She’s a wood elf who makes trees bear fruit constantly; he’s a partridge shifter who can’t shift completely. He can’t go all the way, and she’s got wood.
Zekila was sent to the Crossroads in an attempt to dilute her powers. There was a problem, and her affinity for fruit trees took over, wrapped around her, and transformed her into what she loved.
She watched the years pass through her leaves and branches, and when a young shifter with partridge wings starts to hang out in her vicinity, she finds out that after all the years of watching the shifters come and go, she can still find a man attractive and want to be with him.
He visits her for a few weeks until the longest night of the year. He dresses her tree up and wishes her the best of the season, and in the darkness, she emerges from the trunk of the tree that had held her safe.
New day, new year, time to start again.
Zekila braided her hair and looked at herself in the mirror. Behind her, her mother smiled. “You look lovely.”
“I look green and brown. I can’t pass for human; I can’t pass for royal court fey. This is stupid. I am not going to fit in. You know it, I know it, Dad knows it.” Her shoulders slumped.
Her mother embraced her. “I am low court. I accept that, but you, you aren’t a brownie. You have so much more power, energy, light, and life than I do.”
“Mom, I love you, but I hate being paraded around like this.”
Kerdia looked at her daughter. “I know. But you are eighty-three, and you have your life in the human world, but there is more to life than business.”
Zekila crossed her arms. “It is just an investment company. I help humans plan for retirement. They need help.”
“And they don’t see you either. You just remain behind the scenes and keep things moving.” Her mother looked her in the eye. “Daughter of mine, I want you to be seen.”
Zekila blinked back tears. “I don’t know if I want that, Mom. Being seen rarely works out for me.”
“Give the court one more try, dearest. Your father has arranged a presentation to the king. You sort of need to be there for it.” She stroked Zekila’s cheek. “Now go.”
Zee turned toward the mirror, and she stroked the frame. Her reflection rippled and turned liquid as she whispered, “I have an invitation.”
The mirror opened, and a bright and flowered forest path appeared in front of her. With a straightening of her shoulders, she stepped through.
Zee walked the path from her gateway toward the palace. Her energy surged gently from the ground to the forest around them. The fruit started up in trees that did not usually bear fruit.
The havoc that she wreaked in the natural world was painful. She caused everything to bear fruit quickly, which didn’t necessarily translate to fertility. She was just good with trees.
She walked into the entrance to the royal grounds and ignored the guards cringing and moving away.
Zee sighed and ignored them. She had had one slip up with her power when she was eighteen, and now, none of the fey would come near her. Over sixty years since then, and she was still someone who wasn’t allowed near other fey.
She walked through the garden entrance, and the announcement was made, “Announcing Madame Zekila, goddess of fruit trees and fertility. Daughter of Achron the bold.”
She paused and gave him a look. He swallowed when she flexed her hand, “And Kerdia, princess of the brownies.”
She smiled pleasantly and walked through the parting crowd toward the king, curtsying deeply. “My king.”
“Goddess. You are looking well, Zekila. Achron, where have you been keeping your daughter?”
Her father emerged from the crowd and smiled. “You look lovely, Zee.”
“Thanks, Dad. You are looking very dapper.” She chuckled. Her father always looked precise, and his gaze was direct. When he had met her mother, he had pursued her with focus until the princess had given in. King Larion had quietly married them ninety years ago. There was no doubt, her parents were made for each other.
The king raised his brows. “Well, Achron?”
“My daughter does as she wills. She has a number of businesses in the human world, and she does very well there.”
“We have missed you at court over these last decades.” Larion was smiling behind his hand. “Your last visit was amusing for years.”
She looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Your court did not think so.”
“Their opinion is not necessary. Displaying your particular brand of magic was demanded of you, and you did.” He grinned. “There is no fault with you that the arousal you generated reached its conclusion.”
She covered her eyes with one hand as he chortled. “I apologize once again for the result of that day.”
Larion shrugged. “So, no babies were conceived that year. It was not the end of our species. Things recovered by the following year, and the courtiers learned not to touch you. It was a learning event.”
She nodded. “Thank you for your understanding, Your Majesty.”
“It is nothing. Now, it is time for you to look toward finding a mate. We can’t let your power simply fade away with time.”
Zee nodded. “I am not in any danger of that.”
“Nonetheless. Either choose any of the single men available here today, or you will be going to the Crossroads.”
Her father squeezed her hand. “Your Majesty, is that absolutely necessary? She is not really inclined to finding herself a mate.”
“The Crossroads will help with that. Besides, bleeding some of her power off into another species might help things a little.” Larion smiled. “It isn’t a punishment, Zekila; it is an opportunity. You have made no move to take a lover and do not associate with any fey you are not related to. That is a lonely life, Zekila. It is not healthy.”
She nodded. “I understand, Your Majesty. How long must I remain at the Crossroads?”
He smiled. “You will remain there until you find a mate. It is up to you.”
She stared at him. “What?”
“You are going to the Crossroads, and you are going to seek out a mate. How long it takes is up to you.”
Zee paused. “I have to stay there until I find someone?”
The king nodded. “You do.”
She blinked back tears and inhaled. “When do I have to go?”
Larion smiled slightly and flicked his fingers. “Now.”
Zee’s eyes widened as power wrapped around her. She was pulled away from her father in full sight of every member of the royal court.