The nights were growing ever so cooler as the next week passed by. It wasn't much to worry about, yet when I heard we were treading closer to the mountains I became unnerved. One reason was that I didn't sleep well in the cold. It was one thing to be wrapped up in extravagant blankets in the comfort of my castle, but to be out in the wild? I hadn't even been aware that we were headed in that direction. That was problem number two. Hiking up a mountain was definitely not in the plan. I should have realized where we were headed when the trails had started to become steeper each growing day, but alas the blistering sun was beginning to slow my thinking. Or that's just the excuse I was going with.
Snow's big plan was to take the path through the mountains that many people didn't dare to tread. There were several reasons for labeling such a journey hazardous. It was a long and tedious, and rumors said that the ones who made it out alive were exhausted and better off dead. The days were cold and the nights were close to unbearable. However, this seemed to not deter the princess at all. In fact she seemed excited.
I had taken the time to ask her why she was choosing such a course when we could easily go around the mountain to get to her destination, but she refused to back down.
"Taking the easy route seems logical," she told me, "and therefore they will assume I will take it – that is if they've caught on to us – but if I were to give in, then the chances of them capturing me, well both of us, is highly probably. By taking the road less traveled I am risking much, but either way we could end up dead."
So why take the way that threatens to freeze you in your sleep? Wouldn't you rather die at the hands of my men than freeze to death?
That is when it dawned on me. If she allowed the Queen's men to capture her then she would have lost the fight. If she were to die at the hands of Nature then so be it in her eyes. She would die a free woman. It was a hard scenario to get out of my mind – the picture of Snow White shivering in the icy wind. I couldn't tell whether it was from the irony or that perhaps it actually bothered me. I wouldn't ponder much longer on it though; such thoughts didn't matter. She wouldn't die at the hands of either. It would be me that takes her heart in the end.
I personally had never ventured into the mountains and by looking into Snow's eyes I could tell that she hadn't either, but she was now a traveler right? She's heard many stories and was wise enough to know which path to tread? At least I hoped so. The mountains, not mattering whom you venture with, are a dangerous fate to play with, but I had come too far to turn back now. If I were to leave the company of the woman I most despised I would very much end up dead in this disguise, for I knew the Rumpelstiltskin had abandoned me.
He wasn't coming.
Just like everyone else he had abandoned me to allow the darkness to overtake.
After endless nights of calling his name when Snow was out for food, the realization that I had been tricked stabbed me so deeply inside of my chest that I thought I might break down then and there. This was not fair. What had I done to deserve this fate?
I refused to answer such a question, for if I actually took the time to respond I would most likely drown in my wicked ways. The thing in which I did ponder was the mess he was most likely causing in my disappearance. Being out in the wild there was no way to know about the current event events; therefore I only assumed the worst and treaded onward.
"There is a town about a day's hike down the road," Snow said as she examined the signs on the road.
"I'm assuming you wish to make a stop?"
, "If we are planning on venturing into the mountains then yes."
Oh, you make it sound as if I have a choice in the matter, dear.
"As you wish, Princess," I mocked under my breath. If she heard it, she made no acknowledgement.
I was well aware that Snow's pouch of gold was rather low; I had snuck a glance at it a few days ago thinking that maybe I could snatch it and run off. However, the pathetic animal-hide pocket only held enough to buy me a loaf of bread.
Walking by her side, I noticed a similar look on her face that had been plastered there since the morning we left the cave. I had fought the urge to ask her what was wrong, but my restraint was growing smaller and smaller as if I was a teenager again saving her from that runaway horse.
My mind flashed back to the morning after the wolf attack.
She had already packed up everything save for the bed I was sleeping on. Snow was unaware that I was had woken up and I watched silently as she stared out of the cave into the growing morning.
"Snow?" I asked in which her head turned to meet my sleepy gaze, quickly slipping something back under her the collar of her shirt.
"Oh, Wilma. How long have you been awake?"
"Not very long."
Yet it was long enough to watch as she fiddled with something within her hands. A necklace? I was too far away to make out anything except for the shining silver. She had twirled the pendant between her thumb and forefinger, but it quickly disappeared at the sound of my voice as if it were a secret.
"Are you-" I bit my tongue, but decided just to ask anyways, "Is everything okay?"
She offered me a smile that could fool anyone but me as she reached inside her bag and tossed me an apple. I couldn't help but smile at the irony. Poisoned apples had always been my signature.
I couldn't contain my irksome concern any longer. She had been far too quiet for my liking.
"Why have you been so quiet?" I suddenly asked.
"Ever since we left the cave you've been acting strange. Why?"
The younger brunette had hastened her walk as if trying to run away from my words, yet she came to a halt when I reached out and grabbed her arm. It wasn't forceful, yet the look on her face revealed a look of shock.
"Don't tell me it's nothing," I spoke sternly in a way that would have made my enemies cringe, yet it didn't sound the same with the voice I had.
She dropped her head and opened her mouth, yet quickly shut it. She pursed her lips, refusing to meet my curious gaze that possibly resembled worry.
"That morning after the wolf attack it dawned on me that I never asked you where you were from. What your life was like. What kind of family you came from. It never occurred to me that perhaps I had pulled you from a life of great worth back in the village. This is all new to you and I never even asked if this is what you wanted."
Still she wouldn't meet my gaze as she let out a defeated sigh. It was then that I noticed my hand was still on her arm and I slowly pulled it away.
"This is what has had you worried?"
She looked like a child as she nodded and wearily met my gaze.
"I was afraid that you would leave." My eyes widened in surprise. She was worried about that? I had never thought of how lonely a life of running could be. "I thought that if I did ask you then you would realize what a mess you were in with me and turn back. Wilma, I'm sorry…"
"My mother…" I let the words trail off my tongue as if I were trying to melt ice, "She was the daughter of a miller. My father was a very sweet man who taught me how to ride when I was little. We lived on a farm a ways from here. It was really lovely, but one day my mother decided to leave us for reasons of her own and I never saw her again. My father eventually died…of a broken heart."
It was strange at how I was able to twist the truth down into a lie that sounded perfectly believable. Even though it was really me who pushed my mother into the looking glass, the mother I always yearned for was never really there in the first place. I could have mentioned that my father was a coward, maybe twisted it into the story by saying he didn't make her stay, yet I couldn't.
Snow was stunned to silence at the sudden admittance. The only words that were to leave her lips were a soft, "I'm so sorry. I didn't know…"
"It's okay, dear. I suppose you saving me was worth it. Just like you I don't have much to live for anymore."
I bit back a small sob at the admission to how lonely I actually was. That and the fact I had just compared my own life to Snow's.
"…So, you will stay?"
I looked at her once more and offered her a kind smile.
"Of course I will."
It was strange to admit that I was growing fond of the younger brunette. It was safe to say that I was officially a long term traveling companion of Snow's. Ever since the discussion about my family, although it had been a lie, she had opened up to me more and I realized that we were more alike than I had previously thought.
She had a father who wanted what was best for his daughter just as mine, yet how they chose to show their love was different. While King Leopold showered his little princess with anything and everything, all my father did was offer a few words of support. I knew he meant well, but in the end they were nothing but empty words. If he was truly loved me – if he wasn't the coward that he was – he would have stopped my mother from the years of abuse that eventually led to my downfall into darkness. All those hurtful, abusive years engraved into my skull, one etched upon my lip from a hard slap of a heavily bejeweled hand.
I found out how her mother died. Not that I didn't know, but hearing it through her made it so much more personal and heartbreaking. Eva was on her deathbed when Snow made it her duty to save her. She had been offered a way, yet as a consequence another life would be taken. However, in the end Snow couldn't do it. Her heart was far too good to give in to such dark ways.
I marveled at her strength. If that had been me I wouldn't have been able to resist the urge. Cora was wicked, that much was true, yet she was still my mother. She only wanted what was best for me even if she had a screwed up way of showing it.
I watched the pain swirl in hazel eyes as she talked about her mother. She truly was alone. Abandoned, by herself, to tread the cold all because of…no it wasn't my fault. I did what I had to do.
Besides, Leopold was nothing more than a filthy bastard seeking out his own guilty pleasures behind closed doors with me as the target. He may have loved his daughter, but there was no love in those eyes as he intruded inside of me. I was nothing more than a body to keep his bed warm. I always wondered if he even saw my face on the night of our wedding. The endless tears that cascaded down my face. No, I bet he only saw his beloved Eva.
And if it wasn't for Snow being "good" the king would have had his dear wife. Cora would have had no way to push me onto the king. There would be no child to ruin me and Daniel's chance at love. The Stable Boy. My Daniel. If it wasn't for Snow, Daniel and I would be riding through the meadow right now, free. There would be no thirst for power. We would have our own little cottage by the lake. Perhaps even have a child. A family. But that was all a dream.
A broken, shredded dream that would never be true.
And it was all because of her.
Now I couldn't even bear a child. The darkness had corrupted everything inside of me to the point where having a child would be impossible. It would rot inside of my womb before it even had the chance to see the light and be eaten alive by the raging chaos running through my veins.
This all is what kept me remembering my place in this journey. To Snow I was a friend, but to me she was nothing more than my enemy. The girl who stole my happiness away from me. How could I forgive her? That was just the thing. I couldn't. Perhaps this rage would be my downfall, but I didn't care. I had to remember that Snow held no place in my life and that she was to be wiped off the face of this earth by my hand. This was all for him. For Daniel.
The town wasn't too far now. In a few more hours we would hopefully be there. Stuck in my own thoughts, I nearly rammed straight into Snow as she came to a sudden halt. Shushing me to silence as I quickly went to complain, there came the sounds of hooves hitting the dirt. I became aware of how close we were to the road and hid behind a thick cover of bushes.
After pushing aside the foliage I was able to see the white and red emblem upon the silver armor of the knights that rode on white horses, pulling behind them a carriage. Behind that marched several other knights. The carriage was most definitely carrying someone of great worth.
"Perfect," I heard Snow whisper to my right and I shot a look at her, my eyebrow raised high.
"I beg your pardon?"
"We're running short on gold."
"I'm still failing to follow, dear."
She laughed quietly, shaking her head, as a devious grin slid across her face that I found vexingly endearing. She leaned in close to me and for a second my heart jumped.
"I've heard of a man who robs from the rich," she said lowly into my ear, the sound of her voice sending a chill down my spine, but then I realized what she was insinuating. My jaw fell open and I gaped at her with big eyes.
"Are you insane!?"