Bud and Fluff were surprised at the magnificence of the city of Ix. The witch-queen had reigned there so many centuries that she found plenty of time to carry out her ideas; and the gardens, shrubbery and buildings were beautifully planned and cared for. The splendid palace of the queen was in the center of a delightful park, with white marble walks leading up to the front door. Aunt Rivette landed the children at the entrance to this royal park, and they walked slowly toward the palace, admiring the gleaming white statues, the fountains and flowers as they went.
It was beginning to grow dusk, and the lights were gleaming in the palace windows when they reached it. Dozens of liveried servants were standing near the entrance, and some of these escorted the strangers with much courtesy to a reception room. There a gray-haired master of ceremonies met them and asked in what way he might serve them.
This politeness almost took Bud's breath away, for he had considered Queen Zixi in the light of an enemy rather than a friend; but he decided not to sail under false colors, so he drew himself up in royal fashion and answered, "I am King Bud of Noland, and this is my sister, Princess Fluff and my Aunt Rivette. My kingdom has been conquered by a horde of monsters, and I have come to the Queen of Ix to ask her assistance."
The master of ceremonies bowed low and said, "I am sure Queen Zixi will be glad to assist your Majesty. Permit me to escort you to rooms that you may prepare for an interview with her as soon as she can receive you." So they were led to luxurious chambers and were supplied with perfumed baths and clean rainment, which proved very refreshing after their tedious journey through the air.
It was now evening, and when they were ushered into the queen's reception room, the palace was brilliantly lighted. Zixi, since her great disappointment in the lilac grove, had decided that her longing to behold a beautiful reflection in her mirror was both impossible and foolish, so she had driven the desire from her heart and devoted herself to ruling her kingdom wisely as she had ruled before the idea of stealing the magic cloak had taken possession of her. And when her mind was in normal condition, the witch-queen was very sweet and agreeable in disposition.
So Queen Zixi greeted Bud and his sister and aunt with great kindness, kissing Fluff affectionately upon her cheek and giving her own hand to Bud to kiss. It is not strange that the children considered her the most beautiful person they had ever beheld, and to them she was as gentle as beautiful, listening with much interest to their tale of the invasion of the Roly-Rogues and promising to assist them by every means in her power.
This made Bud somewhat ashamed of his past enmity, so he said bluntly, "I am sorry we defeated your army and made them run."
"Why, that was the only thing you could do when I had invaded your dominion," answered Zixi. "I admit that you were in the right, and that I deserved my defeat."
"But why did you try to conquer us?" asked Fluff.
"Because I wanted to secure the magic cloak, of which I had heard so much," returned the queen frankly.
"Oh!" said the girl.
"But of course, you understand that if I had known the magic cloak could not grant any more wishes I would not have been so eager to secure it," continued Zixi.
"No," said Bud. "The old thing won't work any more, and we nearly got captured by the Roly-Rogues before we found it out."
"Oh, have you the cloak again?" asked Zixi with a look of astonishment.
"Yes indeed," returned the prisoner. "It was locked up in my drawer, and Aunt Rivette managed to get it for me before the Roly-Rogues could find it."
"Locked in your drawer?" repeated the queen musingly. "Then I am sorry to say you have not the fairy cloak at all, but the imitation one."
"What do you mean?" asked Fluff, greatly surprised.
"Why, I must make a confession," said Zixi with a laugh. "I tried many ways to steal your magic cloak. First I came to Nole as 'Miss Trust.' Do you remember?"
"Oh yes!" cried Fluff. "And I mistrusted you from the first."
"And then I sent my army to capture the cloak. But when both of these plans failed, I disguised myself as the girl Adlena!"
"Adlena!" exclaimed the princess. "Why, I've often wondered what became of my maid Adlena and why she left me so suddenly and mysteriously."
"Well, she exchanged an imitation cloak for the one the fairies had given you," said Zixi with a smile. "And then she ran away with the precious garment, leaving in your drawer a cloak that resembled the magic garment but had no magical charms."
"How dreadful!" said Fluff.
"But it did me no good," went on the queen sadly, "for when I made a wish the cloak could not grant it."
"Because it was stolen!" cried the girl eagerly. "The fairy who gave it to me said that if the cloak was stolen, it would never grant a wish to the thief."
"Oh," said Zixi, astonished. "I did not know that."
"Of course not," Fluff replied with a rather triumphant smile. "But if you had only come to me and told me frankly that you wanted to use the cloak, I would gladly have lent it to you, and then you could have had your wish."
"Well, well!" said Zixi, much provoked with herself. "To think I have been so wicked all for nothing when I might have succeeded without the least trouble had I frankly asked for what I wanted!"
"But see here!" said Bud, beginning to understand the tangle of events. "I must have worn the imitation cloak when I made my wish, and that was the reason that my wish didn't come true."
"To be sure," rejoined Fluff. "And so it is nothing but the imitation cloak we have brought here."
"No wonder it would not destroy and bury the Roly-Rogues!" declared the boy sulkily. "But if this is the imitation, where then is the real magic cloak?"
"Why, I believe I left it in the lilac grove," replied Zixi.
"Then we must find it at once," said Bud, "for only by its aid can we get rid of those Roly-Rogues."
"And afterward I will gladly lend it to you also; I promise now to lend it to you," said Fluff, turning to the queen, "and your wish will be fulfilled after all -- whatever it may be."
This expression of kindness and good will brought great joy to Zixi, and she seized the generous child in her arms and kissed her with real gratitude. "We will start for the lilac grove tomorrow morning," she exclaimed delightedly, "and before night both King Bud and I will have our wishes fulfilled!"
Then the witch-queen led them to her royal banquet hall, where a most delightful dinner was served. And all the courtiers and officers of Zixi bowed low, first before the King of Noland and then before his sweet little sister, and promised them the friendship of the entire kingdom of Ix.
Quavo the wandering minstrel chanced to be present that evening, and he sang a complimentary song about King Bud, and a wonderful song about the "Flying Lady," meaning Aunt Rivette, and a beautiful song about the lovely Princess Fluff.
So everyone was happy and contented as they all looked forward to the morrow to regain the magic cloak and by its means to bring an end to all their worries.