Here’s another 886 words for Brass Automaton:
* * *
It took John hours or days to pull his body up the stairs to his chambers. He couldn’t quite tell because there were times when he seemingly awoke prostrated on the stairs and began his ascent once again. He thought about Snow in the aggravating minutes before each struggle for the next curving stair. Had she looked for him in the ruins of her kingdom, their kingdom? Did she think him dead, or still subjected to Ceridwen’s manipulations?
It was dark when John reached his chambers. The room was cold and unlit, but still John could see the tiny glass fragment under his bed. He crawled for it, praying it would still work even after the magic that held him seeped from the smooth surface and dissipated in the air. Finally after clawing at the narrow space like mad, John clasped his fingers against the mirror piece.
Putting it to his lips he murmured a wish, favor, a single glimpse, the last chance. Hesitantly, the mirror brightened and John exclaimed, tears pooling in his bloodshot eyes.
“It is now or never my love, now or never to save us all.”
* * *
As soon as Sky reached Oossah and the castle loomed over her, dark and unwelcoming still, she knew the darkest hour had come. Climbing off Cloud Dancer she caressed his mane, coloring it red for her hand was stained with the blood of her wounds. She bid him a true farewell and paced herself the way a warrior would do arriving at long last home and not long now to her dearest. Sky smiled at the thought she would soon see Reese.
* * *
Snow was standing before the brass throne studying it with disgust. There was a time when she had sat on that damned thing, proud and happy, listening for the whistle of the steam. John was beside her, a loving man with a handsome face, and little Reese ran freely, climbing on her father’s lap and stealing his crown. John’s throne had been torn down, for Ceridwen imagined herself to be the only ruler. Now neither of them possessed that title – one, a middle-aged woman pitying the dead while smeared with their blood and the other, a cowardly witch spitting her venom still.
“My Queen Snow,” came a sturdy call.
Snow turned with a smile, but upon witnessing Sky’s state it faded away. She ran down the steps and took hold of Sky just as the other woman rolled on her feet. Snow sat them both down, beside the rubble and the quiet.
“It’s just Snow, remember?”
Sky nodded and said, “It is done. The Automaton is steaming no more and the Dwarven king asks for you. You were right, though, you were so very right Snow.”
Sky locked her swimming gaze with Snow’s inflating brown eyes.
“There was a girl inside that thing. I think I knew her well, or may have known her once upon a time.”
Snow hugged Sky into a tender embrace like a mother might her hurt child.
“I know dearest Sky, I know. I am so very sorry for asking of you to learn this way, but it had to be done by you. My hand, see, it’s not strong enough, nor is my will. But yours was.”
The pauses were long and uneven. Then:
“Am I evil, Snow?”
The White Queen took her time steadying her breaths. She rocked the body in her embrace, hushing her death.
“No, my lovely Sister, my bright Sky, you are not. But somewhere someone did something to you which filled your heart with so much hatred it couldn’t last and burst into many pieces. Somewhere out there a part of you is still in a jealous rage and she wouldn’t stop until she is Queen of the ashes and we but crunch as twigs beneath her brass feet.”
Sky buckled in her hands. There were so many wounds on her body, Snow thought. She would be gone before the next breath. She struggled when she spoke again.
“Snow, if it needs to be done erase all of me from Time. Cease this hateful rule, I beg you.”
“I promise. I don’t know how yet, but I feel that soon I shall, and I promise you my most trusted Sister the world will only know the best of you. This you. You will not be forgotten, Sky.”
Weak it was, but it was a smile which played upon Sky’s discolored lips.
“There was a boy, I remember. He kept me in a cell, but then we ran and he kissed me out of slumber. I wonder what happened to him.”
Snow’s eyes filled with tears, but they weren’t magick. Sky exhaled, a lost word on her lips as her eyes stared unblinkingly. Snow bent to place a kiss on her forehead. She spoke to the fleeing memory, knowing it would hear.
“Tell my daughter I love her.”
She laid Sky’s body at the feet of the throne and covered it with her royal gown. Snow knew that the other Sisters would do the body justice while she was gone.
Outside the gates, Cloud Dancer was waiting, shaking his head impatiently. Snow climbed on his back and urged him to run fast towards the forest. Time was precious.
Next: Guardians of Time