This prompt came from Sheryl Rowdy on my FB Page! Thanks and I hope you enjoy!
-A name: Margaux
– A place: The Hidden Valley of Everwinter
– A time: (this one trips me up, I’m sorry! Although my interpretation would be something like Midnight on the Winter Solstice.)
– An object inspired by this picture: the morning star
“Think you can moor the boat to the dock without losing it this time?”
Margaux turned from where she perched at the bow of their small canoe. The reindeer’s hooves thudded across the thick, pale blue ice of Glacial River, and the runner’s gliding across its smooth surface made the wood floor vibrate beneath her feet. She planted her hands on her hips and scowled upon noticing the playful smirk curling up her cousin’s dark lips. “One time!” She rolled her eyes and huffed. “It’s not like it went down stream.” She gestured to the newly sanded black birch frame surrounding them. “And besides, you can’t tell me you didn’t enjoy designing these upgrades.”
Derrick’s onyx eyes glinted with mirth and his crop of shaggy black hair stood straight in the brisk wind that swept across the pass. He moved to stand next to her and caressed the hand carved snow-leopard ice sculpture masthand. It matched the gleaming ivory hue of the tree bark that made up their vessel.
“It is pretty sweet.”
Margaux rolled her eyes and brushed her long, honey blonde braid over her shoulder as it fluttered in front of her pale complexion. “Just toss me the ropes, genius.”
Derrick smirked and went back to the stern, his deerskin boots shuffling. He bent down and reached into the leather shoulder bag resting under his seat. “Okay,” he gripped a sizeable length of rope from the pouch and wound it around his wrist, “Catch!” He stood up and spun round in a singular motion, launching the rope into the air.
“Ass!” Margaux laughed, lunging forward. She caught the opposite end of the rope just before it flopped over the side and collided with the ice, yanking it toward her.
“Nice.” Derrick crossed his arms and arched a brow.
Margaux grinned. “I learned from the best.” She winked as her fingers flew over the thick cord, fastening a perfect cleat hitch around the end of the canoe.
Derrick came over to inspect it and whistled his approval. “You really aren’t a guppy anymore, are you?”
Margaux stuck out her tongue and pulled the rope taunt. “Now all we have to do is get to the dock.”
She turned to face the horizon as they crested the final hill. The sparkling turrets of Queen Lucia’s palace came into view just as the sun rose over the valley. Her breath caught in her throat as the vibrant pinks, yellows, reds, and oranges bounced and danced off of the castle’s opaque diamond walls. The frozen fountain in the center of the courtyard shimmered in the dawn. Several other boats in ranging sizes and types dotted the perimeter in spite of the egregious hour, flanked by blooming evergreens and pines decorated with sky blue ornaments and snow crystals.
Margaux’s breath hitched in her throat and shivers raced down her spine. She had never seen anything as majestic as the Crystal Palace in all of Everwinter Valley.
“Pretty incredible, right?” Derrick nudged her shoulder and leaned against the side.
Margaux nodded. “D-Does it always look like this?”
Her cousin laughed. “Not always, but the Winter Solstice is the most important day of the year, being the official start of the season for the mortal world, so the queen likes to go all out.”
Margaux’s soft green eyes turned stormy. A knot settled in the pit of her stomach and she nibbled at the flesh of her bottom lip. She pulled her mink-lined fur coat a little closer to her chest before letting her hands twine together. She fiddled with the silken fabric of her golden gloves, a present from Derrick in celebration of her first Solstice Ceremony.
Six people from all of Everwinter…
Derrick frowned at the sudden change in his cousin’s demeanor. “What’s wrong, Maggie?” He put a hand on her shoulder. Aren’t you excited?”
Margaux gulped, her gaze peaking out to meet his before flicking back to the ground again. “What if… What if I don’t get picked this year?” she whispered. Heat rose to her cheeks.
Oh. So that’s what this is about. Derrick shook his head. He should’ve known. “You will,” He took her hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze. “You’ve been training all year.”
Margaux let out a long breath. “But… I’m just a fledgling, Derrick. Every hunter in Everwinter has more experience than me. How in all of the seasons am I supposed to convince her that I should be one of the ones to take the challenge?”
“Experience doesn’t weigh much against instinct, Maggie, and especially not on the Solstice. Everyone has an equal chance of being chosen today. Even you.”
Margaux sighed and began pacing the length of the boat. “I know… But, a dragon? How can I possibly find a Chameleon Dragon in the middle of the most snowy place in all of the realms?” She shook her head. “There’s no way she’ll even notice me, let alone give me a snowflake’s chance of getting the Morning Star… It’s the lifeblood of Everwinter; she’d be crazy to let a novice like me light the Everfrost Tree. What if I screwed it up– We’d be doomed!
Derrick swallowed a snicker at his cousin’s panic stricken face. He took her by the shoulders, forcing her to stand still. “Whoa, slow down. First of all, no one knows what’ll happen today, not even the Queen. Getting picked is a gamble; that’s why we all put our names in once. No more, no less. You have as much a chance as any other beast tamer out there, and so do I. Got it?”
“Good. And second, if you are one of the lucky six, it’s an honor to even try to complete the Queen’s challenge–and this is the hardest one she’s given in years.”
“And the most important,” Margaux added grimly. “Elderberry is her baby; what if no one finds him?”
Derrick exhaled, his breath misting in the frigid air. “Someone will find him, Mags. Do your best, and it just might be you.”