* * *
“In this, I did fail you.”
Jarvis put his staff away and clasping his hands behind his back, walked in wide circles around Ceridwen.
“Snow once told you, I know as I saw it in my mirror “Her Magick has, and shall, become so dark it mocks the prohibitions of Time itself.”
“It bothered me for many nights how Snow would know to say that. Could it be that she chanced upon a guess? Is she that clever, Ceridwen? I think not, for such words don’t cross people’s minds without a happening.”
“A happening?” Ceridwen asked.
Jarvis slowly nodded. “An intrusion. She would know them because she would hear them from me, and that inevitably is the burden you’ve bestowed upon me Ceridwen. I see that now, but no matter my faulty, you are the reason of Snow’s triumph. You have goodness in your heart!”
“No!” Ceridwen screamed backing away from the advancing warlock.
“You feel compassion!” Jarvis spat at her.
“I would rather die!”
“Never!” Ceridwen yelled, the steam clouding her eyes, beaming her illuminating eyes at Jarvis, who shook at the sight of the augmented woman.
“And yet, unpredictable a part of you was all of the above. You, my Queen inevitably led Snow to your destruction. Look into that mirror and see your hands helping the Queen win!”
Ceridwen grabbed a hold of the oak staff and swung it against the mirror. The shattering was thunderous, and it stopped both Ceridwen and Jarvis to their knees. Jarvis covered his ears as the Echoes of Time cried in a deafening discord. Flying glass cut his wrists and face, and he curled into a ball. The room was lit by crimson light. Ceridwen remembered seeing it somewhere. She remembered holding a brass sphere in her hand and offering it to the gaping red mouth of a swirling newborn portal. The tendrils protruding from the Mirror licked her face, and it burned the brass, but she couldn’t feel any pain, not physical. It was after all just her armor.
When the cacophony ended Ceridwen counted the glass shards. There was one for each of them, John and Snow, Reese, Jarvis, herself. The rest was sharp dust of pointy glass which crunched barely audible beneath her feet.
“What have you done?” Jarvis said picking himself off the ground. His face had many cuts.
“I ended your spying. Time cannot be trifled with like this. Living in all these versions and never winning, I don’t want that. I made a mistake entrusting my survival into your hands. I won but an atrocious face and wounded pride. If Snow comes here to seek her vengeance, I will end her the way I know. She is a stupid girl, eating apples off of stranger’s hands and buying ribbons. One last trick she would buy too.”
Jarvis clapped his hands.
“If you so wish my Queen, very well. But before you say another word come.”
Jarvis went to the window and peered outside.
“Here, behold your kingdom.”
Ceridwen stood by him and gazed upon the land beyond the tower of the dark wizard. The rich meadows stretching as far as the eye could see from the castle grounds to the smaller villages scattered on the Royal Road were barren, rusty gold breaking into dust at the slightest gust of wind. The wind carried small whiffs of smoke, tiny charcoal pieces reminiscent of a still burning fire. In the distance, the forest swayed, naked white trees caught in a perpetual winter which stripped them of their colors. The wild river once silver now ran brown and coagulated.
“A thousand years of bickering and fighting. A thousand more Automatons spilling from the debris of Time stimulated with the worst in Magick. And a land deprived of an actual ruler. That is what not killing Snow gives you – everyone dead, and no one to behold your beauty. No one to rule over. Now without the Mirror, I cannot see which is the truth because this is a land unmasked, a land where there is no Magick to conceal it.”
Jarvis walked back to the empty mirror frame, leaving Ceridwen to clasp her brass fingers into a mighty fist.
“Now imagine Ceridwen if Snow finds herself here where the mirror is already shattered, where all of you is hidden, not just this mangled imitation from the past, not just you with your yellow eyes, but all of you! She would destroy us both! She would destroy everything you’ve worked for. You will never be the better while she breaths.”
Ceridwen looked down at her hands and imagined them wrapped around Snow’s thin, white neck; she imagined how it would snap at the slightest pressure, Snow going limp in her arms, not a kiss to wake her up this time. An image of her had done them a trick, fooled by Snow’s kind heart and heroine bravado. But now, at this moment in time, Ceridwen knew she was the truest of them all, a vessel of hatred, agony, betrayal – her absolute evil would soon face Snow’s weak compassion.
“When Snow comes, she will weep her magical tears for one last time.”
Jarvis nodded and began picking up the mirror fragments.
Next: Brass Throne