Marks of Power
As feisty as she is tall
Father: Hans – blacksmith
Mother: Alayna – homemaker (died thirteen years ago)
“Brother”: Zephyr – kobold raised by the family, found as hatchling
Aunt Arianna: father’s sister-in-law
The howling of the wind began to ease as the soft cry of a baby could be heard from the bedroom. Anxiously jumping to his feet, Poppy, as he was soon to be called, was unsure of his next move … should he fight the urge to check on his wife and child or ignore the mid-wife’s instructions of not interfering? Before he could finish his thought, the door opened and the mid-wife gestured for him to enter.
Looking tired but elated, his wife asked him to sit beside her on the bed, the little bundle in her arms. “I have someone for you to meet, my love.” As she pulled the blanket back, he began to see a little nose and soon a mouth suckling, followed by the check and eye, and then the hair, white hair. He stood there in awe and shock for a moment. “I think we should name her Winter. After all, it is winter and her hair looks like freshly fallen snow.”
“A girl? We have a girl?” Before she could respond, he jumped to his feet yelling with excitement and laughter. Winter began to cry and scream louder yet as he realized his mistake. Taking her into his arms, he began to softly sing and dance with her and soon her small body was curled up in his arms asleep again.
Three years had passed and spring was well underway. Winter’s white hair had long ago been replaced with rich, red hair matching her mother. “Poppy, we go now?” “Yes, Winter, we will go in a moment. It’s not quite time for Mama to be done working, yet.” “No, now!” As he put her shoes on her and then her coat, Winter became more excited to leave. Their home was on the edge of the forest, on the opposite side of town from the Lumber Mill. The long walk only seemed to add to Winter’s excitement and energy level. Entering the office building, they quietly walked to her office in the accounting area. Waiting in silence, the whistle to announce the end of the day finally blew. Like an arrow, Winter flew towards her mother. The other two women in the office laughed, just like every day, as Winter launched into Mama’s arms. Needing to deliver a payment, the family took a different route home. From the melted snow and recent rains, the main road through town was a disaster of mud and puddles. Entering the ranch, Mama passed Winter to Poppy so she could deliver their payment. As the two of them waited, a wagon and horse team came down the road with a load to take to the sawmill. The team driver was struggling to keep the team calm as they fought their way down the muddy road. “Well, that’s done. Let’s go home,” Mama said as she came from the gate. Wanting to jump from puddle to puddle, Winter didn’t even have to ask twice before Mama and Poppy each took a hand, helping her vault into the next puddle. The wagon slowly passed by the three of them. “Winter, this will be the last time we will be able to this for a while.” “Why Mama?” Smiling at the two of them, she replied, “You have a little brother or sister on the way.” Poppy’s excitement seemed to soar as high as Winter launched toward the next puddle. Suddenly, a loud crack of splintering wood rang through the air. Time seemed to slow down as the wheel of the wagon fell into the mud, the wagon tipped losing its load, pinning Mama to the ground, and ripping her hand from Winter’s. Poppy, a great hunter, knew by the look on Mama’s face she was already gone and scooped Winter into his arms trying to shield her vision. Yells began to ring through the town and people came running from every direction. It didn’t take the men long to get the logs off her body. Winter screamed every time Poppy tried to leave without Mama, not understanding what had happened. Friar Edgar had Poppy and Winter follow him as the body was carried to the church. When everyone else had left, Friar Edgar took Winter and Poppy to her body. Kneeling down to Winter’s level, he explained to her that her mother could not go home with them, that Mama was needed elsewhere. She cried, “But she is MY Mama.” “Yes she is but maybe there is another little girl like you without a Mama or a Poppy.” The tears still streaming down her cheeks, Winter grew quiet as she thought it through. After a few moments of silence, Winter softly said, “I will miss her,” and then buried her face into Poppy’s shoulder.
The chilly rain had finally stopped yet the sky was still gray with clouds. With her head laying on her arm, Winter sat quietly at the table with her color sticks using them to make shapes instead of drawing pictures. By the look on her face, Poppy could tell she was having another rough day. “The rain has stopped, little one. Let’s go for a walk and look at all the new leaves on the trees and the flowers. We can even check on the bee hive if you like.” Sliding silently out of the chair, Winter walked over and put her feet into her shoes and then looked up at Poppy. He softly smiled and knelt down saying, “Here, let’s go over it again.” Scooping her up, Poppy sat her on the edge of the table and showed her how to tie her laces. Taking her hands, he helped her jump to the floor. Winter held fast to one hand as they turned to leave. In silence, they walked out into the forest behind their home looking at how much more new green there was since their last walk. Patches of color were scattered here and there from little flowers. Poppy felt a pull as Winter stopped to look at something. When he turned to look, she was standing in front of a flower with purple spires, lavender. She looked at him, lowered her head and pointed at them and nearly whispered, “Mama’s favorite flower,” before her shoulders began to gently shake. “Oh sweetheart,” Poppy said scooping her into his arms. The tears where streaming down her cheeks as she laid her head against his shoulder. “Mama’s not coming back is she?” “No Winter, she is not. Last year when Friar Edgar talked to you, he told you she had left. Did you think she would be back?” He could feel the slight nod of her head against him. “Oh baby girl, I am so sorry. I did think to make sure you understood. Please forgive me.” He continued walking deeper into the forest as he explained to Winter about where he believed Mama’s spirit had gone. Winter clung to his neck with her head on his shoulder and listened in silence. “ … and maybe I have an easier time with missing her because every time I look at you, especially with the zephyr winds blowing through your hair, I see her.” Winter suddenly realized the warm breeze was blowing, gently moving her hair across her neck. Lifting her head, her cheeks still damp with tears, she looked at Poppy. “Thank you Poppy. I understand now.” And like a sign from the Earth mother, the sun finally broke through the clouds making the forest sparkle from the recent rain and there in front of them, the ground was covered with lavender.
“Goodness, little one, you are nearly as tall as an eight year old and you are only six. Maybe I feed you too much?” “Six and a half, Poppy.” “I think it’s time to teach you how to hunt.” Showing her how to hold a bow and shoot as a tree across their land, Poppy took Winter into the forest to watch and learn. Usually being a curious child, Winter managed to stay reasonably near Poppy. A gentle breeze blew through her hair, momentarily blocking her view. When she turned to face into the wind, she noticed a flower growing in the large roots of a tree. Winter wandered over to pick it. When she turned back, Poppy was no longer in sight. Hearing a noise on the other side of the tree and thinking it must be Poppy, Winter circled the tree to be greeted with hissing. A kobold stared into her eyes as it continued to hiss. Not understanding her situation, Winter just stood still trying to figure out why it was mad at her. Suddenly the hissing stopped and the kobold slumped to the ground with on arrow through its head. Poppy came running up, bow still in hand. “Are you all right? It didn’t scare you did it?” Winter’s little ears heard a soft cry from somewhere nearby and instead of answering, began to search for the source. Tucked down among the roots of the tree, near where the flower had been, Winter found a newly hatched little thing that looked like the one that had hissed. “Poppy, look!” “Uh, let’s go home. Leave it.” “But Poppy, it’s too little. It needs our help.” “It’s just a kobold. They are bad creatures, not even good to eat.” “Then why did you kill it’s mama? You said to only kill what you needed to live on.” The discussion continued but Winter would not yield saying, “It’s our job now to take care of it! It has no one else. We will do it so someone else won’t lose their Mama, like me and him,” as she gestured towards the kobold. Those words … exactly as Friar Edgar had said to Winter over three years ago! He knelt down beside her and said, “Alright, we will take it home if Friar Edgar says it can be converted.” “Good, my little brother is finally here,” she softly said as she reached down and gently scooped the little kobold into her arms. Making their way to the church, Winter asked, “What does he eat Poppy?” “They eat meat, but …” He didn’t get any farther before Winter was already giving it a small piece of jerky from her pocket. Shaking his head, they continued on. Finding Friar Edgar in the garden behind the church, Poppy asked to speak with him for a moment. Explaining what had happened, asked, “So please, I need to know from you that it can be cleansed of it’s evil before Winter gets any more attached.” With a little convincing, Winter gave the baby kobold to Friar Edgar and followed him into the church. He examined him from his head to the end of his tail, noticing a strange discoloration and pattern in his scales. Placing the hatchling into a bowl of holy water on the alter, Friar Edgar performed several divinations and other blessings on him. “Well, he is not evil and should easily be taught to be good. In fact, the markings here on his chest almost seem to be the markings of the Earth Mother, herself!” “Does that mean we can take him home, now?” Reluctantly, Poppy nodded. On the walk home, Winter asked, “Poppy, where will Zephyr sleep tonight? Can he sleep in my room?” “Zephyr? You named it Zephyr?” “Well, yeah. You named me Winter because of my hair. I named him Zephyr because when I found him the wind was blowing.” Poppy just shook his head.
Poppy tiptoed into her room, up to the bed. “Time to get up, it’s your last day of school this year.” Winter’s eyes popped open and a smile crossed her face. When the dishes were done, Zephyr, Winter and Poppy headed for town. Poppy walked with them to the church before patting Zephyr on the head and giving Winter a hug goodbye. “You have a wonderful day today and don’t forget to get Zeph on your way home.” “Poppy, I never forget. I still don’t see why he can’t come to school with me.” “Because Friar Edgar said it would be best.” “Okay,” she muttered, not satisfied with the answer. Kneeling down, Winter gave Zephyr a hug and kiss goodbye before walking on to school. As the school came into view, a rock came flying at her just missing her shoulder. Turning to see where it had come from, she saw Logan leaning against a tree, arms folded across his chest. Glaring at him for a moment, Winter continued on to school. Mama Baba began the day calling Logan to her desk. At times, the day seemed to drag eternally and yet other times passed almost instantly. Soon Winter was on her way to the church to get Zephyr. Darting in the side door, Winter walked quietly to the back room used as Zephyr’s classroom. Friar Edgar was already gone and Zephyr was busy reading a book. Finally on their way home, Winter and Zephyr left the silent church. Talking and laughing softly, they walked through town. Winter noticed a few people staring at them but she didn’t care. In fact, she stuck her tongue out at one of the shopkeepers as they walked by. Almost home, Winter was suddenly shoved down into the dirt and grass. “Freak-lover! How DARE you tell Mama Baba I threw a rock at you! I don’t like tattle-tales.” Somehow able to get over onto her back, Winter punched Logan square in the nose. He yelled in pain and was about to swing back at her when he suddenly arched his back and screaming in pain. Winter recognized the growl coming from behind Logan. Looking back, Logan screamed again as he scrambled to his feet. Winter sat up and watched Logan run back towards town, the back of his shirt shredded and deep scratches in his flesh. Turning to look, Winter saw a large weasel not five feet from her. Waiting for a moment, she extended her hand towards it. Oddly enough, the weasel came toward her, extending its paw. She smiled and laughed taking hold of its paw. “We make a good team, Zeph. Thanks for your help.” The weasel nodded before changing shape back into Zephyr. Holding hands as they continued home, the two walked in silence unwilling to say what might happen as a result of the fight.