Queen of War

(Another story.)

The Flower Princess had wandered long years in the wilderness, deeper into the bush than her people imagined possible, but not deeper than the shame-ridden warriors. Though they had fled far from their people, the war men yearned for home. The songs that the Flower Princess sang inflamed this yearning and when their yearning exceeded their shame, they rushed forth from the woods in chase of the beautiful songs of home.

She could not see them, but heard the onrushing wave of the home hungry men through the brush. In fear for her life, she ran from them, faster at first, they were yet harder and could run longer. As she felt her legs grow heavy, as she heard their crashing grow near, she spotted a large and prickly holly tree. With her last burst of strength, she lept into its boughs, crawled deeply into its biting heart. Though it knicked and bled her, the tree held her close. When the war band closed around her, the tree embraced her. They threw themselves against it, but were thrown back upon the ground, bloodied and newly wary.

In the holly’s heart, the tree bloomed soft blossoms for the Flower Princess. When the winds before the storm passed through its boughs, the tree sang soft songs to soothe her.

The men set camp around the tree, watching and listening. From her safe place, she watched them and saw beneath their ragged beards and pockmarked hands faces she knew from home. She took from the tree a freshly broken bough, wove what was left of her feather crown between its biting leaves, and slid down the tree’s broad trunk.

The men rose with maddened hearts, savagery and home-hunger intertwined, but she sang the tree’s soft songs and swept the hard earth with her holly fan, holding hunger and savagery apart until the memory of home grew bright in their eyes. With tears, they dropped to their knees and pressed their faces into the warm earth as she moved between them.