Okay, I've decided to do some major editing of Snowflake because I'm really not satisfied with it, and then I'll continue it. So, this is Chapter 1. If you notice any typos that I haven't caught, feel free to tell me. No guarantees on how soon I'll fix it, though... hee hee...
Chapter 1—Foolish Superstitions
The village of Sysben was a modest one. There were stores, there were huts, and on the outskirts of the village, there were farms. It was located in a hilly area, the Limehills, which were blanketed in a grass so green that they looked almost like a carpet.
In Sysben, like most other villages, there were witches. What made Sysben stand out was that it was a sort of gathering place for witches of all kinds.
Witches here were viewed with a vague suspicion by the other people of Sysben. Of course, they were necessary, but they were so strange, so peculiar, and no one really did want anything to do with them. They were a necessary evil, of sorts. So, the villagers avoided the witches, and the witches returned the compliment.
Dysrael, however, was fascinated with witch-working.
Ever since she had been born, ever since she had seen the magic of spells, ever since she had heard the listening, waiting stillness of witch-working, she knew. She knew in her bones that she would be a witch, and that nothing could stop her.
It seemed unlikely, of course. It was unlikely. A witch, from a family of farmers with not a trace of magic in their blood? Impossible! It was unheard of.
But Dysrael had proved them wrong, had proved them all wrong. She had triumphed, had overcome—and now she was a witch. She was a witch, and she would never have to go back to mundane, monotonous days of labor from sunrise to sunset ever again.
Occasionally, she thought of her sister, her twin Eanne. Dysrael was Eanne's copy in every way, except for magic. They had the same brown-black hair, the same pale skin, the very same gray eyes that were so unusual. She had always been overshadowed by Eanne, who had been first-born, first-place, always first in everything.
So of course, Dysrael had been ecstatic when she realized she had something Eanne could never touch, could never excel. That happiness had been dampened by a feeling of guilt for thinking in such a way of her twin.
But she would no longer be just Eanne's twin. No, now she would be Dysrael, the witch, Dysrael, not justtwin of Eanne.
Dysrael supposed she resented Eanne, but she had never thought too much of it. Not after she had been Tiffryl's apprentice. Once she had become a witch, she had given up all her ties with her past.
However, once she became a witch, Dysrael found she had yet another obstacle to overcome.
Dysrael found that while she did have an aptitude for witch-working, it was a very weak one. She could barely handle cleaning spells most witches mastered by the time they were twelve, and she was nineteen. Magic of any kind was a struggle for her, and an exhausting one.
But she had her pride. No one save Tiffryl, her witch-working teacher, knew how many hours Dysrael struggled to learn spells that other witches learned after a few tries. And the more difficult ones, such as the ones associated with healing, were completely beyond her reach.
Sometimes Dysrael let that discourage her. Sometimes she felt a bone-deep resentment for the other witches, those witches that had never known what true struggling was like.
But then she remembered her days at the farm, with her father and mother and Eanne. She loved them and could honestly say that she missed them, but she was incredibly glad that she would never have to go back to that life again, that life of utter boredom.
So Dysrael put a smile on her face and pretended. She pretended she was a witch like everyone else, and she pretended that she had absolutely no trouble at all with witch-working.
None at all.
Tarabelle, a plump, middle-aged woman, shivered in her thin frock. "My, it's cold today, isn't it?"
"Oh, yes," agreed Betha, who was considerably younger and just married. "Isn't it strange? The snow hasn't even mfelted yet—andit's Flowerfair!"
"I know what you mean. Why, last year, little flowers had already started to bloom by this time of year," added Tarabelle wonderingly. She rubbed her hands together for warmth. "I wonder, suppose it's a bad omen?"
Betha scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous. No such thing as omens,except maybe for the witches. Superstitions are for fools. Anyways, have you seen Dysrael around?"
"No, to tell you the truth, I haven't. That's strange, too. She's usually around by now, helping us with the Flowerfair decorations."
"Where is she?"
"Now, don't get annoyed," placated Tarabelle. "Isn't that girl nineteen now? That's when witches come of age, you know, and they have to do all this strange chanting and singing stuff. I suppose she's just practicing."
"Hmph," scoffed Betha crossly. "And I suppose once she's become a proper witch, she'll be too busy for us old ladies to bother with stopping by like she usually does?"
And practicing, Dysrael was.
She had a song to sing during Flowerfair, and though it wasn't a particularly difficult piece (she had been a bit disappointed by Tiffryl's lack of faith in her), Dysrael was determined to do her best.
Cold and dark and dank and death,
That is what comes with Winter's breath.
Bright and love and flowers and life,
All will sprout with dear Spring's fife.
Then on and on the year shall go,
Till Lord Summer strikes Spring's deathblow.
And darker and darker the day will become,
Till Lady Fall turns the day darksome.
She would tell the story of the seasons. It was a complicated one, and rather soap opera-ish according to her standards. Gentle Spring had fallen for the heartless Winter, but brutal Lord Summer had fallen for Spring. And Autumn, obsessed with Lord Summer but knowing she could never have him, had latched herself onto Winter. And Spring had given into Summer's advances.
Dysrael thought it a bit too complicated for little old her.
Regardless, the Seasons were the most important and powerful forces in all of magic, and proper respect had to be due to them.
Mulling over the song for a moment longer, Dysrael cleared her throat. Because of all the months of cold, she had come down with a slight cough. It was bothersome, and she wondered for her singing.
Sighing to herself, she started practicing her song, only to be cut off by Tiffryl.
"Dysrael!" she screeched.
"Yes, Tiffryl?" screeched Dysrael back equably. Witches had to be good at screeching, and if there was one thing Dysrael could brag about, it was her screeching ability. She had learned from the best, after all.
"It's time for Flowerfair to start! We're already running a bit late!"
"We are?" asked Dysrael with shock.
"YES! So hurry!"
"Of—of course!" Quickly Dysrael threw on her witch's cloak, which was a tattered, miserable, despondent little thing, and her hat, which was an equally wretched creation whose black color looked more like a limpid and depressed gray.
It made Dysrael feel better that Tiffryl's witch outfit was worse.
She rushed out of her little room and after Tiffryl, who was already hobbling away at an alarmingly quick rate for an eighty year old woman.
"I—Tiffryl, I'm nervous," admitted Dysrael a bit awkwardly. "What if I mess up? What if I—?"
Tiffryl glanced back at Dysrael and gave the younger girl one of her rare smiles that crinkled her blue eyes and didn't make her look sinister. "You'll do fine, girl. True, you aren't the strongest witch of your age, but you're smart… smart enough. So, you'll do fine," she encouraged.
Dysrael smiled brightly. "Thank you!" If Tiffryl thought she would do fine, then she would.
And, in fact, though she would never thought it possible just a few hours ago, Dysrael was bored.
She wondered if it was indeed possible to die of boredom, regardless of what Tiffryl's book On the Physiologee of thy Moderne Werld claimed.
Come to think of it, it wasn't quite so modern anymore.
The coming of age ceremony for witches in Flowerfair wasn't quite as bad as she'd thought it would be. She had gone up and sung her part in the Song of Seasons, feeling markedly self-conscious as she did so, and done a few steps Tiffryl had taught her. Dysrael had stumbled a little, but all in all, she believed she had given a fair performance. There had been other witches that had done worse than her, such as Jynne. Dysrael shuddered just thinking of poor Jynne, who had actually tripped during her part and ruined that entire dance.
So, she supposed it was a blessing she had been among one of the first witches to go. Now all she had to do was watch the other nervous nineteen-year-olds do their part.
It was mind-numbingly boring.
She cast her eyes around, looking for something, anything, to interest her. First she studied the clearing they were in. She could imagine the place in spring. It would be a small little patch of grass in the midst of a thick forest, and the trees would have stretched their limbs to the sky. Their leaves would form a thick canopy. Very little sunlight would have filtered through, and that which did would have a greenish tinge.
But it was still winter, apparently, despite the start of Flowerfair. A thick blanket of snow covered the ground, and the trees were bare and cold and forbidding. It was crisp, not quite freezing, but not quite comfortable either. Dysrael could see her breath and everyone else's breath crystallizing, and she shivered again.
Dysrael cast her attention back to the performers. This time, it was two witches performing together. She recognized them as Aleya and Axeya, twins that had born within two minutes of each other. Both were genius witches and admired far and wide. Whenever Dysrael saw them, she felt a small twinge of something—regret? Jealousy? Resentment?—and wondered how life would have been had Eanne been a witch as well.
Would she and Eanne have been a powerful duo, as well? Dysrael had no doubt that if Eanne had been a witch, she would have been a strong one. Eanne, with her witch power, Dysrael with her knowledge…
But Dysrael knew that Eanne would still overshadow her, and because of that, she was glad Eanne wasn't a witch. Dysrael felt selfish for thinking that way, but she knew deep inside that it was true.
Aleya and Axeya had started singing and dancing. Dysrael knew it was a complicated piece, requiring utter teamwork and cooperation. Being a twin herself and knowing how annoying it was to get confused with Eanne, Dysrael made it a point to know which was Aleya and which was Axeya. Aleya, the elder, was always just the slightest bit haughty and rude, and Axeya, the younger, was perfectly polite but had something a little off about her.
They continued their singing as Dysrael lost her interest in them. As always, those twins had a perfect performance. Dysrael tried to summon up a bit of jealousy, but found that suddenly, she was utterly exhausted.
Puzzled but unsuspecting, she stretched slightly and was surprised when a huge yawn fought its way out of her mouth. She was… sleepy? Well, she had been bored for a long time…
Dysrael became aware that she had started drifting off, an unforgivable thing during Flowerfair. Turning her attention back to the witches, she found that the Seniors had started their dancing. The dances of the Seniors, the most experienced witches of all, was always a wonderful thing, filling her with pleasure and wonder. Their lithe bodies weaved in and out of the web they had created.
This dance was a terribly difficult one. Using all their magic (which was a formidable amount) and concentration, the Seniors would be able to induce a tiny amount of the Seasons' powers to enter the dance, and this would allow the Seniors to communicate with the Seasons. For what reason, Dysrael had no idea, but if any Senior's concentration wavered for an instant, the whole dance was ruined.
This dance was also only performed in times of dire need.
That was what made Dysrael nervous. What was it that was so important that the Seniors felt the need to ask the Seasons? Their power was only called upon in desperate circumstances.
She smelled a light floral scent and felt a caressing breeze on her cheek. Spring had entered the dance, deigned to play with the poor mortals.
After another few minutes, she felt warmth around her, and abrupt contrast to the crisp coldness of the weather. Summer had entered as well.
Then Dysrael felt dryness, smelt something like spicy bark, and knew Autumn had joined the Seniors' dance as well. Now, all that was left was Winter.
And last, there was that breeze, that cold, forbidding, wintry breeze that signaled the entrance of the last Season. Dysrael lazily opened her eyes, having let them shut close earlier on, and expected to see the usual nonsense of Seniors muttering into thin air.
She, instead, her a voice.
Bring me my gift…
Shell-shocked, Dysrael snapped straight, looking around. Who would dare have talked during this delicate stage of the dance? Who would dare have interrupted?
But she saw a strange sight. None of the witches looked surprised in the slightest bit. She looked back at the Seniors, and they did not seem angry at all. It was as though no one but she had heard the voice…
Was she hearing one of the Seasons?
Dysrael scoffed at that thought immediately. Impossible. The only ones that should be able to hear the voices of the Seasons were the Seniors, and even then they should hear the Seasons as only whisperings, vague words, not as clear as if the Seasons were standing right beside them.
No, there was something very, very wrong here.
—Winter! Patience, and you shall have her.
This voice was different from the first voice. This voice belonged to an old woman, an old woman who was once beautiful and sultry but was now wrinkled and ancient.
You have the audacity to order me?
This voice was the first one she had heard. It belonged to a young man's, and it was husky as though it had not been used for a long time. Its tone was not righteous or angry but rather amused, as if seeing a child trying to play at king.
—Of course not, Winter, of course not! Look, there is the child, there she is below!
Dysrael suddenly felt cold, colder than she had ever been in her life. She shivered violently and noticed Tiffryl giving her a puzzled look, before the older woman turned her attention back to the Seniors.
She wanted to scream out and run away, but for some reason she felt frozen and unable to move.
This is the gift? She is not even an Elemental…
—Yes, m'lord, but it is hidden deep within her, for she is the One, you see.
The One that was spoken of since the beginning of time?
—Yes! The One with the power to make and then break all in time and earth!
I do not see it.
—It is hidden deep within her, but you, m'lord, have the power to bring it out!
Dysrael was shivering uncontrollably, still unable to move, but her mind was working furiously. Who was this "One" that they spoke of? In all her years of studying, she had never heard of such a "One"…
And once again, she felt the coldest, iciest, most stifling presence she had ever felt, and everything disappeared in a flurry of white and snow and screams.
So! What do you think? I majorly changed this from my first version. Right. Anyways, time for some pronunciations. You don't have to read this if you don't want to, though.
Thanks for reading this! Remember, read and review. The "Go" button is getting very lonely down there.