‘Caramel, come in. Are you there?’ Jemm rasped into her I-Com in between sobs. Her short blonde hair with a fringe poking into her eyes, filled Caramel’s I-Com screen. ‘Caramel, can you hear me? Something terrible has happened! Please, you have to come!’
Caramel jumped up, scrambling to silence Jemm’s urgent plea, while the other healer potentials glared at her with disdain.
Giselle tapped her I-Com to pause the image of a heart flashing rhythmically with electrical impulses as it demonstrated the contraction of the four chambers. She nodded gracefully and pointed towards the door of the classroom.
Caramel hid behind her long dark hair as she hobbled out, grappling with her I-Com as she scanned her arm over the scent-scanner. Although her classmates remained silent, their thoughts echoed with discontent throughout Caramel’s mind. Wanting to escape their disapproval, she broke into an uneven run and headed towards the common room.
‘Jemm, what could possibly be important enough to interrupt my lessons? I’m never going to live it down. They already call me “Princess Prodigy”, but I don’t think they mean it in a nice way.’
‘I’m so sorry, Caramel, but they’re all dead,’ Jemm choked.
‘What? Who’s dead?’
Jemm continued to sob until Caramel whispered. ‘Jemm, I can’t understand you. Slow down and tell me what happened.’
Jemm sniffled, choked out a few coughs and blew her nose loudly. ‘We were supposed to harvest the cardamom crop today. Mum and Dad were there yesterday, and Mum said all the pods were ready. They were all whispering happy thoughts.’ Jemm stopped and blew her nose again. ‘But when we got there today, it was like a tornado had hit. Every single cardamom pod was on the ground, dead. All we could hear were the stems crying. Mum tried her best to talk to them, but they were too distressed. She sat with the grandfather trees and all they could tell her was something vibrated so violently that it scared all the plants into dropping their pods.’
‘Oh, Jemm, that’s awful. Maybe it was some kind of mini earthquake. Haven’t there been tremors reported over the past few months?’
‘No, Caramel. You don’t understand. It’s not just our crop: its every crop. All the grandfather trees reported a vibration disturbance throughout the rainforest, and Mum has been fielding calls all morning from surrounding villages. Every crop has been dropped to the forest floor.’
‘So it can’t have been a quake,’ Caramel muttered softly, ‘because why wouldn’t you have all felt it? Jemm, has Garlin told Grandfather yet?’
Jemm sniffled and nodded. ‘He climbed into his airship a few hours ago, bound for Cardeville. Your grandfather is waiting for a briefing.’
Caramel tapped her I-Com, frantically trying to call her mum, but there was no reply. She considered texting her dad, but that would also be useless. Carob was in trade negotiations with the Intergalactic Council on Ishqwartz, brokering a deal for the ongoing supply of cardamom. He wouldn’t take kindly to her interruption.
‘Jemm, you have to calm down. I know that Grandfather and Garlin will have a solution.’
Jemm wiped her nose. ‘I hope so, Caramel, but for the moment Mum and all the tree-tenders in our village are deep in communion with the cardamom stems, trying to soothe their frazzled nerves, otherwise we might lose them too. I better go. Mum wants me to swing over to the crop and help. I’m at the tree-tending stage, so I have to do my duty. Do you think you can come?’
‘Of course. I’ll be there as soon as I can clear it with my mum. You better tree-tend a bed up for me too. Do you think you can manage it on such short notice?’
‘Sure. Come soon. We need you.’ Jemm broke off the communication.
Caramel felt close to tears, knowing how distressed Jemm and all her friends in the canopy would be. I have to get to the castle to find out what Grandfather and Garlin are discussing. She scanned her arm over the scent-scanner at the scooter rank and rubbed her thigh to soothe her protesting muscles. She raced from the Elf-Care down the cobblestone path towards the castle. Grandfather will tell me it will all be okay. He’s sure to have a solution isn’t he?
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