CHAPTER ONE: THE BEGINNING
ary Rose Shannon cuddled up with her pink stuffed poodle, her thick strawberry blonde hair spilling over her eyelet pillowcase. It had been a marvelous last day of school! Summer vacation stretched out ahead of her. She put a thumb in the book she was reading to save her place, sat up and looked in the mirror. Bright blue eyes, a freckled nose, and a dimpled chin stared back. As she continued to read her book, her eyelids grew heavier with each turned page. Mary Rose looked out the window to watch fireflies fashion a design with pinpoints of light. She thought she heard faint singing in the distance, but before she could focus, sleep overtook her.
For generations, the Shannon family had lived in the rustic stone and wooden house at the edge of a dense forest. Mary Rose had been hiking there since infancy, strapped onto one of her parents’ chests. She spent many lovely hours playing there. She loved how sunbeams, scattered through leaves, brought soft light to earth.
Upon awakening the next morning, she threw on her clothes, gobbled down the breakfast her mother, Susan, had set on the table, then dashed off in the direction of last night’s singing. Past the knoll, she squatted down to examine the ground closely and found a circle of tiny footprints etched in the dirt. Exhilarated, she lay down to observe the area. She could feel something special there. It made her body tingle with excitement. A sweet aroma hung in the air. “What’s that?” Mary Rose murmured. She saw some kind of movement, a flit of white light from the corner of her eye. It drew her attention toward a nearby tree trunk. Above the gnarled roots there appeared to be a little door. She knocked and waited, nothing. She knocked again. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew past her and the door sprang open.
Mary Rose could not resist the temptation to peek inside and knelt down to see. Her imagination ran wild as she spotted miniature furnishings. A trap door lay half-hidden in dark wooden planks; a braided rug lay askew. A rocking chair made out of branches sat in a corner under a curved staircase to a second floor. Hooks on the side wall held a small pickaxe and shovel. Startled by a touch on her right shoulder, she whipped around.