Kitalya wandered the halls of the palace she had once called home. Nearly two centuries had passed since she had last set foot here, though it was hers by right. It was not hatred that had kept her away but love.
The war with the Drow—the dark Elves—had been fiercely fought and, for a time, Kitalya had believed the forest Fey would lose. Merwhyn had rallied their people in a final, great push, and they had expelled the aggressors, inflicting such a cost for the invasion that the Drow had never returned to challenge the Fey again.
Her feet faltered before the portrait. Kitalya and Merwhyn on their wedding day. On the eve of the final battle. She swallowed down bitter bile at its beauty—his beauty. That marriage had brought her great sorrow. That much was evident in the faces of the couple before her.
But that image was a lie—or at least not fully true. The truth in the lie was that the sorrow had sprung from joy. And also led to joy. Merwhyn had been Kitalya’s life. Her reason to get up and face each day as the war had worn both her and her people down. He had been her light.
Merwhyn had truly been the flame that ignited the wood Feys’ belief that they could expel the Drow from their lands. He had led that final charge. And he had fallen.
Kitalya had nearly thrown her own life away in her grief. But Merwhyn’s sacrifice chided her, reminding her that she owed him her life, and that debt must be repaid to their people.
As Kitwhyn came to stand behind Kitalya, she straightened her back, not wanting her son—their son—to see her bowed in grief.
“Is that him?” Kitwhyn asked, his voice barely a whisper. “He looks exactly like me.”
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“It is. Your father bought our lives with his own the day after that portrait was created, not knowing that you grew within me.”
“You look so sad. Both of you.”
“That sadness was born of our joy, Kitwhyn. We faced what seemed impossible odds, but the truth in the lie lay in our boundless love for each other and for our people. Within whatever sadness we bore lay the seeds of our joy.”
Kitalya smiled a real smile then. “The first seed was the love Merwhyn and I bore each other; the second, was you.”
Kitalya brought her son—their son—to her side with a gesture. She placed a hand around his shoulder, smiling through her lying tears. “You are the fruit of our joy. Your life is the reward for your father’s sacrifice, gladly paid.”
Gently touching the portrait of her true love, Kitalya said, “It is time I moved the seat of governance home, my son. This is your heritage, and you will one day rule here. Never forget that this is your true home.”
As she led the young, at least in Fey reckoning, prince toward the royal chambers, she reminded herself that this was her home as well. Perhaps she should have returned sooner, but the time seemed right. Tomorrow, the palace would see another wedding. Tomorrow her son would marry, and this time, there would be no lie in the portrait.
This image was created as part of a series of puzzles in response to a prompt. It failed in that it does not resemble a puzzle, but I found it intriguing. The eyes, especially those of the woman, don’t look human. And the couple, although this is clearly meant to depict them as happy, conveys the opposite.
As I looked at the image, a series of whys began to run through my head. Why do they not appear fully human? Why are they so unhappy amidst such beauty? Why would anyone paint them so?
And then there were the whats. What was going on in their lives and their worlds that might upend them? What might come between them? What might become of them? And what might drive their story into the future?
Question after question led to the lie of the portrait—that this couple was unhappy with each other. And that led to its truth—that the very joy they took in one another was the reason for their misery. And to yet another truth—that their love would live on in their son.
All of this is either very complicated or very simple. I leave you to sort out which is true for you in your reading of the story. For me, it demonstrates the reality that life is never clear cut, and we must read between the lines to find our own truth.
Wow! What a beautiful story. And an eternal truth, in the midst of pain lie the seeds of joy ❤️
Another amazing story, thank you Dascha. These leave me wanting more!