Chapter one

1938

Hannah sat under a castor oil tree a book in her hands, using the branches of the tree for a shade and watched as a purple butterfly danced above her head.

"Must be fun being free like that, right, Mr. Butterfly?" She said softly, smiling as it landed carefree on her right thumb.

"Pretty little thing." she said on a giggle

She watched it alight and fly away, and then she sighed softly, looking towards the castle.

It had been five years since the whispers of war emerged. Five years since the threats came, since such whispers caused a wild stir, and then, as time passed, these whispers died down. And now she was older, nineteen summers to be exact. And all was still, all was quiet.

But she knew.

she knew, as did her parents, that one brewed, subtly, gently, violently. A slow poison through and through, one that ate at you without living any visibel mark. But it clouded your judgement, your ability to think and reason without fear, without worry. God knew it had been clouding her mind lately.

There had been a time, they had been able to quiet the Athanatoi, but for how long?

How long till they - the Athanatoi- grew restless and sought out once again that which they wanted the most. Her parents had pleaded and cajoled with jewels, begged shamelessly, seeking what of them that might have something akin to sympathy, but it was but for a moment. she knew that, they all knew that.

The Athanatoi were fickle things. Immortal beings, yes. But fickle none the less, as twisted as they came, hell bent on raining down agony and misery. They treated human lives as worthless things, as nothing, and those who traded with them, those who turned to them for help, and believed in them, were damned. Just like her parents. Just like her.

She closed her eyes against the pain that shot through her chest. And though it didn't take it away, she didn't know what could, she reached for the Small sliver of hope she held on to, Sighed and laid her back on the bark of the tree and uttered a silent prayer to heaven,

"God save us all," she said, her voice catching,would he hear? She didn't know, but she hoped, she wanted to believe in something or someone bigger than herself, that which was pure and which brought forth light. And when sleep came, she let herself drift off, into oblivion, into a different place and time.

~~~~

He watched her as she slept. she had a black mane of hair, that fell like pools of midnight around her. He touched the hilt of the sword at his side and drew a little closer, stopping abruptly when he recognized her.

"Now, what would the princess of the kingdom of Brone be doing, sleeping on the floor outside of the walls of the castle?" He whispered to himself. " And all by herself." he said im a long suffering manner.

Her eyes shot open as soon as the words left his mouth as though she had heard him. She arched a brow as though in curiosity before passing a hand over her eyes, then peered up at him with deep brown eyes.

"Hello." Was all she said, but she could have been singing to him. Her voice was sweet and was music to his ears. He mentally pinched himself for his fanciful thoughts. He was a warrior, he reminded himself, not a poet.

" Good day your highness." He could have sworn he saw her wince at his words.

"Are you lost?"

Her brows shot up at his question and her expression quickly calmed.

"No, I am not." And he didn't miss that hint of bite in her words, he tilted his head, mildly amused. Ignoring his small jest, She got up without much fuss and dusted at her skirts, before turning in the direction of the castle.

"If you'll excuse me." She added, a bit more mildly.

"Milady?"

"Yes?" She answered, turning on her heels to face him.

"May I escort you to the castle?"

If the question shocked her, she didn't show it, her countenance was one that radiated royalty. He marvelled at her ability to keep a cool head at the request of a stranger asking to escort her to the castle. But they weren't strangers- deep within they both it- and this wasn't merely just a request of accompanying the princess to the castle, but was wise enough, to keep his thoughts to himself.

"I'd like to speak to the king." He added, as a way of explanation.

"The king." she murmured, " Do you have an appointment?"

"No. But it is of utmost urgency that I speak to him, soon would be good, if you can help me manage that."

She seemed to consider his words before nodding her regal head, at least that was how it seemed to him.

"Follow me then, I'll see what I can do for you," she looked at him and added,

"but I make no promises." Then turning on her heels, led forth the way toward the castle gates, with him following behind her.

~~~~

"Milady! Milady! You were outside the walls? All by yourself? How did you get out? And for the life of me! who is this man?" Said Ànemos, the chief of the king's guards in hysterics.

He grew so pink with every word, Hannah had to wonder that he didn't turn purple next and simply faint. But she did feel guilty. He was older than the other guards and tended to be paternal towards her. He truly cared for her, and she hated to worry him.

If it weren't for... For? She mentally pinched herself. She did not even know his name. However, if it weren't for him she would have taken the way by which she left, a secret passageway she had discovered when she was a little more than eight years old. But Ànemos didn't need to know that.

"Ànemos, it's okay. I'm fine, look!" She did a little twirl in place, so he would see for himself that she was alright. " perfectly fine.Just dandy."

He seemed to calm down a bit, after taking a careful look at her.

Jasper seemed to think, she looked fine too, more than fine. when she did twirl, he had a premonition-not really- that she was born dancing.

"And the gentleman?" He asked, gesturing towards the man who had been standing, quietly watching their exchange.

She turned to him and tilting her head subtly as if saying 'go on, explain yourself, get us out of this mess.'

He seemed to understand her because he drew himself to his full height and turned to Ànemos.

"I am Jasper of province Moline and I am here to speak to the king. It is urgent, of upmost importance. I wouldn't press this matter otherwise" Ànemos looked taken aback by his words before quickly gathering himself.

"I hope for you sake it is as urgent as you say." He said gravely and turned to Hannah. "Well then princess, show him the way."

"What? Oh yes, yes. Alright, have a good day then." He seemed like he was going to say something, but simply smiled and said, " you too, princess." And then excused himself when one of the guards called out to him.

"Well, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Now that we've gotten you within the walls, we just have to find a way to get you to speak to my father." She said In something a little bit more than a whisper, before grabbing his hand. "Come on."

"Where are we going?" He asked, looking down at their linked hands, and back to her face.

"To the stables, I know a secret path we could take to avoid eyes spotting you. You can hide out there, while we think of a plan, we'll need one to enter the throne room unannounced, at least you will, and a good one too." She said, seeming to be enjoying herself, which she was. He resisted the urge to chuckle as he looked down at her, a gleam in his eyes that mirrored the one in hers.

"I see, lead the way then, princess."

And she did, a quiet giggle leaving her lips, as though for his ears alone. He thought the sound was sweet as he followed her, Her hand in his. And he wondered, somewhere deep within him about the little princess at his side, if she was as sweet as the sound that escaped her lips.

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