In the deepest, darkest part of the Piffling Forest lay a tower built of cracked and faded stone, wrapped in a thick layer of dark, woody vines. It rose high above the forest floor, up into the trees, and always looked one stiff wind away from collapsing entirely. And yet, it had stood, for years it had stood, and kept our heroes safe within. Rudyard and Antigone, erstwhile children of the former King and Queen of Piffling Vale, spent their days within contemplating their fate and trying not to go completely spare.
Ever since they had taken up residence in the tower there had been the occasional handsome prince, knight, or other hero who found his way there and declared his intentions to rescue "the most beauteous Princess Antigone, cruelly trapped in this dark place by dark magics."
Each and every one, however, upon catching sight of the princess he had supposedly come to rescue, suddenly developed a large quantity of stuttered explanations as to the other places he had to be right that second, immediately.
Each and every one then rode swiftly away, as Rudyard screamed profanities and castigations after them about all the ways in which they were a disappointment and failure.
So it was that the twins were left mostly to their own devices. That is, until the fateful day when one Georgie Crusoe entered their woods.
Antigone was staring listlessly out the window, as she was wont to do when she felt, deep down, that if she didn’t look somewhere without Rudyard, she would scream. He was, of course, still prattling on, but his words were addressed more to Madeleine, and she could tune him out with relative ease. The forest stretched out in front of her, dark and comforting. Nothing could reach her through those trees, she could be left in peace. Or, at least she could if Rudyard would simply Shut. Up. Just as she was about to turn to snap at him she spotted a flicker of color at the edge of the trees. Color? In the forest? Antigone stared with fascination at the spot where she swore she’d seen- Yes! There it was again! A flicker of orange, right at the edge of the trees. She leaned further out the window, straining to make out the shape.
A young woman cautiously made her way out of the trees, clearly looking around, almost as if she was scared to be followed. When she saw nothing, she let out a sigh, and glanced towards the tower. When her eyes fell upon it, however, she stopped dead and stared. Her eyes made their way up the tower, before finally landing on Antigone.
“Hey! Can I come in?”
The young woman tilted her head up towards Antigone, and she was caught again by how lovely she was, with fiery red hair, brown skin, and the sort of easy presence that had always eluded Antigone.
“Well, can I come up?”
“Oh! Well, oh, um, yes, very much so! But, I don’t know how you’re going to get up here. It’s rather high, you can see, and I refuse to let my hair get that long, regardless of how much it may be the done thing.”
“Nah, don’t need it. I’m great at climbing towers.”
And indeed she was, quickly scaling the tower with the sort of casual grace and skill that gave Antigone just a bit of trouble breathing.
Probably a sympathy reaction from how close she is to all that nature.
The woman at last pulled herself through the window, and grinned at Antigone. This much closer, Antigone realised she was about her age, with a spattering of freckles across her nose, and eyes as bright as her smile.
“Thanks for letting me up, you wouldn’t believe how stubborn knights can be. When they get an idea in their heads it's near impossible to get them to let it go without a firm kicking. I’m Georgie, by the way.”
“Uh, Antigone. That is, I’m Antigone, Princess Antigone of Piffling Vale.”
“Antigone, are you listening to me- Ahh!! A person, there’s a person, why is there a person here!?! Antigone?!?”
Antigone heaved a put upon sigh.
“-and this is my brother, Rudyard. And if you yourself had been listening, brother dear, you’d have heard her calling out down there. And coming up. And introducing herself.”
“Hey,” Georgie nodded at them both “Sorry to barge in on you, but there’s this knight who just won’t leave me alone. He’s got in his head to rescue me, even though I’ve told him that I don’t like him, and he really shouldn’t bother.”
“What does that have to do with us,” Rudyard burst out “Can’t he just climb right up here after you and start bothering us too?!?”
“Nah, he shouldn’t. I’m pretty sure I lost him, I just wanted somewhere to hide and make sure. Is it alright if I stay here? Just for a little while? I swear, I’m dead helpful.”
Antigone rushed to answer before Rudyard had the chance to speak.
“Of course. I mean, yes, certainly, you can absolutely stay here, happy to have you, in fact!”
Rudyard opened his mouth to protest, but Antigone shot him a dark look, and he resignedly shut it again.
“Here, we’ve got a spare room, always meant to use it for something, never got around to it, too much light in there for me, you know! Let me show you.” Antigone turned and walked quickly towards the room they mostly used for storage. Given they hadn’t brought much with them to store, there was actually plenty of room for her.
“Uh, here you are. There’s, um, not much in here, let me know if you need something, move anything around you’d like.”
“Nah, this should be great.” Georgie looked around, spotting a branch of candles on the wall. She headed over to them, raising her hand and summoning a small fire in her palm. Antigone started.
“You can do magic?” Georgie looked back at her.
“Yeah, I’m a fire witch. The hair didn’t give it away?” Antigone shook her head, bemused.
“No. Why, should it?”
“I mean, do you know what a fire witch is?” Antigone shook her head again. “Oh, well basically you’re born a fire witch or you’re not, it gives you natural immunity to fire, most magics, and gives you an easier time with magic in general, especially ones that have to do with fire.”
“Really? That’s fascinating! I never had the opportunity to learn much about magic.” Georgie smiled turning, back to light the candles and continue looking around the room.
“Well I can try and teach you some of what I know, if you like.”
“That would be amazing!” Antigone moved closer in an attempt to help go through the slight clutter.
Upon nearing Georgie, Antigone realised that her jacket and trousers were oddly fancy. In fact, her shirt almost appeared to be made from… no… it couldn’t be. Georgie noticed her gaze and grinned.
“I needed something that was actually functional to travel in a hurry, so I took apart a gown. The shirt’s from one of the petticoats. I’m great at tailoring.”
Antigone nodded, dumbfounded.
“Let me know if you need something fixed, it’s the least I can do as thanks for letting me stay.” Antigone glanced down at her worn black dress. All of her clothes had been quite loose on her when they’d first come here. By now they were not only rather snug, but threadbare from years of wear.
“Do you… do you think if we could find you some fabric or other you might be able to make- um, you don’t have to, of course...” Antigone looked away, words trailing off. Georgie smiled at her softly.
“Make what? You want a new dress?” Antigone hesitantly nodded, something like hope in her eyes. “I can do that. Do you have any spare sheets?”
“Yes! I mean, yes, we do, actually, plenty. But I was never any good in my sewing lessons, and Rudyard’s best at crafting furniture for mice,” Georgie looked slightly bemused, heading over to where Antigone had gestured to the spare linens. “I’ll, I’ll just leave you alone to get settled in then. Come find me if you need anything. Goodbye!”
Antigone rushed out of the room, closing the door quickly behind her before heading back to the central room. Rudyard stood there glaring at her.
“Now see here, what do you think you’re doing, who said she can stay here?”
“Me! I say so, Rudyard! I want her here.”
“You only just met her, what can you know?”
“Rudyard, I know that she is the only person who’s shown up here in 18 years that hasn’t run away at first sight of me, we are letting. Her. Stay.” And with that, he deflated.
“Yes, alright, that’s fine then.”
“Yes, really. I’m not just going to send her away if you like her. And this is your home too, I suppose,” Antigone hugged him then, shocking them both. After a moment Rudyard patted her awkwardly on the shoulder “Ah, yes, um, you’re welcome, Antigone.”