"This isn't the answer, is it?"
The displaced's mouth works, gaping like a fish, and a mournful call quietly escapes.
"This is the wrong location, isn't it?" Hilde looks to the oncewolves. "You herd people here, don't you? To this clearing."
The oncewolves all bow their heads, a couple whine
"And they naturally believe the pretty grove and the impossibly lush flower is the right one. But it's not, it's the wrong location, isn't it?"
Hilde's eyes widen and she claps her hands to her mouth. She hurriedly scoots back from the flower. Fear fills her eyes. She whispers to herself.
"What would have happened?"
She looks up at the displaced and repeats herself. Anger is taking over once again and the steel in her voice makes the displaced float backward a little. The displaced folds in on itself, seeming to crouch before Hilde. The withered lips move, as though trying to speak. A low moan comes out. Hilde leans forward, listening more intently. In the ghostly rush of air she can almost make out a word.
"Eaten? Are you saying that I would have been eaten?"
The displaced nods sadly. It reaches out, skeletal fingers catching a wisp of Hilde's golden hair; darker than Tiane's. It then points to the flower. Hilde puzzles this over for a moment, idly caressing the lock of hair the displaced had touched.
"The flower, it looks an awful lot like Tiane's hair. Do you mean that is Tiane?"
The displaced shakes its head and frustration furrows its brow. It tries to speak again. The voice is slightly stronger, clearer, but still hollow sounding.
"Look, there's no way she's gone through the flower. That's not how things work"
The displaced grimaces and motions to itself and the oncewolves arrayed around them. Hilde looks around, pondering.
"I guess you have a point. This place is not how things work and yet, here we are." She sighs. "Well, is there another place? Another flower perhaps?"
The displaced shrugs. Hilde chews on her lip.
"What about a place you don't go, or can't go." She looks to the oncewolves. "Is there somewhere that you always avoid?"
Her answer is in several whines and a couple of eyes hidden behind fuzzy paws. She looks up at the displaced who hesitates before nodding.
"Can you take me there? Please? It's my daughter, my only remaining child." A tear escapes and trails down Hilde's cheek. "Please?"
The lead oncewolf noses her hand. The displaced beckons to her. Hilde stands and follows. The displaced and the lead oncewolf lead her from the clearing, the rest of the pack following close behind. She is led on a long twisting path through the forest. After many twists and turns and what feels like hours, they finally enter another clearing. This clearing is dark and shadowy, the air almost feels oily against Hilde's skin.
"Very well done, you have outsmarted my creatures." The voice is omnipresent, coming from the very air around her. Hilde turns, looking for the source.
"Where's my child?"
"She's," the voice pauses, as though pondering, "elsewhere."
"Bring her back, we'll leave and you'll never see us again."
The voice chuckles and the hair on the back of Hilde's neck stands on end. The oncewolves press close to her.
"I have an... invitation for you. Here, accept this flower, a peace offering as it were."
A flower blooms in the air before Hilde. The petals are lush, a deep black that reminds her of the moonless night sky. Iridescent blues and purples gleam in the velvety black. Hilde reaches it for it unthinkingly. The displaced gently pulls her back, the thin fingers pressing against her arm. Hilde shakes her head, her eyes wide. How could she have almost? She nods at the displaced.
"What is the price of this?" She demands.
"Why, only that you join me, rule over the forest with me." The voice drops in timber, almost soothingly. "We could be quite the formidable team you know."
"I have no need for that, I only want my daughter back."
"Oh Hilde," the voice cajoles, "naturally you'd get your daughter back too."
Hidle's breath catches. How does it know her name? Fear skitters over her nerve endings and goosebumps prickle her skin. The displaced tugs on her arm again.
Hilde pauses. Is the displaced getting stronger? It was much easier to understand that time. And is the body filling out from the gaunt shell? Hilde shakes her head. 'No time for this' she thinks to herself.
"No deal. I want only my daughter."
"Woman! Do not think to displease me!" The flower before is shredded in a gust of wind, the petals whirling madly before dropping to the forest floor. "I"ll have what I want!"
"Not from me, you won't. Mark my words creature, I'll have my daughter back and we'll see the end of you." Hilde turns and strides from the clearing, brushing aside branches that attempt to block her path.
The displaced looks around nervously and then quickly follows Hilde. The oncewolves trail in their wake.