by Aimee Picchi
1. The Sigil of the Frost Queen
A star, fearless and sharp. A sliver of ice, delicate and cold. A furl of frost, intricate and expanding. The sigil of Queen Stellica mirrors her ambition: eternal, fierce, and ever-growing.
Her dominion, the empire of Illustria, requires a bountiful replenishment of resources. To that end, Queen Stellica has appointed our firm, Blower LLC, as the financial overseer of her empire. You, the members of the ____ Exchequer, no doubt have mounting questions regarding the Frost Queen’s intentions; among them may be whether her highness will annex your country.
To provide you with some measure of understanding, we at Blower LLC have prepared this prospectus after conducting numerous interviews, visits to Queen Stellica’s Crystal Palace, and extensive archival research. Along with insight into her ambition, you will also discover your incentive to participate in this offering.
All information gleaned from within this document is considered confidential. Any violators will be subject to the Illustrian Code of Law, section 4. To whit, violators will each be interned in the queen’s Crystal Garden. Work entails running between the many life-like ice sculptures, brushing snow from their shoulders and heads so they are uncovered before the Queen’s eyes. [Nota bene: Should you encounter ice-sculptures who resemble people you may have once known, it is best to keep your qualms to yourself.]
2. The Mad Biographers
You in the ___ Exchequer will have undoubtedly read her official biography, “Stellica, Born of the Stars.” Within its pages, you learned she was delivered to the barren Queen of Illustria, who had wished upon the heavens for a daughter with eyes as clear as ice. Her doting father, the King, plucked a name from the celestial night-sky. Overjoyed faeries danced about her cradle in silken slippers, bestowing magics and talents upon her downy head.
Let it be known the scribes in the frozen Illustria Court are mad toadies wielding pens of ice dipped in mercury, scratching their version of “truth” on brittle vellum.
We at Blower LLC believe you must be informed of Queen Stellica’s unadorned beginnings. Without that knowledge, you may not grasp the importance of this request for your support.
And so, the truth.
3. An Unanswerable Question
Far from the stars, the empire of Illustria was conceived in a glassine-flower factory.
Imagine the queen as an orphaned girl of 17 years old. She is pale and thin, simply one of the many rag-covered survivors of the fire-fungus epidemic. She toils from morning to night inside the cramped factory, where particles float through the air in a dry mockery of snow.
An elderly and infirm worker, Mr. Tor, tutors the youths before the factory’s morning whistle. Before the epidemic, he served as a professor at the science academy. He is able to answer any question the young workers pose about the natural world.
Stellica is just weeks away from her 18th birthday, when she plans to take her factory savings and strike off on her own. But as she nears her birthday, she finds there is something more on her mind than gaining her freedom.
She has an object of her affection: a young man.
A factory worker like herself, he spends his spare hours sketching on scraps of glassine. He is working on his passion: designing a machine to capture the image of a snowflake. So far, in the late hours between the factory’s evening and morning bells, he has created five machines to magnify the crystals’ dizzying symmetrical purity. None, though, have yet captured an image on film before the subject has melted.
Stellica studies him, his focus, his olive skin and long eyelashes. She doesn’t care about snowflakes.
When she asks Mr. Tor how to capture someone’s love, she finds there is a question for which her tutor has no answer.
4. Vanished Time
Like snow covering footprints, time has concealed Stellica’s travels after she leaves the factory. While we at Blower LLC requested information from the queen, she replied that her official biography tells her story, which we know for a fact to be false.
This much we do know: on her 18th birthday, she walks out of the establishment’s iron gates, vowing to return after finding her fortune.
Stellica buys passage on a freighter skirting the Southern Ice Floes, a destination sought only by those few madmen and dreamers rash enough to risk privation and frostbite in search of a rumored source of power: a djinn, some say, while others claim a reclusive warlock. Whether the legend exists, what form the power takes, are all questions our diligent archivists have failed to answer.
What we at Blower LLC can confirm is simply this: Stellica boards the freighter, and her trail goes cold – until she returns to the glassine-flower factory on the first anniversary of her departure.
5. Stellica’s Garden
Stellica re-enters the factory, no longer a drab urchin; her ice-white hair is pulled into a confection of curls and ringlets. Her skin shines with the bluish-pale hue of milk squirted from a cow’s teat on a January morning. She enters the building with a laugh as cold and perfect as a sunlit icicle.
Mr. Tor gasps as the glassine scraps land on her skin and freeze. All behold her in awe and wonder. Except for one.
If she shudders when the young man fails to glance at her, Blower LLC has no knowledge. If she grabs him by the chin, forcing him to gaze into her glacial-blue eyes, there is no account. If her newfound power surges from her fingertips, killing what she loves, we have no certainty.
What Blower LLC can report is that at the very center of Queen Stellica’s palace is a garden filled with glassine-paper flowers, whose white blossoms crackle like moths’ wings snapping in an ice storm.
At the center of the bower is a statue, perfect in every detail.
A boy, carved in ice, looking through the eyepiece of a machine, a single snowflake pinned beneath its frozen lens.
6. The Heart of Snow
At the center of a snowflake resides a grain of dust, pollen or water. From that irritation grows its perfect symmetry.
What is at the center of the Frost Queen’s quest for dominion? Is it the boy with the machine? Is it the search for the creature who granted her an icy power, a force she now wishes to be rid of? Or is it merely a desire to bring peace to her subjects? Is it love, regret or duty?
We at Blower LLC are willing to concede that we may never know what lies in the Frost Queen’s heart.
Regardless of what drives her, Queen Stellica has higher ambitions, far beyond the annexation of your country.
Her new goal, she has informed us, is to find a doorway into other worlds.
To that end, she requires additional resources. She must hire scientists, build devices to freeze time and energy, to slit the fabric between Illustria and her sister-worlds.
And so, we arrive at your incentives for agreeing to the Frost Queen’s request for support.
Through the financial generosity of the ___ Exchequer, we believe that the queen will succeed. And with her achievement, we hold onto the hope that Illustria’s never-changing empire of ice may begin to thaw as she turns her attention to new worlds.
And if you do not support her research, you ask? We can attest to the fact that, among her glassine-paper garden, there remains abundant space for additional frozen statues.
Through the unending grace of her highness, the Frost Queen of Illustria, we remain your servants,
The partners at Blower LLC.
Aimee Picchi is a writer and journalist. Her fiction has been published in The Colored Lens and is forthcoming in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. She also slush reads for Clarkesworld, usually from a comfortable armchair in her Vermont home. Her nonfiction has been published in publications including the Boston Globe, Bloomberg Markets, and CBS MoneyWatch.
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Almost everywhere — sometimes it’s in response to a book or story, or a remark from a friend, or sometimes I’ll explore certain subsection of the genre, such as historical fantasy or weird Westerns. I enjoy playing with form; this story came about after reading scads of corporate filings for my work as a journalist, and thinking about how a hint of a human story sometimes manages to emerge. At the same time, I was reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to my 9 year old, and I wondered how the White Witch financed her ambitions. Often, several elements come together when I’m putting together a story.