Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chapter Forty-Five

“Take him and the girl,” says the Queen. “We haven’t much time.”

Just listening to her voice makes his blood boil, but the Dwarf forces his face to remain slack. Oldest trick in the book, playin’ opossum, but he’ll be damned if he’ll show his hand before the time is right.

She doesn’t make much noise as she exits – slithery as a snake, that one is – but her footsteps soon fade.

The large purple cat still sits upon his chest. It mustn’t know he’s awake, not yet, not until he’s got his weapon in hand.

He forces himself to think calming thoughts – biting off the Queen’s finger, for instance. Another trick well played. Let her stew on that for a while, maybe it’ll throw her off her game ‘til she realizes she ain’t gonna die. Not of the curse, at least, though the Dwarf hopes his mouth is dirty enough to at least make the wound fester.

The cat lazily lifts itself from the Dwarf’s body, and it jabbers to itself in the voice of a madwoman. “Take the bodies, she says. But how? A jungle ape? A bear? An ogre, mayhap?”

With each creature mentioned, the room crackles and flickers with magic as the purple cat changes shape. The Dwarf keeps his eyes closed and his face still, though talking animals fill him with disgust. His polearm, he knows, lies over yonder. And judging from the cat’s voice, its back is now to him, probably facing Cinderella.

“Ogres can’t fit through them doors,” the cat warbles. “So jungle ape it is!”

Another flash of magic, and that’s the moment he’s been waiting for. The Dwarf opens his eyes and reaches, the spear-axe is right there, and finally the comforting weight of solid iron is in his hands once more.

The purple ape, hunched over Cinderella, doesn’t hear the Dwarf’s charge. The blunt end of the axe, heavy, iron, thick, smacks into its skull.

The ape falls, bleeding and unconscious, but the body that hits the floor is that of a mottled old crone.

The Dwarf stares at her body, spinning the polearm restlessly. It’d just take one quick stab to end her wicked ways, and the girl – both of them, in a way – would be avenged. He presses the point of the spear against the witch’s black heart.

But is that what Snow White would want? Or Cinderella, who was always so kind to even the nastiest of magpies?

And there’s something pathetic about the crone’s toothless mouth, something helpless and weak, that gives the Dwarf pause. It was the Queen who brewed the poison, after all, not her companion. He chews at his beard angrily, and suddenly sheathes the weapon.

“Ain’t no way you’ll make me a murderer,” he growls to the witch, and he slumps toward Cinderella’s sleeping form. He cannot bring himself to look at the maiden’s face.

Taking Cinderella’s body, the Dwarf lifts her with a weary grunt and steps toward the Doorway. Whoever bricked it up surely didn’t do them any favors, that’s for sure.

It’s not gonna be easy doing this alone – he’ll have to climb ahead, clear out the area, climb back, and then carry the girl. And all before the Queen returns.

Speak of the Devil, there’s a faint step at the entrance to the Chamber, and the Dwarf whirls around. He reaches for his polearm and eyes the intruder.

Staring back is the Big Bad Wolf, freshly bandaged and cleanly stitched by Cinderella’s own hand.