Chapter 1: Once Upon a Time
“The Queen raised her sword to give the final blow that would kill the dragon when… she saw it.” The storyteller whispered, filling the echoey hall with wonder and awe.
“Saw what? What did she see?” A little boy’s voice squeaked out excitedly in response.
“C’mon Tommy, you’ve heard this story a thousand times by now!” A young girl, called Clara, huffed out with a tone that was trying too hard to appear disinterested.
Clara, you are fooling no one. We all know you love these stories even more than Tommy.
“Some stories get better the more you hear them.” The Lady narrator remarked softly, the minor murmurs and whispers that had spread through the group of children dissipating immediately in response. “But if you are bored, Clara, I can stop?”
“Err… no, that’s alright. You’re nearly finished.” Clara quickly spluttered out, the facade of disinterestedness vanishing in the face of missing out.
“Are you sure?” The Lady checked with an amused quirk.
“Yeah… I mean everyone else likes this story. And the younger ones will be upset if you don’t finish.” Clara mumbled, aware that she had been thoroughly caught out but trying to hold onto some of her cool demeanour.
“If you say so.” The storyteller replied knowingly.
Haha, she caught you, didn’t she? Kara thought to herself wishing she could chuckle along at the young girl’s antics and how the Lady masterfully ( as always ) handled it.
“Now where was I?” The Lady hummed thoughtfully and Kara liked to pretend the minor shuffling sounds she could hear was the children inching closer to their storyteller in anticipation.
“The Queen had just seen the ring!” A child eagerly yelled out and Kara wished she could shake her head in amusement as she recognised Henry’s voice.
That kid has absolutely no concept of spoilers.
“That’s right, Henry.” The Lady said, acknowledging the answer, unwilling to dampen the small boy’s enthusiasm despite the fact that he preemptively revealed the plot twist. “The Queen had lifted her sword, ready to swing and finally defeat the vicious dragon when she saw something sparkling up at her from the bottom of the dragon’s front legs. She glanced down and spotted a gold ring with a shining, purple stone that seemed to glow in the darkness of the cave adorning one of the dragon’s long claws. Sensing some deep, dark magic from the ring, the Queen lowered her weapon.”
Yeah, it didn’t quite happen like that… I glanced down saw a purple spark come out of the ring and jumped like a foot in the air, dropping the sword by accident and landing hard on my ass… You have no idea how much I had to counter threaten Alex with to get her to keep the real story secret. She still comes to see me and laughs relentlessly about it.
“The Queen fearlessly knelt down in front of the dragon that was steadily regaining its strength and reached out to remove the ring from the dragon’s front claw. A loud BANG”, the Lady clapped her hands together suddenly causing the children to jump and squeak in surprise before the Lady continued speaking whilst her voice began to rise towards a crescendo, “was heard as purple smoke filled the cavern. The Queen clung to the ground as best she could, supported by her most trusted ally, Knight-Commander Alexandra. They dug their fingers into the hard earth to try and stop themselves from being overpowered by the magical storm swirling around the enclosed space. Then,” The storyteller paused abruptly, breaking off from the rising tempo she had been building, to instead allow a hushed quietness to settle, “silence fell, the smoke vanished in the flash of an eye. The Queen and her Knight-Commander slowly got to their feet and approached where they had last seen the dragon, only to find in the place of a terrifying scaled beast... a young woman.”
Gasps filled the room and Kara knew if she could move, her lips would be twitching into a joyful smile whilst she simultaneously bounced up and down, utterly captivated by the storyteller’s dramatic narration.
“The woman was the dragon?!” A new voice Kara hadn’t heard before, yelped out in shock.
“Yes, Lucas. The woman was the dragon.” The Lady replied, obviously pleased that this new attendant at her storytelling meetings was so enthralled by her tale. “Thanks to the Queen’s great mercy, this woman was saved a terrible fate.”
More thanks to my clumsiness than anything else, but sure I’ll take great mercy. Kara remarked snidely, choosing to focus on that minor slip rather than the ‘what if’ of what could have happened if she hadn’t seen that ring.
“Who was the woman? How did she become a dragon?” Lucas questioned, desperate to know more.
“Well, with regards to who the woman is… you’ve met her, Lucas.” The Lady revealed and Kara knew how much enjoyment the Lady would get from sharing this information.
“I HAVE?” Lucas shouted; Kara could practically hear the young’s boy’s eyes bug out of his head and his arms begin to flail wildly.
“Lady Arias, the royal coinmaster.” The Lady stated neutrally as if she was merely commenting on the weather.
“Her, really?” Lucas asked, sounding rather disappointed at the revelation that the kind, unassuming woman who was teaching the children their numbers had been a dragon. “How did she become a dragon… and can we turn her back?”
Oh kid, I know a dragon sounds cool at the time… I mean I thought so too but trust me, those things are terrifying.
Kara felt her insides squirm at the memory of her first interaction with Reign (Sam’s dragon form) and how dark the halls of the castle had seemed in the days following her defeat…
Funny, how My Lady always leaves out that part of the story .
Truthfully, the Lady had a very bad habit of leaving out the most unpleasant parts of the Queen’s stories especially those that highlighted her failures. Kara would argue that the failures and hardships were the most important parts as they were the only parts worth learning from. The Lady would simply smile and tell her that it was answers like that which made her such a great Queen.
“No, we can not turn her back.” The Lady reprimanded, and Kara inexplicably knew without a shadow of a doubt from the creepy quiet that followed that the Lady had arched an exquisite eyebrow unleashing it’s devastating effect which made anyone exposed to it feel two feet tall and experience an overwhelming desire to beg for forgiveness ( I can personally attest to this ).
Yeah, you got told kid! Don’t worry, though, she’s not really mad. You don’t want to know how many times I’ve had the eyebrow used against me. Just throw her your best puppy dog eyes, it’s her weakness, she’ll fold every single time. But don’t tell her I told you, she might actually kill me.
“Knight-Commander Alexandra destroyed the ring which turned Lady Arias into a dragon.” The Lady added to fully quash any remaining flicker of mischievous hope in the children gathered in front of her. “Lady Arias’ daughter had come across the ring in an old merchant store and gifted it to her mother, neither her nor the shopkeeper had been aware of the effect it would have. Thankfully, a tragedy was prevented and the kingdom of Krypton gained a wonderful coinmaster.”
“And Knight-Commander Alexandra found true love!” Tommy cheered out and Kara wished she could have high fived the small boy more than anything in that moment.
“Err… yes… she did… eventually.” The Lady grumbled understably.
God, getting those two together was the hardest quest ever. Kara groaned inwardly, it had taken the entire council sans Alex and Sam four whole months to conspire up a plan to push the overly clueless Knight-Commander in the right direction.
“Alright, it’s getting late young ones, dinner will be-”, Kara heard the slight screech as a chair moved signalling the Lady’s intent to stand. Kara’s heart plummeted as a sense of loss and loneliness began to seep back into her very being.
“One more! One more! Please!”
“Tell us the one about the evil witch!”
“YES! The Dark Sorcer-cess.”
The children’s voices pleaded and demanded, their cries echoing around the large, stony room, bringing warmth and light to help fend off the growing darkness.
Following those sweet pleas, Kara finally got to hear her favourite sound that scared away the painful emotions faster than anything else: a light, heartfelt chuckle. “Alright, one more.”
Kara wanted to laugh, completely unsurprised, at how easily the Lady relented to the wishes of the children surrounding her. The chair screeched again as the Lady returned it to its previous position.
“Once upon a time, there was a kind and gracious Queen with an incredibly large heart who always put her people before herself.”
Kara wanted to sigh with affection and gratitude as the storyteller began yet another tale in exactly the same way as the previous one.
It’s not over yet, she’s still here. She always here.
“Not only was she generous, strong and fearless but she was also the most beautiful woman in the entire kingdom, as well.”
Kara wanted to beam and for her cheeks to flush a bright red.
“Now, the story I’m about to tell you is going to seem scary because it isn’t finished yet… but there is something you need to remember above all else as you listen.” The storyteller paused for a moment, and Kara wanted to watch the circle of children lean in expectantly for the Lady’s incoming wisdom. “Heroes always win. Always, I promise.”
Not always, Kara thought bitterly to herself.
“Alright, now that we’ve gotten the important lesson out of the way… back to the story of the beautiful queen and the dark sorceress.”
“YES!” The children cheered causing Kara’s ears to twinge painfully at the sudden escalation in volume after straining to zero in on the Lady’s dulcet tones.
The universe quickly made it up to Kara’s thrumming eardrums as it blessed her with the sound of the storyteller’s chuckling laughter again. “A little over two years ago, the Queen went out riding to visit the marketplace in the nearby town, she was accompanied, as always, by her loyal knight of the realm and trusted advisor, Knight-Commander Alexandra. During their journey back through the woods they came across a dark-cloaked woman. The woman, who was unarmed, asked simply for a moment of the Queen’s time, and the Queen being who she is immediately dismounted to kindly hear her out.”
Kara listened as the children fidgeted in their spots on the ground, all of them waiting with bated breath for the next part of the story.
“The dark-cloaked woman revealed herself to be a powerful sorceress who had sought out the Queen to make her an offer. The sorceress offered the Queen unimaginable power and strength... if the Queen invaded the Daxamite kingdom. The Queen, who had never been interested in power or violence, instantly turned down the offer… this though angered the sorceress and she attacked the queen. The queen fought bravely with sword and shield as Knight Alexandra fired arrow after arrow at the sorceress. However, none of their attacks proved effective against the magical power that they were up against.”
That’s an understatement. The dark sorceress kicked our asses.
“The Queen and her Knight-Commander managed to escape the sorceress’ attack,” Mostly due to Alex, Kara preemptively added, “mostly due to Knight-Commander Alexandra’s quick thinking and skills.” Kara wanted to roll her eyes and huff as she felt the minor flare of jealousy she always did at this particular point in the story. “Upon returning to the castle, the queen called upon her royal council so they may create a plan to combat this new threat.”
You all did splendidly. Kara insisted, remembering the guidance and advice her friends and family had given to her during that time. She knew they felt guilt, knew they felt responsible, felt like they had failed her. That couldn’t be further from the truth in Kara’s opinion. You never let me down. You made me proud then and you make me proud now.
“The Queen was adamant that she would not go to war with our once enemies. Word eventually spread throughout the kingdom of the Queen’s resilience and desire to keep the peace. Weeks passed and no reprisal from the Sorceress came and the Queen, as well as her council-”
Not you, though. You knew better.
I should have listened to you.
Actually, I should have spoken more. I should have told you everything. Maybe if I had… this nightmare would have come to an end only seconds after it had started.
“-were hopeful that the sorceress no longer posed a threat. As you all know but may not remember...” The Lady stuttered here and Kara didn’t need to see the storyteller to know that there was a flicker of pain crossing her features.
Kara knew the Lady feared the Queen being forgotten more than anything else in the world. Feared the Queen would disappear into history as nothing more than a footnote. Or even worse yet, only be remembered for the state she was currently in and none of her heroic escapades.
Kara, on the other hand, feared the Lady not letting her go even if the world was crumbling, holding on tightly despite the pain it undoubtedly inflicted on the breathtaking woman.
“The Queen would open up her throne room to all of her subjects, allowing them to come and see her about any of their concerns or complaints. One day, an elderly woman who didn’t rouse the guards’ suspicion came to see the Queen. Upon approaching the throne and being greeted by the Queen, the dark sorceress revealed herself. The guards and the Queen rushed forward to apprehend her and prevent Krypton’s other subjects gathered in the throne room from getting harmed by her powers. The sorceress, however, froze everyone in the room with a mere snap of her fingers.”
The Lady clicked her thumb and middle finger together, the ominous snap it caused resounded around the room as if the past itself was calling out to the future. Kara heard all the children inhale sharply in fright, some even going so far as to yelp or clamber into the lap of their friend or neighbour for comfort.
“The sorceress stepped towards the Queen, her heels click… clacking… on the marble floor.” The Lady clicked her tongue, and Kara felt herself, as she so often was, transported back to that day.
Her right hand was resting on the hilt of her sword, she’d been a second away from drawing it free of it’s scabbard, and her left hand was raised in the universal sign to stop. At the same time, she had run forward to stand in front of the closest group of citizens to the right of her throne, her body serving as a physical shield. She had been staring straight at the sorceress when every muscle stopped obeying her command, except for her eyes that were allowed to stay open and track the sorceress’ slow approach towards her. Sounds of commotion outside the throne room were audible, as her trusted Knights, led by Alex, sprang into action behind the magically sealed shut heavy wooden doors.
The sorceress had moved with unhurried steps towards Kara, who had never felt so powerless in her life, as she pulled a small dagger free from her crimson cloak. The blade turned red as it reflected the fiery light cast by the torchlight, causing it to capture Kara’s attention far more than the cruel smile on the sorceress’ face. The blade had gradually moved forward and Kara waited for death to inevitably come for her, but the sharp point of the dagger did not plunge into Kara’s chest as she had presumed it would. Instead an almost imperceptible prick of pain lanced from the forefinger of her left hand.
“The sorceress returned the dagger back to her cloak and strode to the centre of the throne room where she made her final offer. She told the Queen that if she didn’t go to war with the Daxamite kingdom within three days, at the strike of midnight on the third day the Queen would fall into a slumber from which she would never wake up.”
Kara had heard this story so many times that she could now pinpoint the exact second an almost indiscernible crack appeared that would accompany the Lady’s velvety voice for the rest of her tale.
“The sorceress then swept her cloak around herself and disappeared with a crack of lightning.” The Lady no longer recreated the sounds that went with the tale, the heaviness related to this story always drained the Lady of her childish enthusiasm. “The Queen and her people were free to move again just as the doors to the throne room were blown open by the Knights of the realm.”
“What did the Queen do next?” Lucas questioned, desperate to hear a hopeful twist. “How did she stop the socer… er… witch?”
Ah, didn’t you listen? No happy endings, here….
“Well, the Queen did what she always did when faced with a big, magical problem.” The Lady answered with a guilty sigh.
It wasn’t your fault.
I wish more than anything I could tell you that and make you believe it. I hate hearing you put yourself down.
“She assembled her most trusted advisors and asked her Royal Researcher, who was supposed to provide good counsel on magic, what could be done to prevent the sorceress’ curse from taking her on the third day.” The despondency and self-loathing that accompanied the Lady’s description of her role was overwhelming.
Kara felt like she was drowning in a bathtub of the Lady’s guilt and was completely unable to pull out the plug and allow the negative emotions to drain harmlessly away as they should have done.
“The Researcher, however, could not find a single book, chapter, paragraph or sentence in any of the books in the royal library which explained whether the sorceress’ threat was credible, let alone if it could be prevented.”
“But there are thousands of books in the royal library…”
“Exactly.” The Lady whispered sadly. “The researcher spent those three days, supported by the royal scribe, the coinmaster and anyone else who had time on their hands scouring every book in the library to find a cure.”
Kara remembered how the Lady didn’t sleep for even a second of those three days.
Kara remembered watching helplessly as the Lady’s stunning green eyes became dimmer and hollower as shadows darker than those seen in the dungeons slowly surrounded them.
She remembered watching as the Lady’s always impeccable appearance became ruffled and messy as she went without break or pause.
Kara remembered Eliza having to force food down the Lady’s throat more than once.
Kara remembered cajoling, begging, threatening and explicitly ordering the Lady to rest, to recuperate but being ignored and defied as the researcher belligerently worked on, even going so far as to barricade the door to her study to ensure she could continue working uninterrupted.
“Whilst the Researcher read her books, the Knights, led by the Queen and the Knight-Commander Alexandra, were searching the kingdom for the sorceress with the hope to apprehend her and get her to remove the curse before the three-day deadline.”
“They didn’t find her?” Lucas guessed, his small voice overflowing with sadness and heartbreak.
“No… not in time they didn’t.” The Lady revealed with a sad whisper, and Kara hated the rawness that came with her next words. “Hope began to recede and vanish as the sun rose on that third day. The Queen called her council once again, this time not to find a solution but to make preparations.”
“Preparations for what?” Lucas questioned shyly; Kara liked to think he was speaking softly as he could sense the emotional turmoil in the Lady.
Kara usually endeavoured to stop listening to the story at this point, hating the torment she could sense in the storyteller. To distract herself, she tried to imagine what the newest addition to the class looked like. With the mischievousness he displayed earlier, she imagined blonde curly locks, reminiscent of herself as a child. And due to the soft, sensitive tone he used for his previous question, a familiar forest green appeared in her mind’s eye which easily became his eyes. She pictured him small for his age (which she guessed to be seven or eight) with rounded, chubby cheeks and thin lips that seemed to double in size whenever he found a reason to smile. She liked to think he was active and energetic, with a fidgeting disposition mixed with an eagerness to learn which helped him to stay rooted in place for his lessons despite his excessive energy.
Kara had come up with an image for every stranger that she heard over the last two years.
All of them had a feature or two stolen from someone she had met.
She found this simple mental exercise helped deal somewhat with the hollowness of slowly losing the ability to bring forth a crystal clear image of those she really loved.
“Preparations for what would happen after the Queen was cursed.” The Lady explained gently.
“She gave up?” Lucas cried dejectedly, and Kara’s image of the boy in her head cruelly shifted to include disappointed crinkles around his eyes, a jutted out lower lip and hunched over shoulders.
God, why do I do this to myself? Kara thought dejectedly as she wished she could shake her head to clear away the picture in her mind.
“No, never!” Henry ( mini Winn ) yelled out indignantly.
“Not our Queen.” Clara ( mini Alex ) huffed out protectively.
“I don’t think she even knows how to give up.” Isaac ( mini J’onn ), the quietest of all the children, mumbled under his breath.
“She wasn’t giving up.” The Lady reassured once all the other children had chimed in their own defence of the Queen; Kara could practically hear the proud smile in the storyteller’s voice.
I hope you’re happy, you’ve indoctrinated all of them. When I wake up, I’m going to be such a disappointment to them. You’ve filled their heads with heroic nonsense about me and you should know I plan to do the same for you. I’ll make my own mini cult for you and see how you like it.
Kara had to admit it wasn’t the greatest, nor most well-thought out of revenge plans but she was going to commit to it nonetheless.
“She was ensuring that her people… all of you… would be safe and looked after whilst her allies searched for a cure.” The Lady rationalised, trying to keep the complexity of everything that happened that day as simple as possible for the children to comprehend. “The Queen announced that the council would rule in her stead, and that they were to swear to her that they would not go to war with Daxam to save her, no matter how hopeless her situation seemed. The council… eventually,” eventually is an understatement, it took hours , “all agreed to their Queen’s command but they all added a further promise to that.” The storyteller paused thoughtfully and Kara didn’t know how but she knew that everytime the Lady told this story, she recommited herself to the promise. It was like a recharge button for the Lady, her energy levels following these story sessions would skyrocket and she would be working on a new plan in a matter of hours. “They promised that they would never give up hope. Would never give up looking for a way to save the Queen from her curse. Would never let anyone claim the throne that truly belonged to our beloved Queen.”
“Then… what happened?” Lucas questioned, his confidence in asking questions growing as he became more and more invested and sure of himself.
Come on, kid. You know how this ends.
There’s no more to the story, I’m afraid.
The Lady exhaled deeply, as her chair screeched angrily as she stood up. Kara didn’t have to hear her approaching footsteps to the know the Lady was coming closer.
She could be absolutely silent but Kara would know.
She could always sense when the Lady was close by, her skin would tingle and her lungs would fill full as if her breath didn’t want to escape in fear of missing out on being close when the Lady approached.
A flock of smaller footsteps followed in the wake of the Lady’s; the children moving like ducklings chasing after the security of a mother. It was always at times like this that Kara gained an appreciation for just how unnecessarily large the throne room was; it took an age for the group to reach her dais at the head of the room. She knew when they were gathered around her bed by the unbreakable silence that pervaded the atmosphere.
If she could, Kara would blush under the heavy scrutiny….
“At the first strike of midnight, the Queen fell into her cursed slumber.” The Lady whispered as if Kara really was merely sleeping and a high volume would disrupt her peaceful sleep.
“But… there has to be a way to wake her up!” Lucas pleaded desperately.
“We are still searching. We will find a way, don’t worry. The council has not, nor will they ever stop trying.” The Lady declared fervently.
I bet you there’s fire in her eyes right now.
She’s probably going to barricade herself in her study again until she comes up with plan 326.
“What about True Love’s kiss?” Lucas suggested quietly.
Yeah, what about True Love’s kiss, huh?
“Princes and nobles from across the world have tried.” The Lady confessed sadly. “We are still inviting anyone that could be worthy to try.”
There’s only one person who’s worthy, and they don’t need an invite to the castle… Kara confessed to herself, her heart hollow and empty despite the warmth of the Lady’s presence.
“Didn’t the Queen love anyone?” Lucas pressed and Kara imagined the small boy’s brow furrowed and his lips pursed in deep thought (she found the image particularly charming).
“The Queen loved so many.” The Lady affirmed, “She loved her family, her friends and all of her people.” Kara felt her then, felt the soft, warmth of the Lady’s hand covering her own in a loving manner. Kara’s entire body hummed with joy at the connection, but her heart broke as she heard the Lady’s next statement, “But she had never found true love.”
Yes, I did.
I found it, but I was far too cowardly to tell her. You tell people how brave I am but I was never courageous enough to go after what I really wanted.
Isn’t it funny how the one person who is working the hardest to save me, is also the one person who could save me within seconds but she doesn’t know it because I was too shy to tell her how I really felt?
Okay, I guess it’s not funny… haha… but there is a high enough degree of cruel fate involved to make the lip twitch into a smirk.
“Oh…” Lucas sighed out dejectedly. Yeah, I know the feeling, trust me.
“Remember what I said?” The Lady asked, clearing her throat emphatically to break the heavy tension that came when small children were confronted with the idea that happy endings didn’t exist in the real word. “I know it seems sad now but…” The Lady practically singsonged to breathe life and hope back into the young ones surrounding the sleeping Queen.
“Heroes always win.” The children chimed back in a well practiced manner.
“Heroes always win.” The Lady repeated, and Kara could tell that she had directed this at little Lucas with the aim of instilling it firmly in the small boy’s head. “Go on, you don’t want to miss dinner.” The Lady said, releasing the children to their grumbling stomachs whilst also removing her hand from atop of Kara’s, who in turn felt the loneliness begin to creep back in.
I really miss food, Kara whined inwardly imagining the various food items that would be served only a few corridors away. That’s the meanest part of this curse.
Well, at least I don’t get hungry, but I still get cravings...
The young group, upon being released said their thanks and goodbyes to the Queen and the storyteller, Tommy, undoubtedly, led the charge to dinner with Clara hot on his heels. The other children left more sedately ( well, as sedately as children about to get fed can be ), except for Lucas who lingered for a while after to murmur his own reverent farewell to the slumbering Queen without his cohort’s presence. Kara genuinely appreciated the gesture and the affectionate squeeze the boy gave to her forearm before he departed, leaving Kara alone with the Lady.
Kara felt a brush of light fingertips across her cheek, her heart immediately skipping a beat at the gentlest of touches. Hope filled her that the loving movement would be followed by a brush of lips against her own. That flicker of hope was quashed immediately as that soft touch disappeared, instead she heard the exact same commitment she always heard whenever the Lady visited her.
“I won’t give up, Kara. I’ll find a way to bring you back.”
I know you will, Lena.
Chapter 2: The Making of a Queen
Kara was thirteen when the weight of the crown was laid upon her golden curls.
The heaviness of the headpiece would always be one of Kara’s sharpest memories and during her cursed sleep, whenever she was without visitors, it was one of the main ones she always returned to.
It was her breakpoint. The event which carved her life into two halves.
Before crown. After crown.
It was the moment she had to stop being a child and become a Queen.
Some would think, erroneously, that it was her parents’ deaths that would divide her life into parts. Her parents, however, lost their lives in a blur of action and confusion. Kara’s coronation was a quiet hush in the eye of the storm. It was the first time she had been allowed to think and take a breath. It was the first time she was able to fully comprehend how drastically her life had changed.
How much she had truly lost in the space of a few days.
Kara, in her awakened slumber, often found herself wondering what would have happened if her parents hadn’t died that cold winter so many years ago.
If they had lived until an old age, guiding and protecting Kara for the rest of her adolescence, only handing over the crown and the responsibilities that came with it when they truly believed her to be suitably prepared. Despite losing them at such a young age, Kara knew she had been granted as idyllic a childhood as possible for the heir to the throne. Kara’s parents shielded her growing up from the constraints and duties that came with royalty, allowing her to simply enjoy being a child.
Unsurprisingly, the freedom granted to the young princess inevitably resulted in her spending most of her early life following Alexandra Danvers, the daughter of the castle’s healer, around the stone corridors of their shared home.
Alex, within seconds of being introduced to the cheery golden-haired princess, became Kara’s idol.
At first, the older, redheaded girl acted aloof and disinterested in Kara, huffing and sighing in annoyance whenever Kara enthusiastically (and completely unskillfully) copied whatever action she was currently carrying out. It didn’t take Kara long, however, to realise that Alex was not as annoyed by Kara’s shadowing behaviour as her initial attitude implied.
Whenever Kara became despondent at not being able to do something Alex could, the older girl would roll her eyes and shake her head whilst a fond smile danced across her lips before she knelt down to talk the princess through whatever she was struggling with. Whether that was stitching, climbing the trees in the castle’s courtyard, reading a more advanced book or dancing, Alex would always concede to Kara’s pout and step up to be her teacher.
Though her parents didn’t place many of the rigors of ruling on their daughter’s shoulders, they did still ensure Kara was educated from a young age. Politics and languages were the main focus. Neither of which thrilled Kara. The young girl would often duck out and escape her wizened tutors in favour of learning about literature from Cat Grant alongside Winn (the apprentice scribe) and healing from Eliza alongside Alex.
The King and Queen were happy to allow Kara this eclectic mix of lessons and educators as it produced a incredible breadth of knowledge and understanding of the lives and hardships of Krypton’s citizens that was insightful.
They were far less pleased when Kara began receiving lessons from the master-at-arms Ser J’onn J’onzz in sword fighting.
As Alex grew older her interest in becoming a Healer began to wane, and eventually she stumbled upon her own idol and inspiration in the form of the stoic combat master, Ser J’onzz. Learning to use a sword and bow gave the rebellious teenager a sense of purpose and a goal… to become the first female Knight of the Realm.
Eliza was heavily resistant to the idea, her husband Ser Jeremiah had been a knight and had died during one of the numerous wars with Daxam. The loss of her husband weighed heavy on her and it took Eliza a long time to give Alex her blessing to begin training in earnest for her desired position. What finally convinced her was the calm, controlled teaching that Ser J’onn epitomised, providing Eliza with the small promise that her daughter was in safe hands and she couldn’t deny how having a dream to work towards helped mature Alex into a strong young woman.
But, of course…. if Alex was learning to fight… Kara wanted to learn to fight.
Kara’s parents taught her an unfathomable number of lessons as she was growing up, helping mould her into the woman and Queen she would eventually become. But two lessons in particular would always stick out to Kara. Two lessons, one from her mother and one from her father, would guide her more as Queen than any others. The second lesson, from her mother, came after her first injury. A particularly nasty gash cut across her forehead caused by mis-timing a swing with her wooden blade against the spinning, wooden dummy enemy Ser J’onn had made her practice with.
Eliza had patched her up and Kara had already been ready to race back to the courtyard to continue practicing when the royal guards directed her to the royal apartments where her parents were awaiting her arrival.
“Kara, my little girl, you are a princess. You shouldn’t be wielding a sword, it isn’t proper for a girl of your stature.” Kara’s father said soothingly to his ten year old daughter, his blue eyes twinkled with love as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders pulling her into his side on the red settee.
Kara frowned uncertainly at her father’s words as she leant into his hug, striving to ignore the ever present dull throbbing radiating from her latest injury; numerous bruises and grazes littered the rest of her body but they were barely noticeable. She glanced past her father’s soft gaze to her mother who was watching from across the room where she was leant against the window. The Queen’s gaze was scrutinising and Kara had never seen her mother look so regal with the setting sun illuminating her figure.
“But…”, Kara began before cutting off, uncomfortable with arguing or denying a request from her parents who had never asked much of her. There was a hollow pit in her stomach that grew as she felt her head begin to nod in acquiescence to her father.
“But, Kara?” The Queen prompted with an arched eyebrow. Kara’s mother didn’t look like her mother in that moment, but ‘The Queen’, with capital letters.
Kara’s brow furrowed in confusion at the same time her father’s did. “Alura?” King Zor-El questioned with a tilted head, that resulted in his wife raising one finger in a gentle request for patience.
“Kara?” The Queen asked again.
Kara hesitated before taking a deep breath and speaking out, “I want to learn how to fight.” Kara lifted her gaze and stared directly into her mother's cool eyes. “I know you think I only want to learn because Alex is, and yes that's how it started out... but now I want to learn for myself. I want to know how to defend myself and the people of our kingdom.” Kara twisted on the comfy seat to face her father directly, a crease appearing in her forehead causing a sharp stabbing pain from her scratch but she ignored it as she focused on speaking earnestly and with fervour. “You always told me that it is a King and Queen’s responsibility to protect and care for their people. How am I supposed to do that if I can't even defend myself?” A defeated expression crossed her father’s face and Kara jumped to her feet and walked over to her mother and declared with as much determination as a ten year old could have, “I need to do this.”
Alura studied her daughter for a long moment before kneeling down to sweep her up into a tight hug. “Alright, my little girl. Alright.” The words weren't just for the Princess but for the father as well who, after a long pause, stood up and walked over to sweep his small family up into his arms. “Kara, listen to me.” The Queen whispered into Kara’s ear, so only the blonde could hear, “Always stand up for what you believe in. Don’t let anyone bully you into something you know is wrong.”
“Yes, mother.” Kara murmured back in response, only able to nod her head ever so slightly up and down with her parents arms wrapped so tightly around her.
At the time Kara didn't understand why her mother pushed her to fight back against their initial decision. She didn't understand what her mother was trying to teach her at that moment. She would figure it out, though, a few years later. And Kara would realise that out of everything she learnt from all her tutors and teachers it was the most important lesson of all.
Kara’s father, on the other hand, gifted her unconquerable hope in the form of four words.
True love conquers all.
Kara’s father, no matter how busy he was, would always find time to tell Kara a bedtime story every night. He was often known to dive out of council meetings for a fleeting ten minutes to rush through a simple fairytale for the princess, and many times would he tell his daughter a tale whilst he eat his long overdue dinner at her bedside. He was a dedicated father, who wished more than anything to preserve Kara's belief that happy endings were real despite plentiful evidence to the contrary.
There were always two key elements present in every story her father ever told her.
One, they all ended with ‘and they all lived happily ever after’.
And two, true love conquers all.
“If you fight for true love, you'll always win because…” Kara’s father would always sing song at the pivotal moment the hero or heroine rose up to overcome whatever obstacle had been placed in her way.
And Kara without hesitation would always cheer back, finishing the lesson, “Because love is infinitely stronger than hate.”
Kara didn’t like to think back on the night she lost her parents, she only remembered a few key events from that night. Her council and various tutors gave her further details later on to help her understand why it had happened.
Kara, however, didn’t care about the why.
All she cared about was that her parents were there one moment, and then gone the next.
Duke Lex Luthor had been a strong ally to Krypton for decades, his duchy sat between Krypton and Kenton (which was ruled by Kara’s cousin King Kal), and he had been key to fighting off Daxam’s last invasion. Greed and ambition, however, was slowly rotting away the man’s honour in the background. Years of feeling like his contributions wasn’t garnering him enough rewards and respect when the King and Queen didn’t fulfill his endless requests for more land, created a deep-rooted and twisted sense of resentment.
The Duke’s desire shifted from wanting pieces of land to wanting all of it.
The attack came in winter, only a couple of months after Kara’s thirteenth birthday.
Her father had read her his usual bedtime story and kissed her forehead before disappearing to return to the council chambers. Much later her mother had come into check on her, as she was often to do, around midnight, innately knowing Kara was still awake and reading when she should have been asleep hours ago.
Her mother had given her a stern, yet loving glare, bid her a goodnight followed by a promise to see her in the morning. Kara remembered falling asleep, but it wasn’t long before she was being shaken awake by a frantic Alex who dragged her out of bed.
Kara remembered the sound of clanging metal, which she recognised to be swords clashing violently together, followed by yells, groans or screams. Bells were ringing somewhere distantly, chiming out a warning of pain and loss. At one point, she glanced through one of the windows of the corridors that Alex was dragging her through, giving her a passing glimpse of the other side of the castle, where the council chambers were situated, and saw a fiery blaze rising into the night sky.
Alex, brought them to the healer’s rooms where Eliza was hard at work, her arms bloody to her elbows, and barking orders to anyone on hand. The instant she saw her daughter and the princess she was grabbing them both roughly, and taking them into the back room, where she lifted some floorboards and ordered them both to crawl into the small space now unveiled.
Kara just remembered being tired and confused. She followed the order without argument because she couldn’t comprehend waking up to a world where blood marked the corridors of her home. She thought she was having a nightmare, and if she simply played along, she would wake up in her bed sooner than later.
Alex refused, declaring that she was going out to fight. Eliza’s expression darkened, but she didn’t yell as Kara expected her to do instead she stepped right into Alex’s space and whispered harshly into her ear. Kara never heard what she said, and she never asked, but whatever it was fundamentally changed Alex from that moment onwards. There was a glint in her eye, and hard set to her lips that was always present after that.
Kara and Alex both crawled into the tiny amount of space, it was barely the size of a standard coffin. Kara would always remember the fear intensifying and gnawing away at her with every floorboard Eliza slid back in place, sealing them away.
Hours passed in utter darkness. The only thing that helped Kara stay strong was Alex. Alex kept her close, there wasn’t enough room not to, their frightened tears falling on one another in complete silence.
Eventually, the floorboards were pulled back, Alex lurched forward immediately to act as shield between whoever was breaking into their sanctuary and Kara. Light poured in revealing a heavily fatigued Eliza and J’onn.
Relief only lasted a short while. Kara’s childhood innocence would always remain in that small hideaway, waiting for her parents to come save her.
She found out that Duke Luthor had pushed his way in to see the King and Queen who granted him an audience in the council chambers, unable to deny their old ally and who they thought was their friend. His attack came out of nowhere, Kara’s mother fell at the first blow whilst her father held strong but age was not on his side. Once the King and Queen were dead, Lex’s men commenced the fighting, trying to help the Duke get to the royal apartments and remove the final obstacle to him seizing the throne and crown for himself.
The knights and various soldiers, though, fought back valiantly under the leadership of J’onn who had ordered Alex to get the princess to Eliza. It was J’onn who met Lex in the final battle and killed the traitor just outside Kara’s room.
Kara remembered very little of the next couple of days. Her coronation was quickly organised at the behest of the council to ensure the security of Kara’s reign, whilst vengeful knights besieged the Luthor Castle where the Duke’s mother refused to surrender.
The crown was placed on her head the day after her parents’ funerals. All Kara could remember thinking was that she would have gladly given Duke Luthor the crown if it meant keeping her parents.
One of the many things Kara came to realise with each passing day in her cursed state, where she only had her thoughts and memories for company, was that there are some moments in your life that you will always be able to remember with perfect, crystal clear clarity.
Her twelfth birthday cake, decorated with miniature sugar versions of all her favourite flowers.
Falling out of the old oak tree in the courtyard, knocking herself out, and waking up to see Alex leaning over her with the most concerned expression Kara had ever seen on the young girl’s face. It was when she realised how much she truly meant to Alex.
Her coronation. The expectant eyes staring at her as the crown landed on her head, waiting for her to lead them and keep them all safe, would haunt Kara for as long as she lived.
Every second with the dark haired, green eyed Lady. Every passing interaction, every conversation, every shared glance, soft smile and light touch was burnt into Kara’s mind with more detail than that seen in the embroidered tapestry which hung behind her throne.
Kara would never forget meeting Lena that first time, even then when they were both still so young, Lena was already the equivalent of a calm and steady breath to Kara. A safe harbour within the utter chaos.
Lena, at only twelve years of age, had been dragged and thrown harshly at Kara’s feet by almost a battalion of Krypton’s army. What was obviously once a beautiful purple dress was muddied, and blood-stained, there was a particularly vibrant bruise starting to swell magnificently on her right cheek. Her eyes were downcast and her head hung low.
Kara had stood there indecisively for what felt like an eternity, wanting to reach down and offer comfort to the poor girl the same age or even younger than herself, but she was kept locked in place by the cruel glares and harsh frowns directed her way.
Kara, when she looked back at this memory (as she was often to do for all of those which involved Lena) hated herself for hesitating despite knowing how out of depth she had felt and was at the time. Kara, regardless of logic and reason, still felt shame for not instantly sinking down and gathering Lena up into a protective, all encompassing hug.
It was then that Ser J’onn appeared, pushing and shoving his way to the forefront through his armoured compatriots, completely unforgiving to anyone that got in his way. The master-at-arms bowed lowly to Kara, who was still shifting uneasily foot-to-foot overwhelmed by the action going on around her and unsure what was happening and why; severely lacking the confidence to use her authority to find out the answers. Ser J’onn asked permission to speak, which Kara duly granted, and then proceeded to explain with simmering disgust for the armed men behind him how they had grabbed the poor girl during the raid hoping the Queen would see fit to punish her unfairly for the crimes of her brother even though he had evidence which proved the youngest Luthor was profoundly against her brother’s actions.
Servants at Luthor castle, and citizens at the nearest town in the Luthor’s holdings, he revealed were willing to give testimony that Lena was so vehemently against the rebellion that her family had seen fit to lock her up in the tower to prevent her intervention. Ser J’onn then went onto explain how he had stumbled upon Lena during the fighting and freed her from captivity. Once she was released, rather than run and hide, Lena proceeded to help by showing him how to raise the portcullis, enabling Krypton’s soldiers to enter more easily. Ser J’onn was separated from Lena during the battle, and assumed she had been guided to safety by one of his fellow soldiers. Upon hearing that she was being dragged to see the Queen to be punished for crimes she had no part in, he had rushed here to intervene.
Whilst J’onn began to pass on his story, Kara finally found the strength to creep forward, gazing softly at the young girl. Kara requested in a quiet, meek voice (not yet suited to her royal power) for blankets, food and water to provide comfort to Lena. Kara personally tended to Lena, as compassion for Lena and fury about what had happened to her warred within for dominance.
The only thing that kept the Queen in control was bright, thankful green eyes filled with trust fixed upon her.
It was those eyes which imbued Kara with the courage she needed. It’s effect was immediately noticeable. The young Queen stood up straighter, her expression shifted from nervous to resilient and the light tremble to her hands vanished.
The orders came out loud and clear.
A room was to be prepared for Lady Lena, and her injuries were to be tended to.
The captain who had dragged the young girl before the Queen was to be knocked down a rank and given punishment duty.
Mercy was to be granted to any of Lex’s soldiers or servants who wished to surrender.
J’onn was to coordinate the aftermath of their victory, returning the soldiers back to their districts and ensuring everyone’s injuries were treated.
The council was to be roused to discuss what should come of Duke Lex’s duchy.
Kara remembered the awed silence that had followed her commands, there was a long pause as everyone stared up at their Queen in shock and admiration. A second passed, before her soldiers bowed and rushed to carry out her orders.
It was the first time Kara felt like a Queen. Felt that maybe… just maybe… she could do this.
And Lena had been the catalyst. Lena had been the inspiration she needed to step forward and earn the way Lena was looking at her... as if she was a hero.
Everyone decision and action after that first meeting was guided by the desire to be worthy of that instant trust Lena had given her.
Lena was the one that gave her the courage to be the Queen she was today.
Kara found herself going back to those early days more and more as her curse remained unbroken. She tried to remember if the butterflies in her stomach were there even then. Even when Lena was silent and hid herself away in the library or in the room set aside for her, striving not to get in anyone's way, still unsure if she was actually safe, let alone welcome. Kara presumed that the feelings for the girl were there, regardless of any rose coloured glasses that time and loneliness may have slipped into place.
Kara would seek out the guest in her castle at least twice a day. Which was twice more than she was expected to.
Lena was quiet, and spoke softly but she did talk when Kara had the time to coax a conversation out of her. She quickly found Lena to be far smarter than she let on, funny when she felt comfortable enough to try and unbelievably kind and considerate to everyone she met. She was also endlessly curious with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, but she didn’t act on it out of fear that it would be seen with malevolent intent to find weaknesses or escape.
The best part of Lena, however, was her childish glee over fairy tales, epic stories of heroes, and unstoppable romances. During the first few weeks in her new home, Lena suffered from terrible nightmares, this was discovered by Kara (also haunted by terrors that visited her in her dreams) who had taken to wandering the castle late at night. Kara heard the screams and rushed into Lena’s room without pause, experiencing that same burst of courage Lena seemed able to impart to her. She gently roused her and comforted her through the near-endless stream of tears. Kara didn’t know what to do to help, other than hug her and hold her close. Before she knew it however she was muttering ‘Once upon a time…’ and whispering to Lena a story filled with chivalrous knights and noble heroes. The tears stopped and Lena’s breathing evened out she concentrated on Kara’s words above everything else.
It became routine then that the two of them would seek each other out when the nightmares became too much. It was a routine Kara missed more than any others as their nightly visits reduced to almost nothing, the mutters of impropriety and responsibilities causing both girls to retreat from one another.
Kara wished more than anything, that she had ignored those societal expectations, she wanted infinitely more memories of Lena and this was one of the ways she had deprived herself of them.
Lena, having a stubborn streak almost on par with Alex, tried (in vain) to hide how much she loved the stories Kara told her. She always gave herself away, though, by trying too hard to sound nonchalant and disinterested when she asked if Kara had another story to tell. Kara was always tempted to say no, just to see the reaction she would get, but she didn’t have it in her to say ‘no’ to those bright, green eyes that had a pleading edge to them.
So… Kara always obliged, going so far as to put on all the voices and imitating the sound effects to the best of her ability as she shared all the bedtime stories her father had told her over the years.
Kara had wanted desperately in those early years for everyone else to see how incredible Lena was. Kara wanted to be able tell Lena that her fears of being disliked and seen as a secret traitor were completely unfounded. But Kara wasn’t naive enough (at least not anymore, not after she spent weeks watching the bruise on Lena’s face recede and disappear) to not see the dark glares and whispered conversations that were always directed Lena’s way.
The Luthor duchy had been handed over to a long-serving knight of the realm who had more than earned the title, land and retirement. Without a duchy Lena was technically a nobody, with no rank or importance, at least in the eyes of the court and the citizens.
Kara, however, called her Lady Lena at all times and insisted that the council and everyone under her command do the same.
Lady Lena deserved respect and Kara was going to make damn sure Lena got it.
It took months, but eventually Lena began to reach out to others. Alex being the first, who willingly took Lena under her wing in the same way she’d done with Kara all those years ago. Kara remembered numerous times, after being set free from the near constant council meetings, finding Alex giving Lena a much needed pep-talk or showing her various secrets around the castle.
After Alex came WInn, Lena and him bonded immediately once Lena started attending lessons alongside the other young people in the castle. The two of them made their own hideaway in the library which Alex had taken to referring to as their workshop, where they would work on various ideas and inventions together.
That was the other thing, Lena ran circles around all of her tutors; not even the current royal researcher, a wizened old man who had dedicated years to study, could keep up with her.
Lena was still shy and kept to herself, but she had settled into her life at the castle and found people she could depend on, which was all Kara had wanted when she had promised the young girl, on her first night in the castle, that she would always have a place here.
Things changed in Kara’s fourth year of ruling, she was sixteen now, settled into her role as Queen but still with much to learn.
She, and Alex (who used the information to relentlessly tease Kara), were excruciatingly aware of her feelings for Lena by this point, who had grown impressively into her title of ‘Lady Lena’, her grace and poise learnt under the strict instruction of the royal scribe Cat Grant was the envy of the entire kingdom. Lena was under the tutelage of the royal researcher and had made a name for herself for giving good advice on a range of topics; Alex, Kara and even J’onn and Eliza, had often sought her out for guidance on various subjects.
Kara, meanwhile, was still clumsy, liable to fall asleep in overly long meetings and spent a large portion of her time with Alex in the courtyard sparring. But she also set time aside everyday to hear the pleas and asks of her people, a new concept that she was committed to making tradition.
In other words, they were both still young and developing, but looking back Kara could see the long strides they had taken to becoming who they would one day be.
“Monster, your majesty!”
That was how it all really began.
A shepherd from the north of the kingdom, more dirty than clean after a week’s travel, his smell arriving at the throne room at least an hour before he did, had come in ranting and raving about a giant that had killed his flock and his neighbour’s family.
The soldiers attempted to throw the seemingly crazy man out, but Kara ordered that they let the man speak. The shepherd dropped to the floor and prostrated himself in deep gratitude, which would have been a sweet gesture had it not wafted his hefty odour at the Queen.
Granted the power to speak and share his woes, the shepherd went into great detail about what had occurred and everything he remembered of the monster. The council dismissed his claims as nothing more than the hallucinations of a drunkard or crazy person. Kara, however, was tempted to believe his story due to the spark of genuine fear in his eye. Either way, Kara didn’t want to upset the man, who had just lost his best friend and livelihood, and as such she promised to investigate what had happened herself.
The council disagreed strongly with her decision, but Kara had made a commitment and she would see it through. Alex, Lena and surprisingly Winn offered to accompany her on her quest, J’onn also tagged along, with a small retinue of soldiers, promising to keep their young Queen out of trouble as much as possible.
They arrived in the village and found numerous other citizens willing to back-up the shepherd's story. Lena went straight to researching what the monster could possibly be, having never once questioned Kara’s intention to investigate the outlandish story.
It wasn’t until the second night that Kara and Alex stumbled upon the monster.
And stumbled is the exact right word to use. Kara and Alex had snuck out to hunt around the fields where the monster had been seen by the shepherd and Kara, due to the total darkness of the night, had tripped over a rocky outcrop and rolled down a hill right into the monster’s leg.
(Kara was always thankful that Lena would miss out that part of the story whenever she retold it to the children visiting the Queen in her cursed slumber later on).
Kara and Alex barely escaped with their lives and Kara didn’t think it could get any worse than that until she was faced with the full fury of one Lady Lena, who it turned out had an absolutely terrifying side she had been hiding all these years but was now unleashing on Kara without hesitation. J’onn, who had been on the verge of telling them off, decided to step back realising that Lena was far more effective at scaring Kara and putting her in her place than he ever would be.
Once she felt Kara had been suitably admonished Lena returned to work with renewed vigour.
It was Lena that figured out that the monster they were facing was a troll. And it was her knowledge and support that led them to work out where the troll had set up its hideout and how to fight it. With Winn’s support, she crafted Kara, Alex and the soldiers an oil to coat their blades and arrow tips in that would prove effective in piercing the troll’s thick hide.
The fight with the troll took place in a narrow mountain pass they lured the monster into. It was a hard fought battle and victory was only possible with the advantages that Lena had given them. Kara was the one to give the final blow in the end; ducking under a vicious swing from the troll and rolling forward to swing her sword upwards in a vicious uppercut.
Kara returned to the village and her castle victorious and with a new insatiable desire for adventure and to personally help her people.
From then on, Kara accepted quest after quest, always accompanied by Alex who eventually achieved her dream of becoming a Knight of the Realm by the time she turned twenty-one, the youngest person ever to do so let alone woman. Lena and Winn were Kara’s main support and provided her and Alex with crucial information to survive and achieve victory.
And many more.
Kara and Alex faced numerous fantastical creatures over the years, some proving far more difficult than others.
But by far the worst was Sam’s cursed dragon form, it was the closest Kara had ever come to dying and she knew it had to have been really touch and go because Lena didn’t reprimand her like she normally did when she got injured. She just cried. Even Alex, the strongest person Kara knew, broke down when she thought Kara wasn’t going to make it.
“You’re an idiot.”
Looking back on this event, Kara would always think that that insult was an understatement.
She had done something unbelievably cruel and didn’t realise what it was until Alex explained it to her. Which was the worst part. Kara hurt Lena and didn’t even realise she was doing so.
Someone else had to tell her.
Someone else had to open her eyes to the pain she had caused Lena.
“But… But I thought… I thought it would make her happy.”
Such an idiot , Kara would tsk whenever her mind went back which it was often to do because she was a glutton for punishment, especially when it came to Lena.
“Kara.” Alex sighed despondently.
“I don’t understand.” Kara whined, pouting heavily as she paced up and down the length of the council chamber.
“Think about it.” Alex ordered quiet yet stern, imitating her mentor without realising.
“I have been thinking about it! It’s all I’ve been thinking about!” Kara exclaimed indignantly, her mind whirring loudly as it cast itself back to a couple of hours earlier. “I thought she would be excited. She’ll get a title, her own duchy, she’ll finally get the respect of the court that she deserves. I genuinely don’t understand why she would be upset.” Kara fell into the seat next to Alex at the round table with a heavy, ungraceful, thud.
Kara had thought it would be the perfect gift for Lena’s eighteenth birthday.
The Duke of Delmond had passed away without an heir and signed the duchy over to the Queen in his will. Kara had surprised Lena earlier by offering her the duchy, gifting her back her birthright and well-deserved title. Kara had expected one of Lena’s rare beaming smiles and a sharp intake of breath in delight, like the one Kara had managed to produce when she had bought the other woman a new telescope to see the stars for her last birthday.
Instead all Kara got was cold green eyes, a tense, rigid posture and a harsh nod accompanied by ‘if that is what you wish, your majesty’, in an unemotional tone. It was the same way Lena looked and acted when someone muttered traitor under their breath at her.
All the air was knocked out of Kara’s lungs in one fell swoop.
To this day, Kara still couldn’t remember any other time she had been so viciously winded and heartbroken.
“Alex, please… Tell me what I did wrong…”, Kara begged, her eyes welling with tears unable to bear remembering how devastated Lena must have been if she was trying that hard to control her outward expression.
Alex looked at her with sympathy and shook her head sadly, “Kara… you kicked her out of her home.”
“No… I… but she… she knows she’ll always have a place here!” Kara argued, but the realisation of how unknowingly cruel she had been was seeping in.
“That’s not how she would see it.” Alex said plainly.
“If she didn’t want to go, she could have just said no.” Kara reasoned, waving her hand dismissively.
Alex’s eyes flashed and her mouth twisted into a harsh frown.
Kara knew that look.
She had seen it multiple times, it came out with Alex’s protective side, and was usually directed at anyone who threatened or insulted either Kara or Lena. This, though, was the first time ever that it had been directed at Kara.
“You’re her Queen, Kara. I know you forget that sometimes but it’s the truth. She can’t say no to you. She especially can’t say no to you when you give her the responsibility of running a duchy. It would look cowardly, possibly even traitorous . She can’t say no, not matter how much she might want to.” Alex explained harshly, and Kara felt like she had been slapped in the face.
“I… I… I…”, Kara stammered, her throat closing up in horror at the mess she had made.
“And you can’t take it back. It would look awful for Lena.” Alex said, her voice softer now as she saw the distress overwhelming the young woman.
“I don’t want her to go… I just…”, Kara cried, her hands coming up to cover her face and hide the tears.
“I know. You were trying to do something kind and Lena knows that.” Alex soothed, pulling Kara into a hug.
“How do I fix this?” Kara asked, on the verge of begging for a solution.
Alex exhaled deeply, stroking Kara’s back gently in a comforting rhythm, as she whispered into her hair, “I don’t know.”
Kara though knew what Alex was really saying, this was a problem they normally went to Lena to solve.
Such an idiot , Kara would always think years later, hindsight allowing her to realise that the pain of that twenty four period where she thought she had lost Lena because of her own failure to think things through was far worse than all of the physical injuries she’d received over the years.
The solution to Kara’s unenviable problem was provided to her by the elderly Royal Researcher offering to retire.
Within seconds of accepting his offer, Kara gathered the council together fully prepared to threaten, cajole and if necessary beat the hell out of anyone who voted against her proposal to offer Lena the role. The result was unanimous, none of the council were keen to lose Lena’s wealth of knowledge nor handle Kara’s probably endless moping if Lena was to leave.
Kara ran through the castle as soon as she had approval to move forward, and found Lena tucked away in her room, curled up and crying quietly into her pillow. Kara didn’t hesitate to leap forward and scoop Lena up in her arms in a tight embrace. Lena stiffened for a moment, and Kara experienced a dread like no other that Lena would pull away, that she had damaged their relationship so much Lena would flinch away from her. But after taking a stuttering breath, Lena relaxed into her embrace, burying her tear-stained face into the crook of Kara’s neck.
“I’ll never send you away, I promise.” Kara whispered to her, as she rocked their wrapped together forms back and forth. “You’ll always have a home here. And… and I don’t want you to go anywhere either…”, Kara confessed.
“You don’t?” Lena inquired, and Kara would always hate the fact that Lena had had to ask. That Kara had ever made her doubt it enough that she had to ask.
“I don’t.” Kara assured, her voice firm, “Please, stay.”
“But-”, Lena began tentatively.
“The council have approved my decision to make you the new Royal Researcher.” Kara announced, garnering the sharp, hopeful intake of breath Kara had originally been seeking. “The kingdom needs your knowledge, Lena. And I… I need you.” Kara’s voice cracked over those last three words. It was the closest she’d ever come to telling Lena how much she really meant to her.
Lena unburied her face from Kara’s neck, her eyes shining and a tremulous smile on her face.
God, Kara would give anything to see that smile on Lena’s face just one more time.
Well… at least I have the memories...
Chapter 3: My Lady
“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.”
“Their footwork is shoddy, some of them don’t know the right end of a sword, they couldn’t hit the side of a barn with an arrow if their lives depended on it and I don’t think they will ever learn the difference between a catapult and a trebuchet.” Alex ranted, counting off each failure on her right hand and holding it up as if that served as visual proof of her critique of the newest recruits currently undergoing Alex’s rigorous training schedule.
Sam, who was sat next to her wife, reached out to squeeze Alex’s forearm to soothe her. Immediately, the Knight-Commander took a deep breath and settled her hands back onto the round table that the council were seated at.
“So overall…” Alex ground her teeth together as she murmured as neutrally as she could (which wasn’t very), “training is going well.”
“Huh?” Winn muttered utterly perplexed, his brow furrowing.
“Excuse me?” James, the Head Steward, far more eloquently inquired, pursing his lips in confusion.
“The Knight-Commander is trying to have a more positive outlook on life…” Sam explained carefully; admitting with a minor wince, “It's a work in progress… But we are all very proud of the effort she is making to rein in her temper, right?” The coinmaster, with the ability to turn into an extremely powerful dragon, coolly glared at everyone, wordlessly conveying the ‘I will destroy you if you do anything to upset my wife’.
Unsurprisingly, the council were quick to voice their agreement and support.
“Uh huh, definitely.”
J’onn cleared his throat as the compliments staggered away into silence, “Yes, well… moving on…”
Lena had always enjoyed the council meetings, they had become one of the highlights of her day, especially now without Kara around to stop by her study and keep her company for hours on end.
When Lena had first started attending the meetings, it had been a great source of pride (still was) to her. It was the ultimate sign that the sister of a traitor had proven herself loyal and useful enough to be granted a seat at the highest advisory level.
At the time of her appointment, Lena wasn’t even the Royal Researcher. Her position had been granted to her due to the critical support she had provided the Queen and her soldiers when they battled the troll all those years ago. Despite already being well-respected by the rest of the council and key members of court it did little to stop the comments and whispers.
When Kara announced her appointment, Lena heard the scoffs, the insinuations and the crude comments muttered under the other lords and ladies breaths. Alex, who had been stood by Lena’s side at the time made to retaliate on Lena’s behalf but Lena had stayed her hand and forced her to stay quiet. Alex’s intervention wouldn’t stop them, it would merely make them more subtle in their cruelty. At least this way Lena was aware of who her enemies were.
Kara, unsurprisingly, hadn’t seen or heard them. This wasn’t because Kara was blind to it or wilfully ignorant or insensitive to the troubles Lena was faced with. Instead it was because the lords and ladies had learnt rather quickly not to disparage Lady Luthor within sight or hearing of the Queen if they wished to avoid losing support, power and position swiftly and harshly by order of their monarch.
Rather than help, though, Kara’s protectiveness only inflamed the whispers that spread around court in the wake of the rumours years ago that the Queen was too close to the young Luthor. Whispers of bewitchment, poison or hypnosis, still flared up even years later despite Kara backing away from Lena upon discovering the damage their close relationship was having on Lena’s reputation and status.
Lena knew the exact moment Kara had heard the rumours.
It was the night Kara stopped coming to her room in the middle of the night.
Admittedly, the nightmares which were responsible for Kara’s initial presence had withered away to mere monthly recurrences meaning Lena no longer needed Kara there to shield her from the monsters her mind conjured.
Instead, Lena had just wanted her there. Wanted to listen to Kara’s fairytales. Wanted to fall asleep to the sounds of Kara’s light snores. Wanted to wake up feeling warm and secure in Kara’s arms.
Lena had cried herself to sleep that night.
By the morning, however, she was grateful.
She knew from that moment where she stood with regards to Kara. She was to be the Queen’s supporter, friend and confidant. And she finally understood that she would never get to curl up in bed with her again. That honour would be saved for whoever Kara eventually decided to share her crown with.
Whichever prince or hero won Kara’s golden heart.
So… Lena learnt her place and settled into her role. And from that moment on, she worked to be the best at the position she had been given.
Her first council meeting had been a nerve-wracking yet exhilarating experience.
She barely spoke for the first few meetings, only choosing to speak when she had something of value to add. Gradually, her confidence increased over the months as other council members, not just Kara, J’onn or Eliza, asked for her opinion. By the time she was the Royal Researcher and had fully cemented herself a permanent, indisputable position on the council, Lena was no longer afraid of voicing her ideas on a wide range of topics, even those that weren’t overtly related to her role. Lena came to view her role as a supporter not just to the Queen but to everyone on the council, therefore she ensured her research covered a wide breadth of knowledge so she might provide aid and advice to everyone.
The meetings slowly became a gathering of not just people she respected and admired, but a gathering of her closest friends. When Kara fell into her cursed slumber the meetings became a crucial source of support to Lena during her grief and turmoil. She would forever be grateful for Alex dragging her out of her study to attend those meetings in the early days of the curse (a habit the Knight-Commander couldn’t seem to shake even two years later, still coming to retrieve Lena just beforehand).
“Any whispers or rumours running around the kingdom the council should be aware of?” J’onn asked to the members of the council in general, clearing the fog of the past from Lena’s mind and bringing her back to the discussion at hand.
Alex attuned to Lena, thanks to their years working closely together, had immediately noticed Lena’s wistful expression and raised an eyebrow in gentle concern. Lena gave her a small, yet genuine, smile to reassure the Knight-Commander who nodded in understanding before clearing her throat and turning to answer J’onn’s question.
“An old woman was accused of being a witch in Grantham village.” Alex announced with her usual brisk, gruff tone that was an obvious attempt at imitating her mentor the Master-at-Arms. “Supposedly she cursed her neighbour a couple of months ago and in that time his land has grown nothing for the harvest.”
“Any substance to this?” Winn inquired, his quill, that had been frantically moving back and forth to take meticulous notes of their meeting, pausing as he looked up with a curious quirk to his mouth.
“No. None.” Alex replied shaking her head dismissively, rolling her eyes as she explained, “A couple of my knights investigated. The neighbour lives in a bog, nothing remotely of any value has ever grown there. He’s just blustering because the old woman rightfully called him ugly. The Knights are spreading the real story and they put the man in the sheriff’s cell for a couple of days so he could think over the consequences of telling lies.”
“Well handled.” Lena complimented.
“Thank you.” Alex smirked proudly in return.
J’onn glanced around, checking that no one else had anything further to add before studying the agenda written out in front of him.
There was a long pause indicating exactly which point of discussion was next.
If there was any part of the council meetings that Lena hated… it would be this part. The part where J’onn asked about any progress regarding finding a cure for the Queen’s curse. The part where Lena had to state that she had yet again failed.
Today, however, was so much worse.
Normally, Lena would rush over her failure and quickly move onto her unending list of other possible cures. Today, however, that list had seemed filled with ideas was finally empty.
Every idea crossed though.
Every hope dashed.
Lena would be forced to state her failure and be unable to offer any hope in return.
“Hmmm… any…” J’onn coughed uncomfortably, knowing how much this part hurt Lena but also knowing that this update was crucial in ensuring the council was fully informed, “Uh… further developments with regards to the Queen’s condition?”
Lena straightened up in her chair, folding her hands delicately on the table in front of her and keeping her gaze downcast as she answered. “No. None. I…”, The words caught in her throat and she had to force out the confession of her failure. “I fear that I am running out of straws to clutch…”
Lena lifted her head to see the melancholy expressions of her close friends, eventually her gaze settled on J’onn who had sympathy in his gaze and encouraging words to share, “My Lady, the light always appears when the night is at its darkest.”
“I know.” Lena mumbled in agreement, remembering the last time he had shared that sentiment with her when Lena had feared Kara wouldn’t survive the night following her first battle with Reign.
Lena shook her head banishing the darkness creeping up on her, forcing a weak smile and an overly light-hearted tone to reassure the gloomy expressions facing towards her.
“I'm just…” Lena chuckled to herself as she waved her hand to dismiss the heavy atmosphere. “I'm getting so desperate I might even try to kiss her myself by this point.”
Lena had expected a wave of tittering laughter, eye-rolls, a few teasing mumbles and then a shift back to business allowing Lena to return to desperately trying to come up with a new idea undisturbed.
None of that happened.
The heavy atmosphere turned to dead air.
The sympathetic expressions shifted to either confused or totally taken aback.
Instead of joking comments there was total silence that was finally broken by Alex who lifted up both hands, as if throwing them up in defeat, and simply asked with a sinister undertone, “What?”
Lena’s eyes went wide with horror as she realised how inappropriate what she presumed to be a harmless joke really was. She rushed to correct her mistake, her hand going to her chest and resting over her heart to emphasise her sincerity. “Oh, I’m sorry, I was joking, don't worry-”
“Oh, thank God.” Alex breathed, flopping back into her chair.
“Phew.” Winn sighed wiping his brow.
James let out a deep laugh and wagged his finger in Lena’s direction, “Really had us going there for a-”
“-I would never presume to do such a thing as kiss the Queen.” Lena quickly finished, relieved that the council seemed ready to forgive her misstep.
Yet again, however, the laughter trailed off and everyone returned to their blank, horrified stares.
“I'm sorry…” Alex began, tilting her head slowly to the side and leaning forward to scrutinise Lena closely, “Um… can you repeat that?”
Lena swallowed thickly, as she tentatively replied with what she hoped was the correct answer, “I would never dishonour or betray the Queen’s trust by kissing her.”
The entire council were no longer watching Lena, now there entire focus had shifted to Alex who seemed absolutely frozen.
Not a single muscle moved.
Her expression was totally blank.
A minute passed.
“I don't…” Alex slowly rubbed her temple with a hand and closed her eyes as she whispered, “I don't understand…” Alex exhaled deeply and pointed at Lena, still not looking at her. “You… are you telling me that you…” Alex emphasised her words by jabbing her finger aggressively in Lena’s direction, “have not kissed the Queen?”
“Um… yes…”, Lena coughed out, still utterly confused.
“I… I… I…”, Alex repeated unable to form any sort of coherent sentence as she shook her head from side to side in disbelief.
Sam reached out and placed a gentle hand on the Knight-Commander’s back and whispered soothingly, “Alex, deep breaths.”
Alex swallowed heavily before doing as her wife ordered and returning to a more regular breathing pattern. Slowly, Alex rose to her feet, pushing herself up with her hands against the table, mumbling brokenly, “I just… one minute please…”
With that the Knight Commander quickly about-turned on her heel and marched out of the room, closing the heavy wooden door behind herself.
Lena watched her close friend up and leave, her throat feeling tight and her nerves on edge. There was a pause as the door clicked softly closed and Lena glanced around at her fellow council members as she started to ask weakly, “Is she-”
“HOW CAN SOMEONE SO SMART BE SO STUPID ?!” Alex roared, her voice not even remotely muffled by the thick walls of the corridor. “TWO YEARS?!” The Knight-Commander screamed in utter frustration causing the entire council to wince in synchronisation. “TWO GODDAMN YEARS?! KARA, YOU COMPLETE AND UTTER COWARD!” Alex berated, and Lena felt herself shrinking in her chair, unable to pull her gaze away from the door that seemed to shake with the ferocity of Alex’s every word. “WHY DO THEY BOTH HAVE TO BE SO STUPID ?! I DON’T UNDERSTAND! I AM SURROUNDED BY IDIOTS AND COWARDS!!!”
The door rattled dramatically as something hard collided it with an almighty amount of force.
Lena was unsure if Alex was banging a fist or her head against the door.
Finally, the door swept upon and in stormed the Knight-Commander, her hands balled up into tight fists by her sides and her furious glare fixed solely on Lena who’s eyes went wide as she gulped dramatically.
“Uhh…”, Lena croaked as Alex approached and gripped her shoulder tightly.
“Get up, now!” Alex barked.
“Alex.” Sam reprimanded harshly, obviously unimpressed by her wife’s tone and attitude towards their friend.
“Get up now, My Lady!” Alex corrected, her tone not changing even slightly.
Sam let out a sigh and deflated in her seat, rolling her eyes in exasperation, “Not quite what I meant but I'll take it as a victory…”
“Where are we going?” Lena demanded to know as Alex practically dragged her from her seat and out of the council chambers, no one else daring to step in and interfere.
“Throne room.” Alex curtly explained, “You're going to kiss Kara, she’s going to wake up and then…” The Knight-Commander came to an abrupt stop and stared Lena dead in the eye as she whispered coldly, “I'm going to kill you both… slowly and painfully…” Lena’s face drained of colour, though she wasn’t sure whether that was due to the realisation she was about to kiss Kara or that she had received the most serious threat to her life in years. “Do you know what these last two years have done to me?” Alex inquired quietly. “Grey hair, My Lady. GREY HAIR!”
The throne was always eerily quiet at this particular time of day.
Kara knew it was because her friends were all attending the daily council meeting and the children were in classes, but those rationalisations never helped when she was feeling particularly melancholy like today.
Normally, in this time, Kara would think back over everything that she had heard during the day and work out a timeline of the day’s events based on whispered conversations that had been held in her vicinity. She learnt rather quickly during her cursed slumber to reconcile all of the gossip she’d heard to create her very own dramatic novel in her mind which had daily updates. It turns out life at the Castle was incredibly entertaining and dramatic.
Though, Kara was afraid of the ramifications of having developed a gossip addiction when she finally woke up.
It would probably be unbecoming for the Queen to be seen eavesdropping on the guards and castle workers in hopes of finding out if Cerys the maid ever did find the courage to reveal that her marriage was a sham and got to reunite with her actual true love Jacob, the castle cook.
Kara’s saddened state, which resulted in her skipping today’s ‘Castle Tales’ as she called it, was due to the reflective mood she’d slipped into following Lady Lena’s confession that her love for Kara was the reason she was missing out on taking Lucas in.
Lena and Lucas’ visit had, at first, brought a pleasant disruption to Kara’s usual day but their departure left her feeling even hollower than she had been before. She’d been desperate to greet the small boy and learn everything there was to know about him solely because of Lena’s tone of voice when she spoke about him, and to him. It was abundantly clear how much Lena cared for the child and it broke Kara’s heart that she hadn’t been there at the inception of their relationship.
She wanted to be there from the very start, growing to care for Lucas at the same time as Lena.
Getting to watch Lena blossom into a parental figure with Kara their by her side every step of the way.
The two of them building a close relationship with him.
A familial bond like she always secretly dreamed for herself and Lena.
But Kara had been deprived of that. Kara would actually say she deprived herself of that dream. She pushed Lena away to protect her and from the sounds of things only managed to hurt them both in doing so.
And here she was… still hurting Lena. Pushing her away from someone else who could bring her happiness.
Kara knew if she could move, react, or even slightly express herself she would be sobbing at the endless heartbreak both of them were suffering from.
“This won’t work.”
Lena’s sharp dismissal cut through Kara’s sullen thoughts sharper than any sword.
Kara was suddenly aware of the two sets of footsteps that had come to an abrupt stop at the entrance to the throne room. Kara strained to hear the conversation worried from Lena’s cool tone that she was in danger, her fears however were put to rest when she heard Alex reply curtly.
“Yes, it will.”
“You don’t even believe in true love’s kiss.” Lena huffed back, those few words grinding the whole world to a halt for Kara.
Oh my god! It’s happening! It’s happening! Stay calm! Kara ordered herself, her stasis cells readying themselves to attention as pure, potent hope flooded through her.
Alex remained silent for a long few moments and Kara imagined her to have her assessing gaze on as she carefully selected what she would say next and how she would say it. It was a habit of Alex’s whenever faced with what she deemed to be a defining moment.
Come on Alex! It’s up to you! Please don’t let me down!
“That’s only because I didn’t think it had worked for you.” Alex whispered so softly and so sincerely, Kara could hear the heavy exhale of shock from Lena that she would have emulated if she could. “If any two people could prove true love’s kiss is real… it would be you two.” Alex confessed.
Kara’s heart swelled at the revelation because even if the kiss didn’t work, even if Lena had never seen how much Kara loved her during their time together.
And Kara knew, without a shadow of a doubt that Alex would do everything in her power to convince Lena of the truth.
The single greatest regret of Kara’s life would now be rectified.
Someone knew how truly and deeply she loved Lena and she trusted that person to tell Lena everything she had been too afraid to do..
“When…” Alex’s voice cracked and she coughed in a failed bid to regain something resembling her normal brusque tone. “When I found Kara in your arms that night the curse came into effect…”
Kara fought back against the flashback to that night with everything she had. The sleep claiming her as she was so, so close to telling Lena the truth about her feelings. Lena’s tears falling on her as the Lady cradled her unresponsive body. Screaming inside her now eternal prison, fighting bitterly to regain control of her immobile body so that she could offer comfort to Lena.
“I thought… you said you ‘did everything you could’.” Alex explained slowly, and the sharp inhale from Lena revealed that she now comprehended where the misunderstanding had come from. “I thought you’d tried. That Kara had told you how she felt that night like she promised me she would.”
Kara wanted to wince at her own personal failure and the simmering fury obvious under Alex’s tone.
“I told her if she truly believed in true love’s kiss that…” Alex sighed, and there was a short sound of shuffling feet as the Knight-Commander presumably stepped closer to Lena to offer support and emphasise her next statement. “It had to be you. No one else. I didn’t think it had worked so… I never brought it up. I didn’t want to hurt you by reminding you of it not working.” Kara heard a creak and a rustle of clothing as Alex straightened up to her full height like she was often to do when making a declaration. “I didn’t believe because if didn’t work for you two… it won’t work for anyone.”
“I don’t… You’re wr...” Lena croaked, “Kara doesn’t… she’s far too…” Lena’s voice was shaky and Kara imagined her entire body trembling with disbelief at the information she’d just been given.
Kara knew Lena wouldn’t believe immediately.
There wasn’t proof.
There wasn’t physical evidence.
But if… just if… Lena kissed her and every fairytale her father told her before bed was true… Kara would spend every day of her life gathering meticulous evidence to convince her.
“Kara loves you. She has loved you since the day you met.” Alex bluntly stated, and though Kara knew she should simply be grateful that Lena finally knew, that it had finally been spoken out loud to her, Kara couldn’t help but wish she’d been the one to tell her.
She, at least, would have done it far more romantically...
“Why didn’t she-” Lena began to ask.
“Tell you?” Alex finished, her exasperation obvious by the rhythmic tapping of her foot. “For all the exact same reasons you didn’t tell her.”
Lena didn’t respond immediately and Kara began to fear Lena had stealthily escaped the throne room intent on never returning.
“Alex…” Lena whispered brokenly revealing that a silent conversation had taken place between the researcher and the Knight-Commander.
Kara’s heart cracked at the obvious pain in Lena’s single word.
Kara wanted to see Lena’s expression, her eyes always gave a hint of what was going on below the surface and without them it was like trying to translate a language she’d never heard before.
“Yes?” Alex prompted gently.
“What if it doesn’t work now?”
“Then we move onto attempt 326.” Alex announced. “It doesn’t change anything. Kara’s love for you won’t diminish if this doesn’t work, I promise.”
It was in that moment Kara was reminded of every reason she loved and admired Alex. Alex was reliable and matter of fact. A stable support in every situation. She didn’t beat around the bush when it came to the people she loved and she never abandoned them in their time of need. She would always be there for Kara and Lena. A steady sword and shield to protect them, a helping hand when they stumbled and a shoulder to cry on when it was all too much.
“Alright…” Lena affirmed, a strength and courage that was uniquely Lena audible in that singular declaration.
That’s when Kara heard the sound of measured, controlled footsteps coming towards her.
Kara’s heart leapt into her throat as she counted down the seconds until Lena would be at her side.
A soft, comforting hand wrapped around her own.
The effect of Lena’s touch was as instantaneous as always. It felt like her body was humming with unreleased energy, her lungs were burning with the desire to quicken the inhale and exhale of air and her skin bristled with static electricity.
“Please come back to me, Kara.” Lena whispered close to Kara’s ear and Kara felt a shiver descend from her head to her toes hidden below the surface.
Lena’s breath was warm on Kara’s face as she positioned herself so she was hovering just above Kara’s lips.
Please Lena. Have faith in the intangible.
I love you.
I always have and I always will.
Kara had seen spells, curses and dark magic numerous times in her adventures and quests. She would always associate those acts of ancient power used for malevolent purposes with a chill running sinisterly down her spine, a nervous tremble taking control of her limbs and the faint taste of blood in her mouth.
Whereas, Lena kissing her was simply magical.
The real sort of magic.
The kind of magic we promise to children in stories.
The kind of magic that made the world brighter, more fantastical and wondrous.
Life thundered back into Kara the second Lena’s soft lips brushed against her own, and swept through every cell shocking them out of stasis one by one.
Lena captured Kara’s lips and brought every fairytale Kara believed in to life..
Kara finally… finally… was able to react. To move. To do everything she always wanted to in that moment.
Without hesitation, her movements still slightly stiff and unsteady as she sluggishly remembered how to coordinate herself, Kara was able to smile into the soft kiss.
Lena feeling the movement jolted slightly and made to pull away but Kara had waited years for this.
Not just two years of slumber.
Years of knowing Lena. Years of loving Lena. Years of restraining and holding back from being with the woman she loved.
Kara’s hand instinctively lifted up to curl around Lena’s jaw, keeping her close at the same time as she slowly sat up desperately chasing after Lena’s lips.
Lena gasped in amazement allowing Kara to deepen the kiss and wrap her other arm around Lena’s waist pressing her against Kara’s chest, intent on never letting her go ever again.
It was the drops of moisture that Kara felt drip past her cheek which prompted her to pull away, fearful that she had pushed Lena too much, too quickly.
The tremulous smile and the bright shining green eyes were the perfect first sight to see after two years of darkness.
Kara beamed in response to the awed expression on the Lady’s face, fully aware that after everything there was a good chance she might smile for the rest of her life, especially if she got to kiss Lena as much as she wanted to from now on.
“Took you long enough.” Kara teased, her blue eyes twinkling with delight.
“Kara?” Lena murmured still in disbelief, her hands lifting up to carefully cradle Kara’s face, her thumbs shakily tracing the broad grin she’d been deprived of for too long.
“Mmhmm…”, Kara hummed proudly, turning her head from left to right to place a reverent kiss on either of Lena’s palms.
“SO STUPID!” Alex shouted from the other end of the throne room.
Kara laughed heartily in response, glancing over to her best friend and hero who was slumped against a wall banging her head against the stone in frustration. “Love you too, Alex!” Kara called out gleefully, before switching her attention back to green eyes and the softest lips in the world.
“You love me?” Lena asked tentatively, “Truly love me?”
Kara quirked her head to the side and hugged Lena closer to herself.
“Yes.” Kara said simply. “I love you. I’ve loved you for years now and I’m sorry.” Kara tipped her head forward and buried her face in Lena’s neck, breathing her in deeply as she whispered, “I’m sorry I didn’t say it before. I should have told you that very first night you fell asleep in my arms all those years ago.”
Lena’s breath caught in her throat at that and her fingers threaded themselves through Kara’s hair, keeping the Queen pressed against her.
“I should have told you every day.” Kara breathed.
“I should have too…”, Lena murmured in reply, and Kara placed a grateful kiss over her pulse point causing Lena to sink further into their shared embrace. “What happens now?” Lena inquired, the uncertainty for their future obvious in the way her fingers flexed their grip on Kara’s hair as if she was afraid Kara would slip away from her any second now.
Kara knew that fear was partially her fault.
Every time they had gotten close, reached a point where their relationship was on the brink of something… more … something real . Kara had pulled away. Put distance between them.
She stopped their nighttime meetups.
She stopped reaching for Lena’s hand in public.
She nearly sent Lena away.
Kara gradually leaned back, her entire body tense and rigid with the need to put those fears to rest anyway she could, allowing Lena’s green eyes to stare anxiously into Kara’s sincere blue ones.
Kara took a deep breath and said seriously, “Next? Next comes the happy ever after. And my happy ever after includes you.” Kara drifted forward until her lips were brushing against Lena’s before she whispered honestly. “My happy ever after is you. ”
Would people be interested in an epilogue focusing on Lucas being taken in by Kara and Lena? Let me know. :) x