A Vampire White as Snow
By: Molly E. Hamilton

A slender woman, draped in silks and furs, stepped out from her carriage. She squinted her golden eyes and held her headscarf, which was dripping in jewels, onto her head as the harsh wind blew against her face. Before her waited the new castle. It was large and bleak, but this was Germany. This was King Philip the Good's castle.

"Welcome to your castle, Queen Danica, daughter of Radu the Third," said the head knight, offering his hand to steady the Queen as she started down the carriage steps. She took the hand with a squeeze.

"Voivode Radu the Third," she whispered, wincing at how foreign her Wallachian accent had become.

But, none heard the Queen's feeble correction. Even if they had, all knew that her uncle, Vlad the Third, had taken over as Wallachia's warlord to rule with spears and blood.

"Does it remind you of home, my Queen?"

Danica looked at the knight and swallowed. She held her head a little higher and strained a smile, "I hope it does not," she said. Silence followed.

"Tonight, you shall meet the little Princess Snow–White," the knight said. His voice became deeper and his words came quicker.

Danica cleared her throat to speak in her best voice. "Children should sleep at night."

The knight dared to look the Queen in the eye. His chain–mail clinked as his body tensed. "The princess does not sleep at night. We do not ask why," he said.

The newly–crowned Queen looked to her red–haired maid, who was exiting the carriage. "Gemma, I will need my mirror here, too."

The wind scraped icy crystals into a hiss.

***

When evening fell, Princess Snow–White did not meet her new mother. The King had an emergency meeting to discuss the trouble with France and England, and the Princess couldn't meet Danica without the King. So, Danica sat in her chamber, looking at the mirror Gemma brought in. It was a breathtaking heirloom. Large, circular, and framed with silver flowers made with petals of pearls, opals, and diamonds. It was the mirror that revealed what Uncle Vlad really was.

Danica shuddered and threw a fur blanket over the mirror. "No," she told herself. She was just being paranoid. Was it that unusual for a child to sleep during the day? Danica climbed into her bed, but still, her eyes fell on the covered mirror. What if the Princess—Danica shook her head. She pulled up blanket to her chest and tried to distract herself with thoughts of her new husband and her coming wedding night.

Still, Danica looked towards the mirror.

***

"The Princess will rise once the moon rises," Agnes, a maid, said. She was careful to keep her sleeve over her wrist. The dark, ugly stain on it gave away what was hiding: blood. Danica wanted to ask, but she feared the response. So, she only nodded. The occasion was supposed to be a happy one. Agnes was preparing Danica to be presented to Snow–White. It had been a week, and she was finally permitted to meet the Princess with the King. Agnes had started the preparations once afternoon tea finished, and, already, the sun fell behind the mountains; darkness filled light's absence, and the castle was still.

"The Princess will be delighted to have a new mother," the maid said. She was combing Queen Danica's hair one last time. "It's been challenging for her. She nearly perished last winter. Only a healer from the forest could save her; he said she'd be," the maid paused, "changed."

Danica glanced at her face in her mirror and shifted her eyes to Agnes. As she stroked the comb through her hair, Danica could see flashes of the injury: an inflamed circle from a little mouth.

"My Queen?" Agnes said. "Are you well?"

***

King Philip dropped to his knees when Princess Snow–White entered the room. He outstretched his arms as the fair child ran to her father. He held her close and stood tall; his cape swept across the floor as he turned to grin at his new Queen. His beard, neat and pointed, complimented his face. "Here, Danica, is my Princess!" he said.

Princess Snow–White smiled at Danica with her blood red lips. She bobbed her head, attempting to curtsy in her father's arms. "My mother Queen," she giggled.

"She's lovely!" Danica turned to the Princess. "You are lovely, Princess!" It was hard not to be enchanted.

Snow–White's eyes sparkled as she reached for the Queen. "Come see, come see!" the little Princess yelled. She immediately began to wiggle and slide down the King before he could get her feet on the ground.

"What is it?" Danica asked; her smile could be heard.

Snow–White began to rush towards the mighty door. She seized the knob and pulled back, going on her heels. "To my chamber!" she said.

The King and Queen followed her down the torch lit halls where the tapestries were cast in gentle light against the stone walls. Finally, the Princess stopped by another door. "My chamber's in here!" she said. She thrust it open to a room with a roaring fire, an elaborate rug, and a bed too large for a little girl. It was covered in dolls. To brighten the room more, great tapestries of springtime depictions were hanging everywhere.

Snow–White stood on a great rug on the floor and said, "I had the ladies make a likeness of me and you together!" and pointed to one of the tapestries. Like her father, Snow–White loved tapestries.

Danica looked at the wall. It was an image of Snow–White and a woman who was supposed to be Danica in the sunlight, surrounded by flowers.

Danica looked at the picture and wiped a tear. She looked at the girl and looked at a few spots of red on a pile of blankets in the corner. "It's wonderful," the Queen said.

"Oh, come now," the King said putting an arm around Danica. He shook her shoulder playfully. "No tears."

***

Queen Danica tried to distract herself. She entertained herself at court with gossip, stories, and performances. Danica even started her own tapestry with Snow–White by her side. The two stitched together before the Princess went to her private activities. The rumors of King Philip's lavish courts were validated, but, every night, Danica would look at herself in the mirror. She did not look as happy as she should have been.

Servants had started acting strangely. When Danica called for Agnes to prepare her for a play one evening, she refused. She wouldn't even speak to Queen Danica.

Gemma went to watch Agnes and saw her walking down the halls, humming a joyless tune, to gather sweets and tea. She filled her arms with treats and delivered them all to Princess Snow–White's room. But, before she entered the room, Gemma called out to her.

"Agnes, the Queen, who you serve, called for you."

"My Queen asked for sweets," Agnes said, and she slammed Snow–White's door shut.

The next night, Agnes was no better. She played with the Princess and obeyed her every command. She kissed toads in the garden at dusk, teased the cat, and stole more treats—all commands from the Princess. The next morning, Agnes was found dead under the apple tree. A red ring of blood could be seen on her chest, sticking the soaking white fabric to her heart. Someone heard the squire boy whisper that the injury was from a human bite.

More servants began to be infatuated with Princess Snow–White. They ignored all others and only obeyed the little girl. More servants began to die. Curiously, the servants who also perished with marks over their hearts would obey the princess's every order until death. Dutiful servants who followed the Queen's orders were found dead with bite marks between their eyes. No longer were little wounds found on arms; Snow–White was growing taller. Visions of Uncle Vlad would flash through Danica's mind, wake her in her sleep, and leave her screaming. Gemma was her only comfort because the King was campaigning for Calais, the English port.

Danica had Gemma sit in her chamber as soon as the sun began to climb downward, two hours before sun set. They primarily sat in silence. Sometimes the Queen would muse, "Have the knights figured out the deaths?"

And Gemma would answer, "My Queen, only Sir Ehrhart will think ill will of the Princess. You know what he and I think."

Guilt shadowed all the Queen did. Only one full moon passed, and two more servants died in Snow–White's room. Others ran away. Some were under Snow–White's spell; a bite festered over their hearts.

The knights began to turn on the servants. According to gossip, when the Princess would start to cry about hunger in her chamber, they chose a victim to push inside. They would bolt the door. When Gemma told the Queen that she, herself, heard someone screaming in the room with the Princess, Danica knew she had to use the mirror for her answer.

Queen Danica gave the orders. Gemma swore that Sir Ehrhart was a good knight and a huntsman—one who she admired very much— so he was instructed to fetch the Princess. Snow–White was brought shortly. Her skin was extra white, and her red lips were wet. A pinkish hue colored her teeth. The child stood grinning at the Queen.

"Good evening, Little Princess," Danica said.

"Evening, good Step–Mother," Snow–White said hopping from one foot to the other, a merry game only she understood.

Danica watched the child hop and eyed her mirror. "Little Princess, would you dance for my mirror? Dance for my magic mirror."

Snow–White eyed Queen Danica. "Magic mirror?"

Queen Danica prayed Snow–White didn't know what she was. "Yes, my mirror. It's been passed down in my family. All the Princesses danced in the mirror to show their beauty."

"And what if I see not my face?" Snow–White twitched her nose twice.

"I pray you do," Queen Danica said. Her voice trembled.

"If I see my face, does that mean I'm beautiful?"

"My dear," Queen Danica said, "You already are."

Queen Danica walked towards the shrouded mirror and let fur cover fall.

Snow–White tip–toed towards the mirror, letting every step take the time of two. Step by step she crept over, looking towards the ground. "Oh mirror," she muttered. "Oh mirror, am I fair?" Finally, her toe bumped against a pearl petal. Little Snow–White dared to look for her reflection.

Queen Danica, a tear rolling down her cheek, was looking as well.

"Step–mother Queen," Snow–White said shaking, "mine eyes only see you."

"Snow–White," the Queen placed a hand on her shoulder, "that's only because you are not a Wallachian princess! I forgot that the magic mirror only works for—"

"—Silence!" The Princess turned from the mirror and glared at her step–mother. "You lie! It's because I'm not fair enough! You're fairer than I!"

Danica reached for the child in hopes of comforting, but Snow–White, in her fury, sank her teeth into Danica's thumb. The Queen screamed. She felt the child sucking blood, a burning, pulling sensation.

"Enough!" Queen Danica jerked her hand to her chest. Blood dripped splatters on her fur collar. "Oh, Snow–White!" she sobbed.

Sir Ehrhart came rushing in with two knights. The two knights addressed the Princess; Sir Ehrhart went to the Queen. Upon seeing her blood, he sent the knights to put the Princess in her chambers. "You bleed, Queen Danica," he said.

Sir Ehrhart began dressing the wound in honey and wrappings, and the Queen struggled to say, "her reflection was beheld not in my mirror!"

Sir Ehrhart nodded, and he quietly swore to follow through with the order the Queen whispered in his ear. Gemma wrung her hands and kissed Sir Ehrhart goodbye.

***

Sir Ehrhart couldn't bring Snow–White's heart to the Queen. He was found in the forest, where the sun was shadowed, his body drained. A little bite, a kiss of death, was between his eyes. One of the Princess's ribbons was found on the hilt of his iron sword; Danica told him of the power iron had over vampires. Still, the assassination failed, and no one knew where Princess Snow–White went. Gemma mourned Sir Ehrhart, and in a fit of grief, she fled the castle. Danica waited for her return, but she never did. The few remaining servants only pretended to search the woods for her remains.

Only the cooks and the gardeners heard the talk in the town, as their work required them to be outside for either working or shopping. Rumors spread that seven dwarves would carry corpses into the mines. Peasants were disappearing, and many spoke of a little enchantress with a foreign maid who did her every wish.

So, Queen Danica charged herself with ending Snow–White's bloody reign. With the king away, she was left to face this threat to her kingdom alone. She thought of Gemma; she thought of her people. "I failed to save Wallachia. I fled. Must my new kingdom suffer too?" She paced the floor.

First, she tried an iron laced bodice and an iron hair comb, but they failed. The festering–chested dwarves could do something to free their Princess from iron's effects. Somehow, they knew of the iron's effect, and Danica wondered if it was Gemma who told them—if Gemma was the foreign maid. So, the iron had to be hidden. Danica toiled. She had to be smarter. She drove herself mad, but, at last, she ground iron into a fine powder and rubbed it into the fairest, growing apple's stem. When the leaves of the apple gleamed silver in the sun, Danica picked the apple, disguised herself one last time.

She trudged through the woods with her forbidden fruit, scanning the ground around her. Even though the sun shone, she feared Snow–White. She imagined her lurking in the shaded woods. She could smell the damp earth, hear the dying leaves break under her feet. She could feel her heart squeezing and bumping in her chest. But, then she heard men.

Queen Danica ducked behind a tree but saw the shapes of what looked like children in the distance. They grunted and strained to push a great wheelbarrow with a large load. The children cursed though. They grunted with deep voices, and through hanging leaves, Danica could see the shape of a hand—dead but reaching—from the wheelbarrow. The figures were the dwarves. The stink of death hung thick, trapped in the fog of the dreary woods. Danica wanted to tear her eyes from the paled bodies, but the sight of Gemma's red hair left her paralyzed by horror. Her dress was filthy, and her chest was covered with blood.

The seven dwarves passed through. Three worked together to haul away the bodies, and four carried pickaxes and shovels. Now was the time. Danica followed the track of the wheelbarrow to a wooden cabin that reeked of death. Moss grew on the door. Ivy climbed into the windows, and Danica realized that a vampire had no need for apples. So, she drew her dagger and pricked her finger, dropping blood onto the apple's red skin. Quietly she whispered, "Hair black as ebony, skin white as snow, red lips of blood—please let her go."

Snow–White emerged just as Danica hid. Her dress was covered with blood. Her nails were outlined in dark red. She sniffed loudly and salivated. Greedily, she seized the apple and sunk her teeth into its flesh, sucking where the blood drop was. She fell before she could finish her swallow, and when she fell, she looked less monstrous. She looked like a little girl, vulnerable and cursed.

The Queen couldn't bear to pierce the heart or place her step–daughter in the ground. She had her interred in a glass coffin that was placed in the shady forest, where the sun couldn't scorch her skin. The King mourned, thinking his daughter simply died. But he had fathered a bastard son, a boy called David, while away. He became consumed with him and legitimizing his rule.

***

Every seven years, the vampire needed to be checked. Danica knew this, but around the time the King's seventh bastard was born, the miserable Queen lost track of time. She would wonder alone in the castle, making tapestries and stare at the scar on her thumb. She would think of Little Snow–White and pray for her soul while staring at the tapestry of herself and the Princess surrounded by flowers, the one the Princess had made so long ago.

However, Danica's spirits lifted when she received an invitation to a royal wedding. No one would tell her who the bride was, but Queen Danica eagerly prepared for the ceremony, anxious for something merry. As she checked her face in the mirror once last time, she heard her door open behind her. Gazing at the mirror to see who entered the lonely room, she only saw blazing, red iron shoes. Their smell burned the air, and their bearer couldn't be seen in the mirror.

"Won't you dance for my wedding, Step–mother?"

-

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