Back to 2006 Student Contest Winners List
Life as a fourteen year old was not treating him especially well, Andy Williams had to admit as he stared at his grade is dismay. “It was a creative short story; how is it even possible to fail a creative short story?” he asked his best, and only, friend Chad.
Chad just stared at Andy, struggling to disguise the bemused look on his face. “Well, no offense or anything, but…”
“But what?” Andy demanded. So maybe he hadn’t expected to get an A or anything, because creative writing certainly wasn’t his strong point, but he hadn’t exactly expected a 31% either.
“Well,” Chad dithered, trying his hardest to dance around the subject. When he saw that Andy wasn’t going to let him get away with it, he continued. “I mean, we were supposed to write a story that incorporated fantastic elements, and you sort of wrote about a guy who builds this super computer that can crack codes, or something like that.”
“That’s fantasy!” Andy protested, but his remonstration fell on unwilling ears.
“Andy, please!” Chad exclaimed. “Mrs. Guess meant like faeries and unicorns or even space aliens or something. Not computers.”
“Well, I don’t do pixie dust or anything weird like that. It doesn’t exist!”
“I’ve noticed,” Chad said dryly, rolling his eyes at how blatantly difficult Andy was when it came to magic. “You burned the copy of Harry Potter your grandmother gave you, and laughed in that new movie version of Peter Pan when Wendy says she believes in faeries.”
“Well, it’s funny!” Andy shot back, but the bell rang, and, before he could continue, Chad had gone.
As Andy gathered his things and prepared to follow, he couldn’t help but think that magic and fantasy and all that junk was, after rap music, the most idiotic thing invented. It was pointless, it was unrealistic, and now he probably had a D in English class because of it!
All this changed one fateful afternoon. He’d come home from his last day of school in a fairly good mood, having raised his final English grade back up to a C, only to find that there was no one home and their puppy Faith was whining to go out. She was new to the family; his sister had gotten her for her birthday only last month, after years of begging. For his part, Andy tried his best to ignore the animal, but he knew he’d get yelled at if he didn’t walk her, so off it was to the woods behind their house for some quality nature time. Andy hated nature, and he hated the woods, just like he hated the grass, and the birds, and even the brook that ran through his property, with the little waterfall. He spent as little time there as possible, and would have scoffed at any suggestion that the woods were magical.
But, magical the woods were. They were storybook woods, and truly beautiful in a way that is seldom found now. Braches hung over the ground with luscious leaves, creating a dense canopy, and sunlight glistened through the holes, casting dancing patterns of light onto the forest floor. Although some parts were bright and some dark, the shadows were just as beautiful as the sunshine and the whole area radiated a green glow. The stream was a bubbling, babbling brook, and pure blue, the color of sapphire and a June sky, much like the cloudless June sky Andy and Faith walked under.
As they walked, the woods were serene. Little did Andy know, as he spent his peaceful spring afternoon with a loyal dog, that a world coexisting to his own was wrecked with evil.
The faerie world had once been peaceful: a place of happiness, pleasure, and joy. The music controlled the faerie world, and for the world to survive, the music could never, must never, cease. It came from an ethereal harp, played by its faerie guardian. Pure gold in color, the harp shone more brightly than anything in the world, and it gave a clearer reflection than any mirror. An aura of gold radiated out around it, and all those who saw it knew it was worth more than they could ever imagine. The harp was, in fact, priceless, for it was worth the survival of an entire world. A lot rested on the harp, and the guardian, who was charged with protecting it at all costs.
She had, since the beginning of time, played on a rock beside the cascading Diamond Falls, which were perhaps the gem of creation. The foam from the falls was blinding, and rainbows appeared from all angles around them. In an open clearing in the faerie woods, the falls were forever under a flawless blue sky that had never been marred by evil or darkened even temporarily by the taint of malevolence or sin. This was the home of the music, and of the guardian. Should the guardian ever perish in her task, a new guardian would be appointed instantly, but faeries, mortal only through violence, never dropped dead of natural causes. The guardian had never died.
But now, a dark magic was at work; havoc reigned, and the faeries lived in constant fear. The guardian played on, but nothing could protect her from the dark magic, for there was not enough good left to counter it. The dark magic was powerful; in today’s cynical, skeptical world, it was more powerful than any good magic. And the guardian was powerless against it.
The dark magic hadn’t always been a threat, though it had always existed, for it was all the hate and disbelief in the world. But now, it was stronger and more perilous than ever. Even children knew the world was not perfect, for the world had been harsh to them. And, because the world was a ruthless place at times, many had no reason to believe there in basic good, let alone the existence of magic.
As Andy walked, with Faith running ahead, the woods grew dark. The sun disappeared, although Andy could not tell where it had gone. As far as he knew, there were no clouds, but without a doubt the sun cast no more light. The wind picked up, and the warm afternoon grew cold. The chill that ran up Andy’s spine made him shudder, and he looked around, expecting to find that he was not alone.
The dark magic was here, the guardian could feel it. She gathered all the magic bestowed upon her, ready to fight for her life, and hoped with all her heart that she had enough left in her.
Faith began to growl, and Andy could tell she too sensed the evil brewing. Andy didn’t believe in evil, as a general rule, but even he was scared.
The guardian played on, gathering her mental energy around her. She tightened all her magic, preparing to cast it out against this evil. As the dark magic came, she knew she was no match for it. It was too powerful for any one person to fight, even a faerie. Clinging the harp to her, playing on still, she summoned all of the good in the world. She searched the depths of her ancient mind frantically, desperately searching for a place of peace and beauty where she could let the music live on, as like as possible to her home, the Diamond Falls.
As the onslaught of the storm came, the eye of the evil readily approaching, the guardian disappeared.
Suddenly the sun came out, and it again grew warm. Faith stopped growling, and a beautiful music filled Andy’s ears. He couldn’t place it; he didn’t listen to music much, but it sounded heavenly.
The guardian played on, knowing that she was safe for the moment. Taking advantage of the present situation, she looked around, and saw that she was in a clearing in the woods, next to a stream, and that there was a small waterfall, although it was hardly cascading. This place was good, she could tell. It reminded her of her home. The guardian felt peaceful and safe, perched upon a rock; she and the harp.
Just then, a barking puppy dog and a teenage boy entered the clearing. They hadn’t yet spotted her, for the guardian was hidden from their view behind a tree, but she could clearly see them. She was glad there were no true adults with them, for few adults were still in touch enough with magic to truly see. Most no longer believed, and hadn’t for a long time.
The boy had sandy blond hair and crystal blue eyes, but even he didn’t exude an air of childlike innocence. And he was still child enough. The dog was a yellow lab, a young puppy, not more than two months old, and the guardian was glad it seemed to be more believing than the boy.
As he rounded the corner, Andy stopped dead in his tracks, not believing his eyes. Over on the other side of the stream he thought he’d seen… No it couldn’t be— faeries didn’t exist! Yet there was one in front of him, glowing in radiance. The…apparition, had long, full dark hair, with blue eyes so piercing that Andy felt she was looking not at him but through him, and wore a gown of pastel pinks, yellows, and oranges. And then the wings! They were unlike anything Andy had ever seen. Never the same color for more than a moment, they were not quite butterfly wings, but something unworldly. He couldn’t believe it. There, plain as day, sat a faerie, right in front of him!
“Hello,” the guardian called out, when she realized he could see her. “Do not be afraid, for I will not hurt you.”
Andy couldn’t believe his ears or eyes; she… it … whatever it was, he wasn’t quite sure what to think ……was real! “Are you a faerie?” he asked apprehensively, not certain that he really wanted to know.
“Yes,” the guardian replied. “I am the guardian. Come closer, and I shall explain everything.”
Andy cautiously crossed the stream, taking care to step only on the stepping stones, as to avoid getting his new shoes dirty or wet. They were high tech Nike Shox Turbo, and were very expensive. He was excessively careful when it came to these shoes; they were the best around and a source of great self-importance for Andy. Faith splashed behind him; though his family had only had her for a month, she followed Andy everywhere, much to both his and his sister’s annoyance.
“Sit down,” the guardian told him, indicating a large boulder next to the one she herself was on, “and I shall tell you everything.” And she did. She told him of herself, of her past, of the faerie world, and of the dark magic. She told him of the harp, and of the music.
But Andy still did not believe; the guardian could tell. “Why do you doubt?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied, starring at his shoes. They were nice shoes—black with red accenting.
“I do,” said the guardian. “You are a doubter. You do not believe anything you cannot see, and nothing science has not proved. Alas, this is a problem. Look into your dog’s eyes.”
“What! Why? What does Faith have to do with it?” Andy asked bewilderedly.
“Everything,” the guardian replied. “Look into that dog’s eyes, and try to tell me that that dog doesn’t trust you, no matter what. Look into her eyes, and try to tell me that she doesn’t believe you will take care of her, NO MATTER WHAT. Look into Faith’s eyes, and try to tell me that there is no such thing as faeries.”
Andy looked into Faith’s eyes, and he knew faeries were real and true. Andy was a believer!
“I didn’t believe in faeries,” he said. “But then I saw her face, and I’m a believer. There’s not a trace, of doubt in my mind! What can I do to help?”
“Excellent. Remember, when in doubt, be pure of heart.” The guardian acknowledged with a smile, still playing her harp.
She began to sing. Andy could not discern what tongue it was in, but it was undeniably beautiful. It sounded to be of Celtic origin, although far more ancient than even that tongue of old. Suddenly, out of the woods, there came a unicorn. And though he jumped suddenly to his feet, mouth agape, not for one moment did Andy doubt. The unicorn was silver, with a gorgeous silver-blue mane and metallic horn, also silver in color, with just the faintest hints of blue. Its coat was perfect—shiny and pure, like untouched snowfall glazed with ice. The faint blue color was the only pigmentation, and it gave the mythical beast an otherworldly glow.
“This is Moonshine,” the guardian explained. “He will bear you back to the world of the faeries.”
“What about Faith?” Andy asked.
“I must ask you to leave Faith behind,” the guardian said. “She will be fine. I promise.”
Then, for only a moment, he was unsure. His sister would kill him if anything happened to the dog, he knew, but the guardian had said she would be fine, and he was inclined to believe the faerie. “Ok,” he said after the briefest of pauses, climbing onto Moonshine’s back, blissfully oblivious of all the peril he would come to face.
Andy felt the unicorn push off. But unicorns can’t fly, he thought to himself. When he looked down, though, he saw that the unicorn wasn’t flying; rather, he was galloping through a sapphire blue sky, while the guardian, still playing the harp, flew alongside them.
It was a sensation unlike any that Andy had felt before. His stomach felt uneasy, but for once he did not feel as if he would be sick. Instead, it was a good feeling. He could see all around, but there seemed to be nothing but blue in any direction. It was almost if they were in an infinite sky that simply stretched on forever.
As they approached the faerie world, the clear sky grew dark and ominous, and Andy felt cold as though he would never again be warm. “Fly! Fly!” Moonshine called to the guardian. “The good magic is waiting. Fly swift and I shall follow you”
The guardian flew as even Moonshine had never seen her fly before, and the clouds grew denser, darker and more sinister as they started to enclose her. “No!” Andy cried. “It’ll get her!”
“Shh,” Moonshine whispered comfortingly. Then he started to run full speed ahead, faster than light or sound, into the clouds. Like a lantern cutting through the night he ran, and the light surrounding him cut through the darkness, and for a moment, the clouds were gone.
Andy looked ahead, and saw that the guardian was indeed safe and heading fast for the ground below. He felt his stomach drop as Moonshine started a descent. Daring to look down, he saw a forest like none he had ever seen before. He closed his eyes, certain of an impending crash.
When he opened them once more, they were in the forest, and Andy could hardly believe that his senses weren’t deceiving him. They were in a castle, a whole city, yet standing still in the middle of a forest. Andy opened his mouth to speak, but found that all speech was lost. It was… a tree house; he supposed that was how to describe it, yet the term hardly paid it the homage it deserved. He had seen “The Fellowship of the Ring” [though he’d mocked it mercilessly at the time and hadn’t bothered with the sequels.] and felt as if he were in Lothlorien, only in the world of the faeries, rather than elves. Even as he thought it, though, Andy knew that no human reproduction could ever compare to the radiance he was experiencing now. The music blew around him with the light breeze, and he breathed it in. The sunlight filled the clearing, and here the magic seemed to be in an extremely high concentration.
Then the faerie queen came forward, and Andy felt her beauty to be so great that he could never properly describe her afterwards. She was luminescent and radiated every color of the rainbow, all at once. She had golden hair so long and luscious it looked like silk, and she wore silvers and blues and golds.
“I am Celeste,” she said, “Queen of the Faeries!”
Andy found himself bowing down to her. “Your Majesty,” he murmured, unsure of how to behave or even what to say while in her presence.
She laughed, her laughter like church bells on a spring afternoon. “There is no need to call me Your Majesty,” she said gently. “My name is Celeste.”
He looked around, taking in all there was to behold. He saw that the guardian had taken a seat on a nearby tree stump, although it was the largest tree stump he’d ever seen, still playing her harp, the music as clear and pure as ever. “Celeste?” he asked. “What would happen if she were to stop playing?”
“Our world needs the music.” She replied. “We can survive very little without it. If the music ceases, slowly, so does our world.”
“Oh,” Andy replied gravely. “Is that why the dark magic wants the guardian?”
“Yes,” Celeste stated, a look of solemn determination of an ominous sort coming upon her face. “The dark magic wants more than anything to destroy our world. It cannot stand only one thing, and that is true love. Sadly, the faerie world is the only place left where true love exists in a 100% pure state. All of earth is tainted, everywhere but here. This is the only place that knows no hate. That is why the dark magic wants to destroy us. And to do so, it only has to destroy the music. That is why we must save the music.”
“I’ll do my part to help! I’ll save the music!” Andy declared, appearing very brave for a boy of only 14 years.
“I’m afraid there is not much we can do.” Celeste replied gravely. “Music has grown so unimportant.”
“It is still important to me,” the guardian interposed. “And that is why I am the one who creates it. I play it, and it is my duty to protect it. Latent in the world a dis-appreciation for music has been over the past decades, and it has now unleashed itself in its peak.”
“Yes, this is true,” Celeste conceded, a gloomy aberration of mind over coming her. “Maybe it is hopeless. Maybe we cannot save the music. Maybe we should surrender.”
The storm outside the magical boundaries of the forest suddenly amplified. The wind picked up, and the sun vanished behind a cloud.
“No!” The guardian cried indignantly, and the darkness receded as the sun reappeared. “We can never surrender to evil. Your presentiment as to our defeat is not a true one. There is always hope. We must wait until the opportune moment, and then seize our chance. Do not lose hope. You are our queen. If you loose hope, we all will.”
Throughout this exchange, Andy had remained silent, staring about his new surroundings with wide eyed wonderment. It was only when silence fell once more that he dared to open his mouth; before he was not sure if he could trust it to function properly.
“Why don’t you fight?” he asked. “You could defeat it, I know you could. There is so much magic here, and beauty. Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life, but I’m familiar with earth, and the evil there. You say this is the same evil, and I know that there is so much magic here that it would not stand a chance. Maybe the good of earth alone cannot defeat the darkness, but combined with all the power in Faery…”
“He’s right,” Moonshine said suddenly. “With every day the world is degrading further and further, until there will be no love for us to draw off of. If there is any chance for us, we must match good with evil before there is no good left.”
Celeste nodded slowly, and Andy could tell she was considering that matter. She looked around, taking in the warm sunshine and the lush tress. This was her home, and the world she loved. If she did not stand up for it, who would?
“We must restore the guardian and the music to Diamond Falls! And we must do it now!” Celeste decided. “We must defeat the dark magic and all evil!”
Suddenly faerie warriors poured from every tree. Each was armed for battle, though some marched, some flew, and some rode unicorns. All, warriors and unicorns, were armed in white armor, bearing a single emblem, of a sun and moon. They had long known what Celeste only now would admit; if the evil of the world was not overthrown now, it never would be. They were prepared to fight to any end.
Andy jumped onto Moonshine, and the guardian flew beside them, the music acting as their marching theme. The ranks of faeries surrounded them; they were ready!
They marched to the Diamond Falls; it was not far, only around 3 or so miles. When they arrived, the guardian was so aghast she almost stopped playing. Her once pristine home was dark and polluted. The falls that were formerly so elegant foamed black instead of silver, and the river ran brown. The trees were all dead, and there was no living creature in sight. Where once there had been the cheerful singing of birds and the playful dancing of water sprites, there was only bilge and pollution. More than ever, she could feel the presence of the dark magic, a constant reminder of the evil in the world.
And it came, more powerful than ever. It was upon them, and the guardian felt despair in her heart. She would die, the music would die, the entire faerie world would die; Andy would never grow to be more than a courageous 14 year-old, and Faith would lose her faith when he did not return to her. Still, she played on. Just when the dark magic was about to overcome the guardian…
“I believe in faeries!” Andy cried aloud, moved by desperation. “I do, I do, I do, believe in faeries, I do, I do!” And the attack ceased.
But only for a moment. The dark magic turned its attention to Andy; its course was now set to destroy him.
The guardian saw this, and saw also the determination and courage on the boy’s face, even before Death itself. She felt in her heart a love for the boy. He should not have to die, would not have to die. She gathered all the power bestowed upon her, but this time not to save herself.
She stopped playing. “I surrender!” she declared, loud and clear. The attack ceased once more. Gathering all the good in the world to her, she cast Andy and the harp away from that evil place, back to his home. He, at least, would live.
Andy found himself lying on the stream bank. He sat up, all the adventures he had experienced flashing back to him, good and bad. Was it all a dream?
As he looked around his eyes fell upon the harp, and he knew it was not. So it’s true, he thought, it’s really true. But, if there was the harp, where was the guardian? He looked at Faith, and the dog held his gaze. He knew in his heart that his beloved guardian was dead. His beautiful guardian, gone. He began to cry.
Just when the dark magic had been about to overcome him, the guardian had made the ultimate sacrifice. Andy wondered who the new guardian was.
But wait! There was the harp in front of him. How could that be? The guardian had said that if she were ever to die, a new one would be instantly appointed. Yet no one was playing the harp. Was there a new guardian?
Celeste’s words came crashing back to him, all at once. “If the music ceases, slowly, so does our world,” she had told him. How slowly was slowly? If there was the harp, but there was no music, then the faerie world was dying.
Andy didn’t know how long there had been no music, but he had to try. Maybe, just maybe, there was still hope. Maybe time hadn’t run out.
He dashed through the stream, not caring if he ruined his shoes. He reached the rock the harp was on, and then stopped. What was it the guardian had told him? Oh yes, when in doubt, be pure of heart. He reached for the middle tone on the harp.
Suddenly he was filled with the music; it and he were one. The music poured from his hands as naturally as if he had been born with it, and he felt the warm sun reach him as he played. He had saved the music, and the world of magic. As he looked into his faithful dog’s eyes, he knew that he, Andy Williams, was the next guardian.
The faerie world, which had been collectively holding its breath, let out a sigh of relief as the music came back to it. Celeste stood up slowly from where she had been thrown down by the force of the dark magic’s attack. Looking around, she saw the crumpled form of the guardian. “No,” she whispered, to none save herself. She made towards her, but before she had taken three steps, the body vanished in a flash of golden light.
The clamor of voices, which had been rising up amongst the faeries since the return of the music, stopped suddenly, and all looked to the bank where the body of their beloved guardian had lain only moments before. In its place appeared first the harp, and then Andy. His fingers were playing furiously, and tears ran unimpeded down his youthful face. At his side was a yellow lab puppy, who was seemingly oblivious to the despair of her master.
“This is not about the good of the world or the triumph of good over evil anymore,” he said quietly, and those farthest away had to strain to hear his voice. “This is personal now. This is for the guardian.”
It had occurred to Andy in those final moments before the guardian’s death what had been wrong about the Diamond Falls. They had smelled wrong. All the rest of Faery had had a distinct odor to it. The air had smelled of magic. Yes, smelled. Andy wasn’t sure how to describe the scent, but it was undeniably magic. Old and deep magic, left over from the ancient days of creation, and Andy was sure it could help in the fight against the dark magic. It was then that it had occurred to him what had to be done.
“And now we fight,” he said, very faintly, but it was enough. The sky grew darker still, and a dark mass loomed over the treetops as far as the eye could see. A bitter wind picked up, and Celeste, along with many others, found herself inadvertently shielding her face.
But Andy was not afraid. He stood firm, one arm hanging loosely at his side, the other even still caressing the delicate strings of the harp. The wind blew his blond hair around his face, limiting his sight, but Andy did not need to see. He knew what he was facing.
“I call upon you, magic of good, of love, of music. In the name of your people, I, Andy Williams, call upon you to protect your realm, against this invasion of the dark magic, which seeks to wipe you out!” he shouted.
And then, to Andy’s dismay, the magic responded. He’d been anticipating action, not an interrogation. It was music that he heard in response, a melody that was pure beyond even the music of the harp, but Andy understood it, just as clearly as if it had been spoken in his native English. It was a question: “Do you believe?”
Andy froze. He could not move, let alone speak. The “Yes” that he had intended to respond with was stuck in his throat. Did he believe? He thought he did, he really thought he did. But then, when asked by the source of everything, he was not so sure. He believed in things here because they were happening to him. But did he truly believe?
He paused, ever so slightly, and that seemed to be enough of an answer for the music. It had reached a crescendo with its question, and now it began to fade. Andy’s hand faltered on the harp, and, ever so briefly, the music stopped. He had failed.
Faith bit him, not the gentle bite of a playful puppy but a fierce, teeth to the bone bite that drew blood even through his pant leg. She barked twice, and all the faith that he had known back in the clearing in his own woods while talking to the guardian came rushing back to him. “I believe!” he shouted, and this time it was not because of overwhelming evidence or even desperation. This time, Andy meant it.
The magic responded. All the power of good left on earth and in Faery, propelled by one boy’s faith, rose up from the many deep places it had been hidden and launched its attack. A glowing light blinded Andy, and its warmth was all he could see or feel, even as he heard the howling winds and horrifying shrieks from the battle that raged around him. He played more furiously than ever and almost unconsciously the melody he played switched to one he had heard in church long ago, before he had refused to go. “For the guardian,” he whispered again.
And then it was over. The magnificent light faded away until Andy could see once more, but its warmth did not. Where brown and decay had been seconds before there was now life, and the Diamond Falls had been restored to their former splendor. The river, only a moment ago filled with pollution, was perfectly clear, and water sprites danced through it again. The rush of the waterfall would have been deafening, if not for the even louder presence of the music. But the best part of all, for Andy, was the magnificent rainbow that filled the sky, and the undeniable scent of magic. They had won; he had won. They’d saved the world, and the music. He only wished the guardian could have been there to see it.
He reached down to scratch Faith behind the ears, a smile growing on his face and, just for a moment, he could have sworn that she smiled back.