Snow White had no need of the knife, hidden in the folds of her dress. As soon as the Huntsman had stepped out of the tree line an arrow had whispered across the clearing, piercing his neck and severing the carotid artery.
“You let him get too close!” shouted Grumpy, from the doorway
“We had to be sure” answered Happy, slinging his bow across his shoulder. “He could have been hunting.”
“Unlikely! Are you sure he’s alone?”
“Sneezy and Doc are guarding the paths. There’s nobody else out there.”
“You know what this means” said Grumpy to Snow White, who was turning the body over with her foot. “The Queen has found you.”
“Perhaps he came across us by chance.”
Dopey was searching the body. He held up his findings. “I’m sorry, Snow White. He was carrying poison apples. This man worked for the Magic Mirror, and when he doesn’t report in, more will come. It’s time.”
“Well, I for one am glad.” Said Happy. “We’ve been hiding out here long enough.”
The Castle was a wonderful place for a girl to grow up. Staff scattered as the fourteen year old heir apparent, ran through the chambers. Always there was one of her personal guards, fearsome warriors from under the mountains of the North, close by. Every chamber, except those in the Queen’s Tower. No-one entered the Queen’s Tower except the King. The Queen herself had not ventured out for several months. Snow White was not unhappy with this, as her relationship with her stepmother, difficult at the best of times, had become increasingly volatile, and her father often seemed troubled and distracted.
“Dozey, have you ever been in the Queen’s Tower?” asked Snow White.
“No, my Princess.”
“Do you think we could get in, could get to the top?”
“Nobody goes in the Queen’s Tower, snapped Grumpy. “The Queen has forbidden it.”
Disappointed, Snow White didn’t notice Happy approach but, suddenly, he was by her side, speaking quietly.
“I can get you in. Midnight.” Casually, he drifted away.
Snow White was ready, and followed Happy through long forgotten passageways filled with debris and thick with cobwebs. They rested at the top of a long staircase that spiralled between the inner and outer walls of the massive tower. When Snow White pressed her ear against the timbers of the door, she could hear raised voices. Producing a large key,
Happy unlocked the door without a sound and led the way through a series of narrow passageways, built into the tower walls. Small holes looked onto the Queen’s rooms. Most were empty but, looking into a dimly lit chamber on the far side of the tower, Snow White’s life was changed. The King lay on the floor, a pool of blood spreading slowly across the stones. The Queen was turned towards a large mirror on the wall, the simple wooden frame out of character with the ornate furnishings. Snow White could see no reflection in the mirror, only a shadow in the shape of a man. When she looked at the mirror, a sense of bitterness and hate almost overwhelmed her.
“It is done. Now, will I rule?”
“Not yet, my Queen.” The voice came from nowhere. “Send for the Princess. She stands between you and the crown.”
Snow White didn’t wait to hear more. Numb with fear and grief she fled the Tower. Happy had served many regimes and knew what had to be done. Before the Queen’s word had gone out, the Princess and her bodyguards were gone.
In the four years since the flight from the castle, the land had gone from a rich, fertile, welcoming place to one filled with suspicion and treachery. A wise monarchy had been replaced by despotism, the Queen falling further under the influence of the malevolent spirit that was trapped in the mirror. The seven warriors had taught Snow White many skills. She was proficient with the bow and could fight with every weapon they brought to her. She had also mastered the art of moving through a crowd unnoticed, of passing, almost invisibly through shadows. Of all the skills they had passed on, this would be the most important if they were to get back into the castle.
In the morning, before setting out for the castle, they burnt the cottage, resolute that there would be no turning back. The Mirror would be smashed and the Queen would die.