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Have Courage and Be Kind

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Once upon a time, there was a kingdom named Daibazaal. It was a mighty yet fearful kingdom ruled by King Zarkon and Queen Haggar. Everyone in the land feared them for they ruled them like slaves. All that tried defying them were never seen again. Children were taken from their homes and forced to work in the mines, women were forced to work in the fields to gather food, men worked in the mines as rock collectors. It didn't matter what race you were. If you were not Galra, you were nothing to the Royals' eyes. The Galra were a mean, savage group of people. Knowing they could get away with anything and everything, everyone else suffered from the other citizens and their rulers. It wasn't until a group called the Blade decided it was time to take the throne. The battle was planned for years, then the date finally came. The members of the Blade attacked in the silence of the night. By the time morning arose everyone, many Galra were dead in their positions. The King himself was mortally wounded and his Queen was powerless. The kingdom rejoiced as they watched the Galra retreated from the kingdom, praising the Blade for their glorious work. But now they needed a new ruler. Kolivan, the leader of the Blade, offered the position to one of his most trusted Captains. Krolia and her husband. They were not sure what the kingdom would say, but the people seemed pleased to know that they were given the choice. So they were sworn in as the new King and Queen. However, they changed the name. So the kingdom entirely could start anew. Mamora. At last! The people could find happiness in being in the kingdom once again! Families that fled from the violence and danger came flooding back to be reunited with those that stayed, the econimic status of the kingdom was salvaged and restored to its former glory, all was well in the kingdom of Marmora. 

Ah yes, the beautiful kingdom of Marmora. A peaceful land in which people fear the Galra no more. Farms no longer have unpaid servants and everyone works with a smile on their faces. It truly was a land to finally build families and teach their young about the beauty that was concealed by slavery and violence. Just passed the village, a few miles north; there were many merchants and farmers living in peace with their land. The most known family was the Mcclains. They were a large family that many others liked working for. The oldest children help tend to the chores around the property and the young were nice and sweet to their nannies. The nannies spend time with the young ones along with the parents. They always admired how Mr. and Mrs. Mcclain never stopped loving their children or gave them to the nannies to deal alone. They soon let go a couple that had opportunities of a lifetime, never wanting to keep those that wanted to work with something more. Leaving a handful of cooks, maids, and workers for outside chores. But all children helped out, not one worker was without a little helper. 

Soon Mrs. Mcclain had her last child, a young boy whom they named Lance. Now Lance wasn't like his older siblings; when they saw the world as it was, Lance saw the world as it should be. With a little hint of magic. Would explain why he was a happy child and especially when he talked to the animals as if they could talk back to him. Even as a child, Lance was a beautiful person. Inside and out. He never said anything without properly addressing the other, he never forgot to say please and thank you. Not only his manners but his appearance. For he was blessed with beauty from the top of his head to his little toes. Skin like caramel, so soft and sweet. Hair like chocolate, never messy or dirty even if he played in the dirt. But his eyes were the true gem of his appearance. Eyes as blue as the ocean, a mixture, a variety of what the color Blue could offer an artist. 

The Mcclain estate was large for the father worked as a merchant, traveling from east to west to sell or buy certain objects. He ran a factory that collected what others did not want and turns them into something that everyone wanted. That was pure magic to Lance's mind. Along with the money Mr. Mcclain earned, the estate was never filled with the best or most expensive items in the world. It was homey, cozy and warm. Just like they wanted. The property was big enough for a large house with many rooms to fill along with a garden in the back, a stable for many of the animals they had, and as well as a little field just to run around and play. The Mcclains almost always spent a while in the fields, climbing trees and admiring the beautiful clear skies. Watching as the world passed by them. To Lance, it was like a kingdom all for their own. The estate was their castle and the workers were friends that helped, the outside was Lance's playground. He loved the outside, especially the river close to the estate. Anyone could find the young boy either in the trees or in the river, playing to his heart's content. 

Lance helped feed the animals in the backyard. Spreading corn and seeds to the chickens and ducks, ensuring their babies got some too. He giggled as his mice friends were playing. Platt was trying to eat the feed, of course. "Platt, you are a house mouse. Not an outdoor mouse. If you're hungry, you should have told me silly." He said, kneeling down to cup his hands. Allowing his friends to move to his palms, standing up once they were all there. "Lannnceee!" he heard, gasping in glee. "It's Papa!" He rushed to the well, setting his mice friends on the stone. "I'll be right back." Then dashed to the front, wanting to see his father once more. Upon arrival, his siblings were helping carry the boxes and bags down from the carriages. Sorting from fragile, valuable, product and more. His father glowed with a smile, seeing his youngest. "Lance!" In one swop, he was lifted in his father's arms. Giggling as they twirled in the air. "I missed you, Papa! So much!" Mrs. Mcclain smiled as she helped the workers bring in what could stay. A new piece of art just for the study. Everyone else got their own gifts from across the globe. Now, it was Lance's turn. 

"Oh, my boy! Mi Hijo! You've grown!" He gasped, making the boy giggle as his father held him close. Walking towards the stone bench surrounding the garden in the center of the gravel circle. Setting Lance down with a smile. "All your hermanos y hermanas got their gift. Would you like yours?" Lance smiled, "Papa, you know the greatest gift is you coming back. I don't need anything else." It made Mr. Mcclain's heart sore. Really anyone that heard followed behind. Lance was truly the kindest around. "Yes but even you deserve a gift. For being you." He pulled something out of his pocket. It looked like a rock, but up in the light was far more different. It was a beautiful gem. It wasn't big enough to be of great value or too small to be created into jewelry, just the right size to hold and pocket for some extra good luck. The color surprised Lance the most. It looked just like his eyes! Lance gasped, gladly holding his hands out to hold it carefully. "Oh, it's beautiful Papa! It looks like my eyes!" He exclaimed happily. Making his father chuckle in glee. "Indeed mi angel, indeed it is." 

The family was pleased, happy, joyful in their life. Everything seemed peaceful with the family loving each other so much. But even sorrow can happen with a happy family. No one could believe it, no one wanted to. How could they deal with their mother fall ill? Too ill to even go outside anymore, trapped in a single room where the doctor came in, checked her, then went out. It scared everyone, especially the father. All Lance knew was what he overheard, hidden behind a corner. It had been a couple of days, she wasn't getting any better. Lance sat in a chair beside the door to the study, where his mother sat. The doctor came out, whispering to the father whose face turned as white as snow. Like he was watching a ghost. "I understand, thank you, Doctor." Then allowed a maid to escort the doctor out. He looked to his older children, then to Lance. Who waited politely there. Quiet as a mouse. "Lance." His head lifted to his father. Eyes meeting such sorrowful looks. Did his siblings already say goodbye? It would appear they did once his father said, "Come. Your mother wants to see you." The little twelve-year-old boy stood up and held his father's hand as they walked into the study. His mother smiling softly at him. Oh, how beautiful she was and would always be. 

"Mi Hijo, mi precioso angelito. Come, please." She said, moving her legs to create space for Lance to sit. "I want to tell you a secret. A secret that will see you through all the trials life has to offer. You must always remember to have the courage and be kind." Lance's hand was taken into her cold one. "Will you promise me?" She whispered. Lance teared up. “Mama, please...” “Shhh I know my dear, I know. I know I will be leaving soon. But I do not want you, your brothers or sisters and your father to grieve for too long. I want you all to be happy in your lives. Can you promise that you will remember our little secret?" Lance hiccuped, nodding. "Yes, Mama." She looked like she breathed out in relief. "Good." She said, nodding a little. "Good." She looked over to her husband, who tried not to tear up for the fifth time this week. The older children came in shortly, giving Mrs. Mcclain a final hug as a loving, dear family. "I love you," She whispered to them. "I love you all, so much. So dearly."

Time passed and she died peacefully in her sleep. She was buried where the family had planned. A clean, new stone was engraved. Fresh flowers from the field were picked and everyone, even the workers in the estate, came to say their final goodbyes. For with time and years, the pain turned into a memory. As the years went on, each older child went off into the world. Each ensuring their father and youngest brother that they would write every day. Some headed to the east towards the ocean, where they wanted to work in a market as fishermen. Others headed south, towards the big city. Claiming it was a wild time but they soon were engaged then eloped. Wishing Lance and their father would attend the wedding. By each year, Lance grew even more beautiful than anyone could imagine. When he reached the age seventeen, not one who looked upon him could tell him truthfully how ugly he was. His eyes stayed as bright and gleeful, his sunlike smile never faded. It was something everyone loved seeing the young boy do. A smile that could light up any room he walked into. 

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As he grew, his heart never changed. For he remembered the promise he made to his mother, staying true to his word. Helping out the workers every day until they banished him to rest inside the house. For Mr. Mcclain was alone a lot more. Since almost every child left to their own, Lance was the only other living in the household. For now, they were sitting in the living space. Lance sat on one of the couches, reading a classic Shakespeare book while his father was reading his own book and drinking tea. Mr. Mcclain paused, putting his tea down and clearing his voice. "Lance? I.." He cleared his voice again. Lance perked his head up from the book, smiling at his father. "Yes, Papa?" He said, sitting up in the chair and holding a thumb between the pages to not lose his place. "Lance, I was thinking...about how it's time to start a new chapter in our lives and..." He tilted his head at his father. "Indeed," he replied but confused. Why was his father so unsure to tell him whatever he needed to say. He giggled, reaching over to hold his father's hand. "You seem to have some trouble telling me, but you mustn't Papa. You're worried about telling me when there should never be such a worry. Please, do not fret. I'm sure whatever you tell me is wonderful news." His father held his hand, kissing his palm and holding it steady in both of his. He was always pleased knowing what a kind son he had left in this quiet estate. "If it leads you to your happiness, I will not dare to stop you."

He chuckled, ah his beautiful angelic son. "Yes. Yes. Happiness." He looked down for a moment before picking his head up. "I have been...meeting up with someone lately and I wish to propose to her." Lance smiled happily. Getting up, not minding his book anymore before sitting down to hug his father. "She'll merely be your step-mother. And...and she has two lovely daughters who'll keep you company while I'm away." Lance looked up at him, smiling. "Then I can not wait until I can finally meet them." Not a week has passed before the arrival of his new to-be-step-family. He stood in his best clothes with his father practically jumping in place. He seemed very happy to have Lance finally meet the new family members. Lance watched as the carriage pulled in and his father coming down the steps. He looked at himself, did he look appropriate? He was wearing a white garment with sleeves that ended to his elbows, some blue pants, a blue vest and some brown shoes. Nothing too fancy but enough to look his best. After all, first impressions mean everything. He watched as his father exclaimed in joy, "Welcome ladies! Welcome!" Lance came down the steps as his father helped two young, taller ladies out of the carriage. 

Immediately they went for Lance. "You have such beautiful skin." One said with short black hair, her face still expressionless. She looked muscular for a woman. Lance smiled as his hands went behind his back. "Why thank you." The other, with long orange hair, giggled. She was very thin, perhaps flexible too. "You should get your hair styled. Don't people wear wigs around here?" It made him smile. "Unfortunately not, people work hard around here. I guess they wouldn't want to get the wigs all dirty and such." Both looked like they had very high standards for everything. Their dresses look so fancy and organized, made from expensive silk and fabric. Their gloves were of the finest silk then came those hats. Surely it wasn't supposed to look so nice. Then he turned his eyes to his supposed stepmother. Who walked slowly with a long dress dragging behind. Apparently, she brought a cat too. The cat hissed at Lance but he smiled nevertheless. Hoping he would not worry about his mice friends. She walked inside, looking around from the hallway. "So...magnificent." She said to Mr. Mcclain, the two walking to the study for a private conversation. Lance turned to his to-be-step-sisters. "How about I show you around the property and then take you to your room? We could start with the barn." The black haired one looked at his distastefully, the other nodded. "Yeah! Sure! Let's go Acxa! I wanna throw rocks at a bull!" Then sprinted off with Lance rushing behind her. "Oh please! Wait!"

After the marriage, the new family members settled in with glee. Honerva worked hard to bring back life and laughter to the property and especially the estate. Throwing quite big parties that the young adults were not allowed to attend. Mr. Mcclain sometimes thought it to be a great idea, but he was away when Honerva threw gambling parties at the estate. Lance said nothing as he thought it was lovely having people over to brighten the once lonely, quiet estate. As his new step-sisters were busy with the young gentlemen that came in the gardens, he stayed inside. Helping the workers with serving food or even cleaning up. Of course, his mice friends liked to come out and steal some crumbs. Especially Platt. The four mice moved about to find some pieces dropped on the floor. Kova, Honerva's cat, hissed from his chair. Moving to a stance and watched them. The mice backed up and before Kova had a chance, Lance picked him up. Giggling. "What do you think you're doing Mister grumpy pants? Platt, Chulatt, Plachu, and Chuchule are my guests. And guests are not to be eaten, alright?" He put the Kova down, who growled and left. Lance smiled, kneeling to his friends. "It's okay. Go on and take the crumbs. I'll leave some leftovers out once the party is cleared. Okay?" He whispered to them, blowing a kiss as he stood up. Adjusting his vest as he made his way to the study. He had hoped to grab a book when he noticed his father still there. He sighed, closing the door behind him. 

"Papa, you really should go attend the party. Mother is really throwing a grand one today." His father looked up with a sigh, rearranging some documents. "I can not my dear son. I'm leaving in the morning." Lance's smile faded slightly, stepping forward. "But you...but you're hardly back from the last trip." He let out a breath of air. He didn't want to be alone with his step-family, he wanted to be with his father more. Years as passing by and since the death of his mother, he never was sure when his father would follow. After all, his heartbreak was worse than anyone else's. He put his hands on the table, in which had his father reach over to touch them. "It's only a few months my darling." He turned to another door to his side, leading into the dining room. Hearing the loud laughter, he wasn't sure if he enjoyed the events all the time anymore. He looks back at his son, who looked at him with his eyes shining in the dim lighting of the study. He chuckled lightly, brushing a thumb over his hand. "You still haven't requested a gift for me to bring back to you. Your sisters have asked for beautiful dresses from Altea and your mother requested the best necklace I found find." Lance smiled, "The best gift I have is you coming home." His father put down his pen, holding his single hand in both of his. "There must be something." Lance giggled. Thinking for a moment before putting his hand on top of his father's. 

"Bring me the first branch that touches your shoulders." His father looked quite confused. " truly an interesting request my angel." Lance giggled again. "Well, you'll have to take it with you throughout your journey. Looking at it, you'll think of me." His smile faded, tears welding him his eyes. "So you'll come back home... no matter what." It was a quick move for both to stand up, Lance walked around the corner of the desk and so did Mr. Mcclain, hugging from the side of the desk. Mr. Mcclain put a hand on the back of Lance's head. Unknowing someone was watching them from the window of one of the doors, Mr. Mcclain spoke. "I always leave a part of me behind, Lance." He pulled away just enough to look at his son. Using his thumb to wipe his tears away. "Remember that, okay?" Lance nodded, sniffling. "A-And...and your mother is here as well. Even if you can not see her! She is the heart of this place." He pulled Lance in again to kiss his head. Eyes not seeing the figure move away from the windows. 

It was sad to see him pack up and wait for the carriage. The family stood outside, saying goodbye and their requests again. Lance hugged his father and helped out another bag onto the carriage. Watching his father climb up with the driver and ask for him to get going. The horse moved, pulling the carriage along. Without a second thought, Lance ran behind it. Standing as he ran past the stone pillars before the road. Sliding on the dirt road and stopping as he looked at his father turn around with a smile. "I love you!" Lance called out. "I love you too!" Mr. Mcclain called back. Waving his hand to his son. Lance gladly waved back, watching as his father got smaller and smaller as more distance was put behind them both. Then, he was gone. His step-family were already inside and minding their own business. After all, they didn't seem to care much for Mr. Mcclain as much as Lance did. Perhaps it was just because they were still getting used to this new property and family. Maybe because of something else. 

Now Lance was once again alone with his step-family. As per usual, Ezor and Acxa practiced a hobby in the study as Honerva sat on a couch. Ezor tried singing as she stretched her body in such strange ways. Like she was a performer for the circus. She sang rather awful, incredibly awful. It was very high pitched and completely off key. Making many workers hold their tongues to not laugh so hard the estate falls down. Ezor tried drawing many objects or people, this time it was her poor mother. Lance sat at the small table in the study, sewing some old fabric for one of the workers. They were very busy cleaning and had wanted to fix this fabric as they were going to a wedding. Of course, Lance stepped in and offered his help. He was rather good after all thanks to his mother and sisters. He had grown to lose his hearing when his step-sister sang. Then came the awful drawing Ezor did. She didn't look the feminine type anyways. Honerva gave a weak smile, surely to not mock her children's terrible skills. Lance looked up at the worker and gave the fabric. Hushed whispered were among the both of them, until Ezor's voice got very high pitched. Almost causing them both to laugh. Honerva must have noticed for she bumped her plate and cup onto the carpet. Lance turned, putting a hand on the worker's shoulder to let her know he got this. Quickly walking to the mess and picking everything up, taking it back to the kitchen. 

Things were not going too well. Soon Lance was requested by his mother. She never wanted to see him when his father left! Why now? She sat down on one of the daybeds in the bedroom. Gesturing for Lance to come in. "Come, please sit." He wasn't sure why his gut screamed no but he did anyway. Sitting beside her. He rubbed his tears away, she seemed to aw and take out a handkerchief. "Oh. Thank you, Mother." He said softly, taking it to dab his eyes. "Oh, you don't have to call me that." He paused, looking at her. "Madame will do." She smiled before they both looked out as the two girls were shouting at each other, cursing as they ran down the hallway. "You have too many clothes in the closet!!" "Then make yourself smaller you skinny toothpick!" Honerva sighed. Fixing her hair from the bun. "Ezor and Acxa have always shared a room. Precious girls. One can not be without the other it would seem." She looked at Lance, whose eyes looked down for a moment in thought. "Dear affectionate girls. It is sad to see them fight like this." Blue eyes suddenly went on her. His mouth opened, closed, then opened again to speak. "My bedroom is the biggest besides yours and Papa. Would...would they like to have it?" Honerva looked impressed at the boy. Smiling. "What a wonderful idea. What a good boy you are." Lance smiled softly, looking down at his fingers touched his light blue suspenders. He looked up. "Well, I could stay-" "In the attic!" Honvera cut in. Almost shocking Lance from her outburst. "Yes, perfect. Oh!" She stood up to receive a tray of trinkets and non-valuables from a table. Lance followed before she literally shoved the tray into his arms. He stumbled a bit on his feet but caught himself. "You can take things with you. To make yourself cozier. Oh, thank you so much, Lance." Then patted his cheek and left to deal with her daughters.

Lance was left in awe. Was he...being moved literally out of warmth? Out of his own home? It seemed that way. He took a deep breath. "No, relax Lance. She...she probably will make it into a new room! Yes, redesign it at a different time with Papa is home. Yes." A smile formed on his lips as he made his way up. Pushing open the door to the dusty attic. He set the trinkets on one of the old tables, dusting his hands off onto his trousers before moving towards a daybed. He could certainly makeshift a bed from this. He hummed to himself as he worked on making this attic his own living space. Pushing chairs across the way to a pile while others stayed to make a little place for his own items. He found some old carpets and was able to spread them over the old daybed. All he needed was a blanket and maybe a little table. As he moved some other chairs, he gasped as he found his old friends eating cheese on a wooden spindle. He giggled as they zoomed away. "Oh! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean- oh how silly of me. Is this where you live?" He kneeled to the mice, who slowly started coming back. "I didn't mean to intrude, I really didn't. You see, I was set up here. I had to give away my room to my step-sisters. They need it more than I do." The mice seemed to understand, squeaking at him. He giggled. "Well, now we will be roommates! How fun!" He stood up, twirling a little in his step. Unaware below the steps to lead to the attic where his step-sisters. "He talks to himself in a dusty attic." Axca scoffed. "So we were right. He is a crazy brother. No wonder mother wanted him out." He sighed in content. Walking to the door. "It's wonderful. No cats..." He reached for the door, pushing it closed with a sigh. "And no step-sisters." Then closed it shut with a smile. 

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It was a pleasant morning. Lance woke up to the sunrise and watched it come up from the rolling hills in the distance. Humming as he brushed his only pair of clothing off and yawned, stretching a little. His mice friends watched as he twirled across the floor to grab his apron. Tying it and waved at his roommates, heading downstairs to start on his chores. Now his step-mother did not assign these chores to him, oh no. He had always helped the workers no matter what. He got through the house without making a sound and to the back door. Humming a little tune as he carried a basket in hand. For now, he had one mission, to collect some eggs for breakfast! Many workers greeted the boy in glee, happy to see him smiling once again. "Morning!" He smiled more and waved. "Good morning Alejandro!" Then kneeled at the chicken coop. Setting his basket down as he opened the little hatch to open the tiny doors. "Good morning beautiful ladies. How are you all doing?" He giggled. "Do you have something for me?" Lance gasped at seeing one egg all ready for him. He reached in and took it. "Oh thank you! It's a beautiful egg indeed." Oh, how all the hens gave him such beautiful eggs. In return, he gave them some more feed to eat. "Thank you, you beautiful ladies!" He winked, getting up after closing the coop. 

Throughout the entire day, he did many chores. Help served breakfast and tea, make beds and even sweep up the house. The workers tried to argue with the boy but he would not listen. Smiling and humming as he helped get the job done. It made many smiles appear while three smirked instead. Plotting something no doubt. Soon, night came and there was a knock on the door. Lance hummed, calling out. "I have it!" Then opened it to see a man he knew well. His father's assistant. Who traveled with him far and wide. But if that is so...where was his father? The man took off his hat, clearing his throat. "Mister Lance? It's your father." His heart raced a thousand times faster. No no! "There was an accident at one of his factories. We found your father's body in the water. He's gone." Tears welled up in Lance's eyes as his step-family came into the hallway behind him. Listening. The man pulled something from his bag, a branch. Holding it out to Lance, whose hand moved so slowly to take it. "When he sent me away as the fire grew, he demanded that I return to give this to you. He did not want to let you down, Mister Lance." He held it tightly in his hands. Ezor frowned. "What about my Altean dress?" She complained. "None of that matters." Honerva declared. "Don't you see?" Her head turning to her daughters as Lance looked behind his shoulder to them. "We're broke." Then left to make plans, her daughters following behind. Lance choked up on a sob, turning his head back to the man. "Thank you. You did not-" "No I did." His eyes looked behind the poor boy who the step-mother, then sighed. "I'm sorry." Then put his hat back on and left. Lance gently pushed on the door, closing it. Then turned his back to the wall, his breathing was shaking already. His knees buckled, causing him to lean against the door. Slowly falling down as he sat on the floor. Then his tears no longer were able to contain themselves. He broke down, sobbing. Curling up to the branch he asked his father to bring back. But his father wasn't with it. He didn't sleep much that night. 

That evening, Madam Honerva ordered the finest black fabric to be made into beautiful gowns for her and her daughters. For Lance, she had a simple black ribbon which he tied around his neck. Soon as they came in, Mr. Mcclain was prepared to be taken to the Mcclain's graveyard nearby the church they had attended before Mrs. Mcclain fell ill. All four stood by the entrance of the estate, holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the light rain as the carriage rode away with the body of Mr. Mcclain. He would be buried next to his beloved first wife. Barely three seconds later, Honerva turned and left to get inside. Her daughters followed closely behind, leaving Lance alone to his own thoughts and emotions. He watched the carriage until it no longer was in sight. A single tear dropping, he wiped it quickly. "You've cried enough idiota. No more..." He whispered to himself before turning to go back inside. Unfortunately for the family, Honerva knew money would be short so she had to dismiss all the staff from the estate. Lance had a hard time having to watch them leave, so he helped pack their items and carried them towards the back entrance of the estate. Hugging them closely. "Ciao. Please tell your family I said hi," He smiled softly as he hugged his friends. They all did not want to leave the poor boy alone, but they had their own families to take care of and feed. Lance ensured that he'd be quite fine with his step-family. Honerva declared that they must all pull together to ensure the estate did not fall into a terrible place. How they all must take care of the Mcclain Estate as best as they could. But she could not get herself to do such actions, she fell into such a terrible grief for the loss of her husband. Her daughters followed behind her, locking themselves in their rooms. Lance wanted to do the same, but he couldn't- he didn't want to be left with his thoughts up in the attic for so long. So he was left to do all the work. 

To Honerva, without Mr. Mcclain, Lance was nothing more than another mouth to feed. A nuisance to her. With all the labor he had to do every day of every hour, he forgot he even had other clothes besides grey pants with matching suspenders, a white long-sleeved garment with some top buttons open for air, some old brown slippers he used to wear for outside fun, and a blue rag tied to his head to wear as a headband to keep his locks from getting in his face. He cleaned every inch of every room in the house, tended the gardens along the back and side of the house, feed and cared for the animals in the barn, then prepared all meals for his family. Almost never got much to eat. He would be in labor mode for hours, that he'd leave crumbs for his mice friends, but never think to feed himself. Days turn into weeks. All this time, the more Lance worked, the more his step-family saw him no more than a servant. 

He was thankful to have finished tending the greenhouse, checking the beautiful pumpkins. His aching hand reached for the umbrella, pushing it up and holding the end only to come out and see his step-mother giving a merchant some of his father's things. Then being paid for it. He knew this was the only way to get enough money to buy what they couldn't grow, but wait...she...His eyes were worried as he saw something glimmer in the pile as the merchant put it up into his wagon. Honerva left back inside the house, her long black tail trailing behind her. His feet carried him fast to the wagon before the merchant could leave. Reaching up high into the piles of items to sell, reaching for that rock his father once brought back to him. He looked behind to see if his step-mother was watching before stepping towards the merchant. "Can I-" He looked again. Then once more. "Can I pay for this?" The merchant looked at Lance, putting a hand up while shaking his head. "That's alright." He tipped his hat and grabbed a stick to head to his seat in front. "T-Thank you." Lance quickly said. Smiling softly at the rock he held. Not noticing the wagon leaving him behind, alone once more. He held it close to his heart, closing his eyes in hopes to not slip any tears. 

Weeks turned into months, Spring was becoming a little too cold for Lance to stay in the attic with barely a blanket to use. He sighed as he stood at the bottom of the stairs, the moonlight shining through the single window there. He hugged himself for a while. Until he snapped his fingers. "That's it..." He whispered, turning back to head to the kitchen once more. He was merely glad there was a single pillow he could steal, having nothing else to rest beside the burning embers of the dying fire. It wasn't much but at least he would keep him warm enough for the night. But as soon as he entered the kitchen, he noticed his step-sisters giggling as they stole food from the cupboards. Ezor knocked down baskets of grains, spreading them all over the floor. "Oops..." She said with Acxa rolling her eyes. Then she noticed Lance at the doorway, smirking lightly. "Good, Lance. You're here. Pick these up, will you? It's our bedtime." Then dragged Ezor out of the kitchen. Lance held the tiny pillow against his chest, sighing for a moment before setting the pillow down and starting to pick up each one at a time. He'd get no rest at all at this point. Chulatt noticed, moving out from the mousehole to stand and watch the boy pick up each grain and put it away. The boy yawned but continued his work. Soon the three rest came, watching Lance before heading out to help. Creating piles of grains. He didn't notice until he saw he had less in one stop. Turning with a gasp as he noticed his friends helping. He smiled. "Thank you, my friends. Thank you." Plachu hopped onto the pillow that he moved towards the fireplace. Squeaking at the boy, who giggled. Understanding what the mouse meant. "Are you sure? I could always help you guys. I mean together, we could-" The mice squeaked at him in protest. Which made him giggle and nod. "Alright, alright. I shall go to bed. But tomorrow, you guys will get a lovely surprise. Thank you." Standing up and moving towards where the pillow was. Plachu hopped off as Lance laid his head down. Humming in delight as the warmth hit his thin body. 

He slept for a long while. Which could be very bad depending if he could remember how late it was. Lance woke, fluttering his eyes open while he yawned. His ears almost didn't pick up the ringing, almost. Though once hearing, he gasped, racing to get on his feet. "Shit! Breakfast!" He whispered to himself, almost dashing away before he saw the stacks of the grains. Smiling, his mice friends came. Squeaking at him. He kneeled to them, just for a moment forgetting the ringing of the many bells his family was using. "Thank you, my friends. I must run now, but please come back soon. I want to give a gift for your help last night." he smiled at them, before getting on his feet again and dashing to prepare the food his family wanted every single morning. What he didn't see was more of his little animal friends coming inside to help put away all the grains into their rightful baskets. Crows flew from the window to help the mice and the rabbits. Setting each basket aside for Lance. They all cared for the boy as he saved them from dying. Whether from a mouse trap, the cat or even starvation, he gave up his food for their survival. Since then, they helped their friend in anything they could.  Though they all wished they could set that bratty step-family away. 

He grabbed the tray, setting the table with the breakfast and plates. Then moved to tend to the fire, just as Honerva came in. Dressed in an elegant dark purple silk robe, she only wore the finest garments along with her daughters. Nothing was ever given to Lance, not even new shoes now that his old was were breaking apart. But Lance always looked to the positive side, fixing what he could so he didn't need to ask. That would be rude of course! "I hope breakfast is ready. We've been waiting for a while." "It is Ma'am, I'm just tending the fire so it does not go out." He heard a scoff before the creaking of the floor as she moved. Soon he heard his step-sisters follow, arguing about wearing some dress today. Typical. He stood up, dusting his hands after he finished as he grabbed his own plate and fork from the tray. He hardly noticed the ash all over his face and clothes. But just as he was setting his own corner, he was stopped. "What do you think you're doing?" He looked up to his step-mother. She was indeed beautiful, but she wasn't his mother. He wasn't her son. "I...I was just setting my-" "What? Have you eat here? That would be absurd." She smiled. "You're filthy. What is that?" Lance touched his face, pulling his fingers away to see black ash on his hands. "I was laying by the cinder last night. I-It was getting a little cold up in the-" "I don't want you getting the table dirty or eat with my daughters. You could ruin their complexion. " Lance's light did fade at that, slowly withdrawing his plate and fork. "Besides, would it not be better if you ate when all the work is done, Lance? Or should we call you Cinderella instead?" He paused, they were degrading him. Ripped his name off of his body. He was no longer a boy to them, he was Cinderella now. A servant, a slave chained to his step-family for he no longer had anyone else. After all, his siblings never bothered to write back to his pleas. Perhaps this was punishment for being so childish and happy. Perhaps...he was always annoying to his family and they just never told him. Maybe they were happy he was a servant. He said nothing, walking away as the three laughed at the new name. 

Once in the kitchen, his hands started to shake. His lip quivered as he put the plate down on the wooden table. But he had missed and it fell out of his hands onto the floor. He took a step back, gasping quietly before hiccuping. Kneeling on the dirty floor and picking up the pieces. One by one. His mice friends watched from their little hole in the corner. Watching as tears began to slip from his cheeks, he wiped as best as he could. Only to look up to see his reflection in a brass pot. More tears fell. Looking at his disfigured face. Their words sunk in deeply to his core. He sobbed quietly, more and more tears sliding down his face. He never wanted this. To be degraded as a servant, it was uncalled for. Had he not been kind? Had he not listened and obeyed enough? He treated his servants with respect and helped out with any chore they did too. It's why they loved coming back for so many years. He stood up, setting the broken pieces on the table. One hand covering his mouth to conceal his sobs, but it wasn't enough. Just as his mice friends were coming out to help comfort their friend, he fled on his feet out to the back. Not stopping. He ran to a white horse, HIS horse. Blue, oh Blue could feel his sadness easily. For she allowed him to climb up onto her back and obeyed even at his small, "Please run." Poor Lance, he just wanted to run away. He missed his family, THEY weren't his family at all. They were his mistresses, nothing more or less. 

Soon Blue slowed down as they were past the property and deep in the forest. Lance lifted his head from hiding it in Blue's neck. Only to come across a beautiful scene. A light was shining through an opening above the trees, shining upon a little stream coming from the North. There stood a proud, white stag. Lance gasped silently at it, watching as it raised its head. It just stared at Lance, as if it knew he would not bring harm. Lance smiled softly. "Good day Sir. I do feel sorry if I intruded your peace." He smiled. The stag seemed to want to move closer but then a gunshot blasted between the two animals. Causing them both to tense and make noises, the stag ran away into the darkness of the woods while Blue galloped the other way. "Blue! Blue calm down!" Lance tried speaking to his horse. "Blue! Slow down! Please!" He begged. Holding onto its mane to ensure he wouldn't lose another friend and he was kinda lost. Walking back would take hours and he did not have that. Unknowingly, he didn't see the two zooming passed a group of royal soldiers and another. "Blue!" He cried out, ducking tree branches. Then he heard another voice in the distance coming closer. He opened his eyes to see a pale hand grabbing the mane as well, making gentle noises to the horse. Slowing Blue down. "Woah, Woah Woah!" Then they came to a stop, the pale hand pulled away. Lance looked up to see a figure on a black horse. 

He was....truly handsome. Dressed in such a fine garment. A red jacket with gold vines and leaves along with his sleeves and chest with a white shirt under, his collar had ruffles under his neck. Never in his life did Lance think ruffles would look sexy on someone else. He seemed to also wear white pants with a black strip each on the side of the leg and lastly some black leather boots. He had a belt along with his hip, probably carrying a sword. His complexion was so pale it looked like it would burn being in the sun for little time, his hair was as black as night, long too. Lance noticed a red ribbon tying the other's long hair in the back. Well dressed man in the woods, hm. Lance obviously knew what as happening. Blue still was a little scared, stomping her feet into the ground as Lance rubbed her neck. Cooing to her quietly. The man spoke. "Are you alright?" Lance smiled. "Yes, I'm alright! But you nearly feared the life out of him!" He exclaimed, scared for the stag. The other male seemed confused. "Him?" Lance gestured to where they came from. "The stag! What has he ever done to you for you to chase him about?" The male's serious look seemed to fade. Just a little. Their horses seemed to want to move, making them walk in a circle. Each horse keeping an equal distance, allowing the men to stay in contact with each other. 

"I must confess I've never met him before. a friend of yours?" It made Lance giggle, looking down at Blue to pat her neck. "An acquaintance. We met just now." he smiled at the other. Not a soft, small smile. An actual smile. HIS sunlike smile, oh how long it's been since he had done that. Lance didn't need to say or do anything to get Blue to walk out of the circle and close to the other. Stopping as the horse were still. "He looked into my eyes, I looked into his and he seemed to have a great deal left to do in his life." He shrugged. "That's all." The other male seemed surprised, shocked. But smiled. "Mister, what do they call you?" There was a little pause, Lance shook his head but smiled again. "Nevermind what they call me." "Well, you shouldn't be out here alone." It made Lance laugh. "Well I'm not alone am I? I'm with you. Sir...well what do they call you?" There was a pause again. The male seemed confused for one moment before a relief seemed to wash over him. "Keith." The male seemed to smile more. "At least that's when my brother isn't pissed at me for making a mess." Lance laughed again. "Where do you live?" "The palace...My brother is teaching me-" "Oh! You're an apprentice!" The male moved his head in a while that didn't nod or shake his head. More like a bobble. "Of a sort..." "Well, that seems very fine! Must be great seeing the palace." Lance giggled.

"Do they treat you well?" Keith shrugged his shoulders. "Well better than I deserve to be honest." Now their horses were side by side. But facing different directions. So close where the males could reach and touch one another. "And you?" Lance said nothing for a moment. Should he tell the truth? Was this his chance? He shook his head, "They treat me as well as they are able." Keith seemed very sad to hear such that. As if he knew what Lance really met. "I'm...sorry." Lance smiled more, "It's not your doing." He said softly. There a pause between them, Lance looking down at Blue to ensure she was fine. Keith leaned forward a bit. "Not yours either I bet." Lance's breath caught in his throat, what a kind man! He shrugged, shaking his head a little. "It's not so bad. Others...others have it worse I'm sure. We must... we must have the courage and be kind." He tilted his head a little. "Mustn't we?" Keith nodded, looking down for a moment before up back at Lance. "Yes." He chuckled. "You're right." It caused Lance to giggle. "It's exactly how I feel." There was a peace between them, a bond. 

Until the horn was being sounded, a hunting horn. Causing Lance's smile to fade into worry. He heard voices then quickly turned to Keith. "Please don't let them hurt him!" Keith seemed shocked of Lance's request. "Well... we're hunting you see. It's what's done." Now Lance was mad. "Just because it's done doesn't mean it should be done!" Keith chuckled. "Right again." Lance looked over at him. "Please!" Keith's smile faded into seriousness. "Very well. Since you've been so kind and I can not say no to a beautiful man like yourself." Lance bit his lower lip, looking down with a slight blush. Smiling endlessly. It's been....oh how his heart felt. Being called ugly and dirty for so long, hearing this from such a handsome man felt uplifting. "Thank you," Lance said, looking up. "Thank you, Mister Keith." He looked over to where he came from. "I must leave, surely they will be calling for me soon. I have too much to do." He said to have Blue move before Keith had his horse follow. "Well, I see you again?" Lance giggled. "Perhaps someday." Keith looked like he was thinking before smiling. "There's a ball happening at the palace, surely...we could meet there?" A ball? Lance loved balls. Dancing and dressing up. It was magical! "Perhaps Mister Keith. Perhaps." Then Lance patted Blue's neck. "Come on girl, let's go home." As Blue took off, leaving Keith alone in the opening. Watching as the beautiful boy rush off back to wherever he lived.