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Chapter Three: The Forest Prince

Hey everyone! So, there was no post on Wednesday. It's been a busy week with classes and I'm trying a new Bible study/class at my church on Tuesday nights, which is usually when I wrote my blog posts or am finishing them up so I'm going to have to figure out a new day and time to write my posts. I did guest post on Kara Swanson's blog this week and you can find it Here, about self-care for writers so go check that out!

Anyways, here's the final installment of The Lost Wildling. I had so much fun writing this short story and have had the characters of Robin and Naomi in my head for quite some time, but never got around to writing them down. I hope you've enjoyed their little story as much as I have!
 
 
***
 
Naomi Sky first veered off the beaten path of the forest when she was eight. She had been a tiny slip of a thing with a bushel of brown hair and curious blue eyes and a wild, manic personality. Her parents could never get her to sit still. She had been (and still was) the bane of her teachers’ existences. Even when she was sitting still she was still moving. Tapping her foot on the floor, rapping her pencil on paper, humming, braiding and unbraiding and rebraiding her hair down her shoulders.
Art class was her favorite class. Most people would think P.E. would be her favorite because she had free reign to run around crazy, but what was the fun in running around crazy if you're allowed to? No, art class was the best. The teacher spilled pencils and pastels and paints onto her desk, gave her a big canvas of paper and let her loose like a wild animal released from a cage. For the whole of Naomi Sky’s eighth year, she experimented in her art class, trying to find the most expressive, energetic medium to create art with. She thought painting would work, splatter it across the page, but it didn’t mix well with her. She tried finger painting, still nothing. Pastels were fun, but they didn’t feel good on her fingers. No, she found the tamest of mediums to be the most wonderful and lively. Colored pencils. She adored them.
So, it was with this new discovery of colored pencils and sketchpads in mind that Naomi Sky roamed off the path. Her mom had packed a picnic and her dad was home from work early so they decided to eat dinner on the banks of the Blue Lagoon where nixies giggled and swam about beneath the surface with their webbed feet and hands and sparkly fins. Naomi had a big new box of colored pencils in her Adventure Backpack, never used and a sketchpad that was untainted by old works and her fingers were itching for a muse to draw.
Her parents were so busy chatting and talking about something that had happened during her dad’s work when Naomi Sky caught sight of something orange flickering in the corner of her eyes. She thought an orange something would be marvelous to draw and color so she glanced up at her parents and then slipped away. She ran through the woods, following the flicker of orange until she came to a stop in front of a particularly gigantic tree, her mouth falling open. In front of her was a boy about her age with green eyes that twinkled with mischief and a devil’s grin on his lips. He had pale orange skin and a crown of berries and leaves and twigs tangled in his bright orange hair and he wore clothes made of leaves and moss and grass and twigs all jumbled and stitched together.
The boy folded his arms and stared at her, cocking his head as if she confused him. “What are you?” Naomi asked, running forward, her giant backpack swinging behind her.
“I’m the Forest Prince. What are you?”
“I’m Naomi Sky. You have pretty skin,” she said.
His eyebrows shot up and he glanced down at himself as if he just now noticed that he had orange skin. When he looked back up laughter danced in his eyes. “I do, don’t I? You do too. You’re a pretty little thing. Pretty enough to be a princess.”
Naomi blushed and giggled at being complimented by a boy and shrugged off her backpack, letting it hit the ground. “Can I draw you?”
“Draw me?” he asked, stepping forward and staring down at her backpack as she unzipped it.
Naomi nodded, blowing a strand of hair that had fallen out of her braid out of her face. “Yeah! I got new pencils and new paper and I want to draw you and color you in.” She pulled out her pack of pencils and showed it to him with pride, then grabbed her sketchpad and sat down crisscross, her floral dress falling around her.
The Forest Prince sat down in front of her, watching as she took out her plane gray pencil and began to sketch him out. He sat there the whole time, not even moving with an astonished look on his face as little eight-year-old Naomi Sky captured his eyes and his nose and his hair and his crown and his clothes. She even captured the things that were hard to catch on a page. The way his eyes always danced whether with amusement or laughter or mischief or spunk. How his lips smiled in a promising way, the way that Naomi had seen a few boys in her class smile before they did something naughty. She captured his essence on the page, the essence of a Forest Boy.
When she held it out to him, unfinished, still needing to be colored in, he snatched it from her and stared down at it in awe. “You are a magic worker Naomi Sky. Your fingers possess magic.”
Naomi blushed and giggled again, taking her sketchbook from him again. “It’s not magic. It’s called drawing and being an artist. Do you like it?”
“I do, very much. So much so, that I declare you Naomi Sky,” he leapt to his feet and stuck his hand out to her. “An honorary part of my court. You are my drawer now. My magic girl.”
Naomi stared at his hand, excited at the possibility to join his court. She’d never joined a group or a club before. None of the girls in her class were very nice to her. Naomi talked too much for them and moved too much and would rather climb trees and sketch and laugh and scream, then play with dolls and hide away in a corner to giggle and whisper to each other. And she’d especially never been a part of a court. With her eyes alight with excitement, she grabbed his hand and let him help her up. “It is sealed then. You are part of my court now. The first - and only girl - to be part of my royal court,” he said with as much excitement as Naomi felt in his voice.
Naomi shrieked and jumped up and down, hopping from foot to foot. “Yay!! I’m so excited!! Thank you for letting me be part of your court,” she shrieked, grabbing him, and hugging him. He was stiff in her grip, but Naomi didn’t notice. She let him go just as quickly and hurriedly stuffed her sketchbook and pencils away in her Adventure Backpack, zipping it shut and throwing it over her tiny shoulders. “I have to go find my parents, but I’ll come back and I’ll finish the drawing and bring it to you, OK?”
He nodded, looking sort of dumbfounded at her reaction. Naomi waved as she ran off back toward the path. She was part of a court now and she had a prince for a friend. That was every little girl’s dream. And that was how Naomi Sky became the first human and girl to fall into favor with the Forest Prince. They became fast friends and now Naomi hoped desperately that that friendship meant something as the troll and Changeling and Forest Boy led them toward the Forest Prince’s palace. His palace had been carved out of a hollowed gigantic tree smack-dab in the middle of the protected meadow. None of his minions could be seen, but Naomi knew they were watching from the trees’ tops and the shadows as they walked across the meadow, exposed, and toward the door into the huge tree.
Naomi had no idea how the Forest Prince did it, probably using some sort of magic, but despite the huge size of the tree on the outside, it was still a normal tree. But the instant they stepped inside the tree’s inside stretched and grew, becoming a giant circular room made completely of wood and full of all sorts of things. Gold and treasures and diamonds and jewels and jewelry and treasure chests and all sorts of stolen goodies and in the center of it all was a big bedecked throne. Lounging on that throne was the Forest Prince. He was now Naomi’s age. Eleven years old and had perfected the art of the wicked grin.
His eyes lit up and danced like they always did when Naomi walked into the room. He didn’t get up or move an inch though. As he’d gotten older his wardrobe had improved and grown more lavish. He was still barefoot, but now he wore a pair of green pants and a brown vest and was draped in a thick green robe made of leaves that changed in the passing seasons. During the Spring and Summer, it was alive and green, during the Fall it was gold and red and brown and during the winter it was pure white.
“Naomi Sky! My favorite human! Have you come with more sketches?” he asked, eagerly. He flicked his wrist and his creatures bowed and stood at the door, keeping keen eyes on Robin and Naomi.
Naomi grinned and walked all the way up to his throne, stepping over and around his treasures and shrugged off her Adventure Backpack. “I do. But, I want a trade.”
His brown eyebrows shot up and in one swift move he straightened in his seat, rubbing his hands together excitedly. “What sort of trade? You’ve never traded with me before, how thrilling,” he said, shooting her a teasing grin.
Naomi made a face at him and stuck her tongue out at his teasing and unzipped her backpack. “I need to know where the Wildlings go.”
She didn’t look at him as she said it, just kept her fingers busy by pulling out her sketchbook and zipping the backpack back up. But when she did dare a glance at him, his eyes had narrowed and they were focused on Robin who was still in the middle of the room, his arms folded.
“And who is that and why have you allowed him to enter my meadow?” he asked, his lips twisting in disgust.
Naomi held up her hand as if to stop him from hopping off his throne and killing Robin right there and then. “You never tell me everything, so why should I? If you want your sketches, then you have to tell me where the Wildlings go when they enter these woods.”
The Forest Prince didn’t like her response and his eyes darted from Robin and focused on her, daring her to look away. Naomi lifted her chin and stood her ground. She wouldn’t let him scare her away. Robin needed her help and it was her fault he was here in front of the Forest Prince to begin with. “You never keep things from me,” the Forest Prince mused.
“Well, I’m getting older and cleverer. I’ve learned from the best, have I not?” she asked, challenging him to deny it. The seconds ticked by as they locked in a battle of the wills, neither of them willing to back down and look away. Naomi’s eyes narrowed, daring him to refuse her. He needed her. She didn’t know why but he’d kept her around for this long, which meant he needed her for one purpose or another. Finally, a slow smile spread across his lips and he broke their staring contest, looking over her shoulder at Robin once more. “Very well. I’ll tell you. But I don’t want your sketches. Not today. I want to know his name.”
“Absolutely not,” Robin snapped, glaring at him.
Naomi nervously hopped in front of the Forest Prince’s line of sight, clutching her sketchbook to her chest. “His name is Robin.”
“Is it so?” the Forest Prince asked, smirking as he looked away from Robin and focused on Naomi.
Naomi nodded. “Yes. Happy now? Can I have my answer now?”
The Forest Prince thought about it for a second, making Naomi squirm. She knew he enjoyed watching her nervously wait for his response, he knew that he made her nervous to begin with. That he was unpredictable and that she didn’t like that and he used that unliking of his unpredictable personality to his advantage. Then he nodded and waved his hand, lazily going back to lounging in his throne. “Yes. The Wildling go to the Blue Lagoon. The waters and the nixies only accept Wildlings and the waters lead to another world. To their Autumn Palace. That is where you need to get to, isn’t it Prince of the Wildlings?” He grinned at Naomi’s shock and then smirked arrogantly over her shoulder. Naomi spun around and found Robin sneering at him. He took a step forward but Naomi hurriedly shoved her sketchbook into her backpack, zipped it shut and grabbed it and rushed over to him, grabbing his hand before he did something he would regret.
“Don’t. He has an army and that Changeling over there won’t mind eating you and taking your shape,” she whispered in his ear, giving his hand a squeeze. She could practically see the anger bubbling to his surface, wanting to overflow and challenge the Forest Prince, but her presence near him kept him from going for it. Instead, he grudging glared at the Forest Prince and turned around. “He’s not worth my time anyways,” he snapped.
“Nice to meet you. One of these days I’m going to find out what sort of pretty face is under that mask Your Majesty and when I do, well, you’d better sleep with one eye open,” the Forest Prince taunted.
Robin yanked at her hand, trying to spin around but Naomi kept a firm grip, tugging him toward the door. “Don’t. He’s baiting you. It’s not worth dying, is it?”
“I’d rather put that imp in his place and die than let him lounge on that throne like he owns the place,” he growled back.
“Well, right now he does own this place. Just leave it and let’s get out of here before he changes his mind and lets his Changelings loose on us,” Naomi said, as they passed their three guards on the way out. The Changeling licked its lips with its yellow tongue, its bulbous eyes watching them leave with hunger. She shuttered and hurried out and practically ran out of the meadow and back into the woods. She didn’t stop or let Robin stop running until they were so far away that she was sure none of the Forest Prince’s ears were listening to them as they slowed to a walk. Naomi stopped to catch her breath, her Adventure Backpack had slapped so hard while she ran full speed that her now back ached. Robin didn’t even look out of breath. “How are you not tired?” she gasped, looking up at him.
He had a stoic look about his eyes and turned away. “Wildlings do not get tired.”
“I doubt that,” Naomi said smiling as she straightened and fixed the straps of her backpack which had started to slip.
“Well it is the truth. So, where is this Blue Lagoon? I think it would be best if we get there as fast as possible seeing how the Forest Prince knows who I am and isn’t exactly… welcoming.”
“He’s not welcoming to anyone except when he wants something from them,” Naomi said as she pointed straight ahead and started walking. She knew the way to the Blue Lagoon like the back of her hand.
“Then what does he want from you?”
Naomi shrugged. “He likes my drawings…”
“Yes, but what does he want with you?” Robin insisted.
“I don’t know… I never figured it out or gave it much thought,” Naomi said with another shrug.
Robin gave her a pointed look. “Well you should. When a creature like the Forest Prince wants something from you, it can’t be a good thing.” He said the Forest Prince like it was a nasty word.
“I will. Once you’re gone. He’ll be on high alert until you leave…”
They fell into silence and Naomi led him the rest of the way to the Blue Lagoon. It was one of the most gorgeous spots in all of Hylan Hills. During the summer teenagers in their bikinis and swim trunks grabbed hold of the vine that hung from one of the trees and threw themselves into the deep end. The nixies often grabbed hold of their ankles out of fun and dragged them down then released them and let them swim back to the surface. There had also been quite a few nixie/human boy love affairs. Naomi only knew about them because her mom liked to sit and talk and talk with other moms and the teens of Hylan Hills who liked to live on the edge and touch the dangerous magic of the town often were brought up. Specifically, Brodie Jones and Jayden Corbin. They were always getting into trouble. Kissing nixies and Forest Boys and running around like crazy people and stepping off the forest path and getting into dangerous situations. Naomi strived to be like them when she grew up.
The Blue Lagoon was a few miles long and deeper than most lakes, going so deep that some said that it stretched all the way to the core of the Earth. Its waters were an unnatural and beautiful aquamarine blue with grass that gave way to white sand surrounding it. There were a few hills and knolls and that’s where the teens jumped off and into the deep ends.
Naomi had that on her Bucket List of Important Things To Do When She Grew Up. Jump off and into the deepest part of the Blue Lagoon. Right next to dancing with the dewdrop fairies during the Spring solstice and meeting a Wildling. She could check that last one off her list. Robin glanced around, finding the lake completely empty. School had just started a few weeks ago, and no one came around here until later during school nights. They had the place to themselves for now. “It’s beautiful,” he said.
Naomi beamed. She couldn’t help but feel pride for her town’s beautiful Blue Lagoon. It really was beautiful. “So… what do you do now? Just jump in?”
Robin shrugged. “I think that would be the best option. The nixies will lead me once I’m down there, I think.”
“Oh… ok,” Naomi said. As she followed him up onto one of the small hills a sinking feeling filled her stomach. The sort of feeling she’d once gotten when she was ten and at summer camp. A hollow sort of homesickness, at the thought of Robin leaving. Her first Wildling friend and he was leaving so soon.
Naomi bounced on the balls of her feet as he gripped a vine hanging from the tree on top of the hill, the one that the teens used to swing into the lake with. He gripped it with both hands and looked like he was going to leave without saying a word to them, but then he seemed to think about it and turned around. His dead leaf brown eyes looked sincere as he nodded at her. “Thank you for helping me Naomi Sky. May the Winds bless you and lead you. And… be careful around that Forest Prince. He looks as sweet as honey, but he tastes like poison. Watch yourself.”
Naomi nodded, tapping her fingers against the strap of her backpack. “I will. I hope you there. Stay safe! And come back and visit me because I would really like to see you again and I’ve never talked to a Wildling before. You’re my first one so… I would really like to see you again, you know, just to make sure your safe and stuff,” she said all in a rush.
She could imagine him smiling under that mask by the way his eyes crinkled. “I will. And… I will try to return. I am not sure if that is possible, but I will most certainly try. Goodbye Naomi Sky.”
Naomi’s heart fluttered in an unfamiliar way and she clasped her chest, trying to calm its excitement. She took a step back and waved like a crazy person. “Bye!” she shouted.
Then she watched as Robin got a running start and then jumped into the air. Naomi ran forward to the edge of the hill and watched as he fell into the water with a giant SPLASH. He disappeared for a second and then his head bobbed to the surface. With his black hair plastered to his mask’s forehead, he faced her and waved Naomi grinned and jumped up and down waving back. Then he took a deep breath and dove under. Naomi sat down on the hill and waited for him to resurface and say that it hadn’t worked. That the opening to the Autumn Palace wasn’t there and that the Forest Prince had lied, but he never came up. Naomi wasn’t sure how long she sat there, transfixed by the blue waters of the lake, but when she finally snapped out of her daze and looked up the sun was beginning to set. She gasped, remembering that she had told her mom that she would be back by dinner and jumped to her feet.
Naomi didn’t want to leave the lake, leave her chance to see Robin again, but she had to get home. Her parents wouldn’t be happy with her if she stayed out after dark. She ran all the way home, her converse smacking the ground and her eyes darting this way and that, half expecting Changelings to jump out of the shadows and grab her with their spindly fingers and drag her to the Forest Prince. They never did though and she made it all the way back to her backyard without an incident. She stopped on the back porch before throwing the door open and turned, smiling sadly at the spot where she’d first spotted Robin and promised herself that she would see him again. He wouldn’t leave her hanging. He would come back to visit.
And with that thought, the hope and promise that Robin would come back and maybe next time Naomi would get to see his real face, she smiled and opened the back door and walked inside, a sketch forming in her head. A sketch of a boy with a mask of autumn leaves and brown eyes the color of dead leaves and forest clothes on scaring away a little bunny from the backyard garden.
 
The End
Have a great week everyone!! 

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