Sunday, June 26, 2016

Into the Land of the Elves: The Final Entry (ending)

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, friend and teacher
September 7
11:30 AM

The Final Entry

       Apple Blossom starts her writing lessons on Monday. Today is Saturday, and as per the time-honored educational tradition of the humans, I will never give lessons on Saturdays and Sundays. In my childhood, Saturdays and Sundays were reserved for sleeping in, Saturday morning cartoons, and long days of play. Unfortunately, Apple Blossom doesn't entirely get that luxury. She has her morning lessons with Beryl, as well as her education and training in becoming the Greenwood's future queen. Her teachers must be doing an excellent job with her, as she is already as much a little queen as she ever could be.
       Apple Blossom has yet to tell Beryl that she will be studying under me. She might be telling her right now, and I have a feeling that it will give poor Beryl a case of the vapors. But her parents have already given me their seal of approval, though it was a very reluctant one. They were even more reluctant when they were told that Katie was going to be my teaching assistant. They said several words to Apple Blossom in tree-elven, which Apple Blossom later told me meant something along the lines of, “This is getting entirely out of hand.” But after some careful and persistent persuasion, they finally agreed—under the condition that the queen would supervise these lessons. I had no problem with that; honestly, I had been waiting for an opportunity to get to know the queen better. The most that I had ever interacted with her had been on that first day, at Apple Blossom's birthday party. We don't play with humans, Apple Blossom, she had told her daughter then. Look at how much has changed in the space of a summer!
       I'm sitting in the garden, looking toward the magnolia archway that had concealed a whole nother world for so long. Since my first step beyond that archway, I've met a princess, attended a royal birthday party, discovered a land of elves, swam with mermaids, gotten into trouble, made new friends, become a teacher, and entered into an alliance that will make history. And of course, I have produced my greatest work of all time and given it the greatest purpose. Any writer can churn out fairy tales until they get lucky with a big seller, but I doubt that any other writer out there has ever donated their work to the archives of a kingdom of forest elves. My diary will make history. By the time Apple Blossom becomes queen, a generation of Jadeites will be aware that an alliance between the Jadeites and the humans not only works out, but has produced something wonderful more than once. Of course, I'll still be around when Apple Blossom is queen. I might even be her royal scribe, or else the head of the brand new Department of Human Affairs. Ha ha, that's a long way away.
       I've never been more motivated to write than I am right now. I set out into the land of the elves in search of writing material, and came back with a steady supply of it and so much more. This particular tale will never be for human eyes, but that doesn't mean that I can't take a few elements here and there for my future stories. One day, I could write about an unlikely friendship between a human commoner and elven royalty, or about a race of people that can channel nature magic through gemstones. Perhaps I'll tell the story of a woman who finds herself in a hidden woodland where humans are looked down upon. No one will ever have to know where I've come up with such fanciful ideas. It's just Aidyn's imagination running away with her again, just like it always does...
       And of course, I will write for Apple Blossom. I'll tell her stories that will make those eyes light up with wonder. I'll weave her wonderful worlds to dream about and beautiful images to fill her lively mind. Stories will be part of our lessons. Naturally, she will learn to read my other stories just as well as she will learn to read this one. I wonder if she's ever tried to write a story before...
       But this story will forever belong to her, and to the Greenwood; it's the first of what I can only hope will be many, many stories of a friendship between humans and Jadeites. Wait, I don't need to hope! I know there will be many others, because I will write them all! And maybe someday, Apple Blossom and Wildflower will write even more. Nature magic is one thing, but if you ask me, writing is one of the most powerful magics in the entire world, and it's the kind of magic that can be shared among humans, Jadeites, tree elves, and whoever else may be out there in those hidden areas of the world.
       Katie's been blowing up my phone for the past twenty minutes. I guess I should get ready to go and pick her up now. I've got a tupperware tub of black grapes waiting in the fridge, and my teaching materials and A Dragon's Pride are all packed up in my bag. All I need is Katie, and this diary...

12:56 PM

       Hannah sent some burgers over for me and Katie's lunch, and I wish that she had sent enough for Apple Blossom and Wildflower. If they liked venison, then a hamburger would absolutely blow their minds. I'll make sure they get one next time.
       I'm curled up in the back of Katie's car, writing away as we head on down to the magnolia archway. “I don't want you to drive,” Katie told me, “I want you to write. Your story needs to end on a decent note, because if you have a good ending, then they'll want to hear more.” I've got the window cracked open, and the air is surprisingly crisp and fall-like for so early in September. It won't be too long before the leaves begin to change, and the Greenwood will be painted shades of red, orange, and gold. It's far too beautiful out to study in the library. I might move our class out to the banks of the Bell's Rush, and if we're very lucky, Katie will get to see the mermaids.
       “Don't park in the woods,” I warn Katie as the first spruces of the mini forest come into view. “The guardians wouldn't appreciate that.” Nodding, Katie pulls over in front of the spruces. “You're coming out, right?” she asks me as she holds the car door open.
       “Duh, of course I am,” I tell her. “I just want to finish this up first. Wait for me down by the magnolias.”
       Katie sighs. “You know I can't get past all that brush without your help.”
       “You've done it before,” I remind her, recalling the time she had scared the daylights out of me and Apple Blossom by showing up unexpectedly.
       “Oh, fine then,” she says. “I'll be there.” So she goes off into the woods and leaves me alone to muse over the end of my summer adventures. It doesn't feel like an ending at all, but a beginning: the beginning of a friendship, the beginning of an adventure, the beginning of an alliance, the beginning of a new chapter in both the history of the Jadeites and my own writer's life. I'm gathering up my bag and getting out of the car now. I don't want to leave Katie waiting—she isn't too fond of spiders either, even though she isn't as squeamish around them as Janelle is. I can write and walk at the same time, I've done it many times before.
       Katie's made it through the brush, I see. It isn't so hard to get to the Greenwood if the guardians want you to be there. When they don't want you to, it's another story. There they are, perched high upon their webs in the leaves above my head, watching to make sure that I keep Katie out of trouble. I nod to them. They know that the Greenwood is my second home. I would never do anything to bring harm to it.
          Apple Blossom's here. I hear her and Katie's cheery chatter. My human best friend and my Jadeite best friend are chatting it up as if they have been best friends from the very start. From this moment on, this diary belongs to Princess Apple Blossom, of the Greenwood. Let it be known that within this book is the one-hundred-percent true story of the very first true friendship between a human woman and Jadeite royalty. The story of my adventure shall be a message to the future generations of the Jadeites of this Greenwood that all it takes to form a revolutionary alliance is just a little bit of kindness and an open mind. There has been an alliance before, there has been an alliance again, and let us hope that from here on out, there will be many, many more. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Into the Land of the Elves: The Story of an Alliance

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, friend (to humans and elves)
September 4
5:25 PM

The Story of an Alliance

        “You know,” Apple Blossom said to me as she watched Wildflower copy down the words I had written for her, “it doesn't make very much sense that we can speak two languages, but only write one.”
       “That's a point,” I told her, and when she tilted her head at me in confusion, I clarified, “You're right,” before cramming two grapes in my mouth.
       “It just doesn't seem right to me at all,” Apple Blossom went on. “The English language was passed down through Chokana, right? So why didn't she ever teach her child how to write it?”
       “She might not have known how to write,” I told her. “In those days, a lot of women were never taught to write, or even read. It was a pretty backwards time.”
       “I'd like to learn to write English,” Apple Blossom said. She took a big bite out of a grape and swallowed it before asking what I knew she had been planning to ask all along: “Will you teach me?”
       I would have loved to teach Apple Blossom how to write English. Wildflower had only been at it for a few weeks, and yet she was doing so well that it was almost time for her to go from writing words to short sentences. But if I taught both Wildflower and Apple Blossom, I had a feeling that I would end up having to teach everybody. “I would love to, Apple Blossom,” I told her, “but I'm not sure when I'm going to have the time. You know that I have a lot of writing to do.”
       “If you have time to teach Wildflower,” Apple Blossom insisted, “then you have time to teach me. You can teach me while you're teaching her.”
       “Hmm...” I played with the thought in my head, just as Wildflower handed me her finished paper to look over. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to teach the two of them together. Sure, Apple Blossom was five years older, but the writing would be just as new to her as it was to Wildflower. They could copy down the same words and the same sentences—the only difference might be the pace at which they worked. I had never tutored any students before Wildflower (and Wildflower was a perfectly lovely student), but I knew that she was doing well under my instruction. I knew even more as I looked over the perfectly-copied words on her paper, beside the little illustrations I'd asked Hannah to draw, and my heart swelled with pride in my little student. “Excellent work, Wildflower!” I exclaimed. “You did everything just right! I'm so proud of you, sweetie!” I rewarded her with a hug and a handful of eight big black grapes. She accepted them eagerly.
       “Come here, Apple Blossom!” I called to her, and she came running from where she and Katie had been picking handfuls of new goldenrods. I took A Dragon's Pride out of my bag. “We can read this,” I told her, “or we can read some of the diary. Which one do you want?”
       “Oh, A Dragon's Pride,” Hannah said. “That's a real good one; one of your better stories, Aidyn.” She turned to Apple Blossom and said, “I bought my own copy as soon as it went on sale.”
       “She loves it,” I told her, smiling at Apple Blossom. “So which will it be?”
       “One after the other, please,” Apple Blossom said politely. She added, “I mean, if you don't mind it.”
       “I don't,” I said, and then I got an idea. “When you met Hannah and Janelle the other day,” I told Apple Blossom, “I got home that evening and wrote all about it in the diary. Would you like to hear what I have written?”
       “Oh, yes, please!” Apple Blossom said eagerly.
       “Hey, I kind of want to hear that too,” Hannah said, moving to sit beside Apple Blossom. Katie gathered up her goldenrods and joined us. Wildflower continued to scribble English letters down in her own diary, but I could tell that she would listen once I started reading. I took out my diary, turned to the page, and began to read.
       Ever since my adventures in the Greenwood had begun, I'd marveled at just how much my diary—my very own life—had become a story. To Apple Blossom, it was a story, a story to listen to and comment on, to interject and question, the equivalent of any other good book. Until today, I had never shared my diary-story with anyone but her. But now, I regarded the increasingly-attentive eyes of Katie and Hannah as I read this small passage that featured nothing truly remarkable. I recounted Janelle's fear of the spiders, the ugly sight of the spears lined up along the Bell's Rush (I saw Katie's face fall as I admitted that I resented her and the others just a little bit for being the reason for blocking our entrance to the Greenwood), the picnic we had, and Apple Blossom's little demonstration of the magic of jade essences. Somehow, I had made these simple little events into a story worth listening to. Somehow, I had turned this entire summer into a story worth listening to. If I may allow myself to boast, it may be the greatest story that I've ever written. And it's all true!
       But of course, it will never be published. Some stories, no matter how great, were just never meant to be published—at least, not to humans. But what about to Jadeites? What might the true story of a friendship between a human and the princess of the Jadeites mean to them? How valuable would such a story be if it were found in the Grand Greenwood Library, or even the castle's private archives? To have such a record around just might provide the insight that the Jadeites need to consider a real Jadeite-human alliance! In a way, one of those already existed, through our friendship. Friendship was a sort of alliance.
       I finished reading the entry. Apple Blossom flashed me her signature smile and said, “Thank you for reading, Aidyn. I'm glad that you wrote that.”
       I'm glad that I wrote it too. I'm glad that I wrote everything. “You're very welcome,” I told her with a smile, before getting up and taking her by the hand. “I need to talk to you real quick,” I said.
       “Have I done something wrong?” she asked, her eyes widening.
       “Oh, no, dear,” I said, “not at all! In fact, I have something to say that I think you're going to like.” I led her over to the patch of goldenrods that she and Katie had been picking. She bounced on her heels in anticipation of the good news, and I couldn't help chuckling. I loved this merry little fox so much, like she was my very own baby sister.
       “Apple Blossom,” I began, “I want to give my diary to you.”
       “Give it to me?” she asked, bewildered. “But why?”
       “If I give it to you,” I told her, “then the story will belong to the Greenwood, forever. The story of a friendship between a human and Jadeite, the story of my world and yours...” I was blown away by my own solemnity, and had to pause for a moment. My goodness, I was getting carried away. “I want you to have that, Apple Blossom. I want the Greenwood to have it. I want the Greenwood's history to hold on to the story of a real, true friendship between a human and a Jadeite. You want an alliance, don't you? Well, you may not have realized it, but there is an alliance now. Our friendship is the alliance, Apple Blossom.”
       “Nobody will be able to read it,” Apple Blossom said, her voice just barely above a whisper.
       “You'll be able to,” I said, my lips curling into a smile, “once I teach you.”
       “You're going to teach me?” Apple Blossom's eyes were so wide that I thought that they would take over her entire face. “You're going to teach me to write and to read it? Are you really going to teach me, Aidyn?”
             “Yes,” I said, and I realized that I had made this decision the very moment she had asked in the first place. “I'm going to teach you, because if I teach you, then you will be able to teach everybody else. Someone's got to do it, Apple Blossom. Someone's got to.”