His majesty the King died a week after his second marriage. He was sick for sometime before he died, and the marriage was never consummated. The previous queen whom he loved had died giving birth to their daughter, and now he was dead.

I went to the new Queen, who was probably looking over the new pledges that the lords had signed. It surprised me a little that they were willing to accept a new queen ruling over them by herself. I opened the door and there she was, looking over the pledges and looking rather content. I fancied a smug look on her beautiful, young face.

"Give me the throne."

"You are a Princess. You will inherit the throne in time."

"After you die." She blinked. I wondered if she had never thought of it before.

"I certainly won't consider marrying you." She was trying to be funny. She was too serious of a person and could never do it quite right. Even when his majesty the King was alive and she sat by him in court and tried to be funny, no one would find it funny and just get confused instead.

"You're so young. I will have to wait forever for you to die." That was true. She was only five years older than me. Yet by law she was my stepmother.

I was twenty-one.

"Snow White-"

"Only my father can call me that. Him and myself."

"Ilithyia-"

"I hate that name."

"Princess, you will inherit the throne in time. Now go."

I left and went down the stairs to my garden just below the windows of the new Queen's study. I looked down at my black dress and wondered how long the castle was going to mourn for his majesty the King. The new Queen would only think of him as a lost father or friend, not a husband or lover. She had only married him because he decided that it would be so, and only then because he thought that she resembled the previous queen. Now he was dead and the new Queen was left to rule his kingdom and to raise his daughter.

I sat down by my black rose bushes and fingered the fragrant blooms. I hadn't really cared about the new Queen taking the throne; I don't ever want to rule. It seemed pointless with insatiable people, infinite greed of enemies, and never ending problems. A thorn slipped under my careful watch and pricked my finger. I sucked it and tasted the salty taste of blood.

Then I let it be.


I felt like traveling. I told the new Queen so. She choked on her wine, to my amusement. I politely waited while she dabbed her lips and chin with her napkin.

"You will do no such thing."

"Why? Why not?"

"You just won't, that's all."

"Oh?"

"Where would you go, anyway?"

"Places."


The new Queen and I finished our dinner and she left to tend to her mountain of paperwork in the study. I went to my chambers, undressed, and put on a dress that didn't have too many frills and ribbons and jewels. I headed down to the stables and rode down the city streets on a little brown mare. When I got to the right house I dismounted and lead my mare through the mansion's gate and into the garden. I wondered if my mare would make herself at home in the garden. I left her there.

I walked through the empty courtyard and followed the sounds of merry people through the hallways to arrive at the dinning hall. Ehren seemed to have some guests over. At my rather quiet arrival, a servant pointed me out and Ehren came to me.

"Hello, Princess."

"Let's go traveling." Ehren laughed. His silvery blue eyes sang and his golden locks shook as he shook his head in disbelief. He put down his goblet of wine that he had been sipping and came down on one knee to take my hand and kiss it. He stood back up.

"Welcome to my father's household, Princess Ilithyia. I, the future Lord Ehren Fürst, welcome you."

"I want to go traveling, Ehren."

The merry people had stopped making merry noises when the son of Lord Ehren Fürst, younger Ehren Fürst the head of this branch of the household, went down to his knee; but they resumed making merry noises now that their twenty-one year old host straightened up. He took my arm and guided me to his seat. A chair for me was quickly produced.

"Have you eaten?"

"Yes."

"Perfect, then you can join us with our new batch of champagne."

The champagne was nice and cold. As the merriment wore away the guests left one by one, and we were alone amidst dirty dishes and leftover food scraps. We moved to Ehren's bedchamber to let the servants clean the dinning hall. I let myself fall onto Ehren's bed and lay on my stomach, enjoying the feeling of the cool satin sheets against my flushed cheeks. Ehren pulled up a chair next to the bed and sat down. My eyes were closed and I kept them that way.

"You wanted to go traveling?"

"Yes."

"Tonight?"

"Yes."

He leaned over and tucked in a stray strand of my hair. His cool touch felt nice on my face. "Should I inform Queen Maia? Where do you wish to go?"

I sat up on his bed and looked at him in the candlelight. His steady gaze made me feel vulnerable and invincible at the same time. I looked away.

"You're too practical. Let mother alone with her papers and politics."

"I see. Where do you want to go?"

I leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips.

"Places."


That night we were tight on time so we had decided to leave early next morning instead. I got up, took a bath, and dressed in one of the beautiful dresses of colors that Ehren always had in the locked trunks. They were tough and travel worthy, and Ehren wanted me to wear them. We had the servants pack some things and told them that we were going hunting. I went to his stables to find my mare well groomed, fed, and quite content. Ehren soon came and gave me a brief kiss before leading his grey white stallion out of its stall. We mounted our horses and galloped down the empty streets of early morning toward the forest.

For three days we kept our word and hunted. Following the stream, searching out rare game, we left behind any meat that we did not eat. I didn't wish to go through the process of smoking meat, and neither did Ehren. We traveled deeper and deeper into the forest, and on the fourth day we passed the old rundown watchtower that we always used to turn back at. And on the fifth day, we found a cottage across the stream.

"Doesn't our kingdom stretch beyond the forest?"

"Does it?"

"I think so," Ehren dismounted to lead his stallion and my mare across the water. "So the peasant must be one of your subjects."

He let them wade through the shallow water while he stepped on little stepping stones that served as a natural bridge. I pulled the hems of my dress away from the water and wondered if the people living in the cottage had trouble crossing the stream with their carts. My mare almost stumbled on a pebble and I focused on staying on my horse. Not every peasant had a cart. They were probably doing okay without a cart. Carts weren't so necessary.

Ehren and I left our horses to graze and knocked on the door. The cottage was rather small. When we heard no response we entered. No one was there, but there must be a family of seven living here because there was a set table of seven places and a room with seven beds. I wondered if they would mind us staying with them for a while. I was hungry and tired, and hadn't had a proper bath.

"You can stay here and rest until the peasants come back. I'll go and get some meat for the table."

"Alright." Ehren took his bow and arrows and left.

I tasted some of the food that was on the table. It was good. Then I found their bathtub and took a nice bath. I went to the bedroom, where I remembered seeing seven beds. The beds were rather small and I had to push all seven of them together. I arranged the seven blankets as best as I could, and fell asleep.


I woke to the sound of merry people. It was already dark, and I went down the stairs to find seven old men eating dinner, playing music, singing, dancing, and drinking. Ehren was among them, and I saw the roasted boar on the table. He saw me as I was coming down and helped me down the last steps, laughing with a glass of wine in his hand.

"You're finally awake. Come and drink with us. Our new friends are one of us!" I looked around at them.

"They're all right."

They were all dwarves. One dwarf with a pair of spectacles came to me. He had a glass of sherry in his hand.

"Did you have a nice rest, Princess?"

"I used your beds and your bathtub."

"It's quite all right. Have something to drink."

I looked over at Ehren, who seemed to be enjoying himself.

"What do you have?"

"Everything. Name any drink in the world, we have it."

We spent the rest of the night eating dinner and drinking. Ehren came to me as I sat eating the roasted boar.

"Do you like it?"

"I love it."

"You love it?"

"Yes."

"Do you love me?" Ehren's silver blue eyes were clouded and his words slightly slurred.

"Yes." I leaned over and kissed him.

At the dwarves' urging Ehren and I danced to their fiddles and accordions. We had a good time. Their drinks were very good. The roasted boar was good. But as the night turned grey and the moon set, music gave way to fatigue and the dwarves gave us the beds upstairs.

"Where will you sleep?"

"Oh, places."

Upstairs, Ehren and I changed into comfortable sleeping clothes and slept.


We spent a week in the merry cottage, drinking and being merry every night. But during the day the dwarves left, despite how exhausting every night got. They told us they were going to work. Ehren and I let them be. I never sent word to the new Queen, and Ehren never sent word to his household. I had coffee. It was early afternoon.

The new Queen did come after me despite the number of drinks Ehren and I had. She came one afternoon when the dwarves were gone and Ehren was off hunting by himself. She had only brought a servant boy to accompany her, and I watched at the window as the boy lead the black stallion across the water. She dismounted and entered the cottage. I did not stand up as she came to me.

"It's been a week."

"I was gone for longer than that."

"Let's head back. You've had your fun."

"Have a drink."

"I don't drink coffee." She thought I was giving her coffee. I got up and poured some sherry into two glasses filled with ice. I took one up myself and left the other on the table by her hand. She didn't touch it.

"You're making a fool out of yourself."

"Everything's fine, Maia."

"You're drunk."

"No I'm not."

"Shut up. You're drunk."

I tipped my head back and let the sherry down my throat all at once. I threw the ice out the window. The new Queen offered an apple.

"Fruit?"

"If you hate living so much, just take this."

"I love living. I love living, drinking, the roast boar and Ehren."

"You're acting like a spoiled child. If Anthony knew that this would happen-" I let my empty cup fall to the ground. The crystal touched the polished wooden floor and burst into a thousand pieces. The new Queen's addressing his majesty the King like that annoyed me.

"Snow White, take this apple. It will make you sleep until your true love kisses you for the first time." That was really funny. I laughed delightfully. The new Queen frowned. She was funny after all. I looked at the apple. It looked all right. I took it. The new Queen turned around and left. I kept the apple in my hand as I drank the new Queen's sherry.

That night I excused myself early and took a bath. As I sat soaking in the scalding hot water, I thought about my apple. Ehren came in. He had two glasses of wine in his hands and handed one to me as he sat down on the edge of the tub. I kissed him and took a sip of the wine. It was nice and cold. I licked my lips and put the wine down. We just looked into each other's eyes for a while.

"The new Queen dropped by today."

"Is that what you call her in your mind?" Ehren swept my wet hair away from my face. I grabbed my wine and drank. "I figured as much. The dwarves cleaned up the crystal."

"They're all right." I looked at Ehren over the rim of the glass. "Do you love me?"

"Yes." I smiled and we kissed.


The next morning I woke up. I saw the apple on the bedside table and reached out for it, but had to stop as Ehren shifted in his sleep and put his arms around me. I put my hand on his and turned around to look at his sleeping face. I kissed his forehead. The apple was in my hands and I brought it up to my face. I rested my forehead on his and took a bite of the red fruit. Before I fell asleep again I saw his silver blue eyes open.

My eyes closed.


My head ached, my body ached, and I felt like I couldn't breathe. It felt just like a big hangover.

My eyes opened and I turned my head. I was in a coffin, but I could see outside. I watched Ehren quietly as he sat next to my coffin. It felt strange to see Ehren so sad and I didn't like it. I tapped on the wall of my crystal coffin. It took another few taps to get his attention. When he saw me awake his eyes widened. Immediately the heavy lid came off and I was able to breathe.

"Snow White?" Ehren helped me up. I felt dizzy. I wanted something to drink.

"Give me something to drink. What happened?" Ehren held me in his arms and didn't let me go. His care was unsettling. I kissed him. He kissed me back but I stopped him because of my pounding head. He got up and returned with a glass of cool water. I drank it to the last drop.

"You were gone for five years."

"What did you do?"

"Watched over you."

"For five years?"

"Yes." Ehren didn't ask about the apple.

"You're all right."


We received word that her majesty the Queen had died while giving birth to her child. Ehren didn't fail to notice the timing of her majesty's death and my awakening. Her majesty's child had died soon after, and the father of the child, whoever he was, never revealed himself. We stayed at the cottage with the merry dwarves while we constantly received word from Ehren's servant boy. When the boy came running with the news of the search for me or her majesty the Queen's lover, Ehren ordered his entire household moved next to the cottage in tents. After that we hired people whose professions were keeping secrets to continue sending us news.

One afternoon Ehren and I were having lunch outside by the stream when our messenger came on his black mare. The man dismounted on the other side of the stream and approached us on foot. He took off his hat and bowed deeply. I laughed.

"You may rise. Will you drink with us?"

"Thank you, your highness, but your offer is too good for me."

"What news have you for me?"

"Prince Ehren, your father has been identified as the lover of the late Queen and the father of the dead child. He is now the king." I blinked.

"Congratulations, Ehren." Ehren frowned. I took another sip of wine, and took out a silk pouch of coins.

"Thank you. Your services are no longer needed. Go."

I handed the pouch to the man, who bowed and left, galloping on his horse. I had given him thrice what we owed him. I finished my glass of wine. Ehren seemed deep in thought. I decided to make up his mind for him.

"Let's go back." Ehren looked at me. I enjoyed his confused gaze and snuggled into his embrace.

"Are you sure?"

"Everything will be all right."

"When do you wish to leave?"

"What have we to wait for?" I stood up and watched the woods as Ehren corked up the wine. We informed Ehren's staff and were uncertain as to what to do about the merry dwarves. I decided to skip the good-byes. We might return. We will return. We certainly should. After crossing the stream, we mounted our horses and left.


I slipped away from Ehren in the stables of the castle and went up the stairs to the study. Just like her majesty the Queen, the new King was probably looking over the new pledges that the lords would have had to sign. I opened the door and he turned around from where he was standing looking out the window. He had a glass of sherry in his hand. I smiled.

"Give me the throne." He bowed deeply. I fancied a look of relief on his wise, handsomely aged face.

"With pleasure, your highness. I knew that you would return."

The new King poured me a cup of sherry and I accepted it. I took the seat that he offered.

"Hell, keep the throne. You know I don't really want it."

The silence was broken by loud echoing of the staircase and the door slammed open. Ehren stood at the doorway. I smiled at him.

"Prince Ehren! Won't you come and drink with his majesty and me?"


After we finished the sherry together, Ehren and I left the new King to his papers and politics and came down to the garden. I sat down next to my rose bushes- someone had planted blue roses in the place of my black ones. I fingered the fragrant blooms, leaning into Ehren's embrace.

"Why don't you want to rule?"

"Your father would be a better ruler."

"But if the lords find out that you've returned, they might want to-" I winced. A thorn had slipped past my guard and pricked my finger. Ehren reached over and kissed it.

Then we let it be.

The End