Chapter 1: Whisked Away
It was a cloudy, chilled night in the city of Rio, and in a patch of the jungle known as the Blu Bird Sanctuary, three macaws were conversing with their parents inside the sturdy tree that grew from the middle of a small clearing.
As the macaws wrapped up their conversation, Blu and Jewel wanted to have a quick dinner with their children before they departed.
"What do you say we have a...reunion feast of sorts? It has been awhile since our children have dropped by."
Ricardo, one of their sons, exclaimed, "Can we? Can we? I don't know about you, but I am starving!"
His sister, Esperanza, added "So am I! I could go for a juicy star fruit right about now!"
Blu was also starving, and on top of that, he just couldn't refuse the idea of a family dinner. "Sure! I would love to! My stomach is rumbling like thunder! Let's go!"
Just as he and Jewel made for the door, a deep groan issued from her stomach as well. She blushed with embarrassment and said, "Whoops! I guess I am slightly hungry too!"
The five macaws flew from the tree crossed the clearing, heading in a northerly direction. As they penetrated the border, they each scanned the undergrowth for any star fruit trees.
After a few minutes of flying, Vicente spied a heavily-laden tree off to their left, and he yelled, "Mama! Papa! Over here!"
He executed a banking turn and alighted in the crown of the tree. The rest of his family joined him, and they marveled at the freshness of the yellow fruits clustered at their feet.
Esperanza exclaimed, "Man, they look so good! I can't wait to bite into one!"
"How many should we take, Papa?" asked Ricardo.
"However many you think you can eat!"
Just then, the wind had started to blow, chilling them all down to the bone, and the tree they were perched in began to rock. "We need to hurry! I can sense that the weather is going to get worse! I, for one, to not want to be caught in it!"
"Me too, Jewel! Hurry, meus filhos! Grab a few pieces of fruit, so we can get back home!"
The five macaws opted to clutch a star fruit delicately in each of their talons, and they flew as fast as they could along their previous flight path. Bright bolts of lightning had begun a deadly dance above the jungle, and the ensuing thunder shook the five macaws as they raced on.
As they erupted back into the clearing and made a beeline for the tree, a sudden gust of wind slammed them to the ground. As they picked themselves up, they gazed up at the griseous sky, and the clouds were swirling in a spiral pattern above their heads.
Jagged lightning flashed down from above, and in the center of the clouds, a hole had appeared. "What is going on, Jewel?"
"Boa pergunta! Você me diz!"
As the winds howled around the clearing in the same manner as the clouds, the macaws tried to walk the rest of the way to the tree. They made steady progress, despite the typhoon that was raging around them. As they closed the distance to a mere fifteen feet, a loud crackling sound stopped them in their tracks.
They stared up at the hole in the clouds, and a trio of lightning bolts surged down. One was an intense blue shade, another was a deep orange color, and the third was emerald green. The bolts sped downwards and blasted their home tree in unison.
A shower of multicolored sparks rained down across the clearing, and the tree erupted into a chaotic mix of orange, green, and blue flames. A surge of horror filled the souls of the five macaws as the tree crackled and burned. "Meu Deus! Our home! What will we do, Blu!"
As much as he wanted to, the male macaw could not come up with an answer. The wrecked tree let loose a groaning sound as it split down the middle, and the two halves fell away from each other and crashed onto the ground. The wind instantly died down, and the five macaws crept forward to examine the aftermath.
Glowing embers littered the ground, and their deep red centers pulsed in a slow rhythm. As soon as the wind had vanished, a hearty downpour came in to replace it, and the five birds were soaked in a matter of minutes. A hiss filled the air as the multitude of embers were doused by the rain.
The air had become saturated with steam, and as they arrived at the base of the tree, an odd glow caught Jewel's eye. Nestled innocently on the blackened stump was another ember, only this one was composed of three colors. The outer layer was a rich orange, and the core was an intense shade of blue. Around the blue core was a thin ring of green, and Jewel had to focus in order to see it.
Her mate slid in beside her to inspect the strange ember, and their children watched from a few feet behind. "Jewel, the colors of the lightning that hit the tree match the colors in this ember!"
"You're right! But, what is it? And why isn't the rain putting it out?"
Indeed, the rain seemed to have no effect on the oval object in front of them. It was as if an invisible bubble was surrounding it and insulating it. The two macaws could sense the warmth flowing from it, despite the rain, but there was something else buried along with the gentle heat.
They could sense a mystic power caressing their souls, ancient and irrefutable. As the two macaws drew ever closer, they heard a commanding voice begin to echo in their minds, and the object seemed to pulse in time with the words, as if it was speaking to them.
The time has come for you to endure the trial. I, the mighty Glaux, have called for you, and you must accept. The journey begins today, and you will be able to return, if you pray.
Touch the Ember and you will be whisked away, to a place where day is night, and night is day. There will be friendships you must forge, and enemies you must fight.
A different world awaits, in the middle of a sea, and no matter what, you must not flee. Decipher the code, and unlock the key.
You must both wield the claws, for they alone can fulfill your destinies. If you complete this, you shall be allowed to return. Fail the trial, and forever you shall burn...
The voice faded away, and the ember ceased to pulse along with it.
"Que diabos foi isso? Should we listen to it, Blu?"
He didn't really know the answer to her question, but the voice said that they had to accept. "I think we should listen to it, Jewel. It called itself 'Glaux,' and it said that we had to accept its call. Touch it, and see what happens."
Jewel heeded his advice, although she believed it to be utter nonsense. She carefully extended her right talon and plucked up the ember. It began to glow brighter than ever before, and it vanished out of Jewel's grip. It reappeared in front of them, and the jungle around them began to warp and blur.
The two macaws seemed to be moving faster and faster, as though the hovering ember was dragging them at incredible speeds. The blurred scenery soon became a convoluted mix of shapes, lights, and sounds, and they felt as though they were trapped in an inter-dimensional tunnel.
After spending a few minutes trapped in the warped tunnel, it suddenly vanished, and the two birds seemed to be gliding above a vast ocean. They slowed down to a pleasant speed, and as the sea rolled by beneath them, the ember seemed to fall into an illusory volcano in front of them.
Blu and Jewel then felt the pull of gravity once again, and they dropped from the air. They feared that they were going to fall into the sea and drown, because their wings refused to open. Much to their relief, they slammed head first into a gritty substance, and they hesitantly extracted their heads from the rough material.
After spitting out what seemed to be sand, they stood up and gazed around at their surroundings. An endless beach extended away from them on both sides, featureless and barren. They heard a soft rushing sound behind them, and as they turned around, all they could see was a vast expanse of water in every direction.
"I-I think we're on an island, Jewel. That ember must have taken us here. It sure lived up to its word."
"But, where are we? I think we are still on Earth, but something just feels...different."
"I know. It feels like we were taken from the jungle and thrown into a book. Or rather, the world that exists in the book. Let's look around some more."
As the two macaws turned around to face inland, an unimaginable sight caused their beaks drop open. In the apparent center of the island, a gargantuan structure towered up into the clear black sky. It seemed to scrape the myriad of stars above, and a pale crescent moon was peeking through the leaf-laden branches.
"Is that...a tree? That can't be possible! It must be hundreds of feet high! Have you ever seen anything that big, Jewel?"
"No, Blu. I haven't. Is this...a dream? I hope I wake up soon!"
As they stared up at the incomprehensible size of the tree in the distance, a pang of hunger seized their stomachs.
"Can we find something to eat, Blu? Our little 'trip' has left me hungry! If our hunger is real, this place must be real as well!"
"Uh, I don't see any trees around here, save for that one. This whole island is just a huge patch of grass and rocks! Wait, what's that?"
Blu caught sight of a large gray creature as it dashed behind a boulder about ten feet away.
"I don't see anything. Are you sure you didn't imagine it? There's no telling what that ember did to us."
"I am sure. Just wait here. I will go investigate..."
Being as his wings still did not want to work, Blu resorted to trudging his way off of the beach and into the small field where the boulder lay. Upon reaching the large gray mass, he circled around to the rear. As he did so, a large rat squeaked in terror and dashed off.
"Was that a rat? Yuck! That is the last thing I want to eat!"
He turned to Jewel and yelled, "Come here!"
She walked over to him, and she noticed a frown plastered on his face. "What was it?"
"A rat. Nasty little things. I don't think we are going to find anything worth eating here, Jewel..."
He tilted his head to gaze at the tree once more, and he noticed a multitude of specks orbiting the branches. "Do you see that, Jewel? Look at the branches of the tree."
Jewel focused her vision as best as she could, and she saw exactly what her mate was seeing. "What are they? I can't make them out from here."
"I don't know. Let's head inland for a closer look. Maybe we can find some food along the way..."
The two hungry macaws clambered through several fields and over patches of stone as they drew closer to the massive tree. In addition to a few rats, several mice had dashed from the tall grass as they waded through it, along with a third creature that Bu could not identify.
They were now fairly close to the tree, and yet they were no closer to satisfying their hunger. "Why isn't there anything to eat around here! Que lugar é esse? Eu exijo saber!"
Jewel's frustrated screams curled out into the night, and she hoped that something, somebody, would answer them.
"Shhh, Jewel! Those things up there might hear us! We don't know what they can do!"
They had moved inland far enough to resolve a few more details of the specks that danced around high above. They could tell that the specks had wings, and they were painted a variety of different colors. That was the limit as to what they could observe so far.
"I don't care! Maybe those 'things' can help us!"
Blu gazed up once again, and to his horror, a small group of the winged creatures were gliding down straight at them. "Veja o que você fez! We have to hide, and quick!"
Blu grabbed Jewel's wing and led her behind an arched rock. They heard no wing-beats, and they prayed that their pursuers had vanished. Instead, they heard the soft rustle of grass being parted, and before they could react, eight of the winged creatures appeared from around the corner.
One of them was a mix of brown and black feathers and was quite large. One was a ghostly white, and its eyes were starkly contrasting solid black spheres. Another was just as white, but it was much larger, and it had black feathers mixed in, in addition to yellow eyes.
Another was covered in soft red feathers, and it looked to be even in size with Blu and Jewel. Two others were a dull gray, and their eyes were as yellow as the sun. Another was quite small, and its body was streaked with white and black feathers.
The last one was also minuscule in size, and it was a mix of crimson and white feathers. It stepped forwards, and as if to add to their shock, it spoke to them. "Who and what in Glaux's name are you?"
The creature spoke with a heavy yet smooth accent, and it sounded like an English lilt to Blu. Gathering what shreds of courage he had left, he replied, "Uh, we...are called macaws. Spix's Macaws, actually. What are you? And what are they?"
"I am an Elf owl. These birds next to me are also owls. I have never heard of a 'macaw' before. Where did you come from?"
"We came from a...faraway place. It is called Rio de Janeiro..."
The eight creatures known as owls all tilted their heads at extreme angles in response. The leader, who was apparently female, replied, "Rio de...what? Are you playing jokes on me? "
"No! Not at all! It is a city in Brazil. And Brazil is on a continent called South America."
"I have no clue what you are talking about, but I will take your word for it. What are you doing here?"
"We are looking for some food to eat. We are very hungry."
This earned them slightly amused glares from the eight owls. "You don't have to look far. There are rats and mice everywhere!"
"This may sound odd, but we don't eat meat. We only eat fruit and nuts."
"Oh. Well, we have some fruit here, but we don't have any nuts. We have these things called milkberries. We can eat them raw, but we usually make them into snacks, like tarts and pie."
Well, that's good. We were starting to think that we were going to starve!"
"Oh, I almost forgot! What are your names?"
"I am Blu."
"My name is Jewel."
"Those are...nice names. My name is Gylfie. Are you two related, by any chance? You look very similar."
"Yes. Blu and I are mates."
"That's nice. If you like, we can show you around our home."
"Uh, sure! I just hope it isn't too much trouble for you."
"Glaux, no! I would be glad to! But before we go, I have one last question: How did you get here from that place you call South America?"
Jewel drew a breath and replied, "There was a storm in the jungle where we lived. Our home was destroyed by lightning, but then, we saw an ember. Then we heard a voice in our heads by the name of Glaux. I touched the ember, and then before we knew it, we ended up on this island."
The look on their faces had grown from curiosity to genuine alarm as she spoke. The owl known as Gylfie stepped right up to Jewel and asked, "Did you say Glaux?"
"Yes. Who is that?"
"Glaux is our ancestor, the first owl to inhabit the Earth. Every owl that has ever lived descended from Glaux. He is our...higher being, if you will."
"Wow. That explains the voice, but what about the ember we saw, Gylfie?"
"Can you describe it?"
"It was oval shaped, and it was pretty big. It was mostly orange, but the center was blue, and there was a ring of green in between them. Does that help?"
The eight owls simply stood there, stunned, and it took a few minutes for them to regain their composure. Gylfie grabbed Jewel and exclaimed, "That sounds like the Ember of Hoole! It must have brought you here! For what reason, I do not know, but this is astounding news nonetheless!"
"Really? What is the Ember of Hoole? And where is here?"
Blu added, "Are you going to tell someone about it? Is there any way you can 'take us to your leader?' Do you even have a leader?"
"Absolutely! We have a king and queen! We need to take you to see them at once! They will explain everything to you! Let's go!"
The eight owls hurriedly lifted off and flew straight for the massive tree. Blu and Jewel spread their wings, and much to their relief, they could fly once again. They followed in the wake of the owls, and their hunger made their flight that much more difficult.
The pure white owl from before drifted back to them and said, "Stick close to us, because you can get lost inside the tree if you aren't careful!"
"Wait, what? We could get lost inside of the tree? What do you mean!"
The owl had sped away before he could get an answer. The group of owls approached the massive trunk, and the two macaws in the rear, wondered how they were going to enter the tree. However, a large hole soon appeared in the trunk, and the owls flew effortlessly inside.
Blu and Jewel did as they were told, and they glided into the yawning hole in the wood. They were stunned to see a maze of passages leading away from the hole in every direction. Some went left or right, some went straight, and the rest went up or down.
Small flickering torches mounted on the walls filled the tunnels with a soft orange glow. Blu turned and spied a line of owls head, and he quickly scampered over to them. His mate soon joined him, and as they wound their way through the maze, they felt as if they were descending towards the base of the tree.
After a few more minutes of silent walking, the owls all stopped abruptly, and Blu nearly ran into the owl ahead of him.
"What's going on, Blu?"
"I don't know. I think we have arrived at our destination."
The other birds scooted forward into a small chamber, and Gylfie motioned for the two macaws to step forward. They hesitantly approached her, and a large, chocolate and white owl melted from shadows. They jumped back in fear, but the resolute form spoke to them in a soft voice.
"Hello. I am Cleve. I was told that you were somehow brought here by the Ember of Hoole. I am intrigued by this development, and I am sure that our king and queen will be too. Gylfie here has suggested that you speak with them. Do you agree?"
Jewel replied, "I suppose, uh, Cleve. When can we see them?"
"They are conducting their weekly consultation with the Parliament right now. They should be finished shortly."
Blu and Jewel merely nodded and scooted over to the nearby wall, their stomachs aching with hunger and anxiety.
Cleve turned to Gylfie and whispered, "You were wise to bring them here. I think I can take care of the rest. You should head back outside with your chaw now."
"Good idea, Cleve. See you later."
Just before the Elf owl started down the tunnel, she turned to the two azure birds and said, "Bye, Blu! Bye, Jewel!"
"Uh, bye, Gylfie. Thank you for bringing us here..."
She noticed them shaking as they spoke, and she replied, "Don't worry! Everything will be fine. Cleve will take care of you, and our king and queen are very kind owls!"
The two macaws managed disheartened nods, and the Elf owl led the others down the dim tunnel. The thick silence in the hollow unnerved the two macaws, and Cleve's unmoving form only added to their discomfort. They would cast furtive glances at him when he wasn't looking, just to make sure he was still breathing.
Suddenly, they heard aloud shuffle from the other side of the door, and as it slid open, seven owls filed out. As Cleve closed the door behind them, they all paused to give Blu and Jewel bewildered looks. Blu stared back and muttered, "Uh, hi! We are new here!"
None of the owls replied, and they simply continued on their way. Cleve walked over to them and said, "That was the Parliament I told you about. Don't mind them. They were just astounded to see two creatures so...different from them. Wait here while I go see if you can speak with the monarchs..."
He went over to the door and casually slipped inside. Blu and Jewel decided to listen in, and they pressed their heads gently up against the door. The thick door had absorbed most of the sound, but they managed to catch a few snippets of Cleve's speech.
"...Navigation Chaw...macaws...faraway place...Ember..."
After a short silence, a lovely female voice announced, "Bring them in..."
They jumped away from the door moments before the gray owl opened it and stepped up to them.
"The monarchs have agreed to see you. I know you have not been here for long, and you know not of our ways, but do show a decent amount of respect to them. There is no need to be afraid, however. They are very caring owls, and I am confident that they will help you sort everything out..."
Cleve slid the door aside and waved them through. They tentatively stepped inside and jumped down from the small threshold. They paused momentarily to take in the sights of the spacious room before them.
As they brought their gaze to the center of the large space, they grew nervous once more. Perched before them, on a massive curved branch, were two ghostly white forms. Two pairs of haunting black eyes were fixed directly on them, and the owl on the left motioned for them to come forward...
Meus filhos.=My children.
Boa pergunta! Você me diz!=Good question! You tell me!
Meu Deus!=My God!
Que diabos foi isso?=What the hell was that?
Que lugar é esse? Eu exijo saber!=What is this place? I demand to know!
Veja o que você fez!=See what you did!