By Tobias Hrothgar
Advancement is a key characteristic of the modern world. Everything must be newer, better, and faster. All secrets must be uncovered so we can understand the world better and live in the utmost comfort and bliss. Always forward, ever onward, until every edge of the universe has been lit, and every mystery is understood. However, in their constant march toward the future very few people think to look back. True, the future holds innumerable secrets, but the past holds far more. It holds untold tales, unfound truths, and unattainable wisdom and knowledge. I have devoted my life to studying the past and uncovering it. If the whole world did likewise then advancement would be far more drastic; unfortunately, this is not the case.
This story is the first of many tales to come; tales telling of our long-forgotten past, and those who lived to see wonders unparalleled.
This is a story about doors. Consider one door in particular for the time being; a red chestnut door covered in the intricate carving of a tree. It had wear marks beneath a simple brass knocker and around the edges. The door itself was of no great consequence, but the maker of this door carved into it great meaning which very few could understand. But let’s not bother with the door at the moment—we’ll consider it in great detail later—but its location. You may be expecting me to say something simple like “the door was in a manor in 18th century Austria”, but the truth is anything aside from simple: We find the door about a thousand years ago in a world not too far from here. When I say “world” I do not mean “planet”. This is a fantasy after all, not Star Trek. Whatever the case, it wasn’t in our world.
Our door could be seen resting in a cliff face, which is not where doors usually choose to rest, but this door didn’t like being average. It’s our special door. “But what’s behind the door?” you ask me inquiringly. Well, that’s what we’re about to see, isn’t it? Our friend wants to see what’s inside as well.
Oh, did I mention? There’s a girl clinging to the cliff about seventy feet above the river below. Some people do this for enjoyment, but this girl was certainly not enjoying herself; however, she longed to get to the door much more than she was afraid of dying. This means she was either not sufficiently worried about colliding with the river and possibly being impaled by sharp rocks or whatever was behind the door was quite important. In this case, the latter is correct.
But you would like to know who this girl is, wouldn’t you? Her name is Willow Rose. She is of royal origin, dating back to an elvish leader at the division of the worlds, but her past is long-forgotten. The worlds have changed, wars were fought, and the great family’s rule came to a sad end. Many generations have passed and now we find young Willow five weeks after her seventeenth birthday, her curly red hair blowing in the wind as if it were trying to escape her imminent doom.
After several more moments of struggling she finally dropped down to a narrow ledge just in front of the door. Catching her breath Willow examined the door curiously. She traced her fingers along the tree branches, feeling the smooth grain of the wood beneath her skin. Finally, she took the knocker and banged three times.
This is our moment of suspense as we wait to see who—or what—answers the call. However, before I get that I need to point out something very important: What we think we know is not always the truth. The truth is often strange and unpleasant, yet it is stronger than anything else. Once you know the truth and have evidence for it then you cannot deny it without sounding terribly foolish. Of course, there are times when then the wisest of men cannot tell the truth from Imagination, because they are so closely intertwined.
Our young friend Willow came across one of these obfuscations when the door opened, for the moment it was unlatched her vision began to grow dark. A sound like rushing water echoed in her ears growing louder. Louder. Darker. Whispers. Silence.
She opened her eyes to find herself gazing into her own reflection, still and quiet as death. A humanoid shadow moved behind her. She blinked and the mirror was gone, replaced by a cloudy sky.
Willow lay silently in the grass, pondering what she had seen. It could have been a dream. Or perhaps she was still in the dream. She certainly didn’t know what she was doing in this field. Standing up she took in her surroundings. Dark clouds covered the entire sky. There was nothing but grass and bluebonnets for as far as the eye could see. A gust of wind made the field wave like an ocean.
“They’re singing.” Willow wasn’t sure how she knew this but she could almost hear a tune as the flowers sang; not a tune like we know it. A song that we all know but which none of us remember; a song so old that the earth sang it in its youth. Now even the earth has forgotten the tune, but it still echoes around us.
Willow slowly turned and saw a man walking toward her. The man wore black robes that billowed around him. A hood covered his face, and he marched steadily with a long wooden staff in hand.
The man lowered his hood as he neared her, revealing a stern face with a dark brown beard, cut short and trimmed neatly. He stopped walking a short distance from her and spoke.
“My name is Samuel. You are trespassing into enchanted land, which is hidden from the eyes of most men. Who are you and how did you find the door?”
Willow hesitated and then answered, “I’m Willow Rose, and if the door you’re talking about is the one I found in the cliff then yeah, I just climbed.”
“Rose?” Samuel looked at Willow carefully. “I see. That makes sense. In that case, you’re most welcome here.”
“Tell me, where am I?” Willow inquired.
“You’re in my house.” No sooner had he said this than Willow sound herself sitting on a chair next to a fireplace, Samuel sitting across from her sipping tea as if nothing had changed. Willow remained quiet for several long minutes.
“Who are you?” she finally said after Samuel had finished his tea.
“I told you already. My name is Samuel, I am the brother of Aelfhere. We have been dwelling in this house for a short time in search of something important, but that doesn’t matter. I’d like to know why climbed down a mighty high cliff to a small door that may have led nowhere.”
Willow hadn’t really considered the matter. It had seemed like such an obvious and logical idea at the time but now she wasn’t sure. After several minutes of thinking, she finally realized.
Samuel nodded slowly as if he had expected this answer. “Yes, that’s usually how they find this place. This place was not meant for your kind. Each one has a sense of being a stranger in a foreign land. Did you know your parents?”
Willow shook her head slowly. “It’s always been me and the trees. Even they seem uncomfortable. They always have.”
Silence hung over them darkly for several minutes before Samuel spoke once more. “Well, it’s about time I set you on your course. You have a long way to go, and this is no place for you. You must leave before the door closes.
“Goodbye Willow Rose. Your legacy will be forgotten but it will be great.” He stood up and grabbed his staff. You’ll probably never meet me again, and when you wake up you will think this was all a dream.” He chuckled quietly. “Perhaps it was.”
Suddenly Willow was falling, down through the floor and into darkness, not even able to scream. She closed her eyes tightly as the darkness seemed to continue on for an eternity. When she woke up she was lying in a tree back in her forest. Samuel’s last words still echoed in her mind. Perhaps it was all a dream.