The Microfic/Drabble Meme
Prompt: "What use was this place, this kingdom, without the lady they had all sworn to protect?"
Flower: Purple Hyacinth
He hadn't wanted to be a steward.
How silly of him, he thought later, to have accepted a position he didn't even want! But she asked, and in his hesitation, had wrapped her hands around his heart and twisted, twisted, until the pain became too much, and he broke like a twig beneath his horse's hooves.
She couldn't have known the consequences, that much he knew. He could blame nothing on her, nothing at all, because while she held on with a white-knuckled grip, he understood that he was the only one of them who could see the pulsating heart that lay in the palms of her hands.
Florina and Wil and Sain all thought that it was a great idea, his becoming Caelin's steward, but they couldn't see the way she clenched his heart, either. They didn't know how much it hurt him to feel tied to Caelin instead of her.
"Wow, that's important!" Wil had grinned and nodded appreciatively at the news, happy for Kent.
"That's more than you could have ever hoped for." Sain didn't say it to be cruel. No, he was right. Steward was the highest position that someone of his standing could hold, and it was a great honor for a knight like him to have the opportunity to represent the commonfolk.
For a while, it hadn't been so bad. Lady Lyndis continued to stay on in Caelin, and perhaps that was what gave his mind permission to fool himself. He was gone for days at a time, surveying land, settling disputes, dealing with situations so that Caelin's royalty would never have to become involved.
More often than not, when he passed back through the castle gate, she was waiting for him. It felt like coming home, listening to her stories about what had happened in his absence, answering every question she asked about his journey.
Her fingers closed around his heart, and he swore he could feel her fingernails digging into the soft, vulnerable organ.
It was as close to being married as he could hope for.
Weeks flew by, years passed, and he became accustomed to the pain in his chest, to the feeling of his very soul being held prisoner.
It came as a surprise then, when one morning, he awoke and felt nothing.
The castle was in an uproar, and all of Caelin mourned in their own way, most with bitter, angry words.
He found Florina in Lady Lyndis's swing. The gardens looked exquisite, with a hundred lavender and white flowers perfuming the air. Most would have found the sight stunning, particularly Sain, with that dainty little knight sitting in the midst of it all, her knees together, and her folded hands resting on top.
"You knew," he accused, his voice just as bitter as the rest of the people. "You knew that she would do this."
She looked up, her eyes free of tears, and it made him angrier to see that; it confirmed his suspicions. Hiding nothing from him, she answered in a soft, gentle voice, "Yes, I did." A few moments later, she sighed. "She was lonely."
He wanted to rush forward and shake her, shake her until tears gathered in the corners of her eyes and fell, fell and fell and fell. But he couldn't. Rational was a word often used to describe him, and rational he would be, even when all he wanted to do was hit something until his knuckles bled.
"How long?" he asked, his voice cracking.
"What do you mean?"
"How long have you known?"
She didn't seem to notice that he was dying inside. "Months," she said.
He'd promised Lyndis that he'd watch over and protect Florina. He'd promised, or his hands would be clutching at her shoulders, and she'd weep because it would hurt, but he wouldn't have the strength to let go. Lonely? How could she have been lonely when—when Florina—and Wil—and Sain—and…and…
"Why didn't—" it started as a shout, an angry, uncontrollable burst of words, but it concluded softly, shakily, "—you tell me?" His voice broke on the last word, but Florina pretended as if it didn't bother her at all.
She simply shrugged. "Why would I?" she asked matter-of-factly, and it was then that he noticed her eyes seemed focused not on him, but on the northwestern horizon.
He had no answer for her, and she left the next morning, before the sun bothered to show itself.
"She'd have wanted me to go home," Wil told Sain a week later, and it wasn't long before the young man left for Pherae and the family that waited there for him.
Kent continued his duties as Caelin's steward, and they kept him busy, but Lady Lyndis wasn't waiting for him when he returned from a long journey. He had nothing to look forward to at all. Life dragged on.
The pain in his chest still existed, but it was different than before. A picturesque courtly love was what he'd thought they'd shared, but she hadn't even bothered to tell him that she was leaving.
Perhaps he'd imagined love, had hoped and longed for it so much that he'd seen it even when it wasn't there. How could he have missed the telltale signs of her loneliness? Maybe she hadn't wanted him to see.
He ached with a loneliness all his own.
Months after her departure, Sain found him wandering the corridors at night, shadows flickering against the stones. "It's like a tomb," Sain said matter-of-factly, leaning against the wall behind him. He tipped forward and took his friend's shoulders in his hand. "Kent…"
"You're leaving, too." It would have been a question, but the auburn-haired steward found himself feeling confident that he was right.
Sain's hands fell to his sides. "Yes." There was a tinge of regret in the sandy-haired commander's voice, but it was swallowed by the darkness, and Kent never heard it.
He never saw Sain again.
He spent weeks wondering where he'd gone wrong. First Lyndis, and then Florina, followed by Wil and Sain… It must have been his fault, he decided. Somehow, he'd pushed everyone away.
Deep down, though, he knew the real reason everyone had left.
Lyn's swing in the garden was covered with snow, but he brushed it off and sat down anyway, the chains creaking eerily as he settled his weight in the middle of the wide bench.
He did his job well, he thought as he looked at the crescent overhead. The dead flowers surrounding him looked almost pretty with a layer of snow brushing their browned leaves and stems.
The people of Caelin had come to accept things, accept him. He'd merged the canton with Ostia without any problems at all. He had money and beautiful clothes—all of the things he ought to have always wanted.
Snow fell from above, large, soft flakes landing in his hair and on the bench beside him. He turned his gaze toward the northwest, and for a moment, he let his mind wander to Lady Lyndis, to that beautiful woman he'd loved, heritage and quirks and all. He wondered how she was doing out on the plains, alone.
He wondered if she was still lonely.
The others had left because of her. Did she know that?
What use was this place, this kingdom, without the lady they had all sworn to protect?
So they had gone away, all of them, leaving him there.
The castle was like a tomb, he decided. The corridors were dark and cold; the stone walls felt more like a grave than a home.
He would die here, he thought, in the grave that Lady Lyndis had unknowingly dug for him.
He hadn't wanted to be a steward.
But she had asked, and he could refuse her nothing.
I really like how this turned out, despite how depressing it is. It's not intentionally painting Lyn in a bad light, but sometimes we hurt people without realizing it. There's probably more to this story than meets the eye. (Two sides to every tale, y'know.) Feedback is very much appreciated!