"Oh…hello husband." His wife, the Lady Grey, says wearily as he approaches. Noticing this, he makes an attempt to flirt with her, an attempt that elicits her scorn and leaves him feeling crestfallen. As she turns and walks away, he finds himself wondering, what happened? Why doesn't she love him the way she used to?
The answer presents itself to him easily enough, though it isn't an answer he wants to see. She never loved him, she only wanted him. He was famous, people applauded and took note of his presence wherever he went. His deeds were sung of in taverns, his defeat of the Arena without taking a break had become the stuff of tales. He was powerful, he was invincible.
In other words, he was her fad of the moment. He should have paid closer attention to the way she treated Thunder; if he had, maybe he would have seen the shadow of what their own relationship would eventually become. But no, he had been taken in by her. He had little experience with women, and the Lady was beautiful, she was graceful, she loved him. Was it any wonder that he had fallen for her? Even if he hadn't paid attention to her treatment of Thunder, there had been hint upon hint as to her true nature. The comments of the townsfolk, for one, and the quests she had asked him to perform to prove his worth.
He had been such a fool, and now he was trapped. Not by law, no, he could divorce her, if he so chose, or her him. No, his chains were those of his heart. Even though he knew her heart to be cold, and her beauty hollow, even suspecting what he suspected about her sister, a part of him loved her still, remembered the way things had been. And it was those that held him close to her, and made him stay with her, knowing she would one day leave him.
His body was decorated with scars, the remnants of dozens of quests and hundreds of battles. People saw those scars and 'ooh'd and 'aaaw'd at the pain he had endured to receive them.
They were wrong. That wasn't pain, this was pain, to love someone you shouldn't, even if with only a part of yourself. Someone who loved only themselves.
As he went to bed that night, his wife ignoring his presence in their shared bed, that part of him went numb and died when he heard her whisper a name in her sleep, the name of an up and coming young hero. He closed his own eyes and went to sleep, the part of him that still lived dreaming.
He dreamed of someone in his arms, someone who loved him as he loved her, who fought beside him without fear.
He dreamed of a moon and of stars, of a lake, and a garden.
He dreamed of briars, and of roses.
Of Briar Rose.