A long time ago, in the lands far to the North, there lived two children: Ethen and Latharna. The children lived in a small village in the valley with their father and their stepmother. One winter’s day their stepmother told them there was nothing for them to eat and directed them to go into the woods to the village on the other side of the mountain to ask them if they could spare some food. Ethen and Latharna set off into the woods for the other village for they were very hungry.
The woods were covered in snow and the bushes all bare of fruit. Latharna looked for mushrooms in the woods, while Ethen looked for bugs they could eat. However, by midday they had almost arrived at the village and had found nothing they could eat. That’s when Ethen noticed something glimmering in the snow by the road. Ethen picked up the glimmering thing to discover that it was a silver cup. The two children marvelled at the beauty of the cup, but decided to keep going on to the village as they were so close.
As they approached the village they noticed that something was wrong. There was no one in sight.
“Where have all the people gone?” cried Latharna.
“Maybe they’re hiding?” said Ethen.
The two children searched the village but could not find anyone. They were just about to give up and go home when Latharna thought she heard voices. She motioned for her brother to keep silent and the two children carefully moved in the direction of the voices. They were coming from a field they previously checked and had been empty. Peeking from behind a fence they were astonished to see that someone was trying to plough the field; in the middle of winter! They looked even closer and were even more astonished to find the plough was being pushed and pulled by two little people with wings!
The children listened as the two little people argued over who should push the plough and who should pull it. At this point Ethen stepped out and asked them what they were doing. The two little people flew behind the plough and hid from the children. Latharna pleaded with them not to leave, and Ethen promised not to tell anyone that they had seen them. The two little people came out from behind the plough and introduced themselves as Ice fairies. Their names were Varran and Sheyna.
“Where are all the people from this village?” asked Ethen.
“We don’t know, we live in the ice kingdom high in the mountains, we come down here to trade our magic with the villagers each year, but this year we came and they were all gone.”
Latharna suggested the villagers must be gone because of the invaders from across the sea that have been ravaging the lands. This village was not far from the sea after all. The fairies explained that without food from the villagers the fairy kingdom will starve, so they were trying to plough the fields to grow food for themselves. However, the ice fairies did not know how to make food grow. The children explained to the fairies that they must wait until the snow melted in spring before they could plough and sow the seeds. Varran and Sheyna were very unhappy about this.
“Why not wait until spring? Come when the snow melts and plough the fields,” suggested the children.
“We are ice fairies, we live in a city made of ice and we can only travel where there is ice to keep us magical and cool. Solar fairies can live off sunbeams alone, but us ice fairies need the cold so we can’t come down here in the thaw to plough and sow the fields.”
The fairies asked if the children had any food, but they explained that there was no food where they lived either. This was when Ethen remembered that sometimes some of the townsfolk went into the woods alone and stashed food away in secret crannies. Maybe the villagers from here had hidden some food away? So the four hungry travellers rushed back to the woods and went looking for hidden crannies of food.
While searching the woods from above Sheyna spotted a dark figure walking through the woods. Fearing it might be a wolf she quickly warned the others. The children and the fairies found a hollow tree and climbed inside. They peeped out looking for the dark figure Sheyna had seen. The figure was indeed cloaked in furs from a wolf, but it was not a wolf. The figure was dragging a sack with it and it stopped at a tree not far away from where the children were hiding. The figure tore off the cloak to reveal the children’s stepmother. Stunned into silence the children watched as she tapped a tree trunk with a wand and said three magic words. The tree opened up to reveal a secret larder. Then the stepmother emptied a sack full of food into the secret larder, tapped it once more with her wand, and watched it close up again. Pulling the wolfskin cloak back on again she disappeared back towards the village from which the children lived.
Ethen and Latharna cried and hugged each other with the news that their stepmother was not only a witch, but was also keeping food from them and leaving them to starve. When the children had finished their wailing they went up to the tree containing the secret larder but could find no way inside. While the children were looking all over the tree Ethen dropped the silver cup he had found on the way there. Varran saw the cup and called out to Sheyna.
“Dear boy, where did you find that cup?” asked Sheyna.
“I found it by the road in this wood,” explained Ethen.
“That cup is a magical fairy cauldron. It is one of the seven magical treasures of our ice kingdom. It went missing when the Djinn attacked our town some time ago: ever since we have lived in fear of the great thaw. If you return it to us we will be very thankful to you.”
The children wanted to know what the great thaw was and so the fairies explained that they once lived far in the distant North where the land was made of snow. A group of them had travelled down here and built a town high in the mountains where it stayed cold all year around. Sheyna’s brother was in fact the monarch of this small isolated fairy kingdom. However, once in fifty years the weather grew so warm that all the ice on the mountain would melt away, the fairies called this “the great thaw” and in days past when they had the seven magical treasures, they could protect their fairy town from melting until the weather was cold again. It had been over fifty years since the last great thaw and now the fairies lived in fear of it coming soon and melting their town away and them with it.
Latharna begged Ethen to return the silver cup to the fairies, but Ethen refused stating that he was starving and he could trade the silver up in for food when they got back home. The fairies considered this and offered to open up the secret tree larder in exchange for the cauldron. The children agreed and the fairies tapped the tree with a stick and said the three magic words “Nef-Vex-Dol”. The tree opened up to reveal plenty of food for everyone to eat. The children and fairies sat down and had a snow picnic on the delicious bread, cheese, sauerkraut, and jams their stepmother had tried to deny them. When the children were full, and they had filled their pockets with cheese to sneak back home with them, Varran asked Ethen for the little silver cauldron.
Ethen refused, saying that the fairies had the rest of the larder and did not need the silver cup anymore. Latharna chastised her brother for breaking his word. The shamed Ethen said that in the spring time he would come back and plough the fields in the abandoned village for the fairies, but that he should keep this treasure so if he and Latharna were ever hungry again they could buy food. The fairies pleaded with Ethen to keep his word, but the boy grew stubborn and refused. He took his sister by the wrist and started walking her back with him to their home.
It was not long before a blizzard struck and the two children were getting buried by the snow. They tried to huddle together under a rock but the cold was strong and wormed its way underneath their clothing. The children shivered and wailed for surely they would soon die from the cold?
Varran and Sheyna were making their way back up the mountain to report on the sad news, when Sheyna stopped and said she was worried about the children. “Children are not like use ice fairies, the cold does not make them stronger, it freezes them solid. We should go and see if they are ok.”
Varran did not want to go back for the children, he was angry about the magic treasure cauldron, “if they freeze then that is their own fault.”
Sheyna shook her head and explained, “They are children, they often make mistakes because they do not know any better, besides, this cold might freeze their skins, but it might warm their hearts in other ways.”
Varran saw the wisdom in Sheyna’s words and the two fairies flew back down into the woods to find the children. When they found them they were almost frozen solid. The fairies appeared because them and before they could speak Ethen stretched out a white bony arm and returned the magical treasure cauldron to the fairies. Fearing that he was about to die, Ethen wanted to make amends with the fairies and gave them the silver cup so as to clear his conscience. The fairies took the cauldron and disappeared.
Alone the two children wailed their last wails before resigning themselves to their fate. Just as they were starting to fall asleep from the cold Sheyna returned with two beans. She shoved one in each of the children’s mouths and urged them to eat the beans. The children did and suddenly thick woolly hair grew out from their skin all over their bodies. Even their faces were covered in thick fur. Although at first horrified at how beastly they looked the children realised they were feeling much warmer at once. The fur was keeping them safe from the cold. Safe at last the children drifted off to sleep again, but this time to a warm comfortable sleep.
The blizzard raged until morning and when it had finally passed the children woke up to find the fur coat they had grown the night before had disappeared. The fairies were nearby and explained that Varran had used the magic of the cauldron to enchant some magical beans for the children. They gave the children a few magical more beans that had made, for which the two children thanked them. Ethen apologised for breaking his word and promised that he would still come to plough the fields in the springtime. Sheyna gave Latharna a pebble amulet and instructed her to come to the snow at the bottom of this mountain and while holding the pebble say a magic word and Varran and Sheyna would appear before them.
The four little people all said good bye to each other and went their separate ways home.