Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: The Final Installment

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.

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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.

Leah’s satchel.

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.

The End

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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!

Until then,

Alexandria

Book Review: Night Night, Norman

Today, I get to share a delightful storybook that just released today, Night Night, Norman.

This is one worth picking up and enjoying with your family. You can read my full review below.

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Open up this enchanting storybook and take a stroll to Green Apple Barn, where a curious horse named Norman is about to set off on an adventure.

Norman’s whole world revolves around a little girl, Elle, who is his family and greatest friend.

She tenderly feeds and grooms him and always makes sure to reward Norman with his favorite treat: fresh, deliciously tart green apples.

But when their time together comes to an end each day, where does Ellie go?

Norman is determined to find out, and all sorts of shenanigans are sure to ensue when he does, from tumbling over furniture to uncovering the most delicious of treats in the kitchen.

But when all is said and done, will Norman succeed in finding Elle?

You’ll have to wait until night falls at Green Apple barn and see for yourself.

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Romi Caron, Night Night, Norman is a tale full of whimsy and fun that is sure to delight children and adults alike as they follow this most loveable of horses on his nighttime adventure.

And, if you’d like to create your own adventures for Norman, you can learn how to draw him at the back of the book!

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You can follow Marie Dimitrova on Instagram.

And be sure to head to Marie’s website to see photos of the real-life Norman who inspired this story and learn to create even more original horse artwork!

You can also connect with the illustrator, Romi Caron, on Facebook.

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Twelve

Welcome to the second to last installment of Chip’s adventures! This was one of my favorite installments to write! I hope you enjoy it.

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Abaline.

Chip gazed up at the curiously enchanting structure in the oak tree rising above them, finding himself unexpectedly reluctant to move forward now that they had finally arrived. He had been anticipating this moment for so long, and Chip wondered if what came of it would be all he had hoped for.

He longed for a purpose, but what if he didn’t have one?

He craved reassurance that his prayers were heard, but he feared discovering that just the opposite was true.

Perhaps, it was better to leave these stones unturned. After all, if he did, he never need fear disappointment.

He almost turned back.

But then, a sudden breeze blew past him, and Chip found that it was shaking loose all his fearful thoughts, casting them to the ground like so many fallen leaves.

The clearing around them was all deep green and golden splendor, but nothing compared to the oak tree itself. Light shimmered through the bark and across the sprawling branches and trees, as if gold filigree ran through root and limb.

Full of wonder, Chip ventured forward. Though he knew that he was already in a land that was utterly different from his home, this place felt like a world all its own.

Oh, let this be the place where I come closer to You.

The words came unbidden, seemingly of their own accord, yet Chip knew at once that they expressed the truest longing of his heart.

Come closer to me.

As the prayer left him, a golden light, high above in the wooden dwelling that nestled in the oak, caught Chip’s eye.

“I think we’re meant to go there,” Chip said softly.

“I do believe you’re right, Chip,” Alfeus replied.

Chip looked over at the chipmunk and was surprised to find that tears were filling his eyes. But, of course, Alfeus had always longed to see Abaline face to face and had long regretted missing the opportunity to do so with Leah. This moment meant just as much to Alfeus as it did to Chip.

All three together now, they moved forward, noticing for the first time the ladder that led up to Abaline’s home. Instantly, Chip was dismayed. He could never climb such a thing, and Abaline felt suddenly and horribly out of reach.

But then, “Over here, young Chip! Don’t despair.”

It was Beauregard, who had wandered over to the right and discovered a contraption altogether more unusual than the ladder. Alfeus looked on from his perch on the ladder, waiting with admirable patience for his friends to follow.

Chip hopped closer to the beaver, who might have looked the slightest bit pleased with himself for solving Chip’s dilemma. Nestled in the plush grass was a wooden bucket. Looped through its handle and disappearing into the tree’s branches was a thick rope, which Beauregard had already taken hold of.

“Hop in, my friend,” Beauregard said.

Chip did so, but then hurriedly called for the beaver to wait. “What about you, Beauregard?”

“Don’t trouble yourself about me, Chip.”

“But then you won’t meet Abaline!”

Beauregard leaned close. “Who’s to say I haven’t already,” he whispered, and then, with a smile and a wink, he took the rope in his mouth and hauled Chip up to the platform.

The height might have troubled Chip if he hadn’t been so captivated by the glimmering dragonflies and fireflies that swirled all about him, as if they were celebrating along with him that he had reached Abaline at last. Chip had never seen their like. They were the most radiant blues and greens he’d ever seen, and a trailing golden dust fell away beneath their twirling path.

But what waited above was more glorious still.

A sheltering canopy of leaves trailed down, filtering the light of the golden sun and leaving Chip with the sensation of having entered a hidden world.

Tangles of branches and cascading foliage left the structure Chip had seen from far below partially hidden, so that it was difficult to know where the oak ended and Abaline’s home began.

Chip hopped out of the bucket onto a sturdy wooden platform. Alfeus was standing at the open door, and Chip joined him. The chipmunk didn’t seem to register his friend’s arrival (or Beauregard’s absence), so fixed was his attention on the entrance and all that might wait within.

“I can’t believe we’re really here,” Alfeus whispered.

They looked at the entryway a moment more before Chip asked, “Shall we go in?”

The chipmunk nodded, took Chip’s paw in his own, and together, they entered.

There were many rooms within – many more than ought to have fit in a house so small – but they both instinctively knew where they were meant to go. It was a room at the heart of the house, and both Chip and Alfeus understood that inside, all the questions stirred up over the course of their journey would be answered and come to rest.

As they passed beneath the doorway, the pair were drawn in different directions. Alfeus wandered off to the left-hand side of the spacious room, while Chip’s attention was immediately arrested by the tawny owl observing him from her perch directly in front of him.

He knew her for who she was without giving it a moment’s thought.

Abaline.

But she was unlike any tawny owl Chip had ever seen.

She was unassuming in size, though she managed to be imposing nevertheless.

She gazed back at Chip with the most astonishing amber eyes he had ever seen, and he found himself dumbstruck in her presence.

“Hello, Chip.” She spoke, and her voice was smooth and kind.

Her feathers ruffled and flared as she left her perch behind, and Chip gasped as the light caught them. They were beautiful to begin with, with their amber and cream hues, but when the sunlight shimmered across them, their edges glinted brilliantly, as if someone had delicately edged them with gold.

Abaline rested before Chip, and, at last, words returned to him. “You know my name? Did you know I was coming?”

“I am forewarned of all who seek to find me, so that I might know whether to safeguard their coming or defend against it.”

Chip’s brow furrowed. “Why would you need to defend against someone finding you?”

“Many seek to destroy what I guard.”

This didn’t quite make sense to Chip, but he plowed ahead all the same and asked the questions he had stored up inside. “Please, I’ve come such a long way to find you, Abaline. Will you tell me what my purpose is? And if my prayers matter at all?”

She looked at him kindly. “Chip, the answers you’re looking for will never be found in me.”

“But that doesn’t make sense!” Chip cried, instantly distraught that his journey had been for nothing. “Everyone’s told me to come looking for you, and I have, and you just have to tell me what I’ve been wanting to know. You just have…”

But Chip trailed off and desperation brought his head low as he softly cried, “Please, help me.”

“Chip,” Alfeus shouted, fairly jumping up and down at the other end of the room. “Chip, come quickly now!”

Our young rabbit looked first to Abaline, who nodded her encouragement. “Go and see.”

And he did.

Standing before Alfeus was a low, wooden table, and on it, rested the most magnificent book Chip would ever have the pleasure of seeing.

The pages were filled with golden lettering, and the words were startlingly familiar, for they were his own. As both he and Alfeus watched, a rose petal fell – from no place, in particular – and came to rest on the open book.

Just as petal brushed paper, Chip’s plea, Please, help me, appeared in brilliant gold filigree on pages that seemed ancient and new at the same time.

And Chip knew, in the sudden way that understanding sometimes comes, that, at the same instant, a diamond had fallen in the underground, only to become the most pleasing aroma rising through the air.

Tears of joy flooded Chip’s eyes as he turned around. The room was full of Light, all rose-gold splendor and joy – and Abaline stood in the midst of its radiance, waiting.

“What is this?” Chip asked, and she knew what he meant.

Her brilliant eyes met his. “It is His book of remembrance.”

He looked back at the book one last time, closed his eyes, and whispered, “Thank You.”

A pair of rose leaves fell as the two friends turned away, for Alfeus’ prayer had echoed Chip’s own.

Abaline led them to the entry of her home, and they followed silently, still in awe of what they’d been given to see.

At the threshold, both Chip and Alfeus turned back to Abaline.

“Very few are given the chance to see this with their own eyes,” she said. “Be careful what you do with this gift.”

Both nodded, though they did not yet understand, and then Abaline was gone, returned to the inner room, where a truth worth treasuring lay.

Saying nothing, for silence seemed important just now, Alfeus returned down the ladder and Chip to the bucket. Before he knew it or could quite comprehend all he’d seen, Beauregard was lowering the bucket, and Chip was twirling down through golden light, back to Beauregard, the land of Almea, and home.

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Only one installment to go, friends! I can’t wait to share the conclusion of Chip’s adventure with you all.

Until then,

Alexandria

Book Review: The Crownless King

I have something truly special to share with you all today. The Crownless King is such a fantastic read, and I can’t recommend it enough. Check out my full review below!

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“None of us deserve life in the end, but life flows through us just the same….”

There is a battle within us all between shame and grace.

Can you feel it?

One clamors for our attention, for ownership of our thoughts, while the other invites us into new life and peace.

In The Crownless King, the fate of a kingdom and its people hinges on the outcome of this battle.

It rages in Milosh, a ruler with a crown that seems hopelessly tarnished by his father’s legacy. No one is more uncertain of his right to rule than Milosh himself, but perhaps, grace can reach him yet.

The battle is waged just as fiercely in a young woman, Sabriel, whose thoughts have not been entirely her own for some time, yet whose heart may prove true in the end.

But all is not lost, for neither fights alone. In the faithfulness of a few steadfast friends rests the hope that shame and regret will, at last, be silenced and redemption will have the final say.

Kara Linaburg has fearlessly crafted a story that boldly confronts one of the most difficult things to face: the battle within our own minds.

If you’re longing to hear the victory cry of redemption over your life, pick up The Crownless King.

You’ll find hope on every page.

(I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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You can purchase The Crownless King on Amazon, as well as the first book in the series, The Broken Prince.

Be sure to connect with Kara Linaburg on Instagram!

That’s all for the weekend, friends!

Until next week,

Alexandria

Book Review: Melody Finch

A secret awaits in the wilds of Australia for those curious enough to uncover it…

Melody Klomp travels the waters of the Coorong aboard her grandmother’s boat, The Isabella. Nana Bell is devoted to sharing the wonder of wildlife with everyone she encounters, and Melody is no exception.

With every mile they travel, Melody is swept up in the Coorong’s beauty and filled with love for its creatures, but particularly the birds. But Melody’s admiration of nature will not be enough to save the Coorong from the dangers that threaten it.

In the most impossible of ways, Melody is immersed in the animals’ world, finding herself transformed into a Diamond Firetail Finch, and she quickly realizes that it is up to her and a group of unlikely friends to warn Nana Bell and save the Coorong.

Equal parts entertaining and educational, Melody Finch is an adventure that readers of all ages will be glad they went on. Ian Boyd and Gary Luck have deftly crafted a story that reminds us that nature and all its wonders are depending on our admiration to express itself through action.

No act is too small, and Melody Finch is the story to remind us of that truth.

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You can join Melody on her adventures on October 9th.

Disclaimer: This book does contain a small amount of cursing, for those concerned.

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Eleven

Welcome to the eleventh installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves. Chip’s journey through the land of Almea is almost at and end. I hope that, just as Chip does, you enjoy every moment you spend there.

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He heard the sound of intent muttering and the echo of clinking glass just as he entered the unusual room, but it was the smell that had captivated Chip long before he found it. Never before had he encountered such a pleasing aroma, and he followed it eagerly to its source.

Briefly, Chip wondered if the smell might be like the false scent in the first cavern, which had nearly sent him and Alfeus down an even more dangerous path.

But no. That smell, while pleasant on the surface, had warned of rot beneath. What Chip was joyfully breathing in now was so purely fragrant that he instinctively trusted it would not lead him astray.

He had never supposed, however, that it would bring him to a sight unlike any he had ever seen. If Romulus hadn’t shared so much of the human world with him, Chip would not have had the words for what he was seeing.

An enormous funnel filled the far end of the room, and Chip watched in fascination as diamonds tumbled into it. Strangely, there was no clattering sound of jewel against metal. Chip would have found that odd if he’d had the time, but before he could blink, a fragrant dust poured out from the funnel, swirling into glittering clouds even as it began to shimmer and become liquid, before falling into a large glass bottle.

Just as it reached the bottle’s brim, the smell in the room – already incredible – became something even more wonderful, all fresh-blooming flowers and the warmth of rich spice.

Chip didn’t think he would ever be able to properly describe it, yet knew, in the same instant, that he would never forget it.

It was then that he noticed the other myriad bottles, of all shapes and sizes, covering the cavern floor. Some were empty, others full to the brim, but all reflected the brilliant light of the wonderful perfume they each contained, which seemed to produce a light of its own.

Chip leaned close to the nearest bottle, the curiosity of the liquid inside impossible to ignore. As he watched, the soft swirls of diamond dust rose and fell in the bottle, catching the light and reflecting it back to Chip’s wondering eyes.

After a few moments more of looking into the bottle, Chip turned away, hoping to learn something more by exploring the rest of the room.

He made his way through the many bottles, more than he could ever hope to count. Save for the soft splash of the mysterious perfume falling from the funnel, silence reigned in the room.

It was, of course, just as Chip thought to himself that the silence shouldn’t be disturbed that he bumped into the nearest bottle, sending a mighty clamor echoing through the cavern.

He froze, so still you’d have thought him a statue, and waited for someone – or something – to respond to the ruckus he’d caused.

Nothing happened.

Not even a whisper of movement reached Chip’s ears.

Nevertheless, he stayed where he was for what felt like the longest minutes of his life.

At last, when it seemed safe to assume that no one was coming, Chip began to weave his way through the maze of bottles once more. He travelled only a short distance before he came across a feather. It lay before him, plain for him to see, yet Chip could not fathom it.

What was a feather doing underground, he wondered.

Another one lay not far off, and Chip hopped towards it with great purpose, determined to solve at least one of the mysteries facing him today.

But the trail seemed to end at the second feather, which was in front of a very large bottle. Chip looked about from where he stood, but could catch no sight of a third.

Disappointed, he sighed, turned his attention to the bottle’s contents, and was horrified to find one enormous eye staring back at him.

With a great shout, Chip scrambled back, falling into a group of empty bottles and sending them clattering all over the cavern floor.

Over the noise, he heard a flustered voice cry, “Now, do be careful! You’re bound to break something!”

But Chip was so startled, he could not listen. Before he could comprehend what was happening or how to escape this new menace, he raced away, only to collide with the owner of the great eye. He looked up dazedly as two fresh feathers fell to the ground.

A large bird – a magpie, he believed – stood before Chip. After the disturbance he’d caused, he expected to find a gruff and decidedly disgruntled figure standing before him.

Instead, Chip was surprised to find nothing but tenderness, and, perhaps, a touch of sympathy, in the bird’s black eyes. Relief swept through him, and he stood up, though still a little tentatively.

“I’m afraid I gave you quite a fright,” said the bird. “As a Guardian, I can never be too careful. We get all sorts through the underground, and not all sorts are friendly. Now, for some proper introductions,” he continued. “I am called Oleander. What is your name, young one?”

“Chip,” he answered quietly, a bit in awe of the impressive figure before him.

“Quite right,” Oleander answered with a smile, gently brushing a wing tip against Chip’s left ear.

Without another word, Oleander began to lead the way through the cavern, and Chip followed expectantly, hoping that this new friend could help him on his way, and maybe even help him find his friends.

As they walked, Chip surreptitiously observed the large bird. Now that he looked more closely, he could see that the bird’s feathers were not only black and white, but were also covered in many shimmering shades of blue, which reflected the light in the cavern beautifully.

Briefly, Chip thought with a touch of trepidation that he was in the presence of a magpie, a bird that he had always been warned might attack him. It seemed unlikely that a bird of prey could be a gentle Guardian. But Chip supposed that it also seemed unlikely that a small creature like himself could take on a journey so great.

All things considered, Chip believed that Oleander was trustworthy, and so, he continued to follow him through the cavern.

But not, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, without asking a few questions.

“What are you doing underground, Oleander?”

“Whatever do you mean?” the magpie answered, looking quite confused.

“Well,” said Chip, wondering how best to phrase this, “you’re a bird. Shouldn’t you be living up above?”

Oleander gave him an appraising look, and then, apparently deciding that Chip was worthy of his confidence, continued. “Quite right. That is the usual way of things. But I was chosen for this Guardianship, and so, I call the underground my home. I do venture out from time to time, but there are no sights above that seem so fair to my eyes as these glittering caverns. More brilliant than stars,” he murmured, half to himself.

Still, Chip was confused. “But what exactly do you guard?”

Oleander only smiled and continued on. “What brings you here, Chip?”

Momentarily distracted by the question, Chip launched into his tale. “I lost my friends, Alfeus and Beauregard. A moth was leading us through the tunnels, but Alfeus got stuck, and when Beauregard tried to help him get loose, a great hole opened up and they fell. I was going to follow them, but the hole closed before I could, and everything went dark, and… I’m lost.”

Chip paused for a moment. “Have you seen them?” he asked hopefully.

A kindly smile warmed Oleander’s black eyes. “Never you mind about that. Alfeus and Beauregard will be along soon enough.”

“Then you know where they are? Can you take me to them?”

“One thing at a time, my friend,” Oleander said, chuckling. “You still haven’t answered my question. What brings you here?”

Chip frowned. “But I’ve just told you. I’m looking for my friends.”

At this, Oleander stopped and looked closely at Chip. “You and I both know that you’re looking for a great deal more than that.”

Realization dawned. “Oh. Yes. Abaline. You see –“

“Ah, ah,” Oleander interrupted. “I understand.”

He looked as if he meant to say something more, but then thought better of it.

They were at the opposite end of the cavern now, just past the last of the sparkling bottles. Chip could still smell the wondrous perfume. He was just opening his mouth to ask about the diamonds that seemed to produce it when a familiar sound reached his ears. It drifted towards Chip and Oleander from the tunnel just in front of them.

“It is decided, Beauregard! You are the most exasperating creature I will ever have the misfortune of knowing. ‘Follow your nose,’ indeed! How is that supposed to get us any closer to Chip?”

At that moment, the disgruntled chipmunk and his cheerful companion emerged from the tunnel.

Alfeus stopped short. “Chip!” he cried in shock.

Beauregard, to the chipmunk’s immediate annoyance, did not look the least bit surprised.

“You are an unapologetic show off,” Alfeus declared. Then, after a pause, “I’m sorry I doubted you.”

There was then much embracing as the friends celebrated being reunited. After a few minutes, though, Alfeus looked across the expansive cavern in wonder. “What on earth is this place?”

They all turned to Oleander, who only gestured to a tunnel that lay to their right. “There is no time to waste, my friends. Abaline is waiting.”

Without another word, the magpie led them partway down the tunnel before stopping. “Continue to follow this tunnel, and you will shortly be aboveground. No further surprises shall trouble you.”

Chip wanted to stall and keep talking to Oleander, but Alfeus and Beauregard were already moving, all too eager to leave the underground.

Oleander, seeing Chip’s hesitation, smiled and urged him on. “Farewell, young one. Safe travels on the end of your journey.”

And with that, he was gone, back to his bottles and diamonds and all the mystery they contained. Chip stood there for a moment, wondering.

There was so much he didn’t understand about the cavern below and all he had seen there. Briefly, he felt all his usual restless curiosity stir up. But then, all of a sudden, that sweetest of perfumes wafted over him, and he felt all his wonderings, for a time, rest.

There really was so much he didn’t understand.

Perhaps, he wasn’t meant to just yet.

*

Installment Twelve will be available next week, friends!

Until then,

Alexandria

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Ten

Writing this installment was one of my greatest joys. I hope you enjoy it!

*

Chip was dreaming.

He was in a dark place, deep within the earth. All the shadows in the world seemed intent on suffocating him. He looked around, anxiously trying to catch sight of Alfeus or Beauregard, but the darkness was all-encompassing.

Chip shivered from the damp and the cold, shivered from how very alone he felt.

But then, a clink sounded behind him, the twinge in his left ear faded away, and Chip turned.

Barely a foot away, a diamond was laying on the cool rock, shimmering as if in defiance of the dark.

Chip huddled close to the jewel, comforted by its cool light, but no sooner had he nestled against it than the light began to fade.

The twinge in his left ear returned in full force as his paws scrambled clumsily to keep hold of the diamond. So frantic were his movements, though, that the now dimly glowing jewel skittered across the rock floor.

Its light much too faint by now to allow the rabbit to find it once again, Chip just sat there, watching the diamond’s radiance succumb to the dark, never thinking to simply ask the light to stay.

*

He woke with a start, unsettled and discouraged by the dream. Chip saw no reason to dampen the others’ spirits, though, so he kept the dream to himself.

They had stopped to rest underground, Chip and Alfeus feeling spent after their many adventures, and Beauregard always agreeable to a nap. The moth rested nearby, but Chip could see its pale wings fluttering softly, as if it were eager for them to be on their way.

Much like the underground path they had visited not long ago, the walls of this tunnel were encrusted with jewels of various kinds, though not as many as he’d found in the fire lizards’ dwelling.

He shuddered, hoping that none of the lizards’ tunnels connected to this one. Ready for adventure as he was, Chip wasn’t sure he could bear another encounter with the fiery creatures.

Shaking loose any lingering thoughts of the lizards, the young rabbit returned to looking around the tunnel, and he wondered again at the presence of the jewels.

What were they doing here?

But a loud snort from the waking Beauregard woke Alfeus with a start, sent the moth flying, and put a stop to all Chip’s wonderings.

Distracted by the excitement of continuing on their way to Abaline, the many jewels became, for the time being, nothing more than brilliant sparks of light in the darkness.

But I believe, and I think you do, too, that they’re something a little bit more.

*

It wasn’t long before matters took an unexpected turn. The further the small group of adventurers travelled, the more they realized that this part of the underground was quite unlike any other.

Near the underground river, it had been abundantly clear that the fire lizards ruled; no other creatures dared to make their homes in those tunnels and caves.

Here, however, just the opposite was true. Small glow worms made their meandering way across the rocks in search of cool earth to sink into. Toads hopped along the slick stone paths, seemingly oblivious to Chip and his companions, before disappearing beneath lily pads that covered the small pools they called home.

Fluttering about Chip’s ears almost playfully were insects with the most intricately designed wings he had ever seen. They moved so swiftly, though, that after only the one clear sight of them, they seemed to disappear, and the only thing that betrayed their graceful flight was the pale luminescence of their wings.

Chip breathed in and out slowly, savoring the richness of the air. Moss and lichen covered the ground until only small patches of bare rock could be seen, and it gave the tunnel an earthy smell that Chip loved.

He looked all around in wonder as countless creatures hopped and flew past jewel-encrusted walls, water softly splashed, and the tunnel filled with the sounds and smells of it all. This felt like a wonderfully secret place, and our small rabbit friend felt entirely content to remain there.

They all remained quiet through this part of their journey, unwilling to interrupt the peacefulness of this place.

That is, of course, until Alfeus’ paw became hopelessly stuck in a thick patch of moss.

“Now, now, Alfy, stay still,” Beauregard said.

The chipmunk gave him a long-suffering look. “There is nothing but mud beneath my foot. If I stay still, Beauregard, I shall sink into the mire and be lost forever.”

Chip chuckled, earning himself a withering stare.

“You always did have a touch of the dramatic in you, Alfeus,” the beaver replied with a fond look that was not returned. “Now, stay still and hand me your paw.”

“Do you listen to yourself?” was the exasperated answer. “How one is supposed to stay still and move at the same time, I would very much like to know!”

All the same, Alfeus held out his paw.

It seemed to all that the amusing incident would end right there, until, when Beauregard gave Alfeus’ paw a good tug, the chipmunk did not budge.

A hint of panic crept into Alfeus’ voice. “Put a little more effort into it, Beauregard! I do not wish to become a part of the scenery.”

“I’m sure one more tug ought to do it, Alfy, never you fear.”

Alas, one more tug did not do it, and before Alfeus could protest (as he surely would have), Beauregard wrapped him in a giant bear hug. With a great heave, the beaver tried to free his friend. Just as he did, though, an ominous rumble filled the tunnel, and as all the small creatures nearby scurried away, the ground beneath them crumbled, and Beauregard and Alfeus disappeared from sight.

“Alfeus! Beauregard!” Chip cried, truly frightened now. Quick as he could, he hopped to the edge of the gaping hole his friends had fallen into.

He was just about to jump in after them, heedless of the danger, when the great rumble filled the space once more and the rock shifted back into place. In seconds, the tunnel’s floor was whole once more and the moss was creeping back over the rock, as if the giant hole had never been.

Chip stared in disbelief, unwilling to believe that his friends were gone and the most obvious path back to them was barred. But just then, a deep boom set the tunnel shaking and rocks clattering.

Chip didn’t think.

He just ran, heedless of the direction he took through the branching tunnels and the sudden darkness surrounding him.

When next he stopped, heart racing, body shaking, Chip knew he was lost. Still, he was poised to flee at the slightest sound, and when it came, he bolted.

Down the nearest tunnel he flew, never considering the dank, musty smell stealing away the good, clean air.

Looming shapes rose suddenly all around him. Chip gasped in surprise, veering away from one only to nearly collide with another.

Whichever way he turned, it made no difference. He was hemmed in on all sides, and, at long last, Chip stopped short, heart pounding more powerfully than he had thought it capable of.

Thick darkness still surrounded him. So frightened he could hardly move, Chip curled himself into a ball. He closed his eyes, his whole body aching for fear and the longing to not be alone.

A few moments passed before Chip noticed the light.

Tentatively, he opened his eyes and saw that, though still a good distance off, something was illuminating the tunnel. He rose slowly. Fear still clamored for his attention, but the rabbit felt its hold shaking loose. He could see now the strange, looming forms that had frightened him so.

Countless toadstools of all shapes, sizes, and varieties filled the tunnel. Chip stared up in awe at the tangled forest surrounding him, some of the toadstools rising close to the tunnel’s ceiling, others remaining near to the ground, but all of them impossibly vibrant.

He was as entranced by this underground wonder as he had been by the vivid wildflowers in the forest clearing. This, however, was a sight all its own. Whether it was deepest green, richest purple, or impossibly bold red, color was everywhere, and all the while, the light led him on, lending a brilliance to everything it touched.

Yet, when he reached its source, it wasn’t at all what Chip expected.

A solitary diamond lay on the rock just as it had in his dream, only this time, there was no sign of the light fading. The jewel lay at the entrance of a new tunnel, which branched to the left and down. If it led deeper underground, Chip thought, perhaps he would find Alfeus and Beauregard. He could see specks of light further down the path, and he suspected that they came from more jewels.

With no further hesitation, Chip continued on, no longer afraid, for, though he had not consciously thought it, some piece of him understood that when fear had kept him from speaking, his desperate need had been a prayer, and it had been heard.

*

Until next time,

Alexandria

Book Review: The Crowns of Croswald

I’m really delighted to share this wonderful story with you, The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night.

Read my full review below!

*

Ivy Lovely is just another scaldrony maid, unknown to all except the unkind Helga and her one beloved friend, the dwarf Rimbrick.

But all her anonymity is about to be swept away.

A world of Scrivenists and Royals awaits, of magical training, and mysteries untold. But dangerous enemies are lurking, and it remains to be seen whether Ivy Lovely, with the help of a few enduring friends, is up to the task of facing them.

D.E. Night has successfully woven an enchanting tale full of magical wonders and excitement. The world-building is rich and the descriptions of Croswald and its residents so vivid that readers will feel as if they’ve been swept into a glenagerie bottle, a world of pure and vivid imagination, right along with Ivy and her friends.

The world of Croswald is unlike any other, and there is no doubt that all who pick up this book will find themselves better off for having visited it.

*

If you’d like to connect with D.E. Night, you can do so on Goodreads. The Crowns of Croswald is available at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

The next installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves is coming soon. We’re nearing the end of Chip’s adventures, and I’m so excited to share their conclusion over the next few weeks!

Until then,

Alexandria

Do You Suppose She’s A Wildflower?

See that gorgeous bloom right there? It’s called a Balloon flower, and boy, am I glad that they come up every year.

A real fascination with flowers has been growing in me. This year, I wanted to watch one of these beauties bloom.

The pictures don’t do it justice. These buds are such a deep purple, and their color gets more vibrant and intense the closer they are to blooming.

Early one morning, I ventured outside and crouched down to wait.

It took some time for the petals to open.

In other circumstances, impatience would have gotten the better of me, but on that particular morning, I was captivated.

I sat there with a silly grin on my face, completely delighted to witness the slow bloom of this flower. The petals were about halfway open when His whisper came: I am captivated by watching you grow.

It changed the whole moment.

I am captivated by watching you grow.

I was so entranced by this flower blooming, but my momentary delight is nothing compared to the steadfast joy God feels as He watches every one of His children become more fully who they’re meant to be in Christ.

Let this truth soak in.

You’re a wildflower, girl.

And you have a Father in Heaven Who is delighting – spilling over with JOY – to watch you bloom.

I’m praying that you feel so held and adored today.

And would you please pray for me? I have some exciting ideas for how 21:25 Books can grow, but I want to make sure I only follow where God leads. Thank you!

Until next time,

Alexandria

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Nine

It’s been a little while, friends! I’m excited to get back in the swing of things, sharing stories and bookish love with you all.

Without further ado, here is the next installment of our favorite rabbit’s adventures!

*

“I might have known!”

“Now, Alfy,” Beauregard said, sidling as close as he dared to the chipmunk, “don’t be like that. You know I never meant to lose your hazelnuts, and I certainly never meant for you to be near drowned in an underground river. Why, I didn’t even know you’d be there!”

Of course, you already know, reader, that the only word Alfeus really heard was hazelnuts.

“Of course not!” he cried. “You never mean anything, and yet it happens! Chaos ensues! Whole stores of hazelnuts lost! All because of those rascally, conniving, miscreant rabbits of yours! And you, Beauregard Beaver, do nothing but encourage them!”

“Now, Alfy,” Beauregard protested once more. “Conniving seems a bit severe. Mischievous, perhaps. And as for that particular mishap, it was awfully funny,” the beaver concluded with a barely concealed laugh.

Alfeus’ paws clenched tightly at his sides as if he were willing the steam to stay firmly between his ears.

Chip, unable to help himself, giggled and asked, “What happened, Beauregard?”

The beaver had hoped a certain inquisitive rabbit might ask, and swift as a river, he launched into the tale. “Well, you see, it was like this –“

“Not another word, Beauregard!” Alfeus declared.

Beauregard smiled, giving Chip a conspiratorial wink. “If you insist, Alfeus. But looky here! I see I’m not the only one who’s taken up with rabbits.”

Alfeus huffed. “Chip is nothing like those ruffians, thank you!”

 Chip interjected before more bickering could ensue. “I’m on a quest,” he blurted, feeling just a bit silly for how grand he made it sound.

But Beauregard didn’t blink an eye. “A quest!” he boomed. “Tell me more, Chip!”

“Well,” Chip continued, feeling suddenly shy, “I prayed for something a while ago, and now I keep wondering if the questions we ask and the prayers we say really matter to Him at all.”

Beauregard’s eyes fairly sparkled at Chip’s words. “You’re looking for Abaline, I take it?”

“Yes!” Chip cried, wondering how Beauregard had known. “Alfeus said we must go behind the waterfall and through the cavern, but when we tried, well… I mean no offense, but your friends brought a dragon –“

“The Cerulean Drake, no less!” Alfeus pointed out.

“Yes,” Chip continued, “and her fire woke the most enormous lizard I’ve ever seen, and you rescued us, and, well… we lost our way.”

As he shared this, Chip couldn’t help but feel discouraged by the unexpected, albeit adventurous, turn of events, but Beauregard only chuckled.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, my boy, but you never found your way to begin with!”

“Never found it? What do you mean?”

“Well, if you ever hope to find Abaline, you have to take the back entrance, of course.”

“The back entrance?” Alfeus sputtered in disbelief. “Do explain yourself, you exasperating creature!”

Beauregard’s eyes twinkled in such a way that made Chip quite certain that teasing Alfeus was one of the beaver’s greatest delights. Still, he did agree to explain himself. “Try as you might, careful as you are, if you go in the front entrance, you’re bound to disturb the lizards. Whereas the back entrance avoids them altogether!”

Beauregard beamed at his flabbergasted companions. “Shall I show you the way?”

Shocked and silent, both Chip and Alfeus followed the beaver as he moseyed down the riverbank, each of them trying equally hard not to think about the underwater debacle they could have avoided if only they’d known. Alfeus was, perhaps, a bit more prickly about the whole affair, seeing as he had been so utterly confident of the way to Abaline.

Beauregard’s cheerful conversation soon distracted them from all their bemoaning and befuddlement, however, and they began to really enjoy the sunshine and breeze, and yes, even the rushing of the river to their left.

“You see,” the beaver was saying, “living by the water gives me plenty of opportunity to become acquainted with all manner of adventurers and the like. More often than not, those in search of Abaline know no better than to take the waterfall path, and they soon end up in the same state as you.

“So, I’ve taken to making my way up and down the river – a bit like a proper Guardian, you might say – so I can help any unfortunates who end up on the unfriendly side of the Obsidian Lizard. When I heard what the young rabbits were up to plotting, I decided it might be the perfect time to be close by.

“Of course, I was only expecting them, but that Frederick made sure to tell me more were on the way. I shudder to think what might have happened if a certain beaver hadn’t been there to pull two forlorn, fellow creatures out of the river,” Beauregard said wistfully, casting a sidelong glance at Alfeus, who did not fail to notice.

“Yes, yes, I’m sure we’re very grateful!”

“I’m very glad to hear that, Alfy. And what with all this gratitude we’re all feeling, it only seems right that you might forgive me for all those lost hazelnuts.”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake. Yes, Beauregard, all is forgiven. Are we nearly there?”

“Not much farther now,” the beaver answered, looking decidedly chipper.

“Well, before we get there, I’d like to know more about those four rabbits and that dragon,” Chip said.

“Ah, yes, the Cerulean Drake,” Beauregard said in very sage tones. “She’s usually much friendlier, but she’s just laid her eggs, you see, and she’s fiercely protective of her babes, especially at this early stage.”

“Don’t tell me they went near the grotto!” Alfeus fairly squeaked.

Even Beauregard, supportive as he was of the rabbits’ mischief, looked a bit abashed at this. “I’m afraid so.”

Seeing Chip’s look of admiring wonderment, though, the beaver instantly brightened. “They meant the babies no harm, you understand! They only wanted a look at the eggs. Sightings of a Cerulean Drake’s eggs are precious and rare. Only the very brave and determined can find them, and if there’s anything that those four rabbits are – Roger, Roderick, Eloise, and Fred are their names – it’s brave and determined.”

“Wow,” was all Chip could manage, and though the rabbits’ adventure had certainly affected his own, he couldn’t help but be a bit in awe of them.

Alfeus caught the look and pleaded, “Now, please, Chip, don’t go getting any ideas.”

“Seeing as he’s gotten this far, Alfy, I’d guess that our friend Chip has already had plenty of ideas. And he’ll need a few more if he’s to make it to Abaline. And speaking of!”

At this, the beaver gestured forward where a dark tunnel entrance could just barely be seen beneath a mass of trailing vines and leaves, some a rich green, some deepest purple. And resting ever so gently on these leafy tangles were perhaps two dozen moths, all nectar and peach and beige in hue.

As the companions came closer, the moths all began to stir and flutter about.

In moments, one moth in particular was flying carefully before each of them.

“Now, no sudden movements, mind,” Beauregard said. “This moth will lead us on our way, but they only help the very gentle at heart. Don’t trouble yourself too much, Alfy,” the beaver continued as the moth came to rest on the chipmunk’s nose. “I’m sure they’ll make an exception just this once.”

It was all Alfeus could do to keep still while the moth judged his merit.

You’ll be proud to know that he chose to ignore that particular comment.

Apparently satisfied, the small, winged creature flew towards the tunnel entrance, slipping behind the vines. Quickly now, before they lost their guide, Chip, Alfeus, and Beauregard followed, braving the underground once more.

*

Any guesses on what waits in the underground?

And if you’d like to read past installments, just click here.

Until next time,

Alexandria