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(Note: This takes place very soon before the Bad Things occur.)

Ties of Blood and Water

"They don't want me."

The guardsman looked up.  The princess sat on the side of her bed, staring at the floor.  Her face was too somber for a child only seven years old. "Who?" he asked.

"My mother and father." She looked up at him. "They don't want me, do they?"

The guardsman opened his mouth in reflex to voice reassurances and platitudes, the proverbs from religious service about ties of blood and water, but he saw the princess's grim little face and he stopped himself.

"Why do you say that?" He asked instead.

She crossed her arms and seemed to fold in on herself. "They never speak to me.  They haven't sent me a governess since I set my dolls on the last one.  They don't ask my tutors about my study.  They just leave me with you." She took a deep breath; her voice was shaking. "I know they've been trying to get me betrothed, but none of the other royal families want me either.  I'm dirty in the bloodline.  T-they can't even send me to a convent!" A tear fell to the bedspread. "Because I'm a witch, even they don't want me!"

Again, the guardsman wanted to open his mouth, to say that of course the king and queen wanted her, why would they give her so many fine toys and lessons if they did not want her?  After all, only the most heinous of people didn't want their own children, so said the Word.

But he had been her guardsman for nearly four years, and thus far, he had never lied to her.  So he could only bow his head and say, "I'm sorry, Princess."

The princess's breath caught on a sob. "I don't understand," she said. "Prince Herschem stoned a cat to death for the pleasure, and he mocks them to their faces, and they still want him.  What is it about me that is so much worse?

"Everyone else I asked told me I was being foolish or ungrateful," she continued. "That of course they wanted me, and even if they didn't, I was in no position to complain, for they keep me well, and feed me the greatest food in the land, and surround me with finery, when in the more barbarous kingdoms, witches are drownded before they reach the age of five.  That's why I asked you.  I know it's because they pay you to be my guardsman, but you never say things like that to me."

The guardsman sighed.  He was not allowed to touch any of the royal family, except in their defense or if they touched him, so he could not pat the child or comfort her.

Instead, he said, "It is nothing to do with badness or goodness, the way they treat you.  They are cold to you because in your power and your passion, they see something they do not understand, something they do not possess themselves, and that frightens them.  They might try and fob it off as you being bad, or on Prince Herschem being good, but it isn't true.  You are different, and believe you me when I say that is something altogether separate."

The princess shook her head, tears running freely. "It's because I'm bad.  I tried to set the baroness afire.  I spat on the rabbess.  I chased Prince Herschem with my dolls."

"Princess, you only did those things because they were treating you abysmally to begin with, and even so, those are not the sort of things that will turn a parent away from their child."

But the princess only shook her head and cried.

"And I don't say these things because they pay me to be your guardsman.  I say these things because I have been with you for nigh on four years now, and so I know you well, and I care for you deeply."

The princess sniffed and rubbed at her face with her knuckles.

"If it helps you any, my parents are not overly fond of me either."

The princess's eyes went wide with disbelief.  The guardsman spread his hands and shrugged.

"But you're not bad!"

The guardsman chuckled. "That's kind of you to say, Princess, but I do have my vices, as well you know."

The princess wrinkled her nose. "It's a little odd," she said, "but that doesn't mean bad.  Not like stoning a cat."

"And neither is setting your dolls on Prince Herschem, who," he glanced back and forth, to make sure no one was in earshot, and said in a lower voice, "who richly deserved it, and if you asked me, could use more challenges to his behavior.  Take it from one who knows badness--you aren't."

"Then why do I feel like I am?" She asked miserably.

The guard shrugged. "Sometimes, it is easier to blame all of life's hardships on being bad, because all of us can become good in the end, eh?  I'm afraid it's not so simple as that."

The princess was quiet for a moment.  Then she said, "They'll never want me, will they?"

The guardsman was silent.

"I didn't think so." She raised her head and dried her tears. "I wish you were my brother."

"Well now," he chuckled, "when you become ruler, you may formally adopt me, and I can become brother to a princess.  Or a queen, rather."

"I will.  Thank you."

The guardsman waved a hand. "We sinners must be kind to each other.  Whatever your family feels about you, know that I, at least, like you a great deal--and not just because you're my bread and butter.  Because I find you the most bearable person in the royal family.  I'd miss you dearly if you were to leave."

The princess nodded. "That makes it hurt less."

"Aye," he said, "it usually does.  Doesn't heal it entirely, but it helps."

"I love you too."

"Careful now," the guard said with  grin. "You'll start getting attached to me."

Date: 2010-10-22 05:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ok. So. I have only read bits of this, and they have been in the order you've been posting them, so maybe not in the correct order. But. From what I know of the guard, the fact that he's not patting the child or comforting her is somewhat out of character. He seems to be alone with her, and it's already been established that she cares not for rules and regulations, so it's not like she'd report him. So what's actually stopping him?

But there's a very good chance that in the context of the entire work, this makes more sense.

Unrelatedly, but about the same line (which is confusing), "so he could not pat the child or comfort her" is factually incorrect. He totally can comfort her, just not with physical contact. He says very comforting words a few lines later.

Sorry if criticism of this sort is unwanted.

Date: 2010-10-23 03:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No, criticism of this sort is fully endorsed! All the stuff I've posted has been barely edited at all, so I EXPECT some of it to be off. (Besides, if you're into these characters enough to critique their characterization, I'm doing something right!)

The sentence is definitely off; I'll have to fix that. And looking back, yeah, I have an issue with how the guardsman reacts too. It's stiff, not appropriate for how long they've known each other at this point. I'll go back over it and give it a tweaking.

PS: Your Eddie Izzard icon seems goofily appropriate. Or inappropriate, haven't decided yet.
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