Chapter Two

1K 102 16
                                                  

I moved to the prince's carriage in the same way I transitioned through the palace: closed my eyes and imagined it. I couldn't feel the shift beyond a light tingling in my limbs. My limited white surroundings never changed, only my view into the world beyond.

When I reopened my eyes, that world was tossed up and down so violently that my empty stomach heaved. I braced myself on the edges of my frame, which was wider than it had been a moment ago – so much so my fingers could barely grip the sides to steady me.

In front of me – or beneath me, I was being shaken too much to tell – were two teenage boys. All I could see was the tops of their heads: one covered in unruly chestnut curls, the other black as ebony. This wouldn't do at all. I needed a proper view. There was nothing less interesting than the top of someone's head. I needed a better angle. There were large mirrors on the front and rear walls, but the prince and his companion had covered both with their travelling cloaks. I needed something else. Something like... the mirrored panelling to the side of the door. There was a narrow reflective strip on either side of each.

There. My new vantage point was taller and thinner than I liked, and I was barely visible – not that it mattered – but I had a perfect view of the prince and his companion. Although, now that I was here, I realised that I didn't know which was which; an oversight the queen hadn't considered.

Even sat down, Chestnut was the taller of the two, with round cheeks, big brown eyes, and skin the colour of warm sand. Ebony's skin was as white as the snow which blanketed the kingdom. Fear at what awaited them within the palace walls must have drained all colour from his cheeks.

Which was which? I'd pictured him so many times, in so many different ways: tanned with green eyes; bronze skin with cropped black hair; blonde and blue eyed. There was one portrait of his father as a young man in the throne room – with bronze curls, soft brown eyes and cream skin – but nothing of his mother survived, so I had no way of guessing how he might look. My earliest memories were from the few months after he had been sent away.

The queen had always called her step-son scrawny and tall. She said he was 'perfectly plain'.

My eyes flicked from one boy to the next, assessing them. Neither was scrawny. Neither of them could be described as plain. The ebony-haired boy's features was so stunning he hardly looked real; an artist's impression of perfection brought to life.

I'd spent enough time analysing people's appearances to know when a face was in perfect balance. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, tied up with emotions, history and actions, but there was a science to it too. A science I was all too familiar with, thanks to the curse the queen had placed on me. I registered facial imperfections the same way most people registered eye colour; so instinctive I couldn't put it into words. One eye a millimetre larger than the other, a nostril a fraction wider; nothing escaped my notice.

I had never seen anyone quite like the ebony-haired boy before. A prince, perhaps – Lady Arthelle's School for Excellence, from which they were returning, was full of royals – but not the one I was meant to be keeping an eye on. The queen would have mentioned his extraordinary beauty; she'd have seethed at it.

I looked back to his taller, bronze-haired companion. Attractive, but in a softer, less imposing way than his friend. This must be the prince of Rosenberg; the boy who would displace the queen from her throne.

Beyond the carriage window the world was a blur of wood and snow. I would give anything to feel the snow: the soft tickle of it landing on my hair, the icy shiver of it falling down my back, even the sharp sting of the cold on my hands. I had memorised every reaction, every squeal, laugh or complaint snow inspired. But I wanted to see my footsteps mapped out behind me, to lay down and make snow angels, to throw a frozen ball at the back of someone (okay, the queen's) head.

Mirrored Snow [novel]Where stories live. Discover now