“Dior, come down from there.” The Snow Queen peered up into the rafters, a frown marring her otherwise cruelly beautiful face. A grinning sprite landed in a crouch at her feet.
“Majesty.” He bowed deeply.
She crossed her arms. “I have need of your…magic.”
A glint appeared in his violet eyes and he ruffled his blue hair. “Maiae, it would be my absolute pleasure.”
Her lips twitched in the barest hint of a smile. “I need an enchanted mirror.”
“An enchanted mirror?”
Maiae waved her hand airly, turning around and striding back to the throne room. “Can you make me one or not?”
“Don’t be mean, Maiae, of course, I can.” He had to jog to catch up to her, his hands clasped behind his back. “What particular enchantment were you wanting me to imbue in this mirror?”
She paused, her hand on the doorknob. “Whatever you want.” Drawing her gray cloak around her, she swept through the door, slamming it shut behind her.
Throughout the night, the sprite worked deep within the bowels of the palace, forging, melting, and sending tendrils of his magic within the glass. The next morning, he entered the throne room, the enchanted mirror in his hands.
Maiae sat on her throne of ice, her hands clenched in the fur of her loyal icewolves. They sat on their haunches, on either side of her, teeth bared as Dior approached her. She raised a pale eyebrow at him.
“You finished so soon?”
He flashed a grin. “Maiae, you wound me.”
“Show me the mirror.”
“I should probably tell you-”
She interrupted him with a wave of her hand. “I am older than time itself. Nothing can harm me and nothing can hurt me.”
Cowed, he handed over the hand mirror. “I have created the mirror to reflect all that is good and beautiful to look poor and mean. That which was good-for-nothing and looked ugly is shown magnified and increased in ugliness. This mirror has the power to make the most beautiful landscapes look like boiled spinach, and the best humans into monsters.”
Maiae’s lips tightened as she examined the mirror, her face twisting as she stared down at him. “What is this nonsense?”
Dior gaped at her. “You said anything I wanted.”
“And I thought you would take that as something that would put the fear of me into humans’ hearts, not make them appear ugly.” The icewolves sensed Maiae’s rising temper and barked, snapping their teeth, their ears flat against their snow-white pelts. Maiae stood, her face shuttered. “This is a nuisance, not an object of demise.” With that, she flung the mirror down onto the ice.
“I-” Dior lunged, hand outstretched as he strained to catch his creation, but he was too late. It slipped through his fingers and shattered on the ground, the glass breaking into millions of pieces. The sprite fell to his knees, frantically trying to sift through the glass, but it was no use. He didn’t even notice his blue blood mixing with the shards, the coppery tang filling the air.
“Don’t wallow in your sadness. Come.” Maiae swept her skirts around her and led her icewolves off the dias, her glass slippers crunching. She paused at the threshold and looked back. Dior still kneeled amidst the ruins of his creation, head drooping. Waving her hands, she sent a bitter wind through the throne room, collecting all the shards and sending them out of the window and down the mountain.
But what Dior didn’t tell her and what she didn’t know was that the mirror’s power resided in the glass itself. And now it worked much more evil than before, for some of these pieces were hardly so large as a grain of sand, and they flew about in the wide world. When they got into people’s eyes, they stayed, and then those people only had an eye for evil. Some people got a splinter in their hearts, which became a lump of ice. Other pieces were put in glasses and that was a sad affair when people put on their glasses to see well and rightly. And when Dior realized what had happened, he laughed until he almost choked. All this malcontent tickled his fancy.
When the Snow Queen realized her mistake, she flew into a rage the likes of which had never been seen before. The entire world seemed blanketed in the deep snow she sent to the farthest corners of mankind. All along, the splinters made their way into people’s hearts and eyes.
From her chambers, Maiae watched a young man and woman as they raced down the streets, watched them clamber over their flower pots and into their windows. The young man leaned out of his window, holding on to the rose tree branches that twined round the windows, and then bent towards each other. It looked almost like a triumphal arch of foliage and flowers.
Maiae watched as during her storms, the two heated copper farthings on the stove, laid the hot farthing on the windowpane, and had a capital peep-hole, quite nicely rounded. The two peeped out, smiling at each other amidst the swirling snowflakes.
His name was Kay, and hers was Gerda. Maiae had noticed Kay first. He had hair the color of fresh snow and eyes the color of a melting icicle. He was made for a frozen storm like her. But he only had eyes for Gerda. Gerda. A tendril of dark green curled around Maiae’s frozen heart. Gerda, with her skin warm and brown, her bouncing curls falling around her heart-shaped face. Maiae couldn’t help herself, she sent a blizzard down to the town. For she was the snow and ice, and she could hear everything that her snow and ice touched, she was able to listen in as Kay peered outside the window at the swirling white. The old woman in the corner, near the fireplace, snorted.
"It is the white bees that are swarming," said Kay's old grandmother.
"Do the white bees choose a queen?" Kay knew honeybees always had one.
"Yes," said his grandmother, "she flies where the swarm hangs in the thickest clusters. She is the largest of all, and she can never remain quietly on the earth but goes up again into the black clouds. Many a winter's nights she flies through the streets of the town and peeps in at the windows, and they then freeze in such a wondrous manner that they look like flowers."
Kay remembered the beautiful patterns on the windowpane. "Yes, I have seen it," he said, eyes bright. “I’d let her come in. I'd put her on the stove, and she'd melt."
From high above, Maiae cackled, wiping away tears of mirth. He would be hers, all hers, and everything would be fine. She appeared in the snow, wanting to see Kay for herself in person. She had dressed up for the occasion, dressed in the finest white gauze, made of a million little flakes like stars. She could hear Kay’s thoughts as loudly as if he’d voiced them to her.
She was so beautiful and delicate, but she was of ice, of dazzling, sparkling ice; yet she lived; her eyes gazed fixedly, like two stars; but there was neither quiet nor repose in them.
Maiae nodded towards the window and beckoned with her hand. Kay’s eyes widened and he swallowed hard, jumping down from the chair. Maiae tried to conceal her disappointment. He would come in time, she knew it. And if he didn’t she would find a way to make it so. She wrapped her cloak around her, disappearing in a shower of ice crystals. From up in her ice castle, she watched the young man sleep, and something inside her shifted.
“Maiae?” Turning, she saw Dior standing behind her, face lowered in respect.
“I want to make amends.”
She laughed, the sound high and clear. “Amends, Dior? For your ruined plan? For ruining my plan? Pray tell, what amends can you make?”
He cringed with every sharp barb she shot at him. “I can still control the glass shards, Maiae,” he said earnestly, his wings fluttering. “I can send one into that man’s heart.”
Maiae stilled, every muscle in her face frozen. “You can do what?”
Dior nodded. “I can, Maiae. And I can do it right now if it pleases you.”
“Now. It pleases me now.” She clutched a hand to her chest. Could it really be that simple to make him hers? Dior nodded, waving a hand. She peered down her window, seeing through the snowflakes she sent down. As Kay and Gerda were walking in the square, a brisk breeze sent a piece of the magic mirror into Kay’s heart and eye. He doubled over.
Gerda clutched him in desperation. “Kay!”
He straightened, rubbing his chest and eye. “I’m fine, Gerda. Something just flew into my eye. It’s gone now.”
“But it’s not!” Dior laughed in glee. “It’s within him, Maiae, and soon he will be all yours.”
Maiae slowly smiled. Soon, so soon. She sent a blizzard down through the world in her excitement. Kay pulled out of Gerda’s arms, spreading the hem of his blue coat out, catching the snow as it fell.
“Look at this, Gerda. Every flake appears like a magnificent flower or a beautiful star; it was splendid to look at! Look, how clever! That's much more interesting than real flowers! They are as exact as possible; there is not a fault in them if they did not melt!" Gerda rubbed her arms, shivering, but Kay couldn’t feel the cold. He couldn’t. After all, his heart was now a frozen lump thanks to the piece of the magic mirror. Maiae felt a strange sensation in her stomach. She pressed a hand to the area, feeling as if she had swallowed a rather brisk flurry. It was the first time someone had complimented her snow.
“Should we go inside, Kay?”
He shook Gerda off impatiently. “You go inside if it’s cold. I want to enjoy the snow. What’s wrong with you? Don’t cry like that.” For she had run off, sobbing at the malice in his voice. He forgot about her the instant she rounded the corner. He grabbed his sled and ran to the marketplace where he and the rest of his friends would tie their sleds to the carriages as they passed by. They got pulled along and enjoyed a good ride.
“Dior, ready the carriage!” Maiae stormed through the castle, the beginnings of a plan stringing itself together. Dior snapped the reins, and Maiae and the horses soared down the mountain in the cold winds. They landed in the town and passed through the square. As she’d expected, Kay was the first to spot her carriage, and she peeked at him from under her white fur cap as he attached his sled to the back. Dior, as instructed, drove around the square twice, and she turned around, nodding at Kay. He couldn’t see her face properly through the curtain of snow falling around them, but he grinned up at her. Every time he looked as if he were done and would untie his sled, she smiled at him, and so he stayed on. Dior turned the horses toward the outskirts of the town and soon they were passed the gates. She could hear his thoughts as clearly as before. He was quite frightened and he tried to repeat the Lord's Prayer, but he could only remember the multiplication table. “Dior, stop the carriage.” Maiae couldn’t handle the silence anymore. She stood, turning to where Kay still crouched on his sled.
“We have traveled fast," she said, "but it is cold. Come under this bearskin." Kay gaped at her, before standing and allowing her to wrap him up in the bearskin. Maiae couldn’t believe her luck. At long last, Kay was finally hers. “Are you still cold?" she asked, squeezing his hands.
He was colder than ice. Her cold penetrated his very heart, which was already almost a frozen lump. She could see the fear of death in him, but after a moment he was quite unafraid and didn’t comment about the cold.
"My sled! Do not forget my sled!" She nearly swooned at the sound of his voice but refused to think about it. Leaning forward, she kissed his forehead, and he blinked, all thoughts fleeing his mind. Kay looked at her. She was very beautiful. He could not think of a more clever, or a more lovely woman. In his eyes she was perfect, he did not fear her at all.
“Dior, take us home.” Kay sat silently as she instructed the sprite to fly them home and they flew up, up, up, into the huge gray clouds. She laughed at his expression when they passed through the clouds, and all around them the storm moaned and whistled as though it were singing some old tune. On they flew over woods and lakes, over seas, and many lands; and beneath them, the chilling storm rushed fast. The ice wolves howled, the snow crackled. Above them appeared the moon, quite large and bright.
Kay spent three long wonderful years with Maiae, and every day a little more of his heart became ice and a little more of her heart became less. She loved him, she knew it, for he loved her snow, he loved her ice, and he loved her wholly. They were happy. They were complete.
But not all stories have a happy ending. Dior was jealous of his Queen’s love for the mortal boy, and he aided Gerda, who had never stopped searching for Kay. She appeared in the castle, and with Dior’s help, she slipped by all the sprites and all the faeries. She stole Kay away from Maiae’s embrace and confined the Snow Queen into a cell. Clutching the bars, Maiae watched, anguished, as Gerda kissed Kay, crying into his eyes. Maiae watched from the corner as the glass shards in his eyes and heart melted. And as Maiae watched Kay embrace Gerda, she felt a small crack from the middle of her frozen heart. She pressed a hand to her chest, gasping slightly. What she had long feared had come to pass. The ground trembled. The mountains quivered. The animals hid in their burrows. Kay and Gerda hurried away under Dior’s grateful eye. As she watched Kay leave her side, as she fell to her knees, a roar of defiance and pain ripping out of her, a single diamond trickled down her cheek. The Snow Queen knew with absolute clarity that the frozen lump inside her had finally thawed