The change was not gradual as most changes in nature are; it was swift and irrevocable, coming in a fit of emotion.
Blanchardwood wasn’t always a frozen wilderness. The woods once flourished under the tender tutelage of Odeletta, Princess of Spring. In the forest’s heyday, the soft feet of the Princess blessed its earthen paths. Her tender touch perpetuated flower blossoms and energized the forest animals.
As she meandered through the forest in the form of a woman, as was her preference—human senses proved the most sensitive to the wonders of the forest—she spied a being she had never before seen. Its hard face and spicy scent contrasted with the fuzzy creatures and sweet aromas she knew so well. The being approached Odeletta and smiled, showing smooth, white teeth. Apprehension welled up inside of her until she recognized the crest that adorned the being’s chest plate. She knew he must be a man.
“I see you wear the noble crest of my mother’s people, my lord,” she said.
He bowed. “I hail from the western shores. I have brought a message to you from your mother, the Great Mother. She was reluctant to let a man into the forest, but I heard the beauty of Blanchardwood was unparalleled by any sight in nature and had to see if it was true, and she allowed me to come.”
“Does my home live up to your expectations?”
Odeletta clenched her fists in anger, her face flushed, and the forest waned under her rage. The man laughed.
“Don’t be upset, my Princess. The forest is breathtaking, but I have met one other natural beauty that surpasses it.”
He laughed again. “I am trying to pay you a compliment, but I see your love for your home has blinded you to your own beauty.”
“You mock my home and my face.” Odeletta was beginning to think she didn’t care for men.
“No, I only long to learn more about both. Forgive me if I have been blunt and offended you. I have had a long journey and wish to find a bit of food and a place to rest. Then, I will share your mother’s message with you.”
“Of course, you are in my mother’s service and so you are also in my service. It is my duty to show you the utmost hospitality. Please do not let my sensitivity be perceived as rudeness, my lord.”
“Princess, I understand. You simply love the forest so much that you cannot bear to hear an unpleasant word spoken of it. Love that true is an admirable quality.”
Odeletta softened a little; the trees brightened and the birds sweetened their song.
She led the man through Blanchardwood, so named for blooms of the dogwood tree that blanketed it in white in spring. Along the way, she learned that his name was Fyren. He had served Odeletta’s mother for many years, traveling all over the Great Peninsula to convey Mother Nature’s messages. The day passed quickly for Odeletta as she listened to his fantastic stories of adventure. It was only as the sun began to set that they reached the heart of Blanchardwood, the city of Kristalis.
The city sat at the point where the vigorous Eirome River broke into two, the eastern side flowing to the Greater Ocean and the western side south to Faway Forest. Its only building was a palace made mostly of glass so instead of obstructing the forest views, it reflected them.
Odeletta welcomed Fyren into her home. They broke bread, shared wine, and laughed the evening away. So entranced with her new companion was the Princess that she forgot all about her mother’s message. She gave him the room with the best view of the eastern river, and he made himself at home, wooing the Princess, who had never left her humble forest, with tales of the world. In turn she entranced him with her gentle voice that could entice a riot of colors out of the forest flowers.
Many days passed, the full bloom of their love coinciding with the summer solstice. On a bed of dewy grass, they lay, observing the longest day of the year come to a close with a fire of sunset in the sky. The stars twinkled on one at a time, but Fyren had eyes only for Odeletta.
He ran a long finger along her cheek, softer than a rose petal and a blush to match. “My beautiful rose,” he whispered.
She smiled, and the trees seemed to glow green. “Yes, my love.”
Fyren’s hand paused mid-stroke. “You love me?”
“Of course.” The forest pulsed with life and color as if to prove her love for him.
“Then you won’t mind if I kiss you.”
In response, she closed her eyes and leaned toward him with parted lips. His mouth crushed down upon hers. She gasped for breath, but not out of passion. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. Odeletta tried to pull, but he held her face to his until he had his fill.
An icy pain pierced her heart and traveled through her body to the very tips of her toes. Her hair went from golden to stark white. The ground around her froze, ice spreading through the forest faster than a wildfire. The river crackled as it froze solid.
Shaking, she huddled in the fetal position and whimpered, “What is happening to me?”
Fyren looked down upon her, a tower of authority, his eyes alight with glee. “Love is not only an admirable quality, it is the most powerful emotion in the world. And love from a daughter of Mother Nature, well, that kind of power is nearly insurmountable.”
“M-mother.” The word came out in a shiver, and Odeletta remembered why Fyren had come to her forest in the first place. “Sh-she had a message for me.”
Fyren crouched down and caressed her changed hair. Odeletta was too weak to move away. “She did indeed. But I was not the one who was to deliver it. No, I dispatched of that weak lord myself and stole his clothing.” He stood again, exerting the full power of his height. “I am Lord Fyren, but I do not serve Mother Nature. If she had been able to send you a message, she most assuredly would have warned to not stay far away from me.”
He ripped off the chest plate bearing Mother Nature’s crest and casually tossed it to the ground. “I serve myself, and you have just given me the power of love’s true kiss. Your mother and I have an old feud to settle. She is often called the Great Mother, but I will see to it that she will come to an end that is far from great.”
Bending to kiss her cheek, he whispered, “I am sorry it had to come to this for you. You truly are a beautiful creature.”
A soft snow began to fall, quickly whipping up into a blizzard. With purposeful strides, Lord Fyren left sweet Odeletta—once the Princess of Spring and now the Ice Queen—shivering in the courtyard. Spring would never again come to Blanchardwood.
This story comes from the mythology of Katie's YA fantasy ELIXIR BOUND, which is available now in paperback or as an ebook.
Katie L. Carroll is a mother, author, and editor. Her YA fantasy ELIXIR BOUND has been described as “The Lord of The Rings with a YA fiction twist.” She is also the author of a picture book app called THE BEDTIMEKNIGHT. Her latest project is a collaborative, serialized middle grade mystery called THE GREAT CONNECTICUT CAPER, which is being released chapter-by-chapter starting in January 2015 and can be read at http://ctcaper.cthumanities.org/get-ready/. Katie worked as a puzzle magazine editor for Penny Publications for eight years before becoming a book editor for MuseItUp Publishing. For more about Katie, visit her website and blog at http://www.katielcarroll.com or follow her on Twitter @katielcarroll.