‘Zenith’ By Kim Wedlock

It’s Midsummer’s day, one of the most vital and holy celebrations of the years, and Hlífrún – bark-skinned skogsrå and Queen of the Woods – is warding her forests. A thousand years of experience has taught her that human celebrations will always go too far.
Striding through her woody domain, Hlífrún has sought out her subjects to ensure they pull their weight protecting the forests while she sees to the ancient rites, and with those matters settled, by blackmail or threats, she turns to her own task. Heading to the Mire, she roots out a particularly strange couple – a lazy forest elf and his best friend, a big-eyed, ditch-child – for a ceremonial reagent only he can make before setting herself to work.
It is then, in the middle of her holy sylvan ritual, that human ignorance strikes.
A Midsummer bonfire in a nearby village rages out of control, torching the surrounding forest, devouring tree and home, and Hlífrún has no choice but to risk offence to her goddess and stamp it out. But the blaze is too strong, and there’s no nearby water. Leaving only one option: if you can’t hold back the fire from the trees, hold the trees back from the fire.
The queen’s magic, combined with the desperate aid of forest elves, lures the forest to safety, and in doing so, the Goddess’s needs are met. Hlífrún’s ancient oath is upheld, and for that, Midsummer is honoured. Even if the proof of her worth has come at a blazing cost.

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