She stood in front of the mirror, fighting back tears.
“How long?” she asked.
The mirror’s soft, smokey voice patiently answered. “Two more hours, majesty.”
She began her slow pacing, back and forth across the tiny room. Time crawled by. The mirror waited for her to ask again, but she managed to restrain herself.
At last, she could hear him; his horse’s hooves echoed like heartbeats across the empty valley. She raced to the window to watch his approach, fear and hope and anticipation crowding her throat, making it difficult to breathe.
She watched him leap off his horse and fight his way into the castle, then lost sight of him. But she could feel him now; she knew the perils that lay in wait, and her mind traced them as he fought them.
And, at long last, he broke down her door.
He stood, framed in the doorway, the golden sunlight shining upon him.
Her breath caught. He was so…
He was sweaty, breathing hard, almost scrawny. His eyes, in her mind so gentle and loving, were hard and impatient. He sneered at her, leered at her, and she instinctively took a step backwards. When he spoke, she heard not the words, but the cruel tone and cold reality.
He was not charming, not in the least.
Her eyes filled with tears. This was who she’d spent her life waiting for? This snarling brute of a man?
He reached for her; she recoiled.
She knew exactly what to do.
She pushed him, grabbed his sword, and ran past. She fought her way out of the castle, past the traps and monsters she’d feared all her life. She emerged, blinking, into the glorious day. Laughter bubbled up and sprang from her lips, echoing through the valley. She grabbed the reins of his horse, freed the poor beast from its bindings, and lept upon its back.
She rode off into the sunset, all by herself.