Finally! Here is my new one! I'm excited! Its set sometime during medieval times… and well, I'll let you read and see what you think.
As usual, it takes a village to get these fics to you. This one included. First, I need to thank Norbertsmom! She has been wonderful as she always is! Then I need to thank sohypothetically, alex, notanislander, loueze, arby, diana, gigi, and pumpkin king! Thank you all for reading, talking this fic through with me, and all that.
Now, while the time isn't specific, the countries are made up. I will explain more in the next chapter. And I don't own anything…
As always, thank you me dear reader. I adore all of you! And let me know what you think! Please!
Everyone in the country remembers when the queen died. Mothers hold their children tight, and children cry remembering her kindness. The men mourn her legendary beauty while the single women of the neighboring courts wonder what will happen to the handsome blond haired king.
Only the people in her village remember when her husband died, the local woodsman of the woods surrounding them. It was often her bow and his axe that supplied the meat and wood for their small village in the hills behind the castle.
Katniss sighs as she looks out the cottage window to watch the sun set on another day. She smiles when she feels Violet's little arms hug her waist. She runs her fingers through the four year olds walnut colored curls, loving the way they bounce back into place. Violet looks up at her with matching silver eyes which Katniss thinks is perfect on her daughter.
"Mama?" Violet asks.
"What is it baby?"
Violet takes a deep breath. "Can I go with you tomorrow? When you go hunting. I'll be quiet, I promise."
Katniss crouches down so she can look into Violet's eyes. "What's wrong? Why don't you want to go to Delly's tomorrow?"
The four year old looks down and Katniss knows that something is really wrong if she won't look her in the eye. Violet murmurs, "Tommy and Sarah keep on asking me when is Daddy coming home?" She looks at her mother, tears breaking Katniss' heart gathering in her eyes. "Where is Daddy? You said that he is gone, but I miss him. Where is he Mama? Did I make him mad? Is that why he won't come home?"
Katniss gathers her daughter in her arms and stands up. She walks over to the rocking chair that Mitch carved for her when she first told him that their Violet was on the way. She sits down, tucking Violet into her arms. Her tears join her daughters. "Oh my little sweetheart," she starts borrowing Mitch's Uncle Haymitch's nickname for the both of them. "Your daddy never wanted to leave us. You know he made this rocking chair for us? As soon as we learned you were in my tummy, he got out his sharpest axe and with Aunt Jo's help; they cut down some oak trees to build this just for you. Then there was the day you were born, he was so very proud of you. He had to carry you around to everyone in the village to show them how perfect you are." She looks down at Violet who smiles weakly back at her. "I thought you understood what happened to daddy. Even Grandma and Aunt Prim couldn't help him after the boar got his leg. Don't you remember how sick he was?"
Violet nods. "But Aunt Prim and Grandma always make people all better. Why did he have to leave?"
Katniss sighs, "Baby, sometimes bad things happen and no matter what you do, you can't save them. That boar was mean and nasty. I wasn't there to help him, and Aunt Jo couldn't get to him quick enough. The fever came and Grandma and Aunt Prim couldn't get it down. Daddy wasn't strong enough-"
Violet interrupts, "But Daddy is the strongest ever!"
"Yes, he is, but not everyone can survive a fever. He died." The sob catches in her throat the pain still so real even after a month. "That means that his body isn't breathing anymore, his heart isn't beating anymore. I like to think that we will see him again one day, maybe in heaven."
They rock together in silence for a moment, both in deep thought. Violet asks, "Are you going to leave me too?"
Katniss pulls her up so she can see her daughter's eyes. "Not if I can help it. Is that why you want to go hunting with me tomorrow?"
Violet nods. "And so I can protect you from those mean boars."
Katniss pats her on the bottom. "Get up for a minute." She stands after Violet hops down. Katniss walks over to the cabinet that Mitch made to keep her bow and quiver in. she opens the door and looks in, seeing what she is looking for in the corner. Violet's eyes light up when she pulls out a small bundle wrapped in oiled canvas.
"What is that?" Violet asks.
Katniss sets it down on the table and unwraps the cloth. Hidden, like the treasure it is, is a miniature bow, just the right size for a four year old. "Your papa made this for me when I was a little girl. I think it's time you learned how to hunt too."
Violet squeals with glee then throws her arms around Katniss' legs again. "Thank you, Mama!"
Prince Ethan looks out his window watching the deer creep out of the woods to munch on the spring grass of the meadow. They are enjoying their meal, but ready to leap away in a single bound if need be. He wishes he could go with them.
Today is his sixth birthday. He wipes his nose on his shirt sleeve instead of the handkerchief Ms. Effie tucked into his pocket this morning. There are still black curtains hanging in the windows and everyone is still wearing black. He just can't figure out why Mama had to die and take his little sister with her because he could really use one of her hugs right now, even if he had to share it with a little baby.
He hears someone come in behind him and he presses closer to the chilly window trying to hide, especially if it's Ms. Effie coming in. He smiles in relief when he hears his favorite Aunt Annie say, as she sits down beside him in the window seat, "There is my sweet birthday boy."
He turns and launches himself at her, hanging onto her tightly. They don't say anything, but silent tears run down both of their cheeks as they miss their queen. Through her quiet sobs, Annie starts, "You know, she was always so proud of you. Ever since you were born, your mom would say that you were going to be so smart, and nothing was ever going to get in your way."
"I miss her Aunt Annie," he says muffled against her.
She runs her fingers through his strawberry blond curls just like Mama did when she would read to him in the afternoons. "I miss her, too. Why don't we go look for your dad?"
Ethan shrugs. "I haven't seen him today. I had to go down to the kitchen by myself for breakfast. Sae did fix me my birthday pancakes. She even made a number six."
"She did? She would do that when we were little. Did you know that your mom taught her how to read? She said that everyone needs to know. She wanted to open a library one day."
Annie nods. "Amelia wanted to make sure that everyone could read. It made everyone smarter, and she was right." Annie stands and offers Ethan her hand. He slowly stands up and hangs on to it. She leads him out of his rooms, and down the hallway. After they walk down the grand staircase, they approach the king's offices. Ethan hangs back stopping Annie in her tracks.
She turns to him and asks, "What's wrong? You've never acted like this."
Ethan looks at the huge doors, which for the first time he can remember, are closed. His mama always insisted that they be left open in case Ethan needed either one of them. "The doors are closed."
"It's ok. Finnick closed them so he could speak to your father alone. Its ok if we go in," she reassures him as she pushes the door open. Ethan slowly follows her in, seeing the two men standing by the window. It's not until they hear the rusty squeak of the closing door that they look up.
Ethan can't see his dad's face at first, but as soon as he sees his sky blue eyes smiling at him for the first time in a week, he grabs onto him sobbing in his arms. His dad leads him to the couch where Mama would always read to him, and sits down, pulling him onto his lap.
Finnick tucks Annie's hand into the crook of his arm and Ethan can hear him whisper to Daddy, "We'll be out in the gardens. Annie is going to show me what flowers she just planted for the wedding."
Ethan feels his dad nod. He waits for them to close the door before he says, "I haven't forgotten what today is."
Ethan looks up at him. "What?"
His dad kisses him on the nose. "It's your birthday. I'm sorry I didn't get to eat birthday pancakes with you this morning. There were some very important meetings I had to do first thing."
Ethan nods and tucks his head back under his dad's chin. He picks up the king's hand, running his fingers over the different little scars on it. "So you didn't forget?"
"No, Mac, my son. How could I forget the happiest day of my life? Now I know we don't feel like celebrating much right now—"
"Where did she go?" Ethan interrupts.
"I like to think that she is in heaven with the baby, and that one day we will see them again."
He feels his dad's chest shake and thinks that he is laughing until he looks up and sees the tears running down his cheeks. Ethan wraps his arms around his dad's neck and they, the good king Peeta Charles Michael Mellark the second and his son, Ethan Tegan Zander Mellark the first of Panem, cry together over the loss of their queen, Amelia Mellark, sister of Duchess Annie Cresta.
Its spring in the little country by the sea and it still gets cold enough that Katniss has to keep a fire going all night in their little two bedroom cottage to keep them warm.
Katniss puts another piece of pine on the fire, warming her hands as the flames engulf the wood. The sun isn't even up yet, but she needs to get Violet up so they can head out into the woods. Before she can head into her daughter's room, there is a gentle knock on the door.
She opens the door and her mother, Lily Everdeen smiles tiredly at her while Katniss stands and lets her in. "It's chilly out there this morning," Lily says.
"It is." Katniss gets a cup off the shelf and pours Lily some of the water that just started boiling. Lily sits down at Katniss' little table and pulls a packet of herbs out of the basket on her arm. Katniss sits down her mug full of steaming water and Lily adds herbs to hers too. "Thank you, Mother."
Lily stirs hers. "I finished drying them and crushing them last night. Then I got a call that Clove was in labor."
Katniss sets down her cup. "Did she have it?"
"She did. A healthy baby girl. I saw you move in the window and thought I could go ahead and drop these off."
"Where is Prim?"
"Gale hurt his foot last night. She is over helping Madge."
"Grandma!" Violet exclaims from the doorway before she runs to Lily's opens arms. "What are you doing here?"
"Do you remember Clove?" She waits for Violet to nod. "She had her baby last night and I was over there helping her."
"Was it a boy or a girl?" Violet asks.
"A little girl."
Violet smiles. "Oh good, we need more girls in the village." Everyone chuckles together. "Grandma, guess what?"
Violet looks at Katniss, and for the first time in a month, her eyes are smiling. "Mama is going to take me hunting today."
Katniss smiles as her mother and her daughter continue talking as she sips her tea. If taking her daughter out into the woods is going to help them both heal, not get over, but heal after Mitch died… then she will do it as much as it takes until they are both whole again.
"Daddy." A soft little voice wakes him up instantly.
"Ethan?" Peeta asks, reaching for his son.
The small boy crawls onto the bed. Peeta pulls him under the covers and wraps him in his arms, tucking him under his chin. "I had a bad dream, Daddy. I couldn't find you—"
"Shhh. I've got you Mac and nothing is going to happen to you."
Peeta stays awake until he feels Ethan's breathing even back out. He isn't sure how long he lays in the dark, his own tears wetting the pillow under him, missing his wife.
After the Mellark men wake up, and while they are eating their breakfast in the kitchen with Sae, Ethan quietly asks, "Can we go riding today?"
Peeta watches his son, who before last week was a completely different child. He will call Finnick and let him handle what he can today and cancel the rest of his meetings. Today is for Ethan. "We can. Let me let Finnick take over for me today, and we will." He looks up at Sae, who is smiling reassuringly at him. "Sae, pack us a big picnic lunch! We are riding in the woods today!"
Ethan jumps up from his stool and after giving his dad a great big hug, he runs up the stairs. Peeta returns his attention to the rest of his eggs, grateful that he doesn't have to eat anymore since Ethan isn't watching him anymore. Sae's hand comes to rest on top of his, and he flips his over to hold hers.
"My sweet king. My heart breaks for ye'."
After crying early this morning, he thought he was done. Rebellious tears catch up to him and he looks up to his old friend. "My heart is broken too. She was too young, the baby—"
Sae comes around the counter and wraps her arms around him, kissing his temple like she did when he was but a boy and would come to her with his scrapes and bruises. "I know, I know. It's a horrible tragedy. Neither one of you deserved what you have been handed."
Peeta wipes his tears. "I just have to remember what is important."
"Yes, and while you need to take care of this country, don't forget the young prince. He needs you right now too."
Peeta smiles into her eyes and smiles. "I remember when Mother died. She wasn't anything like Amelia—" Sae's snort interrupts him. He smiles and continues, "But I still missed her."
"And that is when you found me down in my kitchens."
A sad smiles graces his royal face. "I'm so glad that I did. You have always been there for me. I wish you would let me hire another head cook—"
"Already ready to replace me?" Sae quips and chuckles when Peeta rolls his eyes at her. "I'm going to take you up on that one day, but I think, for just a little longer, I'll stay right here so I can watch over my boys."
Peeta stands up and envelops the woman he wished many times was his own mother. "Thank you. Give me about an hour? Then we should be ready to go?"
Sae nods. "Aye. I'll have the picnic ready for ye."
"Come on, Dad!" Ethan calls to him as they trot the horses through the meadow before they reach the woods. The royal guard went on ahead of them but they know to keep out of sight of the young prince.
"I'm right behind you, just keep Cake on the path."
"I will, Dad," Ethan calls back to him making him smile.
"When did you start calling me Dad?"
Ethan looks back at him with a smile and a shrug. "I don't know? I guess Annie started calling you that—"
"Ahhhhh, so this is Annie's fault?"
Peeta doesn't miss his son's big grin. "Of course, it is."
Katniss creeps along the forest floor, her deer skin boots not making a sound as she treads over the leaves. She points out to Violet the fresh new plants fighting their way up through the ground. Crouching down, she picks up some of the leaves. "Look, this is ginseng. Grandma will want this when it gets bigger." Katniss uncovers some more plants. "This is goldenseal. She will want this too, to replace what she passed out this past winter."
"To help the sick people?"
Katniss nods and stands up. "To help the sick people. Now, during this time of year, we only kill what we have to. The mama's are having new babies right now, so we don't want to get them."
Violet looks worried. "But Mama—"
Katniss turns and bends down again. "We talked about this. The forest gives us food so we can survive. The king gave uncle Haymitch permission years ago and the promise that we are the only ones who can hunt. So while his majesty is generous, we don't take more than we and the village needs. That is why he also helped Delly and Madge to get their sheep and cows."
Violet nods, and Katniss can tell that she doesn't really understand. "I guess it is too much for you to understand right now. Come on," Katniss straightens up again, dusting her hands off on her pants. "Let's keep going."
Katniss leads to her favorite hunting spot next to a well-traveled path for the animals through the woods. Mitch, years ago, had built her a little platform in the oak tree. She whispers to Violet, "See those boards? Climb it like you do the ladder into Uncle Haymitch's hay loft."
"Is this why we don't hunt in our dresses?" Violet asks. Katniss can't keep the smile off her face as she remembers how it was only a couple of months ago, and the promise of hunting that got her daughter to finally put on a pair of pants and her own little deer skin boots that she had just finished sewing for her. Violet loves the pretty dresses her grandma and aunts made for her.
Violet had climbed to eye level and Katniss patted her on the bottom. "Get up there you and yes, this climb is easier in pants."
Katniss climbs up right behind Violet, so that if she missed a board, she would fall into her mother. The platform is big enough for both of them to sit, or stand with a rope around it so that something would catch them if they fell. Katniss shows Violet how to ready her bow, and then to wait. It isn't long before they start hearing the different animals going about their day. In a quiet whisper, Katniss explains again that they can't get any of the animals they are seeing. They are all mothers with babies.
They continue to watch the forest, and while Katniss wants to be able to take something home, she knows that this time is very precious, even if she is going to have to go help Delly butcher cows tomorrow to earn some meat for her own table.
"Let's stop here, Mac," Peeta calls to Ethan, who is a couple of lengths ahead of him. Ethan pulls his horse to a stop, and Peeta goes ahead and jumps down from his black stallion, Bishop. He drops the reigns, giving the horse permission to graze, which he thanks Peeta when he softly blows through his nose. Peeta rubs in between Bishop's ears. "Let me help Ethan and Cake. You stay here."
He walks quickly to his son, and gently grabs Cake's reigns while Ethan hops down out of his saddle. "That was fun, Dad, but my legs hurt."
Peeta throws his arm around Ethan's shoulder and leads him and his horse over to where Bishop is grazing. While he tethers Cake to a branch, he says, "Yeah, we haven't been riding as much as we should. We'll start doing it every day, ok?"
Ethan nods and pulls the packed lunch out of his saddle bag. "I'm hungry."
Peeta chuckles, his first genuine one in days. "Me too, son. Let's see what Sae packed us." Soon, father and son are busy eating. After Peeta finishes his first sandwich, he watches Ethan eat. He doesn't miss the dark circles under his son's eyes and how his mother's strawberry blond curls that she gave her son are tangled from not being brushed. Peeta asks, "Why did you come and get in the bed with me last night?"
Ethan flushes red and Peeta feels bad for embarrassing him. "I dreamed that I couldn't find you, or Mama," he finishes in a sad whisper. "Is it ok—"
"Of course, Mac," Peeta interrupts when he pulls him close for a hug. "We might be broken right now, but we are still family. No matter what I'm doing, I will be here for you."
Ethan nods, and smiles faintly. "Thank you, Daddy. Can I sleep in your bed tonight? I don't want any more bad dreams."
Peeta ruffles those messy curls. "We'll see. Do you want to go down by the river? Let's see if we can find some tadpoles?"
Ethan nods eagerly. They pick up the food, and tuck it back into Bishop's saddle bag. Cake is happy waiting for them to ride back to the castle, but bishop follows Peeta like he trained him to so many years ago.
The river is further than Peeta thought it was, and it seems that the underbrush in the woods is thicker this year. They push aside the brush and Peeta says, "Hey Mac, remind me to tell Cato to come and cut all this down. This can't be safe."
"Yes, Dad." Ethan stops all of a sudden, and Peeta smiles when he hears the waterfall. Ethan keeps on walking to the shore, but Peeta hears Bishop nickering behind him.
"You stay here. We'll be right back," Peeta says to him, and Bishop turns around and finds some clover to munch on while he watches. Peeta turns back around, and says, "What did you find?" to Ethan as he walk up behind him.
Ethan looks up at him, with an excited smile on his face. "Look, Dad!"
"Isn't it beautiful?"
"Can I go in?"
"No Mac, it would be too cold, don't you think?" Peeta smiles at the disappointment on his son's face as he looks longingly at the gentle waterfall. "We'll come back when its warmer, then we can swim. You know, I used to come here all the time when I was your age."
"Why didn't you bring me before now?"
Peeta looks down at his son and can't help but to feel disappointed in himself. "I guess I got too busy." Peeta crouches down, so he can be eye level with his son. "But I'm not going to let that happen anymore."
Ethan returns his smile, and for the next hour, Peeta teaches his son how to skip rocks across the little lake.
Peeta stands next to Bishop, who doesn't like to let his master out of his sight, as Ethan gathers more rocks on the other side of the lake. Just as Peeta is getting ready to tell him to come back around the lake, his son screams and takes off running into the woods.
Katniss shoulders her bow, and is helping Violet with hers when she hears the scream. A mother's intuition takes over as she throws Violet onto her own back, and makes it out of the tree in record time. As soon as her feet touch the forest floor, she is off and running.
She only has to travel about 300 feet when she sees the boy running away from the boar. She sets Violet in a tree and whispers, "Stay here." Taking her bow and about three arrows in her hand, she runs after the strawberry blond head.
Katniss catches up to boar and is close enough to shout, "Keep running!" she notches the arrow, and in rapid fire, she hits the boar, first on its rump. It slows down a little and then turns to charge her instead. She stops and sends her other two arrows through each one of its eyes stopping the wild pig, dead in its tracks.
She runs past the carcass yelling, "You can stop, now! It's dead!"
The boy stops, and sea green eyes whirl around to meet her silver ones. She can see how he is gasping for breath as she runs to him. She offers him her flask and he takes it, gulping a big swallow of water. She pats him on the back when he lowers it sputtering and coughing. "Slow down. The boar is dead, and you are safe. Come back over here with me, I need to get my daughter out of a tree."
The boy nods and follows her back to Violet. Katniss retrieves her daughter, setting her down in front of the boy. Violet steps behind her, and Katniss knows that she is going to act shy now. "My name is Katniss and this is my daughter, Violet."
The boy nods. "My name is Ethan—" before he can continue, a rider on the tallest solid black horse she has ever seen comes charging through the woods. The boy begins to run up to the horse and Katniss catches Ethan before he gets to the rider, seeing the horse start to rear.
"Wait a minute. Let the horse calm down." she says in Ethan's ear. That's when she notices the man on the horse. She first notices his blond curls that the wind has tousled while he was racing through the woods. His clothes are cut finer than anyone's she has ever seen. Those clothes cover broad shoulders, and strong thighs that have spent many a day on top of his horse. His boots are shined perfectly—her thoughts are interrupted when she meets his eyes. They are the same color of the summer sky on a clear day. When she notices his eyes narrowing in anger, she tucks the boy behind her, and grabs an arrow. She quickly nocks an arrow and draws her bow. She practically shouts when he unsheathes his sword, "Get behind me, Violet." And she waits for her daughter to run behind her. Ethan starts to move, but she growls, "Don't move." To the too handsome man on top of the beast in front of her, she demands, "State your business, Sir!"
He catches up to Ethan, and is amazed by the woman standing by his son. Her hair is gathered in a braid that runs down her back and he smiles when he sees that it's the color of his favorite hot chocolate that Sae makes for him when it's cold. He is a little taken back when he sees her wearing pants instead of a dress. Standing next to her is a little girl with the same chocolate hair, and he can make out the little one's silver eyes when she notices him approaching on Bishop.
What he doesn't expect is the woman to turn and grab his son. He can feel his anger build as she restrains Ethan. Bishop must feel his agitation because he starts to rear. After many hours of training, his first instinct is to grab his sword when he sees her draw her bow and nocks an arrow.
He is speechless when he sees her beautiful silver eyes flash in anger at him. He lets his sword drop, when he regains control over his horse again. "That's my son," he says. Her offering to protect Ethan warming his heart.
She lowers her bow, but only enough so she can ask if he was speaking the truth. Ethan nods and she goes ahead and lowers the bow all the way while the children step out from behind her. He quickly gets off the horse and catches Ethan in a hug. He then checks him to make sure he is not hurt.
The woman approaches and he can tell that she is nervous. "I killed the boar that was chasing him. There are so many of them this year."
He places his right arm over his chest and bows, a sign of gratitude among his people. She blushes as he says, "Thank you for saving my son."
She gives him a little smile, and he thinks that she could be even more beautiful than the queen.
She watches his face fall, like he just remembered something horrible. "We have to be leaving now, Ethan."
The boy takes her hand and he kisses the top of it. "Thank you ma'am, for saving me."
She smiles as he turns back to his father. Violet steps up beside her, and slides her hand in hers. They watch as the two blond men climb onto the huge horse and ride away as if the very hounds of hell were after them. Katniss looks down at her daughter and squeezes her hand. She leads her over to the dead boar and says, "Well, it looks like we will have our own meat tonight, after all."