We're taking a holiday break, so please enjoy The Wishing Star! See you in 2019!
Tuesday Tips: Merry Christmas!
We're taking a little Christmas break, so there are no tips today except to enjoy yourself with the people you love! There won't be a new Wednesday Word tomorrow, just links to the Wishing Star if you wish to read it again!
Merry Christmas to all!
Merry Christmas Eve!
Gina had packed up a good amount of food and water for Janet’s next journey, up the mountain to the witch’s house. She’d also provided her portal stone with water, and now, all it needed was some catalyst magic.
Janet went up the mountain feeling lonely but hopeful. Every now and then she’d stop to rest, to eat, and sometimes, even to practice with her sword. Animals occasionally crossed the path, or stared at her from beyond the trees, but never threatened or bothered her. Janet thought about what she might need to do if Gina hadn’t provided her with food, but the idea of killing one of those animals was nauseating. How could she kill a full grown human person? Even if she was evil, Janet didn’t think she had it in her.
While she didn’t feel like she was in any danger, these woods weren’t as pretty and welcoming as the enchanted forest near the fairies Water Circle. They were thicker and darker, and it grew colder the closer she got to the top. She was thankful for her new winter clothes. Not only was it colder, but there were fewer and fewer animals about, and no song of birds. Janet knew instinctively that no wildlife was out to hurt her, the only danger she might face lay at the top of the mountain, at the house of the evil witch.
At last, it was in sight. A large log cabin with smoke coming out of it’s chimney, and strange plants growing all around. She scanned the house for entrances. The front door was probably locked. She might be able to crawl in through a window, but they all seemed too small. Then she heard a door swinging open and closed, and a cat ran outside. The back door was open! But where was the witch?
The day was growing darker, and she decided it might be best to wait for nightfall, and after the witch had gone to bed. She hoped witches did go to bed. What if they ran on magic only, and didn’t need to sleep? Well, then she would just have to be brave, like the heroes in her story.
She watched for the witch inside the house while waiting for darkness to fall completely. She didn’t see her, but there was no turning back. With the night as her cover, she quietly slipped inside through the back door.
The house was a mess. There were books and papers scattered everywhere, spells, Janet thought. There were also bottles of potions, most of them stacked on shelves or tables, but plenty on the floor as well, some of them broken. It would be awfully difficult not to make any noise here.
She kept her hand on the handle of her sword, hoping the threat of it would be enough to scare the witch away if she saw her. All she had to do was get to that fire…
“Who’s sneaking around in my home?”
Janet jumped at the voice behind her, drawing her sword. Before she could move any further, a force knocked her backward, into the opposite wall. The witch had a magic wand, and her sword was no match for it. She pulled herself up again. “I just need fire and I’ll leave, I promise!” she said, “I can trade for it, too, I wouldn’t steal!”
“But you would break in, and you would bring a weapon? No, no, no, no, no… You’re a magic thief if I ever saw one, girl!”
Janet ran at her, jumping out of the way of the next blast of magic from that awful wand. They both toppled to the floor, crashing into tables and shelves, crushing more bottles, releasing potions that made strange hissing sounds as they emptied. The witch tried to knock away her sword as Janet was trying to knock away her wand. Though she wrestled her with all her strength, Janet didn’t strike with her sword. Instead, she fought to keep her weapon away from the witch’s prying hands, while struggling to free the wand.
It didn’t take long for Janet to realize the witch was afraid of her sword, perhaps even afraid of her. There was something strange in her dark eyes, something Janet thought was only fear. Maybe the threat would be enough. She knocked the witch hard to the floor, and pointed her sword at her hand, motioning like she was going to cut it off unless she released the wand. To her surprise, the witch did so. She dropped the wand and lay motionless, completely at Janet’s mercy.
Unless it was a trick. Janet didn’t dare turn her back, even though she only wished to light the portal stone in the witch’s magic fire and get home. She was sure she could do all of that quickly, but this old witch might be playing with her, pretending to be helpless. She pointed her sword at the woman’s chest, threatening to strike.
“They told you to kill the evil witch, didn’t they? Go on then. Do it.”
Janet’s hands were sweating. Her whole body was shaking. “I just want your magic fire. Then I’ll be gone, poof, I swear. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“You want more than that, girl. What did you wish for?”
“What? How did you—?”
“Be a hero, Janet. Kill me.”
Janet was speechless. Not only did she know her wish, she knew her name. “I’m not falling for your tricks,” she whispered. Something in those eyes was trying to speak to her, she just didn’t understand.
Is this what heroes are all about? She didn’t feel heroic at all, pointing that sword at that old woman. And that’s all she looked like right then, a poor, crazy old woman. Janet could barely move. She couldn’t kill her, couldn’t even hurt her, and especially not on Christmas.
Janet’s heart was beating so hard she felt something banging on her chest with every beat.
“What are you waiting for, girl? Go ahead. Be a hero.”
Those eyes… Could it be? Gina’s voice echoed in her mind. “Remember her face.” Something hitting against her chest… The vile! The fairy dust! “Stay where you are!” Janet said, “I’ll show you what heroes do!”
“So be it,” the witch muttered, and closed her eyes. Janet grasped the tiny bottle of fairy dust, and popped the cork over her.
A cloud of glittering dust enveloped the old woman, and she shrank before Janet’s eyes. When she sat up, her face was different. Younger. Still a grown-up, and maybe still a witch, but… No, just a confused, harmless woman.
“What’s happening?” she whispered, looking around as the dust slowly cleared.
Janet knelt down beside her. “Sierra?”
“How do you know my name?”
Janet pulled out the picture Gina had given her. “This is you, isn’t it?”
Sierra’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes, it… it was.”
“I… I came here the same way you did,” Janet said. “I think… I think you were cursed.”
She sat up slowly. “You wished on a star?”
“Yeah,” Janet said, holding it out to her.
“I remember now!” she cried. “I found this, I wished for magic, I…”
“You’re from my world?”
“Yes! I came here as a little girl! The fairies said they’d try to make me a portal stone, but I waited for years without seeing any progress. I was desperate, so I… I started gathering magic on my own. All the magic I could get my hands on… I didn’t realize it was so dangerous. I didn’t know how to use it. It was all too much, put together in so many different ways… I didn’t know. It’s been so many years…”
“It’s okay!” Janet said. “They finished the portal stone for me! Well, it’s almost finished, all we need is some of that fire to complete it, and we can both go home!”
She shook her head sadly. “I’m afraid a portal stone will only work for one person. You should go. It’s too late for me anyway, any life I had in your world is over. At least now, I’m free from all this mixed up magic.”
“But the portal stone will return you to the time you left, and you won’t have aged! I think… I think you should take it.” Janet let the words fall out of her mouth without thought, just feeling. She missed her home so terribly. Her parents, the stories… She so badly longed for a cozy Christmas morning, waking up to a house smelling like pancakes and bacon, and digging through a full stoking of gifts… But they always said Christmas was about more than gifts, and this was a chance to give Sierra something she couldn’t get in a box.
“Please, take it,” Janet said.
Tears were streaming down Sierra’s face. She reached for the stone with a trembling hand. “Are you sure?”
“Completely. Go home.”
Sierra embraced her. “T-thank you, child… Oh, thank you…”
Janet just nodded as Sierra pulled away, lit the fire, and watched the stone begin to glow.
A window opened in the wall, and Janet saw a room not unlike her own. A little girl’s bedroom. She watched Sierra the woman, formerly the evil witch, step inside. Years melted away from her body until she was Janet’s age. She watched her face light up like Christmas as two figures entered the room to greet her, and she ran into their arms. The window slowly closed, leaving the image of the child Sierra, reunited with her family at last, burned into Janet’s memory.
Then she was gone, and so was the portal stone. Janet sat down in the wrecked room, held her wishing star, and started to cry. “I did what heroes do, I think,” she said. “I just wish I could go home now…” Her tears fell on the tiny wooden star. How did something so small and ordinary teleport her here, and why wouldn’t it work again? And why was it suddenly… glowing?
“I wish I could go home!” she said again, picturing her bedroom, her parents, Christmas morning… Light enveloped her, powerful blinding light, and she remembered one more important thing she had to do… “Go to Gina next, little Wishing Star,” she whispered. The star vanished from her hand as the light grew brighter than ever, and she squeezed her eyes shut as her body lifted off the ground, or maybe the ground was falling away beneath her… Then, everything was quiet.
The first thing she was aware of was a warm, familiar scent. Pancakes! She opened her eyes to find herself in her bedroom. She heard Mom and Dad’s voices from the kitchen, chatting quietly.
“Yes!” she shouted, and sprang out of bed. “Mom! Dad!”
They smiled at her. “Merry Christmas, baby.”
Janet pulled them both close. “Merry Christmas!”
One of the hardest things for writers is starting. Breaking the intimidating stare of the blank page. Beating “writer’s block,” whether or not the story is started (let me remind you writer’s block is not real).
I’ve written a few Tuesday Tips on having space to experiment, and “Josephina’s Guide to Magic for Kids” as well as “The Wishing Star” have been that space for me.
"Josephina’s Guide" was inspired by a nightmare. I woke up in the middle of the night unable to stop thinking about the dark town, the shadowy people chasing me, and yeah, there was a train that chased us down the streets and all the cars broke off.
While I was writing it I realized it might come across extremely ridiculous. This is a story without rules. Well, “dream rules.” As for "The Wishing Star," I found it cute, but very flawed. It’s full of borrowed fairytale rules and clichés.
But I think that while we work on our main stories, we can get so caught up in how important they are to us, and making them 100% perfect, our creativity can get restricted. We don’t always have to be so rigid, especially in early drafts. I found myself afraid to experiment with metaphors and fun descriptions, because they sounded just a little silly. Perfectionism is also a top cause of "writer's block." Let it go, just for now. Conquer the blank page first. You can always edit. That’s why this experimenting space is so important.
And I’ll be honest. While I wasn’t sure about either of my short stories at first, I can now honestly say I absolutely love both "Josephina’s Guide" and "The Wishing Star." I’m not even afraid to share them, because they’re so much fun.
I do plan on editing it and posting the finished version of “Josephina’s Guide” next year, just as “The Wishing Star” is being polished and re-posted for Christmas. I think these will be growing stories. That might be a fun thing to try, too. Write a short story at a certain time of the year, then revisit it the following year to update it. See how much you’ve grown as a writer.
Well, I’ll be off next week for Christmas. Happy writing, and see you in 2019! (Well, I'll still post the last chapter of "The Wishing Star" tomorrow).
I'm so excited to be going to Hawaii soon! This is probably my number one favorite Christmas song this year.
The Wishing Star, Part Two
Janet traveled on with the guidance of the fairies, out of the forest, over a hill, and down a path into the human village. A lake glittered nearby. Huts and gardens lay in neat rows, and people milled about, working and chatting. Heads turned toward her as she entered the village, with questioning looks, and several people turned to whisper. Janet heard Sierra’s name mentioned more than once.
A woman gestured to her to come over. Janet went to her, hoping for guidance in the next step of her journey.
“Welcome, child,” the woman said. “I’m Gina. Did you happen to come here in any unusual way?”
“Oh yes,” Janet said. “Did the fairies tell you?”
“No, but you’re not the only odd wanderer I’ve come across. Please, come in. I have something important to show you.”
Janet followed, wondering what else she could do. She didn’t feel any sense of danger, just Mom’s voice nagging at the back of her mind not to talk to strangers. But perhaps real-world rules didn’t apply in a fairyland where she knew no one. Asking for help was her only way to get back home, and this might all just be a dream anyway.
“Back here,” Gina said, “This was Sierra’s room.”
Janet’s mouth dropped open. “You knew Sierra?”
“Not just Sierra, but she was the last person to stay here.”
Janet wandered into the bedroom. It didn’t have many personal touches, but there were a few framed pictures. One of them was Gina standing hand in hand with a familiar man. “That’s Gabe!” Janet exclaimed, pointing. “He really did come here! You’re the woman of his dreams?”
Gina froze, and her mouth dropped open. “You—you know Gabe? You’re from the same world?”
“Yeah, he’s my friend!”
Gina swept up the picture, brushing it free of a layer of dust. “Oh, my, I’d never thought I’d hear… Is he alright? Does he… He said I’m the woman of his dreams? He still cares about me?”
“Of course he does! He wished to find true love on Christmas Day! You’re his true love!”
“Then why did he disappear?”
“He accidentally limited the star’s wish. ‘Christmas Day.’ He only got one day here.”
Gina rolled her eyes, but still had a smile on her face. Janet didn’t know if she was happy or sad. “What an idiot,” Gina laughed. Was she mad? She didn’t look mad. “I always hoped that someday our paths would lead us back to each other. Unfortunately, he couldn’t wish on the same star twice.”
“But the portal stone could get you home! Why don’t you—?”
“Because of the witch! No one can cross the boundary while she lives—unless you have one of those, of course,” she indicated Janet’s Wishing Star.
“Then you should have it,” Janet said.
“It’s not finished with you yet. You’ll know when it is, and you can dedicate it to whoever you desire.”
“Yes, Gabe must have sent it to you when it was done with him. Now…” She returned the picture to the bedside table, and picked up another one. “We need to figure out how to get you home. If you’ve encountered the fairies, I’m sure they’ve told you about Sierra. She was a sweet little girl who only wanted to get back home to her family. We tried to help her find the right magic for her portal stone, but the witch got to her before we came close. Ever since then… Well, I’ve only wished I could have saved her somehow, but there’s no going back in time. I suppose the next best thing would be to help the next lost little girl get back home. Did the fairies give you their portal stone?”
“Yes,” Janet said, presenting it. “They said it needs water from the human village. Can I just go get some from the lake?”
Gina stared at her for a long moment, and back at the picture in her hands. “Sierra stayed with us for some time before the witch stole her away. Probably used her for some terrible magic until she had nothing more to give. You can have water for your portal stone, girl, but you have to promise something in return.”
“I’ll dedicate the star to you!” Janet said.
Gina shook her head. “I can’t dictate where you decide to send the star next, and I certainly can’t bargain with you for it. Impure magic is dangerous. It has to be your own choice. Or, if you don’t dedicate it, it’ll pick someone of it’s own accord, which might be the smartest idea. Sierra couldn’t dedicate it before she died, and it found Gabe next, I believe. No, I have something else in mind for you.” Gina ducked under Sierra’s old bed, and rummaged around for a moment. When she emerged again, she presented a small, but very real, sword. “Slay the evil witch. Avenge Sierra, for all of us.”
Janet stared at the blade. It was her size, yet the thought of simply holding it was paralyzing. There was no way she could slay anyone. “But… But I’m just a little girl! I don’t know how to use a sword!”
“The fairies gave you their blessing. You can do this.” She placed the handle into Janet’s small hand. Janet gasped, staring wide-eyed at the blade. It was light, and felt easy enough to use, like it was made for her.
“My names Ja—”
“Don’t tell me. Please. I can’t know another child like I knew and loved Sierra only to lose her. I want to believe you’ll succeed, but I also know how dangerous it is. So I’m not letting you any further without some way to defend yourself. I’ll get your water and provisions for the rest of your journey. I owe you that much for bringing me news of Gabe. If you don’t want to kill the evil witch, and you can get what you need without killing her, that’s your choice in the end. But take this, too.” She carefully removed the photo she’d been carrying from it’s frame, and handed it to Janet.
A girl of about her same age stared back at her. She had dark curls, bright brown eyes, and she was smiling big for the camera. “Is this her?”
“Yes. Remember her face.”
The Wishing Star will Conclude Next Wednesday!
Tuesday Tips: Quick Tips Review
Don’t Quit Now
Remember why you started that book you haven’t yet finished. You don't have to open it again right now, or even tomorrow. But let's make a promise not to forget about it. Set a date to start again. You're an author, and the world needs your story.
No Conflict vs Unnecessary Conflict: How to spice things up
Ask yourself what your characters really care about. Who do they want to become at the end of the book, and what will help them get there? Add some tests for your character, and let them have some failures. Check in on your characters and make sure they’re not always saying and doing the right thing. People make mistakes all the time. Let them.
No Conflict vs Unnecessary Conflict: How to prevent the unnecessary
If the conflict has an easy solution that readers will be able to predict, cut it or change it.
Perfection is Boring
No one can relate to the girl in a YA book whose biggest problem is being “too beautiful,” or the girl in a fantasy book with “too much” magical power. And in a plot with no stakes of any kind, what are “perfect” moments even worth? Less perfection means more struggles, emotion, development, and growth.
How Many Rounds of Editing Does Your Book Need?
So many times you lose count. Check different aspects on different rounds. Read silently and out loud. Read on your computer and in print. Always give it one more round of edits.
Save everything… EVERYTHING.
It’s easy to toss out old material because it’s embarrassing. But keep your old notebooks, because not only will you enjoy reading them someday for nostalgia purposes, but there might be the seeds of brilliance in there somewhere. Also, it’s the perfect base to return to whenever you feel stuck.
Always remember your Three Golden Rules: Read a lot, write a lot, and be persistent!
This was always a favorite of mine, but it's even more so this year, because I get to go to Hawaii for Christmas!
“Please Mom, just one more chapter?”
“I think it’s bedtime, Janet.” Mom closed the book. “Hop to it. Santa knows when you’re sleeping.”
Janet sighed. “Okay. If I go to bed, will he bring me those pretty fairies we saw at the mall last week?”
“Janet,” Mom said sternly. “Bed.”
“Okay.” She shuffled off to bed, trying not to be frustrated. Money’s tight this year, her parents told her. And Christmas is about more than presents.
Every year, grown-ups tried to pound the same lessons into kids’ heads: Christmas is about more than presents, and family and love are more precious than anything you’ll ever get in a box. Janet had to roll her eyes. Like she didn’t know that already. Of course you can’t pack up the most important things in life in a box.
She thought of how she felt when Mom read to her, and she was on a magical adventure in a faraway place. She’d tried to re-create this feeling, playing by herself, or with a few close friends, but though the games were fun, they weren’t enough. She wanted real magic.
A week ago, Mom took her wish list shopping, which they still did even though “money’s tight this year.” Janet didn’t know if it was torture, or it the tradition was important enough to do it anyway. She found a store full of beautiful little figurines, and among them was a family of fairies. Mom said maybe Santa would bring her one, if she was good. She didn’t know if she wanted to take one away from the family. They should all live together. In her bedroom.
The next day, Janet went with Dad to pick out a tree. They bought one that was a little smaller than usual, but Dad reassured her it was the smell that mattered. Janet took a big whiff. He was right, it still smelled exactly the way Christmas should.
“Mom’s gonna take you to pick out a new ornament, too,” Dad said, on the drive home.
“Really? I thought…”
“It’s tradition, kiddo. We’re still going to have all the most important parts of Christmas, just... Just a bit smaller this year.”
Janet wondered if that meant she’d have to pick out a smaller ornament, but didn’t ask. She’d see what Mom let her get away with when they got to the store. Every year, her parents let her pick out one new, special ornament. So every year, she tried to find the biggest and brightest. One day, she imagined she’d collect enough of them to decorate an entire tree. After all, just because presents and pretty things weren’t the most important part of Christmas, didn’t mean they weren’t important at all. Janet still dreamed of piles of presents, under a tree decked out in sparkling, fancy ornaments. Maybe someday.
But this year, ornament shopping was different, and for once, it wasn’t because “money’s tight.”
Before heading to the store, Mom wanted to stop at a thrift shop, to drop off a bag of donations. Janet didn’t mind. She might see Gabe, who worked there, and always told her extravagant stories about where certain items came from. She was never sure if he made them up or not, but he was always fun.
While Mom made her donation, Janet went to look at all the Christmas things. Even here, plenty of ornaments were dazzling. She touched a few of them absentmindedly, until her hands found a plain, painted star. Once she found it, she couldn’t stop staring at it. It wasn’t the kind of star you put on top of your tree, just a small one to hang with the other ornaments. She couldn’t put it down, and kept running her fingers over the wood. It was still pretty, though it wasn’t extravagant. Its yellow paint was smooth, and had a little bit of a shine to it.
A voice behind her made her jump.
“Is that you, Janet? Nah, it can’t be, you’re far too tall! Little Janet I knew was about up to here,” Gabe held his hand up to her shoulder.
“Hi Gabe!” she said.
Mom appeared behind him a moment later, and noticed the star in her hand. “Sweetie, you don’t have to buy one here, we can afford a new one.”
“I like this one, though,” she said.
“Of course you do,” Gabe said. “That’s a Wishing Star. Not too many genuine ones left out there. Make a wish, and it’ll come true, guaranteed.”
Mom rolled her eyes, but Janet wanted to hear more. “Really? Did you ever try it?”
“Oh, I sure did,” Gabe said. “Said I wanted Christmas to be the day I found love. Woke up Christmas morning in a whole other world, and met the woman of my dreams.”
“Did you marry her?”
“Alas, I limited the wish when I said ‘Christmas Day.’ The star only gave me one day in the other land. I reckon she’s still there, and maybe one day I’ll see her again.”
“Alright, great story, Gabe, but we’ve got to be going,” Mom said. “Janet, are you sure that’s the one you want?”
“Oh, definitely,” Janet smiled.
Gabe checked them out, and carefully packaged up the little star for Janet. “Merry Christmas to both of you,” he said. “Wish wisely, Janet.”
“Merry Christmas, Gabe,” she said.
It was Christmas Eve, and Janet couldn’t sleep. Well, it wasn’t so much that she couldn’t sleep, but she was resisting going to bed. She kept looking out the window, listening for sleigh bells, and turning her little “Wishing Star” over in her hands.
For some reason, she felt compelled to have her star with her tonight. She'd removed it from the tree, and couldn’t stop staring at it. Make a wish, she thought, just try it! Maybe it was a silly idea, but if the Wishing Star worked at all, it had to work on Christmas Eve.
“I wish I could go on a real magical adventure, and be a hero like the people in my books,” she whispered. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, but when she opened them again nothing had changed. She shrugged, and put the star down on her bedside table, deciding it was time to settle down at last. Tomorrow morning, she’d wake to the smells of pancakes and bacon, with Christmas music playing softly, a full stocking and presents to open…
Early in the morning, Janet opened her eyes. “Merry Christmas!” she whispered, getting out of bed. Then, louder, “Merry Christmas!”
She opened her bedroom door to… Silence. “Mom?” she called, “Dad?” No voice answered. There was no music playing, no smell of anything.
She knocked on her parent’s bedroom door before pushing it slowly open. The bed was empty. “Hello?”
Out in the living room, there were no presents under the tree, and the stockings were still empty. Yet it was fully daylight, and the calendar on the wall still read “December.”
After searching the house for her parents, Janet returned to her room to bundle up before venturing into the backyard. The sun was shining, but there was a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. “Mom? Dad?” She ran toward the garden, thinking she heard a voice. Nothing. She turned, thinking to go back to the house, and gasped at the sight behind her.
The house was gone. In its place was a forest, a real, enchanted forest, she thought. Yet she had very little desire to go exploring. She realized she still held the Wishing Star in her hand.
“I wish to go home now,” she said. “I wish it was Christmas morning, and I was home with Mom and Dad.”
Nothing happened. Gabe said his magic lasted for a day, but only because he limited it. Did she limit her wish? She didn't think she had. Maybe, she thought, maybe I have to lie down and sleep for the magic to work. That wasn’t such a terrible thought. But where could she sleep, out here?
Or maybe she had to fulfill her first wish, see it through in it’s entirety, in order to be granted a second one. That wasn’t a bad price to pay either, though it would be a great deal more difficult than simply lying down somewhere and trying to fall asleep…
Or maybe… Maybe the Wishing Star only had one wish inside it, and she’d used its magic all up. That was a scary thought. Even if it was only one wish every Christmas, when did Christmas come in this world?
Before she could ponder any further, she thought she heard a small voice. Well, we’ll see where adventure takes us, she thought, and set off toward the sound, into the forest.
The forest was thick, but not scary. All the trees were enchanting and beautiful, and seemed to beckon her forward, welcoming her. There wasn't as much snow here, and the temperature was slowly climbing. There were bright little toadstools along the narrow path, and the sound of a creek not far away. It felt like a fairyland.
“Help me!” cried a small voice, much closer this time. A tiny figure was tangled up in a vine. Janet hurried to free the creature, letting out a small yelp when she realized what it was.
A fairy! A real, live, tiny girl with wings was trapped. Janet stared in wonder.
“Are you going to help or just look?” the fairy shouted.
“Oh! Sorry, I’ve never seen a real fairy before,” Janet said, and hurried to untangle the vine, letting the girl free.
“Thank you,” she sighed. Janet opened her hand, and the fairly settled there. “What’s your name, human?”
“I’m Janet. You?”
“Carla,” said the fairy, “I got lost out here. Do you think you could help me get home?”
“I’m new to this forest,” Janet said. “But of course I’ll try. Which way is your home?”
“Just follow the sound of the creek.”
“Okay.” Janet followed the path toward the sound of water. “Um, Carla? Where are we?”
“In the Mushroom Forest, of course! My family lives in the Water Circle. You must be from the Human Village.”
“No, I haven’t heard of any of that. I’m from… somewhere else.”
“Across the portal? Did you wish on a star?”
“Yes! How did you know?”
“The last little girl who came here!” Carla said. “She’d never seen a fairy either! Said she wished upon a star and… Oh, Janet, you must be careful. Sierra was murdered by an evil witch!”
Janet sighed. Of course she was. Of course the stupid Wishing Star couldn’t give her an adventure without someone evil to defeat.
“Where does this evil witch live?”
“Not far past the human village. Hm… I think it’s too dangerous for you to go near her. You’ll just have to stay with us in the Water Circle!”
“But I have to get back home!”
Carla flew up to her shoulder, patting her cheek. “No, no, dear. Sierra tried getting home and look what happened to her! You’ll just have to stay with us! Look, we’re almost there!”
They had reached the creek, and a little ways up, Janet could see where it broke around an island before continuing straight ahead. A large circle of land, and fairies all about. A group of them buzzed toward Janet and Carla.
“Carla! Oh, Carla, dear, we’ve been so worried!”
Carla leapt gleefully of Janet’s shoulder and greeted her family. Janet tried not to picture a similar reunion with her own parents, who felt further away than ever.
“This is Janet! She rescued me!” Carla said, and before she knew it, Janet was receiving a hundred tiny hugs as the fairies thanked her.
“She came here like Sierra,” Carla explained. “I think she should just stay here with us! It’s too dangerous, right?”
“Well, I think that’s up to Janet to decide,” one of the older fairies said.
“What do you mean?” Janet asked. “What’s too dangerous?”
“We’ve been working on portal magic since Sierra’s time,” she said. “Here, look. A portal stone!”
She pointed at a perfectly round, black rock twice the size of any fairy, resting on the ground. Janet picked it up. “How does it work?”
“Oh, I’m afraid it’s incomplete as of now,” she said. “In order to make it work, you’ll need something to tie it to your own kind. Our fairy water gave it magic, but it would need a human element to connect back to your world. Water from the Human Village should work.”
“But the witch!” Carla said.
“I don’t care,” Janet said. “I have to get home! I can hide from the witch if I need to, I’ll be fine!”
“Ah, but the water alone won’t be enough,” said the fairy, “It will need an enchanted flame to activate, and only the witch possesses such magic. But once activated, the portal stone can get you back home, to the exact time of your choosing. You’ll even be back to the same age as the day you left, no matter how long you spend here.”
“So you could stay for years, if you want,” Carla said.
“Hm… When is Christmas, here?”
“Yeah, I think I want to go home.”
“Carla can guide you as far as the Human Village, and they’ll help you the rest of the way. But it will be dangerous. Take the stone, and take this, too.”
Several fairies flew around her head, lowering a necklace with a tiny vile around her neck. She carefully picked it up. It was full of something dazzling, and Janet could only stare.
“Fairy dust!” Carla said.
“Wow,” Janet whispered. “I didn’t know this was real… Any of it.”
“Well, you learn something new every day,” Carla said. “Keep it close. You’ll know when to use it.”