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 lost little girl 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 her mother’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, leading Janet to a child’s bedroom. “This was Sierra’s room.”
Janet was speechless. This woman had sheltered Sierra?
“Now, if you’ve encountered the fairies, I’m sure they’ve told you about her. 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 to get back home. Have the fairies made a new 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 into Sierra’s old room. “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.”
She went into Sierra’s room and rummaged under the bed. 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 holding it was paralyzing, let alone slaying 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. If you don’t want to kill the evil witch, and if you can get what you need without killing her, that’s your choice in the end. But take this, too.” She carefully removed a photo 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.”
To be continued next Wednesday!