24 October, 2017 by katelaity
‘Do you not think it oddly cold?’ I said to Tansy, who was peering into the darkness ahead of us. ‘Do you see something?’
‘Had you not better stay quiet so the king’s men don’t hear us?’ Chambers asked somewhat waspishly for he looked a good deal frightened by our sudden flight from the garden. I bridled a little at his tone but quickly forgave him. He had every right to feel discombobulated.
I certainly did. I also felt very cold. There could be no doubt about it. ‘Have we wandered into winter?’ I could not help from whispering to the lady Judith.
She gave me a strange look, as if she had been somehow dazed by our flight, too. ‘I cannot believe the king has awakened. The prophecy has come true.’
‘Prophecy?’ Chambers said in a quiet voice. But his spirits had risen at the mention. This was his favourite territory after all. ‘Whose prophecies? The Rhymer?’
I should have been glad to hear no more about Thomas the Rhymer at that juncture for his over-eager descriptions of the faerie lands had got us into this predicament and he was not too much in my favour therefore.
But the lady shook her head. ‘The prophecies of the one known as Dodgy’s son. He said we were all living in the Red King’s dream and when he awoke we would all be snuffed out like a candle’s flame.’
‘That is patently false,’ I argued, warming to my topic if nothing else for it had become ever cooler as we made our way between the frosty branches of the black wood. ‘I have not been snuffed out. Nor have you.’
This did not comfort the lovely lady. She ducked beneath a rather low-hanging branch and then glanced nervously behind us. ‘Perhaps it was never meant to be in an instant. The unmaking of our world must take some time after all, just as making it did.’
‘Prophecies are always woefully imprecise, despite their evocations of truth.’ Chambers frowned, probably concentrating on the long history of prophecies that he knew. I could hardly imagine that they were any more edifying than the folk tales he also showed such interest in collecting. There was a great example of absurdity. I meant to say as much to Tansy but when I turned, I found him staring with evident concentration at one of the many trees around us.
I moved my mount over to where he had stopped. It was the lack of movement more than anything that concerned me. The king’s riders were doubtless still in pursuit and we ought to ride on. ‘Is there something that worries you?’ I asked my friend.
‘Do you recognise this tree?’ Tansy asked rather oddly, for he knew my lack of agricultural expertise.
‘No, of course not. Shouldn’t we be hastening on?’
‘Do you not see this side of the tree?’ He pointed to the rather whitish bark on the back.
‘Yes, it is whiter. Probably bleached by the sun. Perhaps it is a very old tree.’
‘I do not think so,’ Tansy said with a strange tone. He gave me a sharp look. ‘The white is not sun-bleaching but frost.’
‘Frost! At this time of…year?’ And was it not afternoon? No wonder the chill.
‘This is new frost.’ Tansy wiped some of it away with a finger.
I did not see how he could know such a thing. ‘How do you know?’
Tansy pointed to where he had just wiped the whiteness away and I saw how the frost sprang back even thicker than before.
‘Perhaps we should go the other way?’ I did not like the look of things at all and suddenly shivered violently.