This is a children’s story, written for Lorraine’s Top Tales, a competition I, sadly, did not progress in. Although not in line with the usual things I write, it was a tremendously rewarding project that I hope to use as a dry run towards self-publishing Conniption, the first in the Veins of Power series. Here’s chapter one of The Wee Sneaky’s of Rainbow Grove…
Pillie Grapecake sat at the foot of a ginormous tree. Beneath the shade of a thousand leaves, she tapped her foot restlessly against the root she was perched on. Pillie did not like having to wait. Even if it was for a High Prince.
Her feet were only the size of pencil tips but she knew she could walk a hundred miles if it meant getting out of Rainbow Grove. Sunlight danced lazily down the knots in the tree’s bark, each one a home, or shop, or meeting place for the Petal People. Her mother, the baker of Rainbow Grove, always said that Pillie was meant for great things. Even when she was no larger than an ant, her mother had promised she was a seed that would outgrow any tree in the Grove, if only she could appreciate the soil she was raised in. Picking at the purple petal wrapped around her tiny frame, Pillie was the picture of unrest.
“Hello, Pillie,” a deep voice said from behind her.
“Stop that,” she clucked her tongue in her mouth, like a mother hen would as she scolded one of her chicks.
“Stop what?” Barky asked back.
“Putting on that deep voice. It’s annoying,” she stood and made for Wrap-Around Road without so much as a backward glance at Barky.
Of course that wasn’t his real name. Oh no. His proper Title was His Royal Highness Phillip Bark, son of King Reonald Bark and Her Most Beautiful Highness, Queen Sharana of Rainbow Grove – but no one bothered to call him that. Certainly not in the presence of his mother, who took any compliment about her beauty to be little more than an insult to the very real accomplishments she’d brought to Rainbow Grove.
“Hey. Wait up,” Barky said, his voice rising a pitch back to normal. He wondered, in the space between his crown laden ears, whether she even really knew what he looked like. Pillie, that is. She was so headstrong that she’d plow ahead with no thought to anyone she was leaving behind. From breakfast to dinner, she’d spend her time among the lower branches of the trees that circled their little village, helping her father pick fruit for the people.
“No. You keep up. I don’t even want to do this. It’s for babies,” she sighed under her breath as they passed Ole’ Man Clown who was juggling three nut cases and a shiny penny to a collection of dumbfounded children, all marvelling at the clown’s unbelievable strength. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather watch the show?”
“Look, this is dangerous, climbing up Wrap-Around Road. There are…things,” he was indignant and scared all at once. “Things that can take you away. Out the Grove, I mean.”
“One person. One Petal Person vanished one time, just once, and no one shuts up about it. He shouldn’t have went looking for monsters… unprepared,” she whispered the last word.
“One person is all it takes to change the world,” he said to the golden curls at the back of her head, his heart fluttering just a little in his chest.
Wrap-Around Road was a highway of fruit chunks, Petal People and sharp little stones used to cut the stalks of stubborn strawberries. You see, the trees around Rainbow Grove were not like the ones you and I can see at the park or outside your school window. No. The trees around Rainbow Grove grew in soil with more magic in it than even the most powerful wand. All you had to do with one of the magic trees of Rainbow Grove was place a seed in one of the nooks of their branches and wait one day and one night, and a strawberry or lemon, or orange or apple, or pear or plum or even, though it was only done for Christmas, a pineapple or two would be hanging directly beneath where you’d placed your seed.
It was one of these magic plums that came tearing down the road as Pillie and Barky made it past the first seeding enclave just a few branches up.
“Make way, make way, I say!” came Mr Jumplum’s voice behind the purple fruit that had made his family very rich. “There’s something in the leaves. We must leave the leaves in peace!”
“Pillie!” Barky’s stomach had turned to jelly. He’d never told anyone this, boys were not often allowed to talk about what makes them scared, but he hated heights. As the plum had come roaring past him, he’d jumped a little too swiftly and now teetered on the edge of Wrap-Around Road, his heels peering over the edge as his hands tried to swim forward to keep him from falling.
Pillie turned, her face bright with a happiness that only chaos could brighten so brightly, and rolled her eyes at Barky. Reaching out, she clutched his wrists tightly and yanked him from the edge before he lost his balance.
“Thank you,” Barky gasped in between lungfuls of grateful air, his crown skewed on his head.
“Shh!” she shushed as she grabbed the arm of a boy running past. “What’s going on, Jonathan?”
“Something’s up there,” Jonathan, the younger brother of her friend, Billy Got, replied. “Officer Cabbage told us all to leave the tree.”
“Did you see my dad?” Pillie demanded to know as a sense of dread spread along her spine like a hundred little spiders weaving webs.
Jonathan shook his head mutely and wrenched himself free of her grip, scurrying away to safety..
“I’m not leaving him. I’m going to find my dad.”
“I’m coming too,” Barky said without thinking.
“It’ll be dangerous,” Pillie warned herself as much as him.
“I know,” but his mind was made up by the kind way her eyes stared at him as if she was seeing him for the very first time.
“Let’s go,” she grinned as she grabbed his hand, unaware at how it set his heart ablaze.