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She let out a worn sigh as the stone gate opened for her at his order. She was simply too weary to jump as it crashed shut behind her.

She walked slowly through the corridors, looking around at the halls that could have been hers to command, with but a single word from her. A single, different word.

Regret? She felt it keenly, but not for her decision not to marry her love. It would not have been right for her to live here, in these closed and claustrophobic halls. She took a steadying breath and entered the great hall, seeing her lover at the far end, sitting upon his throne as ever he would.

His eyes were already dark when they fell upon her, and darkened more when he saw the hard light she had nourished within, to sustain her for the lonely ages to come. He called her forward, then would have ordered a place for her at the head table, as they were being set up even then for the evening meal.

She rejected the offer, asking quietly to speak with him alone.

With some slight hesitation-as it was an uncommon and not too acceptable wish, which showed they had a certain degree of familiarity-he agreed, drawing her into the room behind the throne. She pulled the bundle from her back and presented it to him without a word, and with solemn silence he accepted their burden.

No longer could she carry it. She had many things to do, to assure her love's most beloved thing would be safe and well. She would do all she could for his precious kingdom, as signified by the token she left with him when they first said their farewells. It had been crafted for her by a dear friend before she had ever contemplated traveling to these woods which had become, oddly enough, her home.

Her business within these cold walls was complete, but she still felt the desire to stay for a while longer, to stay with her love. As he looked at her, she knew and accepted the painful truth-there was nothing for her here, not anymore.

He would love her for the rest of his life, as she would love him all of hers, but he would not continue their relationship in any way that could hurt his new queen-he respected them both too much to trifle with hearts in such a way. In time he would grow to love the one he had made his queen, and they would have children together, assuring the future of the realm as his title demanded of them.

Thinking of children she felt her regret grow as she left the room, stopping as the queen silently entered the hall, their eyes meeting for a long moment, both misty blue, though hers were slowly darkening, as they would darken for the rest of time. There was so much that could be said. and yet, nothing at all. In the queen's eyes she found knowledge of her, of the love she had shared with the other's husband, the fact that it would forever remain. She also saw some regret, but also a steadfast determination that would see her love through the marriage with as few regrets as it was possible to have.

If only things hadn't gone wrong, if only their last act together hadn't been turned into a thing of evil and torment.

But no one ever said things would work out, and they certainly hadn't.

Time would pass, and the King and Queen would grow together, would have their children, would rule their realm. It could be no other way, and would be so even if things hadn't gone awry.

And so she would return to the heart of the darkness, where her blood longed to be. One day she would meet some male, and have a child-not out of love, but of necessity. A child was needed to complete her promise, to ensure the safety of his kingdom. A child she would also need, to fill the void that would be created within her very soul when she left this place, so she could remain in this world just long enough.

After searching the queen's face one last time, she bowed her head ever so slightly, a show of respect that meant little as such, for by birth the move should have been reversed, but it was instead a promise-that she would never return, nor interfere in the marriage in any way.

As her love wished it to work out, so did she. True happiness should come again for one of them.

It wouldn't be her.

The queen bowed her head in return, her eyes solemn and still, promising to do her best to make him happy, even though the queen knew she would never take the place of his first and true love in his heart.

Gathering her cloak about her, drawing the hood up over her chilled ears, she set out from the hall, into the forest once more. The dark wood gathered around her, seeping into her heart until she shook the darkness loose, refusing to give into despair. She had much to do-her home was hardly enough for her to sleep in, and she would someday leave it to her child, so there was much she had to do.

But nothing pressing to keep her mind off of things.

With a weary sigh she looked around the darkness, pulling her cloak even closer in a vain attempt to ease the chill within her that nothing could ever erase.
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