Sunday, December 13, 2009


The October submission for Digital Quills:

There amongst the waves calling for me
Is young Enora walking the sea
I am frozen and fearful at the terrible sight
Her clothes are but tatters, her skin like moonlight
Her eyes burn with fire as bright as the stars
Her smile sweetly sinister, her hands deformed by the scars
Despite all this terror her beauty remains
I still feel a lust like on the 20th of May
On the deck of the Lola I kissed her in vain
Her love for another would be my great bane
Twas the 20th she spurned me far out to sea
She pushed and she struggled, she called out and screamed
So I bound her and gagged her, tossed her into the sea
Down to the bottom, went under did she
Now on rough nights when the sea battles and roars
Sweet young Enora wonders the shores
She hopes to find me, to share her great horror
To drag me to the deep, her ever-loving adorer

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The War Prince Letters - #1

Hail War Prince Ethrine of the White,
I regret that I am unable to meet you in person; especially since we share more than just a common bond through our father the King, but because our mothers are mother and daughter – making me your uncle as well. There are only a handful of us brothers whom have such a unique bond. We will of course discuss more once I’ve returned from my business in the south; until then you will report to War Prince Tiga of the Brown, my chief of staff.
I would have you know that the Second Army is to take the lead in our latest advance against the Haven Empire and her allies. As a recent graduate from the War College you will have a greater historical understanding of our war with the Havenites, Shougarts, and Certz; however, I fear that your time as an apt pupil will ill prepare you for the realities of the life as a War Prince, a son and officer of the King. Even I, having served for close to two hundred years, still struggle with formulating an accurate comprehension or structure of war. It is a brutal affair that cares nothing for nobility, title, deed, or valor; while at the same time it breeds the very things it destroys. As I said, you are ill prepared for war until you experience it.
I have assigned you to the Tiger’s Claws, the missile unit of the Second Army, as your record shows a skill and aptitude for such things. You will serve under War Prince Oberon of the Red, your elder by ninety years and a superb officer. He will assign you to your unit and your men; however I have encouraged him to assign to you Battle Lion Jenner Poulsbo, as he is one of the finest non-commissioned men that serve in the Second Army and a boon to a young prince like yourself. Regardless, whomever is assigned your Battle Lion, lean on their wisdom and guidance as they have seen more of war than any soldier and can steer a War Prince in the best way.
Now that official business is concluded, I would also warn you of the many factions that will vie for your allegiance now that you are a War Prince in the full armor of the King. As you know our kingdom has been at war for something like three hundred years and also that after three hundred and fifty years reigning as king our father has finally grown old and close to death. This makes your allegiance a vital decision as it may be called upon as your brothers rushed head long to fill the vacuum left by our father’s death. Commanding the First Army is our father’s oldest surviving son, War Prince Westly of the Black, who has surrounded himself with a cadre of War Princes and soldiers solely dedicated to his own rise to power. There are a few members of his faction represented here in the Second, War Prince Faldo of the Blue and War Prince Gurney of the Red being the two prime examples.
Another faction is an extremist group, small in numbers, but large in rhetoric; they espouse the end of the monarchy, of the War Princes, and the creation of a civil government ruled by a mob of citizens without title or nobility. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the King should be overthrown now, while he still lives, and their grand revolutionary designs brought to fruition. Most members are too ashamed to be known, but War Prince Vash of the Red is the leader of this rabble here in the Second.
The final faction is my own; although do not allow that to persuade your judgment brother. We have come to realize that our father, the King, has kept the kingdom at war with it’s neighbors all these long years for a singular purpose. While he has grown old and lazy in his keep, his sons have served on the front lines in endless wars, dying and suffering great injury, keeping us weak and to unorganized to challenge his rule. All this war, all this bloodshed is on account of an old man’ fears and that is not something we can idly forgive. He made us weak and directed us all on a course towards oblivion to fulfill his vain designs. Once he dies we will fall into a civil war that will tear our lands apart and invite our enemies in. Worse, should one of us rise to the throne, the circle will begin again with his sons.
Instead we propose ending the wars with our neighbors and dividing up the kingdom into small “Baronies”, as the Havenities do, to be ruled by individual War Princes. As equals as Barons we would be free to rule as we see fit, but also bound to defend one another should the need arise. No one War Prince would have advantage over the other; in fact the lands would be selected by drawing lots to avoid any of our brothers from gaining the best land by design. We believe that this would prove the best option for all and are working tirelessly towards this end. Should you wish to speak to anyone about this while I am away, War Prince Tiga of the Brown would be more than willing to answer any questions you may have.
For now this should be enough information to see that you, dear brother, are able to succeed here in the Second Army. I again look forward to meeting you in person and hearing of your achievements in battle. Yours,

W.P. Danziger
War Prince Danziger of the Black,
Commanding Officer, King’s Second Army

Friday, July 03, 2009

Of Brave Vermin, Gnomes, and a Troll

By Andy Brim

Here is written the account of Fen – once Rat King and ruler of the Vermin under the house Forrester, as recorded by Rasc, the court scribe.
~ ~ ~
The uneasy truce between the Vermin (Rats, Mice, & Moles) and Spiders had lasted long in the house Forrester. I, Fen, and the Spider’s ruler, Ungoth, had struck a deal with the owner of the house of Forrester, one James Polk Forrester to ensure our own survival. He had lived there for many years, first with his wife before her death, and now with his daughter. Ungoth and I had realized early on that James Forrester was, one, not aware of his role in the house Forrester and, two, afraid of spiders. Therefore the James Forrester dealt the most with Ungoth (who lived in the attic with his brood) and who could use the man’s fear to manipulate him. The James Forrester would also occasionally deal with me, but those events are well documented by Rasc, the court scribe.
The James Forrester was a very good father and worked hard to appease the many rogue elements that vied for rule of the house Forrester in the true king’s absence. There was of course Ungoth and I who each required specific tasks done for each of our peoples nightly. But the James Forrester also had to deal with Mjilntoc of the Gnomes of the Yard, Bill the Cowboy Ghost (who resided in the Living room and had a penchant for old Western movies), and on occasion the three trolls who lived under the bridge that spanned a small ditch. The James Forrester would have to perform additional duties for these groups nightly as well. Regardless to say, the James Forrester was a busy man at night keeping all the individual parties happy. Again, the James Forrester’s nightly duties have been well catalogued by the ever-watchful Rasc, the court scribe. This of course was all done for his daughter, whom was still quite young. Everything the James Forrester did or suffered through each night was done for the sake of protecting his child. Had I been nobler I would not have taken advantage of the man, but you must remember that there was no king at the time.
However the nightly tasks began to become too much for the James Forrester and so he called the most hated enemy of both Spider and Vermin alike – the Orkin Man. Fortunately for the rest and myself, Ungoth had a spy follow James Forrester everywhere. Ungoth’s spy informed him of the James Forrester’s plans and not long after he and I met to discuss our options. It was Ungoth who pushed for an option that was against every rule and code we were to follow under a king, but as Ungoth pointed out (and perhaps rightly) – there was currently no king of the house Forrester.
So we worked jointly; something I had never believed possible - but when one finds he is facing death he is willing to make strange bedfellows. With James Forrester at work and his daughter at the Grandmothers we had full run of the house most days. My Mice rifled through the phone book and the Rats took the phone off the cradle. Ungoth dialed the number my Mice gave him with his graceful legs and then we all waited with a quiet hush.
“Hello, Orkin Man.” The voice on the other end greeted us.
“Greeting, my name is James Forrester and I would like to cancel my upcoming appointment.” Ungoth said in his most human like voice. Both Ungoth and I spoke Human extremely well, but Ungoth had argued that my accent wasn’t close enough to the James Forrester’s to fool the Orkin Man. Reasoning I couldn’t argue against as one slip up might raise the suspicions of our most hated enemy.
“And when was that appointment for?”
“Tuesday, the twenty-first.” Ungoth responded calmly, although I could tell he was becoming nervous. He and I had hoped it would be a short call, but with each passing moment our chances of being discovered grew. We feared most of all that the Orkin Man might try to trick us.
“Would you like to reschedule?”
“No, that won’t be necessary.”
“Alrighty then partner, your appointment has been canceled. If you do need anything please don’t hesitate to call.”
“Of course, thank you.”
The line went dead with a push of one of Ungoth’s long leg. The Mice and Spiders squealed and the Rats harrumphed at our coup, but Ungoth and I both knew we needed to remain wary. So he stationed one of his minions over the answering machine to delete any messages the Orkin Man might leave during the day. Again we both justified it as the just and right thing to do, because there was no king.
And so for many days the James Forrester was unaware of our betrayal, but that was changing slowly, day-by-day, as those under us began to follow our example.
My Mice were the first to act out, partly because they are a mischievous sort and partly because I gave them too free a hand. No matter the reasons, they raided the kitchen and ate to their hearts content in an all night binge. The Moles also rebelled by digging multiple tunnels under the driveway and walkway. In the night the cement fell and collapsed the tunnels, sinking the driveway and tilting the walkway. Their folly also killed three moles. Finally a few Spiders broke the greatest rule.
The James Forrester had agreed to our demands with only one stipulation – the daughter could not be awakened, scared, or harmed in anyway by one of our followers. To this rule Ungoth and I had held as true to as we would to a King’s rule. But these Spiders were young, rebellious, and venomous ones who were born without a King. They saw no reason to respect the order of things or to follow the commands of a man (king or otherwise). And with no king in authority over them (although certainly Ungoth tried his best in place of the king) they went into the daughter’s room and feasted on her blood, awoke her and scared her frightfully.
The James Forrester was outraged (and rightfully so), he demanded the Spiders responsible to be cast out or killed (it was the most kingly James Forrester had acted in some time), but Ungoth could not relent. The rebelliousness of those Spiders was spreading and his position was becoming dangerous as the other Spiders began to tip the balance of power in the attic. James Forrester went away without saying a word; he knew as well as we all that the Spiders now controlled the house.
As theses events were relayed to me, my heart sank and my mind saw with absolute clarity what it was that Ungoth and I had truly done. We had both bent the rules and order of life until they no longer mattered or applied to us (so we thought). I desired greatly to somehow alter my actions in the past and yet there seemed no way to change the coming course of events. I am none too proud to admit it; but I languished in self-pity under the house. There was a dark and dreary cloud that hung over the house Forrester from that hour on.
Finally on Monday, the twentieth, in the still of the night (while I still was entranced by my self-pity), the rebellious Spiders struck out against Ungoth. For all his cunning and guile he was unable to save himself from their fierce attack and he was overthrown and killed. The Spiders acted quickly and did their best to present the pretense of business as usual (a fact we all believed).
The next morning all seemed well. The James Forrester awoke his daughter and let in the nanny (a very pleasant woman of short and round stature) whom watched the daughter on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He left for work and we all went about our routines.
It was at around noon when the Spiders struck. The nanny had gone outside to get the mail and so they closed the door and locked her out. They then sealed the daughter in her room with a finely weaved wall of webbing as she played. The nanny’s calls to be let back in slowly rose in intensity as the situation became more frantic. My own scouts were meeting resistance from Spider blocking forces in the walls and vents. I personally went to the house above and demanded to see Ungoth. The Spider who led me to the attic had a strange expression I only now recognized as smugness, but I was then to preoccupied to realize it.
The new Spider Lord was named Cinth, a wretched seven-legged Spider covered in a black fur. He told me of Ungoth’s death and the glorious future he and the other Spiders had planned. They believed that by capturing the James Forrester’s daughter they could get him to surrender the house to them (and us). He would still have to own the house, but he could never return, sell the house, or have them exterminated or else they would find the two of them and kill the daughter. The plan was the most twisted and unnatural plan I had ever heard; it only could have come from those who did not know or fear the true power of a king.
Cinth told me James Forrester’s watcher was informing him as we spoke and that it would only be a matter of moments before a new age would be born. Indeed the nanny’s cell phone rang and after a brief and terse conversation she left; confused and extremely shocked, just as Cinth had ordered. The Spiders cheered and gloated at their “inevitable” victory. And so the lament I had felt since my awakening the night before felt colder and deeper then I ever thought possible. I could not believe in that moment that forgiveness was even possible for me for my part in this betrayal. Or even if I did find forgiveness I doubted if it could assuage my guilt. The situation was hopeless as the Spiders were sure to get their way.
The daughter now cried out from her sealed room and my heart broke further. I left without saying a word and made directly for the foundation where we Vermin live. There I gathered all of my people and with the throng around me I did what I never thought I would do… I renounced myself as the Rat King; casting aside what little power and authority I had claimed in my foolishness. While the title had no true power (as I was no true King), I had taken the name as a lark once the James Forrester had begun to deal with Ungoth and myself. The name was as false as my claim to power and rule over the Vermin of the house of Forrester; certainly I was chief among them but I was no king. There is only one king of the house and neither I, nor any other, could take his place. The crowd was silent as I explained why I had taken such action.
“In my own proud heart I called myself king. I told myself that there was no real king and to be fair there seemed to be no king of this house. I called myself king and I now tell you I sit on a throne of ruin and taste the bitter spoils of my insolence. I now see and know just what damage a selfish heart like mine can work. Because of my actions, the Spiders mean to overthrow the true king of this house and to that I cannot abide. Therefore I leave the name Rat King and swear allegiance again to the true king of the house Forrester. And I mean to die fighting for him to save his daughter.”
My eyes were like spears, piercing the crowd before me, asking of them to swear the same oath as I. Moments of silence hung over us but then a rumble began to come up from the center. The Rats were the first to declare their allegiance with loud shouts that drowned one another out, followed by the Mice, and finally the Moles. Satisfied I sent for my fastest runners to speak with the Gnomes, Trolls, Bees, and other enemies of the Spiders throughout the neighborhood. A house controlled by the Spiders was a menace to us all. I then ordered all Vermin to ready for battle.
While the peace we shared with the Spiders was genuine, I had not allowed myself or my people to believe that peace would last forever, so we had remained vigilant and ready. The many swords, shields, and spear points of the Vermin were brandished with a mighty roar. We Vermin would fight for the King again.
It wasn’t long before I heard back from my runners. The Gnomes of the Yard would come to the King’s aid (he had always been fair to the plants and trees of the yard), one troll would fight for the king (the other two were too busy arguing with each other to come), and the Queen Bee would send two squadrons (albeit they could only remain in the battle for a short period). The Vermin of the other houses of the neighborhood however refused to come to our aid. They too faced similar struggles with the Spiders, with other enemies, or had simply fallen into the trap I had fallen into and refused to help a true king. Thus my suspicion and fear that too many houses now also lacked a king came frighteningly true.
Yet even with the other Vermin, the Spiders would still outnumber us. Our only hope lay in the King, the James Forrester of the house Forrester (who even then was racing home under the watchful eye of his Spider spy) - but his fear of Spiders gave too much power to our enemy. If the James Forrester would not take his place as King then our enemy would win, but maybe… just maybe he would take on the mantle of true king and face his fear and his daughter could be saved. It was placing much on his shoulders, but he was the only one who could save his daughter even if he didn’t know it yet.
As we awaited his arrival I held a war counsel with Mjilntoc of the Gnomes, the Queen Bee, and the Troll (whom no one stood by since he smelled most foul). The many unknowns still present in the house above limited my plans. None of my scouts had breached the Spider blocking forces and thus I knew only little of what the Spiders had deployed or where any potential weak points were. It was therefore madness to attempt a rescue on our own or even with the king (should he attempt one) as we could easily be overwhelmed. Mjilntoc of the Gnomes laid the first flagstone for our plan.
“We should remain concentrated. That plays to our greatest strength as we lack the mobility that the Spiders have.”
“It will also concentrate the Spiders, allowing my squadron to amass against the larger force and use their time more wisely.” The Queen Bee declared through her interpreter, a mouse named Buzic. Since it was growing colder, the Queen’s bees would only be able to remain on the field of battle for close to a half hour before they would have to seek sanctuary back in their hive.
“And I can bash more,” The troll, he was named Trollin incidentally, also added in his simple tongue.
“Then we must choose the place that will allow us best to aid the king and provide a bottleneck to funnel the Spiders into our defenses. I suggest the front door and hallway; if the King intends to rescue his daughter he will need to both enter and exit through there. The hallway will force the Spiders to come straight at us, with only a single air duct in our flanks for them to use against us. This position gives us the best chance of success - if we can hold it long enough.” I summarized the plan that boiled in my mind. Despite my shallow confidence, holding the front door would be akin to suicide against such numbers, but we could only hope our defenders held staunchly.
We all agreed and so the plan was set in motion. The Gnomes, with help from Trollin, moved their Lawn Gnome Statue Towers up onto the front door landing. They would offer indirect fire into the hallway once the door was open and protect against any Spider attempts to flank us from the outside. Trollin found himself a large stick and then sat on the steps to bite his finger nails (despite his bravado I think the poor brute was scared). The Queen and her Bees rested in the eaves over the door – ready for my signal to enter the fray. And then finally my Vermin waited under the bushes beside the steps, a low murmur coming up from the tense troops.
The James Forrester pulled up short of the driveway but sat in his car, eyes sweeping the house front. I stood at the top of the steps and watched him, noticing the way his eyes twitched and flittered as the tiniest movement caught his eye. He was afraid. Slowly he got out of the car and made long strides for the door. Had I not cried out he might have stepped on me, for I was certain he hadn’t noticed me.
“Hail King!” I declared.
The James Forrester stopped in mid-step and looked down upon me.
“Rat King?” He queried, his face was drawn and his eyes dark. I was disheartened just to look at him for I knew my own role in bringing about his pain.
“I am the Rat King no more, for I have renounced that title and have sworn again allegiance to the true king. I am now Fen, your humble servant.” I added a long low bow to punctuate my words. The James Forrester just stared at me as if I were a world away; his eyes haunted.
“My… my dau… my daughter is in there.”
“I know my lord and we wish to aid you in recovering her.” I swept my arms over the whole army that had assembled - pride clearly in my voice. A cry rose up from the vermin, gnomes, and others gathered on the doorsteps. The James Forrester’s eyes swept the motley group with a look of bewilderment.
“You do?!” The James Forrester eyes were clearer when they rested on me for a moment but then the haunted look returned.
“They said if anyone tried to stop them they would hurt her.” His voice was almost a moan and he was clearly pained now.
“Our only hope then is to act quickly and decisively. You my lord must enter the home and find your daughter. We will hold the front door to ensure it remains open for you to escape through. Once she is safe we can deal with the Spiders more evenly.”
“Could you take your army and free my daughter?” He asked, his voiced pained and brittle and there was a pleading edge to it. I shook my head and he looked away from me. I dare not speak to him in this moment; my words would have been wasted as he struggled in his own being to find the strength to save his daughter. His eyes swept the assembled army underneath him and then they met mine. They were wet with tears but they held a resolute look in them.
“O.k.” He stepped forward to open the door.
“The mice will enter first and secure the ducting and walls… you cannot fail in holding them Cavish! The Gnomes must hold the doorsteps while we Vermin and Trollin take the threshold! Let not one foot, paw, or claw fall back… FOR THE KING!” I yelled and the door thrust open.
Millions of eyes stared back at us, millions of legs moved throughout the hall, and millions of fangs dripped with poison. Many of us would die this day, of that I was sure, but I was resolute in giving my last breath to the King. The mice rushed into the duct and fighting began right away in the close quarters of the ductworks. We rats took the threshold and formed our line of battle. We were a sight to see, our weapons drawn and our eyes hard – it makes my heart proud even now.
We sized up our foe. They were a mangy bunch of spiders led by one I remembered was named Silgot, a brown recluse. They seemed taken aback at first but the shock wore off and they rushed us. When I say they were led by Silgot, I rather mean that he was the first to charge ever so haphazardly towards our strong line. While we Vermin may not seem fierce fighters I would like to think that we proved for all time that to be a great untruth. The first wave crashed into our line and they fell before our swords and the Gnomes arrows.
Silgot, the coward that he was, without meeting anyone in combat pulled back from his fallen comrades spitting poison as he retreated. There was a pause while he gathered another group of Spiders and rushed forward again.
It was then that I noticed the James Forrester had not stepped into the house. My heart fell.
“My King you must save your daughter!” The words seemed to dash themselves broken against his frozen face and he continued to stare at the assembled Spider forces. I ran to his feet and pulled on his pant leg screaming at him to move quickly. In a panic I chose a most ignoble deed and pierced my sword into his ankle. He jumped and looked down at me with wide eyes.
“Your daughter, my king! You must go now!” I looked from him to the front line that was beating back another attack. I could see a few fallen Vermin here and there but more dead spiders lay before our line of battle. How long could that last against such numbers though?
A foot fell amongst the spiders, crushing many of them and scattering another attacking wave. The Spiders moved away as each foot fell and the James Forrester moved into the house. A smile came to my face – at that moment I could not help feeling proud of my King.
My attention was stolen by the screams of mice in the duct to our flank. A weak and wounded mouse came to me and bowed.
“Don’t bow to me Cavish. What do you have to report?”
Cavish was propping himself up with his small sword. “We will not be able to hold for long sire. They come in great numbers and have the duct well prepared to defend it.”
“Then we will have to break those defenses.” I whistled and looked back over the front steps to the lawn. Out of the mounds came my reserves – the moles. Blind as they were I could not use them in the line of battle, but in the ducts they may well turn the tide.
“My king” said Dittle, the head mole miner.
“I am not the king,” I said with some exasperation. “The spiders have the duct better held than I feared. You will need to clear it and hold it. Follow Cavish and he will lead you into the ducting.”
“With a will,” Dittel said with a wide grin on his face. Cavish grabbed his paw and he and the other moles moved into the duct. I turned to look back at the front lines as a fresh attack crashed into them. The fighting was becoming more desperate and so I looked for Buzic amongst the Gnome towers. He stood beside the Queen Bee with his sword drawn, ready to protect her with his life – a good mouse.
I ran to them and gave Buzic an approving look. “We will need your fighters now Queen.”
Buzic translated, but the Queen was already fluttering and dancing her command to her bees ,who now waited in the flowers beside the front step. They sprung up with a will, blotting out the sun with their formation, and then poured into the open doorway. The spiders shrieked as the bees fell upon them – I was glad of the sight.
I ran to the front lines again and looked for the James Forrester beyond the spiders amassed to destroy us. He was at the daughter’s door but was standing there with his hand on the handle. I looked closer and could make out the form of a spider on his arm – Cincth! I wished for nothing more in that moment than to be there with James Forrester, my King, and to help him deal with the traitorous spider, but my own vermin were beginning to waver.
“Hold for the king!”
* * *
The James Forrester held his arm perfectly still. Cincth was perched on his wrist, his legs holding tightly to wherever they could find purchase.
“There is no need for this James Forrester. Simply meet my demands and all will be well with you and your daughter. Continue in this and your daughter will die. I have but to give the word and it is done.” Cincth’s eyes gloatingly moved over James Forrester’s frozen form. The smell of sweat was strong and Cincth could feel the man shake ever so slightly.
“Howdy Jimmy.”
Both Cincth and the James Forrester turned suddenly to look at Cowboy Bill, the ghost cowboy, resting against a nearby doorway. He tipped his hat at the James Forrester and gave a wiry smile.
“Wish I could be a lick o’ help to ya’ll, but I can’t seem to do much to these buggers.” He swept at a spider climbing the wall he was leaning against, but his hand passed right through. “You being a real nice folk to me and all, I’d like to repay ya’ll.”
“Silence dog!” Cincth barked over the din of fighting down the hallway, but Bill just kept on talking like he hadn’t even heard him.
“I think I’ll be moving on… to where I haven’t the foggiest, but it should be a good ride regardless.” A pause as Cowboy Bill took in his surroundings for the last time. “Yep, I’ll miss this old house, but I’ve long stayed my welcome.”
“Good riddance!” Cincth spat, but Bill continued to ignore him.
“I do really wish I could do something more for you though, but there’s nothing more I could do for ya’ll now.” Cowboy Bill pushed off from the wall and made to leave, but stopped. His eyes lit up and a big grin came across his face. “I do have some good news though.” He snapped his fingers and the lights came on, he snapped again and they turned off. Snapping three times and the TV in the living room came on.
“Pretty neat, eh, Jimmy?” James Forrester looked confused, but Cowboy Bill continued to give him his big grin. “I can also do this.” He clapped his hands and the phone started to ring in the kitchen.
“I can talk through it too!” The confused mask on James Forrester’s face fell and a slow realization took over. “It seems I learned at just the right time too. I’d hate for your appointment to have been canceled. It’s the twenty-first today, isn’t it?”
“NO!” Cincth’s cry was earsplitting and even Bill looked at him this time.
“Consider it my parting gift partner. Go take care o’ your girl now.” Bill gave a wink and then faded away. The sun seemed to brighten and the air felt less oppressive in James Forrester’s lungs. Cincth looked into James Forrester’s eyes and he did not like what he saw – courage. No, he did not like that one bit.
“Your daughter dies if you do not submit.” Cincth declared, but much of his venom was lost. James Forrester looked down at Cincth with hard eyes, they were wet with some tears, but there was no weakness in them anymore.
“Let my daughter go and get out now.” James Forrester had said these words calmly, but each word was a hammer blow directly leveled at Cincth. It was now Cincth who was frozen with fear. James Forrester opened the door to his daughter’s room. She sat on her bed with a small spider on her shoulder. The hour glass shape could be easily seen on the spider’s thorax, she was a Black Widow Assassin Spider Cincth had hired for his coup. She looked as surprised as the other spiders in the room to see the James Forrester enter the room – not as just a man, but as king. (What a powerful presence that must have been.)
The James Forrester, King of the House Forrester, strode up to his daughter, spiders scampering to escape under foot, and flicked the Black Widow off her shoulder. His daughter fell into his arms and tears fell freely as she sobbed.
The Black Widow, unaccustomed to failure pulled herself up from the gap between the bed and the wall where she had landed, with a black look in her eyes. She dashed across the bed towards the two humans, fangs open wide to deliver a fatal dose of venom. The James Forrester saw her out of the corner of his eye, scooped up his daughter in one powerful arm, stood and moved away from the bed, and with another grabbed a near-by book. The Black Widow changed course and made for the head board of the bed; she would use the board to spring onto her prey. The James Forrester saw her intent and made to cut her off but two other Spiders jumped at them. Wielding the book like a weapon, the James Forrester swatted the Spiders in mid-flight, sending them sprawling into the far wall.
The Black Widow now on the head board and sensing an opening, jumped while the James Forrester’s back was turned. But instead of landing on the James Forrester, she hit with a great force the book. The James Forrester had spun around and brought the book up to block the attack. Stunned, the Black Widow clung to the book, so the James Forrester threw it down and he was rewarded with a splat as the Black Widow was crushed between the book and the floor. He stepped on it to make certain she was dead.
The two turned around to leave, but Cincth and several other Spiders were closing up the doorway with webbing.
“This house will be ours James Forrester! With or without you!” Cincth’s voice was wild and desperate. He and the other spiders all hissed at him and made to lunge. At the same moment the window broke and the room filled with a flash and smoke. More crashes and bangs could be heard in the back of the house, but the James Forrester’s eyes fell on the spiders covered the walls and floor. They were moving quickly away from the smoke, but they couldn’t escape the room as they had closed it with webbing.
They were tearing at it with all their strength, Cincth foremost among them, but the gas caught them. Through the mist the James Forrester could see them begin their death throes. They began to bind up and scream a final note of pain. The webbing tore away and a form in black stood there spraying a can over the spiders that still fought for life.
“Come with me!” The voice was muffled by a gas mask. He tossed two masks to James Forrester and his daughter who put them on and then move out into the hallway with the man. He was spraying gas in all direction trying to move to the back of the house where another man in black was waiting.
“We need to get to the back door!” The three moved through the smoke to the back but a muffled yell held them short. The man in black at the back door struggled to take off his vest and mask as more and more spiders jumped onto him.
“Dang it! Front door!” The man spun around in a hurry, his spray cans still releasing their fury in all directions. The spiders were starting to run in all directions as the three moved through the house to the front door.
“Don’t kill the rats!” the James Forrester said through mask and the man nodded.
* * *
From my location in the doorway I of course had seen the van pull up in front of the mailbox and the heavy booted men race over the Troll’s bridge. My instincts told me to run at the sight of them, but my will held me. They moved to the back of the house and my attention was again on the battle at hand. Silgot was again leading another charge at our line. Our numbers were now half what we had marched out with. The Moles did hold the ducts and the Gnomes were fighting a flanking attack from the outside, but my rats and mice were suffering grievous casualties with each assault.
I stepped forward from our line and held my sword out at Silgot. The Spider’s around him stopped their charge and even Silgot slid to a stop.
“This ends now Spider!” My gaze was like a spear and it pierced Silgot’s cowardly heart. He turned to run but I ran forward to meet him. My rats and mice followed behind me with a triumphant call. We fell upon the Spiders with great fury. It was a tangle of claws, legs, fur, and fangs.
I found Silgot and plunged my sword into his uppermost eye, he screamed and fell dead. I was a whirlwind amongst the Spider horde and many fell to my blade. A fear swept over the Spiders and we could feel their urge to run, but they could not retreat because a smoke was creeping towards them from the back of the house.
I turned to order my troops back but a fang sunk into my back. Buzic fell upon the spider and Cavish pulled me from the fighting. We never saw Buzic again, but as we retreated we could hear his war cries over the din of battle – the best of mice he truly was. We retreated to the landing, the Spiders now rushing past us without a will to fight… their minds preoccupied with escape from the floating death that swept towards them. Those that didn’t escape curled up and died on the spot, although some tried to struggle vainly.
Three human figures rushed out of the fog and over the threshold. They stopped at the lawn and two others joined them from the van. The three were sweating and breathing heavily of the clean air. The James Forrester was holding his daughter tightly as she wept into his shoulder. My own eyes welled with tears as I watched the man and truly saw the King I had so longed for the first time.
Cavish stood guard over me, but he was looking pensively at my wound.
“Find Rasc for me, Cavish.” He nodded and set off to find the scribe. I watched with tired eyes as the humans from the van looked to the care of the James Forrester and his daughter.
“Who are you?” I heard the James Forrester ask.
“We’re the Orkin Man. We had called to reschedule, but when we didn’t hear anything we knew something might be up. We’ve dealt with this enough times to know there could be real trouble,” The largest man, the one who had ran out of the house with the James Forrester, said. He handed a canteen to the James Forrester and his daughter. They took it and drank greedily.
“And your man at the back door,” James Forrester asked
The Orkin Men were silent for a moment. “Marcus didn’t make it,” The Orkin Man said reverently. “This was his first mission.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It was a risk we all take. It’s something we have to face in this job.”
Cavish and Rasc approached me and then Cavish bowed away. Rasc knelt beside me and looked me over.
“I’m afraid you’ll not have enough time to properly record what happened here today my old friend,” I said with a light chuckle. The poison was beginning to numb my hind legs and the pain was starting to creep up my spine.
“I will do my best to record the acts of this day. Of brave vermin, gnomes, and a troll who fought for the King. But most of all I will record the acts of our leader, Fen.” He looked at me with sad eyes.
“Old friend… There are too many others who deserve acclaim. I have summoned you to record my folly so others do not fall into it.” Rasc put his pen to paper and began to write every word - of Ungoth, of our pride, of the time without a king, and my shame.
And now I speak my last and I pray they do not fall on deaf ears.
“To the vermin, I implore you to serve the King and to man, I ask you… be a King.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seven Dwarfs in the Enchanted Kingdom

((In the eighty-ninth year of my sweet and innocent queen’s reign I write to you, dear cousin, to relate to you my tale. You, Frumpy, are the only family I could trust with this autobiography of Queen White and her time amongst my brothers and I. (We both know I could never entrust this to those three little idiots, our shared cousins the Pygs; not after their run in with that wolf of a Sherriff.) With the passing of my queen and being the last of my brothers to still draw breath I know now it is time to pass on what have been the sweetest memories to me. Keep them cousin, and let them grow and flourish amongst your own family – we dwarfs have need of hopeful tales in these dark times.))

I must first start with my eldest brother, Doc, for it is because of him that the seven of us fell in with the humans of the Enchanted Kingdom. Like our father, Regent, he was a wise fellow, but ever a dreamer. After our father and mother passed it fell to him to raise his brothers. Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Myself, and Dopey (listed by our ages). The lands of the dwarfs, as you well know, are stuck in the ruts of tradition and serfdom Doc would always say those first years. He spent his time planning and studying maps after our long hours in the mines, trying to divine a place where he and his brother might be free.
I remember one night he piqued up as if lightning had struck him in the rear. “The humans,” he exclaimed. “The humans will take us in! They have even more love for gems and gold then we dwarfs do. We’ll mine for them, in their lands…”
“And become slaves to them, eh? Is that your answer?” Grumpy cut in. He and Doc were constantly at odds with one another, since they were the closest in age and always of two minds about everything. Grumpy’s interjection gave Doc pause, but then he lit up again.
“No. In secret we will work for them. We have but to strike the deal in secret and all the riches of their land will be laid bare for them! But which kingdom?” Doc went back to his studies and the rest of us went back to our own interests.
“Humans indeed.” Grumpy humphed and went back to his sock darning.
Many long nights passed before Doc decided on the kingdom we would secret off to. Most of us sat in anticipation, although Sleepy simply slept though it and Grumpy was less than interested to hear.
“There are several human kingdom’s near enough to our own that to slip into them would not be difficult and they would be aware of our kind’s skill at working the earth. Of the first two I would be reluctant to enter since they are a more harsh and destructive people, ruled by vice and emotion. More are too small and would lack any suitable sites to mine. There were several that I considered based off of their political structure and economies, but their overall populations would be insuffi…”
“GET TO THE POINT.” Grumpy growled from his seat.
Doc, acting like he had never been interrupted said, “The Enchanted Kingdom.”
That night we packed everything we would need and more, as Doc never planned to return to our homeland. We brought our tools, both for the mine and for woodworking, pots, pans, food stores, rope, bedding, silverware, musical instruments, and books. The next day, our final day as serfs, was one of the longest I could remember. The sweat clung to us as we left the fiery bowels of the earth and made the slow weary march to our home. We all quietly hummed the song our father taught us during happier times.
Once home we put on our packs, and with only the slightest grumble from Grumpy that we might have forgotten something, we slipped off into the night towards the border of the Enchanted Kingdom – and our new home.
We made camp in the woods, where there was more than abundant life to sustain us, and more importantly, Doc pointed out, plenty of places to hide should anyone seek us out. The next day he and Happy left us to make their way to the King’s castle and entreat him in secret. Grumpy reluctantly agree to watch over the rest of us, but he took affront at being made the babysitter. We busied ourselves with securing food and shelter for the next week as we waited for Doc and Happy to return – all the while Grumpy disapproved of everything we did (even while performing as he had instructed). Finally, Doc and Happy returned.
To say Doc was excited would be unfair to those reading, because that would not fully impress upon the reader the look of satisfaction and joy that was shining on his face (Happy of course always looked happy so we paid him no never mind). They carried between them a chest, large enough to put one of us inside.
“The deal has been struck! The king will take us, in secret, as his subjects as long as we delivery to him this chest filled with jewels and gold in three months time and every month thereafter.” We all waited for Grumpy to object but he instead stood away from the group with his hard eyes looking at the ground. While Doc was like father in mind and spirit, it was Grumpy who inherited his ability to find the richest veins of gold and the deepest deposits of gems.
“Well, what are you all lollygagging about for then, eh? We have a mine to find.” With that we all scattered into the woods to find sites for Grumpy to inspect.
Happy found a deep pit not far from our site. Grumpy took one sniff and then walked on, mumbling about dampness and dunderheads. Sleepy was found asleep in a small cave along a shallow rock wall. Grumpy was unimpressed and suggested we move Sleepy before the bear woke up and ate him. My own find was dashed aside with a wave of Grumpy’s hand; too shallow a vein he said and too hard the stone, but most likely the only one we would find in this forsaken place. Doc and Sneezy both shared the same find and the same disappointment as Grumpy shook his head and asked them if Quartz was worth anything amongst the humans.
It was up to Dopey, who no one had seen for some hours. We all found him some miles from our site in what could only be described as a forest quarry. Huge boulders were exposed under the roots of large pine and fir trees centuries old, a stream picked its way between the mighty stones and then disappeared into a dwarf sized cave. Dopey was hopping up and down, pointing madly at a butterfly resting atop one of the boulders. Grumpy stepped up next to Dopey, hit him on the shoulder, said “Dad would be proud, boy.”

I will spare the reader the details of how we made a new life for ourselves out in the lonely woods of the Enchanted Kingdom, only to mention that the mine we carved out of that forest quarry was one of the richest any of us had ever seen. We also built a house not far from the mine and filled it with all the things of home. We easily met the challenge give us by the king, rewarding him with a ruby the size of his head. Every month after we filled a chest with new and greater wonders. My eye was ever looking over the gems and stones the others pulled from the earth, sifting the wheat from the chaff: giving the king only the best.
It was hard work, but unlike in our homeland where we would hum songs to lift our spirits, we now sung the songs boldly and with cheer (except Grumpy of course). At the end of the day Doc would sing out the first note of our father’s end of day song.
The note would echo through the cave until Grumpy would take up the note with his own powerful voice and so on down the line until all seven of us brothers (save Dopey who could not speak or sing, but he would mouth the words) sang in perfect harmony. Then the song would begin in full and we would leave our tools and head to our beds. This carried on for many years and probably would have carried on for many more, had she not entered into our lives.
She was the new wife of the king, and a shrewd woman she was for she used our fear of being found out against us. Without her husband’s knowing, she increased out monthly quota to include a small chest for herself, which we were to fill with the dark and strange stones found in the deepest parts of the earth. While we chaffed somewhat under this new yoke, it was still far lighter than any we would have bore back amongst the other dwarfs.
It was not much longer that the king passed away, from what we could not say, but Doc worried some that the Queen would demand even more of us. He of course was not wrong for the next month’s chest was the size of three dwarfs. Grumpy’s muttered under his breath, Happy laughed, Sleepy slept, Sneezy sneezed, I watched it all from the corner of the room, and Dopey played with the trunk’s latches.
This was a change none of us approved of.

Yet it was the way of life for us now. Our freedom, albeit diminished, was still too sweet to give up for the life of servitude destined for us in the dwarven lands. ((You, cousin, can appreciate the dilemma we were in as you yourself, at the same time, were gaining a taste of freedom with the reforms under Shifty the Great only to lose much of those freedoms during the reign of Jumpy the IX some years later .))
Our overall home life suffered however from this new more demanding life we now had to live, so the dishes were not as well washed, the rooms not as picked up, or our own cleanliness not though of often. We were becoming quite miserable, Happy became quite ill over that year’s winter and we had to work especially hard to meet the Queen’s demands. The walk home across the snow was now a bitter one and our father’s end of day song became a melancholy dirge.
Come winter thaw Happy was back amongst us, and merry as ever, but the work held less of the joy it once did as a second chest now awaited filling every month. We shuffled home without song, the sun already set behind the mountains, to our humble home. At the front of us walked Doc, his head lowered and his eyes distant. A brief look up to check his steps made him stop and consequently made all of us stop as well as we crashed into one another. Grumpy made to loudly complain, but Doc hushed him and pointed to our home.
Tucked into a copse of trees sat our small home alone and silent, but the door hung wide open. We all looked back down the line to Dopey, who task it was to close the door as we left in the mornings, but he mimed locking a door and shrugged his shoulders. Grumpy grumbled to himself and then stomped up to the house – the rest of us follow close behind.
Peering into the still darkness that hangs over the inside of the house from outside the door is an eerie feeling. We could see things misplaced, chairs moved, and trinkets unsettled. A bear or other animal would not take the time to move things, so that left one the animal we feared – dwarfs. Our own kind had finally found us.
Doc was the first to enter, stopping at the door to take up a stout walking stick; the rest of us entered and took up similar weapons. If dwarfs meant to take us back to our old lands they would take us fighting. A quick look around revealed there was no one in the kitchen or great room, or the workshop under the stairs, or the library at the back of the house. Our doom awaited us upstairs and while we dwarfs are no cowards we forcefully made Doc take the first step up the stairs.
Up the creaking steps we tread, seven dwarf brothers armed with canes, pots, logs, and a rolled up parchment (Dopey’s weapon). A more shameful memory I cannot think of; we were like children jumping at every noise and cringing from every shadow. Doc’s study to the left of the stairs was empty, and the bath straight ahead, leaving only our shared bedroom to search.
Happy made to open the door that was half ajar when Sneezy made to live up to his name! A mighty sneeze broke the calm silence, followed by two smaller ah chews that would have awoken a sleeping dragon. We all held our breaths, Sneezy made to apologize but Dopey put his hand over his mouth, and we all listened. Not out sound came out of the bedroom. Happy swung the door on its squeaky hinges to reveal a seemingly empty room. Led by Doc we stepped inside, weapons at the ready, and nerves at the fraying point. The slightest movement would have caused us to strike like a coiled viper. We came to the end of the room, all of us looking in all directions – it was empty.
Or so we thought. I caught the stirring of the blankets on Dopey’s bed and instead of coiled vipers we shrunk like opossum to the farthest corner. The blankets slipped off the form in Dopey’s bed and onto the floor. We caught our first glimpse of our assailant and she was… beautiful. Never before and never again would I describe anything as beautiful, it is a term I have reserved only for her. She was human, for sure, pale skinned, dark red lips, and lustful black hair. Young and in the prime of life, her face was one of royalty and grace. From that day forward, for good or ill, she was my queen.
Grumpy and Doc began to talk and that of course led to arguing. Their heated debate was what finally awoke the beauty from her sleep; she sat up with a start.
“Oh!” She cried and made to flee, but Grumpy rushed to cut her off and hold her at bay with his iron pot. She fell back to the bed and looked to faint, but Doc motioned for all of us to lower our weapons; which all but Grumpy did.
“What is your name child,” asked Doc, stepping closer to the bed. She looked taken aback that we could speak or even form clear sentences, but that passed from her face and she looked to speak.
“Your name or we take your head!” Grumpy barked. She jumped at his words and the rest of shushed him violently.
“My name is Snow White.” Her voice was perfect, the memory of which warms me still.
“And how did you come to be here,” Doc pressed now at her feet, the stout walking stick lying on the floor out of reach. The rest of us circled around her, save Grumpy who stood at the door with a scowl on his face.
She related her tale to us, of her mother’s final embrace, her father’s pain, her step mother’s envy, the plot to kill her, and the hunter’s kindness. And that brought her sad tale to the bedroom she new rested in. She had stumbled through the woods and found our home by chance. She entered hoping to find a family that would take her in, finding no one she waited but fell asleep in the bedroom.
“My brothers and I, of course, would be happy to take you in, but with our work we couldn’t provide for you like would be accustomed to as a princess.” Doc explained. He took his chin in his hand went into a deep thought, no doubt weighing all the options.
“She’d better cook, clean, and dust this whole place every day. And there is no way she is staying in this room with us – the floor by the fire should do her well enough.” Grumpy yelled from his place at the door. Doc shook his head in agreement.
“Of course we will make a place for you to sleep, but you will have to pull your own weight as we dwarfs do.” Doc said, once again falling a contemplative mood. We all shook our heads wildly in agreement and Snow White’s smile beamed.
“We’ll if she is to have her own room then it is your study she shall have.” Grumpy said with a humph and then left the room.

While Grumpy was not immediately won over by Miss White, the rest of us were, and come the next day the house was clean and a warm meal was laid out in the great room for us to eat after a long day of work. Should you think that she was a soft touch you would be mistaken, our own mother was no less strict then she. Upon entering the house we were soon turned out to go wash ourselves, then we had to finish everything on our plates (no easy task as she was just learning to cook and use seasonings properly for dwarfs), and finally we too had to pick up after ourselves. It wasn’t long before our spirits were lifted and we again sang our songs joyfully.
What a change she had made in us in just a short time, but such was the magic that she brought with her. At night we busied ourselves making her a proper bed and dressing Doc’s study into a room fit for her. Dopey made sure she never was without a bouquet of flowers, Sneezy saw that she never was without a pillow or blanket when she sat, and the rest of us attended to any other needs she might have. In short order all was made right in our world and we all wondered how we had been happy before she arrived. In secret after the other had gone to bed, I spent my nights composing a song dedicated to her in the Dwarfish way, but I never had the strength to sing or play it for her when we all sat around the fire at night.
We left her everyday with the warning to speak with no one, we had vowed to keep her safe and we meant to be true to our word. On the brightest morning of the new summer, with the slightest breeze, and the sparkling dew on the ground we bid her farewell for another day. We labored and toiled in our mine to meet the quota of the queen, but Doc and Happy keep our spirits up with ancient dwarven songs. We stopped when the familiar note of father’s end of day song rang out through the cave. We packed up our things and made our way home, lost in song and mirth. Even Grumpy was particularly joyful that evening as Snow White was had promised him his favorite meal (liver and turnip) for supper.
He was the first to see her laying on the ground, still as a stone and deathly pale, an apple lay at her side. Tears streamed from our faces as we all swept to her side. Happy wailed, tearing his shirt and heaping dust on his head, Dopey brushed the stray hairs off her face and shook back and forth, and the other stood over her and cried. In my own despair I pulled at the corner of her dress and wept, but I could never forget Grumpy’s reaction. He stood at her feet and seethed. Though a grump and a prickly personality there had never been malice in my brother, but now there was murder in his eyes.
“Brothers,” Grumpy did not raise his voice as he addressed us, it was a steady and bitter tone, “a terrible wrong has been done us. One I mean to see revenged. For in my own way I loved her as I know you all did. So, you will all stay here and give her body proper care, while I will go out and find the one responsible for this heinous act.” Grumpy turned towards the woods to seek vengeance alone, but our own hearts yearned to punish those who would kill our beloved Snow White. We all leapt up, found weapons (this time more dangerous than walking sticks, pots, or rolled up newspaper), and as one we run into the woods to seek out the killer.
The humans have the false belief that dwarfs are only able in the dark of the mine shaft and are easily lost above ground (they have never taken the time to study us or learn our history, dear cousin Frumpy, so we mustn’t be overly surprised by their ignorance). No, we dwarfs have ever been able woodsmen, and Sneezy with his acute senses was an exceptional tracker. He led us straight to an old woman, ambling along a lonely forest track with a basket of apples. Grumpy was first to round in front of her and confront the hag with his shovel. Encircled she paused, but then began a deep cackle that child me blood (and the others I would say with certainty).
“So you are the strumpet’s keepers, eh?” Her hooded face hid a long smile. “Go back to your mine, dwarfs, before I have you buried in it.” Doc took a step forward, brandishing his garden shears, trying to get a better look at the woman who stood before us. With a grand flourish she stood straight and threw off her cloak. She had changed size and shape before our eyes; once a haggard and bent old woman, now a royal and powerful queen.
“It’s you!” Doc exclaimed, jumping back from her. “This is the queen.”
“Yes, and you would be wise to remember that.” She sneered, her lovely face contorted and sickly looking.
“What do we do Doc?” Sleepy asked. The rest of us looked to him for guidance, but He held his ground next to Grumpy, in front of the queen, keeping her from leaving. Doc and Grumpy looked at one another, a moment of unspoken understanding passing between them, before they both lunged at the queen. My own weapon, a spade, went to pierce her backside, but she moved quickly for her size and age. Producing a knife of her own she swung and cut across my eyes, dodging Doc and Grumpy’s blows and then grabbing onto Dopey’s staff and then stabbing him in the arm she was able to make an opening to escape through.
Off she flew through the woods and we at her heels, yelling and calling down all the curses we knew. Whenever we would catch her we would land trade blows with one another. Giving Happy a horrendous cut from his mouth to his ear, cutting off Sleepy’s ear at the next battle, and finally, burying her dagger in Grumpy’s back. Chasing her all throughout the woods we arrived by mere chance we arrived at the mine in the forest quarry. Looking back to see how close we were to her, she lost her balanced and tripped. Down she tumbled amongst the rocks and into the little stream.
She moaned with pain, her leg and arm broken by the fall. We surrounded her again, looking down on her with cold, merciless eyes.
“No better than she deserves,” said Grumpy. Doc went down into the mine and returned with a pick-ax. He stood over her head and made ready to swing.
“MERCY!” She cried. “MERCY! I am too beautiful to die like this.” She screamed with all the power in her lungs, but it could not dissuade us. Doc’s blow fell heavy and she was dead. He let go of the handle with a shock and then fell on his back, his hands held tight against his chest. We ran to him and watch in horror as his arms shriveled and bent. It was some curse she had placed on herself, a final act of hatred from a despicable woman. We left her body exposed for the carrion birds to rip apart.
Now in complete darkness we carried Doc back through the woods, licking our wounds and falling again under the weight of despair. The tears began to fall anew as we came to her body again. Those bloody and wounded we looked to her first, taking her inside and laying her in her bed. She looked peaceful and calm in death.

Over the next few days Doc supervised (as his hands were now useless) the construction of a crystal coffin and a temple of sorts in the dell just beside our home. So well built was the coffin that after we laid her in it her body would not age. (Humans are always amazed at this, but they have never seen the perfectly entombed bodies of our own great kings and leaders, centuries old.) And so she rested though the remainder of summer, fall, winter, and into the spring. We each paid our respects in our own ways. Doc spent first light at the foot of her final resting place, looking longingly at her face. Grumpy would rake the leaves and keep the site free of brush (“She wouldn’t have let us get away with anything less,” he once said), he moved stiffly from the wound in his back that had punctured a lung. Happy would talk to her as if she were still there listening, the scar on his face giving him a grisly look, but he remained as happy as ever. Sleepy would lie beside her as he had done when she was still with us. Sneezy would bring her things he had found and leave them for her (Grumpy of course would throw them away, lamenting all the junk he had to deal with). Dopey was ever vigilant in keeping a fresh bouquet of flowers on her coffin. Finally, for myself, now with the use of only one eye… I sang the song I had written for her, everyday at sunset.
None of us worked the mine anymore, our injuries to severe and hearts too broken. We all kept to ourselves, spoke little, ate little, and slept little. The only bonds we had with one another was brotherhood and even that now seemed frayed. Grumpy considered returning to our homeland and seemed that he might convince Doc to join him, but he remained noncommittal, so we stayed.
In that bleakness we remained until one day we were startled to see two men on horseback at the edge of the trees. We all fell to our weapons and set ourselves up between them and the body of our dear Snow White. They rode out, one an older man rough cut and leathered; the other young and regal.
“Kind dwarfs we mean you no harm.” The elder said, stopping his horse a good distance from us. He looked us up and down and then looked to his companion, exchanging words quietly between themselves before speaking again. “I ride with Prince Charles Ferdinand of the Lower Kingdom. I am his woodsman, Humbert, formerly of the Enchanted Kingdom. I had shared a tale with my lord that has brought us into theses woods, the tale of a beautiful princess without equal. Have you seen her?”
Upon hearing this we all dropped out weapons and broke down to tears, for this was the woodsman that had saved Snow White from the queen’s first treachery. We moved to him and thanked him deeply, all speaking at once. The two men did not know what to do or what to make of us, but now that we had moved from her grave they could better see her resting in the crystal coffin. The prince dismounted and went beside her.
Through the clear crystal he was able to perceive her beauty and I thought perhaps I saw him gasp when he saw her. In the years that followed the scribes would try to explain why the Prince had ridden out with the woodsman into the woods in search of a princess he had never seen. Lust, divined some; Others, a thirst for power and prestige in claiming a beautiful wife; and still other would say he went on a fool’s errand on a youthful whim. We who where there that day have a clearer vision of the Princes’ intentions and had not spoken a word.
Humbert, the woodsman, had given the prince only a pale account of Snow White’s person, but even that small taste had stirred in the prince something deep in his being. Why he had ridden out, faced danger, ridicule, and trials, and now stood next to our Snow White was because of love. Only a small sliver of that pure and universal emotion, but in that boy it burned like a furnace. To thus see his love, who he could only dream of now, lying dead and entombed broke his heart. He fell against the coffin and wept. We joined him in mourning.
As the sun bent low against the horizon and our tears were spent, the prince and Humbert made to leave and return to their kingdom. The prince stopped though and seemed to battle within his self.
“Could I…” He hesitated, but then gathered his full courage. “Could I ask to take a lock of her hair?”
Doc took a moment to think, but could not deny the prince’s request. Here was a man like us that simply wanted to have a way of remembering. Doc went to the coffin, and with Dopey acting as his hands, opened the case. The prince stepped close, knife drawn to take a cut of hair. As he leaned in he stole an innocent kiss of her check, cut the tussle of hair and made to leave. We all turned to watch him go.
Doc sealed the coffin again and as the sun set we stood around her and prayed over her; hoping she might hear us. We all slept soundly that night, as our weeping had tired us, and for once we all awoke refreshed. There was a magic to this new day. Birds sang more loudly, the sun more bright, Grumpy was less grumpy, and other signs that we missed. Doc went to tend to the coffin as he always did in the mornings, but he yelled with such a start that we all rushed out to see.
There in the arbor next to our home, with the crystal case opened, sat Snow White – revived!

We knew not by what magic that it was that had healed her, as we were too excited to question it and far too busy covering her in kisses and tears. We informed her of all that had happened since our finding her dead on the ground. She was most intrigued by our story of Humbert and the Prince. She seemed to glow when we spoke of him. Doc saw as much in her eyes.
“We will take you to him. Immediately. Instantly. This very second!” Doc was beside himself with happiness.
Grumpy shook his head, “You’d have a queen arrive like a country bumpkin! We need to build for her a carriage and new clothes.” So we went to work. I and Dopey took her into the house, fed her, and let her rest. Once she felt rested we measured her and went to work altering several of the other dresses we had made her into a fine gown; incorporating many of the most stunning jewels we had kept from the mine. The others quickly set about the building of a grand carriage. In two days time it and the dress were completed.
With Snow White now looking more like a queen than ever, we set out for the Lower Kingdom at first pulling the carriage ourselves and later purchasing a pair of draft horses from a stable with a sapphire as big as a fist.
We arrived in the Lower Kingdom only a few short days after we had left, just in time for a ball in the prince’s honor. Heralded to all as the Queen of the Enchanted Kingdom (as was her rightful position now that her step mother was dead) she and the prince immediately fell into one another’s arms.

They married and the two kingdoms became one. The seven of us were honored guests of their majesties and never lifted a pick to work the stone again. We all served in what ways we could of course. Doc tutoring the royal children, Grumpy serving as chief surveyor, Happy a host of renown, Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, and myself served the queen exclusively as her guard, servants, and advisors. The kingdom flourished under their reign and still grows today under the wise leadership of their eldest son, Doc Humbert the First.
Passing of old age the king and queen we so loved have gone and so to have my brothers. I, Bashful, do write this account of my life and of our love for Queen White – who is ever the fairest of them all.

Below is a translation of the End of Day Song for your enjoyment. As Dwarf and English do not translate perfectly some liberty had to be taken to create a coherent song, only “Hi Hoe” has not be translated. Its closest translation is “Leaving on a happy note” with its antithesis being “Hec Hone” meaning “Leaving without joy”. The author is unkown.

Hi Hoe
Down the pick and down the sledge
Down the spade and down the tackle
Up the ramp and up the sky
Up the air and up the path

Hi Hoe Hi Hoe
Down the trail and down the earth
Down the stones and down the lane
Up my spirits and up my head
Up my lover and up my bed

Hi Hoe Hi Hoe Hi Hoe
Down the sun and down the birds
Down the worries and down the toils
Up the meal and up the spoils
Up the moon and up the stairs

Hi Hoe Hi Hoe Hi Hoe Hi Hoe
Down my eyes and down my head
Down my weight and down my struggle
Up the night and up the owl
Up the stars and up the hour

Hi Hoe Hi Hoe (x2)
-The End