Chapter Fourteen

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Snow sat for what felt like days, in a giant gilded cage overlooking Skyland's town square, like one of the mechanical birds in the Tower's art gallery. Raena had her dressed in the bridesmaid dress she wore to the wedding and left her with only a basket of red, juicy apples. At least she got to keep her fading tattoo. The horrible witch was making her point, loud and clear: Mess with the Baroness and you end in a mess. Actually, those were the terribly cheesy words Raena said to Snow before she had the cage lifted over the township.

All of a sudden it became awfully obvious what kind of city Raena had fashioned Skylands into. She had set up her kingdom and crowned herself queen. Any of the Lords or Ladies who spoke out against her were slapped with fines and duties and some were evicted from the city altogether. It was truly awful, because all of this took place while Snow was in hiding. When Raena placed Snow in a cage on display for all to see, everyone was already so scared of the Baroness they didn't do a thing to help.

Snow waited a day and a half before her thirst was so terrible that she had to eat an apple, poisoned or not. She managed three apples before nightfall of the second day. The evenings were worse. Shivering from the cold she had nothing to keep herself warm. Before sunrise of the third morning a basket of bread and water was lifted to the cage by a kind stranger who ran from the scene before she could thank him.

She quickly ate and drank and hid the basket under her skirts. It was enough to lift her spirits that she began singing to herself, her voice carried on the morning breeze. Lying on her back she watched the birds above in the sky and remembered the tattoo that Pat had drawn on her shoulder. It was mostly gone now, a smudge down her arm. She decided that if she ever lived through this, she would get it inked onto her skin permanently.

She laughed, realising that all her fears meant nothing to her now. No one could tell her what to say, what to wear, how to behave. There were no mountains of expectations on her now. She was free. Sitting in her gilded cage she was more free than she had been in her whole life. And she couldn't stop laughing.

Before dusk, Snow had started to dream about eating apples again only to be startled by a commotion taking place at the edge of the square. Guardsmen wearing the king's colours were moving towards The Tower, looking far meaner than she'd ever seen a guardsman look. She stood up in her cage as it swung backwards and forwards and she realised that it was being lowered to the ground. It hit the metal coblestones of the square with a clang, nearly toppling her over in the process.

Hunter faced her as the cage door opened and she stepped out of it. angry, so very angry. Swinging both fists she hit his jaw with the first shot, but missed the second, as she howled at the pain in her hand.

'Snow, stop it, stop it! I'm trying to set you free,' he yelled at her, taking a hold of her shoulders.

'That's not what it looked like to me,' she swung another fist which he brushed aside with his own hand.

'I know you are angry, but it had to happen this way or Raena would have suspected me. And you should have known that White Maid was a ruse, to draw you out into the open. It was a trap, You foolish girl, and if you had waited three days...'

'Foolish girl?!' she screamed in his face. 'How was I supposed to know you were working for the devil.' she spat and spun around, running towards The Tower.

'Its not like that, I was working for the King!' he yelled after her.

The crowd moved from the square to the front of The Tower just as solders entered the building. She pushed from the edge of the crowd to the doors, demanding to be let in so she could see her father. They let her through and Hunter followed in her wake, much to her disgust.

Hearing shouting and Edison barking, she ran to the fourth floor landing to find guards taking Raena into custody. Raena was screaming that she wasn't going to let anyone take her dominion from her. Edison was barking, being held back by two guards. And there, in the middle of it all was her father, Lord Peto, with the scariest expression she had ever seen on his face before. It stopped Snow in her tracks. Hunter bumped into her, saw what she saw and also froze on the spot.

Raena was screaming in the Lord's face, spittle flying from her mouth, wide eyed and crazy looking. Guards that held her had nail scratches down their faces and arms.

'ENOUGH!' Lord Peto roared, 'IT IS OVER RAENA. I HAVE YOUR LEDGER!'

That shut her up, her mouth opening and closing, like a fish out of water.

She stood up straighter, ran her hands through her hair and down her dress, composing herself. She looked up at the Lord and said nothing. The worst kind of pain and betrayal crossed the gentleman's face as he saw the wife he thought he loved stand before him, her silence speaking volumes.

It was at that moment the guards relaxed their hold on her and she swung around towards Snow, moving faster than was possible. Twisting Snow's arm behind the girl's back, Raena screamed at everyone, facing off crowds men and guardsmen on two fronts. But the self-professed Queen didn't take into account the swift, barking mountain before it was too late. Edison crashed into both women, sending them over the top of the landing balustrade before sliding to a stop and everyone yelled and screamed all at once.

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