I could hear Milo’s steps getting quieter as he fell farther behind me, but I couldn’t bring myself to slow down. We were getting close, I could feel it. Something was pulling me deeper into the woods.
“Kat, wait up!”
I paused momentarily to let Milo catch up and I could hear branches snapping over the sound of my harsh breathing. The cold made this trek harder than it should have been but waiting just hadn’t been an option. Once Milo was close enough, I headed towards what looked like a clearing on the other side of a grove of pine trees. We pushed our way through and I stopped short.
“Is this the place?” Milo asked, his voice ringing in the cold air.
“Shhhh.” I hushed him. I don’t know why, but I felt like we were being watched. Or maybe that someone was listening to us somehow.
It looked the same as in my dreams. A small, stone cottage surrounded by a creek on three sides. It looked abandoned, but there was an energy coming from it, waves pulsating out from the house. Beckoning. “Do you feel that?” I asked Milo.
I didn’t bother answering him, but started forward, crunching through the snow. I didn’t stop when I reached the creek but splashed through it, expecting the water to be icy cold. Instead, the water soaking my jeans was warm like a summer sun was shining down on it. I heard Milo gasp in surprise behind me but other than that he stayed quiet.
We reached the other side of the creek and as we stepped onto the bank, the scene in front of us changed. The snow-covered grass became green and vibrant. The broken and missing shingles on the roof repaired themselves and the cottage looked like it had just been built. Smoke curled slowly from the chimney and lights glowed softly from the windows.
As we approached the front door, it swung open on silent hinges and the delicious smell of baked bread surrounded us and pulled us inside. Seated at the worn wooden table in the middle of the main room was a young woman with long black hair braided down the middle of her back. She wore a floor length, emerald-green dress with bell sleeves, almost Medieval looking. She was heartbreakingly beautiful, but was surrounded by an aura of sadness that was almost tangible.
“Please come in,” she said. “Don’t be scared. I’m glad you finally found me, Kat.”
Her voice was soft and melodious. I glanced over at Milo and he looked like he was positively entranced.
“I didn’t realize I was looking for you,” I said to her. “Who are you?”
She smiled, “My name is Celeste. But I understand that you may know me as Snow White.”
That was just too much for me. I sank down on the bench on the other side of the table from the woman, Celeste, and felt Milo sit next to me. “I, no. You, no. Absolutely not. No.”
She laughed softly. “I’m sorry, it’s probably a shock. But I called you here because I need your help.”
“What do you mean you called me here?”
“And how do you need Kat’s help?” Milo asked.
“Let me tell you my story,” Celeste said, “and hopefully you will take pity on me.”
When neither of said anything, she continued. “I believe most of what you know about me as a fairy tale is at least partially true. The Queen tried to have me killed because she thought I was more beautiful than she and she was jealous of me. She paid a huntsman to take me into the woods and kill me. What the Queen didn’t know about, and what the fairy tales never mention, is that I had magic of my own. I knocked the huntsman unconscious and fled from him, finally coming to a small cottage in the woods, this cottage in fact. Here I met seven men, miners, who took me in and helped to hide me from the Queen. They protected me and in return and I helped to care for their house and for them. I used my magic to help with their mining operation and they became more successful than they ever dreamed. They built a house for each of themselves nearby and I stayed here in my little cottage. Unfortunately, they became so wealthy and well known that they attracted the attention of the royal house. The Queen found me and was enraged when she discovered I was still alive and living a happy life. She decided to punish me eternally instead of killing me. She locked me in this cottage forever, never to age. The miners were stolen away, but kept alive, so that I could never see them again. And that’s where I need your help.”
“Ok,” I said, “I’m not saying I believe you in the slightest. But if I did, how in the world could I help you?”
“Yeah,” Milo said, “That’s what I asked.” I’d kind of forgotten he was there until he spoke.
Celeste looked at me for a moment and I slowly realized what she was seeing, the same black hair and blue eyes I saw on her face. The more I stared, the more I realized we looked like we could be sisters. She saw it dawn on my face. “I need your help, Kat, because you are my only living relative. You are the descendant of my younger sister making you my great, great, many times great-grand niece. And because I was able to call to you in your dreams, it means you share my magic. That means you can help me free my friends. You’re the only one who can help me. Although the Queen cursed me for eternity, the modern world is causing the magic to fade. If I don’t find the miners soon, they’ll be lost forever. You have to help me find them. I can’t let this happen. They are good men, their only crime was to help me.”
Leaning across the table, Celeste clasped my hands in hers, “Please, Kat. Please, say you’ll help me.”
To be continued…