The Impossible Children

Chapter 11: The Flying Warden

Early the next morning, Annabelle woke amid the chilly, vaporous mist. The others were already breaking down the camp, though they had waited till Annabelle was awake to serve breakfast. They ate another cold, cheerless meal of stale bread and water.

“Today will be the last Door,” said Seppo, his expression once more inscrutable.

“Finally!” exclaimed Percy, a mirror to Annabelle’s own thoughts.

“I am sorry, Percy,” said Cid in a wry voice. The color of his face seemed even better, though his flesh was still drawn and gaunt from weeks of malnourishment. “I’ll try hard to eat less next time, the less to weigh you down with.”

Percy gave a hearty laugh as cinched his sword.

“This is the last Door? Truly?” Annabelle could not believe that their journey was drawing to a close, an almost endless refrain of forest after forest. Nor could she understand how Seppo kept track of it all with no maps or instruments to guide the way.

Seppo nodded. “Yes, we should reach the Tower well before dark.”

And so they went in much brighter spirits perhaps with the journey’s end in sight.

After some hours, they came to the last Door so suddenly, Annabelle was sure she might have missed it. It was a massive stone structure, different from its siblings as all the Doors had been, but with the same glyphs carved into it.

Seppo had walked so unerringly towards it, she wondered what mechanism drew him towards it. Or was it only an exercise of memory?

“It’s just standing here? What if someone finds it?”

Seppo drew a ring of keys from his pocket. “They will not be able to open it.”

“Oh, right.” Annabelle felt a little bit embarrassed. She remembered, too late perhaps, but it still jarred her to think that these portals to other worlds were simply standing around waiting to be found.

“It’ll be good to finally be home,” said Charlie. She limped towards the Door.

“Aye, though I expect we’ll find a cold welcome,” said Percy.

“Why? What do you mean?”

“Oh, just that we weren’t supposed to rescue Cid,” said Charlie.

“The Wizard cautioned against it,” said Seppo.

“Well, thank you all the same for coming after me,” Cid said somberly.

On the other side of the Door, Annabelle found herself once more in a forest. This one was far more vibrant and lively than the cold and misty place they’d just left. The trees were thick and old with roots that were twisted and trunks so wide as to make a grown man feel like a child. The ground was filled with thick tangles of bramble and briar, the air damp with dew dripping down verdant leaves, and a breeze gentle blowing through the eaves.

“Come see this,” Percy said, pointing at an opening through the canopy. There in the far distance was a gleaming tower of alabaster stone, a spire that seemed to reflect back sunlight. “It is not unmanly to shed tears, Seppo, I know how homesick you must be.”

Seppo grunted, which only served to cause Percy to laugh even more.

They walked towards the Tower, though they were still some miles away. Annabelle looked up and spied a tiny figure of a child flitting about in the sky, a flash of blue upon the blue canvas, almost like a bird.

“Look!” cried Annabelle, pointing her finger.

Shielding their eyes from the sun, Seppo shrugged, while Percival laughed. “Tis only Amelia. They will know we are coming. Come, it is only a bit further.”

“But-but she’s flying!” Annabelle said.

“Yes,” said Charlie, “but she’s probably skipping her chores.”

“We still have some way to walk,” said Seppo.

And that seemed to be the end of that. Things that Annabelle thought were amazing and impossible did not seem cause for any of her companions to bat an eyelash. Which, she supposed, made some amount of sense, if a little infuriating.

Nevertheless, she kept her eyes affixed upon the sky, ready to catch another elusive glimpse.

They kept a brisk, tireless pace, driving through thick tangles of forest without regarding the need for breaks. So much so that Annabelle almost fell to her knees more than once because her attention was elsewhere.

Deep thorns and stinging nettles scraped the skin as they made their way past. At last, at last, they came upon some sign of civilization encroaching upon the forest, a paved and winding road having cut its way through the forest. The stones upon the road were old, cracked in places and worn smooth with the passage of time.

For the first time the traveling was much easier without endless brush to wade through and hills to climb along the way. They hiked along, and the gleaming spire, only glimpsed from a hole through the canopy, came to full view.

“Behold, the White Tower.” Percival spread his arms wide in a welcoming gesture.

The White Tower lay nestled in the hidden cove where the forest hugged close to a range of red coppery mountains. Made of a white stone with no visible imperfection, it was a massive structure, reaching out to touch the clouds. It stood upon a field of green, cultivated and less wild than the forests they had traveled for the better part of their journey.

The road led to a staircase that gently spiraled the perimeter of the Tower until it led to a set of large doors of iron-bounded wood that could comfortable fit a giant beneath the head of it.

Annabelle wondered briefly if giants did exist and if they were friendly or monstrous. Depending on the story, they could be either.

Quite suddenly, a girl landed in front of them in a rush of wind. Annabelle felt a jolt of shock and her heart thud against he throat as the girl danced and whirled about them.

“You’re back!” she cried as she began to hug first Charlie then Cid, and finally Percy and Seppo.

She was a bundle of energy, her dark brown curls going every which way. She dressed in long, loose robes of a soft baby blue with a charcoal red trim. She carried herself with a graceful cadence to her bearing, like she was floating.

Because she was, her tiptoes barely touching the ground. Though Annabelle guessed that Amelia was shorter than her, she still reached her gaze levelly.

She was flying, and Annabelle guessed that she must be Amelia.

“Oh, hullo,” Amelia said, finally noticing Annabelle.

“Get off me!” said Percy, for Amelia was still hanging off his arm.

“I didn’t know someone else was coming,” she said, completely ignoring Percy’s protests. “My name’s Amelia. And this is Percy, and that’s Cid and Charlie and—”

She spoke quickly and seemingly without pause.

“Yes, she knows who we are,” said Charlie. “She was there when we rescued Cid.”

“Oh! Right,” said Amelia. She peered at Annabelle with an intense scrutiny, so much so that Annabelle felt some embarrassment and began looking down at her hands.

“Are we just going to stand here?” said Percy, still trying to shake off Amelia’s vise-like grip. “And where are Jenny and the others?”

“Oh, you know, somewhere around,” she said waving vaguely behind her, her eyes continuing to stare at Annabelle. “You haven’t told me your name yet you know. I hear that’s very rude.” Though she did not seem very much offended.

Annabelle blushed. Somehow, she’d got so caught up in the girl’s energy that she’d forgotten to speak. “Er, sorry, I’m Annabelle.”

Percy finally wrenched his arm free from Amelia, who simply flew up and down behind him and tackled his shoulder, wrapping her arms around his neck.

“Did you see the Enemy?” she said breathlessly. “Were you scared? What was it like outside the Tower? You must have had to use the bathroom outdoors, was it smelly?”

“Er, no, I don’t think so,” said Annabelle, a little bit thrown off by the questions the girl was asking.

“Come on, Amelia, let’s go inside,” said Charlie, grabbing her by the hem of her robe and limping up the stairs towards the great Doors. “We’ve had a long journey and we’re hungry and tired—”

“I’ll tell everyone you’re here,” Amelia said, releasing Percy and flying up to the top of the Tower, where she vanished from view.

“Wait!” said Charlie, stretching out a hand after her. “And she’s gone.”

“Yes,” Percy sighed.

Seppo shook his head ruefully.

“What? What’s wrong?” Annabelle asked.

“She was supposed to open the Door,” said Cid. “She has the key.”

“What? Why does she have the key?”

“We all ask that every now and then,” Charlie muttered.

Percy took a deep breath. “She’s the one who’s supposed to alert those inside when someone comes to the White Tower. And let them in if they’re friendly.”

Annabelle looked from one person to the next. “Does that mean we have to wait until she comes back?”

Seppo only shrugged.

Just then one of the great Doors swung open, its motion smooth on its hinges despite its size, revealing the young woman who’d pushed it open with only a single delicate hand. The Door slowed to a stop without any seeming force.

“Welcome to the White Tower,” she said.