Monique Vandai

By: Savannah Hassel

Chapter 1: Grand Adventure

Hello, my name is Monique Vandai. You can call me Mo for short. I was born and raised right here in Dark Crimson, where all the men are sweet and the girls are even sweeter. I am a single girl with my heart set not on a boy, but on traveling to places no one has ever seen before. I want to see the world and enjoy the sweet, calm outdoors. I want to go on the grandest adventure that is not yet even known to mankind. I am only 17, but soon enough I will be old enough to leave this old state and travel farther than the skies. I can ride the waves of the sea, glide with the wind next to the sky, and walk on the soft earth we call home. If only life were long enough. If I could live forever I would travel to other planets, perhaps even Luna. If you prefer to call her moon than I will not make you say Luna, you may say moon. However in my book I will use the word that I prefer, Luna. I want to ride on the stars, dance with Luna, lay with the Sun and run with the planets. I could rain on the soil and dry out the floods. If only, right?

I can dance like the stars can twinkle, I can glow like the moon is bright, I can sing like the birds in the morning, and I can smile like the starry night. I look for pictures in the sky and signs in the earth. I collect herbs and fruit. I live in the forest with plenty of things to keep me alive. My parents hate the wilderness, so they left to live in Killua. I am friends with the animals and enemies with the hunters. I heal the wounded with my skills and learn more from the animals. I have learned to speak their language, and practice my own every day, as not to forget. This is my story, a story of adventure.

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I woke up early one fresh, new, blossoming spring morning. The air was fresh, the day was new, and the flowers were blossoming. What a perfect day! I smiled and took a deep breath of the fresh, new day air. Its days like these I wish I could leave on an adventure. My cabin that I built was nice and tidy, no cobwebs or dust, no misplaced books or dirty dishes. I took my basket and set out to find some berries. I found a few bushes of raspberries and black berries, with a couple blueberry bushes. My basket was full so I head on home. The baskets I wove still held strong, and the clothes I had sewn did not tear. My flowery sandals held together for now. No need to make a new one because that would be a waste. I set the basket on the table and ate a few blueberries. I smiled at the sweet taste. I must have picked the right bush to pick from. Satisfied with the amount of the assortment of berries I decided to take a walk. Hopefully I could find the rabbits to let them new I found a nice bush where they could find some fresh, sweet berries.

As I walked along the route I loved to take I spotted a new tree growing. I memorized every tree and plant. I knew which were bad and poison, and which were nice and helpful with sickness or wounds. I walked over to the small tree and spoke to it. I spoke to every tree to help it grow strong and tall. I teach the trees to grow leaves and to let them go after half a year. "They grow back," I promise them. They trust me enough to let go, and they grow new leaves. It is extremely difficult for a tree. It takes much focus and hard, backbreaking work. Every time though, the trees manage to grow and let go. Once I spoke enough I said goodbye to the tree and walked along. I found the rabbits and told them where they could find the fresh berries near my log cabin. They said thank you and I continued with my walk. Today was a special day. I got to help with the trees growing their leaves, the flowers to bloom and the grass to grow tall again. The first day of spring is one of the busiest, but within the end of the week the forest is absolutely beautiful.

I set to work re teaching the trees to grow leaves and helped the flowers bloom. I told the animals that hibernation was over and they could come find food. The snow was melting and it was definitely safe to come out.

You may be wondering this, so I will say this. I never do get lonely in the wilderness. The wilderness is quite fascinating and tame if you let it be. The animals are kind and helpful, good for company. You can talk to the trees and smaller plants. I keep myself busy with collecting food and helping everything and everyone, as in animals. I very rarely see human beings. When I do they tell me it's not good to keep yourself isolated, that I need to be around humans. They never understand that I most definitely do not need any human beings to keep myself socialized. I have my friends. I have a wonderful life here. It will be so hard to say goodbye when I leave on my adventure.

Perhaps some friends would like to accompany me! I would love to share my adventure with someone special. Maybe my best friend Robert the Rabbit, Bleu the Blue jay, or even Honey the Hummingbird could come. It would be very nice to have some company while going on my adventure. No time to think of that now. I have a few years to go and for now I should stick to what I love doing right now.

Once I finished helping the trees and tending to the flowers I went off to the stream. I sat with my back leaning against a tree nearby the stream. I watched the water bounce off the rocks and land back in the water. I saw rainbows being made in the waterfall and the fish were swimming along as if there weren't a care in the world. I leaned my head against the tree and closed my eyes. I must have dozed off to the gentle stream running because when I opened my eyes it was already sun high.

I got up from my sunny spot and walked along the stream towards the field. When I arrived at the field I looked for my friend Nikko Yaumu. He was a human also, but he lived on the other side of the forest. Six years ago I left home and ran to the forest. I decided to live here, and one day I met Nikko here in this field. We made an agreement to share the forest, he would get the north half and I would get the south. We have landmarks, and we cannot go past them. We can however, share the field. Anyone who lives in the forest can go wherever they want in the field. The animals respect borders and stay on their own sides. Just because we have borders does not mean we fight, but it makes it easier to only have to deal with half of the problems.

Every month we meet in the field at sun high to discuss problems we're having on our side of the forest. I soon spotted him coming out of the bushes on his side of the forest.

"I hope I'm not late today," He said as he walked towards me, "I hate being late."

"You're not late," I assured him, "you're never late."

"Just how I like it." I couldn't help but smile. I sat down and picked up a bunny. "The rabbits had their bunnies." He said it as if he was reading my thoughts, quite obvious actually. He sat facing me and asked the usual question, "How is your side of the forest doing on the first day of spring?"

"Wonderful. The stream is flowing as it should, the trees are growing their leaves and the flowers are blooming. I also found a new tree today!"

"I wish I had as much luck as you. The stream flows smoothly but the trees refuse to grow." We both frowned. Trees that refuse to grow leaves? That cannot be normal. No, not normal at all.

"What have you been doing to teach them?"

"I spoke to them, I assured them it was alright. They seem afraid even if I speak my most soothing tone."
"Have you not tried singing to them?"

"No. Why, does that work?"

"It does for me. Perhaps it will work for you also."
"Perhaps. Thank you Mo! I shall try that before sundown."

I smiled. "Glad I could help."

"I will see you in a few moons then?"

"You will." We waved and left the field. I followed the rows of trees all familiar to me. I walked to the new tree and sat in front of it. "I have thought you up a song little tree." I used my softest voice.

"Smile little one

Grow to be big and strong

Tower over your brothers

And look down on your sisters

Take care of those around you

Feed them with your love

Help them grow as you have

I see them tower from above

Let your wisdom grow large

Let your branches be your hands

Let your leaves be your home

Smile little one

Grow to be big and strong

Tower over your brothers

And look down on your sisters."

I bid the trees good night and walked off towards home. Once there, I crawled into bed and fell asleep right after I closed my eyes, and had the most peculiar dream:

I was running through a burning forest, my burning forest. I only saw my feet running on the soft earth, jumping high roots and rounding poison ivy. To my left I could see another set of feet keeping pace with me. I could hear gunfire and heavy footsteps, more than two people for sure, chasing after us. I tried to push out the sounds and soon the only think I could hear was my heavy breathing. I looked back and saw hunters gaining on us, so I ran faster…and faster… and faster. The human beside me was running faster also, still keeping pace with me. I managed to look up, to see hundreds of forest animals running also, scared eyes on their frightened faces…

I sat bolt upright and shielded my eyes as the suns first rays filtered through my window. I was panting heavily, more tired than I was when I fell asleep. I crept through the cabin and looked out the door. No fire, no scared animals, and no hunters… we were safe. It was just a dream.

What if the dream came true? What if the forest was in danger? What if somehow I had to save the forest? What if I meet someone new? Will I be warned and have time to warn the animals and Nikkos side of the forest?

I pushed the questions away for now. No need to worry myself over a dream. I walked down to the lake and jumped in. Now you will learn about my powers, ones only Nadoka and I have. I stood shallow in the water and drew energy out of the forest, out of the water, and out of the air. Once finished I went down with a plop and swam around, my reddish black tail guiding me. I swam, spun, and flipped out of the water, enjoying the feel of my tail.

Was it time to go home already? I swam towards shore, the sun readying itself to go down for the night. I gathered energy, and just like that I had my feet again. I climbed out of the water, the droplets sliding off, without even being wet. I walked home, the feel of cold air on my face refreshing after a long, tiring swim. I was looking forward to trying flight tomorrow, for I have never tried it, because perhaps I was just afraid. I didn't whether my newly developed wings would work or not, and I felt I would have the guts to do it tomorrow.

With my days worth of adventure I slipped into my house, ate an apple, and slipped into my nightclothes. I crawled into bed and slipped into two more things- sleep, then dreams. I feared having another nightmare, but I had to get sleep. Everyone needs sleep, or else the world would be lying awake, bored, and extremely cranky. Well, here goes nothing:

I'm running through the forest, again. This time, I'm surrounded by fire. An arm is wound tightly around my shoulder, and I turn to see Nikko right by me. I cling to him for dear life as I watch our beautiful forest being destroyed. I choked up as I saw the trees burning and dead animal bodies scattered and burned. I hear more gunfire, but this time louder. I hear a painful scream and an awful laugh. What was happening? I look Nikko in the eyes. All I can see is fear and grief inside. He looks several years older though, maybe 23 or 24 years old. Maybe this wouldn't happen for a while. Relief sprung over me, and I said to him, "it's okay, everything's going to be okay. I'm going to wake up, and when I do I will warn you of these coming dangers, and unless you already know, I will have to persuade you into going anyways."

"You know I will believe you," he said in a deeper voice, "I always do."

I blink at him gratefully, wondering if he's really there, inside my dreams, or if I'm inside his, or if I'm just dreaming this all up. Before I could investigate by asking any questions, a burning tree falls right behind me and catches my beautiful silk dress to fire. I idiotically use my bare hands to rip off the burned dress, then throw it over into the fire and back away. My hands are somewhat scorched.

"If we don't get out of here, I just wanted to tell you…" Nikko started, but I cut him off.

"We will get out of here." I promised him.

"I just have to tell you. Let me finish. I had to tell you this before but I never had the courage."

"You're the bravest man I know," I said, "and if I met any other, they could never match up to you." He looked a little irritated that I wouldn't let him finish, but pleased at the comment. I guess he didn't want to waste his time talking, so he just leans in and gives me a kiss. I wasn't expecting that… I never thought of us that way. No, we're only the best of friends, right? This can't happen! I stare at him wide eyed.

"What?" He asks. "You wouldn't let me finish. How else was I supposed to tell you before we get fried? Sometimes you just don't know when to stop talking." He gave me a playful smile.

I'm speechless. I have no idea what to say or do because none of this makes sense. I have never noticed how Nadoka looks at me or how he acts, but I know he can't ever love me. Maybe he could love me as close as a sister, but nothing more. Did I love him? Am I really only making this up in my dream?

I wake up panting and wondering. Was all this real? Was all this really going to happen? Of course I don't believe anyone can see the future, but what if it does happen. What if I didn't take action? If I did not take action, would the forest, along with Nikko and me, surely die?

I didn't want to remember seeing the burning bark, fallen trees and random carcasses. I can't handle the pain I encountered, the pain I saw, the pain I knew both Nikko and I felt. Who would want to hurt these poor animals and the beautiful trees? Who on the planet earth would dare harm the forest? Who would want to harm the forest? I guess some people are horrible and heartless enough to do it, but I know I could never.

I got out of bed and remade it. I went outside and saw that there were some light clouds dotted here and there. It was warm and I welcomed the cool breeze. I walked through the forest and found my feet walking for themselves. I didn't know where they were taking me but I let them because they were usually right about where to go. They went faster and faster until I was sprinting. I stopped dead in front of a cliff that lead down to the lake. It wasn't too high, maybe eighteen feet, so I unfurled my wings with enough room around me. I studied them and saw that they were at least 12 feet long. I smiled. My feet wanted me to fly? Well then, lets fly. I jumped and flapped my wings, feeling the powerful beat of wind underneath. I flew up gracefully and found the birds flying also. I was flying! I was actually flying! I flapped higher and higher until I was overlooking the forest. I started to get tired because I only just used my wings now, I wouldn't be used to all the energy it takes. I carefully flew down and landed where I jumped. I skipped on my feet a few times trying to regain my balance. My first flight! Not a real one, but I was really up there!

Suddenly my feet started walking again. I let them guide me until I reached the forest. That's right, I was supposed to meet Nikko here today! I went to the middle of the field and sat down. I picked a wild flower and studied it. It was a dandelion. I heard footsteps coming my way from the other side of the field. I waited until Nikko sat next to me.

"Greetings Nikko." I tried to sound as cool as I could while thinking about my dream. How could I explain to him that we had to leave our home?

"Greetings. How's the forest running?" He didn't sound troubled at all. Maybe he didn't have the same dream as I did.

"Great. The new tree is making progress, and I tried my wings today."

"I saw that. You were high up there. But you didn't stay up there long."

"It's amazing how much energy flying takes."

"Well I wouldn't know until I tried mine. Maybe I will later today. Or tomorrow."

"Make sure you're near a place where you can land safely. My wings were at least 12 feet long."

"Amazing!"

"Nikko, I have to talk to you about something." If I didn't get it out now I never would. Maybe I could ask him questions now, because if I didn't, I might never know.

"What's wrong? You look like you've swallowed vinegar" Did I look that troubled? I thought I could hide it better. But he did look worried too. Maybe he did have a dream.

"Did you… by any chance… have any dreams? About the forest?"

"Like what?"

"Fire. Guns. Hunters." As I spoke his face grew grave.

"I did for the past few nights. The forest was burning, there was gunfire, and you were there too. You looked more scared than I've ever seen you. And upset, I won't forget how upset you looked. Trust me I felt the way you looked."

"I had that dream too. I was running from guns, I could hear the hunters laughing. Then we were surrounded by fire. The forest was burning and the animals were dying." As I spoke I saw animals were coming to listen. Deer, birds, rabbits, and even a few squirrels came to listen. They sat respectfully and listened as I spoke. They looked scared now too. "But we were older, at least three years older. Well, you were. I don't know about me."

"You were. We might have had the same dream. Maybe this is a warning."

"It very well could be. But I can't just leave like that. All the animals, we'll have to make them leave their home. Where would they go then? There are no other forests for maybe one hundred miles all around. They couldn't all make it. We'd have to make several trips but we wouldn't know what was waiting there."

"We could go explore. We could find the perfect place. We could avoid this problem."

"We would have to be there for at least a week, maybe longer."

"We could make it. I know you're strong enough. We would have to pack a lot sure, but we could survive. We adapted here after all."

"Yes, but this is a safe forest. Any others could have horrible predators. Who knows what awaits us out there. I don't even want to know what the other humans have come up with while we were here." I suddenly felt like the hope could be lost. But I guess Nikko was right, that might be our only option. Run away, and never return to this doomed forest. "But we don't know if any of it is real yet."

"Better to be safe than sorry. You taught me that lesson."

"You're right. Right now it seems to be our only choice." I frowned. I couldn't help the pain that flashed through my eyes and stayed on my face. We lived in this forest for many, many years. How could we just give it up? Just like that? How could Nikko be so willing to leave this all behind?

"I hate it just as much as you do, but if we act sooner rather than later then we could save the whole forest."

"Or just the animals. We can't stop hunters and their guns."

It was Nikkos turn to frown. He knew just as well as I did that there was no way to stop hunters. Unless… unless they became the prey. We could possibly stop them with traps of our own.

I moved closer to him. "We might not have a choice. But maybe we could catch the hunters, make them the prey. We could become the hunters, and we could take them away. They wouldn't be able to hurt us or the forest."

"I'm sorry. You and I both know we won't know what, or how many of what, we will be up against."

"There's nothing to be sorry about. We'll just have to use your idea."

"Are you sure?"

I nodded. If we were going to save the forest we needed to act now, before it's too late. I saw a flash of respect in his eyes, and something I couldn't comprehend. I saw the same look several times in his eyes, but I could never figure out what it was. It couldn't have been love, could it? I wouldn't imagine it was. I wondered if I was giving anything away with my look. He stood up and held out his hand. I took it and he pulled me to my feet.

"Thanks." I said to him. "When do you think we should leave for the new forest?"

"How about we start gathering clothing and thread and silk, and just make sure we have everything of that ready for travel. I don't want to have to do too much yet. Not all at once anyways. Could you be finished by the next time we meet?"

"Of course. Try your wings. Practice because we might need to use our wings for travel. We'll need cross the lake and it would take to long to go around it. We would be faster taking wing to the next forest."

"I like the way you think. Don't forget that I…"

"What?"

"Never mind. But if you need help feel free to ask."

"Okay… thanks." I wasn't sure that was what he was going to say. But I was sure that he wasn't going to say anything. "I'll see you in a few more moons."

"See you." He turned and walked back. I also walked back to my side of the forest.

The next few days I practiced my flying and occasionally I saw Nikko up there too. I finished packing the last of the thread I could find. I popped a few berries in my mouth and walked back to the field.

I saw Nikko already there, sitting and waiting. "Am I late?" I asked him.

"No, I just came early. I had time to spare." He answered.

"Oh, I see. So you finished packing also?"

"Yes, I have. And I see you have been practicing your flying."

"As I saw you."

He nodded. "As you saw me." It looked like something was bothering him, as if there was a question he wanted to ask. "In… um… in one of the dreams you had…"

"Yeah?"

"Well, the one where we were stuck… did I… well…"

I knew exactly what he was trying to ask, but just to make sure… "Did you what?"

"When I was trying to tell you something, but you wouldn't let me… I… after I knew you wouldn't let me finish… did I…"

Yes now I know I'm sure. "Yeah, you did." His cheeks suddenly turned a bright pink, and he looked down. "Did you mean that? I mean, it was a dream; you couldn't have been controlling yourself. Unless you thought I was just part of your dream too. You might have been… I don't know." I could feel my cheeks heat up when he looked at me with his intense look.

"So… did your wings get stronger? Were you able to go longer?" He tried changing the subject. I let him, because I didn't want to deal with feelings right now. But I had to know.

"Yes, I am able to fly for two hours without getting tired, but after a few minutes later I have to drop."

"And hour and a half for me." He said.

"Nikko… can you just tell me? In the dream, did you mean what you did? If you meant it just tell me. Things won't get weird if you did. I promise."

"Mo…" His voice trailed off. He looked as if he was at a loss for words.

I got up and hauled him to his feet. Then just like that, even surprising myself, I reached up and kissed him. I pulled back. "Just tell me."

"I… did… but…"

"No buts about it."

"Did you mean that? Or did you just kiss me to get an answer?"

I had to tell him the truth, but I wasn't sure. Lets just go with… "I did too." I don't know if I meant that. I'll have to sort out my feelings later. Now, I didn't want to deal with them, but I had to. This was the only time or I would never be able to figure it out. It's now or never if we are going to decide how we feel about each other. I took a small step back wondering what he would no next.

"Monique… I don't think… should we?"

"I don't like to think either. But if you want I'll leave you to think about what that would do." I tried to sound as confident as I could.

"Don't leave the decision for me to make. This involves both of us. I know you don't like it but you can't leave me to deal with it on my own."

"I know." I did, but I didn't really think about it. "I'll just give you time to think."

"I don't need to think. I know how I feel, but I don't know if you do." It's weird how he can easily figure out my emotions. He knows if I'm confused, angry, upset, or extremely happy. I'm usually content.

I thought for a moment. I thought of his beautiful, shining blue-gray eyes and his sun bleached brown hair. We could be perfect together, but would my parents let me be with someone other than a person that they choose for me? I then think about the way he works with his hands, they can create such beautiful, delicate things, and be rough if he needs to fight. Those are the hands that I trust. I know the way he moves and now understand the way he looks at me. I've never really wanted to notice, I've never bothered to… but now I realize that I might have intense feelings for him. I do have intense feelings for him… whether I knew it or not before, I've always had intense feelings for Nikko. They weren't just best friend feelings, but something much more than that.

I guess he realized I was sure about it because he said, "So you do know how you feel then." He hit the target again. I don't know how he does it. Can anyone just that easily read my face? Hear my thoughts even? Is it the way that I act? It must be that he can read me like no one can.

"I do know how I feel." And I'm glad that I do.

"Then tell me." You'd think he would have told me how I felt. "Because I know that I am in love with you. I worked that out quite a while ago."

"I love you too." I did. That's what the intense feeling was. Love. I never knew it, but I also never knew I would love anyone but the forest and the animals. I never thought I would find a love. How would that affect the adventure I desperately wanted to have?

"Then… does that mean that we-?"

I cut him off. "Nick, it means that it's different. I don't know how different yet. You know I still want to have that adventure out somewhere else. I wouldn't want to drag you along if you didn't want to go. I don't know if I'd be able to deal with having a boyfriend."

"Of course I'd go with you. Would you not take me?"

I locked his eyes with mine. "I might." I said with humor in my voice.

Nikko stepped closer and kissed me. He held me there, one arm around me, the other holding my hand. I put my arm around him. "Think about it," he said when he pulled away, "because I'll want to know next time we meet up here." I let him walk back. I turned and went to my side of the forest. I felt like a totally different person now, in so many ways. Would we last? Were we more different than each other in more ways than we know? We might not have as much in common as we think. I just hope we do, because I found out I love him, and I don't know what to do next. Should I pull him in or push him away? I don't want to ruin our friendship by saying no. I also don't want to ruin it by saying yes. If I said no he would understand and we'd still be friends. The only thing was, I didn't want to say no. I wanted to say yes and take him away with me.

When I got home I started making backpacks out of the things I had. Then I made two sleeping bags like blankets out of silk and cloth. Once I finished I went to bed. I was tired and I finally had my head cleared. We would look for a new home; we would save whoever and whatever we could.

I awoke from a dreamless sleep. I yawned and stretched out my arms. I had much work to do. I went to the kitchen and ate several berries on a few crackers and went outside. I went to the cliff and took off flying. My wings beat together with a rhythm that continued for several hours more than two and a half. I flew until evening, when the sun was only a foot away from the horizon. There's no way I lasted this long without getting the least bit tired… was there?

I turned and saw Nikko flying also, practicing his flips and twists, going at fast speeds incase needed. I flew down to the field and landed, folding in my wings neatly and waited. Nikko realized I wasn't going anywhere so he landed next to me and took his wings in. "I saw you flying all day. Are you even tired?" He asked me.

"No, I'm not. I can't believe how long I've been out."
"I've been flying since twenty minutes before sun high."

"I haven't noticed. I guess I was just to busy practicing my moves."

He gave a small nod that told me he understood. He always understands me. "I always get caught up practicing. I don't really pay attention to my surroundings either." He paused as if thinking, and I saw a question was nagging at him. I knew what it was.

"What's bugging you?"

"Nothing."

"You know that's not true."

"I guess I just wanted to now what you were thinking. But I didn't want to ask you yet because we only talked yesterday."

"Well a day is long enough for me. I've had all the time in my world to think."

"I figured. But I don't want to bug you by asking all the time."

I smiled at him. He knows questions being repeated several times bugs me. "Well you can ask me now."

"Will you take me?"

"I will." I can't help but smile and we hold each other in our arms. He can't help his smile either. I always sort out my feelings so quickly, it's sometimes scary for me. I can make up my mind in a snap.