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This is a brief excerpt from the first draft of my retelling of Snow White. It’s pretty different from the classic faerie tale, as you’ll see.
Dairine’s father Lord Gwillym was the center of her life. When her stepmother killed him, Dairine fled her father’s lands with the help of the strange nature spirits who’d befriended her when she was a child due to her peculiar magic. Lady Ethne swore she’d find her missing stepdaughter and kill her as well. Dairine has lived in another lord’s lands, hiding with a group of miners – with Aran, the leader of the miners, claiming her as his wife to protect her from the nearby town’s gossips – for the past few years. She loves her new life but continues to live in fear of Lady Ethne and her dark powers.
Dairine folded the shirt and set it in the finished pile. She smiled and flexed her fingers. It was getting colder and the sewing was more difficult as her fingers stiffened because of the chill in the air. She didn’t light the fire because the house got too smoky. Aran and Odran still hadn’t managed to fix the chimney as they’d promised. She laughed softly. The two of them were always at odds these days, but it was more of a constant friendly debate than true arguments.
She stood and stretched. She glanced out the window. It was getting close to sundown. She needed to get supper started. The men would be home soon. As she started gathering ingredients, there was a knock on the door. She set the food on the battered table and opened the door.
An older woman stood there, a cloak over one arm and a basket of apples at her feet. “Excuse me, are you Mistress Caterine?”
“I am,” Dairine said. “How can I help you?”
“My name is Hannelore. My husband and I are on our way to Hadenfield market to sell our apples and his cloak got torn. We don’t have much money and none of the tailors in town will mend it for us. I’m awful with a needle and he can’t travel without it,” Hannelore said in a quavering voice. “Can you help me? I can’t offer coins, but I can offer fresh apples. I know they aren’t much, but one of the women in town said you might be willing to do it.”
Dairine looked at the apples longingly. She hadn’t had one since fleeing her father’s lands and they were her favorite fruit. The tantalizing red globes drew her. “I’d be happy to help,” she said, knowing Aran wouldn’t mind. Especially since she knew the men weren’t likely to have had many apples in their days. “Come in and rest. It won’t take me long to fix it.”
Hannelore smiled. “Oh thank you, Mistress Caterine. You have no idea how much this means to us.” She handed Dairine the cloak and picked up the basket of apples. She limped into the house, sitting in one of the chairs near the fireplace.
Dairine settled into her rocking chair and opened her sewing box. It was a matter of a few minutes to sew up the tear. “There you go,” Dairine said, handing the cloak back to Hannelore. “This will hold quite nicely for him.”
“Thank you,” Hannelore said again. She pulled an apple out of the basket and handed it to Dairine. “Here. You should have one now, as a treat for your kindness to an old woman.”
The urge to take a bite overwhelmed Dairine and she gave in. She bit into the firm flesh, reveling in the juicy taste. She swallowed and sighed happily. “It’s been a long time since I had one,” she said. She coughed as a bit of it got caught in her throat. She swallowed again. She coughed again. It felt like her throat was being blocked by something.
“Is something wrong?” Hannelore asked. Her smile was still there, but now there was something wrong with it. Something dark. Dairine opened her mouth to speak but found it harder to breathe. She coughed even more. “You have caused my mistress no end of trouble, Dairine. She has spent far more time than she expected hunting for you.” Dairine’s eyes widened as Hannelore stood up. The old woman’s eyes blazed red. “How will it feel, I wonder, to be buried with your body seemingly dead but your mind intact? To know you’re alive but for everyone else to believe your life has ended?” Dairine dropped the apple, her hands going to her throat. She was unable to catch her breath. She grew dizzy. Hannelore continued to laugh as the world went gray, and then black. Dairine dropped to the floor, her body lifeless but her mind screaming in terror.