Title: A Little Fall Of Rain
Theme/day: June 30 (07) - a little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now (late)
Fandom: FE 9/10
Summary: "It won't rain forever, Pelleas," she said.
A/N: This was supposed to be a bit of something happy to atone for how I've been well, making Pelleas blind, mad and well...The Pawn King. I didn't quite succeed in it being angst free, but at least there's a happy ending along the way?
Also a late Christmas/feel better present for Tavereyna
It had been raining for weeks. Not just light, gentle rain, but torrential downpours. The kind of rainfall that molded crops and caused mud slides like the wrath of the gods upon the common people. With it Pelleas' spirits had sunk to a low he hadn't reached since he'd first found the mark. The days plodded on to the sound of thunder sweeping over. When the storms receded, the skies were held in a thrall of grey. Everyone in the country had hope with the rising of the new queen, hope and not much else but the ashes that had been left over from his disaster of a reign.
Another crack skipped across the clouds. A flash of lightning seared above. His was the only figure out on the streets – the only one foolish enough to be about in this weather. He was a shadow, a dull resonance of everything that had brought about Daein's downfall and subsequent rebirth. The wetness seeped through the leather of his shoes and each step sloshed through the ever-growing lake-sided puddles. The stinging chill of the winds made him pull his cloak about him tighter. It was easy to lose oneself within Daein. Innkeepers never asked many questions, as long as the proper gold was left.
The roads grew cracked here, as it had gone several streets from the main road. It crossed Pelleas' mind then that this was the side of town that neared the darkest of the poor alleys. Cutpurses and thugs still lingered about, even the most peaceful countries lead by the best of rulers always had their black allies.
But the storm had driven them back into whatever hovel they had crawled out of.
Pelleas didn't wish to be seen in such a sorrowful state. These bouts of melancholia had always come to him, though before he had always been in a state where they would go unnoticed. There were many children in the orphanage, and not enough staff to go around. Pelleas was quiet and had been more than once mistaken for being branded. There was never enough love to spill over and find him in the end. Here, people were more perceptive. What wouldn't he give for the blindness of those Matrons now. Sothe would condemn him, surely. The thief who always found his way to Queen Micaiah's side always seemed to have a cutting edge for him. He still had not, and perhaps never would forgive the mistakes Pelleas had made.
And Sothe wasn't the only one who was not as forgiving as the queen. Pelleas had heard them with his own ears, he knew their accusations were not far off. Hadn't he almost damned an entire country? Every harsh word, no matter how cruel was exactly what he deserved.
And thus, Pelleas wallowed. It was his specialty, failing and the inevitable falling into the pit of despair that followed. A year ago for a dreamlike time he had a mother, a kingdom and the loyalty of a silver haired girl. He dreamed of restoration and even her by his side. The Silver lady, his Dawn Maiden, the girl who would save them all in the end. That had been early, when the love had just begun to sprout. It had been long before he knew he'd already set in motion Daein's entire undoing with one clumsy move.
And in a way, that dream had come true. She was a queen, a beautiful queen who had saved them. She simply wasn't his queen.
While once as King he couldn't have gotten close to Micaiah unless he parted the sea of people around her, reaching the queen now seemed a miraculous feat. She was always surrounded by advisors, helpers, other courtiers and serving people. When she went out she carried among the common people and he would have had to push aside beggars and widows to speak to her.
And Sothe was always by her side, guarding and suspicious. Pelleas would have knives in his face if he ever so much as touched Queen Micaiah's shoulder to get her attention.
But it wasn't simply the queen that had affected him – though it certainly had not helped – The mark had left a scar upon him. It had stolen what carefree innocence he had once possessed and taught him that the world was colder and more harsh than he had ever imagined living in his quiet corner of Daein.
Sometimes his mind got caught in the thinking over and over of the past. Even as things had been saved, as she had saved him in the end, a what if hung in the air.
What if I hadn't signed. What if I had been stronger. What if, what if...
Then he wouldn't be here in this godforsaken alley with showers of rain rattling against his bones. He'd be safe and loved, their peasant king with his peasant queen beside him. His clothes had grown sodded and his body shivered convulsively in reaction to the cold and yet Pelleas barely noticed. The cold was far away, like a half-forgotten name which he couldn't bring himself to remember.
He saw a swinging sign down by a cobbler and a smithy. A Wyvern that had been painted some years ago with wings open swung with each gust. Pelleas ducked into the welcome dingy darkness of the bar and lost himself in the anonymity.
Not many had stooped into this darkened shelter this night. Most were away in their homes and hovels, seated by their own heaths.
The Roaring Wyvern Inn was a stooped, battered place that must have once been in better repair, but looked as if it had been born into rot. The barmaid looked old beyond her years. She had russet hair braided around her head and ample breasts barely contained by her low-cut bodice. Freckled crisscrossed her angular nose. There was a young child balanced on her hip and another slightly older one tugging at her skirts. Both children had the same ruddy hair and freckles as their mother.
"So, what will it be then?" She asked. Her voice was high and sharp, the look she gave him suspicious. Under her harpy's gaze, Pelleas felt suddenly guilty – guiltier.
"An...um. An ale please," Pelleas said.
Pelleas had no taste for alcohol. He had been offered the finest wines while he had occupied the throne, yet he still found them bitter and biting things that burned all the way down from his throat to stomach.
When she passed him a dented and tarnished metal mug he took it dispassionately. The stench of the drink was unpleasant, the thought of drinking it even worse.
Another cloaked customer came in. Pelleas looked out of habit, but quickly turned back into his drink. The image of the new arrival was like a wraith, the hood was pulled down far enough to render the traveler little more than a floating amorphous bit of rags.
He wondered if he had appeared the same to occupants of this bar. Was he too a sad ghost drifting in from the storm? They were likely used to all types, little would surprise these people. Specters were welcome too as long as they paid their share.
Pelleas stared down at his ale. The reflection of himself in the liquid was murky and distorted. It matched his thoughts. Sometimes it seemed he was still just as clumsy as he had been the day he ascended the throne and almost doomed them all. It was easier to be a peasant, a nobody who ambled down the streets with no need for stiff formality. He had taken his leave without so much as a note and he still was yet unsure as to what he meant to accomplish, or what he was doing. All Pelleas knew was that it was impossible to stay around there. The thought of returning to court left that same breathlessness, as if tiny fingers clutched at his throat and crushed his windpipe.
Of course he could try and excuse it away – a need for a break, a simple thing, but Pelleas could not hide the memory which poked and taunted him at every turn. He had been in the library, with the skies close to dark at the time. He'd been behind an obscure, drafty corner when he heard others come in.
Pelleas had recognized the voices immediately.. It was Pere Morton and Galdow, a pair of high ranking advisors and scholars who were currently involved in meticulously gathering the recent history for later generations. He'd even studied with them on occasion. They were a polite pair, and very intelligent.. He'd admired their through work and had even found some of their earlier published books before he'd ascended the throne.
"We're witnessing history in the making, my friend. Just think, one day scholars will read our writings about how our illustrious queen brought us from the dark ages of the former kings."
"I enjoyed your treatise on King Ashnard, Pere Morton. It was illuminating. I like your suggestion that he was a true victim of madness along with megalomania. Have you finished the papers concerning his son?"
Pere Morton gave a derisive snort. "Bah, as if you could call the child who ruled before her a king. He was a boy playing in his father's clothes. Thank the heavens we're spared from the travesty of his rule now."
Pelleas had waited, breathless with his arm still suspended where he had been lifting a volume to discern the title better. A frantic sort of pounding started in his chest and his lungs were vised. When they finally left Pelleas still stood there, his head aching and the bookcase blurring before him.
That night he had feigned sickness when the dinner was to convene and later had gathered his cloak, his magic tomes and a small amount of gold. And now he was here, lost in the poor districts of some run-down inn. He couldn't bear the thought of facing the court but most of all he couldn't bear the thought of facing his queen. She had said he had long atoned himself, that it had been a simple mistake – one anyone could make. Perhaps pity had made her cloud her actions, to sweeten that lie for his sake.
Hadn't it been pity that had made her stop and ask him to keep on with them, to serve under her? Micaiah never could abide with a stray going unhappy.
A large, burly man ambled up beside him at the bar. He had a wiry brown beard with food still stuck within its bird-nest tangles. It came to Pelleas that he should have taken his drink to some more secluded corner. In a night like this, there was plenty of room at the tables near the back.
"Well hello there, stranger. You don't seem from around here, are you lost?"
Pelleas shifted uncomfortably. The man just scooted closer.
"I'm Adalai," he said.
"I'm...Pereus, I'm um, a scholar."
"Ah, one of them soft-hands. I bet you're a far cry from where you are used to," Adalai said.
"A little bit," Pelleas said sheepishly.
"I bet you've never drank like a man!" He laughed and slapped Pelleas on the back. Pelleas coughed.
"I'm not really a drinking type," Pelleas said apologetically.
"Oh, come now, a dandy-hands like you? Real men should have whisky! More ale for this boy!" He called.
The barmaid sent down another cup, which was rather unnecessary, given that Pelleas had hardly touched his first.
"Um, thank you–"
"No problem, lad. But you look so glum! What is it, girl trouble? Or is it some fancy scholarly problem?"
Pelleas thought of how to explain his tale. He could just see it. I was a king once and loved my vice general. Now, she is queen and I am simply a courtier. I failed as a king and while she forgave me, no one else is that kind.
"Yes, a girl. She's....rich. A higher station than me."
Adalai nodded. "The things ballads are made of – but let me give you a word of advice: give it up. Those kinds of love affairs will always end in tragedy."
Pelleas took a sip of his ale. It was sour and burned. It gave him a pause in answering. He took another and coughed.
"I don't have any.. aspirations."
"Ah, the price of young love. But you'll find someone new soon enough," Adalai said. He seemed thoughtful a minute, then looked behind him and took a long drink of his own.
"Now, maybe you're new here so I'll just let you in on a little secret." Adalai moved in and put his arm about Pelleas in a genial and conspiratory gesture. His voice lulled to a whisper as he continued.
"That man over there has been watching you the whole time. You best be careful in this part of town, Pereus. There's nasty thieves who will steal all your gold and leave you for dead - if they don't finish the job altogether."
Pelleas was tempted to dart his gaze back to the cloaked man, but he forced himself to keep his gaze locked upon his drink. He stared as if his life would wilt away lest he even blink.
"Now for a few coins, I could be persuaded to protect you. I like you, Pereus. I wouldn't want you getting stabbed in some alleyway..."
"...excuse me, please," Pelleas said.
"What, leaving already? It's pouring storms out there!" Adalai said.
"Um, l-lavatory," Pelleas said.
Adalai laughed. "The ale does that to ya. It's around back. Don't fall in or you'll be in for a real mess!"
Pelleas did his best not to sneak a glance at the wraith who had situated itself just where he had to walk.
It had been little more than an excuse. Pelleas felt the cold water trickle off the roof and down his back while he walked through. To his apprehension, he found the lavatory did not open to any back allies, and the road to escape had a large figure blocking it. Adalai waited for him just outside the enclosure.
"Now what about it, don't you want old Adalai's protection?"
"...I think I'd best be going," Pelleas said.
Adalai gripped his shoulder and the friendly expression turned far more imposing. "Now I can see you're just confused, but my patience is running thin. I was kind to you, and I think you owe me some gold." The genial tone was gone and even the trace of accent had changed. His speech pattern was entirely different, indeed as if it was an entirely different person.
Pelleas brought out his coin purse. It took him twice to undraw the ties due to the shaking of his hands. He extracted enough for the drink – and a little extra and handed it to Adalai.
"No, all of it," Adalai said.
Pelleas gave it over. The gold made a series of clinking noises as it came to rest in the thieves' palm.
"Here's a gift I'll give to you, Pereus," Adalai sneered. "Never trust anybody. It's the best lesson one can learn."
The gold itself was not such a bad loss, though Pelleas was unsure how to replace it. But Adalai – if that was even his true name – reached down and Pelleas heard the sound of a knife being unsheathed. So this was it, his final act one of cowardice and his death that of a gutter rat.
In a few short months he had incurred a lifetime of regrets, and yet even this coward's death seemed a release. The accusations wouldn't taunt him anymore. His life would be over, his thumbprint on history a messy blotch of inked mistakes and one final mistake. Few would mourn him, and in time history would wear away every mark that had been left by him. He would be forgettable, almost as if he had never existed at all.
It's for the best.
He heard an opening of the door, the wraith came out. Probably some associate in Adalai's scheme, it would make sense.
And in that moment a reflex snapped. Life desires life, and some deep welled instinct bubbled up. He had nothing to live for but life itself, but something within him felt that enough.
It was too wet for his tomes but remembered parts – he wondered if it would be enough. He muttered the words and wondered if the spirit who had promised him power – but most of all companionship would hear him. Everything turned darker. A spark of electricity filled the air and arced towards the thieves. He wondered if it had come from his hands, or some sheer coincidence. Had it been his own, or a drawing of the electricity around him? But it was only a passing, faint thought for at that moment he ran. The streets were slippery and he had no idea of where he was running to, simply that he was to be away.
He heard footsteps pounding behind him but didn't dare look back to see. His heart was a small stone thrown down a tunnel and hitting every wall. It thundered above and inside him and each breath was something he had to reach and grasp for. He ran on as lightning lit the skies and some other cutpurse sought to end his life with a stroke and a stab of a knife.
He wasn't a thief. He wasn't from the streets and he didn't know how to lose other thieves. He heard the thief gain upon him and that uncertainty, that fear coupled with the slick streets caused him to stumble. He slid across the wet stones of the road and felt the skin scuffed off and bruises forming as he slid. The water did not lubricate the fall, sharp stones embedded themselves in his skin. His lip was split and bleeding.
He stumbled to get up but the thief was before him. The wraith, not Adalai. Pelleas sought other words now, different words. A dark orb of night came up and hit the wraith and Pelleas used that time to pull himself up and begin again. His lungs felt overinflated, ready to burst as he gulped in air. He went right, then left through the entrance to the deeper alleys. He could hear the thunder and the steps on the stones, which were almost as loud in his buzzing mind.
The wraith tackled him and felt far heavier and corporeal than one would believe a ghost to be.
Pelleas gasped as the air was knocked out of him. He gave a little cry, strangled out as the thief landed on him.
His breath was knocked out of him, Pelleas grasped for it as the wraith disentangled from him and stood up.
"Get up," the wraith said.
Despite the pounding in his head, the thunder and the rain hitting over the path Pelleas recognized that voice. He knew it well.
"S-Sothe?!" He gasped.
"Who else? Micaiah had me tail you. She figured you'd pull some stunt. But this? You really are an idiot."
He had forgotten that before being a queen of Daein Micaiah was a queen of thieves. Of course she would keep her network after the coronation.
"I'm taking you back," Sothe said.
Pelleas shook his head. "I'm sorry, but... I'm not going.".
"Excuse me?" Sothe said. "I have orders to bring you back. I just went outside in a pelting rainstorm and fought off a robber and had to chase you through the streets. You are coming if I have to gag you and drag your useless body back to the castle myself."
"I'm sorry," Pelleas said again.. "I can't."
"So be it," Sothe said. Pelleas heard a dagger being unsheathed. But it wasn't plunged into him, but into Sothe's own cloak. He ripped off a margin and pulled it free. It was a ragged black ribbon that hung down by him, like a trophy of battle won flesh.
Sothe moved so quickly, Pelleas hadn't even seen the beginning of the movement when he felt the material. Before Pelleas could even let out a startled cry, his hands were bound. He felt the pressure of a stiletto being pressed to his back.
"Walk," Sothe commanded.
And Pelleas did.
Pelleas was not familiar with the room he was led to. It was one chosen at seemingly random and unoccupied. It was a small bedroom, perhaps for a mid-level guest as it seemed too finely furnished to be servants quarters. A crest of Daein that had a few stray scorchmarks was above the fireplace and a small bed arrayed in the same crimson and gold as the settee was shoved into the corner.
Pelleas shivered, finally aware of the depth of his cold. Sothe had unceremoniously dumped him here and left. He had not returned yet, and Pelleas wasn't sure when he would, or if he would return.
Glass panes of the window opened up like filigreed dragonfly wings. Rain beat upon the closed panes and a slash of white light cut the skies. A fireplace glimmered in the corner, its heat too far to be felt in the full force of the storm. He was leaned against a crimson and gold settee of the same color and design as the bed.
He was all but a prisoner here.
The irony – or was is simple chanced bad luck? – hit him. He'd once owned every room in this castle, and now he was prisoner in one. But that was the fate of nobles, as he was learning. The histories were not kind. He'd read of years past when the royal families had fought for their stations and the list of atrocities committed had no end. Children slaughtered in towers, wives cast aside for lack of a male heir and whole branches of the family tree pruned away with cleverly hidden 'accidents' or encounter with thieves.
But Micaiah was too kind to execute or banish him. A shadow of a thought crossed him that she kept him near for more than just kindness. That one should keep friends close and enemies closer...
But he brushed it aside. She would never do such a thing.
He heard the door open again and looked over. Sothe's sullen glare greeted him. Pelleas thought of something to say, but found nothing. He gave a sheepish smile. Sothe didn't smile back.
And she was there. Her hair had bits of blue in this light. It seemed he was always finding new colors when he thought he'd seen them all. She always found ways surprise him like that. Micaiah wore the crown so much better than he ever had. To him it had been like a child playing house, a boy in his father's shoes attempting to play king. She wore the cloak with purpose, when she spoke, the people listened. They loved her, even to irrationality. He would know, he, her loyal subject loved her to just as irrationally and with just as much passion.
She stopped before Sothe and touched his face, so light it must have been almost imperceptible.
"You're hurt," she said.
"He struggled," Sothe said.
There was a rim of white over him and Pelleas knew she had used Sacrifice, that almost fabled ability of healing that belonged to her, and perhaps only her.
"You received a letter," she said. "From the desert."
It was almost like a passing ghost, that smile which seemed almost a myth in itself. Pelleas wasn't quite sure he'd really seen it or if it was a play of the shadows but he could have sworn that the mention left some sort of impression upon Sothe.
"I left it in you chambers," Micaiah said.
When Sothe had left, Pelleas lifted himself up shakily. He bowed, too quick and too nervous. When he looked up his face was filled with unsaid yearning for acceptance, for praise making him seem far younger than his twenty years.
"You know you don't have to take such formalities with me," she said. It was not curt or cool, but still peppered with light disapproval.
"It is only right, my queen," Pelleas said.
"Then your Queen demands you drop titles. At least when we are alone," she said.
"Yes...Qu— Micaiah..." he said. She nodded her approval and sat on the settee. She motioned for him to sit beside her, and he complied with gladness.
"You're soaked," she said. Her brow furrowed in concern and she placed one hand upon his forehead. Wet curls stuck to his forehead, the skin was clammy and pale. Color returned when his cheeks flushed and he lowered his eyes to her lap.
"I..I hadn't noticed," Pelleas said. It was only half a lie, for his awareness of the cold had faded the deeper he had been drawn into his thoughts. He hadn't noted his breath in the air or felt the chill as deeply when he was out and caught in the web of his own regrets.
"You should get changed, you'll catch cold if you stay in those clothes."
Pelleas looked down at his heavy robes. They had grown darker and sodden from the rain . For the first time since he entered, he felt the full weight of them, and of the icy slivers of frost under his skin. He was aware of the shivering that had been there all along.
"You should take a hot bath first, I can call Reesa to draw some for you."
She always remembered the servants by name, even with their full servant line up, to her they were more than mere invisible serving people, they had names and faces and she knew them all.
"I will, My q– Micaiah.
She raised one brow, almost playfully as if to say nice catch.
The truth was, he loved calling her queen. It had been hard not to accidentally call her queen when she was just his underling. He liked the idea of them on equal terms, his hand in hers as she sauntered down in a dress of white.
"It will stop soon," she said. She stuck her hand out towards the window as if to catch the droplets in her palm. She wouldn't give in to the rain, or let it beat her down, she captured it and by doing so, conquered it.
"I would hope so, the entire year's crops would be ruined if it did," Pelleas said. It was an attempt a humor, nervous awkward one that fell flat. Still, she graced him with a sleight smile, perhaps more pity than true amusement.
"It won't last beyond the week." She said this with the certainty of a prophecy. When she spoke like that, he felt like he couldn't help but believe her even when he knew she didn't hear the voice of the goddess anymore.
"Why did you run away?" She asked, just as point blank as always. She did not hide behind pleasant small talk He could not hide around her.
"It wasn't so much as running away as– A break. I wanted to think."
"You don't like it here?" she said.
"No, no– I'm grateful that you offered to still let me hang on here instead of banishing me away I just..."
I'm just a country orphan at heart– I'm a failure, I don't belong here– I nearly destroyed you all with my foolishness. I don't deserve to be here anymore. They're right – I was a failure.
"..I just wanted to read, that's all. It's too loud in the courts. I couldn't keep focus."
Pelleas couldn't meet her gaze as he said the lie. He had always been a horrible liar, yet another reason why politics didn't suit him. His emotions came too freely to his face. He trusted too much and said too much and kept too little.
"To read? Most would go to the library and not some grimy bar at the worst neighborhood in Nevassa."
"I was going to go there, I just was– Watching the scenery."
"Ah, yes. The scenery. There's some lovely alleys perfumed with blood and ale and bodies – iyours/i almost joined them."
Pelleas smiled sheepishly.
She tilted her head, almost affectionately and smiled."You're too hard on yourself, Pelleas. You've long since been forgiven, the only one who is still holding on to the past is you."
Pelleas said nothing, but she read his unsaid things as they loomed across his thoughts in great dark shadows.
"I'm sure not everyone thinks that, Pelleas."
The whole reason he had avoided her in the first place, for his queen could read a person within an instant. She possessed heaven given powers, ethereal ones that meant no emotion or thought was safe when she was around. He had been in awe of her for it, and even now it still surprised him.
"I just want my life to be worthwhile after all this," Pelleas said.
"It is and it always has been.. Besides, as your queen I command you to let go of such notions," Micaiah said. "I need you, Pelleas and I can't have you wallowing away when your queen needs you, now can I?"
It was such a beautiful thing to hear, those three words of I need you. They were the kind of words that inspired hope, a dangerous thing in his situation. His mouth was too dry to answer, for here she was, smiling at him. Needing him.
"What you need to do is conquer the rain, Pelleas. To dance in it."
"But I'm a horrible dancing," Pelleas said in his most apologetic tone. "Really, really, really horrible."
She laughed. "I bet you are."
A vision caught in his mind then, it settled down like silver dust. Micaiah in her white dress dancing in the rain. Uncaring as to who might see as she spun with her skirts swirling around her. If he was a little more brave he'd be right there with her, dancing even if he was bad at it.
"It was a metaphor. I'm not good at metaphors, it seems," she said. It was flippant, casual.
"No, I understand, it's just–" Pelleas shrugged. He fumbled for the words to say and found none.
"You'll learn," she said. "Come. You'll catch a chill."
She gripped his and he followed her lead. She lead him to her own spacious quarters and Pelleas saw her conversing with a servant woman – Reesa, he assumed.
The great white metal tub was no surprise to him. He'd bathed in it the first day his rags had been exchanged for the garments of a king. It was ornate, with carved clawed feet and a dragon's head that served as a larger spout where heated water could be poured in. Odd, how times changed. The room that had once been his own now felt like some forbidden place where he almost dare not to tread.
"I should clean up first...." he looked around for some towel but only found pristine snowy white ones. It would be a shame to defile such beauty.
"Isn't that the point of baths, to clean oneself?" Micaiah asked, one brow raised.
"Yes, I suppose...but I always cleaned myself first. It would be unpleasant to sit my own dirt. Especially like this...." He looked down at his rainslick and muddied robes.
"I'll have Reesa bring you a washrag," she replied.
She left again, and a stooped middle-aged brown haired servant girl – Reesa brought in a kettle of hot water and poured it within the tub. She mixed it with a bucket of cold and stirred them as a witches brew until the temperature was right.
Queen Micaiah still hadn't returned, possibly might not at all. It wasn't as if he expected her to read to him at the side of the tub and watch to make sure he didn't drown. The steam wafted up from the tub and he peeled off the wet robes. They stuck to him, clingy and tight on his skin.
The cloth was treated with something. It was full of red dust that heated upon contact of his skin. Whether it was herbs, or some form of magic he couldn't say. Still, it cut through the frozeness that had settled over him. It brought life back into his limbs. They tingled at first, and the extremities stung as he applied the powder. Bit by bit, he began to feel again.
When he had finished he set aside the rag and tested the water. It had cooled to the warmer side of lukewarm – warm enough to not be tepid, but cool enough to not leave burns. Pelleas eased himself into the water and felt a tingle spread over his skin. He gradually felt his body temperature rise and sunk into the water. He had laid back with his eyes closed. He stayed until his fingers crinkled in and the last of the aching cold left his body. When that was finished he took tentative steps to the woven rug below and dried off. New robes were already folded and he slipped into them. They smelled fresh with the hint of lavender.
Pelleas walked out and found Queen Micaiah sitting on the edge of the bed. It was no surprise, for this was her room now. She would likely often occupy these quarters. The firelight caught in her hair and she looked even more ethereal in this low light.
"Pelleas, come here."
He obeyed and bent before her on his knees. She stroked his hair and with a tap of her hand, guided him to lay his head upon her lap.
"I understand," she said. "I understand more than you know."
Her hands stroking through his hair was half motherly and half the act of a lover. For that Pelleas did not question or second guess such a gesture. He simply accepted it and the warmth and the comfort that came with it.
"You must learn to forgive yourself, Pelleas. You'll never learn to be happy if you can't learn how to do that."
Pelleas lifted his head to catch her eye, his own gaze was earnest. "I wanted to be worthy of you all. I was so glad to finally be no longer alone and then I tried to throw it all away..oh I've been a fool..."
"No, you're just sensitive. It's a good thing – a gift," Micaiah said.
"Is it really? I've never found anything good to come from it," Pelleas replied.
"A lot of people have lost the kind of sincerity and pureness of heart you have. Had Izuka not interfered, and the blood pact happened, you would have grown into a fine king."
She stroked his cheek and he leaned into that touch. He closed his eyes and felt her, felt his pulse and being sink into that feeling.
"I never stopped believing in you, Pelleas. Even when it looked darkest I never stopped."
Pelleas took that in, all connotations, the angle of her smile and the warmth of the moment. Even if every minute of his life afterwards was touched with sorrow, he had this, this happiness and caught joy.
"And now I believe in you, my Queen..."
"With belief like that, how can I ever fail?" She smiled and kissed his forehead, his cheek and then his lips. Pelleas was frozen with awe, the magnitude of his unsaid wishes all coming true at once. She was patient and waited for his shock, then awe, then anxiousness and fear to abate.
He kissed back, overcame his fears and for once, took ahold of his fate instead of letting it be swept away. In the dying firelight his fears and regrets began to fade away.
Pelleas had forgotten how heavy the cloak was. It'd been almost two and a half years since he'd worn the crown and unease gnawed away within him. Even with her reassurances, nervousness overcame him. He tapped his foot as he adjusted the robes and leggings yet another unnecessary time.
Pelleas didn't stutter as much these days. He could even summon up something like force of will when the need arise. He had risen in stature, known for his intelligence. He even worked beside and gained the admiration of the same scholars who had once scorned him. Whenever it felt as if he was slipping back into the old habits, she was there with her hand at his elbow, a kind word and her sheer presence. It was enough, more than enough to suffice.
Pelleas ran the vows through his mind. He'd practiced late into the night so he wouldn't stammer them, but that didn't stop the fear from clutching at his throat. Would he squeak out the words? Would he forget them altogether?
The veil was anchored with flowers and pushed back form her face. It was a truly lovely ensemble, a white gown made by the herons. Gold thread and braiding wove through the bodice and skirt. It had the stitched in ancient hymns of the heron race, all woven in the same delicate pattern that they looked almost imperceptible from the whole of the design.
"It's bad luck for the husband to see the bride before the wedding," Pelleas said.
"We'll make our own luck," she said.
"I wanted to check on you, to make sure you hadn't fainted," she said. She touched his face. Concern, affection, intimacy, she could express all these things with such a simple gesture.
"Not yet," Pelleas said. "Although if you check in a few minutes..."
She laughed. "You can do this. Now, are you ready, King Pelleas?"
It'd been a long time since he'd heard those words. It had a familiar ring to it. The memories it brought were not pleasant. Loneliness and betrayal, and a gaff which had almost destroyed his whole country. All that anxiousness came tumbling to the surface as he clutched her hand.
Do you really think they'll accept me? What if I make a mistake? I did once–
She felt the words before he said them, soothed the troubles before they had a chance to grow.
"Then I'll back you up. You won't be alone this time."
She stole a kiss before he could raise any other worry. It was quick, soft and yet left a tingle than ran through him.
"Does that mean we're married two hours too early?" Pelleas said.
Her smile was mischievous, and conspiratory. "Maybe. I'll see you at the end of the isle."
With that she left in a rush of white and silver and gold. It still felt unreal, Pelleas kept expecting to wake up and find himself attending her wedding not as the bridegroom, but the bystander who would watch her give her heart to someone else.
Pelleas shook the fears away. He wasn't a lanky boy anymore, one pushed around to whatever whim of those around him. He had learned and grown. And he wasn't alone anymore. He took a few deep breaths to clear his head, squared his shoulders and stepped out as the bridegroom. He walked back to the title he'd left behind two and a half years ago at her feet.
Would they be the peasant reformation king and queen after all? Perhaps, only time would tell. Whatever was in store for them, they'd find it. They'd make their own fate at last.