A young boy writes himself an epic adventure...which starts to come true!
When Caitlin opened the door to his bedroom, Jayden sighed with relief. Finally! It felt like forever since he'd woken up. He noted with satisfaction that she'd taken the time to get dressed properly, so he beckoned her over to sit on his bed beside him.
"I thought we might go and see some elves," he whispered.
Caitlin nodded enthusiastically.
Jayden had been planning what to write while he'd been waiting for Caitlin, so he didn't delay any further, but picked up a pencil and started to write in the journal.
Jayden and Caitlin were standing in a forest clearing, along with two elves.
Caitlin nudged Jayden with her elbow, nearly causing him to scribble across the page. He must remember to tell her not to do that. He looked up and saw two people standing across a forest clearing from them.
The clearing was quite large, so the people were several meters away. They looked to be quite short, until Jayden suddenly realised they were children. They looked to be about the same age as he and Caitlin. Both had pale golden-blonde hair. The boy looked a bit older, he was the taller of the two. Where were the elves, Jayden wondered? Were these two children the elves? Didn't elves look....different?
"Hello," he called out. "My name is Jayden and this is my sister Caitlin. Who are you?"
The boy rolled his eyes, but the girl replied to Jayden's question.
"I'm Nicholle. Everyone calls me Niki." She looked up at the boy and then added "This is Daniel. We call him Dan. He's my brother."
Caitlin smiled at her. "I have a nickname too! People call me Caitie. Mostly Mum and Dad and Jayden. And sometimes we call him Jays," she said, gesturing towards Jayden. "Are you elves?"
That was the question Jayden had been wanting an answer to.
Niki laughed. "Yes! See?"
She tugged her pale blonde hair behind her ear and Jayden was startled to see that her ear was pointy. Like an elf's. Well, that made sense, he supposed. Before Niki had tucked her hair behind her ear, he couldn't see either her or Daniel's ears, which were hidden by their hair. They looked like any other children he might meet. They were both very blonde though. Daniel was about as tall as Jayden, and Niki was a bit shorter.
Caitlin looked up at Jayden, then tentatively took a few steps towards the elves. "It's nice to meet you," she said politely.
Niki smiled at her and stepped forward to meet her in the middle of the clearing. "Are you here to play?" asked Niki. "We could climb trees or see if we could find some friendly rabbits or something."
Caitlin grinned. "Yes, let's!"
The two girls wandered off to the edge of the clearing, their heads close as they chattered to each other. Jayden wondered if he should warn her not to be gone too long, but then he thought that he could probably just write her back in to the clearing using the journal if he needed to. He shrugged and turned to face Daniel again.
"So, what do you normally do round here, Dan?"
Dan scowled at him. "I don't normally have to babysit stupid humans. I do whatever I want to."
Oh. Clearly the elf wasn't pleased to see them. Jayden hadn't considered that when he'd planned the adventure. It had never occurred to him. Oh dear.
"Um, well, what sort of things do you like doing? Do you like to climb trees?"
Dan's eyes narrowed as he looked at Jayden, then his mouth curved. Jayden wasn't entirely sure it was a nice smile, but he tried to smile back. He rather thought that the elf had thought of something horrid for them to do.
"How about a race?" Dan offered. Well, that wasn't horrid, Jayden supposed. He didn't mind running.
"Okay," he said, looking around for somewhere safe to put the journal. He decided to put it at the base of the largest tree he could find. "Do you think that'll be safe there?" he asked Dan. "I don't want to lose it."
Dan shrugged. "There's no one else here but us. It'll be fine."
Jayden hoped he was right.
"Okay, on the count of three. Ready? One! Two! Three!" The moment the words left Dan's mouth, his feet were flying over the grass.
Jayden ran as hard as he could, but he felt like his feet were pounding in to the ground with each step, whereas Dan seemed to be barely touching the grass at all he was running so fast. Before Jayden managed to reach the designated finish line they had agreed on, Dan was walking back to him with a smug grin on his face.
"Looks like I won."
Jayden nodded, trying to catch his breath. Dan didn't even look like he was puffing. He was clearly very fast and very fit, thought Jayden. He held out his hand. "Congratulations. You're much faster than I am."
Dan looked at his hand in surprise, then reached out and shook it. "Thanks. Right, how about an archery competition?"
Jayden stared at the elf in amazement. "Archery? I've only ever tried that once before, at a school camp, but okay. Sounds like fun!" Jayden was admiring the bow and arrows that Dan had produced. They looked sort of handmade, but they were very smooth and Jayden thought they probably cost a lot of money. Did elves use money? He wasn't sure.
"Right, the first to miss loses," Dan advised.
Jayden glanced at him. "Miss what?"
"Whatever you're aiming for, of course," he said, like it should have been obvious. "A bird, a rabbit, whatever."
"Animals? We're going to shoot animals?" Jayden was horrified. "I don't want to shoot animals. That's cruel!"
Dan shook his head a little, like he wasn't sure he'd heard properly. "What? Are you a vegetarian or something?"
"No. But I don't kill animals."
"Where do you get the meat that you eat from then?"
"I buy it. Well, Mum and Dad buy it. From a supermarket, or a shop or something."
Dan laughed. "And where do you think it comes from before then? Someone has to kill it."
Jayden felt stupid. Of course they did. "So, you just kill your own meat?"
"Yeah. That's what elves do."
Now that he understood that Dan's archery skills far surpassed his own, considering the most Jayden had ever done was shoot at a large, stationary target, Jayden suggested instead that they find another challenge. Dan had suggested a number of athletic skills, and Jayden was starting to realise that he was probably not going to win at any physical competition between the two of them. As Dan kept trying to think of new challenges, Jayden began to wonder if there might be something else, something not physical, that he might actually stand a chance of winning.
"Do you play chess?" he asked Dan hopefully. He was disappointed when the elf shook his head in response. "Draughts?" Again, a negative head shake. Jayden's mouth twisted as he tried to think of something else.
Just then, the two girls ran up to them. Caitlin bounced in front of Jayden, grinning. "Guess what, Jayden! Niki is 9 and she's older than me, but Dan is 11, same as you. Niki and I are going to be friends. Are you and Dan going to be friends too?"
The two boys looked at each other.
"We're trying to figure out something that we are both good at. Dan is good at running and shooting and stuff like that, but I'm not. I'm good at chess and games like that, but he doesn't play them. We can't think of anything we can both do."
Niki smiled at them. "Why don't we have a concert? Dan is amazing on drums. I can sing. What can you guys do?"
Caitlin gasped with delight. "Oh! I love singing! I'm in the choir at school. I'll sing too!"
Jayden looked thoughtful. "I'm pretty good at whistling. Maybe I could whistle? I wish I could play the drums, that's awesome."
Dan grinned. "I'll teach you. Come on."
Dan led them through the trees a short distance. There was so much space between the trees that the four children could almost walk side by side. Jayden and Caitlin had seen large trees before in their own land, trees that were too big for even grown men to put their arms around, but never before had they seen so many large, old trees in one place.
Jayden looked up the long, straight trunks painted abstractly with lichen to the branches far above their heads and wondered how many other people had passed beneath the leafy green canopy. What creatures had come this way in times gone past? Perhaps this was the first time humans had stepped here.
Caitlin was looking down at the moss clinging lovingly to smooth rocks at the base of the trunks, whispering excitedly to Niki whenever she saw a mushroom or toadstool. Jayden could just catch enough of the whispered conversation to know that Caitlin was telling Niki about their adventure with Foster and Eolande, the fairies. Bird calls came filtering through the branches in a pretty serenade and Jayden craned his neck trying to spot the birds. He heard the whooshing beat of wings and spun around, just catching a glimpse of a plump blue-feathered bird racing through the trees.
"Oof!" Jayden let out a breath of air when Caitlin bumped into him. She'd been looking down at the ground when he'd stopped, and walked straight in to him.
Dan turned and tapped his foot on the ground as he waited for the other three to catch up. "Come on, I want to show you my drums!"
They hurried to catch up and soon emerged in to a small clearing, similar to the one they'd first arrived in but about half the size. The clearing was dominated by the drum kit that sat just off-centre. It looked almost modern to Jayden, except it had strange writing on it that he thought might be runes.
"Dan, are those runes on your drums?"
Dan looked at him and nodded. He passed him a drumstick, pointing to the runes that decorated it. "See there? That's my name."
Jayden's mouth formed a circle as he examined the drumstick. "Oh, that's so cool! Can you read runes?"
"Of course," replied Dan as if it should have been obvious.
"Can you teach me some runes? I'd love to be able to read and write runes!"
"Um, okay. It's not as much fun as drumming though, so let's make some music first."
Dan showed off his skills on the drums, and Caitlin laughed as she watched birds flying away from the trees around them, scared off by the rhythms Dan was belting out. Jayden sat on the fat log beside Dan and watched carefully, trying to absorb every move. Soon he was shaking his head in admiration - there was no way he'd learn all that in one lesson! After a while, Dan slowed his rhythm and showed Jayden some basic beats, then offered him the drum sticks. The two boys huddled over the drums talking excitedly and banging away. The girls eventually moved away to do their singing, since the drumming wasn't really maintaining a constant rhythm that they could sing along to.
"Can you teach me a song from your land?" Niki asked Caitlin. "I'd love to learn a new song."
Caitlin pursed her lips thoughtfully and looked up to the canopy of leaves above her. What song should she teach Niki? Caitlin was in the choir at school, so she knew a few songs. Plus, there were songs that she and Jayden sang in the car with their mum on the way to and from school and songs she'd learned from the radio. Which one would the best to teach a person from another land? Ooh, maybe a Maori song, maybe that would be the best choice.
Niki waited patiently as Caitlin thought. She was trying to decide which Elven song she would teach Caitlin afterwards.
"Okay, would you like to learn a Maori song?" asked Caitlin.
"What does that mean, a Maori song?" Niki frowned. She hadn't heard that word before.
"Oh! Well, the Maori people are the native people of the country where I come from, New Zealand. They speak another language. I know a few of their songs. I thought I could teach you one of those."
"Okay!" Niki agreed with a smile. A song in a new language would be fun.
"Okay, this is one that my mum taught me. It's called 'He Tio Kōanga Tae Mai'" Caitlin cleared her throat, and carefully ran through the lyrics in her mind to be sure she knew them all, then she started singing. Her voice was high and clear.
He tio kōanga tae mai
Ki ōku makau whakaaro wāhi.
Māwhero pua tērā i runga
He mumura whakawhiti tio mata.
Ia wāhi ahau titiro,
Ātaahua puapua huri noa.
Me he patupaiarehe mārena whakatūria tēnei,
to rātau rākai runga i whenua.
Ahau noho a tuku tio mata katia,
Ahau i rua whakaaro ki tautetia.
Te mārire aupaki, te māriri kohu,
Ahau tuku tio hinengaro ātiu.
Ahau rongo he māriri turituri kaore he korero,
He rangi wheo o nga pī.
He pua whakararo moemoeā-
He tio kōanga tae mai.
When Caitlin finished singing, Niki clapped her hands together in applause. "That was excellent. What a lovely song. What do the words mean?"
Caitlin frowned and thought for a moment. She didn't speak Maori, but she thought she had a vague idea of the subject. "I think it's a song about spring."
"Yeah, like the season. Spring, summer, autumn, winter?"
Niki nodded. "Ah, I see. Okay, let's go through it a bit slower. What was the first line?"
Caitlin sung each line slowly and Niki repeated it after her. After the first few run-throughs, they managed to sing a reasonably decent version of the first verse. When they stopped, they grinned at each other.
"That was fun!" commented Caitlin. "Let's do one of yours now."
"Okay, I thought of a Elven song I could teach you. Since your one was about spring, I thought I'd teach you an Elven one about spring. This one is called 'Mae Ychydig O Gwanwyn Wedi Dod'."
"Wow. Okay!" Caitlin waited eagerly.
Niki paused for a moment to clear her thoughts, then started singing. Caitlin thought the words sounded beautiful, rolling off the other girl's tongue. Caitlin couldn't even distinguish individual words and wondered if that was how it had sounded for Niki when Caitlin had sung the Maori song. It was beautiful to listen to though.
Mae ychydig o gwanwyn wedi dod,
I fy meddwl lle hoff.
Blodau pinc gwelw llawer uwch,
Cast a gochi ar draws fy wyneb.
Ym mhobman edrychaf,
Petalau 'n bert' i gyd o gympas.
Fel priodas tylwyth teg chynnal yma,
Eu confetti ar y ddaear.
Yr wyf yn eistedd a gadael fy llygaid ar gau drift,
Mae gen i feddwl neu ddau i gnoi cil.
Mae'r llonyddwch tawel, y niwl ysgafn,
Rwy'n gadael fy meddwl yn unig crwydro.
Yr wyf yn clywed dim ond ysgafn, swn heb eiriau,
Mae hum cacynen melodig.
Mae blodau yn arnofio i lawr freuddwydiol-
Mae ychydig o gwanwyn wedi dod.
Again, the two girls sang the song through several times, line by line. They skipped around the clearing, arm in arm, singing.
Finally, Jayden stood up and stretched his arms above his head. "Man, my arms are sore!" he said with a grin. "That was awesome. I wish we could do that again sometime."
"You just need to practice," advised Dan. "You're pretty good for a beginner actually. If you practice, you'll get really good."
Jayden nodded, pleased to have won some respect from the elf. Practice was the answer for most things it seemed. It was a shame he couldn't write himself some drumming talent!
"Could you teach me some runes now?" Jayden asked.
Dan shrugged. "Fine. What do you want to learn?"
"Can you teach me how to write my name?"
"Okay. Let's go back and get your journal, since I don't have anything to write with here."
They called to the girls and told them they were going back to the other clearing. Caitlin and Niki nodded and fell in behind as they walked back through the trees. The girls' singing echoed through the forest and Jayden smiled as he listened. The Elven song was quite pretty, he thought.
When they reached the other clearing, Jayden found the journal lying just where he'd left it, and he picked it up and passed it to Dan.
"Don't use too much space," he cautioned the other boy. "The moment we run out of paper in there, we can't have any more adventures or even get home. So we need to be careful not to waste the paper."
Dan flicked the pages until he came to the first blank spot in the journal, his eyebrows rising as he saw his name and realised the journal had been recording all their words and actions. "Wow. This journal is even more magical than I thought. Where did you get it?"
"I bought it at a market with my mum. I didn't know it was magical when I bought it. It was either that or a dragon statue, and I'm pretty pleased I picked that!" Jayden laughed. It had certainly been a lucky purchase.
"Okay, spell your name and I'll write it in runes," said Dan.
"J. A. Y. D. E. N," spelled Jayden as he watched Dan making careful lines in the journal. When Dan had finished, Jayden looked over the markings and tried to memorise them. "That's my name? That is so cool."
"Yep. See? That's a J," Dan said, pointing to the first set of lines, "and that's an A."
"Okay. What about your name?"
Dan made a few more marks in the journal. "That part there says Dan, and the whole thing says Daniel".
"Can I try?"
Dan shrugged and handed the pencil and journal back. Jayden looked at his name and tried to copy the markings underneath.
Dan looked over his shoulder and nodded. "Not bad. It's readable. Just be careful to make that line there go on an angle like this..."
"What about... Caitlin?"
"Spell it for me."
"C. A. I. T. L. I. N."
Dan carefully wrote the name in runes. "And this is Niki," said Dan as he wrote some more marks in the journal. "But Nicholle looks like this."
"This is so awesome," said Jayden. "I've always wanted to learn how to write runes!"
The two boys wrote more words, with Jayden carefully copying each line of runes underneath Dan's original inscription, until finally Jayden decided it was probably time for them to go home.
"Thank you for the lesson. This has been a great adventure."
"You're welcome. I thought it would be really boring babysitting a human, but actually," Dan shrugged, "that was fun."
"Aw, do we have to go, Jayden?" whined Caitlin when he came to collect her.
"Remember, if we spend hours here then we'll be tired when we get home and it's still just early morning there. We have to be careful or Mum and Dad will think something's wrong. Maybe we can come back."
Caitlin nodded glumly. She understood, but she wasn't happy about leaving her new friend. "Say hi to Santa for me," she said to Niki, waving goodbye.
Niki's eyes widened in surprise and she tipped her head up to look at her brother. Dan was looking at Caitlin, smiling.
Jayden held his breath, wondering what the elf was going to say.
"We're not Santa's elves. We're a completely different sort of elf. They live in the North Pole and we've never met them. We've never met Santa." Caitlin pouted, even as Jayden breathed a sigh of relief.
"Sorry," Dan offered. "Maybe you can write an adventure to see Santa?" he suggested.
Caitlin nodded, smiling. "Yeah, we totally should!" Pleased with the idea, she bounced on her tiptoes as she waited impatiently for Jayden to write in the journal.
"Goodbye!" called Niki.
"Bye Niki! It was nice to meet you!"
"See you," said Jayden before looking down at the journal.
"Yeah, see you around some time," replied Daniel.
Jayden and Caitlin were home again, sitting on Jayden's bed.
Caitlin heaved a big sigh. "It seems like every adventure is so special that I don't want it to end, but then the next adventure I'm glad I got to do something else new and exciting."
"Yeah," Jayden agreed. "I know what you mean."
Caitlin smiled at him, then clambered off the bed. "I'm off to have breakfast," she told him, "I'm starving."
Ooh, good idea. Jayden placed the journal on his dresser and followed her out of the room.