The seven year old girl glanced sheepishly up at the Queen as the elegant woman spoke. She didn't really know what Queen Photine was talking about, only that she looked like a Saintess on earth—as if everyone leaned forward when she drew breath. Everyone was focused on her and told the girl to shut up when she spoke or to stop squirming when she moved even an inch. The Queen had to be a Saintess; adults did the same thing to the girl when she was at Chapel. It was annoying and boring.
The girl toed at the ground, writing letters into the soft dirt beneath her feet as the Queen's voice rose to a crescendo only to be drowned out by the roaring of the people around her. The noise was deafening; the girl had to cover her ears with her hands just to hear herself think. She had been daydreaming about being able to hold her breath forever so she could touch the bottom of Lake Norli; the girl wanted to go back to that infinitely more interesting dream.
With all the cheering, the girl glanced up at Queen Photine; she wasn't particularly pretty. Which was strange because in all the stories her Papa had told her queens were supposed to be beyond beautiful. This queen had plain brown hair that fell to her waist and paired nicely with her moon-colored skin. Her eyes were nothing special, a typical brown. A thin scar ran across her cheekbone, though the girl didn't know how the Queen had gotten it.
The wings that spread from the Queen's back were the same color as the ashes in the girl's fireplace, but the feathers' tips were golden. Papa had told her that the royals had their wingtips dipped into liquid gold to remind them that as the gold weighed them down, so did the crown. Or some boring adult thing like that. The girl liked to think that the Queen had touched the sun, or that the elves of the Old Religion had painted the gold there.
The golden-tipped Queen stopped speaking, just a brief pause. But, for a moment she seemed to look directly at the girl. She was not beautiful, or even pretty, but still eyes were drawn to her. The girl didn't think it was because she was a queen either. Her brows furrowed in concentration as the girl tried to figure out what it was, but a kitten rubbed up against her and all thoughts of the Queen's allure disappeared. Queen Photine looked at her a second more and smiled, that thin scar moving upwards slightly with the motion.
The girl started to smile back just as the ground rocked beneath her. A moment later, she was face down in the dirt screaming for her Papa as people ran and flew around in a frenzy. There was so much movement, too much; all the girl could do was curl up into a ball as people ran over her small body, their feet pounding bruises into the girl's skin.
A minute or perhaps an hour passed, the girl couldn't say, before strong hands lifted her up. The air whipped against the girl: they were flying. She snuggled into her rescuer's chest, expecting it to be hard and flat. Instead, she found it to be soft and marked by breasts.
The girl whimpered.
"It's going to be alright." Said her rescuer as a hand stroked the girl's hair, smoothing it over again and again. The girl pushed in closer to her rescuer's chest.
That's when she heard the hitch of breath, felt the warmth and the wetness. The girl felt the wetness seep into her jacket, soaking her completely. The sticky warmth stuck to the girl's skin, coloring it's normal ivory color red.
Her rescuer began to wheeze. "Fly," She said with a gentle yet strong and familiar voice. "Fly and be free, be fast, little dove."
And then the girl was slipping, falling into free air until her wings spread and caught an updraft. She fumbled until she found a small perch in the canopy of a particularly bushy tree.
When the girl finally had the courage to open her eyes, she saw golden-tipped wings failing to flap, dragging an almost limp body to the ground at shocking speed. The girl wanted to reach out and grab her rescuer but she could not move.
So, she sat in her perch as those gold-tipped wings stopped beating and watched as the body attached to those elven-painted wings fell to the ground.
They never moved again.
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