The forest stretched for miles on end, the ground covered in white snow, not a single leaf grew on the branches of the old trees. It was cold and dark, with only the pale light of the moon shining down and leading the way, but to where it led? Now that is the question.
It is said that within this snowy forest with ermines and snowshoe hares and birds who pluck on red berries growing on bare branches lives a maiden of endless beauty, one which the gods themselves envy, hair as green as the leaves in the spring, eyes the color of amber and a heart made of ice, frozen by cruelty. A maiden that has the power to freeze one’s soul with only her cold stare. And at night, deep, deep inside the forest if you listened well you may hear her cruel laughter, or her song, humming hauntingly through the midwinter winds.
She walks in the snow with bare feet without leaving any trace that she was there, her voice like bells chiming sweetly. It is said that no one saw her and lived, but the forest itself whispers, and then there are those who have seen a glimpse of her, in her long black dress, and a black veil over atop her head.
“Does she live alone?” you may ask. Well, yes and no.
In the forest, many of the animals keep her company, but in her castle of ice she lives with her servants and her pack of wolves that patrol the forest for any intruders who wish to harm their mother.
But if you mean to ask, “Does she not have a significant other?” The answer is a simple “Yes”.
Standing by her side is her faithful companion, a knight with eyes that shine like crystals, yellow bangs like the moon with blue hair like the far away sea and dressed in armor as if carved by the same ice that constructed her castle. He stays by her side, sword ready to defend her, only seeing swirling snowflakes in his vision, hears bells softling ringing in his ears and the voice of his queen as she gives him commands with a kiss to his cheek, or lips or hand.
This knight’s name is Yugo. And this is the story as he became the Eternal Knight of Winter.
Entering the forest, he was alone, a sword sheathed by his side with his white winter's outfit and cloak draped over him. It barely stopped the harsh winter winds from making him shiver, though.
This boy’s name, born 16 moons ago, was Yugo, and he was on a quest like all the knights and knights-in-training go through. His was to follow the rumor of bandits at night, that come out of nowhere, easily coming into the village to steal away prize sheep and vegetables from gardens and fields to who knows where.
This was a very important mission to Yugo. For you see, Yugo is training to one day enter the Roget Knight Academy, where the finest boys are trained to wield a sword, be adorned in armor and ride their steeds into battle to defend the village. Only boys of noble heritage or of good money can get this privilege. Yugo was born an orphan but somehow he was chosen, out of all potential boys, by Jack Atlas, the greatest knight ever to have graduated from the academy, to go out in search of these bandits. It was a dream come true! And he was not going to let his Kingdom or his hero down. With the finest armor that would fit a boy his age, a sword that would protect him from harm, a cloak to keep him warm, a sack of bread, cheese, apples and dried meats and a flask of warm apple cider, he headed straight to the forest to complete the quest.
The boy was not afraid of bandits, but the forest is filled with many tales heard about from the poor to the richest of nobles. One such tale is of the illustrious Snow Queen, a maiden with a heart of ice, who steals your very soul with one kiss of her cold lips. Mothers would tell this story to their children to make sure they didn’t stay out too late; for if they did, the Queen would arrive and take them away, make them forget who they were before they would become nothing more than either her servants or her statues depending on her mood.
Still, something had to be done about the bandits. Food is becoming scarce so every little scrap of food that could be turned into preserves or pickled or dried must be done so until Spring arrived.
As he made his way through the forest, moving deeper and deeper, eyes seeing nothing but snow and dead trees and animals scurrying about, the air got colder, his heart began to beat faster, the wind roaring in his ears, as only the pale moon lights the way, and he thought he heard a soft bell tolls. A flash of black passed through his peripheral vision, a shadow, a specter with a cruel smile on their lips and perhaps equal cruel eyes.
“Show yourself!” said Yugo, turning around. “I’m not afraid of you. I...I’m Yugo, a knight-in-training...or rather, I will be once I complete this quest.”
Jack Atlas promised him personally that if Yugo could figure out where the bandits lay, he would be able to vouch for the young boy and become enrolled into the Roget Knights Academy in the Spring. Of course this was met with such mockery from the Commoners; Jack Atlas of all people actually having a boy who couldn’t even count past ten become a knight? How absurd!
Absurd or not, this was Yugo’s only opportunity to leave his dreary life and become who he always dreamed of being. So what if people made fun of him? At least that meant he was being noticed for once and they weren’t insulting his name or anything.
Yugo reached for the sack and pulled out a hunk of bread. Perhaps it was hungry? Perhaps it smelled the food he carried on him? Well, once he found the bandits and all the food they kept then Yugo would be able to carry it home and have a bite or two as he completed his quest.
A silhouette came closer, and Yugo couldn’t quite make it out through the icy winds, but he could tell that it was that of a human. Yugo unsheathed his sword and aimed it at the shadowy figure. "Show yourself, come forward!” he shouted.
It did, or rather, she did. The pale moon shined down upon her, the most beautiful girl Yugo has ever seen. A small part of him, one which Yugo shut down quite vehemently, desired to drop the sword and kneel before her. She had a heart shaped face framed with light green hair and two yellow strands, beautiful amber eyes, and a sweet smile. She wore a beautiful white dress with a short skirt and white leggings over it and with multiple blue crystals decorating the hem and long sleeves that seemed to cover her pale hands. She wore no shoes, which made Yugo wonder how she wasn’t feeling cold or why her feet haven’t turned blue yet.
“Why hello there Yugo,” The girl whispered softly, her voice ringing in his ears sweetly like bells that tell him that it’s time for a hot meal for dinner. “What are you doing here all alone? Where are your parents?”
“I’m...I’m on a quest!” Yugo answered, imitating the knights he saw parading across the village, standing tall, sword at the ready. “There are bandits somewhere in these woods. They are stealing precious food from my village and I am here to scout them out! Y-You shouldn't be here all alone, my lady.”
“But only you?” she asked, ignoring his remark about her being alone.
“Yes, only me!”
“No one else is with you?” she inquired, looking around as if someone would jump out from behind the trees.
Yugo shook his head. “Jack Atlas said that if there were too many people then the bandits would get suspicious and run away or burn all the food they stole.”
“But why only a boy like you? Aren’t there more more experienced knights?”
“The bandits are smart; they know all the knights in the village. But I’m a surprise; they’ll never expect a commoner like me to find them! I’m very sneaky and crafty and I’m very good with my hands!”
The girl giggled. “How long have you been on your quest? It is getting dark and you need to start making a fire very soon.”
“Oh shit!” Yugo cursed, looking through his pack. He rummaged through it, finding the food and ale that was personally given to him, but didn’t have the supplies needed to make a fire. He always made sure to carry these on hand; only an idiot goes out into the woods without a torch, a flint and some kindling twigs to make the fire grow. Unless….
The girl smiled kindly at the boy. "You look very cold, Sir Yugo. I don't live very far from here, why don’t you come with me and I'll give you shelter for the night, as a thank you for your concern about me?
“But what about the bandits? If I don’t go after them now, the trail will grow cold! Er...colder than it already is.”
“I’m sure the bandits will still be where they're at in the morning. Not even they would risk moving in this weather. Now come with me, Yugo. Take my hand and I will guide you there.”
The girl extended her hand out for Yugo to take. Yugo’s eyes stared at it; it was white like the marble floors of the royal palace, perhaps even whiter than that. With a shaky hand, he took it to his own, noticing that she felt so cold. “A...all right, then.”
The girl smiled and, in a move that astonished Yugo, she lifted Yugo’s hand and placed a kiss on it. Usually it is the other way around.
"Ah, yes, I'm… thank you my lady, you're very beautiful um… I mean I'm very grateful… grateful for your hospitality," Yugo stammered out.
She giggled sweetly again and Yugo could feel a blush coloring his cheeks.
"If… if you allow me, my lady, what's your name?"
The girl smiled, her amber eyes glowed like the torches that were lit at night to ward off evil spirits.
"I am called Rin."
The trip back to Rin’s home was filled with Yugo entertaining her with story upon story of his village. Of the winter festival that would soon be ready, of the foods that were made, of the knights that protected his home from evil wolves and witches and other monsters that would love to take advantage of the longer nights.
Yugo stopped talking and froze once they reached Rin's home, or rather the Ice Castle. He had to look up and he still couldn't see the top of the spires as the dark storm clouds covered them.
"You- You live here?" Yugo asked astonished.
"Indeed,” Rin answered.
"Wha-What is this place?” Yugo asked. "I never knew something like...like that was in the woods! Or believed it."
“There are a lot of things you don’t know, Yugo,” Rin replied. “Speaking of which, your name...it sounds similar to Hugo which means ‘Wisdom’ but it seems like you have a lot to learn, don’t you?
Yugo rubbed the back of his head. “Well...what does your name mean?”
“It can mean ‘cold’ or ‘bell’ or perhaps even ‘song of joy’,” Rin replied. “I prefer the last one personally.”
“Wow...I didn’t know that a name can mean so much. Yours is very very pretty, my lady.”
“Names have a lot of power in them, Yugo,” Rin whispered. “If you know a monster’s true name, you have power over them. Control them, tame them. There is magic in words just as there is magic found in mixtures of petals from flowers that bloom once in a blue moon and tears gathered from the Queen of NIghtingales.”
Yugo blinked, magic, witchcraft, sorcery, things everyone was afraid of, and a woman's beauty can bewitch men to do anything. He looked at the girl by his side, yes, men would go to war and lose themselves for a beauty such as hers. Yugo shook his head, now wasn't the time for thoughts like that. He was cold, and tired and quite hungry; in hindsight he realized he was truly ill prepared for this journey.
“Whoa….so, uh...what’s the name of this place?”
"Oh this? Why, this Is the castle of the Snow Queen."
"The- The Snow Queen?” Yugo gasped. "No...no it can’t be!” Recalling everything he heard about the Snow Queen.
“Hmm?” asked Rin with a tilt of her head. “What’s wrong Yugo?”
“E...everyone in the village has heard about her,” Yugo stammered, stepping back. “Even the richest of nobles know the fable, I’m…I’m not sure I should go inside. She’d probably turn me into a sculpture or something!“
“Why not?,” said Rin, leaning close to Yugo’s ear. “You don’t have to be afraid of me, for I am personally inviting you as my guest, Yugo.”
She placed a kiss on Yugo’s cheek, and a pale blue glow flashes in Yugo’s eyes. He froze in place, and his body relaxed. Suddenly he felt quite glad that Rin would allow him to enter such a nice abode for the night.
“Come on then,” said Rin, lightly knocking on the door. “I’ll prepare a hot bath for you while my ladies prepare some clothes and a room for the night. Then we can have a feast that you will never forget.”
Yugo was silent as the large doors opened up, unleashing a cold gust of air that caused him to shiver but in a good way. Rin clapped her hands as she took Yugo’s hand into hers and raced throughout the icy floors of her castle.
"Ice Bell, Blue Bell, Glass Bell, " she called her servants. “Come here immediately.”
A trio of giggles echoed across the icy castle as the three servants arrived in front of Rin on broomsticks. Rin smiled and presented Yugo to them, the boy’s eyes as pale and glassy like the icy chandelier hanging above their heads.
"This boy is Yugo, he is my guest,” Rin explained. “Please hand him some warmer clothes and prepare him a room to stay. Then we will take him to the baths for him to warm up. Have the chefs prepare a feast for the two of us post-haste."
"Yes your majesty." The three chorused.
"Go on Yugo, follow them,” Rin said, patting his shoulder. “You may stay for as long as you need to."
"Thank you, your majesty," Yugo said before bowing to her, the glassy look in his eyes fading, and he followed one of the girls, one with cyan hair and a purple hat, into the baths.
"My lady, we were wondering," Glass Bell whispered. "How long is the boy going to stay here?" She asked with a knowing smile on her face.
Rin smirked as her white dress suddenly became black as a moonless sky, rising around her body like dark vines. "Forever," she answered.
And her servants giggled in delight.
The room was huge, bigger than anything Yugo could have imagined, the walls echoes around him, floor made of marble, statues of strange monsters like a beast with a snake for a tail and both the head of a goat and lion everywhere and steam coming from the pool of a hot spring bath.
Yugo was mesmerized by it all. He wonders if this is where King Roget rests after a hard day ruling the kingdom. No, this room is ten times more magnificent then that!
He began to strip himself of his armor, making sure to get each and every piece off of him and set it aside carefully before removing his thin shirt and pants before he slowly sinks himself into the warm water. He’s never felt anything like this; the warm water against his aching sore muscles was magnificent!
Yugo heard giggles from around him and blushed looking around. He knew he wasn't in any danger, this was a big castle and looked like it is in the middle of nowhere, from what he saw there was only the Snow Queen… Rin and her servants, he was completely safe.
He heard Rin's giggles again, a sound he grew to adore on their way to the castle, and heard her shoo the other servants away.
"Is the bath to your satisfaction?" She asked softly, and Yugo blushing hard didn't dare look at her.
'It's uh, more than that you're majesty,” Yugo answers, sighing. “It's amazing, I can't thank you enough for this wonderful hospitality."
"Oh think nothing of it." said Rin, approaching the tub and propping herself so she sat on the rim. “You know...it really gets lonely around here.”
"I'm sorry to hear that, you're very kind," Yugo said, "Taking me in like you did."
"I found a sweet boy in the woods, I did what anyone would do," she whispered, dipping her finger in the pool. As her finger moved in slow moving spirals, she continued, “Tell me more about yourself, Yugo. Do you have any parents?”
“No...I’m...an orphan,” Yugo said. “I lived alone, scavenging on whatever food scraps I could find, did my work in the fields and helped gather food for winter.”
“Oh my,” Rin gasped. “An orphan heading off on a quest to find some bandits without any help? Did you even consider that you were sent here only to be offered as a sacrifice or something?”
"A sacrifice for what?" He asked confused.
Rin sighed. “There are plenty of other villages that offer up young innocent souls like yourselves to appease the spirits of the forest. Children who otherwise were ignored were given a day of praise, dressed in the finest silks and furs, feasted on apples, pears and roast meats and paraded for all the village to see until they are taken to a sacred place far away and the parade of villagers left.
"Wh-what happened to them?"
Rin shrugged her shoulders. "Depends, although none of them are left without care. My Windwitches were some of those offerings. Others were small children left to die but were taken into the hands of the Queen of Nightingales.”
Yugo paused; Rin mentioned something about tears of the Queen of Nightingales earlier. “Do you...know her?”
“We are sisters,” Rin answered. “I rule over Winter and she over Autumn. And we have our younger sisters, the Harmonious Fairy Queen of Spring, and the Dark Moon Maiden of Summer. Each of them have already found a precious knight to watch over them. And I am waiting for mine.”
Yugo gasped; there was so much he did not know. He had to know more, had to know about Rin’s sisters and the children who were offered up to the.
“What about Spring and Summer?”
“For those given to become Spring, they become the ‘Melodious Divas’, born from flowers whose songs can warm the coldest of hearts. And for Summer, they are part of the Lunalight tribe, a group of warriors who dance underneath the night sky in celebration of the Summer Solstice and the longer nights ahead. They become strongest by the full moon, and weakest by month's end when the moon ends its cycle and begins anew. ”
"That's… That's amazing , your majesty," Yugo said and started to shiver, the water becoming colder and colder.
Rin nodded her head before sighing. “Aside from these offerings, I have received word that my sisters have already obtained a knight for their own. I am the only one without a knight by my side now.”
"How… how did your sisters obtain their knights?"
Rin looked up. "Oh those are stories for another day, you may ask them if you ever meet them. They are quite funny stories in that the drawings I received of the knights have such similar faces. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if I showed them to you and be amazed at how I’m seeing double or even more!"
Yugo froze as the Queen pulled him gently to her, her chest pressed to his back, and she started playing with his hair.
"If I may ask, how did you become the Snow Queen?" he asked, teeth chattering at how cold the water became. How did the water become so cold so quickly?
"My sisters and I were all born with these gifts. Our oldest sister, Ray, who sought to love and protect us from harm took us away into the legendary Woods of Walpurgisnacht to shield us from those who wanted us burned at stake. For you see, she was a powerful witch who was capable of using natural energy from flowers, the moon, wind and birds themselves. Her talent made her the target of some of the more envious women who could not even cast a spell to boil a cup of water.
“She somehow enchanted and obtained the heart of the King of Demons, Zarc. It is through them that we were reborn into what we are now and thus we scattered across the world to find our homes. Hmm...now that I think about it, the knights that my sisters obtained all have the same face as Zarc. Perhaps they are his sons?"
Rin's breath on Yugo’s cheek was warm, soothing, relaxing. She began to hum and sing a haunting song, one that reminded him of the cold dark forest at night. Yugo’s mind became heavy, Rin's voice lovely and ever so beautiful rang in his mind.
“So….so cold…” Yugo shivered, running his hands up and down his arms.
"That's alright," Rin whispered in his ear. "I'll warm you up," she said and keept running her hand through his hair, her breath warm against his cheek as she continued humming made him feel much better and Yugo let his worries melt away.
"Just relax now, I'm here, by your side, that's all that's important. You're safe and warm in my arms," Rin said and kissed his cheek.
“Yes…my Queen,” Yugo whispered, eyes glowing with an icy blue light.
“I want you to become my knight. Stay with me, protect me from those who would try to hunt me down. You won’t ever have to worry about hunger or cold; the forest will provide a feast and your body will become adjusted to the cold itself because the cold winds remind you of me.”
Yugo smiled. "The cold wind reminds me of… of you, my Queen."
Rin smiled and kissed Yugo again and again and again. With each and every kiss, Yugo felt memories of his life covered in frost. He began to forget why he was here to begin with, how did he arrived at the castle, his quest, his adoration of Jack Atlas. All that he knew was that he was here with the Snow Queen as her guest. No...as her knight .
Many bells begin to ring and the smell of food floated in the air. Rin smiled.
"Come. It's time for the feast, Yugo,” she said. “Follow me."
"Yes my Queen," Yugo said and got out of the pool immediately, ignorant of the steam still rising in it. .
Rin's eyes moved up and down Yugo's naked body and smirked. "Don’t worry. My witches have prepared some new clothes for you."
The Wind witches giggled, having used the time that their Queen casted her spell to change Yugo’s armor and clothes into something more fitting for the Eternal Knight of Winter. As the three wrapped Yugo in a towel to dry him off, Rin began to observe the new uniform for her knight. It was made of white materials again, with shoulder pads, a protective vest and cape made of white fur from an ermine.
"You did excellent work, girls," she said to her witches proudly. The trio of witches smiled at the praise and at the knight that was going to be loyal to their queen.
"Come, my knight, wear this," Rin commanded and Yugo did as he was told. With each and every item he put on, he felt more and more at home as the knight of this icy castle.
The Queen put her hand under his chin and pulled his face forwards kissing his lips, his eyes glowing cyan.
"Come," she commanded again, and her dutiful knight obeyed.
It was time for the feast.
Different types of meats, vegetables, cheese and bread were spread out between the Snow Queen and her knight. The Wind witches were quick to pour warm cider into crystal goblets and hot leek soup with chopped carrots, celery and potatoes into glass bowls.
Yugo blinked, and blinked again, he was not at all used to a feast such as this, nor did he ever imagine or dream of it
“Where did you gather all of this food?” he asked as he was served a leg of rabbit wrapped in fatty slices of bacon along with a side of roasted potatoes and pockets of dough stuffed with spinach and cheese. Yugo's stomach growled, making his face turn red, and he was met with Rin's giggle.
“Like I said, the forest provides everything needed,” Rin answered. “And if not, then I ask my loyal subjects to gather the necessary ingredients.”
"Oh…” said Yugo, looking at the rabbit leg. He’s had rabbit before, but not like this. “U-um… you look really gorgeous in black, my Queen."
Rin smiled at him. "Thank you my Knight, but you may call me ‘Rin’ when we're alone."
“O...of course, Rin,” Yugo said with a wide grin, and happily looked back at the food on his plate to decide where to begin.
Yugo began to eat in silence, using a loaf of bread to wipe down the juices of the rabbit or soup. All the while, Rin touched nothing on her plate but instead began to hum a soft tune as she dipped her finger into her goblet and ran her finger around the rim.
One of the witches, Yugo believed is called Ice Bell poured him a glass of something liquid. It was red like pomegranate juice and smelled like that combined with honey.
"Is um… is that wine, Rin?" He asked, taking the cup into his hand.
"You've never had it before?"
"O-of course not. I was an orphan back in my village; these are luxuries I couldn't even dare dream of!”
“You’re my knight, Yugo. Whatever I have I give to you. Now then…” Rin took her goblet into her hand and raised it into the air. “To us and to the winter cold that lies ahead.”
Yugo raised his own goblet. "To us, my Queen. May your winds howl and your storms devour," he said and place the glass on his lips.
As he takes a long sip of wine, Rin dipped her finger into the wine before running said finger around the rim of the goblet.
They kept talking with Rin getting more and more information on the village, its name, its whereabouts, how the politics work there, how the people used to treat him. Yugo kept asking for more and more wine as there was a ringing noise in his head that he couldn’t shake off.
Ice Bell happily complied pouring as much wine as Yugo required with a secret smile to her queen. Blue Bell and Crystal Bell watched in delight as Rin kept circling the rim of her goblet.
By an hour, Yugo's mind was buzzing, his face was red from the wine, his body was relaxed, and then he heard a hum music to his ears now, he loved hearing Rin's voice, his Queen's voice, coming closer.
She placed her hands on Yugo's shoulders as she kept humming in his ear, playing with his hair lovingly
“There there,” Rin cooed. Yugo had a smile on his face tilting his head, eyes half laid and unfocused as he listened intently to Rin's voice. "Your Queen loves you very much Yugo. And you love her back, don't you? You're her loyal knight."
"Yes, I love my Queen, I am her loyal...knight," he whispered back in a vacant and empty tone and Rin kissed his cheek.
"You belong here with me as my Knight of Winter. “
"I belong here with you, your Knight of Winter." Yugo repeated and Rin gave his cheek another kiss.
"You've always belonged here, you've always lived here. And you desire to stay."
"I desire to stay." Rin kissed his chin.
"And you will do as I command, all that you do is in the name of your Queen."
"In the name of my Queen."
"Long may she reign."
"Long may she reign."
Rin smiled and kissed his lips. Yugo gasped as a puff of cold air escaped his lips as he exhaled one last time.
"Are you tired, my knight?" Rin asked sweetly, stroking Yugo’s cold cheek.
“N...no…” Yugo replied, feeling everything turn black. “I...I’m fine.”
“Can you stand?”
"Su-sure I can," he said and tried to stand up. But his legs were shaking badly; he had to sit back down. He tried once more, but then he slammed his butt onto his seat. He looked in embarrassment. "It-uh, it appears that I...I can't my Queen."
“Don’t worry yourself. I’ll carry you.”
She giggled. "I'm stronger than I look. Come." She said and took him in her arms, walk him to the room prepared for him and sat him on the side of his bed. She soon began to help him strip all his armour off. Placing him under the warm furrs, she placed a hand on his forehead, feeling that it was cold as ice.
“Yugo,” she whispered. “When you wake up tomorrow, come to the throne room and I shall knight you.”
Yugo smiled, almost falling asleep. "Yes, Rin, as you wish my precious Queen." He said and she kissed his lips once more.
"Rest now, my sweet knight. Soon you will be mine for eternity."
Rin gave him one more kiss on the lips before she returned to her sleeping chambers for the night. And Yugo slept with a smile on his face, dreaming at how he was finally achieve his dream of becoming a knight.
“What do you mean no one would care if he died?!”
Jack Atlas frowned when Yusei Fudo, leader of The Enforces, pinned him against a wall of the Roget Knight Academy. The two were once close friends back as Commons until Jack betrayed them all, stealing Yusei’s sword -- Stardust Dragon -- and somehow rose to become the top knight of the Roget Knight Academy.
“You know how this works,” Jack replied. “A youth is chosen at random to be offered to the Snow Queen to ensure that Winter Festival doesn’t end up with all of us dead and buried under a foot of snow.”
"That's bullshit Jack!" Crow Hogan yelled. "No one believed in the Snow Queen in centuries. And it's only now that you and that bastard Roget believe in her?"
"The storms have been harsher, the snowfall has gotten deeper and deeper each year, Roget seemed so convinced that she existed, he said we have to try it. It was either that orphen boy --"
"He has a name Jack!" Yusei interrupted.
Jack siged. "It was either Yugo , or Roget would have chosen one of you. If the Snow Queen is real she would have her offering and the village would be safe, if she's not real then one orphen dies, and no one would care about him."
“No one would -- we all care about him!” Shinji Weber snarled.
“If you three really cared about him, then why are you attacking me instead of going after him?” Jack smirked. “Say the Snow Queen doesn’t exist. Yugo won’t be able to last long with the amount of food given to him. Nor does he have a torch or supplies to light a fire. I highly doubt that he’ll be able to hunt enough meat with that sword of his too. Face it, you guys are wasting such precious time chewing me out when you could use it to rescue poor poor Yugo from his horrible -- .”
Yusei punched Jack in the face. He had been wanting to do that for a while.
“You better pray that the Snow Queen doesn’t exist,” he muttered, walking away. “Because if she did, she’d love to freeze more than that heart of yours.
"Come on, we're getting suppliers and leaving to find the kid," Yusei said and the other two nodded and followed Yusei out the campus grounds towards the supply hut that belonged to Martha. Jack watched them leave with regret in his stern violet eyes. He didn't want to send the eager eyed kid to his death, but it was either him or one of his friends.
He knew it was selfish of him, quite despicable, but he had to choose. And he supposed his choice has cost him dearly.
But he had no idea how much this would cost him.
Yusei, Crow and Shinji rode on horseback through the wintery woods. It had been an entire week since Jack’s declaration of Yugo to head off to find the bandits, and there was little to no chance to find him at this rate.
They had combed through the forest and yet they still found nothing, not a sound or a trail, not even a body to return. Could the Snow Queen have take him?
They heard growls and bodies moving from around them. The three of them huddled together back to back and sheathed their swords, a torch in front of each of them
“Show yourself!” Shinji snarled. “Soldiers of the Snow Queen? Bandits? We’re not scared of you!”
The wind began to howl and was accompanied by two or three more howls. From around them they were circled by snow white wolves.
The three enforcers gritted their teeth, and readied themselves to defend themselves.
"Halt!" A young voice said. The Enforcers blinked and the wolves made way for a familiar face. "Who are you? And what are you doing in the lands of the Snow Queen?"
"Y-Yugo?" Crow asked looking at the new Yugo in his white knight armor and empty icy blue eyes..
Yugo blinked. "You know my name? How?" He asked, not a hint of recognizing any of them.
"Yugo, it's Crow Yusie and Shinji, from back in the village."
"What village?” Yugo asked, tilting his head like the wolves did. I've always belonged to the Queen," he said, pointing a sword at them.
"So either he lost his mind…." Shinji said.
"Or the Snow Queen is real and Yugo's under her spell," Crow finished.
"May we talk to her? Your Queen? We mean no harm, we wanted to fix a horrible act done by one of our own, that's all," Yusei explained, sheathing his sword.
“What is this person’s name?” Yugo inquired, unsheathing his sword, white and blue like ice.
“You know him,” Yusei answered. “He’s from the Roget Knight Academy, the one who tasked you to enter the forest to find some ‘bandits’ that stole food from the Commons. He goes by the name of Jack Atlas.”
There is some recognition in Yugo's cold eyes but otherwise no response.
“Jack. Atlas.” Crow enunciated. “You kept mentioning how you wanted to be just like him, a brave knight who rose through the ranks to become someone to protect his people and village from evil monsters. There’s not a single person in the village who doesn’t know his name, nor is there a single person in the village who doesn’t know how much you admire him!”
“Come on, Yugo!” Shinji exclaimed. “Don’t you realize that you’ve been duped? There are no bandits! You were set up to be sacrificed by some ice cold bitch who doesn’t even exist! ”
"I see," they heard a soft voice say and looked around to look for the source. A girl who looked no older than 16 appeared from behind Yugo, walking gracefully, as if floating on the snow, with a black dress that clung to her like a second skin, and a black veil that cascaded down her back.
"So, you must be the Snow Queen," Yusei said.
"Wait, she's actually real ?" Crow asked eyes wide. He’s always kept telling stories about her to the kids he was taking care of because she was so mysterious and beautiful and the kids couldn’t think of her as a true queen of ice and snow.
The Snow Queen placed her hand gently on Yugo's arm beside her. "Yes I am real, amd who might you three be?"
"I'm Yusei Fudo, this is Crow Hogan and Shinji Weber,” Yusei answered, bowing towards the Snow Queen (although Yusei was quite surprised that she looked so young). “We came here looking for Yugo after we found out from Jack what he and King Roget did. We wanted to bring the boy back to the village before he… well," Yusie explained pointing at Yugo.
The Snow Queen clicked her teeth and shook his head. “You don’t understand, Sir Yusei. Yugo belongs here with me. He does not know of any other home than in these woods and in my castle. He does not remember who this ‘Jack’ and ‘King Roget’ are. Even if he did, he does not care for them. Do you, my knight?”
"No my Queen, you're all that I know, all that matters," Yugo answered. The wind howled again, cold air hitting them, Yugo closed his eyes for a minute enjoying it.
"Are you sure you don't wanna come back, Yugo?" Yusei asked, hoping to appeal to Yugo in anyway you can. “Don’t you want to become a knight for real? To be cheered upon by the other villagers when they see you on your steed, a feather in your helm, a sword in your hand as you fight to defend the village?”
"Hey might be for the best," Crow said.
"What are you talking about, Crow?" Shinji asked outraged. “You want this kid to be a frozen corpse for the rest of his life?!”
"Look, we came here to make sure the kid isn't dead and buried in the snow, and he's not,” Crow explained. “He serves the Queen now. And you know the masses. They're under King Roget's sway; if they found out he was supposed to be a sacrifice to this mythical Queen and we got him back who knows how they'll react? Not kindly I'd say.”
“Oh?” asked the Snow Queen, raising her eyebrow. “So none of them are going to care if my knight froze to death? All they would care about is themselves ?”
At how she said that last question, Yusei, Crow and Shinji felt a shiver fall down their spines.
"Well, I mean it is complicated, your… your majesty," Crow tried to correct himself.
“No, no, no,” The Snow Queen interrupted. “I see how it goes. People like to scapegoat me and my sisters if anything bad happens. Did it ever occur to them that perhaps it is them that causes problems? That it’s not the supernatural or the unknown but them, human nature and free will that makes it so that others suffer? That if they just stopped and used their brains to think instead of having the same thoughts frozen in their minds then perhaps they could actually have a chance to improve their lives?”
"I… well… " Yusei stammered. She did make a valid argument.
"Your highness, I understand that you are livid and that you came to care for your knight but please,” said Shinji, approaching the queen. “It's not worth all these people dying. Some of them are good people, selfless people. We beg you not to bring your wrath on them. Some people look out for themselves and their loved ones, yes, but you would do anything for the people you love, correct? There is a degree of selfishness but not all people deserve to die for it, or for the decisions of one corrupt king."
“Oh really?” said the Snow Queen. “Well considering you were coming in so late to rescue my knight, I highly doubt you’re part of those ‘selfless people’ now are you?
Shinji sighed. “We wished we arrived back to the village sooner, the king had sent the three of us on a mission outside the village and we weren't aware of his decision until we returned. The Winter Festival is starting soon and preparations must be made before the Winter Solstice. Plus I am preparing a Resistance group to finally topple King Roget’s reign upon the kingdom so that the commoners can finally be seen as equal. The commoners are the ones who truly believe that you are causing such misfortune upon their lands. They are swayed by the king because there is no one else to tell them the truth. Rumors and speculations go around and the more superstitious folks decided to believe the king because it's safer to do so than believe your own government doesn't care about you. We know that you might be angry and not care, but please your highness, have mercy."
The Snow Queen looked into the eyes of these Enforcers and watched the wolves growl softly, waiting for a command. She then sighed. “Very well then, you have my mercy.”
"Thank you, your majesty. We-" Yusei started to say but was cut off by the Queen wagging a finger.
“Uh uh uh, I repeat that you three have my mercy,” The Snow Queen clarified. “But that poor village is doomed. At this rate, they will only survive this winter with how their food rations have been taken away by the king’s men who bribed the bandits lead by the Thief King Bakura.”
“WHAT?!” Shinji shouted. Yusei and Crow's eyes widened.
"There… there has to be something we can do," Yusei said in horror.
"Hold on please!" Crow begged, thinking of his three kids waiting for him to come home with more stories and how they were excited for the upcoming festivities. "There are children in the village. Orphans, good people...they don't deserve you wrath, we beg you to spare them."
“You don’t even know what I’m going to do yet,” The Snow Queen giggled. “You humans just love jumping to conclusions, don’t you?”
"Well we…" Shinji started but once more was cut off by the Snow Queen, a round ice crystal forming in her hand.
“Here,” said the Snow Queen. She curled her hand around it, crushing it into icy shards. “Perhaps after this, you three will begin to see things my way .”
She blew on the dust as Yusei, Crow and Shinji shield their faces from it. However, the shards still made their way into their hearts, freezing them from the inside. Yugo watched, a tiny smirk forming on his lips as he knew just what was going to happen. The wolves whined in anticipation and the Snow Queen’s smile was stretched out from ear to ear.
There was silence as Yusei, Crow and Shinji lowered their arms and looked around. Everything looked the same…
But in their hearts, they didn’t feel that way.
The icy shards expanded, numbing their very souls, suffocating them, freezing their thoughts. Their eyes darkened and they stood ramrod straight towards the queen and her knight before kneeling before the two.
The Queen smirked cruelty before kissing her knight. "Come my love, we have important things to do."
"Yes, my Queen," said Yugo, looking straight at the Queen’s new subjects. “Come this way, Enforces of the Winter Woods. We must deck you out in your new armors and we must prepare ourselves for the Winter Festival upon your village.”
And the three Enforcers obeyed without a second thought.
“Look at these people, my knight.”
Jack frowned when he heard King Jean-Michel Roget call him that. He hated being called the king’s knight more than he hated his decision of sacrificing Yugo to “appease” the Snow Queen. The two watched the festivities below in the balcony of the castle. Torches were lit everywhere, tables of meats and cheeses and fresh fruit laid out for everyone to feast upon, children ran in their finest attire across the street while musicians played on violins, flutes and tambourines. For one night a year, Commons and Tops are allowed to mingle with one another and violence is not condone.
"All these commoners down there, can you believe that they fall for such fables like that of the Snow Queen?” Roget barked, laughing. "It is amazing how the illusion of power and equality can sway the masses into believing anything that is said to them. All I needed was to pin the blame on a legendary woman and the people were so ready to accept it, and follow their King, if it just made them believe how wise and courageous that boy was to go out into the woods to stop the ‘bandits’ who snatched our food.”
“...He was just a boy,” Jack snarled, recalling Yugo’s look of shock and excitement when Jack said his name out loud in front of a roaring audience.
“He was nothing more than a dreamer,” Roget huffed. “He wasn’t going to get anywhere . Can’t read, can’t count past 10, only good for farm work -- and there are plenty other boys who can easily replace him -- and he thinks that he’s good enough to actually have you personally enroll him into my prestigious academy?! Or the fact that the commons actually believed that I was going to make his dream come true?! These dreams and delusions give the people hope you see, hope that they as well may have the chance to achieve their dreams, and with that hope comes compliance. This brings out loyalty to their beloved king for giving them such an opportunity and that way, they never revolt, and the class system stays as it is, a benefit only for us."
As Roget talked, Jack felt a shiver fall down his spine. But that didn’t make any sense since he was wearing a heavy fur coat and the fire was still warm inside. Jack had a very bad feeling. He placed a hand over his heart, not sure what to make of it.
“What’s wrong?” Roget asked with an all-knowing look in his eye. “Finally growing a conscience, are we? I mean, you were very good at taking orders, weren’t you?”
“Think about it. What was one boy compared to those Enforcers who actually help keep the peace? If I made you choose one of them, then the Commoners would start an uprising and things would fall into chaos and fire. But you chose a nobody that people will only remember for a day, perhaps two. You should be happy at what you’ve done.”
"It’s not that, my King,” Jack replied. “Something's wrong. Someone’s here .” Why does my heart feel like it's frozen over?
“What do you mean?” Roget questioned. “My best guards are at the entrance to this room and I have several more stationed throughout the castle. No one could possibly enter here without us being notified of their presence."
"And you will be soon enough," A cold monotone voice replied.
Jack’s eyes widened in surprise. He knew that voice, knew it as if it was his very own. But...that can’t be right...it couldn’t possibly be…
“Yusei?” Jack whispered, turning his head around to find Yusei face-to-face with him. Jack looked in horror at his old friend, especially since the last time Jack saw him, it was when Yusei was about to head off to save Yugo. “W...what happened to you?”
Yusei's skin was very pale, his eyes empty and glassy, his lips frozen, and crystal like shards were frozen over his cheeks and on his chin. He wore white clothes with shoulder pads, a long white cape, white gloves, a tunic with cyan stripes across it, and white knee high boots.
“It’s very simple, Jack ,” Yusei hissed with a voice sharp enough to cut through bone. “I simply had a change of heart. Just like you .”
“You there, Enforcer!” Roget growled. “How did you get in here? How did you bypass my guards?!”
“He had help from the both of us."
Jack looked past Yusei and felt like his voice was leaving him at the two figures that entered through the doorway and behind them the frozen bodies of the guards tasked to ensure no one disturbed the king. No...no, this couldn’t be real!
"Crow, Shinji," Jack said, eyes wide in disbelief. They looked exactly as Yusei did with pale skin, gaunt eyes with an icy blue hue and frigid expressions on their faces and matching white armor and cape. Crow had a white mask with black holes covering the upper half of his face and a double-bladed lance in his hand, while Shinji had a shield covered with spikes strapped to his left arm.
"If this is a joke, it's not funny," Roget growled .
"It's not a joke, your highness," Yusei sneered a little. "We are under new management at the moment."
"What's that supposed to mean? Have you gone traitor? Knight Atlas, apprehend them!"
"Yusei?" Jack asked softly. After everything he had done, he didn’t know what to believe. His closest friend, his brother , was now a servant to the Snow Queen, heart frozen, memories long gone. All that was left in Yusei’s heart was pure hatred and whatever the queen planted in his mind.
"It means they work for me now," a feminine voice replied out of nowhere and it was with strong winds that pierced even the thickest of doors that she appeared in her black dress and veil. The Snow Queen had arrived and one step behind her stood Yugo, with a hand on the handle of his sword
"Step out of the way Jack Atlas,” Yugo proclaimed, pointing his sword at the tall knight. “Your king faces the Queen's justice.”
“Wait...that means...the rumors are true?” Jack said, noticing how empty and cold Yugo’s voice sounded, the icy armor that covered him, the way the queen smiled and placed a kiss onto Yugo’s cheek. “That...that’s not right. The Queen is a myth, a fairy tale, something made up to make sure kids behave and don’t go running about at night!”
"I am all too real, Jack Atlas.” The Snow Queen smiled as cold as the winds that blew through the chamber. “And my Judgment now falls on your so called king ."
"Knight Atlas! Apprehend them immediately," Roget commanded, doing his best not to scream as to not be heard by the citizens in their festivities.
But Jack remained frozen in place. The Snow Queen was real, and she came here for revenge. She already took his closest thing to a family he had, and he was a servant to corrupt and cruel man who cares nothing for his people. Slowly, with his face frozen and eyes still on the three Enforcers, he moved away from Roget.
"Knight...knight Atlas!" Roget yelled in rage. “You’re supposed to defend your King!”
"Smart knight, your judgment comes later then, you won't die alongside your king.” The Queen then snapped her fingers. “Yusei, Crow, make sure your old friend doesn't run away," said the queen before turning to Roget.
“As you wish, my Queen,” the Enforces said in unison. The three of them pushed Jack against a wall drawing their weapons and pointing them at Jack who raised his arms in surrender. Yusei even took the time to take Jack’s sheathed sword for himself, smiling at the dragon carved upon the blade.
"Yu-Yusei, Crow, Shinji…" Jack whispered in despair, shivering at how cold his friends were. “I...I’m so sorry…”
But the apology wasn’t accepted; it would not be for a very long time.
"Now as for you, worthless king," Rin said looking at Roget with a cold look and an evil smirk on her face. She licked her lips. "Yugo, if you will my dear knight.”
"Yes my Queen," Yugo said before moving closer to Roget, and with one swift swipe of his blade he cut off Roget's hands.
Roget screamed as he started retreating, blood staining the snow on the balcony. The villagers looked up and gasped in alarm.
“It’s the Snow Queen!”
“She’s going after our king!”
“Somebody stop her!”
"Stop! Stop this torture please," Roget begged, back against the balcony rail..
But the Queen ignored the screams. "Your greedy hands have been removed. I can leave you here to bleed to death but I do have a better idea. A heart like yours, colder than even mine, a heart full of selfishness and greed -- " she pressed her finger on his chest and a numbing feeling began to crawl all over his body. In seconds, Roget's heart was a block of ice, his face became pale, eyes like crystals. With frightened eyes, Roget looked at the Queen before the next second she clenched her hand into a fist and Roget's frozen heart broke, making him fall over the railing, falling onto the cold cobblestone path, with a terrified expression on his face..
"May you suffer at the hands of the Demon Lord," Rin prayed, before turning to Yugo and patting his head like a good pet. "Well done, my knight."
Jack watched in horror at Roget dead on the snow, various members of the Tops wailing at the “benevolent” king dying by the hands of the evil witch. Jack’s former friends did not react to this gruesome display nor to how the villagers screamed in horror.
Their screams were music to the ears of the Snow Queen, who dragged Jack to the balcony for all to see and for all to beg him to stop her. "Now to you, Jack Atlas. Your king's punishment was clear. Death and eternal torment in the afterlife. I can reassure you that he will be made to suffer greatly. But what shall be your punishment then?"
Jack swallowed, heart hammering in his ears, fear gripping him. Whatever punishment the queen cooked up for just can’t be good.
“Oh I know!” The queen said, snapping her fingers. She then placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder and announced, “From this day forward you are king of this village and it will up to you to ensure peace between your kingdom and mine.
“And as a reminder of choosing a boy that will only be remembered for a day or two and filled his head with a desire that you would make his dreams come true, I require an offering of two children -- one from Tops and one from Commons -- on this date each and every year, once they reach the age of 13. That is, if you don't mind.”
There were gasps and shrieks from the crowd. Jack looked in horror at the children shivering in fear, afraid of being sacrificed to the cruel queen. At their parents embracing them and telling them that they will be all right.
“You...you can’t be serious,” Jack whispered, hoping that the queen was joking, a cruel joke and nothing more.
The queen smirked and squeezed her hand on his shoulder, nails digging deep, piercing the skin like a knife stabbing through a slab of meat. "If I do not receive these offerings, then your village will be buried in the snow." She ran her finger nail down Jack's cheek, frost appearing on his cheek where she ran her nail. "Am I making myself clear… King?"
Jack shivered in fear and cold as he glanced at his family standing behind him, not one of them looking at him with sympathy or pity. He didn’t deserve it after all that he’s done. "Crystal, your highness," he whispered, his breath shaky, letting out puffs of cold air.
The jeers from the audience was loud enough to ring in one’s ears. The Queen smirked and extended her hand, cold wind was sent down to the audience, making the threat all too real for them.
"It is not only your new king at stake, it is all of you," her voice was carried and echoed by the wind. "For as they say, ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’, isn't that right? You offer up my precious knight, Yugo, made him feel loved and wanted for one day and then you’d all forget about him except that he was nothing but another sacrifice to appease me, correct? So you shall all do the same every year: you will send your daughters and your sons to me, let them walk the snowy forest alone, for either me or my wolves to take them, or you shall all perish. Your village covered in snow, all traces of it vanished and no one to find your frozen corpses for years to come. "
The Queen turned to her knights. "We are done here, it's time to return home,' she said, placing her hand on Yugo's elbow as they walked.
"Long may you reign, my Queen," Yugo whispered.
"Long may she reign," the three Enforcers repeated and followed the two out with no other words spoken. Just as they were about to leave, three voices were shouting something.
“Crow! Crow!!!” they cried, ringing bells in hand as loudly as they could..
Crow paused and turned around. His frozen heart began to hurt as he looked at the three children waving their hands towards him, tears in their eyes. He...he knows these children...
"Crow," the Queen called and Crow turned his eyes from the kids and looked at her. He could feel tears gathering in his eyes at the thought of leaving them behind, for no one to take care of them. For them to be begging for scraps of food or huddling together for what little warmth they could muster.
"You know these children?" Rin asked, gauging his reaction.
"They're… they're my kids, y-your highness,” Crow explained, hand clenched over his heart. “Orphans...Shinji and I t-take care of them…”
He couldn't forget his own kids, frozen heart and lost memories are nothing , he loved these kids with all his heart.
Shinji also felt a pang of guilt in his heart. No...this...this wasn’t what he was fighting for. He didn’t want the village covered in snow; he just wanted the people to live in peace, for commoners to finally be seen eye-to-eye with the Tops.
"I see,” Rin whispered. She smiled and kissed Crow’s cheek. “Then if they are yours, they may come with us, but they will forget everything about this village. They shall not grow old, everything will be supplied to them, and they shall stay in my palace like all of you, crystallized in time," she said, taking a brooch from her hair.
She leapt off of the balcony like an angel of snow and frost, her bare feet touched the ground gracefully, and everyone backed away in fear, all except for the three children who called out to Crow: Frank, Amanda, Tarren.
"Come children," the Snow Queen called, and the three of them, two boys and one girl came closer on shaky legs and eyes full of tears.
"There there now," she whispered softly before crushing the crystal brooch and blowing the dust at the three kids. Frank, Amanda and Tarren gasped, and everyone looked in horror as the dust showered them, covering them until they shone like diamonds. The three fell to the ground, eyes wide, shivering in cold before they stopped moving, stopped breathing.
The four knights followed their Queen down, landing with more force than she did. Many of the commoners began to jeer and throw apples, pears and heads of cabbage towards the three Enforcers while they shielded themselves with their arms.
“Traitors!” They jeered.
“We trusted you!”
“You sold your souls to a witch!”
But the screams and jarring were not heard, they were simply ignored by the Enforcers that once patrolled the village to ensure that there was peace within the Commons. But now, they only listened and obeyed their Queen. They were her knights, her loyal soldiers, nothing more.
"Come then. It is time to leave this place," The queen said before turning to the terrified villagers and then to Jack Atlas watching this down from up above. “Long live the king, everyone!”
And she walked out of the village, Yugo by her side, the three knights behind her and in their arms the new additions to be invited to live in the Snow Queen’s castle. Forever young, forever happy.
And as Jack Atlas watched the procession disappear, a tear fell down his eye and he wished that his heart was truly covered in ice.
Many winters passed since that fateful festival. And every year on that exact date, two children are offered for the Snow Queen as they agreed, so they have her mercy, for now.
Jack Atlas ruled as king, maintaining a shaky peace between the Tops and Commons. Every year, he himself personally brought the offered children to the edge of the village where the woods began. On that night, and on that night only, he was able to see his brothers emerge from the snow and icy winds to take the children away.
The reunion was always a bitter one, bitter as the cold as the three took the children away with kind faces only reserved for them and never ever for the king. Jack knew he could never get them back, nor would they ever forgive him for what he had done. It hurt him more that the last time that he saw them as they truly were they were angry at him, but he can't change the past now. This was his punishment for a selfish act. And he will never find forgiveness or rest again for as long as he lived.
There were many knights who requested to go fight off against the Snow Queen’s forces, or perhaps ally themselves with one of the Snow Queen’s sisters to make her change her ways. But Jack was firm; if the Snow Queen requested two children then it is two children she shall receive. She could kill all of them with one motion of her hand or a whisper, like she did with the former king. They stood no chance against her army of Wind Witches and wolves.
As for the bandits that King Roget bribed who caused this entire mess, well it was not difficult for Rin’s wolves to sniff them out. They feasted on human flesh for the first time in years before being attached to sleighs and carted the treasures back to their queen.
The three kids under Crow, Shinji and Yusei’s care were well taken of. They played with the witches and helped them out around the castle and went riding on the large wolves along with Rin and Yugo at night. It took only a few days for the children to forget all about the old village and accumulate into living in the castle as if they've always lived there.
The castle was filled with much more life now. With laughter and cheer. Feasts in the castle were livelier and music filled the air where once was emptiness. The Snow Queen smiled more often, but still remained the cold and ruthless maiden of ice like that of legend. And so did her little kingdom of ice and snow.
Rin stood on her own balcony looking up at the moon and stars, it was a full moon that night, her sister was at her strongest in this night and her choose were no doubt dancing beneath the pale pearly light.
Rin smiled as her favorite knight stood behind her, his hands wrapped around her waist, kissing her shoulders, before his lips moved down kissing her bare back, between her shoulder blades. She signed happily as she let him continue.
“You look so beautiful tonight, Rin,” Yugo whispered once he broke the kiss.
She straightened her back finally before waving her hand gently and the snow started to fall around her castle. She smirked "And you look quite handsome, my Yugo. Come," she commanded and he offered her his arm which she took. "Keep me company tonight."
Yugo smiled. “Always, my queen.”
The two of them began to dance as Rin hummed a familiar tune that made Yugo smile, making him completely relax, and kiss his lips as they continued to dance for eternity underneath the gently falling snow.
For one little boy, a dream came true. He who dreamed of being a knight to protect the fair princess or queen now lives his life, reborn in ice, frozen in time to serve the Queen of the Eternal Winter.
Now the story was spread far and wide as a warning to the selfish, the cruel, the careless, the complacent. That there was a Snow Queen, as pretty as crystal, with eyes of amber but a heart of ice, who will freeze the hearts of those who did not show kindness or love to others. That she will whisk children away to become her witches of winter and wolves of the woods. That she crowned a knight to become a king, chaining him to a responsibility that was not his own but that he had a hand in making.
When it is time for her to grace a village with her appearance, she arrives with her knights of Winter and Ice, through the cold winds of the storm, and she takes what she wants for her own, filing her once empty castle into a palace of laughter and cheer...but only for her and her subjects. For each and every treasure she obtains, she kisses them, marking them as their own, taking away their past lives, freezing them in place.
When she has no need to leave her home, she sits on her throne with her knight by her side, placing a kiss on his lips and then placing his head in her lap as she runs her cold hand through her hair in a dress the color of ink. No one dares to anger the Snow Queen and no one dares to enter the forest alone, lest be remembered only by their loved ones as their memories fade away like mist.
So dear reader, if you see a woman in the middle of winter, dressed in black and a cold song echoing in the wind, run. Run until all you hear is silence, run until all you see is a blanket of white in your vision.
And if a person asks why your face is pale, why you look and feel so cold, and why you cover your ears to block out all sound, tell them that you had encountered Death in all her glory covered in shadows, who wished to lure you into her elegy of ice and frost and then to freeze your heart from the inside out.
And then, pray that she is not standing by the window, singing her haunting song all while the snowflakes sound like tiny bells ringing in celebration of winter’s coming.