Snow White walks through the snow covered trees, trailing her fingers over the branches. White flakes trickle down her fingertips, over her clothes, leaving trails of white in their wake. Her boots crunch on the fallen canopy of leaves. This world is cold, barren, a testament to the Queen’s hold and cruelty. Snow again drags her fingers over a branch and moves away the evidence of winter’s grasp. Underneath the heavy weight of the cold, the branch is brown and bleak. Yet as the princess touches it, the color warms slightly. No longer a dead thing, the smallest sliver of life returns to the tree. Perhaps now, in the spring, when Snow has taken back her father’s throne and cleansed Ravenna’s influence, this tree will flower and bloom. Fruit will grow and feed the hungry. She smiles.
Hope springs eternal.
Footsteps sound behind her and she gasps, hand moving to the dagger at her waist. A figure moves out from the shadow of the tree. Snow relaxes and lowers her hand. She knows this man, and he poses no threat to her.
“William,” she says, a fond smile playing on her lips. The son of the Duke returns the smile, then reaches out and twists a strand of her raven hair around his finger. His eyes trace her face, taking in the dark hair, the green eyes, the pale skin and finally, the red lips.
“So beautiful” he murmurs. Snow drops her eyes, a blush coloring her cheeks. Since William had joined up with her small band of warriors, he had developed the unfortunate habit of starring at her like he wanted to devour her, body and soul. It made the princess uneasy. She knew William was a good man, a potential match for her. He was high born and had known her from childhood. She knew that she loved him, in her own way. Yet it was the simple, pure love of a child.
She loved what William represented: a time when her family was whole, when green colored the landscape and children climbed in trees. He reminded her of that first crisp bite of an apple, the sweet flavor bursting over her tongue. Her love for William was a sacred thing. It was the love of a time lost, a childhood broken and a dream destroyed. She could never be with William, never love him in the way that he deserved. The child that could have grown to romantically love him had died in the northernmost tower. All that remained now was a girl on the cusp of womanhood, who’s heart no longer beat to the rhythm of a child’s hopes.
Snow smiles again and steps away. She tried to put distance between them. William immediately followed, not allowing her more than a few steps before he was inside her personal space again. She raises her hands, places them flat against his chest. He stops and looks down to where her fingers splayed across his jerkin. He raises a hand again, reaching for her. He traces his fingers down her jaw, dancing along the lines of her face, over cheekbones and then using his thumb nail to drag across her bottom lip.
Snow squirms, tries to step back, but William’s other hand is a firm pressure on the back of her neck and for one terrifying moment she wonders if he means to kill her. That is of course, ridiculous. She’s the savior, the one who will end the darkness. She’s of the blood and the spilling of the sacred blood is a sin against the natural order of things. William loves her. He would never do her harm.
The pressure of his hand increases and suddenly he’s leaning down and pressing his lips firmly to hers. Snow clamps her mouth closed and shudders as William’s tongue snacks out and tries to force its way past her lips. The hand on her neck continues to tighten and finally she has to gasp from the pain. William takes the opportunity to dart his tongue into her mouth and trace it over her own tongue, her lips, even her teeth. It’s as if he’s trying to memorize the taste of her.
Finally, he retreats and breaks the kiss. Snow forces herself to meet his eyes. William’s pupils are huge, blown wide and his breathing is rapid. His lips look red, inflamed and kiss-bruised. She wonders if she looks half as wrecked as he does. William smiles then, and palms her face, tilts her head and presses a firm kiss to her forehead. He wraps her in his arms firmly, trapping her against his body.
“Never let them get inside your defenses, princess. I would have thought your huntsman taught you that,” he whispers, then slams the dagger that’s suddenly in his hand up into her chest at an angle. She screams or at least tries to. In reality, it comes out as more of a gasping gurgle. William releases her and takes a step back. Snow clutches at the dagger buried to the hilt in her chest. Her hands grasp weakly at the handle, trying in vain to dislodge the blade as her blood pulses in spurts over her fingers. Snow sinks slowly to her knees, disbelief written all over her face. She raises one blood stained hand and reaches for him.
“William?” she asks, confused, incredulous. He smiles then, a real smile and Snow finally sees what lies beneath: betrayal and madness.
He kneels by her in the snow, now pink where her blood runs deep into the white.
“All I every wished was for your love. I waited for you, never truly believing you to be dead. Years, princess, years I waited for you. Forsaking all others. For you. For you. Then, a miracle. You were returned to me from the dead,” His face twists, spittle flying from his lips, “but it was not to be. I found you, killed in your name, only to find that the thing I craved most of all was again beyond my reach.” He places his palm flat over her heart and feels the sluggish, slowing beat. “The Queen wishes your heart but she does not realize that you have already forsaken it to another.”
He sighs then pulls a pack from the nearby underbrush. From the bag he removes a small box with Ravenna’s insignia on the lid, a heart with a dagger through it. William pulls the dagger from her chest and Snow moans, her life leaching out from the wound. As he raises the blade to cut the princess’s heart from her chest, thundering footsteps herald the arrival of another.
Erik barrels into the clearing, his axes in his hands, poised to defend Snow and William. He stutters to a halt as he takes in the scene before him.
“William? William, what have you done?” Erik starts forward, drops to his knees and gathers Snow into his arms. William retreats out of the Huntsman’s range.
“Princess, princess, please, stay with me. Don’t go. We need you, I need you, please” He pleads with the still form in his arms. He shakes her and gets no response.
The savior is dead.
“What have you done, William? Why? She loved you! She loved you!”
“Why, Huntsman? You ask me why? It is rather simple.” He tilts his head, an insane smile plastered across his handsome features.
“Because she stopped.”