“Lady Lena?” The familiar voice of a child called out uncertainly through the slightly ajar door to Lena’s study, a room which was tucked away at the back of the library to avoid foot traffic.
Lena turned her head from the thick tome and magical artefact she had been inspecting and immediately spotted a familiar flash of gold hair peeking through the doorway. “Lucas? What are you doing here?”
The heavy door swung open and the small boy slipped inside, followed as always by the shaggy black dog that was his constant companion and protector. “You skipped dinner again.” He said, holding up a plate laden with bread, cheese and meat as evidence for his next statement. “I told the Knight-Commander and she said I should bring you some food and then not leave until you ate it.”
Lena rolled her eyes and huffed out a grumpy groan, only just resisting the urge to cross her arms and pout, not wanting the small boy to see her acting like a tantruming teenager.
Lena had hid herself away in her personal study for the last two days. Her most recent visit to see Kara, when she was acting as storyteller for the children, gave her a much-needed kick to go over all her notes and various documents for the umpteenth time in the hope of finding inspiration for her next attempt at relieving Kara of her curse.
She was currently in the process of examining a telescope littered in runes that she had obtained a few months back from a trusted merchant who claimed it used to belong to the dreaded Captain Carlisle, one of the most feared pirates ever to sail the seas. The legend of the telescope was that it had the ability to illuminate a path to whatever the user most desired. Lena had been sceptical to say the least until she had peered through the lens to see specks of gold that when followed inevitably led her to the throne room, where a certain Queen was laid out in peaceful slumber.
Lena, at once, started intensely studying the telescope in the hope of figuring out a way to make it point to a cure for Kara. Unfortunately, nothing she did seemed to impact the gold trail which forever stubbornly led her back to the throne room. She was now determined to try everything yet again, presuming that she had somehow missed something the first time that was critical in making the telescope work for her desired purpose.
Meals, sleep and free time, inevitably fell to the wayside when she committed herself to her most recent attempt to wake Kara.
It always used to be Alex that brought her back from the rabbit hole she would throw herself down when she got consumed by her research. Alex, being the least afraid of Lena and almost as stubborn, would be the only person able to go toe to toe with the researcher and be brave enough to, when required, physically drag her from her sanctuary to get her to eat or sleep.
If Lena was stupid enough to try to resist Alex’s intervention for too long, it would be Eliza at her door next, and the castle medic was truly terrifying when she wanted to be, especially when she was dragged away from her patients to deal with Lena’s repeated inability to look after her own basic needs.
Recently, however, Alex had become particularly crafty and had taken to sending Lucas to see Lena, knowing the researcher’s soft spot for the boy made it impossible for her to say no to him.
“She did, huh?” Lena hummed, raising an amused eyebrow that made the blond boy smirk in response, obviously aware how the Knight-Commander was using him and not minding in the slightest.
“Yes, my Lady.” Lucas grinned, stepping forward to find a spot on her cluttered desk to deposit the plate of food.
“Alright then.” Lena relented with a shake of her head, shifting her spread out papers into a pile on one side to free up some space for Lucas.
Lena began to dig in quickly, her hunger making its presence known the second she started to eat. She kept an eye on the small boy currently inspecting the shelves piled high with books, various inventions and magical artefacts whilst his furry companion creatively named ‘Wolfy’, flopped down happily by Lena’s feet to also watch their shared young ward.
“Remember not to touch anything.” Lena reminded sharply when Lucas reached out with eager hands towards a black crystal resting between two leatherbound journals. The boy snatched his hand back immediately, shooting Lena a guilty expression over his shoulder.
Lucas had spent countless afternoons in Lena’s study over the last three to four months, and during every single visit Lena was forced to remind him of the same rule over and over again, not because the boy was unintelligent or purposefully rebellious, he simply got excited and couldn’t stop himself from reaching out. Lena should have found his lack of self-control frustrating or annoying, but his never-ending curiosity was endearing to the extreme. He reminded her of Kara in so many ways, and not just because of his golden hair and boundless enthusiasm, but also his innate charm and unrelenting kindness despite the hardship he had gone through before finding a home at the castle.
“What's this?” He asked, pointing at the dark crystal that had piqued his interest.
“Oh, that's a shard from the mirror of shadows.”
“The one the Queen used to trap the phantom in the haunted tower?”
“Mmhmm… that would be the one.” Lena confirmed enjoying how the boy bobbed slightly up and down on the balls of his feet in excitement.
His green eyes scanned the shelves for another item, finally settling on a pair of shining silver scissors sealed away in a glass chest, “And this?”
“The blessed scissors used to cut the strings that turned a small boy into a puppet.” Lena replied, raising an eyebrow in challenge to see if he remembered the story. She had only told him it once before and that was during his first couple of days at the castle.
“Pinocchio?” He guessed, his brow furrowing as he cast his mind back for more details, “You said the Queen searched the entire land for his father to reunite them.”
“Correct. Good memory.” Lena complimented, garnering her a pleased grin in return.
Curiosity seemingly satisfied for the time being, Lucas ventured towards Lena’s desk, taking a seat on the small wooden stool kept at the side for the rare visitor to use. Lena ignored the twinge whenever someone occupied the stool that Kara had brought to the room to use for her regular, if not daily visits to see Lena. The Queen had made it a habit of bringing Lena lunch for the two of them to share, Kara taking the time to question Lena about what she was studying and Lena taking the time to listen to whatever issue or dilemma was weighing heavy on the Queen on that particular day.
“I don’t know that one…”, Lucas muttered softly, pulling Lena from her reverie into the past. The blond boy was resting his chin atop of arms that were settled on the desk, bringing his nose a mere few inches away from the telescope that was now laying claim to his attention.
“You wouldn’t. This one doesn’t have a story to it… yet…”, Lena revealed, shooting the boy a wry smirk as she pushed the leftover half of the sandwich she had constructed for herself over to him.
Lucas instantly perked up in his seat, throwing out a quick, “Thank you!”, before gobbling up the gifted food. “Do you think it will help the Queen?” He asked between mouthfuls, having learnt enough manners from Lena during their time together to know not to talk with food in his mouth if he wanted an answer.
“I hope so.” Lena said quietly, her fingers tracing the tiny text on the page in front of her despondently as the task of waking Kara seemed to become even more unachievable with every passing day.
Lucas chewed thoughtfully, watching the raven haired woman closely, before saying, “Clara said another prince is coming in a few weeks time…” Lena pursed her lips at the comment, keeping her gaze on the book in front of her, not giving anything away, “Do you think that he could be the one?”
“Anything is possible.” Lena stated with an even tone as she shrugged her shoulders.
“You don’t sound too sure.” Lucas remarked, beginning to fidget nervously on the stool. Lena regarded him with a carefully blank expression, waiting for him to say whatever it was he really wanted to talk about. After a long pause and a deep breath Lucas announced to the quiet of the office, “You don’t believe that true love’s kiss is real.”
Lena raised an eyebrow at that but didn’t deny it.
Whilst Kara had fallen asleep to loving words of hope and true love every night and awoken to warm hugs and the reminder that life was about more than just power and material items, Lena was raised in the opposite fashion. Lena went to bed with harsh insults and constant beratement by a family who thought little of a young girl’s wish to be happy instead of powerful. Lena was raised in a place where the only thing that mattered was power.
Power gave strength, security and influence.
Power… true power… could only be measured by physical things.
Weapons. Servants. Armies. Land.
Power was only ever tangible.
Lena had learnt to shake many of her family’s misguided messages off thanks to Kara. She learnt kindness and mercy were not weaknesses. She learnt having a trusted friend watching your back was better than having an indebted army any day. She learnt that supporting her friends and helping people gave her more joy than owning the largest castle.
The one thing she couldn’t bring herself to unlearn was the need for tangibility.
The need for clear measurements, detailed observations and substantiated evidence was what made her one of the greatest researchers in this kingdom’s history and such a crucial resource to the Queen. She couldn’t unlearn something which had saved Kara countless times.
True love kiss was unproven. It was a fairytale without any proof to back it up. Lena couldn’t believe it even if she wanted to, it went against her very nature.
“Who told you that?” Lena inquired curiously.
“Umm….”, Lucas’ eyes darted around the room, unable to meet her eye.
“Lucas?” Lena prompted sternly causing the boy to wince and shrink in on himself in response.
“I overhead the Knight-Commander talking to the Coinmaster about the prince coming to visit.” Lucas blabbered out quickly, deciding it was better to get everything out in one breath than suffer another second of Lena’s intimidating stare. “I know I shouldn’t have eavesdropped but…”
Lucas glanced up to her pleadingly, flashing Lena puppy dog eyes that she still couldn’t believe he hadn’t learnt from Kara in some, as of yet unknown, spiritual manner. Lena rolled her eyes fondly which Lucas knew meant he had managed to dodge punishment for now and could continue.
“The commander doesn’t think it will work. The prince’s kiss that is.” Lucas explained, tacking on the last part unnecessarily when Lena failed to react to this revelation in anyway.
Honestly, Lena wasn’t even remotely shocked. She already knew that Alex didn’t think the princes, nobles and renowned heroes who visited in the hope of awakening the Queen with true love’s kiss would actually yield any results. In fact, Alex was the most vocal council member to oppose this method despite knowing Kara’s belief in the power of true love’s kiss better than anyone.
Lena had once asked Alex why she was so opposed to the attempt, the knight had merely stared at her for a long moment with an expression of surprise intermingled with disappointment before shaking her head and pulling Lena into a tight hug. Lena never asked again, it seemed to only upset the redhead who had become like a big sister to her.
“And when the Coinmaster asked why, she said it’s because she doesn’t think true love’s kiss is real.” Lucas continued his play-by-play barely pausing for breath, “Then the Coinmaster tried to argue but the Commander said you agree with her and you’re always right. She said if it was real, you would have proven it by now!”
Lena’s eyes flew skyward as she struggled to think of the right way to explain her thoughts without affecting, or potentially destroying, Lucas’ view of the world which was so unique in its similarity to Kara’s. “Listen Lucas…”, Lena sighed before reaching out to reassuringly squeeze the blond boy’s arm across the table to ensure she had his full attention. “True love’s kiss…”, Lena winced at the bitter truth about to fall from her lips, “there is no evidence for it. There are no witness accounts and no documentation of its existence in any of my books.”
“It’s in loads of stories.” Lucas argued gesturing around widely with one arm as if the inconceivable number of verbal tales was laid out on the desk between them.
“Yes, exactly.” Lena agreed slowly, “Stories, legends, tall tales… Those aren’t real…”
“The Queen believes it is.” He bit back, frowning heavily at her.
Lena tilted her head to the side and asked gently, “How would you know?”
“Gut feeling.” Lucas proclaimed proudly patting his stomach like that solved everything.
Lena snorted in amusement, surprising the small boy with her unladylike reaction, “She would really like you…”, Lena confessed, brushing his gold locks from his forehead and giving herself an unimpeded view of delighted green eyes and a growing smile.
“Yes, without a doubt.” Lena stated earnestly.
Lucas nodded to himself, locking this piece of information away in his mind forever, before muttering sadly, “I would really like to meet her.”
Lena glanced between the puppy dog eyes and the pile of work she was making her way through. Deciding her notes would still be waiting for her even if she took a short break, she clapped her hands together and got to her feet causing Wolfy to spring up with her in readiness. “Well… how about I give you a proper introduction?”
Lucas immediately jumped to his feet and gave her a blinding grin.
Lena ignored the knocking on her study’s door, keeping her eyes locked of the pages spread out in front of her. Time was running out unimaginably quickly; midnight was less than half an hour away and Lena had nothing.
No last minute cure or remedy.
No final plan to triumph.
Lena blocked out the voice as the door she had barricaded was shoved open enough to allow a slim figure to squeeze through and try to get her attention.
“Kar-, your majesty,” Lena intoned, refusing to look up from her research, knowing that seeing those blue eyes for what might be the last time would break her heart, “I appreciate your visit but as I’ve told you before I really need to concentrate.”
“Lady Lena-”, Kara breathed out, and Lena could hear the usually heavy-footed Queen attempt to tiptoe towards her desk.
“I’m so close, I’m sure of it.” Lena exclaimed, her hands scrabbling desperately for a new book, artefact or document that would give her the solution she so fiercely desired. “I just need to focus a little bit harder-”
“Lena. Stop.” The quiet, almost heartbroken plea was accompanied by a pair of comforting hands coming to rest over Lena’s own, ceasing her frantic movements.
Lena wrenched her hands from Kara’s soothing touch and shot to her feet, tears breaking free to run endlessly down her cheeks as she shouted, “I can’t stop! I won’t! You mean ev-”, The depth of her emotions caused the confession to choke in her throat and fail to escape. Kara was staring at her with matching tears, her normal cheerful composure shattered and broken revealing something vulnerable and scared. Lena took a deep breath, her gaze dropping to the floor as she murmured, “This kingdom needs you.”
The ‘I need you’ went unspoken but not unheard.
“Lena, I only have a few minutes and I don’t…”, Kara started, taking a step forward which had Lena jerking back to maintain the space between them. Kara held her hands up in surrender and begged brokenly, “I don’t want to spend them without you… please.”
Silence settled between them heavily, broken only by their shared sobs.
Lena wanted to reach out for Kara but feared that if she were to do so she would be unable to let her go ever again.
Thankfully, Kara (Lena’s forever brave hero) stepped forward yet again, and, without any resistance from the researcher, was able to sweep Lena up into a tight all consuming hug. Lena sunk into the Queen’s arms without hesitation. The two of them fell to the floor, Kara leaning against the high bookshelves and Lena leaning against Kara as she buried her face into Kara’s shoulder.
“I failed you.” Lena cried, the self-loathing abundantly apparent.
“That’s impossible.” Kara declared, resting her cheek against the top of Lena’s head, “You’ve never failed me. Not once.”
Lena decided not to argue the point, instead she wrapped her arms tightly around Kara’s waist, pulling back to look Kara dead in the eye and promise with as much fire and fervency as she could, “I won’t give up, I promise.”
“I know.” Kara smiled gently for the first time in the last two days as she wiped the tears from both of their eyes, “But for now… can…”
“Anything. Anything you want.” Lena reassured hearing the obvious tentativeness in Kara’s stuttering request.
Kara’s blue eyes flitted across Lena’s face searching intensely for something, “I have so much I want to say to you… so much I should have said.”
“Then tell me… tell me now. I’m listening.” Lena promised, watching Kara struggle on the precipice of releasing whatever it was she was holding back.
“Lena… I… I…” Kara stuttered out.
“You?” Lena prompted when Kara’s voice trailed off, her mouth opening and closing, her eyes wide with a deep seated fear Lena had never seen in those blue eyes before.
Kara exhaled heavily, her body deflating as she closed her eyes and flung her head back to rest on the shelf behind her. Lena studied the wearied, lined face of her Queen, her usual vitality and youth having receded steadily since the sorceress had set her curse into motion. “Do you remember when you first arrived and you used to have nightmares?” Kara asked neutrally, trying to hide whatever secret feeling drove the question.
“Of course.” Lena answered immediately, cocking her head to the side to scrutinise Kara’s sharp profile.
“Do you remember that…”, Kara swallowed and licked her lips nervously, her eyes remaining resolutely shut despite doubtlessly being acutely aware of Lena’s intense scrutiny, “That I used to come to your room and tell you stories?”
“You would also hug me.” Lena murmured, her cheeks flushing bright red for a heartbeat at the embarrassing need to add that particular detail.
“Yeah…”, Kara coughed out shyly, squeezing Lena closer into her side at the same time, “you said once… that I made you feel safe… cared for…”
“You did… you do.” Lena rushed to confirm.
Kara smiled wanely and Lena had to resist the urge to trace that small uptick at the corners of Kara’s mouth with her finger to help commit it to memory, “I never told you, but I was having nightmares too.” Kara admitted, her voice shifting to a tone filled with devotion, “And you… you make me feel safe too. Actually, you make me feel brave, strong, capable…”, Finally, Kara turned her head and opened her eyes to reveal shining blue of pure adoration, “You make me feel like a hero.”
Lena shook her head fervently unable to accept the power Kara declared her to have, “That has nothing to do with me. You’ve always been a hero…”, Lena freed one of the hands wrapped around Kara’s waist and placed it delicately on Kara’s cheek, ensuring she held the blonde’s attention. “You were my hero from the moment we first met. And that’s never going to change.”
“You inspire me, Lena.” Kara whispered her eyes drifting closed again as she leaned into Lena’s touch, “You did that first day, and you inspire me now.” Kara’s breathing began to grow steadier and deeper, her head started to droop and the arm holding Lena in a tight hug to her side eased and relaxed, “Lena, I-” Kara murmured sleepily.
The first toll of midnight chimed out loudly from the grandfather clock tucked away in the corner of the room, and was followed after a fraction of a second delay by the tower bell on the other side of the castle.
Dread like no other seized Lena’s heart. Adrenaline pumped wildly and uncontrollably through her veins as she shifted onto her knees and gripped Kara’s shoulders. “Kara? Kara?! KARA!!” Lena shouted, shaking the blonde with as much as force as she could muster but Kara remained unresponsive, her face slack and expressionless and her limbs like a ragged doll. “No! Come back!” Lena screamed, as sobs threatened to consume her body. “Wake up! Don’t leave me!”
Lena had no idea how much time passed as she tried to pull Kara out of her slumber. She tried begging, pleading, threatening, cajoling and bargaining. Nothing could bring the Queen to stir.
Eventually, the inevitability settled upon her, and all she could bring herself to do was hold Kara’s upper body close to her chest as she rocked them back and forth, resting her forehead on Kara’s one that was now free from lines, promising in broken mutters over and over again that she wouldn’t give up. That she would find a cure.
“Lena?” Alex approached, Lena didn’t even hear her arrive. She didn’t bother to look up, knowing her own devastated expression would be mirrored on the knight’s face.
“She’s…”, Lena croaked, “There’s nothing I could do. Nothing I did worked. Nothing!” Lena yelled helplessly.
“Lena…”, Lena felt Alex’s hand on her shoulder trying to give her a comfort that neither of them would ever have again until Kara was back with them, “I am so sorry.”
The days following Kara’s slip into cursed slumber were abuzz with endless activity. Lena took her research to new lengths, investigating anything that she had evidence to suggest could cure Kara. Lena, often accompanied by Winn or J’onn, searched ruins, temples, myths and areas of known magical activity. Alex was equally unrelenting in her hunt for the sorceress, personally leading the search and barely resting whenever a new witness came forward with some information.
Whilst on their own quests, Alex and Lena struggled to keep the peace among the citizens, noblemen and council members who were constantly clamouring for war with Daxam in the hope of having their beloved Queen returned to them. Through stern threats and reminders of what Kara would want, the council held true to their promise to the Queen.
Alex found herself successful after six months.
The Knight-Commander tracked the sorceress down to a tower hidden by illusory magic deep within the Emerald forest on the edge of Krypton’s border. Lena rushed to assist the knights, spending an entire day and night supported by Eliza and Winn, concocting potions and oils that would give the soldiers every defense and advantage possible in the ensuing battle.
Alex led the sneak attack into the tower just before dawn, managing to avoid the traps set for any intruders thanks to Lena’s advice. They cornered the sorceress in her bedroom, Alex holding her at sword point and demanding the sorceress break the curse placed upon the Queen. The sorceress merely laughed and explained the curse was unbreakable, she couldn’t remove it even if she wanted to. With that revelation the sorceress then unleashed the full might of her power on the knights, killing many of them in the fight that followed.
Soon Alex was the only one left standing, her sword broken and shattered by a bolt of lightning she managed to block at the final second. Hope was lost, and Alex admitted quietly to her dear friends much later that she thought that was the end of the road for her.
The sorceress prepared a final lightning bolt when an almighty screech boomed out from the sky and a dragon with midnight scales swooped down and incinerated the sorceress in a stream of purple flames. The sorceress was no more and the Knight-Commander was saved, but the chance of a cure had diminished significantly, almost to nothingness.
Lena hadn’t dared to share this story with the children. It was far too dark for them and she especially did not want them to know that the ring which turned Lady Arias into a dragon hadn’t been destroyed like she’d told them. Lena had added runes to the inside of the ring which allowed the wearer to have a level of control over their transformed self. At Kara’s behest Lady Arias agreed to keep the ring on a chain around her neck and only use it as a last resort in times of peril. Kara asked this of Lady Arias specifically as she was the only person to truly understand the devastation possible by this power and would never use it for personal gain.
With the sorceress dead and no answers given, all eyes turned to Lena for a solution.
For the next year and a half, Lena’s sole purpose was to find a cure, the only respite coming from telling stories to the young wards of the castle. The tales allowed her to feel close to Kara, reminding her of those nights long ago when Kara would narrate to her stories of heroes and guaranteed happy endings.
“Come on, Lucas.” Lena encouraged, placing a gentle guiding hand on the small boy’s shoulder to lead him further into the throne room and up the dais to where Kara lay sleeping on a cushioned platform which served as her bed. Lucas gulped, intimidated at the thought of meeting his hero formally. Lena squeezed his shoulder reassuringly before stepping forward and leaning ever so slightly over the Queen’s motionless form.
“Your majesty, please allow me to introduce you to Lucas, the newest ward of your castle. Lucas, this is Queen Kara the merciful.” Lena announced putting on all the airs and graces expected when greeting the Queen.
“Your majesty.” Lucas muttered tentatively, bowing exaggeratedly, even Wolfy fell onto his haunches and lowered his head respectfully in imitation of his master.
Lena hid the grin threatening to breakout upon seeing the boy trying so hard, and coaxed her young companion right next to Kara’s bedside, “Come closer, she doesn’t bite… unless you get too close to her dinner, but there is no food in sight so you should be fine.”
Lucas nodded solemnly, not appreciating Lena’s attempt at a joke, as he fixed his green eyes on Kara’s perfectly preserved profile with a studious gaze. “She’s pretty.” He declared after a long assessment.
“Yes, she is.” Lena agreed softly.
“Can she hear us?” Lucas asked, glancing up at Lena with an expression that made her feel like she should have all the answers to life’s questions.
“I- I don’t know.” Lena admitted, reaching out to lightly take hold of Kara’s hand that laid dormant on the side, fiddling with each finger to have an excuse not to see the disappointment on Lucas’ face at failing to adequately answer his question.
“I think she can.” Lucas said determinedly.
Lena smirked and raised an eyebrow at the blond boy, “Is this another ‘gut feeling’?”
“Uh huh.” Lucas hummed, grinning widely, “Wolfy agrees with me, don’t you?” He turned to his faithful companion who barked loudly and eagerly at Lucas’ intonation.
“Well, I guess that settles it then.” Lena murmured in amusement, knowing that Kara would find the entire interaction utterly adorable.
“Err… Lady Lena?” Lucas began with sudden shyness, causing Lena to nod her head to prompt him on, “Can you tell me another story?”
Lena rolled her eyes good naturedly, moving to sit on the edge of the bed before lifting Lucas up next to her. Lena looked between Kara and Lucas, now sat happily next to each other. Two of the most important people in her life were within touching distance but they had no real knowledge of one another. No history or relationship apart from stories Lena had told Lucas.
She wished more than anything that Lucas had met Kara. Had gotten to witness her insatiable appetite, her sheer stubbornness whenever she found something she couldn’t do, her competitiveness in games of pure chance… she wished Lucas had gotten to see Kara the way Lena had seen her.
Not the hero.
Not the Queen.
Just a girl with a heart of gold.
“How about the story of how I first met the Queen?” Lena suggested.
“I’ve never heard that one before…”, Lucas remarked, his brow furrowing.
“No one has.”
Lena told him everything. Told him about being dragged from her home to be thrown at the feet of the Queen. Told him how scared she was, how she thought she would be executed on the spot. Told him how Kara had alleviated all her fears with one soft look. Told him how Kara had looked after her, gave her a real home and treated her like a Lady when everyone else thought she was nothing.
Lucas listened attentively, asking for more details every now and again but mostly being happy to simply absorb what Lena was sharing with him, adding life to the mythical hero he had heard so much about.
“You should get going, Lucas.” Lena ordered once the bell marking afternoon classes resounded around the castle. “Lady Grant will come looking for you and trust me if you think I’m scary, you’ve never been late to one of Lady Grant’s literature classes….” Lena trailed off, giving the boy a theatrical scared expression which made him laugh.
“Can-”, Lucas began as he dropped to the floor, “Can I come see you tomorrow?”
Lena nodded in happy acquiescence to the request, “I would like that.”
With her permission to return, Lucas bounded out of the throne room, Wolfy hot on his heels. Lena shook her head in exasperation at the boy’s seemingly endless energy.
“Did you like him?” Lena asked quietly to the stillness of the room, as she concentrated on the unmoving hand she was hadn’t let go of. “I hope you did. He reminds me of you, you know?” Lena sighed, her thumbs massaging the palm of Kara’s hand soothingly.
“He’s hopeful and kind but… strong and brave, too.” Lena listed, hating how she always struggled with words when talking to Kara, so used to watching the blonde’s face for a reaction to help her know which words were the right ones. “I was the one that brought him to the castle. I was coming back from visiting a wizard in Daxam - long story - when I came across this… tiny blond-haired boy walking along the side of the road accompanied by a shaggy, flea-ridden dog.” Lena stared up at the ceiling remembering that day vividly.
It was pouring with rain and the coldness of night was beginning to creep up. She wouldn’t have even noticed Lucas if she hadn’t for some unknown reason glanced back over her shoulder, spotting a flash of gold that reminded her of Kara through the trees.
“It was immediately obvious that he hadn’t eaten for a long time so I offered him some food.” Lena continued her story; she had wanted to tell Kara all of this months ago but it never seemed to be the right time. “What surprised me was that he offered what I gave him to the dog before taking anything for himself. Whilst they ate, I found out that his name was Lucas and his family had thrown him out because they couldn’t afford to feed him. A couple of days after being sent away from the only home he knew, Lucas came across a puppy on the roadside and didn’t hesitate to care for it despite struggling already on his own.” Lena paused, her heartbreaking over the time Lucas spent alone, hungry and afraid with no shelter.
She cleared her throat, hoping to push down the emotion, knowing that if these thoughts plagued her they would doubly affect Kara who saw any hurt inflicted on her citizens as a personal failing. “That dog… Wolfy - a name, I know you probably think is super inventive -” Lena teased, squeezing Kara’s hand affectionately, “is unfalteringly loyal to him and would throw himself in front of any danger if it meant protecting the boy. I couldn’t bear to leave Lucas behind, didn’t even consider it really as an option.”
The second she had laid eyes upon Lucas, she was already wrapping him up in her cloak and thinking through the logistics of getting the boy and his dog to the castle with just her horse for transport.
“I brought them both home with me.” Lena hesitated, unsure whether to say more but deciding it didn’t matter anyway considering Kara probably couldn’t hear her. “Alex thinks I should adopt him, and make him my ward… and I want to but…” She swallowed thickly, lifting Kara’s hand up so that her knuckles brushed comfortingly against Lena’s cheek. “I can’t give him the care he needs… not when I have a quest to complete.” Lena lowered Kara’s hand and placed it carefully back where it originally rested before slipping off the makeshift bed and moving to be in line with Kara’s head.
“I will save you, Kara.” Lena whispered as fervently and fiercely as the first day she had made the promise. “I will find a way. Don’t think for a second that I’ll give up on you.” The words caught in Lena’s throat, but today she managed to gather the strength to force them out. “I-... I love you far too much to ever give up.”
Lena gently combed her fingers through Kara’s golden locks for a second before straightening up and returning her hands to her sides.
Lena slowly turned to see Alex at the entrance to the throne room, watching her with that familiar sad expression Lena often saw thrown her way.
“Council meeting, remember?” Alex reminded her, jerking her thumb over her shoulder towards the door.
“I remember. I’m coming now.” Lena replied before bending down to murmur in Kara’s ear, “Talk again soon, I promise.”