About the Book
Winner of the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award 2012 (fantasy) and the Canadian Christian Writing Awards 2012 (Young Adult) …. Addy Marten sets out to explore her new neighbor’s beautiful garden, and especially the rows of mysterious stone statues that she has glimpsed through her bedroom window. Instead of the enticing hideaway she has imagined, however, she finds herself trapped in the Median Realms, and an unwilling pawn in a game of Fairy Chess. She must use all her courage and wits to win the game and free herself from malicious fairy creatures and their twisted fairy-tale world. — “A misbehaving pixie named Enitua steals the limelight as the novel’s most precocious character and later becomes a key ally in guarding the human’s safety.” — Publishers Weekly Reviewer (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, 2010)
planted with the trees of God,
Delectable both to behold and taste;
And freely all their pleasant fruit for food
Gave thee; all sorts are here that all the Earth yields,
Variety without end; but of the tree,
Which, tasted, works knowledge of good and evil,
Thou mayest not; in the day thou eatest, thou diest;
Death is the penalty imposed; beware,
And govern well thy appetite; lest Sin
Surprise thee, and her black attendant Death.
(Paradise Lost, Book VII)
The Garden glared at her, green-eyed, from its dark places. Improbable shadows appeared, angular and barbed, in the rocky areas where plants never grew. Even as she dared creep out from behind the living screen of ferns and bramble bushes, Addy knew she wasn’t safe. A part of her still wanted to bolt as fast as she could in the other direction. Instead she stood transfixed, listening to the buzzing of the dragonflies and the steady gushing of the creek over smooth stones.
Addy had never dared to venture this far into the garden before. She found it strangely intoxicating. If she listened closely enough, the sounds of the birds and the creek were underscored by the true voice of the Garden: a deep-water stillness that numbed her fear and lulled her into submission. Draped in the thick foliage, she inched closer to her objective: several rows of stone statues nearly swallowed by ivy and moss. Then, a twig snapped and Addy whirled around suddenly, her skirt flaring out from around her scraped and dirty knees.
For a moment she crouched stone-still in the speckled shadows, her heart pounding, desperately willing herself to become nothing but rock and tree and cold bare earth. Then, only when she had convinced herself that Mrs. Tavish wasn’t lurking nearby, ready to pounce, Addy released her strained muscles and thanked Heaven that she hadn’t been turned into a toad or made into a minced pie – or whatever it was that witches did to fourteen-year old girls who dared trespass in their garden.
Addy relaxed a little, allowing the garden to work its magic. She had only to breathe its heady aromas of jasmine, mint and thyme to be carried away to a different world altogether. The garden might belong to her neighbour, Mrs. Tavish, but it was Addy’s own secret place, a hidden passageway into the fantastic kingdoms she had often read and dreamed about.
Here, she was free to be her own person, without her parents watching and wondering why she wasn’t out trying to make friends, or obsessed about stupid things like hair and make-up and clothes. Here she no longer cared that she was, yet again, the new girl in town. She could forget about that school where she had been Addy-the-Gifted, feeling lonely and awkward. In this magical place, she was whatever she wanted to be. In a beautiful place like this she could be wherever and whatever she imagined.
Today she was Nebetia the Enlightened, Egyptian princess, entering the Hall of Kings after a long absence. Rows of cypress trees became green-cloaked sentries ready to escort her through flower-bed courtyards. Stone statues and topiary, her willing subjects, awaited her wise command. Today she had walked straight-backed through arched trellises dripping in wild grapes and Virginia Creepers to claim her right to the throne.
Yet the long shadows made Addy uneasy, reminding her that this ethereal kingdom was not hers alone. For one thing: the garden was wild – untamed and untameable. The tangled and creeping masses on the fringes loomed up and over the neat little hedgerows like a storm threatening to upturn a village. These dark, secret places lured her with their promise of hidden mysteries, then surprised and wounded her with the prick of stinging nettle claws and barberry teeth.
There was also the problem of Mrs. Tavish, who was a witch. Addy didn’t really believe she was a witch, but she had recently heard a girl call her that: she had been talking to her brother, passing by the garden on the street-side and close enough for Addy to overhear.
“That’s where the witch lives,” said the girl to her pudgy little brother. He had his face full of ice-cream, but he still marked carefully the place where she pointed with his large round eyes.
“You be careful when you walk by here, Justin,” the girl had warned, pulling him away by the collar. “That place is scary. I bet she eats little boys like you for breakfast.”
Addy remembered people talking about another strange old lady in Port Perry where she had lived when she was ten. She had a house full of cats and grew herbs, and some of the kids thought she might be a witch. Was Mrs. Tavish a witch? Addy had often seen her tramping ungracefully around her kingdom of azaleas and primroses in her cotton flowered dresses and oversized black boots. However, Addy didn’t think she looked so much scary as ridiculous. She wondered if a witch would wear a wide-brimmed sun-hat trailing ribbons and lace.
She remembered her mother talking about Mrs. Tavish. She had seemed a little nervous about her, and Addy wasn’t sure she was telling everything she knew about their strange new neighbour.
“I was in town this morning, and the postmaster mentioned we should be very careful not to upset our new neighbour,” her mom had said to her dad a few days after they had moved in to the new house. “She’s a bit eccentric, apparently, and there’s some scandal there, though he didn’t go into details. Something about a lost child – maybe her own. Anyway, she likes to be left alone, so we’ll have to be careful not to bother her.”
Addy had wanted to ask her more about Mrs. Tavish, but she was too comfortable in her place behind the heavy living-room drapes, feeling the cold smoothness of the tiled floor and imagining she was exploring the dark patches in the forest she saw through the sliding glass door. Her father was partly responsible for her day-dreaming. He was playing the piano softly in the background and the music was carrying her thoughts away as it always did, to uncharted lands.
“Hmm … ,” said her father, his practised hands never missing a note, “I like that in a neighbour. People in these country towns can be a bit nosy.”
Just then there had been a knock at the door by the man from the telephone company and there was no more talk about neighbours that day. But Addy’s curiosity about her neighbour’s garden grew steadily stronger and she spent the last of her precious summer days staring longingly out her bedroom window, dreaming about exploring its tangled majesty. Or, if she was outside, she would hang around the edge of their property that bordered Mrs. Tavish’s yard, gathering up her courage to enter the Garden.
Now, having finally stepped inside the Garden’s vast perimeter, Addy brushed these thoughts aside with impatience. She couldn’t let anything distract her from fulfilling her quest. The time had come for Princess Nebetia to lay claim to her kingdom. She walked, poised and alert, past the winding creek, past columns of cedar and willow and through grasping green tunnels of underbrush until she entered the courtyard of statues.
Having made it this far, Addy stretched her arms out wide to the sky, claiming the space as her own. She trembled inside with the thrill of her secret triumph. Then her gaze fell upon her prize: rows of statues half-buried by moss and vines. Greek gods and various mythical creatures stared sternly down at her, their great hulking forms filling much of the sky. The granite statues were of two different colours; some were ash-grey, so dark as to be almost black, others were a brilliant white, sparkling in the sunlight. She noted the giant arms with green-draped sleeves, hands reaching, and fear poked at Addy with long adrenaline fingers.
She stood still for the longest time, aware of the staccato rhythms of her own breath and heartbeat. Then she noticed the white centaur at her elbow, set apart from the others in the shadow of an old oak. She could have sworn he had not been there a moment before. He was made of stone, but Addy thought his eyes looked as soft and real as her own … and they were pleading with her.
She reached out timidly, running her hand over the carved stone. The stone was unyielding and lifeless and reassured her that the horse-man was not real. Her gaze avoided the dark eyes and focused on the fine lines of the horse-hide cut into stone.
“Where did you come from?” she asked softly.
“Enitua-a-a-a” sighed a voice like the wind and the rustling leaves.
“Enitua, Enitua, Enitua-a-a!” echoed the voice as subtle as the shadows.
Addy stared at the centaur, her throat constricting with fear. That disembodied voice … it was impossible, she knew it was, and yet … she could have sworn that the voice was coming from the stone centaur. In fact, as she stared at it, it was seeming more and more real. Did she see those dark eyes move to focus on her? A moment ago, she could have sworn its arms had rested down at its side. Why was one arm now outstretched toward her?
All rational thought left her mind and it was replaced by a paralyzing fear. The world seemed to implode around her. Her fear took on the form of the branches and tangled vines, sprouting grasping hands that pressed in on her head and lungs. Addy collapsed face-down in the soft grass, taking shallow little breaths. As the world slowly returned to normal, Addy tried to tell herself she was simply the victim of an overactive imagination.
“It’s okay: it was only the wind,” she said to herself, hugging her knees and rocking back and forth. That was how she had always calmed herself since she was very little. She would rock back and forth through the long stormy nights, too proud to call out to Mom or Dad and admit she was frightened of anything so silly as a thunderstorm.
It calmed her now, too, but she was still frightened. The voice from the shadows was real, whatever she might tell herself. It was real, and she couldn’t explain it. She had to escape.
The Garden had suddenly become a hostile place, windless and stifling. Addy scrambled to her feet and ran as fast as she could in the direction of her home. When she reached the back door she was relieved, but not nearly as relieved as she should have been. She took a deep steadying breath.
“Get a hold of yourself, Addy,” she said through gritted teeth. The ground began to spin underneath her and she stumbled a bit as she mounted the first step to the screened door.
“Addy? Everything okay?” asked her mother coming up from behind her, gardening tools in hand.
Addy teetered then grabbed for the door handle. “Oh, hi, Mom,” she said, breathless. “You startled me.”
Her mother laughed. “I can tell. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Addy couldn’t answer. Her mother had no idea how close that came to the truth.
“I just finished planting the rosebushes back by the tool-shed. Wanna see?”
Addy shook her head slowly. Ordinarily she would have loved to help with the garden, carefully arranging the interesting new annuals her mother had a knack for finding. “I’d really like to Mom, but I think I need to lie down. I – I’ve got a headache.”
Her mother looked concerned. “Again? You’ve been getting a lot of headaches lately. I hope this move hasn’t been too stressful on you, Addy.”
“No, Mom. I’m fine.”
Her mother gave her a hard look, as though she sensed something was wrong. She came up and put her arms around her daughter, giving her a playful squeeze. Addy smelled the scent of lavender that she always associated with her mother.
“I know it’s hard to adjust to a new place, honey, but I think you’ll find that it suits you. Just give it a chance, okay?”
Addy took a breath and smiled weakly. “Okay,” she said, hoping her smile was convincing. Sometimes she felt like her mother could open her mind, dissect her thoughts and lay them out under a microscope. She desperately hoped this was not one of those times.
Addy held the screened door as tightly as she would a life preserver in a stormy ocean. She wanted to be alone, to deal with this in her own way. She knew very well it wasn’t the new place that was tugging at her insides and making her feel sicker by the minute. It was the wild places in Mrs. Tavish’s garden.
When Addy woke up the next day, the word “Enitua” was still sliding around in her brain in time with her father’s rendition of the Midnight Sonata. Had she imagined the voice from the shadows? Now that she was some hours away from it, she was not so sure. Yet, that word – how could she have made it up? Where did it come from? She had certainly never heard it before.
Slipping out of bed, she pressed her nose up against the window pane. Mrs. Tavish was there again, talking to her flowers. It was too far away to see her in much detail, but Addy saw the blazing red pattern of her dress and a bright blue bonnet waving this way and that as she attended to her flower-beds. The sky was threatening rain, and Addy shivered involuntarily. She should not like to visit the Garden in a thunderstorm, that was for sure.
Suddenly Mrs. Tavish did a very strange thing: she stopped talking to her flowers for a moment, straightened up and waved in Addy’s direction. Addy ducked down behind her curtains. Surely Mrs. Tavish couldn’t see her, could she? After a minute she leaned forward every so slightly toward the window to take another peek. She saw with relief that Mrs. Tavish had not been waving to her at all – she was talking to someone – a red-haired boy with moonish glasses and a yellow raincoat.
Addy was once again consumed with curiosity. Mrs. Tavish didn’t like people, yet here she was talking to someone. Quite amiably, too, by the looks of it. She seemed to be showing the boy different plants and he was nodding his head agreeably. Addy stared at them for two whole minutes before they moved off into a shrouded area of the garden.
Addy did not stop to think twice: after she got dressed, she raced downstairs and pulled on her coat and boots and flew out the door. There was a strange boy in her Garden, her own fairy kingdom: what was he doing here, anyway? This foreigner in the hall of kings stoked the anger of the Egyptian princess: a frightening prospect for all involved. Princess Nebetia was prepared to march fearlessly to the heart of the Garden, the very last place Addy wanted to be this early in the morning under threatening skies.
There was a bicycle parked on the edge of Mrs. Tavish’s property that Addy had to assume belonged to the strange boy. She strode past it, wrapping her coat around her like a cape and brandishing a hastily chosen walking-stick. She forgot she was supposed to be afraid of voices from the shadows, or witches in flower-print dresses.
Nebetia’s royal blood raged, and she walked boldly through wooden trellis archways batting away the hanging vines with their little red grapes. She half-tripped over several dozen miscellaneous roots and rocks, but it did not faze her in the least. She was taking a stand: she would not be bullied into submission. She would confront the red-haired interloper and banish him from her kingdom.
Her bravado was short-lived, however, because in the next moment all her thoughts were drowned out by a terrifying sound: a shrill, inhuman scream.
About the Author
Theresa M. Wallace lives in Whitby, ON, Canada with her husband and four talented children. She has a Master’s degree in English Literature from Carleton University and an Education degree from the University of Ottawa. Her first book, “Under a Fairy Moon” was the winner of the 2012 Gelett Burgess Award for Children’s books (Fantasy.) She also won the Canadian Christian Writing Award for Young Adult Fiction in the same year. The sequel to Under a Fairy Moon, called, “Wintergarden,” was published by Brownridge Publishing in 2015.