Lips Red as Blood

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    The Queen was a gentle woman, with a fair form and sweet ways. The people called the King lucky, with someone so lovely as their wife, and a little one on the way. Her hands were deftly pulling thread into a design, looking at the snow as it fell out the window. Distracted by the drifting white, the needle pricked at her finger, a drip of blood threatening to stain her project.
    She rushed to the window, finding a place on the windowsill to let the blood fall from her finger. It dripped warm into the snow, scarlet against pure white. She admired the juxtaposition of the colors as more of it dripped from her small hand.
    “Lips red as blood, skin fair as snow, and her hair, will be black like our ebony trees,” she muttered. Something inside her told her not to cast this magic, to look into the future such as this and make it for her daughter, but the words slipped from her lips, and the deed was done.
    It was months later when this magic took it’s toll. As the Queen gave life to her daughter, the small child snatched it from her mother, covered in her blood, and soaked in her off handedly spoken magic. As the bundle of dirt cloth and soft skin was passed around, looks of horror spread. Wrapped in the blankets, was a monster. Despite her wide eyes and beating heart, she held no color, only a stark white, that stared at them, and no cries emitted from her ruby lips; dark curls stuck to her forehead, damp with liquid and blood. The baby only stared at all who held her, with the only human like feature she had, warm brown eyes.
    The King, distraught, refused for days to look upon his daughter, would ignore those who tried to coax him the take the baby away from whomever happened to be in possession of the child. The milk nurses would come to him tears in their eyes and blood on their frocks.
    “Take the baby, we cannot do this anymore, please.” They’d beg, but would skirt around the why. If he knew the truth, he’d never take his daughter from them. When they finally managed to convince the King to hold his daughter, they ran before he even saw her face. They left him alone with the bundle of soft blankets and ran from the castle, never to return, no longer needing to nurse the baby with not only their milk, but their blood.
    The King nearly dropped the delicate child when he revealed her face. This was the thing that killed his wife, and now he was tasked with caring for it.
    The thought flitted across him mind. Kill the monster; it created this grief, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to. Maybe it was her human eyes, maybe it was a small piece inside him that couldn’t stomach the thought of filicide. So he kept her, fed her with cow’s milk, and found she had an infatuation with the blood of the creature as well. When old enough to feed herself, he locked her away, far in a tower, never to be seen.
    It was rumored she’d died, and her existence was almost forgotten. A new Queen came along, the King had found love again, in a delicate woman with a sharp beauty and a magic hand. Their love was quick and their marriage was true, but she knew nothing of the King’s daughter beside rumor.
    “What happened to your child, my love?” She asked him one night. She was surprised by the sudden shift in his demeanor, as if he’d suddenly aged years, his eyes looked seemingly through her, to a time before she knew him, the time of a young Queen with a sad spoken magic.
    “My daughter is alive, much to my dismay, but I could never kill her. She’s a monster, you know? Feeds on blood the color of her lips and has no color, like a walking corpse.” He whispered his horror barely loud enough for her to hear.
    “I would like to meet my step-daughter.” She said resolutely.
    “No! Stay away, please, she’s a horror,” he cried, but her mind was made.
    It was late in the night when she snuck from their bed, lantern in hand and a quest in her heart. No way this girl was as monstrous as she had heard; her husband had been mourning, not in his right mind.
    The tower was far from where the rest of the people of the castle lived, but the stairs were worn form years of work to deliver food and learning. As she shuffled to the top of the tower, she hears a creak behind a wooden door.
    “Hello? Snow White?” There was a sound of movement and huffs of breathe.
    “Hello.” The voice was oddly clear, despite its rare use. “Step-Mother.”
    The Queen was taken aback. How did she know who she was? She’d never come up to meet her step-daughter, and she doubted that her husband came to visit and tell his daughter about her. But still, Snow White knew, in fact, if the Queen was truly aware of how much the Princess knew, she be would me much more afraid.
    “Snow White, yes? Will you come into the light? I’d like to meet my step-daughter.” Something inside her told her to run, far from the tower, but steps came close to the window in the door. Lit by a lantern, she gasped at the site, her hand flying to her chest to calm her thumping terror.
    She practically glowed in the dark, her skin the color of cold, her lips like blood, and long black hair.
    “Do you think I’m a monster, too?” She asked. The question seemed so sad and innocent, and her eyes yearned for acceptance, but the new Queen could see bones in the corner of her chamber, small, from animals most likely, but that was inconsequential.
    With a small cry, she turned, running from the wooden door, leaving Snow alone again.
    “I guess you do.” She mused to herself, retiring to her mattress and dead unfortunate cat.
    The Queen decided there, that she must be stronger than her husband, this monster must die before it could kill anyone. With the plan set in her mind, she set to work on how to kill her step-daughter
    Few maids were in on her plan, but she needed the help.
    “She likes pretty things,” one of them whispered, fearing the Princess could hear her despite the distance.
    So a lace was ordered, detailed and strong, the color of her lips.
    “I’ve brought you a gift.” The Queen stood outside her door. “I didn’t mean to be so rude last time we met.”
    Snow White stared at her from the bars, then glanced at the lace. “It’s quite beautiful.” She mused.
    “May I come in?” The Queen asked.
    “You… you want to come into my chamber. No one’s ever done that before.” She was taken aback, her wide eyes were more human than ever, and great human emotion of yearning gracing the brown. “You may.”
    The Queen’s hands shook as she unlocked the door. Her step-daughter was much shorter than her, but her small stature was in no way giving her a look of frailty.
    “Hello Snow,” she smiled, trying with all of her to keep the fear from cutting her voice.
    The Princess smiled in return, although the feature was new to her pale face.
    “Turn, so that I may tie it around you,” the Queen said, and Snow complied, even pulling her long pitch hair away to reveal her neck easier. Her hands shook as the lace ribbon was wrapped around her neck.
    “Does it look ni-“ her voice was cut off with her air.
    The Queen pulled and twisted at the lace, cutting the supply of air from her step-daughter, tears streaking down her face.
    The Princess bucked and strained with startling strength, but the Queen proved resilient. Deciding the only way to escape was deceit, she stopped moving, stopped struggling, and fell limp to the floor. For a few seconds more, the pressure remained around her neck, before it disappeared, followed by hurried steps and a slamming wooden door.
    Snow sat up, staring at the receding light in disbelief. She’d never done anything to this woman, and the only killing she’d ever done were the unfortunate animals that had crept into her room. Her heart swelled with rage. This is what she got for behaving? An attempt on her life?
    When the maid came the next night, Snow made no attempt at polite-ness. She snarled at the woman, who shrieked.
    “Tell the Queen, that I’m alive.” She said.
    The maid nodded hurriedly, and scampered off in fear.
    The Queen was out of breathe in disbelief. There was no way she was human, she could’ve sworn she was dead, how was she still walking, still living. And now she was angry. The necessity of her death was greater now.
    The Queen had to think of another way. She sat in a private study, surrounded by the chosen few.
    “She’s rather vain.” One whispered, still stuck in fear.
    With a new idea, she sacrificed one of her ivory combs, and started to concoct a poison. In hopeful theory, it would prick as she brushed her ebony hair, and that would be the end of the caged monster.
    “A token of peace, from the Queen,” the maid’s voice shook as she pushed the tray of raw meat and fruit through the hatch in the door.
    “A comb? How pretty,” she mused, and through the bars, the maid saw her lift it, admiring the delicate carving and milky color. The crack made the young maid jump back. “Tell the Queen her silly poison reeks, and that if she wants me dead that bad, she should try harder.”
    The maid shrieked and ran away.
    The Princess’ patience was growing thin. Another attempt at her life? And this time, she didn’t even have the decency to face her. Snow would not allow this anymore. Hoping good behavior would free her was no longer a thought in her mind. It was time for more… villainous measures.
    When the maid returned with the comb in peaces and the message nearly stuck in her throat in fear, the Queen realized how dire their situation was getting. She was only angering her? How had she even smelled the poison? It was impossible. With a resigning realization, the Queen knew she would have to include her husband.
    “What have you done?!” He cried, chalking her small shoulders.
    “I only wanted to stop your suffering, to end that poor creatures life! A life so cursed could only spread it’s misery!” Her hands drifted to his face, which had aged with the news of his wife’s conspiracies.
    “Don’t you realize? She’s a monster, she can’t be killed. Other have tried when she was younger, but they were much subtler, you poor poor idiot.” He voice cracked. “Her voice, her eyes, she can command people. You’re lucky you’re alive. She’s made people do things, to themselves, to their families, just out of boredom. Don’t be like my first wife, my poor first Queen.” He was on his knees now, her hands in his, begging her to leave this dastardly quest alone.
    “She, she’s a monster, we can’t let this go on!” She sunk to the floor beside him. “We have to end this.”
    “End what, dear Step-Mother.” The voice made them both jump, violently getting to their feet and backing away, the King pulling his wife behind him.
    “Snow, how did you get out?” Her father asked, trying to steady his voice.
    Her human eyes stare at them and sighed. It was then they noticed the blood dripping from her grinning lips, staining her pale skin. “Your sweet maid was easy to talk to, kept me company for a while before handing over the key, she made a nice snack too.” The Princess tilted her head as shivers ran up their spine. “Don’t worry, I won’t be killing you, you’ll have to work for that.” She smiled, but there was no happiness in her eyes, only a vile emotion, hunger and death hung in her eyes and in her mind.
    The King and Queen trembled, terrified in the corner of the room.
    “Good bye for now Father, Step-Mother. It’s time I finally left home. What will follow is your fault, I hope you know.” She stripped towards them, the smile still playing at her scarlet features. It was a quick movement, and surprisingly tender, a kiss on her Father’s cheek, and a brush of cold skin against her Step-Mother’s hand. Then… she was gone, with nothing but a cold woosh of the air around them.
    As Snow explored the world around her, news of horror made it back to the rulers of the kingdom. People killed, a group of men stealing jewels and apples from shops, and a part of the woods, where even the animals dare not go.
    “We have to stop this,” the Queen paced the study, wringing her hands in defeat.
    “How? How could we? With the damage she has done, what can we do to stop a beast such as this!?” The King had a similar sound of defeat in his voice, no hope for his kingdom.
    “A beast? What about a huntsman? I know a man. Silent in the woods, and steel in his heart, not even her eyes could stop him, and he knows the woods like he knows his own home, he could find her.” While the Queen tried the ideas, the King had defeated his own heart. Snow had claimed her Father without lifting a finger.
    “Fine,” he resigned to his papers, trying to redeem his land in whatever way he could.
    The Queen sought the man, and found him soon enough, but the stories were starting to overflow the surrounding town, the Huntsman son being one of the monster’s victims.
    “Please, you must be careful, she a sneaky beast, and you mustn’t look her in the eye, or you’ll never get her. I want her heart, or she might come back. I doubt death is easy to a thing like her.” The Queen was frantic, and the constant worry was beginning to waste away at her grace.
    The Huntsman, with confidence and anger in his heart, he set out on the task. With swift feet and a stone set goal, his steps are silent as he treads the leaves, confident that he knows the Princess’ location, jut as the Queen had said. He felt eyes on him, but he paid the creatures of the forest no mind. Probably dwarves, just as scared of this monster as the nearby town was.
    The woods cleared, giving way to a field of flowers. A figure sat in the middle, and the Huntsman had found the monster.
    He noted that she was all bones and lithe limbs, her long black hair was a pool of ink around her. From the skin he could see, it practically glowed, reflecting the sunlight, and creating an almost halo around her, as ironic as it was.
    As he crept forward, he knew he had her. She had yet to turn, and he was mere feet from her, a knife poised to carve out the heart of the thing that had killed his son. With a quick motion, he lifted it high above his head, ready to bring it down, when her head turned.
    Pools of brown and innocence caught him in a trance. How could he harm such a creature? Only enjoying the sunlight on her fair skin.
    “Do you wish to kill me?” She asked.
    “I’m so sorry my lady,” he dropping to his knees, the knife falling beside him, and tears falling from his eyes. “It’s the Evil Queen, she wishes you dead, you must run from here, far from here.” His rough hands wrapped around hers, begging. “She wants your heart!”
    Snow sighed. Her heart? How barbaric, the term the Huntsman used was right, she was evil, even more so then her, who only killed for food, no this Evil Queen just wanted her dead.
    With a quick movement, a single finger pointed out on of her dwarves hiding at the edge of the woods. “You.”
    The small man swaggered forward, stopping before her.
    “You will bring back his heart, but do not carve it in this field, no, I couldn’t stand the mess in my flowers.” She said, fondling the gentle petals of a nearly blossoms. “Such beauty shouldn’t be blemished.” Too bad, she mused listlessly to herself, I only have seven now.
    The Huntsman did as he was told, bringing back the heart of the dwarf in the Princess’ stead.
    Finally wrapped in false rest, the Queen locked the heart away, vowing never to think of her horrid Step-Daughter again. For a while, maybe just because she’d moved, or maybe to play with the thoughts of her Father and Step-Mother, the tales of murder and peculiar theft stopped in the land. Even the King seemed more lively. His monster was defeated, locked away in a box once again, but one she could never escape.
    It was nearly a year before the stories returned. A man was killed, then a woman, then another and another. Jewels were snatched and apples were missing from carts.
    Snow White had come home again.
    The Huntsman was ordered to the castle, meeting with an enraged Queen.
    “You said you killed her! You brought me her heart!” She screamed at the man, who’s trance was broken in stress.
    “It was the heart of a dwarf!” he sobbed, “I killed another in her place! But her eyes, such a sweet creature! How could you want her dead? You Evil Queen!”
    Her heart stopped for a moment. Evil Queen? No, she was not evil, she was trying to stop a monster, and this man was mistaken by her charms. From the beginning, she was trying to help.
    “Leave me, you fool!” She cried, spinning away from him. She rushed form the room, and into her own chambers. She stared her mirror down, examining her features. Was she truly evil, was this what evil looked like.
    “No.” She said aloud. Evil was herr white skin and scarlets red lips. Evil was inky hair that hung around alluringly human eyes in a monster’s skull.
    She had to think of another way to rid the land of Snow White.
    For days, she paced the castle, searched the old chamber where the Princess was held, and pushing the maids for information, and questioning her husband to no end.
    “Please, enough of this!” The King, the women, everyone in the castle was begging her to stop, but she was obsessed.
    She’d sit in her study for hours, trying with all her might to find something that would end Snow for good. It hit her rather suddenly, and rather literally. While pacing a mother circle, she bumped into one of the chefs, she tripped over her robe, and fruit spilled around her as the chef fell, and a single red apple, bounced playfully off her head, as if trying to make her realize how obvious the answer was.
    Blood was not Snow’s only source of food, she seemed to have a constant appetite for red apples.
    With a gasp, the Queen swept to her feet, the fruit in hand, the chef profusely trying to apologize after her, but his voice barely registered to her ears.
    “Poison the apples?” The King stared at her in bewilderment. “But you could kill the people, She isn’t the only one who eats apples in the kingdom!” He cried. Despite losing his own sense of self, he was still the King, and a king protected his people.
    “We’ll put out a decree! Or tell the vendors, so they won’t sell! This could be our chance my love!” She cried.
    “This could be our ruin! Don’t you see! She’s done this, all of this, she’s driven you to insanity. Look at yourself!” He cried, grabbing a hand mirror from a nearby table, and thrusting it into her hands.
    The Queen was wild eyes and her hair hung in limp locks around her face, messy and wild. She no longer looked like her beautiful self.
    “This must be done.” She said, placing the mirror back on the table, and staring steel eyes in to her husband.
    With a weak and tired heart, the King complied, but made her swear to protect the people in anyway possible.
    With a flurry of working chosen people and a collection of vendors, she created stalls of poison apples, ready for the Princess to steal and consume, and to finally end.
    The dwarves came as they always did, the seven huddled together, only straying from their pack to snatch shiny objects or the occasional ruby apple, from a few chosen vendors. Somehow, they managed to evade every poison apple, till the very end of the line. A single apple shone among the rest, poison and shiny, a ruby colored treat. It was tucked quickly into the pocket of a dwarf, and they shuffled back to the forest.
    Despite a rather large meal from the night before, Snow could hardly resist when she saw the perfect apple, red and unblemished, and smelling sweetly in the most enticing way.
    With a crunch of breaking flesh, and burst of sweet tanginess, a bite was taken out of the apple, and swallowed.
    The bite seemed to glue itself to Snow’s throat. She gasped for air, reaching for the dwarfs in silent grasps for help, but with the inability to speak their orders, they only stared, glassy eyed and confused. Her breath was running out, till with a final whispy gasp, she collapsed. For days, the dwarves only stared at their fallen Princess, unaware of how to act. Then, they started to weep. Their sweet girl was dead, unmoving, her heart unbeating.
    With trembling hands, they carried her to a table turned pedestal, beautifully carved and stolen from a craftsmen for the purpose of holding their dead Princess. With great difficulty but greater resolve, they covered her in glass. It was years they watched their Princess, one of them was always with her, and as they wasted away with no orders and only a longing to stay with her, she remained unblemished, not that it contributed to her beauty.
    The Queen was at peace, finally. Her monster was slain, people were finally at peace again. Her only heartache was her husband, who had fallen sick and died, leaving her in charge. In attempt to calm her kingdom, she looked for a Prince, a figurehead she could work around. She would never love again, but they’d never had children while the king was alive, and an heir was needed.
    A young Prince from a far land was traveling, on his way alone and bound for the throne of the kingdom. He had heard of the “Evil Queen,” and found her intriguing. A new game to play possibly, something to keep his boredom at bay.
    He wasn’t a particularly handsome Prince, in fact, he was rather the opposite. It looked as if he had never basked in the sun, and his hair, although well kept, was a pale coarse brown, like a horse’s mane. His eyes though, were an enticing blue, it was the one thing that redeemed his thin pale face.
    The crunch of leaves under hooves was the only sound echoing in the woods, and the Prince was paying no particular attention to his surroundings, until another sound reached his ears. A sobbing, deep and rough, from years of constant use and cries.
    Intriguing was his only musing as he pulled on the rein and turned the horse’s head.
    The dwarves stood solemnly around her pedestal, staring up at their fallen Princess.
    The Prince was struck, and if controlled by another all together, he dropped from the back of his horse, nearly falling to his knees.
    “Who,” he breathed, striding to stare at the girl behind the glass. “Who is she?”
    “Our Princess!” One cried, burying his face in his hands.
    Pressed against the glass, he stared at her pale skin and pools of black curls. “I must have her!”
    “No!” Another stood defiant before him, “she is our Princess, and she is to be untouched! The Evil Queen killed her, and she must be at rest now! Our poor poor Princess,” and the dwarf broke into new tears, shaking before the Prince.
    “How did she kill her?” He asked, laying his hand gently on the glass.
    “We do not know!” A dwarf yelled, anger in his voice. “She was eating her ruby apples, and she collapsed. Poisoned her probably, the vile witch.”
    The Prince had to contain his laughter. An apple? Kill one such as her? Such as him? “Your Princess is not dead my new friends.” He said, turning his eyes to their faces, “now take away the glass.”
    A new, different kind of glass was laid over the eyes of the dwarves, and they did as their Prince told. Her covering glass was lifted, and she was exposed to the Prince’s touch.
    “Hello,” he cooed at her, she was only a child compared to him, and she had much to learn. With no gentleness, his hand connected with her chest, hitting her ribs with enough force to dislodge even magic, which it did indeed do. The apple piece flew from her mouth and she sat, gasped for air.
    “Who are you!” She shrieked, glaring at this new man, her eyes piercing.
    “Your eyes have no effect on me sweet dear,” he said, smiling at her with red lips.
    Her heart softened. This man… was different, he was pale and tall and blue eyed, and like her. “Who are you?” She asked again, but there was no coercion hidden behind it.
    “A Prince, from a far land, I’ve heard there’s an Evil Queen who wishes to have an heir.” He said, grasping her small hand in his to assist her from stepping from her pedestal.
    “The Queen,” she snarled, she treated even the words like venom. “She’s who did this to me.”
    “Then shall we return the favor?” He asked, gripping her hand tighter, his eye alight with blue fire.
    She looked at the man, and smiled, the same smile of vile hate and death, her eyes tinged with revenge.
    The Prince laughed, and the dwarves were left behind is glassy awe as the pair mounted the steed, and sped with new purpose in their cold hearts.
    The galloping steed halted with a jerk, standing before the tall gates of the castle. It opened at his arrival; the Queen was expecting him.
    As they walked, pale hand in pale hand, the people of the castle stared in horror and despair. The Princess had returned with a Prince, a prince much like here, his lips too stained with death and red.
    “You must be the Pri-,” her voice died in her throat.
    “I heard you wish for an heir, dear Step-Mother.” Snow smiled. “I believe we will have one someday, so there is no need to worry away on that throne anymore.” She drifted to the Queen, looming over her seated figure. “Move.”
    The Queen trembled, but stood, and walked from the throne, leaving the seat open for her step-daughter.
    “I believe you’ll feel rather comfortable in my old chamber yes? Go.” The word was thicker than the others, dripping with malice for the Evil Queen she had come to know.
    The Queen did as she was told, taking wobbly steps out the room, heading to the tower.
    “Wait,” it was the Prince, “I believe that crown no longer belongs to you.” And he plucked it from her head before waving her off again.
    Their dastardly love was quick to come, and the kingdom shook in fear of their new monstrous rulers, but no one dared try and rebel. Rumors spread that if words were said against the new King or Queen, that they would be the last words ever spoken. So they painted on smiles and love for their rulers, and cloaked their fear.
    The Kingdom was invited to their wedding. Red fabric hung from the ceilings and a ruby drink no one dared to touch was served in great silver bowls, surrounded by perfect red apples.
    The Queen was of course in attendance. Her beauty had wasted from her face, and her hair hung around her in wild stray pieces.
    “Let us give the Evil Queen the first dance shall we? To show her our forgiveness.” The Prince smiled, a gleam in his blue eyes.
    “We even have a gift for you Step-Mother.” Snow held out her hand, presenting on of her dwarves, holding a platter, with iron shoes placed on top. The shoes were cruelly made and were glowing a red hot, having been placed in the fire. “To warm your feet. Go on, put them on and have your dance.”
    The Queen sobbed as she did as she was told, slipping the shoes on, and gliding till she no longer could, and Snow claimed her Evil Queen as a revenge is often claimed, just dessert.

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