The Snow Dancer

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Lhwuethnê woke in an empty sleeping nest. That was not right. Her mate had left early to tend the far orchards, but her daughter should have still been fast asleep, curled against her side for warmth. She sat up and looked around.

"Shellela?" she called but there was no answer and no sign of the child. Lhwuethnê climbed out of the sleeping nest and dropped lightly to the floor. She called again, but was answered only by the soft creaking of the house as the tree swayed in the wind.

She searched the house with concern mounting to real worry. There was no telling what sort of trouble a child could get in to while the adults slept. Especially a child like Shellela. Just before she reached the level of panic, she caught a flicker of movement outside.

Lhwuethnê grabbed her coat and pulled it on over her night shirt as she hurried out the door. The cold morning air bit at her face and hands.

There, out on the thick, main branch that supported the house, was a tiny figure in a too-large night shirt spinning in slow pirouettes, with her face and hands up turned to the falling snow. The snow flakes melted into rivulets on her pale skin and glittered in her white hair.

"Shellela!" Lhwuethnê cried in maternal relief and exasperation. The child did not respond. Her small, bare feet continued tracing their erratic spirals through the layer of snow that gathered on the deck, seemingly unaware of how close they tread to the edge and the long drop to the perilous ground below.

Lhwuethnê moved cautiously closer to Shellela, trying not to startle her into falling. "Shellela, what are you doing out here?"

Shellela stopped spinning and opened her eyes. "I'm dancing with the pixies."

Lhwuethnê scooped her daughter up and chided "It's too cold to be out here dressed like that. The ice demons will drink your soul! Look at your poor little feet. They're turning blue."

Shellela looked solemnly down at her feet for a moment and then said "The pixies are my friends. They called me out to dance with them." She held out her hand to catch a flake.

"Pixies are harmless." Lhwuethnê allowed as she carried Shellela back into the house. "But there are demons about this time of year. Not to mention çiranen. And if you can't watch where you're putting your feet, we are going to have to put you back on the tether."

"I wasn't going to fall."

Back inside, Lhwuethnê stripped Shellela of her wet night shirt and wrapped her in a blanket. Then she bathed the child's hands and feet in warm water until the color of life returned to them.

Shellela sat in thoughtful silence until her mother finished ministering to her drained feet and then looked up and said "Why will the demons drink my soul?"

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