The Adventure of Genevieve
Updated: Aug 8, 2022
It may seem a little bit strange to pivot from working on a shadow work oracle deck to working on a children's book. Why even have I decided to create a children's book?
I think part of it is because I want to challenge myself as I explore writing and take my creativity in new directions.
Please bear in mind that this is my first run-through. I am still learning about layouts but, when finished, the book will be about 32 pages and I am hoping to have copies in time for the Louisiana Book Festival the last weekend in October (also in plenty of time for Christmas gift giving!)
Once upon a time, at the edge of a great dark wood lived a young girl named Genevieve Sullivan and her grandmother, Fern Henry. Together the two of them operated a small tavern and inn, the Laughing Blossom Inn, in a town named Goldenleaf.
The Laughing Blossom Inn was located on what had been a very busy thorough way, the Wandering Troll Highway. Once the Highway served as the main trading route between all the major towns in the Kingdom of Crezair, but as the kingdom prospered and built more roads, fewer and fewer travelers passed on the Wandering Troll Highway, as the scenic highway was long and meandered through many out of the way spots. The new roads were wide, new, and more direct.
Still, enough travelers still passed through Goldenleaf that Genevieve and her grandmother found themselves busy enough, serving meals and tidying rooms for the tired guests.
After serving breakfast to departing guests, Genevieve spent the morning with her two best friends from school, Foster McGee and Abigail Ramsey. Both were very excited and bubbling over with talk about their upcoming plans.
“I am heading off to Briartown,” Abigail announced as the three of them walked leisurely through the quiet town. “I was accepted as a dressmaker's apprentice at the Gilded Lily. I can't wait to get started.”
Genevieve was very happy for her friend, remembering the countless times that Abigail had taken apart old dresses and remade them in intricate and innovative ways, but wondered why Abigail didn't choose to learn dressmaking in their own little town.
“Lacey Holt at the Crafty Bird here in Goldenleaf just doesn't have enough clientele to need an apprentice,” Abigail explained. “I want to see more of the world. Briartown is ten times the size of Goldenleaf.”
Foster couldn't wait to share his own news. “My uncle Leopold invited me to come to stay at the smithy in Gormsey. I can learn all about making swords and weapons.”
Genevieve hurried to congratulate Foster too on his exciting news. She remembered the way he'd always wanted to play battle with wooden swords and shields. She knew he would love being able to make real weapons.
“What about you, Genevieve? What do you have planned?”
“I don't know,” Genevieve admitted. She'd never thought about what she might do or where she might go when she finished school. “I really don't know.”
Foster said, “You definitely don't have to stay in Goldenleaf. There's a whole wide world out there just waiting for us.”
“I like Goldenleaf,” Genevieve responded. She did. She'd always been happy and content working at the inn.
“You need to find the Wise Crone of Norwood,” Abigail said decidedly. “She can tell you what you should be doing. I've heard that she can tell everyone their life purpose.”
Genevieve knew of the Wise Crone. At least once a month, a traveler would stop at the Laughing Blossom Inn on their way to see the Wise Crone of Norwood. Norwood was a truly ancient town whose ruins lay on the Wandering Troll Highway. The Crone was said to live in a small cottage in the woods near the ruined town.
“Maybe I should,” Genevieve said at last. Maybe her friends were right and she needed to figure out what her life purpose was. Maybe going to see the Wise Crone of Norwood would give her the answers to help her figure out her life.
As she and her grandmother washed the dishes that night, Genevieve seized her courage to speak to her grandmother.
“I think I might go see the Wise Crone of Norwood,” Genevieve told her.
Her grandmother, Fern, was silent for a few moments as she carefully dried a plate. Her face was thoughtful as she put the plate away into the cupboard.
“I set off on such an adventure once,” Fern said. “But I didn't make it all the way to Norwood. I met your grandfather on the road and we decided to travel there together. When we arrived here in Goldenleaf, the old owners of the Laughing Blossom Inn had just announced that they were planning on closing up and retiring.
“Your grandfather and I both knew in an instant that we'd found where we belonged. We talked to the retiring couple and arranged to buy and take over the Inn.”
“Did you ever regret your decision?” Genevieve asked as her grandmother lapsed into silence as she dried another plate.
Fern smiled. “Never. I loved your grandfather and we were very happy here together. Running this Inn and caring for your mother and then for you has given me more joy than any adventure ever could.”
“But that was my choice, and you should have the same freedom to make your own,” Fern said decisively. “Let's get some gear packed and you can set out to find the Crone of Norwood.”
Genevieve felt excited and almost giddy as she and her grandmother bought and organized the supplies that she would need to travel from Goldenleaf to Norwood: food, water, a bedroll, and some coins for any necessities she might need on the road. Her friends, Abigail and Foster, came over to wish her a speedy and safe journey.
Abigail presented Genevieve with a going-away gift of shiny new scissors. “To remember me by,” Abigail told her. “And to cut your own way out of any tangles you find along your path!”
Peter gifted her a pair of black iron tweezers. “I made them myself when I visited my uncle last spring,” he announced proudly. “They are sharp and precise and are guaranteed to pull out any problems that present themselves on your journey.”
They hugged. They laughed and then cried together. Genevieve presented them each with a fresh batch of chocolate chips that she'd baked that afternoon with her grandmother. Everything was changing and Genevieve knew that she was going to miss her friends..
She set off in the early morning with fresh rolls from the oven and butterflies in her stomach. She'd seen many people come and go on adventures at the Laughing Blossom Inn, but she'd never thought that she might be setting off on her own one day.
She fell into an easy pace as she walked away from Goldenleaf, feeling a little pang of sadness as she passed all the landmarks of her childhood: the tree she fell from when she, Foster, and Abigail had gone exploring one day, the field of violets where they'd gathered fragrant bouquets, and the old Abbey where they'd played knight, merrily banging their wooden swords together.
Genevieve stopped for lunch near the edge of Farmer Banbridge's sprawling fields of corn. She looked back from where she'd started and then looked into the distance of the winding road. She didn't think she'd ever been farther than this old stone wall. Adventure waited for her around the corner.
She felt surprised by how easy she adapted to traveling on the old cobblestone highway. Her feet fell into an easy rhythm as she walked along, admiring the shady trees and the meadows of flowers as she passed. She stopped every midday for lunch and set up camp at night near the road when she found a promising open field. She would wake in the morning, pack up her gear, make certain that the fire was out, and then fall back into the walking rhythm of the road.
Four days after she left Goldenleaf, Genevieve set off as she had before. The day was pleasant as she walked through the forest of old-growth trees. As she traveled, the cobblestone road became less well maintained. The cobblestones were old and broken up in places so Genevieve concentrated on where she placed her feet. She realized that it would be easy to trip over a broken piece of pavement as she followed the path through the forest.
As she walked deeper into the woods, the highway grew more narrow. Genevieve walked slowly, more and more conscious of how damaged the stones were and how easy it would be to trip on the shadowy path.
From up ahead, she could hear the burble of a stream. She picked up her pace as much as she dared. Sitting by a flowing stream of fresh water and eating her lunch sounded more and more like a good idea.
As she moved closer to the stream, Genevieve thought she heard cries of distress. Was someone calling for help?
Genevieve hurried even more as she realized that she definitely heard a call of distress. The voice was calling from the direction of the woods. Genevieve hesitated for just a moment, uncertain about leaving the safety of the road but she knew she needed to offer what help she could.
As she followed along the stream, the burbling water widened out into a grotto, where the water lay still and deep under the shade of the trees.
“I'm almost there,” Genevieve called out, looking around the pool for the source of the distressed call. “What's wrong?”
“Please hurry,” came back a strained feminine voice. “I can't move.”
Genevieve hurried closer, making out the form of a green-haired woman struggling desperately near the shore.
“You're a mermaid,” Genevieve said in astonishment as she reached the pool's edge. The mermaid seemed to be tangled in some sort of net.
“I know,” the woman snapped. “Help me! I didn't see the fisherman's net when I was swimming and the more I tried to free myself, the more ensnared I became.”
Genevieve hurriedly struggled off her pack and dug in the side pocket for the scissors that Abigail had given her the morning of her departure. She took off her shoes and socks and waded into the pool.
Within a few moments, she'd begun to free the mermaid, cutting carefully as she worked her way through the tangled net to free the trapped woman's tail and fins.
“Thank you!” the mermaid said in relief as they were finally able to release her from the net. “I thought I would be tangled there forever!”
“Happy to help,” Genevieve assured her as she climbed out of the water and sat on a large stone on the bank.
“I'm Arista of Krilux,” the mermaid told Genevieve. Arista began to gather up bits of the cut-up net and pile them on the side of the pool. She looked concerned, “I should give you a gift or a present for saving me.”
“You don't have to give me anything,” Genevieve assured her. “I'm just glad you're ok. Maybe you could join me for lunch?” Genevieve looked through her bag. “I have some dried apples, crackers, and some salted meat.”
Arista's expression brightened. “I've got it!” she announced and suddenly disappeared below the water's surface.
Confused at her new friend's sudden disappearance, Genevieve began to eat some of her dried apples. She wiggled her toes in the sunlight, allowing them to dry before attempting to put her socks and shoes back on.
Abruptly, Arista resurfaced with her hands full of shiny shells. “Mollusks,” she announced excitedly. “You can save them and eat them later for dinner. They're very tasty!”
“Thank you,” Genevieve responded gratefully as she carefully wrapped up the mollusks and placed them in her pack. “These will be a wonderful treat later. I've had nothing but the same trail food for the past few days.”
“You're welcome,” Arista smiled proudly. “Where are you traveling?”
“I'm on my way to visit the Wise Crone of Norwood,” Genevieve explained. “I've lived my whole life in Goldenleaf and I'm not sure what my life purpose is.”
“I've heard many tales of the Wise Crone. She is said to be very wise and older than the roots of the mountains themselves,” Arista answered thoughtfully. “I never thought about my life purpose before.”
“I hadn't either,” Genevieve admitted, “but all my friends were finding theirs and I didn't know what to do.”
“I think my purpose is to swim,” Arista announced after a few moments of thoughtful silence. “And to sing with my friends.” With a little smile, she added, “I also like to collect pretty things. Sometimes the mussels have pearls in them. Maybe you'll have a sparkly surprise tonight.”
“I appreciate that,” Genevieve responded. She began to put her shoes and socks back on. “It sounds like you have a very fine purpose indeed.”
That night, Genevieve roasted the mollusks over the fire. They were tender and delicious, the first fresh food she'd enjoyed since she left Goldenleaf. In the very last one, she found a tiny little pearl, glistening in creamy beauty. She wished she could share the moment with someone. How pleased Arista would be that she'd been right about the mollusk!
As the days passed, the cobblestones grew more and more neglected. The road narrowed, with grass growing up through gaps in the pavement. Genevieve became more and more cautious about where she placed her feet.
From time to time, she would pass the ruins of old cottages and shops. Some of their walls had collapsed inward and the ceilings of the old buildings had long since fallen in.
As she packed her bag early one morning, Genevieve thought she heard some cries of pain in the distance. Quickly, she struggled into her pack and headed off on the road in the direction of the cries of distress.
As she walked, the cries grew louder. Just ahead, she could make out the form of a large man sitting on the remnants of an old stone wall. He seemed oblivious to her approach as all his attention was fastened on his hand.
“Are you alright?” Genevieve asked as she drew abreast of him. In awe, she realized that the large figure actually seemed to be a troll. She'd heard of them but never met one in person.
With tears powering down his cheeks, he shook his head. “I am not. I have a splinter in my finger and I can't get it out.”
“I can help!” Genevieve assured him. She shrugged out of her pack and located the tweezers that Foster had gifted her. A little reluctantly, he offered her his very large hand. Carefully, Genevieve studied the thick green skin until at least she could just see the end of the wooden splinter.
Gently and with quick precision, she used the tweezers to grab the end of the splinter and pulled it out of the troll's hand.
“Got it!” she announced, holding up the offending bit of splinter.
“Thank you!” the troll gushed in relief, wiping the tears from his face. “It's been driving me crazy for the past few days. I didn't think I'd ever get it out.”
“Happy to help,” Genevieve assured him, tucking the tweezers back in the pocket of her pack.
“I'm Seji,” the troll said, offering her his oversized hand.
“I'm Genevieve,” she said. “It's a pleasure to meet you.”
“I'm going fishing,” he told her indicating a pole and a sack resting on the wall near them. “Would you like to come?”
“I can't,” she explained. “I'm on my way to visit the Wise Crone of Norwood.”
“I've heard she's very wise,” he nodded. “But wait, let me give you something as a thank you.”
“You really don't have to,” she assured him as he began digging through his pocket, producing a series of odds and ends: piles of loose string, some odd-looking coins, and finally, a wrapped package. His expression brightened.
“Take this,” he insisted placing it into her hands. “It's taffy. My mom made it for me. It's so good.”
Genevieve proffered her thanks, tucking the large package into her pack; another nice change from the sameness of her trail food.
The next day dawned a little cooler and drizzly. Genevieve wrapped her cape carefully around herself and her pack. She knew that she was getting close to Norwood as she saw more and more abandoned cottages. She stopped for lunch at midday, grateful as the sky began to clear in the early afternoon. By the time the sun began to sink slowly in the sky, Genevieve knew she'd arrived in Norwood. The Wandering Troll Highway ended as it entered the old town. Greenery overgrew all the old ruins with vines running rampant over the stone buildings.
From the road, Genevieve could make out a single plume of smoke from somewhere in the forest. Possibly that was the cottage of the Wise Crone.
Genevieve carefully skirted the stones of the old buildings. Some of the walls remained standing, but all of the buildings seemed to have long since lost their roofs. From what she could remember, Norwood had been abandoned hundreds of years ago when Crezair was still part of the old Empire of Denand.
Conscious of the setting sun, Genevieve hurried as much as she could through the forest, winding her way carefully around thick patches of brush and fallen trees. As she grew closer, Genevieve could smell the aroma of something delicious. Her stomach rumbled hungrily.
As she approached the small cottage with the thatched roof, Genevieve saw the figure of a woman sitting in front of the cottage. She had a pile of green pods beside her and was carefully shelling peas.
“Can I help you with that?” Genevieve offered as she grew closer. “I've spent many hours helping my grandmother shell the peas from our kitchen garden.”
The woman looked up from her task. She appeared ancient and yet ageless with silvery hair piled up on top of her head and a colorful scarf wrapped around her as the cooler air of night began to descend.
“I would certainly appreciate some help, young Genevieve,” the woman responded waving her over. “There's another stool over there by the front door.”
Genevieve set the stool down near the woman and began to help, carefully pulling open the pods and lifting the peas out, and placing them in the bowl.
“How did you know my name?” Genevieve asked shyly, glancing over at the woman as they worked.
“I know many things,” the woman answered. She smiled kindly at Genevieve with a wide wink. “Sometimes I don't know how I know what I know.”
The two continued working a silence for a few moments. “I've come a long way to find you,” Genevieve said. “Everyone told me that I should ask the Wise Crone of Norwood to help me.”
“I usually prefer to be called by my name,” the woman said with another kind smile. “I'm Celestia Crow of Norwood and it is lovely to meet you, young Genevieve.”
As the pile of pods started to dwindle, Genevieve seized her courage and broke the silence once more. “I don't know my life purpose.”
“And you want me to tell you what it is?” Celestia asked.
Genevieve flushed. Maybe she'd gone about this all wrong. Was it really fair to expect this woman to be able to solve all her problems with just a few words?
Gently, Celestia reached over and patted Genevieve's hand. “Maybe I can help.”
The older woman rose to her feet and began to gather up the shelled peas. “Can you take the pods to the compost pile?” she asked. “It's just around the back of the cottage, right next to the garden.”
“Of course,” Genevieve responded. She gathered up the pile of pods and set off toward the back of the house. She found the compost pile near the neat rows of the vegetable garden.
By the time she returned to the front of the cottage, Celestia had placed the stools back under the eaves of the cottage and was opening the front door. Delicious smells poured out of the open front door.
“You must be exhausted from your long travels,” Celestia said. “Why don't you come inside for some potato stew and fresh bread? I have the perfect sleeping spot by the fire that I save for guests.”
Genevieve didn't think she'd ever tasted anything as delicious as that stew. It was creamy and thick with potatoes and carrots. The loaf of bread was still warm and seemed to melt in her mouth.
The two ate in companionable silence. Genevieve ate until her belly felt comfortably full. The two settled in front of the fire. Celestia picked up a basket and rummaged around. She settled in the chair next to Genevieve and began knitting something fluffy and purple.
“I never thought about what I wanted to do with my life,” Genevieve began. “I always loved listening to the stories of the people that pass through the inn, but I never really thought about what I wanted to do, if I wanted to go on adventures or find a trade like my friends.”
“You've been on an adventure now,” Celestia pointed out.
“I hadn't even thought of that,” Genevieve said in surprise. “I guess I have.”
“Would you want to continue adventuring? How much have you enjoyed your journey?” Celestia said, regarding her thoughtfully.
“I made new friends and saw wonderful things,” Genevieve pondered. “But I miss Goldenleaf, and the Inn, and especially my grandmother.”
“As you go to sleep tonight,” Celestia told her as she continued with her knitting. “I want you to think about what it is that makes you happy.”
In the morning, Genevieve helped Celestia around the cottage. They threw feed to the hungry chickens. They gathered the eggs. They picked the ripened tomatoes and dug out some carrots and potatoes. They filled tins with fresh strawberries and blueberries. Celestia carefully pulled up a few weeds.
They settled under a large sheltering oak tree with cool glasses of water and bowls of some of the fresh berries in cool cream.
“Helping people is what makes me happy. I like tidying up the inn. I like giving hungry people fresh hot good,” Genevieve volunteered. “I enjoy my life at the Laughing Blossom Inn and I love spending time just being with my grandmother.”
Celestia smiled at her widely. “I do believe you've figured out the answer to your own question.”
Genevieve looked curiously at the Wise Crone. “Is this how it works with everyone?”
“There are as many right answers as there are people,” Celestia responded with a smile. “The answer for each is different, and the most important part of that journey is finding your way to your own heart.”