Dolls’ House

Drawing: A pink doll’s house, with pink furniture. Caption reads: “A very pink doll’s house.”

Dolls’ House short story by Iris Carden

I knew it was going to be a tough conversation, telling Mum I didn’t want to go to university. 

She’d always said learning law, the way humans did it, was a good background for someone who would one day have to take over managing justice for the whole magical world.

I pointed out that I would not have to take over as Lady Justice until I’m a hundred.  At not-quite-seventeen, that left a lot of time to study that. Before I had all that responsibility, I just wanted an ordinary life for a little while longer.

Lucky for me, Ariana wanted more help at the hair salon, and she’d need someone who understood the nature of most of her customers.

So the three of us reached an agreement: I would stay at school right to the end of grade twelve, but could work after school and on holidays at the salon.  If I liked it, and Ariana was happy with my work, she would give me an apprenticeship after I finished school.

I did have to promise my mother I would start reading through the records of our ancestors’ work.  Every Lady Justice builds her work on the work of her mother, her grandmother, her great-grandmother, all the way back for thousands of years.  Some of those records were in strange languages I would have to learn.  

That day, I was in the store room, refilling shampoo and conditioner bottles from the big stock bottles there. I saw a movement on the edge of my peripheral vision. 

Ariana was in the main salon area, cutting a customer’s hair.  Orsinius was in the break room, making coffee for the customer.  So no-one should have been there.

I turned to look more closely, and saw a tiny flitter of a glittery wing.  There, hiding behind a big bottle of perming solution was a tiny person, about ten centimetres tall, with gossamer-fine, glittering, wings.

“A fairy!” I said, “I’ve never seen a fairy before.  My name’s Andromeda, people call me Andy. What’s your name?”

She was cowering in a corner.  “A human! Oh I’ve made a big mistake!”

“No, I’m not human.”  I shook the glamour off my wings.  Unlike hers mine were large, wings with coloured feathers.  “I’m the daughter of Lady Justice, I guess that makes me part of a species of two.”

“Lady Justice? The Lady Justice who judges all the magical world?  Oh, perhaps she could help me.”

The fairy, whose name was Primrose, told me her story.  The fairy queen’s castle had been overthrown by an elf Lord, and she had fled, carrying the baby princess, who was even now hidden in the storeroom.

Ariana’s customer had left, and she was having a rare break, so I told Primrose, we needed to talk to her.

“Fairies are real?” Ariana asked.

Ariana was the world’s most powerful witch,(1) but had only discovered the magical world less than a year before, as I had. 

When Primrose had told her story, Ariana told me to get my mother and Orsinius to get Merlin.  

We both entered the interim(2) to do as she instructed.  Of course we all had mobile phones, but we never used them for anything important. Using the interim, it was possible to leave and be back with the person we were getting at the same instant. While I was at home, to tell my mother, I had a thought of something that might make things easier for Primrose.

Once we were all back, Ariana looked at my old dolls’ house I had brought.  “That’s a very pink dolls’ house,” she said.  

I blushed.  When I was little I’d wanted everything pink. Other colours hadn’t existed for me then.

“It’s definitely better than a walnut shell on the floor for a baby princess, but I think I can make it a little better,” Ariana said.

She held the dolls’ house, and closed her eyes a moment.  “OK. There’s power, water and plumbing.” Ariana used thought magic, which was very powerful.(3) 

We put the dolls’ house on a shelf in the store room. Then Ariana sent me out for supplies, baby nappies, bottles and formula, food, and clothes for both the baby and Primrose.  When I brought them back, Ariana shrunk it all to the appropriate size. She said as long as the fairies were our guests, their shopping would be part of my work.

Once the fairies’ immediate needs were met, we gathered around the break room table, even The Cat(4) sat in on the conversation.

Since Ariana, Orsinius and I didn’t know much about real fairies, Merlin explained that there were four groups in the fairy world: fairies, elves, goblins and gnomes. While the others tended to live peacefully, elves were obsessed with power. Lord Rust and his elves had attempted to overthrow the goblin rulers some years ago, and had been forced back, with many losses to his army.

My mother suggested an unjust war, an attack on a neighbour who didn’t do anything to provoke it was a matter for her.

Merlin agreed, but said there was no point in taking away the elves unless the fairy government could be restored.  That would require locating, and possibly rescuing Queen Rose, if she was alive.  To find her he would need something of hers.

Primrose insisted she hadn’t brought anything of the Queen’s with her.

Merlin pointed out the baby was the Queen’s child, and that she would not be harmed by being the centre of a location spell. 

With strange words, and magical powders, and a saucer full of water, Merlin was able to conjour an image of the Queen.  She was obviously badly injured, and in some kind of dungeon.

“From seeing the image, can you bring her here?” Merlin asked.

Ariana held her hands out in front of her, and closed her eyes.  Instantly, Queen Rose appeared, lying in Ariana’s open hands.

“I can heal her,” Ariana said.

“No,” Merlin answered. “You’ve already used far too much magic today.  Let’s not risk catastrophic side-effects.  We will do this the slow way.  I will make a healing elixir.  Miss Primrose, you have double duty, I am afraid. You will care for both your princess and your queen.  I will give you medicine to give her and soon she will be well, and we will be able to take the next steps to restoring her to her throne.”

My mother said we should keep a guard over all three fairies, in case Lord Rust’s men came searching for them. The other adults agreed.

The Cat leapt up on the shelf beside the doll’s house.

“Are you willing to guard them?” Ariana asked.

The Cat purred.

“That big beast?” Primrose said. “What if it tries to eat us?”

“It won’t,” Ariana said. “The Cat is a powerful magical creature, which once helped us save the world.  If it chooses to guard you, you will be safe.”

“Perhaps, I should bring Excalibur, and guard as well,” Orsinius said quietly.(5)

Primrose’s eyes widened. She looked around the group.  There we were: Lady Justice, the next Lady Justice, the world’s most famous and powerful magician, the world’s most powerful witch, The Cat, and a wisp who was guardian to some of the most famous mythical objects in history.  

“I’m just a nursery maid.  I don’t belong among heroes, and mages, and judges. Even the servant who sweeps the floor here is important and powerful.”

Ariana smiled.  “I’m just a hairdresser,” she said.  “An ordinary person like you.  You’re welcome here at my workplace, and among us.  We are friends to each other, and now we are friends to you.”

So that’s how I became a not-quite-apprentice hairdresser, and the person who did supply runs for the Queen Rose, Princess Aster, and of course, Primrose, the nursery-maid who did not understand how courageous and important she was.


  1. See series 1 of the Orsinius Wishlet stories
  2. The interim is the time between the tick and the tick, the space between moments, outside of time. It is used by many magical beings to move quickly through the world, and by magical thieves to avoid humans detecting them.
  3. Thought magic, is magic where thought becomes reality, instead of using spells or magical objects. Like all magic, it has a cost.  For small things, the cost might be so minimal as to not be noticeable, but in the story The Rip, it was shown that for very large things there are very large consequences, such as a tear in the fabric of reality.
  4. The Cat is a magical being in its own right.  See the stories A Strange Request, Trouble, Ransom, and Aftermath.
  5. Since the story A Sanctioned Theft, Orsinius Wishlet, a wisp, has been the guardian of the mythic sword Excalibur.

Orsinius Wishlet Stories

Lost and Found was originally a one-off story, until the day I had the idea for A Wish Come True. After that, Orsinius and the world built around him just kept coming back to me.

Series 1 Stories:

Series 2 Stories:

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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