Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 37,000
Jenny ran to the forbidden woods to escape her turbulent family. Now the unicorns there are dying, and it’s her fault. To save them, she must best a lion and steal blood from a giant.
It began with the fireflies, as magic often does. Jenny was in the field behind her grandparents’ house with her younger brother, chasing fireflies. She spied a good one, low-flying and lackadaisical, and followed it past the shed and into the darkening woods.
“Jen-ny,” Billy’s voice echoed through the trees. He always worried about her. He was worse than Gran. Jenny wouldn’t be bothered about Billy and his fretting, though. Or about her grumpy grandparents and their boring old house, or her parents a million miles away in Evanston. She scanned the woods like a prowling jaguar. She wanted that flashing light, and she was going to get it.
The light flared to her left. Jenny crept up to it. She had her special blue jar, the one her dad gave her right before she left, tight in her hands. She lunged for the firefly, but it darted past a thin beech. Jenny pursed her lips and blew her bangs out of her eyes. You’re not getting away that easy, mister.
Little sticks and sharp pebbles replaced the soft July grass under her bare feet as she got deeper into the woods. That should have been a sign – the woods knew Jenny didn’t belong there, and tried to urge her away. Jenny didn’t notice the warning, though. She only had eyes for that small and magical glow.
The firefly lit beyond a low bush, and Jenny’s eyes lit with it. It was close. She could get it. She tiptoed toward it.