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Friday, January 28, 2011

Ice Worlds: Winter's Passage

this glimpse of an ice world brought to you by Winter's Passage, by Julie Kagawa:

I held my breath and fought down panic as we dropped deeper and deeper into the frigid waters.
Then, suddenly, we resurfaced, bursting out with the same noisy splash, sending water flying.  Gasping, I rubbed my eyes and looked around, confused and disoriented.  I didn't recall the hoses swimming back up.  Where were we, anyway?
My gaze focused, my breath caught and I forgot about everything else.
A massive underground city loomed before me, lit up with millions of tiny lights, gleaming yellow, blue and green like a blanket of stars.  From where we floated in the black waters of the lake, I could see large stone buildings, streets winding upward in a spiral pattern and ice covering everything.  The cavern above soared into darkness, farther than I could see, and the twinkling lights made the entire city glow with hazy etherealness.
At the top of a hill, casting its shadow over everything, an enormous, ice-covered palace stood proudly against the black.  I shivered, and the knight behind me spoke for the first time.
"Welcome to Tir Na Nog."
I glanced at Ash and finally caught his gaze.  For a moment, the Unseelie prince looked torn, balanced between emotion and duty, his eyes begging forgiveness.  But a half second later he turned away, and his face shut into that blank mask once more.
We rode through the snow-laced streets toward the palace, and the denizens of the Unseelie Court watched us pass with glowing, inhuman eyes.  We stopped at the palace doors, where a pair of monstrous ogres glared menacingly, drool dripping from their tusks, but let us through without a word.
Even within the palace, the rooms and hallways were coated with frost and translucent, crystal ice in various colors; it was possibly colder inside than it was outside.  More Unseelie roamed the corridors: goblins, hags, redcaps, all watching me with hungry, evil grins.  But since I was flanked by a group of stone-faced knights and one lethally calm Winter prince, none dared do more than leer at me.
The knights escorted us to a pair of soaring double doors carved with the images of frozen trees.  If you looked closely, you could almost see faces peering at you through the branches, but if you blinked or looked away, they would be gone.  A chill wafted out from between the cracks, colder than I thought possible, even in this palace of ice.  It brushed across my skin and tiny needles of cold stabbed into me.  I shivered and stepped back.
"This is the throne room," [Ash] murmured in a low voice.  "Queen Mab is on the other side.  Are you ready?"
I wasn't, really, but nodded anyway.  "Let's do this," I whispered, and Ash pushed open the door.  A blast of that same cold, stinging air hit my face as we went through, nearly taking my breath away.  The room beyond was painfully cold; ice columns held up the ceiling, and the floor was slick and frozen.  In the center of the room, surrounded by pale, aloof Winter gentry and pet goblins, the Queen of the Unseelie Court waited for us.

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