AN: My first Deltora Quest story! I've read the series multiple times, and having just finished the series, I can't help but want to write a couple of stories for it. I hope you all like this! :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Deltora Quest. Emily Rodda does.
Amazingly, it wasn't until a while after Lief had become king that he came to realize that the diamond was always warm when he was with Jasmine.
Of course, as he had figured, it had only been natural for him to have taken a while to realize that the familiar warmth and calming glow were perhaps not quite a normal as he had first led himself to believe. Between the many duties that had been forced upon him once he had taken the throne, from having to settle squabbles between palace advisors over insignificant slights to wandering across the kingdom to destroy the last traces of evil that kept Deltora from its well deserved peace, something that had been so common had just never crossed his mind as odd. In fact, it wasn't until well into his third year as king, after everything had finally calmed down from his encounter with the dragons and he could find some time for himself each day, that he even had an inkling that something was strange.
At first, he had thought that it was just the diamond reacting to Jasmine's strength and courage, recognizing her as one of the handful that had been by his side since the very beginning, facing all manners of untold danger to help him bring peace and prosperity to Deltora once more. The Belt had done stranger things in the past before, so he wouldn't have been surprised at all to have found out that that was exactly what was going on. However, this theory was soon proven wrong a few weeks later when, while in the presence of Barda, Doom, and countless others who had risked everything to help him succeed, the diamond had barely reacted, growing only a degree or two warmer and shimmering with a faint light that would have been hard to see in a darkened room. Mentally comparing this event with the almost overwhelming reaction the gem gave the very next day when he met Jasmine for lunch, Lief was forced to rethink his position in the situation.
The next one he came up with wasn't much better, for it left him with his heart in his throat and a sick, sinking feeling in his stomach.
What if Jasmine wasn't Jasmine? What if someone, or something, had managed to take her place by his side, pretending to be her until it had gained his complete trust and belief that it was his treasured companion? Even with the Shadow Lord banished back to the Shadow Lands, it would almost be stupid to believe that some of his subjects didn't still remain within Deltora's borders, just biding their time until they could finally make another bid for the throne. And what better person to replace then one of his most trusted friends, one of the few he told almost everything to? The diamond was death to all creatures evil in nature, and to ignore the warning it might be trying to give him would just be beyond foolish.
Even if he feared the results more then he had feared the idea of facing the Shadow Lord alone.
Thankfully, just a few hours after the thought had first invaded his mind, he was able to put his fears to rest.
After half a day of searching for her, Lief was relieved to eventually find Jasmine asleep in one of the trees that had grown within the palace gardens, Kree and Filli tucked against her stomach as they too participated in an afternoon nap. Checking the ruby and emerald, both of which were still vibrant in color despite the diamonds' warning glow, his mind grew light as his stomach calmed, amazingly overjoyed at the fact that, unlike his first thought, this one was proving to be wrong. However, in spite of the sense of wellbeing that had fallen over him, he needed to be sure. After glancing around to ensure that they were alone, Lief had slid the Belt from his waist and, gentle in his movements so as to not awaken her, had pressed the jewel against the back of her hand.
When, after a few moments, nothing other than the diamond glowing brighter and warmer happened, Lief quickly withdrew the Belt from her skin and scurried away, both gladdened and confused by his latest discovery.
For months afterwards, each moment that his mind could be spared from the rigors of ruling his kingdom, Lief poured over the many meanings that could be behind the diamond's glow and warmth. When neither he nor Jasmine showed signs of illness, the idea of a pestilence infecting their home was quickly tossed aside, destroying the last of his reasonable explanations. As time moved on and his personal attention was needed less and less, it became a greater burden on his mind, soon take up a large portion of his time as he attempted to puzzle through the hints and clues that the Belt had left for him, all to no avail. Finally, driven half mad from worry and confusion, Leif decided to search out the three people who he was sure could help him, for if they didn't know the answer, all would be lost.
Thankfully, despite the late hour, he finally found both his mother, Doom, and Barda in the kitchens, sharing a cup of tea while discussing the upcoming presentation of the Royal Guards for inspection in just a few weeks.
The moment he walked in, his face solemn and serious, their cheery mood quickly fell to the wayside as they turned on him, their own faces becoming pinched and their voiced pitched as they fired question after question, determined to find the reasoning behind his strange looks and behavior before it could turn into something beyond their control. Falling silent as he shook his head, refusing to answer any of their questions, they finally agreed to listen to his tale before offering their words, deciding that knowing what problems plagued their king would help in healing them.
Halfway through Lief's story, after many shared looks of confusion and raised eyebrows, triplet looks of realization shone within their eyes, giving the young king hope that his troubles were over. By the time he had finished, however, his hope had diminished, for Barda could barely speak for his laughter and Sharn was too busy shaking her head and smiling fondly to answer his demands for information, all while Doom was looking at him with an unreadable expression on his face, one that seemed to be a mixture of suspicion, surprise, and wariness. Turning back to their tea, his mother only said one sentence, half thrown over her shoulder, that had him racing for the royal library, determined to finally find the answer to the question that had been plaguing him for so long: why did the diamond react around Jasmine?
"Why don't you go to the library and look in the Belt of Deltora? I'm sure you'll find your answer there dearest."
It did not take long for Lief to find himself seated at a table in the library, the age old, original, handwritten Book of Deltora safely placed before him as he gently flipped through the pages, his impatience only tempered by the knowledge of the grief he would face from the Bookkeepers should any harm befall the beloved manual. Letting out a small cry of triumph as he found the correct page, Lief swiftly began to skim the passage before him, his eyes searching out the words that would tell him the duties of the diamond that hung so heavily from around his waist. Nodding as he found the beginning of the correct sentence, his whispered words filled the air around him as he began to read what he needed out loud.
"The Diamond, the symbol of innocence, purity, and strength. The Diamond gives courage and strength, protection from pestilence and helps the cause of...true...love.."
Leaning back in his chair, Lief could feel his face going slack, allowing his jaw to drop as the implications of what he had just read fully hit him. True love? Could Jasmine, the wild girl he had met all though years ago in the Forest of Silence, really be his one true love? Could that have been what the diamond was trying to tell him all this time? Could it have really been that simple?
Of course not.
Slamming the book closed, Lief slowly wandered away from the library, every refusal and denial he could think of racing through his mind as he tried to confront the newest of the problems that had appeared. Of course, he was very fond of Jasmine, had become very close to her over the course of their adventures together, but there was no way those feelings could have evolved past friendship into something else, something more that could change the course of their country. And even if they had, which, of course, they hadn't, there was no way the supposed feelings the Belt claimed he had were returned in kind. Jasmine had made it clear herself that, even if he had wanted there to be something more between them, which, he never had, she would never let it. They were strictly friends, nothing less and certainly nothing more.
Reaching a window, Lief glanced out in hope of catching a breeze of fresh air, which might help to calm his mind, when he caught sight of Jasmine, sitting once more in the tree he had found her sleeping in all those months ago. Immediately, the diamond around his waist grew almost unbearably hot, causing a groan to leap from his lips as he was forced to face the reality of his situation.
He had fallen in love with Jasmine, and he had absolutely no idea of how to deal with it.
Biting his tongue as he wandered off to find Marilen, hoping almost against hope that she would be able to help him somehow in beginning to figure out how to win Jasmine's heart, Lief couldn't help but love and hate it when the gems turned out to be right, for it only meant even more trouble for him.