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Installment Twelve of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Sometimes, it takes the words of family and friends to remind us of what wonder truly is.

For Penelope Grace, it’s taken the child-like faith of a beloved uncle, the patience of a wolf led by grace and the Wind, and the fierceness of a bold arctic fox.

When you’ve finished this winter tale of wonder, find the people who remind you of what wonder is and thank them.

They are more precious than we’ll ever know.

Thank you, Penelope Grace/Mom. I am so humbled that I get to be your daughter. Without your devotion to God and your fearless sense of child-like wonder, I wouldn’t have been able to write this story. I love you.

And to everyone who has come along on this winter adventure, thank you so very much. Sharing this story with you means more than I can say. I hope you’ve delighted in it as much as I have!

If you’d like a manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, click here.

Through midnight tonight, everyone who purchases a copy will be entered to win an art print of one illustration from the story!

You can also subscribe below to receive digital installments.

Either way, I hope this story fills you with a sense of awe and wonder for our great King.

Living in wonder with you,

Alexandria

Join the Fight for Wonder

Subscribe below to read digital installments of the story. When you subscribe, you will have access to all past installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, as well as access to all future digital book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber.

Next week, there will be an announcement for something new from 21:25 Books 🙂 Can you guess what it is?

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An Excerpt from the Final Installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

The final excerpt from Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel is here, and the last stand against all that seeks to destroy wonder is about to take place.

Are you ready for one last adventure?

Then read on.

*

The next two days passed by in a haze of preparation for others and confusion for Penelope Grace. Please do not misunderstand me, reader; Penelope helped where she could, refusing to sit idle because of her fear of the coming confrontation, but fear it she did.

All others in the camp seemed so assured to her eyes, so confident that they would meet their foes head-on, no matter the cost to themselves. And Penelope fully intended to join them in their efforts.

She thought not at all of turning back, only of failing.

As the hours passed, she became more and more convinced of her own inability to face Denagon and emerge victoriously. She was too weak, too inexperienced, too young. How could they ask this of her and expect any other outcome but defeat?

Denagon’s power was too immense in comparison to her little strength, and whatever Apricity she carried, Penelope dared not believe that it was enough.

Even as she served alongside others, her thoughts swirled around this doubtful center, and her fear grew, and her faith dwindled.

Aira noticed the change in her but chose to wait still, knowing that it was something Penelope would have to understand in her own time. Tilly, likewise, noticed the girl’s darkening mood and decided that enough was enough.

She plopped down next to Penelope Grace on the darkening evening of the second day and looked her squarely in the face. “Don’t ye think it’s high time to stop feelin’ sorry for yerself?”

Penelope flinched at the reminder of the fox’s harsh words in the tower room of Svarthol and had no answer for the bold fox.

Tilly pressed on, undeterred. “Well? What’s troublin’ ye so?”

She stared at Tilly for a moment more before the words flooded out, her words only whispered. “You said it yourself, Tilly. ‘Fool of a girl.’ And you were right. It was foolish to barricade us in the tower, thinking we were safe, that I had somehow outsmarted him.

“It was foolish to believe that I could best him.” She paused. “You should have seen it, Tilly, the way the darkness swept over the land.”

For a moment, Penelope Grace stared into the fire before them, and Tilly waited, knowing they’d yet to reach the heart of the matter. “I was so relieved when we made it here, Tilly. But over the last two days, I find myself wondering. Our camp seems so large, and there are so many here who are willing to fight for Ellura. But having seen the darkness, having seen Denagon face-to-face, I can’t help but wonder, is it enough? Am I?”

*

Are you wondering along with Penelope Grace?

You can read the story by subscribing below for digital installments OR by clicking here to receive a special manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Ireland.

GIVEAWAY: Through this Friday, Feb. 26th, everyone who purchases a copy will be entered to win an art print of one illustration from the book! You can see the artwork on Instagram.

U.S. only. Void where prohibited. This giveaway is not affiliated with WordPress or Instagram.

Until this Friday, when the fight for wonder comes to a close,

Alexandria

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An Excerpt from Installment Eleven of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

This week, dangers abound and Penelope Grace and her friends are desperately seeking refuge.

Do you suppose they’ll find it?

*

The companions were just reaching the rise of a crisp snowbank when the other snow sprites appeared, speaking so quickly in their small voices that Penelope Grace failed to catch the words. But Aralie understood their warning, and she turned to the others. “Denagon’s creatures are ahead, moving to cut us off. They must have spotted us from above. We must change course. Follow me!”

She darted to the right, and they rushed to keep pace with her as she flew ahead. Penelope could hardly breathe for the biting wind and her own exhaustion. Her legs felt weak beneath her, but she pushed on, knowing that if she could reach the camp, she could rest. But the thought of rest only made her feel more sluggish, and she stumbled despite her best efforts.

Immediately, Aira was there, speaking encouraging words and helping her to stand once more. “Think of Georgie, Penelope Grace. Think of your family, and run with me.”

With a ragged breath, she nodded, praying that the camp was not far and that her feet would carry her the distance. She barely made it several paces before a cry sounded from above, alerting them all to the presence of Denagon’s winged slaves.

Penelope risked a glance up just as the creature swooped down towards her. Though she dodged in time, its jagged claws snagged on the hood of her cloak, and she lost her balance in the deepening snow.

Scrambling to her feet as the creature screamed in frustration, Penelope whirled around to face the next attack just as the snow sprites shot past her. Penelope Grace’s eyes widened as she watched their remarkable work, unaware until now what the sprites were capable of.

Before her, a wall of thick, swirling snow appeared, blinding the enemies pursuing from behind and affording Penelope and her companions safe passage, if only for a short time.

Aralie came to hover before Penelope’s eyes. “Hurry now! The camp is not far from here, but the further away we fly, the more fragile the wall will become.”

With that, they were off. Penelope could see Elafry and the others racing ahead of her through the trees. They ran a great distance, yet Penelope still saw no sign of the camp. The trees nearby looked hazy, and it was not long before she could hardly make them out at all. In fact, the whole forest about her was fading from sight, hidden by a blanketing of white.

Nevertheless, she could clearly see the faint blue light of the snow sprites flying just ahead, which proved enough. Moments later, the snow sprites halted, and the others along with them. Penelope Grace could see nothing but white in front of them, and for a moment, she could not comprehend what she was looking at.

Understanding came in a flash. Though the snow was spinning so quickly that it seemed to be at a standstill, moving it was, in an impossibly high wall in front of them. It was similar to the wall of snow that the sprites had conjured to throw off their pursuers, but what rose before them seemed altogether impenetrable in comparison.

Briefly, Penelope caught sight of flickering blue light through the swirling snow. “What is this, Aralie?” she asked.

The snow sprite flew so near to Penelope that she could feel the breeze created by her beating wings. “This is our camp, Penelope, hidden by snow. No slave of the enemy can pass through this wall. You and your friends may pass through without fear.”

Tilly trotted through with no hesitation, her courage undaunted by the impressive sight. Penelope, however, remained still. Noticing her hesitation, Aralie said, “The snow will not harm you. It only prevents our enemies from entering.” And with that, the snow sprite flitted through the snow, as if to prove the truthfulness of her words.

Taking a deep breath, Penelope Grace passed through the snow. For a minute, the world was purest white, and then she stepped through into a sprawling camp that must have stretched two miles at least.

Everyone from the stronghold was here, and more. Fires were blazing at regular intervals, and the smell of warm food soon reached her. Penelope Grace nearly collapsed with relief. The war against Denagon was far from over, but for the moment, she was surrounded by friends and roaring fires, and she was safe.

*

Installment Eleven publishes this Friday, and then only one more installment remains.

I would so love for you to embark on this journey of wonder with us. It’s hard to believe wonder still exists in all the madness of the world right now, but I believe we need wonder the most when it’s most difficult to feel.

This year, I’m sharing a unique manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, printed on beautiful paper from The French Paper Co., and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland. If you’d love to have a physical copy of this winter tale of wonder, please head to our contact page and get in touch.

Holding on to wonder with you,

Alexandria

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The Manuscript Edition: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Do you want to see Light illuminate darkness?

Do you want to see wonder sweep away the chill from even the most bitter days?

After a devastating loss, Penelope Grace longs for nothing more, but a persistent shadow clings to her family, draining them of hope and the desire to fight.

Desperately, she tries to revive their sense of wonder, until, on the bleakest of nights, she is robbed of all she holds dear.

Yet, hope isn’t lost, and Penelope Grace finds herself following an unexpected friend through the freshly fallen snow, hoping for the restoration of all she has lost.

But the fight for wonder is just beginning, and the battle promises to grow more dark and fierce.

So, the question remains…

Will Penelope Grace hold onto wonder? Will she help those she loves do the same?

And what of you, dear reader?

When wonder is slipping through your fingers and the nights are cold and dark, will you allow despair to claim you?

Or will you see the glimmer of the sun on the snow and begin to understand how winter can be the springtime of the soul, if only you’ll let it?

The answers await you under snow-laden boughs, on a winter carousel, covered in snow.

I’ll meet you there ❄🎠

If you’d like to receive a unique, manuscript copy of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, I would love to share it with you!

This special edition of the story is done in beautiful manuscript form, printed on paper from The French Paper Co. and bound with waxed thread imported from Northern Ireland, giving readers a unique, collector’s first edition.

Please fill out this form to receive your copy: https://forms.gle/XdMEY692rLvr61An6

I pray God uses this story to reignite your sense of wonder!

Alexandria

Featured

Even When You Can’t See It

Have you ever longed to know the ending of a story a few hundred pages before The End?

Have you ever longed to see the finished painting before the first brush strokes reach the canvas?

Maybe God’s given you a calling, a dream, a drive to do something for His glory and His Kingdom.

But here you are, still at square one, with the vision so clear in your mind and seemingly invisible in the physical world.

Oh, I have been there.

I am there.

Are you?

Here is what God’s been teaching me in what I recently heard Dr. Sam Chand call “the messy middle,” that place between, where you’ve received your dream, but aren’t seeing fruit yet.

Yet.

Isn’t that the key word?

The one all our hope is hinged on?

It’s not bearing fruit yet.

On November 24th, I wrote these words:

“I’m so thankful for all You’re doing, both what I can see and what I cannot.”

Then, on Dec. 29th, I wrote this prayer in my planner: “Can’t believe how You’re moving, God. In ways I see and ways I can’t.”

God’s been weaving this lesson through my days. He weaves it through every one of yours.

I am moving, both when you can see it and when you can’t.

This is what He speaks over us, sons and daughters of the King who orchestrates everything, a perfect symphony.

He does all things well.

And this is what we can rest in, no matter how long we’ve been waiting:

We’ll always wait in good company. He never leaves.

And He is always working.

Even when we don’t understand.

Even when we can’t fathom what comes next.

Even when we can’t see it.

*

I hope this encourages you, friends!

Please share below: what are you waiting on or struggling to see? How have you witnessed God at work?

I’d love for us to pray for and encourage one another!

Thank you for reading 🙂

Alexandria

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An Excerpt from Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Hello, everyone!

Each week, I’ll be sharing an excerpt from my story, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel. This week is full of all sorts of mischief!

Listen below, or, if you prefer, you can read the excerpt below the video!

An Excerpt from Installment Two

Penelope Grace braced herself before entering the dining area, knowing that the moment she did, all sorts of silliness would ensue. George had told Uncle Alex and herself that they must find the most ridiculous costumes imaginable. But he gave them this warning: once they all sat down for supper, they must not, under any circumstances, laugh.

It can only seem fair that Penelope Grace set out to create a costume so absurd that George could not hope to win at his own mischievous game.

Taking a deep breath, she entered the room to find their plates already filled with piping-hot food and Uncle Alex sitting in great state at the head of the table.

A soft purple blanket was wrapped around his shoulders, secured by what Penelope suspected was one of Mama’s favorite brooches. But by far the most amusing was the Christmas wreath, full of pine cones and bright red ribbon, sitting on top of his head – a makeshift crown, she guessed.

He gestured for her to sit down. It was then that she noticed the umbrella. He planted it firmly on the carpet, as if it were some sort of grand staff, and met Penelope’s gaze, daring her not to be amused. The laughter nearly escaped her then.

Adopting a solemn expression, she adjusted her makeshift sword belt – made out of evergreen garland and very uncomfortable indeed – before striding forward with the utmost confidence. Regretfully, she only managed a few steps before she tripped over her weapon of choice: Nurse Sasha’s broom. Penelope looked up quickly, though, hoping to catch Uncle Alex in a laugh, but was chagrined to find that he was maintaining his composure.

He cleared his throat as she took a seat with as much dignity as possible. “A most unfortunate choice for a sword,” he lamented, before quickly taking a drink. But Penelope smiled, knowing he was really trying to disguise a laugh.

“Where is Georgie,” she asked. No sooner had the words left her lips then she heard her brother clearing his throat just outside the door.

“Tonight, Penelope,” he declared in a very dignified tone, “I am Sir George, a noble knight, and defender of the realm!”

He entered the room then, and Penelope knew she could not hope to find a more striking figure in all England. She first noticed one of Nurse Sasha’s freshly ironed tablecloths draped dramatically across Sir George’s shoulders and secured with a clothespin.

In his right hand, he held a whisk, a weapon sure to inspire fear in the hearts of the land’s greatest enemies. Slowly, he approached the table. Penelope and Uncle Alex could only assume this was to give them more time to admire his nobility. Once seated, Sir George observed them both carefully for any sign of merriment.

So far, they had contained it, but Penelope could not resist the urge to tease her brother. George, however, beat her to it. “How are you enjoying Sherwood Forest, Penelope?”

She hesitated, confused, before remembering that her hat for this evening was borrowed from their many games of Robin Hood.

“Oh, it’s lovely this time of year,” she replied, “though the Sheriff is giving us untold trouble, as always. I do hope you can find time in between quests to visit us.”

“I would like that very much.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes, each devising the best way to make the others laugh. Eventually, Penelope landed on just the thing. “Sir George, I hesitate to mention this, but I cannot help but notice that your helmet has several holes in it.”

He adjusted the colander indignantly. “It is the consequence of my many daring escapades.”

“Of course,” Penelope replied with a small smile. “Forgive me.”

At this point, Uncle Alex interjected. “Sir George, I wonder if you would be so kind as to share some tales of these daring escapades with us.”

“Yes, it would be my honor.”

His tone was very formal and impressive, but Penelope had to confess that the effect was somewhat spoiled when the colander slipped down over his eyes.

Her laughter nearly bubbled over, and Penelope looked down quickly, pursing her lips and fighting to mask it.

George, instantly noticing her difficulty with immense delight, asked with the sincerest of looks, “Is there something sour on your plate, my lady?”

Penelope cleared her throat before answering. “On the contrary, Sir George, the food is, as always, delicious.”

“I’m so happy to hear that,” he replied with a grin, fully intending to tease her further.

But just at that moment, Nurse Sasha came bustling in. She glanced at them briefly as she placed dessert on the table, then gave a start and looked back. They met her startled expression with perfect innocence, as if nothing at all was out of the ordinary, save George, who refused to make eye contact.

After a flabbergasted silence, Nurse Sasha seemed about to leave well enough alone until she took a good look at George’s costume. “George,” she managed to sputter, “is that my tablecloth?”

“No,” he said with admirable restraint, before quickly looking away for something more interesting to stare at.

Nurse Sasha crossed her arms and began to tap her foot, fully aware of his ploy. “George,” she said expectantly.

He turned back to face her with a startled look, as if only just realizing that she was there. “Yes?”

“My whisk, if you please.”

Slowly, and with great dignity, he passed the whisk to Nurse Sasha, who promptly snatched it from his hand and exited the room with much huffing and muttering.

Uncle Alex, Penelope, and George sat quietly for perhaps three seconds before they burst out laughing, unable to restrain their joy any longer.

“I believe this calls for chocolate cake by the fire,” Uncle Alex said. The joyous delight in his eyes would have convinced even the strictest of parents that it was an excellent idea. It was certainly enough to persuade George, who rushed to get three plates.

Penelope smiled. “I’ll be there shortly, Uncle Alex. Save me a piece?”

“Of course.”

Penelope gathered their dinner plates and carried them to the kitchen. Between their many mischievous exploits and the care of the household itself, Nurse Sasha did quite enough for them already and would, perhaps, appreciate some help. She had just finished washing the dishes when Nurse Sasha arrived, carrying what remained of her chocolate cake.

When she saw what Penelope had done, she said, “Oh, just when I was fixing to stay angry with you for that mountain of nutcracker soldiers!”

“What soldiers,” Penelope asked before dancing from the room, the faintest hint of a smile in her eyes.

*

Thank you so much for reading! If you were one of the characters, what would your costume have looked like? I’d love for you to share your silliest ideas in the comments 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt and will join us for Installment Two this Friday! You can subscribe below to receive every installment of this wintry tale of wonder!

Until then,

Alexandria

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The Inspiration Behind Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Good morning, everyone!

Today, I want to share a quick post about what inspired me to write Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel.

Listen below!

The Inspiration Behind
Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

I hope you enjoyed learning more about what inspired me to write this story and that you’ll enjoy all the installments to come!

To read a special sneak peek of the story and subscribe to receive future installments, click here!

The second installment publishes this Friday! And remember, once you subscribe, you have unlimited access to all past and future installments, so you can read the story at whatever pace you like 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria

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A Sneak Peek at Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel!

This is the week! The first installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes this Friday, December 11th! Here’s a sneak peek to tide you over until then.

*

Penelope Grace was a remarkable girl.

Of course, that word – remarkable – can mean many different things, depending on whom you ask.

Upon entering the Saris household, you would first be taken to the kitchen for a warm cup of tea to fight off the early winter’s chill. There, Nurse Sasha – who oversaw everything – would happily offer you her opinion. She could hardly find it less than remarkable that a girl of sixteen could behave so like her nine-year-old brother as to be nearly indistinguishable.

Once welcomed and enlightened, you might continue to the living room and find a comfortable chair near Penelope’s mother, Mary, who is patiently mending the latest torn and dirt-stained dress. She would share with you how her daughter is remarkably and admirably unconcerned with what others think of her.

Over the years, her friends marveled to find that Penelope was just as likely to pick up an imaginary sword as an intricate piece of embroidery. Growing serious now, Mary would tell you of the many encouragements she has received to rein her daughter in.

But it is too rare a gift to see a child’s spirit endure into adulthood. As Penelope’s mother, she would ask, how could she do less than safeguard it?

But just then, young George would come bursting in, his great-uncle Alex not far behind, and insist on knowing what your conversation was about.

“Well, George,” Mary would ask with the warmest of smiles, “what do you think makes your sister remarkable?”

He would think hard about it for a minute or two but, his nose crinkling up as he grinned, would soon reply with a firm, “Two things.”

And then, leaning forward as if to share with you a very great secret, George would tell you a story. Just last week, Penelope had, remarkably, succeeded both in assembling an entire regiment of nutcracker soldiers in the foyer and in vanishing from sight before Nurse Sasha could certainly accuse her of having done it.

“And the second,” you would ask, sincerely eager to know.

“She is the only grown-up who isn’t only teasing me when she says she still believes in Father Christmas.”

Equally impressed by both these reasons, you might then turn to great-uncle Alex, whom you would find no less willing to join in the conversation.

He would have to say that Penelope was remarkable for her persistent delight in all things simple, yet extraordinary. Even now she remains as enchanted with his magic tricks as she was on the day he first arrived from Greece to share them with her.

But of all her family, acquaintances and friends, only her father, John – who has been listening by the crackling fire all the while – could tell you with absolute certainty what it was that made Penelope Grace genuinely remarkable:

“Wonder.”

*

To read more, subscribe below! For $3.99/month, you’ll receive a new installment each week, along with a special illustration to accompany the story and the chance to win an exciting gift in the coming weeks! See you Friday 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria

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Synopsis: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

This week, the winter magic begins. Subscriptions to Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel are officially open!

This winter tale will be delivered straight to your inbox in weekly installments, from December to February. All of the information you need to subscribe can be found below.

But first, a little treat for you! Read on for the synopsis (and if you’d like to see the illustration that accompanies it, be sure to hit the subscribe button!).

I can’t wait to share this story with you all, and I hope you enjoy this sneak peek at the adventure to come!

*       

In a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, a young girl is holding tightly to wonder.

Penelope Grace is looking out the window, breathing in the stillness of snow falling. Christmas is coming, and as she lovingly places each candle on the windowsills, warmth and light transform her family’s home.

She settles in by the fireside with her family, welcoming you to join them, as Great Uncle Alex challenges anyone present to uncover the secret of his magic tricks.

The mystery, as always, remains, yet everyone is content. All is quiet and good, as it should be.

But as the holiday approaches, Penelope learns how easily circumstance can mock joy. A nameless shadow is haunting her family, and there seems to be no hope of defending them against his relentless attacks.

Still, Penelope Grace is not content to stand by and do nothing, and so, on a cold winter’s night, she finds herself chasing an unexpected friend through the snow.

But which will prove stronger?

Shadow or Light? Despair or wonder?

Follow her now through an ice-laden forest, down a worn, frozen path, to a winter carousel covered in snow.

Do you suppose that you will find the answers there?

*

Monthly Subscription

See this week’s illustration and get access to future installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel when you subscribe monthly today! This will give you access to all current and future book releases from 21:25 Books!

*

Be sure to share Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel with family, friends, and anyone you know who is in need of a little wonder this year.

Until next week,

Alexandria

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.

*

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

*

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