It didn’t take long for Eli, Sophia, and Jude to be seen running down the hill towards Fairydell. Almost at once, Sophia found the little package. She opened it slowly, wondering what “da Ferys” could have gotten her. When she saw the paintbrush, she put a hand over her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. She knew how special the paintbrush was and she could not believe the fairies had really given it to her.
Eli and Jude eventually realized that Sophia was just standing there in shock, so they came over to investigate. When they saw the paintbrush, they instantly became jealous.
“Did the fairies leave anything for me?” Jude asked, as he poked around the bushes looking for another package.
“How do you know it’s for you?” said Eli.
“They left it on my rock,” said Sophia.
“But did it have your name on it?” he asked.
“It had to have been for me,” said Sophia. “I’m the one who paints and draws.”
“But I make things too,” said Jude. “I could use that to draw my inventions.”
“You can always borrow it,” said Sophia, but secretly she hoped he wouldn’t.
“It’s not fair,” said Eli.
“Either way,” said Sophia. “I think I’ll go down to the fairies and thank them.” She walked towards the brook with her head held high. She was sure the fairies considered her the favorite.
When she was almost there, however, Sophia stopped. Perhaps, she thought, I can draw them something to tell them how much this gift means to me. She took out her paper and held the paintbrush awkwardly in her hand. She had no paint, and she wasn’t quite sure how the brush should work. Then suddenly, and image of a pixie popped into her head. To her surprise, the minute she thought of the pixie, the image appeared on the paper. “So that’s how it works!” Sophia said. All you must do is think of what you want to draw and the paintbrush does it for you. Sophia was so pleased. She began painting picture after picture. She painted the porskew family. Her brothers. Every fairy. And, to her delight, she painted image after image of the pixies. “Hooray!” she said happily. It was the most wonderful gift she had ever received.
Unbeknownst to her, the fairies had returned from their spa day. As they were waltzing up to their home, they came upon Sophia, wielding the magic brush. “How—how dare you!” Sputtered Regina. And the other fairies joined in speaking in so many different creature languages at once that it sounded like a horribly tuned orchestra.
Sophia had no idea why they were so upset. She looked around at the paintings and realized the paintings of the pixies were laying on top. That’s just silly, she thought to herself. But she cleaned them up anyway. She found the paintings of the fairies and held them out to Regina. “I made these for you,” she said. “Thank you so much for my gift. It is such beautiful present. You really shouldn’t have, but I promise to take care of it and use it to draw beautiful things.”
The fairies were dumbfounded. They did not remember giving the paintbrush to Sophia, but they also couldn’t tell her that the paintbrush did not belong to her. They saw the happiness on Sophia’s face and none of them could think of a way to tell her the truth. They just stood there with fake smiles, thanked her for the paintings, and then went home.
It did not take the fairies very long to realize the pixies were behind all this. “That does it,” said Regina. “The pixies must leave Fairydell for good. I have had it with their mischief. We must get rid of them at once.”
The other fairies agreed immediately. They set about calling all the woodland creatures to a meeting and determined to have a vote to expel all the pixies from Fairydell.
Meanwhile, Sophia was enjoying her gift so much that she used up all of her paper and had to return to the house for more. Every painting turned out exactly the way she thought it in her mind and appeared on the paper perfectly without any flaws or errors in proportion. After a while, she decided to move from paper to other things. She began painting designs on the rocks, on the trees, and painting anything else she came across. Soon there were colorful paintings everywhere and Sophia began to feel very accomplished. She had done so much work in very little time. Soon there would be nothing left to paint.
Jude was near the water helping the lilysmuds (creatures who look like toads, only with bigger eyes. And they don’t make that horrible croaking noise when they wanted to communicate). Though lilysmuds are avid swimmers, sometimes the current of the stream was a little too much. Jude was attempting to make a sort of underwater bridge for them to use during times of rain. He was having difficulty with the design and after experimenting with a few ideas that came to nothing, he started to muse about how nice it would be if he had the use of Sophia’s paintbrush. Then he could draw what was in his head and test to see if it would work without wasting materials in experimenting.
Near the garden pond, Eli sat brooding. He wasn’t particularly jealous of Sophia’s pen. He didn’t much like to draw or paint. However, he had thought he was the favorite of the fairies and thought it was very unkind of them to give her a gift without giving him a gift, too. He didn’t need anything as fancy as the paintbrush, but anything would have been nice.
By and by, Sophia had run out of ideas for painting. She sat on her favorite stone and looked at all the work she had done and thought about how little time it took. Slowly, she began to realize she missed how much work it usually took to create things. She missed the feel of the paint on the paintbrush and the scratch of the pencil on paper. She missed color testing and, oddly, she missed the time it took to get things right and how sometimes mistakes in her work often turned out better than what she had originally anticipated. As she surveyed the pages of fairies and pixies she had made using the magic paintbrush, she realized that even though there was not a single mistake, there was something wrong with them. She hated to admit it—the paintbrush was such a nice gift—but its creations were just a little too perfect.
She though momentarily about giving the paintbrush back to the fairies, but then she was afraid of offending them, (fairies are easily offended). What would they say if they thought she didn’t like it?
There was one pixie who was watching all of this and was experiencing great distress. She watched the Goodmund children, who were normally such happy children, sitting in separate places looking very discontent. She did not like that her ability to write and speak English had caused this problem and she resolved to do something about it.
So Aria flew down to where Sophia sat with the paintbrush in her hand and started to dart about saying random words she thought might help the situation. “Pen—bad. Not—good,” she said.
Sophia stared up at her and tried to interpret these things. “Do you mean,” she asked. “The fairies gave me a bad gift?”
“Y-y-yes,” Aria ground out.
“Oh dear,” said Sophia. She suddenly felt betrayed. The fairies did not seem like the sort of people who would give her a bad gift on purpose. What had she ever done to hurt them? “That does it,” said Sophia. “I’m giving it back immediately.” She stood up and went straight for the fairies home in the glade, followed by a zipping and ducking Aria, who was feeling relieved at these turn of events.
When she reached the glad, Sophia encountered a sight she had never seen before. There in the glad was a council of all the Fairydell creatures. All of the leaders of each species was present and Regina was speaking to them, wearing a little paper crown that Sophia had made her for her birthday. She was speaking in many different creature languages and Sophia could not understand what the council was about. She heard the sound of gurgling water and looked up to see Aria looking very upset. Sophia got the feeling this was not a happy meeting. She took a step into the glade and immediately all the chatter ceased.
“What is going on?” asked Sophia.
Regina turned towards her and glared. It was very unusual. “We have reached our limit with the pixies’ mischief. We are voting to banish them from Fairydell.”
“But why?” asked Sophia. She was very concerned.
Regina crossed her arms and said nothing.
Aria zipped down to Sophia’s level and laughed and sang and gurgled so quickly that Sophia could not understand her.
“Don’t bother,” said Regina. “Your apologies will do you no good. You have gone too far.” Regina ordered Aria to leave.
Sophia thought the fairies were being very unreasonable. First they gave her a naughty gift. Then they were trying to banish the pixies from Fairydell. But what could she do?
Sophia left the glade, following the dejected Aria. She immediately called for her brothers and told them everything that happened.
“This is very unusual,” said Eli.
“The fairies can be snobs, but they’ve never been mean,” said Jude.
“What should we do?” asked Sophia.
“Well, it’s been a while since we’ve visited the Mushroom,” said Eli.
“Oh I would love to see him!” said Sophia. Then she became somber. “If his children weren’t so irritating I would go more often.”
“Agreed,” said Eli. “But this is an emergency. We should go at once.”
So the three children set off for the deep part of the woods, followed by the pixie Aria, who was hoping the Goodmund children would be able to help the pixies.