The Ice Palace
Stella gently knocks on Bloom and Flora’s door and then pushes it open. “Are you going to sleep all day?” she asks the two.
“Stel, gimme a break!” groans Bloom through a yawn. “The first sun is barely up!”
“Dawlings, the first sun is near its zenith and the second sun is just rising, sleepyheads,” replies Stella.
Bloom sits up, rubs her eyes, yawns as she puts on her dressing gown and goes to the window to open the curtains. “There, the first sun is just rising,” she is about to say when she realizes that it is the second sun that is just peeking over the horizon. Confused, Bloom looks over to the west where the first sun should be shining through her window to find that a new structure has blocked it almost completely and is casting its long shadow over her balcony.
“When did this appear?” Bloom asks Stella.
“What are you talking about?” asks Stella as she comes to join Bloom on her balcony. Then Flora too joins them yawning and still rubbing sleep out of her eyes.
The three look on together at the strange structure standing between Alfea College and Cloud Tower. The structure appears to be made from giant blocks of ice but is it a palace, a fort, neither or both they can’t tell.
“It has some style,” remarks Stella, “however, it looks as if it were built by a Faerie and a Witch together but neither could decide which way to go with it so they opted for a compromise. Perhaps we should name it ‘The Jumble’,” then the others giggle.
“Well,” says Flora, “although it is built like a fortification with ramparts and a mote around it, it does not appear to be guarded. The drawbridge is down and the gates are wide open. I would interpret this to be an invitation to us to come to visit and to welcome our new neighbour. I would suggest, though, that we wear our hiking apparel and not dresses or miniskirts. I have the impression that we will be out and roughing it on an adventure today.”
“What makes you say that, Flora?” asks Stella.
“Just a feeling something blowing in the wind,” replies Flora.
“Your feelings are usually bang on,” says Stella. “I’ll round up the others and tell them that we are about to head out on an adventure.”
Within the hour, the six Winx Faeries are together by the front gates of Alfea College all dressed in sturdy shorts, short sleeved blouses, sturdy over-jackets matching their shorts and knee-high hiking boots. Upon their heads are very military style pith helmets with chin straps and a flaring section in back to protect the neck from sunburn.
“Shall we be off?” asks the Sunshine Faerie as she lifts from the ground and the others follow her heading towards the new structure. Upon reaching it, they do not do a fly-over but, as custom and protocol dictate, they land in front of the gates to enter through them on foot.
“It is more spacious than I would have expected,” observes Aïsha. “There is room enough here for a small village plus a market place.”
“It also looks like a good spot to hold a musical concert,” puts in Musa.
“Where is our hostess, is what I want to know,” says Bloom, looking about. “Surely, someone must have seen our approach.”
“What are those?” asks Flora, pointing at six beasts tethered to a post above a watering trough.
“Horses!” exclaims Bloom with joy. “But I thought they didn’t exist on Alfea.”
“What are they used for?” asks Aïsha, who obviously has never seen a horse before this either.
“They are riding and draught animals,” replies Bloom.
“They don’t look to be very practical for either function,” remarks Tecna. “A yoke would probably break their backs or their necks and this bunch doesn’t appear up to the task of drawing anything of any weight but they are beautiful to look at, nonetheless.”
“That’s strange coming from you, Tecna,” laughs Bloom, “but you are, however, right about the use of a yoke. It would break their backs or necks so that is why they are harnessed instead. For drawing wagons and such, there might be as many as six of them harnessed in a double tandem. These particular horses are of the riding and racing breed and look to be already saddled.”
“Exactly right,” replies a mezzo voice behind them and they all turn around to meet the speaker who has joined them.
“Hello, Big Sister,” Bloom addresses Ishandra who is wearing a black leather outfit akin to her one time Witch’s garb but with baggy legs. Her long, raven hair is done up in a tress down her back, upon her head is a hard leather cap and in her hand is a leather switch.
“Hello, Little Sister,” replies Ishandra, smiling at Bloom. “What do you think of my new palace?”
“It is … err … quite different,” says Bloom somewhat hesitantly.
“No doubt that it is,” laughs Ishandra. “It took me a whole six hours to build because part of me wanted to go one way and part of me wanted to go another and it took some time to get both sides of myself to agree on a design,” and Stella giggles.
“I can see that a lot of thought went into detail,” remarks Tecna. “It looks to be very functional yet elegant.”
“Thank you, Tecna,” replies Ishandra, smiling and with a blush coming to her cheeks. “I take great pride in all that I do and it makes me feel good when others notice.”