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Apprentice

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They were fighting. Alright, they weren’t fighting, but Henry was being a total cad—He smiled that handsome smile, and spun the sword in his hand impressively, and a little cocky, if one were to ask her. And Drizella certainly wasn’t blushing. She was wearing something her mother would never approve of—leather breeches, a corseted shirt above a loose blouse. But now, she was only in that loose shirt, her long hair was intricately braided up in a crown, with little wisps of hair sticking to her sweaty face and neck. She did miss her fancy dresses, but maybe, someday, she’d wear another one. Who knew what her story would be like. Besides, she did see Henry’s eyes follow the line of her collarbone and the silhouette of her body. So. That was worth it.

The sword was a lighter one, but her arms were heavy from wielding it for so long. They were still on the beautiful, grassy plane, their tents set up a little bit away. That was also something she wasn’t accustomed to—sleeping on the floor. But the breeze that went through the night lulled her to sleep like a feather bed never could. “Where did you learn sword fight like this?”

“A lot of people. Everyone in my family knows how to use a sword. But, my grandfather, mostly.”

Drizella cocked her head, “Was he a knight?”

“Uh, technically,” he started purposefully, “He’s a king. In another land, a little bit like this one.”

Drizella gave him an unimpressed look, and turned to Regina, who was sitting on a large rock with a raven on her arm, looking at it as if she were communicating with it. Regina often went off without them. The third time she brought back the raven. Henry had quirked an amused smile at it, lifted his arm and the raven came to him so immediately he'd laughed, startled.

Drizella laughed, “You don’t…seem like a prince.”

He gasped in mock-offense, “What do you mean?”

Regina just smiled, “He wasn’t raised in a place like this, remember? You should read the book. It’ll give you a lot of insight. That, and it’s fantastically written.”

Henry bowed to his mother expertly, with a pleasant look, and okay. Maybe he was a prince.

She raised her eyebrow sassily. Sure Henry was…noble. Daring, compassionate…handsome. And of course, he was good with a sword. A prince. She’d been saved by an actual prince. It was…an interesting revelation, one that did not have her blushing at all. “Well, I guess you might be the most qualified to teach me.” Drizella, not one to give up since regaining her life, “Fine, then.” She entered a shaky version of the stance, sweating and tired, panting, “Come on, Prince Henry.”

Regina laughed while she went rushing in, her arms burning every time their steel crashed together. Henry was good, he was incredible, and she could tell the restraint he was holding back because of the control of his movements, in order to teach not harm, but she fell anyway. Down on her ass, her sword in front of her.

“You done already?” He asked.

She lifted her chin, exhausted but still managing haughty, “No,” she lied.

He met her eyes and she could feel her body shiver, “Then pick it up.”

She reached out her hand and he stepped forward. She pouted, and Henry smiled.

He was just so annoying sometimes. He could be a total fool, too trusting, a bit self-deprecating, and blindingly optimistic…but at the same time, he was strong—the strongest person she’d ever met. The kindest person. Sweet and handsome. Ugh. Her heart would never stand a chance, it was only a matter of time. But she wasn’t going down without a fight. She scrambled to collect her sword, only Henry was quicker, and even though she knew the sword would stop just before it caught her neck, she held her hand up on instinct, eyes closed tight.

There was a silence. And she opened one eye, to see Henry standing, frozen.

Drizella stared at her palm, and then looked over to Regina with wide eyes.

The woman was clapping, with a smile on her face, “Impressive. You know, swords are...practical, and you should know how to use one. But—” she waved her hand and Henry stumbled to the ground in front of her.

He looked from his mother to Drizella and back again with wide eyes, “Did she just—“

Buuuuuttt. I think your area of expertise may lie elsewhere.”

The look in Regina’s eyes. It was…pride. She was proud of her. No one had ever been proud of her, not since her father and step-mother died. Her mother had always looked at her with contempt. Versions and versions of contempt. She was never pretty enough, her back was straight enough, she was never smart or ruthless enough. Either that didn't matter to Regina, or she thought, like Drizella knew Henry did, that the poor girl they rescued months ago was fine the way she was. Drizella grinned back, breathlessly, eyes shining.