The Quest: A Fractured Fairy Tale

Afterward

Snow White's chainmail shirt weighted her body down, her longsword heavy on her back as they rose on. Rosebud whinnied softly, the great red stallion's hooves thumping on the cobblestones as they went through the outer gate, the streets busy with travelers and merchants.

"It's all right," Snow reassured the beast softly, "I'm just tired."

The guards looked her over warily, young men who clearly looked inexperienced with the swords that they wore, but the three men seemed to gain confidence from their numbers as they moved to block her way. "What is your business in the city?" the leader demanded boldly, the brown haired boy gesturing with his spear.

"My business is my own," Rose answered mildly, her black braid flowing down on her winter cloak. While her voice was pleasant her eyes carried the confidence of a experienced warrior, something the boys instantly noticed. She had been out adventuring for some months now, earning coin with her valor and sword, and it had made her a fighter of great skill.

"I think my lord would demand to hear more," the lead guard blustered, waving his spear around dramatically.

Rosebud looked at the wooden object being waved in his face with pure annoyance, whuffing out a breath in warning. With surprising speed the stallion lunged forward, biting the top of the shaft off and sending the spear's iron head clattering to the ground.

"Rosebud!" Snow thumped him gently with her fist on the side of the neck, "I know they were being rude shoving that spear in your face, but that was a bit much."

Rosebud whinnied, but not terribly apologetically.

"That.. I.. you..." the guard stammered, looking at the end of broken spear in disbelief, then gazing at the stallion in fear.

The younger guard, blonde hair flowing grabbed his comrade's arm, "I think we shouldn't interfere with this person any more."

"But," he blinked.

"That is a war-horse," the blonde hissed, "not some common steed. And no one but those of noble blood could have such a one!"

"But he looked like a common mercenary," the third guard blurted.

"She, actually," Snow said with amusement.

Just then a cheerful voice called out in greeting, "Snow!"

Snow White looked up in surprise, seeing a young woman cutting through the crowd to gaze at her in honest disbelief. It had been many months since she had seen her former lady's maid Alice, but the honey blonde looked a beautiful as ever, her fine clothes and bodyguard showing that she was working for someone of high status. "Alice," she nodded respectfully, "you look good."

"Refer to her as princess," the guard recovered enough of his nerve to demand, looking at her in appalled shock.

"Princess?" Snow blinked in surprise.

"I'm sorry," Alice smiled up at her, "my father sent me to serve in your household to teach me humility, with your noble mother's permission."

A faintly amused look appeared on Snow's face, then she chuckled softly. At Alice's questioning look she explained, "I think it's fairly ironic, considering that my mother hired you with the hope of civilizing me."

Alice chuckled warmly, her eyes crinkling in amusement as she agreed, "Indeed." She studied Snow a moment, "Do you have a place to spend the night?"

"Not yet, I was about to find a inn when these gentlemen," Snow nodded to the guards, "felt it needful to inquire of my purpose here."

The three guards, seeing Snow and Alice talk so familiarly, had realized they were in far deeper than expected. With no other option they tried to look as innocent as possible, a difficult task considering the broken spear and Rosebud's dangerous glare.

Dismissing them with a glance Alice smiled up at Snow, "I would be honored if you'd accept the hospitality of our castle and my Father and Mother. In truth, I think no inn in our city would be worthy of you, anyway."

"I'm sure that you have many fine inns," Snow countered, "and in truth I have grown used to such conditions."

Rose reached up, placing a hand over Snow's still holding on to the reins. "We would be lessened without your company," she met Snow's eyes, "and in truth, I would hear of your adventures too, unfiltered by the songs of bards and minstrels."

Snow smiled, realizing she wasn't going to be able to politely get out of this. Besides, when Alice had been her maid Rose had rarely given in to her wishes, it was a little enough thing to do so now. "All right," she smiled, "I'd be honored."

"Good," Alice clapped her hands, "now, where is the rest of your baggage caravan? We can get your maids and servants to ready rooms at the palace."

Snow patted the saddlebags on Rosebud as she said wryly, "I'm sorry to say this is it, princess. I tend to travel light."

Alice blinked then she shook her head, laughing fondly. "I should have remembered," she said, "you are a most unusual princess, Snow."

"So I've been told," Snow agreed, the two heading up to the palace together, talking softly as they caught each other up with their lives.

Alice had left the palace of the Wicked Queen shortly after Snow left for the second time, slipping away into the morning light. "And without even telling me you were going," Alice gave her a faintly wounded look.

"I'm sorry," Snow said, feeling a pang of guilt as they moved through the town. They had been friends, despite their wildly different natures, the feminine Alice and the more tough, boyish Snow, and she should have at least bid her farewell.

"It's all right," Alice smiled a bit sadly, "I suppose you know we would have only tried to talk you out of leaving." Her own homecoming had been a joyous one, only marred by her still unmarried status. Sadly few princes of quality had passed through the kingdom, and those that had Alice considered to be utterly unsuitable.

"Good princes are hard to find," Snow agreed as they passed the gates to the palace's courtyard, thinking of how her sister Rose Red had found a princess, instead.

"I still have hope," Alice said, eyes faintly amused.

Before Snow could ask what she meant by that grooms arrived to help her off her steed and unloaded her saddle bags. "Be careful of him, he bites," she warned the boys.

Rosebud whuffed out a disappointed sound.

"Just making it sporting," Snow answered him with a smile.

"I see his bad temper hasn't changed," Alice laughed as they went inside, the light blue walls of the palace sweeping up around them.

"I doubt you expected it to," Snow agreed as they walked side by side, the sound of a groom howling in pain heard behind them. She looked at Alice curiously. "I've always wondered, why is this kingdom called Wonderland?"

"While the towns and villages are quite safe," Alice explained, "the dark woods are full of many wild and weird creatures such as talking caterpillars and Cheshire Cats. So it eventually acquired the name Wonderland."

"Ah," Snow nodded.

A page arrived to escort Snow to her rooms as Alice smiled sunnily, "I'll see you at dinner then." She hesitated, "If you like, I could have some clothes sent up...?"

"I think I have something that should do," Snow reassured her with a smile.

Later that evening Alice fidgeted as her noble mother looked on in amusement. The Queen

of Hearts smiled faintly, "I have rarely seen you so nervous, Alice. Is she truly so fearsome?"

"No," Alice shook her head, her green dress flowing as she made herself sit still, "I just want things to be perfect."

The King of Spades looked curious, "And does Snow White know about your intentions towards her?"

Alice paled, "Father!"

The Queen of Hearts was faintly scolding, "We have heard you speak so glowingly of Snow for months, you have not been subtle my daughter."

"I'm sorry," Alice looked down, blushing. "I hope to tell her tonight," she confessed.

It was only a few moments later that a page opened the door and Snow entered the dining room, bowing slightly to the king and queen She had exchanged her travel stained clothes for a fancy silken blouse and trousers, her boots gleaming, and she made quite the striking figure.

Alice's heart nearly skipped a beat as she met those blue eyes, gazing at that handsome face. 'In truth I know why I found all those princes so unacceptable,' Alice mused, 'I was comparing them all to you, dear Snow.'

"Welcome Snow White," the Queen of Hearts nodded, "we have heard of your adventures from the bards and much about you from our beloved daughter Alice."

Snow tossed Alice a look, amused to see her blush faintly. "In truth such tales are exaggerated," she answered modestly, "but I'm honored to be welcomed here."

"I would enjoy hearing your tales," the King of Spades said warmly, "for it has been a long time since such an adventurer has come to our lands."

"I will do my humble best," Snow conceded.

The meal was lively, the food well made and the company quite entertaining. To relieve Snow of storytelling duties the royal family spoke of the wonders of their land and the strangeness that occasionally happened. In truth the time flew by, and eventually sated they all parted.

"May I accompany you to your rooms?" Alice asked as he parents left.

"Certainly," Snow nodded and they left together. Walking the halls she added, "In truth, I had hoped to apologize to you."

"Eh?" Alice blinked.

Snow smiled faintly. "I'm well aware of how much of a handful I was to you," she explained, "and I've felt a little guilty about that."

"No need," Alice said as she set a hand on her arm, "I suspect I'd resist, too, if someone sought to change my nature."

"Nah," Snow shook her head, "I'm just contrary by nature." They reached her door and she placed her hand on the handle, "Thank you for a fine evening."

"In truth, I hoped it would not end so soon," from beneath her dress Alice drew a flask out, "would you care to join me?"

Snow laughed as they entered her rooms, "Where did you get that?"

"As a young girl I got very good at sneaking things from the kitchen," Alice said with amusement. Cups were quickly produced from a cupboard and she poured a bit in each before handing one to Rose, "Here you go."

"Thank you," Snow said as they sat together on the bed. They each took a drink, the room pleasantly quiet then Snow softly said, "I've thought about you at times, you know."

"Oh?" Alice looked over at her shyly.

"Do you remember when I left the first time?" Snow asked. A faint smile, "The feeling of your kiss on my cheek still lingers in my memory even now."

"In truth that wasn't where I had intended to kiss you," Alice admitted, "my nerve failed me at the last moment."

Snow reached out to place a gentle hand on Alice's chin, turning her to meet her eyes. "Where did you want to kiss me?" Snow asked, her voice husky.

"Here," Alice leaned forward and pressed her lips to Snow's, feeling a surge of joy as the taller woman returned the kiss gently.

Blushing Snow moved back, her cheeks bright red. "Me, too," she confessed, "and for longer than I'd care to admit."

"Maybe we should try to make up for lost time?" Alice suggested, grasping Snow's drink then setting them both aside.

"Lets," Snow agreed, both sliding down to the bed. She stroked Alice's hair back as she softly added, "But.. I don't want this to be just a one night thing."

"It won't be," Alice snuggled close, "I have loved you a long time... my prince."

End.

Notes: Yes, that's Alice in Wonderland from Chapter One. I had always intended to follow up on her sometime but space constraints in the first four chapters kinda held me back.. as it was this chapter was nearly a third longer than my usual ones. Still, I think it went pretty well.