|Posted by toby_newton on May 9, 2013 at 4:55 PM|
The luscious green of the fields and forests had long since been replaced by the pale and weary image of a land stricken by Winter's frosty breath: the soil hardened by her icy chill; the trees lonely and lifeless, bereft of leaves, berries and bird song. Both were longing for the protection a blanket of snow would surely bring, but it was too cold to snow. Instead they remained exposed, lamenting the loss of the sun, as if awaiting the end of days in mournful resignation that Spring would not return to save them this time. For without the snow there was nowhere to hide from Winter's freezing winds. Winds that forced even the brave to recoil.
Mounted astride her prowling white wolf, Winter surveyed the field of battle, the taste of victory almost upon her blue lips. She was visible only to the animals and they quaked as she passed but humans too felt her presence and were wary of her wrath. Like Medusa, she could freeze men with her gaze. Huddled safely around their fires in their cosy huts, and merry with ale, the Norse people called her 'Skadi' and sang about her past. Out in the open though, the trees were not concerned with her story. For she was still ruthless after all these years, and often set upon them at night while they were sleeping, their stubborn resistance broken in the darkness after too long spent on a futile front line without rations, without hope. The streams that had been their supply lines had long since stopped in mid flow. Even the lakes and rivers were beginning to succumb to Skadi's diabolical will. The fish below could only wait in the dark, the roof of their world encrusted with ice and even the air above was now threatened with frozen stasis. Not even the mighty oak trees could properly shield the hibernating creatures hidden below their boughs. Their branches looked solemnly at each other, as if questioning who might be the first to fall to the ground in surrender and open the way for Skadi to finally claim control of the earth over which they presided.
Along came the robin. A tiny minstrel sent to stir the troops, to remind them what they were holding out for. Hopping erratically from one gnarled root to another as she sang in the face of danger, spreading joy with her splash of bright red breast in a world without colour. Her tiny frame demanded protection, and being serenaded by her cheerful voice, none of the trees could remain sullen for long. After the timely arrival of Spring's first inspirational messenger, suddenly it was less difficult to notice the other signs of life in this barren realm. The snowdrop and the crocus were as oblivious to Skadi's blight as the robin. Exhilarated, the stronger trees renewed their oaths to stand firm until their children could spring up and eventually stand alone to take their place as guardians of the vale. From frozen souls to warmed hearts, there would always be love in this place.
Then it happened. The sun emerged more strongly than it had for a hundred mornings, spreading light across the land and turning the grey into sparkling white. A solitary Norseman stumbled out into the brightness, shielding his bleary eyes and marvelling at the wonderful scene that greeted him. He swallowed; his mouth was dry and his head was pounding from the hedonism of the night before. He pulled his fur coat tightly around his neck and strode out towards the stables, then suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. But it wasn't Skadi who had frozen him, it was something far more powerful.
Toby Newton - December 2012 (and published in July's Sync City magazine).