“The Flying Tearoom of Tally Furrowbrow” – (A Children’s Novel Treatment)

I’ve been toying with this idea for a children’s novel since late-January. The story behind it can be found HERE. I’m just as shocked as you are that I even thought of something that didn’t involve zombies and spaceships.

Lemme know what you folks think.

Caleb Priddy Pace is a 12-year-old street urchin with a polite demeanor residing in the mountain town of Grayslot – a port-of-call for deploying soldiers, planes and train-delivered goods. There is a war on, a global conflict. He is unsure of who is fighting whom. It is beyond him and beneath him. He flits the day away playing an ocarina and melodica at an abandoned train station. Both instruments – to him – symbolize the parents he never knew.

Said station has tracks on either side that lead to nowhere. Yet Cale cares not. He figures that whatever passerby happens to leave him money from so remote a location is a worthy one. He stays there because it brings him some semblance of peace. A part of him has always felt drawn to the station, and every time he arrives, he practices the same song in front of the tracks; a song that has been in his head for as long as he can remember.

All this changes when he sees something peculiar, a cream-white cat riding on the back of a Saint Bernard. Both stop in front of the train tracks. From the distance, a whistle sounds. As if out of thin air, a steam locomotive (hovering slightly above the tracks) appears. The cat and dog board it, Cale follows suit.

Upon entering he is greeted by, not human passengers, but scores of creatures only found in storybooks – elves, dwarves, goblins, halflings, miniature dragons, and some still unidentifiable. An orc-ish looking passenger bumps into him in the hallway declaring, “Outta my way, winged worm.”

As the train picks up speed again, he travels down the aisle looking for either the cat or dog, or at the very least a familiar (read: human) face. He sees a girl about his age seated to the rear of the car – violet hair, pretty face, fancily-attired, face in a a book (James Hilton’s Lost Horizon). To her side, a dwarven handmaiden with a perma-smile.

Cale sits in the seat across from them; at first worried they’d protest the intrusion. Quite the opposite happens. The handmaiden waves at him, while the girl pays him no attention at all – still enraptured by her book. A conductor – a thin, slight-of-build minotaur – demands to see his ticket. The boy’s face goes white.

The well-dressed girl pipes up from her book, “He’s my luggage boy. Move along.”

The minotaur bows apologetically and continues down the aisle.

The dwarven handmaiden, Llysiph, introduces the both of them. The girl is Lady Rhiaveth par Danann of Ireland. Rhiaveth rolls her eyes at the title. As Cale converses with Llysiph, the little “lady” snorts, then let’s out a rather loud, boyish sneeze. Her fairy wings unfurl as she does so. Cale’s jaw drops.

He emphatically declares, “Is anyone on this train human?”

Both Rhiaveth and Llysiph appeared taken aback by the question. Llysiph’s perma-smile vanishes, replying that no humans can board this train. Cale then asks how he was able to board.

Rhiaveth finally removes herself from her adventure book. Her face lighting up. She instantly starts drilling him for questions. The boy is taken aback…slightly.

Llysiph appears worried, and interrupts the conversation, stating that no one must find out he’s human. Such an occurrence would be considered an emergency. Thinking fast, she removes a feather duster from her satchel and some beeswax. She paints the wax around Cale’s mouth and plants the duster on his face.

“There. Now you’re a dwarf. Sort of,” Llysiph says with a large grin.

Rhiaveth opens the window and pokes her head out, Llysiph tries to bring her back in. She hocks a sparkling loogie out. Cale – being the boy he is – peers out to see where it lands. He looks down and sees that there is no ground. Rather…water. The train sails along over the ocean, unimpeded.

Cale notices a coastal town approaching fast. He asks why no one can notice the train. Llysiph explains that all magical things exist “outside” of human notice. She tells him to look again at the coastal town, Cale does so. Where before there were just a few squat buildings, a giant spiraling citadel with several rings is nestled among the man-made structures. How something like that could escape notice, he couldn’t fathom. The fairy noble girl and dwarf giggle at his shocked expression.

The train zooms through a tunnel that appears out of nowhere as a ring suspended in mid-air. When it arrives out the other end, land greets it. Or at least, a land mass hovering well above the ground, deep atop a layer of clouds. A floating island.

“First stop! The Flying Tearoom!” a voice bellows from all around.

Llysiph and Rhiaveth get up to exit. He bids farewell. Rhiaveth urges him to come along saying she still needs a “luggage boy”. Then Cale sees the dog and cat appear from amidst the crowded car to exit as well.

He agrees to disembark.

As Cale is literally given her luggage to carry, Rhiaveth walks ahead doing the occasional cartwheel in her fancy dress. He whispers to Llysiph that she’s not quite the proper “noble lady”. Llysiph giggles and explains that she was sent to the tearoom by her father to learn how to be polite and more ladylike. That is, after a certain incident regarding a dining room fire.

However, the tearoom is hardly the dainty place Cale would’ve thought it’d be. Loose stones of a castle’s foundation line the property. The estate itself – while large and inviting – hardly gives the impression of “tea”. Three towers rest on either side of the triangular property – one, a lighthouse, the other a windmill, and the last, a parapet/ residence. An herb garden and greenhouse are off to the side. To the rear, a large, bulbous, domed area with sepia-toned bay windows overlooking the sea of clouds.

The main entrance is even more peculiar, an arched doorway at the base of the lighthouse tower. Upon entering, they see that the walls are lined with books. A large Persian rug is spread with delicately woven fabric, spelling out “Welcome”. The lighthouse tower stretches up to multiple levels, all lined with further bookshelves. The tea bar itself rests to the right of the entrance, further past that, a sandwich deli. At the back of the tea bar are rows upon rows of water jars attached to pipes; all boiling at different temperatures. To the left, an entrance to the herb garden. Center-stage, the entrance to the tearoom itself; bearing the appearance of an airplane cockpit only far larger.

Cale sees the cat and the dog milling about. Both appear to be straining. Within seconds, they increase in size and stature to the frame of human adults. The cat says, “That’s ever-so-much better, eh, Abby?”

“M’yeah,” the dog shrugs, heading to his station at the deli.

Cale is wide-eyed. Rhiaveth excitedly introduces herself, Llysiph tries to correct her manner, encouraging a curtsy. The cat does a clumsy half-bow in return while donning a “Kiss the Kitty” apron. He introduces himself as Tally Furrowbrow. Since the Saint Bernard doesn’t chime in, Tally says his name is Abacus Rex.

The boy is perplexed by Tally, noticing that he does indeed have a “furrowed brow” – or rather, a brow-like scar above his eye-line. In appearance, Tally is a peach-point, cream-colored Ragdoll breed of cat. Cale even guesses as much out loud. Tally is impressed that he knows his cats.

Tally then turns to Rhiaveth and says, “So, your father sent you here to become a lady, eh? Well, I don’t know much about that, but I suppose we can show you a thing or two.”

He points to the books lining the wall and tells her to pick one. Rhiaveth asks what that has to do with tea. Tally simply winks. Cale and she go about examining the titles on the spines of the books. All of them bear names of tea. They realize that the books ARE the tea holders. They come to a consensus on the “Gnomish Oolong”.

“An excellent choice,” he says with a smile.

The book floats over to him and opens upon his motion. Inside the book, the two children see leaves dancing out of the pages, coming to settle in a small measuring cup in Tally’s hand. He drops the leafy concoction into one of the many boiling water jars – the one labeled “Oolong”. He whips out an hourglass. Cale and Rhiaveth whisper to each other, wondering what he’s doing. When the hourglass finishes, Tally withdraws two unassuming clay mugs. He pours the contents of the jar from a strainer-spigot. The tea stream magically split in two and fills into the cups.

“Every tea tells a tale, and every tale’s to a “T”.

Both Rhiaveth and Cale take a sip simultaneously and are instantly transported…literally…

To another time and place.

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Saturday, August 15th, 2009 Prose

2 Comments to “The Flying Tearoom of Tally Furrowbrow” – (A Children’s Novel Treatment)

  1. Oh man, I love this. I shows just how a child’s inner innocence and eternal belief will get you everywhere in life. Especially floating landmasses in the sky.

  2. Gene on December 27th, 2009
  3. Thanks, Gene. That’s exactly the effect I was going for.

  4. Geoffrey F. Norman on September 19th, 2012

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