(NaNoWriMo begins today. My novel, Rewriting Destiny is based on one of the prompts from 31 Days of Stories and you can follow the development and writing here throughout November)
Willow paced around the old oak tree humming an old Celtic tune wondering what was taking Poppy so long. She should have been here by now. The walk from her village to Willow’s was only 10 minutes, seven if you walked quickly as Willow usually did. She didn’t really like being alone once the sun went down. She’d heard too many of the old tales from the Elders of the strange happenings the angels of darkness like to carry out against the villagers when the sun sank behind the hills.
As the darkness closed in, Willow hummed a little louder and a little faster.
“That’s such a beautiful tune,” Poppy whispered behind her, causing Willow to yelp.
“Where have you been?” Willow grabbed Poppy’s hand and pulled her through the meadow to the abandoned structure.
“Chores,” Poppy said and rolled her eyes.
“Do you think it’s safe here?” Willow asked as she looked around the wooden structure overgrown with lush evergreens and wildflowers that sprung up through the warped and broken boards.
“None of it’s true,” Poppy assured her and squeezed her friend’s hands.
“Did you bring it?”
Poppy pulled a communicator from her jacket pocket. “Fully charged and ready to go.”
“You don’t think he’ll miss it?” Willow asked.
Poppy shrugged. She’d snagged the communicator from her brother’s desk where she knew it would be because he was attending the Meeting of the Elders tonight and communicators were strictly prohibited, among other things. Many of the Elders had tried to prohibit communicators completely, but with younger members like Poppy’s older brother on the Board of Village Relations now, ridding the villages of communication devices was almost impossible now.
Poppy handed the device to Willow. “Are you ready?” Poppy asked her.
Willow swallowed hard and nodded. “We have to, right?” Willow slid open the communicator and stared at the faint glow of the buttons and took a deep breath. “Here goes,” she whispered and tapped a combination of buttons carefully, checking each one as she did. When she was finished, she looked at Poppy for a moment for courage and pushed send before she could change her mind. She gave a slight start when the ringing started in her ear.
“Yes, hello, I was hoping that I could speak to Charlie Oberon,” Willow said. She closed her eyes and waited. “Okay. Thank you.”
She nodded at Poppy who smiled and held Willow’s hand tightly.
“Yes, hello Mr. Oberon — okay, Judah — my name is Wi — yes, that’s right, Willow Suantraí.” Willow looked at Poppy and shrugged. “So, then you probably know the reason for my call.”
Poppy rose and walked over to the boarded up station to peer inside.
“Is it possible to change one’s destiny, Mr. — Judah?”
Poppy turned to look at Willow and Willow was pretty sure her friend was holding her breath as they waited for Judah’s response.
“Yes, the Elders have conveyed more than once the strong sense of tradition associated with one’s fate, one’s role within the village. Within the community and we — I don’t mean to question or betray the Elders, Sir. Surely you know that.”
Poppy seemed to wilt a bit in the shadows behind Willow, her bright eyes closing slowly and remaining as dark as the surrounding darkness.
“I’m sure the risks of such a request invite grave danger, but surely it is not beyond the realm of possibility to undertake such a risk.” Willow waved Poppy back to her side and wove her fingers through her friend’s.
“Surely there have been others who have sought to redirect their destiny. Who have come to you and who have succeeded.”
Please say yes, Poppy mouthed and Willow nodded slightly.
“Of course I understand what leaving means. The Elders are clear on such points from the time we enter our time of learning.”
“That’s the whole point,” Poppy whispered. “To leave and not return. Not to this.”
Willow squeezed Poppy’s hand.
“I suppose I do harbor fears, but my heart’s desire is greater than my fears.”
You are a warrior, Poppy mouthed to her and smiled.
“No, you are correct. Indeed I would not travel alone on this journey.”
Poppy looked up at the night sky and Willow sensed a strength building in her.
“If you could provide any direction whatever I — we would be deeply indebted to you, dear Judah. Whatever you require of us, we will do,” Willow said. “Yes, I am certain of this, Sir,” she added.
Next to her Poppy smiled for the first time since Willow started the communication with Judah. But the smile disappeared when Willow sucked in her breath.
“No,” Willow exclaimed. “No, that cannot be. Surely if that were true, if one of us were meant to defeat the angels of darkness, that would have been disclosed during the Ceremony of the Fates. The Elders would have prepared us for such a destiny.”
Poppy shook her head. Those are just stories, she mouthed.
“We truly believed that those were just tales of the Elders, passed down through the generations like the music we play and the lullabies we sing to our babies and the stories we tell around the fires.” As she listened, Willow shook her head slowly at Poppy.
“Indeed, Sir Judah, we should indeed meet tomorrow evening at the Bridge of the Angels. We’ll see you there.”
Willow closed the communicator and looked at Poppy. “Our journey begins tomorrow,” she said.
“I didn’t expect to leave so soon,” Poppy said.
The two friends sat together on the edge of the old wooden platform structure, their legs swinging in unison and each girl lost in her own thoughts. Leaving the village would mean that they could never return. Their lives would be changed forever and they would be alone in the world except for each other. Even their connection to Judah would cease after tomorrow night’s meeting. But it was what Willow and Poppy had pondered for the past four years, after the Ceremony of the Fates. Willow had often questioned how much anyone could know about their destiny at the age of twelve and a half, and she refused to accept the one the Elders announced on the Ceremony.
“Tomorrow,” Poppy said.
“Tomorrow,” Willow repeated.
Poppy was already at the abandoned structure when Willow arrived and Willow sighed in relief. Tonight, she really didn’t want to be alone in the darkness. Something felt different. Maybe it was that they were leaving, maybe it was the overcast sky, maybe it was the shifting wind. Whatever it was, Willow knew that there was something different about this night. She ran up and hugged her friend. The two hugged for several moments, as if they were afraid of moving forward from the simplicity of the embrace. Everything from this moment on would be unknown. Unpredicted. Etched with both possibility and risk. Willow’s stomach roiled at the thought of what danger might lie ahead. Poppy believed her to be a warrior and the Elders had made a similar proclamation prior to the Ceremony of the Fates. But Willow had never felt anywhere near as brave as a warrior should feel.
“Are you ready?” Willow asked.
“Let the adventure begin,” Poppy said. She squeezed Willow’s hand and they headed away from the abandoned structure, away from their villages and away from anything familiar.
Each girl had managed to pack as much of their lives as possible into a single bag each. Willow had opted for two keepsakes along with all her necessities. She wore one of them, a necklace her mother wore throughout her life and that Willow received upon the death of her mother two years ago. The sensation of the smooth leather cord that held and ancient Celtic symbol of love and loyalty reminded Willow of her mother’s smooth hands, the caress of those hands smoothing her hair away from her face at bedtime as she sang Willow into her dreams each night. The other keepsake was a leather-bound journal whose pages were filled with some of her mothers scribblings and were now being filled with Willow’s. Willow had discovered the journal deep in her mother’s straw mattress, hidden from the eyes of all, even Willow’s father. Willow cherished the journal and its words because she felt she held a piece of her mother no one else knew but her. Everything else involved necessities for the journey: a couple of changes of clothes, ribbons to tie back her long unruly auburn hair, and as much food as she dared take from her younger siblings.
Aside from changes of clothes and some food, Poppy, of course, had taken as many of her books as she could both fit in her bag and carry without too much exertion. The process of choosing and eliminating which stories she would carry and which she would leave behind was even more difficult than kissing her mother and father good-bye for the last time as she supposedly left for her training for her assigned destiny. Like Willow, Poppy had been disappointed with the results from her Ceremony of the Fates. All Poppy had ever loved besides her family and her best friend, were words and stories. How she was expected to abandon that love for something else, something that clearly wasn’t her, didn’t make any sense. She was relieved when she learned that Willow also was disappointed in her Ceremony results and together, the two best friends had determined that they would rewrite the results and create the destiny they desired rather than accept the one assigned to them.
“Thoughts?” Poppy asked.
“So many,” Willow admitted. “It’s strange to be traveling alone so far from the villages for one. You?”
“Wondering what Judah will be like.”
“Yeah, me, too,” Willow said. “Do you think he’s really old?”
Poppy shrugged as she pondered this. “He must be older than the Elders at least, right?”
“I think so.”
“Can you believe we’re actually going to meet him?” Poppy asked.
“Are you scared?” Willow asked.
“No,” Poppy said quickly. “Yes. A little. It’s Judah after all.”
Willow nodded. She’d been thinking about that since last night. So much so that she barely slept. Would he be kind? Would he think them silly girls like many of the Elders seem to? Would he support their decision?
“I brought a few books to pass the time in the evening,” Poppy told her.
“By a few, do you mean five, ten, fourteen?” Willow couldn’t resist teasing her friend.
“Sixteen. One for each year I’ve been alive,” Poppy said.
“I’m sure once we finish those, you can help us pass the time with your stories.” Willow nudged her friend with her shoulder. “You are such a wonderful storyteller.”
The two traveled on under the gray skies sometimes lost in thought, sometimes lost in conversation until they arrived at a shady grove of trees, the perfect place to take a break and eat some lunch. By the look of the day, Willow guessed that it was mid afternoon and that they had at least two more hours before they reached the Bridge of the Angels. She’d heard many stories about the Bridge of the Angels and she wondered what it would be like to see it. And, again, she wondered if the stories that the Mentors told them in their learning and that families shared around the hearth at night were true. Stories of the Dark Angels and the battle that waged beyond the Villages and within men. The thought of it caused Willow to shiver and she pulled out one of the woolen blankets she’d brought with her and wrapped it around her shoulders. The girls laid out what food they’d brought and shared what they had until they were full. Then, they reclined with their backs resting against one of the thick trunks of a tall pine tree and Poppy pulled out one of her books.
“Do we have time for a story?” Poppy asked.
“Always,” Willow said. She pulled her blanket a little tighter around her and nestled her head on Poppy’s shoulder and closed her eyes. As Poppy read aloud, Willow felt herself drifting into her dreams.