***OH HELLO! I'm assuming no one who followed this story ever thought it would be updated again, but as the movie is on HBO now, and I recently gave it a good 'ol rewatch, I found my inspiration again. The plot is now much more involved and exciting than I ever originally intended, but the amazing response I received from you all when I published the first three chapters gave me the creative fuel to make it something more. So, I'm sorry it's taken me this long to pick it back up, I hope you enjoy a long-awaited fourth chapter, I hope you LOVE what's in store (I do), and I hope you tell me all of your feels by reviewing, because you readers are the BEST at it. This chapter's not too long but I can promise more to come. And if you haven't watched the movie in a while, I highly recommend it, because the special effects and the spooky, spooky tone and the medieval setting are all just as striking as they were the first time around. Hooray for an impending sequel. Now I leave you where I left off so long ago, with our hero and heroine staring death in the face...***
The Huntsman backed Snow up against the low wall of the garden as they gazed upward, shocked and motionless, at the archers poised to strike them from the towers above. Snow noted simultaneously – and with equal horror – that William had run directly into the fray within the ballroom to aid his father without a weapon in his hand or armor adorning his body, leaving him laughably vulnerable.
Snow did not miss the fact that the Huntsman had wedged his body directly in front of hers, blocking her from every archer's angle above them.
Four of the ten threw down two heavy ropes in order to overtake them (the Huntsman noted thankfully, in order to capture rather than kill them). But here was their mistake, and he knew to act quickly to capitalize on this error. The six remaining archers would not shoot down toward the balcony with their own men making their way down, and with only two ropes to guide them down, the descent of the four took longer than it should have.
The Huntsman sighed internally as he remember the other variable in this unlucky situation, and thought better of speaking his plan to the Queen before he acted on it.
None too gently (he was still angry at her for the exchange with William, after all) he shoved Snow White backward over the low garden wall.
She yelled angrily, as her voluminous skirts and the lush shrubbery in the gardens below broke the short fall. The Huntsman pulled a long dagger out of his belt and threw it at the first man down the ropes, the only one in danger of reaching them in time to capture. The man dropped to the ground to miss the dagger and the Huntsman reacted instantly by throwing himself over the wall after Snow.
But not before he felt the fiery agony of an arrow catching his left shoulder. He grunted as he hit the shrubs on his other side, the side of his sword hand. He was quick enough to throw the sword a mere two feet away to miss impaling himself.
Snow dragged him, stumbling, out of the bushes by his good arm, gasping as she saw the arrow. He reached behind with his right hand and cracked the arrow in half, leaving the sharp end embedded in his flesh for now.
"Run!" he said in the dangerous, low voice she already new from their previous flights.
"I can't! My court, we have to protect them. We can't run away." She kept her voice low too, as he picked up his sword and they moved swiftly to the other end of the garden. "We need to fight!" she whispered fiercely, standing still.
He knew they had not the time to neither fight nor stand still. He laid both hands on her shoulders.
"Snow, we've been ambushed. We have lost already, though as long as you escape with your life, we can reclaim what is yours. They will not kill everyone. The one person they will slay to win this fight is you, and I will not let that happen. We run now, and we come back with reinforcements. My men will know what to do in our absence." His eyes blazed and she saw the absolute confidence and urgency there. He was scared but as the Captain of the Royal Guard, he had prepared for this. She nodded assent.
He grabbed her hand, forcing her to stay low as they ran across the garden to their well, their secret meeting place.
"The four that saw us over the wall will give chase. We can overtake them but the six they're with will follow soon after. We need to lead them out as far as possible first." He explained, barely making noise with his mouth.
"The forest?" she guessed. He nodded. "Dagger." She held out her hand and he rolled his eyes but handed another of his weapons over.
She immediately fisted her beautiful dress, stabbed into the skirts with the knife, and ripped away the layers, revealing soft tan knickers that stopped at the knees. Her sage green dancing slippers would just have to suffice in the rough terrain of the forest. He arched an eyebrow at her but said nothing.
They heard the first of the Northern attackers approaching. "I need you to run, Snow. I will follow." He promised. She nodded, wanting to fight but knowing better than to argue right now.
His urgent whispered, "Now!" sent her bolting upright, sprinting for the gate at the far side of the garden, an exceedingly frustrating 300 meters away. She heard the clash of steel behind her, followed by the unfamiliar scream of the Northern foe. She heard the Huntsman's footsteps closing in behind her. No, two sets of swift footsteps.
She abruptly stopped and turned to see her enemy a scant five paces behind. He wasn't prepared for her about-face, and as he slowed his approach she ducked and used his momentum to push him away from her, thrusting the small dagger up under his arm and into his ribs as he passed. He flailed his sword crazily and caught her hip before she could leap away. She hissed as the cut burned her flesh.
He went down, and she picked up the sword he could no longer hold properly. Just as she rose the full weight of her Huntsman careened into her person, knocking the breath out of her.
"Go!" he said simply, and together they bolted for the forest, swords in hand, the Thwip! of arrows falling short behind them as their attackers loosed them from bows too far away. Snow tried to ignore the din coming from the ballroom they fled from.
"Don't stop!" he encouraged as they passed the outer gate and hit the fields of no-man's land between the castle grounds and the Dark Forest. The Huntsman knew these fields well; he and his men trained here, and he veered himself and Snow to the far left, toward the river. They would be harder to track running through the creek, and once they got to the spot where the creek became a rushing, deep river – nearly impossible to find.
They hit the tree line at full speed, breaking the silence of the forest with their thudding footfalls, bodies snapping branches as they streaked past, breathing hard and hearts thundering.
"Into the stream!" he directed, but he didn't have to, as Snow was already slowing to step carefully over the rocks and into the steady flow. He followed, and their splashing caused too much noise for his comfort. "If we follow the waterflow a few more paces, we should hit the falls." He said. She could only pant in reply. The falls were big enough to deserve the name, but not so big that leaping into them would cause certain death – just a terribly uncomfortable dip in a white water currents.
As they marched through river rocks and muddy, dark waters, they heard the faint shouts of their pursuers. "Faster!" he urged, grabbing her upper arm to hurry her along. She saw the water dip out of sight up ahead, and heard the sounds of rushing water below, and swallowed her fright as she glanced at the Huntsman.
"Let the water wash you over the edge, do not leap, keep your feet beneath you. It's deep enough you won't break anything at the bottom, just hold your breath and do not flail. Throw the sword out in front so it flows away from you!" he instructed. "Is there a time you won't have to save me?" she lamented, big eyes connected with his soulfully before tossing the sword out in front of her, grabbing his hand, and together they threw themselves over the fall's cliff.
They hit the swirling water below with the splash that was thankfully swallowed up by the thunder of water hitting water around them. They let the water sweep them toward their weapons, catching them with the hands that were not clutching each others.
"Ready to swim?" he yelled over the rush of the river. She let go of his hand and began cutting through the water with confident strokes in response, he followed suit thankfully. The already swift movement of the water kept them from having to swim very hard, and they let the current work with them to take them over several more small drops until the water gradually slowed.
They hit a murky, more stagnant part of the river surrounded by huge red oak trees. The Dark Forest, though no longer cursed with the residue of Revena's evil magic, still held plenty of sinister creatures and hallucinogenic plants to be wary of. With the quieter flow of the water in this part of the river, they could hear the mysterious sounds of a forest alive at night; animals swiftly leaping through branches above their heads, rutting in nearby brambles, lurking in pools of black water in the deep river around them. They could also begin to hear again the sounds of pursuers.
The Huntsman grabbed Snow White and pulled her to the right, against an upturned section of earth caught amidst the roots of a felled tree. The hanging, caked mud created a sort of cave jutting against the edge of the river, the water deep enough to hide their bodies and the roots big enough to cover their heads.
The footsteps and voices were getting louder, and the water was too deep for Snow to stand in without treading water. The Huntsman furrowed his brow as he grabbed her, pulling her body against his, putting a cautionary hand over her mouth to muffle the sound of her wearied panting against the amplifying effect of the still water.
If their lives had not been in the most mortal peril, she might have been excited by their wet bodies pressed close together in the solitude of the forest, her back up against his chest, one of his arms like a tense steel band around her waist, the other a coiled, bunched collection of vice-like muscle and sinew nestled up between her breasts to press a warm hand over the bottom half of her face.
Were they not trapped in a terrible game of cat-and-mouse, he might have thrilled at having the softness of her body so lush against him, warm and wet and willingly in his arms. His mind escaped in an instant to sunny summer days where he could swim with her, in private, in this very wood, the two of them splashing and laughing together, pulling each other close in private, their sun-warmed wet limbs brushing against each other as they exchanged kisses in the cool stream.
The voices got louder. Closer.