By S.Cu’Anam Policar
The warm summer breeze caused light ripples in the lake’s otherwise still waters. The surrounding forest was quiet and tranquil that night. All the forest’s creature lay sleeping and dreaming of things only they could know.
Well, almost all. In the hollow of a tree Lylac was wide awake. The miniscule sounds of slumber, unheard by a larger being’s ear, invaded her mind and made her restless. With a sigh, Lylac stood up and spread her transparent, purple hued, wings and fluttered out of the tree.
She zigged and zagged with graceful abandon, her pointed ears focused, listening for an owl or other nightly animal of prey as she zipped to the water’s edge.
Planting herself on a water lily, she drew her legs up to her chest, crossed her arms over them, then rested her chin upon her knees. She felt the feather light brushing of her white strands being pulled behind her ear, yet did not move. There was only one person who would think he was sneaking up on her.
“Hello Poppy.” She said softly, her voice holding a slight sorrowful note to it.
A boy with wings like a monarch butterfly, and orange hair that hung to his shoulders in gentle waves, moved to sit beside her.
“It’s late Ly, why are you still awake?” He asked with concern.
Lylac shrugged disheartened. “Summer will be over soon. The frost nymphs always ruin everything we create, and they make it so cold! I wish they wouldn’t come anymore. So it could be summer forever.”
Poppy chuckled and fell backwards coming to rest on the bloom of the water lilly. “We always make it better when the Oak King rises again. “
“That isn’t the point! Why does the Holly King have to come with his nymphs of death and kill everything we breathe life into?!” Lylac almost growled. Her cheeks taking on a deep red color in her ire.
Poppy blinked and ceased his laughter. Somehow he figured that Lylac was not joking around. “That’s how it’s always been. Every year they war each other for control. The Holly King will be here in a month and a half and put an end to what we do so his nymphs can do what they do.”
Lylac nestled into Poppy, she loved how she fit perfectly into his form. “It shouldn’t be that way Poppy. We should fight back! We should make the Holly King go back to where ever he goes when Spring arrives once and for all. Then it could be summer forever.”
Poppy pursed his lips. This idea of Lylac’s was trouble and he knew it, but how could he go against her? “How do you plan to do this?”
A smile crossed Lylac’s lips. She knew she could count on Poppy. She whispered her plan into Poppy’s ear. Poppy’s eyes grew larger and larger as he listened. This plan was definitely not as brilliant as Lylac thought it was.
Almost on cue, as soon as August rolled around, the nights began to grow colder. Lylac and Poppy had been telling the other fairies their master plan.
“The Oak King has been readying himself for battle Lylac .” A chubby fairy said with an unusually deep voice.
Lylac nodded sharply and she and Poppy fluttered out of their tree home. As they flitted about they whispered to the animals. They rallied the otters, the beavers, the frogs, the bees, and even the skunks to their cause.
Around the middle of August, the Oak King, his antlers freshly sharpened, his wolf hide loincloth as pristine as it had been when it adorned the body of the wolf, a bow strapped to his back with a leather quiver, a spear in his hand, made his first thunderous steps through the forest.
Lylac and Poppy saw him walk through their home and raised their small stick staves before flitting out of the tree to fall in line behind the god. The other fairies followed suit and soon The Oak King had an army of fairy and animal followers.
They walked for days with no stops to rest before they came to a large empty expanse of grassland. It was almost as it Gaia herself had drawn the battle line as exactly half the plain was green and lush, the other half was brown and dead with touches of frost on the tips of each blade of withered grass.
The Holly King stood at the line that separated summer and winter, his the sun glinting off his silver antlers. His red and white furred robe made of fox fur was cinched at the waist leaving his chest bare. Lylac could not help noticing how similar the Holly King and the Oak King looked despite their small differences.
As the Holly King and the Oak King began to take their traditional steps toward each other, the fairies fanned out to either side of the Oak King. Much to Lylac’s miscalculations, she noted the frost nymphs fanning out to either side of the Holly King. They had apparently had the same thoughts as she had.
A female frost nymph darted over the line and came straight for Lylac. Lylac easily dodged. The nymph was the frost nymph leader. “Blight take your people and leave here! Leave now and no blood needs to be shed!”
Blight laughed, it gave off the sound of icicles hitting the ground. “It’s our turn little lightening bug. You’ve had your turn, now play nice and go into your hollows until your turn returns.”
“Never! I won’t see you destroy all the beautiful things we create anylonger!” Lylac hissed as she lunged for the Blight with her spear. The tip of the spear caught Blight’s shoulder causing a small trail of blue to trail from the wound. She grimaced as she pulled the broken piece of wood out and tossed it on the ground.
The ground shook violently causing the animals Lylac and Poppy had collected scattered as The Oak King and Holly King collided beginning their war. The fairies and nymphs were well into their own battle, both sides evenly matched.
Lylac heard a scream to her left. Turning her head she saw Poppy’s wings stop fluttering, then he fell to the ground. Forgetting Blight for the moment, she zipped to Poppy picking him up just was the Oak King’s foot came down where he’d been standing.
Poppy’s extra weight proved too much for Lylac and she had to land a few feet away from the gods’ battle. Landing, she hovered over Poppy’s body. Even as she watched, his body grew paler taking on a frosted coloring.
“No Poppy..No..You can’t leave me!” Her eyes filled with tears which she ignored to let fall upon his face. “Please don’t leave me.”
Poppy lifted his hand weakly and lightly brushed a strand of hair from Lylac’s face. “I can’t stay Lylac. Forgive me for what I’ll do…”
Lylac allowed herself a few minutes to cry before she flittered back to the battle. Her heart no longer in it. She raised her hand signaling a retreat and flew off letting whatever would happen, happen.
Winter passed in a blur for the fairies as it always does. They slept in hibernation while the frost nymphs did their work. Lylac slept through spring and well into summer. The sound of fireworks booming into the skies finally rousing her from her slumber. She rolled over, and lashed her arm out as she’d always done to wake Poppy. A lump formed in her throat as she hit nothing but his empty pallet. “Poppy…” She said softly.
She left the tree hollow feeling as though a thousand pounds had been added to her wings. She hardly noticed the other fairies gasping and moving out of the way when they spotted her. She landed on a lilly pad floating alone in the lake and allowed herself to weep for Poppy. He had been her best friend. She had hoped when they were ready he would be more than that, but that just was not possible not. Lylac had never felt more alone in her life. Not even when the Holly King took her mother and father to his side when she was little, leaving her to lead the fairies. Even then, she had not been completely alone. Then she had had Poppy, now she had no one.
Lylac could not bear to remain in the forest anymore. She let her wings take her where they would and soon found herself in the lair of the Oak King.
It took little time for the Oak King to notice the little fairy’s presence. “What brings you here little one?”
Lylac looked up to the god of nature and ignored the tears that once again flowed freely. “Why does the Holly King take everything we love?”
The Oak King canted his thorn crowned head. “Come here Little One and I will explain.”
As instructed, Lylac and to sit on the Oak King’s massive knee. With sad eyes she looked up to his weathered face.
With one massive finger, the Oak King patted Lylac’s head lovingly. “The Holly King does nothing different than what I do.”
“What do you mean?” Lylac asked more than a little confused.
“Summer and Winter are no different than life and death. It is a circle. When the days grow short and the nights grow long, it is my brother’s time to claim the lands. Just as when a fairy dies, it is time for them to be a frost nymph. It does not last forever Little One. If it were always summer or always winter the world would suffer. The flowers would wilt and die anyway, the animals would work themselves to death, and the celebrations the mortals celebrate would cease to have meaning.” The Oak King kindly explained.
Lylac pondered his words. “If that’s true, then how come you and the Holly King fight at Spring and Autumn? I mean if it’s a natural cycle and all like you said, why don’t either of you gracefully bow out and let the other take other?”
It was a valid question, he smiled his appreciation of it. “You have no brothers or sisters do you Little One?” When Lylac shook her head, the Oak King chuckled. “Then that is why you do not understand. The Holly King is my brother. Gaia is our mother. It has been many, many millennia and I do not remember why, but she felt it would be better if we were not allowed to be near other often. So we only see each other at Spring and Autumn. We have always liked to rough house and so I suppose it is our way of catching up on the time we missed by being apart.”
“You’re just saying hello?!” Lylac asked in near shock. “It’s not a real fight?” As the Oak King’s words became clear to her, she felt another wave of tears threaten. It was her fault Poppy was gone. It was all her fault that she would never feel his warm embrace again, or have him brush the hair from her face again.
The Oak King left Lylac to her thoughts for a bit, but he knew time was growing short. “Come with me Lylac. Perhaps you will understand better.”
Lylac rode on the Oak King’s shoulder as he made his infamous journey to the divider plains. The other fairies watched them pass in awe and soon began to follow out of curiosity. As the Oak King stopped at the divider line, a mere few feet from the Holly King, Lylac was able to clearly see Blight and Poppy adorning the Holly King’s shoulder just as she adorned the Oak King’s.
Blight had spotted her and Lylac could not help the blaze of white anger that coursed through her veins as she not only saw Blight pull Poppy into a kiss, but him respond to it.
“I think I’ve seen all I need to Oak King.” She said softly as she lifted off his shoulder and began to flit away.
She had not gone too far before she felt an icy grip on her arm pulling her to a stop. Her eyes narrowed and she spun in the grasp to face the frost nymph. She found herself face to face with Poppy.
The two stared at each other for a few minutes before he leaned toward her and placed a soft kiss on her lips. He forced his breath down her throat, and she instantly felt the heat leave her body.
Poppy broke their kiss and Lylac’s gaze fell to her hands which lay on his shoulders. She blinked as she noticed their frosted color.
“A gift from Blight.” Poppy said softly as he took her hand.
“Blight? Why would she do this? She hates me!” Lylac asked confused.
Poppy, still holding Lylac’s hand began to guide her back to the two gods. “No Lylac, you hated Blight. But you don’t remember her, I didn’t either at first.”
“What do you mean?” Lylac was thoroughly confused now, though she remained with her hand entwined in Poppy’s. She had missed him so much. Now, with him beside her, she felt a huge weight lifted from her shoulders.
“Blight has never died Ly.. She’s never been anything but a frost nympth.. You and me.. This is our second death.” Poppy stated as he pulled Lylac beneath a leaf within range of the battling gods.
“Death? That would mean that we..” Lylac began as Poppy nodded.
“Frost nymphs. Blight is part of us Lylac and we are part of her.” Poppy glanced to the Oak King and Holly King. The Holly King had begun vigorously driving the Oak King back. “It’s time to go. But first..” Poppy kissed her again. When he broke the kiss a spit a small nut into his hand before tossing it on the ground.
“A poison berry… But why?” Lylac asked still confused by the whole situation.
Poppy pulled her closed and held her tightly. “Because I spent the whole winter missing you.”
Lylac blushed and smiled. “We’ll never be apart again Poppy. Whether it’s winter or summer let’s always be together.”
Poppy smiled and placed a soft, meaningful kiss to Lylac’s lips. As their kiss deepened, summer faded away and winter began to cover the land.