My Mother’s Daughter

My Mother’s Daughter

Apologies for not writing sooner and for writing so much.

I’ve been to Neithernor.

There are no words to describe it, but I’ll give it a go.

First, how I got there. I’m worried about writing it out. Even with the protection spell (this is a secret my father worked hard to keep) but the key to unlock the knocking door was in Cole’s notes on the bar receipt.

When I figured it out, the knocking door led through to a warren in the ground. I came out of a broom closet into a small dim room.

It was like one of those stories where animals had houses like people but made from things in the woods. The walls were soil but packed tight and rubbed smooth. The floor was made of flats of stone and nearly covered with overlapping mismatched carpets. There was a hearth charred by old fires. A wind down the chimney had blown cold ash across the carpets. The room was subterranean, but warm. Small but not cramped. I could stand up. There were ornate dressers and worn chests. The door to leave the warren was barred and broken. Dirt and pebbles were scattered underneath it like a landslide had slammed it shut. There was only one window. Its frame was a tangle of knotted roots that grew out of the top of the wall and wreathed the opening, like someone had asked the tree for a window frame. It was too small to climb through. The warren must be set in a hillside because in the distance I could see the tops of trees swaying in the wind.

I could hear tree bows bending against each other in the woods and every once in a while, when the wind would blow a certain way, the trees would move apart and I could see the top of some sort of broken tower in the far off distance. Like a lighthouse, but I couldn’t hear the sea.

You could smell magic in the air. Almost taste it. Something like clove and cinnamon tea. Sweet and spiced and sharp. It was getting dark quickly. The sun (or whatever lights a place like this I guess) was already beginning to set somewhere behind the trees out there in Neithernor.

I couldn’t believe what was happening, where I was. What I was seeing.

There was a narrow bed, which was unmade, and a small glass and metal lantern on the table beside it. The lantern was shaped like a little house with windows and a pitched roof and a metal loop at the top of the chimney so you could hang it somewhere. There was a small knob at the base. I thought maybe it would spark a fire inside it so I turned the knob. A soft bell rang inside the lantern and light started to flicker behind the frosted windows. Several lights, dim but growing brighter, started moving throughout the lantern. The lights were little living things and that was their house. It gave a soft orange glow. I gently picked it up and carried it around the warren.

There were paintings hanging on the walls. Landscapes. Seascapes. Shorelines and wooded paths. There was a painting of a chain of low islands on an ocean and in their center was what looked like a dozen shipwrecks smashed together. Crow’s nests on masts and bows and sails made a sort of looming castle in the middle of the sea. I looked closer, and when lit by the lantern light, the sails began to billow, flicking off the surface of the canvas. I thought I could touch them they looked so real.

I rummaged around. I opened the drawers of a tall dresser and found men’s clothes. My father’s clothes. I wasn’t sure how to get back home because the broom closet door wasn’t knocking. I didn’t know how much time had passed but I was scared to leave. Scared I wouldn’t be able to find my way back here. I was still numb with awe. I put on my father’s cardigan and sat in an overstuffed armchair with my little house lantern. I should’ve pulled out the journal to see if something new had appeared, but I was so preoccupied I completely forgot. I tried to take a photo with my phone but they just turned out blank. The whole place is like the journals. I sat back, closed my eyes for a moment to just feel the place, and I guess I’m still a little jet lagged because I fell asleep.

I woke up and the sky outside the window was pink and orange. Dawn. I’d slept there all night. Dusk until dawn. I felt a twinge of nervousness that I’d just absently left my entire world behind for so long. And the more I thought about it, the more I started to hear a familiar sound. A soft knocking on the broom closet door. Not loud and demanding like on the other side of whatever it’s on the other side of. Polite. Like someone checking to see if someone else was awake on the other side of the door. So with a few polite knocks of my own I’d knocked my way back home.

I thought I’d leave the door open, see how long I’d been gone, and dash back in. But when I got back to the brownstone I found Cole there, who said you were all worried about me.

I’d been gone less than two hours. I tried to explain where I’d been, but felt like I couldn’t. I had to show him.

So I closed my eyes, thought for a minute of that little warren, and I summoned up a knocking door. Like magic.

I remembered to check the journal this time and naturally the warren had unlocked more journal pages.

My dad said the warren (which is why I knew what to call it) was his home for many years.

Time is different there. It moves faster, but our bodies are still bound by the passing of time in our world. We can experience days and weeks there but our bodies and minds only age by seconds and hours.

When he had finally found his way here, (which he says is a story for another time), he’d secretly hoped that Monarch’s Mountain would have been waiting there to welcome a traveler of the path. He’d been harboring the belief that maybe they’d somehow remembered and tended to this world. But they were gone. And as wondrous a world as it was, he felt more alone than ever.

He says that Neithernor is a wild and wondrous place. But a sad place. It’s the last corner of our world as it was, and as it could have been. But even broken it’s still beautiful and full of undiscovered wonders. Treasures still hide here. Ruins to explore and stories to seek.

He then explained what happened after my mum died. He believed the storm had been looking for him because he’d briefly come in contact with the Mountaineers and had been touched by the book. But he’d also been touched by Neithernor. Regardless, the storm wouldn’t leave him alone. So he sought refuge there. But when he returned home the storm would hunt him, and over the years the doors to Neithernor started closing. They were always meant to protect that world. To keep out the Silver. And so it became harder and harder for him to find ways in, until he discovered that the storm couldn’t enter Central Park. And in the Ramble he found a single door that could still carry him over.

Eventually he had nothing but the Ramble and all his regrets. But years later he felt a presence in the park. Faint and faded. It was the Council. What remained of them. He says they spoke to him, in the rustle of grass blades, in the chirp of baby birds. They were calling to him. They had sensed his presence too, also faint and faded. They’d found each other.

Over the years they nursed each other back to life. He says he became brave enough to leave the park so he could collect objects and artifacts from the other time. He shared their power and the Council grew strong again. And together, over years, they came up with a plan.

All of this is the wheel they set in motion. The last chance to unchange what has been changed. He wanted to fight for them, but his mind was broken by what happened with my mum and the storm wouldn’t stop pursuing him until he was gone. He could die alone in Neithernor, or with his friends there in the park.

He told them he knew someone who was brave enough to take his place.

A fighter. Someone who could work with those who would hopefully become the final mountaineers. He was talking about me. All I had to do was find the secret path he’d set for me years ago after he cast the spell to protect me from all this madness. The Council felt it was a lot to leave to “maybe” but my father said I was my mother’s daughter. As far as he was concerned there was no maybe.

He said I have to explore this world now. He can’t tell me how to find the little red house. I have to find it myself. And when I do I’ll know why.

He told me to take the walking stick he’d left by the bed. From now on I should carry the compass, the journal, and the stick with me wherever I go. With them I have all I need to do what I have to do.

He said to hold close to everything he ever told me. He said to trust in the flow of magiq and that he loved me and was proud of me.

That was it.

Cole didn’t want to stay in the warren. We had our first row (a long and personal story) and now I’m back home, wondering what I’m supposed to do and how I get out of the warren to do it.

I wish I could bring you all with me.

Maybe someday.

I’ve felt so lost for so long. But there, in his chair, looking out his window… for a moment I felt connected to him. And who I am. Where I come from. This is the place that shaped my parents and my life.

It made the warren even more wonderful. I didn’t know who I was for the longest time.

But I am my father’s fighter.
And my mother’s daughter.

 

Neither Here Nor There – Part Two

Neither Here Nor There – Part Two

Firstly, thank you to those who reached out to me. I appreciate it.

If Neithernor was a place that needed protecting, and the way in had to be kept secret, my father couldn’t just come out and tell me how to find it or get in. He would leave clues. Clues only I (or we) could see.

I am jet lagged and not in a good place right now, but the only way I knew that this was a story my dad already wrote was because I met Colby and he performed that spell on the book. He wouldn’t have done that for anyone else. He was part of the path my father left for me.

So we’re the only ones who already know this story. So we’re the only ones who would know what was different, or added when he told it again. The differences would be where the clues were hidden. This sounds crazy but before I even came up with this idea the parts that were new or different were the parts I’d already written out or quoted last night.

…it was the answer to a question that had haunted him. A question he didn’t have the words to ask. Neithernor became the answer to all the questions. The impossible solution to everything that was wrong. And from that point on he never stopped hearing the call of that forgotten place.

“It was the key to a secret lock inside me. And I gave up everything that mattered to me so I could seek it. So I could knock at its door and be welcomed in.”

Hearing the call. A key to a secret lock. Knock at its door and be welcomed in.

Anybody else wondering why, the further I went down the path, the more I heard those knocking doors? Remember them? And then nothing came of them? I hadn’t heard one in weeks, but the moment my mind hooked onto those little changes, those additions… about keys and locks and calling doors, I felt something. Something in the air. I’m in the brownstone so there’s always drafty windows and strange cold spots, even in summer, but this was different. I’d felt it on the path, in Tel Aviv especially. Something on its way to me. Like tumblers had moved somewhere. Like I’d put a key in a lock and now I just had to figure out how to turn it.

Still, in the midst of all of this, I couldn’t keep my sodding eyes open and fell asleep on the couch in the parlour.

And I dreamed about him. Not him actually, but a story he told me once. Not about the ant and caterpill(ow). About a woman who had to save someone she loved who was lost or trapped in some terrible place. I was her. And I had to gather up pieces of magic armor and weapons. I remembered her name in the dream but a sound woke me up around three in the morning and it disappeared.

Someone was knocking at the brownstone’s front door.

Any other time I would’ve expected it to be Cole.

But I knew the knocking wasn’t him this time.

It was Neithernor, and it had come so I could turn the key.

 

 

I should’ve dramatically ended the post there, but I’ve now spent nearly twelve hours racing around the house knocking back on knocking doors and have come up with absolutely nothing.

Neither Here Nor There

Neither Here Nor There

I’m home.

My father left me a personal entry in the journal that’s mostly what I learned with Colby in Montreal, but I don’t know what’s relevant to you and what isn’t so I’ll summarize.

Essentially, he talks about what it was like after my parents came back to the States. He says he was ashamed to admit that he left right after I was born. He was possessed by an “all-consuming need to find Neithernor.”

He says he doesn’t remember the first time he’d heard the name (it was around the time he’d heard whispers about something called Monarch’s Mountain) but when he did, it was the answer to a question that had haunted him. A question he didn’t have the words to ask. Neithernor, in his mind, became the answer to all the questions. The impossible solution to everything that was wrong with the world. And from that point on he never stopped hearing the call of that forgotten place.

“It was the key to a secret lock inside me. And I gave up everything that mattered to me so I could seek it. So I could knock at its door and be welcomed in.”

As the years went on, he came back home every now and then to see me, my mother. But every time was colder and more distant. He would tell me stories he’d found on his journeys and swear he’d come back with more treasures and tales. But the longer he was gone the more strongly he felt he couldn’t come back empty-handed. To repair the cracks he was creating he would have to bring the truth back with him to make his absence worth his, and our, pain.

But years passed and he didn’t come back. Until he did. He was scared and begged my mum to bring me and come with him where we’d be safe. From the storm. He described it as a storm of souls, tearing at anyone who got too close to the truth. He’d seen the storm come for people who’d also been looking for the truth, and when it found him leaving Neithernor, the storm had come for him.

He told my mother he’d finally found it, been there, to the ends of the paths. And in Neithernor he’d found the little red house. The one she’d dreamt about her whole life. He swore that we’d all be safe there. She called him a liar, told him to leave and never come back.

He tried to take me when she refused to come. She swore she’d never let him take me down those same paths. “The paths of madness.”

He wouldn’t listen. He tried to carry me out of the apartment and she used an object on him that they’d found years prior. It would’ve killed him if it hadn’t been broken. A crack inside it, one you could only see in certain light. They were both wounded by it. His mind. Her body. And she died a year later.

The storm consumed the mountaineers in 1998 and with no one left to open the book, and it unable to find my father, it disappeared.

He came back once more before disappearing forever himself.

So he could take me to Monica.

And now she’s gone too. Disappeared forever.

I don’t know why he wanted to tell me all this again. Maybe he was losing his mind in the end. Why, when time seems so short and things seem so important would he tell me what I already knew?

He left. He blamed himself for everything that happened.

And he did what he could to protect me.

I know all of this already. I have so many questions and I get nothing from him but riddles and half-truths and secrets.

What did he find that was worth all of this pain? I can’t imagine it being worth it.

I’m sorry. I’m tired.

Safeguards

Safeguards

Last night Cole and I finally sat down and did the Joradian Safeguard to my blog! You know, aside from fannying about with the journals, I realised I haven’t had the chance to do any sort of actual magic until now. I know this is going to sound sooooo eye-rolly but it was… romantic? Intimate? Definitely a fun night. I made the wheel and Cole took on the keeping vessels because I am rubbish at origami (as it turns out.)

Coming up with the six pale memories had me thinking a lot about the past ten months or so. How different my life was this time last year. How different I was this time last year. Where I was, what I thought I wanted…

Everything changed with that letter from Mr. Wallace.

I want to finish this, see Neithernor, do whatever I have to do there to help you, us, if only to gain some kind of closure. For my father as much as me. The idea that he did all of this, and died before he ever saw it come to fruition… well it’s the least I can do to see it through.

But at some point, it has to be finished. Right? Whatever we’re meant to do with the journals, the puzzles, it’s all leading somewhere, and then it will be done. And then what? The idea of learning the truth, possibly bringing magic back into the world somehow… it’s wonderful, exciting, but for me, abstract. Unfamiliar. I don’t really know what it means, you know? Will we wake up and the whole world’s changed? Or will it be like a trickle? Someone remembers something, someone on the other side of the world remembers something else… I don’t know. And it’s hard to pin my life on something like that. I know my father did. But he was consumed by this, at the cost of family, friends…

I have something here. In New York. With Cole. And I still want to do something good for the world that’s tangible, real, creative. Whether that means rebuilding Ackerly Green, or doing something new, right now it’s all bright and exciting and I want to feel all of it. And share it. I wouldn’t change much about what led me here, but I’m also ready to do whatever it is I’m supposed to do, and then get on with my life.

The thing is… Right now I am as close to my father as I’m ever going to be. These journals are all I’ll ever have of him, and part of me knows that the Neithernor volume might be the last. Maybe I’m making my peace with that, but I’m also ready for what little closure might come from seeing his plan through and then starting to live the life he’s given me a chance to live. I need to figure out what I want outside of all the expectations and plans and machinations. Maybe in my heart I’m not some magimystic adventurer, but I can still do good. Maybe change the world in other ways…

But I’ll never have anything more of my father than this, never more than chasing his ghost.

I think the time is coming for me to let him go, the idea of him, because that’s all that’s left.

Here/Where We Go

Here/Where We Go

It was a whirlwind day, that.
I didn’t want to leave Grey, wanted the day he’d imagined for so long to go on and on. But by evening he was tired and frankly, so were we.

I didn’t know what to do next and honestly was hoping you’d all figure something out. Then Cole told me what you’d done (don’t want to say specifically until Cole and I work the charm thingy on my site) and how you’d figured it out. You never cease to amaze me. It’s obvious why my dad put his faith in you.

I’ve since spoken with Grey twice over the phone. We have this sort of bond. We are the last of Ackerly Green Publishing. I’ve told him a little more, about you, some of the more general things that have happened, collecting the old AG books, etc. He tells me stories about my father, my grandfather, even my grandmother. It’s all faded, but there. It’s wonderful. A last gift from my father.

UPDATE: So I was actually writing this post when Cole found something in the new journal—

Cole was flipping through it (I had flipped enough) and he found new entries.

We think we’ve narrowed down how this volume might work. We think it’s either based on a time release or on location. Cole thinks it could be on a schedule and it seems possible but so far my dad has made it pretty tough to unlock these books. Just having someone wait for new pages doesn’t seem like his style? But then I realised I’d gone back to the brownstone yesterday to pick up some clothes and things, and I think that’s when the new pages could’ve shown up. The brownstone triggered them like some sort of magical gps.

(I’ve been making a list of other places to visit to try out my theory, if you have ideas, please let me know.)

So, the actual pages… There are two entries, one in the front of the book, one in the back. The front one is to me, and the back is to you, the Mountaineers.

This journal is similar to Volume One of The Monarch Papers (seems like a thousand years ago) where I can’t take photos of the pages so I had to transcribe what he wrote, and it’s all even more incredible than any of the previous volumes.

The only thing I didn’t copy was a sketch he made of the number 18 on your entry. It didn’t seem especially relevant but if you think you want to see it I’ll try and give it a go.

Fasten your seat belts. You’re about to read some gobsmacking stuff.

The Incomplete Mundane History of Neithernor.

My Deirdre,

There is a place beyond our world. A place untouched by the curse that erased magiq and all knowledge of it.

The following is what I know about Neithernor. When your mother and I walked the paths of wool and silver we knew so little, and had no clue where they would lead. But after you were born I found Neithernor. And my experience there, along with echoes of its history here in the mundane, helped me assemble what I believe is the most complete (but still unfinished) history.

My research of Neithernor goes back to Anne of Brittany’s death and the eventual splitting of her court of artists’ secret guild into the paths of wool and silver. At some later point in our current history the path of wool became Monarch’s Mountain so that’s what I’ll call them going forward.

The two groups split, searching for illumination and beauty and magiq in their own ways… I don’t know how or when exactly, but it was the Monarchs who first sought out Neithernor ( I believe the destroyed eighth unicorn tapestry may have held clues to its location and is the true reason it was destroyed.)

The Monarchs discovered a small but verdant place connected to our world through secret entrances, but wholly hidden from us. ( I’ve read that at that point in history simply knowing about Neithernor and/or its name and imagining or wishing yourself there may have been enough to gain entrance.)

Neithernor was not affected by whatever removed magiq from our world. That’s how the Monarchs learned that there was an alternate history of magiq. (A secret they kept from the world.)

Neithernor is a small “pocket world”. It is a strange and gorgeous land of shores and fields, of deep woods and unexplained ruins, mountains and caves, all abandoned when memory of it was removed, but still alive and rich with hidden magiq. The Monarchs believed that this place had been created eras ago, through magiq, as a home for the old guilds… A place where those in the old time could slip away to use and research magiq freely, because even in the time of those who didn’t die magiq was secret and feared.

The Monarchs found written histories of the guilds, learned magiq beyond our world’s rudimentary charms, explored the strange island-like world, discovering doors to and from places all over our mundane world. They created their entire society around Neithernor and the relics and old histories they found. At some point they created the original path of wool so that others like them could find it and explore and learn and cast. Many Monarchs lived normal lives here, then secreted away to rule and explore their hidden kingdom.

But the path of silver also discovered tale of Neithernor and became desperate to share in its wealth. The Monarchs allowed them entry. The Silver chose a remote place to call home, and kept to themselves, as was the agreement. (There had been conflict among the groups in the years following the court of Anne, even before Neithernor, having to do with their differing views and methodologies.)

There was peace for an untold time. But then something unknown happened that pitted the Monarchs against the Silver. I don’t know whether it was a gradually building conflict or if there was a single catalyst, (or who was ultimately at fault) but it escalated into “The War of Neithernor.” Many were lost but MM drove the Silver out of the land and barred all entrance back.

The Silver scrounged for power here in the mundane world, trying to use everything they had to get back in. But they had been exiled.

Years later, The Council sent The Book of Briars to Monarch’s Mountain and the Silver scrambled to take it from them. They had grown strong in their own secret place here in the mundane, using what they learned from Neithernor and gathering artifacts and objects from the old time… They had also created The Storm. Once they realized the book was not for them, they sent the Storm, and in doing all but wiped away any memory the Monarchs had of Neithernor. Aside from the Silver, and a few whispers and stories, Neithernor was forgotten again.

The paths fell into ruin. The ashes of Monarch’s Mountain became a small secret sect here in the mundane, unaware of what they had discovered. Left with nothing but esoteric records of their former, glorious history. And Neithernor, untended, became a volatile and lonely place.

But Neithernor is still there. Still barred from most. But I found the way in. And in that strange place I learned magiq.

And there I found the little red house your mother had somehow dreamed of all her life, and inside of it… well, you’re going to have to see for yourself.

And then, the letter to you.

The Letter to the Mountaineers.

Mountaineers,
I don’t know much about the 18 Gates (The Council of The 18 Gates) but I’ll share everything I’ve learned over the years.

They have sent the book, in varying forms, to groups for centuries. Groups analogous to you, the Mountaineers. They are particularly fond of those who have found themselves on the path of wool. Perhaps it’s easier to reach ones seeking what they seek. It requires immense power to send the book to us from where they are. An in-between place called “The Fray”, an unformed sort of purgatory where I believe they became trapped when everything changed. I don’t know how much they know about the truth. The Fray is a strange place from what I’ve learned, difficult to communicate with, and there’s much I still don’t understand. But I know it takes them decades, sometimes centuries, to gather enough magimystic energy to send the book, borrowing power from our world, searching for power in theirs.

But the book persists because in each era the 18 Gates have used what power they have to not only send their cherished object to us, but also to protect it from The Storm and its Master. They have kept the book safe while also trying to spread what remained of that protection to those who’ve tried to unlock it. But those on the path of silver have wiped away almost everyone who has ever tried to open it, and it becomes harder and harder to send it every time.

I may be wrong, but I believe the book is a kind of seed spell. I think the book is the vessel for the whisper of a story. A most powerful kind of magiq. A story that wishes to be told. Old, or perhaps new, I don’t know… But within it, the truth. I believe it’s been planted in The Book like a seed in a garden. And every time The Book has come to us, we have nurtured it, with perseverance, goodwill, and with magiq. The stronger the book, the better chance we have of telling the story within and changing everything.

Yes, the book is destroyed.

But I have a plan.

A plan that took years of design. And to set the plan in motion, I convinced the 18 Gates to focus their power to protect you instead of the book when The Storm arrived, and let the book burn. It was a difficult choice but they knew we had to try something desperate to have a chance.

Much of the “how” won’t make sense at this moment, but I hope by now you’ve looked to my letter to Deirdre and found something the 18 Gates left with our storyteller friend.

The Storm’s Master has collected immense power but holds it out of hand, out of sight from us. Soon there will be nothing left here. But for now, we have an advantage. One they aren’t yet aware of.

We have you Now, and an unburned book Then.

Your book is gone, but with our guidance you are going to help your predecessors open theirs. What will happen then, I don’t know. But we have all that we have ever needed. The book and the Mountaineers.

Together, with the help of my daughter, you will change everything.

M. Grey Ackerly

M. Grey Ackerly

Grey (as he asked to be called) invited us in and Cole and I both noticed that it felt like the atmosphere changed as we walked through the door. Like we were in a plane taking off. Definitely something weird/magic.

The place had been completely untouched from when they turned the building into a hotel. It wasn’t huge (though still absolutely massive by New York City standards), but it was beautiful, dappled with light, the sounds of NYC city traffic a soft drone, dulled by beautiful curtains, antique furniture, and heavy, wall-sized tapestries.

We sat down with him in the parlour where he motioned for us to join him. I was not at all expecting this so my mind was furiously trying to figure out what to say, what to ask, what to do… And Cole, feeling this was my show (he told me later) tried to fill my awkward quiet with compliments about the apartment while I tried to get my mind together.

Grey started talking, his hands in his lap but gesturing dramatically at times, leg crossed over the other at the knee. He had a sophisticated but warm air about him.

He paused every now and then, trying to find a memory, or a word, (I just looked at the Basecamp post about Ackerly Green and only now realised Grey is 101!) but he didn’t seem frustrated or embarrassed. He just looked at his hands or out the window and waited for whatever he was looking for to come to him. We talked for the better part of an hour before I told him that we were surprised to find him here because as far as anyone knew, he’d died decades ago. He smiled and nodded, telling me that had been my father’s plan.

He went into the kitchen, brought us tea and said the memory was very hazy now but my dad had come to him years ago and told him that the Ackerlys and the Greens were connected to a conspiracy and he thought those of us who suspected it we were in danger. Grey thought he’d gone insane but my dad showed him something that changed his mind, though he couldn’t remember what it was now.

Grey explained that the apartment had been preserved at great cost, first to protect him and others in the families, then eventually me. So if I ever followed the path here, the path my father left me, the safe haven would be waiting. He pointed to the front door where there were two locks. One was normal, one was not. He said one simply locked the door, the other one locked out the world. That’s what my father had told him.

He said my dad came back at some point because he remembers him both as a young man and an older man, but all the years in the apartment had become a jumble. He remembered he cared very much for my dad and had hoped that he could make up for what happened with my grandfather by being there for Sullivan.

Grey asked Sullivan to warn Grey’s son James, but he and Grey had a contemptuous relationship and James wanted nothing to do with the Ackerlys or the Greens. My dad reassured him that he thought only those seeking the truth were in danger. And from what he knew James led a normal life, untouched by magic. Grey asked if I knew what became of his son. I sort-of recalled reading that James died but since I wasn’t sure, and wasn’t sure when, I said no. It seemed like a well-intentioned lie at the time but I feel guilty about it now.

I asked him if he remembered why the two families were in danger, who my dad was afraid of. Grey didn’t remember, said he may never have known in truth. Then he said, “But I assumed it was about the books. The lost books. And that assumption, Sullivan said, was why I was in danger.”

Cole and I were stunned. Cole asked if Grey remembered them. He told us that the older he got the more the walls come down. For most of his life he only saw the path blazed by the choices he made. But now he can see other choices. Warren’s choices. Choices he never allowed Warren to make, but somehow, somewhere, those choices were made. He said he didn’t remember the books, but he now remembers a hole where something used to fit, and as decades passed, that hole became the shape of The Lost Collection. He stopped himself, a little overwhelmed, and said something to the effect of, “You have to take everything I say with a grain of salt, unfortunately. I sometimes find myself remembering something that isn’t mine to remember. A dream or a story told by someone else becomes the truth, my truth, at this late stage of life. But I know there’s something missing. A scratch that’s missing its itch.”

That stuck with me. A scratch missing its itch.

He went on to tell us that his life had been consumed with poor decisions but he hoped in helping me, he could do some right. Give his life purpose. He was sure there was more to tell, but he couldn’t quite remember. He knew at some point he’d taken to writing it all out.

He got up to look for his writings… and then after a few minutes called us to the dining room. The room was sunny and had a great big wooden table. And on the table, was a box.

Grey had remembered this was what he was meant to give me. The box was from my father.

I was so out of it that I only found out later Cole had taken photos in case Grey didn’t let us take the box, so you could see it.

This was what my father had wanted me to have. It was gorgeous, expertly crafted. There wasn’t a lock, but I couldn’t get the lid open. Grey had never seen the inside of the box either, but had been assured by my father that I’d be able to open it.

I spent ten embarrassing minutes trying to pry it open before realising this must be some kind of puzzle. Some way of protecting whatever was inside from everyone but me.

I went back over everything I’d seen and learned these past months as Cole and Grey made small talk to try and pretend they weren’t waiting for me to figure this all out. Sometime later, room service arrived and they left me alone with a sandwich while they ate in the parlour.

It had to be sealed magically. Nothing else explained how tightly locked the lid was without an actual lock. What was I missing? What did I know that no one else did? I even picked over the two halves of the scarf, maybe something else was hidden in them…Then something struck me. Why was Herman on the box? Yes, a Green left it with an Ackerly to give to me, but it had to be something else, it had to be a clue…

And then I remembered…

The pendant.

The hippocampus pendant. A clue in the scarf separated them into a pair. What if I had to bring the two hippocampii (?) together for the final clue?

I pulled it out of my bag and half-expected it to be drawn to the box like a magnet. I laid the pendant on top… nothing. I moved it along every side of the box… nothing. At this point Cole and Grey were standing in the doorway, watching.

I was at a loss.

And then, half-embarrassed, I put the pendant around my neck and I barely had to touch the box. It almost opened itself when I tried to lift the lid.

Inside was a cloth pouch and a small journal.

Inside the pouch was what looked at first like a pocket watch:

Until I opened it…

The thing on the cover of The Guide to MAGIQ. Cole said you call it a chronocompass. It must’ve been my father’s.

The journal was blank except the title page which my father had written, “The Monarch Papers: Neithernor”

And a letter to me.

Which read–

My Deirdre,
You’ve found it. Your bravery and heart have led you here. Beyond all hope you have continued, and on the other side of the darkest woods you have found the end of a path. Now you stand at a door, my love. On the shore of your future and the future of all the world.

But the time for choosing is done. This is a door you must go through I’m afraid, because your journey is now tied to all of us. All who’ve sought the truth. There is a plan in place. An unfathomable machine of secrets designed by myself and the council beyond our sight- a plan to thwart The Storm and its master.

Hope is not lost. Not yet.

The truth is this… If we don’t succeed now, then all of this will be for nothing. The magiq here in the mundane is finite. This is our final chance. I have sacrificed my life for this cause. I would never wish the same for you, but I trust no one to finish this more than the daughter of your mother.

All you need is inside this box. And the places these objects will take you.

Be prepared, nothing I have done to protect you so far can keep you safe now. Trust only in the flow of magiq and those who join you on this journey.

To begin this final chapter The Mountaineers must use the most dangerous of magiq and you must learn everything about the secret world.

The Mountaineers must reach out to the past, and you my dear, must go to Neithernor.

Sullivan

Picking Up The Thread

Picking Up The Thread

Um… Mounties?

A month passes by like a year and suddenly one week happens in an hour.

So much to unwrap, but it looks like it’s all starting up again, in ways bigger than I could’ve imagined. I wish you could’ve been there.

First, the scarf.

It’s a little itchy.

I mean, obviously I’m not wearing it now because it’s insufferably hot, but when I did, a few times last fall, I noticed it was itchy. Not terribly. Just a little. And only if you wrapped it around in certain ways. It’s very wide so I could rewrap it and poof, no itch…

Two nights ago we were lying on the sofa at Cole’s. I was rubbing his feet and he was reading to me after a deliciously gluttonous (and very wine heavy) meal at an Italian place in his neighbourhood. My bag was near the sofa, and I don’t remember when, but and at some point I absently reached down and starting fiddling with the scarf.

Must’ve gone on an hour before I actually noticed that I was running my fingers along the itchy part. There was a line down the middle of the scarf that was rough, unlike the rest of the yarn. I didn’t want to say anything until I’d managed to run the entire scarf through my hand, following the rough thread from one end to the other.

Why was there one course thread running down the middle of the scarf? I bolted up and yanked it out of my bag, investigating through wine-rimmed eyes. I couldn’t see the thread, but I could feel it. I handed it off to Cole. He felt it too. We were giddy at this point. We each grabbed an end, trying to find the source, and then I felt it. The “tail” of the course thread, hidden amid the tassels on my end. Cole found it too. We both pulled at the same time, giggling at how insanely excited we both were. He gave me the honours and the hidden thread slid right out of the middle, separating the scarf into two!

We ran to the kitchen table to study the thread under the light.

It had lines and dots running all down it. Morse code I thought? Cole was already rushing back with a notepad from the coffee table. I “read” the lines to him and he wrote them down. Turns out Cole knows Morse! (he’s very handy.)

I half expected it to not make sense. To be a fluke we were trying to wish into being magic.

It wasn’t a fluke.

It was an address.

In New York City. The upper east side to be precise.

We googled it. It was a hundred-year-old apartment building that at some point had been converted into a boutique hotel.

We figured whatever was in the apartment would be gone now. Right?

We stood in the kitchen in our underpants trying to figure out what to do. Cole went over the code again. He’d gotten it right.

We figured we should definitely wait until morning to go. Daylight, soberness, etc. We agreed to wait.

And we barely slept. We kept checking to see if the other was sleeping and finally got up just before 6am.

I brought the scar(ves)f just in case. We went over and over what we’d say to whoever was managing the front desk of the hotel. Ask if my father had left something behind, maybe lost and found? Who knows, maybe the manager was another of my father’s friends, waiting decades for me to show up?

Nope. The manager looked at us as if we were mad. They weren’t in the habit of keeping things in the lost and found for years and he’d never heard of Sullivan Green.

It wasn’t until Cole mentioned apartment number 7G specifically that the manager perked up. He had Cole repeat it twice, then hurried into a back room to make a whispery phone call.

He came back and told us to take the elevator to the 7th floor. To room 717. The room that used to be 7G. We wondered what would be waiting up there, how we’d get in. The manager shook his head and said we wouldn’t need a key.

We took the elevator up, wondering what were getting ourselves into. Cole wanted me to wait in the lobby, with the scarf. I politely declined.

We stood outside the door for what felt like an hour. I kept telling Cole to knock and then stopping him before he could. I rubbed my eyes as if I were about to see something so incredible I wouldn’t want to blink.

And then Cole finally knocked.

And knocked again.

He tried the knob just as the lock turned.

Someone was already inside.

The door opened and standing on the other side was a tall, handsome man who had to be somewhere north of 90.

His hair was silver but impeccably groomed. He had a light in his eyes and a beautiful smile. All the anxiety, apprehension suddenly melted away. I felt at ease for some strange reason. Was it him or the trail? The man nodded to Cole, then turned to me.

He asked if I was Deirdre Green and smiled when I said yes.

Then he proudly introduced himself.

A name I’d come to think of as myth. But here he was, standing at the head of the trail my father left for me.

 

M. Grey Ackerly.

Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was my birthday.

Last weekend Cole planned a surprise trip and it was wonderful. Guess where? Hudson! My other favorite town in New York. We ate too much, drank too much, spent too much, and it was all sorts of glorious.

I spoke with Mon briefly. Things have moved so quickly this past year… Bunratty, the move, the journals, the travels, and now it all seems a billion miles away. And of course I feel guilty because part of me thinks Mon’s health should be my number one priority. And it would be… if there was anything anyone could do about it. She remembered me for most of the call and it was lovely to hear her voice.

Other than the trip to Hudson we’ve just been… not on some hare-brained adventure or hunting some lost book or magical painting. Just being. We’re mostly staying at Cole’s place because the brownstone doesn’t (yet) have air conditioning, but I still pop back there every once in a while. Cole would drag everything I own to Hoboken if it were up to him, and while I love falling asleep with him and waking up in his arms (or with mine wrapped around him) I like knowing that I have that place too. I don’t know if it’s because of past relationships maybe? David did kick me out of “our” flat after all. HA! I hadn’t thought of him in a while. Seems so silly now, all that fretting. But I guess if I hadn’t fretted so dramatically I wouldn’t have crossed the Atlantic in the first place. Hoorah for dramatic fretting!

Speaking of sleeping, we’ve both realised we sleep SO much better together. Cole said he saw this pic on Tumblr (naughty boy tumbling at work), and it’s us in a nutshell:

I couldn’t agree more. (Cole said I could post this ONLY if I made sure you all knew that he doesn’t claim his body looks anything like the man in the pic. So I’ve said it but do not in any way endorse said statement. Hi sweets!)

Speaking of sweet… This was my birthday present:

He designed it himself! I absolutely ADORE it. It has blank pages so I can play around with watercolor, my newest hobby, which no you can’t see because I am baaaaaaad. (He also gave me an amazing watercolor pen kit!)

So we’ve just been… well, truth is we finally admitted in Hudson that we’re crawling out of our skin a bit. We’re both loving finally being able to spend time together, but the what-ifs and what’s-nexts are always in the back of our minds. It was honestly quite a relief to hear he felt the same. We both know, deep down, that this thing with the journals and my father isn’t over. But we have no idea what to do next and we’re both looking for signs and symbols and knocking doors… Some secret order in everyday life. I mean, everyone is, sure, but we (you included) have actually found actual, honest-to-god mysteries and puzzles and magic. It’s hard to go back to everyday life.

It’s one more reason I’m so happy I found Cole. Happy you brought us together, too. Who else in the world could understand us but each other?

It’s officially summer but I still carry the scarf in my bag at all times. And the pendant. I figure if they offer any protection whatsoever, I’m more than happy to haul them around, especially given what’s happened with the Book of Briars (a couple Mounties wrote me after.) I wonder if I should protect my blog?

So, I’m here. One year older. Happy where I am. But looking for the road that’s waiting out there. Excited I don’t have to walk it alone. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have Cole, and you, to share this with.