Bitter white agony unfolds far down below me, and its screams are to me like a child writhing in pain. I flap my wings and soar further down, listening to the shrill sound of metal clashing on metal, sword striking shield, spear piercing armour and flesh alike. I am forced to avert left and right as arrows let loose in the sky – shooting up and then down to claim their kill. Soon this beautiful snow field will become a wasteland of blood and ice.
There upon the white slope I find her – The Lady Aster. She is young and fair, a beautiful flower if I had ever seen one, and yet as fierce as a lion, and thrice as deadly. She has the firm voice of a commander and the noble aurora of a princess – she is both of these things and more.
With a stern mouth, tender skin and enchanting eyes of deep violet, she possesses power to bring men to their knees with little more than a glance. Of course, The Lady Aster cares little for beauty when the lives of her people are threatened. She is clad in shimmering silver armour, leather gauntlets and grieves, and a magnificent crimson cloak draped around her shoulders to fight the biting cold – the brooch clipped over her breast is a sparkling cerulean snowflake. Her hair is a river of black flowing gracefully down to her shoulders; riddled with knots and sprinkled with snow, she would see to it when the fighting was done.
In her right hand is Shadowbane – a fearsome longsword for an equally fearsome lady. It was forged for her by the castle smith, and now it glistens magnificently in the sun. Her longsword is an undying flame; the pommel and cross-guard are pale ash encrusted with diamonds, the grip is black leather and gold, with a blade as black as coal, and yet still burning with a deep and solemn orange glow.
In her left hand is Snowflake – the beautiful round shield that is, like Shadowbane, a gift from her father, the king. The diamond blue shield rests on her arm as light as a feather. Lined around the edge with gold, the shield bore the sigil of her house – the glittering blue snowflake. She can only pray that when the day is done, it would not be stained red with the blood of the fallen, friend and foe alike.
When The Lady Aster sees me soaring above, I flap my white wings and land upon her arm. She is glad to see me. When she smiles, her purple eyes glimmer, and when she speaks, her voice is a blessing. “Hey girl, you had me frightened when those arrows flew. Remember to soar high, okay. We’ve lost enough brave warriors already, I can’t bear to lose you too.” She takes the paper scroll and attaches it to my leg. “Okay, now get this to Commander Rose as quick as you can. We can’t afford to lose any more ground here, and without his reinforcements I fear the battle will be lost.” She scratches my feathers beneath my beak and then lifts me up into the air. I take off immediately.
As I soar towards the clouds I can see the truth in Lady Aster’s words. Our foe are too numerous and too powerful. All around I see snowflakes shattering like glass, one by one. It breaks my heart to see them like this. I press on with all the speed that I can conjure. I know that the fate of these men rests in me getting this message to Commander Rose. I wish I could fly faster.
On the edge of the battle I see a sturdy old man clad in blue. He is a dear friend to me and has been for as long as I can remember. He is no longer a military man, his days of battle are long since passed, and yet here he fights with the courage of a dozen men. He is dying, I realise. His snow-white hair is drenched in sweat, and droplets of blood fall from his brow with every swing of his sword.
The man he is fighting is young and strong, while he is old and spent. I remember my lady’s words. “Remember to soar high, okay.” Just this once, I dive. I am like an arrow with the wind in my feathers, and when I reach my friend’s attacker my talons tear into his flesh. I use my beak too, and the sound of screaming is accompanied with the sweet taste of blood. A thrust of a sword ends his life. As I return to the sky, my old friend smiles and salutes me.
At first I don’t feel it when it rips through my body, but suddenly I become heavy, and I can no longer flap my wings. The shaft of the arrow goes straight through me, and remains there to drag me down into the snow. I plummet, helpless and in pain. My landing is soft, but it doesn’t matter. The life slowly drains out of me and fills up the soft blanket of snow, turning it to a ghastly shade of pink. I close my eyes. I am dying…
And then I begin to float, my body swaying side my side. I open my eyes and see the bleeding face of my old friend, as strong as ever, of course. He is reading the message intended for Commander Rose. He looks at me then and places his gentle hand behind my head. “Don’t you worry,” he says to me. “We’ll get this to Commander Rose, the two of us. You’ll see.”His words fill me with joy, and I close my eyes one last time.