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Axel's mother was so happy to have her son back that she didn't notice anything outright odd about the Axel that had returned after going out to buy fish. She was getting to know Taylor and trying to piece together what his life had been like the years he was away. She wasn't even concerned when he didn't remember the name of his cat. It was only after the two had left for a boat ride that Josephine began to feel her stomach knot.
Perhaps five years away from home had cured his fear of the ocean, but if she knew her son, and she was certain she did, he would never suggest a boat ride. And he loved that cat...how could he forget his name? The Axel that had arrived earlier in the afternoon seemed different than the Axel that came back after hours of shopping in the market. And he hadn't bought anything. It all seemed odd. Taylor had warned her to be careful because of a woman named Edna. Maybe that woman had something to do with Axel's odd behavior, maybe he was worrying. He always did act strange when there was something on his mind.
Josephine's thoughts were disrupted as someone burst into the house. A young female, no older than eighteen, stormed into the kitchen. She had the same long, dark hair that seemed characteristic of their family. [b "Mom! I didn't know Axel was back but...I can yell at you for not coming to get me later. I was talking to the neighbor and they said they saw a strange old fortune teller spray something in his face. I don't like the sound of it. Where is he?"]
[+blue "Go ask if we can borrow the neighbor's boat, I'll meet you on the dock."] The girl ran out just as quickly as she had entered. Josephine quickly gathered her thoughts, fidgeting with the wedding ring she still wore. She herself hadn't been on a boat in quite a while, but her son's safety was at stake as well as the safety of her future daughter in-law.
She exited the house, locking the door behind her and met her daughter on the dock in front of the neighbor's boat. Alora hurried her mother with a hand gesture onto the deck of the fishing boat. At some point she had grabbed her bow along with a satchel of arrows which were now situated around her shoulder. [+blue "I hope you're not intending to hurt anyone with those arrows?"] Alora shook her head. [b "No I wrote a note that says 'That's not Axel, Axel is terrified of the ocean. Ask him how old he was when dad died. The answer should be twelve.' I'm going to tie it to an arrow and shoot it onto their boat. The neighbor told me he saw Axel and a blonde leave not too long ago. We can catch up to them."]
Out on the boat Claude felt safer, away from Axel's mother who could easily expose the fact that he wasn't Axel. Then again, he wasn't sure how safe he felt with Taylor either. She could also ask him questions that he didn't know the answers to. [b "You wouldn't believe how hard it was keeping in what happened between us and Edna. I couldn't tell your mother... I just... I don't want to put her between all this."] He began rowing, unsure of how to respond to this since he wasn't even quite sure why Edna was trying so hard to keep her daughter from living her life with this Axel guy.
Taylor sang out a harmonious phrase and Claude had to stop rowing to make sure he wasn't dreaming. Was her hair glowing? This was way more than he signed on for. He thought this was a simple "retrieve my daughter" job, but it was clear now that he had stepped into something much more than that. His jaw dropped slightly as he stared at Taylor's hair.
The sound of splintering wood brought him back to reality. An arrow with a piece of paper tied around it had landed right in the middle of the boat. Was this another part of Edna's plan? He was starting to think none of this was worth the gold. Edna's boat appeared in the distance, but there was another boat approaching them from behind. Unsure of what to do, Claude started rowing quickly in the direction of Edna's boat.
Edna waited on the deck of her own boat with the real Axel tied up beside her. A piece of cloth had been tied around his mouth after he had yelled obscenities at her. The boy really was better looking when he kept his mouth shut.
As the boat with Taylor approached Edna smiled to herself. She pulled Axel up from the deck slightly so he could see the boat approaching. [b "Is it strange seeing someone else with Taylor, but someone that has your face? Do you feel betrayed that my Axel was able to fool the love of your life? I can't wait for her to watch you die."] His eyes widened in distress, but a boat following Taylor's boat caught his eye. It seemed as if Edna was too distracted with her plan to notice anything else.
He was unsure of who was on the boat or if they would help. Yet, he was hopeful.
Taylor rose to her feet, letting Axel stay with his mother. She was content with letting the two of them have their moment. Taylor wouldn't take away from the person that made her man who he was, and she didn't mind stepping out. After all, she'd have much more time with him than his mother most likely. Taylor just wanted him to be happy, and she wanted him to feel at ease in his heart that his relationship with his mother had been restored. She had to admit that she was a little nervous. Everywhere she went, Taylor seemed to always keep her eye out for Edna... The royal guard hadn't caught her, and Taylor knew she wouldn't just give up. Axel was the person that meant the most to her, and Taylor knew that the conniving woman would attack him first to get to her. Taylor couldn't even think of it... Axel was the person she had to protect, and she wouldn't let Edna take him away from her. Taylor was stronger after her, and she was more than capable of defending them.
Axel ended her thought as he held onto her hand, demanding her attention again. His grip was gentle, but it was firm at the same time as if he didn't want her to go out by herself. [i "No stay here."] Taylor knew he was serious, and she knew he worried about Edna in the same way that she did. Nodding gently, Taylor watched as he stood, reluctant to let him go as well. Taylor unhooked her fingers from his, keeping her gaze on him as he left. Closing her eyes in silent thought of him, Taylor looked up to Axel's mother. The woman was smiling at her, admiring her with the bright blue eyes that seemed to resemble the ocean itself. Her hair was dark just like Axel's, and she had a smile that warmed the heart of anyone who saw it. Taylor didn't know her that well of course, but she couldn't help feeling like she belonged. This woman was more of a mother to her than Edna ever was... Forcing the thought out of her mind in disgust, Taylor walked next to the woman, gently helping her cut vegetables for dinner.
Taylor smiled gently to herself, finally feeling safe. Although she did think about Axel, Taylor knew that he could take care of himself. That didn't stop her from worrying. The older woman started the conversation as Axel left. [i "Taylor... I want to tell you how grateful I am to you. My son... well, he's had a hard life, and I can see that he's better because of you."] Taylor looked up, studying the woman's blue eyes and smiling gently. [b "Thank you... I believe your son saved my life."] Taylor stopped herself from saying more, not wanting to bring Axel's mother into the confusion. She knew she had to say something though. Finishing cutting the last of the vegetable, Taylor looked up once more. [b "We umm... we met several months ago, and we angered an older woman with our relationship. Her name is Edna, and I... I just wanted to let you know to be careful, okay?"] Taylor didn't say much more, still staying quiet about the matter. If Axel's mother knew what happened, she might have altered thoughts about their relationship. Taylor was a walking danger sign after all.
She didn't know why she thought the way she did, but Taylor couldn't help it. Axel's mother was strong, and she could tell that from the way she raised her son as well as the look in her eyes. The woman would do what was best for her son, and Taylor knew that. Taylor opened her mouth to sing, but she quickly shut it before her hair began to glow. The moment had grown tense almost, and Taylor set down her knife, looking back to Axel's mother. [b "Should I check on Axel? It's been quite a while."] With that, she walked to the door, checking around the windows. Taylor's heart was beating faster in her chest, and her mind instantly went to the most negative places they could go. Where was he? Did Edna find him? Was she hurting him? Taylor couldn't even think, and she moved the ring on her finger around a little before calling back to Axel's mother. [b "I'll be back. Please stay here."] It had been hours since Axel left, and the sun had already fallen. Taylor didn't know the town at all, and she desperately searched for where he might have gone.
The fish vendors were lined in a row, and Taylor couldn't possibly pick the one that Axel went to. She looked for a few minutes before calming herself down. Maybe it had just taken longer than she thought. Maybe he was back home. Taylor went back home, walking inside and talking with Axel's mother about his childhood, laughing at several of the stories. She was still worried inside, but she heard the door open. Quickly lifting her head, Taylor smiled as she saw the face of Axel. When he said something about not finding the good fish booths, Taylor raised her eyebrow. There were lines of them when she looked for him earlier... He wouldn't have had to walk far. Taylor watched as he stepped up to her closing her eyes as he kissed her head. At least he was here... Nodding, Taylor smiled at Axel's mother. [b "Yes! You have never told me about him. Oh, and we got things ready for you to cook."] Taylor said, smiling at him more already. Her heart was filling with the same warmness again. He was safe. He was okay.
He looked slightly uncomfortable, and Taylor wasn't sure why. Was he nervous? Claude made up his mind, putting on an unmoving expression. [i "Oh that one... I seem to have forgotten too. I must have gotten hit one too many times in the head!"] Letting out a strange laugh, the man noticed the blonde looking at him strangely. Quickly standing, Claude produced the meal that Edna had given him as a possible distraction. [i "Well I did buy us supper. It looked too good to resist, and we don't have to cook now do we mother?"] The two seemed at ease with his response, and Claude sighed. He finished up with dinner as fast as he could, trying to act affectionate towards Taylor. She was hot at least. Smiling towards her in a convincing way, Axel took her hand in his. [i "Hey baby why don't we go on a boat ride or something?"] He said, and Taylor looked at him surprised. Axel had never really been one to call her baby before, but she didn't mind. [b "Sure... if you're okay with it Josephine?"] The woman nodded, and Taylor stood, needing a break.
She needed some time. She wanted to sing, and she wanted to let it all out. Waving to Axel's mother, Taylor got into the boat with him, smiling as he came back to sit by her. [b "You wouldn't believe how hard it was keeping in what happened between us and Edna. I couldn't tell your mother... I just... I don't want to put her between all this."] Taylor explained as he began to row. Smiling, she looked at him with a playful glance. [b "Flower gleam and glow..."] She started in a lovely harmonious voice, laughing a little as her hair began to glow. [b "Remember this?"]
[b "Axel would you like some time with your mother? I can step out for a while it's okay with me. You deserve it."] Not wanting Taylor to leave, Axel gently held onto her hand. He hadn't been apart from her since their reunion and he felt wary about letting her go outside alone, especially in a town she wasn't familiar with. What if Edna was still out there waiting for the moment when she was separated from him? The chances were slim since no one besides Taylor knew why he would travel to Rengar. But the woman was a witch after all...[i "No, stay here. Why don't you tell my mother about the odd circumstances in which we met. And maybe warn her about Edna. I'll step out and get some fish and vegetables so I can cook supper for all of us."]
Axel's mother looked at him in wonder as she watched him stand up. She could tell by the look on his face that he was worried about something. Or that he was in trouble. Probably both knowing her son. [+blue "You make supper now? This day is just full of surprises. Your sister should be back by the time you return but I'll keep Taylor company in the meantime."]
Axel smiled at Taylor and his mother before standing up and leaving. Once outside he let his eyes linger on the ocean. After five long years it still made him feel sad. Or perhaps distraught was a better word. He took a deep breath and turned away. Now wasn't the time for sad thoughts.
While making his way back to the market they had passed on their way, a strange booth with a sign reading "Fortunes" caught his eye. He had always had a soft spot for fortune tellers. Most of them were cons, but there was always the off chance that you would get one that was for real. Detouring from the route to the market he approached the fortune teller's booth with a smile.
The old woman looked up from her tarot cards and studied his face. Axel reached into his pocket for a coin to pay her but she held up her hand to stop him. [b "Free of charge."] The woman shuffled the tarot cards while humming a strangely familiar tune. When she spread out the cards she gave him a toothy smile. [b "Someone very special has come into your life recently. She is connected to you by fate. I see a long future with you and this girl."] Axel's heart skipped a beat. It was exactly what he wanted to hear. He leaned down to look at the cards the teller had spread out but the only card she had lain down was death. The grim reaper card smiled up at him in a playful way. And then everything went black.
When Axel finally came to he was in a strange wooden room that seemed to be moving. He tried to place a hand on his throbbing head, but found that his arms were tied to his body with a thick rope. Hearing footsteps approach he raised his head. The same old fortune teller came through a wooden door, the smell of the ocean entered the room with her. Axel's stomach turned as he realized he was in the cabin of a boat. That explained the moving room. Panic started to build in him as the fortune teller stared at him from the doorway. She was humming that song again...It was the song that Taylor had sung to heal him. [i "How did you find us, Edna?"]
The old woman let out a throaty laugh. [b "I figured you wouldn't recognize me. See how horrible I look without my Taylor? I need her back and now that I have you it won't be long."] Axel scoffed and struggled against the ropes. [i "How did you even find us? And it's not like she'll go wandering off with you just because you say that you have me!"]
[b "Well, it seems you may have slipped up and said the location of your hometown when you were drinking once with those two big idiots. They told me before you turned them in. I figured you would come here. And worry not, little thief, I have a plan that will bring Taylor back to me. I've hired a common thug for this mission but I think he'll do the job well. All I needed was a hair from your head for my shape shifting potion. The fake Axel is on the way back to your mother's house as we speak. Later tonight he'll suggest to go out for a boat ride and he will bring Taylor here. She will watch you die and then I will lock her away to never be found again. It's the perfect plan, right?"]
Axel thrashed against the ropes that restrained him in a fit of rage. Edna simply laughed and exited from the door from which she came, leaving Axel all alone in the boat cabin. Once she was gone Axel took a deep breath. There was no way that a fake him would fool Taylor [i or] his mother. He would never suggest to go out onto the ocean in a boat. Just the knowledge that he was on one now was making him panic. It looked like Edna didn't know more of his backstory, only his hometown. All he could hope for was that his mother or Taylor would realize that the fake wasn't really him.
The fake Axel, who was really a street thug named Claude, made his way back to Axel's mother's house. The job was simple. Act normal and invite Taylor to go on a boat ride. Then Edna would do the rest. When Claude arrived he hesitated at the door. Would someone's son knock or just enter the house? Maybe this job was harder than he thought.
He decided to knock once before entering. Axel's mother greeted him with a smile, [+blue "Back already? Axel...I thought you said that you were going to get food?"] Claude didn't know how to answer the woman. Edna hadn't said anything about getting food.
[i "Oh I...I got a little confused. It's been so long, I couldn't remember where to find the good fish booths."] Axel's mother gave him a strange look after his excuse and Claude searched for something to take the attention away from him. Seeing the blonde that he assumed must be Taylor he kissed the top of her head and took a seat. Edna had specified to be affectionate with the girl. [i "So what were you two talking about?"]
He didn't want to be too quiet but he didn't want to say too much. Asking them what they were talking about seemed harmless enough. Axel's mother smiled and returned her attention to Taylor. [+blue "I was just telling Taylor about that orange tabby cat you had as a child. The one that followed you everywhere. What was his name?"] Shit. How was he supposed to know what this guy named his childhood cat. He shifted in his chair, clearly uncomfortable.
Taylor couldn't help but smile from ear to ear at the person that she fell for. It was so strange yet so amazing how he made her feel. Every time he spoke, Axel demanded her attention. Every time he smiled, Taylor felt her heart warm. She was so in love with him, and she would do anything he asked of her. Taylor would follow him into a burning building, and she didn't care. She didn't care if it was hard because there was nothing more in her life that ever mattered. This was her chance. He was her chance to be something more than an object for everlasting life. His words were spoken as if they were rehearsed over and over, but they were purely from his heart. Axel's heart was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen even compared to the lighting ceremony. Maybe he was moody and strong-minded, but she saw past that. He had always had this attitude about him that seemed to shut off the possibility of even caring about someone. Taylor changed that... She was the one he fell for, and she felt so lucky to be that girl.
When he told her he loved her, Taylor felt the same flutter of her heart that would always be there when he did. Taylor never wanted to take him for granted like she had before. She was so naïve, and she hated herself for that. She was different though. She was tough, and she was confident in herself. Edna was gone, and Taylor wouldn't ever let the same thing happen to her or anyone she cared about again. It was the worst thing that anyone could possibly go through. Edna had trapped her, forcing her to basically live in a lie for her entire life. Taylor had never even known... There was no words to sum up how much she despised the woman, and she hated herself for even thinking she ever loved her or called her mother. Axel's words calmed her down though, and she just looked into those deep eyes of his, falling into him again. [b "That we do..."] She said as he talked about a long journey, following behind him into a room that they would be sharing.
Just the thought of sharing a room with him made her heart beat faster. Stepping into the room, Taylor let her hair down before noticing how Axel had taken off his shirt and jacket. [i Gosh he's gorgeous...] She thought, letting her eyes roam a little, wanting to kiss every little scar on his chest, but she couldn't. They had to be up early the next day anyway, and she was nervous to even think about it. Taylor had never even had a boyfriend before, having been locked up for so long. Not that she didn't mind her first being him of course. Taylor fell asleep before long, only waking up to his kiss on her forehead. Slowly opening her eyes and sitting up, Taylor smiled at him hearing what he called her. She didn't mind being his princess...
They had finally arrived at Axel's hometown. The smell of the sea was refreshing, and she could feel the comfort of the small town by the worn cobblestone paths and the smells of cooking food coming from cozy houses on the ocean. Gently holding Axel's hand tighter to comfort him, Taylor followed behind him taking in the sight of the beautiful tiny town of Rengar. It was truly gorgeous. Taylor couldn't help but imagine Axel's childhood life, laughing a little to herself as she noticed a little boy that looked quite like him. Turning her attention back to Axel as he squeezed her hand once more, Taylor realized that his mother's house was right in front of them. He was nervous, and she could tell. Gently squeezing back, Taylor talked softly to him. [b "I'm right here okay?"] Taylor couldn't help but smile as an older woman stepped out of the house with the same dark hair and beautiful eyes of Axel. Her eyes began to water with the happiness that Axel's reunion with his mom brought to the two of them.
Axel himself was shedding a few tears, and Taylor couldn't help but smile to herself. This man had her going crazy. Looking back to Axel's mother, Taylor smiled gently as Axel told his mother that she was fiancé. It would never get old hearing that from him. Taylor took a seat next to Axel, and she smiled at him gently comforting him. He looked so happy... She loved that. Turning her head back to the older woman, Taylor talked with a smile, [b "I'm Taylor. Thank you... because he's the best thing that's ever happened to me."] Taylor looked back at him, smiling with a love that sparkled in her eyes when she met his. Looking back to his mother, Taylor smiled to herself more. [b "Axel would you like some time with your mother? I can step out for a while it's okay with me. You deserve it."] Gently rubbing his arm, Taylor began to stand.
The world around them seemed to stop as Axel waited for an answer. All he could hear was the sound of his own wildly beating heart. Tears started streaming down Taylor's face and Axel felt his stomach plummet. Until he noticed her smile. It was a smile he would never get tired of seeing. [b "I will always choose you."] Taylor's words caused his cheeks to redden. They were words he was happy to hear but that didn't stop him from becoming flustered. Axel hated being vunerable and this was the most vunerable he had ever been. Still, he was glad that he had asked what had been on his mind for months.
Taylor held out her hand and Axel gently slipped the ring onto her finger. The sight of it against her fair skin made hisheart sing. All of the nervousness left his body and he was able to breathe again. He smiled as Taylor pressed her forehead against his. [b "I love you, and I will always love you."] Axel had never imagined this for himself. Before meeting Taylor, if you had asked him where he saw his future going he would have said, "Wherever the gold is." The prospect of love had never been appealing. Love would only keep him from his goals, or so he believed. It would be fairto say he had changed, but had he really? Perhaps his indifference to love before was simply due to the fact that he hadn't met Taylor. It was fate. It had to be. Taylor's hand touched his cheek and he placed his own hand on top of hers.
[i "I always thought I was incapable of loving another person, even as a child. I always admired the way my parents looked at each other, like they were falling in love all over again. But me? Of course I loved my family, that's easy to do. I could never figure out other people, though. I was always too mouthy, too blunt, too moody...I'm a difficult person. So, I guess what I'm saying is, I feel lucky to have found you and I love you. I love you for showing me that I'm worth loving. And I love you for being the ridiculously kind and beautiful person that you are."] Axel quickly wiped at the corner of his eye and smiled bashfully. [i "We should get some rest. We still have a long journey ahead of us."]
Axel slid back into the inn, holding the door for Taylor, and headed up the stairs. He checked the number on his key and matched it to the correct door. Moonlight shone in from the window, illuminating the small room. Aside from the bed the only other furniture was a wooden dresser and a dilapidated chair. It would do for tonight, at least. Axel removed his jacket and shirt before quickly climbing into the bed. His quickness to get under the covers was mostly due to self-consciousness. His torso and chest sported various scars from long forgotten bar fights and thieving ventures, some more recent that others. Normally he didn't notice them, but at the moment they seemed stupid and ugly. Reminders from a past he didn't really want to remember. Bitter thoughts clouded his mind only momentarily, as he drifted off to sleep in a matter of minutes.
In the morning Axel awoke with a minor headache, most likely due to drinking from the night before. Seeing that Taylor was still asleep he slipped on his shirt and jacket before heading downstairs. He greeted the inn keeper and asked if he would send for a carriage that would be willing to take a journey of at least five days. The inn keeper chuckled, [b "I know just the person. One of my regulars, a farmer, has a son who's lazy when it comes to farm work but always up for traveling. I'll send for him."] Axel thanked him and headed back upstairs. He greeted the still sleeping Taylor with a kiss on the forehead. [i "Wake up, my princess."]
The journey had taken five days and four nights, but they had finally arrived. The small carriage came to a halt as it reached the cobblestone streets of a bustling town. The smell of salty water filled the air and brought a smile to Axel's face. He handed the carriage driver a pouch full of coin and thanked him before helping Taylor get out. [i "Welcome to the coastal kingdom, Rengar."] Axel was excited to be home. And nervous. He couldn't decide if he wanted to jump for joy or throw up. Trying to fight his nerves he squeezed Taylor's hand and took a deep breath.
Axel led Taylor through the busy streets of Rengar. Fish vendors yelled about their fresh catches and children laughed as they played hide and seek in the crowds. As soon as they were away from the market everything got much quieter. There were quaint stone houses and old women knitting in rocking chairs. And then there was the ocean. It was some distance away, but it was hard to miss as they headed towards the home of Axel's mother. Along the way Axel pointed out things to Taylor. The small schoolhouse and places he used to play were just a few.
It took around ten minutes to reach the coastline. The beach was a mixture of gravel and sand, but it didn't stop people from laying around. Nearby, a row of small houses lined a dock. Axel's eyes locked onto a stone house with blue shutters. All of his excitement was instantly replaced with nervousness. What would he say? How do you leave for five years and come back like nothing ever happened? He squeezed Taylor's hand slightly. Everything would be okay.
Axel reached the door and knocked before he could convince himself to turn around. At first there was no answer, but the sound of things being shuffled around could be heard. A few seconds later a short woman with long, dark hair opened the door. Her eyes widened upon seeing Axel. [b "Axel? I....I never though I would see you again!"] The woman threw her arms around him as she burst into tears. Axel tried to hold back his own tears but failed. He hadn't meant to make his own mother cry and he had never meant to be gone for so long.
After a minute or so, his mother dropped her arms and took a deep breath. Her eyes landed on Taylor and she offered a warm smile. [b "Axel, who's this lovely lady?"] Axel smiled and wrapped his arm around Taylor's shoulder. [i "My fiance."] Again, his mother's eyes widened and she beckoned for them to come inside. She shut the door behind them and hurried to the small stove in the corner of the room to heat up water for tea. [b "I can't believe it. I never thought my little Axel would fall for anyone."] She paused and looked at Taylor, [b "He's always been a sweet boy, but a little reserved when it comes to talking about his feelings. Anyway, tell me everything. Both of you."] Her brown eyes seemed to sparkle as she eyed both of them.
Axel smiled to himself. He should have known that his mother wouldn't try to make him feel guilty for leaving. She had never been the kind of person to hold a grudge. It was hard for him to recall a time when his mother had been angry for longer than five minutes. A wave of relief washed over him as he took a seat at the wooden table in the center of the room.
When she kissed him, Taylor felt this strange warm tingling all over her body. It was like nothing else she'd ever felt before. She felt like she could do anything when his lips met hers, and she lost all train of thought. Axel had her wrapped around his finger, and she didn't mind it. Taylor didn't want it any other way. When Axel looked into her eyes, Taylor saw the comforting glance in them that somehow made it okay again. Taylor took his hand as he lead her outside of the inn, following him into the night. It was late, but she was safe. Edna was out there, but she wasn't alone anymore. Edna didn't even know where they were anymore.
Looking up, Taylor listened to Axel's speech, smiling gently as he talked from his heart. [i "If Edna hadn't separated us I doubt I would have been willing to admit my true feelings. But after six months of thinking of you nonstop I knew that what I felt was real..."] Taylor looked to his eyes more, hearing the serious tone in his voice. She couldn't imagine not seeing him again, but it was completely possible that she might not have. Taylor watched his actions as he reached around in his pocket, unsure what was going on. [i "I guess what I'm saying is we have no control over what happened in the past, but we do have control over the future."] Taylor widened her eyes as Axel got down on one knee, holding a red velvet pouch in his fingers. Searching over his eyes, Taylor felt her cheeks reddening and her heart beat quickening uncontrollably. Her breath caught in her throat as Axel pulled out a ring with a shining gem in the middle of it that was a brilliant blue.
Feeling tears begin to come to her eyes, Taylor couldn't stop smiling, letting out a small laugh at how happy she was. She couldn't even think about anything else in that moment, feeling her mind and heart beat race. [i "I don't know if this is too soon... or too much. All I know is that I need you in my life because life without you is dull. You're like this beacon of light that fills every inch of my heart. I would love to share the rest of my life with you if you'll have me."]
Taylor felt tears falling down her cheeks at that moment, but they were only due to the immense joy sparking through her heart and body. The ring was a symbol of how they both felt, and she couldn't think of any reason why she wouldn't want to share the rest of her life with him. He gave her the chance to be more than just a way for someone else to stay immortal. She wasn't used anymore. She had a purpose, and she had a choice. [i I choose you...] She thought, holding out her hand and letting him slip it on her finger. [b "I will always choose you."] Taylor said softly, smiling wider and then wrapping her arms around him. The ring showed the rest of the world that she had found him and that she was his. Taylor couldn't even say anything to describe how she felt. The ring was enough, and they both knew that. Taylor gently placed her forehead on his, closing her eyes. [b "I love you, and I will always love you."] She said softly, nudging her nose gently against his. Taylor didn't care that they hardly knew each other because her feelings were the only real thing that had ever happened in her life. She wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of her life with him. Gently placing her hand on the side of his cheek, Taylor felt as if the world contained only the two of them. [i As if they were in a fairytale...]
Taylor pressed her lips against his, catching him off guard for a moment. As she broke away to look into his eyes Axel couldn't help but notice the warm sensation that spread through his body just from looking at her. He couldn't imagine kissing anyone else. He couldn't imagine spending this moment with anyone else. It was an incredible feeling, something he had never imagined for himself. Before meeting Taylor he had closed himself off to love. What was it about her that captured him? It was hard to describe with words.
[b "I never stopped thinking about you... I wish I had those six months back. I imagined what they would be like with you, but I lost that time. I almost lost you... I don't want to leave anything behind with you."] Axel smiled and smoothed his hand on one side of Taylor's head. He wanted to tell her that it was alright. That those months apart, although painfully lonely, gave him time to realize how much she meant to him. Instead of responding he took her hand and led her outside of the inn.
A cool breeze greeted them as they exited the inn. Inside had been so lively that Axel had almost forgotten how late it was. The moonlight shone upon the empty cobblestone streets. It was peaceful. Axel leaned against the outside wall of the inn and gazed up at the moon before speaking.
[i "When we were apart I used to look up at the moon and wonder if you were looking at it too. I would have conversations with myself and imagine what you might say in response. I was convinced that I was losing my mind, but it was good. I think...I think that our time apart really helped me discover my feelings for you. I'm stubborn and I don't like to open up to people. If Edna hadn't separated us I doubt I would have been willing to admit my true feelings. But after six months of thinking of you nonstop I knew that what I felt was real..."]
Axel could feel his hand shaking from nervousness as it fumbled around in his jacket pocket. If he didn't do this now would he have the courage to do it at a later time? [i "I guess what I'm saying is we have no control over what happened in the past, but we do have control over the future."] He pulled a red velvet pouch from his pocket and got down on one knee. The action alone made his heart beat faster. His fingers fumbled as he untied the pouch and retrieved a delicate silver ring. The gem in the center of the ring sparkled in the moonlight. It was a color similar to Taylor's eyes. Axel held the ring out to Taylor and smiled up at her.
[i "I don't know if this is too soon...or too much. All I know is that I need you in my life because life without you is dull. You're like this beacon of light that fills every inch of my heart. I don't know what I've done to deserve someone as wonderful as you, but I would love to share the rest of my life with you if you'll have me."] He had finally done what he had been wanting to do all day. He had purchased the ring back when he developed his plan to free Taylor from Edna. At the time he wasn't sure what Taylor's feelings about him were, but something told him that buying the ring was the right thing to do. It was the only thing that could explain what he was feeling. This ring said more than he could ever say.
Taylor smiled at Axel, still so positive through everything that had happened to her. He gave her that. He gave her strength, and he gave her hope. Taylor took his hand after he bowed, smiling as he twirled her into his arms, letting him guide her in dance. Laughing, Taylor spun around with him, feeling so safe in his arms that surrounded her body so protectively. They made it here, and Edna would be found soon enough. It was going to be over. She was going to be [i free] for the first time ever in her life. Taylor got flashbacks of the first time she danced with him back when he walked into her tower, leading her to the bustling town after she promised to help him find the treasure he'd been looking for. The kids were urging the to dance, and she pulled him in, having the best time of her life. It was better this time.
Taylor looked up into his eyes, unable to stop smiling at how lucky she was. There were so many other people that wouldn't stay with her wasn't there? She was a walking danger sign with the fact that Edna would do anything to get her youth back. Taylor was the only one that could do so. It was going to be okay though... she told her herself that. Even Edna couldn't break this feeling she had for Axel, and she never wanted to lose it. He meant more to her than anything she had ever loved. Axel was the most important thing in her world. Breathing heavily from dancing with him, Taylor's bright eyes found his again before she felt his lips on her forehead as a sign of unspeakable love. [i "I missed dancing with my princess."] Smiling, Taylor remembered pretending to be Princess Eleanor to ward away the prince. Now she was truly his princess, and she loved the way it sounded when the words came off his tongue.
Taylor sat at a table as he came back with the food, drinking from the ale after taking a few bites of the chicken, not truly aware of what it could do to a person. After all, she wasn't permitted to have it from Edna. She still had so much to learn, and it would be so easy to take advantage of her. She trusted Axel, but she didn't think of anyone else around them that could do the same. While she wasn't stupid, Taylor wasn't street smart. It wasn't like she'd know when to stay away from someone or if she was walking in danger. Anything could happen to her if Axel wasn't there to ward away the person with evil intentions. He wouldn't always be there right by her side...
Taylor didn't even let the thought pass through her head, seeing Axel's boyish grin and blushing slightly before he began to sing. Widening her eyes a little, Taylor felt shocked that he was singing... and to her? She loved his voice though, it was deep and powerful, and she slowly smiled as his voice filled her ears. Laughing gently as he got up and began to skip around and the others joined in, Taylor danced slightly in her chair, stopping as he sang about loving her. She wished she could have those six months back... She was so in love with him that she would do anything he said. Axel had her wrapped around his finger, and she didn't want it any other way.
Standing, Taylor looked up at Axel as his larger hand rested on her head, listening to his words. [i "I don't think that last lyric makes sense... you aren't sixteen. But it's just a song. That I didn't write. I don't know who writes pub songs..."] Cutting him off, Taylor pressed her lips against his lingering for a moment before looking into his eyes. [b "I love you Axel. I love you more than anything."] She admitted, watching his eyes and then holding his hand gently. [b "I never stopped thinking about you... I wish I had those six months back. I imagined what they would be like with you, but I lost that time. I almost lost you... I don't want to leave anything behind with you."] Taylor talked softly but seriously, biting her lip gently. She didn't want to leave anything to question with Axel. Searching his eyes, Taylor felt her heart beating faster just being close to him.
Axel slid the innkeeper a coin and asked for bread and some kind of meat. It didn't really matter to him at this point. They were both safe for the moment and that was all that mattered to him.
The innkeeper disappeared into the back to fetch food and Axel returned his attention back to Taylor who was sipping down the cup of ale he had handed to her. A chuckle escaped his lips as he watched her drink. Before he knew it the bar/inn was full of music and Taylor was pulling him off of his seat. [b "Come on get up Axel!"] She began singing along with the tune and he felt obligated to dance.
He bent over into a low bow and held out his hand to Taylor before twirling her into his arms. A toothy grin lit up his face as they bounced and bobbed around the inn. Their dancing got many hoots and hollers from the bar patrons and many joined in with their singing. Axel had never been fond of dancing, but dancing with Taylor was a different story.
Her smile and bright eyes increased his enthusiasm and he couldn't stop smiling even though his lungs were burning from all of the movement. The dimly lit bar paired with her golden hair was an image that he saved in his mind. He would paint it later. After the band stopped playing Axel planted a kiss on Taylor's forehead and whispered, [i "I missed dancing with my princess."]
The innkeeper waving in their direction caught Axel's eye and he made his way back to the counter to retrieve their food, a plate of warm bread and chicken as well as another cup of ale. He brought the plate over to Taylor and smiled. [i "I think all that dancing made me hungry. Today was so hectic I don't think I've eaten yet."] He sipped down the ale quickly and munched on a piece of bread. As Axel's cheeks began to flush he realized a second cup of ale may have been a mistake. Or had it been three cups of ale? Before he had made a habit of drinking he had been a lightweight. Over the past six months he hadn't consumed any ale and his body was keen on reminding him of this fact.
Axel leaned on a nearby table for balance and shot Taylor a crooked smile before bursting into song.
[center [size10 [i "When first I saw the lovelight in your eyes
I thought the world held not but joy for me
And even though we drifted far apart
I never dreamed of what I've dreamed of thee"]]
The other patrons joined in, familiar with the pub song he was singing, as Axel skipped around the bar pointing and smiling at Taylor.
[center [size10 [i "I love you as I've never loved before
since first I saw you on the village green
come to me in my dreams of long ago
I love you as I loved you
when you were sweet
when you were sweet sixteen"]]
Axel chuckled after the last lyric and rested a hand on Taylor's head. [i "I don't think the last lyric makes sense....you aren't sixteen. But it's just a song. That I didn't write. I don't know who writes pub songs...."]
Taylor meant what she said, having had such a long time to think about it herself when Edna had locked her up. It was good now, but he could realize that she wasn't what he wanted at any time couldn't he? She wasn't so naïve to the world anymore, and she knew what could happen at any time. Edna was still out there, and she wasn't going to go out without at least attempting to get what she wanted. Now that Edna knew Axel was in the way, what if she went after him? Axel wasn't stupid by any means, and Taylor had already done something to make him nearly leave forever. She wanted to keep him just the way he was, but she knew that she wouldn't force him to stay if he was happier elsewhere. It was just something that Taylor thought about, even though she didn't want anything like it to happen. Axel was more than an amazing man, and she was just lucky he came back... Things could go wrong in the worst of ways though.
[i "Stealing that map from your mother was the best thing I ever did."] Axel said, and Taylor blushed yet again at his words, feeling that all too familiar fluttering of her heart. Holding his hand just a little tighter, Taylor walked alongside him, taking in the moment as it was. It was getting later when Axel led her off the path towards a clearing that he seemed to know so well. A cozy village appeared before them, and Axel guided her towards it, pulling her into a tavern at the forefront of the village. Taylor and Axel were met with cheers of his name, and Taylor looked up at him, impressed at how much he meant to these people. Well, only slightly, as he impressed her just the same way. Axel was special, and she saw that. Apparently, Axel had managed to abolish his own bounty, which she was happy for. He wasn't a thief in heart, and she wanted other people to see that too.
Taylor listened to Axel, smiling back at him as he reassured her that the two thieves from before were taken care of. At least they weren't another problem to worry about... Letting herself relax more, Taylor followed behind him as he squeezed them through the tavern to an inn that was quieter and more peaceful. Taylor laughed a little herself at the memory of the prince and their story that had gotten him to leave. She also remembered how he stood up for her, acting as if she were a princess. It was one of the many reasons she fell for him. [b "Sure we can get something to eat. Let's just get going earlier in the morning so Edna can't track us..."] Taylor said, letting herself relax as he smiled at her playfully. Giggling a little, Taylor took the ale and sipped it down, looking into his eyes as she heard a band start to play. [b "I've heard this before!"] Taylor exclaimed, pulling him with her and trying to get him to dance as she sang along with the lyrics playfully. [b "Come on get up Axel!"]
Axel turned his attention away from the sunset and down to Taylor. [b "Yes... I do believe in fate because that's the only thing that can explain why you'd come back to save me after what I did to you."] Her words made him smile even though she had brought up one of the hardest times in his life. There had been many times that he pondered just trying to forget that he had ever met the girl but something kept drawing him towards her. He knew that going back with Edna hadn't been entirely her fault and he knew that he would need to see her again.
[i "I used to think fate was cruel. That all of things that took place around me were building up to some awful disaster that would shake the foundations of my life. But I was wrong. Stealing that map from your real mother was the best thing I ever did and it was hardly a coincidence. It had to be fate at work."] Axel squeezed her hand and smiled. He felt as if he was in the middle of a fairy tale that he never wanted to end.
Realizing that the sky wouldn't be orange and pink for much longer Axel led them off of the forest trail and into a clearing. There was a small town a little ways off. He had been there many times and knew that the tavern was also an inn. It wasn't exactly the safest place to stay considering that they were still running from Edna, but it was better than wandering around the forest in the dark. As soon as they stepped inside of the tavern a drunken cheer of his name rang out.
[i "Haven't seen you for a while *hic* thought you might be dead. Those two dumbies been looking for you."]
Axel smirked at the short drunk man that had spoken. He had no reason to worry about those two anymore because he turned them in for their bounty which also helped him abolish the bounty on his own head. [i "Ah, I don't think you'll be seeing them around here anytime soon."] He looked down at Taylor with a smile to let her know that the two men they had encountered before wouldn't be a problem this time around.
After squeezing through the sea of drunkards he reached the bartender/innkeeper and asked for a room. The innkeeper was happy to see him and brought up the trick he had played on the prince so many months ago. Apparently the innkeeper had heard about it from his brother who had seen the scene. Axel laughed at the memory and slid the man coins for the room before turning to Taylor. [i "Do you want anything to eat or drink? We can stay here for the night and get going in the morning. There's a farmer on the outskirts of town that can take us by wagon. It will decrease the length of our journey."]
Axel removed the ribbon that had been holding his hair back and removed his jacket. The innkeeper slid him some ale and declared it on the house for sticking it to the prince. He took a large drink and then shook his curls around. The atmosphere in the tavern was so relaxed and friendly that he could finally take a deep breath. He offered Taylor a sip of the ale with a playful smile.
Taylor was terrified inside, worrying that it was all wrong between them and that he regretted asking her to come with him. Her heart beat faster, hoping and praying that it wasn't true. She couldn't even think about going back now. Not after what she felt for him... Not after she fell in love with him. Her thoughts ended as his calloused hand made contact just under her chin, forcing her heart to flutter in excitement at the mere touch. She was in for it with him, and she wouldn't want it any other way. Letting her bright eyes move up to Axel's darker ones, Taylor let herself relax into it. He was serious by the way that he looked at her so deeply, and Taylor listened to him intently. He had her utmost attention with every little thing he did and it was no different in that moment. It was like he was looking into her soul when he stared into her eyes so deeply, truly understanding everything about her.
She had been so naïve all of her life, but Taylor wasn't incompetent. While Edna had taken so much from her, Taylor wasn't afraid to start over and stay strong. Axel made her feel like she could do anything even after living part of her life the way she had with Edna. He gave her strength, and she didn't want to lose that. She was basically new to the world, but he was going to help her though it, and she was ready for that. Taylor was ready to do anything she needed to protect him and her mother from Edna. His next words shattered all her doubt. [i "Taylor... hearing you say you will always be there for me makes me the happiest man in the world. I don't care how dangerous it is to be with you. I will keep fighting until you are safe and have your freedom. It's important to me because you're important to me. I can not bear to be separated from you again."]
Taylor's eyes lit up, forcing a smile on her face as she felt the same warm tingly feeling in her body. It meant the world to her that he didn't care if it was dangerous with her or that it wouldn't be easy. Taylor just fell harder for him, knowing that there was no going back and that he wanted her for who she was. Smiling wider at his adorable grin, Taylor relaxed her head into his chest with the embrace, wrapping her smaller arms around him as well. She felt so unspeakably safe in his arms, as if they were shields around her smaller body. It was as if nothing else mattered in the world when he held her, just the two of them against the world. A small laugh came from her lips as he tousled her hand, loving the boyish action from her love. She adored him. It was quick, but it was beautiful.
Holding his hand, Taylor laced her fingers into his, connecting them by touch. She was silly to doubt him or that he wasn't going to want her since there was an increased risk. He showed her that with his words and his behavior. Taylor loved what he did to her, and she loved the way she could feel so worry-free. When he talked again, Taylor looked up at him, listening to his words with a genuine smile. [i "You know, I think it's cute that you worry about me being in danger. Before I met you I lived and breathed danger. The thought of stealing jewels from some pompous noble or sneaking into a castle treasury brought joy into my heart. My charm drew people in and my quickness allowed me to succeed at my job. Of course, being an artist is where my heart always was. I guess I had given up on that dream but then you... inspired me."]
Taylor smiled even wider, squeezing his hand a little. Laughing slightly at his comment but mostly because his laugh was infectious, Taylor knew it was true. He knew danger, but she didn't ever want him to be in it. That wouldn't change. Taylor loved that she changed him to be who he really was, an artist that spoke with the lines of his brush. It was beautiful to see him change, and it was like they were just beginning. [i "Taylor, do you believe in fate?"] He said, and Taylor hesitated in talking, thinking about the words themselves. Fate was the thing that she ran on after Edna took her from Axel again, believing that if he loved her, he would come back. Looking at him as he stared at the sky, Taylor talked again. [b "Yes... I do believe in fate because that's the only thing that can explain why you'd come back to save me after what I did to you."] Biting her lip gently, Taylor tried to forget it, walking in silence and feeling lucky that he did come back rather than leave her forever.
Taylor ran a thumb over his cheek and then spoke, [b "What you just said isn't stupid at all Axel... Look, I will be here when you walk in that door, and I will always be there. If you don't want to do this, then we don't have to, but I want you to know that I will be there whenever you need me okay? I care about you so much Axel, but I don't want you to feel like it's a risk or dangerous to be with me. I want you to be happy more than anything."] After speaking Taylor dropped her hand from his face and averted her eyes. Axel's mind scrambled, searching for the right words to comfort her. He hadn't meant for his words and nervousness to make her think that he was doubting his decision.
Axel turned to Taylor and gently placed his hand underneath her chin. With the slightest movement he tilted her chin upwards so that he could look into her eyes. This slight action made his heart flutter with excitement. There was no going back and he wanted her to know that.
[i "Taylor...hearing you say that you will always be there for me makes me the happiest man in the world. I don't care how dangerous it is to be with you. I will keep fighting until you are safe and have your freedom. It's important to me because you're important to me. I can not bear to be separated from you again."] He flashed a toothy grin before wrapping his arms around her into a hug. It felt as if the world had stopped moving. The forest path was quiet and for a quick moment it was only them and nothing else. No trees, no birds, just Taylor and Axel in a warm embrace. Axel pulled away from the hug and tousled Taylor's hair before taking her hand. He began walking again with his final destination in mind, but this time the thought of his home did not make him nervous. How could he be nervous when Taylor would be with him the whole way there? His worries before had been silly and he knew that now.
After a brief moment of silence Axel decided to speak again. [i "You know, I think it's cute that you worry about me being in danger. Before I met you I lived and breathed danger. The thought of stealing jewels from some pompous noble or sneaking into a castle treasury brought joy to my heart. My charm drew people in and my quickness allowed me to succeed at my job. Of course, being an artist is where my heart always was. I guess I had given up on that dream but then you...inspired me."]
He laughed at his cheesy sentence and shook his head. It was true though, his day with Taylor had turned on some switch inside him. After Edna had taken her away everything in the world seemed grey but his memories of her were so colorful. She wasn't someone that he could just forget. Axel looked up at the sky that was beginning to turn a darker shade of orange, [i "Taylor, do you believe in fate?"]
Taylor knew that Axel was right about leaving immediately, and she would go with him. If she could do anything to save both Axel and her mother, Taylor would do it without hesitation. They were the only people in her life, and she didn't care that they were her weaknesses as Edna called them. Love wasn't ever a weakness to Taylor, but she would be smart. Edna knew how to hide, and Taylor didn't doubt that she would be willing to strike at the people Taylor loved or other innocent people to get her back. Without Taylor's powers, Edna would quickly age and eventually die, so she would be desperate. Edna wouldn't hesitate to resort to murder in order to do so, and Taylor knew that well. She'd have to say goodbye to her long lost mother that she had just met, but it was the safest thing to do for them.
[b "Bye mother. I love you! Stay safe. I promise I will be back."] Taylor said, waving with a smile to her mother as she quickly made her way to pack things to stay in the next town. Edna was out, and she was dangerous. Taylor's life had just gotten a lot more dramatic. Walking alongside Axel as he led her away, Taylor thought about what Edna had on her, and it honestly worried her. At the same time, Axel gave her a sense of security and empowerment that she had never had before. Axel seemed to hesitate, and Taylor searched his eyes for a moment to see what was happening. Was he rethinking it all? Sure, it was dangerous to stay with her, but he came back. He really wanted this didn't he?
Axel began to apologize for her limited time with her mother as well as lack of planning, and he didn't hide the disappointment in his eyes. Taylor felt a little guilty, about to say something as Axel spoke once more. It was surprising how long he had been away from his family, and Taylor understood why he would be nervous to go back. He spoke about his sister and the ocean and leaving... Taylor felt bad for him, wanting to comfort him in some way. Axel was shaking in nervousness, and Taylor couldn't do anything. She felt like she was making him nervous, and she didn't want that for him. [i "Sorry. I can't stop saying stupid things. Once I start there's no stopping me."] Taylor shook her head, gently moving her hand to his face and in front of him. Running her thumb gently over his cheek, Taylor looked at him seriously. [b "What you just said isn't stupid at all Axel... Look, I will be here when you walk in that door, and I will always be there. If you don't want to do this, then we don't have to, but I want you to know that I will be there whenever you need me okay? I care about you so much Axel, but I don't want you to feel like it's a risk or dangerous to be with me. I want you to be happy more than anything."] Taylor bit her lip wiping a tear and then looking away from him and dropping her hand as he answered. She didn't want to leave him, but she loved him so much she would if it was what he wanted.
Taylor searched his eyes for answers. He was glad that he hadn't mentioned his worries until the arrival of the king's guard. The last thing he wanted her to do was worry. [b "Edna is still coming after us? We have to go... We need to. She'll kill you!"] Axel watched as she spoke to her mother and stressed that they would be back. Guilt weighed down on his mind. Maybe if he had taken precautions and arrived to Taylor's house with the guards they wouldn't even have to worry about Edna. He bit his lip and turned his attention to Taylor's mother, mustering up an apologetic smile. [i "It's too dangerous to say where we're going out in the open like this, but look for a message soon. I would also suggest staying in the next town over where we originally met up, for safety measures."]
[b "Should we leave now? Or stay here a night before going to see your parents? I think it would be best to leave as soon as we can. Edna won't hurt you or my mother if she doesn't know where you are. I won't let her do that."] Axel considered Taylor's questions. Leaving now did seem like the best option. There was no guarantee that the king's guard would locate Edna tonight. He squeezed Taylor's hand slightly before speaking to her. [i "I suppose we should leave now. It should be safe since you're the only one I've told about my hometown. The trip will take about one week depending on how much we stop, I guess."] He patted his pocket to make sure he still had his pouch of coins. It was still there.
Axel led Taylor away from the main square of the town and in the opposite direction in which they came. The path lead away from the town and away from the looming castle in the distance. He stared out at the path for a few seconds without moving. Did he remember the way? He shook away the stupid thought. Of course he remembered the way, and he even had a map if the details got a little blurry. It was more of the thought of returning home that made him pause. Five years was a long time. For all he knew his mother and sister could have moved out of the house and on with their lives. His mind started to think about all of the horrible things that could have happened in five years. He could feel his palms getting sweaty and he quickly removed his hand from Taylor's. Now was not the time to freak out.
[i "I'm sorry that you didn't get to spend more time with your mother. I should have planned ahead better...if I had just been more patient I could have arrived with the king's guard. I get so anxious sometimes."] He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. During his thieving days he never would have said that out loud. Some small part of him felt disappointed in himself. [i "I'm feeling really weird about returning home I guess. So, I'm saying stupid things. My sister is seventeen now...I last saw her when she was twelve. I feel like that will be weird. And I love looking at the ocean it's my favorite thing about home, but it makes me think about my father. I don't like feeling sad, I've realized. I guess that's why I left in the first place."]
Axel groaned and slapped a hand to his forehead. He was really rambling now. His hands shook nervously as they pushed stray hairs behind his ears. [i "Sorry. I can't stop saying stupid things. Once I start there's no stopping me."] A small chuckle escaped his lips as his eyes stared straight ahead.
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