The portrait wing of the castle was silent. It had a long, long hallways, with wallpapers of light red, well-lit now with torches on the walls opposite the paintings. Wendell was led to a door, and inside, there was the beginning of another hall, shorter this time, and painted with fine whitewash, and hung with other paintings.
He looked at the first one, and recognized it as the first one he had seen before. A flood of old memories poured in, and for a moment he felt just like he did on that day, the carefree lad who had just gotten his first dagger for his birthday and walked proudly down the street to his friend’s house.
But then the memory faded, although it still hung around him like a sickly sweet scent, a smell of innocence and forgetfulness. Against his will, he looked slowly from one painting to another. Some paintings were a bit different than he remembered; others were the same, but his eyes saw them differently now. At last he could no longer avoid the last one.
He only saw it out of the corner of his eyes, burning with red, as he looked unseeingly at Violet’s pose, but he still recognized it. Without thinking, he looked over.
For a small moment he forgot that anything was wrong. She was still sitting in the chair, with the cheerful red flowers on the table, looking down a bit, and laughing to herself, just like before. Her hair burned with a fierce, dreadful red, and flowed down her nice blue dress.
Her hands were folded in a pose of awkward demureness on her lap that seemed a poorly done imitation of her elder sisters, and it made Wendell want to laugh. She looked down a bit, and her eyes carried the sweet scent of something, lost in the shadows of her glance. She giggled to herself, and Wendell wished to know what could possibly make someone so happy? It was a riddle of joy, as if she was a sad girl who had a single happy thought, just as the painter looked up.
Then he remembered, and his happiness became stone. He wearily turned away from the painting and tried to think, but all his thoughts were like sad feelings and his feelings were like bitter thoughts. He hugged himself and forced something through his mind. He was hardly even fifteen. What was he doing here, in this castle, going out to do what? He wasn’t going to find her. All the soldiers in the kingdom couldn’t find her. Maybe she was dead already.
He looked up, and saw her hands, trying so hard to look gentle and peaceful. She should never have been born into such great royalty!! She should have been born to some farmer. He chortled a little, and a few miserly tears found their way to his mouth. It was ridiculous. Why was he so happy when he saw the painting? It only made him remember these horrible things.
He had tried to think so soberly, to realize the gravity of the situation. He needed so much to turn away from the painting, to be reasonable, force himself to prepare for reality.
Tomorrow he would leave the castle, and go out towards the north, but from there he didn’t really know what he was supposed to do. He knew his way around the common areas of the woods, of course, but not anything further... what is she laughing about so much? It can’t be something stupid, like her favorite pet or a joke. It seems like the most wonderful thing in the world, something that you could whisper to anyone sad, and they would cheer up.