As far as Aurora’s father was concerned, he left when she was only six months old to join the war with a neighboring kingdom, leaving behind her and her mother before she remarried when Aurora was three years old, at the tender age of six her mother passed away and that left Aurora in the care of her stepfather Phil.
Phil hated Aurora, she knew for a fact Phil loved her mother, he was a kind man before the illness took her away. Maybe she looked to much like her, maybe Aurora was just a reminder of what he had lost.
Aurora had given him the benefit of the doubt for many years now and it was starting to wear thin. The lists and lists of rules, the constant cleaning, waiting on her stepsisters hand and foot. She slept in attic, hot in the summer time and freezing in the winter, during autumn; the current season it was comfortable, not to hot, not to cold. But it never lasted long enough, she can already feel winter creeping into the tiny room when she wakes up in the mornings, the two small blankets she had were always wrapped tightly around her. It’s been raining for the past two days and it’s only a matter of time before the rain turns to snow.
Phil, Ivy and Lilly threw the door open just then, sweeping into the front hallway, tracking mud, leaves and bits of grass in. “Aurora! I told you to clean the front hall before we got home.” Phil snarled, his gray eyes on the floor. “Does this look clean to you!?” He questioned, pointing his fat finger at the floor.
“I didn’t ask you to sit there, like... like some-”
“Moron.” Ivy threw in, laughing as she dropped her jacket onto the floor. “I need that clean and dry before tomorrow.” She said, turning on her heel and leaving, tracking mud through the clean hallway and onto the carpet all the way to her room.
“My shoes are ruined, I need you to go into the market and fetch me the same ones, brand new,” Lilly said, throwing her shoes at Aurora who barely flinched when they bounced off her shoulder. “I also need those before morning too.” She told Aurora before following her sister up the stairs, pausing with each step to smudge more mud into the carpet with her socks.
Aurora groaned inwardly, the stairs were the hardest thing in the house to clean, especially with mud covering them.
“All you do is sit on your ass and expect me to keep this house clean and feed you and put clothes on you’re back. Forget it! You don’t get to sleep until Ivy’s coat is clean and you’ve found Lilly’s shoes. Got it!?” Phil hissed, shoving his finger in Aurora’s face. “And don’t even think about having dinner either.” As Phil went to walk up the stairs, Aurora finally spoke up.
“Can I borrow the horse to go into town?”
“Walk.” Phil growled.
Aurora looked out the window, sighing when she seen it was raining, she heard the gardener say earlier on that it’s expected to be on all day. She stood up, walking over to the closet and pulled out her light grey cloak and her boots she meant to mend more times than she could count. Braving the weather, she stepped outside the door pulling the cloak tighter around herself.
Aurora could’ve forgone the cloak as it didn’t help, within minutes she was soaking down to her bones and there was still another four miles to the market.
She trudged along for a few silent moments, until she heard hoof beats and shouting behind her, she stepped aside to let them pass, the water from the road rushed into her boots. The ice cold water made her shiver even harder. Aurora quickly ducked her head when she caught a glimpse of the royal family’s emblem on a breathtakingly white horse. She hoped her soaking hood would hide her enough that she wouldn’t be noticed by the royal family.
Hazel, the second youngest and best rider in the royal family past by Aurora, with her trademarked wild laughter, Caspian, the youngest followed his sister, yelling, kicking up mud as he passed by.
She sighed, stopping to wipe mud off her chest and sleeve, she was too busy wiping it off to pay attention when hoof beats sounded once again. Not that it mattered.
Her head was bowed and she was clear of the road, everyone knew the two youngest Valour were followed, either by their own guard or their older brothers. And god help any idiotic bandit that tried to hurt or kidnap the younger Valour. If they were lucky enough they would only be killed.
“Whoa!” A voiced called out.
Aurora stepped back even further off the road, trying to keep out of the way.
Oh god. Liam Valour, adviser to the future king, Alexander Valour, was stopping his horse right next to Aurora. Alec ran up besides Liam, pulling his horse; just as memorizing and black as all the rumors' made her seem. To a cantering stop right in front of Aurora, who was now completely soaking, her white cotton top had turned transparent, her cloak clinging to her shoulders like a frighten child clings to their mother. Her blue skirt was heavy with all the water that it had soaked up.
Aurora immediately knelt.
“Hey, no.” Prince Liam soothed, with an easy almost identical move, both Valour's dismounted their horses and strode over to Aurora. He grasped her lightly by he arms forcing her to stand.
“How long have you been out here?” Prince Alec asked, pulling Aurora up by her hand. “Don’t you have a warmer cloak? Liam, get me my spare one. Did my little brother and sister do this to you? Are you hungry? Liam and I were going to stop to eat, we have enough to share.” Prince Alec rambled, rubbing his hands up and down Aurora’s shoulders.
“Um,” Aurora started, not used to someone being so kind to her. She looked up into the prince’s eyes, which proved to be a mistake. From under his messy damp raven hair peeked out eyes the color of hazel and honey, just like gossiping girls at the market had described. But their tiny words, idiotic brains failed to convey the depth and ease of them. The kindness that shone from them, the lines around his eyes and mouth-
Aurora flinched when Liam approached her, throwing a cape over her shoulders. Alec clasped it at her neck with quick movements of his fingers. “That’s a nasty scar.” Alec murmured and then the prince’s fingers were on her bare collarbone.
Aurora made a sound that wasn’t any kind of human.
“Are you a traveler?” Liam asked, his pale blue eyes taking in every ragged inch of Aurora’s small bony form.
“No.” Aurora breathed out, looking down at her feet. Again it was a mistake, even their boots showed the stark difference between the three of them. The princes boots were finely made from leather, waterproof, where as Aurora’s just soaked up the water.
“Ah, so she dose speak.” Prince Alec said, his voice soft and gentle, without the sting most words were spoken to her.
“I...” Aurora started again and then stopped because Alec’s fingers were warm against her collarbone. He’d take off his riding gloves just to touch her bare skin, why?
“Liam! Alec! Mother will be asking after us if you don’t hurry.” Princess Hazel called from nearby.
Liam scoffed, “We’ll just tell her we were taking care of the citizen, you nearly ran over and splattered with mud.”
Hazel approached. Her jet black hair as black as Alec’s was hiding under her fine black cloak, brown eyes darker than Alec’s, were wide with concern. “I did no such thing!” She huffed, stopping when she spotted Aurora. “Did I?” She asked.
“No, you did no such thing, Princess.” Aurora murmured, bowing her head. She heard what the princes had done to anyone who looked or answered her inappropriately. She didn’t feel like joining their ranks. “I stepped out the way, your highness.”
“Still,” Hazel said, pushing Liam out of the way to wipe a splatter of mud from Aurora’s cheek with her sleeve. “I apologize.”
“There is nothing to apologize for your highness,” Aurora hurriedly said. “It was an accident.” She finished off softly.
“Was that scar an accident?” Prince Alec asked.
A memory of Phil yelling over burned dinner, a broken water glass and a large shard of glass buried just above her collarbone flashed through her mind.
It certainly wasn’t an accident.
“Yes, it was my own fault.” Aurora whispered, her icy blue eyes on her boots. “Your highness.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t.” Liam murmured.
Aurora looked up at the comment to see both Liam and Alec looking at each other.
“What’s your name?” Liam asked, after a moment
“Aurora.” She mumbled.
“And what about your parents?” Alec asked, stepped back and slipping his riding glove back on. Aurora missed his touch already, the first kind thing she felt in more years than she would like to think of.
“My mother died. My father left when I was six months old his name was Eric Grace.”
Liam looked over to Alec, “Missing since the battle that took father.” He muttered, Alec nodded looking back over to Aurora as he hauled himself back into the saddle.
“Aurora, should you ever find yourself in need, for anything. Come to the castle and tell the guard at the front Raven brought you. They will bring you to me.”
Aurora opened her mouth in surprise as Alec smiled at her. “Your cloak,” Aurora said, reaching up to unfasten it. The mare Alec sat on reared and Alec leaned with her as she spun around, Alec laughed as Liam rode away.
“Keep it, I have plenty.” With a nod and an soft smile he was gone. Aurora barely noticed the rest of the walk to the village, or the walk back home. All she could think of was the cloak on her shoulders and the warmth that was probably all in her mind. Even cleaning the front hall again was nothing after she stashed the cloak in the attic.