“Don’t make me sell you girl!” He yelled.
“Do it father! You said so yourself that no one would ever take a second glance at me enough to pay the price!” She yelled back as she ran from their hut.
This was every day. She would awake before him and begin the chores outside. If he woke up before she could bring in the food to make him breakfast, he would hit her and claim her worthless. Every day, he threatened to sell her. Ever since her mother died when she was just 10 years old. Here she was, 17 and unmarried. Rather, unwanted. No man in the village wished to claim her off of her father’s hands for fear of bad luck claiming a woman from such a household. As many times as he had said it, she wondered if being sold might be a better life than to be treated as such in your own home.
So, every time he got like this she ran. Not really run because it wasn’t like he could catch after her regardless. Still, she would quickly leave him and his beatings and retreat into the back forests behind their hut for a few nights. Just until he would resort to drinking and forget her unworthy existence enough.
There was a large tree that had a huge opening and overhead just about in the center of the forest. Not too far yet not too close to home. She knew the way because her mother knew of the place and would store her medicinal herbs and concoctions in here. Father had never thought a woman should use her brains in such a manner other than making their husbands life simpler. Medicine wasn’t for women. According to her mother, her father hadn’t always been like that. There was a time when he could even achieve love but as times changed and the world grew harder to live in and survive, ice had surrounded the man her mother once loved.
“Nimble!” She called out and a small rabbit came hopping around the trunk opening. “Did you miss me?” She smiled. She would stay here for a few days and practice some more then.
“Must we go any further? We’d reach an entire village if we did!” He complained.
“Then let us. Should we not see our people for ourselves?”
“From behind palace walls or carriage doors perhaps!”
“Brother, you whine too much. One would think you were royalty in these parts.” The other smirked.
“Shut up. We should head back, though. It should be getting dark soon.”
“You can head back. I’d like to see a little further out. Do not worry, I will return on my own.” He waved his brother off.
“I’ll give you two day’s adventure. Any longer and a search party goes out for you!” He yelled before kicking the back of his horse and racing off.
Finally, the prince was able to explore outside his home on his own. Something he’d wanted to do all the time but was never granted access. Being older and better with defense abilities, their father had finally allowed them away from defended gates. So he took to the back forests. It was said that if you got far enough within them, you could see fires and smoke from the homes of the nearest village. That was what he wanted.
For years, he’d only seen people appointed to each village for reports at the palace but never the people themselves. There had never been trips to be seen or events held were commoners were welcome. His mother had told him that life of royalty meant only collaborating with other royalty for the sake of the lower people but he didn’t believe that. He felt that if he were ever to take possession of their little kingdom then there needed to be a connection with his people.
“You found it! Good boy!” A voice yelled and he hid behind a tree, pulling his horse. HE did not want to be seen yet. In his royal robe, no less.
He turned over the tree to look ahead and saw what looked like a maiden carrying a large basket. As for who she was speaking to, he presumed it was the rabbit before her on the ground. He wanted to laugh but knew that would give away his position. So he just watched, hoping to get a glimpse of her face. At the moment, all he could see was long dark wavy hair in serious contrast with her white clothing. It was no fancy clothing which meant she had no royal blood in her. It was stained high above the hem meaning it had been worn multiple times. Another sign of lower life. Finally, she turned around as she stood up before the rabbit.
He caught a glimpse and almost let go of his horse. She had marks all over her face. Some looked like dirt and others looked inflicted. Regardless of the blemishes, she was beautiful. Eyes as blue as the sea commoners never got the chance to see. He could see fair skin underneath the dirt. And the smile she offered to her little furry friend was enough to light up his entire home. He was struck. Enough to actually let go of his horse finally. Although the horse being in an unfamiliar spot, panicked and kicked in the air.
“Ah!” He yelled as the horse struck his arms in defense.
“Hello? Ah-“ She saw him fall to the ground and dropped her things to run to him. Before tending to him she calmed the horse. All she had to do was put her hands to cup the animals nose and he immediately calmed. His breathing steadied and she was able to tie his noose around a try to stay there. Then she ran to the stranger. “Don’t move- they could be broken and you’d only make them worse!” She yelled and he only nodded. Within seconds, she tore strips from the bottom of her dress and found branches to use as splints. She tied them around his arms and helped him stand.
“Can you walk on your own?” She asked and he nodded in pain.
“Let me grab your house and you can follow me. I can treat you."
He hadn’t said a word to her since they arrived. Never did he expect to receive medical treatment within a tree but there was a first for everything. IT looked as though this tree was her home. There was a bed with light and shelf after shelf filled with random things. Books, viles, jars, etc. He wouldn’t call it a mess but a cozy clutter.
“You haven’t broken anything though; you will have some nasty pain with bruising. It’s best not to use those arms for some days. At least until the visible swelling goes down enough. By then, you should be fine.” She told him. She pulled a jar from a random shelf and began undressing his arms. He pulled away.
“Did you not want to swelling to go down faster? I can skip that part if you’d like? The cream can feel a bit cold and tingly” She giggled in a teasing manner and he just handed his arm back to her and looked away.
It was the worst way possible that he ever imagined to meet the first woman he found attractive. What was worse was that up close, her eyes and smile had only brightened and the velvety sound of her voice took him by surprise. He had never seen someone with such kind features before.
“Might I know your name?” He asked.
“For what purpose?” She rose a brow.
“Can’t a man be curious?”
“When in regards to another woman? No. Though seeing as your clothes are better off than mine- you may be of better standing than the men I’ve met back home” She scoffed and he looked down to see that his royal robe had been shed. All he had left were the clothes of what could have been anyone working in the palace. This could work to his advantage.
“So.. your name?” He smirked.
“You may call me Evie” She smiled. “And yours?”
Prince Anden of this Kingdom? “Andy”