This story is by Cj Clark and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
The elderly woman sat in the rocking chair with a blanket across her lap. She watched the reading corner fill up at the library. The children drew close, sitting on the carpet while the adults hung in the back.
“Mrs. Elise, you may begin,” The librarian said.
She smiled, “It was September 15, 1956. The day was frightfully cold as Henry relocated his family to an old Victorian house outside of Wyoming. What Henry didn’t know was the house held a secret. A secret never discovered until that day…the day Tara and Arthur disappeared.”
The children’s eyes widen and audible gasps filled the room.
“While Tara unpacked her belongings she discovered a small trinket box in her closet. She sat on the bed as she opened it.”
A little blonde boy threw up his hand, “What was in the box, Mrs Elise?”
“An oval pendant with a garnet stone no bigger than her thumb. The next day, Tara was in charge of Arthur while their dad went to work. Tara was bored as she looked through a magazine.”
“Tara paused as she listened.”
Mrs. Elise thumped the arm of the rocking chair.
“There is was again. What was Arthur up to? Arthur she called. No answer. She climbed the stairs to the attic. Colored lights bounced and shimmered off the walls. She found the source as she walked closer to a black trunk. A rusty broken lock lied on the floor next to it. The lights were mesmerizing as Tara leaned closer to take a look inside. She reached out and the lights surrounded her and sucked her in. Tara landed in a thick sticky slim.”
“Eww,” Mrs. Elise said, making a face. The children laughed.
“Tara struggled to get out when a large hand engulfed her under her arms and lifted her out.”
“Was it Arthur?” A girl said.
Mrs. Elise chuckled, “No, Tara stared into the face of a troll. She screamed and he dropped her, running behind a tree. The troll peered out behind the tree as he looked at Tara. Two fairies came over and spoke with him before they fairies fluttered to her.”
“Tinkerbell,” A little girl said. She placed her thumb in her mouth.
Mrs. Elise smiled, “Their names were Blossom and Lily. They apologized to Tara for Ekon dropping her. They told Tara of a boy they rescued from the pit. Tara was relieved that Arthur was okay.”
“Where is he?” Tara asked them.
A girl stood up,“What happened to him?”
“He was snatched up by the Evil Lord Vorkalth’s dragon and taken to his castle.”
The children’s eyes widen. “A dragon,” they whispered.
“Tara saw caterpillars blowing colored bubbles as they danced skyward. Butterflies the size of softballs dancing around. Birds flittered across their path. Songs whistled in the tall grass as she followed the fairies to meet the queen. Tara walked into the camp. She found dozens of different kinds of magical beings and critters. They were dressed in armor, preparing for battle. Tara stopped as a brilliant white light illuminated a spot in front of them as the Queen appeared.”
“What was her name?” the girl in front said.
“Queen Zola. She told Tara that a great battle was upon them. Lord Vorkalth put a spell on the land. She pointed to the Eastern sky. Tara saw a darkness eating its way through it. If they didn’t fight back then all would be lost.”
Mrs. Elise paused as she took a sip of water. She sat it down on the side table before she continued on.
“Tara explained to the Queen how she got here and how could she return once she got Arthur. Queen Zola explained how she could return home as she pointed to the pendant around Tara’s neck. Queen Zola whistled. Tara stepped back, falling. She looked up towards the bright light that shimmered across her vision.”
Mrs. Elise chuckled.
“What was it?” A whisper from the crowd asked.
“A mythical creature that Tara only glimpsed in pages of fairy tales.”
“What was it?” The crowd said.
“A unicorn, called Cortesia. Tara climbed on the magnificent creature behind Queen Zola. She yelled and everyone took towards the meadows. Some took to flight while others rode. Tara’s hair flapped behind her and she felt free even for just the briefest of moments. Cortesia took them to the Great Bridge. Tara looked down at the rope ladder that strung across the cliff as she saw the water racing below. Tara was scared as she leaned against Queen Zola and closed her eyes. Cortesia took one step at a time.”
“Did they make it?” A teenage boy asked.
“Yes, they arrived all safe on the other side. Suddenly, the ground began to shake and the tree’s began to sway from a distance. Tara’s eyes grew wide as she watched it stop in front of Queen Zola.
“What was it?” An older kid called from the back.
“A beast with white fur, two tusks coming from his mouth, big brown eyes, and floppy ears.”
Mrs. Elise laughed as the image formed in her mind.
“Alto, I’m glad you could make it,” the queen said. “Tara you can ride on Alto’s back.” Tara climbed on the back of the creature as he bounded along the path with the rest of the army. At nightfall the army was halfway up the mountain when they made camp for the night. Alto slumped against a tree with Tara in his giant arms.”
Mrs. Elise took a breath.
“What happened next?” a little boy in front said.
“At dawn the army assembled and marched onward. They climbed higher and higher until they stood in front of the castle. Queen Zola waited.”
“What was she waiting for?” The boy said as he moved closer.
“A sign. A chirping noise came from above. A single dove. She knew that the great Wizard Arcadius had escaped the dungeon. Queen Zola turned to the troops as she looked over them before she spoke.”
“What did she say?” the girl said, tugging on Mrs. Elise’s skirt.
“She said, we stand here united one and all to fight. Today we make history. Today we stand for our land. Today we will take back what is ours.”
Mrs. Elise raised her arm high above her head.
“Queen Mara shouted. The crowd cheered and roared. Cortesia reared up as the castle doors opened. Tara rode Alto as she looked for Arthur. They halted as soon as they entered the great hall. Tara saw a man at the other end. An army behind him.
“Did you think you could defeat me?” Lord Vorkalth said. He held a scared Arthur.
“We’ll soon find out,” Arcadius said. He took his place next to Queen Zola.
“NOW!” Queen Zola shouted. The two armies surged forward as they came head to head. Tara saw Arthur flung behind a post. She spoke to Arto. He lunged forward zigzagging through the swinging blades. He was hit in the side and Tara was flung off. Alto climbed back onto his feet and took to the fight.
“What happened to Tara?” a boy said.
Mrs. Elise paused. She looked over the crowd of wide eyes waiting for her to continue.
“Tara was dazed for a moment. She got to her feet and ran to Arthur.”
“Are you okay?” Tara asked Arthur. She hugged her brother.
“Yes, I’m…I’m okay,” Arthur said. He pushed his glasses up on his nose. “Can we go home now?”
Queen Zola shouted to Tara, “Use the stone before it is too late!”
Lord Vorkalth turned, lunging for them.
Tara wrapped her hand around the gem as she shouted, “ACCIPITE ME!”
They heard Lord Vorkalth scream, “NO!” As they began shifting.
“Tara opened her eyes and found them back in the attic. They shut and wired the trunk shut until they could buy a new lock. They made a pact to never speak of it to their father.”
“That is the end of the story,” Mrs. Elise said.
“What happened to Tara and Arthur?”
“They grew up, married, and had children.”
“Did the other world survive?”
“Yes,” Mrs. Elise said. “Tara and Arthur traveled back, but that tale is for another day. Tara came back to the real world changed. She found that magic does exist even if in our own minds.”
“Okay class it’s time to go,” the teacher said. “Lets thank, Mrs. Elise.”
The room filled with applauds as the crowd got up to leave. A little blonde boy turned as Mrs. Elise pulled a gold chain from under her blouse. He saw the oval pendant with the garnet stone and his eyes widen. The old woman clasped it and winked at the boy.
He came over pulling on Mrs. Elise’s sleeve, “Grandma, when do I get to see this place?
“Soon Aidan,” She said. “Very soon.”