Another story, another day. This one I have been working on for a while, and while not as dark as my other stories, it does indeed hold a hint of shadow. I hope you all enjoy my retelling of Snow White –which I have horrible butchered- and that you all have as much fun with it as I did.
This story is finished, and should be updated weekly for about five weeks. I only have five chapters, because it's a short retelling. Nothing long, but fun.
Amber will be updated soon, I promise. It's finished, just in the process of being edited. My beta is moving so she is attempting to pack and edit at the same time. Thank you so much for you patience.
In consequence, this chapter –this story- have only been beta-ed by me and the spell checker in word. We have attempted to catch all mistakes, but please forgive me for the ones that are there.
A blessing, a curse -a single word-, a spell, a whisper, the very charge in the air that left the faint sent of smoke and raised the goose bumps along the fine hairs of your arm. Fire, water, earth and the very air...and more importantly, power.
The Queen trembled then, her thoughts taking her back to the bargain she had made, a single moment of loneliness and the firm knowledge that not only had she bargained with something far wiser, stronger, and more cunning than herself, but that she had done it willingly.
Dropping her hand to the slowly rounding of her stomach she found her hand shaking at what she felt. It was life, but it was life at a great cost.
Three tiny drops of blood.
Closing her eyes tightly the pale beauty of the queen was distorted by the twisting of her full mouth, her face a picture of bitterness and hate. A child she wanted, yes, but not one bound by demon magic and blood, an abomination that grew fully inside of her.
She had bound her fate the instant she had whispered her wish to the dark, frozen air of her garden that winter night, the moment she had agreed to prick her finger and the three drops of blood had spilled from her body.
The moment she had conceived.
Hair black as ebony, skin white as snow, and lips stained as dark as the red rose. How utterly foolish she had been, how innocently naive her words had been. But there was a moral to the story, a lesson she had forgotten in her haste and lighthearted wants.
Magic, once it found its foothold did not easily let go of its own, did not release what it held onto. This child was to be what she feared most, she could feel it in the way it pulsed under hand, in the stillness of the air just before dusk.
Her child would hold the very magic that formed her in her veins. It would be in the black silk of her hair, the pale contrast of her delicate skin, and in the dark red of her perfectly formed mouth.
She knew, in some sinking half thought, that the wish that was slowly drawing strength from her; would kill her.
Because magic always came with a price, and three drops of blood was enough to make it move, not enough to make it grow, to sustain and improve it.
The cost of that would be her own life force.
Fingers gently trembled even as she delicately placed her hand on her stomach.
The new Queen preened in her royal robes, admiring how the dark blue contrasted the wine colored locks of her hair and the dark brown of her gaze. Her full lips pulled into a smirk as she admired the richly decorated crown.
"Mine." Yumi whispered, her eyes scanning the room, awash in royal blues and violets.
For years she had attempted to land on her feet, her beauty her most valued tool. She had almost had a position similar to this one, except her lover had been killed before he could complete his sadistic plans. Shishio had been a man who could conquer worlds, if it hadn't been for the red-haired demon, the Battousai, standing in his path.
But she had escaped, fled to this small country and to the mourning husband, a widower with a single girl-child, and played the abused maiden to the core. She was now Queen and the most beautiful in the land.
She had found she guarded her beauty with something akin to jealousy. She was a possessive woman, and could control little in this world. But her face, her body's perfect form, was hers to her death. He had promised.
Yumi stiffened when there was a knock on the door, and a small dark headed child entered the room. Her husband had mentioned that today she would meet his child; he had wanted to marry her first. There was a glint of faint resolution in his gaze, as if he feared the meeting.
She was a surprisingly beautiful child. Yumi felt her heart burn in anger at the site, for here in the form of a child not yet ten was something that would one day be competition for the title as the most beautiful.
The child moved forward and the light struck her in what appeared to be the perfect light. Dark, glossy hair burned almost blue, her skin was so pale that Yumi was tempted to believe that she never saw the sun. Lips that where dark and almost appeared stained by some cosmetics were pulled into a sunny smile.
But it was her eyes that caught and held Yumi's attention. A blue so bright that it seemed almost impossible, they where two burning hues of sapphire.
"Hello Queen-lady." The child whispered.
Yumi allowed her lips to twist into something of a smile, and was startled when a flame danced in the child's gaze, as if she knew something that Yumi herself did not.
Yumi stiffened when she placed the look of the child, it was the ethereal touch that only the strongest magic left behind, but there was something in her eyes that burned.
Even as she plotted her husband's death, she also plotted this child's removal from her site.
She never wanted to see those eyes again.
9 years later
Kaoru thought about humming as she scrubbed at the stained rocks that made up the path to her Queen-mothers chambers, but knew that would only bring down the wrath of her stepmother.
Kaoru wasn't sure when she had switched from cherished daughter to servant, wasn't sure when she lost her fathers beloved nickname, Snow White, and been cast into the shadows.
Kaoru sighed at her reflection, she knew she was lovely, had been told so by the nervous guards and heard the whispers of those around her.
She also heard the darker rumors, fairy magic, they said. Unnatural looking eyes that should not see as brightly as they did, glints of faint silver in star bursts in the center of her gaze. Danger. Demon-child. Magic.
Kaoru had never beheld magic, was unaware if she did in fact possess it. All she knew was that her day consisted of work that had broken many before her, but something inside her refused to back down, refused to be cowered by the daunting tasks assigned.
Looking up Kaoru sighed in relief at the setting sun. It was Friday, which meant no bath this night, but at least the work for the day was over and she could dream.
Her dreams where always awash with color, vivid and stark in her mind the next morning, amber with a fierce fire that startled her. And sometimes...sometimes she thought she could here someone speaking, talking to her, taking her away from this work filled place.
A place where she knew her stepmother plotted her downfall the same way she plotted her beloved fathers. She knew her stepmother had killed him, knew it with a bone deep certainty that scared her.
The same way she knew that something on the horizon was going to change everything.
Kaoru spun frantically for the place was dark. Darker than any night she could remember, it was as if the light was absorbed by whatever the inky colored air was.
"Who are you?"
It was a harsh whisper of demand, and Karou turned frantically trying to find the source.
"WHY ARE YOU HERE?"
Kaoru jerked like she had been stung. "I...I don't know."
"How did you come to be at this place?"
Kaoru trembled then, something in that voice was dark and silky, it was hot like fire and seemed to answer some long lost question in her soul.
"Please," Kaoru whispered her voice faint as the darkness swallowed the syllables. "Please, tell me where I am?"
Caught she felt something grasp her wrist and she was yanked forward and turned and gasped at what she saw.
"You are in my mind."
Then she was falling and it was an earth shattering white that called her from her dreams.
Kaoru sat up with a jerk, her hand resting on her breast, her chest heaving.
Wrapping an old, thin, and worn blanket around her dusty clothing she trembled in an effort to ward off the nightmare that still churned her insides.
Curling as tight into herself as she could she felt a few, small, but burning tears to roll down her face.
"Amber eyes." Kaoru whispered, her voice conveying the burning image in her mind. Amber eyes that where full of anger, darkness, and a rage to dominate so fully that it scared her. But it was also the loneliness sight she had ever seen.
"Who are you?"
He awoke with a start; his breath coming in its normal pattern, as if a creature far lovelier than even he had imagined had not just disturbed him.
And with enough magic pulsing through her veins he was surprised that he had not been burned alive when he had caught her wrist in a sort of distant reflex.
As if he thought she would run.
Frowning he watched the sun rise above his window, his hot amber gaze hidden by hair as dark as the trail of blood that was left behind him.
Assassin. King. Demon. It mattered little what name they called him; it was never his true name. It was never the softly spoken words his mother had whispered over his cradle, nor was it even the words his long past master had given him on the day he took him in to train.
The name he had heard whispered in his shadow, afraid of the terrible power that flowed through his own darker veins, afraid of the terrible rage that refused to cool in the very same blood.
And magic strong enough to tear even through the darkest mage wall.
He protected his people carefully, never willing to allow anyone to touch his borders, to threaten that which he claimed as his, and even as they feared him, they loved him.
Loved him for the protection he offered, his willingness to stain his hands on their account, loved him for the carefully controlled power that seemed to follow him.
But who was she?
No creature touched his mind, not a single person could hold contest to the magic that burned in his veins, and even with that magic his mother had given him by birthright, he still wondered.
She had burned as brightly as he, but with innocence that was startling. Her gaze, twin flames of raw magic and flame, had threatened to tear him from his very soul, to separate body and spirit.
She was magic born. He knew that for sure. But what person would risk there life, their soul, for something as meaningless as a child?
Rising to his feet, his headed toward his closet to get dressed for the day.
If she contacted him once, she would do so again. Next time he would have answers to what or who she was. If she were a threat, he would eliminate her; the way he had eliminated all that had stood in his path since he had turned the age of fifteen.
Next time, he would find a name to match to that almost angelic face.
His lips curved into a haunting predatory smile as he left his carefully warded room and wondered into the day's normal activities.
And the day was jaded blue.
Yumi brushed her hair carefully aware that even the slightest mistake could crack her carefully drawn composure, shatter the tight-lidded control she held on her emotions.
Queen. For many years now she had held that title, the one thing Shishio had never been able to give her. A life of comfort, the right to do what she wished.
Acknowledgement of her ultimate beauty.
Her full lips pulled into a smile that could cause the sun to hide itself in shame, her eyes darkening to mahogany as she lightly bit her lip to stiffly the half crazed laugh that bubbled into her throat.
She was now in control of the magic that ran rampart in the very air that this kingdom seemed to produce. It obeyed her because it must, and she relished the power.
Power that was threatened by the little tart that currently swept the front steps outside.
"Mirror, Mirror," Yumi breathed, tossing her main of wine stained locks across one shoulder, "Who is the fairest of them all?"
Yumi watched, waiting, the acknowledgement and reassurance something vainly knew were hers alone.
It swirled, the faint echoes of color coming to form a face of a man not yet sixty.
"Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true, but snow white fairer is than you." His voice, like the rest of him, was faded and crackled with age.
Yumi, her face whitening to the point of rice paper, stared at him trying desperately to place the name. Who was this Snow White?
"Kaoru." Yumi hissed, suddenly recalling the loving, half- fearful nickname that her father had given her as a child, for the little girl's skin was pale and never once had appeared to have been touched by the harsh rays she worked in daily.
Yumi felt a great swell of jealousy rise in her bosom, and she felt her full lips twist into a dangerous snarl.
"We shall see, fair Kaoru, how long you shall be fairest."
Turning she strode from the room, her body trembling in outrage.
"Bring me the Huntsman!"
Kaoru sighed in relief as she tumbled out of the tub. It was Saturday, which meant that if she finished the chores fast enough she could bath if she drew her own bath.
The water was lukewarm but it was warm enough to stand and still scrub every drop of grim from her body.
Kaoru slide into the ragged clothing she had scrubbed just as furiously as she had her own body, and slide into the still damp clothing with a sigh of relief.
It never ceased to amaze her that she had never once gotten the much feared lice that many of the other woman complained about, nor had she ever had to worry about the fleas that caused so many problem with her fellow workers.
Kaoru was thankful however, for her hair was long and dark and she hated to think about what she would look like with short hair.
Sighing she slide onto the mat that she took out and beat everyday that served as her bed. Grabbing the threadbare blanket she shivered slightly as the cool air teased her dark, still damp hair and clothing.
Closing her eyes she slid back into the darkness that was her sleep and almost wept as she found herself again trapped in the inky thickness.
" I was wondering if you would come tonight, my little dream stealer." His words, for only a male could have a voice of honey, silk and darkness, cradled her in a blanket of confusion.
A low laugh, sinful in its husky tones whispered across her senses, a faint shiver running down her spine in unwanted delight, emotion Kaoru didn't understand.
"Perhaps dream walker would be more appropriate, or perhaps I should call you a sparrow, for you are such a small, nervous little thing."
Kaoru pulled herself up to her full height, searching with eyes that could see only black, and frowned. "I am not a bird."
"No." It was a puff against her ear as strong hands pulled her back against a hard chest. "No, you're defiantly woman."
Kaoru licked suddenly dry lips and tried to keep her breathing even, even as she felt something-smooth run over the ridge of her ear.
"You taste like magic, little one." His voice was a rough growl and it terrified her.
"Let me go." Kaoru ordered, trembling against him.
Slowly his arms loosened and Kaoru sprung away, her face a rush of red and fear. "Please, I want to go home."
"And where is home?"
Karou licked her suddenly dry lips and shivered. "I don't know."
And for the second time the bright light took her far away.
Kaoru woke up shivering and tucked herself into a small ball, wondering if she was ever going to be free of both the prison of her world and the gilded cage of her dreams.
He had called her a dream stealer, but it was he who stole. Stole the want for the morning hours and replaced it was the fire of his touch.
Kaoru sighed as she heard the household start to wake. Rising she tied her hair back. "Who are you?"
Standing she frowned when she heard a knock on the door. Rising she was surprised to see her friend Sano standing there, a fine dress of deep blue cloth in his hands.
"Come Kaoru, today we ride."
He frowned darkly at the sun. It seemed his time was limited to the time of the sun. His little sparrow was indeed a dream walker.
But what disturbed him was the fact that it wasn't his dreams that she entered, but his very mind. Even during the day, he could feel the faintest touch of her mind.
"Just where are you hiding today?"
He frowned as he caught the faint tinge of fear, but pushed it off as something else.
He would forget her. He had more important things to worry about that strange women walking in his mind at night.
Today he had to speak with his captains and discuss the rumors rising in the west. If his hunch was correct, then he would be seeing an old foe again.