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Chapter 2
By Setcheti Posted in Story on 29 August 2021 995 words
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In the Land of Stories Old

Chapter 2

Red Shoes, now back to using her proper name, Snow White, found it hard to quit looking at Merlin. They’d brought him to a bedroom in the castle that was at least somewhat usable and she’d been temporarily chased out while his friends saw to cleaning him up, but once she was allowed back in her eyes seemed to have a mind of their own—not just because he was beautiful, but also because he was deathly pale and hardly seemed to be breathing and a part of her was more than a little afraid he would still die. Arthur was with her at the moment, his small green self sitting cross-legged on the side of the bed, and he finally reached out a stubby-fingered hand to pat hers. “He’ll be fine, you know.”

“He almost died twice! In one day! And all because he was trying to protect me.”

Arthur shrugged. He was faking his nonchalance more than a little, but she had no way of knowing that. “That’s what we used to do, R…Snow. Although I’ll admit, he put more into it because he was fallin’ in love with you.”

Snow sniffed. “Did you know that while you were all searching for me in that town, I was in an alley and the guards wouldn’t give me back my shoe and they were laughing at me and starting to shove me around…and even though you’d all walked past without even giving me a second glance, Merlin came back and put them all down and asked if I was all right?”

He shrugged again, holding back his grimace at the thought that they’d actually walked right past a woman in trouble. “I didn’t know, but that’s not unusual—for any of us, usually. Again, helpin’ people was our job.”

“The way he looked at me, he was so kind and sincere…” She thought of something. “What do you look like, when you’re really you?”

Arthur cocked his head at her, light from the lamp catching on bronze-gold strands the sun had painted into his dark brown hair, and then he hopped off the bed and urged her to her feet. “Close your eyes.”

She did, and a bare second later a puff of displaced air heralded the sudden nearness of a large amount of human warmth right in front of her, and then large, strong arms went around her in a gentle hug and a slightly deeper voice from over her head said, “I look nothin’ like Merlin, that’s for sure. And he really will be fine.”

“You promise?”

She felt him shake his head. “That’s not the sort of promise a man should make, because anything can happen. But he ought to be fine, and to the best of my ability I’ll make sure he survives his own noble idiot streak so he can marry you.”

“Good enough.” She sniffed again and opened her eyes, and just briefly ended up with an armful of huffing dwarf, who she quickly put down—but not before kissing the top of his head. “Stop that, you’ll find a way. I’d help you if I could.”

He shrugged again. “I know you would—we all do. But for now, I think we need to help you and your father. We Seven can’t go out as a fightin’ force the way we used to, for obvious reasons, but we can clean up a castle and maybe build you some defenses.” He winked at her. “And Hans has already taken over your kitchen. I’d leave him to that if I were you.”

“I wouldn’t dream of interfering with him,” she promised. “And after tonight’s supper, my father is probably going to make it a royal decree.” She blushed, sitting back down. “We both…really like to eat good food.”

“Yeah, me too,” Arthur said easily. “And in spite of what it looks like, that also goes for Merlin. He…lost some weight while he was cursed.” He changed the subject. “I know we’ve probably all asked you at least once, but…are you okay, Snow? It’s been a rough couple of days and, if you’ll pardon me sayin’ it, your dad seems like he’s got a lot on his mind.” He waved a hand at the dilapidated room. “Not that anyone could blame him, his wife kind of made a mess of his kingdom after she turned him into a rabbit.”

Before she turned him into a rabbit,” Snow corrected him. “People had started disappearing even before I left. He came to me late one night and told me I should go before I disappeared too. I’m not sure why he didn’t come with me, maybe she’d already done something to him.” She sighed, picking up Merlin’s hand and twining her fingers around his. “I don’t think he’ll talk to me about it. He probably blames himself, and he’s never liked to talk about mistakes. He would just laugh and say kings aren’t supposed to admit fallibility.”

Arthur hid his wince. “Hmm. That’s just the opposite of what Dad told me. And he made sure Merlin knew better too.” She looked surprised by that. “Oh, Merlin was Dad’s ward. He didn’t tell you?”

She shrugged. “He didn’t really have a chance to tell me much of anything.” She squeezed the limp hand she was holding. “But I still learned a lot about him in a…really short amount of time.”

There wasn’t really anything Arthur could say to that. And even if there had been, the lump in his own throat probably wouldn’t have let it out.


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