Once a long time ago in a kingdom not so far from here there was a widow, Roslyn, who loved her young child more than anything else in the world. The little girl had grown without the ability to walk or talk, causing great sorrow in the mother’s heart. She longed to see her precious Lily dance and play, or hear the sweet cadence of her laughter fill the empty and echoing halls of their home. For eight years, Roslyn searched the entire kingdom for remedies and cures, bringing in the expertise of physicians, magicians, and witches, for her husband had left them amply provided for. But no matter how hopeful she was about each new remedy, she was continually disappointed, for nothing could cure her child.
One day Roslyn pulled the little girl in her wooden cart down a path through the woods, in search of wild herbs for a healing remedy. She happened upon a strange door, covered in vines so thick she was only just able to make out a rusty door handle. Curious, she approached the door, reaching out her hand tentatively to touch the intricately scrolled metal work of a large key which was resting inside the keyhole. It looked so old and out of use that she did not expect to be able to open the door. To her surprise, the key turned easily, and with a gentle click the door latch was released. A strange tingling thrill went down the woman’s spine as the door swung open, releasing a fresh sprinkling of dew drops into her hair from the greenery growing around the encasement. There was a sudden rush of sweet air that swept from the open doorway, temporarily taking her breath away. The smell was exotic, like jasmine, begonia, and cinnamon. Roslyn could not resist peeking through the door to see what could possibly be on the other side. What she saw there was more than she could have even imagined.
On the other side of the hidden door was a lush, green garden. Strange trees that Roslyn could not identify were bunched together in groups, which seemed to sing as they swayed in the gentle breeze. Other trees grew in dense formation next to the vine-covered exterior wall, which seemed to extend a great deal in the distance. Ferns and flowers carpeted the thick grass, creating swirling pathways which were dotted with tiny twinkling lights. The trickle of a creek meandered from deeper inside the garden, dancing over rocks and boulders and splashing into a glistening pond. Around the edges of the pond were more groupings of flowers in vibrant colors, reds, purples, and yellows. The plants cascaded over large, flat stones and dipped their brightly-hued petals into the cool of the water.
Was she dreaming? Roslyn could not imagine how such a place could exist. Gently she stepped inside the garden and could not resist brushing her finger along the length of a silky leaf, heavy with the morning dew. It released a scent that was pungent and green, making Roslyn feel a little dizzy. But suddenly the dizziness passed and in its place she felt a surge of strength and vigor. The tension that continually plagued Roslyn’s shoulders and back was suddenly relieved and her mind was clear. Everything in her seemed to awaken. She clearly heard the fluttering of butterfly wings and the gentle chirp of insects calling to each other in the garden. She could see the tiniest flecks of gold on the petals of the flowers by the pond. And she could feel the pounding sensation of her blood pumping throughout her body, branching through the intricate workings under her skin.
This garden was magic. Roslyn knew it almost immediately. If the garden could make her feel so alive and strong, she could only imagine what it could do for Lily. Roslyn spun around and, leaving the cart at the door, carried her child into the garden.
Lily inhaled a sharp breath of surprise as her mother carried her further into the lush garden. Her huge, doe-like eyes seemed to try to take everything in at once as she looked around at the impossibly vibrant hues and textures that surrounded her. Roslyn helped the girl brush her fingers along leaves and flowers as they passed, encouraging her to inhale deeply and take in the exotic scent. The girl instinctively obeyed, filling her lungs with breath after breath until finally a sigh escaped her lips.
Roslyn was so surprised to hear any sound pass through her daughter’s lips that she nearly tripped. For eight years she had longed to hear her little girl’s voice. Was her wait over at last? Gently easing the girl onto a stone by the edge of the pond, she asked her hopefully, “Lily, how do you feel?”
“Oh, Mother!” was the child’s first uttered words. Tears of joy poured from Roslyn’s eyes as she embraced her daughter, savoring the sound of her voice.
Finally pulling herself away, Roslyn looked at the pond and said, “Here, let’s try this.”
Roslyn tentatively dipped a hand into the cool water of the pond. It felt tingly and crisp. After waiting a moment to test how it felt, she then dribbled a cool stream of the water down the length of her daughter’s tiny legs. Lily gasped in surprise at the coolness of the water, but a smile gradually slipped onto her perfect little pink lips. In a slow, cautious motion, Lily stretched her legs out in front of her, wiggling her feet in careful circles. Then, without even looking up once for support, she pushed her small frame up onto her feet, standing on her own accord for the first time in her life.
Mother and daughter were elated with happiness, wondering at the magic of the garden. Roslyn could not stop laughing and crying, watching her daughter dance and spin on the thick grass and listening to her sing at the top of her lungs.
Finally it began to grow dark. Roslyn decided it was time to return home, and was excited to tell everyone of the miraculous transformation of her daughter. She knew that her sister Nona would be especially pleased, as she was quite close to the girl. Lily skipped ahead of her and reached the outer door first, swinging it open with a spirited pull. Suddenly she stopped, however. The moment her little slippered foot stepped outside of the threshold, her entire body collapsed, leaving her crumpled on the forest floor.
Roslyn ran to her daughter’s side, terrified of what might have happened. Lily lay quite still, her hair full of leaves and twigs. A single tear slid down her cheek.
“Are you hurt, my child?” Roslyn cried, as she folded her daughter into her arms. Lily opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. Her face crumpled and her body shook with a heart-wrenching silent sob.
“The magic must only work inside these walls,” Roslyn said sadly. Lifting her daughter in her arms, she placed her back in her wooden cart and made the slow journey back home.
The next day, Roslyn brought Lily back to the garden door. Just as before, the key turned effortlessly and the door swung open. Roslyn carried her daughter into the garden once more, dribbling the cool, clear water of the pond over her tiny legs. Once again, Lily was able to speak and dance and play. And once again, the moment they passed the threshold of the garden, the child’s ailments returned.
On the third day, mother and child returned, eager to enjoy the magic of the garden. Her now familiar ritual was performed, and Lily spent the day playing in the sunshine and making up stories for the family of mice she had found under one of the hedges. Then, as the sun was beginning to set, a small woman stepped from behind one of the ferns, appearing as if from thin air.
She was a faery, beautiful and tiny, only barely taller than Lily herself. Her long hair lay in a silver braid down her back, and she wore a gauzy white gown which swept the grass as she walked. Tiny lights sparkled in her hair and on her skirt, giving the faery a celestial glow about her.
Roslyn stood respectfully and called for Lily. Her daughter came running to her, hiding behind her skirts.
The faery approached them, neither her bare feet or gown making any sound as she moved. Roslyn could not guess what possible age she was. Although her face was young and beautiful, her hair shone white and her deep sapphire eyes looked ancient and wise. As she drew closer Roslyn could see that the sparkling lights in the woman’s hair and around her dress were actually tiny winged creatures: pixies, she guessed.
Roslyn made a respectful curtsy, begging forgiveness for intruding in the faery’s garden. In her heart she knew that the discovery of the garden had been too good to last, and that magic this special must belong somewhere mysterious and hidden. She guessed that the faery would send her away, and her heart broke over the devastation of seeing her child crippled and mute once more.
Finally the faery spoke. Her voice was low and melodic, almost hypnotizing.
“For three days you have enjoyed the beauty of my garden. You have touched my blossoms and dipped into the living waters.”
“I am sorry, madam,” Roslyn repeated, “I had no intention of intruding on your beautiful garden. My daughter, you see, is whole when we are within these walls. The moment her foot passes the threshold she is returned to her natural self, unable to walk or talk. I would do anything to see her whole again.”
At this, she dropped her head and covered her face in her hands, letting out a sob that wrenched her soul.
The faery looked at Lily, who was peeking out from behind her mother’s leg.
“Come here, child,” she beckoned, extending a slender hand toward the girl.
Lily obeyed, stepping forward and taking the offered hand. The faery pulled her close, then placed her hands on either side of the child’s face, looking deep into her eyes. She stood there for some time, until finally she seemed satisfied with what she saw.
Turning toward Roslyn, she said, “There is a way for the child to remain whole, even after crossing the threshold of the garden.”
Hope welled up within Roslyn’s chest. “Please, madam, tell me how,” she entreated desperately.
“There is no magic without a price,” the white faery answered, looking firmly in the mother’s eyes.
“I will do anything,” Roslyn said. The faery nodded.
“As long as the magic is contained within these walls, the effort to sustain itself is minimal. The magic is maintained almost instantaneously. However, in order to maintain its strength outside of these walls, there must be great work done from within this garden.”
Roslyn was confused. “What kind of work?” she asked.
“The garden must be cultivated and nourished, night and day. The living waters keeps the magic alive, allowing the magical plants to flourish.”
“But what does that mean? How can my daughter be healed, even after leaving this garden?”
“Someone must stay behind, my dear,” the faery answered softly. “Someone must stay and never leave, forever to cultivate and nourish the magic from within.”
Roslyn looked down at her daughter, whom she loved more than anything else. She would do anything for her.
“I will do anything,” she repeated solemnly, and meant it.