The Sound of Falling Snow
Prof. Cassandra Lobiesk
There is a sound to the sky on the first snowfall. It is not a pleasant one.
Many at court attribute this harsh, wailing, crying sound to Mother Sky, whose hardened tears are the result of Father Wind's cold breath. But often the tales are debunked, because what was Mother Sky crying for? Snow is as natural in winter as rain is natural in spring, as the intemperate brightness of Brother Sun is natural in the summer, when his wife Sister Moon comes out of her silver cage, just as it is natural that he shirk away in autumn, when Sister Moon bids him farewell for three long seasons more.
Snow is ever-present when the weather gets cold, an inevitability when Mother Sky becomes dark and her once wispy clouds grow fat from drinking the milk Sister Ocean provides them. Snow is beautiful, pristine white puffs of rainfall floating gently down as light as tiny feathers, sometimes dancing to the rhythm of the wind. Sometimes dropping unceremoniously upon the surface, never discriminatory on where each of its parts land.
There is a look to the earth on the first snowfall. It is beautiful.
But at court, nobody finds it so.
Still, contemplating the snow kept Lia's mind from other things. While snowfall should have reminded her of her duties at hand, she found that the thought and idea of swirling white created a distance between what she should do and what she must do. It prevented her from focusing too much on the dress she wore--silk and gossamer cream embedded with thousands of tiny diamonds, her family's standard--and the crown placed atop her head--silver and gold strands twisted skillfully to look like a crown of tree branches.
If she thought too much about it, she would admit that the very idea of the sound and look of snow is the only thing keeping her from an impending breakdown. She would refuse that sort of weakness. That is not who Lia is.
It would have been understandable, had she stomped and stormed, had she cried and hugged her gray-faced mother. None of the court and the lands before her would have judged Lia the moment her name had been called for the Reaping. Lia, the Beloved. Lia, the Kind. Lia, the Wise.
Lia, the Youngest. Lia, the Seventh Daughter. Lia, the Sacrifice.
That was it, though. The last names that stuck. It was a pity, because Lia liked being Kind and Beloved and Wise. It is not the sort of thing to dwell upon, for she knew it had the danger of stoking up ego, but dwell she did.
She continued to watch the snow out the window until the bells rang, until the horns trumpeted. Until the Grand Councilor--an uncle twice removed, if she could be bothered to remember--threw open the doors and cleared his throat. It took another moment or two before Lia finally turned her head, her dark eyes watching her uncle for a small fidget or a cringe.
He stood still, refused to say a word. Not a word of comfort. Not a look of pity. Lia vaguely recalled this uncle insisting adamantly for the ritual to go unimpeded. Not even for the Queen's youngest daughter should the Reaping stop, for the world would tremble in its wake, and the spirits would go mad. Oh, the roaring and arguing that had gone on for hours as her mother and father tried to find a way out!
But they did not, and the Grand Councilor's rhetoric proved victorious. Perhaps even now he gloats at his triumph.
Lia did not like the Grand Councilor.
But she walked toward him, satin ribbon trailing behind, like an eel's tail weaving side to side. Head held high, seemingly unburdened by the heavy crown on her head. Feet stepping confidently down a long aisle she could have walked with eyes closed. Briefly, she considered the temptation to do so, just to avoid the eyes.
There is a sound to Lia's dress as it made its way to the center of the throne room. It is not a pleasant one.
There is a look to Lia as she stops and curtseys before the king and queen. Many would agree that it is a beautiful gesture.
And when the ritual began, they would remember Lia's cream dress and Lia's elegant curtsey. They would remember Lia's crown and her trailing ribbon of satin.
They would not remember Lia's fingers tracing the air. Would not remember the way her pale lips moved to utter a spell. They would not remember the look of sheer determination that grazed her dark eyes as the throne room blazed with heat and light, to be followed shortly after with a storm of ice and snow.
They could only talk afterward. Lia, the Disappeared. Lia, the Pale Queen. Lia, the Fae-Snatched.
Lia, the Unreaped. Lia, the Snow-Bringer.
There is a sound to the last two that Lia liked. It suited her just fine.