Blacksmith Tiberius is dissatisfied with his lot in life. Convinced he deserves more, he’s become resentful of the other dwarves. He’s motivated by coin, and to a lesser extent women and power. A chance encounter with a beautiful and mysterious witch, whose plans include the removal of the current queen, result in an unlikely partnership.
Soon he’s living the life he’d always dreamt of, whoring and drinking to his heart’s content, far away from the cramped cabin he’d shared with the other dwarves. But after an unexpected connection with a young princess named Snow White, and as the witch’s demands become more extreme, Tiberius questions the strength of their friendship and wonders how far he’s willing to go for titles and riches.
Tiberius wiped the sweat from his brow, stood, then stretched his back and grimaced at the dull ache. The front door of his shared cabin slammed shut. He heard the whistling and footsteps of the other dwarves before he saw them. Resting his hammer against the anvil, he took a gulp of ale, then stared out of the workshop as the others passed, picks over shoulders, on their way to the mines. A couple of them turned his way and smiled or waved, Tiberius nodded back. When the men were out of sight, he cleared his throat and spat in the corner. His resentment had been growing over the last few months. He was the one with all the talent. It was an art, what he did. The way he crafted weapons and armor was mastery, each piece unique and exquisite and virtually unbreakable. Customers came from miles around to commission his work and his pieces fetched a pretty hefty amount of gold.
Split between the eight of them, the spoils didn’t seem so grand. Tiberius felt he deserved the biggest cut of the group, since he was the most capable, most creative, but the dwarves lived in a democracy and everything was equal. Even. Which is why he slept in a single bed in a shared room within a meager cottage, instead of living the way he deserved. He was a craftsman, an artist, the others were just laborers. Of course, they’d argued it was them who did all the difficult work, complaining of the tough conditions of the mines; the dust they breathed in, the lack of sunlight. Tiberius didn’t buy it. His labors were just as physical and he knew the others enjoyed their work in the mines, always whistling and skipping.
He picked up his hammer and imagined one of their faces in the shining metal that sat on the anvil. Klaus maybe. Or Graymont. Yes, him, with his ruddy cheeks and smiling face.
He’d wipe that cheerful expression away.
Tiberius worked with a renewed vigor, well into the afternoon.
Tiberius was exiting the bath when he heard the whistling. He always washed before the others finished work. It took a lot of effort to fill and heat the tub eight times and some of the dwarves didn’t bother; there was no way he was bathing after any of the miners. What would be the point? He’d come out dirtier than when he went in.
He dressed hurriedly, he wanted to leave for his evening walk before someone roped him into helping with chores. It was his turn to do the dishes and that was enough for him. Washing the dishes after eight dwarves, who ate more like pigs at a trough than men, would take him two hours as it was. He tied his boots, grabbed his satchel and headed out.
“Going for your walk, Tiberius,” Morom said, his dirty face split into a knowing grin.
“Indeed.” Tiberius returned the smile. Idiot. The fact that he went for a walk every night didn’t seem to stop Morom from asking him each time. He’d often call him Moron to see if the daft prick would notice. He never did.
“Well, be back for dinner,” he said.
“And dishes,” Brok added with an obnoxious laugh.
Tiberius smiled, turned on his heel and headed towards the forest. His walks initially started as a way to escape the hustle, bustle and stink of a house filled with eight men and their dirty, sweaty bodies. He’d find a secluded spot, pull out his pipe and tobacco pouch, smoke and watch the moon and stars. An hour or two leaning against a broad oak, watching the approach of the night sky through the lush canopy would do wonders for his temperament. Well, it stopped him from slitting the other dwarves’ throats in their sleep at least.
Later, as he washed dishes, he strained to hear what the other men were talking about at the dining table. Normally, they were plenty loud, but now they spoke in muted tones and his curiosity won over his desire to finish the task.
“What are you gossiping about?”
The seven of them quieted immediately and looked at Tiberius as he approached, dishrag in hand.
Klaus cleared his throat, then looked around the table. A few of the others nodded.
“We found something,” he said. “In the mines.”
Tiberius’ eyes widened as his mind raced. What had they found? A dragon’s lair, a dead body? “Well, what is it?”
Klaus slid a hand into his pocket and produced a gem. Not just any gem. Tiberius took the stone and studied it.
“It almost looks like glass, but you don’t mine glass. It’s definitely not a diamond; we’re not sure what it is,” Klaus said.
“Very curious.” He held it up to the sconce. “Why were you keeping this from me?”
“We didn’t want you to get excited, we think it could be worth a lot.”
Tiberius smiled, a rare genuine smile that reached his eyes. The thought of riches had that effect on him. “A newly discovered gem could be worth
much. There’s more?”
“There’s plenty,” said Brok.
“We want you to see if you can make something out of it,” said Klaus.
“Bring more.” He pocketed the prize and returned to the dishes.
They brought more, copious amounts which they piled high in his work shed. Tiberius tried to manipulate it into armor or weaponry but it wouldn’t melt. He couldn’t smash it with his hammer, it refused to yield under any pressure and no weapon he owned would cut it. After weeks of trying, he was frustrated. They had a pile of the material, but if he couldn’t turn it into something useful, it’d be worthless. A pretty gem to adorn a lady’s trinket box perhaps, but nothing more.
Tiberius trudged into the forest, his mood more sour than usual. The discovery of the gem, which they were calling glasz, had excited him. He’d believed they’d found their way out of this squalor. Even split eight ways, he foresaw great riches and perhaps even a small amount of fame around the kingdom, which brought with it many rewards; women, food, ale. What more did a man need? But if he couldn’t morph it into something useful, he’d be stuck in his humble cottage with his annoying companions. The other dwarves hadn’t seemed perturbed by the anticipated loss of coin. They talked about having a roof over their heads and full bellies as though that’s all life had to offer. Tiberius wanted more. He deserved more!
He stomped between trees, his heavy boots crushing twigs and leaves. So self-absorbed was he in his own misfortune, he didn’t notice the sky darken; a cluster of grey clouds swiftly covering the moon. It was only when he stumbled on a root and crashed face-first into the dirt, his hands splayed out in front of him, did he come to his senses and look around.
He sat up and wiped his hands as he scanned the forest. He saw nothing unusual, besides the fact it was so gloomy. Even as he sat, the darkness increased, the air thick and oppressive. He stood, brushed down his clothing and cautiously continued his journey, searching for the small clearing with the uprooted stump he’d claimed as his smoking place.
As he approached, weaving carefully between the oaks, birch and maple trees, the cloud cover over the moon dissipated and the celestial orb shone brighter than he’d ever witnessed. He gasped, leaning against a nearby fir as he watched the moonbeams collimate and shine down, a singular beam
disappearing into the woods. He ran, desperate to see what magic was taking place.
“Goblin’s balls,” he said when he reached the outskirts of the clearing.
There was a woman standing in the middle, clasping a round object, arm raised as though what she held was a sacrifice to the sky. The moon’s rays shot directly into both the object and the witch, illuminating the ground beneath.
Tiberius watched, half hidden behind the trunk of an oak, as the bright light disappeared and the woman collapsed to the ground.
With no consideration for his own safety, he ran and knelt beside her still body. He could see clearly now, the moonlight having returned to the comforting glow of an ordinary night. The woman was beautiful, her porcelain skin looked smooth and fragile, as though it would shatter at the slightest touch. Her expression was serene and her long, dark hair fanned out across her breasts, firm and perfect, rising and falling with each breath.
He slowly moved his hand to her chest and slid her hair away so he might have a better view of her cleavage that spilled from the top of her corset.
“Get away from me you pervert,” she said and Tiberius felt the sting of her hand across his cheek. She sat up and he crawled backwards.
“I’m sorry, I was just seeing if you were
She raised an eyebrow at him and then started searching the ground around them, her head flicking back and forth.
“Where is it? Where’s the apple?” she said as her agitation increased.
He looked and saw the blackened orb resting in a tuft of grass behind him. He grabbed it, scrambled to his feet and stepped away from her.
“You mean this?” he asked as he tossed it into the air and caught it.
She stood, her eyes narrowed, arm outstretched.
“Give it to me, little man,” she said.
Tiberius laughed. “Little man? Don’t be fooled by my short stature. I’m more man than you could handle.” He grabbed his crotch with his free hand and squeezed as he blew her a kiss. He was surprised when she laughed.
“What’s it for?” he asked.
“Just give it to me.”
“Not until you tell me.”
She sighed, walked towards the edge of the clearing and sat on his smoking stump. “Fine. I’m not up to traveling yet anyway and seriously, what harm could you do?”
“Take me to bed and find out.” He smirked and sat a few feet away on the grass, still holding the apple.
She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “It’s a poison apple.”
Tiberius looked at the apple’s shiny black skin. “Who in their right mind would eat this?”
“It won’t stay that way, you sodden-witted imp.”
He cringed at the insult. “Well, who’s it for?”
“As if I’d tell you.”
He raised his sleeve and showed her a surprisingly muscular arm. “I’ll throw it out there and you’ll never find it. Some animal will eat it. And don’t lie, I can spot a farce a mile away.”
“Alright! It’s for the queen. Happy?” She crossed her legs and folded her arms across her chest, then snorted out a breath and glared at him.
Tiberius stared at her, jaw dropped and eyebrows raised. He was shocked at the horrible thing she was planning and amazed she’d actually told him. His gaped mouth eventually morphed into a grin when his mind made the connection between the information and the chance for gold. He studied her face, looked beyond her beauty, and though he’d never seen her up close before, he knew who she was.
“You’re Lady Sypheria; the queen’s sister.”
She raised an eyebrow and smirked. “You’ve heard of me then?”
“Indeed. Well met, my lady. Should I stand and bow?”
“I think under the circumstances we can skip the formalities. Now, may I have my apple?”
Tiberius gripped the blackened fruit tighter. “Do you want any help?”
“What makes you think I need help?”
“Because, if you were powerful enough, I’d be dead already, not sitting here holding your precious apple. So, I conclude that, while no doubt powerful, you’re not above needing aid.”
“Not as dumb as you look, are you? I have already tried to kill her.” She held up two fingers. “Twice.”
“The first time was with an enchanted comb, I used a glamour to change my appearance; posed as a servant and snuck it into her chambers. It was another two weeks before she finally put it in her hair.” She smiled and leaned forward. “It worked perfectly. She collapsed, in a coma that no one could wake her from. I was weak from casting, so the king assumed we’d both been poisoned.”
“Then what happened?” he asked, interested.
She scoffed and sat back, shaking her head slightly. “True love’s kiss.”
“Oh.” Tiberius frowned. “Why not hire someone to kill her?”
“I tried that too. I engaged the services of a huntsman to bring me her heart and liver, which I later ate. Then I found out the queen still lived and I had feasted on the internal organs of a deer.” She screwed up her face to show how distasteful it all was. “You were going to eat your sister’s heart? That’s disgusting…………….
Great read. Loved it.