Author's Note: I wrote this for a contest about two years ago, then forgot it existed. It takes place in the universe of a planned longer story. Reading back over it, I'm not happy with a lot of it. Especially the POV changes. Why did I think those were a good idea? Why? Anyway, if I ever get around to writing that longer story, there'll be a lot of changes made.
Warning: contains references to murder, violence and general creepiness.
At the Still Point of the Turning World
If anyone told him a year ago that he would find himself standing in his snow-covered kitchen in the middle of July, with a girl who claimed to be a character from a fairy-tale giving him a death glare only a few paces away, Christian would have laughed in their face and told them to see a doctor. He wasn't laughing now.
She didn't quite fit his idea of what a Snow Queen should look like. He'd never given it much thought until the murders started, but he'd imagined someone like the White Witch in the books he'd loved as a child – blonde, pale, white dress, icicle crown, magic wand. She was certainly pale – quite literally snow white, in fact – but her hair was black, her jacket, trousers and cape were dark blue, she wasn't wearing a crown, and she didn't have a wand. She had a scythe, which was currently locked in his attic.
She also had fangs.
Hans Christian Andersen never said the Snow Queen was a vampire, he thought. He almost laughed at himself. He should have figured out that stories weren't always accurate when the Headless Horseman and Frankenstein's Monster paid him a visit a month ago.
"...So," he said at last, simply to break the silence when it became apparent she wouldn't. "You've got the police scared of their own shadows."
"Humans are always scared. It's their natural state," the Snow Queen replied, her tone as cold as the snow that lay in drifts on the tiled floor.
Christian spared a moment to dread what it would be like when all that snow melted. "But you're making us more scared than we normally are." He continued hurriedly before she could comment on his awkward phrasing. "Why? Why do you go around cutting people open?"
"I don't see what the fuss is about," she said calmly. "I don't leave them cut open; I sew them back together again when I'm done."
He was on the verge of freaking out when he realised she was joking. Okay, black comedy and a twisted sense of humour. He could cope with that. He got that sort of thing all the time from his brother.
"But why do you cut them open in the first place?"
Keselaila had been furious when the human stole her scythe – didn't he know that without it, she was little more than an ordinary vampire? She had come here fully intent on taking it back and killing him for his insolence. She didn't expect him to be waiting for her, and to greet her with, "I'd offer you a drink, but you seem to have frozen them all."
She waited to hear what he had to say. And did her best to nauseate him with disturbing jokes, because she was a trickster at heart, and the faces humans made at off-hand remarks about death and murder were always hilarious. This "Christian Sangue" was one of the least imposing humans she'd ever met, with his untidy brown hair, ink-stained fingers and threadbare clothes, but he coped better than most. That idiot politician, McGinty or something similar, had screamed and tried to run.
Instead of panicking, Sangue was trying to talk to her. As if they were old friends. This was the first time for a century that anyone not called the Nightmare King had willingly spoken to her. It struck her that if she explained the situation to him, he might offer to help and remove the need for killing humans. She did what was necessary; she didn't enjoy it.
"I'm looking for something. Parts of something."
"Parts of a mirror, perhaps?"
She nodded. He knew the fairy-tale, then.
"So. A mirror broke and shards of ice flew across the world, getting into people's eyes and freezing them. You're cutting them open because you're trying to put the mirror back together."
"And to prevent Old Man Winter being unleashed on the world."
He blinked. "Old Man Winter?"
"I'm not the only creature with power over winter. In fact I'm just a vampire with an unusual affinity for ice and snow. Old Man Winter is the personification of winter, but he wanted it to be always winter. So Death locked him in a mirror."
Oh. That explained an awful lot. Christian tried not to panic at the implications of that statement.
"He's in the shards of the mirror?" The Snow Queen – he'd never asked her name – nodded again. "So when the pieces get into someone's eye, he can... what, possess them?"
"At first, yes. Then, when he's strong enough, he can reform his body and turn the bodies of the humans he possessed into his personal army." She paused. "Now do you see why I have to kill them?"
"There's a better way. There's always a better way." He thought quickly. "Why didn't you tell anyone earlier?"
"Because I've been in Antarctica for a hundred years, guarding that goddamn mirror and listening to his taunts."
"How did he finally break out?"
"I lost my temper and hit the mirror. It shattered."
"Okay. How many shards have you got?"
She waved her hand and a collection of small, blood-stained pieces of ice landed in her palm. "Twenty-eight."
One for each human killed. "What are you going to do with them?"
"Throw them into a volcano."
Now there was a way to summarily deal with your enemies, even if it posed certain logistic difficulties. There were no volcanoes in Great Britain. "How about you work with us?"
Keselaila had expected him to accuse her of lying. Instead, he believed her and wanted to help. But if he meant what she thought he meant... "By 'us', do you mean your group of idiots who wouldn't know a real threat if it was staring them in the face?"
"By 'us', I mean the people who tracked you down and almost captured you before you even knew we were there." She scowled at the memory. That had not been her finest moment. "By 'us', I mean the woman who can literally lose her head and survive, the boy with wings, a guy and girl who can teleport someone stupid enough to offend them to the top of Mount Everest, a man who literally breathes fire when angry, and let's not forget the Banshee and the guy who's an assortment of reanimated body parts. And then there's my brother and I. Maybe you don't think normal humans are very dangerous, but my brother can get blackmail material on any human and a few non-humans you care to name, and as for me, who took your scythe? Just out of curiosity, what's that for, anyway?"
When he put it like that, they sounded considerably more useful. Still she hesitated. Vampires were solitary creatures by nature, and though she'd never admit it the thought of having to spend quite some time with so many people unnerved her.
"It amplifies my powers," she said absently, still considering his offer. "What would you get out of helping me?"
"I'd find some way to deal with the ice shards without killing people," he replied. "That would get the police off my back. And I'd like to figure out your magic. I mean, ice and snow, indoors, in July! How do you do that?"
"...I won't be expected to formally join you, will I?"
"You'd have to speak to Brigitta about that – that's the Headless Horseman, by the way – but I shouldn't think so."
She would probably regret this. But she couldn't find all the ice shards alone, and it would be nice not to have to kill the humans.
He grinned like a four-year-old on Christmas morning. "Great! Oh, and by the way... could you get rid of all this snow?"