The White Cloak
Some might say that it was a beautiful day on Sasha’s birthday. The sky was the same deep blue as her azure eyes, with a few fluffy lamb-like clouds lazily drifting along. The apple trees were in full bloom in an explosion of delicate white flowers. Beneath them, gently waving grass hosted constellations of daisy, daffodil, violet, and clover blossoms. An agreeably refreshing breeze wafted through her hair, occasionally tugging loose a wispy blond lock glowing in the sun.
Her family and friends were having a picnic in celebration. They’d laid out a large plaid blanket amidst the flowers, and upon it they’d laid all sundry of goodies. There were all manners of meats and cheese and breads from which to make delicious sandwiches, and next to those lie pies and cakes and cookies. Also present were many good things to drink and wash down the banquet before them.
So many good things, in fact, that Sasha felt the need for a short repose after partaking of the bounty. So while her family and friends went about playing various picnic-y games, she lay down upon the blankets and closed her eyes to drift off into gentle dreams of cotton candy castles in the sky. In all, it was a pleasant nap, and she awoke from it quite refreshed, prepared to flounce out into the meadow to join her family. At least she was until she took in her surroundings.
Everything was quite wrong.
When she’d first fallen asleep, the air had been full of the sweet melodies of her loved ones happy shouts and laughter accompanied by the harmonious chorus of trilling and chirping birds. But now…
Now everything was silent with the sole exception of the soft susurrus of the wind that had provided the backdrop for the symphony to which she had fallen into slumber. Only mildly startled, she slowly opened her eyes as she propped herself up with her elbows behind her. Looking around, she saw no one immediately, and so began to call for them one at a time.
“Max?” More silence.
“Mom? Dad?” Yet more silence.
Presently she began to become a little concerned. But, she tried to push that aside, as Sasha was a trusting soul. Surely her family was just playing a game with her – perhaps one of hide and seek. Yes, that was it. Her friends and loved ones were merely out amongst the trees and bushes of the woods, hiding as best they could whilst stifling giggles lest she hear them. Excited at this prospect, Sasha clambered to her feet, wiping sleep from her eyes as she did.
In front of her, she shortly spied a soft white bundle enwrapped in a lovely blue bow, a tag attached thereto with her name in a flowing Florentine script, “Sasha, with love, Mom.” She clapped her hands and stooped to retrieve the velvety bundle. Quickly slipping the bow off, she unfurled it to be a fluffy cloak as white as fresh-fallen snow. Grinning wildly, she wrapped it about herself and twirled about once, twice, thrice. Then, determined to set to her family’s game of hide and seek, she paused.
“Now where might you all be?” She said with a wry smile on her face and hands on her hips, scanning the tree-line about the meadow. She did so for some minutes before making her decision, then with a nod she started to spryly skip towards a small stand of white-blossomed apple trees just the other side of the clearing. As she approached, the little copse seemed to expand welcomingly, and a soft beam of sunlight shone down upon its center, casting an amber light not far different from the glowing golden nimbus of her hair. She clapped her hands with glee at the beautiful site and traipsed into the midst of the apple trees, finding from there a path winding off into the wood that she had not known to be there before. White blossoms veritably exploded down the sides of the trail, enclosing it in an idyllic palisade.
“What a glorious avenue! Surely someone must have hidden down this way. I shall explore it!” Sasha said to herself as she slowed to a stroll, but nonetheless continued towards the floral tunnel before her. Occasionally, she skipped and twirled and tra-la-la’d with glee as she made her way down the pastoral promenade, relishing in the soft filtered caress of the sun. Oddly, the continued silence of the wood failed to phase her in any way – she was completely consumed with the wonder of exploration.
Her excursion had continued for some time before the trees once more gave way to another clearing, the floor of this one completely filled waist-high with deep-blue sea of lupines. Wading into the waving stalks of the tall flowers, she made quite the contrast with her pure white cloak veritably glowing in the sunlight. But before she had gone even three paces into the clearing, she heard a faint sobbing from near its center. She made her way to the sad noise posthaste, thinking console whoever it may be.
No sooner did she gain sight of the tearful individual than she stopped dead in her tracks, taken quite aback by what she saw. For sitting amongst the fluttering indigo fronds was a creature the likes of which she’d never seen. Now, at first glance, he appeared quite human, with flowing russet hair, and a royal satiny garb of the same deep blue as the blooms surrounding him. But continued inspection revealed some quite startling characteristics possessed by no one Sasha knew. For he bore the pointed, black-tipped ears of a fox, and a bushy russet tail with a white tip wrapped about him. Hearing her approach as she brushed against the flora, he turned his tear-filled eyes towards her, and she saw the slit pupils amidst rust-colored irises. Just like a fox.
The crystal tears staining his cheeks broke her moment of astonishment, and she felt her heart fill with sympathy for the poor fox-man. Hastening across the clear, she kneeled beside him and placed her hand gently upon his shoulder.
“Oh, don’t cry! What is the matter, kind sir?” Sasha spoke softly, trying to sound as empathetic as she could.
Sniffling, his eyes opened wide in recognition and astonishment as he replied, “You! It’s you! You’re finally here! I just KNEW you would come!”
Startled, she fell back onto her heels, mouth agape. After a moment’s pause, she began, “What… what do you mean, ‘finally here?’”
“I’ve been waiting for you a long time…” he trailed off, staring into her eyes with wide, doe-like eyes.
This made her apprehensive, yet she found him strangely compelling, and almost to her surprise, she was completely unafraid of him. He shivered, and she felt sorry for him. Taking off her new cloak, she wrapped it about his shoulders.
“Just… just how long have you been here, Mr. Fox?”
“Please, call me Ellwyn.” He wiped drying tears from his eyes, then continued, “I’m really not entirely certain anymore. I’ve been coming here every day for many moons. And at night, I go home, only to be ridiculed for clinging so foolishly to my belief that you would come here one day, and fall in love with me. They think that my kind should not have feelings for you mortals. Your lives are so short and fleeting, the others think you are insignificant. But I know better. Instead of insignificant, you’re magnificent, like those fireworks you so love to shoot off into the night sky.”
The wonder in his eyes and the earnestness in his voice kept her rooted to the spot. She found herself taking a comfortable seat in front of the fox-man, and presently they began engaging in the most wonderful conversation in which Sasha had ever participated. So wonderful, in fact, that she hardly noticed when the sky began to darken, and the woods began to dim. It wasn’t until the chirruping of a cricket broke the spell that she realized they’d be talking quite into the wee hours of the night.
“Oh, my! I have to go!” She exclaimed with a start as she leapt to her feet, “My parents must be most worried about me!”
As she turned about to dash on home, he quickly but gently grasped her wrist, “Do please come back on the morrow, Miss Sasha. I shall be most distraught if you don’t.”
“Don’t worry, I will,” she replied, smiling.
And indeed she did. In fact, she came back day after day, just at noon each day, and they talked for hours and hours on end. Spring became summer and summer sped past with amazing rapidity. Soon the leaves began to fall, and nothing could be more glorious to Sasha’s eyes. Her life was most amazing with Ellwyn in it.
With one exception.
Her family had been wondering where it was she was going all those days. So long as it was summer, and school was not in session, they saw no harm in her disappearing for hours at a time, and let her go about her lark as they saw it. But once the leaves began to turn, and school was coming up nigh, they began to pry and inquire as to where she was going. She would always reply, cheerily, that she was off to see a friend, and this seemed to suffice.
Until her father one day decided to follow her and see just who this friend was. It was quite easy, as she made no effort whatsoever to conceal her trip, it not dawning on her at all that anyone might follow her. Just as she did every day, she gaily skipped down the same avenue, though by now the white blossoms had fallen to the ground and were beginning to be stained by the reddening leaves of the trees. Her song echoed the happiness of her heart throughout the woods, and, while it made her father smile, it also made him wonder all the more just who it was that lightened her heart so.
When she arrived at the meadow, and ran across it into the arms of the awaiting fox-man, her father was most mortified at what he saw – his precious princess running straight into the arms of a beast! What was he to do, he wondered, and off he ran back to their home, to discuss the matter with family and friends, and draw up a plan of action.
But her father wasn’t their only spy that day. Nor was he the only one affronted by Sasha and Ellwyn’s behavior. Just beyond the trees on the other side of the clearing crouched in hiding a motley host of creatures that most assuredly would have chilled her father’s heart had he seen them. Many creatures large and small, furry and scaly, some manlike and some not, all spied upon the merry couple, all with distaste in their thoughts for the romantic union of mortal and fae. They, too, withdrew not long after the pair’s embrace, to hold their own council concerning a course of action for dealing with the clear menace to their society.
The dialogues of the two councils were quite similar, with such exclamations throughout:
“We cannot allow such a thing to continue!”
“We must put a stop to it at once!”
And so each council came to the conclusion that the lover’s affair must end immediately, by any means, even force, if necessary.
And so on two sides, immortal and not, a crowd of angry proportions gathered, and armed themselves with all sharp and blunt things at hand, weapons or not – pitchforks, knives, iron pokers, rods, staves, bats, and poles.
A great clamor filled the woods as the mobs converged upon the meadow occupied by the lovers, and they both looked up with a start once the din became so loud as to penetrate their happy trance. The deep blue lupines had long since ceased to bloom, and the clearing was now white with the fallen petals of the apple trees. The leaves of the trees resembled a ring of fire surrounding the clearing, every bit as much had the councils employed torches in their march. Sasha and Ellwyn clung to each other as they cast fearful glances about them, utterly at a loss for the cause of the great commotion.
Both companies entered the clearing concurrently.
As soon as the mortals saw the faerie crowd, and likewise were seen, they surged forward, raising their implements of destruction, improvised and no, a murderous intent filling their eyes. Sasha and Ellwyn cowered in the center as the parties crashed against each other. The clanking, rapping clash of weapons exploded in their ears as did the cries of anger, pain, and surprise as sharp points found tender flesh.
Chaos ensued. Not one clear head could be found amongst the riotous horde, not for some time, which seemed an eternity to all present. Until, with a cry in concert, both the father and the Queen of the fae spied a most woeful sight.
At the very heart of the battle, lay the lovers, still clutching each other in their arms. And from them, their blood slow spread, staining the white carpet of the clearing red. Around both of them was wrapped Sasha’s white cloak, torn and bloodstained, and through them both ran a stray sword.
The fight forgotten, all left standing dropped their weapons, faced the dead lovers, and wept.