The Mooncastle Letters
My dearest Emily,
I pray this letter finds you, still – I fear it will elude you.
So I ask your trust – of all the trust you have –
be given to no man or woman –
but only to thy heart.
And lay at rest the words of many,
but prick thine ears unto the few,
and to the elusive – the scarcely seen,
to the Strange, I ask of you –
Listen to them.
Of the Sea – Beware
who slumber in the waves
when October falls on Little Bay
Minos will stir – and Emily,
The most valuable thing we have is very little,
nor is it hard to find –
There is a Stair that leads into Sea.
before you fifteenth birthday –
T’will open for thee only,
if you hold the Key
If I had more time to give…
You are only two, but I can see your Father’s smile in your eyes.
When all the world you see is questioned by your heart,
my dearest Emily,
Don’t stop questioning.
+ Evelyn Holland
April 12th 1934
Emily folded the letter up and slid it into its faded scarlet envelope. She stared at the spidery writing scrawled across the surface when a knock came from behind — she swung around in her chair to see a large bluebird pecking at the glass. She jumped up and strode to the window, her pearl white dress more graceful than her gait.
The blue eyed azure bird blinked as she slid the glass up, he flew into the room, settling on a very old looking box upon her bookshelf. He began pecking at the cracked wood along the edge, pausing between pecks to gaze up at her. She ran over to the shelf and hastily pulled the box out from under his claws. “What are you doing, this is old!” She shouted at the bluebird. “My mother left me this box!” She sat down, held it in her lap, and opened it carefully.
As soon as the box was open the bluebird swooped down and snatched a golden skeleton key from inside the box, Emily reached out for him but he was already to the window. He flew around in circles as she stood in the window yelling at him. “Bring that back you thief!” Emily stared with wonder as he disappeared into the blackening skies. She had never seen a bluebird do such a thing before, it was all quite strange, what did he want with it? She thought of her mother’s letter as she ran down the spiral stairs. “The most valuable thing we have is very little, nor is it hard to find.”
The grounds of Little Bay were obscured by fog and rain, mud splattered her dress as she looked up into the swirling sky. The lighthouse loomed above her like an ancient giant too tired to move. She darted back inside and entered the kitchen, her grandmother was making tea at the stove. “Emily where have you been? And what on earth have you done to your dress!”
Emily grabbed her school bag from the kitchen table, snatched a glass bottle from atop the fridge, she stuffed it into the bag and ran to the door. “No time to talk Oma, I have to go!” Her grandmother bent down to the oven and pulled out a marvelous yellow cake. “But dear, what about your birthday? We were going to play checkers, remember?” Emily halted in the doorway and quickly spouted, “I am only going down to the ocean to look for sand dollars, I’ll be back before it gets late.” Her grandmother eyed her suspiciously and then sighed “Okay, but be careful, and stay out of the woods, there is a storm coming.”
Emily rushed to the Sea. It was roaring beneath the stormy sky. She slowed to a walk as she approached the pebbled shore, sitting down gently, she opened her bag, pulled out a notebook, and began to write a letter.
My mother spoke of thee when I was young,
and I have always wondered, though faint believed,
that what she said of thee was truth
and that you do live deep beneath
this which we call the Sea –
and since I cannot dive nor sail,
nor see beneath the waves
I write thee thus a letter sealed
in a bottle corked and clear
in hopes that you discover me
bound to earth and air.
for if you are, as she said
alive beneath the sea
I seek thy counsel on a quest
to find a hidden Stair –
if you do indeed, dwell in peace beneath the seas.
Sincerely Emily Holland, (a human being)
Emily folded the letter up and sealed it in the bottle. She stood with her white shoes in the foamy wash upon the shore and tossed it out into the water, but as it soared through the air an unexpected thing occurred; the waves suddenly halted and withdrew.
The sea withdrew until there was a colossal wall of water at a distance from the shore. Emily stared in amazement as the bottle collided with the ocean floor, causing the sand to sink in on itself, revealing a stairway leading beneath the sea. Emily walked cautiously to the stairs and watched the bottle clink down the seemingly infinite black steps. She slowly descended the stairs for what seemed to be days, until she finally reached what appeared to be the bottom. In the haze of darkness she saw what appeared to be a fishtailed man sitting on an old sunken ship, reading a book. He looked quite young, and even a little handsome, she thought. He looked up and with a twinkle in his green eyes said, “I’ve been waiting for you my dear, for a very long time.” Then he pulled out a letter concealed within his purply shimmering scales.
“To Emily Holland, the time has come
for the Minotaurs to Awake,
in fact my dear, it has already begun.
I beg you, on your Quest, beware
those who slumber in the leaves,
they do not take kindly to young girls
who tread unbidden upon their feet.”
“I wasn’t even going to the forest Mr. — “Captain Pollux Crux,” said the merman cheerfully, and with that he rose to his fins and pulled the sails of the sunken ship up into place. To Emily’s great surprise the ruinous ship began to rise from the sands and assemble itself. “Well,” he said, “aren’t you coming along? We have a party to attend, do we not?” Emily climbed aboard the ship. As soon as she sat upon the deck the ship began to soar with such velocity up through the sea that she thought she would be sick, when suddenly it tore through the surface and out into the blazing sun. Once her eyes adjusted to the light she could make out a small, distant island.
“Captain Crux, what is that?” she whispered. He beamed at her, “That my dear, is the ancient forest island of the Minotaurs, I presume you have your key?” Emily looked up at him horrified. “My key?” she exclaimed. “Yes, yes dear, your key!” said the captain impatiently, when suddenly the ship collided with the apparently not so distant shore, nearly knocking Emily off her feet. “Off you go! Off you go!” shouted the captain as he shoved Emily onto the beach. “Look alive! Look alive!” he shouted, “and good luck my dear! I fancy you will need it,” he chuckled as he turned about and sailed down into the ocean.
Emily stood terrified gazing into the trees. She slowly began to walk until a forest wilder than she had ever imagined surrounded her. She stopped in the depth of the woods and looked up into the sky, it was deep black, speckled with stars. She marveled as many of them were falling and shooting across the skies. As she stargazed, a luminous yellow star raced towards the clearing just ahead of her, beyond the trees. It collided with a great burst of blue and yellow light. Emily stared as the starlight faded, revealing a tall blue door trimmed with gold, sitting in the midst of the wood. She approached it cautiously, circled it and then ran her fingers across its surface. A scrawl of silver writing glowed across the top, “Ye who seek to enter here must hold the Key of Wonder close at heart, lest thou be stranded in the wilderness, without a map and without a hope.”
Emily pushed against the door, but it didn’t budge. She tried forcing the handle, but the door would not open. She sat down on a stump a few feet away and stared at the writing. the Key of Wonder. Strange noises began to crawl into her ears, like that of serpents hissing, slithering over cracking leaves. She shivered and stared into the dark trees, when to her horror a great shadow emerged from the darkness, it looked like a beast growing out of the earth. But as the beast came into the moonlight, Emily saw that he had vines with white flowers flowing from his horned head. Green ivy was growing up his monstrous legs and from his enormous hand grew a beautiful blue rose. His eyes were like great mirror balls reflecting the stars. He kneeled down to Emily and stretched out his hand, his face was like that of a bull, deep with wonder, yet forlorn, and even in her terror, Emily felt that he was more alive and gentler than anyone she had ever looked upon before.
She plucked the blue rose from his hand.
“Happy birthday, Emily,” he growled gently as he rose from the ground and walked over to the door, the earth rumbling beneath his feet. “I presume you brought your Key?” Emily stared up at him and slowly began to cry. “It was stolen,” she mumbled. “Stolen?” said the beast, “That’s impossible my dear, the Key cannot be stolen, only lost, and it can always be found.”
“But a bluebird took it from me, I’ll never find it again!” she insisted as she walked up to the door. “No matter” growled the beast, “Simply go through the door.” Emily looked up at him, “but it’s locked” she said. “My dear, it is only locked to keep the boring, the logical, and the unwondering type out… Only believe.” Emily gazed after him as he turned and towered into the wild. She reached out her hand, closed her eyes and said, “I believe that you will open for me,” and then she turned the doorknob, and to her surprise the door swung wide open, light pouring in upon her, and suddenly she was walking through the doorway into the kitchen of the lighthouse.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! shouted a circle of her friends. She stared at them and stammered, “but- how did I..” Her grandmother ushered her over to the table and began to light the candles. “Oma, why are all these people here?” Her grandmother smiled at her, “It’s a surprise party dear, everyone needs a little mystery in their life, that’s what your mother use to say.” Emily looked up as a young boy with black hair approached her timidly. He handed her a yellow daisy and said shyly “I didn’t know what to get you, and I thought…” Emily took the flower from him, “it’s wonderful” she said. “Shh, Shh,” her grandmother shushed, and everyone grew quiet. “Now Emily, make a wish and blow out the candles, if you believe, it will come true.” Emily thought for a moment and then blew out the candles. Everyone erupted loudly, but the boy leaned in and whispered, “what did you wish for Emily?”
“I t ’ s a s e c r e t” she whispered back.