Star of Wonder, page 21
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Even as the Peaceful One was speaking, the Sun held out his hand to a small brown bird who huddled half-hidden near the foot of one of the perches. “You, my pretty Plover,” he said, making her duck her head shyly at being so openly addressed. “You run hither and yon to keep your eggs and babies safe, and you must see many things as you do so. What do you know of the Princess of Winter and her dreams?”
“I know that they are not dreams, Lord,” the Plover chirped, raising her head so that the two black stripes on her throat could be clearly seen. “The Princess is remembering not foolish fantasies but hidden truth. For she and the young man who tended her father’s Ice Dragons loved for many years to laugh together, until love of sharing laughter turned to pure and simple love. They stole away from the Palace and were married in the town, and there they lived in happiness. But the Winter King and Queen would not abide that, for they had plans to give their daughter in marriage for their own benefit, and so the Queen crafted a cruel spell to lock away the Princess’s memories of her love, and stole her back to the Palace in the dark of a moonless night.”
The Princess let out a little cry, for with the Plover’s words a stab of pain had shot through her mind. The Sun’s daughter started, but did not move from her side, only reaching into the pouch that hung from her belt and drawing out a pinch of white powder, finer than any sugar. “It will ease your hurts for now,” she murmured, sprinkling it into the Princess’s tea, “and by and by we will visit my friends and see what they can do for you.”
“Thank you,” the Princess breathed, but did not take her eyes from the Lord Sun and the birds. The Plover, frightened at having spoken so much, had hidden her head under her wing, and the Sun had raised his eyes to the rest of the birds.
“Who else has seen the Princess and her beloved husband?” he demanded. “Who can tell me what became of him, and how she may win him back to her side again?”
“I can tell you that, Lord Sun,” said a sturdy Blackbird, fluffing out all his feathers, then smoothing them down. “For while the Queen of Winter carried home her truant daughter, the King remained behind to properly punish the man who had stolen what was his.” The feathers fluffed out again. “So the King saw it, and never thought that surely his daughter had some voice in what became of her as well. He is a foolish man. But that is neither here nor there.” The Blackbird preened his wing briefly. “The Queen’s spell was cruel, but so too was the King’s. He cast his daughter’s husband into a magical sleep, imprisoned him inside a tomb of ice, and hid it beyond the farthest star, and there lies the beloved of the Winter Princess even now…”