‘Young ladies, allow me to introduce you to Fairy Ani and Fairy Carmen’, Mr. Puppy broke the silence, gesturing towards them.
‘Are we dreaming now?’, Tina wanted to settle the matter once and for all. ‘Because only in a dream could there be so much beauty.”
Smiles bloomed on the faces of the two fairies. Their eyes, radiant with serenity, seemed to light up the room. As they sat back on the emerald thrones, Ani’s suave voice broke the silence:
‘You’re not dreaming. I know you have many questions, but before we can answer them, you must be very hungry…’
Upon hearing the word ‘’hungry’’ more prosaic concerns made their presence sensed. For indeed, since their dream-like wonderings through the White Kingdom the little girls hadn’t eaten anything.
Carmen stood and made a delicate gesture. Looking at her, the girls had the impression that the fairy could easily dissolve into warm, scented vapors, if blown upon. Carmen’s hand pulled a small velvet tassel that hung close to the throne. Immediately, two yellow bunnies with sparkling ears brought forward two little jeweled chairs with red velvet cushions on top. The girls sat and the bunnies carried a small table, burdened with countless sweets. There was everything: beautifully adorned cubes of ginger bread, glazed apples, steamy pretzels, candy in all shapes and sizes, colorful lollypops, fruit cakes and chocolate cakes, and so many other goodies that caught the eye and tempted the White Kingdom’s visitors.
The girls started to eat the delicious treats with the determination of real people, after a very real, long, walk.
‘Now’, came Carmen’s calm voice, ‘it is time for you to learn why we summoned you to the White Kingdom. For it was us who brought you here.’
‘Hm, it would be very interesting to know how we got here. Especially since we’re not dreaming’, inquired Ella. Then, without waiting for any answer: ‘Are you toys too? You don’t seem to be…’
‘No. We are fairies. And we brought you here by magic. When you put the Dot-End, you let us know that someone in the Human World was ready to meet us. And so, we brought you here’, followed the beautiful fairy.
‘What is… umm, that curtain, or whatever it is, on the side of the road?’, Tina caught the moment to ask, picking out small cubes of colored caramel.
‘That is the curtain that separates the White Kingdom from the Human World. The White Kingdom’, continued Carmen, ‘is the place where all the toys in the world come to, when nobody sees them. Mostly at night. And we are the fairies that make sure that they can get here whenever they want. We run the Kingdom.’
‘That means…’, Ella said slowly, as if speaking to herself, ‘it sort of means that the toys are kind of alive…!?!…’
‘Didn’t you ever surmise it?’, Ani asked smiling.
‘Well, yes, I guess. At the very least, I wished it.’
‘Let us show you’, Ani said and made a circle shape with her hand.
On that cue, a myriad of water droplets that hung in the air, without ever falling to the floor, aligned dutifully in front of the table.
‘Droplets, tell story!’, Ani commanded.
The droplets grew the size of balloons. In each of them, the image of a child with a toy emerged. Some children just hugged the toys, others spoke to them. Some slept with them. Little girls combed the hair of dolls or walked them in beautifully trimmed strollers. Many kids sat next to stuffed bears and dogs, fed imaginary food to ponies, or led brave little soldiers, in red uniforms, into battle. But they all had toys close by.
‘The life of the toys is simple. They all have souls and their souls are made entirely of kindness. Whenever a child feels lonely, or needs someone to sleep, or play with, the kindness of the toys that keep them company will make them happier.’
‘So, not only are they alive, but their duty is to make children happy with their kindness?’
‘Precisely. There are many children who talk to toys. Just as there are many, many children who have toy-friends. The kindness of their souls releases a warmth that is felt in the Human World by the children.’
‘There are children’, Carmen added, ‘who invite all of their toys to their birthday parties.’
‘That may well be’, Ella muttered. ‘I too, sometimes talk to my favorite doll. And I imagine that she answers me back.’
‘It is entirely possible that those answers aren’t only in your imagination.’
‘What? I… You mean…?’
‘There are times when the toys do talk to children. But, not even I, or Carmen, can tell which are their real answers and what is the child’s fancy. Only the toys know that. However, what is important for you to know, is that the toys are alive. And that they have a soul made of kindness. Now we can tell you why you are here.’
‘Somewhere, in a faraway land, there is a terribly wicked witch who can’t bear the kindness of the toys. So she cast a spell that traps their souls here, in the White Kingdom. Their souls are dying and causes them to be torn up in the Human World. They can no longer spread their wonderful warmth.’
‘Oh, this is terrible!’, said Ella, touched by the fairy’s words. ‘Just terrible!’
‘We must do something!’, Tina said in revolt. ‘We can’t let those noble toys just be torn up.’
‘We must, indeed. And only you can undo the spell that befell the toys, for we cannot leave the White Kingdom. We must always stay here. And the realm of the Witch-with-the-Water, for that is the name of the wicked one, is far from the White Kingdom.’
‘We will give you someone to help, watch over, and show you the way’, said Ani. ‘You must know, however, that the spell can only be broken by a little girl from the Human World. That is to say one of you two.’
Mr. Puppy, who had waited in silence by a column, disappeared through a side door and came back with a teddy bear. They called him „teddy” because of his unbelievable cuteness. In fact he was, at least, three times as tall and thick as the girls.
‘This is Giggle Teddy, Great Counselor of the White Kingdom’, said Ani.
‘Appropriate name’, Tina noticed. Indeed, the stuffed bear, entirely covered by yellowish fuzz, had a smile on his face so wide and honest that it made her want to smile just by looking at it. The round face, radiant with the serenity and the kindness that can only be found in toys, was completed by a pair of big, brown eyes, that seemed to behold everything around him in innocent amazement.
‘So, Great Counselor, what is our battle plan? I guess it can’t be easy to defeat the Witch-with-Water’, Tina’s practical sense prevailed again.
‘First, allow me to explain what we know so far’, came a thin voice. Every time he spoke, Giggle Teddy’s cheeks would flush, making him even more endearing. ‘Each of you will get a cube containing a charmed powder.’
The teddy bear paused, as the little girls had finished eating and the bunnies took away the table and brought a crystal tray. On it lay two crystal cubes that sparkled gorgeously in the twilight that spread over the White Kingdom.
‘This charmed powder is made from fairy tears and it will help you in your journey, as it can make happen anything that you want. But only for five seconds.’
‘Beware, the spell will last five seconds. No longer!’, Carmen insisted.
‘I will be going with you to show the way. The journey that awaits you is long. Ani and Carmen shall give you a magical balloon that will go wherever we tell it to go.’
‘A flying balloon at our disposal!’ Tina anticipated the excitement of the adventure.
‘Once we get to the witch’s castle, what you must do is break a certain potion bottle from the Chamber of Mirrors. It holds the spell and, if the bottle breaks, the spell is undone and the toys will stop being torn up.’
‘The Chamber of Mirrors?’, Ella asked.
‘Nobody knows what it looks like, as nobody has ever seen it. All we know is that it is a room in the castle of the Witch-with-Water. And it is fiercely guarded.’
‘We leave tomorrow morning’, added Giggle Teddy. ‘Until then, each of you will be given a room in the palace where you can rest.’
‘What happens with the toys that were already torn up? If we manage to break the spell?’, Ella asked.
‘It would be easy for us to bring them back to life. But our magic can’t undo the witch magic while the potion bottle is still intact. And, there is one more condition: everything must be done by Christmas Eve.’
After that, Mr. Puppy explained the girls that time passes different in the White Kingdom than in their real world. So, their parents won’t notice they were gone missing, because for them, it would have been just a few hours.
Then, he led the little girls to their rooms, somewhere on an upper floor of the palace. Big, richly decorated beds, with velvet canopies that spread scented promises of a deep, dreamless sleep awaited to reward the girls hard work from over their adventurous and unusual day. Tina and Ella accepted that much needed rest on spot.