Prologue

Rebecca saw emptiness stretching out ahead of her, and in the distance, a small log cabin. She began walking towards it. When she reached it, she could see two men inside, talking. One was an older man, and the other was in his thirties. The older man spoke first.

"My time is nearly up. Another must be chosen to take my place."

"One has been chosen, and she stands at the door of this cabin as we speak."
Rebecca looked around, surprised. She couldn't see anyone else standing near the door. Suddenly, it dawned on her. She was "chosen", whatever that meant.

The younger man spoke again, and this time he spoke with a calm, authoritative voice, "Come in. We have been waiting for your arrival."
Shocked, but seeing that she had no choice, Rebecca entered the cabin.
The older man saw her, and he seemed taken aback. The man spoke questioningly, "Her? She is young, and appears weak. Why her? What chance does she have?"

The other man said, "You appeared weak when we chose you. Why should this be any different? Beacuse of her apparent weakness, they will never guess her."

"But, sir, that was before the Hawk of Shadow came when the boundary fell in Russia."

Again, the calm, authoritative tone returned. "I know that, and we believe has come here to challenge this boundary and let more inside the walls of this world. Remember, while the loss of one key may be bad, this boundary still has eleven. I am sure that she is the right choice. She is a true human, and more intelligent than average."

The older man seemed somewhat reassured, "She may be able, but I don't know, it just seems wrong."

Rebecca stood there, having heard and not understood a word of the conversation. A true human? What other kind of human was there?

The man who was in charge, the younger man, turned to her, "Rebecca, know that you have been chosen for a great responsibility. You are chosen to be the next bearer of this key."

At this, he motioned to the older man, who pulled a tiny key out of his pocket.

He continued, turning back towards her, "There are several boundaries on Earth. They are small objects that protect us. If they were not there, Earth would be totally vulnerable to the armies of an emperor that already has conquered many planets. He, along with most his people on Earth, are of a species called Kenonians that is exceptionally long lived and can alter its appearance nearly at will. However, each of them has a single identifying mark, which remains no matter what form they take. This mark must be exposed to the air, but it does move if they choose to move it. The key that you will receive is one of twenty that protect a boundary near this area. The school that you will go to for one more year is across the street from a library, no?"

"Yes, it is. Why does that matter?"

"That library has one of the places where a key is used hidden behind it. The fifth square in the sidewalk opens upward to reveal a tunnel. At the end of this tunnel is the keyhole where this key fits. If all twenty doors are unlocked, the gate protecting the boundary generator falls. The Kenonians could each and shut off the generator. Twenty years ago, in Russia, this happened. We had to use all of the keys that we had in order to strengthen the remaining generators. That is why you must know where the key leads. One other will be chosen as your Knower. They will be told that you have the key and where it leads. Both you and the Knower will have marks. It is an effect of the key. This key's mark often appears in the shape of a sideways semicolon. Do not move the mark unless you have to, as it will draw attention to it. Other Bearers' marks will appear to glow. Finally, do not speak of the keys unless you are positive that you cannot be overheard, and even then, only speak with another Bearer or Knower. Never write or type of the keys anywhere. Do not tell anyone that you saw or spoke to us. I believe it is now time for you to return to the world of the awake, and leave this world of dreams."

Rebecca waited a second, then spoke, "I have a very close friend named Rachel. It would be very difficult for me to keep this from her. Could she be chosen as my Knower?"

"We have not yet chosen your Knower, but we may choose her. If we do, however, it will not be because of you. In September, two months from now, your key will be given to you in the real world, and at that time, you will be told who your Knower is. Act with caution at all times, for we believe that the Lioness of Shadow, the Hawk of Shadow, and the Tiger of Shadow, three Kenonians are all in this area, trying to break down this boundary. Farewell."


Rebecca woke up, still wondering about all that she heard. And to think that yesterday, her biggest concern was reading Around the World in 80 Days for a test the first week of school. She saw that her clock said that it was just past 5 in the morning. She collapsed back onto her pillow and slept soundlessly and dreamlessly.