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The Ice Lady
The tops of the poplar trees were gilded in the midsummer sunset gold, which disappeared as the sun slipped below the snow capped mountains opposite. A crowd gathered at the lake’s shores. They sat, they stood, and walked around the water. Utter silence prevailed, though enemies stood by enemies, fretful children did not cry, as their toes grew cold. Not often was there a cough, or sneeze, or silent words of encouragement whispered; for every word rang like cannon fire in the stillness, and all feared frightening the magical being. Having to wait another month, for the moon to grow full again.
Silhouette pyramids glowed silver as the moon arose full and pregnant from the cover of the mountains. The audience turned and watched, as it began a slow climb to it’s zenith. Multitudes of small ghost-white disks reflected in each vigilant eye. Dust of silver sparkled and flowed on the waves of the lake. Clouds formed in it’s wake.
The water’s lapping silenced as the edges froze, and a ring of ice, glowing almost as bright a silver as the moon, completely encircled the lake. The ice drew further from the shore as the moon rose to it’s highest, and eyes turned to trace it’s advance. The moon rose higher into the sky, ice crystals grew larger, and hope grew in the eyes of the crowd.
The audience stepped forward onto the ice and shuffled forward. Many repented, shying back to the shore, when cracks spider-webbed beneath their feet. The moon grew small and high in the black sky, the ice grew larger and closer to the center, and the size of the crowd at the shore grew, as more and larger cracks grew. The only sound was the thunder of the ice growing more and more cracks. Past the point of shattering. Still a small group advanced, becoming smaller.
The ice grew until it formed a circle at the lakes center, and the advancing group shrank, until only four remained, one at each point of the compass. They acknowledged each other, nodding and raising a hand in salute. In the case of a young man and woman standing at the north and west, smiled and held hands briefly, or of the older lady, at the south, who had a child in her arms, only nodded. Then all waited as a sliver of light formed in the circular pool, and began to grow across the liquid’s surface. They stood a meter back from the circle, the chill of the ice sheet beneath them rising through the soles of their various foot protection, only a small girl, with nothing covering her feet, felt nothing.
The rippling light impregnated like a shining drop of water, spreading like the ice’s chill up the four figure’s bodies. The cracks that had formed with the advancing of the crowd, neared the four figures as the light neared the edge of the circular pool. The cracks jagged around the four pairs of feet, leaving almost circles of untouched ice.
Then the circle between them became completely silver. There was a thunderous boom, and the ice became milky white with fractures. The collected peoples around the lake drew a sharp gasp, and as if by the sudden displacement of air, the ice flew into the air in a blizzard-like flurry. The four figures lost sight of the crowd at the shore, and of each other.
The flakes of ice blew in a vortex around them, spinning past their sight. As one, the flakes stopped, for a moment suspended in the air so that they could almost see them individually, then they rushed to the center. The four figures blinked in their sudden ability to see again and looked about them. A wall of swirling flakes still blocked the amassed audience from sight. Below them the water was still and acted as a mirror. They stood on circles of ice that floated calmly on the water, not even causing ripples.
The girl was the first to notice Ice Lady before her. She gasped, and the other three turned to see. The snow flakes had coalesced into a solid crystal over the silver circle. The crystal was in the shape of a woman, and gleamed with the light of the moon over head and the water beneath her feet. A plinth of ice grew out of the water upon which the ice crystal stood. The Ice Lady.
The young woman also gasped and reached for the hand of the young man at her side, who took it and squeezed reassuringly. The older woman’s eyes widened and she drew the child closer to her chest. The Lady looked and scrutinized each in turn. Gazing with depth and majesty.
The older woman, noticing something wise and warm in the eyes of ice, dropped, and curtsied as well as she could with the child in her arms. The young woman, seeing the older, also dropped a curtsey, and told her companion to take to his knees. The girl, in her youth slow from surprise, dropped lastly into a clumsy curtsey.
"Rise, please." the Lady said in a voice like small bells. The older woman, somehow knowing it was she the Ice Lady addressed, rose shakily. She kept her eyes downcast, so as not to look directly at the Ice Lady.
"Do not fear me," the Lady said, soothingly, and the older woman looked up to meet her gaze. "Tell me what you seek." The woman told her of her child, who had been struck severely ill after the last monsoon storm, and had slipped into a sickly, troubled sleep lately. The Lady looked at the boy as if listening to a story, then nodded as if satisfied, and turned to the couple.
"Rise, please, both of you." She said, and they stood simultaneously. Reluctantly they lifted their eyes to hers. "What is it you seek?" The young woman looked at the young man, and he spoke, telling of their forbidden love, and their deep need for one another. The Ice Lady again gazed at them deeply, nodded, and turned to the girl.
"Rise, little one," said she once more. The girl rose, but kept her gaze on the reflection of the Lady’s face. The reflection of the Ice Lady meet the girls eyes, and smiled. For an instant her reflection showed as she truly was. A woman of light hair, skin, and eyes; and perhaps the most beautiful woman the girl had ever seen. Again she gasped, and looked up at the Ice Lady. She was again a crystal of ice, though the smile was still there.
"You need not fear me," she said in her voice of bells. The girl shook her head silently. "And what is it you seek?"
"A home." The girl said simply, and no more. The Ice Lady nodded, once more as if deeply satisfied. Then she looked about her at all four of them, her eyes soft and compassionate.
Her gaze fell on the older woman, and her floating circle of ice drifted toward the Ice Lady. It stopped just before her and she leaned over and kissed the child’s cheek. The child turned a little in it’s mother’s arms, then opened it’s eyes. The woman cried aloud and curtsied deeply, almost spilling the child into the still waters.
The Ice Lady turned to the young couple and their circles of ice drifted forward. She took the right hand of each, and kissed them both on the forehead. Then placed their hands together, so the young man’s draped over the young woman’s, and kissed their hands.
"Now no one’s will, nor anything else, shall stand against your love." The Lady said, and favored them with a smile. The two drifted back, their separate circles of ice now merged together, and their arms were around one another.
The Ice Lady then looked at the girl, and her circle of ice moved forward. The Ice Lady stretched her hand out, palm up, toward the girl. The girl hesitated for a second, but then remembering what she had seen in the reflection of the Lady, she placed her hand in the Lady’s. The girl was a little surprised to find the Lady’s hand warm, despite her appearances, and then was relieved, because it meant what she had seen was true. The Lady’s fingers closed around the girl’s, then she smiled and lifted her of the circle of ice and onto the plinth. Then she leaned down and kissed the girl’s forehead.
At that instant the swirling wall of snow flakes stopped moving, then blew across to form bridges of ice for the older woman and the young couple. They turned and walked to the shores, all looked back at the Ice Lady simultaneously, then continued to the shore.
The girl twisted on the Ice Lady’s plinth, and looked up at her face. The Lady looked down to see a troubled, thoughtful face.
"Will not I be returning to shore?" the girl asked. The Ice Lady smiled again.
"No, child. You came to me, to my home, and so you shall have one." The girl felt a tingling, as if she were standing in the sun. She looked down at herself and saw that she was made of ice, and that cracks were appearing across her body. She looked up at the Lady, wide eyed.
The Ice Lady laughed, a sound more beautiful than her voice. She looked deeply into the girl’s eyes, and the girls fear was soothed. They grew milky with cracks, and the Ice Lady leaned down to again kiss the girl’s forehead. "Let us go home." The Lady said, and they blew away to the skies. To their home.