Sunday, August 3, 2008


Indigo, the dreams are coming again.

I was stupid--I thought after the Reunion, they might actually go away. I hadn't Seen in at least a month, not since right before the attack on Star-Meadow. But tonight, after my walk around the fires with Madeleine, I dreamed again. And it's worse now, Indigo. Worse because I don't know what it means, and worse because I'm not sure I want to.

Something's wrong, Indigo.

I saw Children in my dream tonight--Children of the Wood, just like us. I know that's what they were. But something was wrong with them. They were in warpaint, and it was smeared, and they had dirty hair and faces. They were everywhere, moving through the night, clutching weapons and snarling. They kept calling to each other in what sounded like Wood-Speak, but it was... unclean. They were howling, stealing into the village, slipping into the huts of other Children while they slept, and even though I couldn't see what they were doing, I could hear them. I swear I can still hear them. I'm scared, Indigo.

I saw a face I knew. He... he wasn't the same as before. He was worse now. He was laughing. He's still laughing. Stonewood. I think he's out there, somewhere. And I don't think that this is just a dream.

It's barely after sunrise. I can't sleep. It's cool outside the hut, and Wintergreen's still in her hammock. She keeps snoring, but most of the time I can sleep through that. But now I don't want to sleep. It's too early to be up, Indigo. I'm still scared--I'm shaking. He had a knife to my throat, Indigo. I've thought I was going to die before, but not like this. I need to talk to Misha. I need to talk to Madeleine.

Something's wrong. I can feel it. This wasn't a fluke, Indigo. I wish you here. You're never here.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Alder


I ran into Nightshade at your grave the other day.

She was sitting there by herself when I came by. I wasn't expecting her to be there, so I didn't recognize her at first, but once I got closer she jumped up and spun around. You know how hard she is to miss--she probably stands about six feet, really tall for a girl of the Wood, and even without the warpaint her dreadlocks give her dead away. She scared me. I must have done the same to her, because we stood and stared at each other for a good two minutes after I came up. She was dressed in a gray cloak, and under that she was wearing her old Scout's gear. I remember her hand going for the dagger at her thigh. She'd left her staff lying on the ground at her feet.

For a moment, I thought she might attack me, but then she relaxed. When a few moments had passed, she turned and sat back down. She didn't say anything to me. I ended up taking a spot next to her. I was really nervous, so trying to break the ice, I said "Hi."

She looked up at me. "Hey."

"What are you doing here?" It was a stupid question, but it was the only thing I could think of. She waited a few moments before responding. She just sort of bit her lip and shook her head. "Dunno," she said. She was speaking in Eng again. "I was in the area, I guess."

I remember looking around us. The Woods were quiet. "Where are the Alder Guards?" I asked.

She shook her head again. "I told them to go away. They're back at the village. I'm sure there's one or two around here somewhere."

Gods, I can't even tell you how that statement chilled me. Ever since I first saw them at your funeral, everything about them has always creeped me out. The black warpaint, the long hair. I don't know if you ever saw them--their weapons, they're not like ours. They use spears and war-clubs made out of antler. They're meant to kill, not like our staffs and blowguns. For years, I was always afraid of them--just showing up at feasts in the village, demanding tribute from the other Wood-Children. I always thought they were evil, even though the Evergreen are supposed to worship them. But now that Stonewood is gone, Nightshade's the new Alder now. Ever since then, the Guards follow her wherever she goes. They don't talk much, and I don't think Nightshade talks to them either. I wonder what they're really like, away from the villages. I remember having a million questions I wanted to ask her about them, but I guess I thought better of it. I tried to change the subject:

"How are you doing?"

She just frowned and wrinkled her nose. She didn't look up at me, she just stared at your headstone. "Okay, I guess." I remember she started picking at one of her feet. "Haven't seen you around much."

I shrugged. "Song-Kee--I mean--Madeleine's kept me busy." It felt like a weak answer, but I guess she accepted it. She just nodded and kept picking at her toenail. I tried to press her more: "What have you been up to?"

"Stuff," she said. "Harvest is coming up. The Masters keep coming to me with requests about the festivals. Help from the Guards gathering plants and food, blessings from me." She frowned. "I saw Ash-Blade the other day."

This made me feel better. "Yeah?" I must have smiled--she smiled a bit too. "How'd that go?"

She just looked up into the trees and waved a hand. "Alright, I guess." Her lips pursed. "She brought me a gift--some dried sweets in a leather pouch. Said the Scouts found it at the edge of the Wood. Said it was an offering from the Wheel."

"Yeah?" It sounds stupid, but I couldn't help smiling. "Ash-Blade told me about that the other day." I nudged her a bit. "She said the Scouts thought they were traps."

That did the trick--Nightshade actually laughed. She looks so pretty when she smiles, Indigo; if you could just see it, you'd think she was a totally different person. She's actually really pretty, when she's not scowling all the time. We laughed over this for a minute, but then Nightshade got quiet again. She looked down at me and frowned. "So it's true?" she asked. She bit her lip. "The Children don't have to be afraid anymore?"

I smiled and shook my head. "No," I told her. "Ash says that some of her Scouts have been going back up to the coasts during the daytime. Said they ran into a few boys and girls for the Wheel."

Nightshade just nodded. "I heard about that." She gave a sad little smile. "No more ships? No more soldiers?"

I laughed. "Not that I've heard about." For a moment, I couldn't really think of anything else to say, so I just let the matter drop. Then: "It really is over. We're free now. It's okay."

She looked down at her feet. "I guess." She looked up at me again. She frowned. "How's..." she suddenly got all shy. "How's 'Nelia?"

I remember how it hit me like a rock. I didn't want it to show, so I spoke up. "She's good." A pause, and then, like an idiot, I said, "She's moving out of the Governor's villa. She's got a new place now, I hear. Down on the old Grindstone Road."

Nightshade cocked her head at me. "You mean over by my dad's old place."

To be honest, I was kind of hoping she wouldn't pick up on that. She sounded so accusing when I said it. I didn't know what else to say, so I just sort of nodded. We must have sat there for a good five, ten minutes after that. The silence got to me, so I tried going somewhere else with it. I told her: "You should come by the bonfires more. We miss you."

She just snorted. "I come."

"I know," I said, "but you never really talk to anyone. You just sit off by yourself, moping, surrounded by the Alder Guards. I think I saw you talking to Silverseed and Wolfsbane that one time, and that was it."

She cut me off. "And even they treat me differently now."

"What do you mean?"

Nightshade gave me that old glare again. "Alina, don't you get it? I don't fit in anymore. I'm the Alder now. The Alder's a figure, not a person." She looked away. "Everyone around me, they don't talk to me, they bow. The other Children, I walk around the village, and they treat me like a freak. They put me up on a pedestal, ask me for favors and blessings. Nobody even comes by my hut anymore. Even Silverseed and Wolfsbane moved out. Said, 'The Alder doesn't dwell among the Evergreen.' What am I supposed to say to that?"

I have to admit, it kind of caught me off-guard. "I dunno," I said lamely. "You're the Alder. Tell them to relax."

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right. And then what? They'll just bow their heads and say, 'Yes Alder,' and go right back to the same old thing. Even the Alder Guards, they never talk to me. They just follow me around and ask what my orders are." She pointed back behind us, toward the village. "You know, I see how they talk about me behind my back. They point, and they whisper, and I can't even sit down to eat a meal with them without them scattering like roaches. They don't even like me. They just follow me around because they have to."

I know you don't like her much, but I just felt so bad hearing this. I tried to lean in and put a hand on her shoulder. "Because you're the Alder. They adore you."

She jerked away. "No, they don't." She snorted and shook her head, and for a minute I thought she was going to cry. "Half of them have gone since Stonewood fell. Not the ones killed in the battle, either. I mean, gone. Vanished. Left."

I got that shivery feeling again. I didn't know what to say, but it turns out I didn't have to chance to worry about it. Nightshade got up and grabbed her staff. She started to walk away. "I have to go. Sorry I intruded. I know you like your time alone with Indigo."

I called out after her. "No," I tried saying. "No... it's alright." She stopped and looked back at me, and so I continued. "I... I like having you here."

She narrowed her eyes. "No you don't."

I stood up and tried to approach her. "I do," I said to her. I remember feeling so tired just then. "Nightshade, you're my friend."

Her shoulders sagged. She looks so lonely, so small these days, Indigo. I don't even know how to tell you. Back before the Reunion, before the Sweat, she may have been stuck-up and mean, but at least she had pride in herself. Ever since she became the Alder, she doesn't even have that anymore. And I feel so bad. I don't know how to say it, but some part of me actually misses the old Nightshade, you know? This... I don't know how to deal with. Nightshade stood there for a minute, not saying anything. After a while, I got awkward, so I tried telling her:

"I miss you, Misha."

She clenched her jaw. I could see her eyes working, and then she sighed, sagging again. "I miss you, too," she told me.

I bit my lip. "I'm going to try to go to the Coasts this week," I offered. "See my mom. Maybe you could come with? I know she'd like to see you?"

She looked up into the trees again. I could hear the leather creak as she tightened the grip on her staff. After a minute, she said, "I'd like that." Then she pulled her cloak back around herself and turned away, walking off toward the Old Court.

I called out after her. "I guess I'll catch you later," I tried.

She never looked back at me. She just walked, her dreadlocks swinging in the breeze. "Later," she said.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Lull


Sorry I haven't written. It's been busy the last few weeks--lessons with Madeleine, the rebuilding of Star-Meadow. I've barely had any time to myself. This is the first morning I've been able to sleep in for weeks.

It's going to be a nice day. The sun's out, and already the village is noisy with the morning chores. It's a little cool, and there's a breeze coming in out of the west. It's been raining for the last few days, so the grass in the clearing just south of the village is getting really tall. I think it might come up to my chest now. I like watching the wind ripple on it like waves; it makes me think of the coasts.

I'm alone in the hut right now. Wintergreen's probably off helping Rowan--she was rummaging around the hut before dawn, and she left before I was totally awake. I hope she'll be back soon. I was kind of hoping I'd get to talk to her a bit before I go out for my walk this morning. You'd be happy, Indigo--we didn't always get along, but over the years Wintergreen and I have become really close friends. She's been my shoulder to lean on when you weren't there. Don't get me wrong--I'd rather have you any day--but still, I'll take what I can get.

Madeleine gave me today off. Life in the village is coming back to normal, slowly, and when I asked around last night, nobody needed my help. I'm glad--after all, I'm exhausted--but still, it feels weird looking around and not having a purpose. Part of me wishes I was out on patrol with Ash-Blade, but I know Madeleine needs me elsewhere. I miss it, though: the long hot days out in the woods, alone; the creeping around, trying to be silent. I even miss the chafe of the leather vest and armbands. Is that weird?

She said I had at least ten years left as a Scout. So why am I here? Why did she break her promise, Indigo? I just don't get it. It's bad enough with everything else--you, Oak-Root, the Elixir, everything. But now the one thing that made me happy in life? I... It's not fair. Nothing in my life has been fair. I know, I'm whining, but I think I've earned the right to whine, you know? I want something in my life to go right for once. Sometimes it feels like nothing has ever gone right.

I'm sorry. I'm just in a mood. I know I have a lot of reasons to be happy today. I don't have anything to do, and it looks like it's going to be gorgeous out. It's going be a really nice day, Indigo. I wish you were here. I bet I'll feel better after my walk. I know I will.

Maybe I'll come visit you today.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008



Went to the Solstice Feast last night. You should have been there. You'd have loved it--it was the best one I've been to since I came here. It's strange--back in the Wheel, all our holidays were about people or events, but here they really are all about the seasons--Rebirth, Solstice, Harvest, New-Year, Winterfall. It's simple, but I like it. I almost like it better than the ones I grew up with. I wonder what kind of holidays you used to celebrate back in Indostan? You never told me.

It was a nice night--cloudy, but warm. It's been raining here the last few days, so the air had that smell like mushrooms and breathing plants. I love that smell-it reminds me of you. I know I used to tease you about the morels you spent so much time picking, but anymore I miss that smell, even if it was only on your breath. Anyway, the Feast. We called Corners, Madeleine said a few words and then Wintergreen led us in the singing of the Midsummer canticle. Do you remember that one? Still the day, slow the sky... Not my favorite, but I like it well enough. After that, we went back to the cooking fires and ate and danced like nothing you've ever seen. Woodlace made up these pela'd'at fritters--I've never had them before, but they were great. I probably ate three by myself! I always knew him as the Master Grower, but he's a pretty good cook too! Some of the Scouts put together a sparring match--winner take challenger. It was nice. Ash-Blade even talked me into picking up my staff, and even though I haven't really trained since the Reunion, I gave her a few solid whacks. You'd have been proud, I think. We called it a draw--no point in two Masters getting all sore about a loss.

That reminds, me--Ash-Blade! I don't know if you two ever talked much, but after you died she and I became really good friends. She was always nice to me in the first years of my training. She stuck up for me with Nightshade, just like you did. Did you know she's become the Master Scout now? It's true! I passed the Red Band on to her. I bet you didn't even know I was made Master Scout either, but that was so short a time that I suppose it doesn't matter. Oak-Root gave it to me, and during the Battle of the Reunion it was me and Nightshade against the Raiders. I wish you could have seen it.

Anyway, for what it's worth, Ash-Blade's doing really well. She was always so confident in that quiet way she has, but ever since being ordained a Master, it's like she's changed. She's... strong. She smiles more. I think she's carved out a new sword--the finish shines in the firelight now. I suppose her old one was pretty beaten up after the shipwreck. Anyway, whatever it is, she's finally happy, I think. She was probably waiting a long time for this. I'll have to go find her Song and read. I'm happy for her, and I know you would be too.

Is it wrong that I'm a little jealous of her? I just... I don't think I was ready to stop being a Scout. I wish that Madeleine hadn't asked me away to start studying again. Oh well. What does it matter?

So yeah. We talked, Ash-Blade and I. It was later in the evening, during a play the Healers were putting on. I'd been trying to stick close to Madeleine after the matches, but she found me and dragged me away out of the crowds. We ended up sitting out in the darkness near the entrance to the clearing, sharing a sliced-up gladefruit and listening to the tree-frogs.

She actually asked me: "How are you doing?"

Even now, I have to pause at that, you know? I don't think anyone's actually asked me that since he died. I tried to play it off. I just smiled and shook my head. I told her I was good, told her about everything Madeleine has me learning. Most of it was Eng to her--she smiled a lot and nodded her head, but honestly I don't think Ash-Blade can imagine a life that doesn't involve fighting. I know how she feels.

She asked me: "So we're safe now?"

I shouldn't mock her for wanting to know, but it just seemed like a strange thing to ask. I told her, "Yeah. The Wheel's changed now. Their city's fallen, and now the villages along the coasts are free to live as they want in peace." I can remember smiling. "Madeleine says that some of the women in the Wheel have started worshipping the Spirit openly again." I had to make fun of her a bit, so I punched her shoulder and added "You can stop worrying." She laughed. She told me that her Scouts had been finding small bundles of food or trinkets out at the edges of the Wood. I had to explain to her that these were offerings from the Wheel-People, and they've been doing it secretly for years. She seemed to think they were something to be afraid of--she'd been ordering the Scouts to avoid them.

"I thought they might be traps," she said to me.

I had to laugh again. Traps? Traps? I know, I know; she doesn't know the Wheel like we do, but it still struck me as funny. I don't suppose I blame her--she's never really led Scouts before, just fought as one. I can tell she's still getting the hang of this. She told me so: "There's a lot more, trying to lead, you know? The Song-Keeper says I'll be years trying to master everything I need to know. Said one day the lessons would be carved in my bones."

I remember smiling. "She's right, you know. It'll come eventually."

She laughed at me and shook her head. "I dunno. I have to wonder how Oak-Root did it, but--"

Even in the dark, I swear she went pale. I didn't bother saying anything. I know she didn't mean it--she tried to apologize, but why, you know? It's not like nobody can ever talk about him again, just because I never do. So what? It's just a name--Oak-Root. Oak-Root, Oak-Root, Oak-Root--see? I can say it all I want. I wish everybody wouldn't be so sensitive.
Anyway, that was it, I guess. We didn't talk a lot more after that--small things, mostly. After a while, Ash-Blade said she was gonna go to the Sweat. I decided to skip out--the last one was hard enough on me, and Madeleine didn't give me any trouble over it. We said our goodbyes and I decided to go back up into the trees to my hut.

I passed one of the cooking fires and saw Nightshade. She was sitting over a bowl of stew, I think, trying to talk with Silverseed, but sitting just behind her were a pair of Alder Guards. The Guards were pretending to ignore Nightshade, but they weren't doing a very good job. I wonder how long it's been since the Black Alder allowed them into the villages. Anyway, I tried nodding to Nightshade as I went by, but she didn't smile at me or say anything. She looked tense--awkward. She looked lonely, and it made me sad for her.

I should go. I'll talk to you again soon.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Letters to Indigo

Who am I even talking to?

This diary is where I confess my secrets, but who hears them? A blank tablet of wood? What's the point of confessing if there's nobody to hear you?

I'm lonely.

Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of friends, I guess, but the ones who mattered most are gone now. Everything's hollow without them. Madeleine is my friend, in a way, but she's a lot older than I am. She's more of a mother than a friend. On the other hand, there's always her, but there's still so much strangeness between us. Ever since the Reunion, there's a lot that goes unanswered. I'm still adjusting to studying as a Song-Keeper. She's still learning how to be The Alder. I can't really talk to her. Not yet.

So who can I talk to? He's gone, and my mother... well. I don't know how to bridge that gulf. I know she loves me, that she's proud of me. But after Cyrus and the fight at the Marina, she's seemed so... hollow. She's moving to a smaller place just east of Ornith's Pier. I haven't visited her there yet. I'm scared to.

It doesn't matter. Nothing good for me is going to be found back with the People of the Wheel. I know that. My home is here now, in the Wood. I'm okay with that, mostly. But it gets lonely sometimes. Everyone here, they think I'm strong somehow. They look to me, they call me "Fireborn," call me "hero," but if they only knew how weak I really am, they'd turn away. I know they would. There's only one person who ever let me bring my guard down, let me be weak, even for a moment. And I haven't seen her since I was twelve.

So like I said, all I have to confess to is you.

Shia'Epri... I'm so stupid. I can't do this, I can't just tell my secrets to a blank journal, to folds of wood and bark. I have to tell it to someone. I need a name, some name, any name. I need someone I can trust. I need you to be my ear, my friend.

That girl...the one I haven't seen since I was twelve? She's dead now, but a long time ago there was a girl, and she was smart, and strong, and beautiful, and she took me in when nobody else would. She was young like me, and late at night she'd speak to me in our native language. When the other Children made fun of me, whispered cruel things about me, she stepped in, stood up for me, taught me how to fight, how to be strong. She was the best friend I've ever had. She died for me. She died for us. She was the strongest person I've ever known, and in the dark part of my life, when I've had nobody else, I prayed to her memory and listened for her voice in my heart, taking her guidance. She's the only reason I'm strong. She was my friend, she was my hero, my sister. She's the one I need to be telling these things to.

She was the one I could trust to hold my secrets.

Wintergreen's looking at me weird--I just started laughing out of nowhere. I can't help it. It makes me happy. Why am I moping? It's decided. From now on, when I write to you, I'll call you Dharani--Indigo. You'll be my silent place, the one I open up to. When I write to you, I'll tell you all about the world that's changed, so you can look back in on your friends and see them. I like to think that'd make you happy. I always liked making you happy. You're the only person I can open up to. You're the only person I can trust. I know you're gone, but maybe this way I can keep a small part of you in my life. Maybe you'll look at what you see, and be proud of me. I want you to be proud of me.

These are my letters to you, Indigo.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I like to think I'm pretty.

It sounds strange, I know. And it's probably not true. To someone I grew up with, I probably look a fright. Maybe not so much, now that I've stopped dressing like a Scout, but still--the beads in my hair, the hard suntan, the scar on my right cheek? I don't much look like a lady, I bet.

I like how I look. When I look into my mom's handmirror, I like the face I see there: blonde hair, tanned cheeks, bright green eyes. I like my smile. I bet back home I could have pulled the heart of any boy I wanted. I spend a lot of time wondering about that. Would I look different if I'd stayed in Ornith's Pier? It's strange to think about. I can't imagine dressing the way my mother used to--the dresses, so stiff and heavy. I like my Song-Keeper's robe--it's light, it's comfortable, and it's the same color as my eyes. I don't even mind the way the dogbane strands fray at the edges, any more than I would mind the dirt on my feet, or under my fingernails. I don't think I need fancy makeups or perfumes to be pretty.

I could probably pull the heart of any boy I want, even now. But I don't want to. What's the point?

I like to think I'm pretty. There was a time when that mattered to me. But ever since the Reunion, since the shipwreck, since the burial, it's hard for me to care. He's gone. He's been gone for a month now, and without him it's hard for me to remember why I cared in the first place. It wouldn't have even mattered anyway--that night I talked with Madeleine, before Misha, before the Siege? I was supposed to live forever. I was supposed to take the Elixir, like any other Child, and when I was done I would have stayed this way forever. But it didn't work out like that. If I try to take it again, she says it'll kill me. And now it's too late, anyway. Everything I knew is different. The world is different. I'm different. But I don't know what any of that means. Or why I should care.

I'm glad to be the next Song-Keeper. I am. But for what? It's like Madeleine said, I'm marked. I'm pretty. But I won't be forever. As years go by I'll start to get weak. I'll get gray strands in my hair. I'll wither up like one of Rowan's dried herbs, and when it's all done nobody'll remember me like I was. Nobody will remember Alina, remember Tree-Dancer. It scares me. One day, I'm going to look around and all I'll see are Children--tattooed boys and girls dressed in hides. They'll do what they've always done--pound their grains, sharpen their darts and spearheads--but I'll be too far gone for them to remember me.

I'm scared. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

I'm going to grow old. I'm going to die.

I feel like I was cheated sometimes. I was supposed to be like them. I was supposed to stay young. I was supposed to live forever here in the Wood. And now I can't, and even if I could I'd just forget the things that brought me here in the first place. Used to be, I was scared that he'd stop loving me, or forget that he loved me in the first place. But now he won't. He's gone. And I'm not sure what's worse--missing him, or being glad he won't be around to see me.

Madeleine says the Spirit doesn't give us more than we can bear. But can't I just have a little less?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Just a Girl

My name is Alina Carpenter. I'm fifteen.

I've been known by a lot of names in my life. If you wanted to really push it, you could use my full name: Lady Alina Tree-Dancer Carpenter-Barrowheel, The Fireborn, Song-Keeper the Younger, Mother-of-the-Wood. But that's stupid. Anyway, I don't really like the labels that get attached to all those names. They make me feel like something to stare at, when really all I want to do is disappear. I suppose that's why I've started this diary--to hide, to have a place to put my secret thoughts.

There's not a lot of secrecy among the Children of the Wood, so I have to take it where I can get it--in this journal, this pad of wooden tablets, bound in bark and fastened with leather. It isn't much, but it'll have to be enough. It was a gift from Rowan--she gave it to me three weeks ago now, just after the Reunion. She said she made it herself. I believe her--Rowan's handy with things like this, and I'm glad to have her as a friend. Still, I didn't actually think I was going to use this. Funny how life works.

I'm only fifteen, and there isn't much that's special about my beginnings. I was born an only child to a carpenter, my father Edgar, and his wife Ornelia. We lived among the People of the Wheel, in a small fishing village called Ornith's Pier. It's right on the shores of the Saltless Sea, and it's maybe a day's journey by carriage from the city of Sagana.

That's all there really is to say about that. But as for the rest... well, I've never really gotten to be like most girls my age. I've lived as an orphan most of my life, since I was ten. I live away from the Wheel now, deep in the Wood of Uron, among the people who adopted me, the Children of the Wood. Until this year, I lived as one of them for five summers. Now I serve them--I've been chosen to be what we call the Keeper-of-Songs, the guardian of history and experience for the Evergreen. It's supposed to be an honor, but honestly I don't really know how I feel about it yet. There's been a lot that's happened in the last month or so, and I'm still really struggling to deal with all of it.

I may only be fifteen, but I've never gotten to be like most girls my age. I've been an orphan; I've seen war. I've seen fires consume whole forests, swallowing trees like the machines the Saganese used. I've watched villages laid to waste, only to see them rebuilt again. I was among the first to see the Children of the Wood in a thousand years; the first one to enter their realm and return with the tale. According to some people, I'm the reason the Reunion happened.

I've been in love with a boy my age. I've seen people die. I've killed people.

It's been maybe a month since the Reunion. Indigo was right; my world is different now. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for it. It's just... it's all a bit much. I'm still adjusting to my new role with the Wood-Children. I'm still grieving for my friends. Every day, as soon as my lessons with Madeleine are over, I go walking alone in the woods and cry. I understand why it had to happen, but it still hurts. I miss my father. I miss Indigo. I miss Oak-Root. I miss my mother--she's alive, but I don't think things between us will ever be the same. The last time I visited her, she seemed so frail. They were moving her things out of the Governor's Mansion.

So this is my story: the story of Alina Carpenter, Song-Keeper. Most of the Children still call me Tree-Dancer, but I know that'll pass in a few years. This is going to be where I put all the thoughts down, this is going to be where I hide myself. Maybe one day, when I'm older, I'll write about everything that came before this; how I came to the Wood, how I came to be Tree-Dancer. But not today. I'm too tired. Right now, all I want is to focus on just being a girl again.

I miss just being a girl.