(c) Nin Harris 2015 —
In all of the fifteen years since Malika had made the crossing over from Terra Cognita, there had never been frost, nor snow on Yrejveree, which retained its even subtropical climate all year round.
The powdery-soft snow reminded Malika of the winter in Toronto when she had lost her role as understudy in Swan Lake due to an inconvenient sprained ankle, caused by an unusually slippery floor just outside the dressing room. She had heard the peals of malicious laughter after she had fallen down, the unmistakable laughter of various others in the troupe, responsible for more than one prank, and for more than one hate-filled anonymous email.
The misery she endured during her months with the troupe had caused her parents to beg her to resign more than once.
“Go back to accounting school, and join my business,” her father Abdul Raof pleaded, his eyes red-rimmed at the sight of the bandages on his daughter’s feet as she danced like an automata, determined to prove everyone on the troupe wrong about her.
She remained undefeated for years, but finally, the ballerinas of the troupe she had chosen, the troupe she had auditioned for relentlessly, defeated her. Not with their pranks, but with their hate.
The spill had been the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back. Malika had packed to go home on opening night, prepared to follow her father’s pleas. She was prepared to return to accounting school, to forget her dreams of dancing the part of Odette.
The snow that now fell on the grounds of Yrejveree reminded her of the way she had wept as she limped through the streets of Toronto. She limped until the pavement turned to air.
Malika lifted her startled face to behold the frosty visage of the Sky-Keeper, Zephyr.
“Why do you cry, swan-maiden? Surely not because of the pranks, for they are the work of very small hearts. Surely not because of the pain, for look!” and with that, the sprained ankle healed.
“Who are you?” Malika asked in wonder as she gazed at es blue-ish white visage, and es flowing white hair.
“I am Zephyr, the Sky-Keeper. I am the messenger of all, but tonight I shall spirit away a swan-maiden for her own sake, and for mine, if that is her wish.”
Malika asked, “Where are you taking me?”
The Sky-keeper smiled, “To the Sky, though you may find it tiresome, for there is only endless blue and billowing clouds. Or to an island with many like you, with pagodes, and markets, and ballrooms. But this journey has a price, for you will be transformed, and you may never see your family again.”
Zephyr’s face grew thoughtful as they flew over Toronto.
“This is not a journey for just anybody. Not if you travel through the sky. And nothing less for someone who dances like she does not touch the earth, someone who should have been cast as Odette from the very beginning. A price has to be paid.”
Malika thought of her family, whom she loved very much. But she also thought of her fate in a world she no longer wished to inhabit.
(Source for this .gif is here)
“Take me away, and transform me,” said the ballerina who had danced with inhuman determination for months, ignoring every ache and pain, “take me away for I have no wish to endure this prison upon earth!”
“Where would you choose to go, swan-maiden? To my home in the sky, or to the island of exiles?” asked Zephyr, es eyes upon the withdrawn, but determined face of the young woman.
“Both,” Malika said, her eyes bold on the Sky-Keeper, “and I will see my family again.”
“As you wish,” said Zephyr with an enigmatic smile.
It had been, Zephyr said, the first time e had spirited someone away for emself.
The lake that lay just beyond the flower-maze was now frozen over, which was not a usual occurrence in Yrejveree. The shivering rivermaidens, banished from their natural habitat now took refuge in the kitchen, drinking hot chocolate topped with pillowy marshmallows. The scuttlebutt in the Manse was that the elementals of the garden had angered Zephyr so much that e had made it snow.
Malika listened to the gossip but she found the warmth in the kitchen cloying and the diatribes of the Kitchen Witch tiresome.
She hugged the rivermaidens and made her way outdoors.
“But it is too cold outside!” protested the Kitchen Witch.
“I’ll survive. I grew up in Toronto,” Malika said as she left, closing the kitchen door behind her.
The downy feathers on her arms thrilled to feel the chilly air, and the powdery soft flakes of snow caressed her cheek.
As she reached the frozen lake, Malika pulled out the gift that had been left at the foot of her bed. Looking around to ensure that no one watched, Malika sat on a stone bench, and put on the powder blue ice-skates that had been Zephyr’s gift to her.
(Source: I <3 Sports Gifs)
That night, the swan maiden skated her heart out on the frozen lake, but she did not skate alone.