The Ice Prince
A time ago, in a place far away, there lived a young girl who wanted to be a story teller and a traveller.
From the youngest and earliest of ages, she would pack herself bundles with a crust of bread and a few berries, wrap herself in a sheet and declare that she would walk the earth to see new things and learn new things that would be stories she would tell and become a famous story teller.
When she was very small, people laughed at her and played along in a fashion, but as she got older, her mother and father got fed up with her and told her in no uncertain terms that there would be definitely no travelling, and no story telling.
There would be much work and learning and study so she would make a fine wife to a fine man in the small village one day, have lots of children and be the pride and joy of her parents and her cousins, uncles, aunts and elders.
At first, the girl kicked and spat and shouted and screeched; but as time went by, she became obedient on the outside and did what she was told.
But on the inside, she thought of nothing else but of walking the earth and telling stories, although she never, ever shared this now with anyone at all.
She waited for a chance to get away, and one day, a chance presented itself.
One day - it was a warm day at the end of summer - a very impressively dressed messenger came into the little village. He stood in the middle by the fountain and in the loudest voice you've ever heard, he made a proclamation.
The king's only son and prince of the realm had fallen foul of a great sourceress and was badly bewitched; the king and queen were distraught; all manner of healing and un-witching had been attempted and it had all failed, and finally, a wise man had said that only a special young woman, perhaps a princess, could break the spell and bring the prince back to life and his senses.
So the call was put out to all young girls and women in the whole country and beyond, in the whole world, to come to the capital city where the prince was said to suffer, and the king and queen weeping from dawn till dusk and then again, to see which one would break the spell.
Now our girl was much delighted, for here she saw a chance to travel to the capital city and get away from the small village. She knew that her mother and father were most obedient subjects of the king, and no matter what they thought themselves, they'd let her go if they thought it was the king's command.
So she immediately put herself forth to go to see the prince; but alas, her parents didn't take her seriously at all, and told her that she was not the one, that there was nothing special about her, that she wasn't a princess or anything, for that matter, and it would be a waste of time, and who would do all the washing for the whole family while she was gone?
So the plan came to nothing, the girl was refused and much depressed and angered by this.
But summer turned to autumn, and then to winter, and once in a while, news came that the prince was worse, and worse. Details emerged; it was said that his heart had turned to ice, and was now so cold that no-one could be near him, and that a thousand young women and girls had been and gone, and not a one had been able to turn his heart, or change his condition in the slightest.
The messenger came again to ask for more young women, he came twice, he came thrice, and as the winter was at its height and just before the festival of lights, he came yet again, and this time, our girl was one of the very few left who had not tried to cure the prince and break the spell, and this time, the father and mother had to agree to let her go, even though it seemed completely pointless to all concerned.
Can you imagine how she felt when she heard that she would be allowed to travel to the capital and see the prince?
I think that you and I cannot, for this was all her life's dream and hope and deepest heart's desire, and I think it is true that our girl did not sleep for three days straight as she awaited the coach that would convey her to the capital city, with a letter from the messenger clasped in her hand, that would give her entrance to the palace itself, so she could take her turn to see the prince, who was called by all the Ice Prince now.
It was very cold and the snow was very deep, the night still pitch black dark and the great horses blowing mighty plumes of white steam from their great nostrils as our girl, wrapped in many layers of coats and blankets right up to her nose, made her way to the coach.
She couldn't believe her luck, and felt like she was flying, even though she was struggling through the thick snow, towards the royal coach with its bright lights.
On this early winter day, she was the only passenger, and that was fine by her, and it was the most remarkable thing for her as she hung close to the window and with her eyes as wide as dinner plates, soaked up everything that she could see, at first it wasn't much but then the misty dawn came in beautiful colours, and the snow world white and liquid lay so beautifully out there, and the great coach with its great horses rumbled and sped through the snow on its way to the capital city, where the Ice Prince was awaiting the one who could turn his heart, and save his life.
After much travel through the winter lands, the girl could at last see the high walls of the king's own city in the eventing light, and she became even more excited still.
She had decided that she would change her name to Steller, because that sounded like a star and was made up from the word story teller.
She would get through the meeting with the Ice Prince as quickly as possible, and then go straight to the guild house of the Story Tellers, where she would ask to be formally apprenticed.
Once she had the contract, her father and mother could do nothing to change the new path of her life, and her dreams would finally begin to come true.
So it was with great excitement that the girl called Steller entered into the city gates, showed her letter of invitation to the guards, and was taken straight away to the very center of the city where the king's palace lay behind more walls, and still more guards.
She was led through the corridors of the palace to a large wing with rooms that at one time, must have held many, many young women and princesses as they were queing up to try and melt the Ice Prince's heart; now, there was no-one but Steller and a few servants amongst the many beds and many luxurious chairs and fountains.
Steller was shown to a bed and given time to refresh herself after her travels, and then brought into a huge dining hall, with long, long tables and rows of many, many chairs, all empty now, and only a single place setting was there.
Steller looked around herself in amazement and not a little awe as she ate a wonderful dinner, prepared for her alone and served by dozens of servants who seemed tired and dejected.
She was told she would meet the prince the next morning, after breakfast.
Even though she was so tired, Steller could hardly get to sleep in that enormous room where she was the only one; and when she did sleep, she had strange dreams indeed and tossed and turned.
But when a servant woke her the next day, she was once again, full of excitement.
Meeting the prince was alright and would help her tell stories of this one day; but it was only an obstacle in the way of her true mission, to get it over with and go to the Story Teller's guild as soon as they would let her go free.
So she got dressed in her best dress after breakfast, and servants helped her to make her hair look pretty and put powder on her nose which made her sneeze; and when she was all ready, she was taken to a very different area in the palace, a long and winding road through many corridors, by three servants carrying torches, until she came to an antechamber.
Here, there sat a wizened old man, and he told her the rules of the meeting with the prince.
She was under no circumstances to go anywhere near him or to attempt to touch him in any way; she had just 15 minutes and apart from that, could do whatever she wanted to do to break the spell.
Steller could tell that the old man had said it a thousand times, to a thousand girls and princesses, and that he had no hope at all left that there was anyone who could save the prince.
Steller too had no hope nor even much interest; in a way, she didn't even want to save the prince because the girl who saved him would be his bride as a reward and become the next queen of the kingdoms. Steller didn't want to be queen, just a story teller who travelled the world.
Still, she did get a little scared when she was made to stand before the big doors with the two wings, a servant on each one, and both looked to the old man, and he gave a nod, and they pulled the wings wide open so that Steller could go inside.
As the doors swung open, a terrific rush of burning cold and burning heat at the same time fell on Steller, and she couldn't breathe for a moment and staggered backwards.
This brought her very much into the here and now instead of thinking about her future as a story teller, and she paid attention now, and stepped inside the room.
It was extraordinary.
The room was circular with 12 huge roaring fire places, each one as big as two men and twice as wide, all the way around the outside.
By each fireplace stood two pale servants who constantly shovelled more coals and wood onto these gigantic fires, but even so, and even though they roared and sparked and made the greatest orange flames, the cold in the room was excruciating.
In the center of the room, on a raised platform, on a simple square block of stone, there sat the Ice Prince.
He was incredibly beautiful, and incredibly sad, and from him there came the greatest, fiercest, bluest, iciest cold as though he was a fire made of ice that was doing battle with the fires made from fire, and this ice was winning.
Steller could hardly breathe. The cold that radiated out from the Ice Prince was so dreadful, it didn't feel cold at all, just painful and at the back there were the fierce fires that couldn't warm the room at all.
Even from this distance, just looking at the Ice Prince nearly turned her eyes to ice, and the young girl was awed, and amazed, and scared, as she began to understand just what a powerful spell this was that had been placed upon the young prince.
She took one step towards him, then another, but the pain from the ice got so much worse that she had to cry out and try and hold her hands before her face, but her hands immediately started to freeze as well and Steller was about to turn and run away, when on his plinth, the prince slowly lifted his head and looked at her.
And it was here that Steller saw something she had never seen before; felt something that she had never felt before; and it was his suffering that was so great, it was greater than her fear; it was greater than her pain; and it was even greater than all her desires, all her hopes and dreams, and all she had ever wanted for herself or known inside herself.
And so it was that Steller could not help herself and took one step towards the prince; and then another, for she knew that if only she could touch his heart, she could heal his heart and free him from this terrible condition.
The fierceness of the cold got worse and the pain got to be greater, but Steller took another step, and yet another, and now, her hands were freezing, and her eyes, her face burning up with the power of the cold, and still she took another step, and another, reaching out her hand to touch the princes' heart.
And her hand froze solid, and then her arm, her shoulders, but still she kept walking forward, up onto the platform even though most of her was now made entirely of ice and there was little life and warmth left in her, even in her very core.
Still she forced herself forward, and in the last moment, just before all of her had been burned up in the ice, she reached the prince and touched his heart.
As in the room with the roaring fires the girl Stellar's form turned to blue white ice, then shattered and fell apart in a diamond rain, on another level and in another way, her spirit stepped through what seemed to be a great barrier made from flowing glass and into a sunlit summer forest.
Here, all was so green and moist; golden flecks of sunlight danced on perfect ferns and the rarest of deep forest flowers, and ahead, Stellar could see a clearing with very finest, youngest, brightest, greenest grass.
She stopped and looked around, looked back, but there was no barrier, no way back into that awful room of fire and ice where her body had been destroyed just moments ago. She looked at her hands and arms, but they were fine and white as they had been, perhaps a little more translucent, a little more radiant; and she touched her face and her hair, her shoulders, looked down at her feet, and she was quite complete in every way, even though she had just died.
She thought that she might be more shocked, or afraid now that she was a ghost, a wandering spirit; but the forest was too beautiful, to resonant with life, full of wondrous scents of trees and earth itself and deep in her heart she knew that all was well, and that there was a reason for her to be here.
Just as she thought this, from behind her there came a noise, a crashing that came closer and closer, and through the bushes and ferns there burst the most beautiful young golden stag in full flight, glowing it was, rushing with such power and purpose, and it ran right by her and out into the clearing.
And not more than a deep breath after that, there was another rushing, earth shaking, and from the green there burst a great horse with shining golden tack and storming hooves, a great white horse it was and on its back, it carried the prince himself.
So intent was he on his persuit of the stag that he never even noticed Stellar standing there, nor did he notice that she ran after him, ran at first and then she started to fly instead, for she was now a spirit and no longer needed to place one foot before the other to cover any distance.
She flew and followed the stag and the prince on his great white horse, and there they all came upon a small house, built at the very edge of the clearing, and a witch was standing before it with long red hair and wearing a green dress that had all the colours of the forest woven right within the fabric of itself.
And Stellar shuddered greatly for here was the witch that had enchanted the prince, and she knew she had travelled through time and space as a spirit and now she could see for herself what had happened, and perhaps there may be a chance to make it different this time, to make it new, and save the suffering that would ensue.
So she moved in closer and this is what she saw and heard.
The prince stopped his great white horse before the witch and shouted down to her, "Which way the stag? Which way the stag?"
The witch stepped closer to the stomping hooves and raised her hands in a plea. She called out, "You are the prince! You are the one! At last you've come, I've been enchanted for so long, but I was promised that a prince would come, and that a single kiss upon my cheek would set me free! And here you are, and here you are!"
The prince reigned in his horse with a heavy hand so it stood still; his beautiful young face was black with rage, and filled with evil and he said so sharp and clear that it did cut across the forest and the clearing, stilled everything into a stunning silence, and he said, "I'd rather turn my heart into the coldest ice that ever was before I'd ever touch a one like you! Begone, you witch, and die for all I care. I hunt the stag."
And with these words having been spoken, he spat upon the ground, turned his great white horse and spurred it on, away from the meadow, away from the witch, and back into the forest the way he came.
Stellar was speechless; motionless; frozen by the prince's voice and then she saw what happened next - the witch in green sank to her knees, and she did cry a single tear, and she lay down, and thin white roots as thin as spider strands grew from the Earth, from the soft forest floor and from the grass, and they enveloped her, and more and more, until she was entirely enshrouded white.
And then the clouds came, and they covered all the sky; and it grew cold, so bitter cold as winter came and stole the spring, and stole the summer, and the burning autumn, and winter came it was all there was, and ice and snow touched everything, turned everything to white, and nothing lived, and no birds sang, and all the forest lay in silence.
Stellar stood in the frozen land, a spirit that was cold and lonely, and so very sad.
For a long time she stood and did not know what to do, but eventually the thought came to her that she should try and find the young witch who was buried under the deep snow, somewhere here where everything looked white, and everything looked just the same, and there was no mound or sweep that indicated where the witch had fallen.
She sank to her knees in the deep snow and touched it with her hands that felt the cold and yet they did not feel the cold as once she had; for Stellar was a spirit now, no longer made of flesh and blood and bone, and when she did remember this, she found that her hands could move through the snow without disturbing it, and that her eyes could see through the snow to what there lay below it; and when she knew that this was so, she could see, and she could see where the young witch lay beneath the snow, exactly still as she had fallen on that cruel day when the ice prince cursed himself, and with him, all the land as well.
So Stellar went to the witch, and reached through the snow and ice to the young woman who lay below, and with gentlest care, she touched her cheeks, and stroked her hair, and she did cry then, for the young witch was very beautiful indeed and should not be lying here, so still and cold beneath the snow.
Now spirit tears are very magical indeed; and when Stellar cried, her tears fell straight through the snow and ice and never touched it; but they fell upon the witches chest, just where here heart was lying, turned to ice and never beating any more; and hearts and spirit tears, they have a history, they know each other well, and it was so the young witches heart awoke to life, a little spark at first, a spark that grew and grew until her heart beat strongly once again, and from there, life returned to her body, spreading out and flowing into her chest, her shoulders and her arms, her legs and feet, and when the life had spread into her head and hair, the young witch began to breathe again, and as she did, a wind sprang up, and the clouds above began to part, blue sky was seen for the first time in oh! so many years, and with it came the sun, and the snow melted away, revealing once again the forest and the trees, the bushes, rocks and boulders; and fine green grass sprang up and with it, many tiny flowers, white and blue, pink and yellow ...
The young witch opened her eyes in a beautiful meadow, forest spring, and her eyes were of the most amazing green, and it was then that Stellar knew this was no witch, nor even a woman, but this was the spirit of the forest who had come in this form to teach the prince a lesson and change not just his mind, but his heart; for the prince had been vain, and cruel, and selfish, and would have been the worst king any kingdom ever knew if he had been allowed to reign the kingdom as he was.
The spirit of the forest and the spirit of the girl who had wanted to be a story teller wove into each other like spirits do; they talked that way in dance and movement, and knew much more, and shared much more, and talked much more than you could ever talk with words; and now, they made a plan.
The forest spirit rose and took the shape and form of the young witch once more; and Stellar rose and took her hand; and so the two spirits stepped across and away, from the forest clearing back into the room where the ice prince was suffering, and had suffered for so long.
Here was the room with the roaring fires; here was the room with the platform on which the ice prince sat and suffered; here was the room where in a trail towards the platform lay the shards of Stellar's earthly body like so many perfect diamonds, sparkling the reflection of red fire and blue ice; here were Stellar and the forest spirit, clad in the likeness of a young witch, entirely untouched now by either fire, or by ice; and here, upon the platform, trapped inside the frozen body, was the spirit of the prince.
His spirit was not beautiful at all; it was gnarled and twisted, screaming this way, then that, desperate, and quite insane.
As one, the two spirit women went to him; and as one, they started to soothe and stroke the writhing spirit of the prince, they sang to it, they loved it, warmed it, gave it healing; the forest spirit's healing was a wondrous emerald green, so rich and deep and wide, filled with sparkling sunlight and with life; and Stellar's healing was a young, fresh turquoise, light and friendly, and between them, first they soothed the prince's spirit, made it calm, gave it a shape; and then the spirit grew and changed; began to look much more now like the beautiful prince that once he was and when the transformation was complete, the spirit and the prince's body became one and the same again, and he too opened his eyes, and even though they were still blue and bright like the summer's sky, there was a resonance of green there now, of wondrous turquouise, and there was no longer any ice at all.
The prince rose from his platform, all restored; the astonished servants set to quenching now the roaring fires as they were threatening to roast the room and everything that was in it; and the call went out immediately that the spell had been broken, that the prince had been freed, and that finally, life could go forward for everyone in the kingdom.
On the platform stood the prince, and only he could see the spirits of the two, the forest spirit and the girl who had saved him, and he spoke with both and asked forgiveness; but all debts had now been paid in full; all had now been resolved, and things were now exactly as they should have been.
The prince, in time, would be the best and wisest ruler any kindgom ever had; a strong man and a kind man, full of understanding of the nature of the world and of his fellow men and women too; beloved by all, in every way.
But what of Stellar, what of the girl who wanted to be a story teller and see the world?
She was a spirit and remained a spirit; and she did travel the world, not just this one, but many worlds; and she did tell stories, not just this one, but many, many stories which she would whisper in the nights in dreams to men and women, boys and girls, and they would wake up in the morning with a story in their minds, and in their hearts, that they could never wait to write on paper, or to sing or dance and share with others; and this made Stellar glad beyond all things, and this is what she did for many ages, many times until she felt it done and went along upon her path, to new adventures, new horizons, new dimensions, just as spirits do.
--- The End ---
The Ice Prince (c) StarFields 2010.
The Golden Horse & Other Stories
Original Fairy Tales by Silvia Hartmann