Once upon a time, a few wars and wonders ago, was a small town with big problems, located in the outskirts of the English countryside, near modern-day Devon. This old town had a monopoly for every trade, and even so, business was slow. It had luscious grassy meadows who hummed against the temperate gusts of the fall wind, but this greenery failed to spare farmers another mortgage.
Hendunn was a sad town. There was no point in denying it. Its economy suffered after an outbreak of smallpox crippled its people. The surviving folks were left in low spirits, with mournful eyes and exhausted bodies. Despite the cure for this peril becoming available around the time it reached Hendunn, the damage had been done.
Lives were lost, and a loss is just another word for an ending.
But that’s not what Ann Axel thought. At only thirteen years of age, Ann had come a long way. She took care of her seven year old brother Sullivan after her mother fell ill with smallpox and had to spend her last days in the guest house with a nurse on her bedside. Her father had the weight of the world on his shoulders, having to work long hours as a clerk to support his family after his wife’s death. The hardships Ann’s family faced only reinforced her optimism instead of shattering it. She believed that something could be done to save her family from losing their home, and her town from ceasing to be one. She knew that even the most vigilant diseases, much like the one her mother suffered from, had a cure. No matter how many lives were lost and years it took for the cure to be found, it would come to be. Ann was confident that a solution to her problems existed, but she didn’t know how she would find it.
“Would you mind helping out Mr. Price pick berries in the field this afternoon? I can’t go because I need to visit the bank,” Ann’s father asked.
“I can’t, father. I must finish some school work. Can’t somebody else do it?”
“Very well then, I’ll let him know. I still need you to buy us two loaves of bread and a bag of potatoes from the market,” her father said, placing the cloth pouch in her small hand.
Ann shrugged and walked down to Thayer Street where the farmer’s market is located on Sundays.
As she skipped along the cobblestone road greeting familiar faces along the way, she noticed a new addition to the long line of vendors. Right next to the toy maker’s stand facing the butcher’s shop was an ancient woman, with unkempt charcoal hair dipped in silver markers of wisdom. She was selling antiques, from handcrafted wooden music boxes to porcelain tea sets. Eyeing the knickknacks on display at close proximity, she was captivated by a mahogany red pen with a golden cap, a fountain pen that seemed to be made for important people to write important things.
As she stretched her arm to grab it, the old woman swatted her hand away. Frightened by this brash dismissal, Ann retreated, her honey eyes flickering with shock like a flame. “You ought to ask for permission first, young lady. Such a valuable thing must be dealt with care, don’t you think?”
Ann nodded, muttering an apology to the stranger. “Years into running this business you’d think someone would express interest in this fine object, but no one ever has.”
“I like to journal.”
The woman stared at Ann with scrutiny, placing the pen back into its gold-plated case. “I believe you’d make a great owner, as long as you use it responsibly.”
“But I can’t afford it,” the young girl sighed.
“Consider it a gift. Like I said, use it responsibly,” the old woman reiterated in a warning tone.
Once Ann returned home to drop off the groceries at dusk, she thought about what the woman said to her.
“I mustn't squander all the ink, I suppose,” she thought to herself, pulling out a paper to write down her innermost thoughts.
Journaling allowed the young girl to bring her inner monologues to life, escaping reality.
Her pen hit the paper, and that’s when it all began.
Today was a rather eventful day. In the afternoon, a woman gifted me a fine pen. I hope I’ll get the chance to repay her one day.
I miss father. I rarely see him when he’s not at work. I wish the investors at his bank would cash in their gold, so he could spend more time with Sullivan and me.
The next morning, Ann prepared herself and her brother to go to school, but her father had other exciting plans.
“Children, I want you both to come to work with me to work today. I got a call from one of our investors saying that he wants to trade in his gold for shares, and I would like us to celebrate at lunch.”
“Could it be? Was this my doing?” Ann thought. To convince herself, she ran to her room to write an absurd request.
I wish we could ride in a private coach to the bank.
That was exactly what happened.
It was a lightbulb moment for Ann, who realized that the pen was, in fact, enchanted.
Shocked and satisfied, Ann returned home with the intent of writing up solutions to the village’s qualms.
I wish the crops would grow, and the boutiques would reopen.
“Ann! Sully! We must leave the house at once! There’s a raging storm taking out everything in its way!” her father screamed.
Something wasn’t right. Ann just wrote the town’s revival.
She couldn’t believe her own eyes.
The woman who gave her the pen stood outside with a dangerously disapproving glare.
“You humans, always relying on magic to solve your problems when you could easily do so yourselves! Sure, farmers may need to replough their lands, and little girls may need to pick some berries, but loss is no excuse for laziness. And sometimes, all you need is a fresh start.”