* * *
“I don’t understand. I see what’s before me, but I don’t –”
King Odc, panting heavily, held onto Sky’s elbow for support. He too looked upon the mangled artifice that was neither machine nor human.
“It is the Queen you look upon.”
“It is me I look upon,” Sky argued.
“Where do you hail from Sky?” Odc asked her.
Sky didn’t have time or strength for this. She wanted to run and tell Snow that the Automaton was defeated, run before her blood ran out, but she felt the eager pull on her hand; the still powerful grasp of the dwarf king made her sigh.
“I’m from Oossah; I was born there.”
“So was the Evil Queen.”
“That doesn’t prove anything.”
“What did you do when you were a young maiden?”
“I helped my father at the brewery.”
“You were a common girl?”
Sky looked down at Odc. “I guess I was. We all were until the day Ceridwen took the kingdom and our men.”
“Yes, yes, but what after that? Were you married; did you have children; did you continue brewing?”
“I…” Sky started to reply, but then stopped, the words dead in her throat. “I cannot remember”, she confessed.
“What do you remember?”
“Fighting,” Sky answered. “I remember fighting beside Snow as one of her Sisters.” A blush crept across her cheeks. “I remember falling in love with Reese and making love to her; I remember the day she went away and the day she died and the day we fought Ceridwen before she fled.”
“These are weak memories, frail and small. It was when you were re-created that day that memories began to form. Before that, this you,” Odc tapped his gnarled finger on Sky’s chest. “and this,” he waved his hand to encompass all that they could see. “did not exist.” Odc twined his fingers and stretched, his knuckles making a soft popping sound.
If what he dwarf had said was true, then Sky didn’t want to speak, unless her words unravel more of how unreal she was.
“You must ride and fetch Snow. The portal will be ready soon, but you must seek her and call her here for we, I am afraid will be dead soon. I cannot say more now Sky, but soon you will know more. Run now, do your duty.”
* * *
Sky stumbled through the forest, her limbs weary and her body heavy. She propped herself on her damaged sword and waited for her will to carry her onward. But she had no will. She was a piece, a fragment, not a person or a friend, not a lover or a warrior. Lost in these grim thoughts, Sky wept for the second time that day, and her quiet sobs continued unabashed until a soft puff made her look up. Cloud Dancer, unsaddled, prodded the soft dirt with his hooves. Sky offered him a weak smile, tenderly pushing herself up and letting her trusted companion carry her to the castle where she would find Snow.