Ok, for those of you who do not know the backstory, let me quickly some important parts: A country called Grado unexpectedly attacked a country called Renais. The king of Renais was killed, and Princess Eirika barely escaped with her life thanks to the noble efforts of her knight Seth who was badly wounded by an enemy named Valter during the escape. War quickly began.
After some time of traveling and battles, Eirika had been showing Seth extra attention due to his wound that seemed never to fully heal. He, ever the dutiful, loyal knight, suggested that she show him less attention, as the princess should not show one knight more attention than other knight. However, he reconsidered his words and told her that he felt more for her than just what a knight should feel for his princess, and she expressed similar feelings.
Now, the basic synopsis of this FF is this: Sometime during the war, Seth was in a battle in the mountains, and he was bested by a Grado soldier who threw him off the cliff. Everyone assumed he was dead.
Two years have passed, the war is over, and for his own reasons, he hasn't told anyone he's alive.
Then he finds out Eirika, who is now the queen of Renais, is engaged to be married.
This work is inspired by the beautiful fan-art of Tsuuko, who's picture shall appear in this FF.
I hope you enjoy it!
Seth pounded again, and again, and again at the red hot, bent horseshoe, forcing it to yield to his wishes. The loud clang, clang, clang of the metal against metal resounded from the smithy out into the street. For the past year these monotonous actions had relaxed him, kept him sane, kept him from yielding to the selfish longings that pained his heart daily.
It wasn’t clean work, being a blacksmith. Soot coated his simple peasant clothing and sweat dripped down his back. It also wasn’t glorious work, certainly not compared to what he did two years ago, silver knight to Ei- to the Queen, Seth silently corrected himself for the thousandth time, pounding the horseshoe a little harder, one last time before plunging it into water, sending steam rising into the air.
Trying and failing to turn his thoughts to other things, Seth sighed dejectedly as he removed the horseshoe. However, a ringing bell caught his attention, and he paused in his work to hear the town crier’s announcement.
“Hear ye! Hear ye!” The hubbub on the street gradually died down as the city’s residents also stopped what they were doing. “Queen Eirika, in her supreme benevolence, wishes to announce to the citizens of Renais that she is now engaged and will be married a month from now on the…” The rest of the announcement seemed to fade away as Seth’s eyes widened, his heart stopped, he forgot how to breathe. He clutched the hammer in his callused, shaking hand, his knuckles turning white as he gripped it.
Eirika. Engaged. Engaged to be married. To another man. The strength left his body, and Seth’s knees hit the ground, the hammer falling from his grip. He felt as if his heart was slowly being crushed in his chest. He couldn’t breathe; he gasped for air, trying to fill his lungs, trying to calm his heart, his mind. He had known this was going to happen. It was only a matter of time. Of course she was going to get married. Married for political reasons or… married for love. Seth clutched his chest, his body numb, his mind racing, his heart burning.
“Seth? Seth, meh lad. What’s the matter with ye?” Gavin, the kind man that had apprenticed Seth a year ago, touched his shoulder.
“I…” Seth couldn’t make his tongue work, and he was at a loss for words anyway. What was he to say? With great effort, he forced his mouth to form words. “I’m… not… feeling well, Gavin.”
“Well come on, let’s sit ye down.” Gavin helped Seth to the workbench. Seth put his hands on his knees, his eyes staring sightlessly in front of him. “What’s the matter with ye?” Gavin repeated.
“Gavin. I’m very sorry, but I need to go. I can’t… I can’t…”
“It’s fine, it’s fine, lad. In the year I’ve known ye, you’ve been the best apprentice a blacksmith could wish for. Ye just need a break. Ye’re worn out, is all. Do ye need help home?”
He thought he surely did. He couldn’t function. He couldn’t think straight, but he muttered, “No. No. I can manage.” Gavin’s worried eyes boring into his back, Seth rose from his seat and half walked, half stumbled out of the smithy and down the street.
He couldn’t grasp a single thought for more than a moment. His heart thumped incessantly, and his lungs still couldn’t get enough air. He was aware of these things, but he really didn’t care about them. The town crier’s words swirled around in his mind, and that was all he cared about. Eirika. Married. Seth, halfway down a deserted alley, stopped and fell against the wall, hands in fists, eyes wide, mouth agape in a silent cry of torment.
He crushed his knuckles to his eyes, taking slow ragged breaths. He couldn’t... He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t go to work tomorrow and act as if nothing had changed. He couldn’t close his heart forever and say that final goodbye… Not without seeing her. He had to see her. He had to see her, even if it were the last time he ever would.
The decision his heart had been yearning for years finally made, Seth shut his mouth and opened his eyes, as his heart slowly calmed its rampage. Seth turned from the wall, determined to return home, to change his smithy’s clothing, and then to… see her.
Eirika listened to the farmer’s tale of wolves eating his livestock and nodded in sympathy and understanding. At the end of his plea, Eirika immediately dispatched soldiers to kill the wolves. The farmer thanked her again and again, bowing repeatedly as he backed away from her.
“Of course. It’s no problem at all.” Eirika murmured tiredly.
With his exit, she concluded her final meeting for the day. She let out a small breath, standing from her hard throne for the first time since early that morning. Such a simple pleasure of rising to her feet felt incredibly nice. “Your Majesty,” her advisor spoke to her. “Dinner shall be served shortly. In the meantime, there is some important business concerning—“
“I beg your pardon, your Majesty,” another man’s voice said. Eirika glanced away from her advisor to the man who handled her weekly meetings with her subjects. David was his name. He continued. “I know today’s meetings have just concluded, but we have a late comer. I explained to him that you were not seeing anyone else today, but, your Majesty, he begged me to allow him to see you. He said it was desperately important.” David shrugged slightly, apologetically. Eirika closed her eyes for a moment, standing before her throne.
“Of course I shall see him,” she replied. “Show him in.”
David bowed, “Right away.”
“Oh, David?” The man turned back to her immediately, looking at her inquisitively. “What is his name?”
“I believe he said it was Seth.” Eirika stiffened. Then she blinked, and she realized it was just someone else… with his name. “Very well,” she repeated, and David bowed once more, exiting the hall.
Seth’s heart had taken up its riot again, this time from terror, however, rather than horror, and it was all he could do to keep from turning and leaving the palace before David returned. Was this really happening? Was he really here? Seth anxiously ran his fingers through his hair. Would she recognize him? Could she, possibly? His hair was a bit longer, his clothes far less regal—all black but for a gold lining about his up-turned collar—but they were the best he had now. Would he even be allowed to see her to begin with?
Seth flinched when David said his name. He turned. “Queen Eirika has agreed to see you.”
He nodded. The moment for which he had both been longing and dreading had come, and he didn’t know whether his heart leapt from joy or fear. The man gestured for Seth to follow him. His legs like lead, Seth couldn’t remember a time in his life when he was this terrified—not when he met his commander for the first time so long ago, not during the many battles in which he fought for his life, not even when he almost died. Seth stumbled slightly, catching himself before he hit the ground, and tried to calm his ragged nerves.
The great hall was as he remembered it, although he had not entered it for so long. He peered with anxious eyes towards the throne, managing to stumble again when he saw her, his queen, his Eirika. She stood before her throne, her long bluish hair falling into lazy curls, her simple dress red and white, her delicate hands covered by long gloves, her face... just as beautiful as he remembered it. Nay, more beautiful, more regal. Seth didn’t want to look away, didn’t want to blink, even for a second. She was like a melody he wanted repeated again and again, like a scent he couldn’t get enough of.
When she turned from her advisor and her gaze met Seth’s, she stopped mid-sentence, her sapphire eyes widening. Gracefully, she sank upon her throne, her hands clutching the arms, her eyes never leaving his. Seth clenched his hands. She recognized him! The advisor bent towards her, apparently concerned for her health as David obliviously announced Seth, bowed, and left the chamber. Seth slowly bowed to this, his queen. Yes, his queen, in every sense of the phrase.
In the quietest, sweetest murmur Seth had ever heard, Eirika nearly whimpered, “S-Seth?” The sound of his name on her lips swept away the last two years for a moment, and Seth closed his eyes, suddenly her silver knight once again, and he had to fight with all his willpower to keep from striding up to her and taking her in his arms. He stood frozen until the moment passed, then carefully looked at her. He managed a small nod.
“Your Majesty?” Her advisor murmured to her, looking from his queen, to Seth, and back again.
Standing on shaky legs, Eirika looked at her advisor and said in a clear, strong voice, “Everyone leave the room.”
This took the man off guard.
“Your Majesy…, I highly recommend your reconsidering that order. Perhaps it would be best to leave the guards at least?”
“Nay,” she replied, looking back at Seth, “I’m perfectly safe.” A shiver went down Seth’s spine. She hadn’t seen him in two years, yet her faith in him was still so strong? Overwhelmed, he swayed on his feet. “Leave us, Pater. I do not want to be disturbed,” She commanded. Pater looked at them worriedly, then bowed and obeyed his queen, ushering everyone out.
Eirika’s facade of strength left her when the doors closed with a thump. Her brave face morphed to disbelief and concern and something else Seth couldn’t quite recognize. Deliberately, she stepped down from her throne, but seemed to steal herself from coming closer. Although they were still several feet apart, they were now at least on the same level. “How—“ she started hesitantly. Pausing a moment, she shook her head and began again. “How are you… alive? I- I saw you die.” Her voice cracked, and she closed her eyes a moment, as he had done shortly before. “Is it really you? Is it really Seth? How can this be?”
Unconsciously taking a step forward, Seth spread his hands and explained, “I didn’t die that day…, Your Majesty. As you know, I was thrown off a cliff by a Grado soldier. I fell quite a ways, but I didn’t hit the bottom. I landed on an outcrop some distance down, terribly wounded… but alive.”
“You were… alive?” Eirika put her hand to her head, her eyes glistening. “We could have… A pegasus… Somebody could have rescued you. I… We all thought you were gone.”
Seth’s heart ached at the sight of her distressed face. He explained, “I don’t remember much of what happened after that. They tell me that some children from the village nearby were wandering, playing, exploring. They found me and got help. By that time, however I was feverish, dehydrated… My wounds were grievous. When the people recognized that I was a knight of Renais, they, in gratitude for your saving their village, cared for me and refused to give up on me. For months I lay in bed, so close to death.” Seth tightened his hands into fists. “I barely remember those months. The fevered dreams are all that I can recall.” He looked down, flashes of terror flickering behind his eyes. “Danger. You were in danger. I had to save you. I had to get to you. I had to get up. I had to get better and find you. I had to save you…. These were the only thoughts that pervaded my mind at that time.”
The tears silently fell down Eirika’s cheeks, and Seth longed to reach towards her, to wipe them away, to kiss them away, to make her forget they were ever there. Seth’s fingernails bit into his palm, and he forced himself to relax his hands, his eyes drifting up from her lips to her eyes once more. “When I finally recovered from the brink of death, I was too weak to do much more than eat and sleep. More months passed, impatience for my strength to return almost killing me more than my wounds did. Although there were no more fevered dreams, I was still tormented by nightmares and the war raging and putting you into unimaginable danger. There I was, in bed or wearily taking a few steps, unable to protect you… to be at your side.”
Eirika’s crossed her arms, choking back a sob. He swallowed, his throat raw from old anguish. “When I was finally well enough to leave, to find you, the journey was slow. I was still weak, and I was so deep in the mountains that to cross them took time. When I finally made it over, a year since my fall had passed…” At these words, Eirika clutched at her arms and closed her eyes, trembling and seemingly trying to control her emotions. Seth took a small breath and continued, “I found another city, a less obscure city than the one in which I made my convalescence, and I learned that the war was over. Of course, my first questions were of your safety. When I learned you were back here, that you were soon to be made queen, I rejoiced and was on the road the next day, needing to reach you.
“As I traveled, however, I made some realizations. First, that since the war was over, you would need far less protection. Second, that in my months of being confined to bed, I had lost my edge. I could walk, but with a sword, a spear— I was so out of practice as to be nearly useless. Therefore, you would be far better off trusting one who had trained frequently to protect his queen.” Eireka shook her head, as if wanting to say something, but Seth rushed on before she could, “My final realization was made, when I arrived and saw you speaking to your citizens. You were happy. You were home. You needed to put the war behind you and move on, and if I were to come into your life again—well, that would have been…” Seth gestured in the air, trying to express himself, to try to explain his reasoning. “It would have been selfish…, and I couldn’t force those painful memories on you again just because I wanted to see you… to hear your voice.” His words were laced with pain and desire.
Taking another deep breath, Seth finally looked away from Eirika’s tear-stricken face and finished his tale simply and quickly. “I took work with a man named Gavin, a smithy… I’ve been there until now.”
Silence drifted around them like the wings of a pegasus, but Seth refused to turn his eyes back to hers. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t know what he would see, and he didn’t feel strong enough to look her in the eye again.
Finally, in a broken voice, Eirika asked, “Then why have you come to me now?”
Seth shuddered, closing his eyes and turning himself further away, towards the windows filled with the orange rays of twilight. He stepped nearer them, needing to put a little more space between him and Eirika. “Because—“ his voice was unsteady. Again, he clenched his hands and fought to control the feelings threatening to drown him in their tidal wave. “Because the town crier… announced your engagement today.” He barked a humorless laugh. “I didn’t even hear to whom you were engaged. All I heard was that Queen Eirika was going to be married.” Unable to force himself to look at her, Seth let go of the wave of emotion he had been fighting, not just today, but for years. As it washed over him, the force of it made him sway gently and gasp for breath. This was too important. He had to make her understand why her engagement was killing him. “Eirika, my princess Eirika… was going to marry another man.” Seth heard a slight intake of breath, and he fought against the desire to see her reaction. He continued.
“In some part of my mind, I knew your eventual marriage was inevitable.” Seth clutched at his chest, “But when I heard the words, it was like… It was like my whole world shattered. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think. I was going mad! I quickly came to the conclusion that I had to see you. I had to see you at least one last time,” his voice cracked, and he struggled to keep it steady as, still turned from her, he stared at the floor, the windows, the regal ivory pillars, anything but the direction of his dear Eirika.
“The first time I saw you,” he murmured in a thick voice, “I fell in love with you.” Silence devoured his words. After a moment, he went on, “I didn’t believe in love at first sight. I thought that was a ridiculous notion- to fall in love with a person whose character you do not even know, but that day I stood corrected. I can still recall that moment to my mind... You were walking out with your brother, and you were both laughing. You were going horseback riding… When I met you a short time later, when I began to learn more and more about you… I just fell deeper… and deeper.”
He paused. This was difficult, more difficult than he’d ever imagined. “You were my princess, of course. I had to protect you, and falling in love with you—I saw no harm. I would only protect you more fiercely, and, besides, there was nothing I could do to stop myself from loving you. I was too far gone that first day I saw you… But again, you were my princess. I was your knight. I knew, in truth, we could never be together. It broke my heart…, but I knew my duty.”
His mouth kept speaking as if he had no control over it, all the hidden thoughts and feelings he’d bundled up for so long, finally rushing out. “During the war, when you showed such attention to me after I received a wound from Valter, I hoped that you might… But no, I couldn’t believe that you would… love…” Seth desperately wished to look at her, to see if her expression revealed any sign. “But I didn’t want you to think of me only out of pity… So I pushed you away. I carefully tried to tell you how I felt… How I wanted to take you away and protect you, but my duty always kept me from really speaking the truth to you, as I am now. Now… You see, now, although you’re my queen, I’m no longer your knight.” With a shrug, he spoke the truth, “I’m nothing. Duty guides me no longer. My heart rules me, and my heart beats for only one reason, for only one desire... I don’t expect I will ever satisfy that longing, but before you became…” Seth swallowed past the lump in his throat. “Before you became married. I had to tell you. I had to try. I would have died if I had stayed away. At the very least…, I had to see you one last time, to hold onto the image of your face forever.”
The silence that followed these, his fervent final words, was deafeningly loud. Seth stood frozen to the spot, wishing and dreading to hear what she was thinking. Though he knew it was only a few seconds, the silence seemed to stretch on forever. “Please,” he whispered desperately, “please speak to me. Even to send me away. I can’t… I have to—“
“Seth.” The one word, his name, was so filled with heartbreaking emotion that his knees suddenly felt terribly weak, and he had to look at her. He turned, dread and desperate hope warring in his chest.
Eirika’s expression was a mix of so many feelings, that Seth couldn’t understand what she was thinking. Her cheeks were wet from her tears and touched with red. Her lips quivered, unable to decide between a contortion of agony or a smile of joy. She was tremulous, trying to say something further but seemingly unable to utter another word.
Finally, she managed simply, “Oh Seth!” and stumbled towards him and clutched him, pressing her face to his shoulder and crying. Seth, shocked, concerned, and confused, staggered backwards from the force of her motion until his back found a pillar for support, and his legs finally gave out. He slid to the floor with Eirika in his arms, one hand on her back, the other in her hair as she clutched him, weeping as if heartbroken. Seth shiveringly held her to him, his lips just inches from her hair, uncertain what he should do.
She incoherently muttered continually. He could hardly understand her, but he desperately wanted to comfort her and murmured “Sh… sh... it’s alright. It’s alright,” and stroked her hair, clutching her gently to him.
“You’re alive… You’re here,” she whispered through her tears. She continued muttering, but was so emotional that her words were an almost senseless jumble. Seth just held her tightly, on some level knowing how she felt, and trying to ease her pain, his fingers shaking as he ran them through her blue tresses again and again, wondering, hoping, dreading to know whether she felt for him what he felt for her.
After some time, she gradually quietened as Seth gently rocked her back and forth. “Seth,” she whispered, then laughed brokenly, “All I seem to be able to say is your name.” She lifted her still damp face from his chest to look into his eyes. He gazed back at her, extremely aware of their proximity, of every part of them that touched. They were so close. So temptingly close. Every move she made, as tiny as it may be, was noticed by Seth. His eyes roved across her face, his lips tingling.
“Eirika,” he whispered, the only word on his thoughts, the only word he could possibly think to say.
“Seth,” she responded, her voice just as quiet in the huge hall, so quiet even he almost could not hear it. She continued, “Seth, there’s something you don’t understand. You see…,” she reached up her hand and brushed his cheek with her knuckles, sending tremors racing through him. Then she whispered, “I’m in love with you too. I have been for... for so long. I don’t even know when I started to love you. Maybe, as you say, I’ve been in love with you forever.” Seth’s heart stopped; his eyes widened; his body tensed. Was this real? It must be some dream, some fantasy. It couldn’t be…
“What?” He choked out, his palm cupping her face.
“These past two years,” she replied in a voice laced with agony, “have been torture. I thought you were…,” she stopped herself, seemingly unable to go on. “Oh, Seth,” she shook her head, “you speak of loving me as if it had been unrequited. But it wasn’t. It never was. I love you. I love you so much it hurts.”
Disbelief and joy raged through his body as his heart thundered in his chest. Then he his crushed his lips to hers, his hands on her face, in her hair, on her back, pulling her closer to him as his mouth moved against hers desperately. The scent of her, the feel of her molding herself to him, returning the kiss, the soft touch of her lips, nearly drove him mad and made him drunk from the taste of her. He thought he must be giving Eirika bruises with his fierceness, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care. She loved him! She loved him. In his wildest dreams he hardly dared imagine that she might return his affection. All these years, wasted. No more. He was here. She was in his arms, and he would never let go.
His callused hands held her- his dear Eirika- sank once more into her hair, stroked her face as he kissed her again and again. Her gloved hands slid up around his collar. Her fingers brushed across the back of his neck. Electric jolts went down his spine, and he almost lost control of himself entirely. Biting back a murmur, he brushed his lips against hers once more and finally pulled away, just an inch. But after only a moment, only a breath or two, he found he couldn’t keep away, not when she was this close, not when the desires of his heart had been granted. He kissed her cheeks, erasing the tears that had tormented him to see. He kissed her eyelids, and she let out a half-crazed laugh. Seth tried futilely to calm himself. The years of adoration, unable to be expressed, had been consuming him, and now that he was here, that this was happening… What was calm?
“Is this a dream?” He murmured as his lips touched the skin below her ear.
“If it is,” she replied, “I never want to wake up.”
Any ideas of containing himself were dashed with those words. She shivered when he kissed her neck, and he wrapped his arms more tightly around her.
“Seth,” she said. Her responsibilities intruding upon her thoughts as she realized just how long they’d been in here alone, talking…, kissing. What must everyone think was happening? She suspected half the guard was outside the doors, waiting for the signal to strike in fear for their queen’s life.
Oh, but she didn’t want to leave.
Fervently, she whispered his name again, trying and failing to draw his attention to her duties.
“Say it again,” he breathed, kissing her jaw.
“Seth…” He silenced any further words as he kissed her red, bitten lips. Eirika’s thoughts were banished from her mind, and she grasped onto him to keep from completely melting into a pool of gibberish.
When he finally released his hold on her, she put her hands to his face, trying to catch her breath, the color in her cheeks having deepened. “Seth, I have to… we can’t stay here. I…” she poorly tried to explain as his feverish eyes raked across her face.
Wishing he didn’t understand what she was trying to say, he concluded, “Duties?”
She nodded thankfully to this, having had a hard time finding her voice at all, “duties.”
“My dear Eirika,” Seth spoke her name lovingly. “Forgive me for losing myself.” She shook her head, attempting to silence him, but he continued. “I know I shouldn’t have let myself lose all sight of our vast difference in station, but I… Eirika, I can’t live without you. It was hard enough to do before, but now? Now it would be entirely impossible.” Eirika’s face twisted into one of softness and love. “This isn’t the time or place,” Seth murmured, “but I can’t wait. Please, my love, I’m completely underserving…, but I beg you… marry me.”
“Beloved Seth!” Eirika’s eyes filled again with tears, but Seth thought—he hoped— that these were tears of a different sort. “Of course,” Eirika said. “Of course I’ll marry you. I could never marry another, knowing that you’re alive, that you love me back!”
Seth soared, the grin that had not touched his face for so, so long, finally finding its way back to where it belonged.
He kissed her. Oh, how he kissed her. Never had he dreamed by the end of this reunion with his queen that he would be holding her in his arms and kissing her without reserve. He wished they could stay like this forever, adoringly clutched in each other’s arms. But a knock at the door froze them both for an instant.
Then Eirika laughed almost drunkenly, stroking Seth’s face. They quickly disentangled and rose to their feet. A knock came again, and Seth sensed some urgency behind it. He realized, suddenly, what all of the Queen’s poor guards must be thinking. He knew that if he had been on the other side of those doors, he would be the epitome of anxiety.
Hastily, Eirika straightened her ruffled clothing, and Seth, smiling, lovingly pushed a stray lock of her hair back from her face. She returned the smile, and, finally neatened, sonorously pronounced, “Enter.”
The door opened, and the man Seth supposed was Eirika’s advisor— What was his name? Pater?— Entered. Glancing between Seth and Eirika, still standing rather close together and off to the side in the Great Hall, Pater said, “I’m so sorry to intrude, Your Highness, but… That is…” Pater stuttered, “Do you… require anything?”
“Well, Pater, Seth shall be dining with me tonight so please set another seat at the table.”
“Of course, You Majesty. If you are ready to dine, the food and your guests been waiting for… quite some time.”
Eirika smiled, glancing at Seth. “I’m famished,” she said. She looked back at her advisor, “We will be there momentarily, Pater. Seth will escort me.” Seth longed to take her hand in his, but with Pater watching, he just gazed at her instead.
Pater cleared his throat, “If that is what you wish, your Majesty… Your guard are just outside these doors.” A smile touched the corner of Seth’s lips, feeling that last statement was a warning for him.
When Pater left, Seth murmured, “I shall be dining with you tonight?”
She grinned, “Of course.” She took his hands in hers. “Seth, my love, you shall be dining with me the rest your life.”
Such words he never thought to hear! “Eirika…, how could God have granted such divine a creature to me of all men?” He would not let her answer that, for he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her with all his heart and all the love he possessed, never to leave her side again.