Featuring Lady Elara and King Drustan
By Colboltz and TigressDesign
Autumn, Year 760 of the New Age
Glenmore, The Glenwood
The day was waning to an end at the Great Oak and the red doe almost seemed to blend in with the sky. Different shades painted the sky with tinges of pink streaking through it. It had been an uneventful day as had been the last. And the one before that. Everything seemed repeated, each day seeping into the next. Maybe that’s how life was in Glenmore or maybe it was just her?..
Vilkas was off with his guard, Kolfinn, probably bugging him for stories or the sort. She didn’t worry, he was in good care. Elara had spent most of her day chatting with some royal does and sneaking away to practice magic for a bit. Most of the groups had disbanded and gone back to their dens. Elara was one of the few left, standing by herself but she was not at all lonely.
The sun was almost done making its rounds and the colors intensified to a blinding red. The flowered doe raised her head to watch for a moment then lowered with a gentle sigh. Another day gone.. Lifting a dainty hoof, she turned to make her way away from the tree.
If there was one thing that Drustan dreamed of, it was of exceptionally boring days where nothing happened. No excitement, no drama, no stress. A predictable day would be a blessing from Óganach. Spotting Elara milling beneath the Oak, he took a deep breath and started making his way towards her. He had something to tell her, and likely the only plus side of the outcome was that Elara would have a day that would definitely stand out from the rest.
Dipping his head in greeting, he caught up and fell in step with the fawn-marked lady. “My lady Elara,” he said with an expression stuck between a smile and a frown. “Would you mind accompanying me on an evening walk? I have something... important to discuss with you.” He glanced around at all the potential eavesdroppers, “And I’d rather go somewhere quieter, if that’s okay?”
As she was about to make her way home, Elara heard soft hoof-beats heading her way. She was well known among others of her rank so it was not entirely unusual for her to be approached, though a bit odd at this hour. A voice reached her ears and the spotted doe turned her head, Drustan being the last one she’d expect to see. They hadn’t really spoken since the trip at Loch Kerr this summer, which even then their words had been very brief.
She lowered her eyes in respect, her heart thrumming despite herself. The lady listened quietly, her mind wondering. Was something wrong? Why else would he seek her out when surely he had other things to attend to.. She was just one of many.
A walk? Something important? And by his reaction something he definitely didn’t want anyone else to overhear. Sounded interesting enough. “Of course, my King.” She dipped her head in answer. It was not a doe’s, or anyone’s, place to disobey their leader. Though she didn’t want to disobey in the first place. She was curious, if a little nervous as she walked along side the sable stag.
He led the doe into the Glenwood, taking a smaller path off of the main thoroughfare after a little while. It led them uphill, to a copse of tall pine trees. The low evening sun shone through the trunks, casting long golden shafts of light across the blanket of pine needles. The scent of the trees designed to distract him from the scent of her. His spotted Lady, the last to join his harem before... before he knew.
With a sad sigh, the sable stag turned to the red doe. “I’m sorry, Elara... What I have to tell you... there is no silver lining. I want you to know it, though, because a lie would hurt you more. The truth... the truth will put Vilkas in danger if it ever escaped and I need you to be ready for that. I’m sorry to put this burden on you, if I had known the truth before you joined my harem...” He shook his head sadly, “You must promise me, that whatever you think of me after this, you will keep Vilkas safe. Run if you must, head North to the needle or East to the Loch, but if the truth comes out the Oak may be too dangerous.”
Drustan lowered his head and fixed his remorseful green eyes on the deep brown of the doe’s. “All I ever want is for you and our son to be safe, and there are no apologies I can make that will forgive what I must tell you... but I am sorry Elara. More sorry than you can ever know.”
The royal doe was careful to never step out of line as she walked alongside the sable king. She kept her head lowered respectfully, one ear flicked out towards him. He led and she followed. Away from the herd they went, her hooves moving daintily over the terrain. She was careful to keep an eye out for any rocks or other obstacles. To trip in front of her King..She’d think she would die on the spot from embarrassment.
The golden light bounced off of their coats, almost creating an aura around the two of them. At times, strands of light would pierce through the trees and she’d blink from the brightness. When they were a reasonable distance from the herd, he sighed and turned towards her. Her ears flickered in confusion but she stopped compliantly.
It began with an apology and his words continued to fill the air around them. They surrounded her, trapping the royal in their midst. Their sound rang through her ears long after he was done speaking. Her heart beat even faster...this time in fear.
She did her best to conceal her emotions as her eyes met his. She barely succeeded. Raising herself to her full stature, her tense muscles were barely noticeable. Words were hard to come by for a moment, her tongue unable to move. When they did, her voice was smooth and in control, betraying no sign of her fear. “..I’d do anything and everything for him, surely you must know that.” There were no limits a mother couldn’t go through for her child. “Drustan, what is this about? What truth?” Her voice hardened, eyes not looking away from his. If her son’s life was in danger she more than deserved to know.
Confronted with the doe’s expression of mixed fear and determination, he simultaneously felt that now familiar guilt that he’d caused this mixed with the pride of having such a strong doe that until recently he could call his own. Steeling himself, Drustan took a breath, and began the tale the majority of his does now knew.
“Before I was born, Ragnar was a favourable King, known for his strength and wise decisions. But for four years he hadn’t had a fawn, not since Crown Prince Donnaghan. Rumours were beginning to spread that he was incapable of siring children, and as you well know, infertility in a King is a decrownable disability. He needed to sire children to keep his crown, and so my mother did the only thing she could to help, and claimed that I was Ragnar’s son. My true father supported this, and so I was born a Prince. My mother kept this secret until the great Oak fell, when she told me the truth. Ragnar is not my father, Elara. I was never meant to become King, only prove Ragnar’s worthiness until Donnaghan could succeed him but when he was banished... my father had no choice but to name me as his successor instead. The truth is, I am no King, and if the herd find out, they will surely take my crown and my head with it,” he added sincerely, eyes downcast in guilt. “I’m sorry Elara, to bring this taint on you and our son. I didn’t know...”
Her reaction was instantaneous. She recoiled away from him as if he were a snake. Her ears were shut tight against her neck, pointless really. There was no keeping out the truth. He was tainted. She was tainted.
Her son was tainted..
His bloodline was untrue, he had no claim to the crown. And neither did this stag standing before her. His crown was false. “How dare you! You’ve known about this since the Great Oak and you’ve said nothing!?” She seethed. He was no King but he was still a stag. Yelling at him was basically a crime! She was just a doe… But for now, she didn’t care. This was no time for royal manners. “My son has been in danger this whole time and you never said a word!” Her voice was venomous, the only weapon she could use against him.
Truthfully, this was her fault. She had been the one to choose him. She was no princess, she had not been betrothed to him. She had had a choice. And she had chosen him. Elara looked away from him now, she couldn’t bare to see him. Every smile, every touch, had all been a lie. He had taken her feelings and stomped them under his hooves until there was nothing left.
As she spoke, thin branches rose from the ground, twirling around her legs. Whenever her emotions were up, her magic reacted. Usually she was able to contain it but not now..Never now. Thorns drew blood, cutting deep into her skin. But she didn’t care, she couldn’t feel it. Anger swept through her, drowning out everything else. She was completely numb.
Her reaction was powerful, surprising, expected. She was angry, and he could almost feel the emotion boiling inside of her, taking the form of the magic that began to seep from her hooves and into the ground. “I would never let any harm come to Vilkas,” he said instantly, looking up at her as her magic peaked and the branches started to sprout.
“Elara, careful!” He tried to counter the magic with his own, but he had little power over the vines and the most he could do was slow their growth. Looking on helplessly, he struggled for how to comfort her. It wasn’t as if he could take it back, or undo it. It was the truth, regardless if they both wished it were not. “I didn’t know how to tell you, Elara. I hoped for a while that I could forget that my mother even told me, act as if my birthright were true as my parents did. I wish she hadn’t have told me, Elara. Then I wouldn’t know, and the truth wouldn’t be searing into my conscious like hot coals. I have no excuses, none even vaguely respectable, but the truth is the truth. I can’t do anything about it except tell you. I know I should have told you sooner, but I just... I thought if I kept it from you, I wouldn’t have to hurt you like this. I know it was wrong, I couldn’t think of anything else since I found out. My mother kept this from me my entire life, and only told me on her deathbed. I kept this from you for two years, my parents kept this from me for over a decade.”
He sighed and shook his head, “I’m sorry Elara. I am sorry. I won’t let any harm come to our son, I promise you that,” he repeated, trying to catch her elusive eye.
Careful!? How could he act as if he cared about her.. She stepped backwards, breaking from her own cage. Her eyes still lingered on the ground but she forced herself to meet his eyes. He continued speaking and she stayed to listen, no matter how bad she wanted to run.
That was right.. His parents had kept him from this his whole life.. She only had Vilkas and herself to worry about, he had all his children and other does. She was being selfish. The realization was a bit shocking for the vain doe. She had only ever worried about herself until her son had been born. She could see the pain in his eyes and her heart softened. Her anger dissipated somewhat but was only replaced with fear and worry, which was no better.
Elara gazed at him for a few moments undecidedly. Her world was split, cracked in two and she didn't know which direction to go. She would have rather went through any type of physical pain than the clenching she felt in her heart. She took a tentative step forward.. then another. Reaching forward carefully, she placed her gentle face against his chest. Just one last time.. She tried to convey her thoughts into one simple action. A thanks of sorts. No matter his lineage, they still had a son who was her whole world.
"I'm sorry too.."
Still didn't change the fact that he had lied to her and everyone else. She retreated backwards and turned away from him. Her face was out of sight now, and her tears finally brimmed over. No longer numb, everything hurt. She had to get away but she kept walking until she was sure she was out of sight. Then she ran, more like fled. Her flowers were ripped from her hair, leaving a wilted trail behind her. Her tears flowed and she continued blindingly away from the False King...
For a moment, there was hope that she might forgive him, that he’d have a chance to show her he only wanted to keep her safe, that he never meant to betray her. She rested her head against him and he thought that the chasm between them was closed. For a heartbeat he was elated. And with a whispered apology, she was gone.
“Elara?” He stood, watching as the doe rushed away. “ELARA!” The stag yelled into the forest where she had vanished, but only her fallen flowers answered. He was panting as if he were the one running, the guilt and worry flooding him. He could take chase, but what right did he have? He’d hurt her, he’d betrayed her, it was her right to be away from him if she wished it.
Standing alone in the clearing, the sable stag blinked away tears. “Be careful,” he murmured in her wake, bending to nose one of the wilted flowers that had fallen from her mane. With a little will of magic, the flower regained its luster, regrowing it’s stem and rooting itself to the ground. When Drustan straightened, the bright yellow tulip stood tall and whole in the spot where Elara had last stood. He could only wish it was a symbol, that although her trust in him was wilted now, he could find a way to regrow it.