The Huntsman’s Tale

May 30, 2014

So the rest of the staff has been pretty mad at me since the wedding. They were before they took off, anyway. At least Snow White kept them around long enough to take care of the wedding and the party afterward, but, you know, Prince Charming already has his own staff, and there’s not enough money to support two of everybody, so she just let everybody go. I thought they’d be glad after the mess of the party. Oh, you haven’t heard? I’m surprised you weren’t invited. You made the whole thing possible.

Well, let me start at the beginning, or at least what I know happened. It started when the Queen got this funny idea that Snow White was more beautiful than she was. The old Queen always did have funny ideas, maybe from talking to herself all the time. I’d go to see her and while I was waiting in the antechamber I’d hear her chatting away like she was really talking to someone, and then when I was allowed in it would just be her and that big mirror she always had with her. She asked me if I thought Snow White was more beautiful than her. I said beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, but that didn’t sit too well with her. I guess I never knew before that she was seriously crazy until she told me to take Snow White out riding and kill her. I really didn’t want to, but you know how the job market is right now. I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t exactly refuse either.

So that afternoon I took Snow White out riding in the forest. That’s not unusual. We did it all the time. And she didn’t see anything strange about me bringing my crossbow and having it cocked and ready. That’s not unusual either. I always carried it. I never needed it, but the woods can be dangerous. I’d taught Snow White that since she was little, when I taught her wood lore. There she was riding right in front of me with her back to me. We would go on pretty long rides and explore most of the woods, so she didn’t think it was strange when I started giving her directions. I was leading her to a place she’d never been before. It’s a place we hunters try to avoid anyway, up the mountain, through mist, then into a glen filled with rushes. I’ve heard stories about strange voices singing there. Oh, you know about that? Really? Okay, mystery solved. I didn’t like taking her there, but I thought I was doing my duty since I thought I was as good as killing her by leaving her. I told her too. She had a right to know what the Queen had ordered me to do. She freaked out. No surprise, I guess. I made sure she knew I couldn’t do exactly as I’d been told. I gave her the food and water I’d brought. She hadn’t noticed I’d brought extra. I told her to run. I told her she’d be fine. I didn’t believe it, and maybe she didn’t either, but the Queen scared both of us. I tore a piece of her dress away, then I took our horses. I didn’t look back. I didn’t see which way she went.

On the way back to the castle I found a deer. This is how good a hunter I am. I got to within ten paces of it and fired a shot right through the neck. The blood trail was short. I cut it in pieces. I wrapped the heart in the piece of Snow White’s dress and buried the rest. I hated to waste the meat, but I couldn’t risk anyone finding the evidence. It was late, after dark, before I got back. The Queen thought I’d been so long because I couldn’t do it. Half right, I guess. Then she laughed and called me sentimental. Then she sent the heart to the kitchen. Later she told me how good it had been. Said it tasted like venison. Things were quiet after that, for a couple of weeks at least. Then one day I heard her screaming in her bedroom. Well, you know, Snow White was still alive. How she found out I don’t know. I cleared out. I hid out in the forest, but I’d sneak up to the castle at night and talk to one of the cooks. I heard that the Queen got really bizarre then. She put ashes in her hair to make it gray, and used something to make her face all wrinkly. They saw her headed to the orchard, and then she disappeared until the next day. She looked normal again. And things got quiet again. The cook even said I might be able to get my job back. I even thought about asking, until it all went down.

Snow White showed up with Prince Charming. The Queen, I heard, wasn’t happy, but she pretended to be happy. She offered to let them use the castle for the wedding, and did all the planning and was matron of honor and everything. Then there was the reception. I know everybody’d been drinking, but everybody says the same thing. It was late, and the fire had been going, and Snow White pulled out these red hot iron shoes and made the Queen dance in them until she was dead. I know they’ve tried to spin it that she fell off a cliff, but the real story is that they made her dance in those shoes and then threw the body over a cliff. It must have been a hell of a party. Snow White offered me a job in Prince Charming’s castle, but I really didn’t want to work for her after that. I mean, would you? I always thought she was the nice one. Anyway, I did hear what she did for you, and that’s why I’ve worked out this whole new business model. What I’m offering is all free range, organic, locally sourced meats. The best in the kingdom. It’s a small operation. We get it, dress it, butcher it, and deliver it right to your door. Game, fish, fowl, you name it. We’re starting as a coop, but if I can get any of the old gang to speak to me I’d like to start doing custom work. You guys, all seven of you, you’re all professional miners, right? You don’t have a lot of time to do your own shopping. Let me take care of it for you. We might even be offering prepared meals. We may even branch out into housecleaning. So, can I sign you up?

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