Here we are, at the end of an adventure I never expected to take (those are always the best kind, aren’t they?). Chip’s story completely surprised me, but I’m so thankful I got to be the one to tell it. If you have ever felt alone, unseen, or unheard, I hope this story is a friend to you and that it will remind you that you have a Father in Heaven Who is absolutely captivated by each and every one of your prayers.
It seemed to Chip that he had been adventuring through Almea for an age, for so much had happened on their search for Abaline. A part of him expected the journey back to feel just as long, yet, before Chip knew it, they were facing the river that the young fox, Wilfred, had helped them cross.
With Beauregard’s help, Chip crossed first this time. He waited with no small amount of sadness as Alfeus and Beauregard bickered their way across the river, for he knew that his time with these wonderful friends was coming to an end.
Chip could not fathom being apart from them, but this was their home, and, no matter how much he loved Almea, Chip’s home lay somewhere beyond the hollow of a tree inhabited by a certain persevering owl.
Alfeus and Beauregard were halfway to the shore now, and in the time remaining to Chip, his thoughts drifted to Nesbit, to stories told by candlelight and the comforting rumble of Romulus’ voice.
But, perhaps most of all, Chip thought of the warmth of his own burrow and the pleasure in sharing a meal with Mama and Papa.
This was what he missed most of all, and as his friends reached him at last, Chip found himself with more of a longing for home, though leaving Alfeus and Beauregard would still be bittersweet.
At that instant, a somewhat bedraggled chipmunk marched straight past him, clearly determined to distance himself from a certain beaver.
“Give me Wilfred any day!” Alfeus hurrumphed as he carried on, entirely unconcerned with whether his companions were following or not.
“You know, Chip,” Beauregard said as they watched their disgruntled friend, “I’d pray for him to be less cantankerous, but I do believe that, if he were, he’d be just a little less Alfeus, if you know what I mean.”
“Yes, Beauregard, I know exactly what you mean,” Chip answered as they trailed after their friend.
“He’s got spunk, our Alfeus,” Beauregard said with a fond chuckle.
“And we love him more for it,” Chip replied.
“Aye, that we do.” After a moment, the beaver continued, “He’ll miss you, you know.”
Chip looked over at Beauregard, surprised, but warmed, by his words. “Do you really think so?”
“Oh, yes. In fact, I suspect your leaving is what’s making him especially persnickety today.”
Chip had no time to answer, for, at just that moment, a joyous yip met their ears, and a flash of brilliant copper raced towards them.
“Wilfred!” Chip cried.
“Chip! Alfeus! You’re back!” the young fox breathlessly answered as he reached them.
Then, looking quizzically at the beaver, he asked, “Beauregard? How did you get mixed up in all this?”
“Examine any dangerous endeavor, Wilfred,” Alfeus cut in, “and you are certain to find Beauregard’s paw prints all over it.”
Beauregard’s chest puffed up. “I take that as the highest of compliments, Alfeus, and thank you.”
A low grumble was Alfeus’ only reply.
Turning to Chip, Wilfred asked, “Are you heading for The Entrance?”
Chip frowned. “Do you mean the tree?”
Wilfred nodded. “Come on! I’ll keep you company, at least part of the way.”
They were just beginning to carry on when, suddenly, Wilfred stopped, staring at Chip. “Chip, where’s your satchel?”
Dread swelled inside our young rabbit friend.
Quickly, his mind raced through all their adventures and travels, but, for all he tried, Chip could not remember the last time he’d had it. “I don’t know,” he cried, greatly distressed. “Romulus and Leah will be so angry with me for losing it!”
“Now, Chip,” Beauregard interjected, “you’ve been through harrowing adventures in your time here, and they’ll understand, Leah especially. And it’ll all come right in the end. Someone’s bound to find it.”
And, indeed, someone had.
But never mind about that for now.
For a moment, Chip desperately wanted to argue, to insist that they must go in search of the satchel so that he might return it.
But then, he thought of the gift he’d been given – one that was beginning to make a bit more sense – and of Abaline’s warning.
Be careful what you do with this gift.
He couldn’t go back.
It wasn’t the right time.
And Chip found himself content to wait until it was.
With that decided, the company continued on, talking animatedly the entire time about their adventures and what they’d discovered at the end of them. Chip was only too happy to answer Wilfred’s questions about Abaline and was truly pleased when the young fox immediately understood what made their discovery the truest kind of treasure.
Day was only just beginning to settle into dusk when they came upon a rather familiar hazelnut tree.
“Home!” Alfeus cried. “Home, and my beloved hazelnuts! Or, rather, what’s left of them,” he concluded with a pointed stare in Beauregard’s direction.
But the beaver was unruffled by his friend’s thinly-veiled accusation, and he only said, “I wouldn’t be too quick to fuss about those hazelnuts or my young rabbit friends.” He then gestured off to the left where the most enormous leaf Chip had ever seen was being dragged by four familiar bunnies.
Roger, Roderick, Eloise, and Fred stopped just in front of the flabbergasted chipmunk, who, for once, had nothing to say. Lying in front of him was a positively monstrous pile of beautiful, fresh hazelnuts, the likes of which he’d only dreamed about.
Tentatively, he reached out and took one, bringing it close and inhaling deeply, as if to assure himself they were real.
Once satisfied, he turned to face the four rabbits and finally managed to splutter, “Th-thank you. Thank you! This will see me through three winters, at least! Probably more! I can hardly believe… however did you manage it?” he asked.
But the rabbits only laughed mischievously amongst themselves. “We’ll tell you about it some time,” one of them promised, and then they were off, giggling and chasing each other through the forest.
Alfeus was still staring at the hazelnuts when Chip quietly said, “Well, I best be going, everyone.”
A bit of the joy left Alfeus, but he handled it admirably. “I shall accompany you every step of the way, my friend. Though I will have to hide my hazelnuts first.”
“Never you mind about that, Alfeus,” Beauregard said. “I will guard them until you return.”
Alfeus beamed, then looked to Wilfred, who said, a bit reluctantly, “I can’t. My dad will expect me home before it gets much darker.”
“That’s all right, Wilfred. I understand,” Chip replied, though he was disappointed that he must say goodbye to two friends already.
Wilfred came forward, nudging Chip affectionately. “You’ll come back, though, won’t you?”
Chip smiled. “I hope so.”
“Maybe I’ll join you for your next adventure,” Wilfred said with a fierce grin, and then he was gone, bounding away like a flash of fire in the starlight.
Chip wasted not a moment before hopping towards the beaver, who placed a comforting paw on Chip’s shoulder. “Oh, Chip,” Beauregard said with a sigh. “Almea is going to be a less adventurous place without you in it. Still, we never know when an opportunity to return might present itself. And you know just where to find me.”
Chip huddled close a moment more before returning to Alfeus’ side. “Thank you for everything, Beauregard. We might never have found Abaline if not for you.”
“Oh, don’t mention it, Chip. Accompanying you and Alfy was my joy.”
With goodbyes exchanged, Chip and Alfeus began the final stretch of their journey.
Chip only looked back once and Beauregard, with a final wave, called, “Safe travels, my friend!”
Starlight was the only light to speak of as they made their way to the tree where Chip’s adventures in Almea had begun.
Neither could bring themselves to speak, but Chip was content to soak in these last minutes with Alfeus in silence.
Still, the time together proved to be all too short.
They stood at the foot of the tree, both unsure what to say.
At last, Alfeus said, “Oh, come here,” and the two friends embraced, finding some measure of relief that their sadness at parting ways was shared.
After a moment, they stepped apart. “Of all the friends I made in Almea, Alfeus, I’m thankful you were the first.”
An embarrassed, “Oh,” was all Alfeus could muster, though he was clearly pleased by Chip’s thoughtful words.
But before either could say anything more, a great whoosh of air sounded above them. A moment later, Nesbit landed in the grass beside Alfeus and Chip, who was overjoyed to see his old friend.
“Well, young Chip,” Nesbit said, “have you persevered?”
Chip laughed fondly. “Yes, Nesbit, I have.”
“Very good. Time to be going then?”
Chip didn’t answer, instead looking at Alfeus.
“We’ll see each other soon, my friend. It’s time for you to go home,” the chipmunk said gently.
Chip nodded, tears filling his eyes. “Goodbye, Alfeus.”
“Goodbye for now, Chip.”
And then, quick as a blink, our young rabbit friend was swept up as Nesbit flew up amongst the branches, through the tree’s hollow, and back to Everleaf Forest.
For a moment, Chip could not believe he was home, yet all the familiar sights and sounds, not to mention the wonderful scent of clover, reassured him that he was.
With Nesbit already asleep, Chip had the clearing to himself, and he stayed there in the quiet for a while, soaking in all he’d learned.
For ages, he’d wondered if his prayers mattered and if they were heard.
In the end, he’d found even better.
His tears were the diamonds of Heaven, his prayers carefully preserved.
He was reassured now that, like perfume carefully bottled, like rose leaves lovingly pressed between the pages of a favorite book, were his prayers to the Father.
His purpose – and ours – is to go and tell those who are still longing to know.
When he had set out, he had never expected to find truth so glorious or peace so sound.
Chip looked up at the sky, smiling once and giving thanks before turning for home.
His father, Joshua Raddish, met him at the door.
“Papa, I –“ Chip began, but his father held up a paw.
“Nesbit and Romulus already fessed up.”
“I’m sorry, Papa,” Chip said.
“You could have told me.”
“You might have stopped me.”
Joshua looked at his son kindly. “I might have gone with you.”
Something, Chip supposed, to keep in mind for next time.
I hope you enjoyed the journey just as much as I did. And, remember, you can revisit past installments of Chip any time!
Next week, Author Spotlight Month begins on 21:25 Books! I’ll be featuring H.A. Pruitt’s novel, Anelthalien, along with a special author interview at the end of the week. You won’t want to miss it!