Kings Glade, Glenmore
Since the incident with the unknown stag, Drustan had kept a careful watch on the injured golden doe. Fenella had healed the physical scars that has littered her withers and rump, but Drustan worried more over the internal scars. Something terrible had happened to the young doe - his mate - and no magic to erase those scars. It dug into his heart like sharpened tines that he had to tell her the truth about him, but he couldn’t keep the secret from her forever. It would hurt her to know, but it would hurt her more not to.
This particular pre-dawn morning, he lay under the cover of the branch-woven den in his glade with the golden doe sleeping soundly beside him. He’d lain awake the entire night, worrying over the stag that had hurt her, and trying to muster the courage to tell her his secret. Around in circles he went, listing the good and bad reasons, and coming back to the conclusion that regardless of what he did, he was going to disappoint her sooner rather than later. The question was then, did he disappoint her now while she was still fragile, or wait until he’d built her confidence back and knock it down again?
Sighing, the thin light of dawn started to brighten the glade and illuminate the sleeping shape of the doe. She looked so peaceful when she was asleep - how could he bring himself to disturb her? Now or ever?
How could he bring himself to lie to her any longer?
“Gwen,” he murmured, gently nuzzling her sleeping cheek, “Wake up my golden one... I must tell you something.”
The trip to the Kings glade hadn’t been easy with her hurt leg and the entire time had dread the thought of what would happen when they made it. He hadn’t said much and she could tell he was barely holding onto his anger, though she hadn’t been sure if she was the cause of that anger. When they finally reached the glade Drustan had told the guards to bring Fenella and the golden doe’s heart sank. She had been almost hoping that Fen wouldn’t have to know and now the talk they had back at the lake was ringing in her ears. Fen had told her to be careful, but Gwen had foolishly thought she meant careful to let the herd find out.
The whole situation was a testament to how young and foolish She truly was. Gwen had thought that having a fawn meant she had been ready to face anything there was in life, though she had also thought that life only consisted of looking pretty and gossiping with her friends.
When Fenella finally entered the clearing she had been glowing, well figuratively because she can actually glow, however her smile fell away when she saw Gwen huddled near Drustan. They exchanged words that Gwen had mostly blocked out, she didn’t want to hear the guilt or piety, or what ever their voices would give away. Before Fen came to heal her she asked for a moment alone with her and Drustan begrudgingly accepted, though he didn’t go too far. Gwen knew what was coming, ‘I told you so’ and though these words and feelings were clear on Fen’s face what she said was much softer and all Gwen could do was nod her head in agreement.
Gwenaelle had settled in quickly, though it was easier when no one really talked to her. The silence left her mind go blank and she didn’t have to think. It was odd at first to be almost sharing Drustan with Fenella but that feeling wore away, Gwen would always have to share him.
She woke with a start, her tired mind not truly aware of where she was. Turning to look at Drustan she noted his worried and tired gaze, ”Is something wrong?”
He felt a pang of guilt as she awoke. He should have let her sleep for longer, she was tired and hurting. Later would have been a better time. No, he chided himself, there was no good time for this. He shook his head, “Don’t worry, it’s nothing immediate,” he touched his nose to hers, trying to calm her startled heartbeat. “I have to tell you something that my mother told me just before she died... Something about me. It’s not... good Gwen. But I want you to know that it doesn’t change how I feel about you. I will always protect you, I will always keep you and Caeluan safe.”
He met her eyes, sinking into those worried brown pools in the early morning light. He hated this. He hated to worry her, to put yet another burden on her shoulders. But she had to know. Caeluan wasn’t safe if someone found out before Gwen. He had to tell her now, before he lost his nerve. “Gwen, I’m not a King,” he swallowed fast, “Ragnar was not my father. My mother she... she went to a different stag, and she pretended I was Ragnar’s so the herd would think he wasn’t... so the herd would think he could still make fawns. I was never meant to be King, Donnaghán was supposed to... but then...” He winced at the memory, “Gwen I’m sorry. I didn’t know until after we... until after you joined my harem. I’m so sorry.”
She listened closely, trying to make sense of his words. He was afraid someone would want to hurt her and Cae? Because of something about him? Her eyes searched his, looking for the answers and finding nothing but guilt. This was familiar and it scared her, what could he truly feel guilty about? He was the king, his word was law.
But that was just it, ‘I’m not a King
’ The words echoed around her head, and her ears slicked back. How... why? How could there be so many secrets between them? Because she was supposed to be only a doe in his harem, not his lover, not his princess. She sat up and turned away, trying desperately to figure out her own feelings and thoughts. She felt hurt, not that she had been with someone who probably wasn’t even of royal blood, but because he had been living with such a heavy secret. She didn’t even know how long he had to live with this.
With a calming sigh she knew how she felt about this sudden revelation and she turned to Dru, “Drustan I do not care what you are not, I care what you are. You are a very kind and loving stag that cares for his does and treats them unlike any other stag I have met.” Gently she touched his cheek,” I want to be by your side until we grow old and many many grandfawns run about our hooves, if you wish me to keep this secret with you I shall.”
For a moment he thought he had lost her. When her face turned away, he felt his heart wrench. He deserved this. He deserved her hatred and distrust. He deserved for her to leave him and tell the first guard she saw what he had told her, and he would not deny it. His tainted blood deserved to spill for the worst crime he could ever have committed; lying to his beloved does and fawns. Shame encompassed him, and he swallowed hard, looking down at the earth and wishing it would swallow him up. Fenella and BóAnn had forgiven him - had he truly expected the rest of his does to? Whose fawns he had put in line to inherit nothing but a death sentence?
His ears rang with the silence between them, and then her sigh came like a gentle wave lapping at a sandy beach. So calming, so soft. It beggared belief what she spoke next, and he blinked at her as if her words were ludicrous. He only knew he had heard what she had said when she reached over to touch his cheek, and he leaned into her as if they had not embraced in years. “Truly?” He whispered. “Are you sure?” He summoned what mettle he had left to pull away from her so he could look at her. “It will be dangerous to stay close to me, any stag will know they can use you against me, wouldn’t you rather... wouldn’t you rather I kept you somewhere safe?” He whispered, the heartache of having to push her away again breaking his voice. He wanted nothing more than to have her at his side with his Princesses, but the fact he would be able to protect her personally balanced with the fact she would be a prime target was one that could be tipped in anyones favour.
She hated that she had hurt him, even for just a few moments, but his embrace sent all thoughts away. She wanted to stay like this forever and too soon he had pulled away. She looked to him cautiously, had she said something wrong? She was shaking her head before he even finished talking, the thought of being away from him sent her close to panic. Silvanus had done more damage than even she had realised. “No, please, I don't want to go anywhere, I want to stay with you!” She layed back by his side, as if saying that there would be no leaving. She didn’t care if might be safer, safer from what her naive mind didn’t quite know, but she felt like only Drustan could truly keep her safe from whatever could be looking to hurt her.
Making a tight noise of anguish in his throat, Drustan gladly made room for the doe to lie back against him, draping his neck over hers and holding her tight against him. He could feel his heart thunder like it had when he had raced through the forest chasing her scream. The dread of leaving her had such a hold on him, he wondered if he could have accepted it if she had gone with his suggestion to keep away. She was perfect, golden and precious. She had been hurt because of his neglect, and he’d made a vow never to let that happen again. He couldn’t lie to her again, he couldn’t bear to put any distance between them. He was determined, whatever it took, to keep her safe, and to never let her be harmed again. “I’ll never let you down again, Gwen. My golden ray of sunshine,” he would see her shine again if it was the last thing he did.