go back to mama empty-handed, she thought. And boy, would I have not wanted to do that. She would've grounded me for like, a gazillion years! Or more! Maybe less. But I bet she'll be pleased as punch to see that I've done what she wanted me to--

THUMP!

"OUCH!!"

Lip suddenly found herself on the ground, facing a strange fairy she couldn't recall having seen before. She had long, dark hair, deep purple eyes, and wore a brown, hooded robe. "Watch where you're going, you numbskull!" she yelled in a harsh voice.

"Oh! Are you all right?" Lip inquired, scrambling to her feet and offering a hand to help the mysterious lady up.

"Do I LOOK all right to you?"

"Uh... no," Lip admitted.

"You're darn right I'm not all right," said the woman, getting to her feet and dusting her robe off. "Here I am, waltzing through the streets of the castle town looking to buy some ingredients, minding my own business, and then you come barreling into me all devil-may-care. Who do you think you are?"

"I'm, er, Princess Lip," stuttered the princess. "I wasn't looking where I was going, and for that, I am s--"

"Really?" The lady folded her arms and tsked. "Have we fallen so far that our own princess can't even be bothered to say she's sorry every once in a while? Someone ought to teach you a lesson!" she growled, giving Lip a death glare.

"I was just about to say I was--"

"Not another word! You, kiddo, need to learn how to see things from another perspective. A curse on ye!"

The mysterious fairy thrust both palms forward. A thick, purple smoke shot from her hands, converging into one flowing "stream" headed straight for Lip's chest.

"Eep--!!" yelped Lip as the smoke phased into her body, and then...

...there was a conspicuous lack of death, deformities, or anything else one would typically associate with a curse. Lip stared at her hands and checked under her boots to confirm that nothing had happened. "I don't feel any different," she noted.

"Give it time. If you'll excuse me, I have to get back to buying ingredients," said the woman, leaving without a second glance. "As I was before I was so rudely interrupted," she added under her breath.

Lip gave an angry glance in the odd fairy's direction. She wasn't normally the type to get upset, unless she had a good reason to be - and having an encounter like that was more than enough in her opinion. "Well, it's good that you recognize when someone is interrupting. May I suggest taking your own advice?" she yelled angrily after the lady before turning on her heel and storming off.

She wouldn't even let me say I was sorry. What a jerk! Lip mused to herself on the way back to the palace. Well, I guess it can't be helped. I got what I came here to get, so my work here's done. At least Mama's gonna be happy.

"As Lip passed under the castle gates and stepped through into the giant lily flower surrounding the palace she and her mom called home, she smiled and reassured herself, "I'm sure it was all just smoke and mirrors anyway. She was just trying to frighten me. Well, it didn't work. I'm not scared."

---

"I am scared out of my mind!"

Lip and the queen were in the palace garden. Lip paced back and forth anxiously, sweating profusely. "What if that hex she put on me turns me into a time bomb, and I end up exploding into bite-sized chunks of Lip? Maybe it'll cause all of my senses to shut off one by one so I end up blind one day and deaf the next... or it was some kind of polymorph spell that'll turn me into some loathsome creature fairy was not meant to see. Ohh...!" With this last groan, she flopped over onto her back, accidentally flattening a patch of hydrangeas.

"Lip, you realize that worrying about these things isn't going to keep them from happening," Cordelia consoled, planting a few sun-fruit seeds and turning to face the princess.

"You don't understand, mama!" said Lip, sitting up and brushing some dirt off of her dress. "While I was at the marketplace buying the seeds, I bumped into some rude lady... some mysterious lady I'd never seen before who placed a curse on me! Who knows what it could have done?"

Cordelia frowned. While curses were certainly nothing to take lightly, she'd had more than enough experience with them over the course of her lifetime to know one when she saw one. "I'd think that if she really did place a curse on you, we'd be seeing the effects by now," she said at length.

"Maybe... but curses are like diseases," Lip said in response. "Sometimes you don't even know you have them until you wake up one day and suddenly you're covered in itchy red spots and you can't go outside or else you might spread it to someone else. And also sometimes rats spread them."

Cordelia sighed. "Listen. If I took you to see the doctor, would it make you feel better?"

Lip blinked, then smiled bashfully. "...Please?"

---

"All right, Lip, say 'ahh'."

"Ahh..." said Lip obediently.

The doctor pushed Lip's tongue down with a depressor and shone a light into her mouth, but spotted nothing out of the ordinary. Her bones, reflexes, eyes, and now mouth all showed no signs of curse, infection, or any other malady. "While it's not in my job description to diagnose curses, nothing seems immediately wrong with her," he said, turning to a nearby Cordelia. "She checks out just fine."

"Well, that's... a relief," Lip said with a half-smile. "I'm still a little worried, granted, but at least it's probably just a big trick played by a very mean person."

"Right you are, sweetie," replied Cordelia, smiling. "Nothing you'd need to eat an apple a day for!" She winked, and she and Lip shared a laugh.

"I don't mean to spoil anyone's fun," said the doctor nervously, "but while it's nice to know I've set your minds at ease, I'd have chosen a different metaphor..."

---

Lip yawned as she and her mother entered the palace. "All that worrying has really worn me out. I think I'm gonna go hit the hay."

"It's only five o'clock, Lip." Cordelia kneeled down and placed a hand on her daughter's shoulder. "If you go to bed now, you might wake up in the middle of the night - and besides, you haven't even had dinner yet." The queen smiled. "We're having your favorite tonight - rosepetal soup!"

"...Good point. All right, dinner first, then bed. Princess needs rest," Lip said as she trotted across the tile floor of the great hall and up a flight of stairs to the mezzanine, where a guard was giving a tour of the palace to a group of fairies.

"...and here we have the grand archway of Lily Palace," said the guard as she gestured up to a magnificent "Standing fifty feet tall at its peak, this magnificent structure is a symbol of the power and elegance of the Popplian royal family."

"Uh, excuse me?" asked a young fairy, raising his hand. "How does any of this affect our lives in any meaningful way? I mean, why should we care about this stuff if we're never going to see most of it?"

"Because if you tough it out 'til the end, you get free food," Lip answered with a smile.

"Sweet! I'm taking this tour again."

---

"Yum, yum... Dinner was delicious," said Lip, rubbing her tummy as she climbed into bed. "I mean, I'm still kind of nervous about the whole curse thing, but--"

Lip slapped herself on the forehead. "Come on, Lip, you heard what the doctor said! Nothing's wrong with me. It was a mean prank played by a very unpleasant kind of fairy, that's all."

Reassured, she rolled over on her back to face her pet rabbit, lying in his terrarium nibbling contentedly on some pellets. "Good night, Mr. Ears," she said, then yawned again and slowly closed her eyes.

...I probably should have changed out of my day clothes before bed. Oh, well... was the last thought Lip had before falling into a deep, peaceful sleep.

---

"Mmmm... I slept like a log," Lip muttered to herself as she awoke early the next morning.

Almost immediately she noticed something was... off. Just last night, Lip had been much too small a girl for such a large four-poster - but today her feet almost touched the footboard. What's more, the upper panel of the bed seemed a lot shorter than it used to be.

"Huh... that's funny," Lip mused. She climbed out of bed, stretched, and walked out of the room. "Had a good night's sleep, Mr. Ears?" she asked.

Again, something was odd - Lip's bunny stood at the far end of the terrarium, staring at her wide-eyed. Lip stared back for a few minutes, shook her head, blew Mr. Ears a kiss (which seemed to relax the rabbit's nerves, if just a little), and turned to leave.

Lip found she had to duck her head to leave her bedroom. "Weird..." A look of realization flew across her eyes, and she brightened up somewhat. "Oh! I must be having a growth spurt." She giggled, a smile crossing her face. "Growing up is so exciting!"

Lip walked by the palace's elegant dining room on her way down the hallway, and spotted Marshal enjoying a cup of tea. inside. "Good morning, Marshal!" she greeted cheerfully.

"Good Morning, Your Royal--" Marshal put a hand up to his mouth to avoid spewing tea across the table. "Highness?!" He stared at Lip, his jaw somewhat slack. Something was different about her this morning... yes, different indeed!

"...What?" Lip cocked her head to the side once more.

"...Oh, nothing. Carry-- carry on," said Marshal. After Lip had gone, he gazed down into his tea for a few seconds and presently disposed of it in a nearby plant.

It wasn't much further afterwards before Lip, too, noticed that something was up.

"Hey, wait a minute...!

Someone knocked down this flower pot," Lip remarked, bending down to place the fallen jar back on its pedestal - not noticing it to be only a bit larger than her fingernail - before continuing on her merry way.

Until she realized something else, and said, "Wait another minute! Either Marshal has really lost some weight since the last time I saw him and we're putting our flowers in thimbles now, or something veeeeerrry strange is going on around here."

Looking up, Lip found herself before the grand archway of the palace, its peak standing only about twenty feet above her head. "Yeah, and wasn't this arch supposed to be fifty feet tall?! I know I'm getting to be a big girl, but this can't be just an ordinary growth spurt!"

Lip placed a hand to her chest and took a deep breath. "All right, Lip. Calm down." She turned around and backed up a few paces. "I- I'm sure there's a logical explanation for all of this-- whoa!!"

Lip stumbled over the edge of the mezzanine balcony and collapsed to the floor below with a mighty WHUMPP!

"Oww."

Meanwhile, a guard was walking through the palace halls, headed towards the great hall - and by extension Lip's current resting place - talking to himself all the while. "Weird couple of days we've been having. First the princess complains about how she's had some kinda hex put on her, and now I guess we're gettin' an earthquake. (Which is a little odd, if you ask me. I didn't think any faultlines ran through here, or even close.) But at least nothing else crazy is happening."

He opened the door to find himself face to face with Lip's face, and stood there for a few seconds, apparently unfazed.

"Um..." said Lip.

The patrolman calmly closed the door and walked away. "Me and my big stinkin' mouth," he muttered, still to no one in particular.

Lip, left by herself taking up a great deal of space in the great hall, lay in the same position she had fallen into. It was a matter of time until someone else discovered her and the... issues she was having - and who knew if they would take it as well?

"I got it!" Lip suddenly exclaimed, snapping her fingers. "I know what this is now. This is...

...a nightmare," she said, smiling with some relief. "I still have the curse on my mind from the other day, and this is all just a stupid dream. Betcha I'll wake up if I pinch myself."

Lip pinched her arm. Nothing happened.

She pinched her arm again. Still nothing.

Another pinch. The great arch seemed to have lost about ten feet.

It took everything Lip had in her to keep herself from screaming.

"AUUUUUGH!!"

So she didn't.


Chapter 2, written by Cubed Cinder

The guard who had seen the oversized Lip calmly walked down the other hallway, thinking he was seeing things from working too hard all week. He wasn’t sure how he was going to report this to the other guards, if he was going to do that at all. A tidal wave of thoughts went storming through his mind. So much so, that he didn’t notice Cordelia walking out from nearby and the two bumped into each other.
“Oh! What in blazes…” Cordelia said.
“Q-Q-Queen Cordelia! Please forgive me from the bottom of my heart!” the guard said as he bowed profusely towards the woman.
“It’s alright, soldier. At ease. Is everything alright?” Cordelia asked.
“Um… well…” the guard said, struggling to find the right words to use.
“Please, guard, tell me what is troubling you.” Cordelia said with a calming voice.
“Well, this is going to sound very strange, my queen, and maybe I’m just hallucinating. After all, it has been a long and busy week for me and the other guards. But… I think I saw Lip grown up.” the guard said.
“Well, that shouldn’t be a surprise. I know that girl is growing up as a princess before my eyes.” Cordelia said with a smile.
“No no no… I mean REALLY grown up. You know, as in she ate some magic growth beans or something like that. Please, my queen, forget I said anything. I’m just going to go rest and recover for a few minutes, with your permission of course.” the guard said.
“As you wish.” Cordelia said as she nodded and then allowed the guard to walk away. As Cordelia watched the guard walk away, she thought about what the guard was saying. Lip REALLY grown up? It sounded far-fetched, and yet she couldn’t ignore those thoughts. Her hard working guards normally do not break down and have hallucinations just like that.
“Hmmm… I probably should go check on Lip. I hope she’s gotten over this so called hex placed on her.” Cordelia said as she walked down the hallway and proceeded to make her way to the great hall.

And speaking of the great hall, Lip still sweated nervously and tried to keep calm despite the iconic grand archway being so close to her head. She stood back on her feet after taking that short fall from the balcony and guessed she was somewhere between 30-40 feet tall based on how close her head was to the arch. It didn’t make her feel any better when she saw her immediate surroundings smaller than she remembered, including some of the hallways. She thought about pinching herself again, but the redness on the skin of her arm told her she had done enough of that.
“I guess this is not a dream… I really have grown up… what do I do now…” Lip said. Like with the guard earlier, numerous thoughts ran through her head, mostly of how this happened and if that hex that was cast upon her yesterday had anything to do with things.
Her train of thought came to a stop with one familiar voice.
“Lip!?” the female voice said. Lip quickly turned her head to the right where she saw Queen Cordelia, or Mama as she always called her.
“Mama…” Lip said softly with a frown on her face. Cordelia carefully approached the standing giantess, stopping just short of her brown boots.
“Lip, sweetie, are you alright?” Cordelia said. Lip let out an awkward laugh.
“Hehe… Oh, I’m fine, except for this crazy growth spurt I’m going through.” Lip said.
“Yes, I can tell.” Cordelia said.
“It’s that hex! I just know it! That crazy woman who cast the hex on me! She did this!!” Lip said as she suddenly pounded one of her boots on the floor in frustration, causing the room to shake ever so slightly and booming sounds to echo throughout.

“Shhhh… calm down, Lip. Just calm down. Everything’s going to be alright.” Cordelia said.
“Are you sure, Mama?” Lip asked.
“You know I am, Lip. There’s always a solution to the problem. Has anyone else seen you like this?” Cordelia asked.
“Yeah… a guard and Marshal. We’re not going to tell the whole kingdom, are we?” Lip asked.
“Heavens no. I’ll keep you under wraps until we find out how to fix this. But first, we should find out more about this woman that cursed you. Marshal!” Cordelia said as she raised her voice to summon Marshal, who arrived about a minute later.
“Yes, my queen, did you call?” Marshal asked.
“I did. Do you have a notepad handy? Lip is about to describe the woman that hexed her with this growing spell.” Cordelia said.
“Always, my queen. I am ready for note taking.” Marshal said. The two looked up at Lip, which was a signal to her that it was time to start describing the enemy.
“Well, as I said before, it was a woman fairy, probably middle-aged. She had long, dark hair, deep purple eyes, and wore a brown, hooded robe. She was about this tall.” Lip said as she held a hand just above the top of her head. Both Cordelia and Marshal gave confused looks.
“Um… your Royal Highness, are you implying she was as tall as you are now?” Marshal asked. Lip then caught on to why they looked so confused.
“Oh… sorry. Watch out.” Lip said as she motioned for both Cordelia and Marshal to back up a bit. She then got down on her knees, breathing a bit from having some more head room. Then she held one of her big hands about 5-6 feet from the ground in front of the two.
“Actually, she was about this tall. That’s all I can remember.” Lip said. Marshal finished writing down the notes and looked at Lip and then Cordelia.
“Very good, Your Royal Highness. I shall head outside the castle and begin the search immediately with the help of two guards.” Marshal said. Before he could walk away, Cordelia grabbed him by the arm.
“Marshal… it’s important the search party doesn’t say why we are looking for this woman or anything about Lip’s condition. If anyone asks, say she robbed a fruit store or something like that.” Cordelia said.
“I fully understand, my queen.” Marshal said before he finally walked away.

Once Marshal was out of the grand hall, Cordelia turned her attention back to Lip.
“So, what now? I can’t sit here forever until they find her.” Lip said.
“I agree. We need to get you to hiding so word doesn’t break out on your condition. I propose as far away from the castle and village as possible.” Cordelia said.
“Wait, through the village? How?” Lip asked.
“I have an idea. Follow me to the back.” Cordelia said as she went up the stairs to the balcony and then through one of the large doors to another hallway.
“Okay… but don’t yell at me if I knock over any other flower pots or can’t fit through the doors!” Lip said as she stood up and carefully followed her smaller mother. It was certainly no easy task given how big she had grown.

Despite Lip’s increased size, the sheer size of the castle still allowed her to get around for the most part. Finally she, along with Cordelia, were outside the castle, standing on one of the balconies. Cordelia looked down on the ground and made sure nobody was there; not even any guards.
“Lip, I’m afraid you’re going to have to jump off from here. It’s the only way we can leave the castle grounds given your size.” Cordelia said.
“Okay, Mama. Whatever you say. At least my stick grew with me.” Lip said as she magically summoned her famous stick, known in other universes as simply Lip’s Stick. Lip carefully picked up Cordelia and placed her on her shoulder.
“You know, I have to admit, it feels nice holding onto you for a change.” Lip said. Cordelia just smiled.
“I’m glad you’re feeling a little more comfortable with the situation.” Cordelia said. The giantess then tightly clutched her stick with one hand and then leapt off the balcony. The stick then started twirling rapidly like a helicopter, allowing Lip to glide down to the ground and land safely… and more importantly without making much booming noise.
“Well, we’re out of the castle now, so what now?” Lip asked.
“Now we make our way through town. We’ll have to take mostly back alleys and…” Cordelia said.
“But Mama! Sorry to interrupt, but what if we get caught? What will the citizens say?” Lip asked.
“Don’t fear, my child. I know the castle town like the back of my head.” Cordelia said as she winked up to the young giantess.

Indeed, on the very outskirts of town where a gate (about the same size as Lip was right now) separated the town from the castle itself, Lip and Cordelia walked through the gate and scampered to one of the alleyways between buildings, making it in before anyone could see the two. It was a tight fit as Lip felt she had to move from side to side to get through the alleyway, and the dirt getting on her outfit from the sides of these buildings not being cleaned annoyed her.
“Ugh! And this is my favorite outfit too!” Lip said.
“Shhhh… it’s only a minor inconveience compared to your size problem, my child. Now keep quiet so nobody in town can hear you.” Cordelia said. Eventually the two were about to make it out of the alleyway and into some open space, where they would have to find another alleyway to sneak in, albeit not as quickly since there was nobody behind the particular buildings. Well… almost nobody.
“Queen Cordelia!” a female voice shouted. Cordelia immediately thought of the giant Lip that wasn’t far from where she was standing.
“Go back, go back!!” Cordelia whispered as she motioned her hands to push back. Lip did just that, getting back inside the alleyway where she couldn’t be seen. Cordelia, meanwhile, walked out a few steps and greeted Ruby, one of the more prominent fairies of Poppliss and one of Lip’s closest friends.
“Ruby, what a surprise to see you here!” Cordelia said.
“Thanks, though I could say the same about you. What are you doing here behind the buildings?” Ruby asked.
“Well, you know how it is sometimes. I’m the queen, so I’m a big celebrity, and everybody wants my autograph! Hohoho!” Cordelia said. Ruby had a funny look on her face, never recalling the queen run into a situation like that, but she nevertheless took her word for it.
“Right, I get it. I’m like that sometimes in the crystal kingdom. I was actually on my way to the castle to speak with Lip.” Ruby said.
“Oh, I’m afraid Lip is not feeling well today. She’s come down with a cold.” Lip said.
“A cold? I hope Sherbet didn’t cause it! Hehe!” Ruby said with a chuckle, referring to the fairy princess of ice who was also a close friend of Lip.
“No, no, it wasn’t her fault! Anyway, can you come back tomorrow? I’m sure Lip will be feeling better by then.” Cordelia said.
“Okay! See you tomorrow!” Ruby said as she turned around and walked in the other direction, presumably to head back to the land of crystals that she presided over.
Once Ruby was out of sight, Cordelia took a deep breath and went back to the supersized Lip, still hiding in the alleyway.
“Whew… that was a close one.” Cordelia said.
“Mama, please forgive me for questioning your judgment, but we’re never going to make it past town this way.” Lip said.
“Perhaps you are right. But what else can we do? Oh, wait! I got it!” Cordelia said.
“Ummm… you do?” Lip asked.
“Wait here, Lip! I’ll be right back!” Cordelia said as she navigated her way around the giantess and ran to the other side of the alleyway, rushing her way back to the castle.
“Where else would I go?” Lip said as she rolled her eyes around and sighed.

A few minutes later, life in the castle town came to a slow stop, for there was something approaching that was gaining their attention. It was a giant Lip! Or actually, a giant Lip statue as Cordelia, who was pushing a wheel cart that Lip was standing on, pointed out.
“Everyone, make way! The giant Lip statue is going out for delivery to another town!” Cordelia shouted. Of course, in reality, it was the real supersized Lip that was standing as perfectly still as a statue, striking a pose that included a smile on her face and her stick pointed up towards the sky.
“Clear the path! Giant Lip statue coming through!” Cordelia shouted again, stopping and starting her push of the cart while waiting for the town citizens to scamper out of the way. Cordelia could hear the chatter going on amongst the other citizens.
“My word! What a beautifully well made statue!”
“It’s so tall! Lip truly is a legend!”
“Why are we wasting time building statues? We need to stop all these fruit stand thieves!”
Those were the range of the comments, but Cordelia didn’t stop to answer any questions the townsfolk might have had. She just wanted to get the Lip ‘statue’ out of the castle town as fast as possible. She could tell from Lip wincing her eyes she couldn’t keep still for much longer.

Finally, after passing through another set of gates, the two were out of the castle grounds entirely, with nothing but grassy plains stretching out for a couple miles.
“Okay, Lip, we’re all clear.” Cordelia said. Lip immediately collapsed her arms, placed her hands on her knees, and let out some deep breaths.
“Ooooooh… I thought I was really going to become a statue for a moment, Mama!” Lip said.
“Sorry about that, my child. It was the only way we were going to make it past all those people.” Cordelia said.
“Yes, I understand. Even I have to admit that was a great plan.” Lip said. Cordelia just smiled.
“So… now what?” Lip asked.
“Well, until we hear back from Marshal and the search party, we’ll have to keep hiding. I propose we head for Thiana’s forest. The tall trees there will provide excellent cover for you.” Cordelia said.
“Whatever you say… just as long as Thiana doesn’t see me like this.” Lip said with a slight frown.
“We’ll just have to take that chance.” Cordelia said. As Lip kneeled down and picked up her mother and placed her on her shoulder, Lip sighed as she started walking forward through the grassy plains.
“The sooner I can shrink back to normal size, the better.” Lip said.


Chapter 3, written by Mab

“Well, we've made it!” announced Cordelia as she and the giant princess arrived at... “Thiana's forest!”

"Gosh, it's beautiful!" said Lip as she gazed across the vast, verdant, and indeed lovely expanse of green stretching out before the two fairies. "I guess having a different perspective on things isn't so bad, in some ways. ...Not that I enjoy being, like, 40 feet tall."

Thiana's forest was lush and thick, and there were indeed plenty of trees to conceal things of almost any size. There was a small problem, however.

"Uh..."

“What's the matter, honey?”

"Er, it's... the trees, Mama," Lip admitted, looking to the greenery below. The shortest trees hardly grew above the princess's boots, and the tallest were just about chin-height with her. "They're easy enough for a normal-sized fairy to walk through, but I'm, well... not."

The queen placed a finger to her chin. "...You've got a point.” Her attitude brightened somewhat as she added, “Thankfully, we're not into the deepest part of the woods yet. Try stepping through the clearings.”

Lip’s eyes widened. “B- but what if I squish something? Or someone?! I don’t want fairies to think I’m a bad giant. ...On second thought, I don’t want fairies to think I’m a giant at all. Shoot, I don’t want to be a giant, period.”

“Yes, Lip, that’s been established. Just remember,” Cordelia consoled as she rubbed her super-sized daughter’s cheek, “panicking will get you nowhere. Just watch your step and try not to worry, and I'm sure everything will be fine.”

With a groan of uncertainty, Lip turned back to the emerald expanse spread out before her. Luckily, there were plenty of open spaces in the trees here and there. Unluckily, they were barely large enough for a foot of Lip's current shoe size.

“Here goes...” Lip muttered under her breath, as she stepped to a nearby clearing... then another... and another...

As mother and daughter both soon discovered, it’s important to watch one’s step no matter how big or small they may be. “Whoa!!” Lip squealed as a trip over a large root sent her and Cordelia tumbling to the forest floor with a tremendous WHUMPP, flattening several rows of trees. Flocks of birds scattered into the air, painting the sky a variety of colors while adding to the cacophony. If there was any doubt that something was suspicious in Thiana’s neck of the woods...

---

It was breakfast time at Thiana’s treehouse.

“There you go!” the nature fairy said merrily as she trotted over to a small wooden table set up in her living room, upon which sat one of the many squirrels making their home in and around her forest. Thiana placed down a tray of seeds and nuts in front of her guest. “Breakfast is-- oof!"

This last grunt came about as a tremendous WHUMPP abruptly shook the house, knocking Thiana off her feet and scattering the rodent’s breakfast all across the table and floor.

The brown-haired girl carefully rose to her feet and, after returning the squirrel's morning meal to the tray it had escaped from, looked out a window towards the source of the noise. “Hm. Call it a hunch,” she muttered to herself as she knitted her brow, “but I'd say something very large just fell down a couple of miles off. ...Maybe it was just an earthquake. Either way, I’d say an investigation is in order!“ Thiana turned to run out the door - and in short time found herself back on her bottom. A brief glance about, and she had discovered the culprit: a banana peel.

“I've gotta start cleaning up after myself.”

---

“Ouch...” Lip groaned as she regained consciousness, her stomach flat on the ground. “You all right, mom...?”

The queen was nowhere to be found.

“...Mom? Mama, where are you?!” Lip rose to a kneel as she frantically searched the area for her AWOL mother. “Did I land on top of you? Please tell me you're not a queen pancake!”

“I'm right here, Lip,” said Cordelia, hanging from Lip’s oversized ponytail.

Lip smiled a bit upon seeing this. She was relieved to see that Cordelia had survived, but it was also important for royalty to keep a cool head in any situation; she must remember to follow her mother’s example. “Oh. Hi.” She wiped some sweat from her forehead - splashing a few trees and shrubs with salty liquid - as Cordelia climbed back down onto her shoulder. “I guess the really, really big cat who is also a flower fairy is out of the bag now...” the princess sighed, and stared down at her knees.

“Remember what I said, Lip.” Cordelia stood on her toes to look into Lip's large-to-begin-with eyes - currently they were about as tall as she was. “Every problem has its solution. If Thiana comes to investigate--”

When.” Lip transferred the queen to the palm of her hand and held it up to her face, to make eye contact easier on her smaller mother. “You know how Thiana can be about her forest. She’s a nature fairy. It’s in her... well, you know.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Very well. When Thiana comes to investigate, I'll cover for you. In the meantime, please, sit here, lay low, and try not to make too much noise.”

“’Cover for me’?” Lip tilted her head and raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Sorry for not trusting you all the way, but what exactly do you mean, Mama?”

Cordelia paused. Of course her daughter would ask her a question she wasn’t prepared to answer. Being queen of all of Poppliss didn’t make her omniscient. “Oh, i- it's simple, really,” the queen said nervously, brushing her hair aside and glancing off in one direction. “Lots of things can make incredibly loud thumping noises, not just giant princesses. I'll tell Thiana that a meteor crashed into the forest, and--”

“I dunno, mom. Meteors get pretty hot after they fall down from space, and they could start wildfires.” The little giant shrugged. “I think she would probably be more interested if you told her that.”

Another pause from Lip’s mother. “...I didn't think this through all the way, you understand.”

“Queen Cordelia?” Thiana’s voice rang out from across the forest. “Your Majesty, is that you?”

“Stay here. I'll be back.”

Cordelia gave her big little girl a kiss on the cheek, then jumped down from Lip’s hand to the foliage below and rushed off into the forest beyond. Lip, not having much else to do, laid back down on her stomach and took a deep breath. Luckily for her, she remembered the M.O. that no one see or hear her, and quickly decided against finishing her sigh.

---

Thiana’s concerned expression quickly disappeared as she noticed the queen of Poppliss emerging from the shrubbery, looking slighty dirtied up but no worse for wear. “Ah! Good afternoon, Your Majesty. Are you well?”

“I'm fine,” said Cordelia, putting on a somewhat convincing grin. “Perfect, actually!” Plucking a few leaves out of her hair, she hastily added, “Lip is doing well too.”

“You don't need to tell me about Lip, ma'am,” said Thiana, giggling. “I know she's doing fine. I saw her just the other day, in fact.”

“Oh. Oh, did you.” Cordelia twirled a lock of hair anxiously.

Thiana was a bit puzzled by the queen’s unusual informality, but didn’t think too much of it. The stress involved in the job description would get to anyone after a while, she figured. “So what brings you around here?” she asked, placing her arms akimbo and putting on a big smile.

“Err, nothing in particular,” said Cordelia briskly, rising up into a more dignified demeanor. “Surveilance reasons, mostly. A queen should know her way around her own kingdom, after all.”

“Well, you got me there.” Thiana looked up at the majestic trees soaring some thirty feet above their heads. “This forest is pret-ty huge. If you wanted it mapped out, though, you could've just asked. I know my forest well enough. I've been living in it my entire life, after all!” the brunette chuckled.

“Er... sometimes a hands-on approach is best.” Cordelia laughed and gulped. “But enough about me - what were you planning on doing?”

“A couple minutes ago I heard a crashing noise from this part of the forest. It piqued my curiosity.” The forest fairy’s green eyes glinted with sudden realization. “...In fact, I think it was coming from the part of the forest you just left...” Thiana continued, now a tad suspicious.

“Oh, that?” Cordelia glanced back in the direction of her cursed daughter. “It was, er, a meteor. Nothing too important, you know.”

“A meteor?! Thiana started and glared, somewhat offended that the queen would take such a serious manner so lightly. “Pardon me for saying, Your Majesty, but that's everything too important! If anything, I'm more interested now you've said so.”

Wonderful, though Cordelia.

---

Lip was still lying prone. Boredom had started to cast its black magic upon her mind; listening to two fairies talk, she found, could be awfully dull if you weren’t part of the conversation, no matter how tense the moment was otherwise. Everything the princess could think of to pass the time either would give her away or had long since grown dull. I just wish something would happen already, Lip thought.

They say to be careful what you wish for. The sound of leaves rustling emerged from somewhere ahead of Lip, and the girl tried and failed to hold down a tiny gasp (luckily, passing unheard by either of the speakers). It didn’t sound like another fairy. It sounded... too small. But then, what was it? Lip was familiar with the dangers one could encounter within the woods. Perhaps it was a bear! Or a cougar! Or a...

...playful-looking wolf cub, wagging its tail happily.

Not quite as bad as Lip was expecting, but not good either. Tiny wriggly things have a tendency to irritate ticklish areas. A loud thump could easily be attributed to something else, but giggling? Giggling in a voice Thiana was familiar with?

“No,” Lip whispered. “No, shoo. No. Go home.” Carefully, so as not to injure the little cub, she waved her fingers at the cub, attempting to ward it off - soon to find out her attempts would be in vain. “No, little wolf, I can't play with you,” she said again. “Go home.”

Three more wolf cubs emerged from the foliage.

Wonderful, thought Lip.

---

“Honestly, Thiana, it’s nothing you should worry too much about,” said the queen to the nature fairy, visibly perspiring. “Most of the fires have gone out by now. Elias has seen to that, she has. I rang her up, and she came running. Fear not - your forest is safe and sound! How about we take a stroll together, hmm?”

“I think I know a little more about how meteors work than you do, Your Majesty.” Thiana crossed her arms. “I’m not Seren and I don’t claim to be, but that hardly means I don’t know enough about them to know the threat they pose to the environment.”

---

Before she knew it, Lip was covered in cheerful little wolf cubs. They seemed to be making use of Lip as mischievous children would make use of a playground - pawing at her ponytail, tugging at her dress and ribbon, sniffing at her fingers, rolling around on her back. Every step they took, each time they nuzzled against her face, everything they did tickled. It took the poor girl a great deal of effort and a good deal more breath-holding to prevent herself from laughing.

---

Cordelia blinked again, searching her queenly brain frantically for a new stalling technique. “I should add that, as the queen of Poppliss, I have been alive for years longer than you have. Let’s let the more worldly-wise among us handle things, shall we?”

I should add that as a nature fairy, I’m more than qualified to know if the forest I'm supposed to protect is about to go up in flames!” said Thiana, beginning to raise her voice. “You’re being very unreasonable, Your Majesty! With all due respect, I've got half a mind to..."

---

The wolf cubs seemingly had yet to get their fill of entertainment. For unintelligent animals, they were seemingly hard-pressed for amusement. A particularly rambunctious cub rolled playfully around on Lip's back - a bit too far to the left, as it was soon made evident when it rolled off the huge fairy's body to the grass below, down her right side...

...in other words, right down Lip's tickle spot.

Oh, no, thought the princess. Here it comes...

Poor Lip tried her hardest to force back the inevitable, but ultimately failed. Her endurance had finally given out. A snicker exploded forth from her mouth. “...Tee-hee.”

The wolves, seemingly knowing what was to come, scattered into the bushes.

---

“...and furthermore, I--” Thiana stopped dead, her eyes widening. After a pause, she continued with eyes still the size of dinner plates. “...Your Majesty? Meteors don't laugh.”

Another pause. “...Beautiful day we’re having, isn’t it, Thiana?” Cordelia suddenly inquired with a smile. “Besides the meteor.”

“You’re changing the subject, my queen. Pardon me for having my doubts if a meteorite really did crash-land in the middle of my forest, but...” Here Thiana started to walk past the queen, through the woods towards where (unbeknownst to her) Lip lay. “I do.”

“Er, I would really advise against going that way, Thiana,” said Cordelia, following. “The flames are still very hot. In fact, I do believe they're burning hotter than most volcanoes! Fairies' bodies weren’t designed to withstand such high temperatures, and--”

Thiana turned on her heel. Her facial expression was still one of incredulousness. “I thought you said Elias put out the flames.”

“...She did. Er, but, uh, however, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still hot down there, of course!”

Thiana had started to run.

“Thiana, please do wait!” Cordelia called after her as she gave chase. "It's not safe there! You'll be scorched to a crisp!"

“I’m starting to think that there’s something down this way you don’t want me to see!” Thiana yelled back.

"I will neither confirm nor deny that statement," Cordelia panted. "What's important is that you stop!"

"Make me!" Thiana said, sticking her tongue out playfully.

"I will not stand for this insolence, young lady!" Cordelia shouted, attempting to latch on to something that actually did upset her to prevent Thiana from stumbling upon the grove within which laid her daughter.

As all three parties involved soon found out, it didn't work. "Ah-HAH! I knew it!" Thiana said triumphantly. "This isn't a meteor at all! It's a... uh... err... well."

Thiana found herself sharing a groveful of flattened trees with an enormous Lip. The forest fairy blinked. She and Lip stood at about the same height normally, Thiana being just a smidge taller, but now... well, if dinosaurs still roamed Poppliss, the not-so-little princess would have no trouble defending herself against one, put it that way. Thiana stood and stared, mouth agape, seemingly unable to say anything.

Cordelia stepped up to Thiana's side. "The secret's out, I suppose..." she said with a sigh.

"You think?" Lip snarked.

Noticing the stunned look on Thiana's face, the jumbo-size princess crawled a bit closer and reached out a hand, intending to place it on the nature fairy's shoulder. Of course, it didn't take her long to remember the great size difference between the two girls, so she had to settle for her pinky finger instead. This is gonna take a while to get used to... Lip thought.

"Thiana," she said, in a soft voice. "I know this looks bad, but I promise you this isn't my fault. A woman I met on the way home from your fruit stand placed a curse on me for basically no reason and that's why I'm big now."

Thiana still appeared rattled. Lip furrowed her brow in distress. "You're... you're not scared, are you?"

"Scared?" said Thiana. She shook her head, still staring off into the distance. "No. No, I'm not scared. I am, however... more or less completely freaked out." Her expression had finally changed - to one of great worry and anxiety. It wasn't altogether much better. "At least now I know why your mom didn't want me coming back here! Sheesh, the nerve of that lady! We oughta start a search party or something and give her a piece of our mind!"

"Rest assured that's being taken care of," said Cordelia. She smiled in an attempt to calm the emotions of all present. "We've come here to hide Lip in your forest. We can't risk letting other fairies see her at this size; you've taken it poorly enough, honestly. We certainly don't need every fairy in the kingdom panicking. The trees should provide enough cover to keep her hidden for some time."

"B- but there's a liiiiittle problem," Lip spoke up. "I'm... sorta... too big to get anywhere. The trees are too close together. I tried to get around by stepping through the clearings where there were any, but I kinda tripped."

"Well, all forests aren't one-size-fits-all," Thiana said with a half-smile. "But I'll see what I can do."

Thiana stepped in front of the royal duo and put her fingers to her temples, concentrating. With a grunt, she thrust her arms to either side. Before all three pairs of eyes, the trees before them slithered up on their roots and "crawled" in opposite directions, forming a wider path through the forest, before thumping back down to the forest floor as if nothing had happened.

"There. That oughta get you a bit further," said Thiana, turning back to Lip and Cordelia with a cheerful grin. "No guarantees, though. Don't be surprised if the trail sort of ends somewhere."

"Nature fairy magic, hm? Quite fascinating, quite fascinating indeed," mused Cordelia.

"Well, I don't mean to brag, but... yeah, it is pretty impressive," said Thiana, placing a hand across her chest.

Cordelia gave Thiana a sad smile and turned to her daughter. "You should be able to find a suitable hiding spot on your own. I'm afraid I have to get back to the palace, myself; I have pressing business to take care of that simply can't wait. As I believe another monarch once said, being a queen isn't all tea and crumpets."

"Wha...?! But mama--" Lip began to protest, but was cut off by the queen.

"No buts, sweetheart." Cordelia again placed a hand to the giant Lip's cheek, rubbing it gently. "Remember what you said yesterday, when I called you down to the throne room? You are a strong, capable young lady, and I know you have it within you to do just fine on your own. I promise it won't be long." She patted her daughter's cheek and stepped back. "I'll come get you once our search parties have found a lead. Until then, there should be plenty of things here in the forest to keep you busy." She kissed Lip on the cheek a second time. "Be safe, now. I love you."

"...Yeah! You, too," said Lip, feeling reinvigorated from the pep-talk - if no less anxious about having to separate herself from her mother with such a dangerous condition. The giant princess climbed to her feet, albeit somewhat hunched over to blend in slightly more with the forest canopy, and continued down the trail, deeper into the sea of green that was Thiana's wood.

Cordelia looked back to Thiana. "Thiana, you may visit and interact with Lip as you please. In fact, I suggest that you do, seeing as she will still need food and filling meals are... rather hard to come by at her size. I request that you let no one become aware of her presence. Er... try to do a better job than I did."

"You got it, Your Majesty!" Thiana chirped. "You can count on me!" As she turned to leave, the forest fairy noticed something out of place...

"Say... why are those trees over there all soggy?"

Cordelia sighed. "I'll tell you later..."


Chapter 4, written by Cubed Cinder

Not long after Cordelia was out of sight from both Lip and Thiana, there was suddenly a loud rumbling noise. It didn’t take long for Thiana to figure out where it came from.
“Guess you really are hungry!” Thiana shouted.
“Yep… I guess I forgot all about eating after what’s happened today.” Lip said.
“I don’t blame you. I’m sure I’d forget to eat too if I were as big as you.” Thiana said with a smile.
“Um… you think maybe we can forget about my current size problem and find something that will fill this large stomach of mine?” Lip asked.
“Of course, of course. Sorry, I was only trying to lighten the mood. Come on, I know a spot with lots of apple trees.” Thiana said as she started walking through the forest, using her magic to separate the trees and allow Lip to safely pass through. Often she would look back to see where the small booming sounds were coming from… only to remember they were from Lip’s feet stepping on the ground and not from anything else.
“This is gonna take a while to get used to.” Thiana mused to herself.

After a couple minutes of walking around, the two stopped when they suddenly saw trees littered with apples. Some trees were overflowing with the delectable fruit. In fact, one apple snapped loose from a branch that was only a few feet from Lip’s head and lightly hit her on the forehead.
“Oh!” Lip said.
“What happened?” Thiana said as she looked up and saw the falling apple, catching it with her bare hands.
“I think that apple fell from the tree and hit me on the head.” Lip said.
“Well, look on the bright side. It probably didn’t hurt much… your head is as tough as a nail at your size!” Thiana said.
“Um… right.” Lip said.
“Hey, come on! When those apples fall, they really bonk you! They can knock you out if you’re not careful.” Thiana said.
“Well, anyway, at least I can reach this branch easily.” Lip said.
“Help yourself, my fine fairy friend!” Thiana shouted. With just the nod of approval she was looking for, Lip reached up and carefully picked off a few more apples from that same branch. After picking these apples and letting them glide down to the palm of her right hand, she took the time to be amazed over how much smaller they looked from her new perspective.
“These apples are so tiny… I hope they will be enough.” Lip said to herself. She tossed the apples right down her mouth and she gulped them very easily. Thiana could see what was coming next.
“Well… those were good, but I still feel hungry.” Lip said.
“Yeah, I thought so. You’re almost going to need a whole tree to fill that big tummy of yours! Come on, let’s go to the next tree.” Thiana said.

The two proceeded a little further into Thiana’s forest, and a couple minutes later, they came across a larger tree. Again, this tree was seemingly proliferated with apples on its many branches. There was just one problem for Lip, even at her height of 40 feet tall.
“This’ll do nicely!” Thiana said.
“Yes… but even at my size, the branches are still too high.” Lip said.
“Hmmm… you’re right. Let’s see how we’re going to do this without hurting my forest.” Thiana said as she tried to contemplate a plan of attack from the ground. Only a few seconds later, and Lip thought of an idea.
“Oh, I’ve got an idea!” Lip said. She then walked up to the tree and wrapped her arms around it, shaking it as hard as she could. Thiana started sweating bullets as she pictured what the giantess had in mind.
“Uh… Lip, I’m not so sure this is a…” Thiana said.
“Oh, here they come!” Lip said. After some more tough shaking, suddenly a swarm of apples dislodged themselves from the tree and went falling towards the ground… most of them on top of Thiana.
“Ack!” Thiana said as she covered her head just before a bunch of apples landed on top of her. Lip shook the tree for a few more seconds, knocking loose some more apples before she stopped as no more were coming down. Lip then looked down at the hoard of apples that laid on the ground, but showed concern when Thiana was nowhere in sight.
“Huh? Thiana? Thiana!? Where did you go?” Lip said. Right as she said that, suddenly Thiana stuck her head out from the big pile of apples. She shook her head trying to shake off the dizziness from having her head repeatedly pelted with apples.
“Oy… don’t worry about me. We fairies have remarkable tolerance for head pain.” Thiana said in a dizzy tone.
“Oh! I’m so sorry, Thiana! Please forgive me! I’ve once again forgotten about my new size and having to…” Lip said.
“Lip, Lip. Don’t sweat it. I understand.” Thiana said.
“I’m so glad. Do you need some help?” Lip asked.
“Sure… unless you plan on eating me as part of your apple diet.” Thiana said.
“Of course not!” Lip shouted as she didn’t quite catch on to Thiana using a sense of humor. Nevertheless, she reached down and gently grabbed Thiana by her upper body, helping her out as she stepped her way out of the apples. Thiana then turned around and noticed all the apples laying on the ground.
“Well, if this doesn’t fill your appetite, I don’t know what will!” Thiana said with a smile. Lip smiled as well, and after her stomach grumbled one more time, she reached down and scooped up as many apples as her big hand could handle.
“Well, time to eat!” Lip said as she started scarfing and chewing down the many apples. Once she was done with one batch, she right away moved onto another handful.

While all this was going on, there was another fairy that was making her way through Thiana’s forest. Her name was Windy, known as the fairy princess of the wind (though her name made that easy to figure out). She normally spends her time up in the clouds, but she was flying through the forest with the help of a large bird wearing a red bowtie.
“Ahhhh… such a beautiful day! I’m looking forward to seeing Lip today! I wonder what we’ll do…” Windy said. As she glanced over to her left, she suddenly stopped her train of thought and commanded her bird companion to stop flying when something caught her eye. Instinctively, she and her bird (whom she nicknamed Birdie) took cover behind one of the massive trees and ever so slowly peeked her head out. She rubbed her eyes to see if they weren’t playing any tricks, but sure enough, out in the distance appeared to be both Thiana and Lip… except of course that Lip was bigger than before. She wasn’t as big as the evil Thanatos she and her friends stopped a while back, but Lip’s size definitely made her stand out.
“Oh my! Lip is so big! I wonder what vitamins she’s been taking. I better find out!” Windy said as she flew her way towards the two.

Thiana simply stood back and watched Lip, now sitting on the grassy ground, continue to go through the pile of apples like they were small pieces of candy. It was like watching nature go through its normal course of action the longer she watched the giantess eat up. Lip even got a little creative with one handful of apples as she squeezed them together and then opened the hand above her mouth, letting the juice fall straight in.
“At least you gotta admit. I’ve invented a new way of making apple juice.” Lip said.
“Yes, that you have. Although it shows you’re getting comfortable with your size.” Thiana said. This caused Lip to pause in her eating spree as she looked down on her tiny friend.
“Yeah, for now. But of course, this can’t go on forever. I hope Mama finds that nasty witch soon.” Lip said. Just before Lip could swallow the next batch of apples, she suddenly heard a familiar voice call out in her ear.
“Hi, Lip!” Windy shouted.
“Eeeek!” Lip said, obviously taken aback by Windy’s sudden voice. The jump caused her to throw the apples high in the air… and they all landed on Thiana’s head.
“OW! Not again!” Thiana said to herself. Lip finally turned her head where she saw Windy, on top of Birdie, right in front of her.
“W...W...W...Windy? Where did you come from!?” Lip shouted.
“Hehehe! From the sky, silly, where I always come from!” Windy said.
“Windy… um, so nice to see you. I didn’t see you coming!” Thiana said.
“I bet you didn’t! You were probably so focused on Supersized Lip!” Windy said.
“Yeah… um… I’m sure you’re wondering about that.” Thiana said.
“Oh boy, am I ever! You’re so big, Lip! It’s incredible! You’re like those giant monsters from those old movies! I bet you could go roar all over the village now!” Windy said.
“Um… right… right.” Lip said with sweat running down her forehead.
“Windy, this is no time to be joking around! This is serious!” Thiana said.
“Okay, okay! Geez, Thiana! Have a sense of humor once in a while! So what happened, Lip?” Windy asked.
“Well, yesterday I was running an errand for Mama when I bumped into this older woman. She got really mad, and worst of all she wouldn’t even give me a chance to apologize! Anyway, long story short, she placed a curse on me. At first nothing happened, but when I woke up, I slowly began to grow bigger until I’m the size you see me at now. Mama did everything to try and sneak me out of the village without anyone asking questions.” Lip said.
“Awww… I still think it’d be fun if you walked around the village. You’re large and a fairy princess, so you’d be in charge!” Windy said.
“As enticing as that may be, Windy, our friend can’t stay like this forever. She’s already eaten probably a quarter of this forest’s apple supply, and who knows if anything else might happen from that curse?” Thiana said.
“Thiana’s right. Mama and Marshal are trying to find the woman that caused this. The sooner I can shrink back to normal the better. Meanwhile, I’m hiding here in Thiana’s forest, so that nobody can find me and cause panic.” Lip said.
“Well, nobody except Windy. Like you said, we didn’t see you coming. I’ve been trying to keep Lip calm on top of feeding her.” Thiana said.
“Hmmm… I see. Yeah, I hope you can beat the curse soon. Being giant wouldn’t be much fun… I probably would be too big for all the clouds!” Windy said.
“In the meantime, I suggest we all venture further into the forest to make sure nobody else bumps into us.” Thiana said.
“I agree. You lead the way, Thiana.” Lip said as she stood back to her full height. Thiana indeed led the way through the forest, with Windy and Lip trailing behind her as she used her magic to clear a path for the giantess.

Meanwhile, back in the village outside the castle, Cordelia was walking around when she suddenly came across Marshal and two of the castle guards kneeling down looking at a spot on the ground.
“Marshal?” Cordelia said.
“Oh, your majesty! Welcome back. How is Lip?” Marshal said.
“She’s hanging in there. I hid her in Thiana’s forest, where hopefully nobody else will find her.” Cordelia said.
“Normally I would be concerned with leaving her alone, but if you’ll forgive the pun, your majesty, she is a big girl.” Marshal said.
“Yes, Marshal. I fully understand where you’re coming from. Have you made any progress on the search for our mystery curse sending woman?” Cordelia said.
“Not yet… I have guards searching every nook and cranny of the village and a couple of the lands beyond. We’re doing our best.” Marshal said.
“That’s all I ask, Marshal.” Cordelia said with a smile.
“In the meantime, I was examining this part of the village grounds. Looks like there may be some residual magic from yesterday.” Marshal said as he held up a thin container with very, very faint purple smoke. If it weren’t for Cordelia, it might as well have been invisible to the naked eye.
“Hmmm… I wonder if this magic is from the curse that woman cast on Lip.” Cordelia said.
“I had the same feeling, your majesty.” Marshal said. Cordelia then held out a hand in front of the man.
“That’s good work, Marshal. I’ll take it back to the castle and further examine it myself. It could be a vital key to ridding Lip of the curse. In the meantime, keep searching for the woman Lip described.” Cordelia said as she took the container from Marshal’s hand. Marshal stood back up and bowed before the queen.
“At once, your majesty!” Marshal said before he and the two guards dispersed. Cordelia, meanwhile, resumed her walk back to the castle, looking at the container of faint purple smoke along the way.

It was so far smooth sailing for Lip, Thiana, and Windy. Although some animals scampered out of the way when they saw the giantess, no other living beings had spotted the trio for the past few minutes of walking. Lip still felt compelled to try and soothe the animals’ fears.
“Don’t be afraid; I promise I won’t hurt you! Can’t you tell them that, Thiana?” Lip asked.
“Don’t worry about them for now. Deep inside, they understand your intentions.” Thiana said.
“Yeah, they’re probably wishing they were as big as you!” Windy said.
“WINDY!!” Both Lip and Thiana shouted.
“Okay, okay! I’ll give it a rest!” Windy said. Suddenly, Thiana stopped walking and put her arms up, signaling both Windy and Lip to stop as well, which they did.
“What is it, Thiana?” Lip asked.
“I sense another living presence nearby.” Thiana said.
“Ooooh… I hope it’s not one of my birds trying to escape again! I really gotta put those leftover panels to good use!” Windy said.
Just then, Thiana turned to her right and pointed. One of the bushes suddenly disappeared (seemingly into the ground) and revealed a very familiar face.
“Eeep!” the older looking fairy said. She had long, dark hair, deep purple eyes, and wore a brown, hooded robe. And this immediately flashed one of Lip’s memories in front of her own eyes.
“YOU!!” Lip shouted. She immediately recognized the woman as the one who put the curse on her yesterday that made her as big as she is today.
“Me?” the woman said innocently.
“You’re the one who made me like this!!” Lip shouted.
“So this is the one who placed the curse on you?” Thiana said.
“Who? Me? I don’t seem to recall that.” the woman said, again innocently.
“Don’t play dumb with me! You’re going to fix this right here and right now!” Lip shouted.
“You’ll have to catch me first, big child! And try doing it without destroying this beautiful forest!” the woman said before she turned around and took off running at a surprisingly brisk pace.
“She’s getting away!” Lip said.
“Lip, stay behind me! Remember, you’ve got the fairy of this beloved forest at your side.” Thiana said. Indeed, with Thiana leading the way so she can move around the trees and shrubbery that stood in Lip’s path, the three pursued the robed woman.

The chase lasted seemingly a while, when it was really closer to a few minutes. The chase eventually brought everyone to a small hut, roughly 20-30 feet in height. The woman was going for the door and the trio of fairy princesses knew it too.
“She’s gonna hide in that hut!” Lip shouted.
“Not if I can help it! Hah!” Thiana said as she closed her eyes briefly and snapped both her fingers. Before the woman could reach for the door, a slew of sharp vines suddenly grew up from the ground. They not only blocked off the front door of the hut, but they also grew from the left and right sides of the hut’s exterior. The woman was basically left with no other route but backwards, where she saw the three fairies, including the one she made giant with her curse, all walking up towards her.
“You’ve got nowhere else to run, witch!” Thiana said.
“Yeah! We’ve got the princess of nature by our side!” Windy said.
“Arrrrgh! You little brats! The nerve of children these days!” the woman said. Lip slammed her feet down a few yards away from the woman, and had a very angry look on her face.
“I’m not going to ask you again, miss. Change me back to my normal size!” Lip shouted.
“Never! You don’t deserve to be so small after you refused to apologize to me!” the woman shouted.
“Refused to apologize!? You didn’t even give me the chance!” Lip shouted.
“You just push your weight around like you’re the boss of everyone!” the woman shouted.
“I told you I wasn’t looking where I was going!!” Lip shouted, steadily raising her voice to match the tone of the robed woman.
“Arrrgh! And the fruit stands in your village are so barren these days! Is it too much to ask if you can restock on my important ingredients!?” the woman shouted.
“Arrrrgh! I wish I could drop a garbage block on your head!!!” Lip shouted.
“And you’ve got some nerve putting vines around my house!!!” the woman shouted. The two sides continued to duke it out, finally both talking at the same time. Thiana was amazed that Lip didn’t try to step on the crazy woman given her obvious size advantage. But even she could tell this arguing wasn’t leading anyone anywhere.

So she finally put two fingers in her mouth and let out a very loud whistle. Loud enough to send birds scattering above the trees.
“Whew! What a whistle that was, Thiana!” Windy shouted.
“Alright, that’s enough. Miss, may I ask what’s been troubling you lately?” Thiana said.
“(sigh) Well… hold on… let me think.” the woman said. There was a few seconds of silence before the lady started to talk again.
“Yes, the shortage of fruit has gotten to me. It’s frustrating that I cannot make my potions and improve my spellcasting when I am always running short on vital items.” the woman said.
“I keep hearing that complaint a lot from the other villagers. We’re doing the best that we can to find out what’s causing these food shortages.” Lip said.
“Well, clearly not good enough!” the woman said.
“Look, everyone in that village has been affected by the fruit shortage. Please don’t think you’re the only one who is suffering.” Thiana said.
“She’s right. Even though I have no such problem in my kingdom, I can definitely sense the frustration from visitors who have come from afar.” Windy said.
“Still… I just realized I have made a terrible mistake. I took my anger out on you, young lady, and placed you under a curse that you had no right to be placed under to begin with.” the woman said. Lip raised her eyebrows as she suddenly bowed her upper body.
“Are you… apologizing?” Lip asked.
“I have placed my curse on no less than you, the princess. I will accept whatever punishment you deem necessary.” the woman said.

Windy and Thiana both looked up at Lip, wondering what kind of action she would take. It didn’t take very long.
“I’ve dealt with anger before… especially during the time when Thanatos hypnotized my friends. I understand where you were coming from. This is what I will do.” Lip said. She waited a few seconds until the woman looked up at the 40-foot-tall giantess.
“All I ask is that you return me to my normal size, and then all will be forgiven as far as you and I are concerned. I’ll even convince my Mama to let you go free.” Lip said.
“I… I can live with that. I’ll need to get some things from in my home to create the potion needed to reverse the curse.” the woman said.
“Okay. We’ll be waiting here however long it takes.” Lip said. She nodded over to Thiana, who right away took that as a sign to remove the vines and let her enter the hut, which was actually her home. The woman slowly entered the hut and got to work on creating the potion she said she’d make.

As the fairies waited for the woman to return, with Lip sitting down on the ground, Windy and Thiana looked up at their supersized friend.
“I thought you handled that very well, Lip.” Thiana said.
“Thank you, Thiana. Mama taught me well.” Lip said with a cute smile on her face. She started to feel better knowing she would be shrinking back to normal size soon.
“But are you sure we can trust this woman? Especially after how big she made you with just one spell?” Windy asked.
“She IS the one who cast the curse. If anyone knows how to reverse it, it’s her.” Thiana said.
“I hope you’re right, Thiana.” Lip said as she took a deep breath (almost blowing Windy off Birdie), anxiously awaiting the woman’s return.


Chapter 5, written by Mab

And so it was that Lip, Windy, Thiana, and Birdie were left by theirselves in that quiet little grove, anxiously awaiting the potion's completion and the flower fairy's subsequent return to her normal size.

Well... perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Lip and Thiana were. Birdie was perched on Lip's knee, preening himself unconcernedly; Windy, meanwhile, was having the time of her life. "Woo-hoo! This is pretty fun! I don't think I'd mind if you never went back to your normal size, Lip!" the wind fairy hollered as she swung from Lip's ponytail like some gigantic brown vine.

"Heheh," Lip giggled. If nothing else, she was happy to see one of her close friends enjoying herself. "Well, I would. I don't like being so giant that other fairies are afraid to be around me."

Windy leapt from Lip's ponytail and used her wind powers to guide herself to a smooth landing upon Lip's shoulder. "I'm not afraid to be around you, Lipzilla!" She paused, tilted her head slightly to the side, and continued, "I can call you Lipzilla, right?"

"No, I'd prefer you didn't," said the giant fairy girl.

"What about... Queen Kong?"

"No," repeated Lip, growing slightly flustered.

"How about--"

"Windy..." Thiana chided from the forest floor beneath.

"OK, OK, I get the message," said Windy. It wasn't long, though, before the pink-haired fairy's mouth broke into a broad grin and she stifled a giggle. "...Lipzilla."

Lip lowered her eyelids in exasperation, only to raise them again as a loud gurgling sound broke the tranquility of the clearing. It took no one very long to figure out where it came from. "Ohhh... I'm getting hungry again," Lip groaned, looking sadly down at her belly.

"On it!" said Thiana dutifully with a salute, turning on her heel.

"You don't need to worry about it, Thiana," Lip said, leaning closer to the nature princess. "I'll be back to my normal size soon, and it's easier to fill a little fairy's tummy than it is a big one's. Since there’s a shortage, I don't really wanna eat more than I have to."

"Hey, it doesn't matter whether you're four feet or forty as long as you're my friend. I'll see what I can scrounge up." Thiana winked with a cheerful chirp of "Back in a few!" and ran off into the shady woods, leaving Windy, Birdie, and the giant Lip alone in the grove.

Several minutes passed uneventfully. "Hmm..." Lip uttered at length, putting a finger to her chin.

"What is it, Lippy?" asked Windy, peeking down into Lip's eyes from her forehead.

"Well... it's just... what if you're right, Windy? We just met this lady. Apologies can be insincere. How do we know she's gonna follow through with it?" Lip flopped over onto her back, creating an audible thump! and temporarily emancipating Windy from her brow-top perch. "Oh, look at me," the flower fairy muttered. "Princesses are supposed to be brave and regal and I'm… I’m just a nervous little girl."

Windy drifted down next to Lip's face and placed one hand on the giant princess's cheek, the other on her own hip. "Pardon me for saying, but you're being a worrywart," the pink-haired girl said, furrowing her brow and attempting to sound quite a bit more mature than she actually was. "If you want my advice, why not calm down and see how this plays out?"

"I want to, but when you want something very badly it's sometimes hard to not worry about it," Lip said, glancing over at her smaller friend.

"Look at the bright side of things!" Windy's demeanor lightened noticeably. "If she goes back on her word, you get to -" and here she swatted a fly crawling down Lip's forehead - "SQUOOSH! - goosh her like a bug!

"I- I think that'd do more harm than good," said Lip, wincing and rubbing her temple a little - partially to relieve the sting and partially to wipe away the bug goo. "She might be the only one who knows how to reverse the curse. Even if I am upset at her, I don't want to turn her into fairy-paste. Not here, not now."

"I dunno," said Windy, smiling a little." I thought what you said about the garbage block was pretty good."

"Erm, sometimes we get angry and say things we don't mean. You understand, right?"

Whether or not Windy understood, Lip was beginning to feel a mite impatient. She just wanted to be normal-sized again. She didn't want to have to wait. Rolling over onto her stomach with a tiny grunt, the princess found she could barely peek into one of the hut's windows.

Inside the hut, at least from what our heroine could see, was a sparsely-decorated yet cluttered circular room, full of shelves and drawers of all kinds; within them sat bottles of all shapes and sizes, filled with potions of all colors. In the center of the chamber was a large, bubbling cauldron, into which the odd woman she had met was dropping all manner of strange and off-putting ingredients.

As if sensing she was being watched, the witch glanced up and, upon noticing an enormous eye peering in through her window, reacted about how one would expect - with a startled yelp and a jump backwards. "Don't scare me like that!" she scolded, placing her arms on her hips. "When most of us look out a window we expect to see the blue sky, not a blue eye."

"Sorry," Lip said apologetically, backing away from the window so that slightly more of her face could be seen.

"So, lemme guess... uhh..." The witch put a hand to her forehead and snapped her fingers, trying to recall the flower fairy's name. "What’d you say your name was again? Pip? Lily?"

"It's Lip."

"Right. Anyway, Pip..."

Lip sighed.

"...you hold on a couple more minutes, OK? I seem to have misplaced the eye of newt somewhere. Where was it..." The lady darted around the room, checking the assorted cabinets and shelves for the vanished ingredient. "Maybe in here? Tongues of frog, no... This drawer? Feather of unlaiden swallow. Uh-uh... Maybe in this cabinet. Nope. (Why do I even have a plastic flamingo?) Uh, anyway, you just cool your britches or skirt or whatever and hang tight. I’ll let you know when it’s done."

Her curiosity satisfied, Lip slowly rose to her feet. Windy, mounted atop Birdie once again, landed atop the witch's hut, about ten feet below eye-level with her sizeable friend. "What did she say? What did she say?" she squeaked.

"She’s working on it," said Lip with a little smile.

"See? Nothing to worry about. You’ll be back to your cute little self in no time!" replied Windy, hovering up to pinch Lip's cheeks.

The gigantic girl giggled. "Cut it out, you," she said, embarrassed.

Lip suddenly felt something thump against one of her boots. A familiar voice - gruff, but still feminine - spoke up. It didn't sound happy. "Ugh! Stupid trees. Why's there gotta be so many of 'em? I say we should just burn 'em all down soon as we have the--" A brief pause. "What the..."

Turning to locate the source of the noise, Lip was surprised - and not in a good way - to notice another fairy, a teenager dressed in a sleeveless magenta qipao and red go-go boots. Her long, fiery red hair billowed out behind her as if her head were on fire, and a golden tiara from within which sparkled three purple jewels crowned her head. It was Flare, fairy princess of fire - a fairy famed for her passion as well as her short temper.

"Uh-oh," Lip muttered under her breath. "Here we go."

Whereas Lip was nervous to see such a short-fused fairy bear witness to such an off-putting sight as a giant princess, Windy was nothing short of overjoyed to see another friend. "Hiya, Flare! What's up?!" she called, swooping down next to the fire fairy and bouncing up and down excitedly "Where've you been? How's the weather been treating you? Any clouds I need to whip into shape? I--"

Flare held up a hand to shush her excitable acquaintance. "...Windy?" she asked eventually, with disturbing tranquility.

"Yeah?" Windy asked, still chipper.

"You have three seconds to explain just what in the almighty inferno is wrong with Lip before I start burning things," Flare continued. Her face bore a peaceful smile, but the fireball now enveloping her right hand said otherwise.

"Gosh, nothing's wrong with her, silly," said Windy, flying up next to the huge Lip's face. "She's just a giant now! Isn't it great?"

Flare's cheerful facade vanished in an instant; luckily, so did the fireball encasing her hand. "How are you taking this so well?!"

"Well, you know, it's good to have people look up to you - and with Lip, they don't have a choice anymore!" said Windy, gesturing to the giant fairy. "See how tall she is? She towers over us, or something like that!"

"...You're making jokes? Seriously?! This is a serious problem and you're making stinkin' jokes?" yelled an increasingly infuriated Flare, baring her tiny fangs.

"Yep!" Windy happily replied, floating back down to speak with Flare eye-to-eye once more. "You're acting especially hot-headed today, Flare. What's the big idea?" She snickered. "'Big idea'..."

"Windy!" Lip interrupted, snatching Windy up in her right fist and holding her in front of her face. "You're not helping."

"Sheesh! You need to calm down too, little big Lip," said Windy with an exasperated shrug. "I'm just trying to lighten the mood."

"Well, you and I both know that Flare is the queen of short fuses," Lip answered calmly. "Some things that you think are funny, she thinks aren’t. I know you like being silly, but could you try toning it down just a smidge?"

Windy's face brightened further. "Ooh! Speaking of short fuses, the other day I heard the funniest joke ever. You wanna hear it? You’re gonna laugh so hard! Here goes..."

"Windy!" Lip yelled, perhaps a bit louder than she meant to and leaving the little wind fairy was left covered in spittle and saliva.

"...Hey Lip, what do you call that bulb thingy that hangs down in the back of your mouth?" Windy inquired after shaking herself dry with what little mobility she was afforded at the moment.

"That's, uh, my uvula."

"Could you make it jiggle around again? It's funny," Windy giggled.

"Maybe once I get back to my normal size, but not right now," said Lip. "Now were you listening to what I said?"

"Yeah, I heard. Cut it out with the silliness. I understand, Lippy. But it was a funny joke, and I figured maybe it'd lose some of its luster if I told it later, and…"

"Well, could it wait? Pleaaase?" Lip put on a pouty-face. She had found that pouty-faces usually work when there's something you really want to get. Lip supposed she would eventually become too old to successfully utilize its arcane powers; luckily, that time had yet to come.

"Mmm-hmm! You got it!" Windy said, nodding her head vigorously.

"Ahem." Flare tapped on Lip's boot to get her attention. "Still here."

"Oh, sorry." Lip released Windy from her grasp and stared down at her older, yet smaller companion.

"So I never got a straight answer: Why the heck are you so huge, anyway?"

"Well..." Lip put a finger to her temple. "How do I explain this... Well, the other day I bumped into this odd woman who placed a curse on me. It didn’t seem like anything was up at first, but then I started growing, and, well..." She gestured down at herself.

"OK, so where is this chick?" Flare shuffled her feet a bit and put her fists up. "I didn't sign up for that search party for nothing. Figure it's about time I gave her a piece of my mind. I mean stealing fruit is one thing, but messing with my buds..."

"In the hut behind me, but she’s--"

"Got it." Flare rushed between Lip's feet to the door of the hut.

"Flare, what’re you--" Lip started, but was again cut off.

"Saving your giant heiney, what does it look like I’m doin’?!" snipped Flare before kicking the hut's door open in a dynamic, exciting, overly dramatic entrance.

Everyone is cutting me off today... thought Lip gloomily.

---

Flare had naturally caught the fairy witch off guard. Despite this, the dark-haired woman seemed to be taking things remarkably well. "Oh, hey, kid. Bit of a dramatic entrance, don’t you think?" she asked, turning around slowly to face the bad-tempered girl. "If you’ve caused any damage to my property, I’ll have you know I’ll expect you to pay compensation."

Perhaps she was simply being passive-aggressive. Flare was merely aggressive.

"Be glad I didn’t burn your entire flaming house down! Now fix Lip!" the fire fairy shouted, taking a menacing step forward.

"Not even going to introduce yourself, I see." The witch tsked and threw her hands up in the air, rolling her violet eyes. "Where’s the courtesy anymore? Honestly!"

Flare grabbed the witch by her collar. "The name is Flare. Don’t forget it. Now let me know your name so I know what to shout from the rooftops once I’m through with you."

"Hello, Flare! You seem like a friendly sort. My name is Nimue," said Nimue, putting on an enormous fake grin. "You can call me Nim if you’d like." The smile vanished from her face to be replaced with a more serious expression. "Call me Nimmy and you die. Or maybe you will anyway."

"I don't plan on it," quipped Flare, raising a flame-coated hand. "Now you’re gonna fix my friend, Nimmy, or you’re gonna be in a fix!"

"Flare…" Lip called nervously from outside.

"What is the deal with you?!" Nimue asked angrily, breaking out of Flare's grapple. "I was trying to be friendly and you lose your cool on me?"

"Listen sweetie, I’m a fire fairy. I don’t have a 'cool'. Now fix the princess or we're having barbecued Nimmy tonight."

"Flare…" came Lip's voice again.

Flare nodded out the open door, towards Lip - or rather, one of Lip's feet. "She says she met you a couple of days ago and placed a curse on her."

Nimue nodded sadly. "That’s true, but--"

"Then fix her, for Cordelia’s sake!" Flare grabbed Nimue again, this time by both arms, and shook her violently. "What is so hard to understand about this!"

Sheesh… Now I know how Pip must’ve felt, Nimue thought to herself before pushing away from Flare once more. "I understand you just fine, hothead! You’re cutting me off before I’ve got a chance to explain. You don’t know what’s going on!"

"I know plenty. Now I’m gonna give you one last chance:" Flare wrapped both of her hands in licking, red-hot flames. "Turn Lip back to normal, or you fry!"

"Flare!" Lip's voice echoed from, this time punctuated by a stomped foot that shook the hut and knocked a few bottles from their shelves, spreading glass and potion alike across the wooden floor.

"Huh? Yeah?" said Flare, seemingly breaking out of her anger-induced stupor.

"Stop it, Flare!" yelled Lip, her voice shaking noticeably as she tried not to burst into sobs. "She’s trying to help us and you keep cutting her off and I’m afraid you’re going to do something really dumb and I DON’T LIKE IT. I just... don’t!"

"Hm…?" grunted Flare in response.

"I… I don’t like it when you’re angry like that. It’s scary." Lip sniffled, and a large tear fell from one of her eyes to the ground beneath, splashing and forming a large salty puddle.

"C’mon, Lip, don’t cry," consoled Windy, giving Lip's left ear a big hug. "Big girls aren’t supposed to cry. Especially not when they could flood Poppliss with their tears!"

Lip giggled a bit. "Have I ever told you I love having you as a friend, Windy?" she said, voice still shaking just a tiny bit, before snatching Windy off of Birdie and wrapping her up in a hug.

"Aww!" Windy squealed, and hugged back to the best of her ability.

"…Geez," said Flare, placing a hand to her forehead. "I really flew off the handle, didn’t I?"

"Well, if that’s the way you wanna put it," Nimue snarked. "I’d put it more like 'if you were a volcano you would be violently erupting all over my hut, and the magma was pure unadulterated fury'. But eh, tomayto, tomahto."

"Look at me! Getting so royally cheesed off I make the princess cry!" said Flare, thrusting palms outwards. "Do you know what an awful thing it is to do to make the princess upset like that?" She ducked her head. "Sheesh."

Flare poked her head outside the hut, bowing her head slightly. "…Sorry, Lip."

"It's all right," said Lip, smiling down at the fire fairy princess. "You're scary when you're upset, but you're still my friend and you're willing to stick up for me. That's what's more important, in the end."

Flare smiled and returned her attentions to Nimue. "Sorry, Nim. I guess I can’t ask you to forgive me, huh."

"Well, if you’ll stop trying to kill me and let me actually explain what’s going on, perhaps I will," said Nim with a smile.

"Shoot," said Flare, relaxing against a counter and placing a hand on her hip.

Nimue let loose with her side of the story. "It is true that I bumped into Pip the other day--"

"Lip," cut in Lip. "L-I-P. Like tulip."

"Right. I bumped into Lily the other day and got upset with her because we bumped into each other and I kept interrupting her - does this sound familiar to you, by the way? So I placed a hex on her. Boom! Giant princess." Taking note of Flare's still somewhat agitated appearance, she hastily added, "Wait! Wait! Hear me out, kiddo," and continued:

"A couple of hours ago we bumped into each other back in the woods. She was mad at me, I was mad at her, we got in a shouting match, violence was threatened, yadda yadda. But! Eventually I realized the error of my ways, we’re on good terms now, and I’m working on a potion that will fix everything and bring all these shenanigans to an end."

"Ohhhhh. Oh." Flare stared off into the distance, feeling quite foolish indeed. "Well, don’t I feel stupid now."

"Hindsight is 20/20!" Windy said, peeking in a window with a merry smile.

"Yes." Nimue returned to her work on the restoration potion. "I’m almost done. I just need to find the eye of newt, cast a few incantations, and then it’ll be ready. Now where is that silly thing…?" She slid open a few more drawers, scoured their contents, and upon coming up without her target let loose a frustrated grunt, throwing herself down upon a countertop.

Several seconds later, Flare appeared at Nimue's side, tapping her on the shoulder. "One eye of newt at your request, ma’am," she said with a big grin, holding up a black jar.

"Holy cows and donkeys!" exclaimed Nimue, slapping a hand to her forehead. "You're a life-saver, Fleck! Wherever did you find that?"

"It was, uh, over there." Flare pointed to a shelf near the front entrance, upon which sat a multitude of similar jars. "Next to the other ones."

Nimue blinked, her face flushing a deep red. "...I guess I need to get my eyes checked."

---

Several hours later, Flare and Nim emerged from the hut, both with high spirits (Flare stepping hesitantly over the giant salty tear-puddle Lip had inadvertently created). "Well, it took me a while, but it’s finished!" boasted Nimue, holding up a vial full of a greenish-blue potion. "Pour this concoction down your gullet, and your size and proportions will be 100% back-to-normal!" She hesitated before adding, "Probably."

"Oh, thank you so much, Miss Nimue, ma’am!" Lip said with a bow, relief audible in her voice. "You’re such a help! I was afraid I’d have to spend the rest of my life as a giant."

"Worry no more. Your problems have officially been solved." Nimue placed a hand to her chest haughtily. "No need to thank me, of course."

Lip reached down to take the potion from Nimue's hand, but found herself faced with yet another size issue. The potion vial was large enough to a normal-sized fairy, but to a forty-foot giant as Lip currently was it was barely the size of a pebble. "It’s… kinda small," said the flower fairy, backing up. "I’m afraid if I try to handle it I might crush it. And then I’ll have no potion and cuts all over my finger." Lip winced at the thought and chewed on her nails a bit. "Not fun."

"Why don’t you do the honors, Windy," said Flare, tossing the potion up into the air.

"Okey dokey, artichokey!" Windy snatched up the potion before it hit the ground and flew up to Lip's face, again using the aid of her wind powers. "Open up! Here comes the choo-choo potion!"

Lip complied, opening her mouth wide and sticking her tongue out as if for another throat exam. Windy was left with the more difficult part - getting the potion bottle uncorked.

"Mmmph! It's not working!" Windy grunted as she attempted to uncork the bottle. "Why do they make these things so darn hard to open?!"

Eventually the wind fairy had to resort to using her teeth to get the cork out from its seemingly permanent home within the vial's neck. This second time was, as it would turn out, the charm - and worked a bit too well, as it would also turn out. "Eek!" Windy shrieked as she flew backwards from the force exerted on the bottle - which, meanwhile, was sent flying forwards into Lip's mouth.

It was perhaps lucky that the little big princess had a wind fairy who could manipulate air currents for a friend - were it not for Windy's quick reaction times, Lip would have swallowed the bottle whole, and who knows what that would have done to her insides? As it was, only the greenish-blue liquid from within the vial ended up slithering its way down Lip's tongue and into her throat.

There was a pause. Lip shifted her weight from one foot to another, waiting for some change to take effect. "I don’t feel any different," she noted at length.

"Give it time," said Nimue, smiling. Hmm... deja vu... "It should be faster-acting than my curse was, if that gives you any consolation."

Lip blinked, then again. Although she knew better, she couldn't help but wonder if, just for a moment, each of her friends had suddenly become triplets...

"Ooo... that’s an odd feeling," Lip muttered woozily, clutching her stomach. "I think I need to lie down and--"

With that, the little big princess crashed to the ground, very nearly squishing Birdie and scattering a flock of roosting birds into the sky once again.

---

For a moment, Lip saw nothing except black, an inky expanse of darkness. She did, however, hear the voices of her friends and Nimue, seemingly coming from somewhere above her.

Windy first: "…Where’d Lip go?"

Then Nimue: "She was right here just five seconds ago." A pause, then, "Uh-oh."

"Uh-oh…?" came Flare's typically harsh voice.

"Well, I don’t want to fluster anyone here, but…" Nimue continued, trailing off.

Another pause before Flare spoke up once more. "What the-- Why, you…! You tricked us!!!"

"Flame, I- I had no idea!" Nimue sputtered. "I can explain..."

Birdie squawked.

"Flare, watch it!" Windy chided. "You know Lip doesn’t like it when you get angry like that!"

"Can’t you see what’s going on!" Flare yelled, now furious again. "This witch here tricked us! She said she was going to turn Lip back to her normal size -- and now look what’s happened!"

A trick? Was Lip still a giant? Or had something worse have happened to her? Could the potion have failed to work? What was going on?

"I read the spell wrong or something! All right, Little Miss Anger Management Issues?!" Nim yelled.

Thiana's voice came rushing in from Lip's right. "I heard yelling! What’s going on?"

"Hi, Thiana," said Windy.

"Hey, Thi," Flare greeted.

"Oh, hello, Flare! Haven't seen you in a while," spoke Thiana again. "What're you doing around here?"

"I, uh… well..." Flare laughed nervously. "We shrunk Lip… but…"

"Oh, that’s great!" Thiana sounded as happy and upbeat as always. "Where is she?"

There was a quite awkward silence.

"...Don’t tell me." The cheeriness had drained from Thiana's voice. It was jarring to Lip, and more than a little frightening. "You didn’t… She isn’t…"

"Unnngggh…" Lip groaned as she regained consciousness. When she opened her eyes she saw nothing out of the ordinary - just the lovely green canopy of the forest stretching out far above her.

Then why are the others so anxious? she thought.

"Oh, boy. She is," groaned Thiana. "What're we gonna tell the queen?"

"Where… where am I? What happened?" Lip moaned, slowly rising to a sitting position and holding her head. "My head kinda hurts..."

"Uh, Lip?" said Windy, her voice coming from just behind the flower princess.

"Yeah, Windy? What is it?" Lip replied. The little princess turned around and, looking up, saw five huge shadowy blotches casting a shadow across where she now lay. All but one were fairy-shaped.

They looked an awful lot like Lip's friends.

And come to think of it... since when were blades of grass half a fairy's size?

"Brace yourselves," warned Flare, covering her ears.

Once again, it took everything Lip had in her to keep herself from screaming.

"AUUUUUGH!!"

Given her size, that wasn't a lot.


Chapter 6, written by Cubed Cinder

After seemingly screaming her lungs out, Lip let the tears flow down from her eyes and used a nearby blade of grass that she was only twice the size of, when she should be flattening it underneath her boots, to blow her nose. She was suddenly starting to think being 40 feet tall wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Now here she was, the princess of all of Poppliss, reduced to nothing more than the size of a child’s toy.

The other fairies uncovered their ears. Despite Lip’s reduced size, her screams were still ear piercing; like she were her normal size. Flare sighed and was the first to speak.
“Thank goodness she didn’t do that when she was big.” Flare said. Thiana then very slowly approached the shrunken Lip, stopping when her boots were a couple yards away from the tiny princess. As she squatted down to get a closer look, Lip herself gasped slightly and tried to take cover behind one of the taller blades of grass. And yet, she couldn’t help but gaze up upon the giantess that was her friend, Thiana.
“Is this how I looked to everyone else?” Lip said to herself.
“Lip? Are… are you alright?” Thiana asked. Lip reacted with her first thoughts, too distraught over her new size to know what Thiana exactly meant by ‘alright.’
“Am I alright? AM I ALRIGHT!? I couldn’t rule an entire kingdom at 40 feet tall… and I certainly can’t rule a kingdom like this!” Lip shouted.
“Come on, Lip. Let me get you off the ground.” Thiana said as she lowered a hand down towards Lip. The tiny girl just sighed and easily stepped onto her hand. Once she was on, Thiana stood back to her full height, and Lip didn’t feel any better when she saw Flare, Windy, and Nimue gathered around to get a look themselves at Thiana’s hand. Once again, Lip couldn’t help but try to imagine the perspective her friends had on her back when she was very tall.
“Awww… look on the bright side, Lip! At least you still look very cute!” Windy said.
“Thanks, Windy…” Lip said. She suddenly found herself feeling trapped as Windy wrapped one of her hands around her. Windy lifted Lip up to the right side of her face and pressed the tiny girl up against it.
“I think you’re adorable no matter what size you’re at! Maybe if we can’t find a cure, you could stay and be one of my little dollies and…” Windy said.
“WINDY!” Thiana and Flare shouted, both with annoyed looks on their faces.
“Okay, okay! Sorry! I’m sorry, Lip.” Windy said.
“Oh, think nothing of it, Windy.” Lip said.

Once again, Flare focused her attention on the witch, Nimue. And this time she wasn’t messing around. Her hands started to glow with a bright light, and embers slowly formed out of those same hands.
“Alright, lady. You have three seconds to figure out how you’re going to fix this. One… two…!” Flare said.
“Look, like I told you, maybe I read the spell wrong! Or maybe it’s an effect from that curse I cast on her! She should’ve shrunken back to normal! That’s what happened the last time I made that potion.” Nimue said.
“Couldn’t you just put that same curse on Lip again? You know, to make her grow like how this whole thing got started?” Thiana asked.
“I could… but the curse is a power that’s set in stone. She would just be 40 feet tall again.” Nimue said.
“NO! No more 40 feet tall, and no being inches high! I want to be my normal size again, and that’s that!” Lip shouted as she pounded her fists onto Windy’s thumb, which the fairy easily felt.
“Oh! You’re pretty strong for being so small!” Windy said.
“Well, it’s not like she’s the size of a ladybug… or worse, even smaller.” Flare said.
“Look, we need to get the queen involved in all of this. Perhaps she’s the only one who can find a cure for Lip now.” Thiana said.
“I agree. It is for the best that you girls move on without me.” Nimue said.
“Hold on there, witch! You still have to answer for your crimes!” Flare said.
“Flare, just forget it. Thank you, Nimue, for all you’ve tried to do. If Lip says she has forgiven you, then I forgive you too.” Thiana said.
“Hmph… I’m not really that great at being sentimental. Just go… please.” Nimue said. The three normal-sized fairies looked at each other before Thiana decided it was time to go.
“Alright, let’s go. Off to the castle to see the queen.” Thiana said. After Flare gave one last menacing look at Nimue, the three girls (with Windy still holding onto Lip) all walked away. As Nimue watched them walk away, she sighed.
“(sigh) My daughter is right after all. I do need to seek anger management.” Nimue said as she walked in the opposite direction, presumably back to her home.

As the three girls exited Thiana’s forest and saw the castle town out in the distance, Thiana herself recognized the tiny Lip still being held onto by Windy.
“Hold it, Windy.” Thiana said.
“Huh? What is it, Thiana?” Windy asked.
“We definitely can’t let anyone in town see Lip the way she is.” Thiana said.
“I don’t see what the big deal is. She’s small enough to be mistaken for a doll, right?” Flare said.
“That’s exactly the problem! If some young fairy were to see the tiny Lip and mistake for a doll, that would be terrible! Let alone any adults that would probably take pride in capturing the princess of all Poppliss that’s in the palm of their hands and...” Thiana said.
“Um… Thiana… you’re not making me feel any better here!” Lip shouted over from Windy’s fist.
“Right, sorry. My point is, we really, and I mean REALLY, need to hide Lip out of sight until we get back to the castle.
“I’ve got an idea. Allow me, Windy.” Flare said. She walked over to Windy and held out one of her hands, with Windy placing the tiny Lip on top of it. Flare moved her hand in front of her face to get a closeup look at Lip. The fairy princess of fire quickly guessed Lip’s height at this stage to be somewhere between 8-10 inches tall.
“Lip, I trust you will know what to do.” Flare said. Lip had an unsure look on her face, but couldn’t get a chance to say anything before Flare started moving her hand again. She spun the hand around until it was now behind Flare’s neck. Lip felt like she was stuck between two walls, one being the skin of Flare’s big neck and the other being her many thick strands of red hair. It was looking at the hair that Lip suddenly realized what Flare had in mind. Like she were in a video game or an action adventure, Lip made a leap from Flare’s hand and grabbed onto her hair with all her might. Thiana watched the whole thing play out.
“Okay, she’s on!” Thiana said.
“Yes, I felt it. Like I said before, it’s not like she’s the size of a…” Flare said.
“Okay, thank you, Flare. Will you be alright, Lip?” Thiana said as she looked into Flare’s hair.
“Of course! It’s like all those trees we climbed in your forest a couple years ago!” Lip said as she winked one of her eyes over at Thiana. Thiana smiled, feeling relieved that Lip is feeling better for now and seems to be making the most of a bad situation. Still, she knew the sooner they got back to the castle and fill Queen Cordelia in on the situation, the better.

With Lip concealed within Flare’s hair (which she secretly hoped she wouldn’t burst into flames, which normally happened when she powered up), it was business as usual in the castle town. Nobody suspected a thing even with three of the most well known fairies walking through town, although they would get a few looks when a couple running young boys suddenly bumped into Flare.
“Hey! Watch where you’re going, old lady!” one of the boys said. This of course didn’t sit well with Flare, whose anger was slowly building up to the point where tiny embers were forming from her hands… and the bottom of her hair.
“You dare call me an old lady!?” Flare shouted. Thiana, knowing what would happen to Lip given where she was, ran over and patted her fellow fairy on the shoulders.
“Please excuse my friend, she’s had a bad day today. But you boys must be careful when running through the street like that.” Thiana said. Her charming personality and big smile on her face seemed to get through to the boys.
“Okay, we’re sorry.” the two boys said together before they walked right by the fairies. Thiana then took the time to remind Flare of who was riding her flammable hair.
“Flare, for once in your life, can you remain calm? I don’t think Lip can survive your flaming hair.” Thiana said.
“You’re right. I’m sorry, but you know I have a hard time controlling my temper.” Flare said.
“That’s the biggest understatement of the year… aside from when Lip was gigantic!” Windy said. A couple nearby people glanced over when they heard Windy shout that, but figured it was nothing much and simply moved on. Thiana once again had to breathe a sigh of relief that another cat wasn’t let out of the bag.
“Come on, the sooner we get to the castle the better.” Thiana said.

Finally, after a few more minutes of walking through town and making it to the castle gates, the three fairies were stopped by two of the guards at the castle gate.
“Halt! Only those appointed by her majesty, Queen Cordelia, or her daughter, Princess Lip, may pass beyond these gates.” the guards said.
“We’re friends of both! We need to see the queen right away.” Thiana said.
“We have not been told of any forthcoming visitors by the queen…” the guards said, only to suddenly be interrupted from the other side of the gate by Marshal, a loyal servant of both Lip and Cordelia.
“It’s okay, men. You can let them through. We can trust them any day of the week!” Marshal said. After the guards looked at each other briefly, they opened up the gates and allowed the three fairies to walk inside and onto the castle grounds.
“Hi Marshal!” Windy said as she ran up and gave Marshal a hug.
“Yes, yes, it’s good to see you too, Windy. I suppose I could use the cheering up. We still haven’t had any luck finding the nasty witch that made Lip gigantic.” Marshal said. Obviously, because Lip had been out in Thiana’s forest since leaving the castle grounds, he didn’t know of what had happened since that time, namely in the other fairies encountering the witch (named Nimue) themselves and the fact that Lip was now less than a foot tall instead of 40 feet tall.
“Well…” Flare said. She started to fill Marshal in on some of the details, but Thiana quickly intervened.
“Marshal… we need to speak with the queen immediately. It’s very important and concerns Lip.” Thiana said.
“She’s in her throne room. I will take you to her right away.” Marshal said.
“Thank you!” Thiana said. Marshal walked towards the castle and the other fairies followed behind, with Lip of course still clutching onto Flare’s hair.

Queen Cordelia continued to study the thin container of purple smoke that the witch had left behind. All of a sudden she saw the huge doors open up and Marshal walk in with some of Lip’s fairy friends behind him.
“Your majesty, forgive the interruption but some of Lip’s friends wish to speak with you right away.” Marshal said.
“Oh! Windy, Thiana, and Flare?” Cordelia said as she put the container down and got up from her throne and walked towards the fairies. Marshal turned around and left the room, closing the doors behind him. The three fairies, meanwhile, bowed before the queen.
“Queen Cordelia, thank you for letting us come here.” Thiana said.
“Of course, you are always welcome in my castle… but what are you all doing here? Thiana and Windy, aren’t you supposed to be keeping an eye on my daughter?” Cordelia said.
“Your majesty, we are here because of Lip. It’s a long story, but we have something to show you first.” Thiana said as she nodded over to Flare, who right away moved one of her hands behind her head and into her hair. Lip, meanwhile, heard the conversation and then saw the giant hand coming. Lip let go of her grip on Flare’s hair and fell towards the hand, but she mistimed her jump and almost missed the hand entirely. She used her own hands to grab a hold of Flare’s pinky and she used all her strength to climb on the hand before Thiana could reach over and help her.
“Okay, Flare. Show her.” Thiana said. Flare moved her hand out in front of her face, and that’s when Cordelia’s jaw dropped when she saw a now tiny Lip standing on the palm of Flare’s hand.
“L...Lip? Is that you?” Cordelia said. As the queen approached Flare and leaned in to get a closer look, Lip was taken aback by how much bigger Cordelia looked from her current size. It immediately reminded her of when Cordelia was in her enlarged Goddess form, appearing after the defeat of Thanatos and challenging not just Lip but all her fairy friends to test their strength and courage against her.
“Lip?” Cordelia said, causing Lip to snap herself back to reality.
“Mama… please help me!” Lip shouted as she waved her arms up.
“Please, Queen. Don’t panic… it’s a long story.” Thiana said.
“And one I would very much like to hear now. Please, and don’t leave any details behind!” Cordelia said as she stood at her full height and listened as Windy, Thiana, and Flare all took turns explaining what happened… everything from Nimue’s plead for forgiveness to her attempt to shrink Lip back to normal leading her to the size she now stood at.


Chapter 7, written by Mab

So it came to pass that Queen Cordelia, Thiana, Flare, and Windy found themselves sitting at a table in the palace’s grand dining room, upon which sat a bowl of fruit and a miniaturized Lip.

“Well, this has certainly been an interesting turn of events, hasn’t it,” mused the queen, one hand on her forehead and the other tapping the table surface nervously. “I cannot imagine how you must be feeling, sweetheart. To first be worried of crushing something beneath your feet, and then fearful of the same thing happening to you…”

“That’s some rotten luck, all right,” said Flare, one hand behind her head and feet resting on the table, as she took a bite from an apple.

“It’d make for a great legend, though!” Windy chimed in with a smile. As oblivious as she could be sometimes, leave it to Windy to find the joy in anything, no matter how severe or upsetting.

“Maybe it would,” Lip said as she looked up at her larger pink-haired friend, “but not all of those stories have happy endings. We’d better make sure one’s written for mine. I don’t plan on spending the rest of my life doll-sized.”

“No one’s been hurt, at least,” said Thiana helpfully, before quickly continuing, “…er, so far.” She gave Flare a short glower – not the first she’d received that day, and quite possibly not the last. “Some of us almost were…”

Flare responded with a “what’d I do?” look before returning to her apple.

Lip’s stomach cut in with a hearty mrrrrrrggggrbbbbl-urp-blurp, to which the fairy it belonged to answered with a groan and a slump against the fruit bowl. “My tummy thinks it’s about dinner time,” she said, gloomily. “I can’t imagine normal-sized food being that appetizing to a girl who’d fit on a toy store shelf.”

“Hmm…” Flare hmmed, staring at the juicy red fruit she had been eating. Ordinarily, anyone hoping for a scrap of her food would be met with no response at best and a singed bottom at worst. Rough around the edges though she may be, Flare still viewed Lip as a friend, and it upset her to see the little princess feeling so down. “Shoot, Lippy, don’t start cryin’ on us again. I don’t think our hearts can take it. Heh heh.” (Although Flare punctuated this last sentence with a good-natured chuckle, she imagined that was actually the case, Lip being as cute a girl as she was at such a tiny size.)

Flare split the rest of her apple in half and offered the portion with fewer teeth marks to Lip. Size differences, however, have ways of making fools out of those who fail to take them into account; the little fairy made her emotions known with an unamused glance upwards at Flare. (Yes, definitely not the last.) What was to the fire princess a middle-sized helping of fruit was to Lip larger than anything she’d eat in one sitting at full size, proportionally.

“Oh… whoops. Sorry about that.” Flare scraped a small bit of rind and flesh off of Lip’s half of the apple, just enough to cover the tip of her right index finger, then once again held the (more appropriately sized) snack out towards the little princess. “Y’know, the sooner we get you back to normal size the better,” she said, brow furrowed more so than usual.

Lip plucked the tiny bit of fruit from Flare’s fingernail and took a bite. She noticed the apple to have a noticeably different texture from the ones she was used to eating at full size. Although not entirely unpleasant, as it retained its flavor, it was much tougher and harder to chew. “I’ll say,” she agreed, and gulped the rest of her bite down with a wince.

“Therein lies the rub, Flare,” Cordelia said, placing a hand to her forehead. “How can we do such a thing if Nimue cannot? Even the sorceress behind this trouble in the first place is left clueless…”

A light bulb seemingly went off in the queen’s head, and her face and posture lit up noticeably. “Ah, yes! The residual magic!”

“Residjawhat now?” Windy asked, cocking her head to the side and raising an eyebrow.

“Earlier, during our attempts to hide Lip in the forest, Marshal informed me that he’d discovered trace amounts of magic floating about the castle town near the spot where Nimue cast the hex. Within that lingering spell may lie the solution! If we could reverse-engineer the curse somehow, we may be able to return Lip to her normal size…”

“Sounds like a plan!” Lip exclaimed, leaping to her tiny, tiny feet.

“…but I’d not get too excited just yet,” Cordelia continued. Here she plucked her daughter up from the dining room table by the nape of her dress and set her down in the palm of her queenly hand. “I’m afraid this sort of size-changing magic exceeds even my capabilities. Our only hope right now is to find someone who has experience in this field, and hope they are willing to lend a hand.”

“How’re we gonna do that?” asked Lip as she stared up at her mother. While she would have done so anyway, looking up at the queen from her present size felt more like gazing up at a statue than looking her mother in the eye. “Take a poll or something? Because I remember openly discussing my ‘predicament’ with the other fairies being something we wanted to avoid.”

“Well, why not round up Her Royal Highness’s other friends?” Thiana suggested with a shrug. ”Lip’s got plenty of ‘em, after all. We’ve got three right here even! I’d be surprised if none of them knew at least a little bit about size changing magic. ”

That sounds like a plan,” Cordelia said with a smile. “I will have word sent to the other princesses of Poppliss. The ten of us will gather in the throne room to discuss the situation.”

Bong… bong… bong… The queen stopped as a grandfather clock across the hall struck nine. “...Tomorrow, of course. For now, we should try to get some sleep. It’s been quite the couple of days.”

“No kidding!” said Flare, polishing off the last bit of her apple. “So where do we sleep? There’s a ton of places to crash in here.”

“There should be some guest rooms available on the ground floor. Inform the guards that the three of you will be staying here tonight, and I’m sure they will find some way to accommodate you. I will sleep in my bedchambers, and Lip will, I trust, wish to sleep in her own room.” Cordelia waved good night to the other fairies. “Go on, now. You’ve more than earned some rest.”

Lip’s three friends nodded, then excused themselves and left the chamber one by one. Or Flare and Thiana did, at least.

“Wait!” Windy exclaimed, and backpedaled to where Lip and her mother stood. “What about Birdie? He needs a place to stay for the night, too.” She paused as an idea came to mind, then grinned. “You should let him bunk with me!”

“Ah, right,” said Cordelia, rolling her eyes and smiling. “You always did love your birds. I’d be more than happy to rent out a stall in our stables for Birdie.”

“Well gosh, Your Majesty, he’s not a horse,” Windy responded indignantly as she crossed her arms. “Just ‘cause you can ride on him…! I think I like my idea better.”

“I understand Birdie isn’t a horse, little Windy, but I would really rather not fill our guest chambers with more feathers than are in the pillows,” Cordelia explained. “Unintelligent animals are not known for cleaning up after themselves.”

“Why is it you want him to share a room with him so badly, anyway?” Lip asked.

Windy paused and stared down at her feet, crossing her arms meekly behind her body. “He might get lonely.”

“…Very well,” Cordelia announced after some pondering. “Birdie may sleep in your guest room.” She continued, more firmly, “But just for the night, and only so long as you ensure he leaves no or very little feathers behind… or any other sort of dropping, for that matter. Do you understand?”

“Perfectly!” Windy shouted. “See you in the AM, Miss Cordelia! Lippy!” she called out playfully as she left the room.

With that, mother and daughter were alone once again. “It is a long walk down the hall for your tiny legs,” Cordelia said, looking down at her pint-sized child. “I can carry you to your bedroom if you’d like.”

“Nah,” said Lip, shaking her head. “You don’t have to go to all that trouble, mama. I’ve got my trusty, dusty… well, not really… flower rod right here with me–-“ she took the wand in question out and held it forward with a smile “—and no matter my size, I’m sure I’ll be able to take care of myself so long as I’ve got it around. Plus, you know, we’re in a heavily-guarded palace. I’ll be fine down here.” To prove her point, she hopped down from the queen’s hand to the table below, pulled a napkin out from a nearby dispenser, and laid it across the table to use as a blanket. “See? Nice and cozy.”

“Are you sure, sweetheart?” Cordelia asked with hands clasped gracefully, motherly worry crossing her face. “This table is awfully hard compared to your nice warm bed, after all…”

“It’s just one night, mom. I’ll be okay.”

“If you say so.” Cordelia bent down, intending to give Lip a kiss. In the end, however, she thought better of it and merely held out her index finger for Lip to hug good night, a gesture to which she gladly obliged. The queen smiled gently as she left the room, leaving a candle burning for Lip to see by. “Have a good night’s rest.”

---


Lip didn’t.

There were two major reasons why. For one thing, she found herself almost wishing she’d listened to her mother and slept back in her room. Sleeping on a table felt like sleeping on a table, no matter the size, with napkin blanket or without.

As for the second reason…

Lip was jarred out of her not-quite-restful sleep by a gentle creaking sound and a soft, familiar voice: “Hello? Anyone in here?”

Looking up, she noticed that the large wooden double doors to the dining room had been pushed ajar. Framed by the, well, door frame was a small girl of about seven or eight years. Lip recognized her immediately. The blue, spiky hair, green tee shirt and matching skirt, and purple cape… yes, this was Sherbet, ruler of the ice kingdom. The grandfather clock behind her read 11 PM; unless Lip had slept all that night and all through tomorrow, something was very wrong.

Whatever reasoning Sherbet had for being in the palace so early, and yet so late, Lip’s friends and mother were all asleep and Sherbet was not much known for being a quiet girl. Trouble! Lip thought, and tried to remain as still as possible.

“Huh. No one’s here.” Sherbet’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. “Well, darn,” she uttered. “What am I supposed to do now?”

Unfortunately for Lip, the next thing Sherbet did was the very last thing she wanted her to do – she noticed her lying on the table. The sound of quiet, echoing footsteps gradually made their way closer and closer to her resting place, her napkin “blanket” was cast aside, and before long Lip found herself held in the young ice fairy’s gloved hand. The tiny girl realized, as she noticed Sherbet’s face to be roughly as “tall” as she was, that she was relatively speaking no longer the shortest of her friends. It was a disconcerting feeling.

Fortunately, Sherbet didn’t recognize Lip as having been miniaturized just yet – although given the immediate turn of events that almost would have been preferable. “A Lip doll? Neat! I didn't know they made these,” the young girl remarked, turning her find around in her hand. “It's really well-made, too…” She lifted up Lip’s ponytail for closer inspection. “Her hair doesn't even look that fake hair stuff they normally use. It looks like they just shrunk Lip down and tried to sell her as a toy,” Sherbet remarked, unaware of the irony in her statement. “Now that's craftsmanship!”

She paused. “Why would Lip have a doll of herself, though? Or want one? She's a sweet fairy. She's not a nar... a narcicissy…” Sherbet was still young, and had yet for a way with words. She gesticulated in exasperation as she tried to search for the right word. “A narsydarsy... a narcoleptic... She isn’t self-centered.”

Sherbet glanced about the room, Lip “doll” clutched in both hands. A mischievous smile soon grew across her face. “Well, so long as she isn't around, I might as well get some play time in with this thing,” she said to herself.

There was barely any time for an Oh, boy... to cross Lip’s brain before she was thrust into the most unusual realm of Sherbet’s imagination. “'I'm Princess Lip, future monarch of all of Poppliss!’” Sherbet said in her best impression of the young princess’s voice. “’It's such a beautiful day, or night, or whatever outside! I think I'll go for a ride in my private ice jet!’” Using her ice powers, she formed a small airplane-shaped sculpture in her hand, stuck Lip inside, and ran around the room making jet engine sounds.

This is not good at all! Lip thought, trying her hardest not to allow emotion to cross her face and blow her cover. If mama, or Flare or anyone else, finds out Sherbet’s in here playing with me, both of us are gonna get it! And anyway, why don’t I have a private ice jet?

Lip was almost thrown from her frigid seat as Sherbet skidded to a halt. “'Mwa ha hah!'” the girl cackled in a deep voice, hand held in front of her mouth.

“'Gasp! Who's that?!'” she continued in the Lip-voice, feigning surprise.

Sherbet transferred Lip and the ice plane to her left hand and held her right out in front of them, wriggling its fingers about so as to appear menacing. “'Mwa ha ha ha ha haaah!'”

“'Oh no! It's Master Hand!’” Sherbet shouted, returning to the Lip-voice. This simple plane ride had taken a very odd turn indeed. “’Get away from me, you big gloved galoot! Don't make me use my flower rod! Grr!’” she continued, swooping jet and Lip around with her left hand and menacing them with the other.

Unfortunately, while Lip was better than she’d ever expect at mimicking a doll, everyone has their limits – a lesson she learned the hard way when ”Master Hand” decided to give her ponytail a firm yank upwards. Though she tried valiantly to keep a straight face, the agony on her scalp won out in the end, and she grunted a tiny “Ouch!” in spite of herself.

Of course, this drew Sherbet’s attention. The girl stared down at Lip, mouth gaped slightly. There was a moment’s pause, and then…

“Whoa, it can talk! Cool!” Sherbet squealed in excitement. She set the ice jet aside to examine “the Lip doll” further. “I wonder what button I pressed for that…” She set about prodding Lip’s body with a finger, searching for the button that never existed to begin with.

Sherbet was irritatingly persistent. It was when her face had been finger-probed for a third time that Lip had finally had enough. “Cut it out!” she hissed, glaring up at her holder.

Another shocked pause. “...What the hey?” Sherbet held Lip closer to her face, allowing the latter to notice with some dismay that the little ice fairy’s clear blue eye was larger than her entire head. “Lip, is that you?!”

“No, I'm Grate Guy the magnificent juggling clown,” Lip snarked from the clutches of Sherbet’s glove. “Of course it's me!”

The resultant flinch backward was enough to give the poor princess whiplash. “Wha...?” Sherbet stuttered, a look of utter confusion appearing on her face. “But... I don't... How did… What…” The string of incoherent sputtering continued at length before Sherbet was composed enough to put her thoughts into words. “You're so... you know... not taller than me.”

“Don't rub it in.”

“How does something like this even happen?” Sherbet paced the floor, throwing her free hand outward in exasperation. “Gosh, miss Lip! I didn't know you could change size until today!”

“It's kind of a long story,” Lip said, then yawned. “Right now, it's getting late and we could both use some rest. Why don't you take both of us to my room? I'll let you sleep in my bed. B- but only for tonight.”

A pause. The impish look slowly returned to Sherbet’s face. “Why should I?”

Lip groaned softly. Obviously, this was going to be one of those nights. “Because I'm the princess and I'm four years older than you,” she whispered. “And keep your voice down, all right?”

“I'm a princess too!” said Sherbet, putting a hand on her hip.

“Yeah, but I'm the princess of all of Poppliss and you only control the snowfields to the north, so there.” Lip put a finger to her namesake. “Now shh!”

“Yeah - but you're the size of a doll right now. So there,” quipped Sherbet with a raspberry. “I'm not gonna let someone I could squash under my foot boss me around.”

“What are you planning?!” Lip blurted out with a start.

“Nothing!” Sherbet hissed. “What’re you trying to say? I'm not mean, Lippy.”

“Here’s a valuable life lesson for you: fairies do not generally take threats of bodily harm lightly, even if you didn’t mean it,” Lip said, reaching out to poke Sherbet in the nose. She presently stared her captor of sorts right in the eyes – it wasn’t too hard – and sternly chided, “Sherbet, I wish you wouldn't act like you're too cool for school just because I'm littler than you are right now.”

“Hey, your mama's asleep, all right? Besides, it's not like you can make me do anything right now even if you wanted to, Little Miss Shorty.”

“I could bite your finger,” Lip replied.

Sherbet snickered. “I'd like to see you try, shrimp!”

Lip quickly responded to the challenge by chomping down on Sherbet’s index finger as hard as she could. It wasn’t long, however, before the flower fairy realized even if tiny teeth were able to cause much injury to a normal-sized opponent, it is not generally a good idea to bite a glove at any height unless one enjoys the taste of cotton.

“Uh... heh heh,” Lip giggled sheepishly. “Could you take your glove off first?”

Sherbetb smirked triumphantly.

“...OK, you win,” the very little princess admitted, slumping in Sherbet’s hand. “What do you want to do with me?”

“Just wanna play some games, that's all,” Sherbet said with a shrug.

Lip raised an eyebrow. “At an hour 'til midnight?”

“Relax, Lip, it's not like we're gonna party until sunrise,” reassured Sherbet. The ice fairy glanced to the side in thought for a few seconds before a smile crossed her face. “...Maybe a tea party?”

As much as she was loath to admit it, Lip hadn’t had the opportunity for some honest play in ages. Well, okay, more like a few days, but it had been a long few days. In any case, it was hard for her to resist grinning internally at the promise of a good old-fashioned tea party. “That actually sounds pretty fun! (Safe, at least...)” Lip, realizing her voice to once again be somewhat louder than intended, continued in a whisper: “But again, we have to keep our voices down. Let's go to my room.”

“You got it!” Sherbet whispered with a nod and turned on her heel to leave the dining room.

Lip stared up at the young ice fairy from her hand and couldn’t help smiling. Sherbet’s happy face was contagious, which made one wonder why she didn’t let legitimate displays of happiness break through more often. At times like these it was hard to resist giving her a big hug. If only I weren’t so tiny… Lip thought with a sigh.

The princess’s thoughts and Sherbet’s merriment were both cut short as lantern light shone across the hallway outside, casting the shadow of a palace guard across the floor. Sherbet squealed and ducked out of sight, pressing her back tightly against the side wall; the light paused at the sudden exclamation, but fortunately proceeded to vanish as its holder turned and continued down the hall.

“Nuts,” Lip muttered. “I forgot about the night shift. Listen…” She looked up at her blue-haired friend. “The guards don't know about our little playdate. They do at least know you’re in the palace though, right?”

“Well…” Sherbet grinned awkwardly and rubbed the back of her head.

“You snuck in?”

“I, er… well… maybe, maybe not,” said Sherbet, with the same uncomfortable smile. “…But… yes.”

Figured as much, Lip thought with a sigh. “That being the case,” she continued aloud, “if they catch you taking me off somewhere, they'll kick you out for sure.”

“Then how're we gonna get past without being noticed?” Sherbet asked, putting finger and thumb to her chin.

Lip pondered the situation for a second or two, and presently remembered how Flare had snuck her into the palace. “Is there anywhere on you I could hide?” she asked.

Sherbet paused, and soon mouthed “Oh!” She pulled the left side of her cape and shirt collar back and pointed to the space behind her collarbone.

Lip shook her head. “Too easy for me to slip out.”

Sherbet returned to thought with an agitated look. “Maybe in my hair?” she inquired after a few seconds, tilting her head to the side.

“No, that won't do,” said Lip. “I rode in Flare's coming in, but yours is too short to keep me hidden very well.”

“You’re brave enough to stow away in the hair of someone who can make it burst into flames when she’s angry – and that’s often – but you’re not gonna hide in mine?”

“It was her idea,” Lip answered, shrugging. “Her hair is longer anyway.”

A few more seconds passed. It seemed both fairies had reached an impasse; they’d find themselves in hot water if the guards stumbled upon what was apparently a kidnapping, but Sherbet had seemingly nowhere to hide her. Her dress and skirt had no pockets. Lip wouldn’t fit in her ear and was too big for her nose. Hiding under her glove would leave a noticeable bulge, and anything below her belt would have its own set of problems…

As it turns out, there was one hiding place left. But it wasn’t pretty.

“Wait! I have an idea!” Sherbet announced, smiling down at Lip.

“I don't like that grin,” Lip said to no one in particular.

---

Devoted as Marshal was to his queen and princess, he still found patrol work to be dreadfully boring. No storms on the castle were ever attempted in times of peace as a matter of principle, and the times when another was available to speak with were rare. Still, it was what had to be done. Marshal, the queen, Lip, and indeed all of Poppliss were better off safe than sorry, and so he continued on his route through the halls of Lily Palace, lantern in hand, eyes peeled for any suspicious figures.

It wasn’t long until one came into view. Moving through the hallway just outside of the lantern’s light, at an unusually (some would say suspiciously) quick pace, was a short, spiky-haired shadow. Caped, as well, from its silhouette. Commoners, with very few exceptions, were barred from the palace grounds past eight PM; ironically enough, it would seem that right as Marshal began to lament the dullness of patrol work, Lily Palace saw its first intruder in what had to be months.

“Halt!” Marshal called out to the silhouette. “Who goes there?”

The figure stopped dead in its tracks. Evidently the appeal to its attention had caught it off-guard. Its composure soon returned, however, and it replied “It's me…” in a muffled voice and stepped into the light. It was, luckily, a fairy Marshal recognized, and not one likely to burgle the royal family…

“…Sherbet!”

“Oh. Well, then,” said Marshal, now feeling rather silly for not only failing to recognize such a familiar face but for thinking her to be some sort of criminal. “Hello, Your Royal Highness,” he continued with a bow. “What brings you to the palace so late at night?”

Sherbet hesitated, and stared into the distance. In being so hasty to hide Lip she had thought only for the present, and was forced to think up a lie on the spot. “Um… the— the Queen called for me,” she stuttered. “Remember? She sent word out to Lip’s friends to come meet here and think of a plan.”

“With all due respect, Miss Sherbet - it’s eleven o’clock at night. The Queen’s message set the arrival time at ten tomorrow morning, if you’ll recall.”

Another pause, courtesy of the ice fairy. “Well, in my defense, the sun’s usually down in the snowfields. Kinda touch and go, calling me out to meet at a certain time… you know?” She giggled.

“You do realize, milady, that you could have simply used a clock,” Marshal said.

“Er, mine broke.”

“Couldn’t you have use another?”

“…ALL of the clocks are broken, actually. Now that you mention it.”

Marshal remained unconvinced, but who was he to say no to royalty? “I suppose I can't stop you, then,” he said with a shrug. Before turning to leave, he added one final comment: “You really should consider some sleep, however.”

And so Marshal continued on his patrol path, leaving Sherbet alone in the hallway.

Or so he thought. The girl’s puffed-out cheeks betrayed a different story.

“You doing all right in there?” asked Sherbet.

“I've seen better days,” Lip replied.

Lip was, of course, inside Sherbet’s mouth, legs curled up against her body and maintaining a firm grasp on the ice fairy’s tongue. In this pose she fit inside, to a degree, although she made absolutely certain to remain as still as possible. It wasn’t just the risk of giving her hiding spot away that was dangerous. Stick a body part under one of Sherbet’s teeth and Lip could look forward to losing it; slip off her tongue or bump against her uvula and she’d be making friends with the young ice fairy’s lunch, the former method in a rather more fatal manner. That was without comment on the dripping, sticky saliva, or the texture of Sherbet’s tongue beneath her. It felt like huddling up against a giant, lumpy pink slug. At least the place was cozy and balmy, although not exactly a place she would want to vacation in. For an ice fairy, Lip thought to herself, Sherbet was very warm on the inside.

The uncomfortable feeling of being inside a giant mouth – or at least, one larger than oneself – was not content to end its sensory assault with merely sight and touch. A wave of warm air wafted up from Sherbet’s throat and blew past the flower fairy. As her nostrils soon discovered, it was far from aromatic. Maybe it was impossible to avoid experiencing halitosis firsthand in such a situation; Lip, however, was unprepared for the eye-watering foulness of Sherbet’s breath. “I’ve smelled better things too!” she called, waving her hand in front of her nose in a doomed attempt to blow the awful smell away. “Were you out of mouthwash or something, Sherbet? What’d you eat?”

“Just a bit of iceberg lettuce,” replied Sherbet. “Well…” The ice fairy giggled, embarrassed, and began to tally off everything she had eaten throughout the day on her fingers. “And some frozen potatoes, some strawberry tofu, two or three slices of chilled pineapple-and-arctic-flounder pizza...”

Each foodstuff rattled off meant another few wriggles of Sherbet’s tongue, and every wriggle of Sherbet’s tongue meant another opportunity for Lip to explore the digestive system first-hand. It was sort of like riding a bucking bronco, Lip supposed, if the horse was a tongue and falling off meant making friends with that iceberg lettuce. The young princess reached back and gave Sherbet’s uvula a gentle tug – not enough to trigger her gag reflex, but enough to let her know it was time to shut up. “Listen, Sherbet, sweetie,” Lip said politely, after palate-rubbing Sherbet’s attention back. “I enjoy a little idle conversation every now and then, but do you think this chat could wait? Your tongue flaps around when you talk, and I'm not really in the mood for a stomach acid bath.

A wide-eyed Sherbet took the hint and hurried down the corridor to Lip’s room without another word.

Once the pair had arrived in the relative safety of Lip’s private chambers, Sherbet cupped her hands before her face and spit out a very soggy, disheveled, and unhappy-looking princess.

“Ugh. If I never see the inside of a fairy's mouth again, it will be much too soon,” said Lip, shaking some of the drool off her body.

“Well, where else were you gonna hide?” asked Sherbet as she wiped some of her own dribble off her cheek.

Lip sighed and leapt from Sherbet’s hand to the shelf where Mr. Ears’s terrarium lay. “Can we just get the tea party together?” she implored. “Today's been really stressful and I'd appreciate an opportunity to unwind…” She glanced over at Mr. Ears, sleeping peacefully inside his glass-walled home. Even her pet bunny now seemed to tower over her… “Even if it is just before bed.”

“Already done!”

In the time it took Lip to finish her sentence, Sherbet had assembled a full tea-party set in the center of the bedroom. Sitting on the floor, just at her feet, was a white plastic doll-sized table, surrounded by three chairs of equal size. In two of the chairs sat a teddy bear and a stuffed cat; the third was presumably Lip’s. A robin’s-egg blue plastic tea set was placed in the middle of the table, ready for use.

It took a while for Lip to get her jaw off the floor – or shelf, as was the case. “Uh… g—great,” she stammered. (Her jaw had seemingly taken her capacity to form sentences with it.)

---

“Okay, bon appetite,” whispered Sherbet, setting Lip down in her seat.

Lip deliberated correcting Sherbet’s mispronunciation, but thought better of it. Right now the only thing she wanted to do was kick back and have some playtime together with one of her friends, and petty arguments over diction would only postpone the entertainment. As such, she took the teapot from the center of the table, poured some “tea” into her cup, took a dainty sip, and set about role playing.

 

“Not bad,” Lip remarked with a smile. “Do uh... do you want me to pour you some, mister teddy bear, sir?” She reached across the table to tip the teapot’s spout above the stuffed bear’s cup, and soon returned to her own mug, taking a second quaff and releasing a robust ahh... noise.

Sherbet’s voice suddenly rang out: “And then the T-rex comes in and starts eating everyone!”

“What.”

Lip was suddenly on the ground. Looking upwards, she met face-to-face with Sherbet. Sherbet, whose appearance now lacked shoes or gloves and newly boasted mussed-up hair and a distinctly hungry facial expression.

Lip naturally had every right to wonder what was happening and why it happened without warning, but had hardly the time to yell out “Sherbet, what do you think you're--?!” before the fairy in question released an enormous roar in the young princess’s face. Or as enormous a roar as could possibly come from a girl whose age had yet to leave the single digits. Poor Lip could do little in turn but scream and run from the would-be scaled (and possibly feathered) menace.

Of course, Lip faced all the handicaps being roughly a fifth the size of her pursuer would imply, and it wasn’t long before the mighty Sherbetosaurus had captured her prey. Our heroine soon discovered that Sherbet was getting perhaps too in-character. With another adorable growl fruitlessly passed off as a menacing snarl, she dangled Lip above her face in a two-fingered pinch and swung her from side to side, eyeing her ravenously.

“Heh heh,” Lip giggled nervously, wiping some sweat from her forehead. “Er, Miss Dinosaur, ma’am, didn’t your mom ever tell you not to play with your food?”

“Be quiet, lunch,” Sherbet responded. With that, the ice fairy opened her mouth wide and slowly began lowering Lip into it.

Being forced into Sherbet’s mouth once in one night was bad enough, Lip thought, but at least the first time around she wasn’t actively trying to devour her! There was no telling whether or not a second journey into her friend’s maw would involve more swallowing, and the littler princess would much rather not wait to find out. Regrettably, the next few seconds proved to Lip that no amount of wriggling, attempts to pry Sherbet’s index finger and thumb apart, or biting of the aforementioned digits (at least there were no gloves to inhibit her this time), and so she was left in the terrifying position of helplessness against what was to all appearances a very hungry quasi-giant.

Fortunately, someone walked in on this most dangerous tea party right as Lip felt she had no choice but to call for help.

Unfortunately, that someone was Flare.

“What is going on in here?!” the fire fairy mumbled equal parts groggily and sleepily. She blinked, and rubbed her eyes, with a confused “ehh…?” sound. Surely this unannounced appearance of a gloveless, shoeless Sherbet attempting to force a clearly unwilling Lip down her throat over the ruins of what was once a simple tea party was only a hallucination from lack of sleep. Yes, surely.

This is not a very realistic tea party!” Lip screamed, using hands, feet, and physical strength alone to keep Sherbet’s jaws from clamping down on her.

…Surely not.

The appearance of another fairy was more than enough to snap Sherbet out of her hungry dinosaur mindset. The appearance of Flare in particular activated Sherbet’s fight-or-flight instincts, and so she chose to squeak in fear and hide herself behind the first thing she could think of, which of course was Lip. It was not, as one can imagine, a very effective hiding spot.

“Aren’t we forgetting something here?” Lip whispered to the cowardly “T-Rex”, who with any luck would not soon be facing extinction.

“Sherbet?” Flare called out in recognition. “What in the flame world are you doin’ here?! It’s after midnight!”

“Uh… Sh—Sherbet’s not here right now,” the ice fairy stuttered. “The number you have reached is not in service at this time. Th—this is a recording?”

“You have five seconds to cut that out before I turn you into a water fairy.”

Lip took a step forward and clasped her hands – like mother like daughter – staring up at Flare. Like Queen Cordelia, Flare was naturally taller than Lip and so she would have looked up anyway, but that didn’t make the greatly exaggerated difference in size any less uncomfortable for her. “Please, Flare, we don’t want any trouble,” she pleaded. “Sherbet and I were just playing tea party and… well… got a little carried away…”

“In what universe does having a tea party involve trying to shove one of the guests down your gullet?” Flare asked, putting a hand on her hip.

“That… is actually a good question,” Lip replied with a glare back at Sherbet. “But it’s not important right now. What really matters is that you not get mad at us for trying to wind down. It’s just a game, that’s all.” With that, she broke out the old puppy-dog eyes. “Pleeeease? I’ve really needed this.”

Flare, unamused, got down on one knee to stare Lip in the eyes. “She tried to eat you,” she said, entirely deadpan.

Lip paused. “Well… yeah, it was an adrenaline rush,” she admitted, turning back to a very guilty-looking Sherbet. “And yes, it was very scary. But when you really think about it…” She smiled. “It’s hard to have fun if you aren’t feeling strong emotions, right?”

Flare smiled and chuckled a bit. “All right, kid. I getcha,” she said, extending a hand for Lip to climb into – an gesture to which she acquiesced, running up the length of Flare’s right arm and plopping herself down on her shoulder. “But you have to realize that some things are OK to do late at night and some things really aren’t. Tea parties are fine so long as they don’t involve roaring and hollering. And this one kinda did.”

“It’s not like I knew Sherbet wanted dinosaurs involved,” Lip said.

“Well, whatever,” Flare said dismissively, waving her left hand. “The point is, I forgive you.” She gave Lip a harsh look. “Just… don’t do it again, got it?”

“Got it,” Lip replied with a smile and a salute, standing up to look Flare in the eyes.

Sherbet now had a smile on her face as well, one of relief – the operative word being “had”. It would vanish quickly not two seconds later.

“But as for YOU…” Flare said accusatorily with an angry look at Sherbet.

“Eheheh… me?”

“Don’t you act dumb with me, missy!” Flare took a step forward, to which Sherbet took a step backward. “You can play games as literally or metaphorically as you want, but just ‘cause I forgave Lip for playing rowdy doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for bein’ a sneak.”

“Uh…” Sherbet began, but was cut off.

“You didn’t answer my question, anyway,” Flare continued. “Just what are you doing here so late at night?! Didn’t you read that message?”

“Yeah-huh!” Sherbet said, nodding vigorously. “It said I was supposed to get here at 10 tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah. So tell me,” Flare began incredulously, cocking her eyebrow. “Does it look like 10 AM outside to you?”

Sherbet went on the defensive. “My clock was broken! It’s always night up in the snowfields! How was I supposed to know?” she half-yelled with hands balled into fists.

“And you couldn’t have used another one?” Flare asked.

“All of the clocks,” said Sherbet with a confident smile, thinking back to her encounter with Marshal. “They’re all broken.”

Lip’s palm met her face. Of all the dumb, off-the-cuff excuses Sherbet could have picked, she had to reuse the least convincing fib she’d told all night. Sometimes it feels like that girl is looking for trouble… she thought.

“Uh-huh,” Flare said, skeptical – of course. “So you’re expecting me to believe that every clock in the entire ice world magically stopped working at the exact same time and kept you from knowing what time it was in the rest of Poppliss.”

Sherbet blinked. “Yes.”

“I dunno what ticks me off more,” said Flare with hands on hips. “That you lied to me, or that you honestly think I’m that stupid.”

There was a pregnant pause.

Sherbet suddenly flung herself around Flare’s waist, nearly throwing Lip from her perch on the fire princess’s shoulder. “Aww, Miss Flare!” she sobbed, terrified. “I didn’t know! I can’t read clocks yet so I didn’t know when to come and when I did it was night and everything was locked up so I had to sneak in and no one except you and Lip and Marshal even knows I’m here! P—P—Please don’t kill me or throw me in the dungeon or make me eat stale popcorn!”

“Hey, Sherbet, take it easy!” Lip said, peering down at the little ice fairy from her current position. At least now she felt taller again. “If you’d done something that would have gotten you dungeon time, you’d be in there already. Flare’s only got the authority to lock someone up if they get into trouble in her domain.”

“B—But what if she kills me?” Sherbet asked, wiping her drippy nose.

“She won’t kill you. Don’t worry,” Lip said, smiling reassuringly. “I know she can be a little boisterous sometimes, but she’s a sweetie on the inside!”

“Oh yeah?! Lemme tell you something, short stuff – I…” Flare began snappily with an aggressive point at Lip. Soon, however, she conceded. Her friends could definitely get on her nerves sometimes, but she treasured them dearly and wouldn’t hurt them for the world. “…Yeah, you’re right,” she said with a little grin, and rubbed Lip on the head with her left index finger. “Ain’t that a first!” she added teasingly with a wink.

Sherbet dried her tears and smiled. “OK, Miss Lip and Miss Flare. Sorry. I won’t be so noisy anymore,” she said with a hug to the latter.

“Good decision, Sherb’,” said Flare, ruffling the ice princess’ hair a bit. “Now, we probably ought to find you a place to sleep. Gotta get up early to talk about fixing this shrink-curse-thing that’s gotten our little princess even littler,“ she went on to say, nodding in Lip’s direction. (Lip had to duck out of the way, but kept her balance.)

Sherbet turned and looked about the room, taking particular interest in Lip’s four-poster. “Wellllllllll… so long as we’re in Lip’s room…” she said, smiling.

“What? No no no,” said Flare, waving her hands in front of her flippantly. “This is Lip’s bedroom. Lip is gonna want to sleep in her own bed tonight. C’mon, I’ll take you downstairs to one of the guest rooms and we’ll—“

“Hold up, Flare,” Lip said, placing a hand on her friend’s cheek to silence her. “It’s my room, I make the rules.” She looked down at the ice fairy, and continued, “I already agreed to let Sherbet sleep in my bed for the night.”

Flare looked surprised. “Generous of you,” she said, “but then where you gonna sleep? Unless you want to get squished when she rolls over or something.”

Lip had, admittedly, not thought of that. But if one aspires to be queen when she is grown, she must learn to be resourceful, and so the princess turned her gaze around the room, looking for the softest non-lapine item in the room she could use as a resting spot. Eventually her gaze fell upon her bedside table, and presently one of the fluffy round pillows strewn about the head of her bed. “That’ll do,” she said with a nod. “Sherbet, could you put one of those pillows on my bedside table please?

“Yes ma’am, Lip, ma’am!” said Sherbet. She turned on her heel and trotted diligently over to Lip’s bed, then snatched a pillow from its resting place, fluffed it up, and placed it delicately upon the nightstand for Lip to use as a temporary bed while hers was being occupied. The girl then climbed into the princess’s enormous bed, squirmed carefully underneath the blanket like a joey into its mother’s pouch, and sprawled out, looking both peaceful and exhausted.

Flare walked over to the nightstand and let Lip hop off her shoulder to the plush round cushion below. “Comfy enough for ya, kiddo?” she asked, bending down so the two were once again eye-level.

“Plenty,” Lip said blissfully, flopping onto her back. “No blanket, but it’ll do for the night. Very plush!” She gave the thumbs-up with a smile.

“OK, welp…” Flare yawned and scratched her armpit. “It’s really, really stinkin’ late, so I think I’ll go back downstairs and catch some Z’s. ‘Night, girls.” She turned to leave, then looked back and added severely, “Seriously. Get some sleep.”

“I know I will,” Lip said with a yawn. “Good night, Flare.”

“’Night!” Flare repeated as she turned off the lamp and left the room.

“Good night, Mr. Ears,” said Lip to her bunny, who had miraculously slept through the tea party chaos and its fallout. (Lip had always envied the sort of carefree life her pet rabbit lived, but never more so than now.) She turned to address the ice fairy next: “Good night, Sherbet—“

A loud snore came from the young girl in the bed next to her.

“…oh. Well, then,” said Lip, chuckling a bit. She rolled over onto her back and gazed up out a window at the night sky above, dotted with stars. It was a lovely sight to begin with, and only seemed vaster to a girl of nine inches tall. Lip sighed. As interesting and, on rare occasions, fun as being tiny was (certainly much easier than being a giant!), it was still less than preferable. She could only hope one of her friends would know something about size-changing magic when they met up tomorrow morning. Surely then they’d find some way of reversing the spell. Soon this crazy adventure will be over, and I can go back to living a normal life, Lip reflected as she closed her eyes.

Well… as normal a life as a princess can live, anyway.


Chapter 8, written by Cubed Cinder

Just under an hour remained until it was time for the meeting between Cordelia and all the top fairies of Poppliss with the goal of finding a way to return Lip to normal. Of course, the shenanigans between Sherbet and the shrunken Lip were unknown to the queen, so when she approached the table and didn't see Lip sleeping there, her heart skipped two beats.

"Oh no… Lip!? LIP!?" Cordelia shouted as she frantically looked around the room trying to find her doll-sized daughter. When she walked around scanning every inch of the table and then the room, she suddenly came to a screeching halt when she realized something. She lifted up her feet, and breathed a sigh of relief when she didn't see Lip underneath.

"Whew… okay, Cordelia, just stay calm. Panicking like you just did is only going to get my little girl crushed. Gotta stay focused." Cordelia said. That's when the queen reduced her walking pace to a slow one as she kept her sights locked onto the floor, trying to see where Lip may have gotten. Alas, her search came up empty.

"Oh dear… where could she have gone? Maybe to the kitchen because she was hungry during the night? No, wait… I always told her to go hide in her room in case there was anything seriously wrong, like an intruder or something…" Cordelia said, again panicking at first but then falling back into zen-like thinking, trying to put herself in her daughter's eyes on where she could go (a thought that very briefly made her think what the world must look like from Lip's current perspective). Cordelia decided her next destination would be Lip's bedroom, but she kept her walk slow and her eyes on the floor just in case.

 

Cordelia finally made it to the closed door that led to Lip's room, and she still hadn't spotted her tiny daughter. She opened the door very slowly and looked inside the room, which had just enough sunlight beaming through the window for her to see. Her heart skipped another beat when she saw who was sleeping on Lip's bed.

"What? What's Sherbet doing here?" Cordelia said. She slowly approached the bed, trying to see if Lip was sleeping on there and whether or not she was cradled with the ice fairy. Instead, while scanning the room left and right, her eyes eventually caught onto the nightstand, where she saw Lip also sleeping peacefully on the cushion. Cordelia smiled as slowly approached the nightstand, and then almost as if she sensed her mother's presence, Lip slowly stirred around and opened her eyes. She lightly gasped when she saw Cordelia towering high above her and the nightstand.

"Good morning, my sweet little daughter." Cordelia said as she kneeled down to put her eyes on level with the nightstand.

"G-g-good morning, Mama." Lip said as she got up and bowed in front of her mother.

"Did you sleep well?" Cordelia said.

"Well, yes. Eventually I did, I mean. I know what you're thinking, Mama…" Lip said, now with a nervous look on her face.

"Yes, you know I'm going to wonder about how you ended up here instead of staying at the table in the grand dining room." Cordelia said. Lip right away pointed over to the still sleeping Sherbet.

"She's the reason. Honest!" Lip said.

"Sherbet? She certainly got here early." Cordelia said.

"Yeah, something about always being night in the kingdom she lives in and no clocks were working." Lip said.

"Hmmm… I think I understand." Cordelia said. Lip hoped she wouldn't suspect the two were trying to have a tea party, or that she had been drenched in saliva mainly during the transportation to her bedroom courtesy of the 'giant' ice fairy. But instead, Cordelia held out  a hand and allowed the nine-inch-tall Lip to hop on.

"Well, last night was last night. What's most important is today. Hopefully your friends will be able to help us in returning you to normal." Cordelia said.

"I really hope so." Lip said.

"But first we gotta wake up Sherbet, wouldn't you agree?" Cordelia said with a smile.

"But of course!" Lip said. The shrunken fairy of flowers held still as Cordelia moved her hand towards her shoulder. Lip was set down and she sat comfortably on Cordelia's shoulder. Smiling over not having to look  waaaay up at anyone for the time being, she watched as Cordelia gave Sherbet a subtle shake left and right.

 

It only took a few seconds for Sherbet to awaken, although the last visions of her dream were recent enough to be spoken out loud.

"Alright, Elsa, alright! I said I was sorry…" Sherbet said, only to look up and see Cordelia standing over her.

"And who is Elsa, if I may ask?" Cordelia asked.

"Oh! Queen Cordelia!" Sherbet said as she quickly scrambled her way off Lip's bed and stood on her two feet.

"Queen Cordelia, I can explain why I'm already here." Sherbet said.

"There is no need to. Lip has already told me." Cordelia said.

"Soooo… you're not mad that I showed up so incredibly early?" Sherbet said.

"Not at all. I like a fairy who's planning well ahead of time." Cordelia said.

"Eh heh… well… the lack of clocks and daylight kinda had something to do with it." Sherbet said.

"Don't worry about it, you're here now and that's what's important. The meeting is in under an hour, so take this time to get yourself ready." Cordelia said.

"Yes, Queen Cordelia!" Sherbet shouted. With that, Cordelia turned around and departed Lip's room with the shrunken Lip still riding her shoulder.

 

About a half hour later, four of Lip's fairy friends (Thiana, Windy, Flare, and Sherbet), along with Cordelia, were all standing around in one of the main chambers talking with each other and with the tiny Lip, who was now sitting on top of Thiana's head. Basically they were passing the time until the other fairies arrived, and it seemed they had when Marshal came in through the double doors to deliver the news.

"Your majesty, the other fairies have arrived." Marshal said.

"Very good, Marshal. Send them in." Cordelia said. Marshal nodded and then turned around and swung the double doors wide open before departing, no doubt to lead the other fairies he was talking about into the chamber (that was close to the throne room where the meeting was to take place). Cordelia could see an uneasy look on her daughter's face, even though she was small.

"Is something troubling you, sweetheart?" Cordelia said.

"Oh… it's just… when all eight of my friends are together in the same room. It's going to make me think I've been whisked away to the land of the giants or something like that…" Lip said.

"There, there. This will all be over hopefully soon. You won't have to look a long way up, or way down back when you were giant, for a good long while after this." Cordelia said.

"Yeah, Lip! You'll be back at the right size to ride Birdie again!" Windy said.

"Heh heh, thanks Windy." Lip said.

 

Just then, everyone watched as the rest of Lip's fairy friends came walking in. Walking in first was Ruby, the fairy princess of the jewel kingdom. Behind her was Elias, the fairy princess of water who was walking in elegantly as only she could do. She was helping wheel in (along with a couple guards) an 8 foot tall and 8 foot wide clear cube-shaped tank filled with water, and swimming inside was Neris, the fairy princess of the ocean. Last in the group was Seren, the fairy princess of the moon, although right away Cordelia remembered one issue with Seren as she watched her very slowly make her way into the room.

"Oops… I forgot. Seren is not a morning person, let's just say." Cordelia said.

"*yaaaawwwwwwnnnnn* No offense, my queen, but how come we couldn't have this important meeting at 10 *PM* or some other twilight hour?" Seren said as she leaned on her crescent moon staff, her weapon of choice when in battle.

"Hi, Queen Cordelia! I hope you don't mind me bringing in this huge tank for Neris! You know she's not much of a land fairy." Elias said.

"It's okay, Elias. I fully understand." Cordelia said. Neris poked her head out, causing a small splash that got part of the carpet wet as well as some of Flare.

"HEY! Watch where you're splashing!!" Flare shouted.

"Temper temper, Flare. I wouldn't want to get any of my water on that hot head of yours." Neris said.

"Hahahahaha! That's a good one, Neris! You're such a comedienne!" Windy shouted.

"Why thank you, Windy, though I kinda had help from Elias on that one." Neris said.

"Speaking of Elias, are you going to be okay being on land like that?" Cordelia asked.

"Of course! I don't mind getting out of my comfort zone from time to time." Elias said.

"So, my queen… how is Lip feeling? Has she healed from her cold?" Ruby said. This caused Cordelia to raise her eyebrows and remember the fib she made up yesterday to hide a then 40-foot-tall Lip from Ruby's sight.

"Yeah, um… everyone. Lip is the reason I have called you all here. Thiana, would you show everyone, please?" Cordelia said, pointing up to the top of her head where the shrunken Lip was sitting.

"Of course." Thiana said. She gently picked up the tiny Lip and held her firmly in her hands as she walked towards the newly arrived fairies.

 

Naturally, all four were shocked to see Lip so small.

"Oh my… Lip!? Is that you?" Ruby said.

"But she's so small!" Elias said.

"Let me see! Let me see!" Neris said as she moved her head around the top of the tank trying to get a better view.

"Oh? What sort of magic is this?" Seren said as she woke up a bit more from seeing the tiny Lip.

"Yes… yes, it's me, everyone." Lip said. She tried to look away, feeling embarrassed over being smaller than more of her friends, and yet she can't help but look up and see them all (well, except for Neris who was stuck in her tank) towering above her. It again made her think back to yesterday when she was the one towering over Windy, Thiana, and Flare.

"Long story short, Lip bumped into an old witch, who placed a hex on my daughter. The hex caused her to grow to around 40 feet tall, and then…" Cordelia said.

"Wait, you were giant-sized, Lip?" Seren asked.

"Wow! I really would've loved to see that!" Elias shouted.

"Well, trust me, you don't want to." Lip said, referring to the terrible time she had while she was that size.

"…so I hid Lip in the forest while I tried to think of a way to return her to normal. Meanwhile, she, along with Thiana, Windy, and later Flare, all encountered the same witch who happened to live in the forest. They both forgave each other for their actions, as have I, which explains why we are not pursuing her any longer. The witch offered an antidote potion, but unfortunately it shrunk her to the size you see her at now." Cordelia said.

"Hmmm… I guess that means you've had an up-and-down day." Neris said, not realizing the joke she just made.

"Man, that little mermaid makes jokes without even trying. How does she do it?" Flare asked over to Windy.

"I don't know, but I like it!" Windy said.

"Didn't the witch have a way to fix the shrinking problem?" Ruby said. This time Lip herself chimed in.

"She said the only way to reverse the shrinking was to cast the hex again… which would've made me 40 feet tall again which I certainly do NOT want to be!" Lip shouted.

"I don't know, Lip. Being gigantic kinda has its advantages." Seren said.

"And how would you know that!?" Flare shouted. Cordelia cleared her throat as she strived to have everyone's full attention.

"Nevertheless, here we are almost 24 hours later. Lip is the reason I have called you all here. I may need your help." Cordelia said.

"Say no more, Queen Cordelia! As friends of Lip, we will do whatever we can to save Lip!" Elias said.

"But how do we do that?" Sherbet asked.

"As I said, I have called you all here for this reason. I feel like one or more of you may hold the key to solving this mystery. I have another element of this mystery right…" Cordelia said.

 

She was about to pull out the small container of purple smoke she had gotten yesterday. However, the doors opened and Marshal came running in, zipping past the other fairies.

"Your highness! Please forgive me for the interruption!" Marshal said.

"What is it, Marshal?" Cordelia said.

"Well, you see…" Marshal said. Given the sensitive nature of the emergency he was about to report, he walked up towards the queen and started whispering into her ear. When he was done, Cordelia gasped.

"Oh my! That is an emergency! I shall help you deal with the problem right away." Cordelia said as she started to follow Marshal out of the room.

"Huh? What about us!?" Elias said.

"Yeah? Can we be of any assistance?" Thiana asked.

"I'm sorry, ladies, but this is something I must deal with personally. Please wait here until I return, and then we will begin the meeting." Cordelia said.

"And what are we supposed to do until then?" Flare asked.

"Um… keep my daughter entertained if you wish. GENTLY, of course!" Cordelia said as she made her way out of the room and the doors closed behind her and Marshal.

 

That left the eight fairy princesses, all of whom close friends of Lip, all by themselves at the moment. Lip, meanwhile, sighed as she continued to sit on Thiana's hand.

"(sigh) I guess I'm going to be small for just a little longer. I wonder what's so important that has my mother worried. I hope she will be okay." Lip said as those thoughts and others wandered through her head. Her concentration was broken, however, when she looked up and saw Ruby, Elias and Seren all towering over her.

"Hi, Lip!" Elias said.

"Oh… hi, everyone." Lip said.

"Is something troubling you, Lip?" Ruby asked.

"I think she's nervous of both still being so small and seeing all of you towering around her." Thiana said.

"*Yaaaaaawwwwn* I can only imagine the peril you must feel you're in. I'd be terrified too if I were tiny." Seren said. Lip took notice of Seren yawning and struggling to stand to her full height as she resorted to leaning on her moon staff.

"Gosh, Seren… haven't you thought about taking a nap, or… *gulp* sleeping during the night like the rest of us do?" Lip said, gulping nervously hoping she wouldn't get the usual reaction from Seren, but that's exactly what happened.

"Young child, do you know exactly who I am!? I am the fairy princess of the moon! Sunlight just doesn't do my body good!" Seren shouted, suddenly with a mean look on her face. Thiana pulled the hand that Lip was standing on away from Seren.

"Okay, Seren, I don't think Lip is the right person to vent off on, especially given her current size." Thiana said.

"You're right, I'm sorry. You know me, I do get a bit crabby when I'm supposed to be asleep by now." Seren said.

"Yep! We all do!" Windy shouted.

 

Just then, the other fairies looked up at the water tank when they heard Neris's voice coming from above.

"Um, hello!? I'm still here and I'm still requesting to get a closeup of little Lip!" Neris said.

"Oops! Allow me… if I may, Thiana?" Elias said.

"Okay, but PLEASE be careful." Thiana said, putting a strong emphasis on the word please. Elias nodded and gently took the shrunken Lip out of Thiana’s hands. Elias spent the next few seconds staring down at Lip.

“Ummmm… Poppliss to Elias?” Lip said.

“Oh… sorry. Sorry, Lip. You just remind me of these baby frogs I used to care for. They looked so cute jumping back and forth between my hands…” Elias said.

“ELIAS!!!” Neris shouted from above.

“Okay, okay! Don’t get pushy, Neris.” Elias said as she started walking towards the huge tank Neris was swimming around. Lip couldn’t help but giggle.

“I’m glad you two are such good friends.” Lip said.

“Yeah, us aquatic fairies always stick together.” Elias said with a wink in one of her eyes. With a firm grip on Lip with one hand, she used her other hand to cling onto the ladder on the side of the tank. She stepped up the ladder one rung at a time with her feet until she was at the top of the tank.

"I hope you're still a good swimmer despite being shrunken, Lip." Elias said.

"I, uh… I guess we'll find out." Lip said as she looked both at Elias and Neris.

 

Elias dipped her legs into the tank, both she and Lip watching as the water rippled. Neris swam up towards Elias' legs to get a good look at the small Lip.

"Wow… she's smaller than I thought!" Neris said.

"And how have you been, Neris?" Lip asked, trying to divert the conversation.

"Y'know, Lip, you're probably the right size to ride one of the seahorses." Neris said with a smile on her face.

"Is that so?" Lip asked. Elias suddenly looked down at the other fairy princesses, some of them were conversing with each other while others were looking up, worried about Lip's safety.

"Hey everyone! We're giving Lip a free swimming lesson! Don't worry, Neris and I will take good care of her!" Elias said.

"You better! She's not some toy, you know!" Flare shouted.

"Oh, I don't know. She made a pretty good toy when I spent time with her!" Sherbet said. With the other fairies asking what she meant by that, and Sherbet filling them in on her early arrival, Elias and Neris had Lip basically all too themselves. Elias was about to gently lower her hands holding Lip into the water.

"Wait, Elias! I don't want to get my dress too wet, so let's not do this for too long…" Lip said.

"Oh, I wouldn't panic. You know Flare can dry you off pretty quick with her hot hands. She's pretty hot anyway." Neris said.

"Oh, Neris. You and your funny puns. I'm just glad we don't use them in our duets." Elias said with a smile, referring to the fact that both fairies like to sing in their spare time.

Lip, in the meantime, kicked her legs in rhythm to stay afloat in Neris's tank. Still, it was making her feel uneasy watching the top of Neris's head circling around the tank.

"(gulp) Neris looks like a shark, waiting to eat its prey…" Lip said.

"Okay, Neris. You can stop the shark imitation now. You're scaring Lip." Elias said.

"Awwww… but Lip always liked it when I played shark.” Neris said.

“Yeah, but that’s when I was normal sized!” Lip said.

“Hmmm… point taken. Too bad you’re too small for your snorkeling gear.” Neris said.

 

A few minutes passed with more casual swimming between Elias, Neris, and the shrunken Lip in the water tank. Everyone stopped what they were doing when they saw the double doors open and Queen Cordelia walking back in. Some of the fairies bowed their heads as they welcomed back the noble queen.

“Welcome back, Queen Cordelia!” Windy shouted.

“Thank you, everyone. Sorry for the short delay.” Cordelia said.

“What was the emergency, if I may ask?” Thiana said.

“There was this small yellow mouse that wondering around town. It kept shouting ‘Pikachu! Pikachu!’ like it was lost and looking for something. It was scared of us at first, shooting off electricity from its cheeks, quite fascinating I must say! But we managed to find the dimensional portal from whence it came and I’m sure it’s back home by now.” Cordelia said.

“A dimensional portal? Now there’s something you don’t see every day.” Sherbet said.

“I know. My guards are looking into it on my behalf, but meanwhile…” Cordelia said, but she stopped talking when she noticed something important about Thiana, namely her hands.

“Um… Thiana? Where is my daughter?” Cordelia said.

“Oh, she’s up there, swimming with Elias and Neris.” Thiana said. Elias was quick to pick up Lip from the water and hold her in plain sight.

“Right here, Queen Cordelia! She’s wet, but in good hands!” Elias shouted. Lip shook herself trying to dry herself and her dress, and watched as Cordelia walked towards the water tank. Lip watched as Cordelia held open her hands, and the shrunken girl realized what she had to do.

“Here I come, Mommy! Catch me!” Lip said as she pulled out her stick and then jumped off Elias’s hands. The stick allowed her to glide down safely into Cordelia’s hands.

“I am glad Elias and Neris were able to adequately entertain you.” Cordelia said. Flare was next to approach the small Lip.

“Allow me, Queen.” Flare said. As the two water fairy princesses hinted at earlier, Flare warmed up her hands but was careful not to shoot any flames from them. The heat wouldn’t have made much of an impact on a normal-sized person, but to Lip, it immediately felt like being in a sauna. Lip could feel the water evaporating away instantly from both her skin and her dress.

“Oh, wow! This feels nice!” Lip said.

“Glad you approve. That’ll of course cost you.” Flare said, only to quickly hear the sound of Cordelia clearing her throat.

“Yeah… I mean, normally it would cost you, but given the circumstances, I shall waive the fee this time.” Flare said.

“Well then, ladies. Let us not waste any more time. To the meeting room we go.” Cordelia said. With Lip securely in her hands (and the warmth of Cordelia’s huge hands drying Lip off further), the queen and the eight fairy princesses, with Elias again wheeling in Neris’s tank.

 

All the fairy princesses (except Neris who stayed firmly in her tank) took their seats at the very long table in the meeting room. Cordelia sat down at the head chair and set Lip down on the table. Lip wandered around until Cordelia finally spoke up.

“I hereby call this meeting to order. Let it be on record that the participants of this meeting are myself, Queen Cordelia, and the nine fairy princesses of Poppliss. Lip, the fairy of flowers and my daughter. Windy, the fairy of wind. Thiana, the fairy of nature. Sherbet, the fairy of ice. Ruby, the fairy of jewels. Elias, the fairy of water. Flare, the fairy of fire. Neris, the fairy of the sea. And Seren, the fairy of the moon.” Cordelia said as she looked one by one at the fairies as she stated their names, noting Seren was having trouble staying awake.

“Ladies, thank you all once again for coming.” Cordelia said.

“Anything for our beloved queen!” Windy said.

“And of course for Lip, no matter what size she may be.” Thiana added in.

“I sincerely hope one, if not all, of you can help me in returning my daughter to her proper size. As I was about to show earlier, my only clue so far is this.” Cordelia said.

 

That’s when she reached inside her dress and pulled out the vial of purple smoke that continued to swirl around inside. All the other fairy princesses leaned forward to get a closer look.

“What is that?” Ruby asked.

“The remnants of the original curse that had made Lip gigantic. All I know is it may be the key to solving this problem…” Cordelia said as the other fairy princesses continued to scan the contents of the bottle, trying to recognize its magic.


Chapter 9, written by Mab

The fairies sat and stared at the bottle of leftover magic for what seemed like months. Although it was more reasonably closer to an hour or two, it felt entirely too long in any case, especially for Lip. The tiny princess had a closer view of the bottle than anyone, but all she could see when she peered into it was a wispy cloud of purple smoke with some vague glittery forms floating inside. Pretty, of course, but nothing definite.

Lip finally broke the silence. “Well, girls, do you see anything special yet?” she asked.

“For a magic spell, this is pretty mundane-looking,” responded Elias, who leaned in for a better view of the magic cloud. “All I see is a cloud of purple smoke.”

“Yeah, like a unicorn burp,” said Flare.

Elias gave her an I-Can’t-Believe-You-Just-Said-That look

Flare paused, and shrugged. “What? It does.”

“Glblb gblbb gblblbglblblb glblblb,” said Neris from underwater. A few bubbles escaped from her mouth and floating upwards to the surface of her holding tank, whereupon they, naturally, popped.

Lip blinked in confusion and asked, “Come again?”

Neris paused, then, realizing her mistake, swamp upwards to the surface of the water and emerged, sprinkling a bit of water around her tank in the process. “It just looks like smoke to me,” she repeated.

“Oh. Sorry, Neris,” said Lip, scratching the back of her head with a smile. “Not many fairies can understand underwater-talk.”

“It’s this dumb tank’s fault, really,” said Neris, crossing her arms. “The only way for me to see things up close is for me to dive underwater. But then whenever I try to talk, well… gloop gloop blubble blub glub.”

Elias chuckled a bit. “Water. You can’t live with it, you can’t live without it,” she said.

“Speak for yourself,” said Flare.

“Exactly!” Neris affirmed, nodding. “It’s a viscous cycle.”

“You mean vicious cycle,” said Thiana.

“I know what I said,” said Neris with a wry smirk.

Once again, Elias giggled. Lip, on the other hand, was left confused. This sounded like another one of Neris’s silly puns – she had a knack for those, after all – but she wasn’t sure what “viscous” meant. Neris being a mermaid, maybe it had something to do with water? Or liquid, maybe? She made a mental note to ask Elias about it later.

“Hey!” exclaimed Sherbet suddenly, raising a gloved finger into the air. “I think I know what it is!”

“You do?” came the unanimous voice of the other fairies.

“Well, go on! Out with it!” said Flare, and slammed her hands on the table.

“Okay!” Sherbet reached over, picked up the bottle, and stared at it.

There was a moment’s silence. “It’s… purple… and it’s smoky…” Sherbet said, with an innocent smile on her face. “…and it’s… in a bottle…”

Everyone groaned, and several faces met hands.

“Well gosh, Sherbet,” Windy said with an equally innocent smile, drifting over next to the ice fairy. “That’s not very helpful, y’know?”

“I’m a kid!” Sherbet’s smile disappeared as she set the bottle down, put her hands on her hips, and stood on tiptoes to seem ever so slightly more imposing.

“So am I!” said Windy with the same cheerful facial expression. She used her wind powers to drift into the air up by a few inches so that she remained taller than Sherbet.

“Well, I’m littler than you,” retorted Sherbet.

“Well, my hair is pink!”

“Well, that doesn’t have anything to do with anything! It’s… It’s a n—a non… a non-sequester.”

Lip was quickly growing tired of these back and forth shenanigans. Getting up, she walked across from her spot in the middle of the table to where her two bickering friends stood, and (with just a moment’s hesitation as she once again realized how both girls towered over her) gave Sherbet’s shirt a gentle tug to draw her attention. “Non sequitur, Sherbet,” she corrected.

“Oh, whatever! You know what I mean!” Sherbet snapped down at her diminutive superior. She crossed her arms and turned away with a tiny hmph sound.

Lip ignored this huffy display and continued. “You know what else has nothing to do with anything? (Don’t answer that, Windy. It was a rhetorical question.) This argument. Some things are a little more important than what color your hair is.” She looked down at herself, then up at Windy, whose large green eyes only seemed bigger from her current perspective. “…Especially at the moment.”

“Ooh. Right.” Windy knelt down to be eye-level with her ponytailed friend. It was a small gesture, but Lip appreciated it all the same. For such an overbearing and hyperactive girl, W3indy could be very sweet sometimes. “Sorry for getting off-topic, little Lip. …Or should that be little little Lip?”

The little princess shrugged with a sad smile. “Call me what you want.”

“How about you, Seren?” Cordelia asked the moon fairy. “Do you see anything interesting?”

“Znngg… snrkk…”

Seren had fallen asleep in her seat. A moon fairy, through and through.

“Oh, come on,” said Lip with a heavy sigh.

Briefly, Lip weighed the pros and cons of waking such a dignified, important, and self-important woman as Seren. On the plus side, an older and more worldly wise lady like her might know quite a bit more about magic than the other fairies. On the negative side, a grumpy, sleep-deprived Seren might be less willing to cooperate. On one hand, it would get the meeting over with faster – and Lip just might get back to her normal size before the week was out. On the other, Seren might yell at her, and she could be quite frightening when she yelled.

It was no contest.

Walking up to the sleepy Seren’s napping figure, Lip clambered up the moon fairy’s arm  and, once she found steady footing upon her shoulders, put one hand on either cheek and shook them about. “Hellooo? Time to get up,” she called out.

There was no response. Lip, undaunted, pried the eyelids of Seren’s right eye open and stared into the vacant, unfocused pool of blue and white before her. “Good morning! Evening! Whatever!” she yelled, slightly louder.

Seren’s mouth began to gape as she continued snoring. Lip sighed and banged her forehead against Seren’s.

“Hee hee! Look! Her mouth’s hanging open!” giggled Windy, pointing.

“That’s not very ladylike, Seren,” teased Elias with a smile.

A look of realization suddenly crossed Sherbet’s face. She ran over to where Seren sat and Lip stood and put herself on tiptoe once again to get a better view of the tiny princess. “Hey, Lip,” she whispered with a hand to the side of her mouth. “Remember what we did to sneak you into your room? Maybe you could crawl into Miss Seren’s mouth, and tickle that thing in the back, and…”

As a matter of fact, Lip did remember. All too well, actually. She giggled nervously with a slight lean backwards. “No, I’ve had enough maw exploration for one lifetime.”

Still, Seren must be woken up somehow. Her mouth opening presented many opportunities for doing so, none of them sanitary and most of them dangerous. Lip wasn’t willing to risk taking a tour of a fairy’s digestive system for a second time, and so she picked the (relative) safest option. Grabbing hold of Seren’s tongue with both hands and wincing a bit at its squishy, slimy texture, she pulled it out of her mouth as far as it would go, then released it, whereupon the tongue snapped back into place with a somewhat disgusting splurch noise. Seren flinched backwards slightly at this sensation and blearily, slowly, opened her eyes.

“Ecch… I’m gonna have to disinfect these,” said Lip, rubbing her hands on her dress to try and get some of the spit off.

“Huh? Wha…?” Seren muttered to herself, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

“Do you see anything interesting about the bottle, said Mom,” said Lip.

Seren looked confused. “What bottle?”

“The… one we’ve been sitting around and discussing for a couple of hours?” A rather nonplussed Lip pointed to the bottle’s current position, on the table next to Windy. She leaned in, matching her face with Seren’s… eye, and put one hand on her hip. “It’s not brain surgery here,” she continued.

A rather more nonplussed Seren inhaled sharply. “Well! Such insolence!” She snatched Lip off of her perch with both hands and held her out in front. “Who do you think you are? Do you know who I am?”

Lip rolled her eyes. She had expected this to happen. “I’m the flower fairy Lip, princess of Poppliss,” she said flatly, pointing to herself. “You’re the moon fairy Seren, princess of the moon,” she went on to say, pointing at Seren. “I’m tiny. You’re not. We’re looking for a solution to said size difference and getting nowhere with your swelled head in the way.”

“Swelled head?!”

“Drop it, Seren,” warned Cordelia with a glare that all but directly stated that the moon princess pursuing this line of conversation further would have unpleasant consequences.

Seren paused nervously. Although peaceful most of the time, Being the eldest of Lip’s circle of friends exempted no one from Her Majesty’s wrath. She closed her eyes and sighed. “All right,” she said to Lip. “I’ll overlook your little show of disrespect this time.”

“Little is right,” remarked Neris.

“As for the bottle…”

Seren released her tight-fisted hold on Lip and lowered her hand to the table, allowing the flower fairy to leap off. After this, she walked over to where Windy sat expectantly next to the bottle of magic, lifted it up, and held it before her face. “Hmm. It’s certainly magical.” She squinted for a better look at the contents. “Looking at it closely, I can actually make out a few particles of size-change magic.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere!” said Thiana with fists clenched in excitement. “What do you think we could do with those?”

Seren, still tired, yawned loudly before continuing. “I’d hazard a guess that we’d be able to mix this spell with something else to reverse the curse that’s been placed on our little princess.” She set it down and shrugged with a regretful look. “That’s as much as I can make out, unfortunately. Being the oldest fairy here… well, aside from our queen… doesn’t mean you know everything.” Here she arched her back and stretched herself, with a prolonged mmmphhh… noise.

“Well, it’s a start,” said Cordelia, with an affirmative nod and a small, yet confident smile. “Would anyone here be to experiment?”

There was a pause here as the other fairies discussed things among themselves in hushed voices. It was an interesting idea, but none of them really knew enough about magic outside of their own niches to want to give it a try. Even then, none of them were exactly chomping at the bit to be blamed in case something bad happened to Lip as a direct result of mixing the spell with other ingredients.”

Regardless, one of them was willing to give it a shot. Ruby cleared her throat and raised her hand into the air. “As a jewel fairy, one must learn how to drive away thieves wanting to steal your treasure,” she said with her other hand on her chest. “It’d be foolish not to be well-versed in the art of hexing. I could give it a go.”

Cordelia put her hands together and bowed. “Your assistance would be greatly appreciated, Ruby.”

“Okay then,” said the jewel fairy. Settling herself upon the ground, she produced a pair of safety goggles and, with a wave of her hand, conjured up a full alchemy set upon the great table in the center of the chamber. Rows of test tubes were neatly laid out, ready to be used. Empty beakers awaited the introduction of liquid materials into their clear glass interiors. A distillery was on hand, for, the other fairies assumed, the mixing of the leftover magic with additional ingredients. As befitting Ruby’s nature as a jewel fairy, each object was colored like some variety of gemstone – the beakers like emeralds, the burners like sapphires, the distillery like garnet – and sparkled with the same luster in the afternoon sun. Of whether or not these various devices and containers were actually made of precious stones or not no one could say but Ruby, but it certainly looked impressive.

“Clear the table, everyone!” Ruby said, strapping on her goggles. “This could get kind of messy.”

The rest of the fairies (except for Lip, for obvious reasons) obliged, giving Ruby several feet of space with which to experiment with the bottle of magic.

Some were more optimistic about this turn of events than others. “This isn’t gonna work,” Flare grumbled with arms crossed.

“Ah, come on,” said Thiana, giving the hot-headed princess of fire a playful nudge in the side. “Even if it doesn’t do anything, at least we’re one step closer. We’ll know what doesn’t work, and isn’t that the first thing you have to do before you find out what does?”

“Yeah, plus we get to see a magic show!” Windy added with considerable enthusiasm.

“It’s not that kind of magic show, Windy,” said Elias.

“It’s magic and I’m watching it. What more do you need?” Windy turned her attention back to the table, placing her hands under her chin rapturously and clearly enjoying herself.

“First of all, I’m going to need a sample from the subject,” said Ruby, looking down at Lip.

Our very little heroine was distracted by a nearby shining green beaker, both by its lovely glittering and by its size – roughly equal in comparison to her at her current height. As such, she wasn’t initially aware that Ruby was speaking to her, more specifically about her, for a few seconds. Something soon clicked in her brain, and she spun around quickly, craning her neck to make eye contact with the seemingly enormous girl flitting in front of her. “What? Eh… You’re not going to give me a shot, are you?” Lip said, nervously. “The needle would impale me!”

Ruby giggled and held up a disarming hand. “Relax, Lip. All I need from you is a lock of hair.”

“Oh. No problem. I’ll get that for you in a jiffy!”

With this, Lip pulled out her flower wand, pulled up a few strands of long reddish-brown hair from the back of her head, and set about attempting to cut it off using the petals of her wand. Although slightly sharper than they looked, it soon turned out that these petals were less than useful for cutting things. Not that this stopped Lip from trying, as she continued waving her wand futilely at her hair, making desperate yet adorable grunting sounds all the while.

At length, Ruby intervened. Here, let me help you with that.” She reached a hand down, allowing Lip to climb up onto it, and raised her up until the young flower fairy was eye level with her. Using one of her fingernails, she carefully sliced off a bit of Lip’s hair, caught it in a petri dish as gravity took its effect, and set dish and hair aside for later use.

“Thanks, Ruby,” said Lip with a smile. She looked back at Ruby’s fingers behind her and placed a pondering finger to her chin. “Boy, your fingernails are sharp though, aren’t they?”

“Well, what’d you expect?” Neris asked. “Sharp girl, sharp nails.”

“Ha!” Thiana exclaimed. Then came a pause. Then came the inevitable “…I don’t get it.”

Neris crossed her arms and leaned back in her tank. “Well, if you have to explain the joke, it’s not funny anymore,” she explained, politely, yet still visibly somewhat irritated. “Maybe that little brunette head of yours just needs to think on it for a minute,” the mermaid continued, with a more light-hearted tone in her voice.

“She’s got a point there,” said Flare, now with arms casually held behind her head as usual.

Elias raised an eyebrow. “Odd you’d say that, Flare,” she said. “You’re not normally that quick to agree with others. If you agree with them at all.”

“Never argue with someone who could put you out.”

“They’re not that sharp, really,” said Ruby to Lip. “You’re just tiny. …Hopefully not for much longer.”

Ruby set the princess back down on the table and set to work. She transferred Lip’s hair from its current location in the petri dish to a beaker using a pair of scarlet-red tweezers, then extracted a bit of magic from the bottle (taking care not to let any touch her) with an eyedropper and transferred it to the abovementioned beaker before placing a lid on it. All that was left – for now – was to wait and study its effects.

---

About 10 minutes later, Ruby finally looked up from her workstation and announced, “It looks like it’ll work. I could dilute this into a potion and have you drink it straight away, and you’d be cured.”

Lip gasped with excitement, and the other fairies breathed a sigh of relief.

Ruby held up an objecting finger. “The only problem is, if I did, it would be a very gradual process,” she continued. She held the covered beaker out for Lip to see. “Look. Your hair’s only about three or four millimeters longer.“

The hair looked the same as it always had to Lip. “I don’t see, but I’ll take your word for it,” she admitted to the larger jewel fairy and, evidently, budding alchemist.

Ruby gestured her palm while staring at the ceiling as she went on. “I mean, you could technically drink it now, and it would work. But it’d probably take a few days before you’re back to your natural size.”

Lip’s posture slumped noticeably. “Oh.”

“However, I could try to mix this spell with a few other things, like, say, some fruit extract, or a pinch of diamond dust, and see if that speeds up the process…” Ruby finally said, smiling down at Lip.

“That sounds great!” Lip said, perking right back up. “We’ll do that then.”

Ruby held a finger up to Lip’s mouth (and because of the size difference, part of her neck and upper body as well). “Lip, I know you’re excited, but let a girl finish, ‘k? There’s no telling what side effects mixing an existing hex with a foreign ingredient could have. It could become extremely volatile.”

Lip’s confused expression meant an explanation was in order. “…That means ‘unstable,’”, Ruby stated plainly.

Lip didn’t need to be told twice to comprehend what dangers this potentially meant. A hand flew up to either side of her face, and she gasped softly. “Unstable? That’s not good! Are you saying it could turn me into a flea or a tree or a rat or a bat or a cat or a tick or a snake or a rake or a—“

Once again giggling, Ruby held up her left hand to shush the panicking princess. “Lip, odds are 200 to 1 you’ll be just fine.”

“Erm, hypothetically speaking, what would be the one in this situation?” Neris pondered with another hefty yawn.

“Well…” Ruby’s blue eyes darted about the room, as if not wanting to divulge the answer. Finally, she reluctantly admitted, “She explodes.”

What?!” came the response from all present. The voices of Lip and her mother rang loudest from among the group.

Well… all present except Neris, who felt it appropriate to crack wise once more. “Hey! I thought we wanted her to blow up,” she said with a chuckle.

What?!

“As in get bigger. Ha ha! Get it?”

Elias was unamused. All of the fairies were, really, but Elias was most disappointed with her good friend’s compulsion to make jokes even at inappropriate times. “Neris, there’s a time and place for everything,” she chided, gently yet sternly.

“Yeah!” added Windy. “This isn’t the time to do that.”

Neris, realizing the error of her ways, mouthed “I’m sorry” and sunk partially underwater to sulk.

“One in two hundred…” Cordelia mused with a hand at the side of her face. “Those are still worse odds than I would like to hear,” she said, furrowing her brow. I’m certain Lip and friends feel the same.”

Windy looked about at the other princesses. “I, for one, don’t want an exploded friend,” she said as she pointed a finger straight up into the air.”

“Me neither,” said Sherbet.

The other fairies chimed in their general approval with various similar comments.

One such comment, however, was slightly unorthodox. “It’d be interesting,” said Flare.

If looks could kill, the ones the other fairies gave Flare for this statement would have put her six feet under in an instant. Apparently not expecting this reaction, Flare hastily held up her hands in front of her and backed off. “What?! I don’t WANT her to explode!” she exclaimed nervously.

“Ah, lay off Flare, girls,” said Lip, waving a hand at the group. “You know what she means.”

“She could’ve put it a little less bluntly,” said Thiana with a glance to the side.

“It’s either that, or we wait around for months until you’re better,” said Ruby, withdrawing the beaker of magic and hair.

Lip’s finger touched her chin a second time. It was risky, yes, but was it really worth the wait? Her choices were potentially exploding or spending another week mistakable for a doll. Once again, no contest. “I’ll take the bet,” she said with her hands clenched into fists and a determined expression.

“You’re a brave little cutie, aren’t you!” said Ruby with a broad grin. She almost reached down to pinch Lip’s cheeks, but quickly felt better of it. “All right,” she said as she set the beaker down, “I’ll scrounge up a few things, brew some potions, and we’ll try them out.”

Ruby flitted over to the grand entrance to the meeting hall, her gossamer wings shining beautifully in the afternoon sunlight. Before she left, she turned to the others and said, “Keep yourselves entertained in the meantime! I shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.”

With that, Ruby left, the sound of the doors closing echoing in the hall behind her.

“Ahem.”

Lip suddenly found an enormous shadow cast across her tiny figure. Turning around, she was taken somewhat aback to notice Seren looming above her, looking down upon the tiny flower fairy with an expectant look in her eye.

“So.” Seren turned away, but glanced back at Lip out of the corner of her almond-shaped eyes. “What was it like being about forty feet tall anyway? I’m curious.”

Lip as well turned away to look at Seren from the corner of her own eye, and crossed her arms with an upset look. “Not fun, if that’s what you’re thinking,” she said.

“Oh, do come on, Lip!” Seren lowered herself to eye level with the little princess. “Where’s your passion for life? It would be far easier to watch over the moon at that size. Do you have any idea how big that rock is?” Seren looked up at the ceiling, distracted by her unquestionable, unconditional love for all things lunar “That big, beautiful, luminous rock…?” She thought of the tiny moon elves that kept her company on the lunar surface and clasped her hands together wistfully.  “Ahh, my darling payapayas would look even tinier from so far up…”

Lip as well clasped her hands, out of respect rather than longing. “Miss Seren, with all due respect, I’m not sure you’d enjoy tripping over rocks…” She stared sadly down at her diminutive feet. “Or knowing that if a single other fairy sees you, they’ll panic and run off…”

Seren stared down at Lip flatly, clearly unconvinced. “If you say so. Luckily, there aren’t as many fairies up there to spook as there are down here.” She turned around, placing a hand upon her chest. “The woman in the moon, they’d call me.” Her eyes widened and she turned back to Lip with a smile. “Say, that reminds me of a story from my youth.”

“Ah, not another one!” Sherbet complained, throwing her arms out to the side.

“We might as well,” said Cordelia with a sigh. “It could be a while.”

“Go ahead, Miss Seren,” Lip said with a plop down on her bottom.

“Right then,” said Seren. The moon fairy moved into the relative middle of the group so as to better present her overt gestures and better project her flowery language. “Sit back, everyone,” she declared, “and listen well as I entertain you with a tale of my youthful aspirations, dreams, and desires.”

Lip rolled her eyes. Did she just say “childhood dreams” three times? So stuffy, she thought to herself.

And so Seren’s long, long story begun. “Once, long ago – well, not too long ago, in truth, about ten or fifteen years ago, but before Sherbet was born at least…”

“Ah, phooey,” Sherbet muttered, crossing her arms and scrunching up against the wall.

“…I lived far above each one of your heads upon that circular orb of stone you Popplites refer to as ‘the moon.’ Of course, I called it home. Back then, of course, my stature and imposing nature were both lacking, as I was a tiny lass. Not much larger than little Lip here, in fact. Erm, at her normal size, anyway. In any case, it was my lifelong dream to be able to watch over the moon and see to it that it is risen and set once each day. Of course, learning how to do such was no small task! It took many years of training. Although easier than it ordinarily would have been, considering I was born upon the very object I one day wished to control, I nevertheless had to… … … … missing breakfast on more than one occasion, but I remained undaunted as I… … … … … luckily, the payapayas were around to keep me company… … … … … … … … … the stars were… …. … … … … … in a manner quite reminiscent to a plastic flamingo… … … … … … my boyfriend at the time… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … and… … … … … .. so… … … … … … I… … … … … … but then … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …”

Thirty minutes later, most of the other fairies were asleep, and those who weren’t were beginning to nod off. Windy was the exception to this rule, listening to Seren’s story with a childlike awe rarely seen even in other fairies her age. (Of course, Windy rarely slept as it was.)

Seren was, of course, still telling her story. “…and so I was finally able to enter that most prestigious of astral academies, the Lunar Surface School for the Gifted. If you ask me, it was a waste of tuition. All I learned at that dump was how to protect your goods from space-pirates, and how to manipulate the constellations to somehow store valuables within, and other such nonsense. No matter how hard I tried, I was constantly upstaged by that girl with the green hair. Paula Tango, was it? Oh, what a prankster she was – and not even the good kind! It was difficult to resist giving her a smack in the face with my staff to whip her into shape. In fact, I’ve half a mind to stop by this Angle-Land where she lives now, and…” Here she noticed that almost her entire audience had fallen asleep. “HEY!” she yelled. “Were any of you even listening?!”

Lip groggily lifted herself from the puddle of drool forming where she had collapsed from boredom. “Ehh? Huh? What was the que—“ She looked up, and noticed the cold glare Seren was casting down on her. “Oh, yeah, yeah, of course we were.”

“Sure was,” said Windy earnestly.

“Yeah.” “Yes.” “Mmhmm.” “Sure, whatever,” came a flurry of less genuine responses from the other fairies.

The monotony was thankfully broken by Ruby’s return. She carried in her arms a wooden tray containing the jar of magic, three vials of potions – one mauve, one chartreuse, and one a swirling mix of orange and brown – and three thimbles. “Back!” she announced with a smile as she flew her way back to Lip’s side. “By mixing the leftover magic with common items, I’ve managed to brew three potions for us to test. I mixed one with crushed-up rose petals,” she said, pointing to the chartreuse potion, “one with wild berry juice,” she continued with a point to the orange-brown swirl, “and the last with powdered sapphires,” Ruby finished, pointing to the vial filled with lavender liquid. She sniffed, and wiped a tear from her eye. “I’ve had to make a great personal sacrifice to brew these, I hope you understand,” she said to Lip in a shaky voice.

“Well, you crushed up flower petals too, so we’re even,” said Lip, smiling.

“This isn’t a contest,” said an unamused Ruby.

Taking the eyedropper from earlier, the green-haired girl took a drop of liquid from each vial and dropped it into a corresponding thimble, which would serve as decent-sized cups to one of Lip’s stature. “There you go,” said Ruby with a reassuring smile. “Bottoms up. Pick whichever you want first.”

“Well, I am a flower fairy by trade…”

Lip picked up the thimble filled with the chartreuse potion. Staring at its neon green contents, she swished the cup around a bit, listening to the liquid slosh, then presently brought the thimble to her mouth and downed the contents in one gulp.

A moment passed.

“Well? Feel anything yet?” inquired Ruby.

“Not yet. I—“

Lip suddenly blinked. Her eyes felt… different all of a sudden. She looked up at Ruby and noticed that something was off about her.

Many things in face.

“Whoa…” Lip blinked in confusion. “Say, Ruby? When’d you dye your hair purple?”

“I didn’t…?” replied a very puzzled Ruby.

Casting her eyes downwards, Lip noticed that on top of Ruby’s hair suddenly becoming purple, her skin had become an unnerving shade of robin’s egg blue. Either the girl had decided to paint herself and take up a second career in performance artistry, or…

“M—my eyes!” Lip exclaimed, pressing both hands to the side of her head in shock. “What happened to my eyes?!

                Flare and Thiana cast uneasy looks each other’s way and made her way over to Lip and Ruby’s side for a further investigation. Flare picked up Lip by the arm with two fingers and squinted, trying to make out the details. Her mouth fell slightly agape in surprise. Something had happened to that little princess’s eyes…

“Hmm, looks like they turned yellow,” said Flare.

Thiana took a moment to ponder what this could have meant and decided to test a hypothesis. “Say…” She bent her head to give Lip, still dangling from Flare’s fingers, a clearer view of the straight brown hair covering the top of her head (and tied back in a long ponytail). “Lip, what color is my hair right now?”

“Some kind of metallic blue-green,” Lip responded after a pause.

“That settles it!” shouted Ruby. “The potion must have reversed the polarity of Lip’s cones.”

Nobody besides Ruby had the slightest clue what that means.

“…meaning?” said Thiana with a cock of her head to one side.

“Meaning she’s seeing everything as the opposite color it should be,” explained Ruby. “You know… Inverse. Everything blue is yellow, everything green is pinkish, and vice versa.”

“Color me surprised,” deadpanned Neris, scratching her head. “How is that even possible?”

Ruby shrugged. “I’m not sure. Magic is a powerful tool…”

“It’d better wear off soon,” said Lip. “Seeing everybody with blue skin is kind of unnerving.”

Flare didn’t know the answer for sure, since it was the first time she’d ever even heard of a fairy having the polarity of their cones reversed, but gave an educated guess anyway. “Try rubbing your eyes. I dunno.”

Lip decided it was worth a shot. She rubbed her eyes as per Flare’s suggestion, then blinked and smiled with relief as she noticed the fire fairy return to peach and red from a most unfitting light blue and navy. “It worked,” she said with a sigh. “Phew! That’s a relief.”

“Maybe you’d better try the next one,” said Flare as she set Lip back down on the table next to the remaining two thimbles. “Try not to gag too much,” she added in a hushed voice, before she and Thiana both stepped back to rejoin the group.

“No guarantees, said Lip as she picked up the cup of orange-brown potion and downed it in a single gulp.

As had occurred the last time, nothing happened immediately after the little fairy drank this second potion. Something did happen a few second later, however. Lip’s ponytail began to spin around, slowly at first, then faster and faster until it had levitated her about a foot off the table, creating an audible whirring sound. “What the…?” Lip remarked with a glance up at her gyrating plait.

“Oh wow!” Windy squealed as she shot up into the air, a hand balled up at either side of her face with excitement. “You’re a Lipcopter!” The little wind fairy made use of her wind powers to fly up next to the littler flower fairy, the sudden movement blowing backwards. “Hey, now that you can fly, want to play air tag?”

“Windy, I really don’t have time for—“

“Catch me if you can!” ignored Windy as she dashed off through the air in a random direction.

“Windy!” yelled Lip.

Lip’s hair-ponytail chose that precise moment to send her flying in an equally random direction. “Whooaa-aa-aaa!” Lip screamed as a magical force beyond her control sent her buzzing about the room, sending other fairies diving out of the way and nearly lopping off a good chunk of the Queen’s long blonde hair.

“Hee hee! Fun, right?!” called out Windy, spinning in circles around the room using her wind magic to guide her. “We should get Birdy to play too! He’s real good at—“

Just then, the stray Lipcopter smacked straight into Windy’s face, sending them both reeling backwards and nearly smacking a reclining Neris in the head. “Hey! Watch it!” yelled the mermaid after them.

Windy and Lip eventually made a crash landing in the corner of the room. Lip was sprawled across the bridge of Windy’s nose, looking down into her eyes, her ponytail tangled up in the wind fairy’s curly pink bangs, and looking considerably disheveled. Windy, being Windy, looked no worse for wear. “You know, you’re good at this game,” she remarked. Windy plucked Lip out of her hair and placed her in her right hand, then walked back to where the third and final thimble lay.

“I wasn’t trying to be,” said Lip, crossing her arms again and looking away.

“You’re still good, Lippy!” said Windy. She lowered her hand to the table, whereupon Lip, without leaving her position, picked up the thimble from the table and examined the violet liquid inside.

“Third time’s the charm. …I hope,” said Ruby with no small degree of uncertainty as she watched Lip down the last potion.

Lip paused. “I feel an odd tingling sensation…” she remarked as she clutched at her sides.

“Does that mean it’s working?” asked Windy.

Before her eyes, Lip’s perspective rose. She had grown larger, if only by an inch or two. “It does!” barked Lip triumphantly, clenching her fists victoriously.

Windy and Ruby looked at each other, their faces bursting out into broad grins.

“All right!” shouted Flare with a fist pump.

“Woo-hoo!” yelled Thiana. She used her powers over nature to cause the foliage of several trees outside to explode in a brief display of leaf fireworks – although she was careful to replace them immediately.

The other fairies expressed similar signs of relief and happiness. “Thank goodness…” sighed Cordelia as she wiped sweat from her forehead.

The relief would be short-lived, however. Just as Lip had earlier felt herself grow, she now felt herself shrink once again – from 12 inches to 11, then back to 9… then smaller… and smaller…

“Wh—huh?!” Ruby stuttered in surprise. “That’s… that’s… I want to say five centimeters…”

“Ehh?” came Windy’s voice next. “Lip? It’s... it’s so hard to see you.”

What Lip saw when she turned around made her fall back on her rear from surprise. Windy’s enormous green eye formed a great watery wall in front of her, as it had when Lip had been doll-sized. However, there was one notable difference. Whereas previously Windy’s eye had merely been about twice as large as her head, it was currently about twice as large as her body.

It took long for Lip to put the thoughts swimming madly about in her brain into words. “I… It’s so easy to see you…” she stammered.

Windy giggled. “And I thought you were little before!” she exclaimed, leaning closer and all but blocking out the rest of the room from Lip’s view in favor of her own (admittedly, very cute) visage. “And before that!”

Lip’s body quickly became flecked with spittle as Windy’s relatively massive maw drew closer. And she had thought Sherbet’s mouth was disgusting, dangerous and disgustingly dangerous at 9 inches. At her current size, Windy could easily swallow a tiny, tiny Lip whole and never notice it. “Watch the mouth! Watch the mouth!” Lip screamed, waving her arms out in front of her and turning away in revulsion.

Windy drew back slightly, although her head was still positively monolithic in comparison to Lip. “Watch my mouth? But I didn’t say anything bad.” She put a finger to her chin. “…did I?”

“No, I mean, be careful or you might swallow me on accident,” said Lip.

“Huh? Well why didn’t you just say so?” Windy blinked and leaned back in to observe the miniscule figure she held in her palm. She smiled in spite of herself. “Golly, look how tiny you are. I must seem like a hundred-foot monster compared to you.”

“You really kind of do, Windy.” Lip got to her feet and stared Windy in the eyes – not at all a difficult feat – and poked her in the nose. “And with all due respect I’d really appreciate it if you’d cut those kinds of comments out,” she warned.

“Lip?” Windy said, the smile quickly vanishing from her face.

Lip brought out her flower rod and jabbed her seemingly massive friend in the nose again, to make her point more forcefully. “Being a couple of inches high is less fun than it looks, trust me. You telling me how tiny I am compared to others isn’t going to help that.”

“Lib?” Windy said again.

“Lib” had climbed up onto Windy’s nose completely to stare her directly in the eyes. “Honestly, Windy! You’re a good friend of mine and I like you very much, but you need to be more respectful of other fairies’ issues.”

Windy paused.

“Lib? You’re tickling by dose.”

“I’m what?” Lip said, flatly.

Windy turned away from the table and began to breathe deeper. “I think I’m gonna sneeze…”

“Windy?”

“Ah... ah… ah…”

“Windy, don’t!”

“Ahhh-choo!”

The explosive force of Windy’s sneeze sent Lip sailing away like a rocket towards the rest of her company of friends. Windy sniffled, then, realizing her grave mistake, checked her hands for any sign of her petite companion, but her search ultimately came up short. “…Lip? Uh-oh.”

Thiana, meanwhile, felt something smack into her head above her left eyebrow.

“Huh?”

Lip, meanwhile, had seen herself fly through a soft curtain-like brown something and felt herself smack into a long hard something beyond it. “Hnngghhh…” she groaned in combination pain and disgust. “Somebody get the license number of that sneeze.”

Thiana looked about the room frantically. “Did… did something hit me in the forehead? What was that?” she asked nervously.

The background behind the brown curtain-like something suddenly began moving around at a pace that, to someone of Lip’s demeanor, could be best described as “nauseating.” Upon hearing Thiana’s voice call out, it didn’t take her long to deduce where exactly she was.

“It’s me, Thiana. Lip,” said the very little fairy. She moved her head as best as she was able to look down into Thiana’s forest green eyes. “Turns out, for a little fairy like me, a little sneeze feels more like a sudden blast of gale force wind.”

“Oooh…” Thiana said sympathetically, trying to avoid furrowing her brow. “I hope my head wasn’t too hard a landing spot.” She clasped her hands. “Can you get down on your own?”

“I think so.” Lip tried to wriggle herself free from Thiana’s skin, but a combination of the speed from which she had touched down and the grossness from Windy’s nose made that task considerably more daunting than it would have otherwise been. Regardless, Lip was no quitter. “Let me see… If I shimmy like this, and shake like that, and then I push against your forehead like so… Whoa!”

The good news is that Lip managed to free herself from Thiana’s forehead. The bad news is that she soon found herself tangled up shortly below in a small grove of hairs each about half as long as she was currently tall just above Thiana’s eye.

“Lip, do you need help getting down?” the green-clothed girl asked somewhat more directly.

“I’m fine!” said Lip, struggling and grunting a bit. “It’s just your stupid eyelashes aren’t wanting to cooperate. Give me a couple of seconds and don’t bl—“

Thiana blinked.

The good news is that Lip was now free from Thiana’s eyelashes. The bad news…

“Lip?” Thiana ran her finger through the eyelashes around her left eye. “…Oh knotholes!”

That blink had a surprising amount of launch power. Or perhaps Lip was simply very, very light. Regardless, she sailed screaming through the air above Neris’s tank. Lip, in chorus with the other fairies, gasped in shock. Swimming at nine inches was hard enough. She’d be lucky if she managed to avoid drowning at… whatever size she was at now.

Fortunately, she remembered not a moment too soon that this wasn’t just Neris’s tank, it was Neris’s tank. “Neris! Go long!” she called out as the parabola of her trajectory hit its peak.

Neris understood immediately. “As long as this tank will allow!” she said with a salute, and began swimming backwards immediately, holding out a hand to catch the miniaturized Lip.

The mermaid’s aim was spot-on. Within a few seconds, Lip had crashed down safely – minus a few bruises and scrapes – in the palm of Neris’s righthand.

“Ha-ha! Perfect catch!” said Neris, throwing up a victory sign with her free hand. “Looks like you’re out, Thiana.”

Thiana paused, jaw hanging open in surprise. “For blinking?”

“Baseball!” said Neris, holding her free hand out to one side with exasperation. “Come on, you must get it!”

Lip got up and, with a deep sigh, slowly began walking down Neris’s hand to her shoulder. To such a tiny fairy, even walking barely a foot down a pink plain, featureless except for the occasional small hair, took a few minutes. “I don’t know, girls. I’m starting to feel like this is all a waste of time,” she said, dejectedly.

Windy floated down next to Neris and, by proxy, Lip. Her body was held horizontal so as not to get her dress wet, and her hands were crossed beneath her chin with concern. “No it’s not, Lippy. Don’t feel bad,” she said, brow furrowed.

Lip looked over at Windy, then groaned as she realized meeting face to face with her would require more walking. “How can I not feel bad?” she asked as she walked down Neris’s upper body to her stomach. “Every ingredient we’ve tried mixing the leftover magic with has ended up with something happening to make the whole situation even worse.”

“We’ve only tried three ingredients,” said Windy, with a hopeful, yet unconvincing smile.

“Yeah, but haven’t you ever heard of the rule of three? Who’s to say mixing anything else will result in anything better?” Lip sat down beside Neris’s navel, set her chin in her hands, and sighed again. “Hindsight is always 20:20. I should have just taken the one potion without any added ingredients and waited things out. But I didn’t! And now look at me –“ she gestured down at her tiny self— “I’m even smaller!” Lip sniffled and wiped a tear from her eye. “What a rotten week.”

Neris decided to speak up (taking extra care not to move and dump Lip in the tank, which would have complicated matters even further). “Don’t cry, Lip,” she consoled. “I mean, it’s not like I have much to worry about, since I live in salt water anyway, but we’ll figure things out. You’ll be back to your normal size in no time… and that’s no joke!”

Lip looked up at Neris, her heart-shaped face framed by a cascade of green hair, who winked a purple eye down at her. Neris – kind, pretty, funny, and ever the optimist – was exactly the kind of young lady one could count on to make the feel better, even when all hope seemed lost. She smiled back up at the not-so-little mermaid. “Thanks, Neris.”

“Need a hug?” offered Windy.

Lip, not in the mood to be smothered by one of her own friends (but really, who would ever be?), politely declined. “Er, no. But thanks for the offer, Windy.” She smiled. “You’re a great friend.”

Ruby’s voice suddenly called out. “Hold your horses! I think I get it!”

Windy turned back to Ruby and paused, confused. “What horses?”

“No, I just might have figured out the solution to this. Windy, bring Lip back over here, please.”

“Done, done, and dunzo!” Windy snatched Lip up off of Neris’s belly, set her down in the palm of her hand, and flew back down to the table where Ruby lay waiting to drop her off.

With this done, Ruby turned to Queen Cordelia, placed her hands together, and bowed. “Your Majesty, do you have any sunfruit left over in storage?”

“Sunfruit?” Cordelia asked with a clenched hand to her chest. “But they’re out of stock. The packet of seeds Lip picked this morning is the last shipment the town will be getting for about a week.”

“Mm-hmm.” Thiana held up a hand. “I’ll vouch for her.”

“They are a very rare plant,” Cordelia continued, “and, frankly, too delicious to risk wasting on a venture like this. Are you sure you can’t try something else?”

“It could be our only hope of getting Lip back to normal size,” Ruby said solemnly.

Cordelia hesitated, but soon called for “…Marshal?”

In a matter of seconds, Marshal was at the queen’s side. “You called, my lady?” he asked, bowing.

“Could you bring us a sunfruit or two?” Cordelia kindly asked with a gentle smile. “It is imperative that we get one as soon as we’re able.”

“Your Majesty, you do realize that the local produce store just ran out of stock a few days ago. As you yourself said, risking a rare variety of fruit on a mad plot that could very well fail is a chancy move. My suggestion would be to find an alternative—“

As quickly as Marshal had appeared at Cordelia’s side, Flare now appeared next to Marshal, charging up a threatening fireball in her left hand. “Get her that fruit, old man,” the fire fairy growled.

“R—right away, Mistress Flare,” stuttered Marshal apprehensively before leaving for the castle storeroom with considerable speed.

“Must you be so forceful?” asked a bemused Cordelia.

“If it helps us get what we need to fix your kid… and our friend… yes I do,” said Flare with a smile.

---

A few minutes later, Marshal returned, carrying a spiky yellow fruit about the size of a large orange. “One sunfruit, as requested,” he announced, setting it on the table besides the tiny Lip.

“Thank you so much, Marshal,” said Ruby, shaking the butler’s hand vigorously. “Honestly, you don’t know how helpful you’ve been!”

“Considering I’m not quite sure where you’re going with this, you are most likely correct, Miss Ruby.” Marshal turned to take his leave of the other fairies. “Let me know if you require anything else.”

“We will! Thanks!” Lip called after him.

Ruby set to work immediately. “Okay… extract about half the juice, siphon off a bit of magic from the bottle, allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes, and… Presto! See if this doesn’t do the job.”

Ruby set one of the empty thimbles, now once again filled with potion, in front of Lip. This time, the liquid was a bright orange-yellow color that glowed slightly, casting shadows across Lip’s face as she stared inside.

Lip seemed uncertain. “Are you sure about this?” she asked Ruby, towering above. She needed to mentally remind herself that she was the fairy of unusual size in this scenario, not the jewel fairy. “I mean… what if it makes me even smaller? Living at this size is hard enough as it is.”

“We’ll just have to try,” Ruby said firmly.

This did little to settle Lip’s nerves. Despite this, she brought the edge of the thimble to her lips and slowly, carefully drained the cup of its contents.

In seconds, her perspective had changed again, as the mauve potion earlier initially had – albeit not as drastically. Shortly after, however, came…

…nothing. Lip remained at the same size – which was still far smaller than her normal height, but larger than she had been. That was what really mattered. “I… I got bigger.” An enormous smile broke out on Lip’s face. “I did! I really did! No side effects! We found the cure!”

“Only by, like, half an inch,” said Flare, ever the optimist.

“Sheesh. What a killjoy,” muttered Neris under her breath.

Ruby brought out a shining white ruler to measure Lip’s height. “More specifically, you’re bigger by about one centimeter. This would bring you up to 6 centimeters, or roughly two inches.” She dismissed the ruler with a snap of her fingers, and it vanished in a bright white light. “It seems this potion will make the drinker grow larger near-instantaneously, but as a trade-off, the change in size is very slight.” She put her index finger and thumb to her chin to think. “I’d wager, Lip, that we need about… oh, about 120 more doses to get you back to your proper height.”

This news troubled Cordelia somewhat. “You need about half the juice in a sunfruit to make one dose, correct?”

“Right,” said Ruby.

“So you’d need about 60 sunfruit for Lip to recover?”

“Yup.”

Cordelia moaned, and stared up at the ceiling. “As I feared…” she said quietly.

“Uh-oh,” said Ruby.

“What is it, Mom?” Lip asked.

“You see…” Cordelia closed her eyes, placed both hands to her chest, and turned her head aside. “We only have 11 sunfruit left in storage after the one you’ve used.” She turned back to the other fairies. “Basic mathematics dictate that leaves us short roughly 48.”

Lip counted things out on her fingers. “And if the next shipment of sunfruit won’t be in till next week… Oog.” She clasped her hands to her temples. “Seven more days of being Sherbet’s plaything! Just thinking about it gives me a headache. I’m not sure if my body could take it.”

Sherbet looked half hurt, half offended. “You don’t like ‘T. Rex at the Tea Table’?” she asked in a soft voice..

“What kind of fairy would enjoy almost being eaten by someone else?” said Flare, not one to easily forget about what had transpired last night.

“Eheheh…” Sherbet giggled.

“It would still be quicker than drinking the potion without anything extra,” Ruby said, kneeling down to Lip’s level.

“But these past few days have been one disaster after another,” Lip said, turning back to Ruby’s face. She stumbled a little as she did so; it would certainly take some time to readjust to a newer, smaller size. “Being huge was no fun, and I’m fed up with being tiny. Can’t we speed things up a little?” Lip clasped her hands in front of her and gave Ruby her best poor-little-pitiful-me look. “Pleeeaaaase?”

Ruby wasn’t moved. “Let it go, Lip, ‘k?” she said, patting Lip on the head with an index finger. “The only way we’d be able to get any more sunfruit at a time like this is if we walked up to the gates of some nearby corporation that harvests it and asked if they’d lend us some.” She set her hands akimbo. ”And I really doubt they’d want to just give away produce like that.”

Lip paused, and smiled confidently. “…It’s worth a shot!”

“Lip, that wasn’t a suggestion…” But Lip was already on the opposite side of the table from Ruby, facing the other fairies.

“All in favor of Operation Scoot to the Root to Get the Fruit?” Lip called out.

“Aye!” chirped Windy.

“I’m in!” said Thiana.

“Me too!” said Sherbet.

Seren yawned. “Sure, I’ll help.”

“I’m in!” called down Neris, leaning over the top of her tank with a big grin. “Anything to brighten a friend’s day!”

“Oh, enough with the puns already,” said Elias with a weary smile, shaking her hand at Neris. She turned her attention to Lip. “Well, I’d go anyway, but if Neris is joining you, I have to follow,” she said. We water fairies have to stick together, after all.”

“You gotta ask?” said Flare.

Finally, Queen Cordelia bowed and said, “I will do what I can. For the sake of my daughter... for all of Poppliss… I will help you. All of you.”

“Great – then let’s get to work!” Lip stuck her finger up into the air. “Hurrah!”

Hurrah!” came the voices of the other fairies as they all gathered around to discuss their plan of action.

All of the other fairies excepting one, of course…

“Lip, I’m serious. I didn’t mean it,” said Ruby. “Lip, that—Lip, that was a rhetorical statement. Lip, are you listening to me? Lip?!


Chapter 10, written by Cubed Cinder

Ruby let out a deep sigh as she looked down on the ground. She didn't even notice Queen Cordelia patting her on the shoulder at first.
"There there, Ruby. This will all work out in the end." Cordelia said.
"How can it, your majesty? There's probably no such thing as a sunfruit making corporation. I'm sending everyone on a wild goose chase!" Ruby said.
"But look at them, Ruby. They all look so happy." Cordelia said as she looked over at the other fairies as they continued to mingle (and discuss plans and strategy) with the smaller Lip.
"Yeah… that's true. Still, imagine how they'd feel if I was wrong? I'd never forgive myself for leading everyone so astray." Ruby said.
"Don't fret, Ruby. Perhaps another way will be found, but for now, let me talk with Lip for a little bit." Cordelia said.
"Huh? What are you going to say?" Ruby asked.
"Oh, you know. The usual mother-and-daughter chit chat." Cordelia said as she walked past Ruby and then approached the other fairies.
"Ladies, I would like to have some words with my little girl in private." Cordelia said.
"Heh, I guess literally and figuratively, right?" Flare said.
"Oh dear… how rude of me to use the word little in that context." Cordelia said.
"Sure, my queen. Here you are." Elias said as she held a hand out in front of the queen. Cordelia held out a hand of her own, allowing Lip to jump from one hand to the other.
"Heh, I guess this is one way of getting exercise." Lip said, bringing a smile to Cordelia's face. As the other fairies mingled with each other while they waited for the two to return, Cordelia walked to a corner of the room where she and Lip could have a private moment. Lip had a hypnotized like look on her face as she looked up at her gigantic mother's humongous face.

"Lip? Lip? Are you alright?" Cordelia said as she noticed the trance that Lip was in. Lip finally rapidly blinked her eyes and shook her head.
"What? Oh… sorry, Mama. I just can't get over how huge you look from here." Lip said.
"I'm very sorry you have been going through this, my sweet child. Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?" Cordelia said.
"Nope, everything's going to be okay! As you heard, my friends and I will be in search of the sunfruit making corporation. They probably just have to take one look at me and they'll give me the sunfruit I need to grow back to normal!" Lip said.
"Um… yes… I see…" Cordelia said.
"I know, I know, you're going to tell me it's not as simple as that." Lip said.
"Well, that's true, but… Lip, my dearest. Have you thought about any alternative plans? What if there is no sunfruit making company, let alone one that will cooperate with us?" Cordelia said. Lip paused for a moment, and realized her mother was right. There was that chance that the plan revolving around the sunfruit corporation wouldn't pan out. Still, she remained positive.
"Well, I'll just think positive and hope that plan works out. That's what you always told me, right, Mama?" Lip said.
"Well, yes… I did encourage you to do that." Cordelia said.
"Good! Then I shall stay positive. We'll just think of another way to speed up my growth back to normal if this plan doesn't work." Lip said. Just then, Elias walked up towards Cordelia.
"Ummm… excuse me, your majesty!" Elias said.
"Yes, Elias?" Cordelia asked.
"Y'know, some of us haven't gotten to see Lip up close and personal at her new size…" Elias said with a nervous tone in her voice. Cordelia had a feeling what Elias was trying to imply. Lip was fascinating enough to look at when she was the size of a doll, but she's no doubt become the topic of discussion thanks to her smaller size. Plus, there was the matter of trying to see if the sunfruit making corporation really did exist.
"I understand, Elias." Cordelia said. The queen then walked her way towards the other fairies.
"Girls, I'm heading out for a bit to look for where the sunfruit corporation may lie. I leave my daughter in your capable, and hopefully very careful, hands." Cordelia said as she handed the smaller Lip over to Elias.
"You can depend on us, your majesty!" Flare said.
"I hope so… I shouldn't be gone long, Lip." Cordelia said.
"Be careful, Mama!" Lip said, watching as her mother walked out of the room.

Once she was gone, Lip looked up at Elias, and then eventually the other elemental fairies (except for Neris, of course, who was stuck in her salt water tank) as they surrounded her.
"Um… maybe not so close, everyone? I feel even smaller being surrounded like this!" Lip said.
"Sorry, Lip. Some of us just can't help it… maybe we all should shrink too someday." Elias said.
"What?" Lip said.
"Yeah! That way you could be the tall one instead and we could see the world from a different perspective! Ooooh… I'm giggling just picturing that in my head." Windy said with a wink and a smile.
"Oh, ladies… trust me, I don't think changing size is a power any of us should have." Lip said.
"Why not? It certainly has its advantages." Flare said.
"But also its disadvantages… yaaaaaawn." Seren said. Lip looked nervously at the dark cavern that was Seren's mouth as she opened it wide to let out her yawn.
"Huh? Seren?" Lip said.
"Forgive me… I'm just gonna… yaaaaaaaaaawn… take a nap." Seren said as she slumped her way back to the meeting table and drifted to sleep.
"Man, she really should get those clocks fixed." Flare said.
"What are we going to do? We're going to need her awake if we're ever going to raid the sunfruit factory." Thiana said. Lip looked over at the fairy princess of the moon and got an idea.
"Hmmm… Elias, can you take me closer to Seren?" Lip asked.
"Okay, sure." Elias said as she walked over towards Seren.
"Great, now lower me towards her ear." Lip said.
"Huh? Are you sure, Lip? It could be dangerous." Elias said.
"Not as long as you are holding onto me." Lip said as she winked back at the giantess. Elias did as Lip asked, moving the hand she was holding Lip with towards Seren’s right ear, which was halfway covered up by Seren’s beautiful hair. Once Lip felt she was close enough to the ear, she quickly waved her stick just above her head, which told Elias she was casting a spell.
“RISE AND SHINE, SEREN!” Lip shouted, her voice sounding as loud as can be despite her diminutive size. Even the other fairies had to briefly cover their ears, but they all watched as Seren quickly jumped to her feet and clutched her staff.
“Yikes! Okay, okay, okay! I'm up now! First order of business tonight will be…” Seren said. She then looked around and realized she was still in the meeting room at the palace. Even worse… some of the other fairies were laughing at her!

“Hahaha! Lip got you good, Seren!” Windy shouted. Seren had a disgruntled look on her face.
“Really… You all are so childish sometimes.” Seren said.
“We can't help it… Some of us ARE children.” Ruby commented as she looked around and noted the youth present in the room. Nobody was offended, however, some seeing it as a badge of honor in fact. In the meantime, Elias suddenly saw Lip being swiped from her hand. Now holding onto her was Sherbet.
“I guess you could say that was cold of you, Lip. Hahahaha!” Sherbet said. The ice fairy suddenly felt a couple splashes of water from above, since they came from Neris's salt water tank.
"Hey! I do the funny puns around here!" Neris said.
"Ow! Okay, I'm sorry!" Sherbet said as she suddenly found herself having to scrub water away from her eyes. In doing so, she lost grip of the shrunken Lip, who found herself falling towards the floor fast.
"Eeeeeeek!" Lip screamed as she watched the floor coming up fast. But with quick thinking, Lip pulled out her magical stick and used it to float her way down to the ground.

But she wasn't out of danger yet. Sherbet still was wiping the salt water out from her eyes, and she wasn't thinking about keeping her feet under control. Lip gasped when she saw the giant green object that was one of Sherbet’s boots coming down towards her.
“Watch out!” Thiana shouted as she acted instinctively to save her shrunken friend. She magically summoned some vines from her hands and threw them towards Lip, wrapping around the shrunken girl. Just as Sherbet planted her foot down where Lip had been standing, Thiana gave the vines a firm tug and corralled Lip right into her hands.
“Whew! That was too close. Are you okay, Lip?” Thiana said.
“Great… Never better… Yippie skippie…” Lip said, clearly looking dizzy from getting yet another ride of her shrunken life. On top of that, she was soaking wet having gotten a drop of water from Neris’s tank all over her. Lip tried in vain to dry herself off after recovering from being dizzy.
That's when Flare stepped over and stood next to Thiana.
“Permit me, my little friend.” Flare said. Lip now found herself in the palm of one of Flare’s hands, and right away she felt the heat emanating from the skin.
“Oh, this is quite warm… Thank you, Flare!” said.
“A pleasure as always! Besides, I think even the oldest hair dryer will be too powerful for you given your size.” Flare said.

Moments later, Queen Cordelia returned to the meeting room.
“Oh! Mama’s back!” Lip said, now fully dried up thanks to the heat coming from Flare’s hand.
“Hello, everyone. I trust my daughter is safe and sound?” Cordelia said.
“Yep! As safe as can be!” Windy said.
“Very nice. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, I take it?” Cordelia said. Most of the fairies looked at each other, wondering if they should bring up the couple of close calls that Lip ran into over the past few minutes.
“Ummmm… Nope! We've just been sitting around talking with little Lip and waiting for you to return.” Thiana said.
“So what did you find out?” Elias said.
“Well, I managed to locate the nearest sunfruit manufacturing plant. It's about three miles to the east of Thiana’s forest.” Cordelia said.
“Oh…? So there really is a sunfruit making company!?” Ruby said.
“Yep! You were right all along, Ruby.” Cordelia said with a smile.
“Haha! I for one never had any doubt!” Neris said.
“Well, what are we waiting for? I say we march out right away and get the sunfruit we need to return Lip to normal!” Seren said.
“Yeah! Let's do it, girls!” Lip said from Flare’s hand. After Flare perched Lip up on one of her shoulders, the fairies started to rush out of the meeting room and eventually out of the palace, but Cordelia stopped them.
“Not so fast, ladies. I trust you have a plan in action for retrieving the sunfruit?” Cordelia said.
“Of course we do! We've already got it planned out!” Windy said.
“Huh? We do?” Ruby said, probably the only one of the group who wasn't sure about just plain marching towards the factory without a plan already in place, but she didn't bother to argue this time.
“If we can stop big bad Thanatos, getting sunfruit from a manufacturing plant will be a piece of cake!” Flare said.
“No time for chit chat, your majesty! We best get on our way if Lip is going to grow back to normal!” Elias said as she and all the fairies finally made their way out.

While Cordelia admired the tenacity and enthusiasm of the young fairy princesses, including that of her shrunken daughter, she wondered if they would be alright out there in the wild. She prayed for their safe return, hopefully with plenty of sunfruit in hand, but also wondered if she should follow behind to lend a helping hand…


Chapter 11, written by Mab

            “We’re off to see the fairies, the fairies at the factory…

The sun was high in the clear blue sky. A mild breeze blew through the green fields of Poppliss as the motley group of fairies set out towards the sunfruit corporation’s headquarters.

…because, because, because, because, becaaause…

Windy was singing a cheerful song to keep herself busy, to the variable amusement and annoyance of the rest of the group. On one hand, it was adorable. On the other, her singing abilities were… mediocre at best.

…because we’ve got to get Lip back to normal size!” finished Windy.

“Catchy tune, Windy,” remarked Neris from her tank, currently being pulled by Elias to prevent her immobility. “I think you’ve got potential to be a great singer one of these days.”

“Does that mean you’ll let me sing in you and Elias’s duets?” said Windy, smiling.

Neris paused, and smiled nervously. “Well, we’ll think about it.”

Of course, the youngest fairy in the group wasn’t as quick to entertain herself. “Are we there yet?” said Sherbet with a moan.

“Cut it out, shrimp,” snapped Flare at what was currently the second littlest princess. “We’ve been walking for like 10 minutes.”

Lip, the current littlest princess, rose to her feet from her current position on Flare’s shoulder and placed a hand on the fire fairy’s cheek to calm her down. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to see how much further we have to go,” she said. Looking around the group, Lip continued, “Who here can get me up the highest?”

Windy shot both her hand and herself up into the air, flailing her arm around wildly. “Ooh! Me! Me! I volunteer!” she began to shout.

Lip hesitated for a moment, then apologetically responded, “Mmm…. sorry, Windy, but I think we’d better let someone else handle it. I know you want to help, but you can be a bit, ah…” She paused again with a finger to her chin, trying to find the right word. “Overeager, at times.

Elias walked up behind both Lip and Flare and leaned in as close as she could get to the former without knocking her off. “Actually, Lip,” she whispered, clasping her hands together in front of her. “I think Windy’s your best bet here. She’s one of just two in this group who can fly.”

“Right,” Ruby agreed. “And since I only have wings, there’s no way I can keep the wind from blowing you off if it decides to whip up.” Turning to Windy, the jewel fairy continued, “Windy’s whole thing is manipulating air currents. She can redirect any gusts that come your way.”

Windy nodded vigorously, smiling broadly. Lip faltered again. The other fairies had a point, but Windy was a perky girl, and often overenthusiastic. Lip wasn’t keen on the thought of the pink-haired fairy girl accidentally dropping her, but the mild breeze of now could easily whip up into something stronger later, something capable of blowing her around—and possibly off her perch.

It was a risk she was going to have to take. “Well... All right,” said Lip, finally. “But not too rough, Windy.”

“Okay!” chirped the wind fairy in response. And with that, she darted over to Flare’s side, snatched Lip off her shoulder (eliciting a startled exclamation from the fire fairy), and placed the flower princess on top of her head, behind the blue feathered hairband she wore.

Lip, after readjusting to her new surroundings, crawled over to the edge of Windy’s bangs and peered down to look Windy in one of her eyes. It was a very disorienting thing, Windy’s eye being about as large as Lip was tall at the moment, but the flower princess powered through. “Hands, please?” she politely asked.

Windy blinked, her eyelashes brushing up and down Lip’s body as she did so. “I thought you’d be able to see better if you’re higher up,” she admitted. “Besides, if any wind starts to come at you, I’ll just ree-die-rect it, like Ruby said.” She rolled her eyes, and continued, somewhat irritably, “Gosh, it almost sounds like you don’t think I know what I’m doing.”

“Sorry if I’m a little skeptical after the ‘Lip-copter’ incident,” Lip replied, clambering back up to where Windy had set her down. “I’ll let you know when I think I see the building. Now lift me up, please.” Lip, remembering Windy’s considerable pluck and seeming inability to do anything by half measures, immediately added, “Uh, gently!”

Windy nodded, only a little bit to avoid throwing Lip off her noggin. “Okay,” she said, “Windyvator going up!”

Windy began to rise into the air, making a soft humming noise reminiscent of an elevator. Her curly pink hair blew in the wind; it tickled Lip a little bit as it bobbed up and down and all around her, but she nevertheless scanned the horizon for any sign of anything that looked like it could possibly be a corporation responsible for growing sunfruit. (Not that she knew at all what that looked like, but she’d try her best, anyway.)

Eventually, a white, square building came into view over the tops of the trees of Thiana’s forest, about a mile off to her current left. Lip tapped Windy on the head, giving her a signal to stop rising. “I think I see it,” she said. “Do you see that white squarish thing off in the distance, past the woods?”

Windy squinted and placed a hand over her eyes to keep the sun out. “Uh… yeah, I think so,” she said, smiling.

“If we keep walking at the same pace until we get there,” Lip began to ask, “how long do—“

Windy gasped suddenly, her body stiffening in shock. “Breeze alert!” she yelled. “Hold on!”

“Uh—”

Lip had no time to finish her sentence before the wind suddenly began to pick up, throwing her off-balance and knocking her on her back. Windy thrust both arms out in front of her and began to move them around in smooth, deliberate patterns, first slowing the unexpected gust of wind down to a more manageable speed, then sending it off in the opposite direction so as not to cause either of the fairies any further undue stress.

“That was a close one,” Windy said with a sigh, wiping some sweat off her brow. “You all right, Lippy?”

Lip tried to climb to her feet, but found herself unable to, having found herself tangled in Windy’s poofy pink hair. “I don’t know which way is up,” she grunted dazedly as she struggled to free herself.

“Oh, whoops.” Windy reached up and freed Lip from the pink fluffy trap she’d found herself suddenly caught in, then placed her (relatively) safely in her hands. “Are you okay now?” the wind fairy then asked.

Lip staggered around in Windy’s palm, still a bit dizzy from the experience. She at least took comfort in knowing that she was merely disoriented and that Windy did not, in fact, have a twin sister that Lip was never told about. “Yeah, a bit,” she muttered, placing her hands on her knees and shaking her head from side to side to try and regain her bearings. “Could you take me down now?”

“Sure as… something that’s sure!” said Windy with a salute, and returned to the ground next to the other fairies.

“Okay,” said Lip, rising back up to her current full height of two inches and addressing the other girls. “It looks like the sunfruit facility is about four miles that-away—“ she pointed— “past Thiana’s woods.”

“That’s been established,” Thiana noted in turn with a nod. She gazed wistfully at the great green forest in the distance. “It’s too bad we can’t take a detour through my forest, but…” She shrugged. “I guess now isn’t the time.”

“How long do you girls think it’ll be before we get there?” Lip asked.”

“Let’s see,” said Ruby. She pulled out a note pad and pencil and began to jot down various notes and calculations. “If we keep heading in an east-southeasterly direction at a constant speed, the journey should take us about, oh…” Ruby looked up from her note pad and continued, “Three or four hours. We should at least get there before sundown.”

“Mmmph,” Sherbet grunted.

“Relax, Sherbet,” said Thiana, kneeling down and putting a hand on the ice fairy’s shoulder. “I’m sure there’ll be plenty to keep us busy on the way. This could even be fun!” Thiana smiled at Sherbet, as if to say, “What do you say, champ?”

“Yeah, Sherbet. It won’t be a complete washout,” punned Neris from her tank.

Sherbet remained unconvinced as to the outing’s quantity of entertainment. “How fun can it be if there’s no in-flight movie?” Realizing the lack of sense in what she had just said, she corrected herself, “Or in-walk movie? Whatever?”

Lip rolled her eyes and turned to Ruby. “All right, Ruby, lead the way!” she called from her seat in Windy’s hands.

“Sure thing,” said Ruby, taking the lead and leading the crew onwards towards the sunfruit plant.

Lip sighed with relief and laid down on her back, staring up at the bright blue sky above. In just a few hours, the girls would be at the sunfruit farms, where they could pick up a batch, take it back to the palace, and finally return her to her normal size! It seemed as though everything was going right for her, for once…

“Say,” remarked Elias. “I haven’t heard from Seren in a while.”

“I’m… yawwwwn… I’m still here!” came a groggy voice from a considerable distance behind the party. Turning around, most of the fairies groaned to note that Seren was lagging about twelve feet behind the rest of the group, leaning on her crescent moon staff and clearly struggling to remain awake.

Flare ran a hand down her face in exasperation. “That might put a damper on the whole “constant speed” thing,” she griped.

“Calm down, you guys,” Neris called down. “If Blondie here falls too far behind or passes out, I’ll just give her a soak to snap her out of it.” She snapped her tail up and down, creating a small splash of water, to prove her point.

Blondie??” came Seren’s indignant voice from below.

“Or I could just call her Blondie,” said Neris, smiling and putting her hands behind her head. “That seems to perk her right up.”

“Do what you like, Neris,” Lip said with a little giggle. “Right now I think we should just get moving.” She peeked through Windy’s fingers into the distance, towards the sunfruit plant. “I want to get back to my normal size ASAP…” Lip glanced backwards towards Sherbet and noted the girl’s impatient squirming. “And it looks like I’m not the only one feeling antsy around here.”


After some walking, the group came across a clear blue river, stretching as far as the eye could see in either direction; to the west it passed through Thiana’s woods, to the east into the fields beyond. A stone bridge connected one bank to the other – “connected” being the key word, as at some point in the past it had crumbled away, leaving behind two hunks of stone on either side of the stream.

 “Uh-oh. The bridge is out,” said Thiana, stating the obvious.

“Well, yeah,” said Flare, “we have eyes.”

“Some of us could fly over,” said Lip, still in Windy’s hands, “like Windy here.” She gestured up at her towering companion. “And it definitely won’t be a problem for Elias or Neris. …But that still leaves the rest of you.”

“How about we carry ‘em?” said Windy, with a goofy smile (but what else was new?).

“An interesting suggestion,” said Lip in return with a nervous smile, “but I really don’t think it would work.”

“Aww! C’mon, Lippy!” Windy griped. She kneeled over a bit to look Lip in the eyes… or the face… or rather, the entire body. “Ruby and me could use the exercise.”

Ruby started to correct Windy. “That’s ‘Ruby and I’, Win— wait, what is that supposed to mean?!”

Lip placed a comforting hand on Windy’s nose. She noticed as she did so that she could feel the wind fairy’s warm breath blowing down her body. As much as she hated being stuck at this diminutive size, it at least brought some pleasant sensations. The little flower fairy replied, “No, I mean it really wouldn’t work. Sherbet and Thiana, maybe. Myself, definitely. But I don’t think either of you have the arm strength to carry someone as tall as, say, Seren. She’s a head taller than either of you.” (Lip winced a little as she imagined how big that would be from her perspective.) “And you definitely aren’t going to get Neris’s tank off the ground without at least eight or nine other fairies.” She paused, then hurriedly added, “Strong ones.”

“Mmm… all right.” said Windy, slumping a little in disappointment. Ever the optimist, she perked back up just a few seconds later. “It was worth a shot!” she said, smiling.

“There must be some other way of crossing,” mused Elias, putting a finger to her chin.

Ruby flew about twenty feet into the air and took a glance downriver in either direction. The river stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions, but, as the party was currently out in a field far from any real civilization, there were no other bridges to be seen. She flew back down to the others and gave her report: “It doesn’t look like there’s another bridge for quite some distance. Or none that I can see from up here, anyway. I guess we could try finding some stepping stones and walk across them, but I’m not sure if certain parties would be comfortable with that.”

Everyone looked at Flare.

“What? I- I’m not scared of water,” said the flustered fire fairy, throwing up her hands. “Honest. It’s… it’s the wetness that gets me.”

“I guess it’s understandable that a fire fairy wouldn’t know how to swim,” remarked Seren, with a yawn.

Flare rubbed the back of her head. “The thing is, back in the fire world, you don’t normally need to…”

“Why don’t you try making a bridge, Ruby?” Neris asked. “You’re good with gem stuff.”

Ruby shook her head. “Too fragile. Besides, I don’t have any diamonds to spare… and we just went over why me flying her across wouldn’t work.”

Sherbet piped up. “I could try freezing a bridge!” Without waiting for the other to give their approval of this idea, Sherbet thrust her hands out in front of her. A small section of water in the river appeared to stop flowing for just a second, as if it wanted to freeze but couldn’t.

Undeterred, Sherbet gestured again. Again, nothing.

A third frustrated flail. This time a small ice floe actually appeared in the river… only to quickly melt under the heat of the bright spring sun and drift away with the rest of the water.

This time Sherbet was deterred. “Rrgh. Dumb river,” she groaned, with a stomp of her foot. “I haven’t practiced on moving water before.”

Peeking between Windy’s fingers, Lip glanced around the surrounding area to see if there was anything that could get the show back on the road. After a few seconds, her eyes were drawn to something she thought she could work with. “I have an idea!” she called up to the others. “There’s a flower on the other side of the river.” She pointed a tiny, tiny finger. “Right there, see?”

The other fairies didn’t see, really, but it wasn’t hard to figure out what Lip was talking about. On the other side of the river was a lone, small (to the others) yellow daisy.

“Yeah?” said a few of the fairies.

“If one of you could get me to the other side, I could try to work my flower magic and get it to bloom into a bridge for the rest of you to cross,” Lip said with a confident smile. Tiny though she may be, surely her flower magic should still be as potent—as long as she had her flower rod, at any rate. (Now that she thought of it, at this size it was really more of a flower toothpick.)

Seren, rubbing an eye, stepped up to Lip’s – and by association Windy’s – side, and bent down so that the smaller fairy could see eye-to-eye with her. Although Seren’s face was still as large as a small house, it was a thoughtful gesture that proved Seren still respected her friend, however tiny and feeble she may be.

“Are you sure?” Seren asked groggily. “You’re awfully little, and that flower’s about as tall as you are.”

“C’mon, Seren,” Lip said with a roll of her eyes. “Just ‘cause I’m tiny doesn’t mean my spells will be. Magic is magic, no matter how small.”

“Okay,” said Windy. “How ‘bout you ride with me again?” With that she raised her hands up to the top of her head, inviting Lip to jump back on.

Lip was somewhat hesitant after last time. “Er, sorry,” she said, reaching out and giving Windy a gentle pat through her pink mane. “I think one Windyvator ride for the day is enough. I’d prefer something a little more… down-to-earth.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Thiana said, growing slightly impatient. “Windy won’t work, I understand that, but Sherbet can’t freeze the river, there are no large plants around for me to work with, Ruby doesn’t have any diamonds, Elias is… well,  a water fairy, Flare’s fire magic won’t be of any use, Neris is a mermaid, and Seren… she’s a little out of it.”

“Not out of it…” Seren mumbled in response, with a stretch, “…simply tired.” She yawned again, and continued, “I wasn’t expecting to go on a whirlwind adventure this late at day.”

Looking over at the drowsy young woman, Ruby took notice of her long crescent staff. An idea soon came to mind. “Say… Would you mind handing me your crescent staff for a moment?” Ruby asked.

“What for?” said Seren, suspiciously.

“To test something.”

“Well…” Seren put a finger to her chin as she deliberated. “All right, but I hope you realize how precious this staff is to me.” She handed it over to Ruby, a stern frown on her face. “If I see one scuff mark on it, I’ll have it repaid in your gems,” the moon fairy warned.

Ruby held Seren’s staff out horizontally. Including the crescent shape at its tip, it almost reached the other bank of the river – almost, but not quite. “Hm…” she hmm’ed.

“What is it?” Lip asked.

“This staff almost completely bridges the gap between the banks,” said Ruby as she turned to face Lip. “If you’re comfortable jumping from the crescent thingy on the end, you could walking across on it.”

“What?! I’m not comfortable walking!” said Lip, with an exasperated arm motion. “That scepter thingy is so thin it’s like a tightrope. I don’t trust my balance enough to get all the way across without falling in.”

“Well, it was worth a shot, anyway,” said Ruby. She shrugged and handed it back to Seren. The moon fairy, in response, turned on her heel and started closely inspecting every inch of her for any dents or scuffs, pausing every few minutes to give Ruby the evil eye.

Ruby folded her arms and muttered under her breath, “Drama queen.”

A look of realization suddenly crossed Elias’s face. “Wait just a minute. I have an idea,” she announced. With that she climbed up the ladder on the side of Neris’s water tank. “Neris, would you mind stretching all the way out for me?” she asked, upon reaching the top.

“Uh, okay,” said Neris, and complied.

Elias entered the water and studied Neris’s form closely, paying especially close attention to her height from the top her head to the tip of her tail.

“Ellie, what’s this for?” said Neris with a nervous giggle and smile, blushing slightly. “How long is this gonna take?”

“I know what I’m doing, Neris,” said Elias, in response. “Just be patient.”

After a minute or so of studying, Elias climbed out of and down the tank, and proceeded to do much the same as she had with Neris with the width of the river. Some time later, she muttered aloud to herself, “Mm-hmm. It could work.”

Elias stepped out of the river and walked back over to the group. Standing next to Windy, she kneeled down to speak to Lip. “Okay, Lip, this might sound a bit odd,” she began, “but hear me out. Instead of using Seren’s staff to cross the river, we’ll have Neris get in.” Elias gestured to the mermaid, who was looking down at the others over the top of her tank. “Then you can walk on her back to reach the other bank. What do you say?”

“Hmm…” Lip put her hand to her chin in thought as she looked back and forth between Elias’s face and what could be made out of Neris around Windy’s head. “Well… I guess it’s sort of like when you climb on someone else to reach a high spot, except going horizontally.” Lip shrugged. “Well, I guess we could give it a shot. If Neris thinks she can keep still enough in the river so I don’t fall off.”

“Relax, Lip,” said Neris with a dismissive wave of her hand. “I can be as still as a statue if I need to be. Here, I’ll show you.”

Neris stuck her arms stiffly out on either side of her, stretched her fish tail out as far as it would go, and tried as hard as she could to avoid any sort of movement. This immediately caused her to inadvertently plunge underwater. Fortunately, as a mermaid, this didn’t  cause her any harm, and Neris simply resurfaced a few seconds later.  “Uhm, that time didn’t count,” said the sea princess sheepishly.

“So that’s a yes?” Elias asked the diminutive flower fairy.

Lip nodded. “A hesitant one, but I’ll give it a shot, anyway.”

Elias stood back up and nodded back with a smile. She looked down at Windy. “Windy, could you set Lip down on the river bank over there?” she asked, pointing. “You and Ruby are going to have to do some airlifting.”

“Gotcha, Miss Elias!” said Windy. She lowered her hands to the ground, surprisingly gently, allowing Lip to step off of her palm and onto the gravel surrounding the river.

Lip took advantage of this brief downtime to have look around. Behind her, a forest of grass with every blade the size of a small tree to her, and her friends, each girl towering over her like Lily Palace’s grand archway. In front of her, a river that might as well have been a hundred feet wide. Lip sighed. If nothing else, her new (hopefully soon to be old) perspective was good for practicing her similes and metaphors.

As Lip thought to herself, Ruby and Windy both flew up to Neris, grabbed her gently by each arm, and carefully lifted her down into the river, just front of where Lip stood. (Extra care was taken not to make a splash and get the tiny flower girl soaking wet – and no one was more thankful for that than Lip was! A tiny splash to a normal-sized fairy might feel considerably different to a tiny one…more painful, if nothing else.) Once re-submerged, Neris stretched out horizontally as far as she could, her body just barely long enough to bridge the river from head to tailfin.

“Bridge ready, Your Royal Highness,” said Windy, saluting, before she and Ruby rejoined the other fairies.

Lip stepped up to where her trek would begin: the delicate, shiny fin at the end of Neris’s fish tail. It flicked up and down, as if inviting Lip to step on and begin her journey up the mermaid’s back. Lip, bearing a look of uncertainty, looked from the tail up at her friends, then back to the tail, then over at Neris’s encouraging face near the other side of the river, then back to the fin. She took a deep breath, stood as tall as she could, muttered “Here goes nothing,” and climbed onto the fin.

Lip immediately noticed that standing on Neris’s fin didn’t feel too much different than standing on her the other princess’s hands or shoulders. She remembered from her studies that fish fins were made of bony spines covered with a thin layer of skin; maybe that was why. Lip didn’t have a clue why she remembered that now of all places when there was a fairy-bridge to be crossed, but it did cause her to, consciously and subconsciously, avoid the spots where she supposed a bone might be underneath the fin. She didn’t know how painful it would be for Neris if she accidentally broke one, but she figured bones were bones.

Just as Lip reached the end of Neris’s fin and was about to take her first step onto the tail, she recalled Neris’s penchant for punning. Although ordinarily silly at worst, one badly-timed quip from the sea fairy could mean the difference between a dry Lip and a soggy Lip, so the flower princess decided to nip things in the bud. “No puns, please?” she asked, looking towards Neris’s face. “I… I have to concentrate.”

Neris nodded in understanding. “All right, no puns, she said with a smile and a wink.

Lip took her first step onto Neris’s tail. The pinkish-purple scales were, perhaps unavoidably for a fish tail, quite slimy. Before Lip had walked her equivalent of five feet, she had slipped and, with a squeal, fallen on her stomach. Fortunately, there was just enough tail room on either side of her to keep her from falling into the river.

“Oh!” Neris called over to her. “But mind the tail. It’s a little slippery.”

“Now you tell me…” Lip muttered as she rose to her knees.

“Mermaids live in water, you know,” said Neris, shrugging. “It’s kind of unavoidable.”

As Lip climbed carefully back to her feet, the glinting of the sun off of the vast tail before her made her realize that she had never really noticed how lovely the scales in Neris’s tail were. Each individual scale glistened in the sun like a pink jewel, creating a dazzling purplish pathway up to the point where Neris’s fish half ended and fairy half began. It was quite the spectacle. Lip had just never taken a close enough look at the young mermaid lady’s tail before, she guessed, but now that she was small enough that she all but had to, she wondered why she hadn’t asked sooner. That made two positives of being so small…against countless negatives.

Lip continued to follow the magenta scale road down Neris’s back, watching her step carefully. Each of Neris’s scales was as beautiful as it was slippery. It felt like walking down a tile floor that had just been mopped and was still wet. As Neris said, it was unavoidable given how often a mermaid must necessarily be at least partially underwater, but it didn’t make the going any less treacherous. She found herself starting to wish she had chosen Seren’s crescent staff instead.

Just as Lip was about to cross over onto Neris’s back, she lost her footing and began to stumble, crying out in surprise. This time it didn’t seem like she’d be as lucky. All too quickly, Neris started to disappear from her view, replaced with the rushing water in the river below. “Yeek!” Lip squeaked, shutting her eyes to brace herself as she flailed her arms about madly, hoping to grab onto something that would keep her from being swept away.

Lip heard gasps of dismay from her friends on the “home” bank…then everything stopped. Nothing happened for a good few seconds. But Lip’s clothes didn’t feel any wetter.

“Lip, you doing all right back there?” came Neris’s voice from off to Lip’s right.

Opening her eyes, the tiny princess noticed that she had somehow stopped herself from falling into the drink, with the water still about one Lip-height below – although she was still leaning out over it at a worrying 45-degree angle. Her right hand had grabbed on to something in her frenzied thrashing. Following her arm, she saw that it was the fin running down Neris’s back that had saved her life.

Lip smiled and sighed with relief. So did the other fairies. “A little shaken up, but I’m okay,” Lip said in response, looking over towards Neris’s face. “I think your fin just saved me a soaking.”

“And a fin thing it is, too,” cracked Neris, in spite of herself. She giggled.

Lip was far less amused. “What did I tell you about puns?” she chided the (relatively) giant mermaid, putting her free hand on her hip.

“Sorry!” said Neris, with a broad smile still crossing her face. “Couldn’t resist. Go on. I promise that’s the last of ‘em. For now.”

Lip rolled her eyes and transferred her left hand to the mermaid’s back fin, turning slightly as she did so to let her see what she was doing. She began to shift herself over towards the center of Neris’s back, using her hold on the fin to make sure she didn’t slip up again. Once standing vertically again, Lip took a moment to catch her bearings before continuing.

The going was somewhat easier on Neris’s fairy half; it was only a short walk to her shoulder blade. What was somewhat trickier was climbing up through Neris’s hair to reach her shoulder. Lip found herself having to suppress the urge to sneeze more than once, but fortunately for her, it wasn’t a long crawl, as long as she kept moving forward. Once she left the sea of green hair, Lip emerged onto the mermaid’s left shoulder. She adjusted herself to a sitting position as she nervously stared down the length of Neris’s arm.

“Okay. Well, I’ve made it this far,” said Lip to Neris. She looked up at the sea fairy’s gentle face, then down her left arm once again. “…And it doesn’t things will get any easier from here.”

“Calm down, little Lip,” consoled Neris. “It’s only my arm.” Thinking back to what had happened after her perfect catch during the assembly a few hours ago, she continued, “You just walked all the way down one, remember? You didn’t seem scared then. Just bummed.”

“Yeah, when I was little,” answered Lip, staring down at Neris’s shoulder. “Or, um, littler. Littlest. Whatever. You know what I mean.” She looked back up at the sea princess. “I’ve got less wiggle room this time.” Lip peered down at the river and shivered a little. “One wrong move, and… sploosh.”

“If you start to fall, I’ll catch you with my other hand,” said Neris.

This reassured Lip some, but not a great deal. “A-Are you sure?” she stammered. “Little things can move pretty quickly. I should know. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to shoo away the bugs in the palace gardens. If your reflexes aren’t fast enough to catch me…”

Neris gave Lip a meaningful look. Lip still wasn’t used to staring into eyes that were as tall as she was, and she doubted she’d ever be, but she knew what that look meant, so she stopped speaking and started paying close attention. “You’re going to have to trust me.”

 “…All right, Neris,” said Lip after some deliberation, with a nod. “I believe you.”

“What are friends for?” said Neris with a kind smile. She turned her left hand over, allowing Lip a safe place to stand when she’d finished her crossing.

Lip turned her attention away from Neris’s deep purple eye and back to her arm. Despite the mermaid’s reassurance, Lip still felt nervous. It wasn’t exactly a long walk to the safety of Neris’s palm, and it was certainly shorter than the distance Lip had just walked down her tail. However, the key difference was in the length. Neris’s tail was wide enough to accommodate several fairies of Lip’s present size; her arm would only fit one, maybe two at its widest. At least it wouldn’t be as slippery.

Lip rose to her feet, steeled herself for the trial ahead, and set off down Neris’s arm. She held both arms out to either side to keep her balance as she walked down the tightrope of sorts. At least it isn’t quite as thin as Seren’s scepter, she thought to herself.

Lip’s excursion was almost brought to an end when she suddenly heard Windy’s voice call out. “Be careful, Lip!”

Lip stumbled upon hearing Windy’s voice and almost lost her balance. “Whoaaa!” she hollered as she waved her arms about, desperately trying to regain her balance. Fortunately, Lip quickly managed to right herself before she took a dive, and a good thing it was too. This time there was no fin to grab on to.

Frustated, Lip turned to face the other bank. “Windy, could you have been more startling?!” she yelled.

Windy’s hands were balled into worried fists in front of herself. The wind fairy bore an anxious frown on her face, which immediately caused Lip to feel a twinge of regret. Windy clearly wasn’t being a hindrance on purpose.

“I’m sorry,” said Windy, putting her hands meekly behind her back. “I get nervous when my friends are in trouble.”

Ruby put a hand on Windy’s shoulder. “It’s okay to be worried about Lip, but she could’ve fallen into the river.” She chuckled to herself. “It’s kind of funny when you think about it. Calling out to Lip telling her to be careful, and you made her stumble and almost fall!”

A smile came to Windy’s face again. As worried as she was for her friend’s safety, she had to admit it was kind of funny.

“Maybe reverse psycho-loogie would work,” posited Sherbet, raising a finger.

“Come again?” asked Ruby.

Sherbet put her hands on either side of her mouth and began to call out, “You’ll never make it, Lip! Bet you’re gonna fall!” She snickered. “Bet you’ll get swept away by the river and none of us will ever see you ag—mmph!

Flare had clamped her hand firmly over the ice fairy’s mouth. She called out to Lip, “Ignore Sherbet.” Her voice turned harsh as she looked down at Sherbet. “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” She raised an encouraging fist into the air as her voice turned (somewhat) pleasant again. “You go ahead, Lip! We believe in you!”

At this point Lip was almost at Neris’s hand. The diminutive flower fairy climbed over the mermaid’s pink bracelet, and flopping down with a small oop! noise, had only a few steps to take across Neris’s hand before finally stepping off onto the gravel bank on the other side of the river. The flower, and Lip’s ultimate goal of returning to normal size, was in sight. “Made it!” she called back to the others, putting a triumphant fist in the air.

The other fairies all cheered for Lip (except for Seren, who had passed out at some point during Lip’s river crossing), but none more exuberantly than Windy. “YEAH! WOOHOO! Way to be, Lippy!” she screamed, floating into the air in her excitement. It was a wonder how Seren managed to stay asleep through all that noise, Lip thought.

“I knew you could do it!” said Sherbet with an unconvincing grin, glancing up at Flare nervously.

“Nice backpedaling, ice cube,” remarked the fire fairy, and rolled her eyes.

“That’s the tough part over with,” Lip said as she climbed up onto a stone next to the flower. As large as it seemed to someone of her size, it was still a flower, and she was sure she could manipulate it to her liking as long as she had her flower rod with her. “Making this flower grow’ll be a cinch,” she said as she pulled out her wand.

Lip placed her flower rod to the daisy, then stuck it in the air, spun it in a broad circle over her head, and began to recite an incantation:

“Flower planted in the ground,
bathed in light of day…
Make this blooming blossom grow
and shape it as I say.”

As her chant ended, she pointed her rod straight forwards at the daisy. Nothing seemed to happen at first. Lip was patient, however; not all magic spells worked immediately, after all. If nothing happened for another five minutes, then she felt she could worry about her magic having been adversely affected by her smaller size.

“Your rhymes are sublime,” said Thiana, after Lip’s spellcasting session had ended. “…But I’m not sure what poetry has to do with magic spells.”

“The spellbook said ‘recite these magic words for best results.’”, Lip called across in response. “Just following instructions.”

“Respect where it’s due, Lip,” Ruby began as she flitted across the river towards where Lip stood, “but I think your spellbook is more like a spellbunk.” She kneeled down to look Lip in the face, and the rest of her body. “I’ve studied magic since I was born, and I never once heard of a spell that needed anyone to say a nursery rhyme first.”

“She has a point…” Neris concurred. She had shifted to a more comfortable vertical position, resting her elbows on the riverbank. “Are you sure it wasn’t one of those scam spellbooks with phony incantations that con artists put out to try and get the better of gullible kids?”

“I was just doing what I thought would work!” Lip said, agitated. “You know how finicky magic can be.” Lip looked down at the wand she held in her hands – her most treasured possession. “I’m not as powerful as the rest of you - that’s why I need my flower rod. It’s what I focus my magic through. If my magic isn’t strong at my full height, it’s going to need all the help it can get if I’m at two inches.”

“How would you being small affect your magic powers?” Ruby asked, putting a hand on her hip. “It’s not a physical attribute. There’s no reason why you shrinking would make it any less—“

“Are we really arguing about this now?! Look!” Elias yelled as she pointed to the flower. It seems as though Lip’s spell had worked after all. In just a few short seconds, the flower had started elongating and growing towards the other side of the river. Once its blossom had grown across, it lowered itself to the ground, and its stem began to split apart and tie itself together. Before long, an ornate green bridge (with a daisy head at one end) had formed.

“Ooh! What a bridge!” Neris remarked as she swam over to inspect the reshaped blossom.

Thiana, nature fairy that she was, was the first to cross the flower bridge. “Excellent craftsmanship,” she remarked, running a hand along its hand rail as she crossed. She kneeled down to speak to Lip after stepping off on the other side. “You know, for a greenhorn in magic, you’re not half bad. At least, not when it comes to flowers.”

“Thanks, Thiana,” Lip answered with a smile. “I’m not great, but I’m learning every day.”

With her job now done, Ruby and Windy flew to Neris’s side. “And up you go!” said Windy as the two fairies helped to airlift Neris back into her water tank.

Once back in her tank, Neris gleefully dived under the surface of the water and swam about. She resurfaced, splashing water about as her head popped up and spraying the fairies hovering above. “Whew! Salt water!” exclaimed the sea princess. “River water is fine and everything, but you just can’t beat salt water’s homey feel.” She reclined and started paddling about the surface of the water.

“They both freeze as good!” said Sherbet.

“And they both put you out as good…” muttered Flare, crossing her arms.

Elias crossed the bridge next, hauling Neris’s tank behind her, and crouched down beside Lip, lowering her arm to offer a path up to her shoulder. Lip obligingly climbed up and plopped herself down, then turned to the others. “Well, water—uh, what are we waiting for?” she asked with a giggle.

Neris rolled her eyes. “And you tell me not to pun!”

“Let’s get rolling,” Ruby said with a smile, flying out in front to lead the way. “The sunfruit plant can’t be far from here!”

“All right!” said Flare with a fist-pump as she crossed the flower bridge.

“‘Bout time…” Sherbet groaned, following shortly after.

“Whee! Back to adventure!” said Windy, throwing her hands in the air with excitement. She flew across the river to join her friends on the other side

Seren snored, face-down on the ground. Everyone groaned.

“Ah, geez,” Flare said, burying her face in her hand. “Could somebody drag Seren?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” said Thiana. She ran over to the moon fairy’s fallen body and struggled to hoist her over her shoulders, perspiring visibly under her weight. “Don’t tell her I said this, but… she’s heavier than she looks,” she grunted, as she struggled across the bridge to join the others.

Lip looked up at Elias’s face, then up at the bright blue sky above, and smiled with a blissful sigh. There might be some difficulties getting inside the sunfruit harvesting plant, but, at the very least, there shouldn’t be any more major obstacles getting there. The fairies were at the home stretch at last, and Lip was gladdest of all. She’d had quite enough of being small.

Windy began to sing again as the fairies set off: “We’re off to see the fairies, the fairies at the factory!


Chapter 12, written by Mab

Two more hours of walking, some rest breaks, and thousands of complaints of sore feet (most of which came from the mouth of a certain blue-haired ice fairy) later, and the motley group’s destination finally began to rise into view over the crest of a small hill: it was the square white building Windy—or “the Windyvator”— had spotted earlier. It stood about half the size of Lip’s palace in height and sprawled out across an empty patch of grassland. Emblazoned on one side of the building was a large block-letter logo:

BLOOMING FRUIT SOLUTIONS

“Well, ladies,” said Lip as she turned to the others from her perch on Elias’s shoulder, “here we are.”

“‘Bout time,” said Sherbet from the back of the group as she trudged forward to rejoin them. “My feet must have 64 blisters each by now.”

Lip could hardly contain her excitement as she sprang to her feet. “This has been a long, crazy adventure, hasn’t it?” she asked as she looked up at the other girls. “But we’re almost at the end!” She clapped her tiny hands. “All we have to do is walk up and ask if they could spare a batch of sunfruit, and I’ll be back to my normal size in no time at all.”

Ruby took note of a small booth outside of what appeared to be the front doors of the building. “Looks like there’s security,” she observed. “What do you propose we do to get by, Lip?”

Lip raised a finger, then hesitated, and at length admitted, “...Um, I dunno. That’s as far as I got.”

Sherbet and Flare groaned a little. Lip ignored this as she plopped her bottom down on Elias’s collarbone once again and put a finger to her chin contemplatively. “...Well,” she continued eventually, and echoed the words of her mother: “There’s always a solution to the problem. We just have to think of a way to get past that booth so we can take some of the sunfruit they have locked up in there.”

“Lip?” Elias asked as she looked down at her passenger, so to speak. “I think that’s called ‘stealing.’”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures, Ellie,” Lip responded.

“Uh…” Elias blushed a little and raised a hand to her chest nervously. “That’s Neris’s name for me. It feels kind of weird hearing someone like you say it.”

“It’s just a nickname, Ellie. She can call you what she wants,” said Neris, peeking over the edge of her tank.

“I– I know, Neris, it’s just...” Elias stuttered.

Neris giggled. “You’re cute when you’re flustered,” she teased.

“Well, anyway,” Lip continued. “If we explain ourselves, and prove that I’m really as small as we claim, which will be easy–” she looked down at her two-inch frame “–then I know they’ll understand.”

Thiana looked, and sounded, unamused. “So being the princess of the entire country is a ‘get out of trouble free’ pass?” she asked as she marched up to Elias’s side and stared Lip in the face. “Is that what you think?” The nature fairy tutted. “How irresponsible of you.”

Lip rose to her feet again and, in turn, looked into Thiana’s huge (from her current perspective) green eyes. “I’m new at this,” she said. “And figuring things out. And tired of being tiny. Besides, i-it’s royal business, you know.”

“She’s technically right,” Ruby added.

“…Well, okay,” Thiana conceded, shrinking away from Elias’s shoulder slightly. “You’re right. Desperate measures.”

Lip smiled up at Thiana. “Glad you understand, Thi,” she said happily.

There was a pause.

“…So,” Lip asked, breaking the silence. “Anyone have any ideas?”

“I think we should try using a distraction,” Sherbet announced loudly, shoving a finger into the air.

“How about I start making loud annoying noises?” Windy immediately asked. Before anyone could stop her, the wind fairy cupped her hands in front of her mouth and started yelling “Awooga! Awooga!” as loud as she could.

Flare didn’t hesitate a moment before rushing over and slapping a hand over Windy’s mouth to end the cacophony. “Subtlety, Windy,” she chided, giving Windy a half-lidded stare. “Besides, that would make you look like a loon.” She blinked, and added, “…Well, even more of a loon,” with a sly smile.

“Well, maybe I want to look like a loon,” Windy said, smiling. “Loons are cute.”

“You’re cute enough as it is, Windy,” said Lip, also with a smile on her face. “...most of the time, anyway.”

There was another long silence as the fairies returned to coming up with some method of

“...Say,” Flare spoke up, after a time. “I’ve got an idea. Ruby, what’s the person at the entrance look like?”

“Hold on,” said Ruby in response. She made a few hand gestures and muttered an incantation under her breath. This display caused a shining pair of binoculars, almost pearl-like in appearance (mostly because it was), to appear in her hands. Peering through them, Ruby spied a small booth near the entrance of the building; inside sat a young-looking male fairy, with short, spiky green hair, a freckled face, and blue eyes, distractedly reading an adventure novel.

“Going off appearances,” the jewel fairy reported, “the fairy at the front gate is, I’d say 18 or so. He looks pretty bored, so I’d wager a guess that he’s a part-timer.” She dismissed the binoculars with a final wave of her hands. “Of course, this information doesn’t have any real relevance, but if it’s what you wanted to know...”

“Oh, it’s relevant, all right,” said Flare, climbing to her feet. She put a hand behind her head and attempted to give as coquettish a look as was possible. “Maybe I could distract him with my feminine wiles while you girls sneak in.”

This remark drew mostly flat stares and unamused reactions. Entirely, in fact.

Neris spoke up after a time. “Flare, you’re more masculine than some actual men I know,” she said, leaning over the edge of her tank and raising an eyebrow at the fire fairy.

Of all the fairies, Flare, being the princess of fire, was far and away the most passionate. Unfortunately, that also meant she had the shortest temper, which ran especially thin when others talked negatively about her appearance. “And what is that supposed to mean?” asked Flare aggressively, her hair beginning to fire up again.

“Uh, n-not that you aren’t pretty or anything!” Neris stuttered in response, throwing up her hands nervously. “It’s just I don’t know if he’d be interested in you, is all.”

Flare’s facial expression and hair both calmed down at this point. “Fair,” she conceded, crossing her arms. “But I still say we should save my plan for back-up in case the one we decide on doesn’t work.”

Lip rolled her eyes. “Whatever you say.”

All of a sudden, Windy raised a finger into the air with such force that it almost looked like she was trying to poke a hole in the sky. “I got it!” she announced proudly. Using her wind magic, she flew up to Sherbet’s side and, inspecting her height closely, slowly raised herself into the air until the bottoms of her feet were level with the top of Sherbet’s head. Together, they stood roughly the height of a fairy of above-average height, assuming “above-average” to mean somewhere in the area of 8 feet due to said fairy’s freakishly long body.

“Yep, that should just about work,” announced Windy regardless. “Does anyone have a trenchcoat and a fake mustache?”

“Ooh, I love this trick!” said Sherbet with glee, clapping and rubbing her hands together.

Somehow, this plan drew more blank, unamused stares than did Flare’s. Considering the fire fairy’s scheme had received a unanimously flat reaction, this was an impressive feat indeed. “You don’t seriously think he’s going to fall for that, do you, Windy?” asked Ruby, after an awkward silence.

“Hey, never rule anything out,” said Windy, putting her hands on her hips in defiance.

“The point Ruby is trying to make,” said Lip as she got back to her feet, “is that this fairy is an adult man. He’s well past the age where he’d be fooled by two little girls standing on each other’s shoulders.” She shrugged and sighed. “Honestly, I don’t know whether that speaks more to your weirdness or your low opinion of his intelligence.”

“But Lip!” complained Windy, drifting over to Elias’s shoulder so she could give Lip pleading puppy-eyes. “He’s a boy, and boys have cooties! Of course he’s gonna be dumb. It’s a side effect of the disease.”

Elias blinked, trying her best not to succumb to the dark magic of the puppy-dog eyes. One fairy who knew of its mysterious ways was bad enough (although she was fortunately bite-sized at the moment, limiting its effectiveness). “How old are you again?” the water fairy asked.

“Hmm…” said Lip, placing a finger to her chin in thought and beginning to pace between Elias’s shoulders. “Who here, besides me, is the most level-headed of the gang? The wisest? The most mature? The fairy even someone who isn’t familiar with her is bound to listen to?”

There was barely a second’s pause. “Ruby,” said everyone.

Ruby stared for a second, looking like a deer in the dragon’s fire breath, before putting up her hands defensively. “Hey, I’m still only a teenager, ‘k?” she said, sweating a little. “I know you guys look up to me and all, but they’re not going to trust any green-haired girl who flies up to their front gate.” She gestured towards Seren. “She’s the one you’re looking for.”

Seren was still passed out on the ground, snoring in a rather unbecoming way for such a dignified young woman.

Ruby ran her hand down her face. “Somebody try snapping Sleeping Beauty out of naptime, please?”

The best someone for the job of waking someone up, of course, was Windy. “Allow me,” said the small pink-haired fairy. She trotted up to Seren’s sleeping figure and, without hesitation, set about shaking Seren about, tugging on her arms, legs, and hair, smacking her in the face, and—after all else had failed—stomping up and down on her chest like she was some kind of bouncy mattress. Surprisingly, none of this display of slapstick had any effect on the princess of the moon, who remained face-down in the grass in a puddle of her own drool.

“Sheesh!” griped Windy eventually, floating into the air some and putting her hand on her hips. “You know, Miss Seren, you’re a heavy sleeper.”

“Mmph… ngnggh…” came Seren’s voice as she began to stir and lift herself from the ground, her face contorted into a half-lidded scowl. “What?! Call me heavy? I ought to…”

Unfortunately, it seemed to all that Windy had incurred the wrath of possibly the most intimidating of Poppliss’s rulers. At least she had managed to rouse her from her sleep.

...or so it seemed, until Seren’s already bleary eyes shut themselves once more, and she fell back to the ground. “…mmm… pass the fries, please…” she mumbled.

Everyone groaned.

“Well, that’s that,” said Flare, throwing her head back and slumping over. “If Windy can’t wake Seren up with her… Windy-ness,” then there’s no getting her to budge till she wakes up.” She held her head in her hands and growled in frustration. “At this rate, it’d be faster to just turn around, walk all the way back to the palace, and wait for the next shipment to arrive!”

“No!” shouted Lip, poking her head through Elias’s cascade of blue hair to face Flare. “We’ve come too far to give up here!” Lip’s finger returned to her chin, along with her bottom to Elias’s shoulder and her brain to brainstorming. “There’s gotta be some way to work around her naptime...”

“Wait a minute!” came Sherbet’s eager voice. “Idea coming to mind!”

That’s never a good sign,” said Lip’s brain.OK, shoot,” said Lip’s mouth.

“Well,” said Sherbet, her hands balled with anticipation. “Seren is asleep, right?”

“No kidding,” said Thiana. She looked down at Seren, who had passed out by her feet, and realized to her dismay that the princess of the moon had started to drool on one of her shoes. “Eww!” she exclaimed, leaping to the side and shaking the offending foot desperately to free. This, too, failed to rouse Seren from her near coma-like sleep.

“Well there’s a way to work around that,” continued Sherbet. “I bet, say… uh, Ruby, maybe—” she looked towards the jewel fairy in question. “can use some of her magic to make it look like she’s awake and moving around.” She pointed up to Neris, peering over the top of her tank as was the norm for this journey. “Neris could do her voice, since she’s a singer.”

“Neris’s voice doesn’t sound anything like Seren’s,” said Elias with a cocked eyebrow.

“Well, this guy’s never met her before, right?” replied Sherbet, smiling. “Does he need to know that?”

“Singing and ventriloquism aren’t the same th—” Neris started, before slouching and sighing. “Aw, what the heck. I’m good enough at throwing my voice. I’ll give it a try,” she finished with a nod. “What do you want me to say?”

“Just improvise,” said Sherbet. “Maybe she’s like, a teacher from the most prestige-i-ous school in all of Poppliss taking her students on a tour of Blooming Fruit Solutions.”

“Geez,” remarked Neris. “You really do want me to be a ventriloquist...”

“Relax, Neri,” Elias reassured. “Consider it a second option in case our singing career falls apart.”

“Great!” said Sherbet, bouncing up and down excitedly. “That’s two out of three. We just need someone to make it look like her lips are moving when she talks. Else the factory workers won’t buy it.”

Sherbet gave Lip a knowing smile. Lip immediately went pale. “…Wait. Y-You’re not seriously saying I have to go inside Seren’s mouth and move her lips to make it look like she’s talking, are you?!”

Sherbet nodded slowly.

“No way!” Lip said, leaping to her feet (Elias flinching slightly from the impact). “Your mouth is disgusting enough, and just holding Seren’s tongue made me want to puke.” Lip threw her hands out in a panic. “Besides being gross, it’s downright dangerous! What if she swallows me? Nuh-uh.” She crossed her arms and closed her eyes. “You’re not getting me to crawl in there.”

“Desperate times, desperate measures,” said Sherbet, echoing the flower fairy’s words from earlier.

Lip’s confident demeanor faltered at these words. She hesitated, then said with a sigh, “All right. Against my better judgment, I’ll do it.”

The words had barely left Lip’s mouth before Sherbet had snatched her off of Elias’s shoulder, and the flower fairy found herself once again held captive in the youngest princess’s gloved hand. Lip’s world shook up and down as Sherbet bounded over to Seren’s side and rolled the moon fairy over with her foot, exposing her face. Bending down, Sherbet pried open Seren’s mouth with one hand and set Lip down on Seren’s face with the other.

Lip peered over the edge of Seren’s bright red lips into the dark, slimy cave that was her mouth. A gust of warm breath (which at least smelled nicer than Sherbet’s… although almost anything would) blew over the diminutive fairy’s body as a loud snore echoed out from Seren’s throat. It was the worst kind of deja vu, and not something Lip was particularly looking forward to experiencing again. Still, it was what had to be done.

With a disgusted groan, Lip kneeled down, swung her feet over Seren’s lips and teeth, and began to slowly, carefully lower herself into the moon fairy’s maw. Halfway in, she glanced up at Sherbet, still eagerly smiling down at her and clearly pleased as punch to see her plan coming together. “Shouldn’t we have some kind of signal in case things go south?” she asked, looking down and wincing at her now saliva-covered clothes and boots. “I really, really, really don’t want to see what the inside of someone’s stomach looks like.”

“Just tug on the little bulb thingy in the back of her mouth,” said Sherbet, opening her own wide and pointing at her own uvula. “It’s what you did with me, remember?”

“Wait, so was that the ‘maw exploration’ you were talking about back at the palace, Lip?” asked Thiana. “Sherbet tried to eat you?!”

“No!” said Sherbet defensively, turning angrily to face Thiana. “We wanted to play, and we had to hide Lip somewhere ‘cause this dress doesn’t have pockets, and my mouth was the only thing we could think of.”

You were the only one who wanted to play, short-stuff,” said Flare.

“No, Sherbet’s right,” said Lip, now fairly thoroughly soaked in Seren spit. “She suggested we have a little tea party, and I agreed to it. I… just had no idea it would involve her turning into a T-rex.”

“Wow,” remarked Thiana. “You have that power?”

“What? N-- ...I mean, yes,” said Sherbet, closing her eyes proudly and putting a hand on her chest. “I’ve been practicing. Remind me to show you once we get back to the palace.”

Lip rolled her eyes, and continued to spelunk herself down into Seren’s mouth. Once she had a nice, firm death grip on the squishy pink rug of the moon fairy’s tongue, she waved up towards Sherbet. “All right, I’m—ick—ready,” she called up and out as she felt another blob of saliva roll down her back.

“Okay, Lip’s ready,” Sherbet said—presumably to Ruby. Lip couldn’t exactly tell from her current vantage point.

“...Good,” came Ruby’s uncertain voice. “And? How do you want me to do this? I’m not the most skilled in manipulation magic. It’s outside my area of expertise.”

“Hmm,” hemmed Neris. “You could… maybe… try pretending Seren is a giant gem, and try moving her arms and legs around the way you’d manipulate jewels.”

“Interesting,” mused Ruby. “I could give that a shot. Thanks for the help, Neris.”

“A pearl of an idea, right?” Neris answered, laughing at her pun.

After a moment’s pause, Lip felt herself pitch upward and forward. Based on the conversation she overheard, she assumed this was due to Ruby using her reverse-engineered jewel magic to lift Seren’s body into a standing position. It felt sort of like a theme park ride, Lip imagined, only without such pesky things as safety regulations and death prevention.

Through her small, fleshy, lipstick-adorned viewport, Lip saw Flare walk over to Seren and bend down some to see Lip inside the moon princess’s mouth (or attempt to, at any rate). “Well, here goes nothing,” the fire fairy said eventually, with a uncharacteristic and disconcerting lack of confidence.

“Yeah,” said Lip, with an equally unconfident thumbs up. “Here goes.”

Lip made absolutely sure to keep her hands fully inside of Seren’s mouth as Flare closed it, drowning her in darkness. Gross, slimy darkness.


Chapter 13, written by Mab

                For the second time in as many days, Lip was inside another fairy’s mouth. Having done something unpleasant before does not make the second time any easier. The flower fairy’s smaller size meant that she fit more comfortably inside, with plenty of headroom between her back and the roof of the mouth, and she had more wiggle-room than before--but all of the horrid sensations of the last time were still very much around. Seren’s breath was less noxious than Sherbet’s, but the mugginess and the moon fairy drool oozing on and around her made that a small comfort—to say nothing of the awkward lurching she experienced as Ruby used her magic to approximate natural movement toward the gates of Blooming Fruit Solutions. What was more, at such a tiny size, the larger of the two fairies could easily swallow the smaller in her sleep without even noticing. It wasn’t just the threat of digestion that bothered the flower princess: Seren, for all her ego problems, was still a close friend, and if Lip ended up in her digestion, she would have to answer to the queen. And as scary as Seren could get when she was upset, Lip’s mom was infinitely worse. 

                Speaking of her mom… This was the furthest Lip had been from the palace without the queen’s guidance in some time. She knew that Cordelia most likely had law-writing and meetings and other royal business to attend to, but Lip still had a nagging feeling in the back of her mind. The queen would be concerned for the safety of her daughter anyway, but now, when she was the size of a bug and about as easy to squish… At the end of the day, however, Lip knew she couldn’t let it bother her. One of these days she was going to succeed her mom to the throne of Poppliss, and it was time for her to act like it. Don’t worry, mom, Lip thought to herself, as she lay there in the dark with her arms wrapped around Seren’s slimy tongue. I’ll be OK.

                Lip was getting distracted, though. She wasn’t in here for sightseeing—she had a job to do, and it was imperative that she focused on it.

                The bumps and jerks of Seren’s body being walked along like a life-sized marionette came to a sudden halt, sending Lip jolting upward to the roof of the moon princess’s mouth. (Fortunately for both Lip and the fairies’ plan, Seren was sleeping too deeply to feel this at all.) Lip guessed this meant her party had reached the entrance. “Time to do what Sherbet said,” she whispered to herself. “Wow, I never thought I’d say that...”

                Slowly, carefully, Lip slipped her left hand under Seren’s upper row of teeth. Naturally, for a woman as concerned for appearance as she, Seren’s teeth were very smooth and actually not unpleasant to handle—white as pearls and as smooth as porcelain. All the same, the saliva coating made them feel as slimy as any other part of the giant mouth, and just being pretty didn’t make an accidental bite any less dangerous. A few moments passed as Lip accustomed herself to the sensation of the enamel against her skin, after which she placed her right hand on the moon fairy’s lower set of teeth. In this position, she was able to, with some effort, push Seren’s lower jaw down to crudely approximate mouthing words. It wasn’t the most effective fakery, but hopefully it would be convincing enough to see this little plot through to its end. And as far as Lip was concerned, that couldn’t come soon enough.

                Lip’s vision was heavily obscured from her current position; Seren was at present surrounding the flower princess on all sides, and what was on the other side of her lips was rendered mostly invisible by the bright light that came filtering into the moon fairy’s mouth as Lip pried her jaws apart. Fortunately, the sounds outside of Seren’s body were still audible, although muffled and slightly hard to hear over her the pulsing background noise of her heartbeat. A good thing, too—otherwise how would Lip know what words to help her mouth (or at least attempt to mouth)?

 

                “Ahem… Yes, excuse me?” came Neris’s voice from outside, to the rear and above. From the sound of things, the mermaid was lowering the pitch of her voice in an attempt to emulate the deep, authoritative tone Seren typically used. It was only convincing to someone who had never heard Seren speak before. Fortunately, that was exactly the case for the fairy at the gate. Still, Lip was beginning to realize why she the mermaid so reluctant to take up ventriloquism. Taking care not to let the moon fairy’s teeth squish her bite-sized hands, Lip tried as best she could to flap Seren’s mouth open and closed in time with Neris’s words.

                “Welcome to Blooming Fruit Solutions, the flower world’s largest supplier of sunfruit. ‘If it’s not Blooming Fruit, it’s not quality!’ My name is Lief. How may I help you?” replied a disinterested male voice. This was of course the green-haired fairy they had spied at the facility gates earlier.

                “My name is Seren. Ah, I’m a moon fairy. You may refer to me as Lady Seren, however,” echoed Neris’s poor impression a second time. Lip giggled a bit to herself. At least Neris was good at imitating Seren’s boastfulpersonality. “Me and my companions are interested in your products and would like a tour of the facilities.”

                Lip again tried to match the dialogue Neris was providing for the unconscious moon princess. Evidently poorly—from somewhere behind and to her right, she heard Sherbet’s high-pitched voice jeer, “Look at her mouth flap up and down! It’s like she’s a giant sock puppet.” Windy’s snickering was heard in response.

                “What was that?” asked Lief.

                “Ignore Sherbet. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” said Neris-as-Seren.

                “What’s that supposed to mean?!” replied Sherbet indignantly.

                “It means she thinks you don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Windy with another giggle. Lip  and Windy were close enough friends that it wasn’t hard for the former fairy to picture the huge smile on the latter’s face, and she couldn’t help but smile herself. In such a gross and dangerous situation, she guessed that maybe one needed to find something to smile about.

                “Hey! Whose side are you on, Windy?” retorted Sherbet.

                Lip’s smile quickly vanished, and she groaned softly as she prepared herself for Neris’s next ad-lib. “Please don’t ruin this, Sherbet… it’s the only chance we’ve got,” she whispered to herself. Now more than ever, the flower fairy wished she weren’t stuck getting covered in Seren spittle so she could tell Sherbet as much in person.

                “Please don’t ruin this, Sherbet. It’s the only chance we’ve got,” came Elias’s voice in a hushed whisper from outside.

                Or Elias could step in, too, thought Lip, with some relief.

                “You guys really need to stop whispering…” Lief’s voice trailed off here, as he apparently noticed something. “By the way, what’s with the sunglasses?”

                This comment came slightly out of left field, but still wasn’t particularly hard for Lip to figure out. Either someone had brought sunglasses or Ruby had created some (possibly out of onyx?), and they were currently in use to hide the fact that Seren was off at the pastures, taking a roll call of the moon-sheep.

                “Er, l-like I said, I’m a moon fairy and the sun today is much too harsh for someone who’s used to the night. You understand, don’t you?” stuttered Neris-as-Seren. Lip rolled her eyes. The sea princess really needed to work on her acting skills.

                “Right... Anyway, if you want a tour, you’ll need to have set an appointment,” said Lief.

                There was a brief pause. “An appointment?” asked Neris-as-Seren eventually. Lip was caught off-guard by this brief lull, and her lip-flapping suffered for it, lagging noticeably behind Neris’s provided voice acting.

                “Tch… You’re telling me we didn’t even consider that we might need an appointment?” came Flare’s voice next, under her breath but close enough to be audible to Lip’s tiny ears.

                “Why are your lips moving funny?” asked Lief, clearly suspicious.

                “Her lips aren’t moving funny,” Thiana chimed in.

                There was another awkward silence. Lip kept her hands in position on Seren’s jaws in case her skills were necessary on short notice again.

                “...I’ll, uh… take your word for it,” came Lief’s voice afterward. “Anyway, yeah, you need an appointment if you want a tour. That’s how it works. No appointment, no tour. I think you understand why we can’t just let any old fairy walk in and look around.”

                “Right, uh, yes, we do have an appointment,” said Neris-as-Seren. A fib so obvious, and so easily revealed that Lip wasn’t even sure why she thought it would work.

                Sure enough… “Right, let me just check the list,” said Lief. The sound of flipping pages came from outside Lip’s fleshy enclosure. “How do you spell your name, miss? S-A-R-E-N?”

                “It doesn’t matter,” said Neris-as-Seren, now sounding somewhat flustered. Obviously, it was as clear to her as it was to Lip that the inevitable collapse of this caper was steadily drawing closer. “You don’t need to look. You just need to know it’s in there. You can ask your boss if you don’t believe me.”

                Disaster picked a fine time to strike. Midway through Neris’s dialogue, a particularly large blob of drool oozed lazily down from Seren’s soft palate and landed directly on Lip’s face. It felt like having a dog-sized wad of runny cake batter thrown in her face, except without the good taste. The saliva stung at Lip’s eyes, skin, nose, and just about everywhere else it touched. Stifling a cry of mixed disgust and pain, Lip’s hands slipped from their positions, leaving Seren’s mouth to hang slightly agape (fortunately not exposing its miniscule inhabitant) as the flower fairy frantically tried to wipe away the spit.

                “Now your mouth is just straight-up not moving,” said Lief. From the tone of his voice, he was growing increasingly suspicious. “Is this a put-on? I mean, the tank, the sunglasses, the jerky movement… None of this is natural.”

                “Oh, it’s no put-on!” came Neris’s voice again. This time it was her own voice, not the Seren impression of questionable accuracy she had earlier adopted. Lip could only assume this was part of a last-ditch attempt to convince Lief that everything was perfectly fine and not a set-up to sneak into the building without an appointment. She hoped that Lief would give the similarity of their voices the benefit of the doubt. “It’s been a long walk here, and she’s been pulling my tank herself the entire way.” (Another lie of course, but at least this one was somewhat believable and couldn’t be independently confirmed to not be the case.) “She’s a little tired. Not just from the tank. Moon fairy and all that.” She laughed nervously.

                “If you say so,” said Lief, still very unconvinced. “Even so, if you really want that tour, I’ll have to at least check with one of the higher-ups to see if you’re allowed into the building. I know it might seem like I don’t trust you (mostly because I don’t), but everything is pointing to this being--”

                Lief’s voice cut off as a low, guttural rumble escaped from the moon princess’s throat. It was a loud noise for the fairies standing outside, but for Lip, it sounded like the roaring of a thousand angry bears combined with twenty sonic booms and at least five other helpings of something else that was incredibly loud. The tremendous snore caused the flower girl’s entire body to vibrate and her teeth to chatter, and it took a huge amount of effort to keep a grip on Seren’s jaws for the duration.

                There was a long, terrible silence.

                “Are we boring you, ma’am?” came Lief’s voice eventually.

                “Um, er, no,” said Neris-as-Seren after a second, briefer pause. “I always get allergies in the spring.”

                “Really. That sounded more like a snore than a sniffle to me.”

                “I say!” Neris-as-Seren retorted. “I don’t tell you how to live your life. What business do you have telling me how to breathe! Honestly now!”

                As Lip aided Seren in mouthing this comeback, she caught sight of a large (to her) shadow falling past what little was visible of the world outside the moon fairy’s body. She hoped that didn’t mean trouble, but something in the pit of her stomach knew that it did.

                “Aha!” shouted Lief. “See? It was a snore.”

                It didn’t take long for Lip to put two and two together: Seren’s sunglasses, whatever material they were made of, had fallen off, partially exposing their ruse. (Lip and friends were very lucky that the shrunken flower fairy inside Seren’s mouth hadn’t made herself known too; using a sleeping fairy as a marionette was hard enough to explain.) It was hard to tell at this point where the wet feeling on Lip’s temple was a nervous sweat or more fairy slobber; it could have been a mixture of both. Easing her shoulders, Lip tried her best to relax and reassure herself that things could still go in their favor. At least he hasn’t called for security yet, the flower fairy thought.

                “I’m gonna have to call security,” said Lief.

                Isn’t that always the way… Lip thought glumly, her head collapsing to meet the pink muscly lump beneath her. She quickly came to regret doing so, as the roughness of the moon fairy’s taste buds wasn’t much more comfortable than the blob of saliva that had acquainted itself with her face earlier. The flower princess wondered briefly what she would taste like to Seren if she was awake. Lip couldn’t imagine all of that cloth from her hair and skirt or her hair and ponytail tasting that appetizing.

                “All right, broccoli head, listen here.” Lip’s head perked back into the muggy mouth-air as she heard a gruff yet feminine voice suddenly pipe up.

                Elias’s voice next: “Watch it, Flare. We’re already in trouble. We don’t need more of it.”

                “C’mon, El, I know what I’m doing,” said Flare. Lip heard the sound of footsteps on grass, moving forward. “OK, chump. You’re gonna let us in this fruit-plant, appointment or not. Understand?”

                “Rules are rules, ma’am,” said Lief. He didn’t sound fazed at all. Apparently the group was right to not use Flare’s “feminine wiles” on him. “If you haven’t scheduled a tour, I can’t let you in.”

                “OK, fine,” replied Flare. “If that’s the way you want to be, maybe I should rephrase that.” A soft thumping sound; maybe Flare leaning on the booth? “We need sunfruit, and we need it now. If you don’t let us in--”

                Flare’s voice was cut off. “So? You can just order it and it’ll be here in about five weeks or so.”

                “Let me finish, greenie,” growled Flare before continuing. “Anyway, we’ve got connections. I’ll have you know, Queen Cordelia is a good friend of ours.”

                “What does that have to do with—”      

                “Let me add that this situation involves the well-being of her daughter,” Flare said.

                There was a silence, save for Seren’s breath and the soft drumming of her heartbeat. There was a pause. Maybe what Flare was saying was getting through to Lief.

                “What I’m getting at is, if you don’t open up those doors and let us in, we’ll have no choice but to go back to the palace and tell the queen,” said Flare, her voice growing increasingly stern. “And the queen will be unhappy.
                Very unhappy.
                REALLY UNHAPPY.”

“O-OK,” stuttered Lief, “I get the picture. Let me just, uh...”

                A briefer pause, then a soft click! The sound of metal on metal was heard. Had Lief opened the doors to the factory for them? Finally, things were looking up!           

                “But you can’t tell my boss I let you in,” came Lief’s voice again, nervous. “I’m barely paid for this job as it is. If he finds out, it’s curtains for me!”

                “Thanks. We won’t,” said Flare.

                With that, Seren’s body began lurching forward again. The movement was smoother and very slightly more natural-feeling this time; Lip wondered if this meant she was being pushed now, since there was no further need for Ruby to simulate movement using her jewel powers.

                Unfortunately, just getting past security didn’t mean Lip was out of the woods yet. Or the mouth, as it would happen. A low, moaning mumble seemed to come from everywhere around the flower fairy as Seren finally began to awaken from her nap. Her tongue started to shift and wiggle underneath Lip, which, combined with how wet Lip already was from the moon princess’s saliva, resulted in an impromptu waterslide (salivaslide?) to the back of her mouth. Trying not to holler as she went slip sliding away, Lip’s arms flew madly around, looking for something that would prevent her from becoming a midday snack.

                The problem with this, of course, is that there were very few hand holdings to be found here. Teeth could be ruled out, since a waking Seren surrounded by her companions would likely soon be a talking Seren, and Lip didn’t really want to know what sensation getting her hands stuck between another fairy’s rock-sized molars would feel like. (She did have a suspicion it had something to do with excruciating pain, however.) Lip was too covered in drool at this point to be able to get any kind of firm grasp on her tongue. She could try planting her hands and feet on either side of the moon fairy’s gullet to avoid falling any further down, but she might risk dropping her flower rod down Seren’s throat—and that would mean losing forever the only thing keeping her magic on par with the other fairies. Besides, who knew what it would do to the moon princess’s stomach?

                Just before she slipped off of Seren’s tongue and into her depths, Lip looked up and saw her answer. Round, perfectly sized for tiny hands, and exactly what Sherbet had earlier told her to grab in case of emergency. (Lip had found herself following Sherbet’s advice worryingly often lately.) Her hand went up as quick as a magic missile and grabbed it…

                Seren blinked and rubbed her eyes to force some of the sleep away as she finally roused herself from what had to have been one of the deepest sleeps on record. Mumbling slightly as she smacked her lips, she arched her back as she took note of her surroundings. She stood, surrounded by the other princesses, at the entrance to a large, clean white room with a ceiling height of roughly fifteen feet and a mosaic floor with floor tiles in varying shades of brown laid out in a repeating starburst pattern. Various large portraits of various fruits (many of them featuring sunfruit, naturally) lined the walls, and several corridors led off deeper into Blooming Fruit Solutions. A desk off to the side of the chamber would normally hold a secretary, but except for the nine fairy friends, no one else seemed to be around.

                “It seems I was out for some time,” Seren mumbled, rubbing one elbow with her hand as she shifted her weight from one foot to another and adjusted her grip on her crescent staff.

                “No kidding!” said Windy, with a huge smile plastered across her face. “I tried pulling your arms and jumping on you and everything, but you wouldn’t budge. You really crashed, Miss Seren!”

                “You jumped on…?! Well! Such insolence!” For someone who had just woken up, Seren was already in full diva mode. It was honestly rather impressive. At the moment, however, the group of friends had more to worry about at the moment than just an angry moon fairy. There was still the matter of how to get Lip out of her predicament

                Sherbet leaned in towards Thiana. “Should we tell her about Lip?” she whispered, assuming Seren wouldn’t be able to hear her. She assumed incorrectly.

                “What about Lip?” Seren asked, looking down at Sherbet and raising an eyebrow in suspicion.

                “Uh...” Sherbet stared blankly at Seren, her shoulders slumping and her hands falling to her sides.

                “You’ve done it now…” said Thiana to Sherbet, crossing her arms.

                Seren’s eyes suddenly widened and her jaw fell slightly agape as she felt a tugging sensation at the back of her throat. Her left hand flew up to her mouth as she started to cough violently, doubling over.

                “Uh… you all right, Seren?” asked Ruby.

                “Should I do the Heimlich maneuver?” asked Windy. She paused, and put a finger to her chin in confusion. “Who’s this Heimlich person anyway?”

                “No, dear, I’m-- COUGH-- I’m fine,” answered Seren, despite all evidence to the contrary. “I’ve just got-- COUGH!-- something stuck in the back of my-- COUGH-- I think a fly got into my mouth, or--” With one final hack, the object that the moon fairy had gagged on came flying out of her mouth and landed smack in the middle of her palm. It was small, but definitely not a fly—and not an “it”, but a “she”. A “she” with a very familiar ribbon and ponytail. Still soaking wet from Seren’s sleep drool, Lip lay there in the moon princess’s hand, looking up into her almond-shaped eyes (currently wide with shock) and grinning nervously.

                It took Seren a few moments to process what had happened. All of the fairies braced for impact; an angry Seren was one of the most terrifying sights known to fairykind. After a tense silence, Seren’s eyes slowly left Lip and settled on an unidentifiable spot somewhere in the distance. “Would any of you ladies like to explain what you did during my sleep?” she asked, with an aura of calmness that suggested she was actually anything but.

                “It’s a really long story and you just woke up,” said Lip. She climbed to her feet and attempted to shake herself dry, leaving a noticeable puddle of saliva behind in Seren’s palm. “I think the explanation should come later.”

                “It’s not that long a story,” said Windy, sticking a pointer finger in the air. “It was Sherbet’s idea. We just put L--”

                Elias ran over and slapped a hand over Windy’s mouth. “Yes, Lip is right!” she exclaimed with a nervous laugh. “It’s a very long story, and we should wait until we get back to the palace to talk about it.” She looked down at Windy. “Right, Windy?”

                “But all we had to do was--”

                RIGHT?” Elias’s tone suggested that Windy had better drop the subject if she didn’t want to incur the wrath of eight other fairies simultaneously.

                “Uh, right,” said Windy, looking down at her boots.

                “Elias, dear,” said Seren, with the same eerily tranquil tone. “I’m interested in what happened now.

                “You did just get up,” said Thiana, rubbing her shoe on the floor, “and I don’t think any of us want you to get any madder than you already are.”

                “Oh, I’m not mad! Just curious!” Naturally, Seren’s throbbing veins and strained tone of voice—to say nothing of the twitch she had developed in her eye—suggested that only the exact opposite was true.

                “Let’s not argue about this, all right?” came Neris’s voice from atop her tank. “Whether or not we tell Seren what happened right this second, what’s important is that our plan worked… well, sort of… and that we’re all here, inside the sunfruit factory, about to get some of that golden goodness for Lip so we can make some more of that potion so she can get back to her normal size, and then we can all go home and not have anything else to worry about, ever.” She crossed her arms on the edge of the tank. “OK?”

                “Neris is right, girls,” said Lip, turning to face the others from her position in Seren’s gloved hand. “Let’s not get carried away just because we’re so close to the end. We just need to find where they’re keeping the sunfruit and ask if we can have some.”

                “And if they won’t give us any, we’ll have to take it from ‘em by force!” said Flare, balling her hands into fists with a hot-blooded grin. “Right?!”

                “Um, I wouldn’t go that far,” said Lip.


Chapter 14, written by Mab

There came another awkward silence.

“…So. Now what?” asked Lip, breaking the silence at length.

“Now we do something that isn’t stand around and look stupid,” Flare spoke up once again. “Do we wanna get thrown out, or do we wanna find the sunfruit and go home so we can get Lip back to normal?”

“We’d better come up with a plan first,” said Ruby.

Flare scoffed. “Plan, schman. That’ll only slow us down.” She placed a hand on her hip as she peeked down several of the available hallways branching off from the entrance. “I’m thinking if we search every room one-by-one, we’ll find where they’re keeping the sunfruit eventually.”

“Listen, Flare,” said Ruby politely, flittering over to the fire fairy’s side. “I know you’re a woman of action and everything, but—that’s a terrible idea.”

Flare started to look irritated. A bad sign, if any of the girls had seen one.

“Hear me out!” Ruby continued, throwing her hands up.  “You yourself saw just how big this place is when you were coming in. We all did. It has to be big enough to ship fruit to every last corner of the flower world, you know. Some corners of the forest too.” She rolled her eyes a little. “Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if this place kept going underground.”

She gave Flare a serious look. “The real question is, do we want to be efficient about how we do this…or do we want to take our sweet time and probably get caught and thrown out?”

Flare stared in half-annoyance, not wanting to admit Ruby had a very good point. After a long pause, she grunted, folded her arms, and spat out a reluctant “Fine…”

“All right then, girls,” Ruby continued, turning to the rest of the group. “Since Blooming Fruit is so large, I think it’s best if we split into two groups to search.”

“What?!” piped up Lip’s tiny voice from the relative safety of Seren’s hand. “No way! That’s like, rule #1 of adventuring—never split the group. The minute we do, some horrible monster will sneak up on us and—“ she twisted her hands as if to indicate snapping something and made a gross krsht! noise to prove her point— “bump us off one by one!”

Thiana stepped up to Seren’s side and lowered her face to meet Lip’s. As common as this was becoming, Lip found it was still incredibly unnerving to have the face of one’s close friend take up their entire field of vision, but she put on a brave face and listened to what Thiana had to say regardless.

“Lip,” Thiana started, “as thrilling as the possibility of getting caught and thrown out
is…this is a fruit orchard, not a horror story.” She smiled. “I think we’ll be all right.”

Lip wasn’t convinced. “You say that, Thi, but you don’t know what they’re working on in here,” she said, giving Thiana a sideways look.

Thiana’s smile vanished, replaced by the same sort of unamused stare that had been many of Lip’s more out-there comments in the past. “Fruit, maybe?” she suggested.

Killer fruit,” Lip shot back.

Ruby sighed, and decided to intervene. “If we could stop waffling about the what-ifs and just get to work already…” she said with no small amount of exasperation.

“Right, right. Sorry,” said Lip, poking her head out from between Seren’s fingers. “Go on,” she said, with a little (literally and figuratively) hand motion.

“Anyway,” said Ruby, turning her attention back to the entire group. “Like I said, to maximize our efficiency, we’ll split into two groups. Let’s call them Team Alpha and Team Bravo.” She pointed down one of the two halls branching off of the lobby’s back wall. “Team Alpha takes that hall…” She pointed down the other. “…and Team Bravo takes that one.”

Windy’s hand shot up in a flash. “Ooh—do we get to pick which teams we’re on?” she squeaked excitedly, bouncing up and down. “I call Sherbet’s team!”

Sherbet’s hand went up next. “I call Windy’s team!” she shouted, also bouncing up and down, even more frantically than the princess of the wind.

“No,” said Ruby somewhat sternly, placing a hand on her hip. “I’ve already sussed the assignments out.” Turning to each of the girls in turn, she continued: “Team Alpha will be Windy, Flare, Thiana, and—“ she placed a hand on her chest “—me.  Team Bravo will be Sherbet, Seren, Elias, and Neris.”

Sherbet instantly realized something was up. “Hey! Why’d you split us up?” she asked, annoyed.

“I have my reasons,” replied Ruby after a moment’s pause. Obviously she was treading on eggshells in an attempt to not upset Sherbet and draw undue attention to themselves—in vain, as it would happen.

“You think it’s ‘cause we’ll cause trouble if we go together, isn’t it! Huh? Isn’t it?!” Sherbet complained, her voice growing increasingly loud. For such a small girl, Sherbet could make a real racket when she wanted to—and, as the other fairies unfortunately were well aware at this point, she usually wanted to.

Ordinarily Sherbet’s whining was “just” annoying, but in the present circumstances, it was dangerous as well.  Covering her ears, Lip hissed “Shh!” with a glare towards the comparatively large ice fairy. “We’re on thin ice with security as it is.”

Sherbet’s face flushed red as a guilty look crossed it. “Sorry,” she mumbled, shuffling over to Seren’s side and slouching over with a glum look. Lip briefly thought about leaning over and giving her a reassuring pat on the head, but soon remembered that with how small she was, she’d probably tumble over the edge of the moon fairy’s palm and take a dangerous fall to the cold tile floor beneath. Even if she could reach, she’d probably get lost in Sherbet’s unkempt blue hair, anyway…and with how small she was, it’d take hours they didn’t have to pick her out.

The flower fairy’s mind presently turned to other, more pressing issues: Ruby’s team assignments seemed to be one member short. “What about me?” she asked, looking up and over (mostly up) at Ruby. “Which team am I on?”

“I think I’ll let you decide,” said Ruby with a gentle smile. It faded as she continued: “You’d better make up your mind quick, though.” She glanced around the room. “Even if those tiny legs would carry you very far very quickly, it’d be very easy for someone who doesn’t know the ley of the land to get lost in here.”

“I’d say that’s most of us,” remarked Seren.

Lip jumped a little, looking up at the towering blonde fairy from her position in one of her mighty hands. (This, as it turned out, was a great way to make her realize just how tiny she was. Seren was much taller than she was to begin with, Lip being a child and Seren being an adult woman, but at her current perspective, the moon princess was practically a mountain.) This was the first Seren had said in a while. Obviously she had still been upset at the other girls for using her as a puppet…or making Lip climb in her mouth and almost become a midday snack…or, most probably, both.  It at least seemed like she had calmed down, which, given how uncooperative she was prone to being when she was angry, was fortunate indeed.

Lip looked at her feet in concentration, fingers meeting chin. “Hmm,” she said, looking up at the other girls. Each team had their pros and their cons. Two relatively level-headed princesses to a team, along with one hyperactive, mischievous little girl and one young woman who was… rather irritable, putting it mildly. It depended on whether she was more willing to tolerate bubbly excitability and a ticking time bomb, or bratty whining and a holier-than-thou attitude. “Well…that’s a tough decision,” she admitted eventually.

Windy snuck over to Seren’s side and leaned in to what she thought was Lip’s ear. “Psst! came her squeaky voice, knocking Lip off her feet—it turned out it was more along the lines of her entire body. “Only one of those groups has your best friend in it!” she said in a loud whisper. “Choose wisely!”

“You’re all my best friends,” said Lip, somewhat woozily, as she picked herself up from the satin plain of Seren’s vast hand and stared over into Windy’s gargantuan green eyes. Very lovely, she had to admit—they were a huge part of the wind fairy’s charm, especially at the moment.

“Yeah, but I’m your only best best friend,” said Windy in a slightly louder voice, grinning widely.

Lip stared blankly. “What does that even mean?”

Windy shrugged and admitted, “I just wanted to say something that would get you on my team. You are gonna be on my team, right?” She clenched her hands together and bounced up and down a little. “Please say yes! Please please please please--”

“OK, OK,” said Lip, rolling her eyes. She looked back over at Ruby. “Just because I’m curious,” she asked, “in the event the teams run into each other at some point, will I be allowed to switch?”

“I don’t see why you shouldn’t be,” said Ruby.

“Got it,” said Lip, raising an index finger. “Team Alpha it is!”

Yaaayyy!” Windy squealed in an amazingly high-pitched voice, causing Seren to flinch away and nearly drop her miniscule charge. The princess of the wind thrust both hands out in front of herself, beckoning for Lip to climb on, with another broad smile.

Lip hesitated. Her previous rides with Windy hadn’t been particularly safe experiences in any way—and that was in familiar territory. In a building none of the nine princesses had ever set foot in, it would be even more risky; with how roughly Windy was prone to handling things, Lip could easily get dropped, skitter away underneath some door, and never see her friends again. “I’d feel much safer traveling with Ruby, if you don’t mind,” she stated gently, hands clasped.

Windy looked somewhat hurt. “Why wouldn’t you want to ride with your best best friend?” she asked with a cock of her head.

“Like Ruby said,” Lip replied, folding her arms, “I have my reasons.”

Suddenly remembering what had happened the last time Lip had ridden with her, Windy’s mouth formed an “O” of recognition, and she backed away, letting Ruby flitter up and extend an arm. Obligingly, Lip hopped from Seren’s gloved hand onto the unclothed skin of Ruby’s, clambered over her golden bracelet, and followed the ramp that was her arm up to the poofy shoulder of her purple dress, upon which she plopped down. It felt strangely comfortable, in a way. Maybe this was how Lip’s mother felt when she hitched a ride with her daughter into Thiana’s woods.

With a nod and a wink down at her tiny companion, Ruby returned her focus to the rest of the group. “Now we’re probably going to want to communicate with each other at some point down the line, so—“ She waved her right hand to the right, palm facing up, then back to the left, then formed a fist with it. When she opened her hand again, what appeared to be two ordinary pearls had appeared in her palm. “Here. Team Alpha gets one, and Team Bravo takes the other.”

Elias plucked the pearl from Ruby’s hand and squinted, examining it. Not noticing anything particularly special about it, the water princess handed it over to Seren and asked, “Not for nothing, Ruby, but…aren’t these just pearls?”

“Yes,” Ruby said with a nod, closing her fist and keeping the other pearl safe in her right hand. She hesitated for a moment. “Well…yes and no,” she continued. “They are pearls, but they’re not just pearls. They’re magical—if you hold them in the palm of your hand and press down on them, you’ll be able to see and talk with whoever is holding the other one.” She smiled, somewhat proudly. “I call them ‘compearls’.”

“Crazy what magic can do,” Flare remarked.

“Well, duh, Flare. It’s magic,” said Neris, smiling amusedly and rolling her eyes.

“Everyone ready?” asked Ruby, flittering over towards the hall she had indicated would be Team Alpha’s next destination.

All present fairies nodded in acknowledgement, some more vigorously than others.

“Good. Then let Operation Scoot to the Root to Get the Fruit resume!” announced Ruby.

Splitting off into Teams Alpha and Bravo, the fairy princesses stepped up to the halls and prepared to begin their expedition into the bowels of Blooming Fruit Solutions. Or they would have, if a voice didn’t pipe up and interrupt them first.

“Wait a minute!” Neris called out to the others. “Aren’t we forgetting something here?”

“Like…?” asked Ruby, turning back.

Neris cleared her throat and knocked on one of the glass walls of her tank. Instantly, the mermaid’s concern became clear; her tank, although just barely large enough to squeak through the entrance of the facility, was far too big to wheel down any of the hallways leading deeper in. Unless she was content with flopping around on land, she was effectively stuck. Being half fish evidently had its drawbacks.

“Oh. Of course.” Ruby smacked her forehead in disbelief—although she liked to consider herself a leader and the “mother” of the team, it was clear she was not immune to overlooking certain details. “Guess we better bump up the count.”

With the same motion of her right hand, Ruby generated four more compearls—this time green, rather than the clear, milky color of the ones she had generated for Teams Alpha and Bravo. Two she gave to Neris, one she gave to Seren to keep, and one she placed in her right hand next to the compearl she already held. Although her flight was slow and deliberate, Lip still found herself having to hold on to the shoulder of Ruby’s dress to avoid falling off.

“You’ll be able to use these to contact Neris,” the jewel fairy explained after delivering the new compearls to the others. “Don’t lose these, ‘k? Either of them.” She placed her hands on her hips and continued, “I know they’re very small, but keep ‘em on your person no matter what happens. Lose the white one and you lose contact with the other team; lose the green one and it’s Neris who won’t be hearing from you.” Sternly, she added, “And I don’t care how much they look like jawbreakers—do NOT stick them in your mouth!”

“Aww…” Sherbet moaned.

Now let Operation Scoot to the Root to Get the Fruit resume!” announced Ruby. And with that, the teams were off for real.

“Bye, Neris!” Elias called back to her friend, waving. “If we need anything, we’ll let you know!”

“OK!” Neris called after, waving in return. “Good luck!”

“Uh, you’re sure you won’t fall asleep on us again, right?” echoed Sherbet’s voice from the hallway on the right.

“Oh, no!” replied Seren, her voice growing increasingly faint. “How could I ever sleep after having a tiny flower fairy trigger my gag reflex? No, I think I’m wide awake.”

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Sherbet’s reply was inaudible at Neris’s distance, although it sounded distinctly irritated.

The mermaid paused. All alone in the lobby, it would seem. All alone, unless…

“…Wait!” she called out once again. “What am I supposed to do if…” Neris suddenly remembered her compearl. “Oh, right.”

Team Alpha was making their way down the hall on the left. They had found nothing of interest so far: a broom closet here, a potted plant there. From her position on Ruby’s shoulder, Lip—currently sitting in a reclining position—glanced over at her cohorts. Windy was second in line behind Ruby, and skipped along cheerfully, a smile plastered on her chubby-cheeked face as ever. Occasionally, the little wind fairy made use of her wind powers to leap into the air and drift along for a few feet before touching back down and resuming her skips. Lip sighed and smiled. It must be fun to have wind powers like those, she thought to herself.

Flare tagged close behind Windy, moving with purpose—hands balled into fists, leaning forward, a confident half-smile on her face. It was clear from her demeanor that this fire fairy meant business. In last place was Thiana, walking briskly but normally, which Lip supposed fit her, in a sense; cheerful, unlike Flare, but still more dutiful and more down-to-earth than little Windy. Ruby, meanwhile, flew (naturally). Lip found it interesting that the jewel fairy was the only one she had met with wings; naturally other winged fairies must exist somewhere in Poppliss, but Ruby was the only one Lip was familiar with. These wings, lacy and resembling a dragonfly’s, made a faint humming noise as they flapped, and created a gentle breeze that fanned the very, very little flower fairy’s face as the two of them traveled along. Or at least, it was a gentle breeze to Lip. She assumed a larger fairy would hardly feel it.

The group came to a halt suddenly (Lip almost tumbling off of Ruby’s shoulder, no thanks to inertia) as a slight humming noise filled the air. While Ruby and Flare didn’t seem fazed, Thiana started and looked around nervously. “Oh boy…did they catch us?” she asked, trying and failing to hide her apprehension.

Windy, in response, squeaked and flattened herself against the floor, hands on her head, trying to look as small as possible. “Please don’t make me read old magazines…” she whimpered to no one in particular.

“Calm down, girls. It’s only a compearl,” Ruby explained, raising a hand to reassure the panicking fairies. “Someone wants to contact us.”

After making sure no one was going to come haul her away to that cruelest of fates, Windy climbed to her feet and smiled wide. “Phew! Glad that’s settled!” she chirped, voice at full volume.

Shh!” Lip hissed again, putting a finger to her mouth. “Indoor voice, Windy.”

“Sorry,” Windy whispered in reply.

Flare grunted and crossed her arms. “So immature,” she mumbled under her breath.

“In her defense, she is a kid,” said Thiana. “By certain metrics, you’re a kid too.” She put her hands on her hips. “And don’t act like you can’t act immature sometimes, Miss I-Nearly-Burned-A-Stranger’s-House-Down-Instead-Of-Handling-Things-Tactfully.”

“Oh, like you’re one to talk,” Flare snidely responded. “Didn’t you hate my guts when I first met because you were afraid I would burn down your precious forest? Shockingly enough, I do have self-control.”

“That was years ago!” replied Thiana, throwing her hands up in exasperation.

“Let’s not argue now,” interrupted Lip, before the argument got too heated and Flare lost her temper (an outcome that would have inevitably ended in cinders). Sheesh, she thought to herself. I hope Ruby knows what she’s doing. I know I wouldn’t have put these two on the same team.

Unfolding her right fist to reveal the compearls clutched inside, Ruby (and the others) noticed it was the green compearl emitting the humming sound, casting a glow of similar color across the faces of the girls—each now huddled around Ruby to get a better look. Gently, Ruby pressed down on the green pearl with her left index finger, and, in time, a shimmering, translucent image of Neris appeared in midair above it. The wall of the Blooming Fruit Solutions lobby was faintly visible behind her, as expected.

“Hi!” said Neris, waving. Her voice sounded slightly muffled and distorted, possibly a side effect of the compearl’s magical effects. “Me again, sorry. What am I supposed to do if someone runs into me just…sitting here in the middle of the front hall?” The mermaid placed a hand to her cheek, gazing into the distance with a worried look. “Wouldn’t they have reason to suspect something’s up if they run into a giant tank of water that wasn’t there the other day?” She smiled and giggled a bit. “Not to mention one with the princess of the sea in it. Not something you’d expect to…sea in a fruit orchard. Heheh. Get it?”

“Um, yeah. It was pretty obvious,” said Flare bluntly.

Lip scurried down Ruby’s arm, stopping near the underside of her elbow, to get a better look at the projection of Neris. She didn’t quite know whether this was any more visible to the sea fairy or not, but she figured it couldn’t hurt. “Tell them you’re here for a tour,” Lip said. “We were, technically, allowed in here legally.”

“Yeah—under threat of the Queen’s wrath.” Neris smiled wryly and placed one arm on her scaly hip. “I feel like blackmail is stretching the boundaries of ‘legal’ juuuust a bit. Isn’t that right, Flare?”

“Hey, it got us in, didn’t it?” Flare shot back.

“If you’re that worried,” spoke up Thiana, “just hide underwater and try not to let anyone see you.” She paused and put a finger to her chin. “You’d better be good at staying still for what could be hours, though.”

“I can be still for hours, too,” said Windy with a playful wink. “Wanna see?”

“Maybe later,” whispered Ruby, cutting her eyes at Windy.

Neris paused to think. She had managed to form a serviceable bridge for Lip, yes—but that was for only a few minutes. For hours on end? No, unlike in most situations, it was better to fib than tell the truth. “Here for the tour, then,” she said, smiling and giving a thumbs-up with her free hand.

“Heheh. All right,” Lip giggled. “If we find anything—or even if we don’t—we’ll be back shortly. Just hang in there!”

“Got it!” Neris replied, nodding her head. Her gaze focused, and her brow furrowed in confusion—maybe she was looking down at her compearl. “Uh, now how do you turn this off?” Her giant finger began to fill the projection as she prodded and poked it every which way. “Should I press it a certain way? Maybe if I do it like this…? No. How about this? …no. Ugh. Ruby, how do I shut this thing o—“

With that, Neris’s image vanished. Evidently she had figured out how to deactivate her compearl. All five fairies chuckling a bit at Neris’s foolish display, Ruby closed her fist and returned her hand to her side as Team Alpha continued deeper into the facilities. Climbing back up onto the cushiony shoulder of Ruby’s violet dress, Lip flopped down on her back and gazed up at the ceiling through the cascade of green hair surrounding her. Maybe now we’re finally getting somewhere, she thought—maybe a bit too optimistically. Who could say for certain what challenges awaited them deeper inside?


To be continued...