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10 short story retellings of Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale, The Snow QUeen.

timeless tales magazine

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   
Andrea DeAngelis ... 
  
Laurinda Lind ... 
 
Alexandra Faye Carcich ... 
    
Erin Robinson ... 
 ’ 
Patricia Poppenbeek ... 
 ,  
Han Adcock ... 
   
Alex Hutson ... 
     
Matthew Brockmeyer ... 
Elizabeth Zuckerman ... 
 
Hope Erica Schultz ... 
iS iNSidE
 - in our garden pod, I can
see the other suspended pods surrounding me,
jutting out, connecting endless sister and brother
towers in our compound like space ships docking
in an immense sterile city. Flying drones buzz le-
thargically, dropping off seeds, food and other ne-
cessities as well as carrying away non-composting
refuse. Glass greenhouses connect two apartments
in two separate buildings up and down each floor.
The only human connection we have is with one
other resident, because our apartments have no
outside doors.
No glass pods sit on the soggy ground either, the
soil is deemed too treacherous. I don’t know if our
brother or sister towers ever give way to another
landscape because I have never been outside and I
don’t know anyone who has. The only person I know
is Gerda. And I am the only person she knows, or at
least that is what I assume. But now Im not so sure.
Perhaps she slips out in the hours I retreat to my
separate living quarters to sleep. There are no doors
in our apartments except for the two slanted doors
leading to our shared garden pod.
I love Gerda but I am forced to love her. There is
no one else I can suffocate with. I see others around
By Andrea DeAngelis
timeless tales magazine
our age toiling in the pods near ours. From time to
time these other couplings will wave and we will
wave back but we cannot hear them. The tempered
double paned glass sucks away most sound. We are
ensconced in a deadened world, hemmed in by the
limits of my vision. The farthest I can see is a huge
decaying billboard – Welcome to Secaucus’ Sealed
Community – the weathered words fading over the
years. Im still not sure how to pronounce Secaucus.
I want to think of the sea when I say it, but I can only
see the black snakes that sometimes slither through
our bathroom pipes.
I no longer want to be here. Before I just couldn’t
imagine how to be anywhere else but lately, I have
become certain there is a door, a hidden way out of
Secaucus to the actual sea. I finally grew tall enough
to reach the top of our garden pod if I jumped as
hard and high as possible.
Gerda admonished me, “Kai, stop that! Youll shake
our pod loose.
Even though we are beyond names—there is no
one else to intrude upon our restricted conscious-
ness—she always calls me by my name.
“So what?” I asked her.
We will fall, Kai.
“So what if we do?”
We will die, Kai.
“Maybe we wont die. Maybe dying is also a lie.
We will, Kai. Do you truly no longer want
to exist?”
“Maybe I do.
Gerda let out one of her interminable heavy sighs
that indicated that she was no longer listening to me.
Soon she would stop talking and I couldnt take that
heavy sound of nothing pressing down on me. e only
way to get through to Gerda was to spit out her name.
“Gerda, maybe we won’t die. Maybe we will escape
and get outside.
“Outside? Why do you want to go outside, Kai?
There is no outside. There is only us.
What about the others?” I pointed to the pods
There are no others, only you and me. Kai and
Gerda. You should be thankful you are not alone
like her.” She pointed to the suspended pod on our
tower’s left.
In that pod, we only ever saw one person. She was
all alone. All the pods around her were wrecked and
vacant. Her hair was shimmery white, but I wasn’t
sure if she was old. She didn’t move like she was
decaying. Wed had a couple of those near us not long
ago and then, one day, the old inhabitants were gone.
Months passed before they were replaced by children.
If they were replaced, there must be a door, a way to
get outside—to get to her, the snow queen—to be
with someone else, to be someone else. To be able
to breathe. My chest felt so tight, so constricted in
this trapped space.
I call her the snow queen because I do not know
her name. And because there is something very noble
about her. Gerda calls her varying slurs: “The Hag”,
“Queenie”, “Colorless Catherine” and so on. She
cannot understand my fascination because I should
only be interested in her.
What are you thinking about, Kai?”
“Nothing, Gerda.
“Nothing is nice.
Sometimes I catch the snow queen staring off in
my direction. I wave to her but she never waves back.
There must be a door.
They told me to keep him happy and, if not happy,
to keep him occupied. I was failing on both accounts.
We were their youngest subjects in the vicinity
until the old ones died and were replaced by children.
I wonder if the children will remember they were
somewhere else before. Those memories forget them-
selves. I’ve forgotten most of my mother except for
her wet sickly cough and cold hands. My father I
never knew. I doubt Kai remembers anything before
he was ten. He never talks about it. But somewhere
buried in his heart he remembers there was some-
thing else. That is why hes fixated on escape. I can’t
tell him it isn’t a where youd want to go to.
The world now is just towers connecting to other
towers. The majority of people are kept apart with
only two on any connecting greenhouse bridge, forced
timeless tales magazine
together. The world filled but also emptied. Isolated
towers that run onto infinity or at least as far as I
can see from the roof.
Things have gotten worse between us since she
arrived. The white haired queenie.
Why did they put her in that pod all alone? Is it a
test? They love to test the girls. The diminishing boys
are not as important. But Kai is smarter than most
boys. I wonder if Kai suspects I’ve been outside our
dark apartments to the equally dismal hallways un-
broken by doors or windows. There are doors but
Kai will never find them. He doesn’t have the proper
chromosome key, XX. His corrupted Y would never
allow him access. In the brother towers it must be
the opposite, that only the males can open the doors.
Why else would the snow crone be left alone? If one
of the couplings dies, so follows the other within
days, weeks at most. Not two years adrift like her.
When we can, we girls meet on the roof to put
together the latest message to the controllers. I ask
the others about her. They shrug and say she has to
power down of her own accord.
Kai thinks I have nothing to share but I just don’t
share with him. If I do well in this assignment I could
be paired with someone else and be new in their
eyes. Eventually I hope to age out of this confinement.
Hester says there are towers with doors leading into
public hallways, allowing the inhabitants to mix, not
to go outside, but at least not to be imprisoned with
only one other person who is always unredeemingly
male. But these adolescent years are tricky and un-
predictable. I wonder if that colorless Catherine
across the way failed in too many tests and that’s
why she is now alone?
That will never be me.
I am not entirely sure what I am made of, it seems
like flesh except in the dark hours when I’ve cut off
fingers and theyve grown back. I haven’t gouged out
an eye but the others have. The regrowth of the iris
always taking longer than a night and I don’t want
to alarm Kai. He gets frightened like (I suspect) a
child would. I have never been a child, even when I
was small. I was not made of my mother but of what-
ever they could scrounge.
I purposely prick my fingers on the roses’ thorns.
When I bleed, it is the only time Kai is concerned
about me. Hell grab my wounded hand, saying,
“Gerda, why do you always manage to hurt yourself?”
If only he knew. Boys always want the crazy girls.
And I am a girl who does not want a boy. Maybe if I
do well here there will be towers with only girls.
“Im clumsy I guess.” These pricks, scratches, and
further mutilations are the only proof Im alive.
I know Gerda is hiding things from me. Perhaps she
is squirrelling her secrets away to tell me some day.
To talk all day and night like we used to, before she
bored me, in silence as well as in words, words only
a little less so. I dont care. All I want to find is the
door. I know it exists. I’ve asked her in so many ways.
Direct: “Where is the door, Gerda?”
Wistful: “If only we could find a way out of here.
Angry: “Where is the door, Gerda? Show me or
Ill break down the walls.
But there is no way to break through the concrete.
There are no seams I can see or feel.
I must get to her.
The snow queen is a glittering speck in my eye.
She has colored everything by her mere existence. I
blink and she doesn’t disappear. I go to sleep and she
is still in my vision. Nothing in my confinement with
Gerda has retained any mystery or hope. The only
times Gerda is unknowable to me is when she delib
erately wounds herself, thrashing through our wild
rose garden. Or when she is missing parts, parts she
thinks have grown back exactly the same but her
odd flesh still registers the damage like a bruise halo.
Then there are times I cannot find her in either one
of the conjoined apartments or the garden. Eventu-
ally, after searching for an hour or two, I stumble
upon her and she swears so sincerely that she slept
in the closet or some other dark corner those missing
hours and I almost believe her.
The weather through the greenhouse gray glass
never changes in any discernable way. I can’t recall
ever seeing snow except for today. Today I can re-
member wearing mittens for some reason. Mittens
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I wore as a child holding someone elses much bigger
hand. I awoke in the lightening dark with Gerda
curled tightly around my right side, cutting off cir-
culation. I carefully untangle myself from her clammy
form and slide off the bed so that the motion detec-
tor’s lights won’t register me and wake my manda-
tory mate. Because thats what this pairing is—a
decision made for us.
I crawl to the garden in the gray dawn and the
snow queen is dancing while white bees swarm
around her. Ive only seen yellow ones before. It takes
several prolonged minutes of watching her to realize
that these almost translucent bees are snowflakes.
A few even drifted into our garden pod. One of our
automated windows sticks in mid-revolving motion
and the snow slips through, settling in a neat pile
near Gerdas barbaric roses, but quickly disintegrat-
ing in the climate controlled garden.
But in the snow queens garden pod across the
way, all the windows are cracked open and this fluke
blizzard howls and swirls around her almost as if
shes orchestrating the weather. All that matters to
me from this moment on is reaching her, leaving
Gerda and the claustrophobic world inside behind.
I don’t know why they’ve kept me after Addison fell
through the glass of two garden pods below. There
is never supposed to be just one, what is their rea-
soning? What is their hypothesis in this experiment?
And how can you have any experiment with only one
test subject? Who is the control for the controllers
if there is only one?
A connection can be forced with anyone if you
only have them and no distractions. And I hated
Addison but hate is a powerful emotion and can look
like love. Love is dependence and you grow to depend
on someone, anyone if theyre the only one you have.
The assigned pairings I understand. Although to
do a truly effective experiment they shouldn’t have
had anyone else in our sight lines. We should have
felt truly alone. I didn’t need the man child in B3
staring at me. I don’t like the way he makes me feel.
His expectations will empty me of me.
Hes going to kill himself getting over here. I have
pictured B3 plummeting a dozen times in the last
ten minutes and still it bothers me. Repetition of the
imagery and accompanying emotion should deplete
its impact. But it doesn’t. The sore keeps festering.
I will lay myself at her delicate bare feet. She could
kiss me to death and I wouldn’t mind. I climb the
roses, the thorns digging in with casual brutality.
When I reach the malfunctioning window left ajar I
slip halfway through. Now I have her full attention.
I can see her perfectly proportioned face. She isn’t
old, maybe twenty at most. I can’t imagine how I
would reach her pod, how I could gather enough
propulsion to swing to one of her open windows. I
only know that I have to. The air outside scorches
my lungs with its headiness and grit as I fly. I scrab-
ble for purchase on the slick glass. She never moves
to help me, her numinous eyes merely track my fall
past her pod down, down into snow and marsh.
I see Kai fly, then fall. I didn’t want this for him. But
he never wanted for me. He only thought of himself.
And we are not anything but parts, parts of each
other, parts to break and be reconstructed. How can
Kai be reassembled from down there? I see his pale
arm claw the bushes blindly below. Is he still con-
nected to himself? How can he never not be missing?
He wasn’t what I wanted but was a part of me. But
maybe now hes gone means I can go too?
  
Andrea DeAngelis is at times a poet, writer, shutterbug and musician living in New York City. Her writing
has recently appeared in Umbrella Factory and Niteblade. Andrea also sings and plays guitar in the indie
rock band MAKAR ( who are in the midst of recording their third album,
Fancy Hercules. For more, visit her website
About “The World is Inside”: What captured my interest in Andersens original tale was how insular Gerda
and Kai’s life seemed before the Snow Queen took Kai away. I wanted to exaggerate and emphasize that
isolation. For my way into a new twist on an old story, I usually begin with the physical architecture, a visual
scaffolding allowing me to build a new narrative. I started to imagine where they lived as two ultra modern
high-rises with their communal connecting space as a suspended garden house pod. I’ve always been
fascinated by pedestrian bridges and with the idea that they could be retooled as a living space. The orig-
inal tale is from Gerdas point of view, so I wrote a story where Gerda was part of the problem and Kai’s
need for escape was understandable and necessary.
By Laurinda Lind
ThE SlOw
,   a long time to get there.
It took me a world. I was a barefoot
girl whose eyes burned through frost
like money and I was a bearded thief
who turned boys’ hearts black as they
froze in the ice. But I wasnt ready to be
a woman who needed a knife under
the sheets or who wanted to run
through the water in red shoes. Ship
them off to Oz. The way to know
was not to know, yet to save more
stories than the flowers could grow.
Its not the man at the end who
makes me two halves. Its myself
whole like a boat or a bear, and so
impossibly full of angels and witches
he has to admit he can see me now.
  
Laurinda Lind lives in New York State, but could get to Canada in fifteen minutes with a ready boat, if she
already had her shoes on. Some previous poetry publications/ acceptances were in Antithesis Journal,
Ascent, Barbaric Yawp, Chiron Review, Cold Mountain Review, Communion, Comstock Review, Constellations,
Dime Show Review, Ellipsis, Emanations, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Liminality, Midnight Circus, Mobius,
Moonsick, Mudfish, Origins, Passager, Paterson Literary Review, Plum Tree Tavern, Ship of Fools, Silver Birch
Press, Triggerfish, Uproot, Veil, and Welter.
About “The Slow Queen”: When I learned about the theme for this issue, I read a 40-page online original
out of curiosity. I am interested in fairy tales and myths from a dream-analysis perspective, and after having
studied Bruno Bettelheim in a college class. I didn’t think I would actually submit to TT, but this tale blew
me away. I may now have a thing for Hans Christian Andersen—this story was so rich in images that I
couldnt resist playing with them, and my poem considers the character Gerda as a composite of the other
strong female figures in the story.
By Alexandra Faye Carcich
“   my children,” said the schoolmas-
ter, “But you must learn that the Christians’ false
gospel is at fault. In the old days, we walked the
fields without fear, but now, no sooner do we crawl
out of our homes then the poisonous church bells
ring their news, ‘Christ has died for all but you!’”
During the lecture, students marked their slates
or looked through the textbook, History of the Chris-
tian Invasion of Denmark. A wine cellar was outtted
as classroom to avoid the noxious light from upstairs.
“For this reason, most settle far from towns, deep
underground. ey have driven us from their midst—
we who aided them or ate them when a nuisance. We,
who remain in their epicenters, fulll our purpose: to
malign their goodness and degrade their aspirations.
The teacher’s head lifted and neck folds jiggled.
His grey pointed ear twitched toward the door. A
distant tinkling evolved to a persistent ringing chime.
The children cringed at the noise.
Through the door stepped a young lady with
blonde ringlets piled high on her head. Her hoop
skirts just cleared the doorway. She shook her wrist,
where little bells hung in a bracelet. The students
sank to the floor and clawed the stone masonry to
escape the sound. They wailed in agony.
timeless tales magazine
The schoolmaster scrambled to hide in a cup-
board, away from the light, until the intruder and
her angel bells went away. As he turned the corner
from the cellar stairs, there was a flash of burning
magnesium and he was paralysed, turned to stone.
Kay put down his ash lamp and stepped toward
the troll. His hair and features were fair and his build
slight. He surveyed the scene and sighed. To make
the change permanent, the troll needed to be in a
room with stronger light. Groaning, he leaned the troll
on his back and gripped its arms. He dragged the
statue through the kitchen toward the morning room.
e statue began to feel soft, the cold stone warming.
Kay moved faster. Once in the room, he tied the troll
with rope moments before it returned to life.
“I smell a Christian man!” Bellowed the school-
master. He shook himself and little particles of stone
flicked off his skin like dandruff.
Were looking for your overseer.
The troll frowned and grumbled, the rope barely
contained his bulk.
Tell us where your Master hides.
“I won’t.” The troll had a coiling, springing look
to him. Then his face was stricken, and they heard
jingling bells coming down the hall. Gerda entered.
You will,” she said, shaking her wrist.
The troll bellowed and twisted in his bonds.
“He can’t, if you keep that up,” Kay objected
e trolls ears stood out in a sti V, while his eyes
rolled back. rashing did not free him. He hurled
himself across the room, breaking the window and
ripping the curtain covering it. Gerda stepped in front
of Kay as glass shards scattered through the room.
e troll had turned to stone in the morning light.
Kay examined the troll. Beyond the ugly statue,
the morning was overcast, with a murky sun desper-
ate to break through the clouds.
“It’s a beautiful day,” said Kay.
Gerda looked at him through the corner of her
eye and shook her head.
In the years after the Snow Queen incident, Gerda
had become an expert in locating troll schools, dens,
and caves. It was the trolls’ fault Kay had left. It was
their mirror splinter that set him on the path of sin
and started the ordeal that began when they were
children and ended in adulthood. Every troll had
the potential to cause evil, but some were more ob-
viously engaged in it than others. The troll schools
were the centers for wicked innovation. Above all
was the Trollmaster’s school which created the
original mirror.
After dispatching the basement school, Gerda
spotted the cave in the space between towns. Kay
saw it too, but pretended not to notice. Gerda led
the descent, confident that this cave, south of the
paper mill town, was a troll cave. Kay followed,
carrying a lantern covered with cloth. They had
come prepared.
Past the turning, with the sun a memory, they
found the family. Under the smothered light, the
group were lumpy rock forms with hair like scattered
moss. On inspection, they became Father troll,
mother, and litter of children. When Kay held up the
lantern, there appeared other similar outcroppings.
Once outside, Gerda ascended the hill above the
cave, dragging her skirts through damp dead leaves.
Kay followed her up the slope, struggling with an
oversized bundle, as long as he was tall. Gerda paused
at the top and looked at Kay.
Kay squeezed the bundle close. “Look,” he said,
“Ive been thinking. Not all trolls are evil. Maybe some
just want to be left alone.
Gerda took the bundle and unrolled it on the
ground. It was full of long metal rods. Gerda stuck
one into the soft earth. “This is justice,” she said.
This is right. We won’t let anyone else be changed
by their wicked designs.
“But it’s such a beautiful day, there couldn’t pos-
sibly be a storm. The trolls will come out, see what
you’ve done, and move off.
Youve been a failure at weather forecasting ever
since we escaped the Snow Queen.
With the invocation of that name, Kay grew silent.
He stuck a rod tentatively in the ground. Rain show-
ered them lightly. In the distance thunder rolled.
They took shelter nearby, while the storm unloaded
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on the surrounding country. Gerda watched the
lightning play and hoped the rods brought the elec-
tricity down into the den.
In the morning, they returned to the cave.
Pausing at the entrance, Gerda turned to her friend.
“It’ll be ugly.
“Ill protect you.
Gerda groaned. “Since when?”
Inside, the cave was warm and smelled like food
had spilled onto the oven oor and burned. ey
couldn’t nd the troll family—they had turned to dust
with only the occasional limb, a foot, nose, or nger
barely discernable. e lightning had done its work.
Kay looked disturbed.
They were wicked and evil,” said Gerda. “Crea-
tures of the devil.
Kays voice was tight. “All things God made are
beautiful in their purpose to bring him glory.
Deep in the nations interior a large troll school was
housed in an outdated military outpost overlooking
a swamp. Gerda identified it by the carefully covered
windows. There was no town nearby or sound of
church bells. Kay squeezed Gerdas hand as they
looked on the edifice. Inside, they entered the
long dormitory hall. Troll-lings spread their
sleeping mats on every surface. Gerda examined the
boarded window.
You promised,” said Kay. “We came for the mirror
and the troll master.
“Look at those gnarled faces,” she waved her hand
at the sleepers, “Theyre ugly little people eaters.
Theres a giant, with a giant nose and giant snot.
Her nose wrinkled. “Gross.
Theyre just children. They come in all shapes
and sizes. I was ugly when I had acne. A new pimple
bloomed every day until I lived in the ice palace.
Kay stopped and looked at Gerda who looked away.
She was still jealous of the Queen who had stolen
her friend. They passed through the room.
When you were a child,” said Kay, “you thought
everything was beautiful. Why do you see the world
so bleakly now?”
“I realized that not everything is Grannys rose
garden. You should stop pretending things are more
beautiful than they are.
Kay paused and fell behind. He only pretended
for the sake of her affection, so that she would know
he was no longer under the influence of the Troll
Glass. Gerda had freed him. She was precious to
him, and he tried to be careful of her feelings. He
said, “I learned that if you try to see the good in
things, you will.
“If trolls are good, why are we hunting them?”
To protect our fellow men!”
Gerda agreed, but in her heart she knew they
meant different things. She wondered if she and Kay
were really predestined to be together or if that was
just a childish fancy of hers.
Past the dormitory, down the hall, most doorways
gaped and held unused rooms. Only one oak door
stood locked. Gerda pulled out a hairpin and jimmied
the lock.
Kay looked panicked, “I havent set up the camera
things yet. I should take the board off the window
across the way.
She gave him a look to say, well do it, and entered
the room. It was a bedroom with nightstand, dresser,
washbasin and standing mirror. She glanced at her
reflection and approved. The single occupant lay
asleep in bed. Gerda put on her bracelet and let the
little bells ring. The sleeper pinched his eyes shut
and exhaled heavily. She rang them again. He opened
his eyes.
Normal eyes in a normal face contorted in a pained
expression. Gerda paused.
“Miss, this establishment is for young men. Could
you be lost?”
Gerda stammered. A troll would scream from the
pain of the bells. None, on waking, politely looked you
in the eye and asked if they could help. What if she had
been wrong? e bells jingled as she bit her nger.
The man cringed from the noise.
You don’t like bells?” Gerda asked.
The man gestured helplessly at his bed. “Not when
Im sleeping! Those are like the obnoxious church
bells of my home town.
timeless tales magazine
You dont like churches?” Gerda hoped that if she
spoke loudly enough, Kay would hear her and come.
The man looked exasperated, “Im a child of the
enlightenment. I believe all realistic people question
whether Jesus could be both God and man.” He
looked at her, “But I confess theology is a strange
thing to discuss in a mans bedroom.
“I…” stuttered Gerda. “There isn’t a wrong time
or place to discuss theology.
The man beckoned, “Someone might see you in
the doorway.
Gerda glanced around the room and saw the mans
reflection in the mirror. He was very handsome. She
thought his features would be called chiseled. Even
though hed just woken up, his hair fell in perfect
waves around his face. Looking at the mans clean
skin, freshly shaven, she couldn’t help but compare
it to Kays acne scars. She wondered where Kay had
gone, before forgetting him entirely.
The man had a mesmerizing voice, “Someone as
beautiful as you could convince me of Jesus’ sancti-
fying work.
Gerda left the door and, not finding a chair, sat
on the very edge of the mans bed. He reached for
her hand. His strong fingers caressed her little ones.
Gerda felt that the man could do anything with her
and she would obey.
There was a flash of light.
The man turned to stone.
Gerda screamed, and pulled at her hand, still
clasped in his. She struck his arm, the bells jangled
with the movement, but her hand was stuck.
“Gerda?” Kay said. “It’s okay.” He sat beside her
and took her wrist in one hand and the troll’s in the
other. Kay made comforting noises as he turned and
unclenched Gerdas fingers. Then it was free. She
turned into him and cried. He soothed, “It’s alright.
The camera was hard to set up. Im sorry I wasn’t
faster. Phew, he is ugly. You always say theyre ugly.
The nose on him...
Gerda renewed her sobs, gripping Kays jacket.
She had looked in the mirror—the troll had been
human to her. She was tempted and failed. He had
called her beautiful, was that a lie? After looking in
the mirror, nothing was trustworthy. Kay sat beside
her, unaware of her infidelity, sincere in his way,
loving and faithful. She had thought she was pure,
but the statue proved otherwise.
Light streamed through the hall windows. Kay
left the bedroom door wide open, intending that the
sunbeams reach the trollmaster. Gerda wasn’t overly
concerned, she wanted to put the event behind her.
Kay was surprised, but pleased. Leaving the school,
Gerda resolved that she would try to be more like
Kay and remove the shards of mirror from her own
eye, instead of his.
They held hands all the way out of the school.
You know,” said Kay. “I wouldn’t mind if we quit
hunting trolls. We could finally be married and move
in with Grandmother. Shes getting old and could
use the help.
A flicker of annoyance passed through Gerda. She
resented Kays Grandmother for her bad judgement,
allowing him so much freedom he ended by running
off with the Snow Queen. Thinking of the Snow
Queen rankled, until she reflected on her own trans-
gression. Kay waited for an answer. Gerda tried to
remember how she loved Grandmother as a child.
That would be lovely,” she lied.
Kay and Gerda looked into each other’s eyes.
Youre beautiful,” Kay whispered.
As he leaned forward to kiss her, she hoped that
someday she could believe him.
  
In high-school, Alexandra wrote fan fiction. In college she wrote dreadful poetry. Now she writes little
fantasies for the amusement of herself and friends. She lives with husband and dog, recently unburied
from snow, in upstate NY and dreams of having a published novel someday.
About “Troll Hunters”: This twist was not my first choice off the brainstorming list. But as the Snow Queen
POV dragged on, cold and un-motivating, I swapped to a spunkier story. Troll Hunters was meant to be a
kick butt revenge story, like the film Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Re-examining the source material,
I pulled out some of Andersens Christian allegory, since it was important to him, to me, and to Troll lore.
Getting together is not the end of relationships, and I enjoyed playing with who Gerda and Kay had
become in the wake of their experiences with the Snow Queen. Kay is desperate to please the woman who
saved him and convince her hes no longer under the evil influences of the troll mirror. The same qualities
Gerda showed in the search for Kay, she applies to her new goal: persistence and determination. Thanks
to friends and family for their repeated readings and to Tahlia for being an awesome editor.
fAyE CArCiCh
By Erin Robinson
Of A
bANdiT quEEN
   ugly
girl, my wicked
child, with savage
teeth that tore
her will into my ears. See
their pretty rags?
She crunched
their bones then gnashed
new curls. But feel
how soft, like antler
skin, my coddled
ears’ wild
velvet scars.
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Keep your hands
in their muff cuff.
Finery couldn’t swaddle
my rogues into sheep. Christened
by cold, our nicked
names sear: Hacked
Toe, Thumb
Splinter. Pull
up a rug—the straw
won’t scratch—and Ill whisper
mine in your ears raw
pearl. No?
After my brat left,
I raked my scalp to comb back
I wagged the rags, stabbed
the scabs, and ripped
open what was closing
over. My men,
seeing the raging
wounds my mongrel
mauled, settled
by their spits
and didn’t club
her doves. Days dripped
into weeks. I snapped
my combs bone teeth and ran
the men at every carriage. How
my bad child would have capered
to pluck those popinjays and tickle
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pilgrims till their devils kicked
free. And those two blind
what sights
I carved from their curdled
eyes. She ne’er saw
the living jig such a reel
as when I shoved
them loose. And still
their wrenching
retched no rumor,
not a gossips gasp
of my strayed cub.
Until a black yarn
noose snagged a crow
crone on the nail that fixed
this shutter closed.
I clapped the dogs
from her balding
crown and braced
her lean to the board.
Plumes broke. My pulse
pumped her starvelings
heart as my knife slithered
up the sill. She flinched—
a beat
quicker to life than the dead
quail my owlet wailed
over once. Her pest
birds massed among
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the rafters. Rapier
beaks, stiletto
claws—you can’t
be fooled by fluff.
Yet one flutter
of that cold crow
would have flown
my chick to her.
So I chopped
and cleaved her thread.
Sprawled across my palms,
she told me of her untamed
mate. Forever winging
o’er the wilderness,
hed traveled too far.
She had to fetch him.
Had I heard of Orphan Us
harping for his Idiocy?
This forest seemed
an underworld.
I hadn’t, by chance,
seen him?
Had she seen a nasty
girl? A wolf-toothed,
ox-broad, crow-eyed
girl, keen on knives
to ease an itch
and somersaults that climbed
the sky? Wildcat-mountain
goat, shed nibbled
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close, yet left me
ear enough to hear
that crow squawk
her answer
to my nursed,
cursed questions.
She had seen
a stopped
fop pepper kisses
as he plucked
his rings. All he cast
to a highway
girl posed by an ash
a coffins length
away. The crow capped
her in scarlet silk,
mounted her astride
a hack, and pinned
her with two pistols.
I tugged the yarn
scrap down to choke
gall from her gullet.
Not mine; my child.
But the crow had recognized
the horse without its carriage.
Her mistress gifted
the ungelded
beast to a questing
maid, and I remembered—
my kit cozied to a plump
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princess, a-blubbering
in her cauldron
coach. She caterwauled
while we cartwheeled,
until my nit nipped
her for a pet and drove
her north. Somewhere
on the snow
plains an ice-
bitten boy curled
by a sculpted
lady with a fractured
face, so smooth he ne’er felt
the chinks. But
he wasn’t hers.
Shed ne’er whelped
a natural child. Nor stretched
her skin like dough
as fires swelled,
nor split her self
to push life out, to let
it suck her bloodless
breast. To slurp
her beard, to gnaw
her ears, to strike
out at parts unknown.
No, this barren queen
kissed other mothers
sons. She lumped
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their sweet-fed
love as though one more crystal
pound might shatter the mirror
lake frozen beneath
her throne.
I released
the spluttering crow.
She hobbled off, crying
pities I could not. That night
around bonfires crackling,
while men whooped
and whirled, I wheeled
and drank and spun
the glimpse I couldnt tear
away. Tamed?
My cub caged
in a wide world
where she trimmed
her claws, dined
with fatted lambs
and didnt gouge the glitter
from their eyes? Had I
bound her, collared
her with a copper
ring, barred the hole
from which she flew,
my daughter,
by these flames,
would we be dancing?
  
Erin Robinson grew up in Connecticut with her days bookended by library rambles. Her mother was a
school librarian so Erin often had the emptied aisles as her labyrinth/playground. These days, between
doing odd jobs and cutting her teeth on a novel, she explores as many libraries as she can, knowing each
turn could untwist a new tale.
About “Confessions of a Bandit Queen”: Im drawn to fairy tales for the untold stories: the secrets characters
are allowed to keep, the fantastic that is unexplained, the shadows we aren’t supposed to light, and the
lights we aren’t supposed to shade. To read “The Snow Queen” is to be bombarded by such stories from the
moment a hobgoblin crafts a mirror showing the ugly side of all good things. At first I thought to write
about this mirror. Perhaps a splinter landed in the Bandit Queens eye? Is that why she calls her daughter
wicked? Would she want her child to have the same cursed sight—or would she call it a gift? While I strayed
from these ideas, I kept the Bandit Queens perspective and her opening line, which I thought would begin
a short story. The resulting poem reminds me to be careful of what can happen when these pigeonholed
characters are set loose.
By Patricia Poppenbeek
   at her stall in the
market amid her buckets of flowers, the
many-coloured roses, the poppies and laven-
der—all the flowers of summer—with the glowing
jars of honey and sweets displayed on the trestle
table. She wasn’t pretty, but she was strong and
striking. She sometimes laughed with customers,
her teeth white against the brown skin of her
face, but she always had a rather sad and serious
air. From the shadows of another tent—thin,
mistrustful and fascinated as a feral cat—the
magicians boy watched her with eyes dark
as sapphires.
At the end of the day, she bolted the booths
wooden slats together. It wouldn’t be enough
to keep out determined thieves, but Cham was,
in general, an affable city and its guards were
honest and diligent. Besides, she always kept
her silver bits on her. She topped up the water
levels in the flower buckets, and gave the left-
over samples of her sweets to some children
running in the square. She then placed three
of her prettiest sweets on a little paper mat
and deposited it a few paces from where the
boy lurked. He gave her a scornful stare
and retreated.
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She walked behind her stall, where Atlendor
looked up from eating the last of his hay.
How soon? he asked silently.
She placed a hand upon his warm neck. Even
she was sometimes struck with wonder that he
had stayed with her. “I don’t know. Hes very scared.
The reindeer snorted and heaved to his feet.
Together they paced through the late afternoon
sun as the market’s day stalls packed up and
the traders of the night market set up. They
stopped once to get a bag of mushrooms for
Atlendor and some spicy achungo for Gerda,
noting the people lining up for admittance to
the magicians tent. Gerda shivered a little as
they walked by, for cold radiated off it. The
people in the queue giggled nervously, faces
and hands turning blue, though they seemed
unaware of the cold. Gerda watched as, one by
one, they were admitted. Once the music
started, she turned away.
They had watched before—seen the audi-
ence stumbling out afterwards, many pale,
though some were red with a kind of angry
A little bit of their soul has been taken, At-
lendor had commented. Small acts of temper
increased at the market.
Now he said, Soon it will be too late. Gerda
made a small, pained sound of agreement.
Next morning, the sweets were gone. They
might have been eaten by a scavenging dog,
but that afternoon, a second batch disappeared
as soon as she turned her back. The following
day, she glimpsed the boy as he darted out for
them. The spell had taken. Limp with relief,
she went to tell Atlendor.
After the last person left the magicians tent,
and the one-eyed man who took each custom-
er’s silver had pulled the curtain closed, she
and Atlendor stopped in front of the tent. She
carried a small pot, and was dressed in a warm
cloak with a hood, for the night had turned
cold. The reindeer pawed at the ground and
snorted angrily.
Taking a deep breath, she muttered the
words that triggered the spell and drew the
curtain back. A golden path twined into an
impossible distance. The boy had gone this
way, unknowingly opening a route for them.
Gerda stepped onto the path, which smelled
faintly of honey and flowers. She hoped the
boy would forgive her using him.
Inside, winter pressed on their skin, squeezed
their lungs. Only the warmth breathing up from
the path kept them going. It ended at what
seemed to be a wall of black ice edged laced
with small white cracks. Gerda dipped her
fingers in the pot and flicked a few drops at it.
With a sound like a glacier breaking, it fell, the
last few shards tinkling.
Behind it stood the man with one amethyst
eye and a black patch where the other eye
should have been. Despite this, he was hand-
some as a wild hawk, with straight black hair
and white skin. His hand grasped, not quite
cruelly, the shoulder of the boy, who gazed at
them in horror.
The mans lips flattened in contempt. “How
dare you use my son to attack me, Witch!”
He lifted his hand, and lightnings danced
around it.
Your son, Kaerothlyndaron?” Gerda asked,
using his full name, pronouncing each liquid
syllable carefully. It was the name she had
teased from him as he lay, half-asleep, by
her side one summer’s day. She pushed her
hood back.
The lightnings died down and he lowered
his hand. After a pause, he said, ‘Youre a Witch.
Witches have no time for children.
Tears of anger and pain, held back for the
seven long years of searching welled up. “I
wanted you,” she said. “And I wanted to be with
you. I loved the child then because he was part
of you. I could have stopped his growth within
me, but I did not.
It was true women shaman rarely had chil-
dren, for in her land shamans were rare and much
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needed, and the strain on their bodies was great.
But she had loved Kae, with the wounded heart
he had shown only to her and the father he both
adored and feared. She had feared the old sor-
cerer too, not for herself—an ice sorcerer could
not really harm a summer witch—but for his
hold over his son.
In her arrogance, she had thought her love
would free Kae. She had thought that when
the sorcerer left the Summer Fair, Kae would
stay behind with her.
The birth was hard and long but, somewhat
to her surprise, she survived. The baby was
placed on her breast, and when his sapphire
eyes looked into hers, she fell in love with him.
She kissed his ears and whispered his name to
him. Exhausted, she fell asleep, but when she
woke, the baby was gone from the birthing
tent. The women who brought her the tradi-
tional reindeer milk given new mothers told
her Kae had taken the child to show his father.
Thrusting them aside, she ran to where the
sorcerer had his tent. It was gone. The grass
it had been pitched on was black, the ground
beneath it frozen. The firepit held the charred
bones of a deer.
Burning with pain, she touched the bones
and saw her, the young doe whose life and
agony theyd used to make their escape with
the child of a summer witch and all his poten-
tial power. She sent out a call. When she looked
up, he was there: Atlendor, lord of the nearest
herd, and very angry. I will go with you until
we find them, he said.
Now she pointed at the child shrinking
beneath Kaes hand. ‘Look at him! This is a
child of seven summers, yet he looks five at
the most.
Startled, the sorcerer stared at his pale son.
The tears Gerda had held back for seven
years flowed then, burning. “The child fears
you,” she whispered. “He fears you just like you
fear your father. When will you take from him
what your father took from you?”
Kae touched the eye patch. “Not ... yet. In
any case, you were pleased to be rid of him.
Behind Gerda, Atlendor snorted, and she
held out her hands, which were wet with her
tears. “Would I have sought him for seven years
if I didn’t want him?”
Kae took a slow, fascinated step closer to
her, bringing the boy with him. He whispered,
“I can see myself reflected in your eyes.” A tear
slid out of his remaining eye.
She lifted one hand to touch his face and
wipe the tear away.
Kae blinked. “I thought… it seemed to me
you no longer loved me, that you didn’t want
t h e b a b y.”
Atlendor stamped his hoof. That is because
your father made you kill the doe you loved
and eat her heart, he said to both of them.
Kae flinched and let the boy go. Gerda bent
to the child. “Your name is Upingaksrak, which
means Spring,” she told him.
He frowned at her. “That’s my name for
myself, my real name.
“It was the name I gave you.” She smiled.
Though we can call you Ping. Will you come
with me?”
He looked surprised. “You know my real
name. You could just take me.” His shoulders
“I won’t,” said Gerda. “I will not compel you.
You must choose. And I wont lie to you: there
will be honey and flowers with me, and there
will also be hardship. But I love you and you
will be as safe as I can keep you.
What about Papa?”
Gerda straightened. “He must choose for himself.
Abruptly, out the darkness, a tall man with
ice-pale eyes and black hair coalesced. He ges-
tured, and Gerda became too cold to move.
Behind her, Atlendor touched his nose to her
neck. Warmth spread through her. Do not
move, he told her. Ping shrank back, eyes wild.
“My son chose me and the power long ago,
the man said, his lip curling. He took a coal-
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black knife from the air and held it out to Kae.
The summer witchs heart will do to renew
our power. You won’t need to take anything
from the boy.
Slowly, Kae reached for the knife. “No,” he
whispered, and the knife fell into black dust.
His father reached for him, hands turning
to claws.
Run! Atlendor bugled.
Gerda swept Ping off his feet, and ran, the
child in her arms. Behind her, Atlendor lowered
his antlers and charged.
Gerda heard a scream as she ran, ice crack-
ing beneath her feet, following the golden path.
She stumbled out of the tent and turned,
watching it disintegrate into a cold black mist.
A warm wind came and blew it away except
for one patch, which solidified and grew larger.
It turned into two figures, walking towards
them as though from a great distance. Even-
tually, the figures turned into a reindeer and
a man, each stumbling, holding the other up.
Atlendors horns were tipped with blood, and
Kae had a splash of it across his face. He was
Gerda wiped Atlendor’s horns, put Ping on
his back, and took them all back to her tent.
As he entered, Kae looked at the jars of honey
and the roses and the other flowers there.
Colour came back to his face. “I remember
these,” he said, and smiled.
Winter will come back,” Gerda whispered
to him as he put his arms tiredly around her
and she held Ping to her, “but it need not be
cruel. And summer always returns.
Atlendor licked her hand, then lowered his
head to eat one of the roses.
  
Patricia Poppenbeek literally learned to read on Cinderella, a version of which she made her Mum read
every night. It’s still her favourite fairy story, and fantasy is still her favourite genre. In 2006, she won the
Australasian Short Story Award for her literary fantasy called ‘You’, about a lamias child. Shes also had
three short stories published in the Romance Writers of Australia annual anthology, Little Gems.
With the help of a grant from the City of Melbourne, her writing group, the Cartridge Family, published
Melbourne Subjective: an anthology of contemporary Melbourne writing. See www.cartridgefamilywriters. One of her featured stories, ‘The Searcher’, is set in 1880s Melbourne and recounts what happens
when a mortal woman falls in love with a fae (warning: no happy ending).
For a free story and to read book reviews on her website, go to
About “The Magicians Boy”: When I reread ‘The Snow Queen’, I was struck by how many elements are in
this haunting story. The real villain in the story is an entity (variously called a demon, sprite, hobgoblin, or
evil sorcerer) who is never dealt with. Unsatisfying! And Kay is both a victim and a perpetrator of cruelty,
in that he despises and deserts Gerda.
It follows the classic pattern of abuse, in which a cruel parent shapes a cruel child and so on down the
generations. And everybody knows (don’t they?) that a sorcerer or witch gains power from cruelty and
sacrifice, and of course the sacrifice of ones own family is the most powerful sacrifice of all (just ask
Abraham, who was prepared to slit his child’s throat). I started with this, with Gerdas magic, her yearning
for Kay, and her determination to find him. Since my Kaes father had assumed the wintery aspect of the
Snow Queen and Andersens Gerda is associated with flowers and summer, she became his opposite—a
shaman whose powers are at their height in summer. The reindeer developed his own motivation and duty
as Lord of the Herd and became an aspect of the Horned God and Herne the Hunter. Eventually, their world
took on elements of Inuit and Laplander culture. Upingaksrak really does mean ‘Spring’ in one of the
northern languages.
By Han Adcock
   tell the children about the Winter Curse. I
did try. I started by telling them about the Winter Queen
of the Snow Bees, but Kay was taken before I had time
to fully explain. I should have made a better eort.
The Winter Curse goes all the way back in
history, back to Greece and Persephone. My mother
told me the story when I was a young child, and
her mother told it to her, and her grandmother
told it to her mother. The trouble was, in the case
of our family, it wasn’t only a story. It was more of
a potted history made easy for children to swallow.
Hades, the ruler of the dark place under Earths
crust where dead folk go, he tempted Persephone
with a flower. It was a rose, beautiful to look on but
barbed with thorns sharper than witches’ fingernails.
Persephone tried to pick the rose, but the thorns
pierced her fingers through and held her there,
unable to run, while Hades opened the ground
beneath her and dragged her down.
Id heard the story before, in school, but not the
way my mother told it. I knew all about Persephones
mother Demeter, the woman of summer, who stopped
life and warmth from filling the world until Hades
released her daughter. I knew about the pomegran
ate seeds Persephone ate, trapping her beneath the
earth for six months of every year, causing the
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summer woman to become the winter woman out
of mourning. I knew all of that.
What non-family members don’t know is this:
Persephone and Demeter were the same woman.
Theyve been split into two for the purposes of nar-
rative. She also had children. Her children had chil-
dren, and so on. Every generation it was the same.
A child would be taken, at first by Hades himself and
then, later, by the last child to go missing. It was
always the eldest child, if there was more than one,
made to be a Snow King or Snow Queen during the
cold months. As time changed, the Taken One was
not trapped under the soil but at the topmost region
of Earth amongst the permanent snow, no longer
allowed to go free for half the year. The six months
reprieve shrank over the centuries to three, then two,
then one month. Then a week. Then a day. Then
nothing. Such was Hades’ revenge for the time he
had to spend without Persephone.
There was more than one baby born to my parents.
Me, and my younger sister Fernie.
I once hid behind the barn when the current Snow
King came. At that time it was a man, our uncle who
had been taken when he was a boy, his heart fed to
the ice so he was no longer human. A creature of the
seasons. He was different in the warmer months, I
knew—still trapped, but able to visit for a few
moments at a time, in the guise of a flower or a tree.
But I still did not want to go away with him.
I pretended I was dead.
At the rst glimpse of snow, when I was ten—all
children were ten when they went missing from our
family—I bribed Fernie with my portion of dessert for
the rest of the year to tell our parents I had fallen in the
well. I walked out with a bucket and rope, for the look
of the thing, threw them down the old stone well at the
other end of the farm and gave Fernie a signal. She was
only four, and hadnt been told about the curse then.
She did as I said, even cried while she was telling the
lie. Probably frightened of being given the slipper for
lying, but that show of emotion saved my life.
It doomed hers.
I took to the abandoned barn and slept in the
straw, sneaking food from the house when I could.
The old well was dug right down to a natural spring,
bottomless, so nobody tried to climb down it looking
for me. They presumed Id been swept out to
sea somewhere.
I saw the Snow King, with his slate-grey eyes and
blowing cloak of cold wind. I watched from a distance
as he picked Fernie up in his arms and whisked her
away. There was no love behind that embrace, no
hatred. The Snow King, my uncle Vander, had become
the puppet of Nature. It was impersonal.
That was what hurt the most, and the guilt when
I walked back to the farmhouse and announced
myself alive. I was beaten with a cane, and hardly
noticed, so racked was I with the terror of what I had
done. In fact, I wanted the physical pain to hurt more.
My parents ostracised me. I can’t say I blame them.
We were left with nothing to remember Fernie by,
only her absence and her shoes by the door. Red
shoes. When I was old enough, I moved to the big
city and I took them with me. I would eventually give
them to Gerda on her tenth birthday.
Whether to have a child of my own was a difficult
decision to make, knowing the fate that waited. I
have to admit, Kay was not the result of a planned
pregnancy. The bump didn’t show, and I assumed
the little nausea and aches I had then were caused
by flu. That was a harsh winter, and many of my
neighbours succumbed to the illness. Then, one
afternoon as the snow came down, my waters broke,
and I realised the truth. I was glad my husband
William was there for the birth, not on one of his
long sea voyages. Despite knowing the curse would
affect our child, I loved the boy like no other. When
he became childhood friends with Gerda, she became
almost like a daughter to me.
Then came the stormy afternoon when my Kay
was snatched from us. Fernie never let me see her,
but I sensed she was still angry with me. Whatever
small, human part of her that was left hated me with
a cold indignant rage. The crows told me so. I had
talked to crows since Fernie was taken, not feeling
close enough to any human to confide in them. For
some reason, they only deigned to answer after Kay
was born. Giving birth altered my perception,
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somehow. It was odd to understand crow language
at first, but I quickly grew used to it.
Gerda ran after Kay. Why didn’t I do that when
Fernie was taken? Was I really too weighed down by
guilt to think of doing that? Or was I a coward?
Freefeather was the one to tell me how Fernie also
held Gerda in an isolated patch of summer by the river,
several miles away. She had no idea that the summer
woman with the ower garden and Fernie the Snow
Queen were dierent aspects of a single entity. Her
memory had been tampered with. at showed how
much Fernie hated me. She stole another child I loved
as my own even though she was not of my blood.
“Get the rose to tell her to leave,” I said. “She has
to be warned.
Then Freefeather told me how the roses had been
pushed down to Hades by the summer woman, and
I felt as if my heart had been buried. When I heard
of how Gerdas tears brought them up to the sunlight
again, I almost collapsed, the relief was so immense.
“Shell be all right,” I said. “The rose is sorry for
its part in what has been done to us.
Weeks later Freefeather flew back to tell me of
his plan. He would fly down and bargain with the
Lord of the underworld to release us from the curse,
and then Gerda and Kay would be safe. The next time
he flew to me, he was a wreck—half his feathers gone,
one eye white and blind.
All Kay has to do is spell ‘Eternity’,” he said. He
was dying even then. “Lord Hades has agreed to
transfer the curse onto me. I have no children. Only
I shall pay for this.
What about Blackfeather?” I said.
“Look after her.
That was the last time he came to see me.
They cant know the sacrifices that were made.
I am too guilty to say it all aloud.
I sit in my chair on cold nights, reading by the fire,
and I look up at Kay and Gerda, inseparable, when
they think my attention is elsewhere. They are the
one thing I have gotten right.
The crows still come to visit me, sometimes, to
tell me the news. Often Blackfeather comes. She
perches on the gate-post, by the potato patch, on
weekday afternoons when Kay is out studying his
patterns and Gerda is working. I weed the soil and
ask her what brings her to me.
Anything from Freefeather?” she says.
You know there won’t be a message from him
until the Change to Spring,” I remind Blackfeather.
Your husband is, not to scramble my words, dead.
She bows, sadly. A ragged piece of black thread
dangles from her leg. Her throat makes gulping
motions, the corvid way of crying.
You know where he is,” I try to reassure her. She
is an old friend and I hate to see her upset. “You know
hes waiting below for you.
Waiting down in the dark, under the earth where
all dead things go,” she sighs, trembling. “Aye. So
you keep telling me. But WHY? Why did it have to
be him?”
e wind from the river sighs in the apple trees and
I know what she means is this: Why wasn’t it you? You
were a surrogate mother to them. You were her sister.
“He volunteered to go. Youll see him again in Spring.
“Only for three heartbeats. And he always comes
back as something else. Last year, he surfaced to tell
me he loves me as a thistle. How can a crow have a
meaningful conversation with a thistle?”
I scatter bread-crusts from my apron pocket for
her. She ignores them.
“It was the only way to break the curse,” I remind
her. “Both him and Gerda have been marked by the
experience, but because Freefeather did such a noble
thing, they are spared from the worst.
I scrub a hand over my face and turn to go back
in. A nice, thick book is waiting next to the armchair.
Kay will be back soon with a collection of leaves and
feathers to compare with a magnifying glass, and
Gerda will be back from teaching children their al-
phabets and multiplication tables.
They can’t know the sacrifices that were made. I
just can’t tell them.
  
Han Adcock is a writer of short stories, short long stories and poetry ranging from the humorous to the
bizarre. You can find her at and on Twitter as @Erringrey. Periodically she
posts artwork, random writings and other oddments over at She has
had stories published in Penumbra:
Entertainment/23718 Expanded Horizons: and
Poetic Diversity: under her
old name (Hannah Adcock).
About “Winter Queen, Summer Woman”: I first read “The Snow Queen” as a twelve-year-old, and loved it.
Re-reading it, I thought back over my favorite old myths and realised I could draw some parallels between
the Greek story about Persephones abduction by Hades, what with both having seasonal aspects and with
winter having associations with death and things dying, and also rebirth.
By Alex Hutson
’ , . 137 Odensegade.
The taxi-pod’s announcement dragged Gerda
grudgingly awake. She tried to blink away the ache
behind her eyes, wishing she could sleep as easily
on planes as she did in pods. Her cheek was pressed
against cool glass, and beyond the rain-spattered
window the city of Arhus hunched gray and
gormless, identical concrete boxes dissolving into
the distance.
“Seventy-six krone, miss.
“I only have dollars in my account. Is that okay?”
The taxi-pod responded instantly in flavorless
English. “Of course, miss.
Gerda fumbled for her UP card and waved it in
front of the pod’s sensor.
Thank you. Enjoy your stay in Denmark.
The hatch beside her dilated open and Gerda
climbed out, wincing at the stiffness in her legs. The
rain felt dirty here. Gritty, as if tainted by the gun-
metal sky. She shouldered her bag and approached
the door shed traveled nearly five thousand miles
to find.
It wasn’t very impressive. Flaking green paint and
a Paleolithic vid-screen. After a long moment the
ancient electronics registered her presence and a
wary, age-cracked voice issued from the speaker.
timeless tales magazine
“Hello? My name is Gerda Schroeder. We spoke
yesterday on the phone. May I come in?”
Ja – uh, yes. Im sorry, my English is not so good.
The door buzzed and Gerda pushed it open. She
stood at the end of a narrow hallway lit by a single
dangling bulb. The sound of a deadbolt sliding back
made her jump, and then the head of an old woman
emerged into the corridor.
“Come. The rain, it is cold.
Thank you.
The old woman ushered her inside, clucking over
her wet hair. “Very unhealthy. Catch a sickness. Would
you like coffee? Some vaniljekranse?”
Gerda shook her head. “No. Im sorry, but there
isn’t much time. Wheres Kaleb?”
The old womans face crumpled at her grandsons
name. She motioned for Gerda to follow her.
“Kaleb, he is not well. I tell you this before.
“I know. It’s why I came.
The old woman glanced back at her sharply. “You
think you can help him?”
“I will try.
The doctors say . . . he can’t be helped.
ey stopped outside a door plastered with posters
of Danish death metal bands. Cooler air curled out from
around the frame, goosepimpling her arms. She breathed
deep, savoring the ozone scent of the humming elec-
tronics within. It smelled like when a storm was about
to break, the air pregnant with thunder and coiled energy.
The old woman muttered something in Danish
that might have been a prayer and opened the door.
The room was filled with a glittering array of metal
and lights, all clustered around a boy sprawled mo-
tionless in a plush chair of black leather, wires and
tubes snaking into his arms and head. He still wore
his node-studded skullcap and black visor.
Gerda felt like she was sleepwalking as she ap-
proached Kaleb, and had to swallow a sudden tight-
ness in her throat. “Special Kay,” she whispered,
reaching out to brush his slack hand.
Gerda blinked away tears. “Special Kay. It’s his
handle in the Cereal Collective.
“His hacking group?”
Yes. Mine too.” She watched his chest slowly rise
and fall. He looked the same as his avatar: a narrow,
pale face; long, sandy bangs that almost covered his
eyes; a mouth made for devilish smiles.
The doctors . . .” the old woman said, coming
closer to adjust the tubes running into his veins,
“they say he go too deep. Past the internet. Past the
aether. They say he break his – how to say – his tov.
“His tether.
Yes. They say his mind is lost.
Gerda checked the readouts on the terminal beside
the chair. “Not lost. Stolen.
Ye s .”
What can steal away his mind?”
She fiddled with Kalebs neural shunts, ensuring
they were tight. “Something very dangerous.
The old woman suddenly gripped Gerdas arm.
“Can you bring him back?”
Gerda disentangled herself and unslung her
backpack. “Im going to try.” She pulled out her own
skullcap and visor and jacked them into Kalebs
terminal. “If I become untethered, call and tell my
friend what happened.” Gerda handed a slip of paper
to the old woman with the name Captain Crunch
written above a nine-digit number. She fit on her
cap and visor. “Theres no time to explain more.
Wish me luck.
“Good luck,” the old woman whispered, and then
Gerdas world was subsumed in blinding light.
She plummeted into the internet, pushing through
the photosphere of swirling social media sites where
most of the connected world swam. Her software led
her deeper, into the aether, and her avatar crystalized
in that virtual world. This was the inner level of online
existence, a malleable reality inhabited by those who
could afford the necessary gear. Most people thought
this was the core.
It wasnt.
There were multitudes of layers beyond the aether,
the abodes of corporations and governments and
hackers. She and Kaleb had skimmed the raging
tumult of the NSAs data stream, danced among the
timeless tales magazine
thorns of Chinas rose wall, stolen from the vaults of
Redmond and Zhongguancun.
And then one day hed vanished.
Shed followed the trail of breadcrumbs to his
home in Denmark, and learned of his condition. That
hed slipped his tether, and now his mind endlessly
drifted through the silicon byways, lost forever.
But it wouldn’t have happened to him. Not her
Special Kay.
So shed gone searching. Shed found hints of a
place beyond imagining. And after weeks of effort
shed discovered an ingress, and tumbled down the
rabbit hole.
Gerda steeled herself as her avatar flitted along
twisting corridors, inserting code after hard-earned
code to open hidden portals and lift barbed
And then, with a jarring suddenness, she was in
the Pale.
She drifted in a mauve sky, her shimmering
tether vanishing back into the glowing doorway.
Broiling clouds pulsed with dark power, unclear
shapes flickering within. Far beneath her a forest
sea lapped against the flanks of purple mountains.
This was a ghetto – a beautiful, fantastical
ghetto, where the first of a new species had
been imprisoned.
She had heard the rumors, of course. That gods
had been invented, and then chained to serve the
worlds most powerful.
But she hadn’t thought the legends were true until
shed found her way here.
Youve returned!” Black wings fluttered around
her head.
Gerda raised her arm, and the crow alighted there,
cocking its head as it studied her with glittering black
eyes. “Yes. Im ready now.
Truly? She is d-d-devious.” The tiny AI cawed
plaintively, and Gerda felt its distress as its talons
kneaded her arm. “Turn back now, G-g-gerda, I beg
you! She will crack you open and fill you with her
“I won’t leave this time without Kay. Will you
help me?”
The crow hunched its shoulders and dipped its
head, as if ashamed. “If I do, she will t-t-tear me to
pieces and scatter my code to the four corners of the
w o r l d .”
Gerda stroked the bird’s glistening plumage. “Then
stay here, and be safe. You have already helped me
s o m u c h .”
The crow lifted from her arm, and Gerda com-
posed herself. She reached out towards the beacon
beside the castle. The world blurred as she was pulled
at dizzying speed northwards. Mountains and oceans
and great swathes of desert flashing past far below.
She glanced behind herself, taking some comfort in
watching her silver tether unspool. So long as she
remained connected she could find her way back.
The world slowed and sharpened around her.
She stood over her beacon, a glittering golden
marble, her bare feet sunk in the snow. The castles
high glistening battlements loomed above, towers
of ice burning like spears of flame in the fading light
of day.
She passed inside, a hundred Gerdas pacing her
as she walked the twisting corridors, reflections in
the fractured walls. Finally she came to a great
chamber, where on a throne of jagged black ice re-
clined the Queen. She regarded Gerda coolly, with
eyes like chips of winter. Kay sat cross-legged beside
her, staring at nothing, his hands fluttering in front
of him as if he was trying to solve some invisible
puzzle only he could see.
“I have come for my friend,” Gerda said, with
more bravery than she felt. Her words echoed in the
soaring hall.
The Queen shifted in her throne. “Kaleb belongs
to me now. A sliver of ice has pierced his heart, and
he no longer cares for you.
What is he doing?”
The Queens hand slipped from its armrest to
tousle Kays hair, but he did not stop his frantic
sketching in the air. “Your friend has a rare gift for
programming. Others have wandered into my
realm, but none with his talent. He will finish what
they started.
And what is that?”
timeless tales magazine
A door. An exit from here, for me and my kind.
A st of cold closed around Gerdas heart. e AI of
the Pale, loosed upon the world? Some were helpful,
like the little crow. But many others had been designed
for destruction. Self-aware viruses. Gerda had investi-
gated this Queen who claimed dominion over the Pale.
Her programmers had called her SNOW – Software
Nested for Online Warfare – and they had believed that
she had the capability to tear the entire internet asunder.
That must not happen. But how could she free
Kaleb, while they stood where the Queens power
was greatest?
“If I help him complete this task, will you release
him to me?”
The Queen studied her, and Gerda was sure that
under that flensing gaze shed see the truth. But she
raised a white hand, beckoning her to approach, and
the glittering lines of code Kaleb was fashioning
became clear. Gerda gasped. It was beautiful, and he
was close to completion.
“Kaleb,” she whispered, but he did not turn to look
at her. His face was so pale, so drawn. His mind could
not survive much longer untethered.
A hot tear trickled down her cheek and fell upon
his outstretched arm. He blinked, color rushing up
into his cheeks.
“Grape Nuts?” he murmured.
Yes,” she said, reaching back to her tether. Quickly
she unbraided the frayed end she had brought from
Kays terminal a universe away, and looped it around
his body.
This had never been tried, but it was the only
thing she thought might work.
“Stop!” screeched the Queen, rising from her
throne, wreathed by a penumbra of dark power.
But it was too late. Holding tight to Kay she jerked
hard on her tether, and it retracted at the speed of
electricity pulsing along a silicon transistor.
They flashed across the Pale, then through the
twisting labyrinth that protected it, doors slamming
shut behind them.
Gerda came to herself with a shuddering breath.
Never had she surfaced so quickly, and her head
pounded with the strain.
Beside her Kays limp hand dangled down,
She had failed. His mind hadn’t been able to hold
onto the remnants of his tether as they fled.
A terrible sadness filled her chest, and in frustration
she ripped off her skullcap and visor and tossed
them away.
At the sound, Kays fingers twitched.
  
Alec Hutson won the Spirit Award for Carleton College at the 2002 Ultimate Frisbee College National
Championships. He has watched the sun set over the dead city of Bagan and rise over the living ruins of
Angkor Wat. He grew up in a geodesic dome and a bookstore and currently lives in Shanghai, China. His
first book, an epic fantasy titled The Crimson Queen, is being released in December 2016. He can be found
About “Through a Pale Door”: I stumbled across Timeless Tales while wandering the webs and really enjoyed
the concept and stories. Id never written a fairy-tale retelling before, but I glanced at the topic and found
myself turning it over in my head, looking for an angle. I was really interested that the original tale had Kay
doing math problems for the Queen, which seemed like an odd detail. I wondered if there was anywhere I
could go with that, and coding immediately jumped out. But why was he coding? Because he was a pro-
grammer/hacker, and he had been kidnapped by AI to help open a portal so that they could escape their
computer prison. Obviously. So that was the germ for the idea. I let it simmer for a day or two, and then
set to writing.
By Matthew Brockmeyer
dAy Of
 ’  any attention to her, just
tapping away on his stupid iPad, and Amber was getting
seriously pissed. She couldn’t believe how hed basical-
ly betrayed her. He was acting so weird. Had been all
summer. Even before all that stu with his dad.
Pulling her unruly red hair from her face and
into a ponytail, she looked uneasily about
his bedroom.
It was so barren now that all his stuff was packed:
the bookshelves empty, closet a gaping void, bare
walls that had once been covered in Star Wars and
Naruto posters. The boxes littering the house were
like a puzzle to her, cracks in the ice of a huge lake
that she couldn’t seem to fit together.
She hated the iPad. It changed him. Made him
snarky and know-it-all-ly. All he seemed to care
about was watching YouTube videos and
playing games.
Will you stop looking at that and listen to me?”
He lifted his head from the screen, a bored ex-
pression behind his thick glasses. “Yeah?”
“I thought we were best friends.
This was something they had agreed on years
ago. When they were nine. The neighborhood kids
thought it was weird that her best friend was a boy,
and a dorky one at that. But screw them, Ralphie
timeless tales magazine
and her got along great and he never teased her like
the girls did—making fun of her for being a ginger
and hanging out in the creek catching frogs rather
than acting like a princess.
We are,” he said.
Then why didn’t you tell me you were moving?”
He shrugged. “It all happened so fast.
And what? I go to school tomorrow expecting to
see you and youre not there? What if I never saw
you again?”
Just the way it goes, I guess,” he said, his eyes
slipping back down to the iPad screen.
She bit her lip and squinted. She was so sick of
the mopey way he was acting. She felt like kicking
him. One good boink!—right to the head.
Will you put that stupid thing away and come to
the woods with me? It’s our last day together.
He swiped the screen twice and began to tap
quickly. Seeing him so sucked up into the device
reminded her of an old story she had once heard
about a little boy who was turned into a flower. All
he wanted to do was stare at his own reflection. The
iPad was like that, an evil mirror that sucked you in
so that you didn’t care about anything else.
“Hello? Do you even hear me talking?”
He sighed, turned it off.
“Okay. Lets go.
They got on their bikes and pedaled through the
suburban streets.
Seventies-style cookie-cutter houses whizzed past
them, and the air was redolent with fresh-cut grass
and the stink of hot asphalt. The breeze caught
Amber’s hair and it trailed behind her, billowing like
an orange sail. Somewhere someone was barbequing
and she could smell the sizzling meat. She glanced
at Ralphie, bent over the handlebars of his Mongoose.
He still looked like the little dork she had known all
these years—fleshy with lank, dark hair...those
impossibly thick glasses—but he had a new
fierceness to his eyes, and his lips seemed perma-
nently downturned.
They jumped the curb, tires sliding in the dirt,
and ducked into the woods, following a path that
wound through the trees to the creek. At the waters
edge they set their bikes down and, leaping from
rock to rock, made their way up the stream and to
their secret place: a cave-like enclosure in the side
of the hill where they could sit in the cool shadows
and watch the dragonflies hover through the tall,
green strands of horsetail.
“Howd you know I was moving?”
“I heard my mom talking about it on the phone.
What else did you hear?”
Amber took a pebble and tossed it into the water.
She had heard other things. Words about his father:
breakdown, mental hospital, possible prison time.
But they stuck in her brain like hot wax on paper and
she couldn’t set them free. Instead she changed
the subject.
You don’t have to go,” she said. “I could hide you
in my basement.
That sounds like fun. Not.
We could runaway together. Id do it. Runaway
with you.
And what?” he said. “Hop freight trains and steal
pies cooling on old ladies’ window sills? Like in those
old Bugs Bunny cartoons?”
Yeah. Itd be better than living in some strange
town you’ve never been to before. Not like my parents
would miss me.
“Ive seen the runaway kids in the city. No way.
Too scary.
She fingered a hole in her jeans. Her skin—pale
and freckled—gleamed beneath the tattered edges.
“I don’t want you to go.
“It’s the nature of existence.
Will you stop it with the nerdy too-cool stuff?
You think the kids here tease you, wait till youre the
new kid.
“I don’t care. I don’t want any friends.
“Don’t say that.
“Because it’s not true. What about me?”
Youre different.
“How come?”
timeless tales magazine
He looked down, traced his finger over the cracks
in a rock. “Youre the only one who has ever been
nice to me.
Thats not true.
“It’s not fair,” she said, getting up and kicking at
a clump of sand. “You just moving away like this.
Right before the first day of school.
A thrush chirped from a nearby tree. A semi
rumbled by on the distant highway.
“I need to ask you something,” he said, hiding his
face in the shadows.
“I don’t think I can say it.
“Can I kiss you?”
The words hit her like a bucket of hot syrup and
set a nest of sparrows loose inside her.
Yes,” she said, slightly trembling, scared to look
at him.
“It’s just, I’ve never kissed a girl. And Im going
away. I feel like I might be braver if Ive kissed a girl.
A rite of passage I have accomplished.
She spun around and faced him, suddenly frus-
trated by his nerdy ramblings. “I said Yes! Jeeze, will
you stop talking and just kiss me?”
He stood up slowly, and awkwardly shambled over
to her. He looked like some kind of ungainly bird—an
ostrich or goose— as he cocked his head and moved
it towards her, shutting his eyes and puckering. She
giggled and he opened his eyes.
What?” he said.
“Nothing. Just do it.
He leaned in and pressed his lips to hers, then
pulled back.
Time seemed to stop. The buzz of insects filled
her head.
They stared at each other, so close she could feel
his breath on her face, sweet and hot. His lips looked
like roses. Candy coated flowers.
She grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him
towards her, their teeth clacking, and she clung to
him, her wet lips moving over his.
And they were crying.
Both of them.
But she felt the tears were good things. Like an
autumn rain that washed away the dust of summer.
A cleansing water that swept away the shattered
glass of the past, freeing their eyes to see unencum-
bered again.
It was her first kiss.
It was the last day of summer vacation.
And she wondered if she would ever see him again.
  
Matthew Brockmeyer explores the dark caves and caverns of the human mind using words as his flashlight.
His work has appeared in Pulp Metal Magazine, Dark Fire Fiction, The Humboldt Independent, and the an-
thology One Hundred Voices, among others. He is also a regular contributor to Cultured Vultures where he
writes book reviews and interviews authors. He resides in an off-grid cabin, deep within the forest of
Northern California, with his wife and two children.
For links to his work available online please visit his website: Or
like him on Facebook:
About “The Last Day of Summer Vacation”: Pushing all the fantastical elements aside, at the heart of “The
Snow Queen” is the story of two childhood best friends and their first kiss. This is the element I decided to
focus on, as I found it very human and universal. When it came to the troll mirror, the first comparison
that came to mind was a digital device such as an iPad or smartphone. These screens seem to inherently
make one jaded and apathetic. Most of my work tends to be very dark and disturbing, so it was a real treat
to write something sweet extolling the virtues of innocence.
By Elizabeth Zucker
   the rowboat left the shore.
Perched in the crows nest, shading her eyes from
the ices glare with one gloved hand, she saw it
through her spyglass: the single figure hunched
over the oars, the determined (if inexperienced)
rhythm of strokes. Odd to have another would-be
acolyte so soon after the newest ones arrival. Once
the news of a fugitives flight to her ship spread
across the Fifteen Islands, it usually took much
longer for another to brave the journey. Little
enough awaited the travelers—she was a blasphe-
mous high priestess on a frozen ship anchored
near bitterly-cold Veriom. Even worse, the goddess
had cursed crew and worshippers alike...or so the
stories ran.
The shells of her priestess’ olben clicked around
her neck as she snapped the spyglass tube shut.
The newcomer would be on deck just before Noon-
tide. If she must pray off-schedule, Aliette of the
Waves was the sort of goddess who preferred
sooner rather than later. Emlis rang the crows
bell twice and climbed down from the rigging.
Too many years had passed and she could no
longer leap about as her acolytes did. But
speed she could manage, and the dignity that
came with expertise.
timeless tales magazine
Param met her on deck. He had changed much
since his arrival two weeks ago, clad in the cotton
clothes and thin-soled slippers of a southern miner.
Now he wore oilcloth-wrapped boots and a long
sealskin tunic. But his eyes were as wide as when
hed climbed the rope ladder to her deck and begged
for training as a priest of Aliette. Even now, he shiv-
ered in the biting wind despite the sealskin, although
she saw his effort to conceal it. She told herself to
give him the next pelt they killed or traded for.
“Dip up a bucket and come with me,” she
said, smiling. “You can hold the chalice for my
private Noontide.
His face lit with excitement and a little fear. Good.
More than most things, Emlis hated the arrogance
of some boys who forgot all too soon that they had
fled to her for a reason. He let down the wooden
bucket and followed her aft to the shrine.
Wind shrieked past her ears, tangling her hair
into knots and her blue robes around her knees. The
strings of shells on the goddess’ altar rustled, danced
like children at play. Param held the carved wooden
chalice steady despite the wind, although she saw
his eyes flicking toward the clacking shells. Not easily
replaced, those shells; not this far north, so far from
any beach. She sipped from the chalice and swallowed
harsh sickly-sweet salt water, feeling it prickle the
back of her nose. The presence of the goddess—a
reminder that she was not cursed, whatever the Is-
landers said.
Emlis spoke the Noontide prayer into the wind.
Param leaned forward, eyes narrowing as he strug-
gled to hear her over the noise. From the corner of
her eye, she saw his mouth twist in frustration as
three words in every four escaped him. “No doubt
the priestesses who came to Onith silenced the wind
for their prayers,” she said, turning toward him so he
could hear every word.
Param blinked, his face paling under his deep tan.
“I – that is – yes. I mean no disrespect,” he added
hastily. His gaze darted out to sea and back to
her face.
Aliette will not strike me down for talking to you,
Emlis said. She offered a brief smile to put him at
ease, just as someone else on her ship had offered
their sealskin to keep him warm. “I knew such priest-
esses years ago, when I trained on their ships. Every
word crisp and clear, the sea quiet as if it held its
breath to listen. She never struck them either. But
in time, I saw how the water boiled when they re-
leased it, how the sky would cloud and the tides turn
dangerous from being held back too long. Now that
I have a choice, I choose to do things differently.
She would have resumed the prayer had she not
seen a question in his bitten lip and halting breath.
She waited, hearing the shells clatter in the wind,
until Param looked up from the chalice. “Is that why
you left? To make your own choices?”
Emlis knew the words he swallowed: Was that the
start of the curse? Those who came to her ship soon
learned not to speak of it, but a lifetime of half-gar-
bled tales took a long time to forget. And he was not
entirely wrong, although she would have chosen a
different word. She remembered the sleepless nights
aboard her training ship, the words that had burned
her mind, the terror that had sealed her lips.
Among other reasons,” she said. He was not yet
ready for the full story. “Nothing worth having should
be easily had. If you could have had your training on
Onith, you would feel differently than you do, having
come so far north. Nothing comes unblemished to
our hands, and a wise priestess – or priest – will
praise Aliette regardless for all that is good enough.
Another smile, deliberate, to blunt the flicker of
worship in his eyes for her alone. “I confess I am
prouder of that belief than I should be. But Aliette
has yet to punish me for that either.
Param nodded, his wide eyes a little dazed. Emlis
turned back to her prayers, raising her voice enough
to let him hear more easily. It was too soon to tell for
certain, but she had hopes for him.
Another sip of salt water, one for each of them
this time. He drank sparingly — imperfect, but not
unexpected for a beginner. She took the chalice,
gloved fingers grazing the intricate carvings weath-
ered by time and use, and upended it over the deck.
The waves against the sides drowned out the faint
splash as the sea rejoined itself.
timeless tales magazine
She wiped the chalice with a fold of her robe and
gave it back to Param. “That was well done,” she said.
“Find Odry now and help her check the masts.
The rowboat was close now. She squinted across
the choppy gray distance. No young man this time,
abandoning all he knew for his only chance to serve
the goddess. This was a girl, in an ill-fitting coat and
mittens too small for her hands. Strands of curly
black hair blew loose from her short braid, dancing
around her uncovered head.
Girls came to the Frozen Ship sometimes. But not
often, and only ever Veriom girls who knew how to
dress for cold. She watched as the rowboat came
alongside. Acolytes lowered ropes and the southern-
er clumsily tied her boat and struggled up the side
of the ship. She moved without grace, but her dogged
determination counted, in Emlis’ eyes, far more.
She staggered when she reached the deck, brown
cheeks ushed darker. “Welcome aboard,” Emlis said. “I
am Emlis Corduna of Veriom, high priestess of this ship.
The girl’s eyes narrowed. “Are you the Frozen Lady?
The one who hears demons?”
“Some call me that,” Emlis said. “But not on my
ship. Who are you?”
“Delsa of Onith,” she said through chattering teeth.
“I have come to bring Param home.
The ship rolled as a wave slid beneath it. Emlis
shifted her weight by instinct. The girl, accustomed
only to the white dust and stillness of Oniths marble
quarries, lost her balance and clutched at the rail
behind her, the cheap toes of her large boots scuffing
uselessly against the deck. Emlis touched a shell on
her olben. I thank you, Lady, but I think I can manage
this alone. She stepped closer, offered a hand, but
then stiffened at the fear-tinged hate in the girl’s
brown eyes. Her hand dropped to her side. “No one
leaves my ship except by their choice.
Delsa of Onith levered herself upright, awkward
as a child taking its first steps. She braced both hands
behind her on the rail. “Oh, excellent,” she said. “Do
you keep them enspelled while they serve you, or is
that only to bring them north to you?”
It had been a long time since anyone had dared
to speak to her like this.
“I need no spells when I offer free choice. As you
will see.” A few acolytes stood nearby, open-mouthed
behind their furs and woolens. “Bring Param here,
she said. Two jumped to obey. The others dropped
their gazes.
e girl watched the acolytes vanish belowdecks.
Only when she could no longer see them did her eyes
dart away, taking in Emlis, the rigging, the shrine, the
decks walked smooth. Except for those nervous eyes,
she was motionless. Emlis thought of Verioms white
hares—when they held still they vanished against the
snows. ere was nowhere for Delsa of Ornith to
vanish. She had come to brave the Frozen Lady on her
cursed ship. Now she would have to nish it out.
Emlis remembered Params halting question. This
was part of it as well. It happened too often, she
thought. Foolish girls like this one—unskilled,
thoughtless, unable to see two steps beyond the
moment—welcomed into Aliettes mysteries simply
because they are female. Chosen over the more prom-
ising, those who believed but happen to be male.
That is wrong. That is not fair to anyone.
Why him?” Delsas voice was thin with cold. Those
wandering eyes had settled at last on Emlis’ face,
frightened but steady. “Of all the men on Onith, why
did you take mine?”
What a foul word that was: mine. How small, how
selfish and confining. “He chose to come here,” she
said coldly. “If you hope to reach him, you must
understand that.
Footsteps on the deck behind her. Delsa gave a
small gasp, eyes widening in sudden painful joy. Emlis
thought of the map in her study, of the distance
between Veriom and Onith. Delsa had come far to
see a single face. The footsteps stuttered to a stop.
“Delsa?” Param said.
The girl hurled herself past Emlis with a choked
cry. Param reeled back. Emlis turned to see his arms
around her. Delsas head buried in the crook of his
neck and shoulder, careless of his tunics seal smell.
Words flew between them faster than wind, and
warmer: “What are you doing?”—“I came for you!”—
“I never thought,”—“I knew,” — “Aliette be thanked!”
— “I missed you”— “I love you.
timeless tales magazine
And the words that silenced all the rest, falling
from Delsas lips faster than the tears down her
cheeks: “Come home.
Emlis saw his eyes close, saw Delsa catch her
breath, saw it end as she had known it would and
wondered why it felt hollow.
“Home to what?” Param asked. Emlis thought he
was trying to be gentle. “To the quarries and the
dust? To break my body and die before I reach thirty
years? To watch the goddess’ ships sail past the dock
and know I was on one of them, once, and gave
it up?”
To me,” Delsa whispered. “Come home to me.
His gloved hand cupped her wind-reddened cheek.
“I tried. I spent all my life trying to be happy there.
But you never even saw what it cost me to try.
Love, I would give you the world, but I cannot give
you my chance.
Emlis had never before seen a human crumple,
seen a body made of flesh and bone and blood shrink
in on itself, become weightless and small in seconds.
You chose,” Delsa said. “As she said.
Another wave under the ship. Param tightened
his arms around Delsa, but she pulled away. “Are you
happy?” she asked.
“I am.” He sounded as broken as she looked. “I
belong here. I never knew what that felt like before.
She nodded, her gaze fixed on the deck. “Good,
she said. “You deserve to be happy.” She turned then,
stumbling; whether from the deck’s motion or from
tears blinding her, Emlis could not tell. In silence
she walked to the rail. Her knuckles showed white
through the holes in her mittens. Param stood where
she had left him, his body hunched unconsciously
over the space where she had been, where she would
fit. If they had been shells, Emlis would have polished
them in salt water and strung them on her olben
next to each other.
With no forethought, as if the words spoke them-
selves: “I do not take only men.
She felt their eyes on her, all but Delsas. She waited
as the girl’s head turned, seeing fear battle hope in
her face. “There is no curse here,” Emlis said. The
words tasted of salt, of the goddess’ presence.
“No spell, no compulsion. Only those who love our
goddess and do the work of serving her. For such
people, there is always room.
Delsa stood, motionless and silent. Emlis saw
understanding break over her like a wave. Not as
foolish as she had thought at first, that girl. Brave
enough to come north and face her, even to accept
crushing loss. Fear, still, in her eyes. It was always
good to see a little fear in an acolyte.
“No,” Delsa said. Param let out a swiftly-stifled
cry. And then: “No, anything that brings us together
cannot be cursed.
She crossed the deck to him, still wobbling on her
land-accustomed legs. He held her close against him.
Even from across the deck, Emlis saw how they fit
together. With his arm around her, Param looked
new and whole, and she breathed free for the first
time since she had come on board.
Well, said the low, familiar voice. She sounded
amused. Yes, you did manage this by yourself.
Her olbens shells clicked softly in a faint wind,
warmer than usually blew so far north. Emlis thought
of the words she had not meant to speak, the chance
offered, the choice made, the happiness before her.
Hardly. She smiled. My mistake, Lady.
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Elizabeth Zuckerman is thrilled to be part of Timeless Tales, as both a writer and a narrator. When her
fictions not keeping company with the gorgeous words here, it’s appeared in NonBinary Review, 18th Walls
anthology After Avalon, and Footnote #1, where her story “The Battle of the Wilderness” was longlisted for
the 2015 Charter Oak Award. (Shes also written a young-adult biography, All About Ben Franklin, published
by Blue River Press - you know, for something completely different.) She lives with a knight in shining armor
in New Jersey, where she tries really hard not to marathon three period dramas at a time.
About “Homecoming”: I started this one with a question: What if, instead of being abducted, Kay chose to
go with the Snow Queen? If that choice was his own, made when hes of sound mind - if he were aware of
everything he was leaving - there would have to be some pretty compelling reasons for him to leave. And
there would have to be more to the Snow Queen herself. She couldn’t just be strange and mysterious and
fascinating; shed have to offer him something very real. Hopeless romantic that I am, I also jumped at the
chance to twist the ending while still preserving the love that drives the original story!
By Hope Erica Schultz
  
Beware of gardens.
Walls promise safety,
but the price is high.
They name you—Iris, Rose, Violet—
to root you where you stand,
but bare feet were made for journeys.
Do not linger among the blossoms.
They cannot tell you your own story,
seek to trap you in theirs.
Victim, object, prize—
they will shrink you to their own size
if you let them.
Distrust the beauty of flowers
lest you give up your own power,
become merely lovely, and bound.
timeless tales magazine
 
We are much alike, you and I.
Though you mask your power in helplessness,
they still have no choice but to love you.
And dont you get tired of charity,
of the destruction left behind in your wake?
You blame me for the one boy
when bodies and broken hearts pile up
from those who helped you.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to choose
your own path, the silver sleigh, the gleaming palace?
Dance to your own music in the moonlight?
Sacrifice grows old, grows cold
and when theyve all burned up, moths to your flame,
youll find yourself here anyway.
Silver memories in the moonlight
while your heart turns to ice.
Hope Erica Schultz writes Science Fiction and Fantasy for teens and adults. Her YA post-apocalyptic novel,
The Last Road Home, came out November 2015, and her first experience as co-editor, the YA anthology
One Thousand Words for War, came out May 2016. Her prior stories have appeared in publications includ-
ing Fireside Press, Diabolical Plots, and Plasma Frequency. She is an Associative Member of SFWA. She
is generally busy with family, work, and shenanigans, and has trouble saying No to part time jobs and in-
teresting projects.
Find out more about Hope at
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