AN: Another Deltora Quest ff! Yay! You know, I was thinking, the powers of the gems in the Belt could be quite dangerous. This is one example of that.

Disclaimer: I do not own Deltora Quest. Emily Rodda does.


"I missed you."

A gentle smile, a soft nod, a brush of his fingers against her pale cheek; all of it worked to heal his mind, to calm the terrors that had haunted him for so long.

"For a while, it seemed as if you were not going to come back to me. But you did Jasmine, and for that much I can at least rejoice."

His fingers turned from her cheek to her hair, winding themselves through her tangled locks, reveling in the hidden softness that the wild twists and knots concealed. The haggard look upon his face lightened as he examined her every feature, returning a few of the years that the ordeal had stolen from him.

"We have already had the tree branch removed from the garden, and all of the ones that remain have been tested. Soon, soon you will be swinging through them once again, almost as free as the birds you spend so much of your time training. Soon you will heal and become whole once more, my love."

The past few weeks had been the most terrible Deltora had ever faced since the Shadow Lord had been banished, he and his evil tricks defeated by the goodness of the Belt, the King, and his loyal companions. No one, not even the Queen, one who had grown up listening to the whispering words of the forest from her youngest days, had suspected the deadly secret the tree had been hiding from both her and the others that shared its grove. As weakened as the limb had been from rot and age, even Jasmine's slim weight had broken it, throwing her from the relative safety of the small palace forest to the cold, hard ground below.

"Many of the doctors were worried that you would not pull through. Even the Torans had believed you a lost cause, but look at you now! I knew I was right. I told them that you would never let something as common as a few broken bones from a small fall become your downfall, that you were too strong for the infection to take too much of a toll, and that soon you would be awake enough to see the children. Do you wish to see them now, for I could easily summon them."

This time a silent shake of the head 'no,' a movement that Lief understood perfectly. The 'small fall' Lief had referenced had begun almost twenty feet from the ground, ending upon the small stone path that wound its way through the grove. When they had finally found her, when his world had begun to slowly crumble around him, one of the vague thoughts that had crossed his mind had been amazement for just how little blood there was, at just how twisted and mangled his wife looked could have spilt such a small amount of the precious liquid so greatly needed. But even after the doctors had set her bones to the best of their ability and servants had scrubbed away the small stains that had dried in the sun, the garden and Jasmine's room were still considered closed off areas, for the last thing either of them needed was children and adults alike asking questions and bothering her sleep. Plus, the event was to leave a series of scars, and both of them agreed that the children could be spared that, at least, for another few hours.

"The three of them are with Mother and Doom," he continued, as if he had read her mind. "She told them that you had been in an accident, and that you had been hurt, but nothing else, my love. They are safe, but they have missed you too."

The soft smile turned into a quiet frown as her head tilted, the flash in her light green eyes clueing him into the fact that someone was coming, coming to interrupt their moments alone. The only time they had had together since the incident.

The only time they had been able to spend together since the funeral.

"Lief! Lief, are you in there," the gruff voice called, banging on the locked door as it did, demanding entrance without saying the words. "You need to come out Lief," the voice that he could now tell was Barda called. "Your mother, your children, your entire kingdom needs you to be strong now. I...I miss her too Lief, more then you could imagine, but it has been two months..."

The voice continued to cry and the fist continued to pound against the wooden barrier that separated the man from his king, but both sounds were lost to Lief's ears. Turning his back on his oldest of friends, it was with a quiet sigh that he pressed his fingers that much closer to the shimmering topaz, his eyes fixed upon the figure that had finally answered his incessant calls. Reaching out once more, a shudder ran down his back as his fingers pierced the veil that had separated them for so long, his living flesh bringing heat to her freezing skin, warming her ever so slightly even as he himself was drained. Tilting his head as he heard her muttered request, it was with a tightening of his hand around the belt and a shake of his head that Lief replied.

"I can no more let you go then I can change the past Jasmine. If I remove my hand, you shall move on, and we could no longer be together. So no, my love, no."

Slowly raising himself so that he was standing, his legs shaking from the combination of disuse and the energy he had thrown so carelessly into keeping his beloved near, Lief allowed himself to lean into her, to dance upon the edge of the knife that separated them, balancing so that one single movement would allow him to join the wife so many had claimed was lost to him. Emptying his lungs in one large sigh, Lief focused upon the pale, wavering shape once more, his own life hanging in the balance as he watched her.

Finally, with a single breath and a single spoken sentence, Lief allowed himself to waver from side to side and, as the full moon rose above him, fall from the knife between the living and the dead, onto the side that he had so longed for and where he was needed.

"I missed you."