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The Wife

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The wife always knows. No matter what the men say, no matter what the gossips say, the wife always knows.

And in truth, I can't honestly say that I blame him. She's smart, and funny, and from what I can tell, she's kind to everyone, even those at Court who speak ill of her. Were the situation any different, I might even be one to comment on what a sweet couple they would make.

But the situation isn't different, and he is my husband, not hers.

It would be so much easier if I could simply hate her! If she were a great beauty and I could say that my husband only lusted after her, or if she was a greater mage and I could claim he was under a spell...

But she isn't a great beauty, she's only fair. And while her powers are great, the Queen would not trust her so if she ever even heard rumor of her using her power for ill.

The queen is, perhaps, the greatest reminder of my pain in all this. When I came to this castle, young and so alone, she smiled at me and welcomed me into her family without question. She was the first person to be kind to me in this new life, and she took me into her heart as well as her court. I was so far from home, alone and frighted, and as a political marriage rarely makes for a warm marriage bed, very lonely. She treated me so kindly even from the start, showing me how things needed to be done and how the life of a Princess in a strange land really wasn't so bad when you were surrounded by friends. After all, she hadn't even been born to the crown, but had been bestowed with it though adventure and true love.

But the looks she now gives me are...understanding. Not pitying, not really, but filled with a resigned sadness. Even in this moment, as she watches us from the table above, her eyes are filled with such sadness when she rests them on me. And with such sympathetic pain when she looks at him. She's always watching, nothing truly escapes the queen's notice. She can see how in love they are, even as I can, as everyone can. And like me, she can see no way out of it. Our marriage is binding, and were it to be dissolved, so would the treaty that binds our lands.

We can not help but be what we are, and we are married. We could have been happy, I think, before Sheila came back, before he finally found that part of him that had been missing for so long. Oh, I never fooled myself into believing I held that part of him, no matter how much I wished it. The stories of The Riders and their mage Sheila are known by all, even in lands as far distant as my own. Even had no one told me the truth of their stories when I arrived here, I would haven known. It was there every time her name was spoken. I knew how dear she was, simply by how he could never easily speak her name. Only a fool would have been unable to figure out that she was his beloved.

Even during her long absence, when no thought was ever given to her possible return, I could not delude myself into thinking that he would suddenly love me. Not the way Laric and Illyria are in love. Not the way I wished.

We had met each other only a handful of times before our marriage, and even then she had been gone from this world for many years. And while he was always kind to me after our wedding--tender even--he kept much of himself distant. He was so wonderful to me, more than I ever could have asked, but through it all I knew there was a part of him I would never be allowed to see. It was several years before I felt that he counted me as even a dear friend. I know myself to be lucky to be married to such a caring man, a man who would always try to make me smile, even when he was sad himself, someone who tried to ease my way into this life with him as much as he could. There are many women in marriages such as ours who have nothing so gentle or kind in their lives.

And I think, perhaps, that if Sheila had never come back, if he had never been reminded of what he had lost, then perhaps someday, years from now when we were old and surrounded by our children and grandchildren, that he might have looked at me with love in his eyes. In those amazing, smiling eyes...

But she is back. She came back to him after years of struggling to find a way, after years of trying to find him again through her world without magic, and now that she is here, here is where she must remain. Her path home is now lost to her. And as long as she is here, he is lost to me. He belongs to her, heart, body and soul. They are connected, now and always, as I can never be.

So here is where we must all remain. The three of us, bound together by love and duty and honor. They will always belong together, just as I will always be his wife.

If only she had returned sooner.

If only she had never returned.