“I always thought it would be cool to live in a tree,” Mia mussed. Even the elves build houses. I’ve never heard of anyone who could do this.”
Juniper went the counter and dished some noodles, slurping them expertly with disposable wooden chopsticks. She didn’t have much silverware, so maybe she’d make some of these and save money. For that matter, she could shape spoons, too. “Yep. Now I just have to do it a hundred times or so.”
“What! That’s crazy. This tree nearly killed you twice. Why would you try it again?”
The food was really helping, but Juniper was still exhausted. “That’s how I’ll keep the Bramble from expanding. I’m going to pin it with trees. The roots should anchor the magic, keep it confined to the park.”
Juniper shrugged. She wouldn’t know until she tried. “None of the other trees will be as elaborate, and they won’t all be houses. This one had to be strong.” She didn’t want to become monster chow.
“It’s still dangerous. So much can go wrong, and there’s no guarantee you won’t push too far again. You need someone to watch you, or an alarm or something.”
Juniper tilted her head thoughtfully. “I don’t think a person could tell when I was running low on juice, but there might be a monitor of some kind. Not that I could pay for it yet.” She didn’t have a trash can yet, so she gathered up the empty cartons and took them to the wooden toilet. She tossed them in and told the tree to mulch them as it would any waste. Presto! It turned the paper into rich, odor free earth.
Mia had followed her, carrying an empty drink carton. “That’s incredible! Can I try?” She tossed the paper in and grinned when it mulched. “I’ve never been impressed by a toilet before.”
Juniper smirked and showed her a slot in the wall that produced a steady stream of soft, buff colored paper. “Then you’ll love the endless toilet paper. No more being trapped on the throne without a shred of dignity.”
Mia laughed. “That’s genius! Too bad you couldn’t market it.”
Pleased, Juniper returned to the bed and gestured for Mia to seat herself on the end, since she didn’t have any chairs yet. “Like I said, the money will be in stuff like ginseng and truffles. Do you know what truffles go for? Luckily, I can manipulate fungi and accelerate plant growth. I just have to find a market.”
Mia sat Indian style and listened intently. “So you really are a farmer.”
Mia looked around, admiring the living walls and one-way window “glass”. “I guess you can grow any food you like. That will help the grocery bill.”
Juniper stifled a yawn. “Yeah, but I like bacon. Besides, grain needs to be cut, threshed and ground, and you have to bake the bread. I want to buy my bread, because I don’t have time to cook much if I’m growing trees. I’m a businesswoman, not a pioneer.”
“That makes sense. So it’s not “Bramble Burn, then world domination”?”
Juniper snorted. “You can keep the city. I’m a perfectionist, and trying to manage a city full of people would drive me crazy.” She suspected her answers would go farther than Mia, and that was fine. Everything she said was perfectly true.
She was replaying the conversation in her head as she drifted off, so it was on her mind when she sat up with a jolt at the tree’s alarm. At first she thought the city council might be after her, and she pictured men in suits waving paper at her, and her system flooded with cold fear. After a moment she realized something was burrowing under the roots.
She sagged in relief. Thank God, it was only a monster! Lawyers scared her.
Mia must have been a light sleeper, for she woke when Juniper sat up. She sounded very coherent for the wee hours of the night. “What is it?”
“Something’s under the tree. Just a minute.” Juniper focused on the roots and found a very large grub burrowing toward the floor. With a thought, she instructed the tree to squish it, and any of its friends that might visit. She lay back down. “We’re good. I took care of it.”
Since the windows were shuttered, it was pitch black, so she couldn’t see Mia’s face, but she heard the rustle and presumed Mia settled down. Juniper was awake now, and she thought about what small thing she could work on to help her sleep, something that would make the tree safer. She tinkered for a bit, and smiled as she drifted to sleep. Some people counted sheep; she played with magic.