Chapter 1: Fate Begins Spinning Her Web

Princess Snow White carried a basket of fruit through the village. Three servants from the castle followed behind her each with a large basket as well. The village was always alive with activity, but it had been especially so the last few days and would be for the next week at least. The spring festival was upon them and everyone was hurrying about preparing for the coming celebrations.

Snow headed around to the back entrance of Granny's Inn and Pub. The owner had closed the dining portion of the business so that the staff could focus on preparations for the coming festivities. Snow walked through the door into the kitchen, gesturing for the men to wait just outside.

"Red!" she called out, looking around the kitchen, which was a bustle with activity, clouded with steam and smoke; the din from the clatter of kitchenware and raised voices was substantial.

A figure moved through the crowd; a woman, a few years younger than Snow, with long, straight dark hair tied back in a braid, wearing a scarlet dress with a white blouse under it. A grin lit her face in recognition. "Snow!"

The princess embraced her friend. "It's a mad house in here," she commented as they pulled apart.

Red nodded, glancing at the activity around her. "Always is during one of the festivals."

Snow grinned, shifting the basket from where she had propped it on her hip to place it in a free space on a counter. "I brought plenty of fruit for you and Gran." She gestured to the three men waiting outside.

Red let out a sigh of relief at seeing the large baskets brimming with fruit and moved over to pick up a pear from her friend's basket. "Thank you!" She looked at Snow. "We were worried about being able to make enough pies and pastries."

A twinkle entered the princess's eyes. "That's not all." She waved one of the men inside, plucked one of the fruits from the top, and presented it with a grand bow to the other woman, who gasped.

"Is that what I think it is?" Red was staring at the object in disbelief.

Snow grinned. "Regina's honey crisp apples."

The other woman reverently reached out and took the apple. "How did you get them?" she looked at her friend with some suspicion.

The princess gave her a look of injured innocence. "Why would you ever think that I did something?"

Red leveled her with a look. They both held their expressions for a moment, but soon doubled over laughing at childhood memories of shared mischief.

Snow swiped a tear from the corner of her eye and shook her head mirthfully. "Point taken, but this time I truly didn't do anything." Red still looked at her skeptically. Snow raised her hands in innocence. "Honestly! For some reason Regina was feeling particularly generous and since the apple trees have been doing so well she decided to donate a few bushels."

Red raised her eyebrows and shook her head, staring down at the apple in her hand. The whole kingdom knew of the queen's famous apples, the best in the realm, possibly any realm. She placed it in the basket on the table. "Well, give her my thanks."

"I'll do that," Snow replied though she didn't look particularly thrilled about the prospect.

Red's narrowed eyes snapped to her friend; Snow reluctantly lifted her own and they shared a look. Red briskly directed the palace servants where to set the baskets; then shooed them back to the castle, leaving the pair to "chat".

Red set about making tea, while Snow got a pair of mugs from a cupboard; they made their way out of the kitchen, into the deserted pub and sat down at a table.

After she had poured them each a cup of tea, Red leveled a concerned look at the woman who was like an older sister to her. "Now tell me, are things really that bad between you and Queen Regina?"

Snow grimaced, taking a sip. "No," she sighed, setting the mug down. "I mean." She looked up at her friend. "You know we've never liked each other, but we tolerate each other for Father's sake. And we mostly manage to get along."

Red gave her a piercing look. "So you two are still only really speaking when absolutely necessary?"

The princess nodded; then shrugged. "Generally that seems to work for us. We don't fight or anything, we just don't talk."

Her friend nodded, taking a contemplative sip. "So what has you less inclined than usual to talk to her?"

Snow rolled her eyes, pursing her lips, as she seemed to try to decide how to answer; Red just sat patiently, waiting.

Finally, the princess took a deep breath and sighed. "You know of the neighboring kingdom, Seaborn?"

The other woman nodded. "It's the only kingdom larger than ours land-wise, though it easily outstrips us in population, and you mentioned that it's a major hub of trade and commerce. What of it?"

Snow slowly spun her mug on the table. "The king and queen are coming to visit." Red was about to ask what the big deal was when the princess continued, "They're bringing their elder, unmarried son."

Red made an "Oh" face, understanding dawning on her. "And your stepmother has been pushing for a match between the two of you?"

The royal winced but shook her head. "No, my father wouldn't set up an arranged marriage for me…however she has been extolling the virtues of such a match to me every chance she gets."

Red grimaced, taking a drink. "I'm sorry. When are they due to arrive?"

Snow wrapped her suddenly chilled hands around her cup. "Tomorrow."

Her friend reached across the table and placed a hand over hers. "Well, if it makes you feel better, you can spend the rest of today and as much of tomorrow as you can helping here," she offered, knowing that the princess liked keeping busy. "Goodness knows we could use the extra set of hands, and it should keep you from having to be around the queen and her 'talks' too much."

Snow smirked. "I was hoping you'd say that."


Prince James stared at the ring he was grasping between his thumb and index finger. The emerald sparkled, and the gold of the band glinted in the sunlight. It wasn't an ornate ring; in fact, it was quite simplistic, but somehow its simplicity made it all the more beautiful. Normally James would have admired its beauty, but at the moment, all he really wanted to do was cast the damn thing into the sea.

"I could be wrong, but I don't think that ring's going to get up and dance if you keep staring at it, big brother."

James turned at the amused voice; his younger brother, Thomas, stood in the doorway to his room. James smirked at him. "You never know little brother."

Thomas grinned, walking toward him; he pointed at the ring. "I also don't think that your glaring at it is going to incinerate it either," he told him sardonically.

James scowled, moving over to the table beside his bed and tucking the ring away in the drawer.

The younger man shook his head. "What has you so mad at Mother's ring?"

James grimaced and went back to packing his bag. "Not really at the ring, but more at what it is meant for."

Thomas shrugged. "You've had it for years now; why so ireful today?"

His older brother braced his hands on a table, leaning against it and staring out the window. "You know this trip to Everland?" Thomas nodded. "The king has a daughter…his only child," he added significantly, and glanced at his brother over his shoulder

Realization dawned and the younger brother winced. "And since they are our closest neighbor and second in size and power only to us…" He frowned thoughtfully. "I hadn't remembered that the king had a daughter."

James shrugged. "No real reason to remember her. She doesn't participate in High Court life; as far as I know she rarely even leaves her kingdom."

Thomas's frown deepened. "Does her family keep her cloistered?"

His brother shook his head. "From what I understand it is entirely of her own choosing; if anything I've heard that her father indulges her whims and lets her stay out of the greater-public eye."

The younger man canted his head to the side. "Her mother died when she was young, didn't she?"

"Yes," James nodded. "The king only remarried again a few years ago, but they've had no children of their own, so far."

"So Mother and Father are hoping for a merger?" Thomas asked.

"They're not going to force anything," James responded, the implications of the real situation clear in his voice. "But they have made it clear that their preference would either be her or," he made a disgusted face, "Abigail."

Thomas's face quickly took on a matching look of disgust.

Alisha was a beautiful, blond princess from another neighboring, much smaller, though cash wealthy, kingdom ruled by King Midas. She was also a very prim, snotty little thing; for some reason the phrase "the nag with the bad attitude" always came to mind for James when he thought of her, and it was truthfully quite apropos.

"So your choices are a princess whom you know nothing about other than she is extremely reclusive or one whom you know is a prissy, annoying snob," Thomas summed up.

"More or less," James agreed.

His brother looked at him for several moments; then clapped him on the shoulder. "Well, good luck with your marital bliss."

James shoved him. "Thanks!" he scoffed. "You're just lucky to be the second-born."

Thomas grinned at him, not disagreeing in the least.

James's scowl melted into a smile; he gripped Thomas's shoulder. "Promise me that you'll marry for love, little brother."

His brother gave him a strange look. "I hadn't planned anything else."

The older man nodded a regretful expression on his face. "One of us should be permitted to."


Snow spent the rest of the day rushing around the Inn and anywhere else, she could find where someone needed her help. She had sent word of what she was doing up to the castle; she knew her father would not be surprised since it was more her habit to spend her days in the village or woods among their people anyway.

Her family had always been a rather informal royal family when it came to day-to-day life, only really standing on ceremony during special occasions. Perhaps Snow was more to the extreme side of it, but as her father saw it, if working hard alongside their people to set up the celebration made her happy, he wouldn't say anything against it. The people might never say it but they loved Snow and her family all the more for their ability to step down and mingle among them regularly, and showed it through their utter devotion to the crown; and they were devoted to no one more than they were to the princess.

Snow missed dinner up at the castle– perhaps it was a little more by design than she allowed her father and stepmother to think –and ended up just grabbing a sandwich with Red between hanging decorations and boiling meat. By the time, she returned to the castle it was quite late and her father and Regina had already gone to bed. Snow collapsed into her own canopy bed and was asleep almost instantly.

The next morning she was up before dawn, as she was most every day. She quietly went down the stairs and crept into the kitchen for a quick breakfast before she headed back to the village. With so small a royal family the staff didn't generally get up this early, but with the visitors coming that evening a few more than usual were up and about making preparations. The kitchen was abuzz with preparations with all of the kitchen staff scurrying around. Hannah, the head cook, was among the few who normally rose early; she clucked over Snow heading off again so early as she set a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with chocolate and cinnamon, and a coffee with cream, sugar and, again, cinnamon and chocolate, before the princess. Hannah continued to cluck her tongue over Snow's clothing, a brown skirt, a green laced up bodice and white blouse underneath; she was dressed like most commoners, though the fabric was of higher quality. Snow rolled her eyes fondly at the woman who had been like a surrogate mother to her since the death of her real mother.

The room suddenly became very quiet, drawing the attention of cook and princess.

Queen Regina stood in the doorway. Looking as aloof and cool as ever, she approached her stepdaughter the staff scattering in her wake. Hannah stepped back, but kept a watchful eye on the young woman at the table.

Snow set her spoon down beside her bowl and kept her eyes on her stepmother.

Regina came to a stop directly beside Snow. "You're going out again today." It wasn't a question.

"I am," Snow responded simply.

The queen eyed her. "Make sure you're back in time to clean up to meet our guests," she instructed.

The princess nodded.

They stared at each other for a few moments longer before the dark haired, statuesque queen turned and regally swept out of the room.

There was a general sigh of relief from everyone in the kitchen. No one disliked Queen Regina, per se, but they were nowhere near as comfortable around her as they were with Princess Snow and King Leopold, and the queen seemed to prefer it that way.

Snow continued to stare after her stepmother; Hannah nudged her gently, getting the princess's attention. "Eat up, love. It's going to be a long day."


James had spent most of the first day in the carriage trying to ignore his parents' none-too-subtle hints suggesting that if he "happened to fall in love" with the princess it would be "quite an acceptable match". He had a throbbing headache by the time they arrived at the home of one of the local barons, who thankfully only had three sons and no daughters, for the night.

James was friends with the eldest of the sons and managed to get his parents to agree to him riding out with him to see another friend nearby for a few hours the next morning before catching up to them. He was in no hurry to reach them though and it was already mid-afternoon. He decided to stop and eat the lunch the cook had packed for him.

James settled against a tree by the side of the road. He wasn't all that far from Everland's castle really, and would likely find his parents in less than an hour after he set off again.

He pulled out the bread, cheese, slices of meat and skin of water; taking a particularly long drink after the long, hot ride. He cut off a slice of cheese and leaned back against the tree, staring up at the canopy, through which he could see the sun shimmering. James loved the forest; had always been comfortable in it. He had driven his parents insane growing up, constantly disappearing into the woods for hours at a time, and reappearing filthy, but uninjured and quite happy.

What he would give for a woman who loved and was as comfortable as he was in the forest, a woman who would not mind riding out and getting lost for days at a time, just the two of them, oh how he wished for such a woman.

He shook off such thoughts, knowing them to be foolish; no such woman existed, as least none he could marry.


Snow was hiking back to the village. She had gone out to see the seven dwarf brothers, who were in dire need of domestic help. She had just spent four hours helping undo the mess that Doc's "mechanical clothes washer" had made, and then another hour convincing him that, no, he did not need to try the machine again, or try to fix it. Heaven help them all. She loved those seven sweet men, but they did at times inspire the need to pull her hair out. She promised herself that she would start looking for a young woman to become their maid, but until then she mentally began planning times when she could stop by and check in on the chores around their home.

She continued along, only a few yards off the road. She looked up at the canopy of trees, watching the sunlight dapple the leafy foliage. She grinned, closing her eyes, allowing the filtered light to shine down on her face. She loved the forest, always had. After her mother's death, her father spent hours in the woods surrounding the castle with Snow, teaching her about its ways, animals, and survival in it. In his grief, he lost himself in the leafy depths. In raising his daughter, his methods were a bit unorthodox compared to others considering that he taught her sword fighting, archery and how to throw a knife. Her more feminine lessons would have likely been lost had it not been for Hannah and some of the other staff members who stepped in and made sure she learnt all that was necessary for a woman to know: singing, sewing, spinning thread, managing a household, cooking, etc. It was actually a fairly balanced childhood, but different from the kind most princesses had.

As she grew up, Snow's father remained perfectly content to allow her to have a great deal of freedom; it wasn't until he remarried that she knew any real fetter. When he married Regina, Snow was already 16-almost-17 years old, getting toward an age where marriage is soon to become an option, and Regina was quite vocal about the princess getting married sooner rather than later. Snow liked her freedom too well to wish for a husband, but as the years passed, she began to look on the children in the village, whom she had always been fond of, differently; she began to feel a longing for children of her own. She thought that if she could perhaps have a husband who would be fine with her being free and independent of him, and if they could have children together, all would be well. She believed that was exactly the kind of man she wanted, not that she believed such a man existed; as such, she had come to an impasse in herself; she could have either her liberty, or a family, not both.

Oh how she longed for both.


The forest was quiet save for the soft chirping of birds and leaves rustling in the wind; it made for a pleasant ride. James enjoyed the solitude, allowing himself to soak up the peace before his arrival at Everland castle shoved him back into the less than pleasant reality of matchmaking among royals.

Shouts shattered the serenity of the wood.

He pulled his horse to a stop and looked around for the source of the distressed sounds in the thick greenery.

Several yards ahead, a woman came stumbling out of the trees toward the road. A hand and head appeared just behind her, grabbing her ankle and causing her to fall. She caught herself with her hands and, hardly missing a beat, looked back kicking the man in the face, causing him to howl in pain and release her. She got back to her feet, but by that time, more men had emerged and were swarming her.

She had pulled a knife from somewhere and now held it out in front of her; James could see fiery determination in her eyes. "Stay the hell away from me!" she snarled at them. The men cackled at her.

James spurred his horse forward and swung down once he was a few feet away, pulling his sword and leveling it at the men. "I believe the lady told you to stay away from her," he commented lightly.

There were about eight men total in the group; James was rather impressed that she had held them off long enough to get to the road.

The group looked back and forth between the woman and James, trying to decide whether they could take him.

Their decision became apparent when several of them charged the prince.

That was their big mistake.


Snow was mentally cursing her bad luck and the fates, fickle bitches that they were. She was running, when the bastards who decided that she would make easy pickings weren't tripping her up. She had proved otherwise, but their sheer number and size was too much even for her in such close quarters. While she could wield a sword and dagger, they were not her specialty. Put a bow in her hands or give her the space to throw the dagger, then she revealed how deadly she could be. She was fighting her way to the road, praying that the fates weren't so unkind that they wouldn't send someone by on the well-traversed by-way.

Her kingdom was generally one of the safest in the realm, little crime or violence. Occasionally, however, they got a group of transient thugs that passed through making trouble during their stay, but the guard quickly ran them down or out of the kingdom. She bet that the upcoming festival, and the tourists that it drew, had drawn them to the area.

A hand grabbed her arm; blindly she struck out with her other fist, making a solid connection and kept running.

As she spilled out onto the side of the road, a hand grabbed her ankle, tripping her up. She looked back and kicked the man square in his ugly face; she was quite gratified to hear the crunch and howl of pain accompanying it, signaling that she broke his nose. She took the opportunity to grab her knife from her boot as she got back up. She spun around to face the men who came rushing out after her, holding her knife and free hand up in defensive positions. She still might not have the distance she wished, but at least now she had room to maneuver and possibly the space to run. As they began advancing on her, she snarled at them, "Stay the hell away from me!" The part of her mind not occupied with defending herself amusedly imagined the horrified look on Regina's face if she heard Snow use such language.

Just then, a horse and rider galloped right up to them; the rider smoothly dismounted and without breaking stride pulled out his sword. "I believe the lady told you to stay away from her," he calmly remarked, as if he were simply speaking of the weather.

The thugs seemed to consider their options, looking back and forth between her and the man.

She held her breath, praying that they would walk away and she could just thank the stranger, be on her way, and report the gang to her father, who would send his men to take care of it.

Life, however, was never so easy.

As several of the men went after her would-be-savior, the rest continued to advance on her. Yes, the fates were truly feeling like fickle bitches today.

Snow slid one foot back into a ready stance, bracing herself for the fight to come.


The men had crudely made weapons and relied mostly on brute strength, size and numbers when fighting, and they had James on all of the above…but this wasn't his first run-in with such tactics, and they underestimated him.

To say that he dispatched them with ease would be a lie, but after the grueling training he had undergone growing up, this wasn't the hardest fight he had ever been in. When he had dispatched all but one of the men who had come after him, he glanced over at the woman. He was pleasantly surprised to see her still fighting off her attackers, and as he watched, she pulled another knife and threw it with deadly accuracy at one of the men who went down instantly. She was smaller, faster, and more agile than they were and she used those things to her advantage, ducking and weaving through them.

After he had taken care of his last attacker, James ran over and joined the fray with the woman.


Snow fought tooth and nail to protect herself, but she could feel her body tiring quickly from taking and receiving blows and from running. There were fewer gang members now than at the beginning, but her adrenaline-fueled body and fatigued mind were blurring things substantially.

One man tackled her to the ground, knocking her knife out of her hand, and she began grappling with the giant atop her. She groped ground around her and her hand closed over a rock. She struck out at him, heard and felt the rock connect with flesh; he staggered away with a groan. As he scrambled back, he kicked dirt into Snow's eyes. Her lids slammed shut at the rude introduction of the particles and she cried out. Rolling over to her hands and knees, she tried to blink away the grains while tears welled up in her eyes.

A hand grasped her shoulder and she swung the rock she was still holding blindly at the person. There was a grunt of pain, and soft cursing as the person pulled away. The dirt had finally cleared enough from her eyes for her to see; she turned to face her attacker, rock still in hand.

It was the man who had helped her. He was sitting on the ground a couple of feet from her and had raised a hand to his chin; upon pulling it away, she saw blood from a cut where the rock had split the skin. Snow wasn't big on guilt, but she sure felt guilty right then.

"I'm so sorry," she managed to gasp out, dropping the rock and reaching toward him to help.

He dodged her reaching hand. "Is that how you thank all the men who save your life?"

Well there went the guilt. Now, she was angry. Snow scowled at him, pulling her hand back. "Well, aren't you a real Prince Charming," she snapped.


"I said I was sorry. They attacked me and I couldn't see; I had no idea it was you. I was defending myself." She raised her chin. "And anyway, I would have been fine even if you hadn't come along." James could tell that she was lying and she knew it.

He gave her a clearly disbelieving look. "Right," he said sarcastically. "You were perfectly fine with eight men who were twice your size attacking you."

"Precisely, Charming," she returned in an equally caustic voice, standing and dusting herself off.

Something about her in such a pique appealed to him and had James smiling. "I have a name, you know," he told her as he stood.

"Don't care," she told him immediately, her eyes flashing. "'Charming' suits you."

The grin on his face became wider.

Something flashed through her eyes and the ire on her face lessened for a moment, but it was back almost immediately. "Wipe that stupid grin off of your face," she snapped at him as she moved to retrieve her knives.

James observed her; she was beautiful, even under the dirt, mud, and grass stains. She had ebony hair that the braid she had it in barely held in check, quite a few strands had escaped to curl around the sides of her face; her eyes were a bewitching, piercing hazel; her skin was pale white with naturally rosy cheeks. She moved with a gracefulness that wasn't the practiced one most women displayed; instead it was thoughtless and natural. She was dressed in a common style dress, though the fabric was of a better quality than most peasants could afford; perhaps she was the daughter of a well-off merchant. He also noted that she was favoring her left hand and right leg slightly, but trying to cover it.

He followed her, whistling to his horse as he did; when the animal came close enough he grasped the reins and turned back to the young woman. "May I give you a ride to where you're going?"

"Nope," she said firmly, tucking her last knife away, and turning to look at him with a haughty expression. "I can take care of myself, just fine."

He raised his eyebrows, a sardonic expression on his face. "Mm, indeed, I noticed."

Her eyes narrowed. "What's that supposed to mean? Are you insulting me?"

James smirked. "Quite right, my apologies, how dare I cast aspersions at the person who hit me with a rock after I helped save her life and just offered to assist her again."

She continued to glare at him.

"I could have just ridden on, you know," he pointed out, quirking an eyebrow at her. "Not stopped and helped."

She pressed her lips together giving him a piercing look; he waited for her response. Then she quirked her mouth to the side and shook her head negatively with an "Mmh mm."

He raised both eyebrows again. "No?"

"Nope," she stated firmly. "You couldn't have done any such thing."

He canted his head slightly at her. "And why, pray tell, not?"

"Honor." One word, that truthfully summed up why, as she said, he couldn't have just gone on and not helped her. She moved to stand less than a foot in front of him. "You're too honorable to just move on when a person is in trouble."

They stood there for several moments, eyes locked, unable to look away.

She had, he decided, the most beautiful, soulful eyes he had ever seen.


A bird's cry overhead snapped them both out of it.

Snow gingerly spun on her heel, conscious of her twisted ankle, and headed into the woods, attempting to hide the blush that had spread over her cheeks and wondering what that had just been. She called over her shoulder, "See you, Prince Charming."

"Not so fast." He followed her. "I can't let you just go off on your own."

She snorted. "Oh, there's no 'letting' here, Charming, I'm my own person and I don't need your help."

"Well, you know that 'honorable' streak that you just mentioned?" he commented lightly, catching up to her. "It also means that I can't just walk off when more of those thugs could still be around."

She scoffed. "I have to get to my friends and with that horse," she nodded to his mount, which he was leading by the reins, "you'll just slow me down."

"You're the one who refused my offer of a ride." He smirked. "If you'd accept then we could certainly get you wherever you need to go faster."

Why was she suddenly beginning to enjoy this banter? "I know these woods better than you; I could just run off and you wouldn't be able to find me."

"I'd find you," he assured her.

She stopped, turned and gave him an "oh really" look, still maintaining her annoyance, though she was definitely feeling some amusement at this point.

He stopped beside her, humor glinting in his eyes. "No matter what you do, I will always find you."

His words, for some reason, warmed her heart, when they should have disturbed or annoyed her. She covered her feelings though and turned to continue walking. "Whatever you say, Charming."

He didn't follow her immediately. "I told you, I have a name."

"Still don't care," called over her shoulder.

He was next to her moments later. "Well, since you've made it clear you don't care what my real name is, there isn't a chance that you would be interested in telling me yours, is there?"

"Not in the least," she assured him.

He chuckled. "So we're going to walk along not calling each other by our names?"

"If that really bothers you, you can always just be on your way." She waved her hand at him in a dismissive gesture.

"As I told you, I can't just leave you out here alone when those men could still come back, and I have a feeling that they're not as– charming –as I am."

Snow rolled her eyes, she really should not be finding this man as endearing as she was beginning to.


James knew he really shouldn't enjoy spending time with this nameless woman as much as he was, but not only was she beautiful, she had a sharp mind, quick wit and a sense of humor to match his. She was also stubborn and determined; he was willing to bet by her slowly increasing limp that part of her leg – most likely her ankle– was causing her significant pain, but she was doing her best not to let it slow her down. He subtly adjusted his stride to match a pace that she could keep up with, but made sure not to let on that he was doing so.

They'd been walking in silence for some time.

"You seem to know your way around these woods quite well," he commented.

"For a woman, you mean?" she said tartly.

"No, not for a 'woman'," he corrected, "for anyone."

She turned unexpectedly toward him and an unguarded look of surprise flashed over her face at the comment, but she quickly hid it, turning to look straight ahead. "My mother died when I was very young; after her death spending time with me in the forest seemed to be one of the only things that comforted my father." She glanced at the treetops. "I learned everything I know from him."

"I'm sorry about your mother," he said quietly.

She shrugged one shoulder. "It was a long time ago." He could still read the sadness that flickered through her eyes. "My father remarried eventually."

"Do you like your stepmother?"


His eyebrows shot up at the prompt, definite answer.

She glanced at him and smirked at his expression. "It's no secret that neither of us is fond of the other; the only thing we have in common is my father and the fact that we both love him."

"And how does your father feel about that?" he queried.

She shrugged. "She and I hardly speak, so it's really rare that we fight; that generally preserves the peace in our home."

He shook his head. "Sounds like an uncomfortable atmosphere to me."

"Well, what's your family like?" she asked challengingly.

He frowned thoughtfully trying to settle on an answer. "Close," he said at last. "I still have both my parents and they have a good, loving marriage. I have a younger brother; we get along well. Do you have siblings?"

She kept looking forward, but he saw sadness flashing through her eyes. "No. My mother wasn't able to have more children and my stepmother hasn't had any either – though she wants to." He was almost positive he saw the barest look of sympathy in her expression as she said it.

He canted his head at her. "Was it lonely being an only child?"

She took a moment to consider her answer. "Not really, there were a lot of other children in the village; we played together just about every day." She looked at him. "What was it like having a younger sibling?"

James thought for a moment. "He was annoying at times, like most younger siblings from what I've been told, but we got along better as we grew up."

She looked at him considering. "You, know, I can definitely see you as a big brother." He cocked an eyebrow. "You're really bossy and overbearing."

He rolled his eyes skyward.

They turned around a thicket of trees and saw what appeared to be the back of a livery peeking through the foliage.

"There it is," she said, drawing to a stop. She turned to him. "I can go the rest of the way on my own."

He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Why would I go with you this far and not make the whole trip?"

She sighed. "Look, I really don't need the complications my walking into town with a man would bring," she told him flatly.

James took in her tight features, and obvious stress. Finally, he nodded. "All right."


"Well, good bye, Misstress…" he trailed off, not sure what to call her, "whatever your name happens to be."

She smirked. "Good bye, Prince Charming," she said back in a faux sweet voice before walking toward the village.

"I keep telling you, I have a name," he called after her.

She turned to look back at him. "And I still don't care." She turned back around and continued on her way.

James watched her disappear around the corner of the building, deciding that no matter how things went at the palace he was going to be making a trip to the village as soon as possible. "I will find you," he murmured to himself.


Oh, the webs Fate weaves… Little does our couple know what is in store for them…


Since they haven't said what the Queen's name was in Fairy Tale Land I picked one out for her; if they ever tell us it I may go back and change it along with Red Riding Hood's. I hope that it was ok. Thank you so much for reading, and please let me know what you think!

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