Viviane du Lac stood on the ramparts of Castle Terribel, and watched the snow fall. It was lovely, seeing it cover the Plains of Dread like a glittering, white blanket. As she clenched her hands together in her fur muff to keep them warm, she hoped that she would always find this so lovely. She’d seen snows before in the Marsh, but they were ugly things that clumped up in ugly mounds and grew a darkish, brownish color very quickly. Snow on the Plains was not merely different--it seemed a completely separate phenomenon. Viviane smiled and took a deep breath, enjoying the cold, fresh air.
At which point that fresh air took on a smell that was--less fresh. Viviane turned to regard her husband, Mansemat Cthonique, seated on one of his gryphons. “Riding in this weather, Manny?”
Mansemat scratched his gryphon’s feathered head. “It’s good for them. They like the brisk air.” He leaned forward. “Don’t you schweetie? Don’t you wike fwying in dis weader?” The gryphon gave a purr of contentment. “That’s wight, Bwoodwing. You wike it! Oooogie-ooogie-ooo!”
Despite herself, Viviane smiled at him. “You really love those things, don’t you?”
“They’re affectionate creatures, Viv,” said Mansemat, as Bloodwing licked his fingers. “Very social animals in the wild.” He looked at his wife hopefully. “So--care to--join me in a flight?”
“Mmmm, maybe later,” said Viviane. She leaned against the wall. “I’m--just--thinking right now.”
“Ahh.” Mansemat nodded. “Well, later then. Perhaps. If you don’t mind.” He smiled gently and then turned, flying off. And that was when Viviane heard a piercing scream.
Glancing down into the courtyard, she saw Elaine, ducking behind a tree, as Jean and Malina threw snowballs from the cover of wall of snow they’d put up. “GUYS!” Elaine howled. “This isn’t funny!”
“Of course not!” stated Jean. “It’s war! It’s deadly serious!”
“Surrenendur at once, Sis!” declared Malina.
“Never!” shouted Elaine, kneeling to gather up snow herself and forming a rather indifferent snowball, which she then launched at Jean.
Jean snickered as the snowball disintegrated before ever reaching her. “Ha! Is that your best? I scoff it! Scoff it! You have no hope against our superior forces!” And then a large mass of snow smashed into her, knocking her off her feet. Rising with a sputter, Jean looked in the direction the icy missile had come from to see Morgaine, another large mass of snow hovering in the air before her.
“I am the god of snow warfare,” declared Morgaine, “Do not beg for mercy, for I have NONE!”
There was a popping noise, and then Malina appeared behind Morgaine and launched a snowball at her aunt. Morgaine yelped, while the snow hovering in front of her smashed into the ground. “Magic in snowball fights is for cheaterpants!” shouted Malina joyously.
“Ohh, you little…” began Morgaine, only to take another snowball in the face, followed by another in the chest.
“Our little niece is right, sister,” declared Nisrioch, preparing another snowball. “There’s only one way to do a snowball fight proper--magic-free!”
“But ganging up one person is all right?” said Justinian as he packed another snowball.
“Tell me, Squire Sigma,” Nisrioch inquired pleasantly, “who terrifies you more?”
Justinian launched another snowball at Morgaine. “I’m here with you, aren’t I?”
Viviane chuckled to herself, as she watched the scene below. It’d been a year. One year since she’d met Mansemat Cthonique. One year since her life took a turn she’d not seen it going in for such a long time. One year, in a life that had taken so many strange, strange turns…