It was evening by the time they reached the cave. With the evening shadows falling on the rocks, two pale faces stood out, clear against the pitch of the cave behind them. Lucinda chuckled a little as they pulled the cart to a stop.
“The family reunited,” she hummed a little and Crystal drew herself upright, trying to ignore the tension in her neck and shoulders. “One branch of harpy wood, for one brother.”
“One branch, one brother,” Crystal agreed.
Lucinda hummed a little and lifted a hand. Her fingers clicked and instantly, Jet fell forward, dropping onto the ground. Mica and Coal both jerked, as if going to him, only to have Jasper stop them. His gaze however, remained on Lucinda’s face as though he could burn through her with his glare alone.
“We are agreed,” Lucinda hummed and Crystal nodded, motioning to the branch.
“The branch and the branch alone are yours,” she said.
Another click, and the branch vanished, replaced by Jet’s sleeping form. “As agreed,” Lucinda said. “The next item I require is a bag of snow.”
“A bag of snow?”
“Unmelted,” Lucinda said. Her smile displayed her upper fangs. “I’m not picky about where it comes from, but if it proves too hard do remember I can only convert one of your brothers should you choose to skip an item.”
“I’m not leaving any of my brothers behind,” Crystal snarled and jerked towards Lucinda. Jasper’s hand on her shoulder kept her from going too far.
“That’s up to you,” Lucinda said with a shrug. “I’m only giving you options. A bag of snow.”
With that, both she and Blake vanished into the shadows again, fading as the last of the evening sunlight did.
Crystal ground her teeth together and jerked away from Jasper to climb into the back of the with Jet.
“It’s too dark already,” Mica said as she tried to lift Jet up. “There’s not enough sunlight.”
Her jaw tightened until she felt her teeth might break. Forcing herself to inhale, she had to drop her head.
“Let’s get him home,” she said.
The others only nodded once. The horse snorted when Coal clicked his tongue, and started forward again, pulling the cart behind it as they wound down the path.
Years of use had made the road smooth though she could see little divots from other traveling carts. The sun had faded from the horizon by the time they reached town, with the sky truly blackened when they reached the cottage.
A few lights had been left on, but Crystal still jumped out into the darkness, mulling where she could possibly get a bag of snow from. It was summer, none of the mountains would have any.
The door opened, the rattle of the handle jolting her out of her thoughts. Juniper stepped out onto the porch, holding the door as Mica and Jasper worked to pull Jet from the cart and then to haul him up the stairs.
“I’ll get the cart and the horse,” Coal said and nudged Crystal. “I’m sure you want to talk to her.”
Crystal nodded, just once and came up the porch, inhaling a little as she took Juniper’s hand.
“Are you…?” Juniper left it hanging and Crystal smiled.
“I’m alright,” she promised and reached up to retrieve the ribbon falling from Juniper’s hair. “I’m more upset that I keep having to wander off while you’re here.”
“I don’t mind as long as you come home again,” Juniper said and Crystal smiled at that. “You’re peeved.”
“I’m not sure how to solve this one,” she admitted. “She wants a bag of snow.”
“A bag of snow?”
“Yes. Unmelted. There won’t be snow around for miles and even if there was, getting it back before it melts could be impossible,” Crystal explained.
A faint sigh escaped Juniper, and from the candlelight seeping through from the door highlighted the thoughtful pursing of her lips. They stood in silence a moment before Juniper shook her head and squeezed Crystal’s hand. “We’ll think of something,” she said and tugged gently to get Crystal moving up and into the house again. “Did she say how big?”
“No. Just that it was to be a bag of snow.”
“Then tomorrow we’ll need to figure out where to find snow, and how to get a bag of it back.”