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Autumn Leaves and Winter Arrives

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The people that lived in the Faraway Tree missed the three children, who had started at boarding school eleven weeks, almost three months ago. After Nimura carved her home in the Tree and moved in, the others had started to tell the ex-assassin all about the three.

After a rather long train journey, Beth, Joe, and Franny stepped off the train, each was carrying their school trunk (a/n: a trunk is a large non-wheeled suitcase) and a small bag. Their parents, Susan and Robert, were waiting for them near the back of the station.

"Mother! Father!" (a/n: lol, I can't remember their actual ages) ten-year-old Fanny exclaimed as the three ran over to their parents.
"Hello children, did you all have a good time at school?" Susan asked as she took Franny's trunk from her. Because there were only a year and a handful of months between Beth and Franny, they were in the same grade, whereas Joe was a grade above.

"I made some new friends," Beth told them.

"What about you Joe?" their father asked the boy.

"It was...good, the school was tricky but it's nice to be home," Joe said as the five of them started walking down the path towards their cottage. They told their parents more about their time at school. After some time, the three fell into step together and ended up in a conversation about the Enchanted Wood.

"Do you think anything has changed since we were last there?" Beth asked.

"I hope not. Do you think Mother and Father will let us go into the wood this afternoon?" Franny said as the three slowed their pace so they would be just out of earshot of the two adults.

"We'll have to ask when we get to the cottage," Joe told his sisters as the aforementioned building came into view. To their delight, it was exactly the same that it was almost three months ago.

When Susan unlocked and opened the old wooden front door of their cottage, Robert bid his family goodbye and returned to the train station, he had work to get back to, the two girls swept upstairs while Joe remained downstairs so that he could get them all permission to go to the Enchanted Forest. Susan had busied herself with putting something together that they could eat. For a time, she didn't notice her oldest still standing in the kitchen, until she did.

"Jo? Is something the matter?" she asked, looking up at the boy.

"Mother, could Fanny, Beth and I go outside to play this afternoon?" he asked.

"I don't see why not," Susan said, smiling and he ran upstairs to tell his sisters.

Beth and Fanny had been putting the stuff in their school trunks into their cupboards when Joe rushed in. "Girls, we can go to the Wood!" he exclaimed.

"Great, but shouldn't we get changed out of our school uniforms first?" Beth reminded them and chucked the set of Franny's clothing that the girl had just put away. Jo had disappeared downstairs again and returned with his school trunk, which he flung open and retrieved a set of his own clothing. Once they were dressed, the three left their bedroom and descended the staircase. As they were passing the kitchen where Susan was still preparing something for them to eat.

"Wait a minute you three!" Susan called, getting their attention.

"I made fresh bread just now. You should take some with you," their Mother told them as she handed Beth a loaf of plait bread wrapped in a washed-out blue tea-towel.

"Thank you, Mother," Fanny thanked as they left the cottage.

They walked for a few minutes until they reached the tree line. A shallow ditch ran across this part of the Wood. The three children glanced at each other and each had identical grins.

"One..." Franny started counting.

"Two..." Beth continued.

"Three!" Jo finished and they jumped across the ditch and into the Enchanted Wood. "Come on!" Franny exclaimed as she took off running ahead, her siblings were fast to follow suit. When they reached the Faraway Tree, they found a purple-skinned, dark green-haired female leaning against the trunk of the Tree, who looked up as she heard them approach. "Hello," she greeted as she pushed off from where she had been leaning and stood up straight.

"Hi, who are you? I don't think I have seen you around here before," Franny asked as Joe glared at her for being rude at someone they didn't know.
The stranger barked a laugh before she told them who she was, "The name's Nimura. I live in the Faraway Tree. Moon-Face and Silky have told me a lot about you three,"

"If you live in the Tree, why haven't we seen you when we come here before?" Beth questioned. "It may be because, to date, I have been living in the tree for only two months," Nimura answered. "That makes sense," Joe commented as Nimura reached up and expertly swung herself onto the bottom-most branch. How she managed to not snap it, no one knew. "Are you going to stand there all day?" Nimura asked, prompting the three to start climbing. Nimura climbed up with them until they stopped at Silky's, where the purple-skin continued climbing. (a/n: i can't remember what order the homes go in but i think i got it right). Some ten minutes later, they left Silky and continued climbing, instead of just wood/bark of the Tree between Silky's and Moon-Face's, there was an azuremarine (like teal) painted door, Nimura's door and it was open. Inside they saw a small rug, a table, three chairs, and most surprisingly, a weapons stand. There was no bed. "Nimura? Why do you have a weapons stand?" Jo asked as the purple-skin stopped her flapping of a blanket. "It's simple really. I have all those because I had them with me when I escaped-" she paused for a second, appearing to be listening out for something, "You three should hurry up to Moon-Face's, a new land has just swung into place," she told them as they thanked her and hurridly climbed up.