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The Frozen Maze – Episode 3 – Fire Warming

A Snow White retelling set in 1920s Germany

Episode 3

Fire Warming

The Frozen Maze - Episode 3 - Fire Warming - What's up with Elsie, the strange girl tending to Schneezwerg rooms?

Ingeborg took one of the gas lamps in the kitchen and went up the stairs, where all the bedrooms were. The stairs used to be carpeted. Now they were bare, and her shoes made a faint sound on the still polished marble. 

It almost didn’t look like her home. It was never this dark and gloomy – except maybe after dad died and before Grete decided to move back to Berlin. The pictures on the wall – her ancestors – gave a slight gleam when the light from the lamp brushed on them. Darkness seemed to engulf the rest of the corridor. 

Ingeborg’s room was the first on the right. She gingerly tried the handle. The door moved inward silently. It wasn’t completely opened when Ingeborg paused, surprised. The room was not dark and cold. A golden light came from the grate where a merry fire was crackling, warming the air. 

Elsie crouched in front of it and Ingeborg could only see her dark shape against the dancing flames. Her hands were opened and reached for the fire, not as if she were warming them, but rather as if she was receiving something. 

Ingeborg placed the lamp on the nearby coffee table with a very faint thud. Elsie started, and with one movement, she turned and stood. 

“Fräulein.” She tried a smile and rubbed her hands on her apron. 

Ingeborg smiled back, closing the door “I suppose you’re not accustomed to people going around the manor.”

“Indeed not, Fräulein. Most of the time it’s just me, Hannah, Josef and Fräulein Dagmar.” She clasped her hands and looked at Ingeborg with curious eyes and a funny expression on her face as if she were uncertain what to do next. 

“You‘re very skilled with the fire,” Ingeborg said, rubbing her hands together. “It’s already warming up in here.”

Elsie blushed and smiled. “I like the fire,” she said.

It was a strange answer. But then, Elsie was a strange girl. When Ingeborg saw her starting a curtsey, she said, “Shouldn’t you be at school?”, because she wanted to speak with her a little longer.

Elsie looked confused, but answered, “I would, Fräulein, if the teacher had come.”

“No teacher from last year?”

“Gone,” Elsie said with a shrug. “Not many teachers stay here. They mostly soon go.”

Mhm, but not all of them, Ingeborg grinned to herself. She said, “It is a very secluded place.” 

“It is, Fräulein.” 

Now Elsie was looking – no, she was observing her. Her eyes roamed on Ingeborg’s face as if looking for something. Intently. Could have been unsettling, instead, for some reason, Ingeborg felt a connection. Maybe it was that warm brush on her cheek she was almost sure she felt. Gentle, almost comforting. Maybe it was that unexpected sense of safety that bloomed in her chest. 

Before Ingeborg could decide, Elsie said, “Berlin must be such an awesome place,” Elsie said. And quickly added, “Well. It is a terrible city where anything horrible can happen to a girl, of course. But it must also be –“ Exciting. Ingeborg was sure that was the word Elsie was about to say. 

THE FROZEN MAZE by Sarah Zama – Episode 3 – Fire Warming – Elsie crouched in front of the grate, her hands opened and reaching for the fire, not as if she were warming them, but rather as if she were receiving something #readnow… Share on X
THE FROZEN MAZE by Sarah Zama  - Episode 3 - Fire Warming -  Elsie crouched in front of the grate, her hands opened and reaching for the fire, not as if she were warming them, but rather as if she were receiving something

“Why do you think so?” Ingeborg asked with a hesitant smile. 

“I’ve seen it in the movie,” Elsie said. Her face lit up and looked even younger. “So many sights. So many things to do and people to meet. Things to discover.”

Ingeborg smiled at her enthusiasm. It wasn’t the first time that she saw the eyes of a country girl sparkled in the imagined light of Berlin.

“It is an exciting city,” she said. “But sometimes…” 

Sometimes? Sometimes what? 

The warmth of the room was gently surrounding her, like a cocoon, created just for her. She was tempted to let her melt into that pleasant warmth.

“Sometimes you miss it here?” 

Ingeborg blinked. 

“Well…” No. She was too busy. So many things occupied her mind. She didn’t’ have time to miss Schneezwerg. And at the moment she thought it, her heart squeezed. Hard. 

“So, you won’t stay?” Elsie asked. She was again observing her, and Ingeborg found herself pausing before answering, choosing the right words. But before she said anything, Elsie nodded. “Sometimes, it isn’t easy to see our home.”

Ingeborg had a sharp intake of air. Suddenly, absurdly, she thought it wasn’t Elsie speaking. 

“Sometimes, we follow what our head tells us and forget to listen to our heart’s beating.”

Ingeborg stared at Elsie. Didn’t she say the exact contrary a moment ago? She was about to ask her what she meant when Elsie smiled. An innocent, girl’s smile. 

“I should really get going, now,” she said. “Hannah will eat me if I’m late.” She curtsied.

Ingeborg wavered a moment but then smiled back. “Yes, go.” 

Elsie dashed out the door. 

THE FROZEN MAZE by Sarah Zama - A Snow White Retelling Set in 1920s Germany - Index

In the photo Château de Chenonceau photographer unknown (from Instagram @francefr)

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