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

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 Six

For those with adventurous hearts, here is the next installment of Chip’s story.

*

Both Chip and Alfeus froze, frantically thinking what to do.

There was no cover nearby, save for the tall grass next to them, which now housed an ominous silence.

Suddenly, a huge form exploded from the grass, all fire and speed, and Chip bolted without another thought. He traveled fast, for his powerful hind feet could carry him far, but Chip soon noticed in horror that Alfeus was not with him.

He turned sharply about and was stunned to find Alfeus boldly confronting an adolescent fox.

Chip’s thoughts were a scrambled mess. The vicious attack was coming, and how could he stop it? The fox was almost upon his friend.

And then a commanding paw rose high in the air, and Alfeus’ voice rang out. “Wilfred, stop!”

To Chip’s astonishment, the fox reared back, sliding a bit in his attempt to stop.

Alfeus wasted not a moment. “Wilfred Fox, you hasty thing! You might try making certain it’s not a friend you’re about to clamp your jaws onto!”

Wilfred hung his head, managing to look mildly sheepish. “Sorry, Alfy.”

“Hmmph! You most certainly are not. Impetuous young whippersnapper,” Alfeus muttered as he turned sharply about, his fur nearly standing on end from agitation.

“Follow me, Wilfred! You might as well be useful,” Alfeus shouted over his shoulder before stopping in front of Chip, who still hadn’t moved. “Are you going to stand there frozen in stupefaction or are you coming?”

The frazzled chipmunk did not wait for a reply, but rather marched on toward some undisclosed destination.

The fox trotted up beside Chip as they both moved to follow Alfeus. You’ll forgive our rabbit friend for casting an uncertain glance at Wilfred, noticing, in particular, as he did so the glint of his small, sharp teeth.

Wilfred caught the look. “I’m Wilfred,” he said, clearly taking great pride in the declaration.

“Chip,” the rabbit whispered.

Wilfred laughed, much to Chip’s embarrassment. “You’re in no danger now that I know you’re a friend.”

Chip wasn’t altogether sure he was comforted by that reassurance, but they continued on side-by-side all the same.

It was not long before the sound of rushing water met Chip’s ears, and he was soon confronted by a river more vast than any he’d ever before seen. Though a tremor of fear swept through him, his eyes lit up, for he guessed where the next part of their journey must take them.

“We have to cross it, don’t we?” Chip asked.

Alfeus, still smarting from Wilfred’s bit of mischief, offered Chip a less than comforting grin. “We’ll see how eager you are when you learn our mode of transportation.”

Chip frowned, looking at Wilfred, who said, “My jaws,” as nonchalantly as if he were telling Chip the time.

At first, the rabbit’s eyes widened, but Chip forced himself to remain calm. They were expecting him to be frightened, weren’t they? And, after all, he had wanted this adventure. He had best enjoy it, scares and all.

“I’ll do it,” Chip declared in the next breath. “But you could go first, Alfeus,” he added quickly. “Elders and all.”

The chipmunk’s eyes widened as Wilfred choked back a poorly disguised laugh. “Elders, is it? Hmmph! A good dunk would serve you both right,” he muttered before running a ways down the riverbank, in search of something.

A moment later, he found it. “The stepping stones are over here,” Alfeus called. “Let’s get this over with, Wilfred.”

Together, the fox and the rabbit hurried to Alfeus’ side, where Chip realized that what the chipmunk referred to as stepping stones were more like small boulders.

They seemed awfully large, and the gap between them awfully wide for a smallish fox to make it to the river’s opposite side.

Wilfred caught his doubtful expression. “Don’t worry, rabbit,” he said, “I’ve done this loads of times.”

And with that, he gingerly picked Alfeus up in his mouth, and they were off. The sight of the rushing current made Chip feel a little sick as he watched Wilfred perch precariously on each boulder before taking a flying leap to the next. It seemed impossible that he should manage it all so nimbly, but the pair made it to the far shore without incident.

Chip breathed a sigh of relief until Wilfred began making his way back, and the rabbit remembered it was his turn.

“Ready, rabbit?” Wilfred asked with a cheeky grin once he returned.

“I’m ready,” Chip replied.

The fox picked Chip up slowly and gently, but Chip still had to fight every instinct he had to struggle and flee and find a sheltered place to hide.

But he knew he must be still if he ever hoped to reach Abaline and find an answer, so he took a deep breath, making sure to keep his eyes wide open as Wilfred leapt for the first boulder.

In that first instant, Chip truly understood the risk that Wilfred was taking by carrying them across. The rocks were slick from the river water and moss.

The fox steadied himself carefully on the first rock, and finding purchase, jumped to the next. So it went for the next few boulders, and Chip felt he could breathe easier now. There were not so many rocks left now. Alfeus was getting closer all the time, and soon –

The water engulfed him, and it was like swimming through ice. He could not think or breathe, and then – smack! – Chip’s small frame collided with cold stone, and his thoughts were all a jumble like the chaotic water.

What of Mama and Papa? What about Abaline? What of all his prayers and longings now?

And then something other than the cold took hold, and he was being pulled from the water, and there was light and grass and the hot sun to warm his slick fur.

He lay on the riverbank panting, unable to speak for the moment. Wilfred was lying beside him, equally bedraggled and battered. Chip looked about for Alfeus from where he lay, but awareness was slow to come back, and it was a few more minutes until he realized that the chipmunk had been frantically hovering and muttering over them all this time.

“Of all the fool things for me to say! ‘A good dunk would serve you right!’ I never meant it! But see here, you fool chipmunk, of what comes of being hasty with your words.”

“Alfeus,” Chip said softly. “It’s all right. I’m all right.” His breath was slowly coming back to him even as the overjoyed chipmunk wrapped him in a tight hug.

Laughing softly, Chip rose gingerly to his feet, Wilfred having sprung up a moment before, the fox’s spirit not at all dampened by their unexpected dive into the frigid river.

Already, the sun was beginning to dry their fur, and Wilfred’s playfulness was fast returning. A magnificently mauve butterfly swooped past the fox’s snout, and Wilfred snapped at it before setting off in chase.

“Fierce as they come, but he gets distracted by a butterfly,” Alfeus said with a shake of his head and a kindly laugh. “You’ll never meet another like him,” the chipmunk concluded, looking at Chip.

But Chip was not paying attention. Instead, he was searching all about him in a frightful panic. “I’ve lost it!” he cried.

“Lost what?” Alfeus replied. “Whatever’s gotten into you?”

“Leah’s satchel, it’s gone! Maybe it got caught on one of the rocks. Wilfred could take me back to look. Wilfred!”

“Now, wait just a minute!” Alfeus commanded, deciding he had had quite enough of that kind of talk. “Crossing the river on his own will be easy enough for Wilfred, but carrying you twice more is far too risky. I won’t have it! If you’re meant to have the satchel, you’ll find it along the way.”

Our young rabbit friend so wanted to argue. Some of Leah’s most interesting finds had been secreted in that satchel. But as Chip looked at Wilfred pouncing about in the sun, he knew he could not risk the well-being of his unlikely friend.

Seeing that his point had been made, Alfeus clapped his paws together decisively. “Let’s carry on then.”

Hopping across the wide stretch of grass, Alfeus and Chip both caught up with Wilfred, who was still caught up in his antics. “You’d best be making your way home, Wilfred.”

“You’re not coming with us?” Chip said, his heart sinking. He’d grown very fond of the fox and all his mischief.

“I can’t. My dad will be mad as it is that I crossed the river alone. I’ve got to make it home before supper.”

“I hope it’s not chipmunk,” Alfeus muttered, crossing his furry arms.

Wilfred nudged Alfeus playfully before bounding around Chip and back towards the river bank, “It was nice meeting you, Chip!” he called over his shoulder. “I never knew rabbits could be so adventurous. See you, Alfy!”

With a swish of his bushy tail and a few leaps and bounds, Wilfred was across the river and out of sight.

I’m afraid it will be a long while until we see him again.

~

Without a further word, Alfeus began leading the way upriver.

Now that the excitement had died down, Chip’s mind was overflowing with questions. “Alfeus, where are we heading now? I’m thankful that scare in the river turned out all right. But I’ve been thinking. Those boulders are awfully big to be called stepping stones. Why are they called that? Were they always there? Who –“

Alfeus, astonished – as all who meet Chip are – by the racing current of his curiosity, managed to get a word (or several) in. “The stones were Leah’s doing, if you can believe it,” he said.

“Oh, I can,” Chip declared, thinking back on all the stories Romulus had told him about his aunt and all her many escapades.

“This forest used to be horribly divided, and it seemed nothing could bring the two sides together. But that Leah, she was an unexpected instrument of healing for this place, and with her help, there was reconciliation long after the inhabitants of Almea had lost hope for it.

“Afterwards, the great bears of the North rolled these boulders down to the river to create safe passage.” Here Alfeus paused, glancing sidelong at Chip with a grin. “Or, at least, relatively safe passage.

“All the same, the rocks are meant to honor the healing of The Great Divide, as we call it, and to help us remember that no matter the disagreements that might come, hoping for peace is never a childish thing.”

Chip was silent for a moment, warmth spreading all through him. “I like this place, Alfeus.”

Smiling, the chipmunk replied, “Almea’s got a certain something of her own, hasn’t she?”

Chip couldn’t have agreed more wholeheartedly, and I think that by the end, dear reader, you will, too.

It was not long after when they reached the base of a roaring waterfall, and Alfeus gestured grandly in its direction. “Here we are, Chip! Just beyond this waterfall lies the rest of our path.”

“Not more water,” Chip groaned.

Alfeus began tapping his foot. “It will only last a moment. Do you want to find Abaline or not?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, then through the waterfall and into the cavern we go,” Alfeus retorted and turned to do just that.

“A cavern?” Chip asked, his ears perking up.

“Yes, a cavern,” Alfeus answered, but he refused to explain further.

Suddenly, Chip wrinkled up his nose in consternation. “But wait. If the cavern is behind the waterfall, why did we have to cross the river in the first place? Couldn’t we have just gone in on the other side?”

Alfeus turned to face him in utter exasperation. “You are an altogether incurably curious creature, has anyone ever told you that? Don’t bother, I already know the answer!” On a roll now, the chipmunk continued. “Do you expect me to know all the inner workings of this place? All I know is that if you try to go in on the right side, there is no cavern to be seen. So yes, we most certainly did have to cross the river. Though why I had to lose every last one of my beautiful hazelnuts in the bargain, I’ll never know,” he concluded with a longing sigh.

Chip was silent then, feeling guilty, for in the aftermath of the river, he had quite forgotten that Alfeus had stored his hazelnuts in his satchel. Chip hoped that before their adventure was done, he could make it up to Alfeus.

For now, though, he had to focus on following the chipmunk, who was already through the curtain of water. Chip hurriedly followed suit, ready to apologize as soon as he rejoined the chipmunk, but the words were forgotten as soon as he shook off the water and looked around.

The whole cavern was alight with the brilliant glow from a thousand glittering gems and stones, which were encrusted in the walls. It was a place of wonders such as Chip had never seen.

After a moment of silent wonderment, Chip returned to himself. “I’m sorry about your hazelnuts, Alfeus.”

“Never you mind about that, Chip. There are more where those came from.”

He seemed about to continue forward, but then he paused and looked at the rabbit. “You told me that you asked Him something and haven’t heard back. What were you wanting to know?”

Chip seemed a little bashful, but he confided in Alfeus nevertheless. “I asked Him what my purpose is.”

The chipmunk nodded in kindly approval. “Not a bad question at all, Chip,” he said quietly. “Not a bad question at all.”

But my question for you, reader, is can you guess what it is?

*

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Five

And I’m back with a bite-size installment of Chip’s adventures! Enjoy!

*

A thousand new smells greeted Chip, and he was overwhelmed and delighted by every one of them. He felt drawn in so many directions that he could hardly decide which to explore first. A sharp, tangy smell led him to the right, but no sooner had he discovered the deep orange and raspberry colored flower that produced it than a whiff of something delicate and soft sent him bounding in the opposite direction.

Chip went from the deepest, coolest shade of impossibly large trees only to emerge into blazing sunlight that warmed him all through.

Nothing about this place was less than glorious, and he wanted to see every inch of it.

He had just come to rest beneath a hazel tree when something small and hard landed on his head. Gingerly rubbing his paw against the spot, Chip looked up only just in time to duck out of the way.

Nearly a dozen hazelnuts came tumbling to the earth, and an outraged chattering followed them. A small, furry head popped out from behind a leafy bough, and the chipmunk’s eyes went wide with suspicion.

“Don’t you think for even a moment about commandeering my hazelnuts! I worked all day for those, and I won’t have some upstart, whiskered fiend take what’s mine! I’ll have you know –.”

The chipmunk, mercifully, stopped mid-tirade to squint down at Chip.

Before Chip could decide how to respond to being called an upstart, whiskered fiend, the chipmunk was down the tree trunk and sniffing his satchel quite carefully.

The chipmunk’s ears perked up when he saw the initials, “L.T.,” on the side, and he looked up at Chip, his eyes bright with barely contained curiosity. “This here satchel used to be mine. I gave it to a fearsome badger who rescued me when I found myself at the end of a fox’s snout. And there isn’t an unfriendlier place to be.”

The chipmunk paused, catching sight of the rabbit’s chipped ear. Without any invitation, he scampered up Chip’s back as if he were just another tree to climb. “Seems as though you’ve met with some danger yourself.”

Chip tried to disguise his aggravation with only mild success. “No, I was born with it.”

“Hmm,” was all the chipmunk offered for comment before hopping down, oblivious to the annoyance he’d caused.

“Did you know her?” he asked.

“Know who?”

“The badger!” the chipmunk said in a tone that suggested Chip really ought to have known.

“I know her nephew, Romulus Took. He gave the satchel to me.”

The chipmunk regarded Chip silently for a few moments, and then, apparently making up his mind, held out his paw. “Name’s Alfeus, and I count as friend anyone who’s on good terms with Leah’s family.”

“My name’s Chip.”

“What brings you to Almea, Chip?” Alfeus asked as he began gathering his hazelnuts once more.

Before answering, Chip opened his satchel, gesturing for Alfeus to store his hazelnuts inside. Alfeus gratefully accepted. Then, “I’m looking for Abaline,” Chip explained.

Alfeus stopped suddenly, then grinned. “Now, that’s just what Leah said. I suppose I’ll have to help you like I helped her.”

Chip smiled, grateful that his first discovery in this strange place had been a friend.

~

The pair were walking beneath some low-hanging boughs when Alfeus decided it was his prerogative as Chip’s traveling companion to know details of the rabbit’s business. “Why do you care to find Abaline, if I may ask? This treasure she guards must be a mighty thing to you if you’re willing to travel all this way.”

Chip hesitated to share at first. But if Alfeus was a willing friend, then why not? “Well, I asked God something a while ago now, and I haven’t heard anything back. So, I’m wondering if my prayers really matter to Him at all.”

Alfeus remained uncharacteristically silent.

Chip waited as long as he could (a whole minute, in fact), but then he could hold back no longer. “Have you ever wondered anything like that, Alfeus?”

“Yes, I have.”

Another unbearable pause.

“And?”

Alfeus stubbornly looked ahead, but Chip could see the beginning of a smile. “And you’ll just have to see for yourself.”

An answer and not an answer, Chip thought to himself, and he felt rather tired of those. But just as he opened his mouth to say so, Alfeus unceremoniously clapped a paw over Chip’s whiskered muzzle.

The young rabbit heard it then, too.

A rustle in the grass.

Could it be an innocent passerby? Chip wondered hopefully.

But then dead silence fell, as if something were waiting for them to believe just that, and for a moment, before chaos erupted, the little rabbit felt the greatest longing for home.

*

What do you think is lying in wait for Chip and Alfeus? We’ll find out next week 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria