Hello, fellow book lovers and writers! Welcome to the first behind-the-scenes look at Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves!
Every Saturday, I’ll be sharing more about my journey of writing Chip, creating the artwork, and binding the manuscript edition!
Let’s turn the first page of this woodland journal and let the adventure begin!
It all started on a chilly March morning, a little over a year ago. I had just sat down at my desk when a little rabbit nestled down in the grass outside my window.
That’s certainly not an unusual sight at my house, but this rabbit was different.
Set apart from the rest.
He had a big chip in his left ear, and I immediately suspected that this rabbit, in particular, had seen his fair share of adventure.
I would see him from time to time, chasing after other bunnies, snoozing in the afternoon sun, and taking his pick of our flowers (we planted them for his benefit, right?!) 🌸🌷
I felt a story beginning, but I had no clue where God was leading yet.
I picked out what felt like the perfect journal to use for a story about a rabbit and his forest friends and began to scribble notes.
My first thought was that this would be a simple story about 3 bunnies: Chip, Riley, and Sara. It would chronicle their adventures, their mishaps and mischief.
And I suppose that would have been an entertaining and sweet tale, but it was not the one that God was calling me to write, and it would have been a shame to miss out on the adventure Chip did, in fact, have.
Little did I know that over the next few weeks I would come across a beautiful devotion written by Charles Spurgeon, and God would use it to change everything…
But that’s a story for next week 😉
Join me here next Saturday for more about this altogether unexpected story that God gave to me and all the wonderful things that resulted from it.
If you’ve received your copy of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves, please share with me! Tag me (@2125Books) with #bookofroseleaves 📖🌹
I’m so excited to see the book in readers’ hands and everyone’s coloring creations!
And once you’ve finished the story, will you please consider leaving a review on Goodreads? Reviews help authors so much and don’t have to be anything fancy. A simple 5 star rating and an, “I loved this book” is perfect!
Have you ever wondered what mysteries and adventures might wait just beyond the tree line?
Let me introduce you to Everleaf Forest and a special sneak peek at my illustrated children’s book, Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves…
Not so very long ago, on a spring day much like this one, a young rabbit named Chip was waiting for something.
I’d tell you what it was now, but I wouldn’t want to spoil things.
The forest of Everleaf was Chip’s home, and oh, was it the grandest of forests, full of old, strong oaks covered in rich green moss. Rutted paths, nearly overgrown now, carved their way through the land, though it seemed only the animals travelled them.
Everleaf was one of those forests that set the imagination ablaze; the longer you spend walking beneath its boughs, the less surprised you would be to find a fairy flying for cover behind feathery ferns or a group of elves disappearing from view just around the next bend.
And yet, surrounded as he was by the wondrous, Chip was still waiting for just one thing, and it seemed it would never come.
He waited and waited until the sun sank below the treetops and the animals returned to their burrows and nests. The great owl, Nesbit, emerged from the grandest oak in the clearing, and even still, Chip was there.
Blinking his wide, amber eyes several times, Nesbit looked down at the young rabbit. “Still waiting, are we?” he asked with a rustle of his feathers as he settled on his nighttime perch.
“Yes,” Chip replied, not a little disappointed that all his diligence had gotten him precisely nowhere.
“Hmm. Perseverance is what’s needed here, young Chip. Perseverance!” Nesbit proclaimed, startling several disgruntled birds from their dreams.
“Yes, Nesbit. Thank you,” Chip replied, trying very hard to sound grateful. He and Nesbit had the same conversation every night, and the owl’s commanding declaration of “Perseverance!” had yet to make him feel better.
Thankfully, his mother’s clear voice rang out from the entrance of their home at just that moment. After offering Nesbit a quick, “Good night,” Chip bounded away to their cozy burrow, eager for supper after yet another long day spent waiting.
He had only just entered and laid eyes on the feast Mama had prepared when a voice loudly intoned, “Perseverance, my lad! Perseverance!” and Chip nearly jumped out of his skin.
His father appeared, waving a stick in the air with great authority, almost dropping it as he shook with amusement at his own joke.
“Not you, too!” Chip reprimanded, though his laughter soon echoed his father’s.
“Another inspiring speech tonight, I take it?” Joshua teased.
“He means well,” Chip’s mother chided.
“I know, Bess,” Joshua replied with a grin, “but it was worth it for the way this one’s fur bristled in fright when he heard the dreaded cry of, “Perseverance!”
He waved the stick in the air once more, chasing a laughing Chip around the small log table, nearly crashing into it as his son dashed out of reach.
“Now, see here, Joshua Raddish!” Bess cried, though Chip knew she wasn’t really angry. “We spent all day gathering this supper, and I’ll not have you send it flying with your shenanigans!”
A practiced expression immediately transformed Joshua’s face as he and Chip obediently froze. “Of course, Bess, dear. Absolutely no shenanigans here,” he said, carefully setting the stick down on the floor, a look of mischief barely concealed by his mock seriousness.
Bess fixed him with a look that made it clear she was not at all fooled, then turned to their son. “I hope you didn’t fill up on that sweet meadow grass today. Your papa and I have a special treat for your birthday.”
She gestured to the center of the low table, and Chip’s eyes grew wide. Nestled amidst the usual grass and leafy greens was the largest clump of clover he had ever seen and several choice flowers, enough for them to each enjoy two.
“Where did you go to find these?” Chip breathed in awe.
“A fair distance,” his father replied vaguely.
They sat down, all of them eager to enjoy this special meal. Chip rubbed his paw against his left ear as he always did when he was excited or nervous.
Unusual though it may seem, it was Chip’s left ear that had given him his name. On the night he’d been born, Mama always said, he was instantly revealed to be perfect in all ways to them, and that included the chip missing from his left ear.
No one could say why he had been born with it, but it made the young rabbit uniquely Chip, and his parents had immediately known what his name ought to be.
If you’re longing to discover more about Chip and join him on his adventures, please consider supporting my Kickstarter so that Chip’s story can be told to young (and young at heart!) readers!
You’ll receive a hand-bound, manuscript edition of Chip’s story with illustrations to color and many more fun surprises! I can’t wait to share it all with you!
Here we are, at the end of an adventure I never expected to take (those are always the best kind, aren’t they?). Chip’s story completely surprised me, but I’m so thankful I got to be the one to tell it. If you have ever felt alone, unseen, or unheard, I hope this story is a friend to you and that it will remind you that you have a Father in Heaven Who is absolutely captivated by each and every one of your prayers.
It seemed to Chip that he had been adventuring through Almea for an age, for so much had happened on their search for Abaline. A part of him expected the journey back to feel just as long, yet, before Chip knew it, they were facing the river that the young fox, Wilfred, had helped them cross.
With Beauregard’s help, Chip crossed first this time. He waited with no small amount of sadness as Alfeus and Beauregard bickered their way across the river, for he knew that his time with these wonderful friends was coming to an end.
Chip could not fathom being apart from them, but this was their home, and, no matter how much he loved Almea, Chip’s home lay somewhere beyond the hollow of a tree inhabited by a certain persevering owl.
Alfeus and Beauregard were halfway to the shore now, and in the time remaining to Chip, his thoughts drifted to Nesbit, to stories told by candlelight and the comforting rumble of Romulus’ voice.
But, perhaps most of all, Chip thought of the warmth of his own burrow and the pleasure in sharing a meal with Mama and Papa.
This was what he missed most of all, and as his friends reached him at last, Chip found himself with more of a longing for home, though leaving Alfeus and Beauregard would still be bittersweet.
At that instant, a somewhat bedraggled chipmunk marched straight past him, clearly determined to distance himself from a certain beaver.
“Give me Wilfred any day!” Alfeus hurrumphed as he carried on, entirely unconcerned with whether his companions were following or not.
“You know, Chip,” Beauregard said as they watched their disgruntled friend, “I’d pray for him to be less cantankerous, but I do believe that, if he were, he’d be just a little less Alfeus, if you know what I mean.”
“Yes, Beauregard, I know exactly what you mean,” Chip answered as they trailed after their friend.
“He’s got spunk, our Alfeus,” Beauregard said with a fond chuckle.
“And we love him more for it,” Chip replied.
“Aye, that we do.” After a moment, the beaver continued, “He’ll miss you, you know.”
Chip looked over at Beauregard, surprised, but warmed, by his words. “Do you really think so?”
“Oh, yes. In fact, I suspect your leaving is what’s making him especially persnickety today.”
Chip had no time to answer, for, at just that moment, a joyous yip met their ears, and a flash of brilliant copper raced towards them.
“Wilfred!” Chip cried.
“Chip! Alfeus! You’re back!” the young fox breathlessly answered as he reached them.
Then, looking quizzically at the beaver, he asked, “Beauregard? How did you get mixed up in all this?”
“Examine any dangerous endeavor, Wilfred,” Alfeus cut in, “and you are certain to find Beauregard’s paw prints all over it.”
Beauregard’s chest puffed up. “I take that as the highest of compliments, Alfeus, and thank you.”
A low grumble was Alfeus’ only reply.
Turning to Chip, Wilfred asked, “Are you heading for The Entrance?”
Chip frowned. “Do you mean the tree?”
Wilfred nodded. “Come on! I’ll keep you company, at least part of the way.”
They were just beginning to carry on when, suddenly, Wilfred stopped, staring at Chip. “Chip, where’s your satchel?”
Dread swelled inside our young rabbit friend.
Quickly, his mind raced through all their adventures and travels, but, for all he tried, Chip could not remember the last time he’d had it. “I don’t know,” he cried, greatly distressed. “Romulus and Leah will be so angry with me for losing it!”
“Now, Chip,” Beauregard interjected, “you’ve been through harrowing adventures in your time here, and they’ll understand, Leah especially. And it’ll all come right in the end. Someone’s bound to find it.”
And, indeed, someone had.
But never mind about that for now.
For a moment, Chip desperately wanted to argue, to insist that they must go in search of the satchel so that he might return it.
But then, he thought of the gift he’d been given – one that was beginning to make a bit more sense – and of Abaline’s warning.
Be careful what you do with this gift.
He couldn’t go back.
It wasn’t the right time.
And Chip found himself content to wait until it was.
With that decided, the company continued on, talking animatedly the entire time about their adventures and what they’d discovered at the end of them. Chip was only too happy to answer Wilfred’s questions about Abaline and was truly pleased when the young fox immediately understood what made their discovery the truest kind of treasure.
Day was only just beginning to settle into dusk when they came upon a rather familiar hazelnut tree.
“Home!” Alfeus cried. “Home, and my beloved hazelnuts! Or, rather, what’s left of them,” he concluded with a pointed stare in Beauregard’s direction.
But the beaver was unruffled by his friend’s thinly-veiled accusation, and he only said, “I wouldn’t be too quick to fuss about those hazelnuts or my young rabbit friends.” He then gestured off to the left where the most enormous leaf Chip had ever seen was being dragged by four familiar bunnies.
Roger, Roderick, Eloise, and Fred stopped just in front of the flabbergasted chipmunk, who, for once, had nothing to say. Lying in front of him was a positively monstrous pile of beautiful, fresh hazelnuts, the likes of which he’d only dreamed about.
Tentatively, he reached out and took one, bringing it close and inhaling deeply, as if to assure himself they were real.
Once satisfied, he turned to face the four rabbits and finally managed to splutter, “Th-thank you. Thank you! This will see me through three winters, at least! Probably more! I can hardly believe… however did you manage it?” he asked.
But the rabbits only laughed mischievously amongst themselves. “We’ll tell you about it some time,” one of them promised, and then they were off, giggling and chasing each other through the forest.
Alfeus was still staring at the hazelnuts when Chip quietly said, “Well, I best be going, everyone.”
A bit of the joy left Alfeus, but he handled it admirably. “I shall accompany you every step of the way, my friend. Though I will have to hide my hazelnuts first.”
“Never you mind about that, Alfeus,” Beauregard said. “I will guard them until you return.”
Alfeus beamed, then looked to Wilfred, who said, a bit reluctantly, “I can’t. My dad will expect me home before it gets much darker.”
“That’s all right, Wilfred. I understand,” Chip replied, though he was disappointed that he must say goodbye to two friends already.
Wilfred came forward, nudging Chip affectionately. “You’ll come back, though, won’t you?”
Chip smiled. “I hope so.”
“Maybe I’ll join you for your next adventure,” Wilfred said with a fierce grin, and then he was gone, bounding away like a flash of fire in the starlight.
Chip wasted not a moment before hopping towards the beaver, who placed a comforting paw on Chip’s shoulder. “Oh, Chip,” Beauregard said with a sigh. “Almea is going to be a less adventurous place without you in it. Still, we never know when an opportunity to return might present itself. And you know just where to find me.”
Chip huddled close a moment more before returning to Alfeus’ side. “Thank you for everything, Beauregard. We might never have found Abaline if not for you.”
“Oh, don’t mention it, Chip. Accompanying you and Alfy was my joy.”
With goodbyes exchanged, Chip and Alfeus began the final stretch of their journey.
Chip only looked back once and Beauregard, with a final wave, called, “Safe travels, my friend!”
Starlight was the only light to speak of as they made their way to the tree where Chip’s adventures in Almea had begun.
Neither could bring themselves to speak, but Chip was content to soak in these last minutes with Alfeus in silence.
Still, the time together proved to be all too short.
They stood at the foot of the tree, both unsure what to say.
At last, Alfeus said, “Oh, come here,” and the two friends embraced, finding some measure of relief that their sadness at parting ways was shared.
After a moment, they stepped apart. “Of all the friends I made in Almea, Alfeus, I’m thankful you were the first.”
An embarrassed, “Oh,” was all Alfeus could muster, though he was clearly pleased by Chip’s thoughtful words.
But before either could say anything more, a great whoosh of air sounded above them. A moment later, Nesbit landed in the grass beside Alfeus and Chip, who was overjoyed to see his old friend.
“Well, young Chip,” Nesbit said, “have you persevered?”
Chip laughed fondly. “Yes, Nesbit, I have.”
“Very good. Time to be going then?”
Chip didn’t answer, instead looking at Alfeus.
“We’ll see each other soon, my friend. It’s time for you to go home,” the chipmunk said gently.
Chip nodded, tears filling his eyes. “Goodbye, Alfeus.”
“Goodbye for now, Chip.”
And then, quick as a blink, our young rabbit friend was swept up as Nesbit flew up amongst the branches, through the tree’s hollow, and back to Everleaf Forest.
For a moment, Chip could not believe he was home, yet all the familiar sights and sounds, not to mention the wonderful scent of clover, reassured him that he was.
With Nesbit already asleep, Chip had the clearing to himself, and he stayed there in the quiet for a while, soaking in all he’d learned.
For ages, he’d wondered if his prayers mattered and if they were heard.
In the end, he’d found even better.
His tears were the diamonds of Heaven, his prayers carefully preserved.
He was reassured now that, like perfume carefully bottled, like rose leaves lovingly pressed between the pages of a favorite book, were his prayers to the Father.
His purpose – and ours – is to go and tell those who are still longing to know.
When he had set out, he had never expected to find truth so glorious or peace so sound.
Chip looked up at the sky, smiling once and giving thanks before turning for home.
His father, Joshua Raddish, met him at the door.
“Papa, I –“ Chip began, but his father held up a paw.
“Nesbit and Romulus already fessed up.”
“I’m sorry, Papa,” Chip said.
“You could have told me.”
“You might have stopped me.”
Joshua looked at his son kindly. “I might have gone with you.”
Something, Chip supposed, to keep in mind for next time.
I hope you enjoyed the journey just as much as I did. And, remember, you can revisit past installments of Chip any time!
Next week, Author Spotlight Month begins on 21:25 Books! I’ll be featuring H.A. Pruitt’s novel, Anelthalien, along with a special author interview at the end of the week. You won’t want to miss it!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Only one installment to go, friends! I can’t wait to share the conclusion of Chip’s adventure with you all.
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.
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.
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!