Sunday, February 16, 2014

Into the Land of the Elves: I Meet The Queen

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, author
July 9
10:10 AM
I Meet the Queen

            I made a crown of the greenest cedar boughs I could find in the mini forest, interwoven with bright pink knockout roses from my garden. I added holly berries and juniper berries and smiled satisfactorily at my work. It looked like a jeweled crown meant for a queen. I hoped that Apple Blossom would share my satisfaction.
            This morning after breakfast, I made my way to the magnolia archway with the tag in my pocket and my gift for the princess in hand. The Grand Elder Guardian’s web was not blocking my way today, and I guessed that what happened at the party meant he now completely approved of me. I heard a series of running “slap-pat” footsteps making their way through the brush. Sure enough, there was Apple Blossom rushing towards me. “Hi there!” I called out, waving.
            She skidded to a stop right in front of me and bounced on her toes. “You came back, Aidyn! Oh, yesterday I came here and waited all day for you to come back, and when you didn’t show up I was so disappointed that I cried. But you’re here now, and I’m glad, glad, glad!” She was acting just like a kid instead of an esteemed royal princess, and it was delightfully endearing. It absolutely stung to hear that I had unintentionally made her cry, but I had been so busy yesterday with journaling, making the crown, outlining two tales for my short story collection and working on the drafts for two others. There was just no time in my day to nip off to the Greenwood.
             “I am very, very sorry,” I told her. “I was just so busy yesterday that I couldn’t find any time to head over. I promise I didn’t mean to disappoint you and make you cry, and if I can make it up to you today, I would like to know how.”
            Apple Blossom gave me a big smile, hugged me, and said, “Of course you didn’t mean it. You’re too kind for that, Aidyn.” While she was hugging me, I took the opportunity to place the cedar-and-rose crown on her head. “Oh!” she cried, pulling back. She poked at it a few times before taking it off to have a look. “What is this, Aidyn?” she asked. “Is this a wreath? Or is it some sort of crown?” She looked at me quizzically.
            “It is indeed ‘some sort of crown,’” I told her. “In fact, it is a crown that I made myself, with you entirely in mind (her eyes widened at this). I even picked those lovely pink roses from my own garden. I had a great time at your party, and I felt that you should have a birthday gift from me.” I placed the crown back on her head. “It does look lovely on you. You look like a…”
            Before I could finish saying, “You look like a real little queen,” she wrapped her arms around me again and hugged me tightly, pressing her face into my stomach. “Thank you, Aidyn,” she said. “Thank you, thank you!” Surely, no other Jadeite in history had received such a kind gesture from a human.  
            That is why I will be finishing my account of the party this morning and spending the rest of the day with my new little elf friend. Any additional tasks can wait until tomorrow. I have much more important matters to attend to!
            The garden gate opened and in stepped a magnificently dressed elven woman who looked so like I had always imagined Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She wore a long white gown with colorful seasonal blossoms sewn into it, and a cape the color of the sky. Her hair was the color of a misty sea and curled into elegant ringlets that fell around her pretty pink face like a picture frame. On her head she wore a thin, shimmering veil that fell over her face. She was beautiful, elegant, and very imposing all at the same time.
            “Mother! Mother!” Apple Blossom cried, leaping up from her seat to rush over and embrace the woman. Lovingly, the woman returned her daughter’s embrace and lifted her up to her shoulder. Then her face grew serious, and I had a feeling that the commotion I’d caused had something to do with it.”
            “Apple Blossom, have you brought a human into the Greenwood?” the woman asked darkly. She said the word “human” as if she was talking about a pile of rotting garbage sitting out in the sun. My stomach began to churn.
            “She’s been tagged, Mother,” Apple Blossom assured the queen. “And she’s not like other humans. She’s a good human, Mother! Her name is Aidyn, and she has been very kind to me and my friends.”
            “Why did you bring her here, Apple Blossom?” asked the queen. She glanced at me, and I had the feeling that she viewed me the way one might view a sewer rat.
            “I wanted to play with a human,” Apple Blossom answered honestly.
            “You don’t play with humans, Apple Blossom,” the queen said firmly. “You observe them and nothing more. Do you know how dangerous it was for you to bring one in here?” She had a good point; of course I wouldn’t hurt anyone or mess anything up, but what if Human Number Five hadn’t been me? What if it had been someone much less inclined to be friendly to elves?
            I spoke up: “I haven’t hurt anybody, and I won’t.” The queen looked surprised and a little offended that I had spoken out of turn. She was looking at me, the girls at the table were looking at me, Apple Blossom was looking at me, and I wanted to shrink. “I’m sorry, Your Majesty,” I said in my most polite tone, “but what I say is true. I am here in the interest of observation alone, and not to create a disruption.” I hoped that was the proper way to speak to a queen. It seemed to be, going by what I’d read in stories that involved queens.
            The queen set Apple Blossom down and curled her finger at me. “Come here.” I got up from my seat and obeyed. She only came up to my shoulders and had to look up to look me directly in the eyes, but she had a commanding presence all the same.
            “My daughter tells me your name is Aidyn?”
            “That is correct, Your Majesty.”  
            “You have a tag?”
            “I do.” I pulled the tag out of my pocket and handed it to her. She turned it over to look at the number.
            “You will have to come with me,” she told me, taking both of my hands.
            “Have I done something wrong?” I asked quickly. Without answering me, she began to lead me out of the garden. Apple Blossom followed behind us, but the queen turned to her and said, “Stay here, Apple Blossom.”
            “Mother, I want to go with Aidyn!”
            “No, stay here and entertain your guests.”
            “I’ll be back soon, Apple Blossom,” I assured her with a smile. I wasn’t so sure how true that was, but I didn’t want the kid to worry her birthday away. “Save some more of that pudding for me. It was phenomenal.” Raindrop smiled when I said this. I waved to the girls as I was led away, and the five of them waved back.
            The queen led me out of the garden and through a side door into the palace, which I would get to see at last! Secretly, I had been longing for that very thing since I’d laid eyes on those majestic jade towers. I wondered if the queen could feel my hands shaking in anticipation. If she could, she didn’t bother to take note.
            The door opened into a sea-green-colored room with candy-pink roses painted all over the walls. The showpiece of this room was a big navy blue wooden desk decorated with all sorts of lacy things: a white lacy box, a clothbound book trimmed with lace, a white lace desk skirt, and a pink jar tied with lace ribbons, which held four pens that appeared to be carved out of tree branches. The queen let go of my hands and motioned for me to sit at this desk. I obeyed, taking a seat on a stool painted in the same rose motif as the walls.
            The queen took another look at the number on my tag. Then she looked at me in the way a school principal might look at a troublemaker who had been brought into his office with too many infractions. “Stay here,” she told me firmly. “Do not go anywhere, and do not touch anything.” Then she left the room, and I heard her lock the door as she went out. I folded my hands the way an obedient child would and made up my mind to remain perfectly still, silent, and out of the way. When she returned, she would be totally shocked that the horrible, brutish human had not flipped her desk and trashed her little office!
            It wasn’t so bad being locked in there. The room was pretty, and I liked the rose pattern and the sea-green color. But sitting completely still and quiet had never been any easy task for me, and I was growing increasingly curious about what might be written in that book. It couldn’t have been a diary. You don’t keep diaries in your study or home office in plain sight. You keep them in your bedroom or in a very secret place that nobody is allowed to lay their eyes on. It was more likely a record book, or a tome of some sort, or…
            A part of my mind was scolding me: No, Aidyn, absolutely not! Don’t you dare open that book when you were told not to touch anything! But another side of my mind was saying, If you steal a quick glimpse and then put it right back down where you found it, there will be no harm done and there will be no way for her to find out! It’s not like she’ll check your fingerprints. I felt like a child locked in a battle with my conscience about whether or not it was all right to sneak ice cream before dinner so long as I was sure to eat all of my peas. But before I could decide which side to obey, I heard the door open and resumed my “obedient child” stance.
            It wasn’t the queen who entered, but Apple Blossom. She looked behind her to see if anybody had seen her enter, then she shut and locked the door. Her fist was tightly closed around something, probably the key. “Apple Blossom!” I exclaimed. “What are you doing here? Did your mother tell you to come here and check on me?”
            “No, I told me to come here and check on you,” said Apple Blossom. “What did my mother say to you? Did she tell you anything at all? Oh, I hope she didn’t say that you must leave and never come back! I’ve grown so fond of you already!” Tears came to her eyes. “She was outside talking to your tagger just a few moments ago, but I saw her go inside and I think she might be talking to my father or…or the guards. Oh, will she at least let you stay until the end of my partyyyy?!” This last word ended with a howl, and then she erupted into sobs. As if a switch had been flicked, she had gone from princess to typical overemotional child. She cried and howled with such intensity that her face turned as red as a tomato and the bodice of her beautiful flowery dress was stained with tears.
            “Apple Blossom, she didn’t…” I began, but realized that there was no way she could hear me over her wild sobs. It stung to see her this upset; it was as if she was my little sister, and all I wanted to do was comfort her and try to bring back one of those big, bright smiles. I got up from the stool, kneeled down in front of her, and wrapped my arms around her. “I’m not going anywhere,” I assured her, stroking her hair. “Nobody’s told me to go anywhere. I’m staying here.”
            She leaned her head against my shoulder. “Mother didn’t say you have to leave? She isn’t going to have you taken out?”
            “She didn’t say anything about me leaving,” I told her, “and if she was going to have me taken out, I’d likely be gone by now.” Then I wanted to try and make her laugh, so I grabbed one of her springy green curls and tugged on it gently. “Boing!” I cried when it bounced back like a spring toy.
            “Oh!” Apple Blossom grabbed the lock I’d bounced and looked at me in surprise. “What’d you do that for, Aidyn?”
            “To make you laugh,” I told her. I bounced another curl and uttered, “Boing!” She touched the top of her head and burst into giggles.  “You’re silly, Aidyn!” I responded by stretching another curl as far as it would go and bouncing it back, uttering a drawn out “Bo-o-oing!” We both laughed.
            At the sound of a key turning in the door, Apple Blossom disappeared under the table as quick as a wisp, and I returned to the stool. The door opened and the queen stepped in. Her expression had not changed from when she had left me. “Welcome back,” I said, nodding my head respectfully.
            “I see you’ve managed to keep my office clean and orderly.” She spoke sternly, but her eyes marveled at how I had not managed destroyed the place. “Indeed,” I replied. “It’s far too beautiful to trash.”
            She raised a brow at me. “I trust that you would have refrained from defacing it regardless of its beauty?”  
            “Of course,” I answered truthfully.
            “You’ve managed to cause quite a stir,” the queen went on, “especially among my daughter’s young party guests.” Apple Blossom shifted under the table. If the queen had been out to the garden, she had discovered that her daughter was mysteriously absent from the party table. Still, I didn’t let on that I knew she was under there. “They seem rather fond of you,” continued the queen, “despite your humanity.” She made it sound like a cuss word.
            “Your daughter adores me,” I told her, smiling modestly. All mothers love to hear about their kids, and I guessed that elf queens were no exception. “She’s absolutely crazy about me. I don’t think she believed that a human could be kind to her, and now that she’s seen otherwise, she is just thrilled.”
            “I think what she did was very foolish and very reckless,” said the queen, “but…” She paused, then went on, “…I suppose I should be very thankful that she found a human others can be so fond of, as opposed to a creature of selfishness and destruction.”
            I didn’t know what to say. I was almost certain that I had made it to the queen’s good side, but my only response was to nod and wait for whatever else she had to say.
            “After careful and thorough consideration and discussion,” said the queen, “I and my husband have decided that you may return to the Greenwood under very careful observation. I hope that you will not display any behavior that will cause us to retract that decision, especially if our daughter is going to be involved.” She looked me right in the eye, equally awaiting my response and daring me to oppose her.
            “Of course not,” I replied abruptly. I felt ready to break into song and dance! I had been approved by the monarchy and was free to take in all that the land of the elves had to offer—under careful observation, of course! I could immerse myself in the Jadeite culture and gather all the information I needed for…for…well, for whatever I might end up needing it for. But most importantly for the moment, I was free to stay for the rest of Apple Blossom’s birthday party!
            “Thank you, Your Majesty! Thank you!” I stood up and curtsied as best as I could. “I appreciate being invited into your land, and I promise I won’t make you regret it.”
            “I should hope not,” said the queen. “And…Apple Blossom?”
            Caught at last, Apple Blossom crawled out from her hiding spot. “Yes, Mother?”
            “Return to your party, and take the human with you.”
            Apple Blossom’s face lit up as if someone had flicked a switch.
            So I spent the rest of that day enjoying the garden with the flowers of all seasons, eating pastries and more of that delicious pudding, and playing with Apple Blossom and her four friends. Towards the end of the afternoon, the cake was brought out and we had to line up and file out to the front of the palace. Apple Blossom slipped her hand into mine, securing my place beside her at the front of the line.
            The cake was the size of a baby grand piano and covered in swirls of cloudy blue frosting. Clusters of pink and yellow flowers decorated its edges, and in the center were ten small rods with a small purple globe lantern hanging from the tip of each one. White swirls formed odd looking but clearly defined shapes around the rods. “What’s written on your cake?” I asked Apple Blossom.
            “It’s my name in the language of the tree elves,” she told me.
            “Are you ten years old today?” I asked her.
            She nodded.
            I finally got to see the king, who momentarily glanced at me as he lifted Apple Blossom to his shoulder. He kissed her and set her down on a high seat in front of the massive cake. They cut the first slice of cake together, with his hands set on top of hers. I expected Apple Blossom to serve the first slice of cake to herself, as is commonplace at birthday parties (and more so for princesses). However, she placed the slice on a stone plate and handed it to me with a smile.
            The crowd erupted into whispers and murmurs, clearly just as surprised as I was. Only a select few—Apple Blossom’s four friends included—smiled and clapped politely. The king and queen looked at Apple Blossom and then at eachother, but said nothing. I nodded, thanked Apple Blossom, and silently returned to the garden and my place at the table. I may have been approved, but that does not mean I was welcomed.
            Apple Blossom joined me in a few moments, and I asked her if she would be so kind as to walk me back to the magnolia archway after we finished our cake.
            “Yes,” she replied brightly, “I can do that.”
            And so my first day in the land of the elves drew to a close. There will be many more, and each one will be very well documented.  

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