Flashback story – Fredda, Lady Winter
This is a story submitted as part of the Flashback week competition. It’s written by Charlotte Willow-Edwards from the roleplaying game Shattered Realities.
Fredda, Lady Winter
The bitch was dead.
Dead, or at least gone forever. It seemed to be generally accepted now and she hoped, she desperately hoped, that it was true. There was no place in the world for that one.
While Lady Winter had no illusions about how she herself was viewed, she was surely a shining light in comparison to the pretty little girl who could, and had, ripped out human souls and ruined lives in a moment’s pique. Pretty child in her little pink dress, with her simpering smile and her recently assumed false air of servility. All an act to hide the demon beneath.
Their paths had entwined for the past ten millennia or more. Such an unlikely combination: Fredda, the cold, reserved spirit of Winter, whose frosty beauty had aged & shrivelled and whose heart, over the years, had come close to freezing solid, her sole focus becoming to increase the power of her realm regardless of whom she had to tread on to do it, and Flame, the impulsive, emotional spirit of Fire, sister of Winter’s husband the Sun King Belenos, who changed her body and her demeanour whenever the mood took her but seemed incapable of changing the evil in her soul – however much she whined on about it.
Flame said she wanted to become good for the witch she’d fallen in love with, wanted it enough to constantly be recreating herself for the witch and enslaving herself to the witch and even regressing herself to an eight-year-old child for the witch to raise her as she should be (and Fredda would have loved to know the witch’s thoughts on that), but ultimately it all failed. At that point the witch was the generally adored and fawned over ruler of Avalon and so Flame’s final act, ripping out the witch’s soul, threw all the Fay realms into chaos and would have led to her being permanently encased in ice… if she hadn’t escaped from her cell and vanished.
At her trial, held inconveniently but necessarily in her absence, it became apparent that she had been causing chaos and ruining lives, both Fay and mortal, for millennia. She had firmly denied having harmed the witch – the only thing she did deny – but given her history of soul-stealing and that she had been found by the empty body, there was no question of her guilt there. There was really no viable alternative, and Winter had no objections. Especially given how close Flame’s meddling had brought her own realm to destruction.
Oh, Winter had had some revenge. She’d kidnapped Flame when she had the chance and rubbed her nose hard in exactly how much harm she’d done. Flame had even seemed to be genuinely sorry and promised to make reparations.
It had been a complete lie, of course. The realisation that Flame had betrayed her once again was no surprise to Winter, but she was surprised at the extent of her disappointment. It also meant that she felt very little surprise to hear a few months later that Flame had betrayed her beloved witch too. She was becoming increasingly certain that the bitch was incapable of loyalty to anyone but herself.
After Flame’s escape, the search for her had been on an unprecedented scale, but had found nothing… and then the jewel that held her soul, in the way that all Fay souls were kept, had cracked in two. It was taken as hard evidence that the bitch was dead.
Winter had been relieved, like everyone else. But in the midst of it all she found her thoughts drifting back to the early days, when the two of them had been like sisters, and then the row that had ruined the friendship forever…
There were four of them: the golden twins, Flame & Belenos, the beautiful, dark-eyed Fredda, and Piri, thoughtful, scholarly and serious. They argued, laughed, teased each other – and the mortals – and got through far too many bottles of wine.
Fredda was naturally quiet and solemn, but the group drew her out of her shell. Flame was the first close female friend she had ever had and she found herself sharing secrets with her, getting into trouble with her & simply messing about having fun with her. She enjoyed Flame’s company and envied her cheerful confidence, although she was sometimes privately irritated by her friend’s assumption that the others would do as she pleased. Belenos was the only one to stand up to his twin, which would nearly always lead to a screaming row and end in the twins hugging and laughing and Belenos adopting Flame’s ideas & wishes as if they’d been his from the start.
Belenos, bright, beautiful Belenos, was the one secret Fredda didn’t share with Flame. Her love for Lord Summer was growing every day, even though she knew there was no chance of his ever returning it. She found that Flame was often dragging her brother away when the four of them were together, leaving her alone with Piri, but Flame had always been possessive about her brother. The knowledge didn’t stop her staring wistfully after them on occasion.
She was alone in the forest, reading, when it happened. At first she thought she was dreaming but as she gazed at the man kneeling in front of her, listening to his words of love, Fredda found herself brimming over with a joy unlike anything she’d felt before.
She reached out to take his hands. Rising, he drew her into his arms and into a long, deep kiss.
“Marry me, Lady Winter.”
“In a heartbeat, Lord Summer.”
Belenos threw back his head and laughed in delight, then took her hand. “Come on. We have to share this.”
She nodded, running with him, knowing how happy their friends would be for them & eager to share their joy.
When they came out of the trees, Flame & Piri were standing there. As she looked at their hands Flame’s face took on an almost classic look of shock before her eyes hardened. Piri simply stood there, frozen.
Fredda hesitated, thrown by the reaction, and then felt Belenos squeeze her hand before he drew her over to his twin. “Flame, we’re in love and we’re getting married. Fredda will be your real sister. Be happy for us.”
Flame took a deep breath and shook her head, looking from her twin to her best friend. “No.”
“No what?” Fredda demanded.
“If you do this it will be a complete disaster. You think you’re in love but it won’t last. Don’t do it.”
Belenos stared at her, his quick temper rising. “What the hell does it have to do with you?”
“It has everything to do with me!” she yelled back. “I know it’s only going to bring you both grief! It won’t last!” She turned to look at the shocked Fredda, the words tumbling from her mouth. “You’re all wrong for each other. You’re meant to be with Piri. He loves you. You’ll be happy with him. Don’t do this. I’ve seen what will happen if you do.”
Fredda gazed at Flame, suddenly speechless. She heard a kind of strangled choking sound from Piri, glanced in his direction and saw a bouquet lying at his feet. “Piri? I’m… sorry. I didn’t know. You’re a good friend but it’s Belenos I love.”
He nodded slowly and walked off.
On what was meant to be the happiest day of her life so far, Fredda looked from the dejected back of one ex-friend to the furious face of the other.
“You bitch.” she said softly. “You encouraged him and now look at him. And you can’t even try to be happy for us because we’re not part of your plan, whatever that is.”
“You’re idiots, the pair of you!” Flame yelled. “But you’re bloody lucky that I’m not giving up on you. Get married. Break your hearts. And when you finally realise what a huge mistake you’ve made I’ll be there to pick up the pieces and get you both out of it.”
“Don’t bother.” Belenos snapped. “We’ll take our own risks, together. We never want to see you again.”
He took Fredda’s hand and led her away, leaving Flame behind.
Today, Winter couldn’t say that Flame had been wrong.
While the marriage had been blissfully happy for centuries, there had always been a wariness beneath their love. Flame’s predictions burrowed into their minds, and however hard they denied and ignored them, there was always the fear that one day they might come true.
Belenos, lost without his twin’s strength, gradually drank more and more heavily. When his wife threw him out of her bed in disgust, he found solace in the arms of the local whores and then entertainment in the form of gambling. Fredda threw herself into building up the realm as a distraction and rapidly found herself increasingly gripped by the game of politics and power, while she paid as little attention to Belenos as possible. With the loss of her love for him, the splinter of ice that had formed in her heart at her best friend’s betrayal grew bigger every day until the once gentle girl was feared not only through her realm, but through all of Avalon. As predicted so long ago, Winter and Summer had eventually come to loathe each other and only the inclusion of Piri and Belisama, Belenos’s new love, in their relationship had finally saved their marriage and their realm.
Flame had also been as good as her word in trying to divorce them. However, her methods had involved manipulation and meddling on a catastrophic scale and very nearly destroyed not just their realm but half of Avalon. Besides, Fredda knew that ultimately, Flame wasn’t trying to ‘rescue’ them out of any real concern for anything but her concept of how things should be.
If Flame had accepted their marriage and turned her considerable talents to supporting it instead of to proving herself right, Fredda suspected that things would have been very different, but she would never know. She was only grateful that she would never have to deal with her again.