Hannah only had one dress, it was a clear sky-blue and was her late mother's. She also had a gold heart-shaped locket on her chest, she was allergic to silver. Her long hair was in a bun and she had shoes on her feet.
Though she looked ready, she felt anything but. She knew she'd trip over her gown, or say the wrong thing, or nobody would eve notice her and she'd be alone in a corner, feeling glad that no eyes were on her yet sad that nobody cared.
She didn't have to be a psychic to know how this night was going to go, Hannah cursed herself for saying yes to that damned redhead.
She looked at her eyes; they were a deep blue. Knowing it meant she was nervous, she went outside her wooden house to breathe in the cold air. Her breath rose in a mist in the dark.
Hannah bit her lip; and before she could think more, a horse and cart came thundering down the street, scaring Hannah out of her mind. Hannah quickly wiped her eyes and, took a deep breath and walked to the edge of her garden, where the cart had stopped.
A slightly chubby man got out and bowed to her. He had brown hair peeking out from under a purple, red, and gold hat. Uliaria's colors. Uliaria was the name of the nation Hannah lived in.
"Hello, I've been sent to deliver you to Heath Mansion. You are ready to go, I trust?" he asked. His voice was clear and low. Thankfully, it was too dark to see Hannah's eyes.
"Yes, thank you," Hannah replied shortly. She went to open a door but he did that for her, she hopped in and he climbed into the front. The ride was smooth and quiet, despite the noise she had heard when she was outside.
Hannah leaned her cheek against the cool window and fingered the faint scar on her neck, left from the werewolf that killed her family and left her different. This time last night she wouldn't have believed she'd be attending a royal ball.
A door opened and the man bowed again. Hannah made a mental note to learn his name on the ride back. "Thank you," Hannah said before walking towards the mansion.
It was huge. Made of stone and more towers and balconies she could count, she considered it intimidating. People were already crowded around outside waiting for Lord and Lady Heath to open their large oak door.
Guardians were standing together; but they were smiling and waving at people, helping them out of their carriages. Of course, almost everyone here was rich enough to make them happy.
Hannah surveyed the crowd. She saw other Nobles from other parts of Uliaria, some of the people from the rich side of Ryn, and she was pretty sure she saw King Radix and Queen Kourtly's only child, Princess Mavela.
Hannah jumped when she heard trumpets and looked around, "Welcome," a booming voice said. "Please find the ballroom down the hall. Guardians will be happy to escort you if you are unable to find your way."
Hannah saw it was Lord Heath talking. She hesitantly followed the others inside the huge mansion and hoped she wouldn't get lost. She honestly doubted that the Guardians would be happy to do anything other than drink.
Hannah rolled her eyes at that thought and overheard something a dark-haired man next to her was saying to a woman.
"There are ranks, you know. Anyone can become a Guardian. But you have to be amazing in every way to be promoted to Legendary; they're the bosses of Guardians. Then there's the best of the best, Epics. There's been twelve this century and I'm one of 'em, darling!" he said to her.
She had long, curly golden hair cascading down her back, piercing blue eyes, a large nose that added to her beauty instead of flawing it, and a tight red dress that showed her figure and a purple ring on her finger. Hannah guessed she was married to the guy, though it made no sense.
She had red lips and rosy cheeks; oddly looking cold but welcoming at the same time.
But Hannah didn't hear the rest of the conversation. She entered the ballroom and gasped. An orchestra was playing a fast song in the corner, waiters in identical suits were running around holding out silver platters with drinks on. Candle-lit, diamond chandeliers hung from the ceiling, casting an eerie glow on the circular room.
Lord and Lady Heath were dancing together. Hannah remembered them, they just looked older and more stressed. Lady Heath had long red hair, hazel eyes, and was wearing a black gown. Lord Heath was blonde and Hannah could see his amber eyes practically glowing with pride.
Hannah couldn't breathe, she was shocked and amazed at this new place. "So, this is how the other half lives, huh? I fit in, nobody can tell I'm from a two-roomed house." she muttered to herself.
"I could. Your dress is about ten years out of fashion, you're looking around this room like it's something special, oh, and did I mention you're muttering to yourself like your crazy? Other than that, you can pass," a lady's voice said behind Hannah.
Hannah spun around and saw the blonde lady looking at her intensely. Hannah was stunned that someone who looked so rich and pretty was talking to her. Hannah smiled at her and hoped she'd just leave Hannah alone.
"I'm Amethyst Valen, like the jewel," the pretty lady said. She smiled back at Hannah.
Hannah still didn't say anything. Too much was happening too fast for her liking. She wished she was back at home, baking apple tarts and being in utter solitude.
"I know you're not mute, talk to me." Amethyst snapped, her oval face hardening. Hannah almost winced at her short temper.
"Uh, I'm Hannah Mendacious. Nice to meet you, uh, Amethyst. Ms. Valen?" Hannah said. She hated talking to people; she was too easily intimidated.
"Well met," Amethyst said peacefully. The man she had been talking to reappeared with two drinks and didn't even glance plain little Hannah. Usually, she'd feel hurt, but she was just relieved that he was going to take Amethyst away.
"I'm actually from this land, Uliaria. But the village, Ryn, I don't know why the Heaths chose this pathetic, small village to live near. Tatum is ten miles away, larger, and amazing there." he said to Amethyst. He wrapped his arm around her.
Amethyst pushed his arm off her waist and gave him a look that could kill. "I thought you said that you were an Epic. Tatum is a war ground thanks to King Radix of here and Queen October of Colaria. Also, if I cared about your opinion, I'd ask you. Go away." Amethyst commanded, flicking her hand at his face.
The man's face reddened and he actually growled. "What did you say?" he asked, his voice dangerous. Hannah wanted to run away and hide, but another part wanted to listen.
Amethyst rolled her eyes and flicked her hand off, her violet-colored ring glistening in the light. Hannah noticed her red lips and stared, most women who wore lipstick were prosecuted for "shape-shifting" their features. This woman didn't seem to care.
The man walked off with his shoulders hunched, but he looked terrified. "I enjoyed meeting you, Hannah." said Amethyst before strutting off confidently and flipping her long, blonde curls yet again.
Hannah circled the ballroom a few times, feeling insecure about her out-of-style dress. She saw Lottie next to Lord and Lady Heath, who was now taking a break from dancing. Lottie caught her eye and waved her over. Hannah reluctantly obeyed.
"Mother, Daddy, this is my new friend, Hannah," Lottie introduced with a flourish of her dainty hands. Lord and Lady Heath surveyed Hannah with looks of shock on their faces. It was more obvious that Hannah was poor then she thought. Thanks, Amethyst.
Hannah curtsied and held her breath. "Hello, Hannah. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Lady Heath said. She had a soft voice, not unlike Lottie's. Hannah smiled at her and tried not to show her fear.
"Yes, come on, Janette." Lord Heath declared before grabbing Lady Heath's hand and pulling her off to the dance floor again.
"Did I do something wrong?" Hannah asked, puzzled about Lord Heath's demeanor.
"No, he's just, er, busy." Lottie said, her eyebrows furrowed. "Would you like a Kevanna?"
"A Kevanna what?" Hannah asked, slightly afraid. She didn't have a clue what that was.
"A Kevanna is a kind of alcohol named after an Epic that died in the Battle of Tatum." Lottie explained patiently. She seemed like someone who drank a bit too much.
"Um, I'm fine, thanks, I don't drink." Hannah muttered. Part of her wanted to go home; the other part wanted to stay and see what would happen next. Just a tiny part.
"Then follow me. I'm sick of this," Lottie said with a giggle. She grabbed Hannah's wrist and pulled her out of the large ballroom.
"Is this allowed? Where are we going?" Hannah asked timidly. She hated breaking any sort of rule.
"This is my home, and I give you permission. Now follow me." Lottie said, dropping Hannah's wrist and running up a white marble staircase. Hannah hesitantly followed her.
"My art room; I paint and draw," Lottie explained, picking up speed once she hit the landing. Hannah, who didn't run often, was already out of breath from the staircase.
Lottie stopped and opened a mahogany door. It was a small room with an easel, a few stools, paints and pencils, and canvases. Hannah looked at a wall, there were paintings and drawings everywhere. Of animals, people, foods, and places. They were so realistic and full of life that Hannah sucked in a breath.
She walked over to a painting of a wolf and touched it gently. Beautiful. It was identical to a real wolf and it made her heartbeat a little faster.
"Do you like it?" Lottie asked quietly. She sounded almost nervous. She struck Hannah as a person who wasn't easily frightened. Hannah had never been someone who appreciated art, but this felt deep, though it was just a wolf. Lottie had captured the wolf's expression perfectly.
It looked scared yet dangerous.
"I love them. I didn't know art was this, uh," Hannah searched for a word that could sum it up. Lottie understood.
"Thank you, Hannah. I made them," she shrugged and blushed deeply. Hannah couldn't believe anyone could do this with a blank sheet of paper and a few colors. Let alone Lottie's little wrist.
"Wow," Hannah whispered, like if she spoke too loud it would ruin the beauty of the paintings.
"Ha. I come here to get away from my parents. If you can't tell, they can be a bit overbearing; but one day I'm going to run away from here and paint, my sister ran away to join the Guardians and now she's an Epic." Lottie explained. Her voice was slightly slurred.
"You have a sister," asked Hannah in surprise. She had grown up hearing of the gossip of the Heaths from the nosy village women. Never had she heard of an older sister who ran away.
"Yes, her name is Rula. She's a disgrace to my parents and a well-kept secret." Lottie said quietly. She rubbed her arms and looked down, her red hair fell in her face like a scarlet waterfall.
"Rula," Hannah muttered, the name slightly familiar.
"Oh, why on earth do you want to run away?" Hannah asked. Lottie had it so well there, she was a total mystery to Hannah.
"My parents want to marry me off for an alliance, I'M SEVENTEEN. But to them, I'm just a toy to barter off for a petty friendship because my happiness is nothing to anyone! They say some Nobles my age are already wed, but I don't want to marry some Prince Joe because my parents want a friendship. " Lottie said with angry tears in her amber eyes.
"I want to help with this war; but, ARGH."
"W-why are you telling me this? You don't know me." Hannah said, confused by this girl.
"You seem nice." she laughed bluntly, her breath smelled like alcohol. "I'm not telling you anything I really care about. Trust me, love, that's dark. Anyway, all my friends are the soldiers and leaders Father has around. They all die."
"Also, I can tell I can trust you, I can see it in your eyes." she replied, clearly referencing Hannah's unique eyes. Normally, Hannah hated people mentioning that, but she didn't care that Lottie did.
Hannah had mixed emotions about this girl, she seemed nice enough but naive. Hannah guessed she didn't have enough friends and had lived her life as a blissful fairy tale where no one would hurt her if she spilled her guts.
Hannah didn't care. She would never see her again, the spoiled, rich girl who had everything but wanted to run away to prove a point.
Hannah went to the barber shop in her tiny town. Her long hair was annoying and Hannah needed a change that didn't involve risking her life.
"Hello, Ann! I think I know why you're here." Amelia had said in her sweet voice.
"Amelia!" Hannah exclaimed. She was one of the only people in Ryn who cared about Hannah. Even she didn't go to Hannah's house often, Hannah understood; she had a reputation.
Amelia bade Hannah to sit down, hitching up the skirts of her elaborate pink satin dress.
"Darling child! How short do you want these locks? Also, I have a treatment that will clear your acne right up, hon." she rambled, and Hannah felt a slight calm wash over her. Amelia could do all the talking and she could nod occasionally.
"Ah, child," Amelia exclaimed again and Hannah's clarity was slightly deterred by annoyance.
She was only a year older than Hannah but she always treated Hannah like there were decades between the two.
"Ha-ha, to my shoulders please?" Hannah replied. She debated on telling Amelia of the ball a few nights ago but decided against it. Even though Amelia dressed fancy, she was as poor as Hannah. The ball would only upset her. She felt Amelia run a brush through her long hair and silently said her goodbyes to it.
"Oh, to your shoulders, just like your old friend, Violet. Wasn't she just gorgeous! Alright, let's get snipping. How are you?" Amelia rambled.
She hadn't hard short hair since she was little.
"Fine, how are you?"
"Well, that Guardian who kept looking at me, Luke, asked for my hand! I said yes," Amelia squealed, wiggling the scissors so much that she avoided missing Hannah's ear by an inch. Her hair was looking alright, though.
Amelia was staring at Hannah's face, searching for a reaction. Hannah shook back to reality, "that's so great! Congratulations," Hannah said, not faking her enthusiasm. Hannah did love Amelia even though she could be a handful.
"Thank you, sweetheart! I was so surprised when I heard he has a mansion and is rich as day. How amazing is that?" she trilled.
"That's amazing for you. I have to go out to Mr. Vrow's and get some flour next. If you stay there I'll return." Hannah said, suddenly wanting out of the cramped salon. She examined her dark hair in the mirror and smiled, it was nice.
It just touched her shoulders and she felt lighter.
She had, of course, had been debating for a week, for she wasn't very good at making changes, especially ones that drew people's attention.
"No, I'm pretty busy, I'll see you later," she said, planting a kiss on Hannah's cheek before she left the cramped shop.
They went their separate ways as Hannah walked to Mr. Vrow's, the village grocers. The cold wind whipped Hannah's face and she wished she had stopped to put on her cloak.
His store was on the other side of the village, meaning a good ten-minute walk. When she arrived, she stepped into his small shop and rubbed her hands, trying to warm up.
Mr. Jacob Wixton, the shop assistant, was talking to a customer. A lady who looked slightly familiar. He looked up and smiled at her, then went back to talking to the girl.
Jacob had dark skin, a ready smile, and was quite young.
He always treated Hannah with respect and that was one of the many reasons Hannah liked him. That, and sometimes he'd give her extra sugar, wink, and put a finger to his lips.
Hannah went to the aisle where the baking supplies lived. She had been to this store so many times her hands reached out for what she needed without even having to think. She pulled out her small bag of coins and walked to the counter where Jacob was still talking to the lady.
"You'd better go, there are people behind you," he said to the girl, laughing. The girl spun around and saw Hannah. It was Lottie! Hannah was in so much shock, the fact Jacob called her a person didn't register.
More often, people called her a dog, or a beast, or weirdo.
"Oh, hi, Hannah." Lottie said, seeming pleasantly surprised. "I was starting to think you were too anxious to go places."
"Hello, Lottie," Hannah said, trying not to seem uncomfortable. Lottie didn't seem to notice her remark had hurt Hannah because she continued talking, clearly not thinking about what she was saying.
"Mr. Wixton was telling me about his fishing experiences," she described, ever the lady. "I'll wait for you to finish then we can catch up. I adore your hair!"
She didn't understand Lottie's circumstances at all, for she had a family, money, and a future. Hannah would die for that but she wanted to throw it all away on a dream.
Hannah almost envied her courage.
She stepped out of Hannah's way with a perky smile; Hannah resisted the urge to scream in frustration with the too-happy girl. She wanted to fill Lottie's head with the truth of the real world, the cruelness. There weren't little houses in the middle of nowhere with rainbows and flowers.
Well, that Hannah was aware of. She had never left Uliaria and rarely left Ryn.
She waited for Hannah as Jacob wrote down what she had got. "Bye," he called out as Hannah and Lottie left the shop.
"Goodbye!" Lottie called out as Hannah waved.
They stepped out of the store and into the lightly falling snow, the hems of their dress being soaked from the fluffy, white ice.
The streets were almost deserted, probably from the cold. People with families were probably inside, drinking cocoa and sitting around a fire, sharing stories.
"How do you live here? It's too small and I'm dying for an adventure." Lottie said. Her eyes were wide and a mischievous smile playing on her lips.
"If you come to my house you can help me bake a cake. That's as adventurous as I get," Hannah said, peeping at what Lottie had got. Candy.
"I don't know how to bake." Lottie said guiltily.
"Well, you still owe me a cake. I can teach you if you'd like." Hannah said, slightly shocked. But she needed someone around so she wouldn't have to think.
"Really?" Alright then. I get lost easily so you'll have to lead the way."
Hannah and Lottie turned a corner and saw four Guardians chatting and standing around idly. They were supposed to be protecting people, not swigging whiskey in broad daylight.
The Guardians had their backs to them, and Hannah froze in her tracks.
"Let's take a different route," Hannah said, feeling slightly nauseous. She gulped and turned around, praying that the Guardians didn't notice her. She was familiar with those four. One of them was the man who had laughed at her when she was attacked by a werewolf and accused her of killing her dog.
"Those four always bully me when they see me. I don't want to pass them if I don't have to."
Hannah heard them burst into laughter and Lottie's eyes widened, catching on. "No, let's stand up to those men," she said. "I'd quite like to see a street fight, as well; but participating in one would be amazing."
Hannah barely had time to wonder why Lottie was in Ryn before she grabbed Hannah's hand and dragged her towards them, her shoes loudly crunching in the snow. The three male Guardians didn't seem to notice.
"Hey," Lottie shouted. She was shaking, not from the cold, but from anger; she was a five-foot ball of fury.
The Guardians turned around and their faces broke into evil grins. "It's the dog and a ginger runt," one said, chuckling.
"Do you not know who I am? I'm Lady Charlotte Heath." Lottie hissed, coming to a stop in front of one and poking his chest. They roared with laughter but looked slightly taken aback.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Lady Heath. Please spare me your wrath," a dark-haired one laughed sarcastically, mock bowing at Lottie. She exhaled sharply.
One of the Guardians pulled Hannah's now-short hair. Hard. She yelped in pain, making the others laugh, but bringing tears to her eyes. Lottie dropped her bag.
"Stop," she whispered, crossing her arms and stepping back, trying not to cry. She closed her eyes for a second, wishing she was back home.
She heard a sickening thud and opened her eyes to see the Lottie had punched the one -who had laughed at her- in the face. He grabbed her roughly by the arm and pulled her close, blood dripping out his nose.
She clawed at his face with one hand, and he stepped back, yelping and almost tripping over himself. Hannah heard one of the others suck in a breath.
"You psychotic-," he yelled, reaching into his pocket, but came back empty-handed. His brown eyes went wide and he gasped "How did you-?"
Lottie pulled out the knife and held it in her fingers in a teasing fashion. "Looking for something?"
She made to stab him but he dodged her. "Let's go, they aren't worth it. She is a Heath, if we kill her or her mutt Lord Heath would have our heads on sticks. She's crazy, anyway."
He turned around and the others followed, casting looks back at Hannah and Lottie. Lottie was smiling but Hannah's knees felt weak and she was shaking.
"Why did you do that? Enough adventure?" she asked, her voice cracking.
"You seem so sweet, why would someone hurt you?" Lottie asked, her amber eyes clouded.
"Because I'm different; they don't like that," she explained, though she was sure Lottie already knew the answer.
Someone cleared their throat behind Hannah, and they both spun around. There stood two girls.
One had bright orange hair in a high ponytail, fox ears and tail, a short white dress to her knees, black combat boots, a leather pouch tied around her waist, and gold bracelets up to her elbow on one hand. She looked slightly amused.
The other was a girl in a man's suit, but it fitted her tightly and perfectly, showing off her rather nice figure. She had short, wavy hair to her chin, and one blue eye and one brown one. She was looking at Lottie in moderate surprise.
"Are you both okay? We saw you scaring off those creeps and thought we would wait and see what happens." the fox-girl explained, slightly impressed.
Hannah took a deep breath, hoping that she was hallucinating. "We're alright," Lottie said with a giggle.
"I mean, we could have taken all four; but I decided you should have a chance," the scandalously clad girl said. Her voice was high and yappy, like a fox's bark.
"Oh, uh, thanks," Lottie smiled slightly, looking confused.
The blonde girl rolled her eyes. The fox girl had green eyes and looked a bit like Lottie.
"I'm Phoebe and this is Yin. We're staying in the next town over but we came here to explore." Phoebe said, glancing at Hannah. Yin waved awkwardly at the sound of her name, but her face was impassive.
"I'm Lottie Heath and this is Hannah Mendacious," Lottie said slowly, eying Yin and looking taken aback; probably by her short hair and guy's clothes.
"I like your hair, it's like Yin's. and, Lottie, ours is like mine."
"Uh, thanks? I just had it cut and I don't really like it, so-" Hannah muttered, looking down and drifting off. She hadn't wanted anyone to see that Guardian encounter.
"Heh," Phoebe said, noticing Lottie glancing at her ears and tail.
"They're real, pull it," she giggled, and Lottie looked surprised. She knelt down and letting Lottie lightly tug her fox ear.
From what Hannah had seen of Phoebe, she wasn't reserved at all. Yin, on the other hand, hadn't said anything. Hannah was starting to wonder if she could talk.
Lottie let out a gasp. "Wow, they're so pretty."
Phoebe stood up and beamed.
"But we should go, Hannah is teaching me how to bake."
"Oh, you can bake? That's so sweet, ha, get it?" Phoebe said, Yin visibly cringed at the horribly made pun. Lottie let out a polite chuckle and Hannah coughed once, feeling awkwarder than she had before the horrible joke.
"Oh well, toodles Lottie and Hannah."
"Bub-bye, Yin and Phoebe," Lottie said and pulled Hannah off.
"That girl made you seem calm." Hannah muttered as soon as they were out of earshot.
"Yes, and Yin made you seem loud," Lottie replied with a teasing smile.
"I wonder if she can speak."
"I'm sure she can, and even if she can't there's nothing wrong with that. I liked them, though." Lottie aforementioned.
There was silence for a second, as they walked closer to Hannah's house.
"Let's go bakes a cake and please try not to get in any more fights." Hannah begged, though she was starting to warm up to the red-haired Lady.
They waded home, the snow bitterly cold yet beautiful, like a broken snow globe.