Monday, October 28, 2013

Enchanted Winter (Chapter 3)

Enchanted Winter
Chapter 3
 K.N. Lee

As Winter fell, her breath was sucked from her lungs. She squeezed her eyes shut and reached for Dancer. Dancer grabbed her by the arm with its claw and held tight.

Winter opened her eyes to the cold of the wind as Dancer flew her high above the clouds. She sucked in the cool air and tried to calm her breathing. The dart in her neck left her paralyzed and sent a shock of searing hot pain into her bloodstream. 

Winter winced and cried out. Her neck froze, her shoulders followed, and she realized with horror that soon, her entire body would be completely frozen.

Her mind raced with her options. As long as Dancer didn't let go, she might escape the dangerous tribes of the Wild Lands. 
Winter tried to keep her eyes open. If she closed her eyes before she froze, she would not be able to see what was happening. 

Her head spun and her heart thumped so loudly that it was she could hear. Her ears burned with the sound of her own heartbeat. It was steady, and continued to slow, until, it stopped. 

~~~ 

A soft murmur woke Winter. She opened her silver eyes and stared into the eyes of a little girl. Winter tried to move. Her arms were pinned to her sides and her legs were bound by thick, rough, ropes. Winter's eyes widened.

"Let me go. Please," she pleaded to the little girl. They were in a tent made out of hides and painted with clay and dull green paint. The little girl touched Winter's face with her cold hands and sat back on her heels. Her hair was yellow like Lady Cecily's and she had green eyes that matched the paint on the inside of the tents walls. Her skin was brown like Winter's though, and covered with blue markings.

Winter could tell by the child's markings that she was a hunter and part of the Oaiku tribe. Many tribes escaped through the slit in between worlds in the final days. Winter knew all of them. She wondered if they knew who she was.

Winter felt her eyes water. She hoped that they didn't know who she was. She could not risk her identity being discovered. Not even by a tribe that was related to her own. Once the Morai and the Oaiku were bonded and shared many relatives and racial traits.

Winter heard footsteps outside and her skin tightened with fear. She met the girl's eyes, with a look of intensity that drew the child in like a moth to a flame. 

"Please, sweet girl. Help me get free from these binds."

The girl shook her head. She traced a line across her neck indicating death.

Winter was speechless. She watched the girl, feeling her hopes fade. The tents flap opened and an old man bent over to enter. He was followed by a much younger man. The old man wore cloaks, gray and covered with the history of his people. He was a shaman.

Winter tensed. She would not be able to hide her identity from that man. She closed her eyes, speaking inside her head, hoping that her mother's gifts hadn't completely left her.

Her body filled with warmth and she glowed. 

Mother please bless me
With all the gifts of land and sea
Carry me
From this place
With wings of silver
And strides of grace

Winter recited the words over and over inside her head. She had no other choice. She knew that they were staring at her, but she hoped that perhaps this time, when she opened her eyes, she would be somewhere else. Somewhere far away from Master Blakeney's manor, the Wildlands, and back in the Old World.

When she heard the old man speak, she knew that once again, her words were not heard. Her magic had failed her again. 

"They took much more from you than your freedom," the old man said.

Winter didn't open her eyes. She simply sobbed softly. She was heartbroken. Being a slave for so long was not as painful as having her power abandon her.

Winter opened her eyes when she felt him draw closer. She did have one measure of power that would never fail her, and she was ready to use it if he tried to harm her. Winter's eyes burned a silver light into the old man's as she glared at him.

He lowered his eyes as he knelt beside her cot. He bowed.

"Forgive me, Enchanted Winter," he said. "I have not come to harm you. I am Gulati. I am not the one who tied you up, but the one who convinced the tribe's folk not to send you back to the humans."

Winter let the intensity of her eyes fade slightly as she listened to his words. "Why would they send me back? If you know who I am, what good would it do to let the humans use me?"
 
Gulati nodded, eagerly. "Exactly! That's what I tried to explain to them. We were once bonded, the Morais and the Oaiku. Fairies like us as are a dying breed. They would send you back to the fairies, just for a few more seasons of sun."

Winter frowned. "Why? We never needed Summer, Spring, or Fall before? There was a reason they were only allowed to thrive in Earth."

Gulati shrugged. "When Earth was opened to us, the people became used to the other fairy gods. They no longer want Winter to rule us anymore. They no longer want you."

Winter wished that she could sit up. She felt a strong warning in her belly. What she was hearing was deeply unsettling.

Gulati reached for her and she cringed. He touched her forehead with his red fingers and chanted. 

Winter calmed then. She knew the chant and slowly felt the sensation return to her body. She could move again. Still bound, it was better than being completely paralyzed.

When Winter opened her eyes, she saw the girl smiling at her. The girl's two front teeth were missing and yet she was prettier than ever.

Gulati gave her a half smile. "I'm sorry, but that's all I can do right now."

Winter nodded. "Thank you."

Gulati took her hand in his and Winter tried to sit up. He helped her prop herself against the wooden headboard of the cot. The candle flickered in the on the small table beside the little girl. She grinned at Winter and waved her hand through the fire, catching a flame in the palm of her hand.

Winter's brows furrowed as she watched the child play. She was a special child. That was clear.

Winter licked her dry lips and glanced at Gulati. "Does the tribe know who I am?"

Gulati shook his head. His messy white hair fell into his face. "No. Only I know of your identity."

Winter breathed with relief. "Good."

Gulati motioned for the younger man to come kneel beside him. Winter observed him. His hair was yellow like the child's, and long.

"Reki and Mionna will help you escape tonight."

Winter raised a brow. "The child?"

Gulati nodded. "She's my apprentice. She has excellent tracking skills. Don't worry, she is mature for a seven year old."

Winter looked from Mionna to Reki. He never let his eyes leave her. He never smiled either. He was older than her, perhaps by a decade or so. He had an attractive face, a little roughened by age and the sun, but nice enough for Winter to take notice. She swallowed and looked away.

Gulati noticed. "Reki is a warrior. He'll protect you, and help you make it through the Wild Lands."
 
Alarm came to Winter's face. "Where is my tetra?"

Gulati's face paled. He looked to Reki.

Reki didn't betray any emotion, but he answered her question. "The archers shot it out of the sky."

Winter felt her eyes sting with fresh tears, and her body fill with a rage that threatened to turn everyone in the vicinity to dust. She shook but controlled the rage. There were innocent people around. She must control herself. 

Gulati came to his feet and Reki handed him his staff.

Mionna snipped her binds away with a sharp knife. The girl brought her face close to Winter's.

"Sorry, Enchanted Winter," she said. "I couldn't let you go until master said so. You will forgive me. Won't you?"

Winter looked into Mionna's eyes. She cupped the girls face in her hands and kissed her forehead. There were nights that she dreamt of a daughter of her own. A daughter that she could pass her gifts onto. A daughter that would one day take her place as a fairy god.

Mionna smiled. "Thank you."

Winter nodded and returned the smile. She came to her feet. stretched her wings, and retracted them once more, so that they lie flat against her back.

She looked over to Gulati. "Thank you. I won't forget your kindness."

Gulati bowed to her. Reki and Mionna did as well. "I never thought I'd be in the presence of a god."

Winter put her finger to her mouth. "Shh. No one must know. Let the people think what they want, but not that they had their own season god in their midst. I have work to do. This world needs to be put right once again."

Gulati nodded. His green eyes sparkled. Winter felt saddened. She had to get her powers back. She knew exactly what she needed to do. Dread washed over her. 

Many people were going to have to die.