For now, she knew there would be no censure in allowing the boy to remain at her side. A unicorn was a precious being, worthy of adoration and protection. No one would fault her if she should offer him both of these things. But she was afraid of the temptation to offer more.
His gold hair caught the sun and her attention. Elisa smoothed down the boy’s cowlick. She allowed herself this one tender gesture before she lifted him up and cradled him in her arms.
The fairies suddenly blinked into sight, watching as the boy opened his eyes to see who had disturbed his sleep. They watched as he lazily blinked and looked their queen’s way.
When he realized it was she who was the culprit, he made a burbling noise and kicked his legs like a frog.
She grasped his feet and he giggled. “Ewisa, Ewisa!” he cheered.
His inability to pronounce her name endeared him to her. Elisa offered him a rare smile–fueled by Conn’s happiness at finding himself at her side.
Out of the corner of her eye, she observed Azul conversing with the fairies. She would enjoy her time with the child before the prince asserted his rights and retrieved the boy.
Azul had waited already for an hour for the boy to stop clinging to her skirts everywhere she stepped within the garden. But the boy would not stop crying at the idea of being separated from her. Finally the elf tipped his hat and deferred to her expertise in placating the boy’s tantrum.
It gave her great joy to do so. She gladly shared all the things she loved most about the garden. They picked flowers and played with the fairies. They ate the fruit off trees and bushes. She chased him all about the meadow until he was tired enough and nodded off in the grass.
Elisa looked at the chains of flowers they had woven and left in a pile on a rock. With one hand she picked up a fresh garland and placed it atop his head. She toyed with its placement for a moment before turning her attention to the sound of his breathing.
She leaned over the boy, listening to his snores gently synch with the waves lapping upon the near shore. And she breathed in the scent of milk that clung to his hair.
And the smell made her tremble.
A cold chill ran down her back and once again she was afraid. She once had a child who she adored and protected. Loved.
To love this one like her own would be dangerous.
To love meant to cherish. And to cherish meant to lose.
All these years she had silently suffered. She had never been able to hold all she loved close. She thought of them — her father who was indifferent to her well-being and let her foster alone in a forest; her stepmother who had hated her; her husband who had abandoned her, and her child who was stolen from her.
And those she loved most and who had shown her the only real love she had known … were lost to her.
Elisa was no longer the merry princess of the past. Loss had altered her, hardened her. But if the elves thought her stubborn or cold as of late, it was a change that had come out of necessity. Unlike the other near immortal Kings and Queens of the world, she could not see death as a simple part of the fabric of time. Each death and loss hurt her deeply. If she could not wall up some part of her heart, she would succumb to despair and darkness.
She could not afford such an outcome. She must live– because it had been her brothers’ wish that she do so.
She stroked Conn’s golden hair, reminding herself that all things were temporary. As long as Conn believed there were other unicorns like him, he would keep seeking them out. And someday he would leave.
Unless, of course, there truly was none other like him.
It was a terrible thought – that this poor young child might be alone.
She was not all that different from him. With each passing day, she felt it increasingly difficult to deny the possibility that her brothers’ silence meant they had died.
A small voice in her mind warned her that her own hope for a happy ending was rapidly thinning.
Elisa felt drops of water fall upon her hands. She was startled by her tears, wondering how they had escaped from her eyes.
But a shadow fell across the grass and she could not wipe them away. Instead, the queen straightened her back. And with as much stoicism as she could muster, she glanced up at the underside of a parasol.
A solemn elven prince held the brilliant blue object over her head as a gentle rain began to fall. The handsome elf laughed apologetically. “I am a little late.”
Elisa knew he had seen her tears. But he was kind enough to spare her pride and, instead, offer her an easy excuse for the wetness on her face.
“Thank you,” she said softly. “I suppose it is raining. It is time to go inside and put Conn to bed.”
And with that, he quickly lifted her to her feet.
While the parasol magically floated overhead, Azul took the sleeping child from her. And when he had safely balanced Conn with one arm against his shoulder, his other arm came to rest against her back.
“You do not look well,” is how he excused such an act. “Peaked, actually.”
Such a statement was unusual from her former guard. Elisa did not disagree. She was feeling out of sorts and tired. “Have you been watching us all afternoon?” she asked, sounding far more sulky than she meant to.
“Not all afternoon,” he said lightly. “Just while I waited for the fairies to collect a few things on your behalf.”
She tilted her head and looked at him from the corner of her eye. He was smiling to himself in that almost smug fashion that meant he harbored some secret. “My behalf?” She repeated, asking him to explain himself.
“I took the liberty of inspecting your loom,” he said as he guided her to a chair on the porch. Only when he assured himself that she was safely seated, did he place the child in a newly crafted rocking bed that had materialized earlier that day.
Elisa stared as he began to walk around the porch.
If he sensed her annoyance with his nosiness, he did not acknowledge it. “You are almost done with the sleeve to your brother’s shirt, are you not?”
“I,” she started to argue but changed her mind. “I have not worked on it as of late. I do not have the nettles.”
He paused at the back of her chair and placed his hands on them. “I thought so.”
Elisa glanced down at her hands. She was uneasy with how close he lingered.
“I know,” he continued to talk to himself. “They did as well. The fairies were more than happy to oblige. They have been gathering quite a few on your behalf. Baskets and baskets of nettles,” he said lightly.
She was startled when they appeared before her. “But how? Finding enough to weave!”
Azul scratched at his ear and laughed. “I don’t quite understand either. They were very unclear as to where it was obtained but have promised more. A few more days is what they said.”
“Why did you ask this of them?!” She suddenly cried out. “It is not your duty.”
“Is it not, my queen?” he asked.
Emo elisa is really difficult for me to handle. It’s more an issue of feeling bad for her more than anything…