It's 'Fairest's release day! In honor of the occasion, I'm post a new 'Fairest' freebie story, 'Take a Look at Yourself'. The dwarves are finding they, too, have issues with their reflections, as they gaze into the mirror.
The glass had been cleaned, thanks to the princess’s eventual success in removing its grime. Garnet stared at himself in the mirror, seeing his reflection for the first time in…how long had it been? It couldn’t have been a hundred years!
“I didn’t realize I’d done so much damage to my beard,” he said. Gently, he reached up to feel the rough patches on his chin. He moved his hand with care over the tufts of hair he had left. “I never meant to tug so hard.”
“I’m sure you didn’t,” Opal said. He stood a little distance from his brother, out of range of the mirror. Coward, Garnet thought. “None of us look as well as we once did.”
“Perhaps it’s time to look better,” Garnet said, lowering his hands. “We should take better care of ourselves, instead of waiting around for some lost princess to do it.”
“It’s not like we were waiting around for princesses!” Opal said sharply. A little too sharply. “They came to us! Besides, when have we ever cared what we dwarves look like to outsiders? All we ever had was each other!”
“Yes, until we had her,” Garnet said. His hands longed to reach up, yank, and pull at the remaining hanks of his beard. “She changed everything for us.”
“We lost our brother, because of her. Letting her in was a mistake,” Opal said, shuffling his feet, but not moving any closer to the mirror. “She was an outsider. Eventually, the outside reclaimed her, as we should have expected it to. “ He shrugged again. The gesture made his shoulders tremble.
“If that’s true, why did you do the exact same thing Quartz did?” Garnet demanded. “Why did you let another princess into our home?”
“Well, you saw our living conditions,” Opal mumbled. His eye roamed about the bedroom, avoiding his brother’s gaze. “We were drowning in dirt. Didn’t seem like we had the time to do something about it ourselves.”
“Is that all there was to it?” Garnet demanded. He balled his hands into fists, willing them to stay at the level of his hips. “Getting the house cleaned?”
“Maybe more than the house needed cleaning,” Opal admitted. His gray eyes were watery, as they stared at the tip of his boots. “When I saw that witch at the door with another princess, I wondered if it was a sign.”
“A sign of what?” Garnet asked. He really wanted to reach for his beard! He banged one of his fists against his hip to distract himself from the urge. Pain spasmed through his hip.
“A sign that we needed to stop mourning our brother and…her,” Opal said. The last word emerged from his mouth with slow difficulty. “A sign that our lives have been on hold, ever since we lost Quartz. It’s like we’ve all been waiting for…something.”
“Or someone,” Garnet said, nodding. He unclenched his hands, as he stared his own homely face. What self-respecting dwarf tore his beard to shreds? How could he have let himself go like that? “Do you truly think that princess can bring our girl back from whatever she’s become?”
“No,” Opal said with a decisive shake of his head. “You can’t go back, whether you’re human or dwarf. You can only go forward.”
“I knew it,” Garnet growled. His hand reached for his chin. He stopped his fingers, willing them to stroke, rather than pull at the tuft it clutched at. “We can’t trust that witch queen or her promises. She might very well be tricking us into hoping that her princess can save our princess.”
“She might be,” Opal agreed. An odd gleam came into his eye. “One thing I’ve noticed about that witch queen, though. She seldom lies. She uses the truth to lure you into a trap.”
Opal took a deep breath, before he took a step forward. His reflection was now caught in the mirror’s reflection, even though Garnet stood between him and its critical gaze. Opal laid his thick hands upon his brother’s shoulders.
“If anyone has reason to mistrust every word that comes out of that queen’s mouth, it’s you,” Opal murmured. “You were closer to Quartz than any of us. You used to get yourself out of bed every morning with a curse on your lips. You mumbled nonstop that you wished she’d start sprouting boils, or for that her magic would backfire, turning her into a newt.”
“Aye, I did and I do!” Garnet said. All he had to do was think of that woman and whatever food rested in his stomach turned sour. “I know better than to trust that witch, no matter how hopeful her words.”
“Yet, you’ve decided to believe in those words,” Opal said. His fingers dug into his brother’s shoulders. “Why?”
“It’s not her words I believe in,” Garnet said, shaking his head. “It’s that girl.”
For a moment, blue eyes as clear and direct as the summer sky seemed to looked back at him from the glass. They weren’t the queen’s. The queen’s gaze had never been so bold. There was a strength in them, which both the witch queen and their darling lacked.
“There’s something about that girl, an energy, a direction which we brothers lost,” Garnet murmured. “I wonder if that energy might not be the key to saving our lost one.”
“Aye,” Opal said. Some tension seemed to run out him. A smile crept over his bushy lips. “I can see she had the same effect on you that she had on me.”
“I’m going to grow it back,” Garnet vowed. “If the curse falls upon that girl, I’m not going to run whatever happens. I’m going to go to that castle with a fine chinspread of whiskers to face whatever she awakens as.”
“Aye,” Opal said. He released Garnet’s shoulders and stepped back, but he was still smiling. “Whatever happens, let’s all go to the castle. Looking our best.”
Garnet nodded, as his own mouth trembled in an unfamilar smile. Perhaps it was his fancy, but he thought there might be a few new whiskers in his beard already.