The hills were an endless field of emeralds against the sky that matched with its light blue sapphire glow. Ireland was an important aspect of Katie Carroll's life, and certainly something worth dying for. As the seasons changed from a wet and warm spring to a hot and humid summer; from a cool and glowing autumn to a white and frigid winter, Katie aged. Born on the Autunnol Equinox, it was Katie's seventeenth winter. The white flakes glistened beneath the grey and overcast sky like the prismatic stars of the evening sky. The dense evergreen forest was now an undetectable white one, blending in rather well with the white surrounding hills of Breifne.

Katie made her way to the dense evergreen woods through the thick blanket of snow. Above her, a wintry snowy owl hooted its welcome and flew off gracefully. Below her, an invisible white hare bolted out from its hiding place within the comforting white blanket. The snow that had fallen upon the forest had caught in the trees, more so than the ground, and a thin layer of frozen crystals covered the forest floor. The snow crunched like snapping twigs beneath Katie's feet, and she spun around in shock when a second set of crunching sounds drew near, and calmed as the sight of Colum O'Reilly met her fierce emerald eyes.

Colum's bright red hair was like a flame that stuck out brightly among the white. Like a flame, it devoured every snowflake that landed in his soft red hair. His deep bluish-grey eyes were like a roaring ocean that swept the careful and cautious Katie off of her feet and lost her in its waves. His winter cloak hung lazily off of his shoulders, as most of the armour that he wore protected him from the frigid winter temperatures.

"Good morrow, Katie Carroll," he muttered, his eyes meeting hers.

"Top o' the mornin' to ye, Colum," Katie muttered back, her back resting against a thick dark tree.

"What brings ye here to the evergreens, dear cousin?" asked Colum curiously. Katie pondered a moment.

"I do not know me reasons. I come to clear me mind, mostly," she responded. Colum nodded.

"Aye, understandable. I do much the same fer me own mind." They were both silent for a moment. "Care to join me fer a stroll?" He held out his arm, and Katie hesitated momentarily before taking it.

"Aye," said she, and they began their journey through the winter evergreens.

"Quite a cold day to be out today, Katie Carroll," Colum was saying. "Ye'll freeze out here if ye don' return to the castle soon."

"I'll take me chances," Katie replied.

"They be talkin' of marriage, the O'Reilly clan," Colum began. "The clan's gone mad…"

"Aye, it has. They go marryin' off their sons and daughters to any noble willing to take them," Katie replied. "Quite sickening, in me mind."

"Aye," said Colum. "Me brother, Finian, be engaged to a Noble woman in the kingdom of Oriel."

"Quite far," said Katie. "What Noble be she from?"

"McCormick," said Colum.

"Aye… wherefore art thy? They are not a wise clan," Katie muttered.

"Aye, I couldn't agree more." Again, the two were silent. "What do ye think of marriage?"

"'Tis not an appropriate conversation…"

"Fer a Noble woman. Ye don't act like one."

"I do not wish to be one."

"Aye, do as thou wilt."

"What say you?"

"I be not insultin' ye, Katie Carroll, I be complimenting ye." Katie was silent, not daring to look at him. Colum picked up his head and looked around him at the dense white forest. "What comes to mind of these woods?"

"It is most beauteous."

"Verily, it is so, m'lady," Colum muttered. Katie looked up at him.

"Wherefore come hither? What brings ye here to me on this day?" she asked. Colum looked at her.

"I come to speak to ye, Katie Carroll," Colum replied, turning to face her.

"Ye come to speak to me? Why?"

"I have but naught a word to say but what crosses me mind."

"And what may that be?"

"I have but a single phrase: It be you who has taken me heart, Katie Carroll." Katie was speechless. She stared at him open-mouthed. Around the young couple, the white frozen crystals continued to fall, many getting stuck in Katie's dark reddish-brown hair that was draped over her shoulders and down her back. "I apologize fer stunning ye. I realize now that I have said too much… I bid ye adieu, Katie Carroll." Colum took both of her hands in his and kissed them before quickly stalking off. Katie, unable to look into his eyes, looked down at her hands and then at the snowy ground. She had been struck speechless, and unsure of what to say or think with the new feelings that surged through her. All Katie could do at that moment was to throw herself down onto the ground, bury her face in her knees and shed tears of multiple emotions all mixed into one.