This chapter contains some suggestive language.
When night came, Rossa’s cheeks had run dry. She heaved over the scurried earth, still stained by the footprints of the Eerie. her hand reached for her stomach, descending towards her navel.
There were no two ways around it. Her grandmother’s books, the vast majority of which now lay broken and destroyed ten spaces under, never lied.
She had one more thing to do. She winced at the thought, and the contrasting emotions the knowledge of what she needed to do speared through her chest.
Far too late for regrets, though. And her heart did warm up at the idea of being held again.
A part of her at least.
“Goodnight,” she whispered to the empty ruins, and walked her way back to the hut. She couldn’t walk back home anymore.
Maybe she did not even deserve to get a home, now.
The Eerie left her alone. For the first time since she had memory, she could walk through the forest without fear. You have fear if you know you can be hurt any more.
What did she have to lose now?
Save for her vengeance, of course. But that would come.
She stopped in an opening among the trees, looking up at the dark sky and at the stars there. Most of them lay fixed but a few streaked across like vanishing embers. The quick ones that the Erepeople had set up there. Her mother taught her they were the spirits of the dead, her grandmother’s notes revealed them to be spheres of steel and glass made by the arts of Mankind, back when it could still fight against the Fae and hope to win.
Well, she was fine, then. She did not have any hope to win.
Her hope rested in something completely different.
A tiny candle, which flickering flame was all the warmth she retained.
Rossa came back home dressed only of her cloak. The Woodsman saw her and opened the door. They shared a few looks on the threshold. He stood on the inside, where the fire was crackling on the hearth, a pained look on his face. She gazed back from the freezing outside, stained black and filled with the knowledge of what she had done and the enormity of her failure.
Then she took a step forward, set her hand against the Woodsman’s chest and leaned over, pushing her lips against his.
He stuttered for a moment, his breath caught in his teeth.
But Rossa would have none of it. She just couldn’t get over that last look. Why would he look at her like that? She was responsible for all of it.
She would have to pay for it and pay dire.
But that could wait until next dawn.
For now there existed only her lips and the growing heat in her chest, dripping down to her stomach and between her thighs. She squirmed against the Woodsman’s body. She was a woman now. He had to treat her such.
And he did. He shut the door behind them and, still kissing her, guided her across the room to his bed. It creaked under the weight of their bodies. She had no experience, but what she may lack in that regard more than made up for with her eagerness.
Her hands ran all over his body, helping him take off his clothes. She did not know what to do, so she just let her body take over, turning her gasps into music and the heat inside them to be her polar star.
She lay on the bed and she felt its softness push back against her body as he took her. Something spread her, and she welcomed it with tears in her eyes, once again.
Was this what the people of Ferravia had experienced, all those years while she looked at her books with her head in the clouds?
Life was something that happed while she was turned the other way. And she had been so caught up in her own delusions the Fae made quick work of her lousy heart.
I’m sorry, she mouthed, but she gave no breath to that thought, because the Woodsman was doing his very best to comfort her, and in this moment she could just float and be Rossa again, for the final time. She could just lay there and enjoy it, the final moment for her. She had always been a greedy, self-absorbed little thing. And with her greedy kisses and greedy hands she welcomed the Woodsman inside her again and again, as if to take all from him just as she had taken it all from everyone else.
And then something broke inside her and it felt a rushing heat boiling down her spine, exploding between her legs and her eyes as well. Her back arched as she cried out, no or yes, she couldn’t remember and maybe it did not even matter, maybe it would matter never never never again.
Rossa fell back to earth one gasp at a time.
Laying on the bed, with the comforting weight of the Woodsman over her, inside her, his scent and sweat marking her.
Maybe she could have had all this and more, if she had been a little less stupid.
But that was the mark of mankind, wasn’t it?
The Fae might have a point.
She did not care, though. Her crimson hands reached for the Woodsman’s face, pulling it closer. They kissed and she welcomed him again.
The bed kept creaking for the longest time.
And between their grunts and gasps something new came forth.
Hours later, in the dead of the night, Ross lay awake next to the Woodsman. One of her hands lay on his cheek and the other one rested on her stomach.
There used to be a time when she couldn’t have been sure, but now? Now she knew her body far too deeply to have doubts.
“Thanks for everything,” she whispered and set one final kiss over his lips.
Then she stood up, leaving the bed; she coiled her ragged cloak over her shoulders; walked to the kitchen and picked up a knife; gave one last look at the final place she might have ever called home; and walked out in the freezing air, breath coiled around her neck.
Her right hand caressed her belly.
Now that there was two of them.
Now, she could go and office the final rite, before the sun rose.
And with that twisted hope, pulsating with her pain and guilt, Rossa walked away from the Woodsman’s hut and into the final part of her journey.
Author’s Notes: The Star is one of the most positive and hopeful Arcana, as well as one of my favorites. Seeing it twisted like this sends a shiver down my spine. I am still quite proud of this chapter.
Thanks for reading.