Poppyseed and Sunflower
Author: Inventunus

Chapter 3
Dangers in the Great Forest

     Long ago (Charlie Chan began, his old brown hat drooping over his forehead), the monkeys all lived in the Great Forest that divides Northlands from Westlands. It is the greatest of all the forests and the most exciting, even more so than your wonderful forest, my girls. We had monkeys of every size and description - small ones, large ones, tall ones, skinny ones.  We had chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans, spider monkeys, rhesus monkeys and baboons. You name it, we had it!

    Now it would be untrue to say we never had fights because we did. However, on the whole, everyone made up pretty quickly because we had a saying, 'Never let the sun go down on your anger.' All the monkeys kept this rule, even if sometimes we didn't know if the sun had gone down or not!

    Our home was at the northern end of the Great Forest near a city called Norsewood. Monkeys were strictly off limits in the city and the Norsemen tended to stay out of the forest so we hardly ever saw people at all.

    Our tree house was situated in the forest at the foot of the Great Mountains, the like of which you have never seen. The mountains around Safeland are mere hills in comparison. The Great Mountains consist of tall, majestic peaks that reach to the heavens, often disappearing into fluffy white clouds; jagged peaks and bluffs; deep gorges; sparkling rivers cascading brilliantly over high waterfalls into deep blue pools; caves and caverns stretching miles underground; purple heather creeping up to touch the fringes of snowy turrets. These are formidable mountains, unscaled, impassable, mysterious. We felt secure living there, protected by the mountains, hidden away in the forest.

                                            

    But one day not long ago, everything changed. I was out up an oak tree not far from home with my brother George. We were having a competition to see who could collect 100 acorns first. We both had flax baskets (we had made) on the forest floor and, perched a little way up the tree, we would pick an acorn and attempt to throw it into the basket below. George was a better shot than me (being older than me) and had been trying to teach me how to get my eye in. We got on really well as brothers. "How many have you got, George?" I asked as I threw my 91st into my basket. "96" he replied. Oh oh, I thought,  I'd better fire off a whole series or George will beat me again. 

    Quickly scoring 5 more acorns (and proud of it) I was about to say "Caught you, George" when I heard a whistling sound. An arrow skimmed right past my ear and embedded itself in the big branch behind me! I looked at the arrow, I looked at George and before I could look anywhere else, George yelled "Scamper, Charlie!"

   Monkeys don't need many words when danger is about and I scampered as fast as my 5 limbs could carry me. It's just as well that we have 4 legs and a tail to run because I needed all of them, as arrows shot past me from all directions. I wanted to stop and find out what was going on but this was no time for questions. Knowing this part of the forest like the back of my hairy hand I swung this way and that. I soon got out of the range of the arrows and hurriedly flew into a copse of small bushes to hide and catch my breath.

    Lying in the shadows, well hidden, I waited. Where had George gone? Was he captured? Killed? Or did he get away? Oh, I certainly hoped so. I waited, listening to every sound but heard nothing. Just the usual forest noises - frogs croaking, bees buzzing, birds chirping, cicadas clicking. But still I waited.

    Then I heard them. But they were ever so quiet. Most unusual for the Northland men who when seen in the forest always tromped around noisily giving the forest creatures plenty of time to hide. I held my breath lest they heard even that and kept as still as a rabbit.

    Then I saw them. But they weren't Northerners! Six, quite short, podgy men, crept through the forest, bows and arrows slung over their shoulders. Their green and brown clothes camouflaged well with the forest and they each carried  a pouch around their waists. From time to time out of this pouch they took a mushroom to eat - polka dot mushrooms! Very unusual.  They moved so stealthily I could see now why George and I hadn't heard them approaching us before.

     These men were very clever. When these six had passed and I was about to creep out of my hiding place, I noticed I’d been sitting on a big old fat mushroom and paused to brush off the fragments. Just at that moment a seventh man emerged as quietly as the rest and again I held my breath. He had a grey feather in his grey-brown cap and I suspected that he was the leader. What a trick, I thought. I bet they caught a lot of creatures that way and he would have caught me but for the mushroom.

    I waited for over an hour after this, then quietly made my way back to the tree. George wasn't to be seen, of course. Our baskets of acorns all over the ground - 192 of them. I crept home and discovered our tree house in a terrible state. But where was everyone?

    I searched for George and for my father and mother but I could find no trace of where they had gone. Now what? Should I try to find to them? But which direction? Should I wait here? But what if the men returned and caught me during the night? A big decision had to be made and after some hours of sitting in our old tree house I decided I must leave in search of my dear family, assuming them to be in trouble.

   That  was when I saw something I hadn't seen before. It was glistening in the light quite a distance away, caught in one of the branches. I swung over and pulled it free.  It was a chain with a small silver locket attached. Carefully I prised it open but I found nothing but a glass and silver casing inside. I put the chain round my neck anyway. Perhaps it was a clue after all. Time would tell.

    Amongst our other scattered belongings I found a pack and, putting it on my back, I swung away towards the Great Mountains. My parents had always taught us to go there if trouble ever came and so that had to be the first place to look.

    Well, I couldn’t find any trace of any of them anywhere. Neither in the mountains nor in the forest. It was too dangerous to explore Norsewood. Besides which, since the strangers obviously weren't Norselanders, my family probably weren't in Norsewood anyway. So I headed south through the forest. This was risky because this was most likely the same direction the podgy men were heading but it was this  or nothing.

    The forest was previously full of monkeys, but now I found none! There are two main routes through the forest - a west path and an east path and I was taking the well used west path. Perhaps that's where they all were.

                                                 

   So it was that I came, eventually, to a Great Wall that prevented me going any further. The wall was even higher than the highest trees. It had no gates through it that I could see. To the south was clear land but it would have been dangerous for me to run across open land. So I decided to spend the night up one of these trees while I pondered my next move.

     I was most thankful as it happened that I did. Soon after dusk I thought I heard someone whimpering below me. Sure enough, on the forest floor below the branch I was sitting on, I spotted another chimpanzee, much my own age, dragging its feet as though in pain. Despite the danger, I swung down and landed softly beside the chimp. It was a lady  chimp! And she was wounded. She got a terrific fright to see me and squealed, "Don't hurt me! I'm sorry I ran!"

     I wondered what on earth she was talking about! Her leg was bleeding so I searched quickly for some large leaves and secured them to her leg with a vine I cut with my teeth. (My father had taught me this. ) She was too weak to argue. Then I comforted her and kept her warm in the hollow of a tree while she slept in my arms.

     The leaves I'd chosen were special healing leaves and by morning her wound was much better, though she still moved with a limp. I introduced myself. "I'm Charlie Chan but you can call me Charlie."

    "I'm Gina," she replied tenderly. "You have been very kind to me. I wish there was something I could do for you." 

    "Just to see another monkey is reward enough, Gina!", I replied. "What happened to you last night?"

     "It was horrible. They swooped in so quickly, none of us had a chance. Arrows in all directions. Monkeys falling out of trees. Nets here and there. It was one such arrow that sliced my leg calf. I don't know how they missed me as I hobbled to safety."

     I put my arms around Gina's shoulders to comfort her because she was quite upset. "Much the same thing happened to me, Gina. We must get away from these parts and find a safe area for a time. Do you want to come with me?"

     Gina looked back the way she'd come and after a few seconds nodded, "Yes, Charlie, I'd like that." And she gave me a long hug of thanks. It was then that she discovered the locket round my neck and asked me about it. I told her where I'd found it and opened the little case once more - to find to my surprise that now there  were words written on the silver casing! I looked twice in astonishment and held it up to the light to read the words more carefully.

      “That’s odd, “I remarked. “When I first looked inside this locket there were no words.. Now there are three.”

      “What do they say?” asked Gina.

      “Wish I knew. They don’t make much sense at all. Three words in a strange language - Adonai, El Shaddai.”

      “What language is that, Charlie?”

      “Beats me,” I replied.

     Mystery words that meant nothing to either of us.  Still, we treasured this strange message in our hearts, hopeful that one day its meaning would be explained. Perhaps it was a clue to finding where my family were.

     We decided to turn left at the Great Wall, avoiding the open spaces to the south and, keeping close to it, hoped to find a way through. The following day we came to some small mountains, having found no gate though at one stage we thought we could hear hammering on the other side. We were tired and hungry and, rather than keep going, decided to make a sort of camp in the foothills where we found a small stream and bushes with red berries.

      Now of course monkeys love berries of any kind and we risked eating a few. They were tasty and suffering no sickness, we collected a huge amount. We sewed small cane baskets out of the flax near the stream and put the berries in these, storing them in a small cave we found near the stream.

     The days passed and we grew very close to each other, swapping stories about our childhood and growing up years in the Great Forest. We became so close that one day we decided to be monkey mates forever and sealed our affection with a huge hug and a long kiss! More days passed. Then a curious thing began to happen. Though we'd both lost our own families and had many things to grieve about, yet our hearts rejoiced being together and we found ourselves starting to giggle a lot! And the more hugs we gave each other, the more we giggled!

    Well one thing led to another and before we knew it, Gina was pregnant and a few months of giggling later, out popped the sweetest, loveliest little bundle of monkey joy you’ve ever seen. Our little Georgina. We decided to call her Georgina after my brother George and we put Gina's name on the end. So George and Gina became Georgina!

                                                             

      One day while Georgina was sleeping and Gina and I were having a game of swimming over the waterfall (which we'd found nearby), I leaned back against the wall of spray at the bottom of the waterfall and, instead of touching the rock wall which I expected to find, fell backwards behind the waterfall into a cave! I could hear Gina calling me and I jumped out, grabbed her arm and pulled her through too.

     "Oh, Charlie, a hidden cave! How wonderful!" she exclaimed.

    "I wonder where it goes" I replied, loving a bit of adventure, as if we hadn't had enough already. "It seems to be quite light in here. You go back and check on Georgina and I'll see what I can see." And off I tore. Two things mystified me: the first was how light it was in the cave corridor with no apparent source of light anywhere; the second was how smooth, clean and straight the path was. Then suddenly the path ended as I stared at a solid rock wall. “Yet...” I said to myself, “I could have been sure the path kept going!?”

      I examined the wall running my eyes up above my head to see if I could find an explanation. I looked down the sides and across the rock floor at my feet. Then it was that I noticed the merest crack in the rock running straight up from the floor above my head, across and down again. So fine I would hardly have seen it if I hadn't been looking so closely. A door! ... But, no handle!....Nothing but rock. I couldn't figure it out so I retraced my steps and returned to tell Gina.

     "A door in a rock wall, Charlie?" she said. "Have you been eating too many red berries?!"

    I could see that I'd have to show her or she wouldn't believe me. So, packing away a picnic lunch in the backpack and picking up Georgina, back we all went through the waterfall and into the cave.

    Arriving at the rock wall, I pointed to the door outline and said to Gina, "There Gina! Look closely." Which she did and I saw her eyelids rise in surprise!

    "What do you think it means, Charlie? Who would have put a door in the mountain? "

    "A very good question, my dear" I said taking off my hat to think. Pondering this, I remembered something my father once told me - 'If you're ever stumped, young Charlie, remember three things: the main purpose you're about, what you've seen and what you've got in your possession. ' At the time I wondered what he was talking about but now in the circumstances I felt it somehow applied. So I told Gina.

    "Well, Charlie" she replied, thinking on the spot, "let's see. No 1: We're trying to find your family.  No 2 : You saw an absolute mess at your home. No 3 :We've got Georgina.”

     "And a backpack…" I continued, "and...”

     "And the locket, Charlie! Remember the words in the locket. Open the locket again Charlie and see if there's another clue inside."

     So I opened the locket once more but still only the mystery words inside. I read these aloud seeing if they made any more sense. "Adonai. El Shaddai." ...No sooner had I said them than there was a deep rumbling noise inside the mountain like a great earthquake. Georgina gasped and clung to her mother very tightly. Gina clung to me! I wished I'd had someone to cling to too! ...

    Then I thought the rocks were falling in. But instead, the great rock door slowly swung in and we were looking along a straight corridor with red carpet on the floor and shiny marble walls. We didn't move! There was no-one there and we didn't know whether to walk in uninvited, to wait until someone came, or to go back to our little home by the river.

    Finally I decided we should be brave and see what was ahead. We'd only got a few steps up the corridor when the sound like the earthquake had us quickly hugging each other again, and the rock door closed behind us!

     "Well, Gina," I said, bravely, "now we're inside, we might as well make the most of this little adventure." So we cheered each other up telling funny stories and soon we were giggling so much we'd almost forgotten where we were.

    It was a long walk but very pleasant and the cave was well lit, if you can call it a cave. More like the passage-way in someone's house but without doors and windows. Finally we came to another rock wall, just as mysterious as the first. Imprinted in the door was a message : 'Entrance into Safeland. Welcome, messengers of the King. ' Signed King Adonai.' 

    "The locket, Charlie!" cried Gina. "Adonai is the King's name! Read the words in the locket again. I think they open the rock doors."

     I read the words - Adonai, El Shaddai and, as Gina so wisely predicted, the rock door swung in and we found ourselves in a small hollow covered with pretty bluebells where you, Sunflower and Poppyseed, found us yesterday. That about finishes the tale though we'd like to know who King Adonai is and what El Shaddai means? Do you have a King here?"

    The twins looked at their father who seemed to have a far away look in his eyes. Eventually their Dad replied. "The King built this land that we live in though we've never known his name. Every evening we give him thanks for caring for us, even though we've never seen him. We simply call him King. There are stories that we pass on from generation to generation about times past concerning a King who came and predictions of the same King to come, and though we wholeheartedly believe this, we've had nothing to prove his existence, except that when we ask him for things that we need, we always get them just when we need them."

    "This adventure is becoming more and more thrilling as we go" concluded Charlie. "It's like a jigsaw puzzle, the picture slowly unfolding."

    "You've certainly given us a lot to think about Charlie and we warmly welcome the three of you to Safeland. Obviously the King wanted you here for a reason and perhaps soon we'll know why. Tonight before each of us goes to sleep, please ask the King to protect George and his parents until such time as Charlie finds them again.

    After a sumptuous welcoming banquet, the children went off to bed and to sleep, dreaming of wild adventures in the Great Forest.

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