Jefferson Middle School newsletter
Chapter Five: In Which Chief Phoenix Makes A Horrible Request
Snow went out of the carriage just as enthusiastic as when she went in it. Flake, being tired after a thirty minute ride, trudged a few feet behind her. The chief, with North and Colden flanking him, walked next to Flake. They had stopped in the road along the edge of the Fearsome Forest*, and Snow didn’t hesitate to jump right out and go into the tangled wood.
“Wait! The Sycamore clearing is to the right, Snow! If you go that direction, then you’ll end up in the Crystal Coral Kingdom. In the sea,” Flake called. Snow sheepishly turned around.
“Been brushing off on your geography, eh?” Colden whispered. Flake shrugged. Chief Frost sighed. Keeping Snow still and quiet would be quite a task during the Conference, especially if she was that excited.
The whole group headed through the Fearsome Forest. It actually looked very nice, with daylight streaming through the canopy and birds chirping and cooing. Flake spotted a bright blue salamander climb up a tree, as well as a golden cockatoo whose plumage glittered. He kept his discoveries to himself, but Snow didn’t.
“This is SO cool!” Snow exclaimed, jumping up and down. Look at all these trees! I have never seen so much in my life! And the animals! There must be enough to fill a zoo! They’re so pretty! Don’t you love that flock of birds over there, Flake? I had never seen them before. Look at their beautiful feathers! They sing so well too, like a soft lullaby.”
“Those are song sparrows, Snow,” Flake said with a bored tone. “There are three broods on the tree right next to the window of your bedroom, and you always complained that their ‘awful shrieking’ kept you awake in the night.” But Snow, too engrossed in the wonders of the forest, didn’t hear him. Frost and Colden looked at Snow’s interest with amusement, while North kept on grumbling about how annoying kids were.
After a few minutes of walking (or in Snow’s case, jumping), they finally reached the clearing. They were on time, but everyone else came earlier so when they came in, the procession was already starting. Snow and Flake (but mostly Snow) drew stares from all the Kingdom leaders as they came in the clearing. But both of them were too captured in the splendor of the Great Sycamore to notice.
Flake imagined the Great Sycamore to be a tree. A big tree, but still within tree size. However, the Great Sycamore was NOT within tree size. It was huge. It was as wide as the Spiral Staircase Tower at the palace, and as tall as- well Flake couldn’t see how tall, especially from the Conference clearing. Flake realized that most of the thick canopy was probably from the Great Sycamore’s branches, towering over the smaller trees like a mother might tower over her children. It was awe-striking. Even Snow was at loss for words.
“Well, well. Why does the Silver Snake Kingdom get to bring their children here?” Chief Phoenix drawled. “When did they get special privileges? Or perhaps you feel sorry for them because of the so-called prophecy?” Snow shrank back, fearful. Flake glared at him. Chief Frost stared coolly at him with carefully contained anger.
“Chief Phoenix: you know the rules. Chief Frost, please sit,” said Chief Oak, the current leader** of the Council of the Tree. He cleared his throat. “So now we begin.”
Snow and Flake quietly took a seat on the grass in front of the Sycamore. Colden sat next to them, while North and Frost sat more in the front. Chief Oak was the closest to the Sycamore, standing on a spot of ground that was elevated naturally, making it like a stage. He looked grand and imposing, with his big robe and solemn face.
“Flake! The Great Sycamore is so cool-” Snow started, but Flake shushed her and motioned to the stage. Chief Oak was talking.
“Today we gather for different matters. To discuss, to learn, to solve. I must remind you, that if you are to express your ideas, you’ll need to listen to others and give them the attention and respect they deserve. That is all. Dowager Chief Alya will speak after me.” He got off the stage.
“He sounds like my science teacher,” Snow whispered. Flake shushed her again.
“Thank you, Chief Oak,” Alya said. “Now, my first point I would like to speak to you about is about our title as leader of our kingdoms.” Everyone collectively groaned.
“She talks about it every year,” Colden whispered. “She always argues about being called ‘dowager chief’ but her motion never passes.”
“Being called ‘chief’ is demeaning,” Alya said. “Chiefs can be a leader of anything. We need a title that will specify exactly what we’re ruling over. I wish to change the titles to ‘king’ and queen’, like they were back then. This way, we will be representing our power and strength. Being called ‘chief’ sound awful, but being called ‘queen’ does not. Already my humble citizens are calling me Queen Alya instead of Dowager Chief. Doesn’t it-”
“Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt, but that’s all your time for one motion. Unless you have another appeal, please get off the stage,” Chief Oak said calmly.
Chief Alya looked at everyone. “Very well,” she sighed. “I do dearly hope that you all will take my appeal to your hearts and not just ignore it. Thank you for your time.” She stepped off the stage.
“My mom. Always the drama queen,” said a girl next to Snow. She had willowy brown hair and green eyes, with a thin dress that looked like it would be very cold to wear. She was definitely a kid, a little older than Flake. “But no one ever listens to her, so I suppose she has to.” She sighed.
“What’s your name?” Snow asked her.
The girl looked at her with disdain. “Windy Cherise Louise LaBreeze the Fourth,” she said flamboyantly. “Yours?”
“Snow,” Snow said. Then she realized how wimpy that sounded. “Um, Snow the First.”
Windy rolled her eyes. “Pathetic. You guys have no flair.”
“Snow’s name would beat your fancy tongue-twister any day,” Flake shot. Windy glared at him.
Colden nudged Flake. “Chief Phoenix is going to speak. You should listen.” All of the kids immediately turned their attention back to the stage.
Chief Phoenix looked scary, with his looming posture and searching eyes. His voice was deep and mysterious. “As you all know, I have a son named Flint. I did not bring him here today, against protocol, unlike some people.” He stared pointedly at Chief Frost. “Anyways, he is a very capable boy. Handsome, strong, and with a good family.”
“Get to the point, Phoenix, we haven’t got all day!” Chief Ripple of the Crystal Coral Kingdom called. Chief Oak shushed him.
Phoenix cleared his throat. “Now, to bring up a different matter, I’m sure everyone is well aware of the strong alliance between the Flame Kingdom and the Snake Kingdom.”
Colden snorted, then disguised it as a cough. North glared at him.
“It has come to my attention that there are twins in the Snake Kingdom, which are here today.” Chief Phoenix looked at them. Flake shivered. He had a sinking feeling something terribly bad was going to happen.
“They are about the same age as my son, and so I propose, in order to strengthen the bond between the two kingdoms-” He paused. “A marriage proposal.”
Complete silence. It was like the world stopped, not even the smallest leaf twitched. Then, when the words finally sank in, chaos broke loose.
*The Fearsome Forest is not fearsome. In fact, it is rather nice, but the ancients thought it was scary so they didn’t explore in it and dubbed it the ‘Fearsome Forest’. Later, when people explored the forest, they found it was pretty, but the name stuck.
**The Council of the Tree’s leaders rotate between the seven members each year. One dies, the Wandering Wood Kingdom votes for another one.