Where the Blue Forest Grows

Submitted into Contest #234 in response to: Write a story about someone whose time is running out.... view prompt


Fantasy Speculative Drama

The room was nearly without light, but Rose Bennet could see her daughter curled in the fetal position on the hospital bed. Daphne was a beautiful 14-year-old girl, and she was dying.

Among the many other symptoms of Von Hippel-Lindau’s (VHL) disease was acute light sensitivity from the decay of the retinas. Rose’s mother, Ashley, had VHL, and it took her life before she’d turned 40. VHL was also hereditary, so there was great concern in the Bennet family that the children were at risk.

But Rose and her older sisters, Iris (two years) and Lily (four years), escaped the illness. They began to breathe wholly relieved when they passed their 30th birthdays without any sign of VHL. The chance of VHL presenting after 30 was less than one percent.

Then, a few days after turning 12, Daphne got sick. Rose thought it was the flu or maybe a bad case of food poisoning that kept her daughter vomiting for days on end. It wasn’t until Daphne’s nausea passed, and she was finally able to leave her bed, when Rose took her out to the backyard, that she understood the disease had struck the family a second time.

The moment Daphne stepped onto the back deck, she crumpled into a screaming heap — the sunlight sent shockwaves of burning fire into the young girl’s brain. VHL had skipped a generation, then returned with malice.

“Mom — Mom, are you there? I saw them, Mom — did you see them?”

Rose’s heart shattered each time she heard Daphne’s raspy, croaking voice. “I’m here, sweetheart. I’m always right here.” Daphne was speaking little now, and when she did, it was often incoherent rambling. “Who did you see, baby girl?”

“The Nannies, Mom. I saw the Ladybugs.” Her voice screeched like a rusted screen door after a winter of being unopened.

Rose, already sitting bolt upright at Daphne’s first call of “Mom,” was now on her feet and moving to her daughter’s side. To almost anyone else, Daphne’s words would have meant nothing, but to Rose, “nannies,” followed by “ladybugs,” was like being doused with a bucket of ice water. It wasn’t nonsense — it was hope.

Pressing her lips to Daphne’s frail hands, Rose kissed each fingertip and stroked her daughter’s fine, blonde hair. “What did they tell you?” she asked Daphne. “What did they say?”

“Who, Mom?”

“The Ladybug Nannies, sweetheart. They are always so chatty, buzzing about with gossip. Did they say anything?” Rose made her voice excited and bursting with belief.

Through Daphne’s pale lips, a smile appeared, slight as it was. “They said, ‘The dwarves are coming. They are almost through the mountain.’”


“We have to go back, Iris. Why else would she say that? We did something wrong with Mama. We have to try again. I can’t lose Daphne. Not now, not like this.”

Iris held the phone to her ear as tears welled and her heart trembled. “It might be she remembered the stories you told her when she was little, but I’ll be there in an hour. You’ll have to tell Lily. She won’t want to hear it, but she might listen.”

Rose thought of her oldest sister, how she changed when Mama died, leaving her imagination and childhood behind. Rose opened her “Family” list on the phone, her finger hovering above “Lily.” She took a deep breath and pressed the button. Daphne didn’t have much time left, and Rose had no choice.

After the third ring, Rose heard her sister’s voice and immediately crumbled. Sobbing, she explained to Lily, her stoic, pragmatic, problem-solving sister, that time for Daphne was running out and, in a rush of words, what her disease-stricken daughter had said.

“Rose, sweetheart, I’m so sorry, but you must know she’s no longer herself. She’s mixing up those childhood stories you told her with what’s left of her reality.” The eldest sister made no further acknowledgment of the secret they had left behind.

Wiping her tears away, Rose gathered her compunction and forged ahead with her decision. “Iris is on the way. I’m taking Daphne out of here, and we’re going. You know where. I want you to come; I need you to believe again. We can help her. I’m not giving up on Daphne.”

“Oh, Rose — it’s going to break your heart, and it’s breaking mine, but I can’t do that — not again.”


The next day, Rose and Iris, with Daphne swaddled and her eyes covered with a blackout mask, riding in a mountain bike push car, had taken the forest trail as far as it would go.

“Rose?” said Iris, “It’s been decades, and I can’t remember where we went from here.”

“I know,” Rose answered, looking into the surrounding forest. “How are we going to find the way?”

“You’ll need this,” Lily said, stepping out from behind a red oak, holding an ornate compass. “It still works. We’ll need to leave the buggy here and carry Daphne. If there was a trail, it’s long gone. We’ll have to fight through the brush to where the Blue Forest grows.”

Rose and Lily looked at each other, then rushed at their sister, and the three merged into a mass of hugs and tears. “You came!” Rose sobbed.

“Of course, I came. Daphne is my only niece, and we are family. Did you bring the silver and gold?”

Rose and Iris exchanged glances and shook their heads.

“Right. And you think I’m the one who didn’t believe.” Lily revealed a cloth pouch filled with rings, necklaces, and coins. It was for the Dwarves, and the sisters needed to exchange the precious metals for the gems the dwarves mined from the mountain. In turn, the gems would bring Percival, Rombard and Soltrix. They were the only ones who could take Daphne to the White Lake.

Holding the compass with the needle pointing due east, the Bennet girls weaved through the woods, taking turns carrying Daphne until they emerged from the woods into an opening. The sisters took in the sight ahead of them and smiled at each other.

A shroud of mist billowed above a clearwater pool, and a rainbow glittered before the waterfall. Behind the waterfall, the sisters found the hole in the wall and, without hesitation, walked through.

When they emerged, none spoke — they stood at the forest entrance where every tree, shrub and leaf was blue.

A swarm of ladybugs fluttered around them. Chittering and chatting in excited, anxious tiny voices, the nannies converged on Daphne. In their hundreds of tiny fingers and toes, the nannies removed Daphne’s blankets, laid them on the ground, and hovered around Rose, who held her daughter in her arms.

The Ladybug Nannies sang.

“Lay her down, rest her soul

the dwarves are bringing their glittering coal.

Give your silver, give your gold

Take the gems and take hold.

Call their names with the child on the nest

They will come and hasten your quest.”

With their hearts filled with faith and belief restored, the sisters did as they were told. Rose set Daphne on the nest of blankets. Iris and Lily spread the contents of the pouch at their niece’s feet.

No sooner had they stepped back from the child when they heard the steady beat of heavy footfalls on the forest floor and a song matching the cadence. A row of short, stocky, bearded men emerged from a blue thicket.

Each dwarf marched by, bending down and exchanging a handful of gems for a grab of the precious metals and coins. As they each passed by the child, they touched Daphne on the forehead with a carved staff made of blue hazelwood. One by one, they reformed the line and disappeared back into the brambles of the Blue Forest.

The sisters looked at each other and nodded. They stepped forward, each taking a share of the gems left by the dwarves. First, Rose, then Iris and Lily knelt by Daphne and placed a kiss on her forehead, then stood and faced the Blue Forest.

Rose held her gems to her heart, closed her eyes and called for her childhood playmate. “Percival! Percival! I call on you, Percival, to come to me!”

Iris’s face shone with delight, and her eyes shimmered with tears. “Rombard! Rombard! I call on you, Rombard, to come to me!”

Lily stood next to her sisters and followed suit, clutching the gems to her heart. “Soltrix! Soltrix! I call on you, Soltrix, to come to me!”

A wind came through the trees. Blue-needled branches swept through the air, reaching down to rake the bushes below, then slowed again. The forest hushed into stillness, and the Bennet sisters looked hopefully into the quieted woods.

Minutes passed in silence while Rose, Lily, and Iris, held hands, each fearing the same fate that came to their mother would face Daphne — that they’d done something wrong and failed.

First, it was stomp, a clop in the soft earth behind them and then a nicker, followed by two more of distinctly different characters. The sisters turned to see the three unicorns, Percival, Rombard and Soltrix.

The creatures stood like glass statues, their shape etched in white lines on the air with the blue forest reflecting off their translucent coats. Their golden horns turned slowly, sprinkling glitter into the air that fell on the blue leaves like a dusting of icing sugar on cake.

Percival walked to Rose, gently nudging her with his nose. “Your mother was beyond our help. The waters of the White Lake could not wash away her sickness; that is why we could not come.”

Rombard went to Iris, who nuzzled his neck and looked into his iridescent eyes. “There is still time. Give us the gems and we will be swift.” The unicorn said to her.

Soltrix stepped to Lily, rubbing his warm lips across her chin; he said, “It was not your fault, Lily. You did all you could, and though you shut us away in your memory, you never stopped believing.”

With their palms open, the sisters offered the gems to the trio of mystical beasts, who ate them up like sugar cubes. At once, their transparent coats flared with colours across the spectrum, and their manes glowed gold.

The trees of the Blue Forest weaved boughs into a cradle, wrapped it around the stricken child and raised her to a broad saddle of silk on Percival’s back. Rombard and Soltrix stepped in front of Percival, tilted their heads, and began to spin their horns. The Blue Forest parted, giving way to a clear path leading off into the unseen world beyond.

Walking past the weeping sisters, Percival bowed his head to Rose, meeting her gaze, eye to eye. “Journey back and carry faith with you. Daphne will be returned from where you brought her. The healing waters of the White Lake are powerful, and if she can be healed, the child will be as she was before.”

The unicorns bolted and disappeared down the trail within a few strides, with the forest folding closed behind them.


The Bennet sisters left the world in the same span they entered. Lily passed first, followed by Iris two years later and Rose two years after her.

For her aunt’s final journey, Daphne walked with her mother from the end of the trail, following the compass needle east to the waterfall and through the hole in the wall to where the Blue Forest grows. Together, they laid the small, wooden boxes of ashes on the ground and watched as the Ladybug Nannies came in a cluster and carried the boxes away.

On this trip, Daphne held the small box etched with a rose in one hand and the hand of her daughter, Daisy, in the other.

“Mama?” the girl asked, “Are we really going to ride unicorns?”

Daphne squeezed her daughter’s hand and smiled. “Yes, sweetheart, we really are.”

January 22, 2024 07:20

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Jesse Upchurch
00:05 Feb 01, 2024

Excellent work! I was mentally preparing myself for a tragic realistic story, and was pleasantly surprised! I feel like some of the aspects felt a bit forced in such a short story, specifically the series of steps they had to go through to get the help of their unicorn pals. I don’t think it would took away from the story, but felt like the ladybugs - trading dwarves gold for gems - feeding gems to unicorns chain of events was a bit distracting. I look forward to the next one!


Arpad Nagy
04:39 Feb 03, 2024

Thanks. I appreciate the feedback, but I followed the method in fantasy/magical realism giving specific details to build the elements of the genre.


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Alexis Araneta
15:10 Jan 31, 2024

Oh my ! Beautiful world building here. What a touching story too. Amazing job !


Arpad Nagy
04:32 Feb 03, 2024

Thank you so much, Stella! Much appreciated!


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Kate Winchester
03:08 Jan 29, 2024

I like the fantasy world you built! Your take on the prompt was creative! I too was a little confused by the last two paragraphs. I think I understand now though. Great story!


Arpad Nagy
02:38 Jan 30, 2024

Thanks, Kate. I had thought about using "Epilogue" for the final paragraphs, maybe next time I will since I don't love the formatting here.


Kate Winchester
03:03 Jan 30, 2024

Welcome 🤗 Yeah, that would work.


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22:34 Jan 27, 2024

Very neat fantasy story. I did find the ending a bit hard to follow with the time lapse. I reread it, then und. Other than that, my favorite read so far!


Arpad Nagy
02:39 Jan 30, 2024

Thanks, Christina! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. As I mentioned to the other reader, I had thought about using "epilogue" for the closing. I think the basic formatting here made it a bit more confusing.


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