Answering the prompt I found at WriYe’s dreamwidth page: snow


 

He sat shivering in the deepest cell his sister could find for him.  He wanted to say he shivered not from the cold or even from fear.  He was to die and he knew it.  He had known it for quite some time now.  She would kill him in the worst possible fashion.  Either his lungs would be drawn out of his still living body to resemble strange misshapen wings or he would be set out in the cold to die of exposure.  Either would be torturous and painful.  He wanted to say he was shaking from anger.  Instead, he couldn’t say why he was shaking – perhaps he was merely hungry.

Andrien looked up at the tiny window high in the wall.  He could hear voices outside as the great lords discussed his case.  They’d already found him guilty of killing the young king in a trial by combat.  The fact that the young king had been his nephew made it an act of kinslaying as well.  His head would be forfeit even if the boy had not been monarch.

He’d killed his father.  He didn’t deny it.  He closed his eyes briefly.  Killing his father had been one of the most terrifying things he’d ever done.  His eyes flew open as his father’s angry gaze appeared in his mind’s eye.  That gleam that mingled anger wit something else, something darker, had always been in his father’s eyes before he’d beaten Andrien.  After everything he’d been through, he had been sure he couldn’t endure another beating, so he’d killed the man and fled.

He groaned and covered his face with his hands.  Killing his father would be a second act of kinslaying.  For this second act he would be subject to impalement.  The headsman was terrifying enough to face but at least the death was relatively quick.  Impaling, done right could take a day, maybe more.  He let out a shudder and looked up as a sound reached his ears.

They were discussing, he was sure, whether he’d killed his uncle as well.  He hadn’t but his sister seemed convinced he was out to slay the whole family.  That would be a third instance of kinslaying.  Three such murders were punishable by hanging, drawing and quartering.

He shook his head and stood, moving away from the window – trying not to hear what was said.  The fourth and most damning was his mother.  He had killed her.  He couldn’t deny it.  He shuddered more and shook his head.  If he was found guilty of kinslaying concerning his mother how many children and infants would be slain.  Even if it weren’t for the horrific penalty associated with the level of kinslaying he was being tried for, he must convince the council, if not his sister to exonerate him of that.

“God, help me,” he murmured.  It was, he realized, his first prayer not guided by a priest – either from the religion he was born to or the one he’d found himself embracing as he lived in Obria.  He swallowed thickly and pounded on the door as hard as he could.  “Turnkey!” he should.  “Come here.  I must talk to the council.”  He pounded on the door for ten or fifteen minutes before someone arrived/

The turnkey was a brutish man – broad of shoulder and heavily muscled.  His eyes seemed small for his face and he scowled down at Andrien as if he couldn’t understand what was happening.

“I would speak with the council,” Andrien said.  “Please,” he added when the man turned away.

With a grunt, the man turned back and caught him up by the back of his shirt.  He half walked, half-dragged behind the man as they went up the stairs and into the courtyard where the council was discussing his case.

“What is the meaning of this?” his sister asked.  She didn’t shout.  Her voice was soft, controlled, and Andrien knew, dangerous.

“I would speak to the council,” Andrien said.  “It is my right as the scion of a noble line, no matter the accusation against me.”

“He speaks true,” one of the councilors said.  “Lord Andrien, what defense would you give on your own behalf?”

Andrien staggered as the guard set him none-too-gently on his feet.  “I’ve already been found guilty of the slaying of my nephew the king,” he said softly.  “I can protest my innocence until the last days of this earth and none of you will credit it.  I,” he hesitated, looking over at his brother.  The older Runecaster looked away, not meeting his eyes.  “I freely admit that I killed my father.  I… Like as not you don’t see it as an excuse, but I was afraid that he meant to beat me and angry.  He’d called my late wife a whore.  It’s a slim excuse but… that’s all I have.”

He looked up, meeting his sister’s eyes; forcing her to hold his gaze.  “I did not kill our uncle but you likely won’t believe me in that regard.  So there is only this.”  He looked down at his chained wrists and sighed.  “Whatever my crimes and I’ll agree they are many; please do not find me culpable for the death of my mother.  Think of the dangerous precedent such an action sets.  How many women die each year in childbirth?  Shall we call the babes kinslayers now and behead them for their crimes?”

“If there is nothing else, we will withdraw to discuss this,” one of the councilors said.  The handful of men stood and left the courtyard.  Andrien stood where he’d been set by the guard.  He startled when something cold and wet touched his nose.

Moments later the air was filled with tiny swirling flakes.  It was what the Obrians had told him they called fairy snow – tiny flakes that quickly mounted into drifts.  He remembered the first time he’d seen snow almost six moths ago in that land that now seemed so far away.

He’d stood, staring in wonder at the tiny flakes as they danced through the sky.  He hadn’t seen snow in so long he’d forgotten what it looked like.  He looked around and saw the gathered crowd was likewise entranced by the soft white flakes.  Andrien closed his eyes but opened them quickly when a hand touched his shoulder.  Around him the snow was falling so thickly and the wind was blowing so strongly that he could hardly see the people who’d been around him.  They had all-but-disappeared behind the white blanket.

He turned to see who had his should and was confronted by a stranger in long blue robes that were lined with fur.  The man was dark of skin, hair and eye and there was something about him that Andrien thought he might recognize.  He beckoned once and drew Andrien behind him.

All around them, people cried out for help and moved blindly in the sudden blizzard but no one came near Andrien and the stranger.  With sure steps the stranger guided him out of the castle and through the city then through the gate.  The blizzard hid them, he knew.  Andrien shivered in his prison-worn clothes.  He’d been left with only a shirt, breeches and his boots.

Just past the gate, his strength failed.  “I can’t, please sir.  I can go no further.”

“You must, my child,” the stranger said.  He pointed.  “Follow the foxes.  They will lead you to safety.”

Two small forms loomed out of the swirling snow.  Two small ice foxes stood before him and all at once Andrien knew who had rescued him from certain death.   “My God,” he breathed.

A flash of white teeth and the being before him swirled the blue cloak off his own shoulders, setting the warm cloth over Andrien’s shoulders.  “Follow the foxes,” he repeated and then he was gone.

Andrien looked at the pair of soft gray canines and gasped as they set off with a bounding gait.  He ran after them, struggling to keep up in the heavy cloak.  “Wait,” he breathed.  “Please.”  They seemed not to hear him and he was only barely able to keep them in sight in the swirling blizzard.  He staggered as he lost them completely.  Dispair smothered any hope he might have felt.  Tilvar was called the North Father or the Stormbringer.  He’d rescued Andrien and set him on the path but now he was lost and in a storm that he was entirely unprepared for.

He plopped down on the ground and began to feel his way along the path but the way was slow and he was terribly cold.  A sob caught in his throat and he huddled miserably in his borrowed cloak.  “Help!” he said.  Tears blurred his vision but he dashed them away.  Runecasters did not cry.  He stood once more and began to move along the road by the feel of the ground beneath him.

Once again his strength failed and he plopped down on the softened path.  Snow was beginning to mount up.  He’d die of the cold anyway.  What was the point in rescuing him only to kill him now?

“God, why?” he said.  His shoulders began heaving in silent sobs.  He startled when he felt a hand on his shoulder.  He looked up to find the storm had slowed nearly to a stop and his brother stood above him.

“Love to know how you managed that disappearing act,” he said wryly.  “Sister is furious.  The council agreed with you.  Naming you a kinslayer for your role in our mother’s death pushes that issue into territories they aren’t willing to.”

“What are you going to do… with me, I mean?” Andrien said.

“”I’m going to find your body frozen in the snow, bury it in an unmarked grave as befits a kinslayer and you’re going to go back to Obria – or wherever else you wish.”  Georgi knelt beside him.  “I can’t go against her but you are my own dear little brother and I can’t see you harmed.”  He pushed a weighty purse into Andrien’s hands and added, book passage on a ship bound across the sea.”

“How’d you find me?” Andrien asked.

“A strange young man came to me after the storm eased a bit and told me I should follow him if I wished to see you safe.”  He gave his little brother a quick hug and then spun away.  In moments he was gone.

Andrien turned down the road in the other direction.  He’d never felt so alone in his life but he was alive and free and he knew a life awaited him in Obria.  Huddled in the thick blue cloak, he headed down the road, able now to see where he was going.

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