During the Ackerly Green Secret Society, CJ began to encounter a ghost within the Ackerly Green offices. The ghost was first encountered while CJ was upstate and received a noise complaint from his office neighbors, who said it sounded like a brawl was going on in the office. CJ drove back to the office and, when he entered, he saw someone looking back at him for a moment before disappearing. CJ said he could barely tell what he looked like, noting that he had a mustache and maybe a short beard or unshaven stubble. His hair wasn’t long but it was kind of disheveled and hanging in his face so he couldn’t really see much else.
In "The Ghost of Ackerly Green," one night in the office, CJ heard someone walking about. He opened the door and saw the ghost, Woolie, who was frantically pacing the office. CJ described him as not looking like a typical ghost, but more of a blur who sometimes came into focus. When Woolie noticed CJ and stopped pacing. He was in clothes from another century, possibly from the 17th or 18th century, and he had a blue coat on. Parts were light blue, some were darker blue, and the colors looked like they were moving, changing. The two were able to communicate with each other. The ghost told CJ that he was a member of the path of Wool, and that he was massacred by the Silver.
CJ's First Interview With Woolie
G: Can you hear me?
S: Yes, you?
G: Do you know why I’m here?
S: No. I thought it was about the pins? (I showed it to him but he didn’t seem to recognize it.) It’s our company mascot. Ackerly Green Publishing.
G: That is this place?
S: Yeah. Do you know anything about it?
S: Do you remember anything about yourself? Where you’re from? Maybe what you’re doing here?
G: I am lost to myself. There are holes… in my mind. I want to remember but there are missing pieces. I don’t know why, but in looking for them I was drawn here.
S: To the office?
G: Something is happening here.
S: I know. I thought you were part of it.
G: I am lost. I saw a light. I followed it. But I cannot remember what I was searching for. What I thought was waiting beyond the light. I found you here.
G: Can you help me somehow?
S: I don’t know. I have friends who know more about this kind of thing. Well, not really ghosts, so much as magic…
G: I know magic.
S: You do?
G: I was killed by magic. I saw others fall.
S: Who fell?
G: The Monarchs.
S: You’re Monarch’s Mountain? Are you talking about Neithernor? The war?
G: The massacre.
S: Is this because we’ve been to Neithernor?
He didn’t answer.
S: Maybe you got lost and followed someone through a door? Maybe that was the light?
G: I do not remember… I looked across…
S: You looked across what?
G: It was dark, cold. I looked across…
I’m embarrassed to say it took me way to long to realize what he was trying to say. I finally caught up and frantically yanked my phone out of my pocket…
S: I got a weird text yesterday… I mean, a weird message. I think it might be for you.
I showed him the phone. He looked closely at it and repeated the phrase…
G: I looked across the cold and silver swirling sea.
Suddenly it was like all the heat and sound left the room. The lights went out. And it’s like we weren’t in the office. It was like a cold, black void.
And I could see him glowing in the darkness. The look on his face was like something had dawned on him. I could barely hear him–
G: I remember. I looked across the cold and silver swirling sea. I was the one who first saw them coming. I was the one who knew. I saw it all begin.
And then the lights came back up, I was back in the office, and he was gone.
CJ encountered the ghost again, who he nicknamed Woolie to coincide with him being on the path of Wool. When CJ saw Woolie again, he told CJ that the message he received by returning to the warehouse where he found the Herman the Hippocampus pins was a catalyst for Woolie regaining part of his memory. He then told CJ that there were shards left in his new memory. Small pieces that don’t belong there. He gave them to CJ, saying he believed they belonged to CJ and his friends.
CJ's Second Interview With Woolie
S: Do you mind if I type this? I don’t have the best memory and—
I put the keyboard in my lap and just started typing as he wrote.
W: …finally a parley had been agreed upon. It was decided that an assembly of house leaders would await them at the eastern shore at the dawn of Assembler’s Day. But they never meant to parley. They came as night fell on Assembler’s Eve. I stood at the watch. Was trusted as the first sight. I looked across the cold and silver swirling sea. I was the one who first saw them coming. I was the one who knew. And saw it all begin. I saw them, carried by wing, and wind, and blood-black sails. I was trusted as the first sight, but I stood, watching, unable to move, unable to speak. Unable to sound the cry. I failed. Frozen there as a great black wave of water rose up, obscuring their envoy, and laying waste to the house leaders who made camp on the shores. I watched them fall from sight beneath the mouth of the sea, the ice brine reaching up to the tower, and then the final silence fell up on me.
S: Is that the last thing you remember?
W: The black wave filled my chest. It drew me from the watch. There was no up or down. Only cold and dark and then… and then I cannot say. But then there was a light. And I followed it. Not swimming nor walking. I was willing myself after it. And then I was here.
He looked up at me and I realized it had become easier for me to see him. The spectral water that ran off him pooled around one of my shoes. I could see it wasn’t “real.” But I could see it.
W: The message you found was part of my memory. Part of what I lost. You made me remember that.
S: I’m so sorry.
W: No, you can help me. Help me to remember.
S: Is that what you want?
W: I am lost. And you found a part of me. Perhaps you could find more. To tell me who I am.
S: We’ll do whatever we can to help you.
W: There are… shards left in my new memory. Small pieces that don’t belong there. I think they might belong to you and your friends.
And then he started reciting a poem and I hope to God I got it right.
Two wheels in the sea
The seal of a king
A carpenter’s cure
A union of time
A Romanesque lure
A brush with the law
As she spoke in a tree
That is all that you need For the first memory
He vanished before his voice did and by the end it was barely a whisper. I think that’s it, but I don’t know.
Mountaineers were able to map the hints to real-world locations, based around the locations of the pins. After all six locations had been found, they received the hints: A collector of tales, A circle of stones, A lost feather, Buried treasure, A swashbuckling pirate, and A fishing town.
After all the locations were found, CJ received a notification that the motion-detecting camera he had set up in the office recorded a portion of the Ackerly Green's Tales of Wonder podcast.
CJ's Third Interview With Woolie
"I can remember now that I had suffered a great loss that I am still unable to recall, but was decided that I would not let it pull me down. This was in my first life. My life without magic. I had found myself suffocated by the city and all that was expected of me, so I joined a ship’s crew out of New York Harbor, ferrying goods back and forth from ports along both sides of the Atlantic. It was bliss. Freedom, some semblance of adventure. New vistas, new ideas.
We’d been out on a run for a week, returning from Nova Scotia, and we happened on a battered lifeboat with only a single soul on board. A man, older than my father, near dead from cold and thirst. We brought him onboard and I, as the most junior man of the crew, was tasked with keeping him alive until we made port in six days’ time.
I kept watch on him, and after a night of filling his belly with water and cured meat he was strong enough to sit up, strong enough to speak.
He’d booked passage on a screw steamer that was coming up from San Juan when they’d run into bad weather and took on water. He said things that didn’t make sense. He said his work was almost done and he had to keep on. He’d walked a long trail and was sure he had almost reached the end of his journey. There was another world beyond this, where truth had been hidden, and he had found a secret road to walk that would lead him to the truth and allow him to leave this all behind.
He was delirious so I put him to bed for the night. But I couldn’t sleep. Something about what he’d said. The hidden truth about the world. Leaving this all behind. It had plucked a string in me, the thrum resonating in my chest, warming me. I wanted to know what he’d meant, needed to know more about this path, this truth. He was a minister and I his wide-eyed believer. I checked on him early the next morning, but he had passed sometime in the night.
In his rucksack was a waterlogged journal. In it he had written the names and locations of hundreds of places from all around the world. A list made up of sculptures, ancient ruins, works of art… Most of them had been crossed out. However, he had connected the remaining names with a thick red line that ran through the journal. On the line he’d written the words, “The Path”.
It seemed like lunacy, but I recall a feeling like a fire running through me the moment I saw those two words. The Path. There was a knock on the cabin door and I answered it, assuming it was the captain come to check on the gentleman, but there was no one on the other side. I turned back to the journal on the table.
The image of a door on its last page, where the red line ended. I felt a kinship with the man’s madness. A connection. We both saw the lie of this world, but he had sought the truth at all costs. In the months after losing all I had, I’d considered taking my own life to end my torment. To free myself. But he had persevered. Worked out the way the truth had been locked away. And now I knew with a mad, unexplainable certainty that I’d found the key, and with it, a way to leave this world behind."
He stopped talking. I turned around to ask him a question, and he was gone. I transcribed everything I scribbled and just now looked up at the dry erase board we have in the office. He was writing on it, the words disappearing just as he wrote them, but I got them down. There was another riddle hidden in his memory…
On wheels or wings
On wires or things
That grow but aren’t alive
That travel between north and south
Or twinkle in the sky
A link in the address
Where gold bubbles flow
A mill I can reach
And minerals low
A meeting of waters
A jolt in the air
Go have a wander
There’s memories there
In September 2018, CJ moved offices to another floor and, after the move, received another visit from Woolie. In "Moving Office," Woolie's form was faded, the magiq keeping him in the Ackerly Green office weakening. However, he was able to tell CJ about his exploration into Neithernor.
CJ's Fourth Interview With Woolie
So, while I was gone, the company we’re renting office space from decided that they needed our current space for their own employees. The good news is we now have a slightly bigger office and a window. The bad news is basically everything else. I was freaking out that we were maybe going to somehow lose Woolie or this connection to the other AGP.
We finally moved into the new office and hadn’t heard anything for about a week and a half, until this morning. Catherine wasn’t in the office yet, but Woolie came back and he was fragmented, and fading, whereas before he had become more… corporeal before? Now he was back to the way he was when he first showed up. Whatever seems to be happening with the Instagram account and the sounds in the office also seems to be happening to Woolie. Like we’re losing our connection to him, or his connection to us. He was originally drawn to the office because he said there was some kind of light in it. Maybe that light’s disappearing. Like magiq?
He was talking but I could only hear about a quarter of it. He was telling me about his first steps into Neithernor. He said he was welcomed with open arms by these people who had taken these ancient ruins and turned them into beautiful homes for the six guilds that he’d come to learn about, almost like club houses. Rotting wood and crumbling stone had been covered with tapestries, cloths, and furniture, and there were tents set up all over the place. It was like these grown-ups were living some wonderful childlike adventure. He saw people going and coming through doors to our world, people learning magic, people sitting around campfires, telling stories, detailing adventures they had in this world. He met groups of people gathered under massive trees reading old books and parchments, working together to try and learn unknown languages and decipher strange codes. He said he finally felt like he was home. I’m not positive, and it may be because I’m biased, but I think he said he was an Ebenguard. How he describes Neithernor, and the new houses, the path of wool, all sounded extraordinary. I have no idea why I can’t knock in but maybe it’s just not my thing, yeah? Anyway, I’ve been pretty preoccupied.
After about ten minutes he disappeared mid-sentence and didn’t come back. I stayed until the early hours of the morning just in case, and just when I was about to leave, on the chalkboard, I found one phrase, written in what I assume is his handwriting…
“When the sun god finds one sister who still holds aloft her fire”
That was it. It doesn’t seem like it’s a lot to go on. I mean, what the hell is happening? The Book of Briars has been inexplicably delayed, whatever connection we had to the other Ackerly Green and Woolie seems to be dissolving. Any ideas what we should do?
As for the AG package, no word yet from China but I’ve been following up regularly. I’ll let you know as soon as I know something.
In "," CJ encountered a strange apartment building while walking to his barber. The door buzzed him in and the intercom told him that he had been granted access. Unable to resist exploring, CJ entered and found an old piece of cardstock with a phone number. The number failed to pick up, but CJ did receive a new application notice - “A light that both blinded me and made me whole.”
Later, Woolie appeared yet again, his essence seeming to fade away. He revealed more of his memories, of a woman he loved and how they parted ways. He knew he did something terrible but couldn't remember what, and began to break down as he lost his foothold on the world.
CJ's Fifth Interview With Woolie
He finally woke me up last night.
I was camping in the office, and Woolie showed up around midnight, about an hour after I scared the hell out of the cleaning people.
He was in terrible shape, flickering and faded. Distraught.
What follows is what I pieced together from what I could hear and understand.
“The light that drew me here is almost gone, and I feel myself breaking apart, turning to ash like embers on the wind. I was something real, but now I am vanishing. Held together with a light that wanes by the moment.
I knock and knock to try and get back to what I lost. Who I left behind. But my hands pass through the doors like mist. I can’t return to her.
Molly. My own Molly. The first of my guild who welcomed me. The girl who lived across the world, who I never would’ve laid eyes on had I not found Neithernor. The warmth of her hands. The light in her eyes. A light that both blinded me and made me whole. I never deserved her, but I feel as if I have somehow betrayed her, though I don’t know how, not by following through the open door, to the light of this place. No, it was before we were all made of mist. I broke her heart. The pieces here, still in my hands, but I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know much of anything anymore. All the warmth is fading from your world. Perhaps I belong here, having wronged the ones I love, though how escapes my mind.
I will end here, in ash, undeserving of a way back home to her, and unknowing why.”
Then he knelt in the corner of the office and wept in silence. It was heartbreaking.
I sat beside him. I couldn’t touch him to console him, and he either couldn’t hear me or didn’t want to. I don’t know when, but I fell asleep there with him, and it wasn’t until the sun rose that I noticed he was gone and fragments of phrases had appeared on the walls. Written in what I think is ash.
After a couple hours of toying with them, Catherine and I think this is the order they go:
As the hunter’s moon ascends, find a feast for all the senses
Seek a long-abandoned sun that’s now rotting behind fences
Find a monument to travel and a way to let in light
And a view upon a hilltop that once was used for flight
Feel the wind over the water, where bodies lie below
Then find the lonely, wayward stone where prairie grasses grow.
In "The Dreamer", CJ revealed that he had been having strange dreams, where he felt like he was piggybacking off someone else's dreams. He could feel himself being inextricably connected with Woolie, but it was painful. He was drawn into Woolie's nightmares.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m possessed, but part of whatever’s left of Woolie has taken up residence in my head and I’m feeling his feels and dreaming his dreams. And this morning a ghost wrote his dream down, through my hands, into my dream journal.
You know, like you do on Sunday. This is Woolie’s nightmare.
“My memories are lies. As I fall to pieces, the lies fall away as well.
The man we saved from the boat, the one who began me on the path to Neithernor, he did not lead me down the path of wool like my memories tell me. I can see that now. He set me on a journey to the island across the great sea. To those who called themselves the Silver. That is how I first found Neithernor. I learned of the other houses from them, yearned for their community and sense of wonder. I never felt like I belonged with the Silver and in time they became suspicious of me and rejected me.
They made me forget them and set me back into the world with only an inkling, a need, to return to a place I couldn’t remember. And that’s how I found Neithernor a second time, though until these dreams I believed it was my first. That is how I joined All Ebgorad, how I found my Molly there on that shore that looked onto the sea that stretched between the Silver and us. How I found my home and heart.
In time, when a meeting was to be held on that same shore, a parley for peace that would begin on Assembler’s Day, I fought, despite my inexperience, to be watch on that night. To be the first sight. And Molly fought for me to have the honor, the responsibility. But it was not me who asked to be the first sight. It was the Silver. It had all been their plan. They sowed a seed in my mind before sending me back to the mundane world. A seed that would grow into a need for me to return as one of the six guilds, and to ignore their seabound betrayal until it was too late to stop them. The Silver lied, lied to us all, but it was I who was the betrayer.
When I saw them approach, their blood-black sails raised, the wave tall enough to wash us all away, I did not warn my kin, my family. My Molly. I watched, unable to speak. The seed they had planted in me had grown into a choking vine, and there I died in silence, beneath the waves, forsaking all I ever wanted. All I ever loved.
My every waking thought has been about returning to Neithernor to find my Molly’s spirit and hold her again. But I don’t deserve her. I don’t deserve the world I handed to our enemy.”
That was the end of what he wrote. But, sitting there with the journal in the dark, I was thinking about A.G.’s journal and how she said it helped her work through things.
I felt compelled to keep writing, for her. For Woolie. For everything they’ve sacrificed, and honestly, this could be nonsense, or it could be clues…
Fall below the five waterfalls and trade a whip-crack for whiskey.
In her city of the dukes, find the fifteen creatures standing guard.
Coyotes drink in the place of wells where the black stars lie.
The father of gazelles hides a phantasmic collection in a minuscule place.
The proclamation tree casts shadows on the heads of the beautiful island.
A war of knives in a city of light follows a path to a star.
Shortly after, Woolie reached out directly to the Mountaineers in "Intertwined," noting that he and Saberlane had become trapped together.
If I could leave him I would, but I cannot find the way out. I am in an endless dream of dark, wet halls and screeching cries. And mournful pounding like a dying heartbeat. Am I killing him too? If I could claw my way out of this nightmare without taking his life I would. To be done with what I know. What I did. I should’ve been stronger. I didn’t fight nearly hard enough. There had to have been a way to save them. All those wondering souls lost. Because I was weak.
All we hear are the sounds now. The sounds down in the dark. He too is fighting, trying to be himself. He is afraid to show, to share how much pain he is in. What are we meant to do?
As a response, a grounding hex was cast to keep Saberlane alive while they figured out how to safely split the two souls.
After Saberlane regained his sense of self, he updated in Mountaineers in "Of Two Minds." He noted that the video he had captured in the abandoned subway station had a knocking sound and endeavored to return. After the Mountaineers figured out the knocking pattern, CJ broke into the abandoned station and knocked into Neithernor. After doing so, he encountered the spirit of Molly, Woolie's long lost love, and the two departed peacefully together.