Title: A Kingdom Filled with Snow
Summary: A fairy tale.
Once upon a time in a kingdom filled with snow there lived a young prince. His eyes were bright and blue, and his hands quick and nimble. His closest friend was a kind and occasionally greedy half-wolf, who followed him wherever he went.
The prince had a father who was the king of the snow, and though he was a wise and capable man, this king was too like his kingdom -- frozen, unreachable, isolated and inviolate. Though the prince and king loved each other very much, they often were unable to reach one another, even when they were in the same room. So when the frozen king was shot down in battle, the young prince took his death doubly harshly.
The prince, who was a fine hunter and who loved justice as deeply as he did his life, swore to avenge his father's death, and trailed after the killers. Through snow, and woodland, and ice, and even across the borders of his kingdom, into a strange and new land the prince followed these evil men, and with him came his companion.
The young prince captured the murderers, but by crossing into this new land, he became cut off, adrift from his kingdom. His people asked him to stay away, to remain in the strange place where he found himself, and to learn the customs of these alien people. It was so very different from his home that the prince felt his longing for his home like an ache in his teeth, a pain in his belly. The only things that made it bearable was the work he did -- upholding justice, which meant so much to him -- and the company he kept. For in coming to this new land, the prince found a man who quickly became like a brother. It was this friendship, and the one with his wolf, which sustained him, and allowed him to continue, and together they had many adventures, and their bond grew deep.
After a time, the prince found himself ensorcelled by a cruel temptress, who he had loved once before in his home, among the bright drifts of snow, and the knife-sharp sky. She had returned to him, speaking words of love, but with hatred in her heart. For her, the prince would have given up even his love of justice, his life, everything. She wove a terrible spell round him, and would have killed him, if not for the quick mind of the prince's new brother. His life was saved, but the young prince was heart sick, and could no longer stand the deep longing he felt for his home. He bade his friend a farewell, and left for a brief time, wanting only to feel the beautiful cold of his childhood, and see the land that had raised him, the land his father the king had so loved.
He stayed for too short a time, and before long his time in his kingdom was at an end, and he returned to the neighboring land, which was not so strange as it had once been. His exile no longer grated as it once had, for he had a friend, and made himself a home – however distant it was from the home of his heart. When he returned, he was eager to find his brother, and to tell him news of the journey he had just undertaken.
However, his brother had disappeared, and in his place there was a strange man, professing to be his brother. The prince was no fool, and could see quite clearly that this new man was not the one he had left behind, and so he tracked the answers to his questions with the same perseverance he had used to track the killers of his father. Finally he found that his brother had disappeared on a perilous journey, fighting men as evil and shrewd as any who had ever lived, and that to fight them he had changed his name, and his ways. This imposter was to protect the prince's brother by pretending that nothing had changed, to preserve the illusion of sameness.
The prince was struck down by the sadness of this revelation, and suddenly he felt even more far from his kingdom than he had ever felt before.
But time passed, and with time so, too, did some of the hurt, and the prince (who was scrupulous in his fairness) came to know the imposter. He came to see that this man, though he put on a show of anger and force, was heart-weary, and broken.
The prince had long been a mender of broken things, and his affection for the imposter grew with each day. He wanted to take the pieces of this new friend, who was becoming infinitely more dear to the prince than anyone had ever been before, and put them back in place. He wanted to shield the imposter with his own self, to protect him from all hurts.
He grew to understand that this feeling, this compulsion that he felt to touch the whipcord toughness of the imposter's body and the sweet bow of his lips, was a sorcery stronger even than that of the temptress he had known before. This was a love that would survive even the coldest of winters, the deepest of summers, and the young prince was afraid, then, because for so long he had lived within a winter of his own, shielding his too-soft heart with a layer of ice, like that of his kingdom.
But this imposter was a sun which melted even that ice, and the young prince knew not how to react, nor how to let himself feel the warmth of that love. It was then that the young prince sought counsel from his father, dead these long years, but still a strong force in the prince's life.
In death, though not in life, the king had become a father. And his advice was, while not as wise as that of some, always well meant. He told the young prince what he knew, and the prince went away troubled.
The prince, though brave and kind, had difficulties in acting when it came to his heart. He muddled through the questions his deep love for the imposter gave him, trying to find a way, day after day, to make his feelings known.
He held the questions close to his chest, curled in the palm of his hand all throughout the day, and he worried them over and over until they became smoothed like rocks under water, the contours of the words leaving an imprint against his tongue as they sat there unsaid.
The imposter, though, was a man given to action, and though he may have been heart-weary and pained by love, he could not keep his own love quiet. He was not a quiet man, but one of loud loves and louder dislikes -- violent passions coursed through his veins, instead of blood, and it was he, who at last, made what lay between himself and the prince known.
The imposter drew his friend down into the softness of his bed, and there he let the prince mend him, and learned how to warm the coldest reaches of the prince’s heart with the intense heat of his love.
And so it was that when the prince returned to his kingdom of snow and ice, he did not go alone, and though he loved his father still, he did not become the same as the king had been, for whenever the snow and the ice began to creep inside him again, the imposter was there to push it back.