It looked like rain, Lord Stone thought distractedly, as he made his way towards the North Quadrant of the Castle grounds. He could see her at the top of the tallest tower, the deep red gown framed against the twilight sky. A familiar sight, he thought warmly, despite the cold and exhaustion seeping through his bones.
He climbed the long flight of stairs to the chamber at the top. Home, came the unbidden thought. For now, he corrected himself sternly. The war was moving North, and he would have to set off with his men, soon.
He flung off his cape as soon as he entered the room, not pausing as he moved to the balcony, where she stood leaning against the railing.
She smiled at him as he walked up to her and kissed her forehead, and somewhere in time and space, a heart shattered into pieces. But the two of them didn’t hear a thing over the thunderclouds that hung over them like carrion birds come to claim their prey.
They stood together in silence for a while, watching farmers and village folk scurry around in the distance, preparing for the incoming storm. Another familiar sight he would miss once the war began in earnest. Suppressing a sigh, he inclined his head slightly towards her, and she smiled without turning to face him.
“What?”, they said together, and her smile turned into a grin.
“Why are you sighing?” she asked, sniffing at him curiously.
“I am not,” he replied, indignant.
“Okay.. Why are you not sighing?”
He looked at her for a moment, before turning away and fixing his gaze on the horizon.
She followed his stare.
“It’s not safe here.”
“I can look after myself.”
He shook his head, frustrated at her stubborn refusal to go back to the city, where he wouldn’t have to worry about her.
“I will leave soon”, he said, a coldness creeping into his voice that he wasn’t proud of.
She turned to face him, and he could feel her eyes searching his face for something he damn well was not going to let her find.
She closed her eyes and turned towards the setting sun again.
“I will wait for you. Here.”
I don’t want you to, he thought. I’d rather you be safe and happy. I don’t think I will return. And, I cannot take you with me. I won’t be able to protect you. I only want to protect you.
He said nothing. Only took her cold hand in his own as he watched her raise her face to catch the rain that had just begun to fall, fixing the memory of her smile in his mind and hoping she would someday forgive him for what he knew he would have to do.
She opened her eyes just as a flash of lightning illuminated the skies, and for an instant, he saw a glimpse of the path she could have taken, the severity with which she could ensure retribution. But then she turned towards him, only mercy in her eyes, and he knew he had nothing to worry about. She’d forgive him nearly anything.