Hello everyone, I’m back with more of the story about Knopf. Gather around if you’re interested and eat your own version of chalknut pudding! This installment is slightly more lighthearted than the last.
As some of you might already notice, I’m late again in putting this out. We’re still busy in the back room determining how new Whiskers from Westerdelle episodes could possibly get finished on a more regular basis. One of these days after this, we’re sticking to a particular day of the week for publication. Whichever day works best.
If you’re not a fan of WHW, but miss my other stuff, don’t worry. I’ve not totally abandoned it. More will come.
And, well, if you haven’t heard of Whiskers from Westerdelle and are wondering what those weird words are all about, or if you have heard all about it and love it but have some catching up to do, then please click the link below! It looks like it’s only part one of Chapter Three, but there’s links in that same post for the rest of the story as well.
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Chapter 3 ~ Exceptionally Shrewd (Continued)
Bye-Bye was being carried in the arms of his Namegiver. Although he couldn’t see the extraordinary face nor hear the familiar voice, he knew that it was him, the Namegiver, all the same.
They were traveling together through the jungle together in some fast fashion that made the Knop feel like he was flying. Suddenly, they passed by a boof, which, upon noticing them, began to chase them furiously. The Namegiver yelled so loudly that that the Knop cringed, and he dove even deeper into the thick foliage while still carrying Bye-Bye Buttons. They got away from the Boof. They headed east.
The ground gradually began to slope upward. Westerdelle was a lopsided piece of land, its entire western front being a swath of beach while its easternmost boasted mounting cliffs, the pinnacle of which dropped terrifyingly for a mile and a half before hitting the sea. Under normal circumstances, Bye-Bye would have been full of terror while being taken to the cliffs without his consent. But he didn’t feel afraid at all while he was with the Namegiver.
The trees thinned out and the climbing grew much harder.
Bye-Bye expected to see the Diamond Wall in the distance. Emberus had erected it long ago, a certain event which the much younger and more newly-wisened Knop failed to remember. But, since then, the shimmering and crystalline wall had helped prevent cliff accidents. During the day, it shone too brilliantly to even be looked at. However, at night, it could be seen as the accomplishment that it was: rough-edged precious stones conglomerated together, softly glowing underneath the moon, and stretching north and south until one end hit the salty swamps and the other hit the mine for gold respectively. In the darkness, Bye-Bye kept his eyes safely open for the landmark.
But tonight, for some reason, the wall was gone!
The Namegiver sensed Bye-Bye’s alarm, hefted him up, and looked at him sorrowfully. “Bye-Bye Buttons,” he said.
“Do you ever say anything else? Did you move the wall?! Or…have I traveled back through time?”
“Bye-Bye Buttons!” the Namegiver repeated.
“BYE-BYE BUTTONS!” Emberus roared.
The addressed Knop jolted awake. The chief was glaring at him sternly and the Namegiver was gone. He remembered everything now; he had fallen asleep during the party. Now the party was over. The community’s treehouse of meeting was now empty, except for Emberus and his daughter and Bye-Bye Buttons himself. The couple who had lost a knopling had been counseled and they and the other Knopf had by now dispersed. And it was as late as late could be.
“Why can’t I sleep here?” Bye-Bye asked crossly. It was the wrong thing to say to Emberus, but he hardly cared.
“I don’t care whether you’re sleeping in here or in your own treehouse, actually,” the Knop chief replied. “But I did want to hear the story from you as for why you yourself arrived so late to the counting ceremony. You were not following the summons, and so you were causing in some of us some worry and disturbance.”
“Oh, so you were worried about me?” Bye-Bye asked, feigning pleasant surprise. “I didn’t know you cared.”
“Bye-Bye, we all care about each other. That’s why we have counting day. We all know about everyone else’s existences. We look out for one another. Didn’t you do that today for any one other member of the community besides yourself?”
Bye-Bye yawned. “I didn’t have the time.”
“But I was still being helpful!”
“I was looking for Firesprings! They help everybody.”
Flames rose up in Emberus’ eyes at the mere mention of the Firesprings. The temperature in the treehouse rose and Bye-Bye shook with fear. He had never known when was the proper time to keep his mouth shut. A moment later, Emberus cooled, and he said in a low and angry voice, “There are no uncharted springs. You were wasting your time by not listening to me! I’ve already told you and everyone else, over and over again: we must be content with what we have, all of us, each Knop with his or her own share, to spare the priceless water! What matters the most is us using what gifts we get as of now from the Firesprings, to help the community. There’s enough.”
Bye-Bye studied him quizzically. Emberus had either hidden a spring on purpose or he had just now assumed falsely. At last the inferior Knop said, “Well, chief, if that’s the case, then tomorrow morning would you be willing to just accompany me over to where I’ve been today? I need to show you something there that I’ve found.”
“Depends.” Emberus studied the ceiling. “I have so many other Knopf to hold accountable too, you know. And I’m really not used to going out much these days, although I would love to know all about what you’ve found.”
“I’ll go with him,” Aprille unexpectedly offered.
“You?!” Emberus turned to face her, surprised. He affectionately stroked her whiskers. “Are you sure? Would you tell me about how it went once you come back?”
“I don’t see why I wouldn’t,” Aprille said in her matter-of-fact way before staring hard at Bye-Bye Buttons. “And I will tell him everything, no matter what.”
Emberus thought it over. At last he said, “I’ll have decided it by morning.”
“That’ll do,” Bye-Bye replied. “Thank you, chief. And thank you, princess.”
“Oh, and one more thing before it’s bedtime,” the Knop chief added, yawning himself. “Cookies–Cookies the Third, that is, the sentry, told me that you, Bye-Bye Buttons, saw the Boof today. Is that true?”
“Why must you know everything and have done whatever you want done? You aren’t the Appointer, are you? Yes, chief, that is true.”
“Then your first and foremost job in the morning will be to clean up after it. Goodnight.” Emberus turned away and gestured to Aprille for her to follow him. She did so.
“Goodnight, Princess Aprille!” Bye-Bye spoke up now with an unabashed grin. She would make his whole day better. “See you tomorrow, I hope!”
She looked back once. “I’m not angry at you anymore. Naguga is dead and it’s all over now. But we do need to learn to understand each other better; all of us do. No funny business now. Goodnight.”
“So be it. But I do wish you were funnier sometimes! I DO WISH YOU WERE FUNNIER SOMETIMES!” he repeated it out loud so that it echoed.
Aprille didn’t indicate that she heard him as she and her father left the treehouse through a curtain made from hostercat fur and headed toward the bridge toward their own home. In the end, Bye-Bye Buttons decided that she was out of earshot. After a few minutes more, he made up his mind to spend the rest of the night in his own treehouse as well. He was a respectable Knop, after all, who was going to spend the day with royalty in the morning.
He followed the route to his house, as he had been doing at the end of each day for ten years. If he wanted to, he could by now take all of the turns with his eyes closed. A series of forks and bridges and ramps led him to a small but neatly-built wooden fortress tucked away on the lowest branch of the tree that was commonly known as the crown.*
His house was big enough to accommodate him and four other Knopf easily, but no family greeted him at the door. He lived alone.
The comfortable walls and the generous pile of broadleaf fronds were company enough for now, as was just knowing that the Appointer’s world was reasonable and that, of course, the Diamond Wall hadn’t disappeared. He made up a poem about Aprille and Emberus and the Namegiver, comparing Aprille to the midnight sky and Emberus to a thunderstorm and the Namegiver to an elusive wind. He didn’t dream about the Namegiver again that night. He dreamed the usual weird things instead that were too distorted to be worth writing down.
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*The lowest branches of “the crown” were thirty feet off the ground, meaning that any treehouses built on them met minimum safety requirements. This particular tree was called the crown, surprisingly not because Emberus had much to do with it, but because from the distance it looked like one.