They’d not slept for days. The near-perpetual sun made it difficult. Even the nights were bright, stars filled the dark sky so thoroughly barely any midnight showed between them. Moreover, the empty spots left around their cooking fire did not help their sleep-deprived nerves.
Hector had fallen on their third day through the borderlands, the transition from the green earth into the fey wilds had been hard for all, but Hector’s eyes had rolled in terror when he’d passed beneath the eldritch pines and they’d heard soft singing on the wind. Hector walked with his hands pressed to his ears. On the third morning, the expedition awoke to the sound of a gunshot. Hector’s gun smoked in his limp hand.
They buried him as best they could, though the creeping vines and roots did not like the imposition of iron shovels and quickly reclaimed ceded territory.
Paul vanished on the fourth night, he turned to his bedroll early in search of sleep only to be gone from it when the rest checked not even an hour later. There was no body to bury, the only thing left of him was a small iris bloom made of bright sapphire. Despite its lovely shape, no one touched it. They left the thing tucked in his bedroll and continued on.
John died shortly after of some creeping moss got into a cut on his hand as they’d buried Hector. His passing was an ugly thing. No one would touch the furry green mound he’d become, so they left him to the forest.
Two weeks into the expedition, with no ken of progress beyond the passage of the endless trees, the deep baying of hounds overtook the silent company. The men left quavered at the sound, and cried out in fear when the hunt broke from the trees.
Their horses’ coats shown red and gold and their riders’ teeth flashed in the noon sun. At the hunts head, a woman who was not a woman grinned down at the foolish company. Her skin was burnt ochre, her hair the molten yellow of an evening sun. She reigned no hounds and faced the cowering men on foot. In her hands she held a thorned chain, wickedly comprised of verdant vine and gleaming metal. She unwound the weapon, swinging a deadly arc, and her onyx hued eyes gleamed.
Death by sparkling pointy flora was not exactly the way things were expected to go. But here it was, come for them under the perpetual sun. The expedition to the summer court officially failed that day, exterminated on the border between the fey wilds and the summer cliffs, and it would be many years before anyone was foolish enough to replicate the disaster.
Had a bad day, so I wrote something murderous. Thank you to CC for the challenge. Technically this is part of the Legal Theft Project.