Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eliza in the Gardens

Art by Julia Jeffrey
Text by Chandra Peltier

Eliza Roane-Twistleton: thirteen years old and the eldest child of a well-to-do London family of the 1880s, Eliza's world is thrown off balance when her father, a faerie anthropologist, is stolen away by the faeries. Her nights are disturbed by strange dreams involving magical creatures, and Eliza's Uncle Ned is convinced that the dreams may be key in discovering the whereabouts of his nephew. The mystery leads them to Scotland, and the scene below is of Eliza exploring the grounds of her family's ancestral home, in search of fifteen year old Duncan, the groundkeeper's son.

As she hurried along, Eliza wondered how Alfred and Robin were managing. While she had convinced herself to trust the hobgoblin, she knew that fairies could be very dangerous and easily offended, particularly if one made the mistake of being rude to them. Fretfully, Eliza wished that she had thought to remind her brother to be careful of his manners while visiting the Fairy Market. The elf locks had also been a disturbing development, and now Eliza questioned whether or not she should have mentioned her conversation with Esme to her great uncle, and if perhaps it was even a mistake to be wandering around the grounds alone.

Several more garden spaces had slipped by when Eliza had the distinct and unnerving impression that someone or something was watching her. As Eliza stood beneath an ancient oak tree with outspread branches that resembled clutching claws, a cool wind blew around her, picking up leaves that swirled like miniature tornados. Over her head there was a chittering sound and Eliza’s head jerked up to see poised above her two small men dressed in green with oak leaves woven together to form waistcoats. Beneath their caps their ears curved into a point, and one them smiled nastily, revealing very sharp teeth. In the hand of one of them struggled a bird, and causally the fairy bit its head off. The body of the bird went limp. Eliza let out a small scream and backed away just in time as three more appeared from behind the gnarled trunk of the tree. Eliza fled the outdoor room by way of the closest exit she could find.

Fairy folkes are in old Oakes, Eliza thought wildly, recalling the phrase from one of her father’s books. With her heart pounding, Eliza tried to wrap her mind around the notion that she had just encountered oakmen. This makes no sense, she thought franticly, oakmen come from the North of England, not the Highlands of Scotland! Passing from one outdoor space into the next, Eliza spun around, looking for the exit.

Around her the theme now focused on a series of globes, carried through in both the statuary and the shrubbery. Enormous green bulbous shapes seemed to hang in the air, and for a moment Eliza had the unpleasant sensation that they remained aloft due to an increase of tension in the atmosphere. From behind the various topiary forms stepped out other fairy men, none more than two feet in height, but all exuding ill intent. Queasy with unease, Eliza’s legs felt rooted to the spot. Scarcely daring to breathe, she willed herself to turn around in order to discover the exit. On the far side she saw a circular shaped portal leading out. With a gasp she tore herself from the spot and made for the door.

Without a backward glance Eliza ran as fast as she could. With her feet pounding, sometimes silently on the grass, sometimes thrumming a staccato against stone, Eliza imagined the grinning faces that she had seen earlier leering from every corner, mocking her attempt at flight. Tears started in her eyes, and she tried to push such thoughts from her mind. Unbidden, images of the torn and twisted bedclothes appeared in her mind’s eye. Something wishes me harm, she thought. Tears blurred her vision, and she made for yet another door.
Her steps were suddenly brought up short as she skidded to a halt. Before her was the opening of an ancient hedge that easily stood twelve feet in height. It was the doorway to the Labyrinth.

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