Eleven-year-old Barclay’s hometown of Dullshire isn’t a flashy place. In fact, it’s the total opposite of flashy. Everything here is buttoned down and kept in order: a place where rules rein. Sneezing is prohibited in Dullshire’s town square, for instance, and there are no tournaments of beanbag or hopscotch. It’s against the rules to even run in Dullshire. And though Barclay dearly loves to run, he understands and accepts that the rules are all designed to keep people and their things safe.
Safe is good.
It was thanks to something unsafe that Barclay became an orphan. Something happened years ago that caused a great, ferocious beast from the nearby Woods to rampage. The massive magical creature nearly destroyed Dullshire and other surrounding communities, and it left Barclay an orphan.
Life hasn’t been easy since then, but Barclay has made his way. Safely. He even became an apprentice to a local mushroom farmer. It’s a dirty and dull job, but it suits Barclay just fine. And if his thoughts ever stray to exciting things or exotic adventures—things he never pursues—he can always read a book and get them out of his system. There are no rules against that.
One day, however, while out hunting for a special mushroom that only pops up once a year near the edges of those dreaded Woods, something terrible happens. Barclay strays too far and accidentally bonds with a magical beast called a Lufthund.
Now some might have celebrated something like that happening. Not only does it give Barclay the ability to summon the large wolflike creature in times of need, but it also affords him a bit of magical power (or Lore) that he can use on his own. It makes him what people call a Lore Keeper. But Barclay is horrified by the fact. Mushroom farmers don’t need magical beasts or Lore. They need plain, ordinary, dirty and dull. They need safe. But everything has now changed.
In fact, when the folks of Dullshire find out about Barclay’s new beasty connections, they rise up to send him away. Lore Keepers are considered unsafe. And they break at least a dozen or more rules by their very existence.
Barclay knows there must be some way to remove this magical connection he’s suffering through—a connection that creates a gold, rippling tattoo of sorts, which wriggles and pulses on his arm and shoulder. There must be someone with answers. There is only one place where he can go to find though answers, though, only one direction he can head.
Into the Woods.