About your Book:
This book is a good contemporary reading selection for anyone who likes mythical creatures; some invented, some from legends. There are essentially two stories in this book that combine into one. First, some background and the story of Amberly Wakeland, who moved into a haunted house and found herself caught in the web of a sinister illuminier. The second story is about Morgan Fey Burne who would rather be referred to as Morgan Achron. She follows her own path and with some mysterious objects, she finds Elderwynne’s Academy. Eventually, Amberly’s and Morgan’s paths collide and their lives are drastically changed.
Ever wonder what lies beyond the veil of magic?
Magic is a series of commands upon the energy flowing through a force known as the Framework. While wizards and witches can recite the ancient commands to summon power, Illuminiers can amplify it. The one with the Synergium has limitless power. Markus Burne, an evil Illuminier, seeks the destruction of Elderwynne’s Academy to absorb the Synergium. The betrayal begins with an ancient entity and a deceitful girl with violet hair. Amberly and her mother are new to Locke Lake, and when they move into the notoriously haunted home of Connor Locke, they are easy targets. With promises of salvation, Markus steals the evil from Amberly’s home for a darker purpose.
He disappears with the forbidden magic, leaving destruction in his wake. He leaves his daughter, Morgan behind…
The daughter he traded for supremacy isn’t an easy target. Morgan Fay Achron has the power of three and the gift of time. She’s a descendant of Morgan Le Fay with a timepiece, a coin, and a book of nonsensical poetry. Miserable with a stepmother that doesn’t want her, she mourns for the father that vanished. Then Arthur Achron arrives. Convincing her to come to Locke Lake, she leaves the only home she’s ever known to seek answers. At H.B. Locke Private School, Morgan spies another student leaving the cafeteria; a girl with purple hair.
Morgan discovers another school far out on the isthmus. With ingenuity and a white lie, she surprises the Illuminiers. They find her dishonesty unwelcome, distrusting her nearly as much as the one person who tried to destroy them. Despite having a lineage that dates back to Merlin and King Arthur, Morgan has to fight to gain the trust of the Illuminiers to use the Framework. Morgan’s friends are there to help her find herself. When the time comes, will Morgan betray the Illuminiers as Markus would have it? Will she stand with her friends against a dark adversary? Swept up in the Synergium, can she resist the lure of the Framework?
This novel features the chronicles of two girls, Amberly and Morgan and how their paths connect.
Targeted Age Group: 10+
The Book Excerpt:
Chapter Three – The Magical Timepiece
To people like her stepmother, Morgan might have seemed unremarkable because they didn’t see the whole picture. Her thick, long auburn hair hung in a difficult to manage mass. Her father used to forgot what color his own daughter’s were. This might be explained by her hesitation to look people in the eye when she was talking to them. Her stepmother always referred to her as a “tall, kind of a strange looking girl” with none of the looks or charm of her father. Although her nose wasn’t petite and slim, its width worked perfectly with her large eyes and scattered freckles. She had full lips and a pleasant smile, but recently, she seldom had a cause to grin.
Morgan was different because she wasn’t interested in attention, even though she was taller than most of the girls her age and even some of the boys. If she was looking for people to acknowledge her, all she had to do was stand up or move her hair from her face. Her father used to tease her by telling her that she would ever be able to blend in. As a result of his remarks, she wore a headband and put her hair in a tight ponytail, all to no avail. Her striking looks were as remarkable as her mother’s, and she was every bit as bright.
When people dismissed Morgan as weird or strange because she didn’t capitalize on her features or abilities enough, they didn’t have a clue about the amazing things that she would accomplish by simply tuning in to her surroundings, observing and reading.
Her faraway look concealed the light of a girl who was really measuring her surroundings. Even when she was looking directly at you, she was always considering her surroundings. She didn’t really talk much, but she was a good listener.
Morgan often sat alone in social situations, scarcely worrying about friends and appearances. Her aloof exterior didn’t mean that she wasn’t painfully aware of her lack of friends. She was merely in search of a friend that she wouldn’t have to change for, a very rare trait often misunderstood as defiance.
She didn’t own the coveted digital gadgets that twelve-year-olds crave, and she didn’t play video games. However, Morgan did read as much as she could. The books she read gave her perspective.
Morgan learned to trust her imagination from Alice in Wonderland, and that people weren’t always what they seemed from the Wizard of Oz. The man hiding behind the curtain was her father, the Red Queen; her stepmother. They played similar roles in her life. She blindly trusted her father while fearing her stepmother.
Unfortunate events happened in stories, but Morgan believed in agreeable endings. Morgan used her shyness as a shield to protect herself. She loved to be comfortable and nondescript, preferring jeans and a worn hooded sweatshirt to trendy clothes and lip gloss.
Regardless of Morgan’s lack of attention to her appearance or unwillingness to stand out, there are moments when someone shines at last. After some of her most significant life events unfolded, one of her favorite teachers referred to Morgan in this way:
“She wandered into our world, unsure of where she was going – a girl who found her way in by accident. I would describe Morgan as a stone at the water’s edge ready for the sun to come out and the waves to wash over it. As it glimmers, it catches your eye at last.”- Mrs. Peregrine
At twelve, Morgan was just waiting for the right attention and the right amount of warmth. Soon, the tide would reveal aspects about herself that everyone (including herself) seemed to miss.
And timing was everything.
Time has a way of unwinding slowly for some and a way of unwinding rapidly for others. For Morgan Fay Burne, time had a way of stopping on a dime. When time restarted, Morgan often found that the odds were heavily stacked against her. There were meaningful moments, but because of destiny, they were fractured and few could be constructed into beautiful memories.
When time’s pendulum recommenced, it swung back and forth to the rhythm of fate. Morgan had come to expect these types of highs and lows as a fixture in her life. She didn’t know that when time stood still, it continued for her. Morgan had a skill within her that only a handful of people had. However, it would be a while before she learned to use it.
Her life was a series of intermissions.
Morgan’s father vanished a year after her mother died in a tragic automobile accident. Her loss was devastating. It was baffling that she wasn’t allowed to the funeral. It was handled quickly, something her father explained was necessary so that they could move on with their lives. Six months after her mother’s death, her father moved on, but Morgan hadn’t. He found the time to remarry, leaving his daughter with a new stepmother. His new wife viewed the marriage as something she controlled until Markus Burne failed her.
He would have been as quickly divorced if he wouldn’t have vanished.
While it seemed that Morgan’s father wasn’t coming back, she still longed for the answers. Morgan vividly remembered the night that he left. The memory was like a movie playing itself over and over in her mind.
He came home from work to tell his wife that he had a pressing situation at the school he taught at, and that he had to go take care of the situation immediately. He explained that he had to attend a meeting, and that he couldn’t get out of it. He and Pamela argued about the cancellation of their plans for the evening. Morgan could still visualize Pamela standing in the living room having a tantrum, her hair freshly styled and her blue eyes artfully outlined with dark eyeliner.
“Markus! You promised to take me out! I had my hair and nails done especially for tonight!” She screamed imperiously.
Morgan found it strange that after marrying and doting over Pamela, her father looked suddenly impatient with her silliness. He shook his head slowly and laughed, turning away from his distraught wife as if she were suddenly an inconvenience. When he put his long dark coat on and made for the door, Pamela chased him, yelling vile words at him. As he opened the door and moved into the threshold, he said to his new wife, “That’s the way it is, Pam. Tonight is off!”
Her mouth opened in shock at the cruelty in his voice. Morgan was also surprised by his tone. Although their courtship was brief, she had never heard him talk that way to Pamela. He looked in her direction. For a moment, Morgan was alarmed that he would strike her. Her father seemed like a stranger to her, as if he became someone completely different. He gave her a strange brooding look and smirking, he pulled out his wallet. He removed a fifty dollar bill and threw it at her. He focused his attention on his new wife, who was getting upset.
“Treat yourself to a movie. You should take Morgan along. When you married me, Pamela, you agreed to be a mother to my daughter as well.” Pamela put her manicured fingers to her mouth in shock.
“Markus?” She said in disbelief, and began to sob. Her father seemed unmoved by her emotions.
“You aren’t very good at anything else but complaining so why don’t you take the kid to the movies? Make it a sad one so you can cry over it.” He paused, and then chuckled to himself before delivering the final stinging comment.
“Did I ever tell you that you will never measure up to my wife Marguax? She was both smarter and prettier than you.”
Pamela screamed in fury at Morgan’s dad.
“I want a divorce!” Her lavishly painted fingernails grasped the slim neck of a classical figurine from the decorative shelf in the hallway. She waved the sacrifice to her rage in a tight grip for a moment before throwing the porcelain statuette at him. Amazingly, he caught it deftly. Morgan wasn’t certain, but it seemed as if the vase had stopped in midair so he could easily grasp it. Pamela stepped back in shock, her eyes terrified. She put her hand over her mouth and stomped off crying.
After Morgan’s stepmother ceremoniously left the room, her eyes darted back and forth in confusion and fear for what her dad would do next. When he looked at her, he calmed noticeably. It was as if he had just dealt with something unpleasant and was feeling relieved that the issue was closed.
Morgan sensed that the argument with his temperamental wife was escalated so that she would leave the room. Her father beckoned for her to come forward. Morgan complied, and he leaned down and pulled something from his pocket. He placed it in her hand. It was an antique golden pocket watch. She noticed he had a strange look on his face. She felt that her father was possessed by something.
“Keep this with you. Don’t ever lose it.” He said, with a worried look on his face.
“Okay, Dad. Can I go with you?” Morgan was getting scared. He didn’t want to be stuck with Pamela for too long.
“Not just yet. I have to take care of something first. I’ll return to you as soon as I can.” After giving Morgan a brief hug that seemed to have little substance or sincerity, he slipped out the door. It was the last time that Morgan saw her father before he disappeared.
Of course, Morgan didn’t get to see a movie on the evening of her father’s disappearance, and the drama unfolding in the house wasn’t exactly entertaining. Pamela called her mother and her friends and carried on hysterically about missing the party and how she was going to get a divorce. She raved about how she was tricked into marriage and how unfair it was that she had been reduced to staying home “with the kid.”
Morgan went to her room and put her headphones on, listening to Beethoven’s Fifth. Tears of fear and frustration slid down her face. She distrusted of her father’s motives. She felt waves of anger and confusion. She wondered why her father would marry such a miserable woman if he didn’t approve of her as he claimed. Even worse, how could he leave her alone with Pamela after telling her what he thought of her?
It took a couple days for Pamela to work through her rage and realize that her husband wasn’t coming home. Suddenly worried, she called the police and reported him missing. For days, Pamela chewed her nails and wept over the phone to anyone who would listen. Everyone searched for her father, but only his car was found behind an abandoned factory.
Meanwhile, Morgan was left with a cold woman she barely knew. Her new stepmother was a shallow woman whose line of credit was extremely inconvenienced when the moneymaker in the family was lost. She was spending what remained in the family bank account, but she didn’t get too depressed about it. She knew that once her husband was declared legally dead she would have access to so much more.
Since money was her primary concern, she could care less about the fate of a child who had endured two traumas. Morgan existed for three months like a shadow in her own home. She silently crept about the ranch style home, staying as far away from her unpredictable stepmother as much as possible.
Pamela had a short fuse, and took every opportunity to scream at Morgan. She stayed out of the living room, and only went to the kitchen when her stepmother was in the bathtub or sleeping. At night she would cry herself to sleep, unable to stop herself from despising the man that had left her behind with such a cruel woman. Sometimes, in the long hours of the night she wondered if that wasn’t what he had planned all along. After a while, she stopped missing him and allowed herself to cry for her mother, who in life had loved her dearly.
Life would have continued that way if something didn’t change.
As it turned out, an unexpected visitor changed her fate. From her bedroom window she watched as an old black Cadillac DeVille pulled into the driveway. The car door opened and an older gentleman with thick white hair got out of the vehicle without a hesitation. He seemed hale for his age, as if nothing pained him. He pulled out a black umbrella to shield himself from the rain. He walked confidently towards the door, his steps carefully measured.
Morgan heard the sound of the doorbell echo throughout the house.
Curious about the visitor, Morgan peaked around the corner so that she could listen in on the conversation in the entryway. Morgan’s stepmother answered the door with a sigh. Pamela was always cross when her Internet time was interrupted. The gentlemen standing on the porch introduced himself.
“Greetings! You must be Mrs. Burne. I am Dr. Arthur Achron, perhaps you have heard of me?” He offered. Morgan could tell by the silence that her stepmother was clueless. The gentlemen asked more questions.
“This is, I believe, 131 South Pine Street? Does Morgan Burne live here or not?” He asked.
Why did he ask for me? Morgan wondered, moving a little further into the room.
“Oh!” Her stepmother exclaimed, “Markus showed me a picture of you! He said you were one of his teachers when he was growing up. You’re Morgan’s grandfather! What is your name again?” She asked.
The gentlemen smiled patiently as if expecting her confusion. Morgan was flabbergasted. She didn’t recall her father ever mentioning that her grandfather was one of his teachers. She knew that she had a grandfather, but her father told her that he was rather eccentric and preferred to be alone. She remembered a conversation that she had with her mother just before she died. She described her grandfather as a very brilliant man, someone that she wanted Morgan to meet.
And here he was, asking for her.
“It’s Arthur Achron, ma’am, and I’m delighted to meet you. I’ve seen your engagement photo in the newspaper. I must say, you are even lovelier in person.” He shook Pamela’s manicured hand and she smiled back, her cool exterior warmed by his compliment. Morgan heard skittish laughter from her stepmother that she seldom heard when someone arrived unannounced. How had the gentlemen managed to charm her? What skills did he possess that the mailman, the repair guy or any other visitor didn’t?
“Oh yes, of course, Dr. Achron! I’m sorry that you didn’t receive an invitation to the wedding. Markus was in such a hurry! I had a gown to select and flowers to order…”
The old man smiled kindly and raised his hand to indicate that he forgave her for the mistake. He seemed to be the type of person who could put anyone at ease by simply letting them off the hook.
“It’s no trouble, my dear. The bride has the hardest job, especially with all the arrangements to be made. And yet, you still were a vision!” Morgan couldn’t believe how sympathetic he was to Pamela’s ridiculous problems. He seemed to be coddling her frivolous stepmother with his flattery. She wondered if it was part of a plan to gain Pamela’s trust.
Morgan could scarcely keep from giggling when her stepmother took the bait.
“For once, someone understands what I went through! Nobody gets how hard it is to have the perfect wedding! I was so stressed out, and I had to get some last minute dress alterations…” For a couple minutes, the gentlemen pretended to listen to what she was saying. After Pamela started to vent about her troubles with the caterer, he began to look around as if he was tired of the charade. Pamela continued to drone on about her problems unaware that she had lost the attention of her audience.
Everyone knew about the last minute dress alterations and the abnormal cravings that had caused her to gain an unusual amount of weight. Morgan recalled the boxes of truffles stashed all over the house. She hid them compulsively, as if she was doing something illegal by eating them. Every time she was asked about her habit of hoarding and consuming the chocolates, she kept repeating dreamily, “They help me to forget.”
She wouldn’t elaborate any further.
When the old man’s gaze fell upon her, Morgan withdrew a little. He smiled broadly in relief, clearly happy he had found her. It seemed that she was at the precipice of another life changing event.
This is my grandfather.
“It’s unfortunate that you couldn’t stay away from your fiancé’s chocolates before such a big day. He was setting you up for failure with all those decadent chocolates wasn’t he?” Morgan put her hand over her mouth briefly in an attempt to stifle her surprised laughter. Morgan walked out into the hallway.
Pamela was standing there in shock, as if mesmerized by his words. She was about to protest when her grandfather said, “Let me guess, they were Fluffle Truffles, correct? Given in a golden box with a deep blue ribbon? I never cared for Fluffle Truffles. Eating too many causes uncomfortable side effects like memory loss and weight gain, among other things.” Pamela gave him an expressionless look. Although it was funny to see Pamela stunned into silence, she was also confounded.
How did he know about the truffles?
It was a fact that Pamela couldn’t stop eating them, and her father wouldn’t stop buying them for her. They were always in a gold box with a sheer, indigo ribbon. They were embossed with the words Fluffle Truffles. He kept handing each delicately wrapped box to his future wife, telling her it was for her wedding jitters. She would laugh in delight and stuff them in her mouth, a distant look on her face. Nothing seemed to penetrate her concentration as she gobbled them down.
One day, she slapped Morgan’s hand when she reached for one. Her face was vicious as she defended the truffles, and Morgan withdrew her stinging hand in surprise. After that Morgan avoided Pamela when she was eating her coveted chocolates. After her father vanished, they continued to arrive in the mail, special order.
As a result of consuming the many boxes of truffles, Pamela gained around fifteen pounds before the wedding. When she went to the bridal shop for a final dress fitting, she nearly had a tantrum when she discovered that she could barely zip it up. She was pouring out of the dress as she ran from the dressing room crying. The seamstress grimaced and prepared to do some extensive last minute alterations. As her bridesmaids helped her to the dressing room to remove the dress, Morgan heard the sound of fabric tearing.
Morgan walked closer to the doorway so that she could get a better look at the stranger. He wore a long dark jacket that matched his tasteful business attire. He looked at Morgan once again and smiled at her. She couldn’t resist smiling back. His eyes and his dimples made her feel at ease. She was reminded of the pictures of her mother that she kept in her dresser drawer.
She stepped forward a little more, amazed at how he had effectively silenced her stepmother and subdued her with his words. She stood before the door as if she were sleepwalking.
Morgan was impressed. She had heard of hypnotism and subliminal messages, but her grandfather was gifted with something beyond that. He spoke to Pamela as if speaking with a statue that could hear but not respond.
“I wouldn’t have attended the wedding anyway. You see, I gave my daughter away at a wedding once, and then I lost her forever due to circumstances beyond my control. It wasn’t my best day.” His face was momentarily dark, but he smiled wistfully.
“I learned that after your beautiful wedding, your husband abandoned you. Ever since, you’ve spent your days missing someone important to you. Morgan doesn’t know your real story, but I do. It’s nothing personal, but you’re not the sort of mother that I want to raise my granddaughter. This is your opportunity to be reunited with the one you miss, and this is my chance to spend time with my granddaughter. I’ve missed her the way you miss your little girl.” He said gently. Morgan couldn’t believe what she was hearing. How did her grandfather know that Pamela had a daughter? It had to be true, because Pamela sobbed a little as if crying in her sleep.
“You’ve been inconvenienced enough. You can keep the house and everything in it. Morgan will have everything she needs.” He told her.
“So, you’ll pack Morgan’s things because her coming to stay with me is best for her, isn’t it?” Pamela looked at the visitor and nodded her head, nearly in tears. Her grandfather held up his hand once again to convince her that he understood. Pamela looked down at the cream colored carpet. He patted her kindly on the shoulder, and she immediately made her way to Morgan’s room to pack her things.
When he stepped forward and asked Morgan if she would like to stay with him at his house in the country, she nodded her head slowly. She couldn’t help but be unsure, but she knew that living with Pamela would be far worse.
“I’ve never lived anywhere else.” She told him. He smiled kindly.
“What if I told you that this house is just the beginning of the places you’ll see? There is so much more in the world than you could ever imagine.” He assured her.
“I can imagine a lot.” Morgan said.
“If you’re anything like your mother, I’m sure you can!” Her grandfather said laughing. She liked the sound of his laughter; it reminded her of her mother’s laughter, so pure in its cheerfulness.
Pamela packed Morgan’s bags packed within an hour, happy to be released from the responsibility. When her stepmother finished packing her things into the large suitcase her mother bought her for a long ago trip, she handed it to her grandfather without a word. She had one more thing to get.
After her backpack was safely in her hands, Morgan paused briefly in the doorway of the only home she had ever known. She was uncertain of what would happen once she passed the threshold. As if sensing her reluctance to leave the familiarity of her home, the old man walked up to her and grasped her hand. Amazingly, she felt her worries drift away, and a peace settled over her. Her mother’s voice entered her mind like a soothing hand on her forehead. She felt her mother’s presence, and heard her voice like a whisper in her ear.
I don’t want you to stay here. This is my father, Morgan. He’ll look after you.
She looked at his face and was amazed by the tear in his eye when he looked at her. It made all the difference.
“You look just like your mother did.” He said.
“Morgan, there will be no more feeling like you were unwanted.” He said and reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver locket.
“Look, there’s a picture of your mother in this locket. I want you to have it. I know that you barely know me at all, but I don’t wish to lose any more family members. That’s why I want to keep you safe from those that would see you hurt.” He placed the locket in her hand. She opened the clasp. Inside was a picture of her mother at about sixteen. Her expression was soft, and her long reddish-brown hair was pulled back in a barrette. Morgan was touched by the gift and thanked him.
It seemed like it was just the two of them standing in the doorway. Her stepmother was logging onto the computer as if nothing had transpired. Morgan placed the locket over her head as her stepmother busied herself with new plans for a day that wouldn’t include her. She didn’t ask Morgan’s grandfather for his address, phone number or inquire as to when she would be back. Pamela clearly didn’t mind that her “visit” was a one-way trip.
Morgan turned her back on Pamela and her past, and walked out the door for good. Morgan got into the passenger side of her grandfather’s car, and didn’t look back.
Pamela was calm as she sat at the computer desk. She didn’t think much of Mr. Achron’s tactics, but she was satisfied that Morgan was on her way to Locke Lake. She never wanted to be the stepmother to Marguax Achron’s daughter. While it was unfortunate for Morgan, she wasn’t prepared to take care of her. Pamela was relieved that Dr. Achron had come for his granddaughter.
Blood is thicker than water, and Morgan is not my child. Pamela thought.
Truth be told, she didn’t understand Morgan at all. She knew from the first moment she saw her future stepdaughter that Morgan was not the kind of girl that she could mold into someone like herself.
It was time for her to reunite with her true family.
As day faded into dusk, Morgan found herself in Locke Lake. It was a small town about 200 miles away from the home she had always known. It was bittersweet to leave her home behind, but all joy had disappeared from the home on Pine Street. There was nothing of her old life to salvage.
And now, the future was uncertain.
Fortunately, her wave of bad luck was beginning to recede the moment she arrived at her grandfather’s home in Locke Lake. However, something else was gaining momentum.
When her grandfather’s car pulled into the gravel driveway, Morgan studied the old brick house that she would call home for the foreseeable future. Her grandfather’s home was a large red brick square with an enclosed wooden front porch. She watched as the rainwater poured from the eaves troughs and onto the ground. Morgan found it ironic that the rainy weather from Pine Street had followed her there. The paint on the trim around the windows was peeling and the house was in a general state of disrepair.
Once she got out of the car, Morgan stretched. Her grandfather grabbed Morgan’s suitcase and she solemnly followed him to the porch door. He pulled open the rickety storm door and they entered the front porch. After noting the empty terra cotta pots, boxes of tools, and the bird’s nest in the corner of the window, she knew right away that her grandfather didn’t mind clutter. Morgan waited as he sorted through the keys on his keychain to find the one that would unlock the front door. She looked at him expectantly as he flipped through the many keys. She worried that he had lost the key to the house.
After becoming flustered, he looked at her and winked.
“Don’t worry, this old house has many keys, I just have to find the right one.”
He was turned away from her so that she couldn’t see what he was doing. She heard him mutter something in haste. She heard the sound of keys clanking together. Next, she heard the lock release.
Within moments, they were indoors.
His house was an unorganized and a bit on the dusty side, but Morgan found it fascinating. He had many antiques scattered and displayed everywhere. Many of these items seemed like they would be at home in a museum. The odd collection of heirlooms intrigued her, and she wondered how her grandfather had gathered such an assortment. Noticing her look, her grandfather explained some of it.
“I have an antique store in town, open during the summer months. This is just some of my inventory.”
Morgan was relieved to see that her grandfather’s home wasn’t perfectly tidy. He wouldn’t fall to pieces if she made a mess, and he wouldn’t fuss if her room wasn’t just so. Her grandfather gestured for her to sit down as he carried her suitcases to what would be her room.
“Your room’s not quite ready yet, so I’m just going to gather some blankets and sheets and make the bed. I’ll be right back.”
She sat down on the comfortable leather couch and waited. She heard the sounds of a bed being made. Minutes later he was back in the living room. He told her it was time for them to have something to eat after such a long drive. He brought her a TV tray and unfolded it in front of her. Morgan watched with interest as he turned on the television for her and put in a DVD movie. She was surprised that he had many classic movies on his shelf that she wasn’t aware existed.
He went out to the kitchen and heated up a pan filled with canned ravioli. He served it on a plate with some fruit cocktail, cottage cheese and cold soda pop in a coffee cup. She thanked him, and he nodded kindly. He took a seat in an old recliner, setting up a TV tray for his own meal. Although it was a humble meal, it was far better than an awkward one with Paula. She grinned as her grandfather laughed loudly at the comedies, surprised that he was so comfortable around someone who would normally be a stranger in his house.
He didn’t mind that she quietly ate her ravioli while he laughed at the antics of the classic comedy duo Abbott and Costello. She was accustomed to watching Pamela’s dramas. She often had to suffer listening to her talk about them all evening with her friends on the phone. When Abbott was being chased by the Wolf Man, she couldn’t resist giggling a little. Her grandfather looked her way.
“It’s amazing that after so many years, this is still funny to me!” He said, slapping his knee and laughing. Soon, they were laughing together.
Morgan couldn’t help but like her grandfather. She knew her life was heading in a different direction. The house contrasted greatly from the new home she lived in on Pine Street. Even with its old wallpaper and fading paint, her grandfather’s old brick house had character. By contrast, the home she once lived in had become a monument to Pamela.
Around bedtime, he showed Morgan her new room.
“I’ll just let you get used to things. I know it’s a bit of a mess, but the boxes are filled with some of your mother’s things. This used to be her room, and I just thought you might like to have them.” He looked melancholy for a moment, but composed himself.
“These are your things now to do with what you wish. There might be something in those boxes that you could use, you never know.” He smiled at her and walked back into the living room, leaving her to contemplate the cardboard boxes filled with all that was left of her mother.
Morgan began putting her clothes away in an old oak dresser that he had cleaned out just for her. She smelled the scent of age around her. Mustiness combined with layers of dust dominated the room. The old wooden bedroom furnishings promised the durability of time. With a bit of cleaning and organizing, the room had possibilities.
The bed looked comfortable, and she couldn’t wait to get some sleep.
As she sat down on the old bed, she gazed at the stack of boxes and thought of her mother. There was a round wooden cheese box at the top of the stack that got her attention. When she first walked into the room, she didn’t remember seeing it there at all. It was labeled, OPEN ME FIRST. Curious, she slid off the bed and picked it up. When she opened the lid, she found a collection of costume jewelry, barrettes and a wooden hairbrush. Fascinated at the long strands of hair in the bristled so similar to the color of her own hair, she brought the box to the bed. When she heard her grandfather’s footsteps, she hastily put the box back on the stack. Morgan wanted to savor the exploration of the boxes for when she was alone.
Her grandfather brought her a thick old quilt with a familiar pattern. Morgan remembered that when she was little, her mother was always sewing quilts just like the one he gave her. As she held the quilt next to her face, she felt warm and comforted. It was like a hug from her mother. Morgan’s grandfather smiled at her, and an understanding passed between them. He spoke of her mother reflectively.
“My daughter was an amazing woman. She was filled with love and magic, and she wove it into her creations.”
“Magic?” Morgan said, trying to understand. He gave her a secretive smile.
“Though we believe we’ve lost those that we love, they are still with us. Your mother isn’t far away, Morgan. You have to believe it.”
Morgan decided to bring up her father. Perhaps her grandfather knew something about his disappearance.
“And my father, where is he?” Morgan asked. Her grandfather’s face looked grave for a moment.
“He’s not as far away as I’d like.” He said disdainfully. Morgan gave him a confused look, but found herself in no mood to defend her father. She still blamed him for the predicament she was in, though hating him was difficult with so many unanswered questions.
“What do you mean by that?” She asked.
“Never mind my ramblings for now, just know that your father really is lost.” He explained carefully.
“You mean that he vanished because he was in with some bad people, right?” Morgan said sadly. Her grandfather closed his eyes, and breathed in. He seemed to be thinking of a way to answer her question. His shoulders sagged as he exhaled.
“I’m sorry to confirm your worst fears, child, but it’s true.” Morgan turned away sadly. She remembered the day when he yelled at her stepmother and caught the vase. It was like looking at a stranger.
“He wanted to hurt someone the night he left, I could tell.” Morgan said, her voice shaking. Her grandfather tried to calm her.
“Don’t let the past haunt you. You’re capable of protecting yourself, Morgan. You’re more gifted than anyone I’ve met in a long time.”
“I wish I could believe you.” Morgan told him.
“Then, believe this. You’re brave like your mother, and that’s saying a lot.” He patted her on the shoulder.
His words were comforting. A little more of Morgan’s distrust melted, and she smiled at her grandfather. It was her first genuine smile in quite some time. His shaggy eyebrows lifted and he smiled back. His teeth were worn, but they were a happy sight.
She slept better than she ever had.
For the entire week, they stayed in. Her grandfather served her meals of macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and frozen pizza. They watched television every evening, and she gradually felt at ease with him. Her grandfather didn’t mention her dad, but she could tell by the way he glanced at her kindly from time to time that her circumstances weighed on his mind.
Her grandfather heated the living room and kitchen of the old house with an old wood stove. He also used it on occasion to warm water for tea or hot chocolate. Morgan wasn’t used to such rustic simplicity, but she was soothed nonetheless. On these evenings, she enjoyed bringing the quilt into the living room and drinking hot chocolate.
As she and her grandfather watched television with the stove warming the room, she felt a peace she had never felt in the home she shared with her stepmother. Despite her grandfather’s collection of antiques, she had the room she needed to relax and to breathe without feeling like she was on pins and needles.
Morgan busied herself with rearranging her bedroom, and sometimes when she was alone, she went through the contents of the boxes. One of the boxes contained some of her mother’s clothing, including some scarves that she knitted and an assortment of skirts. There were other miscellaneous items such as a sewing kit and a collection of buttons. Another box contained art supplies, including brushes and paint. There was a sketchbook with a leather binding and a set of drawing pencils.
When she opened the sketchbook, there was an inscription on the first page in her mother’s handwriting. She touched the writing with her fingers, deep in thought.
“Breathe life into your imagination and let it soar.” Morgan read aloud, unsure of what it meant but liking the sound of the phrase. She placed the sketchbook and the pencils in her bag. She found a picture of her mother to hang up in her room. She looked every bit as lovely as Morgan remembered her. Morgan smiled, and sometimes she felt that her mother was smiling back from the portrait. She felt the same sensation when looking at Marguax’s likeness in the locket. There wasn’t a feeling of sadness, but there was a certainty that she wasn’t far away.
One evening, her grandfather fell asleep in the chair watching television. As she got up to go to bed, her grandfather snorted and woke up. He reminded her in a tired voice to set the alarm because she would be starting school at H.B. Locke the following morning. It was a private school that he referred to as a “family tradition.” Minutes later, her grandfather got up and pulled out a dusty old brass clock from a drawer. She set the alarm so that they would both awaken at the right time.
As Morgan lay in bed, she heard sounds all around her. She found that the occasional scurrying noise in the walls blended with her grandfather’s snores coming from the back of the house. Somehow, despite the obvious presence of mice in the walls, she relaxed. She listened closer, and thought she heard the mice squeaking. It wasn’t ordinary squeaking, but a conversation of sorts. She had read about the intelligence of mice, but these creatures seemed to have their own language. Whatever it was, it didn’t worry her. Morgan had always suspected that there was genius in the animal kingdom.
It seemed strange that the nocturnal sounds of mice crawling around inside a wall and the snoring of an old man could be comforting. However, Morgan found her new life superior to the isolated existence she experienced before. Her home became a dreary place ever since her father married Pamela. She was thankful for the freedom from her stepmother. She no longer had to sit around anxiously waiting for word about her father’s whereabouts.
With her mother gone and her father missing under dubious circumstances, the snores of her grandfather and the sounds of the busy mice seemed better than enduring the silence of the night. After a while, the snores and the scurrying lulled her to sleep.
As the dawn crept into the windows, the old alarm went off. The ringing scared Morgan out of bed, causing her to panic. She hit the button to silence the noise and looked out the window. The blue sky and sunshine promised a beautiful fall day. Morgan switched on a light and dressed. She put on the outfit she placed on top of her dresser the night before. She chose a lightweight navy blue sweater with a gray blouse underneath combined with a pair of plain looking jeans. She wanted to look as ordinary as she could for her first day at school so that she could blend into the background. As she struggled with her hair and brushed her teeth, Morgan wondered how her first day at school would play out. She began to feel tense all of the sudden, uncertain of herself.
Something’s happening today, I can feel it.
Like any young girl, she worried about what others would think of her grandfather walking her into school. He appeared disheveled lately. He didn’t dress as he had on the day that she met him. His thick unruly white hair was often tucked under a plaid fall cap, and his face was unshaven. He had the look of a man with other things on his mind, and rightfully so. Although she knew of his antiques business, he seemed content with keeping the store closed.
In addition, Morgan wasn’t looking forward to the typical nosey questions from the other students. If asked, she didn’t have a clue in regard to what to say about her parents. She pictured herself telling them that she was a modern day Cinderella in need of a fairy godmother. That would be a rebellious response, but there was no other witty way to put her situation into words.
She grabbed her bag and pulled out the tin box that she had taken from her room on Pine Street. It was just a regular square tin box that had once contained candies, but to Morgan, it was something special. She opened the box and unfolded a slip of paper inside. Morgan reviewed the note, which served as the box’s contents list.
(1) One fifty cent piece
(1) One gold pocket watch
(1) One book of poetry
The first item came from her father’s jacket, and the second item was handed to her by the man himself. It clearly didn’t work. The third item was one of the most confusing items on the list. Morgan’s father always carried the small book with him before he disappeared. Just before the police arrived, she found it out on front porch tucked inside a flower pot. She assumed that it had probably fallen out of his coat and landed there by accident. After all, he had no cause to leave it there. As soon as she spotted it, Morgan picked up the small book and took it to her room to look over without having to deal with Pamela’s prying eyes.
When Morgan opened it, it had a picture of her at seven and an inscription on the first page: To Morgan, my favorite apprentice. It was written in her father’s choppy handwriting. The rest of the pages confused her. Each page was filled with ridiculously horrible poetry. The title of the poetry collection was Practicality Poems by Giles Elderwynne.
The poems made little sense, and the odd way that they were written seemed unbecoming of a man with such a fancy name. Some of the verses were long, and some were short. Many of them didn’t even rhyme. The first poem was unusual, the title of it an abbreviation.
Tow entery knocking twiced,
Sayed yourse named oncely, twicely, thricely.
Sayed ite fasten, been precisely.
Morgan didn’t tell anyone about the book of poems. She placed it in the tin box with the watch and the coin. She kept it hidden in her backpack, only looking at the contents when she was certain that she was alone. She regarded the three items as pieces to a puzzle she was meant to solve. The solution was out there, she just had to find it.
Morgan quickly finished dressing. She collected the tin box and tucked it back into her bag. She walked out into the hallway and made her way to the kitchen. Her grandfather sat at the old kitchen table sipping his coffee. He was wearing a black suit, and his hair was neatly combed. He offered Morgan a cup of coffee, and she accepted. Coffee was never an option at her house. Apparently, she was in for an unconventional family life with her grandfather. He smiled and raised his cup.
“Are you ready for your new school?” He asked. Morgan was surprised by his broad smile. Apparently, he was excited about the occasion. She felt guilty for thinking he was an embarrassment in any way.
“I guess.” Morgan said uncertainly.
“You guess? You’re an Achron. There’s a whole year of knowledge waiting for you.” Morgan couldn’t resist smiling a little at his expression. Her grandfather said the words as if she was in for an adventure. He made her first day seem so easy!
“This is all new to me, and I still don’t know much about being an Achron.” She didn’t want to tell him that she was feeling unsure of herself, but he guessed nonetheless. He wagged his finger and smiled.
“You’re Margaux’s girl and you are an Achron more than a Burne and that means something.” Morgan smiled. She liked the idea of being an Achron rather than a Burne.
“How can I be more of an Achron than a Burne, Arthur? Wouldn’t I be fifty percent of each?” Morgan asked teasingly. Morgan enjoyed calling him Arthur instead of grandfather sometimes. Naturally, like everything else she did, he found it amusing.
“Ah, percentages! Never mind them when it comes to Achron blood. The Achron genes are strong and true!” He proclaimed proudly. Morgan looked away smiling. She loved the way he liked to joke with her. As Morgan got into her Arthur’s aging Cadillac, her tensions began to increase. As they travelled down the road, they passed forests and an occasional farm house. There were graceful horses grazing in the fields, cows aplenty and an occasional alpaca. It was far different than the suburbs she was used to.
The leaves were turning a beautiful gold, red and russet. The sunshine relaxed Morgan, and her grandfather reminded her to work hard on her studies. He promised her a delicious pot roast dinner when she returned to celebrate the conclusion of her first day. Morgan smiled at Arthur, and as always, he smiled back. She was thankful for the family she had left, and the old house she would return to. As they approached the middle school, Arthur told her that he himself had once been a student there.
Morgan honestly didn’t know what to make of the old red brick building. She had never attended such an old relic of a school. The old fashioned architecture of the school made her wonder why a modern school hadn’t replaced it years ago. Only a building steeped in tradition and history could escape the trappings of the modern world. She began to worry about the strictness of such an establishment so submerged in the private school tradition.
Will I have to wear a school uniform?
Morgan didn’t recall her grandfather mentioning anything about a uniform.
The front of the school read, H.B. Locke Middle School. After Arthur parked the car in a parking space and turned off the engine, he got out and led the way to the door. Morgan rushed to catch up, surprised that she was having a hard time keeping pace with the older gentlemen. In the autumn sunlight, he seemed very hale and alert. His white hair had a bit of gray in it, and he had the look of an intellectual always ready to impart some kind of wisdom.
Morgan was learning that Arthur Achron was no one to underestimate. He was more than strong enough to walk his granddaughter to the principal’s office without breaking a sweat. Later in life, she was given his secret to longevity, but as she walked into the H.B. Locke Middle School for the first time, she thought her grandfather was sort of immortal.
It was if he was gradually getting younger.
They passed the principal’s office and walked further down the main hallway. Morgan followed her grandfather as he turned right down a narrow corridor. At the end of the passage was an unlabeled red door that appeared to be more of an entrance to a closet rather than an office. He knocked twice on the old red door. They entered after hearing the voice of a woman invite them both inside.
Morgan found herself in a rather large office that seemed to be frozen in a past. The wall colors, décor and the furnishings reminded Morgan of an old snapshot found in a magazine from the fifties. A gray haired woman sat behind the desk, her hair swept up into a simple pony tail and twisted into a bun. She wore a white blouse and gray pearls around her neck. When she rose to greet them, Morgan noticed that she wore a perfectly pressed black and white pinstriped skirt. Her smile was kind.
“Arthur Achron, how lovely to see you again!” Her attention turned to Morgan. “And this is your granddaughter?” When he nodded, she looked at Morgan’s face. She smiled faintly. Morgan could smell the scent of verbena all around.
She reached out her hand to Morgan, who shook it politely. Arthur nodded his head and smiled.
“Seeing you is always a pleasure, Mrs. Patterson.” He directed his attention to his granddaughter.
“Morgan, this is Mrs. Ivy Patterson, she has been in charge of H.B. Locke for quite some time, and lucky we are to have her.”
“Still trying to make a good impression, Mr. Achron? Well, you’ve already accomplished that task by donating to the school library fund. Sit down, both of you, sit down!”
Morgan smiled at Mrs. Patterson. As Mrs. Patterson began to talk to Morgan’s grandfather, she noticed that she had many pictures on the walls of her family and pets in gilded frames. The sound of their voices faded into the background of the room as Morgan glanced at the walls and the items all around her. Ivy had a large shelf of leather bound books that interested her greatly. She didn’t recognize anything that she had ever read before. Just when she began to read all the titles on the spines, Mrs. Patterson told Morgan that it was time for her to meet the other students.
“She’s observant isn’t she, Arthur?” Mrs. Patterson remarked.
“Yes, she is just as observant as Marguax ever was.” Arthur said.
“Morgan, we were all sorry to hear about your parents. Rest assured, we’ll take good care of you. Not to mention the fact that you couldn’t ask for a better grandfather.” Mrs. Patterson said kindly.
“Thank you for saying so, Mrs. Patterson.” Arthur said with a smile.
Her grandfather hugged Morgan goodbye and walked out the door with a look of contentment on his face. He then got back into his Cadillac so that he could meet his client. After the meeting, he would go home and begin cooking the pot roast he would share with Morgan when she arrived home from school.
Morgan followed Mrs. Patterson to her first class, which happened to be English. She enjoyed writing, but she disliked the study of grammar, finding it more of a natural instinct rather than a method. Her English teacher introduced herself as Mr. Hood, and then asked Morgan to introduce herself to the class. She looked at the unfamiliar faces and introduced herself hesitantly. To her surprise, the students smiled and bid her welcome. As she made her way to an empty desk in the back, she was quite pleased with the response.
Morgan was surprised at how relaxed she felt at the rural school. Even though it was an old building compared to the posh school she once knew, H.B. Locke Middle School seemed familiar and she was soon feeling comfortable. When Mr. Hood squeezed his bulk between the desks to offer Morgan her textbook, she smiled a satisfied smile. She felt her anxiety release its grip from her mind.
Things are going better than I thought!
Before she knew it, she was following Mr. Hood’s lecture with some interest. He used examples that were interesting and lively. Unlike her previous English teacher’s lectures, she didn’t have to fight to stay awake when he talked about pronouns and adjectives. The in-class assignment that he gave was for each student to write about a favorite memory.
“It can be about a vacation, a day when you had fun or anything else you can think of. I want you to try to fill your essay with lots of adjectives.” He said, pushing his glasses back on the bridge of his nose.
Morgan wrote for about a half hour about the time that her parents took her to the zoo. The happy memories of her mother pointing out the tiger seemed to write itself into an essay. Lost in her memories, Morgan barely noticed how fast time went by. Soon it was time for lunch.
Morgan followed the herd to the cafeteria, which smelled strongly of a variety of foods old and new. As she took her tray to a table and sat down, she noticed something peculiar. There didn’t seem to be any major cliques at H.B. Locke, just friendly conversation. She seemed to be surrounded by rural kids who didn’t seem concerned with hairstyles, clothes and status. Morgan felt strangely out of place. Her plainest clothes seemed to stand out amidst the down-to-earth group. Surprisingly, nobody pointed out the differences between her and them.
Morgan ate her mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. She was surprised that they tasted as good as they did. It didn’t seem to fit with the outdated school cafeteria image. She was about to bite into her blonde brownie when she spied a girl leaving the school.
She watched a dark-haired girl sneak out of the cafeteria through a narrow glass door in the corner to the left. Like Morgan, she stood out. She wore a plaid purple and black skirt with long black leggings. A black hoodie covered a black shirt. Her black tresses were twisted into a pair of unusual twists, which seemed to be staying together by sheer will. Her bangs were cut at an angle and the edges were dyed purple. She could tell that the girl she was watching had naturally dark hair, but the purple was clearly permanent. Morgan had seen girls with purple dyed hair before, but the twists? They were something different entirely.
As the girl slid out the door, she looked around as if sensing somebody watching her. Morgan looked down at her food hoping that the girl didn’t notice her watching. When she looked up, she saw the glass door gently close. Despite the repainted and warped doors in the rest of the building, the glass door was barely discernible, seamlessly blending in with the rest of the window panes.
Morgan had an impulsive idea. She decided to slip out the crystalline glass door to follow the unusual girl. She knew it was in terrible form to leave the school grounds on the first day, but she couldn’t help herself. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she was meant to satisfy her curiosity about the girl’s actions. She summoned the courage to act.
That’s right, go. No one will notice.
Morgan grabbed her bag, picked up her tray, and dumped its contents quickly into the trash. After placing the tray with the other used ones, she looked around briefly and covertly made her way to the door. She held out her hands and felt the smooth glass door give slightly. She pushed the door with both of her hands and found that it gave easily and quietly.
She was outside and the door closed behind her, the seams disappearing as if the glass door was nothing but an illusion. The air was fresh with the smell of pine trees and the leaves of fall. She glanced back at the kids in the cafeteria within the glass. She was amazed how they seemed like a school of fish swimming together, without a worry or concern. They were fixated on keeping the status quo at H.B. Locke. Their entire goal was to be a student body that kept things pleasant.
She sensed that it couldn’t be the whole story.
After seeing a glimpse of the girl’s plaid skirt beyond the branches of the cedar trees, Morgan pulled her bag higher on her shoulder and followed her into the trees as silently as possible. She was relieved to find a path that led further into the trees, so it wouldn’t be as if she had wandered into the woods without a plan to find her way back. She knew that people got lost when they didn’t have a path to follow, and they had a way of never being found again. She promised herself that she would only follow the girl for a little while, just long enough for her to see what she was doing and then she would sneak back into the cafeteria. Sneaking out had proved easy, so sneaking in wouldn’t be a problem.
Morgan heard the footsteps of the girl with the purple highlights as she trudged down the trail. She kept a safe distance from her to avoid alerting her that she had a follower. As Morgan made her way down the winding path, she was haunted by the silence of the woods. She found that the trail suddenly wound around the shores of Locke Lake, a large inland lake that her grandfather pointed out when he was showing her around. As the waves gently moved towards the shore, Morgan gazed at the water as groups of the tiniest of fishes swam in the cool shallow depths. Time paused as she lost herself in the beautiful play of light and water.
Her daydreaming had accomplished the impossible once more, and something was alerted that the girl with the strange gift was near.
Suddenly, she heard the lyrical sound of laughter coming from the trees.
“Is someone there?” She called out. Morgan was surprised at how flat and toneless her voice sounded and how unwelcome she felt. No one answered her question, and she could only hope that she hadn’t given herself away. She felt self-conscious, as if someone who didn’t like her was watching her from the thicket.
Is the dark-haired girl watching me?
Almost in reply to her thoughts, she heard the familiar steps of the girl she followed. She forgot the beauty of the lake and quickened her pace. The path wove in and around the trees by the lake and sometimes almost into the water. She navigated the corners of the trail around the lake where aquatic plants grew from sand, moss and water amidst tiny leaves that spun about in the cool water.
The trees loomed over her like guards as the sunlight filtered through the maple leaves and pine needles. As she walked, she couldn’t help but notice the contrast between the radiance of the sunlight glinting off the lake and the shadows deep in the forest. There was a line dividing light and shade, and neither gave any ground.
The pines became thicker as she moved away from the water and further into the forest. She stopped for a moment when she heard the sounds of whispering high up in the trees to the left of her. Her heart beating, Morgan stood still on the path, listening to the shifting noises around her. She began to doubt her actions and decided to turn back. She thought of the girl she was following.
Why is she walking around in the woods?
She began to run, following the path as it moved around another tree and back towards the water’s edge. She saw the blur of the purple and black of the girls skirt about fifty yards ahead of her. The girl suddenly paused on a narrow wooden bridge leading to another land mass that was disconnected from the shore. When she heard the sound of the girl’s footsteps cease, she ducked to the ground and peered through the tall grass. The girl with the purple hair looked around in every direction, clearly alerted to something out of the ordinary. Morgan knew at once that the girl was aware that she was being followed. She began to panic when the girl began to reverse direction.
Morgan didn’t know how she would explain herself.
She held her breath for a few tense when she heard the footsteps close in on her hiding place. Just when she was a planning an excuse for her presence there, the footsteps moved quickly away. She heard the hollow sound of footfalls coming from the bridge, and she exhaled in relief. She dusted the sand from her clothes and was up on her feet in time to witness the girl racing towards the island.
Morgan continued forward cautiously until the divide between her and the girl widened. As she approached the bridge, she was startled by a bird landing on one of the cattails in the marshy area of the lake. To her amazement, the bridge itself was beginning to fade in the pale sunlight. Startled, she stepped forward to see if the bridge was an illusion. Before it could fade completely from her view, she put her hand on the rail.
Instantly, the bridge returned in realistic detail. She took a deep breath and walked across the wooden boards as quietly as possible. Once on the other side, she looked behind her to find that the bridge had completely disappeared. She bent over, picked up some sand and tossed it in the direction of the bridge. The sand found nothing but the water.
“It’s too late to turn back now unless I swim to the other side.” Morgan said to herself. She found herself on a small island about fifty feet from the long isthmus that had led her there. She could see what appeared to be an old brick building beyond a line of trees. She bent over as she walked, not wanting to be seen. She didn’t want to be discovered when it seemed she was closing in on the answers she was looking for.
As she walked past the trees, she could see that the brick building was older than H.B. Locke. It was two stories high, and she could see indications of previous repairs. Some of the repairs seemed recent, yet there was nothing about the building that looked anything but functional.
The structure reminded her of a very old manufacturing building that had been converted into storage, though she couldn’t imagine how anyone could transport anything there easily. The door to the building seemed ill-suited to fit anything through. Most of the windows were covered with plywood. It appeared abandoned, and the stillness around reinforced the lonely feel of the island. Morgan was certain that the girl with the purple hair had walked towards the building, and probably went inside.
But how did she get in? She wondered.
Morgan walked forward and touched the brick wall next to the door with her hand. The brick became impossibly pliable under her palm, and she pulled away in surprise. She could see waves of heat coming from the building. She backed up.
Suddenly, Morgan heard a loud ticking noise coming from her backpack. Startled, she fell down and landed on her behind, turning her ankle in the process.
“Uh!” She exclaimed, rubbing her ankle in pain.
Meanwhile, the ticking continued, and the sound increased in intensity. It was pulsing in her ears and giving her a headache. The sound didn’t mix well with the pain coming from her ankle. She pulled off her backpack and threw it to the ground in frustration. Suddenly, Morgan’s attention was drawn by the sound of an electrical charge near the area she previously touched. She watched as something appeared on the brick surface. A polished brass plaque glimmered in the sunlight. She read the engraved words aloud.
It was too incredible to believe. Her grandfather said nothing of another school concealed on an island in Locke Lake. Morgan looked around fearfully, but all was silent. She jumped at the slightest movement among the ferns. She hoped the source of the noise may be the movements of a squirrel or rabbit. She began to feel that she needed to seek a safe haven. Frightened, Morgan was unable to swallow. Her mouth was so dry she could barely stand it. She wished that she had never followed the girl. Her quest for knowledge was quickly turning into a foolish game.
Without warning, the ticking resumed, and it became clear to Morgan that the right action was needed. Until she could put the clues together, the signs would resume. Her backpack was pulsating. She grabbed it and stood up. She heard the sound of heavier metal clanking against the tin. Remembering the tin box with her father’s things, she pulled it out of the bag.
At first it felt like a living thing was banging back and forth inside. The box nearly fell out of her hand. Eventually, the noise began to slow to a stop. She gingerly opened the lid of the tin box and spilled the contents on the ground. The watch rolled out and commenced its ticking. She leaned down and touched it gently, feeling the smallest jolt in her fingertips. The sensation reminded her of how it felt when she placed her index finger between two magnets.
Morgan picked up the timepiece and looked at it, fascinated by its rapidly changing qualities. She opened the cover to find that the hands were spinning. She felt compelled to turn it over. She heard the tiniest scraping noise as a message was engraved on the back of the pocket watch as if by an invisible hand.
Introduce Yourself and Enter, Apprentice Illuminier.
While these occurrences would be shocking to most to the point of running away screaming, Morgan knew it was all part of fate. She was startled, but at her very core she felt a familiarity. She was certain that similar events had happened to others who carried the timepiece.
“I know this place.” She said, under her breath. Morgan looked at the building and made another willful decision. Even though she didn’t have permission, she was going in the building. She heard the slight voice of her mother.
The answers you’re looking for are inside if you remember who you are.
She stood as straight as she could. She smoothed down her hair and brushed the dirt from her clothing. She tried to follow the directions on the timepiece. Nothing about the situation fit within the usual rules of the world, so she decided to try unusual solutions.
“My name is Morgan Fay Burne.” She said to the silence around her.
Nothing happened, but the sound of faint whispers coming from the direction of the forest made Morgan look around anxiously. She saw a current of air moving through the ferns, but she saw nothing.
Someone is here.
The soft murmurs reminded her of the sounds of pampas grass as it moved in the wind or the sound of a breeze flowing through the silvery birch leaves on a summer day. Although the voices were mildly alarming, she didn’t feel threatened immediately. The sounds were elemental in nature.
Morgan tried to calm her fears, finding it better not to draw needless attention.
Suddenly, she heard the sound of branches cracking. Something else was moving through the foliage observing her actions. Thinking it was just an animal, she took comfort that it was low to the ground. A creature small in size stalking her was infinitely better than something large.
Still, Morgan knew she had to think fast.
With her hands shaking, she put the watch in her pocket and picked up the silver coin and placed it in the tin box. When her eyes rested on the small poetry book, she was reminded of the first poem. She picked it up and dusted off the dirt. Morgan opened the scuffed leather cover. She focused on the poem which once appeared to be nonsense. However, within the shadow of the building, certain letters in the verse stood out while the other characters receded, revealing a message.
To enter knock twice,
Say your name once, twice, thrice.
Say it fast, be precise.
When she pulled the book out of shadows and into the sunlight, the words appeared as before. Morgan came to the conclusion that the building held mysterious powers over the items in the tin. To confirm her theory, she walked back towards the woods again. When she got back to the path into the woods, the poem and the watch appeared as ordinary as before. She decided to investigate further.
Even though Morgan was shaking just a little, she tried to focus. She walked back to the building and held the poetry book in the other hand, meditating on its message. Everything seemed to move around her but she inhaled and didn’t let anything distract her. She focused on the sounds around her, specifically on the sounds of the forest. She began to hear faint, persistent voices telling her what to do. They didn’t sound like her mother.
She meditated on the moments between time that were hers for the taking. Just when it seemed she would linger in this state, she opened her eyes.
“Let’s see.” Morgan went to the door, and knocked twice and stood back. She repeated her name three times rapidly in a clear voice and waited. A minute went by and the silence continued. Morgan shrugged and began to pack the tin into her backpack. She knew she had better walk fast to make it to her next class.
Morgan heard a clear, feminine whisper from the forest. The voice echoed around her.
Your real name, real name, Arthur’s name…
She spun around, peering into the woods. Once again, there was nothing out of the ordinary. She thought about what her grandfather said to her that morning.
More Achron than Burne.
It seemed strange, but she decided to follow the voice’s advice. She repeated the steps as before, but this time she said, “Morgan Fay Achron, Morgan Fay Achron, Morgan Fay Achron…”
Suddenly, she heard a vibration coming from the door. Dust and pebbles spun around in the air as it began to open. The mysteries of a long corridor awaited her. Morgan turned to look at the path she had traveled, and could travel again. She could easily walk back to the cafeteria to rejoin the school of fish, far from the corridor and its dangers.
She also knew that everything would change if she walked in.
Instead of listening to the practical, safe Morgan, she listened to the voices that told her to go onward. As Morgan entered the lantern lit hallway, she heard the door close behind her. With the irreversible decision made, a chain reaction began in the forest. Whimsical laughter echoed throughout the woods and the wind victoriously whipped the brown leaves from the branches of the trees. Voices united in one whisper glided through the leaves and grass. The sounds of joy circulated everywhere, increasing in pitch to that of a clarion.
Tell the others that an Achron has returned to Elderwynne’s…
The waters of Locke Lake rippled more than usual, and the waves slapped the shore forcefully. However, not everyone had good intentions. One of the forest’s more devious residents laughed darkly.
“Tell the master that the trap is set…”