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.


4. Chapter 4

The Huntsman opened his eyes. Everything seemed to be throbbing, nerves so on edge that he could feel his blood beating in every vessel. But it was most painful in his gut. 

A groan slipped through his lips, echoing the gnawing agony around his torso. 

"He's up!" cried a voice. 

There was a muffled reply of some sort, and the sound of footsteps. 

"-old you, I can still here them from time to time," Belle was saying. 

The Huntsman lifted his head to see the former princess of Tearian turning the corner. She was no longer in the tattered gown he'd last seen her in. In fact, she looked entirely different. her skin was clean of dirt and mud, leaving it the color of driftwood. Her hair had been brushed back into a braid, and her eyes were no longer haunted by the Assassin's curse. Which left him wondering just how long he had been lying in this bed. 

"Are you lucid this time?" Belle asked, walking forward and putting a hand to his forehead. 

The first time we met, the Huntsman thought. I dragged her against her will to Malif's fortress. And now she's tending to me like I'm an old friend. 

"I need to find Snow." Those likely weren't the best words to say first; a thank you, for example, might be in order. But he did need to see Snow. Soon. 

"You've only just woken," said Belle. "You need to rest. There's a gaping hole in your stomach from where Malif stabbed you with ice." 

Malif. Yes, he needed to find Snow very soon. 

"And I thank you for what you've done," he said. "But I cannot delay in this." 

"The Huntsman," said a new voice from the doorway. "Interesting name." 

"Oh, you're one to talk, the Assassin," said Belle. She put a hand to the Huntsman's forehead, checking for a fever. 

"As a matter of fact, I am," replied the Assassin. He was no longer wearing his hood, and his face no longer looked like it had been crossed with that of a lion's. There was still a weariness to his eyes, one that the Huntsman doubted would ever fade completely. The two figures watched one another carefully. 

"There is nothing to talk of," said the Huntsman. He pushed back he covers, hiding his grimace as best he could. "I must find Snow." 

"Queen Snow, actually," said Belle. "She's united the Four Kingdoms." She put his covers back in place, looking far sterner than any girl had a right to, in the Huntsman's opinion. 

"I will heal," said the Huntsman. "Lying on a bed here or at the White Palace makes no difference. I cannot wait any longer to start my journey." He pushed the sheets away again, swinging one leg over the edge of the bed. Fire tore at his abdomen. 

"What cannot wait?" asked the Assassin. Unlike with Belle, there was no strain of concern in his manner- only suspicion. 

"Nothing you can help me with." The Huntsman moved his second leg, steeled his nerves, then stood. His vision tunneled before going back. He wavered on the spot for a moment, waiting for the headache to clear. 

Belle looked as though she were going to become stubborn, but the Assassin put a hand on her shoulder. The Huntsman couldn't help but notice the gold band on the Assassin's hand. A smile nearly tugged at his lips. After all, everyone was a bit of a romantic. 

But his duty was too pressing. 

"I will require my clothing. And perhaps a horse, if you have one spare." 

The Assassin nodded. 

Nothing comes before family. 

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