Chapter 2:An Intellectual Conversation

Blu and Jewel lofted onto a small pedestal that served as a perch, and after they settled themselves down, the owl on the left began the conversation.

"It is a pleasure to meet you both. I am sure you have several questions that need answering, and we will do our best to provide you with them. May I inquire as to your names?"

The owl's confident voice helped to steady their nerves, and Jewel happily replied to his query. "My name is Jewel, and this is Blu. He and I are mates."

"Those are lovely names. My name is Soren, and this here is Pellimore, or Pelli for short. Pelli and I are mates as well, and we are also the king and queen of this island."

"Your names are nice, too. Does this island have a name, by any chance?"

The owl called Soren replied, "Of course! This is the island of Hoole, and the tree that we live in is known as the Great Ga'Hoole Tree. We, along with the hundreds of other owls that live here, are known as the Guardians of Ga'Hoole."

The Great Ga'Hoole Tree, on the island of Hoole. Such a mysterious name...

"How did this place get its name?And how did the Guardians come to be?" asked Blu curiously.

The female replied confidently, "The first king of this tree was a Spotted Owl by the name of Hoole. Legend tells that Hoole was an owl with Ga', or Great Spirit.

After he, along with his parents' army, defeated the hagsfiends, they came to this very island. As Hoole and his fellow owls flew over this island from the Northern Kingdoms to Beyond the Beyond, they stopped briefly on this barren island for a rest.

A single tree seedling had just sprouted from the ground, and as Hoole mourned for his recently killed mother, his tears stained the seedling. Afterwards, they had continued on to Beyond the Beyond, and that is when Hoole had captured the ember that bears his name.

The owls then returned to this island just over one moon cycle later, and much to their surprise, the tree had already grown to an impressive size. They claimed that the tree also possessed Ga', and that is how this island and the tree received their names. The milkberries that grow here are shaped like tears, just like the ones that Hoole had cried. That was over a thousand years ago, and this tree has been growing ever since.

They made Hoole their king, and they established a society aimed at spreading knowledge to others. They established a code of honor and justice, and they swore to protect their creation and all of the owls that were recipients of it. Thus, they became the Guardians of Ga'Hoole. Through the code that they established all those years ago, they have survived and thrived, and so here we are."

Blu could not believe what he just heard. This place was over a millennium old! It was all so ancient, and yet so modern, just the same. This sure was one crazy world they had ended up in!

"Wow! That is so...mysterious. This kingdom does have a rich and extensive history!"

Pelli replied, "Indeed it does, Blu. But we will not fill you in on that right now. Could you describe to us how you arrived here?"

"Well, we were caught in a strange storm at our home in the jungle. Our tree was struck by oddly colored lightning, and when we went to inspect it, we saw an ember sitting on the trunk. It was blue in the middle, and orange on the outside.

In between those two colors was a thin ring of bright green. We heard a voice in our heads by the name of...Glaux, and it told us that he had called for us. He told us that we had a trial to complete, and all we had to do was touch the ember thing.

My mate here grabbed the ember, and we were somehow carried away by it. After traveling through a tunnel of sorts, we were dropped on the beach. That is when some other owls found us. We were looking for food, because we were very hungry. We still are, by the way..."

A contemplative look passed over the faces of the two owls, and several moments passed before they replied.

"That indeed sounds like the Ember of Hoole. I wonder why Glaux would call you to our world? That is one question that Soren and I cannot answer. Can you remember at all what was said to you?"

Jewel shut her eyes for a few seconds, and then she opened them back up as the words came flooding back into her mind. "Glaux said that there would be 'friendships we must forge,' and 'enemies we must fight.' He told us that we also had to 'wield the claws.' Does that help at all, Pelli?"

"Hmmm. I don't understand the part about the friendships at all. Nor do I understand the part about the enemies. We have been living peacefully for over two years now, ever since the War of The Ember. As for the 'wield the claws' line, he was most likely referring to battle claws. But-"

"Battle claws! What are those? Oh, sorry for interrupting..."

"It's okay, Blu. Curiosity is a trait to be embraced, not hidden. Battle claws are what we mainly use to fight, but they have many other uses."

They took a good look at the talons of the two owls, and they realized that they were much more deadly than their own. Why would any owl need to make them even more so?

"Why do you need to wear claws to fight? Your claws already look dangerous enough!"

Jewel's exclamation earned her a serious glare from the two owls, and she immediately feared that she had somehow crossed the line.

The female owl declared, "That is how owls have always preferred to fight. Ever since the first pair were forged in Hoole's time by his friend, Theo, they eventually became the weapons of choice for battle.

We are not violent by nature, but when we are threatened, as we have been many, many times throughout our existence, we do all we can to defend our home and each other.

Quite often there is bloodshed, but that is the way conflicts are meant to be. If one wins the battle, another must lose. We hope that we do not come across as savages to you..."

The realization that they had entered such an unstable realm stunned them, but that did not make them think any less of these owls. In fact, they were utterly intrigued by everything that hey had heard thus far.

Blu immediately attempted to assuage their concerns. "No, no, no. We do not think that at all. The world that we used to live in was peaceful by comparison, but perhaps when we learn more of your history, we can truly understand the reasoning as to why you called upon them. We hope that you will allow us to study your past whenever the time is right, if there is a means to do so..."

Soren and Pelli were pleasantly surprised by the speech that the male macaw had given them. He seemed very intelligent and intuitive, and they were relieved that he was not deterred by the violence that they had described.

"You seem to grasp our mindset quite well. I am quite surprised at your level of comprehension. I appreciate your acceptance of our reality, being as it is apparently much less restrained than yours. Feel free to visit our library at anytime to read up on our history. The bookkeeper can assist you in finding whatever it is that you would like to read."

"Wonderful! But, how will we know where to go? There are so many tunnels! We would probably get lost!"

"Oh, no need to worry! After we finish talking, Pelli and I will gladly show you the way!"

After the male finished his reply, Blu's stomach rumbled audibly, causing bemused expressions to surface on the two owls' faces.

"You and your mate must be terribly hungry! We apologize for keeping you waiting. Would you like some roasted vole?"

"Uh, no thanks. Jewel and I don't eat...meat. We are basically vegetarians..."

"Oh. Well, would you like to try some milkberry tart? They are very delectable treats, but my words can't do them justice!" replied Pelli.

"Uh, sure."

"Splendid! Let me go tell Cleve to bring some up right away."

The female owl flew over their heads and alighted in front of the entrance door. She exited smoothly and closed the door behind her. After a few moments, she slipped back in and glided back to her spot.

"Cleve will be back shortly. While we wait, can you describe what your home looked like?"

"Of course, Pelli. We lived in..."

As Blu took the time to describe the sanctuary and the surrounding city, their eyes flashed with enjoyment.

"...and that is basically how our home looked."

"How pleasant it must have been. We are sorry that you were taken away from it so suddenly. Perhaps you can find your way back one day..."

Just then, a steady tapping sound emanated from behind the two macaws, and Soren exclaimed, "Oh, Cleve is here! Are you ready to eat?"

The two macaws gave quick nods, and Soren flew over to the door to retrieve their meals. The pale owl returned to his perch, and the two macaws wondered where the food was. They were shocked to see two ceramic plates moving over to them on the back of a snake.

The violet creature slithered to a stop in front of them and greeted them warmly. "Hello! You sure are lovely birds. What are your names?"

"Uh, I'm Blu."

"I am Jewel. What is yours?"

"I am a nest-maid snake by the name of Mrs. Plithiver. But everyone calls me Mrs. P."

"Nice to meet you, Mrs. P.," replied Blu, albeit a bit shakily.

Soren smiled and exclaimed, "Mrs. P. is our nest-maid, and she is one of many that occupy the tree. These snakes are blind, but they still help out as we go about our lives. They help take care of the eggs that the Guardians lay, and they are also involved in many fine arts. You will come to find out about those things later. But enough talk from me. Go ahead and eat!"

The sensuous aroma drifting up from the pink squares in front of them was almost hypnotic. They tried to avoid cramming their beaks into it however, and they took careful, measured bites. The sweet taste of the tarts was like nothing they had ever consumed, and the flavor of the fruits back home now seemed so ordinary.

After they finished their stomach pleasing meal, the snake slithered away, the now-clean plates clinking quietly as she exited the way she had came. Blu and Jewel looked up to the two monarchs contentedly, and Pelli asked jovially, "How was it?"

"It was wonderful! We could get used to eating it! Nothing back home could even compare to it, Soren!"

"We are glad you liked it! It is our treat to you. Now, would you like to know about the different areas of our world?"

"Sure!"

"We don't have a map in here, so-"

"Pardon me, dear, but why don't we take them to the library now?"

"Oh. Of course, Pelli! Let's go."

The two owls made for the door, and the two macaws soon followed. After Soren had informed Cleve of their intentions, the four birds wound their way through a myriad of passages. They marveled at how the king and queen knew exactly which tunnel to switch off to, or choose the right side of a fork when they came to one.

After a short journey around to the opposite side of the trunk, the four owls entered a spacious, well-lit hollow. Books of every size and shape filled the shelves, filling the macaws with a sense of awe once again. There was a sizable desk in the center of the room, but there was no one occupying it at the moment.

"Hmmm. Otulissa must be away. No matter. Let me find the right book..."

Soren peered around at the loaded shelves, carefully reading each spine in search for an appropriate tome.

"Ah! Here we are!"

He plucked a rather voluminous work from a corner shelf and brought it to the vacant desk. He slapped it down on the desk and began flipping determinedly through it.

"What is that book called, Soren?"

Soren did not lift his gaze from the book as he replied, "Atmospheric Pressures and Turbulations: An Interpreter's Guide. It details many things, from the structure of storms, to the weather patterns that affect the various kingdoms. I am looking for the map that is used to visualize them..."

After a few more moments of steady page-flipping, he came across the map in question. He slid the book over so that all of them could focus on it, and the two macaws gazed down at the assortment of colored shapes that filled the two side by side pages.

"This here, on the left page, is called the N'yrthghar, or the Northern Kingdoms. It is a frozen, unforgiving land, but some species of owls, among other animals, have made homes there. The Everwinter Sea is the main body of water, and it is dotted by several major islands, as you can see.

The Bitter Sea to the northwest is home to the Glauxian Brothers Retreat, which was also the birthplace of Hoole, our first king. The Glauxian Sisters, however, live on Elsemere Island. On the eastern border of the sea lie the Ice Talons. The owls who lived among Ice Talons were, for a time, the enemy of the owls and snakes who lived on the Tridents.

A series of wars between the Kielians and the League of The Ice Talons were fought here. Lastly, the Hrath'ghar Mountains form the northern border, and from them comes the Hrath'ghar glacier. A group of pirate owls known as the kraals live near the glacier, and they are not friendly to any owls other than their own kind. I will let Pelli teach you about our kingdom now, as I am out of breath!"

"Just rest yourself dear! I will take care of it."

Blu and Jewel now gazed intently at the right page as Pelli began to speak.

"Our land is known as the S'yrthghar, or the Southern Kingdoms. Our island lies in the middle of the Hoolemere Sea, right here. There are several regions on the mainland, but I will only cover the most significant ones. The St. Aegolius canyons were once home to an army of evil owls led by two filthy owls called Skench and Spoorn.

They kidnapped owlets and recruited adults to be their servants. They used the light of the moon to moon-blink them, turning them all into mindless slaves. They used them to mine bits of material known as flecks, and they planned to use the flecks to take over the rest of the Southern Kingdoms.

My mate was captured as an owlet by them, but he found a way to resist being moon-blinked. He met another owl that did the same, and they eventually escaped. It was a horror beyond measure for him, and he can tell you some dreadful stories..."

The two macaws looked up from the tome, and a depressed light had filled Soren's eyes. He said nothing, and he merely motioned for them to focus back on the book.

"The Shadow Forest is home to the Palace Of Mists, which very few owls know exists. A Boreal Owl known as Bess is the sole inhabitant, and she maintains a library much more grand than ours. It is full of historical texts and manuscripts from every time period imaginable.

In Ambala lives a mysterious owl known as Mist, for that is how she appears to most, a mere cloud of vapor in the air. She is a dear friend of Soren, and he met her during his imprisonment at St. Aggies. She also has another name, Hortense, and that is how we still refer to her as.

Over in the Tyto Forest live all sorts of owls that have Tyto in their formal names. Soren was born here, and this is also where the River Hoole begins its journey towards the sea. The Ice Narrows up there lead to the Northern Kingdoms from before.

The land known as Beyond the Beyond is home to a band of wolves. The land contains the five volcanoes of the Sacred Ring, and that is where the Ember of Hoole resides. Only two owls have managed to dive into the volcano to retrieve it, thus becoming the rightful kings of Ga'Hoole. Hoole was the first, and only a few years ago, Soren's nephew Coryn did the same."

Lastly, although this map is too old to show it, there is a sixth kingdom that was discovered a few years ago. Far on the northwest coast of the Beyond lies the edge of a large sea. It is known as the Sea of Vastness, and across it lies what we call the Middle Kingdom.

High above the sea is a fast moving stream of air, and it is the only way to cross the sea. Soren and a few of his friends found their way into it, back before the War, and they named it the River of Wind. The owls that live there speak their own language, Jouzhen, and they are very spiritual in nature.

The most striking feature is that, although they are all owls, their feathers are various shades of blue, quite like yours. They have also developed their own fighting style, in accordance with one of the rules laid down in the Theo Papers. Theo was their first H'ryth, and he deemed killing with anysort of weaponry profane, and so the art of Danyar was born.

It is difficult to explain, but basically, the owls fill their lungs with a huge volume of air, and when they release it, they fly at incredible speeds. They fly directly at their enemies and hit them with every fiber of their being, knocking them unconscious. The unconscious owls are killed instead by the fall, whether it be onto the ground below, or into the sea. This way, the owls kill as cleanly as possible.

The owls there can live for hundreds of years, and Soren met a few of them on his journey. Tengshu guards the end of the River of Wind, where it spills out into his kingdom. Another owl, who is a direct spritual descendant of Theo, is a Burrowing Owl, and as the other spiritual leaders before him, is also known as the H'ryth.

However, there is another group of owls there that were descended from hagsfiends, and they are known as the dragon owls. The Theo Papers provided a means to render them powerless by enthralling them with their own vanity. They are kept under control by this illusionof power, and they are prevented from reverting back to the murderous hagsfiends that preceded them.

We are still in the process of uncovering their secrets, since the journey over to their kingdom is so dangerous. That is all that you need to know for now, and granted, it is a lot to process. You can always come back here and re-read whatever interests you..."

Blu and Jewel paused to try and soak up the information, and a few moments of quiet persisted. Suddenly, a question popped into Blu's head, and he hoped that it wasn't too intrusive.

"I don't mean to change the subject, but what ever happened to him? Your nephew, I mean."

"He was killed in The War of The Ember, which occurred just over two years ago. The Pure Ones rose up after I came to the Great Tree, following my escape from St. Aggies. They were too stupid to recognize the power that the flecks could have over an owl, but the Pure Ones were not.

They took over St. Aggies. and began launching attacks on us with the intent of wiping us out. They believed that only Tyto owls like Pelli and I were fit to inhabit this planet, and they wanted to rid the Earth of all other owl species..."

Why does this sound so familiar? Uh...oh, I remember! They must have possessed the same mindset as the Nazis! They must have been as ruthless as Hitler and his goons were! I wonder how many owls were lured into serving them...

"Is something wrong, Blu?"

"Huh? Oh, no. I was just thinking. Please go on, Soren."

"A Barn Owl like myself known as Nyra was their queen, and my brother, Kludd, was her mate. Coryn was her son, and hence my nephew. His mother raised him to be the next ruler of the Pure Ones, but he was a noble owl from birth, and he fled their tyranny as soon as he could.

He then retrieved the Ember of Hoole and became our king. Nyra raised an army a few thousand strong to reclaim the Ember, for she knew that she could secure her dominion over this planet if she could use its power. We also raised an army to fight her, and the final battle was held in Beyond the Beyond.

We eventually defeated them, but Coryn was killed. He had returned the Ember back into the volcano from which he had taken it from before his death. Nyra would never have been able to retrieve it after that, so she was basically finished. Just before my nephew's death, I killed his mother, and by then, her army had already been routed.

I was then crowned the next king of Ga'Hoole, much to my surprise. Things have been well ever since that terrible night, thank Glaux. A new age of learning and cooperation has spread across the seven kingdoms, and the peace we have fought so hard to renew is finally here..."

Blu blinked to suppress his tears, and he replied, "Oh my. I never could have imagined. That was...amazing! I have never heard such a colorful explanation in my entire life. I give you my deepest thanks for all of this..."

"You are most welcome. Although the path that the Guardians followed to get here was not a pleasant one, I feel that we have switched over to one that is. I pray to Glaux that it will stay that way."

Jewel then asked, "Is there any way that we can find a place to rest? This whole ordeal has left me exhausted, no offense to you, however. I appreciate all that you have done to clarify our questions."

"None taken, Jewel," chided Soren. "Let's find you a nice cozy hollow for the night."

Pelli replaced the book on the shelf while the others made for the exit. The female owl tagged along behind Jewel as they climbed up the inside of the tree along the empty hallways. Blu began to feel drowsy as well, and as soon he realized that was nighttime, he concocted another question.

"Hey, Soren?"

"Yes?"

"Why aren't you, Pelli, and the rest of the Guardians sleeping?"

"A wise question, Blu. You see, we live our lives at night, and sleep during the day. It is going to be hard for you both to adjust, and we will have to work out a way to address this problem. But for now, just focus on getting settled down."

"Okay, Soren We will do our best..."

Soren and Pelli led them to an unoccupied hollow at the end of a fork in one of the crown branches. Through a conveniently placed aperture in the branch, a sizable portion of the sea far below could be seen, along with the sky above.

Every so often, a group of owls would fly by, paying no attention to the two strange birds that were watching them. The two macaws plopped themselves down into a mossy nest, and the monarchs bid them a good night's rest. Blu and Jewel returned the favor, and the Soren and Pelli vanished back the way they had came.

They had decided to head outside and watch the Guardians conducting their chaw practices, only stopping to relieve Cleve of his sentry duties before they did so. They exited out of a mid-level hole in the massive trunk and alighted on a stout branch.

As the Guardians flew about in the clear air out in front of them, Pelli turned to Soren and cleared her throat. She had held very pressing areas of concern in her mind ever since the meeting.

"Soren, dear?"

"Yes?"

"What are we going to do with those two strange birds? They have completely reversed sleeping habits than we do. I don't mean to sound condescending, but they will most likely come under fire over the fact that they have...different digestive systems. Then there is the question of Guardian training. It is going to take time to sort these things out..."

Soren had been harboring these concerns as well, and he felt the same as his mate. However, they would both work together to come up with feasible solutions.

"Regardless of how they may function, in terms of sleep habits or...otherwise, we have to make their stay here as comfortable as possible. The ultimate goal right now is for them to fulfill Glaux's request and find a way to get them home.

If it comes to our attention that the Guardians are becoming wary or hostile of them, we will have to consult them on the matter. I think we should meet with the Parliament over the matter tomorrow at First Black, with Blu and Jewel present, of course. We can sort out everything then, Pelli."

Her worries temporarily subdued, Pelli turned back to watch the myriad of owls flying about in the pale light of the crescent moon high above. Despite the calm night that they were enfolded in, their two gizzards were in a state of unrest.

They knew that they had to help the two blue birds on their journey, but what obstacles would they face along the way? Would the Guardians sympathize with their new visitors, or would they reject them based on the multitude of differences between them.

Both Soren and Pelli knew that it was one of the basic principles of the Guardians to look beyond the outer shells of one another and look instead at the internal being, the true being, of their brethren.

The question is: Would the Guardians do the same?

Tomorrow's nightfall would provide them with the answer...