Riches and Royals
“Wait! You don’t even know where she is!” Violet called out surprised at Hansel’s irritation.
“I’ll figure it out!” He growled before catching himself. It wasn’t Violet’s fault he was in such a bitter mood. He sighed stopping for a second. “I’ve had an awful day.” He admitted. “I’m sorry. I’m not mad at you.I’m starving, I hate having my eyes visible, and at this point I really don’t want Guinniverre out of my sight for too long.” With that he kept walking through the castle. Violet began to feel bad for him. She had promised Guinniverre time but she was starting to feel selfish. The Queen herself had expressed a tired hungry mood. She could only imagine Hansel, whose stomach kept audibly giving his thoughts away.
“It’s this way.” Violet directed, turning him towards the direction of the dining room.
“It?” Hansel asked while following her direction. Violet nodded. As he walked forward he could smell something tickle his nose. It smelled delicious. “And Guinni?” he asked hoping it wasn’t rude to call her by her nickname in front of Violet.
“She’s there as well.” With that Hansel raced through the halls, peeking through each room curiously with a smile. Violet was trying to see them both as equals but it was much more difficult than she thought it would be. There had always been the queen and her strong clever guardian. Tying up his hair had only brought the image of a helpless pup and watching him waddle or run in excitement after being angry just a minute ago only made it worse. With all his devotion to her it was hard for Violet to see him as a child all these years. He had done his best to look older and stronger, and it had worked. She had to remind herself that they both were pups, they always had been. Inside those young frail bodies and outer display of emotions they had grown stronger together. She wondered if she had guarded Guinniverre all these years how she would’ve turned out. Would she have seen her too much as an incapable pup of royalty and spoiled her? She shook her head. How could two vulnerable helpless children escape the biggest curse in the land, twice? It wasn’t about Hansel not showing weakness, or Guinniverre secretly being royalty and having learned magic of her own. They were stronger together. Their bond had grown to the point that if you threatened one you would be faced with a threat just as bad from the other. She smiled. It was a different form of strength, and she was proud.
“Violet! you said you’d distract him!” Came a yell that gave away the Queen’s position. She had so much to do! She still had to get the lighting right so the window could see the sun descend perfectly. Creating a scene out of both of their dreams wasn’t something Guinniverre did every day. She had to admit, it was perfect. What else could she want other than to be back at home with another Rhioninian and her brother? Now they’d enjoy a warm rich meal together after such a long journey. They’d chat and joke while in beautiful Rhioninian clothing. All this after seeing her parents and finally being able to say good bye. She was queen again, just for a moment. There was nothing else she could desire. What else could Hansel want than to have a big delicious meal in an open space that wasn’t forced down his throat while being with his sister just relaxing as the sun went down without worries of danger? Or maybe it was the fact that for once he didn’t have to worry about pretending to be stronger than he was to redeem himself. He was on the very grounds that he feared the most, redeemed as a noble who had guarded the royal’s most precious treasure. Violet was stronger than the both of them and had sworn to protect them both granting them safety. She couldn’t think of a single other thing to create to make this moment any better.
“You heard the Queen.” Just as Hansel ran to the spot that had been given away he found himself on the ground having been tackled by Violet. The trousers suited her better, she was so rough! He could see the wolf in her when she was human! The voice of his sister and the smell of food was attacking his senses. He rolled over and squirmed to escape. Violet laughed. “You’re not getting out of here until the Queen says so.” Was that a challenge? Hansel took a second to think. He wasn’t usually this playful. Then again, his hair had been tied up for at least an hour to show his weakness of only being himself. She saw right through him from the start. If she wanted to see who he was, then so be it.
Violet flinched in surprise. He bit her! Even without his hair a mess he acted like a feral child! “Now you’re definitely not getting out!” She exclaimed as he crawled out of her grasp. She jumped over him, grabbing him by the chest. He distracted her blinking his eyes in a beg of mercy. She could hardly withstand the pup eyes and let her guard down for a moment as his knee threw itself at her stomach. She took a second to breathe, rising from him as he turned them over. He looked weak on purpose! She tried to push him but he was heavier than he looked. Keeping a foot on her he rose as quick as he could but Violet soon grabbed his leg, pulling it with a yank and it started all over again. Her strength and speed against his weight and wit.
Guinniverre stepped out to make an announcement before being caught off guard by the fight on the floor. Violet was on top of Hansel pulling at his hair harshly. As soon as he heard her steps he went limp on the floor helpless. She thought she had won but he wouldn’t- Slowly he rose his face to the queen giving her the same pleading eyes. He did- Had he let her bruise him on purpose? He wasn’t a puppy at all! He was more like shrewd cheating rat! “Violet! I told you before, Hansel is a noble! You can’t treat a noble that way!” The queen was upset, with that Violet huffed angrily as she stood up. “What was your reason now?”
“He bit me!” Violet argued causing the Queen to scoff. Hansel was her brother, not some sort of wild animal.
Hansel stood up to face Violet with a smug grin for a moment before returning to his victim expression as he turned to the queen. His face quickly turned to amazement- the queen was before him. He had expected Guinniverre to be in some sort of gown of course, but was that Guinniverre? Her braids had become a braided bun on her head, decorated with pearl beads and opal pins. She wore a white, silver, and blue dress that spread across her and covered her feet. Some opals and stones laid around the dress. The top was adjusted to fit while the bottom was gathered to not be too big on the young queen. Lace covered the front, and lead to the thin sleeves. She wore white gloves and even her lips were touched with a bright pink. Each detail had been accounted for. He slowly looked towards Violet, who tried to mimic his smug expression from earlier. He forced himself to not show the shock by immediately bowing. “Reine.” He addressed.
Guinniverre giggled at his seriousness. His surprise mirrored her own when she had seen him dressed up. “I’d like you both to join me for dinner.” Hansel grinned quickly in excitement, as if he needed an invitation. With that the queen entered the room and Hansel raced behind her. Violet held herself from grabbing his collar to slow him down. With her luck he’d pull the victim card again, turning the queen against her. Although she had to admit, this was an amazing job.
Violet looked around, torches all on fire giving the room light. The curtains waved welcoming them as they perfectly showed the sun beginning to dawn. The table had been lit and a feast fit for royalty laid on it. The room had been dusted and polished. For a moment as the queen laughed with her companion it was alive again. For a moment Violet could imagine everyone still inside enjoying feast and dancing to music with wine in their hands. Large dresses going in circles with handsome men holding their wives. Before the fall she had been to the castle once, and it wasn’t on good terms. She had always wished to be in one of their galas as a guest, and now there she was.
Hansel pulled a chair for his sister, before sitting besides her. Violet was going to need to sit across from them. She wasn’t the one who had protected the queen for the past few years, it was him. He could hardly take it. How did they even get this here? There was roasted pork and turkey. There were bread rolls and mashed potatoes with fruit bits. There was pasta dripping in some sort of sauce. At the end there was sugar plum pudding and chocolate cake! After the long day his stomach tried to force the boy to start but he looked over at his sister awaiting instruction. This was a special moment, and he wasn’t going to be the one to ruin it.
Guinniverre looked at her brother as Violet sat down across from them. He had very possibly the biggest smile she had ever seen on his face. His eyes sparkled with desire and comfort as he leaned over and placed his head on her shoulder to calm himself. “What are you waiting for?” She giggled. “We may be dressed up but I just want us to have a night of comfort, enjoying each other’s company.” She declared looking over at Violet. “I’ve never done this before-“ she chuckled honestly before she took a glass filled with juice and held it to the center. “To each other?”
Violet smiled before taking her own glass and holding it to the center. It wasn’t the fanciest of speeches, but it was an honest one. “To each other!”
Hansel took his own before standing slightly. “That our bond may grow stronger, and that Rhionine may rise one day!” He held his glass to the center as the cups clanked together. Violet clapped. The rise of Rhionine, she thought. She could toast to that! With that he sat back down and began to pile a mountain of food unto his plate, more than ready to make up for the past few meals he had missed in the day.
“So Violet!” Guinniverre exclaimed after she had eaten enough to take away the pain in her belly. “I told you our story from top to finish! You never told us yours!”
Violet was taken off guard by this. She was worried about frightening them. “Well I-“ she started. “Someone had said that I had taken some-“ she paused to think.
Hansel stopped eating before he chuckled sensing her trying to avoid the truth. She probably thought they were too young to endure what she had gone through. “Was that the best lie you could start? Violet, we’ve been through a lot. Don’t try to sugar coat things.” He could sense his sister’s stare of disapproval go through him. He was being rude to his sister’s guest. He quickly tried to fix it. “What? The Queen said I need to go on a diet after this. So it's best of you don't add extra sugar?" He cringed slightly at his poor attempt to turn it into a joke.
“The last thing Hansel needs is more sweets.” Guinniverre continued, pinching his cheek. He retracted quickly as Violet laughed. He had tried to fix it, so she didn’t mind helping at his expense. He took a large bite from his plate in annoyance, but it only further proved Guinni’s point.
“Okay! For the sake of the noble’s diet I’ll give nothing but pure honesty.” Violet giggled before her face became much more serious. “I used to live in one of the villages of Rhionine, bordering the northern forest. I had been sent by my mother to send some medicine and goods to my grandmother who was ill and old. On the way there a wolf like beast tried to lure me from the path. He tried many tactics, but I knew he wanted to eat me. I ran home and he was right there, waiting! I ended up outsmarting him and drowning him in the river with a few stones." Guinnivere paid full attention as Hansel leaned in. She spoke about drowning wolves like it was nothing!
"Afterwards on my way home I was attacked by a pack of wolves. I thought they’d kill me but I was only bit. After that, they left. It scared me, but I continued on my way. When I arrived home my mother was trying to bandage it up but when the moonlight streamed in.” Violet paused thinking about the moment again. This was probably the first time she had ever told her story to someone and looking back was painful. “I became one of them. I lost control and I killed her.” Violet stopped, looking down to stare at her plate. Then without warning she left the room.
“Violet!” Guinniverre called out. She stood up ready to go to Violet’s side but Hansel quickly grabbed her wrist.
“Don’t.” Hansel turned to her slowly helping her sit back down. “If you go, she’ll feel the need to hide how she’s feeling, like when she tried to lie about the story. She doesn’t know us as well as we do each other, and from the looks of it she doesn’t talk to others often. You know how hard it was for me to tell you about Lucia. She might just need some time to herself.” Guinniverre slowly nodded in understanding but kept quiet, feeling bad for having wanted to know Violet’s past. Hansel noted this and tried to break the silence. “This is delicious!” He exclaimed filling his plate a second time. “Was this your magic? It’s better than Adiscordia’s!”
Gretel took another bite before confirming it. “You’re right! It is pretty good!” An idea filled her mind as she beamed. “Hansel! Do you know what this means!” He was caught off guard by the mood change as he shook his head. “To be so clever, how can you be so dense!” She exclaimed knocking at his head as he moved. “I can make food for us, and everyone else back home! We don’t have to be poor anymore! No one has to be poor anymore!” She exclaimed before catching Hansel’s expression. He wasn’t smiling. Why wasn’t he smiling?
“Guinni. You use it for good, but it’s dark magic. Once anyone realizes that there’s magic involved, there’s going to be a witch hunt.”
“But I’m not a witch!” Gretel immediately argued. “I just want to help people! I don’t want to die of starvation!”
Hansel felt a pang in his chest. He had spent so much time hating Adiscordia. Was this what she had felt before the darkness consumed her? He stood up and kissed her forehead. “I know. Guinni, why do you think that I need to call you Gretel at home?”
Guinniverre was confused but decided to continue. “because your people hate Rhionine?”
Hansel shook his head. “People fear what they don’t understand. Instead of searching for the truth, they try to stop what’s scaring them, even if it’s nothing to be afraid of. People never asked if Adiscordia needed help. They left her far away, and when they learned of the curse's threat they wanted to kill her. People never asked if the Rhioninians actually started the fire, they never tried to talk to the King, they were never interested in the truth. They saw that horrible things that happened and wanted to make sure it never happened again. If you use magic at home, some people may understand but many wont. They'll fear what you’d do when you got older. The power that you have, may need to stay here, with Guinniverre.” He confessed.
“But Hansel I could save us! You don’t know that they’ll be afraid!” Gretel defended.
“You can save us, without magic! You didn’t need magic to kill Adiscordia did you?” He watched as she slowly shook her head. “You can save us, and the whole village, without magic.”
“How?” Gretel pouted. “I’m not rich! I can’t buy or produce food, or work my way in a day’s time to save the village out of poverty!”
Hansel patted her head. He wasn’t going to ask for it but the solution was obvious. “I thought I was the dense one.” He mumbled with a mouthful of food.
“That’s different!” Gretel pouted nearly drowning in her pearls and lace with her arms crossed. “It’s not like I can bring riches into the slums and lift it from poverty! How?” Hansel nearly choked on his food. She was joking right? There was no possible way that she could have been that close and missed it. “I’m serious! If we don’t come back with some sort of magical solution to starvation, our parent’s will probably just throw us back into the forest! I am not fac-”
“Reine Guinniverre!” Hansel exclaimed standing up and grabbing one of the closest things near him. “I will take one of these golden goblets, embedded with precious stones that could probably feed an entire family in poverty, and even pay for livestock, and new property and harshly throw it at you if you don’t stop!” Guinniverre was shocked by his tone but the realization dawned on her quickly as she took the goblet.
“but these are Rhioninan…”
“People fear People. Not riches.” He explained. “Do you think no one has come to try to steal the riches of Rhionine? Why do you think Violet needs to guard it? It’s your inheritance, and gold is gold no matter where it’s from. You’re wealthier than anyone back home.” Hansel emphasized.
Gretel stared at him blankly. “We’re saved?”
Hansel nodded with a smile. “We’re saved.”