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Crossing her arms fiercely over her chest, Jenny Greyson rushes past the tourists that seem to assault her home in Banff, Alberta. She hates how noisy they are, how they feel they own everything, and how she can’t help but hear every thought that passes through their minds.

Why doesn’t it happen to anyone else? How could it be that everyone seems so happy in crowded, frantic places?

Sitting in the park near her house, waiting for her best friend to arrive, Jenny is joined by a strange young boy who has around his neck a small but beautiful medallion, with a glowing, gold core. It is the only thing about him that has any colour – everything else is grey, or black, or pale. The boy never speaks, yet Jenny finds him the most peaceful person she’s ever encountered. When she looks away, he vanishes, and her life starts to change in a way that can never be reversed.

She finds a strange letter, left unbeknownst to her by an old man called the Exeter, an observer from a mysterious group of people known only as The Order. At first she rejects what the letter tells her to do, sure that it is another of her brother’s jokes. She returns to it after a series of strange events – she defends her friend who’s in trouble by moving faster than the eye can see, she stops an out-of-control car from hitting a young child just by wanting it to, and she is visited by another pale child, who tells her the letter is very real, that her role to come is very important.

As the letter asks, she sneaks from her house on a cold Sunday night, walks quickly to the park, climbs the large fir tree at its edge, and, at exactly 9:30 PM, jumps out of it.

Instead of crashing to the ground, Jenny finds everything around her changes instantly– she is in a field she’s never seen before, with dark, shadowy mountains surrounding it. She sees what looks like a campfire burning in the distance, and, as she hurries toward it, she sees something else: a tall, curly-haired boy going in the same direction.

His name is Paul Green, who, like her, finds a similar letter in his home in London, England. Ever since the death of his father, when he was much younger, Paul has heard strange voices on the wind, voices he knows are real even though he can’t find their source. He realizes that he can sense the presence of anyone just by being near them and, with some alarm, sees that he alone can do this. As the wind-talkers’ visits increase, he realizes he must find out what is happening to him, which can only be done by following the letter’s directions.

Paul and Jenny arrive at the campfire at the same time, only to find a small, outdoor abandoned theatre. As they introduce themselves, the Exeter arrives, a man, Jenny is able to tell, who is over three hundred years old, yet has the energy of youth. They are soon sought out by their amulets, which, with some unease, Jenny recognizes as the same small, glowing medallions worn by her pale companions. When the children put them on, they feel an instant, heightened awareness of each other, and what they might be able to do together.

The Exeter tells them that they must now meet a simple challenge: using their abilities, their amulets, and their new-found connection to each other, they must find their way home. The amulets will open gates that whisk them to different places and times in an instant, and will also reveal the presence of guides: beings that can provide assistance to the children, if they figure out how to hear them.

The Exeter leaves them with their first guide, and they find themselves alone, searching for a gate, anxious to get home safely. They find it quickly, passing through it to their first real challenge: They emerge far below the surface of a warm ocean, with no way to breathe.

As they meet each challenge, their confidence in themselves grows, and they find out just how much they actually can do. Paul’s ability to sense and understand people helps them adapt to different languages and cultures, and Jenny finds that not only can she hear people’s thoughts, she has an ability that lets her do what seems physically impossible.

As their strength grows, and as they pass through the gates from one situation to another, the journey gets more and more difficult. During their travels, they are often joined by silent, pale companions – children from around the world, all wearing amulets, and all full of hope. They finally arrive in Australia, in the time just before the arrival of the Europeans, where they adapt so quickly to their environment that they are accepted into a tribe of aboriginals. They pause slightly, trying to figure out the remaining pieces of their puzzle, only to find themselves being hunted by mysterious creatures that they cannot see, only feel.

Since the roots of antiquity, the Order has blended into the world, assuming roles that let them influence, teach and observe. As priests, teachers, artists and kings, the amulets and their hidden power have helped them preserve civilization and shape history.

The amulet’s choice of Paul and Jenny throws a deep disruption into the Order’s regular pattern; they recognize that the new arrivals have been able to go much farther and faster through the gates than was expected. Unable to ignore the ancient memory the children have awoken, the Order sends their most experienced Docent to help them face the challenge.

Should the children use their abilities to destroy what they’ve met, as they so easily could? If they do, what will be the consequence to them, to their pale visitors, and ultimately to the Order?

As they reach the conclusion, as they return to the gathering place of the Order, they are greeted as the most powerful children the Order has ever seen. They are invited to join, but before they can, they must first return to their homes, where they will not remember each other or their journey together. They are told it takes time to absorb what they have just learned about themselves, and that when they have, when their memory returns, they will continue their new lives together.