Prologue - The Girl and The Boy
The crisp air of early December could sometimes steal your breath from in front of your face. It nipped at your nose. The cold moisture in the air could seep into your bones. Light gloves were giving way to heavier mittens and dense scarves. Adults sat at their desks with blankets over their laps and warm coffee in their hands. Most avoided going outside unless it was unavoidable. Groceries were needed, work was necessary. There was a need to leave the house a few minutes early to start the car and scrape the frost from the windshield.
The only people it didn't bother were children. Children were never bothered. It was as if there was a magical spell upon them all that allowed them to run and play outside no matter the temperature. The sweltering summer days were a time to stay out until the crickets called. The damp and cold December days were all the more perfect for racing through the barren trees and swinging at the nearby park. No need to stay home when there were adventures to be had.
One such child sat on the remains of a fallen tree. She was wearing a vibrant wind breaker with patches of pink, green and blue. On her head she wore a knitted black touque and on her hands black gloves. Her brown hair was pulled into pigtail braids that were slung neatly over her shoulders. Her cheeks were flush from the cold and her perplexing hazel eyes traced the surface of the tree. Perched there happily as she observed the peeling bark. The tree had always been lying like this across the forest floor. It was her favourite spot. Something about it felt…magical. She'd returned as often as she could and over time…the stump had shown itself to be exactly as she suspected. Something lived within this log, something special.
"Are you looking for fairies?"
The girl nearly tumbled from her seated position at the declarative voice. Putting her gloved hand down she turned her head to face the voice. Standing there was another child, a boy. He looked familiar, he was likely from the same school as her but she believed he must have been in the other 2nd grade class. He was wearing a hooded sweater and a puffy vest, a heavy touque on his head but no gloves. Instead his hands were shoved into his pockets. He had tanned skin and dark features that were examining her casually.
"N-no…" she stammered defensively. There was no way she could tell him. He'd surely make fun of her and the last thing she needed was everyone in the school to know these things about her. She didn't have many friends to start with and at this age stratification was already beginning to happen among classmates.
He stepped closer, peering into the wood. "You should be careful," he commented, "Fairies might look cute but they're dangerous. They'll steal you away if you're not careful."
The girl's shoulders lowered, her defenses cracking a bit. She couldn't say anything though. What if he was making it up to get her to admit it.
"The one that lives here is a stray though," the boy said as he put his hand on the log.
"What's a stray?" she asked.
"It doesn't come from a large colony…a family," the boy explained, "Like a dog that lives on the street alone. A stray. Plus…I'm pretty sure this one is one of the friendlier types."
"There's more than one type?" her curiosity got the better of her. She scooted forward on the tree, leaning towards the boy. "I've only seen her in little flashes," she whispered secretively. "She seems shy."
"Fairies are better in groups," the boy answered. He ran his bare hand over the rugged bark of the tree. It seemed to sparkle a bit under his touch. The fairy dust had been the first indication to her that something magical was here. There was no reason for glitter to exist in such a place, as fine as it was. "It's good though, if she hasn't come out to see you that means she doesn't know."
"Doesn't know what?"
"I'm Salvador," the boy answered instead, looking at her square in the eyes and smiling. "What's your name?"
"Lalia," she answered. She was a bit miffed that he hadn't answered her question but she had quite a few more. "How come you know about fairies?"
"I know magic is real," Salvador replied with a grin, "Everything is. From witches to fairies and more that people don't even talk about. You know it's real too don't you."
Lalia's hands twitched, closing into fists on the bark of the tree. "Sometimes…" she said softly, "If I think really hard about something…it'll happen. I like to think it's magic…what do you think?" When she glanced back up shyly the grin on Salvador's face answered her question. Childlike glee was painted across his face.
"I think you're right," he nodded vigorously. "But…you have to be careful. Fairies can be good or they can steal you away. And there's more. Demons and stuff. You have to be careful." He leaned back and stuffed a hand into the pocket of his puffy vest. When he brought it out there was a chain hanging from it. He thrust his hand out toward her and opened it, within the palm of his hand there was a shining opal pendant the size of a fingernail attached to the silver chain. "Here, you can have this," he said, "It'll protect you from bad magic."
"I can have it? Really?" Children were never the ones to refuse a gift. They readily accepted them without question and the necklace was beautiful. Something about it was entrancing. Magical. She reached out and took it between her fingers. It felt….heavy. Heavier than it should be. The pendant at the end wasn't large enough to be this heavy. "It's magic?" She asked.
"Mmhm," the boy answered. "But keep it a secret okay. Keep all magic a secret. Even our talking today. Keep it a secret. Can you promise me?" He held up his little finger. "At school, they can't know that we're friends."
"You…want to be my friend?" Lalia asked, a soft smile growing on her face.
"We're already friends, we know magic is real," he responded bluntly. He bounced his clenched hand in front of her face, pinky-finger still extended. "But only here. Promise me."
Lalia lifted her own hand and tugged her glove off. Wrapping her pinky-finger around his they shook hands firmly. His skin was cold to the touch from the exposure but she didn't mind. The contrast seemed to make this promise magical in a sense. The promise was made.