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.


24. Chapter 13

Ella was entirely alone. 

She was in a large room where all the furniture had been covered in white cloth, leaving it with a stark feel. The curtains ruffled slightly in a breeze, catching and blocking the sunlight from time to time. 

"Rumplestiltskin!" she called. "Rumplestiltskin!" Ella shivered as the curtains fluttered again. There was a rage in her voice that she didn't recognize. It was awe-inspiring. Terrifying. Powerful

"He's busy," snapped a gruff voice. Ella turned to see an entirely different dwarf from the one that had cursed her. This one was dressed not in yellow robes, but in purple, and he had an angry looking face. 

"Fair enough. Can you help me?" Ella tried to look commanding. Regal. 

"Well, I won't know until you tell me. Well, actually, I do know. But I want to hear you say it." The dwarf gave her a grin. Ella bristled at the hostility in his voice. 

"How could you know?" she demanded, watching him carefully. How dare he attempt to make her beg! 

The dwarf gave a shrug, walking around a sheet-covered table to sit on one of the chairs, a smear of purple in the snow-colored room. 

"It wouldn't take the most brilliant scholar. You've been in the position of a Queen. Now you're suddenly upset. You want to stay there. I don't care about your reasons-" He held up a hand before she could insert them. "-only your detailed plan." 

Ella's upper lip turned up slightly in a sneer, and she took a step towards the dwarf. 

"That's why I called you." 

"No. You called Rumplestiltskin. I am Talminage." There was laughter in his voice. He was toying with Ella, getting under her skin. 

"What curse can you put her under?" Ella asked. She was irritated at this point. She wanted the little purple man to leave as soon as possible. 

"I don't place curses. I shift them," Talminage said. "And seeing as how the only curse around here is the one you're under, and since I doubt you want to curse Snow by making her look like herself, then I suggest you follow a new plan." 

"What plan?" Ella asked suspiciously. Something about the dwarf struck her wrongly. Maybe it was the ease with which is provoked the current Queen, or it could be the fact that he simply appeared to be a surly man. But she didn't trust him. 

Ella didn't want to trust him. 

But she had to. He could very well be her only means of stopping Snow. 

"No. Details remain with me. What are you willing to pay?" 

Ella glared at him. "I will not pay for a plan that I haven't even heard. How can I trust you?" 

"A dwarf keeps his word. What price are you willing to pay?" 

"What do you even want from me? My first-born child?" she asked in frustration, mind flashing to the old tales. 

"Perfect," said Talminage. "I'll be back for it whenever you're nine months due." The dwarf vanished in a ripple of purple. 

Ella froze. "No. No! Wait, no! Talminage! Talminage!

But Talminage stayed away. Ella sat down on a sheet-covered table for a moment, staring at the ground. 

"He wouldn't actually take my child," she said to herself. "What would he want with one? Who' to say I'll have children , in any case? And what's one gone if I have plenty. Heaven knows I would have preferred growing up with a dwarf to my situation in life. I'd be a terrible mother. I've already given one away, for Clergy's sake..." 

After a time, she'd satisfied herself. Ella got to her feet and left the room. 

She did have plans. Ella had many plans. She had plans for how to deal with Snow's three guardians, she had plans for how to finish off Snow if Talminage failed her, she had plans for a wedding. Spur of the moment acting may have been Ella's greatest ability, but a proper lie does best with a bit of planning. And she was giddy with it. 

In the library, she waited. Out of the corridor came the Huntsman. 

He was strength. It was in his every feature, running along his bones to the build of his powerful body. This was not a man who knew fear. This was a man who would fight, right  alongside his beloved. Ella clung to him, to the strength, and kissed him fiercely. 

"We won't have to hide much longer," she whispered. "No more hiding." 

The Huntsman smiled. "That's my Snow," he whispered, holding her close. 

I'm your Snow. 

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