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Mirror Mirror
by on February 16, 2022
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At first, Mirror hardly noticed the frequency of Faith’s trips into town. She herself was rather indisposed, and so it only made sense that Faith would go instead for food and other necessities. When she did notice it, well - it was easier to pretend she hadn’t. If she had failed to notice these trips, she had no cause to wonder at the reason behind them, and no cause to look over her shoulder in fear of what Faith might be planning.
Her mind seemed unable to lay the issue at rest. Despite her best efforts, the knowledge tugged at the corners of her mind, whispered in her ears…
“Faith?”
“Yes, my Mirror?” Faith glanced up from her desk, surprised to see Mirror standing at the bottom of the staircase. She seemed pale and drawn, but there was a glint of determination in her eyes.
“I… um, I ran out of yarn. I was-”
“Write down what colours you want, dear. I can go into town later today,” the pegasus cut Mirror off mid-sentence. Mirror’s expression crinkled.
She took a step forward, shaking her head. “Loose Thread changes his inventory often. It would be simplest if I went myself; he may not even still carry what I have in mind, now. I think I’m alright to make the trip, so…”
Faith turned her head sharply, frowning. “Oh. I see.”
Mirror broke eye contact. She looked down at the floor, feeling like a small child that has done something wrong.
Neither said a word for a long moment.
Then, scuffing at a spot on the hardwood floor with her hoof, Mirror broke the silence. “I had… better get going, then. Before it gets too much later. I’ll be back in a few days, I suppose.”
She didn’t look at Faith, although she could feel the pegasus’ eyes on her all the while as she walked to the door, took down her white cloak, and lifted her wicker basket. Opening the door a crack, she hesitated for a moment. Daring one glance at Faith, their eyes met, and Mirror looked away again.
Without another word from either, the unicorn stepped out the door.
The journey into town took her the rest of the day and the night, all injuries considered, and she rested awhile in a tavern before she made her way to the shop. There, she purchased four bundles of yarn in varying colours and widths. It was a pleasant distraction to look through the soft, colourful shop, which smelled like a warm library and cinnamon. She left it with a smile on her face.
Back to the tavern. Mirror started on a sketch for the cloak she wanted to make. It would be her biggest project yet, but she was more excited than daunted by the prospect. All in all, the trip left her feeling rejuvenated and lighthearted. She made her way back to the Wandering Woods faster than she had anticipated.
Standing outside the door of her cottage, Mirror raised her hoof to open the door- and then she stopped, a cold horror seizing her heart. Silently, she placed her hoof back down and listened.
“Rose, I know you’re having trouble getting her to cooperate, but if something doesn’t happen soon… Jonquil’s gonna run out of what little patience she’s got. Don’t you realize what that means?”
“I know, I know… I just need a little longer. She went into town a couple days ago - when she comes back, she’ll be tired. I’ll pressure her into agreeing while she’s too tired to keep her guard up, yeah? Just a couple more days. Wait in town, and I’ll come meet you when it’s done. For now, let’s just enjoy the time we have without worrying about Mirror.”
The first speaker sighed. “You’re right. It’s nice to have some time alone again… I guess I’m just impatient ‘cause I want you to come live in the castle again. I’m not supposed to tell you, but Jonquil’s had a room prepared for you. She really thinks you’re gonna succeed… And so do I.”
“Really?” Faith spoke with such joy and hope in her voice. Mirror’s ears were flat against her head now, and she took one step backwards, then another.
“Really! And get this,” The stranger spoke again. “Your room is right next to my regular station.”
“You know… I was really nervous about this, before. About turning in Mirror, I mean. She’s been so loyal this whole time. Well, loyal’s the wrong word, I think. She’s been stupid. You’ve helped me realize that I’m just doing what needs to be done. Thank you, Rivet.”
Mirror didn’t hear the next words spoken by the stranger. She turned and bolted into the woods, blood pounding in her ears, tears pricking at her eyes.
Hours passed by in a daze. She didn’t want to think, so she didn’t, just laying in a patch of grass and waiting. It wasn’t until the sun began to set that Mirror rose once again, setting back toward the cottage with a heavy heart.
Stupid.
Could she really argue with that? Here she was, going right back into the lion’s den after listening to it talk about devouring her. Mirror was under no illusions that Faith still loved her.
She opened the door and walked in, resisting the urge to glance at Faith as she removed her cloak and hung it on the wall with the others. Turning, she made a beeline for the stairs, wicker basket levitated ahead of her.
“Mirror?”
The unicorn froze mid step.
“What, you’re not even going to say hi? Come on, you’ve been gone three days. Let’s have tea?” Faith stood and began to cross the room. Each step heightened a growing sense of claustrophobia, until Mirror felt certain that she would be met with a knife through the ribs if she didn’t turn around right then.
Except… when she did turn, when she looked at Faith, it was… just Faith. No looming monster or cackling villain. A pegasus, shorter than Mirror, pale white fur and a dark mane, face crinkled in apparent concern.
A monster would have given her greater comfort.
“Faith. I apologize, I am quite tired from the trip - perhaps we can catch up later. For now, I’d like to go to bed and rest.”
“...Alright,” Faith frowned.
It took every ounce of energy in her body to walk up the stairs instead of bolting like a bat out of hell. It took even more to shut the door with only a quiet click, rather than slam it. Her heart was racing now, and in the four steps it took to reach her bed, tears streaked her face. She buried it in her pillow, curling into a tight, trembling ball.
She could not have said how long she lay there, weeping, but eventually she noticed that she had stopped weeping. Mirror stood, slowly, crossing the room. She felt… calm.
Okay. So Faith was untrustworthy - that wasn’t new. Hardly anything had changed, really.
What could she do about the situation?
Friends. Mirror needed someone on her side, someone she could trust in the way that she couldn’t trust Faith. Who could she contact?
A name came to mind, and her face flushed darker pink at the same moment. No, definitely not. She couldn’t put it into words, exactly, but… no.
Someone else. She chewed her lip, considering this option for just a little longer, but ultimately shaking her head. There was too much to explain, and she wasn’t even certain that they were friends, anyway.
It was the third idea to pop into her head that finally lead her to her writing desk. Mirror penned a brief message to Watermint, a kirin she had met a few years ago and had occasionally stayed in contact with since. The note was simple:
Watermint,
It has been too long since we last spoke, and much has transpired. I would dearly appreciate your advice. Might you be able to visit the Wandering Woods soon?
M.M.
Mirror paced her room anxiously from the moment the note was sent until the moment an answer arrived. Watermint, like many of those Mirror kept contact with, had formidable magic of her own - the reply was swift. A parchment materialized on her desk, carrying the scent of pine, and she rushed to open it.
I would be delighted. As a matter of fact, I find myself near your woods on business already. Few hours walk at most - how about tomorrow? Coffee, not tea. It’s grand to hear from you again, old friend!
The paper wasn’t signed, but it hardly needed to be.
When a brisk knock came at the door the next day, Mirror set her knitting basket under the bed and sped down the stairs, startling Faith. She opened the door with a bright smile on her face, stepping to the side.
Watermint was a stocky kirin with the air of someone much taller than her. Her fur was the colour of a mossy riverbank, her wild mane dandelion yellow which faded to white at the ends. Just as her note, Watermint brought the scent of damp pine with her, stepping inside as soon as the door was open. She swept Mirror up in a tight hug.
Faith shot her a stern look. A few strides brought the pegasus to her fiancée’s side, and as Mirror and the kirin separated from the embrace, Faith wrapped her wing possessively over Mirror.
“Mirror, you didn’t tell me we were expecting company! Who’s this?” Her voice was a strained sort of polite. She looked up at Mirror, mustering as sweet and loving an expression as she could manage.
Mirror flinched, just a little, at the contact. “Oh. Faith, this is Watermint. She helped me get ahold of an ingredient. Watermint… This is Faith.”
A look of slight awe crossed Watermint’s face, and then she grinned again, reaching out and shaking Faith’s hoof quite vigorously. Her accent was Irish, when she spoke. “Faith! Ah, Mirror told me all about you! Well, she fixed you up nice, eh? It’s nothing short of a marvel. I’d never heard anything like your case.”
Faith snapped her head over to look at Watermint, meeting the enthusiastic hoofshake with equal lackluster. “Charmed. Mirror’s mentioned you once or twice, although… I didn’t realize you were, well. One of them,” She raised an eyebrow, expression cold.
Watermint’s grin wavered for just a moment. She traded a glance with Mirror, who looked deeply uncomfortable. The unicorn took a step away from Faith, her own smile turning stale, and then ushered the kirin over to the table. Watermint took a seat. Faith sat across from her.
Mirror went to the kitchen, putting on the kettle and retrieving three mugs. She prepared two cups of tea, one of coffee, as Faith and Watermint made uncomfortable small talk. Returning, she placed one in front of Watermint, one in front of Faith, and finally, her own in front of an empty seat. The tension eased only a little when she spoke up.
“So, um, Mint. I was thinking we could go for a walk - I can show you that grove we talked about.”
The kirin was about to answer when Faith interrupted.
“Are you sure you’re alright to go on such a long walk, dearest? You ought to be resting after your trip to town. I wouldn’t want you to exacerbate your injuries.”
She frowned, looking genuinely concerned. A spike of doubt pierced through Mirror’s heart. “Thank you, Faith, but I think I can manage a walk. Besides, Watermint will be right there if anything happens.”
Faith frowned, but fell silent, taking a sip of her drink. Mint grimaced, briefly, and looked over at Mirror before she piped up. “I’d love to see the grove. Let’s head out before it gets too much later, and I’ll have Mirror back home before dark, sound good?”
Mirror nodded, standing again. She drained her cup, as did Watermint, and Mirror took both back to the kitchen. Faith fixed Watermint with a death glare. Very softly, leaning partially across the table, she whispered, “I don’t know what you’re up to, kirin, but Mirror is mine. Try anything, and believe me, I’ll know.”
“I’ve no clue what you’re on about, love, but that ain’t a healthy way to view a relationship. She’s her own pony. I’m her friend, and if you aren’t comfortable enough in your relationship to let her have friends, the problem ain’t her friends.”
Faith scoffed and leaned back in her chair, still glowering. Mirror walked back in. “Well, Faith… I suppose we’ll see you later?”
She sounded a little nervous, Watermint noticed, even as they walked over to the door. Mirror lifted her white cloak, wrapping it over herself. Faith came up from the side. She put her wing over Mirror’s back again, and when Mirror looked over at her, she reached up and set her hoof on Mirror’s cheek. In an almost sickly sweet tone, she murmured, “Just be safe, okay, Mirror? I love you.”
Mirror’s face flushed, and she offered a small smile. “I love you too, Faith. Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.”
Faith kissed Mirror, shot a sly smirk at Watermint, and made her way over to her desk.
They walked for a while in silence. Sunlight glittered on dew clinging to plantlife, which rustled in a breeze. A rabbit hopped across the path in front of them.
It was Watermint who spoke up first, a little awkwardly. “So… Faith’s back, huh? How’d you do it?”
Mirror startled a little. “Hm? Oh! Yes. Faith. Well, you know me,” she laughed, a nervous, short laugh. “I wrote a spell, tried it out… here we are.”
“That’s all it took?”
“Here we are,” Mirror stopped, and lifted her hoof to gesture at the grove. Thin trees grew in rows, each bearing a different fruit. Some were clearly out of season, yet they grew anyway, likely aided by magic.
Watermint didn’t push the issue. The pair wandered the grove, discussing the methods Mirror used to keep the trees productive throughout the year. Soon, both were smiling and at ease, settling into a patch of grass as they chatted. Several improvements to the grove came up; Watermint was a formidable gardener in her own right, and had quite a few ideas that would make the area a veritable eden.
They spoke, too, of Watermint’s travels and of the quest that had brought her so far from her home. An ancient relic that had once belonged to her ancestors, apparently lost to pillagers, had resurfaced recently. Mirror offered advice on the recovery of it.
It was, all things considered, delightful. By the time a hazy golden-orange glow came into the sky, Mirror seemed no longer nervous or afraid, as she had around Faith.
Watermint took this as her cue.
“Mirror, I’m loathe to bring it up, but something seems real off about this whole situation. Tell me honestly, how is it you brought Faith back? It can’t be as simple as writing a spell. That ain’t how curses work.”
Mirror’s face fell, and she looked down at the grass.
“I don’t suppose I can convince you that my magic is just that strong?”
No answer. Mirror sighed.
“Very well. I rewrote the curse with my own additions, and… I transferred it. To myself. Faith recovered fully, and will live out her life as she should have in the first place. I will live as long as the curse allows, with Faith by my side. Maybe it’s not the perfect solution, but I am happy.”
She risked a glance at the kirin, who was staring at her with unbridled horror in her expression. Mirror looked back at the ground. Her ears flattened.
“...And Faith… she’s okay with that? With you dying for her?”
“She did not have a vote on the matter.”
“Does she even know?”
“...Yes,” Mirror frowned. “I cast it in front of her.”
“You… Mirror, that’s downright cruel. I’m not expert on the subject, but condemning yourself to death right in front of someone who loves you? What next, you plan to rip out her heart and stomp on it? Really, I-” Watermint stopped short, then, because she had never seen Mirror cry before.
Tears glistened in the corners of her eyes, and when she tried to blink them away, one rolled down the right side of her face. Mirror refused to look up at her friend.
The silence seemed harsher than Watermint’s speech of a moment before. She felt helpless, watching Mirror cry, but what could she possibly say? She had seen Mirror flinch at Faith’s touch, and the way that she seemed shocked by even the smallest displays of affection.
“Mirror…?” Watermint’s voice was oddly delicate. It felt like the static air was swallowing it up only seconds after she spoke, muffling it. “Mirror, I’m sorry. That was harsh. I- I’m sorry. Please say something…”
The tiny frown on Mirror’s face seemed so much worse, paired with those silent tears, than if she had yelled at Watermint, or had gotten up and simply left. It was clear how hard Mirror was trying to stop them, to pretend she wasn’t affected. It scared her just a little.
She had pushed as hard as she had because Watermint had met Mirror. Mirror was steadfast, determined, cold and strong. She was defiantly optimistic. This? This wasn’t Mirror. It couldn’t be.
When had the witch gotten so incredibly thin?
When had she become so frail?
It was deeply unsettling to think about, but an idea took root in Watermint’s mind, and she couldn’t send it away. She swallowed.
“Why did you write to me, Mirror?”
“I… I wanted a friend. Just for a little while.” Mirror’s voice sounded so quiet, so frightened. Her shoulders were hunched, head ducked, as if she was expecting to be hit.
Gingerly, almost afraid that she might break the unicorn, Watermint wrapped Mirror up in a hug. She felt Mirror stiffen, and then, tentatively, lean into the embrace. The pair was silent as stone for a long time.
This time, it was Mirror who broke the silence. She pulled away from Watermint, finally looking at the kirin instead of at the ground. Her eyes were red, her face flushed from crying, but no more tears came.
“She- I don’t think… I don’t think she ever loved me. I don’t know.”
Watermint waited quietly, watching Mirror with concern. If she spoke, she worried it might break the resolve that had brought Mirror to finally open up, so she didn’t risk it.
“I thought she did, at first. She said she did. She even- she went to try and get a golden apple, to break the curse with the terms I set. But she got caught, and they tried to torture her, except it didn’t work because of my spell. And she made a deal with them, to let her go, and-” Mirror took a shaky breath, trying to calm herself down. “And she said that she would bring me back. But I thought maybe she didn’t mean it, maybe she was just trying to get out so that she could come home.”
“Bring you… bring you back? What? Mirror, who caught her?”
“Queen Jonquil.”
It was Watermint’s turn to draw in a slow breath. The kirin knew only a little of what Mirror had been through, but the name was familiar.
“But that wasn’t the reason?” Watermint pressed, searching Mirror’s eyes as she asked. Mirror shook her head.
“No. She just wants to go back home, with Jonquil, and with…” Mirror hesitated, looking away again. “With someone else, too. She doesn’t know what I heard. I have no idea if I know what I heard, but, um. Her name is Rivet.”
Watermint felt her insides turn to ice. She was filled with a sudden burst of anger and hatred, so strong that she was halfway to standing before she had realized it. For Mirror’s sake, she knelt back down. As calmly as she could, she asked a question.
“Why the hell are you still living with her?”
Mirror’s eyes welled up with tears again. She was trembling like a leaf in a storm, Watermint realized, and she looked so frightened.
“There’s nowhere else I can go, Mint. I could get a golden apple with a tracking spell and a teleportation spell, but… but I would rather live a few months, pretending that Faith loves me as much as I love her, than live a whole lifetime never trusting anyone. I don’t want to live in a world where I know for sure that she has never loved me.”
Quiet again.
After a long silence, Watermint got to her hooves and helped Mirror up. Neither spoke a word on the way back to the cottage, nor could either look at the other.
Mirror opened the door. Faith was doing something in the kitchen, but to the surprise of both of them, she had laid out dishes for three. She was… making dinner?
It felt oddly surreal.
Still, they took their seats at the table. Only a little time passed before Faith brought out food, setting everything down and taking her own seat right next to Mirror. She wrapped a wing around the unicorn, remarking, “You’re so cold. You shouldn’t have stayed out so long, Mirror; I was so worried… Anyway, I’m glad you’re back.”
Watermint cleared her throat. At the reminder of the kirin’s presence, Faith shot her a scowl. “So, how long is the kirin going to be here? If it’s very long, I’m going to need to run to town for extra food. They do eat a lot.”
Had a pin dropped, all three would have heard it.
“Excuse me?” Mirror was staring at Faith, eyes wide. Faith looked back without an ounce of shame, and Mirror stood up, pushing away the wing that had been draped over her shoulders. The pegasus finally seemed to realize that Mirror was upset, and she stood up, too, facing Mirror. Watermint stood as well, ready to intervene if need be.
“What? It’s true.”
“What it is,” Mirror raised an eyebrow, “Is racist. That’s low, Faith, even for you.”
Faith scowled at Mirror. “What exactly are you implying, dear?”
“I’m implying that you should apologize to my friend.”
“You’re really going to fight with your fiancée because your friend, who I suppose can’t speak for herself, might be offended by something I said?”
Mirror stared at Faith. For a moment, Watermint expected the unicorn to back down.
“Yes. I am. Whether or not Mint is offended, what you said was out of-”
Slap.
Mirror’s legs buckled, and her hoof immediately went up to the spot Faith had struck. She didn’t cry out, or whimper, or even move.
Faith was just as still. A line had been crossed. There was nothing that she could say, here, that would make anything even remotely okay. She had no power over Mirror, not now, not ever again.
Watermint was the first to move. She stepped between the two ‘lovers’ and helped Mirror, who still seemed numb with shock, to her hooves. Horribly calm, the kirin leaned in close to Faith. She snarled two words.
“Get out.”
The pegasus opened her mouth, but a shiver ran down her spine, and she shut her mouth with a clack. Turning, Faith fled into the woods.
Satisfied, Watermint turned back to Mirror. If the swelling patch on her face hurt, Mirror made no indication, and she said nothing when she was guided to a chair and made to sit down. She failed to react to anything said to her. Eventually, Watermint gave up.
Mirror would not eat, drink, or even sleep. If Watermint pulled her somewhere, she would go, but she didn’t move around on her own, either.
When she had run through a last set of attempts to garner a reaction, Watermint set off into town. She returned with a doctor in tow, only to find Mirror briskly cleaning, her mane tied up in an elegant bun. A few things struck her as odd.
First, the portrait on the wall was missing. The part of the wall it had hung over was lighter than the rest of the wall. Faith’s chair was gone, too, and the red cloak
On questioning, Mirror seemed… fine. She talked with Watermint, laughed, even gave her a brief hug. The pair agreed that they would meet up again soon, and Watermint departed.
Left to her own devices, Mirror found herself drifting about the empty cottage. She kept returning to one thing:
A single, perfect golden apple.
It sat on the table. Each day, at a certain time, Mirror went to the table and looked at the apple. She considered biting into it, breaking the curse, but each day she walked away. Today seemed fit to go exactly the same. Here she stood, gazing at the surface of the apple… and her reflection caught her eye. She looked into her own eyes.
Spite and resentment rose up in her chest. She glared at herself.
“Coward.”
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