I’m not sure anyone has ever thought of me as their number one pick for babysitter; except perhaps for little Miss Starwort’s mother. This is how I found myself today, after shoppe hours, sitting with a slightly strange and precocious little girl named Seaweed. She was kind enough to show me how to make dark chocolate black tea with mint leafs on top. She wore me out with her incredible knowledge of the underbelly of the town. Fairies to brownies, to some grumpy little creature she called Stutter Cob. When I thought she would run out the warranty on my ears, she happily plopped down onto my comfy couch and asked me to tell her an Etta story. I warned her that my stories could be a tad dark. This only excited her more. Given this was my first time babysitting, I opted to meet her half way. So as the snow fell lazily outside, I borrowed a tale from Harry Potter to test the waters. She hung on every word. Perhaps the next time she comes over I’ll actually share one of my own stories.
The book was as beautiful as it was dark and haunting. It’s rather strange design suggested it was a handmade creation and most likely one of a kind. It was covered in a very rich material, with a collage of images on the front that almost looked like a shallow shadowbox. When looking at the book standing up it almost appeared to be an eclectic theater hosting a Halloween play and all manner of costumed and bewitched characters were taking part. At the very bottom of this scene were metal letters that spelled: The Frightener’s Society.
Emily let her fingers move over the details of the book finding herself wanting to hold off opening the cover for as long as she could. The longer she waited the more her anticipation grew and she wanted to feel the full thrill of cracking the cover to discover what lay within such an eccentrically crafted thing.
The young girl’s slim fingers finally reached for the heavy latch that held the book shut. The latch gave a satisfying twang as it sprang open and immediately the heavily compressed pages within pushed out. There was a small cough of dust that came from it like the book was alive and getting its first taste of fresh air in a long time. Emily gripped the heavy front cover and pulled it open…
Snapdragon Tea and its characters are copyright Bethalynne Bajema. All Rights Reserved
Leelu shared a room with Tac, as well as Willum, though no one mentioned this because Willum’s room was really somewhere deeper within the house. Leelu’s room simply provided the small door that would lead Willum to his nest, as Tac was fond of calling it. None of this really mattered at the moment, for Leelu’s room could no longer be considered a place of rest, a place to store her clothes, a place for privacy, and Tac was a bit afraid to go in there. Leelu’s room had become a place of winter.
Sun shone through the window, but it didn’t cut through dust particles or come to rest on some fat cat caught in its beam. At any given time white, pale shades of almond, or deeper tree greens or stabbed vein colors floated through the air in a blizzard of cut paper. Through this chill-less storm a paper-doll castle was fashioned in the east, with a fort to protect it just a step away. To the west a forest of razor curved snowflakes hung from twine and stolen shoelaces. To the south and north were makeshift villages and campsites. And everywhere underfoot were the paper-dolls themselves heaped in their cultural classes.
The warrior class stood their ground in the fort before their castle. Whether there was royalty inside or not didn’t seem to matter, the soldiers each were at the ready with sharp ended pencils, the sharp ends of compasses, broken scissors parceled off to two soldiers, and any other item remotely capable of undoing a paper born body. They’d even formed a unified look of uniform using bits of the dried blood paper shards and pennies for armor. They each wore small curved hats of the same deep red.
Beneath the winter forest of flat snowflakes a hungry crowd gathered of malcontents and those who would have the castle or those places better built in-between. They attached the lose crud of the floor to their paper bodies to give themselves more substance. Some had taken to yarn and floss to decorate their heads, or else to adorn their bodies. Tribes were forming from the lint that littered the ground. Some had taken to the trashcan to better equip their flat bodies. More adventurous types had found Willum’s secret door and were attempting to access it to see if better bounty lay there.
As this went on, the soldiers upped their attire with outfits of larger copper change breastplates and twisted paper clips to hold them in place. They banged their weapons onto their protected chests and egged on the attack. And all those who lived in the places in-between quietly wished everyone would just settle down.
Somewhere in the thickest of the flying flutter of cut paper, Leelu was continuing to build her dynasty of paper. There were red circles around the places the elaborately worked scissor handles had come to bite into the skin of her fingers. The sweat off her skin seemed to feed the insect like shapes at the tops of the snipping sheers. Her eyes were set upon nothing but the paper in her hand and the instrument that was cutting it into something new. Like energy, her mind raged, once created, never destroyed, just changed, and changed, and changed. The paper was energy the scissors were telling her, and they needed to change, to forever be changing. Even the fierce collection of paper-cuts dotting her skin and the long thin lines of drying blood could not raise her attention from her duties.
“The moon has different names?” Emily asked as she looked up into the night sky. Miss Emma nodded her head slowly and looked towards the full moon shining down on them. A smile slowly passed over her lips as she thought about the many, many full moons she’d seen in her days.
“Oh yes. A different name for every month of the year. This was how people in very old times kept track of their seasonal times. For those who lived here in those distant days they often called this the Milk Moon or the Full Flower Moon for this was the time when you’d see your spring flowers bringing color back into the world.” Miss Emma grew quiet for a moment as her thoughts traveled elsewhere. She looked towards the dense line of dark that was the start of the forest and a very old memory came to mind. “I once knew it by a different name though…”
The sisters Von Tree have had little teasers of their background added to the site.
You can find that here. How did they get so batty and cheeky? 😉
Emily stepped through the back door of Etta Diem’s Attic Shoppe and was greeted by a very intriguing sight: She wasn’t quite sure if it was a good intriguing or bad intriguing at first blush.
The backyard that spread out behind the eccentric woman’s equally eccentric home and shoppe was a visual example of one gardener’s dedication to flowers that chased after the color of a bruise. There were all manner of nature’s opulent takes on the color black, rich wine, the deepest of dark purples, and the occasional lush violet to highlight the depth of darkness the other colors portrayed. The young woman had never seen such a dark garden before. And despite such darkness of blooms their colors only served to make all the greenery around them seem so much more lush and alive. It even highlighted the pale color of the large collection of stone lunar moths that were spread out among the neatly organized flower beds.
“It was like the fabled woman that hid behind the veil of the night needed to have her own space to belong to when the sun was keeping the shadows at bay. This place was like a whisper and breath of midnight no matter the hour of the day. Emily decided she liked it. It suited the shoppe-keep well
Snapdragon Tea and its characters are copyright Bethalynne Bajema. All Rights Reserved
Artwork by the Wormwood Queen.
On Friday night of her first week at the boarding house Emily decided to ask Minerva if it was time that she could tell the young woman her story as promised on her first day.
The two of them were sitting on the open, second floor porch where Emily had her first meal with her great aunt and her old friend. This was actually the pair’s favorite place in the house. It was quiet and set apart from the places in the massive house that could get loud with activity at times. It offered a lovely view of the outlying lands around the place. And there was no better view of the stars overhead at night. Emily approved of the spot. In fact it has also become her favorite place, especially after the sun had set and the lightning bugs took to the surrounding fields.
“So what’s your story Minerva?” Emily asked. She’d waited for Miss Emma to excuse herself to take a bath before asking. Her poor aunt’s bones tended to get to her towards the end of the day. As her bones got to her a little of her patience for her niece’s curiosity grew thin.
Minerva was sitting in her rocking chair gently moving herself back and forth. She didn’t answer at first. She continued to look towards the heavens with a thoughtful expression on her old face.
In the candlelight Emily was able to see the old woman in a somewhat different light. The warm glow of the candle flame had a wonderful effect where it almost made all the old woman’s age lines smooth out. In that light Emily could almost see what a younger version of the woman looked like. Her features were very petite and had a very youthful quality to them; like the face of a teenage girl who had yet to grow into what her womanly face would finally look like. Emily could see Minerva having been a very pretty young woman.
Eventually Minerva pulled her dark shawl around her shoulders and sighed heavily. All of her gruffness was released with that sigh. Without it Minerva almost sounded like a teenage girl playing old woman dress up.
“My story… your aunt would probably kill me for sharing that with you so soon. But it’s a beautiful summer night and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. That’s a good time for a memory tale. There are storms forecast for next week… I don’t like storms so much. I can’t talk about myself when there is thunder around. And lightning… ”
She fell silent again. Her mind was drifting back in time and it was no easy thing for her to do. She had to be in the right head space though. When she spoke her voice was that of a teenage girl. It was something surreal to hear.
“I was about to turn eighteen. I lived in a very well to do estate with my parents during Victorian times. I never had to want for a thing. It was an absolute wonder I didn’t become a spoiled, self involved creature like many of my female counterparts of the time. I attribute this to the influence of my grandmother. She and my grandfather worked hard for the lavish lifestyle my mother was born into. And when my mother married rich and doubled her fortunes, my grandmother made a decision to make sure her grandchildren didn’t become soft like their parents. I was her only grandchild so that gave her a lot of free time to focus on me alone. Read More
“She went everywhere that one. The more nomadic she became the more her senses began to change. In life Mab had been a quite ordinary middle-aged woman with an incredible green-thumb who loved her husband and was reasonably satisfied with her life because she was with him. When he was gone she became a singular creature who wanted to see everything, to know everything she could know. She traveled to Florida to see the coral castle and had lively debates about how old Edward had moved all that rock around. She visited the Winchester house and nearly stepped through one of the doors to nowhere. Though technically it did lead somewhere: Down, at a falling pace. That woman can tell you a story or two about her travels. Believe it.” This caused Miss Emma a thoughtful smile.
“One day Mab was presented with an experience that showed her just how greatly her senses had changed… how she was seeing so much more of the world than the average person.
“She was in a large town sitting on a park bench feeding ducks. One of the ducks became startled and started flapping its wings most violently and quaking at something Mab couldn’t see. Finally the duck darted forward and sitting there was an ugly little creature she described as looking like a very old and angry sweet potato. It had arms and legs and a cruel little face where at that moment had a mouthful of duck feathers in it.
“When the creature realized that Mab could see it, it was just as startled as she was. They stared one another down until finally the creature became spooked and ran away. To this day Mab hasn’t successfully been able to identify the creature and at the time she didn’t want to figure out what it was. She was too busy being perplexed by having seen it. It was the start though. From that point after Mab would see things everywhere. And they were things that everyone could see if they wanted to. She realized people simply did their best to filter those things out.
“Mab began a diary and she recorded any little thing that she saw. She sketched these things and slowly began to accumulate her own little dictionary of strange creatures. Often she would visit a library in whatever place she was staying and look through books to see if she could better identify these creatures. When she discovered what a creature was she added that name and notes to her diary.
“Eventually it became apparent to her that she was mostly seeing some of the more mischief laden and nastier creatures talked about in myths or children stories. She wanted desperately to see the beautiful creatures of their kind but they were elusive. She might catch a colorful shadow but she never laid eyes on the shadow caster properly. But when she finally did, she realized why she wasn’t seeing these creatures. At least not seeing these creatures where she was looking for them. Read More
The trip downstairs was a minor maze. The outside of the boarding house looked large but it failed to give scope to just how large it could be inside when a crafty architect was able to add hallways and strange directions to a grand structure. When she finally found the kitchen on the first floor she was almost grateful to be in a place where she could at least request food. Thankfully there was someone to request such things from.
There was a mother and daughter duo in the kitchen. The mother was stirring a pot of cream of wheat and her daughter was jumping up and down wanting to know if she could go to the back door yet. The mother added a handful of blueberries to her pot and stirred. She finally found her breakfast stew complete and set it to the side. Only then did she turn towards her hyper daughter.
“Yes. But be quick. And bring the bowl back one way or another.”
The little girl squealed and darted out of the kitchen. Emily couldn’t be sure but it barely felt like moment had passed before the little girl returned to the kitchen with an empty bowl in hand.
“He took it! He took it!” The little girl chanted as she jumped up and down.
The mother smiled. “Wonderful! Do you think a little cream will get him to clean up the play room you refuse to neaten up?”
“Mom!” The little girl protested.
The mother shrugged her shoulders. “What? Dusting is one thing. Let him smell that homemade rotting play-dough you have hidden in your play room and see if a bowl of cream is enough. I mean really Sigrid… haven’t I taught you the value of fair trade?”
The little girl looked put off, but clearly what her mother was telling her made sense. When she noticed Emily looking on her demeanor seemed to change though. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked defiant.
“Joao would do anything for me, cream or not!”
The mother looked up and noticed Emily as well. Her eyebrow arched as she looked down at her little girl and gave her a crocked smile.
“Let’s not play things up for the new person in the room.” She poured cream of wheat into a bowl and handed it to the little girl. “No more Joao talk. Now go sit and eat your breakfast –and mind your manners! We have a new guest to the house.”
The woman turned to Emily and motioned for her to come closer. “Come on in and have a seat. This is my daughter Sigrid. My name’s Sonja. Would you like something to eat?” Read More