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Winter Wonderland

Seras sighed deeply as she watched the snow fall upon the Hellsing manor grounds. The weather had been cold of late, leading to a drop in work and the boredom which accompanied the fewer missions. For the last few nights she had merely sat at one of the tall windows overlooking the large expanse of yard, wishing for something different to happen.

Unfortunately Seras’ wish had been granted, and now she regretted her errant thoughts. Integra, forced against her will, had arranged for the hedge garden at the rear of the house to be cut and trimmed in order to create a maze upon the yard. The knights had insisted upon the wonderland, particularly since the year had come for the Master Hellsing to host the families for a single night during the winter season.

Sir Hellsing had grudgingly agreed to the command, but had given her own set of obligations. She had ordered the families not to enter the manor, nor to approach any of the windows and doors of the building. As a final escape, she had refused to lead the groups of relatives through the maze, and had instead suggested they find their own way amidst the tall shrubbery.

The families and knights had agreed, though not without grumbling, upon her unbending requests and had prepared for a long night lost amidst the large grounds. They had all also promised not to near the manor, but Integra doubted the numerous children with limited chaperones could be held at bay from their curiosity.

Therefore, out of precaution concerning the visitors, Seras had been confined to the library to wait out the night. She had obeyed her orders, and had tried to make the best of her situation through browsing the books upon the shelves. Unfortunately, she had found nothing to her liking among the old literature and had instead fallen upon looking out her customary window.

Thus at the cold glass Seras sat, alone and awaiting the dawn which would bring her sleep and remove the unwanted guests from Integra’s grounds. Alucard was nowhere to be found, as he had been given free rein of the halls as long as he did not come into contact with any of the visitors. The young vampire envied her elder for his advanced abilities, and sighed loudly amidst the dry pages which surrounded where she sat.

Seras’ sigh echoed between the many rows of shelves, creating an eerie noise of desolation which stood in stark contrast to the enjoyment which had just begun outside the window. She could see the families gathered at the entrance and watched with a hint of a smile as the adults failed to control the excited children. Her enjoyment faded, however, when, at a signal, they passed through the opening to the maze and disappeared from her sight.

As Seras tried to gain one last glimpse of their glee, however, she fell forward onto the thick glass. To her utter surprise she found the entire panel to be movable, and the outside air beckoned to her as a brush of cold breeze blew through the tiny crack she had created. With a guilty look on her face as she looked about the library with suspicion, she gently pushed harder against the window and was greeted with a playful rush of snow.

Seras smiled widely as she climbed upon the sill and peeked out into the gently falling flakes, the wetness upon her hair a refreshing difference from the dry air of the library. With careful footing she stepped down into the deep drifts below the window and quietly shut the glass behind herself, carefully leaving a small crack from which to return to her seat if the need arose.

With another glance around herself, Seras let a small bit of laughter erupt from her lips as she raced for the entrance and rushed past the opening into the maze. However, she cautiously halted not far into the area, as the footsteps of the families were still fresh upon the snow ahead of where she stood. Thus she walked with restrained steps and watched the paths with an open eye, all the while enjoying the feeling of being in such a different world.

The snow gently drifted about Seras as she looked to either side to see the flakes sparkling upon the bushes. Integra had been kind enough to place torches at intervals, so there was enough light to view the snow-covered limbs and admire the surprises awaiting the visitors.

Seras gasped with delight as she suddenly came upon an opening in the maze which presented her with a stunning view. A giant ice sculptor lay before her, one which perfectly resembled the Eiffel Tower of Paris. With open and eager eyes she looked around herself and found numerous paths to follow, all with tracks showing the families had split apart. Choosing the one furthest to the left, she followed the small group onward.

Seras’ next amazement was another ice sculptor, though now the Cologne Cathedral was presented before her eyes. With a clap of her hands at the stunning detail, even down to the very minute Gothic architecture, she looked about for her next destination. Again the young vampire found several directions to go, and followed the furthest left path as a matter of pattern for her return trip out of the maze.

Seras hardly noticed as her clothes became wet with the flakes, as cold-blooded as she naturally was, which made the experience all the more fruitful. The cold bothered her little as she laughed quietly in the falling snow, her face lifting to the dark skies as she tasted the white liquid which fell from its depths. She could hardly wait for the next statue, and wondered what surprise would be awaiting for her, when the event occurred earlier than she expected.

Seras suddenly halted her jubilant steps as she was faced with a dilemma. The path before her did not open to a new sculptor, but rather branched off early into two paths. Looking to her left she glimpsed a brightly lit passage, one which had been followed by the guests of the manor. To her right she viewed a dark path, one which had been left unlit and untrodden. With an unsure foot she stepped toward the lit area, but something made her hesitate.

A cool brush of wind glided across her cheek, catching her attention as she turned toward the untraveled path in curiosity. The breeze appeared to be coaxing her as it stirred the soft snow upon the entrance to the passage, tempting her with sights unseen by anyone else. With a slight shrug, though she felt uneasy, Seras moved her steps toward the unbeaten path.

Seras looked about the tall shadows of the bushes with caution, her mind conjuring up more than the white fantasy which surrounded herself. She jumped when the breeze rejoined her steps, the cool wind acting as a spirited guide as she made her way along the path. The snow, seeming to sense her heightened emotions, continued to fall softly upon her soaked form as she suddenly had the impulse to look behind herself.

Seras turned and was confronted with the physical proof of her decisions. Behind her lay only her own footprints leaving a trail on the virgin ground, their depths within the snow revealing her determination to move forward. With a small smile and a nod, she faced ahead and with determined steps she forded her own fears of the unknown which lay ahead.

Seras’ labors were well rewarded as she soon spotted a light dimly shining a ways up the path. With a quickened pace she hurried to catch the glow, knowing the end was in sight. To her astonishment, however, the light seemed to sense her eagerness and flickered further ahead, leaving her in darkness again and more bewildered as she slowed to a walking stride.

The minute she slowed, though, is when the light reappeared, bright and tormenting. With a scowl she set her jaw and raced forward, determined to catch the elusive glow. To her disbelief she once more fell quickly behind, and the signal once more returned when she slowed her pace.

Then did Seras realize the lesson to be learnt from the light, and she kept to her slow steps. The glow would not be obtained with impatience, but would only be captured through a steady walk. To her glee the light did indeed glow brighter and she could soon see an opening up ahead, one which appeared to be larger than the others she had passed. With a few more steps she passed the tell-tale lamp post which had eluded her and had arrived at her destination.

To Seras’ utter amazement before her was a glass room of shining ice, the bushes completely frozen over by water which reflected the area perfectly. Well-placed lamp posts adorned four spots of the round area, each equally spaced apart and lighting the walls with their softly burning candles. Stalagmites of ice sprouted from the ground, their sides seeming to move like a kaleidoscope of light from the lamps’ glow. There were no other paths leading out of the area, and she could only guess she had come to the center of the maze.

But the object which most held her attention was a life-size statue, carved from the frozen ice which appeared to have sprouted from the very center of the circle. As she approached, Seras realized the statue was of a woman in nineteenth century clothing, the likes of which covered most of her body but her head. Standing before the grand figure, which rose above on a platform, the young vampire gasped in surprise.

The face of the woman was herself, shining as with life from the warm glow of the candles. She gazed in awe at the fine craftsmanship, one which greatly excelled those of the previous statues she had seen. The form and clothing seemed to spring from the very foundation of its ice pedestal, the arms of the woman crossed over her breasts as she looked down upon the ground with eyes heavily laded within emotion. The clothes flowed about the figure, enveloping the back of the statue in imitation of a wind blowing strong before the woman.

Seras stepped so she stood beneath the gaze of the frozen figure, their eyes meeting and for a moment the world standing still. The young vampire seemed to feel a mix of strong emotions; anger, sorrow, utter glee, all of which swirled about the form of the woman as though it were a hidden veil. There was one lingering feeling, however, and she smiled as a wave of contentment washed over her body and soul, leaving her with a soft, lingering glimpse of another’s essence.

With her mind filled with joy at her discovery and having her fill of perfection for the night, Seras turned to leave. As she stepped back the way she had come, though, she looked over her shoulder one last time and smiled at the figure which stood alone in the sparkling wonder of itself. With a soft sigh at the beauty she left toward the manor, unknowing of the watching shadows which lingered long after her presence had vanished.

Seras was still smiling as she walked her way back through the maze and exited the maze, her thoughts full of the solitary woman she had discovered. As the young vampire approached the manor, mindful of the voices of the families behind her, she thought of the strange qualities which had lingered around the figure. They had seemed a familiar comfort to her mind, but she could not place the feeling before she had reached the window to the library. She quietly opened the glass door and slipped inside to the dry air of the dusty library, her thoughts still filled with the wonders she had seen.

What a wonderland she had found for herself.