“You don’t have to change,” Hearthorne said lightly. “You can remain the same, so long as you are content to have traded the taste of freedom you had before with the safety this seed provides. The binding has been cast, the seal has been made, the promise given. What is done is done, and there can be no going back.”
“I didn’t ask to return to seed,” Kya didn’t quite wail. Her leaves had curled up and begun to wither away. She wouldn’t need them in here where there was no sun, but the loss of each leaf made it harder to hear what was left of the world about her.
“No,” Hearthorne agreed. “But you did ask for your dream. Tell me, are you only willing to reach for your dream if it falls upon you gently? You said you were willing to pay the price for the possibility of the dream, but did you really mean it where it counts?”
Kya pressed against the unrelenting sides of the seed again, fanning out her petals that withered and fell away each time she pushed, digging down with her roots until it felt as though they’d been dipped in fire.
Her first seed had known when it was time to release her. She’d grown strong with its nutrients, strong enough to press through the first tiny crack that had appeared. Her new stem had been strong, but flexible. This seed expected her to be of Walnut, and while her stem was stronger than it had been before, she would break herself against the sides of the seed before it yielded. Her strength had become brittle and would not allow for her to pass.
“I can’t,” Kya said, sorrow and resignation roughening her voice. “I am not strong enough.”
Hearthorne was silent for a long time before she spoke again. “Strength is not a single color. It does not have to be black nor white. Strength can be one of those, but it can also be any of a thousand shades in between. You want to be flower-strong in a place where no flowers grow.”
“I am not of Walnut!” Kya closed her eyes against the sound of her breaking heart.
“Then you will die here,” the faerie said simply. “And I will die with you as I have already woven our fates together, back when you believed you could one day find a pair of wings and fly.”