Hope and the Silver Bell

Read the chapter below from the short story
“The Kingdom of Winter”,
featured in the book
A House in a Field of Reeds.

Get the book and learn more about the hope one tiny silver bell can bring. 

Will YOU be hanging a silver bell outside your door this season? 

Footsteps in the snow were the only indication that the ground had not become one with the sky. Not that the King could see his footsteps. The snow had stopped falling, but as the King continued to walk the sky had grown light. Somewhere high above the clouds the sun had risen, but he could not see that from where he was. He could only see white, in front of him, behind him, beneath and above. He would have thought he was floating had he not felt so heavy, and had the occasional dark tree trunk not emerged from the pure sheet of white before him.

The King was cold, and shivered as he walked. The energy spent chasing the Emperor’s men into the forest had once again made his shirt damp, and since he had begun walking he would have believed his shirt had turned to frost. It did not, but he was cold nonetheless. He rubbed his arms as he continued on, occasionally stumbling across a fallen branch he could not see. He had no direction, but knew he was traveling away from his home.

He walked all day. His mind was numb. He did not eat, he did not sleep. Such trivial matters did not occur to him. He was unthinking. He stumbled on, cold and lost. He wasn’t afraid. For the time, he was nothing.

The short day of winter had begun to fade and the darkness of night drew near once more. With it, the snow returned, followed by a wind that whistled through the pine. The gloom of the day and the blackness of night had begun to seep into his mind, and he was feeling weary if not a little concerned. The whiteout had turned to a blackout, but he forged on aimlessly. His efforts would only prove more difficult.

As the night wore on, the intensity of the storm grew until it had reached a fever pitch. The King struggled with each step, barely putting one foot in front of the other before a long pause and then repeating himself. He was making little, if any, progress. The wind and snow whipped around him in a sinister dance, and he shielded his face the best he could with the bend of his arm. He was soaking wet, his clothes ravaged by the snow. A faint whisper carried on the wind, but the King could not yet hear it.

Ding, ding. Ding, ding.

The King did the best he could to continue forward, but the fury of the storm held him. He stumbled, before finally falling to his face into the soft snow below. He lifted his head in an attempt to rise from the ground, but his energy was gone. He was spent, his mind unable to give his body any direction. His head fell back into the snow, and the storm howled in victory. The faint whisper called out once more.

Ding, ding. Ding, ding.

The King was unmoved, his body unresponsive. The whisper grew to something more, but what? The wind continued to sing and dance and laugh and play with the snow. The storm carried on, enveloping the entire landscape. The King was defenseless against this foe. So, too, the trees and the ground. The flowers were hidden long ago; they were asleep before the storm. Winter had come and spread itself across the land, its icy grip filling every nook and hollow. The King stirred, frightfully cold. The whisper grew to something more.

Ding, ding. Ding, ding.

The King lifted his head and squinted his eyes. The wind carried the snow like waves across sand. Between the ebb the King could see a tiny glimmer. He could not believe what he saw, could not believe something so beautiful could exist within the heart of the storm. But still, it was there.

Ding, ding. Ding, ding.

He saw it and he heard it. But he still wasn’t sure what it was. He watched as the snow swirled and he caught the tiny glimmer once more. He hefted himself to his knees, and for a moment paused to muster his energy. The wind attempted to keep him down, but the King rose to his feet in defiance. He slowly made his way toward the sound of the tiny glimmer.

The black of night seemed to falter and the white of snow filled the King’s vision and made his world grey. From within the grey a warm mass emerged, and grew from the ground and reached for the sky. It was a building, built from dark wood and was imperfect but sturdy. The King could not see any windows, but as the building became clearer in his eyes he could see a chimney that rose from the roof. A faint string of smoke escaped from within. As he neared, the King could see a covered walkway before a solid door with a black iron ring attached for a handle. The walkway appeared to be clear of heavy snow.

Ding, ding. Ding, ding.

He staggered closer, each step a chore. One foot in front of the other he forged on, until he stood tall in the storm before the covered walkway. He stepped to the wooden planks, mostly clear of snow and hefted himself up. The wind kicked and groaned in protest.

Ding, ding. Ding, ding.

The King looked to his right. There, attached to the outside of the covered walkway a single, tiny silver bell swayed in the wind. It chimed as the wind whistled around it. The sound was like happiness every time the King heard it, but he couldn’t understand why. He smiled briefly before the cold wind made him shutter once more. He reached for the black iron ring attached to the door and pulled with all of his might. The heavy door resisted and then gave way, and swung toward him on silent and smooth hinges. The King stepped inside the darkness and out of the storm.

1 thought on “Hope and the Silver Bell”

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