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CH 5 | The Monster (Part 2)

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  1. The Forest Gods of the Winter Court were silent, the Holly King sitting upon the throne in the Heart of the Forest - silent as the rest of them. The Great Forest was muted, far quieter than it was during the time of the Summer Court. Snow drifted down from the sky, not even a breeze to stray them from their course - only the shuffling of those gathered moved the snow, and their whispers the only sound. Darrah preferred this, even though he was certain that most of the silence was because of grave aura from Geamhradh.

    He had told his old friend about the monster and the danger Asha had been put in, but glancing at the gathered Forest Gods he was sure that news had spread. All had eyes and ears in the forest, and he was sure that they at least knew about the monster. The Crow Lord stood next to the throne, his mismatched gaze looking for only one god. He had not spotted Wyl when Geamhradh finally addressed the Court.

    "What news of the North?"

    "Winter has set deep in the North, ready to wait until spring returns." responded one of the water gods, and the Holly King nodded before then asking, "What news of the South?"

    "Winter has set as well," confirmed an old tree god in his creaky tone, "Though not as deep as in the North."

    Geamhradh nodded. "What news of the East?"

    "Hearths are warm and no one is to go hungry," answered another lord and the Holly King again nodded.

    "And what news of the West?"

    "Death has come," Darrah spoke, this time not to be interrupted, "Already the villages of the West are burying their dead. Only in spring will relief come to those still living."

    Geamhradh nodded, then looked upon the gathered Forest Gods again and spoke solemnly, "There is a matter we must discuss today involving the monster that was recently destroyed. Today, punishment must be dealt to the one who led the young woman to that monster with the greatest of ill intent." He then lightly gestured out to them, but his light-green gaze was focused on one god, and following at gaze he too saw the Fox God. "Come and stand before your king, Wyl."

    Wyl held his head high, daring to look down on all the Forest Gods. He was glaring at Darrah though, not even sparing a glance at the Holly King. Darrah's gaze was steady, and the staredown was not broken even when Geamhradh said sternly, "Have you nothing to say, Wyl?"

    The Fox God finally glanced at the Holly King and an unapologetic smirk slid onto his face as he replied, "Not my fault that the pretty mortal girl is so easily distracted." He then leveled the look at the Crow Lord. "She should be more careful."

    "Enough, Fox God," Geamhradh thundered, "You have purposefully led a mortal to the darkest part of the Great Forest and straight to a monster - knowing she wouldn't survive the encounter. You are lucky that the Crow Lord was able to stop it from even harming her."

    "And why wouldn't he?" Wyl shot back, "He's infatuated with her, a mortal no less. Did he really think that we wouldn't notice?"

    "There are no laws against it."

    The smirk faded.

    "What?"

    "There are no laws that prevent us from interacting with mortals," Geamhradh repeated, his tone measured, "Only ones that ensure our survival and make sure they, in turn, are not harmed by our greater powers. You have broken those laws, Wyl, having led that young woman directly into danger she could not have escaped from were it not for Darrah's intervention."

    Wyl was silent, his mouth gaping as the Holly King continued unwaveringly. Darrah looked at him passively, knowing what was to come.

    "Fox God Wyl, you have betrayed the Great Forest. As the King of Winter, your crime has fallen to me for judgment. It is unforgivable for a Forest God to endanger the life of a mortal, and so you shall be stripped of your title-"

    Wyl gasped, doubling over and clutching his chest as though in great pain.

    "-stripped of your power-"

    The Fox God fell to his knees, unable to move and was surely in agony.

    "-and from today until your end you shall be as any other fox in the Great Forest, living and dying as any mortal."

    Thick branches of holly erupted from the ground and covered Wyl and he vanished from sight. It was only moments, however, until those branches retreated and revealed an ordinary fox. It stood still for a moment, but as Darrah looked into its eyes he did not see the light of a Forest God nor the age and intelligence of one. Geamhradh had done more than take away the Fox God's title, power, and immortality - the memories too were taken. The fox darted away, vanishing into the brush. Darrah looked to his old friend and gave him a single nod in thanks.

    The Holly King, however, had both a concerned and suspicious expression on his face and certainly looked to want to speak with Darrah further. But the Crow Lord had looked away and vanished in a gust and swirl of black feathers. Back to his tower, Geamhradh supposed, though he believed that was not where he should be.

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