She swept into the chamber more snowflake on the breeze than Empress of all. The swanlike feathers of her ballgown alighted in a mound of purest white, as she paused in exquisite repose. Standing at the top of the staircase, a sovereign amongst her vagabond horde, even the orchestra lingered on a note to admire her. The occasion demanded such excellence, and she delivered. The Empress of all who remained in our frozen world surveyed the ballroom's dance floor with eyes of chill beauty. She took in each and every reveller with a single elegant sweep of her head. Seeing through the masks, the flamboyance, the fakery, she appraised us, her human cattle market. When her ice-blue eyes met my own, my breath caught and chest constricted. Those eyes of hers held me in their stare immobile, her pawn. A blink of approval and the weight of the world was lifted. I'd spent so long abhorring life, the iced death of a slow constriction that I'd forgotten what it was to simply breathe. She granted me

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