This week’s #blogbattle theme word is hazel. #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.
Winter walked along the tunnel, her hands on the walls to guide her path in the darkness. She seemed to be walking forever, and when a source of outside light appeared ahead, the relief amongst them all was palpable.
Winter’s pace quickened, wanting to get to the light and see again. The tunnel ended abruptly, and they had to fly straight up to reach the exit. The moment Winter breathed fresh air it was like her whole body felt refreshed. The sun was setting, casting an orange glow over the field that they’d emerged in.
“Now where are we?” she wondered aloud, then turned around in a circle, taking in her surroundings. The forest was behind them, all shadowy in the dying light. “We’re certainly out of the forest,” she said, “and I don’t recognise this area, so I think we haven’t gone back the way we came.”
“I think this is the field beyond the forest,” Summer said, “sometimes we have to fly this far to forage in bad times. But not often.”
Winter rubbed her hands together, cold in the growing darkness. “We need to find somewhere to shelter for the night,” she said. “And get out of the open so the Queen’s people don’t spot us.”
Autumn pointed to the south. “There are some bushes over there. I think that would work for the night.”
Winter looked. “Let’s take a closer look.”
They all flew over to them. A long bush ran along as far as the eye could see. Winter flew up to the top of it, and saw a road on the other side. She didn’t like the idea of being so close to it, but it might frighten off Birch and Indian. She flew back down. “What does everyone think?”
“I think it’s better than nowhere,” Autumn said.
The others all nodded their agreement.
“There might be some noise during the night though,” Winter warned. “There’s a road on the other side of the bush, and cars are noisy things. So don’t be afraid.”
They all looked unsure, but crept into the bush and went to sleep anyway.
Winter couldn’t stop tossing and turning. She had to think of a plan for how to stop the Queen. She had the powder to get the Queen to come to her, and the old fairy had said to use their powers. As her mind turned over his words, she remembered how they’d unpoisoned the river where they’d found Indian. They had all worked together, using each of their powers separately, but with everyone else. Maybe that was the key.
By sunrise, she knew exactly how she was going to defeat the Queen.
Over a breakfast of berries from the bush, Winter explained her idea to them all. “So, the first thing we need to do is find Spring and Flame and the others who went with them. What do you all think?”
There was a little uncertainty in their eyes, but they all agreed. “We can do this,” she said, pushing more confidence than she felt into her words. “If we try hard enough, anything’s possible.”
Tango smiled. “You’ve not led us wrong so far Winter, so I trust you.”
She felt relieved. “Thank you.”
“Okay, so how are we going to find the others?” Pim asked.
“That I don’t know,” Winter said, she hadn’t got around to solving that one.
“What if we birds went out looking for them? Nita, a white, small bird, spoke up.
Winter looked at the six birds sat with them, huddled within the confines of the bush. “Do you think that would be safe?”
“Thinking about it,” Pim said, “your fairy friends aren’t really looking for us, are they? It’s not us they want. So it should be safe. As long as we’re careful, that is.”
Winter chewed on the inside of her cheek. She didn’t have any better ideas. “Okay, but be really, really careful, please?”
Pim looked around at her friends, and they all nodded. “We will, Winter. Ready friends?”
All six of them wiggled their way out from under the bush and Winter watched them take to the skies, a delicate burst of colour.
“I hope they’re okay,” Tango said.
“Me too,” Winter agreed. She pulled her knees up to her chest, and rested her head on them. This nightmare was so close to being over. And then what would she do? Go home? Maybe.
While they waited for the birds to return, Tango, Summer, and Autumn talked quietly, but Winter daydreamed about what life might be like after all this. If she got Birch back, what would they do? What would he want to do? What if she wanted to go home and he didn’t? Then there was Flame. Despite her initial irritation at him, she had started to like him. But did she like him like she liked Birch?
Oh, this was all too confusing.
She shut her eyes, but at the sound of wings fluttering opened them again.
The birds landed outside the bush, and Flame and Spring were with them. Winter smiled and got up to greet them. Spring and Flame came towards her, and they ended up in a big hug. Tango joined in behind Winter. “I’m so glad you’re both okay,” Winter said.
“Ditto,” Flame replied.
“Me too,” Spring said.
They all pulled apart as the birds waddled in under the bush again. “And look what we found,” Flame pulled something out of his pocket. “Hazelnuts.”
Winter smiled. They were her favourite nuts. She took some that Flame offered, and ate one. A moment of bliss in a nightmare. Then she went and sat back down, and once they were all in place, asked, “So did everything go okay?”
“Mostly,” Flame said, and his face took on a sad look. “I think we’ve lost Indian though.”
Winter’s eyes widened. “What do you mean lost?”
“The last we saw of her, she’d been injured. Badly,” Spring said. “She got pushed into a branch as we tried to escape them at one point.”
“It was an accident,” Flame explained, “but it was really my fault. I didn’t see.” His head bowed, shamed.
Even though Winter was really worried about Indian, she couldn’t stand seeing Flame feel bad. “I’m sure it wasn’t your fault,” she said, “and I’m sure Indian will be fine. The Queen has powerful magic, remember? She will heal her, I’m sure of it.”
Flame didn’t look convinced, but nodded.
“What about on your side?” Spring asked. “What happened?”
Winter told him all about the old fairy and the powder, and her plan. “Do you think it’s a good idea?” she asked.
Spring pursed his lips and folded his arms. “It sounds tough, and risky. And she’s still my Queen at the end of the day. But, I think it has to be done. Go for it, Winter.”
She looked around at her friends, all sat waiting for her to lead them into the end of this struggle. She took a deep breath, then said, “Right then, I suppose the first thing we need to do is summon the Queen.”