3. On Thin Ice

By Ælfstangard

Fantasy / Adventure

Hard Decisions

Ishandra reaches the Newlings’ Chamber and opens the ornate door. She had asked Darcy and Leffi to meet her here. Going inside she finds her sisters waiting.

Darcy is sitting on the bed while Leffi, looking very scared, is standing on the other side of it.

“What do you want, Icy?” says Darcy, standing up. “If you try to beat us again, I will make you regret it.” She holds up her right hand, palm up, in a position of holding something, but nothing seems to be there.

Ishandra holds up her hands. “Peace, sisters, I called for you because we need to decide what we are going to do.”

“D-do about what?” asks Leffi, cautiously taking a step or two closer since Icy does not seem to be about to attack.

“The mission I contracted for is over so we can go back to Magix at any time. The question is: do we want to?” the white-haired Fast Flyer explains.

“You’re giving us a choice?” asks Darcy, genuinely surprised. Her arm drops.

“Yes. This is not something I can decide for you. For the first time since we bonded our reasons for doing so no longer apply and we have reasons to go our separate ways.” She turns away from her sisters and gazes at the floor.

“I’m staying here. I love Milori, and I love the Winter Woods.” She gives a wan smile. “And, while I never thought I would say this, even in my wildest dreams, I love the Faeries here. They are not like the ones in Alfea.”

“That’s very true. All three of us have formed bonds with them, and I don’t want to lose it,” nods Darcy.

“Me either,” Leffi adds.

“So you’re staying?” Ishandra looks up, hopeful.

“Yes,” they answer, in unison.

“Besides, what do we have back there? More time in Light Rock? People who hate us and want us dead? No place to live, no prospects…,” says Darcy, tears forming in the corners of her large black eyes.

“No love, no trust, no family. It’s an easy decision for me,” says Leffi, similar tears forming.

“So I’m not going to lose you…” Ishandra pulls the other two to her and they share a group hug.

“This is new…” says Darcy, enjoying the unfamiliar sensation.

“First time for everything,” Ishandra says, smiling shyly.

“But not the last time, I hope,” adds Leffi.

The Ice Witch steps back. “We’re starting a new life, but, we will always be the Trix.”

“Sisters forever,” agree the other two.

“Next question, then,” says Ishandra, “What do you think about making it permanent, and applying for citizenship?”

“Yes!” Leffi agrees instantly, “That would really make this place our home!”

“That’s a huge step,” says Darcy, “but one I’m willing to take.”

“Then I’ll ask Aisha to present our petition to Queen Clarion, since my deal was with her,” says Ishandra.

A few days later, Princess Aisha meets with Queen Clarion to discuss the Trix' wish to remain in Pixie Hollow and to apply for citizenship. Once Aisha leaves, Clarion sits down then puts her head in her hands. Everything Princess Aisha had told her she had expected to happen but now she is in the inescapable position of having to come to a decision.

“Clarion?” whispers a concerned voice.

Clarion lifts her head to see the familiar sphere with her friend Faragonda’s face looking down kindly at her.

“I haven’t heard from you since I sent the Trix to you. Is everything alright?” asks Faragonda.

“Everything’s fine,” replies Clarion but she is far from convincing.

“Some sort of trouble with the Trix?” frowns Faragonda. “Clarion, I’m your friend. You can tell me. If the Trix have caused you any sort of hardship I’ll…”

“Nothing of the sort, Faragonda,” replies Clarion. “They’ve transformed and have become like model citizens and they also fixed the problems we had in the Winter Woods but just now I’ve received their petition through Princess Aisha to become legal citizens of Pixie Hollow and remain here.”

“I’m glad that Icy was able to remedy the problem with the shafts but this desire of theirs to become citizens of Pixie Hollow is not within my power to condemn or condone,” says Faragonda with mixed emotions. “We need to bring someone else with that authority into this conversation. Stand by.”

The sphere goes blank for a few minutes before another sphere manifests itself beside Faragonda’s sphere and the aura radiating from it is disturbing. Soon after Faragonda’s face reappears and in the new sphere the head of a woman with green-hued skin, wolf’s eyes and wearing a headpiece that somewhat resembles a minaret.

“Clarion,” says Faragonda, “this is Miss Griffin, Headmistress of Cloud Tower College for Witches. It is through her authority that the Trix have been allowed to go to Pixie Hollow.”

“Hello,” says Griffin but in a manner that tells Clarion that the Headmistress wants to dispense with formalities and get down to brass tacks. “What is this about the Trix transforming and wanting to stay in Pixie Hollow? If the three of them have been transformed into toads then I say it is only befitting and I would like nothing better than to be rid of them. But, despite what you might have heard about Witches, I am not one to saddle a decent person with a trio of troublemakers. If they have caused you trouble then I will see them back here and flogged until their flesh falls off their bones.”

“No!” replies Clarion, horrified by the very thought of it. “They have done nothing to merit any such punishment!”

Clarion takes a deep breath and continues. “Their transformations have been nothing short of miraculous. It’s as if the Pixie Dust Tree accepted them as soon as they arrived then transformed them into new beings suitable for blending in with life in Pixie Hollow. Ishandra is now a Winter Woods Fast-Flyer, Levina has become a Storm Talent and Darcy an Unlight Talent. But the shocker is that all three of them now have Faerie wings.”

“Ishandra? Levina?” frowns Faragonda.

“Icy and Stormy’s real names,” explains Griffin shortly. “But it seems that powers beyond the three of us have already made the decision for us. As far as I’m concerned, they can remain in Pixie Hollow with my blessings but if they cause you the least hint of trouble – you let me know and, wings or not, I’ll settle their hash in a hurry.”

“Thank you for your understanding,” says Clarion quietly then there is a long pause.

“Is there something else you want to tell us?” asks Faragonda, sensing Clarion’s distress.

“Milori asked Ishandra to be his wife and co-ruler of the Winter Woods and she has accepted,” then no longer able to hold back her grief Clarion bursts into tears.

“Icy wanting to marry?” asks Griffin, creasing her brows. “She must have gone through some transformation. Last I heard Icy hated all men with a passion. And who is this Milori person?”

“Griffy,” interrupts Faragonda, “you don’t understand her situation.”

Faragonda explains to Griffin Clarion’s relationship with Lord Milori and as she speaks, Griffin’s face takes on a softer and more sympathetic expression.

“Queen Clarion,” Griffin finally says, “this is a mega-harsh but also a no-win situation you are caught up in. If you would accept the counsel of an old Witch then I would suggest you accept the blow on the chin, get over it as quickly as possible then move on.”

“That may be easy for a Witch,” says Faragonda, “but a Faerie needs time to heal after a severe emotional blow such as this.” Then she becomes pensive. “Would you like Princess Aisha to stay in Pixie Hollow and take over some of your duties while you take time to heal?” she asks.

“Yes,” says Clarion. “I would gladly accept her services if she wishes to remain here as Regent. And, if I may, I would like Duchess Flora to stay as well. She’s formed a special relationship with one of my subjects and also with the Pixie Dust Tree. I could really use her services just now.”

“Ah, so she’s told you?” asks Faragonda and Clarion nods, having picked up on her meaning. “Then I can do something better for you. The Winx would be taking their final year of formal instruction this next school year and then a year of field work. I will just switch things around. They may stay and I shall accept their work in Pixie Hollow as their year in the field, then, if you require them for longer, I shall have arranged by then for them to take their final year through correspondence.”

“That’s most generous of you,” smiles Clarion, gratefully.

“Tosh!” replies Faragonda. “The least I can do for you, Clarion. I’ll let the Winx know.”

“I shall be summoning the Trix for an audience to tell them that they have been accepted as new citizens,” Clarion tells them.

“When you do, summon me as well,” says Griffin. “I want to see this transformation for myself and then have a little Witch on Witches discussion with them in private.”

Clarion nods her agreement then Griffin’s sphere vanishes.

“You know how to reach me if you need any help,” says Faragonda then after good-byes her sphere also vanishes.

The next day, Clarion summons the three Witches to her audience chamber along with Minister Snowflake and Minister Hyacinth. The usual greetings are exchanged but then there is an awkward moment as Clarion looks about as if waiting for something to happen. Suddenly a sphere with Miss Griffin’s face in it appears in their midst.

“A few minutes of privacy, please, Your Majesty, Ministers,” says Griffin.

Clarion exits the audience chamber with her two ministers, closes the door but can still hear Griffin’s voice speaking in the same cacophonic language Ishandra had spoken the day she and her sisters arrived. She could not understand a word but felt that it was the old Witch laying down the law in no uncertain terms to the Trix. When the door opens and Clarion and the Ministers re-enter, Clarion sees that Griffin’s sphere has vanished. Ishandra’s face is pale but she stands regally straight and proud as one who refuses to be bent or broken. Her sisters, on the other hand, are behaving like two whipped kittens which disturbs Clarion. “What did Griffin say to them?” she wonders.

Ishandra steps to stand beside Clarion and, folding her arms, fixes Leffi and Darcy with a cold stare. “Well?” she tells them.

Leffi and Darcy are immediately on their knees before Queen Clarion and together in courtly speech recite: “Your Majesty Queen Clarion, we pledge to you on pain of death to recognize you as our queen and our fealty. We swear to obey all the laws of Pixie Hollow and to cause no one harm or mischief either directly or indirectly. We vow to serve you and to protect Pixie Hollow both in peacetime and in wartime.”

“You have made your oaths to Queen Clarion,” Ishandra says while her sisters are still kneeling. “They are as binding on each of you as a Witch to Witch oath sealed in blood. You know what will happen if you even think of getting out of line,” then, if it were possible, the two look even more terrified than before.

“Arise,” Clarion tells them.

The two stand but, suddenly, Leffi is back on her knees before Clarion. “Please, Majesty, don’t banish us from Pixie Hollow,” she sobs. “All there is for us on Alfea are people who hate us and want us dead. I’ll obey. I’ll do anything you want.”

“Leffi!” hisses Ishandra but Clarion takes the terrified girl by her hands and stands her up.

“Leffi, Leffi,” says Clarion softly while using her thumbs to wipe away tears. “Obey our laws and you and your sisters shall have nothing to fear. I, in return, promise you food, shelter, clothing, protection and also a meaningful position within our society. You may live a rich and full life here in Pixie Hollow.” Ishandra leaves Clarion’s side to stand in line with her sisters.

“Ministers,” begins Clarion and Ishandra looks to be bracing herself for the worst, Darcy looks unemotional and Leffi is holding her breath, “I have called you here to formally announce to you that the three Witches known otherwise as the Trix have been granted full citizenship in Pixie Hollow which includes all the rights, privileges and benefits thereof. Then Ishandra is looking as if in shocked relief, Darcy stands still unemotional and Leffi is suppressing a shout of joy.

“Now that you have citizenship,” continues Clarion, “Ishandra, Darcy, Levina, you are no longer considered to be Newlings. I shall ask you to be ready to leave the Newlings’ Chamber to be housed elsewhere in Pixie Hollow. You shall also be receiving official documents testifying to your citizenship.”

The Trix are looking at Clarion and each other not quite knowing what to make of this. “Please continue,” says Ishandra after a moment.

“Ishandra,” says Clarion, “you shall be going to the Winter Woods with Minister Snowflake. Lord Milori has a room in his home which is furnished and ready for you.” She smiles briefly at Ishandra but Ishandra is quick to see the sad and wistful look in her eyes.

“You two,” Clarion continues, nodding towards Darcy and Leffi will be staying in Spring Valley where Minister Hyacinth will be responsible for you. You shall obey him as you would me.”

Clarion pauses a moment to let Darcy and Leffi absorb that.

“Levina,” she smiles, “you shall be staying with Glimmer. She is a Storm Talent such as you are but you have yet to meet her. She has heard much about you though and says she’s very excited to be the one elected to help you perfect your storm skills. Darcy, Iridessa still wants to continue training you in your unlight talents so you will be staying with her.”

Ishandra is smiling with soft blue light building in her eyes, Darcy, although her eyes are unfathomably black and emotionless, is nevertheless smiling and Leffi looks about ready to leap into the air and shout for joy.

“With Her Majesty’s permission,” says Ishandra to her sisters, “I would like you to go now with Minister Hyacinth. I’ll see you later back at the Newlings’ Chamber.”

Queen Clarion gives them her leave then Minister Hyacinth beckons Darcy and Leffi to follow him out of the audience chamber.

Except for Minister Snowflake who is trying to be discreet, Ishandra and Clarion find themselves alone. The Ice-Witch looks sadly at Queen Clarion whom she has now come to respect. “Miss Griffin told me of your relationship with Lord Milori,” she begins. “I didn’t know and he did not mention it to me. We have been so occupied with the massive amounts of clean-up and supervising catch-up to repair all the damage done the preparations we had in progress for when we go to the Mainland that perhaps he meant to tell you once everything was closer to being back to normal. I just want to tell you in person that I never meant to cause you any grief. But…, I love Milori and he loves me. We need each other now like air and water. Please, do not withdraw your permission for us to marry or deny us your blessing.”

“I shall deny you neither,” Clarion tells her quietly. “I too will love him forever but I understand his special needs that I am unable to fulfil. I see now that you are the one he needs.”

Ishandra is about to reply but quickly sees that Clarion is steeling herself to continue with something that she knows will be painful for her to say.

“I know now that my relationship with Lord Milori was never meant to be,” says Clarion quietly. “I was to marry a King Talent named Edward but he…, he was killed defending Pixie Hollow during a serpent attack.” There is a pause as tears trickle down Clarion’s cheeks. “Shortly afterwards, Milori lost his wife in an accident. We were drawn together, Milori and I, to commiserate but commiseration became love. We knew even then it would be impossible for us to be together but he took the chance that resulted in his wing being torn. I cannot express my gratitude to you for healing his wing with your Ice-Witch magic. I see that when you are flying together that you two could not be happier. It would be the ultimate act of selfishness on my part then to deny you my permission to marry and my blessings. And…, and I want you to be happy too.”

“Thank you,” says Ishandra then, unfurling her wings, she takes Clarion into her arms as sisterly words pass unspoken between them.

“Now,” says Clarion, once they have released each other, “I need time to be alone. You make take your leave to go with Minister Snowflake.”

Clarion waits for Ishandra and Minister Snowflake to depart, then in the now silent room, she sits down, puts her head in her hands and weeps bitterly – her chest cleft by the agony of a broken heart.

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