Her name was Johanna. Some called her Jo.
Her eyes roved, resting on an item until its shape was memorized and then moving on, as if following the invisible lines the wind drew for her.
The wind blew often, and perhaps it had worked into her a bit, leaving its mark deep down. It was blowing her thick, heavy hair so that it slapped her back like a dark whip.Her eyes scanned the horizon, restless, searching.Like the Kansas wind, they never rested from their endless search.
Her eyes continued to burn over the farm, seeking a place below the surface. Her wait was nearing its end.
A piece of stray tin clattered sharply against something.Jo leapt, and stared at it for a panicked moment, before sitting on the dry grass and closing her eyes. She hid her face behind her knees and under her arms, allowing only slits of sun to get through.
The events of the past few weeks haunted her.She was beginning to wonder if they always would, and if so, what would come of it.
It had begun two months before. She could never after remember the exact date.It had been a day of wind as well, the wind that seemed to have no direction, and no home.
Jo, cheerfully whistling, brought in the mail and plunked it on the kitchen table. In the stack was a package, addressed to her.There was no return label, so she tore in, curiosity getting the better of her limited patience.
A rattle and thump took her eyes to the floor where a chain and key had fallen. The girl inspected the trinket and found the skeleton key to be simplistically ornate with no rust or tarnishes on the silver.Flecks of paint could be seen in the grooves, but most of it had been scoured clean.
“Something good?”Her younger brother asked, walking in and seeing the absorbed look on her face.
It hadn’t dawned on her to look in the bundle after the key fell, so she quickly checked. “A book.Mom must have asked someone to send it for school.”
“I don’t envy you.” Jay said, perching on the counter, biting sloppily into an apple.“Why you’d want to take an extra summer course, I’ll never understand.”
Jo dropped the key and chain into the padded envelope, folding the tab over carefully. The whole thing seemed to be terribly important, and she wanted to keep it intact.It never occurred to her to wonder why.“It’s just reading and then sending summaries back.I’ve read most of the things on the list, so I can finish anytime.”
He snorted. “You keep hoping you can slip into one of those books.”
She couldn’t deny the thought had crossed her mind. Life had a way of overlooking her at times.She didn’t necessarily expect to be the center of attention, or important.It would have just been nice to have her opinions taken on their own merit for once.“Did you finish Rob Roy?I’ll have to re-read that one.”
“No, but you can have it back, and the Scarlett Pimpernel too.”He tossed the apple core into the compost bucket.“I’m going to check the calves out in the pen.Where are the pills for the one with the white cap?”
“There, in the orange bottle. Just give her one.”
He shot her a grin and thumbs up before disappearing out the door. She gathered up the package and went to her room, deciding to open the rest of it in private.
Upending it over her mattress, she surveyed the contents. The key, a giant book, and two packets were the sum of the contents.The thicker envelope held old maps and directions to various places on them.The thinner letter had her name written gorgeously in green ink, and was sealed with gold wax.The emblem of an S in front of a square structure was pressed into the seal clearly.The paper had to have cost a great deal, Jo decided, knowing only a few high end companies sold the thick, creamy, handmade style, and even fewer had any of this quality.
Opening it carefully to save the beautiful seal, she found a handwritten letter, in the same ink as on the envelope. It was elegantly done, and Jo couldn’t think of anyplace she’d seen writing like that before in her life.As she picked up the pages, she felt an electric thrill, a premonition.
The letter read:
What you now hold in your hand is a collective history of my country. You have never heard of it, nor can it be found on any maps.Some have referred to it as a place you can find only in sleep, though I would not call it a land of dreams.
Over the years, we have retreated farther from your part of the world, and have become independent. Our country is not the only one.There are vast lands here that cannot be reached by traditional methods.Yet, we cannot survive without you or you without us.It is simple; we were created as one world, and still are.To break off contact would be certain trouble.
After the death of our last king, we found it necessary to seal off the largest of the openings to your side, but as I said, for survival some paths -- ten to be exact-- had to be kept open. We have since selected Guardians of these passages, those with the heart to accept us and our way of life.They must spend years of training under us, and even then may or may not continue as caretakers of our history.It is a choice they make.
One door alone is within our fortress, and one sits less than three days’ stroll from it. It is the latter we have decided to give to you.
Our people have watched over you for many years to determine your mind and spirit. Do not be afraid that it was malignant, far from it.Had we discarded you, you would not know it had ever happened.Perhaps had the choice been left to its natural course you would have changed too much, or you would have been older.Yet, things have come to light that cause us worry and urgency.
We age far slower than those on your side. In reading the volume I sent, you will become rapidly aware of the difference.I am nearly three hundred, Johanna.One who is half my age and twice as influential has appeared again.
His name is Watch Eye, though what he calls himself in your world, I cannot guess. He was banished for rebellious behavior that resulted in war.Our friends have found him stirring again, in hopes of returning to his homeland.It has been reported that his allies in this endeavor are enemies of ours, and will reach as far as needed to succeed.Be assured, you will meet with one or more of them before this has finished.
Peter, my late husband, was one of the Guardians of your door. He chose to hand the honor on, and to remain with us.Your choice is yet to be made.
With that, I turn your attention to the book itself. It will make little sense to you, and seem inexplicable.I will call soon to see that these things have arrived, and answer any questions.
Keep anything I send you. It can guarantee some protection, so long as it is yours and hidden.
Satara of Mordgorden.
Jo smiled or shuddered alternately while finishing the letter. It seemed like some elaborate hoax, or game.She hoped it was the latter.
Yet the words sounded firmly in her head, and the wind ran through them -- the kind of wind that come from nowhere, and had no home.
Taking up the heavy tome, Johanna’s tawny eyes looked over the plain orange-brown cover. Other than the quality and age of the materials, there was nothing remarkable about it.No defining marks, no ornamentation, nothing.Inside, more than three fourths of the book was empty, the yellowing paper blank.It looked back at her as if to ask; what are you waiting for? Don’t you want to start your part?
Ignoring the crawling in her skin she opened to the front, where in Spenserian script was written,
May the fourth, 1756.
My name uttered in this tongue is Morganda. I wish I were home and Elizabeth again!But that cannot be, not yet.I will not have the blood of these people on my head for my selfishness!They are kind, but they are so harsh in appearance, and so strange to me.A deformity that is worse than death stalks this place defining us all.When my chance comes, I will not hesitate to pass this duty to another stronger than I.Yet the land is lovely, and the view compensates for some of my discomfort.
The pages whispered as Jo turned them slowly.Their hissing took the farm girl on a long journey.From Elizabeth, she had gone many years until she found writings by the Peter whom Satara had mentioned.
My time grows short; I have only an hour to set down the rest.
Watch Eye has given us no peace, day after day he tries to lay his heavy hands on me, while my allies and I elude him. I cannot put these good people in jeopardy any longer!My connection to both worlds is too strong to be safe, and I have made my choice.So I will go back only long enough to place this record with Andrew.He is small and young, but trustworthy.He will keep the secret safe, away from this monster who seeks to harm us.If that one should read this, we would all be lost.If I am found, the cause of the Treasure Trench and Fher’den is lost.I will soon remain a citizen for I have a stronger tie here than friendship.Andrew will then be the guard of book and door.His potential is my farewell to those I leave.It is no easy thing to give up my old land for this one, but I have much hope; as well as pain.Hope carries one far.Too far some would say.Let them!
To you, whoever reads this next, be it my brother or one I have never met, I leave a warning. You will soon follow me, and will suffer beyond what you ever thought possible.Yet, you will learn to see, and understand as you never did before.As the mind opens, it can leave path for madness unless checked.Beware falsehood.Tell it you must, but avoid it when you can.Clarity for calm, understanding for friendships, hope for ease -- are the trades you make.Satara has come; I must go.Andrew will write of what passes.
The next page contained this joyful, to-the-point tale written by the impetuous Andrew.
We won! I am to go to the feast.It is for victory and for Satara and Peter’s wedding.I’m to be best man, even though I am very young.Peter said he wouldn’t be coming home again.I have to tell Mother, Father and the others something, but I don’t know what.It’s frightening to think of what I can never tell. I may just say I couldn’t find Peter, and don’t know where he’s gone.
Andrew proved to be as short on words as it was possible to be, unless battles or weaponry was the subject. He did, however, have the ability to put things in the proper order and detail – a surprising thing in a boy of twelve.Peter had apparently seen to instructing his younger sibling in the duty.
Yet, one of his later entries was markedly sober.
Satara had an awful accident today. She was chasing raiders from the coast, and her horse bolted away.It was one of the big ones Thordvall had traded for, and he had warned us they weren’t fully trained.Satara was in a great hurry and wanted an animal that would take her far and fast.She was found by the scouts who followed.The horse has vanished.
I asked Bearploltan what happened to her, and he told me only that she had landed in rocks, and was badly hurt. She was also catching fever, which didn’t look good.Peter just sat there, praying I guess.I’ve never seen him look so somber.
After a few days, Bearploltan took us to a quiet room and said Satara’s insides were hurt badly in the fall, and the fever hurt some of them more. She and Peter can’t ever have children, but she will live.Peter cried for an hour, and then asked to see her.No one would let me in.
I’ve learned so much from her. What can I do to help her feel better? What can I say to Peter?
Jo was touched by this simple story, but still failed to understand. The last few pages were by a young woman named Cynthia Patterson.She was even shorter on words than Andrew, and seemed to be afraid of everyone around her.To the last page was pasted an article that read:
Much Loved Granddaughter of Local Millionaire Dies: Family is appalled.
Miss Cynthia Patterson was placed in an asylum a week ago. She had begun speaking of such bizarre things, the Pattersons became alarmed.As Cynthia had never shown mental stress before, her speedy recovery was expected.Three days ago, an attendant found her, as he thought, dead.He rushed for help, and on returning, they found Miss Patterson, and her belongings gone.No trace has been found of her, and investigations are under way.The only clues are a few words, and the mention of a leather journal.Authorities would welcome help and information concerning this puzzle.
Below was penned:
I had to come here and live. I’m ill, and not long for the world.Someone was trying to find Fher’den, and I wasn’t going to sit and wait.With the Council’s help, I came here, and will likely die before the week’s out.My only regret is the lies I’ve told, and the uncertainty I leave my family with.To whoever will read this; you will do the same.How kindly you do it, is your choice alone.