“WHAT?” Vera stood there in shock as Tonwa held her hand. She felt faint and just plain confused. Her mother did all this, set all of this up? The Princess sat down on a chair and couldn’t even utter a word. Tonwa let go of her hand and poured a cup of water for her from a wooden carafe.
“Here, drink. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to unload all this information tonight. I should have refrained. You’ve been through so much already.” Tonwa did seem sorry and worried for her well-being.
“I’m ok and yes you are correct I’m a little overwhelmed. You must understand I was in my palace all my life, barely went outside of it ever. This world is so large and vast and I’m just trying to take it all in. I’ve only been outside for a day or so now.” She took a sip of the fresh cool water and closed her eyes. Without hesitation, Tonwa took the water from her and hoisted her into his arms. “Why must you pick me up?” She said sleepily, “I am not a child.”
“But you are my betrothed and I am here to take care of you. Rest easy, Princess.” He set her on her bed. And with that he turned off some of the lanterns only leaving a few on so she could see. “Goodnight.” Vera smiled slightly at him. She went over to her satchel and pulled out a floor length emerald and gold robe. She began to disrobe.
“How touching and possibly disgusting too.” A small squeaky voice came from her nightstand. Vera jumped and nearly shrieked when she remembered eyes were still on her. “Forgot about me already; I see how you are.”
“Lukas! Turn around or I’ll throw you outside.” Vera took her robe and went behind the privacy screen. Lukas did not turn around but watched her delicate form shuffle into her winter nightwear. She came out and he wasn’t turned around. The princess was furious by his audacity and stomped towards him.
“Hey, hey! You were behind the screen! I didn’t see anything; I swear!” He pleaded, his little paws in the air in surrender. Vera gritted her teeth and climbed into bed, pulling the mossy blanket over her. There was a small fire pit in the middle of the room that heated the air. It was a little drafty, but not bad. Lukas jumped on the top of the blanket and nestled into it. Vera grabbed his tail with a gloved hand and glared at him. “C’mon, please, I’m cold.” She sighed and lowered him back into his little nest.
“If I catch you under my sheets, you’re a dead mouse.”
The sun peeked through the curtain door to her hutch and Vera hid herself under her mossy blanket. She was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to sleep. Lukas shuffled around at her feet, trying to stay asleep as well. A shadow blocked the sun, which startled Vera awake. A servant was standing there holding a tray very stoically. “Your breakfast, Princess.” Vera got out of the bed and went over to the table where the young woman had set it. “If there’s anything else you need….” She bowed and walked out quickly. Vera uncovered the dish to reveal some fried eggs, bacon, and a biscuit. She poured herself some water and began to eat. Lukas had finally realized his heater wasn’t in bed and scurried over to the table. The Princess set a sizable amount of biscuit in front of him.
“Morning, fuzzball.” Vera smirked as she ate a slice of bacon.
“Really? Pet names? How about Stud Muffin?”
“Or Squeakers?” Vera laughed.
“I’m not talking to you.”
“Hey now! Why are you picking on me?”
“It’s easy because you’re so cute and fuzzy now!” Vera ruffled his fur on the top of his head.
“Ugh! I’m going back to bed.” He said grumpily as he skipped back into bed. Vera finished her breakfast and went digging in her bag for a dress. She had only packed three and the rest were trousers and tunics. The elf pulled out her rosy pink and cream gown with chocolate accents. It was a more mild dress and would raise less eyebrows when she went out and she couldn’t wait to go out and explore. Vera hadn’t noticed the small vanity with a mirror next to the privacy screen. So, she set about primping herself. Vera tried not to think of what Tonwa would do when he saw her in her gown. She hoped it would make him take notice, not that he hadn’t already. She grinned like a little elfin girl dreaming of her wedding day. But her thoughts flitted over to the small mouse still lying in her bed sound asleep. Poor Lukas, was she ever going to be able to get him back to normal? She went behind the screen and shimmied into the satin gown. Once in her clothes, she sat in front of the mirror and began to fuss with her hair. In the background she heard a small gasp and in the reflection of her mirror she saw an elfin girl with fiery red hair that was in a side braid. She was so fairy-like with her soft features. She was about to flee, when Vera said, “No wait! What’s your name? Don’t be frightened!” The young woman came into her hutch carefully.
“I didn’t mean to intrude. I apologize Princess.” She bowed nearly to the floor.
“Please get up; there’s no need to do all that.” Vera pulled on her brown gloves and placed her hand on the girl’s shoulder. The girl flinched slightly. “I’m sorry.” The green eyed elf looked up at her and just stared. “Is there still breakfast on my face?” Vera smiled, wondering why this woman was so silent.
“No, no Princess. I was just amazed. You’re so pretty, seems unreal. We’ve been told of you, but no one ever expected you to be this lovely. Your hair is so unusual.” She stood up in her green gown, her red hair flowing in the light breeze from the doorway.
“I was just thinking the same thing. Your hair is quite beautiful. I’ve longed to have hair like yours or any color for that fact. I’m sick of being this way.” Vera stopped her life-long lament, “Anyways, enough of that talk. Your name?”
“Oh sorry again, it’s Aednat. It means little fire. My parents thought it suited me.” She twirled her finger in one of her locks.
“It does. Well, I was just about to put my hair up and now that I see yours, I’d love you to do it for me.” Vera smiled as she handed her a brush.
“Really? Don’t you have servants for that stuff?” Aednat took the silver brush.
“I guess so, but yours is so pretty and I think you have a knack for it.”
“It would be an honor, Milady.” Vera sat down facing the mirror as Aednat began to brush it through. “It’s very silky.” A few moments passed and she was done fussing with it. She had it pulled up in a loose bun and left hair in the back hanging which she then put into a braid.
“This is excellent, Aednat. Thank you; I knew you were talented.”
“You’re too kind, Princess.” She bowed slightly and then remembered not to.
“Call me Vera.” Aednat smiled and it was radiant and lifted Vera’s spirits.
“I have to get going, I’m meeting my betrothed for lunch.”
“You have a fiancée?”
“Yes, he proposed to me with these.” She pulled on one of her gilded leaf earrings excitedly.
“Those are lovely, well I hope to see you soon and thanks again!” Vera waved goodbye as Aednat made her way out of the hutch. “What a sweet girl. She knows what to do with hair.” Vera admired the elf’s handwork in the mirror again. She walked over to the bed and grabbed Lukas by the tail.
“Hey! Ow, don’t you know that hurts? I’m awake and you’re awake and dressed…..” He looked her up and down, “You clean up well.” Vera sighed as she placed him on her shoulder.
“You could say I look nice or something as adequate.” Vera put on her boots under her gown. How unbecoming she thought.
“You should already know how beautiful you are, Vera.” Lukas said as the sunlight hit their faces. It was freezing outside, but the sun was warm and inviting. Vera smiled at her friend’s compliment and started to explore the village.