Her parents had never uttered even the hint of a roar in her lifetime, even when another Ogg came by to demand why they were missing from that year’s summer gathering. They’d simply explained their reasons and invited him into their nest hole, which, as most Oggs thought they could go anywhere, invited or not, only served to enrage him more. He’d roared at them, spouting about disrespecting Ogg etiquette, and raged off.
It hadn’t been that long ago, really. Only a few weeks before her parents had fallen ill. She rested her head against the mottled bark of an extremely old Okke tree, wishing more than ever that they hadn’t gone, when Silver popped up in front of her, orange eyes ablaze.
‘Why are you hiding, stupid? The sisters are worried sick,’ she snapped, letting curls of smoke trail from the corners of her mouth. Rae could see scratches on her arms and face, which was surprising, because she’d been sure the Fae boy hadn’t fought back.
‘They’re scared of me. I can’t face them knowing that,’ Rae replied, avoiding her gaze and picking at a piece of loose bark.
‘You are an idiot. Yes, they were scared of you, the same as I was when you roared, but it was only because we didn’t know you could do that. You took us by surprise, that’s all. We know you’re far too soft to actually hurt anyone…and if you hadn’t stopped me, I might have broken that boy’s wings off.’ There was reluctance in her voice, but also shame. ‘Come back with us. Then we can find out together why that blue-eyed slime is here, and why his people took my parents.’
Rae took a deep breath, and stepped out from behind the trees so that the Rosycheeks could see her. They cried out and ran up to her, embracing her warmly, before heading back to the cottage. There, they found the Fae boy by the pond with Nymphy, in deep conversation. As they approached, Nymphy gave a nod and disappeared into the water, warping out of sight.
‘Where’s she going?’ Silver asked, rushing forwards. ‘What have you sent her to do, slime?’ she said, pressing her face close to his so that he coughed on the lingering coils of smoke escaping her mouth.
‘I didn’t send her anywhere,’ the boy said quietly, stepping back. ‘I told her about something, and she went to see if she could have a look at it.’