Ch. One - Tandy Pomander

Written for Addie: 
The Amazing Adventures of Tandy Pomander

Chapter One

Ten-year-old Tandy slowly opened the door. As she pushed against the aged wood the creaking hinges complained loudly, as if they were annoyed at being disturbed. She pushed the towering door open just enough to slip into the darkened room. Carefully stepping over the threshold, the smell of dust and age instantly wrapped itself around her. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she noticed the windows were covered with thick, heavy drapes, which seemed to be fighting against the afternoon sunlight that was struggling to peek through them. The room was full of old, heavy furniture. Over-stuffed couches, an immense sideboard burdened with framed pictures and crystal vases, two book cases groaning under a load of large, dusty books, floor lamps with Tiffany shades, and a jumble of puffy chairs that looked like they would swallow you if you sat in them.  As she continued to take in her surroundings, she saw the old woman sitting in a chair at the far end of the room. 
“Come over here girl.” The old woman spoke sharply and with authority. It was not a request, but a command. “Hurry up.” Her voice was scratchy and sounded a little like the creaking door hinges. 
Focusing her attention on the woman, Tandy quickly crossed the room, walking over ancient rugs that smothered the floor. As she came closer to the woman she noticed her wreath of white hair and the deep wrinkles that cut across her face. She looked older than humanly possible and Tandy was reminded of the mummies she saw in her history books at school. Even the woman’s clothing was old. She wore a long-sleeved, high-necked, floor-length dress made of red and pink rose patterned fabric that tried to be cheery, but failed. Tandy wondered if she had entered a time machine when she came into the room and had come out in the days of the pioneers. Not wanting to get too close to the woman, she stopped a safe distance from her.
The woman held a carved wooden cane with a gold handle that glowed in what little light leaked though the gaps between the heavy curtains. Her bony fingers were wrapped around the handle and she tapped one of them impatiently on a carved figure of a dragon. “Took you long enough. Come closer. Let me take a look at you.”
The last thing Tandy wanted to do was stand any closer to this woman, but Uncle Horus said it was important she come to Dame Alabaster for her training. 
Tandy slowly approached the woman and was surprised, and frightened, when the old lady’s hand darted out and grabbed her arm with firmness and amazing speed—like a snake snatching its prey. 
Dame Alabaster roughly pulled Tandy so close to her wrinkled face that Tandy could smell peppermint on her breath. Sneering, Dame Alabaster stared into Tandy’s eyes. “So you are the one they all talk about.” 
Tandy wasn’t sure who “they all” were, or what “they all” were talking about, but as the old woman continued searching her brown eyes, Tandy felt as if her brain was starting to melt.
“Hmm, interesting,” Dame Alabaster finally said, and she released Tandy’s arm and pushed her away. “What do you have to say for yourself, girl?”
Certainly Tandy had been scared at first, and certainly this woman was somewhat terrifying, but Tandy suddenly refused to be frightened. She squared her shoulders and defiantly said, “I’m not ‘girl.’ My name is Tandy Pomander.”
For just a moment Tandy thought she saw a sparkle of amusement on Dame Alabaster’s face, but if she did, it was quickly replaced with a frown. “Don’t get cheeky with me, girl. I’d hate to destroy you before your career even gets started.” 
Tandy thought that, for the sake of her future as a forest fairy, she had better curb her tongue, “I’m sorry, Dame Alabaster.”
The tension in the room eased. “That’s better, Tandy.”  Dame Alabaster added emphasis to Tandy’s name to show her acceptance of the apology. 
“So you come from Bathgate? By the woods?”  Dame Alabaster asked, and Tandy gathered that her interview had started. 
“Yes, ma’am.”
“What gave you to believe you have forest magic?”
Tandy realized Dame Alabaster was not going to waste time on simple pleasant conversation; she was cutting right to the meat of the matter.
“I was hiking with my friends in the forest and heard the voices of the Leaf Sprites—Uncle Horus told me later they were Leaf Sprites. None of my friends heard them, and they all thought I was crazy when I told them I was hearing small, squeaky voices. I went back later on my own to see if I really was crazy, and I heard them again. They were talking about a pine tree that was sick and dying.”
Dame Alabaster’s face took on a serious look. “Did you try and talk to them?”
“No. I didn’t know what to do.”
“Good. No use upsetting the Mistress of the Leaf Sprites. She insists you get permission from her first before you address any of her subjects.” Dame Alabaster rolled her eyes. “If you ask me, she is a little too controlling.”
This was all so new to Tandy that she didn’t know how to respond. To be polite she simply acknowledged that she was listening. “Oh, okay.”
Quickly getting back to business, Dame Alabaster fired off the next question. “Any other hints as to who you might be?”
“Well, yeah, I guess. I was walking in the forest, and all of sudden I really wanted to climb a tree. I mean really climb a tree bad. I didn’t know why, I just had to. I climbed as far up as I could go, and when I looked out over the forest, I saw little twinkles of light through the leaves everywhere. The lights were all different colors, and they were bunched together by color. Like a big bunch of blue twinkling lights over here, and then a bunch of orange ones over there. It was so awesome that I forgot where I was and lost my balance, but I didn’t fall. I sort of ‘floated’ out of the tree and back onto the ground.”
“Have you told anyone else about this?”
“Just Uncle Horus. Who else would believe me?”
“Indeed,” Dame Alabaster replied. While still staring intently at Tandy, she began rubbing her finger across the brow of the golden dragon on her cane’s handle. Tandy could have sworn the dragon moved slightly under her finger. 
“The lights you saw, there are many forest kinsfolk you will need to learn about. They all emit different colored lights, and have many different customs and traditions. Seed Pixies are blue and don’t like to be looked at in the eyes. Grass Elfs are green, and if you don’t look at them in the eyes, they are offended and spit on your feet. Bark Imps shine orange and if you don’t bring gifts when you approach their leaders, they disappear and you won’t see them again for years.” She stopped and shook her head. “Bark Imps hold grudges better than any forest kinsfolk I have ever met.”
Tandy was overwhelmed and shocked by what Dame Alabaster was telling her. It had just been two weeks since she was having dinner with Uncle Horus at their small kitchen table and accidentally mentioned she had heard voices in the forest. Uncle Horus suddenly sat up very straight and asked her to repeat what she had said.
“What was that? Voices in the forest?”
Tandy immediately regretted what she had let slip. “Oh, it was nothing.”
But Uncle Horus was insistent. “It’s okay, Tan-dandy,” that was his pet name for her, “don’t be afraid. Just tell me honestly what happened.”
Tandy loved and trusted Uncle Horus. It had been just the two of them since her parents disappeared five years ago. So she took a deep breath and told him what she had heard in the forest, and was surprised when a large grin crossed his face. 
“Tan-dandy! That's wonderful!”
“Uncle Horus, are you making fun of me?”
“Oh, heavens no! Now I can tell you that you are descended from forest fairy folk!”
That had begun a very confusing and revealing time for Tandy. She learned that her mother had been a forest guardian and had strong forest magic. “Your mother would be so proud,” Uncle Horus happily exclaimed. 
As Tandy told Uncle Horus of her experience in the tree, he became very serious and told her she was most likely a Leaflet Forest Fairy, the most powerful of the human forest fairy folk, and that she needed to be trained by Dame Alabaster. 
All Tandy knew of the old lady was that she lived in a huge house on a hill outside of her town. No one had ever seen the woman, but there were legends of her stealing children and keeping them chained in her basement. Every time Tandy told Uncle Horus about the new “has to be true” horrible story about Dame Alabaster, he would just shake his head and reply, “She would never do such a thing. She is a divine creature.” Tandy had a hard time wondering why he had called this recluse of a woman a “divine creature,” but now she was beginning to understand why.
“She is the oldest of the forest guardians and supervises training of all humans who have forest magic,” Uncle Horus told Tandy. “You must have an interview with her.” 
And so here Tandy was, face to face and ready to be interviewed—and hopefully trained—by an elderly, “divine,” forest guardian who was full of forest magic. As the old woman named off the many forest folk that had lived, unknown, around mankind for thousands of years, she talked as easily as if she were reciting a grocery list.
“Watch out for Stone Brownies, because they put stickers in your socks if they think you are trying to steal their rocks. But Cloud Nymphs, now there is a pleasant race. Not much you can do to upset a Cloud Nymph.” Dame Alabaster paused as she looked at Tandy, who was open-mouthed and speechless. “What’s wrong with you, gir—Tandy? Were you arrogant enough to think humans and animals were the only living beings on this earth? Who else would take care of the forests? And I won’t even go into the desert or water folk.”
Finally able to find her voice, Tandy responded, “There are others?”
Dame Alabaster was growing tired of the conversation and was ready to dismiss Tandy for the day. “Of course, but for now you just need to learn about the forest folk. It’s obvious you are a Leaflet Forest Fairy, which means you have a lot to learn before you begin your life’s work.”
Life’s work?” Tandy exclaimed, shocked.
Huffing impatiently, Dame Alabaster replied, “Of course your whole life. What else are you going to be doing once you grow your wings?”
Tandy gasped. “WINGS?”

(To be continued.)