“If Your Majesty alludes to Judges, I would say Shoe String, or perhaps Cold Pipes. If we speak of complexions, the snowman your step-daughter and her friends have built would appear to be – oh dear, the young ladies have had a falling-out, and our erstwhile pristine friend is much bespattered. If beauty be your meaning, the cook’s newest baby is the loveliest little person in the Kingdom.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” groaned the Wicked Queen, crouched in an obscure alley of the royal park with her most trusted lady-in-waiting, her Wicked Queen’s Wimple rather ineptly tucked under a housemaid’s shawl. “Snow White, you moronic Mirror! Snow White is the fairest of them all!”
“A freckled tween with a crooked nose? Madam, I would be the laughing stock of every Magic Mirror Convention in the land! I – here she comes now!”
“Hallo, Stepmama,” said Snow White “Hallo, Mirror, you old rogue. Stepmama, whatever are you hiding here for? Papa’s looking for you. Stepmama, what are you wearing? Is this to be the new court headdress? Ooh, I love it!”
“Madam,” said the Wicked Queen. “I believe I have several times requested you not to call me that.”
“But Papa says I should.”
“You are dismissed, Madam!”
“All right, Stepmama, but Papa’s looking for you.”
The Queen cast a fuming look at Snow White, abandoned her inadequate disguise, and strode back up the park to the castle. Snow White turned to the grinning mirror.
“What’s with her?”
“Her potions say she is going to have a daughter, which means you will inherit the throne. Ah, if only your dear mother had lived!”
“Well, I don’t remember Mama, though from what you and Great Heart the hunter tell me, she must have been awfully nice.” said Snow White wistfully. “I do wish Papa wouldn’t die, though.”
“But he is dying, my dear,” said the Mirror. “And the Wicked Queen wants me to declare you the fairest maiden in the land.”
“She – what? Why?”
“To have a Wicked Reason, I suppose, that she can present to the Guild of Wicked Queens as her justification for ousting you. She might break me, if I do not say it. For your sake, I would risk that, but I doubt –”
“Oh no!” said Snow White. “You mustn’t do that! But do try to hold out as long as Papa’s alive. I can handle Meanie Queenie, but I don’t want his peace cut up by the squabbling, especially while he’s dying.”
“But what shall I say that will not vex her further?”
Snow White giggled. “I have an idea.”
Scarcely an hour later, the Wicked Queen placed the magic mirror against the park-alley’s rock barrier again, and put twelve large pebbles in front of it. “Mirror, mirror on the wall,” she said, fingering the heaviest one. “Who is the fairest of us all?”
“Why, you, Your Majesty!” squeaked the Magic Mirror.
For a moment the Wicked Queen looked as though she really would throw the rock. Instead, she turned to her lady-in-waiting. “Go buy me a mirror that knows how to lie,” she said.