Jackrabbit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 13 (v.1) - Chapter 13

Submitted: December 02, 2017

Reads: 48

Comments: 3

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Submitted: December 02, 2017

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Months passed slowly. Soon, the seasons changed. It grew colder as leaves shriveled off the trees and coated the ground. Even so, things were happy. Layla was a constant presence, her smile always lighting up the atmosphere. Maybe we could…live here in peace. There had been no sign of Henry since we had arrived. Most likely, he was embroiled in politics, trying to appease the issues of the citizens. Part of me wondered if he had killed Rachel’s parents and tried to usurp the throne. But it didn’t seem like that was what he desired; Henry could’ve simply married Rachel if he was looking for a crown. Not to mention he himself was already a prince.

 

A sudden tap on my shoulder snapped me out of my thoughts. Rachel cocked her head to the side, looking at me with annoyance. “Jack, stop daydreaming. I need help with this.”

 

“What is it?” I sighed, following after the princess. My assumed name had come easier to her, to the point where I hadn’t heard her call me Lennard in a month. She sat on the floor of the hut, hanging over a small mess of flowers. They seemed to be daisies, though I didn’t know they still grew at this time of year.

 

“I need you to help me weave these into a wreath,” she huffed, taking several of the flowers in her hands.

 

“How the hell do I do that?”

 

“Watch.” She twisted the stems together, weaving and braiding them. The more flowers she added, the thicker it grew. “It’s like braiding hair,” she said.

 

“Why would I know how to braid hair?”

 

“You used to have long hair, no? Surely you made sure to take care of it. You literally just twist them together.”

 

Come to think of it, I could hardly remember my hair from before. It had been so devastating when Renault cut it, but now I had all but forgotten. It was strange how quickly one could forget, even if it was something so important. My hair was longer now, but not even close to the same length it was before. At most, it had grown about two inches. Even with the slight added length, it was still long enough to caress my shoulders. Larcei had offered to trim it, but I had declined. These people knew not my wanted poster, or the long hair that framed my face. Besides, there was no doubt Luther had told Henry of my new look, and the posters had been updated.

 

“This is stupid!” I spat, growing frustrated as the flower stalks slipped out of my grip. They were sticky yet slippery at the same time, making it very difficult for my clumsy fingers to grasp. I flashed a glance over at Rachel as the princess tied them together effortlessly. Her fingers were slim and dainty, easily nimble enough to get the job done. “Why did you even ask for my help? You seem to be doing fine on your own.”

 

“Well maybe I figured you wouldn’t be so useless,” she retorted, leaving me with an embarrassed flush.

 

Layla ducked her head through the entrance, grinning from ear to ear. “Heya! What are you all doing?”

 

“Weaving flowers together,” Rachel replied, twisting more stalks together. When they clumped together, she drew a string of fabric from her dress before cutting it with her teeth. The princess wrapped the string around the flowers, fastening them together. Gradually, the flowers were taking shape into something beautiful. It sort of looked like a vine dotted with flowers. With a deft motion, Rachel twisted the ends around and fastened them together with another string. “There,” she said proudly.

 

Admittedly, it was charming. The princess groaned in irritation as she placed the crown on her head. “This won’t fit with my ponytail.”

 

“Then let your hair down,” I replied flatly.

 

“I will do no such thing!” Rachel shot back, raising her nose up in that familiar manner that irked me to no end. “I am a lady of noble birth. You are supposed to keep your hair up.”

 

“What about your mother? She kept her hair down, albeit with a pin fastened in the back.”

 

Rachel’s face suddenly darkened, and I cursed myself. You idiot. Why did you have to bring up her mother? The darkness vanished as soon as it appeared, replaced with a cheerful smile. She got to her feet, walking over to Layla. “Here,” she said, placing the crown on the dragon girl’s head, “this looks perfect for your style.”

 

“No, no,” Layla shot back, trying to wiggle out of the way. “You don’t need to do that.”

 

Rachel placed the crown on the girl’s head, smiling widely. “What are you talking about? You look amazing!”

 

“Y-you think so?” Layla asked softly, leaning against the side of the entrance. We made eye contact briefly, and my breath caught in my throat. Rachel wasn’t someone I liked to acknowledge, but she had done something right. The daisies shaded perfectly against Layla’s burlap dress. The neat embroidery on the bottom was more colorful than the white and yellow flowers, but it matched in an odd way. It even accentuated her round, large eyes. The overall theme was organic and natural. Certainly something you’d never see in the city. The daisies only cemented the look that Layla was a plains girl, wild and free. She was a wildflower, growing where she pleased with nothing to limit her.

 

“You look great,” I finally said, almost tripping over my tongue.

 

The dragon girl offered a shy smile. “Thanks….” She turned around, looking outside. “Anyway, I have some stuff I need to do. Er, you two have fun.” Before either of us could say anything, she ran out towards the congregation of huts.

 

Rachel and I watched her, both of us smiling. Her hand met mine, warming the skin against the chilly autumn air. “I would’ve been the one wearing a crown someday.” Her voice was soft, more meant for herself than me. I held my tongue, letting her dwell on her thoughts for the time being. It wasn’t right to be upset at her for what happened; all of us lost something, after all. This journey hasn’t been any easier on the princess than me. Henry was probably close to them. Maybe he even killed them both. It wasn’t like we could find any answers without risking everything.

 

The sudden, tall figure of Larcei appeared. He smiled, holding a large weave basket of water over his head. It most likely had been greased with the fat of some water-resistant animal to prevent it from leaking. Renault followed several yards behind, also lugging a woven bowl. “Ah,” Larcei said calmly, “you two seem to be having fun.”

 

“We were making flower crowns,” Rachel answered, yanking her hand away from mine as she remembered her place. “Layla looks really nice with one.”

“Oh? She seemed pretty happy when she left,” the medic replied as he set the bowl down on a table. “She was smiling ear to ear.”

 

Rachel sat back down on the floor with a sigh. “I just wish there were more flowers to pick. All I can find are daisies. And now that winter is coming, I doubt I’ll be able to find anything.”

 

“You could use snapdragons,” I replied wryly.

 

She slapped my arm playfully. “Be quiet, Jack. The last thing I want to do is get Renault poisoned again.”

 

“They only poison those without magic,” Larcei said, his back still facing us as he fiddled with some herbs. “If you are the only one who handles them, there will be no risk.”

 

“But I can’t even wear flower crowns,” Rachel replied. “What’s the use of making one when nobody but me can wear it?”

 

“The dragonkin can wear it.” The half-dragon smiled lightly as he shifted around the stores. “Why don’t you make flower crowns for the village children? I’m sure that would make them happy.”

 

Rachel clapped her hands together. “What a wonderful idea!” She grabbed my hand, dragging me out the entrance as I protested. After we made it outside, I jerked my hand away from her, rubbing the sore appendage.

 

“We can’t just run out into the cold. You’ll catch something.”

 

“I’ll just cure it,” she shot back, hardly paying my argument any mind.

 

I sighed, as there was no way to dissuade the princess once she put her mind to something. Following her, I shivered as the fall breeze blew straight through me. It was incessantly hot when we had fled from Henry. The seasons just reminded us of the time that passes. Indeed, as it grew colder, Rachel grew more pensive. She stared out into the horizon frequently and grew quiet. What she was searching for, I did not know. It wasn’t my place to ask. That girl had her own demons to deal with.

 

The longer we stayed in Celstine, the more I began to question our effect on everyone. Rachel was safe, true, but she was also suffering. I could see that much in her eyes. Layla only grew shyer as the months passed, until she could hardly meet my gaze. Were we scaring her? It was no secret the other dragonkin disliked us. Maybe they were putting pressure on Layla to shun us. Larcei was the only one who remained unchanged. Then again, it was impossible to tell what he was thinking. The medic was kind and unassuming on the outside, but he was a master at shielding how he felt. His violet-toned eyes were always gentle. He could’ve been plotting someone’s murder, and no one would be able to tell otherwise.

 

Rachel suddenly squealed, shattering my train of thought. The princess knelt down against the grass, cupping her hands around a lone flower. It looked a little wilted, but only slightly. “This is a snapdragon, right?”

 

“Yeah, but you’re going to need more than one,” I replied, rolling my eyes. My attitude did nothing to slow her down, however.

 

“Where there’s one, there’s bound to be more,” Rachel exclaimed, dragging me behind her into the brush. The woods were sparse at first, but rapidly growing thicker with each step. I hissed in annoyance as a pine branch swatted my face. Rachel laughed slightly, but continued sifting through bushes. Behind a swath of ferns, the brush suddenly faded away to form a small patch of empty space. Snapdragons dotted the sparse grass, blooming in huge groups.

 

While Rachel bent down to pick the flowers, I kept my distance. “Jack,” she called, “help me pick these up!”

 

“No thanks. I can’t touch them, remember?”

 

She was already digging through more, having forgotten my reply. The burlap clothing Layla had given to her blended in with the frozen ground. The princess had been hesitant to change attire, but it was only temporary until Layla finished repairing Rachel’s original outfit. The burlap looked strange on her, with her blond hair and honey-toned eyes. Layla was a wildflower, but Rachel was an orchid. Organic clothing didn’t suit her at all.

 

“...Are you listening?”

 

I looked back in the face of Rachel as the princess glared at me. She was mere inches away from my face, her cheeks flushed with red. “Are you listening, Jack?” she asked irritably.

 

“What?”

 

She groaned and stamped her foot against the unmoving earth. “I was asking if you could hold some of the snapdragons for me, but I guess you’re just too good to listen to me.”

 

“What’s with you?” I growled back. “All you’ve been doing lately is whining.”

 

“I am not,” she replied, her nose turned up stubbornly. “You’re the one who’s acting crazy. You keep staring at me whenever you think I’m not looking.”

 

“Th-that’s not true!” My cheeks suddenly burned, a sharp contrast to the frigid air. “I’m just looking because you’re always acting weird. Ever since it got cold, you’ve just been staring into space a lot. It’s weirding me out.”

 

“You wouldn’t understand.” She suddenly winced, dropping the snapdragons in her hand to the ground. The flowers had pierced her palm; blood trickled out slowly, a warm crimson against the creamy white of her skin. “It hurts,” she whined.

 

I took a step towards her, my anger completely forgotten. Her hand was warm as I grasped it. Upon further inspection, it was just a small cut. It certainly wouldn’t kill her. “Sheesh, you’re such a drama queen,” I sighed. “It’s just a dumb cut, you big baby.”

 

“But it hurts,” Rachel protested, her cheeks inflating to form a pouting expression.

 

I looked at her face, all round and wide as she pouted. The princess looked like a squashed tomato. I suddenly threw my head back and laughed, letting the hoarse sound echo against the trees. The tension that had surrounded us for the past month melted away, leaving nothing but an easygoing atmosphere.

 

Gradually, Rachel joined in, until we both were laughing. I clutched my sides, letting tears stream down my face. There was something so freeing right here, right now. After several minutes passed, I looked back at the princess. Her face was flushed from the cold and exertion, eyes wide like pools of amber. I rested her head against my shoulder, chuckling softly. “Gods, what am I going to do with you?”

 

For a second, she was so close. The scent of lavender held me in an embrace, almost too sweet to bear. But after a moment, she pushed me away and looked down at the grass. At the fallen snapdragon flowers.

 

I wanted to question her. To scream why she did it. But instead, I held my tongue and stood there, irritated with the disappointment tingling in my chest. Stop being so sappy. She’s just an annoying girl anyway. You only wanted her warmth. In the midst of my swirling thoughts, a sudden coldness pressed against my nose. A small flake of snow rested on the tip, before melting away as quickly as it had come. Rachel held her mouth wide open in wonder as she held her hands out to catch the falling flakes.

 

“It’s snowing,” she said finally, her mouth hanging open slightly.

 

Yeah, no shit. “We should bring those flowers back before the snow covers them,” I said, bending over to pick up the fallen snapdragons. I took care not to prick my finger on the thorns, lest I get the poison in my bloodstream. Karen would have no trouble picking these up. I pushed the thought away, trying not to dwell on the lies my sister told. Some things were best left alone, after all.

 

Once we got back to the village, Rachel weaved the flowers together, smiling softly as the thorned stems fastened quickly. I merely watched, not wanting to prick myself. Slowly, a dozen or so flower crowns laid against the floor of the hut. The princess smiled widely, her eyes closed tightly shut with glee and pride. “Look!”

 

“Nice,” I merely said, allowing a small nod. The two of us stood up, peering outside towards the main village. Children milled about, laughing and shouting as they tumbled around.

 

We approached slowly and quietly, trying not to scare them off. Once we were close enough, Rachel lifted the snapdragon crowns above her head. “Who wants one?!” she shouted loudly.

 

The children looked up, frozen momentarily. For several moments, no one moved. I thought they’d run away. At last, a small boy with brown hair and big ears walked over, barely coming up past my hip. “Can I have one?” he stammered, too shy to look at the princess.

 

Rachel smiled, kneeling down. “Of course.” She placed the crown on his head, smiling with the little boy. Soon after, the other children approached, wanting wreaths of their own. The only one left was a slightly older boy, about 10 years old, with unruly hair and a scratched up face.

 

He snorted, looking away with a scowl. “Wreaths are for girls.”

 

Despite myself, I smiled. “Really? A true man knows a manly wreath when he sees one.” I took one from Rachel, placing it on my head. The thorns felt uncomfortable, but none of them broke skin. “See? This is a manly wreath.”

 

Behind me, Rachel giggled. The boy hesitantly grabbed one, tilting his head up stubbornly. “I guess I can take one,” he muttered, putting it on top of his head. Though he turned away, the blossoming grin on his face didn’t escape my notice.

 

 

Rachel and I smiled at each other, joining in with the children’s games. It snowed heavily, until the white powder coated my shoulders and turned my hair a dark, muddy brown. We only laughed, our noses dripping as the cold wreathed around us. I hope…things will always be like this, I thought, watching the bratty princess laugh.



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