The story begins one Midsummer Day in the month of June when the days were long and the sun seemed to shine endlessly. At Number One, Myrtle Grove, all could hear the joyous sound of a newborn child. Honeysuckle Blossom entered the world on that glorious day as the scent of the honeysuckle in the garden wafted in through the open window. So, it was decided to call her after the flower with the most beautiful scent in the world. In the years to come, she lived up to her name as she turned out to be the sweetest child you could wish to meet.
Honeysuckle’s parents, Primrose Blossom and Robin Blossom, were filled with happiness for they had waited a long time for a child’s laughter to fill their home. The many people who came that day all brought flowers in honour of the birth of the child, filling the house with the colour and scent of every flower you could imagine. As the visitors came and went, no one noticed a figure in a purple cloak enter the house and tiptoe up the stairs. When the person entered the bedroom, Honeysuckle’s mother was fast asleep but the baby was wide awake in the crib next to her.
The purple-cloaked intruder stood next to the child and Honeysuckle gurgled with delight as a necklace made of silver moons was placed in her hands. The sound of footsteps on the stairs woke Mrs. Blossom but when she turned to the baby the purple-cloaked figure had disappeared.
As Mr. Blossom entered the room, he saw the moon necklace and said, “Look at this, Primrose, one of our visitors must have left it as a gift, let us keep this until Honeysuckle is old enough to wear it.”
So, they both agreed to put it away until Honeysuckle’s eighth birthday.
The years passed, and the purple-cloaked figure never appeared again except in Honeysuckle’s dreams. The child had a very happy nature and she grew into a very gentle and wise little girl who loved to spend her time in the garden among the flowers and the birds and insects. Spending so much time outside, her hair turned the colour of wheat at harvest time and her eyes reflected the colour of the blue midday sky.
Unlike her classmates at school who were always playing with games on their computers, Honeysuckle preferred the outdoors. She was never lonely because she always had her dog by her side. When they brought him from the dogs’ home, his coat was dirty and matted and he looked unhappy and sad.
Mr. Blossom said, “Let’s try some magic on you and change you into the handsomest dog in Myrtle Grove.”
As her father set to work, Honeysuckle decided to name her new friend after the master of magic himself – the wizard Merlin. They became constant companions and Merlin turned into the best dog a little girl could wish for.
The day of Honeysuckle’s eighth birthday arrived. It was a perfect Midsummer Day with a cloudless sky and bright sunshine. The birds had given birth to many babies in nests in the trees and in bird boxes dotted around the garden.
Mr. Blossom had a keen interest in birds and he always put out food on the bird table and in the feeders to encourage them into the garden. He had made the bird boxes in his shed. The shed was filled with a treasure trove of wood that, with much banging and sawing, he magically changed into all manner of wonderful things.
Honeysuckle’s father passed his knowledge of birds on to her. She could name all the different types and understand the birds’ individual songs. She spent many an hour in the garden with Merlin picking out the notes of the birdsong and teaching herself to call back to them.
So, on this very special day when once again the scent of honeysuckle filled the air and the song of the birds brought joy to every heart, Honeysuckle’s parents called her into the house.
Mrs. Blossom said, “On the day you were born a gift was left in your crib by an unknown visitor and because it was so special we decided to keep it to give to you today.”
Honeysuckle opened the package and gasped in delight at the shining necklace that she immediately put on. She was “over the moon” with it, as the saying goes, and she loved the mystery surrounding her gift.
Honeysuckle ran into the garden and danced about among the flowers, telling them that she was a very lucky little girl. The next moment, she could not believe her ears as she heard a voice answer her back,
“You deserve this.”
“Where is that coming from?” Honeysuckle squealed in delight.
“It is from me, child.”
As Honeysuckle glanced down, a pink rose nodded its head even though there was no wind that day.
“Can you speak?” Honeysuckle said.
“Of course I can speak,” said the rose, “but only to those who can hear.”
At that moment, Honeysuckle’s life changed forever, nothing would be the same again. Unknown to her, she had entered into another world where every flower and every tree, even the rivers, the wind and the stones could speak. It was as though a huge door had opened into a realm of mystery and magic.
Honeysuckle wanted to run into the house and tell her parents of her discovery. She wanted to tell her school friends and her aunts and uncles but something stopped her. She knew in her heart that no one would believe her and a deep loneliness filled her as she realised she was different from others. A tear fell from her eye and landed on one of the rose petals. As she watched it, the teardrop turned into a sparkling crystal.
The rose spoke once again, “Don’t cry, Honeysuckle, for on this day a great gift has been bestowed upon you and in time to come you will fully understand why. This crystal has formed from your tears, take it in your hands and feel its magic and its joy. Place it somewhere safe. When the time comes, you will know what to do with it.”
Honeysuckle held the crystal in her hand. She felt its warmth and its energy take away her sadness and she was filled with an overwhelming happiness. She took the crystal inside the house and placed it in a golden box where she kept her special possessions and she quietly said to herself, “Now I am ready, let the magic begin.”
During the next two weeks following that fateful day in the garden when she realised she could talk to the flowers, Honeysuckle Blossom spent every minute she could conversing with the plants. Each flower had its own personality and she began to work out who was speaking to her. She learned to her heart’s content many secrets of nature, for the flowers became her teachers.
She was surprised to see that Merlin also could hear the flowers speak. His large shaggy ears always pricked up when they spoke. Honeysuckle had never been happier and her parents were delighted to see her in such good spirits. Honeysuckle wore her moon necklace each day and she loved the feel of it around her neck. She counted the moons on the silver chain and there were thirteen in all.
Honeysuckle’s garden was quite large. There was a swing on the lawn and a table and chairs on the patio. There were big borders surrounding the lawn jam-packed with flowers of every colour. Mr. and Mrs. Blossom loved their garden. They enjoyed growing flowers and vegetables. Mr. Blossom had made it a haven for wildlife. He knew exactly which plants to grow to attract bees and butterflies and birds. He had learned that bees and butterflies liked brightly coloured flowers brimming with nectar.
Honeysuckle loved every flower in the garden but of course her favourite was always honeysuckle – after all, she had been named after it. The honeysuckle grew wild, covering the fence and growing through the roses. Its sweetly scented flowers were pink and yellow and Honeysuckle would place her nose next to the flowers and breathe in their perfume. The strange thing was that the honeysuckle never called her or spoke to her but whenever she stood next to it she was filled with joy and happiness.
As soon as she came home from school and at weekends too, Honeysuckle would spend every spare moment with her new friends the flowers in her garden. One morning when she was out very early, she heard the gentlest of voices. It sounded like the tinkling of water and it came from a golden flower called evening primrose. It was called this because it bloomed in the evening. When she stood next to it, she noticed that water filled the golden cup of each flower.
The flower spoke, “The water within my petals is dew, left here at the beginning of the day when the world is cold and damp. Collect my dew and place it in a special bottle.”
Honeysuckle ran into the house and up to her bedroom. She had just the thing, a beautiful little crystal bottle which once had held perfume. She went out into the garden and did as she was asked and filled the bottle.
The flower spoke once more, “Whenever your family and friends are not well you are to rub this magical dew into any pain they have. The colour gold from the flower is in the dew and it will make people better.”
Honeysuckle then learnt that she could collect dew from any flower and the colour of the flower would be in the water. She would learn which colours and which flowers would make different ailments better. Honeysuckle could not wait to begin. She found more bottles to fill with the dew from the flowers until she had a collection of them. On the bottles she stuck labels she had made and she drew each flower on the label.
It was not long before Honeysuckle was able to practise with her flower dew. Once, when her mother had a headache, Honeysuckle used the dew from a purple flower and she rubbed the water gently on her mother’s forehead. As soon as she did this her mother sat up and said, “Honeysuckle Blossom, there is magic in that potion for my headache has gone.”
Well, you can imagine how pleased Honeysuckle was at the success of her flower dew and it was not long before her relatives and friends heard of her abilities and asked for her help.
There was more to be discovered in the garden and each day brought new magic. One afternoon after school, she heard a loud moan coming from the lavender. As she walked towards it, the flowers cried out, “We are so sad, we have been planted in the wrong place, there is not enough sunshine for us in this dark corner of the garden, please rescue us.”
The lavender then went on to explain that, just like people, all plants are different and they all like to be in the right place. Some like shade and some like sunshine and they cannot grow tall and strong if they are planted in the wrong place. Honeysuckle learned that plants were fed by sunshine. She could not wait to tell her schoolmates. Her friends were beginning to wonder where she was getting this knowledge about flowers.
Honeysuckle went to the garden shed and found a little spade and she asked the lavender where it wanted to be planted. The lavender told her to put it at the front of the border next to the rosemary, for lavender and rosemary are good friends and they like to be together. Again, just like people, plants like to be next to other plants they get on with. Honeysuckle planted the lavender in the right place and the change in it was immediate. Its leaves stood up and its flowers gave off a magnificent scent.
Honeysuckle thoroughly enjoyed her days in the garden, and she learned so much that summer. As the weeks went by, she put her newfound knowledge into practise but at the back of her mind there was an uneasy feeling. She had developed an inner knowledge about things and she knew without a doubt that there were very serious things to be revealed to her.
One particularly sunny day when Honeysuckle was at the very bottom of the garden in the place her parents had set aside for wildlife, she got a very big surprise. This part of the garden, so overgrown that it looked like a like a jungle, was filled with wildflowers of every colour. These attracted butterflies, bees and insects and the sound of buzzing filled the air. Honeysuckle liked the feel of the wildness of this part of the garden; it was here that she felt closest to nature.
As she was admiring a particularly colourful butterfly, she heard a rustling behind her. As she turned around, to her astonishment, a lady stood there wearing a purple cloak.
Honeysuckle took in the appearance of this strange visitor wearing a long purple dress that looked like it was made of cobwebs. She wore the cloak over the dress and it had stars and suns and moons embroidered all over it. Pinned to her cloak was a bunch of fragrant lavender. Her boots were purple too with enormous heels and large pointed toes and even her hair was the most magnificent pink and purple colour.
“Who are you?” asked Honeysuckle.
“I am Lily Lavender,” came the reply.
Something began to stir within Honeysuckle, a hidden memory of some kind but one that would not quite reveal itself.
Lily Lavender said, “I am your fairy godmother and on the day that you were born, I brought you a gift of a moon necklace. This necklace was to bestow special gifts upon you when you were ready.”
Honeysuckle was very confused because Lily Lavender did not look much like the fairy godmothers Honeysuckle had seen in books. Fairy godmothers looked like fairies and not like the teenagers Honeysuckle had sometimes seen in the shopping precinct.
Lily Lavender then spoke, “I am a free spirit and I like to do things my way and dress as I please.”
She took Honeysuckle’s hand and said, “I love you so much and I have watched over you throughout your life. Every time you were ill or sad or you fell, I was there to help her. Now I have come at this time for we have things to do together and we are to go on a quest and I can’t do it without you.”
Honeysuckle did not know what to think, but at that moment Merlin appeared and he ran up to Lily Lavender and licked and licked her, this was his sign of approval. If Merlin accepted this stranger, then so would Honeysuckle. Once again, the feeling returned that she and Merlin were the only ones able to see Lily Lavender.
Lily Lavender would not yet reveal the nature of the quest. Honeysuckle was sure it was because the quest was dangerous and Lily Lavender thought Honeysuckle might be too frightened to agree to it. She was always a brave child and she loved adventures so she said that she would be happy to accompany her fairy godmother.
This is where things really got exciting because Lily Lavender asked Honeysuckle to meet her at this very spot at midnight. That evening, Honeysuckle went to bed early leaving her bedroom window open so she would wake up when the church bells rang at midnight.
She woke with a start at the exact time, and found Merlin at her bedside. She quickly dressed and together they crept down the stairs and outside. The moon was full and sent silvery shadows across the garden. In the distance, an owl hooted as it began its night time hunt.
They made their way to the bottom of the garden and, looking as though she was part of the vegetation, there waited Lily Lavender.
“Welcome to my world, my child,” she said.
“This sounds scary,” thought Honeysuckle, but she stood up straight and held on as tightly as she could to Merlin. Then Lily Lavender took a lavender flower from the bunch pinned to her cloak and pointed it at a place where the ivy covered the outer wall of the garden.
“Magus Lavendorus,” she said in the eeriest voice Honeysuckle had ever heard. Instantly, the ivy parted and a huge oak door that had been hidden in the greenery creaked open. With a beating heart, Honeysuckle followed her as they crossed the threshold into the mystery.
“Welcome to Astrantia,” said a very commanding voice that, at the same time, held so much wisdom and understanding.
As Honeysuckle looked up, standing before her she saw a unicorn the colour of moonlight. From the unicorn’s forehead grew a golden horn.
“Who are you?” asked Honeysuckle
“I am the gatekeeper of Astrantia,” said the unicorn, “My name is Juniper. I am charged to see if you have the right qualities of character before you can enter this mystic land.”
As he gazed into her eyes, it was as though he was looking into the depths of her inner self. He saw the truth of this child before him and he knew that she was special.
With Lily Lavender at one side of her and Juniper at the other, Honeysuckle took in the sight of this new land. While it had been night time in the garden, it was daylight here. She thought that she had never seen anything so lovely as the scene before her. There were trees of such magnificence, flowers that glowed as though they contained the sun within them, and there were pools and streams made of liquid crystal.
People made of coloured light like fairy lights on the Christmas tree moved between the flowers and the plants. They were solid but at the same time glowed with all the colours of the rainbow.
“What is this land?” she enquired.
Juniper spoke, “You have crossed to the other side of everyday life because within the ordinary world there are doorways to Astrantia where only a few can enter. This was a land of light, the place described throughout time, a hidden world where in time to come all good souls could enter. It was the land of all magic, of fairytales, fairies and angels.”
Juniper then said in a very grave voice, “You have been chosen to come here because you are brave and pure of spirit and we know you can help us with our quest. Even though everything looks magical in Astrantia things are not altogether right here.”
Lily Lavender continued with the story. She said, “All the colour in the flowers in the ordinary world come from Astrantia, for here is the source of the rainbow but now things are about to change, for in the heart of this land a strange thing has occurred. All the evil thoughts in the ordinary world have somehow found an opening into this place and they have manifested into a very dangerous monster. I can’t describe this being as a person because he is a grey mass of nastiness but over time he has begun to take on human form. We call him Gregor and everywhere he goes he absorbs the colour from the flowers so that they turn grey like him.”
“It is as though he sucks the colour out of life. The part of Astrantia he inhabits is becoming greyer and greyer. If this continues, the colour will be taken from all the flowers of this world. When that has taken place, he will not be satisfied and he will move back into the ordinary world to devour the colour of every living flower. His greyness will cover the world and the evil thoughts that created him will devour the earth taking all the goodness away.”
When Lily Lavender had finished speaking she wrapped her arms around Honeysuckle and wept explaining that she was their last hope.
She went on to say, “When you were born the sun was at its height in the sky at Midsummer and so you carry within you its golden rays. The moon necklace has been placed in your hands so that you would have the power of both the moon and the sun within you in order to help us with the quest. You have been given the gift of talking to the flowers and they will guide you on your journey in Astrantia.”
They all let out a huge sigh after listening to this. It was decided they would explore this land for the time had not yet arrived for the beginning of the quest. What joy Honeysuckle felt in this wonderful place. She and Merlin ran to a waterfall and, as they stepped under the water, hands of crystal wrapped around them and tickled and played with them.
They ran through the trees and the trees reached out with their branches and they laughed and had such fun. The flowers all spoke at once, delighted to have new companions. Juniper asked Honeysuckle to climb onto his back and hold on tight and they ran through meadows and over hills with Merlin at their heels. The wind chased them playfully as they climbed higher and higher.
From the top of the hill, they could look around at the land and they saw such beauty everywhere. Then Honeysuckle looked deep into the heart of Astrantia, and all she could see was a swirling mass of colourless land and, in that instant, she knew that however afraid she was she would be brave and noble and do her very best to save the world from the greyness.
They rode back to the gateway where they had left Lily Lavender. Honeysuckle dismounted from Juniper, kissed him, and made her promise to return to help with the quest. She said goodbye to Juniper, turned to the gateway and realised that Lily Lavender was not going with her.
“Are you not returning to my world?” asked Honeysuckle.
Lily Lavender replied, “Dear child, I do not belong there but when the time is right I will come and be by your side. Watch for the scent of lavender, for that is when I draw near.”
Honeysuckle hugged her fairy godmother – she now knew that fairy godmothers came in all shapes and sizes – and with Merlin she crossed the threshold through the gate and back into the garden of Number One, Myrtle Grove. The strangest thing was that the hands of the church clock read a few minutes after midnight. While Honeysuckle had been away, time had stood still in the ordinary world.
Things returned to normal for Honeysuckle after her adventures in Astrantia and she settled back into her usual routine. Honeysuckle had another life but she knew it had to remain hidden and she never mentioned her secret to any of her school friends. Honeysuckle had always liked school and particularly her teacher Miss Moon.
Miss Moon had a very large moon-shaped face and so her name fitted her perfectly. Her skin was pale like the colour of the moonlight and her hair was silvery blonde. Miss Moon could be firm with her pupils but she also had a heart of gold and was always kind to any child who was sad or upset.
One month after her midnight meeting in the garden with Lily Lavender, at the end of a busy school day, Honeysuckle was sitting enjoying a story from Miss Moon when she smelled lavender. It was an exciting story and Honeysuckle was engrossed in it. Miss Moon told wonderful stories and she never read from a book. The story was of magic and magical creatures. The scent of lavender became stronger and stronger and, as Honeysuckle turned to see where it was coming from, there sitting next to her in class was Lily Lavender.
Lily Lavender put her fingers to her lips to tell Honeysuckle to be quiet but Honeysuckle could not contain herself. What if all the other children could see Lily Lavender? At that very moment an amazing thing happened, Miss Moon stopped in her tracks and looked across, but she was not looking at Honeysuckle, she was looking next to her where Lily Lavender sat.
“Miss Moon can see her, she can really see her. Oh, my goodness, what am I going to do?” thought Honeysuckle.
Then Miss Moon called out in a stern voice, “Honeysuckle Blossom, see me at the end of the afternoon,” and she continued with the story.
The end of the afternoon finally arrived. When the rest of the children went home, only Honeysuckle remained in the classroom and, of course, Lily Lavender. As Miss Moon looked at Lily Lavender, she burst into tears and threw her arms around her.
“Oh, Lily,” she cried, it has been so long. I thought I would never ever see you again. I thought the magic had gone from my life for good.”
Honeysuckle was very confused. She thought no one else could see Lily Lavender, especially grown-ups.
Miss Moon explained, “Many years ago, when I was a child, Lily Lavender came into my garden and took me on an adventure to Astrantia where I experienced so much magic and happiness. The stories I tell in class are all about my time spent there, as I wanted to share the magic with others. When I grew up, Lily Lavender stopped visiting my garden. I was very sad but I kept my memories alive with my storytelling.”
Honeysuckle was overjoyed to find another person who could see the things she saw. Any sadness she felt at being the only one to see such magic disappeared completely and she knew without any doubt that there must be many others in the world who can see the magic too. Now she wanted to know why Lily Lavender had come to her school to see Miss Moon again.
Lily Lavender explained all, “The quest that you are to embark upon is very dangerous and you need the assistance of Miss Moon. Miss Moon will accompany you some of the way but you have to make the final part of the journey alone.”
A pact was made between the three of them; they would all meet in Honeysuckle’s garden. Honeysuckle and Miss Moon would wait to be told the appointed day and time. Honeysuckle did not see Lily Lavender for some time after that but, from that day on, she felt a great sense of relief in knowing Miss Moon’s secret. Her days at school became even more enjoyable and when Honeysuckle wrote her stories in class they were filled with mystery and magic. She no longer felt that she had to keep her newfound knowledge to herself.
Sometimes at story time, Miss Moon would ask her to read out her stories to the other children who all sat and listened in silence, enthralled by the mysteries being told. Even Basil Sparrow was as quiet as a mouse and that had never been heard of before. Honeysuckle often found that she and Miss Moon would enjoy a quiet smile between them because they understood one another so well.
Honeysuckle, so pleased by her new knowledge of magic and mystery, decided that when she grew up she would be a writer and write wonderful stories. She had seen how the dark unhappy thoughts of the world had created Gregor and she made up her mind that she would bring magic back into the world.
One autumn day when the leaves were blowing and spreading their colours all around, Honeysuckle smelled lavender once again and there beside her in the garden Lily Lavender appeared. She seemed very different this time. Some of the pink and purple had disappeared from her hair. Honeysuckle was sure she could see grey in it.
In a very serious voice Lily Lavender said, “It is time for the quest, child. Tell Miss Moon to meet us here at midnight tomorrow night. I will be waiting for you both. There is something very precious you must bring with you – it is the crystal that formed from your tear when it fell into the rose.”
With that, Lily Lavender turned away and disappeared. Honeysuckle’s heart felt very heavy and she was gripped with fear but she had given her promise and her promise she would keep. She hoped she would sleep well that night for she had no idea what was before her or even if she would return home. When she went to bed she hugged her mother and father tightly and told them how much she loved them.
Before she went to sleep, she turned to Merlin and said, “This is it, Merlin, the quest has begun.”
The following day in school, Honeysuckle told Miss Moon that the time had come to begin the quest and they were to meet Lily Lavender at midnight that night. Miss Moon looked at Honeysuckle with eyes filled with love and reassured her that she would do her utmost to help.
At midnight, the three of them and Merlin gathered at the bottom of Honeysuckle’s garden. Once again, Lily Lavender took the lavender flower and pointed it at the ivy. As she said the magic words, “Magus Lavendorus,” the ivy parted and the ancient oak door opened. They crossed the threshold to find Juniper waiting for them on the other side. This time it was night in Astrantia and not day.
“Welcome to you all, my dear friends,” said Juniper. As Juniper looked at Miss Moon, tears of joys filled their eyes for they had been old friends many years ago when Miss Moon visited Astrantia.
“Come with me, I have something to show you,” he said, and they walked behind him in a line eager to discover where they were going.
The moon cast a silvery light over them all as they walked past sleeping flowers and trees. Even in the moonlight everything here glowed and shone. They eventually came to a clearing and they saw such a magnificent sight. Sitting in a circle were people of all shapes and sizes, each one of them made of coloured lights. One of those present called them to join in their circle and they all sat down together.
The one who had invited them into the circle now spoke, ”We have brought you here at the appointed time when the stars are in the right positions in the sky so that the quest may begin. The land of Astrantia is becoming dimmer as Gregor gets stronger. The more colour he absorbs, the weaker we become. We are powerless to defeat him, only a human from your world can accomplish this.”
He then turned to Honeysuckle, “You, child, are the chosen one for you are pure of heart and you have been taught the ways of magic in your very own garden. Your trusted friend Merlin may accompany you on your task. Juniper, Miss Moon and two of our people will be allowed to go part of the way with you. From then on, there will only be you and Merlin. There will be many dangers to face. You are our last hope. Will you take this journey for us and defeat Gregor?”
With a brave heart, Honeysuckle answered that she would. At hearing this, everyone in the circle stood and clapped, then rushed forward and hugged the brave group. Honeysuckle had never seen the likes of these people before. Their faces were lit up like the sun and their eyes were the colour of the sky. As they walked, they left a rainbow trail of light.
When all the hugging was over, the most beautiful music and singing began, it sounded like the music and voices of angels, it was so happy and joyful. Then a boy who looked just a little older than Honeysuckle stepped forward and asked her to dance with him. He took her hand and together they danced in the middle of the circle.
Everyone else joined in, even Miss Moon had a partner.
They danced until dawn and there was feasting on food that Honeysuckle had never seen before. The colours of the food and the fruits were so bright and wonderful.
Honeysuckle enjoyed herself immensely. The laughter and singing lifted everyone’s spirits. Merlin ran around the circle and barked and jumped up and helped himself to food.
The boy Honeysuckle was dancing with told her his name was Rowan Wren and he was going to show her around their land and tell her all about how they lived. He said she needed to become familiar with life here before she set out on her journey. Honeysuckle had taken an instant liking to him, he was so different from the boys at school, he was very gentle yet he felt very strong.
The dawn came and it was time for them all to rest. A very old man stepped forward and introduced himself as Periwinkle Plum. He looked ancient with a white beard reaching to his waist and his eyes twinkled like starlight. He led them out of the grove of trees to a flower-shaped house made entirely of crystal. Honeysuckle gasped in amazement as the light from the rising sun created rainbows from the crystal. Periwinkle told them that all the buildings in Astrantia were made of crystal and all were in the shape of a different flower. This was to be their home while they became accustomed to life in this land.
The front door of the house was also a flower made of crystal and, as it opened its petals, the inside was revealed.
A hearth sat in the very centre of the house, and the rainbow fire’s flames crackled and created the most beautiful patterns.
Periwinkle showed them to their bedrooms and each bedroom looked out onto the glorious flowers growing all around. Like everything else in the house, the bed was made of crystal and the covers were made of light.
As Honeysuckle lay down, she felt as if she were floating, the bed felt so light. Merlin slept beside her, delighted too by the softness of the bed. They both dreamed the same dream that they were flying. They slept peacefully until late in the morning when the sun woke them and the room filled with rainbows. They were both thinking, “I wonder what happens now.”
Miss Moon knocked on the door and came into the bedroom. Honeysuckle had never seen her look so well, she had colour in her cheeks for the first time ever. Miss Moon told her it was time to get up and that breakfast was ready. Honeysuckle quickly washed and dressed and along with Merlin went into the main room and sat at a crystal table next to a huge flower-shaped window.
Miss Moon brought in the breakfast. There were fruits and bread and honey and, just like the food from the previous night, they were made of light. As they began to eat, they thought they had never tasted anything so delicious. Even Merlin approved with a wagging tail.
When they had finished, they heard a knock at the door and Rowan Wren was waiting for them. Standing by him were Juniper, Periwinkle Plum and Lily Lavender. They were told that they were to be shown around the land and so together they set off, a merry party singing along the way.
They travelled through villages where the houses were similar to the one they were staying in, each house a different-shaped flower. Even the school was in the shape of a huge flower. Miss Moon was very interested in this and they watched the happy children inside. They crossed sparkling rivers. Everywhere they went the flowers greeted them.
The animals here were different too, some of them Honeysuckle had only seen in storybooks. She saw one beautiful white horse with wings and he could fly. The butterflies were enormous, they looked like fairies, and they flew around the group showing them the way. After they had been travelling for some time, they stopped to rest and the trees covered them with their branches, protecting them from the hot sun. They ate the picnic Rowan had brought and they drank from the crystal stream.
When they were refreshed, they set out again and began climbing upwards. They could see in the distance something at the top of the hill and they continued walking higher and higher. When they reached the top, the sight before them made them stop for in the centre of a circle of stones stood a very tall woman.
The woman called them into the circle. As they passed the stones, they felt a very strange sensation – it felt as though they were floating.
“Who are you?” asked Honeysuckle for she was not afraid of this strange person.
“My name is Foxglove and I have called you here to open your minds and your eyes so that you may see deeper into these realms.”
She asked them all, including Merlin, to sit with their backs to one of the stones. As they gazed at her, she looked very powerful. She wore a long pink dress with wide sleeves and on her head was a garland of foxglove flowers. On her feet, she wore shoes clad in ivy and in her hand she held a branch of ivy that she pointed towards them each in turn. She directed the ivy to their hearts and the moment she did this, they could feel their hearts fill with the dark green of the ivy and then the ivy wrapped itself around them.
As they sat within the ivy, they each had their own visions. Except Honeysuckle, all of them saw wonderful things that gave them great joy. The ivy disappeared after it had brought the vision. When Honeysuckle closed her eyes, she saw the face of Gregor and it was filled with hatred and evil. He was looking at her. She knew in that instant that he knew she had come to Astrantia. This filled her with fear and she let out a scream.
Foxglove came to Honeysuckle and held her tightly. She towered over her like a giant but Honeysuckle was not afraid of her. She was only afraid of Gregor.
“He knows I am here,” shouted Honeysuckle in anguish.
Foxglove replied, “It is all right, little one, you have great power within you, you have more power than Gregor. Your heart is filled with love and love is the greatest power of all. What you have received today will protect you from harm and the power of the stones will go with you. In your darkest hours, call out to the stones and they will send you strength and protection for they will be watching you from afar.”
As she said this, there came a sound from the stones as they all joined in chorus, “Honeysuckle will save our land, Honeysuckle will save our land. We have spoken.”
Honeysuckle felt exhausted and was glad when they returned home. When they arrived back at the crystal house, Peregrine Plum took her hand and said that they were all to rest tomorrow because the day after they were to begin the quest. He along with Juniper and Rowan Wren would call for them at dawn on that day.
“Bring your crystal with you, Honeysuckle, for we cannot accomplish the quest without it. Sleep well and rest tomorrow, we have a long journey before us.”
With fear still gripping her heart, Honeysuckle entered the house with Miss Moon and Merlin. All the merriment of last night was just a distant memory for she had no idea what lay ahead.
The appointed day arrived and Honeysuckle, Miss Moon and Merlin were ready at dawn. Honeysuckle made sure she had her crystal with her as she had been instructed. The sun was just rising when Lily Lavender, Juniper, Rowan Wren and Peregrine Plum knocked on the door of the crystal house. In silence, they set off together on the quest to rid Astrantia of Gregor.
They travelled deep into the heart of Astrantia. At first, the land looked so beautiful but, as they travelled further, something did not feel quite right. The sun did not shine so brightly and the flowers drooped their heads. Even the people and the animals did not look happy. In fact, the further the group travelled, those they saw looked more and more miserable. The inhabitants of Astrantia were usually happy and joyful but the people they now met had scowls on their faces. Whenever they stopped to talk to anyone, they were met with harsh voices and shouting.
“What has happened here?” asked Honeysuckle.
To which Peregrine Plum answered, “The dark and evil thoughts that entered our land from your world and created Gregor have now touched our people. As he has taken more and more of our colour from us, Gregor’s power has increased. With his power stronger his darkness began to spread. As the colour was taken from our people, they turned dark not only in their bodies but also in their minds. They are turning into unhappy and bad-tempered people who have no kindness left in their hearts. The flowers are becoming lifeless as they too lose their colours.”
They all shuddered with a cold chill when they heard these words because they knew they were true and they could feel the darkness touch their own hearts.
Juniper then spoke, “We are strong and we can withstand the darkness but we must stay happy in our thoughts so that Gregor’s influence cannot touch us.”
The journey continued and they walked all day with only short stops to rest and eat and by evening they were exhausted. They decided to sleep under a huge old oak tree. As they settled down for the night, drops of water began to drop from the tree. They thought it had begun to rain. As they looked up, they realised the oak tree had a face and from its eyes tears were pouring.
The oak tree told them how happy he was to have them under his branches; he had waited so long for them to come. His life was ebbing away and he was so tired but he would keep them safe.
He then spoke to Honeysuckle, “Search around the tree for there is a gift here to accompany you on your journey.”
As Honeysuckle looked to see what it was, she found a staff made from the oak tree’s wood. On the staff were carved strange symbols. She took the staff and immediately a tingling feeling filled her. The oak tree told her that there was magic in the staff and that it would protect her and ward off anyone troubling her. Honeysuckle thanked the oak tree and gave him a big hug. That night, she slept with the staff close by her side and she had a restful dreamless sleep.
The following morning, they set off again. After travelling for several hours, they came to a forest. A grey mist came from the forest and covered them and they felt dizzy and sad at the same time.
Rowan Wren turned to them all and spoke in a commanding voice, “Think of the happiest thing you have ever experienced in your life and fill yourself with the memory of it.”
As they all did this, a very strange thing happened. They found that when they thought the happy thoughts, the grey mist lifted from them. Rowan Wren told them that this was the magic. Just as Gregor had entered their world and changed it into darkness by his unhappy thoughts, they had the power to change it back again with their happy thoughts.
With great strength now within them, the group entered the forest. As they walked through the trees, strange grey animals with snarling faces watched them. The trees themselves threw branches in their path to try to stop them. It took all their power to keep their minds on their happy thoughts but they succeeded and soon they were out of the unhappy forest.
The centre of the land of Astrantia lay before them. In the very middle it looked like the darkest night. Gregor had surrounded his darkest territory with a huge wall he had created with the power of his thoughts. The group looked at the wall and there seemed to be no way in. As they searched, they discovered an enormous iron door and in the centre of the door there were thirteen keyholes. As they looked closer, they discovered that the keyholes were in the shape of moons.
Honeysuckle leaped about with such delight and said, “My necklace, my necklace, it is the key, don’t you see?”
She took her necklace from around her neck and showed the others. Lily Lavender smiled for she had always known of the magic that lay in the necklace. With trembling fingers, Honeysuckle placed each of the thirteen moons in the keyholes. When the last one was in place, an amazing thing happened, moonlight poured out of the keyhole and the door began to creak open.
When the door was fully open, they all stared inside and the moonlight from the keyhole cast a beam of silvery light that lit up the path ahead. This was the first time that any light had been allowed back into the heart of their land. They all cheered Honeysuckle. Without her they would not have been able to continue their journey. They stepped through the doorway and the beam of light surrounded them to illuminate their way.
A very strange thing had taken place when they had opened the door – as they looked at Miss Moon, she began to change. She radiated with moonlight. The magic of the moon had transformed her. She stood tall and stately like a queen and when she spoke her voice sounded different.
“By the power of the moon within me, I will guide your way on this next stage of the quest. My light will keep you safe and show you the way.”
She then touched each of them in their hearts and they felt a warm glow within. The glow spread through them and around them, bringing them strength and determination. They walked boldly on and, after a while, they came to a house. This house was not like the bright crystal houses they had seen all over Astrantia, this one was made of the blackest crystal.
As they approached the house, Honeysuckle stopped as a flower spoke her name. This poor flower had had all the colour taken from it and it was now a dirty grey.
“Honeysuckle,” it said, “beware of the old woman in the black crystal house for she is one of Gregor’s helpers and she waits to trap those who enter his kingdom.” Honeysuckle thanked the flower and they all started to walk past the house but, to their dismay, they could not move any further. It was as though an invisible wall was there to stop them.
At this very moment, the vilest person they had ever seen stepped out of the cottage. She was dressed in rags of grey and when she spoke their hearts turned cold, “You cannot proceed further, I will not allow it.” The crone’s voice hurt their ears and they all turned away from her.
Honeysuckle found courage within. She faced the woman, held the magic staff and pointed it towards her. Immediately, a flash of blue electricity surrounded the woman and the invisible wall disappeared.
The old woman’s face changed and it seemed as though the colour was returning to her face and to her clothes. Tears began to flow from her eyes and, as she wept, she spoke but this time her voice was normal.
“I am so sorry for the trouble I have caused you. I feel as though I have awoken from a deep sleep. The person I have become is not the real me. I have been in Gregor’s power. He has no power over me now thanks to you, child.”
Honeysuckle hugged her and knew now the woman was safe from Gregor they could continue on their journey. They all set off once more and very soon they arrived at Gregor’s castle. They had arrived at the heart of Astrantia and it had become so dark that if Miss Moon had not been with them they wouldn’t have been able to see very much at all.
The castle loomed over them and they could feel its evil. They had neared the end of the journey and the last part of the quest was for Honeysuckle and Merlin only. Honeysuckle felt so afraid but she knew that she was the only one who could save not only Astrantia but also her own world. She held her head up high, determined to do her best.
She patted Juniper’s back and, as he nuzzled into her, she felt his warmth. Peregrine Plum shook her hand and wished her well. Rowan Wren looked directly into her eyes and told her that he would be her friend forever. Miss Moon then told Honeysuckle to remember everything she had taught her and that she was very proud of her star pupil. Lily Lavender said to always remember the magic for it would never let her down. They all hugged her closely and they told her they would be waiting for her return.
Honeysuckle felt moistness in her hand and, as she looked down, Merlin was licking her. He leaped up into her arms and she held on to him tightly saying, “Well, Merlin, it is just us now. We need to be brave and complete this journey alone.”
They said their goodbyes and Honeysuckle and Merlin walked towards Gregor’s castle. She looked back once more to see her friends waving. As she approached the castle, she wondered how they could enter. She put Merlin down and he began to sniff the ground and started running here and there as though he was looking for something. He began to scrape the ground. As Honeysuckle watched, Merlin uncovered a door, Honeysuckle opened it and it led into a secret tunnel.
“This is it, Merlin, it’s now or never.”
Together, they entered the tunnel. It was so dark that even the moonlight they had received was now dim. They climbed into the tunnel and found they were travelling upwards. They had no idea what would be waiting for them at the end but they had no choice but to go on.
A grey light began to shine ahead of them and they found they could see a little now. Honeysuckle realised that the grey light was coming from behind yet another door. She opened the door slowly and beyond it was a curtain of cobwebs so thick that no one would know there was a door there. As she parted the cobwebs, she found herself in a room so filled with dust it made her sneeze. She was afraid that Gregor would hear her so they looked for a way out of the room.
At the opposite side of the room was a staircase and together they climbed the stairs that went upwards and upwards. When they reached the top, Honeysuckle found that they had entered a tower. She noticed a round window. As she looked out, she could see across the whole of Astrantia and she realised how far Gregor’s darkness had spread. This made her more determined to defeat him. She prepared herself for their meeting.
As he heard a loud noise coming from below, Merlin’s hackles rose on his neck and he began to tremble. On the opposite side of the room from where they had entered, Honeysuckle saw another staircase. As the sound grew louder, they could hear footsteps on the stairs. Honeysuckle stood firm, ready to meet Gregor.
In the next instant, the most horrible sight they had ever seen entered the room. Gregor – gigantic in size and made completely of what looked like grey dust. As he towered over Honeysuckle, he spoke in a voice made of the wind and thunder, “I have been waiting for you, Honeysuckle Blossom, and for you, too, Merlin.” Merlin cowered in fear behind Honeysuckle.
Gregor continued to speak and, as he spoke, the greyness came from his words as well as his mind. Honeysuckle was the bravest little girl in the world and she stood still in front of Gregor, even though she felt his words drain her of her colour.
Again, Gregor spoke with wind and thunder, “You, Honeysuckle Blossom, are my prize for you have within you the brightest colours of all. And I will take all your colours from you and they will make me the most powerful being in the universe. I will rob Astrantia of its colour forever and the world you come from will turn to dust.”
He opened his terrible mouth. It was as though all the dust in the world sprang from his lips. He reached out towards Honeysuckle holding on to her tightly and as she looked into his eyes she was touched by his evil. In that moment it was as though all the goodness in her heart disappeared and she felt the darkness enter the whole of her being.
At this point she was in the most terrible danger of becoming the same as the monster whose grip she was in. One more second and the sweet child she was would have disappeared forever leaving her in a world where evil reigned. If this had happened our world of light and joy would have been no more and everywhere would have been in darkness.
At that very moment when all seemed lost, as if by magic the circle of stones Honeysuckle had encountered when she first came to Astrantia appeared in the room and surrounded Gregor so that he lost his grip on Honeysuckle. In a blaze of light Foxglove stood at Honeysuckle’s side.
“You haven’t much time, Honeysuckle,” she said. “Work quickly, child, take the crystal from your pocket and you will know what to do with it.”
Honeysuckle felt completely weakened by Gregor’s attempt to take her colours. Foxglove seemed so far away she could hardly hear her.
Merlin, who had overcome his fear now that Foxglove had appeared, began to lick Honeysuckle’s hand. This brought Honeysuckle out of her haziness. She took the crystal in both hands and placed it in the centre of the stones next to Gregor. He was gaining in strength and shouting louder and louder – his dreadful voice terrified Honeysuckle.
Gregor picked up the crystal and let out the most horrendous laugh and said, “Now I have won, the world is mine.”
Foxglove turned to Honeysuckle, “Quick,” she said, remember Lily Lavender’s magic words and speak them to the crystal.”
Honeysuckle searched her mind for the forgotten words and suddenly she could smell lavender.
“I’ve remembered,” she said. In the most commanding voice she had ever used, she pointed towards the crystal held tightly in Gregor’s hands and said, “Magus Lavendorus.”
Magically, the crystal lit up like a rainbow and its colours shone into Gregor’s eyes. In the next instant, the rainbow light went through his whole body and he began to shake and he let out the most horrendous scream.
The dust began to fall from him and, bit-by-bit, he soon became a pile of dust. Having finished their work, the stones disappeared. The rainbow mingled with the dust and transformed it into crystal light. All the evil and darkness that had created Gregor was now changed by the power of the crystal. The rainbows began to spread throughout the tower and Honeysuckle and Merlin regained their colour.
Merlin ran to the window and barked. It was as though a huge rainbow was sweeping the land and everything in its path was changed from greyness into colour once more. Honeysuckle could even see the old woman’s house where the invisible force had stopped them. The house had turned back to how it used to be – pure bright crystal.
When the rainbow reached the wall it began to crumble. Where it had fallen, new flowers of every colour sprang up. The rainbow continued until it had covered the whole of Astrantia. Foxglove hugged Honeysuckle and Merlin and they all cried tears of pure joy. The quest was accomplished.
All trace of Gregor had disappeared and Honeysuckle, Merlin and Foxglove descended the stairs from the tower and stepped out of the castle through the huge door. As they moved away from the door, they heard a sound behind them and turned to see the castle collapse.
Slowly, it fell to the ground and where it landed a pool of the clearest crystal water appeared. As the pool took form, the water in the middle took on the shape of a person and it spoke, “From this day forward, I am to be a healing pool and all who step into my waters will be healed. The purest heart, that of Honeysuckle, has saved the land and that pureness will touch all who bathe in me.”
Beautiful flowers grew around the pool and, in time, bathing in this magical pool would heal many sad hearts .
So, it was on that eventful day that the three travellers set off once more joyous at the prospect of being reunited with their friends.
With a spring in their step and happy hearts, Honeysuckle, Merlin and Foxglove reached the others. Lily Lavender, Juniper, Rowan Wren, Peregrine Plum and Miss Moon were waiting with outstretched arms ready to greet them. There was a great sound of merriment coming from the happy group as the story was told. Everyone looked different now and their faces were shining once more like the sun. In recognition of Honeysuckle’s enormous achievements, she was allowed to ride on Juniper’s back. Merlin ran along, barking happily at Juniper’s heels.
On the way back, they met the old woman. So overjoyed to see them, she could not thank them enough. They passed where the wall had stood and all they could see were flowers growing everywhere. Where the door had been, something seemed to be shining among the flowers. Lily Lavender bent down to look and found Honeysuckle’s moon necklace. Honeysuckle stepped down from Juniper and Lily Lavender placed the necklace around her neck.
Honeysuckle was so pleased to find her necklace. It felt so lovely.
Lily Lavender said, “Wear it always, Honeysuckle Blossom. You never know when you might need some magic.”
Honeysuckle wondered about that because she felt she had had enough magic to last a lifetime.
The party travelled back to where they had started from and the journey back was so much quicker because things had changed greatly in Astrantia since the end of Gregor. There was new life in the land.
When they returned, all the people they had met on the quest’s first day came to greet them. A great feast had been set out on an enormous flower-shaped crystal table. Flowers decorated the banquet and everything looked so beautiful. The plates were made of leaves and they drank from flowers shaped like cups. There was singing and dancing and much merriment that seemed to go on forever.
After they had feasted for many hours, a silence fell upon the group. The old woman they had met on their journey appeared before them dressed in a lavender gown, her hair entwined with the herb’s purple sprigs. As she stepped forward, she told Honeysuckle that she had been totally overtaken by Gregor’s evil but now she was restored to her former self and could take her place where she belonged among her companions. In her hands she had a crown made of lavender and she placed it upon Honeysuckle’s head.
“Now you are one of us,” she said, “and you may enter our world when you feel the calling. Three cheers for Honeysuckle Blossom.”
“Hip! Hip! Hooray! Hip! Hip! Hooray! Hip! Hip! Hooray!” the group sang out,
Honeysuckle had never felt as happy as she did that day. Her heart felt like it would burst with the love of her new friends. It was because of her that Astrantia had been saved and the colour restored to the land. And by doing this brave deed she had saved her own land. The people in her world would never know how close they had come to losing their colour and their happy thoughts.
The time had arrived to say goodbye to the people of Astrantia. There were many tears of farewell as they all gathered around Honeysuckle, Miss Moon and Merlin. Peregrine Plum took hold of Honeysuckle’s hand and looked deep into her eyes. He spoke with such kindness when he told her that they would meet again.
They all made their way to the great door that magically opened into Honeysuckle’s garden. Lily Lavender, Peregrine Plum, Juniper and Rowan Wren gave a resounding goodbye. Honeysuckle, Merlin and Miss Moon crossed over the threshold into their own world. They had been away for many days yet the hands of the church clock showed a few minutes past midnight.
“What an adventure,” they all chorused as they made their way home.
Honeysuckle’s life was never the same again. She had learned how unhappy thoughts could create misery in the world. She had also learned how happy thoughts brought colour into people’s lives. She vowed there and then to bring as much colour into her life so that she could bring happiness to others. From that day forth she filled everyone else’s lives with her magic.
In the years to come, Honeysuckle often caught Miss Moon looking at her with a knowing smile because of the secret they shared and, every now and then, when Honeysuckle was in the garden, she would smell the scent of lavender on the wind and she wondered if…
But that, as they say, is another story.
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Copyright © Margaret Hunt 2010.