I did promise a fairytale exactly seven days ago, and here I have delivered as promised. It took a bit longer than I first suggested, it usually does when you are trying to balance several things at once! I am happy to say I am also working on my novel once more, which at times has to be given all the love and attention! In the meantime, may you have a beautiful week ahead, and I hope you enjoy this new tale, The Winter King, enough to look forward to part two with anticipation! With love and darkness x
The Winter King. Part One. J R Manawa.
This story begins just like you know it will. Like all good fairy tales have since the dawn of time, before the young sun had made his first dance across the heavens and before the moon had seen her stars. This is how nights around the bonfire begin, how the storyteller captivates your soul through the painting she weaves in the flames. This is how your story will be passed on through the generations, from the lips of the old to the ears of the young. It is the point where you leave the boundaries of your known world behind and enter the forgotten realm of your imagination.
Once Upon a Time when the earth was still changing, there were winters more treacherous than anyone remembers and summers more splendid than a golden dawn. During the end of one such terrible winter, when the warm summer was coming and the snow had begun to melt, there was a great storm which caught a family unaware. They were travelling down from their beautiful winter castle, nestled in the fortress of the mountains to their summer palace on the edge of the ocean.
Summer winds had come again, teasing a warmer breeze through the mountains, and for some weeks the king had known they would be moving soon. But that winter had been worse than most. The castle had become nestled between the great arms of two mighty glaciers and the ice had grown until it swallowed the mountain ravines. Only now that the rivers were moving again and the glaciers had begun to shrink, did the king decide it was time to move his family. Together with his wife, their two small sons and baby daughter, they made the journey down the mountain, and the whole royal household with them.
Clouds fell over the land of a sudden, moving across the clear blue sky like a wall of greyest, thickest night. The rains pelted down, and thunder and lightning assaulted the land. Up in the mountains there was a mighty shuddering as two pieces of the glacier broke asunder and the deluge began to flow.
The fair queen in her carriage was swept away, the newborn and her youngest son with her.
But it was not until the second wave came, when the king was on his knees in the mud of the river’s shore, and his eldest, a quiet boy of eight standing in tears beside him, that the family was truly lost.
As the king sunk beneath the deluge he raised his arm in one final effort, pushing the last gasp of air from his lungs as he did so to push his son back up toward the surface. The cold air of night rushed into the little boy’s lungs as he broke through the flood waters and breathed. With his first lungful of air he screamed for his mother and his father.
But they were no more. And he was left alone.
He was rescued from the branches of a tree the following morning by his father’s most trusted advisor, a physician who had been out all night in the dark searching for signs of life.
Of life, the boy barely clung to it. They took him back to the castle in the mountains and by grace and time he was nursed back to health.
So the little boy grew to become king, and his heart was cold and empty for he was utterly alone in the world.
The summer palace which he had so loved as a child was left to wreck and ruin. He vowed he would never return. Never would he again leave his fortress in the mountains. He kept no staff at the summer palace, only appointing one caretaker to stay and keep watch.
In the mountains, the seat of his power grew at the winter castle. His country men gathered to his permanent abode for he grew to become a good king who made wise and shrewd decisions regarding government, economy and the health of his people.
Years passed, and they were fruitful. The kingdom was healthy and prosperity rested upon all the people. Yet in his castle, high on the mountain, the young king did not fare so well. Bitterness slowly gnawed away at his heart, for loneliness is a powerful and destructive force.
The summer just before the king’s twenty-ninth birthday, his royal advisors came to him three times proposing marriage. Each time they brought the father of a different girl, extolling the virtues of the maiden’s character and promoting the benefits of a well planned match to a wealthy and influential family.
Each time the king refused outright, not willing in the slightest to set eyes upon the maiden in question, so determined he was to rebuke their attempts. Even the physician, his oldest and wisest advisor, the same man who had rescued him from the tree as a child and nursed him back to health, begged him to consider the option of companionship and the comforts it would offer.
You may or may not know how meddling a group of grey haired wisemen can be when they unite under a common cause, but this young king certainly did.
Upon the king’s absolute insistence, the Midsummer Fete always took place in the grounds of the winter castle. There were those who remembered the revelry on the ocean shores, in the hanging gardens of the summer palace once upon a time. But the palace had been left alone for many years, and who now knew what was left of those wondrous gardens than the birds themselves?
But the ball in the winter castle was no less of a memorable affair. People came from across the entire kingdom to bring grand gifts from the first harvest, wearing the finest clothes their money could buy. All the happiness that the king witnessed as he watched from the throne warmed him, but could not melt the loneliness in his heart. He had no wish to partake in the revelry with his people. As he had every year since his family passed away, he watched the women dance as the young men courted them. He watched the children laughing and falling over feet when they weren’t stealing sweets from the desert table, and he watched the elderly couples who sat by the side and reminisced.
His advisors approached him during the festivities and bid him to come down from the throne. When he did they presented him with a fourth and final maiden, and this time he could not escape meeting the girl. In such a public place the scene had been set, and he could do naught but acquiesce to dance with her.
In wealth she was rich, and in beauty rare. She was also a fine dancer, and silent she remained, whispering not a word as the room parted for them and the lavish folds of her dress swept the floor as he spun her. The king could dance well as all young rulers can when pressed, and as they flew across the floor, his mind and eyes were a million miles away, while hers were ever locked on him.
Then the dance was done and they made to part but the beautiful maiden clasped his hand tight as he let go, piercing his skin intentionally with the sharp tip of her nail and casting a spell over him as she did.
She licked his blood off her finger tip and whispered her first words to him, “Stay with me, my king, and I will be the family you long for.”