Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Into the Land of the Elves: "They Fascinate Me!"

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, elf friend
August 6
7:30 PM
“They Fascinate Me!”
I didn’t want Apple Blossom to get soaked again, so I let her use one of my rain shells. It was much too big for her to wear, so I had to wrap it around her like a blanket. She didn’t protest, and in fact she seemed to like being wrapped up so snugly in the warm jacket. “I wish we had clothes as warm as this,” she said, snuggling against it. “Even our winter pelts aren’t quite so warm.”
I had to carry her, and when I picked her up she wrapped her arms around my shoulder and pressed her head against me. It was a wonderful feeling to be so trusted and loved. “Will we see anymore humans?” she asked a little nervously.
“I can’t promise that we won’t,” I said truthfully, “but I can promise that they won’t hurt you.”
            But we didn’t see anybody as we made our way to the magnolia archway. As I waded through the mud that packed against my boots, I realized that no one in their right mind would be out here. Even the Grand Elder Guardian had taken shelter from the pouring rain, but I could see the other guardians watching us from under leaves and thick patches of brush. As we made our way through to the Greenwood, the trees shut out the rain enough for me to set Apple Blossom down. “All right?” I asked as I wiped her face with my slicker sleeve. She nodded.
            Someone was waiting for us on the other side of the bridge. My heart skipped a beat—I was terrified that it would turn out to be one of the palace servants, or a courtier, or Apple Blossom’s nursemaid (she did still have one, even at ten), or even the queen herself. It was hard to see through the rain, but when we got a little closer I saw that it was only Raindrop.
            “Hey there,” I said, giving her a little wave. “What are you doing out here in this nasty weather?”
            “I could ask you the same thing,” said Raindrop. “You never come around when it rains. And Apple Blossom, where have you been? Everybody’s been looking for you!” Oh great!
            “I was…” Apple Blossom began, but I interrupted her; “She found her way to my house…you know, in the human world. She wanted to see where I go when it rains, and she wanted to see what it was like. I found her at my door earlier this afternoon. We waited out the rain for a while, and then I decided that I didn’t want her going home by herself, and I wanted to make sure that everyone would know where she really was. So here I am.” By the end of my explanation, Raindrop looked as if she had seen a ghost. For a few moments, her mouth formed a perfect O shape until she was able to stammer out a response.
            “You…you were in the…the human world, Apple Blossom?”
            Apple Blossom nodded. “Yes, I was.”
            “Are you sure that’s the truth?” Raindrop asked. I could tell that she really didn’t want it to be. But Apple Blossom said, “It is the truth. I was going to make up a lie, but…” She looked at me. “I couldn’t ask Aidyn to lie, too.”
            For a few moments, poor Raindrop had been struck dumb. She kept looking up at the sky, shaking her head, as if she just could not—or would not—believe  what she heard even after being told it was the truth. Finally, she said, “Did…did you run into other humans?”
            “We didn’t run into any,” Apple Blossom said truthfully. “We saw one, only one. But he didn’t approach us. I don’t even think that he saw us.”
            “But suppose he did?” cried Raindrop, her eyes wide.
            “He didn’t,” I assured her. “I am one hundred percent sure of that.”
            Raindrop was silent again for a moment. Then she said grimly, “Apple Blossom, you know that you’re going to be in trouble.”
            “I know,” Apple Blossom said with a sigh. I squeezed her hand. The two of us followed behind Raindrop as she scampered into the village, shouting, “Apple Blossom is back! She’s here, and she’s all right!” The next thing I knew, we were swarmed. There were officials from the palace dressed in gold trimmed green cloaks. There were armored soldiers other than the green-clad civil soldiers, carrying long swords at their sides. There were palace courtiers and servants. There were ordinary villagers—men, women, and children. This, I knew, was only a fraction of the search effort. What amounted to the entire Greenwood must have been out there looking for her for who knows how long! And now a woman whose silks and velvets indicated a palace attendant was scooping her up and kissing her forehead. She kissed her about five times before wrapping her arms around her and rocking her gently, the way that a human might do with a lost child who had just been found. “Are you all right, dear?” the tearful woman asked.
            “I’m fine, Beryl,” Apple Blossom said. “Aidyn found me.”
            “Aidyn the human?” the woman asked, slowly turning to look at me. My god, if looks could kill! “Yes,” clarified Apple Blossom. “She took me into her house and kept me safe and took care of me.”
            “There’s more to it than that,” I told Beryl. “Where are her parents?”
            Beryl’s response was to continue to stare daggers at me before carrying Apple Blossom off into the increasing swarm. Raindrop followed, and I was close behind. The armored soldiers pushed ahead, calling, “The princess has been found! She is found, and she is safe!” The cloaked officials trailed behind them.
            “Why did Mother and Father send out all of these people?” Apple Blossom asked Beryl. “They know I go out when it rains sometimes.”
            “They also know that they can always locate you when you do,” Beryl said sternly. “Only this time, things seemed to go a little bit differently, didn’t they?”
            The king and queen arrived before Apple Blossom could say anything further. “Oh, Apple Blossom!” her mother cried, prying her out of Beryl’s arms and wrapping her own arms around her. She dropped a kiss on her daughter’s forehead, and Apple Blossom kissed both of her cheeks and said, “I’m all right, Mother. Really, I am.” Then she was passed to her father, who responded with more hugs and kisses before his face turned very serious.
            “Where did you go, Apple Blossom?” the king asked very sternly. “Don’t tell me you were here in the Greenwood, for I know that you were not. Remember that I can always tell when you are lying to me.” Tall for a Jadeite, the man surpassed my height and conducted himself in a very imposing manner. I wanted to say something, but there seemed no appropriate time. Apple Blossom looked at the ground and said, “I was in the human world, Father.”
            “The human world!” In an instant, the king turned his firey blue eyes on me. I wanted to shrink. “You brought her there!” he hollered.
            “I didn’t!” I protested, taking a step back.
            “She didn’t bring me there, Father!” Apple Blossom said. “She only found me there! I went on my own!”
            Now the king turned those firey eyes on his daughter. “Why would you do such a thing?!” he roared, but she didn’t recoil or even look away. She looked right into that blue fire and said, “I just wanted to see what it was like.”
            The king pressed his fingers to his temple in exasperation. Then he unleashed a barrage of nasty-sounding words in a language that I could not understand, though I figured that it must have been the tree elf language. I gasped, but whatever he was saying must not have been too bad, as Apple Blossom was not crying and the others were not expressing any sort of shock or disgust. Even Raindrop only hung her head as if she was familiar with this sort of display and felt ashamed. Just a parental lecture, I supposed.
            And just like a typical child, Apple Blossom interrupted this lecture. To each of her father’s laments, she had a willful response in the same language. Back and forth, the two of them argued, until Apple Blossom shouted in clear, plain English, “Because they fascinate me, Father!”
            Everyone was silent. The king took a step back and shook his head as if he needed to clear it to believe what he had heard. The queen’s eyes were wide, her mouth forming a small O shape. The crowd was struck dumb. My mind was working, wondering what on Earth she could have possibly meant by that. Who fascinated her? Then I realized: humans! Humans fascinated her. They did not frighten her the way that they frightened the others, they fascinated her. That’s why she wanted to see our world. That’s why she wanted to make sense of the books and find a connection. That’s why, except for when she saw my neighbor, she never showed any real fear of humans. On that very first day, she had told me that she had always wanted to meet a human, to play with a human, to befriend a human. She wanted a human at her birthday party, to entertain and to introduce to her friends and family. She had approached me that day without fear, and showed me off as if I was a thing to marvel at rather than to fear. She never thought that I was a monster. She never thought that humans were monsters, and all of the kindness that I had shown her and her friends only affirmed her viewpoint.
            The king spoke more softly now, and whatever he was saying sounded like a question. Apple Blossom answered with, “I’d like for us to speak in c…I mean English, Father. I want Aidyn to be able to hear.” The wagging tongues of the surrounding crowd became much more active. The king looked at me and then back at his daughter before nodding. I was astounded by how much power the little girl held over this king. Since Apple Blossom’s birthday, I had only ever seen the king in passing. But from what Apple Blossom had told me about him, his love for her came before all else, and he placed her on the pedestal of a mini goddess. I could see that now. The man loved his daughter so much that he gave her the power to talk him down.  
            “They do fascinate me, Father,” Apple Blossom went on. “They are so different from us, yet so much like us. They eat different foods, live in different homes, have lots of strange tools and devices, and have no ability to channel the jade essences. And yet they speak the same, have the same feelings, can do so many of the same things, and they even almost look the same. We are not so different. Somehow, I always knew that. I always doubted that all humans were the monsters I was taught they were. When I met Aidyn, I learned that I had been right! Now, I am more fascinated by humans than I have ever been!”
            A young lady in the crowd spoke up. “Princess, don’t you realize that she could be trying to trap you? She’s fostering that fascination, doing whatever she can to entice you, filling your mind with interest in her and her world…and then she’ll be able to lure you in! She’ll have you right where she wants you!”
            “She wouldn’t do that!” Raindrop cried.
            “I’d never even dream of it!” I chimed in.
            “How dare you say such things about Aidyn!” shouted Apple Blossom.
            “It’s dangerous to trust her!” insisted a man in the crowd.
            “She is my friend!” retorted Apple Blossom.
            “Mine too!” Raindrop said.
            “A human could never be the friend of a Jadeite!” an older woman cried.
            Finally, the queen called the crowd to silence. She clapped her hands together loudly until each and every pair of eyes was on her, and the soldiers commanded the attention of the few who weren’t so willing to give it. Apple Blossom scurried over to me and wrapped her arms around my waist. I laid my hand on top of her head.
            “This situation is certainly far from the ordinary,” the queen began, “and I understand your concerns, as any abnormal series of events will incite concern. However, we have no reason to believe that Aidyn is untrustworthy. My daughter has always shown good judgement when it comes to choosing friends, and from what I have observed, this is no exception. Aidyn is adored by my daughter and well received by her friends and their families. She looks after Apple Blossom and keeps her safe as well as entertaining her, and she has never indicated even once that she might lead her astray.” She turned to me then and nodded. “Aidyn, I thank you for bringing our daughter—our princess—safely home, and I apologize for the impulsive accusations of my husband and certain citizens of the Greenwood. Human or otherwise, you are our daughter’s companion, and you have given us reason to trust you. As such, we shall always accept you with open arms.”  
            I was so stunned. I didn’t know what to say. My arm was around Apple Blossom, who gasped and tugged at my shirt excitedly upon hearing her mother’s words. I simply nodded and said, “Your majesty, I…I thank you.” My voice had returned to me. “Yes, thank you. Thank you for your acceptance, for your hospitality, and above all…for your trust.” My heart fluttered so much that I was sure it was going to soar straight up into the sky. Apple Blossom had her arms around me, and in a sudden surge of emotion I scooped her up off of her feet and embraced her. I snuggled against her as she wrapped her arms around my shoulders. 

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