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Freya took a deep breath and stepped through the Wall—the solid grey Wall that for her alone had disappeared. She turned back once more to look at her friends, the Watchers Saff and Thyst, whom she had farewelled just moments ago. They stood looking at the spot where, for them, Freya had disappeared. Yet Freya could see them clearly: Saff leaned against the Wall, his weathered blue robe wrapped around his tall, lean frame. Thyst stood with her back to the Chasm they had all climbed not even an hour earlier, her bow slung at her shoulder, over her purple cloak. Freya raised her hand, even though they couldn’t see her.
Then she turned her back on them and Medar, to drink in the Tyrelian landscape spread before her like a feast. Never had she seen colours so vibrant—from the verdant green of the lush grass under her feet, the intense blue of the sky overhead, the deep purples and bright yellows of the tiny flowers dotting the meadow, to the deeper greens and browns of trees on the far side. She gazed at it all in wonder. A gentle breeze lifted tendrils of her honey-brown hair off her forehead, exposing her scarred visage with one blind eye, as she turned her attention to the thing that had led them to the secret bridge hidden deep in the Chasm: an archway.
It looked ancient. Roughly-hewn rocks stacked atop one another to form the rounded portal. Except, the stones weren’t quite solid. It drew her like a magnet. She walked over to it and ran her hands over those closest to her. Rough, but not sharp. The points had been worn smooth, as if hundreds—no, thousands—of hands had done the same before her. The rocks were warm from the day’s sun and were indeed translucent. She’d never seen anything like it.
She stood within the archway, her arms outstretched, her fingers brushing the rocks on either side, and glanced across the meadow. What was that? She screwed up her good eye in case she was mistaken. But no, it was definitely a path leading into the forest. And some sort of pillar adjacent to it. She scanned her surroundings, but the place was deserted. She set off towards the pillar.
And stopped. Something was behind her. She spun around … nobody was there. She shrugged her shoulders. Huh! It felt different. She looked behind her and gasped. She spun once more. The thing was on her back. She felt behind her. It was metallic and round. It protruded above her shoulders, which is why she’d seen it with her peripheral vision. With both hands she reached behind her. There were straps over her shoulders. Slipping her hands under the straps, she shrugged it off. She shook her head, bewildered.
It was a shield. The setting sun glinted off it. Its curved surface was covered with studs. She brushed her fingertips over them. It was beautiful. And completely strange. How had it got onto her back? Shaking her head again, she laid it on the ground and set off once more.
As she drew closer to the pillar, she noticed strange shadows on its surface. She broke into a jog. The shadows refined into markings then, finally, words. Panting, Freya reached out a hand to touch the monolith. It was stone. The letters were worn, indicating great age, but still legible. They read:
THE LAWS OF TYRELIA
- Honour the Ancient
- Put others first
- Use your gifts for good
- Follow the Rules
She stared at them for a while. Well, the first one made sense. The tablet that she’d discovered near her hometown of Nob in Medar had told her about the Ancient. She’d found it in a cave that she had practically fallen into whilst trying to escape from the village boys. The tablet was about the size of a small book and made of glass. When she shone a flame on its surface, words had magically appeared: a poem telling her about Tyrelia. It was only later, after she’d been torn from her family and almost killed by the Guards, she’d discovered that new words appeared in moonlight. It was then that she’d unlocked the secret of the tablet: the four numbers 50, 63, 92 and 99 etched into the bottom of its face turned out to be clues as to which substances would reveal further stanzas of the poem. It wasn’t until she’d exposed the tablet to rainbow light that she’d learned of the Ancient. The fourth and final substance had been snow.
Her friends, Watchers Saff, Thyst and Rube—her father!—didn’t think that the Ancient was still alive, but Freya had been convinced that he was, and now, there he was in the first law: Honour the Ancient. She smiled to herself.
The second law was nice. Put others first. That’s just what friends should do for each other anyhow, she thought. But the third one: Use your gifts for good. What gifts? She didn’t have any gifts—did she? What about the shield that had magically appeared on her back as she stepped through the archway? Had it been a gift?
Suddenly, she felt a weight on her shoulders. Her hand flew behind her head. She gasped. Sure enough, the shield had returned. She shrugged again, and its weight shifted on her back. Huh. Well, if the shield was a gift, what was she supposed to do with it? She had no idea.
Maybe ‘gift’ meant her tablet? Unconsciously, she rested her hand on the satchel at her hip, confirming the tablet was still there. She’d used it to find the long-lost path out of Medar and into Tyrelia. That was certainly good. Well, good for her. Except nobody else could pass through the Wall. She puzzled on that for a bit. Why couldn’t the others get through? She tossed her head in exasperation. She just couldn’t figure it out.
A thought popped into her head. Her talking stone! Maybe that was a gift, too? She’d received it from Watcher Merald, right before he’d died. He’d rescued her from the Pit that the Guards were going to throw her in, and just managed to tell her to find Watcher Saff. It hadn’t been easy, but she had found him. It turned out that all the Watchers had a talking stone each—that’s how they communicated with each other. She pulled it out of the pouch hanging around her neck and held it up to her good eye. It was the size of a quail egg, greenish in colour with marbled white veins running through it. They’d tested that the stones worked with Freya in Tyrelia and the Watchers on the other side of the Wall, still in Medar. In her final conversation with them, right before she’d passed through the Wall, they’d agreed to contact each other every night at dusk. She supposed that was also a good use of her gift.
She didn’t have anything else that could possibly be considered a gift: she was still clothed in her leather tunic, leggings and travel cloak, with her satchel slung over the top. That was all she had. She was just an ordinary, nearly-fourteen-year-old girl.
Well, maybe not so ordinary, she thought ruefully. After all, it had turned out that she was the subject of a thousand-year-old prophecy and was the ‘Daughter of Yaw’. Together with the Watchers, pursued by the Master’s Guards, they’d followed the clues. Finally, just hours ago, they’d discovered the narrow bridge deep within the Chasm. But once they’d dragged themselves over the lip to the base of the Wall, only she, Freya, could pass through it. So, Watcher Rube—her real father (her heart skipped a beat again, thinking about that discovery)—had given her a new quest: to enter Tyrelia and see if she could discover the mystery of the Wall.
Freya turned her attention to the final law: Follow the Rules. Well, that seemed like a good idea. Depending on what the rules were, of course.
She glanced back across the meadow towards the archway. Rays of setting sun painted it a deep golden red. She squinted towards where Saff and Thyst had been. They were gone. Feeling suddenly very alone, she turned her back on the meadow and eyed up the path into the forest. The trees were not dense, and sunlight filtered through the leaves, dappling the forest floor. It looked safe. But was it?
There was only one way to find out. Hitching the strange shield up on her shoulders, she stepped into the forest.