Hansel stared at Violet with annoyance. He didn’t want to change in front of her. To add to that, she had tied his hair back with a big blue ribbon. Only his sister was allowed to tie his hair back!
Her eyes widened seeing his full face. She couldn’t find any reason why a boy would want to cover his eyes so badly that it gave him a wild look. Now she understood. Hansel had big, round, and expressive brown eyes with long eyelashes that made him look far less menacing than before. As he blinked against the light he looked far more like a lost puppy than a responsible big brother figure to the queen. He seemed younger, more vulnerable. She assumed they’d grow more adult like with time but for now the mysterious and strong image she had of him was now ruined by his eyes and now his plump cheeks pushing his lips into a pout. In the wild, the weaker vulnerable animals were killed off first. His hair was a smart move. His cheeks soon reddened in embarrassment and frustration as he snatched his clothing in the most polite way he could and went down the hill. He refused to change in the highest of a very visible hill, even if he desperately needed clothing. Noting this Violet ran off. Why did she feel as if she had just stripped him of something so personal? She was only trying to make him look more presentable.
Hansel couldn’t feel more out of place, but the woman who had given him clothes was right. Guinniverre needed comfort, and wasn’t that why he was here? He rushed to get the clothes on before scurrying down to meet the princess. The clothes gave him comfort. Apart from the fact that he wasn't half naked, now he didn’t have to worry about being awfully dressed in front of royalty. He stopped just behind her, not knowing what to say as she was on her knees crying quietly. Finally, he took her shoulder gently. “I didn’t know them, but I know you loved King Eudes and Queen Esther more than I can know. King Eudes fought for you and his kingdom until the end. He was noble, and a great king devoted to his people. Queen Esther spent so much of her time raising you with lots of love instead of letting the servants do it. She took a pause from her duties as queen to always make sure you were well and growing. I know they’d be proud.” Hansel knelt down offering some wild flowers to the stone.
The princess didn’t look at Hansel, instead she leaned against his middle. It was a soft pillow that helped soothe as she mourned. Everything he said was true. It was a perfect summary of the endless speech she struggled to start. “He tried so hard to save me.” She cried.
Hansel knelt down holding her. “He did. You were his greatest treasure Reine Guinniverre, and you’re still here. It's been years after it fell and now you've stepped foot back into Rhionine alive and well as a queen and healer. I don’t think they could’ve wanted more.” She would have never thought about it that way but Hansel was right. She did come back alive as a queen and healer. She did mature and learn, while never forgetting her roots as her mother had wanted. She had fought to protect those she loved like her father claimed she’d one day do. She let herself be held by him, thanking him. She didn’t want him to let her go. She stayed there for a while, nearly falling asleep before she was awoken by a grumble coming from his middle. She rose up in a better mood before kissing the stones.
“Papa, Maman. This is Hansel. He’s of enemy territory but has protected me since you left. I’ll be showing him home.” She introduced gently before looking at Hansel and then turning to the castle, then back at Hansel. She looked at him from head to toe, then toe to head, then back again. He had changed so much since leaving home. He had grown even taller and fatter. Facing his inner demons had taken away the dullness he always had had in his eyes. They nearly shone in some sort of relief to have been here and helped Guinniverre mourn what he had done. His cheeks being plump and rosy had made his age show in a much more childish look and smile. He was wearing a blue button up shirt and white jacket with white trousers. The jacket was long on him, and the shirt was made for someone slightly thinner but with all things considered, he looked like a Rhioninan noble. She could see the compass, as well as his necklace of tools bulging from his pocket. Where did he get these clothes? Did he have any idea what he was wearing? “Hansel?”
Hansel raised a brow as she stared at him. “Si?” Was she upset? Was she shocked? He couldn’t really tell. Was it the clothing? He knew it was Rhioninian. Was that offensive to her? “I didn’t take these I promise! They were given to me!” He defended quickly. “There was a woman in a red cloak with overgrown wild hair. She came out of nowhere but told me to comfort the queen and gave me this to wear.”
Guinniverre continued to listen to his defensive rambles not fully processing what he was saying. She came closer to him looking through his pockets as he was left in confusion. Finally, she found it, the badge of a noble. She attached it to his chest. “That’s the clothing of a Rhioninian noble. For protecting me and putting your life before mine multiple times, I can agree that you are now of Rhioninian nobility.” Hansel froze looking at the badge.
“but-but this was given to me-“ he repeated as he stared down at the badge. He didn’t feel he deserved it, but who was he to argue with the Queen?
Finally understanding what Hansel had been trying to say Guinniverre raced to the castle. “Intrus!” She had expected to see the castle ravaged and it's riches missing or damaged but everything was in place. It was just as if there hadn’t been a war at all. She walked slower as she past the steps and headed onto the long rug. She hadn’t put much thought on the fresh flowers on her parent’s graves but now it was clear. Someone had been guarding Rhionine. Was she not the last Rhioninian?
A voice called out. “It’s a pleasure to properly meet you Reine.” A young woman like Hansel had described bowed before rising. “Do you give me permission to proceed?” Guinniverre nodded carefully before grabbing Hansel’s hand as he caught up with her. He had wanted to catch his breath but her fear made him stand straight up, ready for danger. “Don’t be afraid!” Violet called approaching them slowly. “My name is Violet. I was in Rhionine long before you were born. I was a wanted criminal, but I had plenty of endurance. Hunters often wanted to find and kill me as a trophy but I was never caught. I wasn’t a bad person, I just made a few mistakes when I didn’t know how to control the beast. King Eudes noting my ability to escape danger so frequently offered me protection if I were to watch over his unborn daughter in case he or the queen no longer could.” At this point Violet was only a foot away from the princess, her eyes were unnaturally colored. They were familiar. It was then that Guinniverre recognized Violet as the wolf who protected her in the forest, as well as the one who had brought her home. The wolf must have been the beast she mentioned. “I would’ve introduced myself properly earlier, if someone-“ at this she sent a stare towards Hansel. “Wasn’t so good at keeping you safe without fear of hunters being involved.”
Guinniverre was shocked at this. After all she had been through the past month the fact that Violet was some type of wolf creature wasn’t the shocking. Alhough, this was the first time she had ever seen a woman wearing trousers. The most shocking to her was that there was another living Rhioninian. “Are there others?” She asked praying silently that at least a small group had escaped the war and survived.
This had gone far better than Violet had thought it would. “Rhioninians?” She shook her head quietly. “Not that I know of, but I would assume that some escaped before or during the war. There may very well be others, but I have yet to find them. Like you, they may be in hiding.”
Hansel heard Violet’s story. To know that he protected Guinniverre better than her own assigned guardian brought some confidence to him. After all they had gone through they were only a day away from home at the most.
Rhionine was at the border, and his father lived just at the left edge of that border near the forest. Gretel needed rest, and something to make up for the awful events she had just experienced. After a period of gloomy silence he spoke. “What I don’t understand is, how I'm dressed as a noble while the queen herself is dressed in rags?”
Guinniverre turned to him with a surprised look on her face. “That is a great question!” Violet exclaimed, sensing that he was trying to take the edge off of Guinniverre’s loss. Guinniverre looked over at Violet before having her arm pulled forward. “Hansel! Stand guard at the door, I’ll return Guinniverre to you soon.”
“I suggested it!” He argued as he watched Violet drag Gretel along with remarkable speed and strength. No wonder she was chosen to be her guardian. How in the world had he made her feel insufficient as guardian? He had doubts of leaving her with Violet, but she had been protecting them thus far. The castle was clear and there was no signs of danger. “If I hear so much as a whimper from her lips I’m running up there!” He yelled protectively. With that he stood watch at the door happy to see her royalty returned to her in some form. His thoughts were interrupted by his hunger. It was mainly irritating at this point. Looking outside he could tell it’d be supper time soon. He decided to explore the main room while keeping watch to distract himself.
Guinniverre soon found herself in a room that felt like she’d only seen in dreams. It was her mother’s room. Violet rummaged through the Queen’s closet while Guinniverre laid on the bed. It was so comfortable. “So have you been watching me for a long time?”
Why did all of the Queen’s dresses have to be so long? All of Guinniverre’s old dresses were far too small for her now. Violet took the smallest one she could see before going to the drawer to get out a few pins and needles. “I’ve been watching you two since you were being chased by the enemy and Hansel took you in. Come here.”
Guinniverre did as she was told raising her arms as Violet slid a dress over her. “Then why didn't you step in to save us from Adiscordia?” She asked quietly.
Violet pinned around the sleeves, pinning the bottom of the dress to lift it up a bit. “I did what I could in my own territory. There’s a bubble around that death trap. Adults are only allowed in if she wants them to.” With that Violet slid the dress off and began to adjust it at the seams. “Besides, if I had faith in anyone to protect you it would be Hansel.”
Guinniverre beamed. “I saved him. Then he saved me. Then I saved him again.”
Violet was intrigued. She looked up from her sewing. “Okay, tell me more.” As Guinniverre told the story of her pushing Adiscordia in the oven Violet sewed. She explained how Hansel was so easily embarrassed but was quick to regain his senses to trap her under a bed. She explained how she healed him. The more she explained the more questions Violet seemed to ask.
Violet had pulled the princess unto a chair as she released her hair from messy braids. “Why?” It was Violet’s growl that snapped Guinniverre from her thoughts. “You and Hansel! Do either of you own a hairbrush?” Violet struggled to brush Guinniverre’s hair. Despite the insult Guinni couldnt help but laugh at the irony. Violet’s own hair was a long tangled mess swept to the side! “You are Reine Guinniverre! I can’t just throw a ribbon on your hair and call it finished.”
“I like my braids” Guinni giggled.
“Hmm...” With that Violet was hit with an idea as she parted Guinniverre’s hair and started braiding. “I’m surprised Hansel hasn’t barged in here yet.” Violet muttered with a pin in between her lips.
“You told him to stand guard!” Guinniverre reminded. “He takes guarding and protecting me very seriously. Especially since you never know who'd want to come and steal Rhioninan riches. Everything's still here!”
Violet chuckled. “I can hear intruders from a while away. I even have traps set. It doesn’t make a difference. I just wanted to see how long he’d stand there.”
This caused Guinniverre to push Violet away while crossing her arms. “You’re mean! He’s probably hungry, tired, and curious to see everything. With that she hopped off the chair ready to go to him.
“Hey! I also wanted your dress to be a surprise!” Guinniverre didnt seem amused as she went down. “Wait! I’ll make it up to the both of you tonight. I promise!” Guinniverre slowly turned ready to listen. “Just let me finish your hair. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see the Reine return in proper clothing.”
“How are you going to make it up to him? I may be a royal but I’ve made Hansel a noble.” Guinniverre continued.
“The dresses were all leading up to one thing. I was going to hunt myself but you can do far more than heal can’t you?” As Violet said this Guinniverre could only guess to what she was referring to. She'd leave Hansel for only a moment. Her lips spread into a happy grin of anticipation.
The main hall and two side rooms were beautiful enough but he could only explore them so many times before he grew bored with it. What was taking the girls so long? It hadn’t taken him nearly this long to change. Then again, he wasn’t a royal. At this point Hansel was close to storming up the stairs in hunger provoked aggravation. The sun would be going down soon and it had been quiet the whole time. Did Violet really think that because she was Rhioninian she could just steal his sister away? Was he becoming jealous? He groaned hitting his head against the door a few times. Jealousy wasn't good, but Violet was still a stranger to him.
Violet soon appeared in a red velvet dress- without Guinniverre. Suddenly the childish eyes she’d seen before were nothing but pure anger. “Where’s Guinniverre?” Hansel asked in an eerily calm tone.
“She’s waiting for you upstairs?” Violet’s tone faltered. His eyes were shooting daggers at her. They were over expressive, no matter what he felt. Maybe her prank was a bit cruel after what the two had been through. He stomped past her rushing upstairs and pushing her slightly to the side as he called for the queen.