“The trolls said they found her in the ice caves,” Malek said.
The babe of no more than 5 months still had frost on her fingers and nose. She could have been elf or human for all Nyhae could say. The blue skin could be from the hypothermia or her race.
Nyhae looked down at the babe and back at the trolls. The trolls would have normally cooked any other infant into some kind of broth. Why would they help this one?
“I don’t like it,” Nyhae said.
It could easily be a troll babe too. Though, the trolls only had a girl once in a generation.
But she’ll die,” Malek said. His eyes were fixed on the babe’s tiny, soulful eyes.
Nyhae felt like she was the only one thinking properly. Malek was as hardened a warrior elf as she had known. Seeing him completely change for one child disturbed her.
She turned and walked away. If they were going to take the risk, she would have nothing to do with it.
Malek grabbed the baby and sprinted up to Nyhae. “What’s the problem?”
“You. Losing all sense of reason.”
Malek pulled the baby in closer to his chest. His hands stroked her head. “What?”
“What are you doing?!”
“She’s cold. I’m trying to warm her. Honestly, I don’t understand why you are making such a fuss about a tiny little girl.”
“Remember? We’re on the way to the party to kill the forest sprites! We’re killers. Not Baby… Keepers.”
Malek’s nostrils flared, and his ears twitched. “We cannot leave her! …I cannot leave her.”
Nyhae glared at her companion and bellowed her exasperation. She did an about-face and stormed further into the forest.
Nyhae looked back at Malek trudging through the trees. For a brief minute, she could swear that the legs were longer on the child, and the hands that tugged at his hair were bigger. She shook her hear and tried to convince herself it was nothing more than the baby warming up.
Nyhae turned around and continued toward her destination. She ignored the two for the rest of the trek.
The sounds of the party swelled the closer they came. The windpipes and lutes resonated in the forest. The smells of roasting pheasants and pumpkin wafted in the air, and the smoke of a great fire settled into Nyhae’s lungs and eyes. The world was a haze.
She could see the denizens of the party within sight and a tall bonfire centred amongst them. Everyone kept a safe distance from the flames. The day before Winter Solstice Party was in full swing. The nymphs were laughing and twirling around with the humans they had entranced. The gnolls and gnomes swung their beers together and garbled gibberish to each other. Two ogres were surrounded on all sides by forest sprites dancing on their feet and arms and shoulders. They laughed in their guttural tones engaged in some kind of dance contest with them.
Nyhae felt Malek standing beside her. He bent down and seconds later a young girl pranced ahead.
Her head turned towards them both, and she smiled before resuming. Her blue skin changed to purple then pink as she walked closer to the party goers. Her legs and arms grew. By the time she entered the grove, she was the size of a full-bodied adult.
Nyhae watched in disbelief.
“Lhyana,” Malek whispered before he walked closer to the party.
The members of the party stopped what they were doing and gazed upon the beautiful young woman. They all dropped to their knees, but she ignored them all.
Lhyana’s gaze was fixed solely on the bonfire. Malek joined beside her, but she ignored him as well.
She entered the bonfire, and the world exploded in colour and sound. Smoke blinded Nyhae for a time. Screams erupted from all sides, but she remained firmly where she was. She knew what Lhyana was now. The sound of her claws and wings were a give away.
When the smoke died, Nyhae looked upon the corpses of the party members.
Lhyana walked up to her and smiled. “You are the only one that didn’t grovel like the other knaves. If you so choose, you can ride into battle with me. I shall make them all pay for the extinction of my kind.”
The sun dawned in the east. Winter Solstice had begun. All around her, Nyhae saw charcoal and ash. She smiled and nodded, “Gladly.”