My short story for the AMMC Christmas Anthology
Author: A.D. Trosper
The Solstice Veil
Cora lay on the bunk in the children’s home, staring at the wall waiting for it to be time to get up. She held her only real possession to her, a small, stuffed dragon; its blue material faded and worn.
It wasn’t her parents’ fault she was here, only a misfortune of timing. The veil between worlds only opened four times a year. Expats in the Ordinary World for the past ten years, her parents’ had been ready to go home. Expats were necessary to keeping imagination alive among humans in the Ordinary World. They wrote about the elves, dragons, dwarves, fairies and what not. The witches from the Other Realm kept magic alive.
Cora sighed. And now she was stuck here. Only for a short time to be sure, but nearly two months seemed to drag on forever when she was separated from her parents and in a children’s home far from where the veil would open. She hugged the stuffed dragon, Fennor to her chest and closed her eyes, remembering times when Fennor was much more than a stuffed animal. Of the times before she came here when she would go for walks with him in the enchanted wood, him glorious in his blue scales and her in a little white dress with sprigs of the forest in her hair.
Lights snapped on and Cora rose with a sigh. One more day, then it would be Winter Solstice and the veil would open again. This time there wouldn’t be so much traffic. All Hallows Eve wasn’t the best time to enter the Other Realm. Too many spirits were rushing through for their brief time here. Her parents’ had thought they had an opening as the time neared mid-night and tried to take it, but an unexpected wave of spirits has separated her from them and knocked her back. The veil had closed to the chiming of the clock within seconds after she landed back on this side. It only took the authorities a few days to realize something was amiss. They put out a watch for her missing parents and placed her here.
The workers kept assuring her that she was a good girl and would find a foster home soon. Cora refrained from telling them she didn’t need a foster home. The people of this world only believed in magic so far. If she told them the truth, they would put her in an institution and likely take Fennor away. Cora couldn’t let that happen. He was the only one now that could get her to the veil when it opened.
As she walked into the large cafeteria full of girls of varying ages and the smells of breakfast, Cora glanced at the tree in the corner. No one here believed in Winter Solstice. It didn’t matter; Cora appreciated the little tree covered in cheap ornaments, doing its best to spread Christmas cheer to children who no longer truly believed in it.
Cora wished she could take these girls with her. Some didn’t have anybody, most had families that couldn’t bring themselves to be responsible enough for children. A very few had good families that really didn’t deserve to be separated but were victims of a system that sometimes swept up the innocent with the guilty.
All of these girls needed magic in their lives and real families, of which there were many on the other side of the veil. For some reason, children didn’t come easily to those from the Other Realm.
Fennor stirred in her hand as if he understood her desire. Maybe he did. On each solstice and equinox, he was able to connect with the normally inanimate stuffed animal.
Cora spent the day watching all of the girls. If Fennor approved, they would have a lot to do when he came for her. No one on the other side argued with the will of a dragon, their wisdom was without bounds and they were the official rulers of the Other Realm.
That night, when the clock struck mid-night, Fennor ceased to be a stuffed animal. About the size of a small horse, his scales glittered in the dim light. His voice was deep and soft when he asked, “Are you ready to undertake the task you have set yourself? We have until mid-night, are you sure you want to take the chance of missing the veil?”
Cora nodded. “Absolutely, I can’t leave them here. You know as well as I do their situations. Let’s set them all right.”
It took a lot of work to gather everyone together. Cora worried she might spend half the night just convincing them. Fennor’s presence seemed to negate that need. After quietly gathering all of the girls in the commons area, Cora had them hold hands with each other. She gripped the hand of the girl nearest her and laid her other hand on Fennor.
In a flash of light they were all in a beautiful valley surrounded by trees, the brilliant light of the full moon reflecting off the snow. Cora asked them all to wait while Fennor did one last thing. It was over an hour before he returned with six families in tow.
Happy cries went up among the girls who had been unjustly separated from their families.
Fennor inhaled deeply and exhaled, his warm breath revealing the open veil. With no small amount of curiosity and trepidation, everyone passed through. Cora and Fennor were the last.
Her parents were quick to hug her and apologize but Cora made sure they knew they didn’t need to. It had all worked out like it was supposed to. The girls stepped lightly through the glistening grass and crystalline trees. Decorations for the winter festival festooned the beautiful fairytale houses.
Many couples stood around, waiting while the dragons and elves welcomed the new families. The girls edged forward, hesitant and unsure if it was real. Cora smiled. By the end of the day, every girl would have a family that loved and cherished them. It was the best present Cora could think to give to the girls who had been her companions for the last two months. She laid a hand on Fennor scales and gazed up at her friend.
His great eyes regarded her. “Is it the Solstice you envisioned?”
Cora looked at the girls in the twinkling lights of the holiday decorations. “This is the best Solstice I could ever imagine.”