Disclaimer: nothing you recognise belongs to me.
This is part of my "fairytale redux" series and so has none of the my OC's from my other long fics in it. Huge apologies to the various incarnations of Snow White that I have used and abused.
Snow white. My father called me that when I was little, and even then I knew he lied. My skin has not, nor ever had, the alabaster polish of the Roman women who shelter beneath ornate carriages, and indeed the snow in our village rarely remained white for long. Once trodden it absorbed the dirt of those that touched it, became muddy and impure. Virgin snow is admired as is virgin skin, and both lose their novelty quickly enough. I learnt that lesson before I reached fifteen summers.
I don't remember my mother for she died in childbirth, although given my red hair and green eyes I think that I must resemble her, for there is nothing of my father in my appearance. He re-married when I was but a child and there was no love lost between my stepmother and I. She had been a beauty in her day, but beauty is fleeting and the unexpected drudgery of life in a farm robbed her of hers all too quickly. The mirror that she brought with her proved more of a curse than a reassurance, and the hours she spent gazing into it were more of search to find the girl that she had once been than a perusal of the face that stared back at her. She caught me looking into it once and the next day men came to take me away. The irons that bound my hands were heavy, the charges against me false. I don't know what she was thinking, or even if her mind was still her own at that point, but my father had been found dead in his bed, a bloody knife discovered wrapped in my best dress.
Guilty. The verdict was passed before I had time to mourn, and I should have been hanged, had the jailer who was to lead me to my death not taken pity upon me. When I begged to be allowed to relieve myself he loosened my shackles and did not turn around when I raced for freedom. I hope that he did not suffer for his compassion, I hope that he knows that I used the opportunity well, for I never saw him again.
The forest I fled to was cold and inhospitable; I shivered at night and foraged for berries by day, hid when soldiers passed upon their mounts and made no sound. Hadrian's wall was close, but as ragged and unskilled as I was, I couldn't see how I would be let through the gate, nor what I would do if I managed to do so. The fort was held by the Romans and their language, their strange ways, even their appearance was as strange as the stars above, although a lot less benevolent. Better to be free, I thought to myself. Better to be hungry that have a noose around my neck or become a slave to Rome.
It was the upon the eighth day that I was found and it was then that everything changed.
I'm not weak, I'm not. Ask anyone at the fort and they'll tell you that troublemakers get short thrift from me and even the Romans mind their manners when in the tavern. Back then though… I was very young and didn't know how to fight or even what was happening to me. I think that there were six or perhaps seven of them that first night, but after the horror of the first two that were led into the room where I was chained, I closed my mind and lay wordlessly beneath the soldiers that took no notice of my distress. Fighting achieved nothing for I was weak from hunger and exhaustion, and after a couple of cracked ribs and a bloody nose I kept quiet. I had thought to end my life that night, but instead I was given a new one, although not in the way that I would have hoped for or imagined. The big knight who had paid several coins for my body took one look at me huddled on the bed, knocked out the two men waiting outside and carried me to his chambers.
I never left.
He's not most women's first choice when it comes to the legendary Sarmatian knights, I'll grant you that. Of all the knights Lancelot's charm and handsome face is the first to turn heads, as is Gawain's quiet strength and golden hair. Many a girl has curled up beside Galahad at night and still more lost their heart to Tristan of the amber eyes, fluid grace and utter indifference to those who would try and pry his secrets from him. My heart chose differently. My heart chose wisely. My heart chose Bors.
He gave me his bed, slept upon the floor and I think that I might have loved him even before he asked me my name. He didn't force me those first confusing days, indeed he barely spoke. I had a thousand opportunities to run away from him but I didn't. On the second day he came back to his room weary and bloodied but with a bowl of soup for me and that night he shared my bed and I gave myself willingly to him.
Of course not everyone understood. Arthur, so young that even now I cannot quite bring myself to treat him with awe he deserves, informed me that I was under his protection. A kind gesture but a strange one from someone who was so far above me in rank. The other knights either ignored me or treated me with bemused indifference. Even Dagonet whose compassion outstrips his strength was uncertain of me at first and I cannot blame him for it. I am not a Roman, I am not a Woad, and I'm not sure that Bors really knew what he was doing when he took me from my captors, although I am certain that he has never regretted it for he has told me so often enougth.
Bors did not woo me, did not bring me wildflowers or even talk to me much in those awkward early days, but it was he who awakened me from my nightmares, it was he who sat slumped upon the seat by the window and said nothing when I watched him from beneath lowered lashes. It was Bors who gave me back my life.
You would not think it of him if you saw him. Not the kindness, not the sadness, not the love for his family . Built like a bull and with none of the social niceties, most people are afraid of him and rightly so; he has never been anything but a warrior. But the calloused hands that rend Woad and Saxon flesh have never been anything but gentle upon mine, and each time my belly swells with our child he touches me as though he can't quite believe the life that he helped create. He serves Arthur, he serves his brothers, and I am content to share him with them for I know where his heart lies and I love them too. Only seven left now from the two dozen that fought when I first came to the fort. Too many dead and buried in the little cemetery on the hill. Seven men so different, and yet united in both grief and sorrow. They treat me as a sister, snarl at me when they have had too much ale, and know that while I might sit with them when they are weary and wish for silent company, I belong to Bors and he belongs to me.
Bors jokes that between us we will populate Briton with our children. Perhaps we will. Our daughters are pretty, our sons strong, and they are loved. They do not have traditional names although they were named at birth. Those names are never spoken aloud however. Our children are named for knights now long dead and sisters from a far off land that my love does not speak of.. But they will find their place in the world as I did and choose their own names when they are ready. I watch them grow, watch the boys turn to men and the girls to women and smile. There is something of Bors and I in all their faces and revel in it even though the looking glass that my lover bought me remains wrapped up and hidden behind the pigsty.
A/N. Vanora and the seven er knights. I know that I promised a different story for her but this is the way it turned out. Thanks for reading, feedback is appreciated if you have a spare moment.