Prompt of the day: She climbed the tree to get a better view, but what she saw frightened her even more…
Elixabeth trembled as she searched for the strange child. Heart racing, feeling as though it would burst forth at any moment, she tried to calm herself, but ended up gasping for air, unable to breathe. Questions tumbled, one over the other, screaming in her head. Fingers shaking, she moved tendrils of hair away from her face, suddenly sorry she had not taken the time to braid it that morning even as she recognized the uselessness of worrying over choices that could not be undone.
Where had the child disappeared to? Better, where had that child come from? And what kind of clothing had she been wearing? It had been a female child, right? That child was the spitting image of Isobel, Prince Freid’s youngest sister, most likely now Isobel, Queen of the Raven Court, rather than plain Princess Isobel as she had been ages upon ages ago when last they met. Had the Queen sent her child as a messenger? Was Isobel finally ready to forgive her the exile of Prince Freid? The thought dissipated more quickly than it had formed; Isobel would have come in person rather than send a messenger, even if that messenger were her own child. Even if only to gloat, she would have been there in person to release the traitor that would have been sister-in-law.
A foul wind whipped through the trees – trees that suddenly seemed more threatening than they had moments before. Not even the trees at the deepest heart of the Sacred Forest were this dark or threatening. Elixabeth knew Summer Island better than any other being, Mortal or Immortal; it happened after centuries of exile upon one tiny island. And yet, she did not know these woods. What had just been the curve of a familiar tree, covered with moss the color of mint, smelling of lavender, was now the rough jut of a tree she had never seen before, unfettered by the growth of moss.
Was the Druid once more attempting to cross the veil between Mortal and Immortal Realms? Each time he attempted, she had known – it had been a rip in her soul, a tearing at the fabric of her being. She had been the sole connection between the Sacred Forest and her family for too long, the life of the Island was her life. She felt everything. Now, she worried that the Island would never again recognize more than her, not even her parents. What would happen to the Summer Court if she were to fade?
The trees sounded different than her trees as well. Her trees were always singing, night or day. Whether it was the chatter of the animals, or the rustle of leaves on the breeze, her trees were always joyfully living. These trees, they were silent, living yet dead. Standing perfectly still, she forced her heart to calm, her breath to still. Listening with her whole body, Elixabeth was still not able to hear even the song of a bird, nor the rustle of a leaf. Tears fell unbidden as the Winter Queen bowed her head and silently wept for a forest stifled and dying.
There. At the corner of her mind, she detected the child once again. Definitely a girl child. Not fully Mortal, yet not quite Immortal. A half-blood? She knew of no living half-bloods. While a rare clan or two saw the Half-Bloods as a gift, most clans did not; they viewed these children as trouble – not powerful enough to even spell a flower and capable of living only a score or two, they were left with mortals whose natural child had passed in the quiet of night. To whom did this child belong?
Gathering her wits, and her skirts, about her, Elixabeth pushed through the bracken until she had reached the edge of the trees. Greeted not by the calm of the ocean or the familiarity of a close island, she could not even fathom what she was really seeing. Great glass palaces, ground hard as rocks…dead fields, and air as grey as a storm… Head spinning, heart racing through her veins, tears sprang anew. Elixabeth fell to her knees, straining to recognize anything beyond the fallow field in which the child stood, looking back at her with eyes of corn silk. The eyes of the Imposter.