The Edge of Winter
by Erin Griffin
Fandom: Snow White and the Huntsman
Pairing: Eventual Ravenna/Snow, mentioned Snow/Erik the Huntsman
Rating: PG for now, though it may get a little violent but that is all
Summary: As Ravenna moves through the seasons as a new woman, she wonders if she really can be redeemed. Since solely Queen Snow seems to believe in her, only time will really tell...
Spoilers: THIS MOVIE BEGINS AT THE END OF THE MOVIE WITH A SLIGHT DIFFERENCE!
Note: This story is a little different. I wanted a little bit of redemption for Ravenna, as it seemed she had the short straw the whole time. The story started getting longer than I wanted. I do plan to finish it, but it will take a while, as I don't want to get too overwhelmed with its size that I won't wish to even continue. Each part will be a new season, and within each season, three events will happen. This may help the reader keep track of time, as each event will signify a new month.
*For Britt, who has been encouraging me throughout the writing of this story.
THE EDGE OF WINTER
Queen Ravenna was dead. The words weren't her own, but it was her lie to carry out, and that was how Snow White had taken her father's throne. With a new weight upon her head and her shoulders, the young Queen made her way up the stairs to the highest tower of her castle where her new prisoner slept. Ravenna had been in the same state for many nights, her eyes shut by Snow's own hand, her breath so subtle it was as if it wasn't there. Snow felt it, the smallest speck of life that only years of magic could conceal for a long period of time, and even as she visited her once step mother the night before, she could feel even that dwindle to near nothing. It was this thought that forced her entourage to make haste, her pace quickening at the thought that even now, Ravenna might be dead. The guard unlocked the door as soon as he saw her, bowing his head respectfully as she passed him with a nod. She had behind her the second most powerful witch under Ravenna, and she prayed that this woman's magic was enough.
"Magic always comes with a price, Your Majesty."
"A price she has already paid in full," the queen replied softly.
The witch nodded with a murmured, "Yes, Your Majesty." The old woman looked over the shell that had once been the queen of a dead land. Her hands roamed over Ravenna's shriveled, old body. Queen Snow White could see the faintest of light illuminate the witch's knuckles, and slowly took two steps towards what passed as a window into the familiar cell. "I can bring her back, if that is your wish. She still fights to live. The magic she still possesses is small, but it is enough."
"What can you do with what is there?" the queen asked.
"I can make her young - mortal, without magic, Your Majesty, and the curse that once plagued her will be lifted," the witch replied as her hands continued to move over the still body of Ravenna. "All I need is your word."
"You have it," Snow White said with the smallest of nods. She turned from the window and watched the witch closely as the glow in her hands ceased.
"Kai," the woman said suddenly, calling forth a scrawny young man with a few bags strapped around him. She reached for the one on top, a small brown leather satchel that the man released from his person immediately. "The Water too, boy," she instructed, though her tone wasn't unkind. The man did as told, and the woman went to work grinding powders and mixing in water. There was a vial of some sort of glowing, red potion that she added a single drop into the mixture. Then, she moved Ravenna's body from her side to her back before the witch put the bowl to the pale lips. She forced the mixture down- the woman coughed in reflex, but she did not wake. "The serum will take affect within three days. She must remember why she must live or she might not wake." The witch used a piece of her cloak to wipe away the serum that dripped down the side of Ravenna's mouth.
Ravenna stayed still, Snow watching as the witch watched over her. An hour later, the witch made sure the body was covered and warm, and Snow ordered for William to watch over her kingdom for her, then for a chair to be brought up while she herself kept guard over Ravenna. When the snow stopped for the evening and the only light left was of the candles that burned, Snow stroked the fires higher to burn through the night, and then she made a bed for herself on the floor. She didn't find it odd that a queen were on the floor while the kingdom's greatest enemy had the bed, nor did she feel at all ill at ease in the prison cell that held her for a decade.
Twice the cell door had opened that bitter night, once was a servant who brought food and two books, the bible and a popular scroll of stories written by the mysterious author known simply as Ryder. The second was when a mattress was brought to further Snow's comfort on the floor, and she thanked the two plumped women for their thoughtfulness and silent work putting it before the fire, yet still close to Ravenna's bed. Queen Snow White read through pages of the bible, reading out stories of love, forgiveness, and family before she opened Ryder's scroll. Ryder was loved by a great many people throughout the land. A kind guard had whispered the stories into Snow's cell whether she was awake to hear them or not, and her dreams were filled with often false images of things that she had only recently seen in her reality. Ryder's tales ranged from romance to adventure, supernatural to common place. There were talking animals, wicked witches, magical princes, strong women of war, shifters, drifters, and many other things. The stretch of Ryder's imagination inspired many games and plays in the villages.
Queen Snow's voice went hoarse sometime in the early morning, and when she next woke, there was another Ryder scroll as well as a tray of fruit for a morning meal on the small table that had seemingly materialized in the night. Snow White checked upon her ward. Ravenna looked more like the woman who hated Snow, her hair no longer white, her face less leathery and smooth now. Ravenna's chest rose and fell as she took in breaths of life. The young queen's mind twisted around itself as she thought of what she was to do with this woman. She had already decided to allow her to live, but where and how? Snow spent the day in Ravenna's cell, watching the woman breathe and her wrinkles slowly disappear. She read sporadically from the Ryder scrolls, but mostly it was silent in the cell.
The next morning, Snow White was awakened by the sound of the sharp inhale from the other side of the room. Snow herself gasped awake, and when her eyes focused in the darkness of the room, they landed on eyes that even in the black had a green shine. Snow used her old friend the split which had been left in the cell to light a new fire, something she didn't trust a servant to do for her. It remained silent as Ravenna watched her, and in the fire light, Snow saw just how young the woman looked now. She looked even younger than when her father married the woman, her hair golden, and her skin just as fair as her own. "Are you going to execute me?" the woman asked.
"Why do that when you've just been brought back?" Snow asked right before she blew into the hearth and allowed the fire to grow larger.
"Punish me, then?"
"I think you've been punished enough." Hazel eyes bore into green, and the older woman surprisingly looked away first in a sign of submission and discomfort. "Don't you?"
"What, then, are you going to do with me?"
"To be honest, I do not know." Snow turned from the fire completely and walked back to the chair. She situated her dress before she sat down. "I could keep you imprisoned, couldn't I? But I know. I know, and I cannot do that to another. With your powers gone now, I have no reason to fear you." There was a silence for a long time.
"Throw me in exile then," Ravenna suggested.
"Is that what you want?" Snow asked. The ex-queen looked down again and stayed quiet. "You never had an enemy in me. I never understood... Well," Snow stopped talking. A tear fell down her cheek. "Whatever... whoever made you so angry, so distraught... It is gone now. You have been brought from the very edge of death- One may even suggest that you have been reborn. What you do with this new life is yours to decide."
"Why are you doing this?" Ravenna asked after a moment more of silence where the new queen watched her, calculating the older woman's every move. "Why not kill me completely or leave me there to die?"
Snow didn't answer at first. She didn't know the words yet, until suddenly she did. "Because I don't know where you've been, Ravenna. There's a piece of my heart that yearns to know how- How all of this... happened. Maybe if I knew, I could understand why you were that way, why you hated me so-"
"Why I killed your father."
Queen Snow White's eyes flickered to the fire and soon began to shimmer. "Yes."
"And then what? I have a bit of a cry upon you shoulder there, we share each other's secrets and giggle like children? It is far too late for that."
When the new queen stood suddenly, Ravenna couldn't stop the flinch. Snow stopped moving before she turned her back to the older woman. "You may be right. However, as soon as you are well enough you may take residence in the East Wing. You are allowed anywhere except where you are not invited. Do not make me regret your presence in these halls."
Snow called for the guard, who was never far away, and as the door opened, Ravenna called, "Wait." Snow stilled, but she didn't turn to face her once step mother. "It is already clear to me that you'll make a fine ruler. One that already surpasses that of your father."
"We'll let the winters pass and only then we'll know for certain. Good day, Ravenna." On her way past the guard, she instructed him to leave the cell door open and to send for food or anything Ravenna requested that would make her comfortable. She informed him that his duty there was to protect the woman, not to restrain her. Ravenna listened for the new queen's footsteps even after Snow had gone out of sight.
As promised, Ravenna was moved the very next day to her room in the castle's East Wing. There she stayed for more days under the guise of resting, however the truth was she had been, as Snow White had said, nearly reborn the morning she had awaken. Ravenna in truth did not know where she was to go from there. The Queen's offered choice; she discovered it was really not much of a choice at all. The world hated her, and Snow White was the only one who could save her, especially now that the new queen had no reason to. It was only on that Sunday that the woman left her room, and that was after a servant had come to her quarters with a gown for church services.
The servants said nothing to her as they dressed her, and almost an hour later, she was escorted from her room to the castle's grand hall, where church services, weddings, coronations and celebratory events such as birthdays and balls were held. The service had yet to start, and Ravenna was glad for this, still, she wasn't ready to face the stares and whispers yet. She looked nothing like she had as Queen. Now, she wore a simpler red dress, one made of cotton with a gold beaded trim. Her shoes were white, and soft heels made the smallest amount of noise on the stone floors. She went towards the far back row, where lower class sat, right behind the visiting clergymen and queen's councilmen, but was soon beckoned forward by Snow's personal guard, a man just the month prior she'd threatened for not carrying out her orders. "The Queen requests your presence," he said softly. Ravenna nodded to him and followed him toward Snow and Erik the Huntsman. He scowled at her as she bowed to her queen, but she was otherwise greeted by a small flicker of a smile from Snow.
"I am glad you were well enough to attend. Please," she said, gesturing to the seat next to her. Their eyes met, and that was when both women knew that Ravenna was going to be acknowledged within the castle. As what, neither knew, but both women were willing to try for a new beginning.