Howling wind battered the grounds around the imposing palace of Dantain. Nothing grows here. Signs of green have long disappeared since the prince returned from battle abroad. Here, in place of lovely gardens are toppled stone statues of the ancestors and the bodies of the conquered enemy army leaders. These leaders are not dead, nor are they living. Encased in columns of ice, they are perfectly preserved without decay but also without the warmth of life.
Servants remain silent, fearing what tongues that speak ill of the monarchy will find as punishment. Periodically, they huddle around the large fire places. For at least in this wasteland, trees and rock are plentiful. Even here by the roaring flame they do not speak above a whisper.
Moving upwards through the drafty castle towards the interior one finds themselves in front of massive doors that open to the king's chambers. Although, more often than not, the bravest of souls would not dare to tread here without a heavy heart. Here the very spirit of the wind echoes out its moan. The ghostly skeletal creature seems made from clouds themselves but no one knows for sure, as no one has been able to approach it close enough to examine. The force of its gales push them away.
In the near empty hall is the battle-worn prince who in recent years has been crowned king. Here on the ornately carved, bejeweled throne the arctic wolf sits, head leaning to one side, claws running furrows in the armrests. He is thinner than he had been. Pure white fur has gone ratty. His eyes now glow a solid electric blue above a cruel fanged smile. Sprouting from the back of his fine garments are a pair of draconic wings sparkle as if made from sun-glistening snow. Here, on this throne, in this large chamber, he does nothing, says nothing unless there is a decree to be made or a war to be fought.
He is no better than his enemies that kneel endlessly before his boots. He has no escape, no comfort from this eternal cold.
"Do you know what death feels like?" he inquires, voice low but not harsh, towards a near corner.
"Are you addressing me, sire?" Tendrils of night unhinge from the stone wall. Out steps a raven haired, raven winged arctic fox female in full dress. "My very business to know such things," she bows.
"Then you must understand how lonely this castle chamber is," he turns his head to her. "Your loveliness pains me."
"Yet before as you are now..." she drifted (her legs feet covered by a flowing skirt so that she moved without any outer appearance as so) to the foot of his pedestal, "...you took no notice of me or my loveliness." She then knelt in respect contrary to her canary tone. She did not kneel in front of him, rather, by the side of the chair as if she were a lesser part of the royal family herself.
"How could I have? You kept yourself cloaked ... in many ways." He sat forward enough to rest his paw on her long black mane. Silence endured for a long stroke of the clock before he thought aloud once more. "What purpose have I now?"
"To rule as you were destined from birth," she opened her eyes. She had been napping calmly under his touch.
"Mmm ... and nothing more I suppose? Do I own these lands or do they own me? Are the peoples of Dantain under my command or am I at their beck and call?"
"Leadership is a double edged sword," she rose to her feet and exited through the balcony, "I would think you a bigger man than to complain about petty annoyances" she said over her shoulder.
"Fickle woman, to come and go as you please even as I am speaking with you." He stretched his own wings, shaking off the frost. He followed her out into the elements. "Is there nothing here to tempt you to stay and sweeten this bitter kingdom?" What is it that drags you away and what force is it that draws you back?" The wind picked up speed, bringing blinding snow of his frustration.
"My duty is what calls me away as does yours. And if you do not know what it is that calls me forth, well..." her overfluffled tail twitched. Thickly lashed violet eyes shone with while. "If you do not know that by now perhaps this will be the last time I visit."
The very air crystallized around her, snaring her in a shining cage of icicles. She responded by tapping her toe to the smallest shadow between the cracks of the balcony's inlaid granite floor. Her form evaporated and was sucked down as water down a drain. The young king, so powerful, now grasped at nothingness.
"Cursed immortality!" he snarled. Raising a fist he shattered the trap he;d set for her in one blow. "What good is it if I must spend it alone and miserable!"
A voice behind him startle him from his rant, "Who said you were alone?" Familiar rounded white paws cupped his elbows. "I am here even if I am not ALWAYS here."
"A few years and already I grow tired of this station. Live forever? Nay, Veronica, I fear I will go mad." He gazed out over the city walls and far reaching windswept villages spaced out between hardy forests, ledge and open cold plains.
"When you bore of your occupation," She moved in front of him to block his view, "I will be here to distract you. And if it comes that I bore you..." She kissed his muzzle gently before parting, "You can always make more ice sculptures for your courtyard." As she arrived, she disappeared, into the shadows of the nearest wall.
Seated once more at the back wall of the chamber, clawed hands resting on the deep scratches into the wood, head leaning to one side like an unused puppet, King Thomas Icestorm smiled with his eyes closed to savor the fresh memory of the moment. Love was enough to warm his deadened heart for a while.