The Poisoned Apple
by Ariele Sieling
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
A white light surrounded the entire ship.
“Now we’re all dead,” Raul finished.
“Not a tractor beam!” she groaned. “But we were so close! This is not the plan!”
“What was the plan?” Raul asked. “Maybe there is a little bit of it left that we can use.”
“The plan was: eat the stupid apple, fall asleep for a bajillion years or so. Meanwhile, the dwarves stick me on this ship and I drift far away from the Queen’s system and never have to deal with her ever again. Then the dwarves meet me on Quartz Median, where we build a new house and find ourselves a mine.”
“No true love or magic potions, I see. Some of those might be useful.”
“How did you wake me up?” she looked at him intently.
He grimaced. “Lipstick.”
“Seriously? The Godmother’s lipstick? She gave that idiot some?” she gestured to the Duke, who was now in fetal position and rocking back and forth. “Or did he steal it from the dwarves?”
“You will be boarded in two minutes,” the communication system stated.
“Well, that won’t help us.” She stood up and began to pace.
“Neither will the dwarves,” Raul said. “The Queen caught them right after they sent your ship off, and she sentenced them to life serving in her courts.”
She gasped. “Above ground? That’s horrible! My poor dwarves!”
“Not just above ground. She sent them to space. Awake.”
“Oh no,” she groaned, an expression of severe pain coming over her face.
The door to the bridge slid open. Three men in fitted black full-body armor stood menacingly, gazing at the three fugitives.
“You will come,” stated the first in monotone. He pulled out a small remote. She watched as the room slowly faded to nothing around them.
A different room jaggedly forced itself into view: black stone floors, perfectly sculpted iron beams, and sparking clean ducts and life-support vents. Over their heads, the ceiling was made entirely from glass; the stars sparkled and glistened hundreds and thousands and millions of light-years away.
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. The Queen sat at the other end of the room, in a large chair reminiscent of a throne. Her standard attire consisted of fitted black pants, a revealing black lace corset, and a tall staff which never left her side. Her hair was piled on her head, held in place by hundreds of diamond-studded hairpins. She seemed never to have a hair out of place.
“It’s nice of you to visit, my dear Snow,” the Queen said in a very slippery tone of voice. “I did so miss coming to watch you sleep.” A smile slid across her salacious lips. “Imagine my surprise when my men detected the blasting off of a ship, not long after you had fallen asleep. Then imagine my delight when I discovered that the dwarves had not yet left. What do you think I did with them, my dear? Well? What do you think? Look at me!”
The Queen strode across the room and grasped Snow’s chin; her fingernails dug into the soft skin. Her staff clicked against the floor. “Look at me!” she demanded again.
Snow’s fingers tightened around the apple which she held firmly in her grasp. She pursed her lips and scowled at the Queen, not saying a word.
Her expression softening slightly, the Queen let go of Snow’s face. “I see you are still tired and that no doubt makes you a mite irritable,” she said. “But, perhaps we can arrange a short... nap.”
She turned to look at the Duke. “And who else have we here?” A delighted smile burst into her features. “What a prize! The Duke of Thieves and his trusty manservant! I can’t express how pleased I am to see you. I have been planning the perfect punishment for you ever since you took off with my precious apple trees. What have you done with them?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the Duke said stoically. Snow could see his eyes quivering slightly, no doubt in fear of what might possibly happen to him.
“Well, perhaps your beloved manservant knows. Guards!”
The guards stepped forward and grasped each of Raul’s arms.
“Of course I know,” Raul stated simply.
The Duke looked at him with horror.
“Well, now...” the Queen smiled. “Release him. Why don’t you come here and tell me — since you seem so eager to betray your master.”
Raul chuckled. “It seems silly to think that I, the Duke’s manservant for over twenty-five years, wouldn’t know what he was up to at all times, such as what he did with those blasted apple trees.” Raul stepped forward as a scowl descended deeply into his features. “But I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell you!”
Wrath was probably not quite a strong enough word for the Queen’s emotion. It spread out over the room, consuming, drenching, and roaring like a dragon which has just had her gold swept out from under her.
“You fool!” she thundered. “You think you can play games with me? Well, you can just ask little Snow here — I always win at games! Especially mind games.”
A blast of lighting sprang out of her staff. Raul leaped to the side, barely avoiding the bolt.
“Guards!” the Queen commanded. They sprang forward and wrestled Raul into a tight hold. “Consider that a warning. I will finish with you two in just a moment. But my precious Snow is just distracting me a little bit too much.” She turned her attention back to Snow.
Snow was calculating the distance between herself and the Queen, trying to figure out how long it would take her to sprint the distance. The guards stood right behind her, but had not grabbed onto her arms. The problem was that she wasn’t actually sure how far she could run since she had been sleeping for so long.
“I have a special treat for you, dear,” the Queen began. “A waking-up present of sorts. Bring them out!”
The door behind the throne slid open. A pair of guards marched through. Behind them shuffled the seven dwarves. Their beards were long — nearly to their knees — and they were incredibly thin. Snow’s eyes widened.
“Oh!” she exclaimed.
“So you can talk, my pet!” the Queen exclaimed triumphantly. “I thought as much. The sleeping curse can sometimes do damage, but I have never heard of someone going mute!”
“You could have fed them!” Snow said angrily.
“I did,” the Queen said. “I am not entirely heartless! They seemed to not want to eat — only every two days or so. Eventually, I stopped trying. Their loss, I figured, not mine.”
Snow frowned. Not eating was a very strange thing for dwarves — at least her dwarves — to do.
The guards marched the dwarves in a line between Snow and the Queen. The dwarves turned to face Snow, and each silently fell to one knee. “My lady,” they intoned.
“Tell her how sorry you are!” the Queen demanded. “Tell her how you attempted to fill out her last wishes and how you failed! And not only how you failed, but how you also told me where to find her, how to get her, and ended up fixing this ship when my own men could not do the same!” She cackled a very self-pleased laugh. “Tell her!”
“It is true,” said Grouchy. He stood and gazed into Snow’s eyes. “We would do anything for you.”
“I see,” Snow said slowly. She carefully placed a sad, mournful look on her face. “I am sorry you have suffered so.”
“Oh they’ve had it good!” the Queen said. “At least compared to what I have planned for the Duke here.” The Duke fell down, whimpering. The guards hauled him back to his feet.
“What do I do?” Snow asked, trying to seem helpless. “The plan...”
“Your plan has failed!” the Queen was overly triumphant. She held her staff high and brought it down with a loud thunderous boom. The dwarves clutched their ears. Her mouth opened and a shrill, high pitched laugh blended with the boom. The guards cringed.
Snow paused time. She couldn’t really pause time, of course, but she could speed up her thoughts. She looked around at the dwarves, trying desperately to signal her with their eyes; Raul kicking her while pretending to be struggling against the guards; the weeping Duke looking up at her from under his pale eyelashes; the apple clutched tightly in her fist. She couldn’t run, no, but she might just be able to...
The apple hovered in front of her eyes for a moment; then, she pulled her arm back as far as she could, stared intently at the Queen’s open-mouthed laugh, and threw.
It didn’t come close to hitting the Queen’s mouth — that would have been a near impossible target. But it hit the hard, stone wall just behind her and spattered into a thousand pieces. The Queen’s laugh turned into a gasp of shock as the apple thudded just over her head, and began to rain down on top of her. She turned to look at it...
And then Snow ran. She kicked the guard behind her in the knee and made a beeline for the dwarves. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Raul, suddenly fighting like a genius, and the Duke following suit, no longer a whimpering fool. The dwarves made a clear path for her, blocking all attempts by the guards to stop her.
She darted up to the Queen, who was just turning to look at her, reached down and grabbed a handful of the spattered apple, and shoved it directly into the Queen’s mouth.
The Queen’s eyes widened as she scratched at her tongue, trying to spit out the pieces of apple, but it was too late. The poison was too strong.
“You should know,” Snow said quietly. “You made it.”
The Queen sank to her knees and landed in a graceful heap on the floor.
Snow turned to look at the bridge. The fighting had nearly stopped. The Duke and Raul had subdued seven guards between them, and the dwarves were neatly tying up another eleven.
“My lady,” Grouchy said, “that was splendid.”
“But what about the rest of the crew?” Snow exclaimed. “We have to get out of here! We can’t fight them all!”
“No, my lady, nor do we need to. Most of them are on our side. We managed to slip a loyalty potion to all but those closest to the Queen. They are now your loyal subjects.”
“Oh!” Snow was surprised. “So then... you planned this?”
“Well, not entirely,” Grouchy shrugged. “It’s hard to plan things when the Queen is involved.”
“Did you tell her where I was on purpose?!” Snow was furious.
“It was part of the plan!” Grouchy sighed and looked at Professor.
“It was part of plan B,” Professor corrected. “In case we didn’t have time to build two ships — for us and you. Which we didn’t. The only other ship powerful enough to get us to you was hers.” He pointed to the sleeping Queen. “And now all we have to do is stick her on your ship and send her to somewhere, and then we can go home and you can take over the kingdom.”
“I thought we were finding you a new mine.” Snow crossed her arms. “On a new planet. Where no one hates us!”
“No one hates us, my lady,” Grouchy replied. “It’s been seventy-three years! Or it will have been by the time we get back. The Queen left a regent in charge, but we slipped him a loyalty potion, too. Everyone else is a lot older now or dead.”
“What about those two bozos?” she gestured to the Duke and Raul.
“Oh, they were plan C. In case the Queen’s ship arrived early. Which it did.”
“You planned this?” the Duke demanded, looking at Raul.
“I may have.” Raul grinned sheepishly. “You didn’t exactly argue.”
“But we could have been killed!”
“Well, we weren’t. So it’s fine.”
“Do I get to marry the princess?” the Duke scowled.
“She’s the Queen now, so only if she asks you,” Raul replied. “So I doubt it.”
“I’ll find you another princess,” Snow said, generously. A small smile crossed her lips. “So, what I’m getting is — we did it?”
“Yes,” Grouchy said, grinning, “we did it!”
After a short celebration, Snow directed the dwarves, Raul, and the Duke to round up any remaining guards loyal to the Queen. She also instructed that the poisonous apple be cleaned up — since a second dose to her would undoubtedly be lethal. The dwarves then loaded the Queen onto Snow’s ship, and programmed it to fly away until the Queen woke up.
Snow took control of the Queen’s ship, settling into her favourite chair, and guided them back towards their home planet.
When they arrived, it proved exceedingly easy to simply walk into the castle and take over an entire planet nearly seventy-five planetside years later. The regent was old and sighed with relief at the sight of the new Queen. The regent had proved to be a rather poor ruler, and the people were happy to have the rightful heir on the throne again.
The Queen woke up a hundred years later in a very cranky mood and settled down on a nearby planet. The civilization there had a democracy, however, and she found politics much less fun than zapping people, so she gave up her ambitions of power and lived to a ripe old age as the guardian of many beautiful cats.
Copyright © 2013 by Ariele Sieling