Hazel and Holly — Odd Possibilities
Previous: Tea with Tum
Holly and Tum waited at The Green Man for night to fall. He drank three more beers, promising that the last was an advance on the following week’s wages. When the daylight finally faded and darkness settled in, he hopped off his stool, tottered a bit, and then righted himself and threw Holly a great big smile.
“Right,” he said. “Off we go, then.” He shambled towards the door.
“Where are we going, exactly?” Holly asked as she followed.
He stopped and blinked at her. “Go?”
Holly folded her arms. “You’re drunk, aren’t you?”
Tum snorted and waved a hand, which then caused him to totter again before he regained his balance. He then looked at her with the utmost severity. “Perhaps.”
Holly bent down towards him and whispered, “You’re a cellar gnome and you can’t even hold your beer!”
“Shhh!” Tum said as he flailed his hands. “Isn’t anything of the sort. You tricked me with that fine beer of yours. Tricked old Tum into drinking an entire week’s worth all in one go. You’re a temptress, that’s what.”
Holly opened her mouth to reply but then stopped. She put a hand to her hair and smiled. “Temptress? Really?”
Tum nodded, his expression solemn. “Oh yes. Perhaps even saucy besides.”
Tum blinked at her. “Now, remind me: where were we going?”
“I don’t know. You said you knew someone that could help me convince Hazel to let me help her.”
Tum blinked at her again. “That’s a lot of helping.”
“Well, yes, but it’s what you said.”
Tum scratched his chin. “Well, if I said that, then I must have meant Odd. He’s real good at fixing and helping–all that stuff. We’ll have to wait until night though. Odd sleeps during the day, and you don’t want to wake him when he sleeps.”
“It is night.”
Tum smiled. “Well then! We best be off!”
He zig-zagged down the darkened road and, before long, plunged into the brush of the surrounding woods. Tall ferns completely eclipsed his small form, and Holly was only able to follow by the cacophonous rustling and snapping of twigs that signaled his passage.
“Are you actually leading us somewhere?” Holly asked. “Or are you drunkenly wandering to nowhere at all?”
“Always have a purpose, I always say,” Tum said.
“What kind of answer is that?”
Tum poked a finger up through the ferns and into the air. “A most satisfactory one.”
It wasn’t satisfactory at all, but Tum did seem to be heading in a particular direction, so Holly let it lie.
The gibbous moon was bright that night and bathed the woods in a silvery sheen. They came to a meadow within which a little cottage lay. Tum left the woods and ran toward the house. Holly followed.
They came to the door, and Tum veered around a corner of the cottage until they came to a pair of cellar doors. He hoisted one open and descended down a set of darkened stairs.
“Tum!” Holly hissed. She looked towards the house to see if anyone was coming, but the windows remained dark and the night still. And so, not knowing what else to do, she followed Tum into the darkness.
The stairs were steep and narrow, and Holly had to descend sideways to keep herself from losing her footing. She reached the hard-packed earthen floor. On the wall to her right, a single candleflame wavered. She spoke a spell to split the fire to serve as additional light, but nothing happened. She must be in a witch’s home–her magic wouldn’t work here.
She picked up the candle and waved it through the darkness as she made her way deeper into the cellar. The wavering, scratching sound of a violin met her ears, and she followed the music until she came to a door. She pushed it open and walked into a cozy room filled with light. Candles burned in sconces on the stone walls and in bottles on tables. A great fire crackled within a vast hearth, sending wild shadows cavorting on the walls. Facing the fire was a sofa, and next to the sofa was a table, upon which a little gramophone played the soothing sounds of a violin concerto.
“Ah, there you are,” Tum said. He wore a little red cap on his head, and little curled slippers on his feet., On his body he wore a single suit of plush, soft-looking material that reminded Holly of kittens and clouds.
“Did you change your clothes?”
Tum thrust a finger into the air. “When in the cellar, one’s got to wear cellar clothes. For gnomes, that is. You,” he waved his hands at her, “will have to make do with what you have.”
Another gnome wearing similar clothes emerged from a hatch in the ground. “I got cowberry beer and radish beer. Radish beer’s got bit of a bite…” he trailed off when his gaze fell on Holly.
“Hello,” Holly said.
The other gnome said nothing, gripping onto the bottles as he stared at her.
“Cowberry beer, you say?” Tum said as he took one of the bottles from the gnome’s hand. He squinted his eyes as he held it out for inspection.
Holly cleared her throat.
“What’s that?” Tum said, snapping out of whatever reverie he had been caught in.
Holly nodded towards the other gnome, her eyebrows raised.
“Oh,” Tum said and, waving a hand, added, “Miss Holly, that’s Odd. Odd, Miss Holly.”
Holly beamed at Odd. “Nice to meet you.”
Odd grinned and shuffled his feet.
Tum broke off the wax covering the mouth of the bottle and took a swig. “It’s good. Maybe not as good as the cinnamon beer, but good all the same.” He scampered over to the sofa and sat down.
Holly wrung her hands. “So… Tum. Are you going to explain why we’re here?”
“Here?” Tum said as he peered at the bottle in the light of the fire.
“Yes, here,” Holly said, growing annoyed. “Or have you forgotten again?”
“Of course not!” He waved a hand. “Odd’ll help you.”
Holly frowned. She took a step towards Tum, but stopped when there was a tugging at her sleeve. She looked down, and Odd nodded towards a door at the other end of the room. Tum seemed thoroughly enthralled with his beer bottle, and so Holly followed Odd as he led her across the room.
She stepped though a door and into another room filled with shelves, and on those shelves were lines of jars and vials and boxes and all kinds of tiny little nick-nacks that Holly didn’t recognize. “What is this place?”
“My workshop,” Odd said. He took a little white coat hanging from a peg and put it on, and replaced his red cap with a pair of glasses. He scampered to one of the shelves, pulled down a box, and then returned to Holly. He lifted the lid from the box and, grinning, held it out to her.
Holly leaned down and saw resting in the box a pair of violet flowers. “How lovely,” she said, but when she reached towards the flowers, the petals fluttered and stirred as if caught in a breeze. She yanked her hand back and giggled. “Is it magic?”
Odd smiled and shrugged. “Taste them.”
Holly stared at him, but then reached down and picked up one of the flowers. The petals were cold to the touch and slightly sticky. She popped it in her mouth where the petals then dissolved into a liquid. It tasted of grapes and fennel, with a hint of violets.
“Amazing,” she said. “How did you do that?”
Odd smiled and shrugged again. “It’s all in the method.”
Holly didn’t understand, but it didn’t matter. “Has Tum explained my problem?”
“Well? What do you think?”
Odd blinked at her from behind his glasses. Then he snapped his fingers and wandered off.
Holly stood there, wringing her hands as she wondered what she should do. She eyed one of the shelves. There were little figurines made of what looked to be polished rocks, but when she touched one, it felt soft like clay. There were flowers made of glass, and glasses made of flowers. She lifted a lid of one of the little boxes, but gasped and quickly snapped it shut when a pair of glowing eyes peered back out at her. There was even a little globe with a little house inside, and over the house loomed a grey cloud from which rain poured and lightning flashed. As she reached for it, the little sky cleared and a rainbow streamed across the glass. Holly smiled and pulled her hand back, and the sky once again clouded and down-poured more rain.
Odd returned, trundling a wheelbarrow that held a little potted clementine tree. He parked the wheelbarrow in front of Holly and then beamed up at her.
“What’s that?” Holly said.
“Watch.” He plucked a clementine from the tree and set it on a table. He tapped the fruit and a stream of tiny black ants filed from the tree and headed towards it. Odd rocked on his heels as he beamed at Holly.
“I don’t understand,” said Holly.
“Scouts,” Odd said.
“Scouts for what?”
Odd’s face fell. “Scouting?”
Holly shook her head. “It’s very nice and amazing, but I don’t think it will help.”
Odd slumped. Then he straightened and snapped his fingers and again disappeared into the workshop. He returned after a moment, carrying a long, rectangular box. He held it out to her.
Holly took the box and, when she opened it, found a row of little vials holding a clear liquid. “What’s this?”
Holly peered at the bottles. She was familiar with potions, all Hearth witches were, but she didn’t recognize these. “What kinds of potions?”
“The potential kind.”
“All potions have a purpose, yes? They are made to do one thing. These are for unlocking, but they unlock many things—possibilities, potential.”
Holly stared at him. “I don’t understand. How can a potion unlock… possibilities?”
Odd waved his hands. “Every day you decide things—what to wear, what to eat, where to go—these decidings direct your life. But the other choices, the ones you did not decide, still exist—you just don’t experience them. These potions, sometimes they can help you experience those other decidings you did not make. And sometimes, by experiencing those other decidings, you can change the ones you did make.”
Holly stared at him some more.
Odd scratched his backside.
“I’ve never heard of potions like this,” Holly said. “How is that even possible?”
Odd grinned. “Odd is cellar gnome to Miss Iris—most gifted Hearth witch to have ever lived. Well, possibly. But she spends all her days making potions, using equipment made by Odd. Together, we make potions no one else can.”
Holly looked down at the bottles. “I couldn’t accept these. They sound much too dear for me to take.” She tried handing the box to Odd, but he just pushed it back towards her.
“Miss Iris makes many potions. Miss Holly can take these, no one will miss them.”
She swallowed and nodded. “Thank you, Odd. I think these might be very helpful, indeed.”
Odd beamed up at her and then returned to the door where he replaced his glasses with his cap and removed his little white coat. “Now, time for beer.”
Next: Skyward Promises