Battle may never end, for there chaos thrives;
And only in chaos can we live our lives.

After Snow takes the Assassin's curse, she leaves to rebuild the Four Kingdoms. But she finds the Beast impossible to control and will do anything to get rid of it and spare her kingdom carnage. Enter Rumplestiltskin, one of seven equally enigmatic and long-named dwarves. Their requirement for breaking the curse? Snow must live with them for a year. She leaves a serving girl in her place, who must lie to--and fall for--an unwitting Huntsman.

But curses can never be broken. Evil can never be killed. And Snow can never stop fighting.


11. Chapter 11

They stopped trying. Ella had brought back Casin, Oudin and Jehanne, but after nearly an hour's worth of attempts to get me to come out of the room, they stopped trying and left me to my voices.

I had begun kneeling by the door. In an hour's time, I was on the other side of the room, curled in a fetal position as though the voices were trying to physically torment me. I could see far too much--things from around the world--and all of it was pressing, biting, raging and hissing in my mind.

One of the voices sounded like Jehanne, when she read bedtime stories to e as a child. Memories flooded into my mind as well as facts, all of it swirling into a storm of dragons, dances and dwarves.


I was desperate. I would do anything to stop the voices, stop the pressing urge to give in and kill.

How did the story go, I thought. It was a silly one, with a dwarf with a ridiculous name. Rumplestiltskin. A girl so desperate that she was in tears, prostrate on the floor, as she tried to accomplish an impossible task. She only had to call his name.

"Rump-" my voice was thick with crying. "Rumplestiltskin!"

I sat up, wiping my face off with my skirts. When I dropped the folds of cloth, a dwarf was standing before me, his arms crossed. I started, hand once again reaching for a weapon that was not there.

"Well you appear to be in a bad way," said Rumplestiltskin as he looked me over.

"Are you able to take the curse?" I asked. I half couldn't believe that the silly story had worked, but I put aside the shock for later.

"Curse?" The dwarf peered at e.

"The Assassin," I said. I could hardly hear my own voice over the thousands of others.

"Hell," cursed the dwarf. "How did you end up with that particular curse?"

"Can you break it?" 

"If you'd just heard of how that one came about, too."

"Can you break it?"

"Do you even know how curses work?"

I stood, very near to ripping the little man in two. "He had it for two centuries. I cannot even last the night without killing everyone in this castle. You can grant impossible things... please. Please help me."

Rumplestiltskin looked at me. "There is c'climb a tall mountain' impossible, and 'obliterate an entire mountain with your toes' impossible. This is the latter."


One broken voice among the many.

Rumplestiltskin contemplated me before replying. "This is ancient magic. There are layers and twists to the curse that I would have to study to break. You will have to come be near me, at my own home, until I can figure out more about it."

I could have cried tears of joy. Instead, I got to my feet, putting on my most queenly look. "And what will your price be?" I said, not forgetting the moral of his bed tie story.

"The price will be blank because Kate is an idiot who can't even think things up for the life of her," said Rumplestiltskin.

"Fine. Yes, I accept the offer," I said, voices pounding every away.

"Then off we go!"

"Wait!" I said. "I have to make preparations!"

Rumplestiltskin eyed me. "That was not int eh plan."

"Just let me speak with a few people," I begged. He sighed and waved me on.

I opened the doorway and stepped into the hallway.

Just stay under control for a few more moments, I thought to the beast.

I only had to stand in the doorway to the main ball room before they were upon me in a moment, a nervous Ella lingering behind Casin as he waddled forward. They all had tight expressions, cautious and concerned.

"I cannot stay," I whispered, fighting back the haze the Beast wanted me to slip into. "I cannot be queen so long as this curse has a hold on me."

"And what do you propose we proceed with?" asked Casin, looking insulted.

"It can be broken. He- I only need time."

"He?" Jehanne pounced on the word. "There is someone who loves you? Someone who could love you enough, in time?"

"According to legend, Rumplestiltskin loves none," I replied.

"Rumplestiltskin?" cried Ella. The others looked shocked, save for steady Oudin. He only looked weary. Perhaps, even, sad.

"How much time will he take?" asked the old warrior.

"Six months? A year?" guessed the dwarf. He was beside me in an instant.

Casin, truly aware of the deceptive danger of any sort of deal, asked, "And what was your price?" 

Rumplestiltskin looked up at the merchant. "My deals are between me and the person involved. Or the deal is over."

Jehanne looked at me. "Snow. You are certain this is absolutely necessary?"

I nodded, the beast's voice so strong I feared it would speak instead of my own.

Jehanne--caring, patient Jehanne--suddenly stepped forward, giving the darkest look to Rumpestiltskin that I had ever seen anyone give before. in a voice ad cold and strong as a glacier, she said, "If you trick her, if you lie to her, if Snow comes back harmed in any way, I will personally remove your left side from your right."

Even a magical dwarf has to fear an incited Jehanne.

"On to practical things," said Casin. "How do we explain the queen's absence?"

"Ella." It had been the voices' suggestion, not my own. But I felt it could work. Anything would work right now.

"The maid?" Casin looked dubiously from my white skin to her brown, my glare to her smile. "Not Jehanne? We could cover the pocks with enough makeup, perhaps..."

"Ella likes a party. And she'sa good liar. YOu've been lying for years," I said to her, echoing the words of the voices. To your father, to your stepmother, to your stepsisters, to the castle staff. Your'e strong, muscular like me. She ca-"

I had to stop before the Beast's scream came out instead.

"How did you know that?" Ella's smile ahd vanished.

"Her curse," said oUdin grimly.

"But how on heaven or earth--or hell, I'm desperate--do we make her look like you? Even my best face artists can't change that much."

"A spell. A curse." I looked at Rumplestiltskin. "Yes?"

The dwarf sighed. "I need an earnest promise."

"I swear to not... not... not eat sweets?" Ella offered frantically.

Rumplestiltskin looked horrified. "Why on earth would you promise that?" The girl flushed. "It doesn't have to be something big, you know."

"Er... my shoe?"

Rumplestiltskin gave a sigh. "But bigger than that. You know what, I'll work with it. But the curse will wear off at midnight, and not restart until you wake the next morning."

"Are we really doing this?" asked Casin, nervously fingering a pearl button.

"Thank you, Ella," I whispered. "I love you, Jehanne. I will be back soon," I added for Casin and Oudin. The general nodded stoically, the merchant was flabbergasted.

The dwarf nodded. The maid became royalty. The Beast howled.

The Queen vanished. 

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