Lily Rose was a (mostly) cheerful sort of girl, she hardly let life get her down. She was quite tall for a girl her age, with the bluest eyes you had ever seen, blonde hair and just a sprinkle of freckles across her nose. When she smiled, her whole face smiled and everyone said she looked just like her mum and this made Lil quite pleased as she thought her mum was really very pretty (and smart) as she was training to become a nurse and save people's lives. It was her dad’s 30th birthday and they were going up to their block in Little Swan-Port to celebrate with a big party. It wasn’t her favorite place to go, but she didn’t grumble like she usually would because it was for her dad.
After a rather long car trip with her mum, dad and her twinnie sisters Amielle and Isabella singing the whole way (with their Dalmatian Cooper in the back ) they had finally arrived!
Lil sprang from the car with a dash and started to run about the field, Cooper hot on her heels. She let out a whoop, throwing her arms in the air and twirling about, Cooper answered with a happy bark of his own - running in circles, glad to be free again.
Lily’s mum Gracie asked her to keep an eye on her sister whilst they unpacked the car, as she was a responsible 8 and they were only 5. They had arrived a day early to set up for the humongous party that was to be held the following day. She dutifully supervised game after game, until their mum called them in for some afternoon tea.
Lil sat with her sisters at the table, munching on her favorite snack, fruit salad! After they finished their snack, mum began making food for the party tomorrow, the twins where playing with their shopkins in the corner of the kitchen out of the way.
Mum suggested Lily go outside and check on Dad as he had not joined them for afternoon tea. Lily went outside to see what her Dad was doing and found him putting up the party tents for his birthday. Lil helped her dad by holding tent pegs and his mallet, following him around and handing him the right thing at exactly the right time. It made her dad smile his biggest smile and he called her his number one helper. This made Lily feel special and smile, too.
After they finished putting the tents up, dad had to chop some fire wood, which was a bit too dangerous for Lil to help him with.
“Why don’t you go and play by those trees while I’m chopping, Lil?" Dad asked as he pointed to a line of tall looking trees overlooking the bay. Lily’s face broke into a huge grin as she looked where he pointed to, for Lily loved trees. As Lil took off running, Cooper following her, she heard her dad call after her “Remember to stay where I can see you!”
Lil raised a hand to show she had heard him, but didn’t slow down until she reached the tree line. She looked up from where she stood and just stared in awe. There was something about these trees that she hadn’t noticed when they had first arrived.
As she’d been running she noticed that they sort of called to her, bending in the breeze, asking her to come and climb in their huge branches and play games under their leaves.
“They seem almost magical.” Lil thought to herself before dashing the thought away. She was a big girl now and while she still occasionally played make-believe games with her sisters, Lily wasn’t entirely sure she believed in magic anymore.
Cooper meanwhile had been sniffing around and around the base of each tree. Lily reach her hand out to touch the closest trunk, when Cooper started barking and took off between the trees. Lily called out to him and when he did not come back, she took off after him.
“Cooooper! Coooper!” Lily called to no avail, getting frustrated and knowing that it would be dark soon, she sat on a nearby log to think.
That’s when she heard it.
At least she thought she heard something, turning her head until she was sure.
There it was again, a small snuffling sound, followed by what sounded like crying.
Worried that one of her sisters had followed her through the trees and gotten lost, Lily got up and quietly made her way towards the sounds.
Lily stopped every so often to make sure she was going in the right direction, following the sounds until they became louder. What Lil expected to find was either one or both or her sisters lost and upset, but that was not quite what she found.
Whomever it was did indeed seem quite upset and possibly lost (thought Lil – she seemed to be quite at home amongst the trees) but whomever she was, it was not her sisters.
Sitting on a stone in a small clearing was a girl, a little bit older than Lily herself – crying into her hands as Cooper nosed around her knees, clearly trying to cheer the girl up.
When the girl lifted her head, Lily saw that she too had the bluest eyes she had ever seen, though her hair was flaming red and seemed to curl out with a determination all of its very own. “Ohh wee doggie, I just don’t know what to do...” the girl had a slight accent when she spoke to Cooper, as she patted his head for comfort. It reminded Lily of her Great Nanny Norah, who had been all the way from Scotland.
But we’re in Little Swan-Port, not Scotland, Lil thought to herself, feeling puzzled. Lily started to tiptoe forward slowly so she didn’t startle the girl and upset her further, but she really must be getting back before her mum and dad began to worry.
Lily stepped out from behind the trees and in her politest voice, called to the girl (her nanny & pa had always said that when someone is upset its best to try and be nice).
“Excuse me, are you alright?” Lily smiled at the girl uncertainly, trying to look friendly. The girls' head flew up and for the first time she saw Lily standing in the clearing in her multicolored leggings, t-shirt and bright pink gumboots.
The girl shot to her feet and with tears in her eyes stared at Lily in return, looking quite startled. As they stared at each other Lil noticed that the girl wore a long dress made out of wool that looked warm but heavy and boots that laced up to her knees. Next to the rock where she sat was a small woven satchel, bow and a quiver full of arrows.
“Who are you?” the girl spoke first, her voice loud, her accent making the words sound a little different, but the way she stood with her arms crossed in front of her suggested she did not like being snuck up on. This made Lily feel a bit cross, she hadn’t meant to sneak up on her, she was after all just trying to be nice to someone who was clearly upset (and get her dog back).
Lily took a calming breath (the kind she took when she ran out of patience with her sisters) before she spoke again, holding her head high.
“My name is Lily Rose and I believe that’s my Dalmatian, Cooper...” At the mention of his name, Cooper left the girls' side and came over and wagged his tail at Lil before he sat at her feet.
The girl stood quiet for a moment, looking at Lil to Cooper and back again, before she sat back on her rock and burst into a fresh round of tears. Lily had a startled look of her own now, this girl was clearly upset about something but they really must be getting back to their family soon. As Lil turned to leave the clearing, Cooper whined and as she looked back at him he wagged his tail, but remained where he was. The girl was still crying rather quietly by herself and as Lil looked over at her, Cooper whined again and wagged his tail more furiously.
Lily sighed, it was clear that Cooper wanted her to trying again with the girl but Lil didn’t really fancy being yelled at by a stranger in strange clothes again.
“Cooper, come on..” Lily whispered loudly but in defiance, he scooted backwards until he was in front of the stone the girl sat on.
Lily folded her arms, looking cross at Cooper, who started wagged his tail like he was trying to imitate a helicopter when finally Lil sighed again and made her way over to the girl.
As Lil sat down, she reminded herself that it was the right thing to stay and try to comfort the girl. How would she have liked it if she was the one who was upset and someone just left her there? Silently, Lil answered her own question thinking that she would not like it one little bit.
Mustering up her best big sister voice, Lily tried again. “What’s your name?” she asked as gently as she could and was rewarded when the girl looked at her, though still quite upset, and mumbled out softly “Moira . . . My name is Moira.”
Lily smiled and said “It’s nice to meet you Moira, but why are you crying?” Moira sniffed a few times and wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve. She explained how she had had a silly fight with her mum and she just wanted her mum to agree with her but her mum ended up being turned into a scottish wildcat.
Lily tried not to look alarmed, “A Wildcat?” she asked, thinking that surely Moira must be joking.
Moira sniffed again and nodded, looking very glum.
Lily tried again, “How on earth did your mum get turned into a Wildcat?” Moira explained that she had gone into these very woods and sort out a witch who granted wishes.
“But it didn’t work . . . ” Moira let out a frustrated sigh before she continued.
“Well my da isn’t the fondest of those scottish wildcats and the old lady witch baked the agreement spell into a cake for my ma to eat but it all went wrong . . . ”
Lily frowned, as she didn’t know much about witches (especially the kind that baked spells into cakes and lived in the woods) but she had some idea, which did not give her a good feeling at all.
“Moira . . .” Lily began “do you think that maybe she did it on purpose?" Moira looked sadly at Lily as Cooper whined and nodded again before she spoke.
“I went back after I had to sneak my ma out of the castle to keep her safe, but the old lady witch wasn’t there . . . ” Moira continued, “She left a note tacked to her door saying she had gone to the market, which is at least a day’s ride away and my mum doesn’t have the kind of time . . . ”
Lily patted Moira's shoulder in sympathy as she took a steadying breath. “And then there are my wee little brothers, they must have eaten some of my ma’s cake, because they have been turned into bears as well!” Moira turned into Lily’s shoulder and began to cry again. Lily put her arm around the girl as she spoke through her tears “Oh please Lily, I need your help . . .”
As she sat with Moira while she cried, Lil began to think how she would feel if it was her mum Gracie or her twinnie sisters that had been mistakenly tuned into a Scottish Wildcat. Lil set her mouth with grim determination, as it was that final thought had settled it for her.
“I will help you Moira, anyway I can . . . But first I think we need to go back to the witch's cottage. Can you remember the way?“ Lily said, getting to her feet and pulling Moira with her.
Lily found that once Moira had cheered up she was quite a nice girl, brave and fierce as she was loyal and kind. They bonded together as they walked along, mostly about being big sisters and their parents not understanding everything, and as it turned out, a mutual love of Cooper.
As the old lady witch's cottage came into view, Moira took off her bow and began carrying it in her hand instead. After a quick look in Moira’s direction, Lil picked up a stick, with a spikey looking end and Cooper’s happy jaunt shifted into a serious walk as he started out ahead of them, sniffing the air for clues.
They stopped on the door step and peered up at the big wooden door that appeared to be locked up tight, even when Lily and Moira pushed and pulled together several times. The girls sighed in unison and were about to give up when Cooper began to bark excitedly next to the front door. He kept barking, then pawing at the ground until Lily came up to see what was going on. “He’s found something . . .” Moira exclaimed excitedly and got down on her knees to help Cooper dig.
Lily helped Moira moved some smaller stones by the door way and Cooper went into full digging mode. After a few moments, something shiny appeared under the dirt. “It’s a key," Lily said, sounding surprised as she began brushing the dirt off an old fashioned looking key that appeared to be made out of the same metal as the keyhole. Lily and Moira stared as the key began to tremble in her palm and when it was done, it appeared to now have shaped a face.
Moira frowned and opened her mouth to speak, apparently to the key - “ Now look here you . . .” she began, her accent not in the least bit hiding the fact that she sounded rather cross. If that wasn’t bad enough, Lily almost dropped the key when it began to speak back.
“Blasted hound, animals always could sense magic . . . " the key muttered to itself, looking and sounding like a grumpy old man. “The key . . .” Lily began, “its talking . . .” she gave Moira a puzzled look when the girl simply shrugged at her. “Witch's cottage, she’d probably got all sorts of odds and ends spelled to come to life . . .” at Lily’s even more puzzled expression, Moira's asked, “Isn’t there magic where you come from?” Lily shook her head, as words at this point seemed to fail her.
“There’s magic all around, Lily, you just have to know where to look . . .” Moira took the key from Lily’s hand and headed over to the door.
She placed it in the keyhole and was attempting to turn it when Lily came over to help. But the old, grumpy key was having none of it, grumbling away furiously as they tried to turn it. Eventually Moira let go with a huffed and stomped her foot impatiently. “Now look here you, I am Princess Moira and you will open this door right now!”
Lily gasped as she looked over at Moira “You’re a Princess? A real Princess?"
Moira shrugged at Lily, as if to say, 'being royalty is no big deal' and continued to argue with the grumpy key man, who apparently didn’t care that Moira was a princess – he wasn’t opening for anyone.
Lily was smothering her laughter as the whole thing was taking on a rather comical form, when suddenly an idea struck her. "Moira" Lily asked, “Have you tried saying please?" Moira looked over at Lily with a bewildered look and silently shook her head 'no.' Mind made up, Lily walked over to the key, cleared her throat, and in the best formal voice she could muster at the present moment, she began, “Hello Mr. Key. My name is Lily Rose and I was hoping you could please open up this door for us?”
“And why should I do that?” came the grumpy reply.
Lily nudged Moira with her elbow and with a sigh, Moira began to explain what had happened.
The key listened without comment until Moira was done and when he spoke his tone was different, almost kind. “I am sorry to hear about your mother, little princess. The witch can sometimes be unkind to people as others were to her long ago. I wish I could do more but unfortunately there is little else I can do but let you into the witch’s cottage. Perhaps inside you will find an answer to save your family . . .”
With a sigh and a click, the door swung open and taking Moira’s hand, Lily stepped through the doorway. After searching the cottage to the best of their ability, Moira noticed a spell book hiding in the corner, like it hoped they wouldn’t notice it.
Lily picked it up and it squealed like a pig stuck in a fence until Lily placed it on the table top in front of them. It kept trying to hide until Moira spoke softly to it, “It’s alright little one, we mean you no harm, we were hoping you could help us . . .” The spell book sniffed (even though it didn’t have a nose) and looked up at Lily and Moira brightly. “I heard you talking to old Mr. Key face just before . . ." it began, sounding like a little boy about Lily’s age. He turned to Moira, “I remember you from before, the witch tricked you and I helped . . ." he turned away in shame.
Moira smiled at him gently, in what Lily recognized as a big sister type smile. “It’s alright," Moira whispered, "I forgive you. I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t have a choice in some things . . .” Lily nodded in agreement as the little boy book turned back around towards them.
He nodded with them and stood up straighter as he flipped his pages open in a flurry.
“According to this," he read aloud for them as the pages whizzed by, “Your ma is in danger of turning into an actual wild cat soon, by sun up tomorrow to be exact. A wild woods, deer hunting, mauling people wild cat . . .” He peeked round his pages and at the look of alarm on Lily’s and Moira’s faces, he kept flipping. “The only way to prevent a final transformation is to repair the bond and remind her who she is . . .”
Lily and Moira thanked the little boy book and headed back outside again. They sat on a fallen branch next to the witch’s cottage to think about what the little boy book had told them. They sat silent with their own thoughts for what seemed like a long time, Cooper at their feet.
Suddenly, Moira jumped to her feet.
“Oh Lily, I have an idea!” she exclaimed proudly. Lily looked pleased for Moira as she continued. “There’s a tapestry of the whole family, my ma was making me sew it for practice . . . do you think that might work?" Moira turned to Lily suddenly, afraid it was a silly idea.
“Yes, I think that’s a wonderful idea!” Lily smiled at Moira as she spoke. “Maybe some of her things, too, like a favorite book? Or maybe her crown? Do you know where it is?”
“Oh Lily! That’s a wonderful idea,” exclaimed Moira as she swept Lily up for a great big hug. Moira finally stopped hugging Lily and reached into her satchel and pulled out an item that was wrapped up in a scarf. “My ma left it by the stream when we were trying to fish for salmon,” Moira said as she unwrapped it slowly “I found it after I she ran into the woods.”
In Moira’s hand was the loveliest crown Lily had ever seen. It had different types of jewels around the front and a gold band around the back so it fitted on your head. It shone beautiful colors in the dying light and Lily looked up in dismay to see that the sun was beginning to set.
Moira, seeing Lily’s worry put two fingers in her mouth and whistled. Suddenly, two glowing lights appeared in the distance.
As they got closer, Lily saw, to her delight, that they were actually little people!
“These are woodland fairies -- very rare, though I spend so much time here they seem to have accepted me . . .” Moira held out her hand as she spoke and they came to settle in her palm. While Moira whispered to them, Lily heard laughter that sounded like tiny bells all ringing at once and then they floated into the air in front of Lily and Cooper.
Moira turned to Lily “they will take you home,” she said “Lily Rose , I am so grateful that I met you today. Thank you for helping me when I thought all was lost!" She hugged Lily once more, then gestured for her to follow the fairies as she turned the other way and began walking down the path.
Lily and Cooper followed the path the fairies led them down and in no time at all (after all that’s magic) she could see through the trees and to her delight, her dad, thankfully, still appeared to be chopping wood.
Lily ran up to him and gave him a big hug, asking if it was time for dinner yet as helping made her hungry. They went inside and had dinner with her mum and the twinnies, then settled in for the night.
In the morning the sun coming over the hill woke Lily up. She got out of her tent, stretching then stopped when she saw something near the tree line.
Standing just beyond the trees was Moira and an older woman that could only be her mum, now it appeared -- all human. On Moira’s other side was a tall broad man with red hair like Moira’s and on his big shoulders, three little boys, also with bright red hair. Moira’s family smiled and waved goodbye to Lily and they backed into the forest. Lily decided once and for all that she would always believe in magic.