Her majesty - Jude x Cardan fic
summary: "I am not offering a kingdom to my girlfriend. I am offering a great mind and a fierce warrior to the kingdom"
A/N: I meant it to be shorter, but I got carried away... Anyway, if you want to leave a request or check out my other stories I finally organized my blog 😅
fanart by @loweana
Change is natural, humans would argue. And yet, they still fear it. As much as fairies like to believe themselves better, the folk is not as different from mortals as they'd like. When living years over years with no change, when it finally comes it sets the peace to fire.
The Living Council has been so used to being listened to. Their advice held weight over the former High King's decisions. To Eldred, serious, yet fair and good, abiding to fairies' traditions as any ruler should, the Council could speak their mind freely and wholly, never fearing they won't be listened.
And then, High King Cardan happened. With his easy demeanor, slippery thoughts lost to alcoholic beverage and treating everything like a joke. Not only did he allowed the mortal, Jude Duarte, to take the reins as his Seneschal, but he made her High Queen. He married her. High Kings don't marry. They have consorts to assure the line isn't usurped.
"You are both young, your highness. And love is passing. To tie the faith of the kingdom to a mortal girl is simply-" Cardan raised a perfectly styled eyebrow towards Randalin, daring him to finish his sentence. The Minister of Keys' voice raised with each word, dripping with menace. At the evil glance his king sent him, Randalin gulped and swallowed his words. "Simply unheard of, your majesty."
Cardan let down the half full goblet. After the traitors were punished, the biggest revel Elfhame has seen in decades was thrown to celebrate the marriage of the royal pair. It went on for seven days and nights. And it was during one of these that Randalin approached the High King with his concerns.
"The High King turning into a beast that feeds on the land is also unheard of. And yet," Cardan grinned from year to year, though the gleam in his eyes promised nothing good, "it still happened. What is it that you want to say, in reality?" The disheveled young man spoke like a prince is expected to. But for those who knew him well, the simple coldness of his voice, the sharp manners, only implied a huge threat behind pretty words. And after the last time Randalin spoke against Jude, the older folk knew it all too well.
"Only that- only that it can, well, it is, actually, dangerous to bend to the quims of a..." Cardan's stained lips curled in a red sneer, the fairy wine shining like fresh blood.
"A what, exactly?"
"Nothing, your majesty. A fling. No, a girlfriend. There are better, more suitable gifts for your ladies than the entire Fairyland."
"I can assure you, Randalin, there are no quims. I am not offering a kingdom to my girlfriend. I am offering a great mind and a fierce warrior to the kingdom. And I don't want to have to remind you again to respect your queen, my wife," his breath becoming heavier by the end, each world uttered clear and hateful. Powerful.
The next night, the revel would come to an end. Much to Jude's relief. There was so much work needed to be done and it seemed she was the only one capable to grasp it. Even the Court of Shadows lost themselves to the party.
The Roach changed his usual attire with a brown vest and chestnut colored pants. His hairy chest exposed for everyone to see, so unlike him. But then again, Jude has never actually had a chance to know him outside the dangers and schemes of the court. And being a spy comes with a certain dress code.
Spilling a pale golden liquid in his glass from her seat atop his shoulders, the Bomb's carefree laughs echoed in the night. Her feet traced the edges of the Roach's vest up and down and Jude thought the little dark skinned fairy had more than a say in his attire after all. Her white hair has been braided in multiple tails, the wild curls tamed by a variety of hair ties, colorful pins and jewels (some recognizable from the crown's chests, not that Jude or Cardan would mind).
From where she stood on the second throne - her throne - the High Queen could see everyone. But her eyes were only looking after a certain black haired, black eyed fairy. She looked after his decorated tail, not hidden anymore, but blatantly dressed in fine rings and sometimes even ribbons. After the wild mess of his curls as he shakes his head to get them out of his eyes, gulping down glass after glass of wine. She imagined the smudged kohl, splashed by tears of joy as her husband parties for both of them.
That's what he promised after all. His hospitality, full of fun, love and games, to the crown's friends. And hers, bloodied and sharp as her knives, to the enemies. Jude spotted Cardan leaning on a tree, already staring at her. The silver glitter on his cheekbones shone in the moonlight and the red of her own was too visible on her skin. He put on a crooked, lazy smile that sent her heart in an infernal gallop and ascended towards her on the throne's dais. Slowly, tentatively.
In the meantime, another chestnut hair sprawled around the dance floor as the owner of it was spined and spined on the merry rhythm. Her walnut eyes bore into his hazel ones, in which a few strands of sandy hair managed to get tangled.
"We should stop before the baby decides to interfere." Taryn said gleefully and out of breath. Without letting go of her hand, the Ghost agreed and led his date to one of the empty tables.
"Can I get you something to eat? To drink?"
"Yes, please. But no..."
"... alcohol, I know." Garret smiled and, before he could talk himself out of it, pressed a quick, chaste kiss on Taryn's right temple. She beamed as she watched him go, knowing very well he'll come back. None of the uncertainty and twisted plays of Locke's having a place in her heart or mind when she was with Garret.
The Ghost was quick to return, insisting on feeding Taryn grapes, slices of kiwi dipped in chocolate and grilled fish, all salted beforehand for her wholly human body.
Unbeknown to them, the pair caught the attention of too many revelers.
"Can you believe it?" A grey skinned fairy asked her companion, a short, round man with an orange mustache trailing after him.
"The audacity. At her own marriage celebration."
Such talks could be heard throughout the whole realm as the gossip spread: the queen is cheating on her king.
Except, the queen herself was currently in the royal chambers, untwining the silver threads, white-blue pearls and midnight blue sapphires from where a maid hanged them around her two horn looking buns. The accessories matched her dress: pale blue fading into pitch black at the trim. The corsage hugged her curves, pushing up the soft skin of her chest with silver leaves cupped around her breasts. The sleeves cascaded down her muscular arms, shredded holes revealing skin here and there. And the pattern of the dress, cold and majestic, with the faintest touch of macabre, completed the outfit.
At Jude's request, Taryn wore a similar dress. The colors weren't as vivid, nor the pattern so cold and monstrous. The corsage has been removed and the sleeves covered Taryn's soft arms, material continuing to spread over her wrists, back of the hands and looping around her middle fingers with a thin, loose knot. Nor did it have knives hidden everywhere: strapped on the thigh, between her breasts, at the base of her spine, tied around her ankles, or pushed up her sleeves ready and at hand.
The queen didn't want to hover around the grounds, to be seen and admired, gawked at and worshipped. She talked with whom she had to, made an appearance and tried to enjoy herself while piles of papers waited on her desk. But if the people of Elfhame were to get confused, it wasn't her fault. After all, everyone knows she has a twin sister who looks exactly the same.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Taryn had said before the revel started.
"You didn't have any issues with pretending to be me for Madoc, or for yourself." Jude had huffed and crossed her arms, fingers playing casually with the hilt of Nightbringer, always tangling on her left leg.
"And how much good it brought," Taryn usually lacked fluctuations of tones in her voice like the fairies she struggled so hard to copy. But this time irony crawled its bitter way in her words.
Of course, eventually she resigned and Jude had her way, for better or for worse. But neither sister was thinking about it, as The Ghost build up the courage to twirl one of Taryn's strands of hair around his fingers, leaning closer with each swirl and Cardan, in the intimacy of their bedroom, toyed with the laces of Jude's dress, a smirk playing on his lips as he gazed directly into his wife's eyes.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Cardan teased when his digits brushed against the leather bound hilt of one of Jude's knives. "Can't ever depart from your dear weapons, it seems. Hold them closer than you hold me. I'm jealous."
Jude meant to roll her eyes, but she caught herself as her breath hitched. Fairies can't lie. And her husband had have enough wine to push him to talk about his feelings. They agreed to be open with each other, after the serpent was gone and the war closely avoided. But it wasn't as easy to do it, as it was to say it.
The High Queen took the High King's hands in hers, drawing circles above his knuckles in an awkward attempt to copy Vivi and Heather after a fight. She massaged the soft silk skin, warm in comparison to his cold rings. As a human girl, she can lie. That doesn't mean she wishes her promises to him to be a lie anymore. She wants their relationship to be truthful, to trust him as much as he trusted her.
"You? Jealous on pieces of metal? Am I supposed to buy it, Cardan?" A light tease hiding her growing doubts.
He ducked his head backward and laughed. A self depicting laugh, if Jude had come to understand him better. Which she did. Now, the queen frowned. Something was definitely wrong with her husband, but before she could inquire further, the Bomb kicked the door open, swaing on her feet. The Roach picked her up before the small fairy could enter.
"Apologizes, your majesties," he hiccuped. Merry twinkled in his eyes, the same as the sparkle in the lost gaze of Cardan's. Too much to drink, Jude rolled her eyes.
"Don't apologize," the Bomb chastised. "They can't just disappear from their marriage party, no mater how royal their asses are. Not get out there and cut the cake."
Jude was about to protest when Cardan chuckled and swayed his way to the door. "I'd fancy some cake, don't you, my sweetest poison?"
His wife dead panned, but Cardan waited no answer. He made his way half through the corridor when Jude's running heart managed to calm enough for her to make one last public apparition.
She expected wild cheers, thundering applause, loud music and silly dances by now. However, she did not expect the harsh looks sent het ways. No one looked at her like that since she was officially made the first High Queen of Elfhame and her very own throne sprouted out of the ground to mark her title.
"What happened?" Jude turned to ask the Roach or the Bomb, but the former couldn't be of much help and the latter already snuck to find some answers. She kept close, in case Jude would need a hand in combat, but she needn't bother. The rumor was now spoken loud and clear amongst the party folks, due to beverage on board or hatred for their queen, Jude couldn't tell.
She was now searching for Taryn and the Ghost, meaning to clear the misunderstanding diplomatically, despite the ache of her fingers trembling above her blades to pick a fight. She barely avoided a war, she doesn't need another one on her hands. She isn't Madoc. She isn't a blood thirsty, uncontrolled Red Cape. But by the time Jude reunited with her twin and managed to explain to the ones gathered in the palace the truth, knowing they'd spread her words in no time, Cardan prepared a speech of his own.
He jumped up the dais until he stood above the hall, the perfect image of an imposing king. Well, it would have been, actually, with the dark silver cape, with two huge leaves holding onto his shoulders, if not for the crown sliding - but never falling - on the side of his head, the navy blue shirt unbuttoned down to his ribcage.
"She," he pointed a surprisingly still hand to Jude, "is my wife." Cardan looked like he wanted to say more, but quickly changed his mind with a shale of his head. "But she is also your High Queen. And she doesn't need me to rule. If she so chooses to find another one day, she'll still be Queen. Because there is no one more fit to rule Elfhame than her." Murmurs rose within the revelers. Fala breathed a hysteric laugh as the other of the Council made a move towards their king. No doubt wanting to chastised him. Respectfully. But Cardan stretched out a hand in their direction and, accompanied with one of his famous cruel glares, the movement stopped them in their tracks.
"As my Seneschal, she kept this kingdom together when it should have fallen apart. As my wife, she healed the Greenbriar curse looming over my head, a bigger threat to Elfhame than any inner court fights and wars. And as your High Queen, she will be respected as much as I am, though I have not earned your trust and loyalty, but she did." A brief pause to make sure his words sunk in the crowd and Cardan continued. "So I won't have any more of this impossible standards you expect of her, but not from me. For Jude is my equal in everything and it is me who should seek to reach her level, not the other way around."
The High King vanished the second he stopped talking, letting his speech held more weight this way. Not caring about cake or festivities, Jude followed him back to their rooms. She found her husband sprawled on the sofa, dripping in and out of sleep.
Sighing, but taking in the godly image in front of her, Jude closed the distance. She crouched down to help his boots out, reaching to move black curls out of his eyes and collapsing next to him. He may be able to party non stop, falling down only because of too much drinking, but the days and nights of constant revel exhausted her to no end.
The mortal, first High Queen of Elfhame started playing with Cardan's hair, gently passing her fingers through his thick curls. He hummed contently, moving closer to his wife and nuzzling his head in the crook of her neck. After a while, when she thought he fell asleep, she blurted out.
"Thank you. For what you did out there. It was- It was really... thank you." Jude didn't know her way with words. As a human who can lie she never needed to learn how to use ambages in her speech. And raised in Madoc's household, such communication in a relationship was a foreign ground to her.
"I meant every word," she heard Cardan mumble.
There it was again. The truth she cannot grasps. Every word. If she so chooses to find another one day. "Cardan, can I ask you something?"
A groggily confirmation was all Jude needed. "Why say I'll be queen even if I'm not with you anymore?"
"Because you're brave and cunning and exactly what this kingdom needs and I love you too much to lose even the slightest connection with you."
Jude's breath caught in her throat. Her heart skipped a beat. Because I love you, he said. She could feel a bubbling laugh threatening to escape her tight lips. But the smile turned into a frown.
"You think you don't mean as much to me, Cardan?"
He didn't answer. Sometimes, silence is answer enough, though. Jude couldn't believe him. Yes, she has learned the wicked facade was just a trick to shield himself. If he can't prove his family wrong, he'll prove them right. She could understand that all too well. If I can be better than them, I'll become so much worse, she once vowed. And fulfilled her promise she did. After banishing Lady Asha from the court, Jude thought Cardan would get better. But she isn't the only one with parents issues.
No one loved him. Ever. His father resented him, his mother viewed him as a cheap drollery, his siblings either ignored him or treated him horribly. Jude still wakes up with nightmares of Balekin under the sea and Cardan suffered way longer under his hand. So why would she? Why would Jude love him? Stick forever by his side? He knew she loved Locke once, why would she settle for him when there are so many young, dashingly handsome fairies out there?
"Cardan, look at me," Jude took his face in her hands, voice pleading him to obey her. He opened his eyes, too tired to avoid her gaze piercing through his very core. "You do, you hear me?"
"You married me to ensure power," Cardan shrugged.
"But so many things happened since, Cardan! And even then, part of me wanted it to be real. Because even then, I loved you, Cardan Greenbriar, as I love you now."
It was foolish of her to think this discussion was over. He barely believed her when she confessed her feelings after freeing him of the serpent, after hearing his own confession. And it'd be a lie to say she didn't sometimes doubted it all herself.
Cardan's eyes were now glistening with moisture, as were her own. Words never seemed to work between them, not as action did. Like having the same thought, husband and wife both leaned in, closing the small gap between their mouths.
"I promise I'll always be your wife, Cardan. Because believe me or not yet, I can't imagine life without you. Nor do I want to do so."
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