It burns.

And how she danced, danced, danced in those hot iron shoes. Stripped of dignity, the lines in her face casting valleys of darkness from the fire, because to light a candle is to cast a shadow.

itburnsitburnsitburns –

Lips as red as blood curved and laughed as the Queen was made a jester, waltzing for Snow White in the glory of her youth. Her last breath she would not waste.

"One day, Snowdrop," she hissed, her cracked voice a curse on the newling's pretty ears. "You will grow old."


mirror, mirror


Luminous blonde hair swept into the sunlight, sprinkling Hilde's young form with heaven's luscious light. Her eyes were as blue as the sky, her lips as pink as the roses she fondled with her perfect fingertips. She drifted through the garden, her angel's feet kissing the earth.

The Queen had married a young widow, his orphan daughter in tow – her heart had gone out to the child, so defenceless when swaddled in blankets. Now the cotton of a sundress robed the same spawn, clinging to those pert little breasts, those refined hips and long legs.

Snow White rested a pale hand on the sill, watching the child. Seventeen years had changed this grub of a girl into a butterfly, replete with an aura of innocent menace.

After a glance over her shoulder, Snow slid a dirty secret out from underneath the window seat. It flashed in the light, greeting her as she cupped it in her slender fingers.

"Mirror, mirror," she whispered to the shard. "On the wall."

One last time, before she put the thing away forever. The addiction had to break – but, only after all doubt had been erased from her mind.

"Who is the fairest…"

The door swung open, making her jump. The mirror fell onto the table, clattering loudly, crying out for attention.

"Snow, my love?" the King said, moving down to brush her ebony hair aside. "You look so pale. What's the matter?"

Before she could smile, weave the lie like his fingers through her hair, he caught a glimpse of movement in the edge of his vision. The mirror glittered in the sunlight like a beacon of broken promises. One last time. One hundred last times.

"Honey…" he murmured, picking up the fragile thing. "You said you wouldn't look at this anymore."

She cast her eyes to the ground. But before he threw it into the fireplace, shattering the lie, she caught a glimpse of movement in the edge of her vision.

The mirror gleamed with Hilde's elven face, mouthing the words at her.

It is me.

"Run," the woodsman said, his eyes wild. The knife lay on the ground between them, abandoned. "Just run, far away, and never let me find you."

"What will you do?" Hilde asked softly, her eyes saltwater blue. He turned his face away from her, concealing all his traitorous pain.

"Just go."

She whirled away, footsteps rattling the ground as she fled. The woodsman looked up, only to see the last whisper of white sundress fade into darkness. His knees crashed into the leaf litter, a murmured prayer joining the sound of the forest, as his hands found the knife again.



It burns.

The scarlet petition shot up Hilde's legs, begging her to stop. Her muscles ached and a sickness clawed her stomach. She glanced over her shoulder, blonde hair flying in the forest gloom - a tree root latched onto her foot, sending a shackle of pain screaming through her ankle.

Her legs crashed into the bare dirt, scraping over jagged rocks. Hilde went down, rolling onto the forest floor. Blood seeped from her knees, staining the white sundress with pain - she lost the will to rise again. She hid her face under her creamy arms, forgetting there was nobody to hear her weep.

It burns.

It was a cooling grey sky that greeted Hilde, as she finally limped out of the forest; her sore heart matching her clotted knees. Dirt and tears smeared her face and arms, the dress ruined. A clearing spread before her – there was something odd – eyes like clouded crystals –

Fingers trailed along her arm, gently, so gently, the soft leaves of a willow, raising hairs on her back. She half-turned, but felt her muscles start to hurt - her skin stretching, the branches grappling her to the ground. Her hair swept around her face like a golden curtain as she cried out, falling to the ground. Somebody's knee wedged itself in between her shoulderblades, thick and heavy.


"Who are you?" a gruff voice demanded.

"H-heh…" Hilde panted, the breath forcing itself out of her lungs. Hands like steel clamped her wrists. Her scraped knees seared in protest, pressed into the ground.

"What's your name? Now!" She hadn't thought her arms could bend further; pain shot up her shoulders, acid in her veins. She felt her resolve tighten with her tendons; what was the use of running if she gave up now?

"H-Helena," she huffed the lie, "Helena Vale."

She couldn't see her captor, no eyebrows drawing lines of suspicion or curved lips relaxing with acceptance; kept in suspense, tension and fear enveloped her. After some long seconds, she felt his grip loosen unconvincingly.

"Why did you come here? Where from?"

"I had to run away," she said, bracing herself – violently, she twisted underneath the invisible man, wrenching her arms forward. "Let me go!"

Her slender wrists slipped from his grasp, and she rolled over, freeing herself from the villain. Her feet found their place on the earth again, and she raised her head –

His arms wrapped around her stomach, pulling her back down again. She landed on him, hard –

"Ugh –"

- screaming and writhing, a woman possessed. "Stay still," she heard him growl, as if she would take orders.

He pushed her off him, rolling over to pin her, but she forced her knee up into the fork of his legs, kicking him hard. She heard a grunt of rage rip itself from her lungs.

"Ahhh…" he groaned, his arms releasing her. Hilde rolled away and scrambled to her feet, breath galloping up and down her trachea like a skittish mustang.

The rogue was still down, clutching himself, his eyes narrow. Green eyes, glinting under long sweeps of russet hair that had tangled with the dirt. He was younger than he'd sounded, and attired roughly - even worse than the servants in the palace - his shirt was faded, his blue jacket torn at the elbow.

An oddly familiar jacket – she couldn't place –

Hilde paused in spite of the danger, reluctant to turn and run again. It was getting dark, and who knows might be back in the forest; and then again, her assailant could be faking his injury, readying to strike again. She backed up a couple of steps, considering it.

The young man raised himself onto one elbow, glaring at her. Hilde decided what needed to be done.

Better the devil you know.

She ran back toward him, closing the distance in three steps, and kicked him in the stomach - as hard as she could. He gasped, recoiling again, and fell onto his back. She put a foot on his chest, giving him a hard look.

"Who are you?" she said, her eyes flashing with anger. He lay still, grimacing, until she pushed harder on his ribcage. "Answer me!"

"Rafael," he muttered, breathless. His eyes flickered down, anywhere but her face.

Hilde repressed pity; the soreness lingering in her wrists kept her stare hard. "Full name."

"Rafael Smith. Now, get off me, or I'll make you."

Using her better judgement, Hilde stepped back. He pushed himself up onto his elbows; "ahhh… ouch."

"You gave me a fake name," she accused him, folding her arms.

Any minute now, he was going to do one of two things – kill her, or never touch her again. Adrenaline still spiked her bloodstream, making her heart feel ready to explode. If he made one wrong move, she was ready to sprint like a doe.

He stood up, brushing himself off, with unusual diligence. Dust clung to every seam of the coat. "So did you," he replied, inspecting the hem.

No lunging, snarling or grabbing so far. Despite her hammering chest, Hilde maintained her outrage. "You attacked me!"

"You retaliated."

"Oh, I'm sorry; was I not supposed to do that?" she spat. "You could have killed me!"

"Still might," he mumbled; she saw a shadow of raised eyebrow as he turned away from her, and clenched her fists.

"What was that!"

Across the clearing lay a small camp, with a crackling fire at its' centre. The blaze looked so welcoming, warm and – was that the scent of beef stew? She hadn't noticed that before. Her empty stomach wriggled at the thought, as Rafael looked back at her.

"I said, 'let me make it up to you'," he said, and jerked his head at the fire. "Come on. It's getting dark."

Hilde's perfect eyebrows knitted. "Yeah, right."

"Suit yourself."

Hilde watched Rafael's retreating back, trying desperately to add him up. One minute, he was wrestling her to the ground - the next, he was inviting her to dinner. What a freak. What a total –

ah, the smell of stew was thick in her nose, promising delicious sustenance –

asshole, how dare he try to –

Carrots and peas, a hint of leek.

Screw it.

Thirty minutes later, clutching an empty bowl that was still warm with the memory of stew that had once been, Hilde realized what the jacket had reminded her of.

It was familiar. The faded embroidery and decaying velvet inlay still told tales, the tarnished brass buttons – a few missing – roused recollections in Hilde that had long laid dormant. This was a soldier's coat – a relic of the war that had darkened the corners of her sheltered childhood. A war they'd won, but at a terrible price.

"Admiring my stylish attire?" Rafael's voice, somewhat hoarse, broke into her thoughts.

Hilde started, and felt her gaze automatically dart back up to meet his. There was a casual smile on his lips, one that never seemed to reach the eyes that watched her now. It was dark now, and the firelight cast valleys of darkness across his face. Hell in a vale –

"You were in the war," she said, feeling distantly shocked at her own boldness. Then again, he was the one who'd tackled her.

"Yes. I was conscripted." A ragged garb worked well, accessorized with a façade of nonchalance.

Hilde shivered. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be; it wasn't that bad." A lie – an obvious lie. "By the end of the war, I was promoted to Captain of a small squadron."

His eyes flickered to the few things that lay in the entrance of the tent, close by the fire. A framed photograph, glass pane reflecting the guttering flames; Hilde's gaze followed, and she reached out to take it.

The photograph depicted the aforementioned; a row of seven men, all with the same blue coats, laughing, leaning on each other – was that a pint?

"Post-victory celebrations," Rafael said, beside her; he'd moved while she was absorbed in the frame, nearly silent. "That's me," he indicated, before tapping the next man. "And that's… Skitzo, Randy, Rowdy, Cloudy, Christopher and Doc."

"Strange names," she murmured.


"Did you have one?"

He shook his head. "Just 'Boss'."

"You're lying to me," Hilde pointed out, eliciting a smile from the former Captain Smith. A real one, this time.

"Yes," he sighed. "Yes, I am. They also called me 'Sexy'."

"Don't be stupid," Hilde giggled, giving him a half-hearted push. He grabbed her around the waist again, this time, unexpectedly warm and gentle…

Later, sitting by the fire, their bodies curved together, as Hilde finally gave in to exhaustion. When she awoke in the morning, a faded blue jacket was wrapped around her shoulders.

By my calculations, they had three weeks before the apple arrived.

A/N: Written for the Review Game's October WCC - feel free to vote! This drabble, according to Microsoft Word, has exactly 1, 999 words.

© 2011, Macabre Thoughts – the fairest of them all. ;)