Suspended in the air as though she were floating in a waterless ocean, Gwyn laughed with delight as all the strange and wonderful objects in Lyra’s world turned a bright shade of violet before settling into various hues of much purpleness.
A clock that was half cat grinned at her from the mantle of a fireplace that had perched itself on a coatrack. A drop of purple fell to the ground and bled lilacs and violets, orchids and posies until there was a thick blanket of them so far as the eye could see.
Purple lanterns blinked into existence as they strung themselves along the silver elms encircling them. Gwyn smiled as dolls dressed in fancy purple gowns flew up to the lanterns and held a tea party while a cloud of pixies danced about them.
“It’s lovely,” she sighed, wishing she could keep the warm, open feeling in her chest forever.
The apples glowed with a soft, milky light that lapped against the skin in Kya’s palms. Soothing. Relaxing. Refreshing. But even more than that, the light from the apples awakened something deep inside her. Something whose first language is of dreams and who isn’t afraid to wish.
Her heart grew with this knowledge, warm at first, but slightly uncomfortable as it forced her heart to stretch beyond its natural boundaries.
“You will care for my apples,” the dragon said. Not a question.
Wordlessly, Kya gulped and nodded. She placed them gently in the pouch that also housed Hearthorne’s silver bowl. They were perfect and unblemished, and she aimed to keep them that way. With only the smallest hint of regret, she selected a single apple and held it up by way of offering and of keeping her word.
Wednesday wracked his brains for answers that would allow them to get to the castle on time while his great-gran rubbed her chin and cocked her head to the side thoughtfully. The feathers and rattles tied to the top of her staff rattled with her movements.
“Meena,” she said in a quavery voice, “the fates see a lot clearer when you attend to your task. Is someone mortally wounded?”
His mother sighed, but gave their Great Ember a look of loving exasperation. Great-Gran had drafted her to be her eyes, and wasn’t shy about pulling age or rank.
Wednesday’s mother led her over, carefully, and the child stopped squalling as he watched them approach. Wednesday didn’t blame him. His great-gran may be shorter than most, but she had a presence about her that reminded one of a mountain strong enough to make even the wildest wind think twice before shrieking anywhere near its peaks.
The old woman had lied.
The fairy doll shed glitter from her glossy pink ringlets like she had a pernicious case of sparkling dandruff. The glue holding the curls to the wooden head was already starting to pull away, and now that Mira was examining it closely, the fairy’s tutu was starting to shred along the edges.
“Bring me good luck?” Mira frowned at the doll lying limp as the dead in her hand. “Not likely.”
But still, there was something about the fairy’s face—two black dots for the eyes and a tiny rosebud mouth—that wouldn’t let her throw it away. A touch of whimsy that made up for peeling glue and clouds of glitter.
Besides, it had only cost her a favor and a quarter.
The top of the door was arched, and the lines simple, but it looked as though someone had dipped a quill with gold faerie dust and sketched a door into the air. Some of the aching in her heart eased, and her breaths didn’t pinch so tight in her chest. If only she knew how to make doors in the real world.
“You’ve forgotten the doorknob,” Lyra whispered, as if the slightest sound could dissolve the magic.
Taking a deep breath, and keeping her eyes open this time, Gwyn held out her hand and brushed her longest finger against the center of the door.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the shimmerings of a knob faded into view.