Louise felt the tears well up in her eyes as the summoning spell exploded in front of her. It was unacceptable, she needed for this to be a success. If it wasn't then she would be declared a failure and cast out. Behind her she could already hear the steady swelling of laughter among her classmates. She felt her anger at them course through her burning away her tears and crushing any lingering despair she was feeling. She went to turn around and inform her classmates that they just needed to wait for the smoke to clear and then they would see her beautiful, powerful, and wise familiar standing before them, but she stopped short as the sky suddenly grew dark.

Looking up she saw a dark cloud covering what had been only moments before a bright spring day. As gawked at the sight the temperature around her plummeted until it was as cold as a harsh winter night. Her surprise turned to wonder as snow began falling from the clouds and started lightly covering the ground. Behind her she could hear the gasp as the other students noticed the sudden change in the weather, as well as a faint hum from over her shoulder where Professor Colbert stood. As she looked out at the freshly white landscape she noticed that a thick mist was covering the area where the explosion from her summoning had occurred.

Louise took a step closer and the mist cleared and standing in it was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen with hair as white as the snow that fell around her. As the woman looked down and met Louise's stare she felt her breath catch. The woman's eyes weren't human, instead her pupils were slitted like the eyes of a cat. Louise found herself transfixed by the gaze, freezing up as if hoping the one who held it would grow bored with her and move on if she just kept still.

The faint hope was broken when the woman finally spoke, her voice reminding Louise of an arctic breeze, "I am Mab. Why have I been summoned?"

Louise froze. With the woman's eyes still locked on her own, something in the statement had terrified her. It felt as though the name held meaning beyond any comprehension she could hope to possess. Before Louise could answer she felt a comforting hand on her shoulder, looking up she saw Professor Colbert standing over her. The professor addressed the woman, his voice tense, "Are you an elf?"

The woman answered with a voice that had gone from an arctic breeze to a gust in a blizzard, "No."

Louise felt the hand on her shoulder relax, she wanted to call out to her teacher. Tell him that the woman in front of them must be something far worse than an elf even if the thought of such a thing seemed impossible, but she once again found herself frozen in the woman's gaze.

Colbert stepped forward putting himself between Louise and the woman. "You were summoned as part of the Springtime Familiar Ritual, a sacred event where young mages are paired with their partners for life."

The woman's face remained impassive as she listened to this but when she spoke her voice was no longer sound but pain. "You summoned Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, to be the familiar of some child. Have you even prepared proper sacrifice, impossible as it may be that you could even achieve a payment worthy of my servitude. I could bury this world in ice over this insult and not even my sister would deign to assist thee in escaping the consequences of my wrath."

Louise fell to her knees as the woman spoke. She felt as if the information was being directly etched into her mind with a blade. She felt something damp slide down the sides of her head and brushed her fingers under her ears only to see blood rapidly freezing on her fingers. In the sky the dark clouds swirled, forming a blizzard but leaving herself, Colbert, and the woman standing in the eye of the storm.

As the woman stepped forward Colbert stood up in front of Louise, using his staff to pull himself to his feet and stepping forward to meet her. Lines of fire erupted around him moving in serpentine paths. Louise could hear the water that had once been snow popping as it boiled from the heat of the spell. The lines of flame formed into a single massive snake before lunging at the woman and engulfing her in a massive pillar of flame. It was a display of fire magic far beyond any Louise had ever bore witness to.

As the pillar burned she was vaguely aware of Colbert screaming something at her and the students surrounding them, but she could not bring herself to listen. She glanced behind her and saw indistinct shapes moving in the blizzard, retreating to the buildings. Part of her wanted to join them, but to her core she knew it to be pointless. If she ran, the thing she had summoned would hunt her down and slowly strip the flesh from her bones.

Louise turned back to Colbert just in time to see a spear of ice slam into his hand sending his staff flying. Colbert went to reach into his cloak but ice quickly covered his body pinning him in place, leaving only his head uncovered.

The flames dissipated and Louise saw the woman standing completely unharmed. She noticed that the ground around the monster was still covered in a light snow as if the pillar of flame that had been there moments before had never existed.

The woman looked at the teacher, her expression one of contempt before speaking up. "For the crime of attacking the Queen of Winter you will suffer as no mortal has suffered on this world since time immemorial until I or one bearing my authority deigns to release you."

The ice encasing Colbert began to twist and grow. Louise watched in silent horror as he was lifted off the ground by the ice, his arms being pulled out wide to his sides and his legs tight together leaving him crucified against the ice

The sound of Colbert's scream dwarfed even the raging winds. The woman walked forward, in front of her more ice sprang into being creating a small staircase leading up to the professor. The woman ascended the staircase leaning into the man's ear and whispering something. Colbert turned to Louise an expression of terror on his face but as he opened his mouth to say something the ice expanded from behind his head and enveloped his mouth and ears, forcing his head to face straight and sealing his mouth shut. As the woman descended the staircase she ran her finger across Colbert's wounded hand before bringing it to her lips and licking off the blood.

Louise wanted to curl up into a ball and cry as the woman approached but her entire body was frozen in fear. The woman stopped as she stood over Louise and spoke, her voice once again sound, "What should I do with you, little magus? To summon the Queen of Winter for something such as this is an insult greater than you could possibly know. A curse across your bloodline seems too lenient. Maybe I should personally go visit your family instead."

Louise glanced over at Colbert's crucified form, the pain visible in his eyes. She could see Cattleya taking his place in her mind's eye. Finally, she forced herself to speak, "No, it was my mistake, leave my family out of this."

"What do you have to offer me that could convince me to waylay my vengeance?"

Louise froze. There was nothing she could offer, she was just a failed student. Her family's connections were meaningless, and she doubted all the money in the world would matter to this woman. Desperate, she said the only thing that came to mind, "I will serve you forever. I will be your familiar."

"You wish to reverse the initial bargain? Now that is interesting, I do see some potential in you. It may be a shame to snuff it out over revenge." The woman paused for a moment. "I will accept this bargain, your eternal service as my familiar in exchange for your family not coming to harm by either my hand or command. Are these terms agreeable?"

Louise paused a moment before nodding.

The woman bent down before grabbing Louise by the cloak and lifting her into the air until they were at eye level. Surprised Louise asked, "What are you doing?"

The woman responded, "It is common practice to seal the bond of a familiar with a kiss." Then she pulled Louise in and kissed her deeply.

As they touched Louise's whole world went white with pain. Waves of agony spread throughout her whole body before concentrating at a single point on the right side of her neck. The pain seemed to go on for eternity until she was roughly dropped back into the snow.

Louise layed there a moment before reaching a hand up and touching her neck right where the pain had been concentrated, quickly she pulled her hand away with a gasp as her hand erupted into pain.

"Stand up, familiar. We must return to Arctis Tor, and if you delay me you will suffer the consequences." Louise rose to her feet looking forward and seeing the woman standing in front of a portal. The woman stepped through and Louise hurriedly approached it. Wishing she could see her home through the blizzard one last time she stepped through.

Osmond trudged through the blizzard. It had been two weeks since it had suddenly formed, and he still had no idea what had truly occurred on that afternoon. The students had given him reports that Louise de la Valliere had summoned something that had created the storm, but Louise had disappeared since the event with no sign as to where she may have gone and Colbert… Osmond shuddered.

As terrible as all of that was his more immediate concern was the blizzard, he was slowly making his way through. I showed no signs of moving or dissipating despite it being so late into spring, and it had completely cut off the school's contact with the rest of Tristain. Some of the professors had suggested sending someone out to seek help from the royal family but he had denied them. There was no way the knights were unaware of the giant out of season blizzard that had formed over the countryside and if none had come in to make sure the school housing the scions of many of the most important families on the continent it meant they were unable to penetrate the blizzard. The school had enough food to last another week or two with proper rationing and he did not want to risk the lives of those under his command on the vain hope that they would fare better than the knights.

Osmond continued forward through the blizzard finally reaching his destination, the eye of the storm. It was the clearing where the students summoned their familiars, and despite the blizzard raging all around the wind here was calm and steady with just a light dusting of snow falling from the sky. In the center of the clearing stood a massive ice sculpture of a tree. It was intricately detailed down to the smallest branch and leaf. He would have called it a masterpiece if it wasn't for the fact that Colbert was stuck to the trunk of it, crucified by frozen barbs through his legs and arms.

Osmond went up to the tree and looked at the man in the eyes. Somehow despite the impossibility of it the man was still alive and awake. As if the ice was preserving him in order to maximize his suffering. Osmond and the other teachers had done everything in their power to try and free him from his prison but so far they had been unable to do so much as snap the smallest twig on the tree.

Every day Osmond came to visit, to apologize to Colbert for what had happened under his watch. And every day nothing changed. Part of Osmond hoped if he was dead or trapped in a perpetual nightmare, that the only one really trapped in this hell was himself.

He closed his eyes and spoke allowed a prayer, "Oh Founder, free him from his suffering."

A woman's voice called out in response, "There isn't anything your Founder could do about this. This was a punishment from the Queen of Winter and not even the White God would deny her right to this, at least not directly."

Osmond jumped almost a foot at the surprise and turned around hurriedly. In front of him stood a woman in her mid-twenties dressed in clothing of a style he did not recognize but was of obvious quality. She was beautiful, almost impossibly so, with pale skin, delicate features, and long flowing pink hair. She brought to mind a flower in a storm, standing tall and defiant and surviving against all odds. The only mar on her skin was a black snowflake that appeared to be branded on her neck.

Osmond called out, "Who are you? How did you get here?" A moment later he felt a surge of hope. "Are you a knight? We need to arrange for an evacuation of the students."

The girl shook her head, "I am no Knight."

Osmond gave her a moment to continue speaking but she did not. "Then who are you? You don't look like one of the staff and I know you are not a professor here, so you had to have gotten to the school somehow." Her pink hair caught his eye again, it was the same shade as Louise based on his recollection. He felt a pit of worry form in his stomach. "Are you one of Louise de la Valliere's sisters?"

"No, I am not a sister of Louise. As for how I got here I took a path far more dangerous than you could know."

Osmond started to get angry, why wouldn't this girl tell him who she was. Osmond felt his hand move towards his wand. "Who are you?"

The girl sighed, "Thrice you ask so I shall answer. I am Louise de la Valliere."

Osmond snarled, "That is impossible, Louise only disappeared two weeks ago. If you are just here to torment me with my failures, then tell a better lie."

The girl raised an eyebrow and said something under her breath. A moment later a small blue light floated in front of her, the girl whispered something to the light which then vanished for a moment before reappearing next to her ear.

As the light disappeared again the girl spoke, "My Queen seems to have meddled in the flow of time for this world while I was away. Regardless of the time you spent here, it has been more than a decade for me."

"And why should I believe that?"

The girl smiled, "I suppose there is no reason you should. Still, it matters not, who I was is irrelevant. It is who I am now that matters to you."

"And why would that matter to me?"

In response the girl walked forward to the tree of ice and reached up and with a single motion snapped a twig from the tree. She then turned back to Osmond with the twig resting on her open hand, "Because I wish to make a deal with you."