By Kevina Clear
Deirdre stood before me, framed by the mirror, her blue eyes glistening. Typical. She always seemed to be on the verge of tears.
“Nimha,” she called, pressing her hand against the glass.
I emerged through the mirror and slithered onto her hand. “Yes, my queen?”
She stared at the glass. “Who is fairest in this land?”
“You are, my queen.” Fair, yet pathetic. The kind of vain, weak woman my survival depended upon.
Her upper lip trembled. “Then why doesn’t Donal love me?”
Because his only love is power. But if Deirdre knew that, she might stop believing his inability to love her was her fault. I needed her to yearn for his love.
“You are the fairest woman alive, but he still loves his dead wife, Ilana. While he remembers her, he’ll never love you.”
Soon Deirdre would be empty of love, and I would need a new source. I could see her breaking point was near. Pushing her over the edge would be simple.
I coiled around her wrist. “There is a way he could forget her.”
“How?” Her pulse quickened, beating beneath me.
“If Finola were gone. Whenever Donal sees her, he thinks of her mother. Without her, he would be free to love you.”
She drew her brows together. “Gone?”
I slithered up her arm. “It would be simple for a child to become lost in the forest.”
“Then he would love me?”
Love. That was all Deirdre wanted. It was all Ilana had wanted. And it would be all Donal’s next wife would want.
A few hours later, I heard the door open. Even before he came into my view, I recognized Eamonn’s heavy footfalls. Now one of the King’s Huntsmen, six years earlier he’d been a captain of the guard in Deirdre’s father’s kingdom. When she married Donal, he’d come with her, saying he was the closest she had to a father.
Over Deirdre’s shoulder, I saw Eamonn standing by the door, his hand on his hilt. “You asked for me, Your Highness?”
All I could see of Deirdre was golden curls streaming down her back. “I need you to do something for me.”
Ha! You wouldn’t agree so quickly if you knew.
Deirdre’s shoulders heaved. “I need Finola gone. Forever.”
He stood like a fish gulping air. “I don’t believe I understand. What are you asking me to do?”
“I don’t care what you do.” She rubbed her temple. “Just get her away from here.”
Eamonn stepped forward. “Your Highness, she’s your stepdaughter. Don’t you feel a responsibility—”
That’ll hit its mark.
Deirdre stamped the floor. “You will obey me! Or your daughter will pay.”
He drew back as if she’d slapped him. Even I was shocked, though I knew she’d never have the gumption to follow through.
Eamonn pulled his mouth tight. “Yes, Your Highness.”
After he left, Deirdre came to the mirror. “Nimha,” she whispered, “is this worth it?”
I surfaced onto the glass and crawled up her hand. “You want love, don’t you?”
“Of course, but—this is wrong.”
“Love requires sacrifice.”
“Not like this! Eamonn’s right. I should be protecting Finola, not throwing her to the wolves.”
“Fine. Go tell Eamonn you’ve changed your mind. Resign yourself to living without love.”
I watched the struggle play out on Deirdre’s face. As always, the weak side won. Deirdre would do nothing.
After nightfall, Eamonn returned. He strode into the chamber and thrust something into Deirdre’s hands.
“Finola’s heart,” he spat. “Maybe you want to eat it.”
Deirdre jumped back. With a thud, the bundle hit the ground, spilling a dagger and a bloody mass out onto the elaborate rug.
“You killed her?” Deirdre stared at Eamonn, wild-eyed.
He stared back, his eyes flinty. “With respect, Your Highness, those were your orders.”
“What have I done?” She buried her face in her hands and sank to the floor. When she spoke, her voice was barely a whisper. “Finola was a beautiful child. And now she’s gone… by my command. What’s happened to me?”
This was it. Any moment now, she would break.
Eamonn knelt beside her and placed his hand on her shoulder. “I don’t know, Your Highness. But I will try to help you make this right.”
My question exactly.
“Finola isn’t dead.”
What? What is this?
He scooped up the heart and placed it back into the bag. “This is a boar’s heart. I could never have killed her.”
“Then where is she?”
“I let her go into the forest.”
Deirdre rose to her feet. “We have to find her.”
Deirdre taking action? Not good.
Eamonn stood and nodded. “She might have run toward the mountains, to the dwarves’ mines. I’ll saddle some horses.”
After Eamonn left, Deirdre looked around the room. She gathered an apple from her bedside and a bottle of sleeping-draught and placed them in a bag.
This wasn’t going how I’d planned.
Deirdre strode toward the mirror. “Nimha.”
There was something new in her voice. Strength.
It frightened me.
I emerged from the mirror. “Yes, my queen?”
She stepped back, placing a yard’s distance between us. “I refuse to live without love. I have my own love, and I’m going to share it with Finola.”
No, this can’t happen. “Whatever you do, you’ll be the villain.”
“I know. But I’m not listening to my fears anymore. Or to you.” She stooped and picked up the dagger.
“Wait! Haven’t I helped you?”
“No. You’ve been poison. That’s why I have to do this.” She drew back her arm, then let the dagger fly.
It darted straight toward me. Barely missing my head, it shattered the mirror. I flew through a shower of broken glass and fell to the floor, writhing.
Deirdre dropped the dagger and looked down at me, her eyes glistening. “I’m sorry.” She turned, picked up her bag, and left the room.
After all I’ve done to her, she’s sorry?
The room darkened. She’s stronger than I knew.