He supposed that he had always known that this would happen eventually.
Still, he thought as he clutched his daughter closer to his chest, mind's eye running through the events of the day, the inevitability of such events had made them no easier to stomach.
Nausea rose in his throat as he though of the scene that had greeted him as he walked through the front door that day, sorrow weighing down every bone, but he could not stop running.
Not now, not ever.
It is said, that when confronted with a life-threatening situation, there are two instincts— fight, or flight.
Once upon a time, Adair would like to say that he would have fought, that he would have turned to face the wolves in their ugly snouts, proud and unafraid, just as his mother and father would have done.
Once upon a time, he most likely would have carried out such a wish, defying the Queen until her last breath.
But, he thought as he adjusted his hold on the child in his arms as she shifted closer to him, shivering, once upon a time he didn't have a family, didn't have his own flesh and blood to care for. He cared not for his own duty, for his honour and his defiance. What good effect could they ever had? Jadis was far too powerful to bat even an eyelid at his fight, and he would die for nothing.
Now, though: now, he had a chance to make this worth something.
It was these reassurances and inspirations, proclaimed to himself, that kept the Oak dryad moving through the snow, ignoring the blistering cold beneath his feet and the blood seeping from the bite marks on his shoulder and the ravenous snapping of the wolves behind him, jaws dripping with saliva at the prospect of tasting more of his blood.
Once upon a time, the dryads were proud and chivalrous, undaunted by the prospect of a losing battle as long as their honour remained with them.
Now, at the quietest whisper of a fight, those same dryads would run and hide from the slightest confrontation, shivering and whimpering.
Adair was no different in his cowardice, having grown into it young, but when he had joined the Resistance, he felt different, somehow.
For the first time, he felt that he could fight, that in some way, even just small, he could contribute to Aslan's return, that he could defy the cruel Queen, the smallest yet most satisfying vengeance.
He would always remember the screams of his parents as the wolves tore them apart... after all, the Beasts of the White Witch never had been kind to dryads.
How ironic it was, he thought, that the determination to fight back he had thought like iron was so flimsy— that, the second his eyes had caught on the blood trickling over the earthen floor of his home, any resolve he may have had was broken.
All he cared about now was saving his child, his little Ashwyn— all that remained in Narnia now, he knew, of his sweet wife and love Willow.
Ashwyn— they had named her, after much deliberation, after the tree spoken of in their language as the tree of life, the tree of youth, the tree of healing.
Both of her parents would live on in his daughter, he knew.
Howls rose behind him, savage in their enjoyment of the chase. There was no way he could continue like this for much longer, but he couldn't stop just yet.
With each step, his feet sank deep into the frigid snow. Dryads did not do well with the cold, but he had to carry on.
In his arms, his little girl continued to bleed out from the wounds the wolves had inflicted on her. He had to get her to the nearest grove, where others in their species would take care of her.
His mind's eye caught just as his real ones did on the red staining her clothes— the prettiest dress she owned, his daughter having dressed up for her mother's birthday.
They had come home hand in hand, presents under Adair's other arm, he remembered. Despite the omnipresent somber atmosphere inherent in the reign of the Queen, he had felt jovial, excited. His daughter was ecstatic, and her moods were infectious, full of vitality as she always was.
All had been right with the world— his heart swelling with love and pride, his hand encapsulating that of his young daughter....
Then they had come home, and everything had shattered into irrecoverable pieces.
In a matter of minutes, he had gone from having everything he could ever want, to the only thing he possessed being the hope of saving his daughter, even though he himself was doomed.
He refused to believe that it was futile. He had to save his daughter— he couldn't not protect her.
A dark shape rose up ahead of him, stopping him in his tracks.
Looking up, brown eyes met icy blue.
He had failed.
Adair collapsed into the snow, the destination of the trail of blood that he and his daughter had left behind them. Still he held her close as she weakly sobbed in fear and pain into his chest, terrified and hurting.
His heart broke even more, clutching her tight; as if to protect her, though from what it couldn't be known. All beings share a final destination, and today was both of theirs, or so it seemed.
Still, Adair prayed for a miracle, for Aslan. Screams bubbled up in his chest, cries of mourning and pain and unbearable sorrow, for there is no greater pain than knowing you have failed in your most sacred duty, especially when it is this.
"It hurts indeed, to be disillusioned so," the Witch smiled, kneeling down to look Adair in the eye, forcing him to behold the glee with which she did this. "Tell me, dryad, how does it feel to know that you have failed in every way, in every duty?"
He didn't answer.
"In that case, I have another question for you." She smeared a little of his daughter's blood on her fingertips, regarding it thoughtfully.
"Do you think she'll live long enough to bleed out, or freeze to death first?"
Ice spread through Adair's heart at the merciless question.
Yet, Jadis gave him little time to consider, standing up and grasping at her wand, crown of ice resplendent. She moved too fast to see— Adair knew all too well what was coming.
His last thoughts were of his daughter, bleeding out in the cold, knowing that he had failed in what he had promised to do— keeping her safe.