Talia knelt on the window seat and gazed out over the forest that surrounded her home. The cottage, ramshackle and covered in ivy, stood in a clearing at the very heart of the woods. Talia lived there with her father, a silent and dour man, since her mother had gone last Christmastide. But she was Seelie Fey and could not bear to be parted from her own kind. It was a sure and certain thing that she would leave them one day.
Mortals and Fey should never mix, for Faeries ever love to play tricks.
The little rhyme played through Talia’s thoughts and made her shiver. Would that also be her fate – to play cruel tricks? For she was as much her mother’s child as her father’s.
He was a warden of the forest, tasked with the care of the trees and animals. But Talia knew his heart wasn’t in it. Since her mother had departed, his life had dwindled to ashes.Tears filled Talia’s eyes. If only she could see mama again, just one last time. It was Yuletide Eve, almost a year since she’d left them alone and desolate.
Talia climbed down from the window seat and went over to the old oak chest, standing in a corner of the tiny living room. The lid creaked as she raised it, having to use both hands to lift its heavy weight. Inside the musty interior lay an old book, a gift from her mother to remember her by.
The cover felt smooth and warm, except for the picture of the white deer, etched into the leather. The Spirit of Christmas, was the book’s title, stamped in gold letters. Talia raised the book and kissed it gently. She loved the story and the feeling of wonder it brought. The white deer was the spirit of the forest and would carry anyone who deserved it to wherever they desired.
Filled with a sudden feeling of certainty Talia stood up, the book clutched to her chest. She was going to seek out the deer and beg it to take her and her father to the place of gathering, where once a year the Fey gathered for a great feast, with all manner of merrymaking.
She glanced at the old clock – almost midnight – she’d best hurry. But even as she donned her cloak and then hurried towards the door, the latch rattled and her father entered; he frowned down at her.
‘Why are you not in bed?’ He stared at the book, still clutched in her thin arms. ‘Where d’you think you’re going, girl?’
Before she could answer, he seemed to guess her intent and with a swift movement snatched the book from her grasp. ‘There is no place in this world for dreams!’ he shouted and threw the book on the fire.
‘Papa, no!’ But it was too late. The flames leapt and spread, causing the leather to crinkle and the picture of the deer to shrivel away into black flakes.
‘Go to bed.’
Talia didn’t look at her father, but made her way over to the stairs, only pausing to glance back at the fireplace.
Outside, in the cold, dark forest, a shadow moved with sweet grace amongst the trees. It raised its great head and stared towards the cottage, waiting for sleep to come to the tearful child. Perhaps then it would enter her dreams and maybe grant her wish…
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Land-Midnight-Days-Katrina-Jack/dp/0957412649/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356112665&sr=1-1 (Hardback UK)
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Midnight-Silver-Flute-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B008Z10Y3E/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351100423&sr=1-1 ((Kindle UK)
http://www.amazon.com/Land-Midnight-Days (Hardback US)
http://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Silver-Flute-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B008Z10Y3E/ (Kindle US)