by the faerieangel
It's been three weeks... three weeks.
He lagged behind the hunting party, thinking... mourning. He looked up at the sun filtering through the trees. Lianne loved the sunlight.
Roald shook his head, as if to clear it. "Jonathan."
His son was looking at him worriedly. "What is it, Father?"
He forced a smile. "Nothing -- nothing at all." He waved his hand toward the rays of the sun hitting the lush bushes of the Royal Forest. "Your mother loved the Royal Forest during the spring. It was here when I asked her, asked her if she would marry me. She accepted, and we had many happy days going around this very forest..." his voice broke.
He saw Lianne again, as they were those first few months, happily talking about their plans for the realm, her animated eyes shining, sparkling with merriment when she laughed. Her long hair, unbound when they went for their walks, flying in the wind, almost floating, like a halo around her delicate face...
He felt a hand grip his arm, and he blinked. Jonathan was clutching him. "Father. They're leaving us. Please... please, we have to go." He heard the pleading in his son's voice, instantly felt remorse. He nodded and let his horse fall into step with his son's.
"How are things between you and Josiane, son?"
Jonathan looked away, shrugging. "I'm -- not going out with her too much these days." He swallowed, afraid his father might disapprove of him. It was his mother's wish that he and Josiane were to be married, but he didn't want to marry the willowy blonde.
"Why is that?"
Jonathan hedged. "Well... I've been busy." He turned to face his father. "The King mourns and there is no one else to handle the kingdom," he said frankly.
Roald was quiet. His son was right. He reached out a hand and placed it on Jonathan's shoulder. "You are a man now, Jonathan. Able to handle Tortall, to rule it as King."
His father's tone sent shivers down Jonathan's spine. "Not yet, Father."
Roald dismissed this with a wave of his hand, and turned the subject back to Josiane. "Will you marry her?"
Jonathan swallowed hard. He had no plans to make the spoiled beauty his wife. "Father..." he sighed. "You know I asked Alanna to marry me."
"She refused." Roald watched his son carefully. Jonathan's face darkened, but it was gone in a moment. "I know," he replied. "But it made me think that maybe I'm not yet ready for marriage. And... I don't back out on my word."
"So you won't be marrying the Princess?"
"You're not mad?"
Roald sighed. "No. You have the right to choose your wife." He smiled, then nodded to the column, "Head the hunting party, son."
Jonathan hesitated. "You -- you're supposed to do that, father."
"I'm tired. Go on -- Gareth is waiting."
Sure enough, Duke Gareth was looking at father and son. "Won't you at least stay near the head, Father?"
Roald smiled. "Don't worry about me, Jonathan. I'll be fine." Jonathan, with a last look at his father, trotted to the head of the column and blew the hunting horn, setting the hunting dogs baying. The column started to move, and Roald followed behind.
Suddenly, his eyes dimmed, causing him to rein in his steed. Then, as quickly as it had come, the darkness disappeared. He frowned, ran a hand in front of his eyes. Nothing seemed to have changed--
He heard a faint singing, a sound that arrested his attention immediately. It was Lianne's favorite song, a sweet melody entitled "Life Entwined", the song played at their wedding.
And it was sung in her voice.
He pulled his horse into the direction of the voice he knew so well, not heeding the brambles that tore at his face and clothes. He opened his mouth to call her name, but no sound came out save a faint hiss. "Lianne," he rasped, trying to yell. "Lianne!"
He found her near Willow Falls, where he had proposed to her that spring morning. She was dressed in shining white silk and lace, like the gown she wore at their wedding day. She looked as lively as ever, the sparkle back in her eyes, the hollows in her cheek that the Sweating Sickness left were filled out, a rosy blush on her creamy skin.
"Lianne," he whispered.
Lianne, strangely translucent, looked up and saw him. Her slender hands flew to her mouth. "Roald... you see me?"
"Lianne..." He urged his stallion forward. "Lianne, how I miss you..."
"Roald..." she stretched her hands out to him, and he started to dismount, but another form appeared in front of Lianne, blocking her from Roald's view.
"Why, hello, Uncle."
Roald hissed. "What are you doing here, Roger?" He started to leap off the horse but suddenly found that he was stuck. "What is this?" he demanded. "What have you -- what are you doing?!"
"I'm sorry, old chap, but you can't get off that horse, not now, at least." He turned to his aunt. "Come now, Aunt." He held Lianne's wrist in a viselike grip, and she struggled to free herself.
Roald strove to free himself from the horse, but to no avail. "Roger! I command you to free me this instant! And take your hands off my wife!"
Roger turned back to him, an innocent look on his face. "Command me? I'm sorry, but that isn't possible." He leapt, over the gorge near Willow Falls. Then he turned back to Roald. "Come to think of it -- to make things more exciting, I'm going to let you catch me -- if you can." He waved a hand in Roald's direction and rust-brown light enveloped the stallion. It reared, neighing wildly, and Roald clutched the horse in fear.
"Roger! What are you doing?" Roald shouted above the horse's frantic neighing.
"Oh, I'm sorry! It was the wrong spell, I suppose." He smiled evilly. "...But you see, Uncle, even though I am very grateful to you for returning my titles and possessions to me -- you simply have to be sacrificed." He tightened his grip on Lianne's wrist, who cried out in pain.
"Take your hands off her!" He struggled to control the crazy horse.
Roger smiled again, his eyes merciless. "I'll give you a chance, Uncle. If you catch me, you can have her." He jerked about and started walking away, practically dragging Lianne behind him, as she strove to free herself and go to Roald. "Roald!" she shrieked, sobbing.
The King of Tortall gritted his teeth and, heedless of the insanity that had taken hold of his steed, he forced it to jump the gorge.
The horse twisted in midair, neighing wildly, and plunged down to crash on the rocks below. "Lianne!" Roald cried out, then was silenced.
Lianne screamed, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Roger looked back to the gorge, and freed Lianne's spirit. "Perfect," he whispered, and disappeared in a mist of rust-brown magic.