The Land of Stories: Gleefully Ever After

As White as Snow

In which we find a misnomer…

Chris and Darren were in high spirits as they left the Sleeping Kingdom. It had been easy to persuade Tina to let them borrow the spindle from her spinning wheel, since she was so grateful for Darren’s suggestion of using dancing to wake up her subjects. Now, they only had two Wishing Spell items left to collect.

“I’m not sure where we’ll find Snow White’s coffin,” Chris admitted. “The journal says it’ll be in the Evil Queen’s chamber, but in my book I wrote that it had been moved to the Dwarf Mines.”

“Well, so far we’ve just been following along with what you had the twins do, and everything has been working out perfectly. You sent them to Snow White’s palace next, so let’s try there.”

They caught a ride on a fishing boat up the river to the Northern Kingdom. It was dusk by the time the fisherman dropped them off on the bank of Swan Lake, within sight of Snow White’s palace.

“We’ll need to wait until it’s fully dark before we try to get in,” Chris said. “This place is crawling with soldiers, and I’m sure they’re on heightened alert since the Evil Queen escaped.”

“Do we have to swim under the gate in the moat like you made the twins do?” Darren asked, not sounding at all thrilled by the prospect.

“Yeah. Unfortunately that’s the only way we’ll make it past the guards.”



Once night had fallen, Chris and Darren slipped into the frigid water and swam through the hidden entrance to the palace that Chris had written about in his book. They emerged from the moat, dripping and shivering, into an underground passageway. Climbing a flight of stairs, they found themselves in a laundry room.

Darren immediately began stripping off his wet clothes. “Now we get to disguise ourselves as maids,” he said enthusiastically.

“Why are you so gleeful about this?”

“I’ve always loved playing dress-up.”

Chris rolled his eyes fondly, taking the dress and lacy cap that Darren was holding out for him. They quickly changed into the maids’ outfits.

Darren looked Chris up and down. “You make a cute serving wench.”

“Yeah? Well, you’d be a lot more passable without the scruff. Let’s see if we can find something for you to use as a veil.”

Darren held up a lace doily. “What about this?”

“Perfect. But you’d better keep your mouth shut. My voice may be able to pass for a woman’s, but yours would be an instant giveaway.”

“I’ll have you know I can sound just like a girl if I want to,” Darren said in a high-pitched voice, with an inexplicably British accent.

Chris snorted. “You sound like someone from Monty Python’s Flying Circus doing purposely bad drag. Just let me do the talking if we run into anybody.”

Darren huffed.

“Come on,” Chris said. “Wrap your wet things up in a towel and try to look like you’re working. We need to find the portrait of the Evil Queen, which opens into the secret passage to the chamber where Snow White’s coffin is kept.”

“Who do you think the Evil Queen will be?”

“I’ve got a pretty good idea, but let’s keep our minds open, ‘cause you never know.”

Chris and Darren left the laundry room and began exploring the palace, mostly keeping their heads down to avoid letting the omnipresent guards see their faces, but carefully scanning any portraits they passed. In a hallway on the second floor, they found what they were looking for.

“It’s Sue Sylvester!” Darren hissed, clutching onto Chris’s arm.

Chris waited until the roving guards had passed before he answered. “That’s who I figured it would be.”

Prying the full-length portrait away from the wall, Chris stepped into a concealed passage. Darren followed, pulling the portrait shut behind him. Chris felt around in the darkness until he located a wooden ladder. He took Darren’s hand and placed it on one of the slats.

“I’m going to climb up, and you follow me.”

At the top of the ladder, Chris stepped forward onto a narrow ledge, searching the wall in front of him with his fingers. He soon found a latch, which, when he pulled on it, caused part of the wall to swing away. Stepping through the opening, he found himself in the Evil Queen’s former chamber.

Darren followed, pushing a portrait of the Evil Queen (identical to the one they’d found down below) back against the wall to seal off the passage behind him. They scarcely had a chance to get their bearings before they heard footsteps from outside the chamber, and a key turned in the lock.

“Quick, in here!” Chris whispered, pulling Darren into a large, mostly empty wooden chest, and shutting the lid.

They could hear the door open and then close again. Footsteps crossed the room. It sounded as though whoever had entered was walking over to the portrait of the Evil Queen. Suddenly a familiar voice began belting out a song.

You could never know what it's like
Your blood like winter freezes just like ice
And there's a cold lonely light that shines from you
You'll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use

Surprised, Chris raised the lid of the chest slightly to peer out.

And did you think this fool could never win
Well look at me, I'm coming back again
I got a taste of love in a simple way
And if you need to know, while I'm still standing
You just fade away

The singer was standing with her back to them, facing the portrait of the Evil Queen, but even from behind, Chris immediately recognized her.

Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I'm still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind
I'm still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah
I'm still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah

“Is that who I think it is?” Darren whispered.

Once I never could hope to win
You starting down the road leaving me again
The threats you made were meant to cut me down
And if our love was just a circus you'd be a clown by now

“Well, I never would have pegged her as Snow White, but no one else sounds like that.”

Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I'm still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind
I'm still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah
I'm still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah

As the song ended, Darren leapt up and burst into applause. Startled, the singer spun around, and Chris and Darren found themselves face to face with Mercedes Jones.

“Who are you? And what are you doing in my stepmother’s chamber?” she demanded.

“We didn’t mean to alarm you. We’re on a bit of a quest, and it’s led us here,” Chris said apologetically.

“Wait – if the Evil Queen is your stepmother, does that mean you’re Snow White?” Darren asked, confused.

Mercedes sighed. It was evident from her long-suffering expression that she got this question all the time. “Yes, I’m Snow White. My mother died giving birth, and my Evil Stepmother was poised to swoop in and name me. As you can see, she has a somewhat twisted sense of humor.”

Chris chuckled wryly.

“I can’t believe you made it past all of my guards” Mercedes told them. “Sir Cooper would freak out if he knew you were in here.”

“Yeah, we met him in the Charming Kingdom. He seems to be a bit of a drama queen,” Darren agreed.

“Oh, I know. My husband does the funniest impressions of him.”

“You’re married to Prince Sam Charming, right?”

“Yes,” she answered, with a dreamy smile. “Although he’s King Charming now, since I’ve become queen of the Northern Kingdom.”

“Would you mind telling us where your glass coffin is?” Chris asked.

“Oh, I had it moved to the Dwarf Mines. I thought the Seven Dwarves should get to enjoy its beauty. After all, they’re the ones who made it for me, and I hope I won’t be needing it again for a long time.”

Just then there was a loud banging at the door. “Your majesty!” Sir Cooper yelled. “Are you in there?”

Mercedes sighed. Chris got the impression that it was something she did a lot. “Yes, Sir Cooper.”

“The king sent me to look for you! He didn’t know where you were, and he was very concerned!” Sir Cooper exclaimed, sounding much more concerned himself than Chris could imagine Sam ever being.

“I’m right here, Sir Cooper. There’s no need to shout.”

Sir Cooper rattled the doorknob, which Mercedes had evidently locked. “Your Majesty! I can’t open the door! Are you trapped?”

Chris and Darren suppressed their smiles, imagining Sir Cooper waving his arms around dramatically outside in the hallway.

“No, Sir Cooper. Everything’s fine,” Mercedes said through gritted teeth, patience clearly wearing thin. “Please go and tell my husband that I’ll join him in our bedchamber shortly.”

“But the Evil Queen is still on the loose! You shouldn’t be wandering around the palace by yourself!” Sir Cooper cried. He was obviously working himself up into a frenzy. “In fact, she could be in there with you right now! Is she in there? Is she holding a dagger to your throat and forcing you to say everything is fine? Stomp on the floor to give me a sign if you need me to break down the door and rescue you!”

“Sir Cooper!” Mercedes shouted, exasperated. It was clear that she was only restrained from stomping her foot in vexation by the knowledge that Sir Cooper would indeed break down the door if she did so. “For the last time – I am not trapped, I am not being held hostage, and I am not going to tell you again – go away!”

There was an angry muttering from outside the door, as Sir Cooper’s footsteps receded down the hall.

“You’d better go,” Mercedes told Chris and Darren with yet another sigh. “If I don’t return to my bedchamber soon, Sir Cooper will be back here with a battering ram.”

“Hang in there,” Chris told her, as he and Darren stepped back into the secret passage.

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