Authors: Cameron Dokey
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Fairy Tales & Folklore, #General, #Family, #Love & Romance
I dashed to the window, undid the fastening, and pushed it open. Frigid air flowed in to wrap me in its cold embrace.
A bright moon floated in the sky overhead. By its light, I could see that Kai’s window was wide open. The street below me sparkled with hoarfrost. In the rime, I could see a single set of footprints leaving Kai’s building and heading down the street.
I don’t remember putting on my stockings and shoes. Don’t remember throwing my winter cloak around my shoulders. What I remember clearly is standing in the street, gazing down that straight line of footsteps. It led to the corner, then turned, vanishing from sight.
My heart thundered in my chest.
Gone. Gone. Gone.
It did no good for my mind to assert that Kai was safe in bed, for it to reason with me that the footprints could belong to anyone. My heart knew the truth.
Kai was gone. He had followed the Winter Child.
NCE UPON A
IS TIMELESS WITH THESE RETOLD TALES
The Storyteller’s Daughter
The Rose Bride
Sunlight and Shadow
The Crimson Thread
The Night Dance
The Diamond Secret
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
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First Simon Pulse paperback edition September 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Cameron Dokey
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The text of this book was set in Adobe Jenson.
Manufactured in the United States of America
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Library of Congress Control Number 2009924828
ISBN 978-1-4169-8532-7 (eBook)
Annette Pollert, editor extraordinaire, with many thanks
A Few Words Concerning Stories
The world is full of countless stories, all being told at the same time.
Some are so quiet you have to strain your ears to hear them. Stories like the one the grocer tells to the first autumn apples as they jostle for position on his shelves. He murmurs as he polishes them with his flannel sleeve, promising to make them shine so brightly that every single apple will take a journey in a market basket to be made into a pie before the sun goes down.
Only a little louder is the tale that the sea captain’s young daughter tells her rag doll in the dark of night. She huddles in her bed, listening to the wind moan.
she whispers into one rag-doll ear.
“Soon Papa will return, safe and whole.”
That is what the wind is saying, she promises the doll.
Papa will come home again. He will not leave us.
Outside, the wind continues
its endless sob and moan. But as long as her lips have the power to tell the tale, the sea captain’s daughter’s eyes stay dry.
Then there are the tales that shout; stories that can shake the rooftops with their wonder: the tales that sweethearts tell. Most wonderful of these are the ones when both the tales and the love prove true.
And then there are the everyday tales, the tales that make the world go around. Stories children tell themselves so they believe they’re growing up faster than is possible; tales parents tell each other as they cling together, watching their youngsters strike out on their own; tales the old folks tell to help them remember what it felt like to be young; stories the voices of the living chant over the graves of the dead, mourning those whose storytelling days are done.
Pick any time of the day or night and somewhere, everywhere, stories are being told. They overlap and flow across one another, then pull away again just as waves do upon a shore. It is this knack that stories have of rubbing up against one another that makes the world an interesting place, a place of greater possibility than it would be if we told our tales alone.
This is impossible, of course. Make no mistake, everyone’s story touches someone else’s. And every brush of one life tale upon another, be it ever so gentle, creates something new: a pathway that wasn’t there before. The possibility to create a new tale.
In this story—which, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, is not one but several all flowing together, parting ways only to bump into one another again—in this story, something very remarkable takes place:
All paths begin and end at the door of the Winter Child.
Story the First
In Which the Winter Child Receives Her Name, and All the Tales That Make Up This Story Are Thereby Set in Motion
Many years ago, when the world was much younger than it is today, a king and queen dwelt together in a castle made of ice and snow. No doubt this may seem uncomfortable to you, but as this royal couple ruled over a kingdom where there was so much ice and snow that not a single day went by without some sight of both, the king and queen had become accustomed to their situation. It suited them just fine. They found nothing unusual about their circumstance, in fact.
But I am straying from my path already, and I’ve no more than packed my bag and started out the door.
The king and queen had been married for several years when the stories you are about to read were preparing to begin. The royal couple had loved each other truly when first they had wed, but, as the years
went by, the queen began to fear the march of time. She began to ask herself a series of impossible questions, questions with no answers:
If her looks should start to fade, as inevitably they must, would the king still care for her? Or did he love her for her appearance alone?
In all fairness, it must be acknowledged that the queen was very lovely. Her face was a perfect oval. Her lips were the color of the bright red berries that flourished even in the depths of winter, and her skin was as white as snow. Her eyes gleamed like two jet buttons, and her hair was a waterfall of black as dark as a night without stars.
In equal fairness, it must be acknowledged that, by giving in to her fear, the queen performed a great disservice, both to herself and to her husband. The king had not fallen in love with her simply because of the loveliness of her face, but also for the strength and beauty of her heart.