The Great Forest of Shee
With those words from his desperately ill father, fifteen year-old Griffin begins his journey to the Great Forest of Shee, a mystical place, and difficult to navigate.
The Great Forest is Faerie itself and during his quest, Griffin will meet many magical and sometimes fearsome dwellers there. Befriended by some, challenged by others, Griffin finds he is not the person he thought he was. But who is he?
He has to use his wits and call on new friends to figure out first, how to save his father, next, how to rescue his mother and a beautiful half-elf named Indigo. And finally, how will he keep the Great Forest itself from being destroyed?
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|Middle Grade / Teens|
I fidgeted beside my dad’s bed all morning, as I had every day since he started sleeping three weeks ago. I read the sports section of the paper out loud, played his favorite tunes on my pennywhistle, or just talked to him. I babbled on and on about hockey teams, local politics, the weather, anything I could think of. The doctors at the Minnesota Medical Center couldn’t find anything wrong except he wouldn’t wake up. They had decided that it wasn’t a coma. He could use the bathroom if you led him in; he could drink if you held the glass, but he wouldn’t eat. Otherwise, he just slept...and lost weight.
The doctors sent him home the day before, telling us that he might be able to hear us and we should feed him liquid diet supplements—he could drink if you held the straw—and keep trying to reach him. I had to trust them, even though I don’t trust most people. Aunt Maggie, Dad’s sister, came and stayed with me. I told her I could take care of him by myself, since it was summer and school was out, but she said I was fifteen and shouldn’t have to. She said I should go be with my friends, but I don’t have any. So I sat with him in the mornings, reading, playing the whistle, talking to him, and hoping he would wake up.
The morning it all started, I was playing a song that I knew Dad loved, “The Wild Mountain Thyme,” when his eyes opened and met mine.
“Dad? Dad!” I said. “Dad, you’re awake!” This was huge. I looked around for Aunt Maggie, but she had gone food shopping.
“Dad! How do you feel?” No answer, he just stared at me with his wide green eyes. He swallowed.
He licked his lips. His eyelids drooped.
“Dad! Stay awake! Talk to me!” What to do? I started downstairs to call the doctor or my aunt. But I turned around again at the door. The important thing was to try to keep him awake.
My dad’s lips moved. He licked them again.
“Want some water?” I sat on the bed and put the water glass with the bendy straw to his lips. He sipped a tiny sip and his eyes met mine.
“Griffin,” he rasped. “Son, find the great forest.” I leaned close to hear him better.
“What forest?” I asked. We lived near some woods, but you wouldn’t call it a forest. And it was nice, but it wasn’t great.
“Find the great forest,” he said again. “Find Arizopal.”
“What great forest? What is Arizopal? Do you mean Arizona?”
He swallowed and sighed. “She,” he said and looked around the room. “Just you,” he said and then winked at me. It was our special wink, the one with a little twitch in his upper lip that always meant It’s okay. I know you can do this.
“Dad? What forest? She what? Who is Arizopal? What is it?” His eyes closed again.
“No! Stay awake! Talk to me. Dad!” I shook his arm, but he was asleep again.
I couldn’t wake him up. I called Aunt Maggie and the doctor. I told them about him waking up and talking, but not about what he said. The doctor said I had done the right thing and to keep trying. Aunt Maggie said I couldn’t have done anything else and she would be home in a minute. Fine for them to say, but he was my dad and I was more worried than ever. He was growing weaker every day.
I searched and found nothing on my laptop about anything called Arizopal. Now what to do? This required hard thinking and my best place for that is the woods. I clumped downstairs and found Aunt Maggie back from shopping and in the kitchen, putting cans on a shelf.
“Aunt Mags,” I said, “I have to get out of here and do some thinking. I’ll be back in a while.”
“Did your father say anything to you?”
“No.” I wanted to tell her, but didn’t. Dad had said, “Just you,” and that sounded like he didn’t want anyone else to know about Arizopal.
Aunt Maggie looked at me for a minute or two, as if deciding what to say.
“I’ll go up and sit with him, but don’t you think you should eat something? You haven’t eaten anything today,” she said.
“I will later. I have to figure something out.”
“Don’t be gone long. It looks like rain,” said Aunt Maggie. “Will you be in the woods?”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll just be a little while,” I said, wondering how she knew where I was going.
I walked out of the house where we lived on the edge of town, past the fence with all of Mom’s bluebird houses still there, even though she had been gone for five years. I marched down the road by Peterson’s place with the big old red barn. I hiked through their horse pasture and over fallen logs, past an old fort my dad and I made years ago out of unused boards, when I was a little kid. Around the maple tree with the rope swing, I tramped for miles until the trees grew thick and I didn’t know where I was anymore. Dad had said, “Find the forest,” so this was as close as I could get.
The woods have always been my refuge and I always felt better there. They were my place to ramble and explore, or to sit and dream by myself. Or worry. What did Dad mean by “Find Arizopal?” Was it something that could cure him, or was it his last wish for me? He said “She.” Was Arizopal a woman? Unable to figure it out, I sagged onto the soft grass near a tumbling creek and stared at the gray clouds gathering. How long was I there? Maybe minutes or even hours. Tired and frustrated, I grew more worried by the minute. My stomach rumbled, but if I went home to eat, my dad would still be lying there. He couldn’t eat; he was fading away. There was nothing any doctor could do. I couldn’t see how there was much I could do, either.
I looked around. A cool front blew in and goose bumps covered my arms. A sprinkle of rain fell on me and my hockey jersey didn’t keep me warm enough. Still refusing to go home, I frowned that I had left my phone at home and couldn’t call to tell Aunt Maggie I would be late for lunch. I found my pennywhistle in my pocket. I was a music nerd and loved playing, even though I wasn’t very good. The kids at school teased me, saying it looked like the recorders we used in sixth grade, but it didn’t. It was slimmer, and you could play lots more notes and songs on it. Sometimes playing cheered me up, so I stood up with my whistle beside the rushing stream.
I was a real chicken about water. I liked to watch it moving, but never got too close. Heights don’t bother me—I could climb a tall tree. I even ate stinky catfish bait on a dare once, but water freaked me out. So when I stood, playing “The Whistling Gypsy Rover,” I stayed well back from the creek. The leaves on the bushes shivered in the cool air with me while I played. The green, earthy smell of the woods and the rippling water sound began to make me feel better.
“What do you want, boy?” said a quiet voice.
I dropped the whistle and stared.