The Baker's Noble Son
A story not based on any particular tale but includes elements from several of Grimm's fairytales: mistaken identities, a good fairy, a wicked gnome, a proud and stubborn princess, and unexpected wedding night confessions. Peeta is a humble baker's son who falls in love with a mysterious huntress in the woods as a child. Years later, after he is tossed from his home he sets off to the King's castle in hopes of finding employment and his love. Yet an entirely different fate awaits him; a throne and a princess. Although he may still get the girl of his dreams, because there was more to the huntress than Peeta ever knew.
This fic has been written for THG Fairy Tale Challenge.
I would like to thank my wonderful and talented betas, Court81981 and kismet4891, I am so luck to work with such gifted ladies!
The Baker's Noble Son
Once upon a time in a quiet village far, far away, there lived a baker and his lovely wife who went by the surname of Mellark. They had one very beloved son who they named Petrus, but because of his father's trade, he was most often called Peeta.
One summer day when Peeta was six, his father sent him out into the woods to gather kindling for the bakery's ovens. In the forest, Peeta noticed that no birds were chirping, instead he heard what he thought was the loveliest voice singing a ballad. He found the source of the voice when he saw that it belonged to an olive-skinned little girl with two dark braids, who was dressed as a hunter, carrying a bow and quiver, and wandering the woods leading a pony. Peeta was utterly taken by her at first sight.
He asked the girl, "Are you lost?"
"No, I am not lost," the girl replied indignantly and gave him scowl. "I was hunting in the forest, and my pony was spooked and ran far away from my father's hunting party. I sing so that my father may find me."
Despite the girl's brave expression, Peeta could tell she was scared. He thought that he may be able to comfort her and offered, "Would you like to share my lunch with me while you wait for your father to find you? I have cheese buns that my father and I made."
"Well," the little girl licked her lips hungrily, "it has been a long while since breakfast, and I do favor cheese buns."
The two sat and shared Peeta's lunch. They giggled and chatted easily about the sort of things that small children do. The girl told Peeta that she lived in the king's castle and that her father was teaching her how to be a huntress. Peeta told her that he lived in the nearby village and that he wanted to be a baker some day. He asked her about her favorite color, and she said it was green like the forest. The girl asked him what his was, and he told her that it was orange, like the sunset.
Soon the birds again stopped their song, and Peeta heard a man's strong, clear voice singing the same ballad that the girl had been. "That is my papa, I should go to him now," the little girl announced and collected her pony and bow. She then looked to Peeta and shyly said, "Thank you for the cheese buns. They were the very best I ever tasted…also, you have very lovely blue eyes."
"You're welcome," Peeta replied and blushed brightly, then held her pony so that she could mount it. "You have very pretty grey eyes, and I think that your braids are beautiful too."
"Thank you," she whispered bashfully and started to sing her song, waved to Peeta and rode her pony away.
Peeta quickly gathered his kindling and rushed back home. When he got back to the bakery, his father asked him how his journey was. The boy smiled widely and told his father, "I have met my wife today, Father. She is a huntress with dark hair, shining grey eyes, lives in a castle, and has a voice so wonderful that the birds fall quiet when she sings."
"She sounds lovely, Peeta," the baker laughed, thinking that it was simply an imaginative story made up by his creative son. "Pray tell, what is her name?"
Crestfallen, the boy suddenly realized that he had never asked for her name. "I do not know, Father, but I love her dearly."
The baker patted his son on the head and consoled him. "If it is meant to be then you shall meet her again."Peeta and his father did not speak of it again, other than when his father wanted to affectionately tease his son about his future bride. Despite the briefness of their meeting, the little huntress was never far from Peeta's mind.
Six years passed; the baker's kind wife diedand in time he had remarried to a widow with two sons slightly older than his own. Peeta's stepmother was an awful, greedy woman who made the family eat stale bread and spoiled her sons while she forced Peeta to go without. One day Peeta was sent out into the woods to chop trees to burn in the bakery's oven while his stepbrothers were allowed to be idle. When Peeta asked for the help of one his stepbrothers, his stepmother struck him hard across the face.
While in the woods, he noticed all the birds of the forest suddenly stilled, and Peeta heard a girl's voice singing a sad, lonesome song. He followed it to its source, and he again found his huntress. She had aged six years, now wore one braid instead of two, and her expression was sorrowful. The girl rode a horse and heard Peeta approaching and turned her steed to hurry away.
"Please, huntress wait," Peeta called out, "I think that we have met before in this very place."
The huntress looked at him and examined him for a moment and then replied, "Yes, I think that we met in this very forest many years ago." She gave him the very smallest of smiles and said, "You shared some very delicious cheese buns with me, as I recall."
"Yes, I did," Peeta grinned widely at the memory. "Sadly, I do not have any today. Although I think that my father has put some nut bread into my knapsack for me to eat while I work. You could join me again, if you like. It is burnt, but once you pare off the crust, it is very delicious indeed."
"Then I must have some, with you," the girl agreed and they sat on a stump, shared Peeta's bread, and did not say much at all, like what often happens with boys and girls of their age.
Peeta finally worked up the nerve to ask, "Why is your song so sad? Are you lost again today?"
"No," the girl sighed then elaborated, "I know my location, but my heart is lost. My father has died and my mother has fallen into melancholy. I have a little sister to comfort, and much responsibility has been laid on my shoulders that I am not yet ready to handle."
"I know your pain," he commiserated, "my mother has died, and my father married a woman whom he thought was pleasant, but she really is not."
"Was it she who hit you?" Katniss asked him with concern in her voice as she looked at his bruised cheek.
"Yes," Peeta admitted looking at the ground. He then lifted his gaze to the girl and explained more cheerfully, "But I do not fret because I know that things will be better again someday."
"How do you know this?" the huntress wondered.
"Because of this."Peeta reached into his shirt and pulled a fine bronze chain over his head and showed the girl the pendant that hung from it.
The girl looked at it for a moment as she studied the image of a bloom etched onto it. "Is that a dandelion?"
"Yes." Peeta smiled. "It was my mother's; she always said that dandelions were a sign of hope."
"How so?" she questioned curiously.
"That no matter how harsh or long the winter," he said wisely and met her silver-grey eyes, which looked at him in wonder, "that the dandelions will always come up in the spring. Just like no matter how bad our lives get, eventually things will be better again."
"I never thought about it like that," she said thoughtfully. "It is lovely."
"I would like you to have it," he said and slipped it over her head before she could protest. He knew that his father would be disappointed; itwas meant to be given to Peeta's wife someday—such a token was a common engagement gift in his village. But Peeta feared that his stepmother would find it and take it from him, like she had so many other things. So he reasoned that he would rather have around the neck of the girl he had dreamt of for years rather than seeing his stepmother snatch it and sell it.
"I cannot accept this," the girl exclaimed and went to remove the token.
Peeta stilled her hands with his own and affirmed, "No, I would like you to have it."
"I have nothing with me to give you in return," the girl protested.
"I ask for nothing," he insisted, "Except for perhaps, for your name."
The girl's eyes went wide in surprise. "You do not know my name?"
"Nay, I do not. You have never given it to me," Peeta reminded her.
"Oh," the girl looked a little relieved, "I like to be called Katniss."
"Like the flower?" he commented.
"Yes," she softly said. "It is what the people who truly care for me call me by. What is your name?"
"Peeta," he answered brightly, "like the bread. It is what everyone one calls me by."
Peeta was rewarded with the smallest of giggles, causing his entire being to be enveloped in pure joy. With that little laugh, he knew that his heart would be forever hers.
There was a blast of horn from far away, Katniss jerked her head towards the forest, and her face again became somber. "My hunting party is looking for me. I must go now."
Peeta took the reins of her horse and held the animal for her so that she could mount it. She looked down at him. "I remember once you said that you were going to be a baker in the village," she said bashfully. "But if you ever need a place to stay or a new station in life, go to the king's castle and tell the staff that Katniss owes you a favor. They will find me, and I will make a place for you there."
"If I ever have need, I shall," he promised. "Will you never be out in this neck of the woods ever again?"
Another blast of a horn, only much closer. Katniss gave Peeta a bittersweet expression and sighed, "I have a feeling that after today I shall never be allowed to wander alone again." She reached into her game bag and pulled out three squirrels and handed them to Peeta. "Please take these. It is the least that I can give you."
Peeta took the squirrels and looked them over; each of them had been struck in the eye. "You must be an expert mark," Peeta praised.
"My father used to say that I am the best in the kingdom," Katniss boasted.
"Thank you, Katniss, we shall eat like kings tonight," Peeta proclaimed.
"It would be a humble king, indeed, to think that squirrel would be a fine feast," she smiled. Peeta took her hand and pressed kiss to her knuckles. She allowed his lips to linger for a moment before she removed her hand from Peeta's and then pushed a lock of his thick, blond hair from his brow, "Thank you Peeta, for everything and farewell." She then placed a long kiss on his brow. "I hope that we shall meet again."
"Farewell, Katniss the huntress," he bid her, she nodded and rode away. Peeta felt as if a part of him left with the girl who wore his token, he felt bound to her in a way some unexplainable way.
Peeta quickly completed his task and returned to his father's bakery as speedily as he could, in hopes of not raising his stepmother's ire. The baker was happy to see his son return. "So what happened in the forest today, my son?"
"Father, I met my love again today," Peeta told him dreamily.
"Ah, was it the huntress who lives in the castle again?" the baker joked good-naturedly.
Peeta produced the three squirrels and smiled at his father's surprised reaction. "Her name is Katniss, and I love her more dearly than ever."
The baker chuckled as he inspected the game, and he never doubted his son's story again.