“Good of you to join us, Sleepy.”
“Aye, sorry Doc, hammer got wedged in that wee guard’s cod piece. Took a bit to un wedge it.”
“And you collected a new shield?”
“Aye. Said cod piece is now just the right shape t’be a shield. Hitting anything with Sir Obliterator does have a tendency to do that. Pity to waste it an’ all.”
Doc looked across his fighting force. Okay, true this was the first time in generations that any of them had fought, having mainly moved to the mining and resources sector over the years. The thing about mining is that the techniques involved transferred well to battle: hit things hard and try to shatter it, drill a hole and fill it with explosives and make it go bang. Very recent experience shows that the last one doesn’t transfer to humans too well, it just makes a big wet mess. But hitting things hard, that worked just fine. The cleaners would be picking bits of the guards out of the stonework for months.
It also helped that they were below the natural stabbing and slashing point for humans whilst their kneecaps and dangly bits were at just the right hammering point for a dwarf. There was a good chance they just might pull this off.
“Hi-ho chaps,” murmured Doc. “It’s negotiation time with the prince.”
Doc led his dwarfs through the castle, encountering the odd guard as they went. Most guards chose to be helpful, providing directions to Bashful in return for not becoming part of the brickwork. Doc was proud of his cohort, none of them had needed to be persuaded to come despite the risks they knew it entailed. They risked their lives ever day deep underground for a bit of copper and gold. To free Snow White from the clutches of the Prince, death would be a mere inconvenience, a tale to tell the grandchildren when they got the chance.
Doc felt her abduction most keenly. As the oldest, he had come to look upon her as a great great great granddaughter. When she stumbled upon them and they had discovered her tale of woe, they had nursed her back to health and provided her with sanctuary and an oath of protection. But the witch-queen was cunning and they had only managed to keep her safe for a few weeks before that witch-queen rendered her both simultaneously alive and dead. She had barely been a wee slip of a girl, hardly eight, how could she resist the gift of an apple.
They’d built her a crystal sarcophagus so she may still enjoy the light and had left one of them with her at all times to protect her and had done so for four years, but what’s one dwarf to do against an armed hunting party out to collect a bride for the prince? In the commotion, the bewitched apple had dislodged from Snow White’s throat, breaking the spell. She was dragged away, weakly banging on the sides of the sarcophagus as they hauled her away, her dwarf protector held at a distance by a fusillade of arrows. Doc had quietly noticed the notches Dopey was carving into the head of his hammer as they went, he was already onto the second side.
After many twists and turns, many stairs climbed, and numerous guards left requiring a much wider shoe fitting, Doc and his band of dwarves made it to the Prince’s quarters. Considering the ringing sound a helmet makes when it’s hit with a hammer, Doc wasn’t surprised there was a guard present at the door. A bit surprised there was only four of them, but considering Grumpy had set himself the challenge of knocking a soldier clear through the ceiling — and having very nearly achieved it thrice! — perhaps willing guards had dwindled in number.
“Halt in the name of the Prince!” called one of the guard as he stepped forward.
“We’re here for an audience with the Prince.” Doc grumbled.
“He is not currently granting audiences to children.”
“He’ll want to see us, I’d wager. We’re here to discuss him claiming rights to something that very much has her own rights.”
The guard knelt down to be eye level with Doc. “You’ll have to go through us to get to him.”
Doc could hear Happy tuck his beard into his belt as he stepped forward, a barely audible grumble of “Fair enough.” rumbling like a mine about to cave in.
Just a word of warning: people do not make neat, comical, people-shaped holes in firmly closed and bolted and quite sturdy oak doors as they go through them. Well, the fourth one kind of mostly did, but only because the previous three had softened up the oak.
And because Happy really wanted a new shield, just like Sleepy’s.
The Seven Dwarves clambered up the heavily dinted and moaning pile of armour and through the very roughly guard shaped hole in the door. Stepping down into the Prince’s chamber, they all fanned out, most pointedly swing their hammers, Happy slinging his new shield across his back. Doc was in the middle, hands unencumbered as they had been all battle. Not once had he taken his ancestor’s battle axe from his back. Not one guard had he smote, had he cleaved in two. Doc’s axe had a purpose to its existence: to bring rulers down to size.
“I’m here for an audience with the Prince.”
The Prince walked towards Doc, stopping just a few metres short, seemingly unfazed by the carnage that the dwarves had just stepped through. Considering the damage they’d done to his door with his guards, Doc had to give him points for either bravery or stupidity.
“Then an audience is granted, dwarf. What is your quarrel?”
“You took someone that doesn’t belong to you, and we insist she be set free.”
The Prince turned to the side and gestured behind him. “You mean my princess in a box?”
Behind him, placed on a pedestal was Snow White’s crystal sarcophagus. Still inside, Snow White continued to beat her bloodied hands against the crystal walls. At this sight, Doc unhooked his battle axe and hefted it in his hands.
“Aye, the wee lassie. Let her go.”
“Why should I? She’s not yours, she belongs to me. I ordered her, special. In a few hours, we shall be married and she shall be my princess.”
Doc gripped his battle axe firmly and noted that Dopey had put down his hammer. His voice came out as the rumble of an impending storm.
“The only thing you said then that wasn’t bollocks was that she wasn’t ours. Let her go. Won’t ask a third time.”
The Prince unsheathed his sword, bright and sharp. “Shan’t.”
Dopey ran forth, dropping to his knees to allow the Prince’s sword to glide over his head. Doc sprinted forward, axe at the ready. As the Prince shifted position to counter Doc, Dopey vaulted Doc up as he swung his axe, slicing straight through the Prince’s sword and giving the Prince’s chin the closest shave ever.
“You missed, dwarf,” spat the Prince, “and I’ve had a better shave using a blunt spoon.”
“Did I now?” smiled Doc, eye to eye with the Prince. “Sneezy, you’re up.”
Sneezy whipped out his tin of St Augustine’s Miracle Snuff for the Cleansing of Sinuses and Cureation of Associated Maladies and shoved a good pinch up each of his commodious nostrils. He held up three, two, one fingers and then sneezed.
It reverberated off the stone walls of the castle, ringing the helmets and armour of the entire guard and dwarves alike. Behind the Prince, Snow White’s crystal sarcophagus shattered into a glittering cloud of crystal snow, freeing her. The sneeze’s shockwave echoed off the chamber walls and showed the Prince just how sharp and just how close Doc’s axe had got. The Prince, now a full head shorter, dropped to his knees as if begging for forgiveness before toppling sideways, never to receive it.
Doc and the other six dwarves all looked up to Snow White. Such a small girl of just eight. She walked down towards them through the remains of her sarcophagus, her bare feet crunching through the bright white powder that was left, herself finely coated with the glittering crystal that it had been. She stepped down from the dais she had been placed upon and walked up to the Prince’s body. She stooped down and pried the sword from his fingers. Doc’s axe had made it just the right length for her now and as she gave it a quick swing, it hummed the hum of a discontented hornet.
Doc swung his axe back onto his back. “Time to head back home, Snow. Time to get you cleaned up.”
Snow White stopped giving her sword gentle experimental swings and thrust it forward, the jagged point humming.
“Time to visit my step-mother.”