I’m getting too old for this, she thought to herself.
The fairy godmother soared through the air. Her wings, powered by Hope, her wand, magnifying her Wishes, and her Dreams… her Dreams had been shattered. Her vision of Foreverland had slipped away in the course of a few short weeks. All that remained were golden memories starkly contrasted with the bleak present.
In the past, flying had always been enjoyable. Now all she could think of was the ache of her bones and the tattered remains of her emotions. Tears fell from her eyes as the first snowfall of the season whistled around her and she peered down at the countryside below. Beneath a thin white layer of snow she spotted a charcoaled group of trees. She had seen more trees like them, along with other signs that the witch was growing more powerful.
Too powerful, she thought.
She flew on toward Avelin, the central kingdom of Foreverland. The wings didn’t add any weight or strain to her body; they simply fluttered like a pair of butterfly wings. Very large butterfly wings. Her mother had worn the fairy godmother wings when she had been a little girl. When she was old enough to become the caretaker of Foreverland, she herself had worn the wings for many years. Until a few weeks before, until the witch, her daughter had worn the wings. And now, her little girl would never wear them again.
She fought a new barrage of tears as the city walls came into view. Flying over houses and markets, she realized for the first time that she was shivering from the cool wind.
Why are you putting up with this cold, Ruth? she thought to herself.
Lifting up her wand she made a Wish. “I Wish it were warmer.”
The star at the wand’s tip began to glow and sent a ray of energy toward her that spread through her entire body. As the energy left the wand she felt a little more tired, a little less energetic—the price of granting a Wish. But it was worth it. The effects of the spell gave her the sudden sensation of standing by a fire and drinking hot cocoa. Despite her sudden comfort, the spell couldn’t stop the tears.
She descended slowly, gliding over brick-terraced walls as she passed the richer communities of the city. Guards stood watch, pacing back and forth along the walls of all the high nobility, lower nobility, and merchants who could afford to have guards on constant vigil. Not many people were taking chances after the appearance of a witch and the recent death of the king. Ruth couldn’t blame them, although she despised the fact that many were already living in fear. Fear and doubt, opposites of Wishes and Hope, would only give the witch more power than she actually had.
Up ahead the deceased king’s flag flew at half-mast over the castle. The clean white banner bore the image of a sword slicing a poisoned apple in half—a symbol the king had earned shortly before his marriage. He would have been a powerful force against the witch.
Trying to focus on the purpose of her visit, she searched for the fairy godmother graveyard. Landing softly inside its walls, she walked among the rows and rows of headstones. The gray concrete structures rose from the ground every five feet or so—until they skipped a plot of earth. Her heart skipped too. Her mother’s headstone was on the left, her daughter’s on the right. She should be buried in the space between them. She should have passed away before her daughter.
Forcing herself to finish what she came to do, she stepped to her daughter’s headstone and couldn’t restrain herself from reading the beginning.
Beloved Fairy Godmother, Daughter, Wife, and Mother…
There was more but she wasn’t able to read the rest. “My dear Janey, my dear, dear Janey,” she sobbed to herself over and over again.
Stifling her constant stream of tears, she willed the wings to disappear from her back. They shimmered for a moment and then shattered into a million pieces of light. The light gathered together in the shape of a ball in front of her and then dove into the fairy wing amulet hanging around her neck. The necklace glowed for a moment with the magic and then the light disappeared as if it hadn’t even happened.
Ruth took the chain off from around her neck and looked at the necklace. The fairy wings had the appearance of silver, but she knew they were stronger than any metal. Given to the first fairy godmother by the Rhymers themselves, the wings could provide flight and power to whoever wore them. Having been passed down for thousands of years, they had finally reached her own daughter, Janey, where they should have stayed until Janey’s daughter was ready. She placed the wings on the ground before her, pointed the end of the wand down beside it and whispered.
The wings shifted on the earth almost like they were crawling, and started to dig down. They disappeared from view, necklace chain following, and the earth and snow covered them up. She remained on her knees for several minutes, eyes closed, as she cast spell over spell over spell to protect the wings in her absence. As proficient as she was, speaking wasn’t required for her to Wish, but the magic still drained her of energy. It was important that the wings be hidden, that they stay safe, that no one could find them. Gasping for air, her eyes opened as she finished.
“The mirror told me you would be here,” she heard behind her. Wheeling around, Ruth saw the source of the voice.
Warmly wrapped in a long black cloak, the slender woman approached. She pulled back a furry hood with one hand to reveal dark black hair, high cheekbones, and the most beautiful of all fair-white complexions. Underneath the cloak she was dressed in a black silk dress, and she held a baby boy, also swaddled in a thick black blanket. The fairy godmother knew there were women who would die to have the figure she had so soon after bearing a child. Or to have her figure at any point in their lives. She was beautiful, she was regal, she was in mourning. She was the Widow Queen: Snow White.
“Where did you find a mirror, Snow?”
“Coal contacted the dwarves months ago. They found the very mirror my mother used. It was to be my anniversary gift,” Snow White held her composure, always queenly, but could not go on. Tears welled up in her eyes, but only one rolled down the side of her face.
The fairy godmother wished she could have the same control as the queen. At the same time she was worried about the damage Snow might cause if she never let herself feel the loss. She was worried even more about the queen’s use of a magic mirror.
“All of Foreverland grieves with you, Snow. King Coal did more for Avelin and for Foreverland than perhaps any other king to have gone before him. But I must warn you. Playing with magic mirrors without appropriate training or insight is never a good idea, especially with a witch about. You have no idea what a witch can do.”
“I have no idea, Ruth?” she snapped, her cheeks blushing an angry red. “I have no idea what a witch can do? I was asleep for nearly a thousand years and I have no idea what a witch can do? I know very well what a witch is capable of, and I didn’t come here to be lectured by a fairy godmother about my use of a magic mirror.”
“I’m sorry, Snow. That’s not how I meant it.” Both of their feelings were raw, both of them had lost someone. Ruth decided not to talk about the mirror.
Snow regained her composure and continued. “I lost my life once, and Coal gave it back to me. Now I’ve lost him. And while I can’t give him back his life, I hope to preserve the life of his son. The mirror told me the fairy godmother is my son’s only hope against the powers of the witch.”
Ruth nodded. Sometimes mirrors could be vague or cryptic, especially when asking about the future. But they were always right. If the mirror had said anything that hinted at the death of Snow’s son, there would be reason to worry. The fact that it mentioned a fairy godmother was also disconcerting.
“I’m not sure I can help your son,” she replied.
“But you’re a fairy godmother—if you can’t stop the witch, who can?”
“I’m a retired fairy godmother,” Ruth corrected her. “I’m leaving.” She felt sick as she heard the words in her own ears. It was the first time she had said it out loud. She was also surprised at the lack of a reaction in Snow White’s face.
“That’s what the mirror said,” Snow nodded. “But I thought I misunderstood. Why would you leave Foreverland when we need a fairy godmother now more than ever?”
“The mirror didn’t tell you?” Ruth replied.
“It didn’t tell me why you were leaving, it just said you would.”
“I can’t beat the witch,” Ruth admitted. “I’m too old and she’s gaining too much power too quickly. I went to seek guidance from Mother Goose, and I am at peace with my decision. I believe my granddaughter is Foreverland’s only hope now. But I can’t train her here. The witch would put an end to it quickly. So I’m leaving to a place unknown to Foreverland. Unfortunately, until my granddaughter is ready, Foreverland must suffer under the rule of an evil witch.”
Ruth could tell that Snow White was thinking; her visage had become blank, almost as if she were looking beyond the moment in the cemetery. Ruth wondered what the mirror had revealed to the queen. The two of them stood in the solemn graveyard, snow falling about them, the air full of silence as they both considered the future.
“Take my son with you,” Snow whispered.
“What?” Ruth was caught off guard.
“Take him with you,” Snow said again, her voice gaining strength.
“Are you sure, dear?”
“Yes. Take him with you. Perhaps you can’t protect him from the witch indefinitely, but he’ll be safer at your side than he will be here for many years. Take him with you. Grant me this wish.”
Having been a fairy godmother for many years, it would be difficult for her to turn down a request worded in that manner. Ruth looked into Snow White’s eyes. The mother seemed determined, and steeled against the loss of her son. It was clear that her mind had been made up before coming to the graveyard. This was the way it had to be.
Ruth finally consented. “Did you and Coal settle in on a name?”
“Not before he died,” Snow said holding out her baby and looking down at him. “I wanted to name the child after his father, but Coal never liked his own name. He wanted to name our baby after his father.”
“The giant killer?” Ruth asked.
“Jack,” Snow White whispered, finally extending the baby to Ruth’s arms.
Ruth held the baby boy in her arms and looked down into his sleeping face. He had been born two days before her own granddaughter. The child would be ignorant of his heritage, he would not know of his royal blood. But he would come back. He would have to someday. Just as her granddaughter would have to return and face the witch.
“I have a favor to ask you, Snow,” Ruth said, lifting her eyes to meet the queen’s. Without the wings, she wouldn’t be able to fly to her next destination.
“You need a horse,” Snow said calmly, her knowledge of this meeting continuously surpassing Ruth’s expectations. “I left one at the south gate of the cemetery. This may be the last time we see each other, fairy godmother. Farewell, my friend.”
Her voice trembled as she finished, and then Snow White turned and walked away. Ruth recognized the unmistakable chorus of uncontrolled sobbing.
Exiting by the south gate, Ruth found the horse and managed to get on its back holding both the wand and the child king. Snow falling all around her, she rode away from the cemetery and down the quiet streets of the city mourning the loss of its king. She rode away from Avelin, her heart heavy as she left the city walls behind her. She rode out across the beautiful landscape of Foreverland, a land soon to be overshadowed by an evil witch. She rode toward her granddaughter, Jill.
She was Foreverland’s only hope now.