Between Love and Duty No More
By The RPGenius
How long had it been now? Hours, for the sun had not yet risen...but in her mind, days of waiting and anxiety.
Queen Leene Guardia sat as she had for hours, dutifully watching over the sleeping form of King Guardia. Various doctors and attendants filtered in and out of the room as time passed, each doing his or her best to care for the injured monarch. But try as they might to guarantee the king's life, none could say for certain whether he would live through the night.
So many came and went through the night. Only Leene remained constant, always sitting by the bedside of her wounded husband. But that was right, that was how it was meant to be. She had no thought of complaint for her place tonight.
Wait--was the late hour causing her eyes to deceive her, or...yes! Guardia was stirring! The monarch's eyes fluttered open, slowly scanning his surroundings. His gaze came to rest upon Leene.
"Leene…then I am still somehow...alive. How...how deep is it? It feels...bad."
Leene could not bring herself to respond.
"The chancellor…and the knight captain…I must speak with them," the king told her.
Leene nodded and told a servant to fetch the chancellor immediately. She then told the king that the knight captain was still defending Zenan Bridge. Guardia nodded, and they waited silently for the chancellor to arrive.
A few moments later, the stout advisor was rushing into the bedroom. "Your highness! Thank goodness you're awake. I've sent for all the doctors, they'll be here soon--"
"No doctors. Not now," the king stated as forcefully as he could. "I'm wounded badly, chancellor; I can see it in Leene's eyes that this may be my...my last night. Before the doctors...we must speak of this kingdom's affairs should I die."
The chancellor nodded solemnly. For the next hour, he sat beside Leene, quietly speaking with Guardia as the king's affairs were set in order and notes made for the continued rule of the nation.
Eventually, after an indeterminable amount of time, the Chancellor was dismissed, and the king lay quietly in his bed, matching the silence of his wife, who steadfastly waited by his side. Time crept on, until finally…
The queen looked up at hearing her name, startled. "Yes, my lord?"
"Leene…" the old king spoke feebly. "This…may be my last night…there is much we must speak of. I cannot bear to die without knowing some things…"
"Speak, my husband, but be careful not to tire yourself," Leene replied quietly.
The king focused his eyes to hers as he asked, "Leene…do you love me?"
Shocked at the unexpected question, she could only stammer, "Y-you are my husband--"
"I am," the king agreed. "But do you love me?"
Leene hesitated. An uncomfortable silence lay in the air for a few moments.
"Please, Leene," Guardia asked. "This…this could be the last time I speak with you…please tell me the truth…"
Queen Leene Guardia, beloved monarch of the kingdom, proper lady in all respects, and long-time devoted wife of the king, closed her eyes and softly said, "No. I don't love you, my king."
The king let out a sigh and lay still for a moment. Tears of shame welled within Leene's eyes as she bowed her head, unable to look her husband in the eyes.
"I…" Guardia started, then faltered. "I have…tried to be a good husband to you, Leene…I have always…have always loved you…"
Leene nodded, eyes closed. "It is not your fault," she said softly. "You have always been kind and wonderful…the fault lies within me…"
The ruler of Guardia's voice, though still frail and weak as it had been the rest of the night, was nevertheless much stronger as he stated, "No, Leene. The fault is no more yours than it is mine…Fate was simply against it…
"Our marriage…it was arranged, not made for love but for political ambitions of others…still, even if it was not at first for love, I did fall in love with you, Leene," he told her quietly. "I had hoped that perhaps the same would happen to you over the course of time…"
"My king," the queen told him sincerely, her eyes opening to gaze down at his, "I have always respected you like no other, and admired you…you are honest, brave, caring, wise…but it has never been love that I feel for you, no matter how great a person you are…"
The king did the best he could to nod from his position. "Perhaps it is my greater years…or perhaps it was simply never meant…"
A moment went by before the king lifted his eyes on her and fixed their gaze to hers. "Is there one whom you do love, Leene?"
She hesitated, then softly admitted, "There…there has always been one whom I hold in my heart, lord…even if he has been long absent from this kingdom, I have never forgotten him. It is my dark sin."
"I see…listen, Leene," Guardia said urgently. "Real love cannot be sin. Leene…if this man should ever return from his absence…" He paused for a moment, trying to find the proper way to say what he needed to.
"I am king by marriage, not birth…and the trust and faith Guardia has in its royal line is something that it has need of to survive this eternal war…Leene, the line must continue, whether I live to see it or not. If not by my own doing, then by someone else's…"
"If I die," the king continued quietly, "you need not hesitate to marry again. And if I live…then the people need never know the truth if the man returns to you, nor if the next heir to the throne is not my own.
"You have always followed your duties to me, your husband, and to the kingdom faithfully and completely. Now…I give you permission to follow your duties to your heart, Leene. So long as the people are allowed to keep their trust and faith in their rulers, I shall not interfere with your wishes should Cyrus and Glenn return," he finished, breathing heavily at the strain of saying so much.
Leene's inability to speak stemmed now not from shame, but shock at the monarch's generosity and understanding. Tears of joy began freely making their gentle paths down her face as the meaning of her husband's words became fully understood.
Seeing this, the king smiled and slightly, gently nodded. "I've made you happy…and ensured that the people's faith in this line of rulers can continue…if I am to die tonight, I can embrace what awaits me with a content heart. I must sleep now, Leene…I love you."
The sovereign's eyes closed, and soon his breathing became slower and more measured. The paths of her tears still marking her cheeks, Leene leaned over and kissed him on the forehead.
"Thank you…" she whispered to his unconscious form. He had given her the greatest gift of all…no longer would she have to choose between love and duty.
Now, she could follow both.