The Shadow

The Shadow

There were maybe 8-10 people in the vault when I got there. They’d been trying to figure out the solution to unlock The Little Red House.

I didn’t know what they were capable of, or how far they’d come in solving the puzzle, so I hid, trying to think of what to do. It was night outside, but each of them had a light hanging from their hand, like a lantern light without a lantern. They were using them to navigate the dark castle. I realised it was the only light in the vault. The candles hadn’t lit for them. Something my father had done?

So I held the stick tightly, and thought of The Wishing Jar. The book about a magical jar that catches the last ray of sunlight before the world goes dark. I imagined the stick was like the jar. I told myself a version of the story, feeling the stick resonate when I was getting it right, when I was figurating. The world going dark, the stick catching the only light and hiding it, protecting it. (I’m fully aware of the possibility that I’m only able to figurate because of the stick, btw.)

And suddenly all their lantern lights were pulled from their hand and zapped inside the stick. I didn’t know how long it would last or if they’d be able to just cast a new one, so I hurried in the dark, taking the books, using the chaos of the sudden dark and my memory of the castle’s layout to solve the puzzle. One of them had conjured some sort of glowing plant by the time I made it back to The Little Red House, and they saw me. We were in a silent standoff. They were stunned, not by me, but the appearance of the stick. I heard a knock behind them. I’d summoned a door. I grabbed the book, raced through the bookcases, and ran for the door Cole and I had rehung. I looked back to see the glowing plant had grown up to the ceiling. They could all see me. They were all after me, one within arm’s reach. I made it through the door but the man behind me reached through. I slammed it against his arm, and I’m not proud to say that I gave him a stern promise that I was about to deposit his arm, on its own, in lower Manhattan if he didn’t let me go. But he wouldn’t. And they all started pulling at the door, trying to get through. I couldn’t hold them back.

But then the doorway started to heat up like it had when we’d first come back from the vault. When we left it open too long. His arm was burning. He was screaming but they kept telling him not to pull his arm back. But he did and I slammed them out.

I had no idea where Cole was so I checked the forum. Lauren was already watching and telling you what was happening. I was almost too late. I had to do something to get the book to Cole.

There was no way I’d get there in time without magiq… so I caterpillowed myself. It was incredibly painful. I could feel invisible wings growing out of my back. But I knew how to use them instinctively. Like I’d always had them. As soon as I grew them, cracks ripped open all over the stick and my stomach turned. The stick was going to break. I had to hurry.

The rest you know. The book started to fall apart and I used the wings to blow the remains into the Storm. I kept the piece that broke off in my hand. It’s sitting on the mantel now. The last piece of my parents.



It’s been hard to tell you about my father’s last entry. His goodbye to me. I’m not sure why, but I think because once I do, it means this is over. This past year, and this time with you in a way, is finished.

My father planned out everything I had to do to get to here, but he says he also hoped I could create a life after, whether magiq or not, out of the shadow of him and all of this. He wrote in the last letter that he had followed in the shadow of his father, my grandfather Warner Green, for years. He grew up in the old printing house, at my grandfather’s heel, and he took on the responsibility of A&L Publishing when his father died. He spent a year there, determined to take the reins of the company and build it in his father’s absence, refusing to believe there might be something more out there in the world.

But then the printing house burned down in 1979. My dad got there before the fire department could and found the fire already raging, thousands of paperback books kindling the blaze. He’d tried to put out the fire himself but it had spread throughout the building, and he’d almost died, lost inside, consumed by the smoke and heat.

Then he saw a man in the fire. A figure that, in his delirium, he swore was his father. He blacked out, and when he came to he was in the back of an ambulance, being treated for smoke inhalation. The fire department had arrived but there wasn’t much they could do as the building collapsed. He thanked them for saving his life, but he was told they found him out on the sidewalk.

He had no idea how he’d gotten out. My dad knew he’d been delirious from the smoke, it couldn’t have been his father, but it was in that moment he knew he had to let him go. Let that life die inside the smoldering wrecking of the publishing house.

With his father’s footsteps burned away he knew he had to walk his own path. He wandered for years, lost… And in that wandering was when he first heard about magic. He had always been a believer. But in the absence of a purpose, he pursued it.

It was only years later that he learned his father had also believed in magiq. And had pursued it in his own way. My dad would turn a corner, visit a city, or meet someone new, and find familiar footsteps there. Traces of his Warner Green. (He mentions “the materials” my grandfather left him when he died, but I don’t know anything about them, and he doesn’t mention them again.) Years later in the palace of doors, in the midst of assembling the final steps to open The Book of Briars, knowing his time here was coming to an end, he found his father’s pocket watch. The one he remembered his father carrying with him throughout his childhood.

“I had always thought my father had been the force I felt, the force I called my soul’s providence. But only now, at the end of all this, have I finally seen the truth. A truth I wish I’d always known. So I want to tell you that I love you, more than I thought I could love, and I hope I have not troubled you so much so that you can’t continue on. I am gone now. There are no more clues to riddle. No more puzzles to solve. Nothing now but all the wonders of a life still unwritten. I gave my life for a cause, and if you’re reading this, we succeeded. And now I go to a place where you can’t. A place where my shadow can’t reach you.

It’s time for you to blaze a new trail for yourself and leave my shadow once and for all. You don’t need to be told what’s next. Find where your heart lies out there, my dearest girl, and seek it. I have no doubt you will find it.

Remember, you are your own soul’s providence.”

That was essentially it. Part of me wanted some last revelation. Some final truth. Some story to continue.

But it’s over.

It’s why I’ve been wandering the streets of New York. Why it took me so long to transcribe it. To show it to you makes it true.

I don’t know what will happen now, Mountaineers. For you, for me… I think we’ll be part of each other’s lives forever though, in one way or another. We found magiq together. We changed the world. We’ll always be a big, weird family.

I imagine I won’t be in touch as much as I have been. I’m really not sure what I’m going to do. I have Ackerly Green Publishing, but part of me feels like that wouldn’t honour the sacrifice my father made. To live in that shadow.

Cole should be out in a few days. He’s doing well, considering how hurt he was.

The stick is cracked, but not broken. I wouldn’t use it again until I know more about it.

Until I know where I’m going.

I guess this is what it’s like to climb a mountain.

Most people start looking for a way back down, but I’m up here looking for the next peak to summit.



It turns out 175 Varick Street is where Ackerly Publishing House moved when it changed its name to A&L Printing and became a paperback printer. And where it burned down in the 70s. My father wrote a last entry to me which the location unlocked and I’ll share anything that seems relevant when I can. It’s been hard. Not just everything that happened, but knowing this is it. This entry was his goodbye and I’m just… It’s too much right now.

I knew if we made it here I would have to say goodbye but I wasn’t ready.

I still have to tell you what happened at the vault. I’m working on it. I’ve just been in a daze. Sleeping beside Cole’s bed, or wandering the streets around the hospital. I can’t even bear to go back to Neithernor. It feels all the more empty. It’s strange to lose a father I never knew and have all those strange feelings, and then get to know him, spend a year with him in a way, then lose him all over again. And finally feel the true grief, the pangs of loss…

It’s over. For me at least. I know there are wonderful things to look forward to, things to cherish, Cole, the publishing company, actually experiencing my new life… I’m just not ready yet. I had this extraordinary last adventure with my father. And now it’s over.

The chronocompass didn’t work at the address. But it did reveal a letter my father wrote you. His goodbye to you as well.


You have come further than anyone ever has. Done things that most thought were impossible. But you have one final task ahead of you. A difficult task.

Fragment 16.

Shifting through time is a dangerous and traumatic experience. Even for books. The Book of Briars doesn’t remember what it is. It doesn’t remember its purpose. It is most likely confused, and even afraid (if you believe that books can be afraid.)

You have to remind it.

Tell it about the fragments.
Tell it histories of its time with you, and your own memories.
Tell it poems, sing it songs.
Create art and objects that will help it remember what it is and what it’s meant to do.

Tell it what all this has meant to you.

It is a ceremony to wake The Book of Briars.
The last fragment and your final assessment.

Know, once the Book is awakened this time will be over. You will usher in a new age, and nothing will ever be the same.

Though we never met it has been an honor to work alongside you in our common goal. I believe the peak we’ve sought is now in sight, mountaineers.
You’ve reached the final climb.

We all believe in you.

Mr. Wideawake

Mr. Wideawake

(Hey guys it’s Cole posting Dee’s entry, which will make sense at the end. She made me promise to post this immediately:)

I’m sorry if this don’t completely make sense, I’m going to try and write it all down as quickly as I can.

Someone kept ringing the door chime so I hobbled downstairs and found a note on the door, from someone telling me to meet them in the warren. For a minute I didn’t know if it was Cole or… So I took the stick. I had no idea what I would do with it, but my dad said to take it everywhere.

Standing in the warren, looking out the window, was a man, or I should say he looked man-like but was a man-shaped bird. He turned to look at me with eyes like little black buttons. He was taller than me, in a full suit, his arms were wings, his feet were bare. Bird’s feet. He was a mix of gray, black and white feathers. Mostly black wings with white on his neck and legs. A tuft of black on the top of his head and a little white patch above his beak. Sorry I still can’t get over it.

He was holding a walking stick, like my father’s, but made of paler wood. Gold light leaked out from the cracks in it. He smiled, nodded, and said he was very pleased to meet me. I sat down on the edge of the bed because I was sure I’d finally gone mad.

He knelt and said that this must come as quite a shock but he was here to help me. And that I could call him Mr. Wideawake. He told me he could see that I was feeling a lingering bit of spell sickness but also something that “the Monarchs of old” learned. When you spend too long in Neithernor, you start to adjust to its time. And returning home is like jumping onto a spinning carousel because of the way time works there. There are some people who are more susceptible to it and it seems like I’m one of them. He said it would pass but he’s heard of cases in the old time where people have spent years or decades in Neithernor and couldn’t go back home. They became Neithernorian and the change couldn’t be undone.

I didn’t know what to do, so I asked who he was. He started talking about The Council and you and the Book and I couldn’t keep up. He said if The Council failed, or the mountaineers were lost again, he and his associates would be all that could possibly stop The Silver from conquering the world. He said they were prepared to go to war with the Silver, with or without magiq, but they’ve been doing what they could from the shadows to give us a chance at opening The Book. They’ve given us clues at times, and help when absolutely necessary, he even said his group was responsible for cultivating and protecting The Low. They’ve created disconnected factions who could confuse The Silver and send them to dead ends, because their priority besides saving the world is convincing The Silver that they don’t exist. That they were finally wiped out.

At first I thought he meant The Council of the 18 Gates, but then it occurred to me who he was talking about. The path of wool.

He’s a member of Monarch’s Mountain. Turns out he’s their Collector. I was confused. Not only because I thought Monarch’s Mountain had died off but also I didn’t think they still knew about Neithernor. He said I was incorrect on both counts but that’s what they wanted The Silver to believe. Neithernor is like a memorial for them. A place of reflection, and only rarely do they go there.

He sat across from me in the armchair and crossed his legs like, you know, a person. He said I could ask him any questions I had and he’d answer as best he could before he had to leave.

I kept trying to think what you’d want to ask. He said he didn’t know what was in The Book of Briars, which I thought was the obvious first question. He said some think it’s a new story wanting to be told, but no one knows for sure.

I asked him what Neithernor really was. How it came to be. He said according to what’s left of the Monarch history (which may not be completely accurate) there was experimentation with wells. They were hoping to find answers about our changed world in them, and sometime in the Book of The Wild someone managed to harvest a piece of the Fray deep within a well, to study, but it began to grow. They were afraid it would take over our world so they tried to send it back, but reaching out to The Fray is unpredictable and dangerous and it wouldn’t accept the piece. They tried to destroy it and thought they had but it actually grew just outside our world, and it eventually became Neithernor. A place where magiq and imagination could be fully realised without limit, without fear of misunderstanding or retribution, but with its own risks and dangers.

I asked what the “The Book of The Wild” meant and he said it’s what The Monarchs call the time before everything changed. He said “Someone, we don’t know who, changed the Book of The Wild and in its place was this world, this time.” They call now “The Book of Kings.”

I tried to get my head around the fact that we’re living in an alternate timeline from an original timeline that had magiq in it but he said it wasn’t as simple as that. It was magiq after all. He asked me to imagine a book. And then someone decided to edit that book. To remove something fundamental. Stories would have to be changed, characters rewritten, outcomes altered. And the ripples of all those changes would extend into the future chapters and the past. And it would be impossible to catch all the hanging threads. Scattered memories would be missed… and wells. Wells are like “hidden themes that remain, despite the narrative being altered.”

So someone edited out magiq, I said.
And he said “No. We believe someone edited out the Briar Books and all magiq followed after.”

I for some reason thought the Silver or the Storm had changed things but he said that no one knows who did it. But he knew it all came back to the Briar Books. The Little Red House. He said there’s something at the core of those books. They think it’s the source of great magiq. Magiq that someone changed all of history to erase. They don’t know who it was but they believe sometime around the early 2000s history was changed, and the ripples of that change moved outward until it had altered all known history. As far as they know only the wells, a handful of memories, and Neithernor survived.

It wasn’t the Monarchs and it wasn’t The Silver. He said it’s a mystery greater than any of this. And that’s why The Monarch houses want the book. (I was wondering what all of this was about. He hadn’t brought me to the warren just to answer all of my questions.) He said that the Monarch houses want The Little Red House, to protect it, to study it, to understand its place in the changing of The Book of The Wild.

I tried to explain what you were trying to do, how important it was for this to work, to get The Book of Briars and to stop The Storm. It’s everything we’ve worked for. Everything my father wanted. It’s the reason he set me on this path. Mr. Wideawake already knew. He told me that the houses use the lantern spell too. It’s one of the ways they get insight into The Silver’s plans. By listening through it. They were willing to lose that access to help us and The Council to save The Book of Briars and stop the damage the Storm has done, but they didn’t realise what the cost would be. The Monarchs don’t want us to use The Little Red House. Even if it means losing The Book of Briars. They say The Little Red House will be defenseless and unprotected in 1998. If The Silver find it before the Monarchs do, no one could protect the world. There’s no telling what secrets are inside that book, and The Silver would do anything to discover it.

I couldn’t believe it. They’ve had the means to stop The Storm but didn’t. They let people lose their minds, be blown through time. They let people die and become a part of it. The Storm was what kept my father from me. He just nodded. The Collector is just another part of Monarch’s Mountain, he said. He might disagree with their plans and purposes, but at the end of the day, the houses decide what actions to take. He’s tried to change their minds but the role of Collector doesn’t come with that kind of power. Then he stood and said he couldn’t stay any longer. He was also susceptible to Neithernorian time.

I didn’t understand. How could a bird man live on Earth?

Unless he wasn’t a bird.

He said it’s a tradition that no one knows who The Collector is until they have passed from this world to whatever is after. What I was seeing was just a cobbled bit of shapeshifting he’d learned from a gracious mer gost. He hoped I wasn’t disappointed.

I asked why he’d come now, why he’d come to answer my questions, and he said because no one knows what will happen after Saturday, not even The Monarchs. He wanted to meet me and help me understand that as big as all of this feels, it’s so much bigger. And that he was sure my father would be proud of me for all I’ve done.

He said what was most important to keep in mind was that not all the Monarchs agree with the Houses’ decisions. He himself believes that my father rightfully found the book and it has passed to me. I should be the one who decides what happens to it. He said he’d read how I unlocked the book and what I’d done and how I wrote it out had been extraordinarily clever. Then he said I should remember above all of this that “Even those with the best intentions can do wrong.”

He knocked and opened a door to a shore near a dark blue sea somewhere. I felt like I hadn’t asked anything and I’d let you down. That any of you would’ve asked better questions… but all I could think of in that moment… well, I’d always felt guilty about losing it so…

I asked him why King Rabbit wanted my dad’s watch.

Mr. Wideawake smiled and said he wasn’t sure, but he heard that soon after King Rabbit stole it from me, he’d also lost it.

And then the door shut and he was gone.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about any of this. About The Monarchs wanting it, about The Little Red House, about letting it go… I’ve been reading it, hoping there was something else. Another step at the end of the path. I mean, this can’t be it, can it? There has to be another part, a part I’m not seeing. Or is this all there is? Is this all

Guys, this is Cole. That was the end of Dee’s post. She just freaked out about something the bird guy said. Something she just realized… About this part:

“He said he’d read how I unlocked the book and said what I’d done and how I wrote it out had been extraordinarily clever. Then he said I should remember above all of this that “Even those with the best intentions can do wrong.”

She started changing clothes, packing one of the camping bags. She said she had to go back to the vault. I tried to stop her but she said she’d lied in the story when she wrote it. How she unlocked the book was right, but not the placement of the books, and she’d changed one of the locations. She thought that if it meant so much to her dad to keep it safe she should do what she could to protect it too. (It’s why I couldn’t take it.) She’d protected the book and she thinks Mr. Wideawake was telling her without telling her that she was clever and that The Monarchs, the ones who want the book at least, bypassed the Joradian on her blog because they had “the best intentions” and read how she unlocked it.

She thinks they’re trying to take the book. They don’t have the correct combination or the fifth location but they’ve had days and days of Neithernorian time to try and figure it out.

I wanted to go with her but we realized that if something happens and she can’t make it back in time or they took the book, I have to be ready with the scarves and the pendant. To try to get The Book of Briars. I could barely get my head around what was happening before she kissed me, knocked into the tunnel, and was gone.

The Six Books

The Six Books

I found five books. The Myth of Elainnor, Oskar & Pipany, The Wishing Jar, The Forest of Darkening Glass… And Ant & Caterpillow. All stories I now remember my father reading to me. And I think he read them to me in Neithernor.

I also found a sixth book, sitting on a table, but it’s sort of frozen in place. There’s nothing on the cover. I couldn’t open it, I couldn’t budge it from the table. It’s just… stuck. Maybe I’m supposed to figure out how to open it?

I read through the stories while I waited for Cole to come back. I’m not ashamed to say I was brought to tears several times. The memories connected to them washed over me, unlocking secret pieces of my childhood. Of some far off day I spent here with my father. A long and peaceful day. I don’t think it’s just recollecting. I think somehow those pieces, or the keys at least, were always waiting in these books. Like magiq.

I know I’m supposed to do something here, learn something… tell a story. I’m supposed to perform some difficult spell. I think it starts with remembering.


The First Book.

I recall listening to my father read The Wishing Jar to me while I wished that the fountain we came through had water in it so that the courtyard wasn’t so quiet. I wondered if years ago there’d been fish swimming in the pool or magiq coins sitting at the bottom. Holding wishes. Like the jar that held the last ray of sunlight in the story.

I took the book to the courtyard. And I sat it on the edge of the fountain.

“The little girl watched the wrinkles crinkle at the edges of her father’s eyes as he acted out the grandfather in the story. Her young father looked older in her memories now. Gray in his beard, and his hair growing thin. There was an urgency to his reading. It mattered. She didn’t know why at the time. She was just happy to have him.”

There are other places he read the books to me. I think I have to find them and leave the right book. Only I would know what stories and what locations. Only I could solve this puzzle.

Only I could tell a story about that day.


The Second Book.

A golden crown sat on a bench in the vault, near a deep pile of beautiful jewel-tone pillows. We sat there. Maybe I even napped there. I remember laughing with my father at the image of Pipany rushing to tell her father what had happened to everyone in the kingdom, only to find that he’d been turned into an ornate three-layer cake with a tilted crown sitting on top of his “head.”

“She was tired but couldn’t close her eyes so he rested his head on her pillow and they looked up at the ceiling and wondered what they would be if a vengeful witch turned them into desserts too. She said she wouldn’t be any kind of dessert. She’d be Pipany, the kingling, who knew everyone so well she could figure out their recipe. Or Oskar, the baker’s son, who used the recipes to skillfully “unbake” everybody. She remembered it made him smile a big smile. His daughter, the hero. No one’s dessert.”


The Third Book.

I had to find a way out of the vault. I packed up the books and went exploring the halls.

I found a stair that eventually emptied a few floors up into a great bronze and stone hall, with a gentle river passing through it. The river was wide enough and the hall tall enough that I imagine ships could pass to the sea beyond this beautiful castle. I could smell the salt on the air. The hall was so long I could just barely make out the ends.

I wandered along the edge of the river, eventually drawn to one of the berms of grass that grew out of the floor. Dips created natural places to sit. He read to me here. We ate fruit and cheese and candy. I remember the grass, the blue stained-glass high up in the ceiling of the hall. I knew what story he’d tell me here. I left the next book in the deep, green grass.

“He held her hand while reading Ant & Caterpillow. It touched him, the fable. His eyes were wet, and he would gently squeeze her hand when something in the story moved him. And she would squeeze back. She sat in the grass by the water, reflections of colored glass on the surface. Her head against him, holding his hand. She knew, even then, that she was comforting her father as much as he was comforting her.”


The Fourth Book.

A steep, spiraling ramp led to a watchtower. I remembered walking ahead of him, in case I slipped. I hadn’t been scared, but it was high, with no railing. He’d told me about the watchtower and I was determined to see the view from it. We read The Forest of Darkening Glass up there, twice. I wanted to make all new choices the second time and see how the story ended. I left it on the stone railing, with the telescope that had been there the last time I was.

“He’d given her a telescope to see the world beyond the castle. She had, up until then, never assumed they were anywhere other than New York. But now she saw the prismatic thing-shaped clouds, the great gray sea, the vast black forest at the base of the low, sharp mountains, and the tower sitting on top of it like a broken chimney. It all looked precious and endlessly fascinating. Like the maps you’d find on the inside cover of a fairytale. She looked and looked at the wild out there as his warm, comforting voice filled her ears, offering her safe or possibly perilous choices. He would laugh every time she made the same decision again. She couldn’t help it. She chose adventure and risk and exploration every time. Just like her father would’ve.”


The Fifth Book.

I remember we’d paced a long gallery full of tall, crystalline casks that glowed on their own and illuminated all the different styles of armour and weaponry inside them. He’d read to me The Myth of Elainnor there, until my legs were sore. The clunk of his walking stick on the stone floor, the book held open in his free hand.

The gallery wasn’t far from the hall. Some of the casks had been smashed by crumbling pieces of ceiling, some had toppled from wind perhaps. There was always a breeze blowing in from somewhere in this place. Often warm, but sometimes with a sharp eddy of cold inside. I left the book against a case that held a set of armour made of silver and sea glass. It had been my favourite as a child.

“She imagined Elainnor’s legs must’ve been tired too. All of her probably. Collecting the armor, the weapons, travelling the kingdom to save the woman she loved. Her father wanted to finish the story but she kept asking questions, had he ever used a sword, would he rather a bow or a crossbow, could you run in armour like the ones in the gallery, had he ever had to fight someone. He was patient with her questions. When she apologised for asking so many he said she should never ever apologise for being curious.”


The Sixth Book.

“There was one last lock. And the books were the five keys to it. She now had the memory of a sixth book. But nothing about it. It was a mystery. He’d let her read it, helping when she needed help, but also letting her struggle and figure it out on her own. She didn’t want to stop. She felt like it had been written exactly for her. The way only a handful of books feel in a person’s lifetime. But it was like the story passed through her eyes as she read it, off her tongue as she spoke, and she later found nothing stayed inside her. Not the title or the characters or the places. But his face, looking at her from the other side of the book was joyous and wistful. Like it was Christmas morning and he’d given her something he’d always treasured and found she loved it too. Not because she knew it would make him happy, but because he knew her well enough to know she would love it like he did.”

I walked back to the vault, exhausted. To the sixth book. The one I couldn’t move.

I felt the figuration work the moment I finished writing my story. I could open it now. I could read it. And I did. I could remember him there with me, smiling, tearful, sharing this thing that was so incredibly precious to him.

The thing he’d searched for all his life. The thing we’ve all been searching for.

The Little Red House isn’t a place. It’s a book.

A children’s book published by Ackerly Green in some version of 1955.

I just read the first volume of the Lost Collection.

The Vault

The Vault

Hey guys it’s Cole. We came back on Sunday for food and water (Dee writes about that below) and I just came back for a minute to post this.

Dee has been there since we left last Thursday (for the most part, long story.) She doesn’t want to come back yet. She wrote up this entry so you’d know what was going on.

I just finished typing it up, sorry for any mistakes…

Deirdre’s Post:

The tunnel is an overnight trip. We slept under a bit of broken ceiling, watching the Neithernorian stars, which move around the sky. It’s like you’re looking down from a window, watching children play with torches in a dark yard. I love this place.

The tunnel empties into a small courtyard’s empty pool. High walled, but open to the sky, the courtyard’s at the base of what could be a castle of some kind. It was hard to see just how massive it was from the pool. There was an open doorway in that was choked by vines. I was loathe to cut them away (I’ve read enough fantasy books to know a character almost always goes to cut or pinch or pull something and then finds out it’s alive and terribly cross.) We crawled through, and down a maze of stone halls we found the room they all empty into. To call it a room would be a terrible understatement.

It’s a vault. Immense and tall, lit by candles that burst into flame when we arrived and never melted away. Every corner is filled with odd and shiny objects, piles of golden coins of different sizes and languages and shapes, statues and locked chests that have just been stacked on top of each other.

And the books. Thousands of books. Many written in the same strange language, a language I don’t think exists on Earth (not that I know much about languages.) There are dozens upon dozens of shelves and cases, stacks of books, piles of books, and bookcases that have toppled over, the wood rotting away, scattering books all over the floor. Nothing in order, covered in dust (Neithernorian dust is like a very fine, translucent glitter. It looks and moves almost like dew. And it’s sweet. I know because we’ve inhaled about five tonnes of it.)

There’s even an absolutely massive golden bell sitting in the middle of the vault. At first I thought maybe it fell from a bell tower because there’s a light coming from the long tunnel leading up through the ceiling, but the bell’s intact, unbent. As if it were brought here.

There are pillows littered about, deep and fluffy and relaxing, like people came here, not to study, but maybe meditate?

It’s dim and cool and quiet, and though it might seem eerie, I find it peaceful. Almost restorative. There is a universe of story and knowledge and history inside the vault. I could live here.

If there was food of course. There is an apple tree growing here. Not by accident. It was planted. The stones were pulled away and little spot was made for it. And it grows beautiful grass-green apples, even in the dim light of the vault. Cole urged me not to eat one (very Genesis) because, well, magiq. But by Sunday we were nearly out of food and water and Cole wanted to take the tunnel back to the brownstone, restock, and come back to explore after a few days break, but I couldn’t leave. I wasn’t sure why, but I needed to stay. To thumb through the books, sit against the pillows, listen to the echo of wind from somewhere outside.

But then I had an idea…

The entrance to the vault once had a door hanging in its arch. There were broken hinges still bolted to the wall, and we’d found a stack of heavy, ornate doors in a corner of the vault. Using carved nails we found in a pile we rehung one of the doors in the arch.

Now we’d never tried returning through a different door than the one either of us came from, but it was worth a try to save Cole the day and a half trip it would take to get back. And it took a while but together we got it to knock.

I was the one who knocked here so I knocked back…

And we opened a door to the brownstone!

The vault side of the door was gold and jeweled, and the brownstone side was… door-looking. We propped it open with a cabinet and walked through. The kitchen is pretty bare in the brownstone so I was going to run to the market while Cole grabbed a few changes of clothes and more camping equipment from his apartment, figuring it would take an hour, ninety-minutes at the most.

Cole headed for the train but I checked the door again before running out and found that it was pushing hard against the cabinet we’d wedged it open with and it was also blazing hot! There were scorch marks already appearing on the wallpaper, and within minutes it had started to smoke. I couldn’t leave the door open or I’d eventually burn down the brownstone, and possibly everything in the vault.

I called Cole and we agreed I’d go back through and he’d restock and meet me in two days time. By agreed of course, I mean very reluctantly. He wanted me to stay, to wait. But I couldn’t. I had to get back.

The truth is… I had to get back because something was happening. I was remembering something. Something about this place. And it’s not that Cole was a distraction, even if I didn’t love him with all my heart he would still be the absolute first person you’d want with you in a situation like this. He’s clear-headed, good-humoured, and happy to rough it for the sake of adventure. Honestly, I was the problem. I needed time to not explore or look-at-this and look-at-that. I wanted to just sit and quietly soak this place in, which seems rude to do when you’ve brought someone along with you.

I should tell you that the entry that unlocked in the vault was all about the red house. It was short and disjointed. Rambling. To be honest it’s heartbreaking to read, to see his decline, so I’ll paraphrase all that matters instead of transcribing. It feels kinder. He said seeing what’s inside the house changes you and how you see everything. You see the world opened up. What it could be. The house and what’s waiting inside is the key to all of this.

And to see it I’d have to break a powerful spell that my father himself created to keep everyone out. A spell only I would know how to break. A figuration that I would learn here, in the place at the end of the tunnel.

Then he ended the journal entry with, “Remember my dearest girl, imagination is nothing more than memory, transposed.”

The next morning I crawled out of my sleeping bag, cold and achy. I thought at least the tunnel had a view of the stars to look at while you tossed and turned against the stone floor. And then… it happened. I remembered something. The tunnel. My dream. It was my dream. The one with my father carrying me. I’d always imagined it was a hallway in a house, perhaps the apartment where I lived with mum. But could it have been the tunnel instead?

Could I have been here before?

I could now imagine looking up from my father’s arms, past his beard, seeing the stars spinning across the sky, through the broken patches of the tunnel ceiling. Was I trying to fit the pieces together or had he brought me here? And if so, when?

Maybe I’d made it a hallway in the years that followed. To make sense of it. Maybe I’d conflated it with the time he came back and tried to take me? I don’t know. But what if this place felt so warm, so welcoming, even in its dim and drafty clutter, because I was here. With him. The echoes of that time somehow calling back to me. I say somehow, but I know how. Magiq.

I spent the next few hours wandering, listening, trying to remember. Something was there, at the edge of my mind, the tip of my tongue.

I don’t know if it was luck or providence or some lost memory guiding me, but after hours of exploring I found a stack of books as tall as me and took the book from the top. It was clothbound in green and plain with no title. A collection of stories. I opened it to a random page—

My soul’s providence.

Something had led me to that book. The faded memory I’d come to believe was just a dream, and was now guiding me to the truth.

I had opened the book to The Myth of Elainnor.

The Tunnel

The Tunnel

We’re home for the night, and absolutely exhausted. We walked the tunnel as long as we could but we now know we’re going to have to camp overnight to make it to the end. We’re going to take more food and water and sleeping bags tomorrow. It’s strange, that cold I had? Gone the moment we walked through the door into the tunnel. But now I’m feeling foul again. Cole says there’s no telling what effect the spell could’ve had on me, or going back to Neithernor so often.

The tunnel unlocked a new entry in the journal. It’s mostly my dad exploring the three manners of magiq again, but it’s things he learned or figured out some time later. Here are the important bits:

“Two true manners of magiq… material and wrought. Borrow and break. You make the third with one or the other or both, and it changes it, depending on what you use, what story you end up telling.

Borrowed figuration is slow, but steady. The stories take root over time. But possess a particular, gentle resonance. Broken figuration… faster, but unpredictable. The stories take on hidden themes one didn’t intend. Combining them is hardest, nearly impossible without many, a coven. Coalescing the opposites, ordering the chaos… but the magiq created is potent. Rich soil. How my dear girl was made safe.

But it’s all minor figuration. Trickles of temporary power. All that can be managed here. How to create major figuration? True, new magiq? Impossible in the mundane, and even Neithernor? Or just beyond my power? Even with all I’ve learned, all I’ve gathered in the stick over these years…

Must I be inksworn? Yes, that’s the word. The one they were afraid to speak. Why? Why did they fear that name?

When will all these secrets be undone?”

I wonder how much time passed between his last entries and this one? His tone is different, even his handwriting. Everything was closing in on him. The Silver. Its dog, The Storm. The Guide to MAGIQ was found again in 2013 (according to the site), because he stole it from those monsters. But he died in 2016. Was he just hanging on, waiting for the fire to catch so he could let go? Alone in that park through winter and weather, with no one but the voices of The Council egging him on to finish this plan. Thinking he couldn’t call on me until the time was right, because the path was more important than his life?

That last entry, him in that hall and that thing tearing at him… I’m full aware I’m not truly dealing with it. I’m not truly dealing with anything right now. I can’t. There’s so much to do and I can’t stop to look at everyone I’ve lost lying on either side of this path, it’s too much. Forgive me for not…

We’re going back tomorrow. Prepared.

For some reason this tunnel feels like the beginning of an end. The closing of a circle.

The dreams of my mum and dad laid to rest.
The last pages of The Monarch Papers.

One question left for me to answer.
What’s inside the little red house?

The Hike

The Hike

We opened a door with the new knock.

It opens onto the end a long stone corridor. It’s really cold. We followed it for a while and never found the end, but there’s a faint light ahead, and places where the ceiling has cracked and sunshine gets in. Cole thinks it might be an aqueduct. We came back to prepare for whatever we might find, and however long it might take to get to it. Cole has camping equipment (cute!) so we’ve filled up a pack with water, food, and layers (did I mention the cold?) We’ll hike it for a (here) day and then, if we don’t find anything, we’ll come back.

Cole’s still pretty reluctant, but I’m glad he’s coming with me. There’s been no sign of The Storm, but we’re thinking about finding a door in Central Park to go back through, just in case. I know it’s the safer way but I’m still not 100% and feeling quite lazy. I’m such a New Yorker. An endless magical hallway is one thing, but a schlep to Midtown is quite another.

Wish us luck.

Doors Unknocked

Doors Unknocked

I’ve been terribly sick the past few days. Cole says it’s what you all call spell sickness. I’m happy to hear it isn’t whatever’s glowing inside the stick.

I don’t know what happened. I mean, I know it was the spell I cast. And there were small cracks in it already, but the stick didn’t behave that way in Neithernor, at the crystal door… Maybe I’m not supposed to be using it here, in the normal world? Maybe I did more than I was supposed to? Maybe it was because I was close to the storm? Gee, it sure would be nice if my father would just send me a checklist or instruction manual every now and then…

I haven’t tried the new knock. I just don’t feel up to it. Maybe I’m scared, with this thing coming after us. But if I’m honest I think I’m worried about what’s going to happen next. Things are moving so quickly. Out of the blue I’m casting magiq now. I walked through a wall, and brought a book and a compass to life with my imagination and a magiq stick.

I wasn’t ready for that last one. To be clear, it was incredible and part of me wants to do nothing but magiq, but it’s also scary. I didn’t mean to cast that spell. Not completely. What else might I accidentally do?

The two days with Grey were nerve-wracking because of that thing trying to get in, but I also learned a lot about my father. In his later years Grey said my dad came to believe something had been guiding him along this path his whole life. To the path of wool, the path of magiq. The road to Neithernor. To this “great task” as my father called it. He’d called that guiding force “his soul’s providence” and he’d attributed so many things to and unseen presence. Meeting my mum, the coven, even the printing house burning down all those years back. It makes sense that part of him had hoped it had been Monarch’s Mountain drawing him to them, only to find the ruins of Neithernor. But he never stopped believing that he was part of a plan, and his plan with The Council was just another cog in a clockwork.

And when he died he left that mantle, that path, to me. The things he did… Grey’s apartment, the spell on me, nursing The Council (and himself) back to life… he was incredibly brave, and powerful.

I don’t know if I’m ready to accept the providence that guided him, if there is or was such a thing (though I accept that there were loads of coincidences that got me here.)

But I don’t have time to doubt it or myself, because all our fates are tied together now. We’re all on this last path, and if I don’t find the red house, and perform some crazy magiq to find out whatever’s inside it…

We’ve lost.

The Ramble unlocked a new passage in the journal (though it hadn’t before.) Bed-ridden, I transcribed the whole thing because I thought you’d want to see it. Turns out you had a “soul’s providence” as well.


I explored thousands of miles of Neithernor and never found the edge.

Once, I traveled for days across the great eastern sea and I found the remains of a strange fortress. The sea had claimed most of it, but portions were left on the shore. It was days removed from the other lands, the other ruins. I knew without question it was the house of Silver.

I spent months exploring the ruins and found writings that had survived the water and the war. The Silver were working on something in the mundane when everything fell apart. They were building a secret place inside our reality. Instead of sharing the discoveries they’d made in the mundane, they’d been secretly collecting them, stockpiling them out of view of Monarch’s Mountain. There was even mention of those artifacts being transported back and forth between their earthly “palace of doors” and Neithernor, for reasons I don’t know.

They’d built, somewhere in their Neithernorian fortress, a dark door to their secret place on Earth. A door that now could only be opened from Neithernor, because Monarch’s Mountain had barred Silver’s return.

I found it, half-submerged. I knew once I walked through they might sense that I had entered, and would know about the forgotten entrance. I prepared myself and opened the dark door, into the silver palace, and closed it after me. I found a towering, endless place made of countless rooms, libraries, galleries, and museum halls of magiqal artifacts, connected to every corner of the world. Vast and quiet and cold. They had spread to the six corners like a virus.

But this was the opportunity we needed. The Council and I had been searching for an object of power with what little power we had gathered. It’s one reason why I had scoured Neithernor. We needed something that would catalyze our plan, to set all of this in motion. We believed in you, but we needed something unmistakeable, something so wondrous it would inspire thousands to join your cause. Your army of mountain climbers.

After hiding in their stronghold for weeks, avoiding the sounds of footsteps on icy marble, I found it. There in the heart of the palace of doors I found a copy of Ackerly Green’s Guide to MAGIQ. I stole it, along with whatever else I could carry, including a pocket watch I found which had belonged to the Green family long ago. I tried to escape, but I couldn’t find a way out. No door would knock for me there, because the knocks were meant to keep out The Silver and The Storm, and by taking the Guide I had drawn the attention of both.

I’m ashamed to tell you what I did, what wrought magiq I performed to escape that place. But I did. And I found myself on the other side of the world. I knocked a way back into Neithernor, back to the warren where I felt safe, but The Storm had followed me through my escape. As I reached for the doorknob to slam the warren’s closet shut, The Storm reached for me, touched me, and I saw into the heart of it.

It ripped away shreds of me. I saw them fall away into the black void in the moment it took me to shut the door… I saw inside it, what it would do to me, etched on its black heart.

I’d seen so much, had so much stripped from me, sometimes by my own hands. But looking into that void I finally knew… I saw… my time here in this world was coming to an end.

The Storm: Part Three

The Storm: Part Three

The next morning I saw that Grey had left a message, checking on me because we hadn’t talked in a few weeks.

I needed time so I headed uptown to see him.

On the way, I was reading over the new passage in the journal and I noticed that something else had been written in it before, but had faded or been erased… It was part of the story my father told me when I was little, about Elainnor (I always thought it was spelled “Eleanor” until Augustus told me.) It was the part where she first sets out to gather the four things she needs… I could only read a few lines clearly but I could see the word “Galifanx” which I remembered.

I should mention that since I’ve had this volume I’ve also had dreams about that story. Maybe it’s been sinking in while I’ve been carrying it with me (along with the compass and the stick. I must look totally ridiculous walking around the city like Henry David Thoreau.)

That’s what was on my mind when I noticed that the cab driver had been talking to me about the weather. He was complaining about how it was supposed to be hot and sunny today. I looked out through the front windscreen and it looked bright as can be. We arrived at Grey’s, I paid and got out.

And that’s when I saw the black cloud moving up 3rd, blocking out the sun. I knew in an instant. The Storm.

I ran inside. Remembering how slow the elevators were, I took the stairs to the 7th floor. Grey let me in and I bolted the door. Even with the door locked and the apartment hidden you can still see out the windows. Outside was totally dark. And then it slowly faded back to day.

I thought it was gone, that I’d outrun it, but then we started hearing the banging. At the door, inside the walls… It was trying to get to me, or get back into Neithernor by following me through.

With the apartment hidden I couldn’t call a door to Neithernor (and even if I could’ve I worried it could somehow break in and I would’ve let it in after me.)

I was going to call Cole but I thankfully noticed my phone’s screen flickering and remembered that The Storm could reach through technology too. So Grey and I spent two days trying to figure out what to do, all the while listening to The Storm inside the walls, trying to find a way in.

We were trapped.

At one point I concocted a plan to race out the window and down the fire escape but there was no way of knowing how long it would take me to get down or how quickly it would notice I had run out. Grey tried to assure me it couldn’t get in as long as the front door was locked, but even he didn’t know how strong it was, what it was capable of.

And then the paintings started coming off the walls.

It was banging harder and harder, trying to break through.

I was terrified and not hiding it well. I felt terrible for bringing this to Grey, who’d managed to stay hidden for decades. I had to do something. I had to get out, or at least somehow find a way to tell Cole, and tell you.

And then I realised I had the stick with me.

Couldn’t I do some kind of magiq and fix this? Somehow? Hurt it or distract it or get a message through it? I tried to run through the minnying, thinking maybe I could pass through to the floor below, or leap to another building… But it all seemed ridiculous. I could do that in Neithernor, which is full of magiq, but what could I do here?

And then something happened. It’s a blur, but looking back I must’ve been running through the stories I knew, trying to find something I could use to fix all of this. I just needed to get myself together, and stop freaking out. My father would be counting on me to be brave. To solve this and keep fighting. I barely felt the stick shivering in my hand…

When Grey yelled for me to come to the parlour.

I ran in and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

The journal was floating in mid-air. Not floating actually, but flapping. It turned and banged itself against the window. Then it dove to the coffee table and exposed the inner side of its cover. I didn’t know what was happening, what I was supposed to do…

Until I saw the compass crawling out of my bag, across the coffee table, with the little loop on its top holding a pen, which it dropped beside the journal.

Grey was in shock. I was in shock. What was happening? Was I doing this?!

I was. I raced over, scrawled a note on the cover and then the book flipped over, the compass crawled onto it, and it took off into the air again, flapping toward the window.

At first I thought it had something to do with the bird in Neithernor. The saddle on its back. But then it dawned on it. The ant and the caterpillow.

I was somehow sending a message to my boyfriend with the enchanted contents of my purse, using a magic spell I made up from a fairytale my father told me.

I actually asked the book if it knew where it was going before I opened the window for a second and it flew out. I watched it flap down Park Avenue until it was too small to see anymore.

I turned to Grey who hadn’t moved a muscle.

He finally said, “If there was ever a doubt you were a Green…”

The Storm: Part Two

The Storm: Part Two

The Grove was surrounded by a fortress made of dried vines. Some were reedy tendrils, some were thick as a fist, and they reached even higher than the grove’s walls. As if a living castle had grown from the ground and surrounded the grove, protecting it. The vines were so tightly coiled you couldn’t see through them, but a few purposeful-looking gaps allowed streams of light in. I could see bits of dense forest outside.

To the right of the crystal door the vines had grown so thick they were impassable, so I started following the “hall” created between the vines and the grove’s wall to the left.

After a while I reached the corner of the grove and turned… High up, the wall of vines had been crushed. The limbs had fallen into the hall, blocking my way.

Draped in the opening was the bleached white skeleton of a bird, the size of a large house. Its head and right wing were hanging on this side of the wall. Its flesh and feathers had fallen away years ago, but I could see that when it was alive it had been… armoured.

Rotting leather straps held a metal breastplate to its chest, and a long, spined helmet protected its head and beak. I could just make out what looked like a seat or a saddle on its back. Had someone flown this bird? Forced it to dive through the vine wall? Why?

Had the vines always been here, or had they been some sort of barricade? An attempt to protect the grove?

The War of Neithernor.

I’d forgotten. It was heartbreaking to see.

The sun was lower now so the shadows were growing. Standing below the shattered body of this behemoth was disquieting. Why would my dad lead me here? Why would he show me this?

All of this lost, fighting over magiq. Night was coming and I didn’t want to be alone there. It took longer to pass through the wall, the taste wasn’t as sweet, the stick didn’t react like it had.

I found myself running through the grove. I needed a break from Neithernor. I went back to the brownstone, but just before I fell asleep I remembered I hadn’t checked the journal.

My father wrote about the war. About “The Silver” and seeing what they were truly capable of, how he was also heartbroken by the bird when he first saw it.

“This was the world they wanted. Magiq, mined dry. Wonder, subjugated. To have all. To win control of a thing that didn’t belong to anyone. And when they were finally barred from paradise they set their sights on the mundane world. Drawing what little light remains into the dark place they hide. From the moment I left that grove I knew I had to do everything I could to stop them. The purpose I’d looked for all my life, and only seen glimpses of, was now looking back at me from the skull of that animal. Even though Monarch’s Mountain had been wiped away, their purpose, their soul still remained in those few remaining shafts of light. The Silver can’t win as long as we live to fight.”