"There should be a towel on the edge of the bath-" he said until he heard her state that she had found one.
"Don't put on your old cloth-" he said before he was interrupted by her walking out in the old and dirty clothing. He sighed a huge sigh and grabbed her hand to pull her down the hallway to another room. "If you so wish, we'll get you the same outfit but sewn better and cleaner. For now, you get to choose from my mother's old outfits."
He pushed open the door to a room that looked like it hadn't been touched in years, which in fact it hadn't. Ever since the passing of his mother the room had been left undisturbed so as to keep it in pristine condition as a memorial to the great lady.
"The wardrobe is over there and there is sure to be something in there that you can wear," Zachary gestured in a general fashion to an ornate door, "You should be able to change in there while I wait out here. If not, my room is directly across from this one in the hallway.This is also the room that you will be sleeping in." Zachary then sat on the bed, twiddling his thumbs.
Ava listened as Zachary talked, quietly scrubbing herself to the point of redness. Her skin started to sting badly towards the end of his speech, so she stopped and stood up, wringing water out of her hair and standing there for several seconds while she waited for him to shut up. She would tell him to stuff it, but he was answering her question, so.
"You got a towel for me? I'm wet and I'd like to be covered before I'm doin' anything else." She said after he finished, continuing to wring her hair out. It hung in lanky strands down over her shoulders like it always did. "Or I can just get back in my old clothes like I usually do- oh, a towel. Thanks, eyes." She sighed to herself [Honestly, how could she have missed that? She would have died three times by now in the forest] and grabbed it, quickly scrubbing herself off and throwing on her old clothes. She wrapped the now somewhat damp and soggy towel around her hair and stepped out from behind the partition, grinning up at Zachary. "All done. Thanks."
SO SMALL. ARHG.
Her reactions amused him. It was if she hadn't grown up with him and his language. Just the way she looked at him upon the usage of various words made him chuckle. After all, they were just words.
As he stood outside the bathing room, hearing her hiss et cetera, he thought to himself about the question. Time had passed in such an unusual way that he was slightly hesitant. "It may have been five years? I gained the throne when I was 20 and I assume I am twenty-five now. Time has progressed weirdly, with too many events to really accurately retell how old I am."
He sighed, attempting to recall the events of the previous years, since he had last seen Ava disappear into the woods on that troublesome day.
"Well, let's see. The day I saw you disappear into the woods was also the day that Father died, that old Bastard. Never understood how he let himself get killed. The rest of that day was spent in chaos as people rushed to mourn and crown me as the new king. At that point in time, I never suspected that I would become king so early. I supposed that I would have been taught everything by my father until he passed away in safety. But nonetheless, I jumped into the throne and essentially learned the ropes as I went. After that day, I was busy doing my kingly duties until I figured out how to do them and give myself free time."
"That is when I started courting. You wouldn't believe how many young (and old) ladies came to have me court them. Reverse-courtship, if you will. So many came that I became known as the King of Hearts, as it seemed I would woo every female I passed, even if they were married. No matter to their husbands, as I would make them understand why. I don't understand it myself, but that is the idea of the people, as you will. I personally believe I am just a young man who happens to be the king of the people."
"This next event is paired with the passing of Tripes, who had stayed with me in the castle up until his death. It came a year or so ago, as my mother was just starting to slow her mourning down. Drought struck, so badly that we had to ration everything. We had to ration the amount of time one could take a shit, so that they could run on that food for as long as possible. It was also at that time that a neighboring kingdom decided to attack. In the process of their siege, the wall was knocked down and they ran rampant through the castle-town, defeating most of the soldiers stationed. They reached the castle but not could not enter. By that time, our men had awakened and attacked the attackers from behind. The enemies were all slaughtered and delivered to their camp. They soon left, not willing to exhaust any materials."
"Not without seriously injuring me, that is. I now have a scar all down the leg that gives me a slight limp, but one that I have nearly gotten over at this point. I had to resign my duties to my mother while I was in the intensive care of the healers. They couldn't do much beyond stop the bleeding and stitching my leg up, which now bears a very gruesome scar."
He sighed and rested his lungs for a bit of time before starting up again. "Enough about my exploits, let's hear yours!"
Ava's mouth twitched; again, she was surprised at how much he had changed. His father, the late king who was as much of an ass to her as he was to his own son, would be rolling in his grave if he heard his son say those words. Especially in the presence of a lady.. But, as she slid behind the screen and stared at the tub filled with water so hot she could see the steam coming off of it, when had the king ever thought of her as a lady? "How many years have you been king then?" She asked. She was fairly certain the old king had died almost four years ago- maybe five, she had been on the run most of the time.
She put her hand in the water, restraining a hiss when it stung the freshly raw skin on her wrist. This would be.. painful. She carefully slid out of her clothes, placing them down nearby. The sheriff had taken her daggers when he caught her, so no weapons today. With another quick look around, she stepped into the tub and sat down. Immediately, her body burned- soft flesh + hot water = pain. Not to mention the multiple still healing scars on her back and the open wound on her throat. She let out a long, ragged breath before dunking her head. This was a treasure of civilization, hot baths. Roughing it meant cold water every day with whatever soap or scrubbing utensil you could find. Ava usually went with the lichen found underneath the stones growing near rivers. It was surprisingly useful.
"So.. Tell me what's happened these past years." She asked, scrubbing herself with the cloth laying over the edge of the tub. It caught on her hands and she scrubbed herself ferociously with it, not knowing the next time she would get the opportunity to clean herself so thoroughly. As much as she missed her friend and some of her family, she knew it would be practically impossible for her to stay. More than practically, it was a given. Too many people had seen her reward posters, knew her as a thief, and a darn good one at that. "And what came of Tripes?" She thought of her childhood pet, the three legged dog she had rescued after he was run over by a carriage. He was probably dead by now, of old age or disease.
Zachary laughed at his friends language. "And the other things of this castle are mostly bullshit." He opened a door randomly and motioned for all of the servants in that room to leave. "Now come on, let's go get you cleaned up." He said as he shoved her inside and directed her to the bathing room.
"I'll be standing out here so as to not intrude upon your privacy," Zachary announced after explaining to Ava all of the bathing necessities. "And also- don't worry about having to live the castle life. We'll be the most casual motherfuckers ever."
Ava grinned, sticking her tongue out at the fat man behind Zachary's back as he left. Success. She hated that bastard. "Wait, what?" Before she could protest- like she would risk her life to get out of a bath, pssh- she was dragged up the stairs. She vaguely remembered the previous king using these stairs to leave after each meeting and such. She supposed they led to the kings chambers.
She was right. Walking next to her old friend, Ava felt rather weird. Just.. minutes ago, really, she had been in the forest with her life being threatened. Normal, every day stuff. She could deal with a life of grime and pain and suffering, constantly on the run from the law. But palace life? She had gotten used to not having to have all these.. 'manners' and stuff. There was a reason she had left, beyond the obvious one of her father.
"So..You want me to call you Zachary then? Because you're right, Your Majesty sounds like a dumba- er, stupid name." She cut herself off from cussing. She wasn't quite sure what Zachary remembered about her, but it probably wasn't of a girl who had a tongue worse than a knight in training with the skills of a master thief.
Zachary watched in slight disgust as the sheriff tried to kill his childhood friend, especially after the king's explicit instructions. Shaking his head, he called to the leaving Sheriff "Expect a demotion, Sheriff. And soon." He sighed and turned to Ava. "Don't call me that. Call me Zachary." Zachary smiled a little bit and turned to the dais.
"What we're going to do now is go upstairs to the rooms and get you cleaned up. You look kinda dirty," Zachary said as he grabbed her hand and ran up the dais and to the left, into the doorway that not many actually knew about. Taking the stairs two at a time, he dragged Ava along and into the private quarters of the king.
At the top of the winding staircase which opened up into a tapestry (it was a hidden entrance, one of many). Cautiously he looked out and stepped out, walking down the hall with dignity (and Ava's arm in the crook of his own) towards his rooms.
Ava stood with her head high, glaring with murderous eyes at the sheriff. He looked to want to complain, but who would go against their king? With a badly hidden snarl, he untied her hands. "I'm watching you, slime." He growled at her. Ava grinned, eyes dancing with the need to make this man feel pain. "Oh, I'm so frightened.. How many times have I slipped through your fingers, oh great one?" She ducked the slap from the portly man, kicking him in the shins before hearing the sound of steel being drawn and knowing that he had his sword to her throat. She chuckled again, feeling the blade pierce her throat in the tiniest manner. She felt the blood trickle down, staining her skin and shirt even more. "Be careful, you might accidentally slit my throat." She said, her voice strong and taunting. The man snarled in disgust, sheathing his sword and bowing to his king. "Watch out for her, Your Majesty." He said, giving the girl one last glare before leaving the room.
Watching the doors close with a solid thunk, Ava looked again at the man she had not seen in 10 years. Zachary. She would say she was glad to see him, that she had missed the companionship they had shared, but in reality the boy who she had grown up with had not crossed her mind that much. She thought about him often in the first few years of her self proclaimed banishment- being a blacksmiths apprentice and then on to become a thief, but as the years passed by quicker and quicker, she had thought about him less and less. This may be due to the amount of time she spent evading the sheriff and his men as well as other people of authority that didn't like her particularly much.
"Now what, Za-" She coughed, biting her lip. "-Your Majesty?"
Zachary looked down at his childhood friend with disdain, but there was still of a hint of joy in his face. This was the first time in around ten years that they had seen each other. Sadly, it was in such a situation that took away from the occasion.
"The problem is not that you are a thief, but a thief that got caught and put up to trial in front of your childhood friend," he said as he tossed his jacket onto the dais, being only in a long sleeve shirt and his pants. Slowly, he paced around her, looking her up and down. Stopping behind her, he spoke in a low voice, looking at the door to the throne room. "No matter what, it's good to see you again. I will pardon you, but you'll be staying with me for a while. I guess to make up for the years we have been apart."
Spinning around on his heel, he walked around to stand in front of her, looking into Ava's eyes. "First, we'll need to clean you up," he commented as he noticed the grime plastered onto her face and in her hair, both of which were pretty in his eyes.
With a wave of his arm, the doors to the hall opened and in came the group that had left so they could discuss things in private. "I have made my decision. Captain, you will get the reward for bringing her in. And you shall think nothing else of her, see the Treasurer to claim it. If you must know, she will be staying with me as her punishment," he winked at Ava, "Now, you may leave. We will be retreating to my quarters."
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