She walked out of the farm building and Ned followed. Standing at the edge of the swamp, it looked ghostly under the light of a full moon. Wind rippled the waters so the moon’s reflection broke up. Krea gave Ned an object wrapped in cloth. He opened the material and looked at a metal and glass contraption. Moving it around in one hand, he was confused.
“You remember crossing the swamp to Malaxia?”
He nodded, but the girl hesitated. No one from the outside was supposed to know about the path over the wetlands.
“The only way through is by using one of these. The route changes every time… and it can be seen through this device by the light of a full moon.”
She released a clasp and unfolded it. Four lenses tilted at different angles. Lining the moonlight with the vertical lense, it refracted into the others. Krea looked through, smiled and handed it to Ned. He did the same and saw an illuminated path over the swamp.
“This is amazing!! But I thought only soldiers and merchants crossed the swamp. How do you have this?” Ned asked.
Krea laughed. “Our farm is often close to the main route into Malaxia. I found it on our land a few months ago. Someone must have dropped it. I found this too.” She handed him a military map made of cloth.
He studied the map, which stretched from the lands of the North all the way to the King’s Empire in the South. Ned saw Ragged Wood. “How many of these instruments are there?”
“Oh, I don’t know, but this is mine now and I’m giving it to you. I don’t want you to feel like you’re trapped here. You could leave Malaxia tonight. All you have to do is watch out for traffic.”
“But you and your father are my family now.”
She hugged him and whispered, “It’s up to you.”
Her blue eyes reflected the moonlight as she turned and left for the farmhouse with a heavy heart. It was the right thing to do, she knew it. But the farm would seem empty without Ned. Looking at the gusty swamp, the boy sensed freedom. But the only other place he knew was the Foijen. Apart from his exploits in the forest and Skar, he was not happy there. He was almost fourteen years old now and life could be worse. It was a bit tame on the farm, but he got along with Gundred and Krea. And it was better than the arguments he had with his father, and the uncomfortable moments he endured with his mother and brothers. Ned decided to stay. During the night he hid the new-fangled device and detailed map in a hay bale by his makeshift bed.