Loud voices came from the living room. Fredy knew her parents never had guests over during the week nor so late at night. So she slipped out of her bed and across the room to the door. Slowly, very slowly she opened it and held her ear in the crack to hear the husky voice of an old woman say, “It is time. I have to take her now.”
“No.” Fredy heard her mother say. “We promised Danielle to keep her until she was fifteen. We promised!”
“I am sorry. Yes, it was planned for her to stay in hiding until she was old and strong enough to fulfill her destiny, but the situation has changed. I cannot ignore the signs any longer. Our friends from the Realm are sending us warnings, the Lampuss’ are gathering more intelligence and it will not be long until they find out about her. I believe Danielle would have understood.”
'What are they talking about?' Fredy wondered. She remembered Danielle's picture in its silver frame in the living room.
“Well,” her father said, pulling her out of her thoughts, “we promised to help. I thought I saw more of our friends around town lately and wondered if something was going on. I made sure she was never out of my sight but if something happened, I wouldn't have been able to protect her, so I guess she will be better off with her own kind. But we never told her anything about the Realm or the Silent Healer. We thought we had so much more time. Does it have to be tonight?”
“Yes. I am afraid so. We still have the advantage but this can change within the hour. I delayed as long as I could, but it is time to bring her home,” the old woman urged.
The living room was filled with a strange silence that was followed by Mrs. Jonquil's deep sigh before she spoke up. “I will go and wake her.”
Fredy heard her mother’s footsteps coming down the hallway, she climbed back underneath her blanket and waited.
The door opened and Fredy felt her mother's hand on her shoulder. “Fredy, Fredy, please wake up. We have a very important guest who needs to talk to you.”
Fredy sat up and asked, “What is going on, Mom?”
“Just come into the living room, please.” Mrs. Jonquil urged and pulled the blanket off her daughter.
Fredy followed her mother quietly and rubbed her eyes when she entered the bright light of the living room. Her father stood next to the dark window, staring out into the deserted street. Her mother sat down on the sofa, wiping tears from her cheeks with a tissue in her shaking hand. And in the armchair sat an old woman looking up at Fredy with her peaceful face that had deep wrinkles, a long skinny nose, a very slim mouth and gentle eyes. She stood up when she saw Fredy and bowed her head slightly. “You must be Frederika. I am pleased to see you are doing so well. Please take a seat, I came to talk to you.”
Fredy hesitated at first, this old woman just looked too strange to her, so she sat down next to her mother.
“My name is Elder Felicia of Willowgrove,” the old woman began gracefully as she sat back in the armchair, but then she closed her eyes and fell silent. Fredy looked surprised at her parents, but neither her father nor her mother looked back at her.
It must have been a minute or two before the eyes in the aged face opened and the soft voice spoke up again. “Dear Frederika, please forgive me, but I cannot find an easy way to tell you what you need to know without hurting you in one way or another and surely not in a way that your mother would have wanted you to learn about your true identity.”
Fredy looked at her mother, but the woman next to her shook her head and did not meet her eyes.
“Your mother, my dear Frederika … your birth mother was Heir Danielle of Willowgrove, was the Heir of Medklad,” Felicia said. “She hoped to live until you were grown, but something unexpected happened and these wonderful people were gracious enough to take you in and raise you as their own.”
Fredy could not believe what she was hearing. This must be a strange dream. It could not be real. She could only stare from the old woman with the very odd and old fashioned grey dress, to her mother, and then to her father.
“These wonderful people provided a very special service to our kind, one for which we will be forever very thankful.” The woman bowed her head slightly towards
both of the parents before she turned back to Fredy. “You, your kind tonight.”
“What? What do you mean with my kind?” Fredy asked, confused.
“We are a community of very gifted people and you will come home to the place where you and your mother were born, to Willowgrove.”
This could not be real. No. Surely Fredy would wake up any moment and laugh about such a silly dream, but she did not wake up and a sudden flood of panic swept over her. This was real. This woman Felicia expected her to follow her in the middle of the night to who knows where? But why did her parents go along with this? Then it hit Fredy. These people were not her parents, Danielle and her husband Frederick were her parents, but they had died long ago. Her parents were dead and she was an orphan. She was an orphan who was to be taken away in the middle of the dark night by a stranger. Fredy was so paralyzed with shock that she could barely hear Felicia's voice.
“Please go to your room and pack only your most valuable possessions. Take no more than what you can fit into a small bag. Do not bother with any clothes. You will not need them.”
Fredy stood up, but then an unexpected thought rushed through her head, surprising her most of all. “But what ... what if I don't want to come ...what if I want to stay here? I don't have any gifts and I want to stay with my parents.”
“No,” said Mr. Jonquil. He turned around to face her and tried to look sternly but Fredy saw his eyes full of tears and his voice was shaking. “Elder Felicia is right. We knew this day would come, but we hoped for a few more years with you.” His voice cracked and he cleared his throat. “I am sorry. I should have said something … somehow, but we loved you too much, like our own daughter. Fredy, it's time for you to go. We can't protect you any longer and you will be where you belong.”
Fredy did not know who packed the small bag for her or if she ever got to say goodbye to her baby sister Susie. Her head was in a thick fog, trying so desperately to comprehend what was going on. The next thing Fredy could recognize was the cold, fall wind in her face as she walked behind the dark shadow she knew as Felicia. She took a last look back at the house, the only home she had ever known. But the front door was already closed and the windows dark at No. 5 Bellfield Way.
Fredy and the old woman walked for quite a while. The Elder walked in front and Fredy close behind, wondering how they would travel to this place called Willowgrove, wherever it was, when the Elder suddenly stopped and looked around.
“Yes. This will do,” she said more to herself and then turned to Fredy. “I know you do not understand, but you will soon. Do not be afraid, my dear.”
It was impossible for Fredy not to be afraid. The very thought of walking in the dark gave her cold chills up and down her back .
“Now, if you will please hold your hand to my belt, I will cover us with this Travelcloak,” said the Elder. Her long dark dress was held together with a belt that in the glow of the streetlights looked like spun silver with a small silver buckle. Over her shoulders she carried a very long black coat, big enough to cover two large men. Fredy touched the Silverbelt and the Elder swung the coat around her, covering both completely. Fredy felt a sudden warm sensation flooding her body. It was so wonderful and secure, even the slightest uneasiness and confusion went away. Somehow Fredy understood that she was meant to go with this old woman and she didn't need to be afraid. She hoped this feeling would never go away. But a moment later, Felicia opened the cloak and all the comfort was swept away.
“Welcome to Oakwood,” Fredy heard the old woman say. The streets and houses were gone and in there place stood a group of small, ghostly, buildings in mids of a deep dark forest.
“I thought…” Fredy began, but the Elder gave her a hushed whisper.
“It is not safe to talk just yet.” Felicia looked around and signaled for Fredy to follow her. Together they walked step by step, careful not to fall over roots and branches covering the dark forest floor. Then they reached the trunk of an old Oak tree. Felicia felt around the tree and disappeared into a big hole in the trunk. Hesitating, Fredy followed her and sat down on the soft ground inside the tree.
Felicia's calm voice said, “We will stay here until light comes, Frederika dear. This is not a safe place in the dark, so please do not talk or make unnecessary noise.”
It was very uncomfortable in the cramped space and Fredy started to tremble. Not because of the light chill in the early fall air, but because of the complete darkness surrounding her. Just when she was about to tell the Elder how much she hated the dark, a light started to glow. It looked like a long golden light right above her head. Not as bright as a lamp, more like the dim night light in her sister’s bedroom. At once, the warm secure feeling swept over Fredy again and she relaxed until she finally nodded off.
“Good morning, Frederika, it is time to wake up.”
Fredy opened her eyes and blinked. The sun had barely risen and the dark of the night was gone but it still was not light enough to see clearly.
“Come, please follow me quietly,” Felicia said, standing in front of the hole. Fredy followed her without a sound. Both walked back towards the buildings and Fredy could see why Felicia had preferred to spend the night in a hollow tree. Most of the houses were burned to the ground. Some had parts of their walls still standing but others were only piles of stone and debris. Felicia stopped in front of a ruin of what once must have been a very big house.
“This was the house of your grandfather. Your father was born here and became an Elder of this village when he was very young, just before it was destroyed,” the old woman explained in her quiet and calm voice. “Many years later, after you were born, your parents came here to hide something very valuable to us.” She paused and looked around. “It is very mystical and has many forgotten powers. Your mother told me personally that she had hidden it in these ruins, but the only person able to find it would be a close blood relative of hers. Since you are the only member of her great family line left you will be the only one who can find it.”
Fredy stepped carefully inside the ruin and looked around. “What am I looking for?” she whispered.
“It is an Amulet, a round silver plate with stones on the outside and a seeing eye in the middle, on a long silver chain.” Felicia said. “It is stored in a wooden box.”
Fredy walked around, it was now light enough for her to see as she stepped over stones and broken parts of furniture and started to move debris out of her way.
“Please describe what you can see, Frederika, for I would not be able to see the hiding place myself.”
“I see a chair. Here is a broken table. There is a part of a window and there is a shelf…” Fredy continued to step over the debris for some time but without any success, there was nothing that looked even remotely like a wooden box. She looked back at Felicia who still stood in the old door frame smiling at her encouragingly.
So Fredy searched the debris again and again and she still could not find what the Elder had described. Fredy was sure she had every recognizable piece pointed out to the Elder but again she was asked to continue the search. If she would have been by herself she would have stepped out of the ruin and declare there was no Amulet hidden anywhere. But Fredy was not by herself and so she searched over the same pieces of furniture for a fifth time. And nothing seemed different this time then the times before, at least not to her. She continued with the description of the same furniture. “There is the shelf, a broken window with a whole glass, a table and a chair ...”
“Wait!” interrupted Felicia, excited. “Where is the window?”Fredy knelt down in front of it and tried to lift the frame, but she could not.
“I believe we have just found the hiding place. It will have more enchantments to secure its treasure,” said Felicia, now standing behind her.
“Hold your hand out over the middle of the glass and concentrate on the Amulet.”
Fredy did so and the grimy, glass pane disappeared and revealed a wooden box.
“Yes, I can see the box now,” the Elder said. “Please pick it up.” “What do you want me to do now?” Fredy asked holding the wooden box in her shaking hands. “Open it. Take the Amulet out and wear it. You are the rightful Heir of the Amulet, or the 'Heir of Medklad,' as we use to call it.”
Fredy set the small box down on the part of a broken wall and opened the lid. There it was. The Amulet shone brightly and the stones glittered in the sunlight. She picked the chain up (how heavy it was!) and slowly slid it over her head. Fredy held the silver disc in her hands and saw how beautiful it was. In between the stones were tiny carvings. She could have looked at it for hours, but she felt the Elder's gaze on her and let the Amulet drop. There it was again … the warm secure feeling. She could get used to this. Fredy looked up at Felicia with a smile and saw the old face beaming with pride.
“Frederika, please listen carefully. This Amulet is very powerful and is of the utmost importance to your people. You are not, under any circumstances, to take it off. Do not let anyone take it from you and do not give it to anyone else. This Amulet means everything to us. Some of our young men would even be so hardheaded as to kill anyone who as much as tries to touch it.”
“Do not worry. We are an extremely peace-loving people.” Felicia smiled. “Since our work is done now, how about some breakfast before we continue home to Willowgrove?”
“Home to Willowgrove…” Another wave of warmth and security flooded Fredy. These words really meant home, the place where she truly belonged. They were the most wonderful words she had ever heard spoken. But then she realized the words were not spoken at all. She could not even remember when Felicia had ever moved her lips, yet Fredy could hear her loud and clear.
Felicia smiled at her and pulled a piece of bread and a small bottle out of a hidden bag under the large folds of her cloak. Fredy took the bread and ate it greedily. In all the excitement, she had forgotten how hungry she was. Surely she would need more than just one small piece of this delicious bread but strangely enough she could not even finish this one piece.
When they had finished eating, the Elder stuck the leftover bread and empty bottle back into the bag, stood up and Fredy heard the calm clear voice again, yet without moving lips.
'Should we continue our journey and bring our new Heir back home to Willowgrove?'“Yes. Yes, please.”
The Elder swung the big cloak to cover both completely, while Fredy held on to the Silverbelt. A moment later, Felicia opened the cloak and said “Welcome to Willowgrove.”
In place of the ruins now stood a big rock. Fredy stood next to the Elder on top of a hill overlooking a lush, green valley framed by yet another thick forest, but this forest was somehow different from the one they had just left.
Fredy looked down into the valley and saw a big pond, fields with grains, and vegetable gardens. Paddocks with animals she could not make out in the distance and scattered around the valley were the houses of Willowgrove. She saw the people moving about and many children running and playing.
'They are getting ready for the feast in honor of your arrival.'
Fredy looked surprised at the people. She had never felt special enough to have a family feast … let alone one with a whole village!
But Felicia smiled looking into the valley. 'These people have waited a long time for you. You see that house over there, with the small garden and the barn in the back? That is the house of Carl and his wife Emily. They have a daughter called Miriam. She is your age. You will be living with them.'
Fredy looked at the small house and had the sudden feeling that the Elder was watching her.
'Frederika,' Felicia continued, 'I have to give you something from your dear mother. Please take your time. A bell will ring when the feast is about to start. It will be held in the Meetinghouse, the largest building in the middle of the village. I have to go. The people will be expecting me by now.' She pushed a piece of folded paper into Fredy's hand, turned, and set off down a small path into the valley.
Fredy watched the Elder disappear and then stared at the piece of paper in her hand. She sat down next to the big rock, unfolded it and read the last letter her mother had ever written:
My dear Fredy,
My time has come.
I have to say goodbye to you.
Felicia will teach you all you will need to know.
You will be much more powerful than I ever was. Please be good.
I will always be with you.
Your beloved Mother.
Fredy's eyes filled with tears. She covered her face and cried.
The bell rang. Was this already the signal for the feast to start? But Fredy was not ready to face these people just yet. What would they say if she did not show up? Fredy had a numb feeling in her middle, there would be no way she could eat anything anyhow. So many things had happened so fast. Fredy's head started to hurt. She closed her eyes and tried to remember the times she spent with Danielle, her mother, so long ago.
When Fredy finally opened her eyes again and looked up she was surprised to see how dark it was. She jumped to her feet ready to run down to the village, but she could not see the path anymore! Confused and alone in the dark, Fredy sat back down at the big rock, while the heavy silver Amulet started to warm up on her skin.
She thought to herself ‘If all these people were waiting for me for so long, then why isn't anybody missing me? Someone ... anyone ...?' She dried her tears off and waited.