Chapter 3

The Aert lamented, her children could not sing to her, and soon she withdrew and lost herself inside her core.

- The Creation Myth of Aert, 'The Book of the Dead'.

Earth Crown

It gets dark very early in the winter. Elves don't like the cold, it makes them clumsy. It makes Isobel so clumsy that she trips and breaks master's tea pot again. She panics but this time she doesn't cry. Elves don't cry, elves can be brave. So instead she frantically picks up the pieces of the precious porcelain. She tries to stick it back together, if it had been wood she may have coaxes it into mending, but no amount of glue or Earth Crown can restore the pot.

So she does the only thing she can do, she waits for her master to come home so she can tell him what her stupid hands have done this time. When her master gets home he beats her. Isobel is dismissed with two cracked ribs and a black eye. She doesn't eat dinner that night.

A week later she trips again, and this time she spills red wine onto the curtains in the master's parlour. He doesn't go easy on her this time, because they were pale green silk from across the big waters and are therefore very hard to replace, unlike the teapot.

This time when Isobel is dismissed she stumbles out of the house and swears that she will never return to it. By the time it gets dark, she's too scared to hold her dignity. She crawls back and promises never to be ungrateful for what her master gives her.

When spring arrives, she finds herself with outdoor duties once again. Most of her time is spent airing out the spare rooms and tending the garden. It's days like this that Isobel understands why her master beats her so much, if he didn't then she could never understand how good life can be. She wouldn't appreciate the dirt and the sky.

She puts her long ear to the ground and listens to the songs of things growing deep in the earth. She sends her thoughts, pulling them from the Earth Crown and pushing them into the soil, willing the life there to grow, so it can see the joy she sees.

That evening when she is called to serve her master his supper, she bows even lower than normal to show she really does appreciate the care he put into looking after her. He barely acknowledges her, but that's okay because she knows.

The spring draws to a close, taking with it the refreshing days of rain and the hottest summer Isobel can ever remember is upon them. The days are long and hot, the work made harder because they are not allowed breaks. On the day of the summer solstice, Isobel's master goes to celebrate with friends, and when he returns he beats her so badly, he has to be dragged off her by some of the human house staff. When it's over she has to be carried to her room, and a doctor called to see to her.

The next few hours are the worst Isobel has ever experienced. She could take the beatings, but the doctor doesn't know how to treat elves and his clumsy hands do more harm than good. He leaves and Isobel would be sobbing, but the movement hurts too much, so instead she lies as still as she can, gasping as tears sting the cuts in her face.

By autumn there are no signs of the attack left on Isobel's body. She is quieter then she was, she doesn't laugh when she's on her own. She sometimes flinches when the bell to the master's study rings, but mostly she is just there.

Just as the last of the leaves fall from the trees her master hits her for the last time. As the blows reign down on her, she realises she can't take the idea of the doctor pressing her bones back into place, and the weeks of recovery. She wants to live. So for the first time in her life, she directs the Earth Crown at a human. She reaches out to the little pot of ivy on the coffee table and smashes it on the floor, she then digs her little hands into the dirt and soon master can't breathe.

As she strangles the last of her masters breath from his body, Isobel feels no sense of relief, only the grim determination of the slightly insane. Even when he has gone blue and the light behind his eyes is dead she only wills the plant tendrils tighter.

When she is dragged out of the house by the Dragon guard, she is a dead weight. The only thought in her head is squeeze tighter and never let go.

There is no trial, no jury of peers to decide her fate. She is carted off to some despair ridden dungeon, long forgotten by light, and warmth and living things. She is left to rot there.

She is not beaten anymore, but she never feels the wind, or sees the sun, moon and stars. She can see and feel dirt, but there is no life in it, only cold and hateful stone. Carved by man and Magi to make the living wish for death.

Still, the only thought in her head is squeeze tighter and never let go. I want to live.