A forgotten land, frozen in time….
Many, many years ago a curse was entwined into the desolate Irish countryside.Twenty generations down the line a girl would belong to a witch. This girl, Grace, soon discovers herself whisked away to a forgotten place, where magic is her only hope to get home…
Three chatterbox acorns.
A golden lock of hair.
A frog frozen in time.
A crystal from the bottom of the river running by this very house….
Will she break the curse? Or will she be trapped in this disremembered land forever?
There was a house in the middle of the Irish countryside, immersed in luscious green and tall, wise trees that whispered in the wind. This part of Ireland was meant to be magical, stardust hidden under the thick soil, layered between the leaves and branches. The ribbons of golden light ran through the murmuring rivers. It had settled neatly in the countryside, this magic, and told stories to anyone who passed, muttering words that no one could understand except for the most gifted soul. It was a desolate part of Ireland, where only one house stood. At this time, it was night. Lightning was tearing apart the seams of the midnight sky, bolting through an ocean of darkness. Thunder fell upon the deep valleys and fields, rolling across the sky and cracking angrily. Rain was pouring down heavily, creating rivers across the sodden green. This house had been built many, many years ago, out of grand sandstone. Well, it wasn’t so grand now. A few years ago a part of the house had collapsed, leaving only the main rooms standing. It was disheveled and bracken, the wind threatening the rickety walls.
Inside this house there was a poor woman who was suffering and broke. In her shaky hands she held her six-month child, clutching the young to her chest. The infant was shivering in the icy darkness, her tiny, curious eyes closed, quietly sleeping soundly. The two were bundled in everything they had, two shawls, a light blanket and a set of winter clothes, laying in front of the meagre crackling fire. They were resting on two pillows, the mother; eyes wide open, staring hopelessly at the fireplace. She had no food, no proper home, no money and no husband to keep the household running. She couldn’t face the thought that, soon, they would have nothing left at all. Tears welled in her sorrowful eyes, and she closed her eyes, knowing the end would come soon.
Suddenly, the door creaked open, and rain sputtered into the room, wind destroying the remnants of the fire. Thunder crept it’s way under the floorboards, and the mother, eyes wide with terror, backed up the stairs slowly, grasping her child close. A shadow wandered up the wobbly staircase, footsteps echoing through the house. The baby let out a wail and her teeth chattered, freezing cold wind rushing towards them. The mother attempted the comfort the child, but she burst into tears and the mother, desperate, tried to hide in the shadows of the night. The figure revealed itself, showing an old hag in a mauve shaded cloak, pinned together with a sparkling ruby. Around her neck hung the strangest jewelry, leather necklaces with peculiar looking pendants. The stooped old lady had frizzy hair, blowing in the harsh wind, and had a walking stick that was wobbly and dented, with a crystal in the shape of an eye on the handle. She grinned, her white teeth illuminated by the flashing lightning.
“Who are you?” The mother demanded, frightened. The hag cackled wickedly.
“Me? I am the daughter of the moon and sun, the creator of shadows!” She announced with a flourish. The mother made sure to protect her young.
“I see you are poor,” The hag tapped her long fingernail on the baby’s head. “Such a young, pretty thing. A shame, really. Only to live a few days more…”
“Oh, stop it! Stop it, I beg you!” The mother cried. “ I have no money. Not a cent. I cannot pay for her food, or decent clothes to provide warmth. I am broke!” She bitterly sobbed. “My husband was taken away to work in Dublin, and now I am alone, left with my poor sweet daughter Sara.”
The hag cocked her head and frowned. “No husband? No money? I see.” She murmured, thinking. “Well, I can fix that.”
The mother stared at the hag, open mouthed and silent. “How?”
The hag chuckled. “I can give you all the money you need. I can give you your dear husband, and promise you a long and happy life.” She raised her eyebrows in a strange manner.
“Oh, but how? I-“ The mother was interrupted by the old woman.
“Oh, it’s not that easily done, my dear. There is always a catch. Am I not right, woman?” The old hag cackled.
“Anything! Anything, I swear! Just- just give me what I need.” The mother cried desperately.
“Do you truly wish for me to give a forever happy life?” The hag smiled maliciously.
“Very well then. Twenty generations down the line, the youngest girl of the family will belong to me from when she is thirteen years old. She will be bound to my curse and live in this very house until the end of time.”
The hag raised her eyebrows slyly again.
“Unless,” The hag ventured. “Unless the girl does some special deeds on a full moon.” The hag grinned. “Still want the most blessed life in Ireland?”
“Yes.” The woman replied without thinking.
“Then the curse is placed! Twenty generations down the line, the sun will give me a girl.” The hag screamed though the wind, staring up at the ceiling. “The only way to break the curse is for the girl to bring me a golden lock of hair, three chatterbox acorns, a frog frozen in time and a crystal from the bottom of this river running by this very house on the night of a full moon!” The old woman silenced and looked at her. The mother nodded, eyes wide with awe. She nodded, lost in the dreams of her blissful future life.
“Only that can save the girl.” The hag whispered, and turned around, a flash of lightning illuminating her, and then the stooped old lady disappeared, leaving the mother alone with her sobbing child. A couple of days later her husband arrived home with a- ridiculous amount of money and they inherited a grand, magnificent mansion. Their lives were filled with happiness, laughter and beauty. Sara was gifted with many talents, and her family was all very proud. But there was one thing they all forgot- the curse was never broken, and the hag waited in the house in the countryside, as the generations passed on…
(many, many years later)
Grace sat in her room in front of her clear, glassy mirror, twisting a loose braid into her golden curls. She bit her lip in concentration, her intense blue eyes focusing intently. It was winter, and her thick cream coloured duffle coat, lined with fur at the edges, hung on the hat stand, waiting for her. She smiled as she remembered her Dad would be home from her Gran’s house in a couple of days, and sped up in her braiding to go down and call him. The warming, sweet smell of raspberry muffins drifted through the house from her mother in the kitchen, tingling Grace’s nose and making her stomach grumble. Her younger brother Aedan was playing in their large back garden that was layered in frosty white snow, snowflakes falling gently onto her brother’s rosy cheeks and bobbled beanie as the late afternoon sun streamed through her window. She smiled as she glimpsed him jumping up to catch them, only to find the thin ice melt in his gloved hands.
Grace, her brother, her Father and Mother all lived in their family’s huge heritage mansion that had been passed down through the generations. It held many valuable antiques such as a tremendous sized china set and a grandfather clock worked from the finest of wood. But Grace’s favourite was the ruby necklace, that had been given to her by her Grandmother on her Mother’s side, and it had belonged to a girl way back down the line, a girl named Sara. The ruby was protected by a thin line of sparkling silver, and hung around her neck by a string of gold. It caught the light whenever she held it against the window, shimmering magically. It felt like a soul was trapped inside the jewel, whispering to her. But whenever she wore the delicate charm, it made her think about the family’s mysterious fable.It was a tale told around campfires, and some said the words were stirred with magic, and that the story danced in the flickering flames. It was told that there had been a woman many lifetimes back had been poor. She had promised that their family would give a witch a girl twenty generations ahead in exchange for a magnificent life. It was just a myth, though, wasn’t it?
“Grace! Your father’s on the phone. Come and speak to him!” She heard her mother call from downstairs. Grace lost her train of thought and placed her hairbrush down in a rush and hurried down the sweeping staircase, tracing her hand on the golden handrail.
Where had all the money come from? Grace wondered, gazing up at the intricate patterns on the broad ceiling. Had her ancient grandfather made a fantastic discovery? Had a distant relative been well known and illustrious? Most rich families have a story to go with their wealth…
Unless- unless the story was true? She stopped. It couldn’t be… But there was no other explanation- Grace sighed and pushed the thought to the back of her mind, skipping down the marble staircase happily. Suddenly, she glimpsed a golden light leaking out of her fingertips. A tingling sensation tickled her hand and crept up her arm, warming her skin and giving her shivers. She jumped and pulled her hand to her chest, frightened. What had happened? She stared at her fingers, the golden light faded away. Had she imagined it? The questions raced through her head.
It was just the light bouncing off the chandeliers. She told herself, not looking up at the jeweled lights for she was scared she would find her explanation would not be true.
“Gracie! He can’t talk for long- he has to talk to Gran’s agent to sell the house. Do you want to talk or not, honey?” Her mother shouted to her. Grace sprung back to life, shaking her head and running down the stairs happily.
“I’m coming, Mum!” She replied, bursting into the toasty room and taking the phone out of her mother’s hand excitedly.
“Hi Dad!” She spoke into the phone with a huge smile.
“Yes, I know that,”
“No, I’m not.”
“When are you coming home?”
Grace glared at the phone angrily and grunted, shoving the phone into her brother’s hands. Tears pricked her eyes and she turned away from her mother. “I know it’s hard, Gracie. But Gran needs his help. You know that.” She placed her hand on Grace’s shoulder lovingly. Her Father, Samuel, had gone to help their grandmother to sell her house, and know he wouldn’t be back for another week.
“He won’t even be here for my birthday. You don’t understand, Mum!” She felt a tear roll down her cheek and she raced up the stairs. Out of breath, she stopped on a landing with a tall mirror, edged with polished silver and crystal clear glass. She glanced at her reflection, gazing at her tear stained cheeks. She stood still as suddenly; she thought she saw silvery sky blue strips of color spiral round her, wispy trails of glitter drift past her. She stared, eyes wide, at the magical scene. Someone else was standing before her, a different girl...
“Gracie. What are you looking at?” Aedan’s husky voice dragged her out of her own realm. She realized suddenly as rays of weak evening sunlight streamed through the stained glass, that it was almost dusk.
“Nothing. Aedan, you need to go and get ready for bed.” She replied quickly.
“Aw! No fun, Gracie! Tell me, tell me!” He jumped up and down childishly; his young smile dimpling his cheeks.
“Go away Aedan. I need to do homework.” She lied, glimpsing back at the mirror anxiously. She must have imagined it…“Look, I’ll tell you a story if you promise to stop asking.” She ignored the tingling sensation creeping up her arm and focused on her brother’s sparkling indigo eyes.
“I promise.” He murmured innocently.
“Come, then, Aedan. We have to catch the evening sunlight.” She smiled as he ran up the stairs excitedly. Lachlan seemed to think her stories were magical, so she had made up a world of imagination for her storytelling. She had to wear her ruby necklace while speaking, and the soft, warm rays of sunlight had to creep into the jewel to give her ideas. She felt her cheeks go rosy as she realised the stupidity of it. She followed her brother, and they both sat down on the window seat in the sunroom, snuggling under blankets and comforting themselves with plump cushions. Grace unhooked the silver chain of her necklace, and held it up to the dwindling light. As usual, it caught the delicate rays and glimmered in front of them. She found her voice as she closed her eyes, and started speaking gently.
“Once there was a little boy. He had olive skin, dark chocolate hair and the most bright, jade eyes.” Grace could imagine the child in her head as she created a magnificent picture in her mind. “He lived in a small country town surrounded by thick, luscious forest. This little boy liked to go exploring in these woods, because he had his own little secret.” She could see the boy tiptoeing across a stream, leaping from rock to rock joyfully.
“He had friends in these woods.” Suddenly, Grace had a flashback, and a blinding golden light filled her head. Her eyes blinked open, and she saw Aedan half asleep, slumped against the windowsill peacefully.
‘Mm?” He murmured sleepily, waiting for the next part of the story. All she could think of was Sara and the curse. What did it mean? The mirror- the light- her necklace seemed to burn a hole on her chest. She stared at it, and saw it shimmer a last time before the sun dimmed. The boy from her story echoed in her imagination, laughing dreamily. She shook her head and resurfaced from her own world.
“Goodnight, Aedan.” She patted his head softly, and walked out of the room, trying to block out the whispers from her make believe land. It didn’t make sense. Was she imagining these strange happenings? She sighed and walked into her own bedroom, glimpsing the last trickle of golden sunlight fall behind the horizon, and the first shimmering star twinkled from a bed of deep blue velvet. It had to mean something- didn’t it?
Years had passed. Decades. Centuries. The hag had waited hundreds of years. Her magic was so strong it had crept through the laws of time and had nestled beneath the darkness. She smiled smugly, her wrinkled, worn skin stretched across her cheeks. She had worked the disheveled, ancient house into a grand mansion, and now it was only a few days until the curse started taking place. There were magnificent spiked gates around the estate, with vines blooming with marvelous blood red roses entwined on the finished white fence. The gardens were thriving in the middle of winter by a clever spell-bound with layers of humming magic. Every room was empty, blanketed by thick sheets of lifeless silence, nothing except grand furniture woven with gold thread and lined with patterned silk gathering dust.
But hidden beneath the stitches and murmuring to the wind rested golden magic echoing with trickery and cheekiness. And when the curse fell upon the house, and the girl was brought to the green, dismal countryside the house would be filled with life.
But one special room was waiting in the house, with the most extravagant features. The bedclothes were decorated with exotic patterns twirling and snaking on the delicate silk, and it had a wooden wardrobe worked from the finest wood and engraved with the most beautiful designs. This room, though, was not empty at all. Magic swept away any gathering dust, and filled any empty corners of the magnificent bedroom. This room was waiting for the girl to arrive. This magic had waited many, many years for her memories and life to enter the only place where magic could settle, and craved her presence to explore the empty dwelling. Many secrets this room held, and all of them could be unlocked by the girl’s single touch….