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when choosing a bow (choose a strong one)

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Ella will speak of her parents until she runs short of breath. By the time she is through describing them to the painter in loving detail, Kit feels he knows their spirits as well as she does. He will never tire of the stories of her mother's boundless faith or her father's devotion.

It is the many years she will not speak of that concern him, when the night runs long with royal business. The room chills, they have not eaten since morning, Kit knows she slept poorly - yet none of this hardship is apparent in Ella. She does not shiver, even when the windows must be opened and the evening breeze douses the candles. She does not speak of hunger, no matter the circumstance or the hour. Her soothing smile does not falter, her back never bends with weariness.

She does not speak of how she fainted in their carriage on the way to the palace, watching her parent's home fade into the distance. She does not speak of the careful diet the royal physician prescribed over the following year.

She never speaks ill, of the living or the dead, no matter the terrible things he has heard whispered to her or whispered of her. It is enough to drive Kit mad with fury some days. He knows his captain is aware that something troubles him, the days he insists on a dawn spar that lasts through the morning.

He makes certain not even his captain knows when he locks himself in the portrait hall to glare at her father's image, unable to ask how a man so beloved could leave his compassionate daughter alone with a creature so heartless. With a woman brought to her knees by the only words he's ever heard Ella speak of her father's second wife - I forgive you.

His queen is peerless, she is fearless, Ella is a gift. They have been wed now for three years and though he has seen her wronged by the narrow-minded and the envious, never has he heard her speak of forgiveness. She never seems to see the need.

Cruel words slip from her shoulders, insults and doubts tangle in her hair and are brushed out each night. No matter the abuse she suffers, Ella refuses to take offense, to even acknowledge a wrong done, and he loves her, he loves her -

He loves her so desperately. Some nights it drives him from sleep, the thoughts of what that woman could have done to her, that even Ella felt she needed forgiveness.