I admired the blood-red roses growing on the arbor; fascinated by such beauty amid the snow and ice. I’d arrived in Niflheim three days prior and still waited for an audience with my cousin. A maid escorted me to the conservatory for a short time of exercise each day. It was the only contact I had with anyone.
There were books and a sewing basket in my chambers, but neither of those things interested me. I longed for a run through the fields or a chance to climb high in the branches of a nimel tree. It thrilled me to gather those juicy plums where others feared to reach. Not that I could do any of that in the ridiculous dresses I wore.
Atta must have discovered the trousers I’d hidden at the bottom of my trunk. Because the maid hadn’t found them when she’d helped me unpack.
“It’s time,” the maid said.
I slumped and inhaled once more of the sweet roses before facing her. I had to crane my neck to see the female giant’s face. “Can’t we stay a few minutes more?”
And that was that. The giantess gestured for me to leave first. Her features expressed a severe distaste for her duties—or me—at all times. Though I didn’t have the audacity to ask whether it was just her normal appearance. She wasn’t as tall as the two males that met us when we’d arrived, but close. They stood as high as two grown men, one sitting atop the other’s shoulders. Like them, she wore a belted sleeveless tunic with a fur-trimmed collar over trousers and leather boots. Corded with muscle, her bare arms never appeared cold. Long red hair hung limply down her back, and her face was plain. If she didn’t have such a large bosom, I wouldn’t have been sure she was female.
I tried to strike up a conversation several times on the first day, but she’d answered me with only one or two-word answers. All I’d learned was that the maid’s name was unpronounceable in elvish.
As I followed the large female through the frozen hallways, I adjusted my woolen cloak tighter around my shoulders.
“We should create a name I can use for you,” I said. “It’s not right otherwise. How can I call for you?”
I huffed. How could there not be a need to use someone’s name? “If you won’t help, then I’ll come up with something on my own.” The giantess didn’t respond. In Alfheim, Boreallin was the highest mountain and had a continual snow cap. I guessed it would be the only place in the realm the giantess would favor. “I’ll call you Borea. You’d like it if you knew why. Would you like me to tell you?”
We reached the door to my chamber, and when I turned to say goodbye to Borea, the door closed before I could say anything.
“Hello, Kattorah,” a female voice called from behind me.
I spun, startled by the intrusion. Before me, stood my cousin. Odd, I thought as I relaxed. Why hadn’t she called me to her chamber rather than coming to mine?
“I’ve been eager to meet you, Pirreah,” I said. It seemed so abnormal—related yet strangers.
“This is a big event. I wanted to give you time to rest. Traveling without a personal escort must have been difficult. Have you settled in?”
“I suppose. A herdsman drove the cart, so I wasn’t alone. And, it meant no one stopped me from walking next to the paccai when I wanted. I prefer to be outside. The touch of grass and the smell of trees already seems so distant a sensation. But, I suppose the snow has beauty as well.” As hard as I could, I tried to find something polite to say about the new realm she’d be living in for the rest of her life—poor thing.
A weak smile graced Pirreah’s lips, and a sad expression shadowed her face. I couldn’t blame her. She was about to marry a giant and live the rest of her life away from home. There was little wonder why her sapphire eyes held no joy.
As we tried to tiptoe our way around the awkwardness, I noticed how similar we were in appearance. We each had the same long wavy russet-brown hair, a sun-kissed complexion (though hers was growing pale), and a thin frame for our tall height. I’d always thought my straighter shape less womanly than those with more curves, but on Pirreah it looked regal.
My eyes being peridot was the only disparity I found. Except, how we carried ourselves—that was a glaring difference. Pirreah seemed nervous and withdrawn. Like a mouse coaxed out for cheese, but fears any minute the cat will slink around the corner. I’d been farouche and up for a challenge since birth; my mother had been fond of telling me.
“Are the preparations for the wedding going well?” I asked to break the silence.
“Oh yes, I think you’ll be pleased to see the hall. It’s adorned to simulate Alfheim as much as possible,” Pirreah said. She must have noticed the white-knuckled grip I had on my cloak because she turned to the empty fireplace. “It is cold in here. I’ll start a fire for you at once.”
“That’s unnecessary; I’m getting accustomed to it, a little. You needn’t trouble yourself with that.”
Pirreah stared at me for a long few seconds, to the point it became uncomfortable. It appeared she wanted to say something, more important than the simple topics we’d clung to. Then she nodded once and hurried to the door. “I have to be going.”
“Will I see you again before the wedding? At the moon feast, perhaps?” The last night before elves mated, they invited everyone to a celebration under the new moon. There was music, dancing, and feasting. It was a time for casting away inhibitions before the seriousness of bonding took place.
She stopped at the doorway and hesitated with her hand on the high handle. Then speaking over her shoulder, she said, “The moon cycle is different here. There won’t be a moon feast. Goodbye, Kattorah.”
It sounded so final.