Prologue: “The Key and The Beholder”


Eryn Hilyard poses with her co-author and best friend Anya Tabor. Hilyard wrote the prologue posted here.

Walking along the cobbled path that leads to the village, if one listens close enough, they can hear the melodies that choir from the lush trees and golden fields beyond the road. Even in the winter, these whispers can be heard if one seeks past the frost and snow. Sometimes the songs are hard to hear over the chatter of the small town of Argensy, Wales. These are the sounds of the nymphs. They live amongst the hills, valleys, and waves, keeping watch of the land and the sea.

Long ago, before any of you and I were born, there was a young boy who lived by the coast. During the day, he would bring bread to his family from local markets and tend to the family crops.

On one fateful day, as he walked home with his bread, he paused along the muddy road. He thought at first that his imagination was running astray as he recalled hearing the murmur of singing. He listened closely as he stepped beyond the stone walls that surrounded the pathways. His heart leaped with the calling of mystery as the hums beckoned him further.

He ventured into the wind and traveled over the grassy hills. His ears rang with the sound of sweet lyrics beyond the horizon. His curiosity brought him to a forest deep within an untouched valley. The treeline of green leaves rustled in the summer breeze and harmonized simply with the sweet tunes. The boy stepped into the thicket.

All at once, he was overcome with enchantment. Vines and moss spiraled up the crooked branches of trees, streams rushed by his feet, and birds flew from flowering shrubs. The sun fell delicately through the canopy, lighting his path. There was something so magical about soil that was not yet touched by man and only by the hand of God, and the boy understood this. Though he couldn’t be sure how he did.

He followed the crags along the creek to where the voices echoed. As he explored deeper into the woods, the whispering songs started to die out. In the

middle of a shaded clearing towered a large tree, with its large roots meandering along the forest floor. He stepped over the roots and neared the tree. The boy spread his fingers, placing his hand against the warm bark.

Then, the voices from earlier were promptly all around him, and they took the form of tiny women with long hair of vines and leafed dresses. He fell back in disbelief at what he was witnessing. The small creatures wore smiles as they danced around him and the tree. Their laughs were as beautiful as their songs.

One of the women, who looked slightly different from the rest, reached her hand out to the boy and he slowly accepted it. The young man and the nymphs soon became friends. They explained to him that the nymphs were the guardians of the land and sea. Their home, as tree nymphs, resided in the woods beside the mother tree, which was the heart of the forest. The sea nymphs lived to protect the waters along the coast, and the land nymphs lied in the grass, keeping watch of the valleys and hills. The Meithrinwr, who had taken the boy’s hand, nurtured all the nymphs, and protected them.

Every day, aer he got his bread, he would run along the bluffs and back to the forest to meet his friends. He was even introduced to the sea and land nymphs. As time went on, he kept his friends a secret for fear that something as valuable as his friendship with them could easily be broken by the residents of Argensy.

One day, as he sat in the grass by the Mother Tree and ate an apple he picked up from the market, one tree nymph sat beside him. They were silent next to each other for a long time, just enjoying one another’s company. He offered her some bread, but she gratefully refused.

Aer a moment, her small hand outstretched to him. A rusting key laid in her palm, the sun’s light polishing the smooth edges and small circles. He looked at the nymph in bewilderment. She reached to the boy’s hand and unrolled his

fingers and she laid the key across his skin. The nymph jumped off the root she had been sitting upon and beckoned the boy to follow her.

They traveled through the woodland, the boy trailing behind the nymph. They crossed streams and through the brush, but just as the boy was starting to question the safety of this journey, they came to a cobblestone walkway.

His eyes fell upon a door that sat at the end of the path. The door was not confined to any structure and stood independently, but it was surrounded by trees and hanging vines. His gaze dropped to the key in his hand. As he entered the key into the lock, the door clicked and swung open. Where there had been nothing behind the door earlier was replaced with a tunnel of bricks.

The young man leaned out of the doorway and checked behind the door, but there was just a forest. The tunnel existed only inside of the door.

His curiosity drew him in once more and he began into the tunnel. His fingers brushed along the cold bricks, the old clay rubbing off on his fingers. He brought his hand close to his eyes and observed.

Then, he heard the distant bellowing laugh of his sister deeper in the tunnel. His heart raced and his legs carried him swily down the tunnel. He began to call her name, in fear that she was lost here. As he ran, a strange light had started to form at what looked like the end of the tunnel.

When he approached the heavenly light his nose began to fill with the scent of his mother’s pie. The boy peered into the light and witnessed his mother, father, and sister all gathering by a candle on the floor during a stormy night. Lightning crackled just outside the home’s windows. Then he saw himself like he was looking at his reflection in a pond.

His reflected self sat by his family and rested a lute in his lap. His fingers carried out a tune from the instrument. The boy remembered the scene he was looking at. It had happened only a fortnight ago.

He emerged from the tunnel and took the key from the door lock. The nymph told him that the door contained every memory in one’s mind if they unlock it with a special key. She said that other keys could be found during storms. Wherever lightning strikes, a key is generated, and whoever touches the key first unlocks their memories when they open the door.

The boy knew then that he could no longer keep his friends in the forest a secret. Everyone needed to hear about this door and experience its magic.

He spread the word amongst the citizens of Argensy. Most people didn’t believe him, but as he continued to tell his story, the town grew curious. He led a group of people to the door once and showed them his memories. Talk developed quickly until the whole town decided to explore the mystery of the door.

People began to run out in storms, hoping to be the first to lay their hands on a key that had appeared from the smoke of a lightning strike. As the people gathered their keys, they explored through their memories in the door, reliving the good ones and some bad ones.

The door crawled with visitors each day and they all grew close to the nymphs. The boy was proud of this, of all the joy that he had spread.

On a winter evening, the boy woke up with a breathless chill. He quickly clothed himself and wandered into his kitchen. Everything about his familiar world felt off. When he opened his front door he found that nearly all the villagers were out of their homes, looking around in confusion. He looked to the hillsides that were blanked with white powder.

Among the moonlit snow, walked the land and tree nymphs into the town and from the coast strode the sea nymphs onto the land. They joined the townspeople in the center of Argensy.

The Meithrinwr informed the town that someone had gone into their memories last night and changed something. It was a man who was so deeply

saddened by the recent death of his wife that he tried to bring her back to life. This change of an occurrence in the past through memories caused a fracture in the timeline.

The nymphs had no choice but to place an enchantment upon the forest and the door, making the door, full of memories, nearly unreachable.