She held out her sword to the small, bound creature who flinched back from the cold steel as if it were made of flame itself. “I ask you a second time, imp, where will they be found?”
“I don’t know!” The wail echoed throughout the wooded glade.
She cocked her head, appraising the small creature for a moment before deciding on her course of action. “You are bound by both the Viridian Circle, and the Vermillion Cross to tell me the truth. I ask you a third and final time. Where will they be found?”
The imp stared at the swaying point of the sword, mesmerized by the danger it presented—not by the honed edge—but by its composition of iron. It turned its gaze on the woman holding the blade. “You will never make it there.”
“You should tarry longer on your own fate, little brother, rather than skipping on to someone else’s.”
The creatures eyes flared with a cold, cerulean gleam. “You are no kin of mine, human!”
“You are mistaken, for I am no more human than you are.” She gestured with her free hand, and her sword arm danced with a titian fire, it burned past her wrist and hand and extinguished itself on her weapon.
“But none of the fairy folk can wield iron!”
“Another mistake, sprite, for I am also not of the fae.” The young woman cherished the confusion in the little creature’s eyes.
“Wh….what are you?”
“Your third mistake. You have forgotten there are gods and powers older than your own.” She raised her weapon and inspected its surface. “And, thus, you are of no further use.” She slapped the flat side of the sword on her prisoner. She accepted the shrill shriek and watched the small cloud of smoke dissipate.
She dropped her sword on the ground—she had no further need of it—and walked onward into the forest, moving toward the second sunrise, frozen on the horizon. On the clocks of men, it was quarter past seven in the morning.
Some point later, those clocks had still not pushed forward, for she walked both between time and apart from it. And at this timeless moment, she arrived at the place she had sought.
Starkly lit by the fireball hanging in the sky, sat three thrones, carved from bone. The shadows crowded close. She circled, examining them for a long moment. She reached out to the center one, feeling the coolness of the cathedra. She turned and sat in it, speaking into the empty air. “I summon you—those who are known as the Alabaster Council!”
She paused, waiting for a response. When she realized none was forthcoming, her eyes narrowed and she called out again. “I remind you of the Ianthine Vow that each of you took when you accepted your crowns! That which dwells at the end of the Primrose Path awaits you!”
Silence was her only answer.
“I will not ask again.” She rose from the throne, and gestured. Three figures appeared, suddenly revealed. “Come closer and reap the rewards of your cowardice.”
The three figures drifted in. When they stopped before her, one kneeled.
“Now you remember your fealty to me?”
The figure nodded. Through narrowed eyes, the young woman examined all three of the creatures, each wearing a crown of deepest obsidian. “Too little. Too late.” With another gesture, she slammed the figures to the ground and the crowns they had worn for so long evaporated. “I now undo what was done so long ago under an amaranthine sky. The fairy folk—all of them, everywhere—will vanish.”
“You can’t!” The creature who had kneeled before her begged. “It is only days past the summer solstice…”
“Silence! The old ways of measuring time are done. You will—in this last moment—use human terms. Because now, this is a human world. It is thirtieth of June, in the year they call nineteen oh eight, and the fae are finished.”
A final gesture and the timeless moment ended. The fireball exploded in the sky, stripping the trees bare, and laying them down. The young woman—who was not a woman—turned and calmly watched the chairs of bone dissolve from the blast. She surveyed the broken forest and she smiled.
Above her, a rainbow bloomed.