Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Budding Leaf: Chapter 2: Leaves Fall

Chapter Two
Leaves Fall

It had taken Leaf all of two seconds to spot Temy outside the back door, shifting from dirty bare foot, to dirtier bare foot.

Leaf hefted the basket onto her hip and eyed those feet disapprovingly. He looked more than anxious to be going, eager to avoid another tongue-lashing from Nora. She herself wasn’t too keen on another episode. Smiling companionably, she motioned him to follow and started down the walk to the gardens.

“Weren’t you given any shoes, Temy?” she asked conversationally as they walked. In response, the boy’s cheeks flushed and he stumbled as he walked, apparently uneasy.

“Truth is, Miss, they weren’ very comfor’able. I never had any shoos before.” He stared at the ground in abashment. Leaf sighed inwardly. She couldn’t blame the little guy. Five-year olds were hardly old enough to be taking good care of themselves. She amended her opinion when those large serious eyes looked up and found hers. This ‘little guy’ had clearly been through too much too young. Eyes like that didn’t belong on any child.

Temy had probably been taking care of himself from the second he learned to walk. She dropped her eyes first, not wanting him to see the pity there. Nora had told her once that pity could break down even the hardest walls, and that sometimes people needed those walls to survive. She wasn’t sure she understood exactly, but she would rather not test the strength of a boy with such serious eyes.

Making her voice light, she spoke, “Well, we’ve a long way to walk. Now is as good a time as any to break them in.” She quirked an eyebrow at him as he sighed. “Any ideas as to where they’ve gotten to?”

He smiled sheepishly. “I might could find them under the garbage pile. I din’ think no one would look there,” he added.

She tisked him with exasperation. “Well, you’re probably right. The smell is enough to keep most sane people away.” She moderated her tone when she saw him flinch. The boy did find ways to make trouble for himself! “Oh well. You might smell bad for awhile, but better that than Nora or Maron find you’ve managed to lose your new shoes so fast.” This time she shared his grimace. She had a feeling she’d be held at least partially responsible for that.

They reached the shed just as Jonah was coming out of it. His gloves were tucked behind his belt and he carried some pruning shears in one hand. He smiled cheerfully when he saw them.

“Well hello to the both of you.” He eyed the very large picnic basket Leaf was still balancing awkwardly on one hip. “Ah yes. Today’s the orphan’s luncheon, is it not?” At their simultaneous nods he went on. “I had something of my own for you to bring them, if you’ll give me but a moment.”

He ducked back inside the tool shed while the two children looked on curiously. Leaf glanced over her shoulder toward the kitchen door and shifted from foot to foot; she was anxious to be gone. When he re-emerged, he carried a long oddly-shaped sack and handed it to Temy, who took it uncertainly.

Apparently it didn’t weigh too much; he was able to toss it over one shoulder like it was nothing. They both looked up at the tall gardener questioningly. He lifted his hands, “Now now, it’s a surprise you two. Just you don’t go snooping before you arrive there good and proper.” He turned to Temy.

“You make sure you give that to Misses Jenna straight-away, understand? She’ll know what to do with it. She requested me to find one for her last year, but they’re not native to this area so it was hard to come by.” At their bewildered looks, he added, “Just you tell her everything’s been taken care of and all it needs is a good resting place. Do you got that?” Leaf reassured him they did when Temy just continued to peer in puzzlement at the sack over his shoulder.

“Right then, shall we be going?” Leaf waited till Jonah was out of earshot before adding. “I believe you still need to secure your shoes from where you last deposited them?” She gave a meaningful nod in the direction the gardener went. Her look told him to hurry it up before they got caught.

Temy jerked a nod and took three hurried steps toward the back of the shed before he remembered to turn around and lay the mysterious sack down carefully. He tiptoed the last few steps to the refuse heap, as if making a sound would bring Nora running from her kitchens to catch him. At this point, Leaf wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

On the far side of the perfumed, decomposing mass he knelt down, temporarily out of sight. He stood a moment later and came back around to where his sack lay, squelching unpleasantly with every step and looking decidedly ill. Apparently he’d buried them in mud. Leaf noted the particularly forlorn expression marking his features and nodded with grim satisfaction. Serves him right, she thought, burying shoes indeed!

He picked up his sack gingerly and squished over to stand beside her. Her nose wrinkled. It was unfortunate she would be walking beside him the whole way. It would take a good hour to get there once they reached the main road. What were the chances that the wagon was laid up with two broken wheels today? Misfortune just wasn’t in it! Too bad they wouldn’t spare any horses for two whelps such as themselves. Leaf would’ve been glad to even borrow Maybell the Miserable, Ganolly’s stubbornest member. She grunted to herself, remembering how she’d often been unflatteringly compared to the aged donkey.
Their gloomy sighs were exact echoes of each other, causing them to laugh a little.

“Alright already, let’s go. Maybe by the time we get there the road dust will have worn off some of the smell.” At his doubtful frown she added, “We can always hope.” With a final heave of her basket, she strode purposefully forward onto the hard-packed dirt road. She glanced back to see Temy following behind gingerly, disagreeable smell and all.


Geram had never thought time could move more slowly. What was it about being kept from your interests that made a day feel as though it crawled through thick mud? It’s not that he wasn’t excited about the picnic; in truth, he usually looked forward to these things. Not that he ever expected to be adopted, no he was too old for that; rather he looked forward to the news the people brought with them.

The city of Ganolly wasn’t any more exciting than the next city in many regards; but it did tend to bring more news from abroad due to it being the “Gate City” to the capital of Fera.
No, the reason for Geram’s impatience was hidden upstairs in an overturned bucket under his bed. He wondered briefly if it was hungry again.

“Geram?” Jenna called sweetly from across the large yard. “Are you finished with that table yet? I need you to help Annalee with the plates.”

Geram sighed, pushing his dark hair behind his ears fruitlessly. What was it about the unassuming old woman that made her so compelling? She was very kind to the underage leftovers of Ganolly, and impossible to say no to. Well, his new little friend upstairs would just have to wait to be fed again. According to his observations, these creatures usually slept during the day anyway.
He went to find young Annalee in the old church house that was his home.

He didn’t have to look far; she was in the kitchens, trying to use a variety of objects as a makeshift ladder to reach the plate cupboard. Judging by the way it rattled as she touched it, he seriously doubted the stability of her efforts. “Hang on, Anna! Please just let me help you with that before you break your scrawny neck!”

The little girl’s curly pigtails bobbed erratically as she shook her head at him in serious consternation. “Oh Geram! Shame on you!” Geram barely contained the forming laughter but couldn’t stop the grin spreading across his face at the adorable imitation of Jenna. He couldn’t help having a soft spot for this little twerp… dimples and all.

When Annalee saw him grin she tried to look sterner, but rather ruined it when she started giggling. “Alwight!” she said as she jumped off the first “step” of her ladder; which in this case happened to be an overturned bowl that usually had flowers in it. Noticing the smooshed lumps of color on the floor around her, he mentally corrected himself. The bowl had still had flowers in it when she started.

“Alright, little miss Anna Rabbit. Why don’t you go help Jenna with something else? I’ll clean this up and get the plates myself.”

She looked up at him with serious, brown eyes and shook her head firmly. “Uh uh. Jenna said I have to bwing the pwates!” the source of her nickname bobbed erratically as she bounced on her toes impatiently.

Geram heaved a dramatic put-upon sigh and knelt down, waiting. Annalee squealed with delight and jumped on his back, as was their usual game. Geram coughed as he stood, gently pushing her stranglehold down to a more comfortable position… also as usual. This was really the only way they got things done together. Geram carried her around on his back while he did the work, and Rabbit-ears felt like she was helping. It was a win-win situation.

Now, more than ever, he was eager to be done as quickly as possible so he could check on his small charge upstairs. He did an iffy job on cleaning up Annalee’s “ladder”, but he did get the plates as he was asked. Catching a glimpse of the sweets sticking out from under the white towel on the large counter, he set the plates down temporarily on the table and walked over to investigate.

He hesitated. “Anna Rabbit? Would you tell Jenna if…?”

She shook her pigtails emphatically. “I won’t tell if you won’t tell!” It was then he noticed two sticky spots void of candy on the sheet. He grinned and snatched up several himself. Geram used a spare soft-cloth to wrap his candy in, and stashed them in his inner tunic pocket. He whispered thanks to Orethyn and handed one more candy over his shoulder to Annalee who gobbled it gleefully. He’d given his last sweet to his new friend that morning, and didn’t know what else the creature might eat…
With further incentive to hurry, he grabbed up the plates and jogged out.


By the time the old converted church house came into sight on the other side of one last gleaming field of gold wheat, the two children were a little worse for wear. As it turned out, there’d only been a little dust. The rain fell often enough during the summer that it kept the worst of it at bay. After walking for an hour, however, there was just enough accumulated in the air to have settled on their exposed skin and melt with the perspiration found there. As a result, it was hard to decide who looked dirtier. Perhaps it would have been a tie, except that if the eye traveled down to take in the children’s footwear, you’d agree that the boy’s shoes looked inescapably bedraggled. And if one were to sniff slightly, perhaps within a certain vicinity of the boy, you might catch the hint of something decidedly unpleasant, though faint. Turns out, the walk had worn off most of the initial smell, thank goodness for small favors.

Leaf allowed herself a small sigh of relief as she raised a hand over her eyes to shield them from the sun. She peered toward the building, just able to make out the steeple sticking out above the tree line. It looked like some strange bird nesting in a green cloud.

She glanced at Temy from the corner of her eye as she heaved the cumbersome basket back onto her hip and winced. When Leaf took her bath that evening, there was little doubt as to what she would find there. The established makings of what promised to be a fine bruise where the spiteful burden had chafed the long walk here. At least it would be empty for the walk back. Leaf stifled a groan at the thought of the return trip and nearly gasped as she stumbled over a half-buried rock in the road.

The hateful thing! She thought to herself as pain spasmed from her side. Temy trudged on without complaint. The boy seemed to be made of sterner stuff than she. Leaf tried to tell herself that it was just the added weight of the thrice-cursed basket, but gave it up as a bad job. She admired the five year-old’s stamina, and again tried not to think about what he must’ve been through to have acquired such a solemn temperament so young.

Leaf had been invited to the orphanage a couple of years ago, when they’d gone to pick up the orphan Amelia. It had been the day she stumbled onto the passage that led from behind a suit of armor near her room, all the way to the library. Now that had been a thrilling discovery! Especially given her disposition towards books of any nature. The athenaeum had always been a special place for her.

The discovery had been a complete accident of course, though a fortuitous one. What were the chances she’d turn that bauble on the planetary model three times to the left? When the otherwise blank and small section of wall sunk in and disappeared to reveal a narrow stair, it was the difference of an ant's eyelash as to whether she was more startled or excited. She had followed it all the way to the armor hall, which ended in the hall to her rooms a scant half-dozen feet from her door.

Maria, one of the many maids in the employ of her aunt and uncle had been sent to find her for the trip. Leaf found the maid backing out of her room with a bewildered expression. The woman had then turned to find the object of her search standing right behind her, where there’d been no one a moment before! Her eyes had widened when they took in the dust and cobwebs draping Leaf’s hair like some corpse’s parody of a lady’s coif. Eyes starting out of her head, the woman had nearly fainted.

Leaf smiled to herself at the memory as she wiped a drop of sweat off her brow. She’d gotten quite a tongue-lashing from Maron once Maria had finally roused herself enough to grab her charge and bring her before the chief steward. Maron had definitely not been amused. She interrogated Leaf about her explorations, following with a lecture on how dangerous old castles could be; those hidden tunnels were to be considered extremely unsafe, old as they were.

Well, anyway, she hadn’t been forbidden to explore them. She just had to be extra careful, that’s all. It’s not like anyone needed to know… they’d probably find the whole situation terribly boring, and she didn’t want to bother anyone about it.

Leaf and her quiet new friend came to a meandering path off the road and started down it. Temy seemed confident of the way so she followed his lead. As they approached the church house through the trees, Leaf’s jaw dropped. There was a servant’s son who visited Ganolly Castle periodically. On one of those occasions he’d told Leaf dreadful things about the orphanage, and all of her opinions had been based on that one gruesome description. She closed her mouth with an audible snap. The next time she saw Japo Wacabee she resolved to punch him on the nose. Little weasel! Pulling my leg- like I didn’t know any better than to listen to that rapscallion! He’s probably never even been here!

The reality made a complete mockery of the wretched boy’s story. It was as if she had walked into Heaven itself. The trees surrounding the orphanage wore apples like beaded jewelry, perfuming the air with a tantalizing scent. A small brook burbled cheerfully along it merry way, its shallow crystalline depths seeming to sharpen the delicious smells of the surrounding vibrant vegetation. There was a conglomerate of wildflowers everywhere she looked, mesmerizing the viewer with their medley of colors and patterns. It was simply… wonderful.

She probably looked quite contradictory, her eyes fierce as she grumbled about giving Japo a piece of her mind, versus the smile that was trying to split her face in two. Taking a closer look at the old church house, she nodded with approval at the profusion of ivy climbing the walls.

Despite the fury she felt at having her leg pulled by a nitwit, she craned her neck trying to look behind the church- looking for the cemetery that was supposedly nearby. Failing to see what she was searching for she turned, expecting to see Temy beside her… but he wasn’t there. Leaf looked around to find him standing stock-still a ways back, staring at something she could not see, and trembling.

Leaf was instantly on guard, dropping her basket as she jumped to his side looking everywhere at once with her fists raised in front of her face, just the way Jonah had shown her. Slowly she lowered her fists. There was nothing there. She strained her ears, but all she heard was the bubbling brook, and a big bee buzzing happily along a nearby flower patch. She looked at Temy closely. His eyes were still as wide as they would go, and there was a faint sheen of sweat leaving tiny clear trails on his dirty face.

What was wrong with the boy? She took her time looking around more slowly, trying to catch what she might be missing. There was the little brook, gurgling quietly, nothing wrong there. A bird sang snatches of cheery song somewhere above them, before flying to a tree farther away. The bee hung lazily in the air for a minute before moving to a flower closer to their feet. Leaf’s eyes jerked back to Temy’s face as he stiffened like a board beside her. The bee!

This time she could see his eyes locked on to the bee, seemingly unable to break away. For a second, as the bee drew nearer, she thought Temy’s eyes looked a little odd- almost as if they had changed shape for a moment- but it happened so fast she was certain it had been a trick of the dappled light. Slowly, she reached out and touched Temy’s arm.

“Temy?” she found herself speaking in a whisper for some reason.
A small transformation seemed to come over him as the bee suddenly flew away and out of sight. His little body went limp, and his eyes appeared to glaze over as he sighed quietly.

“Temy?” she asked again, a little louder this time.

He shook himself as he looked up at her in surprise. “Huh?” His eyes seemed to come into focus. “What? Oh.” Temy looked around, saw Leaf’s basket dropped heedlessly on its side and then his eyes came back to her, alarmed.

“Are you okay, Leaf?” he looked at her nervously.
Leaf’s eyes narrowed suspiciously and he took an involuntary step back. “Are you trying to play some sort of prank on me? Well if you are, it’s not funny! You scared me half to death standing there staring at nothing like that! I half-thought the ghost of Sir Gheckel was going to leap out and rip my arms from their sockets! What do you mean causing me such a fright like that?!”

She realized she was shouting and cut off abruptly at the strange look Temy was giving her. Had his eyes changed? No, just a trick of the …sunlight? Leaf took a second to calm down, giving herself an excuse to study the young boy. He hung his head dejectedly now, and scuffed the toe of his shoe against a small rock till it came loose from its earthy bed. Her fatigue from the walk must be getting to her. Surely that was it, just the fatigue affecting them both. She shook her head and walked back to the overturned picnic basket, mumbling to herself.

With a deft and clever hand, Leaf was able to get it turned arights without losing any of its contents on the ground. With no small amount of self-pity, she hauled the dreadful thing back onto her hip and went to collect a silent Temy before walking on to the front doors of the church.

She left Temy waiting at the foot of the broad steps. Her hand was nearly to the door, ready to knock on the aged wood when she heard voices from somewhere behind the ivy-encrusted building. They must be set up out back. “Come on Temy, I think they’re around here.” He just shrugged and followed her as she made her way around the welcoming outer walls of the sanctuary. She winced in sympathy as he lifted the rough sack back over his shoulder, having spied a bright red rashy-looking welt before he covered it again with his lighter burden. He never complained once. Leaf gritted her teeth to stop her own complaints, she would not do it first, she wouldn’t!

As the two rounded the last corner, the backyard came into view.
Curse that dimwitted Japo! Instead of seeing a cemetery, what met her eyes was much of the same beauty she’d seen out front, only a lot busier. There were lots more people than she’d expected- all to the good. She became fully conscience of her burden, hefting it experimentally. Guess it was a good thing the burdensome basket carried so much food. As it was, she rather doubted there’d be enough for everyone.

Finally Leaf’s nose caught hold of the titillating scent she’d been smelling, but not paying attention to. It was the spicy-sweet aroma of baked apple-pie mingled with an assortment of smells her delicate nose could not quite distinguish separately. The over-all affect however, was of pure heaven. Her mouth spontaneously began to water. One glance at Temy confirmed that the lad was sharing her sentiments.

A lovely, smiling faced woman was kneeling before a girl of about four. The girl’s tear-stained cheeks bore testament to what the older woman was surely studying on her small, out-stretched leg; one small hand balanced on the woman’s shoulder. With deft and clever hands, the matron plucked a small yellow flower from the grass beside her and brushed it across the girl’s knee. The girl seemed to be instantly pacified, even adding a smile and a giggle when the woman reached up with the flower and tickled under the girl’s chin; her curly pigtails bounced as she laughed.

Leaf and Temy approached hesitantly as the lady sent the happy girl off with a playful swat to her bottom. She rose up gracefully, watching them approach as she brushed her dress off with serene dignity. Leaf was a little intimidated by the sheer force of serenity coming off the older woman; but the laugh lines around her eyes and mouth were comforting to her sudden shyness.

When the rosy-cheeked woman smiled at them, Leaf imagined she could feel every flower in the vicinity growing straighter and leaning in to catch the rays of that magical beaming face. Leaf found herself answering that smile with one of her own; she turned and caught a glimpse of Temy’s own smile before she was engulfed in the soft billows of a sky-blue robe. The lady embraced them both with a sudden warm and unexpected hug before stepping back. The thick, silver braid now hanging over her shoulder reached nearly to her waist.

“Misses Jenna?” Leaf asked shyly. The woman beamed at her.

Clapping her hands once in delight she said, “You know my name! However gratified I am, that title makes me feel quite old. Please, call me Jenna. And I might hazard a guess at who you are; you certainly meet the description of a very lively little girl I heard tell of.”

Leaf winced slightly at the words “little girl”, but responded politely.
“Yes, Mis… Jenna. My name is Leaf of Ganolly.” She nodded toward Temy, who had grown quiet again. “I came with Temy to bring this food for the orphan’s luncheon today.” She emphasized her statement with a hearty pat to the over-burdened basket.

The older woman nodded with a serene smile. “And surely we thank you and Madam Nora very much, Lady Leaf of Ganolly. I can see it was a very long journey.” That said with a beady eye on their dirty faces and overall bedragglement. She turned to Temy. “Ah Temathy, we’ve all missed you. How do you like it at Ganolly Castle?”

Temy shrugged shyly. “It’s okay, Jenna. Leaf has been very nice to me.”

Leaf blushed as Jenna’s pleased gaze came back to her. “He’s a good lad… Jenna. We’ve all been very glad for his help at Ganolly.” Temy gave her one of his fleeting smiles before dropping his gaze to his feet once again. Leaf just couldn’t understand it. If she’d been raised in a place like this, with such a kind and charismatic woman— well, she certainly wouldn’t have such a standoffish, almost wounded, behavior. This place positively glowed with a sense of peace and healing. What could have made him so serious and quiet? She tucked the disturbing thought away to wonder at later.

Jenna pointed to an empty wooden table nearby. “If you could please just place that over there we’d be most grateful, Leaf.” She then stopped a sturdy and handsome boy as he was running by. He certainly had pretty eyes, Leaf noticed immediately.

“Geram, wait a moment. Would you please help this young lady with her burden? And see to it she gets a clean cloth to take to the brook so she can wash up after her long trip.”

Geram sighed, but caught himself when Jenna simply looked at him. That’s it- just looked.
Why can’t I make use of that trick? It would certainly come in handy betimes…

Geram hurried to take the basket from Leaf and straightened with surprise. Apparently he hadn’t expected it to be quite so heavy. He looked at Leaf for the first time, and nodded respectfully before turning away with the food. He transported it easily, Leaf noticed admiringly.

He carried the basket with one hand, barely even tilting to the side to compensate for balance. Strong lad. And tall, she noted with a little bit of envy. Of course he’s tall.

After setting his burden on the appointed table he turned back to Leaf and mumbled something about please following him. With one backward glance at Temy and Jenna, who had their heads together, Leaf followed him to the back door of the church. Just one step ahead, Geram opened the door and stood to the side waiting for her to step through. He tried to tuck his brown hair behind an ear, though it fell right back into his face. His expression told her he was doing his best to please Jenna, but it was apparent he was eager to get back to his previous activities. He saw her looking at him and blushed as he turned his eyes away and waited, only squirming a little.

“Thank you”, she said with emphasized serenity as she passed the threshold trying her best to emulate Misses Jenna. She then got her first glimpse into the orphanage. Her first overall impression was that of warm, golden peace. Geram followed her in, closing the door behind him. He ducked his head awkwardly while trying to slip past her in the narrow entry hall; there was a spot of difficulty as he was trying both to hurry and not touch her at the same time. Leaf just sighed inwardly and rolled her eyes as she turned to take in the rest of the place where the short hall ended.

There were a great many tall, elegant windows, each letting in the soft amber light of the sun, making the wooden floors and rafters turn a rich golden brown. Leaf took a fancy to the contrast between the amber wood and the pale, glowing stone. White columns were spaced evenly along its length, and there were several tables placed around the chamber; Leaf was certain there were once pews filling this room. Now, it stood open and empty but for the sparkling motes of dust shimmering in the streaming sunlight that settled gracefully onto the wooden tables.

She closed her eyes for a minute, taking a deep breath. This place felt… good. She could still “see” the glow of the scintillating sunlight through her lids, and in her minds’ eye she saw the vivid green of the climbing ivy encompassing the outer stone walls. A brief flight of fancy had her convinced that she could actually feel the ivy growing; tendrils reaching ever outward and upward, leaves turned and open to the life-giving sun, and far below beneath the earth, her roots buried deep into the soft, nurturing soil.

Taking one last breath, Leaf let it out as she opened her eyes, startled to find a rich green-brown gaze staring back at her. It took every last ounce of willpower not to jump a foot in the air.

Geram stood, hand half-raised and holding a clean hand towel, looking at her as if she’d sprouted bark for skin and leaves out of her ears. He cleared his throat.

“Um. Are you…?” He looked down through the curtain of satiny dark-brown hair and cleared his throat again. “Will you please follow me? The brook is right out front.”

Leaf glared at him even if he wasn’t looking anymore. As if she hadn’t just seen the brook perfectly well herself when she came walking around from the road! Leaf sniffed loudly and snatched the towel out of his loose grasp. The insufferable young man just turned away and walked quickly to the front door, which he didn’t bother to hold for her this time, and practically ran out. She scowled at his back in disapproval for all the good it did.

Following behind at a respectable pace, she watched as Geram stopped, pointing to the brook a few feet away; he then proceeded to take off around back before she could say another word.

Boys! Did he really think she was blind? She wondered if he needed wet britches to know there was water. Letting out a sigh of exasperation, Leaf knelt with the cloth and gratefully began to wash away the travel dust.

As she was pulling the damp rag away from her face the last time, she paused to study a large bumblebee droning happily above some flowers across the brook. Narrowing her eyes, she noticed a strange shimmering purple dust along the bee’s underside. How odd, she thought.

Finally, as the bee disappeared out of sight, Leaf realized she’d been kneeling there for some time, rag still halfway to her lap. Shaking her head as if to clear it of some spell, she folded the cloth carefully and stood slowly to her feet. There were times when she’d get these strange pulsing feelings, like unseen silk flowing over her skin. This was one of them. Indeed it’d been awhile since she’d felt this so many times in one day.

While she waited for the blood to return to her legs, Leaf leaned back thoughtfully alongside the trunk of a nearby apple tree, slipping unawares into another trance.


Geram was certain not to be spotted by the curious girl he was spying on, No, not spying, just observing quietly from a distance, he told himself. There was something decidedly odd
about the small redhead. Quite frankly there was no accounting for this urgent curiosity that had arisen inside him concerning her. What was she doing there leaning against that tree, anyway?

And why the odd display in the church? Geram caught his breath. He was sure he hadn’t imagined it this time. There! Just like in the chapel of the old abbey, the girl named Leaf was definitely glowing. Before, in the church, he had come back with a clean cloth for her and found her standing in the middle of the sun-enriched chapel; her eyes closed, arms lifted, and practically shimmering along with the dust-motes in the streaming light. Geram had been entranced in that moment, feeling something stir in his chest that he’d never felt before. All he knew was that he urgently needed to know more about this little Leaf of Ganolly.

…The girl who made the light dance.


Still deep in thought, Leaf draped the cloth over a low branch to dry and started back around the church, nearly running into Temy as he was making his own way to the brook.

He was practically dancing on his tiptoes. “Oh, there you are Leaf! Jenna wanted to talk to you.” He wiped a dirty sleeve across his dripping nose as he caught his breath. “Hey, Leaf! Guess what was in the bag Jonah gave me? A tree! Wanna know what kind? An orange tree!” He paused in his excitement to study her reaction. “Well, she wants to see you Leaf. I’m gonna go wash now.” With one last unexpected grin he skipped off to the brook.

Leaf stared after him, lost in thought. He sure looked uncharacteristically happy. Orange tree? Oranges were a rare treat in this part of the country. Oh! Jenna was waiting for her! She hurried around back and smiled at what she saw. All the children were milling in a small group. She watched curiously as the light-footed older woman gathered them in from play and arranged them quickly and neatly into one row.

The row started from the tallest of them, which happened to be Geram, to the shortest: the little blonde girl with pigtails who’d been crying earlier, now looking happy as could be. Geram gave her a strange look before pointedly avoiding eye contact, Leaf noticed with irritation. She moved to close the several-yard gap between herself and Jenna when they started to sing.

It made her stop in her tracks, shock registering on her face. They sang no recognizable words- only vocalized what sounded to be the very voice of nature herself. It was soft- and extremely compelling. The enchanting notes floated to her and her feet began to move of their own volition; she had to see what it was they were all gathered around.


Observing the children singing, Jenna became lost in memories for a moment.

Jenna taught every child The Song when they first came to her here at the orphanage. It was the song her mother had taught her when she was just tall enough to see over their table in the lovely city of Narndenae. There was something magickal about it, and she was no stranger to magick. Though in truth, her mother had died before passing on the mysterious song’s secrets to her only daughter. In adulthood, she had taken a journey to a forgotten land; a journey that would change everything for her forever. Jenna had discovered on her own how the song seemed to make everything come alive in some way. Even the very stones of the church seemed to hum when her children sang its sacred notes.

Coming back to the present, it was then Jenna finally took note of the redhead’s approach. She smiled an invitation to the girl, and noticed the strange reverie that seemed to have come over her as she knelt down nearby. Leaf’s eyes were distant, as if she could hear something else beyond the softly voices of the children. The older woman watched Leaf closely.

There was a familiar air about this redhead child that made her think of…well, life; and vibrantly so. She had heard some of the girl’s story when first Leaf arrived at Ganolly Castle as a small child. At the time she’d been confused as to why Leaf had gone straight there rather than being brought to her first, like all the orphaned children in the city of Ganolly were; not to mention the children from the outlying towns and villages. Jenna had always been a good friend to many of the staff at Ganolly Castle, and they were all more than happy to tell her what they knew of the strange tale. Which, sadly, wasn’t much.

Apparently the mysterious child arrived at the back step in the form of a carefully wrapped bundle in the arms of a wild-haired and weathered old man. He had stated immediately that he’d put her into an enchanted sleep “to protect her from them”; then the man promptly left her there with two of Jenna’s dearest friends, Nora and Maron, twin sisters.

And that, simply, was that. Both Nora and Maron had hemmed and hawed in the beginning whenever Jenna asked that the child be brought to her at the orphanage. They never gave a reason of any substance as to why they kept her there, or why they wouldn’t even let Jenna meet her. Their last rather curt reply had been to the effect of “She was brought to us, so she belongs to us… bugger-out Jenna! She stays!”

Jenna hadn’t wanted to cause contention with her dear friends, so she left it at that and never said a word concerning her thereafter; though it often nagged at her thoughts as to what the full story was. The moment she’d first seen Leaf today, the older woman had felt a curious connection.

Jenna observed closely as Leaf brought her wide-eyed gaze to the small orange tree they’d just planted.


Leaf felt dizzy. It was hard to think. At the moment she was certain that a hive of bees had taken up residence inside her skull.

Bees? Purple dust…? The thought vanished after a brief visit. For a moment she wondered if this was what it felt like to sleepwalk. It seemed the only thing keeping her body in a steady state was the purely subconscious memory of muscle-function.

Why was everyone looking at her?
The confusing, momentary thought disappeared. She thought she heard music… no, that’s not quite the right word for what she was hearing. Rather... it was something she felt. To the very marrow of her bones it hummed, and it sang in the blood that flowed through her veins. What is this? For a split second, clarity struck her like a gong and her vision was filled with an almost painful brilliance of light. She reached out to touch the Light, somehow knowing it was hers.

Abruptly the Light vanished and her hand sank into a black pit of darkness. All Leaf wanted to do was cry out in despair.


Opening her eyes disorientedly, her first thought was: Why were my eyes closed? Looking up, Leaf found herself kneeling in the dirt next to a young and fragrant tree. She could hear Jenna speaking to someone nearby and turned to look around.

The children were sitting around in the grass and up to the tables with a variety of strangers. All were eating what smelled to be Nora’s delicious cooking. Her tummy growled angrily at her for a whole minute before it subsided sulkily. Boy was she starving! Hunger overpowered her confusion for the moment and she decided all things must wait till she had some food!

The young tree next to her looked very wholesome and sturdy or she never would’ve used it to pull herself up. Now, where was that basket?! She stumbled jerkily at her first lurching step, and felt a strong arm come out of nowhere to catch her. Leaf looked up into a familiar set of pretty brownish-green eyes. The gruff voice she was expecting came out surprisingly tender.

“Watch your step.” Geram said quietly. Leaf steadied herself and gave him a small smile. She was surprised to find an answering quirk of his lips. Had she missed something?

“Thanks.” Was all she could manage. Her stomach growled again, so loudly it made his eyes widen and they both laughed. She asked hesitantly, “Could I… maybe get some food? Please?” He nodded with a grin and held out his arm for her. She gratefully grasped it with both hands as he led her over to an unoccupied table nearby and helped her to sit. Her legs just didn’t seem to be working properly for some strange reason.

Was she just imagining things or were people eyeing her as she walked past? Even from where she sat she could see them trying to get a look at her with varying degrees of stealth. Most of the looks seemed nothing more than innocent curiosity, but she was certain a few eyes were wary. She shrugged it off in her fixated need for food.

It probably hadn’t been more than one minute before Geram was back with a heaping plate of food to set in front of her, but it felt like an eternity! She murmured a hasty thanks before she set-to with a fierce gusto.


Jenna watched the young girl eat as if she’d never had a decent meal in her life. Where does it all go? She wondered absentmindedly as she fingered the thick graying braid resting on her shoulder. If one were to look very closely at this braid, they would still see some remnants of dark red glittering within. But like a spent fire, any still-burning embers were hidden beneath the ash. She sighed.

The old woman with young eyes was full of curiosity about the evenings’ events. Something more had clearly happened while her foster children were singing the life Song to the orange tree. But what? Obviously this red-headed child had some sort of connection to Manna-energy, though it was rare for someone so young to be aware of it. Jenna had the distinct impression that Leaf of Ganolly was completely unaware of what she was feeling, however. She wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if the girl became a mighty Scholar one day. And after what Jenna had witnessed earlier…

Well, Jenna would just have to be content to observe her growth from a distance. She had a feeling Leaf would have questions for her someday, and she’d be ready to tell her everything.


In a matter of minutes, Leaf’s plate was clean of everything edible and she barely even noticed when Geram quietly placed another in its place. She was now completely oblivious to the curious stares of the people around her, as well as to the soft murmurs of inaudible conversation.

She was half-way through her third plate before she realized there was someone patiently sitting across from her watching her eat. She slowed her fork, and set it down next to her plate.

“Jenna? But where’s Geram?” Leaf looked around anxiously for some reason, but the gentle, pretty-eyed boy was nowhere to be seen. She abruptly noticed how quiet it was and realized with sudden alarm that everyone was gone and the sun was already setting. Jenna just looked at her with a comforting and knowing smile. “They’ve all gone home, Leaf.”

“Oh. You mean the people? Did any of the children get adopted? I thought the picnic went very well, don’t you?”

Jenna’s smile deepened before suddenly vanishing with a sad sigh. “Even better, darling. They were all adopted.” Her eyes moistened, turning very sad and lonely.

What? I mean… all of them? Even Geram?” For some reason Leaf felt a funny lump in her throat. “Is he already gone?”

Jenna gave her a sympathetic nod. “Yes, sweetie. Even Geram. Old Mr. Mcdonahue needed someone around to help him with his crops. He’s getting on in years and all his boys are gone- grown up with families of their own, now. His youngest just got married last summer, and last they heard he and his bride were quite busy trying to start a family.” Jenna winked and Leaf blushed. “Geram is a good lad, he was happy to help out.” Jenna gave her a searching look.

“How are you feeling Leaf?”
Leaf barely heard her. She was too busy trying to figure out what this strange pain in her heart was. Why should it bother her at all that Geram was adopted? That was good, right? She barely even knew his name. The only thing she could think about was how she never got to properly thank him or tell him goodbye. She sighed, and looked up abruptly.

“Can you please tell me what’s been happening? I’m feeling so… confused! Did something happen earlier? Did I fall asleep? My memory is incredibly foggy for some strange reason...”

Jenna just looked back at her quietly for a moment. “Leaf?” she asked quietly. “What do you see when you look to the South?”

Startled by the question, Leaf quirked a perturbed eyebrow before turning her head slowly away from the setting sun. The sky wore a dazzling array of intensely contrasting colors; blue-purple lay sharply alongside the brilliant orange and pink of the effulgent clouds. She spent a good five minutes simply lost in the bliss of nature’s beauty.

The wind picked up, and like an old friend caressed her face and playfully tousled her hair before drifting down to whisper in the grass behind her. The sound reminded her of an eager audience anxiously awaiting the opening act in some play. Only, this was no play, this was her life. And it seemed to be getting incredibly peculiar as of late…

Her thoughts reamed by silently, only occasionally was she able to pick out something of recognizable use. She thought back to all the times others had been there to rescue her whenever trouble arose, and wondered out of a deep abiding worry whether or not she was strong enough, or even capable of taking care of herself.

Out of nowhere Leaf felt a terrible pang of inexplicable sadness… but she just couldn’t put a finger on where it was coming from…

Jenna waited patiently for Leaf to speak. She knew the girl would realize what she needed to in her own due time and she was content with waiting. Leaf looked back at Jenna and sighed.

“I see an incredible vista in the skies, Jenna. A portrait yearning to be admired by all… what is it I’m supposed to be seeing?”

Jenna simply nodded and said, “Look again. Closely.”

Leaf turned her eyes back to the south and squinted, trying to observe everything and anything there was to see. On ground level, there were many trees of the wood running what seemed to be an endless course. Of course her vision was limited from here, even if the ground did dip away from them on this end of the vale. The trees framed the snaking form of the Ganolly River, disappearing toward the west and the setting sun. It almost looked like a line of liquid fire in this light. She stared off into the horizon.

She could just make out the mountain range Maron had taught her the name of a few years ago… Leaf scrunched up her face trying to remember the name. Nnn, she was sure it had started with an ‘N’.. Nori.. no, that wasn’t it.. Nari.. no, not that either.. Nirgode…? No! Nirgodden!

Yeah! That was it, those were the Nirgodden Mountains. Supposedly you could follow them to the very eastern tip of Fera, and then they became islands, or lesser-continents, because they just kept going into the ocean and then they went down to the continent of Idra and clear across that into the ocean again and then to Ceda and across that until eventually they came full circle to the very peaks she was gazing at now. Leaf spent a moment trying to wrap her mind around that incredible fact. It was hard to believe that something so…perfect could be a natural phenomenon.

She stared blankly now, lost in her thoughts. There were legends about the mountains of Nirgodden… or rather, what those mountains were supposed to be protecting.

Leaf thought back to her many lessons from Maron, not to mention all the gossip and tidbits she’d picked up over the years from all the many servants and visitors to Ganolly Castle. She recalled Maron referring to the world as Feymera. Intrigued by the enchanting name, Leaf had asked her why it was called that. Maron had gone on to explain that Feymera was a word from the ancient holy tongue of Orethyn, which dated back to the beginning of the world. The translation had been forgotten by most, but the Scholars of Manna were still learned enough to remember. Feymera meant simply: “Mirror of Fey”. When Maron had observed how enthralled her pupil was on the topic, it gratified her enough to spend some time on it.

In Feymera, there were only three greater continents: Fera, Ceda, and Idra. They, with the mountain-island lesser-continents between them created a perfect circle— supposedly. However, there was no traversing across the vast ocean that lay in the center; all water travel in the Inner Sea had to be within a certain distance of shore at all times. It’s said there was a perpetual mist in the center of the circle so thick you could cut it with a knife, swallow it and be filled with one bite. Only smaller ships and ferries traversed the coasts within the triad continents.

The only reason the inhabitants of Feymera even knew as much as they did was because of the famous airships of Narndenae. In fact, one of the greatest driving forces behind the Narndenaen engineers to create airships was for the very purpose of discovering what lay in the center of that mist, in the perfect circle of ocean… because the thing at the heart of that mysterious mist was what lay at the heart of every legend and myth in Feymera…. The Tree of Fey.

Leaf’s thought’s swirled like the mist in the urn back at the library. Without any warning she saw it.
For one second, it was as if the mountains vanished and the mist she was suddenly staring into cleared briefly and she saw… she could have sworn she saw… a tree! She blinked once and it was gone like it had never been. She sighed, and her vision focused back on Jenna who appeared to be looking straight through her and on to something out of sight and beyond.


Jenna’s eye snapped back to Leaf and focused on her face. “Yes Leaf? What did you see this time?”

Leaf blushed. “I… thought I saw something… just a trick of the light… like by the brook when Temy froze up all funny, and the bee….”

Jenna leaned forward intently, suddenly hanging on her every word. “What did you say?”
Leaf blinked. “That I thought I saw something…”

“No! About Temy and the bee; tell me!”

Leaf stared at the woman across from her, rather startled by this sudden change. Here was a woman with eyes as sharp as glass, boring into her as surely as if her gaze were a physical force.

“Um… when Temy and I came earlier, we were by the brook and he… froze. He looked terrified! I couldn’t see danger anywhere, but then I noticed the bee and his eyes…” Leaf hesitated, but she didn’t dare finish her sentence.

Jenna kept her pinned with those eyes for a moment more, nodding once at whatever she thought she saw in Leaf’s face. She relaxed a hair before speaking. “Not something you need to be concerned about, yet, dear Leaf. Temy is a good boy, and he is safe.” She put a peculiarly strong emphasis on the words good and safe. Leaf thought maybe she was a little touched in the head. Why wouldn’t Temy be safe? Of course he was.

Leaf shook her head and found Jenna pinning her once more with those green chips of ice. “Tell me about the bee. Why was he afraid of it?”

Leaf shrugged. “To tell you the truth, I have no idea. Maybe he’s just afraid of getting stung? I was stung by a bumblebee once; hurt like a …” Leaf swallowed hard under the scrutiny. She had a feeling Jenna was not interested in her bee sting stories. “Um. But, I did notice something odd about another bee I saw while I was washing in the brook later…”

“Yes? What was it?”

“Well, it was hard to tell for sure… but I could have sworn I saw purple dust on its belly! Now I’m not completely stupid. I know that bees harvest pollen from flowers and such, but I've never heard of a glowing purple pollen.” Leaf waited nervously for Jenna’s response. She desperately wanted to see the warmth back in her eyes.

“You say it was glowing?” the woman asked.

“Well… yeah. At least it looked like it was. I don’t know that I would have even noticed it otherwise. Maybe light reflecting off the water did it?”

Finally, the ice melted off and Jenna just looked thoughtful… and disturbed.

“That will be all I think, Leaf. You and Temy are resting here tonight, it’s already been arranged. I spoke with Mrs. Dendale and her husband before they left, they’re the ones who adopted little Lily, they had to pass by Ganolly Castle on their way home and they’ll have informed Nora and Maron by now. You’re both exhausted, and we’ve plenty of spare beds now….” The sad look was back in Jenna’s eyes. “Temy has already gone up to bed.”

Leaf hesitated. “Er… Jenna?”

“Yes, Leaf?”

Leaf took a deep breath. “What did happen to me earlier? I would really like to know!”

Jenna smiled at her with tired eyes. “It looked to me that you were making a little discovery.”

Leaf studied her face closely, trying to decide if she was being made the butt of some joke.
“What do you mean?”

The woman’s eyes became intense all over again for a brief moment as she gazed at Leaf.
“I mean, Leaf, that I think you are becoming in-tune with the Wey.” She pronounced this statement with a meaningful air. Before Leaf could get any more questions out that she was suddenly brimming with, Jenna spoke again.

“You will have to ask Maron about it… but mostly it’s something you will discover for yourself.” Jenna spoke in a way that made it very clear the conversation was over.

Leaf was dying to ask her what she’d meant by all that, but was suddenly overcome with weariness. Jenna smiled as the young girl tried to stifle a yawn, and nodded to the warm old church meaningfully. Giving up, Leaf stood and came around the table. Shyly, she gave her new friend a hug. She was pleasantly surprised to have it returned with warmth, and was equally grateful for the comfort. She sniffed.

Leaf supposed she was loved by those at Ganolly Castle, but rarely had she ever been hugged like this, like a mother to her daughter. It felt….good. Jenna patted her back and kissed her forehead before sending her off toward the converted church house-orphanage-sanctuary.

“Sleep well, Little Leaf. Dream of trees.” Now that was an odd thing to say…

“Goodnight Jenna…” It wasn’t till she was through the backdoor and halfway up the only stair to the bedrooms on the second floor that she realized Jenna had never explained what she expected Leaf to see to the south. She forgot about everything as soon as her head hit the pillow of the nearest bed. She thought it smelled like Geram. That night Leaf dreamed about mist… and Trees. Outside, colored leaves began to fall.


Geram set the empty bucket down in the woods behind his new… home. He could hear the cattle shuffling and lowing from the high pasture. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to sleep through all that noise… it would definitely take some getting used to.

To someone else, the trees of the wood might’ve appeared frightening in the darkness, but right now they just made him feel safe. Wherever he had to be, if there were trees and woods… at least he could pretend he was back home.

Geram gazed wistfully after the glowing Will-‘o-the-Wisp drifting away through the trees, efficiently putting an abrupt end to his studies. He guessed it was just as well… he was all out of sweets anyway. He turned around, and made his way through the darkness to the old farmhouse on the hill. He tripped a little, trying not to choke on the lump in his throat.

A Budding Leaf: Chapter 1: On The Morning


As in the Days of Old
When Established are the Firsts
When Mantles are worn in Honor
Of an Ageless, Endless, Birth

When Sinister comes walking
Again to wield his Knife
Faceless, always Changing
Never given Birth

Orethyn has Covenanted
A Promise to end Grief
When Again the Darkness Gathers
Truth would plant a Seed
A mighty Gift is Woven,
To End what never Ends
That Man might live Forever
Chaos must be Freed…

…And Three will see it Through,
The Budding Gardener to Harbor Hope
The Tempest Guardian to Guide her
His Lost Seraph to Ensure the Hope
Never to Deny her.

Only Three, will see it Through.

Chapter One
On The Morning

Leaf sat up abruptly with eyes wide, breath short and staring blankly. A small sigh escaped her rosy lips, unnoticed. Shaking her head to clear it, Leaf looked around in confusion. She thought she could still smell the blood. Her quiet voice sounded too loud in her sleepy ears.

“Was I dreaming? I can almost remember…” She screwed up her face in concentration; the rusty scent disappearing as though it’d never been. “Nope. It’s gone.” Shivering, she glanced out the open window, gauging the hour by the amount of light there was already.

“Well that’s fine! If I don’t hurry to the kitchens I might not get breakfast upon the fury of Nora.”

At that, the ten year-old red-head jumped out of bed and pulled a simple dress on over her under-gown. Taking a brief glance in the mirror, Leaf made certain her short hair wasn’t sticking up in back by means of a quick application from the contents of her water basin. She hobbled awkwardly out the door of her small but charming bedroom.

One shoe on and the other in progress, Leaf nearly fell flat on her face while trying to hop-skip as quickly as she could to the hall. Finally getting both feet in their prospective shoes, she sped by a liveried servant who was polishing a suit of armor in the hall. The man smiled knowingly and Leaf recognized the familiar hump on the left shoulder in her haste.

Good old Robert. He'd covered for her absences often enough when she took a hankering to explore the old passages and corridors of the declining castle. He’d said she reminded him of his granddaughter, Enilla. That would have been fine except for one thing…
Enilla was only four years old.

“Slept in again, young miss? If you hurry you may yet beat her there.”
Already passing him, she waved her thanks while flashing an impish grin over her shoulder. Leaf continued her forty-yard dash down the drafty hall of the castle.

She was very small for her age, though quite solid, and to her own grief was often mistaken for a younger child. However, when the need arose, she could put a surprising turn of speed in her small figure. On top of that, her size came in handy when she went exploring. Leaf just couldn’t figure out why she was so short compared to everyone else…
She returned the well-worn thought to its nook for another time.

Flipping aside a large, and particularly ugly tapestry, Leaf took the hidden stairs two at a time trying to make up for lost minutes. The heavy cloth depicted the scene of some obscure and outrageously muscled lord bearing a large slain boar across his shoulders. She supposed whoever had chosen the revolting tapestry had wanted to make certain no one looked too closely.

She was lucky to have found her secret stair at all. It’d been pure chance, tripping on the runner in the hall that day and nearly breaking her fool neck on the stairs revealed by her tumble. All for the best though. It’d certainly gotten her out of no few scrapes since then.

Leaf listened carefully at the base of the hidden stair, determining by sheer practice and sharp ears that the coast was clear. Upon her arrival from behind a swing-hinged cabinet in the kitchens, she observed a commotion at the back door leading to the gardens. She heard Nora’s familiar booming voice well before she saw the Chief Cook’s considerable backside making its way into the kitchen. She waved her notorious stirring-spoon like a switch as she yelled at someone outside. Leaf couldn’t help but overhear what all the fuss was about.

“…And don’t let me catch that young rag-a-muffin anywhere near my kitchens again!” the large woman bellowed. “Do you hear, Master Jonah? I’ll not stand for any fool running amuck in my kitchens, and with dirt on his shoes, the young scalawag!” she sounded positively scandalized.

A man’s patient voice was heard from outside. “Yes, ma’am. It won’t happen again, I assure you. Young Temy didn’t mean any harm; he’s new, see. He just got a little excited about his first delivery of vegetables, Mistress Nora. We’re very sorry…”

That would be Jonah, her friend, the Chief of Grounds: just a fancy name for a gifted gardener. Jonah had no need for impressive titles. He did what he loved best and that was all that mattered to him.

Leaf patted her face with a kerchief and stuffed it back up her sleeve. More beads popped out immediately. Not my fault. Those twin ovens roaring made the ill-ventilated kitchen something about a degree or two above sweltering. She was trying her best to pretend as if she hadn’t just dashed in when Nora turned forcefully around and eyed her up and down.

The fierce cook must have seen something of a guilty look on her face, because she began waving her spoon all over again.

“Late again I see! Never can count on good help these days; no one has enough brains to fill a pea pod around here. Wash up! Breakfast serves no one without hands. Hurry up, girl! I need you yesterday- lots to do!”

“Yes, ma’am!” Leaf flashed her most impudent grin and Nora quickly swung her infamous spoon towards the girl’s bottom, missing only by a blessed hair. Leaf just laughed and skipped quickly off. Nora sighed with exaggerated exasperation and went back to her stew pot; but not before Leaf caught sight of a merry twinkle in the lively old woman’s eye. Nora was definitely more bark than bite- though the girl’s backside had born testament to the fury of that wooden spoon whenever she happened to cross the invisible line.

Leaf busied herself by rolling up her sleeves and eating her oatmeal as fast as she could swallow and get the wooden spoon back into the bowl for more. So absorbed in her food, she couldn’t help but jump when Nora’s booming voice rose just behind her.

“You can start by dumping the refuse, girl!”
Leaf saluted smartly, leaving the bowl in the deft hands of Susan- who was on dish-duty today, and hurried to gather up the refuse basket in the corner. She headed outside with basket in hand and walked toward the tool shed, humming to herself. The second the cool breeze touched her face, Leaf took a deep breath and sighed in relief.

The gardens at Ganolly Castle were by far her favorite place to be. Though admittedly, the castle library was a fierce rival for her affections. It being late summer, most of the perennials were in full bloom; it gave one the impression of walking through rainbow-colored clouds… Of course in the case of the back-walk, the flowers only lasted as far as the tool shed. Most of the grounds by the kitchen were reserved for the vegetables and fruits that graced the castle’s tables every year.

Leaf looked upon the gardens with personal pride. After all, she was at least partially responsible for this year’s bountiful crop. Or so she told herself. This was the first year she’d been allowed to work the gardens with Master Jonah, becoming fast friends with the wizened gardener. He’d told her personally that she had a special touch for growing things, and that this was their best harvest in years.

Apparently, even Lord Martin Ganolly himself had commented on the flourishing gardens. Her face positively glowed with the remembered praise. It wasn’t often she had anything at all to do with her “aunt and uncle”; Martin and Elizabeth Ganolly had been kind enough to adopt her, giving her a home and an education. She hardly expected the lord and lady to spend any idle time on her. They had a grown son who would one day inherit the castle and its lands, and it was in him that they understandably invested most of their efforts and affections.

Arriving at the shed, Leaf walked around behind it to the refuse heap. Immediately she spotted the grubby little boy huddling by the shed’s wall, obviously hiding. Leaf smiled kindly.

“Ah. Young master ‘scalawag’, I presume?” She paused expectantly. “Well?”
The young boy simply nodded and Leaf noticed his tear-stained cheeks.

“Oh come on now, Mistress Nora isn’t so bad once you get past her pricklies. She runs a tight ship and has a lot of responsibilities. She can’t let little things slide or ‘everything will come crashing down on our heads’, so she says.” She tried another encouraging smile.
“Well, up you get.”

Leaf held out her hand and helped him up and saw him straightened out; then proceeded to toss the contents of the basket on top of the heap. The boy Temy stood shyly by, watching her quietly.

“I’m Leaf, by the way. And trust me; I know as well as you the wrath of Mistress Nora. She doesn’t let anyone slide off the grease pan.”
The boy’s mouth dropped open.

“Surely not you, mistress? Of cose I know you; they say you are the Lord and Lady’s niece herself. They say you are pwactically a lady yeself.” He made this last pronouncement with a loud sniff followed with an arm wiped across a dripping nose.

Leaf tried hard not to notice the gleaming drip. “Ha! You flatter me. However, I, not unlike yourself, was an orphan. They merely adopted me into their family. But as you can see,” here she patted the empty basket meaningfully, “I get no special treatment.” She smiled in good humor. “But I like it this way. I get lessons every other day; and besides, can you imagine how bored I might be with nothing to do?” She paused.
“So you’re new here, huh? Guess Master Jonah needed more help than my once a week I take it. Are you up from the orphanage? Well? Speak up.”

He shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “Now jus’ a second, milady Miss! I am jus’ from the o’phanage Miss. They said they needed some help and would give me a place to live, m’Lady. They din’ say I was taking anyone’s place, honest!”

“Well I can’t imagine just who they are, but they seem to say a lot of things. Be calm silly! And I thought I told you my name? It’s Leaf… and I’m no lady!” She muttered to herself, “Much to this household’s dismay, I imagine.”

Leaf remembered the last child the Ganollys picked from the orphanage. Her name was Amelia. The young girl had helped Nora in the kitchen for a year and a half, until one of the staff had found a good home for her.

Leaf heard terrible stories about the orphanage house. Though she herself was an orphan, she’d never gone there for some reason. Admittedly, none of the stories she’d heard came from the mouths of the orphans themselves. They were probably just too scared to talk about it.

Most of the stories were told in secret whispers by one boy, who was a member of the staff’s son, Japo Wacabee. Like how it was really a converted old church that was terribly haunted. The backyard was supposed to be the city’s cemetery.

She wasn’t sure she ever wanted to go there. Leaf shuddered to think about how it would be to grow up in such a dismal place, and felt a pang for this scrawny boy in front of her. She took a mental note that she wasn’t much bigger than this “scrawny boy” and sighed inwardly. It was a good policy of the lord and lady to pick an orphan every other year to come to the castle for a little education before finding them a home.

Just then, Jonah, the head gardener, came around the corner of the shed.
“I thought I heard voices back here. Hello there Leaf! Ah, there you are, Temy. I see you’ve been helping Mistress Leaf with her chores. Good lad. You’ll do just fine, certainly. I’m sure you wouldn’t be worrying about being sent back to the orphanage in shame.”
He winked, smiling kindly. The boy smiled back shyly and with no little amount of uncertainty.

“Of course not! Well, Leaf, how are things for you? Studying your lessons as hard as you’re working?” He winked again.

Leaf smiled back at him broadly. “Of course! What else might I be doing?”

“Well, certainly not standing around jabbering when there’s work to be done. You better get back. I thought I heard Mistress Nora working herself into one of those fine tempers of hers. Something about some unnamed little girl who has about one minute to get back there before she…”

Eyes wide, Leaf was running before Jonah ever finished. She could hear him laughing though!


Leaf strained her wiry muscles heaving open one of the large, stubborn windows in the castle library. The whole thing seemed to resist being opened- but she nearly had it. Leaf winced at the screech that accompanied her last slightly successful shove. That’s all I need, she thought as she stepped back brushing her hands off on her dress and grimacing at the dusty streaks left there. I’m sure Maron would understand if she came in here and found the entire window broken. She sent me here to dust, not to dawdle and destroy.

Leaf sighed as she took in the extremely dusty and large library. The sunlight streaming through the window seemed to catch a thousand of the tiny motes floating in the air, bursting them into crystalline flames. It made the atmosphere a little more lively.

“So much dust and so little time.” Her voice sounded muffled despite the size of the room. Well, there’s no time like the present. Tucking her hair behind an ear she bent down and picked up her choice of weapons. In this case they included a feather wand and a dust-cloth.

Normally, the library was her favorite room to be in at Ganolly Castle. Well, it still was, she admitted to herself with a smile. There were much more arduous chores than this. At least she could still look at the books while she dusted them; even if she couldn’t read them right now.

And there were other interesting things on the tables and display shelves here that she never got tired of looking at. Like the large and beautifully crafted ship that dwelled inside an even larger and equally beautiful crystal urn.

It was truly incredible, that. Oh, she had heard of other places that used cheap bottles of glass
and built little wooden toy-boats inside of them; apparently they filled them with some special liquid afterwards that wouldn’t evaporate. But this was very different and much more interesting. For instead of water at the bottom, there was a perpetually swirling white mist that the ship somehow floated on. It was made to look like a ship that sailed through the sky of all things. Leaf thought it was brilliant. Supposedly it had been a gift from a Scholar of some renown who had ‘visited’ lord Martin’s castle during the time of his great-great-great-grandfather’s rule, or some such.

The story went that there was an unfortunate and mysterious illness plaguing the man. The lord’s gardener had found him one morning lying in the squash-bed, feverish and talking incoherently; his rich clothing torn and muddied. Lord Martin’s some-odd great grandfather had then sent for his healer, a Master Anin, who then proceeded to heal the stranger. Anyway, in the end the man had turned out to be some special Scholar of Manna. He’d offered the crystal urn with its flying ship as a gift of thanks to the then-Lord of Ganolly. Artfully made through the use of manna, it was a kingly gift indeed!

It required a great deal of Manna, time, and expertise to make objects of magick; which meant that it was rarely done. Now, sadly, the lovely urn sat mostly forgotten beneath an unhealthy blanket of dust.

Above all else, Leaf loved to hear stories about the famous airships of Narndenae. Fondly she caressed the urn as she wiped it clean, all the while gazing wistfully at the magnificent airship floating effortlessly inside. She wasn’t really sure she believed those stories. After all, she had never seen an airship. Nora and Maron both claimed to have ridden one, once; long ago before coming to Ganolly Castle. They had both sounded matter-of-fact enough that she half-believed they were telling the truth. Either way, it was her dream to someday travel in an airship. She hadn’t found any books about airships in Ganolly’s Library yet, but that didn’t mean one didn’t exist. Leaf had yet to discover even a hundredth of the books the library held. It was enormous, after all. She was determined to find one, though. Someday.

Randomly picking one of the many leather encased tomes off the shelf so as to better dust beneath it, she glanced at the title. The words “Dawn Lorealyn de Floreyn” stared back at her in shining silver. Intrigued by the title, she observed the leather covers were dyed a mysterious midnight blue and felt soft and worn, though it was obviously well taken care-of. Something about the book pulled at her. She thought it looked promising. Unable to help herself, she eagerly flipped through its’ pages, face falling in disappointment.

While there were some intriguing pictures she could make neither head nor tails of, the words were written in some language she didn’t recognize.

Sighing regretfully, Leaf carefully replaced the book to its’ home and moved on. Karla would have her hide for a coat if she disturbed the proper order of her cherished books. She longed to ask Karla about books on airships, but the Keeper of Chronicles never seemed to be around when Leaf had free time to read. She was grateful, though, that the antiqued woman trusted Leaf with her books. Knowing Karla very well, she was always surprised when she allowed her so many freedoms in the fascinating library. Perhaps the bespectacled woman sensed a kindred spirit in the little redhead who loved her prized books so.

The sheer number of shelves full of books made it impossible to clean them all before supper, let alone lunch- which was all the time she had. But Maron would certainly know if she hadn’t made her best effort.

The sun had become noticeably brighter by the time Sarah came to fetch her, and the room considerably less dusty. She couldn’t say much for the air outside the tall window though. Hopefully no one had been walking below while she was beating out her dust cloths.

Sarah was one of the kitchen help and was a very sweet woman in her late twenties. It was common gossip in the castle that she was in love with the old shepherd’s son, Rylan. She had never married, and everyone knew she was waiting for that young man in particular to finally ask her hand.

Rylan and his father were in charge of the large flock of sheep that grazed the many hills surrounding the castle. Though they were technically a part of the castle staff, he and his father preferred to spend most nights out under the stars with their flock. At least, they used to. Of recent, it seemed Rylan had been making frequent visits to the castle kitchens, on one errand or another. Leaf liked Sarah, and hoped the silly man would soon ask her to marry.

Leaf had been standing at rest with a knuckle to her back when the woman came in. A flour-sprinkled apron was still wrapped around her slender waist, honey-colored hair wrapped in a neat bun. She spied the fiery-haired Leaf standing beside one of the five columns supporting the library’s second level and waved. Leaf sighed with relief. Her throat felt as parched as the scrolls she’d been dusting and she eagerly looked forward to drowning it with some cold water freshly fetched from the well.

“Am I finished then, Sarah?”
Sarah smiled sympathetically. “Not exactly, Leaf-lee. Nora says you’ll have to eat your lunch on the way.”

“On the way? Am I going somewhere?”

Sarah gave her a quizzical look. “Did you not tell Mistress Nora you would walk with Temy to the orphanage to bring the children their lunch today?”

Leaf smacked her forehead with a vexed exclamation. “Oi! I can’t believe I forgot the orphan’s luncheon was today! And here I am, cleaning for Maron at a promise to her as well!” She quickly untied her own apron and, with duster and filthy rag in hand, dashed past the bewildered young woman standing with hand still on the door handle. The young woman rushed to catch up to Leaf, who was nearly running.

“Oh, Sarah! Is Nora just furious with me?” she called back.

The woman panted to keep up and talk at the same time. “No. It’s still an hour to midday. If you leave soon, even walking you’ll make it in plenty of time as long as you don’t dawdle along the way. Can we walk now, Leaf-lee? I’m afraid serving in the kitchen these past years has done nothing for my youthful stamina.” She said this with a tight smile. Leaf slowed down, noticing for once how difficult it was for her tall friend to keep up. She wondered briefly if she herself would ever feel so tired when she was older. Wasn’t growing up supposed to give you more energy?

“Forgive me, Sarah. I thought it was later than that.”

Sarah was quick to regain her good humor. “‘The time passes slowly while working and lonely.’ No need to apologize, it isn’t your fault I wasn’t clearer when I came to fetch you. Truth is, I suspect Mistress Nora knew you would be late if left to your own devices. That’s why she sent me ahead to fetch you now.” She paused before continuing.

“Not that it’s any of my business, Leaf, but it seems you make a great many promises and commitments with nary a thought as to how you can fit them all inside a day.” When Leaf didn’t immediately respond, Sarah glanced at her sideways while they walked.

“Forgive me, Leaf. I shouldn’t pry. Your heart is in the right place, I know. It was only out of the best interest of a friend that I say a word.” She hesitated. “You’ve seemed very distracted lately.”

Leaf looked up at her friend and smiled. Good, sweet Sarah. She never thought to treat Leaf like a child, despite her small size and age. Sarah was one of those that treated Leaf with the respect she felt her mature nature deserved. Though perhaps she should be considered a child, Leaf had a very good head on her shoulders and was not easily intimidated by anyone. She was also very independent and fully expected others to treat her as an equal, though they may be many years her senior. She sighed inwardly.

“Don’t be sorry, Sarah. It’s only the truth.” She sagged as she walked. “In all honesty, I haven’t been sleeping well, lately.” And the less said of that, the better. “I seem to have become a bit reckless, I know.”

Sarah winked conspiratorially. “Well, I haven’t exactly gotten much sleep these past few nights either.”

Leaf grinned. “I saw you and Rylan walking down by the garden brook ‘neath the full moon last night.”

Sarah blushed. “You did? I hope you weren’t spying, Leaf!”

Leaf winced. The truth was, last night she’d been exploring a new passage under the castle that brought her out near the old stone gazebo in the gardens. The only problem is that she wasn’t allowed out of bed after dark. Everyone knew about her explorations, but if it were discovered she was doing it at night, they would probably forbid her from it altogether. For some reason, everyone at Ganolly Castle seemed overly protective of her.

It had certainly come as quite a shock when she nearly stumbled onto the path in front of the strolling couple late last night. It was only with a great effort on her part that she was able to sneak away undetected.

Leaf swallowed nervously. “I wasn’t spying! I- I was having trouble sleeping and decided to sit by the window for a time. The breeze relaxes me, you see, and I just happened to notice movement down below.” She swallowed again. “That’s all.” Leaf hated lying, especially to a friend. But she knew Sarah would want to know about the passage and she wasn’t willing to impart that knowledge. Not just yet anyway.

Sarah nodded suspiciously. “You’d have to have eyes like a hawk!”

Leaf shook her head. “Not with a full moon like that one. You two stood out very clearly in that light.”

Sarah surprised her with a smile. “It’s alright. I just wanted to be the one to reveal the wonderful news to everyone.” They passed a row of gleaming suit armor and Leaf was surprised the radiance coming from her friend’s smile hadn’t set the hall aflame.

“Dear Sarah! Did Rylan finally ask your hand?”

The woman just could not stop smiling; her face threatened to split in two. “Yes! And don’t tell me how you guessed- I don’t want to know. Just don’t tell anyone else, okay? I want it to be a surprise!”

Leaf answered her smile with one of her own. “Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. And I am so happy for the both of you!”

So used to taking her shortcuts, Leaf felt a little odd taking the long way down to the kitchens. She found it a rather pleasant change, however, from dusty tunnels and dim back stairs.
They were walking abreast some lovely, arched windows now; they let in the hazy, glowing light of summer and the color from blossoming flowerbeds outside. Not to mention the refreshing breeze gusting through- which was more than welcome after all that dust. Woman and girl alike left each other to their own thoughts until they rounded the last corner to the kitchens.

The kitchens consisted of two connected rooms. The Outer room held three large, heavy wooden tables where all the food preparations were made. Many hooks had been set along the heavy beams that ran across the low ceiling, and dangling from these hooks were all manner of kitchen utensils and cooking pots. Where there weren’t cooking utensils hanging, bundled herbs and spices of every description hung drying upside down. This made it a simple matter for those preparing food: One simply reached up for the wanted spice and broke off a dried branch to rub between the palms in a practiced way over the dish being prepared.

The Inner room of the kitchens housed the two large ovens and the oversized fire pit. One could spit an entire cow in that fire place, though it was uncertain as to whether or not the sturdy spit dog could run the wheel for something that cumbersome.

This was where all the cooking was done for Ganolly Castle,although there was rarely the need to use all three fires at once. The only exceptions were on special occasions and holidays when large numbers of guests from Ganolly came. A row of three stone tub-sinks ran along one wall; one of which had a grilled hollow beneath for a small fire. Water from the well was brought in and heated in the stone tub above for washing dishes. The opposite wall was lined with cabinets filled with dishes and silverware. The pantry lay beyond the inner room, containing a full larder. In the farthest corner half-hidden in shadows, nestled the cabinet behind which lay the hidden stair Leaf was fond of using when she was sure she wouldn’t get caught.

When Sarah and Leaf entered the outer kitchen, she found Nora putting the finishing touches on a very large picnic basket. There were only five orphans in residence at the old church, but she supposed there was meant to be enough food for any who attended the luncheon considering adoption. She truly hoped they would every one of them find good homes today, though her ever practical mind made her certain that would never happen. There was always hope that a few might be given that gift, at least.

Nora eyed her up and down with a loud sniff. “Dusty from top to toenails I see. Been rolling in the dirt again, girl?” She made a fuss over brushing off Leaf’s dress and straightening her out. She jerked her head to a bucket of water in the corner. “Go get a drink and try and clean-up a bit.” She bestowed Sarah with an exasperated sigh when the woman just stood there smiling at nothing. Her booming voice made Sarah jump a foot.

“I’m glad that whelp finally asked you to marry, girl, but if you don’t get your wagon rolling I’m gonna empty that bucket there over your head to clear it!”

Sarah gasped and shot Leaf a wondering stare before hurrying back to the inner kitchen. Leaf just shrugged as she dipped the large ladle in the cool water and lifted it to her lips gratefully.
Nora had a way of knowing things.

The plump Head Chef glared after the departing woman until she was well off and gone to check the bread. She spoke to herself then, “As if it wasn’t perfectly clear on her face that she finally got her man.”

She glanced at Leaf, who was watching the cook while she washed her face and arms. She gave Leaf one of her rare smiles.

“I am glad, though. Those two were getting troublesome. Maybe now they’ll settle down and get their minds back to the work at hand.” She seemed to realize her slip into civility and leaped to remedy it with alacrity that had Leaf jumping to take the basket and practically running for the door.

Nora shouted at her back as she hurried through the inner kitchen to the garden walk. “Mind you find Temy right away and get a move on, girl! AND NO DAWDLING!”
Leaf ran to find the orphan boy, lugging the huge basket awkwardly in her arms.


Nora watched the small girl vanish with no small amount of satisfaction. The round cook had appearances to keep up, and a reputation that could be ruined getting sentimental like that. She really did care a great deal about the people of Ganolly Castle, especially Leaf. They were her people, here. The only family she had ever really known aside from her sister, Maron. She would do anything in her power to keep them safe; which was no small thing.

If- no, when the servants of the demon discovered the girl’s whereabouts, it might take every last drop of her power and her sister’s combined to keep Leaf and the others from harm.

It seemed like a lifetime ago when she and her sister had made their own foretelling in the form of their tattoos. They had barely begun to come into their powers then. Though Maron was the more gifted of the two in that area, Nora had her own strengths. It had been she, after all, who discovered the means of salvation that could save them all from the fate that awaited them.

As much as it pained her to admit it, Nora knew she would let every last person in Ganolly Castle die if it meant keeping the girl safe.

The cold fact was, if Leaf died, the world would die with her.

So it begins...

My name is Diana J. Davidson, author in the works, mother of five(#six on the way!), wife of my soul mate and best friend, an artist, and a dreamer.

I never saw myself doing a Blog, but here we are. o.0
I started writing this trilogy (The Loreafloris Chronicles) about 8 years ago. Book One: "A Budding Leaf" is, I'm happy to report, finished. Book Two: "A Grey Wind" is well underway. I don't want to risk screwing up the chance of being published either, hence this Blog containing only portions of my life's work. I'm pretty sure I've already done what was necessary to copyright my works, but there's no point in taking chances.

I have, at last count, been rejected by three publishers over the last 2 years, and I'm feeling pretty bummed out at this point. TOR was my number one, Shadow Mountain #2, and DAW was unlucky #3. It's ridiculous how long it takes them to let you know they don't want you- and not healthy for my nerves. Not to mention it hurts the pocket book to have those manuscripts printed up and shipped properly! But I'm not going to give up, either. I don't know if having a blog will change a thing, but obviously I'm not getting anywhere and need to try something new. It's my sincere hope that somehow this Blog will eventually get the interest of some publishers. So please spread the word if you like what you see! ^v^
You are hereby invited to read what I have posted of my book, and to leave feedback and/or encouragement.

This is one of those trilogies that has been complicated beyond belief trying to create a new, believable world full of fantastic races with unique cultures, histories, traditions, and lifestyles. Add to that geography, various forms of workable government, logistics, trade, laws, etc. Makes me wish I'd paid more attention to those subjects in school. It's a good thing I'm at least a little creative or I wouldn't have been able to pull it off!
Most importantly, it's a story about people, self-discovery, overcoming hardships, and them coming together for different reasons to unite in a common cause.