The Hunted Frost | by Rebecca Harrison

     Folk called her Queen Frost; her voice glittered like frozen moons. In a kingdom of snowlit forests, she sat beside the king. The castle was warm with her laughter. She taught her children songs as bright as low stars and told them tales of lands which never were. In the winter, when the nights were as long as black winds, she trekked food parcels to old folk in the deep woods.

     One day, she became ill. Wise women gave her herbs grown from icicles and owl song, but her eyes dimmed and her voice became as thin as frost light. Her children stayed at her bedside. Candles burned through the quiet night. When the sun rose over the snow lands, she didn’t wake. The silence in the castle was as vast as mountain skies.

     Stone grey years dragged past. Then one day, the king married again. Evina, the new queen, sat at his side. At their wedding banquet, folk danced and feasted, the night was long with laughter and old tales, and Evina glowed ember-full. But when the King’s children sang their mother’s songs, Evina glared at the painting of the old queen.  

     Every day, in the halls and the passageways, by torchlight and shadows, Evina gazed at Queen Frost’s portraits, at the eyes like forest twilights and the smile bird-chorus warm. She felt shadow shaped and dim. So she held the King’s hand and whispered words as sour as mountain rain. The next day, the portraits were taken away.

     Evina walked the castle, her hand in the King’s, her steps loud with his. She wore gowns the colour of jewels and a crown as old as the skies. But when she watched the King with his children, she felt shrunken. She smiled while the Prince told stories as wild as woodland mist and the Princesses sang with voices which soared on eagle paths. ‘Like their mother,’ the King nodded. And Evina paced night hours and wept brittle tears until they were sent away.

     The servants and nobles stopped speaking of Queen Frost. The banquets became quiet beneath Evina’s portrait. She sat with the King. The castle felt like her home. But when she looked from the tower tops over the land, she saw frost glittering across the fields and forests and the kingdom seemed full of the old queen. That night, Evina knelt by the King, her cries like stinging winds.

     Before dawn, the King’s men marched out. When Evina woke and gazed from her window, she saw green fields and calm winds. The sparkling ice had gone. All day, in the forests, the King’s men chased the frost while it fled into hollows and bird nests, but with swords as sharp as wolf howls they hunted until it had gone. At dusk, they returned to the castle and told the King the forests were green. But, he spoke of the frozen villages beyond.

     The next day, Evina stood at the tower top and watched the men riding on far paths. In the villages, they chased frost as it fled up spires and hid in belfries. At sunset, when the ice had gone, they rode back to the castle. But the King spoke of valleys shimmering on the kingdom’s edge. So the men rode out before sunrise. The valleys shone like scattered moons. Swords drawn, they chased the frost from the land. At dusk, they returned to the castle once more. The kingdom is green, they said. Evina climbed the spiral stairways to see her land, but from the top of the tower she saw frost stretching in swirls and patterns all across the sky, glittering like the old queen.  

 

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Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and her best friend is a dog who can count. Through the WoMentoring Project, she was chosen by Kirsty Logan as her mentee. Rebecca’s been nominated for Best of the Net, and her stories can also be read at Maudlin House, Mirror Dance Magazine, and elsewhere.

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