Early Autumn, Year 763 Of the New Age
Blackwood, in the forest near Uir's Meadow
The day had begun with all the promise of pleasantry. Rays of sun had pierced the late-summer overcast, and the air was moist and cool. The scent of autumn rainfall hung in the atmosphere, and those who thought the summer heat abhorrent finally had something to look forward to. All the while, the ancient pines of Blackwood embraced the changing conditions with nill physical effect. They took on each new season with resilience and resolute conduct, as did the creatures that made a home in their shade.
Masozi passed beneath their spiny limbs with cool relaxation. She was thrilled that summer was nearly over, but the rut had not yet begun. It seemed stags were all but useless for six months out of the year. In the spring, they turned into leeches, sucking up to every request of the doe that honored them by bearing their children. In the fall, they were fumbling nuisances who fought for the attention of females that deserved better. The whole cycle was disgusting to the smokey black fae.
As Masozi ducked beneath the branches of a young fir, she emerged into a small clearing. A hollowed log rested at its center, with moss clinging to its back, and fuzzy, spruce saplings surrounding its base. Sunlight trickled into the little dell, illuminating the greenery.
Masozi nibbled on some wild forest lettuce that grew among the pine needles and fallen leaves. She grazed for a while, before she found herself eyeing some polypore mushrooms that were growing off the side of the log. Her amber gaze drifted across them, as she tried to figure out if they were edible. Unfortunately, she didn’t get the chance to look to long, as something distracted her from her ponderings. On the highest point of the log, a sprout had appeared that Masozi hadn’t noticed before. She tried to categorize it from what she could see. It had tiny thorns lining its stem. The fae racked her brain. After a summer of practicing, she should be fairly fluent in herbalism, right? Yet, for some reason, this one was a mystery to her. Instead of giving up and walking away, like she would normally do, Masozi felt as though the plant almost seemed to be encouraging her to keep her eyes locked on it.
Then, suddenly, it moved! There wasn’t a hint of a breeze in the glade. ‘What on earth?!’ Masozi thought, deeply confused. Still, she kept her vision fixated on the plant. It started shifting, bending left and right, until the femme realized with a gasp that it was growing! How was this possible? She backed away, but still the little shoot continued, until five distinct sepals and a bulb burst forth. The round, green sphere bloated, until velvet petals fanned out in a spiral around the origin, forming the largest, most obscure-looking rose Masozi had ever laid eyes on!
The doe shuddered in horror, noticing the unusual color seemingly soak up all the light in the forest. It was pure obsidian in shade.
Masozi’s whole body was trembling, as she thought hard for a moment. Had . . . she done that? The magic she had been suppressing all these years must have leaked out, and conjured up this hideous bloom.
Upon realizing this, something else caught her attention, and her gaze shot up. In the shadows of the dell, something tall and graceful swerved toward the adolescent. The scent of wolf accompanied whatever it was, but Masozi was certain this creature couldn’t be a canid. No, it was distinctly limber; it’s neck long and arched and it’s movement elegant. It was a fawnling! But . . . why did it smell so strange? Had it just been in a fight?
An eerie fog had begun to roll in, encircling the fae in a milky, grey cloud. A voice came from the trees, nearly as a whisper. It cooed her name.
Masozi then forgot her training. The feeling this mist evoked was far more profound than anything she’d experienced with a Blackwood witch before. Never had she made a sound so filled with terror, but with a bloodcurdling shriek, she fled the clearing, leaving the rose shimmering in all its inky, black glory at its center.
After the doe departed, two black eyes remained locked on where Masozi had fled, and to the forest, the voice of the night said softly, “She’s not ready.”
Soon following, the cloud that hung over the clearing vanished, and the rose withered into the moss.