In case you've forgotten, we left Dame Arabelle Viksne with an entrancing house guest, plus she was learning how to manage her portal and her volunteer toy center at the hospital.
"Yes! Lady Arabelle Viksne!" she proclaimed to her mirror. "1st Baron of Camden and 8th Baronet of Dolphin Heights. I'm a noble! I've finally made it! If only my parents could see me now! Of course if my father was still alive I wouldn't be the 8th baronet of Dolphin Heights but that's life....and death."
Lady Viksne beamed at her reflection. The official notice that she had been elevated to Baron had come just this morning and she was still glowing. She had been ennobled for her contributions to society: her discoveries that the alcoves worked and could be used to treat otherwise hopeless cases.
Along with the notice came an invitation to become one of Queen Alexandra's Ladies-in-Waiting. This was a plum job that came with an apartment in the palace. She'd be in the Royal Inner Circle! She wouldn't be standing around carrying the bouquets presented to her Majesty very often. No, she would be running a department; managing the Royal Parks, or overseeing the Honours' List, or something like that. She would be where the action was! She'd be involved in making the important decisions. She'd be surrounded by all the most important people in the entire kingdom and SHE would be one of those most important people.
Except for two problems, she very nearly had it made. The first problem was that the alcoves required the magic dust and were running low on it. That wouldn't have been a problem except that the magic dust was found only in the realm with the deadly, dancing, dolls.
A call from Hazel had Arabelle fuming. Dr. Miranda Waldemar was a jealous, spiteful, incompetent, troublemaker! Dr. Waldemar had tried to take credit for Arabelle's inspiration that the alcoves could treat physical damage and cure the formerly incurable. There were too many witnesses for her to get away with that little stunt! Now the jealous brat was attacking Arabelle's toy center in revenge! Miranda Waldemar had never done anything but nag!
She would have to go back there to obtain more; at the risk of being eaten. She had to present his Majesty with an ample supply of the magic dust to claim her golden title and rewards. That was dangerous but she wasn't afraid....not very afraid at any event. She had a plan.
The other problem was more troublesome and much more confusing. She was finding it very hard to leave her portal. Even going to Dolphin Heights to shop gave her a headache. The thought of going to the Palace to live made her shudder. Daire said he didn't know why it bothered her. He wasn't worried, as he considered her place was right here. His attitude told Arabelle that he wasn't nearly as smitten with her as she was with him. Maybe that would change when she was formally elevated to Lady Viksne, Baron of Camden.
"I did it right!" Hazel insisted. "I sanitized the toys, every single one, every single time!"
"I know you did, Hazel," Arabelle tried to soothe her maid.
"But they kept coming back all broken and stained!" Hazel wailed. "Our precious collectibles!"
"Precious collectibles?" Arabelle asked in surprise. "Toys?"
"We collected them!" Hazel clarified. Many of our fine collectibles have been ruined and the status of those that remain has gone from 'brand new' to 'used'! Not even 'gently used', Lady Viksne but 'in played with' condition. It's horrible!"
"Didn't His Majesty warn you, Lady Viksne, that it is pretentious to wear a coronet in an informal setting?" Dr. Waldemar snapped. "Of course, a real lady would know that and wouldn't shirk her responsibilities. You were supposed to be here in person to take care of the toys. Since you couldn't be bothered to fulfill your promise, I've cancelled your project. You can just pack up your junk and leave, immediately."
"This toy library has been a boon for many of the hospital's patients," Arabelle argued. She put her hand up to her tiara and sighed. She had forgotten about it. Dr. Waldemar had taken her slip as a deliberate provocation. Anything Arabelle said would only make matters worse.
"It would have been had the project been administered properly," Dr. Waldemar shot back. "Under your lack of oversight, this project has miserably failed to acheive the minimum standards expected by this hospital. I have your dismissal right here, in writing! Don't waste my time arguing. I have important things to do and you are not welcome here."
"You are to suffer the ultimate punishment, to be eaten by caterpillars," the fairies declared and turned the butterflies into caterpillars. "It's a horrible fate but it is your own fault." The fairies had drawn back but Buttercup didn't move and was in danger of being eaten.
"Get behind me, Buttercup!" the prisoner urged. "I will protect you and take care of you." She hoped she could protect him. She hoped she could protect herself! She had to try.
"You see?" The fairies all nodded to one another. "She should have told him to run away! She is lost, completely lost! There is no justification for such depravity. We must take Buttercup away so that he is not traumatized by such a horrid sight. Boys should not be exposed to anything ugly or scary! She's proven that she's not a fairy!"
The fairies swept out, taking Buttercup with them. The prisoner moved her wand around futilily hoping to scare away the caterpillars closing in on her. She noticed the weird purple thing sitting on her base, totally indifferent to the danger approaching them. It had huge eyes. It had to see the caterpillars...if they actually existed. Maybe she was dreaming? She sighed. That was the most sensible answer. How would her friends get here and how could they recognize her, looking like this? She wouldn't have. It was all just a silly dream. But how to wake up?
This place was driving her crazy! She had to get a grip on her thoughts. She had to discover a way to tell fantasy from reality. If she didn't, those hungry caterpillars would kill her!
She blinked and the caterpillars were gone. Thank goodness for that. Being eaten alive by crawly insects with small mouths was a nightmare.
Enough! Dwelling on a dream only made it more likely to repeat. She had to focus. She managed to glance down and noticed that the gold dust on her base was much thicker and higher. It was power, if she could figure out how to use it. There had to be a way out!
Suddenly the air seemed to shimmer and she could almost hear music. She began to sing along with the music.
She realized that she wasn't the only one singing. There was another voice, pure and strong, helping to form the shimmer into music. Soon they were singing together, making it easier and more joyful to create beautiful music. She got a sense of the person singing, a potential friend, someone she could respect and trust. That was the best! In this terrible place, having a friend made everything not quite as terribly crazy and horrible. Perhaps she could find a way to survive, to understand this unnatural realm.