This is my first ever Deltora fanfic, so if it is terribly OOC please let me know. It's set right after The Sister of the South, but before the epilogue.
Disclaimer: I own nothing menitoned below...
The Forests of Silence were really no longer silent.
The Shadowlord's evil had been eradicated from the land, so what more was there to fear than a bite from a harmless bug? Much of the forests was in bloom, as it was midsummer. Of course, there were still dark pockets were dangerous creatures hid in their burrows, sullenly remembering the time when they were rulers of this land and munching down every passing creature to prove it, but this area was not one of those places. Bluejays and robins tittered in every tree, exclaiming about how beautiful a day it was. Jasmine did not mind them, but she believed ravens made for more intelligent conversation. Unfortunately, Kree had settled down with a mate of his own. His nest was nowhere near here...but she wasn't around to visit.
She came to this grove of trees often, now, with so little to do around the castle except attend to royal matters she had no stomach for. No one missed her--she could disappear for days on end and no one would mind. Jasmine was more than capable of taking care of herself. She needed a place to think, anyway, somewhere far away from walls.
The trees sighed to her, fluttering their leaves. Life was good for them, and they knew--somehow--that she was one of the people they should thank for it. Reluctantly giving a small smile, Jasmine scampered up one of them.
Something troubles you.
Most people who did not know her any better was sure she was touched in the head. Speaking to trees was impossible, they said. But Jasmine knew the voices were not just in her mind, and it had saved the lives of her friends enough times for them to firmly believe in her ability, too.
She thought back to her last five minutes in the castle before she had journeyed here. Lief was in another meeting with more dignitaries from Tora. The relationship with Tora was still rocky, since not very many citizens from Del knew what had really happened on their king's adventures. The Torans had always been sheltered, while people in Del were left to starve, get diseased (the 'Toran Plague' was still smarting), die, and be enslaved. No one found that very fair, not even with the addition of Marilen to the palace family.
Jinks smiled slyly. "Why, everyone knows that Lief is going to Tora to find a bride...Lief will choose his queen from one of the best Toran families...Lief is following the ancient ways. Adin himself married a Toran, and his children did the same."
"The Torans say that Adin married for love," retorted Jasmine.
Jinks sniggered knowingly. "No doubt the lady in question was highborn, well read, and very beautiful. I daresay Adin was pleased with his choice. As Lief will be in his turn."
Oh, how she'd regretted everything she'd done that day. She'd taken all her anger and frustration at Lief and converted it into something even worse, something the Shadowlord used her for--headstrong, stubborn foolishness. Back then, she couldn't have come here to relax and calm down before she did something irrational and stupid.
I have become wiser, she noted dryly, hugging her knees to her chest. Still, she knew she would have done everything over again in her quest for the Pirran Pipe, whether she liked it or not. Jealousy was not something Jasmine was accustomed to, and she had never really been able to experience affection in the Forests. But one thing she had learned was that you do not invade another creature's territory, especially if that creature is stronger than you.
But was Marilen better than I? Yes, she was never to become Lief's bride, but some other girl...someone like her would be much better for Lief, and for Deltora, than I. Lief had--maybe--implied that he loved her, but how could she be sure? There had probably been a reason he refused to be straightforward in that respect, when he knew speaking with human beings was not her forte. The day Jinks had told her Lief was to be married, it hit Jasmine like an angry Vraal that she truly did not belong here. Even after that had been sorted out, the nagging feeling remained that she was out of her league.
Previous to that, though, she had never brought it up aloud--or even in her head--but she had always assumed she and Lief were like Kree and his mate. It was rather obvious, she believed. Two animals met, sized each other up, and deemed the other capable. Is that not what was supposed to happen? Were humans not animals?
In civilized life, however, things were so much more complicated. She was a tool. A friend, yes, but overall a tool only to protect Del and the land around it from the evil of the Shadowlord. Now he was defeated, and she was no longer needed. It was no wonder that it didn't matter however long she disappeared here.
"All is in order, Lord Owen. It will be attended to immediately," Lief promised. The high and mighty Toran lord nodded at him and mounted his horse.
"Thank you, my king. I take your leave." He galloped away, leaving behind a sighing monarch.
Truth be told, he was lonely. Despite meeting people every day, he missed the warm, friendly chatter that Jasmine, Barda, Lindal, Sharn, Marilen, Ranesh, and not-so-much Doom had brought to the palace. Barda and Lindal had gotten married, and now lived in Broome. Lief was lucky if they visited once a week. Marilen was still at the palace, but her and her husband were always busy. They had a full time job trying to keep all their children in line, but at least their family made sure the palace was never too quiet. Doom rarely dropped in, never talking, always sullen and ready to return to his dragon-related missions. Maybe he missed his daughter just as much as Lief did.
Jasmine often disappeared for days on end, but she never told anyone when she was sneaking out. Lief had a hunch that her new safe haven involved a lot of trees, but he hadn't followed her to find out. He knew she had never liked the palace, and now that everything was right again, she had no need to stay here. It was only a matter of time before she stopped coming back completely.
Normally, Lief would have gotten angry at her. Possibly not to her face, but at least a little spark would light at the thought of her leaving. Just because he knew she would not remain did not mean he had accepted it. Lately, though, he had just given up. What reason was there to keep her from what they both knew was her home? The wild was with her, it ran through her very blood. It was one of the things Lief admired about her: her ability to be so free. While he allowed all his worries to weigh him down, Jasmine soared.
However, the feelings he had for her would not be enough of a reason for her to stay in a place she abhorred. Right?
If not, he could not hold up the "I promise to marry for love" end of his Heir of Adin title. Maybe he wouldn't marry at all. Goodness knows Marilen and Ramesh had quite enough heirs to spare one.
Maybe he would let her know, just to see the effect it would have. Maybe she would think him important enough, maybe this could still have a true happily ever after.
"Your majesty, the delegates from Noradz are here."
Sighing again, Lief turned back into the palace doors, ecsatic at the thought of even more solitary work...not really.
Jasmine snuggled into the crook of a tree's thickest branch, suddenly wishing she could visit Kree, or see how Filli was doing in his new, open habitat. At least they were happy, at least they could get away from the troubles that plagued them (frightened and startled people, for one). Jasmine could not, and her friends should not have to share in her pain. Besides, it was darkening. She should be sleeping.
I have been spoiled, she thought angrily, wriggling to get comfortable on the wood. Jasmine shouldn't be longing for the soft palace beds. She was supposedly tough. She should be fine. Yes, she didn't have her nest, either, but there were many times during her childhood she'd had to settle for an unknown tree branch while something prowled on the forest floor below, waiting to catch her as soon as her feet touched the ground.
"I will follow Adin's example and marry for love...if the woman I love will have me, of course."
Maybe the uncomfortable bedding wasn't the only thing keeping her awake.
How she wished she could write. Then she wouldn't have to explain her choice to stay in the Forests of Silence to Lief himself. But they'd been through much together, they understood each other...did that mean he already knew?
Lief whirled around a few mornings later in the kitchen, unable to believe how happy he was to hear that voice. "Jasmine, how are you?"
He recognized her clothes as what she was wearing the day he first met her, when she had taken advantage of his paralyzation to nearly kill him. But the girl standing before him was very different from the one he'd known back then. She had bathed until there was hardly a dust speck to be seen anywhere, and even her long, thick, black hair was combed. It really did look beautiful. She avoided his gaze, but it didn't bother him as he awkwardly enveloped her in an embrace and heard her gasp.
"Lief, what are you doing?"
"You have no idea. I have been sitting in stifling hot rooms with ministers and dignitaries that keep shooting dirty looks at my ill-bred manners and it is wonderful to be able to talk freely with someone again. They are not bad people, obviously, but they now expect so much more...kingliness...from a king. Now how am I to compete with that logic?" He was much more cheerful than Jasmine had ever remembered him to be. The old, adventurous Lief was right here in front of her. Her stomach sank. "Come in the garden with me? It has been many days since I saw--"
"I am leaving," she burst out, unwilling to take a minute more of guilt. Yet, it still hit full force as she saw his expression blank out. It took a few seconds for him to realize what was really going on, but by then, she could not bear to be in the same room as him, let alone see what he thought of her by analyzing his countenance.
"Al...already?" he choked out.
"You knew that I would?" Jasmine asked softly, lifting her head.
A tiredness draped over his features, making him look far older than his years. "I...I had guessed. But...now?"
She turned away from him. "I thank you for all that you have done for me." He was still gaping, and Jasmine figured it was as good a time as any to head out. "Good-bye, Lief. Please let everyone else know of my wishes once you see them."
She was almost at the door when she heard him drop into a chair. He had buried his head in his hands, trying to rid himself of the headache that had just sprung up. Jasmine couldn't just leave him in such a pathetic state. "I am sorry," she whispered.
"Jasmine?" Their two heads shot up. Barda had come in for breakfast after staying the night at the palace. "If you are leaving, I would like to have a few words with you." Jasmine colored at the thought of her friend hearing everything Lief had said to her, and vice-versa.
The king jumped up hastily, his brow creased. "Of course. I will leave you." He hurried away without a backward glance. Barda was silent for a minute, and Jasmine could not figure out if she was going to get a scolding or advice.
"I have heard much about the different ways women have broken mens' hearts. But I never thought you would have invented such a way to do so." Barda had never been one to approach a subject such as this, and it took a while for Jasmine to recover from the shock.
"I am not breaking anyone's heart. I merely wanted to make sure no one would worry for me," she argued, her temper flaring slightly. Evidently, though, the former palace guard did not believe her. He helped himself to breakfast, disappointment radiating from him.
Jasmine turned on her heel and left. She was not surprised; she had done many things to disappoint Barda and others at the palace. At the Forests, there was no one who would tell her that she was doing wrong. She couldn't do wrong in an environment she knew so well.
Tears fell from her eyes as she exited the palace grounds. Why had Barda been there? What right did he have to tell her that she was hurting Lief? Could he really not know what conditions were involved in winning Lief's--now supposedly broken--heart? The ability to read, at least, she told herself crossly. A letter would surely have saved much of that trouble. Now she would be living with that guilt on top of every other error she'd made in the human world for the rest of her life.
"Lief? You look--Ranesh! Darren is grabbing that vase again!--terrible. Is something the matter?" asked Marilen, attempting to round up all her children for lunch. Lief was envious of her. Despite the yelling and crying that took place every day, they were a happy family--something Lief was sure he'd never have.
"Jasmine wished for me to tell you that she is going home." Did he look as defeated as he sounded?
"Home? But...oh...oh, Lief." Her sympathy did not help very much. "Why?"
"I am not sure," he fibbed. Marilen reached to touch his cheek, but he ducked away. "I think I will go lie down." She didn't stop him.
As soon as he reached his room, he shut the door and locked it. He didn't have time for moping and crying. If Marilen told everyone, then hopefully they would be kind enough to leave him alone for a few hours. It was time for one last adventure.
He opened his window and jumped out.
Jasmine heard footsteps. Human footsteps. It was not a full grown adult, but not a child. It was not a female, either. Girls had a different sort of pattern to their steps. So, a young man...it couldn't be.
A hood-covered head peeked out of a row of trees. "Jasmine?"
"Lief! What are you doing here?" She flitted down, and he lifted his hood. "What are you wearing?"
"I did not want anyone to stop me," he shrugged. "Just as we used to do." A bitter smile crossed his face, and Jasmine frowned.
"You should not be here. The trees, the animals...they all are aware that you are not a forest dweller."
He cast sorrowful eyes upon her, and she looked away. "Please do not do this, Jasmine. It is not home for me without you there." She didn't answer him, but Lief was sure he had her. Given the circumstances, it would have been child's play for Jasmine to escape him and be far away before he could say 'topaz.' She was waiting to be convinced.
Lief grabbed her hands. "You must understand. I cannot leave my position willingly, but if I had a choice, I would do so any day to stay with you."
"Lief--" she began, alarmed.
"No. Whether or not you come back has yet to be decided. Hear me before you make that decision." Jasmine was bewildered into silence as Lief continued, ranting like a madman. He pulled her slightly closer, and she stumbled towards him, mouth half open. "I should have told you this earlier, but..." He shook his head. "I should have told you far earlier than this morning. I...I love you, Jasmine."
"We have been through everything on our adventures, and by now we have proved that nothing should be able to tear us apart. I owe you my life a hundred times over. There is not a single person in all of Deltora that I would much rather spend the rest of the one lief I have with."
"I was going to ask you to marry me, Jasmine. After all was settled and the after-effects of the Shadowlord's rule were taken care of. I just wanted to say that I would be so happy if you decided to stay with me. In the castle. As queen. Not yet, maybe, but eventually. And without you and Barda I would have never gotten this far, but I really don't have any feelings for Barda, if that is--"
"Lief." She shook her head, a wry smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. He flushed a deep scarlet, finally realizing how much he'd embarrassed himself by blabbering. Shyly, sure she wasn't doing something right, Jasmine brushed her lips against his. "However tempting that offer," she said quietly, "you know as well as I what kind of a queen I would make. Just look." She gestured to the forest around them, but Lief's eyes never left her.
"I am looking. And I see quite a change for the image of Deltoran royalty coming." He leaned in for another kiss, but Jasmine shook her head, her body language clearly showing how much this hurt her.
"But I cannot leave the forest, Lief. It was fine for a while, but I do not belong in the human world. I am far too different. I love you as well, Lief, but you are king and I am...me."
"You are correct. I am the king, Jasmine. I will make it work, I promise. Somehow, someway."
A family of ravens cawed overhead, followed by the terrified squealing of a rodent. Jasmine's head shot up. "Kree!" The biggest raven glided down, dropping a quivering ball of fur into Jasmine's outstretched hands. "Filli! You found me?"
"Yes," muttered Lief, mostly to himself. "Quite a change."
Seeing as Jasmine normally had such a fiery temper, it was definitely something if she was made to smile. But now she let loose a carefree laugh, the most wonderful sound Lief had heard in a long time. He drew her into his embrace again, watching her jade eyes sparkle.
One bright morning the following spring, when Deltora was filled with blossom, when bees were drunk with nectar and birds filled the air with song, Jasmine put on a green silk dress, threaded flowers in her hair, and went out to meet Lief on the palace hill.
Hand in hand they were married there, before a crowd the like of which Del had never seen...
...But for Lief and Jasmine it was as if they were quite alone, for both of them were gaining the dearest wish of their hearts.
Most of the italicized words were passages from the books, but some of them were thoughts, too. If it was confusing as to which was which, I could help you out. And hopefully make it better next time.