The last peak of the mountain before the valleys, Snow Hill was caught between the clouds and always on the precipice of a frostbitten storm. Time shifted between static and flux polarities simultaneously shaping reality amongst Snow Hill in a temporal wake.
She stared at the mirror. It was her old life, her real life, and more than anything...she wanted it back. But the reflection was now glass, and although it looked like there was a version of her on the other side, there was not...just glass. No one would ever know. The blond girl walked away from the mirror and so did her reflection. The Looking Glass was left undiscovered, save for one. And she was too scared to stay, let alone tell somebody. Instead she exiled herself, and journeyed north up the Mountain Road in search for a fabled clan atop the highest peak; a clan of priests and monks.
It took her two weeks before she retreated back to her kingdom because a hunting party meant for the Gunslinger picked up her trail. They had been pursuing her under the misconception ever since. She had finally made her escape when they crossed paths with the Gunslinger and Charlie, holding the bolt action rifle. Something in her heart compelled the blond girl from Snow Hill to save them, even when it was against all her odds...
Now she watches them from the branches of the tall pine above with her hood up, hoping to hell that they don't decide to go down Snow Hill Road.
The Gunslinger is still injured, but now sitting up on his horse talking to Charlie as they came upon the crossroads. A sign over the turn told them what it was, and the Gunslinger knew. In fact he knew all along, it just took him seeing it in plain sight to realize it. Their blond heroine was from Snow Hill...
"How can you be sure?" Charlie questioned him.
"The color on her cloak...it was the same as the Inner Circle's..."
"The royal family's crest, except Snow Hill doesn't have kings or queens, and their not blood related....well maybe their distant cousins...but elected into position nonetheless."
"And what was she?"
Their hooded watcher drops down from her perch on the tree in between them and the road to her kingdom. "You must not go this way."
"She's the Persephone."
"What did you say?" her eyebrows wilt with their most innermost points up, and her eyes water.
Everything she had thought about the Gunslinger Clan was true. If she had only gotten to the top of the mountain's highest peak she would have gotten help from the oldest kingdom in the entire land, the priests and monks of the Gunslingers. She cursed the Porters! Selfish hunters!
"The Persephone Key holds her people's prosperity. She is forever cursed, forced to bind her being with the Looking Glass."
"Please stop..." she begged of them.
Charlie watched as she took her hood down and revealed her eyes after facing the Gunslinger's words. She looked at them and showed them both the universe, blue, green, grey, and everything in between conjuring a picture within their heads of the heavens above. That is when Charlie could see it, that is when he realized what they were dealing with.
Persephone was the harvest child.
By combining the pure essence of the Looking Glass with the spirit of the gypsy the people of Snow Hill sacrificed her life to the other side for their crops and riches. Everyday...for the rest of her days....she would spend connected to the Looking Glass, transported throughout time and the infinite universe. With no say in the matter, she took on her destiny with grace. She was a soul jettison; the last great light of her kind. Persephone willingly went before the ancient lords of old and they gave her to the Looking Glass, like it was a hungry god.
But really it was just a door of tampered energy from the mountain's core...a door to the other side... a door that the Gunslinger desperately needed to know about...
"It does not matter what I am. If you go down that road they will kill you, even if you are a Gunslinger..." Persephone insisted.
"I need answers." the Gunslinger got off his horse and walked towards her. Before he could pass Persephone, Charlie rode his horse over and blocked his path.
"I will not be responsible for letting you commit another massacre!"
"I will do what I must...no matter who is in my way.."
Charlie got off his horse and approached the Gunslinger. They were both ready to beat each other senseless. Perhaps they were just taking sides in front of the girl. Boom! The tension kept the surrounding area quite. Train breaks squeal in the distance. You could hear the water trickling under the Snow Hill Road Bridge. The creek called out to the Gunslinger. He persisted and Charlie wound his fist back to strike him.
A cry from the creek.
Charlie goes to punch the Gunslinger in the face, but before he can connect a crackle of explosions of metal against fire roar out from the creek. The Gunslinger runs past Charlie as he freezes. Part of him doesn't want to turn around, then he would not have to greet whatever new encroaching disaster is there waiting for them.
Charlie lowers his fist and turns around to find the Gunslinger and Persephone running for the bridge as shrapnel from the explosion rains down onto kids scattered in the chaos. Charlie catches up to them as they get to the bridge and spring into action: Persephone grabs a little boy not two years old. The Gunslinger puts his duster over the body of a burnt woman. Charlie looked down beneath the bridge, where the black smoke was coming from.
The train tracks next to the creek were mangled and the smoldering train was lain derailed in pieces all over. Some of the cars were imbedded in the bridge. The explosion must have killed their mother. The kids scrambled around the burning bridge screaming and crying. But something is missing, some part of this picture is still left incomplete... The Gunslinger rounds up another boy rambling to Charlie "...Papa...papa and Raleigh blew up into the water..."
Charlie ran down the bridge and along the shore. Before the Gunslinger could hand the kids over to Persephone she was taking off her cloak and gun-belt on the ledge. She looked back and smiled at them. The boys and girls screamed in terror as she jumped nto the black smoke. Persephone avoided the wreck, dove into the creek, and swam downstream. Charlie ran parallel with the stream and located the drowning Father and son. They were holding on to a piece of train wreckage. Persephone caught up behind them, using the current to boost her swim-strokes.
Charlie ran ahead to a decrepit tree that hung over of the stream, he climbed up and out, wrapping his legs around the branch and hanging upside down. The man was unconscious and Charlie could not see the kid's face. They rushed past Charlie and he was unable to grab a hold of them. Persephone stopped swimming and took out her bow. The rapids made it difficult for her, but by the time she got to Charlie hanging upside down over her she had gotten an arrow out of her quiver and was trying to load it.
Charlie grabbed Persephone and she yelled above the current, "LIFT ME UP!" He readjusted his grip to her shoulders and lifted her out of the water high enough to fire an arrow from her bow. Attached to the arrow was a piece of rope. The arrow stuck the piece of wreckage they were floating on and Persephone gave the other end of the rope to Charlie to hold. The rope went taught as the float stopped its journey down stream. It put a tremendous amount of strain on Charlie, especially with Persephone now climbing down it.
The Gunslinger guides the kids down the shoreline after Charlie, when he gets to them, Charlie is trying to wrap the rope around the tree he is hanging upside down from before it slips out of his hands, and Persephone is on the float trying to stir the father and boy awake.
The Gunslinger yells as the pressure snaps the arrow and the rope whips back to Charlie who is rocked off the tree and into the rapids. The float tips and falls over on Persephone. The two bodies drag her down to the bottom of the riverbed.
"Wake up!" the baby girl says, slapping Charlie's face. He coughs up water and she yelps, giggling and running away. Charlie gasps for air and looks up at the Gunslinger pulling Persephone out of the river. 'But if he did not save me, then who did?' Charlie thought, as he looked around. It was the Snow Hill Guard.
The children had rallied under them and the Gunslinger put the blond girl they all called Persephone down before the guard. They tried to explain, but he could have been speaking another language by what little response they gave back. Persephone was unconscious and unable to vouch for them. Instead of speaking or thanking them for saving the children, the guards arrested Charlie and the Gunslinger.
They were brought into the kingdom and taken to the brig inside the Palace of the Inner Circle. The brig was in the basement, the only other room beneath it contained the Looking Glass and where Persephone was being held prisoner. The same prison she has been living in her entire life.
The Gunslinger and Charlie waited inside the jail cell for someone to talk to them, but they were getting used to the notion of that time never coming. "We're going to get executed, aren't we?" Charlie panicked.
The Gunslinger did not speak but tried to think of a way to break out.
"Maybe I was wrong...maybe this place needs a massacre...where did they take Persephone?"
"We will find her once we get out of here..." the Gunslinger comforted Charlie.
They waited for some time, finally a firing squad came in to kill them. Before they did, a man with a platinum crown came in to ask them, "What did you do to Lady Persephone?"
"Is she okay?"
"She has not woken."
"We did nothing but try to save the lives of your young-lings." Charlie yelled out.
The fancy politician man and the guards were temporarily distracted by Charlie's outburst as the Gunslinger jumped in front of the unarmed crown-wearing man and the firing squad opened up on them. Most of the bullets were deflected by the bars and absorbed by the fancy politician they were using as cover. The Gunslinger threw his body at them, toppling most of them over. He enjoyed the move, using one thing to take out a number of enemies, a bonus it being the stiff politician. Charlie tackled the last one and the Gunslinger found his gun-belt. Charlie picked up a rifle and cracked the last guard in the head with it.
"She must be close..." the Gunslinger surmised.
They exited the brig and got to the staircase.
"Wait...There are stairs leading down."
"We're already in the basement. What's so important they make a room under the basement for it?"
The answer is quite clear to both of them and it goes unsaid...
Charlie and the Gunslinger ran down the stairs to save Persephone. Charlie heard shouts. He stopped and looked up the stairwell. Shadows flood the top and footsteps echo down. "THEY'RE COMING!" He yelled as he finishes running down the stairs. When he entered the room, the Gunslinger was already helping Persephone out of the throne she was tied to in front of a mirror.
The Looking Glass was engorged and the reflection was swelling; pulsating. The host was ready to feed. The throne was locked in and counting down, moving gradually towards the mirror.
The Gunslinger unraveled her binds, but Persephone was still asleep.
"It's the mirror," Charlie pointed out, "Look!"
The Gunslinger turned around and saw the ripple in the mirror's edge.
"This is what happens to her every day!?"
"Not today..." The Gunslinger called out.
Troops scrambled down the staircase after them. There was nothing they could do to wake her. She might not have drowned to death, but what little consciousness she had left was being consumed by the Looking Glass. Charlie braced for battle.
"...Not this time."
The Gunslinger took a deep breath of defiance and stepped into the Looking Glass in her place, disrupting the link between the portal and the kingdom. The glass shattered, and just before the Looking Glass broke, Persephone woke up to see the Gunslinger smiling on the other side. The portal sealed and the soldiers came crashing into the room. Charlie fired his rifle twice and took cover with Persephone behind the thrown.
The mirror was thrown at the doorway of the staircase and smashed over the heads of the soldiers. It was the Gunslinger. He really did like that move. He drew his guns and called out to them, "Is there another way out of here?"
"This way!" Persephone showed them.
"How did you do that!? The mirror shattered!" they asked him as they ran through the bowels of the palace.
"When I stepped through the Looking Glass I was transported to Persephone's home world, but it was a different time and place entirely."
"Home world?" Persephone incredulously interjected.
"Yes. The technology there is far more advanced than the Snow Hill here and once I figured out the equation between times, I took the portal back at the exact same moment. I think we've all been taken from our home worlds and placed on this one..."
"You mean this isn't earth?" Charlie gasped.
"...Earth?" Persephone unwittingly proved otherwise.
They both looked at Persephone who had clearly never heard that word before, and the Gunslinger tried to let Charlie down gently, "...I don't think so, kid..."
"...But we must run now, I will explain everything once we're safe..."
The three of them escaped Snow Hill. The cycle was broken. She was given her life back. They returned to the road the Gunslinger, the Persephone Key, and the human...
Was this all part of the Trials?