nce upon a time... ...there was a little girl named Ellie. Ellie always, every year, spent the Summer holidays with her Grandmother who lived in a beautiful rose covered cottage that nestled next to the Deep Dark Wood. “Don’t go down to the bottom of the garden Ellie!” Grandmother would often call from the kitchen window What was there at the bottom of the garden, that bore the entrance to the Deep Dark Wood? Ellie often wondered - but she never, ever did dare go there to find out
This was the Year that everything changed... 2
llie’s Grandmother, her beloved,twinkly eyed, rosy cheeked, kind, wonderful and wise Grandmother had passed away one week before Ellie was due to visit, so instead of endless days of sunshine and warm cosy nights by the crackling open fire, Ellie was instead at Grandmothers house with her parents to empty the cottage Ellie loved so dearly. That night Ellie cried herself to sleep in the pretty bedroom where her grandmother had so often told her wonderful stories. Tales of enchanted castles, beautiful princesses, brave handsome princes. Of bewitched mirrors, enchanted castles, mystical mermaids , dwarves, goblins, fairy godmothers and wicked, wicked witches …
n that moment between wake and slumber Ellie was vaguely aware of a familiar voice calling her name, ‘Ellie my darling please wake up… I can’t stay long… ‘ ‘It can’t be?’.. Ellie thought as she opened her eyes, still wet with tears but, as her eyes adjusted to the moonlit room, the shimmering figure at the bottom of the bed, smiling down at her, although far far younger than she remembered and oh so very beautiful was, quite unmistakeably her beloved grandmother.
Ellie tried to speak as her grandmother held a silvery finger to her lips ‘ my darling’ she said softly in that oh so wonderfully familiar voice ‘we don’t have much time and I need you to listen very carefully to what I have to say, can you do that?’ Ellie nodded slowly, ‘Ellie, as my earthly body died, my soul was set free to make the journey to Heaven, but on the ascent my spirit was captured by a powerful sorceress who has imprisoned me within a time frozen enchanted castle.
This sorceress detests beauty, love and laughter above all things and has created a world devoid of colour, inspiration and hope within the castle walls, she has me trapped behind the glass . The spell can only be broken by the one my heart loves most and before the break of Dawn or I will be bound by the Spell forever…’ ‘But Grandmother’, Ellie whispered, as tears sprung again to her eyes ‘I don’t know how..’ ‘Ellie’ her grandmother said as she looked warily around, ‘there is not much time, you must go to the bottom of the garden, to the place where I told you never, ever to go, to the gateway to the dark forest’ Ellie shivered as she felt the cold hand of fear creeping up her spine… the dark Forest..
‘The forest is a dangerous place Ellie’, her grandmother warned, ‘but only if you stray from the starlit path. Whoever you see, whatever is offered you must not leave the path, if you do you will wander the woods forever.., Ellie nodded, her eyes wide and unblinking , her mouth dry ‘When you reach the twisted tree you have reached the first enchantment.’
‘Grandmother!…’ Ellie cried out, as she noticed the shimmering figure beginning to fade into the moonlight and her grandmothers voice grow softer and more distant.. ‘Ellie, you must find the mermaids lagoon…only a mermaids kiss will give you the power you need to enter the castle and weaken the spell…..you must search the castle to find the room ..’
The sorceress has tightly bound the castle grounds with a magical spiders web, you must find a way through the web to reach the next enchantment…
The figure that was once so strong and beautiful had now faded to a silvery mist and her grandmothers voice was fading, fading fading…
At the bottom of the garden, leading into the dark dark forest was a silvery winding path gleaming in the starlight, either side of the path was lined with a thicket of trees that seemed to groan and chatter in the gentle breeze
‘Which room, Grandmother, which room?’ Ellie sobbed in panic ‘The Mirror and the Apple’….came a faint, faint whisper as the mist faded away into the moonlight.. Ellie dressed quickly, her hands shaking as she tried to remember her grandmothers words, she crept down the oh-too-creaky staircase, tiptoed to the front door, pulled on her shoes and softly slipped into the night…
‘Well’ Ellie thought ‘Here goes nothing!’ as she took a deep breath and stepped onto the path, knees trembling she stumbled ahead...
She scurried quickly down the garden, her heart thumping so hard she was sure that it would burst out of her chest, running , running until at last she reached the bottom of the garden
The path twisted and turned and turned and twisted – the only light was from the shimmering moon and the star filled sky that reflected from the path with an eerie silver glow. Every so often there was a rustling in the trees and Ellie was sure she could hear whispering and laughter behind her but each time she turned around to look it faded away. Suddenly she heard a large whisper ‘Little Girl…Little Girl, what is your name’ in a shrill sing song voice that sent shivers up her spine Ellie quickened her step, eyes fixed ahead on the path ‘Little Girl’ louder this time ‘Tell me your name and I will give you your hearts desire’ came the voice again
A very small, gnarled, figure stood before her with a sinister toothy grin that stretched across his ugly face ‘what is your hearts desire dearie’ said the creature in a crooning voice ‘My grandmother’ stammered Ellie ‘ She, She has’ Ellie couldn’t bring herself to say the words ‘Could , could you bring her back to me?’ ‘Of course, of course’ grinned the very large mouth, ‘just come back to my house on the hill, where we can have a little chat..um, what did you say your name was again dearie’ Ellie took a step toward the figure ‘Its El…’
Ellie Stopped ‘Her hearts desire’ whatever she wished for?.. anything in the world? , she turned around and what she saw made her cry out in fright.
Just as she was about to step from the path and say her name her grandmothers warning came flooding back to her….’ whoever you see, whatever is offered you must not leave the path, if you do you will wander the woods forever..’ Ellie closed her mouth, turned quickly around and ran as fast as her legs could carry her along the silvery path…she could hear the shouts and curses from the strange little man echoing behind her She ran for what seemed like forever when suddenly before her she saw a very large twisted and gnarled oak tree..
She walked up to the huge glistening web and touched it softly, it shimmered with an eerie iridescence in the dancing moonbeams Her small hand stuck tightly to the web, she had to pull hard to retrieve it and the gossamer threads stretched and snapped and hung firmly to her hand ‘This is impossible’, Ellie thought ‘it must be four feet thick I will be stuck in there like a trapped insect unless I can find something to cut through it’ Ellie looked around on the floor for a sharp stone or rock but there was nothing, suddenly her eyes rested on the twisted oak tree.
Beyond the tree, as high as the sky was what looked like a very large but very beautiful spiders web.
She pulled hard upon the sharpest branch which came away with a large SNAP! As she did this a shower of golden dust fell from where the branch had broken and seemed to form a halo around the wood She ran back over to the spiderweb and jabbed at it with the branch ‘immediately the web began to shrink and wither away where the branch had touched it
The web shrank back to reveal a small tunnel through the web on the forest floor Without thinking, Ellie squeezed headfirst into the small tunnel and scrambled through, clawing and scrabbling at the ground as she tried to pull herself through to the other side, finally her hands felt something soft and willowy so she grabbed hard and hauled her legs through the small tunnel
Ellie heard a rustling sound behind her, turned her head and gasped in terror – there, gazing at her (and not looking very pleased) was the largest, hairiest most terrifying black spider, bigger even than Ellie herself, and it was moving slowly toward her ‘Oh my’ Ellie thought as she turned back around and ripped wildly at the web with the branch
But there was something somehow wrong, the garden and castle were so beautiful but what should have been an array of colour was strangely grey, it almost looked like an illustration, a fine pencil drawing of a fairy tale world…in fact the only splash of colour was the gleaming aquamarine lake As Ellie lay trembling on the long grass at the other side of the web she could see the huge spider trying to make its way through from the other side, its long hairy legs flaying and stretching but it was to no avail– the spider was far too large to make it through and the gap that Ellie had made with the branch was already magically closing the small tunnel Ellie rose to her feet and looked around. she was in a beautifully manicured garden with flower beds and topiary trees, what looked like a small lake lay nearby and, towering in front of her was an enormous beautiful castle
As Ellie walked toward the lake and gazed into the deep blue shimmering pool she noticed that a number of large fish were darting about the surface Ellie knelt down and looked deeper into the water, she slowly realised that the fish were actually not fish at all but had the head and body of the most beautiful beings that Ellie had ever seen ‘Mermaids’ she gasped…and then remembered, of course…. a mermaids kiss to break the enchantment
‘ I am Esme’ said a spellbinding, hypnotising voice ‘ Why are you here little girl’ The mermaids eyes glimmered, and a mass of long dark hair fanned out swirling and dancing in the sparkling waters ‘I am here to break the enchantment’ breathed Ellie ‘ I have to save my grandmothers sprit , trapped in one of the rooms of the castle’ The mermaid smiled ‘ That sounds very brave of you my child, but to break the enchantment and enter the castle you need one thing …do you know what that is?’ ‘A mermaids kiss’ Ellie whispered
The mermaids aquamarine eyes opened in surprise ‘ You are correct, my child’ said her soft lullaby voice ‘ but in order to receive a mermaids kiss, fairytale law demands fair exchange…the price of a kiss is a magical gift….tell me child, with what do you intend to pay?..’ Ellies heart sank, of course she had no magical gift with which to barter. She had failed her grandmother and would never see her again. Ellies eyes filled up with tears and as she lifted her hand to wipe away the tears that were already falling she saw the fine iridescent slivers of magical spider web trailing from her small fingers ‘I have a gift’ she whispered to the mermaid, ‘strands of enchanted spider web, see how it glistens and shines’
The mermaid smiled ‘ What a wonderful gift’ she said. ‘For many years we have tried to harness the sea horses below the surface but had no thread strong enough to hold them, the enchanted web is the only element that will alow us to tame them’ The mermaid slowly held her hand to her lips, softly kissed her fingers and blew..
As Ellie looked at her arms she was aware of a faint glow that seemed to radiate from her body, she also felt (for the first time this evening) a feeling of warmth and contentment and an inner glow of confidence
Ellie saw a shining mass form under the turquoise waters and bubble to the surface, it broke through the water like a thousand tiny stars and engulfed Ellie in a shimmering mass, blinding her as it did so
Spurred on by this new found bravery she ran quickly over to the huge castle gates and pushed open the large door and slipped quickly through
As Ellies eyes adjusted she gasped at what she saw – all around her the sketchy landscape was slowly turning into a sea of colour – like a storybook coming to life the grass grew green, the palace bricks glowed yellow and the flowers burst into a blooming mass of colour
Remembering that her grandmother was here trapped somewhere within one of the rooms filled Ellie with a mix of both excitement and fear
‘Good luck my child’ smiled Esme – in her long fingers were the silken strands of web twinkling in the water, then with a flick of a shimmering tail she was gone under the deep waters.
Ahead of Ellie curled a large winding spiral stone staircase, Ellie found one step, then another as she softly climbed the staircase which sharply twisted and turned like a huge coiled snake
Finally she reached the top, breathless now, she looked around quickly and saw before her a stone built opening that led into one of the castle rooms Ellie peeped through a crack in the door and gasped , the room was as before the castle grounds had appeared, a sketchy version of an elegant dining room which looked like it had been quickly abandoned mid meal, the enchantment Ellie remembered was intended to drain all the life love and character from the rooms of the castle leaving just a grey sketchy illustration in its placeâ€Ś As Ellie walked into the room however something quite magical happened
A sudden warmth enveloped the room bringing with it a wash of colour and beauty, breathing life into what was illusion creating a beautifully furnished and decorated room , the cushions turned from flat sketches into plump velvet, the tablecloth into fine lace and the drab walls shimmered with a silken wallpaper, it was simply breathtaking - suddenly Ellie was aware that she herself held the power to break the enchantment and there was not a moment to lose She slipped out of the dining room and scurried along the corridor to the next room - it looked like it was the master bedroom
Again, as soon as she walked in the magic worked, the room was transformed into beauty… rich colours, textured fabrics and beautiful wallpaper transformed each room , Ellie was mesmerised but mindful of the task in hand and scurried from one room to the next desperate to find what was, in her mind the ‘mirror room’..
again and again the magic worked as she found an elegant dressing room with a shimmering damask design that shone like silk , a beautiful day room with a wonderful wallpaper of twisting roses that seemed to bloom and climb the wall before her very eyes …even the corridor sprung to life as she passed through it adorning the walls with wallpaper that shone like silken mist Ellie reached the end of the corridor and looked around in dismay, the enchantment was lifting room by room by room but now she had run out of rooms and still had not found the mirror room…
Suddenly a tiny, almost hidden stairway caught her eye, she crept down the steps as quiet as a mouse until she reached a small arched wooden door with a dusty handle, as she touched the handle it warmed at her touch and turned a warm golden colour and the deep dark colour of mahogany spread across the door, the hinges turning brass in front of her very eyes She twisted the handle slowly and the door gave a quick groan as she slowly pushed it forward The room was quite dark, but as the enchantment weakened, a slow breath of colour spread across the walls, the candles started to slowly flicker and cast light around the room and Ellie could see that the wallpaper held the frozen images of fairytale folk wandering the dark wood.
As she wandered into the adjoining room and the light and warmth crept the walls she saw a dusty table full of enchantments and oddities, bottles, potions and a fine shimmering thread. The walls shone and shimmered with hundreds of glimmering stars peeping out of a midnight sky
‘Im getting closer’ thought Ellie, ‘This must be the enchantresses lair… ‘ as she turned she saw a pile of dusty spell books, and resplendent on the walls were interwoven spiders webs glimmering beautifully in the soft light with an iridescent magical glow.
As she turned the corner it was like a huge wave of sparkling aquamarine sea was filling the room. A shoal of beautiful mermaids laughed and danced their way around the walls as Ellie gasped in wonderment at the beautiful sight Suddenly Ellie heard a sound that made her go cold, a sure sound of shuffling footsteps on stone steps coming closer, closer closer down the steps and surely into the rooms, Ellie knew instinctively that this was the sorceress returning to her rooms of enchantment She looked around quickly, there was a small wooden door in the corner of the room, Ellie crept through it to the other side closing it quietly behind her.
This time she appeared to be in a sort of dressing room. As the light swirled again around the room Ellie noticed that on the wall was a design of trees but, as the room came to life she realised that the tree silhouettes revealed a beautiful , so very well known face hidden in the branches The face of the much younger grandmother who had visited her bedside this very night Suddenly there was a loud shriek and the sound of furniture and tables being overturned , banging and crashing getting closer and closer. Ellie looked around in panic but as she did suddenly the image of her grandmother in the wallpaper began to speak softly but urgently ‘Ellie, the enchantress, she has seen that her spell is being weakened….in the room adjoining this one you must break the mirror… Ellie hurry now before she catches you’ As Ellie stumbled to the adjoining doorway she could hear the whisper like the wind in the trees ‘hurry Ellie break the mirror, break the mirror Ellie’… and all the while she could hear the screeching and wailing of the witch on her tail growing ever nearer.
in the centre of the room was a large mirror and next to the mirror an ornate throne like chair with a velvet cushion, there, nestling on top of the cushion was a large shiny apple turning from grey to a deep blood red as Ellies magic breathed life into the room and its contents ‘The mirror and the apple’ Ellie remembered as she frantically looked around the room for some sort of clue – the wailing and banging she was sure had reached the room next door, she had only a matter of seconds in which to find something to break the mirror, unbind the spell and free her grandmother’s spirit forever
The door to the room shook as the wailing and howling creature beyond frantically clawed and scratched at the door handle. Finally the door burst open and a black haze of fury hurled itself in the room..Ellie had no time to think – she reached out and grabbed the apple from the cushion and threw it as hard as she could at the mirror on the wall .. ‘Noooooo’ was the last thing she heard before the mirror smashed into a thousand tiny pieces flinging Ellie backwards as shards of silvery glass shattered around her
Ellie woke up with a start, she was in her own bed, in her own bedroom in her grandmothers house, she could see through the crack in the curtains that the dawn had just broken outside. Ellie shook her head, squeezed her eyes very tightly together and then opened them very wide â€“ she was very definitely safe and sound in her bedroom, it had all been a weird yet wonderful dream she thought sadly. Ellie pulled back her covers and padded over to her bedroom window, as she pulled open the curtains she felt something hard and sharp underneath her bare toes As she looked down she could see a glinting light, she reached down to pick it up and then held aloft a shard of silvery glass, as her reflection looked back at her in the small piece of mirror and smiled.
Ellie turned her head to look out of her window and there at the bottom of the garden â€“ where she was never ever allowed to go, the trees in the dark wood swayed in the wind and Ellie was sure she saw a glimpse of a beautiful face in the tree silhouettes smiling down at herâ€Ś