Home > Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Girls Made of Snow and Glass
Author: Melissa Bashardoust


1

LYNET

Lynet first saw her in the courtyard.

Well, the girl was in the courtyard. Lynet was in a tree.

The juniper tree in the central courtyard was one of the few trees still in leaf at Whitespring, and so it was one of the best hiding places on the castle grounds. Nestled up in its branches, Lynet was only visible to anyone directly beneath her. This hiding place was especially helpful on afternoons like these, when she had decided to skip her lessons without telling her tutors.

The young woman who walked briskly across the courtyard did not pass directly under the tree, so she didn’t notice Lynet watching. What struck Lynet first was the girl’s clothing. Instead of a dress, the girl was wearing a long brown tunic over loose trousers, allowing her to move more freely, in a long, striding gait. She walked with purpose, dark eyes staring straight ahead.

Lynet thought she knew every face at Whitespring, but she didn’t recognize the girl at all. True, they had visitors come and go throughout the year, but usually for special occasions, and even then, Lynet could recognize most of them by sight, if not by name.

A stream of questions all fought for attention in Lynet’s head: Who was this girl? Where had she come from? What was she doing at Whitespring? Where was she heading now with such conviction? Why was she carrying a large bag in her hand? She was a mystery, and mysteries were rare at Whitespring, where so little changed from day to day. The stranger was certainly more exciting than the music lesson Lynet was avoiding.

Now at the other side of the courtyard, the girl went up the short flight of stone steps that led to the west wing of the castle. As soon as she’d disappeared through the arched doorway, Lynet dropped down out of the tree and hurried after her, her bare feet silent on the snow. She peeked down the hall and saw the girl starting to go up the stairwell on the left. Lynet waited until the girl was out of sight and then scurried directly across the hall to climb out the window. Whitespring’s uneven stones and ledges and sharp corners made the castle excellent for climbing, something she had discovered at a young age. She used the ledge above the window to pull herself up, careful not to snag her gray wool dress on the sharper parts of the sculpted ledge. She didn’t want to have to explain to her father why there was a tear in her dress, or to see the forced smile on her sewing mistress’s face as she asked why the embroidery on the hems that Lynet had done just last week was already coming undone.

Crouching silently on the ledge, Lynet traced the young woman’s movements in her mind: after going up the stairs, she would come down the hall until she reached the first turn, a little past where Lynet was perched, at which point she could continue straight ahead or turn right down another hallway. Lynet counted the seconds, knowing that she should be hearing footsteps any moment—

Yes, there they were, passing down the hallway just inside. Lynet was sure to duck her head so the girl wouldn’t see her hair peeking up past the window frame, and she listened as the footsteps continued on past the turn, straight down to the end of the hall, followed by a loud knock.

She heard a voice call, “Ah, come in!” and then the sound of the door closing again.

Lynet wasn’t sure who had spoken, but it didn’t matter who, as long as she knew where. She peeked over the ledge just in time to see the stranger going through the door at the very end of the hall to her left. Lynet climbed in through the window, hurried down the same hall, and went back out the last window so that she was now on the other side of the castle. She carefully skirted the ledge, counting the windows in her head.

When Lynet reached the window of the room where the stranger had gone, she knelt on the ledge and peeked in through the corner. The window was closed, but she had a clear view of the young woman, and that was what truly mattered. Lynet recognized the other person as Tobias, one of the nobles who had lived at Whitespring since before Lynet was born.

Tobias was saying something now, his enormous eyebrows making him look fiercer than he really was. But the young stranger didn’t seem at all intimidated by Tobias’s intense stare—she held her head high and stared right back.

In fact, the stranger didn’t seem to let anything trouble her. There were flakes of snow in the messy dark braid down her back and on the collar of her shirt, but she made no move to brush them away. The bag she was holding was bulging full, and yet even after carrying it through the castle, she showed no sign of tiring. The inky thumbprint on her jawline, the fraying edge on one sleeve … these small imperfections fascinated Lynet because the girl wore them all with such ease and confidence. Lynet had never seen a woman look so comfortable in her own skin without appearing pristine.

Who was she?

Lynet leaned in farther, and the young woman set down her bag and opened it. With her head bent, her sharp cheekbones were especially striking, her eyelashes casting long shadows across her pale brown skin.… She looked up suddenly, and Lynet jerked her head away from the window. She was sure the girl hadn’t seen her—Lynet had been barely visible in the corner—and yet in that brief moment, she’d thought their eyes had met.

When Lynet peeked again, the girl wasn’t looking up anymore, and Lynet squinted to see what she was taking out of the bag—that would be one mystery solved, at least. And then she saw in the girl’s lean hands a long metal instrument that curved at the end like the beak of some vicious bird. Lynet gasped sharply, and she could tell from the way Tobias was rapidly blinking that he hadn’t expected this either.

The young woman was watching Tobias, waiting for some response, and Lynet couldn’t stop watching her. She wondered how this girl could stand so perfectly still, hands never trembling under the weight of that monstrous instrument she was holding. She seemed almost defiant as she held it, and Lynet longed even more to know this strange girl—not just to know who she was, but to know her, and maybe to absorb some of that boldness for herself.

Tobias gave a short nod and settled down in a chair. On the table beside him was a wineskin, and he drank heavily from it before tilting his head back. The young woman took a breath and then placed the curved end of the metal instrument inside Tobias’s mouth.

Finally, Lynet understood what was about to happen, but not before it was too late to look away.

The young woman yanked the instrument back, and the nobleman screamed as his tooth was wrenched out of his mouth.

Lynet was glad he screamed, because she had let out a small yelp herself. She ran her tongue over her own teeth, reassuring herself that they were still in place.

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