Chapter Two: The Hunting Trip
"Just a weeks time until you're seventeen, milady," Snow's personal maid stated, smiling fondly at the girl.
Snow returned the smile and giggled, shooting up from her chair in front of her grand vanity. "I know, I'm so excited." Snow looked at her maid and grabbed her hands. "I'm going on my first hunting trip! For mushrooms, of course," babbled Snow, releasing her maid's hands and sitting back down in her chair, letting her maid return to fixing her hair. "I don't think I could ever kill an animal."
The maid nodded, smiling at Snow through the reflection in the mirror. "I know that it is going to be wonderful, won't it? Gathering mushrooms and watching the men hunt. Did you know your father is considered one of the best hunters in this kingdom?"
Snow caught the emphasis and looked back over her shoulder at her maid, gazing at her with curious eyes. "Who is the best hunter in the kingdom?"
The maid laughed, "Why your brother James, of course!" The maid paused briefly. "He has turned out to be quite the charming young fellow, hasn't he, milady?"
"Yes," Snow giggled at the thought of her younger brother, James. He was skilled in many things and would soon be seventeen as well. "Soon he will take over for my father." Snow smiled fondly at the thought of her brother taking over the kingdom. He would rule wonderfully.
"Yes, yes he will. And he will settle with a nice lady and all will go on as normal." The maid finished with Snow's hair and laid her hands on Snow's shoulders. "Alright darling, you're ready for breakfast and then we are off!"
Snow happily bounced up, jostling some of her onyx hair from the pins her maid had spent so much time doing. "Oh," Snow said as some of her hair fell in her face. She gave a sheepish smile to her maid. "Sorry," Snow said, biting her lip.
Her maid sighed, "Well, if my pins can't take your bouncing about, then it won't take wind or the bounce of a horse." The maid smiled and patted the seat of the chair, "sit down, darling, we'll go with something simpler."
And with the the maid removed all of the pins she had previously put in Snow's hair and instead let the long black hair hang down Snow-White's back. Tying a deep green ribbon around Snow's head and letting her bangs frame her face. Snow smiled at her maid and the two went down to breakfast.
X - x - X
Snow had a lot of experience riding a horse, but she had never ridden one for this long. Her butt hurt from sitting so long and her hands were cramped from having such a tight grip on the reins, but she didn't want to complain. The boys looked fine and she felt bad. Snow didn't want to be a bother. Unknown to her the boys all pretended to be okay when they, too, felt the same discomforts. They didn't want to let a girl show them up, even if it was The Perfect Princess.
It was James that finally called the group to take a lunch break and set up camp for the night, making everyone give a sigh of relief. Snow was the first one off of her horse, dress floating down slowly, making her descent from the tall creature look graceful. Though Snow didn't even think about the stares as the stares colourful men, she instead thought them to be the stares annoyed men. The men watched in wonder at her ways and marveled at how she could look so perfect.
Having all the men stopped to stare at Snow getting down, Snow felt awkward being the only one off of her horse and blushed deeply, thinking she had done something wrong. Even her father and James hadn't gotten off their horses. However Snow felt comfort when James cleared his throat and snapped the men to attention, forcing their eyes a way from her. "I said: set up camp!"
And then the men were all working, quickly yet awkwardly dismounting from their steeds they set to work with setting up their tents. Snow watched the frenzy quietly, not sure what to do. Snow watched the men start to put up the tents and she marveled at the mere strength of the men around her. From being able to sit on harsh horse saddles to then working harsh labor in an instant without rest, Snow felt amazed by their endurance. But she also noticed that they each were building their tents first, and so Snow considered it only fair she put hers up herself, too. So Snow, now determined to show she wasn't a burden on this trip, took her tent bag off of her maid's horse only for a guard to come over.
"No need, ma'am," the guard said kindly, taking the tent bag away from Snow. "I will do it for you." He then started to turn and probably work on her tent, but Snow stopped him by putting her hand on his shoulder. Snow blushed at the things she was about to say, embarrassed and thinking that the guard would laugh at her. The guard blushed, too, but only because The Perfect Princess's hand was touching him willingly. The guard swore he was feeling light headed as the princess met his gaze without wavering.
"Sir..." Snow drew out letting the guard get the hint.
"Frederick, ma'am. Frederick McConnel, son of Demetri McConnel." The guard fully faced Snow and Snow smiled at him. The guard bowed slightly in return.
"Sir Frederick, I would like to set up my own tent," Snow put her free hand on her tent bag and tilted her head to the side. "Would that be okay?"
Frederick gulped and licked his lips, he wasn't sure what to do. But as he glanced down at her dainty hands he made up his mind. "Ma'am, I insist." Frederick glanced at Snow's pale blue eyes and then looked away, eyes landing on her pretty hands. "A lady with such fair hands deserves to keep them looking in their tip-top shape. I beg of you to let me set up your tent, it would really be no bother at at all."
Frederick watched Snow's hand fall from her tent bag and looked up at her eyes, finding she looked disappointed. Frederick feared he had done something wrong, didn't all ladies wish to never have to lift a finger? But the fear left as Snow smiled again. "Alright, if you must insist." Frederick smiled and Snow curtsied. "Thank you, Sir Frederick."
Frederick was giddy as he set up the princess's tent, but Snow was disappointed and felt slightly useless. Her mother had told her to be a ruler of the people and to never let status come in the way of being kind. But she was confused, how was she to be for the people if they wouldn't let her set up her own tent? Again and again Snow asked men if they would like help with anything. Finding firewood, starting the fire, collecting water or any other task that Snow could think of. Again and again Snow was rejected from doing so.
Finding that the men didn't seem to need her help Snow turned to her personal maid who was setting up the linens in their sturdily made tent. "Marianne, why won't the boys let me help them?" Snow asked, plopping down next to her maid in frustration.
Startled, Marianne looked at Snow with a shocked expression. "My dear, why on God's sweet earth would you want to?" Marianne fixed the linens that Snow had messed up and went back to placing them on the ground of the tent.
Snow wasted no time in answering, "Because I came on this trip to hunt! It's a hunting trip!" Marianne gave Snow a look and Snow groaned.
"Ladies do not hunt, they gather berries and mushrooms," Marianne scolded.
"Yes, but what about setting up my own tent? Gathering water? Gathering firewood?" Snow huffed, crossing her arms defiantly and frowning. "They're acting like I am stupid and I hate it."
Marianne sighed and put a hand on Snow's shoulder. "Milady, they are merely thinking of you as a princess."
Snow pouted at Marianne's warm smile and stubbornly let out, "They let Father and James set up their own tent."
Marianne rolled her eyes, racking her brain for a good reason. "What if the boy who did it fancied you?" Marianne shrugged, "A kind gesture meant to be just that: kind. Nothing to take personally."
Snow thought about it and sighed. Marianne was right, like always. The boys were probably just trying to be nice, it was her first time being on a hunting trip, after all. Snow, embarrassed, looked at her feet, her cheeks red. "I guess you are right, Marianne." Snow sighed, "But I just wish they would let me do something, I won't learn anything if they keep being nice."
Marianne laughed merrily at Snow-White's comment. "My dear Snow-White, ask and I'm sure you will receive. But just don't let your father know."
Snow sat up straighter, sharing a sly smile with Marianne. Then Snow frowned. "But, Marianne I did ask and I was still told no."
Marianne sighed. "Milady, you are the princess. Ask a little more. I'm sure they will give in if you ask nicely enough." Marianne finished up with the linens and stood up, letting out a large groan as she did. "Well, come on then," Marianne said, walking out of the tent. "If you want to help so bad, come help me with your stuff."
Snow beamed and shot up from the floor. Giggling slightly at Marianne's eye roll, Snow happily obliged to helping out Marianne.
X - x - X
"Oh, James! Would you like to join Marianne, Frederick, and I as we gather mushrooms and berries today?" Snow asked her brother, smiling sweetly. Snow had done as Marianne had told her to and was getting somewhere. So far Snow had learned many things about nature that she had never known and it excited her. It was only her second day and she so far loved the outdoors. The wildlife never seemed to stop amazing her.
James read the look on his elder sister's face and smiled back at her, but shook his head. "No, Snow. Not today. Today I promised father we would travel farther and see if we could find some larger game." At his sister's pout James laughed and kissed her cheek. "Maybe tomorrow though, okay."
Snow sighed, but gave James a small smile. "Okay."
"Good," James mounted his horse that had been tied to a tree near his tent. "Tomorrow then." James nodded at Snow and Snow nodded in return.
"Tomorrow..." Snow let out a sad sigh and then went back over to Marianne and Frederick as James rode off. Smiling at them Snow quickly gestured to the forest. "Let's go!"
Frederick laughed, "Lead the way, milady!" And with that the trio left, heading into the woods. Snow was amazed with Frederick's knowledge of the forest and listened intently to everything he said, soaking it up as he pointed out different trees, hidden paths, and so much more.
The trio stayed out in the forest for more than five hours just looking around with Frederick feeding his ego off of Snow and her amazement that he believed was all of his doing. In reality the forest was coming out to meet the soft-soul known as Snow due to the magical presence they felt surrounding her. Frederick, however, thought he had just found a great route.
When a bunny hopped up to Snow, she scooped it up without hesitation, giggling like a school girl. Snow felt like she was in a dream as the bunny allowed her to pet it and coo. Marianne and Frederick both lost in the moment, shocked a wild bunny would allow anyone to do something like that without clawing or biting, were even more startled when they saw animals of every kind starting to gathered behind them. As if they had all stopped from their normal daily routine to follow them. Snow paid no mind, however, delighted to be able to see and feel so many animals. "Oh, wow!" Snow cried, face lighting up at seeing all of the variety of animals that blocked their path back. "I never knew you could get this close!" Snow caressed the area between the bunny's ear as she said this, giving Frederick and Marianne an excited and innocent look.
Birds fluttered down from trees and rested on low branches, singing their summer songs in chipper tunes. Deer and other small animals crowded the floor of the forest, sniffing curiously while others walked right up to Snow and sat in front of her expectantly. Frederick's hand tightened on his sword as he warily glanced around, only for his body to be bombarded by singing birds, making him jump as they used him as a tree to rest on. Snow looked at Frederick and all of the birds singing and resting on him and merrily laughed. Snow didn't understand that the behavior of the animals was very unnatural so she let the bunny go, the bunny running back over to its mate, and started to admire the animals at her feet. She was never let out of the castle and so this was her first encounter with wild animals.
Marianne started to back up, fearing the worst as she watched Snow's interaction with the animals. She knew exactly what was causing the strange behavior of the animals - Snow's daily potion that kept her hair onyx and lips ruby red. But Marianne was soon pushed forward by the other, larger, forest animals as they made their way to crowd around Snow. As their birds sung their joyous song Snow watched as animals of every kind, even bears and wolves, came up to Snow to sniff and admire her.
Snow admired them, too, making sure to pet every one of them. None of the animals bit or nipped or did anything aggressive. Snow was lost in her own world with the animals, and after watching Snow with the animals Frederick relaxed, too. Frederick found that Snow's beauty doubled when she was happy and was admiring her with adoring eyes that Snow caught making both of them blush.
Marianne took longer to warm up to the animals, but did once a squirrel landed on her shoulder and offered her a nut. Marianne chuckled and accepted it, "Thank you, little squirrel."
Marianne grimaced in disgust as the squirrel licked her cheek and then hopped off of her shoulder to sit in front of Snow. Though she was disgusted, Marianne found the action cute and innocent and felt her fear melt away as she watched Snow hand Frederick an animal. Marianne could tell by the way Snow and Frederick stared at each other the two were having a moment and Marianne knew she had to stop that relationship before it started. She walked forward and stood next to the now crouched down Snow-White and tapped Snow's shoulder. Snow looked up, giggling, as the animals crowded on her lap and arms. One was sitting on her head and slipped off when Snow turned to look up at Marianne.
At Marianne's strict look, through, Snow stopped giggling and cleared her throat. Snow slowly stood up and pried the animals off of her. One clung to her dress, ripping it slightly, and Snow giggled at the cute fox and detached it from her dress, coddling it. Marianne frowned at the tear, knowing she would have to sew it. Snow's face was close enough that the fox could lick her nose, so it licked her nose affectionately.
Snow looked at her maid and then down at the fox, then back to her maid. Marianne rose and eyebrow. "No, ma'am." Marianne put her hands on her hips, telling Snow that Marianne meant business.
Snow frowned and rolled her eyes. "This is free country, Marianne, I'm not a princess here." Snow smiled at Marianne's frustrated sigh and held the fox out to her. "Wanna hold her?"
Marianne narrowed her eyes at Snow, but looked down at the fox and smiled at how sweet it looked. "Fine," Marianne said as she swiped the fox from Snow, cuddling it to her large bosom. Snow watched Marianne coo over the fox and turned back to Frederick, giving him a bright smile.
"Enjoying yourself?" Snow asked, purposefully standing close to him. Frederick was nice to her, unlike the rest of the guard which rarely talked to her. She had found it infatuating and wondered what made him different. Snow had realised as Frederick was playing with the animals what it was: he was soft.
The training he had taken hadn't made him hard and unapproachable, it had just helped him in defending what he felt needed defending, but it didn't take away his charm. Snow admitted to herself that she was falling for his charm. His charming smile, his adoring glances like the one he was giving her now. Snow ate it up like candy. She even childishly thought it to be love, but pushed the thoughts aside so quickly she had whiplash. Only children believed in love.
Frederick, was eating up Snow's flirtatious acts, too. He saw no reason why to not respond to her flirting with charm. In his opinion it was his royal duty to humor the princess's flirtatious act, and even if that wasn't a good enough excuse, Snow had said so herself that she wasn't a princess on this trip. Frederick refused to feel bad for leading the princess on, seeing as she had started it and that it was obvious they both knew it could never really happen. Even so, no one could deny Snow was a beautiful woman, and that was the main attraction for Frederick. Not only was she rich, she was pleasant to the eyes. The only thing Frederick wanted in a woman was beauty, but it was a plus that Snow was both rich and nice, too. It wasn't love, but it was something.
Frederick smiled softly at Snow, gazing deeply into her eyes. "I am, are you?" Frederick's smile turned into a smirk when he noticed Snow's eyes staring at his lips. "I'll take that as a yes." And as Snow's face slowly got closer to Frederick's, he found himself leaning in, too.
Their lips were less than an inch apart when Marianne snapped, "Snow!" Both Snow and Frederick jumped, looking at Marianne. Marianne glared down at Frederick and his throat got tight at the pure hatred Marianne's eyes held. Even when they softened to look at Snow, Frederick couldn't get the look to leave his memory. He stared at the ground like a child who was just scolded.
Marianne's voice was softer as she continued. "It's getting late, we should start to head back." Marianne put the fox down and Snow put the wolf cub she had in her arms down, too.
Snow said her goodbyes to the animals and they left, the bunny that had first come up to her being that last one to leave. Once all the animals were gone the trio started to head back to camp Frederick leading the way, Snow in the middle, and Marianne in the back. Both Snow and Frederick didn't look at each other for most of the trip back. But when they did meet eyes, they both gave shy smiles to each other much to Marianne's disapproval.