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The Story

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Sent to the Roswell Slash Archive May 31, 2001

Title: The Story
Author: Elizabeth
E-mail: uhmidont@yahoo.com
Summary: Vilandra tells her story
Category: This is a very UC fic.
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters.
Distribution: Please ask
Spring 2001



Yes, there were times when I forgot not only who I was, but that I was, forgot to be.

--from "Molloy" by Samuel Beckett

        I knew love. I knew a love so great that it destroyed a world.

        My name is Vilandra.

        These are truths. I have not embellished them or embroidered them in any way. I could leave them as they are, right now, and it would be enough. I have a feeling that my legacy will endure.

        So you see, what I am about to tell you is not necessary--you have all the facts you need. But I will tell you everything anyway; in fact, I feel almost compelled to. I want you to understand.

        Let me tell you a story.


**

        I grew up the adored younger daughter of a king. My family ruled a bright and glorious world. My brother, the heir, was a kind man, beloved by all. He believed that everyone mattered and he encouraged me---a girl child--to learn. To help. It was unheard of, but since my brother wished it, it was granted.

        My people had enemies--those jealous of our world, of the bounties it held. Our enemies attacked, and a war began. My brother gathered armies and picked able men to lead them.

        One of those men was tall and strong with eyes so clear that looking at them was almost painful. This man was not of the nobility--he was a commoner, a soldier. But he was talented and he believed in my brother and in our world. He was brave and others watched him, followed him. Trusted him. Loved him.

        My brother raised him up through the ranks slowly but surely. Eventually he commanded every army, was second only to my brother and his advisors. This man would come to dinner with our family and he sat at the table below us. Sometimes my brother would call him up to our table but he would not sit with us. "I am not worthy," he would say, and he would bow his head. "I am just a soldier."

        He never looked at me.

        I sat beside my brother, my face hidden behind my veils--for a young, unmarried woman did not show her face--and watched. The soldier moved with grace and purpose and when he spoke, his voice had the ring of truth and command. I had never seen someone as alive as he was. Never.

        One night my brother called the soldier up to our table. They had a lengthy and earnest discussion, the soldier kneeling by my brother's side, his body so close to mine that if I'd shifted in my seat just a little I could have touched him.

        I did not. I sat, my head held high. I spoke to my mother and agreed with all the plans and ideas she spoke of. I wasn't really listening to her. It took all of my energy, all of my will--all of my strength--to not move. To not touch him.

        My brother dismissed him and I watched him walk back to his table.

        "I must retire," I told my brother. "I find I am suddenly weary."

        He smiled at me and took my hand in his. He told me he loved me and that he was proud of me and I stood up slowly, as I had been taught.

        I walked back towards my room. My attendants walked behind me, as they were supposed to.

        I spent a lot of time almost--but not quite--alone.

        One of the guardsmen approached me as I got ready to enter my rooms. He said there was a problem, that an enemy had infiltrated the castle. I said I needed to speak to the head of the watch. My brother had included me in his training in the arts of war. I knew how to marshal troops. I knew how to kill a man. I knew how to kill many men.

        A lone enemy did not scare me.

        The head of the watch had an office in the northeastern corner of the palace. It was a long walk, and I told my attendants to sit down and wait for me outside. A ruler and his family must be fair, and I was allowed to take off my veils and walk across the private lands. My attendants were not and activity was difficult for them, hampered as they were by veils and protocol and lack of exercise.

        The head of the watch was not in his office.

        Instead the soldier--my soldier--sat at his desk. He stood up when I came into the room. He walked across the floor and he looked right at me. His eyes were so clear that I thought he could see right through me, through my veils, through my skin, into every inch of my soul.

        I saw his hand move and I watched him rest it on the trailing end of my veils. He lifted his hand up and my veils rose slowly. I inhaled air that had not been filtered though levels of fabric. It made me dizzy.

        "Vilandra," he said as my eyes were revealed to his. "Is it true?"

        I looked into his eyes. They were clouded now with pain. Pain I had inflicted. I am sad to say that the thought of that pain made me feel strong. Proud. I mattered to him and that meant the world to me. "Yes. I'm to be married. There is nothing I can do. My brother insists upon it."

        His hands rested on my face, his thumbs lying along my cheekbones. A commoner may not ever touch a member of the royal family. May not gaze upon them. It is law.

        I bared my face to him first. He was my guardsman--back when he was a just a soldier, back before my brother noticed him--and I took off my veils in my rooms, watched him close his eyes so he wouldn't have to look at me. I wanted him to look at me and I knew he would. A command of royalty cannot be refused.

        I wanted those eyes to watch me.

        I wanted to live.

        "I can not bear it," he told me. "I love you. I want no one but you. I would do anything for you." He pressed his mouth to my cheek and I turned, let his lips slide towards mine.

        "And I you," I told him. "Khivar, you are my heart. My world. We will find a way to be together. No matter what."

        We did. But I could not live with what I had done, in the end. My love was too great and it destroyed a world. I do not think that our love will be remembered for what it was, something beyond life itself--I do not think anyone will ever understand. I think that Khivar and I will be remembered as traitors. But let everyone else have that story.

        You have the real one.


**

        Perhaps this is the story you've always heard, so maybe it wasn't such a surprise to you. But it was not really the whole story. It is just a part of it. Khivar's eyes were not so clear. I did not wear veils. My brother was not quite so wise. I was actually married.

        I grew up the eldest child of a royal family. I could not rule because I was a woman. My brother, however, could. And did.

        I was taught how to embroider, how to talk politely, how to walk gracefully, how to run a household. My brother learned languages and art and mathematics and science. I learned how to sing beautifully and how to rinse my hair so that it shone in the sunlight. My brother leaned how to fight and how to run a world.

        I resented him, I resented my life. I resented being taught nothing; I resented being the afterthought, the bargaining chip. I was engaged to six different princes over the course of my childhood and none of those marriages ever came to pass. Our world was a declining one and other families were not eager to see their own sons fighting a war that meant nothing to them.

        My brother was married. He was married to the princess of a neighboring world and she was cheerful and bright and lovely. The people loved her and I became even more of an afterthought. I sat in my brother's rooms, talked to his wife. She would sing and I would accompany her. She would talk of the children she longed to have and I would pull the needle through the piece of cloth I was embroidering and say nothing.

        My brother was often gone--out fighting battles and restoring order. He was viewed as a fair man, but he was not really beloved. He was not used to mixing with commoners and it showed.

        The council worried about this--our people needed to present a united front to the enemy. It didn't help that the enemy had a leader that was everything my brother wasn't--the enemies' leader was loved. He had thousands who were willing to die for him.

        The council decided to have a meeting. They arranged for our enemies' emissaries to visit our world. My brother would try to arrange a sort of peace. The council wanted an heir before war began again. My brother's wife smiled whenever I saw her in the mornings and her hand was always resting on my brother's arm. They were in love, she told me when I asked her about her behavior.

        It was something I had never seen before.

        On the day of the meeting I was informed that I needed to escort my brother's wife back to her apartments after the opening ceremonies. My brother smiled when he told me this. He was going to have a child, he said, and his wife must take care of herself. Must protect the future.

        When I went into the meeting there was a man standing next to my brother. He had hard eyes and large hands and when he took my hand in his, he pressed a kiss to the center of my palm. Only lovers should exchange kisses like that. I curled my hand upon itself when he lifted his mouth away, felt my heart sing.

        That was how I met my husband.

        He was a member of a small but noble family and he and my brother had met at school. He had been fighting in the northern lands and so had never been to court before. But he came to the meeting because he wanted to support my brother.

        Later, he told me that it was also because he wanted to meet me. "I saw you once," he said. "You were standing next to your brother during the Festival of Lights. I had never seen a girl as beautiful as you and I knew right then that I would love you forever."

        Beautiful words made more beautiful by the fact that he did not have to give them to me. I was his at that point--we had been married for over two cycles of the moons. But he did give me those words and I rested my head in the curve of his shoulder, pressed my mouth to his chest, and thanked the gods for sending me love.

        My brother's wife lost her child. She cried for days and locked herself in her rooms. My brother sat like a stone during state dinners, his face pale and his hands shaking.

        The war began again. The enemy cared nothing for my brother's loss. They, perhaps, rejoiced in it. My brother's wife still did not leave her rooms and my brother left to command the armies without seeing her or saying goodbye.

        My husband left two days after my brother did. The night before he left, we went to the roof of the palace and he wrapped his arms around me as we gazed out at the sky. We could both see fires burning in the distance. The enemy was much stronger this time.

        "No matter what happens," he told me. "I will love you. I want no one but you. I would do anything for you."

        I kissed his cheek; let my mouth slide to his. He left the next morning and I pressed my hand against my stomach, hoping that he would return to find me swelling with his child.

        A cycle of the moons passed. The council met and would not tell me what they discussed. My brother's wife still would not leave her rooms. The fires grew closer.

        Then we had a visitor. He came and brought many men with him. They breached our defenses and the council urged surrender. I went out to meet the visitor, riding on a mount my husband had given me as a wedding gift. I was not supposed to do this, but I felt that I must. I felt that our family's honor depended on it.

        "My name is Khivar," our visitor said. "I greet you, O Lady, and bring you news of your husband." He smiled and I knew what had happened the moment his great and shining teeth were revealed to me. I gripped the reins and wished that I were carrying a son who would avenge his father. I watched Khivar's smile broaden as he showed me my husband's head. His eyes were closed, almost like he was sleeping.

        I rode back to the palace and told the council what had happened. They looked at me; their eyes were anxious and angry and I knew the stories would begin. A woman--even a member of the royal family--does not ride out to meet anyone, much less the enemy.

        Khivar knew this and he used it to his advantage.

        My brother's head arrived once another moon cycle had passed, wrapped in the coat he had always worn. By that time, people in the street were singing ballads of my love for Khivar. I thought of his great shining teeth when I heard that song and wept for my husband. For our world.

        I went to my brother's wife's room and told her door what had happened. As I finished speaking, the door swung open and my brother's wife stared back at me. "We will avenge them," she said.

        "Yes," I said. "We will. We will find a way to restore what should be."

        I knew a love great and strong and true. I could not let it die. I found a way to ensure that it will never end. Let the people sing of Khivar and I, let them imagine that my husband mattered not to me, that we didn't love each other. Let them tell stories.

        You have the real one.


**

        Perhaps this is the story you've always heard, so maybe it wasn't such a surprise to you. But it was not really the whole story. It is just a part of it. I was not the first-born. My brother's wife was never pregnant. My beloved's eyes were not closed when he died.

        I grew up the oldest daughter of a king and queen who ruled a world that was on the decline. My older brother survived infancy, as did I. My younger sibling did not, and they, along with my parents, died when I was a small child of a wasting sickness. I was raised by a series of tutors and holograms of my parents, as was my brother.

        The council did not issue news of my father's death until my brother was old enough to rule. Our world could not survive a child king. Instead, they used holograms of my father whenever the people needed to be addressed. My brother and I were close as children, but we saw less of each other once he grew old enough to be taught the ways of ruling. My brother wished me to take lessons with him but the council forbid it. I was taught nothing instead.

        Our world was always at war. We were a planet scarce in resources, but we were located at the nexus of the great Trade Route. Travelers from far away star systems would pass through our world because we were located very close to a portal. Whoever owns our world can control the portal--can tax those who wish to use it, can restrict who goes where and why.

        My brother was married shortly after he took the throne. His wife was young and beautiful and their wedding was a glorious event--a celebration for our entire world. The people were reassured that the planet was in the hands of a capable ruler and prayers for sons could be heard throughout the land. I could hear them through the windows of my rooms as I sat arranging my own wedding plans.

        The council ordered my marriage. They did not wish me to wed an offworlder--they wished to strengthen the nobility on our world, which had been decimated by all the fighting. I was promised to my brother's second-in-command. I had known him all my life.

        I had loved him all my life. He was not quiet like my brother and myself--he had presence, he was not afraid to speak. He did not always obey the council's orders. When he entered a room, everyone noticed. He looked like a fighter and he was one. But he was more than that. He had strong hands with an artist's fingers and he could draw pictures so beautiful that you would weep with joy if you saw them.

        He was everything.

        He and my brother had met during my brother's first progress around the kingdom, when he met his troops and those who commanded them--my father could not be sent, of course, but by sending the "heir," the council hoped to keep our world's faith intact.

        My promised one was a true warrior and although he was young, he had already been sent out to service. My brother spoke of him fondly in his letters to me and they were soon the best of friends. I can remember talking to my brother about him after he returned home. We were both still children then and we sat on the floor of his room, eating fruit. Forever I will associate my beloved's name with the tangy sweet smell of fruit revealed as I peeled its skin away.

        As my promised one grew, he rose through the ranks of command. When he reached the age of promise, when he was fully grown, he came back to the capital with my brother to help him plan and mobilize the armies.

        And to marry me.

        My brother was happier than I had ever seen him. He had a wife, friends by his side, and the council was listening to his ideas for our world. He glowed with happiness--it radiated outward, like nothing I had ever seen. I dreamed of my own happiness, I dreamed of glowing like my brother.

        I continued to plan my wedding. My promised one came to see me every day. He would hold my hand and kiss my cheek and bring me flowers. Sometimes, when his mouth was resting on my cheek, a sweet weight, I would tilt my head; let his mouth slide towards mine.

        "We must wait," he would tell me, and his voice was thick with emotion. "I am sorry Vilandra."

        Then he would pull away from me and sit down on the bench by the window of the room we met in. My brother's offices were below us and we could see him, sitting at his great desk and working on problems of state. My promised one would rest his fingers on the glass as we talked.

        As the day of my wedding grew closer, I decided to seek out my brother's wife. She had not made many appearances recently and I wondered if perhaps she was with child. Women of noble birth were secluded as soon as they became pregnant and I thought that perhaps she might be lonely, might wish for some company other than my brother and her servants. I walked to her quarters and waited while her attendants prepared a sitting room for us.

        She looked tired. Tired and sad and so different from how my brother looked that I was surprised. She noticed my look and said, "Is something wrong?"

        "My brother--he is just so happy. I was sure that you would be as joyous as he is."

        My brother's wife tried to smile. Tried. But her face crumpled halfway and she began to cry. Her attendants fluttered towards her, but she waved them away.

        "What is it?" I asked, running over and sitting by her side. "Are you with child? Is that what is making you feel unwell and look so sad?"

        Her eyes were red and their surfaces were wet-looking, glistening. "I am not with child," she said, and tears rolled down her face. "I will never be with child. Do you understand what I am saying?"

        I shook my head that no, I didn't, but she sighed and looked away from me anyway. "Khivar!" she called. "I am tired. Please escort my brother's sister back to her rooms."

        I took her cold hand in mine and she turned back to me. Her eyes were empty and sad. So very sad. I thought of my brother, of his smiles and jokes and happiness, and said, "Why?"

        My brother's wife pulled her hand away and left the room. I could hear her crying, sobs that would break anyone's heart.

        The servant, Khivar, said, "Lady?"

        I shook my head at him and went into the hallway.

        "Lady," he said again.

        I turned back.

        His head was bowed and I could not see his eyes. "I can explain," he told me. "I can tell you why my lady is so unhappy."

        One should not listen to servant's gossip. That was one of the first things the hologram that was my mother taught me. But I had listened to servant's gossip before--how could I not? It was around me all the time. Usually it was about maids that slept with guards or cooks that hated parlor-maids. Nothing that ever touched me or my life.

        I gestured with one hand in a careless way and the servant, Khivar, walked not towards my rooms but towards my brother's.

        I followed.

        Outside the door of my brother's chamber, Khivar approached the guards who stood motionless in the hallway, great swords gleaming by their sides. I watched as he spoke to them. It seemed they knew him. It seemed everyone knew him--we had passed countless scullery boys and kitchen girls and watchmen and all the other people that made my world run smoothly--and they all said his name and smiled.

        After a moment, the guards left and Khivar turned to me. "Lady," he said.

        I walked over to him and he gestured to the entrance. "I can not open the door to a royal room," he said.

        So I opened the door.

        My brother was inside. He was lying on his bed--the large bed that both of us were born in. When we were younger, we used to sit on it and imagine what our parents had been like. We used to hide under it when the skies turned black from all the fighting.

        "No matter what happens," he said, "I will love you. I want no one but you. I would do anything for you."

        He bent his head down, and I saw his eyes close. He had long eyelashes, my brother did. Much longer than mine. When I was younger, I used to resent that. I wanted to have beautiful eyes and beautiful eyelashes too.

        I heard a kiss. A kiss that spoke of love and passion and tenderness and forever. I had never had a kiss like that, but I'd dreamed of them.

        My brother shifted, rolling down onto the bed and my promised one--my beloved, my soldier--rose up over him.

        My heart bled.

        "And I you," he said, speaking in a voice I had never heard him use. I did not know what love sounded like until I heard them speak to each other that day. "You know you are my heart. My world. We will find a way to be together. No matter what."

        My heart died.

        I shut the door to the room. I shut the door on my hopes, my wishes, my love.

        I looked at Khivar.

        He smiled at me.

        There was a sword in his hand and the guardsmen still stood in the hallway, motionless. The bright lights of their eyes hurt my own.

        I opened the door for them.

        And afterwards, after I looked into the eyes of my brother and the eyes of my promised one and saw nothing but empty death, I went and got my brother's wife. We took the bodies and we fled. Khivar had taken the castle by then. He was welcome to it.

        The council caught us. They offered us a choice. Death now and life later, with no memory of what was, only the stories they chose to leave for us to remember. Or death now and forever, with memory and no stories.

        My brother's wife would have chosen death now and forever, I think. But I wrapped my hand around hers and spoke before she could.

        "Yes," I said. "We will leave this world. We will find a way to restore what should be."

        I knew a love great and strong and true. My love was too great and it destroyed a world. But I have found a way to ensure that it will never end. Let the council create a world that never was for us, let them imagine something new, something that will bring me happiness.

        That will be a new story.

        You have the real one.


**

        Perhaps this is the story you've always heard, so maybe it wasn't such a surprise to you.

        Perhaps you are tired of reading those lines?

        I'm sorry, I truly am. But surely you see how hard this all was. One story is many different stories, many different possibilities, many different things.

        All of these stories are true and all of them are lies, as are all stories.

        I knew love. I knew a love so great that it destroyed a world.

        My name is Vilandra.

        This was my story and those words contain all the truth you need.

        END

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