Lord Orgulous came to our province some time ago, and when he did, he inherited the rule of the province. As might be expected, he arrived with quite a flurry of rumor swirling about him, for he hailed from a distant land, and he was young and handsome and mysterious. Some said he left behind a fortune so grand that even the stars looked down upon its glittering magnificence with envy. Some said he was exiled for some preposterous boast that insulted a very powerful personage. And there are some among us—the romantics—who believe that he came to our land because he was fleeing from heartbreak.
They say he did it because he asked to sit by an innkeeper’s fire one night and was denied with a lie. The innkeeper said that there was “not enough fire” to warm the man who was dressed in rags and filth. He appeared to be a beggar, but he was not a beggar. He was a warlock. And he was none too pleased by the innkeeper’s response. It was no surprise that he should cast a curse. What was surprising was that he did not just cast the curse on the innkeeper himself, but on the innkeeper’s entire country.
“Wait until you are within the borders of the forest before you open the box, else you have failed before you have begun.”
With those words, the schoolmaster turned away and left Naji alone before the borders of the forest.
Naji entered the forest with no other possessions but that box, as the test required. He carried no water, no food, no clothing but what he already wore, no bedroll, nothing to trade or barter with.
But that is what he had chosen. A box.
Jaquery Tattery was born at sea, and he grew up in a town far from the sea, and all he wanted to do was return to the sea.
For generations, for nearly a century, the Rofotou family had been gathering the pieces of a puzzle that they believed would unlock some grand secret of the universe, or some extravagant treasure, or at least some profound piece of wisdom. But I didn’t know anything about that before a dark-haired woman named Red came knocking on my door one day. I didn’t know why she asked to see my old dream logs. And I certainly didn’t know what any of it had to do with Mrs. Highweather.
In the town of Pennyhaven, there was honor among thieves.
“So what do you think it means?”
The mayor gazed up at the sky and released a long sigh. “I can’t draw any conclusions based on what I know so far.”
“Oh, come on, you have to have some thoughts.”
Mayor Joyance glanced over at his newest friend. She quirked her brows.
“Of course I have thoughts,” he said. “Just no conclusions.”
Three major things will happen to me over the course of the coming year. I’ll meet someone. I’ll think he’s wonderful. He won’t be. That’s the first thing. Second, I’ll break my arm in a cowardly attempt to flee from my own responsibilities. And third, I’ll serve on the crew of the most extravagant ship to ever sail the nine seas, the Glorious.
How do I know these things will happen?
Because I told myself they would in a letter…a letter that was meant for a future me two years from now, and somehow ended up being delivered to the current me.
There is a valley, where grow flowers of every hue and kind, colors and fragrance in harmony. They sing songs, it is said, in spring and summer, songs whose ghosts and echoes can be heard in winter and fall.
These flowers are singular, for each is inhabited by an animating spirit.
The valley is haunted, they say.
The thief fell from the tower’s upper window. She had lost her precarious grip on the pitted brick. She remembered that she should roll herself up into a loose ball to protect her head and neck. But by the time she remembered, she had already struck the first branch of the tree in the orchard below. Then she struck another and another. Scratched and thrashed and bounced about, she finally reached the ground, thankful that the soil was soft. She lay there for far too long a moment. The breath had been knocked out of her. And she feared moving for fear she might discover that she could not.