September 30, 2019

BLACK GLASS by Julia Stilchen

The mirror's dark glass
mirrored one thing:
her dark, sunless heart...
Queen Mirra peered distantly into the dark mirror on her dressing room stand. She had only one thing on her mind: locating the heir of the house of Zalynor. An easy task now that her stepdaughter lay lifeless in a crystal coffin; a death the queen made certain Snow would never recover from.

“Mirror glass, mirror glass, on the stand who’s the most suitable bachelor throughout the land?”

The edges of the mirror’s dark glass emanated in a black haze. While not once catching her reflection, it mirrored one thing: her dark, sunless heart. If it could catch her reflection, it would reveal her true form. But this did not concern her. As the queen of Taegartha, her thirst for blood was beyond reproach. There was always someone to capture and someone to consume. Either way, the mirror held no bias. When the queen came asking questions, the mirror obeyed and conjured an answer.

Slender fingers, adorned by black-gold claw rings, dotted with red rubies, dipped in a bowl of crimson liquid. The tips of her pointy claws glided over the cold, smooth surface, stopping at the closure of her drawn sigil. The blood sunk into inky dark swirls beneath the glass, consumed by the mirror. A blur of shapes formed indistinguishable patterns, shifting several times, turning into mountain peaks that rose high above Faeryn forests.

Images revealed from a bird-eye view: dwarven terrain, pine treetops, a path cutting through the stretch of forest floor, and a black stallion mounted by a handsome young man.

“The most excellent suitor, my dear queen, is Prince Varren of the house of Zalynor. He is the one you have yet not seen but have existed since the rise of the Dwarven War,” the mirror responded in a reverberant, grim voice.

A smirk grew on her face. “Yes. Yes. I like this one better than the last. He is quite the looker.” She studied his features as the black glass narrowed in at his face. Her claws traced over his chiseled jawline. “Interesting… he travels alone...” Leaning in with lips puckered, she pressed her mouth against the image of his. “I shall have you, prince. And your kingdom.” Mirra cackled and spun in circles.
Prince Varren gazed up at the treetops. He could have sworn he had heard a woman’s laughter. He shuddered as shivers ran down his chest and settled in his gut, alerting him with an eerie feeling; stronger this time and same as the one before he started searching for his betrothed.

Their betrothal had sealed a bond between them as human and vampire, allowing him to sense her from long distances. An instinct enhanced like second nature to protect her. Most recently, when the strength of her life-force was reduced almost beyond detection, he was overcome with concern.

He could sense she wasn’t too far off now but was he too late? He rode his dark stallion over a bridge, crossing from Faeryn land into Dwarven Passage. Along his way, he heard the distant voices of men singing, mournfully. The melody and lyrics were familiar. A song the princess had sung once while visiting at court.

The prince followed their voices around the side of a cottage in the woods. Seven dwarven men stood, heads bowed, sniffing with sullen expressions. As he made his approach, he recognized the young maiden in the crystal coffin. Her hair: dark as the night sky; skin, pale as morning snow…

His dear, Snow.

Trickles of her life-force—a faint aura—dimmed. It pained him to see her this way. She was sweet, pure of heart, and had a gentle soul. Who would harm her? Part of him wanted to deny the fate that fell upon her. He bowed his head among the dwarves. Eyes closed; he placed a hand on the coffin.

“What happened to her?”

All the dwarves remained silent. Drei, a mountaineer and a man of few words, gazed up briefly; barely acknowledging the prince. “The queen. She stole Snow’s pure of heart, right from under our noses.”

Prince Varren fell to his knees and clenched his fists. Crimson tears trailed down his cheeks. He was too late. He wasn’t there to protect her. I’m sorry, Snow.

Staring at the subtle traces of her life-force stirred an idea—a last-chance opportunity to save her. Without hesitating, he opened the crystal coffin and reached for her wrist. Her weak pulse was faltering. He had to respond quickly.

“What are you doing?” asked one dwarf.

“Leave her alone! Can’t you see she’s passed?” said another.

“How dare you trespass and interfere with our mourning! Go away, you-you scoundrel!”

Ignoring the dwarves, the prince broke the side of the crystal pane and reached for a glass shard.

The dwarves drew their weapons: daggers, pickaxes, and axes.
Pressing the edge of the shard along his wrist, he cut a vein and held it over her parted lips.

“Leave her alone!” One dwarf swung his fist against Varren’s back. His knuckles cracked. He flicked his hand away, grimacing in pain. “He’s… he’s using blood magic!”

“Stop him!”

Raising their weapons above their heads, they charged.

Snow groaned. Her eyes fluttered open.

The dwarves stopped dead in their tracks. Mouths hung agape while weapons clanked against the floor.

Her sapphire irises turned to garnet. The dark strands of her hair shifted into blood-red.

The dwarves exchanged glances. Hands clasped; they fell to their knees. “Snow!” Even as much as they’d never resort to blood magic to summon her return, seeing her alive once more set their hearts at ease.

“Where…?” She gazed at their faces and found the prince among them. She sat up, furrowing her brows as she realized she was in a crystal coffin. “What am I doing here? The last thing I remembered…” She stood, grasping her throat then glancing down at her chest. “Mirra… she took my heart…”

Varren offered his hand and guided her out of the coffin.

“I feel strange. What did she do to me?” She pressed the back of her hand against her forehead. “Was I… dead?”

“I’m sorry, Snow. I didn’t arrive sooner. Most of your life-force had been depleted. This was all I could do to save you.” He furrowed his brows. Would she forgive him? Unable to maintain eye contact, he glanced away. “I’ve given you my blood.”

“Varren?” She glanced at him, her hands cupping his face. “Is it you?”

Eyes gleaming, he nodded.

She threw her arms around him.
Queen Mirra stood, mouth agape. “No. How is it even possible? She was dead!” She paced across her dressing room then knocked her potions from a table. “Nooo! How dare that girl steal my prince! I won’t have it,” she snarled. Her breathing became coarse as she crossed her arms over her chest. Her shoulders rolled and her body trembled uncontrollably. She hunched over as bat-like wings ripped through the back of her dress. Bones cracked as they grew out from her shoulder blades. Pain erupted on both sides of her head.

The queen crawled across the stone floor in agony. Throbbing pain coursed through her body as she shifted form. A tail extending from her lower spine snapped back and forth. Long dark nails grew out, forcing her claw rings to drop from her fingers. She pulled herself up into a stand and hunched over in front of the mirror. Eyes wide, she stared at the dark glossy surface as it revealed a horned monster. “What is this, mirror glass? Why do you show me this hideous creature?”

“Dear Queen, alas, you are your own best suitor as you see upon my black glass. Prince Varren and Snow White, bound in blood they unite. But neither one shall ever fill your gratuitous appetite.”
Julia Stilchen grew up loving all things fantasy, paranormal and science fiction. She especially enjoys reimagining fairy tales, retelling them with an entirely new spin. Aside from writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, occasionally playing video games, and working on creative projects. 

Cover Illustration: The Magic Mirror by Jennie Harbour, 1920
Layout: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

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