This story is complete. I will post the first two chapters today, and one each day after that.

Prelude: The House

The years had lain heavily on the ancient home. The grime and rain and mold of hundreds of years stained the once bright stones, crumbled and decayed now. The walls were wearing away at the edges, and the highest, most outer wall seemed sometimes to be held together by little more than the thick green ivy which grew over it closely, almost protectively.

Sometimes, a wandering or particularly brave hunting party might penetrate that deeply into the forests and, if especially observant, might even note the signs of former cultivation—the low, tumbled walls, the old fruit tress standing in unnaturally straight rows above all the wild saplings in between. A few even found the ancient fountain, long broken and reclaimed by the woods. It is doubtful if any of them recognized that paved pathways and broad, once-smooth avenues lay far beneath the leaves and undergrowth their horses trod so quietly over. But for those who found the ivy-grown walls there was mystery and a sense of foreboding. Even the venturesome could find no way to ascend the wall, or to look over it, and attempts to follow it showed only that it ran on a long way indeed, turning eventually, but then getting lost in a perfectly impenetrable bramble of bushes, trees, and vines. In the end, they all left it with a shiver and the story spread throughout the nearby villages of the mysterious green wall and lost park that lay around it.

In light of all this, it remains a mystery indeed how the steps of one errant traveler led him there, late one winter's night, or how he found the great iron gates that lay beyond the brambles, covered themselves until they were indistinguishable from the wall on either side, but—he did. He did and this is the story of what he found within them, and how his coming brought peace at last to the long tortured soul who lived there.