From the back garden you will be able to see the wild wood. The deep well you walk past leads to Winter’s realm; there is another land at the bottom of it. If you turn around here, you can walk back, safely; you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.

Once through the garden you will be in the wood. The trees are old. Eyes peer from the under-growth. Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She may ask for something; give it to her. She will point the way to the castle.

Inside it are three princesses. Do not trust the youngest. Walk on. In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve months sit about a fire, warming their feet, exchanging tales. They may do favors for you, if you are polite. You may pick strawberries in December’s frost. Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where you are going. The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferry-man will take you.

If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe. Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that witches are often betrayed by their appetites; dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always; hearts can be well-hidden, and you betray them with your tongue.

When you reach the little house, the place your journey started, you will recognize it, although it will seem much smaller than you remember. Walk up the path, and through the garden gate you never saw before but once.

And then go home. Or make a home.
And rest.

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