She collapsed onto the cold railing, her hands clinging as they always did onto the safety of the strong marble. Fantasizing about her escape was easy but actually claiming it was far harder than she’d ever imagined it would be. Like all the promises life offered her it was a lie. She curled into a ball at foot of the balcony.
She stayed that way for sometime cold and crying, the tears forming delicate crystals as the wind plastered them against her cheek. Maybe if she sat there long enough the night’s chill would take her soul away with it. That’s what she’d always done—wasn’t it? Sit quietly by as people and fate did whatever they liked with her. Her life line had always been her belief that she could escape it all in death.
She looked up towards the night sky. The light blue clouds swirled across the full moon. She had done a lot reading lately about forbidden creatures to answer Saber’s riddle. She had come across the story of a woman. A sorceress who had been so powerful, the King at the time could not control her so he had her fed to wolves. But the wolves would not eat her; instead they became her.
Lady Zoya pulled herself determinedly to her feet. For once in her life her choice would be to live. She held her hands up in praise towards the moon.
“She glides through moonlight, rushes over silent snow, dances with wolves and answers to those in woe. Lady Anastasiya I beg your presence.” Lady Zoya gasped breathlessly. The wind instantly transformed from its mindless ambling into a determined and directed force. It charged with fearsome strength, trailing tufts of snow in its wake as it blew past Zoya through the open window. Zoya stumbled back. A cold hand rested against her back steadying her. Zoya spun around with a horrified yelp. Standing before her was a tall woman. She wore nothing, but her long glistening hair wafted around her body in a way that no robe in creation could. Three large white wolves sat at her feet.
Zoya found herself embarrassed by the woman’s presence.
“I…I need your help.” She said.
The woman tilted her head curiously; her eyes were not human but that of a wolf.
“It is impossible to escape him.” Anastasiya said, not waiting for the rest of the question. “You may run but he will find you, marry someone else, and he will poison your union. Die. Drown. He is inevitable, immortal, indestructible. He will chase you in this world and the next.”
Lady Zoya struggled not to cry.
“How do you know this?” She asked hoping the sorceress was wrong.
Anastasiya cast her and angry look. The wolf at her feet snarled.
“I made him that way.” She answered simply.
Zoya looked aghast.
“He came to me the same as you did. I gave to him two things. None can slay him now.”
Lady Zoya hung her head in defeated despair.
“Here.” The sorceress held out her hand. She held between her fingers a small vile, inside a silver pill was trapped. “Take this and it will turn you to stone. It is your only escape.”
Zoya reached for the vile but the sorceress withdrew it quickly.
“First. Answer me this.”
Not another riddle. Zoya prayed.
“What loves none, yet slew for love.”
Zoya looked at her shocked, was this a joke? But something in the sorceress’ strange eyes told her it wasn’t. Saber had…
“The answer” Zoya began. “…Is he who asks it!” Zoya exclaimed ecstatically as understanding quickly dawned on her. “He loves no one and nothing, but he kills for the love of it.” It all made sense now. The riddle was a warning and in his arrogance Saber assumed none could uncover it.
“You have helped me, and this will help you.” Anastasiya said, handing her the vile. Zoya accepted the bottle. As her warm fingers touched Anastasiya’s, the sorceress began to gently disintegrate into crystal snowflakes. The wolves crumbled into a pile of snow upon Zoya’s floor. Then suddenly, the same strange wind erupted once more out of nothing and caught up the floating crystals and snow, blended them into a brilliant swirl and blew them back out into the night.