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Too Long in The Dark
“Relationships built on obligation can grow into pledges filled with love.”
In the quiet moments after a practice duel with Sir Selagus, Queen Ellaria takes solace in one of the few moments she has to herself.
The spot on her wrist Selagus had gripped ached in its absence. It had been a long time since Ellaria felt so much, and to have come from such a passing embrace, she knew she’d need company on this night; just as well as she knew it couldn’t be Selagus’. Now, nor ever.
The Queen thought it through during one of her husband’s many month long campaigns but decided against it. As the monarch Ellaria could lie with whomever she pleased, and while she did often seek the company of others to warm her bed, she’d yet to lie with someone as close to her as Sir Dullblade.
Except for- Ellaria rarely let herself go where that thought had tried to take her. It was far too pleasant a thought, and with her love so close once again, the queen said quietly to herself- I shouldn’t.
The Lady of Ennea paced through the garden, her footsteps echoing off the stone walls in the heart of her keep. She’d yet to receive word from her husband after he set out to Theton with his personal guard at his back and Lady Leyna at his side. While she and Ulius had an understanding, one that few were like to understand, she’d like to know he’d lived before… reminiscing.
A warm shudder moved through her as the memory of love lost caused her to tug at the neckline of her leathers. Ellaria would often train in her riding clothes in the event someone happened upon her to or from the gardens. Anyone who knew the castle well enough would also know the Queen wouldn’t travel the long way to the stables; that individual would also know better than to question her Grace on the matter either.
Running her fingers along the stone pillars that held up the ostentatious crenellations, Ellaria’s mind drifted to her past, to a conversation she’d once had with her mother, Elra, right here on these grounds.
“I’ve no issue with the matter, Ella. But the Nine will not allow it.” Elra Shadoon stiffened her face in anticipation of her daughter’s response.
Ellaria waited a second before responding. To her, this was so much more than laws and lords, yet it wasn’t. For Ellaria, the eventual third generation monarch of the first Ennead, lineage was everything.
“Mother, my progeny would inherit nothing. They would not owe Athea or her rules a thing.” Ellaria huffed.
“My dear, your children will be the most important children born in this Republic Kingdom. It is the very fact that they will inherit nothing from you that makes it so.”
Elra paused a brief minute as Ellaria’s face softened.
“Let us imagine a world where you bear no children, live deeply in love, rule justly, and pass from this place peacefully in the night. By the Divine, I’d wish it so if I could. How long would it take for people to question the legitimacy of the second Ennead if this came to pass?”
Ellaria looked down and ran her fingers through her hair. The queen continued.
“It would begin as whispers. They’d speak of the peaceful transition having been an outcome of you having no true heir. Then some would say that the founding families didn’t believe it would work, and that they forbade Ellaria from having children.”
Ellaria cut in.
“You speak plainly, mother.”
The queen put her arms around her daughter and held her tight. Squeezing her until they both were short of breath. As they separated, each saw tears in the eyes of the other. Ellaria wiped the tears from her mother’s face before speaking.
“This is the burden I was chosen to bear; mine isn’t much different than your own.”
Elra Shadoon raised an eyebrow as said “excuse me, young lady?” Before going on.
“I grew to love your father. Relationships built on obligation can grow into pledges filled with love.”
The two women, despite being separated by nearly twenty years, could’ve been each other’s reflection. The beautiful elegance that was the elder’s matched the prepossessing radiance that belonged to the younger. Holding each other still, hands clutching the other’s forearms, they spoke freely as mother and daughter.
“Ella, I’m sorry that it is I who must forbid you a love so clear and true. But I must. Though I won’t lie to you and say it is for your own good.” Elra said.
All Ellaria could do to keep from sobbing was nod and gnaw her lower lip. Looking up and feeling the love in her mother’s gaze, she found her voice.
“No, mother. You cannot forbid me to love, for love’s something we are powerless against. But I hear your words and will heed your warning. I will go to her tonight and tell her true.”
Those last few words caught in her throat as Ellaria pulled herself into her mother’s embrace.
And go to her that night she did. Ellaria could recall every detail from that night. Maggie’s face. Her smell. The less than tidy quarters she’d kept. All of it. The two stayed up that entire night, realizing that they could never see each other like that again. Or at least until Ellaria had borne Athea its King or Queen, that would never be.
It was too much for such young hearts to withstand. Maggie set off within a year, not leaving so much as a hint of where. She did, however, manage a black rose to the door of Ellaria’s bedchamber. An ancient symbol of parting with intent to return. Ellaria did all she could to keep that rose and its sentiment alive. Yet hope, like a flower, kept too long in the dark will wilt and wither.
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