AN: Sorry that this one isn't quite as well done as my past ones. I've been in a bit of a funk for the past month or so, and I'm still trying to get out of it. Anyway, I still hope that you like this!
Disclaimer: I do not own Deltora Quest. Emily Rodda does.
It was only through personal use that Lief came to find that not even the Belt of Deltora could completely protect its wearer from harm.
He was in his twenties when the first test of the Belt happened, the first of a long list it had failed.
He had been riding a horse through the city, his guards slightly behind him as they allowed him the freedom he craved but could barely find. Ever since the last hold of the Shadow Lord had been loosened, a hundred other concerns had been brought to his attention, facts and details that he could no longer shrug off to his advisors, but that he himself needed to see to. Hours that had been spent fighting for his kingdom were transformed from battlefields to fancy dinners, his sword replaced with smooth words and boosted egos as he tried to find the perfect balance of loss and gain that was his game with foreign countries. He toasted his enemies on a daily basis, well aware that it was because of their goodwill that his people were alive today, but that did not mean that he was not also well aware of the fact that one move would bring it down around their heads. It was torture, punishment in a way, but it was something he accepted.
So long as he was allowed to have his rides.
They were, besides the moments he was able to steal with Jasmine and the children, the only time that he felt whole, normal, as if he finally could breathe the slightly salted air that was of Del without it getting stuck in his throat.
Until the moment that they took his legs.
It was an accident, to be honest, a single moment that could have happened to anyone. A child had been playing in the yard with its ball, half-watched by a heckled mother that was trying to hang laundry with three other young ones deciding that it was dry enough and needed to be put away. In the moment that the young girl was unwatched, she kicked her ball higher than she had ever been allowed before.
The bright flash of color next to her eye had spooked his horse and, without warning, Lief had found himself flying towards that the stone that lined the paths of his streets, the creature's hooves following moments later as it bolted towards home.
Even after his spine had healed, Lief was never again able to ride a horse, nor did he leave his castle except for the most extreme of emergencies.
He had just reached his forties when the Belt of Deltora failed him for a second time.
Never before had he seen someone die quite like Jasmine had.
She had been sick, ill for a long time, a result, the doctors had told him, of a childhood lived amongst the most poisonous of plant known to their kingdom. When the exposure had been constant, a regular part of her daily routine, as long as she refrained from eating them, she had been fine, slowly building up an immunity to the world that for so long had been her home. But the moment she had left, long before any of them knew whether or not they were going to survive that seemingly suicidal mission to reclaim the seven gems of the Belt of Deltora, what had been her protection turned against her.
It took them twenty years to even realize that something was wrong with her, and another ten to figure out why she was fading so quickly. But by the time that they had, it had turned out to be too late, for even as he had pressed her hands against the supposedly lifesaving gems that would tie her to this world, Lief had known that it would be far too late.
The gems had refused to glow, and within the week his life, his love, his beautiful wife Jasmine, was gone.
However, it was the third time that the Belt failed him, the final time that it refused to glow, that was its worse betrayal of all.
By the time he had turned seventy-six and was ready to die, Lief could not even pick out the graying heads of his own children when they were standing right in front of him.
It was subtle at first, little things that he could not remember, such as where he had put his cloak or whether or not he had taken his medicines. They had been easy mistakes to fix, and within moments they would be passed over, forgotten by others just as he had forgotten them in the first place. Deciding that it was due to old age that his mind was slipping, it had been with a shrug and a slight laugh at his predicament that Lief had continued on, doing his best to rule Deltora the way it was supposed to be led.
It was not until he asked his daughter where her mother was, and whether or not she thought that she was in the tree grove he had just finished planting for her that had been established since before her brothers were born that they realized just how far gone their king really was.
In the year that it took for him to finally pass, Lief spent most of his time in the gardens, watching as the sun slowly rose and set, telling anyone who would listen that it was his wife's favorite spot in the entire country, and that she would be there at any moment to wish him good day. He asked for the names of people he had known every day since he had become king, and every evening it would be questions upon questions that he already knew the answer too. Finally, he just stopped asking them. Whenever someone wheeled him out into the gardens, he would sit there silently, thinking thoughts that no one knew until, one day, he asked why he was there and not at the forge with his father. He no longer knew the names that he had once held dear, nor could he even remember what he had done.
Even with the Belt of Deltora clasped tight between his hands in some vain attempt to regain a single memory to take with him, King Lief of Deltora, the greatest ruler the land had seen since Adin himself, died without even known who he was.
And it was this betrayal by the Belt of Deltora that destroyed their king the most.