“… I’m so sorry My King, I should have said something sooner, but I was frightened. She said she would kill me next. When I heard that Sno was not dead, I went immediately to and find you. You weren’t in the tower, and she found me there. Then she had the guards place me here” Esther explains tearfully, through the bars of the dungeon cell.
The King nods his head. “Let her out..” he orders the guard at the door of the dungeon.
The guard pulls the keys from his belt and inserts one into the lock. The dungeon door creaks open and Esther stumbles out. The King smiles softly, pulling her into his arms.
“Esther, child, I regret that you were put through this hardship. I’m sorry that the Queen tried to unjustly punish you for something she’s done. I need you to show me where her study is.”
Esther leads the way to the basement study. She pushes open the door and walks inside. The room is dark and gives them the impression its unused. As the King enters, he notices the room appears nearly empty. The only things in the room are a couch, a dresser with a vase of peacock feathers atop the dresser, a mirror and a large tapestry.
“I don’t understand. There was a large black pot. There were books. There were..” Esther stammers.
“So you’re saying my Queen is a witch?” The King demands, horrified.
“My King, I’m not accusing her of being anything. I know she tried to hurt Sno, I don’t know why this room is empty. You must believe me. When Charming arrives, he need only kiss Sno to break the curse.” Esther says breathlessly.
The King’s eyes widen. He isn’t sure what he should believe anymore. He is fairly certain that Regina is behind it all. But without proof, how is he supposed to know the truth. Perplexed, he leads Esther from the cellar study and up the stairs to the highest tower within the castle.
“Esther, I want you to stay in this tower. Remain out of sight. You will be safe here..” he instructs her, as he closes the door.
Meanwhile, Charming is nearing the edge of Eleabeth.
“Just a little further..” he says aloud, patting his Horse.
He can tell she is tired, and thirsty. He knows he will need to stop soon. It is nearly sundown, he knows the Kingdom of Aciemma is a full three days ride. He still has another night before he will arrive at the castle. In disgust, he pulls up on the reins, slowing the Horse down.
“Just a little longer, and we will stop and rest.” He promises the Horse. She neighs in objection, and slows to a walk. He sighs bitterly and tugs on the reins, allowing her to stop. He pats her neck and climbs down.
There is a river nearby, and he ambles over to fill up his canteen. The Horse neighs loudly and trots over to the river, lowering her head to drink. Charming starts a fire and sets out his animal skins to be made into a makeshift bed. The stars begin to shine. His stomach growls loudly. In his haste to leave Aciemma, he hasn’t brought nearly enough food for himself.
The river besides him flows steadily and Charming wonders if there might be some fish in it. He fashions a pole and begins to fish, thoughts of Sno go through his mind. A tear runs down his cheek. He fears he may already be too late.
As the stars completely fill the darkening sky, Charming catches small fish. He roasts it over the fire, while silently wishing this night was already over.