The envelope was plain and unadorned, the front of it containing only a single name: Katherine L. Devries. It was taped to the inside of her locker where she could not possibly miss it. The halls were deserted by now, and there was no one in sight. It hadn't been there when school had let out an hour ago. Someone had gotten into her locker and put it there during her private lessons. She wondered who that someone might be.
She tucked the letter carefully into her bag and headed home, wanting to wait until she was alone to open it. She wondered if it might be a letter from some secret admirer, the thought of that sending a thrill straight to her young heart. More likely, she thought, it would be a letter from a teacher or administrator. Who else would have access to her locker?
Cool bursts of fall winds sent leaves skittering on the path in front of her. She smiled as she watched them dance in the breezes like kites on the wind. Winter would be here soon. She loved the winter, the way it painted the world in white and covered over the ugliness of the world with a still, quiet beauty. Christmas was her favorite holiday of all. She loved the bright packages and curly ribbons that adorned them, the lights and the ornaments and the decorations. Most of all, it was one of the few times her family would gather together without bickering or fighting and seem to really enjoy one another’s company.
The walk home from school took 20 minutes. She enjoyed the time alone, deep in her own thoughts. It gave her time to go over the events of the day and to put it all into perspective. It was one of the few times when she could find quiet and peace. The house was usually stuffed full of people and filled with noise. Her mother seemed to collect strays of every kind, both of the two and four legged varieties. She was proud that her mom did so much to help other people, but sometimes she missed the days before her mom decided to turn their house into an impromptu homeless shelter.
The small two bedroom frame house at the corner of 5th and Fir was painted a cheery blue on the outside with a slate grey roof. The sidewalk leading up to the front porch was lined with flowers which were showing the first signs of succumbing to fall’s colder temperatures. Their bowed heads reminded her of a picture she’d seen once of people praying. She opened the door to the sounds of Halo Reach being played by her foster brothers John and James.
The twin boys were a year and a half older than she was, but they acted like they were 2 years younger. Immature, irresponsible, and thoughtless in just about every regard, they often got on Kate’s nerves. The very sight of their tall, dark, curly heads was enough to cause her to grit her teeth and she headed upstairs to her room without a word. The boys were too enthralled with their game to even notice.
She hung her backpack up on a peg behind the door as she entered the room she now shared with her mother, pulled the mysterious letter out of her backpack and collapsed on the bed to read it. The contents read like some fairy tale out of a book.
Once, we were many and we were found on every continent and in every country throughout the world. In those days, we walked in freedom and light. Knowledge flowed freely and our cities grew strong and spread wide. Our people were well fed, forgetting the hunger we once knew. We were proud, confident, certain of the truths we held dear and even more certain of our victory. We grew complacent.
Our guardians tried to warn us, tried to shake us out of the complacency that spread like a sickness among us, but too many of us ignored their warnings. Too many of us listened to the seductive whispers of darkness, assuring us that the battle was won and we had no need to fight any longer. Too many of us grew soft and undisciplined. We allowed our swords to dull, put down our shields, and one by one we fell asleep.
While we slept the enemy crept in on swift wings and silent feet to bind us firmly and enslave us to the darkness. Our children were the first to fall prey to the madness. It was so easy to corrupt the innocent when good men were not there to defend them. The guardians invaded our dreams, troubling our sleep, but we were stubborn in it and even when the first trickles of blood began to flow we did not awaken.
As we slept the enemy tightened the snares that bound us, and we began to struggle but our limbs were too feeble. Our dreams became nightmares from which we finally awakened, only to find the world we had left behind not at all the same as the world we now entered. Darkness blocked the light to such a degree that we began to wonder if it had not overtaken it completely. We might have despaired if not for the guardians, those faithful friends whose fidelity had never wavered and whose hearts were ever full of hope and courage.
Since the time of the Awakening, we have begun to grow in number once more – but our enemies have grown at an even faster pace. The darkness has spread like a wildfire, and it will continue so long as good men and women continue to sleep. We are the Chosen, those who have been selected to awaken the sleepers and push back against the darkness. We are the Warriors of Light.
You have received this letter because you are being asked to join us, to join in fighting against those who would enslave mankind and plunge the entirety of the Earth into darkness. We do not make this offer lightly, nor should you enter into it unaware of what awaits you should you accept. It will require you to make many sacrifices and many changes, to spend many hours practicing and learning to wield the weapons we use against the enemy.
If the enemy should catch you, they will first try to persuade you that there is no need to fight. They will attempt to convince you that there is no battle going on, and that your efforts are wasted. Be assured that these are lies. They know that you possess unique qualities, qualities that could very well be their undoing. They do not want you to fight.
If they cannot persuade you by convincing you that there is no fight, they will try to convince you to stop fighting by causing you great pain and anguish. The pain may be from loved ones who do not understand what it is you are trying to accomplish and attempt to stop you from doing so. It may be from the loss of friendship or family. It may come from any direction, but it will come.
If they cannot convince you to stop fighting by these methods, they will try to slow you down by throwing as many obstacles your way as possible. These obstacles often come in the form of self-doubt. When this happens, just know that you are on the right path and continue forward. You are never closer to your goal than when you feel most like giving up. Keep moving.
As hard as this journey will be, my young friend, you do not travel it alone. We will teach you how to call upon the power of the Guardians to defend yourself at any time of day or night. We will also teach you how to call upon the wisdom and the guidance of all those Warriors who have gone before us, as well as those still walking the journey with you. Do not think you can do what you are being asked to do by yourself. The enemy is stronger than you know, with many more years of experience in defeating Warriors. If you try to do this alone, you will be defeated. If you are willing to accept this invitation, write kld on an index card and slip it between the slots of locker 111. We will be in contact.
The content was so bizarre that Kate found herself reading it over three times. She wondered if this were some kind of elaborate prank, and if so who on earth would want to go to all the trouble of staging such a prank. Her curiosity was peaked, however, so she decided that even if it was a prank she would play along to see it unfold. She tucked the letter into the top of her dresser drawer and shut it firmly before heading downstairs to prepare dinner before her mom got home.
Her mother walked in the door just as the spaghetti was ready. John and James were the first to take their seats as the family sat down together to eat. Kate’s mother looked so tired.
“How was your day, Mom?” Kate asked as she placed the spaghetti bowl in the center of the table.
“Long, but good,” her mom said, smiling. Her mother worked as an administrative assistant for child and family services, which is how she had come to be the foster parent of the twins. “I spent a lot of it driving around town delivering things and kids. It’s good to be home.”
“I know the feeling,” Kate said as she helped herself to some spaghetti and garlic bread.
After dinner Kate helped her mother to clean up the dishes and then headed back upstairs to finish some homework. She found it difficult to concentrate on her algebra homework, though. Her eyes kept turning to the top drawer where that letter was hidden. She couldn’t get her mind off of it. The mystery of it all was very appealing to her.
That night, she had the strangest dream. She was wearing a white gown and standing on a battle field surrounded by tall men in gleaming armor. Ahead of her was a throng of thousands of people and at the front of that throng was a raised platform and a single high backed chair reminding her of a throne. She knew, without knowing how she knew, that they had come to do battle with the man who sat on that throne. At a word from the leader of their group, they began to move forward toward the crowd. However, there were so many people pressed in all around her that they soon became separated. She woke up, frightened, lost in the crowd.
The next morning she left for school earlier than usual, index card in hand. As she passed by locker 111, she slipped her index cards in the slot after checking to be sure that no one was watching her. The mysterious letter and locker 111 filled her thoughts to the point where she hardly noticed where she was going until the moment when she found herself colliding full force with a very solid and very masculine body.
“Hey, Kate, where are you going?” a familiar male voice asked her. She looked up to find herself staring straight into the eyes of Kevin McConnolly, the boy she’d had a crush on since the 8th grade. Kevin was everything she was not – popular, good looking, smart, and funny. She didn’t know anyone who didn’t like him. He seemed to have all the confidence that she lacked.
“Oh my gosh, Kevin,” she stammered. “I’m so sorry. I was just so busy thinking I didn’t even notice you there.” She could feel her cheeks growing hot as she blushed with embarrassment. Why, of all the people on the face of the planet she could have run into, did it have to be Kevin?
“Hey, Kate, it’s no big deal,” he said, smiling at her. “Guess I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah, later,” she said to his backside. Looking up at the clock she noticed it was three minutes till the first bell rang. She hurried to her locker and found another envelope inside. She grabbed it and hastily put away her books before jogging down the corridor to her first period class.
Thank you for reading Chapter 1: The Invitation. If you enjoyed this, you can continue on to read Chapter 2: The Meeting from my Nanowrimo novella: The Chosen.
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