Chapter 2: Thread by Thread

By the time James rode through the gates of Everland Palace his parents had already disembarked from their carriage and were greeting Everland's king and queen.

"Sorry I'm late," he called as he swung down from his mount.

"James, dear," his mother gasped, "you look a fright! What happened to your chin?" She reached out to touch the cut he had received from the young woman.

He jerked his head away from his mother's reaching hand before she could touch him. "Just a run-in with some thugs on the road. I'm fine, Mother."

"Thugs?" Everland's king, Leopold, inquired, concern furrowing his brow.

James nodded. "A few miles up the southern road. They were attacking a young woman."

The monarch looked alarmed. "Is she all right?"

"Yes," the prince assured him, "a few bumps and bruises perhaps, but I saw her safe back to town."

"Who was it?" the king asked.

James shook his head. "She didn't give her name; I think she didn't want word getting out that it was she who was attacked."

"Hmm," Leopold pressed his lips together, "yes, she probably didn't want her family to worry over her. Or possibly forbid her from going out and about." He glanced at his wife out of the corner of his eyes while one corner of his lips twitched the barest amount. "Most women in this kingdom are quite independent and stubborn." The queen gave her husband a look; he cleared his throat and continued, "I'll send some of my guard out to take care of those men."

Queen Regina smiled politely at their guests. "Well, you all must be tired from your journey; we can have you shown to your rooms immediately."

"Thank you," James's mother, Queen Ruth, said graciously. "It would be nice to freshen up."

James glanced around quickly; then spoke up, "Excuse me, Your Majesty, but I was wondering where your daughter might be, I thought she would join you in greeting us?" He was fairly successful at hiding his relief at the girl not being there.

Queen Regina's expression darkened, but she pressed her lips together and said nothing.

King Leopold frowned, "I'm not sure where she is. She went off to the village this morning, but she was due back some time ago. She's not one to be tardy." He glanced in the direction of the village. "She must have been held up with something important."

James thought that the Queen might not agree with that assessment judging from her expression.

He was led up to his room where his things had already been placed; a servant – Micah, he said his name was – offered to draw him a bath which James gratefully accepted. He was tired and sore from the long ride and fight from earlier. He undid the clasps on his jacket, draping it over the end of the bed, then he began unbuttoning cuffs of his shirt as he made his way over to the basin of water under the mirror in a corner of the room. He looked up at his reflection as he rolled up his sleeves; he tilted his head to the side and ran a finger gingerly along the cut on his chin. There wasn't too much blood and what there was had dried. He was fairly certain that it would scar; he didn't mind, but his mother certainly would. He found his mouth quirking up at the memory of the woman who had put the mark there. He recalled the scent of cinnamon and chocolate lingering around her, gentle, pleasant…like the smell in his dream weeks ago…


Snow came through the door to the kitchen in a rush. "Sorry, Hannah!" she called, over the din of all the kitchen workers.

The cook looked up at the princess, surprise coloring her expression. "Where've you been, Mistress?"

Snow was still covering the limp from her ankle as she made her way over to the older woman, snatching a slice of cucumber off the cutting board and avoiding a swat for it. "There was a minor emergency in town that I had to handle before heading home. But everything is fine now." She popped the vegetable into her mouth.

"The queen's in a right mood from you're being late."

The princess rolled her eyes. "Regina's always in a mood." She leaned against the counter.

The older woman gave her a look. "Well, she's a right this time, you were due back hours ago; the guests arrived and could have near on left by now, with how late you are."

Snow gave the woman a look of her own. "Now you're just exaggerating."

"Well I'm not exaggerating in saying that if you don't hurry up, you'll be late for dinner as well." Hannah looked her over from head to toe. "You look a sight, Princess, what happened to you?"

Snow leaned over to give the matronly woman a kiss on the cheek and to steal another cucumber slice before gliding off carelessly. "Nothing you need worry about, Hannah," she sang as she headed out of the kitchen.

She darted through the main spaces quietly, thankfully not running into her stepmother; she burst into her room, surprising her maid.

"Princess," Lucy gaped at the state of Snow. "Oh, you're a mess and we have all but no time to get you cleaned up in!" she young woman fretted, already in the process of divesting her mistress of her cloak and moving onto the rest of her clothing. She stepped away while Snow removed her skirt to check on the water in the bath.

"Water's gone cold, mistress," she warned Snow upon her return. "I'll call up for more hot water."

"No, Lucy," Snow said as she pulled her shift over her head. "That'll take too long and I don't want to embarrass my father further." She moved over to the tub. "A cold bath won't hurt me." She shivered when her toe touched the water but gritted her teeth and got it over with; she dunked herself entirely under quickly.

Lucy had begun helping her wash off all the dirt when she gasped, Snow looked over her shoulder at the younger woman; then followed her gaze to her left hand; she mentally castigated herself for forgetting about it. Several of her knuckles were cut open and bruised quite colorfully from when she threw a few punches earlier.

"Princess, what on earth happened to your hand?"

"It's nothing Lucy, I hurt it while helping out today," she gave her maid a reassuring smile.

The young woman looked at her as if she didn't fully believe what Snow was saying, which she probably didn't, but she didn't argue. Lucy stood and moved off. "I'll go find some ointment and bandages for that, Miss."

Snow let out a half-frustrated half-relieved breath; she looked back down at her hand. She found memories of "Prince Charming" running through her head; she scowled and tried to push him out of her mind. However his eyes lingered and she found herself remembering their incredible shade of blue. The same blue from her dream all those weeks ago…


James stood looking out the glass doors to the gardens, admiring the lovingly tended greenery. He and his parents had joined their hosts in the library to spend some time talking before supper. The illusive princess was still yet to be seen; James had noticed the increasingly worried glances the king was casting out the windows toward the slowly approaching sunset.

Finally the worried father said, "Perhaps I should –"

Just then a voice called out as it entered the room. "Father, Stepmother, forgive me my lateness."

James went stock-still at the extremely familiar, lyrical voice.

"I was held up in town with an emergency," she continued.

He finally turned to see King Leopold now standing and embracing a beautiful young woman with long dark curls that cascaded down her back save for some at the sides which were pulled loosely away from her face. She wore a long white dress, the sleeves were fitted to the elbows from there they had a slit in them and flowed loosely to her knees. She was as clean and fresh as a new day…and a sight better than when he last saw her. A smirk spread over his face.

"What was the emergency?" he asked.

She spun around at the sound of his voice; her eyes went wide when they alighted on him. "You!" she yelped.


A smile was just barely tugging at the corners of his mouth, but there was a definite glint of amused satisfaction in his eyes. No longer dressed in a leather jacket and riding pants, he looked quite regal in the blue brocade that seemed to make his eyes look even bluer, if that was possible.

"You two know each other?"

Snow's head snapped to her father to see him looking back and forth between her and the other man…the prince she realized. Her eyes flicked to the blue eyed man, to see the slightest lift of an eyebrow, a challenge to her. She gritted her teeth. "We – we saw each other in passing," she managed. Oh, there was a definite hint of a smirk to his expression now and did it ever annoy her. "Along the road," she elaborated, her voice tight.

"Yes," he agreed, stepping forward, "though we didn't get the chance to properly introduce ourselves. I'm Prince James." He bowed his head, extending his hand to her.

She managed a thin smile as she reached out to accept his hand, giving a small curtsy. "Princess Snow White."

The moment his hand touched hers sparks flew causing them both to jerk back. She would have enjoyed the disgruntled look on his face had she not been just as thrown off kilter by the experience. She pressed the hand to her abdomen; he clenched his at his side. Their eyes locked, his searching, hers wary. They looked away before their interaction drew too much attention.

He cleared his throat. "Allow me to introduce my parents." He gestured to them.

Snow managed to arrange her expression into a resemblance of a polite smile.

"My father, King George."

Snow curtsied, murmuring, "Your Majesty."

"My mother, Queen Ruth."

After she had repeated the process, she straightened back up and smiled demurely. "It is lovely to meet you both."

"And you, my dear," the queen said warmly; she turned her attention to her son. "Did you see each other before or after the young woman who was attacked?"

Snow's eyes snapped to the prince, wondering if he would keep her secret. His eyes met hers and held them a moment, a knowing look in them. Dread coiled in her stomach.

The corner of his lips quirked up the slightest amount. "After, mother."

Snow had to keep herself from sucking in a breath, relieved and shocked that he wouldn't tell them.

King Leopold asked his daughter, "Did you hear anything about a woman being attacked by thugs on the road, Snow?"

She turned to him. "No, I hadn't heard anything about an attack, but the thugs were part of the reason I was late." At his inquiring glance she continued, "Word reached the village about them being in the area so parents began to look for their children; the miller's youngest boy was nowhere to be found. His mother was frantic so I helped search for him."

"Was he found?" he asked in concern.

"Yes," Snow assured him, "apparently the smithy's dog had just had puppies and the child was playing with them among the hay bales, out of sight."

Her father nodded in relief. "Good." He became serious, "Would you mind asking around tomorrow to see if you can learn who the girl was who was attacked, and make sure she is all right? The women are more likely to talk to you."

"Of course," Snow managed a near-normal tone. She shot a look at the prince beside her as he gave a cough, oh how she wanted to kick him in the ankle at the moment.

The four monarchs turned back to the conversation they had been previously engaged in.

Snow went over to where a few bottles of wine and other spirits were sitting; poured herself a healthy dose of what she was fairly sure was bourbon. She tossed it back as the source of her distress came to stand beside her.

"So, Princess Snow White," he commented sardonically.

She let out a slow breath after swallowing her drink, feeling it burn down her throat, and shot him a scathing look. "And you really are a Prince Charming."

He leaned back against the table, crossing his arms. "I at least tried to properly introduce myself, and as you now know, I have a name."

She narrowed her eyes. "Mm mm," she shook her head negatively, "'Charming' most definitely still suits you," she informed him in a faux saccharine sweet tone.

He smirked back at her, which just had her glaring at him harder.

Then her eyes flicked to his chin and she cocked an eyebrow. "How's the chin feel?" she asked tartly.

His expression never faltered; if anything he smirked wider. "How's the hand?" he countered, his eyes going to her bandaged hand.

She pressed that hand into the folds of her skirt, the ample fabric mostly concealing the white bandages. She gave him a piercing look; then opened her mouth to question him about why he didn't rat her out when dinner was announced.

He straightened up, keeping his eyes on her the whole time, and bowed, gesturing for her to go first. It was all done perfectly with outward seriousness, but she could see the mocking look in his eyes.

Snow gritted her teeth and nodded to him in a convincingly gracious manner before passing him to head for the dining room.

It was decided, she mused to herself, the next few days were going to be hell.


The predawn found James quietly making his way through the halls of the palace trying not to disturb the rest of the household. He was almost always awake at least by sunrise if not earlier; had he been home he would have gone to the kitchen to have a small breakfast before heading out for the day. However this was not his home and he had no right to waltz into the kitchen and just plop down for a snack. As it was he basically killing time until they served breakfast, wandering through the palace, learning his way around, and allowing his mind to wander, but it inevitably was always drawn to the raven haired princess.

She was not, James decided, born to be an actress. Her eyes were so expressive, showing her every emotion and her face betrayed her almost as badly. She was forthright to the point of being nearly brutally honest.

The women of the high court would hate her. She would figure out all of their plots and schemes and drag them into the light of day; she wouldn't play any of their games, instead just stepping right up and getting what she wanted; doing as she wished.

The men would try to eat her up and spit her back out. Try and likely fail for she had wits, courage and a determination that would be more than a match for any of them; she most likely would even have many of them chasing their own tails before a hour was up.

What James would give to see all of that happen. He found himself grinning while he imagined the expressions on their faces at being confronted with her.

She was a breath of fresh air in comparison to the other ladies of court and he found himself increasingly intrigued by her.

Dinner the night before had been very revealing of her family's dynamics. She hadn't been exaggerating when she said that she and her stepmother didn't like each other; they were completely civil to each other with not an ounce of warmth. King Leopold, however, indeed seemed, as Snow White had stated, to be the one thing that they had in common. They both obviously cared for him, though the queen was a bit less demonstrative and more subtle in showing it. The two women tolerated each other; little more. Her father obviously adored her and was quite content to let her have her freedom to do as she pleased, which James could tell she exercised to whatever extent she felt like. The princess and king's exchanged before dinner had also revealed how familiar they were with their people, along with a genuine concern for and interest in them, and an active participation in daily life among the villagers, more so than most royalty.

He entered the foyer, there was little light, casting most of the space in shadows; he was about to cross the area when he heard a rustle of clothing from the stairs and stepped back into the concealment of the shadows to observe who it was. Somehow he wasn't surprised to see a head of long raven curls.

She was dressed in clothing similar to that she had been wearing when they first met, a long dark green cloak draped over one arm and a brown, leather bag in the other. She gracefully and quietly swept down the stairs, not seeing him. She then moved down a small side hall that he had discovered lead to the kitchen. His curiosity got the better of him and he followed her.


"Morning, Hannah!" Snow sang out as she entered the kitchen.

There was a muffled returned "Good morning" from the direction of the pantry.

"Good morning, Snow."

She whipped to the side at the soft, genial voice; a smile lit her face. "Henry!" She was at his side in an instant, kissing his cheek affectionately. "I didn't know you had returned home." She knelt down beside the older man, smiling up at him. As little as she cared for her stepmother she was exceedingly fond of the woman's father, a kindly man who adored his daughter and cared for Snow as the grandchild he had not been granted.

He returned the smile warmly. "I arrived a little after our visitors, but was too tired to join you for dinner."

"Of course," Snow said with complete understanding. She shifted to sit next to him at the bench seat for the kitchen table. "How was your trip?"

"Good, thankfully uneventful," he took a sip of his coffee.

Hannah set down Snow's habitual breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, prepared as she liked it, and then turned back to breakfast preparations.

Henry looked at her over his mug. "How are things going with our guests?"

"Fine," Snow said bringing a spoonful to her mouth.

Henry just looked at her.

She tried to ignore his quiet, knowing gaze for a few moments but quickly caved; she needlessly stirred her spoon in her oatmeal. "I'm just not thrilled with why they are here," she finally admitted.

The older man gave her a gentle, understanding smile. "Just because they are here does not mean anything will come of it."

"I know," she said taking a drink of her coffee.

Henry decided to change the subject. "You're going to town?"

"Mm hmm," she confirmed, as she took a bite.

Hannah turned, frowning slightly. "Isn't that a mite bit rude with guests? Shouldn't you maybe invite the prince to see if he wants to look around the village?"

Snow set her mug down a little harder than necessary. "If His Royal Highness can't occupy himself that's his own fault," she said testily.

Hannah turned around again, frowning more deeply. "Careful now, dearie. That tone smacks of resentment."

The princess grimaced, looking down; realizing that her tone and words were truly unwarranted for someone she, supposedly, had just met. "I'm sorry," she said contritely. She shoved a hand through her hair. "Chalk it up to the pressures in our meeting."

"It really is your choice, Snow," Henry reminded her quietly. "Your father would not pressure you into anything you didn't want."

She smiled at him with gratitude. "I know." She swallowed the last of her coffee, took one last bite of oatmeal, stood and began to gather her things. "I'm going to head out; I have much to do today." She dropped a kiss on Henry's cheek, danced around the table to do the same to Hannah, then headed to the door. "See you later."

"Don't forget that the local nobles are arriving today, so don't you dare be late for dinner tonight, Snow White!" Hannah called after her.

"I won't be," Snow tossed over her shoulder with a grin.


James watched the princess sashay out the door; he turned and made his way to the next nearest door out of the castle toward the village. Colors had begun to paint the horizon as he made his way toward the town; just ahead he could see the cloaked, though un-hooded, figure of the princess. He sped up his steps to catch up to her.

"Fancy seeing you out here," he commented as he pulled up beside her.

She turned to him, frowning. "What are you doing here?" her tone revealed just how not thrilled she was to see him.

"I'm an early riser," he said genially. "I thought I would head into the village to look around."

She frowned. "I can take care of myself, Charming," she stated flatly.

He raised an eyebrow. "I didn't say I was here for you, Princess. Though, you probably shouldn't be going off on your own with the thugs around." She clenched her jaw; he smirked. "I doubt that your father would be thrilled to learn that you did so."

She spun to face him and came to a stop; bringing him to a stop with her. "Why didn't you tell them that I was the one who was attacked?" she burst out.

He crossed his arms over his chest looking at her consideringly. "Who said I won't?"

Snow narrowed her eyes at him watchfully. "If you had intended to reveal that, you would have done so at the time."

He leaned in closer to her, invading her space; he saw a flash of momentary panic in her eyes, and by the slightest jerk in her body she wanted to move away, but was forcing herself to stand her ground. "Why don't you just say thank you, and then show me around the village?"

She continued to eye him warily. "Thank you," she finally said, reluctantly.

James nodded his head. "You're welcome. Now," he gestured toward the town, "shall we?"

She frowned, but turned and continued toward their destination.

The walked in silence for several moments.

"So," James began conversationally, looking in her direction, "who's pressuring you into this?"

She turned to him, questioningly.

"Into us getting engaged," he elaborated.

She looked away scowling. "My stepmother. My father doesn't have too many feelings about it one way or the other. He wants me to do what I want." She turned back to him. "You?"

"My father," he looked out ahead of them, "but my mother is going with it as well."

She gave an un-lady-like snort. "Romance really is dead."

He raised his eyebrows at her cynicism.

She noted his look. "I might not get involved with the High Court, but I know how this works," she stated. Snow stopped, prompting him to do the same; they both turned to face each other. "True love?" she began. "It doesn't exist," she continued frankly, shaking her head. "It's all arranged marriages and business transactions." Shaking her head again, she said emphatically, "There's no such thing as love at first sight, or first kiss." There was a fair dose of scorn in her voice as she said all of this.

A part of him was saddened by her tone and cynical outlook. Apparently she wasn't entirely unaffected by the politics of the high court.

He looked at her watchfully. "I'm inclined to agree with you," he admitted reluctantly.

She raised an eyebrow, an amused twist to her lips.

"But not entirely."

She canted her head, raising her eyebrows into an expression of "enlighten me".

"I believe that true love is real, but that it is as rare as a comet. And marrying for love is not a luxury granted to ruling royalty, like you and I," he continued. She looked a little thoughtful, so he continued. "Most of the time, happiness in marriage among our ilk is dependent on the individuals making the best of it and, hopefully, love coming after the fact."

There was a spark of respect in her eyes. "Well, I suppose we can somewhat agree, at least."

They turned and continued toward the village.

"So," he began, "you said your father wants what you want, what will happen if you never find someone you want to marry?"

She looked at him. "Truthfully?" He nodded. She faced back forward, though he still caught the sadness in her eyes. "I've already resigned myself to dying a spinster."

He stopped and turned to her, raising an eyebrow. "What about your kingdom?"

She mirrored him, sighing. "I have a few distant cousins who can take the throne or I could adopt a child to take my place, there are such allowances made in our laws."

There was something so desperately sad to him about the fact that she had given up hope of finding love. He pressed his lips together, looking up for a moment and taking a deep breath before looking back at her. "Sounds lonely."

Snow canted her head to the side quirking an eyebrow, amusement in her eyes. "Not as lonely as an arranged marriage," she teasingly countered.

He rolled his eyes skyward as they turned to continue their journey. "I don't exactly have the same choices as you do."

"You have a younger brother," she pointed out.

James frowned. "I can't do that to him."

"How so?" Snow asked, tilting her head to look up at him.

"He wants to marry for love; I won't deprive him of that chance," he elaborated.

Those words had Snow turning to look at him with surprise.

He noticed her expression. "What?"

"You're willing to sacrifice your own happiness for his?"

"He's my younger brother," he said, as if that explained everything. "I would never seek my own happiness at the cost of his."

He saw a softness enter her eyes and a small smile pull at her lips before she turned to look back forward. "Decent of you, Charming." He knew she was trying to cover up how she really felt by teasing him, but he didn't call her on it.

He shrugged. "I have my moments," he deadpanned back.

This elicited the softest of laughs from her, hardly more than a breath, but that hint was enough to ignite in him the desire, the need, to hear a full laugh from her lips.

"Well, here it is, Everbrook." Her voice brought him out of his contemplation to see that they had indeed arrived at the village where there were the first stirrings of life.

It was tiny and quaint compared to the town around his castle; the roads were dirt rather than cobblestone. The shops were few and roughhewn, it was rustic and comforting in a way.

"So," he said, letting her continue to lead him, "where to first?"


Snow tossed him a look. "It's not that big of a place, you don't need me to show you around." She needed to get rid of him. Fast. What she had learnt of him from their conversation had softened her substantially toward him and she didn't need the complications he could bring to her life.

"Yes," he acknowledged. "However, I'm fairly sure that I will be treated differently if I go with you rather than alone."

She pressed her lips together, not able to really argue that point, because it was entirely true, but the real problem for her was that his being there would make them treat her differently. "Granny's Inn and Pub," she finally said. "But I'm not here to entertain you," she said quickly, "I have things to do to help get the village ready."

"Of course." He was mocking her, but it didn't bother her half as much as it should and that really bothered her.

She led him around the back of the building, entering through the kitchen door; he followed her in and came to stand next to her. "Red!" she called out into the already crowded kitchen. "Red!"

It took a few moments but her friend squeezed between two people and came into view. Red's face creased into a wide smile and she started forward only to jerk to a stop, her smile slipped and her eyes became guarded. She'd noticed Charming. Red clasped her hands behind her back and pasted a pleasant, though distant smile on her face. "Princess. Who is your friend?"

Oh, how Snow hated the formality the villagers adopted in the presence of outsiders. "Red, this is Prince James of Seaborn." The other woman's eyebrows lifted slightly. "Prince James, Redell of Everbrook."

"Your Majesty," Red curtseyed.

Charming bowed his head, "A pleasure, Misstress Redell."

"Would you like a refreshment?" she asked formally.

He smiled, shaking his head. "I wouldn't want you to trouble yourself when you're so busy."

"It's not all that much of a trouble," she said. "We have some coffee ready."

"Well, if you tell me where it is and where to find a mug I can pour myself a cup and you can get back to your work," he returned.

Red opened her mouth to respond.


All three heads turned at the sound of the voice.

"Redell, where are you, girl?"

"Over here, Granny," Red called over her shoulder.

The old woman hobbled through the crowd over to them. "There you are," she frowned at her granddaughter; then noticed the pair with her. "Princess Snow," she offered her cheek to the princess.

"Granny," Snow greeted in return, kissing the proffered cheek. She adored the old woman who had been grandmother to her all her life. Red's granny was a remarkable woman; she observed formalities, such as referring to Snow as "Princess," in such an offhand way that they lost their formality, making them comfortable. She had treated Snow exactly like Red as the girls had grown up together, giving her a place to belong.

Granny then turned her attention to Charming eyeing him curiously, and unlike Red her demeanor did not change, but that was Granny. "Who's this with you, Princess?"

Snow introduced him. "Prince James, Beatrix of Everbrook, proprietress of this establishment."

He bowed his head respectfully. "An honor, madam."

Granny eyed him closely; then turned to her granddaughter. "Did you offer him something to drink?"

"She was just about to direct me to the coffee and mugs," Charming informed her.

The old woman looked at him narrowly. "A proper hostess would get it for you."

He gave her a half-grin. "But a good guest would see that you're very busy and wouldn't want to bother you when he has two perfectly good hands, capable of getting himself a drink."

The two younger women were looking back and forth between the old woman and prince.

Granny looked at him for several moments in an assessing manner; then she nodded firmly. "Come along, young man. I'll show you where to find the mugs." She turned, heading off, not looking back to see if he was following.

Charming looked at both of the younger women with some amusement and nodded to them. "Ladies." Then he followed Granny into the hub.

The best friends watched him go, Red moving to stand next to Snow.

"And you're complaining about maybe getting engaged to that?" the younger woman asked, looking at her friend with a raised eyebrow.

Snow tossed her a glare as she swatted the younger woman's shoulder.

Inwardly she grumbled about charming princes, and tried to ignore the fact that he was starting to worm his way past the armor she had built up around her heart.


Speaking with "Granny" Beatrix was quite refreshing and enlightening for James.

Refreshing in that "Granny", as she insisted he call her, was like many older people he had spoken to, respectful of his position but not particularly caring for formalities. She was quite the force of nature with strong opinions and wasn't the least bit shy in voicing them. He liked that she didn't sugarcoat things or curb herself as she spoke to him…and that she felt no qualms at putting him to work peeling potatoes while they talked.

Enlightening in that she told him a great deal about the kingdom, village and royal family; along with all that bound them together. She confirmed his suspicions that their attitudes in the village and most of the kingdom were fairly egalitarian among the common folk and that it tended to extend up to the nobility as well. Intermarriage between common born and nobles was not as unusual as in most kingdoms encouraging the attitudes. Also the fact that the population was not half of his kingdom didn't hurt in strengthening those ties and views.

According to Granny, Queen Savannah, Snow's mother, had been a lovely, caring, genteel woman; her daughter was much like her, perhaps a little more headstrong and willful, but still her mother's daughter. King Leopold was a good king who cared for his people and looked to their welfare; Snow would be just as wonderful a queen someday. When he asked about Queen Regina, Granny shrugged stating that she concerned herself little with the people and the people concerned themselves little with her, simple as that.

Snow, meanwhile, had been hurrying around with Redell, Red as she was mostly called apparently, working on different projects and tasks that needed to be completed before the lunch hour when the fair would officially begin. He had noticed the shift in everyone's attitudes when he had shown up; he had felt a little bad about putting Snow in such a position that people she obviously was close to would put her at arm's length. He had immediately attempted to put them more at ease and once Granny had sat him down with the potatoes and a knife it had gone a long way to relax them and soon they had seemingly forgotten he was a foreign royal and were speaking normally amongst themselves, though they still seemed a little reticent to talk with him much.

The clock in the corner chimed, drawing Granny's attention. "Redell, Princess, you'd best start moving those plates out to the tables. It's eleven-thirty."

"Yes, Granny," the two voices chimed from just out of sight.

The old woman wiped her hands off on her apron, turning her sights on the prince. "Well, don't just sit here; you said you had to able hands. Use them." She shooed him toward the platters of food.

He quickly complied, hiding an amused smile at being ordered around by this small woman. "Right away, ma'am."

Snow was picking up a plate when he came over to the counter and tossed him a smirk as she headed to the door. Red raised her eyebrows at him, amusement glinting in her eyes, as she followed her friend out the door.

James had the feeling he was being double-timed, and possibly triple-timed, by some very strong, intelligent women.

As he helped carry out the dishes many of the town's people casted him wary looks and whispered amongst themselves. He didn't know why it bothered him as much as it did, feeling like an outsider, but for some reason he desperately wanted to remedy their leeriness of him.

James watched Snow set down two pies down the table from him. As he was looking at her a bright blue bird alighted on her shoulder; she looked over at it smiling. With her hand she swept some of the crumbs on the table into her palm and offered it to the bird who chirped before pecking them up in the blink of an eye. It seemed to nuzzle her; then took off again. Snow watched the creature go smiling, she then noticed him watching her. She stood frozen for a moment before turning and hurrying back to the Inn.

Once the long table was set with all the food people began to grab plates and get in line. He was moving off to the side, when Granny shoved a plate into his hands.

"You helped, you eat," she basically ordered him.

His eyebrows shot up at her tone. "I only peeled a few potatoes."

"You still helped." Her tone brooked no argument, so he did as he was told and got in line for the food.

People were settling on benches and mismatched chairs around tables, stone walls, barrels, on the ground, on blankets all around, chatting and laughing. Children ran to-and-fro shouting and laughing; only stopping when they're called over to eat by their parents.

As James took his turn going down the food table he noticed a tiny girl hopping up and down trying to reach something, the rolls it appeared, on the table. He lifted one out of the basket and, crouching down to her level, offered it to the child, who had stopped jumping and was staring at him wide-eyed. "Is this what you wanted?"

She had stuck a finger in her mouth and eyed him warily as she nodded.

"Here you go, take it," he held it out to her.


Snow was sitting on the ground next to Red and the dwarfs eating; she watched as Charming offered the smithy's daughter a roll. The little girl haltingly reached out and took it from him. She appeared to say, "Thank you"; then scampered off quickly. Prince Charming watched her go; then stood and finished placing food on his plate. He looked around, seeming to try and find a place to sit; their eyes met and held for several moments. She looked down first, trying to ignore the fact that her heart was beating a little faster than normal. She watched him through the veil of her eyelashes as he moved over to a tree away from most of the people and sat down. Snow bit her lip, thoughtfully; then stood up with her plate, much to the surprise of her companions, and began walking over to where Charming was sitting.

He looked up at her approach, raising his eyebrows in surprise, which increased when she settled down near him.

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. "You just looked pathetic over here, alone," she told him, hoping that the warmth she felt in her cheeks wasn't visible to him. She lifted her fork and took a bite of her mashed potatoes.

He studied her for a moment longer before turning to his own meal.


King Rilian's name came from the Chronicles of Narnia; Red Riding Hood's name came from when I was looking for a name that could have "Red" as a nickname and came across "Redell", which according to the site I went to means "council of wolves", which just basically seemed like fate to me. Thank you so much for reading! Please let me know what you think!

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