It took another two weeks to get the house finished. When it was, I stepped back to admire it with James. The door was a little crooked, yes, but it wasn't bad all things considered.
"It's wonderful," James said and I smiled.
"What will you do now?" he asked and I pointed to the bit of land I had left to the side.
"I'm going to start growing potatoes," I told him and showed him where I had already started to dig up the earth. "I was at the market last week and noticed there was a lack of potatoes available. The merchant said it's definitely a good way to make some money so he gave me enough to get started."
James nodded, impressed. He cleared his throat. "So, I heard the princess just won't be getting married at all."
I pretended to be curious about the tilled earth. "I've heard that, too."
"Rumor is she's in love but he said no because he doesn't love her."
"That's not true," I snapped and he looked at me with a knowing expression on his face. "I do love her James, very much." I shook my head. "Why can't people understand that I'm not worthy?"
"You keep saying that, David, but-"
"It's getting late, James," I interrupted, standing and stretching. "I need to start dinner. Thanks for helping me finish up."
We shook hands and he smiled a sort of sad smile.
"I'll come visit as often as I can."
I nodded. "See you, old friend."
I watched as he walked back to his house. I sighed and entered my own, preparing dinner and arranging the furniture I had been learning to make.
The next morning, I woke up a little stiff. The bed was uncomfortable but it was nicer tan the one I had with my father. I sighed, thinking of the beds at the palace, and got dressed in a pair of trousers. Outside, I could hear little kids playing and I went out to work with my potatoes.
I stood up after pulling some weeds and had a small body barrel into mine.
"Sorry, mister!" a little boy who I recognized as Bryan's oldest son said. "Can we have our ball back?"
I turned to follow his pointed finger. There was a little ball by my door. I picked it up and smiled at him.
"Can you run fast?" I asked and he nodded eagerly. "Get ready."
He grinned as I leaned back and threw the ball with all my might. I watched with a smile as the kids went running after it, squealing in delight. I had been helping their mother, Christina, after James told me what my father did. I was about to go hunting when they came back with the ball.
"Throw it again!" her daughter yelled, bouncing up and down.
I smiled warmly at them and did so. For the next hour we played the game until they got tired.
"Bye, mister!" the first son said and I waved as they ran into the village, not sure why they didn't recognize me by now.
I grabbed my bow and arrows and walked into the forest, muffling my footsteps. It was an overcast day, giving me plenty of shadows to hide in. I noticed, with my bulkier body, it was harder to hide which annoyed me a little. A deer was grazing and I docked an arrow, pulling it back quietly. Before I could do anything, though, a large figure leapt out and jumped on the deer with a low growl. I almost dropped my weapons as I watched the figure turn into a nude man.
"William?" I said and the man turned to me.
William had blood smeared over his face and he gaped at me.
"What in the world?" I said and gave him the shirt I had taken off. "Come to my house. You look awful."
"This is a nice place," William said, sitting down after changing into some of my old clothes. "I heard about your father. I can't say I'm sad to hear he's gone."
I leaned against the counter and crossed my arms, frowning.
"I needed that dear. It's getting hard to get meat lately." I watched him for a moment. "You have a lot of questions to answer."
He sighed, still wiping the blood off his face.
"Yeah, I guess I do, don't I?"
"I thought you said the silver would kill you."
"I thought you were going to stay and marry the princess," he countered but I didn't say anything. He sighed again. "I thought it would kill me, true. It didn't, though, and I broke out. I didn't hurt anyone," he added when he saw the look on my face. "I just escaped last night. They'll be looking for me soon."
"What will your pack do when you come back empty handed?" I asked.
He shrugged. "I don't know. Kill me probably. That's why I'm not going back."
"Where are you going?"
"There are rumors of a war brewing not far from here," he said. "A pack is getting close by." I curled my lip in disgust but he shrugged. "I do what I need to do to survive, David. You and I are not that different." He stood up. "They'll be here soon. Tell them where I went if you want. Thanks for the clothes." He hesitated. "And I'm sorry for what I did to Princess Angel."
"Be careful out there," I said grimly.
"Good luck, David," he said and disappeared down the road.
I sighed and closed the door. I wondered what I would say should they come by and ask. They probably would, too. It was just a question of when. The king knew that Hugo and I were aware of what William was. But should I lie?
"We haven't been able to find him, sir," the guard said, addressing us in the throne room. "He seems to have disappeared."
"Keep searching," my father said with a bite in his voice. "Go to the homes of everyone in the village! Ask them if they've seen a man or large beast in the woods."
"Yes, your highness," he said, bowing.
"I wonder if they'll go to David's house," my mother mused.
I could feel her eyes on me but I kept my eyes fixed ahead of me as another village person came in. My heart still ached and all I wanted to do was get a horse, find David, and talk some sense into him. Hugo had warned me, though, that it was useless.
"He's been told these things all his life," he said sadly as we spoke after my party.
"So he's gone forever," I whispered, wiping a tear away.
"I wouldn't say that," Hugo said. "Do you love him?" I nodded. "Then it will work out. I promise."
But, as the days passed and no word from David came to the palace, it would seem Hugo was wrong. David wasn't come back. I wanted to hate him, wanted my love for him to go away, but I never could. I couldn't even bring myself to throw away the portrait.
A day later, there was a quick knock on my door. I was sharpening a knife and got up. No one was there but, when I looked down, there was a large amount of chopped meat on my door step. On top was a note.
Tell them. The north.
I frowned. Something was wrong. Something happened and it was bad enough for William to put his life at risk again.
"David!" a little girl yelled and I grinned as Bryan and Christina's kids came by with their ball. "It's time to play!"
"You got it, Sally."
She giggled happily as I put the meat away and threw the ball, walking lazily into the street. But things changed quickly as a royal messenger arrived at my home.
Sally looked nervous.
"Go on, Sally," I said quietly. "Everything will be okay. I'm sure the king just wants to talk about my potatoes."
She grinned and ran off. I knew this wasn't about potatoes.
"We've been sent by his highness, King Blackmayne, to-"
I sighed heavily and closed my door.
"I know where he is," I said before he continued, putting the note in my pocket. "Let's go."