#Blogbattle : New Challenges

This week’s #blogbattle theme word is bathtub. #Blogbattle is a weekly event hosted by the wonderful Racheal Ritchey over at the new #Blogbattle site. Take a look at her website and books as well. It’s worth it.

Genre: Fantasy

New Challenges

Winter climbed out of the hole, followed by Flame, Spring, Tango, Summer, and Autumn.
Pim and the others were waiting for them. The sun was shining, and the air had a dewy quality to it after the water from the river had filled the air. It felt like it had been raining.

“You found new friends?” Pim asked.

Winter looked back over her shoulder. “Yes, this is Summer and Autumn. They’re twins.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well, nice to meet you both.”

“Nice to meet you,” they said in unison. They were looking a little wary.

Summer said to Winter, “Why is there a flock of birds?”

“We released them from a cage,” she said, “we’re going to teach them how to survive while we’re travelling.”

“Oh, right.” Summer looked at her brother. Neither looked sure about the situation.

Flame interrupted. “So, what do we do now?”

Winter folded her arms. “I think we have to figure out how to take away the Queen’s control of the book.”

“Yes, I’ve been thinking about that,” Spring said. “I’ve heard rumours of an old fairy, one who knows all there is to know about fairy knowledge.”

“Where is he?” Winter asked, hope rising in her.

“That I don’t know,” Spring said. “Only a hint that he lives in a place of great magic.”

Winter’s shoulders drooped. “Where could that be?”

Autumn’s face lit up. “Oh, I have an idea. There is a tale within our clan that there is a well, a thing made by humans to bring water up from under the ground, and it was dug at the centre of a spot where great gatherings of fairies used to take place. They say that one fairy stayed after all the others left for the last time, that he couldn’t bare to leave the place unmarked, given over to man.”

“So where would this well be?” Flame asked.

“I remember this story,” Summer chimed in. She turned and pointed to the south. “It’s supposed to be several days flight over in that direction, in a clearing in the centre of a large wood.”

Winter followed the direction Summer was pointing with her eyes. All she could see on the horizon was endless fields. But anything was worth a shot. “Okay, I think we should go and have a look.” She looked at the others, waiting for their response.

Flame nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”

Spring shrugged. “Got no better ideas.”

Tango bobbed her head once. “Okay.”

“We’ll follow,” Pim said, “don’t worry.”

Winter smiled, grateful for their trust in her ideas. And a little scared too.

They all took off into the sky in a great flurry of wings and colours. Winter was very aware of not knowing where Birch and Indian were, if they were watching them, following them, or waiting to ambush them. She kept alert, and hoped the others were doing the same.

They flew for most of the day, rested overnight, and flew for the whole next day before glimpsing the beginning of the wood on the horizon. The sun was setting as they reached the edge of it. Winter settled down on a branch, and the others perched around, above, and below her. Flame sat next to her. “I have an idea, and a worry.”

“What is it?” she asked, worried now.

“They could know where we’re going, we haven’t seen anything of them for two days now.”

“How would they?” She didn’t need to ask who he was referring to. Birch and Indian were on all of their minds.

“They could have overheard us. We were down in the Clan with Summer and Autumn for most of the night. That was plenty of time for them to find the birds after the river. With the magic the Queen has access to, who knows what powers they have to slip past us, or spy on us.”

Winter suddenly felt exposed. “Could they be spying on us now?” She looked around, as if she expected to suddenly see them.

“I don’t know.” He was speaking in a very low voice. “But I think it would be sensible for someone to fly ahead, try and get the drop on them. See if they’re at the well, if we’re even in the right place.”

She knew he was right, but it was dangerous. “You want to go?”

“I do.”

“What if they catch you?”

“If I’m not back by dawn, leave, fly in the opposite direction, figure out a new way.”

“But what about you?” She was horrified at the idea of leaving him in such danger.

“Rescue me with Birch and Indian.” He stood up. “With or without your blessing, I’m going.”

There was no arguing with him, she knew. She stood as well. “Okay, but be careful.” She wasn’t sure where it came from, but she hugged him.

It took a moment, his body reacting through surprise, but he hugged her back. “Be safe, Winter,” he said.

“You too,” she replied, her voice muffled against his chest.

Then they parted, and he turned to leave. “Tell no one where I’ve gone,” he said over his shoulder, then took off into the night.

It was only moments before Winter couldn’t see him anymore. She sat back down again, and crossed her fingers and toes that he would be all right.

***

Winter couldn’t sleep. She drifted in and out of fitful dreams, one in which she was back in Layla’s house, playing in what she’d called a bathtub, sliding down the slippery sides.

She woke to see the first rays of dawn lighten the sky. Her heart started to thud, hoping every moment that she would see Flame on the horizon.

She closed her eyes, and crossed her fingers again, then opened them. Still nothing.

She watched the sky get lighter and lighter, until finally, a small speck appeared against the hazy grey-blue. And eventually that speck grew into the shape of Flame. She sat up, and was on her feet by the time he landed beside her. “Thank the stars you’re back and safe,” she said, hugging him again.

After a brief return of the hug, he gently pushed her away. “I’m glad too Winter, but I was right. They’re there. So many of them. I don’t know how we can get past them.”

Relief was replaced with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

What now?

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