"We're almost there." They'd crawled and stuck to tall hedges for cover, but so far, true to her word they hadn't been spotted.
" there, right there." She said, pointing to a brown small builing that resembled a barn, which stood only a small distance away.
"I don't think the caretakers are in there right now. In fact, I think they should be done for the day." She said when they got to the door. She opened the door quietly and raised up a hand, gesturing for him to wait before poking her head and surveying the surroundings.
"All seems quiet in here, come on in." She said, before leading them in, stopping at every stall to greet each horse.
The woman, he thought, had a word for each one of them. He wasn't sure if to Marvel at her when she made each stop or simply stop her and remind her of why they were there in the first place. But after horse number three, he realised that, he didn't want her to stop. He found her endearing, the way she would stroke and croon,and it surprised the hell out of him, how she tugged at him by simply being her, simply being Hannah.
"Now, let's see." She turned to him after she attended to the last horse, walking to a wooden door, and opened it, revealing a small dark room, bigger than the stalls, but small nonetheless. she walked to a small window at the other end of the room and opened it, letting in the light and cool air. It was tidy, but was otherwise empty except for a bucket and a saddle that sat on a chair in a corner.
He turned to her.
" what is this place?" He asked quietly,
"Well, this was once a supply room, then a bigger supply room was made and well this one was left alone. I come here from time to time, although I haven't in a while, come here that is." She looked away from him to look at the place wistfully.
"Mitch, the caretaker hardly comes in here. Except to clean from now and then. It looks clean though, so he might have been here recently. he won't be coming for a while yet." She said with a smile,
He went to the chair and picked up the saddle. "Is this yours?"
"Yes it is." She said still smiling.
"You ride well?"
"You speak the truth?"
"God's truth." A smile played on his lips as he dropped the saddle back on the chair. He walked to Her and stood in front of her. She looked up and met his gaze evenly. she would not be intimidated by his height, or by how tough she he knew was, by the muscles she knew possessed underneath the shirt he wore. not on her grounds, not ever. But when the feelings in her stomach that erupted at his sudden nearness betrayed the unyielding courage she expressed, she quirked a brow.
" what?" She asked in a manner he supposed she used to put men in order. She was small, so small he had the strangest desire to hold her close. To cuddle. To warmly hug. To tell her she didn't need to defend herself against him. He meant no harm and surely no disrespect. But he did none of that. She would probably send him out of the castle, he couldn't risk that. Instead he asked something else that nagged at him.
"Tell me something. How is it that the princess of kingdom Brone slept outside the castle, with no guards around her?" He tilted his head and quirked a brow mirroring her expression, "Courage or just sheer foolishness?"
Her eyes grew wide at his question, Gone were the flutterings in her stomach, in its place was something close to anger. It took her a moment to calm that anger, it wouldn't help, wouldn't lead them anywhere. And so when she spoke, it was tempered.
"A warm way to thank someone who's trying to help you."
"A bit of both, I see." It struck him, the urge he had to reach out and caress her black curls, instead he turned away from her and look instead to the chair before turning to her once more. He found her, seething, like leopard ready to pounce.
there you Jasper, you've angered the small woman.
"Thank you, milady." He proffered, hoping to abate her anger. she quirked her brow, her anger dissipating, and it's place was confusion over his sudden change of demeanor. Arrogant one minute, somber and humble the next. This man was something.
New. That was the word that came to her.
And she found herself wondered where it came from, but didn't question it.
"you're welcome." she said finally. No, dwelling on anger would really lead them nowhwere.
He nodded once, and stood watching her, as she watched him. She was astounded by his audacity. shaken by his humility. humbled by his gratitude.
"How soon do you need to speak to my father?" She said when her anger finally dimmed, faded, a way to keep in check the warring emotions the man so easily caused to happen simply by being. And although he was rude, she wanted to understand his need to see the king, what was so important he couldn't await an appointment? And in spite of the fact that he tended to showcase the traits of a complete arse, she wanted to help him, and it had nothing to do with how handsome he was.
"Before sundown if you can manage it."
She weighed his words, before nodding slowly.
"We will need Ànemos." She said, looking at him.
"And what do you have in mind, princess?" He drawled the last word, but she took no care. She just smirked at him.
"You'll see." And she took great pleasure when she saw the hesitation in his expression.
"Please, Ànemos, this is important." The elderly guard stood in the old supply room, eying Jasper cautiously.
"But he tells not what he has to say to the king. for all we know, he could be a threat." She looked at Jasper for just a moment and their eyes locked, and as quickly she looked away. The only threat she sensed was the one that came from the ripples in her belly whenever he looked at her the way he did.
"He is not a threat, if he were I would not be here right now." She remembered how he had met her asleep in the woods. If he meant any harm, couldn't he have done it right there, when she was asleep? Defenseless and vulnerable? He had a sword, he could have used it, or threatened her with it. So far all he'd done was annoy her and gotten her stomach in knots.
"What do you mean by that?" He looked away from Jasper, and turned to his side to look down at her.
"Leave that for now, Ànemos. Please." She added, when he looked like he would argue.
"I will help." She looked up at him and have him a toothy grin.
"Thank you." His eyes grew compassionate, then he looked towards Jasper, and a good chunk of that compassion fell away.
"Follow me." He said curtly. And they did, with Hannah at his side and Jasper right behind them.
"So let's go over the plan again." They stood before the doors of the throne room, and Hannah looked at Ànemos, and then Jasper.
"I'm the psychopath who acted a nuisance and made a noise about needing to speak to the king before the castle gates and was taken in by Ànemos." Jasper said with a scowl, not enjoying his role. Hannah snickered and earned a glare from him.
"And when asked who witnessed this?" She asked, ignoring his glare and turning to Ànemos.
"You and I, given that you came to me with a request about assigning you guards to go horseback." Ànemos smiled at her, knowing it was the last thing on earth she would ever do. The princess was a stubborn who would rather sulk than accept that guards were needed around her for her safety and the peace of mind of those who loved her.
But in truth, she really didn't like the thought her escorts, even if by nature of her status it was expected. It was the reason she took thrill in her escapades. But she was grateful, in spite of her sulks, she tried to remember to be grateful.
"Yes." She answered, with a small scowl of her own. "Now, Gentleman, let's get started shall we?" She knocked at the door and listened, pushing it open when she heard the king's booming voice,
"Enter." Was all he said.
Ànemos led them forth and bowed his head, both Hannah and Jasper did the same, And then Ànemos spoke,
The king took in his small crowd and turned to his Queen by his side, who gave an elegant shrug. They were both surprised by their daughter's presence in all of it.
"Hannah, come." She rose her head at her father's words and walked toward him, her eyes never leaving his. His eyes asking unspoken questions, questions which she had no answers to. She sat by his left and gave her mother a small smile when she turned to look at her before averting her eyes to the men before them.
"Ànemos, you may speak."
"Your majesty, this man, Jasper of the province of Moline, was found making a nuisance at the gates. He has made some endless noise about having something of importance to speak to your hearing, and would not be quieted when rebuked, the princess is a witness to this." He father turned to her and she gave him a curt nod, it was all she could do to not cower. She couldn't, they had already come this far.
King Asher averted his gaze towards Jasper, who stood stoically, his gaze which held the king's unwavering. Hannah shifted in her chair, her palms sweating, praying short prayers to heaven, when her anxiety threatened to take over. she was nervous, worried for the strange man with the black shoulder length hair and piercing gray eyes.
Her father wasn't a ruthless king, but yet, she feared. she feared the way he would receive Jasper and all he had to say. feared Jasper would not be welcomed, when she had alrewady welcomed him in so many ways.
"Speak, Jasper of Moline." And Hannah let out a breath she didn't know she was holding, relieved that the king would hear him out. But she was soon overcome with a sudden sense of apprehension over what he had to say.
"The dark one, he comes." He said without preamble, without trepidation.
But she trembled.
What do you mean by that?" The king's voice was steady, not hinting at the tremor growing within. He knew this day would come. when the Athanatoi would come seeking, threatening, calling. but he didn't expect it to be this soon. Dear God, he didn't want to be this soon, when he was so unprepared."Her." Hannah stared at him with wide eyes. She'd gone pale from the moment he'd opened his mouth and spoke his words and now she could all but feel herself suffocating, choked up by her own growing fear."What- but what could they want with me?" She asked, He didn't say a word, he only stared at her, his expression unreadable."That's enough. Hannah, you may leave us."It was the king who spoke, he managed to look steady and strong, but he could feel his fingers begin to shake, he didn't like where all this was going."This is about me, I'm not going anywhere. please, Don't make me leave just yet. please, papa." The king turned to her and some
She had wept with her mother, and had tried to be strong for her father.But now, she needed to let out the storm She'd kept locked within when she was with the both of them, the storm that had quietly been gathering while she was in the throne room, the storm that was threatening to wash over her.Her father, before she left his chambers, had sworn to keep her safe.But she didn't feel safe. She felt like all hell was breaking loose, like the fires it threatened to unleash were going to come down on her, and she had to run... run very far away.She walked hopelessly to the stables, holding back her tears. Not yet, she told herself. She walked past the horses, not stopping to greet them as was her wont, her heart in her throat, her spirit downcast.She walked to the old supply room and opened it, not caring to close it behind her, not expecting anyone to be around as it was well after dusk. She walked to the corner of the room and dropp
He stared at her like she'd grown a second head, at least that's how his steady, searching gaze on her made her feel."Your parents must know. You can't leave without them knowing." He said calmly, before looking away from her, staring into nothing and then looking back at her.He tilted his head- she found he did that when he had something worth wondering about on his mind- He reached out for her hair and held a handful of curls in his hand."Some of the hair will have to go." And she was right, about the crazy.Her eyes grew wide as she took in his words. He might as well have asked her to her to cut off a finger. Perhaps it was vain, but she took great joy in the long length of her curls."Why?!" She shrieked."Because, hair like this will be noticeable wherever we go. Any one will be able to spot you easily. We don't need you being noticeable. Not that you're very hard to notice." He added the last p
It was well after their breakfast before they spoke of why he was there with her in the first place."Why did you need to see me?" She asked after successfully biting and swallowing a blueberry."We need a plan. How do we convince your parents to let you come with me?"She had been shocked that he used the word 'we' and not 'you.''We' as in, we are in this together. But she didn't say as much. But it touched her, it mattered."Well, I guess we would have to convince them that leaving the castle would be the safe and right thing to do for me."He cocked a brow at her,"How do we do that?"There was the word again, we."Come with me. They'll listen to you. If you tell them that leaving would be safe, safer than it could ever be in this castle, they'd listen to you.""And if they don't? If they refuse and state the obvious, that there are more than a hundred guards in the castle to keep you safe, K
They had walked for several hours with very little stops. From time to time, he would stop to let him catch up with him, or when she needed to catch her breath. She was sweating profusely and was definitely grateful she had opted for a tunic and trousers instead of a gown."Are you tired?" He asked without looking at her. She looked up at him as she tried to keep up with his strides, stay by his side, which took much effort. His legs were long.She actually was tired, but she was not going to admit it. not now. Not yet."Naw." Was all she could say, she was literally trying to save her breath, And was glad beyond words when he stopped, though she wasn't about to say it.It was a small clearing with wildflowers and rocks that were big enough to sit on."Let's rest here a while." Jasper said, looking at her. Her cheeks were red and he was scared she was going to faint on him. She hadn’t complained since they started moving at dawn, he found it
Panic gripped at her and made her knees weak, but she managed to stay on her feet, although she no longer felt steady.She darted her gaze from left to right and looked, and turned around on the spot where she stood, before finally lookingback to where he had laid several minutes ago, and that was when shenoticed that both his sword and it's scabbard were gone too.But Where could he have gotten to? She wondered."Japser!" Her voice caught on the pronounciation of his name as she turned once more on her heels looking for signs of him or what could have happened. She walked to the rock where she had left him and was overcome by another wave of panic."Jasper!" she called out, this time louder than the first. She heard the sound of water and took slow unsteady steps toward the stream and she could have sworn her heart sighed in relief.But her relief was soon washed away with anger.
They made it to the tavern with no trouble and Jasper sighed a deep sigh of relief when they had their plates of food in their hand along with their jars of juiced fresh berries.They ate in silence. But then, Silence had been their company since the kiss they had shared earlier. Neither of them had wanted to bring it up, didn't know how to.They broke camp that morning and spoke at intervals, and even then, their conversation centered around what paths they would be taking, and since Jasper was the man with the map, he did most of the talking while she nodded. she mostly nodded."Good food." He said trying to break the ice. But He didn’t succeed.She nodded again and went back to her plate of fish and chips.He wanted to groan in frustration, but decided against it. it didn’t think it would yield any good.In any case, it was for the better no one heard her voice, regardless of the sweet femininity
She struggled with the desire to go out and be with him."How could I be angry with him and still want to be with him at the same time?" She whispered to herself in frustration.But however frustrated she was with how she felt, it was how she felt. She wanted to go out and be with him. and while one part of her wanted to beat him to bits for turning away from her again and again, another part of her, the part that yearned for him so much, wanted to kiss him till she lost all sense of what was meant and what wasn’t. And she would have willingly lost all sense if it meant she was tucked by his side, his arms wrapped around her.She groaned at herself, at her wants and turned on her side. It was Just her luck.