Chapter Three: The Tunnel Tree (continued)
My review of the book is here.
Chapter Three – The Tunnel Tree, continued…
The rumble of a drum skin had him opening his eyes. With a smile dawning on his face, Bren watched the drums revolve and shift. They clicked and clattered as they rolled, until the drum kit rearranged itself with its biggest drum facing upwards.
Pocketing his watch, Bren got up to see the drum skin roll away like a window blind, then peered through its opening at the hole in the floor. He saw Furthermoor’s canopy glittering far below – the tops of trees with leaves of green crystal. A tree directly below began to move, corkscrewing upwards towards Bren’s hole in the sky.
The treetop stopped turning when its tip entered the drum. Bren clambered on and climbed a little way down the tree, passing cables and pulleys embedded in its smooth wooden trunk. Then he sat cheerfully on a branch, with his legs dangling in warm, sun-filled light.
Taking the watch out once more, Bren opened its face to reveal an interior packed with cogs. He skimmed and twirled them with his fingers, hitting a sequence that made the tree – with pulleys twisting in the grooves of its wood – turn and lower itself back towards the ground.
Bren sank through the canopy of crystal leaves. He saw the forest floor dappled by sun and – as soon as he was close enough – dropped from the branch to the ground.
With the tree grinding to a halt behind him, Bren smiled and took in a long, deep breath. The air smelt of sandalwood, bronze and polish. He rocked a little on his heels, enjoying the green wool and woodchip underfoot.
A breeze ruffled the trees, causing emerald leaves to twinkle and chime. Bren tweaked the watch’s cogs, this time striking the combination that controlled the wind. He adjusted the breeze, turning it up and down so that the musical chiming grew louder, then softer.
When he’d found the right volume for his mood, he sauntered through the woods. His playground stoop fell away with every step, and he was soon walking tall between the trees. He called out.
A restrained shout came in reply, from somewhere nearby. “Over here.”
Bren heard a tiny whirring by his ear, and a nickel dragonfly darted back and forth not far from his nose. He wanted a better look at its delicate, stained-glass wings,
so he adjusted the watch again. Pulleys in the grooves that criss-crossed the ground began to churn, tightening cables and tugging gears in the trees. With a deep creaking groan, the emerald canopy above Bren shifted. A clockwork robin with a breast of red cotton soared from a branch. As more sun poured into the woods, its light hit the dragonfly with
a burst of shimmering colour.
Bren beamed at the dragonfly’s wings and jewelled eyes, before calling out again. “Over where?”
“By the tunnel tree.”
While Bren strolled, crystal ferns shook with the scurrying of unseen creatures. He entered a small glade and saw Evie at its far edge. She was sitting by an immense tree that straddled a hillock of wool-moss, with its roots clinging like fingers to steep fuzzy slopes. Trails of emerald ivy – as bright and brittle as the finest glass – tumbled around the mound, and the tree’s thick roots framed a dark, burrow-like opening into the ground.
“Hey, big sis,” said Bren.
“Sshh,” hissed Evie, keeping as still as she could. Her gaze was set on her freckled arm, which was stretched out and still, and host to a row of mechanized butterflies.
The glade’s light made her hair shine like copper. She had the same unruly locks as Bren, though their red tangles flowed down to her waist. Evie also had the same hazel eyes and slightly beakish nose, but unlike Bren she wore glasses, with olive frames that stood out against her pale skin.
Bren mirrored Evie’s pose, sitting beside her with his legs crossed. She was a couple of years older than him, and sat taller in her floral summer dress, with less of Bren’s gangliness.
Evie didn’t even glance at him. The butterflies on her arm had golden abdomens and wings of patterned silk. Bren laughed when a few of them twitched their wings. “You know I can make them stay put, right?” He held up the green watch.
“Of course I know,” whispered Evie. “But I want to do this myself.”