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Do You See Me Now?

Chapter Text

The scenery was not the most beautiful she ever seen.

The Southern Isles was, at its best, a barren land with little to no green, plagued with irregular terrain and a sea of black rocks with no beaches, nothing to compare with the lushfull vegetation and full colors of realms like Corona. But the incessant howling wind gave it a sense of solitude buried under this harsh environment, something she was familiar with and finding it almost endearing.

“ So, you are not from here… What brings you to our little paradise, lady? ” the chauffeur chuckled, breaking the monotone sound of the gallope.

“ Oh, you can call me Agatha, sir. “ she replied, finally awake from her daydreaming state. “ I heard about a vacancy at the kitchen’s castle! ”

“ The castle, uh? ” the old man became serious, focusing on just conduct his hay carriage.

She stretches her arms, starting to feeling sore from the long journey, a little conversation would rise her from her slumber.

“ Yes, that’s why i asked for a ride to the city, i’m going to work as a cleaner there. ”

They were slowly descending a small mountain path leading to a vast ravine. It was the first time Agatha have see grass in the island since she landed on the small quay of the fishing village.

“ I see… In that case i welcome you then, my lady, and also say to not let our noble rulers give you a false impression of the good people of The Southern Isles! ”

He seemed like he wanted to say more, but became silent under his moustache again. Agatha shift her body so she could move closer to him, inquisitive.

“ What do you mean? ”

“ My, you really aren’t from around here... ” before he could continue, Agatha heard a loud sound of laughs echoing.

She narrowed her eyes, searching the horizont, until she saw a big wood stable in the distance. There was four men in there, and while she could not see them perfectly, she noticed the three bigger men throwing something at the smaller one, who seems to be shoveling manure on a already full carriage.

“ Who are they…? ” she asks, already forgetting the previous conversation.

They, my lady, are our beloved princes of the Southern Isles! “ the man’s words drip with derision “ Well, four of them.”

“ What are they doing with that young man? ”

The chauffeur frowns and startles the horse, suddenly felling the need to make haste.

“ That’s Hans Westergaard, thirteenth son of Your Majesty King Claus and thus far the youngest heir, but the royal family dishonored him. ” he spat on the ground “ Good riddance! ”

As they pass through the path next to the stable, Agatha takes a closer look of how the older brothers were pointing and screaming non sense at a dirty man with torn princely attire, while he continues to work, ignoring the mockering.

“ His own family?… Why? ” her curiosity ignites.

The old man raises her an eyebrow.

“ Ever heard of Arendelle? ”

Chapter Text

A serpent.

A black serpent made of glittering rocks, entangled in itself with a menacing posture, ready to swallow the whole city. This is what the spur castle looked like to Agatha, she is mesmerized.

The capital os the Southern Isles is a huge city with a busy commerce of all kinds of merchannts, selling everything but their own mothers. The black rock that was found only in the islands was very valuable and moved the entire economy, allowing a steady income of imported goods.
The wealth could be seen in the central part of the capital. All the buildings, even the smallest of the houses, have semi-circulars arches, rose windows and pointed gray roofs matching the cloudy weather that always threatened rain.

It would be impressive… if it wasn’t the only city, in a very small kingdom, in a very small island.

It was also bursting with soldiers wearing the realm crest, they never leave their spot and always looks suspiciously over the citizens. Agatha realized they were not there to protect, but to watch.

This place has two faces.

She remembered the shadows hiding in the alleys, the beggars in the corners and the ragged children they passed on in their way to the castle. Maybe she should had researched this reign better before traveling here.

“ Here we are, my lady! ” the chauffeur stopped the hay carriage next to the stairs leading to the castle entrance. “ I’m afraid i will have to leave you now. ”

“ Thank you for everything, sir Jakkob! ” she jumped off the carriage, carrying her little bundle of belongings.

“ No, no, thank you for the company!” he gesture away. “ I wish you luck, you are going to need it! ”

With a movement on the horse's harness, he soon disappeared into the crowd. Agatha watched him go, pondering at his words.

“ Alrigth, let’s do this! ” with a confident smile, she stepped in the stairs.

It was a difficult climb until she found herself before an ernomous gatehouse guarded by two ernomous guards, armed with equally enormous halberds. They did not move.

She quickly searched her package for a crumpled letter with a royal seal and shyly showed to them.
They still didn't move.

When Agatha tried to pass the gate, they finally move, blocking her way and almost chopping her head off with the halberds.
One of them pointed to his left, to a dirt path going down the barbican in the outer courtyeard. She thanked him and followed the path contourning the impenetrable black walls.

After a while she heard screams.

“ Move on, you slimes! Do you want to keep your fingers ?!? ”

A large woman was stirring among dozens of people in similar aprons. Some of them frantically washing clothes in basins while others were spreading thin sheets on the many scattered poles, all looking exhausted.

“ Then work faster! It almost nigth time! ”

Agatha awkward dodges among the servants, who ignore her focused on their tasks, trying to reach the screaming woman, who she assumed was the one in charge.

“ E-excuse me! Head Maid Lada? ”

Lada turns to her and Agatha cringes. The maid was a tall, stout woman with brown hair that was impeccably arranged in a bun, contrasting with her humble clothes and dirty apron. She had the posture of a general, commanding an entire war operation.

“ And who are you ? ” Lada crossed her arms impatiently, arms that could easily break Agatha in two pieces, if she wanted to.

“ My name is Agatha. ” she extends the letter to Lada, a little nervous “ I'm here to deliver my application to the cleaning job. ”

“ Great! You are hired! ” the head maid don’t even look at the letter “ Start rubbing something! ”

“ …What? ”

“ What? ” she smiles. “ You are the only applicant we had in months! I almost gave up. ”

“ How is that possible? ” Agatha was dumbfold, she releases the letter that is carried away by the wind.

“ Where are you from, dear? ” Lada took pity at her confusion.

“ From… from the far east… ” she answered, uncomfortable.

“ You should have stayed there! ” the woman was actually laughing ” There is nothing here but hard work, even harder punishments and the only payment is the privilege to serve the amazing Westergaard! ”

“ I still need this job. ” Agatha mumbles.

“ And you got it! Congratulations! Now I need you to do something, the royal family demands clean curtains and bed sheets in the 72 rooms every night! ”

Agatha didn’t ask what would happen if they didn’t make in time.

*************************************************************************************************************************************************

Three years! He had been doing this for the past three years!

Beneath a starry sky, three ominous figures walk slowly toward the castle.
An infamous man drags along the way, escorted by two silent guards, until he reaches the city gate.

Hans Westergaard raises his nose, straightens his ragged clothes and lifts his broad shoulders, regaining his royal composure, washing away his tiredness.
He was a disgrace, but he was also a prince. The royal blood runs into his veins and nobody would forget that, much to his father dismay. It was all about keeping the appeareances.
In true, King Claus vanity was the only reason why he was spared of a lifetime in the dungeons. Maybe this idea wasn't so bad, in prison his brothers wouldn't bother tormenting him and he could find the peace he craved so much.

Hans shakes his head, pushing away the thought.

That is what they wanted, they wanted him to be hidden and forgotten. That is why His Majesty ordered him to be brought to the castle only at dawn, with the kingdom asleep, so that no one could see the Great Shame of the Southern Isles… He didn't intend to disappear so easily.

Do you see me now, father?

He did saw him, for a short time, the exact time the King usually takes to decide a peasant’s fate. In Hans case, he lets each one of his brothers, except for good old Lars, invented the most humiliating punishments. Let’s make him empty the pit every week! or Oh, he likes horses sooo much, let’s keep him at cleaning manure for eternity! , and it was decided.

But it was just the beginning... He would never regain his rank in the naval army, he would never walk freely, remaining locked in his room while inside the castle, he would never appears in front of any of his relatives, only if requested. That would have been a blessing if his brothers, and even some of his nephews, didn't like to make him a punching bag. At least before he had the right to react.

Knowing it could be much worse, not even his mother objected it, not that she ever did before… He only wishes he could forget her gaze the day he arrived from Arendelle.
Public humiliation was nothing new to him, what really made him sick was the fact that they punished him not for what he had tried to do, but because he failed to do so.

The soldiers who escorted him hated him as much as everyone else, but they were professionals, there was no chance of escaping. The prince was known around the world and his father warned him that if he didn’t take his sentence as a man, he would not join the Brotherhood, but the graveyard.
Hans didn't even flinch. He wasn't a coward, he wouldn't give anyone a reason to believe he was.

A monster? Sure! A coward? NEVER!

Honestly, Hans was kind of terrified at the trip back from Arendelle, not because of his father, not because of the trial... He was terrified of coming back to his old life, now even more meaningless, nobody would ever know how deep he buried his fears.

Finally entering the castle after a long walk between the deserted streets, the trio heads to a postern with a bronze door, away from the maingate in the ward. It is used as the service entrance.
Hans must only walk the corridors reserved for the low employees, a maze of black and suffocating walls, the torches barely illuminated the way. He didn't mind, he had played a lot here as a child, alone, hiding from his family’s antics.

The prince climbs a spiral staircase and emerges in the halls full of mirrors that led to his room. The Westergaards love their mirrors.

He was still young and handsome, of course. His greens eyes were as dreamy as ever, his golden red hair shines along his sideburns, molding his chiseled features with ligth dusting freckles in his royal nose, his strong body changed nothing but his calloused hands, sunburnt skin, undone hair and the occasional bruises from his brothers pranks…
However, for whatever reason, he didn't recognize himself.

He speeds up his pace, not wanting to look at his own reflection.

Reaching his destination, he enters his chambers and closes it without a word.
The red carpet felt like glass under his boots.
Now was a very delicate moment.
The two guards will be guarding his door until the shift change, when other soldiers will take him to the royal stables in the morning.

None of them would help him.

Normally, his brothers would leave some kind of surprise for him.
Last time was a snake under the sheets, a venomous one. Runo, one of the twins, thought it appropriate.
Hans gaze goes over the horribles portraits of ancestors he never wanted to learn about, his collection of bottled ships, his luxuous bed, the carved bookcase, the unecessary heavy curtains because there was no windows, his brother Lars, his chest of… Wait, Lars?

“ You are getting slow, Hans. ” he says, lighting a candlelstick to illuminate the once dark chambers.

“ You would be too if you had to clean five stables a day." he noticed how his older brother looked so much like him, when in the shadows.

“ Easy, boy.” Lars smiles, his glasses reflecting the flames. “ I came in peace. ”

“ As always. ” Hans begins to take off his coat, eager for a bath he had yet to prepare.

“ Mother sends her regards. ” his brother mutters.

“ Queen Habba could send them herself. ” Hans turns his back on Lars, untying his ruined classy cravat and trying not to sound miserable at the same time. He failed on both things.

“ You know she can't. ” Lars scratches his red beard. “ She has exhausted all her favors with the King in order to convince him not to send you to the Brotherhood.”

“ ...Or to not get me a little accident. ” Hans completes.

They both chuckles, then stares at each other, their faces immediately darkens in silence. They knew what their father was capable of.

“ If King Claus knows that you are here you will be in trouble. ” Hans sighs.

“ Father can't control everything. " Lars's shoulders fall, as if holding a heavy weight. " You are prove of that. "

Hans noticed the drop of pride hidden in those few words, as well as the sadness. He never asked for anyone's forgiveness, though Lar's forgave him anyway, he was the only brother that ever treated him with some humanity.

Lars approaches to place the candlestick on the nightstand, then sits on the antique four-poster bed.

“ Some news flies fast and I didn't want you to be caught off guard. ”

Hans proceeds removing his gloves and tossing it aside with his dirty clothes, nonchalant.

“ It is about Arendelle, Hans. ”

The throwaway prince stiffens for a brief moment that lasts less than a second.

“ Then spare me. ” Hans sits next to him, unlancing his boots. “ I could not care less. ”

He could feel Lars struggling with the words… Lars never did that.

“ Elsa abdicated the throne to her sister... ”

No.

“ ...And Queen Anna will get married this summer. ”

Stop.

I don't want to hear it.

“ That is all I had to say. ” Lars get up on his feet, moving to the door.

“ Do they already know? ” Hans voice was steady.

Lars stops, taking a last look at his little brother before leaving.

“ Yes. ”

A warning. Lars went to his quarters to warn him.

His life was about to become much, much worse.

Prince Hans waited for his brother to leave. He waited a moment longer... Before abruptly getting up and grabbing the closest thing next to him and hurling it with so much strengh into the black walls. Pieces of glass and wood scattered across the room.

He walked in circles, his hands digging nails into his arms
His breathing was panting, his green eyes bulging.
He wanted to scream, he wanted to scream forever.

Instead, he runs his hand through his hair, breathes in, and crouches down to collect the shards from the floor. He recognizes what he had broken, his favorite bottled ship, the one that represented the first colonists.

“ Always making a mess, don't you, Hans? ” he whispers to himself.

Suddenly, he takes a large shard of glass in his hands. He stares at it for a long time.

Chapter Text

Agatha had woken up before dawn in the crownded servent’s quaters.
The walls in there had not been worked and the crude black rocks standing out made her feel like she was inside the belly of a beast.

Her designed hay bed was unconfortable to sleep and did nothing to smooth her sore from the yesterday laundry duty. Before she could even eat her morning piece of bread, the Head Maid dragged her along the halls.

It was hard to navigate between the jumbled side corridors holding a heavy bucket full of water containing cloths and a mop, but Agatha manages to follow Lada to the west wing of the donjon, full of imposing oil portraits, depicting dignified red haired rich people.

“ Dust the frames, polish the trinkets and mop the floor. Keep cleaning until you reach the entrance. "

Agatha didn't hear Lada's voice, she was too shocked looking down a kilometric hallway without windows. Agatha soon feels suffocated.

"Do not let the nobles see you or you will be chastened with two days without food." Lada passes her duster to Agatha. “ You have until noon. "

“ Wait, am i the only...? ”

When she was able to open her mouth, Lada had already left.

She was suppose to clean the gallery alone. She wanted to help people, not to work for tyrannics pampered rulers! She was tired, and hungry, and dirty, and… and… Feeling sorry for herself.

No, Agatha! You can do it !

Agatha slips up her sleeves, determination emanating from her,

“ I’ll finish it at ten! ” she picks up a golden bowl and begins to polish it furiously.

At eigth o’clock she was almost passing out.

But it was worth it! Everything was sparkling, she smiled proudly at herself. The last silver tray she polished was like a mirror, reflecting her image with perfection...

Oh…

She looked tired.

Agatha always had long, spiky, black hair, but today it was particulary messy, giving her round face a wild aura. Her big, brown eyes, usually shining with curiosity, had heavy bags under them. The tiny mark under her left eye almost couldn’t be seen. Her cheeks, once full and rosed, had lost their colors in her fair skin, making her greek nose standing more that she would like.

She is tired, that’s all, but she shouldn’t be.

Her built wasn’t delicate, her hips too large, her shoulders too broad and she was too tall, not so much like Lada, but still… What she lacked in grace she compensated with endurance and persistence.

And she would use that to finish her task!

Really, Lada ought to, at least, have shown her the royal family’s faces, she only knew their names because of the gossip. Well, that was her fault, Agatha should have researched more before traveling here, actually, she should had researched about the whole world, but fate was calling and all that.

The Head Maid probably lived here her entire live and assumed everybody would know about the Westergaard’s, like they were part of the local fauna, animals that had always belonged to this habitat. They were famous, after all, commom sense.

Maybe the portraits of the current ruling family were in the walls too? With names, hopefully.

The inumerous pictures of the Westergaard ancestors framed in the black walls were gazing omminous at her. They were all beautifull and looked like each other.

Agatha tried to remember her own family.

She had a mom, a dad and an older brother with blue eyes, their hair as black as hers, their voices echoing inside her mind, yet, not their faces.
Because they are gone a long, long time ago.

With an effort, she tries, and tries, and tries.

She remembered being loved and protected, nothing more.

The young woman drops her gaze, defeated...

Something stirs inside of her.

Stop with that, already !

Yes, she was loved once, it is more than many people have ever had. It is enough.

Deciding to not waste time, she begins dusting the frames, being thankfull for her heigth, at least. As she cleans, she examines each one of the pictures, realizing they were in chronological order.

She reached the recent painting of King Claus and Queen Habba in the throne room. He was the personification of rage, a redhead sitting in his throne adorned with jewels, a face with a narrowed semblant as dark as the rocks of his kingdom.

Queen Habba, on other hand, was empty.

There was no other word to describe her.

The Queen's green eyes were empty and more tired than Agatha.

What could have happened to this lovely dame that even the royal painter could not cover up?

Agatha just needed another glimpse of the king's scowl to understand. Although the Queen was definitely the most beautiful brunette in the entire gallery, she was also the most unhappy.

Following the ruler’s paintings, the portraits of his thirteen dashing sons with their wives and children. All the women hid a misery behind their eyes, some of the kids too.

Caleb, the first-born heir, clean shaved, chest swollen like a pigeon's.
Franz, long hair, almost seven feet of pure muscle.
Lars, surprisingly gentle eyes behind a pair of glasses.
Jurgen, a beard covered his entire face.

Rudi and Runo, the twins… Twins? One had average heigth and red hair, the other was much taller, with blond hair, pale skin, paler eyes. The only things they had in commom was a mischivious smile and no wives.

She passes trougth the other sons, all gorgeous resembling their mother, except for Runo… Did she counted rigth? There were only twelve paintings. She was sure there was thirteen sons.

Where is Prince Hans portrait ?

The Great Shame of the Southern Isles, she recalled the chauffeur saying.

They removed his painting.

She was not able to see him well the day she arrived, he was so far away, dirty, and the hay carriage was fast.
Probably she will never meet him, for what she heard, he was at house arrest and only leaves his chambers to work at the stables.

It made sense, if he wasn’t royality, a much terrible fate would be beston on him. His family stripped him away from their memories, a sinner paying for his sins… So why did she fell a sting of pity?

Being forgotten, erased…

Agatha crossed her arms, she wished not to feel so related to a convicted criminal. She also wished to stop judging him, since evereybody was already doing that.

Enough of the Westergaard’s, the floor still needed to be scrubbed. Agatha only wanted to meet her masters, not to have so much insigth into their lives.

Resignated, she walks back to the bucket, but deter herself.
A shiver covered her spine.

From the corner of her eye she saw a dark form taking the image of a little boy. He slowly begins to glow a purple ligth.

Agatha jumps startled. She backs off, not seeing where she's going, eventually tripping over the bucket and ended sitting on it, wetting her bum, the cloths flies in the air and land on her head.

Ouch !

Agatha blinks, the boy was still there.
Despise her initial scare, she had seem something like this before, in another life, in another time.
She was a creature too curious to be afraid for long, even from the things she should obviously be afraid of… Like a haunt.

Purple colors! Again with the purple colors!

This was not a haunt... It was a memory.

Without approaching him, she tries to make out his features, but his image is transparent. She can only distinguish his expensive clothes.

All of sudden, a bunch of kids hover behind him, the boy starts crying.

“ Hansel! Hansel ! ” they chant.

One of them takes something that looks like a jar and pours it over the boy.

" What's the matter, Hansel, are you going to cry for mommy ? "

They laugh and the little boy runs away.

Agatha watches him pass the north door like a ghost. a bright flash of light swallowing the entire room blinds her.

When she opens her eyes, she is completly alone.

This ... This was unexpected.
Did her presence arouse something in the palace?
Should she leave?
Ah, but she was already inside the serpent's mouth, was it too late?

She should had traveled to Arendelle as soon she heard about their powerful Queen, but she hadn't anymore money and was trapped here. Yet, she chose to come here at first, this place called her with a voice louder than Arendelle. She needed to know why.

Agatha was always taught to follow the magic, although she had forgotten by whom, so that is what she is going to do.

Flexing her knees, she storms out the hallway, venturing to chase after the ghostly child.

“ I’ll do it just this time.” she reassures herself.

Lada told her the staff must use their designated corridors to transit, the vision of rabble was insulting to the royal family, they should stay out of sigth. She needed to be haste and careful.

A wind blows from nowhere, raising the windowless curtains. The purple glowing boy appears again, not running amok, but trembling, a large distorced figure in front of him.

“ You are not worth of my time, boy ! ” it growls.

The vision fades away and another one takes place.
Five figures surrounded someone.

“ Father told us to make a man of you, Hans ! ”

The cornered lad struggles, being able to hit one of his bullies in the chin. Everyone advances to him. Agatha looks aways.

Now the whole hall is filled with bright purple visions, showing people whose voices Agatha could hear in static.

“… a disappointment… ”

“ … he is weak… ”

“ … thirteen is an unlucky number… ”

The murmurs growns louder, Agatha recognized a name.

Events from the past... His past.

“ Why am i seeing Prince Hans memories? ” she was genuinely confused.

The previous flash of light blinds her again, clearing the visions.
She felt the strange energy in the air.

Realizing that nothing else would be manifested, she went to the gallery, where she left her cleaning supplies.
Right now, she must wait, she must follow the magic. It would all make sense, eventually.

**************************************************************************************************************************

A week passes and everyday, wherever Agatha was working inside or outside the keep, she was haunted with Hans memories.

She saw him being ignored in the parties, saw Hans’s determination in his duties, trying to earn his father approval, failing at it depise his achievements. She saw Hans brother’s pranks, childchish ones like a bucket of mud hovering a semi opened door, falling in his head as he opens it, cruels ones like pushing him off his horse, injuring him badly. She saw Hans’s swordplay practice, where his brothers would gang up against him in an unfair fight.

Hans, Hans, Hans…

Agatha learned to recognize him in blurry visions, seeing him practically everywhere. It made her overwhelmed, her head spinning, it was too much. Maybe she was just hallucinating, albeit, when she thought she would go crazy, some not-so-terrible memories appeared. They were extremely rare.
Little Hans playing with a wooden horse. Hans hugging his mother, as a young man. An older Hans reading with his brother Lars.

One of her favorite memories — his memories — was in the staff’s kitchen. One day, she was helping Lada to prepare the serfs food when the purple glow that only she could see shined around.

The little prince descend the stairs, moving sneakly behing a much younger Lada. He stands on tiptoe to grab a piece of a pie above the table.

“ Prince Hans! You should not be here ! ” Lada exclaims in a voice, pretending to be surprise.

“ I smelled peach pie ! ” Hans giggles.

“ You can have all the pies... ” the maid trails off.

“ My brothers just leave me crumbs. ” he whimpers with a sulky face.

“ Okay, you can have the pie, don’t tell anyone. ” she nods.

“ Thank you Lada ! ” Hans looked uncertain. “ Uh... what about you ? ”

“ I can make another. ” she winks.

“ Please, let me help, pleeeeease ! ” the boy pleaded, excited.

“ This in not fit for a prince, Your Highness. ” Lada pokes the tip of his nose, leaving a flour mark.

“ I don’t want to be a prince, i want to be your friend ! ” he beams.

Agatha observed the scene forming in front of her with a smile. She must had been making a very weird face since the real, old Lada frowns at her. Agatha bluntly returns to chop the carrots.
The memory faded in a mist this time, not in a flash of ligth. She made up all kinds of excuses to go to the kitchen, hoping to see it once more... It never did again.

At that nigth, in the servent’s quarters, Agatha was eating a greasy rice soup, immersived in her thougths, oblivious to the conversation.

“ Yes, the Great Shame got very ill! Divine justice, i say! ” a fat man at her side says.

Hah ! More like his brothers fault. ”

That caugth her attention, she leans in to hear it better.

“ He is still going to the stables, thank god! ” the man continues, spitting rice. “ Now, he really needs a maid but no one wants to — ”

“ Quiet! ” Lada gets up of her spot at the table, piercing the talkative men. “ You know we don’t talk about that here! Or about him!

If the Head Maid was sorrowful about Hans, she didn't show. They continue to eat… Agatha was the only one who looked worried.

She had trouble sleeping after that, more trouble, since her bed was as comfy as a pile of wood. Her anxiety overpowers her tiredness, she chose to take a walk inside the castle, having more or less memorized the guards patrol.

The young woman moves to an almost unused wing at the south side of the dark palace. She had found it by chance during the cleaning service.

Not really paying much attention, Agatha perceives she is in a much more luxurious hallway, where she shouldn’t be. As she prepared to leave, she hears a creak on one of the doors. The purple light glows from the inside.

Curiosity will be the end of her.

Entering, very quietly, she surveys for someone.
The room was immense, full of dust and cobwebs, white sheets covering the furniture and no torches. There was rusty words resting at the floor, an old lute, wooden toys… A small painting facing the walls.

She turned it around and sees, for the first time with complete clarity, the face of Prince Hans Westergaard of the Southern Isles.

He was as stunning as she imagined him to be, in the blurry visions.

Agatha carefully hangs the picture at the wall. So this was Hans’s abandoned chambers, before he was relocated to the other side of the castle.

A glowing mist invades the room, bringing purple images with it.
Another memory, Hans and a man wearing glasses, Lars. He sounded disappointed.

“ We prepared for three years, you had to marry the queen, not to despose of her and usurp the throne ! ” Lars puts his hands on his hip, staring at the ceiling. “ … Was you really planning to do that ? ”

“ Not at first. ” Hans says in a deaf tone.

“ I don’t know who you are. ” Lars takes his glasses off to rub his eyes. “ I guess nobody ever did. ”

They dissipates into a whirlwind mist, circling another part of the room, where it begins to take another shape... A woman in a crown, talking with someone.

“ My son, are you alrigth ? ” Queen Habba goes to Hans, placing both hands on his face.

“ Just surprised you had the time to see me. ” he adopts a haughty posture.

“ I am your mother, of course i would... ” she hesitates.

“ As long as father allows it, isn’t ? ” Hans spat.

“ I know our family may had some hand at pushing you at doing this… ” she ignores his remark.

“ I am a grown up man, mother, nobody made me do anything. ” he cuts her off, removing her hands gently from him.

“ Do you regret it ? ” she can’t look him in the eyes.

“ Would a lion regret his attempt to hunt the deer? ” Prince Hans turns from her, placing his hands behind his back.

The Queen tries to reach her son again, but thinks better and give up. She moves to the door, her feet heavy.
Agatha come closer, getting in front of Hans.
He remains motionless.

“...You sound like your father. ” the Queen says wistfully, before leaving.

Agatha sees his reaction, even if his mother didn’t.

His eyes widen, he was experiencing a new kind of pain.
He scowls in anger, his chest swells, he clenches his fists, he shakes…

She felt ashamed for herself.
She shouldn’t been watching this.

Her curiosity vanishes as she realizes that she has invaded someone's most personal moments. This was private, sacred.
Hans’s life opened to her without his consent, without him even knowing it. Agatha wanted to run, she would search for her answers somewhere.

She glimpses at his face as to say goodbye. Instead, she falters.

Prince Hans staggers to one of the walls, leaning to rest a hand on it, like he was unable to support his own weight.

“ I’m sorry. ” he squints.

Agatha was at his side, she tries to touch his shoulder and her hands pass trougth him. She couldn’t confort a ghost from the past.

Am i seeing his memories just to feel sorry for him?

She felt sorry for the boy he used to be, not for the man.

His troubled past was no excuse for his actions.
On the contrary, it gave him motivation, inflated his ambition, he feasted on it.
She hadn't seen a single vision about Arendelle, probably because she wasn't there, but she knew.
The prince saw an opportunity, he planned, he would do anything, to anyone, to get what he wanted.
He was just sorry to become what he despised in the process.

She knew all that, somehow.

“ No, i don’t pity you.” she says. “ I understand you. ”

Agatha keeps staring until Hans fades away, turning in a beautiful, sparkling purple dust.
The chambers were quiet again.

Not for long.

Lada storms inside the room, a mixture of worry and anger on her features.

“ Oh, I found you, you little...! ” she was panting “ This room is off limits! What are you even... ? ”

The old maid rests her hands on her knees, catching her breath, rambling about the patrol, the chastises, the rules and so on. Agatha barely listens to her, still staring at the wall.

“ Prince Hans of the Southern Isles... ” Agatha finally says, solemnly.

Lada looks baffled at her, like she had said a very bad word.

“ His maid... ”

Agatha should follow the magic.

“ … I want to be his maid. ”

Chapter Text

Prince Hans was not sorry.

He was not sorry for spending years being the King's errand boy to get permission to visit Arendelle, he was not sorry for losing everyone’s trust, he was not sorry for any despicable thing he ever did...
What he was sorry for, was to let nostalgia dominate him.

The rains on the islands were scarce during the year and when it rained, they were as stormy as Caleb's tantrums.

It didn't make any difference to Hans, he must work at the stables, whatever the weather.
King Claus hoped that his youngest would be struck by a lightning at any moment and save him the trouble.

Trying to soothe an anxious horse during a storm is unwise, his goal was simply to keep them safe and contained until the bad weather passes.

Admiring — more like hating it — the bleak landscape from the stables stalls, the prince view the raging storm as fascinating and unexpectedly felt alive, challenging a true force of nature. It reminded him of a certain queen.

His reverie got him distracted.

A thunder scares one of the horses behind him.
If he didn't have quick reflexes, the recoil would have hurled him away. The move only partially takes him out of the way, he hits his head on a horseshoe hanging from the stall.
Hans passes out in the open, under heavy rain.

He got delirious the nex day.

Hans doesn't remember much after that, except dreaming of sailing away with his fjord horse, like he used to dream.

He coughs, lifting heavy manure shovels in the stables, his fever gets worse, the stench made him dizzy and the morning cold air was giving him the shivers. He hated the cold.

He leans at the shovel to rest and closes his eyes to visualize the sea.

A free man, his faithful horse and a vessel.

Oh, yes… He didn’t have a fjord horse anymore, Sitron stayed at Arendelle as an apology gift from the King.

Sitron was his since he was a foal, they grewn up together.
Being an expensive animal, the King didn’t allow any of his brothers to damage him, saving him from becoming one of Hans many precious things his brothers broken. There was no other horse like Sitron, he never had any problem with storms, either.
He was his best friend.

His best friend was a horse… He really was pathetic.

He had nothing and yet managed to lose everything.
Now he has an useless title and the Westergaard name he hated.

All because he wanted to prove to the world and to himself that he was capable of greatness on his own.
There were other things he wanted likewise... .
He wanted his father's approval to later dismiss it as if it was nothing, to prove to his brothers that he was better than them, his mother's attention so he could ignore her.

No, Prince Hans was not sorry.
He was livid.

What, exactly, was his punishment for?
Yes, yes, for his failure, but what else?

It is not like he would had pleasure in hurting the sisters, it was a mean to an end.
Alias, he wasn’t planning that at first, but then Elsa was unproachable, and against his marriage with Anna, and had freaky magical powers! He had to adapt his plans.
It kind of snowballed from there.

Ugh, what a terrible pun.

It was just after the coronation party that he decided Elsa was too dangerous to live. He still thinks she is.
Well, he is dangerous too, isn't he?

Unable to plot a way out of his predicament, being too busy drowning himself in self pity, he would think of something, sooner of later.
Hans learned patience dealing with his dear father, he also learned that if people don’t respect you, if people don’t follow you, make them fear you.

Whilst his family couldn't think less of him and the soldiers mockery him behind his back, he can sense the hint of fear behind the citizens eyes.
It gave him a small illusion of power.

He was still someone, someone to be feared, ignored, despised, but still someone!
His mere existence were an affront to the Westergaard's clan and that gives him purpose, he dares to dream of freedom.

He shall endure, until the King passes away and whatever new fate Caleb decides for him after that... He shall endure.

Prince Hans goes back to the harsh reality.
Using his foot to bury the shovel deeper into the dung, at the same time his fever got the better of him.
He loses his balance and falls backwards…

… Someone holds him.

The creepiest woman he ever saw.

She looked as atonished as him.
Prince Hans was a good actor, when he wanted to, but right now he is incapable to avoid a disgusted face.

“ My Lord. ” she gives him a shy, even creepier, smile. “ Glad i caugth you. ”

He manages to untangle himself from her arms with a swift movement and stands upright, running his hands over his clothes to wipe off any trace of her touch, as if it were dirtier than the manure they were stepping on.

It was important that she noticed the gesture.
Even at the stables, he needed to maintain the facade of arrogance before the commoners, it was what reminded them, besides the princely attire, that he was still royalty and they should not mess with him... Only his family could that.

“ Who are you? ” his tone was sharp.

“ I’m Agatha, sir, your new serf. ” she bows awkwardly.

Hans talents arose unconsciously when he met someone new.
He takes one good look at her and already knows everything there is to know about the woman.

Her unkept appearance; poor background.
Her shyness; low self esteem.
Her hands; diligent worker.
Her intelligent eyes; curiosity.
Her mild posture; cautiousness.

Boring, uninteresting… He grabs the shovel.

“ I am not allowed to have any serf. ” he ignores her surprise. “ Leave and tell my brothers to try harder. ”

Agatha keeps her head down until he addresses her again, like the maids customarily do. The weird woman was trying to be courteous, she didn’t look to be joking. Perchance, she wasn't there at the behest of his brothers.

“ No-nobody told Your Highness? ” she fumbles her hands, nervous. “ I’m to serve as your maid until you recovers from your illness. ”

Were they genuinely allowing him to have a serf?
What would they take back in retun?

Getting ill was a sign of weakness, it should not be rewarded.
His family probably wanted to keep an closer eye on him and not be accused of negligence by the court, it would be bad for politics.

It would also reflects bad at the King, a father must take care of his sons, black sheep or not.
Appereances, appereances...

He was surprised they found someone willing to deal with him.
Or forced to do so.

“ What did you do to deserve this chastisement? ” he keeps working, detached.

“ I volunteered, sir. ” she answers matter-of-fact.

Now, now… That is interesting.

Prince Hans turns to her, his smile showing his canines in a predatory way.
She stiffens, she isn't lying.

Her pale complexion indicated someone from a colder climate, her skin wasn’t dry because of the constant wind, her hair was so black it had a slight bluish reflection.
She wasn’t from the Southern Isles.

“ Why would you do that? ” he walks to her. “ Are you running from something, Agatha? ”

Are you here to give me more trouble that you are worth of ?

“ N-no, Your Highness needed help and i’m happy to help...” she was stepping back at each of his advances. “ Nobody else would. ”

A complete stranger wants to help him.
With dubious motivations, plainly.

“ Is that so…? ” he cross his arms.

He could tell Agatha was a mere peaseant, and while being honest about volunteering, she was hiding the why.

“ Yes, my Prince! It would be a honour! ” she bows again.

On the other hand, Agatha may be a naive woman who doesn't know what she is getting into.
She doesn’t have anyone who cares for her either, or they would never let her get near the degenerate Prince Hans.
People who care about you keep you out of danger, It doesn't matter how well you can take care of yourself.
He saw it at Arendelle.

“ Why did you met me here and not at the castle? ” he tilts his head to look deeply in her eyes.

The woman was easily readable, five more minutes and he would discover her deepest secrets.
If he played nice, she could become an ally and he could take advantage of it.
Or not, his father was not stupid to let that happens.

“ Lada told me to meet you here, sir. ” she averts his gaze. “ I was expecting a formal introduction… ”

He thought about Lada, the nice cook lady from his childhood days, the one who was as quick to judge and hate him as the rest of the Southern Isles.

“ I am a prisioner, there is no need of that. ” he points at the half full manure cart. “ This will take a while. ”

Agatha approches a second shovel leaning against the cart and begins to shoveling with him.

“ I don’t need any help. ” this was his punishment alone.

“ I- i want to help anyway, my lord ” she smiles. “ Please, let me help. ”

He did not know if there were repercussions if someone helped him with his penance, no one had done it before.
Hans was sure that was not part of her obligations, all the same, if she was so eager to please, he would not complain.
Disregarding that any change in his routine always ended badly, he consents with his head.

“ Thank you, sir. ” she continues to work by his side.

Hans can’t remember the last time someone thank him.

He overhears the heavy sound of metal and gallopes approaching.
Two elite soldiers with helmets and halberds dismount from horses to salute him. His usual escort was previously positioned at the entrance of the stables, why were these soldiers here?

“ Prince Hans, His Majesty King Claus commands you to retun to your quarters. ” one of them says. “ Your assignment is done for today. ”

Some people who doesn’t know the King very well would mistake the order as a small mercy. Hans was not one of those people.

His father didn’t want his sick son passing out in front of his subjects.
His mother didn't want a heavy conscious.

Not really looking foward it, he throws the shovel away and moves on. Hans almost loses his balance again and Agatha mentions to catch him, but he regains his composture.

“ I said i don’t need any help. ” he says with his chin up.

Don’t look weak. Don’t look weak.

Condemned, vicious, uwlawful, it was alrigth, but weak? We can’t have that!

Agatha glances discreetly at the soldiers, then nods at him, understandably.
She wasn’t oblivious to the game. It made him more suspicious of her.

He didn’t had any pride left, he was used to the humiliation, to not take it personally, nevertheless, he could not get used to be helped.
People leave at the slightest sign of trouble, when you need them most, they will exploit you to the bones over your dependence.

Everyone saving Lars, although he maintained a distance from everyone as well, it was a matter of time before he gets tired of the spare.

Hans was aware he got it easier compared with the sentences of common criminals with similiars chargers, he couldn't let it soften him.
He needed to be in survival mode. Always.

Show weakness and you will be eaten alive.
It was the exclusive opinion he shared with his father.

The soldiers surround him, slowly guiding him through the way to the spur castle.
Agatha follows like a shadow.

They take the longer path that circled the town, designed to the back entrance of the capital, used by the military to avoid curious eyes.

He climbs the castle stairs with an effort that nobody would notice he was doing. Inside the defensive walls, after the barbican, they pass the inner ward in direction to the keep.

It took all his strength to reach his chambers.
Hans doesn’t search for any of his brothers “ surprises ”, letting a lot of potentially dangerous " accidents " waiting to happen.

He only needs to sit down a little.
He gropes through the air, looking for the bed.
His legs shakes, his vision fades... He crumbles.

Pathetic.

Agatha catches him, he didn’t notice she was there.

“ Don’t... ” he manages to say.

“ Apologies, but i have to. ” she whispers. “ Don’t worry, there is no one here to see you, my lord. ”

“ You are here. ” he tries to focus.

“ I am nobody. ” her voice sounds husky to his ears.

He was slow to react, being sick and tired, obviously.
Agatha was as tall as him, making it easier to support him.
Prince Hans let her help him, not caring anymore.
Her touch were very gentle… and warm.
It must be his fever.

“ Your Highness, let's take you to the bed, shall we? ”

He wasn't listening to her.
His conscious was already slipping away.

 

*******************************************************************************************************************************************

 

He wakes up with a snore. Not his.

Agatha is sleeping soundly on the floor, with her head resting on the edge of the bed, next to him.

Hans looks around and sees a basin of water, cloths with smell of camphor, a tray of tea on the nightstand, his shirt and boots across the room, over a chair.

Agatha was competent, she stayed up all night trying to lower his fever.

He pokes her and she awakens startled. Her eyes meet his and she smiles in relief. No one seemed so relieved to see him before.
It must had been a rough nigth.
In a second she straightens up, muttering excuses about her intrusion.

He makes a mention to the wardrobe and than to his bare chest.
Agatha’s face get redder than Hans hair, she takes the cue and prepares his clothes in a hurry.

Prince Hans suppresses a smirk, keeping his face straigth.
He always found his effect on women amusing, he only used it when there was something to gain from it.
Not the case here. Not yet.

He stands up and after putting a shirt on, he coughs and falters back.
The woman shakes her head and takes him back to the bed.

She is treating me like a child!

Hans opens his mouth to protest, but Agatha shoves a spoon with castor oil into it. He is absolutely sure now that someone sent Agatha to poison him.

While he is coughing until his throat explodes, Agatha tell the guards that he needs a doctor and they assure her that they would pass the message on.

Hans slept all day and Agatha finished cleaning his chambers.
Yet, no one comes.

No one besides Lars.

“ Are you still on the brink of death, brother? ” his muffled voice echoes through the door.

“ Let him in, Agatha. ” Hans is still on bed, dazzed with sleep.

“ Prince Lars. ” Agatha opens the door cordially, standing aside so that he can enter.

“ Oh, good nigth, my dear. ” Lars looks at him, puzzled. “ Pardon, i didn’t know you have company. ”

“ She is my new serf. ” Hans gets up of the bed, indifferent.

“ In this case... ” Lars adjusts his glasses. “ I appreciate your goodwill in taking care of my brother, god knows how difficult he can be. ”

Lars takes a pause in his sentences when he is thinking something ulterior.
Hans can imagine what it could be. Lars was sizing Agatha just like he did when he met her.

“ It is my honour, Your Highness. ” she keeps her head down.

“ Agatha, I need some time alone with my brother. ” Hans smiles. “ Why don’t you prepare us the supper? ”

She makes a curtsy at them and leaves quietly. They both stay in silence for a while, smiling at the closed door.

“ Did you have something to do with this? ” Hans smile reversed.

“ Afraid not, but i heard Lada was looking for someone to be your maid. ” Lars wears his usual aloof face again. “ You make a terrible mess when you’re ill, since you were a baby. ”

Agatha can’t be trusted.
Her desperate to win his trust, her willingness to help, it was too suspicious.
He'll dismiss her.

Not now, after she tidies up around a little more.

“ Speaking of babies… How is Helga and little Jerns? ” Hans opens his wardrobe, searching for his blue waistcoat.

“ My son doesn’t hate me yet, despite my wife's efforts. ” Lars sits heavily on an armchair, crossing his legs.

“ Peace brother, he’ll never have any reason to hate you. ” Hans struggles with the buttons.

You are not me.

“ He is three years old and i already worry about his future. ” Lars signs, something he rarely does.

“ He can’t do worst than me. ” Hans sniffs, pretending not to care about the delicate matter. “ And you forgave me. ”

“ If you had hurted someone, i would never had forgave you. ” Lars eyes pierces into Hans.

Lars was the third child, after he was born, the queen went without conceiving for years.
For a little time, he was the object of the family's contempt and bullying.
Far from having received the same treatment as Hans, he still empathized with his little brother.
But he would only go so far.

“ You forgave me because you refuse to admit you could be so wrong about me. ” Hans remarked, taking his time to button his waistcoat to avoid his brother’s eyes. “ Careful, pride will be your downfall. ”

“ Pride had nothing to do with it, Hans, it was hope. ” the older prince drops his gaze.

“ Even worse. ” Hans coughs, crossing the room to the nigthstand.

“ It doesn't mean i trust you one bit. ” Lars takes a handkerchief out of his pocket and wipes his glasses.

“ Great, you shouldn’t. ” Hans grabs a pair of gloves from the drawers, tucking his fingers in. “ You shouldn’t care either. ”

“ I fear what i'll become if i don't. ” Lars words were drawled.

The princes were silent. Some things didn't have to be said.
Lars feared becoming one of the his brothers. Hans had succumbed to the deplorable behavior of the family he was trying to escape.
One man was still fighting, the other had already lost.
They couldn't tell which was one or which was the other.
Hans coughs breaks the silence.

“ I can see you're still breathing... Good, keep doing that.” Lars puts his glasses back on. “ How do you feel? ”

Hans was fine, completly fine.

The fact that his mother did not come see him didn’t bothered him.
The cheers of “ halleluia ” from the castle staff when they heard he had been ill and locked in his room with the possibility of dying didn’t bothered him.
His fever didn’t bothered him.

“ My demise would make a lot of people happy, so i’ll live out of spite, much like father. ” Hans grinned, shoving the gloom aside.

“ You may have faith in our father's immortality, but I don't. ” Lars wagged a finger at Hans. “ He is giving Caleb more responsibilities by the day. As soon as he sits at the throne, this kingdom is finished. ”

I'll be finished too, after whatever new punishment he will create for me.

“ You acquired the terrible habit of giving me news i don’t care about. ” Hans takes a cravat from the nigthstand and ties it on.

“ It concerns all of us, Hans. ” his older brother arises from the armchair.

“ How is the feeling of impending doom? I'm quite familiar with that. ” Hans smirked.

“ This is not funny, Hans. ” Lars face is stern.

“ No, it’s not. It is treason. ” Hans says flatly. “ The walls have ears, Lars. If you are so wary, leave the Southern Isles with your family. ”

“ I can’t abandon my country like a rat jumping from a sinking ship. ” Lars gets closer, towering him. “ Someone must control Caleb, mother can only do so much.

“ And you came for me for ideas? I’m flattered, i thougth you said you didn’t trusted me. ” Hans frowns, he can feel his fever coming back.

“ I’m only here to check on you. ” Lars shrugs. “ Besides, your ideas doesn’t end very well. ”

“ Sending me to Arendelle was your idea. ” Hans coughs. “ But i guess what happened there was entirely my fault. ”

“ We can’t be brilliants all the time. ” Lars smiles sadly.

Suddenly, Hans is overcome by a sudden wave of sneezing he can’t control.
Lars holds him a handkerchief.

“ You should go, brother. ” Hans accepts the offered handkerchief. “ I am contagious. ”

Hans was not just referring to his cold, Lars understands the subtle meaning of what he said.
The two princes thought too much, felt too much, they always did.

“ Rest, you look terrible... I’ll call for your maid. ” Lars pats Hans on the back and turns to the door. “ You should keep her around, i have a feeling you are going to need her. ”

Before Hans can asks what his brother really means, he sneezes again and Lars is gone.