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, Keep you safer than I, just a man, ever could?"
She bit back the urge to groan. he was right and she knew it, even though she hated to admit it.
"They Athanatoi will come, they will. And they'll come for me, who's to say someone in the castle wouldn't sell me out?"
"They would say all in the castle have their loyalties to the castle."
"Fear can and in this case is likely to change loyalties."
"I'll help you princess, but if they say no, you must abide." She looked at him intently, listening, understanding… And yet still,
"And if they say yes?"
"If they say yes, there’s nothing holding you back...You can come with me." He said, calmly. And she found herself smiling.
"Absolutely not! My daughter will not be joining you in this journey of yours." The king’s voice boomed with anger, and Hannah was sure all of the castle could hear him. The queen sat quietly beside him watching both Jasper and Hannah, before finally speaking,
"Asher, why can't she?"
"Why can't she? Why should she? Do you not see the madness in this?"
"I do, but I also see the wisdom. She is not safe here. whenever the Athànatoi come, they will come here first looking for her."
"And once they know she isn't, they will trace her!"
"Then they don't have to know she is gone." Every eye was on Queen Anastasia now, until then Hannah's gaze had been on the floor, her courage had begun to wane from the first moment her father had opened his mouth, and she'd felt terrible for she felt as though she wasn't being strong enough, averting her eyes, and letting Jasper take the heat, when it was her idea all along.
"Even if we were to convince the whole kingdom that Hannah was still in the castle, how do we convince those in the castle?" King Asher asked, looking at his wife, wondering she didn’t see the madness, wondering how he was the only one who cold see it?
Could they not see they were asking the impossible? They asking him to let his only daughter, his only child go on a Journey that could be dangerous. They were asking of him too much.
They had reached a dead end. Hannah couldn't help but feel that way. She hated being the negative one, but how was she to feel in a situation like this?
"We tell them..." It was Jasper who spoke now.
"We simply tell everyone that the princess is with an ailment, that requires her to be quarantined."
"And no one could come near me! Jasper, that's genius." She shrieked, finding her voice. She wanted to run to him and hug him but restrained herself, instead she looked at her parents.
"And I would be the one who takes care of you. No one would really question that, they would see a mother caring for her daughter."
Anastasia turned to her husband and brushed a hand affectionately across his cheek and when he turned to her, she saw the pain in his eyes, one that mirrored her own.
"It is the right thing." She said, He nodded once and turned towards Hannah and Jasper.
"I will keep her safe and I will bring her back. and when it is time to face the Athànatoi, when they finally do come, we'll be ready." Hannah heard the conviction in his voice and it steadied her, it made her want to believe.
He excused himself and the king granted him leave. Leaving her there, sitting among her parents.
It was her father who got up first, he walked towards her and wrapped his hands around her.
"God Keep you, my daughter, God keep you." Tears left her eyes unbidden, but she didn't fight them, she welcomed them, the same way she welcomed her father's comforting embrace and soon after her mother's. And there they stood, all three standing together, arms around each other, with silent prayers being whispered to the God of creation for each other, forgetting self. They didn't know if it was normal to do all this in a throne room, neither did they care, for in that moment, they were not a royal family- that was forgotten. they were simply a family who wanted each other to be safe, to be alive, to be happy.
He went to her.
He found he couldn't sit still since he left the throne room. So now he went to her, and entered her room without knocking. He knew it wasn't courteous, but courtesy be damned.
She faced the Window and didn't turn around, not caring who would enter her room without knocking on her door. But somehow, someway she knew it was him. She wanted it to be him.
Then she turned, and walked to his form that stood behind her closed door and standing on her tippiest toes, wrapped her hands around his neck.
"princess." The words were muffled as he placed his head at the curve of her neck, filling himself with the warm scent of her scent her- vanilla and cream. He wrapped his hands around her waist, and his heart was warmed. He was slipping, he knew it.
But God knew, he couldn't help himself.
She released him, giving him back his sanity, and he let her go.
"We leave a week from now?" She asked him, her eyes set, her regal chin up, her back straight. Ah, there she was, he thought. The way she quickly found her composure both settled and unnerved him, but he nodded.
"When the time comes my parents won't come to see us leave, I've pleaded with them not to, it will be easier." He nodded gravely, hearing the words she didn't say. She would miss them, and it would be harder to leave if they were there.
“I'll cut my hair, just to a level above my shoulder."
"That will do." But he reached out to touch her long curls, that couldn't be helped as well, he thought. he would miss them, he really would.
"Meet me at the gates."
A smile curved her lips, "I'll be the one with a pony tail."
The week that passed was both the shortest and most unnerving she'd ever had. She didn't see Jasper often since that day in her room. But it was okay, she was going to see him everyday from when they left. And the thought created knots in her tummy, knots she had a hard time untying when they presented themselves.
She couldn't think about him without being winded, how was she going to spend each day with him?
She began to wonder if it truly was a wise choice she was making. And as those doubts presented themselves, she was filled with new understanding. She couldn't know, not for sure, that she was making the right choice, but in any case she would do what felt right. Following Jasper on this Journey felt right.
But still she prayed, Every time the thoughts came,
"Lord have mercy, God help me. Amen." And found that those short prayers, those short word settled her.
They met at the gates at dawn as planned.
Hannah carried a rucksack. she had wanted to travel light but she had so much she found that needed to be carried; tents, a few change of clothes, feminine supplies she was sure would make jasper wince, a pouch of gold just in case, some cakes she'd managed to get her hands on from the kitchen without anyone noticing her, and the book on the Athànatoi she'd been reading from the other night.
"Ànemos is coming." He informed her, when she met with him at the gates, her now short hair in a little ponytail. She had almost wept while chopping of her hair the night before and had to remind herself it was for a good cause.
"Princess." She turned around to greet the elderly man and was dragged into a bone crushing hug.
"Ànemos." She sighed and felt tears sting her eyes.
"Your father informed me. it's okay, I'm the only one that knows." He said, his head resting on her head.
"Good, it's good, because I trust you."
"Stay safe, princess."
He released his hold on her and wiped away the tear that escaped her eyes. He looked to Jasper, who had watched them silently, then back to her.
"The good Lord's blessings follow you both."
They both Said 'Amen.'
“ Take care of her,” He said to Jasper, as he released Hannah. Jasper could only nod, he couldn’t find the right words. Anemos nodded once and went to the gates, he opened them, and Hannah reached out for Jasper, taking her hands in his. And they walked out of the castle.
"Godspeed." Ànemos whispered, as he watched them go.
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.
He believed her fine and good. But did he trust the whole situation?He could answer that easily. No, he did not.But he had not told Hannah that, he was not going to. The woman had diamonds in her eyes at the possibilities were before them, he wasn’t going to try to take them out of her eyes, and she genuinely looked excited at meeting this woman. He was curious, if he was being honest, and he wanted to share this adventure with her, but more than anything else, he wanted to keep her safe.He didn't take for granted that she wasn't completely stubborn, she understood his need to keep her safe, but she had a will of her own and not even him could keep her from seeking this woman, he wasn’t even going to try, didn't want to."Jasper? You're
"Thank you... For having us?" It wasn't a question, but it came out as one. she wasn't quite sure what to say to the woman, she found she had been more at ease in her dream, maybe because then she had not had the time to overthink the situation. In any case, they were there in the woman’s house and they were going to see it through. Hopefully get the answers they were needing."Come right in." Said the woman, as she opened her front door and made a sweeping gesture with her hand ushering them into her home. A warm smile playing on her lips.Jasper squeezed her hand again, when she hesitated, and she took that as an, it's okay, let's go.She took measured steps toward the woman and nodded briefly before walking past her and i
Her heart yearned for him. But in truth, if she was being honest with herself, to herself, her heart had been doing that lately- yearning for Jasper- what else was new?But, it yearned more deeply as she stood at the door frame, while he sat on the steps. She closed the door behind her and went to him. Allowing her heart , this time, to do the leading.Heaven help me, she prayed inwardly.She sat quietly beside him and put down the plate of cookies beside her, wrapping her arms around his middle. His arms came around her firmly yet gently and they stayed that way for a long while, saying nothing, giving room for the night song of crickets and owls to envelop them.He'd been out here for hours. Martha, the
"Good morning Martha." He said, his gaze resting briefly on her before returning it back to Hannah."Good morning to you, Jasper. Sleep well, dear?" He took a seat on one of the chairs arranged around the round dining table.“ Yes I did, and you, darling?” She flushed at the flirtation and shook her head,“ Yes I suppose I did.”She placed plates filled with eggs and bacon in front of Jasper and Hannah."Eat, the both of you, we have much to discuss today, you will both need your bellies filled."Hannah Rose a brow at Jasper, and he shrugged with a hint of a smile.&ldqu