The boat they gave her was a solid log, hollowed out to make a boat, and flattened on the bottom so it wouldn’t capsize. Lyli hadn’t ever been in a boat before. She had swum in the ocean but a boat was an entirely new experience. At first she clutched the sides of the boat for fear of falling off, but after a few minutes she was brave enough to let go and even to stand up.
The sea was beautiful. The light from the rising sun shone off it, causing it to look like a vast ocean of diamonds. Lyli had never been far from shore and it amazed her how big the water was. She wondered where it all came from, and if the water was getting bigger all the time, since it rained pretty regularly. And when the water fell from the sky, where did that water come from?
Time seemed to pass differently out on the sea as well. Some days seemed only an hour long while others dragged on for weeks.
Lyli missed home already. She missed the trees and the animals, and even though the salt-water fish were friendly, they never stayed long to chat, so Lyli often sat in silence.
The gulls told her of the land before she actually saw it. The black line on the horizon was the only relief she had from the unending sameness all around her. It seemed to be the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
As she drew nearer, she could make out trees and a little waterfall. It was a pretty little island, small but picturesque.
Lyli watched as mist rose from the waterfall, seeming to shape pictures in it’s midst.
Yes, it was definitely pretty, and Lyli definitely approved.
It was hard work, getting to shore. Lyli had no clue how to use the oars, so she swam, tugging the little boat after her.
“I should have asked-“ a wave smacked her in the face and she spluttered, “should have asked how to—“ smack, splutter, “how to use the—” smack, splutter, “oars!” she gasped gratefully as her feet touched bottom, and with one final heave, she pulled the boat ashore.
She coughed out water and collapsed. Her peeling, sunburned skin was soothed by the soft sand, but she only allowed herself a moment of rest. The boat had to be secured or it would be lost. Lyli tied it to a nearby tree with a bit of rope, hoping her knot would hold.
Then, finally, Lyli took stock of her surroundings. The island was even more beautiful than it had seemed from afar, as it was covered in flowers, from tiny, baby blue ones, like shards of the sky, to vibrant red ones as wide an Lyli was tall.
And the birds. Oh, the bird song was beautiful, it almost seemed to have a melody. As Lyli ventured farther into the island, she discovered all kinds of birds, ones she knew and ones she had never seen before. She even came across one that was brightly colored, like the rainbow, and howled like a wolf.
That sound made Lyli homesick. She missed the mother wolf and her litter of seven little cubs. She missed the trees, the old willow, with its emotional spouts and hysterical fits, the hazelnut, with its beautiful stories, the pines…
She missed it all.
Sitting down hard beneath a tree, (not the kind she knew, but one with an odd, rough trunk, spiky leaves and large green fruits hanging high up) Lyli began to cry. She wasn’t the kind of girl who often cried, she thought it was a silly waste of good water and that there was enough salt water in the ocean and the world didn’t need more pouring from the eyes of girls like open faucets. But this was an occasion where crying was acceptable. She had just spent three days out at sea, her eyes burning from the salt spray and the glaring sun, her skin peeling like a snakes.
So she sat there, her head in her hands, her long hair hanging matted around her face, and tears flowing.
It was a while before Lyli realized that she could feel something touching the top of her head. She jerked up, and smacked at whatever it was, thinking perhaps some animal thought to make it nest out of her hair.
She could not have been more surprised to see what had been touching her head.
It was a boy.
A boy of around thirteen or so, with soft, light blonde hair falling into his eyes, which were a beautiful shade of bright blue, and for some reason, his eyes rang a bell in Lyli’s mind. He stared at her with those big, blue eyes, and she stared back.
“Um, Hello.” Lyli stood to face him, noting that he was several inches taller than herself, and much broader, and that there was no way, if he came to fight, that she could beat him.
He cocked his head in an oddly canine way, as though he were a dog listening to an odd sound.
Lyli coughed uncomfortably. The boy had yet to take those blue eyes off of her and it was making her nervous. “Who are you?” she asked, trying to sound polite.
He only stared intently. His gaze was not malicious, or happy, or even curious. He just stared as though he intended to memorize every detail of Lyli’s appearance, from her bare feet to her round, sun-tanned face and golden eyes.
Then he did the most unexpected thing in the world.
The boy barked. And it wasn’t a pitiful little yap either, it was true wolf speech.
Lyli was so startled that she did not understand him, so he repeated himself.
“Who are you?”
Lyli’s mouth was hanging open, but she quickly closed it and responded, trying not to gawk. “Lyli. Who are you?”
“They call me Wanderer.”
“Whose ‘they’? And why do you speak wolf? Do you speak human as well?”
“Human?” The boy tipped his head again, and he reminded Lyli forcefully of a puppy who does not understand a direction.
For the first time, Lyli really looked at the boy. He was rugged, with muscles that only a grown man should have, and he wore torn and dirty clothes that were several sizes too big for him.
“Yes, human… don’t you know what a human is?” that was a stupid question, of course he knew what a human was.
“No I don’t.” His expression wasn’t embarrassed, or even curious. His eyes were full of life, yet they seemed oddly blank in some way… as though a piece of him was missing.
“But…” Lyli stuttered, almost reverting to human again, “You are human!”
The boy looked down at himself, “So by human, you mean a two-legged?”
“Uhh… I guess so.” This was a very strange boy indeed if he didn’t even know the proper name for his own race. “So um, Wanderer, why do you speak wolf? You never told me.”
“I speak wolf because I was brought up by a wolf. I came to this Island, before it became trapped in time. I was just a babe, and the mother wolf found me, and raised me with her own pups. She taught me to speak, and to hunt.”
Lyli was staring at him again, her mouth hanging open like a fish’s. “You were raised by a wolf?”
“Yes. Why do you speak wolf? Were you raised by one too?”
Lyli shook her head “No, I was raised by the forest, and I learned the languages of all the creatures, including the wolf.” Something occurred to her, and she suddenly became worried. “Did you say this island was trapped in time? What do you mean?”
“I mean that this island can only continue to travel through time if it has love. It had love for thousands of years, the same love that the wolf mother gave me when I arrived. When she died, the entire island stopped aging.”
“How long ago was that? How old are you really?”
“It was over a hundred years ago. And I’m fourteen.”
“A hundred and fourteen you mean.” Lyli imagined being a teenager for a hundred years. She thought about the boy, his wolf mother dead, and him alone for a hundred years. “I’m sorry. About your wolf mother I mean. It must have been… hard… to lose her.” Lyli knew well the pain of that kind of loss, she felt it every time a tree was cut down and its spirit went on, and every time an animal died, she felt it as it passed.
“What do you mean by sorry?”
Lyli’s eyes were getting tired of staring, but again she gaped at the boy. What did she mean by sorry, what kind of a question was that?
His eyes bored into her, as though he knew her thoughts, but still it was as if a piece of him was missing from those unreadable eyes, and it clicked.
There were tales of people with eyes as blue as the sky, as blue as the sea, bluer than blue. They were a race of people, who generally kept to themselves, a race that was both feared and respected.
This boy was a Heartless.