He first sees her—what no one else sees—in the twilit market, the sun flashing in its sinking across her eyes. She trills sweetly, like a quiet bird and then is gone, leaving only a bright brittle cold, a sharp throbbing ache.
He does not know what has lured her from the cities and their ash, her kingdom of gray. But she had met his eyes in that singing moment. His mind had stuttered as she glittered like struck crystal in the fading light in that one singing moment.
And when she is gone his thoughts are filled with fantasies of catching her, consoling her, loving her, imprisoning her.
It isn't until many days later that he realizes his skin has become chill. He is already one of hers, she has poisoned him with her smile.
He is absentminded in the coming days, moving about his tasks in a fog of shivering daydreams. It is nearing the end of a long and unseasonably temperate summer, yet he is chilled to his bones. His loved ones whisper of fever, the doctors whisper fearfully of contagion.
All the while, Jalel dreams of her. That wraith-white girl who had stood against the breeze and been blown away, piece by piece like dust and old lace. In his dreams she comes to him, smiles her black-eyed smile and reaches for him with elegant fingers which never quite reach his face.
She whispers something which smells like pure sugar and sparkles throughout his consciousness. His mind and body go numb, but he returns her smile.
In the real world, he does not notice the beautiful green of the grass before autumn reaps it brown. He does not notice the white spirals of smoke that rise from the forges and dance across the brightness of the sky. He no longer hears the clanging song of picks and ore as he mines with the others beneath the hills.
In his waking dreams he returns her smile before snatching at her dark hair. He drags her close and then laves her with tenderness. She is his as he is hers. She smiles, gaunt and ghastly but so terribly beautiful.
It begins when the man with the green eyes comes. Perhaps he is a boy for he is lithe but he is strong and his warm lips are the color of a sunset peach. The green-eyed boy has found Jalel on the plains, wandering the empty fields beyond his home in the hills from the back of the greatwolf he calls Khor.
At the approach of spring, Khor purrs beneath him. His ribs fill with oxygen, his mouth with saliva, his virility with seed.
Spring Reposing Within smiles lazily, his features beautiful-androgynous. He whispers something Jalel does not hear but smells instead, like blooming flowers, cloying and sweet. Ah, has she comes this way? the boy muses. In a flutter of pink petals and powder-gentle wings, he too is gone.
Khor moans beneath him, Jalel searches for his mind, drowning in a sea of perfume. The leather of his breaches is warm, slick with sweat and alive against his skin. The tools at his belt sing and chime like raw metal. The cotton of his shirt breathes in and out.
These sensations fade with the passing of spring, returning to Jalel the functions of his mind.
He inhales. Exhales. And then he too is on his way. He leaves the acropolis on the great hill behind. Without a shred of guilt, he abandons a young sister and a beautiful betrothed.
Khor—friend from whelping and childhood, inseparable—voices no protest and faithfully raises his nose to the blinding white trail of the Blizzardseason.
Jalel races across the plains. He jumps the river and blazes new trails through the forests as he comes upon them. He has lived his whole life in the wooded mining hills. He has known only his people. They are ironmongers who tinker with the brass pieces they make and they are animal tamers. Yet as Jalel passes through unknown lands he sees nothing but the glitter of frost like early morning light along his eyelashes.
The food he needs he hunts from the land or steals from farms. The water he drinks he collects from the rivers and from the dew and as he draws ever closer to her, from the frost that settles beneath her feet.
When he stops to sleep, he dreams of her. He imagines the ice sculpture of her pale skin. The suppleness of her form, the ethereal honey of her trilling voice…
He wakes in the mornings tense and ill rested. Each day the dawning sky is grayer as he chases her to the west.
She veers south at the jungle border, skirting the wet sticky heat like a frightened child. Jalel finds a deer in her wake, its body bloated with the poisons of the jungle swamp, but its eyes glazed with her death.
Ah, the wind rising up from the humid wetlands smiles, has she come this way too? The loam drinks in greedily, the spongy ground absorbing moisture as lifeblood.
Khor's lips curl into a snarl, his vicious nature rising in his throat with his growls.
The green-eyed boy steps gracefully from the jungle on his long-sleek legs. Steam pours from the palms of his graceful hands in heady rivers, which curlicue in the air.
Ah, he sighs, do you come this way? Hunter and hunted… to whom do you belong? She is a cruel girl, for all her frailty and her innocence. She will make you her slave.
The beautiful boy holds out a hand to him, his skin is very smooth, unmarred by the hours of labor which Jalel bears.
Be mine, the boy with the jade eyes mouths with his silent pink lips, be my hunter, not my prey. We will track her together.
Jalel trembles and Khor sways beneath him, delicate nose overwhelmed by the fumes. How enticing the moss-eyed boy seems. His slim vulpine face is very kind and the jungle cries out acceptance to Jalel. His leather clothes cling to his perspiration-soaked flesh as a second skin.
Blizzardseason, he recalls her from the market: her pure white skin, her eyes like darting birds the color of corpse rot. Against the æther blue of the sky she had burned such an optic white, the quiet expression of her lips a pale, pale rose.
Jalel nudges Khor with his heels. His great wolf raises his head groggily, slime dripping from his black nose.
"I want her for myself, that Blizzardseason girl." Jalel lifts his chin and signals Khor to take several slow steps backwards. "How long have you followed her across the fields? You were never meant to catch her, but I will. I will tame her, I will break her."
Hands fisted in the wolf's scruff, they turn and gallop in long canine strides along her trail of frost.
Blizzardseason, a white-washed and flighty girlchild with eyes the color of death: Jalel can just see her darkening the sky as she retreats coyly behind mountains. He snaps his ocular back into its leather sleeve, then pulls out his chionoscope to see brass arms wavering.
"We're gaining," he mutters. "We must be."
A great black nose nudges him; Jalel turns to see Khor looking nervously back behind them. Spring's already tracing the path, creating with hothouse growth.
"I know, boy." He says, springing into the saddle. "Let's go find her."
Then the long wolfback lope, everboreal, chasing the scent of ice.
(May 23, 2008 -- B. Adkins)
She likes the world with a drop of death to remind her of how imperfect everything is. It makes the real beauties show through. It spreads from her, glitters of snow. The trees are spiny and bare, stark black against the angelite sky.
Jalel has dark hair and dark eyes and such white skin. She admires him, eyelashes batting. He is her prince come riding up the hill, snapping his hunting tools into place, dismounting and coming after her.
"You're ready to be caught?" He breaths gruffly, snatching at her delicate hems. Like condensation, they slip through his fingers.
She smiles at him. "You are ready to catch me?"
The wolf lingers uncertainly nearby, dark grey with syrup-golden eyes. She beckons and Khor does not come. Instead he turns, hackles raised, snarling away an unwelcome spring.
The curls of growth cringe back in a ripple of flame. A line of ash separating her and him.
Jalel beckons to her, unmindful of the green-eyed boy's presence. She does not come to him, but sits upon the rocks and tilts her head back to the thin white sun. The light makes her eyes black pools of sweet liquid. Her dark hair hangs around her shoulders, knotted and wind tussled.
The green-eyed boy protests in shrieking bird fury. Khor backs down a step, pollen aggravating his nasals, but he does not abandon the line.
Jalel reaches out to touch her, his hand trembling. His palm curves to her slim elegant neck and she is like marble. She is cold, unyielding, and smooth beneath his touch. His heart goes still with the gelid spread of her disease.
"You are mine," he says, exhaling the last of his warmth.
She smiles, laughing, and surrenders to his kiss. Between them, they drive off consumptive spring in an explosion of defiance.
Khor howls victory.
He feels very small beside her. As befits her beauty and her station, Blizzardseason rides a great white fox alongside Khor's earthly lope. They roam the white mountains and the torment the gray concrete cities with their avalanche-wake.
She is queen and he is consort, but she loves him. Jalel, the snow sings his name in its crystalline voice, dressing him in silk and frost.
"Jalel," she murmurs in her birdsweet song. She is waiting for his recognition, his final vow of fealty to her.
He breathes in the sharp air serenely and when he speaks, his voice is like an eagle: a cry of love and war.