Maylii never could say why she first really noticed the wall. Of course, everyone knew it was there. The stone wall and the massive gate had been standing in the west part of the village for as long as anyone could remember. It was that very fact that made no one take notice of it. People stood in its shade, or met by the north corner, but no one ever wondered about what was within the walls, or why it was kept locked.
But that day Maylii noticed it. She stood in the cobblestone street with crowds of people surging around her and stared at it. In spots there was ivy draping gracefully down the crumbling stone sides, and in other spots flowers grew out of the cracks at the bottom.
Suddenly very curious, Maylii trotted around the wall until she reached the gate. A little “oh” escaped her lips, quite simply because it was so lovely. The gate was a deep mahogany, ornately carved with designs that Maylii felt quite sure had significant meaning, should one only know how to read them.
Maylii reached almost reverently for the brass handle, pushing aside the branches of a small tree that bent over it. The gate did not so much as wiggle, no matter how hard she pushed and pulled.
Maylii left the gate reluctantly. Throughout the next few weeks she paused often at the gate. She asked villagers about it, but they brushed her off, uninterested.
One day as Maylii lingered in the shade of the wall, old Niwon hobbled close. “It is said,” his voice was low and wise, “that those who truly desire what is inside those walls, will indeed find it.”
Maylii felt excitement tingle. “How can I get in?”
The old man shrugged. “I do not know. Many generations ago the gate was left open and people came and went all day and night. That was back when this village was a thriving city, not the dirty place of disrepair and theft it is today. At some point over the years the gate was locked, and no one has thought again of it until you noticed it.” Niwon laid a gentle hand on her head. “Keep seeking, child. I have a feeling there is something worth finding behind those walls.”
A few days after that, Maylii came to the gate just as a small ray of sun found its way through the shadow of the trees and lit on the wood. The mahogany shone in the warmth of the light, and Maylii ran her fingers within the carvings.
Suddenly something shifted beneath her hand, and the gate gave a tiny twitch. For a moment Maylii’s hand trembled, but she steadied it and gave a firm push.
The door moved silently inward, and Maylii stood with her mouth open. Within the walls a glorious tangle of flowers and vines appeared, unlike any Maylii had before seen. Leaving behind the bustle of the village, she stepped into the quiet and peered around. It was obvious that this has once been a well-tended garden, with paths winding among miniature trees draped with dainty vines and surrounded by flowers of blue and gold.
In the very middle of the garden sat a tiny cottage. Maylii walked toward it, lingering among the blooms to sniff the fragrant-laden air. The door of the house opened quite easily, but Maylii stopped short in the doorway. The walls were the same ornately carved mahogany as the gate. Even the marble tiles on the floor were traced with designs. The windows were stained glass, and the sun shone through them to fill the room with rainbows.
Everything in the cottage seemed to focus on a marble stand right in the middle of the room. A dark, square box sat on the top. Maylii felt suddenly as though she were in a holy place.
Padding closer, Maylii found that the box was actually a large book. The cover of this book, too, was filled with the designs. But as Maylii ran her hand reverently across it, brushing away the dust, the designs were revealed to form words. For a moment Maylii could not make out the meaning, but as she lifted the cover, the light caught them and she understood.
The Key of Life
Maylii lifted the first delicate pages and knew one thing deep in her heart. This was just the beginning of the discoveries.
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