Thursday, June 11, 2015

Into the Land of the Elves: Chokana and Newt

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, elf friend and storyteller
August 9
9:42 AM

Chokana and Newt

“What do you want to hear first?” I asked Apple Blossom as I opened my diary. “Or do you want me to start from the beginning?’
            “What’s in there?” asked Apple Blossom.
            “Everything,” I said, “from the day I was tagged up to about an hour and a half ago.”
            “Start from the beginning, please,” said Apple Blossom. So I obliged, beginning with my backyard exploration and the discovery of the magnolia archway. I had expected plenty of interjections, but Apple Blossom was a quiet and attentive listener. I ended with the discovery of the tag in my sandal and said, “I think that will be enough for today.” She sighed disappointedly and said, “But you didn’t read anything about me!”
            “I’ll read you that part tomorrow,” I told her. “In fact, I’ll start off with it.”
            “You heard my celebration horns that day,” Apple Blossom informed me.
            “Oh! So that’s what all the honking was about.”
            “Yes,” said Apple Blossom. “Whenever there is a big celebration in the Greenwood, we get to blow the horns. We had smaller, quieter horns at Crystalline’s birthday that only we got to hear, but mine were so loud that the whole wood could hear them.”
            “Lucky you,” I said.
            “You have a pretty backyard, Aidyn,” said Apple Blossom. “I wish I could see more of it. I want to see all of those lovely things you wrote about.”
            “You saw the tiger lilies,” I reminded her. “Besides, nothing in my world could be as lovely as your Greenwood.”
            “I disagree,” was Apple Blossom’s response.
            Apple Blossom is at her lessons now, hopefully discovering the origin story of the doll we found in the fairy tale room. I’ve done all of my work that doesn’t require a computer at the castle, and all of my work that does require a computer at night. What should I do? Watch TV, browse the web? What’s so fun about sitting and watching pictures in a box? Oh! I know! I’ll go out and take pictures of all of the things Apple Blossom liked about my yard: the pond, the cherry tree, the interior of the mini forest…
            Then again, I do have several missed calls piled up on my phone. Half are from my mother, the other half are from my friends who are wondering where the heck I’ve been. Maybe I should return these calls.
            But I won’t talk for very long. I do want to take those pictures.

1:50 PM

            I’m going out for coffee with Katie tomorrow morning. I haven’t see her in nearly a month, and her bitter lament about how she feels forgotten by me stung enough for me to agree to a morning at the café. Apple Blossom understood when I told her during lunch in the garden. “You ought to have some time with other humans,” she said. “You must get tired of being with Jadeites all the time.”
            “I would rather be with Jadeites than humans,” I told her.
            “So would you ever fall in love with one?” Apple Blossom asked, and I nearly dropped the mug of blueberry juice I was sipping from! “Excuse me?” I said. “What did you just ask me?”
            “Do you think you’ll ever meet a nice man from the Greenwood and fall in love with him?” Apple Blossom asked casually.
            I don’t even know any Jadeite men, except for the extremely unavailable king! “What put that idea in your head, Apple Blossom?” I asked.
            “What Beryl told me,” Apple Blossom said, “about the doll.”
            That did it. “What did she say?” I asked, nearly leaping up out of my seat.
            “She told me the whole story, “Apple Blossom said, “though she was quite reluctant to. ‘You’re already far too concerned with humans,’ she told me, ‘and if I tell you this it’ll only encourage you to plunge even deeper into their world and their ways. But I suppose if I don’t tell you, you’ll never let it rest.’” I laughed at her stern impression of her teacher. Clearly, Beryl knows Apple Blossom very well.
            “So she told me,” Apple Blossom continued, “that the doll is a human woman named Chokana. She was alive during the time of the tree elves, and she lived with her family in a forest where lots of tree elves lived. The tree elves didn’t like humans either; they thought they were loud, mean, strange, and always in the way of the forest. But Chokana loved the tree elves. Every day, she would come out into the forest just to watch them and see how they lived. They wouldn’t trust her and they kept away from her. Some even hissed at her, threw sticks and leaves at her, and called her ‘sharrasht,’ which means ‘beast’ in tree elven. But it didn’t stop her from watching them and longing to be their friend.
            “And then there was Newt. Newt was a gatherer who lived with his family in a big red oak tree. While out on a gathering trek one day, he saw Chokana watching him. He had heard stories of the human woman who sat in the bushes watching, and he was told that she was dangerous and to stay far away from her. But when he saw her for the first time, he saw that she was so pretty, and so quiet and sweet. She did not seem so dangerous at all, and he was drawn to her. He approached her and she drew back, because she didn’t know if he meant to shout at her or throw sticks. He told her not to be afraid of him, and though she couldn’t understand him, she understood that his tone was gentle and his face was calm.
            “After that, the two of them started to see eachother, and then they fell in love. Newt’s parents were so angry that he had chosen a human lover that they disowned him. They said that he was foolish, that Chokana was dangerous, and that having him around with Chokana would put their family in danger. Everybody else was so afraid of Chokana that they couldn’t bear to have Newt around if he was going to be with her—and he was going to be with her, because he loved her. So Newt became an outcast.
            “After that, Chokana did everything that she could to take care of Newt. She brought him food. She helped him build a shelter in the middle of the woods, out of the way of both the tree elf wood and the human village. She would visit him every day, and the two of them would explore the forest together. The doll of Chokana has her arms outstretched to Newt in an embrace.”
            “So we need to find Newt,” I said.
            “Yes, we do,” said Apple Blossom with a nod. “But I really must finish the story first!” Her eyes were wide with urgency. “I’m listening,” I told her.
            “Newt and Chokana went out on one of their walks through the forest,” Apple Blossom continued, “when they came upon a little rock quarry in the middle of a mossy clearing. Rock quarries aren’t especially uncommon in the forest, but this was different from the others they had seen; this one had several strange, jaggedy stones that were bright green, and Newt had never, ever seen a green stone before. Chokana had, though, and she told him about jades.
            “The jaggedy little stones that they found didn’t look a thing like jades. Jades, Chokana told Newt, were brilliant, round, and shiny stones the color of the leaves on the trees. These were rough and chalky stones that were only a hint of green, the color of the moss on the ground all around them. They ignored these stones, but Chokana promised Newt that she would bring a real jade stone for him to see. Jades were used for jewelry and crafting in Chokana’s village. Chokana had a jade necklace, and the next day she wore it when she went to see Newt. Those brilliant jades were nothing like the chalky green stones in the quarry, and Newt was absolutely enchanted by them. In fact, he was drawn to them in a way that they seemed to be calling to him, coaxing him to come closer. He sensed that there was a sort of energy in them, a force. It was as if they were a live thing that had a spirit.”
            “The jade essences!” I said with a gasp.
            “Yes,” said Apple Blossom, “but he couldn’t have known about the jade essences then. He only knew that the jades possessed energy that he could feel. He asked Chokana if she could feel it too, but she said that she couldn’t; the jades were only ordinary stones to her.
            “But together, the two of them made attempts to tap into that energy. They slept with jades under their pillows. They meditated under the sun with a jade in each hand. They walked through the forest with jades around their necks and in their pockets, and bathed in the stream surrounded by jade stones on all sides. They spent almost all of their time with jades, and it got so just about everything that they did involved a jade in some way. For Chokana, none of this made any difference. But for Newt, it meant everything! Newt succeeded, Aidyn! He succeeded in tapping into those jade energies and using them! Newt was the very first tree elf to harness the jade essences!”
            “How did he use them?” I asked. I became increasingly aware that my heart was pounding against my chest like it was trying to bust down a door. “What did he do with the jade essences? How did he know that he had tapped into them?”
            “Newt began to change,” Apple Blossom said. “He developed certain abilities: he could make moss and heathers grow on dry, barren patches of soil. Soon, he learned to grow flowers in this way. The flowers he grew at first were small and scrawny, but he gave them as gifts to Chokana and she was always delighted with them. His newfound power allowed him to tap in to the energies of the trees and manipulate them, allowing them to produce apples in the summer, berries in the fall. The trees spoke to him now, not in the wind or the rustle of the leaves, but in his own language. They told him where to find food, how to navigate the forest, and if there were any changes in the weather that he ought to be aware of. He brought Chokana to all of the lovely streams, glades, and wild gardens that they would direct him to. By then, he knew enough of Chokana’s language, and she knew enough of his, to tell her about all of the things the trees whispered to him. The magic that Newt found within the jades changed the way he looked as well. Green streaks appeared in his hair, and flecks of green appeared in his hazel eyes. Even his skin began to turn green—though only slightly, like those jaggedy stones in the quarry.”
            “Wait a minute!” I interjected. “Do you mean to tell me that Newt became the first Jadeite?”
                Apple Blossom shook her head. “Newt didn’t become the first Jadeite,” she said. “But…” She looked right into my eyes then, and her own eyes showed me that she was about to drop some news of epic proportions. An ear to ear grin began to form, and I braced myself. “Newt became the father of the first Jadeite!” she told me. “The first Jadeite was Newt and Chokana’s child!” 

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