Moon Elf Adventures
It was a lovely day in early fall. The roses and lilies were out in profusion. Scents of nectar filled the air. Clouds of multi-color butterflies and delicate moths whirled about in a frenzy of feeding on the sweet juice. Soon it would be winter so they were intent on gathering all the food they could before the weather turned cold. In the midst of all this happy activity, one small creature was having a very hard time.
Luna was a Moon Elf; she was a creature of the night. Moon Elves caught in daylight are nearly blind. She stumbled through the grass, completely lost. She finally spotted the path but, in her haste, she tumbled into a shallow hole. Although it wasn’t deep and would be no problem for most creatures, it was too deep for the tiny elf to climb out easily.
Desdemona, a passing Humming Bird Moth, saw the elf’s trouble. She flew down and perched on the edge of the hole. Desdemona carefully reached down but it was too far. She could not reach the elf and even if she could reach her, the elf would be much too heavy for the moth to lift.
Curled into a ball at the bottom of the hole, Luna was deeply miserable. Above, the moth teetered on the edge of the hole wondering what to do. Finally, Desdemona spoke gently, hoping not to startle the delicate creature, “Hello, little one. Are you lost?”
The elf looked up and, to the moth’s distress, burst into tears. “I can’t find it! I can’t find it!” sobbed the elf. “And now I’ll never get back in time.”
“Oh, say, it can’t be that bad.” Desdemona said, in what she hoped was a soothing voice.
“You don’t understand,” sobbed the elf. “My brother is dying. He won’t survive another day unless he gets a medicine made from Mugwort. I went into the forest where the Mugwort grows to gather it but there was a full moon and I couldn’t see well with so much light.”
“Oh,” said Desdemona, “the forest is very dangerous at night. If you couldn’t see it must have been frightening.”
The little elf lifted her head, brushed at her tears and continued with her story, “Yes, it was. There were wolves howling at the moon, they seemed to be getting closer and closer. I hid under a fern until I was sure they weren’t coming my way. I crawled out from under the fern as soon as I thought it was safe but just as I started out again, I saw a great black shape lumbering through the trees. It had to be a bear. I dived under a log to wait until it had passed by. When finally I dared to peak out, an owl hooted right above me, he swooped down and dived at my head. I was so frightened. I ran and ran without looking at where I was going. When I stopped running and looked around nothing looked right. I couldn’t find the path. I was lost.”
“Oh, how terrible,” Desdemona said.
“Yes, you can’t imagine how afraid I was,” said the elf, “I have been stumbling around in the woods all night. I found this path but the sun was coming up and I didn’t see the hole. I fell in. Now, I can’t get out. Even if I could get out I’m blind in the daytime.”
The elf began to cry again, “My mother sent me to find the Mugwort because my brother is so sick she doesn’t dare to leave his side. She trusted me.
The tenderhearted moth looked down at the little creature for a few seconds, seeing the elf so unhappy was more than Desdemona could stand, she had to try to find help.
She spoke gently, “Try to be calm little elf. With so many creatures out on this fine day surely there will be someone who can come to your aide. Be patient. I will be back soon and all your troubles will be over.”
Desdemona took to the air and soon spotted a grasshopper sunning himself in the chrysanthemum bed. She called out, “Mr. Hopper, can you tell me where the Mugwort grows?” The grasshopper gave her a glassy stare, spit out a stream of green juice, turned and hoped away.
So rude, Desdemona grumbled to herself. Then she spotted a large Bumblebee gathering pollen from a succulent red rose. “Oh, Mr. Bee, can you tell me where the Mugwort grows?”
“Mugwort? What on earth would I do with that? It has no tasty pollen.” The bee gave the moth an impatient look and took off with an annoyed buzz. “Go ask someone else. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Please Mr. Bee, this is important. A little elf’s brother needs Mugwort or he might die.,” Desdemona pleaded but the bee was already on his way back to his hive.
“Best to mind your own business,” chirped a little Lady Bug from her perch on a lily stalk. “Don’t borrow trouble, I always say.”
“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” intoned a Butterfly. (Although this response made no sense, it is just the way butterflies are, they always have to have the last word even if they don’t know what they’re talking about.)
Desdemona continued on, until she spied a small grey mouse hunting though the leaves and long grass. The mouse was looking for acorns to store up for the long winter. As the moth circled over the mouse’s head, the mouse paused and looked up. The moth lit on a dandelion nearby and addressed the mouse in a desperate voice, “Please dear mouse, Can you tell me where I would find Mugwort?”
The mouse, whose name was Alice, gave the moth a disgusted look, “I know where the Mugwort grows but it’s bitter and not good to eat. What would a moth want with Mugwort?”
“It’s not for me. A little Moon Elf is searching for Mugwort to keep her brother from dying. If you know where it is, can you guide her to it?”
The Alice shook her head, “I must find some acorns. My children will be hungry this winter if we run out of food. If your friend needs Mugwort, tell her it grows in the forest. It’s not far from here. You can take this path straight to the forest.”
“If the Mugwort is in the forest there are probably acorns nearby,” said Desdemona.
“Yes, that’s true,” Alice wrinkled her nose and considered, “Alright. I’m not finding any acorns around here and I think there are some oaks near the Mugwort patch. I suppose I can show her the way. Where is this elf?”
“She has fallen into a little hole”, Desdemona replied, “and cannot get out. I cannot help her. She is too heavy for me but I think if you would get down into the hole and let her get on your back, she could get close enough to the top to clamber out.”
Alice gave a disgusted squeak. “First you want me to stop the important thing I’m doing and go out of my way to led this elf to find an herb that I can’t eat or feed to my children, now you want me to let her climb on my back! The nerve!” She looked on the point of scurrying off.
“Dear mouse, I’m sure it could be worth your time. There are so many tasty acorns in the wood. If you guide the elf to the Mugwort, you can gather your fill of acorns, too.”, Desdemona remarked slyly.
“Well I guess it will be alright then,” said Alice, (she was really a very nice creature), “let’s go.”
Moth and mouse returned to the hole that had entrapped the elf. Desdemona flew down to her and explained her plan. The elf wiped away her tears and stood up as the little mouse jumped into the hole beside her. “Climb up on my back but be careful you don’t pull my fur,” said Alice grumpily.
Quickly and gently, Luna mounted the mouse’s back and jumped from there out of the hole. The mouse followed the elf back to the path. Shaking bits of dirt from her fur, she glared at the elf. “I understand you are looking for Mugwort. I know you Moon Elves can’t see well in the day so I suppose I’m going to have to carry you to where the Mugwort are growing.”
Alice paused to give the elf another severe look, “Well, climb aboard. I don’t have all day.”
So, Luna, the elf, Desdemona the moth, and Alice, the mouse set off into the forest. Alice looked over her shoulder at the elf. She was such a tiny little thing. The mouse felt a tug at her heart for her. “Little elf,” she said, “Why is it that they would send you out alone on such an important mission. Aren’t there any older, more experienced elves who could gather this Mugwort?”
The elf dried her tears and replied, “Moon elves don’t live in big groups. There were only three other Moon Elf families living near our home. One by one, two of those families decided to move to another location. We were very sad to see them go and we became very close to the Moon Elf family that remained near us. We visited each other often. Then one day the family just disappeared. My father went off to see if he could discover where they went. He has been gone for several weeks and my mother had begun to get worried but she didn’t want to leave us alone to go and look for him. Then my brother got very sick.” Tears began to fill the elf’s eyes once again and she had to discontinue her story.
“Oh dear,” exclaimed the mouse, “I am so sorry. Dry your tears we are almost there.”
Actually, it wasn’t far and before long before they reached the Mugwort patch. Luna climbed gently down from Alice’s back. Here in the dark forest she was able to see. She squeaked with joy to discover that there was a bountiful patch of the Mugwort growing under the old oak tree. Luna quickly filled her pockets with the tiny herb.
Meanwhile, as Desdemona predicted, the ground was covered with a great number of tasty acorns fallen from the branches of the large oak. The mouse busily stuffed as many acorns as she could into her cheek pockets. The moth flitted about over their heads humming happily to herself while Luna and Alice worked. Soon the elf and mouse had gathered all they could carry and were ready to set off.
Luna was about to climb up on Alice’s back when a dark shadow paralyzed both elf and mouse with fear. A hawk was circling over the forest looking for a meal to bring home to her nest of young hawks. Now she had spotted the mouse. As the hawk dove downward toward the mouse, the mouse found that her terror had overcome her paralysis. With a squeak, Alice dived under the roots of the oak followed by Luna. The two huddled down as far under the leaves and moss as they could get and lay there shivering together.
The hawk perched on a limb of the oak, its beady eyes scanning the ground looking for its prey. Meanwhile, Desdemona flattened herself against the bark of the tree making herself invisible against the dark wood. Hawks don’t usually eat moths but from the hungry look of this hawk, Desdemona thought he might make an exception.
Safe but trapped, Luna and Alice had no choice but to cower in their hiding place. It might be hours, Luna fussed to herself, until that hawk became tired of waiting and flew off. Luna gritted her teeth and clenched her fists. She was so close. She had the necessary ingredient for her brother’s medicine and she was near her home. If she doesn’t get the Mugwort to her waiting brother, he will die. She took a deep breath and prepared to make a break for it. She might not be able to outrun the hawk but she could not remain in hiding, doing nothing. Her brother needed this herb to live and she had taken so much time by getting lost and falling into that hole that it might already be too late.
Just as the elf began to crawl toward the entrance of their hiding place, it started to rain. Big droplets splashed water into the opening between the oak roots, jagged bolts of lightning illumined the sky and peals of thunder shook the ground. Luna looked up and saw the hawk fly off to look for food in a drier spot. Slowly she crawled out of their hiding place. Although the fearful mouse and dampened moth remained trapped by the thunderstorm, Luna was determined not to wait another minute.
Then, as she stood up, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. Alice emerged from the tree roots shaking the drops of moisture from her fur. Desdemona fluttered her wings to dry them while Luna shook water from her clothes. Once more, all three set off. The elf riding on the mouse’s back and the moth flying overhead.
As they reached a bend in the path, the mouse stopped and gasped in horror. A giant oak felled by the storm had blocked the path. Desdemona flew back and forth looking for a way around the tree. Unhappily she reported that it was nearly impossible. The elf and mouse would have to fight their way through a dense bramble of thorny blackberry that grew in the marshy ground to the left of the path and on the right was more swampy bog, thick with cattail and sedge. Even if they could make their way through the swamp, it would take hours, perhaps all day.
The trunk of the tree towered above the mouse’s head. To climb over it with the elf on her back and the load of acorns in her cheek pockets would not be impossible. Desdemona could fly over the obstacle easily but that didn’t help Luna or Alice since the moth couldn’t possibly carry either of them.
The friends considered their options and could find nothing that seemed even remotely satisfactory.
“Well, hi there! Looks like you fellows have a problem.” The voice startled Alice. She jumped to the side and nearly slid into the bog.
“Who said that!” She demanded looking about.
“Well, I did, of course.”, answered a red squirrel from his perch on the limb of a swamp maple growing next to the path.
“Humph,” said Alice, “I should have known. A wiseacre of a squirrel.”
“Well, in that case I guess you don’t need any help from me,” chattered the squirrel.
“And what help could you be?” answered Alice. She had a great dislike for squirrels.
“Well, I could help you over that oak that seems to be in your way but I guess you don’t care for my help. Well, I’m sure you would much rather swim through that swamp. Well, I guess you just love water, eh?” said the squirrel.
Desdemona was watching the exchange between the mouse and the squirrel. It seemed to her that the elf was going to lose her chance to get the Mugwort to her brother in time if things continued along the current line so she spoke up, “Ahem, excuse me good squirrel, it is so kind of you to offer your help. My friends will be so grateful if you do.”
“Well, yes Ms. Moth I would be happy to help you, not that you need my help, but I’m not sure if I want to help this unpleasant mouse.”
Before Alice could open her mouth to say something rude to the squirrel, Desdemona spoke again, “Dear squirrel, you must forgive my good friend, the mouse. You see she is on a mission to help the little elf who is a passenger on her back. This little Moon Elf, has an herb that her brother needs and since she can’t see well in the day, as I’m sure you know wise squirrel, the mouse and I have been helping her. If you would help the mouse over the tree trunk, it would help the elf, as well, and would be a wonderfully kind thing to do.”
“Well, in that case I might help the elf to climb over the tree but I’m working hard to gather acorns for the winter so I can’t take the time to carry her to her home and I’m not so sure that I’m interested in helping that cheeky mouse,” said the squirrel.
At this Desdemona had an idea, “Helpful squirrel, I understand completely and you are so generous to offer to take time out of your busy day to help my friend the elf but since you can’t take her to her home, the elf needs the mouse. Now, the mouse has been gathering acorns to feed her family just as you are. She has cheek pouches full of acorns. She might be willing to share some of them with you if you would help her, too.”
“Well, I might.”, conceded the squirrel, reluctantly.
Alice was not so sure she liked this scheme. “Hold on a minute, you two, don’t I have something to say here. Who says I’m willing to share my hard earned acorns with this rude squirrel.”
Luna, who had been following all this anxiously, spoke up at last, “Please Ms Mouse, if you could just share two or three acorns with the squirrel, I would be so grateful. And to make up for your generosity, I will go with you tonight and help you find many more acorns to make up for those you give away.”
Alice’s heart melted (I told you she was really a nice creature) at the elf’s words, “Okay, little elf, for your sake, I’ll do it. But don’t forget your promise.”
“Well, okay. Well, that’s a deal,” the squirrel said, as she climbed down from her perch to the path and stopped beside the mouse. “Well, grab my tail and over we shall go.”
Alice clung to the squirrel’s tail. Luna closed her eyes as she clung to Alice’s back. Actually, it was quite easy for the squirrel, she was very strong and agile. Once on the other side Alice reluctantly took three acorns from her cheek pockets and handed them to the squirrel.
Overhead, Desdemona breathed a sigh of relief, “Dear squirrel, thank you for your help. We will never forget you.” The squirrel gave a couple of flicks of her tail and without a word hurried off with her booty.
The trio resumed their journey. They were getting close to their destination when, as they rounded a bend in the path, a pair of Blue Jays dived at them from above squawking loudly.
“Thieves, murders, looters, get away from here,” they shouted.
Desdemona hurriedly ducked behind a cattail. Luna slid off Alice’s back and cowered under the mouse’s furry belly. Alice, shouted defiantly at the birds, “What’s wrong with you crazy loons? We’re not any of those things. Why are you attacking us?”
At that moment Luna, peeking out from her hiding place under Alice’s belly, spotted the source of the bird’s frenzy. The broken remains of a bird nest lay in the middle of the path and a tiny Jay nestled among the debris squawking pitifully.”
Bravely, Luna stepped out into the path, “My friends, we mean no harm neither to you nor your chick. We see your dilemma and we would like to help you.”
The birds quieted immediately and perched on a low branch next to the path, “We know you, little elf, and we believe your words but how can you help? Our nest was destroyed by the storm and our young one is in peril here on the ground. You cannot rebuild our nest and even if you could do that, can you carry our baby back up that tall tree?”
Luna thought quickly and had an idea, “We were aided a short time ago by a friendly squirrel. Perhaps, she could help you return your baby to a safe place. My friend, the moth, if she is willing, can find this kindly squirrel, tell her of your trouble and persuade the noble squirrel to help you. Meanwhile you can repair your nest.”
“A squirrel!”, exclaimed the birds. “Squirrels are some of our worst enemies. They steal our eggs and destroy our nests. Ask a squirrel to help us? Never!”
Luna knew that the Jays were right, that squirrels sometimes did those things but she believed that this squirrel might be willing to help the birds, especially if offered a reward. She turned to the mouse and asked in her most beguiling voice, “Good mouse, you have proven to be the best of mice and a true friend. Would you be willing to part with more of your acorns to bribe the squirrel so that these faithful parents can save their babe?”
Alice opened her mouth to tell the elf that in no way was she going to do any such thing. but instead she sighed deeply and said, “Little elf, I have done so many things today that I would never have thought I would possibly do that I suppose I am going to do one more. Provided you promise to keep your word and help me to replenish my store of acorns, I will give the squirrel the rest of my acorns – that is if she really agrees to rescue the baby Blue Jay.”
Hearing this Desdemona took off back down the path calling back over wing, “I’m on my way to find the squirrel. I promise to return as quickly as I can.”
The elf turned to the birds and reassured them that she and Alice would guard the baby Jay while they remade their nest. The birds worked quickly, picking up the sticks that had fallen and searching for new ones to replace those that were too broken to be useful. Shortly the nest was good as new once more.
It seemed to Luna that Desdemona had been gone for a long time. The elf began to feel very worried. What was taking the moth so long, she wondered. Just as she was about to lose hope, she spied the moth flying into sight around the bend, followed by the red squirrel who looked very grumpy.
The birds flew up to the tree branch squawking in alarm, even though Luna and Desdemona had assured them that the squirrel would do them no harm to them or their baby bird, they were not quite ready to believe it.
The squirrel ignored the birds and addressed the elf and mouse, “Well, you two better have some really good acorns. Well, I’ve never been that fond of birds and I have many important things to do but this moth just wouldn’t let me say no. Well, so here I am.”
The squirrel gave the mouse a threatening glare, “Mouse you’d better be ready to hand over those acorns when I come back.”
The she turned and took the little bird gently in her mouth and scurried up the tree to the branch where the Jays had built their nest. The adult jays watched nervously as the squirrel placed the chick into the nest. At once, the chick, frightened though unharmed, began to call out. The parents fluttered around their baby grooming its feathers and chirping soothingly to it.
The squirrel scampered down from the tree to the path and demanded her reward from the mouse, “Well, cough up those acorns. Well, I haven’t got all year, you know.”
Reluctantly the mouse handed over the rest of her acorns. The squirrel gathered them up and with a flick of her tail, ran rapidly back down the trail.
Alice watched the squirrel’s bushy tail disappear around the bend in the path and shook her head. “That’s the rudest, helpful squirrel I’ve ever met.” She sighed, “Alright let’s get going. The sun is down and I need to get back to my own nest before the owls start hunting.”
They reached Alice’s burrow first. At the mouse’s door, the mouse stopped and Luna hopped down to the ground. With a bow, Luna thanked Alice for her help, renewed her promise to come back as soon as she could and help the mouse gather more acorns. Then Luna hurried off toward her home.
Evening had started to darken the forest so Luna was able to see the path clearly. She raced toward her home while Desdemona hovered above her head. Luna no longer needed her but the moth felt protective toward the little elf. She was reluctant to leave until she knew that her little friend was safely in her home.
As they reached the elf’s dwelling, Luna’s mother dashed out of the door and embraced the little elf. “Luna I’ve been so worried.” Luna proudly took the Mugwort from her pocket and gave it to her mother.
“This Mugwort is perfect, the best I’ve ever seen. I’m very proud of you Luna,” her mother said.
“I am very proud of Luna, too,” said the tall elf who stood smiling in the doorway.
“Father,” cried Luna flinging herself into the tall elf’s arms, “when did you get here. I was so afraid I might never see you again.”
“I only arrived a few minutes ago,” her father said as he lifted his little daughter up and kissed her gently.
“Did you find our friends?” she asked.
“Yes, our friends are fine. It’s quite a story but I will have to tell you later, now I think you and your mother have an important task to do.” he said.
Her mother hugged Luna again, “Thank goodness, you found it. Come in quickly Luna and help me brew up the medicine for your brother.”
Luna turned and waved to the moth. “Thank you, good friend,” she called. Then she and her mother hurried inside to prepare the Mugwort cure.
What a day, Desdemona thought as she winged her way home, after all this adventure, I hope we were in time to save her brother.
And, I’m glad to say that they were.