|A Forever Love
Author: Lady Tempest PM
(shounen ai) The king is dead, and his son suspects foul deeds at work. Could he be next? Or is it all the delusions of a distraught mind? A dark tale of intrigue and the two young men, one a new king, the other a scholar, caught within its dangerous web.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst/Supernatural - Chapters: 2 - Words: 3,833 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 02-07-02 - Published: 02-04-02 - id: 585692
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
shounen ai (boy/boy romance), heavy angst, graphic violence,
Feedback is very very welcome and appreciated. Particularly in regards to the characters and plot. : )
By Lady Tempest
P art 1 :
Erich strolled quietly through the king's gardens. Well, his gardens. His gaze lowered, set only a few steps ahead of him, following the mosaic path and the iron-gray, angular-patterned tilework threading its edges as it snaked along. He wandered with his hands clasped behind his back, his mood too dark to appreciate the vibrant blues, violets, reds, yellows, greens of the life around him.
Not the most direct of routes to the audience chamber, but the queen could wait until he was prepared to see her. He couldn't allow her to begin dictating his actions. If he was to be king, he must give no ground. To no one. And, particularly, not to her.
Erich shut his eyes at the thought of his stepmother, his dark lashes pressing onto his cheeks. He never understood what his father had seen in her. She was like an amber-haired wolf prowling for a meal. Her steel gray eyes held a ruthlessness that had to be apparent to any who gazed into them. And a shrewdness.
Not at all like his mother, his gentle, beautiful mother. Raven hair, like his own, tinted towards violet; kind, emerald green eyes; soft hands which would so tenderly brush aside his ever wayward bangs from his face, or hold his hand, even when he had grown too old for such displays, as they walked the garden to the chapel every holyday. And her warm lips which kissed his forehead as she tucked him into bed every night since he had been old enough to know or kissed away his scrapes and bruises and pain. But she wasn't here to kiss away this pain. And never would be. No one was.
Suddenly, he collided with something large and soft. Only his fighter's training saved him from falling in an ungraceful sprawl. His eyes flashed open.
"I am so sorry, my lord, I did not see you," a soft voice said, almost muffled by a bowed head, the rustle of robes, and fumbling of books. The boy straightened, the last of his books tucked securely under his arm and extended a hand.
Erich's gaze darted up the slight figure before him as he reached for the aiding hand, and his breath and sense left him. His green eyes met an angel. Not just a pretty face, but an angel's face, together with the requisite golden aura. In the golden haze, sparkling eyes and a shy smile stared down at him.
Had he come to take Erich to his family and away from his grief? Or was he to bring comfort and peace only a divine being could give? Or, perhaps, merely a messenger of some final words his father had not been able to say himself?
As he gained his feet, the angle of sunlight shifted and his eyes cleared. He blinked. The face nearly level with his own was certainly no less beautiful or angelic, but it's otherworldly quality diminished to a young man, very much human, perhaps his age.
Pink blushed the boy's pale skin. "I am so sorry. I shouldn't have been reading while walking in a strange place." His gentle voice was soothing and smooth. "It is a habit of mine.."
Something about the boy reminded Erich of his mother. Maybe it was in the meek smile, warm like the sun of his golden hair, or the kind glimmer in his sky blue eyes, or the calm, almost musical tone in his voice. Or perhaps, he just needed something, someone, to lighten the darkness in his heart for even just a moment.
"A habit? Walking in strange places?" he found himself replying before his mind knew his lips had moved.
The young man chuckled, a low, quiet sound. "Oh no. Strange places are not a habit for me at all. I like to read."
"I see," Erich replied, surprised to find his answering smile genuine, instead of the ones he forced himself to bravely wear since his father's death. However, it faded as quickly as the thought which crept into his mind.
"Is there something wrong?" The boy's sun-gold head tilted slightly as his sky blue eyes clouded with concern.
"No. But I thank you for your concern." He restored his mask of strength. Oddly, he discovered it to be both easier to summon in the light of the young man's innocent kindness, yet more painful in its lie. But how could he bring the storm of his grief to such a warming sunlit sky?
The young man nodded with a shy smile. The chapel bell tolled, once, then once more. "Oh! I must be going. I'm late meeting my mother."
The slender youth bent to retrieve a walking stick of simple, polished wood, the curved handle well-worn. laying as if discarded near a rose bush. With a respectful bow, books snuggly under his arm, the boy turned and limped away down the path from which Erich had come, plain white scholar's robes swaying in a stilted rhythm with his uneven steps, .
Erich watched in silence. He stood frozen by the warmth the retreating sun had given him not out of sympathy or pity, but pure gentleness, so like his mother. And in a subtle way, very much like his father. He wanted to cry out and call the boy back, if only to discover his name so he could find him again, or at least give name to the light brightening his gloom.
But he held still, his mouth silent, his mind a jumble. If he sought solace
from his grief, would he demean his father's memory? Yet, did suffering
in his loneliness show his father any more respect? If he couldn't rule
the kingdom left to him, what would it matter how he mourned? However,
beneath his internal conflict a deeper truth tugged his heart: he could
not bear to lose again. So, he could no longer afford to care.
From a private entryway, Erich strode onto the dais towards the throne. His throne. The concept that all which once was his father's had become his own still had yet to settle itself within him. The enormity of the changes his life had taken weighed heavily on his mind but pressed too new and too overwhelming to be anything but awkward and hazy.
Erich frequently found himself possessed with the urge to turn and look up at his father, as he often did while they strolled together to the audience chamber, and comment on the lovely day, or the charming young man he had met, or the new stallion the stablemaster thought `perfect for a prince'. But his father was never there. Not anymore. The sudden realization must have been poorly hidden, because sometimes a guard would glance at him strangely, as if Erich was insane. Then pity or sympathy would replace the confusion.
The sun streamed through the stained-glass skylight in vibrant patches of red, blue, and gold, bleeding richly onto the velvet leading from the closed doors to the foot of the dais. He sank into the velvet backed throne, his hands resting in artful casualness on the heads of twin falcons carved from dark mahogany, each outstretching a wing as elegant armrests.
He nodded to the servant who stood patiently at the side of the dais. The older man bowed and stepped past the line of guards to the large, oak doors, also crafted with falcons. With a tug on the sculpted gold rings, the doors eased open, revealing a lady dressed in black court finery.
The servant moved to the side of the entrance. "The Queen Valaesse petitions for an audience with the Crown," he droned.
Erich stifled a groan, wishing he had wandered about the palace a while longer. No matter how necessary it may be at times, he hated dealing with the woman. Always having to be an guard for some cunning turn of a phrase or hidden motive, he never relaxed in her presence. He couldn`t afford to, especially not now.
"Granted. The queen..." he answered, grinding his words into complete civility. "...may approach."
Erich knew he could never reveal his concerns to anyone again. The few times he had attempted to in the past, his father and, in one instance, Weldin, his father's advisor, smiled that adult smile of amused tolerance of a child's fantasies and told him: `his feelings were understandable, that Valaesse wasn't trying to replace his own mother, but he should accept her as a new mother, a different one, and get to know her. Then his feelings would change.'
But he wasn't a child. And his suspicions had nothing to do with her trying to replace his mother. How could they not see that? How could they not see the scheming desires in her eyes? It never seemed like she even attempted to mask them. Or maybe it was a game she loved to play with him, showing him the truth of her nature in a glance and daring him to make a fool of himself exposing her. His lips tightened against the sneer of contempt aching to be let free.
"My humble thanks, your Majesty," the queen replied with a musical lilt as she strode forward, a predatory glint in her gray eyes he would have thought more unsettling had it not been there. She bowed her perfectly coiffured head as she flourished the skirts of her black, mourning gown in a graceful curtsy.
"What matter brings you before me, Lady?" His green eyes narrowed but nothing betrayed the distrust which had become a constant in his dealings with her.
She rose, a mysterious smile on her rose-painted lips. "I earlier shared my condolences to you on the passing of your father and my beloved husband."
Erich forced back a grimace. He doubted she loved anything, besides herself and her wretched children. "Yes, and it is out of my grief I ask you to be brief and come quickly to your purpose."
"I understand." She nodded and smiled sweetly, an imitation of a mother`s smile. "I again offer a motherly shoulder to help ease your suffering. As I also share your pain, you are free to call upon me whenever you wish."
"Is that all?"
"No, your Majesty." Her blond head inclined slightly in supposed meekness, but the glint of something in her eyes betrayed the affected humility. She had some scheme up her lace sleeves. "I came to request your hospitality for my eldest child. In our time of mourning, family can bring solace and comfort."
Erich arched a black brow. "Your children are already granted the hospitality of the king."
"No, your Majesty. My eldest has been away studying at Engelstein monastery. I asked him to stay with me in my time of grief and perhaps, at your indulgence, much longer."
Ah, so that was it. She hoped to consolidate her power by bringing more of her brats into his palace. Strength in numbers.
"Bring him before me," he commanded, his voice booming across the room.
The servant by the doors bowed then left.
"Thank you, your majesty." She dropped into a quick curtsy, her eyes never leaving him.
"I have not decided yet. I would prefer to meet those who would enter my home." And try to usurp his authority. His fingers drummed absently on a falcon's wooden beak.
Silence fell upon the audience chamber as they waited for the servant to return. Moments passed then a rhythmic tapping sounded on the marble floors, echoing against the colored glass ceiling and the polished stone walls.
As the servant stood aside at his place by the doors, the young man from the garden limped into the audience chamber. Adorably drowsy, he nervously combed his fingers through his slightly tousled sun-golden hair.
Erich's grip tightened on the wooden falcons. Impossible! Impossible. He couldn't be that cunning wench's son. How could a viper such as she give birth to such a warm and gentle spirit? Unless he was just as manipulative as she was? Or more so...
"Is this your son?" he asked, keeping voice even and calm, and nothing like he felt.
"Yes, your majesty. His name is Stephen," she replied turning a scolding glare to the young man as he shambled to her side and clinging to his cane, lowered himself to one knee. "I apologize for his lack of respect. But in his defense, he has traveled hard the past two days to reach me in my hour of need."
Erich ignored her. He had seen the reproachful look she had given her son. Hoping to counter Stephen's chastisement and relieve the young man's embarrassment, he addressed the blond as if they were the only two in the room. "I am not offended." Warm and welcoming green eyes softened as he flashed the shy boy a gentle smile. "There is no need for apologies. We have all had a difficult time this past week."
Stephen lifted his sun-gold head, the sweet answering smile on his lips
even more brilliant than the light from the windows. Or even the sun itself.
"Thank you, your majesty," the quiet voice said.