Chapter One The Trouble with Magic
Jessie stepped through the door in the hedge that led to the secret garden and gasped in surprise. There, quietly nibbling at the grass, was Maybelle, the miniature horse from the fairy world of the Realm. Maybelle raised her head, and Jessie saw that the red ribbons in her mane were dusted with gold flecks of magic that twinkled in the early-morning sun.
"About time you turned up," the little horse said grumpily. "I've been hanging around here for ages!"
Jessie stared at her. "Have you?" she gulped at last.
Maybelle sniffed. "I need to talk to you, and I got tired of waiting for you to come over and see us," she said. "It's been weeks! Have you forgotten all about us?"
"Of course not!" exclaimed Jessie. "It's just that . . . I've been so busy."
Maybelle snorted. Obviously she couldn't imagine how anything could be as important as visiting the Realm.
But Jessie really had been busy. She'd been
living at Blue Moon, her grandmother's big old house in the mountains, for six weeks now. There'd been a lot to do in that short time. She'd had to help Rosemary, her mother, pack up their house in the city, ready for the move. Then she'd had to help her unpack their clothes and other belongings and store them in the Blue Moon cupboards. Then the holidays had ended and she'd had to start at her new school.
For six weeks her mind had been full of work, plans and problems. She hadn't forgotten for a moment the amazing adventure that had made her new life possible, or the wonderful beings she'd met in the Realm.
How could she forget?
Six weeks ago, she'd discovered the magic Door to the Realm in the part of the Blue Moongrounds Granny called "the secret garden." She'd found out then that her grandmother, Jessica Belairs, wasn't what she seemed. Granny wasn't an ordinary human grandmother at all, but the true Queen of the Realm, one of the fairy Folk. She had left her world many years ago to marry the human man she loved. Now her sister Helena ruled in her place, but Granny still had her Queenly powers, as Jessie had seen with her own amazed eyes.
But Granny's secret wasn't something she talked about -- even to Jessie. And with all the ordinary things Jessie had to think about, the magic world she'd entered through the secret garden had started to seem to her more and more like something in a story she'd read, or a film she'd seen, and less and less like a real place.
In fact, sometimes when she thought about it, she wondered if it had all been a dream. But then she'd look down at her wrist, at the chain bracelet hung with a gold heart charm that had been the Realm's gift to her. And she knew that the Realm had been no dream, and remembered that the bracelet was a promise that any time she wanted to, she could return.
She smiled at Maybelle. "What did you want to talk to me about?" she asked. Maybelle pawed the grass with her front hoof. "I thought it was about time you came back to see us," she said. "The Realm's got shocking problems at the moment, and we could do with a hand."
"What shocking problems?" demanded Jessie. "Surely you've got all the magic you need now." She pointed. "More than enough, I'd say. You've got it all over your ribbons."
Maybelle snorted irritably and shook her mane so that flecks of gold flew into the air and whirled in the sunbeams. Jessie felt littlethrills like tiny electric shocks as some of the shining specks fell on her skin. She shivered and giggled.
Maybelle glared at her. "Now don't you get silly too," she ordered. "I've got enough problems with that in the Realm. That's the trouble with magic. There always seems to be too much of it, or too little. When you came to the Realm last time, we were running out of it, and thanks to you that problem was solved. But now we've got too much. And that's another problem altogether."
"Too much magic?" Jessie giggled again. She could still feel little thrills of excitement all over her arms and face. "How can there be too much magic?"
Maybelle sighed deeply. "They say it always happens just after the magic is renewed," she said. "There's an explosion of it, see, and then for ages afterwards the dust gets into everything. And everyone," she added darkly. "You should see Giff. That elf is just about uncontrollable. Silly as a wheel. And the flower fairies are worse than he is. They're not terribly sensible at the best of times, in my opinion. But now . . . hopeless!"
Jessie bit her lip to keep her giggles back, and nodded sympathetically.
"But the griffins are the real reason I've come to see you," Maybelle grumbled on. "They're the Queen's pets. And they're supposed to guard the Realm's treasures. Well, that's fine. Let them guard the treasures. No one's arguing about that. But they're not supposed to get so full of themselves that they take over guarding everything else too. Are they?"
"I suppose not," Jessie murmured.
"I'd give anything for a bit of peace and quiet," Maybelle complained. "I'd like just for once to wake up in the morning without my mane andtail all full of giggling fairies. Just for once to have a quiet bowl of oats for breakfast, or a bit of sugar maybe, without having to fight some griffin to get it." She looked up. "You wouldn't by any chance have some sugar about you at the moment, would you?" she asked hopefully.
"No, sorry," said Jessie. "But I could go up to the house and get you some, if you like. Or some bread. Everything's still on the table from breakfast."
Maybelle licked her lips. "Thanks," she said. "Thanks for the offer. But on the whole I'd rather you just came through to the Realm with me right now and tried to sort the griffins out. You're good with magic. That was obvious last time. So --"