As the shops closed, she hid.
The small child huddled in an alleyway, hoping for some protection against the wind. She had nothing to eat except the snow, for the basket in her hand was still full of unsold matchboxes.
They would not fill her stomach. But they could keep her warm.
And so she struck matches over and over and watched the small flames come to life. She pretended they were candles lighting a large banquet of meat pies and honeyed cakes.
She played this game until her numb fingers found there were no more boxes of matches to use.
The girl bowed her head as the illusion of paradise faded. There was nothing left now. No promise of warmth. Of food. Only of death.
A sound of rustling startled her. She trembled at the white creature with wings. As it towered over her, she realized that at last–
It was done.
The wind blew out the flame. The creature disappeared, leaving nothing behind save a basket and a solitary feather dancing upon the breeze.
So begins Volume 2, “The Queen of Swans”