He had the same memory every night. The forest lit in flames. He was scrambling to get past the burning wood, and falling branches. He was terrified, and to make matters worse, he wasn’t a fast runner. He was surrounded.
“Mamma!” he looked around yelling, coughing in the smoke. A figure soon emerged from the other side of the flames. A strong hand picked him up, his face covered by the cloth of her dress. He felt like he couldn’t breath as she covered him entirely rushing through the flames. It was hot, a bumpy ride. Then he fell right out of her arms and shoulders, tumbling across the ground where his father was waiting. Others were running, some others trying to put out the fire. He looked back. “Mamma!” His mother laid there, barely observing. Fire feeding off her flesh. She had saved him.
“Run.” She croaked.
His father gripped the boy and ran as he screamed for his mother, tears flowing past his cheeks. He watched as she disappeared from view as his father ran with him.
“What happened!” others called out through the panic. “Who started it?”
“It was the Rhioninians!” He heard his father yell. “I saw them! An act of war!” The boy listened in further panic. It wasn’t the Rhioninians. He knew it wasn’t! It was his turn to make sure the fire was out that night, but he had fallen asleep.
“They’ll believe it easy. Keeps us safe.” His father whispered to him.
Hansel turned in his sleep. War had followed, because of his mistake. His mother was gone, and without her amazing treats to assist the baker he and his father plummeted into poverty. With some of the forest gone a desperate need for wood from the farther sides followed, and his father thrived as a woodcutter. Hansel at times would assist, growing faster and stronger without the endless stream of sweets his mother would have brought home.
The guilt never left. With every further rumor and comment of the Rhioninians, his self-hate grew stronger. With every comment on the war and death count, he wanted to scream out the truth. He knew that it was too late, no one would listen. So Hansel at seven years of age, already considered himself to have blood on his hands. It was his fault. There was no redemption, until he met Guinniverre.
Guinniverre banged on the doors.
"Papa! Maman!" The loud yells and sounds of clashing swords outside scared her.
"Princess Guinniverre. I have recieved orders from King Eudes to not let you outside. They may soon invade."
Guinniverre kicked against the door. "But how do you know that the King is safe!" She cried out.
"The King is willing to die for honor and for your safety." Her protector called out. She heard loud noises, and shouts. "Princess Guinniverre, you must go to the area we discussed!" The hiding place in case they invaded the castle. Panicked by the yells of war Guinniverre crawled into the closet, letting down the basket to the basement.
While lowering it, Something was wrong.
The basket would go no further. The hiding spot was in the lower quarters, unless they had gotten there already. The princess sat there in the dark, whimpering and crying. She cried herself to sleep. Finally, when she woke the voices were gone. She crawled out and climbed down, landing on the fireplace. Poking her Head out she saw no one. Then she made a run for it. She didnt know where she was going. She stopped as she was left at the steps of the castle.
Bodies laid on the ground, blood coating the ground in shining red. Some bodies were trampled or sliced beyond recognition by the sword. Guinniverre could hardly breathe. She walked slowly until she reached the center. The king lay there with a sword through his chest. His lifeless face caused the princess to fall on her knees. It was over, so soon? She looked around, it was obvious what had happened. The different flags showed that this was not only one enemy that had attacked, but a team up. The Rhioninans were outnumbered. A shout rang out.
“The Princess of Rhionine lives!” Guinniverre looked around in a panic. She saw no one, but it didn’t matter. They had found her. She was going to die.
Guinniverre ran behind the castle, looking behind her. She heard steps, unsure of their whereabouts she rushed into the forest. They could easily get lost. “MAMAN!” she screamed hoping her mother would find her. An arrow zoomed besides her and her mouth shut in panic.
Hiding place. She needed a hiding place. Looking around again, she saw no one, but there! There was large wood stack. if she could hide behind it-
Guinniverre rushed to hide behind it. she heard heavy chopping in the distance and couldn’t help but just cry. “Princess show yourself!”
Another voice began to echo as another person approached, getting closer to her. Could he see her? She could hear his steps.
“Move out of the way boy!”
“I won’t! This is working area! You can't bring battle to work areas! You could hurt
people!” There was a silence. “I heard you were winning the war. Weren't you?”
“A member of Rhioninian royalty has escaped, we believe her to be hidden nearby.”
“What? The princess?” He scoffed. “She’s around two years old. The King and Queen were killed, the princess is unnecessary. She will starve to death on her own, or be brought to you. I assure you. You don’t want to harm any workers and have your name stained by the people.”
“Hansel!” a man yelled running to his son, who quickly took his jacket off to cover the back of the wood pile and princess. So- he did see her-
“splinters…” he muttered as an excuse for the sudden jacket throw as he searched his arm.
Seeing the soldiers, Hansel was grabbed and his father bowed. “I’m so sorry, Signori. He’s still young at times he doesn’t know his place.”
The soldiers stood, the captain observing Hansel as he attempted to squirmed out of his father’s grasp.
“No. he’s quite right. You have a clever boy.” The captain then turned to his party. “The battle has been won, we can post signs for the princess’s capture. Either way we have been victorious! The king and queen have fallen and with it the grand city of Rhionine!” An excited yell overcame the soldiers as they discussed their later plans and began to walk off. Hansel was soon reprimanded either way, until his father soon went back to cutting wood.
He sighed and waited for everyone to leave. Guinnivere began to cry a little louder slightly, catching her breath. During this she heard the slices of a thin blade. “I’m not going to hurt you.” She heard, while continuing to cry. “You did nothing wrong. They did.” After a while she felt him get closer to her. “I’m going to take my jacket off of you, is that okay?” she remained silent. Hansel slowly leaned down and gave her a piece of wood, carved into it was the Rhioninian symbol of life. “I’m going to protect you…”
Guinniverre stared at the piece of wood. Holding it as a promise. “Merci” she was still shaking. Hansel nodded. She finally took a good look at him. Hansel was much taller than her, with brown overgrown curly hair. He had brown eyes, and light skin. He was obviously poor, with a pair of pants that didn’t fit too well and toes sticking out of his shoes. He was deep in thought. The princess remembered something as he stood up and began to pace in concentration.
“Will you get in trouble for saving me?” She asked.
“Yes.” Was the quick response that left Guinniverre in surprise. This boy chose to save her, despite the consequences.
“Then why did you?” she began standing up.
“Stay down” he commanded as he grabbed his knife and began checking a tree. He tried to act normal from a distance. “It was the right thing to do.” He responded. “You’re innocent. Just a child.”
This left Guinniverre without words, so there were still good people left in the world that didnt hate her and her people. Finally he stopped moving, freezing in place. He made aloud clicking noise between his teeth in what seemed to be a massive idea.
“Guinniverre, I can keep you alive and safe, but not like this. My plan is going to involve being poor, very poor.” He emphasized. Guinniverre nodded. He seemed like an angel, one who had known her and loved her for such a long time. Despite being older he wasn’t an adult, and he stood up to the soldiers and faced consequences for her! She couldn’t find herself doing anything but agreeing.
“Okay! okay.” Hansel started in a bit of nervousness. “stay here, I’ve got a plan.” With that he took his knife, and tools and ran off to speak to his father. Afterwards he returned, a cart being pulled behind him. “Get in, I’ll put the wood on top leaving space and hiding you. We’re going home.”