Once Abby was celebrating Easter. Of course, all celebrations are special, and this one was especially so, what with all the great food and people and games and laughter. But what was just as special–perhaps even more special–was where it was happening. It was happening, in fact, in the Maasai Mara, next to a very big pool of water–too small to be a lake, but too big to be a pond, at least in Abby’s opinion.
Besides this fact, it was a very normal celebration at first. Food, games, people, all that wonderfulness. Then something very unexpected happened… But before I tell you what it was, first let me explain some things.
Firs of all, Abby had discovered that she was the kind of person unexpected things happen to. Two months ago, she’d been abducted by a green log and taken to a wondrous cloud kingdom, where she defeated an evil cloud. About a month after that, she’d been abducted again, this time by a boulder, and saved the people of the Lava Lands from the Water Beast… Or had it been the Water Beast she was saving? Abby still wasn’t quite sure about that.
I might add that the reason Abby was celebrating Easter with her friends in the Maasai Mara was because she figured that if they had their Easter get-together there, it would be so unexpected nothing unexpected would happen. It makes sense, right?
Unfortunately, this quiet place in the Mara just wasn’t unexpected enough, for all the giraffes and hippos and zebras that obligingly stayed within view of the party, just to remind everyone of how strange and unexpected a place it was to have an Easter celebration. Because, as I said before, something terribly strange, abnormal, unexpected, dare I even say magical happened that gorgeous Easter day.
Unexpected things happen no matter what we do, it would seem. It’s what makes them so annoying, so unexpected, after all.
Abby was eating some wonderful Easter food, watching amusedly as one of her friends told the story of Easter to a group of very distractible children. As she reached for another egg, Abby met the eyes of a zebra, standing not three yards away.
This place is so neat, she thought, smiling as she ate.
A moment later she glanced at the zebra again–but now it was one yard closer. A little concerned by this oddity, Abby looked back at her friend and the children… But somehow, they looked a little farther away. Blinking and shaking her head in confusion, Abby turned around and yelped, nearly throwing her plate at the zebra standing right behind her.
The zebra blinked at her and stepped back, its brown eyes wide as it studied her. After a moment it shook its head and snorted, then turned and trotted off. Abby was about to resume eating as if nothing had happened when the zebra returned, banging its head against her shoulder.
“What?” Abby demanded, turning to face it. The zebra tossed its head, bared its teeth in a very zebra-ish grin, and trotted off again. Grumbling to herself, Abby followed. She’d learned by now that when it came to things like this, it was best to just play along and hope it all worked out.
The zebra led her towards the pond, stopping briefly on the banks to study her once more before diving straight in. Abby glanced back at the celebration, but to her surprise, the hill above was empty. Strange green and blue colors seemed to warp the edges of her vision, and Abby quickly focused on the zebra again. It was treading water, watching, waiting.
Taking a deep breath, Abby dove into the pond, wincing at the feeling of slime and bugs that instantly greeted her. She paddled over to the zebra… but it was already gone, diving under the water, apparently satisfied that she knew what to do. Shaking her head, Abby again drew in a deep breath, but this time she held it, plunging into the water and swimming down… And down… And down…
She desperately wanted to go back up for air, but when she glanced back, the weird colors were swirling together, a huge cloud coming to devour her. Abby felt the extra kick of adrenalin in her limbs and swam for all her worth, popping out in a cavern pool.
For a disorienting moment it felt like she was upside down, hanging out of the strangely still pool of liquid as she stared at the murky darkness of the distant floor. Then everything righted itself, and she was looking at the ceiling. Lowering her gaze, Abby saw the zebra standing beside the pool, watching her. Abby climbed out and walked over to it.
The zebra stomped a hoof, and the weird colors, which still twisted at the edge of her vision, collided in front of her eyes, creating an explosion of blue and green. Abby blinked, then blinked again–no longer in a murky cavern, she found herself standing at the fringes of what looked to be some sort of spring-themed pool party.
She was standing on a small island in a huge, green-blue lake of some sort, surrounded by other islands. Plants, bugs, and animals of all kinds seemed to inhabit the waters, and Abby was sure she even saw a dolphin leap in an arc before disappearing again.
“There you are, Tendaji.” A deep, rich voice said, and the zebra lifted its head, ears perked expectantly.
The island suddenly seemed to swell in size, and Abby struggled for balance as a tree and several bushes sprang into being around her. A huge man stepped onto the island, huge not just in height, but in… well, everything else, really. He was broad-shouldered, his skin colored like the very soil of the island, his hair long and verdant, abundant in various random plants.
“You have done well, friend.” The man placed a loving hand on the zebra’s head, and Tendaji made some sort of pleased barking sound, rubbing his nose against the man’s earthy palm.
“His name’s Tendaji?” Abby asked, more for the sake of being acknowledged to exist then to clarify. It was pretty obvious the zebra’s name was Tendaji–it fit pretty well, too.
“Yes, and your’s is Abby.” The man gave her a slight bow, a bow for an equal. Instead of trying to mimic it, Abby extended her hand, and the man smiled as he shook it, revealing well-used but not too dirty teeth.
“So, why did Tendaji bring me here?” Abby figured it was probably best to get straight to the point.
“We need your help, as you have helped the Air and Fire people.” The man explained. “But first, I must introduce myself–I am Jelani.”
“You already know who I am, I guess, but I’m Abby.” Abby wondered briefly if he knew what Jelani meant. Probably.
“We have a bit of a problem,” Jelani told her. “You know it is Easter, yes?”
“I was at an Easter party when Tendaji showed up, actually.” Abby couldn’t help feeling a little bitter at this.
“Well, we were having an Easter party as well–in fact, a very special one, as for once the Water and Earth peoples have come to a time of peace, and so we decided to celebrate together.” Jelani sighed and rubbed his mussed up hair.
“But?” Abby prompted, figuring something had gone wrong if she’d been summoned. It was unlikely she was simply being invited to a party.
“Well, there was a problem with the Easter Hare, and now the Kitten has disappeared.” Jelani explained, seeming embarrassed about the whole thing.
“The Easter–oh, like the Easter Bunny!” Abby frowned. “Wait, so there’s an Easter Kitten, as well?” It wasn’t such a surprise, when she thought about it.
“Not the Easter Kitten,” Jelani corrected. “The Kitten, the Kitten of the Earth. The Green-Eyed Kitten.”
“How did he disappear?” Abby asked.
“She was chasing the Easter Hare.” Jelani explained. “Now we don’t know where she is. Some think–” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Some think the water people took her. We’re on the brink of war.”
“Oh.” Abby frowned and looked at the surrounding water. “So why–”
“I’m here to try and smooth things over.” Jelani guessed her question before she could speak. “If you agree to help us, Tendaji will take you to the Earth realm.”
“And if I don’t help you?” Abby tried.
“Earth and Water will go to war.” Jelani studied her. “Do you know what that would mean for your people? Do you know how a tsunami is made?”
“A tsunami is a giant wave, right?” Abby checked.
“Yes. Many tsunamis are created due to seismic activity under the water. As in, earthquakes.” When she failed to understand, he added, “In a way, you could almost say a tsunami is water and earth at war.”
Abby gulped. “I… see. Okay. So, I just need to find the Easter Kitten?”
“The Earth Kitten.” Jelani corrected. “Yes, Tendaji will take you to where she was last seen.”
Abby rubbed her hands together to give the illusion of confidence. “Then let’s get this show on the road.”
Tendaji knelt beside her, and before Abby could protest, Jelani had lifted her onto the zebra’s back–which, she noticed, now had a saddle that seemed to be made of soft moss, mulch, and soil. As Tendaji began to gallop forward, colors warping around them once again, Abby grumpily observed that this kind of things happened far too often to her.
They emerged in a picturesque green meadow surrounded by a lively forest, complete with burbling brook. The entire scene was framed by mountains, and Abby noticed several abandoned Easter decorations blowing in the wind… All made out of natural, biodegradable materials, of course. Earth people tend to be very eco-friendly.
“Alright.” Abby rubbed her hands together. “So what was the Easter–sorry, Earth Kitten doing when she was last seen?”
“The Kitten was chasing the Easter Hare.” Tendaji explained seriously. “She pursued him into the forest. The Hare returned, but not the Kitten.”
“Ah-ha!” Abby raised her finger in the air dramatically. “Then that’s the first thing we’ll check!”
“The forest?” Tendaji sounded strangely skeptical. “This is the forest of Earth. It stretches as wide as… What continents do your people have? I always forget.”
“Sing it with me: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia; Africa, Antartica, these are the continents!” Abby looked around. “So this is as big as one of our continents?”
“Bigger.” Tendaji answered grimly.
“O-kay.” Abby decided to move on. Asking questions probably wouldn’t get many answers. “No, I meant we should question the Hare. Where is he?”
“In his den.” Tendaji kneeled down. “I’ll take you to him.”
Abby climbed on the zebra’s back, and he galloped off. Abby noticed that he didn’t seem to be used to running through the forest; a plains zebra, she guessed. Before long, the weird colors began warping their surroundings again, but this time instead of just appearing somewhere else, they seemed to gallop high above the forest.
Abby leaned out and gasped at the site of the massive forest below them. One would think such a continuous expanse of trees would get old, but every patch of forest seemed to be more different then the previous. A green dragon briefly flew up to warn them away from her nest. A winged leopard paused in hauling a recently deceased stag up a tree. A massive serpent burrowed into the earth, its tail spurring the growth of vines and flowers with a touch.
The warping ended, and Tendaji came to a halt in a quiet part of the forest. Abby slid off, breathless from the ride. Looking around, she saw… nothing.
“Why’s it so quiet?” Abby wondered.
“The Hare dislikes noise.” For the first time, there was a tinge of distaste in Tendaji’s voice.
“Of course I don’t!” A voice grumbled, and a plump grey hair popped out of a hole in the ground. His fur was matted and white with age, and he moved stiffly, as if his joints were bothering him. “I’ve been dealing with annoying humans for hundreds of years! Why can’t I get some peace and QUIET!?!” A pair of birds that had started chirping quickly fell silent.
“We’re sorry to bother you, Hare.” Tendaji apologized, bowing his head. “But we need to find the Kitten.”
“The Kitten, the Kitten!” The Hare waved his paws in the air. “That blasted Kitten! Annoying little brat–”
“Okay, HEY!” Abby interrupted his rant. “Look, I get your mad, but if we don’t find this Kitten, there’s gonna be a war.”
“So?” The Hare glared at her.
“So where is she?” Abby demanded.
“Probably eaten by a dragon.” The Hare muttered sulkily.
Abby considered him. “Can you tell me what, exactly, your job is?”
Everyone present, even Tendaji, stared at her.
“I’m the public image,” The Easter Hare said at last. “I represent the Kingdom of Earth. I’m an ambassador to… to your world, actually.”
“And you’re tired of it?” Abby questioned.
“Yes!” The Hare threw his front legs in the air. “Sick and tired of it! I’m not a bunny, you know!”
“Okay,” Abby said slowly, aware that she was probably getting in over her head. “Can’t you just retire?”
The Hare considered her, ears twitching. “Who would want to replace me?” He said at last.
“If you tell us where the Kitten is, I promise to find you a replacement.” Abby told him. “Deal?” She extended her hand.
The Hare thought about this for a moment, a slow grin spreading across his face. “Deal.” He shook her hand with a paw. “Finally, retirement!” He gave a sort of half-hop in his excitement.
“The Kitten?” Tendaji prompted.
“Oh, right, her.” The Hare shook his head. “She chased me into the woods, wanting to play. Of course I declined–I’m not a young hare, you know.”
“We know.” Tendaji said with just a hint of sarcasm.
The Hare narrowed his eyes at the zebra, but continued nonetheless. “Well, anyway. She caught wind of some younger animals, and rushed off. Last I saw she was heading for the Rocky Meadow.”
“The Rocky Meadow?” Tendaji gasped, wheeling around and nearly trampling the Hare. “We have to hurry!”
“Why?” Abby asked, confused by the zebra’s sudden panic. “What’s the rush?”
The Rocky Meadow is where the snakes live!” Tendaji explained. “They’ll kill her!” He was starting to trot in circles, tossing his head like a spooked horse.
“Calm down.” Abby ordered him. Turning to the Hare, she added, “Thanks for all your help, Hare.”
“Once you find my replacement,” the Hare cocked an ear. “You can call me Pascal.”
“I’ll find him. Or her, I guess.” Abby promised.
“We must go!” Tendaji stomped his hooves.
“Relax, Tendaji.” Abby climbed back onto his back–she was getting better at it, she thought. “The Kitten’s not helpless, is she?”
“Oh, she is.” Pascal assured her.
Tendaji sprang right into a gallop, ripping through the forest with bizarre colors swirling dizzyingly around him. They burst out in the open, and Tendaji came to an abrupt halt, heaving sides slick with sweat.
The meadow they were in was peaceful and sunny. Several boulders lay scattered around, as well as a number of piles of rocks. Abby knew for a fact such areas were favorite resting places for snakes, but she could also see the appeal for a young, curious, possibly tired kitten.
“Kitten!” Abby slid off Tendaji and patted his side. “Little Kitten! Where are you?”
“Abby!” Tendaji panted. “Over there!” He nodded his head at a boulder across the field, where a young kitten seemed to be sleeping in the sun… With a huge cobra rising over her!
“Kitten!” Abby cried, scrambling towards the nightmarish scene. The cobra hesitated, its hood spread over the kitten. Abby lunged forward and grasped it in her hands, and they wrestled across the grass, the cobra hissing furiously.
“Abby, Abby!” A sweet, deep, rich voice called, at once in her ears and her eyes and her heart. “He is my friend!”
Abby came to a stop, panting, the cobra grasped tightly in her hands. It writhed in her grip, hissing.
The Kitten of Earth ran over to her, green eyes huge and deep. She was a cute little thing, soft with brown and grey and green fuzz that blended perfectly, making her look like some sort of adorable forest spirit. The Kitten ran right up to the cobra and rubbed against its head. The cobra stopped writhing, and Abby stared at the Kitten in surprise.
“Udo is my friend.” The Kitten told her again. Her voice–her voice was at once that of an earnest five-year-old and a sage five-hundred-year-old.
“Udo?” Abby echoed, looking at the cobra.
“I am Udo.” The cobra told her in a smooth, strangely soft voice.
“Ah.” This was decidedly not the strangest thing to ever happen to Abby… or at least, that’s what she kept telling herself.
“So you won’t, like, kill us?” Abby checked.
“If you are indeed a friend of Mira, then you are a friend of mine.” Udo answered.
“Okay.” Abby decided that was good enough, and released the serpent. Tendaji stomped his hooves and flattened his ears, glaring at the cobra. Udo remained passive and calm.
“Have you come to play?” The Kitten asked Abby, bouncing happily on her paws.
“Kitten, you know you almost started a war, right?” Abby did her best to be stern in the face of the Earth Kitten’s boundless enthusiasm.
“My name is Mira.” Mira told her. She drooped sadly. “I am sorry… But I wanted to play with the little snakes.” She beamed at a gap in the rocks, and a young snake poked its head out, hissing merrily.
“Mira, we need to get you home.” Abby scooped the kitten up, and she purred. Abby was surprised–most kids would put up a fuss at being taken home, but then, most kids didn’t start wars by running off. Besides, Mira was a kitten, not a kid.
“Bye, Udo!” Mira called. “Bye, little friends!”
“Good-bye, Mira!” All the snakes in the rocks chimed, sticking their heads out and bobbing up and down. Abby supposed it was their way of waving, but it was still a bit disconcerting.
“By the way, Mira,” Abby began as she climbed onto Tendaji’s back. “Are any of your friends–and I don’t mean the snakes–interested in the world I come from? I’m thinking along the lines of a bunny or something like that.”
“Oh!” Mira hopped up onto her shoulder, balancing with ease as Tendaji began to gallop. “Giles! Giles is very curious. He would like your world much.” She bounced a little, and Abby barely managed to stop her from falling off her shoulder. “Also Zhong, I think.”
“Tell me more about them. How old are they?” Abby prompted.
“Giles is two.” Mira told her. “Zhong is six.”
“Years?” Abby checked.
“Months.” Mira correct her. “Giles is very curious and happy. He likes adventures, but he’s not very good at making friends. Zhong is very good at making friends, but he doesn’t like exploring.”
“Interesting.” Abby wondered if two Easter animals was possible. “Can I meet them?”
“Yes, yes, you will meet Zhong very soon, if we are going home. He’s my brother.”
“Where does Giles live?”
Mira thought for a moment. “I think he lives in the palace.”
“Oh!” Abby hadn’t realized Mira was friends with a prince, though it made sense, when she thought about it.
“Yes, his whole family lives in the palace!” Mira seemed happy to impress.
“We’re here.” Tendaji announced, slowing to a stop. Abby blinked at the sight before her–a large castle made of trees, rocks, dirt, mud, and other earthy materials provided a backdrop to the dramatic scene: two armies on the brink of war. The Earth people (who weren’t all necessarily people) stood in front of the castle, toe to toe with the Water army. Abby was even sure she saw her old friend, the Water Beast, being used as a mount for the Water army.
“Hey! Hey, everyone! Chill!” Abby called, jumping off Tendaji with Mira in hand. Tendaji hurried to rejoin Jelani, glaring at the horse that had dared to replace him. “Look! The Kitten’s fine! She’s safe!” Abby waved the Kitten over her head.
“Well done, Abby!” Jelani called. “Everyone, the war is now over. You can go home.”
“Aw, man.” Some Water guy grumbled. “I was hoping for a fight…”
“Next Easter!” An Earth dude called cheerfully.
“We’re doing it, bro!” Water man pumped his fist in the air as the armies dispersed.
“Mira!” “Sis!” “You’re home!” “A Midworlder! Whoa!” Abby looked down to see her feet surrounded by kittens. Bending down, she set Mira on the ground, and the Earth Kitten was quickly swarmed by her… Four? It looked like she had four siblings.
“This is my friend, Abby.” Mira told them proudly, rubbing her head against Abby’s legs. “She’s a Midworlder!”
“Hi.” Abby almost felt shy, and had to remind herself that these were kittens.
“I’m Joash, and I’m best.” A fiery tabby told her, baring his teeth at Mira, who stuck out her tongue at him. His orange eyes sparked with untamed energy, and Abby was reminded of her time in the Lava Lands.
“I am Cansu.” A sweet little blue kitten told her. Her eyes were the color of the sky, and her fur rippled with all the colors of the ocean. She smelled like the Water Beast, and mystery, anticipation and the future.
“I’m Anani, and I’m better.” The grayish white kitten, colored like a cloud, shoved Joash teasingly, and the two were soon in a heated wrestling match.
“I’m Zhong.” A perfectly ordinary, perfectly adorable black kitten with round blue eyes and a white chest rubbed against her feet.
“I’ve heard of you.” Abby crouched down and picked Zhong up. “I hear you’re good at making friends.”
“Yes,” Zhong agreed. “And I like your smell. I want to visit your world someday, if you’d welcome me.” He displayed a cute, very kittenish smile.
“Mira, can you introduce me to Giles?” Abby asked, turning to the Earth Kitten.
“He’ll be here soon.” Mira told her. “He’s very curious.”
“He’s already here.” Zhong said, perking up. “Giles! Over here!”
Abby turned to see a small white goat with pinkish-purple speckles looking at them shyly from a distance. Giles turned as if wanting to run away, but Zhong hurried over and nipped him, leading the way back to Abby and the kittens. Giles’ curiosity did the rest.
“Jelani!” Abby called.
“Yes?” The Earth man asked, riding over on Tendaji’s back. “What is it?”
“We met the Easter Hare while looking for the Earth Kitten,” Abby began. “And I made a deal with him.”
“Oh dear.” Jelani observed.
“He agreed to help us find Mira if I found him a replacement, so that he can finally retire.” Abby paused, looking at Jelani expectantly.
The Earth man grinned. “So he does want to retire! Though I don’t know where we could possibly find a replacement…”
“I’ll do it!” Giles burst out. He seemed embarrassed as everyone turned to look at him, shuffling his hooves. “I mean… I’ve always been interested in the Middleworld.” He explained.
“And I’ll help him, since he’s super shy.” Zhong said, hopping from Abby’s arms onto Giles’ back.
“Very good.” Jelani smiled. “We were hoping Zhong would become an ambassador to the Middleworld, as his siblings are to the other realms. I think this will work out nicely.”
“In that case,” Abby interjected. “Can I go back now? I’m missing out on a party.
“Of course.” Jelani agreed. “Giles, Zhong, you should escort her. You have much to learn about the Middleword.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Giles bowed deeply.
“Yes, sir!” Zhong gave some sort of mock kitten salute.
Jelani laughed. “You can take the goat cart. Giles, I trust you can drive it?”
“I believe so.” Giles bowed again before bounding off, Zhong clinging to his back.
“Bye, Mira, kittens.” Abby bent down and rubbed Mira on the head, patting the other kittens. “Bye, Jelani, Tendaji.”
Tendaji nudged her with his nose in a friendly way. Jelani smiled warmly. “Farewell, Abby.” The zebra wheeled around, and the king of Earth galloped away.
“Abby! Come on!” Zhong called, and Abby hurried over to find Giles already attached to a small, homemade cart. At Zhong’s direction, she slowly climbed in, gripping the sides as Giles broke into a trot. They quickly gathered speed, and Abby winced as Zhong dug his claws into her leg. Strange windows of color flitted by them, visions of other worlds, until at last Giles arrived at Abby’s Easter party.
“Thanks, Giles.” Abby patted his head. He smiled shyly.
“Oooh, are those Middleworlders?” Zhong perked his ears towards her friends. “Come on, Giles, let’s go meet them! It’s Easter, after all.”
“I don’t know…” Giles shuffled his hooves.
“Come on, you silly goat.” Abby laughed and pulled him forwards with a gentle hand. Zhong further encouraged him by nipping his heels, and they walked together to the Easter party.
“Hey, Abby!” One of Abby’s friends called. “Where’d you find that goat?”
“Aww, a kitten!” Some kid cooed. Zhong fluffed up proudly as all the kids gathered around him, fawning over both kitten and goat.
“Seriously, what’s with the goat?” Abby’s friend demanded.
“This is Giles. He’s the Easter Goat.” Abby smiled as her friends laughed.
As everyone resumed eating and talking and generally having fun, and as Zhong attempted to explain that he was a very important ambassador to the children pulling on his tail, and as Giles began to learn all about Easter, Abby saw a crocodile in the pool where there hadn’t been one previously. The crocodile winked at her, one sly movement of its eye. Abby winked back.
And that’s how Abby celebrated Easter, and in the process, ended the Tsunami War of 2016 before it could even begin.