Snow has fallen on our land. The first snow of winter. The children rejoice, for finally they have the world outside as their playground. Though I delight in their play, my heart is heavy for I know that soon I must make my pilgrimage to Father Winter in the Highlands.
Father Winter controls the weather in the dying part of the year. He brings the cold and snow that follows on the North Wind. He brings joy to the children in the form of gifts, and the rosy glow on their cheeks from the winter chill. He is a benevolent magician. It is my cherished hope that he might have the magic needed to defeat Koronin, or, failing that, medicinal herbs to cure the Pestilence. I must away to his hidden lair which lies at the limits of our Kingdom, in a mountain valley high above the Great Lake and Caer Pathogen.
I prepare a single-horse carriage lined with furs and stocked with preserved food. I will take my white horse Mercury, a Lipizzaner, for I cannot risk detection by Koronin’s secret police. My robes, too, shall be white as the snow, and I will weave between the trees beyond the lake shore until I find the trail which leads to Father Winter’s lair.
Every year, he builds his winter residence from tightly-packed bricks of snow. Every year, the location of it changes slightly: there is no use seeking him where he had been the year before. The only way to find him, upon arriving in the Valley of Mists and Snow, is to follow the footprints of his arctic fox, which leave a silver imprint, distinguishing them from those of other animals.
I leave the children in the care of their father, the King. I leave them my crystal screen, that it might provide them entertainment during my absence. And as I take my leave, I say a prayer that my absence from them shall not be long. For the way ahead is perilous. I have not made the journey since the birth of the Heirs to the Throne, long before Koronin’s reign of terror had begun. But times are such that I must take the risk.
Where I go, there will be no crystal screen. All I learn, I shall communicate to you on my return. And if I should not return, I would like you to know that it has given me great pleasure to receive messages from you in your distant land, and learn about your world through the magic of this very crystal screen.
Yours in hope,
Your Queen from another time.