A sweeping tale of love, loss, and penance in this fairy-tale retelling.
Joachim stared at the intruders and thought back to his former life. It had all started in the castle with his love, Queen Maris. They were happy. Until Joachim lost his temper first, then everything else he held dear.
Joachim had had it all…wealth, power, and the love of his life. The only thing he lacked was control of his temper. As a result, he’s spent five hundred years as overseer of the storehouses of the winter snows to pay for his deed. Now known as Jack Frost, he rules the winter seasons with the capricious North Wind.
His goal is to finish serving his punishment to be finally reunited with his love. He’s close. Oh, so close. But once again, his castle has intruders. Who will win out? His icy love or his hot temper?
Meet The Characters
The night sky is lit with thousands of stars, at least for now. Soon, when she arrives, she will bring her grey clouds, biting temperatures, and brisk winds that chill one’s very bones.
What is taking her so long?
I check the old, dusty grandfather clock in the foyer, out of habit, mainly. It hasn’t worked in ages. A group of pilferers tried to steal it once, but I showed them.
I sometimes wonder if anyone ever believed their wild tales of an invisible sprite that froze their boots to the stone floor?
“North?” I lean out the broken window and peer up at the purple-blue sky. “Where are you?” Oh, but she does enjoy playing with the weathermen. Guessing her arrival and movements were nearly impossible.
I glance toward the curving staircase. My beloved sleeps within her room. Should I tell Maris that I’ll return shortly? If only I truly knew that she heard me. I move toward the stairs. A noise unlike anything I have ever heard before stops me. It comes from the main floor.
Gripping my staff, ready to protect my castle, I fly down to the foyer. More than fifty years have passed since anyone made a foolish attempt to enter my castle. Yet, here they are, once again. The old warnings and stories must have finally faded, as they did over the centuries.
Hopefully, the lock has rusted, and they’ll not be able to--
“Hey, guys, over here,” calls a youthful voice. A female.
My brows rise in surprise. I follow the direction of her voice to the garden room. The windows in here are broken out and the gate barely hangs on one hinge. A frustrated curse whooshes from my lips. The female, I see her now. Unusually thin. Curly hair, worn loose, circles her pale face with very red lips. Her clothing is boyish and odd to me. But so much time has passed I can barely keep up with changing fashions.
My lips press together tightly. I can send a blast of frost onto the metal gate and freeze her trespassing hands to it. Except…fear of making things worse smothers my anger.
I look up toward the second story, again my heart twists with yearning. We are so close to being set free. I have to keep my temper in check.
“Joachim?” North calls. In a louder, most demanding tone, she repeats, “Jack Frost! We must go. Now.”
I cringe, hating when she calls me by my common name. The title humanity has dubbed for me, despite my objections. Nobody listens to me anyway.
“Be patient,” I reply between gritted teeth. “I cannot leave until I deal with these trespassers!”
Standing in the window I formally occupied is North. Her white hair whips around her marbled face. “I cannot wait. We must depart. Now, Frost. No excuses, you know this.”
I fly to her. “But…there are….” She shakes her head in response. I try again, “I was about to—”
“No! You mustn’t, Jack. You are so close. You mustn’t harm them. They are youngsters.”
North is right and I hate her for it.
“I can’t let them enter,” I protest. “What if they find Maris?”
“They won’t, love. You have her well-hidden.” North extends her hand, pale like snow, delicate like frost on a windowpane. “Let us kick up a ruckus of a storm. That’ll send them running home to their firesides.”
I roll my eyes and take her hand. “I believe they use heaters to warm themselves these days.”
Her laughter is like tinkling bells as she yanks me out the window and into the black night. Clouds obliterate the stars now, a ghostly grey ceiling. We swooped around the turrets of my once beautiful, imposing castle that sits upon a hill overlooking a small fishing village below. The little hamlet has remained unchanged over the past couple of hundred years. Before the first settlers arrived, there was nothing but woodland valleys nestled in a bowl of mountains as far as the eye could see.
Such times. Such wondrous times, until I ruined everything.
I suppose you are wondering what I am all about by now, dear Reader.
Castles, the North Wind, trespassing children…and me. I have been dubbed the name, Jack Frost. Yes, I’m in charge of the storehouses of snow. My staff is the key. With a wave of it, I can release a raging blizzard or the soft snowfalls described in old songs.
I started my existence with the name of Joachim Verglas, the fourth son of a once-wealthy merchant. But alas, he lost his wealth when his richly laden ships were lost at sea. At the time, I was barely six years old. Father lost everything and we were forced to take up residence in an abandoned cottage deep in the woods. The small plot of land was all he had left after paying off his debtors.
Then one day, the unthinkable happened. While Father wandered the woods with his bow, he came upon a dwarf dressed in fine leathers and wool.
“Excuse me, friend, why the sad face?” the dwarf asked the merchant.
My father didn’t wish to be rude but didn’t believe the stranger would care to hear of his many woes. “I’ll not bother you, kind sir, with my troubles. I’m simply out looking for a meal to fill my babe’s bellies.”
“Humph.” The dwarf stroked his black beard and thought for a long moment. Finally, he replied, “You look like one that’s been dealt an unfair hand. Perhaps I can help you, friend. Would you like to have a second chance to make a better go of your life?”
Father stared at the dwarf in amazement, cautioned excitement bubbled inside his chest. Then he shook his head as reason regained a foothold. “I shouldn’t. Such help generally comes with a price I’ll not care to pay, but thank you.” He started down the road.
The dwarf called after him, “All I ask in return is that in twelve years, you bring back to me the first thing that you touch when you return home. With that promise, I’ll provide what you need to make a fresh start.”
Father considered the dwarf’s offer. Why he’d most likely be greeted by that pesky cat or his overbearing dog. Both he could live without. Wouldn’t it be a lark if he hurried into the house and grabbed the chamber pot! Father laughed and stuck out his hand to shake on their deal.
Later that evening when he returned with a turkey tied to his belt, I leaped upon his shoulders from the tree branch above. For weeks, I’d been trying my hardest to scare him. He said it was impossible. Nothing scared him. I determined to succeed.
This time I gave him such a fright that he began weeping!
Oh, what my trickery had gotten us into! Once I learned the story of his encounter, I wept with him.
The next morning, a large pot of gold sat beside the hearth. Father’s weeping stopped and he returned to being a merchant. He never mentioned the repayment promise again.
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.
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