The kingdom of Ether hadn’t had snow in over a hundred years. They’d been transitioning between spring and summer, all warm weather all the time. King Handel had been content with this, until his little girl, Princess Syrina, said something. “Daddy, what’s snow?”

They’d been eating breakfast, and she’d had a book on her lap under the table. She was always studying something she wasn’t supposed to be. This time she’d found a book about a kingdom far away, a place perpetually cold and snowy. Her father took the book away. “Shouldn’t you be reading about the history of Ether?”

“But it’s so boring. I want to know about other places. Why doesn’t it snow here?”

“Before you were born, it snowed every year.” King Handel didn’t know why it had stopped. No one did.

Princess Syrina stared out the window at the cheery, blue sky. “Can we make it snow? Is it supposed to snow?”

“I’ll see what we can do.”

***

That night King Handel journeyed out of the castle to visit the most powerful being in Ether. She’d existed long before humans, maybe longer than the elves. She was the Balancer and it was her job to ensure the balance of nature. King Handel had come to her before, so she was not surprised when he came to her again at her cave in the mountains. He bent his knee for her. “Ether has only had summer and spring for the past eight years. We need winter and fall.”

The Balancer stayed in the shadows, but her white and black dragons slid forward. “If you needed it, then I would’ve already stepped in.”

“My daughter wants snow.”

“I’m not changing the weather based on the whims of a child.”

“What if I can make you an offer? I can give you anything you want.”

“I don’t want anything.” The Balancer and her dragons began to retreat back into their cave.

“I can give you fifty souls within the next twenty years.” King Handel could send troops to fight in a foreign war. He could promise them riches. Everyone would jump at the chance. Fifty men wouldn’t be a detrimental loss.

The Balancer hesitated. “I don’t want the souls of fifty soldiers. I want ten soldiers, ten women, ten elves, ten dragons, and ten children within the year.”

King Handel had paid a steeper price before. They shook on it.

***

Long story short, King Handel sent ten soldiers to capture and kill ten elves. They succeeded, but the celebration was short. King Handel poisoned the celebratory wine. Then he sent a trusted servant to steal ten dragons eggs from an old palace at the far reaches of Ether. The hardest was the women and children, which he rounded up and burned alive for “treason.” They didn’t scream. Snow mixed in with their ashes, all falling from the sky, bringing Princess Syrina her first snow.

Fiction

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