"Looking-glass," Adriane whispered, tracing a path down the ornate silver design carved down the side of the frame. "My friend." Slowly, she dragged her finger back up. It was a truly exquisite piece of art. The delicate workmanship, the purest of gems… Work truly befitting the masterful dwarfs who had sold this to her mother. Diamond studs on emerald branches, a bronze trunk twisting downwards. What a beautifully crafted apple tree. "Listen to me! You can hear me, can't you? Mother said you were magical, and she never lies."
Silence answered her.
"Lied," Adriane amended softly. "She never lied." Was it the mirror or her fingers that gave a slight tremble?
Still there was no answer. She pressed a finger against a diamond apple, digging her fingernail into the space between the gem and the emerald. A threat. "Answer me. I know you can hear me perfectly."
Distantly in the mirror, a faraway fog shifted behind Adriane's image in the glass.
"Come out!" Adriane hissed.
Instantly the mirror darkened to ebony black, like a solid wall of obsidian, and the fog which had lingered in the background rushed forward and solidified into a ghost-like face. But in contrast to its former reflection of Adriane's beautiful face, the ghost’s face looked decaying and shriveled—its cheeks drawn tight over bone, its sunken eyes like two depressions. "What," it breathed huskily, "do you want?"
Adriane stared at the mirror, eyes narrow with disbelief. “Mother told me you’d show my true reflection.”
The fog trembled under the gauzy skin of its face. "I am as you are to me."
“What?” Her face darkened. “Don’t play with me, Looking-glass.”
“I am as you are to me,” it repeated.
For a moment, Adriane leveled a glare at the decrepit face. Her fingernails dug crescents into the palms of her hands. “You liar,” Adriane whispered, with a furious gleam in her eyes. “You liar. The king himself picked me! I am the most beautiful, fairest woman in this kingdom, and—and my mother told me I am. You’re just a looking-glass! What would you know about beauty?”
Adriane twisted her fingernail between the studded diamond apple and the emerald branch. “I am your master. I am the Queen of this land. Do you realize that if I wanted to, I could order the guards to smash you into a hundred shards?” The diamond gem was nearly wrenched out of its position.
The fog writhed violently, disintegrating the face into a thousand white particles. Slowly, they weaved together again – this time not into a wrinkled old woman’s face, but a face carefully wiped clean of any distinguishing features.
“Better,” Adriane allowed, though she did not pull away her fingernail from the mirror’s apple tree. “Now, Looking-glass: who in this land is fairest of all?”
The face said nothing.
“I said, who in this land is fairest of all?”
The fingernail dug in further, tearing the apple nearly out of its socket. The fog shook and abandoned the shape of the face, melting into a murky gray mist at the bottom of the mirror. “You are,” a weak, tiny voice choked.
Adriane clenched the sides of the mirror, digging her fingernails into the sides of the mirror. “I can’t hear you!” she snapped.
“YOU ARE!” a thousand tiny voices screamed.
Adriane slowly released her breath, calming down. “Yes,” she murmured, leaning back in satisfaction and finally pulling her hands away from the mirror. “I am the fairest, aren’t I?”
Still quivering, the fog faded away, the ebony black disappeared, and the Queen could see her beautiful reflection again.
Once upon a time, a girl with snow-white skin and ebony hair entered the room.
“Oh! I didn’t know Step-Mum had a looking-glass,” a small girl said cheerfully. “And it’s such a nice one, too! Why’d she hide it away?” She gasped. “Maybe it’s—magical?” Tilting her head, she scrutinized the mirror carefully. “’Scuse me. Are you a magic looking-glass?”
Hesitantly, the mirror faded to black and the fog drifted into view, examining her. The small girl was staring curiously. Kindly. Innocently.
The fog became a beautiful young girl’s face, which smiled shyly and said, “I am as you are to me, O Fairest One.”
From behind a curtain, the Queen felt a furious fire lick away at the edges of her heart.