Here are thick forests and mountains that rise up into snow and mist, perpetually shrouded. Roads wind and twist over rock and dale, steep and treacherous, insisting on caution. Deep valleys lie hidden in the crags, green and lush, fragrant with the scent of pine and amber. Here are deep pools near the high groves, sweet fields and streets strewn with summer blossoms all the year long. Ribbons are hung in the trees, fluttering from the branches, pale gauzy things that shudder in shades of lavender and saffron and vermilion.
Here the White Queen sits in her bower, pale and cold, with eyes like storm clouds, white hair bound into tiny braids. Her robe is the color of the dawn, shimmering and bright. She wears rings on all her fingers; glittering diamonds, rubies that glow like fire, and opals as luminous as the moon.
From her bower she can see across the Great Chasm, see clear across to the other side and the black tower that mocks her from afar.
There are trees lining the road, tall trees that shade the lanes all the day long. There are flowers in the fields: tall flocks, blue lupines, and sunflowers as tall as a man. There are quarries deep and wide and the sound of the great hammers and machinery echoing against the stone, black stone that has made the tower.
It is a precarious thing, all spires and darkness, glistening in the moonlight like black glass. In the tallest spire the Black King paces in his hall, a place of marble floors and smooth walls and candles flickering. Wood and incense burn in the braziers, scenting the air with musk and smoke.
He moves like a cat, all stealth and caution. His eyes are like the night, dark and shadowed, his hair black as pitch, and his dress of days gone by. His tunic falls to his knees in velvet folds. His leggings are of quilted fleece and his boots are trimmed in ermine. He wears rings on his fingers; silver and white gold, and a band about his head etched in archaic runes.
He can see her in his mind’s eye, imagines her white hair and pale eyes. She sees him in her dreams, a shadow, beckoning. They think of little else but each other. For they are bound and crossed, lovers and enemies, promised and betrayed.