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.


9. Chapter 9

This ball was not going nearly as well as the first. 

The White Ball may have gotten off on a left foot, but this one wouldn't get off at all. The more I attempted to socialize, the more worried I got that Casin was going to give himself battle frenzy over how badly it was all going. 

It was easy to understand why. For years the subjects of the White Kingdom had shunned those of the Red, even after the kingdoms supposedly merged. After all--this was where Malif supposedly the source of all our woes, had come from. 

"And," Oudin continued. "If it weren't for her Red nationalities, she may not ha-" 

"Oudin," I hissed, kicking his ankle fiercely under the table. Even i could tell he was being undiplomatic. He looked at me as though in surprise. I gave him the stoniest stare I could muster. 

"Have allowed Snow to come to the throne," he finished, with some attempt at tact. 

One could hear Casin's soul shrivel. 

For two countries that had been one for the past decade, one would think the people of Red and White would have more in common. And it was the general consensus among the White that the Red ought to be grateful to us for taking them in. But as with Malif, they were proud and ashamed. I smacked of the way they had been forced to rely on my father, of the way their own king and queen had been disgraced. The entire affair was awkward and unlikely to die down for generations. 

The voices were nearly as helpful as Oudin. They never failed to bring y attention to the slightest movement of anyone in the room or castle--which made conversing difficult--but could not bring themselves to tell me anything of importance. They were certain to inform me that Lady Estienne was about to sneeze, but elected to refrain from telling me that I was speaking to a boy about horses to a boy whose sister died in a horse accident. 

And it certainly didn't help that all the while, the Beast was urging me to rip someone's throat out. 

I'll rip out your throat," I thought irritably. 

"No," he growled. You won't. You can't. I will always be here. Now kill her." 

My hands twitched, eager to reach for a knife. 

"Only six people armed good for a massacre frighten them into obedience eggs spoiled three seats down little boy running towards you old man coughs sixty prone targets approximately new girl approaching at the door to find you kill the woman to your left reaching for the knife..." 

I stood as they prattled on and walked to the door to meet whoever wanted to meet me. Any excuse to leave the social disaster was welcome. 

"Five feet and seven inches tall one hundred and forty eight pounds no weapons untrained serving girl from the White Castle been walking long," the voices explained. 

I spotted her quickly by their aid. She was dressed in the palace maid's uniform, and had long dark hair with light brown skin. She was younger than me. 

"You," I said, starting towards her. It wasn't polite, but I was in a short mood. 

The girl looked up, eyes so dark they were nearly black widening. "Queen Snow!" 

"Why did you follow us?" I stepped closer. We were alone in this entrance room- an intimidating stone fortress that had a dizzying array of doors to choose from. 

"I-I'm sorry, ma'am!" the girl said. I noticed that her eyes kept sliding off of me to linger on the banners or try to peer in at other guests beyond the doors. 

"I don't need an apology," I said, trying to make my voice sound kind. 

"Right." Her already dark cheeks became rosy. "The Huntsman sent me, since he weren't in any position to ride out himself." She grinned like she knew a secret. 

"And what did he want you to say?" 

"She has a note in her blouse she can be trusted scars on her back," said the voices. They were worming into my mind, refusing to be quiet or ignored. The girl reached into her shirt and pulled out a rolled up note. 

"S'awfully romantic," she said, a most wistfully. I took the note, her words registering late. 

"Romantic?" What rumors were they spreading at home. 

"You an' the Huntsma- oh, damn. I've spoiled it." The color rose again. 

I tucked the note into my bodice, resolving to read it once I was alone. For now, the girl would be a  good excuse to leave this blasted ball behind. 

"What is your name?" I asked her. 

"Ella, M'lady," she answered. I turned and went through a door. 

"Come with me, Ella," I said. "You'll be tired from the road." 

She followed me, smiling according to the voices. "Yes! Thank you, ma'am." 

I walked through the crowd to pause by Jehanne. "It seems another person has come looking for me. I'll be a moment getting her situated." 

Jehanne looked at Ella. "Are you certain you should not remain as the host? I can ensure the girl is given a room and bed clothing." 

I looked to Oudin helplessly. He reached out and took Jehanne's arm in his massive hand, interrupting with a conversation of his own. I motioned to Ella to follow me.

"Why didn't you let her take me?" Ella asked once we were in an empty corridor. "You are the queen an' all." 

Being queen doesn't meanI enjoy a party," I muttered. 

"Oh, I always love a good party, ma'am," said Ella. 

"That you could go in my place," I said. Ella nodded, looking just as wistful as I felt. 

"Kill her," commanded the Beast, his voice emerging from the others out of the blue. 

Instantly, my mind was like an animal's. My hand reached for a sword that wasn't by my side, my blood was up in preparation for a kill. All I could see was Ella's skin, the light brown target prone beside me. She turned her grinning face towards me, and the fog fell away. 

"Your majesty?" A frown had taken the place of the smile. "Are you-" 

"I'm fine," I said quickly. But I was the farthest from fine that I'd been in so long. Tears stung at my eyes. How long until I truly attempted to kill someone? I could never last two more balls. I could hardly last this walk. 

Unable to bear the thought f it, I threw open the next bedroom door I came across. It wasn't empty; a man and woman were pressed to the wall, giggling. Ella yelped, but I strode in. 

"Out," I snapped. "Save this for your own homes, not the Queen's ball." 

The lovers tore apart, eyes wide like children caught in the kitchen. 

"Your majesty!" began the woman. 

"Just get out!" I said, shocked at the situation, the tears on my face, and the pressing urge to tear. Them. Apart

They scrambled out of the room, brushing wordlessly past Ella. The voices relayed their horrified and furious conversation as they walked away. 

"Your majesty, that wasn't necessary!" Ella protested. I stood, staring at the wall without truly seeing the rich tapestry hanging fro it. 

"Kill her." 

"Your majesty?" 

"A tear landing on your chest couple gone no one in the hall Ella stops close." 

"Kill her!" 

I spun around, skirts flying. I slammed the door into the frame. 

"Go enjoy the party, Ella," I said, voice cracking. I pressed my head to the door. 

"Queen Snow?" 

I slid down onto the ground, more tears splashing onto my gown. 

"Your majesty?" 

Waves of voices. Oceans of bloodlust. Torrents and torrents of beast. 

Ella left. 

She returned with two other people. 

"Snow?" It was Oudin. But his voice didn't stop all of mine. 

Nothing could stop them. They would consume and create carnage till nothing was left. Not of me, not of the Kingdoms, not of the world. 

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