Looking down at the branches of the tree one could see many shades and colors. What could not be seen was the chameleon, perched on a branch and sitting perfectly still.
"I will blend. I will blend," she thought. In her mind she repeated, "One with the branch. One with the tree. Sit very still and they won't see me."
So it was that Chandra the chameleon spent her days and nights. When she did move it was always a calculated risk. Her movements were slow and deliberate. One long toe at a time would uncurl from the branch and then she would flow to the next spot on the tree and freeze.
To blend in with the tree meant safety to Chandra. Being different or standing out could mean death. A bird or snake or other could spot her too easily and consume her. So her colors changed.
To a chameleon it was imperative to feel oneness with the surroundings. She had to not only think of the color green, but to imagine how green must feel in order to assume its hue.
"Green is alive," she thought. "Green is unripe. New. Fresh. Honest is green" And so she would be green.
"Yellow," she thought. "Yellow is joy. Bright. Sunny. Warm is yellow." And so she would become yellow.
Moment to moment Chandra would move and freeze and change to fit her tree.
It was an oppressive afternoon in the rainforest where her tree grew. The leaves of the canopy were still for they lacked a breeze to stir them. Birds called. Moisture dripped to the floor.
Chandra peered from her branch. One eye looked up, the other down. It all happened so quickly that later she would be tempted to believe that she had imagined what happened.
Two monkeys, swinging from vine to vine, landed right in front of her. One was in a terrible state. She was puffing and shrieking and the larger, a male, was coiled to attack. Chandra recognized him as Tarak, king of the apes.
"Please, spare me," the lady ape begged. "Let me go."
Tarak beat her with a stout branch he held. "I do what I please, little Miss Nan. You have criticized my leadership for long enough. Now you will learn a lesson. If you ever speak against me again I will beat you more till you speak no more."
When he was through he swung away, leaving Miss Nan behind. Chandra could hear her crying but did not move. After all, what could she do to help? If she moved she might well be eaten. Did apes eat chameleons? Better safe than sorry.
By and by Miss Nan stopped her crying and began to lick her wounds.
"I am sorry you had to witness that," she said in Chandra's direction. "I should not have begged mercy from one such as him."
Chandra slowly moved her eyes to try and see to whom the ape was speaking. She saw no one.
"I am speaking to you chameleon," she said. "Yes, I see you. That is my problem. I see too much sometimes and then I must speak out about it."
When Chandra did not move or respond, the ape said, "Do not be afraid. I will not harm you."
"You should not do things to anger others," Chandra was surprised to hear herself say. "You should stay very still as I do. You should stay silent."
The ape looked at Chandra for a long, measuring moment.
"Perhaps what you say is true," she said. "I saw that ape doing harm to others. He takes advantage of the weak and the poor and the elderly. His cruelty is legend. To remain silent would have made me feel a party to his actions. That is not in my nature."
Chandra was confused. "Did not your people say to 'See no evil. Hear no evil and speak no evil?' You should close your eyes, cover your ears and stay silent. That is the prudent thing to do."
In spite of her wounds Nan laughed. "A fine picture I would make, sitting in that manner."
"Your speaking up did not help anyone," Chandra argued. "All it did was bring you pain."
The monkey sighed. "There is truth in what you say. Unfortunately, I cannot do as you do. I must return to my fellows and do my best to stop that evil one in any small way I am able. I will return to free his slaves and tend the sick."
"Come with me," she urged. "I need someone who can blend in as you do. Watch my back. You could sit and watch out for his coming and warn me."
For the first time in her life Chandra was in a quandary over what to do. She desperately wanted to follow the monkey and see that she remained well. Of course she was terribly afraid and unsure.
"Your cause seems just," Chandra said. "I am only a tiny creature and I could not be a big help."
The monkey smiled. "It is the size of the ideals, not the being, that makes one great," she said. "Come and ride on my back."
With the quickest motions she had ever made, Chandra leaped onto the monkey's back and thought deep, brown thoughts.
To Chandra, the ride on Nan's back as she swung from tree to tree was the most thrilling time of her young life. Then they landed in the big tree of exile and she felt a deep and abiding sadness.
All around were refugees from the evil king's trees. Tiny faces of the little ones, their eyes dark with fear, peered from behind their mothers. Elders, battered and tired, hunkered in corners. All the young male apes were absent, conscripts in the king's guard.
Miss Nan worked quickly. She bandaged some, rocked and consoled others. Mostly she talked. She told them of staying together and not losing hope. She promised them a better life. She prepared them to flee to freedom.
Chandra had not forgotten her job and when she saw the shadow of the king swinging toward the tree she warned Nan by tugging on her fur.
Nan grabbed a sharp stick and began to fight against Tarak.
Chandra tried to close her eyes and think "BROWN! BROWN! BROWN." It was no use. She looked up at Tarak and turned white with fear.
One moment Tarak was fighting the meddlesome little female monkey and the next her saw a vision. A white creature had reared up on Miss Nan's head. It was terrible to behold. Some sort of white spirit seemed to spring from Nan's head.
Tarak fell back. "No," he cried. "Spare me oh spirit."
Nan paused in mid-strike. Had he gone mad? Then she watched in horror as he grabbed a small child and held a sharp stick to it's head.
"Go back to whence you came or I will sacrifice this child," he chattered.
It was at that moment that something inside Chandra seemed to shift and change. She became furious. She saw red. She felt hot with indignation. Her soul burned for justice.
To Tarak's great shock, the creature shifted its appearance. It became red and it seemed to grow. It's mouth opened and a long tongue of flame shot out toward him.
"Release that child," Chandra shouted. "Release him and be gone you beast!"
Tarak's eyes went wide and unfocused in absolute terror. "Dragon," he wailed. "A tree dragon! Save me!"
"I said BE GONE," Chandra cried and shot out her long tongue at him again.
By now Miss Nan had recovered her wits enough to realize who the "dragon" was. It was all she could do not to cry with relief or laugh with joy.
Her frightened little friend, always so careful not to make a wrong move, was saving their lives with her righteous rage.
Tarak dropped his weapon and fled the tree. He was never heard from again.
To this day, mothers tell their children of Chandra the Great Tree Dragon. They tell of the day when one tiny creature changed herself and the world around her, all for the better.