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Kingdom of Ice

The peaceful Kingdom of Turia awaits the birth of their king and queen’s first child, but a cruel twist of fate and a demon’s intervention destroys their lives forever. Years later, events orchestrated by Queen Eleanor, Princess Khione’s heartless and jealous mother, takes away her freedom and almost her life. She is forced to flee into a nearby forest inhabited by fae.

Banished from Turia, Agnes and Gerda try to start a new life in the Kingdom of Agraunia. There Gerda befriends her neighbour’s son Kai. Their close friendship eventually blossoms into love. Shortly after Kai becomes cold and distant, he disappears. Rumours persist that he is dead. Only Gerda believes he is still alive and in danger. She sets out alone to rescue him blissfully unaware of the danger before her.

Kingdom of Ice, book 1 of A Dark Faerie Tale, is a blended retelling of Snow White, the Snow Queen and other fairy tales, with action/adventure and a magical touch of romance.

Kingdom of Ice was originally published under the title: Throne of Ice.

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Chapter One

It was mid-winter in Turia, and large flakes of snow had fallen to the ground, covering the earth with a glistening blanket of white. Queen Eleanor sat on a window seat looking out at the wintry scene before her. The well-thumbed book in her hand had remained on the same page for the last half hour. Bright orange flames of a roaring fire crackled in the fireplace. Eleanor’s cheeks flushed, as she felt far too warm and wished for a walk outside to take in some fresh air. She left the window seat and requested her lady-in-waiting to bring her cloak.

“Your Majesty, it is freezing outside, would it not be better to sit on the far side of the room away from the fire?” she suggested.

Eleanor did not agree. “Hurry and fetch it as the heat in this chamber stifles me. The cool air will revive me. My nausea has now passed, so you have no need to be concerned for me.” Her rose-pink lips curled into a warm smile and her grey eyes twinkled with humour. “Would you rather I fetch it myself?”

“Certainly not,” said her lady-in-waiting, who hurried to bring the cloak. The queen had a kind and compassionate nature. She proved this to her subjects with her charity to the poor and needy and treating her servants with respect. All loved and respected her in return. With her husband King Eldwin, she ruled the kingdom of Turia with wisdom and justice.

Her lady-in-waiting returned with a blue velvet cloak lined with black silk. She placed it around Eleanor’s shoulders and closed its silver fastener, and then both made their way along the stone-flagged corridors to the garden. Ruhan Castle had beautiful gardens, and Eleanor spent many hours there. Colourful shrubs and flowers of every kind adorned the garden’s borders. They walked along the snow-cleared path towards the scented herb garden, which served a culinary and medicinal purpose. Although many of the herbs lay dormant throughout the winter, a few herbs prevailed: rosemary, thyme and mint. Eleanor stooped down and picked a few green sprigs of each. Gently crushing them in the palm of her hand, she inhaled their sweet, earthy fragrance. Instructing her lady-in-waiting to leave her until she called for her, she headed towards her favourite part of the gardens: the rose garden.

A hardy bush of blood-red roses still bloomed within the bare garden. She brushed away the sprinkling of crystallised snow from the crimson petals with her fingers and inhaled the heady fragrance of the largest of the blooms. In doing so, she pricked her forefinger on a rose thorn. Three drops of ruby-red blood fell from her finger onto the white covered ground below. She gazed at the stark contrast of the red blood against the white of the snow. She then ran her hands along her swollen stomach and smiled as her thoughts turned to the infant she carried: I wish to have a daughter whose skin will be as fair as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as a raven’s wings.

This child had been a long time in coming. Eleanor’s pregnancy had not been an easy one. The King worried about her health and surrounded her with physicians and servants. She loved her husband but felt overwhelmed by so much fuss and attention and often took refuge in her beloved rose garden.

The intensity of the breeze that wafted around the garden increased. Eleanor felt icy-cold and pulled the hood of her cloak over her ebony-black hair. Suddenly, the breeze turned into a fierce gust of wind and Eleanor started as she felt a sharp, stabbing sensation in her chest. She doubled over and cried out in pain. When she straightened, her blissful mood had vanished, only to be replaced with feelings of anger and hostility. The warmth in her eyes faded and an unfamiliar rage rose within her as she tore at the rose blooms. She plucked them from the bush and crushed them in her hands. As the petals crumbled, she threw the remains onto the ground. To her the roses were imperfect and their scent repulsed her.

A very different Queen Eleanor returned to the castle that day.

 

King Eldwin did not notice the change in his wife until they sat down to dinner. “How are you my dear, did you have a pleasant day?” he asked.

She replied with a harshness he had never encountered before: “No, I did not,” she snapped. “You were out hunting all day. I endured an insufferable day of boredom within these castle walls.”

“Are you unwell?”

“I am as well as one can be, carrying your child,” she replied. Eldwin’s brow creased with concern as he examined his wife’s features. The look in her eyes once filled with love and gentleness now appeared harsh and forbidding. When the servants brought their dinner, she criticised all the food placed in front of her. She found the vegetable soup too hot, the chicken too cold and greasy. Nothing was to her satisfaction. She eventually excused herself with complaints of a headache and retired to her bedchamber.

Eldwin went to Eleanor’s chamber later that evening. Although they had separate rooms, they always slept together in the same bed. Their marriage was one of love, not convenience. Theirs was also an equal marriage, as Eleanor had granted Eldwin the Crown Matrimonial, enabling them to co-reign.

Eleanor’s maid prepared her mistress for bed. As Eldwin entered the room, she ordered the maid to leave. He encircled his wife in his arms; she did not return his embrace. When he attempted to press his lips to hers, she turned her head away. He grew angry. “Eleanor, what the blazes is the matter with you?”

“Nothing,” she replied. The look in her eyes told a different story, as they flashed with anger. After clearing her throat she said, “From tonight I want to sleep alone.”

Flabbergasted, he grasped her arms. “We have never spent a night apart since we married.” Ignoring the look of anguish in his hazel eyes, she glared at him.

“Release me. You are hurting me.” His strong hands trembled as he released his grip and gazed deep into her eyes.

“I will not beg, Eleanor. There is a great change in you today. I do not know what has happened, but I intend to find out.”

She met his loving gaze with coldness and spoke between gritted teeth, “There is nothing to seek.” Turning away from him, she picked up her hairbrush from the dressing table, pulled a few strokes through her hair, and then threw it back down. “I will catch a chill standing here in this flimsy nightgown. You must leave. I need to sleep.”

Eldwin clenched his fists in frustration. He gripped Eleanor’s shoulders and turned her to face him. She stiffened and flinched as he ran a finger along the side of her face, swept her hair back from her shoulders and gently kissed her cheek. Placing a hand over her heart, he whispered, “Our hearts used to beat as one.” She remained silent. His voice cracked as he said, “I love you. My love, for you, is eternal.” His wife looked again at him. A cold and heartless stare now replaced the look of love in her eyes. He sighed, turned from her and marched towards the door, slamming it shut as he left the room.

Word spread throughout the castle; Queen Eleanor had been enchanted or cursed. Eldwin barely recognised the woman he had married. Many thought she was possessed, and they feared her. She now screamed orders to her servants, punishing anyone who displeased her and threatened them with floggings. The Queen ordered many thrown into the dungeons on a whim. King Eldwin, however, refused to allow his wife to carry out her threats. Her temper tantrums became so violent he had her imprisoned in her rooms for a month. He sought medical advice from far and wide. Having searched the whole of Eliedda, not one person, could give him the answers he sought. They thought the pregnancy had some blame, and she would return to normal after the birth of the child. Eldwin held onto that hope, but his heart grew weary with worry.

In time, Eleanor gave birth to a healthy baby girl and the kingdom rejoiced. She felt no love for the child, even when she first set eyes on her. The midwife placed the baby into her arms, and Eleanor stared into her daughter’s blue-grey eyes, but her heart remained cold and hard. She passed the baby straight away to her maid and ordered a wet nurse, Agnes, to attend to the child. Eleanor abhorred the thought of the infant feeding from her own breasts. The idea repulsed her. What should have been a moment of tenderness and love between a mother and her child did not go unnoticed by the king. His wife remained unchanged, his heart saddened, and he mourned for the loss of his tender, loving Eleanor.

Three days after the baby princess’s birth her baptism took place. She was named Khione, after the mythological goddess of snow. Eleanor looked down from the frosty window in her bedchamber, as the procession entered the chapel for the christening service. She had excused herself from attending the service, feigning fatigue.

Turning from the window she returned to her armchair, retrieved the embroidery work she had left upon the chair’s arm and started to embroider as if her life depended upon it. When her maid entered the room with a tray of food, she refused to eat and ordered her to return later in the day, to dress her for the evening’s christening party. Even though Eldwin did not expect her to attend, Eleanor did not wish to miss the opportunity to be the centre of attention.

That evening, guests dressed in all their finery filled the Great Hall. Many dignitaries, kings, and queens from neighbouring kingdoms attended the party. Eldwin entered the hall proudly carrying Khione, his heart full of love for his beautiful baby daughter. When she looked at her father, he stroked her raven-black hair and planted a kiss on her forehead. She gurgled and beamed at him and for the first time in many months, Eldwin smiled.

Eleanor entered the Great Hall and took her place beside her husband. Eldwin took in her appearance: glossy black hair braided and pinned up with golden hair combs, skin milky white against the crimson red of her gown. Her beauty shone like the necklace of gold and glittering rubies she wore — Eldwin had given it to her as a wedding gift. She gave her husband an enigmatic smile and turned her attention to the guests. Her grey eyes glowed with excitement as she saw their admiring glances. The many compliments she received gave her great pleasure. For all the coldness in her heart, she found delight at declarations of her beauty.

The infant princess received gifts from many kingdoms. A dark-haired man, dressed in black robes approached Eleanor. He bowed as he presented her with a gift. “I am Alor, Your Majesty. This gift is not for the princess. It is for you. Only a woman as beautiful as you deserves such a gift.” Pleased with the flattery she accepted the gift from the mysterious stranger with dark soulless eyes and flawless skin with a pale complexion.

“Thank you, the mirror is exquisite.” Eleanor admired the oval-shaped mirror surrounded by an ornate gilt frame. King Eldwin looked at the mirror, then at Alor, eyeing him with caution.

“I think you will find it most useful, ma’am. You must hang it on the wall of your bedchamber, taking care that nobody but yourself should look into it.” Alor bowed again, and then returned to the crowded party. As he turned and walked away from her, a wide smile spread across his face. He left the Great Hall and exited the castle. Upon passing under the portcullis and through the large oak doors of the castle, he began to laugh, a crazed demonic laugh.

At her request, Eleanor’s servants hung the mirror in her bedchamber that evening. In her eagerness, she left the christening party early. She usually detested looking at her reflection, but for a strange reason, she felt an urgent compulsion to look at herself in this mirror. She entered the room and removed the silk scarf covering the stranger’s gift. Eleanor had given orders for it to remain covered and no one should look into it but herself as Alor had instructed. When she saw her reflection, she was overjoyed. Her eyes sparkled, and her face glowed with radiance and beauty, her cupid’s bow lips appeared to be full, red and enticing. At no other time had she appeared so beautiful. Extreme vanity filled her stony heart.

She preened before the mirror then spoke aloud, “Who is the fairest in the land?” The glass began to glow, and she stood back in shock.

A green light shone from within, and a hooded figure appeared and spoke with a deep tone, “You, Queen Eleanor are the fairest in the land.” She stared at the figure in astonishment. “Are you real?”

“Oh, yes, I am the heart and soul of the magic mirror. I know everything, see all and only speak the truth.” Eleanor marvelled at this wonderful gift. She had no idea who had given it to her, nor did she care. She was the fairest in the land, and it contented her. As the months went by, she consulted her magic mirror often, needing constant reassurance of her beauty.

Eldwin watched as his wife became more and more detached from himself and their daughter. He became both father and mother to his little girl, and he loved her dearly. She returned his love tenfold. Her love was a balm for his wounded heart. He found in Khione all the goodness that once belonged to Eleanor; she had a pure heart and extreme kindness. Eleanor felt no jealousy of the close relationship between father and daughter. She encouraged them to spend as much time together as possible. When Khione embraced and kissed her mother, she knew she did not relish it. However, she loved her mother unconditionally and hoped that one day she would return her embrace.

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