Prompt: this is not the deal I made. Written 18 February 2021
Twice a year, nature holds its breath as the courts change power. Summer and Winter meet beneath the ancient weeping willow, and they exchange gifts as their people find common ground in music. The rhythm of Winter sings to the twirl of Summer’s feet, until the moon is high in the sky.
Summer bows politely, and offers Winter a pelt. It is a wolf skin, one that Winter can wear as its own, and run with the pack who hunts while others sleep in their dens. “To keep you warm.” Summer says with a wry smile, and Winter accepts the gift.
Winter returns the bow, but has arrived empty handed. Summer narrows his eyes as a cold breeze passes over them. “Forgive me, old friend.” Winter says, peering through the vines at something Summer cannot see. “My gift appears to be late.”
“You know the rules.” Summer prods.
“I do.” Winter replies, unconcerned. “Here they come.”
As they watch, a procession passes beneath the vines of the tree, a dozen ice-pale guards surrounding a single veiled figure. Her gown is the green of new sprouts fresh from the first snowmelt. The guards stop and kneel before the rulers, and the veiled woman approaches. She bobs a curtsy to Winter, then turns to Summer and bows low before him.
“Rise.” he tells her, glancing at Winter with suspicion. “Let me see you.” She does not move as Summer lifts her veil. She does not flinch when he recoils. He whirls on Winter, shock apparent on his face. “This was not the deal.” he accuses.
“Is she not to you liking?” his voice is a light snowfall, gentle and unconcerned.
“We agreed on the terms centuries ago.” Summer warns.
“She gives herself willingly.” Winter explains. “She offers her being as a vessel.”
“She is human.”
Winter laughed. “Hardly. She was raised by the forest. Her magic is one wielded by no other, equal to no other. Her humanity is in name alone. I believe my gift to be quite generous. I could have kept her.”
“You could not.” Summer argues. “She belongs to the wind that travels all seasons, the sun that lights all skies. She is no more gift than she is a vessel.” Summer looks at Winter with a hint of fear in his eyes. “You will bring disaster upon us both.”
Winter’s smile did not falter. “Perhaps. And perhaps I desire a change from this dull tradition.”
Summer stops in his tracks. Winter was bored. Of course he was. A meeting such as this was no match to the chaotic clash of power that they used to create. The laws exist to protect. They both knew this. But it bound them both, and now that Winter had addressed their restraints, Summer found himself chafing against them.
“I see.” Summer said, returning Winter’s smile. “She is a vision of beauty.”
Winter held out his hand. “Shall we, brother?”