Prince Toril clenched his jaw and tucked his head.
“You are wrong, My Lord,” Lady Linnea said, joining the prince at the doorway. Her voice was elegant and frosty. “Prince Toril has plenty of power; he has merely exercised restraint out of his love for you.”
“You, you have been whispering into his ear, snake,” King Torgen said, glaring at Lady Linnea. “I will remember your face!”
“You have gone too far, King Torgen,” Stil said, removing his hood.
Folk gasped and murmured amongst each other, standing on their tip toes to peer past the soldiers and get a glimpse of Stil’s oddly-colored eyes.
“And what claim do you have to know this,” King Torgen glared.
“As a craftmage rank Grandmaster, I claim the heritage of the Snow Queen, as all magic users can,” Stil said. “I have seen your land, and I have walked its borders. While the Snow Queen’s magic guards your country, the people have languished under your rule. You kill without restraint and persecute any who displease you or stand against you. But no more.”
“And what can you do to stop me?” King Torgen roared with mad laughter. “You cannot kill me, or you will be hunted like a dog by your fellow mages!” he said in delight.
“I will not have to dirty my hands with your blood,” Stil said, his musical voice ringing across the courtyard. “The Snow Queen will do it for me.”
King Torgen stopped laughing. “What?”
“Did you really think she wouldn’t consider that the next threat to Verglas might not come from outside its borders, but from the blood of her own family?” Stil said, a harsh half smile crossing his lips.
“What do you mean?” King Torgen demanded.
“You should have learned from your Snow Queen, King Torgen. You should have known better than to touch the beloved of a mage,” Stil said.
“You can do nothing,” King Torgen said. All traces of amusement and laughter were gone, and he glowered like the hellhound or Hunter had, with evil and bitterness.
“We shall see,” Stil said, his cloak billowing in the raging wind of the snowstorm. He raised a hand into the air and shouted over the wind.
“I, mage Rumpelstiltskin—Grandmaster craftmage—speak a vow to protect Gemma Kielland, civilian of Ostfold, whose very life is in danger through the actions of King Torgen,” Stil shouted. “Gemma Kielland is the love of my life and the light in my soul. And I will put forth every bit of my magic to shield and protect her, whether the cost be my life or limbs, until my heart beats its last!” Stil shouted.
As he spoke, a mountain—Fresler’s Helm—started to rumble. In the palace, the windows of the throne room started to frost over, and the second, beautiful throne started to glow.
“My vow begins now, as she has been abused, threatened, and blackmailed, in her own homeland—the place that should be a safe haven!” Stil said, his voice like a trumpet in the rage of the storm.
The snow shifted from soft and fluffy to stinging bits of ice as the wind howled and swirled.
“I will have you killed!” King Torgen yelled.
Stil shook his head, his blue eyes hypnotic. “No, you won’t,” he said.
The ground of the courtyard frosted over, and ice formed on King Torgen’s boots.
“Wha-what?” King Torgen said, tottering several steps to shake the ice off. “What villainy are you doing? Black magic is not tolerated in Verglas! This will be your end! You will die for attacking a monarch!”
“I am doing nothing, Oh King,” Stil said, his expression hard.
King Torgen looked down and shouted in fright when he realized his boots were iced over. He tried to move, but he was frozen to the ground. He twisted, his feverish eyes searching. “Toril, help me, son! Save me!”
“You have wrought your future. It is time you faced the consequences, Father,” Toril said, his voice pained. “I am sorry, if I had stopped you sooner…”
“YOU WRETCH!” King Torgen shouted as the ice crawled up his legs. “You ungrateful fiend! I should have cast you out—no, I should have culled you when I knew what a sop you were! Help me, I order it!”
Some folk shielded their eyes; others clamped their hands over their ears as the protective ice magic left behind by the Snow Queen spread on King Torgen, freezing him and clamping him into place.
“You cannot do this. I AM KING!” King Torgen shouted.
“Not anymore,” Stil said.
“NO!” King Torgen shouted, before the ice encased his face, and he was frozen solid, a statue of ice.
Gemma stared at the ice husk of King Torgen. Sheer stubbornness kept her from collapsing on her knees, as many civilians, nobles, and even guards, did.
Instead, Gemma looked to Stil, her icy eyes wide.
“It had to be done, Gemma,” Stil said, moving to slide his arms around her.
“Did it?” Gemma asked.