As they ducked into the trees behind the faery, Averill noticed there was nothing else around. The area in front of the trees had no stall set up and for a few feet there were no peerless sitting on the empty grass or loitering about. He gave Tiranna a puzzled look and she smiled and shrugged.
A few feet into the trees Averill laid a hand on a tree and stared at it in confusion. “Is this…frost?”
“Possibly. Remember the don’t stare rule.” Tiranna replied and continued after the faery.
When the trees opened up into a space the size of a small auditorium, they walked into a winter wonderland. All the trees, except for where they stepped through, were covered in snow and ice. The snow on the ground wasn’t deep, no more than an inch or two, but it piled in decent sized mounds along the edges of the space. At the far end of the space was a dais that looked to be made out of the snow, and a throne made out of frosted ice. And there was someone sitting on the throne with a man standing next to her.
She reclined lazily with a wine flute hanging almost absently from her fingers. Her dress with its halter front and deep sleeves, blended in with the snow on the ground, and it was impossible to tell if she was a separate entity from it or not. Her hair was an embodiment of the night sky–the flurries that dappled through it the stars of the great tapestry.
As they drew closer, Averill could see her eyes were the color of snow clouds and her skin translucently white. She wore a crown of something silvery–a leafy vine of some kind–with icicles dripping from it and seven stones along the front. The air grew colder around her and Averill understood, without being told, that this faery woman had made the wintery landscape around them.
The man next to her looked just as imposing in his all white clothes, but they shimmered as if coated in frost. His hair was the complete opposite of the seated queen yet he shared her eye color. They made an interesting couple.
The queen’s lips–a hypothermia blue color–curved in mirth? Because that didn’t look like welcome to Averill. It was too…sarcastic looking.
He and Tiranna must look out of place he realized. Their russets and autumn colors would stand out like blood on the snow. Flames in a place of no color. Except there was color, it was just so washed and faded, it blended well.
Tiranna curtsied low and Averill smoothly bowed. He watched Tiranna out of the corner of his eye and since she didn’t rise neither did he.
“We welcome you to Winter’s Compass.” The man’s voice was quiet and cool and articulated every letter clearly. “Please, rise. I am Jacques, and this is Queen NeveNia.”
Tiranna stood and Averill righted.
The Queen’s eyes passed over them both for a moment before she spoke. “I do not idly call you out, Daughter of the Elves. And will offer some compensation for interrupting your time at the Market.”
“It is always a great pleasure to be in your presence. How may I be of service to Her Majesty?” Tiranna asked formally.
The Queen looked away for a moment her eyes distant and sad before looking back. “There is a problem. A problem I seek to remedy but cannot. At least, I cannot do this thing myself as I do not know its source.”
Tiranna spread her hands patiently. “Speak your mind so I may share your burden.”
The Queen looked away again and at something that probably didn’t exist in the tiny space. “There are faery disappearing.”