The Vase of Ice Holding Flowers, Frozen Forever Fresh
What happens when the Goddess of Summer decides to vacation in the Winter Realm?
Prince Llewellyn stopped to wipe the sweat glistening off his brow and tug at his normally silky jet black hair clinging to his neck and cheeks. His life-long best friend, betrothed, and beloved, Zoe, twisted around when she realized he was no longer in step behind her. Seeing his ruddy cheeks and disheveled tunic, she let out a little giggle.
Don't tell me you can't handle this heat Lyn!
Don't tease- you stripped off your vest and gloves 3 miles back!
Llewellyn, preferring to be called Llew, narrowed his purple eyes, trying to look annoyed. A hint of a grin betrayed him when Zoe took her 'mama' stance, feet planted and hands on her hips, saying everything and more with the quirk of her eyebrow. The line of studs just over the golden brow winked in the sun, making it look as though her annoyance was radiating from her face. She held his gaze for a few moments before Llew sighed and looked away. Without a word, the pair continued forward, following the path of green standing out starkly against the frozen world.
The Winter Realm had never known temperatures higher than 30°, which is why the elves, fae, and animals to inhabit the land were in a panic. It had suddenly stopped snowing three weeks ago, the temperatures slowly rising with each passing day. Every magi and shaman in the Crystal Taiga and Diamond Ice Plains had been summoned to the Castle of Ice, a vast complex of towers and peaks that stood on the border between the two major countries of the Winter Realm. None of the magical workers were able to summon the snow, nor were they able to lower the temperatures. When grotesque green foliage began pushing its way through the pristine white landscape, and not even a blade of grass could be returned to its' frozen form, the king and queen turned to drastic measures. The source of the heat seemed to be coming from the South. The forest, once a lovely sea of white, now had a strip of green a mile wide, extending from somewhere beyond the mountains, stretching right up into the castle's back yard.
The Prince's Idea
The council meeting held to discuss what would be done lasted a day and a half. The king and queen declared their willingness to try anything and the room erupted, male and female elves and fae shouting over each other in hopes that their idea would be heard and heeded. After 10 hours of chaos, Llewellyn shoved his chair back and stood. When this went unnoticed climbed onto the table, walked to the center, and shouted:
Waving his arms, turning in a circle as he shouted his command, demanding the attention of every council member, including his parents. The resulting hush that descended was almost eerie, and Llew shoved his fingers through his hair, taking a breath before he spoke.
Right, ahem, thank you. As jarring as it is to have a road of green forged through our forest, it's also an advantage. We now have a road leading us to the source of the warmth. Rather than hiding behind our walls of ice, trying to magick away the melt, we should have someone follow the road back to the source. The definitive point of origin suggests that this change in climate is the act of an individual, not a phenomenon of nature. That's why, rather than sending soldiers, or even scouts, we should send someone who can speak for the crown. Citizens of surrounding lands are flocking to the capitol, seeking solace and support from their trusted king and queen, so niether of you can go-
He turned to look at his parents, taking a breath before continuing.
...so that leaves me. I will go. Zoe will travel with me, as she is my betrothed and the future queen.
The king and queen looked at each other and then back at their son, eyes wide and mouths slack with shock. The spark of tension quickly abated, however, when someone called out:
That and she's tougher than a badger-dragon!
Causing a wave of chuckles and snorts to roll around the table.
Er- yeah, sure. Anyways, Zoe and I will go and talk to this person- whomever they may be. It's obviously not someone native to the land, which means someone was able to cross the borders of the realm undetected. I think if we approach with diplomacy, I think we would have little issue convincing whomever it is to reverse the damages.
His father leaned forward, opening his mouth to speak, but Llew just lifted a hand, flashed an apologetic smile, and went on.
Zoe and I will have communicators, so if this being isn't reasonable, then we can call the guard and have them teleported to our side in an instant. I see no other option. It's either htis or we cook.
Llew climbed off the table, returned to his seat, and looked expectedly at his parents.
Oh, do I have permission to speak now?
The king inquired sarcastically, his face mimicking innocent surprise. His wife cleared her throat- everyone in the kingdom knew that was her warning sound: either knock it off or get knocked out.
The king gave his wife a sheepish smile before turning back to his son.
I don't even know where to start, Llew. I mean, where did you get an idea like that? What caused you lose your icicles so hopelessly that you'd think this scheme of yours would actually be approved?
The king chuckled dryly, looking around at his council members. He expected to see agreement and equal amusement in the trusted elves and fae surrounding him but narrowed his purple eyes when he saw only nervous glances and uncomfortable shifting.
Don't tell me you agree with this fool!
He demanded. He started to rise, and a soft, cool hand touched his arm.
I don't like the idea of sending our only son out into the heat to discover goddess-knows-what at the end of the green trail, but Llew has a point. It is, in a way, a road leading to the source. And he's also right that sending anyone but a representative of the crown would run the risk of this visitor becoming defensive. I mean, they have the power to altar our entire ecosystem, Gioni.
Queen Rhiannon turned her attention to her son.
I must insist that you and Zoe undergo a week of intensive training before you plan your trip, and Rolland,
she turned to the commander of the royal guard whose spin snapped straight at the sound of his name,
The moment they leave i want guards posted around the teleporter at all hours, ready to report to my son and daughter-in-law at a moments notice.
Rolland gave a curt nod of agreement.
Do I get any say in this?
The king was standing now, hands on his hips, glaring down at his wife...
Llew and Zoe found a large pine about 50 paces off of what they dubbed the 'Green Road'. It wasn't the freezing air they were used to, but it was cooler and as far as they dared to veer from their path.
How much longer do you think we have to travel?
Llew was bent over a map of the taiga, re-checking their travel plans for the 10th time. Zoe sighed, sliding herself between him and the table to pull his attention away from the map.
We are all alone- no elves, no fae, not even a tiny sprite to crowd us. Why don't you leave this alone for a night and give your fiancee a romantic evening?
The corner of Zoe's mouth quirked upward, showing a hint of the smile she knew drove Llyn crazy. Llew wrapped his arms around her waist, groaning with indecision. When Zoe brought her arms up around his neck, nuzzling her face into his chest, Llew forgot all about the map...
It took two weeks, but Zoe and Llew finally reached the border of the taiga. Their jaws dropped simultaneously when they broke through the final row of trees: Diamond Plains was the place of origin for the Thaw. What had been a vast expanse of snow was now a sea of green grass, dotted with colorful plants they had never seen before.
I think they're called flowers!
Zoe exclaimed, bending over to examine a pretty gold one.
I read about them in the Record of Realms.
Of course you did. Nerd.
Llew smirked and strode forward.
The flowers, if that's what they are, seem to be growing more densely this way,
he pointed to the south, and Zoe nodded, seeing that there were more flowers that way. The temperature climbed steadily as they trudged southwards. Llew was wearing nothing but his britches, shoving his sweat-soaked tunic and soggy, rather smelly, shoes into his pack. Zoe had twisted her long golden hair into a knot on the top of her head and tied her tunic up under her breasts and her leggings rolled up over her knees, hoping the frugal breeze would cool her overheated body.
Neither elf was sure of how long they had been walking- the sun didn't seem to move since they started southwards. The brightness and heat was intensifying, seemingly coming from the other side of a small hill.
Did the sun fall out of the sky?
Zoe murmured, half believing it was possible. Llew just shook his head, unsure himself of what they were approaching.
They finally began their descent down the hill, eyes watering from the glare, arms raised in feeble attempts to shield their face from the intense light. When they stepped off the hill and into the small dip of a valley, the bright 'sun' relented. They were surrounded by a river of color- it was as if the 'flowers' had swallowed the grass that lay frozen beneath the snow. In the center of the valley sat a woman. She looked human, except she glowed like the sun.
Sorry for the blast of light, but I wasn't sure who was coming up to me!
Her voice was deep and velvety, her smile bright and warm. Zoe and Llew stopped midstep and stared, unsure of how to respond.
The sun woman smiled and started towards the couple, arms outstretched.
Let me start over. My name is Aine. I'm a goddess from teh World of Summer. I've been playing hide-and-go-seek with my brother, Spring.I found this workd by accident, to be honest, sort of stumbing through the border. When I realized where I was, I knew I had to stay! Spring wouldnever think to look for me in a cold world! I didn't think ti was inhabited though! I dind't think anything could live in such cold. I've been warming the place up, adding color, making it nice and pretty. Do you like it!?
It was clear that this goddess, despite having the appearance of a grown human woman, was a mere child.
This world is inhabited, and by beings that need the cold. It's all we've ever known. I appreciate the notion, but your warmth is threatening our world. We're creatures of the cold- we'll die if our blood gets too warm!
Llew cleared his throat, trying to catch Zoe's attention. She was getting pissed, and quick. Scolding a child for ignorance was not right, no matter how stupid the actions were. Zoe took a shuddering breath and Llew stepped forward.
My fiancee is passionate, so please excuse her tone. She's right though, we cannot survive in warm temperatures. I beg you, please, stop this thaw. Bring back the cold, the snow...we have a kingdom of creatures who desparately need relief. I mean, our homes are built from ice!
Llew smiled, his eyes pleading. The summer goddess's eyes became teary, a trembling hand raising to cover her mouth.
Oh no! oh I didn't know! I'm so sorry! I'll leave, I promise! Make camp, and when you wake up in th emornig, all will be as it was, I swear!
Llew and Zoe gushed with gratitude, backing up slowly. As much as they wanted to be polite and chat, the heat radiating off this goddess was causing blisters to form on their skin. Their throats were dry, voices becoming raspy. Llew explained that they had to get into the cold, pointing out how quickly they were deteriorating. As they retreated, Zoe bent and brushed her fingers over the floor of flowers.
I hate the heat, but I must say, I wish we could keep some flowers .
Llew put an arm around Zoe's shoulders,
I know, babe.
Aine smirked as she watched the couple retreat.
The Next Morning
Glinting in the sun, a splash of color against a backdrop of freshly fallen snow, was a vase of ice holding flowers, frozen and perfectly preserved.