Sunlight had faded from the late-afternoon sky. Puffy snow clouds were moving in.
"Let's hurry. I'm cold," said Jack.
He and Annie were walking home from school. Their Christmas vacation was just beginning.
"Wait, " said Annie. "Look."
She pointed to a white bird sitting on a bare tree branch at the edge of the woods. The bird was staring straight at them.
"It's a dove," said Jack.
"It's a messenger," said Annie, "from Morgan."
"No," Jack said, afraid to get his hopes up. They hadn't seen Morgan le Fay in a long time. He really missed her.
"Yes, " said Annie. "She has a mission for us. I can feel it."
In the hush of the cold twilight, the dove spread its wings and flew into the Frog Creek woods.
"Come on!" said Annie. "The tree house is
"You're just hoping!" said Jack.
"I'm knowing!" said Annie. She ran into the woods, following the white dove.
"Oh, brother," said Jack. But he took off after Annie.
Even in the growing darkness, they easily found their way. They zigzagged between the bare trees and ran over the frozen ground until they came to the tallest oak in the woods.
"See?" said Annie', pointing to the top of the tree.
"Yeah, " whispered Jack.
There it was: the magic tree house.
"Morgan!" shouted Annie.
Jack held his breath, waiting to see the enchantress at the tree house window. But
Morgan did not appear.
Annie grabbed the rope ladder and started up. Jack followed.
When they climbed inside the tree house, Jack saw something lying on the floor. It was a scroll, rolled up and tied with a red velvet ribbon.
Jack picked up the scroll and unrolled it. The thick, yellowed paper shimmered with large gold writing.
"Wow, Morgan sent us a really fancy note," said Annie.
"It's an invitation, " said Jack. "Listen."
"Christmas in Camelot!" said Annie. "I don't believe it!"
"Cool" whispered Jack. He pictured a beautiful, glowing castle lit with candles and filled with knights and ladies feasting and singing.
"We're going to celebrate Christmas with Morgan and King Arthur!" said Annie. "And Queen Guinevere!"
"Yeah, said Jack. "And the Knights of the Round Table, like Sir Lancelot!"
"Let's go!" said Annie. "Where's the book?"
She and Jack looked around the tree house for a book about Camelot. The only book they saw was the Pennsylvania book that always brought them home.
"That's strange," said Jack. "Morgan didn't send a book about Camelot with the Royal Invitation. How does she expect us to get there?"
"I don't know, " said Annie. "Maybe she forgot."
Jack picked up the invitation. He read it again. He turned it over, hoping to find more information. The back of the scroll was blank. He handed the invitation to Annie.
"She must have forgotten," he said.
"Darn," said Annie, staring at the gold writing. "I really wish we could go to Camelot."
The tree branches rustled.
The wind began to blow.
"What's happening?" said Jack. "I don't know-" said Annie. "Wait a minute," said Jack.
"You were holding the invitation, and you made a wish. The wind blew harder. "That must have made the magic work!" cried Annie. Jack felt a surge of joy. "We're going to Camelot!" he said. The tree house started to spin. It spun faster and faster. Then everything was still. Absolutely still.
Copyright © 2001 by Mary Pope Osborne; illustrated by Sal Murdocca. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.