There has to be an enchanted wood. This story is a fairy tale. How can you have a proper fairy tale without a proper fairy forest?
I spent much of my growing-up years in England when my father was stationed at Lakenheath AFB. Within a few blocks of our little brick house was the Common Grounds which, to my childhood brain, were huge, sprawling, and O-so wild. My brothers and I would go exploring there nearly every day with Mum and Papa and Fritz the schnauzer. We climbed the ancient English oaks, some of which, my mother speculated, may have been growing since 1066 and the time of William the Conqueror!
There was a dragon on the Common. We saw it a few times, though it was disguised as a tabby cat at the time. “Just because a dragon is disguised doesn’t mean it’s any less a dragon,” Papa said. This dragon’s name was Spitfire, and she was about as mean-spirited a monster as you will ever meet, albeit small and furry. My big brother, Tom, being of a heroic bent, rescued more than one gamboling baby rabbit from Spitfire’s hunts.
There were elves that lived in one of the old hollow oak trees. Tom told me about these. They were invisible, naturally. Elves aren’t going to let themselves be seen by just anyone, especially not humans! And they were a fierce, warlike people, constantly in battle against the goblins in the gorse thicket or even Spitfire herself. Tom and I would climb the hollow oak tree and wait for ages (five minutes can seem like ages when you’re 8 years old), hoping to catch a glimpse of just one elf. We never did. Elves are much too crafty.
There were many, mysteries and stories to be had on the Common Grounds, both magical and historical, and at that age, I could scarcely tell the difference. There was the old stone church with its old, old graveyard. We never ventured to that graveyard after dark, but sometimes we would dare all manner of phantoms at dusk! There was a rabbit village complete with post office, school house, and market. There was a tree that, once climbed, became a mighty sailing vessel, and another that was a castle, fortified to defend itself from sea attacks. The adventures were without number!
When you grow up next to your very own enchanted forest, how can you not write fairy tales just a few years later?
Goldstone Wood is a place of mystery in Heartless, and it’s a mystery that only increases as we learn more about the Wood in other stories. It’s not a Fairy Forest in that you will meet fairies or fantastic being living there. No, for Goldstone Wood serves as a barrier between the Near World of mortals and the Far World of immortals. Hundreds of gateways to hundreds of strange Faerie demesnes are scattered throughout the forest, and none of these gateways are easily recognized my mortal eyes. To immortal eyes, they may appear completely obvious. But Una and Felix and any other mortal foolish enough to wander without a path into Goldstone Wood run the risk of inadvertently passing through a Faerie Gate and ending up in any number of fantastic and even dreadful realms.
We don’t see this actually happen in Heartless. Neither Una nor Felix crosses a Faerie Gate (though how close they came to doing so will be revealed in later books). But both have strange encounters in the Wood. Una meets the Dragon there. Felix is pursued by a younger dragon and eventually taken for safety and healing at the Haven.
It is in the Haven that Felix (and we the reader) learn the most about Goldstone Wood. The Haven rests thoroughly in the Between . . . that space of existence that is neither Near World nor Far, that is neither Immortal nor Mortal. It is a place of safety for all, a place of healing.
Dame Imraldera explains it to Felix as such: “This Haven, you must understand, rests in the Halflight Realm between your world and Faerie. Sometimes it will show you the world beyond; sometimes it will not. It is strange and uncomfortable, I understand . . . Long, long ago I once saw as you see. But please trust me when I tell you, you are safe. You are safe in the Prince’s Haven, and you are safe in my keeping.”
Though monsters come and sniff at the very door, they cannot enter the Prince’s Haven. But we will have to wait to hear more of the Haven and the purpose it serves as the series progresses! As of right now, we know only that it belongs to the Prince, and that Felix found healing there . . .
But what about Goldstone Wood itself? How big is it? No one knows. No one even has reasonable guesses. The Wood as it appears in Parumvir is big enough, but Felix, from the Haven, looks out and realizes that it is much, much bigger than he ever imagined! It apparently stretches across all known lands, though it is only visible in pockets of the Near World.
And what about that name? The Wood has many names, as we will learn in later books. It is called Goldstone, of course, but also the Wilderlands, the Wood Between, the Gray Forest, etc. Goldstone is actually a fairly recent name for it, historically. We will learn in subsequent novels, that it has only been called Goldstone for the last 500 years. And why Goldstone?
Recall something the Dragon said to Sir Oeric late in the story: “If not for you, little knight, I might yet be bound to the Gold Stone.”
The Gold Stone of Goldstone Wood obviously means something. Something we have yet to learn, for Heartless drops nothing more than hints. I hope intriguing hints that will keep my readers coming back for more as they put together all the pieces of the puzzle that make up the Tales of Goldstone Wood.