1 : North
To the North came the first of the cold winds and it chased and corralled the snow before it.
From the high places at the top of the world, it lifted itself and moved across the glaciers, above a river, and beneath the stars, with an icy speed and purpose. It travelled a day and a night before it came to a reef of cloud resting above a wide lake.
The first of the cold winds drove the cloud south and worked as it went, until, its strength diminishing, it came to rest and laid the cloud like a quilt half across the spine of a mountain range and half above a deep valley.
In the centre of the cloud, the first molecule of water-vapour froze and fell, six-winged and unique, to the dreaming world below. Before long, another froze and fell, and then another and another, and another. The first of the cold winds, its business complete, rested and waited for reinforcements.
At first light, the men of the North who lived in the deep valley, stood at the foot of the mountains and looked at the faint dustings of snow. They sifted the cold air with their noses, then breathed deep, and knew that half-a-year of winter had come. They had seen the days dwindling, the rivers running more quickly, the birds moving in great arcs towards the south, and knew that even the weakest and briefest light would soon dissolve to blackness altogether.
The men of the North began to prepare, driving their stock from the mountains down into the great barns in the valley and selecting those animals to be used for food, for clothing, for fuel and for tallow.
The women of the North, too, were busy with preparations, darning last winter’s hides and filling larders with vegetables and cured meat. The edges of the windows were waxed, tarpaulins staked across vegetable gardens.
That night, the Big Snows came and the men and women of the North drew closer to their fireplaces, waiting for the land to change and the ritual of engulfment.