ISSUE 18, January 2018

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*Please enjoy our monthly issue for free. Be aware however, that this free version contains some formatting issues such as the abscence of italics. To experience the stories in their properly formatted versions, you can purchase a copy on Kindle or a print edition through Amazon.

The Touch of a Spindle
By Janel Brubaker

    Her body trembled as she stood from the bed and moved toward the window, the stone floor cold against her bare feet. She wore only her cream-colored satin chemise; the hem touched the floor and the sleeves covered her arms to her wrists, but the fabric was thin and did nothing to warm her in the winter cold. She hardly noticed. A fire crackled in the hearth across from the bed, inviting her to take in its heat, but standing near it meant looking at the man she hoped to forget. She could still feel his hands pawing at her, the heat of his flesh against hers. Though she stood on the opposite side of the room from him, she could feel him over her entire body, as if he had imprinted himself on her, into her skin and hair and lips. It was like this with each man her father sent to her bed.
Princess Rosalyn of Brier stared out of the frosted window at the winter sky. Stars filled the midnight canvas, winking down at her from their celestial thrones. She focused on them as the man who had just had his way with her dressed himself, though in his drunken state it took him several minutes to find his trousers and boots and tunic, and longer still to pull them on his tall frame. As he stumbled around her chamber, Rosalyn took in the beauty of the clear, winter night, how the moon’s rays lit the snow-covered courtyard with silver and white. It was a cold beauty, a quiet beauty, and an odd contrast to the blundering noises behind her.
The man said little, which was the only thing for which Rosalyn was grateful, and when he did speak, it was never to her. She was beneath his notice outside of the bed sheets. She was a mere woman, after all. What could she possibly think, know, or feel that would be worth his time? Rosalyn stared at the stars and the winter moon as the man, an ambassador from some nearby country, stumbled drunkenly from her chamber, shouting down the hallway for his attendant to assist him. He slammed the door behind him and only then was Rosalyn free to let out the deep breath she’d been holding since he’d first come to her room.
In the silence of her own company, Rosalyn wept. Her body ached from the prolonged encounter. Bruises had already begun to show on her arms where his hands had gripped her. Of the men who’d come to her chamber in the last few years, he was far from the worst, though that didn’t make him kind or gentle. Like the others, he’d been too concerned with his own pleasure to notice her discomfort. Of course, her pleasure was of little consequence. She could almost hear her father’s voice in her mind reiterating that these arrangements weren’t meant to benefit her, but rather the country. The happier an ambassador or royal visitor was, the more likely they would be to sign treaties or agree to political marriages. And since she had been born a daughter and not a son, her body wasn’t hers to control, and her choices weren’t her own, but her father’s. Eventually, he would make her a marriage arrangement (though that would only come when he had exhausted all other uses for her), and then she would be perpetually bound to bed a man she hardly knew. Until then, she must “earn her royal rights” by obeying her father in all things.
It hadn’t always been this way. Rosalyn remembered days where she had been, if not quite happy, then content. Could she ever be happy when her only living parent blamed her for the death of the other? Still, in the midst of her father’s drunkenness and neglect, she’d found peace in the little joys the palace offered her; the beauty of the gardens in spring, swimming in the country lakes and rivers in summer, riding her horse through the villages in autumn, and her favorite; sitting in the winter stillness, absorbing all the earth offered on the altar of the harshest season. Winters in Brina, her home country, were unforgivable to most, yet heaven to her. She had been born in the middle of January, when the snow fell the hardest and the winds blew relentlessly. From the time she could walk, she had always felt an affinity for the cold and the ice and the snow.
For fifteen years, she had lived in the palace with few real friends or companions, resigning herself to the fact that her father never had, and never would, love or care for her. He kept to himself and let her alone to do whatever she wished, so how could she really complain? Once a week, at least, he hosted banquets and masquerades and concerts for his guests, and she would attend and attract special attention from ambassadors and courtiers, who would ask her to dance. Her father would watch from the throne or his place at the high table as she twirled around the dance floor, smiling and laughing. Courtier’s would whisper flatteries in her ear.
Rosalyn sighed and looked up at the stars, tears falling down her pale cheeks. What she would have given to return to those days. Now, no one asked her to dance except those who had arranged with her father more intimate relations. She couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed or even smiled, and no one seemed to notice or care that the princess, once lively and warm, had turned to brittle ice.      
The door to her chamber opened and one of her maidens, Cassandra, entered to draw her bath. As always, Cassandra said nothing of the bruises or of Rosalyn’s tears. She was there to serve, not to offer advice or comfort, though Rosalyn saw the young woman’s sympathetic looks. She may not have spoken her views of Rosalyn’s father aloud, but Rosalyn could tell that Cassandra disagreed with what the King expected of his daughter, of what he put her through.
Once the tub had been filled, the chemise slid off Rosalyn’s shoulders and onto the cold floor. She stepped out of it into the tub, the water hot and steaming. It burned her skin, but it was the only way to erase the encounter from her body. Rosalyn normally despised the heat and preferred the cold. Heat thawed, bringing pain to the surface, while the cold numbed limbs and noses and lips, masking pain until she could almost convince herself it wasn’t there at all. But a hot bath helped her to feel cleansed. It allowed her some solace from the nightmare her life had become.
She sank into the tub as tears continued to steam down her face. Cassandra poured the hot water over her shoulders and down her back, soaking Rosalyn’s long, black hair. With a cloth and soap, Cassandra worked up a lather, then gently ran the cloth over Rosalyn’s body, down her back and shoulders, over her neck and chest, across her breasts and down her arms. Cassandra ran suds through Rosalyn’s hair, detangling it and removing the scent of the drunken bastard who had used her now for three nights in a row. Cassandra never seemed to tire of Rosalyn’s crying, and while she never spoke, her presence was comforting to the nineteen-year-old princess all the same.
As Cassandra combed her fingers through Rosalyn’s hair, Rosalyn thought of her mother. She knew very little of her, as her father never spoke of her, and there were few still alive who had known her. She knew that her mother had been a royal fairy, that her marriage to the King had been an attempt to end the bloodshed between humans and the fae, that she had been a powerful and compassionate presence in the palace. Rosalyn imagined a great beauty with large wings and fierce eyes, a woman of strength and valor. Some of the older courtiers had whispered tales of her mother flying into battle six months pregnant, wielding a sword and shield as if she hardly noticed her bulging belly, vanquishing the ogres almost single-handedly. The fae were notorious for their battle prowess, the women especially, so it was no wonder her mother was battle hardened and courageous. She would never have allowed herself to be used the way I have been, Rosalyn thought to herself. I am nothing like her.
While Cassandra helped Rosalyn bathe, three other maidens removed the bed sheets and replaced them with fresh linens. It wouldn’t be enough to erase the night’s events from Rosalyn’s mind, but it would help her sleep. After an hour of bathing, Cassandra helped Rosalyn from the tub and dried her off. She grabbed a cotton smock from the princess’s wardrobe and helped it over Rosalyn’s head. Her duties complete, she curtsied and left the chamber, having not spoken a single word. Rosalyn watched her leave before forcing herself to climb into the bed she’d come to despise. Her body was stiff and she needed to sleep, but as with every night her father sent a man to her chamber, sleep tauntingly eluded her. She poured a few drops of poppy’s serum into her mulled wine and downed the glass. Then she pulled the covers over her head and cried until she was too exhausted to shed another tear. Only then, as her eyelids closed, did the comfort and safety of sleep embrace her.
Morning dawned with a silver winter sun on the horizon. It was Rosalyn’s twentieth birthday, though she knew no one would celebrate. Her mother had died giving birth to her and her father, now a slovenly drunk, had always blamed her. Rosalyn believed it was why he treated her like a prostitute, selling her body for political profit.
Rosalyn stared at herself in her full length looking glass as her maidens fussed over her gown and hair. Fiona, Rosalyn’s principal lady-in-waiting, smiled as she hooked a simple silver chain around Rosalyn’s neck.
    “You look just like your mother,” she said softly, squeezing her shoulders affectionately. Lines etched into her skin around her eyes and mouth, and silver had begun to eat at the auburn of her hair, revealing her advanced age. “Your slender neck, your dark hair, your pale skin and remind me so of her. She was a great beauty, just like you.” Rosalyn gave a small smile. She loved hearing of her mother, though Fiona was now the only person who would speak of her. Everyone else feared the King’s wrath. He hated being reminded of his late wife. Fiona was the only member of Rosalyn’s household old enough to remember Evangeline, the fairy Princess. “I’ll never forget how beautiful she looked in that glass coffin, as if she were only asleep or under a spell.”
“But she wasn’t,” Rosalyn said, a chill crawling over her skin. “She was dead.”
Fiona met Rosalyn’s gaze in the looking glass. “It wasn’t your fault, dearest one. Women die in childbirth every day. It was the will of the gods that your mother’s life be taken to bring you into this world.”
Rosalyn stiffened. “My father doesn’t blame the gods, he blames me. He has always blamed me.”
Fiona sighed and said nothing. She was a commoner, after all. For her to speak ill of the King was treasonous and punishable by death, even if she spoke the truth. A moment of silence passed between them before Fiona’s face brightened with a smile. “I’ll never forget the day your mother arrived at this palace,” she said, lacing up the back of Rosalyn’s gown. “She stepped from the carriage in a beautiful gown of yellows and oranges, her golden wings stretched out behind her. Her black hair hung in waves over her shoulders, and her dark eyes took in all of this with curiosity and anticipation. A sword hung at her hip, and a bow and quiver filled with arrows was slung over her back as if she were a mercenary come to extract payment.” Fiona laughed. “The only sign of her royalty was the diadem she wore on her head,” she added, pulling the very same diadem from the velvet pillow on Rosalyn’s vanity. Rosalyn listened closely, taking in each word as if it would be the last she heard on earth. “Your father was smitten from the first, and she could tell. He doted on her every wish and she made him a better ruler.”
Rosalyn looked away. The chill on her skin had sunk into her heart, numbing her from the inside. Her mother made him a better ruler, but she had made him harsh. Cruel. Rosalyn let out a deep sigh as she examined herself in the looking glass; she may have looked like her mother, but there wasn’t a bit of fairy in her veins. Fate had clipped her wings and stolen the magic from her blood. She was merely human, and her father treated her as if she were little more than property. Fiona placed the simple silver diadem on her head and slid a single finger down her cheek.
“Pain tests us,” she said, staring into Rosalyn’s eyes. “It reveals who we really are. In the years since your mother passed, your father has failed each test Fate has presented to him. This is a reflection on him, not you.”
“And yet I am the one who suffers.”
Fiona sighed and moved away, leaving Rosalyn to herself. She stared at her reflection and ran a hand along the silver chain necklace that hung around her neck. It matched the diadem on her head, the only two pieces of jewelry she owned which had previously belonged to her mother. Having symbols of her mother so close to her mind and soul filled her with a sense of peace and strength, even if they were only fabricated.
As a princess, there was precious little she was allowed to do during the day. She had grown out of her lessons years before and her father never allowed her to join him in the council chamber or in political negotiations. Therefore, she could only occupy herself with reading, walks in the garden, rides through the countryside with her retinue close by, and mingling with courtiers. Aside from reading and riding her horse, she hated everything else that was expected of her. She sometimes convinced the palace philosophers and theologians to engage her in conversation, but they inevitably reported back to her father, who would yell at her and demand that she leave them alone. Her intellectual curiosities also reminded him of Evangeline, the woman he loved and lost. Most days, Rosalyn resigned herself to the gardens, too exhausted to challenge her father. Only courtiers were allowed to traverse the palace gardens, and most of them hated to be around Rosalyn, so she was left to herself.
She particularly enjoyed a wild, forest-like section of the gardens. The royal gardeners hadn’t yet tamed it, and given her father’s hatred of the outdoors, progress in the cultivation of its design had been stalled for years. Rosalyn didn’t mind. She loved the cover of the trees in spring and summer and the autumnal changing of leaves, but mostly she loved how the cold, winter sun glimmered through barren branches, casting rays of silver on the white snow. Fiona always fretted over how long Rosalyn spent out of doors in the winter cold, but Rosalyn paid little attention to the cold. She liked to inhale the crisp winter scent and felt one with the trees among the silent snowfall. It was the only place she felt she belonged.  
It was here she decided to spend the day. She sat on a stone bench at the heart of the small wilderness, surrounded by trees both barren and evergreen. The sky above was clear and grey, the sun shining between the branches. She could hear the murmur of courtiers in the other parts of the gardens and in the courtyard; part of her longed to join them, to mingle and laugh and drink wine, but she knew they didn’t want her there. They had heard of the men who frequented her chamber. How could they not have? Palace staff knew of what took place, though they weren’t privy to the specifics, and now Rosalyn had been branded a whore. The friends who used to see her, speak to her, dance with her, hadn’t come around for years. The young men and women, sons and daughters of Brinan nobility, who had once seen her as a potential spouse, now saw her as nothing more than a common whore, damaged goods, a disappointment to the people.  
She ran her hands through a section of her long hair and stared absently at the snow. She wondered what her mother would say of her father’s treatment of her. She liked to think her mother would be ashamed, would chastise the King, would withdraw her love from him. As she thought these things, a raven landed nearby. Rosalyn smiled. She recognized the bird from the silver tips of its wings. It greeted her with a raspy caw and the cock of its head. She chuckled and reached into the folds of her skirt where she’d put a slice of bread and pulled it out, tossing crumbs and little chunks at the bird’s feet like she did each day it visited. But today it didn’t eat. It hopped closer, ignoring the crumbs she’d tossed to the ground.
“Not hungry today?” she asked, folding the bread back into her skirt.
A puff of black smoke engulfed the raven and a moment later a woman stood where the raven had been. She was clad in a gown of black with long, silver feathers sticking out of the shoulders. She had silver hair and skin like amber and enormous wings with black and silver feathers. Rosalyn jumped to her feet, startled by the woman’s presence.
“Rosalyn, there’s no need to be afraid. I’m not here to harm you,” the woman said with a smile.
“Who are you?” she asked, looking around to see if anyone was nearby.
“My name is Senn.”
Rosalyn thought she should feel frightened, but she didn’t. “Have...have you really come to me as a raven all this time?” Senn smiled and gave a single nod. Rosalyn furrowed her eyebrows. “Why?”
“To watch you closely. If I had come to you like this,” she said, motioning to herself with her hands, “I don’t think I’d have gotten close enough. The palace guards, at least, would have attempted to throw me out of the palace, and that’s saying nothing of your father and his hatred of reminders of the past.”
“I don’t understand,” Rosalyn said. “Why did you want to watch me? I sit and do nothing every single day.” Rosalyn was curious as to why this woman, who clearly possessed magic and resembled a fairy, would be interested in her. “Why would you remind my father of the past?” Senn smiled and her dark eyes flashed with what Rosalyn thought was excitement.
“I’m a fairy. One look at me, and your father would be reminded of your mother. She was a fairy,” Senn said, clasping her hands in front of her. “In fact, she was fairy royalty. That makes you royalty by blood not only of the human race, but of the fae as well.”
“I’m not sure you want me ruling over the fae,” Rosalyn said. “I don’t seem to have inherited any of my mother’s gifts, though I’m told I look a great deal like her.”
Senn’s eyes narrowed and stared into Rosalyn’s as she took a few steps toward her. “Magic manifests differently in each fairy. As you are only half fae, your magic may be hidden by mortality, but I am sure it flows through you, nonetheless.”
Rosalyn felt something flicker in her chest, something foreign and unidentifiable. It was faint, obscure, and hardly worth noting, but it took root and continued to beat. As she stared into Senn’s eyes, it strengthened.
“You were meant for more than this, Rosalyn,” Senn’s voice said, though her lips didn’t move. A moment later, Senn held out her hand and in it was a spindle from a spinning wheel. The needle, instead of made from bone or iron like every other spinning wheel she’d seen, seemed to be made of ice. It was pale in color, tinted blue, and sparkled beneath the rays of the silver winter sun. Rosalyn frowned and looked back at Senn. “Weave your own future,” Senn spoke again.
Rosalyn took the spindle, unsure of what she was to do. Once the spindle left Senn’s hand, a puff of black smoke engulfed her once more and she was gone. Rosalyn sighed and hung her head. What was she supposed to do with the spindle without a spinning wheel to attach it to? She shook her head and dropped it, leaving it in the snow as she made her way back to the palace. It was late and the evening feast would begin soon, which meant her father would expect her to be in her chamber waiting for whomever he sent to her that night.
Rosalyn ignored the stares and whispers of the courtiers as she walked into the palace. She had been outside so long, even the palace felt warm against her face. She made her way up the stairs and down the long corridors to her chamber. She shook her head as she walked, mulling over what had happened in the garden. She told herself it had been in her head, a concoction of escape to beat against the loneliness of each breath. It was sad, really, that a princess even needed to create a kind of fairy guardian to feel less alone.
She opened her chamber door, determined to set herself right, but froze as she entered. Before her, close to the window, was a spinning wheel with the spindle attached, the ice-needle long and gleaming in the firelight, but not melting. Never before had a spinning wheel been in her room. It was possible one of the maids had left it there by accident, but she thought it unlikely. They never used her chamber for their sewing, and she doubted that any of them possessed a spindle made of ice.
She shook her head and told herself she was being ridiculous, that there was a reasonable explanation for the presence of the spinning wheel, and to hurry and change before supper was served. But even as Fiona and the other maidens helped her change into an evening gown of crimson satin, as they brushed her hair without noticing the spindle or the spinning wheel, Rosalyn could hardly keep her eyes off it. She had the strangest urge to touch it, to run her finger along the needle to the pointed end, and prick her skin with it. She wanted to feel the chill inside of her body, feel it draw blood, watch the red drip from her pale skin. She didn’t hear anything Fiona said. All she knew was the spindle and Senn’s words echoing in her mind.
The women left and Rosalyn sat on the edge of her bed, staring at the spindle. Her supper had been brought, but she hadn’t touched a bite. She mulled over Senn’s words, unable to think of anything else, until she couldn’t take the temptation any longer. She stood to her feet, walked to the spinning wheel, and pressed her finger into the jagged, icy end. At first, she felt only a slight pain. She pulled her hand away and stared as blood flowed from the wound. The flicker in her chest intensified, pounding with her heartbeat. She closed her eyes for a moment and then opened them as Fiona entered her chamber. Seeing the blood, she rushed to Rosalyn’s side.
“What happened?” she asked. Rosalyn didn’t respond. Fiona grabbed a cloth and held it against her finger. Rosalyn could only smile. Fiona frowned. “Why are you smiling?” she asked.
Rosalyn shook her head and began to laugh. “I do not know.”
Fiona pressed her hand to Rosalyn’s forehead and then pulled it away, gasping. “You’re ill,” she said, motioning for her to move toward the bed. Rosalyn just stared at the blood and continued to laugh. A tingling sensation filled the tips of her fingers and flowed up her arms. Fiona pulled back the bed covers and fluffed the pillows, her hazel eyes staring at Rosalyn, concern in each crease of her brow. “Please, come to bed,” she urged, but Rosalyn only laughed.
Fiona continued to urge Rosalyn into bed, saying she would explain all to her father and make sure she was given an uninterrupted night’s rest, but Rosalyn ignored her. The room was hazy and her head felt heavy, as if she had consumed too much wine. When another maid came to the chamber and said the King had demanded Rosalyn’s presence at the feast, Rosalyn didn’t fight or shout. She motioned for Fiona to finish lacing up the back of her crimson gown.
Fiona hesitated, but seeing she wouldn’t convince Rosalyn to take to bed, she sighed and did as she was bid. “You are ill,” she said, in a scolding tone. “It’s from the many hours you spend in the cold. I warned you before not to be so reckless with your health.”
“Why should I care for my health?” Rosalyn asked, laughter lingering on her lips. “What do I have to live for but satisfying the pleasures of men’s flesh?”
Fiona cast her eyes away from Rosalyn’s as she moved around to lace up the back. In the looking glass, Rosalyn saw her frown and drop her hands. “Gods above…” she muttered, taking a step backward. Rosalyn looked over her shoulder at the woman and was about to ask her what was wrong when a sharp pain filled her back. She sucked in a deep breath as the pain crawled beneath her skin and a strong pressure built, increasing until tears filled her eyes and cries flew from her lips. Fiona said she would go for the surgeon and ran from the room, leaving Rosalyn alone in her agony. Cassandra and some of the other maidens heard her cries and came to help, but as soon as they saw her, they stayed in the hall, their eyes wide, mouths gaping.
Rosalyn turned her back to the looking glass, anxious to see what was ripping through her flesh. Her eyes widened in shock. Protruding from her back were four stubs of bone, all emerging from between her shoulders. As she watched, the bones lengthened, as if reaching out of her like fingers grasping for something onto which to hold. As the bones grew, large feathers appeared, greater than any she’d seen before, all of them pure white or ice-blue. Rosalyn screamed, her voice echoing down palace corridors and staircases, as the bones continued to extend from her back for several minutes more, feathers sprouting as if from inside the bones themselves, until, at last, they had reached their full extension and were completely covered.
The tingling returned to her fingers. Through her tears, Rosalyn looked down at her hands and saw a faint light shining beneath her skin. She looked up at her open chamber door where the maidens stood with Fiona and the surgeon.
“What is happening to me?” Rosalyn whispered. None of them moved to help her. She saw the fear in their eyes and knew they wouldn’t come any closer. The pain returned, beginning in her fingers. It was like a pulsating burn, a throbbing in her bones, an ache in her muscles. She watched as the dim light beneath her skin flowed up her arms, as if with blood, and with it the pain extended. Rosalyn tried to breathe through the ache, but in moments it consumed her entire body. She fell forward onto all fours and gritted her teeth. She could see her hands emanating pale light and looked back at her reflection; the light reached her face and her black hair was turning white. As each strand of hair changed color, so too did her gown, as once crimson, it shifted to pale blue and silver. The light faded from beneath her skin and up into each strand of her thick hair, and only when all of her hair was white did the pain subside. She could breathe easily. She wiped her eyes and stood to her feet, her entire being consumed by winter.
She grinned at her reflection in the looking glass. She was a fairy, a member of the Winter Fae. The silver chain around her neck and the diadem on her head had been transformed into ice, each with a pale blue crystal at the center. She tried moving the wings that now protruded from her back and they flitted together and then apart. Laughter fell off her lips. She turned brightened eyes toward Fiona and saw the woman, filled with awe and fear, move away from the door. In her place, a familiar man entered; he hadn’t yet been sent to her chamber, though she’d seen him conversing with her father more than once and assumed he would soon come to collect his end of whatever bargain he’d made with the King. He entered the room and stopped mid-step, hesitation in his dark eyes. “Princess Rosalyn?” he said, his voice deep and raspy.
Rosalyn nodded, staring into his eyes with a newfound determination. “Hello, Lord Hale,” she said, taking a step toward him. “Has my father sent you?”
He nodded, scanning her from head to toe. He looked as if he might run back down the hall as she continued to edge closer, but even when she stood close enough to touch him, he remained still. She lifted her hand and ran her fingers through his blonde curls.
“You are a handsome one,” she said with a smile. “Tell me, have you come to rescue me?” she asked, quieting to a whisper as she leaned forward to press her lips to his. Their lips touched briefly, hardly more than a brush, but it was enough for the magic to take hold. As she pulled away, ice crystals formed on his skin and his eyelids fell shut in a deep sleep. With his last moments of consciousness, he stumbled to her bed and fell onto his back frozen in place, a sleeping man encased in ice.    
It was then Rosalyn remembered the banquet. The all too familiar chill ran beneath her skin once more as she moved toward the door, icy determination in her veins. The maidens stepped aside as she walked through the hall, her large wings pressed together in the narrow passage.
She came to the banquet hall, the large double doors opened for the guests. As she approached, the sound of the orchestra filled the grand hallway, the music floating on air as if it had wings. She walked into the ballroom and glanced around the enormous space, filled with courtiers all waiting for the princess to arrive, so they could eat. As she stood in the doorway, her wings unfurled behind her, people pointed, gasped, and whispered. Rosalyn let out a slow breath as the chill centered in her chest spread throughout her limbs. She looked down at her left hand; a small ball of ice crystals hovered just above her palm. She grinned and brought her hands together until they were almost touching, then slowly pulled them apart. The ball of ice crystals extended into a long staff made of jagged ice which she held in her left hand. From the bulb held in the crest, pale light glowed.
Rosalyn let out a slow, deep breath, and from it a cold breeze spread through the ballroom. The torches that lined the walls and filled the room with golden light were snuffed out, as was the enormous fire in the hearth. Most of the courtiers were too stunned to move, but several guards attempted to subdue her. They all found their feet stuck to the floor by packs of ice. Rosalyn waved her right hand and snow began to fall from nowhere, blanketing the banquet hall in a sheet of white, lulling the guests to sleep. As the temperature dropped, Rosalyn walked through the hall toward her father’s throne. He stood, attempting to look confident and unafraid, but Rosalyn could sense his fear. It smelled of piss and ale.
“Who are you and what gives you the right to interrupt a royal - ” he began, but as she came closer he stopped, recognizing his own flesh and blood. His brows knit together, crinkling his aged skin. “Rosalyn? What in the devil has happened to you?” he asked.
Rosalyn said nothing. She took her staff in both hands and pressed the bulb of glowing ice against his chest so that frost began to spread over his entire body. His eyes filled with every emotion she’d felt since she was fifteen; disbelief, denial, rage, hatred. And like she had been with each man sent to her chamber, he was now powerless to stop the chill that slowly consumed his body.
“You’ve always had a heart of ice,” she muttered as his limbs froze in place. His eyes were the last to freeze. Rosalyn watched as the last seconds of life slipped from his body. And as his frozen form stared blankly at her, she turned her back to him, vowing never to look back, never to think of him again. The banquet hall was filled with several feet of snow and ice clung to the walls and ceiling. Every living soul was asleep, frozen in time. Unlike her father who would never wake again, their sleep was temporary. She would decide when to wake them, if she decided to wake them. In their sleep, they would be plagued by dreams, visions of torment, of perpetual winter, of hunger and limbs bitten by frost, of helplessness. Maybe they would learn what it meant to be trapped.
Rosalyn walked through the banquet hall and out of the palace into the empty courtyard. The winter wind greeted her, rustling her long, white hair. Fiona, Cassandra, and the other maidens had all left the palace and now stood nearby in the courtyard. Rosalyn gave them a nod, sparing the only souls on earth who had shown her kindness. They nodded back and fled the palace. The familiar caw of a raven came from her right. She looked to where the raven perched on one of the open doors of the palace and grinned. The raven leaped into the air and flapped her silver-tipped wings, calling for Rosalyn to follow. With the swift twirl of her staff above her head, Rosalyn morphed into a white raven and took to the winter sky.   

Janel Brubaker

Janel Brubaker recently graduated from Clackamas Community College with her associates in English and Creative Writing. She worked as a student assistant editor for the Clackamas Literary Review for the 2015 and 2016 editions. She is currently the Managing Editor of the M Review. She has been published in Sick Lit Magazine, The Bella Online Literary Review, Heartbeat Literary Journal, Crab Fat Magazine, Dark Fire Fiction, Linden Avenue Literary Journal,Slink Chunk Press and (boink) zine,Corner Bar Magazine, Anomaly Literary Journal, and Sheepshead Review. Janel is currently pursuing a B.A. in Creative Writing from Marylhurst University.

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​by David W. Landrum


Morgan Crooks

Morgan Crooks grew up in the Finger Lakes of NY, a beautiful part of the country carved into being by ancient glaciers. He now lives with his wife outside of Boston, and is obsessed with wasps, cosmic horror, and ziggurats. His works have appeared in Electric Spec, Daily Science Fiction, and Theme of Absence. Find him online @raponikoff on Twitter and on


About the Editor:
Amber M. Simpson

Amber M. Simpson has been writing short stories and poetry since the age of ten. Lover of all things horror and fantasy, she writes mainly in these genres, often with a touch of romance thrown in for fun.  Amber lives in Kentucky with her husband and their two crazy but loving little boys.