When I took this novel out of the drawer and started to seriously work on it, I had the idea of starting an “alphabet series” for it, describing important items, places and characters in the novel.
I published the “alphabet series” on my Facebook page and then compiled it here, in this “Here and Now – In the Valley of Yearning” Glossary.
ANGEL OF DEATH, THE
A function commonly held by fierce-looking individuals of the Death dynasty.
Technically immortal, they do sometimes disappear, or they may retire and try out something else. Doing the same thing for millennia can be a tedious affair.
At the time of our story, the function of Angel of Death is held, quite appropriately, by the current Death’s son.
(Photo by the very talented Frederic Lievre Creations. Visit his page and check out his amazing art!)
BOG SNORKELLING CLUB
One of the many clubs in Hometown. A small group of passionate individuals who gather every other Saturday to explore the rich ecosystem of the bog (or wetland) area nearby.
According to the president of the club, Mr Bob Sweemey, this is a very exciting activity, which can sometimes become even more exciting due to the presence of intrepid young alligators from the neighbouring swamp*, who like to explore the world outside before retiring back into the dark and quiet seclusion of their home, where no humans go to snorkel. Or go at all, for that matter.
The alligators couldn’t be reached for comment (to be fair, that swamp looks pretty scary, I ain’t going in).
[*more about the swamp later.]
There are lots of cats in Hometown, but ten of them are special.
Our protagonist, Rose, will get to eventually meet all of these special felines. Right at the beginning, though, she makes the rather reluctant acquaintance of a large, fluffy tuxedo tomcat who goes by the name of Ramiel and is a bit of a pest, so we’ll have to excuse her if she thinks all these cats are bastards.
(Spoiler: they are not bastards. Not all of them, anyway).
(Photo by Stavrialena Gontzou on Unsplash)
COPPER WOODS, THE
A forest of permanently rusty-leaved trees that stands on the main hill separating the Valley of Yearning from the rest of the world. The only way to physically get to the Valley, the perilous Road, leads here.
If the traveler reaches the Copper Woods, they can relax knowing they are now safe and will soon be regaled with a breathtaking view of the entire Valley, as seen from the top of the hill.
If, however, they are not meant to be there, they will not see the Valley.
Instead, the hill will simply continue upwards towards the Golden Mountain, the not-very-imaginatively-called Golden Grove mingling its yellow-leaved trees with the rusty-leaved ones of the Copper Forest.
No Valley of Yearning, no sparkling river in the sun, no castle with silver turrets, no hills of green and sweet-smelling flowers.
(Photo by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash)
One of the witches of Hometown.
Her favourite flower is, obviously, the camellia. Her signature colour is red.
She is a fiery-tempered imposing lady with a competitive streak who takes great care of her appearance. It doesn’t help that she is the second oldest of her nine sisters and is constantly reminded of it by the others, who wouldn’t miss a chance to tease her, in proper sisterly fashion. However, because she is a witch, she can look as old (or as young) as she pleases, so she’s always in her early 30s, despite being much older than that (much, much older, although I wouldn’t mention that in her presence, if I were you).
She is married to the Mayor of Hometown and they live in a very nice house in the centre of town. On the ground floor of their house, Camellia has a cosmetics salon and shop.
She also has a cat, like all her sisters, a tortoiseshell whose face is half orange, half black and whose ears are curled back.
She finds that cute.
The cat, though, doesn’t.
(Photo by Hà Nguyễn on Unsplash)
DEATH / DEATH, INC.
The name of a dynasty and of their company, who have been providing for eons the much-needed function of cutting off souls from their mortal bodies and leading them into the afterworld (which may or may not be what those souls had imagined when they were in the mortal realm).
The Death dynasty has many members, most of which are currently retired or doing something else. Those still active with Death, Inc. are:
– the current Death, who adopted the traditional look of ‘skeleton in a black hooded robe’ after way too many mortals complained they were confused by her dazzling good looks (she was a tall, buxom lady with gorgeous eyes and a charming smile).
– her son, the current “Angel of Death”. He hates that title and tried to change it to something more gritty from the old panoply of titles, such as Harbinger of Doom, Grim Reaper, Harvester of Souls, but none stuck. His mom also pointed out, rather tetchily, that the latter two titles actually belonged to her function, so he’d better not dare steal them. He is the leader of the army-like team of ‘Soulies’ (Soul Harvesters).
– his cousins, the so-called Deadly Twins. A lovely-looking pair of teenage twins, a boy and a girl. Their father didn’t want to take part in the family business, but didn’t object to his offspring joining up, especially given their propensities. The pair are thoroughly enjoying their tasks, which consist in attending to the most gruesome deaths, some of which a regular Soulie would not be able to properly attend to. (This would mostly be due to their running away in distress and needing lots of therapy afterwards.) For this reason, the Soulies adore the Deadly Twins and are in total awe of them.
(Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash)
Another one of Hometown’s witches, the fourth oldest of the nine sisters.
Her favourite colours are yellow and gold and she lives high up on the Golden Mountain, beyond the Golden Grove, where there are entire fields of wild daisies in late spring.
She is currently single and has been single for most of her life. She doesn’t seem to mind it or need companionship, other than her cat, a very large, orange tabby Maine Coon with a bushy tail, a lion-like mane and a coat fit for harsh weather. He likes to sun himself on rocks along the narrow path that leads to Daisy’s house and stare at the occasional visitor with his large yellow eyes.
The visitors find that rather unsettling and it takes a brave soul to venture further. Or someone who knows how to approach a cat and scratch it behind the ears without prompting a vicious attack.
(Photo by Tina Rae on Unsplash)
ENCHANTED FOREST, THE
A lush green forest on one side of the Valley of Yearning, between the Copper Woods at one end and the Golden Grove at the other, where the Golden Mountain starts.
This is where one of the favourite past-times of the locals takes place – Teatime! In the middle of the forest, there is a large clearing, with a big horseshoe-shaped stone table at one end. Between the two ‘prongs’ of the horseshoe, there’s a flat boulder on which a huge pot-bellied samovar stands, offering any kind of tea you want from its seven spouts. (More about the samovar and Teatime when we get to letter T).
The Enchanted Forest lives up to its name. It’s teeming with various magical creatures, some shy, some not; some friendly, some not. Teatime (and some buffer time around it, allowing people to come and go) is basically the only time when it’s 100% safe for a regular human to be in the Enchanted Forest and not meet any of these creatures.
The rest of the time, anyone is fair game.
What weird magical place doesn’t have a fairy ring? Of course there is one in the Valley of Yearning as well, somewhere in the Silver Forest. A ‘fairy ring’ is a naturally-occurring ring of mushrooms that sprout when the season is right, but this one is permanent. And kind of… big. And strange-looking. The mushrooms tower taller than a man and sport various colours, some even changing function of the time of day or night. They glow in the dark too. This particular ring doesn’t have anything to do with fairies, who tend to be rather dainty creatures who keep to themselves and don’t show off. It is in fact a portal to the Other World and to several other planes of existence – one of which happens to be the Metaphysical Café, owned by Death, Inc. (see letter D). Visitors from other realms can use this portal, but they are confined to the ring of mushrooms and cannot step out of it.
(Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash)
There are various fairs that take place in Hometown and in the Valley during the year. The most important are (of course) the Spring Fair, the Midsummer Fair and the Harvest Fair.
(Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash)
The middle sister of the nine witches.
Unlike her sisters, she doesn’t have a flower name. Her mother’s habit was to name the child after the first flower she saw as soon as she felt she was pregnant. She knew they’d all be girls, of course. She only ever wanted daughters.
In Fern’s case, the conception took place somewhere deep in the woods. The sisters’ mother was quite an adventurous spirit – and a free one, as well. The fathers were all different, and each sister inherited some talents from her particular male progenitor, and learned from him as well, as the fathers were (more or less) involved in their daughters’ lives as soon as the girls were born.
Fern’s father happened to be a tree spirit and from him she learned herb lore and how to speak to trees (hint: one needs immensely good listening skills). Her favourite colour is green and, like her sisters, she has a cat, called Semyaza – a sleek Siamese, with a very dark brown head, tail and legs.
When she was little, Fern protested her name, saying she wanted a proper flower name, like her sisters. Her mom told her she should be happy she didn’t end up as Amanita, as there were some around there as well. So, of course, when she was a teenager Fern started calling herself Amanita, and it was only later in life that she returned to the name given by her mom.
(Photo by Mykyta Martynenko on Unsplash)
The GOLDEN MOUNTAIN and the GOLDEN GROVE
The Valley of Yearning looks like an elongated lozenge, with the Cooper Woods at one end, and the Golden Mountain at the other. The Golden Mountain sits tall and proud, basking in the glorious afternoon sun – hence the name. Many think the name implies real gold, but no. It’s just a very nice sunny mountain. It’s also home to a lot of different trees, but one very large congregation of these trees has earned its own special name – the Golden Grove. They seem to be in a perpetual garb of autumn yellow, irrespective of what happens around them.
There’s a stream coming down from the mountain, flowing through the Golden Grove and creating several picturesque waterfalls along the way (one of which falls spectacularly off the cliff on which Mr Smith’s castle stands, right into the Lake below, where Hometown begins. More about the castle and Mr Smith later).
One of the witches of the valley (Daisy) lives on the mountain, just to the side of the Golden Grove, in a field of (what else) daisies. Not much happens on the mountain normally, and no visitors usually come that way into the valley*, which really suits Daisy’s solitary way of life.
*it is theoretically possible to reach the Valley of Yearning by climbing over the Golden Mountain, but the odds of making it through alive are so low nobody really bothers to test the theory.
The only town in the Valley of Yearning, sprawling in the middle of the valley and bordered by lush plains, a beautiful lake and two forests on each side (the Silver Forest and the Enchanted Forest). It’s a small town, but it has several shops, among which a quite interesting bookshop with ‘branches’ all over the valley, and way too many pubs, cafés and restaurants. They all seem to be doing pretty well, however, so there must be enough trade for all of them. It has to be added that most people in Hometown have two or three jobs that they perform at different times of the day, on different days or even during different seasons, as needed. Some visitors tell them that they should perhaps rest once in a while, to which most Hometowners reply that they would get bored. There are exceptions, of course, but only a couple, and that’s only because they insist on having just one occupation. It’s interesting to note that, so far, no genuine lazybones have managed to settle in the Valley of Yearning.
The river that comes down from the Golden Mountain and forms the Lake that stands between the mountain and Hometown meanders through the town, providing the opportunity for several very picturesque bridges and for a watermill at the edge of town.
The houses vary from townhouses to countryside huts, with all variations in between. As some Hometowners preferred to live around the Lake, others in town and others spread out on the high plains and hills, it can even be said that it has boroughs. There’s certainly a ‘tribal’ feeling within each of them – the Lake Bankers, the Townies and the High Ones. It makes for very exciting competitions at the seasonal fairs and each ‘borough’ has several sports teams, a marching band and a dramatics society (mostly made of the same people from that borough) that enjoy competing against each other. There are, of course, clubs and societies that welcome members from all over Hometown (see Bog Snorkelling Club under letter B, for example).
The whole town is full of trees and flowers and the main square, where the Town Hall stands, boasts a pretty fountain – a recent addition, the pride and joy of the current mayor of Hometown.