Chapter One - The Night of Snow
|The child woke, thinking she was still in her dream. The snow floated about her bed in a swirl of pure white, bringing a smile to her face. The stillness of the night seemed so peaceful to her. She slipped out of bed and whirled in the snow, her nightgown twirling about her legs like a dancer’s skirt. She clasped her hands together, laughing in delight, until her foot touched glass. She stopped and looked down to see red on the floor, instead of the white snow flying about her face. Her foot hurt, she realized as she bent over to touch the red puddle before her. Then she saw hair. It flowed out from the front of her bed like a river, and though it looked like her mother’s hair, it had a darker version of the red in front of her splashed on it. A shiver ran through her small frame as a gust of wind rustled her platinum tresses, and she glanced over to see that her window was gone – no glass, the curtains hanging in shreds. Then she heard a whisper and looked back at the hair. Her mother’s face had appeared in the hair, and it was smiling as she said, “Sweetheart, go back to sleep. Cuddle deep in the blanket, cover everything baby. We have to fix your window in the morning.”
The girl blinked, not sure if this was a dream or not – but you don’t feel hurt or cold in dreams, she had heard, so it must be real. She climbed up into her bed, rolled herself up in the covers so that nothing peeked out, and fell back to sleep in the warmth they provided.
Lifting the covers gently, he saw a small, round face peacefully sleeping. She looked like an angel, only the blanket color did not fit. The blood had splattered even that far in the room, staining the once-white sheets a deep burgundy red. How the child had slept through it all was beyond him, but he was glad she had. If she had escaped her cocoon while it was happening, she would be on the floor with her parents and brother. He looked at the broken window, where the sun could be seen peaking over the horizon and heralding in the new day, and then back at the child dreaming on the bed.
“Irou, what have you found?” A man walked up to him and glanced over his shoulder.
“I see.” The man frowned, licking his lips restlessly. “We need to leave soon. The smell is getting to me.”
The other man gently tucked the blanket around the girl and lifted her into his arms.
“You cannot be serious, Irou. Bringing the body with you?”
“Sheer, the child is not dead. We cannot leave her here. What if the monsters that did this come back?”
Sheer’s frown deepened as he looked at the bundle his friend now gently cradled. “The council will not accept her.”
“They do not have to. She belongs to me as of this night.”
The child stirred slightly in his arms but did not seem to wake. They did not see her eyes open as they passed through the window or widen as they caught a glimpse of the bodies on the floor before her bed. She shut them again tightly, wondering if she was yet again dreaming – and wished to be taken back to her dream of snow.