by Amanda M. Hayes
A box on Ivrie's desk held the jewels he'd given her. They still hurt to touch; they tore skin from her fingers when she tried to let them go, but they were beautiful, and she loved them.
They were married on the border that divided her world from his, on the day his reign began anew. He stood just within, she stayed without. She tolerated the pain of holding his hand because she had no choice.
Recognizing her fear, he tried to be gentle, courting his wife with solemn vows and earnest, if grave, care. It didn't matter--she screamed whenever he touched her. She could not help it. Nor could he, but her terror grew regardless and she threw the icy diamonds back in his face. He retrieved them, placed them in her room, and they never spoke of it.
He'd promised her children. One night she found a warm and perfect human man standing on her threshold. In vain she peered past him, seeking in the snow-laden night some glimpse of her husband's eyes... she could not find them. She sent the beautiful man away and later wondered why.
She sometimes spoke to him through the window of her bedroom. He wouldn't enter her tower again and she was unwilling to leave it, but with the glass between them she could forget fear. His breath left frosty patterns on the panes that she traced with her fingers long after he had gone.
"Take me to the border," she told him one year as his time was ending. She might as well have struck him--but he did not question. He carried her to the edge of his realm. She grabbed his hands before he could turn from her, and they found that in the time and place where he was weakest his touch was not too much for her to bear.
Their son died unborn, killed by the warmth of her body.
She conceived their daughter when the next winter began and kept herself
as cold as she could without dying. It was a close thing: he screamed at
her, more wrathful than she had ever seen him. She insisted.
Ivrie's hair turned silver. No number of blankets could keep her warm. She drowsed by her fire, speaking seldom. It was summer; her husband drowsed too, but every now and then one of them would open sleepy eyes to find the other watching, and smile.
The stairs were cold beneath her bare feet as she walked down them for the last time. When she closed the doors she thought of her daughter, asleep inside. A single tear hit the snow, already frozen into a jewel that Katrina might someday find... but Ivrie smiled as she cried. She smiled as she walked.
"Will you guide me?" she asked him when he found her at last.
"Oh, my love," he whispered. "Oh, my wife." For once his cold breath brought her no pain.
She threw herself into his arms; he enfolded her in his, and her soul
rode high upon his winds.
Amanda M. Hayes is a Midwesterner living for the first time on the east coast of the United States, and it remains to be seen whether seagulls will become her inspiration or her bane. She reads, writes, and breathes fantasy fiction. Occasionally she tries her hand at horror. Her credits include sales to Farthing, Allegory, and Black Box, among other publications. Her first story for Raven Electrick was Dream Weaver.
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"Touch of Winter" © 2007 Amanda M. Hayes. Used by
permission of the author.
Raven Electrick © 2000-2007 Karen A. Romanko.