The Five Snowflakes

Deep in snow lands, a King and Queen and their daughter Katla lived in a stone castle. Katla played in ice sweeps below frozen skies. She ran with white foxes. Within the castle halls, she dwelled in tapestry gleam and fire glow. Her mother taught her to weave the tales of the frost gods into bright scenes. In the castle dusks, she hid and watched her father’s men reciting sagas. She listened for the footsteps of long-ago Kings. She thought the stars were ice worlds bright with wolf song and wind.

Outside the castle walls, she wandered in days of glacier blue and sky far. Snow dusted her deep furs. She huddled by her father’s side as his sled raced through valley plummets and mountain shadows. He taught her to steer the sled dogs. She fed them morsels from the banquets and told them the story of the Queen who fled into the ice caverns and lives there still. As Northern Lights coloured the darkness, she nestled between the dogs. She wondered if the lights were pieces of melted stars.

At the banquet table, she watched shadow shapes in the torch light. The nights smelled of snow fall. When she curled in her bed, she listened for the frost gods trekking upon frozen seas. She whispered their names to keep herself safe. In the castle deeps, her mother told her histories she would join when she grew up to become Queen. Her words seemed full of endless nights and dim jewels. Katla peered from the tower tops and tried to see the realm’s edge.

So Katla grew up among snow hush and wind song. She raced her sled in sparkling vasts and wandered wolf paths on sunlit nights. When she murmured tales of Kings and Queens, she added stories of her future reign.

One dusk, her mother gave birth to a son. Katla watched her father toast his new heir. The walls swayed with cheering and music. He told her now she would marry a prince in a far-off land. She ran from the castle and huddled with her dogs. The night billowed with Northern Lights. She begged the frost gods to turn her to fur or snow. When she crept to her bed, she dreamed the distant kingdoms were only hollows in melted ice.

On her last day in the snow lands, Katla trekked to an ice cavern with her dogs. Bright ice arched in jagged heights. She stepped inside and whispered her prayer to the frozen passageways. Her voice sounded like folded wind. She lingered in the blue chill, seeking the footprints of the gods. When she couldn’t glimpse them, she plucked five snowflakes from the air and placed them in a small box.

All night, she wept and waited for the gods to grant her wish. She watched her hands, hoping to see them turn glass-clear and cold. When the sun rose, she looked at her last Arctic dawn, and then drifted the corridors murmuring sagas among the tapestries. The halls smelled of mountain sides. She buried her face in the dogs’ fur and whispered her goodbyes. As the sled carried her across the snow plains towards her father’s ship, she clasped her box of snowflakes.

On the ship, she stood below sails and stars, watching the glaciers until they vanished from view. Then she huddled in her chambers as the ship journeyed across ocean dark and wave roar. In the night hours, she whispered the names of the mountains of her homeland. She peered into the sea and wondered if the waters had once been a kingdom carved in ice.

One day, the ship reached a warm coast. Katla clutched her box of snowflakes as a carriage hurried her through green swelter and sun spill. She looked from the window as the palace loomed nearer. Smooth turrets reached into still skies. Women in bright silks gossiped among fountains and blooms. The carriage halted. Men speaking words Katla didn’t know bowed and led her into marble halls. She felt small under the foreign King’s stare. His name was sharp in her mouth. That night, she dreamed of skies of ice falling and shattering upon the land.

Katla’s days shrivelled within the palace. Ladies unplaited her hair and dressed her in silks. She stopped smelling of fur and ice. At the banquet table, she sat with the prince she was to marry. Spices darkened the air. The shadows seemed full of places she could not name. She learned the foreign words. They tasted like burned copper. She tried to tell him of her home.

“The night skies there were the colour of melted jewels. I rode beneath them with my dogs,” she said. She ached to breathe the white winds. In her room, she took the snowflakes from the box and traced their glimmering shapes.

In the palace gardens, she sat in flower shade and longed for hail cool. The ladies’ chatter felt like splinters. They told her myths of desert spirits and she thought of her prayers to the frost gods. “On winter days in my homeland, we saw only by stars and candles,” she told the courtiers. She crept away to wander the palace corridors alone among the statues and crowns of histories that were not her own. At night, she looked at the snowflakes and whispered the stories of armies carved from ice and called to battle. The old words felt like shelter. When she slept, she dreamed of walking the ice paths she had known.

She drifted through days of sky scorch. The wind felt like sands. She wiped her tears away with her silk sleeves. When she sat at the grand table, she murmured beneath the banquet din. “In the summers, I walked in the sun at midnight.” No one heard her. She stopped talking of her home. In her room, she stared at the snowflakes and mumbled all the names she had for ice and cold. She didn’t want to lose the words. She studied her hands in the moonlight. The marks of sledding and weaving had vanished. She wondered who now raced with her dogs.

One night, she lay awake gazing at the snowflakes. When the calls of foreign birds stirred the skies, she looked at the bright dawn. She knew she’d never again see the sun rise over the ice plains. Her heart hurt. All day, she listened to the palace sounds. She thought of the five snowflakes: they were her only pieces of her home. She didn’t want to look at them again. That night, she took the box of snowflakes and crept into the gardens. She dug a hole with her hands and placed each snowflake into the ground. She covered them with soil and then dragged herself back to her room. Her tears felt cold.

As she slept, the snowflakes began to unfold through the earth. Snow shoots grew into the moonlight and stretched into trees of ice. Frozen branches glimmered over the palace roses. Clear leaves shivered and floated on the garden breezes. Ice seeds fell on the grass and grew into frost flowers. The night winds swept the seeds across the kingdom. Forests of ice trees grew upon the fields. The land became white with snow blossoms.

When Katla woke, her room was filled with white winds. She ran to her window and looked out: ice trees glistened in the dawn seep. Frost flowers bloomed. She could see her own breath. She wrapped herself in her old furs and went out into the ice.