In midwinter with snow dusting the castle walls, the queen looked longingly at the window at the midnight sky. She clutched her chest with a feeling of emptiness. The desire to have a child with hair as black as midnight, lips red as rubies, and skin white as snow grew in her heart. The hunger of loneliness ripped into her being, staring out at the sky each night and yearning for something she did not have. However, during the spring she felt the kick of small feet in her stomach. Her dear heart leapt with joy, and immediately announced to the proud king that she was with child. The kingdom held festivals in their honor, with flowing ribbons of bright pinks, yellows, and oranges, thousands of roses at the courtyard, and many theatrical and musical performances given in their honor throughout the summer. By the turning of the leaves, the child was born. Bloody and screaming and restless as the waiting woman clutched the baby in her arms, tearing him away from the corpse of his mother who died during his birth. Her spirit lifted to the heavens, to watch over her beloved child from afar. They called him Snow-short for Snow White-because he was born during the first snowfall. The beginning of a cold winter.
Throughout his youth he served as an apprentice to his father, the King. He attended the royal ceremonies and the conferences with noblemen, dutifully taking notes. In his spare time, he became a fair swordsman; although, the other squires jeered at his red lips and soft features. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, but he worked the hardest despite his status.
His father took a wife, a beautiful but wicked sorceress called Nemesis. The king fell desperately in love with Nemesis and was blind to her cruel magic that seized his aching heart, still grieving his past wife. He married her, so she became Queen over the kingdom and ruled with untamed bloodlust. As told in legend, she was profoundly vain and obsessed with her good looks. She created a magic mirror that always told her who was the fairest of them all. She was always the most beautiful and never had any close competitors.
But when Snow turned fifteen, the Queen asked,”Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?”
The mirror replied, for it could not lie, “You, my queen, are radiant beyond compare. But Snow White is far more fair than thee.”
Fury struck like lightening in her veins. The idea seemed illogical. How could the King’s son be the most beautiful in the land when Nemesis was as cunning as she was glowing? Wicked and slender? Feminine and fatale? He wore squire’s clothes, never brushed his hair, and had a glow of sweat on his shoulders. He never looked anyone directly in the eye. The mirror had to be wrong.
“Mirror, mirror. Do not dare to deceive me. I conjured you to never tell a lie. The most beautiful is me.”
“Aye, my queen, what you say is true. But you are cold at heart and your wickedness shines through. Snow White is courageous, just, and fair. You are driven by evil. You can see it in your stare.”
The queen flushed with wrath. The clunk of her onyx high heeled shoes echoed as she stomped from her chambers to the courtroom, where her personal huntsman was waiting with tattered boots and a ragged beard. He bowed respectfully, with a glimmer of terror in his brown eyes.
She looked at him coldly and whispered, “I want the boy’s heart in my hands. Do what you need to do.”
There was a feeling of understanding between them. The huntsman turned on his heel in a stride and walked out towards the pavilion under the castle. A plan forged in his mind. How to get Snow alone. How to deafen the scream. How to hide the body. A quiver danced on his lips. He didn’t like to hunt people-only animals. And even when he killed an animal, he slit their throats quickly. No need to torture the animal any further. It wasn’t personal. Just for survival.But times were tough. It wouldn’t be the first time he took a life for Nemesis. Any man knew better than to question her, even in the face of the damnation of his mortal soul. Even if it meant killing a child. Her torture would be more than anyone could survive.
But as he turned the corner, he saw Snow with the other squires. I saw them jeering, throwing their shields at him, kicking dirt in his face. The radiant boy rose to his face, laughed along with them but his face long and solemn as he turned away and continued off into the forest. The huntsman followed, with soft footsteps barely treading on the forest floor. It wasn’t until a twig snapped under his foot that Snow snapped his head around.
“You’re here to kill me.” Snow said, looking distraughtly at the huntsman.
“Oh…. Heavens, no, dear prince. I-I-I was only…um…looking for a doe for tomorrow’s supper!” He stumbled over words to construct a somewhat believable lie, only with sweat seeping through his collar.
“I was only pulling your leg huntsman.” He said, chuckling. “I don’t think I’d make very good supper. However, I’ve never tasted myself.”The huntsman forced himself to laugh in jarring cackles, to the confusement of Snow, as not give himself away-clutching a butcher’s knife in his fist behind his back.
“Well…” Snow trailed off. “I best be off. I wish you luck with your hunting. Till next time, huntsman.” As he turned to leave, the huntsman rose his knife.
“I’m sorry, Prince Snow. It’s not anything personal. The Queen asked for your heart. I can’t have her torturing me. You understand. I promise I’ll be quick.” The huntsman edged towards him, the knife clenched in his fist.
Snow took off in a crazed sprint- feet racing, chest heaving, heart beating in his throat. He dashed into the forest with his footprints leaving imprints on fallen leaves. He ran for ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. Never looking behind his shoulder so he wouldn’t be slowed down. He only heard the huntsman’s periodic pleading-for his wife, for his children, for the people he fed everyday by giving them meat. But he could not stop. As he sped into a clearing, he saw a cottage in the distance with smoke puffing from the chimney. Without thinking he headed towards it since the lights were not on inside. They may not be home, and he’s pretty sure he lost the huntsman in the woods. He threw open the door and latched all six locks on the door. The cottage was bleak and empty, but with freshly picked apples and citrus on a rickety picnic table in the center of a desolate room.
“Hello? Anyone home?” He asked the empty cottage.
He put his hand on the dagger in his belt.
“Who are you?”
“That’s none of your concern,”the light voice replied. “Have a seat.”
A chair was pulled by an invisible force and knocked him off his feet, tucking him into the table. Stunned, Snow just gaped dumbly at what occurred.
“We’re going to take care of you now. Don’t you worry.”
An orange magically lifted from the table into his palm. The house began to feel warm. Lavious furniture appeared, with velvet sofas, leather chairs, and fur rugs. Books forged from midair to rest on end tables. Candles resided on every windowsill and a steel stove was conjured from the kitchen with a good looking roast cooking on the inside.
“We are the House of Spirits, Snow. We’re going to take care of you now.”