The place was dangerous and forbidden. They had been told numerous times by mother. The overgrown grove of trees; the garden that grew all manner of dangerous plants with poisonous spiny thorns and had been left derelict; the ancient ruined structure was dangerous as well. There were broken things and sharp things, things living in dens and hovels; things with sharp teeth that would enjoy nothing more than to have a juicy little one as a snack or a meal. It was not a good place. People had died there. They said a witch lived in there, somewhere, in the way back, back but she wandered and used golems to do her bidding and keep her secrets and boil her soups. This is what they were told. This is what they were to believe, but from dawns crackling breach of time, boys have always been boys and into the forest the two brothers went and they played.
Every day was an adventure in exploration of finding and getting into. Sometimes they’d fight, brought on by some disagreement, but it would always get resolved in a day or a minute. They always strayed ever deeper and deeper into the forbidden wood of overgrowth and undergrowth.
“Come on!” One called as loud as he could to the other. The echo carried and they would find each other by voices when one was lost. Never had they seen anything remotely similar to what they were told. No witches or golems, and the things with teeth in the burrows and hovels where so much more afraid of them then they were of them. They took to giving chase when they saw them, though never catching. There were bugs and furry things more numerous than one could count, and one by one, they began giving them names, moving ever deeper into the endless growth that had become their world and no others.
There weren’t many other people around. Travelers passed once every great while and when father went to town there were people they knew, but other than that, it was just the two of them. Alone, in the forest.
“Not too far now.” Mother called after then as they ran away, having long forgotten the dangers she had spoken of as the boys had now grown up and in their betweens.
They learned the expediency of working together on their chores to get them done quickly. The wood had been chopped, the animals tended, fruit and vegetables harvested. Mother would tend to meals and father went off to town. Soon the boys would go with father to town, but for now they still played. And they went deep now. So far and so deep that none could find them is they did not wish to be found. This truly had become their forest.
This was Yonderland. Although they didn’t know it as such yet, right now this simply was, for they had no need for the immediacy of names, save the names given to the plants and creatures they came across. There was Toadtree, under which the Screamingmimi’s with their long leathery snouts and tails. There was Dadrock, Mumhull, which was overrun with Mollies. The Twisted Tree which looked to be in such pain that the large split looked like a mouth that was screaming. On and on they played.
Deep. Deeper than either of them had ever been and in a place where neither could possibly be found they discovered a new tree. It was large and unfamiliar and one of them swore they had seen it before and it was there a month ago, but the other was quite certain it was not.
“I don’t like this one brother,” he said a bad feeling creeping up.
“What,” his brother said. “It is just a tree, like the others and I’m quite certain I have seen it before.”
“It is not like the others brother.” He said looking around.
It was a hulking grey thing and not like any other tree they or anyone had ever seen before. It looked dead and waited with a huge trunk that sat quite literally off the ground with roots that created an enormous makeshift hovel. The space beneath the tree was fresh and large enough to allow something very large to come and go. Indeed large enough for them to come and go.
“Come on brother,” he said dropping and crawling into the tree for that is what they were about. Exploring and naming.
His brother moved to the edge of the hole. Something looked as if it had scratched here recently and immediately all the tales told by mother all those many years ago came back to him in a flash. “Something’s wrong here brother.”
His brother was already seated at the base of a root on the inside and resting comfortably. “Come on brother,” his voice echoed. It is large enough for two, three, seven maybe.”
The brother crept slowly forward and peered into the darkness. “Brother?” he called listening and watching.
A hand suddenly extended fast from the darkness. It reached past the boy’s neck and another hand shot out to seize his arm. The brother screamed and was yanked forward on his belly and into the burrow.
“See brother,” the other said with a giggle. “It is fine and quite large.” The two could almost stand. “This is our spot now. We will claim it and maybe we will run away and live here forever.”
“What of mother and father?”
“Oh we will see them for mother will still have to cook our meals and mend our clothing, but we will live here.”
This logic seemed not to make sense to the brother. He twisted and leaned against the wall trying to make himself comfortable. The wall collapsed with the most insignificant weight and he fell backward into an even larger hole.
“What did you find brother?” He crawled forward without hesitation and pushed past his brother. “This one is even larger than the other.”
“This is very strange brother.”
“Nonsense brother, if we are to be living here in the future we will need to know everything there is to know about our home.”
This part did seem logical for some reason and after a little more coaxing. The brothers crawled and crawled together as the burrow descended. It widened and lengthened until they could easily stand and still they moved forward.
There was no telling how long they walked though it felt as if it had been hours. They were now exhausted and filthy, but the burrow had become so wide that there must be an end to it. Every time it seemed they had come to the end there was a turn or something interesting just up ahead. They had fallen down some step slides, crawled over some high embankments and crossed what might have been a river or a creek, two or three of them to be sure and though the walls had begun pitch black, they had now been glowing with an inner luminescence for some time. The glow issued from stones, plants or the roots of plants and sometimes from the ground itself. Pinks and blues and reds and golden hues all mixed to light the way through the tunnel.
“Wow,” one brother said picking up the pink stone with yellow spots surrounded by blue rings. “We could sell these.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t disturb them.”
He looked at his brother frustrated. “And! Perhaps we should just sell them. Father would not have to work so hard, nor mother.” He dropped the stone and they walked on.
“The walls began to fill with vegetation and foliage and it quickly swallowed them, but they found they could still move easily through it. The foliage thickened and they saw sunlight. The foliage got thicker and became almost impassable, but as they had now come to the end of the hole and had reached the sunlight they might as well continue forward rather than return through the muddy hills and creeks that had taken them so many hours.
They climbed the last several feet and fell out of a large bush onto a wide dirt path and an open area of overgrowth. In the distance was another forest and ahead of them was groundcover and grass. In the far distance there was a large mountain range and the two stood in amazement of the brightness and unfamiliarity of the landscape. Everything was brilliant as if the sun brought things into greater illumination. All the plants, the ground and sky seemed to almost glow with color.
“Which way is home?”
His brother looked up the road and down again and quickly said, “This way,” and began walking.
“Wait how do you know home is that way?”
“Come on brother. It will be getting late soon.”
“No brother, it was getting late, it is not late now he pointed to the sky.”
The brother shifted a bit nervously, his first sign of uncertainty since dragging his other brother into the tree. Then he straightened and said, “So what, this way, come on.”
The road wound away along the wall of foliage as the other brother wondered to himself how they would find their way back for this surely was not the way.
Ahead of them something was standing in the road regarding them for a moment, it nodded as they approached.
“Ho there.” the brother said.
“Hello,” said the creature which was around two and a half feet tall and looked very like a raccoon, though it wore a waistcoat, small pantaloons and walked with an old wooden cane if one could believe that. “I am looking for something.” it bowed.
“What is it you are looking for?” The brother said accepting the strangeness of the talking creature and looking to his brother and giving him a wink to play along.
“I do not know, but I am sure I will know once I find it,” the raccoon looking creature said.
“But as you do not know what you are looking for then how is it you will know it when you find it?”
This seemed to agitate the little raccoon for a moment. “Well I… I don’t know.” It said.
“Where is this place?” The other brother said agitated and worriedly not playing along.
“This?” The raccoon asked questioningly looking around and under his feet.
“This… Does this place have a name?”
The raccoon made a questioning look at this as well, “This is where I live.”
“And there?” the other brother said now joining in and still playing.
“That is not where I live.”
The two brothers looked at each other, one smiling one worried. They locked eyes, but one had to admit there was elegance to this simplicity.
“This place. All of this. Is Heere.” The playing brother said and this little piece of logic seemed to fit just as elegantly.
The raccoon seemed to brighten at this and said, “Yes…” he considered for a moment. “Yes of course, this is Heere.”
“And you are?”
“I am… looking for something.”
“No. A name. Do you have a name?”
Everything had a name didn’t it? “It is something to identify… What do others call you?”
The woods broke and another raccoon came through leading some smaller ones.
“There they are,” the raccoon said.
“Is that what you were looking for?”
“Yes the raccoon said I think so. This is my wife and my sons and my daughter.”
“And what are their names?”
All of the raccoons looked questioningly at this.
“Okay then if you will allow me.”
The raccoon nodded and they all looked suspiciously at him.
“Your name shall be Knarf. Your wife is Anerol. And your children, the boys will be Ocsic and Ogeid and your daughter shall be named Eiram.”
“Yes,” Knarf the raccoon said as if it were just that obvious. “That makes sense.”
The other brother tapped his brother with a frustrated finger and pointed to the forest. “Perhaps we should go back and find home now?” It was not getting later, but they had been walking for hours. “Mother is cooking and will be getting worried about us.”
The raccoon family all waved goodbye as the brothers continued down the road together.
“Ho there.” Knarf called behind them. “What are you then?”
The brother turned with a slight smile and said, “I am a scholar,” he giggled and his brother made a face and began mumbling to himself.
They wandered throughout the day and into the night. One brother still enjoying the game and giving names to the new things they came across and the other mumbling to himself concerning the annoying situation they found themselves in. Eventually as the days and weeks wore on they lost hope of ever finding their way back and split from each other.
One brother wanted to find a place and wait for their parents to find them. The other wanted to reach and explore the mountains in the distance. So then it came to be that one brother traveled the roads, taking on the name of the Roadscholar. From all over the land he was sought in an effort to give a name to the things and the creatures of Heere. His brother did the same moving through the forests where he found himself more comfortable and secure and gave names to all the elements of the forest.
It was this second brother, who lost his name and never received another one, who discovered the Saedi and where they were from. It was he that made the connection between Heere and Yonderland, the place his brother no longer spoke of. After a time he began to venture out onto the roads again. He discovered a cave and found the Tarot from which he learned about lands beyond the sea and the unnamed places on the other side of the mountains. A place even his brother would not dare travel.
His brother, the Roadscholar, would not have him wandering the roads. The Roadscholar had become part of the land and felt he was the land. His power was greater than that of his brother who waited for their mother to find them. Very simply the Roadscholar set a trap and imprisoned his brother in what he then named the Delirium along with the Saedi. And there they stayed. Shortly thereafter the Roadscholar discovered everything had been named and that his power to name was equal to that of one called Popularopinion, a phantom that no one ever saw. He began to wander the roads aimlessly. He didn’t cross the mountains or the sea even though the land called to him and he knew things were there to be named. The land wanted to grow, to reach, to breathe and to become. To do that the land needed both brothers. Give and take, yin and yang, this and that, good bad up down yes no and without it…
The Roadscholar remained stoic and greedy and the land stopped listening to him and the people forgot him.
“I learned.” “The Saedi is the key.” “The key.” “The key to the growth.” “Growth of the land.” the voices said. “They cause things.” “Make things change.” “Happen.” “They push them.” “Yes they do.” “Push them on.” “Push them forward.” “But not now.” “No.” “Not now.” “They have become twisted.” “And now crazy.” “Insane.” “Mad.” “Mad.” “Mad.” “Mad.” “Mad.” “The war has burned and burdened.” “No telling what may happen now.” “No word on what the Saedi might do.” “No telling.” “If they are released.”
“What will you do?” Khamet asked.
“Expeliarmus!” “Swallowed hole.” “No chewing.” “Stuffed into a harry pot.” “For the land has no more us.” “Nothing for us to do.” “The way of the dodo.” “Birds fly the coop.” “Brothers in arms.” “Live together.” “Die together.” “Expeliarmus!” “Unhinge the earth.” “And swallow us.” “Poisoned pill.” “Jagged little pill.”
“But there are more things to name and…”
“Not us!” “Not us!” “Not our job!” “The torch has been passed.” “Passed on. “The new team has arrived.” “You’re fired!” “Your job now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Me and my brother?”
“Yin and yang.” “Good and bad.” “But not here yet.” “Must go.” “Must come back.” “Must leave to return.” “Power.” “Power.” “More power.” “So much power.” “Be careful.” “Absolute power.” “Corrupts.” “Absolutely.” “But there’s nothing to fear.” “Except fear.” “Yes.” “Fear is scary.” “Terrifying to me.” “And me.” “And me as well.” “To us all.”
This was all confusing to Khamet, but as he sat and considered what the old man was saying and all that had happened to him thus far, something broke through and was finally beginning to make sense. “I have to leave.” He said turning to the Jack.
“What?” the Jack asked considering how he was supposed to get out of here.
“I think I can stop this, all of this, but I have to leave and come back again. I have to find a looking glass. I can save the queen. I also think I can stop the war and release the Saedi and I will need help, but I need to find a looking glass first.”
The Jack looked puzzled and worried, “I don’t know of any looking glass.”
“Be patient,” Khamet said. “The Saedi will…”
“Watch over them.” The man with the eye patch and the hook for a hand finished stepping into the room.
Khamet looked from the Jack to Megette and sensed something.
“Oh! There is a looking glass in the lady’s chambers.” Megette exclaimed.
Khamet remembered it and without waiting, concentrated, and vanished.