[NOTE: This has been replaced by The Near Side of Forever]
Wordcount: 302 words
Summary: This is how the story starts.
Speak Friend and Enter
At some point Wendy fell asleep, lulled by the wind and the sun and the purrs. In her dreams the tree peppered her with questions she couldn’t answer, holding the apple high above her head in leafy disapproval.
She was awoken less gently as Cat leapt from her lap, pausing to wash snow white paws which were already immaculate, and then saunter off along the path, deeper into the woods. She watched him, bemused, until he turned a rowled at her. It was a gruff, demanding noise, the one he used when it was time for dinner, or he wanted out, or in, or when he wanted anything, really. She stood, dusting off her jeans, and followed. The sun was still a good ways above the horizon and she had nothing else to do. Following a cat was at least novel, if nothing else.
He led her along the path, stopping to stalk unwary bugs, or chew a leaf, but always leading deeper. She wasn’t surprised when he stopped by the old stone wall, they’d fed him here before, on those picnic days. He rowled again, looking at her with an imperious gaze and she laughed.
“I’ve got nothing.” She held out empty hands and the cat blinked, turning to scratch at the stone of the gate and rowling again. Wanting something, something– wanting in?
And that thought seized her for a moment, absurd and childish, and she whispered the words that marked the beginning to the garden stories:
“In the land of Velanon, in the kingdom of Teravail, lies the fair city of Fenrith Lei…”
She was staring at the gate when she said it, caught up in the thundering rush of needing to be someplace else, anywhere else, and she watched as the world on the far side faded away.